A TRAMP'S NOTE-BOOK
"RACHEL MARE," "BIANCA'S CAPRICE," "THE PROMOTION OF THE ADMIRAL."
F. V. WHITE & CO. LTD.
14 BEDFORD STREET, STRAND, W.C.
A WATCH-NIGHT SERVICE IN SAN FRANCISCO 1
SOME PORTUGUESE SKETCHES 16
A PONDICHERRY BOY 40
A GRADUATE BEYOND SEAS 51
MY FRIEND EL TORO 61
BOOKS IN THE GREAT WEST 71
A VISIT TO R. L. STEVENSON 79
IN CAPETOWN 88
VELDT, PLAIN AND PRAIRIE 95
NEAR MAFEKING 101
BY THE FRASER RIVER 110
OLD AND NEW DAYS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA 118
A TALK WITH KRUGER 128
TROUT FISHING IN BRITISH COLUMBIA AND CALIFORNIA 136
ROUND THE WORLD IN HASTE 142
BLUE JAYS AND ALMONDS 162
IN CORSICA 167
ON THE MATTERHORN 176
AN INTERNATIONAL SOCIALIST CONGRESS 186
AT LAS PALMAS 194
THE TERRACINA ROAD 204
A SNOW-GRIND 216
ACROSS THE BIDASSOA 230
ON A VOLCANIC PEAK 238
SHEEP AND SHEEP HERDING 244
RAILROAD WARS 256
AMERICAN SHIPMASTERS 263
TEXAS ANIMALS 275
IN A SAILORS' HOME 282
THE GLORY OF THE MORNING 293
A Tramp's Note-Book
A WATCH-NIGHT SERVICE IN SAN FRANCISCO
How much bitter experience a man keeps to himself, let the experienced say, for they only know. For my own part I am conscious that it rarely occurs to me to mention some things which happened either in England or out of it, and that if I do, it is only to pass them over casually as mere facts that had no profound effect upon me. But the importance of any hardship cannot be estimated at once; it has either psychological or physiological sequelae, or both. The attack of malaria passes, but in long years after it returns anew and devouring the red blood, it breaks down a man's cheerfulness; a night in a miasmic forest may make him for ever a slave in a dismal swamp of pessimism. It is so with starvation, and all things physical. It is so with things mental, with degradations, with desolation; the scars and more than scars remain: there is outward healing, it may be, but we often flinch at mere remembrance.
But time is the vehicle of philosophy; as the years pass we learn that in all our misfortunes was something not without value. And what was of worth grows more precious as our harsher memories fade. Then we may bear to speak of the days in which we were more than outcasts; when we recognised ourselves as such, and in strange calm and with a broken spirit made no claim on Society. For this is to be an outcast indeed.
I came to San Francisco in the winter of 1885 and remained in that city for some six months. What happened to me on broad lines I have written in the last chapter of The Western Avernus. But nowadays I know that in that chapter I have told nothing. It is a bare recital of events with no more than indications of deeper miseries, and some day it may chance to be rewritten in full. That I was of poor health was nothing, that I could obtain no employment was little, that I came to depend on help was more. But the mental side underlying was the worst, for the iron entered into my soul. I lost energy. I went dreaming. I was divorced from humanity.
America is a hard place, for it has been made by hard men. People who would not be crushed in the East have gone to the West. The Puritan element has little softness in it, and in some places even now gives rise to phenomena of an excessive and religious brutality which tortures without pity, without sympathy. But not only is the Puritan hard; all other elements in America are hard too. The rougher emigrant, the unconquerable rebel, the natural adventurer, the desperado seeking a lawless realm, men who were iron and men with the fierce courage which carries its vices with its virtues, have made the United States. The rude individualist of Europe who felt the slow pressure of social atoms which precedes their welding, the beginning of socialism, is the father of America. He has little pity, little tolerance, little charity. In what States in America is there any poor law? Only an emigration agent, hungry for steamship percentages, will declare there are no poor there now. The survival of the fit is the survival of the strong; every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost might replace the legend on the silver dollar and the golden eagle, without any American denying it in his heart.
But if America as a whole is the dumping ground and Eldorado combined of the harder extruded elements of Europe, the same law of selection holds good there as well. With every degree of West longitude the fibre of the American grows harder. The Dustman Destiny sifting his cinders has his biggest mesh over the Pacific States. If charity and sympathy be to seek in the East, it is at a greater discount on the Slope. The only poor-house is the House of Correction. Perhaps San Francisco is one of the hardest, if not the hardest city in the world. Speaking from my own experience, and out of the experience gathered from a thousand miserable bedfellows in the streets, I can say I think it is, not even excepting Portland in Oregon. But let it be borne in mind that this is the verdict of the unsuccessful. Had I been lucky it might have seemed different.
I came into the city with a quarter of a dollar, two bits, or one shilling and a halfpenny in my possession. Starvation and sleeping on boards when I was by no means well broke me down and at the same time embittered me. On the third day I saw some of my equal outcasts inspecting a bill on a telegraph pole in Kearny Street, and on reading it I found it a religious advertisement of some services to be held in a street running out of Kearny, I believe in Upper California Street. At the bottom of the bill was a notice that men out of work and starving who attended the meeting would be given a meal. Having been starving only some twenty-four hours I sneered and walked on. My agnosticism was bitter in those days, bitter and polemic.
But I got no work. The streets were full of idle men. They stood in melancholy groups at corners, sheltering from the rain. I knew no one but a few of my equals. I could get no ship; the city was full of sailors. I starved another twenty-four hours, and I went to the service. I said I went for the warmth of the room, for I was ill-clad and wet. I found the place half full of out-o'-works, and sat down by the door. The preacher was a man of a type especially disagreeable to me; he looked like a business man who had cultivated an aspect of goodness and benevolence and piety on business principles. Without being able to say he was a hypocrite, he struck me as being one. He was not bad-looking, and about thirty-five; he had a band of adoring girls and women about him. I was desolate and disliked him and went away.
But I returned.
I went up to him and told him brutally that I disbelieved in him and in everything he believed in, explaining that I wanted nothing on false pretences. My attitude surprised him, but he was kind (still with that insufferable air of being a really first-class good man), and he bade me have something to eat. I took it and went, feeling that I had no place on the earth.
But a little later I met an old friend from British Columbia. He was by way of being a religious man, and he had a hankering to convert me. Failing personally, he cast about for some other means, and selected this very preacher as his instrument. Having asked me to eat with him at a ten-cent hash house, he inveigled me to an evening service, and for the warmth I went with him. I became curious about these religious types, and attended a series of services. I was interested half in a morbid way, half psychologically. Scott, my friend, found me hard, but my interest made him hope. He took me, not at all unwilling, to hear a well-known revivalist who combined religion with anecdotes. He told stories well, and filled a church every night for ten days. During these days I heard him attentively, as I might have listened to any well-told lecture on any pseudo-science. But my intellect was unconvinced, my conscience untouched, and Scott gave me up. I attended a number of services by myself; I was lonely, poor, hopeless, living an inward life. The subjective became real at times, the objective faded. I had a little occasional work, and expected some money to reach me early in the year. But I had no energy, I divided my time between the Free Library and churches. And it drew on to Christmas.
It was a miserable time of rain, and Christmas Day found me hopeless of a meal. But by chance I came across a man whom I had fed, and he returned my hospitality by dining me for fifteen cents at the "What Cheer House," a well-known poor restaurant in San Francisco. Then followed some days of more than semi-starvation, and I grew rather light-headed. The last day of the year dawned and I spent it foodless, friendless, solitary. But after a long evening's aimless wandering about the city I came back to California Street, and at ten o'clock went to the Watch-Night Service in the room of the first preacher I had heard.
The hall was a big square one, capable of seating some three hundred people. There was a raised platform at the end; a broad passage way all round the room had seats on both sides of it, and made a small square of seats in the centre. I sat down in the middle of this middle square, and the room was soon nearly full. The service began with a hymn. I neither sang nor rose, and I noticed numbers who did not. In peculiar isolation of mind my heart warmed to these, and I was conscious of rising hostility for the creatures of praise. There was one strong young fellow about three places from me who remained seated. Glancing behind the backs of those who were standing between us I caught his eye, which met mine casually and perhaps lightened a little. He had a rather fine face, intelligent, possibly at better times humorous. I was not so solitary.
A man singing on my left offered me a share of his hymn-book. I declined courteously. The woman on my right asked me to share hers. That I declined too. Some asked the young fellow to rise, but he refused quietly. Yet I noticed some of those who had remained seated gave in to solicitations or to the sound or to some memory, and rose. Yet many still remained. They were all men, and most of them young.
After the hymn followed prayer by the minister, who was surrounded on the dais by some dozen girls. I noticed that few were very good-looking; but in their faces was religious fervour. Yet they kept their eyes on the man. The prayer was long, intolerably and trickily eloquent and rhetorical, very self-conscious. The man posed before the throne. But I listened to every word, half absorbed though I was in myself. He was followed in prayer by ambitious and emotional people in the seats. One woman prayed for those who would not bow the knee. Once more a hymn followed, "Bringing home the sheaves."
