Produced by David Widger
A JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD BY
SAMUEL L. CLEMENS
In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.
–Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar.
Suppose we applied no more ingenuity to the instruction of deaf and dumb and blind children than we sometimes apply in our American public schools to the instruction of children who are in possession of all their faculties? The result would be that the deaf and dumb and blind would acquire nothing. They would live and die as ignorant as bricks and stones. The methods used in the asylums are rational. The teacher exactly measures the child’s capacity, to begin with; and from thence onwards the tasks imposed are nicely gauged to the gradual development of that capacity, the tasks keep pace with the steps of the child’s progress, they don’t jump miles and leagues ahead of it by irrational caprice and land in vacancy–according to the average public-school plan. In the public school, apparently, they teach the child to spell cat, then ask it to calculate an eclipse; when it can read words of two syllables, they require it to explain the circulation of the blood; when it reaches the head of the infant class they bully it with conundrums that cover the domain of universal knowledge. This sounds extravagant–and is; yet it goes no great way beyond the facts.
I received a curious letter one day, from the Punjab (you must pronounce it Punjawb). The handwriting was excellent, and the wording was English –English, and yet not exactly English. The style was easy and smooth and flowing, yet there was something subtly foreign about it–A something tropically ornate and sentimental and rhetorical. It turned out to be the work of a Hindoo youth, the holder of a humble clerical billet in a railway office. He had been educated in one of the numerous colleges of India. Upon inquiry I was told that the country was full of young fellows of his like. They had been educated away up to the snow-summits of learning–and the market for all this elaborate cultivation was minutely out of proportion to the vastness of the product. This market consisted of some thousands of small clerical posts under the government –the supply of material for it was multitudinous. If this youth with the flowing style and the blossoming English was occupying a small railway clerkship, it meant that there were hundreds and hundreds as capable as he, or he would be in a high place; and it certainly meant that there were thousands whose education and capacity had fallen a little short, and that they would have to go without places. Apparently, then, the colleges of India were doing what our high schools have long been doing –richly over-supplying the market for highly-educated service; and thereby doing a damage to the scholar, and through him to the country.
At home I once made a speech deploring the injuries inflicted by the high school in making handicrafts distasteful to boys who would have been willing to make a living at trades and agriculture if they had but had the good luck to stop with the common school. But I made no converts. Not one, in a community overrun with educated idlers who were above following their fathers’ mechanical trades, yet could find no market for their book-knowledge. The same rail that brought me the letter from the Punjab, brought also a little book published by Messrs. Thacker, Spink & Co., of Calcutta, which interested me, for both its preface and its contents treated of this matter of over-education. In the preface occurs this paragraph from the Calcutta Review. For “Government office” read “drygoods clerkship” and it will fit more than one region of America:
“The education that we give makes the boys a little less clownish in their manners, and more intelligent when spoken to by strangers. On the other hand, it has made them less contented with their lot in life, and less willing to work with their hands. The form which discontent takes in this country is not of a healthy kind; for, the Natives of India consider that the only occupation worthy of an educated man is that of a writership in some office, and especially in a Government office. The village schoolboy goes back to the plow with the greatest reluctance; and the town schoolboy carries the same discontent and inefficiency into his father’s workshop. Sometimes these ex-students positively refuse at first to work; and more than once parents have openly expressed their regret that they ever allowed their sons to be inveigled to school.”
The little book which I am quoting from is called “Indo-Anglian Literature,” and is well stocked with “baboo” English–clerkly English, hooky English, acquired in the schools. Some of it is very funny, –almost as funny, perhaps, as what you and I produce when we try to write in a language not our own; but much of it is surprisingly correct and free. If I were going to quote good English–but I am not. India is well stocked with natives who speak it and write it as well as the best of us. I merely wish to show some of the quaint imperfect attempts at the use of our tongue. There are many letters in the book; poverty imploring help–bread, money, kindness, office generally an office, a clerkship, some way to get food and a rag out of the applicant’s unmarketable education; and food not for himself alone, but sometimes for a dozen helpless relations in addition to his own family; for those people are astonishingly unselfish, and admirably faithful to their ties of kinship. Among us I think there is nothing approaching it. Strange as some of these wailing and supplicating letters are, humble and even groveling as some of them are, and quaintly funny and confused as a goodly number of them are, there is still a pathos about them, as a rule, that checks the rising laugh and reproaches it. In the following letter “father” is not to be read literally. In Ceylon a little native beggar-girl embarrassed me by calling me father, although I knew she was mistaken. I was so new that I did not know that she was merely following the custom of the dependent and the supplicant.
“I pray please to give me some action (work) for I am very poor boy I have no one to help me even so father for it so it seemed in thy good sight, you give the Telegraph Office, and another work what is your wish I am very poor boy, this understand what is your wish you my father I am your son this understand what is your wish.
“Your Sirvent, P. C. B.”
Through ages of debasing oppression suffered by these people at the hands of their native rulers, they come legitimately by the attitude and language of fawning and flattery, and one must remember this in mitigation when passing judgment upon the native character. It is common in these letters to find the petitioner furtively trying to get at the white man’s soft religious side; even this poor boy baits his hook with a macerated Bible-text in the hope that it may catch something if all else fail.
Here is an application for the post of instructor in English to some children:
“My Dear Sir or Gentleman, that your Petitioner has much qualification in the Language of English to instruct the young boys; I was given to understand that your of suitable children has to acquire the knowledge of English language.”
As a sample of the flowery Eastern style, I will take a sentence or two from along letter written by a young native to the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal–an application for employment:
“HONORED AND MUCH RESPECTED SIR,
“I hope your honor will condescend to hear the tale of this poor creature. I shall overflow with gratitude at this mark of your royal condescension. The bird-like happiness has flown away from my nest-like heart and has not hitherto returned from the period whence the rose of my father’s life suffered the autumnal breath of death, in plain English he passed through the gates of Grave, and from that hour the phantom of delight has never danced before me.”
It is all school-English, book-English, you see; and good enough, too, all things considered. If the native boy had but that one study he would shine, he would dazzle, no doubt. But that is not the case. He is situated as are our public-school children–loaded down with an over-freightage of other studies; and frequently they are as far beyond the actual point of progress reached by him and suited to the stage of development attained, as could be imagined by the insanest fancy. Apparently–like our public-school boy–he must work, work, work, in school and out, and play but little. Apparently–like our public-school boy–his “education” consists in learning things, not the meaning of them; he is fed upon the husks, not the corn. From several essays written by native schoolboys in answer to the question of how they spend their day, I select one–the one which goes most into detail:
“66. At the break of day I rises from my own bed and finish my daily duty, then I employ myself till 8 o’clock, after which I employ myself to bathe, then take for my body some sweet meat, and just at 9 1/2 I came to school to attend my class duty, then at 2 1/2 P. M. I return from school and engage myself to do my natural duty, then, I engage for a quarter to take my tithn, then I study till 5 P. M., after which I began to play anything which comes in my head. After 8 1/2, half pass to eight we are began to sleep, before sleeping I told a constable just 11 o’ he came and rose us from half pass eleven we began to read still morning.”
It is not perfectly clear, now that I come to cipher upon it. He gets up at about 5 in the morning, or along there somewhere, and goes to bed about fifteen or sixteen hours afterward–that much of it seems straight; but why he should rise again three hours later and resume his studies till morning is puzzling.
I think it is because he is studying history. History requires a world of time and bitter hard work when your “education” is no further advanced than the cat’s; when you are merely stuffing yourself with a mixed-up mess of empty names and random incidents and elusive dates, which no one teaches you how to interpret, and which, uninterpreted, pay you not a farthing’s value for your waste of time. Yes, I think he had to get up at halfpast 11 P.M. in order to be sure to be perfect with his history lesson by noon. With results as follows–from a Calcutta school examination:
“Q. Who was Cardinal Wolsey?
“Cardinal Wolsey was an Editor of a paper named North Briton. No. 45 of his publication he charged the King of uttering a lie from the throne. He was arrested and cast into prison; and after releasing went to France.
“3. As Bishop of York but died in disentry in a church on his way to be blockheaded.
“8. Cardinal Wolsey was the son of Edward IV, after his father’s death he himself ascended the throne at the age of (10) ten only, but when he surpassed or when he was fallen in his twenty years of age at that time he wished to make a journey in his countries under him, but he was opposed by his mother to do journey, and according to his mother’s example he remained in the home, and then became King. After many times obstacles and many confusion he become King and afterwards his brother.”
There is probably not a word of truth in that.
“Q. What is the meaning of ‘Ich Dien’?
“10. An honor conferred on the first or eldest sons of English Sovereigns. It is nothing more than some feathers.
“11. Ich Dien was the word which was written on the feathers of the blind King who came to fight, being interlaced with the bridles of the horse.
“13. Ich Dien is a title given to Henry VII by the Pope of Rome, when he forwarded the Reformation of Cardinal Wolsy to Rome, and for this reason he was called Commander of the faith.”
A dozen or so of this kind of insane answers are quoted in the book from that examination. Each answer is sweeping proof, all by itself, that the person uttering it was pushed ahead of where he belonged when he was put into history; proof that he had been put to the task of acquiring history before he had had a single lesson in the art of acquiring it, which is the equivalent of dumping a pupil into geometry before he has learned the progressive steps which lead up to it and make its acquirement possible. Those Calcutta novices had no business with history. There was no excuse for examining them in it, no excuse for exposing them and their teachers. They were totally empty; there was nothing to “examine.”
Helen Keller has been dumb, stone deaf, and stone blind, ever since she was a little baby a year-and-a-half old; and now at sixteen years of age this miraculous creature, this wonder of all the ages, passes the Harvard University examination in Latin, German, French history, belles lettres, and such things, and does it brilliantly, too, not in a commonplace fashion. She doesn’t know merely things, she is splendidly familiar with the meanings of them. When she writes an essay on a Shakespearean character, her English is fine and strong, her grasp of the subject is the grasp of one who knows, and her page is electric with light. Has Miss Sullivan taught her by the methods of India and the American public school? No, oh, no; for then she would be deafer and dumber and blinder than she was before. It is a pity that we can’t educate all the children in the asylums.
To continue the Calcutta exposure:
“What is the meaning of a Sheriff?”
“25. Sheriff is a post opened in the time of John. The duty of Sheriff here in Calcutta, to look out and catch those carriages which is rashly driven out by the coachman; but it is a high post in England.
“26. Sheriff was the English bill of common prayer.
“27. The man with whom the accusative persons are placed is called Sheriff.
“28. Sheriff–Latin term for ‘shrub,’ we called broom, worn by the first earl of Enjue, as an emblem of humility when they went to the pilgrimage, and from this their hairs took their crest and surname.
“29. Sheriff is a kind of titlous sect of people, as Barons, Nobles, etc.
“30. Sheriff; a tittle given on those persons who were respective and pious in England.”
The students were examined in the following bulky matters: Geometry, the Solar Spectrum, the Habeas Corpus Act, the British Parliament, and in Metaphysics they were asked to trace the progress of skepticism from Descartes to Hume. It is within bounds to say that some of the results were astonishing. Without doubt, there were students present who justified their teacher’s wisdom in introducing them to these studies; but the fact is also evident that others had been pushed into these studies to waste their time over them when they could have been profitably employed in hunting smaller game. Under the head of Geometry, one of the answers is this:
“49. The whole BD = the whole CA, and so-so-so-so-so-so-so.”
To me this is cloudy, but I was never well up in geometry. That was the only effort made among the five students who appeared for examination in geometry; the other four wailed and surrendered without a fight. They are piteous wails, too, wails of despair; and one of them is an eloquent reproach; it comes from a poor fellow who has been laden beyond his strength by a stupid teacher, and is eloquent in spite of the poverty of its English. The poor chap finds himself required to explain riddles which even Sir Isaac Newton was not able to understand:
“50. Oh my dear father examiner you my father and you kindly give a number of pass you my great father.
“51. I am a poor boy and have no means to support my mother and two brothers who are suffering much for want of food. I get four rupees monthly from charity fund of this place, from which I send two rupees for their support, and keep two for my own support. Father, if I relate the unlucky circumstance under which we are placed, then, I think, you will not be able to suppress the tender tear.
“52. Sir which Sir Isaac Newton and other experienced mathematicians cannot understand I being third of Entrance Class can understand these which is too impossible to imagine. And my examiner also has put very tiresome and very heavy propositions to prove.”
We must remember that these pupils had to do their thinking in one language, and express themselves in another and alien one. It was a heavy handicap. I have by me “English as She is Taught”–a collection of American examinations made in the public schools of Brooklyn by one of the teachers, Miss Caroline B. Le Row. An extract or two from its pages will show that when the American pupil is using but one language, and that one his own, his performance is no whit better than his Indian brother’s:
“Christopher Columbus was called the father of his Country. Queen Isabella of Spain sold her watch and chain and other millinery so that Columbus could discover America.
“The Indian wars were very desecrating to the country.
“The Indians pursued their warfare by hiding in the bushes and then scalping them.
“Captain John Smith has been styled the father of his country. His life was saved by his daughter Pochahantas.
“The Puritans found an insane asylum in the wilds of America.
“The Stamp Act was to make everybody stamp all materials so they should be null and void.
“Washington died in Spain almost broken-hearted. His remains were taken to the cathedral in Havana.
“Gorilla warfare was where men rode on gorillas.”
In Brooklyn, as in India, they examine a pupil, and when they find out he doesn’t know anything, they put him into literature, or geometry, or astronomy, or government, or something like that, so that he can properly display the assification of the whole system–
“‘Bracebridge Hall’ was written by Henry Irving.
“Edgar A. Poe was a very curdling writer.
“Beowulf wrote the Scriptures.
“Ben Johnson survived Shakespeare in some respects.
“In the ‘Canterbury Tale’ it gives account of King Alfred on his way to the shrine of Thomas Bucket.
“Chaucer was the father of English pottery.
“Chaucer was succeeded by H. Wads. Longfellow.”
We will finish with a couple of samples of “literature,” one from America, the other from India. The first is a Brooklyn public-school boy’s attempt to turn a few verses of the “Lady of the Lake” into prose. You will have to concede that he did it:
“The man who rode on the horse performed the whip and an instrument made of steel alone with strong ardor not diminishing, for, being tired from the time passed with hard labor overworked with anger and ignorant with weariness, while every breath for labor lie drew with cries full of sorrow, the young deer made imperfect who worked hard filtered in sight.”
The following paragraph is from a little book which is famous in India –the biography of a distinguished Hindoo judge, Onoocool Chunder Mookerjee; it was written by his nephew, and is unintentionally funny-in fact, exceedingly so. I offer here the closing scene. If you would like to sample the rest of the book, it can be had by applying to the publishers, Messrs. Thacker, Spink & Co., Calcutta
“And having said these words he hermetically sealed his lips not to open them again. All the well-known doctors of Calcutta that could be procured for a man of his position and wealth were brought, –Doctors Payne, Fayrer, and Nilmadhub Mookerjee and others; they did what they could do, with their puissance and knack of medical knowledge, but it proved after all as if to milk the ram! His wife and children had not the mournful consolation to hear his last words; he remained sotto voce for a few hours, and then was taken from us at 6.12 P.m. according to the caprice of God which passeth understanding.”
There are no people who are quite so vulgar as the over-refined ones. –Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar.
We sailed from Calcutta toward the end of March; stopped a day at Madras; two or three days in Ceylon; then sailed westward on a long flight for Mauritius. From my diary:
April 7. We are far abroad upon the smooth waters of the Indian Ocean, now; it is shady and pleasant and peaceful under the vast spread of the awnings, and life is perfect again–ideal.
The difference between a river and the sea is, that the river looks fluid, the sea solid–usually looks as if you could step out and walk on it.
