Following the Equator, Part 4
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Produced by David Widger
A JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD
SAMUEL L. CLEMENS
Nature makes the locust with an appetite for crops; man would have made
him with an appetite for sand.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
We spent part of an afternoon and a night at sea, and reached Bluff, in
New Zealand, early in the morning. Bluff is at the bottom of the middle
island, and is away down south, nearly forty-seven degrees below the
equator. It lies as far south of the line as Quebec lies north of it,
and the climates of the two should be alike; but for some reason or other
it has not been so arranged. Quebec is hot in the summer and cold in the
winter, but Bluff's climate is less intense; the cold weather is not very
cold, the hot weather is not very hot; and the difference between the
hottest month and the coldest is but 17 degrees Fahrenheit.
In New Zealand the rabbit plague began at Bluff. The man who introduced
the rabbit there was banqueted and lauded; but they would hang him, now,
if they could get him. In England the natural enemy of the rabbit is
detested and persecuted; in the Bluff region the natural enemy of the
rabbit is honored, and his person is sacred. The rabbit's natural enemy
in England is the poacher, in Bluff its natural enemy is the stoat, the
weasel, the ferret, the cat, and the mongoose. In England any person
below the Heir who is caught with a rabbit in his possession must
satisfactorily explain how it got there, or he will suffer fine and
imprisonment, together with extinction of his peerage; in Bluff, the cat
found with a rabbit in its possession does not have to explain--everybody
looks the other way; the person caught noticing would suffer fine and
imprisonment, with extinction of peerage. This is a sure way to
undermine the moral fabric of a cat. Thirty years from now there will
not be a moral cat in New Zealand. Some think there is none there now.
In England the poacher is watched, tracked, hunted--he dare not show his
face; in Bluff the cat, the weasel, the stoat, and the mongoose go up and
down, whither they will, unmolested. By a law of the legislature, posted
where all may read, it is decreed that any person found in possession of
one of these creatures (dead) must satisfactorily explain the
circumstances or pay a fine of not less than L5, nor more than L20. The
revenue from this source is not large. Persons who want to pay a hundred
dollars for a dead cat are getting rarer and rarer every day. This is
bad, for the revenue was to go to the endowment of a University. All
governments are more or less short-sighted: in England they fine the
poacher, whereas he ought to be banished to New Zealand. New Zealand
would pay his way, and give him wages.
It was from Bluff that we ought to have cut across to the west coast and
visited the New Zealand Switzerland, a land of superb scenery, made up of
snowy grandeurs, anal mighty glaciers, and beautiful lakes; and over
there, also, are the wonderful rivals of the Norwegian and Alaskan
fiords; and for neighbor, a waterfall of 1,900 feet; but we were obliged
to postpone the trip to some later and indefinite time.
November 6. A lovely summer morning; brilliant blue sky. A few miles
out from Invercargill, passed through vast level green expanses snowed
over with sheep. Fine to see. The green, deep and very vivid sometimes;
at other times less so, but delicate and lovely. A passenger reminds me
that I am in "the England of the Far South."
Dunedin, same date. The town justifies Michael Davitt's praises.
The people are Scotch. They stopped here on their way from home to
heaven-thinking they had arrived. The population is stated at 40,000, by
Malcolm Ross, journalist; stated by an M. P. at 60,000. A journalist
To the residence of Dr. Hockin. He has a fine collection of books
relating to New Zealand; and his house is a museum of Maori art and
antiquities. He has pictures and prints in color of many native chiefs
of the past--some of them of note in history. There is nothing of the
savage in the faces; nothing could be finer than these men's features,
nothing more intellectual than these faces, nothing more masculine,
nothing nobler than their aspect. The aboriginals of Australia and
Tasmania looked the savage, but these chiefs looked like Roman
patricians. The tattooing in these portraits ought to suggest the
savage, of course, but it does not. The designs are so flowing and
graceful and beautiful that they are a most satisfactory decoration. It
takes but fifteen minutes to get reconciled to the tattooing, and but
fifteen more to perceive that it is just the thing. After that, the
undecorated European face is unpleasant and ignoble.
Dr. Hockiu gave us a ghastly curiosity--a lignified caterpillar with a
plant growing out of the back of its neck--a plant with a slender stem 4
inches high. It happened not by accident, but by design--Nature's
design. This caterpillar was in the act of loyally carrying out a law
inflicted upon him by Nature--a law purposely inflicted upon him to get
him into trouble--a law which was a trap; in pursuance of this law he
made the proper preparations for turning himself into a night-moth; that
is to say, he dug a little trench, a little grave, and then stretched
himself out in it on his stomach and partially buried himself--then
Nature was ready for him. She blew the spores of a peculiar fungus
through the air with a purpose. Some of them fell into a crease in the
back of the caterpillar's neck, and began to sprout and grow--for there
was soil there--he had not washed his neck. The roots forced themselves
down into the worm's person, and rearward along through its body, sucking
up the creature's juices for sap; the worm slowly died, and turned to
wood. And here he was now, a wooden caterpillar, with every detail of
his former physique delicately and exactly preserved and perpetuated, and
with that stem standing up out of him for his monument--monument
commemorative of his own loyalty and of Nature's unfair return for it.
Nature is always acting like that. Mrs. X. said (of course) that the
caterpillar was not conscious and didn't suffer. She should have known
better. No caterpillar can deceive Nature. If this one couldn't suffer,
Nature would have known it and would have hunted up another caterpillar.
Not that she would have let this one go, merely because it was defective.
No. She would have waited and let him turn into a night-moth; and then
fried him in the candle.
Nature cakes a fish's eyes over with parasites, so that it shan't be able
to avoid its enemies or find its food. She sends parasites into a
star-fish's system, which clog up its prongs and swell them and make them
so uncomfortable that the poor creature delivers itself from the prong to
ease its misery; and presently it has to part with another prong for the
sake of comfort, and finally with a third. If it re-grows the prongs,
the parasite returns and the same thing is repeated. And finally, when
the ability to reproduce prongs is lost through age, that poor old
star-fish can't get around any more, and so it dies of starvation.
In Australia is prevalent a horrible disease due to an "unperfected
tapeworm." Unperfected--that is what they call it, I do not know why,
for it transacts business just as well as if it were finished and
frescoed and gilded, and all that.
November 9. To the museum and public picture gallery with the president
of the Society of Artists. Some fine pictures there, lent by the S. of
A. several of them they bought, the others came to them by gift. Next,
to the gallery of the S. of A.--annual exhibition--just opened. Fine.
Think of a town like this having two such collections as this, and a
Society of Artists. It is so all over Australasia. If it were a
monarchy one might understand it. I mean an absolute monarchy, where it
isn't necessary to vote money, but take it. Then art flourishes. But
these colonies are republics--republics with a wide suffrage; voters of
both sexes, this one of New Zealand. In republics, neither the
government nor the rich private citizen is much given to propagating art.
All over Australasia pictures by famous European artists are bought for
the public galleries by the State and by societies of citizens. Living
citizens--not dead ones. They rob themselves to give, not their heirs.
This S. of A. here owns its buildings built it by subscription.
The spirit of wrath--not the words--is the sin; and the spirit of wrath
is cursing. We begin to swear before we can talk.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
November 11. On the road. This train-express goes twenty and one-half
miles an hour, schedule time; but it is fast enough, the outlook upon sea
and land is so interesting, and the cars so comfortable. They are not
English, and not American; they are the Swiss combination of the two.
A narrow and railed porch along the side, where a person can walk
up and down. A lavatory in each car. This is progress; this is
nineteenth-century spirit. In New Zealand, these fast expresses run twice
a week. It is well to know this if you want to be a bird and fly through
the country at a 20-mile gait; otherwise you may start on one of the five
wrong days, and then you will get a train that can't overtake its own
By contrast, these pleasant cars call to mind the branch-road cars at
Maryborough, Australia, and the passengers' talk about the branch-road
and the hotel.
Somewhere on the road to Maryborough I changed for a while to a
smoking-carriage. There were two gentlemen there; both riding backward,
one at each end of the compartment. They were acquaintances of each
other. I sat down facing the one that sat at the starboard window. He
had a good face, and a friendly look, and I judged from his dress that he
was a dissenting minister. He was along toward fifty. Of his own motion
he struck a match, and shaded it with his hand for me to light my cigar.
I take the rest from my diary:
In order to start conversation I asked him something about Maryborough.
He said, in a most pleasant--even musical voice, but with quiet and
"It's a charming town, with a hell of a hotel."
I was astonished. It seemed so odd to hear a minister swear out loud.
He went placidly on:
"It's the worst hotel in Australia. Well, one may go further, and say in
"No--none at all. Just sand-bags."
"The pillows, too?"
"Yes, the pillows, too. Just sand. And not a good quality of sand. It
packs too hard, and has never been screened. There is too much gravel in
it. It is like sleeping on nuts."
"Isn't there any good sand?"
"Plenty of it. There is as good bed-sand in this region as the world can
furnish. Aerated sand--and loose; but they won't buy it. They want
something that will pack solid, and petrify."
"How are the rooms?"
"Eight feet square; and a sheet of iced oil-cloth to step on in the
morning when you get out of the sand-quarry."
"As to lights?"
"A good one?"
"No. It's the kind that sheds a gloom."
"I like a lamp that burns all night."
"This one won't. You must blow it out early."
"That is bad. One might want it again in the night. Can't find it in
"There's no trouble; you can find it by the stench."
"Two nails on the door to hang seven suits of clothes on if you've got
"There aren't any."
"What do you do when you want service?"
"Shout. But it won't fetch anybody."
"Suppose you want the chambermaid to empty the slopjar?"
"There isn't any slop-jar. The hotels don't keep them. That is, outside
of Sydney and Melbourne."
"Yes, I knew that. I was only talking. It's the oddest thing in
Australia. Another thing: I've got to get up in the dark, in the
morning, to take the 5 o'clock train. Now if the boots----"
"There isn't any."
"Well, the porter."
"There isn't any."
"But who will call me?"
"Nobody. You'll call yourself. And you'll light yourself, too.
There'll not be a light burning in the halls or anywhere. And if you
don't carry a light, you'll break your neck."
"But who will help me down with my baggage?"
"Nobody. However, I will tell you what to do. In Maryborough there's an
American who has lived there half a lifetime; a fine man, and prosperous
and popular. He will be on the lookout for you; you won't have any
trouble. Sleep in peace; he will rout you out, and you will make your
train. Where is your manager?"