The air is not without merit, and has a good lilt and swing. I noted it tempted me to sing it, for I knew the tune well, and in the volume of voices was an emotional attraction. I repressed the inclination even to move my lips. But some others rose and joined in. My fellow on the left did not. The sermon followed, and I felt as if I had escaped a humiliation.
What the preacher said I cannot remember, nor is it of any importance. He was not an intellectual man, nor had he many gifts beyond his rather sleek manner and a soft manageable voice. He was obviously proud of that, and reckoned it an instrument of success. It became as monotonous to me as the slow oily swell of a tropic sea in calm. I would have preferred a Boanerges, a bitter John Knox. The intent of his sermon was the usual one at such periods; this was the end of the year, the beginning was at hand. Naturally he addressed himself to those who were not of his flock; it seemed to me, as it doubtless seemed to others, that he spoke to me directly.
The custom of mankind to divide time into years has had an effect on us, and we cannot help feeling it. Childhood does not understand how artificial the portioning of time is; the New Year affects us even when we recognise the fact. It required no florid eloquence of the preacher to convince me of past folly and weakness; but it was that weakness that made me weak now in my allowing his insistence on the New Year to affect me. I was weak, lonely, foolish. Oh, I acknowledged I wanted help! But could I get help here?
It was past eleven when they rose to sing another hymn. Many who had not sung before sang now. Some of the girls from the platform came down and offered us hymn-books. A few took them half-shamefacedly; some declined with thanks; some ignored the extended book. And after two hymns were sung and some more prayers said, it was half-past eleven. They announced five minutes for silent meditation. Looking round, I saw my friend on the left sitting with folded arms. He was obviously in no need of five minutes.
In the Free Library I had renewed much of my ancient scientific reading, and I used it now to control some slight emotional weakness, and to explain it to myself. Half-starved, nay more than half-starved, as I was, such weakness was likely; I was amenable to suggestion. I asked myself a dozen crucial questions, and was bitterly amused to know how the preacher would evade answering them if put to him. Such a creature could not succeed, as all great teachers have done, in subduing the intellect by the force of his own personality. But all the same the hour, the time, and the song followed by silence, and the silence by song, affected me and affected many. What had I to look forward to when I went out into the street? And if I yielded they might, nay would, help me to work. I laughed a little at myself, and was scornful of my thoughts. They were singing again.
This time the band of women left the dais and in a body went slowly round and round the aisle isolating the centre seats from the platform and the sides. From the platform the preacher called on the others to rise and join them, for it was nearly twelve o'clock, the New Year was at hand. Most of the congregation obeyed him, I counted but fifteen or twenty who refused.
The volume of the singing increased as the seats emptied, in it there was religious fervour; it appealed strongly even to me. I saw some young fellows rise and join the procession; perhaps three or four. There were now less than twelve seated. The preacher spoke to us personally; he insisted on the passing minutes of the dying year. And still the singers passed us. Some leant over and called to us. Our bitter band lessened one by one.
Then from the procession came these girl acolytes, and, dividing themselves, they appealed to us and prayed. They were not beautiful perhaps, but they were women. We outcasts of the prairie and the camp fire and the streets had been greatly divorced from feminine sweet influences, and these succeeded where speech and prayer and song had failed. As one spoke to me I saw hard resolution wither in many. What woman had spoken kindly to them in this hard land since they left their eastern homes? Why should they pain them? And as they joined the singing band of believers the girls came to those of us who still stayed, and doubled and redoubled their entreaties. That it was not what they said, but those who said it, massing influences and suggestion, showed itself when he who had been stubborn to one yielded with moist eyes to two. And three overcame him who had mutely resisted less.
They knew their strength, and spoke softly with the voice of loving women. And not a soul had spoken to me so in my far and weary songless passage from the Atlantic States to the Pacific Coast. Long-repressed emotions rose in me as the hair of one brushed my cheek, as the hand of another lay upon my shoulder and mutely bade me rise; as another called me, as another beckoned. I looked round like a half-fascinated beast, and I caught the eye again of the man on my left. He and I were the only ones left sitting there. All the rest had risen and were singing with the singers.
In his eye, I doubt not, I saw what he saw in mine. A look of encouragement, a demand for it, doubt, an emotional struggle, and deeper than all a queer bitter amusement, that said plainly, "If you fail me, I fall, but I would rather not play the hypocrite in these hard times." We nodded rather mentally than actually, and were encouraged, I knew if I yielded I was yielding to something founded essentially on sex, and for my honesty's sake I would not fail.
"My child, it is no use," I said to her who spoke to me, and, struggling with myself, I put her hand from me. But still they moved past and sang, and the girls would not leave me till the first stroke of midnight sounded from the clock upon the wall. They then went one by one and joined the band. I turned again to my man, and conscious of my own hard fight, I knew what his had been. We looked at each other, and being men, were half ashamed that another should know we had acted rightly according to our code, and had won a victory over ourselves.
And now we were truly outcasts, for no one spoke to us again. The preacher prayed and we still sat there. But he cast us no word, and the urgent women were good only to their conquered. Perhaps in their souls was some sense of personal defeat; they had been rejected as women and as angels of the Lord. We two at anyrate sat beyond the reach of their graciousness; their eyes were averted or lifted up; we lay in outer darkness.
As they began to sing once more we both rose and with a friendly look at each other went out into the streets of the hostile city. It is easy to understand why we did not speak.
I never saw him again.
SOME PORTUGUESE SKETCHES
The Portuguese are wholly inoffensive, except when their pride is touched. In politics, or when they hunger after African territory we fancy needed for our own people, they may not seem so. When a rebuff excites them against the English, Lisbon may not be pleasant for Englishmen. But in such cases would London commend itself to a triumphant foreigner? For my own part, I found a kind of gentle, unobtrusive politeness even among those Portuguese who knew I was English when I went to Lisbon on the last occasion of the two nations quarrelling about a mud flat on the Zambesi. Occasionally, on being taken for an American, I did not correct the mistake, for having no quarrel with Americans they sometimes confided to me the bitterness of their hearts against the English. I stayed in Lisbon at the Hotel Universal in the Rua Nova da Almeda, a purely Portuguese house where only stray Englishmen came. At the table d'hote one night I had a conversation with a mild-mannered Portuguese which showed the curious ignorance and almost childish vanity of the race. I asked him in French if he spoke English. He did so badly and we mingled the two languages and at last talked vivaciously. He was an ardent politician and hated the English virulently, telling me so with curious circumlocutions. He was of opinion, he said, that though the English were unfortunately powerful on the sea, on land his nation was a match for us. As for the English in Africa, he declared the Portuguese able to sweep them into the sea. But though he hated the English, his admiration for Queen Victoria was as unbounded as our own earth-hunger. She was, he told me, entirely on the side of the Portuguese in the sad troubles which English politicians were then causing. He detailed, as particularly as if he had been present, a strange scene reported to have taken place between Soveral, their ambassador, and Lord Salisbury, in which discussion grew heated. It seemed as if they would part in anger. At last Soveral arose and exclaimed with much dignity: "You must now excuse me, my Lord Salisbury, I have to dine with the Queen to-night." My Lord Salisbury started, looked incredulous, and said coldly, "You are playing with me. This cannot be." "Indeed," said the ambassador, producing a telegram from Windsor, "it is as I say." And then Salisbury turned pale, fell back in his chair, and gasped for breath. "And after that," said my informant, "things went well." Several people at the table listened to this story and seemed to believe it. With much difficulty I preserved a grave countenance, and congratulated him on the possession of an ambassador who was more than a match for our Foreign Minister. Before the end of dinner he informed me that the English were as a general rule savages, while the Portuguese were civilised. Having lived in London he knew this to be so. Finding that he knew the East End of our gigantic city, I found it difficult to contradict him.
Certainly Lisbon, as far as visible poverty is concerned, is far better than London. I saw few very miserable people; beggars were not at all numerous; in a week I was only asked twice for alms. One constantly hears that Lisbon is dirty, and as full of foul odours as Coleridge's Cologne. I did not find it so, and the bright sunshine and the fine colour of the houses might well compensate for some draw-backs. The houses of this regular town are white, and pale yellow, and fine worn-out pink, with narrow green painted verandahs which soon lose crudeness in the intense light. The windows of the larger blocks are numerous and set in long regular lines; the streets if narrow run into open squares blazing with white unsoiled monuments. All day long the ways are full of people who are fairly but unostentatiously polite. They do not stare one out of countenance however one may be dressed. In Antwerp a man who objects to being wondered at may not wear a light suit. Lisbon is more cosmopolitan. But the beauty of the town of Lisbon is not added to by the beauty of its inhabitants. The women are curiously the reverse of lovely. Only occasionally I saw a face which was attractive by the odd conjuncture of an olive skin and light grey eyes. They do not wear mantillas. The lower classes use a shawl. Those who are of the bourgeois class or above it differ little from Londoners. The working or loafing men, for they laugh and loaf, and work and chaff and chatter at every corner, are more distinct in costume, wearing the flat felt sombrero with turned-up edges that one knows from pictures, while the long coat which has displaced the cloak still retains a smack of it in the way they disregard the sleeves and hang it from their shoulders. These men are decidedly not so ugly as the women, and vary wonderfully in size, colour and complexion, though a big Portuguese is a rarity. The strong point in both sexes is their natural gift for wearing colour, for choosing and blending or matching tints.
