JOHN L. STODDARD'S LECTURES, VOLUME 10 (of 10)
Southern California Grand Canon of the Colorado River Yellowstone National Park
Illustrated and Embellished with Views of the World's Famous Places and People, Being the Identical Discourses Delivered during the Past Eighteen Years under the Title of the Stoddard Lectures
Boston Balch Brothers Co. Norwood Press J. S. Gushing & Co.—Berwick & Smith Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. Macdonald & Sons, Bookbinders, Boston
Nature has carefully guarded Southern California. Ten thousand miles of ocean roll between her western boundary and the nearest continent; while eastward, her divinity is hedged by dreary deserts that forbid approach. Although the arid plains of eastern Arizona are frequently called deserts, it is not till the west-bound tourist has passed Flagstaff that the word acquires a real and terrible significance. Then, during almost an entire day he journeys through a region which, while it fascinates, inspires him with dread. Occasionally a flock of goats suggests the possibility of sustaining life here, but sometimes for a distance of fifty miles he may see neither man nor beast. The villages, if such they can be called, are merely clusters of rude huts dotting an area of rocky desolation. No trees are visible. No grazing-ground relieves the dismal monochrome of sand. The mountains stand forth dreary, gaunt, and naked. In one locality the train runs through a series of gorges the sides of which are covered with disintegrated rock, heaped up in infinite confusion, as if an awful ague-fit had seized the hills, and shaken them until their ledges had been broken into a million boulders. At another point, emerging from a maze of mountains, the locomotive shoots into a plain, forty or fifty miles square, and sentineled on every side by savage peaks. Once, doubtless, an enormous lake was held encompassed by these giants; but, taking advantage of some seismic agitation, it finally slipped through their fingers to the sea, and now men travel over its deserted bed. Sometimes these monsters seemed to be closing in upon us, as if to thwart our exit and crush us in their stony arms; but the resistless steed that bore us onward, though quivering and panting with the effort, always contrived to find the narrow opening toward liberty. Occasionally our route lay through enormous fields of cactus and yucca trees, twelve feet in height, and, usually, so hideous from their distorted shapes and prickly spikes, that I could understand the proverb, "Even the Devil cannot eat a cactus."
As the day wore on, and we were drawn from one scene of desolation to another, I almost doubted, like Bunyan's Pilgrim, whether we should ever reach the promised land alive; but, finally, through a last upheaval of defiant hills which were, if possible, more desolate and weird than any we had seen, we gained the boundary of California and gazed upon the Colorado River. It is a stream whose history thrilled me as I remembered how in its long and tortuous course of more than a thousand miles to this point it had laboriously cut its way through countless desert canons, and I felt glad to see it here at last, sweeping along in tranquil majesty as if aware that all its struggles were now ended, and peace and victory had been secured.
It was sunset when our train, having crossed this river, ran along its western bank to our first stopping-place in California,—the Needles. Never shall I forget the impression made upon me as I looked back toward the wilderness from which we had emerged. What! was that it—that vision of transfiguration—that illumined Zion radiant with splendor? Across the river, lighted by the evening's after-glow of fire, rose a celestial city, with towers, spires, and battlements glittering as if sheathed in burnished gold. Sunshine and distance had dispelled all traces of the region's barrenness, and for a few memorable moments, while we watched it breathlessly, its sparkling bastions seemed to beckon us alluringly to its magnificence; then, fading like an exquisite mirage created by the genii of the desert, it swiftly sank into the desolation from which the sun had summoned it, to crown it briefly with supernal glory. Turning at last from its cold immobility to the activity around us, I saw some representatives of the fallen race of California, as Indian bucks and squaws came from their squalid hovels to sell the trifling products of their industry, and stare at what to them is a perpetual miracle,—the passing train. Five races met upon that railroad platform, and together illustrated the history of the country. First, in respect to time, was the poor Indian, slovenly, painted and degraded, yet characterized by a kind of bovine melancholy on the faces of the men, and a trace of animal beauty in the forms of the young squaws. Teasing and jesting with the latter were the negro porters of the train, who, though their ancestors were as little civilized as those of the Indians, have risen to a level only to be appreciated by comparing the African and the Indian side by side. There, also, was the Mexican, the lord of all this region in his earlier and better days, but now a penniless degenerate of Old Castile. Among them stood the masterful Anglo-Saxon, whose energy has pushed aside the Spaniard, civilized the Negro, developed half a continent, built this amazing path of steel through fifteen hundred miles of desert, and who is king where-ever he goes. While I surveyed these specimens of humanity and compared them, one with another, there suddenly appeared among them a fifth figure,—that of Sing Lee, formerly a subject of the oldest government on earth, and still a representative of the four hundred millions swarming in the Flowery Kingdom. Strangely enough, of all these different racial types, the Mongol seemed the most self-satisfied. The Yankee was continually bustling about, feeding passengers, transporting trunks, or hammering car-wheels; the Negroes were joking with the Indians, who appeared stolidly apathetic or resigned; the Mexicans stood apart in sullen gloom, as if secretly mourning their lost estate; but Sing Lee looked about him with a cheerful calmness which seemed indicative of absolute contentment and his face wore, continually, a complacent smile. What strange varieties of human destiny these men present, I thought as I surveyed them: the Indian and the Mexican stand for the hopeless Past; the Anglo-Saxon and the Negro for the active Present; while Sing Lee is a specimen of that yellow race which is embalmed in its own conservatism, like a fly in amber.
The unsuspecting traveler who has crossed the Colorado River and entered Southern California, naturally looks around him for the orange groves of which he has so often heard, and is astonished not to find himself surrounded by them; but, gradually, the truth is forced upon his mind that, in this section of our country, he must not base his calculations upon eastern distances, or eastern areas. For, even after he has passed the wilderness of Arizona and the California frontier, he discovers that the Eldorado of his dreams lies on the other side of a desert, two hundred miles in breadth, beyond whose desolate expanse the siren of the Sunset Sea still beckons him and whispers: "This is the final barrier; cross it, and I am yours." The transit is not difficult, however, in days like these; for the whole distance from Chicago to the coast can be accomplished in seventy-two hours, and where the transcontinental traveler of less than half a century ago was threatened day and night with attacks from murderous Apaches, and ran the risk of perishing of thirst in many a waterless "Valley of Death," the modern tourist sleeps securely in a Pullman car, is waited on by a colored servant, and dines in railway restaurants the management of which, both in the quality and quantity of the food supplied, even in the heart of the Great American Desert, is justly famous for its excellence.
At San Bernardino, we enter what is called the Garden of Southern California; but even here it is possible to be disappointed, if we expect to find the entire country an unbroken paradise of orange trees and roses. Thousands of oranges and lemons, it is true, suspend their miniature globes of gold against the sky; but interspersed between their groves are wastes of sand, reminding us that all the fertile portion of this region has been as truly wrested from the wilderness, as Holland from the sea. Accordingly, since San Bernardino County alone is twice as large as Massachusetts, and the County of Los Angeles nearly the size of Connecticut, it is not difficult to understand why a continuous expanse of verdure is not seen. The truth is, Southern California, with a few exceptions, is cultivated only where man has brought to it vivifying water. When that appears, life springs up from sterility, as water gushed forth from the rock in the Arabian desert when the great leader of the Israelites smote it in obedience to Divine command. Hence, there is always present here the fascination of the unattained, which yet is readily attainable, patiently waiting for the master-hand that shall unlock the sand-roofed treasure-houses of fertility with a crystal key. It can be easily imagined, therefore, that this is a land of striking contrasts. Pass, for example, through the suburbs of Los Angeles, and you will find that, while one yard is dry and bare, the next may be embellished with a palm tree twenty feet in height, with roses clambering over the portico of the house, and lilies blooming in the garden. Of the three things essential to vegetation—soil, sun, and water—man must contribute (and it is all he can contribute) water.
Once let the tourist here appreciate the fact that almost all the verdure which delights his eyes is the gift of water at the hand of man, and any disappointment he may have at first experienced will be changed to admiration. Moreover, with the least encouragement this country bursts forth into verdure, crowns its responsive soil with fertility, and smiles with bloom. Even the slightest tract of herbage, however brown it may be in the dry season, will in the springtime clothe itself with green, and decorate its emerald robe with spangled flowers. In fact, the wonderful profusion of wild flowers, which, when the winter rains have saturated the ground, transform these hillsides into floral terraces, can never be too highly praised. Happy is he who visits either Palestine or Southern California when they are bright with blossoms and redolent of fragrance. The climax of this renaissance of Nature is, usually, reached about the middle of April, but in proportion as the rain comes earlier or later, the season varies slightly. At a time when many cities of the North and East are held in the tenacious grip of winter, their gray skies thick with soot, their pavements deep in slush, and their inhabitants clad in furs, the cities of Southern California celebrate their floral carnival, which is a time of great rejoicing, attended with an almost fabulous display of flowers. Los Angeles, for example, has expended as much as twenty-five thousand dollars on the details of one such festival. The entire city is then gay with flags and banners, and in the long procession horses, carriages, and riders are so profusely decked with flowers, that they resemble a slowly moving throng of animated bouquets. Ten thousand choice roses have been at such times fastened to the wheels, body, pole, and harness of a single equipage. Sometimes the individual exhibitions in these floral pageants take the form of floats, which represent all sorts of myths and allegories, portrayed elaborately by means of statues, as well as living beings, lavishly adorned with ornamental grasses, and wild and cultivated flowers.
