Sunday, October 7, 2007


American Notes by Rudyard Kipling

American Notes
Rudyard Kipling
With Introduction
In an issue of the London World in April, 1890, there appeared
the following paragraph: "Two small rooms connected by a tiny
hall afford sufficient space to contain Mr. Rudyard Kipling, the
literary hero of the present hour, 'the man who came from
nowhere,' as he says himself, and who a year ago was consciously
nothing in the literary world."
Six months previous to this Mr. Kipling, then but twenty-four
years old, had arrived in England from India to find that fame
had preceded him. He had already gained fame in India, where
scores of cultured and critical people, after reading
"Departmental Ditties," "Plain Tales from the Hills," and various
other stories and verses, had stamped him for a genius.
Fortunately for everybody who reads, London interested and
stimulated Mr. Kipling, and he settled down to writing. "The
Record of Badalia Herodsfoot," and his first novel, "The Light
that Failed," appeared in 1890 and 1891; then a collection of
verse, "Life's Handicap, being stories of Mine Own People," was
published simultaneously in London and New York City; then
followed more verse, and so on through an unending series.
In 1891 Mr. Kipling met the young author Wolcott Balestier, at
that time connected with a London publishing house. A strong
attachment grew between the two, and several months after their
first meeting they came to Mr. Balestier's Vermont home, where
they collaborated on "The Naulahka: A Story of West and East,"
for which The Century paid the largest price ever given by an
American magazine for a story. The following year Mr. Kipling
married Mr. Balestier's sister in London and brought her to
The Balestiers were of an aristocratic New York family; the
grandfather of Mrs. Kipling was J. M. Balestier, a prominent
lawyer in New York City and Chicago, who died in 1888, leaving a
fortune of about a million. Her maternal grand-father was E.
Peshine Smith of Rochester, N. Y., a noted author and jurist, who
was selected in 1871 by Secretary Hamilton Fish to go to Japan as
the Mikado's adviser in international law. The ancestral home of
the Balestiers was near Brattleboro', Vt., and here Mr. Kipling
brought his bride. The young Englishman was so impressed by the
Vermont scenery that he rented for a time the cottage on the
"Bliss Farm," in which Steele Mackaye the playwright wrote the
well known drama "Hazel Kirke."
The next spring Mr. Kipling purchased from his brother-in-law,
Beatty Balestier, a tract of land about three miles north of
Brattleboro', Vt., and on this erected a house at a cost of
nearly $50,000, which he named "The Naulahka." This was his home
during his sojourn in America. Here he wrote when in the mood,
and for recreation tramped abroad over the hills. His social
duties at this period were not arduous, for to his home he
refused admittance to all but tried friends. He made a study of
the Yankee country dialect and character for "The Walking
Delegate," and while "Captains Courageous," the story of New
England fisher life, was before him he spent some time among the
Gloucester fishermen with an acquaint-ance who had access to the
household gods of these people.
He returned to England in August, 1896, and did not visit America
again till 1899, when he came with his wife and three children
for a limited time.
It is hardly fair to Mr. Kipling to call "American Notes" first
impressions, for one reading them will readily see that the
impressions are superficial, little thought being put upon the
writing. They seem super-sarcastic, and would lead one to
believe that Mr. Kipling is antagonistic to America in every
respect. This, however, is not true. These "Notes" aroused much
protest and severe criticism when they appeared in 1891, and are
considered so far beneath Mr. Kipling's real work that they have
been nearly suppressed and are rarely found in a list of his
writings. Their very caustic style is of interest to a student
and lover of Kipling, and for this reason the publishers believe
them worthy of a good binding.
G. P. T.
At the Golden Gate
"Serene, indifferent to fate, Thou sittest at the Western Gate;
Thou seest the white seas fold their tents, Oh, warder of two
continents; Thou drawest all things, small and great, To thee,
beside the Western Gate."
THIS is what Bret Harte has written of the great city of San
Francisco, and for the past fortnight I have been wondering what
made him do it.
There is neither serenity nor indifference to be found in these
parts; and evil would it be for the continents whose wardship
were intrusted to so reckless a guardian.
Behold me pitched neck-and-crop from twenty days of the high seas
into the whirl of California, deprived of any guidance, and left
to draw my own conclusions. Protect me from the wrath of an
outraged community if these letters be ever read by American
eyes! San Francisco is a mad city--inhabited for the most part
by perfectly insane people, whose women are of a remarkable
When the "City of Pekin" steamed through the Golden Gate, I saw
with great joy that the block-house which guarded the mouth of
the "finest harbor in the world, sir," could be silenced by two
gunboats from Hong Kong with safety, comfort, and despatch.
Also, there was not a single American vessel of war in the
This may sound bloodthirsty; but remember, I had come with a
grievance upon me--the grievance of the pirated English books.
Then a reporter leaped aboard, and ere I could gasp held me in
his toils. He pumped me exhaustively while I was getting ashore,
demanding of all things in the world news about Indian
journalism. It is an awful thing to enter a new land with a new
lie on your lips. I spoke the truth to the evil-minded Custom
House man who turned my most sacred raiment on a floor com-posed
of stable refuse and pine splinters; but the reporter overwhelmed
me not so much by his poignant audacity as his beautiful
ignorance. I am sorry now that I did not tell him more lies as
I passed into a city of three hundred thousand white men. Think
of it! Three hundred thou-sand white men and women gathered in
one spot, walking upon real pavements in front of
plate-glass-windowed shops, and talking something that at first
hearing was not very different from English. It was only when I
had tangled myself up in a hopeless maze of small wooden houses,
dust, street refuse, and children who played with empty kerosene
tins, that I discovered the difference of speech.
"You want to go to the Palace Hotel?" said an affable youth on a
dray. "What in hell are you doing here, then? This is about the
lowest ward in the city. Go six blocks north to corner of Geary
and Markey, then walk around till you strike corner of Gutter and
Sixteenth, and that brings you there."
I do not vouch for the literal accuracy of these directions,
quoting but from a disordered memory.
"Amen," I said. "But who am I that I should strike the corners
of such as you name? Peradventure they be gentlemen of repute,
and might hit back. Bring it down to dots, my son."
I thought he would have smitten me, but he didn't. He explained
that no one ever used the word "street," and that every one was
supposed to know how the streets ran, for sometimes the names
were upon the lamps and sometimes they weren't. Fortified with
these directions, I proceeded till I found a mighty street, full
of sumptuous buildings four and five stories high, but paved with
rude cobblestones, after the fashion of the year 1.
Here a tram-car, without any visible means of support, slid
stealthily behind me and nearly struck me in the back. This was
the famous cable car of San Francisco, which runs by gripping an
endless wire rope sunk in the ground, and of which I will tell
you more anon. A hundred yards further there was a slight
commotion in the street, a gathering together of three or four,
something that glittered as it moved very swiftly. A ponderous
Irish gentleman, with priest's cords in his hat and a small
nickel-plated badge on his fat bosom, emerged from the knot
supporting a Chinaman who had been stabbed in the eye and was
bleeding like a pig. The by-standers went their ways, and the
Chinaman, assisted by the policeman, his own. Of course this was
none of my business, but I rather wanted to know what had
happened to the gentleman who had dealt the stab. It said a
great deal for the excellence of the municipal arrangement of the
town that a surging crowd did not at once block the street to see
what was going for-ward. I was the sixth man and the last who
assisted at the performance, and my curiosity was six times the
greatest. Indeed, I felt ashamed of showing it.
There were no more incidents till I reached the Palace Hotel, a
seven-storied warren of humanity with a thousand rooms in it.
All the travel books will tell you about hotel arrangements in
this country. They should be seen to be appreciated. Understand
clearly--and this letter is written after a thousand miles of
experiences--that money will not buy you service in the West.
When the hotel clerk--the man who awards your room to you and who
is supposed to give you information--when that resplendent
individual stoops to attend to your wants he does so whistling or
hum-ming or picking his teeth, or pauses to converse with some
one he knows. These performances, I gather, are to impress upon
you that he is a free man and your equal. From his general
appearance and the size of his diamonds he ought to be your
superior. There is no necessity for this swaggering
self-consciousness of freedom. Business is business, and the man
who is paid to attend to a man might reasonably devote his whole
attention to the job. Out of office hours he can take his coach
and four and pervade society if he pleases.
In a vast marble-paved hall, under the glare of an electric
light, sat forty or fifty men, and for their use and amusement
were provided spittoons of infinite capacity and generous gape.
Most of the men wore frock-coats and top-hats--the things that we
in India put on at a wedding-break-fast, if we possess them--but
they all spat. They spat on principle. The spittoons were on
the staircases, in each bedroom--yea, and in chambers even more
sacred than these. They chased one into retirement, but they
blossomed in chiefest splendor round the bar, and they were all
used, every reeking one of them.
Just before I began to feel deathly sick another reporter
grappled me. What he wanted to know was the precise area of
India in square miles. I referred him to Whittaker. He had
never heard of Whittaker. He wanted it from my own mouth, and I
would not tell him. Then he swerved off, just like the other
man, to details of journalism in our own country. I ventured to
suggest that the interior economy of a paper most concerned the
people who worked it.
"That's the very thing that interests us," he said. "Have you
got reporters anything like our reporters on Indian newspapers?"
"We have not," I said, and suppressed the "thank God" rising to
my lips.
"Why haven't you?" said he.
"Because they would die," I said.
It was exactly like talking to a child--a very rude little child.
He would begin almost every sentence with, "Now tell me something
about India," and would turn aimlessly from one question to the
other without the least continuity. I was not angry, but keenly
interested. The man was a revelation to me. To his questions I
re-turned answers mendacious and evasive. After all, it really
did not matter what I said. He could not understand. I can only
hope and pray that none of the readers of the "Pioneer" will ever
see that portentous interview. The man made me out to be an
idiot several sizes more drivelling than my destiny intended, and
the rankness of his ignorance managed to distort the few poor
facts with which I supplied him into large and elaborate lies.
Then, thought I, "the matter of American journalism shall be
looked into later on. At present I will enjoy myself."
No man rose to tell me what were the lions of the place. No one
volunteered any sort of conveyance. I was absolutely alone in
this big city of white folk. By instinct I sought refreshment,
and came upon a bar-room full of bad Salon pictures in which men
with hats on the backs of their heads were wolfing food from a
counter. It was the institution of the "free lunch" I had struck.
You paid for a drink and got as much as you wanted to eat. For
something less than a rupee a day a man can feed himself
sumptuously in San Francisco, even though he be a bankrupt.
Remember this if ever you are stranded in these parts.
Later I began a vast but unsystematic exploration of the streets.
I asked for no names. It was enough that the pavements were full
of white men and women, the streets clanging with traffic, and
that the restful roar of a great city rang in my ears. The cable
cars glided to all points of the compass at once. I took them
one by one till I could go no further. San Francisco has been
pitched down on the sand bunkers of the Bikaneer desert. About
one fourth of it is ground reclaimed from the sea--any old-timers
will tell you all about that. The remainder is just ragged,
unthrifty sand hills, to-day pegged down by houses.
From an English point of view there has not been the least
attempt at grading those hills, and indeed you might as well try
to grade the hillocks of Sind. The cable cars have for all
practical purposes made San Francisco a dead level. They take no
count of rise or fall, but slide equably on their appointed
courses from one end to the other of a six-mile street. They
turn corners almost at right angles, cross other lines, and for
aught I know may run up the sides of houses. There is no visible
agency of their flight, but once in awhile you shall pass a
five-storied building humming with machinery that winds up an
everlasting wire cable, and the initiated will tell you that here
is the mechanism. I gave up asking questions. If it pleases
Providence to make a car run up and down a slit in the ground for
many miles, and if for twopence halfpenny I can ride in that car,
why shall I seek the reasons of the miracle? Rather let me look
out of the windows till the shops give place to thousands and
thousands of little houses made of wood (to imitate stone), each
house just big enough for a man and his family. Let me watch the
people in the cars and try to find out in what manner they differ
from us, their ancestors.
It grieves me now that I cursed them (in the matter of book
piracy), because I perceived that my curse is working and that
their speech is be-coming a horror already. They delude
them-selves into the belief that they talk English--the
English--and I have already been pitied for speaking with "an
English accent." The man who pitied me spoke, so far as I was
concerned, the language of thieves. And they all do. Where we
put the accent forward they throw it back, and vice versa where
we give the long "a" they use the short, and words so simple as
to be past mistaking they pronounce somewhere up in the dome of
their heads. How do these things happen?
Oliver Wendell Holmes says that the Yankee school-marm, the cider
and the salt codfish of the Eastern States, are responsible for
what he calls a nasal accent. I know better. They stole books
from across the water without paying for 'em, and the snort of
delight was fixed in their nostrils forever by a just Providence.
That is why they talk a foreign tongue to-day.
"Cats is dogs, and rabbits is dogs, and so's parrots. But this
'ere tortoise is an insect, so there ain't no charge," as the old
porter said.
A Hindoo is a Hindoo and a brother to the man who knows his
vernacular. And a French-man is French because he speaks his own
language. But the American has no language. He is dialect,
slang, provincialism, accent, and so forth. Now that I have
heard their voices, all the beauty of Bret Harte is being ruined
for me, because I find myself catching through the roll of his
rhythmical prose the cadence of his peculiar fatherland. Get an
American lady to read to you "How Santa Claus Came to Simpson's
Bar," and see how much is, under her tongue, left of the beauty
of the original.
But I am sorry for Bret Harte. It happened this way. A reporter
asked me what I thought of the city, and I made answer suavely
that it was hallowed ground to me, because of Bret Harte. That
was true.
"Well," said the reporter, "Bret Harte claims California, but
California don't claim Bret Harte. He's been so long in England
that he's quite English. Have you seen our cracker factories or
the new offices of the 'Examiner'?"
He could not understand that to the outside world the city was
worth a great deal less than the man. I never intended to curse
the people with a provincialism so vast as this.
But let us return to our sheep--which means the sea-lions of the
Cliff House. They are the great show of San Francisco. You take
a train which pulls up the middle of the street (it killed two
people the day before yesterday, being un-braked and driven
absolutely regardless of consequences), and you pull up somewhere
at the back of the city on the Pacific beach. Originally the
cliffs and their approaches must have been pretty, but they have
been so carefully defiled with advertisements that they are now
one big blistered abomination. A hundred yards from the shore
stood a big rock covered with the carcasses of the sleek
sea-beasts, who roared and rolled and walloped in the spouting
surges. No bold man had painted the creatures sky-blue or
advertised news-papers on their backs, wherefore they did not
match the landscape, which was chiefly hoarding. Some day,
perhaps, whatever sort of government may obtain in this country
will make a restoration of the place and keep it clean and neat.
At present the sovereign people, of whom I have heard so much
already, are vending cherries and painting the virtues of "Little
Bile Beans" all over it.
Night fell over the Pacific, and the white sea-fog whipped
through the streets, dimming the splendors of the electric
lights. It is the use of this city, her men and women folk, to
parade between the hours of eight and ten a certain street called
Cairn Street, where the finest shops are situated. Here the
click of high heels on the pavement is loudest, here the lights
are brightest, and here the thunder of the traffic is most
overwhelming. I watched Young California, and saw that it was,
at least, expensively dressed, cheerful in manner, and
self-asserting in conversation. Also the women were very fair.
