Following the Equator
Part 9 out of 10
The inn cow poked about the compound and emphasized the secluded and
country air of the place, and there was a dog of no particular breed, who
was always present in the compound, and always asleep, always stretched
out baking in the sun and adding to the deep tranquility and
reposefulness of the place, when the crows were away on business. White-
draperied servants were coming and going all the time, but they seemed
only spirits, for their feet were bare and made no sound. Down the lane
a piece lived an elephant in the shade of a noble tree, and rocked and
rocked, and reached about with his trunk, begging of his brown mistress
or fumbling the children playing at his feet. And there were camels
about, but they go on velvet feet, and were proper to the silence and
serenity of the surroundings.
The Satan mentioned at the head of this chapter was not our Satan, but
the other one. Our Satan was lost to us. In these later days he had
passed out of our life--lamented by me, and sincerely. I was missing
him; I am missing him yet, after all these months. He was an astonishing
creature to fly around and do things. He didn't always do them quite
right, but he did them, and did them suddenly. There was no time wasted.
You would say:
"Pack the trunks and bags, Satan."
"Wair good" (very good).
Then there would be a brief sound of thrashing and slashing and humming
and buzzing, and a spectacle as of a whirlwind spinning gowns and jackets
and coats and boots and things through the air, and then with bow and
It was wonderful. It made one dizzy. He crumpled dresses a good deal,
and he had no particular plan about the work--at first--except to put
each article into the trunk it didn't belong in. But he soon reformed,
in this matter. Not entirely; for, to the last, he would cram into the
satchel sacred to literature any odds and ends of rubbish that he
couldn't find a handy place for elsewhere. When threatened with death
for this, it did not trouble him; he only looked pleasant, saluted with
soldierly grace, said "Wair good," and did it again next day.
He was always busy; kept the rooms tidied up, the boots polished, the
clothes brushed, the wash-basin full of clean water, my dress clothes
laid out and ready for the lecture-hall an hour ahead of time; and he
dressed me from head to heel in spite of my determination to do it
myself, according to my lifelong custom.
He was a born boss, and loved to command, and to jaw and dispute with
inferiors and harry them and bullyrag them. He was fine at the railway
station--yes, he was at his finest there. He would shoulder and plunge
and paw his violent way through the packed multitude of natives with
nineteen coolies at his tail, each bearing a trifle of luggage--one a
trunk, another a parasol, another a shawl, another a fan, and so on; one
article to each, and the longer the procession, the better he was suited
--and he was sure to make for some engaged sleeper and begin to hurl the
owner's things out of it, swearing that it was ours and that there had
been a mistake. Arrived at our own sleeper, he would undo the bedding-
bundles and make the beds and put everything to rights and shipshape in
two minutes; then put his head out at, a window and have a restful good
time abusing his gang of coolies and disputing their bill until we
arrived and made him pay them and stop his noise.
Speaking of noise, he certainly was the noisest little devil in India--
and that is saying much, very much, indeed. I loved him for his noise,
but the family detested him for it. They could not abide it; they could
not get reconciled to it. It humiliated them. As a rule, when we got
within six hundred yards of one of those big railway stations, a mighty
racket of screaming and shrieking and shouting and storming would break
upon us, and I would be happy to myself, and the family would say, with
"There--that's Satan. Why do you keep him?"
And, sure enough, there in the whirling midst of fifteen hundred
wondering people we would find that little scrap of a creature
gesticulating like a spider with the colic, his black eyes snapping, his
fez-tassel dancing, his jaws pouring out floods of billingsgate upon his
gang of beseeching and astonished coolies.
I loved him; I couldn't help it; but the family--why, they could hardly
speak of him with patience. To this day I regret his loss, and wish I
had him back; but they--it is different with them. He was a native, and
came from Surat. Twenty degrees of latitude lay between his birthplace
and Manuel's, and fifteen hundred between their ways and characters and
dispositions. I only liked Manuel, but I loved Satan. This latter's
real name was intensely Indian. I could not quite get the hang of it,
but it sounded like Bunder Rao Ram Chunder Clam Chowder. It was too long
for handy use, anyway; so I reduced it.
When he had been with us two or three weeks, he began to make mistakes
which I had difficulty in patching up for him. Approaching Benares one
day, he got out of the train to see if he could get up a misunderstanding
with somebody, for it had been a weary, long journey and he wanted to
freshen up. He found what he was after, but kept up his pow-wow a shade
too long and got left. So there we were in a strange city and no
chambermaid. It was awkward for us, and we told him he must not do so
any more. He saluted and said in his dear, pleasant way, "Wair good."
Then at Lucknow he got drunk. I said it was a fever, and got the
family's compassion, and solicitude aroused; so they gave him a
teaspoonful of liquid quinine and it set his vitals on fire. He made
several grimaces which gave me a better idea of the Lisbon earthquake
than any I have ever got of it from paintings and descriptions. His
drunk was still portentously solid next morning, but I could have pulled
him through with the family if he would only have taken another spoonful
of that remedy; but no, although he was stupefied, his memory still had
flickerings of life; so he smiled a divinely dull smile and said,
"Scoose me, mem Saheb, scoose me, Missy Saheb; Satan not prefer it,
Then some instinct revealed to them that he was drunk. They gave him
prompt notice that next time this happened he must go. He got out a
maudlin and most gentle "Wair good," and saluted indefinitely.
Only one short week later he fell again. And oh, sorrow! not in a hotel
this time, but in an English gentleman's private house. And in Agra, of
all places. So he had to go. When I told him, he said patiently, "Wair
good," and made his parting salute, and went out from us to return no
more forever. Dear me! I would rather have lost a hundred angels than
that one poor lovely devil. What style he used to put on, in a swell
hotel or in a private house--snow-white muslin from his chin to his bare
feet, a crimson sash embroidered with gold thread around his waist, and
on his head a great sea-green turban like to the turban of the Grand
He was not a liar; but he will become one if he keeps on. He told me
once that he used to crack cocoanuts with his teeth when he was a boy;
and when I asked how he got them into his mouth, he said he was upward of
six feet high at that time, and had an unusual mouth. And when I
followed him up and asked him what had become of that other foot, he said
a house fell on him and he was never able to get his stature back again.
Swervings like these from the strict line of fact often beguile a
truthful man on and on until he eventually becomes a liar.
His successor was a Mohammedan, Sahadat Mohammed Khan; very dark, very
tall, very grave. He went always in flowing masses of white, from the
top of his big turban down to his bare feet. His voice was low. He
glided about in a noiseless way, and looked like a ghost. He was
competent and satisfactory. But where he was, it seemed always Sunday.
It was not so in Satan's time.
Jeypore is intensely Indian, but it has two or three features which
indicate the presence of European science and European interest in the
weal of the common public, such as the liberal water-supply furnished by
great works built at the State's expense; good sanitation, resulting in a
degree of healthfulness unusually high for India; a noble pleasure
garden, with privileged days for women; schools for the instruction of
native youth in advanced art, both ornamental and utilitarian; and a new
and beautiful palace stocked with a museum of extraordinary interest and
value. Without the Maharaja's sympathy and purse these beneficences
could not have been created; but he is a man of wide views and large
generosities, and all such matters find hospitality with him.
We drove often to the city from the hotel Kaiser-i-Hind, a journey which
was always full of interest, both night and day, for that country road
was never quiet, never empty, but was always India in motion, always a
streaming flood of brown people clothed in smouchings from the rainbow, a
tossing and moiling flood, happy, noisy, a charming and satisfying
confusion of strange human and strange animal life and equally strange
and outlandish vehicles.
And the city itself is a curiosity. Any Indian city is that, but this
one is not like any other that we saw. It is shut up in a lofty turreted
wall; the main body of it is divided into six parts by perfectly straight
streets that are more than a hundred feet wide; the blocks of houses
exhibit a long frontage of the most taking architectural quaintnesses,
the straight lines being broken everywhere by pretty little balconies,
pillared and highly ornamented, and other cunning and cozy and inviting
perches and projections, and many of the fronts are curiously pictured by
the brush, and the whole of them have the soft rich tint of strawberry
ice-cream. One cannot look down the far stretch of the chief street and
persuade himself that these are real houses, and that it is all out of
doors--the impression that it is an unreality, a picture, a scene in a
theater, is the only one that will take hold.
Then there came a great day when this illusion was more pronounced than
ever. A rich Hindoo had been spending a fortune upon the manufacture of
a crowd of idols and accompanying paraphernalia whose purpose was to
illustrate scenes in the life of his especial god or saint, and this fine
show 'vas to be brought through the town in processional state at ten in
the morning. As we passed through the great public pleasure garden on
our way to the city we found it crowded with natives. That was one
sight. Then there was another. In the midst of the spacious lawns
stands the palace which contains the museum--a beautiful construction of
stone which shows arched colonnades, one above another, and receding,
terrace-fashion, toward the sky. Every one of these terraces, all the
way to the top one, was packed and jammed with natives. One must try to
imagine those solid masses of splendid color, one above another, up and
up, against the blue sky, and the Indian sun turning them all to beds of
fire and flame.
Later, when we reached the city, and glanced down the chief avenue,
smouldering in its crushed-strawberry tint, those splendid effects were
repeated; for every balcony, and every fanciful bird-cage of a snuggery
countersunk in the house-fronts, and all the long lines of roofs were
crowded with people, and each crowd was an explosion of brilliant color.
Then the wide street itself, away down and down and down into the
distance, was alive with gorgeously-clothed people not still, but moving,
swaying, drifting, eddying, a delirious display of all colors and all
shades of color, delicate, lovely, pale, soft, strong, stunning, vivid,
brilliant, a sort of storm of sweetpea blossoms passing on the wings of a
hurricane; and presently, through this storm of color, came swaying and
swinging the majestic elephants, clothed in their Sunday best of
gaudinesses, and the long procession of fanciful trucks freighted with
their groups of curious and costly images, and then the long rearguard of
stately camels, with their picturesque riders.
For color, and picturesqueness, and novelty, and outlandishness, and
sustained interest and fascination, it was the most satisfying show I had
ever seen, and I suppose I shall not have the privilege of looking upon
its like again.
In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Suppose we applied no more ingenuity to the instruction of deaf and dumb
and blind children than we sometimes apply in our American public schools
to the instruction of children who are in possession of all their
faculties? The result would be that the deaf and dumb and blind would
acquire nothing. They would live and die as ignorant as bricks and
stones. The methods used in the asylums are rational. The teacher
exactly measures the child's capacity, to begin with; and from thence
onwards the tasks imposed are nicely gauged to the gradual development of
that capacity, the tasks keep pace with the steps of the child's
progress, they don't jump miles and leagues ahead of it by irrational
caprice and land in vacancy--according to the average public-school plan.
In the public school, apparently, they teach the child to spell cat, then
ask it to calculate an eclipse; when it can read words of two syllables,
they require it to explain the circulation of the blood; when it reaches
the head of the infant class they bully it with conundrums that cover the
domain of universal knowledge. This sounds extravagant--and is; yet it
goes no great way beyond the facts.
