Lady of the Decoration
Part 1 out of 2
THE LADY OF THE DECORATION
TO ALL GOOD SISTERS, AND TO MINE IN PARTICULAR
The Lady of the Decoration
SAN FRANCISCO, July 30, 1901.
My dearest Mate:
Behold a soldier on the eve of battle! I am writing this in a stuffy
little hotel room and I don't dare stop whistling for a minute. You
could cover my courage with a postage stamp. In the morning I sail for
the Flowery Kingdom, and if the roses are waiting to strew my path it
is more than they have done here for the past few years. When the
train pulled out from home and I saw that crowd of loving, tearful
faces fading away, I believe that for a few moments I realized the
actual bitterness of death! I was leaving everything that was dear to
me on earth, and going out into the dark unknown, alone.
Of course it's for the best, the disagreeable always is. You are
responsible, my beloved cousin, and the consequences be on your
head. You thought my salvation lay in leaving Kentucky and seeking my
fortune in strange lands. Your tender sensibilities shrank from having
me exposed to the world as a young widow who is not sorry. So you
"shipped me some-wheres East of Suez" and tied me up with a four
But, honor bright, Mate, I don't believe in your heart you can blame
me for not being sorry! I stuck it out to the last,--faced neglect,
humiliations, and days and nights of anguish, almost losing my
self-respect in my effort to fulfil my duty. But when death suddenly
put an end to it all, God alone knows what a relief it was! And how
curiously it has all turned out! First my taking the Kindergarten
course just to please you, and to keep my mind off things that ought
not to have been. Then my sudden release from bondage, and the
dreadful manner of it, my awkward position, my dependence,--and in the
midst of it all this sudden offer to go to Japan and teach in a
Isn't it ridiculous, Mate? Was there ever anything so absurd as my lot
being cast with a band of missionaries? I, who have never missed a
Kentucky Derby since I was old enough to know a bay from a sorrel! I
guess old Sister Fate doesn't want me to be a one part star. For
eighteen years I played pure comedy, then tragedy for seven, and now I
am cast for a character part.
Nobody will ever know what it cost me to come! All of them were so
terribly opposed to it, but it seems to me that I have spent my entire
life going against the wishes of my family. Yet I would lay down my
life for any one of them. How they have stood by me and loved me
through all my blind blunders. I'd back my mistakes against anybody
else's in the world!
Then Mate there was Jack. You know how it has always been with
Jack. When I was a little girl, on up to the time I was married, after
that he never even looked it, but just stood by me and helped me like
a brick. If it hadn't been for you and for him I should have put an
end to myself long ago. But now that I am free, Jack has begun right
where he left off seven years ago. It is all worse than useless; I am
everlastingly through with love and sentiment. Of course we all know
that Jack is the salt of the earth, and it nearly kills me to give him
pain, but he will get over it, they always do, and I would rather for
him to convalesce without me than with me. I made him promise not to
write me a line, and he just looked at me in that quiet, quizzical way
and said: "All right, but you just remember that I'm waiting, until
you are ready to begin life over again with me."
Why it would be a death blow to all his hopes if he married me! My
widow's mite consists of a wrecked life, a few debts, and a worldly
notion that a brilliant young doctor like himself has no right to
throw away all his chances in order to establish a small hospital for
incurable children. Whenever I think of his giving up that
long-cherished dream of studying in Germany, and buying ground for the
hospital instead, I just gnash my teeth.
Oh! I know that you think it is grand and noble and that I am horrid
to feel as I do. Maybe I am. At any rate you will acknowledge that I
have done the right thing for once in coming away. I seem to have been
a general blot on the landscape, and with your help I have erased
myself. In the meanwhile, I wish to Heaven my heart would ossify!
The sole power that keeps me going now is your belief in me. You have
always claimed that I was worth something, in spite of the fact that I
have persistently proven that I was not. Don't you shudder at the
risk you are taking? Think of the responsibility of standing for me in
a Board of Missions! I'll stay bottled up as tight as I know how, but
suppose the cork _should_ fly?
Poor Mate, the Lord was unkind when he gave me to you for a cousin.
Well it's done, and by the time you get this I will probably be well
on my sea-sick way. I can't trust myself to send any messages to the
family. I don't even dare send my love to you. I am a soldier lady,
and I salute my officer.
ON SHIP-BOARD. August 8th, 1901.
It's so windy that I can scarcely hold the paper down but I'll make
the effort. The first night I came aboard, I had everything to
myself. There were eighty cabin passengers and I was the only lady on
deck. It was very rough but I stayed up as long as I could. The blue
devils were swarming so thick around me that I didn't want to fight
them in the close quarters of my state-room. But at last I had to go
below, and the night that followed was a terror. Such a storm raged as
I had never dreamed of, the ship rocked and groaned, and the water
dashed against the port-holes; my bag played tag with my shoes, and my
trunk ran around the room like a rat hunting for its hole. Overhead
the shouts of the captain could be heard above the answering shouts of
the sailors, and men and women hurried panic-stricken through the
Through it all I lay in the upper berth and recalled all the unhappy
nights of the past seven years; disappointment, heartache,
disillusionment, disgust; they followed each other in silent
review. Every tender memory and early sentiment that might have
lingered in my heart was ruthlessly murdered by some stronger memory
of pain. The storm without was nothing to the storm within, I felt
indifferent as to the fate of the vessel. If she floated or if she
sank, it was one and the same to me.
When morning came something had happened to me. I don't know what it
was, but my past somehow seemed to belong to someone else. I had taken
a last farewell of all the old burdens, and I was a new person in a
I put on my prettiest cap and my long coat and went up on deck. Oh, my
dear, if you could only have seen the sight that greeted me! It was
the limpest, sickest crowd I ever encountered! They were pea-green
with a dash of yellow, and a streak of black under their eyes, pale
around the lips and weak in their knees. There was only one other
woman besides myself who was not sick, and she was a missionary with
short hair, and a big nose. She was going around with some tracts
asking everybody if they were Christians. Just as I came up she
tackled a big, dejected looking foreigner who was huddled in a corner.
"Brother, are you a Christian?"
"No, no," he muttered impatiently. "I'm a Norwegian."
Now what that man needed was a cocktail, but it was not for me to
At table I am in a corner with three nice old gentlemen and one young
German. They are great on story-telling, and I've told all of mine,
most of yours and some I invented. One of the old gentlemen is a
missionary; when he found that I was distantly connected with the fold
he immediately called me "Dear Sister". If I were at home I should
call him "Dear Pa", but I am on my good behavior.
The eating is fairly good, only sometimes it is so hot with curry and
spice that it nearly takes my breath. My little Chinese waiter is
entirely too solicitous for my comfort. No amount of argument will
induce him to leave my plate until I have finished, after a few
mouthfuls he whisks it away and brings me another relay. After
pressing upon me dishes of every kind, he insists on my filling up all
crevices with nuts and raisins, and after I have eaten, and eaten, he
looks hurt, and says regretfully: "Missy sickee, no eatee."
There is one other person, who is just as solicitous. The little
German watches my every mouthful with round solemn eyes, and insists
upon serving everything to me. He looks bewildered when anyone tells a
funny story, and sometimes asks for an explanation. He has been
around the world twice, and is now going to China for three years for
the Society of Scientific Research. He seems to think I am the
greatest curio he has yet encountered in his travels.
The chief excitement of our trip so far has been the day in
Honolulu. I wanted to sing for joy when we sighted land. The trees and
grass never looked so beautiful as they did that morning in the
brilliant sunshine. It took us hours to land on account of the red
tape that had to be unwound, and then there was an extra delay of
which I was the innocent cause. The quarantine doctor was inspecting
the ship, and after I had watched him examine the emigrants, and had
gotten my feelings wrought up over the poor miserable little children
swarming below, I found a nice quiet nook on the shelter deck where I
snuggled down and amused myself watching the native boys swim. The
water on their bronze bodies made them shine in the sunlight, and they
played about like a shoal of young porpoises. I must have stayed there
an hour, for when I came down there was considerable stir on board. A
passenger was missing and we were being held while a search of the
ship was made. I was getting most excited when the purser, who is the
sternest and best looking man you ever saw, came up and pounced upon
me. "Have you been inspected?" he demanded, eyeing me from head to
foot. "Not any more than at present," I answered meekly. "Come with
me," he said.
I asked him if he was going to throw me overboard, but he was too full
of importance to smile. He handed me over to the doctor saying: "Here
is the young woman that caused the delay." Young woman, indeed! but I
was to be crushed yet further for the doctor looked over his glasses
and said: "Now how did we miss that?"
But on to Honolulu! I don't wonder people go wild over it. It is as if
all the artists in all the world had spilled their colors over one
spot, and Nature had sorted them out at her own sweet will. I kept
wondering if I had died and gone to Heaven! Marvelous palms, and
tropical plants, and all hanging in a softly dreaming silence that
went to my head like wine.
I started out to see the city, with two old ladies and a girl from
South Dakota, but Dear Pa and Little Germany joined the party. Oh!
Mate how I longed for yon! I wanted to tie all those frousy old freaks
up in a hard knot and pitch them into the sea! The girl from South
Dakota is a little better than the rest, but she wears a jersey!
There _are_ real tailor-made people on board, but I don't dare
associate with them. They play bridge most of the time and if I
hesitated near them I'd be lost. I'll play my part, never fear, but I
hereby swear that I will not dress it!
STILL ON BOARD. August 18th.
I am writing this in my berth with the curtains drawn. No I am not a
bit sea-sick, just popular. One of the old ladies is teaching me to
knit, the short-haired missionary reads aloud to me, the girl from
South Dakota keeps my feet covered up, and Dear Pa and Little Germany
assist me to eat.
The captain has had a big bathing tank rigged up for the ladies, and I
take a cold plunge every morning. It makes me think of our old days at
the cottage up at the Cape. Didn't we have a royal time that summer
and weren't we young and foolish? It was the last good time I had for
many a long day--but there, none of that!
Last night I had an adventure, at least it was next door to one. I was
sitting up on deck when Dear Pa came by and asked me to walk with him.
After several rounds we sat down on the pilot house steps. The moon
was as big as a wagon wheel and the whole sea flooded with silver,
while the flying fishes played hide and seek in the shadows. I forgot
all about Dear Pa and was doing a lot of thinking on my own account
when he leaned over and said:
"I hope you don't mind talking to me. I am very, very lonely." Now I
thought I recognized a grave symptom, and when he began to tell me
about his dear departed, I knew it was time to be going.