"I left him at Ballarat, studying the language. And besides, he had to
go to Melbourne and get us ready for New Zealand. I've not tried to
pilot myself before, and it doesn't look easy."
"Easy! You've selected the very most difficult piece of railroad in
Australia for your experiment. There are twelve miles of this road which
no man without good executive ability can ever hope--tell me, have you
good executive ability? first-rate executive ability?"
"I--well, I think so, but----"
"That settles it. The tone of----oh, you wouldn't ever make it in the
world. However, that American will point you right, and you'll go.
You've got tickets?"
"Yes--round trip; all the way to Sydney."
"Ah, there it is, you see! You are going in the 5 o'clock by
Castlemaine--twelve miles--instead of the 7.15 by Ballarat--in order to
save two hours of fooling along the road. Now then, don't interrupt--let
me have the floor. You're going to save the government a deal of
hauling, but that's nothing; your ticket is by Ballarat, and it isn't
good over that twelve miles, and so----"
"But why should the government care which way I go?"
"Goodness knows! Ask of the winds that far away with fragments strewed
the sea, as the boy that stood on the burning deck used to say. The
government chooses to do its railway business in its own way, and it
doesn't know as much about it as the French. In the beginning they tried
idiots; then they imported the French--which was going backwards, you
see; now it runs the roads itself--which is going backwards again, you
see. Why, do you know, in order to curry favor with the voters, the
government puts down a road wherever anybody wants it--anybody that owns
two sheep and a dog; and by consequence we've got, in the colony of
Victoria, 800 railway stations, and the business done at eighty of them
doesn't foot up twenty shillings a week."
"Five dollars? Oh, come!"
"It's true. It's the absolute truth."
"Why, there are three or four men on wages at every station."
"I know it. And the station-business doesn't pay for the sheep-dip to
sanctify their coffee with. It's just as I say. And accommodating?
Why, if you shake a rag the train will stop in the midst of the
wilderness to pick you up. All that kind of politics costs, you see.
And then, besides, any town that has a good many votes and wants a fine
station, gets it. Don't you overlook that Maryborough station, if you
take an interest in governmental curiosities. Why, you can put the whole
population of Maryborough into it, and give them a sofa apiece, and have
room for more. You haven't fifteen stations in America that are as big,
and you probably haven't five that are half as fine. Why, it's
perfectly elegant. And the clock! Everybody will show you the clock.
There isn't a station in Europe that's got such a clock. It doesn't
strike--and that's one mercy. It hasn't any bell; and as you'll have
cause to remember, if you keep your reason, all Australia is simply
bedamned with bells. On every quarter-hour, night and day, they jingle a
tiresome chime of half a dozen notes--all the clocks in town at once, all
the clocks in Australasia at once, and all the very same notes; first,
downward scale: mi, re, do, sol--then upward scale: sol, si, re, do--down
again: mi, re, do, sol--up again: sol, si, re, do--then the clock--say at
--clang----and, by that time you're--hello, what's all this excitement
about? a runaway--scared by the train; why, you think this train could
scare anything. Well, when they build eighty stations at a loss and a
lot of palace-stations and clocks like Maryborough's at another loss, the
government has got to economize somewhere hasn't it? Very well look at
the rolling stock. That's where they save the money. Why, that train
from Maryborough will consist of eighteen freight-cars and two
passenger-kennels; cheap, poor, shabby, slovenly; no drinking water, no
sanitary arrangements, every imaginable inconvenience; and slow?--oh, the
gait of cold molasses; no air-brake, no springs, and they'll jolt your
head off every time they start or stop. That's where they make their
little economies, you see. They spend tons of money to house you
palatially while you wait fifteen minutes for a train, then degrade you
to six hours' convict-transportation to get the foolish outlay back.
What a rational man really needs is discomfort while he's waiting, then
his journey in a nice train would be a grateful change. But no, that
would be common sense--and out of place in a government. And then,
besides, they save in that other little detail, you know--repudiate their
own tickets, and collect a poor little illegitimate extra shilling out of
you for that twelve miles, and----"
"Well, in any case----"
"Wait--there's more. Leave that American out of the account and see what
would happen. There's nobody on hand to examine your ticket when you
arrive. But the conductor will come and examine it when the train is
ready to start. It is too late to buy your extra ticket now; the train
can't wait, and won't. You must climb out."
"But can't I pay the conductor?"
"No, he is not authorized to receive the money, and he won't. You must
climb out. There's no other way. I tell you, the railway management is
about the only thoroughly European thing here--continentally European I
mean, not English. It's the continental business in perfection; down
fine. Oh, yes, even to the peanut-commerce of weighing baggage."
The train slowed up at his place. As he stepped out he said:
"Yes, you'll like Maryborough. Plenty of intelligence there. It's a
charming place--with a hell of a hotel."
Then he was gone. I turned to the other gentleman:
"Is your friend in the ministry?"
"No--studying for it."
The man with a new idea is a Crank until the idea succeeds.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
It was Junior England all the way to Christchurch--in fact, just a
garden. And Christchurch is an English town, with an English-park annex,
and a winding English brook just like the Avon--and named the Avon; but
from a man, not from Shakespeare's river. Its grassy banks are bordered
by the stateliest and most impressive weeping willows to be found in the
world, I suppose. They continue the line of a great ancestor; they were
grown from sprouts of the willow that sheltered Napoleon's grave in St.
Helena. It is a settled old community, with all the serenities, the
graces, the conveniences, and the comforts of the ideal home-life. If it
had an established Church and social inequality it would be England over
again with hardly a lack.
In the museum we saw many curious and interesting things; among others a
fine native house of the olden time, with all the details true to the
facts, and the showy colors right and in their proper places. All the
details: the fine mats and rugs and things; the elaborate and wonderful
wood carvings--wonderful, surely, considering who did them wonderful in
design and particularly in execution, for they were done with admirable
sharpness and exactness, and yet with no better tools than flint and jade
and shell could furnish; and the totem-posts were there, ancestor above
ancestor, with tongues protruded and hands clasped comfortably over
bellies containing other people's ancestors--grotesque and ugly devils,
every one, but lovingly carved, and ably; and the stuffed natives were
present, in their proper places, and looking as natural as life; and the
housekeeping utensils were there, too, and close at hand the carved and
finely ornamented war canoe.
And we saw little jade gods, to hang around the neck--not everybody's,
but sacred to the necks of natives of rank. Also jade weapons, and many
kinds of jade trinkets--all made out of that excessively hard stone
without the help of any tool of iron. And some of these things had small
round holes bored through them--nobody knows how it was done; a mystery,
a lost art. I think it was said that if you want such a hole bored in a
piece of jade now, you must send it to London or Amsterdam where the
Also we saw a complete skeleton of the giant Moa. It stood ten feet
high, and must have been a sight to look at when it was a living bird.
It was a kicker, like the ostrich; in fight it did not use its beak, but
its foot. It must have been a convincing kind of kick. If a person had
his back to the bird and did not see who it was that did it, he would
think he had been kicked by a wind-mill.
There must have been a sufficiency of moas in the old forgotten days when
his breed walked the earth. His bones are found in vast masses, all
crammed together in huge graves. They are not in caves, but in the
ground. Nobody knows how they happened to get concentrated there. Mind,
they are bones, not fossils. This means that the moa has not been
extinct very long. Still, this is the only New Zealand creature which
has no mention in that otherwise comprehensive literature, the native
legends. This is a significant detail, and is good circumstantial
evidence that the moa has been extinct 500 years, since the Maori has
himself--by tradition--been in New Zealand since the end of the fifteenth
century. He came from an unknown land--the first Maori did--then sailed
back in his canoe and brought his tribe, and they removed the aboriginal
peoples into the sea and into the ground and took the land. That is the
tradition. That that first Maori could come, is understandable, for
anybody can come to a place when he isn't trying to; but how that
discoverer found his way back home again without a compass is his secret,
and he died with it in him. His language indicates that he came from
Polynesia. He told where he came from, but he couldn't spell well, so
one can't find the place on the map, because people who could spell
better than he could, spelt the resemblance all out of it when they made
the map. However, it is better to have a map that is spelt right than
one that has information in it.
In New Zealand women have the right to vote for members of the
legislature, but they cannot be members themselves. The law extending
the suffrage to them event into effect in 1893. The population of
Christchurch (census of 1891) was 31,454. The first election under the
law was held in November of that year. Number of men who voted, 6,313;
number of women who voted, 5,989. These figures ought to convince us
that women are not as indifferent about politics as some people would
have us believe. In New Zealand as a whole, the estimated adult female
population was 139,915; of these 109,461 qualified and registered their
names on the rolls 78.23 per cent. of the whole. Of these, 90,290 went
to the polls and voted--85.18 per cent. Do men ever turn out better than
that--in America or elsewhere? Here is a remark to the other sex's
credit, too--I take it from the official report:
"A feature of the election was the orderliness and sobriety of the
people. Women were in no way molested."
At home, a standing argument against woman suffrage has always been that
women could not go to the polls without being insulted. The arguments
against woman suffrage have always taken the easy form of prophecy. The
prophets have been prophesying ever since the woman's rights movement
began in 1848--and in forty-seven years they have never scored a hit.
Men ought to begin to feel a sort of respect for their mothers and wives
and sisters by this time. The women deserve a change of attitude like
that, for they have wrought well. In forty-seven years they have swept
an imposingly large number of unfair laws from the statute books of
America. In that brief time these serfs have set themselves free
essentially. Men could not have done so much for themselves in that time
without bloodshed--at least they never have; and that is argument that
they didn't know how. The women have accomplished a peaceful revolution,
and a very beneficent one; and yet that has not convinced the average man
that they are intelligent, and have courage and energy and perseverance
and fortitude. It takes much to convince the average man of anything;
and perhaps nothing can ever make him realize that he is the average
woman's inferior--yet in several important details the evidences seems to
show that that is what he is. Man has ruled the human race from the
beginning--but he should remember that up to the middle of the present
century it was a dull world, and ignorant and stupid; but it is not such
a dull world now, and is growing less and less dull all the time. This
is woman's opportunity--she has had none before. I wonder where man will
be in another forty-seven years?
In the New Zealand law occurs this: "The word person wherever it occurs
throughout the Act includes woman."