The captain has this peculiarity–he cannot tell the truth in a plausible way. In this he is the very opposite of the austere Scot who sits midway of the table; he cannot tell a lie in an unplausible way. When the captain finishes a statement the passengers glance at each other privately, as who should say, “Do you believe that?” When the Scot finishes one, the look says, “How strange and interesting.” The whole secret is in the manner and method of the two men. The captain is a little shy and diffident, and he states the simplest fact as if he were a little afraid of it, while the Scot delivers himself of the most abandoned lie with such an air of stern veracity that one is forced to believe it although one knows it isn’t so. For instance, the Scot told about a pet flying-fish he once owned, that lived in a little fountain in his conservatory, and supported itself by catching birds and frogs and rats in the neighboring fields. It was plain that no one at the table doubted this statement.
By and by, in the course of some talk about custom-house annoyances, the captain brought out the following simple everyday incident, but through his infirmity of style managed to tell it in such a way that it got no credence. He said:
“I went ashore at Naples one voyage when I was in that trade, and stood around helping my passengers, for I could speak a little Italian. Two or three times, at intervals, the officer asked me if I had anything dutiable about me, and seemed more and more put out and disappointed every time I told him no. Finally a passenger whom I had helped through asked me to come out and take something. I thanked him, but excused myself, saying I had taken a whisky just before I came ashore.
“It was a fatal admission. The officer at once made me pay sixpence import-duty on the whisky-just from ship to shore, you see; and he fined me L5 for not declaring the goods, another L5 for falsely denying that I had anything dutiable about me, also L5 for concealing the goods, and L50 for smuggling, which is the maximum penalty for unlawfully bringing in goods under the value of sevenpence ha’penny. Altogether, sixty-five pounds sixpence for a little thing like that.”
The Scot is always believed, yet he never tells anything but lies; whereas the captain is never believed, although he never tells a lie, so far as I can judge. If he should say his uncle was a male person, he would probably say it in such a way that nobody would believe it; at the same time the Scot could claim that he had a female uncle and not stir a doubt in anybody’s mind. My own luck has been curious all my literary life; I never could tell a lie that anybody would doubt, nor a truth that anybody would believe.
Lots of pets on board–birds and things. In these far countries the white people do seem to run remarkably to pets. Our host in Cawnpore had a fine collection of birds–the finest we saw in a private house in India. And in Colombo, Dr. Murray’s great compound and commodious bungalow were well populated with domesticated company from the woods: frisky little squirrels; a Ceylon mina walking sociably about the house; a small green parrot that whistled a single urgent note of call without motion of its beak; also chuckled; a monkey in a cage on the back veranda, and some more out in the trees; also a number of beautiful macaws in the trees; and various and sundry birds and animals of breeds not known to me. But no cat. Yet a cat would have liked that place.
April 9. Tea-planting is the great business in Ceylon, now. A passenger says it often pays 40 per cent. on the investment. Says there is a boom.
April 10. The sea is a Mediterranean blue; and I believe that that is about the divinest color known to nature.
It is strange and fine–Nature’s lavish generosities to her creatures. At least to all of them except man. For those that fly she has provided a home that is nobly spacious–a home which is forty miles deep and envelops the whole globe, and has not an obstruction in it. For those that swim she has provided a more than imperial domain–a domain which is miles deep and covers four-fifths of the globe. But as for man, she has cut him off with the mere odds and ends of the creation. She has given him the thin skin, the meagre skin which is stretched over the remaining one-fifth–the naked bones stick up through it in most places. On the one-half of this domain he can raise snow, ice, sand, rocks, and nothing else. So the valuable part of his inheritance really consists of but a single fifth of the family estate; and out of it he has to grub hard to get enough to keep him alive and provide kings and soldiers and powder to extend the blessings of civilization with. Yet man, in his simplicity and complacency and inability to cipher, thinks Nature regards him as the important member of the family–in fact, her favorite. Surely, it must occur to even his dull head, sometimes, that she has a curious way of showing it.
Afternoon. The captain has been telling how, in one of his Arctic voyages, it was so cold that the mate’s shadow froze fast to the deck and had to be ripped loose by main strength. And even then he got only about two-thirds of it back. Nobody said anything, and the captain went away. I think he is becoming disheartened . . . . Also, to be fair, there is another word of praise due to this ship’s library: it contains no copy of the Vicar of Wakefield, that strange menagerie of complacent hypocrites and idiots, of theatrical cheap-john heroes and heroines, who are always showing off, of bad people who are not interesting, and good people who are fatiguing. A singular book. Not a sincere line in it, and not a character that invites respect; a book which is one long waste-pipe discharge of goody-goody puerilities and dreary moralities; a book which is full of pathos which revolts, and humor which grieves the heart. There are few things in literature that are more piteous, more pathetic, than the celebrated “humorous” incident of Moses and the spectacles. Jane Austen’s books, too, are absent from this library. Just that one omission alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn’t a book in it.
Customs in tropic seas. At 5 in the morning they pipe to wash down the decks, and at once the ladies who are sleeping there turn out and they and their beds go below. Then one after another the men come up from the bath in their pyjamas, and walk the decks an hour or two with bare legs and bare feet. Coffee and fruit served. The ship cat and her kitten now appear and get about their toilets; next the barber comes and flays us on the breezy deck. Breakfast at 9.30, and the day begins. I do not know how a day could be more reposeful: no motion; a level blue sea; nothing in sight from horizon to horizon; the speed of the ship furnishes a cooling breeze; there is no mail to read and answer; no newspapers to excite you; no telegrams to fret you or fright you–the world is far, far away; it has ceased to exist for you–seemed a fading dream, along in the first days; has dissolved to an unreality now; it is gone from your mind with all its businesses and ambitions, its prosperities and disasters, its exultations and despairs, its joys and griefs and cares and worries. They are no concern of yours any more; they have gone out of your life; they are a storm which has passed and left a deep calm behind. The people group themselves about the decks in their snowy white linen, and read, smoke, sew, play cards, talk, nap, and so on. In other ships the passengers are always ciphering about when they are going to arrive; out in these seas it is rare, very rare, to hear that subject broached. In other ships there is always an eager rush to the bulletin board at noon to find out what the “run” has been; in these seas the bulletin seems to attract no interest; I have seen no one visit it; in thirteen days I have visited it only once. Then I happened to notice the figures of the day’s run. On that day there happened to be talk, at dinner, about the speed of modern ships. I was the only passenger present who knew this ship’s gait. Necessarily, the Atlantic custom of betting on the ship’s run is not a custom here–nobody ever mentions it.
I myself am wholly indifferent as to when we are going to “get in”; if any one else feels interested in the matter he has not indicated it in my hearing. If I had my way we should never get in at all. This sort of sea life is charged with an indestructible charm. There is no weariness, no fatigue, no worry, no responsibility, no work, no depression of spirits. There is nothing like this serenity, this comfort, this peace, this deep contentment, to be found anywhere on land. If I had my way I would sail on for ever and never go to live on the solid ground again.
One of Kipling’s ballads has delivered the aspect and sentiment of this bewitching sea correctly:
“The Injian Ocean sets an’ smiles So sof’, so bright, so bloomin’ blue; There aren’t a wave for miles an’ miles Excep’ the jiggle from the screw.”
April 14. It turns out that the astronomical apprentice worked off a section of the Milky Way on me for the Magellan Clouds. A man of more experience in the business showed one of them to me last night. It was small and faint and delicate, and looked like the ghost of a bunch of white smoke left floating in the sky by an exploded bombshell.
Wednesday, April 15. Mauritius. Arrived and anchored off Port Louis 2 A. M. Rugged clusters of crags and peaks, green to their summits; from their bases to the sea a green plain with just tilt enough to it to make the water drain off. I believe it is in 56 E. and 22 S.–a hot tropical country. The green plain has an inviting look; has scattering dwellings nestling among the greenery. Scene of the sentimental adventure of Paul and Virginia.
Island under French control–which means a community which depends upon quarantines, not sanitation, for its health.
Thursday, April 16. Went ashore in the forenoon at Port Louis, a little town, but with the largest variety of nationalities and complexions we have encountered yet. French, English, Chinese, Arabs, Africans with wool, blacks with straight hair, East Indians, half-whites, quadroons –and great varieties in costumes and colors.
Took the train for Curepipe at 1.30–two hours’ run, gradually uphill. What a contrast, this frantic luxuriance of vegetation, with the arid plains of India; these architecturally picturesque crags and knobs and miniature mountains, with the monotony of the Indian dead-levels.
A native pointed out a handsome swarthy man of grave and dignified bearing, and said in an awed tone, “That is so-and-so; has held office of one sort or another under this government for 37 years–he is known all over this whole island and in the other countries of the world perhaps –who knows? One thing is certain; you can speak his name anywhere in this whole island, and you will find not one grown person that has not heard it. It is a wonderful thing to be so celebrated; yet look at him; it makes no change in him; he does not even seem to know it.”
Curepipe (means Pincushion or Pegtown, probably). Sixteen miles (two hours) by rail from Port Louis. At each end of every roof and on the apex of every dormer window a wooden peg two feet high stands up; in some cases its top is blunt, in others the peg is sharp and looks like a toothpick. The passion for this humble ornament is universal.
Apparently, there has been only one prominent event in the history of Mauritius, and that one didn’t happen. I refer to the romantic sojourn of Paul and Virginia here. It was that story that made Mauritius known to the world, made the name familiar to everybody, the geographical position of it to nobody.
A clergyman was asked to guess what was in a box on a table. It was a vellum fan painted with the shipwreck, and was “one of Virginia’s wedding gifts.”
April 18. This is the only country in the world where the stranger is not asked “How do you like this place?” This is indeed a large distinction. Here the citizen does the talking about the country himself; the stranger is not asked to help. You get all sorts of information. From one citizen you gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius. Another one tells you that this is an exaggeration; that the two chief villages, Port Louis and Curepipe, fall short of heavenly perfection; that nobody lives in Port Louis except upon compulsion, and that Curepipe is the wettest and rainiest place in the world. An English citizen said:
“In the early part of this century Mauritius was used by the French as a basis from which to operate against England’s Indian merchantmen; so England captured the island and also the neighbor, Bourbon, to stop that annoyance. England gave Bourbon back; the government in London did not want any more possessions in the West Indies. If the government had had a better quality of geography in stock it would not have wasted Bourbon in that foolish way. A big war will temporarily shut up the Suez Canal some day and the English ships will have to go to India around the Cape of Good Hope again; then England will have to have Bourbon and will take it.
“Mauritius was a crown colony until 20 years ago, with a governor appointed by the Crown and assisted by a Council appointed by himself; but Pope Hennessey came out as Governor then, and he worked hard to get a part of the council made elective, and succeeded. So now the whole council is French, and in all ordinary matters of legislation they vote together and in the French interest, not the English. The English population is very slender; it has not votes enough to elect a legislator. Half a dozen rich French families elect the legislature. Pope Hennessey was an Irishman, a Catholic, a Home Ruler, M.P., a hater of England and the English, a very troublesome person and a serious incumbrance at Westminster; so it was decided to send him out to govern unhealthy countries, in hope that something would happen to him. But nothing did. The first experiment was not merely a failure, it was more than a failure. He proved to be more of a disease himself than any he was sent to encounter. The next experiment was here. The dark scheme failed again. It was an off-season and there was nothing but measles here at the time. Pope Hennessey’s health was not affected. He worked with the French and for the French and against the English, and he made the English very tired and the French very happy, and lived to have the joy of seeing the flag he served publicly hissed. His memory is held in worshipful reverence and affection by the French.
“It is a land of extraordinary quarantines. They quarantine a ship for anything or for nothing; quarantine her for 20 and even 30 days. They once quarantined a ship because her captain had had the smallpox when he was a boy. That and because he was English.
“The population is very small; small to insignificance. The majority is East Indian; then mongrels; then negroes (descendants of the slaves of the French times); then French; then English. There was an American, but he is dead or mislaid. The mongrels are the result of all kinds of mixtures; black and white, mulatto and white, quadroon and white, octoroon and white. And so there is every shade of complexion; ebony, old mahogany, horsechestnut, sorrel, molasses-candy, clouded amber, clear amber, old-ivory white, new-ivory white, fish-belly white–this latter the leprous complexion frequent with the Anglo-Saxon long resident in tropical climates.
“You wouldn’t expect a person to be proud of being a Mauritian, now would you? But it is so. The most of them have never been out of the island, and haven’t read much or studied much, and they think the world consists of three principal countries–Judaea, France, and Mauritius; so they are very proud of belonging to one of the three grand divisions of the globe. They think that Russia and Germany are in England, and that England does not amount to much. They have heard vaguely about the United States and the equator, but they think both of them are monarchies. They think Mount Peter Botte is the highest mountain in the world, and if you show one of them a picture of Milan Cathedral he will swell up with satisfaction and say that the idea of that jungle of spires was stolen from the forest of peg-tops and toothpicks that makes the roofs of Curepipe look so fine and prickly.
“There is not much trade in books. The newspapers educate and entertain the people. Mainly the latter. They have two pages of large-print reading-matter-one of them English, the other French. The English page is a translation of the French one. The typography is super-extra primitive–in this quality it has not its equal anywhere. There is no proof-reader now; he is dead.
“Where do they get matter to fill up a page in this little island lost in the wastes of the Indian Ocean? Oh, Madagascar. They discuss Madagascar and France. That is the bulk. Then they chock up the rest with advice to the Government. Also, slurs upon the English administration. The papers are all owned and edited by creoles–French.
“The language of the country is French. Everybody speaks it–has to. You have to know French particularly mongrel French, the patois spoken by Tom, Dick, and Harry of the multiform complexions–or you can’t get along.
“This was a flourishing country in former days, for it made then and still makes the best sugar in the world; but first the Suez Canal severed it from the world and left it out in the cold and next the beetroot sugar helped by bounties, captured the European markets. Sugar is the life of Mauritius, and it is losing its grip. Its downward course was checked by the depreciation of the rupee–for the planter pays wages in rupees but sells his crop for gold–and the insurrection in Cuba and paralyzation of the sugar industry there have given our prices here a life-saving lift; but the outlook has nothing permanently favorable about it. It takes a year to mature the canes–on the high ground three and six months longer –and there is always a chance that the annual cyclone will rip the profit out of the crop. In recent times a cyclone took the whole crop, as you may say; and the island never saw a finer one. Some of the noblest sugar estates in the island are in deep difficulties. A dozen of them are investments of English capital; and the companies that own them are at work now, trying to settle up and get out with a saving of half the money they put in. You know, in these days, when a country begins to introduce the tea culture, it means that its own specialty has gone back on it. Look at Bengal; look at Ceylon. Well, they’ve begun to introduce the tea culture, here.
“Many copies of Paul and Virginia are sold every year in Mauritius. No other book is so popular here except the Bible. By many it is supposed to be a part of the Bible. All the missionaries work up their French on it when they come here to pervert the Catholic mongrel. It is the greatest story that was ever written about Mauritius, and the only one.”
The principal difference between a cat and a lie is that the cat has only nine lives.
–Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar.
April 20.–The cyclone of 1892 killed and crippled hundreds of people; it was accompanied by a deluge of rain, which drowned Port Louis and produced a water famine. Quite true; for it burst the reservoir and the water-pipes; and for a time after the flood had disappeared there was much distress from want of water.
This is the only place in the world where no breed of matches can stand the damp. Only one match in 16 will light.
The roads are hard and smooth; some of the compounds are spacious, some of the bungalows commodious, and the roadways are walled by tall bamboo hedges, trim and green and beautiful; and there are azalea hedges, too, both the white and the red; I never saw that before.
As to healthiness: I translate from to-day’s (April 20) Merchants’ and Planters’ Gazette, from the article of a regular contributor, “Carminge,” concerning the death of the nephew of a prominent citizen:
“Sad and lugubrious existence, this which we lead in Mauritius; I believe there is no other country in the world where one dies more easily than among us. The least indisposition becomes a mortal malady; a simple headache develops into meningitis; a cold into pneumonia, and presently, when we are least expecting it, death is a guest in our home.”
This daily paper has a meteorological report which tells you what the weather was day before yesterday.
One is clever pestered by a beggar or a peddler in this town, so far as I can see. This is pleasantly different from India.