These Portuguese men and women work hard when they do not loaf and chatter. The porters, who stand in knots with cords upon their shoulders, bear huge loads; a characteristic of the place is this load-bearing and the size of the burdens. Women carry mighty parcels upon their heads; men great baskets. Fish is carried in spreading flat baskets by girls. They look afar off like gigantic hats: further still, like quaint odd toadstools in motion. All household furniture removing among the poor is done by hand. Two or four men load up a kind of flat hand-barrow without wheels till it is pyramidal and colossal with piled gear. Then passing poles through the loop of ropes, with a slow effort they raise it up and advance at a funereal and solemn pace. The slowness with which they move is pathetic. It is suggestive of a dead burden or of some street accident. But of these latter there must be very few; there is not much vehicular traffic in Lisbon. It is comparatively rare to see anything like cruelty to horses. The mules which draw the primitive ramshackle trams have the worst time of it, and are obliged to pull their load every now and again off one line on to another, being urged thereto with some brutality. But these trams do not run up the very hilly parts of the city; the main lines run along the Tagus east and west of the great Square of the Black Horse. And by the river the city is flat.
Only a little way up, in my street for instance, it rapidly becomes hilly. On entering the hotel, to my surprise I went downstairs to my bedroom. On looking out of the window a street was even then sixty feet below me. The floor underneath me did not make part of the hotel, but was a portion of a great building occupied by the poorer people and let out in flats. During the day, as I sat by the window working, the noise was not intolerable, but at night when the Lisbonensians took to amusing themselves they roused me from a well-earned sleep. They shouted and sang and made mingled and indistinguishable uproars which rose wildly through the narrow deep space and burst into my open window. After long endurance I rose and shut it, preferring heat to insomnia. But in the day, after that discord, I always had the harmonious compensations of true colour. Even when the sun shone brilliantly I could not distinguish the grey blue of the deep shadows, so much blue was in the painted or distempered outer walls. It was in Lisbon that I first began to discern the mental effect of colour, and to see that it comes truly and of necessity from a people's temperament. Can a busy race be true colourists?
In some parts of the town—the eastern quarters—one cannot help noticing the still remaining influence of the Moors. There are even some true relics; but certainly the influence survives in flat-sided houses with small windows and Moorish ornament high up just under the edge of the flat roof. One day, being tired of the more noisy western town, I went east and climbed up and up, being alternately in deep shadow and burning sunlight and turned round by a barrack, where some soldiers eyed me as a possible Englishman. I hoped to see the Tagus at last, for here the houses are not so lofty, and presently, being on very high ground, I caught a view of it, darkly dotted with steamers, over some flat roofs. Towards the sea it narrows, but above Lisbon it widens out like a lake. On the far side was a white town, beyond that again hills blue with lucid atmosphere. At my feet (I leant against a low wall) was a terraced garden with a big vine spread on a trellis, making—or promising to make in the later spring—a long shady arbour, for as yet the leaves were scanty and freshly green. Every house was faint blue or varied pink, or worn-out, washed-out, sun-dried green. All the tones were beautiful and modest, fitting the sun yet not competing with it. In London the colour would break the level of dull tints and angrily protest, growing scarlet and vivid and wrathful. And just as I looked away from the river and the vine-clad terrace there was a scurrying rush of little school-boys from a steep side-street. They ran down the slope, and passed me, going quickly like black blots on the road, yet their laughter was sunlight on the ripple of waters. The Portuguese are always children and are not sombre. Only in their graveyards stand solemn cypresses which rise darkly on the hillside where they bury their dead; but in life they laugh and are merry even after they have children of their own.
Though little apt to do what is supposed to be a traveller's duty in visiting certain obvious places of interest, I one day hunted for the English cemetery in which Fielding lies buried, and found it at last just at the back of a little open park or garden where children were playing. On going in I found myself alone save for a gardener who was cutting down some rank grass with a scythe. This cemetery is the quietest and most beautiful I ever saw. One might imagine the dead were all friends. They are at anyrate strangers in a far land, an English party with one great man among them. I found his tomb easily, for it is made of massive blocks of stone. Having brought from home his little Voyage to Lisbon, written just before he died, I took it out, sat down on the stone, and read a page or two. He says farewell at the very end. As I sat, the strange and melancholy suggestion of the dead man speaking out of that great kind heart of his, now dust, the strong contrast between the brilliant sunlight and the heavy sombreness of the cypresses of death, the song of spring birds and the sound of children's voices, were strangely pathetic. I rose up and paced that little deadman's ground which was still and quiet. And on another grave I read but a name, the name of some woman "Eleanor." After life, and work, and love, this is the end. Yet we do remember Fielding.
On the following day I went to Cintra out of sheer ennui, for my inability to talk Portuguese made me silent and solitary perforce. And at Cintra I evaded my obvious duty, and only looked at the lofty rock on which the Moorish castle stands. For one thing the hill was swathed in mists, it rained at intervals, a kind of bitter tramontana was blowing. And after running the gauntlet of a crowd of vociferous donkey-boys I was anxious to get out of the town. I made acquaintance with a friendly Cintran dog and went for a walk. My companion did not object to my nationality or my inability to express myself in fluent Portuguese, and amused himself by tearing the leaves of the Australian gum-trees, which flourish very well in Portugal. But at last, in cold disgust at the uncharitable puritanic weather which destroyed all beauty in the landscape, I returned to the town. Here I passed the prison. On spying me the prisoners crowded to the barred windows; those on the lower floor protruded their hands, those on the upper storey sent down a basket by a long string; I emptied my pockets of their coppers. It seemed not unlike giving nuts to our human cousins at the Zoo. Surely Darwin is the prince of pedigree-makers. Before him the darings of the bravest herald never went beyond Adam. He has opened great possibilities to the College dealing with inherited dignity of ancient fame.
This Cintra is a town on a hill and in a hole, a kind of half-funnel opening on a long plain which is dotted by small villages and farms. If the donkey-boys were extirpated it might be fine on a fine day.
Returning to the station, I ensconced myself in a carriage out of the way of the cutting wind, and talked fluent bad French with a kindly old Portuguese who looked like a Quaker. Two others came in and entered into a lively conversation in which Charing Cross and London Bridge occurred at intervals. It took an hour and a quarter to do the fifteen mites between Cintra and Lisbon. I was told it was considered by no means a very slow train. Travelling in Portugal may do something to reconcile one to the trains in the south-east of England.
The last place I visited in Lisbon was the market. Outside, the glare of the hot sun was nearly blinding. Just in that neighbourhood all the main buildings are purely white, even the shadows make one's eyes ache. In the open spaces of the squares even brilliantly-clad women seemed black against white. Inside, in a half-shade under glass, a dense crowd moved and chattered and stirred to and fro. The women wore all the colours of flowers and fruit, but chiefly orange. And on the stone floor great flat baskets of oranges, each with a leaf of green attached to it, shone like pure gold. Then there were red apples, and red handkerchiefs twisted over dark hair. Milder looking in tint was the pale Japanese apple with an artistic refinement of paler colour. The crowd, the good humour, the noise, even the odour, which was not so offensive as in our English Covent Garden, made a striking and brilliant impression. Returning to the hotel, I was met by a scarlet procession of priests and acolytes who bore the Host. The passers-by mostly bared their heads. Perhaps but a little while ago every one might have been worldly wise to follow their example, for the Inquisition lasted till 1808 in Spain.
In the afternoon of that day I went on board the Dunottar Castle, and in the evening sailed for Madeira.
A week's odd moments of study and enforced intercourse with waiters and male chambermaids, whose French was even more primitive than my own, had taught me a little Portuguese, that curious, unbeautiful sounding tongue, and I found it useful even on board the steamer. At anyrate I was able to interpret for a Funchal lawyer who sat by me at table, and afterwards invited me to see him. This smattering of Portuguese I found more useful still in Madeira, or at Funchal—its capital—for I stayed in native hotels. It is the only possible way of learning anything about the people in a short visit. Moreover, the English hotels are full of invalids. It is curious to note the present prevalence of consumption among the natives of Funchal. It is a good enough proof on the first face of it that consumption is catching. There is a large hospital here for Portuguese patients, though the disease was unknown before the English made a health resort of it.
Funchal has been a thousand times described, and is well worthy of it. Lying as it does in a long curve with the whole town visible from the sea, as the houses grow fewer and fewer upon the slopes of the lofty mountain background, it is curiously theatrical and scenic in effect. It is artistically arranged, well-placed; a brilliant jewel in a dark-green setting, and the sea is amethyst and turquoise.
I stayed in an hotel whose proprietor was an ardent Republican. One evening he mentioned the fact in broken English, and I told him that in theory I also was of that creed. He grew tremendously excited, opened a bottle of Madeira, shared it with me and two Portuguese, and insisted on singing the Marseillaise until a crowd collected in front of the house, whose open windows looked on an irregular square. Then he and his friends shouted "Viva la partida dos Republicanos!" The charges at this hotel were ridiculously small—only three and fourpence a day for board and lodging. And it was by no means bad; at anyrate it was always possible to get fruit, including loquats, strawberries, custard apples, bananas, oranges, and the passion-flower fruit, which is not enticing on a first acquaintance, and resembles an anaemic pomegranate. Eggs, too, were twenty-eight for tenpence; fish was at nominal prices.