That is promotion, you see. By that enlargement of the word, the matron
with the garnered wisdom and experience of fifty years becomes at one
jump the political equal of her callow kid of twenty-one. The white
population of the colony is 626,000, the Maori population is 42,000. The
whites elect seventy members of the House of Representatives, the Maoris
four. The Maori women vote for their four members.
November 16. After four pleasant days in Christchurch, we are to leave
at midnight to-night. Mr. Kinsey gave me an ornithorhynchus, and I am
Sunday, 17th. Sailed last night in the Flora, from Lyttelton.
So we did. I remember it yet. The people who sailed in the Flora that
night may forget some other things if they live a good while, but they
will not live long, enough to forget that. The Flora is about the
equivalent of a cattle-scow; but when the Union Company find it
inconvenient to keep a contract and lucrative to break it, they smuggle
her into passenger service, and "keep the change."
They give no notice of their projected depredation; you innocently buy
tickets for the advertised passenger boat, and when you get down to
Lyttelton at midnight, you find that they have substituted the scow.
They have plenty of good boats, but no competition--and that is the
trouble. It is too late now to make other arrangements if you have
It is a powerful company, it has a monopoly, and everybody is afraid of
it--including the government's representative, who stands at the end of
the stage-plank to tally the passengers and see that no boat receives a
greater number than the law allows her to carry. This conveniently-blind
representative saw the scow receive a number which was far in excess of
its privilege, and winked a politic wink and said nothing. The
passengers bore with meekness the cheat which had been put upon them, and
made no complaint.
It was like being at home in America, where abused passengers act in just
the same way. A few days before, the Union Company had discharged a
captain for getting a boat into danger, and had advertised this act as
evidence of its vigilance in looking after the safety of the passengers
--for thugging a captain costs the company nothing, but when opportunity
offered to send this dangerously overcrowded tub to sea and save a little
trouble and a tidy penny by it, it forgot to worry about the passenger's
The first officer told me that the Flora was privileged to carry 125
passengers. She must have had all of 200 on board. All the cabins were
full, all the cattle-stalls in the main stable were full, the spaces at
the heads of companionways were full, every inch of floor and table in
the swill-room was packed with sleeping men and remained so until the
place was required for breakfast, all the chairs and benches on the
hurricane deck were occupied, and still there were people who had to walk
about all night!
If the Flora had gone down that night, half of the people on board would
have been wholly without means of escape.
The owners of that boat were not technically guilty of conspiracy to
commit murder, but they were morally guilty of it.
I had a cattle-stall in the main stable--a cavern fitted up with a long
double file of two-storied bunks, the files separated by a calico
partition--twenty men and boys on one side of it, twenty women and girls
on the other. The place was as dark as the soul of the Union Company,
and smelt like a kennel. When the vessel got out into the heavy seas and
began to pitch and wallow, the cavern prisoners became immediately
seasick, and then the peculiar results that ensued laid all my previous
experiences of the kind well away in the shade. And the wails, the
groans, the cries, the shrieks, the strange ejaculations--it was
The women and children and some of the men and boys spent the night in
that place, for they were too ill to leave it; but the rest of us got up,
by and by, and finished the night on the hurricane-deck.
That boat was the foulest I was ever in; and the smell of the breakfast
saloon when we threaded our way among the layers of steaming passengers
stretched upon its floor and its tables was incomparable for efficiency.
A good many of us got ashore at the first way-port to seek another ship.
After a wait of three hours we got good rooms in the Mahinapua, a wee
little bridal-parlor of a boat--only 205 tons burthen; clean and
comfortable; good service; good beds; good table, and no crowding. The
seas danced her about like a duck, but she was safe and capable.
Next morning early she went through the French Pass--a narrow gateway of
rock, between bold headlands--so narrow, in fact, that it seemed no wider
than a street. The current tore through there like a mill-race, and the
boat darted through like a telegram. The passage was made in half a
minute; then we were in a wide place where noble vast eddies swept
grandly round and round in shoal water, and I wondered what they would do
with the little boat. They did as they pleased with her. They picked
her up and flung her around like nothing and landed her gently on the
solid, smooth bottom of sand--so gently, indeed, that we barely felt her
touch it, barely felt her quiver when she came to a standstill. The
water was as clear as glass, the sand on the bottom was vividly distinct,
and the fishes seemed to be swimming about in nothing. Fishing lines
were brought out, but before we could bait the hooks the boat was off and
Let us be grateful to Adam our benefactor. He cut us out of the
"blessing of idleness," and won for us the "curse of labor."
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
We soon reached the town of Nelson, and spent the most of the day there,
visiting acquaintances and driving with them about the garden--the whole
region is a garden, excepting the scene of the "Maungatapu Murders," of
thirty years ago. That is a wild place--wild and lonely; an ideal place
for a murder. It is at the base of a vast, rugged, densely timbered
mountain. In the deep twilight of that forest solitude four desperate
rascals--Burgess, Sullivan, Levy, and Kelley--ambushed themselves beside
the mountain-trail to murder and rob four travelers--Kempthorne, Mathieu,
Dudley, and De Pontius, the latter a New Yorker. A harmless old laboring
man came wandering along, and as his presence was an embarrassment, they
choked him, hid him, and then resumed their watch for the four. They had
to wait a while, but eventually everything turned out as they desired.
That dark episode is the one large event in the history of Nelson. The
fame of it traveled far. Burgess made a confession. It is a remarkable
paper. For brevity, succinctness, and concentration, it is perhaps
without its peer in the literature of murder. There are no waste words
in it; there is no obtrusion of matter not pertinent to the occasion, nor
any departure from the dispassionate tone proper to a formal business
statement--for that is what it is: a business statement of a murder, by
the chief engineer of it, or superintendent, or foreman, or whatever one
may prefer to call him.
"We were getting impatient, when we saw four men and a pack-horse
coming. I left my cover and had a look at the men, for Levy had
told me that Mathieu was a small man and wore a large beard, and
that it was a chestnut horse. I said, 'Here they come.' They were
then a good distance away; I took the caps off my gun, and put fresh
ones on. I said, 'You keep where you are, I'll put them up, and you
give me your gun while you tie them.' It was arranged as I have
described. The men came; they arrived within about fifteen yards
when I stepped up and said, 'Stand! bail up!' That means all of
them to get together. I made them fall back on the upper side of
the road with their faces up the range, and Sullivan brought me his
gun, and then tied their hands behind them. The horse was very
quiet all the time, he did not move. When they were all tied,
Sullivan took the horse up the hill, and put him in the bush; he cut
the rope and let the swags--[A "swag" is a kit, a pack, small
baggage.]--fall on the ground, and then came to me. We then marched
the men down the incline to the creek; the water at this time barely
running. Up this creek we took the men; we went, I daresay, five or
six hundred yards up it, which took us nearly half-an-hour to
accomplish. Then we turned to the right up the range; we went, I
daresay, one hundred and fifty yards from the creek, and there we
sat down with the men. I said to Sullivan, 'Put down your gun and
search these men,' which he did. I asked them their several names;
they told me. I asked them if they were expected at Nelson. They
said, 'No.' If such their lives would have been spared. In money
we took L60 odd. I said, 'Is this all you have? You had better
tell me.' Sullivan said, 'Here is a bag of gold.' I said, 'What's on
that pack-horse? Is there any gold ?' when Kempthorne said, 'Yes,
my gold is in the portmanteau, and I trust you will not take it
all.' 'Well,' I said, 'we must take you away one at a time, because
the range is steep just here, and then we will let you go.' They
said, 'All right,' most cheerfully. We tied their feet, and took
Dudley with us; we went about sixty yards with him. This was
through a scrub. It was arranged the night previously that it would
be best to choke them, in case the report of the arms might be heard
from the road, and if they were missed they never would be found.
So we tied a handkerchief over his eyes, when Sullivan took the sash
off his waist, put it round his neck, and so strangled him.
Sullivan, after I had killed the old laboring man, found fault with
the way he was choked. He said, 'The next we do I'll show you my
way.' I said, 'I have never done such a thing before. I have shot
a man, but never choked one.' We returned to the others, when
Kempthorne said, 'What noise was that?' I said it was caused by
breaking through the scrub. This was taking too much time, so it
was agreed to shoot them. With that I said, 'We'll take you no
further, but separate you, and then loose one of you, and he can
relieve the others.' So with that, Sullivan took De Pontius to the
left of where Kempthorne was sitting. I took Mathieu to the right.
I tied a strap round his legs, and shot him with a revolver. He
yelled, I ran from him with my gun in my hand, I sighted Kempthorne,
who had risen to his feet. I presented the gun, and shot him behind
the right ear; his life's blood welled from him, and he died
instantaneously. Sullivan had shot. De Pontius in the meantime,
and then came to me. I said, 'Look to Mathieu,' indicating the spot
where he lay. He shortly returned and said, 'I had to "chiv" that
fellow, he was not dead,' a cant word, meaning that he had to stab
him. Returning to the road we passed where De Pontius lay and was
dead. Sullivan said, 'This is the digger, the others were all
storekeepers; this is the digger, let's cover him up, for should the
others be found, they'll think he done it and sloped,' meaning he
had gone. So with that we threw all the stones on him, and then
left him. This bloody work took nearly an hour and a half from the
time we stopped the men."
Anyone who reads that confession will think that the man who wrote it was
destitute of emotions, destitute of feeling. That is partly true. As
regarded others he was plainly without feeling--utterly cold and
pitiless; but as regarded himself the case was different. While he cared
nothing for the future of the murdered men, he cared a great deal for his
own. It makes one's flesh creep to read the introduction to his
confession. The judge on the bench characterized it as "scandalously
blasphemous," and it certainly reads so, but Burgess meant no blasphemy.
He was merely a brute, and whatever he said or wrote was sure to expose
the fact. His redemption was a very real thing to him, and he was as
jubilantly happy on the gallows as ever was Christian martyr at the
stake. We dwellers in this world are strangely made, and mysteriously
circumstanced. We have to suppose that the murdered men are lost, and
that Burgess is saved; but we cannot suppress our natural regrets.
"Written in my dungeon drear this 7th of August, in the year of
Grace, 1866. To God be ascribed all power and glory in subduing the
rebellious spirit of a most guilty wretch, who has been brought,
through the instrumentality of a faithful follower of Christ, to see
his wretched and guilty state, inasmuch as hitherto he has led an
awful and wretched life, and through the assurance of this faithful
soldier of Christ, he has been led and also believes that Christ
will yet receive and cleanse him from all his deep-dyed and bloody
sins. I lie under the imputation which says, 'Come now and let us
reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson,
they shall be as wool.' On this promise I rely."