April 22. To such as believe that the quaint product called French civilization would be an improvement upon the civilization of New Guinea and the like, the snatching of Madagascar and the laying on of French civilization there will be fully justified. But why did the English allow the French to have Madagascar? Did she respect a theft of a couple of centuries ago? Dear me, robbery by European nations of each other’s territories has never been a sin, is not a sin to-day. To the several cabinets the several political establishments of the world are clotheslines; and a large part of the official duty of these cabinets is to keep an eye on each other’s wash and grab what they can of it as opportunity offers. All the territorial possessions of all the political establishments in the earth–including America, of course–consist of pilferings from other people’s wash. No tribe, howsoever insignificant, and no nation, howsoever mighty, occupies a foot of land that was not stolen. When the English, the French, and the Spaniards reached America, the Indian tribes had been raiding each other’s territorial clothes-lines for ages, and every acre of ground in the continent had been stolen and re-stolen 500 times. The English, the French, and the Spaniards went to work and stole it all over again; and when that was satisfactorily accomplished they went diligently to work and stole it from each other. In Europe and Asia and Africa every acre of ground has been stolen several millions of times. A crime persevered in a thousand centuries ceases to be a crime, and becomes a virtue. This is the law of custom, and custom supersedes all other forms of law. Christian governments are as frank to-day, as open and above-board, in discussing projects for raiding each other’s clothes-lines as ever they were before the Golden Rule came smiling into this inhospitable world and couldn’t get a night’s lodging anywhere. In 150 years England has beneficently retired garment after garment from the Indian lines, until there is hardly a rag of the original wash left dangling anywhere. In 800 years an obscure tribe of Muscovite savages has risen to the dazzling position of Land-Robber-in-Chief; she found a quarter of the world hanging out to dry on a hundred parallels of latitude, and she scooped in the whole wash. She keeps a sharp eye on a multitude of little lines that stretch along the northern boundaries of India, and every now and then she snatches a hip-rag or a pair of pyjamas. It is England’s prospective property, and Russia knows it; but Russia cares nothing for that. In fact, in our day land-robbery, claim-jumping, is become a European governmental frenzy. Some have been hard at it in the borders of China, in Burma, in Siam, and the islands of the sea; and all have been at it in Africa. Africa has been as coolly divided up and portioned out among the gang as if they had bought it and paid for it. And now straightway they are beginning the old game again –to steal each other’s grabbings. Germany found a vast slice of Central Africa with the English flag and the English missionary and the English trader scattered all over it, but with certain formalities neglected–no signs up, “Keep off the grass,” “Trespassers-forbidden,” etc.–and she stepped in with a cold calm smile and put up the signs herself, and swept those English pioneers promptly out of the country.
There is a tremendous point there. It can be put into the form of a maxim: Get your formalities right–never mind about the moralities.
It was an impudent thing; but England had to put up with it. Now, in the case of Madagascar, the formalities had originally been observed, but by neglect they had fallen into desuetude ages ago. England should have snatched Madagascar from the French clothes-line. Without an effort she could have saved those harmless natives from the calamity of French civilization, and she did not do it. Now it is too late.
The signs of the times show plainly enough what is going to happen. All the savage lands in the world are going to be brought under subjection to the Christian governments of Europe. I am not sorry, but glad. This coming fate might have been a calamity to those savage peoples two hundred years ago; but now it will in some cases be a benefaction. The sooner the seizure is consummated, the better for the savages.
The dreary and dragging ages of bloodshed and disorder and oppression will give place to peace and order and the reign of law. When one considers what India was under her Hindoo and Mohammedan rulers, and what she is now; when he remembers the miseries of her millions then and the protections and humanities which they enjoy now, he must concede that the most fortunate thing that has ever befallen that empire was the establishment of British supremacy there. The savage lands of the world are to pass to alien possession, their peoples to the mercies of alien rulers. Let us hope and believe that they will all benefit by the change.
April 23. “The first year they gather shells; the second year they gather shells and drink; the third year they do not gather shells.” (Said of immigrants to Mauritius.)
Population 375,000. 120 sugar factories.
Population 1851, 185,000. The increase is due mainly to the introduction of Indian coolies. They now apparently form the great majority of the population. They are admirable breeders; their homes are always hazy with children. Great savers of money. A British officer told me that in India he paid his servant 10 rupees a month, and he had 11 cousins, uncles, parents, etc., dependent upon him, and he supported them on his wages. These thrifty coolies are said to be acquiring land a trifle at a time, and cultivating it; and may own the island by and by.
The Indian women do very hard labor [for wages of (1/2 rupee) for twelve hours’ work.] They carry mats of sugar on their heads (70 pounds) all day lading ships, for half a rupee, and work at gardening all day for less.
The camaron is a fresh water creature like a cray-fish. It is regarded here as the world’s chiefest delicacy–and certainly it is good. Guards patrol the streams to prevent poaching it. A fine of Rs.200 or 300 (they say) for poaching. Bait is thrown in the water; the camaron goes for it; the fisher drops his loop in and works it around and about the camaron he has selected, till he gets it over its tail; then there’s a jerk or something to certify the camaron that it is his turn now; he suddenly backs away, which moves the loop still further up his person and draws it taut, and his days are ended.
Another dish, called palmiste, is like raw turnip-shavings and tastes like green almonds; is very delicate and good. Costs the life of a palm tree 12 to 20 years old–for it is the pith.
Another dish–looks like greens or a tangle of fine seaweed–is a preparation of the deadly nightshade. Good enough.
The monkeys live in the dense forests on the flanks of the toy mountains, and they flock down nights and raid the sugar-fields. Also on other estates they come down and destroy a sort of bean-crop–just for fun, apparently–tear off the pods and throw them down.
The cyclone of 1892 tore down two great blocks of stone buildings in the center of Port Louis–the chief architectural feature-and left the uncomely and apparently frail blocks standing. Everywhere in its track it annihilated houses, tore off roofs, destroyed trees and crops. The men were in the towns, the women and children at home in the country getting crippled, killed, frightened to insanity; and the rain deluging them, the wind howling, the thunder crashing, the lightning glaring. This for an hour or so. Then a lull and sunshine; many ventured out of safe shelter; then suddenly here it came again from the opposite point and renewed and completed the devastation. It is said the Chinese fed the sufferers for days on free rice.
Whole streets in Port Louis were laid flat–wrecked. During a minute and a half the wind blew 123 miles an hour; no official record made after that, when it may have reached 150. It cut down an obelisk. It carried an American ship into the woods after breaking the chains of two anchors. They now use four-two forward, two astern. Common report says it killed 1,200 in Port Louis alone, in half an hour. Then came the lull of the central calm–people did not know the barometer was still going down –then suddenly all perdition broke loose again while people were rushing around seeking friends and rescuing the wounded. The noise was comparable to nothing; there is nothing resembling it but thunder and cannon, and these are feeble in comparison.
What there is of Mauritius is beautiful. You have undulating wide expanses of sugar-cane–a fine, fresh green and very pleasant to the eye; and everywhere else you have a ragged luxuriance of tropic vegetation of vivid greens of varying shades, a wild tangle of underbrush, with graceful tall palms lifting their crippled plumes high above it; and you have stretches of shady dense forest with limpid streams frolicking through them, continually glimpsed and lost and glimpsed again in the pleasantest hide-and-seek fashion; and you have some tiny mountains, some quaint and picturesque groups of toy peaks, and a dainty little vest-pocket Matterhorn; and here and there and now and then a strip of sea with a white ruffle of surf breaks into the view.
That is Mauritius; and pretty enough. The details are few, the massed result is charming, but not imposing; not riotous, not exciting; it is a Sunday landscape. Perspective, and the enchantments wrought by distance, are wanting. There are no distances; there is no perspective, so to speak. Fifteen miles as the crow flies is the usual limit of vision. Mauritius is a garden and a park combined. It affects one’s emotions as parks and gardens affect them. The surfaces of one’s spiritual deeps are pleasantly played upon, the deeps themselves are not reached, not stirred. Spaciousness, remote altitudes, the sense of mystery which haunts apparently inaccessible mountain domes and summits reposing in the sky–these are the things which exalt the spirit and move it to see visions and dream dreams.
The Sandwich Islands remain my ideal of the perfect thing in the matter of tropical islands. I would add another story to Mauna Loa’s 16,000 feet if I could, and make it particularly bold and steep and craggy and forbidding and snowy; and I would make the volcano spout its lava-floods out of its summit instead of its sides; but aside from these non-essentials I have no corrections to suggest. I hope these will be attended to; I do not wish to have to speak of it again.
When your watch gets out of order you have choice of two things to do: throw it in the fire or take it to the watch-tinker. The former is the quickest.
–Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar.
The Arundel Castle is the finest boat I have seen in these seas. She is thoroughly modern, and that statement covers a great deal of ground. She has the usual defect, the common defect, the universal defect, the defect that has never been missing from any ship that ever sailed–she has imperfect beds. Many ships have good beds, but no ship has very good ones. In the matter of beds all ships have been badly edited, ignorantly edited, from the beginning. The selection of the beds is given to some hearty, strong-backed, self-made man, when it ought to be given to a frail woman accustomed from girlhood to backaches and insomnia. Nothing is so rare, on either side of the ocean, as a perfect bed; nothing is so difficult to make. Some of the hotels on both sides provide it, but no ship ever does or ever did. In Noah’s Ark the beds were simply scandalous. Noah set the fashion, and it will endure in one degree of modification or another till the next flood.
8 A.M. Passing Isle de Bourbon. Broken-up sky-line of volcanic mountains in the middle. Surely it would not cost much to repair them, and it seems inexcusable neglect to leave them as they are.
It seems stupid to send tired men to Europe to rest. It is no proper rest for the mind to clatter from town to town in the dust and cinders, and examine galleries and architecture, and be always meeting people and lunching and teaing and dining, and receiving worrying cables and letters. And a sea voyage on the Atlantic is of no use–voyage too short, sea too rough. The peaceful Indian and Pacific Oceans and the long stretches of time are the healing thing.
May 2, AM. A fair, great ship in sight, almost the first we have seen in these weeks of lonely voyaging. We are now in the Mozambique Channel, between Madagascar and South Africa, sailing straight west for Delagoa Bay.
Last night, the burly chief engineer, middle-aged, was standing telling a spirited seafaring tale, and had reached the most exciting place, where a man overboard was washing swiftly astern on the great seas, and uplifting despairing cries, everybody racing aft in a frenzy of excitement and fading hope, when the band, which had been silent a moment, began impressively its closing piece, the English national anthem. As simply as if he was unconscious of what he was doing, he stopped his story, uncovered, laid his laced cap against his breast, and slightly bent his grizzled head. The few bars finished, he put on his cap and took up his tale again, as naturally as if that interjection of music had been a part of it. There was something touching and fine about it, and it was moving to reflect that he was one of a myriad, scattered over every part of the globe, who by turn was doing as he was doing every hour of the twenty-four–those awake doing it while the others slept–those impressive bars forever floating up out of the various climes, never silent and never lacking reverent listeners.
All that I remember about Madagascar is that Thackeray’s little Billie went up to the top of the mast and there knelt him upon his knee, saying, “I see
“Jerusalem and Madagascar,
And North and South Amerikee.”
May 3. Sunday. Fifteen or twenty Africanders who will end their voyage to-day and strike for their several homes from Delagoa Bay to-morrow, sat up singing on the afterdeck in the moonlight till 3 A.M. Good fun and wholesome. And the songs were clean songs, and some of them were hallowed by tender associations. Finally, in a pause, a man asked, “Have you heard about the fellow that kept a diary crossing the Atlantic?” It was a discord, a wet blanket. The men were not in the mood for humorous dirt. The songs had carried them to their homes, and in spirit they sat by those far hearthstones, and saw faces and heard voices other than those that were about them. And so this disposition to drag in an old indecent anecdote got no welcome; nobody answered. The poor man hadn’t wit enough to see that he had blundered, but asked his question again. Again there was no response. It was embarrassing for him. In his confusion he chose the wrong course, did the wrong thing–began the anecdote. Began it in a deep and hostile stillness, where had been such life and stir and warm comradeship before. He delivered himself of the brief details of the diary’s first day, and did it with some confidence and a fair degree of eagerness. It fell flat. There was an awkward pause. The two rows of men sat like statues. There was no movement, no sound. He had to go on; there was no other way, at least none that an animal of his calibre could think of. At the close of each day’s diary, the same dismal silence followed. When at last he finished his tale and sprung the indelicate surprise which is wont to fetch a crash of laughter, not a ripple of sound resulted. It was as if the tale had been told to dead men. After what seemed a long, long time, somebody sighed, somebody else stirred in his seat; presently, the men dropped into a low murmur of confidential talk, each with his neighbor, and the incident was closed. There were indications that that man was fond of his anecdote; that it was his pet, his standby, his shot that never missed, his reputation-maker. But he will never tell it again. No doubt he will think of it sometimes, for that cannot well be helped; and then he will see a picture, and always the same picture–the double rank of dead men; the vacant deck stretching away in dimming perspective beyond them, the wide desert of smooth sea all abroad; the rim of the moon spying from behind a rag of black cloud; the remote top of the mizzenmast shearing a zigzag path through the fields of stars in the deeps of space; and this soft picture will remind him of the time that he sat in the midst of it and told his poor little tale and felt so lonesome when he got through.
Fifty Indians and Chinamen asleep in a big tent in the waist of the ship forward; they lie side by side with no space between; the former wrapped up, head and all, as in the Indian streets, the Chinamen uncovered; the lamp and things for opium smoking in the center.
A passenger said it was ten 2-ton truck loads of dynamite that lately exploded at Johannesburg. Hundreds killed; he doesn’t know how many; limbs picked up for miles around. Glass shattered, and roofs swept away or collapsed 200 yards off; fragment of iron flung three and a half miles.
It occurred at 3 p.m.; at 6, L65,000 had been subscribed. When this passenger left, L35,000 had been voted by city and state governments and L100,000 by citizens and business corporations. When news of the disaster was telephoned to the Exchange L35,000 were subscribed in the first five minutes. Subscribing was still going on when he left; the papers had ceased the names, only the amounts–too many names; not enough room. L100,000 subscribed by companies and citizens; if this is true, it must be what they call in Australia “a record”–the biggest instance of a spontaneous outpour for charity in history, considering the size of the population it was drawn from, $8 or $10 for each white resident, babies at the breast included.
Monday, May 4. Steaming slowly in the stupendous Delagoa Bay, its dim arms stretching far away and disappearing on both sides. It could furnish plenty of room for all the ships in the world, but it is shoal. The lead has given us 3 1/2 fathoms several times and we are drawing that, lacking 6 inches.
A bold headland–precipitous wall, 150 feet high, very strong, red color, stretching a mile or so. A man said it was Portuguese blood–battle fought here with the natives last year. I think this doubtful. Pretty cluster of houses on the tableland above the red-and rolling stretches of grass and groups of trees, like England.
The Portuguese have the railroad (one passenger train a day) to the border–70 miles–then the Netherlands Company have it. Thousands of tons of freight on the shore–no cover. This is Portuguese allover –indolence, piousness, poverty, impotence.
Crews of small boats and tugs, all jet black woolly heads and very muscular.
Winter. The South African winter is just beginning now, but nobody but an expert can tell it from summer. However, I am tired of summer; we have had it unbroken for eleven months. We spent the afternoon on shore, Delagoa Bay. A small town–no sights. No carriages. Three ‘rickshas, but we couldn’t get them–apparently private. These Portuguese are a rich brown, like some of the Indians. Some of the blacks have the long horse beads and very long chins of the negroes of the picture books; but most of them are exactly like the negroes of our Southern States round faces, flat noses, good-natured, and easy laughers.
Flocks of black women passed along, carrying outrageously heavy bags of freight on their heads. The quiver of their leg as the foot was planted and the strain exhibited by their bodies showed what a tax upon their strength the load was. They were stevedores and doing full stevedores work. They were very erect when unladden–from carrying heavy loads on their heads–just like the Indian women. It gives them a proud fine carriage.
Sometimes one saw a woman carrying on her head a laden and top-heavy basket the shape of an inverted pyramid-its top the size of a soup-plate, its base the diameter of a teacup. It required nice balancing–and got it.
No bright colors; yet there were a good many Hindoos.
