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Title: When We Were Strolling Players in the East
Author: Miln, Louise Jordan
Language: English
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                              WHEN WE WERE
                     STROLLING PLAYERS IN THE EAST



[Illustration: MRS. MILN AS DESDEMONA.         _Frontispiece._]



                              WHEN WE WERE

                           STROLLING PLAYERS

                              IN THE EAST


                                   BY

                           LOUISE JORDAN MILN


                           WITH ILLUSTRATIONS


                               NEW YORK:
                        CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS
                          153-157 FIFTH AVENUE
                                  1896



                              TO MY FATHER

                       WHOSE LOVE NEVER FAILED ME
                     AND WHO NEVER MISUNDERSTOOD ME

                         I dedicate this Volume



IN connection with this volume I have several words of thanks to write.

My first and best thanks are due to the editors of the _Pall Mall
Gazette_ and of the _Pall Mall Budget_. Their kindness has enabled me to
reprint here several articles that have previously appeared in one or
both of their papers. And to the generosity of the editor of the _Pall
Mall Budget_ I owe five of the illustrations appearing here.

“Oriental Nuptials” have appeared in _The Lady_, the editor of which
paper kindly allows me to here use them.

Messrs. Bourne and Shepherd of Calcutta have generously granted me
permission to reproduce three of their copyrighted photographs.

Messrs. Skeen of Colombo have kindly permitted me to use two of their
copyrighted views of Ceylon.

Several of the Burmese photographs have been collected for me in Burmah,
and sent me by William Miller, Esq., of Rangoon. I am peculiarly obliged
to Mr. Miller, because he found time in the press of grave official
duties to take so much trouble for one who had not then the pleasure of
his acquaintance.

                                                             L. J. M.

    LONDON, _31st May 1894_.



                                CONTENTS


                           CHAPTER I
            MY FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE ORIENT               1

                           CHAPTER II
            ANDREW                                      12

                          CHAPTER III
            OUR DAY OUT                                 19

                           CHAPTER IV
            MY FIRST ’RICKSHAW RIDE                     26

                           CHAPTER V
            IN THE BURRA BAZAAR                         35

                           CHAPTER VI
            A CHRISTMAS DINNER ON A ROOF                55

                          CHAPTER VII
            ORIENTAL OBSEQUIES—A HINDOO BURNING GHÂT    62

                          CHAPTER VIII
            ORIENTAL NUPTIALS—A HINDOO MARRIAGE         70

                           CHAPTER IX
            KING THEEBAW’S STATE BARGE                  80

                           CHAPTER X
            ORIENTAL OBSEQUIES—BURMESE BURIALS          87

                           CHAPTER XI
            ORIENTAL NUPTIALS—BURMESE BRIDALS           93

                          CHAPTER XII
            A JAUNT IN A HOUSE-BOAT THROUGH THE HOME   100
              OF THE WILD WHITE ROSE

                          CHAPTER XIII
            AN OPIUM DEN IN SHANGHAI                   112

                          CHAPTER XIV
            MEMORIES OF HONG-KONG                      120

                           CHAPTER XV
            A GLIMPSE OF CANTON                        131

                          CHAPTER XVI
            CHINESE PRISONERS                          151

                          CHAPTER XVII
            THE CHINESE NEW YEAR                       157

                         CHAPTER XVIII
            ORIENTAL OBSEQUIES—CHINESE COFFINS         164

                          CHAPTER XIX
            ORIENTAL NUPTIALS—CHINESE ESPOUSALS        173

                           CHAPTER XX
            CHINESE SHOES                              180

                          CHAPTER XXI
            JAPANESE TOUCH                             188

                          CHAPTER XXII
            FOUR WOMEN THAT I KNEW IN TOKIO—MRS.       196
              KEUTAKO

                         CHAPTER XXIII
            FOUR WOMEN THAT I KNEW IN TOKIO—THE        206
              COUNTESS OYAMA AND MRS. URIU

                          CHAPTER XXIV
            FOUR WOMEN THAT I KNEW IN TOKIO—MADAME     214
              SANNOMIYA

                          CHAPTER XXV
            TOM STREET                                 223

                          CHAPTER XXVI
            ORIENTAL OBSEQUIES—A JAPANESE FUNERAL      235

                         CHAPTER XXVII
            ORIENTAL NUPTIALS—JAPANESE WEDLOCK         241

                         CHAPTER XXVIII
            BAMBOO                                     249

                          CHAPTER XXIX
            ON THE HIMALAYAS                           255

                          CHAPTER XXX
            MY AYAH                                    265

                          CHAPTER XXXI
            SAMBO                                      275

                         CHAPTER XXXII
            HOW WE KEPT HOUSE ON THE HILLS             288

                         CHAPTER XXXIII
            ORIENTAL OBSEQUIES—THE PARSI TOWERS OF     298
              SILENCE

                         CHAPTER XXXIV
            ORIENTAL NUPTIALS—A PARSI WEDDING          306

                          CHAPTER XXXV
            AT SUBATHU WHERE THE BAGPIPES PLAY AND     315
              THE LEPERS HIDE

                         CHAPTER XXXVI
            IN THE OFFICERS’ MESS                      322

                         CHAPTER XXXVII
            AT THE MOUTH OF THE KHYBER PASS            328

                        CHAPTER XXXVIII
            AN IMPROMPTU DINNER PARTY IN THE PUNJAB    335

                         CHAPTER XXXIX
            SALAAM!                                    341

            Glossary                                   349



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  LOUISE JORDAN MILN                                    _Frontispiece
                                                                    _

  STREET SCENE IN COLOMBO                    _To face               9
                                              page_

  NATIVES WEAVING MATS IN CEYLON                "                  25

  DELHI NAUTCH GIRL                             "                  56

  KING THEEBAW’S STATE BARGE                    "                  80

  BURMESE POSTURE GIRLS                         "                  85

  PAGODA NEAR MANDALAY                          "                  88

  BAND AT A BURMESE THEATRICAL PERFORMANCE      "                  90

  BURMESE MOTHER AND CHILD                      "                  94

  BURMESE MUSICIANS                             "                  97

  BHÂMO WOMEN                                   "                  99

  CITY WALL, OLD SHANGHAI                       "                 112

  CHINESE ACTORS                                "                 136

  FOOCHOW SINGING GIRLS                         "                 169

  CHINESE MUSICIANS                             "                 184

  MRS. KEUTAKO’S DAUGHTER                       "                 200

  DANJERO IN HIS FAVOURITE RÔLE
  DANJERO IN EUROPEAN COSTUME                   }                 209
  DANJERO AS I KNEW HIM

  MRS. KEUTAKO’S BABY                           "                 224

  HINDOO COOLIE WOMEN WITH LOADS OF BAMBOO      "                 249

  FAN PALM AT SINGAPORE                         "                 255

  NATIVES READING AT PENANG                     "                 256

  HILL PEOPLE—BHOOTEAS AND NEPAULESE            "                 264

  A THORNLESS BLACK BLOSSOM                     "                 273

  H.H. THE MAHARAJAH OF PATIALA ON HIS          "                 320
    FAVOURITE RACER

  AFREDEEDS AT THE KHYBER PASS                  "                 329

  IDOLS IN A SIAMESE PAGODA                     "                 341



                               CHAPTER I


                     MY FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE ORIENT

TO travel far and wide—out of the beaten paths, and to enjoy it, is to
have a great career. I know no other impersonal delight that is so
endless as the delight of learning new places. To see new flora, a new
type of people having new customs, and then to realise that it is
Damascus or Kabul, Calcutta or Canton,—a place which has been to you
all your life a meaningless dot on a map, but is now—and for ever will
be to you—a vivid, vital reality,—that is an exquisite pleasure, a
twofold pleasure, for while it fires your intellect, it feeds your
artistic sense, your love of the picturesque.

I take it for granted that you have a love of the picturesque. If I am
wrong, you would better close my little book, and try to change it for
another. For you will think me a bit mad, and we shan’t get on together
at all.

I love the East—genuinely and intensely—I love every inch of it. There
are occasional bits of the landscape that are uninteresting, but the
people are always charming. They are often lovable. They are invariably
quaint and interesting.

I remember saying to my husband, when we had been in the East two days,
“I can never be grateful enough for having come to this wonderful
Orient.” Days passed into weeks. Weeks stretched into months. Months
lengthened into years. With every passing hour my gratitude grew. We are
back in London now, and the East is a memory; but I am grateful still,
and shall be always.

For people who long to see the Eastern wonderland and can’t, I have a
big pity. For people who could go, but don’t care to, I have a huge
contempt.

My father—a delightful fellow-traveller, and the dear chum of my
girlhood—my father and I had planned to see the East together. But we
never did. My husband and I saw all the East together. Every day as we
went farther and farther into those wonderful countries we said one to
the other, “If he were only with us!”

We had been playing some time in Australia, and when we began to fear
lest we had worn out our welcome, our thoughts turned to London, the
actor’s Mecca. But I begged that we might go to dear old England by a
very roundabout way. It turned out a very roundabout way indeed. We were
tempted to go from place to place. We were detained in Japan by
business. We were held in India by illness. We went all over the East.
And when we “came home” a year ago, my boy knew a little Chinese, a
little Japanese, and very much Hindustani.

We reached Colombo at daylight. When I woke I had that strange sensation
to which, become as old a traveller as one may, one never gets quite
used—the sensation of being in a boat that is at anchor after weeks of
incessant motion. The noise was indescribable. The _Valetta_ was going
on to London, and they were already coaling. I climbed up to the
port-hole and looked out. The coaling was going on farther down. As far
as I could see, were native boats that would have made Venice gaudier
when Venice was gay with the glory of coloured gondolas. Some of them
reminded me of the birch-bark canoes that dart up and down the St.
Lawrence, some were shaped like Spanish caravels, some were Egyptian in
outline. But all were Oriental in colour; and all were manned by
Cingalese—the first Oriental people I had ever seen _en masse_.

The stewardess knocked. “Would I come into the nursery?” (as we called
our children’s cabin), “the children absolutely refused to be dressed.”
I threw on a dressing-gown and crossed the narrow passage. My two elder
babies were crowding each other from the port-hole, and the
four-month-old bairn was kicking and clutching at the kind hands that
were trying to dress her. Outside, beneath the port-hole, was a small
native boat. It was full of fruit which the natives were reaching up to
my eager-handed children. Another boat, laden with shells, was trying to
push the fruit boat away. A dozen other boats were crowded about these
two, and fifty Cingalese were crying—“Buy, buy, buy!” I threw out a bit
of silver in payment for the bananas and oranges my infants were
devouring. I took a firm clutch of their night gowns and pulled them
down. The stewardess closed the port-hole, and we three women gradually
persuaded the three babies into their different costumes. The children
were taken on deck, where their father was. I went back to my cabin to
dress. A Cingalese man had his head thrust well inside my port-hole. His
fine aquiline features were covered-with a rich brown skin. His long
black hair was twisted into a small but prominent knob at the back of
his square head. In the knob was thrust eight inches of convex
tortoise-shell, which in the bright sunshine of the early morning
sparkled like a queen’s coronet.

“Salaam, beautiful English lady!” he cried before my astonishment had
let me speak; “I bring you many beautiful silk—much beautiful sapphire,
pearls, not white as your neck, but white as the neck of another.” He
threw a square foot of morocco at my naked feet. I picked it up to throw
it back, but it opened and I held it a moment. I had seen the
Mediterranean when it was good-humoured, and the sky in Italy. I never
saw blue until I looked into that leather casket of rings. Oh! those
sapphires, cunningly relieved here and there by a glinting cat’s-eye, or
a gleaming pearl!

“Go away,” I said, handing up the box, “I’m not dressed.”

“Beautiful English lady, buy,” he replied, ignoring his gems. I glanced
into the diminutive P. and O. mirror. My nose was sunburnt; my hair was
in curl papers. I have seen uglier women, but not many. That naturally
annoyed me.

“Take your rubbish away,” I said sharply. “I don’t want. I’ve no money.”

The first statement was untrue. I did want them. Only a blind woman
could look on Ceylon sapphires without longing to wear them. With the
poetic sense peculiar to the East, it was my last and true statement
that he disregarded.

“Lady take one ring, two ring, six ring. I come hotel get money.”

“I’m going to London,” I said, lying glibly. I was anxious to get on
deck. I wanted to dress.

“Lady send me money from London. I trust. No English sir, no English
madame, cheat poor native man.”

I have heard English honour upheld in Westminster. I have heard it
praised directly and indirectly by almost all the peoples in Europe and
in America. But, to me, this was the establishment of English honour.
And it was so all over the East. I was not an Englishwoman, but I was
the next best thing, the wife of an Englishman, and I could buy on
credit half the curios in the East, if I wished.

At last I induced my Cingalese friend to carry his sapphires to a more
hopeful port-hole. I dressed and went on deck. One of my little ones
crept to me. She had a huge bunch of blossom in her wee hands. Some of
the flowers I had seen in famous conservatories. Half of them I had
never seen. They were massed together—white, red and yellow, no half
colours! They were tightly bound into a stupid graceless bunch, stiffly
bordered by thick leaves, but from them rose a perfume heavy as incense,
sweet as sandal-wood. One of my baby’s many admirers had given them to
her. He had bought them for two annas. The vendor had cheated him into
paying double price.