We sailed in the afternoon late, spent a few hours at New Plymouth, then
sailed again and reached Auckland the next day, November 20th, and
remained in that fine city several days. Its situation is commanding,
and the sea-view is superb. There are charming drives all about, and by
courtesy of friends we had opportunity to enjoy them. From the grassy
crater-summit of Mount Eden one's eye ranges over a grand sweep and
variety of scenery--forests clothed in luxuriant foliage, rolling green
fields, conflagrations of flowers, receding and dimming stretches of
green plain, broken by lofty and symmetrical old craters--then the blue
bays twinkling and sparkling away into the dreamy distances where the
mountains loom spiritual in their veils of haze.
It is from Auckland that one goes to Rotorua, the region of the renowned
hot lakes and geysers--one of the chief wonders of New Zealand; but I was
not well enough to make the trip. The government has a sanitorium there,
and everything is comfortable for the tourist and the invalid. The
government's official physician is almost over-cautious in his estimates
of the efficacy of the baths, when he is talking about rheumatism, gout,
paralysis, and such things; but when he is talking about the
effectiveness of the waters in eradicating the whisky-habit, he seems to
have no reserves. The baths will cure the drinking-habit no matter how
chronic it is--and cure it so effectually that even the desire to drink
intoxicants will come no more. There should be a rush from Europe and
America to that place; and when the victims of alcoholism find out what
they can get by going there, the rush will begin.
The Thermal-springs District of New Zealand comprises an area of upwards
of 600,000 acres, or close on 1,000 square miles. Rotorua is the
favorite place. It is the center of a rich field of lake and mountain
scenery; from Rotorua as a base the pleasure-seeker makes excursions.
The crowd of sick people is great, and growing. Rotorua is the Carlsbad
It is from Auckland that the Kauri gum is shipped. For a long time now
about 8,000 tons of it have been brought into the town per year. It is
worth about $300 per ton, unassorted; assorted, the finest grades are
worth about $1,000. It goes to America, chiefly. It is in lumps, and is
hard and smooth, and looks like amber--the light-colored like new amber,
and the dark brown like rich old amber. And it has the pleasant feel of
amber, too. Some of the light-colored samples were a tolerably fair
counterfeit of uncut South African diamonds, they were so perfectly
smooth and polished and transparent. It is manufactured into varnish; a
varnish which answers for copal varnish and is cheaper.
The gum is dug up out of the ground; it has been there for ages. It is
the sap of the Kauri tree. Dr. Campbell of Auckland told me he sent a
cargo of it to England fifty years ago, but nothing came of the venture.
Nobody knew what to do with it; so it was sold at 15 a ton, to light
November 26--3 P.M., sailed. Vast and beautiful harbor. Land all about
for hours. Tangariwa, the mountain that "has the same shape from every
point of view." That is the common belief in Auckland. And so it has
--from every point of view except thirteen. Perfect summer weather. Large
school of whales in the distance. Nothing could be daintier than the
puffs of vapor they spout up, when seen against the pink glory of the
sinking sun, or against the dark mass of an island reposing in the deep
blue shadow of a storm cloud . . . . Great Barrier rock standing up
out of the sea away to the left. Sometime ago a ship hit it full speed
in a fog--20 miles out of her course--140 lives lost; the captain
committed suicide without waiting a moment. He knew that, whether he was
to blame or not, the company owning the vessel would discharge him and
make a devotion--to--passengers' safety advertisement out of it, and his
chance to make a livelihood would be permanently gone.
Let us not be too particular. It is better to have old second-hand
diamonds than none at all.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
November 27. To-day we reached Gisborne, and anchored in a big bay;
there was a heavy sea on, so we remained on board.
We were a mile from shore; a little steam-tug put out from the land; she
was an object of thrilling interest; she would climb to the summit of a
billow, reel drunkenly there a moment, dim and gray in the driving storm
of spindrift, then make a plunge like a diver and remain out of sight
until one had given her up, then up she would dart again, on a steep
slant toward the sky, shedding Niagaras of water from her forecastle--and
this she kept up, all the way out to us. She brought twenty-five
passengers in her stomach--men and women mainly a traveling dramatic
company. In sight on deck were the crew, in sou'westers, yellow
waterproof canvas suits, and boots to the thigh. The deck was never
quiet for a moment, and seldom nearer level than a ladder, and noble were
the seas which leapt aboard and went flooding aft. We rove a long line
to the yard-arm, hung a most primitive basketchair to it and swung it out
into the spacious air of heaven, and there it swayed, pendulum-fashion,
waiting for its chance--then down it shot, skillfully aimed, and was
grabbed by the two men on the forecastle. A young fellow belonging to
our crew was in the chair, to be a protection to the lady-comers. At
once a couple of ladies appeared from below, took seats in his lap, we
hoisted them into the sky, waited a moment till the roll of the ship
brought them in overhead, then we lowered suddenly away, and seized the
chair as it struck the deck. We took the twenty-five aboard, and
delivered twenty-five into the tug--among them several aged ladies, and
one blind one--and all without accident. It was a fine piece of work.
Ours is a nice ship, roomy, comfortable, well-ordered, and satisfactory.
Now and then we step on a rat in a hotel, but we have had no rats on
shipboard lately; unless, perhaps in the Flora; we had more serious
things to think of there, and did not notice. I have noticed that it is
only in ships and hotels which still employ the odious Chinese gong, that
you find rats. The reason would seem to be, that as a rat cannot tell
the time of day by a clock, he won't stay where he cannot find out when
dinner is ready.
November 29. The doctor tells me of several old drunkards, one
spiritless loafer, and several far-gone moral wrecks who have been
reclaimed by the Salvation Army and have remained staunch people and hard
workers these two years. Wherever one goes, these testimonials to the
Army's efficiency are forthcoming . . . . This morning we had one of
those whizzing green Ballarat flies in the room, with his stunning
buzz-saw noise--the swiftest creature in the world except the
lightning-flash. It is a stupendous force that is stored up in that
little body. If we had it in a ship in the same proportion, we could spin
from Liverpool to New York in the space of an hour--the time it takes to
eat luncheon. The New Zealand express train is called the Ballarat Fly
. . . . Bad teeth in the colonies. A citizen told me they don't have
teeth filled, but pull them out and put in false ones, and that now and
then one sees a young lady with a full set. She is fortunate. I wish I
had been born with false teeth and a false liver and false carbuncles.
I should get along better.
December 2. Monday. Left Napier in the Ballarat Fly the one that goes
twice a week. From Napier to Hastings, twelve miles; time, fifty-five
minutes--not so far short of thirteen miles an hour . . . . A perfect
summer day; cool breeze, brilliant sky, rich vegetation. Two or three
times during the afternoon we saw wonderfully dense and beautiful
forests, tumultuously piled skyward on the broken highlands--not the
customary roof-like slant of a hillside, where the trees are all the same
height. The noblest of these trees were of the Kauri breed, we were told
the timber that is now furnishing the wood-paving for Europe, and is the
best of all wood for that purpose. Sometimes these towering upheavals of
forestry were festooned and garlanded with vine-cables, and sometimes the
masses of undergrowth were cocooned in another sort of vine of a delicate
cobwebby texture--they call it the "supplejack," I think. Tree ferns
everywhere--a stem fifteen feet high, with a graceful chalice of
fern-fronds sprouting from its top--a lovely forest ornament. And there
was a ten-foot reed with a flowing suit of what looked like yellow hair
hanging from its upper end. I do not know its name, but if there is such
a thing as a scalp-plant, this is it. A romantic gorge, with a brook
flowing in its bottom, approaching Palmerston North.
Waitukurau. Twenty minutes for luncheon. With me sat my wife and
daughter, and my manager, Mr. Carlyle Smythe. I sat at the head of the
table, and could see the right-hand wall; the others had their backs to
it. On that wall, at a good distance away, were a couple of framed
pictures. I could not see them clearly, but from the groupings of the
figures I fancied that they represented the killing of Napoleon III's son
by the Zulus in South Africa. I broke into the conversation, which was
about poetry and cabbage and art, and said to my wife--
"Do you remember when the news came to Paris----"
"Of the killing of the Prince?"
(Those were the very words I had in my mind.) "Yes, but what Prince?"
"What made you think of that?"
"I don't know."
There was no collusion. She had not seen the pictures, and they had not
been mentioned. She ought to have thought of some recent news that came
to Paris, for we were but seven months from there and had been living
there a couple of years when we started on this trip; but instead of that
she thought of an incident of our brief sojourn in Paris of sixteen years
Here was a clear case of mental telegraphy; of mind-transference; of my
mind telegraphing a thought into hers. How do I know? Because I
telegraphed an error. For it turned out that the pictures did not
represent the killing of Lulu at all, nor anything connected with Lulu.
She had to get the error from my head--it existed nowhere else.
The Autocrat of Russia possesses more power than any other man in the
earth; but he cannot stop a sneeze.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
WAUGANIUI, December 3. A pleasant trip, yesterday, per Ballarat Fly.
Four hours. I do not know the distance, but it must have been well along
toward fifty miles. The Fly could have spun it out to eight hours and
not discommoded me; for where there is comfort, and no need for hurry,
speed is of no value--at least to me; and nothing that goes on wheels can
be more comfortable, more satisfactory, than the New Zealand trains.
Outside of America there are no cars that are so rationally devised.
When you add the constant presence of charming scenery and the nearly
constant absence of dust--well, if one is not content then, he ought to
get out and walk. That would change his spirit, perhaps? I think so.
At the end of an hour you would find him waiting humbly beside the track,
and glad to be taken aboard again.
Much horseback riding, in and around this town; many comely girls in cool
and pretty summer gowns; much Salvation Army; lots of Maoris; the faces
and bodies of some of the old ones very tastefully frescoed. Maori
Council House over the river-large, strong, carpeted from end to end with
matting, and decorated with elaborate wood carvings, artistically
executed. The Maoris were very polite.