The Second Class Passenger came over as usual at “lights out” (11) and we lounged along the spacious vague solitudes of the deck and smoked the peaceful pipe and talked. He told me an incident in Mr. Barnum’s life which was evidently characteristic of that great showman in several ways:
This was Barnum’s purchase of Shakespeare’s birthplace, a quarter of a century ago. The Second Class Passenger was in Jamrach’s employ at the time and knew Barnum well. He said the thing began in this way. One morning Barnum and Jamrach were in Jamrach’s little private snuggery back of the wilderness of caged monkeys and snakes and other commonplaces of Jamrach’s stock in trade, refreshing themselves after an arduous stroke of business, Jamrach with something orthodox, Barnum with something heterodox–for Barnum was a teetotaler. The stroke of business was in the elephant line. Jamrach had contracted to deliver to Barnum in New York 18 elephants for $360,000 in time for the next season’s opening. Then it occurred to Mr. Barnum that he needed a “card” He suggested Jumbo. Jamrach said he would have to think of something else–Jumbo couldn’t be had; the Zoo wouldn’t part with that elephant. Barnum said he was willing to pay a fortune for Jumbo if he could get him. Jamrach said it was no use to think about it; that Jumbo was as popular as the Prince of Wales and the Zoo wouldn’t dare to sell him; all England would be outraged at the idea; Jumbo was an English institution; he was part of the national glory; one might as well think of buying the Nelson monument. Barnum spoke up with vivacity and said:
“It’s a first-rate idea. I’ll buy the Monument.”
Jamrach was speechless for a second. Then he said, like one ashamed “You caught me. I was napping. For a moment I thought you were in earnest.”
Barnum said pleasantly–
“I was in earnest. I know they won’t sell it, but no matter, I will not throw away a good idea for all that. All I want is a big advertisement. I will keep the thing in mind, and if nothing better turns up I will offer to buy it. That will answer every purpose. It will furnish me a couple of columns of gratis advertising in every English and American paper for a couple of months, and give my show the biggest boom a show ever had in this world.”
Jamrach started to deliver a burst of admiration, but was interrupted by Barnum, who said:
“Here is a state of things! England ought to blush.”
His eye had fallen upon something in the newspaper. He read it through to himself, then read it aloud. It said that the house that Shakespeare was born in at Stratford-on-Avon was falling gradually to ruin through neglect; that the room where the poet first saw the light was now serving as a butcher’s shop; that all appeals to England to contribute money (the requisite sum stated) to buy and repair the house and place it in the care of salaried and trustworthy keepers had fallen resultless. Then Barnum said:
“There’s my chance. Let Jumbo and the Monument alone for the present –they’ll keep. I’ll buy Shakespeare’s house. I’ll set it up in my Museum in New York and put a glass case around it and make a sacred thing of it; and you’ll see all America flock there to worship; yes, and pilgrims from the whole earth; and I’ll make them take their hats off, too. In America we know how to value anything that Shakespeare’s touch has made holy. You’ll see.”
In conclusion the S. C. P. said:
“That is the way the thing came about. Barnum did buy Shakespeare’s house. He paid the price asked, and received the properly attested documents of sale. Then there was an explosion, I can tell you. England rose! That, the birthplace of the master-genius of all the ages and all the climes–that priceless possession of Britain–to be carted out of the country like so much old lumber and set up for sixpenny desecration in a Yankee show-shop–the idea was not to be tolerated for a moment. England rose in her indignation; and Barnum was glad to relinquish his prize and offer apologies. However, he stood out for a compromise; he claimed a concession–England must let him have Jumbo. And England consented, but not cheerfully.”
It shows how, by help of time, a story can grow–even after Barnum has had the first innings in the telling of it. Mr. Barnum told me the story himself, years ago. He said that the permission to buy Jumbo was not a concession; the purchase was made and the animal delivered before the public knew anything about it. Also, that the securing of Jumbo was all the advertisement he needed. It produced many columns of newspaper talk, free of cost, and he was satisfied. He said that if he had failed to get Jumbo he would have caused his notion of buying the Nelson Monument to be treacherously smuggled into print by some trusty friend, and after he had gotten a few hundred pages of gratuitous advertising out of it, he would have come out with a blundering, obtuse, but warm-hearted letter of apology, and in a postscript to it would have naively proposed to let the Monument go, and take Stonehenge in place of it at the same price.
It was his opinion that such a letter, written with well-simulated asinine innocence and gush would have gotten his ignorance and stupidity an amount of newspaper abuse worth six fortunes to him, and not purchasable for twice the money.
I knew Mr. Barnum well, and I placed every confidence in the account which he gave me of the Shakespeare birthplace episode. He said he found the house neglected and going-to decay, and he inquired into the matter and was told that many times earnest efforts had been made to raise money for its proper repair and preservation, but without success. He then proposed to buy it. The proposition was entertained, and a price named –$50,000, I think; but whatever it was, Barnum paid the money down, without remark, and the papers were drawn up and executed. He said that it had been his purpose to set up the house in his Museum, keep it in repair, protect it from name-scribblers and other desecrators, and leave it by bequest to the safe and perpetual guardianship of the Smithsonian Institute at Washington.
But as soon as it was found that Shakespeare’s house had passed into foreign hands and was going to be carried across the ocean, England was stirred as no appeal from the custodians of the relic had ever stirred England before, and protests came flowing in–and money, too, to stop the outrage. Offers of repurchase were made–offers of double the money that Mr. Barnum had paid for the house. He handed the house back, but took only the sum which it had cost him–but on the condition that an endowment sufficient for the future safeguarding and maintenance of the sacred relic should be raised. This condition was fulfilled.
That was Barnum’s account of the episode; and to the end of his days he claimed with pride and satisfaction that not England, but America –represented by him–saved the birthplace of Shakespeare from destruction.
At 3 P.M., May 6th, the ship slowed down, off the land, and thoughtfully and cautiously picked her way into the snug harbor of Durban, South Africa.
In statesmanship get the formalities right, never mind about the moralities.
–Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar.
Royal Hotel. Comfortable, good table, good service of natives and Madrasis. Curious jumble of modern and ancient city and village, primitiveness and the other thing. Electric bells, but they don’t ring. Asked why they didn’t, the watchman in the office said he thought they must be out of order; he thought so because some of them rang, but most of them didn’t. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to put them in order? He hesitated–like one who isn’t quite sure–then conceded the point.
May 7. A bang on the door at 6. Did I want my boots cleaned? Fifteen minutes later another bang. Did we want coffee? Fifteen later, bang again, my wife’s bath ready; 15 later, my bath ready. Two other bangs; I forget what they were about. Then lots of shouting back and forth, among the servants just as in an Indian hotel.
Evening. At 4 P.M. it was unpleasantly warm. Half-hour after sunset one needed a spring overcoat; by 8 a winter one.
Durban is a neat and clean town. One notices that without having his attention called to it.
Rickshaws drawn by splendidly built black Zulus, so overflowing with strength, seemingly, that it is a pleasure, not a pain, to see them snatch a rickshaw along. They smile and laugh and show their teeth–a good-natured lot. Not allowed to drink; 2s per hour for one person; 3s for two; 3d for a course–one person.
The chameleon in the hotel court. He is fat and indolent and contemplative; but is business-like and capable when a fly comes about –reaches out a tongue like a teaspoon and takes him in. He gums his tongue first. He is always pious, in his looks. And pious and thankful both, when Providence or one of us sends him a fly. He has a froggy head, and a back like a new grave–for shape; and hands like a bird’s toes that have been frostbitten. But his eyes are his exhibition feature. A couple of skinny cones project from the sides of his head, with a wee shiny bead of an eye set in the apex of each; and these cones turn bodily like pivot-guns and point every-which-way, and they are independent of each other; each has its own exclusive machinery. When I am behind him and C. in front of him, he whirls one eye rearwards and the other forwards–which gives him a most Congressional expression (one eye on the constituency and one on the swag); and then if something happens above and below him he shoots out one eye upward like a telescope and the other downward–and this changes his expression, but does not improve it.
Natives must not be out after the curfew bell without a pass. In Natal there are ten blacks to one white.
Sturdy plump creatures are the women. They comb their wool up to a peak and keep it in position by stiffening it with brown-red clay–half of this tower colored, denotes engagement; the whole of it colored denotes marriage.
None but heathen Zulus on the police; Christian ones not allowed.
May 9. A drive yesterday with friends over the Berea. Very fine roads and lofty, overlooking the whole town, the harbor, and the sea-beautiful views. Residences all along, set in the midst of green lawns with shrubs and generally one or two intensely red outbursts of poinsettia–the flaming splotch of blinding red a stunning contrast with the world of surrounding green. The cactus tree–candelabrum-like; and one twisted like gray writhing serpents. The “flat-crown” (should be flat-roof) –half a dozen naked branches full of elbows, slant upward like artificial supports, and fling a roof of delicate foliage out in a horizontal platform as flat as a floor; and you look up through this thin floor as through a green cobweb or veil. The branches are japanesich. All about you is a bewildering variety of unfamiliar and beautiful trees; one sort wonderfully dense foliage and very dark green–so dark that you notice it at once, notwithstanding there are so many orange trees. The “flamboyant”–not in flower, now, but when in flower lives up to its name, we are told. Another tree with a lovely upright tassel scattered among its rich greenery, red and glowing as a firecoal. Here and there a gum-tree; half a dozen lofty Norfolk Island pines lifting their fronded arms skyward. Groups of tall bamboo.
Saw one bird. Not many birds here, and they have no music–and the flowers not much smell, they grow so fast.
Everything neat and trim and clean like the town. The loveliest trees and the greatest variety I have ever seen anywhere, except approaching Darjeeling. Have not heard anyone call Natal the garden of South Africa, but that is what it probably is.
It was when Bishop of Natal that Colenso raised such a storm in the religious world. The concerns of religion are a vital matter here yet. A vigilant eye is kept upon Sunday. Museums and other dangerous resorts are not allowed to be open. You may sail on the Bay, but it is wicked to play cricket. For a while a Sunday concert was tolerated, upon condition that it must be admission free and the money taken by collection. But the collection was alarmingly large and that stopped the matter. They are particular about babies. A clergyman would not bury a child according to the sacred rites because it had not been baptized. The Hindoo is more liberal. He burns no child under three, holding that it does not need purifying.
The King of the Zulus, a fine fellow of 30, was banished six years ago for a term of seven years. He is occupying Napoleon’s old stand–St. Helena. The people are a little nervous about having him come back, and they may well be, for Zulu kings have been terrible people sometimes –like Tchaka, Dingaan, and Cetewayo.
There is a large Trappist monastery two hours from Durban, over the country roads, and in company with Mr. Milligan and Mr. Hunter, general manager of the Natal government railways, who knew the heads of it, we went out to see it.
There it all was, just as one reads about it in books and cannot believe that it is so–I mean the rough, hard work, the impossible hours, the scanty food, the coarse raiment, the Maryborough beds, the tabu of human speech, of social intercourse, of relaxation, of amusement, of entertainment, of the presence of woman in the men’s establishment. There it all was. It was not a dream, it was not a lie. And yet with the fact before one’s face it was still incredible. It is such a sweeping suppression of human instincts, such an extinction of the man as an individual.
La Trappe must have known the human race well. The scheme which he invented hunts out everything that a man wants and values–and withholds it from him. Apparently there is no detail that can help make life worth living that has not been carefully ascertained and placed out of the Trappist’s reach. La Trappe must have known that there were men who would enjoy this kind of misery, but how did he find it out?
If he had consulted you or me he would have been told that his scheme lacked too many attractions; that it was impossible; that it could never be floated. But there in the monastery was proof that he knew the human race better than it knew itself. He set his foot upon every desire that a man has–yet he floated his project, and it has prospered for two hundred years, and will go on prospering forever, no doubt.
Man likes personal distinction–there in the monastery it is obliterated. He likes delicious food–there he gets beans and bread and tea, and not enough of it. He likes to lie softly–there he lies on a sand mattress, and has a pillow and a blanket, but no sheet. When he is dining, in a great company of friends, he likes to laugh and chat–there a monk reads a holy book aloud during meals, and nobody speaks or laughs. When a man has a hundred friends about him, evenings, be likes to have a good time and run late–there he and the rest go silently to bed at 8; and in the dark, too; there is but a loose brown robe to discard, there are no night-clothes to put on, a light is not needed. Man likes to lie abed late there he gets up once or twice in the night to perform some religious office, and gets up finally for the day at two in the morning. Man likes light work or none at all–there he labors all day in the field, or in the blacksmith shop or the other shops devoted to the mechanical trades, such as shoemaking, saddlery, carpentry, and so on. Man likes the society of girls and women–there he never has it. He likes to have his children about him, and pet them and play with them –there he has none. He likes billiards–there is no table there. He likes outdoor sports and indoor dramatic and musical and social entertainments–there are none there. He likes to bet on things–I was told that betting is forbidden there. When a man’s temper is up he likes to pour it out upon somebody there this is not allowed. A man likes animals–pets; there are none there. He likes to smoke–there he cannot do it. He likes to read the news–no papers or magazines come there. A man likes to know how his parents and brothers and sisters are getting along when he is away, and if they miss him–there he cannot know. A man likes a pretty house, and pretty furniture, and pretty things, and pretty colors–there he has nothing but naked aridity and sombre colors. A man likes–name it yourself: whatever it is, it is absent from that place.
From what I could learn, all that a man gets for this is merely the saving of his soul.
It all seems strange, incredible, impossible. But La Trappe knew the race. He knew the powerful attraction of unattractiveness; he knew that no life could be imagined, howsoever comfortless and forbidding, but somebody would want to try it.
This parent establishment of Germans began its work fifteen years ago, strangers, poor, and unencouraged; it owns 15,000 acres of land now, and raises grain and fruit, and makes wines, and manufactures all manner of things, and has native apprentices in its shops, and sends them forth able to read and write, and also well equipped to earn their living by their trades. And this young establishment has set up eleven branches in South Africa, and in them they are christianizing and educating and teaching wage-yielding mechanical trades to 1,200 boys and girls. Protestant Missionary work is coldly regarded by the commercial white colonist all over the heathen world, as a rule, and its product is nicknamed “rice-Christians” (occupationless incapables who join the church for revenue only), but I think it would be difficult to pick a flaw in the work of these Catholic monks, and I believe that the disposition to attempt it has not shown itself.
Tuesday, May 12. Transvaal politics in a confused condition. First the sentencing of the Johannesburg Reformers startled England by its severity; on the top of this came Kruger’s exposure of the cipher correspondence, which showed that the invasion of the Transvaal, with the design of seizing that country and adding it to the British Empire, was planned by Cecil Rhodes and Beit–which made a revulsion in English feeling, and brought out a storm against Rhodes and the Chartered Company for degrading British honor. For a good while I couldn’t seem to get at a clear comprehension of it, it was so tangled. But at last by patient study I have managed it, I believe. As I understand it, the Uitlanders and other Dutchmen were dissatisfied because the English would not allow them to take any part in the government except to pay taxes. Next, as I understand it, Dr. Kruger and Dr. Jameson, not having been able to make the medical business pay, made a raid into Matabeleland with the intention of capturing the capital, Johannesburg, and holding the women and children to ransom until the Uitlanders and the other Boers should grant to them and the Chartered Company the political rights which had been withheld from them. They would have succeeded in this great scheme, as I understand it, but for the interference of Cecil Rhodes and Mr. Beit, and other Chiefs of the Matabele, who persuaded their countrymen to revolt and throw off their allegiance to Germany. This, in turn, as I understand it, provoked the King of Abyssinia to destroy the Italian army and fall back upon Johannesburg; this at the instigation of Rhodes, to bull the stock market.
Every one is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody. –Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar.
When I scribbled in my note-book a year ago the paragraph which ends the preceding chapter, it was meant to indicate, in an extravagant form, two things: the conflicting nature of the information conveyed by the citizen to the stranger concerning South African politics, and the resulting confusion created in the stranger’s mind thereby.