Southern California is not only a locality, it is a type. It cannot be defined by merely mentioning parallels of latitude. We think of it and love it as the dreamland of the Spanish Missions, and as a region rescued from aridity, and made a home for the invalid and the winter tourist. Los Angeles is really its metropolis, but San Diego, Pasadena, and Santa Barbara are prosperous and progressive cities whose population increases only less rapidly than their ambition.
One of the first things for an eastern visitor to do, on arriving at Los Angeles, is to take the soft sound of g out of the city's name, and to remember that the Spaniards and Mexicans pronounce e like the English a in fate. This is not absolutely necessary for entrance into good society, but the pronunciation "Angeelees" is tabooed. The first Anglo-Saxon to arrive here was brought by the Mexicans, in 1822, as a prisoner. Soon after, however, Americans appeared in constantly increasing numbers, and, on August 13, 1846, Major Fremont raised at Los Angeles the Stars and Stripes, and the house that he occupied may still be seen. Nevertheless, the importance of Los Angeles is of recent date. In 1885 it was an adobe village, dedicated to the Queen of the Angels; to-day, a city of brick and stone, with more than fifty thousand inhabitants, it calls itself the Queen of the State. Its streets are broad, many of its buildings are massive and imposing, and its fine residences beautiful. It is the capital of Southern California, and the headquarters of its fruit-culture. The plains and valleys surrounding it are one mass of vineyards, orange groves and orchards, and, in 1891, the value of oranges alone exported from this city amounted to one and a quarter millions of dollars. It must be said, however, that there is less verdure here than in well-cared-for eastern towns of corresponding size, and that Los Angeles, and even Pasadena, notwithstanding their many palm trees, have on the whole a bare appearance, compared with a city like New Haven, with its majestic elms and robe of vivid green, which even in autumn seems to dream of summer bloom. Nevertheless, Los Angeles is clean, and poverty and squalor rarely show themselves; while, in the suburbs of the city, even the humblest dwellings are frequently surrounded by palm trees, and made beautiful by flowers.
Another charm of Los Angeles is the sudden contrasts it presents. Thus, a ride of three minutes from his hotel will bring the tourist to the remains of the humble Mexican village which was the forerunner of the present city. There he will find the inevitable Plaza with its little park and fountain, without which no Mexican town is complete. There, too, is the characteristic adobe church, the quaint interior of which presents a curious medley of old weather-beaten statues and modern furniture, and is always pervaded by that smell peculiar to long-inhabited adobe buildings, and which is called by Steele, in his charming "Old California Days," the national odor of Mexico.
Los Angeles, also, has its Chinatown, which in its manners and customs is, fortunately, as distinct from the American portion of the city as if it were an island in the Pacific; but it gave me an odd sensation to be able to pass at once from the handsome, active settlement of the Anglo-Saxon into the stupidity of Mexico, or the heathenism of China.
"How can I distinguish here a native Californian from an eastern man?" I asked a resident.
"There are no native Californians," was the somewhat exaggerated reply; "this is not only a modern, but an eastern city. Nine-tenths of our inhabitants came here from the East less than fifteen years ago, many of them less than five. We are an old people with a new home."
Ostrich rearing is now a profitable industry of California, and farms have been established for this purpose at half a dozen points in the southern section of the State. Two of them are in the vicinity of Los Angeles, and well repay a visit; for, if one is unacquainted with the habits of these graceful birds, there is instruction as well as amusement in studying their appearance, character, and mode of life. My first view of the feathered bipeds was strikingly spectacular. As every one knows, the ostrich is decidedly decollete as well as utterly indifferent to the covering of its legs. Accordingly a troop of them, as they came balancing and tiptoeing toward me, reminded me of a company of ballet dancers tripping down the stage. While the head of the ostrich is unusually small, its eyes are large and have an expression of mischief which gives warning of danger. During a visit to one of the farms, I saw a male bird pluck two hats from unwary men, and it looked wicked enough to have taken their heads as well, had they not been more securely fastened. It is sometimes sarcastically asserted that the ostrich digests with satisfaction to itself such articles as gimlets, nails, and penknives; but this is a slander. It needs gravel, like all creatures of its class which have to grind their food in an interior grist-mill; but though it will usually bite at any bright object, it will not always swallow it. I saw one peck at a ribbon on a lady's hat, and, also, at a pair of shears in its keeper's hands, but this was no proof that it intended to devour either. On another occasion, an ostrich snatched a purse from a lady's hand and instantly dropped it; but when a gold piece fell from it, the bird immediately swallowed that, showing how easily even animals fall under the influence of Californian lust for gold.
Sixteen miles from Los Angeles, yet owing to the clear atmosphere, apparently, rising almost at the terminus of the city's streets, stand the Sierra Madre Mountains, whose copious reservoirs furnish this entire region with water. An excursion toward this noble range brought me one day to Pasadena, the pride of all the towns which, relatively to Los Angeles, resemble the satellites of a central sun. Pasadena seems a garden without a weed; a city without a hovel; a laughing, happy, prosperous, charming town, basking forever in the sunshine, and lying at the feet of still, white mountain peaks, whose cool breath moderates the semi-tropical heat of one of the most exquisitely beautiful valleys in the world. These mountains, although sombre and severe, are not so awful and forbidding as those of the Arizona desert, but they are notched and jagged, as their name Sierra indicates, and scars and gashes on their surfaces give proof of the terrific battles which they have waged for ages with the elements. A striking feature of their scenery is that they rise so abruptly from the San Gabriel Valley, that from Pasadena one can look directly to their bases, and even ride to them in a trolley car; and the peculiar situation of the city is evidenced by the fact that, in midwinter, its residents, while picking oranges and roses in their gardens, often see snow-squalls raging on the neighboring peaks of the Sierra.
It would be difficult to overpraise the charm of Pasadena and its environs. Twenty-five years ago the site of the present city was a sheep-pasture. To-day it boasts of a population of ten thousand souls, seventy-five miles of well-paved streets, numerous handsome public buildings, and hundreds of attractive homes embellished by well-kept grounds. One of its streets is lined for a mile with specimens of the fan palm, fifteen feet in height; and I realized the prodigality of Nature here when my guide pointed out a heliotrope sixteen feet in height, covering the whole porch of a house; while, in driving through a private estate, I saw, in close proximity, sago and date palms, and lemon, orange, camphor, pepper, pomegranate, fig, quince, and walnut trees.
As we stood spellbound on the summit of Pasadena's famous Raymond Hill, below us lay the charming town, wrapped in the calm repose that distance always gives even to scenes of great activity; beyond this stretched away along the valley such an enchanting vista of green fields and golden flowers, and pretty houses nestling in foliage, and orchards bending 'neath their luscious fruits, that it appeared a veritable paradise; and the effect of light and color, the combination of perfect sunshine and well-tempered heat, the view in one direction of the ocean twenty miles away, and, in the other, of the range of the Sierra Madre only seven miles distant, with the San Gabriel Valley sleeping at its base, produced a picture so divinely beautiful, that we were moved to smiles or tears with the unreasoning rapture of a child over these lavish gifts of Nature. Yet this same Nature has imposed an inexorable condition on the recipients of her bounty; for most of this luxuriance is dependent upon irrigation. "The palm," said my informant, "will grow with little moisture here, and so will barley and the grape-vine; but everything else needs water, which must be artificially supplied."
"How do you obtain it?" I asked.
"We buy the requisite amount of water with our land," was the reply. "Do you see that little pipe," he added, pointing to an orange grove, "and do you notice the furrows between the trees? Once in so often the water must be turned on there; and, as the land is sloping, the precious liquid gradually fills the trenches and finds its way to the roots of the trees."
Dealers in California wines declare that people ought to use them in preference to the imported vintage of Europe, and the warehouses they have built prove the sincerity of their conviction. One storehouse in the San Gabriel Valley is as large as the City Hall of New York, and contains wooden receptacles for wine rivaling in size the great tun of Heidelberg. We walked between its endless rows of hogsheads, filled with wine; and, finally, in the sample-room were invited to try in turn the claret, burgundy, sherry, port, and brandy.
"How much wine do you make?" I asked the gentleman in charge.
"In one year," was the reply, "we made a million gallons."