I was assured by a member of the House of Representatives that the native
race is not decreasing, but actually increasing slightly. It is another
evidence that they are a superior breed of savages. I do not call to
mind any savage race that built such good houses, or such strong and
ingenious and scientific fortresses, or gave so much attention to
agriculture, or had military arts and devices which so nearly approached
the white man's. These, taken together with their high abilities in
boat-building, and their tastes and capacities in the ornamental arts
modify their savagery to a semi-civilization--or at least to,
It is a compliment to them that the British did not exterminate them, as
they did the Australians and the Tasmanians, but were content with
subduing them, and showed no desire to go further. And it is another
compliment to them that the British did not take the whole of their
choicest lands, but left them a considerable part, and then went further
and protected them from the rapacities of landsharks--a protection which
the New Zealand Government still extends to them. And it is still
another compliment to the Maoris that the Government allows native
representation--in both the legislature and the cabinet, and gives both
sexes the vote. And in doing these things the Government also
compliments itself; it has not been the custom of the world for
conquerors to act in this large spirit toward the conquered.
The highest class white men Who lived among the Maoris in the earliest
time had a high opinion of them and a strong affection for them. Among
the whites of this sort was the author of "Old New Zealand;" and Dr.
Campbell of Auckland was another. Dr. Campbell was a close friend of
several chiefs, and has many pleasant things to say of their fidelity,
their magnanimity, and their generosity. Also of their quaint notions
about the white man's queer civilization, and their equally quaint
comments upon it. One of them thought the missionary had got everything
wrong end first and upside down. "Why, he wants us to stop worshiping
and supplicating the evil gods, and go to worshiping and supplicating the
Good One! There is no sense in that. A good god is not going to do us
The Maoris had the tabu; and had it on a Polynesian scale of
comprehensiveness and elaboration. Some of its features could have been
importations from India and Judea. Neither the Maori nor the Hindoo of
common degree could cook by a fire that a person of higher caste had
used, nor could the high Maori or high Hindoo employ fire that had served
a man of low grade; if a low-grade Maori or Hindoo drank from a vessel
belonging to a high-grade man, the vessel was defiled, and had to be
destroyed. There were other resemblances between Maori tabu and Hindoo
Yesterday a lunatic burst into my quarters and warned me that the Jesuits
were going to "cook" (poison) me in my food, or kill me on the stage at
night. He said a mysterious sign was visible upon my posters and meant
my death. He said he saved Rev. Mr. Haweis's life by warning him that
there were three men on his platform who would kill him if he took his
eyes off them for a moment during his lecture. The same men were in my
audience last night, but they saw that he was there. "Will they be there
again to-night?" He hesitated; then said no, he thought they would
rather take a rest and chance the poison. This lunatic has no delicacy.
But he was not uninteresting. He told me a lot of things. He said he
had "saved so many lecturers in twenty years, that they put him in the
asylum." I think he has less refinement than any lunatic I have met.
December 8. A couple of curious war-monuments here at Wanganui. One is
in honor of white men "who fell in defence of law and order against
fanaticism and barbarism." Fanaticism. We Americans are English in
blood, English in speech, English in religion, English in the essentials
of our governmental system, English in the essentials of our
civilization; and so, let us hope, for the honor of the blend, for the
honor of the blood, for the honor of the race, that that word got there
through lack of heedfulness, and will not be suffered to remain. If you
carve it at Thermopylae, or where Winkelried died, or upon Bunker Hill
monument, and read it again "who fell in defence of law and order against
fanaticism" you will perceive what the word means, and how mischosen it
is. Patriotism is Patriotism. Calling it Fanaticism cannot degrade it;
nothing can degrade it. Even though it be a political mistake, and a
thousand times a political mistake, that does not affect it; it is
honorable always honorable, always noble--and privileged to hold its head
up and look the nations in the face. It is right to praise these brave
white men who fell in the Maori war--they deserve it; but the presence of
that word detracts from the dignity of their cause and their deeds, and
makes them appear to have spilt their blood in a conflict with ignoble
men, men not worthy of that costly sacrifice. But the men were worthy.
It was no shame to fight them. They fought for their homes, they fought
for their country; they bravely fought and bravely fell; and it would
take nothing from the honor of the brave Englishmen who lie under the
monument, but add to it, to say that they died in defense of English laws
and English homes against men worthy of the sacrifice--the Maori
The other monument cannot be rectified. Except with dynamite. It is a
mistake all through, and a strangely thoughtless one. It is a monument
erected by white men to Maoris who fell fighting with the whites and
against their own people, in the Maori war. "Sacred to the memory of the
brave men who fell on the 14th of May, 1864," etc. On one side are the
names of about twenty Maoris. It is not a fancy of mine; the monument
exists. I saw it. It is an object-lesson to the rising generation. It
invites to treachery, disloyalty, unpatriotism. Its lesson, in frank
terms is, "Desert your flag, slay your people, burn their homes, shame
your nationality--we honor such."
December 9. Wellington. Ten hours from Wanganui by the Fly.
December 12. It is a fine city and nobly situated. A busy place, and
full of life and movement. Have spent the three days partly in walking
about, partly in enjoying social privileges, and largely in idling around
the magnificent garden at Hutt, a little distance away, around the shore.
I suppose we shall not see such another one soon.
We are packing to-night for the return-voyage to Australia. Our stay in
New Zealand has been too brief; still, we are not unthankful for the
glimpse which we have had of it.
The sturdy Maoris made the settlement of the country by the whites rather
difficult. Not at first--but later. At first they welcomed the whites,
and were eager to trade with them--particularly for muskets; for their
pastime was internecine war, and they greatly preferred the white man's
weapons to their own. War was their pastime--I use the word advisedly.
They often met and slaughtered each other just for a lark, and when there
was no quarrel. The author of "Old New Zealand" mentions a case where a
victorious army could have followed up its advantage and exterminated the
opposing army, but declined to do it; explaining naively that "if we did
that, there couldn't be any more fighting." In another battle one army
sent word that it was out of ammunition, and would be obliged to stop
unless the opposing army would send some. It was sent, and the fight
In the early days things went well enough. The natives sold land without
clearly understanding the terms of exchange, and the whites bought it
without being much disturbed about the native's confusion of mind. But
by and by the Maori began to comprehend that he was being wronged; then
there was trouble, for he was not the man to swallow a wrong and go aside
and cry about it. He had the Tasmanian's spirit and endurance, and a
notable share of military science besides; and so he rose against the
oppressor, did this gallant "fanatic," and started a war that was not
brought to a definite end until more than a generation had sped.
There are several good protections against temptations, but the surest is
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Names are not always what they seem. The common Welsh name Bzjxxllwep is
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Friday, December 13. Sailed, at 3 p.m., in the 'Mararoa'. Summer seas
and a good ship-life has nothing better.
Monday. Three days of paradise. Warm and sunny and smooth; the sea a
luminous Mediterranean blue . . . . One lolls in a long chair all day
under deck-awnings, and reads and smokes, in measureless content. One
does not read prose at such a time, but poetry. I have been reading the
poems of Mrs. Julia A. Moore, again, and I find in them the same grace
and melody that attracted me when they were first published, twenty years
ago, and have held me in happy bonds ever since.
"The Sentimental Song Book" has long been out of print, and has been
forgotten by the world in general, but not by me. I carry it with me
always--it and Goldsmith's deathless story.
Indeed, it has the same deep charm for me that the Vicar of Wakefield
has, and I find in it the same subtle touch--the touch that makes an
intentionally humorous episode pathetic and an intentionally pathetic one
funny. In her time Mrs. Moore was called "the Sweet Singer of Michigan,"
and was best known by that name. I have read her book through twice
today, with the purpose of determining which of her pieces has most
merit, and I am persuaded that for wide grasp and sustained power,
"William Upson" may claim first place:
Air--"The Major's Only Son."
Come all good people far and near,
Oh, come and see what you can hear,
It's of a young man true and brave,
That is now sleeping in his grave.
Now, William Upson was his name
If it's not that, it's all the same
He did enlist in a cruel strife,
And it caused him to lose his life.
He was Perry Upson's eldest son,
His father loved his noble son,
This son was nineteen years of age
When first in the rebellion he engaged.
His father said that he might go,
But his dear mother she said no,
"Oh! stay at home, dear Billy," she said,
But she could not turn his head.
He went to Nashville, in Tennessee,
There his kind friends he could not see;
He died among strangers, so far away,
They did not know where his body lay.
He was taken sick and lived four weeks,
And Oh! how his parents weep,
But now they must in sorrow mourn,
For Billy has gone to his heavenly home.
Oh! if his mother could have seen her son,
For she loved him, her darling son;
If she could heard his dying prayer,
It would ease her heart till she met him there.
How it would relieve his mother's heart
To see her son from this world depart,
And hear his noble words of love,
As he left this world for that above.
Now it will relieve his mother's heart,
For her son is laid in our graveyard;
For now she knows that his grave is near,
She will not shed so many tears.
Although she knows not that it was her son,
For his coffin could not be opened
It might be someone in his place,
For she could not see his noble face.
December, 17. Reached Sydney.
December, 19. In the train. Fellow of 30 with four valises; a slim
creature, with teeth which made his mouth look like a neglected
churchyard. He had solidified hair--solidified with pomatum; it was all
one shell. He smoked the most extraordinary cigarettes--made of some
kind of manure, apparently. These and his hair made him smell like the
very nation. He had a low-cut vest on, which exposed a deal of frayed
and broken and unclean shirtfront. Showy studs, of imitation gold--they
had made black disks on the linen. Oversized sleeve buttons of imitation
gold, the copper base showing through. Ponderous watch-chain of
imitation gold. I judge that he couldn't tell the time by it, for he
asked Smythe what time it was, once. He wore a coat which had been gay
when it was young; 5-o'clock-tea-trousers of a light tint, and
marvelously soiled; yellow mustache with a dashing upward whirl at the
ends; foxy shoes, imitation patent leather. He was a novelty--an
imitation dude. He would have been a real one if he could have afforded
it. But he was satisfied with himself. You could see it in his
expression, and in all his attitudes and movements. He was living in a
dude dreamland where all his squalid shams were genuine, and himself a
sincerity. It disarmed criticism, it mollified spite, to see him so
enjoy his imitation languors, and arts, and airs, and his studied
daintinesses of gesture and misbegotten refinements. It was plain to me
that he was imagining himself the Prince of Wales, and was doing
everything the way he thought the Prince would do it. For bringing his
four valises aboard and stowing them in the nettings, he gave his porter
four cents, and lightly apologized for the smallness of the gratuity
--just with the condescendingest little royal air in the world. He
stretched himself out on the front seat and rested his pomatum-cake on
the middle arm, and stuck his feet out of the window, and began to pose
as the Prince and work his dreams and languors for exhibition; and he
would indolently watch the blue films curling up from his cigarette, and
inhale the stench, and look so grateful; and would flip the ash away with
the daintiest gesture, unintentionally displaying his brass ring in the
most intentional way; why, it was as good as being in Marlborough House
itself to see him do it so like.