Perhaps eighteen days aboard ship had something to do with my
unreserved admiration. The maidens were of generous build,
large, well groomed, and attired in raiment that even to my
inexperienced eyes must have cost much. Cairn Street at nine
o'clock levels all distinctions of rank as impartially as the
grave. Again and again I loitered at the heels of a couple of
resplendent beings, only to overhear, when I expected the level
voice of culture, the staccato "Sez he," "Sez I" that is the mark
of the white servant-girl all the world over.
This was depressing because, in spite of all that goes to the
contrary, fine feathers ought to make fine birds. There was
wealth--unlimited wealth--in the streets, but not an accent that
would not have been dear at fifty cents. Where-fore, revolving
in my mind that these folk were barbarians, I was presently
enlightened and made aware that they also were the heirs of all
the ages, and civilized after all. There appeared before me an
affable stranger of prepossessing appearance, with a blue and an
innocent eye. Addressing me by name, he claimed to have met me
in New York, at the Windsor, and to this claim I gave a qualified
assent. I did not remember the fact, but since he was so certain
of it, why, then--I waited developments.
"And what did you think of Indiana when you came through?" was
the next question.
It revealed the mystery of previous acquaintance and one or two
other things. With reprehensible carelessness my friend of the
light-blue eye had looked up the name of his victim in the hotel
register, and read "Indiana" for India.
The provincialism with which I had cursed his people extended to
himself. He could not imagine an Englishman coming through the
States from west to east instead of by the regularly ordained
route. My fear was that in his delight in finding me so
responsive he would make remarks about New York and the Windsor
which I could not understand. And, indeed, he adventured in this
direction once or twice, asking me what I thought of such and
such streets, which from his tone I gathered to be anything but
respectable. It is trying to talk unknown New York in almost
unknown San Francisco. But my friend was merciful. He protested
that I was one after his own heart, and pressed upon me rare and
curious drinks at more than one bar. These drinks I accepted
with gratitude, as also the cigars with which his pockets were
stored. He would show me the life of the city. Having no desire
to watch a weary old play again, I evaded the offer and received
in lieu of the devil's instruction much coarse flattery.
Curiously constituted is the soul of man. Knowing how and where
this man lied, waiting idly for the finale, I was distinctly
conscious, as he bubbled compliments in my ear, of soft thrills
of gratified pride stealing from hat-rim to boot-heels. I was
wise, quoth he--anybody could see that with half an eye;
sagacious, versed in the ways of the world, an acquaintance to be
desired; one who had tasted the cup of life with discretion.
All this pleased me, and in a measure numbed the suspicion that
was thoroughly aroused. Eventually the blue-eyed one discovered,
nay, insisted, that I had a taste for cards (this was clumsily
worked in, but it was my fault, for in that I met him half-way
and allowed him no chance of good acting). Hereupon I laid my
head upon one side and simulated unholy wisdom, quoting odds and
ends of poker talk, all ludicrously misapplied. My friend kept
his countenance admirably, and well he might, for five minutes
later we arrived, always by the purest of chance, at a place
where we could play cards and also frivol with Louisiana State
Lottery tickets. Would I play?
"Nay," said I, "for to me cards have neither meaning nor
continuity; but let us assume that I am going to play. How would
you and your friends get to work? Would you play a straight
game, or make me drunk, or--well, the fact is, I'm a newspaper
man, and I'd be much obliged if you'd let me know something about
bunco steering."
My blue-eyed friend erected himself into an obelisk of profanity.
He cursed me by his gods--the right and left bower; he even
cursed the very good cigars he had given me. But, the storm
over, he quieted down and explained. I apologized for causing
him to waste an evening, and we spent a very pleasant time
Inaccuracy, provincialism, and a too hasty rushing to
conclusions, were the rocks that he had split on, but he got his
revenge when he said:--"How would I play with you? From all the
poppy-cock Anglice bosh you talked about poker, I'd ha' played a
straight game, and skinned you. I wouldn't have taken the trouble
to make you drunk. You never knew anything of the game, but how
I was mistaken in going to work on you, makes me sick."
He glared at me as though I had done him an injury. To-day I
know how it is that year after year, week after week, the bunco
steerer, who is the confidence trick and the card-sharper man of
other climes, secures his prey. He clavers them over with
flattery as the snake clavers the rabbit. The incident depressed
me because it showed I had left the innocent East far behind and
was come to a country where a man must look out for himself. The
very hotels bristled with notices about keeping my door locked
and depositing my valuables in a safe. The white man in a lump
is bad. Weeping softly for O-Toyo (little I knew then that my
heart was to be torn afresh from my bosom) I fell asleep in the
clanging hotel.
Next morning I had entered upon the deferred inheritance. There
are no princes in America--at least with crowns on their
heads--but a generous-minded member of some royal family received
my letter of introduction. Ere the day closed I was a member of
the two clubs, and booked for many engagements to dinner and
party. Now, this prince, upon whose financial operations be
continual increase, had no reason, nor had the others, his
friends, to put himself out for the sake of one Briton more or
less, but he rested not till he had accomplished all in my behalf
that a mother could think of for her debutante daughter.
Do you know the Bohemian Club of San Francisco? They say its
fame extends over the world. It was created, somewhat on the
lines of the Savage, by men who wrote or drew things, and has
blossomed into most unrepublican luxury. The ruler of the place
is an owl--an owl standing upon a skull and cross-bones, showing
forth grimly the wisdom of the man of letters and the end of his
hopes for immortality. The owl stands on the staircase, a statue
four feet high; is carved in the wood-work, flutters on the
frescoed ceiling, is stamped on the note-paper, and hangs on the
walls. He is an ancient and honorable bird. Under his wing 'twas
my privilege to meet with white men whose lives were not chained
down to routine of toil, who wrote magazine articles instead of
reading them hurriedly in the pauses of office-work, who painted
pictures instead of contenting themselves with cheap etchings
picked up at another man's sale of effects. Mine were all the
rights of social intercourse, craft by craft, that India,
stony-hearted step-mother of collectors, has swindled us out of.
Treading soft carpets and breathing the incense of superior
cigars, I wandered from room to room studying the paintings in
which the members of the club had caricatured themselves, their
associates, and their aims. There was a slick French audacity
about the workmanship of these men of toil unbending that went
straight to the heart of the beholder. And yet it was not
altogether French. A dry grimness of treatment, almost Dutch,
marked the difference. The men painted as they spoke--with
certainty. The club indulges in revelries which it calls
"jinks"--high and low, at intervals--and each of these gatherings
is faithfully portrayed in oils by hands that know their
business. In this club were no amateurs spoiling canvas, because
they fancied they could handle oils without knowledge of shadows
or anatomy--no gentleman of leisure ruining the temper of
publishers and an already ruined market with attempts to write
"because everybody writes something these days."
My hosts were working, or had worked for their daily bread with
pen or paint, and their talk for the most part was of the
shop--shoppy--that is to say, delightful. They extended a large
hand of welcome, and were as brethren, and I did homage to the
owl and listened to their talk. An Indian club about
Christmas-time will yield, if properly worked, an abundant
harvest of queer tales; but at a gathering of Americans from the
uttermost ends of their own continent, the tales are larger,
thicker, more spinous, and even more azure than any Indian
variety. Tales of the war I heard told by an ex-officer of the
South over his evening drink to a colonel of the Northern army,
my introducer, who had served as a trooper in the Northern Horse,
throwing in emendations from time to time. "Tales of the Law,"
which in this country is an amazingly elastic affair, followed
from the lips of a judge. Forgive me for recording one tale that
struck me as new. It may interest the up-country Bar in India.
Once upon a time there was Samuelson, a young lawyer, who feared
not God, neither regarded the Bench. (Name, age, and town of the
man were given at great length.) To him no case had ever come as
a client, partly because he lived in a district where lynch law
prevailed, and partly because the most desperate prisoner shrunk
from intrusting himself to the mercies of a phenomenal stammerer.
But in time there happened an aggravated murder--so bad, indeed,
that by common consent the citizens decided, as a prelude to
lynching, to give the real law a chance. They could, in fact,
gambol round that murder. They met--the court in its
shirt-sleeves--and against the raw square of the Court House
window a temptingly suggestive branch of a tree fretted the sky.
No one appeared for the prisoner, and, partly in jest, the court
advised young Samuelson to take up the case.
"The prisoner is undefended, Sam," said the court. "The square
thing to do would be for you to take him aside and do the best
you can for him."
Court, jury, and witness then adjourned to the veranda, while
Samuelson led his client aside to the Court House cells. An hour
passed ere the lawyer returned alone. Mutely the audience
"May it p-p-please the c-court," said Samuel-son, "my client's
case is a b-b-b-bad one--a d-d-amn bad one. You told me to do
the b-b-best I c-could for him, judge, so I've jest given him
y-your b-b-bay gelding, an' told him to light out for healthier
c-climes, my p-p-professional opinion being he'd be hanged
quicker'n h-h-hades if he dallied here. B-by this time my
client's 'bout fifteen mile out yonder somewheres. That was the
b-b-best I could do for him, may it p-p-please the court."
The young man, escaping punishment in lieu of the prisoner, made
his fortune ere five years.
Other voices followed, with equally wondrous tales of
riata-throwing in Mexico and Arizona, of gambling at army posts
in Texas, of newspaper wars waged in godless Chicago (I could not
help being interested, but they were not pretty tricks), of
deaths sudden and violent in Montana and Dakota, of the loves of
half-breed maidens in the South, and fantastic huntings for gold
in mysterious Alaska. Above all, they told the story of the
building of old San Francisco, when the "finest collection of
humanity on God's earth, sir, started this town, and the water
came up to the foot of Market Street." Very terrible were some
of the tales, grimly humorous the others, and the men in
broadcloth and fine linen who told them had played their parts in
"And now and again when things got too bad they would toll the
city bell, and the Vigilance Committee turned out and hanged the
suspicious characters. A man didn't begin to be suspected in
those days till he had committed at least one unprovoked murder,"
said a calm-eyed, portly old gentleman.
I looked at the pictures around me, the noiseless, neat-uniformed
waiter behind me, the oak-ribbed ceiling above, the velvet carpet
beneath. It was hard to realize that even twenty years ago you
could see a man hanged with great pomp. Later on I found reason
to change my opinion. The tales gave me a headache and set me
thinking. How in the world was it possible to take in even one
thousandth of this huge, roaring, many-sided continent? In the
tobacco-scented silence of the sumptuous library lay Professor
Bryce's book on the American Republic.
"It is an omen," said I. "He has done all things in all
seriousness, and he may be purchased for half a guinea. Those
who desire information of the most undoubted, must refer to his
pages. For me is the daily round of vagabondage, the recording of
the incidents of the hour and inter-course with the
travelling-companion of the day. I will not 'do' this country at
And I forgot all about India for ten days while I went out to
dinners and watched the social customs of the people, which are
entirely different from our customs, and was introduced to men of
many millions. These persons are harmless in their earlier
stages--that is to say, a man worth three or four million dollars
may be a good talker, clever, amusing, and of the world; a man
with twice that amount is to be avoided, and a twenty million man
is--just twenty millions. Take an instance. I was speaking to a
newspaper man about seeing the proprietor of his journal, as in
my innocence I supposed newspaper men occasionally did. My
friend snorted indignantly:--"See him! Great Scott! No. If he
happens to appear in the office, I have to associate with him;
but, thank Heaven! outside of that I move in circles where he
cannot come."
And yet the first thing I have been taught to believe is that
money was everything in America!
American Politics
I HAVE been watching machinery in repose after reading about
machinery in action.
An excellent gentleman, who bears a name honored in the magazine,
writes, much as Disraeli orated, of "the sublime instincts of an
ancient people," the certainty with which they can be trusted to
manage their own affairs in their own way, and the speed with
which they are making for all sorts of desirable goals. This he
called a statement or purview of American politics.
I went almost directly afterward to a saloon where gentlemen
interested in ward politics nightly congregate. They were not
pretty persons. Some of them were bloated, and they all swore
cheerfully till the heavy gold watch-chains on their fat stomachs
rose and fell again; but they talked over their liquor as men who
had power and unquestioned access to places of trust and profit.
The magazine writer discussed theories of government; these men
the practice. They had been there. They knew all about it.
They banged their fists on the table and spoke of political
"pulls," the vending of votes, and so forth. Theirs was not the
talk of village babblers reconstructing the affairs of the
nation, but of strong, coarse, lustful men fighting for spoil,
and thoroughly understanding the best methods of reaching it.
I listened long and intently to speech I could not understand--or
but in spots.
It was the speech of business, however. I had sense enough to
know that, and to do my laughing outside the door.
Then I began to understand why my pleasant and well-educated
hosts in San Francisco spoke with a bitter scorn of such duties
of citizenship as voting and taking an interest in the
distribution of offices. Scores of men have told me, without
false pride, that they would as soon concern themselves with the
public affairs of the city or state as rake muck with a
steam-shovel. It may be that their lofty disdain covers
selfishness, but I should be very sorry habitually to meet the
fat gentlemen with shiny top-hats and plump cigars in whose
society I have been spending the evening.
Read about politics as the cultured writer of the magazine
regards 'em, and then, and not till then, pay your respects to
the gentlemen who run the grimy reality.
I'm sick of interviewing night editors who lean their chair
against the wall, and, in response to my demand for the record of
a prominent citizen, answer: "Well, you see, he began by keeping
a saloon," etc. I prefer to believe that my informants are
treating me as in the old sinful days in India I was used to
treat the wandering globe-trotter. They declare that they speak
the truth, and the news of dog politics lately vouchsafed to me
in groggeries inclines me to believe, but I won't. The people
are much too nice to slangander as recklessly as I have been
Besides, I am hopelessly in love with about eight American
maidens--all perfectly delightful till the next one comes into
the room.
O-Toyo was a darling, but she lacked several things--conversation
for one. You cannot live on giggles. She shall remain unmarried
at Nagasaki, while I roast a battered heart before the shrine of
a big Kentucky blonde, who had for a nurse when she was little a
negro "mammy."
By consequence she has welded on California beauty, Paris
dresses, Eastern culture, Europe trips, and wild Western
originality, the queer, dreamy superstitions of the quarters, and
the result is soul-shattering. And she is but one of many stars.
Item, a maiden who believes in education and possesses it, with a
few hundred thousand dollars to boot and a taste for slumming.
Item, the leader of a sort of informal salon where girls
congregate, read papers, and daringly discuss metaphysical
problems and candy--a sloe-eyed, black-browed, imperious maiden
Item, a very small maiden, absolutely without reverence, who can
in one swift sentence trample upon and leave gasping half a dozen
young men.
Item, a millionairess, burdened with her money, lonely, caustic,
with a tongue keen as a sword, yearning for a sphere, but chained
up to the rock of her vast possessions.
Item, a typewriter maiden earning her own bread in this big city,
because she doesn't think a girl ought to be a burden on her
parents, who quotes Theophile Gautier and moves through the world
manfully, much respected for all her twenty inexperienced
Item, a woman from cloud-land who has no history in the past or
future, but is discreetly of the present, and strives for the
confidences of male humanity on the grounds of "sympathy"
(methinks this is not altogether a new type).