I received a curious letter one day, from the Punjab (you must pronounce
it Punjawb). The handwriting was excellent, and the wording was English
--English, and yet not exactly English. The style was easy and smooth
and flowing, yet there was something subtly foreign about it--A something
tropically ornate and sentimental and rhetorical. It turned out to be
the work of a Hindoo youth, the holder of a humble clerical billet in a
railway office. He had been educated in one of the numerous colleges of
India. Upon inquiry I was told that the country was full of young
fellows of his like. They had been educated away up to the snow-summits
of learning--and the market for all this elaborate cultivation was
minutely out of proportion to the vastness of the product. This market
consisted of some thousands of small clerical posts under the government-
the supply of material for it was multitudinous. If this youth with the
flowing style and the blossoming English was occupying a small railway
clerkship, it meant that there were hundreds and hundreds as capable as
he, or he would be in a high place; and it certainly meant that there
were thousands whose education and capacity had fallen a little short,
and that they would have to go without places. Apparently, then, the
colleges of India were doing what our high schools have long been doing--
richly over-supplying the market for highly-educated service; and thereby
doing a damage to the scholar, and through him to the country.
At home I once made a speech deploring the injuries inflicted by the high
school in making handicrafts distasteful to boys who would have been
willing to make a living at trades and agriculture if they had but had
the good luck to stop with the common school. But I made no converts.
Not one, in a community overrun with educated idlers who were above
following their fathers' mechanical trades, yet could find no market for
their book-knowledge. The same rail that brought me the letter from the
Punjab, brought also a little book published by Messrs. Thacker, Spink &
Co., of Calcutta, which interested me, for both its preface and its
contents treated of this matter of over-education. In the preface occurs
this paragraph from the Calcutta Review. For "Government office" read
"drygoods clerkship" and it will fit more than one region of America:
"The education that we give makes the boys a little less clownish in
their manners, and more intelligent when spoken to by strangers. On
the other hand, it has made them less contented with their lot in
life, and less willing to work with their hands. The form which
discontent takes in this country is not of a healthy kind; for, the
Natives of India consider that the only occupation worthy of an
educated man is that of a writership in some office, and especially
in a Government office. The village schoolboy goes back to the plow
with the greatest reluctance; and the town schoolboy carries the
same discontent and inefficiency into his father's workshop.
Sometimes these ex-students positively refuse at first to work; and
more than once parents have openly expressed their regret that they
ever allowed their sons to be inveigled to school."
The little book which I am quoting from is called "Indo-Anglian
Literature," and is well stocked with "baboo" English--clerkly English,
hooky English, acquired in the schools. Some of it is very funny,--
almost as funny, perhaps, as what you and I produce when we try to write
in a language not our own; but much of it is surprisingly correct and
free. If I were going to quote good English--but I am not. India is
well stocked with natives who speak it and write it as well as the best
of us. I merely wish to show some of the quaint imperfect attempts at
the use of our tongue. There are many letters in the book; poverty
imploring help--bread, money, kindness, office generally an office, a
clerkship, some way to get food and a rag out of the applicant's
unmarketable education; and food not for himself alone, but sometimes for
a dozen helpless relations in addition to his own family; for those
people are astonishingly unselfish, and admirably faithful to their ties
of kinship. Among us I think there is nothing approaching it. Strange
as some of these wailing and supplicating letters are, humble and even
groveling as some of them are, and quaintly funny and confused as a
goodly number of them are, there is still a pathos about them, as a rule,
that checks the rising laugh and reproaches it. In the following letter
"father" is not to be read literally. In Ceylon a little native beggar-
girl embarrassed me by calling me father, although I knew she was
mistaken. I was so new that I did not know that she was merely following
the custom of the dependent and the supplicant.
"I pray please to give me some action (work) for I am very poor boy
I have no one to help me even so father for it so it seemed in thy
good sight, you give the Telegraph Office, and another work what is
your wish I am very poor boy, this understand what is your wish you
my father I am your son this understand what is your wish.
"Your Sirvent, P. C. B."
Through ages of debasing oppression suffered by these people at the hands
of their native rulers, they come legitimately by the attitude and
language of fawning and flattery, and one must remember this in
mitigation when passing judgment upon the native character. It is common
in these letters to find the petitioner furtively trying to get at the
white man's soft religious side; even this poor boy baits his hook with a
macerated Bible-text in the hope that it may catch something if all else
Here is an application for the post of instructor in English to some
"My Dear Sir or Gentleman, that your Petitioner has much
qualification in the Language of English to instruct the young boys;
I was given to understand that your of suitable children has to
acquire the knowledge of English language."
As a sample of the flowery Eastern style, I will take a sentence or two
from along letter written by a young native to the Lieutenant-Governor of
Bengal--an application for employment:
"HONORED AND MUCH RESPECTED SIR,
"I hope your honor will condescend to hear the tale of this poor
creature. I shall overflow with gratitude at this mark of your
royal condescension. The bird-like happiness has flown away from my
nest-like heart and has not hitherto returned from the period whence
the rose of my father's life suffered the autumnal breath of death,
in plain English he passed through the gates of Grave, and from that
hour the phantom of delight has never danced before me."
It is all school-English, book-English, you see; and good enough, too,
all things considered. If the native boy had but that one study he would
shine, he would dazzle, no doubt. But that is not the case. He is
situated as are our public-school children--loaded down with an over-
freightage of other studies; and frequently they are as far beyond the
actual point of progress reached by him and suited to the stage of
development attained, as could be imagined by the insanest fancy.
Apparently--like our public-school boy--he must work, work, work, in
school and out, and play but little. Apparently--like our public-school
boy--his "education" consists in learning things, not the meaning of
them; he is fed upon the husks, not the corn. From several essays
written by native schoolboys in answer to the question of how they spend
their day, I select one--the one which goes most into detail:
"66. At the break of day I rises from my own bed and finish my
daily duty, then I employ myself till 8 o'clock, after which I
employ myself to bathe, then take for my body some sweet meat, and
just at 9 1/2 I came to school to attend my class duty, then at
2 1/2 P. M. I return from school and engage myself to do my natural
duty, then, I engage for a quarter to take my tithn, then I study
till 5 P. M., after which I began to play anything which comes in
my head. After 8 1/2, half pass to eight we are began to sleep,
before sleeping I told a constable just 11 o' he came and rose us
from half pass eleven we began to read still morning."
It is not perfectly clear, now that I come to cipher upon it. He gets up
at about 5 in the morning, or along there somewhere, and goes to bed
about fifteen or sixteen hours afterward--that much of it seems straight;
but why he should rise again three hours later and resume his studies
till morning is puzzling.
I think it is because he is studying history. History requires a world
of time and bitter hard work when your "education" is no further advanced
than the cat's; when you are merely stuffing yourself with a mixed-up
mess of empty names and random incidents and elusive dates, which no one
teaches you how to interpret, and which, uninterpreted, pay you not a
farthing's value for your waste of time. Yes, I think he had to get up
at halfpast 11 P.M. in order to be sure to be perfect with his history
lesson by noon. With results as follows--from a Calcutta school
"Q. Who was Cardinal Wolsey?
"Cardinal Wolsey was an Editor of a paper named North Briton. No. 45 of
his publication he charged the King of uttering a lie from the throne.
He was arrested and cast into prison; and after releasing went to France.
"3. As Bishop of York but died in disentry in a church on his way to be
"8. Cardinal Wolsey was the son of Edward IV, after his father's death
he himself ascended the throne at the age of (10) ten only, but when he
surpassed or when he was fallen in his twenty years of age at that time
he wished to make a journey in his countries under him, but he was
opposed by his mother to do journey, and according to his mother's
example he remained in the home, and then became King. After many times
obstacles and many confusion he become King and afterwards his brother."
There is probably not a word of truth in that.
"Q. What is the meaning of 'Ich Dien'?
"10. An honor conferred on the first or eldest sons of English
Sovereigns. It is nothing more than some feathers.
"11. Ich Dien was the word which was written on the feathers of the
blind King who came to fight, being interlaced with the bridles of the
"13. Ich Dien is a title given to Henry VII by the Pope of Rome, when he
forwarded the Reformation of Cardinal Wolsy to Rome, and for this reason
he was called Commander of the faith."
A dozen or so of this kind of insane answers are quoted in the book from
that examination. Each answer is sweeping proof, all by itself, that the
person uttering it was pushed ahead of where he belonged when he was put
into history; proof that he had been put to the task of acquiring history
before he had had a single lesson in the art of acquiring it, which is
the equivalent of dumping a pupil into geometry before he has learned the
progressive steps which lead up to it and make its acquirement possible.
Those Calcutta novices had no business with history. There was no excuse
for examining them in it, no excuse for exposing them and their teachers.
They were totally empty; there was nothing to "examine."
Helen Keller has been dumb, stone deaf, and stone blind, ever since she
was a little baby a year-and-a-half old; and now at sixteen years of age
this miraculous creature, this wonder of all the ages, passes the Harvard
University examination in Latin, German, French history, belles lettres,
and such things, and does it brilliantly, too, not in a commonplace
fashion. She doesn't know merely things, she is splendidly familiar with
the meanings of them. When she writes an essay on a Shakespearean
character, her English is fine and strong, her grasp of the subject is
the grasp of one who knows, and her page is electric with light. Has
Miss Sullivan taught her by the methods of India and the American public
school? No, oh, no; for then she would be deafer and dumber and blinder
than she was before. It is a pity that we can't educate all the children
in the asylums.
To continue the Calcutta exposure:
"What is the meaning of a Sheriff?"
"25. Sheriff is a post opened in the time of John. The duty of Sheriff
here in Calcutta, to look out and catch those carriages which is rashly
driven out by the coachman; but it is a high post in England.
"26. Sheriff was the English bill of common prayer.
"27. The man with whom the accusative persons are placed is called
"28. Sheriff--Latin term for 'shrub,' we called broom, worn by the first
earl of Enjue, as an emblem of humility when they went to the pilgrimage,
and from this their hairs took their crest and surname.
"29. Sheriff is a kind of titlous sect of people, as Barons, Nobles,
"30. Sheriff; a tittle given on those persons who were respective and
pious in England."
The students were examined in the following bulky matters: Geometry, the
Solar Spectrum, the Habeas Corpus Act, the British Parliament, and in
Metaphysics they were asked to trace the progress of skepticism from
Descartes to Hume. It is within bounds to say that some of the results
were astonishing. Without doubt, there were students present who
justified their teacher's wisdom in introducing them to these studies;
but the fact is also evident that others had been pushed into these
studies to waste their time over them when they could have been
profitably employed in hunting smaller game. Under the head of Geometry,
one of the answers is this:
"49. The whole BD = the whole CA, and so-so-so-so-so-so-so."
To me this is cloudy, but I was never well up in geometry. That was the
only effort made among the five students who appeared for examination in
geometry; the other four wailed and surrendered without a fight. They
are piteous wails, too, wails of despair; and one of them is an eloquent
reproach; it comes from a poor fellow who has been laden beyond his
strength by a stupid teacher, and is eloquent in spite of the poverty of
its English. The poor chap finds himself required to explain riddles
which even Sir Isaac Newton was not able to understand:
"50. Oh my dear father examiner you my father and you kindly give a
number of pass you my great father.
"51. I am a poor boy and have no means to support my mother and two
brothers who are suffering much for want of food. I get four rupees
monthly from charity fund of this place, from which I send two rupees for
their support, and keep two for my own support. Father, if I relate the
unlucky circumstance under which we are placed, then, I think, you will
not be able to suppress the tender tear.