But there is nothing to do in Funchal save eat and swim or ride. The climate is enervating, and when the east wind blows from the African coast it is impossible to move save in the most spiritless and languid way. It may make an invalid comparatively strong, but I am sure it might reduce a strong man to a state of confirmed laziness little removed from actual illness. I was glad one day to get horses, in company with an acquaintance, and ride over the mountains to Fayal, on the north side of the island. And it was curious to see the obstinate incredulity of the natives when we declared we meant going there and back in one day. The double journey was only a little over twenty-six miles, yet it was declared impossible. Our landlord drew ghastly pictures of the state we should be in, declaring we did not know what we were doing; he called in his wife, who lifted up her hands against our rashness and crossed herself piously when we were unmoved; he summoned the owner of the horses, who said the thing could not be done. But my friend was not to be persuaded, declaring that Englishmen could do anything, and that he would show them. He explained that we were both very much more than admirable horsemen, and only minimised his own feats in the colonies by kindly exaggerating mine in America, and finally it was settled gravely that we were to be at liberty to kill ourselves and ruin the horses for a lump sum of two pounds ten, provided we found food and wine for the two men who were to be our guides. In the morning, at six o'clock, we set out in a heavy shower of rain. Before we had gone up the hill a thousand feet we were wet through, but a thousand more brought us into bright sunlight. Below lay Funchal, underneath a white sheet of rain-cloud; the sea beyond it was darkened here and there; it was at first difficult to distinguish the outlying Deserta Islands from sombre fogbanks. But as we still went up and up the day brightened more and more, and when Funchal was behind and under the first hills the sea began to glow and glitter. Here and there it shone like watered silk. The Desertas showed plainly as rocky masses; a distant steamer trailed a thin ribbon of smoke above the water. Close at hand a few sheep and goats ran from us; now and again a horse or two stared solemnly at us; and we all grew cheerful and laughed. For the air was keen and bracing; we were on the plateau, nearly four thousand feet above the sea, and in a climate quite other than that which choked the distant low-lying town. Then we began to go down.
All the main roads of the Ilha da Madeira are paved with close-set kidney pebbles, to save them from being washed out and destroyed by the sudden violent semi-tropical rains. Even on this mountain it was so, and our horses, with their rough-shod feet, rattled down the pass without faltering. The road zigzagged after the manner of mountain roads. When we reached the bottom of a deep ravine it seemed impossible that we could have got there, and getting out seemed equally impossible. The slopes of the hills were often fifty degrees. Everywhere was a thick growth of brush and trees. At times the road ran almost dangerously close to a precipice. But at last, about eleven o'clock, we began to get out of the thick entanglement of mountains and in the distance could see the ocean on the north side of the island. "Fayal is there," said our guide, pointing, as it seemed, but a little way off. Yet it took two hours' hard riding to reach it. Our path lay at first along the back of a great spur of the main mountain; it narrowed till there was a precipice on either side—on the right hand some seven or eight hundred feet, on the left more than a thousand. I had not looked down the like since I crossed the Jackass Mountain on the Fraser River in British Columbia. Underneath us were villages—scattered huts, built like bee-hives. The piece of level ground beneath was dotted with them. The place looked like some gigantic apiary. The dots of people seemed little larger than bees. And soon we came to the same stack-like houses close to our path. It was Sunday, and these village folks were dressed in their best clothes. They were curiously respectful, for were we not gente de gravate—people who wore cravats—gentlemen, in a word? So they rose up and uncovered. We saluted them in passing. It was a primitive sight. As we came where the huts were thicker, small crowds came to see us. Now on the right hand we saw a ridge with pines on it, suggesting, from the shape of the hill, a bristly boar's back; on the left the valley widened; in front loomed up a gigantic mass of rock, "The Eagle's Cliff," in shape like Gibraltar. It was 1900 feet high, and even yet it was far below us. But now the path pitched suddenly downwards; there were no paving-pebbles here, only the native hummocks of rock and the harder clay not yet washed away. The road was like a torrent-bed, for indeed it was a torrent when it rained; but still our horses were absolute in faith and stumbled not. And the Eagle's Cliff grew bigger and bigger still as we plunged down the last of the spur to a river then scanty of stream, and we were on the flat again not far from the sea. But to reach Fayal it was necessary to climb again, turning to the left.
Here we found a path which, with all my experience of Western America mountain travel, seemed very hard to beat in point of rockiness and steepness. We had to lead our horses and climb most carefully. But when a quarter of a mile had been done in this way it was possible to mount again, and we were close to Fayal. I had thought all the time that it was a small town, but it appeared to be no more than the scattered huts we had passed, or those we had noted from the lofty spur. Our objective was a certain house belonging to a Portuguese landowner who occupied the position of an English squire in the olden days. Both my friend and I had met him several times in Funchal, and, by the aid of an interpreter, had carried on a conversation. But my Portuguese was dinner-table talk of the purely necessary order, and my companion's was more exiguous than my own. So we decided to camp before reaching his house, and eat our lunch undisturbed by the trouble of being polite without words. We told our guide this, and as he was supposed to understand English we took it for granted that he did so when we ordered him to pick some spot to camp a good way from the landowner's house. But in spite of our laborious explanations he took us on to the very estate, and plumped us down not fifty yards from the house. As we were ignorant of the fact that this was the house, we sent the boy there for hot water to make coffee, and then to our horror we saw the very man whom we just then wanted to avoid. We all talked together and gesticulated violently. I tried French vainly; my little Portuguese grew less and less, and disappeared from my tongue; and then in despair we hailed the cause of the whole misfortune, and commanded him to explain. What he explained I know not, but finally our friend seemed less hurt than he had been, and he returned to his house on our promising to go there as soon as our lunch was finished.
The whole feeling of this scene—of this incident, of the place, the mountains, the primitive people—was so curious that it was difficult to think we were only four days from England. Though the people were gentle and kind and polite, they seemed no more civilised, from our point of view, than many Indians I have seen. Indeed, there are Indian communities in America which are far ahead of them in culture. I seemed once more in a wild country. But our host (for, being on his ground, we were his guests) was most amiable and polite. It certainly was rather irksome to sit solemnly in his best room and stare at each other without a word. Below the open window stood our guide, so when it became absolutely necessary for me to make our friend understand, or for me to die of suppression of urgent speech, I called to Joao and bade him interpret. We were silent again until wine was brought. Then his daughter, almost the only beautiful Portuguese or Madeiran girl I ever saw, came in. We were introduced, and, in default of the correct thing in her native language, I informed her, in a polite Spanish phrase I happened to recollect, that I was at her feet. Then, as I knew her brother in Funchal, I called for the interpreter and told her so as an interesting piece of information. She gave me a rose, and, looking out of the window, she taught me the correct Portuguese for Eagle's Cliff—"Penha d'aguila." We were quite friends.
It was then time for us to return if we meant to keep to our word and do the double journey in one day. But a vociferous expostulation came from our host. He talked fast, waved his hands, shook his head, and was evidently bent on keeping us all night. We again called in the interpreter, explaining that our reputation as Englishmen, as horsemen, as men, rested on our getting back to Funchal that night, and, seeing the point as a man of honour, he most regretfully gave way, and, having his own horse saddled, accompanied us some miles on the road. We rode up another spur, and came to a kind of wayside hut where three or four paths joined. Here was congregated a brightly-clad crowd of nearly a hundred men, women and children. They rose and saluted us; we turned and took off our hats. I noticed particularly that this man who owned so much land and was such a magnate there did the same. I fancied that these people had gathered there as much to see us pass as for Sunday chatter. For English travellers on the north side of the island are not very common, and I daresay we were something in the nature of an event. Turning at this point to the left, we plunged sharply downwards towards a bridge over a torrent, and here parted from our land-owning friend. We began to climb an impossible-looking hill, which my horse strongly objected to. On being urged he tried to back off the road, and I had some difficulty in persuading him that he could not kill me without killing himself. But a slower pace reconciled him to the road, and as I was in no great hurry I allowed him to choose his own. Certainly the animals had had a hard day of it even so far, and we had much to do before night. We were all of us glad to reach the Divide and stay for a while at the Poizo, or Government rest-house, which was about half-way. One gets tolerable Madeira there.
It was eight or half-past when we came down into Funchal under a moon which seemed to cast as strongly-marked shadows as the very sun itself. The rain of the morning had long ago passed away, and the air was warm—indeed, almost close—after the last part of the ride on the plateau, which began at night-time to grow dim with ragged wreaths of mist. Our horses were so glad to accomplish the journey that they trotted down the steep stony streets, which rang loudly to their iron hoofs. When we stopped at the stable I think I was almost as glad as they; for, after all, even to an Englishman with his country's reputation to support, twelve or thirteen hours in the saddle are somewhat tiring. And though I was much pleased to have seen more of the Ilha da Madeira than most visitors, I remembered that I had not been on horseback for nearly five years.