But it does not seem so very extravagant now. Nothing could in that disturbed and excited time make South African politics clear or quite rational to the citizen of the country because his personal interest and his political prejudices were in his way; and nothing could make those politics clear or rational to the stranger, the sources of his information being such as they were.
I was in South Africa some little time. When I arrived there the political pot was boiling fiercely. Four months previously, Jameson had plunged over the Transvaal border with about 600 armed horsemen at his back, to go to the “relief of the women and children” of Johannesburg; on the fourth day of his march the Boers had defeated him in battle, and carried him and his men to Pretoria, the capital, as prisoners; the Boer government had turned Jameson and his officers over to the British government for trial, and shipped them to England; next, it had arrested 64 important citizens of Johannesburg as raid-conspirators, condemned their four leaders to death, then commuted the sentences, and now the 64 were waiting, in jail, for further results. Before midsummer they were all out excepting two, who refused to sign the petitions for release; 58 had been fined $10,000 each and enlarged, and the four leaders had gotten off with fines of $125,000 each with permanent exile added, in one case.
Those were wonderfully interesting days for a stranger, and I was glad. to be in the thick of the excitement. Everybody was talking, and I expected to understand the whole of one side of it in a very little while.
I was disappointed. There were singularities, perplexities, unaccountabilities about it which I was not able to master. I had no personal access to Boers–their side was a secret to me, aside from what I was able to gather of it from published statements. My sympathies were soon with the Reformers in the Pretoria jail, with their friends, and with their cause. By diligent inquiry in Johannesburg I found out –apparently–all the details of their side of the quarrel except one–what they expected to accomplish by an armed rising.
Nobody seemed to know.
The reason why the Reformers were discontented and wanted some changes made, seemed quite clear. In Johannesburg it was claimed that the Uitlanders (strangers, foreigners) paid thirteen-fifteenths of the Transvaal taxes, yet got little or nothing for it. Their city had no charter; it had no municipal government; it could levy no taxes for drainage, water-supply, paving, cleaning, sanitation, policing. There was a police force, but it was composed of Boers, it was furnished by the State Government, and the city had no control over it. Mining was very costly; the government enormously increased the cost by putting burdensome taxes upon the mines, the output, the machinery, the buildings; by burdensome imposts upon incoming materials; by burdensome railway-freight-charges. Hardest of all to bear, the government reserved to itself a monopoly in that essential thing, dynamite, and burdened it with an extravagant price. The detested Hollander from over the water held all the public offices. The government was rank with corruption. The Uitlander had no vote, and must live in the State ten or twelve years before he could get one. He was not represented in the Raad (legislature) that oppressed him and fleeced him. Religion was not free. There were no schools where the teaching was in English, yet the great majority of the white population of the State knew no tongue but that. The State would not pass a liquor law; but allowed a great trade in cheap vile brandy among the blacks, with the result that 25 per cent. of the 50,000 blacks employed in the mines were usually drunk and incapable of working.
There–it was plain enough that the reasons for wanting some changes made were abundant and reasonable, if this statement of the existing grievances was correct.
What the Uitlanders wanted was reform–under the existing Republic.
What they proposed to do was to secure these reforms by, prayer, petition, and persuasion.
They did petition. Also, they issued a Manifesto, whose very first note is a bugle-blast of loyalty: “We want the establishment of this Republic as a true Republic.”
Could anything be clearer than the Uitlander’s statement of the grievances and oppressions under which they were suffering? Could anything be more legal and citizen-like and law-respecting than their attitude as expressed by their Manifesto? No. Those things were perfectly clear, perfectly comprehensible.
But at this point the puzzles and riddles and confusions begin to flock in. You have arrived at a place which you cannot quite understand.
For you find that as a preparation for this loyal, lawful, and in every way unexceptionable attempt to persuade the government to right their grievances, the Uitlanders had smuggled a Maxim gun or two and 1,500 muskets into the town, concealed in oil tanks and coal cars, and had begun to form and drill military companies composed of clerks, merchants, and citizens generally.
What was their idea? Did they suppose that the Boers would attack them for petitioning, for redress? That could not be.
Did they suppose that the Boers would attack them even for issuing a Manifesto demanding relief under the existing government?
Yes, they apparently believed so, because the air was full of talk of forcing the government to grant redress if it were not granted peacefully.
The Reformers were men of high intelligence. If they were in earnest, they were taking extraordinary risks. They had enormously valuable properties to defend; their town was full of women and children; their mines and compounds were packed with thousands upon thousands of sturdy blacks. If the Boers attacked, the mines would close, the blacks would swarm out and get drunk; riot and conflagration and the Boers together might lose the Reformers more in a day, in money, blood, and suffering, than the desired political relief could compensate in ten years if they won the fight and secured the reforms.
It is May, 1897, now; a year has gone by, and the confusions of that day have been to a considerable degree cleared away. Mr. Cecil Rhodes, Dr. Jameson, and others responsible for the Raid, have testified before the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry in London, and so have Mr. Lionel Phillips and other Johannesburg Reformers, monthly-nurses of the Revolution which was born dead. These testimonies have thrown light. Three books have added much to this light:
“South Africa As It Is,” by Mr. Statham, an able writer partial to the Boers; “The Story of an African Crisis,” by Mr. Garrett, a brilliant writer partial to Rhodes; and “A Woman’s Part in a Revolution,” by Mrs. John Hays Hammond, a vigorous and vivid diarist, partial to the Reformers. By liquifying the evidence of the prejudiced books and of the prejudiced parliamentary witnesses and stirring the whole together and pouring it into my own (prejudiced) moulds, I have got at the truth of that puzzling South African situation, which is this:
1. The capitalists and other chief men of Johannesburg were fretting under various political and financial burdens imposed by the State (the South African Republic, sometimes called “the Transvaal”) and desired to procure by peaceful means a modification of the laws.
2. Mr. Cecil Rhodes, Premier of the British Cape Colony, millionaire, creator and managing director of the territorially-immense and financially unproductive South Africa Company; projector of vast schemes for the unification and consolidation of all the South African States, one imposing commonwealth or empire under the shadow and general protection of the British flag, thought he saw an opportunity to make profitable use of the Uitlander discontent above mentioned–make the Johannesburg cat help pull out one of his consolidation chestnuts for him. With this view he set himself the task of warming the lawful and legitimate petitions and supplications of the Uitlanders into seditious talk, and their frettings into threatenings–the final outcome to be revolt and armed rebellion. If he could bring about a bloody collision between those people and the Boer government, Great Britain would have to interfere; her interference would be resisted by the Boers; she would chastise them and add the Transvaal to her South African possessions. It was not a foolish idea, but a rational and practical one.
After a couple of years of judicious plotting, Mr. Rhodes had his reward; the revolutionary kettle was briskly boiling in Johannesburg, and the Uitlander leaders were backing their appeals to the government–now hardened into demands–by threats of force and bloodshed. By the middle of December, 1895, the explosion seemed imminent. Mr. Rhodes was diligently helping, from his distant post in Cape Town. He was helping to procure arms for Johannesburg; he was also arranging to have Jameson break over the border and come to Johannesburg with 600 mounted men at his back. Jameson–as per instructions from Rhodes, perhaps–wanted a letter from the Reformers requesting him to come to their aid. It was a good idea. It would throw a considerable share of the responsibility of his invasion upon the Reformers. He got the letter–that famous one urging him to fly to the rescue of the women and children. He got it two months before he flew. The Reformers seem to have thought it over and concluded that they had not done wisely; for the next day after giving Jameson the implicating document they wanted to withdraw it and leave the women and children in danger; but they were told that it was too late. The original had gone to Mr. Rhodes at the Cape. Jameson had kept a copy, though.
From that time until the 29th of December, a good deal of the Reformers’ time was taken up with energetic efforts to keep Jameson from coming to their assistance. Jameson’s invasion had been set for the 26th. The Reformers were not ready. The town was not united. Some wanted a fight, some wanted peace; some wanted a new government, some wanted the existing one reformed; apparently very few wanted the revolution to take place in the interest and under the ultimate shelter of the Imperial flag –British; yet a report began to spread that Mr. Rhodes’s embarrassing assistance had for its end this latter object.
Jameson was away up on the frontier tugging at his leash, fretting to burst over the border. By hard work the Reformers got his starting-date postponed a little, and wanted to get it postponed eleven days. Apparently, Rhodes’s agents were seconding their efforts–in fact wearing out the telegraph wires trying to hold him back. Rhodes was himself the only man who could have effectively postponed Jameson, but that would have been a disadvantage to his scheme; indeed, it could spoil his whole two years’ work.
Jameson endured postponement three days, then resolved to wait no longer. Without any orders–excepting Mr. Rhodes’s significant silence–he cut the telegraph wires on the 29th, and made his plunge that night, to go to the rescue of the women and children, by urgent request of a letter now nine days old–as per date,–a couple of months old, in fact. He read the letter to his men, and it affected them. It did not affect all of them alike. Some saw in it a piece of piracy of doubtful wisdom, and were sorry to find that they had been assembled to violate friendly territory instead of to raid native kraals, as they had supposed.
Jameson would have to ride 150 miles. He knew that there were suspicions abroad in the Transvaal concerning him, but he expected to get through to Johannesburg before they should become general and obstructive. But a telegraph wire had been overlooked and not cut. It spread the news of his invasion far and wide, and a few hours after his start the Boer farmers were riding hard from every direction to intercept him.
As soon as it was known in Johannesburg that he was on his way to rescue the women and children, the grateful people put the women and children in a train and rushed them for Australia. In fact, the approach of Johannesburg’s saviour created panic and consternation; there, and a multitude of males of peaceable disposition swept to the trains like a sand-storm. The early ones fared best; they secured seats–by sitting in them–eight hours before the first train was timed to leave.
Mr. Rhodes lost no time. He cabled the renowned Johannesburg letter of invitation to the London press–the gray-headedest piece of ancient history that ever went over a cable.
The new poet laureate lost no time. He came out with a rousing poem lauding Jameson’s prompt and splendid heroism in flying to the rescue of the women and children; for the poet could not know that he did not fly until two months after the invitation. He was deceived by the false date of the letter, which was December 20th.
Jameson was intercepted by the Boers on New Year’s Day, and on the next day he surrendered. He had carried his copy of the letter along, and if his instructions required him–in case of emergency–to see that it fell into the hands of the Boers, he loyally carried them out. Mrs. Hammond gives him a sharp rap for his supposed carelessness, and emphasizes her feeling about it with burning italics: “It was picked up on the battle-field in a leathern pouch, supposed to be Dr. Jameson’s saddle-bag. Why, in the name of all that is discreet and honorable, didn’t he eat it!”
She requires too much. He was not in the service of the Reformers –excepting ostensibly; he was in the service of Mr. Rhodes. It was the only plain English document, undarkened by ciphers and mysteries, and responsibly signed and authenticated, which squarely implicated the Reformers in the raid, and it was not to Mr. Rhodes’s interest that it should be eaten. Besides, that letter was not the original, it was only a copy. Mr. Rhodes had the original–and didn’t eat it. He cabled it to the London press. It had already been read in England and America and all over Europe before, Jameson dropped it on the battlefield. If the subordinate’s knuckles deserved a rap, the principal’s deserved as many as a couple of them.
That letter is a juicily dramatic incident and is entitled to all its celebrity, because of the odd and variegated effects which it produced. All within the space of a single week it had made Jameson an illustrious hero in England, a pirate in Pretoria, and an ass without discretion or honor in Johannesburg; also it had produced a poet-laureatic explosion of colored fireworks which filled the world’s sky with giddy splendors, and, the knowledge that Jameson was coming with it to rescue the women and children emptied Johannesburg of that detail of the population. For an old letter, this was much. For a letter two months old, it did marvels; if it had been a year old it would have done miracles.
First catch your Boer, then kick him. –Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar.
Those latter days were days of bitter worry and trouble for the harassed Reformers.
From Mrs. Hammond we learn that on the 31st (the day after Johannesburg heard of the invasion), “The Reform Committee repudiates Dr. Jameson’s inroad.”
It also publishes its intention to adhere to the Manifesto.
It also earnestly desires that the inhabitants shall refrain from overt acts against the Boer government.
It also “distributes arms” at the Court House, and furnishes horses “to the newly-enrolled volunteers.”
It also brings a Transvaal flag into the committee-room, and the entire body swear allegiance to it “with uncovered heads and upraised arms.”
Also “one thousand Lee-Metford rifles have been given out”–to rebels.
Also, in a speech, Reformer Lionel Phillips informs the public that the Reform Committee Delegation has “been received with courtesy by the Government Commission,” and “been assured that their proposals shall be earnestly considered.” That “while the Reform Committee regretted Jameson’s precipitate action, they would stand by him.”
Also the populace are in a state of “wild enthusiasm,” and “46 can scarcely be restrained; they want to go out to meet Jameson and bring him in with triumphal outcry.”
Also the British High Commissioner has issued a damnifying proclamation against Jameson and all British abettors of his game. It arrives January 1st.
It is a difficult position for the Reformers, and full of hindrances and perplexities. Their duty is hard, but plain:
1. They have to repudiate the inroad, and stand by the inroader.
2. They have to swear allegiance to the Boer government, and distribute cavalry horses to the rebels.
3. They have to forbid overt acts against the Boer government, and distribute arms to its enemies.
4. They have to avoid collision with the British government, but still stand by Jameson and their new oath of allegiance to the Boer government, taken, uncovered, in presence of its flag.
They did such of these things as they could; they tried to do them all; in fact, did do them all, but only in turn, not simultaneously. In the nature of things they could not be made to simultane.
In preparing for armed revolution and in talking revolution, were the Reformers “bluffing,” or were they in earnest? If they were in earnest, they were taking great risks–as has been already pointed out. A gentleman of high position told me in Johannesburg that he had in his possession a printed document proclaiming a new government and naming its president–one of the Reform leaders. He said that this proclamation had been ready for issue, but was suppressed when the raid collapsed. Perhaps I misunderstood him. Indeed, I must have misunderstood him, for I have not seen mention of this large incident in print anywhere.
Besides, I hope I am mistaken; for, if I am, then there is argument that the Reformers were privately not serious, but were only trying to scare the Boer government into granting the desired reforms.
The Boer government was scared, and it had a right to be. For if Mr. Rhodes’s plan was to provoke a collision that would compel the interference of England, that was a serious matter. If it could be shown that that was also the Reformers’ plan and purpose, it would prove that they had marked out a feasible project, at any rate, although it was one which could hardly fail to cost them ruinously before England should arrive. But it seems clear that they had no such plan nor desire. If, when the worst should come to the worst, they meant to overthrow the government, they also meant to inherit the assets themselves, no doubt.
This scheme could hardly have succeeded. With an army of Boers at their gates and 50,000 riotous blacks in their midst, the odds against success would have been too heavy–even if the whole town had been armed. With only 2,500 rifles in the place, they stood really no chance.
To me, the military problems of the situation are of more interest than the political ones, because by disposition I have always been especially fond of war. No, I mean fond of discussing war; and fond of giving military advice. If I had been with Jameson the morning after he started, I should have advised him to turn back. That was Monday; it was then that he received his first warning from a Boer source not to violate the friendly soil of the Transvaal. It showed that his invasion was known. If I had been with him on Tuesday morning and afternoon, when he received further warnings, I should have repeated my advice. If I had been with him the next morning–New Year’s–when he received notice that “a few hundred” Boers were waiting for him a few miles ahead, I should not have advised, but commanded him to go back. And if I had been with him two or three hours later–a thing not conceivable to me–I should have retired him by force; for at that time he learned that the few hundred had now grown to 800; and that meant that the growing would go on growing.
For,–by authority of Mr. Garrett, one knows that Jameson’s 600 were only 530 at most, when you count out his native drivers, etc.; and that the 530 consisted largely of “green” youths, “raw young fellows,” not trained and war-worn British soldiers; and I would have told. Jameson that those lads would not be able to shoot effectively from horseback in the scamper and racket of battle, and that there would not be anything for them to shoot at, anyway, but rocks; for the Boers would be behind the rocks, not out in the open. I would have told him that 300 Boer sharpshooters behind rocks would be an overmatch for his 500 raw young fellows on horseback.