"You have passed through it," he said. "You can sympathize."
I crossed my fingers in the dark. "We are both seeking a life work in
a foreign field--" he began again, but just here the purser passed. He
almost stumbled over us in the dark and when he saw me and my elderly
friend, he actually smiled!
Don't you dare tell Jack about this, I should never hear the last of
Can you realize that I am three whole weeks from home? I do, every
second of it. Sometimes when I stop to think what I am doing my heart
almost bursts! But then I am so used to the heartache that I might be
lonesome without it; who knows?
If I can only do what is expected of me, if I can only pick up the
pieces of this smashed-up life of mine and patch them into a decent
whole that you will not be ashamed of, then I will be content.
The first foreign word I have learned is "Alohaoe", I think it means
"my dearest love to you." Any how I send it laden with the tenderest
meaning. God bless and keep you all, and bring me back to you a wiser
and a gladder woman.
KOBE. August 18th, 1901.
Actually in Japan! I can scarcely believe it, even with all this
strange life going on about me. This morning a launch came out to the
steamer bringing Miss Lessing and Miss Dixon, the two missionaries in
whose school I am to work. When I saw them, I must confess that my
heart went down in my boots! Theirs must have done the same thing, for
we stood looking at each other as awkwardly as if we belonged to
different planets. The difference began with our heels and extended
right on up to the crown of our hats. Even the language we spoke
seemed different, and when I faced the prospect of living with such
utter strangers, I wanted to jump overboard!
My fellow passengers suddenly became very dear, I clung to everything
about that old steamer as the last link that bound me to America.
As we came down the gang plank, I was introduced to "Brother Mason"
and "Brother White", and we all came ashore together. I felt for all
the world like a convict sentenced to four years in the
penitentiary. When we reached the Hotel, I fled to my room and flung
myself on the bed. I knew I might as well have it out. I cried for two
hours and thirty-five minutes, then I got up and washed my face and
looked out of the window.
It was all so strange and picturesque that I got interested before I
knew it. By and by Miss Lessing came in. Now that her hat was off I
saw that she had a very sweet face with pretty dark hair and a funny
little twinkle behind her eyes that made me think of you. She told me
how she had come out to Japan when she was a young girl, and how she
had built up the school, and all she longed to do for it. Then she
said, "Your coming seems like the direct answer to prayer. It has been
one of my dearest dreams to have a Kindergarten for the little ones,
it just seems too good to be true!" And she looked at me out of her
nice shining eyes with such gratitude and enthusiasm that I was
ashamed of what I had felt.
After that Miss Dixon came up and they sat and watched me unpack my
trunk. It took me about two minutes to find out that they were just
like other women, fond of finery and pretty things and eager for news
of the outside world. They examined all the dainty under clothes that
sister had made for me, they marvelled over the high heeled slippers,
and laughed at the big sleeves.
"Where are you going to wear all these lovely things?" asked Miss
Dixon. And again my heart sank, for even my simple wardrobe, planned
for the exigencies of school life, seemed strangely extravagant and
out of place.
But I want to say right now, Mate, that if I stay here a thousand
years I'll never come to jerseys and eight-year-old hats! I am going
to subscribe to a good fashion paper, and at least keep within hailing
distance of the styles.
It is too warm to go down to the school yet so we are to spend a week
in the mountains before we start in for the fall term.
Dear Pa and Little Germany have been here twice in three hours but I
saw them first.
Home letters will not arrive until next week, and I can scarcely wait
for the time to come. I keep thinking that I am away on a visit and
that I will be going back soon. I find myself saving things to show
you, and even starting to buy things to bring home. I have a good deal
to learn, haven't I?
HIEISAN. August 28th, 1901
Fairy-land, real true fairy-land that we used to talk about up in the
old cherry-tree at grandmother's! It's all so, Mate, only more
bewitching than we ever dreamed.
I have been in little villages that dropped right out of a picture
book. The streets are full of queer, small people who run about
smiling, and bowing and saying pretty things to each other. It is a
land where everybody seems to be happy, and where politeness is the
Yesterday we came up the mountains in jinrikishas. The road was
narrow, but smooth, and for over three hours the men trotted along,
never halting or changing their gait until we stopped for lunch.
There is not much to a Japanese house but a roof and a lot of bamboo
poles, but everything is beautifully clean. Before we had gotten down,
several men and women came running out and bowing and calling "Ohayo,
Ohayo" which means "good-morning." They ran for cushions and we were
glad enough to sit on the low benches and stretch ourselves. Then they
brought us delicious tea, and gathered around to see us drink it. It
seems that light hair is a great curiosity over here, and mine proved
so interesting that they motioned for me to take off my hat, and then
they stood around chattering and laughing at a great rate. Miss
Lessing said they wanted me to take my hair down, but would not ask it
because of the beautiful arrangement. Shades of Blondes! I wish you
could have seen it! But you _have_ seen it after a hard set of
When we had rested an hour, and drunk tea, and bowed and smiled, we
started out again, this time in a kind of Sedan chair, made of bamboo
and carried on a long pole on the shoulders of two men. Now I have
been up steep places but that trip beat anything I ever saw! I felt
like a fly on a bald man's head! We climbed up, up, up, sometimes
through woods that were so dense you could scarcely know it was
day-time, and again through stretches of dazzling sunshine.
Just as I was beginning to wonder what had become of our luggage, we
passed four women laughing and singing. Two of them had steamer
trunks on their heads, and two carried huge kori. They did not seem to
mind it in the least, and bowed and smiled us out of sight.
Another two hours' climb brought us to this village of camps called
Hieisan. There are about forty Americans here, who are camping out
for the summer, and I am the guest of a Dr. Waring and his wife from
My tent is high above everything, on a great overhanging rock, and
before me is a view that would be a fit setting for Paradise. This
mountain is sacred to Buddha, and the whole of it is thick with
temples and shrines, some of them nobody knows how old.
I have been trying to muster courage to get up at three o'clock in the
morning to see the monkeys come out for breakfast. The mountains are
full of them, but they are only to be seen at that hour.
There are some very pleasant people here, and I have made a number of
friends. I am something of a conundrum, and curiosity is rife as to
_why_ I came. Mrs. Waring dresses me up and shows me off like a
new doll, and the women consult me about making over their clothes.
I don't know why I am not perfectly miserable. The truth is, Mate, I
am having a good time! It's nice to be petted and treated like a
child. It is good to be among plain, honest people, that live out
doors, and have healthy bodies and minds.
I want to forget all that I learned about the world in the past seven
years. I want to begin life again as a girl with a few illusions,
even if they are borrowed ones. I know too much for my years and I'm
determined to forget.
The home letters were heavenly. I've read them limber. I'll answer
the rest to-morrow.
HIROSHIMA. Sept. 2nd, 1901.
At last after my wanderings I am settled for the winter. The school is
a big structure, open and airy, and I have a nice room facing the east
where you dear ones are. On two sides tower the mountains, and between
them lies the magical Inland Sea. This is a great naval and military
station, and while I write I can hear the bugle calls from the parade
I have a pretty little maid to wait on me and I wish you could see us
talking to each other. She comes in, bows until her head touches the
floor and hopes that my honorable ears and eyes and teeth are well. I
tell her in plain English that I am feeling bully, then we both
laugh. She is delighted with all my things, and touches them softly
saying over and over: "It's mine to care for!"
There are between four and five hundred girls in the school and, until
I get more familiar with the language, I am to work with the older
girls who understand some English. You would smile to see their
curiosity concerning me. They think my waist is very funny and they
measure it with their hands and laugh aloud. One girl asked me in all
seriousness why I had had pieces cut out of my sides, and another
wanted to know if my hair used to be black. You see in all this big
city I am the only person with golden tresses, and a green carnation
would not excite more comment.
Yesterday we went shopping to get some curtains for my room. Such a
crowd followed us that we could scarcely see what we were doing. When
we went into the stores we sat on the floor and a little boy fanned us
all the time we were making our selection.
Monday, Miss Lessing asked me to begin a physical culture class with
the larger girls who are being trained for teachers, so I decided that
the first lesson would be on _skipping_. It is an unknown art in
Japan and the lack of it makes the Kindergarten work very awkward.
I took fourteen girls out on the porch and told them by signs and
gestures to follow me. Then I picked up my skirts, and whistling a
coon-song, started off. You never saw anything to equal their look of
absolute astonishment! They even got down on their hands and knees to
watch my feet. But they were game, and in spite of their tight kimonos
and sandalled feet they made a brave effort to follow. The first
attempt was disastrous, some fell on their faces, some went down on
their knees, and all stumbled. I didn't dare laugh for the Japanese
can stand anything better than ridicule. I helped and encouraged and
cheered them on to victory. The next day there was a slight
improvement, and by the third day they were experts. I found that they
had spent the whole afternoon in practice! Now what do you suppose the
result is? An epidemic of skipping has swept over Hiroshima like the
measles! Men women and children are trying to learn, and when we go
out to walk I almost have convulsions at the elderly couples we pass
earnestly trying to catch the step!
I was so encouraged by this success that I taught the girls all sorts
of steps and figures, even going so far as to teach them the
_quadrille_! But my ambition led me a little too far. One day I
came to class with a brand new step, which I had invented myself. It
_was_ rather giddy, but a splendid exercise. Well I headed the
line and after the girls had followed me around the room twice I saw
that they were convulsed with laughter! When I asked what was the
matter, they explained between gasps that the step was the principal
movement in the heathen dance given during festivals to the God of
Beauty! My saints! Wouldn't some of my dear brethren do a turn if
Every afternoon I take about forty of the girls out for a walk. Our
favorite stroll is along the moat that surrounds the old castle. It is
almost always spilling over with lotus blossoms. The maidens,
trotting demurely along in their rain-bow kimonos and little clicking
sandals make a pretty picture. We have to pass the parade grounds of
the barracks where 20,000 soldiers are stationed, and I do wish you
could see them trying to be modest, and yet peeping out of the corners
of their little almond eyes in a way which is not peculiar to any
And the way they imitate me makes me afraid to breathe naturally. This
thing of being a shining example is more than I bargained for. It is
one of the few things in my checkered career that I have hitherto
Never mind Mate, I couldn't be frivolous if I wanted to down
here. Kobe would have proven fatal, for there are many foreigners
there, and the temptation to have a good time would have been too much
for me. I am rapidly developing into a hymn-singing sister, and the
world and the flesh and the devil are shut up in the closet. Let us
October 2nd, 1901.