There was other scenery in the trip. That of the Hawksbury river, in the
National Park region, fine--extraordinarily fine, with spacious views of
stream and lake imposingly framed in woody hills; and every now and then
the noblest groupings of mountains, and the most enchanting
rearrangements of the water effects. Further along, green flats, thinly
covered with gum forests, with here and there the huts and cabins of
small farmers engaged in raising children. Still further along, arid
stretches, lifeless and melancholy. Then Newcastle, a rushing town,
capital of the rich coal regions. Approaching Scone, wide farming and
grazing levels, with pretty frequent glimpses of a troublesome plant--a
particularly devilish little prickly pear, daily damned in the orisons of
the agriculturist; imported by a lady of sentiment, and contributed
gratis to the colony. Blazing hot, all day.
December 20. Back to Sydney. Blazing hot again. From the newspaper,
and from the map, I have made a collection of curious names of
Australasian towns, with the idea of making a poem out of them:
It may be best to build the poem now, and make the weather help
A SWELTERING DAY IN AUSTRALIA.
(To be read soft and low, with the lights turned down.)
The Bombola faints in the hot Bowral tree,
Where fierce Mullengudgery's smothering fires
Far from the breezes of Coolgardie
Burn ghastly and blue as the day expires;
And Murriwillumba complaineth in song
For the garlanded bowers of Woolloomooloo,
And the Ballarat Fly and the lone Wollongong
They dream of the gardens of Jamberoo;
The wallabi sighs for the Murrubidgee,
For the velvety sod of the Munno Parah,
Where the waters of healing from Muloowurtie
Flow dim in the gloaming by Yaranyackah;
The Koppio sorrows for lost Wolloway,
And sigheth in secret for Murrurundi,
The Whangeroo wombat lamenteth the day
That made him an exile from Jerrilderie;
The Teawamute Tumut from Wirrega's glade,
The Nangkita swallow, the Wallaroo swan,
They long for the peace of the Timaru shade
And thy balmy soft airs, O sweet Mittagong!
The Kooringa buffalo pants in the sun,
The Kondoparinga lies gaping for breath,
The Kongorong Camaum to the shadow has won,
But the Goomeroo sinks in the slumber of death;
In the weltering hell of the Moorooroo plain
The Yatala Wangary withers and dies,
And the Worrow Wanilla, demented with pain,
To the Woolgoolga woodlands despairingly flies;
Sweet Nangwarry's desolate, Coonamble wails,
And Tungkillo Kuito in sables is drest,
For the Whangerei winds fall asleep in the sails
And the Booleroo life-breeze is dead in the west.
Mypongo, Kapunda, O slumber no more
Yankalilla, Parawirra, be warned
There's death in the air!
Shall the prayer of Penola be scorned?
Cootamundra, and Takee, and Wakatipu,
Toowoomba, Kaikoura are lost
From Onkaparinga to far Oamaru
All burn in this hell's holocaust!
Paramatta and Binnum are gone to their rest
In the vale of Tapanni Taroom,
Kawakawa, Deniliquin--all that was best
In the earth are but graves and a tomb!
Narrandera mourns, Cameron answers not
When the roll of the scathless we cry
Tongariro, Goondiwindi, Woolundunga, the spot
Is mute and forlorn where ye lie.
Those are good words for poetry. Among the best I have ever seen.
There are 81 in the list. I did not need them all, but I have knocked
down 66 of them; which is a good bag, it seems to me, for a person not in
the business. Perhaps a poet laureate could do better, but a poet
laureate gets wages, and that is different. When I write poetry I do not
get any wages; often I lose money by it. The best word in that list, and
the most musical and gurgly, is Woolloomoolloo. It is a place near
Sydney, and is a favorite pleasure-resort. It has eight O's in it.
To succeed in the other trades, capacity must be shown; in the law,
concealment of it will do.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
MONDAY,--December 23, 1895. Sailed from Sydney for Ceylon in the P. & O.
steamer 'Oceana'. A Lascar crew mans this ship--the first I have seen.
White cotton petticoat and pants; barefoot; red shawl for belt; straw
cap, brimless, on head, with red scarf wound around it; complexion a rich
dark brown; short straight black hair; whiskers fine and silky; lustrous
and intensely black. Mild, good faces; willing and obedient people;
capable, too; but are said to go into hopeless panics when there is
danger. They are from Bombay and the coast thereabouts. Left some of
the trunks in Sydney, to be shipped to South Africa by a vessel
advertised to sail three months hence. The proverb says: "Separate not
yourself from your baggage."
This 'Oceana' is a stately big ship, luxuriously appointed. She has
spacious promenade decks. Large rooms; a surpassingly comfortable ship.
The officers' library is well selected; a ship's library is not usually
that . . . . For meals, the bugle call, man-of-war fashion; a
pleasant change from the terrible gong . . . . Three big cats--very
friendly loafers; they wander all over the ship; the white one follows
the chief steward around like a dog. There is also a basket of kittens.
One of these cats goes ashore, in port, in England, Australia, and India,
to see how his various families are getting along, and is seen no more
till the ship is ready to sail. No one knows how he finds out the
sailing date, but no doubt he comes down to the dock every day and takes
a look, and when he sees baggage and passengers flocking in, recognizes
that it is time to get aboard. This is what the sailors believe. The
Chief Engineer has been in the China and India trade thirty three years,
and has had but three Christmases at home in that time . . . .
Conversational items at dinner, "Mocha! sold all over the world! It is
not true. In fact, very few foreigners except the Emperor of Russia have
ever seen a grain of it, or ever will, while they live." Another man
said: "There is no sale in Australia for Australian wine. But it goes to
France and comes back with a French label on it, and then they buy it."
I have heard that the most of the French-labeled claret in New York is
made in California. And I remember what Professor S. told me once about
Veuve Cliquot--if that was the wine, and I think it was. He was the
guest of a great wine merchant whose town was quite near that vineyard,
and this merchant asked him if very much V. C. was drunk in America.
"Oh, yes," said S., "a great abundance of it."
"Is it easy to be had?"
"Oh, yes--easy as water. All first and second-class hotels have it."
"What do you pay for it?"
"It depends on the style of the hotel--from fifteen to twenty-five francs
"Oh, fortunate country! Why, it's worth 100 francs right here on the
"Do you mean that we are drinking a bogus Veuve-Cliquot over there?"
"Yes--and there was never a bottle of the genuine in America since
Columbus's time. That wine all comes from a little bit of a patch of
ground which isn't big enough to raise many bottles; and all of it that
is produced goes every year to one person--the Emperor of Russia. He
takes the whole crop in advance, be it big or little."
January 4, 1898. Christmas in Melbourne, New Year's Day in Adelaide,
and saw most of the friends again in both places . . . . Lying here
at anchor all day--Albany (King George's Sound), Western Australia. It
is a perfectly landlocked harbor, or roadstead--spacious to look at, but
not deep water. Desolate-looking rocks and scarred hills. Plenty of
ships arriving now, rushing to the new gold-fields. The papers are full
of wonderful tales of the sort always to be heard in connection with new
gold diggings. A sample: a youth staked out a claim and tried to sell
half for L5; no takers; he stuck to it fourteen days, starving, then
struck it rich and sold out for L10,000. . . About sunset, strong
breeze blowing, got up the anchor. We were in a small deep puddle, with
a narrow channel leading out of it, minutely buoyed, to the sea.
I stayed on deck to see how we were going to manage it with such a big
ship and such a strong wind. On the bridge our giant captain, in
uniform; at his side a little pilot in elaborately gold-laced uniform; on
the forecastle a white mate and quartermaster or two, and a brilliant
crowd of lascars standing by for business. Our stern was pointing
straight at the head of the channel; so we must turn entirely around in
the puddle--and the wind blowing as described. It was done, and
beautifully. It was done by help of a jib. We stirred up much mud, but
did not touch the bottom. We turned right around in our tracks--a
seeming impossibility. We had several casts of quarter-less 5, and one
cast of half 4--27 feet; we were drawing 26 astern. By the time we were
entirely around and pointed, the first buoy was not more than a hundred
yards in front of us. It was a fine piece of work, and I was the only
passenger that saw it. However, the others got their dinner; the P. & O.
Company got mine . . . . More cats developed. Smythe says it is a
British law that they must be carried; and he instanced a case of a ship
not allowed to sail till she sent for a couple. The bill came, too:
"Debtor, to 2 cats, 20 shillings." . . . News comes that within this
week Siam has acknowledged herself to be, in effect, a French province.
It seems plain that all savage and semi-civilized countries are going to
be grabbed . . . . A vulture on board; bald, red, queer-shaped head,
featherless red places here and there on his body, intense great black
eyes set in featherless rims of inflamed flesh; dissipated look; a
businesslike style, a selfish, conscienceless, murderous aspect--the very
look of a professional assassin, and yet a bird which does no murder.
What was the use of getting him up in that tragic style for so innocent a
trade as his? For this one isn't the sort that wars upon the living, his
diet is offal--and the more out of date it is the better he likes it.
Nature should give him a suit of rusty black; then he would be all right,
for he would look like an undertaker and would harmonize with his
business; whereas the way he is now he is horribly out of true.
January 5. At 9 this morning we passed Cape Leeuwin (lioness) and
ceased from our long due-west course along the southern shore of
Australia. Turning this extreme southwestern corner, we now take a long
straight slant nearly N. W., without a break, for Ceylon. As we speed
northward it will grow hotter very fast--but it isn't chilly, now. . . .