I thought of the Los Angeles River which I had crossed that morning, and of its sandy bed one hundred feet in width, with a current in the centre hardly larger than the stream from a hose-pipe, and remarked, "Surely, in some portions of this land there is more wine than water." "Where do you sell it?" I presently inquired.
"Everywhere," was the answer, "even in France; and what goes over there you subsequently buy, at double the price, for real French wine."
It was the old story, and I doubt not there is truth in it; but the products of California vineyards, owing, possibly, to the very richness of the soil, do not seem to me to possess a flavor equal in delicacy to that of the best imported wines. This will, however, be remedied in time, and in the comparatively near future this may become the great wine-market of the world. Certainly no State in the Union has a climate better adapted to vine-growing, and there are now within its borders no less than sixty million vines, which yield grapes and raisins of the finest quality.
No visit to Pasadena would be complete without an excursion to the neighboring mountains, which not only furnish the inhabitants with water, but, also, contribute greatly to their happiness and recreation. For, having at last awakened to the fact that comfort and delight awaited them in the recesses and upon the summits of their giant hills, the Californians have built fine roads along the mountain sides, established camping-grounds and hostelries at several attractive points, and, finally, constructed a remarkable elevated railroad, by which the people of Los Angeles can, in three hours, reach the crest of the Sierra Madre, six thousand feet above the sea. Soon after leaving Pasadena, a trolley takes the tourist with great rapidity straight toward the mountain wall, which, though presenting at a distance the appearance of an unbroken rampart, disintegrates as he approaches it into separate peaks; so that the crevices, which look from Pasadena like mere wrinkles on the faces of these granite giants, prove upon close inspection to be canons of considerable depth. I was surprised and charmed to see the amount of cultivation which is carried to the very bases of these cliffs. Orchards and orange groves approach the monsters fearlessly, and shyly drop golden fruit, or fragrant blossoms at their feet; while lovely homes are situated where the traveler would expect to find nothing but desolate crags and savage wildness. The truth is, the inhabitants have come to trust these mountains, as gentle animals sometimes learn by experience to approach man fearlessly; and, seeing what the snow-capped peaks can do for them in tempering the summer heat and furnishing them water from unfailing reservoirs, men have discerned behind their stern severity the smile of friendship and benevolence, and have perceived that these sublime dispensers of the gifts of Nature are in reality beneficent deities,—their feet upon the land which they make fertile, their hands uplifted to receive from the celestial treasure-house the blessings they in turn give freely to the grateful earth.
To reach their serrated crests the trolley car, already mentioned, conveys us through a wild gorge known as Rubio Canon, and leaves us at the foot of an elevated cable-road to ascend Mount Lowe. Even those familiar with the Mount Washington and Catskill railways, or who have ascended in a similar manner to Muerren from the Vale of Lauterbrunnen, or to the summit of Mount Pilate from Lucerne, look with some trepidation at this incline, the steepest part of which has a slope of sixty-two degrees, and, audaciously, stretches into the air to a point three thousand feet above our heads. Once safely out of the cable car, however, at the upper terminus, we smile, and think the worst is over. It is true, we see awaiting us another innocent looking electric car by which we are to go still higher; but we are confident that nothing very terrible can be experienced in a trolley. This confidence is quickly shattered. I doubt if there is anything in the world more "hair lifting" than the road over which that car conveys its startled occupants. Its very simplicity makes it the more horrifying; for, since the vehicle is light, no massive supports are deemed essential; and, as the car is open, the passengers seem to be traveling in a flying machine. I never realized what it was to be a bird, till I was lightly swung around a curve beneath which yawned a precipice twenty-five hundred feet in depth, or crossed a chasm by a bridge which looked in the distance like a thread of gossamer, or saw that I was riding on a scaffolding, built out from the mountain into space. For five appalling miles of alternating happiness and horror, ecstasy and dread, we twisted round the well-nigh perpendicular cliffs, until, at last the agony over, we walked into the mountain tavern near the summit, and, seating ourselves before an open fire blazing in the hall, requested some restorative nerve-food. Yet this aerial inn is only one hundred and eighty minutes from Los Angeles; and it is said that men have snow-balled one another at this tavern, picked oranges at the base of the mountain, and bathed in the bay of Santa Monica, thirty miles distant, all in a single afternoon. It certainly is possible to do this, but it should be remembered that stories are almost the only things in California which do not need irrigation to grow luxuriantly. I was told that although this mountain railway earns its running expenses it pays no interest on its enormous cost. This can readily be believed; and one marvels, not only that it was ever built, but that it was not necessary to go to a lunatic asylum for the first passenger. Nevertheless, it is a wonderfully daring experiment, and accomplishes perfectly what it was designed to do; while in proportion as one's nervousness wears away, the experience is delightful.
Living proofs of the progress made in California are the patient burros, which, previous to the construction of this railroad, formed the principal means of transportation up Mount Lowe. Why has the donkey never found a eulogist? The horse is universally admired. The Arab poet sings of the beauties of his camel. The bull, the cow, the dog, and even the cat have all been praised in prose or verse; but the poor donkey still remains an ass, the butt of ridicule, the symbol of stupidity, the object of abuse. Yet if there be another and a better world for animals, and if in that sphere patience ranks as a cardinal virtue, the ass will have a better pasture-ground than many of its rivals. The donkey's small size is against it. Most people are cruel toward dumb beasts, and only when animals have power to defend themselves, does caution make man kinder. He hesitates to hurt an elephant, and even respects, to some extent, the rear extremities of a mule; but the donkey corresponds to the small boy in a crowd of brutal playmates. It is difficult to see how these useful animals could be replaced in certain countries of the world. Purchased cheaply, reared inexpensively, living on thistles if they get nothing better, and bearing heavy burdens till they drop from exhaustion, these little beasts are of incalculable value to the laboring classes of southern Europe, Egypt, Mexico, and similar lands. If they have failed to win affection, it is, perhaps, because of their one infirmity,—their fearful vocal tones, which in America have won for them the sarcastic title of "Rocky Mountain Canaries."
Westward from Los Angeles stretches the famous "kite-shaped" track which takes the traveler through the most celebrated orange and lemon districts of the State. Starting upon this memorable excursion, our route lay through the world-renowned San Gabriel Valley, a glorious expanse ten miles in width and seventy in length, steeped in sunshine, brilliant with every shade of yellow, emerald, and brown, and here and there enriched by spots of brighter color where beds of wild flowers swung their sweet bells noiselessly, or the light green of orange trees, with mounds of golden fruit heaped in profusion on the ground, relieved the sombre groves of eucalyptus whose foliage was so dark as to be nearly black. Occasionally, however, our train traversed a parched area which illustrated how the cloven-foot of the adversary always shows itself in spots unhallowed by the benison of water. In winter and spring, these sterile points would not be so conspicuous, but on that summer day, in spite of the closed windows, dust sometimes filled the cars, and for a little while San Gabriel Valley was a paradise lost. For seventy miles contrasts of hot sand and verdant orchards, arid wastes and smiling valley, followed one another in quick succession,—and down upon it all frowned the long wall of the Sierra Madre.
It is a wonderful experience to ride for such a distance in a perfectly level valley, and see an uninterrupted range of mountains, eight thousand feet in height, rising abruptly from the plain like the long battle-line of an invading army. What adds to its impressiveness is the fact that these peaks are, for the entire country which they dominate, the arbiters of life and death. Beyond them, on one side, the desert stretches eastward for a thousand miles; upon the other, toward the ocean, whose moisture they receive and faithfully distribute, extends this valley of delight. The height of the huge granite wall is generally uniform, save where, like towers on the mighty rampart, old San Antonio and the San Bernardino Brothers lift their hoary heads two miles above the sea,—their silvery crowns and dazzling features standing out in the crystalline clearness of the atmosphere as if they had been carved in high relief.
We sped along, with feelings alternating between elation and dejection, as the scenery was beautiful or barren, till, suddenly, some sixty miles from Los Angeles, our train drew up before a city, containing asphalt pavements, buildings made of brick, and streets embowered in palms. This city which, in 1872, was a sheep-ranch, yet whose assessed valuation, in 1892, was more than four million dollars, is called Riverside; but, save in the rainy season, one looks in vain for the stream from which it takes its name. The river has retired, as so many western rivers do, to wander in obscurity six feet below the sand. "A providential thing," said a wag to me, "for, in such heat as this, if the water rose to the surface it would all evaporate." The sun was, indeed, ardent as we walked through the town, and we were impressed by the fact that the dwellings most appropriate for this region are those which its first settlers seem to have instinctively adopted; for the white, one-storied adobe house, refreshing to the eye, cool in the heat, warm in the cold, caressed by clinging vines and overhung with trees, is surely the ideal residence for Southern California. Such buildings can, of course, be greatly varied and embellished by wealthy owners; but modern houses of red brick, fanciful "Queen Annes," and imitations of castles, seem less suited to this land of sun and sand, where nothing is so much to be desired as repose in form and color. I always welcomed, therefore, genuine southern dwellings and, in the place of asphalt pavements, natural roadways domed by arching trees.