The deck was thronged with native merchants and was vocal with hubbub.
At a short distance from the _Valetta_ a dozen native boys were paddling
a frail little craft. “Throw away, sir; throw money, sir. I dive, sir—I
dive.” And dive they did, invariably bringing up the silver in their
triumphant mouths. They dived and swam and rose like nimble, black
flying-fish. Hundreds of coolies were bringing big baskets of coal up
the ship’s sides. They were as quick as monkeys and far noisier.

I sank into my steamer chair. In a moment I was surrounded. Three
Cingalese men planted themselves complacently at my feet. Their
attendant coolies followed with their wares. One man had photographs.
One had Point de Galle lace and chicken work. One had tortoise-shell and
ebony. All had sapphires, cat’s-eyes, and moonstones. Every passenger on
deck was surrounded by just such a brown coterie.

Colombo itself we saw but indifferently. A few houses and myriad
cocoanut trees, that was all; but around us were anchored the ships of a
dozen flags. If I remember, the only men-of-war were three or four funny
little Japanese warships.

After a hasty breakfast, which even the children were too excited to
eat, we went on shore. What a wonderland! The grass was the crisp green
of eternal summer. The intense sunshine was pouring mercilessly down.
But native men and women were walking leisurely along, with bare heads,
and apparently cool skins. A horribly deformed boy rushed at us with a
prayer for bukshish. My husband sprang between him and me. But, though I
did not know it, I had, for the first time, seen a leper. I was destined
to see lepers all over India, and a year or more later, in Subathu, I
learned to go among them quietly if not quite calmly. As for the cry of
bukshish, which was the first native word I heard in the East, it was
also the last. I heard it incessantly for two years and more. The
peoples among whom we went spoke Hindustani, Gujarati, Tamul, Marahti,
and a dozen other tongues, but they all cried “Salaam, memsahib.
Bukshish! Bukshish!”

It was only a stone’s throw to the large, pleasant hotel. The manager
was waiting for us; and with him was an ayah, who had been engaged as an
assistant nurse, by our advance agent. What a splendidly handsome woman
she was! A long, straight piece of striped silk was wrapped about her
hips and fell nearly to her ankles. A short Cingalese jacket, made of
white lawn and edged with lace, covered her bosom. Her arms and neck and
feet were gleaming, black and bare. And between her short white jacket
and her low red skirt was an interspace of four or more inches of black
plumpness. Her magnificent black hair was carefully braided, and the
long braids were artistically gathered together by a beautiful silver
pin, which also fastened a red rose. She wore a string of big gold beads
about her neck. She gave a shrewd look at my sturdy little flock.
“Salaam, memsahib,” she cried, showing all her large perfect teeth. “Two
baba not walk!” She seized upon the smaller of the two and led the way
to our rooms. That very afternoon the elder baby walked, for the first
time, and after that very rarely asked to be carried. If the ayah
repented her choice of babies she gave no sign, but abode by her first
selection.

It was in Colombo that I first ate curry that was nearly perfect. In
Colombo I ate a dozen fruits I had never eaten before. The hotel was
very pleasant. The rooms were large and shady, and they were—what,
alas! we were not always to find them in the East—sweetly clean. There
was a wonderful garden at the back of the hotel, from which the mallie
used to gather me a great bunch of strange, graceful, scarlet flowers.
And yet there never seemed a flower the less. Alas! the flowers of the
East

                    spring up, bloom, bear, and wither
              In the same hour.

The quiet, respectful, ready Oriental service was delightful. And it was
adequate, which Eastern service is not always, for it was under
efficient European supervision.

The verandah of the hotel was a great cool place. It was pleasant to sit
there when the heat of the day had broken a bit—to sit there and write
chits for iced lemon drinks or claret cup, and watch the deft Indian
jugglers, and barter with the persistent natives for lace and
embroideries, for silks and pongées, for silver belts and for gems. Two
Mahommedans had the privilege of spreading their wares on one end of the
verandah. And the others were allowed to come upon the verandah with a
small quantity of things. They were not allowed to over-pester you,
which made shopping on the hotel verandah far pleasanter than shopping
in the shops.

But the hotel, pleasant as it was, was merely a European incident,—it
was no part of Colombo the native, Colombo the picturesque, though some
of the native colour and bits of the native picture were necessarily
included in its background.

The first thing we did in Colombo, after we had had a rest and
interviewed a dhobie, was to inspect the theatre. The second was to take
a long drive.

We drove some distance, indeed, to the theatre. We drove by the
barracks, and the bagpipes of the Gordon Highlanders squeaked out that
the Campbells were coming. We drove by native shops, where tiger skins
from the thick jungles and rich rugs from Persia were hung outside, and
where delicately wrought gold and silver ware gleamed in the windows.
The proprietors of these shops invariably rushed out and threw
themselves in front of our steed, who was, by the way, far from fiery.
The gharri wallah and the sais gave us no help. They sat and waited
developments as patiently as did the horse itself. We tried abusing the
over-solicitous merchants. But they were impervious to abuse. We found
that there was one way and one way only of effecting our escape, namely,
by committing perjury. We took their cards and vowed we would return in
one hour, to their particular shop and to none other.

[Illustration: STREET SCENE IN COLOMBO          _Page 9._]

And so we, at last, escaped—escaped into a native street. Shall I ever
forget it! Hut huddled against hut, where the streets were thick with
dwellings. In the front of almost every hut was a booth—a booth piled
with grains or fruits or any of a hundred other articles of diet, all
equally unknown to us. Potatoes and bananas were the only things I
recognised. Oh yes! and pumpkins. In each booth sat a salesman or woman.
Sometimes it was a nearly naked coolie—as often it was a carefully
dressed Cingalese woman. In every instance there was a pair of primitive
scales, and, usually, a customer or two. Farther out, the streets grew
more sylvan. There were more cocoanut trees and fewer houses. There were
no more shops. Here and there a native squatted upon the ground, waiting
to sell a trayful of violently coloured cakes and sweetmeats, or drinks
from greasy-looking bottles that were filled with crudely-hued liquids.

We passed a thousand-stemmed banyan tree. A pretty Tamul mother sat in
its shade nursing a rolly-poly black baby. A few feet from her were two
yellow-clad priests of Buddha, telling their beads.

We drove by a quiet, irregular, silver lake. We drove through a tangle
of tropical undergrowth and Eastern flowers. Here and there the cocoanut
trees lifted their supreme heads, and now and again the laughing faces
of brown babies peeped out at us from the thick of the bamboo.

We came to the theatre all too soon, for our delight with this old
world, so new to us, had quite superseded our professional anxiety. But
the theatre was a pleasant surprise.

It was pretty—decidedly pretty, and new. We opened it, if I
remember—at least professionally. The auditorium was a large high room,
beautifully finished with teak-wood. I sat down while my husband gave
some directions about scenery. At least fifty coolies were working in
their slow, noisy way. They ought to have worked more quickly, for they
were encumbered by an absolute minimum of clothing.

We went back to the gharri. We drove through some pretty, unkept
gardens, where the air reminded me of my grandmother’s best cupboard, it
was so heavy with the smell of cinnamon and nutmegs, and of cloves. That
is one of the disadvantages of having lived in the West. Such vulgar
utilitarian comparisons suggest themselves.

Children ran after us, throwing flowers and fruit into my lap and
screaming to my husband for bukshish. It was amusing at first; but it
grew wearying. If they had varied it a bit, by offering him a flower or
begging from me a pice. But that never occurred to them. It is a very
sophisticated Cingalese indeed who ever suspects a woman of having any
money. The late gloaming fell upon us, and we could no longer see the
full details of the beauty that surrounded us. As the last of the colour
faded with which the sunset echoed the beauty of Ceylon, we found
ourselves at the door of a Buddhist temple. As my husband lifted me out
of the gharri, I noticed that he was softly quoting a lovely line from
_The Light of Asia_. He was interrupted by a sudden rush of humanity.
Three buxom girls had dashed from an adjacent hut. They threw themselves
literally upon him, with a nice Oriental disregard of my presence. My
husband shook himself, but not free, and used a word that is not in the
purists’ lexicon. I must own I felt a little perturbed. Andrew (my
husband’s Cingalese boy, of whom more anon) relieved the embarrassment.
“No harm, sahib—no harm,” he said. “Hers want bukshish.”

The Buddhist temple was novel, and weird in the dim light. The grotesque
figures of Buddha were huge, crudely shaped, glaringly coloured, and
shockingly disproportioned. But the priest who constituted himself our
cicerone was very wonderful. He spoke only fairish English. But he
explained Buddhism so clearly, so concisely, and withal so
picturesquely, that we felt we had learned more of it in that one hour
spent with him than we had learned before from many earnestly read
books.

We drove home through the tender starlight. The flowers were hidden,
like high-caste Hindoo women, behind the purdah of the dark. But the
damp night dews had distilled the tender leaves of the cinnamon trees,
and the air was superlatively sweet.

We went into the hotel a little tired, but very pleased with our first
day in the Orient, and very content that it was almost dinner time.



                               CHAPTER II


                                 ANDREW

WE are poor sometimes, we two Nomads, but we are never without a
retinue. There are two reasons for this. I am a helpless, incapable
woman, with an acute need of servants. My husband, on the other hand, is
phenomenally good to servants. They seem to know this instinctively.
They flock to him, and install themselves in his service, and he always
feels it difficult to dislodge them. We went into Colombo a party of
six. I am not speaking of our company of twenty odd artists (more or
less), but of our family party, in which were ourselves, our three
children, and their European nurse. We left Colombo a party of eight. A
Madrassi boy had attached himself to my husband, and I took the
Cingalese ayah for Baby. We left Andrew weeping and wailing on the
wharf, and doing it in the most approved and vigorous style. My husband
was half inclined to take Andrew with him, but we did not need him; and
I had rather discouraged the idea for two other reasons. I should
perhaps be ashamed of them both; but this is a true history as far as it
goes; so here they are:—Andrew was not good-looking. Now one must put
up with ill-looking relatives, but I can never bring myself to be
contented with positively plain servants. My other objection to Andrew
was that he was a “Cold Water Baptist.” I don’t in the least know what
cold water Baptists are. Were I to meet them in Europe, it is of course
possible that I should like and respect them intensely; but I must own
to a prejudice against native converts. Not so much because I believe
that they are usually insincere, as because they are almost invariably
hybrid. I believe in the suitability of all things, even in the
suitability of religion. Andrew was lank and hungry-looking; he wrapped
the native skirt about his legs; he pinned his long hair up with the
orthodox tortoise-shell comb; but he wore a European coat over a dirty
European shirt. Could anything have looked worse? I think not.

Andrew called himself a guide. He discovered my husband before we had
fairly arrived, and insisted upon being engaged. We found him very
useful, because he could speak English. And that was a comfort, though
he never had any exact information and very rarely spoke the rigid
truth. He never lost sight of his master for an instant, unless he was
peremptorily sent on an errand to the other end of the town. My husband
used to try to escape him. Once or twice we would really have enjoyed a
short walk or a drive, alone. But we never had either. There were many
exits from our hotel. We tried them all. Sometimes we would get as far
as the corner. Then we would hear the plunk—plunk—plunk—of Andrew’s
flying feet. “Salaam, sahib,” he would gasp breathlessly, “where are we
going?”

He never would tell us his real name. I used to try to bribe him. His
master would threaten him. He had but one reply for threat or bribe:
“Andrew is my Christian name. I am a Cold Water Baptist.” He never
seemed able to lessen my dense ignorance _re_ the interesting subject of
Cold Water Baptists. But he could talk glibly enough about the faith he
had forsworn. And I observed that he seemed on intimate terms with the
priests at all the native temples, and never failed to drop a copper in
the temple box. I concluded that his conversion had been purely
commercial. He told me that the “Padre Sahib” had given him three coats.
It is easier to give a native a coat than a belief.

When we drove in the chill early morning, Andrew used to wrap his head
in a Gordon tartan. If we chanced to pass the barracks, he promptly
unwound his shawl, folded it up, and sat upon it. Doubtless he did not
wish to embarrass me by having the sentry mistake him for the Colonel.

My husband often used, when he was too busy to go with me on my long
afternoon drives, to send Andrew—partly for my convenience, as I always
went into the densest native quarters, where English was not spoken, and
partly, I think, to get rid of Andrew.

One afternoon I looked behind to speak to Andrew, who with the sais was
perched on the back of the gharri. He was smoking a not bad cigar. I
flew at him, verbally.

“No harm,” he said, with insolence that was, I am sure, unconscious. “No
harm. The sahib is not here. I no smoke before my master.”

“You won’t smoke before me!” I said with undignified warmth. “Your
master would not smoke in a gharri with me. And I won’t allow any other
man to do so—black or white.”

Andrew looked at me stupidly and smiled. Then a thought flashed from my
eyes to his. He knocked the fire from his cigar, and put the stump in
his pocket. I had recognised my husband’s favourite Havanna, and Andrew
knew it.

One day I bought some trifle from an itinerant native. We were driving,
and I was wearing a pocketless dress.

“Give the man six annas for me, Andrew,” I said; “I have no money.”

“No,” he said smoothly, “a woman wouldn’t.”

I had one other experience with Andrew, when driving. My husband sent me
to capture a scene-painter, and bring him, if possible, to the theatre.
The man was that despised unhappy thing, a Eurasian. He was poor; and he
drank too much. But I had seen a fan he had painted, and some
water-colour sketches of Kandy which he had done. I knew that he was—in
part at least—a genius. We found him after a great deal of trouble. He
came out to my gharri, and I greeted him, as I would always greet an
artist, and stated my business. He took off his shabby sombrero and
climbed up to the seat I indicated beside me. Andrew broke into excited
vernacular. The man beside me flushed, and started to move.