At last, dear Mate, I am started at my own work with the babies and
there aren't any words to tell you how cunning they are. There are
eighty-five high class children in the pay kindergarten, and forty in
the free. The latter are mostly of the very poor families, most of the
mothers working in the fields or on the railroads. There are so many
pitiful cases that one longs for a mint of money and a dozen hands to
relieve them. One little girl of six comes every day with her blind
baby brother strapped on her back. She is a tiny thing herself and yet
that baby is never unstrapped from her back until night comes. When I
first saw her old weazened face and her eagerness to play, I just took
them both in my lap and cried!
One funny thing I must tell you about. From the first week that I got
here, the children have had a nickname for me. I noticed them laughing
and nudging each other on the street and in the school, and whenever I
passed they raised their right hands in salute, and gave a funny
little clucking sound. They seemed to pass the word from one to
another until every youngster in the neighborhood followed the
trick. My curiosity was aroused to such a pitch that I got an
interpreter to investigate the matter. When he came to report, he
smilingly touched my little enamelled watch, the one Jack gave me on
my 16th birthday, and apologetically informed me that the children
thought it was a decoration from the Emperor and they were saluting me
in consequence! And they have named me "The Lady of the Decoration".
Think of it, I have a title, and I am actually looked up to by these
funny yellow babies as a superior being. They forget it some time
though when we all get to playing together in the yard. We can't talk
to each other, but we can laugh and romp together, and sometimes the
fun runs high.
I am busy from morning until night. The two kindergartens, a big
training class in physical culture, two Japanese lessons a day and
prayers about every three minutes, don't leave many spare hours for
homesickness. But the longing is there all the same, and when I see
the big steamers out in the harbor and realize that they are coaling
for _home_, I just want to steal aboard and stay there.
The language is something awful. I get my tongue in such knots that I
have to use a corkscrew to pull it straight again. Just between you
and me, I have decided to give it up and devote my time to teaching
the girls to speak English instead. They are such responsive, eager
little things, it will not be hard.
As for the country, I wouldn't dare to attempt a
description. Sometimes I just _ache_ with the beauty of it all!
From my window I can see in one group banana, pomegranate, persimmon
and fig trees all loaded with fruit. The roses are still in full
bloom, and color, color everywhere. Across the river, the banks are
lined with picturesque houses that look out from a mass of green, and
above them are tea-houses, and temples and shrines so old that even
the moss is gray, and time has worn away the dates engraved upon the
We spent yesterday at the sacred Island of Miyajima, which is about
one hour's ride from here. The dream of it is still upon me and I wish
I could share it with you. We went over in a sampan, a rude open boat
rowed by two men in undress uniform. For half an hour we literally
danced across the sea; everything was fresh and sparkling, and I was
so glad to be alive and free, that I just sang for joy. Miss Leasing
joined in and the boatmen kept time, smiling and nodding their
The mountains were sky high, and at their base in a small
crescent-shaped plain was the village with streets so clean and white
you hated to walk on them. We stopped at the "House of the White
Cloud" and three little maids took off our shoes and replaced them
with pretty sandals. The whole house was of cedar and ebony and bamboo
and it had been rubbed with oil until it shone like satin. On the
floor was a stuffed matting with a heavy border of crimson silk, and
in the corner of the room was a jar that came to my shoulder, full of
wonderfully blended chrysanthemums. All the rooms opened upon a porch
which hung directly above a roaring waterfall, and below us a dozen
steps away stretched the sparkling sea, full of hundreds of sailing
vessels and junks.
In the afternoon, we wandered over the island, visiting the old, old
temples, listening to the mysterious wailing of the wind bells,
feeding the deer and crane, and drinking in the beauty of it all. I
felt like a disembodied spirit, traveling back, back over the
centuries, into dim forgotten ages. The dead seemed close about me,
yet they brought no gloom, for I too was dead. All afternoon I had
the impression of trying to keep my consciousness from drifting into
oblivion through the gate of this magical dream!
How you would enjoy it all, and read its deeper meaning, which is
hidden from me. But even if I can't philosophize like a certain
blessed old Mate of mine, I can _feel_ until every nerve is a
tingle with the thrill.
Good bye for a little while; I've stolen the time to write you this,
and now it behooves me to hustle.
November 12th, 1901.
It's been a long while between "drinks", but I have been waiting until
I could write a letter minus the groans. The truth is I have hit
bottom good and hard and it is only to-day that I have come to the
surface. When the exhilaration of seeing all the new and strange
sights wore off, I began to sink in a sea of homesickness that
threatened to put an end to the kindergarten business for good and
I worked like mad, and all the time I felt like one of these whizzing
rockets that go rushing through the air and die out in a miserable
little fizzle at the end. I can stand it in the daytime, but at night
I almost go crazy. And you have no idea how many women do lose their
minds out here. Nearly every year some poor insane creature has to be
shipped home. You needn't worry about that though, if I had mind
enough to lose I'd have lost it long ago. But to think of all my old
ambitions and aspirations ending in the humble task of wiping Little
I suppose you think I am pulling for the shore but I am not. I am
steering my little craft right out in the billows It may be dashed to
smithereens, and it may come safely home again, but in any case, I'll
have the consolation of the Texas cowboy that "I've done my durndest!"
By the way, what has become of Jack? He needn't have taken me so
literally as never to send me a message even! You mentioned his having
been at the Cape while you were there. Was he just as unsociable as
ever? I can see him now lying flat on his back in the bottom of a boat
reading poetry. I hate poetry, and when he used to quote his favorite
passages I made parodies on them. Now _you_ were always
different. You'd rhapsodize with him to his heart's content.
Just here I had a lovely surprise. I looked out of the window and saw
a coolie pull a little wagon into the yard and begin to unload. I
couldn't imagine what was taking place but pretty soon Miss Dixon came
in with both arms full of papers, pictures, magazines and letters. It
was all my mail! I just danced up and down for joy. I guess you will
never know the meaning of letters until you are nine thousand miles
from home. And such dear loving encouraging letters as mine were! I
am going to sit right down and read them all over again,
November 24th, 1901.
Clear sailing once more, Mate! In my last, I remember, I was blowing
the fog horn pretty persistently.
The letters from home set me straight again. If ever a human being was
blessed with a good family and good friends it is my unworthy self!
The past week has been unusually exciting. First we had a wedding on
hand. The bride is a girl who has been educated in the school, so of
course we were all interested. Some time ago, the middle-man, who does
all the arranging, came to her father and said a young teacher in the
Government school desired his daughter in marriage. The father
without consulting the girl investigated the suitor's standing, and
finding it satisfactory, said yea. So little Otoya was told that she
was going to be married, and the groom elect was invited to call.
I was on tiptoe with curiosity to see what would happen, but the
meeting took place behind closed doors. Otoya told me afterwards that
she had never seen the young man until he entered the room, but they
both bowed three times, then she served tea while her mother and
father talked to him. "Didn't you talk to him at all?" I asked. She
looked horrified. "No, that would have been most immodest!" she
said. "But you peeped at him," I insisted. She shook her head, "That
would have been disgrace." Now that was three months ago and she
hadn't seen him until Monday when they were married.
At our suggestion they decided to have an American wedding and I was
appointed mistress of ceremonies. It was great fun, for we had a best
man, besides brides-maids and flower girls, and Miss Lessing played
the Wedding March for them to enter. The arrangements were somewhat
difficult owing to the fact that the Japanese consider it the height
of vulgarity to discuss anything pertaining to the bride or the
wedding. They excused me on the ground that I was a foreigner.
The affair was really beautiful! The little bride's outer garment was
the finest black crepe, but under it, layer after layer, were slips of
rainbow tinted cob-web silk that rippled into sight with every
movement she made. And every inch of her trousseau was made from the
cocoons of worms raised in her own house, and was spun into silk by
her waiting maids.
After the excitement of the wedding had subsided, we had a visitation
from forty Chinese peers. They came in a cavalcade of kuramas,
gorgeously arrayed, and presenting an imposing appearance. I ran for
the poker for I thought maybe they had come to finish "Us
Missionaries." But, bless you, they had heard of our school and our
kindergarten and had come for the Chinese Government to investigate
ways and means. They made a tour of the school, ending up in, the
kindergarten. The children were completely overpowered by these
black-browed, fierce-looking gentlemen, but I put them through their
paces. The visitors were so pleased that they stayed all morning and
signified their unqualified approval. When they started to leave, I
asked the interpreter if their gracious highnesses would permit my
unworthy self to take their honorable pictures. Would you believe it?
Those old fellows puffed up like pouter pigeons, and giggled and
primped like a lot of school girls! They stood in a row and beamed
upon me while I snapped the kodak. If the picture is good, I'll send
This morning I had to teach Sunday School. I'll be praying in public
next. I see it coming. The lesson was "The Prodigal Son", a subject
on which I ought to be qualified to speak. The Japanese youths
understood about one word out of three, but they were giving me close
attention. I was expounding with all the earnestness in me when
suddenly I remembered a picture Jack used to have. It was of a lean
little calf tearing down the road, while in the distance was coming a
lazy looking tramp. Underneath was the legend:
"Run, bossy, run,
Here comes the Prodigal Son."
That settled my sermon, so I told the boys a bear story instead.
How I should love to drop in on you to-night and sit on the floor
before the fire and pow-wow! I'll be an awful back number when I come
home, but just think how entertaining I'll be! I have enough good
dinner stories to last through the rest of my life!
For heaven's sake send me some hat pins, nice long ones with pretty
heads. And if you are in New York this winter please get me two
bottles of that violet extract that I always use.
My dearest love to all, and a hundred kisses to the blessed children
at home Don't you _dare_ let them forget me.
November 27th, 1901.
I told you it would come! My prophetic soul foresaw it. I had to lead
the prayer in chapel this morning. And I play the organ in Sunday
School and listen to two Japanese sermons on Sunday.
I tell you, Mate, this part of the work goes sadly against the
grain. They say you get used to hanging if you just hang long enough,
so I suppose I'll become reconciled in time. You ask me _why_ I
do these things. Well you see it's all just like a big work shop,
where everybody is working hard and cheerfully and yet there is so
much work waiting to be done, that you don't stop to ask whether you
like it or not.