"52. Sir which Sir Isaac Newton and other experienced mathematicians
cannot understand I being third of Entrance Class can understand these
which is too impossible to imagine. And my examiner also has put very
tiresome and very heavy propositions to prove."
We must remember that these pupils had to do their thinking in one
language, and express themselves in another and alien one. It was a
heavy handicap. I have by me "English as She is Taught"--a collection of
American examinations made in the public schools of Brooklyn by one of
the teachers, Miss Caroline B. Le Row. An extract or two from its pages
will show that when the American pupil is using but one language, and
that one his own, his performance is no whit better than his Indian
"Christopher Columbus was called the father of his Country. Queen
Isabella of Spain sold her watch and chain and other millinery so that
Columbus could discover America.
"The Indian wars were very desecrating to the country.
"The Indians pursued their warfare by hiding in the bushes and then
"Captain John Smith has been styled the father of his country. His life
was saved by his daughter Pochahantas.
"The Puritans found an insane asylum in the wilds of America.
"The Stamp Act was to make everybody stamp all materials so they should
be null and void.
"Washington died in Spain almost broken-hearted. His remains were taken
to the cathedral in Havana.
"Gorilla warfare was where men rode on gorillas."
In Brooklyn, as in India, they examine a pupil, and when they find out he
doesn't know anything, they put him into literature, or geometry, or
astronomy, or government, or something like that, so that he can properly
display the assification of the whole system
"'Bracebridge Hall' was written by Henry Irving.
"Edgar A. Poe was a very curdling writer.
"Beowulf wrote the Scriptures.
"Ben Johnson survived Shakespeare in some respects.
"In the 'Canterbury Tale' it gives account of King Alfred on his way to
the shrine of Thomas Bucket.
"Chaucer was the father of English pottery.
"Chaucer was succeeded by H. Wads. Longfellow."
We will finish with a couple of samples of "literature," one from
America, the other from India. The first is a Brooklyn public-school
boy's attempt to turn a few verses of the "Lady of the Lake" into prose.
You will have to concede that he did it:
"The man who rode on the horse performed the whip and an instrument made
of steel alone with strong ardor not diminishing, for, being tired from
the time passed with hard labor overworked with anger and ignorant with
weariness, while every breath for labor lie drew with cries full of
sorrow, the young deer made imperfect who worked hard filtered in sight."
The following paragraph is from a little book which is famous in India-
the biography of a distinguished Hindoo judge, Onoocool Chunder
Mookerjee; it was written by his nephew, and is unintentionally funny-in
fact, exceedingly so. I offer here the closing scene. If you would like
to sample the rest of the book, it can be had by applying to the
publishers, Messrs. Thacker, Spink & Co., Calcutta
"And having said these words he hermetically sealed his lips not to
open them again. All the well-known doctors of Calcutta that could
be procured for a man of his position and wealth were brought,--
Doctors Payne, Fayrer, and Nilmadhub Mookerjee and others; they did
what they could do, with their puissance and knack of medical
knowledge, but it proved after all as if to milk the ram! His wife
and children had not the mournful consolation to hear his last
words; he remained sotto voce for a few hours, and then was taken
from us at 6.12 P.m. according to the caprice of God which passeth
There are no people who are quite so vulgar as the over-refined ones.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
We sailed from Calcutta toward the end of March; stopped a day at Madras;
two or three days in Ceylon; then sailed westward on a long flight for
Mauritius. From my diary:
April 7. We are far abroad upon the smooth waters of the Indian Ocean,
now; it is shady and pleasant and peaceful under the vast spread of the
awnings, and life is perfect again--ideal.
The difference between a river and the sea is, that the river looks
fluid, the sea solid--usually looks as if you could step out and walk on
The captain has this peculiarity--he cannot tell the truth in a plausible
way. In this he is the very opposite of the austere Scot who sits midway
of the table; he cannot tell a lie in an unplausible way. When the
captain finishes a statement the passengers glance at each other
privately, as who should say, "Do you believe that?" When the Scot
finishes one, the look says, "How strange and interesting." The whole
secret is in the manner and method of the two men. The captain is a
little shy and diffident, and he states the simplest fact as if he were a
little afraid of it, while the Scot delivers himself of the most
abandoned lie with such an air of stern veracity that one is forced to
believe it although one knows it isn't so. For instance, the Scot told
about a pet flying-fish he once owned, that lived in a little fountain in
his conservatory, and supported itself by catching birds and frogs and
rats in the neighboring fields. It was plain that no one at the table
doubted this statement.
By and by, in the course of some talk about custom-house annoyances, the
captain brought out the following simple everyday incident, but through
his infirmity of style managed to tell it in such a way that it got no
credence. He said:
"I went ashore at Naples one voyage when I was in that trade, and
stood around helping my passengers, for I could speak a little
Italian. Two or three times, at intervals, the officer asked me if
I had anything dutiable about me, and seemed more and more put out
and disappointed every time I told him no. Finally a passenger whom
I had helped through asked me to come out and take something. I
thanked him, but excused myself, saying I had taken a whisky just
before I came ashore.
"It was a fatal admission. The officer at once made me pay sixpence
import-duty on the whisky-just from ship to shore, you see; and he
fined me L5 for not declaring the goods, another L5 for falsely
denying that I had anything dutiable about me, also L5 for
concealing the goods, and L50 for smuggling, which is the maximum
penalty for unlawfully bringing in goods under the value of
sevenpence ha'penny. Altogether, sixty-five pounds sixpence for a
little thing like that."
The Scot is always believed, yet he never tells anything but lies;
whereas the captain is never believed, although he never tells a lie, so
far as I can judge. If he should say his uncle was a male person, he
would probably say it in such a way that nobody would believe it; at the
same time the Scot could claim that he had a female uncle and not stir a
doubt in anybody's mind. My own luck has been curious all my literary
life; I never could tell a lie that anybody would doubt, nor a truth that
anybody would believe.
Lots of pets on board--birds and things. In these far countries the
white people do seem to run remarkably to pets. Our host in Cawnpore had
a fine collection of birds--the finest we saw in a private house in
India. And in Colombo, Dr. Murray's great compound and commodious
bungalow were well populated with domesticated company from the woods:
frisky little squirrels; a Ceylon mina walking sociably about the house;
a small green parrot that whistled a single urgent note of call without
motion of its beak; also chuckled; a monkey in a cage on the back
veranda, and some more out in the trees; also a number of beautiful
macaws in the trees; and various and sundry birds and animals of breeds
not known to me. But no cat. Yet a cat would have liked that place.
April 9. Tea-planting is the great business in Ceylon, now. A passenger
says it often pays 40 per cent. on the investment. Says there is a boom.
April 10. The sea is a Mediterranean blue; and I believe that that is
about the divinest color known to nature.
It is strange and fine--Nature's lavish generosities to her creatures.
At least to all of them except man. For those that fly she has provided
a home that is nobly spacious--a home which is forty miles deep and
envelops the whole globe, and has not an obstruction in it. For those
that swim she has provided a more than imperial domain--a domain which is
miles deep and covers four-fifths of the globe. But as for man, she has
cut him off with the mere odds and ends of the creation. She has given
him the thin skin, the meagre skin which is stretched over the remaining
one-fifth--the naked bones stick up through it in most places. On the
one-half of this domain he can raise snow, ice, sand, rocks, and nothing
else. So the valuable part of his inheritance really consists of but a
single fifth of the family estate; and out of it he has to grub hard to
get enough to keep him alive and provide kings and soldiers and powder to
extend the blessings of civilization with. Yet man, in his simplicity
and complacency and inability to cipher, thinks Nature regards him as the
important member of the family--in fact, her favorite. Surely, it must
occur to even his dull head, sometimes, that she has a curious way of
Afternoon. The captain has been telling how, in one of his Arctic
voyages, it was so cold that the mate's shadow froze fast to the deck and
had to be ripped loose by main strength. And even then he got only about
two-thirds of it back. Nobody said anything, and the captain went away.
I think he is becoming disheartened . . . . Also, to be fair, there
is another word of praise due to this ship's library: it contains no copy
of the Vicar of Wakefield, that strange menagerie of complacent
hypocrites and idiots, of theatrical cheap-john heroes and heroines, who
are always showing off, of bad people who are not interesting, and good
people who are fatiguing. A singular book. Not a sincere line in it,
and not a character that invites respect; a book which is one long waste-
pipe discharge of goody-goody puerilities and dreary moralities; a book
which is full of pathos which revolts, and humor which grieves the heart.
There are few things in literature that are more piteous, more pathetic,
than the celebrated "humorous" incident of Moses and the spectacles.
Jane Austen's books, too, are absent from this library. Just that one
omission alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that
hadn't a book in it.
Customs in tropic seas. At 5 in the morning they pipe to wash down the
decks, and at once the ladies who are sleeping there turn out and they
and their beds go below. Then one after another the men come up from the
bath in their pyjamas, and walk the decks an hour or two with bare legs
and bare feet. Coffee and fruit served. The ship cat and her kitten now
appear and get about their toilets; next the barber comes and flays us on
the breezy deck. Breakfast at 9.30, and the day begins. I do not know
how a day could be more reposeful: no motion; a level blue sea; nothing
in sight from horizon to horizon; the speed of the ship furnishes a
cooling breeze; there is no mail to read and answer; no newspapers to
excite you; no telegrams to fret you or fright you--the world is far, far
away; it has ceased to exist for you--seemed a fading dream, along in the
first days; has dissolved to an unreality now; it is gone from your mind
with all its businesses and ambitions, its prosperities and disasters,
its exultations and despairs, its joys and griefs and cares and worries.
They are no concern of yours any more; they have gone out of your life;
they are a storm which has passed and left a deep calm behind. The
people group themselves about the decks in their snowy white linen, and
read, smoke, sew, play cards, talk, nap, and so on. In other ships the
passengers are always ciphering about when they are going to arrive; out
in these seas it is rare, very rare, to hear that subject broached. In
other ships there is always an eager rush to the bulletin board at noon
to find out what the "run" has been; in these seas the bulletin seems to
attract no interest; I have seen no one visit it; in thirteen days I have
visited it only once. Then I happened to notice the figures of the day's
run. On that day there happened to be talk, at dinner, about the speed
of modern ships. I was the only passenger present who knew this ship's
gait. Necessarily, the Atlantic custom of betting on the ship's run is
not a custom here--nobody ever mentions it.
I myself am wholly indifferent as to when we are going to "get in"; if
any one else feels interested in the matter he has not indicated it in my
hearing. If I had my way we should never get in at all. This sort of
sea life is charged with an indestructible charm. There is no weariness,
no fatigue, no worry, no responsibility, no work, no depression of
spirits. There is nothing like this serenity, this comfort, this peace,
this deep contentment, to be found anywhere on land. If I had my way I
would sail on for ever and never go to live on the solid ground again.
One of Kipling's ballads has delivered the aspect and sentiment of this
bewitching sea correctly:
"The Injian Ocean sets an' smiles
So sof', so bright, so bloomin' blue;
There aren't a wave for miles an' miles
Excep' the jiggle from the screw."