The pride of Riverside is its far-famed Magnolia Avenue, fifteen miles in length, with two broad driveways lined with pepper and eucalyptus trees. Beyond these also are palm-girt sidewalks twenty feet in breadth; while, here and there, reflecting California's golden sunshine from their glistening leaves, stand groups of the magnificent magnolias which give the avenue its name.
"Why did you make this splendid promenade?" I asked in mingled curiosity and admiration.
"It is one of our ways of booming things," was the reply; "out of the hundreds of people who come to see it, some stay, build houses, and go into business. Without it they might never have come at all."
"Was not the cost of laying it out enormous?" I inquired.
"Not so great as you would naturally suppose," was the answer, "for after this country has once been irrigated, whatever is planted on watered land will grow like interest, day and night, summer and winter."
Riverside's fortunes were made in orange culture, and there was a time when every one who planted orange trees was prosperous; but now, under inevitable competition, this enterprise is rivaled in value by other large industries, particularly the cultivation of lemons and olives. Thousands of acres of olive orchards are now flourishing in Southern California, and are considered a sure and profitable investment.
Another celebrated "orange city" is Redlands, where the visitor ceases to wonder at nature, and devotes himself to marveling at man. How can he do otherwise when, in a place that was a wilderness ten years ago, he drives for twenty miles over well-curbed roads, sixty feet wide and as hard as asphalt, or strolls through handsome streets adorned with palms and orange trees, and frequently embellished with residences worthy of Newport? No doubt it is a surprise to many tourists to find such elegant homes in these cities which were born but yesterday; for Americans in the East, though far from conservative themselves, do not, as a rule, appreciate the wonderful growth of these towns which but a few years since had no existence. Occasionally some neighbor goes out to the Pacific coast, and tells his friends on his return what he has seen; but it makes little impression until they go themselves. They think he is exaggerating.
"Would you like to see a converted mountain?" inquired my guide.
"What do you mean?" I asked incredulously.
"You will see," he replied, "and in ten minutes we shall be there."
Accordingly, up we drove over magnificent, finely graded roads, till we arrived at what appeared to be a gentleman's private park. The park, however, seemed to have no limit, and we rode on through a bewildering extent of cemented stone walls, umbrageous trees, luxuriant flowers, trailing vines, and waving palms. At last we reached the summit, and what a view unrolled itself before us! Directly opposite, the awful wall of the Sierra swept up to meet our vision in all its majesty of granite glory, like an immense, white-crested wave, one hundred miles in length, which had by some mysterious force been instantaneously curbed and petrified, just as it was about to break and overwhelm the valley with destruction. Beneath it, for seventy miles in exquisitely blended hues, stretched the wonderful San Gabriel intervale, ideal in its tranquil loveliness. Oh, the splendor, opulence, and sweetness of its countless flowers, whose scarlet, gold, and crimson glowed and melted into the richest sheen of velvet, and rendered miles of pure air redolent with perfume, as grapes impart their flavor to good wine!
In gazing on this valley from a distance one would fain believe it to be in reality, as in appearance, an idyllic garden of Arcadian innocence and happiness, and, forgetting the disillusions of maturer years, dream that all human hearts are as transparent as its atmosphere, and that all life is no less sweet and pure.
But, presently, I asked again, "What do you mean by a converted mountain?"
"Eight years ago," was the reply, "this elevation on which we stand was a heap of yellow sand, like many unconverted mountains that we see about us; now it has been transformed into a dozen miles of finished roads and extensive gardens enclosing two fine residences."
"Pardon me," I exclaimed, "here are trees thirty feet high."
"All grown in eight years," he answered.
"Still," I again protested, "here are stone walls, and curbed and graded roads."
"All made in eight years," he reiterated.
"But, in addition to this mountain, how about the twenty miles of orange groves surrounding it, the thirty thousand dollar public library of Redlands, and its miles of asphalt streets?"
"All in eight years," he said again, as if, like Poe's raven, he had been taught one refrain.
In fact, it should be said that this entire mountain was purchased by two wealthy brothers who now come every winter from the East to this incomparable hill, the whole of which has been, as if by magic, metamorphosed into an estate, where visitors are allowed to find instruction and delight upon its lofty terraces of forest and of flowers. Is it strange, then, that such sudden transformations of sterile plains and mountains into bits of paradise make tourists in Southern California wildly enthusiastic? They actually see fulfilled before their eyes the prophecy of Isaiah, "The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose." The explanation is, however, simple. The land is really rich. The ingredients are already here. Instead of being worthless, as was once supposed, this is a precious soil. The Aladdin's wand that unlocks all its treasures is the irrigating ditch; its "open sesame" is water; and the divinity who, at the call of man, bestows the priceless gift, is the Madre of the Sierras. A Roman conqueror once said that he had but to stamp upon the earth and legions would spring up to do his bidding. So Capital has stamped upon this sandy wilderness, and in a single generation a civilized community has leaped into astonished life. Yet do we realize the immense amount of labor necessitated by such irrigation? This mountain, for example, is covered with water pipes, as electric wires are carried through our houses. Every few rods a pipe with a faucet rises from the ground; and as there are miles of roads and hundreds of cultivated acres, it can with difficulty be imagined how many of these pipes have been laid, and how innumerable are the little ditches, through which the water is made to flow. Should man relax his diligence for a single year, the region would relapse into sterility; but, on the other hand, what a land is this for those who have the skill and industry to call forth all its capabilities! What powers of productiveness may still be sleeping underneath its soil, awaiting but the kiss of water and the touch of man to waken them to life! Beside its hidden rivers what future cities may spring forth to joyous being; and what new, undiscovered chemistry may not this mingling of mountain, sun, and ocean yet evolve to prove a permanent blessing to mankind!
One hundred and twenty-six miles southwest of Los Angeles, one could imagine that he had reached the limit of the civilized world: eastward, the desert stretches far away to the bases of the San Jacinto Mountains; westward, thousands of miles of ocean billows shoulder one another toward the setting sun; southward, extends that barren, almost unknown strip of earth, the peninsula of Lower California; yet in this cul-de-sac, this corner between mountain, desert, and sea, rises a charming and inspiring picture,—San Diego.
The beautiful harbor of this city is almost closed, on one side, by a bold majestic promontory called Point Loma; and on the other, by a natural breakwater, in the form of a crescent, twelve miles long, upon the outer rim of which the ocean beats a ceaseless monody. At one extremity of this silver strand, directly opposite Point Loma and close to the rhythmic surf, stands the Hotel Coronado; its west front facing the Pacific, its east side looking on the azure of the peaceful bay, beyond which rises San Diego with a population of twenty thousand souls. To reach this hotel, the tourist crosses the harbor from the city by a ferry, and then in an electric car is whirled for a mile along an avenue which he might well suppose was leading him to some magnificent family estate. The pavement is delightfully smooth and hard; on either side are waving palms and beds of radiant flowers; two charming parks, with rare botanical shrubs and trees, are, also, visible and hold invitingly before him the prospect of delightful hours in their fragrant labyrinths; and, finally, out of a semi-tropical garden, the vast extent of which he does not comprehend at first, rises the far-famed hostelry which, itself, covers about four and a half acres of ground, at the extreme southwestern corner of the Union, and on a spot which yesterday was a mere tongue of sand. In the tourist season this palatial place of entertainment presents a brilliant throng of joyous guests who have, apparently, subscribed to the motto: "All care abandon ye, who enter here." It is one of the few spots on this continent where the great faults of our American civilization—worry and incessant work—are not conspicuous. Men of the North too frequently forget that the object of life is not work, but that the object of work is life. In lands like Southern California, however, where flowers fill the air with fragrance, where fruits are so abundant that starvation is impossible, and where the nerves are not continually whipped by atmospheric changes into restless energy, men live more calmly, probably more rationally. Sunshine, roses, and the throbbing tones of the guitar would seem to be the most appropriate sources of amusement here. Meanwhile the northern millionaire breaks down from overwork and leaves his money to be squandered by his relatives. Yet he also, till the last gasp, claims that he is happy. What is happiness? Quien sabe?
The country about San Diego is a miniature reproduction of the plains of Arizona and New Mexico, and just above the city rises a genuine mesa, which, though comparatively small, resembles the large table-lands of the interior, and was formed in the same way. Cutting it, here and there, are little canons, like that through which the Colorado rolls, not a mile deep, but still illustrative of the erosion made here by the rivers of a distant age; for these gashes are the result of rushing water, and every stone upon this small plateau has been worn round and smooth by friction with its fellows, tossed, whirled, and beaten by the waves of centuries. Strange, is it not, that though, like many other areas of our continent, this region was once fashioned and completely ruled by water, at present it has practically none; and men must often bring the precious liquid fifty miles to crown the soil with beauty and fertility.