I can't begin to tell you of the hopelessness of some of the lives out
here. Just think of it! Women working in the stone quarries, and in
the sand pits and on the railroads, and always with babies tied on
their backs, and the poor little tots crippled and deformed from the
cramped position and often blind from the glare of the sun.
What I am crazy to do now is to open another free kindergarten in one
of the poorest parts of the city. It would cost only fifty dollars to
run it a whole year, and I mean to do it if I have to sell one of my
rings. It is just glorious to feel that you are actually helping
somebody, even if that somebody is a small and dirty tribe of Japanese
children. I get so discouraged and blue sometimes that I don't know
what to do, but when a little tot comes up and slips a very soiled
hand into mine and pats it and lays it against his cheek and hugs it
up to his breast and says, "Sensei, Sensei," I just long to take the
whole lot of them to my heart and love them into an education!
They don't know the word love but they know its meaning, and if I
happen to stop to pat a little head, a dozen arms are around me in a
minute, and I am almost suffocated with affection. One little fellow
always calls me "Nice boy" because that is what I called him.
We are having glorious weather, cold in doors but warm outside. The
chrysanthemums and roses are still blooming, and the trees are heavily
laden with fruit. The persimmons grow bigger than a coffee cup and the
oranges are tiny things, but both are delicious. Chestnuts are twice
as big as ours, and they cook them as a vegetable.
You'll be having Thanksgiving soon, and you will all go up to
Grandmother's, and have a jolly time together. Have them fix a plate
for me, Mate, and turn down an empty glass. Nobody will miss me as
much as I will miss my poor little self.
What jolly Thanksgivings we have had together! The gathering of the
clans, the big dinner, and the play at night. Not exactly a play, was
it, Mate f More of a vaudeville performance with you as the stage
manager, and I as the soubrette. Do you remember the last reunion
before I was married? I mean the time I was Lady Macbeth and gave a
skirt dance, and you did lovely stunts from Grand Opera. Have you
forgotten Jack's famous parody on "My Country 'Tis of Thee?"
"My turkey, 'tis of thee,
Sweet bird of cranberry,
Of thee I sing!
I love thy neck and wings,
Legs, back and other things," etc, etc.
There goes the bell, and here go I. I can appreciate the feelings of
a fire engine!
Christmas Day, 1901.
Had somebody told you last Christmas, as we trimmed the big tree and
made ready for the family gathering, that this Christmas would find me
in a foreign country teaching a band of little heathens, wouldn't you
have thought somebody had wheels in his head?
And yet it is true, and I have only to lift my eyes to realize fully
that I am really in the flowery kingdom. The plum blossoms are in full
bloom and the roses too, while a thick frost makes everything
sparkling white in the sunshine. The mountains have put on a thin
blue veil trimmed in silver, and over all is a turquoise sky.
And best of all, everybody--I speak figuratively--is happy. It may be
that some poor little waif is hungry, having had only rice water for
breakfast, it may be some sad hearts are beating under the gay
kimonos, and it _may_ be, Mate dear, that somebody, a stranger in
a strange land, can't keep the tears back, and is longing with all her
mind and soul and body for home and her loved ones. But never you
mind, nobody knows it but you and me and a bamboo tree!
This afternoon we are going to have tea for the Mammas and Papas, and
I am going to put on my prettiest clothes and do my yellow locks in
their most fetching style.
I shall lock up tight, way down deep, all heartaches and longings and
put on my best smile for these dear little people who have given to
me, a stranger, such full measure of their sympathy and friendship,
who, in the big service last month, when giving thanks for all the
great blessings of the past year, named the new Kindergarten teacher
Do you wonder that I am happy and miserable and homesick and contented
all at the same time?
The box I sent home for Christmas was a paltry offering compared to
what I wanted to send, but the things were bought with the first money
I ever earned. They are packed in so tight with love that I doubt if
you ever get them out.
Our Christmas dinner was not exactly a success. We invited all the
foreigners in Hiroshima, twelve in number, and everybody talked a
great deal and laughed at everybody's stale jokes, and pretended to be
terribly hilarious. But there was a pathetic droop to every mouth,
and not a soul referred to _home_. Each one seemed to realize
that the mere mention of the word would break up the party.
I tell you I am beginning to look with positive reverence on the
heroism of some of these people! Tears and regrets have no place here;
desire, ambition, love itself is laid aside, and only taken out for
inspection perhaps in the dead hours of the night. If heart breaks
come, as come they must, there is no crying out, no rebellion, just a
stiffer lip and a firmer grip and the work goes on.
I wish I was like that, but I'm not. If Nature had put more time on
my head and less on my heart, she would have turned out a better job.
I put a pipe in the box for Jack. If you think I ought not to have
done it, don't give it to him. As old Charity used to say, "I don't
want to discomboberate nobody." Only I hope he won't think I am
ungrateful and indifferent.
NAGASAKI. January 14th, 1902.
Now aren't you surprised at hearing from me in Nagasaki? I am
certainly surprised at being here! One of the teachers at the school,
Miss Dixon, Was taken sick and had to come here to see a doctor. I was
lucky enough to be asked to come with her.
I am so excited over being in touch with civilization again that I
can't sleep at night! The transports and all the steamers stop here,
and every type of humanity seems to be represented. This morning when
I went out to mail a letter, there were two Sikhs in uniform in front
of me, at my side was a Russian, behind me two Chinamen and a
Japanese, while a Frenchman stepped aside for me to pass, and an
Irishman tried to sell me some vegetables!
Miss Dixon had to go to the Hospital for a few days, though her
trouble is nothing serious, and I accepted an invitation from
Mrs. Ferris, the wife of the American Consul, to spend a few days with
And oh! Mate, if you only _knew_ the time I have had! If I
weren't a sort of missionary-in-law I would quote Jack and say it has
been "perfectly damn gorgeously." If you want to really enjoy the
flesh-pots just live away from them for six months and then try them!
The night I came, the Ferrises gave me a beautiful dinner, and I wore
evening dress for the first time in two years, and was as thrilled as
a debutante at her first ball! It was so good to see cut glass and
silver, and to hear dear silly worldly chatter that I grew terribly
frivolous. Plates were laid for twenty, and who do you suppose was on
my right? The severe young purser who was on the steamer I came over
in! His ship is coaling in the harbour and he is staying with the
Ferrises, who are old friends of his. He is so solemn that he almost
kills me. If he weren't so good looking I could let him alone, but as
it is I can't help worrying the life out of him.
The dinner was most elaborate. After the oysters, came a fish nearly
three feet long all done up in sea-weed, then a big silver bowl was
brought in covered with pie-crust. When the carver broke the crust
there was a flutter of wings, and "four and twenty black birds" flew
out. This it seems was done by the Japanese cook as a sample of his
skill. All sorts of queer courses followed, served in the most unique
After dinner they begged me to sing, and though I protested violently,
they got me down at the piano. I didn't get up any more until the
party was over for they made me sing every song I knew and some I
didn't. I sang some things so hoary with age that they were decrepit!
The purser so far forgot himself as to ask me to sing "My Bonnie lies
over the Ocean"! I did so with great expression while he looked
pensively into the fire. Since then I have called him, "My Bonnie,"
and he _hates_ me.
The next day we went out to services on board the battleship "Victor."
The ship had been on a long cruise and we were the first American
women the officers had seen for many a long day. They gave us a
rousing welcome you may be sure. Through some mistake they thought I
was a "Miss" instead of a "Mrs." and I shamelessly let it pass. During
service I heard little that was said for the band was playing outside
and flags were flying and I was feeling frivolous to the tip of my
toe! I guess I am still pretty young, for brass buttons are just as
alluring as of old.
When the Admiral heard I was from Kentucky, he invited us to take
tiffin with him, and we exchanged darkey stories and the old gentleman
nearly burst his buttons laughing. After tea, he showed us over the
ship, making the sailors line up on deck for our benefit. "Tell the
band to play 'Old Kentucky Home'," he ordered.
"You'll lose a passenger if you do!" I cried, "for one note of that
would send me overboard!"
He was so attentive that I had little chance to talk to the young
officers I met. But several of them have called since, and I have been
out to a lot of teas and dinners and things with them. The one I like
best is a young fellow from Vermont. He is very clever and jolly and
we have great fun together. In fact, we are such chums that he showed
me a picture of his fiancee. He is very much in love with her, but if
I were in her place I would try to keep him within eye-shot.
We will probably go home to-morrow as Miss Dixon is so much better.
I am glad she is better, but I could have been reconciled to her being
mildly indisposed for a few days longer.
I forgot to thank you for the kodak book you sent Christmas; between
the joy of seeing all the familiar faces, and the bitterness of the
separation, and the absurdity of your jingles, I nearly had hysterics!
I almost felt as if I had had a visit home! The old house, the cabin,
the cherry tree, and all the family even down to old black Charity,
the very sight of whom made me hungry for buckwheat cakes, all, all
gave me such joy and pain that it was hard to tell which was
It's worth everything to be loved as you all love me, and I am willing
to go through anything to be worthy of it. I have had more than my
share of hard bumps in life, but, thank Heaven, there was always
somebody waiting to kiss the place to make it well. There isn't a day
that I haven't some evidence of this love; a letter, a paper, a book
that reminds me that I'm not forgotten.
A note has just come from his Solemn Highness, the purser, asking me
to go walking with him! I am going to try to be nice to him but I know
I won't! He is so young and so serious that I can't resist shocking
him. He doesn't approve of giddy young widows that don't look sorry!
Neither do I. In two days I return to the fold. Until then "My
HIROSHIMA, February 19th, 1902.
After a sleepless night I got up this morning with a splitting
headache. I have been back in the traces for a month, and I am
beginning to feel like a poor old horse in a tread mill, not that I
don't love the work, but oh! Mate, I am so lonesome, lonesome,
lonesome. I think I used up so much sand when I first came that the
supply is running low.
"All day there is the watchful world to face
The sound of tears and laughter fill the air.
For memory there is but scanty space
Nor time for any transport of despair.
But, Love, the pulse beats slow, the lips turn white
Sometimes at night!"
Perhaps when I am old and gray and wrinkled I'll be at peace. But
think of the years in between! I have been cheated of the best that
life holds for a woman, the love of a good husband, the love of her
children, and the joys of a home.