April 14. It turns out that the astronomical apprentice worked off a
section of the Milky Way on me for the Magellan Clouds. A man of more
experience in the business showed one of them to me last night. It was
small and faint and delicate, and looked like the ghost of a bunch of
white smoke left floating in the sky by an exploded bombshell.
Wednesday, April 15. Mauritius. Arrived and anchored off Port Louis
2 A. M. Rugged clusters of crags and peaks, green to their summits; from
their bases to the sea a green plain with just tilt enough to it to make
the water drain off. I believe it is in 56 E. and 22 S.--a hot tropical
country. The green plain has an inviting look; has scattering dwellings
nestling among the greenery. Scene of the sentimental adventure of Paul
Island under French control--which means a community which depends upon
quarantines, not sanitation, for its health.
Thursday, April 16. Went ashore in the forenoon at Port Louis, a little
town, but with the largest variety of nationalities and complexions we
have encountered yet. French, English, Chinese, Arabs, Africans with
wool, blacks with straight hair, East Indians, half-whites, quadroons--
and great varieties in costumes and colors.
Took the train for Curepipe at 1.30--two hours' run, gradually uphill.
What a contrast, this frantic luxuriance of vegetation, with the arid
plains of India; these architecturally picturesque crags and knobs and
miniature mountains, with the monotony of the Indian dead-levels.
A native pointed out a handsome swarthy man of grave and dignified
bearing, and said in an awed tone, "That is so-and-so; has held office of
one sort or another under this government for 37 years--he is known all
over this whole island and in the other countries of the world perhaps--
who knows? One thing is certain; you can speak his name anywhere in this
whole island, and you will find not one grown person that has not heard
it. It is a wonderful thing to be so celebrated; yet look at him; it
makes no change in him; he does not even seem to know it."
Curepipe (means Pincushion or Pegtown, probably). Sixteen miles (two
hours) by rail from Port Louis. At each end of every roof and on the
apex of every dormer window a wooden peg two feet high stands up; in some
cases its top is blunt, in others the peg is sharp and looks like a
toothpick. The passion for this humble ornament is universal.
Apparently, there has been only one prominent event in the history of
Mauritius, and that one didn't happen. I refer to the romantic sojourn
of Paul and Virginia here. It was that story that made Mauritius known
to the world, made the name familiar to everybody, the geographical
position of it to nobody.
A clergyman was asked to guess what was in a box on a table. It was a
vellum fan painted with the shipwreck, and was "one of Virginia's wedding
April 18. This is the only country in the world where the stranger is
not asked "How do you like this place?" This is indeed a large
distinction. Here the citizen does the talking about the country
himself; the stranger is not asked to help. You get all sorts of
information. From one citizen you gather the idea that Mauritius was
made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius.
Another one tells you that this is an exaggeration; that the two chief
villages, Port Louis and Curepipe, fall short of heavenly perfection;
that nobody lives in Port Louis except upon compulsion, and that Curepipe
is the wettest and rainiest place in the world. An English citizen said:
"In the early part of this century Mauritius was used by the French
as a basis from which to operate against England's Indian
merchantmen; so England captured the island and also the neighbor,
Bourbon, to stop that annoyance. England gave Bourbon back; the
government in London did not want any more possessions in the West
Indies. If the government had had a better quality of geography in
stock it would not have wasted Bourbon in that foolish way. A big
war will temporarily shut up the Suez Canal some day and the English
ships will have to go to India around the Cape of Good Hope again;
then England will have to have Bourbon and will take it.
"Mauritius was a crown colony until 20 years ago, with a governor
appointed by the Crown and assisted by a Council appointed by
himself; but Pope Hennessey came out as Governor then, and he worked
hard to get a part of the council made elective, and succeeded. So
now the whole council is French, and in all ordinary matters of
legislation they vote together and in the French interest, not the
English. The English population is very slender; it has not votes
enough to elect a legislator. Half a dozen rich French families
elect the legislature. Pope Hennessey was an Irishman, a Catholic,
a Home Ruler, M.P., a hater of England and the English, a very
troublesome person and a serious incumbrance at Westminster; so it
was decided to send him out to govern unhealthy countries, in hope
that something would happen to him. But nothing did. The first
experiment was not merely a failure, it was more than a failure. He
proved to be more of a disease himself than any he was sent to
encounter. The next experiment was here. The dark scheme failed
again. It was an off-season and there was nothing but measles here
at the time. Pope Hennessey's health was not affected. He worked
with the French and for the French and against the English, and he
made the English very tired and the French very happy, and lived to
have the joy of seeing the flag he served publicly hissed. His
memory is held in worshipful reverence and affection by the French.
"It is a land of extraordinary quarantines. They quarantine a ship
for anything or for nothing; quarantine her for 20 and even 30 days.
They once quarantined a ship because her captain had had the
smallpox when he was a boy. That and because he was English.
"The population is very small; small to insignificance. The
majority is East Indian; then mongrels; then negroes (descendants of
the slaves of the French times); then French; then English. There
was an American, but he is dead or mislaid. The mongrels are the
result of all kinds of mixtures; black and white, mulatto and white,
quadroon and white, octoroon and white. And so there is every shade
of complexion; ebony, old mahogany, horsechestnut, sorrel, molasses-
candy, clouded amber, clear amber, old-ivory white, new-ivory white,
fish-belly white--this latter the leprous complexion frequent with
the Anglo-Saxon long resident in tropical climates.
"You wouldn't expect a person to be proud of being a Mauritian, now
would you? But it is so. The most of them have never been out of
the island, and haven't read much or studied much, and they think
the world consists of three principal countries--Judaea, France, and
Mauritius; so they are very proud of belonging to one of the three
grand divisions of the globe. They think that Russia and Germany
are in England, and that England does not amount to much. They have
heard vaguely about the United States and the equator, but they
think both of them are monarchies. They think Mount Peter Botte is
the highest mountain in the world, and if you show one of them a
picture of Milan Cathedral he will swell up with satisfaction and
say that the idea of that jungle of spires was stolen from the
forest of peg-tops and toothpicks that makes the roofs of Curepipe
look so fine and prickly.
"There is not much trade in books. The newspapers educate and
entertain the people. Mainly the latter. They have two pages of
large-print reading-matter-one of them English, the other French.
The English page is a translation of the French one. The typography
is super-extra primitive--in this quality it has not its equal
anywhere. There is no proof-reader now; he is dead.
"Where do they get matter to fill up a page in this little island
lost in the wastes of the Indian Ocean? Oh, Madagascar. They
discuss Madagascar and France. That is the bulk. Then they chock
up the rest with advice to the Government. Also, slurs upon the
English administration. The papers are all owned and edited by
"The language of the country is French. Everybody speaks it--has
to. You have to know French particularly mongrel French, the patois
spoken by Tom, Dick, and Harry of the multiform complexions--or you
can't get along.
"This was a flourishing country in former days, for it made then and
still makes the best sugar in the world; but first the Suez Canal severed
it from the world and left it out in the cold and next the beetroot sugar
helped by bounties, captured the European markets. Sugar is the life of
Mauritius, and it is losing its grip. Its downward course was checked by
the depreciation of the rupee--for the planter pays wages in rupees but
sells his crop for gold--and the insurrection in Cuba and paralyzation of
the sugar industry there have given our prices here a life-saving lift;
but the outlook has nothing permanently favorable about it. It takes a
year to mature the canes--on the high ground three and six months longer
--and there is always a chance that the annual cyclone will rip the
profit out of the crop. In recent times a cyclone took the whole crop,
as you may say; and the island never saw a finer one. Some of the
noblest sugar estates in the island are in deep difficulties. A dozen of
them are investments of English capital; and the companies that own them
are at work now, trying to settle up and get out with a saving of half
the money they put in. You know, in these days, when a country begins to
introduce the tea culture, it means that its own specialty has gone back
on it. Look at Bengal; look at Ceylon. Well, they've begun to introduce
the tea culture, here.
"Many copies of Paul and Virginia are sold every year in Mauritius. No
other book is so popular here except the Bible. By many it is supposed
to be a part of the Bible. All the missionaries work up their French on
it when they come here to pervert the Catholic mongrel. It is the
greatest story that was ever written about Mauritius, and the only one."
The principal difference between a cat and a lie is that the cat has only
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
April 20.--The cyclone of 1892 killed and crippled hundreds of people;
it was accompanied by a deluge of rain, which drowned Port Louis and
produced a water famine. Quite true; for it burst the reservoir and the
water-pipes; and for a time after the flood had disappeared there was
much distress from want of water.
This is the only place in the world where no breed of matches can stand
the damp. Only one match in 16 will light.
The roads are hard and smooth; some of the compounds are spacious, some
of the bungalows commodious, and the roadways are walled by tall bamboo
hedges, trim and green and beautiful; and there are azalea hedges, too,
both the white and the red; I never saw that before.
As to healthiness: I translate from to-day's (April 20) Merchants' and
Planters' Gazette, from the article of a regular contributor, "Carminge,"
concerning the death of the nephew of a prominent citizen:
"Sad and lugubrious existence, this which we lead in Mauritius; I
believe there is no other country in the world where one dies more
easily than among us. The least indisposition becomes a mortal
malady; a simple headache develops into meningitis; a cold into
pneumonia, and presently, when we are least expecting it, death is a
guest in our home."
This daily paper has a meteorological report which tells you what the
weather was day before yesterday.
One is clever pestered by a beggar or a peddler in this town, so far as I
can see. This is pleasantly different from India.
April 22. To such as believe that the quaint product called French
civilization would be an improvement upon the civilization of New Guinea
and the like, the snatching of Madagascar and the laying on of French
civilization there will be fully justified. But why did the English
allow the French to have Madagascar? Did she respect a theft of a couple
of centuries ago? Dear me, robbery by European nations of each other's
territories has never been a sin, is not a sin to-day. To the several
cabinets the several political establishments of the world are
clotheslines; and a large part of the official duty of these cabinets is
to keep an eye on each other's wash and grab what they can of it as
opportunity offers. All the territorial possessions of all the political
establishments in the earth--including America, of course--consist of
pilferings from other people's wash. No tribe, howsoever insignificant,
and no nation, howsoever mighty, occupies a foot of land that was not
stolen. When the English, the French, and the Spaniards reached America,
the Indian tribes had been raiding each other's territorial clothes-lines
for ages, and every acre of ground in the continent had been stolen and
re-stolen 500 times. The English, the French, and the Spaniards went to
work and stole it all over again; and when that was satisfactorily
accomplished they went diligently to work and stole it from each other.
In Europe and Asia and Africa every acre of ground has been stolen
several millions of times. A crime persevered in a thousand centuries
ceases to be a crime, and becomes a virtue. This is the law of custom,
and custom supersedes all other forms of law. Christian governments are
as frank to-day, as open and above-board, in discussing projects for
raiding each other's clothes-lines as ever they were before the Golden
Rule came smiling into this inhospitable world and couldn't get a night's
lodging anywhere. In 150 years England has beneficently retired garment
after garment from the Indian lines, until there is hardly a rag of the
original wash left dangling anywhere. In 800 years an obscure tribe of
Muscovite savages has risen to the dazzling position of Land-Robber-in-
Chief; she found a quarter of the world hanging out to dry on a hundred
parallels of latitude, and she scooped in the whole wash. She keeps a
sharp eye on a multitude of little lines that stretch along the northern
boundaries of India, and every now and then she snatches a hip-rag or a
pair of pyjamas. It is England's prospective property, and Russia knows
it; but Russia cares nothing for that. In fact, in our day land-robbery,
claim-jumping, is become a European governmental frenzy. Some have been
hard at it in the borders of China, in Burma, in Siam, and the islands of
the sea; and all have been at it in Africa. Africa has been as coolly
divided up and portioned out among the gang as if they had bought it and
paid for it. And now straightway they are beginning the old game again--
to steal each other's grabbings. Germany found a vast slice of Central
Africa with the English flag and the English missionary and the English
trader scattered all over it, but with certain formalities neglected--no
signs up, "Keep off the grass," "Trespassers-forbidden," etc.--and she
stepped in with a cold calm smile and put up the signs herself, and swept
those English pioneers promptly out of the country.