A PONDICHERRY BOY
When I first went out to the Australian colonies in 1876 in the Hydrabad, a big sailing ship registered as belonging to Bombay, I had a very curious time of it, take it altogether. It was my first real experience of the outside world, and the hundred and two days the Hydrabad took from Liverpool to Melbourne made a very valuable piece of schooling for a greenhorn. I was a steerage passenger, and the steerage of a sailing vessel twenty-five years ago was something to see and smell. Perhaps it is no better now, but then it was certainly very bad. The food was poor, the quarters dirty, the accommodation far too limited to swing even the traditional cat in, and my companions were for the most part Irishmen of the lowest and poorest peasant class. In these days I was quite fresh from home and was rather particular in my tastes. Some of that has been knocked out of me since. A great deal of it was knocked out of me in that passage.
Yet it was, take it altogether, an astonishingly fertile trip for a young and green lad who was not yet nineteen. The Hydrabad usually made a kind of triangular voyage. She took emigrants and a general cargo to Melbourne, loaded horses there for Australia, and came back to England once more with anything going in the shape of cargo to be picked up in the Hooghly. She carried a Calashee crew, that is, a crew of mixed Orientals, and among them were native Hindoos, Klings, Malays, Sidi-boys. In those days I had not been in the United States and had not yet imbibed any great contempt for coloured people. They were on the whole infinitely more interesting than the Irish. I knew nothing of the world, nothing of the Orient, and here was an Oriental microcosm. The old serang, or bo'sun, was a gnarled and knotted and withered Malay, who took rather a fancy to me. Sometimes I sat in his berth and smoked a pipe with him. At other times I deciphered the wooden tallies for the sails in the sail-locker, for though he talked something which he believed to be English, he could not read a word, even in the Persi-Arabic character. The cooks, or bandaddies, were also friends of mine, and more than once they supplemented the intolerably meagre steerage fare by giving me something good to eat. I soon knew every man in the crew, and could call each by his name. Sometimes I went on the lookout with one of them, and one particular Malay was very keen on teaching me his language. So far as I remember the languages talked by the crew included Malay, Hindustani, Tamil and, oddly enough, French. That language was of course spoken by someone who came from Pondicherry, that small piece of country which, with Chandernagor, represents the French-Indian Empire of Du Plessis's time. I had learnt a little Hindustani and Malay, and could understand all the usual names of the sails and gear before I discovered that there was someone on board whose native tongue was French, or who, at anyrate, could talk it fluently enough. We were far to the south of the Line before I found this out. For, of course, among his fellows the boy from Pondicherry spoke Hindustani mixed with Malay and perhaps with Tamil. I well remember how I made the discovery. It was odd enough to me, but far stranger, far more wonderful, far more full of mystery to my little, excitable and very dark-skinned friend. I daresay, if he lives, that to this hour he remembers the English boy who so surprised him.
The weather was intensely hot and I had climbed for a little air into one of the boats lying in the skids. The shadow of the main-topsail screened me from the sun; there was just enough wind to keep the canvas doing its work in silence. It was Sunday and the whole ship was curiously quiet. But as I lay in my little shelter I was presently disturbed by Pondicherry (that was what he was called by everyone), who came where I was to fetch away a plate full of some occult mystery which he had secreted there. He nodded to me brightly, and then for the first time it occurred to me that if he came from his nameplace he might know a little French. I knew remarkably little myself; I could read it with difficulty. My colloquial French was then, as now, intensely and intolerably English. I said, "Bon jour, Pondicherry!"
The result was astounding. He turned to me with an awe-stricken look, as he dropped his tin plate with its precious burden, and holding out both hands as though to embrace a fellow countryman, he exclaimed in French,—
"What—what, do you come from Pondicherry?"
For a moment or two I did not follow his meaning. I did not see what French meant to him; I could not tell that it represented his little fatherland. I had imagined he knew it was a foreign tongue. But it was not foreign to him.
"No," I said, "I am an Englishman."
He sat down on a thwart and stared at me as if I was some strange miracle. His next words let me into the heart of his mystery.
"It is not possible. You speak Pondicherry!"
He did not even know that he was speaking French, the language of a great Western nation. He could not know that I was doing my feeble best to speak the language of a great literature; the language of Voltaire, of Victor Hugo, of diplomacy. No, he and I were speaking Pondicherry, the language of a derelict corner of mighty Hindustan. Now he eyed me with suspicion.
"When were you there?" he demanded in a whisper.
If I was not Pondicherry born I must at least have lived there in order to have learnt the language.
"Pondy, I was never there," I answered.
He evidently did not believe me. I had some mysterious reason for concealing that I was either Pondicherry born or that I had resided there.
"Then you didn't know it?"
"And you have not been in Villianur?"
I shook my head. He shook his and stared at me suspiciously. Perhaps I had committed some crime there.
"Then how did you learn it?"
"I learnt it in England."
That I was undoubtedly speaking the unhappy truth would have been obvious to any Frenchman. But to Pondicherry what I said was so obviously a gross and almost foolish piece of fiction that he shook his head disdainfully. And yet why should I lie? He spoke so rapidly that I could not follow him.
"If you speak so fast I cannot understand," I said.
"Ah, then," he replied hopefully, "it is a long time since you were there. Perhaps you were very young then?"
I once more insisted that I had never been at Pondicherry, or even in any part of India. All I said convinced him the more that I was not speaking the truth.
"You speak Hindustani with the bandaddy."
It is true I had learnt a dozen phrases and had once or twice used them. To say I had learnt them in the ship was useless.
"Oh, no, you have been in India. Why will you not tell me the truth, sahib? I am the only one from Pondicherry but you."
He spoke mournfully. I was denying my own fatherland, denying help and comradeship to my own countryman! It was, thought Pondicherry, cruel, unkind, unpatriotic. He gathered up the mess he had spilt and descended sorrowfully to the main deck to discuss me with his friends among the crew. As I heard afterwards from the wrinkled old serang, there were many arguments started in the fo'castle as to my place of origin. It was said, by those who took sides against Pondicherry, that even if I knew "Pondicherry" (and for that they only had his word), I also undoubtedly knew English. And when did any of the white rulers of Pondicherry know that tongue? Some of the Lascars who had been on the Madras coast in country boats swore that no one spoke English there. On the whole, as I came from England and knew English it was more likely that I was what I said than that I came from Pondicherry. But even so all agreed it was a mystery that I could speak it. The serang came to me quietly.
"Say, Robat, you tell me. You come Pondicherry?"
"No, serang," said "Robat."
"But you speak Pondicherry the boy say, Robat?"
"Yes, I speak it, serang. Many English people speak it a little. Very easy for English people learn a little, just the same as we learn jeldy jow, toom sooar."
And as the serang was well acquainted with the capabilities of English officers with regard to abusive language, he went away convinced that "Pondicherry" and "Hindustani" insults were perhaps taught in English schools after all.
In spite of my refusing to take Pondicherry into my confidence he remained on friendly, if suspicious, terms with me. When I said a word or two of French to him he beamed all over, and turned to the others as much as to say, "Didn't I tell you he came from my country?" For nothing that I and the serang or his friends said convinced him, or even shook his opinion. He used to sneak up to me occasionally as he worked about the decks and spring a question on me about someone at Pondicherry. Of course I had heard of no one there. But my ignorance was wholly put on; he was sure of that. Often and often I caught his eyes on me, and I knew his mind was pondering theories to account for my conduct. It was all very well for me or anyone else to say that Pondicherry was talked elsewhere than in his own home. He had travelled, he had been in Australia, in England, in many parts of the East, and he had never, never met anyone but himself and myself who knew it! I think he would have given me a month's pay if I would have only owned up to having been at Pondicherry. He certainly offered me an ample plateful of curried shark, a part of one we had caught days before, if I would be frank about the matter; but even my desire to obtain possession of that smell and drop it overboard did not tempt me to a white lie. I persisted in remaining an Englishman through the whole passage of one hundred and two days. And then at last, after good times and bad, after calms on the Line and no small hurricane south of stormy Cape Leuuwin, we came up with Cape Otway and entered the Heads. Pondicherry's time for solving the mystery grew short. In another few hours the passengers would go ashore and be never seen again. For my own part, though the passage had been one of pure discomfort, I was almost sorry to leave the old ship. I had to quit a number of friends, black and white, and had to face a new and perhaps unfriendly world. Though the Hydrabad half-starved me I was at anyrate sure of water and biscuit. And many of the poor Lascars had been chums to me. As I made preparations to leave the vessel and stood on deck waiting, I saw Pondicherry sneaking about in the background. I said farewell to his old serang, and the Malay quartermasters, who were all fine men, and to some of the meaner outcast Klings, and then Pondicherry darted up to me. I knew quite well what was in his mind. It was in his very eyes. I was now going, and should be seen no more. Perhaps at the last I might be induced to speak the truth. And even if I did not own up bravely, it was at anyrate necessary to bid farewell to a countryman, though he denied his own country. He came close to me in the crowd and touched my sleeve appealingly.
"What is it, Pondy?"
"Oh, sahib, you tell me now where you learn Pondicherry?"
"Pondy, I told you the truth long ago," I answered.
"Sahib, it is not possible."
He turned away, and I went on board the tug which served us as a tender. Presently I saw him lean over the rail and wave his hand. When he saw that I noticed him he called out in French once more, with angry, scornful reproach,—
"If you were not there, how, how can you speak it?"