The old world shakes its finger and says "you did it yourself". But,
Mate, I was only eighteen, and I didn't know the real from the
false. I staked my all for the prize of love, and I lost. Heaven knows
I've paid the penalty, but I'd do it over again if I thought I was
right. The difference is that then I was a child and knew too little,
and now I am a woman and know too much.
Sometimes the hymn-singing and praying, and "Sistering" and
"Brothering" get on my nerves, until I almost scream, but when I
remember how heavenly good to me they are I'm all contrition. I have
even been invited to write for the Mission papers, now isn't that
sufficient glory for any sinner?
Your letters are such comforts to me! I read them over and over and
actually know parts of them by heart! Since I was a little girl I
have had a burning desire to win your approval. I remember once when
you said I was stronger than the little boy next door I sprained my
back trying to prove, it. And now when you write those lovely things
about me and tell me how good and brave I am, why I'd sprain something
worse than my back to be worthy of your approval!
But my courage doesn't always ring true, Mate, sometimes it's a brass
ring. If you want to hear of true heroism, just listen to this
story. There was a little American Missionary, who was going home to
stay after twenty years of hard service. At the request of the board
she stopped off at the Leper Colony in order to make a report. Soon
after she reached home, she discovered a small white spot on her hand,
and on consulting a physician, found it was leprosy. Without breathing
a word of it to anyone, she bade her family and friends a cheerful
good-bye, and came straight back to that Leper Colony, where she took
up her work among the outcasts. Never an outcry, never a groan, not
even a plea for sympathy! Now how is that for a soldier lady?
It is quite cold to-day and I am indulging in the luxury of a roaring
fire. You know the natives use little stoves that they carry around
with them, and call "hibachi." But cold as it is, the yard is full of
roses and the tea-plants are gorgeous. I don't wonder that the climate
gets mixed, out here. Everything else is hind part before.
What do you suppose I've been longing for all day? A good saddle
horse? I feel that a brisk canter would set me straight in a short
time. But the only horse in Hiroshima is a mule. A knock-kneed,
cross-eyed old mule that bitterly resents the insult of being hitched
to something that is a cross between a wheelbarrow and a baby
buggy. The driver stands up for the excellent reason that he has no
place to sit down! We tried this coupe once for the fun and
experience. We got the experience all right but I am not so sure about
the fun. We jolted along through the narrow streets scraping first
against one house, then against another, while our footman, oh yes we
had a footman, ran beside the thoroughbred to help him up when he
To-morrow we are to have company. A Salvation Army lassie comes down
from Tokio with a brass band. It is the second time in the history of
the town that the people have had a chance to hear a brass band, and
they are greatly thrilled. I must say I am a bit excited myself; Miss
Lessing says she is going to keep me in sight, for fear I will follow
the drum away. She needn't worry. I am through following anything in
this world but my own nose.
HIROSHIMA, March 25, 1902.
I am absolutely walking on air today! Just when I thought my
cherished dream of a free kindergarten would have to be given up, the
checks from home came! You were a trump to get them all interested,
and it was beautiful the way they responded. Only _why_ did you
tell Jack? He oughtn't to have sent so much. I'd send it back if I
weren't afraid of hurting him.
My head is simply spinning with plans! We are going to open the school
right away and there are hundreds of things to be done. In spite of my
home-sickness, and loneliness and longing for you loved ones, I
wouldn't come home now if I could! It is the feeling that I am needed
here, that a big work will go undone, if I don't do it, that simply
puts my little wants and desires right out of the question!
Yesterday we had a mothers' meeting, and I have not stopped laughing
over it yet! It seems that the mothers considered it proper to show
their appreciation by absolute solemnity. After tea and cake were
served they sat in funeral silence. Not a word nor a smile could we
get out of them. When I couldn't stand it another minute, I told Miss
Lessing I was going to break the ice if I went under in the effort.
By means of an interpreter, I told the mothers that we were going to
try an American amusement and would they lend their honorable
assistance? Then I called in thirty of the school girls and told each
one to ask a mother to skip. They were too polite to decline, so to
the tune of "Mr. Johnson, Turn Me Loose," the procession started.
Miss Dixon couldn't stay in the room for laughing. The old and the
young, and the fat and the thin caught the spirit of it and went
hopping and jumping around the circle in great glee. After that, old
ladies and all played "Pussy Wants a Corner," and "Drop the
Handkerchief," and they laughed and chattered like a lot of children.
They stayed four hours, and we are still picking up hair ornaments!
Up over my table I have the little picture you sent of the "Lane that
turned at last". You always said my lane, would turn, and it
_has_ turned into a broad road bordered by cherry-blossoms and
wistaria. But, Mate, you needn't think there are no more mudholes, for
there are. When I see them ahead, I climb the fence and walk around!
I am getting quite thrilled these days over the prospect of war. The
soldiers are drilling by the hundreds, and the bugles are blowing all
day. It makes little thrills run up and down my back, but Miss Lessing
says nothing will come of it, that Japan is always getting ready for a
scrap. But the Trans-Siberian Railway has refused all freight because
it is too busy bringing soldiers and supplies to Vladivostock. Now
speaking of Vladivostock reminds me of a plan that has been suggested
for next summer. Miss Dixon, the teacher who was sick, is going to
Russia and is crazy for me to go with her. It wouldn't be much more
expensive than staying in Japan, and would be tremendously
interesting. Don't mention it to anybody at home, but write me if you
approve. I wish you could have peeped into my room last night. Four
or five of the girls slipped in after the silence bell had rung, and
we sat around the fire on the floor and drank tea while I showed them
my photographs. They made such a pretty picture, with their gay gowns
and red cheeks, and they were so thrilled over all my things. The
pictures from home interested them most of all, especially the one of
you and Jack which I have framed together. At first they thought you
must be married, and when I said no, they decided that you were
lovers, so I let it go.
After they went to bed, I sat and looked at the two pictures in the
double frame and wondered how it was after all that you and Jack
_hadn't_ fallen in love with each other! You both live with your
heads in the clouds; I should think you would have bumped into each
other long before this. He told me once that you had fewer faults than
any woman he had ever known. Telling me of other people's virtues was
one of Jack's long suits.
My last minute of grace is gone, so I must say good-night. I am
getting up at five o'clock these mornings in order to get in all that
I want to do.
HIROSHIMA, May 31, 1902.
Under promise that I will not write a long letter, I am allowed to
begin one to you this morning. Miss Lessing wrote you last week that I
had been sick. The truth is I tried to do too much, and paid up for it
by staying in bed two whole weeks. Perhaps I will acquire a little
sense in the next world; I certainly haven't in this! Japan wasn't
made for restless, energetic people. If you can't learn to be lazy,
you can't last long.
I can never tell you how good Miss Lessing has been, sleeping right by
me, taking care of me and loving me like I was her own child. The
girls too, have been so good sending me gifts almost every hour in the
day. One little girl got up at prayers the other night, and, folding
her hands, said: "Oh Lord, please make the Skipping Sensei well, and
help me to keep my mouth shut so it will be quiet, for she has been
good to us and we all do love her much." Heaven knows the "Skipping
Sensei" needs all the prayers of the congregation!
Just as soon as school is over, Miss Dixon and I start for
Russia. It's a good thing that vacation is near for I am tired of
being a Missionary lady, and a school-marm, in fact I am tired of
Don't worry about me, for I am all right. I've just run down and need
a little fun to wind me up for another year.
KOBE, July 16, 1902.
Does July 16th mean anything to you? It does to me. Just one year ago
today the gates of that old Union Depot shut between me and all that
was dear to me, and I went out into the big world to fight my big
fight alone. Well, I am still fighting, Mate, and probably will be to
the end of the campaign.
As you see I am in Kobe waiting for my pass-port to go to Russia. If
there is anything you want to know about pass-ports just apply to
me. With all confidence, I sailed down to the Consulate and was met by
a pair of legs attached to a huge mustache and the funniest little
button of a head you ever saw. I think the Lord must have laughed when
he got through making that man! He was horribly bored with life in
general, and me in particular. He motioned me wearily to a chair
beside a table, and, handing me a paper, managed to sigh: "Fill in."
The questions were about like this: Who was your father? What are you
doing out of your own country? Was anybody in your family ever hung?
How many teeth have you?
I wrote rapidly until I got to "When were you born?" Button-Head was
standing by me, so I looked up at him helplessly and told him that was
one thing I _never_ could remember. He said I would have to, and
I said I couldn't. He pranced around for fifteen minutes, and I
pretended to be racking my brain.
Then he handed me a Bible, and said in a stern voice: "Swear." I told
him that I couldn't, that I never had sworn, that ladies didn't do it
in America, wouldn't he please do it for me?
About this time Miss Dixon spoiled the fun by laughing, so I had to
behave. After we had spent two hours and three dollars in that dingy
old office, we departed, but our troubles were not over. No sooner had
we reached the hotel than Button-Head appeared with more papers. "You
failed to describe yourself," he mournfully announced, handing me
I had not had my dinner and I was cross, but I seized a pen determined
to make short work of it. How tall? Easily told. Black or white? Very
easy. Kind of chin? Round and rosy. Shape of face? Depends on time
and place. Hair? Pure gold. Eyes? Now I knew they were green but that
did not sound poetic enough so I appealed to Dixie. She thought for a
while, then said, "Not gray nor brown, I have it, they are syrup
colored!" So I put it down along with a lot of other nonsense.
Now the papers have to be sent to Tokyo for approval, then back here
again where I will have to do some more signing and swearing. Isn't
this enough to discourage people from ever going anywhere?
The news about the sailboat is great. How many of you will be up at
the Cape this summer? Is Jack going? When I think of the starlight
nights out in the boat, and the long lazy mornings on the beach, I get
absolutely faint with longing. Heretofore I haven't _dared_ to
enjoy things, and now, when I might, I am an exile heading for
Siberia! Oh, well! perhaps there will be starlight nights in Siberia,
VLADIVOSTOCK, SIBERIA, August 16, 1902.
If I should write all I wanted to say this morning, my letter would
reach across the Pacific! I didn't believe it was possible for me ever
to have such a good time again.
When we came, we brought a letter of introduction to a Mrs. Heath. She
has a beautiful big house, and a beautiful big heart, and she took us
right into both.