“What is the matter?” I asked.

“I tell him I no let Eurasian man sit beside my master’s wife. He must
come back here with me and Sais.”

I was in a fine rage. I made Andrew get out and walk the several miles
that stretched between us and the theatre. That night I had my husband
tell him that, when he went out with me, he was, under no circumstances,
to speak, unless I spoke to him.

But it was the day of our first performance that I really established
myself in Andrew’s mind as a person of importance. I went to the theatre
about four o’clock to see if the ayah I had engaged to help me at the
theatre had put my dressing-room into proper trim. As I passed in, I
noticed Andrew sitting on the lowest rung of a bamboo ladder. He was
looking very vicious. He muttered “Salaam” rather than said it, and
didn’t rise. I went into my dressing-room, and then marched on to the
stage, to attack the poor stage manager.

“Am I to dress in that fearful hole?” I asked him sweetly.

Some one laughed. I turned round.

“I beg your pardon,” said Jimmie M‘Allister, “but do come and see the
governor’s quarters.” Jimmie was, of all the boys in our company, my
first favourite.

I followed him downstairs, and the stage manager followed me. I looked
into my husband’s quarters.

“Do you want to see where the other ladies dress?” asked the stage
manager softly.

“I say, do come and see our palace behind the scenes,” cried Jimmie
triumphantly.

But I had seen quite enough. The artists’ quarters at the Colombo
theatre did not compare favourably with the front of the house. I went
meekly back to my dressing-room, wondering what could be done to make my
husband’s den a little more comfortable.

“Would you mind speaking to this young imp of your husband’s?” said the
stage manager. “He won’t let us take the governor’s things into the
dressing-room.” My heart warmed to Andrew.

“Quite right,” I said; “the room certainly must be cleaned out first.”

“Oh! he doesn’t in the least mind the dirt,” explained Jimmie. “He’s
offended because your dressing-room is better than the governor’s.”

I had known a prominent actor in—well never mind where—who used to
dress luxuriously off the stage, while his wife climbed up a flight of
narrow stairs, and wandered down a dark corridor to a gruesome little
closet. But that any one would ever expect my husband to be brute enough
to allow me to do anything of that kind had never occurred to me. I felt
vexed for the moment. Then we came upon Andrew, sitting on the ladder,
doggedly guarding his master’s luggage. I realised that Andrew was quite
right from his point of view; and for a moment I felt tempted to gratify
him by ordering my things to be put into my husband’s room. Then I
remembered that we were to play the _Merchant of Venice_ that night.
Shylock wore one dress; Portia wore five. And then too, had I changed
rooms, my husband would have changed back again. I sent for some
coolies; I called my ayah, and superintended the cleaning of that room
myself. Jimmie M‘Allister and the stage manager helped me. Andrew stood
by sullenly. His master came in. Andrew sprang to him.

“The memsahib has a more nice room,” he said impressively.

“The memsahib has a beastly hole. Go and tell that Madrassi out in front
that I want a carpet and a sofa and some nice chairs, here in half an
hour, for the memsahib’s room—mind you.”

Poor Andrew gasped and went out. But his manner to me changed from that
moment. An hour later Jimmie and I went to the bazaar and got the
furniture for my husband’s room. I think Andrew forgave me when I came
back with it. I took some curtains from a property box, and told him to
tack them up at his master’s window. He answered me quite pleasantly.

I never had another encounter with Andrew; but I never could teach him
to knock. He would walk into my dressing-room, and coolly pick up my
hare’s-foot, or my scissors, without vouchsafing me one poor word of
explanation. If I ventured to ask “What are you doing?” he replied,
“Master want,” and went out. I used to beg him to knock; but I don’t
remember that he ever did knock. Nor did he ever beat a retreat, no
matter in what state of deshabille he found me. Finally, we used to turn
the key in the door, if I had an entire change to make. Then he would
pound on the door and cry so loudly that the people in front
heard—“Open, open; Master want your red paint.”

Andrew and I grew better friends. He used to bring me some little
present every morning. Three or four flowers, or a basket of cocoanuts,
or a spray of cinnamon.

He said one day to my nurse—“The master like the memsahib. I want
please the master—I must please the memsahib. When the memsahib grow
old and her teeth drop out, the master will sell her and buy a new
wife.” We overheard this remark of Andrew’s. My husband was delighted,
and to this day often holds the threat over my silvering head. But I
grew to really like Andrew, he was so unmistakably fond of his master. I
believe that he grew to really like me, for the same reason.



                              CHAPTER III


                              OUR DAY OUT

             Three Grecian cities strove for Homer dead
             Where Homer living begged his daily bread.

AND the locale of the Garden of Eden is claimed by at least three of the
Eastern islands that we have visited. The island of Penang appealed the
most seductively to my credulity; but before I saw Penang, I was
convinced that Ceylon was in reality the site of the Garden of Eden.
Colombo impressed me; Mount Lavinia convinced me.

Mount Lavinia is the Richmond of Colombo. The Mount Lavinia Hotel is the
Star and Garter of Ceylon. But ’Arry and ’Arriet never go there. The
demi-monde never goes there. The world and his wife don’t flock there.
The European population of Colombo is so limited that it does not
embrace either ’Arry or ’Arriet—it has no demi-monde, at least no
palpable one; and the world and his wife are not numerous enough to
flock. Mount Lavinia is a Paradise _à deux_. Nature is superlatively
beautiful there. At the hotel there is an ideal _chef_.

For years we have had a habit of periodically escaping from every one
and everything. Our life has been a busy one; it has been full of
friction; but when the friction has threatened to make us forget each
other a bit, we have usually managed to shake the dust of the high road
from our tired feet, and to snatch a quiet breathing spell, alone, and
together.

The second Sunday we were in Colombo we were up very early,—we were
going to Mount Lavinia for the day. When we left the hotel the sun was
just rising. I had a new frock on, and my husband was good enough to say
that it was pretty. I tore it badly getting into the gharri, but it
didn’t matter—he found a pin and pinned it for me. We had a long wait
at the little station. We stood outside, and tried to guess which of the
hieroglyphics painted in black on the white station was “Colombo” in
Tamul, and which was “Colombo” in Cingalese.

The funny little train came sizzing into the station; in five minutes we
had started. We looked at each other and smiled; our little holiday had
begun. Critics might rail, and actors might snarl; it was nothing to us;
this was our day out.

We sped through miles of cocoanut trees. Except near the little
settlements, through which we passed every ten or fifteen minutes, we
saw nothing but cocoanuts. Here and there the natives were gathering the
ripe nuts. Here and there agile boys were stealing them, slipping up and
down the trees like squirrels. The thousands, nay tens of thousands, of
tall straight trees became impressive from their very numbers. It was
very Oriental, very graphic; and just before it became the least bit
monotonous, the train slackened a little. Then we passed a broken line
of native huts.

Every Cingalese mother bathes her children on Sunday. Weather permitting
(and in Ceylon the weather almost always does permit), every Cingalese
ablution takes place out of doors, and in as conspicuous a place as
possible. We must have seen some hundreds of native children drenched
with soapsuds, swashed with icy water, or rubbed with oil that morning.
Many of the adults bathe as publicly, but not so often. We saw one woman
bathing eleven children, and they were all crying. The huts thickened,
and we had reached a station. It was a pretty low brown building. It
reminded me—though I don’t know why—of Anne Hathaway’s cottage.
Brilliant flowering vines hung from the sloping roof. In the doorway was
gathered a motley group. Two dirty Buddhist priests sat on the ground
counting pice. A group of Cingalese women were eating cocoanuts,
drinking the milk, and scraping the soft young meat out with their nails
and teeth. The Cingalese women are most beautifully formed. They are
upright and supple, and every beauty-line of the human figure is
emphasised upon their persons. Their invariable white jackets contrast
so splendidly with their dusky skin that one almost catches oneself
wondering if black is not the desirable complexion-colour after all.
Their brilliant lips, their tawny eyes, their gay petticoats, save the
sharp black and white contrast from being too abrupt or too emphatic. A
few feet from the women stood a group of Cingalese men, doing nothing.
Their long hair was in every instance nicely pinned up with a big
tortoise-shell comb, and their parti-coloured skirts hung in straight,
listless folds.

A small detachment of the Salvation Army was singing “From Greenland’s
icy mountains, From India’s coral strand,” very badly. No one was paying
the least attention to them, however. The women were dressed in the
Cingalese costume, with some slight additions where the genuine
Cingalese dress is rather abbreviated. I thought it rather nice of them
not to disfigure the picture by the introduction of clumsy blue frocks
and big pokebonnets.

We went slowly on, passing a quaint string of native carts. The oxen
were necklaced with roses, and most of them were surmounted by at least
one small black boy. The carts were peculiarly shaped of course, gaily
painted, and more or less embellished by nondescript draperies. Each
cart was incredibly full. But the oxen were crawling along and seemed
very comfortable. None of the natives seemed in the least hurry.

When we reached Mount Lavinia, Andrew, whom we had thought in Colombo,
opened the carriage door. We gave him a rupee and told him to go home.
He looked very indignant; but he went away.

What a day of days! The air was sweet and strong—you could drink it.
Indeed, breathing was drinking in this paradise place. A few steps on,
and the blue water laughed at our feet. A few yards up, and we saw the
rambling old hotel, where we had been told that we would get the best
dinner in India.

But before dinner, we had a long lounge on the vined verandah. We didn’t
talk; we rested. My companion was very radiant over a cigar, and I
sipped bravely at a glass of sherry. I don’t like sherry; but we had
been advised to leave ourselves absolutely in the hands of the
khansamah. He, I think, had spied the rent in my frock, for he eyed us
rather dubiously and asked sadly, but evidently without hope, if we
wanted champagne with our tiffin. We confessed that we did, and he
brightened up wonderfully. He gave me a long verandah chair, and my
husband another, and trotted off, without waiting for any further
orders. He came back soon, with a tray of cigars, two glasses, and some
milk biscuits. He gave my husband the cigars and the wee glass that held
a thimbleful of something that looked deadly. Upon me he bestowed the
glass of sherry and the innocent milk biscuits. I am no more devoted to
milk biscuits than I am to sherry, but I nibbled and sipped obediently.
It was my day out, and I meant to enjoy it, and everything it brought.
My comrade was very happy with his cigar, and said that the mysterious
thimbleful was very good, but he didn’t think I’d better taste it. That
was apparently the opinion also of the khansamah; so I abode by the
united decision of two superior intellects.

I felt a soft tug at my gown. I looked down. An ayah was seated at my
feet; she was calmly taking the pin from my rent skirt. Then she
produced needle and cotton and mended my tatters. Verily, the khansamah
had taken us in hand.

The tiffin, even as a pale memory, defies description. We had a little
flower-decked table in a window; we could look across the gorgeous
garden to the purple sea; sea and garden were shimmering with golden
glints of sunshine.

The khansamah waited upon us himself. He apparently knew that the tiffin
was perfect, for he allowed us to decline nothing. He gave us soft-shell
crabs, as I had never hoped to eat them out of Boston; and the memory of
the mayonnaise haunts me still. I often dream of the curry. Some day I
am going all the way to Ceylon to get such another tiffin; and if the
cook is dead—“I’ll have a suit of sables.”

When the khansamah thought that we had had enough to eat, he marched us
out on to one of the terraces of the garden. There he brought us our
coffee and liqueurs. He brought out three cigarettes; and my husband,
who doesn’t care for cigarettes, took them meekly.

We lazed a bit, and then employed a young gentleman of about five, to
roll down hill at an anna a roll. He was really very interesting. The
hill was steep but grassy. He started at the top, and brought up in the
surf. He swam about for a few moments, and then came back to us, and did
it over again. He did not wet his garments, for he wore none. We grew
satiated before he grew tired. We paid him, and he carried his dripping
person off, to offer his services to some officer sahibs that were in
another part of the gardens.

We went for a long, slow walk. I went into three or four native huts,
while my husband smoked outside and called in to me what wild risks I
was running. The huts were built of mud, of dried banana stalks, of bits
of wood, and of white-washed manure. The interiors were very clean. The
Cingalese are scrupulously clean. The only exceptions are the priests
and the lepers. I bought a piece of coarse embroidery from one woman. I
did not want it, but she had given us milk and plantains. I bought
sweetmeats from a wayside seller, and sat under a banyan tree to eat
them. While we were there, an old decrepit man hobbled to us. He untied
his well-worn pouch and took out a gray soapy-looking stone, about the
size of a small marble. He laid it in my lap and asked for bukshish. We
gave him a rupee, to get rid of him. I quite forgot about the stone
until a year or more after, when I came across it one day. We were in
Patiala at the time, and a famous lapidarian was there from Calcutta. I
showed him the bit of stone. It was an uncut sapphire. And it turned out
a very fair gem.

We concluded to be very extravagant, and drive back to Colombo through
the moonlit cocoanut groves. We went back to the hotel to order a gharri
and to pay our bill. Our happy holiday was nearly over; but still the
best of it was to come,—the long delightful drive was to come.

That drive home was so beautiful that I almost forgot to be sorry that
our pleasant jaunt was ending.

[Illustration: NATIVES WEAVING MATS IN CEYLON.         _Page 25._]

The weird shadows of the cocoanut trees fell softly on the white road.
The native huts we passed were dark and silent. The natives, one and
all, had eaten their evening rice, and gone to sleep. The Cingalese have
not learned that it is sometimes economy to burn night oil. In their
cities, torches of splintered wood sometimes help them to lengthen their
day’s work; but in the country they go to bed with the birds.