Item, a girl in a "dive," blessed with a Greek head and eyes,
that seem to speak all that is best and sweetest in the world.
But woe is me! She has no ideas in this world or the next beyond
the consumption of beer (a commission on each bottle), and
protests that she sings the songs allotted to her nightly without
more than the vaguest notion of their meaning.
Sweet and comely are the maidens of Devonshire; delicate and of
gracious seeming those who live in the pleasant places of London;
fascinating for all their demureness the damsels of France,
clinging closely to their mothers, with large eyes wondering at
the wicked world; excellent in her own place and to those who
understand her is the Anglo-Indian "spin" in her second season;
but the girls of America are above and beyond them all. They are
clever, they can talk--yea, it is said that they think.
Certainly they have an appearance of so doing which is
delightfully deceptive.
They are original, and regard you between the brows with
unabashed eyes as a sister might look at her brother. They are
instructed, too, in the folly and vanity of the male mind, for
they have associated with "the boys" from babyhood, and can
discerningly minister to both vices or pleasantly snub the
possessor. They possess, moreover, a life among themselves,
independent of any masculine associations. They have societies
and clubs and unlimited tea-fights where all the guests are
girls. They are self-possessed, without parting with any
tenderness that is their sex-right; they understand; they can
take care of themselves; they are superbly independent. When you
ask them what makes them so charming, they say:--"It is because
we are better educated than your girls, and--and we are more
sensible in regard to men. We have good times all round, but we
aren't taught to regard every man as a possible husband. Nor is
he expected to marry the first girl he calls on regularly."
Yes, they have good times, their freedom is large, and they do
not abuse it. They can go driving with young men and receive
visits from young men to an extent that would make an English
mother wink with horror, and neither driver nor drivee has a
thought beyond the enjoyment of a good time. As certain, also,
of their own poets have said:--
"Man is fire and woman is tow,
And the devil he comes and begins to blow."
In America the tow is soaked in a solution that makes it
fire-proof, in absolute liberty and large knowledge;
consequently, accidents do not exceed the regular percentage
arranged by the devil for each class and climate under the skies.
But the freedom of the young girl has its draw-backs. She is--I
say it with all reluctance--irreverent, from her forty-dollar
bonnet to the buckles in her eighteen-dollar shoes. She talks
flippantly to her parents and men old enough to be her
grandfather. She has a prescriptive right to the society of the
man who arrives. The parents admit it.
This is sometimes embarrassing, especially when you call on a man
and his wife for the sake of information--the one being a
merchant of varied knowledge, the other a woman of the world. In
five minutes your host has vanished. In another five his wife
has followed him, and you are left alone with a very charming
maiden, doubtless, but certainly not the person you came to see.
She chatters, and you grin, but you leave with the very strong
impression of a wasted morning. This has been my experience once
or twice. I have even said as pointedly as I dared to a man:--"I
came to see you."
"You'd better see me in my office, then. The house belongs to my
women folk--to my daughter, that is to say."
He spoke the truth. The American of wealth is owned by his
family. They exploit him for bullion. The women get the
ha'pence, the kicks are all his own. Nothing is too good for an
American's daughter (I speak here of the moneyed classes).
The girls take every gift as a matter of course, and yet they
develop greatly when a catastrophe arrives and the man of many
millions goes up or goes down, and his daughters take to
stenography or typewriting. I have heard many tales of heroism
from the lips of girls who counted the principals among their
friends. The crash came, Mamie, or Hattie, or Sadie, gave up
their maid, their carriages and candy, and with a No. 2 Remington
and a stout heart set about earning their daily bread.
"And did I drop her from the list of my friends? No, sir," said
a scarlet-lipped vision in white lace; "that might happen to us
any day."
It may be this sense of possible disaster in the air that makes
San Francisco society go with so captivating a rush and whirl.
Recklessness is in the air. I can't explain where it comes from,
but there it is. The roaring winds of the Pacific make you drunk
to begin with. The aggressive luxury on all sides helps out the
intoxication, and you spin forever "down the ringing grooves of
change" (there is no small change, by the way, west of the
Rockies) as long as money lasts. They make greatly and they spend
lavishly; not only the rich, but the artisans, who pay nearly
five pounds for a suit of clothes, and for other luxuries in
The young men rejoice in the days of their youth. They gamble,
yacht, race, enjoy prize-fights and cock-fights, the one openly,
the other in secret; they establish luxurious clubs; they break
themselves over horse-flesh and other things, and they are
instant in a quarrel. At twenty they are experienced in
business, embark in vast enterprises, take partners as
experienced as themselves, and go to pieces with as much splendor
as their neighbors. Remember that the men who stocked California
in the fifties were physically, and, as far as regards certain
tough virtues, the pick of the earth. The inept and the weakly
died en route, or went under in the days of construction. To
this nucleus were added all the races of the Continent--French,
Italian, German, and, of course, the Jew.
The result you can see in the large-boned, deep-chested,
delicate-handed women, and long, elastic, well-built boys. It
needs no little golden badge swinging from the watch-chain to
mark the native son of the golden West, the country-bred of
Him I love because he is devoid of fear, carries himself like a
man, and has a heart as big as his books. I fancy, too, he knows
how to enjoy the blessings of life that his province so
abundantly bestows upon him. At least, I heard a little rat of a
creature with hock-bottle shoulders explaining that a man from
Chicago could pull the eye-teeth of a Californian in business.
Well, if I lived in fairy-land, where cherries were as big as
plums, plums as big as apples, and strawberries of no account,
where the procession of the fruits of the seasons was like a
pageant in a Drury Lane pantomime and the dry air was wine, I
should let business slide once in a way and kick up my heels with
my fellows. The tale of the resources of California--vegetable
and mineral--is a fairy-tale. You can read it in books. You
would never believe me.
All manner of nourishing food, from sea-fish to beef, may be
bought at the lowest prices, and the people are consequently
well-developed and of a high stomach. They demand ten shillings
for tinkering a jammed lock of a trunk; they receive sixteen
shillings a day for working as carpenters; they spend many
sixpences on very bad cigars, which the poorest of them smoke,
and they go mad over a prize-fight. When they disagree they do
so fatally, with fire-arms in their hands, and on the public
streets. I was just clear of Mission Street when the trouble
began between two gentlemen, one of whom perforated the other.
When a policeman, whose name I do not recollect, "fatally shot Ed
Hearney" for attempting to escape arrest, I was in the next
street. For these things I am thankful. It is enough to travel
with a policeman in a tram-car, and, while he arranges his
coat-tails as he sits down, to catch sight of a loaded revolver.
It is enough to know that fifty per cent of the men in the public
saloons carry pistols about them.
The Chinaman waylays his adversary, and methodically chops him to
pieces with his hatchet. Then the press roars about the brutal
ferocity of the pagan.
The Italian reconstructs his friend with a long knife. The press
complains of the waywardness of the alien.
The Irishman and the native Californian in their hours of
discontent use the revolver, not once, but six times. The press
records the fact, and asks in the next column whether the world
can parallel the progress of San Francisco. The American who
loves his country will tell you that this sort of thing is
confined to the lower classes. Just at present an ex-judge who
was sent to jail by another judge (upon my word I cannot tell
whether these titles mean anything) is breathing red-hot
vengeance against his enemy. The papers have interviewed both
parties, and confidently expect a fatal issue.
Now, let me draw breath and curse the negro waiter, and through
him the negro in service generally. He has been made a citizen
with a vote, consequently both political parties play with him.
But that is neither here nor there. He will commit in one meal
every betise that a senllion fresh from the plow-tail is capable
of, and he will continue to repeat those faults. He is as
complete a heavy-footed, uncomprehending, bungle-fisted fool as
any mem-sahib in the East ever took into her establishment. But
he is according to law a free and independent
citizen--consequently above reproof or criticism. He, and he
alone, in this insane city, will wait at table (the Chinaman
doesn't count).
He is untrained, inept, but he will fill the place and draw the
pay. Now, God and his father's fate made him intellectually
inferior to the Oriental. He insists on pretending that he serves
tables by accident--as a sort of amusement. He wishes you to
understand this little fact. You wish to eat your meals, and, if
possible, to have them properly served. He is a big, black, vain
baby and a man rolled into one.
A colored gentleman who insisted on getting me pie when I wanted
something else, demanded information about India. I gave him
some facts about wages.
"Oh, hell!" said he, cheerfully, "that wouldn't keep me in cigars
for a month."
Then he fawned on me for a ten-cent piece. Later he took it upon
himself to pity the natives of India. "Heathens," he called
them--this woolly one, whose race has been the butt of every
comedy on the native stage since the beginning. And I turned and
saw by the head upon his shoulders that he was a Yoruba man, if
there be any truth in ethnological castes. He did his thinking
in English, but he was a Yoruba negro, and the race type had
remained the same through-out his generations. And the room was
full of other races--some that looked exactly like Gallas (but
the trade was never recruited from that side of Africa), some
duplicates of Cameroon heads, and some Kroomen, if ever Kroomen
wore evening dress.
The American does not consider little matters of descent, though
by this time he ought to know all about "damnable heredity." As
a general rule he keeps himself very far from the negro, and says
things about him that are not pretty. There are six million
negroes, more or less, in the States, and they are increasing.
The American, once having made them citizens, cannot unmake them.
He says, in his newspapers, they ought to be elevated by
education. He is trying this, but it is likely to be a long job,
because black blood is much more adhesive than white, and throws
back with annoying persistence. When the negro gets religion he
returns directly as a hiving bee to the first instincts of his
people. Just now a wave of religion is sweeping over some of the
Southern States.
Up to the present two Messiahs and a Daniel have appeared, and
several human sacrifices have been offered up to these
incarnations. The Daniel managed to get three young men, who he
insisted were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, to walk into a
blast furnace, guaranteeing non-combustion. They did not return.
I have seen nothing of this kind, but I have attended a negro
church. They pray, or are caused to pray by themselves in this
country. The congregation were moved by the spirit to groans and
tears, and one of them danced up the aisle to the mourners'
bench. The motive may have been genuine. The movements of the
shaken body were those of a Zanzibar stick dance, such as you see
at Aden on the coal-boats, and even as I watched the people, the
links that bound them to the white man snapped one by one, and I
saw before me the hubshi (woolly hair) praying to a God he did
not understand. Those neatly dressed folk on the benches, and
the gray-headed elder by the window, were savages, neither more
nor less.
What will the American do with the negro? The South will not
consort with him. In some States miscegenation is a penal
offence. The North is every year less and less in need of his
And he will not disappear. He will continue as a problem. His
friends will urge that he is as good as the white man. His
enemies--well, you can guess what his enemies will do from a
little incident that followed on a recent appointment by the
President. He made a negro an assistant in a post-office
where--think of it!--he had to work at the next desk to a white
girl, the daughter of a colonel, one of the first families of
Georgia's modern chivalry, and all the weary, weary rest of it.
The Southern chivalry howled, and hanged or burned some one in
effigy. Perhaps it was the President, and perhaps it was the
negro--but the principle remains the same. They said it was an
insult. It is not good to be a negro in the land of the free and
the home of the brave.
But this is nothing to do with San Francisco and her merry
maidens, her strong, swaggering men, and her wealth of gold and
pride. They bore me to a banquet in honor of a brave
lieutenant--Carlin, of the "Vandalia"--who stuck by his ship in
the great cyclone at Apia and comported himself as an officer
should. On that occasion--'twas at the Bohemian Club--I heard
oratory with the roundest of o's, and devoured a dinner the
memory of which will descend with me into the hungry grave.
There were about forty speeches delivered, and not one of them
was average or ordinary. It was my first introduction to the
American eagle screaming for all it was worth. The lieutenant's
heroism served as a peg from which the silver-tongued ones turned
themselves loose and kicked.
They ransacked the clouds of sunset, the thunderbolts of heaven,
the deeps of hell, and the splendor of the resurrection for
tropes and metaphors, and hurled the result at the head of the
guest of the evening.
Never since the morning stars sung together for joy, I learned,
had an amazed creation witnessed such superhuman bravery as that
displayed by the American navy in the Samoa cyclone. Till earth
rotted in the phosphorescent star-and-stripe slime of a decayed
universe, that god-like gallantry would not be forgotten. I
grieve that I cannot give the exact words. My attempt at
reproducing their spirit is pale and inadequate. I sat
bewildered on a coruscating Niagara of blatherum-skite. It was
magnificent--it was stupendous--and I was conscious of a wicked
desire to hide my face in a napkin and grin. Then, according to
rule, they produced their dead, and across the snowy table-cloths
dragged the corpse of every man slain in the Civil War, and
hurled defiance at "our natural enemy" (England, so please you),
"with her chain of fortresses across the world." Thereafter they
glorified their nation afresh from the beginning, in case any
detail should have been overlooked, and that made me
uncomfortable for their sakes. How in the world can a white man,
a sahib, of our blood, stand up and plaster praise on his own
country? He can think as highly as he likes, but this
open-mouthed vehemence of adoration struck me almost as
indelicate. My hosts talked for rather more than three hours,
and at the end seemed ready for three hours more.
But when the lieutenant--such a big, brave, gentle giant--rose to
his feet, he delivered what seemed to me as the speech of the
evening. I remember nearly the whole of it, and it ran
some-thing in this way:--"Gentlemen--It's very good of you to
give me this dinner and to tell me all these prettythings, but
what I want you to understand--the fact is, what we want and what
we ought to get at once, is a navy--more ships--lots of 'em--"
Then we howled the top of the roof off, and I for one fell in
love with Carlin on the spot. Wallah! He was a man.
The prince among merchants bid me take no heed to the warlike
sentiments of some of the old generals.
"The sky-rockets are thrown in for effect," quoth he, "and
whenever we get on our hind legs we always express a desire to
chaw up England. It's a sort of family affair."
And, indeed, when you come to think of it, there is no other
country for the American public speaker to trample upon.
France has Germany; we have Russia; for Italy Austria is
provided; and the humblest Pathan possesses an ancestral enemy.
Only America stands out of the racket, and there-fore to be in
fashion makes a sand-bag of the mother country, and hangs her
when occasion requires.
"The chain of fortresses" man, a fascinating talker, explained to
me after the affair that he was compelled to blow off steam.
Everybody expected it.
When we had chanted "The Star Spangled Banner" not more than
eight times, we adjourned. America is a very great country, but
it is not yet heaven, with electric lights and plush fittings, as
the speakers professed to believe. My listening mind went back
to the politicians in the saloon, who wasted no time in talking
about freedom, but quietly made arrangements to impose their will
on the citizens.
"The judge is a great man, but give thy presents to the clerk,"
as the proverb saith.
And what more remains to tell? I cannot write connectedly,
because I am in love with all those girls aforesaid, and some
others who do not appear in the invoice. The typewriter is an
in-stitution of which the comic papers make much capital, but she
is vastly convenient. She and a companion rent a room in a
business quarter, and, aided by a typewriting machine, copy MSS.
at the rate of six annas a page. Only a woman can operate a
typewriting machine, because she has served apprenticeship to the
sewing machine. She can earn as much as one hundred dollars a
month, and professes to regard this form of bread-winning as her
natural destiny. But, oh! how she hates it in her heart of
hearts! When I had got over the surprise of doing business with
and trying to give orders to a young woman of coldly, clerkly
aspect intrenched behind gold-rimmed spectacles, I made inquiries
concerning the pleasures of this independence. They liked
it--indeed they did. 'Twas the natural fate of almost all
girls--the recognized custom in America--and I was a barbarian
not to see it in that light.