The vulture is from the public menagerie at Adelaide--a great and
interesting collection. It was there that we saw the baby tiger solemnly
spreading its mouth and trying to roar like its majestic mother. It
swaggered, scowling, back and forth on its short legs just as it had seen
her do on her long ones, and now and then snarling viciously, exposing
its teeth, with a threatening lift of its upper lip and bristling
moustache; and when it thought it was impressing the visitors, it would
spread its mouth wide and do that screechy cry which it meant for a roar,
but which did not deceive. It took itself quite seriously, and was
lovably comical. And there was a hyena--an ugly creature; as ugly as the
tiger-kitty was pretty. It repeatedly arched its back and delivered
itself of such a human cry; a startling resemblance; a cry which was just
that of a grown person badly hurt. In the dark one would assuredly go to
its assistance--and be disappointed . . . . Many friends of
Australasian Federation on board. They feel sure that the good day is
not far off, now. But there seems to be a party that would go further
--have Australasia cut loose from the British Empire and set up
housekeeping on her own hook. It seems an unwise idea. They point to
the United States, but it seems to me that the cases lack a good deal of
being alike. Australasia governs herself wholly--there is no
interference; and her commerce and manufactures are not oppressed in any
way. If our case had been the same we should not have gone out when we
January 13. Unspeakably hot. The equator is arriving again. We are
within eight degrees of it. Ceylon present. Dear me, it is beautiful!
And most sumptuously tropical, as to character of foliage and opulence of
it. "What though the spicy breezes blow soft o'er Ceylon's isle"--an
eloquent line, an incomparable line; it says little, but conveys whole
libraries of sentiment, and Oriental charm and mystery, and tropic
deliciousness--a line that quivers and tingles with a thousand
unexpressed and inexpressible things, things that haunt one and find no
articulate voice . . . . Colombo, the capital. An Oriental town,
most manifestly; and fascinating.
In this palatial ship the passengers dress for dinner. The ladies'
toilettes make a fine display of color, and this is in keeping with the
elegance of the vessel's furnishings and the flooding brilliancies of the
electric light. On the stormy Atlantic one never sees a man in evening
dress, except at the rarest intervals; and then there is only one, not
two; and he shows up but once on the voyage--the night before the ship
makes port--the night when they have the "concert" and do the amateur
wailings and recitations. He is the tenor, as a rule . . . . There
has been a deal of cricket-playing on board; it seems a queer game for a
ship, but they enclose the promenade deck with nettings and keep the ball
from flying overboard, and the sport goes very well, and is properly
violent and exciting . . . . We must part from this vessel here.
January 14. Hotel Bristol. Servant Brompy. Alert, gentle, smiling,
winning young brown creature as ever was. Beautiful shining black hair
combed back like a woman's, and knotted at the back of his head
--tortoise-shell comb in it, sign that he is a Singhalese; slender, shapely
form; jacket; under it is a beltless and flowing white cotton gown--from
neck straight to heel; he and his outfit quite unmasculine. It was an
embarrassment to undress before him.
We drove to the market, using the Japanese jinriksha--our first
acquaintanceship with it. It is a light cart, with a native to draw it.
He makes good speed for half-an-hour, but it is hard work for him; he is
too slight for it. After the half-hour there is no more pleasure for
you; your attention is all on the man, just as it would be on a tired
horse, and necessarily your sympathy is there too. There's a plenty of
these 'rickshas, and the tariff is incredibly cheap.
I was in Cairo years ago. That was Oriental, but there was a lack. When
you are in Florida or New Orleans you are in the South--that is granted;
but you are not in the South; you are in a modified South, a tempered
South. Cairo was a tempered Orient--an Orient with an indefinite
something wanting. That feeling was not present in Ceylon. Ceylon was
Oriental in the last measure of completeness--utterly Oriental; also
utterly tropical; and indeed to one's unreasoning spiritual sense the two
things belong together. All the requisites were present. The costumes
were right; the black and brown exposures, unconscious of immodesty, were
right; the juggler was there, with his basket, his snakes, his mongoose,
and his arrangements for growing a tree from seed to foliage and ripe
fruitage before one's eyes; in sight were plants and flowers familiar to
one on books but in no other way celebrated, desirable, strange, but in
production restricted to the hot belt of the equator; and out a little
way in the country were the proper deadly snakes, and fierce beasts of
prey, and the wild elephant and the monkey. And there was that swoon in
the air which one associates with the tropics, and that smother of heat,
heavy with odors of unknown flowers, and that sudden invasion of purple
gloom fissured with lightnings,--then the tumult of crashing thunder and
the downpour and presently all sunny and smiling again; all these things
were there; the conditions were complete, nothing was lacking. And away
off in the deeps of the jungle and in the remotenesses of the mountains
were the ruined cities and mouldering temples, mysterious relics of the
pomps of a forgotten time and a vanished race--and this was as it should
be, also, for nothing is quite satisfyingly Oriental that lacks the
somber and impressive qualities of mystery and antiquity.
The drive through the town and out to the Galle Face by the seashore,
what a dream it was of tropical splendors of bloom and blossom, and
Oriental conflagrations of costume! The walking groups of men, women,
boys, girls, babies--each individual was a flame, each group a house
afire for color. And such stunning colors, such intensely vivid colors,
such rich and exquisite minglings and fusings of rainbows and lightnings!
And all harmonious, all in perfect taste; never a discordant note; never
a color on any person swearing at another color on him or failing to
harmonize faultlessly with the colors of any group the wearer might join.
The stuffs were silk-thin, soft, delicate, clinging; and, as a rule, each
piece a solid color: a splendid green, a splendid blue, a splendid
yellow, a splendid purple, a splendid ruby, deep, and rich with
smouldering fires they swept continuously by in crowds and legions and
multitudes, glowing, flashing, burning, radiant; and every five seconds
came a burst of blinding red that made a body catch his breath, and
filled his heart with joy. And then, the unimaginable grace of those
costumes! Sometimes a woman's whole dress was but a scarf wound about
her person and her head, sometimes a man's was but a turban and a
careless rag or two--in both cases generous areas of polished dark skin
showing--but always the arrangement compelled the homage of the eye and
made the heart sing for gladness.
I can see it to this day, that radiant panorama, that wilderness of rich
color, that incomparable dissolving-view of harmonious tints, and lithe
half-covered forms, and beautiful brown faces, and gracious and graceful
gestures and attitudes and movements, free, unstudied, barren of
stiffness and restraint, and--
Just then, into this dream of fairyland and paradise a grating dissonance
Out of a missionary school came marching, two and two, sixteen prim and
pious little Christian black girls, Europeanly clothed--dressed, to the
last detail, as they would have been dressed on a summer Sunday in an
English or American village. Those clothes--oh, they were unspeakably
ugly! Ugly, barbarous, destitute of taste, destitute of grace, repulsive
as a shroud. I looked at my womenfolk's clothes--just full-grown
duplicates of the outrages disguising those poor little abused creatures
--and was ashamed to be seen in the street with them. Then I looked at
my own clothes, and was ashamed to be seen in the street with myself.
However, we must put up with our clothes as they are--they have their
reason for existing. They are on us to expose us--to advertise what we
wear them to conceal. They are a sign; a sign of insincerity; a sign of
suppressed vanity; a pretense that we despise gorgeous colors and the
graces of harmony and form; and we put them on to propagate that lie and
back it up. But we do not deceive our neighbor; and when we step into
Ceylon we realize that we have not even deceived ourselves. We do love
brilliant colors and graceful costumes; and at home we will turn out in a
storm to see them when the procession goes by--and envy the wearers. We
go to the theater to look at them and grieve that we can't be clothed
like that. We go to the King's ball, when we get a chance, and are glad
of a sight of the splendid uniforms and the glittering orders. When we
are granted permission to attend an imperial drawing-room we shut
ourselves up in private and parade around in the theatrical court-dress
by the hour, and admire ourselves in the glass, and are utterly happy;
and every member of every governor's staff in democratic America does the
same with his grand new uniform--and if he is not watched he will get
himself photographed in it, too. When I see the Lord Mayor's footman I
am dissatisfied with my lot. Yes, our clothes are a lie, and have been
nothing short of that these hundred years. They are insincere, they are
the ugly and appropriate outward exposure of an inward sham and a moral
The last little brown boy I chanced to notice in the crowds and swarms of
Colombo had nothing on but a twine string around his waist, but in my
memory the frank honesty of his costume still stands out in pleasant
contrast with the odious flummery in which the little Sunday-school
dowdies were masquerading.
Prosperity is the best protector of principle.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
EVENING--11th. Sailed in the Rosetta. This is a poor old ship, and
ought to be insured and sunk. As in the 'Oceana', just so here:
everybody dresses for dinner; they make it a sort of pious duty. These
fine and formal costumes are a rather conspicuous contrast to the poverty
and shabbiness of the surroundings . . . . If you want a slice of a
lime at four o'clock tea, you must sign an order on the bar. Limes cost
14 cents a barrel.
January 18th. We have been running up the Arabian Sea, latterly.
Closing up on Bombay now, and due to arrive this evening.
January 20th. Bombay! A bewitching place, a bewildering place, an
enchanting place--the Arabian Nights come again? It is a vast city;
contains about a million inhabitants. Natives, they are, with a slight
sprinkling of white people--not enough to have the slightest modifying
effect upon the massed dark complexion of the public. It is winter here,
yet the weather is the divine weather of June, and the foliage is the
fresh and heavenly foliage of June. There is a rank of noble great shade
trees across the way from the hotel, and under them sit groups of
picturesque natives of both sexes; and the juggler in his turban is there
with his snakes and his magic; and all day long the cabs and the
multitudinous varieties of costumes flock by. It does not seem as if one
could ever get tired of watching this moving show, this shining and
shifting spectacle . . . . In the great bazar the pack and jam of
natives was marvelous, the sea of rich-colored turbans and draperies an
inspiring sight, and the quaint and showy Indian architecture was just
the right setting for it. Toward sunset another show; this is the drive
around the sea-shore to Malabar Point, where Lord Sandhurst, the Governor
of the Bombay Presidency, lives. Parsee palaces all along the first part
of the drive; and past them all the world is driving; the private
carriages of wealthy Englishmen and natives of rank are manned by a
driver and three footmen in stunning oriental liveries--two of these
turbaned statues standing up behind, as fine as monuments. Sometimes
even the public carriages have this superabundant crew, slightly
modified--one to drive, one to sit by and see it done, and one to stand
up behind and yell--yell when there is anybody in the way, and for
practice when there isn't. It all helps to keep up the liveliness and
augment the general sense of swiftness and energy and confusion and
In the region of Scandal Point--felicitous name--where there are handy
rocks to sit on and a noble view of the sea on the one hand, and on the
other the passing and reprising whirl and tumult of gay carriages, are
great groups of comfortably-off Parsee women--perfect flower-beds of
brilliant color, a fascinating spectacle. Tramp, tramp, tramping along
the road, in singles, couples, groups, and gangs, you have the
working-man and the working-woman--but not clothed like ours. Usually
the man is a nobly-built great athlete, with not a rag on but his
loin-handkerchief; his color a deep dark brown, his skin satin, his
rounded muscles knobbing it as if it had eggs under it. Usually the
woman is a slender and shapely creature, as erect as a lightning-rod, and
she has but one thing on--a bright-colored piece of stuff which is wound
about her head and her body down nearly half-way to her knees, and which
clings like her own skin. Her legs and feet are bare, and so are her
arms, except for her fanciful bunches of loose silver rings on her ankles
and on her arms. She has jewelry bunched on the side of her nose also,
and showy clusterings on her toes. When she undresses for bed she takes
off her jewelry, I suppose. If she took off anything more she would
catch cold. As a rule she has a large shiney brass water jar of graceful
shape on her head, and one of her naked arms curves up and the hand holds
it there. She is so straight, so erect, and she steps with such style,
and such easy grace and dignity; and her curved arm and her brazen jar
are such a help to the picture indeed, our working-women cannot begin
with her as a road-decoration.