I looked behind me, to impress my memory with the outlines of some
unusually peculiar hut. Andrew was clinging to the back of the gharri
with the sais.

As we neared Colombo, we drove through unbroken miles of pungent
cinnamon groves. The moonlight was vivid. We were content and silent.

Colombo was wide awake. The officers’ mess was aflame with light.
Government House showed a hundred lights through the mass of surrounding
shrubberies.

“What a perfect night it is!” said one of us.

“What a perfect day it has been!” sighed the other.

“We will try to go to Mount Lavinia again before we leave,” said my
companion.

“I wonder if the children have been good,” said I, as we drew up at our
hotel door.



                               CHAPTER IV


                        MY FIRST ’RICKSHAW RIDE

MY husband would not ride in a jinrickshaw, nor did he wish me to do so.
Of course, I was curious—very curious—to know how it felt to be rushed
along, drawn by a “human horse.” He thought it wrong to use men in that
fashion, and would neither step into a jinrickshaw nor countenance my
doing so.

The night before we left Colombo it rained furiously. I suppose every
one feels caged, once in a while. I felt caged that night. I remember
walking up and down our long sitting-room, up and down, until my husband
laid aside his book and said, “What is the matter?”

“I want to go for a ’rickshaw ride,” I cried.

“In all this rain?”

“You know I love to be out in the rain——”

“I can’t let you go alone, and I will not ride in one of those cruel
carts.”

“I’ll take Nurse with me, if you’ll see that the ayah minds the
children.”

“All right. I don’t think it’s right; but if you do, I’ll go and get the
’rickshaws.”

I flew into the nursery, and encountered another obstacle. My nurse did
not approve of ’rickshaws either. She proposed a gharri ride. I told her
that I was going in a ’rickshaw, and that, if she didn’t come, I’d go
alone. She was incapable of letting me go alone; so she sighed and put
on her things.

Does every one in England know what a ’rickshaw is? Almost every one
ought by this. A ’rickshaw is not unlike a bath-chair. It is higher,
lighter, more comfortable. It is not pushed; it is pulled. A jinrickshaw
coolie runs between the two shafts, which he holds firmly in his hands.

We took two ’rickshaws. The manager of the hotel told the coolies that
they were to run for an hour, and bring us back at the end of that time.

How it poured! but I was delighted with the motion, and never ceased to
like it. They were very swift; they ran with an easy even gait. There
was all the pleasure of driving behind a spirited horse and none of the
responsibility. There were no reins to hold, no control to exercise. I
leaned back on my cushions and enjoyed myself. They were sure of foot
those brown runners; and I knew that though they ran never so swiftly
they would never run away. As for their personalities, they have less
personality than a horse. Their presence a few feet in front was no
intrusion. They were merely the naked steaming means toward an
exhilarating end of entrancing motion.

We rushed on and on, through the dark and the storm—such a soft, warm,
pleasant storm. At last the coolies stopped. They had brought us into
the cinnamon grove. I was glad to be there upon my last night in Ceylon.
While we sat and sniffed the sweet, languid, scented air, the coolies
rubbed each other down. Each carried over his shoulder a long towel-like
rag. With these they gave each other a good shampooing. They did not
withdraw into the shade or the shelter of the cinnamon trees. They
stayed where they were, as pet horses might have browsed by the near
way-side. The night was black; but the well-trimmed ’rickshaw lamps
flashed steadily upon the clearly revealed coolies, showing their brown
bodies red.

The rain fell in torrents. They seemed to like it; and as they towelled
off each other’s sweat, they lifted their faces to the descending drench
as tired horses might push their steaming flanks into a well found
stream.

They halted three minutes perhaps—perhaps fifteen. I don’t know. I was
thinking new thoughts, and one can’t measure thought with a tape
measure.

They wrung the human rain and the rain of heaven from their rags, and
started on their homeward run. My homeward run I should say, for they
slept beside their ’rickshaws beneath the stars, or, if it chanced to
rain, beneath their rickshaws. And I, who slept mostly in hotels, could
hear, if I woke in the watches of the night, the peaceful breathings of
my babies as they slumbered in an adjacent room.

The ’rickshaw coolies are not, I believe, blessed, or burdened, with
many babies. They rarely have means justifiant of marriage. And in the
Orient, marriage is more honoured in the observance than in the breach.
Then too they die young as a rule, these “human horses” of the East.
Consumption, in some one of its many deadly forms, cuts short their
perpetual racing after the petty cash of listless-legged Europeans.

When we reached the hotel, they whined for bukshish with the usual
mingling of cringing and of bullying. They were placidly oblivious of
all the fine thoughts they had enkindled in my mind. They were not even
curious as to what manner of woman I was, that I elected to ride through
the rushing rain. I have so often seen the wonder-look upon the stupid
face of a European coachman who has driven me aimlessly through the dark
or the wet. But on the intelligent faces of my first ’rickshaw coolies,
I saw nothing. Their feelings, their thoughts, were as locked from me as
mine from them. And not one of their thoughts was of me. To them, I
meant two rupees eight annas. No more, no less.

“Well?” said my husband.

“Well!” said I.

“Did you enjoy it?”

“Oh yes! so much.”

“Didn’t you feel wicked?”

“A little. But that will wear off, I think.”

Wear off it did. I became an inveterate jinrickshawist.

Did I shorten the life of any coolie? I don’t know. I provided many a
coolie with an overflowing bowl of rice and curry, that made his life
momentarily very endurable.

Would they better live longer and be hungrier?

Can we give them other, better work?

Ah! those are questions for statesmen, not for women.

The next day, when we left our rooms in the early morning, we found
John, the Madrassi, waiting for us. We were taking him to Calcutta with
us, and he was all anerve to start. John was, with one exception, the
handsomest native man I ever saw. He was nearly six feet tall, and
carried himself with superb dignity. He was fastidiously devoted to his
own personal appearance, and we took great delight in his toilets. I
remember him so well, as he stood outside our door, in the pale November
dawn. He was dressed in the sheerest of white robes, or rather
draperies; the upper cloth was of soft native silk; he wore a huge
turban, snowy white, with one thin line of gold running through it; and
in his ears he wore two hoops of flashing rubies. John never developed a
desire to carry parcels, but it was his delight to carry our almost
two-year-old baby. What pictures they used to make! She was a big
dimpled baby, very white, with bright blue eyes and gleaming yellow
curls. John was as black as a Madrassi can be, which is very black
indeed; but he was always as spotless in his attire as baby Mona
herself.

A man said to my husband, “You must not allow your servant to wear such
turbans, nor, above all, to wear jewelry; and then at night he wraps a
really valuable cashmere shawl about his miserable shoulders. It is
shocking form.”

“My wife would be greatly annoyed if John dressed less picturesquely—”
began my husband.

“But it’s most disrespectful, my dear boy, don’t you know.”

“My wife is very disrespectful. That I know.”

I came along in time to hear the last few sentences.

“Dear Sir——,” I said, “don’t you know that wherever MacGregor sits is
the head of the table?”

“The natives must be kept down,” was all the reply vouchsafed me.

The _Kaiser-i-Hind_ sailed at eleven in the morning. I had a good cry at
nine o’clock—not because we were leaving Colombo, but because the
dhobie had left us no underclothing but rags. It was my first experience
with an Oriental washerman, and it grieved me. All the pretty, dainty
things that my babies had worn during the long voyage from Adelaide to
Colombo were ruined. Thorns and rocks had had more to do with that
washing than had soap and water.

As we were leaving the hotel, Andrew, who had been paid in full the
night before, and whom we had not expected to see again, arrived. He had
begged to go with us and had been refused. Now he had made one heroic
effort to carry his point. He had cut off his hair and broken his comb.
Having Europeanised himself so far, he seemed to feel that we were in
honour bound to take him with us. He even said to my husband that he
would put on trousers when we reached Calcutta. He couldn’t do so in
Colombo, because his wife was coming to see him off. He was
broken-hearted when he learned that we really would not take him. He
wept piteously on the pier and beat his breast. But his wife (she looked
about sixteen) seemed very happy that he was not to accompany us. I
thought that greatly to his credit, and gave her a rupee for no reason
at all, save that I had so few that one less did not matter.

The ship was very crowded,—she had just come from London. The native
merchants made the deck-crowd denser, and buzzed like flies in their
last frantic efforts to sell us something—anything. Each rupee that we
were taking away they felt a stain upon the record of their ingenuity
and salesmanship.

As Colombo faded from our sight, we planned to return there on our
homeward journey. But we said it doubtfully—we had learned that the
plans of nomads are uncertain and changeable; and we have not yet seen
Colombo again.

The _Kaiser-i-Hind_ was full of English people,—army people, civil
servants, and their contingent of memsahibs.

There were three Americans aboard beside myself.

I am often called a bad American. I certainly am not a rabid American.
At times I am a bitter American. When I am among a lot of nice English
people, and have the misfortune to meet the worst type of travelling
American, I wince.

One of the Americans on board was a man of whom all Americans are justly
proud; he is a soldier (with a great record), a gentleman, and a
scholar. But not all the soldiers that have ever come from West Point,
not all the scholars that have ever come from Harvard, not all the
gentlemen that have ever come from Virginia, could have wiped out our
national disgrace upon a boat that numbered among its passengers Mr. and
Mrs. Frank Hunter.

They had been married two months. Whatever inspired Americans of their
type to select the Orient as the scene of their honeymoon was, is, and
always will be, a dark mystery. But there they were, glittering
caricatures of our national life. There they were, amid a boat-load of
nice English folk.

Mr. Frank Hunter did not wear quite such loud clothes as many of the
Englishmen. But he wore them far more noisily. A magnified chess-board
is nothing to a certain type of English officer in “mufti.” But though
they make mistakes about their coats, they never blunder in their
behaviour, those English officers—English and Irish, Scotch and Welsh,
are they. But they are all gentlemen, in public at least.

Mr. Frank Hunter’s tailors were irreproachable; but his manners were
simply shocking,—and English people are so easily shocked. The English
people on the _Kaiser-i-Hind_ quite forgot that there was a nasty
something, called _mal-de-mer_. They were as sick as sick could be from
the unavoidable proximity of the Hunters. I say “sick” advisedly; no
other word would convey what I mean. Mrs. Hunter, on the whole, was
worse than her husband. He sometimes smoked—rather frequently, in fact.
When he smoked he was silent. Mrs. Hunter did not smoke. She was never
silent, or, if ever, then only in the still watches of the night, and no
one had the benefit of it—no one but Mr. Frank Hunter.

Mrs. Frank Hunter wore more diamonds at breakfast than all the other
women in the boat put together wore at dinner. She dressed for dinner,
but she dressed very high at the neck, which I thought a great
pity,—the dimples in her chin told me that her neck was sweetly pretty.
She gazed with prudish horror at the well controlled _décollete_ of the
English women. They gazed less openly, but quite as disapprovingly, at
her vulgar display of jewelry. The abuse hurled by Mr. and Mrs. Frank
Hunter upon the _Kaiser-i-Hind_ Commissariat was positively indecent. I
have been better fed at sea, several times. But the ceaseless comments
of the Hunters were far worse than the food. There was no escape from
the perpetual clatter of their tongues; but we were not forced to eat
the food. “Won’t I just be glad to see my nice new brown stone bungalow
on Fifth Avenue!” exclaimed the bride one night at dinner. “Won’t I have
something to eat though! Don’t your mouth water for batter cakes every
morning? And aren’t you half dead for butter-milk?” She was speaking to
me. I felt very angry, because she had hit upon something we had in
common. I am excessively fond of butter-milk; and, when we were
housekeeping in Australia, every Sunday morning that was cold enough, my
husband used to make me “batter cakes” if I were good. But I could not
bring myself to confess that I agreed with that horrid little American
in anything. So I said nothing. She persisted, “Isn’t America the nicest
place on earth? Don’t you just love it?”

“America is very nice in some respects,” I said softly; “and I should
love my native land dearly, if there were fewer Americans.”

Mrs. Hunter did not say much to me after that. But the relief was
slight. She talked incessantly to some one—to her husband if to no one
else, and her sharp little voice pierced to the utmost corner of the
deck. Oh! my sisters, can’t we be free without being vulgar? Can’t we
travel without becoming a reproach to our beautiful land?

One night I left the dinner table early. If I had stayed longer I should
have thrown something at Mrs. Frank Hunter, and that would not have
enhanced the women of America in the eyes of that boat-load of people. I
went on deck. The gentleman of whom I have spoken—the American soldier
who was the peer, at least, of any Englishman on board—was leaning
sadly over the rail. “Are you ill, General?” I asked him.

“No,” he said, “but I am ashamed of being an American! Did you hear that
dreadful person trying to pick a quarrel with Colonel Montmorency, about
the relative merits of West Point and Sandhurst? I stood it until she
told him that her Uncle Silas was a major of militia and one of the best
soldiers in the States. Then I left.”

We sat down and tried to console each other. We planned to petition
Congress to regulate the class of Americans who travel. We have not yet
done so, but I do believe that it was a good idea.

Mrs. Hunter kept up her vulgar, impertinent, irritating remarks until we
anchored in Diamond Harbour.

The last time I ever saw her, she and her husband were standing on
Chowringhee, gazing at the maidan. She was ablaze with gems, as usual.
The natives doubtless thought her the European wife of a Rajah. They
are, I believe, the only class of European ladies who in India in the
day overload themselves with jewels.