If pluck were the only thing essential to battle-winning, the English would lose no battles. But discretion, as well as pluck, is required when one fights Boers and Red Indians. In South Africa the Briton has always insisted upon standing bravely up, unsheltered, before the hidden Boer, and taking the results: Jameson’s men would follow the custom. Jameson would not have listened to me–he would have been intent upon repeating history, according to precedent. Americans are not acquainted with the British-Boer war of 1881; but its history is interesting, and could have been instructive to Jameson if he had been receptive. I will cull some details of it from trustworthy sources mainly from “Russell’s Natal.” Mr. Russell is not a Boer, but a Briton. He is inspector of schools, and his history is a text-book whose purpose is the instruction of the Natal English youth.
After the seizure of the Transvaal and the suppression of the Boer government by England in 1877, the Boers fretted for three years, and made several appeals to England for a restoration of their liberties, but without result. Then they gathered themselves together in a great mass-meeting at Krugersdorp, talked their troubles over, and resolved to fight for their deliverance from the British yoke. (Krugersdorp–the place where the Boers interrupted the Jameson raid.) The little handful of farmers rose against the strongest empire in the world. They proclaimed martial law and the re-establishment of their Republic. They organized their forces and sent them forward to intercept the British battalions. This, although Sir Garnet Wolseley had but lately made proclamation that “so long as the sun shone in the heavens,” the Transvaal would be and remain English territory. And also in spite of the fact that the commander of the 94th regiment–already on the march to suppress this rebellion–had been heard to say that “the Boers would turn tail at the first beat of the big drum.”–[“South Africa As It Is,” by F. Reginald Statham, page 82. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1897.]
Four days after the flag-raising, the Boer force which had been sent forward to forbid the invasion of the English troops met them at Bronkhorst Spruit–246 men of the 94th regiment, in command of a colonel, the big drum beating, the band playing–and the first battle was fought. It lasted ten minutes. Result:
British loss, more than 150 officers and men, out of the 246. Surrender of the remnant.
Boer loss–if any–not stated.
They are fine marksmen, the Boers. From the cradle up, they live on horseback and hunt wild animals with the rifle. They have a passion for liberty and the Bible, and care for nothing else.
“General Sir George Colley, Lieutenant-Governor and Commander-in-Chief in Natal, felt it his duty to proceed at once to the relief of the loyalists and soldiers beleaguered in the different towns of the Transvaal.” He moved out with 1,000 men and some artillery. He found the Boers encamped in a strong and sheltered position on high ground at Laing’s Nek–every Boer behind a rock. Early in the morning of the 28th January, 1881, he moved to the attack “with the 58th regiment, commanded by Colonel Deane, a mounted squadron of 70 men, the 60th Rifles, the Naval Brigade with three rocket tubes, and the Artillery with six guns.” He shelled the Boers for twenty minutes, then the assault was delivered, the 58th marching up the slope in solid column. The battle was soon finished, with this result, according to Russell–
British loss in killed and wounded, 174.
Boer loss, “trifling.”
Colonel Deane was killed, and apparently every officer above the grade of lieutenant was killed or wounded, for the 58th retreated to its camp in command of a lieutenant. (“Africa as It Is.”)
That ended the second battle.
On the 7th of February General Colley discovered that the Boers were flanking his position. The next morning he left his camp at Mount Pleasant and marched out and crossed the Ingogo river with 270 men, started up the Ingogo heights, and there fought a battle which lasted from noon till nightfall. He then retreated, leaving his wounded with his military chaplain, and in recrossing the now swollen river lost some of his men by drowning. That was the third Boer victory. Result, according to Mr. Russell–
British loss 150 out of 270 engaged.
Boer loss, 8 killed, 9 wounded–17.
There was a season of quiet, now, but at the end of about three weeks Sir George Colley conceived the idea of climbing, with an infantry and artillery force, the steep and rugged mountain of Amajuba in the night–a bitter hard task, but he accomplished it. On the way he left about 200 men to guard a strategic point, and took about 400 up the mountain with him. When the sun rose in the morning, there was an unpleasant surprise for the Boers; yonder were the English troops visible on top of the mountain two or three miles away, and now their own position was at the mercy of the English artillery. The Boer chief resolved to retreat–up that mountain. He asked for volunteers, and got them.
The storming party crossed the swale and began to creep up the steeps, “and from behind rocks and bushes they shot at the soldiers on the skyline as if they were stalking deer,” says Mr. Russell. There was “continuous musketry fire, steady and fatal on the one side, wild and ineffectual on the other.” The Boers reached the top, and began to put in their ruinous work. Presently the British “broke and fled for their lives down the rugged steep.” The Boers had won the battle. Result in killed and wounded, including among the killed the British General:
British loss, 226, out of 400 engaged.
Boer loss, 1 killed, 5 wounded.
That ended the war. England listened to reason, and recognized the Boer Republic–a government which has never been in any really awful danger since, until Jameson started after it with his 500 “raw young fellows.” To recapitulate:
The Boer farmers and British soldiers fought 4 battles, and the Boers won them all. Result of the 4, in killed and wounded:
British loss, 700 men.
Boer loss, so far as known, 23 men.
It is interesting, now, to note how loyally Jameson and his several trained British military officers tried to make their battles conform to precedent. Mr. Garrett’s account of the Raid is much the best one I have met with, and my impressions of the Raid are drawn from that.
When Jameson learned that near Krugersdorp he would find 800 Boers waiting to dispute his passage, he was not in the least disturbed. He was feeling as he had felt two or three days before, when he had opened his campaign with a historic remark to the same purport as the one with which the commander of the 94th had opened the Boer-British war of fourteen years before. That Commander’s remark was, that the Boers “would turn tail at the first beat of the big drum.” Jameson’s was, that with his “raw young fellows” he could kick the (persons) of the Boers “all round the Transvaal.” He was keeping close to historic precedent.
Jameson arrived in the presence of the Boers. They–according to precedent–were not visible. It was a country of ridges, depressions, rocks, ditches, moraines of mining-tailings–not even as favorable for cavalry work as Laing’s Nek had been in the former disastrous days. Jameson shot at the ridges and rocks with his artillery, just as General Colley had done at the Nek; and did them no damage and persuaded no Boer to show himself. Then about a hundred of his men formed up to charge the ridge-according to the 58th’s precedent at the Nek; but as they dashed forward they opened out in a long line, which was a considerable improvement on the 58th’s tactics; when they had gotten to within 200 yards of the ridge the concealed Boers opened out on them and emptied 20 saddles. The unwounded dismounted and fired at the rocks over the backs of their horses; but the return-fire was too hot, and they mounted again, “and galloped back or crawled away into a clump of reeds for cover, where they were shortly afterward taken prisoners as they lay among the reeds. Some thirty prisoners were so taken, and during the night which followed the Boers carried away another thirty killed and wounded–the wounded to Krugersdorp hospital.” Sixty per cent. of the assaulted force disposed of–according to Mr. Garrett’s estimate.
It was according to Amajuba precedent, where the British loss was 226 out of about 400 engaged.
Also, in Jameson’s camp, that night, “there lay about 30 wounded or otherwise disabled” men. Also during the night “some 30 or 40 young fellows got separated from the command and straggled through into Johannesburg.” Altogether a possible 150 men gone, out of his 530. His lads had fought valorously, but had not been able to get near enough to a Boer to kick him around the Transvaal.
At dawn the next morning the column of something short of 400 whites resumed its march. Jameson’s grit was stubbornly good; indeed, it was always that. He still had hopes. There was a long and tedious zigzagging march through broken ground, with constant harassment from the Boers; and at last the column “walked into a sort of trap,” and the Boers “closed in upon it.” “Men and horses dropped on all sides. In the column the feeling grew that unless it could burst through the Boer lines at this point it was done for. The Maxims were fired until they grew too hot, and, water failing for the cool jacket, five of them jammed and went out of action. The 7-pounder was fired until only half an hour’s ammunition was left to fire with. One last rush was made, and failed, and then the Staats Artillery came up on the left flank, and the game was up.”
Jameson hoisted a white flag and surrendered.
There is a story, which may not be true, about an ignorant Boer farmer there who thought that this white flag was the national flag of England. He had been at Bronkhorst, and Laing’s Nek, and Ingogo and Amajuba, and supposed that the English did not run up their flag excepting at the end of a fight.
The following is (as I understand it) Mr. Garrett’s estimate of Jameson’s total loss in killed and wounded for the two days:
“When they gave in they were minus some 20 per cent. of combatants. There were 76 casualties. There were 30 men hurt or sick in the wagons. There were 27 killed on the spot or mortally wounded.”
Total, 133, out of the original 530. It is just 25 per cent.–[However, I judge that the total was really 150; for the number of wounded carried to Krugersdorp hospital was 53; not 30, as Mr. Garrett reports it. The lady whose guest I was in Krugerdorp gave me the figures. She was head nurse from the beginning of hostilities (Jan. 1) until the professional nurses arrived, Jan. 8th. Of the 53, “Three or four were Boers”; I quote her words.]–This is a large improvement upon the precedents established at Bronkhorst, Laing’s Nek, Ingogo, and Amajuba, and seems to indicate that Boer marksmanship is not so good now as it was in those days. But there is one detail in which the Raid-episode exactly repeats history. By surrender at Bronkhorst, the whole British force disappeared from the theater of war; this was the case with Jameson’s force.
In the Boer loss, also, historical precedent is followed with sufficient fidelity. In the 4 battles named above, the Boer loss, so far as known, was an average of 6 men per battle, to the British average loss of 175. In Jameson’s battles, as per Boer official report, the Boer loss in killed was 4. Two of these were killed by the Boers themselves, by accident, the other by Jameson’s army–one of them intentionally, the other by a pathetic mischance. “A young Boer named Jacobz was moving forward to give a drink to one of the wounded troopers (Jameson’s) after the first charge, when another wounded man, mistaking his intention; shot him.” There were three or four wounded Boers in the Krugersdorp hospital, and apparently no others have been reported. Mr. Garrett, “on a balance of probabilities, fully accepts the official version, and thanks Heaven the killed was not larger.”
As a military man, I wish to point out what seems to me to be military errors in the conduct of the campaign which we have just been considering. I have seen active service in the field, and it was in the actualities of war that I acquired my training and my right to speak. I served two weeks in the beginning of our Civil War, and during all that tune commanded a battery of infantry composed of twelve men. General Grant knew the history of my campaign, for I told it him. I also told him the principle upon which I had conducted it; which was, to tire the enemy. I tired out and disqualified many battalions, yet never had a casualty myself nor lost a man. General Grant was not given to paying compliments, yet he said frankly that if I had conducted the whole war much bloodshed would have been spared, and that what the army might have lost through the inspiriting results of collision in the field would have been amply made up by the liberalizing influences of travel. Further endorsement does not seem to me to be necessary.
Let us now examine history, and see what it teaches. In the 4 battles fought in 1881 and the two fought by Jameson, the British loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners, was substantially 1,300 men; the Boer loss, as far as is ascertainable, eras about 30 men. These figures show that there was a defect somewhere. It was not in the absence of courage. I think it lay in the absence of discretion. The Briton should have done one thing or the other: discarded British methods and fought the Boer with Boer methods, or augmented his own force until–using British methods–it should be large enough to equalize results with the Boer.
To retain the British method requires certain things, determinable by arithmetic. If, for argument’s sake, we allow that the aggregate of 1,716 British soldiers engaged in the 4 early battles was opposed by the same aggregate of Boers, we have this result: the British loss of 700 and the Boer loss of 23 argues that in order to equalize results in future battles you must make the British force thirty times as strong as the Boer force. Mr. Garrett shows that the Boer force immediately opposed to Jameson was 2,000, and that there were 6,000 more on hand by the evening of the second day. Arithmetic shows that in order to make himself the equal of the 8,000 Boers, Jameson should have had 240,000 men, whereas he merely had 530 boys. From a military point of view, backed by the facts of history, I conceive that Jameson’s military judgment was at fault.
Another thing.–Jameson was encumbered by artillery, ammunition, and rifles. The facts of the battle show that he should have had none of those things along. They were heavy, they were in his way, they impeded his march. There was nothing to shoot at but rocks–he knew quite well that there would be nothing to shoot at but rocks–and he knew that artillery and rifles have no effect upon rocks. He was badly overloaded with unessentials. He had 8 Maxims–a Maxim is a kind of Gatling, I believe, and shoots about 500 bullets per minute; he had one 12 1/2-pounder cannon and two 7-pounders; also, 145,000 rounds of ammunition. He worked the Maxims so hard upon the rocks that five of them became disabled–five of the Maxims, not the rocks. It is believed that upwards of 100,000 rounds of ammunition of the various kinds were fired during the 21 hours that the battles lasted. One man killed. He must have been much mutilated. It was a pity to bring those futile Maxims along. Jameson should have furnished himself with a battery of Pudd’nhead Wilson maxims instead, They are much more deadly than those others, and they are easily carried, because they have no weight.
Mr. Garrett–not very carefully concealing a smile–excuses the presence of the Maxims by saying that they were of very substantial use because their sputtering disordered the aim of the Boers, and in that way saved lives.
Three cannon, eight Maxims, and five hundred rifles yielded a result which emphasized a fact which had already been established–that the British system of standing out in the open to fight Boers who are behind rocks is not wise, not excusable, and ought to be abandoned for something more efficacious. For the purpose of war is to kill, not merely to waste ammunition.
If I could get the management of one of those campaigns, I would know what to do, for I have studied the Boer. He values the Bible above every other thing. The most delicious edible in South Africa is “biltong.” You will have seen it mentioned in Olive Schreiner’s books. It is what our plainsmen call “jerked beef.” It is the Boer’s main standby. He has a passion for it, and he is right.
If I had the command of the campaign I would go with rifles only, no cumbersome Maxims and cannon to spoil good rocks with. I would move surreptitiously by night to a point about a quarter of a mile from the Boer camp, and there I would build up a pyramid of biltong and Bibles fifty feet high, and then conceal my men all about. In the morning the Boers would send out spies, and then the rest would come with a rush. I would surround them, and they would have to fight my men on equal terms, in the open. There wouldn’t be any Amajuba results.
–[Just as I am finishing this book an unfortunate dispute has sprung up between Dr. Jameson and his officers, on the one hand, and Colonel Rhodes on the other, concerning the wording of a note which Colonel Rhodes sent from Johannesburg by a cyclist to Jameson just before hostilities began on the memorable New Year’s Day. Some of the fragments of this note were found on the battlefield after the fight, and these have been pieced together; the dispute is as to what words the lacking fragments contained. Jameson says the note promised him a reinforcement of 300 men from Johannesburg. Colonel Rhodes denies this, and says he merely promised to send out “some” men “to meet you.”]
[It seems a pity that these friends should fall out over so little a thing. If the 300 had been sent, what good would it have done? In 21 hours of industrious fighting, Jameson’s 530 men, with 8 Maxims, 3 cannon, and 145,000 rounds of ammunition, killed an aggregate of 1. Boer. These statistics show that a reinforcement of 300 Johannesburgers, armed merely with muskets, would have killed, at the outside, only a little over a half of another Boer. This would not have saved the day. It would not even have seriously affected the general result. The figures show clearly, and with mathematical violence, that the only way to save Jameson, or even give him a fair and equal chance with the enemy, was for Johannesburg to send him 240 Maxims, 90 cannon, 600 carloads of ammunition, and 240,000 men. Johannesburg was not in a position to do this. Johannesburg has been called very hard names for not reinforcing Jameson. But in every instance this has been done by two classes of persons–people who do not read history, and people, like Jameson, who do not understand what it means, after they have read it.]
None of us can have as many virtues as the fountain-pen, or half its cussedness; but we can try.
–Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar.
The Duke of Fife has borne testimony that Mr. Rhodes deceived him. That is also what Mr. Rhodes did with the Reformers. He got them into trouble, and then stayed out himself. A judicious man. He has always been that. As to this there was a moment of doubt, once. It was when he was out on his last pirating expedition in the Matabele country. The cable shouted out that he had gone unarmed, to visit a party of hostile chiefs. It was true, too; and this dare-devil thing came near fetching another indiscretion out of the poet laureate. It would have been too bad, for when the facts were all in, it turned out that there was a lady along, too, and she also was unarmed.