There is a tremendous point there. It can be put into the form of a
maxim: Get your formalities right--never mind about the moralities.
It was an impudent thing; but England had to put up with it. Now, in the
case of Madagascar, the formalities had originally been observed, but by
neglect they had fallen into desuetude ages ago. England should have
snatched Madagascar from the French clothes-line. Without an effort she
could have saved those harmless natives from the calamity of French
civilization, and she did not do it. Now it is too late.
The signs of the times show plainly enough what is going to happen. All
the savage lands in the world are going to be brought under subjection to
the Christian governments of Europe. I am not sorry, but glad. This
coming fate might have been a calamity to those savage peoples two
hundred years ago; but now it will in some cases be a benefaction. The
sooner the seizure is consummated, the better for the savages.
The dreary and dragging ages of bloodshed and disorder and oppression
will give place to peace and order and the reign of law. When one
considers what India was under her Hindoo and Mohammedan rulers, and what
she is now; when he remembers the miseries of her millions then and the
protections and humanities which they enjoy now, he must concede that the
most fortunate thing that has ever befallen that empire was the
establishment of British supremacy there. The savage lands of the world
are to pass to alien possession, their peoples to the mercies of alien
rulers. Let us hope and believe that they will all benefit by the
April 23. "The first year they gather shells; the second year they
gather shells and drink; the third year they do not gather shells." (Said
of immigrants to Mauritius.)
Population 375,000. 120 sugar factories.
Population 1851, 185,000. The increase is due mainly to the introduction
of Indian coolies. They now apparently form the great majority of the
population. They are admirable breeders; their homes are always hazy
with children. Great savers of money. A British officer told me that in
India he paid his servant 10 rupees a month, and he had 11 cousins,
uncles, parents, etc., dependent upon him, and he supported them on his
wages. These thrifty coolies are said to be acquiring land a trifle at a
time, and cultivating it; and may own the island by and by.
The Indian women do very hard labor [for wages of (1/2 rupee)for twelve
hours' work.] They carry mats of sugar on their heads (70 pounds) all
day lading ships, for half a rupee, and work at gardening all day for
The camaron is a fresh water creature like a cray-fish. It is regarded
here as the world's chiefest delicacy--and certainly it is good. Guards
patrol the streams to prevent poaching it. A fine of Rs.200 or 300
(they say) for poaching. Bait is thrown in the water; the camaron goes
for it; the fisher drops his loop in and works it around and about the
camaron he has selected, till he gets it over its tail; then there's a
jerk or something to certify the camaron that it is his turn now; he
suddenly backs away, which moves the loop still further up his person and
draws it taut, and his days are ended.
Another dish, called palmiste, is like raw turnip-shavings and tastes
like green almonds; is very delicate and good. Costs the life of a palm
tree 12 to 20 years old--for it is the pith.
Another dish--looks like greens or a tangle of fine seaweed--is a
preparation of the deadly nightshade. Good enough.
The monkeys live in the dense forests on the flanks of the toy mountains,
and they flock down nights and raid the sugar-fields. Also on other
estates they come down and destroy a sort of bean-crop--just for fun,
apparently--tear off the pods and throw them down.
The cyclone of 1892 tore down two great blocks of stone buildings in the
center of Port Louis--the chief architectural feature-and left the
uncomely and apparently frail blocks standing. Everywhere in its track
it annihilated houses, tore off roofs, destroyed trees and crops. The
men were in the towns, the women and children at home in the country
getting crippled, killed, frightened to insanity; and the rain deluging
them, the wind howling, the thunder crashing, the lightning glaring.
This for an hour or so. Then a lull and sunshine; many ventured out of
safe shelter; then suddenly here it came again from the opposite point
and renewed and completed the devastation. It is said the Chinese fed
the sufferers for days on free rice.
Whole streets in Port Louis were laid flat--wrecked. During a minute and
a half the wind blew 123 miles an hour; no official record made after
that, when it may have reached 150. It cut down an obelisk. It carried
an American ship into the woods after breaking the chains of two anchors.
They now use four-two forward, two astern. Common report says it killed
1,200 in Port Louis alone, in half an hour. Then came the lull of the
central calm--people did not know the barometer was still going down--
then suddenly all perdition broke loose again while people were rushing
around seeking friends and rescuing the wounded. The noise was
comparable to nothing; there is nothing resembling it but thunder and
cannon, and these are feeble in comparison.
What there is of Mauritius is beautiful. You have undulating wide
expanses of sugar-cane--a fine, fresh green and very pleasant to the eye;
and everywhere else you have a ragged luxuriance of tropic vegetation of
vivid greens of varying shades, a wild tangle of underbrush, with
graceful tall palms lifting their crippled plumes high above it; and you
have stretches of shady dense forest with limpid streams frolicking
through them, continually glimpsed and lost and glimpsed again in the
pleasantest hide-and-seek fashion; and you have some tiny mountains, some
quaint and picturesque groups of toy peaks, and a dainty little vest-
pocket Matterhorn; and here and there and now and then a strip of sea
with a white ruffle of surf breaks into the view.
That is Mauritius; and pretty enough. The details are few, the massed
result is charming, but not imposing; not riotous, not exciting; it is a
Sunday landscape. Perspective, and the enchantments wrought by distance,
are wanting. There are no distances; there is no perspective, so to
speak. Fifteen miles as the crow flies is the usual limit of vision.
Mauritius is a garden and a park combined. It affects one's emotions as
parks and gardens affect them. The surfaces of one's spiritual deeps are
pleasantly played upon, the deeps themselves are not reached, not
stirred. Spaciousness, remote altitudes, the sense of mystery which
haunts apparently inaccessible mountain domes and summits reposing in the
sky--these are the things which exalt the spirit and move it to see
visions and dream dreams.
The Sandwich Islands remain my ideal of the perfect thing in the matter
of tropical islands. I would add another story to Mauna Loa's 16,000
feet if I could, and make it particularly bold and steep and craggy and
forbidding and snowy; and I would make the volcano spout its lava-floods
out of its summit instead of its sides; but aside from these non-
essentials I have no corrections to suggest. I hope these will be
attended to; I do not wish to have to speak of it again.
When your watch gets out of order you have choice of two things to do:
throw it in the fire or take it to the watch-tinker. The former is the
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
The Arundel Castle is the finest boat I have seen in these seas. She is
thoroughly modern, and that statement covers a great deal of ground. She
has the usual defect, the common defect, the universal defect, the defect
that has never been missing from any ship that ever sailed--she has
imperfect beds. Many ships have good beds, but no ship has very good
ones. In the matter of beds all ships have been badly edited, ignorantly
edited, from the beginning. The selection of the beds is given to some
hearty, strong-backed, self-made man, when it ought to be given to a
frail woman accustomed from girlhood to backaches and insomnia. Nothing
is so rare, on either side of the ocean, as a perfect bed; nothing is so
difficult to make. Some of the hotels on both sides provide it, but no
ship ever does or ever did. In Noah's Ark the beds were simply
scandalous. Noah set the fashion, and it will endure in one degree of
modification or another till the next flood.
8 A.M. Passing Isle de Bourbon. Broken-up sky-line of volcanic
mountains in the middle. Surely it would not cost much to repair them,
and it seems inexcusable neglect to leave them as they are.
It seems stupid to send tired men to Europe to rest. It is no proper
rest for the mind to clatter from town to town in the dust and cinders,
and examine galleries and architecture, and be always meeting people and
lunching and teaing and dining, and receiving worrying cables and
letters. And a sea voyage on the Atlantic is of no use--voyage too
short, sea too rough. The peaceful Indian and Pacific Oceans and the
long stretches of time are the healing thing.
May 2, AM. A fair, great ship in sight, almost the first we have seen in
these weeks of lonely voyaging. We are now in the Mozambique Channel,
between Madagascar and South Africa, sailing straight west for Delagoa
Last night, the burly chief engineer, middle-aged, was standing telling a
spirited seafaring tale, and had reached the most exciting place, where a
man overboard was washing swiftly astern on the great seas, and uplifting
despairing cries, everybody racing aft in a frenzy of excitement and
fading hope, when the band, which had been silent a moment, began
impressively its closing piece, the English national anthem. As simply
as if he was unconscious of what he was doing, he stopped his story,
uncovered, laid his laced cap against his breast, and slightly bent his
grizzled head. The few bars finished, he put on his cap and took up his
tale again, as naturally as if that interjection of music had been a part
of it. There was something touching and fine about it, and it was moving
to reflect that he was one of a myriad, scattered over every part of the
globe, who by turn was doing as he was doing every hour of the twenty-
four--those awake doing it while the others slept--those impressive bars
forever floating up out of the various climes, never silent and never
lacking reverent listeners.
All that I remember about Madagascar is that Thackeray's little Billie
went up to the top of the mast and there knelt him upon his knee, saying,
"Jerusalem and Madagascar,
And North and South Amerikee."
May 3. Sunday. Fifteen or twenty Africanders who will end their voyage
to-day and strike for their several homes from Delagoa Bay to-morrow, sat
up singing on the afterdeck in the moonlight till 3 A.M. Good fun and
wholesome. And the songs were clean songs, and some of them were
hallowed by tender associations. Finally, in a pause, a man asked, "Have
you heard about the fellow that kept a diary crossing the Atlantic?"
It was a discord, a wet blanket. The men were not in the mood for
humorous dirt. The songs had carried them to their homes, and in spirit
they sat by those far hearthstones, and saw faces and heard voices other
than those that were about them. And so this disposition to drag in an
old indecent anecdote got no welcome; nobody answered. The poor man
hadn't wit enough to see that he had blundered, but asked his question
again. Again there was no response. It was embarrassing for him. In
his confusion he chose the wrong course, did the wrong thing--began the
anecdote. Began it in a deep and hostile stillness, where had been such
life and stir and warm comradeship before. He delivered himself of the
brief details of the diary's first day, and did it with some confidence
and a fair degree of eagerness. It fell flat. There was an awkward
pause. The two rows of men sat like statues. There was no movement, no
sound. He had to go on; there was no other way, at least none that an
animal of his calibre could think of. At the close of each day's diary,
the same dismal silence followed. When at last he finished his tale and
sprung the indelicate surprise which is wont to fetch a crash of
laughter, not a ripple of sound resulted. It was as if the tale had been
told to dead men. After what seemed a long, long time, somebody sighed,
somebody else stirred in his seat; presently, the men dropped into a low
murmur of confidential talk, each with his neighbor, and the incident was
closed. There were indications that that man was fond of his anecdote;
that it was his pet, his standby, his shot that never missed, his
reputation-maker. But he will never tell it again. No doubt he will
think of it sometimes, for that cannot well be helped; and then he will
see a picture, and always the same picture--the double rank of dead men;
the vacant deck stretching away in dimming perspective beyond them, the
wide desert of smooth sea all abroad; the rim of the moon spying from
behind a rag of black cloud; the remote top of the mizzenmast shearing a
zigzag path through the fields of stars in the deeps of space; and this
soft picture will remind him of the time that he sat in the midst of it
and told his poor little tale and felt so lonesome when he got through.