A GRADUATE BEYOND SEAS
The travel-micrococcus infected me early. Before I can remember I travelled in England, and, when my memory begins, a stay of two years in any town made me weary. My brothers and sisters and I would then inquire what time the authorities meant to send my father elsewhere, and we were accustomed to denounce any delay on the part of a certain Government department in giving us "the route." Such a youth was gipsying, and if any original fever of the blood led to wandering, such a training heightened the tendency. To this day even, after painful and laborious travel, Fate cannot persuade me that my stakes should not be pulled up at intervals. I understand "trek fever," which, after all, is only Eldorado hunting. With the settler unsatisfied a belief in immortality takes its place.
In the ferment of youth and childhood, which now threatens to quiet down, my feet stayed in many English towns and villages, from Barnstaple to Carlisle, from Bedford to Manchester, and I hated them all with fervour, only mitigating my wrath by great reading. I could only read at eight years of age, but from that time until eleven I read a mingled and most preposterous mass of literature and illiterature. It was a substitute for travel, and, in my case, not a substitute only, but a provoker. Reading is mostly dram-drinking, mostly drugging; it throws a veil over realities. With the child I knew best it urged him on and infected me with world-hunger and roused activities. To be sure the Elder Brethren, who are youth's first gaolers, nearly made me believe, by dint of repetition (they, themselves, probably believing it by now), that books and knowledge, which are acquired for, with, by and through examinations, were, of themselves, noble and admirable, and that an adequate acquaintance with them (provided such acquaintance could be proved adequate to Her Majesty's Commissioners of the Civil Service) would inevitably make a man of me. For the opinion is rooted deep in many minds that to surrender one's wings, to clip one's claws, to put a cork in one's raptorial beak, and masquerade in a commercial barnyard, is to be a very fine fowl indeed.
Some spirit of revolt saved the child (now a boy, I guess) from being a Civil Cochin China, and sent him to Australia. The ship in which I sailed for Melbourne was my first introduction to outside realities, to world realities as distinct from the preliminary brutalities of school, and it opened my eyes—indeed, gave me eyes instead of the substitutes for vision favoured by the Elder Brethren, who may be taken to include schoolmasters, professors, and good parents. How any child survives without losing his eyesight altogether is now a marvel to me. Certainly, very few retain more than a dim vision, which permits them to wallow amongst imitations (such as a last year's Chippendale morality) and imagine themselves well furnished. My new university (after Owens College an admirable hot-bed for some products under glass) was the Hydrabad, 1600 tons burden, with a mixed mass of passengers, mostly blackguards in the act of leaving England to allow things to blow over, and a Lascar crew, Hindoos, Seedee boys and Malays. The professors at this notable college were many, and all were fit for their unendowed chairs. They taught mostly, and in varying ways, the art of seeing things as they are, and if some saw things as they were not, that is, double, the object lesson was eminently useful to the amazed scholar. Some of them pronounced me green, and I was green.
But a four months' session and procession through the latitudes and longitudes brought me to Australia in a less obviously green condition. I had learnt the one big lesson that too few learn. I had to depend on myself. And Australia said, "You know nothing and must work." Had I not sat with Malays, and collogued with negroes, and eaten ancient shark with Hindoos? I was afraid of the big land where I could reckon on no biscuit tub always at hand, but these were men who had faced other continents and other seas. I could face realities, too, or I could try.
It is the unnecessary work that gets the glory mostly, especially in a fat time of peace, but some day the scales will be held more level. A shearer of sheep will be held more honourable than a shearer of men; and he who shirks the world's right labour will rank with the unranked lowest. The music-hall and theatre and unjustified fiction will have had their day. The little man with a little gift, that should be no more than an evening's joke or pleasure after real work, will exist no more. But we live under the rule of Rabesqurat, Queen of Illusion.
The Australian bush university, with the sun, moon and stars in the high places, and labour, hunger and thirst holding prominent lecturerships, helped to educate me. The proof of that education was that I know now that a big bit of my true life's work was done there. The preparation turned out to be the work itself. One does necessary things there, and they are done without glory and often without present satisfaction, except the satisfaction given to toil. What does the world want and must have? If all the theatres were put down and all the actors sent to useful work, things would be better instead of worse. If all the music-halls became drill-halls it would add to the world's health. If most of the writers concluded justly that they were in no way necessary or useful, some healthy man might be added to the list of workers and some unhealthy ones would find themselves better or very justly dead. But the sheep and cattle have to be attended to, and ships must be sailed, and bridges must be built. Hunger and thirst, and all the educational unrighteousness of the elements must be met, fought, out-marched or out-manoeuvred. I went to school in the Murray Ranges, and carried salt to fluky sheep. Even if this present screed stirred me doubly to action, the salt-carrying was better. The sun and moon and stars overhead, and the big grey or brown plain beneath were for ever instilling knowledge that a city knows not. A city's soot kills elms, they say; only plane trees, self-scaling and self-cleaning, live and grow and survive. I think man is more like the elm; he cannot clean himself in a city.
It has often been a question for me to solve, now youth exists no more, except in memory, whether this present method of keeping even with one's own needs and the world's has any justification. If it has, it lies in the fact that my real work was mostly done before I knew it. When energy exists devoid of self-consciousness (for self-consciousness is the beginning of death) the individual fulfils himself naturally, obeying the mandate within him. So in Australia, and at sea, or in America, lies what I sometimes call the justification of my writing to amuse myself or a few others.
For America was my second great university, and though I lack any learned degree earned by examinations, and may put no letters after my name, I maintain I passed creditably, if without honours, in the hardest schools of the world. About a young man's first freedom still hangs some illusion. With apparently impregnable health and unsubdued spirits, he has the illusion of present immortality; life is a world without end. But when youth begins to sober and health shows cracks and gaps, and hard labour comes, then the realities, indeed, crawl out and show themselves. My early work in New South Wales seemed to me then like sport. America was real life; it was for ever putting the stiffest questions to me. I can imagine an examination paper which might appal many fat graduates.
1. Describe from experience the sensations of hunger when prolonged over three days.
2. Explain the differences in living in New York, Chicago and San Francisco on a dollar a week. In such cases, how would you spend ten cents if you found it in the street at three o'clock in the morning?
3. How long would it be in your own case before want of food destroyed your sense of private property? Give examples from your own experience.
4. How far can you walk without food—(a) when you are trying to reach a definite point; (b) when you are walking with an insane view of getting to some place unknown where a good job awaits you?
5. If, after a period (say three weeks) of moderate starvation, and two days of absolute starvation, you are offered some work, which would be considered laborious by the most energetic coal-heaver, would you tackle it without food or risk the loss of the job by requesting your employer to advance you 15 cents for breakfast?
6. Can you admire mountain scenery—(a) when you are very hungry; (b) when you are very thirsty? If you have any knowledge of the ascetic ecstasy, describe the symptoms.
7. You are in South-west Texas without money and without friends. How would you get to Chicago in a fortnight? What is the usual procedure when a town objects to impecunious tramps staying around more than twenty-four hours? Can you describe a "calaboose"?
8. Sketch an American policeman. Is he equally polite to a railroad magnate and a tramp? What do you understand by "fanning with a club"?
9. Which are the best as a whole diet—apples or water-melons?
10. Define "tramp," "bummer," "heeler," "hoodlum," and "politician."
This is a paper put together very casually, and just as the pen runs, but the man who can pass such an examination creditably must know many things not revealed to the babes and sucklings of civilisation. From my own point of view I think the questions fairly easy, a mere matriculation paper.
When the Queen of Illusion illudes no more youth is over. I am ready to admit Illusion still reigned when I took to writing for a living. The first illusion was that I was not doing it for a living (it is true I did not make one) but because the arts were rather noble than otherwise and extremely needed. I admit now that they are necessary, in the sense of the necessarian, but I can see little use for them, unless the production of Illusion (with few or many gaps in it) is needed for the world's progress. The laudation of the artist, the writer, and the actor returns anew with the end of the world's great year. But if any golden age comes back, the setting apart of the Amusement Monger will cease. If it does not cease, their antics will be the warnings of the intoxicated Helot.
Yet without illusion one cannot write. Or so it seems to me. Is this writing period only another university after all? Perhaps teaching never ends, though the art of learning what is taught seems very rare. To write and "get there" in the meanest sense, so far as money is concerned, is the overcoming of innumerable obstacles. London taught me a great deal that I could not learn in Australia, or on the sea, or in any Texas, or British Columbia. But I came to London with scaled eyes, and tasted other poverty than that I knew. Illusion is mostly foreshortening of time. One wants to prophesy and to see. The chief lesson here is that prophets must be blind. The end of the race is the racing thereof after all. To do a little useful work (even though the useful may be a thousandth part of the useless) is the end of living. The only illusion worth keeping is that anything can be useful. So far my youth is not ended.
MY FRIEND EL TORO
It is not everyone who can make friends with a bull, and it is not every bull that one can make friends with. Yet next to one or two horses, about which I could spin long yarns, El Toro, the big brindled bull of Los Guilucos Ranch, Sonoma County, California, is certainly nearest my heart. He was my friend, and sometimes my companion; he had a noble character for fighting, and in spite of his pugnacity he was amiability itself to most human beings. His final end, too, fills me with a sense of pathos, and enrages me against those who owned him. They were obviously incapable of understanding him as I did.