The day after we arrived, I was standing on her piazza looking down
the bay, when I saw a battle-ship come sailing in under a salute of
seventeen guns from the fort. It turned out to be the "Victor," and
you never knew such rejoicing. Mrs. Heath knows all the navy people
and her house is a favorite rendezvous. Before night, we had met many
old acquaintances, among them my Nagasaki friend, "Vermont."
It has been tremendously jolly and I can't deny that I have been
outrageously frivolous for a missionary! But to save my life I can't
conjure up the ghost of a regret! And what is more, I have been
contaminating Dixie! I have kept her in such a giddy whirl that she
says I have paralysed her conscience! I have dressed her up and
trotted her along to lunches, teas and dinners, to concerts on sea and
land, and once, Oh! awful confession, I bulldozed her into going to
the theatre! The consequence is that she has gotten entirely well and
looks ten years younger. Her chief trouble was that she had surrounded
herself with a regular picket fence of creed and dogma, and was afraid
to lift her eyes for fear she would catch a glimpse through the
cracks, of the beautiful world which God meant for us to enjoy. It
gave me particular joy to pull a few palings off that picket fence!
Most of my time is spent on the water with Vermont. I don't find it
half bad out on the bewitching Uzzuri Bay when the moon is shining and
the music floats over the water, to discuss love with a fascinating
What does it matter if he is talking about "the other one"? Don't you
suppose that I am glad to know that somewhere in this wide world
there's a man that can be loyal to his sweetheart even though she is
ten thousand miles away?
I ask occasional questions and don't listen to the answers, and he
pours out his confessions and thinks I am lovely. He really is one of
the dearest fellows I ever met, and I am glad for that other girl with
all my heart.
I like several of the other men very much but they bother me with
questions. They refuse to believe that I am connected with a mission,
and consider it all as a huge joke.
I wish you could see this place. It is built in terraces up the
greenest of mountains and forms a crescent around the bay. Everybody
seems to be in uniform of some kind, and soldiers and sailors are at
every turn. The streets are a glittering panorama of strange color and
form. At night everything is ablaze, bands playing, uniforms
glittering, and flags flying. It is all just one intense thrill of
life and rhythm, and the cloven foot of my worldliness never fails to
But when daylight comes and all the sordid ugliness is revealed,
disgust takes the place of fascination. The streets are crowded with
thousands of degraded Chinese and Koreans, who, even in their
brutality, are not as bad as the ordinary Russians.
Through this mass of poverty and degradation dash handsome carriages
filled with richly clad people. The drivers wear long blue plush
blouses with red sleeves and belt, and trousers tucked in high
boots. On their heads they wear funny little hats that look as if they
had been sat on. They generally stand up while driving and lash the
poor horses into a dead run from start to finish. Many of them are
ex-convicts and can never leave Siberia. If their cruelty to horses
is any criterion of their cruelty to their fellow men, I can't help
thinking they deserve their punishment.
I won't dare to mail this letter until I get out of Russia for they
are so cranky about their blessed old country. They would not even
let me have a little flag to send to the boys at home! I found out
to-day that a policeman comes every day to see what we have been
doing, what hours we keep, etc. In fact every movement is watched,
and one day when we returned to the hotel, we found that all our
possessions had been searched, and the police had even left their old
cigar stumps among our things! The more you see of Russia, the more
deeply you fall in love with Uncle Sam!
Several days ago Mrs. Heath gave us a tennis-tea and we had a jolly
time. The tea was served under the trees from a steaming samovar,
around which gathered representatives of many nations. There were many
unpronounceable gentlemen, and one real English Lord, who considered
Americans, "frightfully amusing."
I thought I had forgotten how to play tennis but I hadn't. That
undercut that Jack taught us won me a reputation.
It is only when I stop to think, that I realize how far I am from
home! When I wonder where you all are this minute, and what you are
doing, I feel as if I were on a visit to the planet Mars, and had no
communication whatever with the world.
Think of me, Mate, in Siberia, eating fish with a spoon, and drinking
coffee from a glass! Verily, when old Sister Fate found she could not
down me, she must have decided to play pranks with me!
My box of new clothes arrived just before I started, and I have had
use for everything. When I get on the white coat suit and the white
hat, I feel like a dream.
The weather is simply glorious, like our best October days at
home. Nothing could be more unlike than Russia and Japan! one is a
great oil painting, tragic, majestic, grand, while the other is an
exquisitely dainty water color full of sunshine and flowers.
Callers have come so I must close. Life is a very pretty game after
all, especially when you get wise enough to look on.
VLADIVOSTOCK, SIBERIA, September 1, 1902.
Just a short letter to tell you that we leave Vladivostock to-night. I
am all broken up; it has been the happiest summer that I have had for
years and I can't bear to think of it being over.
It has been so long since Peace and I have been acquainted that I
hardly yet dare look her full in the face for fear she will take
flight and leave me in utter darkness again. Even if she has not come
to live with me, she is at least my next door neighbor, and I offer
her incense that she may abide.
Now I might as well confess that if it were not for Memory there is no
telling what Peace might do! Poor old Memory! I'd like to throttle her
sometime and bury her in a deep hole. Yet she has served me many a
good turn, and often laid a restraining hand on impulse and
thought. But she is like a poor relation, always turning up at the
For instance, on a gorgeous moonlight night on the Uzzuri Bay when you
are out in a sampan with a pigtail who neither sees nor hears, and
your companion is clever enough to be fascinating and daring enough to
say things he "hadn't oughter," and the music and the moonlight gets
into your head, and you feel young and reckless and sentimental, then
all of a sudden Memory recalls another moonlight night when the youth
and the romance weren't merely make believe, and your mind travels
wearily over the intervening years, and you sit up straight and look
severe and put your hands behind you!
Oh! I am clinging to my ideal, Mate, never fear. I've held on to her
garments until they are tattered and torn. You introduced me to her
and I have never lost sight of her entirely.
This afternoon the Victor sailed for the Philippines. As she passed
Mrs. Heath's cottage where we had all promised to be, she dipped her
colors. I felt pretty blue for I knew my good times were on board,
and were sailing out of sight.
I am now at the hotel, trunk and boxes packed, waiting to
start. Cinderella is not going to wait for the stroke of twelve; she
has donned her sober garments and is ready to be whisked back to the
cinders on the hearth. I am glad hard work is ahead; a solid grind
seems necessary for my soul's salvation.
Farewell, vain earth! I love you not wisely but too well.
Why can't people be nice to one without being too nice? And why can't
you be horrid to people without being too horrid? Selah.
HIROSHIMA, October 10, 1902.
Dear Old Mate:
I am so dead tired to-night that I could not tell what part of me
ached the most! But the spirit moves me to unburden my soul and I feel
that I must write you. For this is one of my _dream_ nights, and
I have so many in Japan, when my old shell is too exhausted to move,
and so permits my soul to wander where it will, a dream night, when
the moon is its silveriest and biggest and I want to hug it for I know
that twelve hours before it looked down on my loved ones, and now it
comes to make more beautiful this fairy land, hiding the scars and
ugly places, touching the pine trees with silver points, and
glorifying the old Temples, till one wonders if they _could_ have
been made by hands. A night when the white robed priests are doing
honor to some "heathen idol" and must needs call his wandering
attention by the stroke of the deep toned bell, which sends its music
far across sleeping Japan, out into the wonderful sea.
I don't know what comes over me such nights as these. I don't seem to
be me at all! I can lie most of the night, wide awake, yet unconscious
of my surroundings, and dream dreams. I live through all the joyful
days of childhood, then through the sorrowful days of womanhood when I
was learning how to live, through the years of heartache and
heart-break,--and through it all, though I actually suffer, there, is
such an unspeakable lightness and buoyancy, such a lifting up, that
even pain is a pleasure. I can't explain it all, unless it is the
influence of this mysterious country, lulling and soothing, but
powerful and subtle as poison.
My dear girl you say you feel too far away to help me! Now don't you
worry about that! If you never wrote me another line, you would help
me. Just to know that you are around there, on the other side of the
earth, believing in me, loving me, and _approving_ of me, means
everything. You were right to make me come, and while it cost me my
very heart's blood, yet I am learning my lesson as you said I would.
My little ship may never again sail into the harbor of happiness, yet
there are sunny seas where soft winds blow, and even if my ship is all
by its lonesome, yet it's such a frisky craft, warranted never to
sink, no matter what the weather, that it can sail over many seas,
touch many lands, and grow rich in experience. And hid away in the
locker where no eye save mine may see, are my treasures; your love is
one, and nothing can rob me of it.
What you write me of Jack makes me very unhappy. I am not worth his
worrying over. Tell him so, Mate. If I could ever care for anybody
again in this world, it would be for him, but if an occasional
sentiment dares to spring up into my heart, I pull it up by the roots!
I would give anything to write to him, but I know it would only bring
pain to us both. Be good to him, Mate, I can't bear to think of him
I am so tired that I can scarcely keep the tears back. I must write no
HIROSHIMA, November 14, 1902.
I have about fifteen minutes between classes, and I am going to spend
them on you. Now who do you suppose has come to the surface again?
Little Germany, who was on the steamer coming over. He wasted a great
many stamps on me for the first few months after we landed but he got
tired of playing solos. He was on his way to Thibet to enter a
monastery to study some ancient language. Heaven knows why he wants to
know anything more antique than the language he speaks! I don't
believe there is any old dusty, forgotten corner of the world that he
hasn't poked into.
Well you know the fatal magnetism I exert over fossils! They always
turn to me as naturally as needles turn to a loadstone. This
particular mummy was no exception.
I wrote him a formal stately answer, reminding him in gentle reproof
that I was a widow (God save the Mark) and that my life was dedicated
to my work. It was no use, he bombarded me with letters, with bigger
and bigger words and longer and fiercer quotations. In the last one
he threatens to come to Hiroshima!
If he does, I am going to shave my eye-brows and black my teeth! He
speaks seven languages, and yet he doesn't know the meaning of the one
Jack used to say that if a man was persistent enough he could win a
woman in spite of the Devil. I would like to see him! I mean Jack, not
Dutchy nor the Devil.
HIROSHIMA, Christmas Eve, 1902.
I am in the very thickest of Christmas, and yet such a funny, unreal
Christmas, that it does not seem natural at all. Hiroshima is busy
decorating for the New Year, and everything is gay with brilliant
lanterns, plum blossoms and crimson berries. The little insignificant
streets are changed into bowers of sweet smelling ferns and spicy
pines, and the bamboo leaves sway to every breeze, while the waxen
plum blossoms send out a perfume sweet as violets.