"Well, and after?" said I. "What happens?"
"We work for our bread."
"And then what do you expect?"
"Then we shall work for our bread."
"Till you die?"
"Unless what? This is your business, you know. A man works
until he dies."
"So shall we"--this without enthusiasm--"I suppose."
Said the partner in the firm, audaciously:--"Sometimes we marry
our employees--at least, that's what the newspapers say."
The hand banged on half a dozen of the keys of the machine at
once. "Yet I don't care. I hate it--I hate it--I hate it--and
you needn't look so!"
The senior partner was regarding the rebel with grave-eyed
"I thought you did," said I. "I don't suppose American girls are
much different from English ones in instinct."
"Isn't it Theophile Gautier who says that the only difference
between country and country lie in the slang and the uniform of
the police?"
Now, in the name of all the gods at once, what is one to say to a
young lady (who in England would be a person) who earns her own
bread, and very naturally hates the employ, and slings
out-of-the-way quotations at your head? That one falls in love
with her goes without saying, but that is not enough.
A mission should be established.
American Salmon
The race is neither to the swift nor the battle to the strong;
but time and chance cometh to all.
I HAVE lived!
The American Continent may now sink under the sea, for I have
taken the best that it yields, and the best was neither dollars,
love, nor real estate.
Hear now, gentlemen of the Punjab Fishing Club, who whip the
reaches of the Tavi, and you who painfully import trout over to
Octamund, and I will tell you how old man California and I went
fishing, and you shall envy.
We returned from The Dalles to Portland by the way we had come,
the steamer stopping en route to pick up a night's catch of one
of the salmon wheels on the river, and to deliver it at a cannery
When the proprietor of the wheel announced that his take was two
thousand two hundred and thirty pounds weight of fish, "and not a
heavy catch neither," I thought he lied. But he sent the boxes
aboard, and I counted the salmon by the hundred--huge
fifty-pounders hardly dead, scores of twenty and thirty pounders,
and a host of smaller fish. They were all Chenook salmon, as
distinguished from the "steel head" and the "silver side." That
is to say, they were royal salmon, and California and I dropped a
tear over them, as monarchs who deserved a better fate; but the
lust of slaughter entered into our souls, and we talked fish and
forgot the mountain scenery that had so moved us a day before.
The steamer halted at a rude wooden warehouse built on piles in a
lonely reach of the river, and sent in the fish. I followed them
up a scale-strewn, fishy incline that led to the cannery. The
crazy building was quivering with the machinery on its floors,
and a glittering bank of tin scraps twenty feet high showed where
the waste was thrown after the cans had been punched.
Only Chinamen were employed on the work, and they looked like
blood-besmeared yellow devils as they crossed the rifts of
sunlight that lay upon the floor. When our consignment arrived,
the rough wooden boxes broke of themselves as they were dumped
down under a jet of water, and the salmon burst out in a stream
of quicksilver. A Chinaman jerked up a twenty-pounder, beheaded
and detailed it with two swift strokes of a knife, flicked out
its internal arrangements with a third, and case it into a
blood-dyed tank. The headless fish leaped from under his hands
as though they were facing a rapid. Other Chinamen pulled them
from the vat and thrust them under a thing like a chaff-cutter,
which, descending, hewed them into unseemly red gobbets fit for
the can.
More Chinamen, with yellow, crooked fingers, jammed the stuff
into the cans, which slid down some marvellous machine forthwith,
soldering their own tops as they passed. Each can was hastily
tested for flaws, and then sunk with a hundred companions into a
vat of boiling water, there to be half cooked for a few minutes.
The cans bulged slightly after the operation, and were therefore
slidden along by the trolleyful to men with needles and
soldering-irons who vented them and soldered the aperture.
Except for the label, the "Finest Columbia Salmon" was ready for
the market. I was impressed not so much with the speed of the
manufacture as the character of the factory. Inside, on a floor
ninety by forty, the most civilized and murderous of machinery.
Outside, three footsteps, the thick-growing pines and the immense
solitude of the hills. Our steamer only stayed twenty minutes at
that place, but I counted two hundred and forty finished cans
made from the catch of the previous night ere I left the
slippery, blood-stained, scale-spangled, oily floors and the
offal-smeared Chinamen.
We reached Portland, California and I crying for salmon, and a
real-estate man, to whom we had been intrusted by an insurance
man, met us in the street, saying that fifteen miles away, across
country, we should come upon a place called Clackamas, where we
might per-chance find what we desired. And California, his
coat-tails flying in the wind, ran to a livery-stable and
chartered a wagon and team forthwith. I could push the wagon
about with one hand, so light was its structure. The team was
purely American--that is to say, almost human in its intelligence
and docility. Some one said that the roads were not good on the
way to Clackamas, and warned us against smashing the springs.
"Portland," who had watched the preparations, finally reckoned
"He'd come along, too;" and under heavenly skies we three
companions of a day set forth, California carefully lashing our
rods into the carriage, and the by-standers overwhelming us with
directions as to the saw-mills we were to pass, the ferries we
were to cross, and the sign-posts we were to seek signs from.
Half a mile from this city of fifty thousand souls we struck (and
this must be taken literally) a plank road that would have been a
disgrace to an Irish village.
Then six miles of macadamized road showed us that the team could
move. A railway ran between us and the banks of the Willamette,
and another above us through the mountains. All the land was
dotted with small townships, and the roads were full of farmers
in their town wagons, bunches of tow-haired, boggle-eyed urchins
sitting in the hay behind. The men generally looked like
loafers, but their women were all well dressed.
Brown braiding on a tailor-made jacket does not, however, consort
with hay-wagons. Then we struck into the woods along what
California called a camina reale--a good road--and Portland a
"fair track." It wound in and out among fire-blackened stumps
under pine-trees, along the corners of log fences, through
hollows, which must be hopeless marsh in the winter, and up
absurd gradients. But nowhere throughout its length did I see
any evidence of road-making. There was a track--you couldn't well
get off it, and it was all you could do to stay on it. The dust
lay a foot thick in the blind ruts, and under the dust we found
bits of planking and bundles of brushwood that sent the wagon
bounding into the air. The journey in itself was a delight.
Sometimes we crashed through bracken; anon, where the
blackberries grew rankest, we found a lonely little cemetery, the
wooden rails all awry and the pitiful, stumpy head-stones nodding
drunkenly at the soft green mullions. Then, with oaths and the
sound of rent underwood, a yoke of mighty bulls would swing down
a "skid" road, hauling a forty-foot log along a rudely made
A valley full of wheat and cherry-trees succeeded, and halting at
a house, we bought ten-pound weight of luscious black cherries
for something less than a rupee, and got a drink of icy-cold
water for nothing, while the untended team browsed sagaciously by
the road-side. Once we found a way-side camp of horse-dealers
lounging by a pool, ready for a sale or a swap, and once two
sun-tanned youngsters shot down a hill on Indian ponies, their
full creels banging from the high-pommelled saddle. They had
been fishing, and were our brethren, therefore. We shouted aloud
in chorus to scare a wild cat; we squabbled over the reasons that
had led a snake to cross a road; we heaved bits of bark at a
venturesome chipmunk, who was really the little gray squirrel of
India, and had come to call on me; we lost our way, and got the
wagon so beautifully fixed on a khud-bound road that we had to
tie the two hind wheels to get it down.
Above all, California told tales of Nevada and Arizona, of lonely
nights spent out prospecting, the slaughter of deer and the chase
of men, of woman--lovely woman--who is a firebrand in a Western
city and leads to the popping of pistols, and of the sudden
changes and chances of Fortune, who delights in making the miner
or the lumber-man a quadruplicate millionaire and in "busting"
the railroad king.
That was a day to be remembered, and it had only begun when we
drew rein at a tiny farm-house on the banks of the Clackamas and
sought horse feed and lodging, ere we hastened to the river that
broke over a weir not a quarter of a mile away. Imagine a stream
seventy yards broad divided by a pebbly island, running over
seductive "riffles" and swirling into deep, quiet pools, where
the good salmon goes to smoke his pipe after meals. Get such a
stream amid fields of breast-high crops surrounded by hills of
pines, throw in where you please quiet water, long-fenced
meadows, and a hundred-foot bluff just to keep the scenery from
growing too monotonous, and you will get some faint notion of the
Clackamas. The weir had been erected to pen the Chenook salmon
from going further up-stream. We could see them, twenty or thirty
pounds, by the score in the deep pools, or flying madly against
the weir and foolishly skinning their noses. They were not our
prey, for they would not rise at a fly, and we knew it. All the
same, when one made his leap against the weir, and landed on the
foot-plank with a jar that shook the board I was standing on, I
would fain have claimed him for my own capture.
Portland had no rod. He held the gaff and the whiskey.
California sniffed up-stream and down-stream, across the racing
water, chose his ground, and let the gaudy fly drop in the tail
of a riffle. I was getting my rod together, when I heard the
joyous shriek of the reel and the yells of California, and three
feet of living silver leaped into the air far across the water.
The forces were engaged.
The salmon tore up-stream, the tense line cutting the water like
a tide-rip behind him, and the light bamboo bowed to breaking.
What happened thereafter I cannot tell. California swore and
prayed, and Portland shouted advice, and I did all three for what
appeared to be half a day, but was in reality a little over a
quarter of an hour, and sullenly our fish came home with spurts
of temper, dashes head on and sarabands in the air, but home to
the bank came he, and the remorseless reel gathered up the thread
of his life inch by inch. We landed him in a little bay, and the
spring weight in his gorgeous gills checked at eleven and one
half pounds. Eleven and one half pounds of fighting salmon! We
danced a war-dance on the pebbles, and California caught me round
the waist in a hug that went near to breaking my ribs, while he
shouted:--"Partner! Partner! This is glory! Now you catch your
fish! Twenty-four years I've waited for this!"
I went into that icy-cold river and made my cast just above the
weir, and all but foul-hooked a blue-and-black water-snake with a
coral mouth who coiled herself on a stone and hissed
The next cast--ah, the pride of it, the regal splendor of it! the
thrill that ran down from finger-tip to toe! Then the water
boiled. He broke for the fly and got it. There remained enough
sense in me to give him all he wanted when he jumped not once,
but twenty times, before the up-stream flight that ran my line
out to the last half-dozen turns, and I saw the nickelled
reel-bar glitter under the thinning green coils. My thumb was
burned deep when I strove to stopper the line.
I did not feel it till later, for my soul was out in the dancing
weir, praying for him to turn ere he took my tackle away. And
the prayer was heard. As I bowed back, the butt of the rod on my
left hip-bone and the top joint dipping like unto a weeping
willow, he turned and accepted each inch of slack that I could by
any means get in as a favor from on high. There lie several
sorts of success in this world that taste well in the moment of
enjoyment, but I question whether the stealthy theft of line from
an able-bodied salmon who knows exactly what you are doing and
why you are doing it is not sweeter than any other victory within
human scope. Like California's fish, he ran at me head on, and
leaped against the line, but the Lord gave me two hundred and
fifty pairs of fingers in that hour. The banks and the
pine-trees danced dizzily round me, but I only reeled--reeled as
for life--reeled for hours, and at the end of the reeling
continued to give him the butt while he sulked in a pool.
California was further up the reach, and with the corner of my
eye I could see him casting with long casts and much skill. Then
he struck, and my fish broke for the weir in the same instant,
and down the reach we came, California and I, reel answering reel
even as the morning stars sing together.
The first wild enthusiasm of capture had died away. We were both
at work now in deadly earnest to prevent the lines fouling, to
stall off a down-stream rush for shaggy water just above the
weir, and at the same time to get the fish into the shallow bay
down-stream that gave the best practicable landing. Portland bid
us both be of good heart, and volunteered to take the rod from my
I would rather have died among the pebbles than surrender my
right to play and land a salmon, weight unknown, with an
eight-ounce rod. I heard California, at my ear, it seemed,
gasping: "He's a fighter from Fightersville, sure!" as his fish
made a fresh break across the stream. I saw Portland fall off a
log fence, break the overhanging bank, and clatter down to the
pebbles, all sand and landing-net, and I dropped on a log to rest
for a moment. As I drew breath the weary hands slackened their
hold, and I forgot to give him the butt.
A wild scutter in the water, a plunge, and a break for the
head-waters of the Clackamas was my reward, and the weary toil of
reeling in with one eye under the water and the other on the top
joint of the rod was renewed. Worst of all, I was blocking
California's path to the little landing bay aforesaid, and he had
to halt and tire his prize where he was.
"The father of all the salmon!" he shouted. "For the love of
Heaven, get your trout to bank, Johnny Bull!"
But I could do no more. Even the insult failed to move me. The
rest of the game was with the salmon. He suffered himself to be
drawn, skip-ping with pretended delight at getting to the haven
where I would fain bring him. Yet no sooner did he feel shoal
water under his ponderous belly than he backed like a
torpedo-boat, and the snarl of the reel told me that my labor was
in vain. A dozen times, at least, this happened ere the line
hinted he had given up the battle and would be towed in. He was
towed. The landing-net was useless for one of his size, and I
would not have him gaffed. I stepped into the shallows and
heaved him out with a respectful hand under the gill, for which
kindness he battered me about the legs with his tail, and I felt
the strength of him and was proud. California had taken my place
in the shallows, his fish hard held. I was up the bank lying
full length on the sweet-scented grass and gasping in company
with my first salmon caught, played and landed on an eight-ounce
rod. My hands were cut and bleeding, I was dripping with sweat,
spangled like a harlequin with scales, water from my waist down,
nose peeled by the sun, but utterly, supremely, and consummately
The beauty, the darling, the daisy, my Salmon Bahadur, weighed
twelve pounds, and I had been seven-and-thirty minutes bringing
him to bank! He had been lightly hooked on the angle of the right
jaw, and the hook had not wearied him. That hour I sat among
princes and crowned heads greater than them all. Below the bank
we heard California scuffling with his salmon and swearing
Spanish oaths. Portland and I assisted at the capture, and the
fish dragged the spring balance out by the roots. It was only
constructed to weigh up to fifteen pounds. We stretched the
three fish on the grass--the eleven and a half, the twelve and
fifteen pounder--and we gave an oath that all who came after
should merely be weighed and put back again.
How shall I tell the glories of that day so that you may be
interested? Again and again did California and I prance down
that reach to the little bay, each with a salmon in tow, and land
him in the shallows. Then Portland took my rod and caught some
ten-pounders, and my spoon was carried away by an unknown
leviathan. Each fish, for the merits of the three that had died
so gamely, was hastily hooked on the balance and flung back.
Portland recorded the weight in a pocket-book, for he was a
real-estate man. Each fish fought for all he was worth, and none
more savagely than the smallest, a game little six-pounder. At
the end of six hours we added up the list. Read it. Total:
Sixteen fish; aggregate weight, one hundred and forty pounds.