Fifty Indians and Chinamen asleep in a big tent in the waist of the ship
forward; they lie side by side with no space between; the former wrapped
up, head and all, as in the Indian streets, the Chinamen uncovered; the
lamp and things for opium smoking in the center.
A passenger said it was ten 2-ton truck loads of dynamite that lately
exploded at Johannesburg. Hundreds killed; he doesn't know how many;
limbs picked up for miles around. Glass shattered, and roofs swept away
or collapsed 200 yards off; fragment of iron flung three and a half
It occurred at 3 p.m.; at 6, L65,000 had been subscribed. When this
passenger left, L35,000 had been voted by city and state governments and
L100,000 by citizens and business corporations. When news of the
disaster was telephoned to the Exchange L35,000 were subscribed in the
first five minutes. Subscribing was still going on when he left; the
papers had ceased the names, only the amounts--too many names; not enough
room. L100,000 subscribed by companies and citizens; if this is true, it
must be what they call in Australia "a record"--the biggest instance of a
spontaneous outpour for charity in history, considering the size of the
population it was drawn from, $8 or $10 for each white resident, babies
at the breast included.
Monday, May 4. Steaming slowly in the stupendous Delagoa Bay, its dim
arms stretching far away and disappearing on both sides. It could
furnish plenty of room for all the ships in the world, but it is shoal.
The lead has given us 3 1/2 fathoms several times and we are drawing
that, lacking 6 inches.
A bold headland--precipitous wall, 150 feet high, very strong, red color,
stretching a mile or so. A man said it was Portuguese blood--battle
fought here with the natives last year. I think this doubtful. Pretty
cluster of houses on the tableland above the red-and rolling stretches of
grass and groups of trees, like England.
The Portuguese have the railroad (one passenger train a day) to the
border--70 miles--then the Netherlands Company have it. Thousands of
tons of freight on the shore--no cover. This is Portuguese allover--
indolence, piousness, poverty, impotence.
Crews of small boats and tugs, all jet black woolly heads and very
Winter. The South African winter is just beginning now, but nobody but
an expert can tell it from summer. However, I am tired of summer; we
have had it unbroken for eleven months. We spent the afternoon on shore,
Delagoa Bay. A small town--no sights. No carriages. Three 'rickshas,
but we couldn't get them--apparently private. These Portuguese are a
rich brown, like some of the Indians. Some of the blacks have the long
horse beads and very long chins of the negroes of the picture books; but
most of them are exactly like the negroes of our Southern States round
faces, flat noses, good-natured, and easy laughers.
Flocks of black women passed along, carrying outrageously heavy bags of
freight on their heads. The quiver of their leg as the foot was planted
and the strain exhibited by their bodies showed what a tax upon their
strength the load was. They were stevedores and doing full stevedores
work. They were very erect when unladden--from carrying heavy loads on
their heads--just like the Indian women. It gives them a proud fine
Sometimes one saw a woman carrying on her head a laden and top-heavy
basket the shape of an inverted pyramid-its top the size of a soup-plate,
its base the diameter of a teacup. It required nice balancing--and got
No bright colors; yet there were a good many Hindoos.
The Second Class Passenger came over as usual at "lights out" (11) and we
lounged along the spacious vague solitudes of the deck and smoked the
peaceful pipe and talked. He told me an incident in Mr. Barnum's life
which was evidently characteristic of that great showman in several ways:
This was Barnum's purchase of Shakespeare's birthplace, a quarter of a
century ago. The Second Class Passenger was in Jamrach's employ at the
time and knew Barnum well. He said the thing began in this way. One
morning Barnum and Jamrach were in Jamrach's little private snuggery back
of the wilderness of caged monkeys and snakes and other commonplaces of
Jamrach's stock in trade, refreshing themselves after an arduous stroke
of business, Jamrach with something orthodox, Barnum with something
heterodox--for Barnum was a teetotaler. The stroke of business was in
the elephant line. Jamrach had contracted to deliver to Barnum in New
York 18 elephants for $360,000 in time for the next season's opening.
Then it occurred to Mr. Barnum that he needed a "card" He suggested
Jumbo. Jamrach said he would have to think of something else--Jumbo
couldn't be had; the Zoo wouldn't part with that elephant. Barnum said
he was willing to pay a fortune for Jumbo if he could get him. Jamrach
said it was no use to think about it; that Jumbo was as popular as the
Prince of Wales and the Zoo wouldn't dare to sell him; all England would
be outraged at the idea; Jumbo was an English institution; he was part of
the national glory; one might as well think of buying the Nelson
monument. Barnum spoke up with vivacity and said:
"It's a first-rate idea. I'll buy the Monument."
Jamrach was speechless for a second. Then he said, like one ashamed
"You caught me. I was napping. For a moment I thought you were in
Barnum said pleasantly--
"I was in earnest. I know they won't sell it, but no matter, I will not
throw away a good idea for all that. All I want is a big advertisement.
I will keep the thing in mind, and if nothing better turns up I will
offer to buy it. That will answer every purpose. It will furnish me a
couple of columns of gratis advertising in every English and American
paper for a couple of months, and give my show the biggest boom a show
ever had in this world."
Jamrach started to deliver a burst of admiration, but was interrupted by
Barnum, who said:
"Here is a state of things! England ought to blush."
His eye had fallen upon something in the newspaper. He read it through
to himself, then read it aloud. It said that the house that Shakespeare
was born in at Stratford-on-Avon was falling gradually to ruin through
neglect; that the room where the poet first saw the light was now serving
as a butcher's shop; that all appeals to England to contribute money (the
requisite sum stated) to buy and repair the house and place it in the
care of salaried and trustworthy keepers had fallen resultless. Then
"There's my chance. Let Jumbo and the Monument alone for the present-
they'll keep. I'll buy Shakespeare's house. I'll set it up in my Museum
in New York and put a glass case around it and make a sacred thing of it;
and you'll see all America flock there to worship; yes, and pilgrims from
the whole earth; and I'll make them take their hats off, too. In America
we know how to value anything that Shakespeare's touch has made holy.
In conclusion the S. C. P. said:
"That is the way the thing came about. Barnum did buy Shakespeare's
house. He paid the price asked, and received the properly attested
documents of sale. Then there was an explosion, I can tell you. England
rose! That, the birthplace of the master-genius of all the ages and all
the climes--that priceless possession of Britain--to be carted out of the
country like so much old lumber and set up for sixpenny desecration in a
Yankee show-shop--the idea was not to be tolerated for a moment. England
rose in her indignation; and Barnum was glad to relinquish his prize and
offer apologies. However, he stood out for a compromise; he claimed a
concession--England must let him have Jumbo. And England consented, but
It shows how, by help of time, a story can grow--even after Barnum has
had the first innings in the telling of it. Mr. Barnum told me the story
himself, years ago. He said that the permission to buy Jumbo was not a
concession; the purchase was made and the animal delivered before the
public knew anything about it. Also, that the securing of Jumbo was all
the advertisement he needed. It produced many columns of newspaper talk,
free of cost, and he was satisfied. He said that if he had failed to get
Jumbo he would have caused his notion of buying the Nelson Monument to be
treacherously smuggled into print by some trusty friend, and after he had
gotten a few hundred pages of gratuitous advertising out of it, he would
have come out with a blundering, obtuse, but warm-hearted letter of
apology, and in a postscript to it would have naively proposed to let the
Monument go, and take Stonehenge in place of it at the same price.
It was his opinion that such a letter, written with well-simulated
asinine innocence and gush would have gotten his ignorance and stupidity
an amount of newspaper abuse worth six fortunes to him, and not
purchasable for twice the money.
I knew Mr. Barnum well, and I placed every confidence in the account
which he gave me of the Shakespeare birthplace episode. He said he found
the house neglected and going-to decay, and he inquired into the matter
and was told that many times earnest efforts had been made to raise money
for its proper repair and preservation, but without success. He then
proposed to buy it. The proposition was entertained, and a price named--
$50,000, I think; but whatever it was, Barnum paid the money down,
without remark, and the papers were drawn up and executed. He said that
it had been his purpose to set up the house in his Museum, keep it in
repair, protect it from name-scribblers and other desecrators, and leave
it by bequest to the safe and perpetual guardianship of the Smithsonian
Institute at Washington.
But as soon as it was found that Shakespeare's house had passed into
foreign hands and was going to be carried across the ocean, England was
stirred as no appeal from the custodians of the relic had ever stirred
England before, and protests came flowing in--and money, too, to stop the
outrage. Offers of repurchase were made--offers of double the money that
Mr. Barnum had paid for the house. He handed the house back, but took
only the sum which it had cost him--but on the condition that an
endowment sufficient for the future safeguarding and maintenance of the
sacred relic should be raised. This condition was fulfilled.
That was Barnum's account of the episode; and to the end of his days he
claimed with pride and satisfaction that not England, but America--
represented by him--saved the birthplace of Shakespeare from destruction.
At 3 P.M., May 6th, the ship slowed down, off the land, and thoughtfully
and cautiously picked her way into the snug harbor of Durban, South
In statesmanship get the formalities right, never mind about the
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Royal Hotel. Comfortable, good table, good service of natives and
Madrasis. Curious jumble of modern and ancient city and village,
primitiveness and the other thing. Electric bells, but they don't ring.
Asked why they didn't, the watchman in the office said he thought they
must be out of order; he thought so because some of them rang, but most
of them didn't. Wouldn't it be a good idea to put them in order? He
hesitated--like one who isn't quite sure--then conceded the point.
May 7. A bang on the door at 6. Did I want my boots cleaned? Fifteen
minutes later another bang. Did we want coffee? Fifteen later, bang
again, my wife's bath ready; 15 later, my bath ready. Two other bangs;
I forget what they were about. Then lots of shouting back and forth,
among the servants just as in an Indian hotel.
Evening. At 4 P.M. it was unpleasantly warm. Half-hour after sunset
one needed a spring overcoat; by 8 a winter one.
Durban is a neat and clean town. One notices that without having his
attention called to it.
Rickshaws drawn by splendidly built black Zulus, so overflowing with
strength, seemingly, that it is a pleasure, not a pain, to see them
snatch a rickshaw along. They smile and laugh and show their teeth--a
good-natured lot. Not allowed to drink; 2s per hour for one person; 3s
for two; 3d for a course--one person.