It is all color, bewitching color, enchanting color--everywhere all
around--all the way around the curving great opaline bay clear to
Government House, where the turbaned big native 'chuprassies' stand
grouped in state at the door in their robes of fiery red, and do most
properly and stunningly finish up the splendid show and make it
theatrically complete. I wish I were a 'chuprassy'.
This is indeed India! the land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth
and fabulous poverty, of splendor and rags, of palaces and hovels, of
famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers
and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of a hundred nations
and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods,
cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history,
grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition, whose yesterdays
bear date with the mouldering antiquities of the rest of the nations--the
one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable
interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant,
wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men
desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give
that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the globe combined.
Even now, after the lapse of a year, the delirium of those days in Bombay
has not left me, and I hope never will. It was all new, no detail of it
hackneyed. And India did not wait for morning, it began at the hotel
--straight away. The lobbies and halls were full of turbaned, and fez'd
and embroidered, cap'd, and barefooted, and cotton-clad dark natives,
some of them rushing about, others at rest squatting, or sitting on the
ground; some of them chattering with energy, others still and dreamy; in
the dining-room every man's own private native servant standing behind
his chair, and dressed for a part in the Arabian Nights.
Our rooms were high up, on the front. A white man--he was a burly German
--went up with us, and brought three natives along to see to arranging
things. About fourteen others followed in procession, with the
hand-baggage; each carried an article--and only one; a bag, in some
cases, in other cases less. One strong native carried my overcoat,
another a parasol, another a box of cigars, another a novel, and the last
man in the procession had no load but a fan. It was all done with
earnestness and sincerity, there was not a smile in the procession from
the head of it to the tail of it. Each man waited patiently, tranquilly,
in no sort of hurry, till one of us found time to give him a copper, then
he bent his head reverently, touched his forehead with his fingers, and
went his way. They seemed a soft and gentle race, and there was
something both winning and touching about their demeanor.
There was a vast glazed door which opened upon the balcony. It needed
closing, or cleaning, or something, and a native got down on his knees
and went to work at it. He seemed to be doing it well enough, but
perhaps he wasn't, for the burly German put on a look that betrayed
dissatisfaction, then without explaining what was wrong, gave the native
a brisk cuff on the jaw and then told him where the defect was. It
seemed such a shame to do that before us all. The native took it with
meekness, saying nothing, and not showing in his face or manner any
resentment. I had not seen the like of this for fifty years. It carried
me back to my boyhood, and flashed upon me the forgotten fact that this
was the usual way of explaining one's desires to a slave. I was able to
remember that the method seemed right and natural to me in those days, I
being born to it and unaware that elsewhere there were other methods; but
I was also able to remember that those unresented cuffings made me sorry
for the victim and ashamed for the punisher. My father was a refined and
kindly gentleman, very grave, rather austere, of rigid probity, a sternly
just and upright man, albeit he attended no church and never spoke of
religious matters, and had no part nor lot in the pious joys of his
Presbyterian family, nor ever seemed to suffer from this deprivation. He
laid his hand upon me in punishment only twice in his life, and then not
heavily; once for telling him a lie--which surprised me, and showed me
how unsuspicious he was, for that was not my maiden effort. He punished
me those two times only, and never any other member of the family at all;
yet every now and then he cuffed our harmless slave boy, Lewis, for
trifling little blunders and awkwardnesses. My father had passed his life
among the slaves from his cradle up, and his cuffings proceeded from the
custom of the time, not from his nature. When I was ten years old I saw
a man fling a lump of iron-ore at a slaveman in anger, for merely doing
something awkwardly--as if that were a crime. It bounded from the man's
skull, and the man fell and never spoke again. He was dead in an hour.
I knew the man had a right to kill his slave if he wanted to, and yet it
seemed a pitiful thing and somehow wrong, though why wrong I was not deep
enough to explain if I had been asked to do it. Nobody in the village
approved of that murder, but of course no one said much about it.
It is curious--the space-annihilating power of thought. For just one
second, all that goes to make the me in me was in a Missourian village,
on the other side of the globe, vividly seeing again these forgotten
pictures of fifty years ago, and wholly unconscious of all things but
just those; and in the next second I was back in Bombay, and that
kneeling native's smitten cheek was not done tingling yet! Back to
boyhood--fifty years; back to age again, another fifty; and a flight
equal to the circumference of the globe-all in two seconds by the watch!
Some natives--I don't remember how many--went into my bedroom, now, and
put things to rights and arranged the mosquito-bar, and I went to bed to
nurse my cough. It was about nine in the evening. What a state of
things! For three hours the yelling and shouting of natives in the hall
continued, along with the velvety patter of their swift bare feet--what a
racket it was! They were yelling orders and messages down three flights.
Why, in the matter of noise it amounted to a riot, an insurrection, a
revolution. And then there were other noises mixed up with these and at
intervals tremendously accenting them--roofs falling in, I judged,
windows smashing, persons being murdered, crows squawking, and deriding,
and cursing, canaries screeching, monkeys jabbering, macaws blaspheming,
and every now and then fiendish bursts of laughter and explosions of
dynamite. By midnight I had suffered all the different kinds of shocks
there are, and knew that I could never more be disturbed by them, either
isolated or in combination. Then came peace--stillness deep and solemn
and lasted till five.
Then it all broke loose again. And who re-started it? The Bird of Birds
the Indian crow. I came to know him well, by and by, and be infatuated
with him. I suppose he is the hardest lot that wears feathers. Yes, and
the cheerfulest, and the best satisfied with himself. He never arrived
at what he is by any careless process, or any sudden one; he is a work of
art, and "art is long"; he is the product of immemorial ages, and of deep
calculation; one can't make a bird like that in a day. He has been
reincarnated more times than Shiva; and he has kept a sample of each
incarnation, and fused it into his constitution. In the course of his
evolutionary promotions, his sublime march toward ultimate perfection, he
has been a gambler, a low comedian, a dissolute priest, a fussy woman, a
blackguard, a scoffer, a liar, a thief, a spy, an informer, a trading
politician, a swindler, a professional hypocrite, a patriot for cash, a
reformer, a lecturer, a lawyer, a conspirator, a rebel, a royalist, a
democrat, a practicer and propagator of irreverence, a meddler, an
intruder, a busybody, an infidel, and a wallower in sin for the mere love
of it. The strange result, the incredible result, of this patient
accumulation of all damnable traits is, that be does not know what care
is, he does not know what sorrow is, he does not know what remorse is,
his life is one long thundering ecstasy of happiness, and he will go to
his death untroubled, knowing that he will soon turn up again as an
author or something, and be even more intolerably capable and comfortable
than ever he was before.
In his straddling wide forward-step, and his springy side-wise series of
hops, and his impudent air, and his cunning way of canting his head to
one side upon occasion, he reminds one of the American blackbird. But
the sharp resemblances stop there. He is much bigger than the blackbird;
and he lacks the blackbird's trim and slender and beautiful build and
shapely beak; and of course his sober garb of gray and rusty black is a
poor and humble thing compared with the splendid lustre of the
blackbird's metallic sables and shifting and flashing bronze glories.
The blackbird is a perfect gentleman, in deportment and attire, and is
not noisy, I believe, except when holding religious services and
political conventions in a tree; but this Indian sham Quaker is just a
rowdy, and is always noisy when awake--always chaffing, scolding,
scoffing, laughing, ripping, and cursing, and carrying on about something
or other. I never saw such a bird for delivering opinions. Nothing
escapes him; he notices everything that happens, and brings out his
opinion about it, particularly if it is a matter that is none of his
business. And it is never a mild opinion, but always violent--violent
and profane--the presence of ladies does not affect him. His opinions
are not the outcome of reflection, for he never thinks about anything,
but heaves out the opinion that is on top in his mind, and which is often
an opinion about some quite different thing and does not fit the case.
But that is his way; his main idea is to get out an opinion, and if he
stopped to think he would lose chances.
I suppose he has no enemies among men. The whites and Mohammedans never
seemed to molest him; and the Hindoos, because of their religion, never
take the life of any creature, but spare even the snakes and tigers and
fleas and rats. If I sat on one end of the balcony, the crows would
gather on the railing at the other end and talk about me; and edge
closer, little by little, till I could almost reach them; and they would
sit there, in the most unabashed way, and talk about my clothes, and my
hair, and my complexion, and probable character and vocation and
politics, and how I came to be in India, and what I had been doing, and
how many days I had got for it, and how I had happened to go unhanged
so long, and when would it probably come off, and might there be more of
my sort where I came from, and when would they be hanged,--and so on, and
so on, until I could not longer endure the embarrassment of it; then I
would shoo them away, and they would circle around in the air a little
while, laughing and deriding and mocking, and presently settle on the
rail and do it all over again.
They were very sociable when there was anything to eat--oppressively so.
With a little encouragement they would come in and light on the table and
help me eat my breakfast; and once when I was in the other room and they
found themselves alone, they carried off everything they could lift; and
they were particular to choose things which they could make no use of
after they got them. In India their number is beyond estimate, and their
noise is in proportion. I suppose they cost the country more than the
government does; yet that is not a light matter. Still, they pay; their
company pays; it would sadden the land to take their cheerful voice out
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