The score in detail runs something like this--it is only
interesting to those concerned: fifteen, eleven and a half,
twelve, ten, nine and three quarters, eight, and so forth; as I
have said, nothing under six pounds, and three ten-pounders.
Very solemnly and thankfully we put up our rods--it was glory
enough for all time--and returned weeping in each other's arms,
weeping tears of pure joy, to that simple, bare-legged family in
the packing-case house by the water-side.
The old farmer recollected days and nights of fierce warfare with
the Indians "way back in the fifties," when every ripple of the
Columbia River and her tributaries hid covert danger. God had
dowered him with a queer, crooked gift of expression and a fierce
anxiety for the welfare of his two little sons--tanned and
reserved children, who attended school daily and spoke good
English in a strange tongue.
His wife was an austere woman, who had once been kindly, and
perhaps handsome.
Very many years of toil had taken the elasticity out of step and
voice. She looked for nothing better than everlasting work--the
chafing detail of housework--and then a grave somewhere up the
hill among the blackberries and the pines.
But in her grim way she sympathized with her eldest daughter, a
small and silent maiden of eighteen, who had thoughts very far
from the meals she tended and the pans she scoured.
We stumbled into the household at a crisis, and there was a deal
of downright humanity in that same. A bad, wicked dress-maker
had promised the maiden a dress in time for a to-morrow's
rail-way journey, and though the barefooted Georgy, who stood in
very wholesome awe of his sister, had scoured the woods on a pony
in search, that dress never arrived. So, with sorrow in her
heart and a hundred Sister-Anne glances up the road, she waited
upon the strangers and, I doubt not, cursed them for the wants
that stood between her and her need for tears. It was a genuine
little tragedy. The mother, in a heavy, passionless voice,
rebuked her impatience, yet sat up far into the night, bowed over
a heap of sewing for the daughter's benefit.
These things I beheld in the long marigold-scented twilight and
whispering night, loafing round the little house with California,
who un-folded himself like a lotus to the moon, or in the little
boarded bunk that was our bedroom, swap-ping tales with Portland
and the old man.
Most of the yarns began in this way:--"Red Larry was a
bull-puncher back of Lone County, Montana," or "There was a man
riding the trail met a jack-rabbit sitting in a cactus," or
"'Bout the time of the San Diego land boom, a woman from
Monterey," etc.
You can try to piece out for yourselves what sort of stories they
The Yellowstone
ONCE upon a time there was a carter who brought his team and a
friend into the Yellowstone Park without due thought. Presently
they came upon a few of the natural beauties of the place, and
that carter turned his team into his friend's team,
howling:--"Get out o' this, Jim. All hell's alight under our
And they called the place Hell's Half-Acre to this day to witness
if the carter lied.
We, too, the old lady from Chicago, her husband, Tom, and the
good little mares, came to Hell's Half-Acre, which is about sixty
acres in extent, and when Tom said:--"Would you like to drive
over it?"
We said:--"Certainly not, and if you do we shall report you to
the park authorities."
There was a plain, blistered, peeled, and abominable, and it was
given over to the sportings and spoutings of devils who threw
mud, and steam, and dirt at each other with whoops, and halloos,
and bellowing curses.
The places smelled of the refuse of the pit, and that odor mixed
with the clean, wholesome aroma of the pines in our nostrils
throughout the day.
This Yellowstone Park is laid out like Ollendorf, in exercises of
progressive difficulty. Hell's Half-Acre was a prelude to ten or
twelve miles of geyser formation.
We passed hot streams boiling in the forest; saw whiffs of steam
beyond these, and yet other whiffs breaking through the misty
green hills in the far distance; we trampled on sulphur in
crystals, and sniffed things much worse than any sulphur which is
known to the upper world; and so journeying, bewildered with the
novelty, came upon a really park-like place where Tom suggested
we should get out and play with the geysers on foot.
Imagine mighty green fields splattered with lime-beds, all the
flowers of the summer growing up to the very edge of the lime.
That was our first glimpse of the geyser basins.
The buggy had pulled up close to a rough, broken, blistered cone
of spelter stuff between ten and twenty feet high. There was
trouble in that place--moaning, splashing, gurgling, and the
clank of machinery. A spurt of boiling water jumped into the
air, and a wash of water followed.
I removed swiftly. The old lady from Chicago shrieked. "What a
wicked waste!" said her husband.
I think they call it the Riverside Geyser. Its spout was torn
and ragged like the mouth of a gun when a shell has burst there.
It grumbled madly for a moment or two, and then was still. I
crept over the steaming lime--it was the burning marl on which
Satan lay--and looked fearfully down its mouth. You should never
look a gift geyser in the mouth.
I beheld a horrible, slippery, slimy funnel with water rising and
falling ten feet at a time. Then the water rose to lip level
with a rush, and an infernal bubbling troubled this Devil's
Bethesda before the sullen heave of the crest of a wave lapped
over the edge and made me run.
Mark the nature of the human soul! I had begun with awe, not to
say terror, for this was my first experience of such things. I
stepped back from the banks of the Riverside Geyser,
saying:--"Pooh! Is that all it can do?"
Yet for aught I knew, the whole thing might have blown up at a
minute's notice, she, he, or it being an arrangement of uncertain
We drifted on, up that miraculous valley. On either side of us
were hills from a thousand or fifteen hundred feet high, wooded
from crest to heel. As far as the eye could range forward were
columns of steam in the air, misshapen lumps of lime, mist-like
preadamite monsters, still pools of turquoise-blue stretches of
blue corn-flowers, a river that coiled on itself twenty times,
pointed bowlders of strange colors, and ridges of glaring,
staring white.
A moon-faced trooper of German extraction--never was park so
carefully patrolled--came up to inform us that as yet we had not
seen any of the real geysers; that they were all a mile or so up
the valley, and tastefully scattered round the hotel in which we
would rest for the night.
America is a free country, but the citizens look down on the
soldier. I had to entertain that trooper. The old lady from
Chicago would have none of him; so we loafed alone together, now
across half-rotten pine logs sunk in swampy ground, anon over the
ringing geyser formation, then pounding through river-sand or
brushing knee-deep through long grass.
"And why did you enlist?" said I.
The moon-faced one's face began to work. I thought he would have
a fit, but he told me a story instead--such a nice tale of a
naughty little girl who wrote pretty love letters to two men at
once. She was a simple village wife, but a wicked "family
novelette" countess couldn't have accomplished her ends better.
She drove one man nearly wild with the pretty little treachery,
and the other man abandoned her and came West to forget the
Moon-face was that man.
We rounded and limped over a low spur of hill, and came out upon
a field of aching, snowy lime rolled in sheets, twisted into
knots, riven with rents, and diamonds, and stars, stretching for
more than half a mile in every direction.
On this place of despair lay most of the big, bad geysers who
know when there is trouble in Krakatoa, who tell the pines when
there is a cyclone on the Atlantic seaboard, and who are
exhibited to visitors under pretty and fanciful names.
The first mound that I encountered belonged to a goblin who was
splashing in his tub.
I heard him kick, pull a shower-bath on his shoulders, gasp,
crack his joints, and rub himself down with a towel; then he let
the water out of the bath, as a thoughtful man should, and it all
sunk down out of sight till another goblin arrived.
So we looked and we wondered at the Beehive, whose mouth is built
up exactly like a hive, at the Turban (which is not in the least
like a turban), and at many, many other geysers, hot holes, and
springs. Some of them rumbled, some hissed, some went off
spasmodically, and others lay dead still in sheets of sapphire
and beryl.
Would you believe that even these terrible creatures have to be
guarded by the troopers to prevent the irreverent Americans from
chipping the cones to pieces, or, worse still, making the geyser
sick? If you take a small barrel full of soft-soap and drop it
down a geyser's mouth, that geyser will presently be forced to
lay all before you, and for days afterward will be of an
irritated and inconstant stomach.
When they told me the tale I was filled with sympathy. Now I
wish that I had soft-soap and tried the experiment on some lonely
little beast far away in the woods. It sounds so probable and so
Yet he would be a bold man who would administer emetics to the
Giantess. She is flat-lipped, having no mouth; she looks like a
pool, fifty feet long and thirty wide, and there is no
ornamentation about her. At irregular intervals she speaks and
sends up a volume of water over two hundred feet high to begin
with, then she is angry for a day and a half--sometimes for two
Owing to her peculiarity of going mad in the night, not many
people have seen the Giantess at her finest; but the clamor of
her unrest, men say, shakes the wooden hotel, and echoes like
thunder among the hills.
The congregation returned to the hotel to put down their
impressions in diaries and note-books, which they wrote up
ostentatiously in the verandas. It was a sweltering hot day,
albeit we stood some-what higher than the level of Simla, and I
left that raw pine creaking caravansary for the cool shade of a
clump of pines between whose trunks glimmered tents.
A batch of United States troopers came down the road and flung
themselves across the country into their rough lines. The
Melican cavalryman can ride, though he keeps his accoutrements
pig-fashion and his horse cow-fashion.
I was free of that camp in five minutes--free to play with the
heavy, lumpy carbines, have the saddles stripped, and punch the
horses knowingly in the ribs. One of the men had been in the
fight with "Wrap-up-his-Tail," and he told me how that great
chief, his horse's tail tied up in red calico, swaggered in front
of the United States cavalry, challenging all to single combat.
But he was slain, and a few of his tribe with him.
"There's no use in an Indian, anyway," concluded my friend.
A couple of cow-boys--real cow-boys--jingled through the camp
amid a shower of mild chaff. They were on their way to Cook
City, I fancy, and I know that they never washed. But they were
picturesque ruffians exceedingly, with long spurs, hooded
stirrups, slouch hats, fur weather-cloth over their knees, and
pistol-butts just easy to hand.
"The cow-boy's goin' under before long," said my friend. "Soon
as the country's settled up he'll have to go. But he's mighty
useful now. What would we do without the cow-boy?"
"As how?" said I, and the camp laughed.
"He has the money. We have the skill. He comes in winter to
play poker at the military posts. We play poker--a few. When
he's lost his money we make him drunk and let him go. Sometimes
we get the wrong man."
And he told me a tale of an innocent cow-boy who turned up,
cleaned out, at an army post, and played poker for thirty-six
hours. But it was the post that was cleaned out when that
long-haired Caucasian removed himself, heavy with everybody's pay
and declining the proffered liquor.
"Noaw," said the historian, "I don't play with no cow-boy unless
he's a little bit drunk first."
Ere I departed I gathered from more than one man the significant
fact that up to one hundred yards he felt absolutely secure
behind his revolver.
"In England, I understand," quoth the limber youth from the
South,--"in England a man isn't allowed to play with no
fire-arms. He's got to be taught all that when he enlists. I
didn't want much teaching how to shoot straight 'fore I served
Uncle Sam. And that's just where it is. But you was talking
about your Horse Guards now?"
I explained briefly some peculiarities of equipment connected
with our crackest crack cavalry. I grieve to say the camp roared.
"Take 'em over swampy ground. Let 'em run around a bit an' work
the starch out of 'em, an' then, Almighty, if we wouldn't plug
'em at ease I'd eat their horses."
There was a maiden--a very little maiden--who had just stepped
out of one of James's novels. She owned a delightful mother and
an equally delightful father--a heavy-eyed, slow-voiced man of
finance. The parents thought that their daughter wanted change.
She lived in New Hampshire. Accordingly, she had dragged them up
to Alaska and to the Yosemite Valley, and was now returning
leisurely, via the Yellowstone, just in time for the tail-end of
the summer season at Saratoga.
We had met once or twice before in the park, and I had been
amazed and amused at her critical commendation of the wonders
that she saw. From that very resolute little mouth I received a
lecture on American literature, the nature and inwardness of
Washington society, the precise value of Cable's works as
compared with Uncle Remus Harris, and a few other things that had
nothing whatever to do with geysers, but were altogether
Now, an English maiden who had stumbled on a dust-grimed,
lime-washed, sun-peeled, collarless wanderer come from and going
to goodness knows where, would, her mother inciting her and her
father brandishing an umbrella, have regarded him as a dissolute
adventurer--a person to be disregarded.
Not so those delightful people from New Hampshire. They were
good enough to treat him--it sounds almost incredible--as a human
being, possibly respectable, probably not in immediate need of
financial assistance.
Papa talked pleasantly and to the point.
The little maiden strove valiantly with the accent of her birth
and that of her rearing, and mamma smiled benignly in the
Balance this with a story of a young English idiot I met mooning
about inside his high collar, attended by a valet. He
condescended to tell me that "you can't be too careful who you
talk to in these parts." And stalked on, fearing, I suppose,
every minute for his social chastity.
That man was a barbarian (I took occasion to tell him so), for he
comported himself after the manner of the head-hunters and hunted
of Assam who are at perpetual feud one with another.
You will understand that these foolish stories are introduced in
order to cover the fact that this pen cannot describe the glories
of the Upper Geyser Basin. The evening I spent under the lee of
the Castle Geyser, sitting on a log with some troopers and
watching a baronial keep forty feet high spouting hot water. If
the Castle went off first, they said the Giantess would be quiet,
and vice versa, and then they told tales till the moon got up and
a party of campers in the woods gave us all something to eat.
Then came soft, turfy forest that deadened the wheels, and two
troopers on detachment duty stole noiselessly behind us. One was
the Wrap-up-his-Tail man, and they talked merrily while the
half-broken horses bucked about among the trees. And so a cavalry
escort was with us for a mile, till we got to a mighty hill
strewn with moss agates, and everybody had to jump out and pant
in that thin air. But how intoxicating it was! The old lady from
Chicago ducked like an emancipated hen as she scuttled about the
road, cramming pieces of rock into her reticule. She sent me
fifty yards down to the hill-side to pick up a piece of broken
bottle which she insisted was moss agate.
"I've some o' that at home, an' they shine. Yes, you go get it,
young man."
As we climbed the long path the road grew viler and viler till it
became, without disguise, the bed of a torrent; and just when
things were at their rockiest we nearly fell into a little
sapphire lake--but never sapphire was so blue--called Mary's
Lake; and that between eight and nine thousand feet above the
Afterward, grass downs, all on a vehement slope, so that the
buggy, following the new-made road, ran on the two off-wheels
mostly till we dipped head-first into a ford, climbed up a cliff,
raced along down, dipped again, and pulled up dishevelled at
"Larry's" for lunch and an hour's rest.
Then we lay on the grass and laughed with sheer bliss of being
alive. This have I known once in Japan, once on the banks of the
Columbia, what time the salmon came in and California howled, and
once again in the Yellowstone by the light of the eyes of the
maiden from New Hampshire. Four little pools lay at my elbow,
one was of black water (tepid), one clear water (cold), one clear
water (hot), one red water (boiling). My newly washed
handkerchief covered them all, and we two marvelled as children
"This evening we shall do the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone,"
said the maiden.
"Together?" said I; and she said, "Yes."
The sun was beginning to sink when we heard the roar of falling
waters and came to a broad river along whose banks we ran. And
then--I might at a pinch describe the infernal regions, but not
the other place. The Yellowstone River has occasion to run
through a gorge about eight miles long. To get to the bottom of
the gorge it makes two leaps, one of about one hundred and twenty
and the other of three hundred feet. I investigated the upper or
lesser fall, which is close to the hotel.