The chameleon in the hotel court. He is fat and indolent and
contemplative; but is business-like and capable when a fly comes about-
reaches out a tongue like a teaspoon and takes him in. He gums his
tongue first. He is always pious, in his looks. And pious and thankful
both, when Providence or one of us sends him a fly. He has a froggy
head, and a back like a new grave--for shape; and hands like a bird's
toes that have been frostbitten. But his eyes are his exhibition
feature. A couple of skinny cones project from the sides of his head,
with a wee shiny bead of an eye set in the apex of each; and these cones
turn bodily like pivot-guns and point every-which-way, and they are
independent of each other; each has its own exclusive machinery. When I
am behind him and C. in front of him, he whirls one eye rearwards and the
other forwards--which gives him a most Congressional expression (one eye
on the constituency and one on the swag); and then if something happens
above and below him he shoots out one eye upward like a telescope and the
other downward--and this changes his expression, but does not improve it.
Natives must not be out after the curfew bell without a pass. In Natal
there are ten blacks to one white.
Sturdy plump creatures are the women. They comb their wool up to a peak
and keep it in position by stiffening it with brown-red clay--half of
this tower colored, denotes engagement; the whole of it colored denotes
None but heathen Zulus on the police; Christian ones not allowed.
May 9. A drive yesterday with friends over the Berea. Very fine roads
and lofty, overlooking the whole town, the harbor, and the sea-beautiful
views. Residences all along, set in the midst of green lawns with shrubs
and generally one or two intensely red outbursts of poinsettia--the
flaming splotch of blinding red a stunning contrast with the world of
surrounding green. The cactus tree--candelabrum-like; and one twisted
like gray writhing serpents. The "flat-crown" (should be flat-roof)--
half a dozen naked branches full of elbows, slant upward like artificial
supports, and fling a roof of delicate foliage out in a horizontal
platform as flat as a floor; and you look up through this thin floor as
through a green cobweb or veil. The branches are japanesich. All about
you is a bewildering variety of unfamiliar and beautiful trees; one sort
wonderfully dense foliage and very dark green--so dark that you notice it
at once, notwithstanding there are so many orange trees. The
"flamboyant"--not in flower, now, but when in flower lives up to its
name, we are told. Another tree with a lovely upright tassel scattered
among its rich greenery, red and glowing as a firecoal. Here and there a
gum-tree; half a dozen lofty Norfolk Island pines lifting their fronded
arms skyward. Groups of tall bamboo.
Saw one bird. Not many birds here, and they have no music--and the
flowers not much smell, they grow so fast.
Everything neat and trim and clean like the town. The loveliest trees
and the greatest variety I have ever seen anywhere, except approaching
Darjeeling. Have not heard anyone call Natal the garden of South Africa,
but that is what it probably is.
It was when Bishop of Natal that Colenso raised such a storm in the
religious world. The concerns of religion are a vital matter here yet.
A vigilant eye is kept upon Sunday. Museums and other dangerous resorts
are not allowed to be open. You may sail on the Bay, but it is wicked to
play cricket. For a while a Sunday concert was tolerated, upon condition
that it must be admission free and the money taken by collection. But
the collection was alarmingly large and that stopped the matter. They
are particular about babies. A clergyman would not bury a child
according to the sacred rites because it had not been baptized. The
Hindoo is more liberal. He burns no child under three, holding that it
does not need purifying.
The King of the Zulus, a fine fellow of 30, was banished six years ago
for a term of seven years. He is occupying Napoleon's old stand--St.
Helena. The people are a little nervous about having him come back, and
they may well be, for Zulu kings have been terrible people sometimes--
like Tchaka, Dingaan, and Cetewayo.
There is a large Trappist monastery two hours from Durban, over the
country roads, and in company with Mr. Milligan and Mr. Hunter, general
manager of the Natal government railways, who knew the heads of it, we
went out to see it.
There it all was, just as one reads about it in books and cannot believe
that it is so--I mean the rough, hard work, the impossible hours, the
scanty food, the coarse raiment, the Maryborough beds, the tabu of human
speech, of social intercourse, of relaxation, of amusement, of
entertainment, of the presence of woman in the men's establishment.
There it all was. It was not a dream, it was not a lie. And yet with
the fact before one's face it was still incredible. It is such a
sweeping suppression of human instincts, such an extinction of the man as
La Trappe must have known the human race well. The scheme which he
invented hunts out everything that a man wants and values--and withholds
it from him. Apparently there is no detail that can help make life worth
living that has not been carefully ascertained and placed out of the
Trappist's reach. La Trappe must have known that there were men who
would enjoy this kind of misery, but how did he find it out?
If he had consulted you or me he would have been told that his scheme
lacked too many attractions; that it was impossible; that it could never
be floated. But there in the monastery was proof that he knew the human
race better than it knew itself. He set his foot upon every desire that
a man has--yet he floated his project, and it has prospered for two
hundred years, and will go on prospering forever, no doubt.
Man likes personal distinction--there in the monastery it is obliterated.
He likes delicious food--there he gets beans and bread and tea, and not
enough of it. He likes to lie softly--there he lies on a sand mattress,
and has a pillow and a blanket, but no sheet. When he is dining, in a
great company of friends, he likes to laugh and chat--there a monk reads
a holy book aloud during meals, and nobody speaks or laughs. When a man
has a hundred friends about him, evenings, be likes to have a good time
and run late--there he and the rest go silently to bed at 8; and in the
dark, too; there is but a loose brown robe to discard, there are no
night-clothes to put on, a light is not needed. Man likes to lie abed
late there he gets up once or twice in the night to perform some
religious office, and gets up finally for the day at two in the morning.
Man likes light work or none at all--there he labors all day in the
field, or in the blacksmith shop or the other shops devoted to the
mechanical trades, such as shoemaking, saddlery, carpentry, and so on.
Man likes the society of girls and women--there he never has it. He
likes to have his children about him, and pet them and play with them--
there he has none. He likes billiards--there is no table there. He
likes outdoor sports and indoor dramatic and musical and social
entertainments--there are none there. He likes to bet on things--I was
told that betting is forbidden there. When a man's temper is up he likes
to pour it out upon somebody there this is not allowed. A man likes
animals--pets; there are none there. He likes to smoke--there he cannot
do it. He likes to read the news--no papers or magazines come there. A
man likes to know how his parents and brothers and sisters are getting
along when he is away, and if they miss him--there he cannot know. A man
likes a pretty house, and pretty furniture, and pretty things, and pretty
colors--there he has nothing but naked aridity and sombre colors. A man
likes--name it yourself: whatever it is, it is absent from that place.
From what I could learn, all that a man gets for this is merely the
saving of his soul.
It all seems strange, incredible, impossible. But La Trappe knew the
race. He knew the powerful attraction of unattractiveness; he knew that
no life could be imagined, howsoever comfortless and forbidding, but
somebody would want to try it.
This parent establishment of Germans began its work fifteen years ago,
strangers, poor, and unencouraged; it owns 15,000 acres of land now, and
raises grain and fruit, and makes wines, and manufactures all manner of
things, and has native apprentices in its shops, and sends them forth
able to read and write, and also well equipped to earn their living by
their trades. And this young establishment has set up eleven branches in
South Africa, and in them they are christianizing and educating and
teaching wage-yielding mechanical trades to 1,200 boys and girls.
Protestant Missionary work is coldly regarded by the commercial white
colonist all over the heathen world, as a rule, and its product is
nicknamed "rice-Christians" (occupationless incapables who join the
church for revenue only), but I think it would be difficult to pick a
flaw in the work of these Catholic monks, and I believe that the
disposition to attempt it has not shown itself.
Tuesday, May 12. Transvaal politics in a confused condition. First the
sentencing of the Johannesburg Reformers startled England by its
severity; on the top of this came Kruger's exposure of the cipher
correspondence, which showed that the invasion of the Transvaal, with the
design of seizing that country and adding it to the British Empire, was
planned by Cecil Rhodes and Beit--which made a revulsion in English
feeling, and brought out a storm against Rhodes and the Chartered Company
for degrading British honor. For a good while I couldn't seem to get at
a clear comprehension of it, it was so tangled. But at last by patient
study I have managed it, I believe. As I understand it, the Uitlanders
and other Dutchmen were dissatisfied because the English would not allow
them to take any part in the government except to pay taxes. Next, as I
understand it, Dr. Kruger and Dr. Jameson, not having been able to make
the medical business pay, made a raid into Matabeleland with the
intention of capturing the capital, Johannesburg, and holding the women
and children to ransom until the Uitlanders and the other Boers should
grant to them and the Chartered Company the political rights which had
been withheld from them. They would have succeeded in this great scheme,
as I understand it, but for the interference of Cecil Rhodes and Mr.
Beit, and other Chiefs of the Matabele, who persuaded their countrymen to
revolt and throw off their allegiance to Germany. This, in turn, as I
understand it, provoked the King of Abyssinia to destroy the Italian army
and fall back upon Johannesburg; this at the instigation of Rhodes, to
bull the stock market.
Every one is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
When I scribbled in my note-book a year ago the paragraph which ends the
preceding chapter, it was meant to indicate, in an extravagant form, two
things: the conflicting nature of the information conveyed by the citizen
to the stranger concerning South African politics, and the resulting
confusion created in the stranger's mind thereby.
But it does not seem so very extravagant now. Nothing could in that
disturbed and excited time make South African politics clear or quite
rational to the citizen of the country because his personal interest and
his political prejudices were in his way; and nothing could make those
politics clear or rational to the stranger, the sources of his
information being such as they were.
I was in South Africa some little time. When I arrived there the
political pot was boiling fiercely. Four months previously, Jameson had
plunged over the Transvaal border with about 600 armed horsemen at his
back, to go to the "relief of the women and children" of Johannesburg; on
the fourth day of his march the Boers had defeated him in battle, and
carried him and his men to Pretoria, the capital, as prisoners; the Boer
government had turned Jameson and his officers over to the British
government for trial, and shipped them to England; next, it had arrested
64 important citizens of Johannesburg as raid-conspirators, condemned
their four leaders to death, then commuted the sentences, and now the 64
were waiting, in jail, for further results. Before midsummer they were
all out excepting two, who refused to sign the petitions for release; 58
had been fined $10,000 each and enlarged, and the four leaders had gotten
off with fines of $125,000 each with permanent exile added, in one case.
Those were wonderfully interesting days for a stranger, and I was glad.
to be in the thick of the excitement. Everybody was talking, and I
expected to understand the whole of one side of it in a very little
I was disappointed. There were singularities, perplexities,
unaccountabilities about it which I was not able to master. I had no
personal access to Boers--their side was a secret to me, aside from what
I was able to gather of it from published statements. My sympathies were
soon with the Reformers in the Pretoria jail, with their friends, and
with their cause. By diligent inquiry in Johannesburg I found out--
apparently--all the details of their side of the quarrel except one--what
they expected to accomplish by an armed rising.
Nobody seemed to know.
The reason why the Reformers were discontented and wanted some changes
made, seemed quite clear. In Johannesburg it was claimed that the
Uitlanders (strangers, foreigners) paid thirteen-fifteenths of the
Transvaal taxes, yet got little or nothing for it. Their city had no
charter; it had no municipal government; it could levy no taxes for
drainage, water-supply, paving, cleaning, sanitation, policing. There
was a police force, but it was composed of Boers, it was furnished by the
State Government, and the city had no control over it. Mining was very
costly; the government enormously increased the cost by putting
burdensome taxes upon the mines, the output, the machinery, the
buildings; by burdensome imposts upon incoming materials; by burdensome
railway-freight-charges. Hardest of all to bear, the government reserved
to itself a monopoly in that essential thing, dynamite, and burdened it
with an extravagant price. The detested Hollander from over the water
held all the public offices. The government was rank with corruption.