In the opinion of many people Mr. Rhodes is South Africa; others think he is only a large part of it. These latter consider that South Africa consists of Table Mountain, the diamond mines, the Johannesburg gold fields, and Cecil Rhodes. The gold fields are wonderful in every way. In seven or eight years they built up, in a desert, a city of a hundred thousand inhabitants, counting white and black together; and not the ordinary mining city of wooden shanties, but a city made out of lasting material. Nowhere in the world is there such a concentration of rich mines as at Johannesburg. Mr. Bonamici, my manager there, gave me a small gold brick with some statistics engraved upon it which record the output of gold from the early days to July, 1895, and exhibit the strides which have been made in the development of the industry; in 1888 the output was $4,162,440; the output of the next five and a half years was (total: $17,585,894); for the single year ending with June, 1895, it was $45,553,700.
The capital which has developed the mines came from England, the mining engineers from America. This is the case with the diamond mines also. South Africa seems to be the heaven of the American scientific mining engineer. He gets the choicest places, and keeps them. His salary is not based upon what he would get in America, but apparently upon what a whole family of him would get there.
The successful mines pay great dividends, yet the rock is not rich, from a Californian point of view. Rock which yields ten or twelve dollars a ton is considered plenty rich enough. It is troubled with base metals to such a degree that twenty years ago it would have been only about half as valuable as it is now; for at that time there was no paying way of getting anything out of such rock but the coarser-grained “free” gold; but the new cyanide process has changed all that, and the gold fields of the world now deliver up fifty million dollars’ worth of gold per year which would have gone into the tailing-pile under the former conditions.
The cyanide process was new to me, and full of interest; and among the costly and elaborate mining machinery there were fine things which were new to me, but I was already familiar with the rest of the details of the gold-mining industry. I had been a gold miner myself, in my day, and knew substantially everything that those people knew about it, except how to make money at it. But I learned a good deal about the Boers there, and that was a fresh subject. What I heard there was afterwards repeated to me in other parts of South Africa. Summed up–according to the information thus gained–this is the Boer:
He is deeply religious, profoundly ignorant, dull, obstinate, bigoted, uncleanly in his habits, hospitable, honest in his dealings with the whites, a hard master to his black servant, lazy, a good shot, good horseman, addicted to the chase, a lover of political independence, a good husband and father, not fond of herding together in towns, but liking the seclusion and remoteness and solitude and empty vastness and silence of the veldt; a man of a mighty appetite, and not delicate about what he appeases it with–well-satisfied with pork and Indian corn and biltong, requiring only that the quantity shall not be stinted; willing to ride a long journey to take a hand in a rude all-night dance interspersed with vigorous feeding and boisterous jollity, but ready to ride twice as far for a prayer-meeting; proud of his Dutch and Huguenot origin and its religious and military history; proud of his race’s achievements in South Africa, its bold plunges into hostile and uncharted deserts in search of free solitudes unvexed by the pestering and detested English, also its victories over the natives and the British; proudest of all, of the direct and effusive personal interest which the Deity has always taken in its affairs. He cannot read, he cannot write; he has one or two newspapers, but he is, apparently, not aware of it; until latterly he had no schools, and taught his children nothing, news is a term which has no meaning to him, and the thing itself he cares nothing about. He hates to be taxed and resents it. He has stood stock still in South Africa for two centuries and a half, and would like to stand still till the end of time, for he has no sympathy with Uitlander notions of progress. He is hungry to be rich, for he is human; but his preference has been for riches in cattle, not in fine clothes and fine houses and gold and diamonds. The gold and the diamonds have brought the godless stranger within his gates, also contamination and broken repose, and he wishes that they had never been discovered.
I think that the bulk of those details can be found in Olive Schreiner’s books, and she would not be accused of sketching the Boer’s portrait with an unfair hand.
Now what would you expect from that unpromising material? What ought you to expect from it? Laws inimical to religious liberty? Yes. Laws denying, representation and suffrage to the intruder? Yes. Laws unfriendly to educational institutions? Yes. Laws obstructive of gold production? Yes. Discouragement of railway expansion? Yes. Laws heavily taxing the intruder and overlooking the Boer? Yes.
The Uitlander seems to have expected something very different from all that. I do not know why. Nothing different from it was rationally to be expected. A round man cannot be expected to fit a square hole right away. He must have time to modify his shape. The modification had begun in a detail or two, before the Raid, and was making some progress. It has made further progress since. There are wise men in the Boer government, and that accounts for the modification; the modification of the Boer mass has probably not begun yet. If the heads of the Boer government had not been wise men they would have hanged Jameson, and thus turned a very commonplace pirate into a holy martyr. But even their wisdom has its limits, and they will hang Mr. Rhodes if they ever catch him. That will round him and complete him and make him a saint. He has already been called by all other titles that symbolize human grandeur, and he ought to rise to this one, the grandest of all. It will be a dizzy jump from where he is now, but that is nothing, it will land him in good company and be a pleasant change for him.
Some of the things demanded by the Johannesburgers’ Manifesto have been conceded since the days of the Raid, and the others will follow in time, no doubt. It was most fortunate for the miners of Johannesburg that the taxes which distressed them so much were levied by the Boer government, instead of by their friend Rhodes and his Chartered Company of highwaymen, for these latter take half of whatever their mining victims find, they do not stop at a mere percentage. If the Johannesburg miners were under their jurisdiction they would be in the poorhouse in twelve months.
I have been under the impression all along that I had an unpleasant paragraph about the Boers somewhere in my notebook, and also a pleasant one. I have found them now. The unpleasant one is dated at an interior village, and says–
“Mr. Z. called. He is an English Afrikander; is an old resident, and has a Boer wife. He speaks the language, and his professional business is with the Boers exclusively. He told me that the ancient Boer families in the great region of which this village is the commercial center are falling victims to their inherited indolence and dullness in the materialistic latter-day race and struggle, and are dropping one by one into the grip of the usurer–getting hopelessly in debt–and are losing their high place and retiring to second and lower. The Boer’s farm does not go to another Boer when he loses it, but to a foreigner. Some have fallen so low that they sell their daughters to the blacks.”
Under date of another South African town I find the note which is creditable to the Boers:
“Dr. X. told me that in the Kafir war 1,500 Kafirs took refuge in a great cave in the mountains about 90 miles north of Johannesburg, and the Boers blocked up the entrance and smoked them to death. Dr. X. has been in there and seen the great array of bleached skeletons–one a woman with the skeleton of a child hugged to her breast.”
The great bulk of the savages must go. The white man wants their lands, and all must go excepting such percentage of them as he will need to do his work for him upon terms to be determined by himself. Since history has removed the element of guesswork from this matter and made it certainty, the humanest way of diminishing the black population should be adopted, not the old cruel ways of the past. Mr. Rhodes and his gang have been following the old ways.–They are chartered to rob and slay, and they lawfully do it, but not in a compassionate and Christian spirit. They rob the Mashonas and the Matabeles of a portion of their territories in the hallowed old style of “purchase!” for a song, and then they force a quarrel and take the rest by the strong hand. They rob the natives of their cattle under the pretext that all the cattle in the country belonged to the king whom they have tricked and assassinated. They issue “regulations” requiring the incensed and harassed natives to work for the white settlers, and neglect their own affairs to do it. This is slavery, and is several times worse than was the American slavery which used to pain England so much; for when this Rhodesian slave is sick, super-annuated, or otherwise disabled, he must support himself or starve–his master is under no obligation to support him.
The reduction of the population by Rhodesian methods to the desired limit is a return to the old-time slow-misery and lingering-death system of a discredited time and a crude “civilization.” We humanely reduce an overplus of dogs by swift chloroform; the Boer humanely reduced an overplus of blacks by swift suffocation; the nameless but right-hearted Australian pioneer humanely reduced his overplus of aboriginal neighbors by a sweetened swift death concealed in a poisoned pudding. All these are admirable, and worthy of praise; you and I would rather suffer either of these deaths thirty times over in thirty successive days than linger out one of the Rhodesian twenty-year deaths, with its daily burden of insult, humiliation, and forced labor for a man whose entire race the victim hates. Rhodesia is a happy name for that land of piracy and pillage, and puts the right stain upon it.
Several long journeys–gave us experience of the Cape Colony railways; easy-riding, fine cars; all the conveniences; thorough cleanliness; comfortable beds furnished for the night trains. It was in the first days of June, and winter; the daytime was pleasant, the nighttime nice and cold. Spinning along all day in the cars it was ecstasy to breathe the bracing air and gaze out over the vast brown solitudes of the velvet plains, soft and lovely near by, still softer and lovelier further away, softest and loveliest of all in the remote distances, where dim island-hills seemed afloat, as in a sea–a sea made of dream-stuff and flushed with colors faint and rich; and dear me, the depth of the sky, and the beauty of the strange new cloud-forms, and the glory of the sunshine, the lavishness, the wastefulness of it! The vigor and freshness and inspiration of the air and the sunwell, it was all just as Olive Schreiner had made it in her books.
To me the veldt, in its sober winter garb, was surpassingly beautiful. There were unlevel stretches where it was rolling and swelling, and rising and subsiding, and sweeping superbly on and on, and still on and on like an ocean, toward the faraway horizon, its pale brown deepening by delicately graduated shades to rich orange, and finally to purple and crimson where it washed against the wooded hills and naked red crags at the base of the sky.
Everywhere, from Cape Town to Kimberley and from Kimberley to Port Elizabeth and East London, the towns were well populated with tamed blacks; tamed and Christianized too, I suppose, for they wore the dowdy clothes of our Christian civilization. But for that, many of them would have been remarkably handsome. These fiendish clothes, together with the proper lounging gait, good-natured face, happy air, and easy laugh, made them precise counterparts of our American blacks; often where all the other aspects were strikingly and harmoniously and thrillingly African, a flock of these natives would intrude, looking wholly out of place, and spoil it all, making the thing a grating discord, half African and half American.
One Sunday in King William’s Town a score of colored women came mincing across the great barren square dressed–oh, in the last perfection of fashion, and newness, and expensiveness, and showy mixture of unrelated colors,–all just as I had seen it so often at home; and in their faces and their gait was that languishing, aristocratic, divine delight in their finery which was so familiar to me, and had always been such a satisfaction to my eye and my heart. I seemed among old, old friends; friends of fifty years, and I stopped and cordially greeted them. They broke into a good-fellowship laugh, flashing their white teeth upon me, and all answered at once. I did not understand a word they said. I was astonished; I was not dreaming that they would answer in anything but American.
The voices, too, of the African women, were familiar to me sweet and musical, just like those of the slave women of my early days. I followed a couple of them all over the Orange Free State–no, over its capital –Bloemfontein, to hear their liquid voices and the happy ripple of their laughter. Their language was a large improvement upon American. Also upon the Zulu. It had no Zulu clicks in it; and it seemed to have no angles or corners, no roughness, no vile s’s or other hissing sounds, but was very, very mellow and rounded and flowing.
In moving about the country in the trains, I had opportunity to see a good many Boers of the veldt. One day at a village station a hundred of them got out of the third-class cars to feed.
Their clothes were very interesting. For ugliness of shapes, and for miracles of ugly colors inharmoniously associated, they were a record. The effect was nearly as exciting and interesting as that produced by the brilliant and beautiful clothes and perfect taste always on view at the Indian railway stations. One man had corduroy trousers of a faded chewing gum tint. And they were new–showing that this tint did not come by calamity, but was intentional; the very ugliest color I have ever seen. A gaunt, shackly country lout six feet high, in battered gray slouched hat with wide brim, and old resin-colored breeches, had on a hideous brand-new woolen coat which was imitation tiger skin wavy broad stripes of dazzling yellow and deep brown. I thought he ought to be hanged, and asked the station-master if it could be arranged. He said no; and not only that, but said it rudely; said it with a quite unnecessary show of feeling. Then he muttered something about my being a jackass, and walked away and pointed me out to people, and did everything he could to turn public sentiment against me. It is what one gets for trying to do good.
In the train that day a passenger told me some more about Boer life out in the lonely veldt. He said the Boer gets up early and sets his “niggers” at their tasks (pasturing the cattle, and watching them); eats, smokes, drowses, sleeps; toward evening superintends the milking, etc.; eats, smokes, drowses; goes to bed at early candlelight in the fragrant clothes he (and she) have worn all day and every week-day for years. I remember that last detail, in Olive Schreiner’s “Story of an African Farm.” And the passenger told me that the Boers were justly noted for their hospitality. He told me a story about it. He said that his grace the Bishop of a certain See was once making a business-progress through the tavernless veldt, and one night he stopped with a Boer; after supper was shown to bed; he undressed, weary and worn out, and was soon sound asleep; in the night he woke up feeling crowded and suffocated, and found the old Boer and his fat wife in bed with him, one on each side, with all their clothes on, and snoring. He had to stay there and stand it–awake and suffering–until toward dawn, when sleep again fell upon him for an hour. Then he woke again. The Boer was gone, but the wife was still at his side.
Those Reformers detested that Boer prison; they were not used to cramped quarters and tedious hours, and weary idleness, and early to bed, and limited movement, and arbitrary and irritating rules, and the absence of the luxuries which wealth comforts the day and the night with. The confinement told upon their bodies and their spirits; still, they were superior men, and they made the best that was to be made of the circumstances. Their wives smuggled delicacies to them, which helped to smooth the way down for the prison fare.
In the train Mr. B. told me that the Boer jail-guards treated the black prisoners–even political ones–mercilessly. An African chief and his following had been kept there nine months without trial, and during all that time they had been without shelter from rain and sun. He said that one day the guards put a big black in the stocks for dashing his soup on the ground; they stretched his legs painfully wide apart, and set him with his back down hill; he could not endure it, and put back his hands upon the slope for a support. The guard ordered him to withdraw the support and kicked him in the back. “Then,” said Mr. B., “‘the powerful black wrenched the stocks asunder and went for the guard; a Reform prisoner pulled him off, and thrashed the guard himself.”
The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice. –Pudd’nhead Wilsons’s New Calendar.
There isn’t a Parallel of Latitude but thinks it would have been the Equator if it had had its rights.
–Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar.
Next to Mr. Rhodes, to me the most interesting convulsion of nature in South Africa was the diamond-crater. The Rand gold fields are a stupendous marvel, and they make all other gold fields small, but I was not a stranger to gold-mining; the veldt was a noble thing to see, but it was only another and lovelier variety of our Great Plains; the natives were very far from being uninteresting, but they were not new; and as for the towns, I could find my way without a guide through the most of them because I had learned the streets, under other names, in towns just like them in other lands; but the diamond mine was a wholly fresh thing, a splendid and absorbing novelty. Very few people in the world have seen the diamond in its home. It has but three or four homes in the world, whereas gold has a million. It is worth while to journey around the globe to see anything which can truthfully be called a novelty, and the diamond mine is the greatest and most select and restricted novelty which the globe has in stock.
The Kimberley diamond deposits were discovered about 1869, I think. When everything is taken into consideration, the wonder is that they were not discovered five thousand years ago and made familiar to the African world for the rest of time. For this reason the first diamonds were found on the surface of the ground. They were smooth and limpid, and in the sunlight they vomited fire. They were the very things which an African savage of any era would value above every other thing in the world excepting a glass bead. For two or three centuries we have been buying his lands, his cattle, his neighbor, and any other thing he had for sale, for glass beads and so it is strange that he was indifferent to the diamonds–for he must have pickets them up many and many a time. It would not occur to him to try to sell them to whites, of course, since the whites already had plenty of glass beads, and more fashionably shaped, too, than these; but one would think that the poorer sort of black, who could not afford real glass, would have been humbly content to decorate himself with the imitation, and that presently the white trader would notice the things, and dimly suspect, and carry some of them home, and find out what they were, and at once empty a multitude of fortune-hunters into Africa. There are many strange things in human history; one of the strangest is that the sparkling diamonds laid there so long without exciting any one’s interest.