Up to that time nothing particular happens to the
Yellowstone--its banks being only rocky, rather steep, and
plentifully adorned with pines.
At the falls it comes round a corner, green, solid, ribbed with a
little foam, and not more than thirty yards wide. Then it goes
over, still green, and rather more solid than before. After a
minute or two, you, sitting upon a rock directly above the drop,
begin to understand that something has occurred; that the river
has jumped between solid cliff walls, and that the gentle froth
of water lapping the sides of the gorge below is really the
outcome of great waves.
And the river yells aloud; but the cliffs do not allow the yells
to escape.
That inspection began with curiosity and finished in terror, for
it seemed that the whole world was sliding in chrysolite from
under my feet. I followed with the others round the corner to
arrive at the brink of the canyon. We had to climb up a nearly
perpendicular ascent to begin with, for the ground rises more
than the river drops. Stately pine woods fringe either lip of
the gorge, which is the gorge of the Yellowstone. You'll find all
about it in the guide books.
All that I can say is that without warning or preparation I
looked into a gulf seventeen hundred feet deep, with eagles and
fish-hawks circling far below. And the sides of that gulf were
one wild welter of color--crimson, emerald, cobalt, ochre, amber,
honey splashed with port wine, snow white, vermilion, lemon, and
silver gray in wide washes. The sides did not fall sheer, but
were graven by time, and water, and air into monstrous heads of
kings, dead chiefs--men and women of the old time. So far below
that no sound of its strife could reach us, the Yellowstone River
ran a finger-wide strip of jade green.
The sunlight took those wondrous walls and gave fresh hues to
those that nature had already laid there.
Evening crept through the pines that shadowed us, but the full
glory of the day flamed in that canyon as we went out very
cautiously to a jutting piece of rock--blood-red or pink it
was--that overhung the deepest deeps of all.
Now I know what it is to sit enthroned amid the clouds of sunset
as the spirits sit in Blake's pictures. Giddiness took away all
sensation of touch or form, but the sense of blinding color
When I reached the mainland again I had sworn that I had been
The maid from New Hampshire said no word for a very long time.
Then she quoted poetry, which was perhaps the best thing she
could have done.
"And to think that this show-place has been going on all these
days an' none of we ever saw it," said the old lady from Chicago,
with an acid glance at her husband.
"No, only the Injians," said he, unmoved; and the maiden and I
Inspiration is fleeting, beauty is vain, and the power of the
mind for wonder limited. Though the shining hosts themselves had
risen choiring from the bottom of the gorge, they would not have
prevented her papa and one baser than he from rolling stones down
those stupendous rainbow-washed slides. Seventeen hundred feet
of steep-est pitch and rather more than seventeen hundred colors
for log or bowlder to whirl through!
So we heaved things and saw them gather way and bound from white
rock to red or yellow, dragging behind them torrents of color,
till the noise of their descent ceased and they bounded a hundred
yards clear at the last into the Yellowstone.
"I've been down there," said Tom, that evening. "It's easy to
get down if you're careful--just sit an' slide; but getting up is
worse. An' I found down below there two stones just marked with
a picture of the canyon. I wouldn't sell these rocks not for
fifteen dollars."
And papa and I crawled down to the Yellowstone--just above the
first little fall--to wet a line for good luck. The round moon
came up and turned the cliffs and pines into silver; and a
two-pound trout came up also, and we slew him among the rocks,
nearly tumbling into that wild river.
. . . . . .
Then out and away to Livingstone once more. The maiden from New
Hampshire disappeared, papa and mamma with her. Disappeared,
too, the old lady from Chicago, and the others.
"I know thy cunning and thy greed,
Thy hard high lust and wilful deed,
And all thy glory loves to tell
Of specious gifts material."
I HAVE struck a city--a real city--and they call it Chicago.
The other places do not count. San Francisco was a
pleasure-resort as well as a city, and Salt Lake was a
This place is the first American city I have encountered. It
holds rather more than a million of people with bodies, and
stands on the same sort of soil as Calcutta. Having seen it, I
urgently desire never to see it again. It is inhabited by
savages. Its water is the water of the Hooghly, and its air is
dirt. Also it says that it is the "boss" town of America.
I do not believe that it has anything to do with this country.
They told me to go to the Palmer House, which is overmuch gilded
and mirrored, and there I found a huge hall of tessellated marble
crammed with people talking about money, and spitting about
everywhere. Other barbarians charged in and out of this inferno
with letters and telegrams in their hands, and yet others shouted
at each other. A man who had drunk quite as much as was good for
him told me that this was "the finest hotel in the finest city on
God Almighty's earth." By the way, when an American wishes to
indicate the next country or state, he says, "God A'mighty's
earth." This prevents discussion and flatters his vanity.
Then I went out into the streets, which are long and flat and
without end. And verily it is not a good thing to live in the
East for any length of time. Your ideas grow to clash with those
held by every right-thinking man. I looked down interminable
vistas flanked with nine, ten, and fifteen-storied houses, and
crowded with men and women, and the show impressed me with a
great horror.
Except in London--and I have forgotten what London was like--I
had never seen so many white people together, and never such a
collection of miserables. There was no color in the street and
no beauty--only a maze of wire ropes overhead and dirty stone
flagging under foot.
A cab-driver volunteered to show me the glory of the town for so
much an hour, and with him I wandered far. He conceived that all
this turmoil and squash was a thing to be reverently admired,
that it was good to huddle men together in fifteen layers, one
atop of the other, and to dig holes in the ground for offices.
He said that Chicago was a live town, and that all the creatures
hurrying by me were engaged in business. That is to say they
were trying to make some money that they might not die through
lack of food to put into their bellies. He took me to canals as
black as ink, and filled with un-told abominations, and bid me
watch the stream of traffic across the bridges.
He then took me into a saloon, and while I drank made me note
that the floor was covered with coins sunk in cement. A
Hottentot would not have been guilty of this sort of barbarism.
The coins made an effect pretty enough, but the man who put them
there had no thought of beauty, and, therefore, he was a savage.
"Then my cab-driver showed me business blocks gay with signs and
studded with fantastic and absurd advertisements of goods, and
looking down the long street so adorned, it was as though each
vender stood at his door howling:--"For the sake of my money,
employ or buy of me, and me only!"
Have you ever seen a crowd at a famine-relief distribution? You
know then how the men leap into the air, stretching out their
arms above the crowd in the hope of being seen, while the women
dolorously slap the stomachs of their children and whimper. I
had sooner watch famine relief than the white man engaged in what
he calls legitimate competition. The one I understand. The
other makes me ill.
And the cabman said that these things were the proof of progress,
and by that I knew he had been reading his newspaper, as every
intelligent American should. The papers tell their clientele in
language fitted to their comprehension that the snarling together
of telegraph-wires, the heaving up of houses, and the making of
money is progress.
I spent ten hours in that huge wilderness, wandering through
scores of miles of these terrible streets and jostling some few
hundred thousand of these terrible people who talked paisa bat
through their noses.
The cabman left me; but after awhile I picked up another man, who
was full of figures, and into my ears he poured them as occasion
required or the big blank factories suggested. Here they turned
out so many hundred thousand dollars' worth of such and such an
article; there so many million other things; this house was worth
so many million dollars; that one so many million, more or less.
It was like listening to a child babbling of its hoard of shells.
It was like watching a fool playing with buttons. But I was
expected to do more than listen or watch. He demanded that I
should admire; and the utmost that I could say was:--"Are these
things so? Then I am very sorry for you."
That made him angry, and he said that insular envy made me
unresponsive. So, you see, I could not make him understand.
About four and a half hours after Adam was turned out of the
Garden of Eden he felt hungry, and so, bidding Eve take care that
her head was not broken by the descending fruit, shinned up a
cocoanut-palm. That hurt his legs, cut his breast, and made him
breathe heavily, and Eve was tormented with fear lest her lord
should miss his footing, and so bring the tragedy of this world
to an end ere the curtain had fairly risen. Had I met Adam then,
I should have been sorry for him. To-day I find eleven hundred
thousand of his sons just as far advanced as their father in the
art of getting food, and immeasurably inferior to him in that
they think that their palm-trees lead straight to the skies.
Consequently, I am sorry in rather more than a million different
In the East bread comes naturally, even to the poorest, by a
little scratching or the gift of a friend not quite so poor. In
less favored countries one is apt to forget. Then I went to bed.
And that was on a Saturday night.
Sunday brought me the queerest experiences of all--a revelation
of barbarism complete. I found a place that was officially
described as a church. It was a circus really, but that the
worshippers did not know. There were flowers all about the
building, which was fitted up with plush and stained oak and much
luxury, including twisted brass candlesticks of severest Gothic
To these things and a congregation of savages entered suddenly a
wonderful man, completely in the confidence of their God, whom he
treated colloquially and exploited very much as a newspaper
reporter would exploit a foreign potentate. But, unlike the
newspaper reporter, he never allowed his listeners to forget that
he, and not He, was the centre of attraction. With a voice of
silver and with imagery borrowed from the auction-room, he built
up for his hearers a heaven on the lines of the Palmer House (but
with all the gilding real gold, and all the plate-glass diamond),
and set in the centre of it a loud-voiced, argumentative, very
shrewd creation that he called God. One sentence at this point
caught my delighted ear. It was apropos of some question of the
Judgment, and ran:--"No! I tell you God doesn't do business that
He was giving them a deity whom they could comprehend, and a gold
and jewelled heaven in which they could take a natural interest.
He interlarded his performance with the slang of the streets, the
counter, and the exchange, and he said that religion ought to
enter into daily life. Consequently, I presume he introduced it
as daily life--his own and the life of his friends.
Then I escaped before the blessing, desiring no benediction at
such hands. But the persons who listened seemed to enjoy
themselves, and I understood that I had met with a popular
Later on, when I had perused the sermons of a gentleman called
Talmage and some others, I perceived that I had been listening to
a very mild specimen. Yet that man, with his brutal gold and
silver idols, his hands-in-pocket, cigar-in-mouth, and
hat-on-the-back-of-the-head style of dealing with the sacred
vessels, would count himself, spiritually, quite competent to
send a mission to convert the Indians.
All that Sunday I listened to people who said that the mere fact
of spiking down strips of iron to wood, and getting a steam and
iron thing to run along them was progress, that the telephone was
progress, and the net-work of wires overhead was progress. They
repeated their statements again and again.
One of them took me to their City Hall and Board of Trade works,
and pointed it out with pride. It was very ugly, but very big,
and the streets in front of it were narrow and unclean. When I
saw the faces of the men who did business in that building, I
felt that there had been a mistake in their billeting.
By the way, 'tis a consolation to feel that I am not writing to
an English audience. Then I should have to fall into feigned
ecstasies over the marvellous progress of Chicago since the days
of the great fire, to allude casually to the raising of the
entire city so many feet above the level of the lake which it
faces, and generally to grovel before the golden calf. But you,
who are desperately poor, and therefore by these standards of no
ac-count, know things, will understand when I write that they
have managed to get a million of men together on flat land, and
that the bulk of these men together appear to be lower than
Mahajans and not so companionable as a Punjabi Jat after harvest.
But I don't think it was the blind hurry of the people, their
argot, and their grand ignorance of things beyond their immediate
interests that displeased me so much as a study of the daily
papers of Chicago.
Imprimis, there was some sort of a dispute between New York and
Chicago as to which town should give an exhibition of products to
be hereafter holden, and through the medium of their more
dignified journals the two cities were yahooing and hi-yi-ing at
each other like opposition newsboys. They called it humor, but
it sounded like something quite different.
That was only the first trouble. The second lay in the tone of
the productions. Leading articles which include gems such as
"Back of such and such a place," or, "We noticed, Tuesday, such
an event," or, "don't" for "does not," are things to be accepted
with thankfulness. All that made me want to cry was that in
these papers were faithfully reproduced all the war-cries and
"back-talk" of the Palmer House bar, the slang of the
barber-shops, the mental elevation and integrity of the Pullman
car porter, the dignity of the dime museum, and the accuracy of
the excited fish-wife. I am sternly forbidden to believe that
the paper educates the public. Then I am compelled to believe
that the public educate the paper; yet suicides on the press are
Just when the sense of unreality and oppression was strongest
upon me, and when I most wanted help, a man sat at my side and
began to talk what he called politics.
I had chanced to pay about six shillings for a travelling-cap
worth eighteen-pence, and he made of the fact a text for a
sermon. He said that this was a rich country, and that the
people liked to pay two hundred per cent, on the value of a
thing. They could afford it. He said that the government imposed
a protective duty of from ten to seventy per cent on foreign-made
articles, and that the American manufacturer consequently could
sell his goods for a healthy sum. Thus an imported hat would,
with duty, cost two guineas. The American manufacturer would make
a hat for seventeen shillings, and sell it for one pound fifteen.
In these things, he said, lay the greatness of America and the
effeteness of England. Competition between factory and factory
kept the prices down to decent limits, but I was never to forget
that this people were a rich people, not like the pauper
Continentals, and that they enjoyed paying duties.
To my weak intellect this seemed rather like juggling with
counters. Everything that I have yet purchased costs about twice
as much as it would in England, and when native made is of
inferior quality.
Moreover, since these lines were first thought of, I have visited
a gentleman who owned a factory which used to produce things. He
owned the factory still. Not a man was in it, but he was drawing
a handsome income from a syndicate of firms for keeping it
closed, in order that it might not produce things. This man said
that if protection were abandoned, a tide of pauper labor would
flood the country, and as I looked at his factory I thought how
entirely better it was to have no labor of any kind whatever
rather than face so horrible a future.
Meantime, do you remember that this peculiar country enjoys
paying money for value not received? I am an alien, and for the
life of me I cannot see why six shillings should be paid for
eighteen-penny caps, or eight shillings for half-crown
cigar-cases. When the country fills up to a decently populated
level a few million people who are not aliens will be smitten
with the same sort of blindness.
But my friend's assertion somehow thoroughly suited the grotesque
ferocity of Chicago.
See now and judge! In the village of Isser Jang, on the road to
Montgomery, there be four Changar women who winnow corn--some
seventy bushels a year. Beyond their hut lives Purun Dass, the
money-lender, who on good security lends as much as five thousand
rupees in a year. Jowala Singh, the smith, mends the village
plows--some thirty, broken at the share, in three hundred and
sixty-five days; and Hukm Chund, who is letter-writer and head of
the little club under the travellers' tree, generally keeps the
village posted in such gossip as the barber and the mid-wife have
not yet made public property.
Chicago husks and winnows her wheat by the million bushels, a
hundred banks lend hundreds of millions of dollars in the year,
and scores of factories turn out plow-gear and machinery by
steam. Scores of daily papers do work which Hukm Chund and the
barber and the midwife perform, with due regard for public
opinion, in the village of Isser Jang. So far as manufactories
go, the difference between Chicago on the lake, and Isser Jang on
the Montgomery road, is one of degree only, and not of kind. As
far as the understanding of the uses of life goes, Isser Jang,
for all its seasonal cholers, has the advantage over Chicago.