When I went up to Los Guilucos from San Francisco to take up the position of stableman on that ranche, I had little notion of the full extent of my duties. What these were is perhaps irrelevant in the present connection. And yet it was because I had to work so incredibly hard, being often at it from six in the morning to eight or nine o'clock at night, that I made particular friends with El Toro, to give him his Spanish name. In all that western and south-western part of the United States there are remnants of Spanish or Mexican in the common talk. For California was once part of Mexico. El Toro became my friend and my refuge: when I was driven half-desperate by having ten important things to do at once he often came in and helped me to preserve an equal mind. I have little doubt that I should have discovered how to work this by myself, but as a matter of fact I was put up to some of his uses by the man whose place I took. He showed me all I had to do, and lectured me on the character of the hard-working lady who owned the place; and when I was dazed and stood wondering how one man could do all the stableman was supposed to accomplish between sunrise and sundown, Jack said, "And besides all this there is a bull!" He said it so oddly and so significantly that my heart sank. I imagined a very fierce and ferocious animal fit for a Spanish bull-ring, a sharp-horned Murcian good enough to try the nerve of the best matador who ever faced horns and a vicious charge. Then he took me round the barn and opened a stable. In it El Toro was tied to a manger by a rope and ring through his nose: he greeted us with a strangled whistle as he still lay down. "When you are hard driven good old El Toro will help you," said Jack, as he sat down on the bull's big shoulders and started to scratch his curl with a little piece of wood which had a blunt nail in it. As I stood El Toro chewed the cud and was obviously delighted at having his curl combed.
The departing Jack delivered me another lecture on the uses of a mild and amiable but fighting bull on a ranche where a man was likely to be worried to death by a lady who had no notion of how much a man ought to do in a day. When he had finished he invited me to make friends with El Toro by also sitting on his back and scratching him with the blunt nail. I did as I was told, and though El Toro twisted his huge head round to inspect me he lay otherwise perfectly calm while I went on with his toilet. He evidently felt that I was an amiable character, and one well adapted to act as his own man. His views of me were confirmed when I brought him half a bucket of pears from the big orchard. With a parting slap and a sigh of regret which spoke well both for him and the bull, Jack went away to "fix" himself for travel. I was left in charge.
How hard I worked on that Sonoma County ranch I can hardly say. I had horses in the stable and horses outside. The cattle outside were mine. Three hundred sheep I was responsible for. Some young motherless foals I nursed. I milked six cows. I chopped wood. I cleaned buggies. I drove wagons and carriages and cleaned and greased them. Sometimes I stood in the middle of the great barn-lot or barnyard and tore my hair in desperation. I had so much to attend to that only the strictest method enabled me to get through it. And, as Jack had told me would happen, my method was knocked endways by the requirements of the lady who was my "boss." What a woman wants done is always the most important thing on earth. She used to ask me to do up her acre of a garden in between times when the sheep wanted water or twenty horses required hay. She was amiable, kindly, but she never understood. At such times who could blame me if I went to the bull's stable when I saw her coming. Though the bull was the sweetest character on the ranch, she went in mortal terror of him. She would try to find me in the horse stable, but she would not come near El Toro for her very life. It was better to sit quietly with him and recover my equanimity while she called. I knew her well enough to know that in a quarter of an hour something else of the vastest importance would engage her attention and I should be free to attend more coolly to my own work.
Yet sometimes she stuck to my track so closely that there was nothing for me to do but to turn El Toro loose. Then I could say, "Very well, madam, but in the meantime I must go after the bull." She knew what the bull being loose meant; he carried devastation wherever he went. He was the greatest fighter in the whole county. I had to get my whip and my fastest horse to try and catch him. I can hardly be blamed if I did not catch him till the evening. For in that way I got a wild kind of holiday on horseback and was saved from insanity. Certainly, when El Toro got away on the loose and was looking for other bulls to have a row with I could think of nothing else. Sometimes he got free by the rope rotting close up to his ring. In that case he went headlong. If he took the rope with him he sometimes trod on it and gave himself a nasty check. Usually, however, he got it across his big neck and kept it from falling to the ground. He never stopped for any gate. When he saw one he gave a bellow, charged it and went through the fragments with me after him. If I was really anxious to get him back at once I usually caught him within a mile. When I wanted a rest I only succeeded in turning him five or six miles away, after he had thrashed a bull or two belonging to other ranchers. No fence was any use to keep him out or in. On one occasion he broke into a barn in which a rash young bull was kept. When the row was over that barn stood sadly in need of repair: and so did the young pedigree bull. I may say that on this particular occasion El Toro got away entirely by himself, and I only knew he was free when I found the door of his stable in splinters.
There was a magnificent difference between El Toro as I sat on him and scratched him with a nail and as he was when he turned himself loose for a happy day in the country. In the stable he was as mild as milk. I could have almost imagined him purring like a cat. He chewed the cud and made homely sloppy noises with his tongue, and regarded me with a calm, bovine gaze, which was as gentle as that of any pet cow's. I could have fallen asleep beside him. It is reported that my predecessor Jack, on one occasion, came home much the worse for liquor and was found reclining on El Toro. There was not a soul on the ranch who dared disturb the loving couple. But when the rope was parted and El Toro loped down the road to seek a row as keenly as any Irishman on a fair day, he was another guess sort of an animal. He carried his tail in the air and bellowed wildly to the hills. He threw out challenges to all and sundry. He gave it to be understood that the world and the fatness thereof were his. This was no mere braggadocio; it was not the misplaced confidence of a stall-fed bull in his mere weight; he really could fight, and though he was only on the warpath about once a month, there was not a bull in the valley which had not retained in his thick skull and muddy brains some recollection of El Toro's prowess. The only trouble about this, from my pet bull's point of view, was that he could rarely get up a row. Most of his possible enemies fled when he tooted his horn and waltzed into the arena through a smashed fence. He was magnificent and he was war incarnate.
In that country, which is a hard-working country, there is really very little sport. Further south in California, the ease-loving Spanish people who remain among the Americans still love music and the dance. We worked, and worked hard; only Sundays brought us a little surcease from toil. All our notions of sport centred on our bull. I had many Italian co-workers, some Swedes, and an odd citizen of the United States. All alike agreed in being proud of El Toro. We yearned to match him against any bull in the State. Sometimes of a Sunday morning, after he had devastated the country and was back again, he held a kind of levee. The Italians brought him pears as I sat on him in triumph and combed him in places where he had not been wounded. He always forgot that I had come behind him and laced his tough hide with my stock-whip. He bore no malice, but took his fruit like a good child. I think he was almost as proud of himself as we were. Certainly we were proud of him. As for me, had I not ridden desperate miles after him: had I not interviewed outraged owners of other bulls and broken fences: had I not played the diplomat or the bully according to the treatment which seemed indicated? He was, properly speaking, my bull; I did not care if I had to spend three days mending our home gates and other's alien fences.
Yes, it was a fine thing to gallop through that warm, bright, Californian air after El Toro, with the brown hills on either side and its patches of green vineyard brightening daily. It was freedom after the toil of axle-greasing and the slow work with sheep. It was better than grinding axes and trying to cut the tough knobs of vine stumps: better than grooming horses and milking cows. It made me think even more of the great Australian plains and of the Texas prairie and the round up. Ay de mi, I remember it now, sometimes, and I wish I was on horseback, swinging my whip and uttering diabolic yells, significant of the freedom of the spirit as I rush after the spirit of El Toro. For my pet, my brindled fighter, my own El Toro, whom I combed so delicately with a bent nail, for whom I gathered buckets of bruised but fat Californian pears, is now no more. They told me, when I visited Los Guilucos seven years ago, that he became difficult, morose, hard to handle, and they sold him. They sold this joyous incarnation of the spirit of battle and the pure joy of life for a mean and miserable thirteen dollars! When I think of it I almost fall to tears. So might some coward son of the seas sell a battleship for ten pounds because it was not suitable for a ferry-boat or a river yacht. I would rather a thousand times have paid the thirteen dollars myself and have taken him out to fight his last Armageddon and then have shot him on the lonely hills from which all other bulls had fled. These mean-souled, conscienceless moneymakers, who could not understand so brave, so fine a spirit, sold him to a Santa Rosa butcher! Shame on them, I say. I am sorry I ever revisited the Valley of the Seven Moons to hear such lamentable news. It made me unhappy then, makes me unhappy now. My only consolation is that once, and twice, and thrice, and yet again, I gave El Toro the chance of finding happiness in the conflict. And when I left Los Guilucos, before I returned to England, I sat upon his huge shoulders and scratched him most thoroughly, while ever and again I offered him a juicy and unbruised pear. On that occasion I pulled him the best fruit, and left windfalls for the ranging, greedy hogs. And as I fed and scratched him he lay on his hunkers in great content, and made pleasant noises as he remembered the day before. On that day, owing to the kindly feeling of me, his true and real friend, he had had a great time three miles towards Glenallen, and had beaten a newly-imported bull out of all sense of self-importance. He was pleased with himself, pleased with me, pleased with the world.