The old town of San Diego, four miles north of the present city, is now almost abandoned. Only a dozen adobe buildings kept in fair repair, and as many more in ruins, mark the site. The little chapel is still used for worship, and from an uncouth wooden frame outside its walls hang two of the old Mission bells which formerly rang out the Angelus over the sunset waves. My guide carelessly struck them with the butt of his whip, and called forth from their consecrated lips of bronze a sound which, in that scene of loneliness, at first seemed like a wail of protest at the sacrilege, and finally died away into a muffled intonation resembling a stifled sob. Roused by the unexpected call, there presently appeared an Indian who looked as if he might have been contemporary with Methuselah. No wrinkled leaf that had been blown about the earth for centuries could have appeared more dry and withered than this centenarian, whose hair drooped from his skull like Spanish moss, and whose brown hands resembled lumps of adobe.
"I am glad to have you see this man," said the guide, "for he has rung these bells for seventy years, and is said to be more than a hundred years old."
I could not obtain a portrait of this decrepit bell-ringer, for many Indians are superstitiously opposed to being photographed; but I procured the picture of an equally shriveled female aged one hundred and thirty who might have been his sister.
"This," remarked my guide with a smile, "is what the climate of San Diego does for the natives."
"The glorious climate of California" has been for years a theme of song and story, and a discussion of its merits forms one of the principal occupations of the dwellers on the Pacific coast. It is indeed difficult to see how tourists could pass their time here without this topic of conversation, so infinite is its variety and so debatable are many of the conclusions drawn from it. It is the Sphinx of California; differing, however, from the Sphinx of Egypt in that it offers a new problem every day. The literature that treats of the Pacific coast fairly bristles with statistics on this subject, and many writers have found it impossible to resist the temptation of adorning their pages with tables of humidity, temperature, and rainfall. Some hotels even print in red letters at the top of the stationery furnished to their guests:
"The temperature to-day is ——."
Among the photographs of San Diego are several which represent groups of ecstatic bathers, ranging from small boys to elderly bald-headed gentlemen, apparently ready to take a plunge into the Pacific; while beneath them is displayed the legend, "January 1, 18—." Candor compels me, however, to state that, as far as I was able to ascertain, these pictured bathers rarely pay a New Year's call to Neptune in his mighty palace, but content themselves in winter with going no further than his ante-chambers,—the sheltered, sun-warmed areas of public bath-houses.
"I believe this to be the best climate in the world," said a gentleman to me in San Diego, "but I confess that, when strangers are visiting me, it occasionally does something it ought not to do."
The truth is, there are several climates in Southern California, some of which are forced upon the resident, while others can be secured by going in search of them in a trolley car or a railway carriage. The three determining factors in the problem of temperature are the desert, the ocean, and the mountains. Thus, in midsummer, although it may be fiercely hot in the inland valleys, it is invariably cool in the mountains on account of their altitude, and near the shore because the hot air rising from the desert invites a daily ocean breeze. Even at a distance from the comfortable coast, humanity never passes into that abject, panting, and perspiring condition in which the inhabitants of the Eastern States are usually seen when the mercury goes to ninety. The nights are always cool; although not quite as much so in July as the enthusiasts tell us who have never seen the country later in the season than the month of May, and who weary us with the threadbare tale of never sleeping without a blanket.
"Is it true, madam," I said to a lady of San Diego, "that here one must always take a blanket to bed with him?"
"Hush," she replied, "never ask that question unless you are sure that there are no tourists within hearing."
Three statements are, I think, unquestionably accurate: first, that for many months of the year the residents need not take into consideration for a moment the possibility of rain; second, that on account of this drought there must inevitably be during that period a superfluity of dust; and, third, that every day there will be felt "a cool refreshing breeze," which frequently increases to a strong wind. My memory of California will always retain a vivid impression of this wind, and the effect of it upon the trees is evident from the fact that it has compelled most of them to lean toward the east, while one of the last sights I beheld in San Diego was a man chasing his hat. Nevertheless, acclimated Californians would no more complain of their daily breeze, however vigorous, than a man would speak disrespectfully of his mother.
As in most semi-tropical countries, there is a noticeable difference in temperature between sun and shade. In the sun one feels a genial glow, or even a decided heat; but let him step into the shade, or stand on a street-corner waiting for a car, and the cool wind from the mountains or the ocean will be felt immediately. People accustomed to these changes pay little heed to them; but to new-comers the temperature of the shade, and even that of the interiors of the hotels and houses, appears decidedly cool.
One day, in June, I was invited to dine at a fruit-ranch a few miles from Pasadena. The heat in the sun was intense, and I noticed that the mercury indicated ninety-five degrees; but, unlike the atmosphere of New York in a heated term, the air did not remind me of a Turkish bath. The heat of Southern California is dry, and it is absolutely true that the highest temperature of an arid region rarely entails as much physical discomfort as a temperature fifteen or twenty degrees lower in the Eastern States, when accompanied by humidity. The moisture in a torrid atmosphere is what occasions most of the distress and danger, the best proof of which is the fact that while, every summer, hundreds of people are prostrated by sunstroke near the Atlantic coast, such a calamity has never occurred in New Mexico, Arizona, or California. Moreover, when the mercury in Los Angeles rises, as it occasionally does, to one hundred degrees, the inhabitants of that city have a choice of several places of refuge: in two or three hours they can reach the mountains; or in an hour they can enjoy themselves upon Redondo Beach; or they may take a trolley car and, sixty minutes later, stroll along the sands of Santa Monica, inhaling a refreshing breeze, blowing practically straight from Japan; or, if none of these resorts is sufficiently attractive, three hours after leaving Los Angeles they can fish on Santa Catalina Island, a little off the coast; or linger in the groves of Santa Barbara; or, perhaps, best of all can be invigorated by the saline breath of the Pacific sweeping through the corridors of the Coronado. Santa Catalina Island is, in particular, a delightful pleasure-resort, whose beautiful, transparent waters, remarkable fishing-grounds, and soft, though tonic-giving air, which comes to it from every point of the compass over a semi-tropic sea, are so alluring that thousands of contented people often overflow its hotels and camp in tents along the beach.
That the winter climate of Southern California, not only on the coast, but in the interior, is delightful, is beyond question. What was healthful a hundred years ago to the Spanish monks who settled here, proved equally so to those adventurous "Forty-niners" who entered California seeking gold, and is still more beneficial to those who now come to enjoy its luxuries and comforts. Flowers and fruit are found here throughout the entire year. The rainy days are few, and frosts are as ephemeral as the dew; and to the aged, the invalids, the fugitives from frost, and the "fallen soldiers of civilization," who are no longer able to make a courageous fight with eastern storms and northern cold, San Diego is a climatic paradise. Accordingly, from early October until April the overland trains roll westward from a land of snow and frost to one of sun and flowers, bearing an annually increasing multitude of invalids and pleasure-seekers, some of whom have expensive permanent homes and costly ranches here—like that of Mr. Andrew McNally, at Altadena—while others find abundant comfort in the fine hotels.
Perhaps the principal secret of the charm of the winter climate of Southern California, as well as that of its wonderfulhealth-restoring properties, lies in the fact that its dry, pure air and even temperature make it possible for one to live continuously out of doors. Yet, though not cold, it is a temperature cool enough to be free from summer languor.
Especially attractive to the visitors from the North are the palms of Southern California. Many of these resemble monstrous pineapples terminating in gigantic ferns. What infinite variety the palm tree has, now dwarfed in height, yet sending out on every side a mass of thick green leaves; now rising straight as an obelisk from the desert sand, and etching its fine feathery tufts against the sky; now bearing luscious fruit of different kinds; now furnishing material for clothing, fishing-nets, and matting; or putting forth those slender fronds, frequently twenty feet in length, which are sent North by florists to decorate dwellings and churches for festivals and weddings! The palm is typical of the South, as the pine is of the North. One hints to us of brilliant skies, a tropic sun, and an easy, indolent existence; the other suggests bleak mountains and the forests of northern hills, and symbolizes the conflict there between man and nature, in which both fortitude and daring have been needful to make man the conqueror. One finds a fascination in contrasting these two children of old Mother Earth, and thinks of Heine's lines:
"A pine tree standeth lonely On a northern mountain's height; It sleeps, while around it is folded A mantle of snowy white.
"It is dreaming of a palm tree In a far-off Orient land, Which lonely and silent waiteth In the desert's burning sand."
On my last day at San Diego, I walked in the morning sunshine on Coronado Beach. The beauty of the sea and shore was almost indescribable: on one side rose Point Loma, grim and gloomy as a fortress wall; before me stretched away to the horizon the ocean with its miles of breakers curling into foam; between the surf and the city, wrapped in its dark blue mantle, lay the sleeping bay; eastward, the mingled yellow, red, and white of San Diego's buildings glistened in the sunlight like a bed of coleus; beyond the city heaved the rolling plains, rich in their garb of golden brown, from which rose distant mountains, tier on tier, wearing the purple veil which Nature here loves oftenest to weave for them; while, in the foreground, like a jewel in a brilliant setting, stood the Coronado.