Jowala Singh knows and takes care to avoid the three or four
ghoul-haunted fields on the outskirts of the village; but he is
not urged by millions of devils to run about all day in the sun
and swear that his plowshares are the best in the Punjab; nor
does Purun Dass fly forth in an ekka more than once or twice a
year, and he knows, on a pinch, how to use the railway and the
telegraph as well as any son of Israel in Chicago. But this is
The East is not the West, and these men must continue to deal
with the machinery of life, and to call it progress. Their very
preachers dare not rebuke them. They gloss over the hunting for
money and the thrice-sharpened bitterness of Adam's curse, by
saying that such things dower a man with a larger range of
thoughts and higher aspirations. They do not say, "Free
yourselves from your own slavery," but rather, "If you can
possibly manage it, do not set quite so much store on the things
of this world."
And they do not know what the things of this world are!
I went off to see cattle killed, by way of clearing my head,
which, as you will perceive, was getting muddled. They say every
Englishman goes to the Chicago stock-yards. You shall find them
about six miles from the city; and once having seen them, you
will never forget the sight.
As far as the eye can reach stretches a town-ship of cattle-pens,
cunningly divided into blocks, so that the animals of any pen can
be speedily driven out close to an inclined timber path which
leads to an elevated covered way straddling high above the pens.
These viaducts are two-storied. On the upper story tramp the
doomed cattle, stolidly for the most part. On the lower, with a
scuffling of sharp hoofs and multitudinous yells, run the pigs,
the same end being appointed for each. Thus you will see the
gangs of cattle waiting their turn--as they wait sometimes for
days; and they need not be distressed by the sight of their
fellows running about in the fear of death. All they know is that
a man on horseback causes their next-door neighbors to move by
means of a whip. Certain bars and fences are unshipped, and
behold! that crowd have gone up the mouth of a sloping tunnel and
return no more.
It is different with the pigs. They shriek back the news of the
exodus to their friends, and a hundred pens skirl responsive.
It was to the pigs I first addressed myself. Selecting a viaduct
which was full of them, as I could hear, though I could not see,
I marked a sombre building whereto it ran, and went there, not
unalarmed by stray cattle who had managed to escape from their
proper quarters. A pleasant smell of brine warned me of what was
coming. I entered the factory and found it full of pork in
barrels, and on another story more pork un-barrelled, and in a
huge room the halves of swine, for whose behoof great lumps of
ice were being pitched in at the window. That room was the
mortuary chamber where the pigs lay for a little while in state
ere they began their progress through such passages as kings may
sometimes travel.
Turning a corner, and not noting an overhead arrangement of
greased rail, wheel, and pulley, I ran into the arms of four
eviscerated carcasses, all pure white and of a human aspect,
pushed by a man clad in vehement red. When I leaped aside, the
floor was slippery under me. Also there was a flavor of
farm-yard in my nostrils and the shouting of a multitude in my
ears. But there was no joy in that shouting. Twelve men stood
in two lines six a side. Between them and overhead ran the
railway of death that had nearly shunted me through the window.
Each man carried a knife, the sleeves of his shirt were cut off
at the elbows, and from bosom to heel he was blood-red.
Beyond this perspective was a column of steam, and beyond that
was where I worked my awe-struck way, unwilling to touch beam or
wall. The atmosphere was stifling as a night in the rains by
reason of the steam and the crowd. I climbed to the beginning of
things and, perched upon a narrow beam, overlooked very nearly
all the pigs ever bred in Wisconsin. They had just been shot out
of the mouth of the viaduct and huddled together in a large pen.
Thence they were flicked persuasively, a few at a time, into a
smaller chamber, and there a man fixed tackle on their hinder
legs, so that they rose in the air, suspended from the railway of
Oh! it was then they shrieked and called on their mothers, and
made promises of amendment, till the tackle-man punted them in
their backs and they slid head down into a brick-floored passage,
very like a big kitchen sink, that was blood-red. There awaited
them a red man with a knife, which he passed jauntily through
their throats, and the full-voiced shriek became a splutter, and
then a fall as of heavy tropical rain, and the red man, who was
backed against the passage-wall, you will understand, stood clear
of the wildly kicking hoofs and passed his hand over his eyes,
not from any feeling of compassion, but because the spurted blood
was in his eyes, and he had barely time to stick the next
arrival. Then that first stuck swine dropped, still kicking,
into a great vat of boiling water, and spoke no more words, but
wallowed in obedience to some unseen machinery, and presently
came forth at the lower end of the vat, and was heaved on the
blades of a blunt paddle-wheel, things which said "Hough, hough,
hough!" and skelped all the hair off him, except what little a
couple of men with knives could remove.
Then he was again hitched by the heels to that said railway, and
passed down the line of the twelve men, each man with a
knife--losing with each man a certain amount of his
individuality, which was taken away in a wheel-barrow, and when
he reached the last man he was very beautiful to behold, but
excessively unstuffed and limp. Preponderance of individuality
was ever a bar to foreign travel. That pig could have been in
case to visit you in India had he not parted with some of his
most cherished notions.
The dissecting part impressed me not so much as the slaying.
They were so excessively alive, these pigs. And then, they were
so excessively dead, and the man in the dripping, clammy, not
passage did not seem to care, and ere the blood of such a one had
ceased to foam on the floor, such another and four friends with
him had shrieked and died. But a pig is only the unclean
animal--the forbidden of the prophet.
The American Army
I SHOULD very much like to deliver a dissertation on the American
army and the possibilities of its extension. You see, it is such
a beautiful little army, and the dear people don't quite
understand what to do with it. The theory is that it is an
instructional nucleus round which the militia of the country will
rally, and from which they will get a stiffening in time of
danger. Yet other people consider that the army should be built,
like a pair of lazy tongs--on the principle of elasticity and
extension--so that in time of need it may fill up its skeleton
battalions and empty saddle troops. This is real wisdom,
be-cause the American army, as at present constituted, is made up
of:--Twenty-five regiments infantry, ten companies each.
Ten regiments cavalry, twelve companies each.
Five regiments artillery, twelve companies each.
Now there is a notion in the air to reorganize the service on
these lines:--Eighteen regiments infantry at four battalions,
four companies each; third battalion, skeleton; fourth on paper.
Eight regiments cavalry at four battalions, four troops each;
third battalion, skeleton; fourth on paper.
Five regiments artillery at four battalions, four companies each;
third battalion, skeleton; fourth on paper.
Observe the beauty of this business. The third battalion will
have its officers, but no men; the fourth will probably have a
rendezvous and some equipment.
It is not contemplated to give it anything more definite at
present. Assuming the regiments to be made up to full
complement, we get an army of fifty thousand men, which after the
need passes away must be cut down fifty per cent, to the huge
delight of the officers.
The military needs of the States be three: (a) Frontier warfare,
an employment well within the grip of the present army of
twenty-five thousand, and in the nature of things growing less
arduous year by year; (b) internal riots and commotions which
rise up like a dust devil, whirl furiously, and die out long
before the authorities at Washington could begin to fill up even
the third skeleton battalions, much less hunt about for material
for the fourth; (c) civil war, in which, as the case in the
affair of the North and South, the regular army would be swamped
in the mass of militia and armed volunteers would turn the land
into a hell.
Yet the authorities persist in regarding an external war as a
thing to be seriously considered.
The Power that would disembark troops on American soil would be
capable of heaving a shovelful of mud into the Atlantic in the
hope of filling it up. Consequently, the authorities are
fascinated with the idea of the sliding scale or concertina army.
This is an hereditary instinct, for you know that when we English
have got together two companies, one machine gun, a sick bullock,
forty generals, and a mass of W. O. forms, we say we possess "an
army corps capable of indefinite extension."
The American army is a beautiful little army. Some day, when all
the Indians are happily dead or drunk, it ought to make the
finest scientific and survey corps that the world has ever seen;
it does excellent work now, but there is this defect in its
nature: It is officered, as you know, from West Point.
The mischief of it is that West Point seems to be created for the
purpose of spreading a general knowledge of military matters
among the people. A boy goes up to that institution, gets his
pass, and returns to civil life, so they tell me, with a
dangerous knowledge that he is a suckling Von Moltke, and may
apply his learning when occasion offers. Given trouble, that man
will be a nuisance, because he is a hideously versatile American,
to begin with, as cock-sure of himself as a man can be, and with
all the racial disregard for human life to back him, through any
demi-semi-professional generalship.
In a country where, as the records of the daily papers show, men
engaged in a conflict with police or jails are all too ready to
adopt a military formation and get heavily shot in a sort of
cheap, half-constructed warfare, instead of being decently scared
by the appearance of the military, this sort of arrangement does
not seem wise.
The bond between the States is of an amazing tenuity. So long as
they do not absolutely march into the District of Columbia, sit
on the Washington statues, and invent a flag of their own, they
can legislate, lynch, hunt negroes through swamps, divorce,
railroad, and rampage as much as ever they choose. They do not
need knowledge of their own military strength to back their
genial lawlessness.
That regular army, which is a dear little army, should be kept to
itself, blooded on detachment duty, turned into the paths of
science, and now and again assembled at feasts of Free Masons,
and so forth.
It is too tiny to be a political power. The immortal wreck of
the Grand Army of the Republic is a political power of the
largest and most unblushing description. It ought not to help to
lay the foundations of an amateur military power that is blind
and irresponsible.
By great good luck the evil-minded train, already delayed twelve
hours by a burned bridge, brought me to the city on a Saturday by
way of that valley which the Mormons, over their efforts, had
caused to blossom like the rose. Twelve hours previously I had
entered into a new world where, in conversation, every one was
either a Mormon or a Gentile. It is not seemly for a free and
independent citizen to dub himself a Gentile, but the Mayor of
Ogden--which is the Gentile city of the valley--told me that
there must be some distinction between the two flocks.
Long before the fruit orchards of Logan or the shining levels of
the Salt Lake had been reached, that mayor--himself a Gentile,
and one renowned for his dealings with the Mormons--told me that
the great question of the existence of the power within the power
was being gradually solved by the ballot and by education.
All the beauty of the valley could not make me forget it. And
the valley is very fair. Bench after bench of land, flat as a
table against the flanks of the ringing hills, marks where the
Salt Lake rested for awhile in its collapse from an inland sea to
a lake fifty miles long and thirty broad.
There are the makings of a very fine creed about Mormonism. To
begin with, the Church is rather more absolute than that of Rome.
Drop the polygamy plank in the platform, but on the other hand
deal lightly with certain forms of excess; keep the quality of
the recruit down to the low mental level, and see that the best
of all the agricultural science available is in the hands of the
elders, and there you have a first-class engine for pioneer work.
The tawdry mysticism and the borrowing from Freemasonry serve the
low caste Swede and Dane, the Welshman and the Cornish cotter,
just as well as a highly organized heaven.
Then I went about the streets and peeped into people's front
windows, and the decorations upon the tables were after the
manner of the year 1850. Main Street was full of country folk
from the desert, come in to trade with the Zion Mercantile
Co-operative Institute. The Church, I fancy, looks after the
finances of this thing, and it consequently pays good dividends.
The faces of the women were not lovely. In-deed, but for the
certainty that ugly persons are just as irrational in the matter
of undivided love as the beautiful, it seems that polygamy was a
blessed institution for the women, and that only the dread
threats of the spiritual power could drive the hulking,
board-faced men into it. The women wore hideous garments, and
the men appeared to be tied up with strings.
They would market all that afternoon, and on Sunday go to the
praying-place. I tried to talk to a few of them, but they spoke
strange tongues, and stared and behaved like cows. Yet one
woman, and not an altogether ugly one, confided to me that she
hated the idea of Salt Lake City being turned into a show-place
for the amusement of the Gentiles.
"If we 'have our own institutions, that ain't no reason why
people should come 'ere and stare at us, his it?"
The dropped "h" betrayed her.
"And when did you leave England?" I said.
"Summer of '84. I am Dorset," she said. "The Mormon agent was
very good to us, and we was very poor. Now we're better off--my
father, an' mother, an' me."
"Then you like the State?"
She misunderstood at first.
"Oh, I ain't livin' in the state of polygamy. Not me, yet. I
ain't married. I like where I am. I've got things o' my
own--and some land."
"But I suppose you will--"
"Not me. I ain't like them Swedes an' Danes. I ain't got
nothin' to say for or against polygamy. It's the elders'
business, an' between you an' me, I don't think it's going on
much longer. You'll 'ear them in the 'ouse to-morrer talkin' as
if it was spreadin' all over America. The Swedes, they think it
his. I know it hisn't."
"But you've got your land all right?"
"Oh, yes; we've got our land, an' we never say aught against
polygamy, o' course--father, an' mother, an' me."
On a table-land overlooking all the city stands the United States
garrison of infantry and artillery. The State of Utah can do
nearly anything it pleases until that much-to-be-desired hour
when the Gentile vote shall quietly swamp out Mormonism; but the
garrison is kept there in case of accidents. The big,
shark-mouthed, pig-eared, heavy-boned farmers sometimes take to
their creed with wildest fanaticism, and in past years have made
life excessively unpleasant for the Gentile when he was few in
the land. But to-day, so far from killing openly or secretly, or
burning Gentile farms, it is all the Mormon dare do to feebly try
to boycott the interloper. His journals preach defiance to the
United States Government, and in the Tabernacle on a Sunday the
preachers follow suit.
When I went there, the place was full of people who would have
been much better for a washing.
A man rose up and told them that they were the chosen of God, the
elect of Israel; that they were to obey their priests, and that
there was a good time coming. I fancy that they had heard all
this before so many times it produced no impression whatever,
even as the sublimest mysteries of another faith lose salt
through constant iteration. They breathed heavily through their
noses, and stared straight in front of them--impassive as flat
America's Defenceless Coasts
JUST suppose that America were twenty days distant from England.
Then a man could study its customs with undivided soul; but being
so very near next door, he goes about the land with one eye on
the smoke of the flesh-pots of the old country across the seas,
while with the other he squints biliously and prejudicially at
the alien.
I can lay my hand upon my sacred heart and affirm that up to
to-day I have never taken three consecutive trips by rail without
being delayed by an accident. That it was an accident to another
train makes no difference. My own turn may come next.
A few miles from peaceful, pleasure-loving Lakewood they had
managed to upset an express goods train to the detriment of the
flimsy permanent way; and thus the train which should have left
at three departed at seven in the evening. I was not angry. I
was scarcely even interested. When an American train starts on
time I begin to anticipate disaster--a visitation for such good
luck, you understand.
Buffalo is a large village of a quarter of a million inhabitants,
situated on the seashore, which is falsely called Lake Erie. It
is a peaceful place, and more like an English county town than
most of its friends.
Once clear of the main business streets, you launch upon miles
and miles of asphalted roads running between cottages and
cut-stone residences of those who have money and peace. All the
Eastern cities own this fringe of elegance, but except in Chicago
nowhere is the fringe deeper or more heavily widened than in
The American will go to a bad place because he cannot speak
English, and is proud of it; but he knows how to make a home for
himself and his mate, knows how to keep the grass green in front
of his veranda, and how to fullest use the mechanism of life--hot
water, gas, good bell-ropes, telephones, etc. His shops sell him
delightful household fitments at very moderate rates, and he is
encompassed with all manner of labor-saving appliances. This
does not prevent his wife and his daughter working themselves to
death over household drudgery; but the intention is good.