The shop-keepers and their families put on their gayest kimonos and
their most enticing smiles and greet you with effusion.
On entering a shop you are asked if your honorable eyes will deign to
look upon most unworthy goods. Please will you give this or that a
little adoring look? The price? Ah! it's price is greatly enhanced
since the august foreigner cast honorable eyes upon it. (Which is no
joke!) Whether the article is bought or not, the smile, the bow, the
compliment are the same. All this time the crowd around the door of
the shop has been steadily increasing until daylight is shut out, for
everyone is interested in your purchase from the man who hauls the
dray up to the highest lady in the land. The shop-keeper is very
patient with the crowd until it shuts out the light, then he invites
them to carry their useless bodies to the river and throw them in.
Once outside you see another crowd and as curiosity is in the air, you
crane your neck and try to get closer. The center of attraction is a
man in spotless white cooking bean cake on a little hibachi. The air
is cold and crisp, and the smell of the savory bean paste, piping hot,
makes you hungry.
Next comes the fish man with a big flat basket on each end of a pole,
and offers you a choice lot; long slippery eels, beautiful shrimp, as
pink as the sunset, and juicy oysters whose shells have been scrubbed
until they are gleaming white. Around the baskets are garlands of
paper roses to hide from view the ugly rough edges of the straw.
The candy shops tempt you to the last sen, and the toy shops are a
perfect joy. Funny fat Japanese dolls and stuffed rabbits and
cross-eyed, tailless cats demand attention. Perhaps you will see a
cheap American doll with blue eyes and yellow hair carefully exhibited
under a glass case, and when you are wondering why they treasure this
cheap toy, you happen to glance down and catch the worshipping gaze of
a wistful, half starved child, and your point of view changes at once
and you begin to understand the value of it, and to wish with all your
heart that you could put an American dolly in the hands of every
little Japanese girl on the Island!
It is getting almost time to open my box and I am right childish over
it. It has been here for two days, and I have slipped in a dozen times
to look at it and touch it. Oh! Mate, the time has been so long, so
cruelly long! I wake myself up in the night some time sobbing. One
year and a half behind me, and two and a half ahead! I remember mother
telling about the day I started to school, how I came home and said
triumphantly, "Just think I've only got ten more years to go to
Poor little duffer! She's still going to school!
Last night I had another mother's meeting for the mothers of the Free
Kindergarten. This time I gave a magic lantern show, and I was the
showman. The poor, ignorant women sat there bewildered. They had never
seen a piano, and many of them had never been close to a foreigner
before. I showed them about a hundred slides, explained through an
interpreter until I was hoarse, gesticulated and orated to no
purpose. They remained silent and stolid. By and by there was a stir,
heads were raised, and necks craned. A sudden interest swept over the
room. I followed their gaze and saw on the sheet the picture of Christ
toiling up the mountain under the burden of the cross. The story was
new and strange to them, but the fact was as old as life itself. At
last they had found something that touched their own lives and brought
the quick tears of sympathy to their eyes.
I am going to have a meeting every month for them, no matter what else
has to go undone.
It is almost time to hang up our stockings. Miss Lessing and Dixie
objected at first, but I told them I was either going to be very
foolish or very blue, they could take their choice. I have to do
something to scare away the ghosts of dead Christmases, so I put on my
fool's cap and jingle my bells. When I begin to weaken, I go to the
piano and play "Come Ye Disconsolate" to rag time, and it cheers me up
I guess it's just about daylight with you now. Pete is tiptoeing in to
make the fires. I can hear him now saying: "Christmas Gif' Mister Sam,
Chris'mus Gif' Miss Bettie!" and the children are flying around in
their night clothes wild with excitement. Down in the sitting room the
stockings make a circle around the room and underneath each is a pile
of gifts. I can see the big log fire, and the sparkle of it in the old
book-case, and in the long glass between the windows. And in a few
minutes here you all come, you uncles and you cousins and you aunts,
trooping in with the smallest first. And such laughing, and shouting,
and rejoicing! and maybe in the midst of the fun somebody speaks of
me, and there's a little hush, and a little longing, then the fun goes
on more furiously than ever.
Well even if I am on the wrong side of the earth in body, I am not in
spirit, and I reach my arms clear around the world and cry "God bless
you, every one."
HIROSHIMA, March, 1903.
I have a strong conviction that I am going to swear before I get
through this letter, for this pen is what I would call, to use
unmissionary language, devilish. My! how familiar and wicked that word
looks! I've heard so many hymns and so much brotherly and sisterly
talk that it seems like meeting an old friend to see it written!
Here it is nearly cherry-blossom time again, and the days and the
weeks are slipping away into months before I know it. I am working at
full speed and wonder sometimes how I keep up. But I don't dare leave
any leisure for heartaches, even when the body is quivering from
weariness, and every nerve cries out for rest. I must keep on and on
and on, for all too easily the dread memories come creeping back and
enfold me until there is no light on any side. From morning until
night it is a fight against the tide.
Work is the only thing that keeps me from thinking, and I am
determined not to think. I suppose I am as contented here as I could
be anywhere. My whole heart is in the kindergarten and the success of
it, and maybe the day will come when my work will be all sufficient to
satisfy my soul's craving. But it hasn't come yet!
I almost envy some of these good people who can stand in the middle of
one of their prayers and touch all four sides. They know what they
want and are satisfied when they get it, but I want the moon and the
stars and the sun thrown in.
When things seem closing in upon me and everything looks dark, I flee
to the woods. I never knew what the trees and the wind and the sky
really meant until I came out here and had to make friends of them. I
think you have to be by yourself and a bit lonesome before Nature ever
begins to whisper her secrets. Can you imagine Philistine Me going out
on the hill top to see the sun-rise and going without my supper to see
it set? I am even studying the little botany that Jack gave me, though
my time and my intellect are equally limited.
And speaking of Jack leads me to remark that there is no necessity for
all of you to maintain such an oppressive silence concerning him!
Three months ago you wrote me that he was not well, and that he was
going south with you and sister. He must be pretty sick to stop work
even for a week. I have pictured you sitting with a loaf of bread and
a jug of wine beneath the bough quoting poetry at each other to your
You say when I come home I can rest on my laurels; no thank you, I
want a Morris chair, a pitcher of lemonade, all the new books and a
little darkey to fan me.
Mrs. Heath has asked me to visit her in Vladivostock this summer and I
am going if the cholera doesn't get worse. We are so afraid of it
that we almost boil the cow before we drink the milk!
Among the delicacies of our menu out here are raw fish, pickled
parsnips, sea-weed and bean-paste. As old Charity used to say I've
gotten so "acclamitized" I think I could eat a gum shoe.
When they send out my spring box from home, please tell them to put in
some fluffy white dresses with elbow sleeves. Then I want lots of
pretty ribbons, and a white belt. I saw in the paper that crushed
leather was the proper thing. It sounds like something good to eat,
but if it's to wear send it along.
My disposition will be everlastingly ruined if I write another line
with this pen. Good-bye.
HIROSHIMA, May, 1903.
Well the catastrophe arrived and we were prisoners for nearly a
week. It was not quite cholera but close enough to it to scare us all
to death. Both Eve and the apple were young and green, and the
combination worked disaster. When the doctor arrived, he shipped Eve
off to the inspection hospital, while we were locked up, guarded by
five small policemen, and hardly allowed to open our mouths for fear
we would swallow a germ. We were fumigated and par-boiled until we
felt like steam puddings. Nobody was allowed to go in or out, our
vegetables were handed to us in a basket on a bamboo pole over the
wall. We tied notes to bricks and flung them to our neighbors on the
outside. Thank Heaven, the servants were locked in too. Every day a
little man with lots of brass buttons and a big voice came and asked
anxiously after our honorable insides.
I used every inducement to get them to let me go out for exercise. I
fixed a tray with my prettiest cups and sent a pot of steaming coffee
and a plate of cake out to the lodge house. Word came back, "We are
not permitted to drink or taste food in an infected house." Then I
tried them on button-hole bouquets, and when that failed, I got
desperate, and announced that I was subject to fits, unless I got
regular outside exercise every day. That fetched them and they gave
the foreign teachers permission to walk in the country for half an
hour provided we did not speak to any one.
Eve was up and having a good time before the school gates were opened.
While a prisoner, I did all sorts of odd jobs, patched, mended,
darned, wrote letters, and chopped down two trees. The latter was a
little out of my line, but the trees were eaten up with caterpillars,
and as I could not get anybody to cut them down, I sallied forth and
did it myself. My chef stood by and admired the job, but he would not
assist for fear he would unwittingly murder one of his ancestors!
You would certainly laugh to see me keeping house with a cook book, a
grocery book and a dictionary. The other day I gave directions for
poached eggs, and the maid served them in a huge pan full of water.
There are one hundred and twenty-five yellow kids waiting for me so I
must hurry away.
VLADIVOSTOCK, SIBERIA, July, 1903.
I didn't mean that it should be so long a time before I wrote you, but
the closing of school, the Commencement, and the getting ready to come
up here about finished me. You remember the old darkey song, "Wisht I
was in Heaben, settin' down"? Well that was my one ambition and I
about realized it when I got up here to Mrs. Heath's and she put me in
a hammock in a quiet corner of the porch and made me keep blissfully
still for two whole days.
The air is just as bracing, the hills are just as green, and the
lights and shadows dance over the harbor just as of old. We have
tennis, golf, picnics, sails, and constant jollification, but I don't
seem to enjoy it all as I did last summer. It isn't altogether
homesickness, though that is chronic, it is a constant longing for I
don't know what.
Viewed impersonally, the world is a rattling good show, but instead of
smiling at it from the front row in the dress circle, I get to be one
of the performers every time.
We have been greatly interested in watching the Russians build a fort
on one of their islands near here. They insist there will be no war
and at the same time they are mining the harbor and building forts day
and night. The minute it is dark the searchlights are kept busy
sweeping the harbor in search of something not strictly Russian. I
hope I will get back as safely as I got here.
Did I tell you that I stopped over two days in Korea? I had often
heard of the Jumping Off Place, but I never expected to actually see
it! The people live in the most awful little mud houses, and their
poverty is appalling. No streets, no roads, no anything save a fog of
melancholy that seems to envelop everything. The terrible helplessness
of the people, their ignorance, and isolation are terrible.