The fascination of Southern California had at last completely captured me. Its combination of ocean, desert, and mountain, its pageantry of color, and its composite life of city, ranch, and beach had cast over me a magic spell. It was, however, a lonely sea that spread its net of foam before my feet. During my stay I had not seen a single steamer on its surface, and only rarely had a few swift sea-birds, fashioned by man's hand, dotted the azure for a little with their white wings, ere they dipped below the horizon's rim. Hence, though the old, exhilarating, briny odor was the same, I felt that, as an ocean, this was unfamiliar. The Atlantic's waves are haunted by historic memories, but few reminders of antiquity rise ghostlike from the dreary waste of the Pacific. Few battles have been fought, few conquests made upon these shores. On the Atlantic coast one feels that he is looking off toward civilized and friendly lands, across a sea which ocean greyhounds have made narrow; but here three purple islands, floating on the limitless expanse, suggest mysterious archipelagoes scattered starlike on its area, thousands of miles away, before a continent is reached; and one vaguely imagines unknown races, coral reefs, and shores of fronded palms, where Nature smiles indulgently upon a pagan paradise. Nevertheless its very mystery and vastness give to the Pacific a peculiar charm, which changeful Orient seas, and even the turbulent Atlantic, never can impart. Instinctively we stand uncovered in the presence of the mightiest ocean on our planet. It is at once the symbol and the fact of majesty; and the appalling sense of trackless space which it inspires, the rhythm of unmeasured and immeasureable waves, together with the moaning of the surf upon the sand, at times completely overwhelm us with suggestions of the Infinite, until no language seems appropriate, unless it shapes itself in prayer.
In Helen Hunt Jackson's novel, "Ramona," the romance of this region has found immortality. What "Romola" is to mediaeval Florence, "Ramona" is to Southern California. It has embalmed in the memory of the nation a lost cause and a vanished race. Less than one hundred years ago, where the Anglo-Saxon has since built railroads, erected manufactories, and created cities, a life was lived, so different in its character from all that followed or preceded it, that only a story like "Ramona" could make it appear real. At that time about twenty "Missions"—which were in reality immense ecclesiastical farms—bordered the coast for seven hundred miles. For when the New World had been suddenly revealed to the astonished gaze of Europe, it was not merely the adventurous conqueror who hastened to these shores. The priest accompanied him, and many enthusiastic soldiers of the Cross embarked to bear to the benighted souls beyond the sea the tidings of salvation. Missionary enterprises were not then what they are to-day. Nothing was known with certainty of the strange tribes on this side of the globe, and there was often a heroism in the labors of self-sacrificing missionaries to America, which far surpassed the courage of the buccaneer. Many exploring expeditions to this western land received the blessing of the Church, and were conducted, not alone for obtaining territory and gold, but for the conversion of the inhabitants. In Mexico and Peru the priests had followed, rather than led the way; but in California, under the lead of Father Junipero, they took the initiative, and the salvation of souls was one of the principal purposes of the invaders. This did not, however, prevent the Franciscans, who took possession of the land, from selecting with great wisdom its very best locations; but, having done so, they soon brought tens of thousands of Indians under spiritual and temporal control. These natives were, for the most part, as gentle and teachable as the Fathers were patient and wise; and, in 1834, a line of Missions stretched from San Diego to Monterey, and the converted Indians numbered about twenty thousand, many of whom had been trained to be carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, saddlers, tailors, millers, and farmers. Three-quarters of a million cattle grazed upon the Mission pastures, as well as sixty thousand horses; fruits, grain, and flowers grew in their well-cultivated valleys until the country blossomed like the Garden of the Lord; and in the midst of all this industry and agricultural prosperity the native converts obeyed their Christian masters peacefully and happily, and came as near to a state of civilization as Indians have ever come.
Presently the Mexicans made their appearance here; but, though they held and managed enormous ranches, the situation was comparatively unchanged; for they maintained harmonious relations with the Missions, and had no serious difficulties with the Indians. Thus life went on for nearly half a century, and seemed to the good Fathers likely to go on forever; for who, they thought, would ever cross the awful eastern plains to interfere with their Arcadian existence, or what invading force would ever approach them over the lonely sea? But history repeats itself. The Missions soon became too rich not to excite cupidity; and those who coveted their lands and herds declared, as an excuse for violence, that the poor Indians were held in a state of slavery, and should be made to depend upon themselves. At length, in 1833, the Mexican Government by a decree of secularization ruined the Missions; but the Indians, although not so prosperous and well treated as under the Fathers, still kept, through Mexican protection, most of their privileges and the lands they owned. Finally came the Anglo-Saxon, and, under the imperious civilization that poured into California from 1840 to 1860, the pastoral age soon disappeared. The Missions, which had already lost much of their property and power under the Mexican Government, quickly shrank after this new invasion into decrepitude. The practical Anglo-Saxon introduced railroads, electricity, commerce, mammoth hotels, and scientific irrigation, all of which the Fathers, Mexicans, and Indians never would have cared for. Nevertheless, with his arrival, the curtain fell upon as peaceful a life-drama as the world had seen.
To the reader, thinker, and poet the memories and associations of these Missions form, next to the gifts of Nature, the greatest charm of Southern California; and, happily, although that semi-patriarchal life has passed away, its influence still lingers; for, scattered along the coast—some struggling in poverty, some lying in neglect—are the adobe churches, cloisters, and fertile Mission-fields of San Juan Capistrano, San Fernando Rey, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz, all of which still preserve the soft and gracious names, so generously given in those early days, and fill us with a genuine reverence for the sandaled monks, who by incessant toil transformed this barren region into a garden, covered these boundless plains with flocks and herds, and dealt so wisely with the Indians that even their poor descendants, to-day, reverence their memory.
The Saxon has done vastly more, it is true; but, in some ways, he has done much less. The very names which he bequeathed to places not previously christened by the Spaniards, such as Gold Gulch, Hell's Bottom, and Copperopolis, tell a more forcible, though not as beautiful a tale, as the melodious titles, San Buenaventura, San Francisco Dolores, Santa Clara, San Gabriel, and La Purissima.
It is not, therefore, the busy streets and handsome dwellings of Los Angeles and Pasadena, but the adobe ruins, the battered statues, the cracked and voiceless bells, the poor remnants of the Indian tribes, and even the old Spanish names, behind which lies a century of sanctity and romance, which give to Southern California an atmosphere of the Old World and harmonize most perfectly with its history.
Most of the Mission buildings are in a sad condition. Earthquakes have shattered some; neglect and malice have disfigured others; but a society, composed alike of Catholics and Protestants, is now, in the interest of the past, endeavoring to rescue them from utter ruin. It is a worthy task. What subjects for a painter most of them present! How picturesque are their old cloisters, looming up dark, grand, and desolate against the sky! How worn and battered are they by the storms of years! How tremblingly stands the Cross upon their ancient towers, as if its sacred form had become feeble like the fraternity that once flourished here! What witnesses they are of an irrevocable past! Their crumbling walls, if they could speak, might grow sublimely eloquent, and thrill us with inspiring tales of heroism, patience, tact, and fortitude exhibited when these Missions bloomed like flowery oases on the arid areas of the South and West, and taught a faith of which their melancholy cloisters are the sad memorials.
Ten miles from Los Angeles, the Southern Pacific railroad passes a long edifice, the massive walls of which might lead us to suppose it was a fortress, but for its cross and a few antiquated bells. It is the church of the San Gabriel Mission. All other buildings of the institution have disappeared; but this old edifice remains, and, unless purposely destroyed by man, may stand here for five centuries more, since its enormous walls are five feet thick, and the mortar used in their construction has rendered them almost as solid as if hewn from rock. As I descended, at the station a quarter of a mile away, a little barefooted Mexican boy approached and shyly offered me his hand. "Are you the Father," he asked?
"No," I said, "I am not the Father, but I have come to see the church; can you show it to me?"
"But Padre Joaquin said I was to meet a Father."
"Well," I answered, "I am the only passenger who has come by this train, so you had better walk back with me."