The Uitlander had no vote, and must live in the State ten or twelve years
before he could get one. He was not represented in the Raad
(legislature) that oppressed him and fleeced him. Religion was not free.
There were no schools where the teaching was in English, yet the great
majority of the white population of the State knew no tongue but that.
The State would not pass a liquor law; but allowed a great trade in cheap
vile brandy among the blacks, with the result that 25 per cent. of the
50,000 blacks employed in the mines were usually drunk and incapable of
There--it was plain enough that the reasons for wanting some changes made
were abundant and reasonable, if this statement of the existing
grievances was correct.
What the Uitlanders wanted was reform--under the existing Republic.
What they proposed to do was to secure these reforms by, prayer,
petition, and persuasion.
They did petition. Also, they issued a Manifesto, whose very first note
is a bugle-blast of loyalty: "We want the establishment of this Republic
as a true Republic."
Could anything be clearer than the Uitlander's statement of the
grievances and oppressions under which they were suffering? Could
anything be more legal and citizen-like and law-respecting than their
attitude as expressed by their Manifesto? No. Those things were
perfectly clear, perfectly comprehensible.
But at this point the puzzles and riddles and confusions begin to flock
in. You have arrived at a place which you cannot quite understand.
For you find that as a preparation for this loyal, lawful, and in every
way unexceptionable attempt to persuade the government to right their
grievances, the Uitlanders had smuggled a Maxim gun or two and 1,500
muskets into the town, concealed in oil tanks and coal cars, and had
begun to form and drill military companies composed of clerks, merchants,
and citizens generally.
What was their idea? Did they suppose that the Boers would attack them
for petitioning, for redress? That could not be.
Did they suppose that the Boers would attack them even for issuing a
Manifesto demanding relief under the existing government?
Yes, they apparently believed so, because the air was full of talk of
forcing the government to grant redress if it were not granted
The Reformers were men of high intelligence. If they were in earnest,
they were taking extraordinary risks. They had enormously valuable
properties to defend; their town was full of women and children; their
mines and compounds were packed with thousands upon thousands of sturdy
blacks. If the Boers attacked, the mines would close, the blacks would
swarm out and get drunk; riot and conflagration and the Boers together
might lose the Reformers more in a day, in money, blood, and suffering,
than the desired political relief could compensate in ten years if they
won the fight and secured the reforms.
It is May, 1897, now; a year has gone by, and the confusions of that day
have been to a considerable degree cleared away. Mr. Cecil Rhodes, Dr.
Jameson, and others responsible for the Raid, have testified before the
Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry in London, and so have Mr. Lionel
Phillips and other Johannesburg Reformers, monthly-nurses of the
Revolution which was born dead. These testimonies have thrown light.
Three books have added much to this light:
"South Africa As It Is," by Mr. Statham, an able writer partial to the
Boers; "The Story of an African Crisis," by Mr. Garrett, a brilliant
writer partial to Rhodes; and "A Woman's Part in a Revolution," by Mrs.
John Hays Hammond, a vigorous and vivid diarist, partial to the
Reformers. By liquifying the evidence of the prejudiced books and of the
prejudiced parliamentary witnesses and stirring the whole together and
pouring it into my own (prejudiced) moulds, I have got at the truth of
that puzzling South African situation, which is this:
1. The capitalists and other chief men of Johannesburg were fretting
under various political and financial burdens imposed by the State (the
South African Republic, sometimes called "the Transvaal") and desired to
procure by peaceful means a modification of the laws.
2. Mr. Cecil Rhodes, Premier of the British Cape Colony, millionaire,
creator and managing director of the territorially-immense and
financially unproductive South Africa Company; projector of vast schemes
for the unification and consolidation of all the South African States,
one imposing commonwealth or empire under the shadow and general
protection of the British flag, thought he saw an opportunity to make
profitable use of the Uitlander discontent above mentioned--make the
Johannesburg cat help pull out one of his consolidation chestnuts for
him. With this view he set himself the task of warming the lawful and
legitimate petitions and supplications of the Uitlanders into seditious
talk, and their frettings into threatenings--the final outcome to be
revolt and armed rebellion. If he could bring about a bloody collision
between those people and the Boer government, Great Britain would have to
interfere; her interference would be resisted by the Boers; she would
chastise them and add the Transvaal to her South African possessions. It
was not a foolish idea, but a rational and practical one.
After a couple of years of judicious plotting, Mr. Rhodes had his reward;
the revolutionary kettle was briskly boiling in Johannesburg, and the
Uitlander leaders were backing their appeals to the government--now
hardened into demands--by threats of force and bloodshed. By the middle
of December, 1895, the explosion seemed imminent. Mr. Rhodes was
diligently helping, from his distant post in Cape Town. He was helping
to procure arms for Johannesburg; he was also arranging to have Jameson
break over the border and come to Johannesburg with 600 mounted men at
his back. Jameson--as per instructions from Rhodes, perhaps--wanted a
letter from the Reformers requesting him to come to their aid. It was a
good idea. It would throw a considerable share of the responsibility of
his invasion upon the Reformers. He got the letter--that famous one
urging him to fly to the rescue of the women and children. He got it two
months before he flew. The Reformers seem to have thought it over and
concluded that they had not done wisely; for the next day after giving
Jameson the implicating document they wanted to withdraw it and leave the
women and children in danger; but they were told that it was too late.
The original had gone to Mr. Rhodes at the Cape. Jameson had kept a
From that time until the 29th of December, a good deal of the Reformers'
time was taken up with energetic efforts to keep Jameson from coming to
their assistance. Jameson's invasion had been set for the 26th. The
Reformers were not ready. The town was not united. Some wanted a fight,
some wanted peace; some wanted a new government, some wanted the existing
one reformed; apparently very few wanted the revolution to take place in
the interest and under the ultimate shelter of the Imperial flag--
British; yet a report began to spread that Mr. Rhodes's embarrassing
assistance had for its end this latter object.
Jameson was away up on the frontier tugging at his leash, fretting to
burst over the border. By hard work the Reformers got his starting-date
postponed a little, and wanted to get it postponed eleven days.
Apparently, Rhodes's agents were seconding their efforts--in fact wearing
out the telegraph wires trying to hold him back. Rhodes was himself the
only man who could have effectively postponed Jameson, but that would
have been a disadvantage to his scheme; indeed, it could spoil his whole
two years' work.
Jameson endured postponement three days, then resolved to wait no longer.
Without any orders--excepting Mr. Rhodes's significant silence--he cut
the telegraph wires on the 29th, and made his plunge that night, to go to
the rescue of the women and children, by urgent request of a letter now
nine days old--as per date,--a couple of months old, in fact. He read
the letter to his men, and it affected them. It did not affect all of
them alike. Some saw in it a piece of piracy of doubtful wisdom, and
were sorry to find that they had been assembled to violate friendly
territory instead of to raid native kraals, as they had supposed.
Jameson would have to ride 150 miles. He knew that there were suspicions
abroad in the Transvaal concerning him, but he expected to get through to
Johannesburg before they should become general and obstructive. But a
telegraph wire had been overlooked and not cut. It spread the news of
his invasion far and wide, and a few hours after his start the Boer
farmers were riding hard from every direction to intercept him.
As soon as it was known in Johannesburg that he was on his way to rescue
the women and children, the grateful people put the women and children in
a train and rushed them for Australia. In fact, the approach of
Johannesburg's saviour created panic and consternation; there, and a
multitude of males of peaceable disposition swept to the trains like a
sand-storm. The early ones fared best; they secured seats--by sitting in
them--eight hours before the first train was timed to leave.
Mr. Rhodes lost no time. He cabled the renowned Johannesburg letter of
invitation to the London press--the gray-headedest piece of ancient
history that ever went over a cable.
The new poet laureate lost no time. He came out with a rousing poem
lauding Jameson's prompt and splendid heroism in flying to the rescue of
the women and children; for the poet could not know that he did not fly
until two months after the invitation. He was deceived by the false date
of the letter, which was December 20th.
Jameson was intercepted by the Boers on New Year's Day, and on the next
day he surrendered. He had carried his copy of the letter along, and if
his instructions required him--in case of emergency--to see that it fell
into the hands of the Boers, he loyally carried them out. Mrs. Hammond
gives him a sharp rap for his supposed carelessness, and emphasizes her
feeling about it with burning italics: "It was picked up on the battle-
field in a leathern pouch, supposed to be Dr. Jameson's saddle-bag. Why,
in the name of all that is discreet and honorable, didn't he eat it!"
She requires too much. He was not in the service of the Reformers--
excepting ostensibly; he was in the service of Mr. Rhodes. It was the
only plain English document, undarkened by ciphers and mysteries, and
responsibly signed and authenticated, which squarely implicated the
Reformers in the raid, and it was not to Mr. Rhodes's interest that it
should be eaten. Besides, that letter was not the original, it was only
a copy. Mr. Rhodes had the original--and didn't eat it. He cabled it to
the London press. It had already been read in England and America and
all over Europe before, Jameson dropped it on the battlefield. If the
subordinate's knuckles deserved a rap, the principal's deserved as many
as a couple of them.
That letter is a juicily dramatic incident and is entitled to all its
celebrity, because of the odd and variegated effects which it produced.
All within the space of a single week it had made Jameson an illustrious
hero in England, a pirate in Pretoria, and an ass without discretion or
honor in Johannesburg; also it had produced a poet-laureatic explosion of
colored fireworks which filled the world's sky with giddy splendors, and,
the knowledge that Jameson was coming with it to rescue the women and
children emptied Johannesburg of that detail of the population. For an
old letter, this was much. For a letter two months old, it did marvels;
if it had been a year old it would have done miracles.
First catch your Boer, then kick him.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Those latter days were days of bitter worry and trouble for the harassed
From Mrs. Hammond we learn that on the 31st (the day after Johannesburg
heard of the invasion), "The Reform Committee repudiates Dr. Jameson's
It also publishes its intention to adhere to the Manifesto.
It also earnestly desires that the inhabitants shall refrain from overt
acts against the Boer government.
It also "distributes arms" at the Court House, and furnishes horses "to
the newly-enrolled volunteers."
It also brings a Transvaal flag into the committee-room, and the entire
body swear allegiance to it "with uncovered heads and upraised arms."
Also "one thousand Lee-Metford rifles have been given out"--to rebels.
Also, in a speech, Reformer Lionel Phillips informs the public that the
Reform Committee Delegation has "been received with courtesy by the
Government Commission," and "been assured that their proposals shall be
earnestly considered." That "while the Reform Committee regretted
Jameson's precipitate action, they would stand by him."
Also the populace are in a state of "wild enthusiasm," and "46 can
scarcely be restrained; they want to go out to meet Jameson and bring him
in with triumphal outcry."
Also the British High Commissioner has issued a damnifying proclamation
against Jameson and all British abettors of his game. It arrives January
It is a difficult position for the Reformers, and full of hindrances and
perplexities. Their duty is hard, but plain:
1. They have to repudiate the inroad, and stand by the inroader.
2. They have to swear allegiance to the Boer government, and distribute
cavalry horses to the rebels.
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