When you have seen the outside of a few hundred thousand of these
homes and the insides of a few score, you begin to understand why
the American (the respectable one) does not take a deep interest
in what they call "politics," and why he is so vaguely and
generally proud of the country that enables him to be so
comfortable. How can the owner of a dainty chalet, with
smoked-oak furniture, imitation Venetian tapestry curtains, hot
and cold water laid on, a bed of geraniums and hollyhocks, a baby
crawling down the veranda, and a self-acting twirly-whirly hose
gently hissing over the grass in the balmy dusk of an August
evening--how can such a man despair of the Republic, or descend
into the streets on voting days and mix cheerfully with "the
No, it is the stranger--the homeless jackal of a stranger--whose
interest in the country is limited to his hotel-bill and a
railway-ticket, that can run from Dan to Beersheba, crying:--"All
is barren!"
Every good American wants a home--a pretty house and a little
piece of land of his very own; and every other good American
seems to get it.
It was when my gigantic intellect was grappling with this
question that I confirmed a discovery half made in the West. The
natives of most classes marry young--absurdly young. One of my
informants--not the twenty-two-year-old husband I met on Lake
Chautauqua--said that from twenty to twenty-four was about the
usual time for this folly. And when I asked whether the practice
was confined to the constitutionally improvident classes, he said
"No" very quickly. He said it was a general custom, and nobody
saw anything wrong with it.
"I guess, perhaps, very early marriage may account for a good
deal of the divorce," said he, reflectively.
Whereat I was silent. Their marriages and their divorces only
concern these people; and neither I travelling, nor you, who may
come after, have any right to make rude remarks about them.
Only--only coming from a land where a man begins to lightly turn
to thoughts of love not before he is thirty, I own that playing
at house-keeping before that age rather surprised me. Out in the
West, though, they marry, boys and girls, from sixteen upward,
and I have met more than one bride of fifteen--husband aged
"When man and woman are agreed, what can the Kazi do?"
From those peaceful homes, and the envy they inspire (two trunks
and a walking-stick and a bit of pine forest in British Columbia
are not satisfactory, any way you look at them), I turned me to
the lake front of Buffalo, where the steamers bellow to the grain
elevators, and the locomotives yell to the coal-shutes, and the
canal barges jostle the lumber-raft half a mile long as it snakes
across the water in tow of a launch, and earth, and sky, and sea
alike are thick with smoke.
In the old days, before the railway ran into the city, all the
business quarters fringed the lake-shore where the traffic was
largest. To-day the business quarters have gone up-town to meet
the railroad; the lake traffic still exists, but you shall find a
narrow belt of red-brick desolation, broken windows, gap-toothed
doors, and streets where the grass grows between the crowded
wharves and the bustling city. To the lake front comes wheat
from Chicago, lumber, coal, and ore, and a large trade in cheap
It was my felicity to catch a grain steamer and an elevator
emptying that same steamer. The steamer might have been two
thousand tons burden. She was laden with wheat in bulk; from
stem to stern, thirteen feet deep, lay the clean, red wheat.
There was no twenty-five per cent dirt admixture about it at all.
It was wheat, fit for the grindstones as it lay. They manoeuvred
the fore-hatch of that steamer directly under an elevator--a
house of red tin a hundred and fifty feet high. Then they let
down into that fore-hatch a trunk as if it had been the trunk of
an elephant, but stiff, because it was a pipe of iron-champed
wood. And the trunk had a steel-shod nose to it, and contained
an endless chain of steel buckets.
Then the captain swore, raising his eyes to heaven, and a gruff
voice answered him from the place he swore at, and certain
machinery, also in the firmament, began to clack, and the
glittering, steel-shod nose of that trunk burrowed into the
wheat, and the wheat quivered and sunk upon the instant as water
sinks when the siphon sucks, because the steel buckets within the
trunk were flying upon their endless round, carrying away each
its appointed morsel of wheat.
The elevator was a Persian well wheel--a wheel squashed out thin
and cased in a pipe, a wheel driven not by bullocks, but by much
horse-power, licking up the grain at the rate of thou-sands of
bushels the hour. And the wheat sunk into the fore-hatch while a
man looked--sunk till the brown timbers of the bulkheads showed
bare, and men leaped down through clouds of golden dust and
shovelled the wheat furiously round the nose of the trunk, and
got a steam-shovel of glittering steel and made that shovel also,
till there remained of the grain not more than a horse leaves in
the fold of his nose-bag.
In this manner do they handle wheat at Buffalo. On one side of
the elevator is the steamer, on the other the railway track; and
the wheat is loaded into the cars in bulk. Wah! wah! God is
great, and I do not think He ever intended Gar Sahai or Luckman
Narain to supply England with her wheat. India can cut in not
without profit to herself when her harvest is good and the
Ameri-can yield poor; but this very big country can, upon the
average, supply the earth with all the beef and bread that is
A man in the train said to me:--"We kin feed all the earth, jest
as easily as we kin whip all the earth."
Now the second statement is as false as the first is true. One
of these days the respectable Republic will find this out.
Unfortunately we, the English, will never be the people to teach
her; because she is a chartered libertine allowed to say and do
anything she likes, from demanding the head of the empress in an
editorial waste-basket, to chevying Canadian schooners up and
down the Alaska Seas. It is perfectly impossible to go to war
with these people, whatever they may do.
They are much too nice, in the first place, and in the second, it
would throw out all the passenger traffic of the Atlantic, and
upset the financial arrangements of the English syndicates who
have invested their money in breweries, railways, and the like,
and in the third, it's not to be done. Everybody knows that, and
no one better than the American.
Yet there are other powers who are not "ohai band" (of the
brotherhood)--China, for instance. Try to believe an
irresponsible writer when he assures you that China's fleet
to-day, if properly manned, could waft the entire American navy
out of the water and into the blue. The big, fat Republic that
is afraid of nothing, because nothing up to the present date has
happened to make her afraid, is as unprotected as a jelly-fish.
Not internally, of course--it would be madness for any Power to
throw men into America; they would die--but as far as regards
coast defence.
From five miles out at sea (I have seen a test of her "fortified"
ports) a ship of the power of H. M. S. "Collingwood" (they
haven't run her on a rock yet) would wipe out any or every town
from San Francisco to Long Branch; and three first-class
ironclads would account for New York, Bartholdi's Statue and all.
Reflect on this. 'Twould be "Pay up or go up" round the entire
coast of the United States. To this furiously answers the
patriotic American:--"We should not pay. We should invent a
Columbiad in Pittsburg or--or anywhere else, and blow any
outsider into h--l."
They might invent. They might lay waste their cities and retire
inland, for they can subsist entirely on their own produce.
Meantime, in a war waged the only way it could be waged by an
unscrupulous Power, their coast cities and their dock-yards would
be ashes. They could construct their navy inland if they liked,
but you could never bring a ship down to the water-ways, as they
stand now.
They could not, with an ordinary water patrol, despatch one
regiment of men six miles across the seas. There would be about
five million excessively angry, armed men pent up within American
limits. These men would require ships to get themselves afloat.
The country has no such ships, and until the ships were built New
York need not be allowed a single-wheeled carriage within her
Behold now the glorious condition of this Republic which has no
fear. There is ransom and loot past the counting of man on her
seaboard alone--plunder that would enrich a nation--and she has
neither a navy nor half a dozen first-class ports to guard the
whole. No man catches a snake by the tail, because the creature
will sting; but you can build a fire around a snake that will
make it squirm.
The country is supposed to be building a navy now. When the
ships are completed her alliance will be worth having--if the
alliance of any republic can be relied upon. For the next three
years she can be hurt, and badly hurt. Pity it is that she is of
our own blood, looking at the matter from a Pindarris point of
view. Dog cannot eat dog.
These sinful reflections were prompted by the sight of the
beautifully unprotected condition of Buffalo--a city that could
be made to pay up five million dollars without feeling it. There
are her companies of infantry in a sort of port there. A gun-boat
brought over in pieces from Niagara could get the money and get
away before she could be caught, while an unarmored gun-boat
guarding Toronto could ravage the towns on the lakes. When one
hears so much of the nation that can whip the earth, it is, to
say the least of it, surprising to find her so temptingly
The average American citizen seems to have a notion that any
Power engaged in strife with the Star Spangled Banner will
disembark men from flat-bottomed boats on a convenient beach for
the purpose of being shot down by local militia. In his own
simple phraseology:--"Not by a darned sight. No, sir."
Ransom at long range will be about the size of it--cash or crash.
Let us revisit calmer scenes.
In the heart of Buffalo there stands a magnificent building which
the population do innocently style a music-hall. Everybody comes
here of evenings to sit around little tables and listen to a
first-class orchestra. The place is something like the Gaiety
Theatre at Simla, enlarged twenty times. The "Light Brigade" of
Buffalo occupy the boxes and the stage, "as it was at Simla in
the days of old," and the others sit in the parquet. Here I went
with a friend--poor or boor is the man who cannot pick up a
friend for a season in America--and here was shown the really
smart folk of the city. I grieve to say I laughed, because when
an American wishes to be correct he sets himself to imitate the
Englishman. This he does vilely, and earns not only the contempt
of his brethren, but the amused scorn of the Briton.
I saw one man who was pointed out to me as being the glass of
fashion hereabouts. He was aggressively English in his get-up.
From eye-glass to trouser-hem the illusion was perfect, but--he
wore with evening-dress buttoned boots with brown cloth tops!
Not till I wandered about this land did I understand why the
comic papers belabor the Anglomaniac.
Certain young men of the more idiotic sort launch into dog-carts
and raiment of English cut, and here in Buffalo they play polo at
four in the afternoon. I saw three youths come down to the
polo-ground faultlessly attired for the game and mounted on their
best ponies. Expecting a game, I lingered; but I was mistaken.
These three shining ones with the very new yellow hide boots and
the red silk sashes had assembled themselves for the purpose of
knocking the ball about. They smote with great solemnity up and
down the grounds, while the little boys looked on. When they
trotted, which was not seldom, they rose and sunk in their
stirrups with a conscientiousness that cried out "Riding-school!"
from afar.
Other young men in the park were riding after the English manner,
in neatly cut riding-trousers and light saddles. Fate in
derision had made each youth bedizen his animal with a checkered
enam-elled leather brow-band visible half a mile away--a
black-and-white checkered brow-band! They can't do it, any more
than an Englishman, by taking cold, can add that indescribable
nasal twang to his orchestra.
The other sight of the evening was a horror. The little tragedy
played itself out at a neighboring table where two very young men
and two very young women were sitting. It did not strike me till
far into the evening that the pimply young reprobates were making
the girls drunk. They gave them red wine and then white, and the
voices rose slightly with the maidens' cheek flushes. I watched,
wishing to stay, and the youths drank till their speech thickened
and their eye-balls grew watery. It was sickening to see,
because I knew what was going to happen. My friend eyed the
group, and said:--"Maybe they're children of respectable people.
I hardly think, though, they'd be allowed out without any better
escort than these boys. And yet the place is a place where every
one comes, as you see. They may be Little Immoralities--in which
case they wouldn't be so hopelessly overcome with two glasses of
wine. They may be--"
Whatever they were they got indubitably drunk--there in that
lovely hall, surrounded by the best of Buffalo society. One
could do nothing except invoke the judgment of Heaven on the two
boys, themselves half sick with liquor. At the close of the
performance the quieter maiden laughed vacantly and protested she
couldn't keep her feet. The four linked arms, and staggering,
flickered out into the street--drunk, gentlemen and ladies, as
Davy's swine, drunk as lords! They disappeared down a side
avenue, but I could hear their laughter long after they were out
of sight.
And they were all four children of sixteen and seventeen. Then,
recanting previous opinions, I became a prohibitionist. Better
it is that a man should go without his beer in public places, and
content himself with swearing at the narrow-mindedness of the
majority; better it is to poison the inside with very vile
temperance drinks, and to buy lager furtively at back-doors, than
to bring temptation to the lips of young fools such as the four I
had seen. I understand now why the preachers rage against drink.
I have said: "There is no harm in it, taken moderately;" and yet
my own demand for beer helped directly to send those two girls
reeling down the dark street to--God alone knows what end.
If liquor is worth drinking, it is worth taking a little trouble
to come at--such trouble as a man will undergo to compass his own
desires. It is not good that we should let it lie before the
eyes of children, and I have been a fool in writing to the
contrary. Very sorry for myself, I sought a hotel, and found in
the hall a reporter who wished to know what I thought of the
country. Him I lured into conversation about his own profession,
and from him gained much that confirmed me in my views of the
grinding tyranny of that thing which they call the Press here.
Thus:--I--But you talk about interviewing people whether they
like it or not. Have you no bounds beyond which even your
indecent curiosity must not go?
HE--I haven't struck 'em yet. What do you think of interviewing
a widow two hours after her husband's death, to get her version
of his life?
I--I think that is the work of a ghoul. Must the people have no
HE--There is no domestic privacy in America. If there was, what
the deuce would the papers do? See here. Some time ago I had an
assignment to write up the floral tributes when a prominent
citizen had died.
I--Translate, please; I do not understand your pagan rites and
HE--I was ordered by the office to describe the flowers, and
wreaths, and so on, that had been sent to a dead man's funeral.
Well, I went to the house. There was no one there to stop me, so
I yanked the tinkler--pulled the bell--and drifted into the room
where the corpse lay all among the roses and smilax. I whipped
out my note-book and pawed around among the floral tributes,
turn-ing up the tickets on the wreaths and seeing who had sent
them. In the middle of this I heard some one saying: "Please,
oh, please!" behind me, and there stood the daughter of the
house, just bathed in tears--I--You unmitigated brute!
HE--Pretty much what I felt myself. "I'm very sorry, miss," I
said, "to intrude on the privacy of your grief. Trust me, I
shall make it as little painful as possible."
I--But by what conceivable right did you outrage--HE--Hold your
horses. I'm telling you. Well, she didn't want me in the house
at all, and between her sobs fairly waved me away. I had half
the tributes described, though, and the balance I did partly on
the steps when the stiff 'un came out, and partly in the church.
The preacher gave the sermon. That wasn't my assignment. I
skipped about among the floral tributes while he was talking. I
could have made no excuse if I had gone back to the office and
said that a pretty girl's sobs had stopped me obeying orders. I
had to do it. What do you think of it all?
I (slowly)--Do you want to know?
HE (with his note-book ready)--Of course. How do you regard it?
I--It makes me regard your interesting nation with the same
shuddering curiosity that I should bestow on a Pappan cannibal
chewing the scalp off his mother's skull. Does that convey any
idea to your mind? It makes me regard the whole pack of you as
heathens--real heathens--not the sort you send missions
to--creatures of another flesh and blood. You ought to have been
shot, not dead, but through the stomach, for your share in the
scandalous business, and the thing you call your newspaper ought
to have been sacked by the mob, and the managing proprietor
HE--From which, I suppose you have nothing of that kind in your
Oh! "Pioneer," venerable "Pioneer," and you not less honest
press of India, who are occasionally dull but never blackguardly,
what could I say? A mere "No," shouted never so loudly,
would not have met the needs of the case. I said no word.
The reporter went away, and I took a train for Niagara Falls,
which are twenty-two miles distant from this bad town, where
girls get drunk of nights and reporters trample on corpses in the
drawing-rooms of the brave and the free!

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