The Mexican boys seem to be the best part of what Mexico has left in California. This lad, for example, was attending an American school, and appeared bright and ambitious, though so extremely courteous and respectful that he seemed almost timid. The little hut in which he lived was opposite the church, and he seemed perfectly familiar with the sacred structure. "See," he said, pointing to some mutilated wooden statues in the poor, scantily furnished sacristy, "here are some images which cannot be used, they are so broken, and here are more," he added, opening some drawers and displaying four or five smaller figures in various stages of dilapidation. Thus, for some time he continued to call my attention to different curious relics with such interest and reverence that I was almost sorry when Father Joaquin appeared. It was sad to see the altar of the church defaced and cracked, and its statues, brought a hundred years ago from Spain, scarcely less battered than those which the boy had shown me in the sacristy. Yet it was plain that worshipers as well as vandals had been here. The basins for holy water, cut in the solid wall, were worn, like the steps of an ancient building, with countless fingers, long since turned to dust. There, also, were two old confessionals, one of which was so hopelessly infirm that it had been set aside at last, to listen to no more whispered tales of sin and sorrow. The doors of the church at first looked ancient, but wore a really modern air, when compared with the original portals, which, no longer able to stand upright, had been laid against the wall, to show to tourists. Yet, eighty years ago, this church stood proudly at the head of all the Missions, and reared its cross above the richest of their valleys. According to Father Joaquin's estimate, the Fathers of San Gabriel must have had twenty thousand acres under cultivation, and, in 1820, this Mission alone possessed one hundred and sixty thousand vines, two thousand three hundred trees, twenty-five thousand head of cattle, and fifteen thousand sheep. "It was all ours," he said, with a sweep of his hand, "we had reclaimed it from the desert, and, by the treaty between the United States and Mexico, we were allowed to retain all lands that we had cultivated. Yet of those twenty thousand acres, one hundred and fifty are all that are left us!"
The Padre accompanied me to the station. "How large is your parish, Father?" I asked.
"It is thirteen miles long," was his reply, "and I have in it eight hundred souls, but most of them live too far away to walk to church, and are too poor to ride."
"And how many Indians have you?"
"Perhaps a hundred," he answered, "and even they are dying off."
"What of their character?" I asked.
"They have sadly fallen away," was the response. "True, they are Christians as far as they are anything, but they are hopelessly degraded, yet they respect the Church, and are obedient and reverential when under its influence."
Most of the Californian Missions are really dead, and near that of La Purissima may still be seen the rent in the ground made by the earthquake which destroyed it. Others, like San Gabriel and San Juan Capistrano, are dragging out a moribund existence, under the care of only one or two priests, who move like melancholy phantoms through the lonely cloisters, and pray among the ruins of a noble past. The Mission of Santa Barbara, however, is in fairly good repair, and a few Franciscan Fathers still reside there and carry on a feeble imitation of their former life.
It is on his way to this Mission that the traveler passes the reputed residence of Ramona. There is, it is true, another structure near San Diego which, also, claims this distinction; but the ranch on the route from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara perfectly corresponds to "H.H.'s" descriptions of her heroine's home, with its adjoining brook and willows, and hills surmounted by the cross. The house is almost hidden by the trees with which a Mexican ordinarily surrounds his dwelling, and is, as usual, only one story high, with a projecting roof, forming a porch along the entire front. As we learn in "Ramona," much of the family life in those old days—sewing, visiting, and siesta-taking—went on in the open air, under the shade of the porticos which were wide and low. Here it was that Alessandro brought Felipe back to health, watching and nursing him as he slept outdoors on his rawhide bed; and we may see the arbor where the lovers met, the willows where they were surprised by Senora Moreno, and the hills on which the pious lady caused wooden crosses to be reared, that passers-by might know that some good Catholics were still left in California.
The Mission of Santa Barbara is of solid brick and stone, with walls six feet in thickness. Its cloisters look sufficiently massive to defy an earthquake, and are paved with enormous bricks each twelve inches square. The huge red tiles of the roof, also, tell of a workmanship which, although rude, was honest and enduring. The interior, however, is of little interest, for the poor relics which the Fathers keep are even less attractive than those displayed at the Mission of San Gabriel; yet there are shown at least two enormous missals which are no less than four feet long by two feet wide, and beautifully inscribed on parchment.
"What is the Mission's income?" I asked the gentle monk who acted as my guide.
"Alas!" he answered, "we have very little. You know our lands are gone. We have barely twenty-five acres now. Moreover, we are outside the village; and, as there is another church, most Catholics go there. We receive, indeed, occasional offerings from travelers; but we are very poor."
"Who cultivates your twenty-five acres?" I inquired.
"According to our ability, we are all busy," was the answer, "some till the garden; others train young men for the priesthood; one of our number is a carpenter; and another," he added, evidently laughing at his own expense, "knows just enough about machinery to make a bad break worse."
"And the Indians?" I said.
"Not one is left," was the reply. "Though once the Mission counted them by thousands, they are all dead and gone. There are their monuments," he added, pointing to the fragments of a mill and one or two industrial shops.
I looked and saw the remnants of a giant wheel which formerly had been turned by water, brought from the hills to feed the Fathers' lands. The water was still flowing, but the wheel lay, broken,—symbolic of the link which bound the Mission to the vanished past.
The first Roman Catholic Bishop of California and some of the early Fathers are buried in the chapel of the monastery, but interments are now made in a neighboring cemetery, strictly reserved for members of the Mission, each of whom has there his predestined place. Yet even in this humble Campo Santo life will not yield entirely to death. The hum of droning insects breaks the stillness of the empty cloisters; occasionally a lizard darts like a tongue of flame along the walls; grasses and trailing plants adorn impartially the ground containing human dust, and that which still awaits an occupant; while round a stately crucifix, which casts its shadow like a benediction on the sleeping dead, sweet wild flowers bloom throughout the year, and from their swinging censers offer incense to the figure of the Saviour with each passing breeze. The hush of melancholy broods over the entire place. The mountains, gazing down upon it in stony silence, are haggard and forbidding; below it lies the modern town; while from a neighboring hillside the inmates of a villa look directly into the monastery garden, on which the earlier Fathers little dreamed a female eye would ever rest. A little life, however, was still visible about this Santa Barbara Mission. Two brown-robed monks were hoeing in the field; occasionally, visitors came and went; and, just as I was leaving, one of the priests, in obedience to a summons, hurried away to minister to the sick; yet over all there hung an atmosphere of unreality and sadness. I felt myself the guest of an anachronism.
A fashionable city has risen at the feet of these old monks, but they regard it not. A trolley car brings curious tourists to their doors; but the ways of the Santa Barbara Fathers are those of long ago. Like aged pilgrims, dreaming by their firesides, they seem to be living in the past; they certainly have no present worthy of the name; and when I sought to draw forth from my priestly guide some idea of their future, he answered me by pointing to a grave.
GRAND CANON OF THE COLORADO RIVER
While the Old World is better able than the New to satisfy the craving of the mind for art and history, no portion of our globe can equal the North American continent in certain forms of natural scenery which reach the acme of sublimity. Niagara, the Yosemite, the Yellowstone National Park, and the Grand Canon of the Colorado in Arizona are the four great natural wonders of America. Niagara is Nature in the majesty of liquid motion, where, as the outlet of vast inland seas, a mighty river leaps in wild delirium into a gorge two hundred feet below, and boils and seethes tumultuously till its heart is set at rest and its fever cooled by the embrace of Lake Ontario. The Yosemite is Nature pictured, in a frame of granite precipices, as reclining on a carpet woven with a million flowers, above which rise huge trees three centuries old, which, nevertheless, to the spectator, gazing from the towering cliffs, appear like waving ferns. The Yellowstone Park is the arena of an amphitheatre in which fire and water, the two great forces which have made our planet what it is, still languidly contend where formerly they struggled desperately for supremacy. But the Grand Canon of Arizona is Nature wounded unto death, and lying stiff and ghastly with a gash, two hundred miles in length and a mile in depth, in her bared breast, from which is flowing fast a stream of life-blood called the Colorado.
The section of country through which one travels to behold this last-named marvel is full of mystery and fascination. It is a land where rivers frequently run underground or cut their way through gorges of such depth that the bewildered tourist, peering over their precipitous cliffs, can hardly gain a glimpse of the streams flowing half a mile below; a land of colored landscapes such as elsewhere would be deemed impossible, with "painted deserts," red and yellow rocks, petrified forests, brown grass and purple grazing grounds; a land where from a sea of tawny sand, flecked here and there with bleached bones, like whitecaps on the ocean, one gazes upon mountains glistening with snow; and where at times the intervals are so brief between aridity and flood, that one might choose, like Alaric, a river-bed for his sepulchre, yet see a host like that of Pharaoh drowned in it before the dawn. In almost every other portion of the world Nature reveals her finished work; but here she partially discloses the secrets of her skill, and shows to us her modes of earth-building. Thus, the entire country is dotted with mesas, or table-lands of sandstone, furrowed and fashioned in a tremendous process of erosion, caused by the draining through this area of a prehistoric ocean, whose rushing, whirling, and receding waters molded the mountains, carved the canons, and etched innumerable grotesque figures and fantastic forms. A feeling of solemnity steals over us, as we reflect upon the lapse of geologic time which such a record covers, unnumbered ages before man's advent on this planet; and these deep canons and eroded valleys, whose present streams are only miniature representatives of those which formerly wrought havoc here, teach lessons of patience to the restless mortals who behold them; while some of the singular formations on the cliffs present perplexing problems which Nature, as it were in mocking humor, bids us solve.