“Frank darling,” she was saying, “it ain’t a patch to Central Park, is
it? And their old Government House, as they call it—it can’t hold a
tallow candle to the Capitol at Washington, can it now?”

I fled down Dhurrumtollah.



                               CHAPTER V


                          IN THE BURRA BAZAAR

WE all grumbled when we were put off the boat at Diamond Harbour, and
were told that we must go to Calcutta by train. The treacherous Hooghly
was at the moment unsafe for so large a vessel. Of course, every one
blamed the Steamship Company. But the very _contretemps_ at which we
grumbled gave us a first view of Bengal—a view that was extremely
lovely. Our little train went slowly through the peaceful Bengali
country. It was early sunset. Strange scarlet flowers hung from the tall
trees. Now and again a graceful bending limb almost threw the long vine
trails against our window frames,—for the windows were open, and we
were pressing against the ledge as eagerly as our children. Here and
there, half hidden by the thick green trees and by the deepening
twilight, were square white tanks. Natives were bathing in them. Their
gleaming black shoulders emphasised the silver water and the marble
tanks. We passed cornfields that, with a strange heart-throb, took us
back to Illinois. But the corn was not high for all that, and the
gaily-clad Hindoos, who were working in it, were as unlike American
darkies as they were unlike western farm hands.

“Come, come quickly!” cried my husband, from the other end of the
carriage. I went very quickly, for it takes wondrous much to make him
“cry out.” A few yards to our left lay a smooth sheet of water. It was
quite a purple in the fast-fading sunset; and on its drowsy, blushing
bosom lay great masses of dappled water-lily leaves, and on each leaf a
great pink lily pressed. Thin lines of crimson, great patches of pale
golden green, broke the purple sky. Tropical trees, heavy with white and
yellow bloom, hung over the little lake; and on its white and purple
surface rested the pink water-lilies, amid their green and gleaming
leaves.

We passed great open spaces, and came to small huddled villages. Little
mud huts were squeezed together in marvellous fashion. Men, women, and
children sat outside their low doorways, and the more prosperous of the
family groups included a calf. One had a long wreath of orange marigolds
about his pinky-white neck; and a jet-black baby, who lay asleep a few
feet off, was similarly adorned. The women were cooking the
all-important evening meal; and none of them looked up to see our
unimportant European selves.

What a bedlam when we reached Calcutta! It was dark now, and the station
was badly lighted. Our advance agent met us, of course; and when he had
assured my husband that everything was all right, that he had done
everything he had been told to do, he bundled me and my babies into a
gharri, the native servants clambered on to the box, the roof, or caught
on behind, and we started slowly, if not decorously, for the Great
Eastern Hotel.

A steady drizzling rain had begun, and I could see nothing through the
misty gharri windows save indistinct masses of oddly-clad and unclad
humanity and dim backgrounds of gray walls.

We stopped at a huge white building. The servants at the door took our
arrival as a matter of course—if I can say that they took it at all,
for they paid not the slightest attention to us. Mr. Paulding left his
bearer to wrangle with our charioteer, and we followed him up to our
rooms. An incredible number of coolies followed us, carrying our small
luggage. I remember one great giant who groaned and wiped his brow when
he unloaded himself; and yet he had only carried a cardboard box, and it
was empty but for an apology for a bonnet that was made of two crape
roses and half a yard of Maltese lace.

My first discovery was that our rooms were large and clean and cool.
Then I made myself very comfortable in an immense cane chair, and took
my bairns into it with me, all three of them.

Our native servants did not seem to do anything; but somehow I found my
hat and gloves were off, slippers had replaced my shoes, baby was
drinking hot milk, my boy and girl were munching spongecake, the luggage
seemed rapidly to be unpacking itself, and some one had given me a glass
of port wine and a plate of vanilla wafers.

“I wonder how they knew that I hate tea,” I said to Mr. Paulding. “They
have wonderful intuitions, haven’t they?”

“John told dem,” said my small son briefly, very briefly, for the
spongecake was good.

I have known men more industrious than my husband’s picturesque Madrassi
servant, John; but I never knew any man with a more considerate memory.
He was not indefatigable in doing hard work; but he was infallible in
remembering what I liked to have done, and in making other people do it.
I sipped my wine, and sighed. It was raining now in dense torrents; and
my husband was still at the station, struggling with two of the great
problems of a strolling player’s life—scenery and heavy luggage. I
released Mr. Paulding with the assurance that we were entirely
comfortable, and he rushed off through the storm to help his chief.

John had found where the nursery was; and he marshalled the pretty
procession of my babies and their household out with a great deal of
dignity. I sat alone in the dim, cool room, and dreamed, and rested.
Visions of wild American plains came back—memories of Australia, of
Europe, and Canada; I dreamed and dozed; and then I sprang up at the
welcome sound of a footstep I knew, in whatever quarter of the globe I
heard it. America, Europe, Australasia—they were behind me; Asia was
before me. Another phase of our fascinating nomadic life had begun. My
husband came in at one door, very, very wet. John came in at another.
Behind him walked a half-grown Mahommedan boy, carrying a tray of the
steaming tea my husband liked as much as I loathed it.

“Salaam, sahib,” exclaimed the newcomer.

John said something hastily, and the boy added:

“Burra salaam, memsahib.”

In Europe I am more than indifferent to all the woman’s-rights movement.
We have so many more privileges than men; and I am sure that I have all
my rights, for I never missed one of them. But in the East I waged a
long war for the equality of the sexes. Not that I believe that women
are men’s equals—I don’t; my observation has been to the contrary; but
I wish women to be treated as men’s superiors. Clever John had fathomed
my vulnerable narrowness; and so he prompted the boy, and the boy cried,
“Burra salaam, memsahib.”

“His name is Abdul,” said John, as he drew an easy chair near mine. “He
will be our khitmatgar. We will pay him fifteen rupees a month.
To-morrow I will find a bearer, an ayah for the other missie baba, and
an ayah for memsahib.”

“Haven’t we enough servants?” pleaded my husband feebly. John shook his
handsome turbaned head.

“No sir,” he said, “we want many. One does very little here.”

John, like all Madrassis, was a natural linguist. But he spoke unusual
English, even for a Madrassi. He left us to the ministration of Abdul.
More than half the servants we had in the East were called Abdul. This
was our first Abdul. He was a frightened looking child, with long, lean,
awkward legs, and great, lovely, brown eyes. Presently John came back
with three or four nondescript-looking, almost garmentless coolies. They
carried on their heads chattees of steaming water. In a few moments John
came back again.

“The hot bath,” he said. “It will be dinner in an hour.”

When I went to dress I found John laying out a gown for me.

“What are you doing?” I asked him.

“Miss Wadie” (_i.e._ my nurse) “is tired,” was all he said, and he began
to sew a loose bow on to one of my slippers.

They gave us an excellent dinner, for which we were unfeignedly
thankful. The room was crowded, and there was, of course, a babel of
tongues. But the servants were fairly quiet and only fairly slow, and
the gravies were distinctly good. As we left the dining-room, I saw a
strangely familiar black face peering at me through the square window of
a queer house-like place that was erected in the hall. I paused
involuntarily. It was a glimpse of home.

“I’se right proud to see you, lady,” said the dear old black.

I nodded to him and went on without speaking to him. There was a
ridiculous something in my foolish throat. He had found me, and I had
found him. How he knew me for one of the countrywomen of his adoption I
shall never know, but to me every thread of his curly white wool was
eloquent of “de ole Virginie state.”

I made friends with him the next day. His name was “Uncle Peter
Washington,” and he had come to Calcutta, as I had, with a “trabbling
show.” The Ethiopian histrionic combination of which Uncle Pete had been
a bright black star, had, after two brilliant performances, succumbed to
the tropical heat and the non-appreciation of the public. Uncle Pete,
like most Virginian darkies, was versatile, and we found him installed
as a Steward at the Great Eastern. He used to send me dainties, not on
the bill of fare, and beg continually for “passes.”

After dinner, although we were a little tired, we went with Mr. Paulding
to see the Corinthian Theatre, where we were to play. We found it a
surprisingly nice play-house—a little dirty, and rather empty of
scenery; but it could be cleaned; we had brought our scenery with us;
and altogether it was an encouragingly possible place. We went up the
outer stairs of the adjacent house, and met the local manager—a
vivacious Frenchwoman. It was late when we left her, but I coaxed for a
little drive through the streets, like the spoiled woman I was. The rain
had ceased; the stars were almost dancing in the sky; and so, at night,
I had my first good look at Calcutta.

We had strange half glimpses of odd, weird sights; we caught snatches of
plaintive native songs, sung in the monotonous Hindoo treble.

_Hamlet_ was to be our opening bill, and we were very busy. But I, who
am usually rather lucky, found time to see a great deal of Calcutta. I
ran errands, or rather drove them, and that took me to a number of
strange places. I found my way to the native lumber yards. I learned to
bargain, in the vernacular, for timber. Moreover, I learned that the
only way to ensure its delivery at the theatre, in time for the
carpenters, was to see it loaded myself; to see the bullock carts start,
and to follow them every inch of the way, until we passed up
Dhurrumtollah, and I halted my unique procession triumphantly at the
door of the Corinthian Theatre. I learned to descend into the quarters
of the dhursies and to return to the theatre with a gharri load of
sewing machines and tailors. I even grew so expert in the Calcutta
highways and byways that I more than once pounced upon our dhobie in his
lair, and wrestled with him for the proper laundrying of some treasured
garment.

Best of all, I came to know the Burra Bazaar as few Europeans have ever
known it. We first drove there one brilliant Sunday afternoon. A lady,
who lived in Calcutta, and Jimmie M‘Allister went with me. My husband
refused to go to the place, which he had been told was aswarm with evil
smells and more evil natives. He was rather a dilettante sight-seer was
my lord and master; and he regarded my inveterate prowlings as something
to be permitted on broad principles of personal liberty, but never to be
countenanced, much less encouraged. I was an old _habitué_ of the Burra
Bazaar before I could induce him to go there with me; and he never went
but once.

The Burra Bazaar fascinated me powerfully. Day after day I went there,
when I should have been performing sacred social duties. The more I went
to the Burra Bazaar, the more I wanted to go. It held me—called me in a
thousand ways. What a drive it was from the hotel to the outskirts of
the Bazaar. We started in Europe, and stopped in the heart of Asia!
Through China the liberal into China the conservative, on to India the
wily, into India the tolerant, into India the dense—the real! Through
Bentick Street, where the Chinese shoemakers “most do congregate,” into
“Old China Bazaar,” where Fan Man sold silks that had been made in the
wonderful bamboo looms of Canton, dipped in the huge vats of Chinese
colour, beflowered by the deft needles of the incomprehensible
Mongolians. Fan Man was not the proprietor of the only silk shop in “Old
China Bazaar Street.” He had some dozen rivals. But national
consanguinity is more to a Chinaman than trade vigilance—I can say
nothing more emphatic of Heathen John’s love for his Heathen brother
man. While I sat in one Chinese silk shop, the retainers of all the
other adjacent silk shops clustered about the apparently doorless
doorway; they manifested every appearance of surprise at the
unprecedented bargains offered me by their fellow past grand master of
the brotherhood of selling. When I shook my head, pushed aside the
coveted masses of silken beauty, and returned to my gharri (with a
reluctance that was disgracefully ill-disguised for an actress), they
scurried back to their shops with an agility that was more rabbit-like
than Chinese. A Chinaman does not unduly urge you to enter his shop. He
is too dignified—too Chinese; but once in!—Ah! well, their wares were
very lovely, and very cheap, compared with all my preconceived standards
of price. Silk and such fabrics were not the only commodities of the Old
China Bazaar. Carved ivories, painted porcelains, and bamboo everythings
were in emphatic evidence. And there were lesser stores of many other
articles.

After Old China Bazaar we came upon the stronghold of the nondescript
Parsi merchants. What had they for sale?—What hadn’t they? A few among
many of their for-sale-offered commodities were second-hand American
cook-stoves, tin boxes, topees, cardigan jackets, broken
sewing-machines, pickles, dried-fish, hand punkahs, umbrellas, rusty
music-boxes, artificial orange-blossoms, Bibles, cigars, gin, toys,
lamps, portières, mildewed books in every known and unknown tongue,
cod-liver oil, and a few thousand other things. I even saw a pair of
skates there once, not roller skates, but really true skates.

Then the streets grew narrower; they wound and twisted in and out of
each other and themselves. Great gray houses towered thinly up toward
the glittering sky. Low, narrow doorways led into uninviting, windowless
booths. Fat, greasy babus squatted on the filthy little verandahs,
making up their books. Our gharri caught and stopped. The street was too
narrow. An incredible number of natives were wedged in between our
wheels and the adjacent doorways. Beyond were multitudes of black and
brown humans—seemingly eternal multitudes! The gharri wallah and the
sais got down, and a few dozen of the crowd helped them to extricate our
equipage. The proprietors of the pitiful little shops clung desperately
to the wheels, shouting the praises of their wares into my bewildered
ears, and cursed the charioteers for not leaving me for ever glued where
I was, or, at least, until I had emptied my purse and depleted their
emporiums. We went slowly and difficultly on, through the sickening,
pungent fumes of condiment shops, past great heaps of chillies that made
me sneeze and sneeze again. We saw tons of buttons, miles of tinsel,
crates of cheap wax beads, infinities of shawls. The saries were without
number; the piece-goods shops were numberless, and the varieties of the
other shops were as bewildering as the differing wares they held, and
the differing castes of the tradesmen who shrieked the superiority of
their merchandise with all the frenzy of mad dervishes. Now and anon we
caught, through a narrow gateway, a glimpse of a dirty, spacious
courtway, where liveried servants slept on empty boxes, and snored their
allegiance to His Highness the Rajah.