The revelation came at last by accident. In a Boer’s hut out in the wide solitude of the plains, a traveling stranger noticed a child playing with a bright object, and was told it was a piece of glass which had been found in the veldt. The stranger bought it for a trifle and carried it away; and being without honor, made another stranger believe it was a diamond, and so got $125 out of him for it, and was as pleased with himself as if he had done a righteous thing. In Paris the wronged stranger sold it to a pawnshop for $10,000, who sold it to a countess for $90,000, who sold it to a brewer for $800;000, who traded it to a king for a dukedom and a pedigree, and the king “put it up the spout.” –[handwritten note: “From the Greek meaning ‘pawned it.'” M.T.]–I know these particulars to be correct.
The news flew around, and the South African diamond-boom began. The original traveler–the dishonest one–now remembered that he had once seen a Boer teamster chocking his wagon-wheel on a steep grade with a diamond as large as a football, and he laid aside his occupations and started out to hunt for it, but not with the intention of cheating anybody out of $125 with it, for he had reformed.
We now come to matters more didactic. Diamonds are not imbedded in rock ledges fifty miles long, like the Johannesburg gold, but are distributed through the rubbish of a filled-up well, so to speak. The well is rich, its walls are sharply defined; outside of the walls are no diamonds. The well is a crater, and a large one. Before it had been meddled with, its surface was even with the level plain, and there was no sign to suggest that it was there. The pasturage covering the surface of the Kimberley crater was sufficient for the support of a cow, and the pasturage underneath was sufficient for the support of a kingdom; but the cow did not know it, and lost her chance.
The Kimberley crater is roomy enough to admit the Roman Coliseum; the bottom of the crater has not been reached, and no one can tell how far down in the bowels of the earth it goes. Originally, it was a perpendicular hole packed solidly full of blue rock or cement, and scattered through that blue mass, like raisins in a pudding, were the diamonds. As deep down in the earth as the blue stuff extends, so deep will the diamonds be found.
There are three or four other celebrated craters near by a circle three miles in diameter would enclose them all. They are owned by the De Beers Company, a consolidation of diamond properties arranged by Mr. Rhodes twelve or fourteen years ago. The De Beers owns other craters; they are under the grass, but the De Beers knows where they are, and will open them some day, if the market should require it.
Originally, the diamond deposits were the property of the Orange Free State; but a judicious “rectification” of the boundary line shifted them over into the British territory of Cape Colony. A high official of the Free State told me that the sum of $4,00,000 was handed to his commonwealth as a compromise, or indemnity, or something of the sort, and that he thought his commonwealth did wisely to take the money and keep out of a dispute, since the power was all on the one side and the weakness all on the other. The De Beers Company dig out $400,000 worth of diamonds per week, now. The Cape got the territory, but no profit; for Mr. Rhodes and the Rothschilds and the other De Beers people own the mines, and they pay no taxes.
In our day the mines are worked upon scientific principles, under the guidance of the ablest mining-engineering talent procurable in America. There are elaborate works for reducing the blue rock and passing it through one process after another until every diamond it contains has been hunted down and secured. I watched the “concentrators” at work big tanks containing mud and water and invisible diamonds–and was told that each could stir and churn and properly treat 300 car-loads of mud per day 1,600 pounds to the car-load–and reduce it to 3 car-loads of slush. I saw the 3 carloads of slush taken to the “pulsators” and there reduced to quarter of a load of nice clean dark-colored sand. Then I followed it to the sorting tables and saw the men deftly and swiftly spread it out and brush it about and seize the diamonds as they showed up. I assisted, and once I found a diamond half as large as an almond. It is an exciting kind of fishing, and you feel a fine thrill of pleasure every time you detect the glow of one of those limpid pebbles through the veil of dark sand. I would like to spend my Saturday holidays in that charming sport every now and then. Of course there are disappointments. Sometimes you find a diamond which is not a diamond; it is only a quartz crystal or some such worthless thing. The expert can generally distinguish it from the precious stone which it is counterfeiting; but if he is in doubt he lays it on a flatiron and hits it with a sledgehammer. If it is a diamond it holds its own; if it is anything else, it is reduced to powder. I liked that experiment very much, and did not tire of repetitions of it. It was full of enjoyable apprehensions, unmarred by any personal sense of risk. The De Beers concern treats 8;000 carloads –about 6,000 tons–of blue rock per day, and the result is three pounds of diamonds. Value, uncut, $50,000 to $70,000. After cutting, they will weigh considerably less than a pound, but will be worth four or five times as much as they were before.
All the plain around that region is spread over, a foot deep, with blue rock, placed there by the Company, and looks like a plowed field. Exposure for a length of time make the rock easier to work than it is when it comes out of the mine. If mining should cease now, the supply of rock spread over those fields would furnish the usual 8,000 car-loads per day to the separating works during three years. The fields are fenced and watched; and at night they are under the constant inspection of lofty electric searchlight. They contain fifty or sixty million dollars’ worth’ of diamonds, and there is an abundance of enterprising thieves around.
In the dirt of the Kimberley streets there is much hidden wealth. Some time ago the people were granted the privilege of a free wash-up. There was a general rush, the work was done with thoroughness, and a good harvest of diamonds was gathered.
The deep mining is done by natives. There are many hundreds of them. They live in quarters built around the inside of a great compound. They are a jolly and good-natured lot, and accommodating. They performed a war-dance for us, which was the wildest exhibition I have ever seen. They are not allowed outside of the compound during their term of service three months, I think it, is, as a rule. They go down the shaft, stand their watch, come up again, are searched, and go to bed or to their amusements in the compound; and this routine they repeat, day in and day out.
It is thought that they do not now steal many diamonds successfully. They used to swallow them, and find other ways of concealing them, but the white man found ways of beating their various games. One man cut his leg and shoved a diamond into the wound, but even that project did not succeed. When they find a fine large diamond they are more likely to report it than to steal it, for in the former case they get a reward, and in the latter they are quite apt to merely get into trouble. Some years ago, in a mine not owned by the De Beers, a black found what has been claimed to be the largest diamond known to the world’s history; and, as a reward he was released from service and given a blanket, a horse, and five hundred dollars. It made him a Vanderbilt. He could buy four wives, and have money left. Four wives are an ample support for a native. With four wives he is wholly independent, and need never do a stroke of work again.
That great diamond weighs 97l carats. Some say it is as big as a piece of alum, others say it is as large as a bite of rock candy, but the best authorities agree that it is almost exactly the size of a chunk of ice. But those details are not important; and in my opinion not trustworthy. It has a flaw in it, otherwise it would be of incredible value. As it is, it is held to be worth $2,000,000. After cutting it ought to be worth from $5,000,000 to $8,000,000, therefore persons desiring to save money should buy it now. It is owned by a syndicate, and apparently there is no satisfactory market for it. It is earning nothing; it is eating its head off. Up to this time it has made nobody rich but the native who found it.
He found it in a mine which was being worked by contract. That is to say, a company had bought the privilege of taking from the mine 5,000,000 carloads of blue-rock, for a sum down and a royalty. Their speculation had not paid; but on the very day that their privilege ran out that native found the $2,000,000-diamond and handed it over to them. Even the diamond culture is not without its romantic episodes.
The Koh-i-Noor is a large diamond, and valuable; but it cannot compete in these matters with three which–according to legend–are among the crown trinkets of Portugal and Russia. One of these is held to be worth $20,000,000; another, $25,000,000, and the third something over $28,000,000.
Those are truly wonderful diamonds, whether they exist or not; and yet they are of but little importance by comparison with the one wherewith the Boer wagoner chocked his wheel on that steep grade as heretofore referred to. In Kimberley I had some conversation with the man who saw the Boer do that–an incident which had occurred twenty-seven or twenty-eight years before I had my talk with him. He assured me that that diamond’s value could have been over a billion dollars, but not under it. I believed him, because he had devoted twenty-seven years to hunting for it, and was, in a position to know.
A fitting and interesting finish to an examination of the tedious and laborious and costly processes whereby the diamonds are gotten out of the deeps of the earth and freed from the base stuffs which imprison them is the visit to the De Beers offices in the town of Kimberley, where the result of each day’s mining is brought every day, and, weighed, assorted, valued, and deposited in safes against shipping-day. An unknown and unaccredited person cannot, get into that place; and it seemed apparent from the generous supply of warning and protective and prohibitory signs that were posted all about, that not even the known and accredited can steal diamonds there without inconvenience.
We saw the day’s output–shining little nests of diamonds, distributed a foot apart, along a counter, each nest reposing upon a sheet of white paper. That day’s catch was about $70,000 worth. In the course of a year half a ton of diamonds pass under the scales there and sleep on that counter; the resulting money is $18,000,000 or $20,000,000. Profit, about $12,000,000.
Young girls were doing the sorting–a nice, clean, dainty, and probably distressing employment. Every day ducal incomes sift and sparkle through the fingers of those young girls; yet they go to bed at night as poor as they were when they got up in the morning. The same thing next day, and all the days.
They are beautiful things, those diamonds, in their native state. They are of various shapes; they have flat surfaces, rounded borders, and never a sharp edge. They are of all colors and shades of color, from dewdrop white to actual black; and their smooth and rounded surfaces and contours, variety of color, and transparent limpidity make them look like piles of assorted candies. A very light straw color is their commonest tint. It seemed to me that these uncut gems must be more beautiful than any cut ones could be; but when a collection of cut ones was brought out, I saw my mistake. Nothing is so beautiful as a rose diamond with the light playing through it, except that uncostly thing which is just like it–wavy sea-water with the sunlight playing through it and striking a white-sand bottom.
Before the middle of July we reached Cape Town, and the end of our African journeyings. And well satisfied; for, towering above us was Table Mountain–a reminder that we had now seen each and all of the great features of South Africa except Mr. Cecil Rhodes. I realize that that is a large exception. I know quite well that whether Mr. Rhodes is the lofty and worshipful patriot and statesman that multitudes believe him to be, or Satan come again, as the rest of the world account him, he is still the most imposing figure in the British empire outside of England. When he stands on the Cape of Good Hope, his shadow falls to the Zambesi. He is the only colonial in the British dominions whose goings and comings are chronicled and discussed under all the globe’s meridians, and whose speeches, unclipped, are cabled from the ends of the earth; and he is the only unroyal outsider whose arrival in London can compete for attention with an eclipse.
That he is an extraordinary man, and not an accident of fortune, not even his dearest South African enemies were willing to deny, so far as I heard them testify. The whole South African world seemed to stand in a kind of shuddering awe of him, friend and enemy alike. It was as if he were deputy-God on the one side, deputy-Satan on the other, proprietor of the people, able to make them or ruin them by his breath, worshiped by many, hated by many, but blasphemed by none among the judicious, and even by the indiscreet in guarded whispers only.
What is the secret of his formidable supremacy? One says it is his prodigious wealth–a wealth whose drippings in salaries and in other ways support multitudes and make them his interested and loyal vassals; another says it is his personal magnetism and his persuasive tongue, and that these hypnotize and make happy slaves of all that drift within the circle of their influence; another says it is his majestic ideas, his vast schemes for the territorial aggrandizement of England, his patriotic and unselfish ambition to spread her beneficent protection and her just rule over the pagan wastes of Africa and make luminous the African darkness with the glory of her name; and another says he wants the earth and wants it for his own, and that the belief that he will get it and let his friends in on the ground floor is the secret that rivets so many eyes upon him and keeps him in the zenith where the view is unobstructed.
One may take his choice. They are all the same price. One fact is sure: he keeps his prominence and a vast following, no matter what he does. He “deceives” the Duke of Fife–it is the Duke’s word–but that does not destroy the Duke’s loyalty to him. He tricks the Reformers into immense trouble with his Raid, but the most of them believe he meant well. He weeps over the harshly–taxed Johannesburgers and makes them his friends; at the same time he taxes his Charter-settlers 50 per cent., and so wins their affection and their confidence that they are squelched with despair at every rumor that the Charter is to be annulled. He raids and robs and slays and enslaves the Matabele and gets worlds of Charter-Christian applause for it. He has beguiled England into buying Charter waste paper for Bank of England notes, ton for ton, and the ravished still burn incense to him as the Eventual God of Plenty. He has done everything he could think of to pull himself down to the ground; he has done more than enough to pull sixteen common-run great men down; yet there he stands, to this day, upon his dizzy summit under the dome of the sky, an apparent permanency, the marvel of the time, the mystery of the age, an Archangel with wings to half the world, Satan with a tail to the other half.
I admire him, I frankly confess it; and when his time comes I shall buy a piece of the rope for a keepsake.
I have traveled more than anyone else, and I have noticed that even the angels speak English with an accent.
–Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar.
I saw Table Rock, anyway–a majestic pile. It is 3,000 feet high. It is also 17,000 feet high. These figures may be relied upon. I got them in Cape Town from the two best-informed citizens, men who had made Table Rock the study of their lives. And I saw Table Bay, so named for its levelness. I saw the Castle–built by the Dutch East India Company three hundred years ago–where the Commanding General lives; I saw St. Simon’s Bay, where the Admiral lives. I saw the Government, also the Parliament, where they quarreled in two languages when I was there, and agreed in none. I saw the club. I saw and explored the beautiful sea-girt drives that wind about the mountains and through the paradise where the villas are: Also I saw some of the fine old Dutch mansions, pleasant homes of the early times, pleasant homes to-day, and enjoyed the privilege of their hospitalities.
And just before I sailed I saw in one of them a quaint old picture which was a link in a curious romance–a picture of a pale, intellectual young man in a pink coat with a high black collar. It was a portrait of Dr. James Barry, a military surgeon who came out to the Cape fifty years ago with his regiment. He was a wild young fellow, and was guilty of various kinds of misbehavior. He was several times reported to headquarters in England, and it was in each case expected that orders would come out to deal with him promptly and severely, but for some mysterious reason no orders of any kind ever came back–nothing came but just an impressive silence. This made him an imposing and uncanny wonder to the town.
Next, he was promoted-away up. He was made Medical Superintendent General, and transferred to India. Presently he was back at the Cape again and at his escapades once more. There were plenty of pretty girls, but none of them caught him, none of them could get hold of his heart; evidently he was not a marrying man. And that was another marvel, another puzzle, and made no end of perplexed talk. Once he was called in the night, an obstetric service, to do what he could for a woman who was believed to be dying. He was prompt and scientific, and saved both mother and child. There are other instances of record which testify to his mastership of his profession; and many which testify to his love of it and his devotion to it. Among other adventures of his was a duel of a desperate sort, fought with swords, at the Castle. He killed his man.
The child heretofore mentioned as having been saved by Dr. Barry so long ago, was named for him, and still lives in Cape Town. He had Dr. Barry’s portrait painted, and gave it to the gentleman in whose old Dutch house I saw it–the quaint figure in pink coat and high black collar.
The story seems to be arriving nowhere. But that is because I have not finished. Dr. Barry died in Cape Town 30 years ago. It was then discovered that he was a woman.
The legend goes that enquiries–soon silenced–developed the fact that she was a daughter of a great English house, and that that was why her Cape wildnesses brought no punishment and got no notice when reported to the government at home. Her name was an alias. She had disgraced herself with her people; so she chose to change her name and her sex and take a new start in the world.
We sailed on the 15th of July in the Norman, a beautiful ship, perfectly appointed. The voyage to England occupied a short fortnight, without a stop except at Madeira. A good and restful voyage for tired people, and there were several of us. I seemed to have been lecturing a thousand years, though it was only a twelvemonth, and a considerable number of the others were Reformers who were fagged out with their five months of seclusion in the Pretoria prison.
Our trip around the earth ended at the Southampton pier, where we embarked thirteen months before. It seemed a fine and large thing to have accomplished–the circumnavigation of this great globe in that little time, and I was privately proud of it. For a moment. Then came one of those vanity-snubbing astronomical reports from the Observatory-people, whereby it appeared that another great body of light had lately flamed up in the remotenesses of space which was traveling at a gait which would enable it to do all that I had done in a minute and a half. Human pride is not worth while; there is always something lying in wait to take the wind out of it.