Was Nature ever really sportive? In the old days, when she produced her uncouth monsters of the deep, was she in manner, as in age, a child? Did she then play with her continents, and smile to see them struggle up from the sea only to sink again? Was it caprice that made her wrap her vast dominions in the icy bands of glaciers, or pour upon them lava torrents, and frequently convulse them with a mighty earthquake? If so, New Mexico and Arizona must have been her favorite playgrounds. At many points her rock formations look like whimsical imitations of man's handicraft, or specimens of the colossal vegetation of an earlier age. Some are gigantic, while others bear a ludicrous resemblance to misshapen dwarfs, suggesting, as they stand like pygmies round their mightier brethren, a group of mediaeval jesters in a court of kings. In the faint dusk of evening, as one flits by them in the moving train, their weird, uncanny forms appear to writhe in pain, and he is tempted to regard them as the material shapes of tortured souls.
The mesas of New Mexico and Arizona are, usually, regular in outline, sometimes resembling in the distance cloud-banks on the edge of the horizon, but oftener suggesting mighty fortresses, or ramparts to resist invasion, like the wall of China. These are not only beautiful in form and color, but from the fact that they recall the works of man, we gaze at them with wonder, and find in them a fascinating interest. They prove that Nature needs some human association to appeal strongly to us, and how man's history of smiles and tears gives pathos, mystery, and romance to scenes which otherwise would be merely coldly beautiful or terribly sublime. It is for this reason, doubtless, that we are always endeavoring to personify Nature. We think of solitary trees as lonely, of storm-tossed waves as angry, and of a group of mountains as members of one family. Thus some of the Arizona mountains are called brothers. No doubt their birth was attended by the same throes of Mother Earth, and they possess certain family resemblances in their level summits, huge square shoulders, and the deep furrows in their rugged cheeks; while all of them evince the same disdain for decoration, scorning alike the soft rich robes of verdure and the rough storm-coats of the pines.
The idea of companionship in Nature is not wholly fanciful. Is not the fundamental law of the universe the attraction which one mass of matter has for another? Even the awful distances in interstellar space form no exception to this rule; for telescopic scrutiny reveals the fact that planets, suns, and systems move in harmony, on paths which indicate that they are all associated in the stupendous drama of the skies. The human interest connected with the mountains and the mesas of New Mexico and Arizona is not very great. No mediaeval mystery haunts these castles sculptured by the hand of Nature. No famous romancer has lighted on their cliffs the torch of his poetic fancy. No poet has yet peopled them with creatures of his imagination. We can, unfortunately, conjure up from their majestic background no more romantic picture than that of some Pueblo Indian wooing his dusky bride. Yet they are not without some reminiscences of heroism; for valiant men, a half century ago, following the westward moving star of empire, braved almost inconceivable hardships in their shadow, when, after four thousand years, American pioneers repeated the old, old story, begun upon the plains of Shinar, as the "Sons of the East" went westward in their quest of fortune. How few of us think of those unrecorded heroes now, as we cross this region in luxurious cars! To most of us the dead, whose bones once whitened many of these lonely plains, are nothing more than the last winter's snowdrifts melted by the sun; yet how effectively the Saxon has succeeded in his conquest of the continent we have continual evidence as we glide swiftly, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, through glowing grain fields, prosperous cities, and states that rival empires in size. Where formerly the Spanish conquerors, in their fruitless search for the reputed Seven Cities glittering with gold, endured privations and exhibited bravery which have hardly been surpassed in the entire history of the world; and where, too, as if it were but yesterday, the American Argonauts toiled painfully for months through tribes of hostile Indians, across desert wastes and over cloud-encompassed mountains, we find ourselves the inmates of a rolling palace, propelled by one of Nature's tireless forces, and feel at times in our swift flight as if we were the occupants of a cushioned cannon-ball of glass. Even the crossing of one of the many viaducts along our route is a reminder of how science has been summoned to assist the invader in his audacious enterprise of girdling a continent with steel.
The art of bridge-building in some form or other is one of the earliest necessities of civilization. Even the apes in equatorial regions will link themselves together, and swing their living line across a stream to trees on the opposite bank, thus forming a connected path of bodies along which other monkeys pass in safety. Bridges of ropes or reeds are, also, made by the most primitive of men; while viaducts of stone rose gradually in perfection, from the rude blocks heaped up by savages to the magnificent structures fashioned by the Romans. But with the introduction of iron and steel into their composition, bridges are now constructed quickly, with consummate skill, and in a multitude of different forms assist in making possible the safe and rapid transit of our great Republic.
In addition to all the wonderful natural features of Arizona and New Mexico, the insight into ancient and modern Indian life which they afford is of extraordinary interest, particularly as aboriginal civilization, evidently, reached a higher level here than was attained by any of the tribes which roamed throughout the regions now known as the Middle and Eastern States. The natives of the arid regions of the great Southwest, though subdivided into numerous tribes, are usually known under the general title of Pueblos. The name itself, bestowed upon them by the Spaniards, is significant; since pueblo is the Spanish word for village, and this would seem to prove that the race thus designated three hundred and fifty years ago was not nomadic, but had been settled here for many years.
Antiquity and mystery impart a charm to these Pueblo Indians. They are foundlings of history. We see their immemorial settlements, and know that, centuries before Columbus landed on San Salvador, a number of advantageously situated places in the western portion of this continent served as the homes of powerful tribes, whose towns and villages formed the scenes of warfare and barbaric splendor. But of the men who built those villages we know comparatively nothing. Their origin is almost as trackless as the sand which hides so many of their relics in a tawny sepulchre. We may be certain, however, that the remnants who survive are the representatives of myriads who once made most of the American valleys palpitant with life, but over whom oblivion has swept like a huge tidal wave, leaving the scattered fragments of their history like peaks rising from a submerged world.
The best conclusions of scientists in regard to the geological periods of our planet consider that the Glacial Epoch began about two hundred and forty thousand, and ended about eighty thousand, years ago. Traces of the existence of men in North America during that glacial period have been found in abundance, and make it probable that a human population existed, toward the close of that era, all the way from the Atlantic Coast to the Upper Mississippi Valley. Where these men of the Ice Age originally came from is a matter of conjecture; but it seems probable that they migrated hither from the Old World, since it is certain that during the various elevations and depressions of the two continents, it was possible, several times, for men to go from Europe or from Asia into America without crossing any ocean, either by the northwestern corner of Alaska, which has been repeatedly joined to Siberia through the elevation of the shallow Bering Sea, or by the great Atlantic ridge which more than once has risen above the ocean between Great Britain and Greenland. Yet, though the first inhabitants of America, in all probability, came thus from the Old World at a very distant period of antiquity, it is believed by the best students of the subject that, until within the last few centuries, there had been no intercourse between America and either Europe or Asia, for at least twenty thousand years. Hence the Aborigines of this continent developed in the course of ages peculiarities which distinguish them from other races, and justify their being regarded as, practically, native to the soil.
The Indians of New Mexico and Arizona were, probably, fugitives from more fertile lands, whence they had been expelled by the ancestors of the bloodthirsty and cruel Apaches. The country to which they came, and where they made a final stand against their predatory foes, was well adapted to defense. For hundreds of square miles the land is cleft with chasms, and dotted with peculiar, isolated table-lands hundreds of feet in height, with almost perfectly level surfaces and precipitous sides. The origin and formation of these mesas, due to erosion through unnumbered centuries, by water draining from an inland sea, has been already referred to, and it can be readily seen that they originally formed ideal residences for the peace-loving Pueblos, who either made their homes as Cliff Dwellers in the crevices of canon walls, or took advantage of these lofty rocks, already shaped and fortified by Nature, and built on them their dwellings. These in themselves were no mean strongholds. Their thick walls, made of rock fragments cemented with adobe, constituted a natural fortress, against which weapons such as savages used before they acquired fire-arms could do little harm; and even these houses the Indians constructed like the cliffs themselves, lofty and perpendicular, tier above tier, and, save for ladders, almost as inaccessible as eagles' nests. Again, since these pueblos stood on table-lands, the approach to which could be easily defended, they were almost impregnable; while their isolation and elevation, in the treeless regions of New Mexico, enabled watchmen to discover the approach of an enemy at a considerable distance and to give warning for the women, children, and cattle roaming on the plain to be brought to a place of safety. The instinct of self-preservation and even the methods of defense are, after all, almost identical in every age and clime; and the motive which led the Indians to the summits of these mesas was, no doubt, the same that prompted the Athenians to make a citadel of their Acropolis, and mediaeval knights to build their castles on the isolated crags of Italy, or on the mountain peaks along the Rhine.