The box from home was more than satisfactory. I have thoroughly
enjoyed wearing all the pretty things. The hat sister sent was about
the size of a turn-table; a strong hat pin and a slight breeze will be
all I need to travel to No Man's Land. Sister says it's
_moderate_, save the mark! but it really is becoming and when I
get it on, my face looks like a pink moon emerging from a fleecy black
cloud. I had to practice wearing it in private until I learned to
balance it properly.
I shall stay up here through July and then I am thinking of going to
Shanghai with Mrs. Heath's sister, who lives there. I am very fond of
her, and I know I would have a good time. I feel a little like a
subscription list, being passed around this way, but I simply
_have_ to keep going every minute when I am not at work.
They are calling up to me from the tennis court so I must stop for the
SHANGHAI, CHINA, August, 1903.
The mail goes out this morning and I am determined to get this letter
written if I break up a dozen parties. As you see, I am in Shanghai,
this wonderful big understudy for Chicago, which seems about as
incongruous in its surroundings as a silk hat on a haystack! There
are beautiful boulevards, immense houses, splendid public gardens, all
hedged in by a yellow mass of orientals.
Every nationality is represented here, and people meet, mingle, and
separate in an ever changing throng. At every corner stands a tall
majestic Sikh, with head bound in yards of crimson cloth, directing
the movements of the crowd. Down the street comes a regiment of
English soldiers, so big and determined that one well understands
their victories. The ubiquitous Russian makes himself known at every
turn, silent and grave, but in his simplest dealings as merciless and
greedy as the country he represents. Frenchmen and Germans, and best
of all, the unquenchable American, join in the panorama, and the
result is something that one does not see anywhere else on the
globe. I guess if my dear brethren knew of the theatre parties,
dinners and dances I was going to, they would think I was on a
toboggan slide for the lower regions! I am mot though. I am simply
getting a good swing to the pendulum so that I can go back to "the
field," and the baby organs and the hymn-singing with better grace. It
is very funny, but do you know that for a _steady diet_ I can
stand the saints much better than I can the sinners!
My friends the Carters live right on the Bund facing the water. They
keep lots of horses and many servants, and live in a luxury that only
the East can offer. Every morning before I am up a slippery Chinese,
all done up in livery, comes to my room and solemnly announces: "Missy
bath allee ready, nice morning, good-bye." From that time on I am
scarcely allowed to carry my pocket handkerchief!
The roads about here are perfect, and we drive for hours past big
country houses, all built in English fashion. There is one grewsome
feature in the landscape, however, and that is the Chinese graves. In
the fields, in the back and front yards, on the highways, any bare
space that is large enough to set a box and cover it with a little
earth, serves as a burying ground.
I am interested in it all, and enjoying it in a way, but, Mate, there
is no use fibbing to you, there is a restlessness in my heart that
sometimes almost drives me crazy. There is nothing under God's sun
that can repay a woman for the loss of love and home. It's all right
to love humanity, but I was born a specialist. The past is torn out by
the roots but the awful emptiness remains. I am not grieving over what
has been, but what isn't. That last sentence sounds malarial, I am
going right upstairs to take a quinine pill.
SOOCHOW, August, 1903.
Well, Mate, this is the first letter I have really written you from
China. Shanghai doesn't count. Soochow is the real article. The
unspeakable quantity and quality of dirt surpasses anything I have
ever imagined. Dirt and babies, there are millions of babies, under
your feet, around your heels, every nook and corner full of babies.
From Shanghai to Soochow is only a one night trip, and as I had an
invitation to come up for over Sunday, I decided to take advantage of
it. You would have to see the boat I came in to appreciate it. They
call it a house-boat, but it is built on a pattern that is new to
me. In the lower part are rooms, each of which is supplied with a
board on which you are supposed to sleep. Each passenger carries his
own bedding and food. In the upper part of the boat is a sort of loft
just high enough for a man to sit up, and in it are crowded hundreds
of the common people. A launch tows seven or eight of these
house-boats at a time. I will not ask you to even imagine the
condition of them; I had to stand it because I was there, but you are
It was just at sunset when we left Shanghai, and I got as far away
from the crowd as I could and tried to forget my unsavory
surroundings. The sails of thousands of Chinese vessels loomed black
and big against the red sky as they floated silently by without a
ripple. In the dim light, I read on the prow of a bulky schooner,
"'The Mary', Boston, U.S.A." Do you know how my heart leapt out to
"The Mary, Boston, U.S.A."? It was the one thing in all that vast,
unfamiliar world that spoke my tongue.
When I went to my room, I found that a nice little Chinese girl in a
long sack coat and shiny black trousers was to share it with me. I
must confess that I was relieved for I was lonesome and a bit nervous,
and when I discovered that she knew a little English I could have
hugged her. We spread our cold supper on the top of my dress suit
case, put our one candle in the center, and proceeded to feast. Little
Miss Izy was not as shy as she looked, and what she lacked in
vocabulary she made up in enthusiasm. We got into a gale of laughter
over our efforts to understand each other, and she was as curious
about my costume as I was about hers. She watched me undress with
unfeigned amusement, following the lengthy process carefully, then she
rose, untied a string, stepped out of her coat and trousers, stood for
a moment in a white suit made exactly like her outer garments, then
gaily kicked off her tiny slippers and rolled over in bed. I don't
know if this is a universal custom in China, but at any rate, little
Miss Izy will never be like the old lady, who committed suicide
because she was so tired of buttoning and unbuttoning.
The next morning we were in Soochow, at least outside of the city
wall. They say the wall is over two thousand years old and it
certainly looks it, and the spaces on top left for the guns to point
through make it look as if it had lost most of its teeth. Things are
so old in this place, Mate, that I feel as if I had just been born! I
have nearly ran my legs off sightseeing; big pagodas and little
pagodas, Mamma Buddhas and Papa Buddhas, and baby Buddhas, all of whom
look exactly like their first cousins in Japan.
Soochow is just a collection of narrow alley-ways over which the house
tops meet, and through which the people swarm by the millions, sellers
crying their wares, merchants urging patronage, children screaming,
beggars displaying their infirmities, and through it all coolies
carrying sedan chairs scattering the crowd before them.
In many of the temples, the priests hang wind bells to frighten the
evil spirits away. I think it is a needless precaution, for it would
only be a feeble-minded spirit that would ever want to return to China
once it had gotten away!
HIROSHIMA, October, 1903.
In harness again and glad of it. I've opened the third kindergarten
with the money from home; it's only a little one, eighteen children in
all, and there were seventy-five applicants, but it is a
beginning. You ought to see the mothers crowding around, begging and
pleading for their children to be taken in, and the little tots weep
and wail when they have to go home. I feel to-day as if I would almost
resort to highway robbery to get money enough to carry on this work!
My training class is just as interesting as it can be. When the girls
came to me two years ago they were in the Third Reader. With two
exceptions, I have given them everything that was included in my own
course at home, and taught them English besides. They are very
ambitious, and what do you suppose is their chief aim in life? To
study until they know as much as I do! Oh! Mate, it makes me want to
hide my head in shame, when I think of all the opportunities I
wasted. You know only too well what a miserable little rubbish pile of
learning I possess, but what you _don't_ know is how I have
studied and toiled and burned the midnight tallow in trying to work
over those old odds and ends into something useful for my girls. If
they have made such progress under a superficial, shallow-pated thing
like me, what _would_ they have done under a woman with brains?
I wish you could look in on me to-night sitting here surrounded by all
my household goods. The room is bright and cozy, and just at present I
have a room-mate. It is a little sick girl from the training class,
whom I have taken care of since I came back. She belongs to a very
poor family down in the country, her mother is dead, and her home life
is very unhappy. She nearly breaks her heart crying when we speak of
sending her home, and begs me to help her get well so she can go on
with her studies.
Of course she is a great care, but I get up a little earlier and go to
bed a little later, and so manage to get it all in.
We are getting quite stirred up over the war clouds that are hanging
over this little water-color country. Savage old Russia is doing a lot
of bullying, and the Japanese are not going to stand much more. They
are drilling and marching and soldiering now for all they are
worth. From Kuri, the naval station, we can hear the thunder of the
guns which are in constant practice. Out on the parade grounds, in
the barracks, on every country road preparation is going on. Officers
high in rank and from the Emperor's guard are here reviewing the
troops. Those who know say a crash is bound to come. So if you hear
of me in a red cross uniform at the front, you needn't be surprised.
HIROSHIMA, November, 1903.
My dear old Mate:
I am just tired enough to-night to fold my hands, and turn up my toes
and say "Enough." If overcoming difficulties makes character, then I
will have as many characters as the Chinese alphabet by the time I get
through. The bothers meet me when the girl makes the fire in the
morning and puts the ashes in the grate instead of the coal, and they
keep right along with me all day until I go to bed at night and find
the sheet under the mattress and the pillows at the foot.
It wouldn't be near so hard if I could charge around, and let off a
little of my wrath, but no, I must be nice and sweet and polite and
_never_ forget that I am an Example.
Have you ever seen these dolls that have a weight in them, so that you
can push them over and they stand right up again? Well I have a large
one and her name is Susie Damn. When things reach the limit of
endurance, I take it out on Susie Damn. I box her jaws and knock her
over, and up she comes every time with such a pleasant smile that I
get in a good humor again.
What is the matter with you at home? Why don't you write to me? I
used to get ten and twelve letters every mail, and now if I get one I
am ready to cry for joy. Because I am busy does not mean that I
haven't time to be lonely. Why, Mate, you can never know what
loneliness means until you are entirely away from everything you
love. I have tried to be brave but I haven't always made a grand
success of it. What I have suffered--well don't let me talk about
it. As Little Germany says, to live is to love, and to love is to
suffer. And yet it is for that love we are ready to suffer and die,
and without it life is a blank, a sail without a wind, a frame without
Now to-morrow I may get one of your big letters, and you will tell me
how grand I am, and how my soul is developing, etc., and I'll get such
a stiff upper lip that my front teeth will be in danger. It takes a
stiff upper lip, and a stiff conscience, and a stiff everything else
to keep going out here!
From the foregoing outburst you probably think I am pale and dejected.
"No, on the contrary," as the seasick Frenchman said when asked if he
had dined. I am hale and hearty, and I never had as much color in my
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