Pigeons, thousands and tens of thousands, fluttered over our heads, or
flew down to demand the corn which was never refused them. They looked
at me confidently with their clear red eyes. One fat fellow, I vow, was
an old friend of mine, in the days when I spent many _sous_ for corn to
scatter on the Square of St. Mark. Perhaps my head was a little dizzy
with the crowd, the babel, and the stench. I thought the pigeon spoke to
me. This is what I thought he said: “We’re both grown since we met in
Venice. You have changed for the worse. You used to wear bright blue
plumage and bronze feet, and you had long shiny ropes of hair down your
back. Now you’ve black feathers, and you seem a very ordinary sort of
person. But with me, everything has changed for the better. ‘How did I
get here?’ Oh! a missionary brought me over. But the missionary’s wife
was too fond of pigeon-pie, so I flew from Alipore to here, the Burra
Bazaar. I am sacred here; I can do what I like, and have what I like. It
will be a cruel day for me when the missionaries convert all the Burra
Bazaar.” And then the pigeon laughed, and added, as he winged away, “But
it won’t be in my day—oh no!”

When I had penetrated into some two or three of the tall, empty-looking
houses, and learned how packed with treasure they were, I experienced an
added delight in merely driving by them, and thinking what silken,
embroidered, bepearled loveliness lay in great piles within those silent
buildings.

The tortuous complications of the Catacombs at Rome are nothing compared
with the winding mazes of the Burra Bazaar. I believe that I have seen
every corner of the Burra Bazaar. I know my way into it. But my way out
of it I never knew; and I always shall regard the natives who do know
their way out as exceptionally clever.

I have done a great many foolhardy things in Asia. Proper European
memsahibs looked askance at me, and even my long-suffering husband
remonstrated. One of the two exploits which gained me the greatest
disrepute as a wild unladylike woman was going into the Burra Bazaar at
night. My husband was playing _Rob Roy_. I was not quite strong, and my
Scotch accent was not considered safe. Consequently I was out of the
Bill. That was a rare event in my professional life. And I made much of
it. We were preparing for the _Lady of Lyons_. That was a play that my
husband had always declared that he would never under any circumstances
play. He did play it in Calcutta, as a concession to the local
management. He now meanly says that he played it to please me, but that
is not accurate; and, at all events, he was in a fine rage over the
whole business. Claude Melnotte was not a gentleman he admired; and he
used to say some very unkind things _re_ the whole play, which a more
sensitive Pauline might have resented as personal.

“What are you going to wear, dear?” I asked him sweetly, at what I
thought a propitious moment. My gentle husband frowned.

“Wear!” said he. “I shall wear anything John lays out,—a Roman toga, or
Ingomar’s furs, or Shylock’s gown, or anything else. You didn’t for one
moment suppose I was going to _buy_ anything for that fool of a part,
did you?” I sighed.

“Then let us not play the piece,” I ventured.

“Now look here, Jimmie,” was his answer, “you know you’ve wanted to play
Pauline for years; you know I’ll never have any peace until we do play
it. So don’t let us say any more about it.”

“But I don’t want to play it unless the piece is nicely dressed. I am
having such lovely things made. You must have some as nice.”

“You’re a very foolish girl to buy a lot of new things for that idiotic
piece,” he said.

I went to the other end of the room. I sat down and looked
melancholy—as melancholy as a woman can who has fully determined to
have her own way. My companion preserved a manly silence for at least
three minutes, then he said:

“Look here, Jimmie, how much money do you want?”

“Oh! none, thank you so much,” I said as sadly as I could, “all my
things are paid for.”

“How much money do you want to get my things with?”

“You are a dear, good boy,” I said; “and I’m sure you’ll make a lovely
Claude.”

Strangely the compliment failed to please. My lord and master stalked
out. But at dinner-time he gave me a roll of rupees, on condition that I
would not mention Melnotte’s clothes to him until he had to try them on,
and that he should only try them on once.

It was in connection with _The Lady of Lyons_ finery that I went into
the Burra Bazaar at night, almost at midnight. I had been searching for
days for a certain piece of embroidered pine-apple cloth. One day Caloo,
my head dhursie, said to me, when he went away at sunset—

“Memsahib want me finish Saturday, memsahib must give rest stuff
to-morrow. I not get I cannot make finish.”

I was in despair. That night I drove my husband down to the theatre.

“Are you going home? or are you coming in?”

“I am going to look once more for my pine-apple cloth,” I said meekly.

“Where?”

Ah! that was the question I had hoped to avoid.

“I’ll try at the edge of the Burra Bazaar,” I said. My poor husband
looked at me in despair.

“You must come in with me,” he said. I went with him,—obedient wife
that I am. But when we reached his dressing-room I began to argue with
him gently. At last we compromised; which is about the best thing close
friends can do when they differ. I went to the Bazaar, but a friend went
with me,—a big blond fellow, who looked the soldier he was, and whom
half the natives in Calcutta knew as a fierce “lal-coatie sahib.” Dear
friend, he is dead now! He was, a few months ago, a victim of ignoble
cholera.

I had some difficulty in making the gharri wallah understand that I
really wished him to drive to the Burra Bazaar. But when he did
understand, he drove stolidly across Dhurrumtollah into Bentick Street.
We stopped a moment while my escort bought me an immense bunch of spicy
roses “to smell when we get into the Bazaar”; and while he was paying
for it, a lame boy hobbled up with a huge ridiculous cotton-wool lamb.
That was bought also “for the boy, if we ever come back.” Down Bentick
Street, where the dexterous Chinese shoemakers plied their trade by
lamplight, beyond two noisy “Sailors’ Rests,” then into the dark.
Neither of us spoke. My friend afterwards told me that he was a little
anxious as to the outcome of my mad escapade. I was expectant. Every
door was barred. Every house was dark. Asia was asleep. Where thousands
of chattering natives had crowded about my carriage that very morning,
not even a dog was to be seen. We drove for over two hours. We passed,
here and there, a turbaned, belted policeman. Each looked at us with as
much amazement as a sleepy Oriental can display, and salaamed. It was
brightly, weirdly light now. The moon was up, and the dusty deserted
streets lay before us like snow. We knocked at many doors, oftenest
without response. A few of the doors opened after a long pause. A
drowsy-looking native examined my bit of cloth by the light of our
gharri lamps, and shook his head. He retreated behind his heavy door,
shut and barred it. We went on. Not once, but twenty times, that was our
experience.

But long after I had quite relinquished all hope of getting my
pine-apple cloth, I insisted upon driving on. The moonlight was so
marvellous. It was so wonderful to be one of the three or four awake
among myriad sleepers. One old merchant was more enterprising than the
rest. He had, he said, just what I sought. He went into his house and
was gone some twenty minutes. Then he came out to us again. I leaned
over the gharri with anticipatory excitement. The old Hindoo drew from
his sleeve a piece of pale blue satin, on which two slippers were
heavily embroidered with gold and seed pearls. Very beautiful they were
in the midnight moonlight. I longed to take them back to my good-natured
husband, but I was too vexed with the ancient Brahmin, who had brought
me gold embossed blue satin instead of cream embroidered pine-apple
cloth, to deal with him. “Cedar jao,” I snapped out, and the patient
horses went on. I forgot my petty millinery vexation in looking upon the
magic high lights and the fathomless chiaroscuro made by the white
magnificence of the moonlight and the black splendour of the old gray
walls.

“What—oh! what is that?” I whispered, forgetting my own vague musings
and remembering my companion suddenly.

“That is a fakir chap. He has made a vow, don’t you know. His arm is
paralyzed; he has held it high up above his head for a vow, and now it
has grown that way. It doesn’t hurt him, but it looks jolly queer,
doesn’t it?”

An incongruously European clock struck midnight.

“Are you frightened?” I asked my friend.

“A little,” said the soldier, smiling; “and I am sure your husband is
more so.”

“Not he,” said I; “he’s singing ‘Roy’s Wife of Aldivalloch.’” But I
added to the sais, “Nautch ghât jao.”

Poor sais! He was fast asleep; standing bolt upright behind us. I woke
him, and sent him up to sit with the gharri wallah.

“I wonder why that fakir was the one native out at midnight,” I said, as
we returned out of the unknown moonlight of Asia into the familiar
gaslight of cosmopolitan Dhurrumtollah. My friend smiled involuntarily,
but he said nothing.

“Oh, I know what you think,” I said, with a woman’s swift, safe
impertinence. “You think that he was hunting pine-apple cloth to offer
to a new god.”

“Or something equally important—to him.”

That was a mean remark; so when I saw my husband come from the
Corinthian Theatre archway, I turned ungratefully upon my companion and
said:

“‘Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard!’”

“Are you all right?” said my husband.

“Oh yes,” said I. “Did we have a good house?”

Once afterwards I went into the Burra Bazaar at night. It was Sunday,
and my husband was dining with some men. I ordered the gharri at ten.
Maggie, my pretty little Madrassi ayah, came out to see me into the
carriage.

“Kither, memsahib?” said the salaaming sais.

“Burra Bazaar jao,” I answered.

Maggie caught at the gharri door, “Memsahib, no, no, not go—-must not
go,” she cried. “No safe, much harm.”

“Nonsense, Maggie,” I said rather roughly; “go in to your missie baba.
Cedar jao, Gharri-wallah.”

We had left the hotel, and were living in a bungalow. The drive to the
gate was long and winding. When the durwan swung open the gate, a woman
ran out from the shrubbery. Maggie pulled the gharri door open and
climbed in.

“I go please with memsahib,” said the girl.

“Aren’t you frightened?”

“I more frightened stay safe bungalow, know memsahib gone harm.”

Maggie sat opposite me. Her hands were meekly folded upon her saried
knees. When we passed into the dark, questionable streets of the native
quarter, Maggie did what she had never done before—she came and sat
beside me. The dark grew denser: she covered my miserable, useless
little hand with her great, faithful, black hand. A pigeon cried; and a
sick woman, lying inside one of the tall, mysterious houses, moaned.
Maggie was trembling.

“Bungalow jao, sais,” I said.

A lady, who had lived most of her life in Calcutta, said to me one
night, at a rather crowded dinner table: “Is it true that you went into
the Burra Bazaar with only native servants and at midnight?”

“Almost true,” I replied. “It was an hour or more earlier.”

“What a horrid thing for you to do!” was the frank rejoinder.

I was too sorry for my hostess to answer my gentle critic; but what
tales I could have told of her in Paris! Some people do indeed believe
in the forgiveness of sins, if they are conventional ones.

A friend, who knows me well, said to me recently: “How can a woman, who
is so over-timid about most things, do so many foolhardy things?” As a
matter of fact, I am a great physical coward. But I have never felt
afraid of the natives among whom I have gone so peculiarly; nor do I
believe that I have ever been in the slightest danger. As far as the
Burra Bazaar was concerned, I am sure that I was as safe as a queen
surrounded by a loyal army. The Orientals are not prone to kill the
geese that lay golden eggs. I spent too many rupees and too constantly
for the thrifty storekeepers to have seen harm come to me. Then think of
the hubbub that would have been raised if one European woman had been
murdered, as I was often told I would be! A terrible punishment would
have been meted out to my gharri wallah and sais. They were bound to
protect me, and so was every Hindoo of their caste. I often left the
gharri, and went where it could not go; but I noticed that, unless I had
my ayah with me, the sais always followed me. I was inveterate and
tireless in my prowlings in the Burra Bazaar. I saw strange sights
there, and smelled strange smells. I never received an uncivil look,
much less a rude word.

I had great fun several times in the Burra Bazaar. Where the press of
humanity was most dense, I used to take a rupee from my purse, and,
holding it up, ask, “What will you sell for this?” Oh! how they rushed
about me! What strange bargains they offered me! And how good-natured
they were. They whined and begged and prayed, they pushed and jambed
each other against the gharri door. They called me “Mamma” in the most
persuasive tones. But when my choice was made, they fell back and
salaamed and laughed gleefully as I drove away.

My husband went with me to the Burra Bazaar once—once only. We were
going to play _Our Boys_. To my horror, my husband elected to play
Perkyn Middlewick. I begged him to play Talbot; but he was caught by the
idea of playing a part so entirely new, in every way, as Middlewick
would be to him. The rehearsals began, and he grew quite infatuated with
his part. He began to plan elaborate costumes for poor old Mr.
Middlewick. I pretended to not quite understand the kind of brocade that
he wanted for a beautifully brilliant vest. In that way I inveigled him
into going with me into the Burra Bazaar. He sniffed at Bentick Street;
but he had been there before. With the Bazaar itself he was
unmitigatedly disgusted. When we reached the silk shop he broke into
open rebellion.

“How do you get in?” Sais pushed open a narrow door. A flight of steep,
shallow, almost perpendicular steps were all that we could see, and we
could only half see them. They were innocent of railing; they went
through space in the simplest way; and the only concession to
light-headed mortals was a questionable-looking rope that dangled from
the floor above.

He caught my arm: “You are not going up there! We’ll get our necks
broken, or, at the very least, be robbed.”

“I have been up there very often,” I urged; “and there is no other shop
where we are so likely to get what you want.”