BOOKS IN THE GREAT WEST
Since taking to writing as a profession I have lost most of the interest I had in literature as literature pure and simple. That interest gradually faded and "Art for Art's sake," in the sense the simple in studios are wont to dilate upon, touches me no more, or very, very rarely. The books I love now are those which teach me something actual about the living world; and it troubles me not at all if any of them betray no sense of beauty and lack immortal words. Their artistry is nothing, what they say is everything. So on the shelf to which I mostly resort is a book on the Himalayas; a Lloyd's Shipping Register; a little work on seamanship that every would-be second mate knows; Brown's Nautical Almanacs; a Channel Pilot; a Continental Bradshaw; many Baedekers; a Directory to the Indian Ocean and the China Seas; a big folding map of the United States; some books dealing with strategy, and some touching on medical knowledge, but principally pathology, and especially the pathology of the mind.
Yet in spite of this utilitarian bent of my thoughts there are very many books I know and love and sometimes look into because of their associations. As I cannot understand (through some mental kink which my friends are wont to jeer at) how anyone can return again and again to a book for its own sake, I do not read what I know. As soon would I go back when it is my purpose to go forward. A book should serve its turn, do its work, and become a memory. To love books for their own sake is to be crystallised before old age comes on. Only the old are entitled to love the past. The work of the young lies in the present and the future.
But still, in spite of my theories, I like to handle, if not to read, certain books which were read by me under curious and perhaps abnormal circumstances. If I do not open them it is due to a certain bashfulness, a subtle dislike of seeing myself as I was. Yet the books I read while tramping in America, such as Sartor Resartus, have the same attraction for me that a man may feel for a place. I carried the lucubrations of Teufelsdrockh with me as I wandered; I read them as I camped in the open upon the prairie; I slipped them into my pocket when I went shepherding in the Texan plateau south of the Panhandle.
Another book which went with me on my tramps through Minnesota and Iowa was a tiny volume of Emerson's essays. This I loved less than I loved Carlyle, and I gave it to a railroad "section boss" in the north-west of Iowa because he was kind to me. When Sartor Resartus had travelled with me through the Kicking Horse Pass and over the Selkirks into British Columbia, and was sucked dry, I gave it at last to a farming Englishman who lived not far from Kamloops. I remember that in the flyleaf I kept a rough diary of the terrible week I spent in climbing through the Selkirk Range with sore and wounded feet. It is perhaps little wonder that I associate Teufelsdrockh, the mind-wanderer, with those days of my own life. And yet, unless I live to be old, I shall never read the book again.
The tramp, or traveller, or beach-comber, or general scallywag finds little time and little chance to read. And for the most part we must own he cares little for literature in any form. But I was not always wandering. I varied wandering with work, and while working at a sawmill on the coast, or close to it, in the lower Fraser River in British Columbia, I read much. In the town of New Westminster was a little public library, and I used to go thither after work if I was not too tired. But the work in a sawmill is very arduous to everyone in it, and while the winter kept away I had little energy to read. Presently, however, the season changed, and the bitter east winds came out of the mountains and fixed the river in ice and froze up our logs in the "boom," so that the saws were at last silent, and I was free to plunge among the books and roll and soak among them day and night.
The library was very much mixed. It was indeed created upon a pile of miscellaneous matter left by British troops when they were stationed on the British Columbian mainland. There was much rubbish on the shelves, but among the rubbish I found many good books. For instance, that winter I read solidly through Gibbon's Rome, and refreshed my early memories of Mahomet, of Alaric, and of Attila. Those who imported fresh elements into the old were even then my greatest interest. I preferred the destroyers to the destroyed, being rather on the side of the gods than on the side of Cato. Lately, as I was returning from South Africa, I tried to read Gibbon once more, and I failed. He was too classic, too stately. I fell back on Froude, and was refreshed by the manner, if not always delighted by the matter.
After emerging from the Imperial flood at the last chapter, I fell headlong into Vasari's Lives of the Painters, in nine volumes. Then I read Motley's Netherlands and the Rise of the Dutch Republic, always terrible and picturesque since I had read it as a boy of eleven.
At the sawmill there was but one man with whom I could talk on any matters of intellectual interest. He was a big man from Michigan and ran the shingle saw. We often discussed what I had lately read, and went away from discussion to argument concerning philosophy and theology. He was a most lovable person; as keen as a sharpened sawtooth, and a polemic but courteous atheist. His greatest sorrow in life was that his mother, a Middle State woman of ferocious religion, could not be kept in ignorance of his principles. We argued ethics sophistically as to whether a convinced agnostic might on occasion hide what he believed.
Sometimes this friend of mine went to the library with me. He had the penchant for science so common among the finer rising types of the lower classes. So I read Darwin's Origin of Species, and talked of it with my Michigan man. And then I took to Savage Landor and learnt some of his Imaginary Conversations by heart. I could have repeated AEsop and Rhodope.
But the one thing I for ever fell back upon was an old encyclopaedia. I should be afraid to say how much I read, but to it I owe, doubtless, a stock of extensive, if shallow, general knowledge. Certainly it appears to have influenced me to this day; for given a similar one I can wander from shipbuilding to St. Thomas Aquinas; from the Atomic Theory to the Marquis de Sade; from Kant to the building of dams; and never feel dull.
Now when I come across any of these books I am filled with a curious melancholy. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire means more to me than to some: I hear the whirr of the buzz-saw as I open it; even in its driest page I smell the resin of fir and spruce; Locke's Human Understanding recalls things no man can understand if he has not worked alongside Indians and next to Chinamen. As for Carlyle, I never hear him mentioned without seeing the mountains and glaciers of the Selkirks; in his pages is the sound of the wind and rain.
There are some novels, too, which have attractions not all their own. I remember once walking into a store at Eagle Pass Landing on the Shushwap Lake and asking for a book. I was referred to a counter covered with bearskins, and beneath the hides I unearthed a pile of novels. The one I took was Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. And another time I rode into Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, California, and, while buying stores, saw Gissing's Demos open in front of me. It was anonymous, but I knew it for his, and I read it as I rode slowly homeward down the Sonoma Valley, the Valley of the Seven Moons.
These are but a few of the books that are burnt into one's memory as by fire. All I remember are not literature: perhaps I should reject many with scorn at the present day; nevertheless, they have a value to me greater than the price set upon many precious folios. I propose one of these days to make a shelf among my shelves sacred to the books which I read under curious circumstances. I cannot but regret that I often had nothing to read at the most interesting times. So far as I can recollect, I got through five days' starvation in Australia without as much as a newspaper.
A VISIT TO R. L. STEVENSON
It was late in May or early in June, for I cannot now remember the exact date, that I landed in Apia, in the island of Upolu. Naturally enough that island was not to me so much the centre of Anglo-American and German rivalries as the home of Robert Louis Stevenson, then become the literary deity of the Pacific. In a dozen shops in Honolulu I had seen little plaster busts of him; here and there I came across his photograph. And I had a theory about him to put to the test. Though I was not, and am not, one of those who rage against over-great praise, when there is any true foundation for it, I had never been able to understand the laudation of which he was the subject. At that time, and until the fragment of Weir of Hermiston was given to the world, nothing but his one short story about the thief and poet, Villon, had seemed to me to be really great, really to command or even to be an excuse for his being in the position in which his critics had placed him. Yet I had read The Wrecker, The Ebb Tide, The Beach of Falesa, Kidnapped, Catriona, The Master of Ballantrae, and the New Arabian Nights. I came to the conclusion that, as most of the organic chorus of approval came from men who knew him, he must be (as all writers, I think, should be) immeasurably greater than his books. I was prepared then for a personality, and I found it. When his name is mentioned I no longer think of any of his works, but of a sweet-eyed, thin, brown ghost of a man whom I first saw upon horseback in a grove of cocoanut palms by the sounding surges of a tropic sea. There are writers, and not a few of them, whose work it is a pleasure to read, while it is a pain to know them, a disappointment, almost an unhappiness, to be in their disillusioning company. They have given the best to the world. Robert Louis Stevenson never gave his best, for his best was himself.
At any time of the year the Navigator Islands are truly tropical, and whether the sun inclines towards Cancer or Capricorn, Apia is a bath of warm heat. As soon as the Monowai dropped her anchor inside the opening of the reef that forms the only decent harbour in all the group, I went ashore in haste. Our time was short, but three or four hours, and I could afford neither the time nor the money to stay there till the next steamer. I had much to do in Australia, and was not a little exercised in mind as to how I should ever be able to get round the world at all unless I once more shipped before the mast. I was, in fact, so hard put to it in the matter of cash, that when the hotel-keeper asked three dollars for a pony on which to ride to Vailima, I refused to pay it, and went away believing that after all I should not see him whom I most desired to meet. Yet it was possible, if not likely, that he would come down to visit the one fortnightly link with the great world from which he was an exile. I had to trust to chance, and in the meantime walked the long street of Apia and viewed the Samoans, whom he so loved, with vivid interest. These people, riven and torn by internal dissensions between Mataafa and Malietoa, and honeycombed by Anglo-American and German intrigue, were the most interesting and the noblest that I had met since I foregathered for a time with a wandering band of Blackfeet Indians close to Calgary beneath the shadows of the Rocky Mountains. Their dress, their customs, and their free and noble carriage, yet unspoiled by civilisation, appealed to me greatly. I could understand as I saw them walk how Stevenson delighted in them. Man and woman alike looked me and the whole world in the face, and went by, proud, yet modest, and with the smile of a happy, unconquered race.