I went up, and he followed me gingerly. The room, into which we crawled
rather than walked, was about ten feet by twelve. Four Brahmins sat upon
the floor; and the glass cases that lined the walls from ceiling to
floor must have contained some thousands of pounds worth of silk, of
crepe, and of embroideries. There was a chair in the room; it had not
been there when I paid my first visit,—I flatter myself it had been
bought for me, and doubtless out of my money. The proprietor of the shop
pushed the chair an inch in our direction; he placed a mat beside it,
and left us to decide how we would divide them.

We stayed a long time in the tiny room. The presence of a man inspired
them to bring out their choicest treasures. What exquisitely beautiful
things they showed us,—soft priceless crêpes, thick pliant satins,
matchless embroideries; they tempted my companion even more than they
did me. We found the very piece of pathetically ridiculous brocade that
he wanted, and he was as pleased as a boy.

Getting down the stairs was more than getting up them had been; but we
accomplished it with assistance. Our drive home was very slow. My
comrade stopped every few moments to buy some outrageous article. “I
shall never come here again in all my life,” he said; “do let me enjoy
myself.” It was a quaint gharri load of merchandise we carried back to
the Great Eastern. Even the stolid durwan looked amazed.

A few hours later my husband said to me, “Tell me truly, do you really,
honestly like to go into that place?”

“Honestly, I love it.”

He gazed intently at me for a few moments; then he said, “You are a
wonderful woman.”

Which showed that the Burra Bazaar had enriched his understanding even
more than it had impoverished his purse.



                               CHAPTER VI


                      A CHRISTMAS DINNER ON A ROOF

IS it only three years ago that we ate our Christmas dinner on the roof
of an old Calcutta palace? How hot it was! The starlit sky was murky and
shimmering. The air trembled and throbbed with the electrical heat. But
when the plum-puddings came in we had to stop the punkah wallahs; the
swing of their big hand punkahs blew the flaming brandy out. The Major
had been saying nice things to me through all the courses. He was so
polite and attentive that he only had one of his Bombay oysters,—the
khitmatgar thought that his master did not want the others, and whipped
up the plate. He was a Madrassi, was the Major’s khitmatgar; he liked
oysters, and he had no stupid, superstitious theories about Europeans
defiling food. The Major never touched his sweetbread; and he missed
most of his _biscuit glacé_. Yes; he was self-sacrificingly courteous.
But when the hand punkahs stopped, he leaned back in his chair and drew
his handkerchief across his brow, with the air of a man who would
continue his polite attentions if he could, but really could not.

It was rather a home-sick little Christmas party. English people are
very apt to be home-sick when Christmas finds them out of England. We
two were not home-sick; we were the two strangers—the two newcomers;
and yet we were the most content of any there. We were nomads, gipsies,
strolling players. We had learned to carry our home in our
hand-satchels, and in our hearts. Our wandering life had broadened and
deepened our cosmopolitanism as much as it had sharpened and quickened
our patriotism. We had lived so often in a tent! and we thought that
palm-decked, star-canopied old roof the pleasantest possible place to
eat our Christmas dinner. I was especially happy. I always love to eat
in the open; and this old roof that lifted me high above the crooning
Calcutta streets, and seemingly half-way to the stars, had lifted me
into a warm, spicy atmosphere of high delight. It was a pretty scene.
The white-clad servants moved softly; the adjacent houses were very
quaint with minarets and intricate arches, strange latticed windows and
droll roof-gardens; the deep perfumes of Oriental flowers came up from
our host’s garden. Everything was richly Oriental except the table at
which we sat and feasted. That was as English as a very ingenious
hostess could make it. Great satin roses were woven in the damask of the
table linen; in the centre of the cloth lay a large silken Union Jack;
on it crouched a bronze lion; he was resting on a bed of roses. Around
the flag was a loose wreath of holly and mistletoe, and we each had a
bit of mistletoe at our plates. I saw the subaltern’s lip tremble a bit
when he put his sprig in his button-hole,—that was very weak and
babyish of him, was it not? Yet strangely enough that boy has won high
military honours since then. I was greatly interested in him at the
time, because he was the first subaltern I had met in India; and I had
heard so much about subalterns before I reached the East.

[Illustration: DELHI NAUTCH GIRL.         _Page 56._]

The Major and his wife, our host and hostess, we had known well in
Italy. I had been delighted to dine with them; and now, that the dinner
was almost over, I was congratulating myself on having had so pleasant a
time.

The plum-puddings had caught properly, and the breath of the punkahs
came upon us again as a new sensation of delight. They fanned the
creaming wine until the ice tinkled against our thin glasses, until the
champagne frothed and bubbled in a perfect tempest of conviviality.

“Do you know the history of this old palace in which you are living?” I
asked the Major.

“No,” he said; “or at least very little of it. A mighty Nabob lived here
once. This roof garden, where we are now, he had made very lovely for
his favourite wife. She was of a higher caste than his. Her stepmother,
who hated her of course, had given the girl to the Nabob in the father’s
absence. The girl’s father had gone up to Peshawar, I believe, to buy
camels. It was a year or more after the Nabob’s marriage that the girl’s
father came back to Jullundar and found his favourite child gone. The
stepmother said the girl was dead; but the servants told the old man the
truth; so he killed his treacherous wife and came to Calcutta to find
his daughter. Well, he found her on this very roof. Now a Hindoo girl
who weds beneath her caste is degraded for ever,—she has become a
pariah, an outcast, and all her family are defiled. So the old
Brahmin—he was a Brahmin, of course—took out his knife and plunged it
through his daughter’s sari into her heart. And she cried ‘Salaam’ and
died; and he went away rejoicing.”

“But how did he get in, and how did he get out?” demanded the subaltern.
“Aren’t the women’s quarters in a Nabob’s palace better guarded than
that?”

“Sir, those are details, mere details,” snapped the Major. “Were you not
taught at Sandhurst that the subaltern is shot at sunrise who asks his
superior officer for details?”

The subaltern saluted (with a walnut shell in his fingers) and fell into
the conversational background.

“It is quite true, the story, Mr. Howard,” said the Major’s wife; “only
my husband is telling it so badly.”

The Major went on smoothly. “When Abdul came back——”

“Who was Abdul?” asked an exacting civilian.

“Abdul was the Nabob,” said our host curtly.

“Oh!” said the civilian, “I thought perhaps you meant my bearer; his
name is Abdul.”

“When Abdullah returned,” continued the Major, “and found his favourite
wife dead, he tore his beard and cast his turban at her feet. Then he
went into the women’s quarters—the part of the palace where the other
wives lived, for the dead girl-wife had had apartments of her own.
Abdullah had not been in the women’s quarters since his last and
happiest marriage. His wives gathered about him; they fell at his feet
and kissed them. He raised them up kindly. He gave them wine to drink,
and in each glass of wine he put three three-grained morphia pills. When
they had all fallen into the sleep from which he knew they could not
wake, he rose up and went, saying, ‘Allah, I had ceased to love them,
but I have killed them gently, that they shall feel no pain when they
burn upon my funeral pile.’ He went back to his dead girl-wife. He laid
a satin cushion beneath her head; he strewed sandal-wood dust upon her,
then he borrowed a scimitar from a eunuch and died.”

“I had no idea that the Hindoos were such good husbands,” said the
pretty American girl who sat on the other side of the subaltern.

“Might I be allowed to ask,” said the subaltern, “as a guest,
whether——”

But the Major’s wife had looked at me and smiled, and as we rose, he
jumped to his feet and rushed to the filmy portiere that hung across the
archway which topped the garden steps. They were broad, white, marble
steps, well called garden steps, for they led from the artificial roof
garden into the great wild place beneath, where mangoes and roses,
palms, ferns, and tuberoses crowded amongst the tangling wood-flowers of
Bengal.

“Gather all you want,” my hostess said, as I paused, spell-bound beside
a bed of strangely sweet flowers. “Gather all you like, but don’t ask me
the names.”

“Oh! I know what those are,” said the American girl who had come down
behind the rest of us. “They are mogree flowers. The nautch girls wear
them in their hair—I saw them at Amritzar. When the girls dance, the
flowers perfume the air; and if a very big man—high-caste or rich I
mean—comes in, they throw mogree flowers at him.”

We strolled on through the shapeless grounds,—we two Americans. She
pushed her pretty dimpled arm through mine. “Does it not seem very
strange to you to be ’way off here in India?” she asked me.

“My life has been so strange,” I said, “that nothing seems strange to
me, unless I am in a very thoughtful mood, and then life seems so
inexplicable that everything seems strange.”

We were standing by a funny little square basin of water. Oriental moss
broke the outlines of its marble sides. Strange coloured lilies slept
upon its breast. Here and there a lantern of Japanese silk dotted the
mangoe trees. Hattie tapped the warm marble with her little blue
slipper. “Isn’t it pretty!” said the girl, pointing with her big blue
eyes to the roof that we had left. It certainly was very pretty. Through
a break in the palm trees we could see our host and his men guests. They
were smoking, all of them, but they seemed rather thoughtful. Above
them, swung on invisible wires and on rope vines, were innumerable
Japanese and Chinese lanterns. My eyes lingered lovingly on the soft
yellows and the clear purples of the pretty illuminated paper balls.
Above all glittered the matchless stars. “I think that I should like to
live in India,” said the girl at my side, softly; “wouldn’t you?”

“I love my life almost anywhere,” I said, turning from the fountain to
pull a mogree flower. Then I kissed my young country-woman in the
moonlight. I regard kissing women as more to be condemned than giggling
girls and crowing hens. But some strange wave of tenderness welled over
me for the maiden at my side.

When the men and the coffee came down, sweet tinkling music crept to us
nearer and nearer from the shadow of the trees. A band of native
musicians had been engaged—for our sake I fear,—they were such an old
story to the Anglo-Indians there. I crept among the trees to examine
their barrel-like drums and their indescribable string instruments. Mine
host and mine husband followed me. We came back by the little lily pond.
The subaltern and the American girl were there, looking at the lilies so
intently that they did not see us.

“There is something remarkable about American women,” said my English
husband, with slow impertinence. “A man goes half mad until he gets an
American wife, and then he’d give half the world to get rid of her.”

“Yes,” said the Major, “I regard the influx of American women into the
British ranks as the chief danger that now threatens our forces. I do
not understand their apathy at the War Office, and at Westminster.”

I pelted my two tormentors with mogree flowers, and we went back to our
hostess, leaving the young people by the lilies.

It was very late. The native musicians had taken their big bukshish and
gone. A few faint streaks of light replaced the faded stars. It was
almost morning. We heard the tramp of men; we caught the martial rhythm
of a good old English carol. The privates of our host’s regiment were
coming (those of them who could sing) with the bandmaster at their
head—coming to serenade the major’s lady.

They sang with a right good will. When they broke into “Rule Britannia,”
the bird-like soprano of the pretty American girl rose shyly above the
strong heavy voices of the men. She had come back to the old mother
country, as so many American women do, led back by love. It was morning.
India seemed to have shaken off night, oppression, superstition, sorrow.
And as the full, big glory of the day broke, the soldiers stood at
attention and sang—with husky voices some of them, “God save the
Queen.” And in the distance, through the air, some one or something
breathed the dear old tune of “Home, sweet Home.”



                              CHAPTER VII


                           ORIENTAL OBSEQUIES

                        _A Hindoo Burning Ghât_

THE arch-devil death is so unconquerable a foe that the veriest atheist
must easily find it in his heart to forgive the theist who has invented
the consolatory theory of immortality.

If we believe death to be but the imaginary boundary between two lives,
then death ceremonials become very inconsequential. If we believe death
to be the end, the last sad rites assume a terrible significance.
Strangely enough, the most elaborate funeral customs prevail among the
staunchest believers in an after life. But then mankind always has been
inconsistent. Man is born of woman!

In the East I learned something of the _post-mortem_ customs of five
races: the Chinese, the Hindoo, the Parsi, the Burmese, and the
Japanese.

We are apt to think ourselves very advanced—we who are beginning to
believe in cremation. The Hindoos have practised it for thousands of
years.

The funeral pile of a Rajah sometimes costs lakhs of rupees. In Calcutta
I have seen a body burned when three rupees covered the entire expense.

The rich Hindoo may be somewhat exclusive. The Hindoo masses do
everything simply and openly. They bathe out of doors. They pray out of
doors. They cook out of doors. They die out of doors, and their bodies
are burned out of doors.

There are three burning ghâts in Calcutta. The first we visited was the
cheapest and most primitive of the three. It was also the most
interesting; for it was the most eloquent of the Hindoo populace.

It was a longish drive from our hotel to the burning ghât, but the last
half, or more of it, was crowded with interest, for it was along the
bank of the sacred Ganges, and thousands of devout Hindoos were
worshipping.

Only a mile or two inland was Government House, upon the gates of which
crouch two colossal lions—in stone. The British lion is more manageable
in stone than in alien jungle flesh. The British lions of the Calcutta
Government House gates are very impressive, but it is a rare thing to
see them without native crows perched insolently upon their hard heads.
Inside those gates all was a subdued, well-bred hubbub, for Lady
Lansdowne was to hold a drawing-room that night. Anglo-Indian Calcutta
was athrob,—European dressmakers and native dhursies were exceedingly
busy. Here—where we were, on the banks of the Ganges—were myriad human
creatures to whom Government House was but an architectural intrusion.
They were enrapt in the observance of their racial customs; and, to
them, our European customs were less than nothing. It was a little like
a country fair—and greatly unlike. I learned then and there that
specialisation was not a nineteenth century development. The banks of
the Ganges were divided into booths, not by walls, but by occupational
differentiation. We stopped—our underfed horses were glad to stop—we
stopped and watched a, to us, meaningless dance. I thought it more
awkward than suggestive. That may have been because I was ignorant of
its religious meaning. Then we saw a hundred people clustered about a
naked fakir. His unbarbered hair was braided into disgustingly many
plaits. His brown face was painted a ghastly white. He lay naked upon
innumerable spikes (they were dull-edged spikes), and as he bled (in
reality he did not bleed; he balanced himself so beautifully), the
surrounding Hindoos prayed to Kâli, and praised the fakir. We saw
enchanted pigs. We passed inspired fortune-tellers. We stopped to water
our horses at a sacred fountain,—I can’t imagine to what it was sacred,
for I saw our disreputable steeds drink from it, and I saw many
to-the-core afflicted lepers fill their chattees from it. A pile of
common stones based the fountain. The lepers touched them reverently
with their hopeless stumps. It is perhaps well for the human intellect
that “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”

When the gharri wallah and the sais said we had reached the burning
ghât, we found our inquiring minds intercepted by a crude brick wall. I
have said that the Hindoos burn their dead in the open,—that is true;
but in Calcutta the Hindoo has grown thrifty, and he hedges his burning
ghât with a wall the closed door of which is sternly suggestive of
bukshish.

The sais pounded upon the door with the butt of the whip, kindly loaned
by the gharri wallah. An old Hindoo (he was sucking sugar-cane) opened
the door, after a dignified pause. We gave him a rupee—deferentially,
and passed in. I stumbled upon something, and gave a dainty little
European shriek. The something sat up and rubbed its eyes; it was one of
the burning ghât coolies, and it had been having a sleep. I marked the
holy mud thrice with my Louis Quinze heels, and I stood beside a
smouldering funeral pile. A crack—not unlike the report of a
pistol—drove me back. The heat had broken through the dead man’s skull.
Our brain is our best servant, or our mightiest master, in Europe; in
the land of the Hindoo, it or its casement is the last human part to
protest against the extinguishment of death.

The funeral pile of a poor Hindoo looks very like an ordinary
kitchen-yard wood pile. But if you go up to it—close up to it—you
discover something very like a human form—a glowing charred mass, but
proudly distinguished from every other shape, animate and inanimate. In
the East I tried to look at things reasonably; not from any exaggerated
sympathy with the subjugated native, but because I wished to get from
the East the utmost available information and mental capital.

When I pulled myself together, after shrinking from the first funeral
pile I had ever seen, a phrase flashed to my memory—“Purified as by
fire.”

That is just what the Hindoos do. They purify their dead by fire. The
body is burned until absolutely nothing remains but a handful of
ashes—ashes wholly free from any unclean or poisonous matter.

A second body was brought in. Two coolies carried it upon a rude litter,
woven from coarse grasses, and held together by outlines of bamboo. Two
of the dead man’s brothers followed, chatting pleasantly.

Four stout sticks of wood were driven upright into the ground at the
corners of an imaginary parallelogram, about six feet by two. Between
these four posts were loosely laid sticks of dry, cheap wood. When the
pile was a little more than three feet high, the body was laid upon it.
A dirty piece of crash, of the quality the coolies wear about their
loins, partly wrapt the dead. One of the brothers stepped up and poured
about four ounces of oil over the body. This ensured a quicker
cremation, but was something of a luxury, and not a universal practice.
The oil must have cost about three pies. The other brother paid the
coolies, who shouldered their light empty litter and marched gaily out.
More wood was piled upon the dead. A thin stick was lighted at the other
funeral pile, which was now flaming finely; the second pile was lighted,
and the cremation of the newcomer was begun. The two brothers appeared
very interested in the igniting, and decidedly pleased when it was
accomplished. They squatted down upon the ground, just so far from the
pile that they might feel that their scant, filthy garments were fairly
safe from the sparks, but near enough to watch all the changing phases
of the cremation, and to see easily when it was consummated.

They untied a dirty rag from about a small bundle one had brought with
him. They took out a small earthen bowl; it was clean and shining; and
so was the brass chattee each lifted from his filthily-turbaned head.
The chattees held water; the bowl held curry and rice. They fell to
eating with gusto. And pray why not? They were eating to live. Their
brother was burning to live—to live in Hindoo Paradise. From the Hindoo
point of view his state was far the more blessed; and from all I saw of
coolie life, I am not inclined to think their point of view wrong.

While the dead burned and the living ate, I looked about me, and
thought. I must not claim to have felt much; it was all too strange to
me for feeling to be less than numbed. My first observation was that my
husband and the friend who was with us had withdrawn from my near
vicinity, in the meanest manner. There they stood, on the very edge of
the Ganges, and with their two brave backs squarely turned to the
interesting rite we had come some miles to witness. When I say the
Ganges, I mean of course the Hoogly, which is one of its mouths, and
therefore as sacred to the Hindoos. I thought at first that they were
smoking, because I have noticed that my husband usually is smoking when
he escapes an appreciable distance from my side. They were not smoking;
and our friend afterwards confided to me that they were discussing “the
present condition of European politics,” but discussing it languidly.

Then I saw that the cremation, which had been in full blast upon our
arrival, was completed. There were two distinct kinds of ashes. The
human ashes were carefully gathered into an old chattee. The authorities
do not allow those ashes to be thrown into the river, and I understand
that they never are thrown there in the presence of Europeans. The ashes
of the wood were swept swiftly away. The bits of wood not quite burned,
were frugally collected to be utilised in the next pile.

The two men had finished their curry and rice. They began to play some
native game of chance. They used pebbles for the game itself, and
splinters from the adjacent funeral pile did nicely for counters.

The men—my European men, I mean—came back and said that they would
like to go home. So we went.

Life is so hard for the poorer natives of India that it is not
surprising that they take death so coolly. They have so little to live
for; they live so difficultly, so miserably, so inadequately, that to
them death has ceased to be a devil, and has become, instead, an angel
of deliverance.

The most satisfactory acquaintance I made in Calcutta was with a
physician whose father was a Scotsman and whose mother was a very
high-caste Hindoo woman. Aside from my personal liking for the man, I
found him satisfactory because he could, and did, explain Hindoo customs
to me exhaustively, and also in terms intelligible to my
Europeanly-developed mind. A few nights after we were first at the
burning ghât we asked him how an attempt to introduce Western crematory
arrangements would be received in Bengal. He shook his head. He
personally would welcome the innovation (he, by the way, was a
Christian); he felt sure that some of the better circumstanced, better
informed Hindoos would also welcome it; but the Hindoo masses would
resent it bitterly. The attempt would be foolish, I think. Why force
upon so strongly conservative a people a reform for which they have
absolutely no need? Would it serve any good purpose? I think not. It
would do nothing except widen a breach which we, for many reasons,
should do our utmost to heal.

To me, the system of the Hindoo burning ghâts, of which I saw every
detail, was not nearly so repulsive as the system of the Parsi Towers of
Silence, of which I only saw the outside, and could but too well imagine
the inside. I wish the Parsis would abolish their method of disposal of
the dead in favour of another method, as sanitary, but less revolting.
But the Hindoo custom seems to me entirely commensurate with the Hindoo
needs and the preservation of the general health of India.

I went to the burning ghât once at night. Night is the time of Hindoo
leisure, as indeed it is of most native peoples. The enclosure was
crowded with burning piles.

One night we sailed down the Ganges. The outlines of the attendants of
the dead and of the funeral piles were sharply silhouetted, against the
black background of the dark night, by the flames of the gruesome death
fires; and from that part of the shore sacred to Hindoo worship came the
shrieking and the songs of many thousand half-mad devotees.

In a primitive part of interior India, I once saw a Maharajah’s funeral
pile. It had cost a positive fortune. It was built of expensive spicy
woods and saturated with costly oils. It was richly gilded; and the dead
was wrapped in embroidered silken sheets. For an incredible distance the
air was sweet and pungent and thick with the perfumed smoke.

I remember having thought when a child that the literally sweetest
experience I ever had had was the attending of a High Mass at St.
Peter’s in Rome. But now I must own that the sweetest smell I ever
smelled was the burning of a Maharajah’s funeral pile.



                              CHAPTER VIII


                           ORIENTAL NUPTIALS

                          _A Hindoo Marriage_

TO Hindoo women, marriage is of even more importance than it is to women
in general. Indeed, I know no race to whose women it is more important;
for marriage is the sum total of a Hindoo woman’s existence. She has no
interests beyond her home, no possibility of outside compensation if her
marriage is a failure.

Even conventional, conservative India is beginning to throb with
nineteenth century restlessness and Occidental changeableness. There is
a great deal to be said on both sides of the burning question of
child-marriages. I propose to say none of it, but to confine myself to a
description of a Hindoo marriage that I witnessed at
Jubblepore,—confine myself without commenting upon the race theories of
which it was a ceremonial expression.

Children are still married very young in India. But the custom is not
clung to, save by the ultra orthodox Hindoos. I have known three sisters
to be married in one month, in a high-caste family. The eldest was
sixteen, the youngest was eight. A Hindoo girl is in the full bloom of
womanhood at sixteen.

The marriage I saw was between Brahmins of a strict caste; and I believe
that the only unorthodox detail was my presence. I went in the early
morning to the bride’s house. She was a slender, pretty girl of twelve.
The bridegroom (who had not yet arrived) was an intelligent fellow—five
years her senior. Twelve and seventeen years of age mean very much more
in the East than in the West.

This marriage happened to be a love match. I should think that that is
now true of nearly half the Hindoo marriages. The children of the caste
play freely together, and their baby likes and dislikes develop with
their quick development. Family love is very strong among the Hindoos.
And the children have rather large influence with their parents. Hindoo
girls are, I believe, rarely reluctant to marry. Indeed, they reminded
me of a line of Byron’s. They seemed more in love with the prospect of
marriage than with any particular prospective husband. It was my
observation—which was, I must say, not exhaustive—that few Hindoo
marriages are unhappy. The same has been claimed, I understand, by some
partial writers, for _les mariages de convenance_ of France.

The first duty of Hindoo bride and bridegroom, on the Chief Day or
wedding day, is ceremonious ablutions. It was after that duty had been
fulfilled that I arrived at the bride’s home. For many days ceremonies
dear to the Oriental heart had been taking place. But they were
fashionable rather than religious. They were self-granted indulgences of
a ceremony-loving race, and in no way augmented the validity of the
marriage, which was secured entirely by the ceremonies and the oaths of
the wedding day, prescribed by the Shástras.

It was some time after my humble entrance that the splendid arrival of
the bridegroom occurred. He came on horseback, as a Hindoo bridegroom
should, and he was surrounded by all his relatives and friends, which
was the acme of Hindoo good form. By the bye,—a high-caste Hindoo is as
polite as a Japanese. Courtesy is as much the religion of a Brahmin as
of a Japanese. But Hindoo courtesy is less celebrated than Japanese
courtesy because it is less graceful (though not less picturesque), and
because it is not, as it is in Japan, common to high and low. Politeness
is the sign of a Hindoo gentleman. It is the birth mark of every
Japanese—from the Mikado to the humblest coolie.

I do not know which was the more gorgeous—the Hindoo bridegroom or the
dark roan horse he rode. Certainly, the bridegroom looked the more
important. The steed seemed bored, which showed a most ungrateful
spirit, for never yet was horse more sumptuously caparisoned. Beneath
his shaggy, unkempt mane he wore a red strung necklace of glittering
jewelled talismans; about his neck was a triple row of native gems, and
similar jewelled braids marked his face into wonderful parallelograms;
upon his head was proudly placed an inverted feather duster, such as
European ladies use for treasured bits of bric-a-brac, which the
parlour-maid may not touch. The decoration of the unappreciative
animal’s tail was gorgeous and unique. The saddle-cloths were beautiful
in detail, if not in shape; they were exquisite specimens of old,
orthodox Hindoo embroidery. Hindoo customs are changing very gradually;
Hindoo art is unchanged and unchangeable. It has developed; it has not
been modified. The saddle-cloths were stiff, broad ovals, heavy with
pearl-specked, gold embroidery; they were edged with red, silken fringe.
Above the saddle-cloth rose a golden, swan-shaped saddle. Enthroned upon
it sat the bridegroom. Over his head a servant held a wonderful red and
yellow umbrella; two fan men followed close, holding the quaintest fans
I ever saw; the sticks were of carved silver, and the fans, shaped like
antique spear-heads, were made of odd painted glass, deftly embroidered
here and there with jewels, and edged, as was the fan and all of the
horse’s caparisons, with elaborate fringe. The four servants were
dressed as Hindoo servants should be, in Hindoo livery. The bridegroom
wore wonderful brocaded clothes; his eyes were thickly ringed with khol;
his lips were flaring red with betel-nut; his velvet cap was heavy with
embroidery; his jewelry was abundant and glaring. In brief, it was in
all ways a most correct Hindoo marriage procession. His people followed
him with beaming faces, carefully arranged costumes, and foreheads
smeared with the paint and ash-marks of high-caste Brahminism.

We clustered about the door to bid him welcome—the bride’s mother in
front, and the closely veiled red-clad bride next. The mother received
with many ceremonies the dismounting bridegroom. The bride ran shyly
forward and pinched his foot. That was in warning that he might find
married life full of vexations. But he smiled with proud superiority as
he salaamed elaborately to his girl-bride.

We followed him into the house. The bride’s father, crying out to the
gods that he would honour and receive well this Snátaka who had come to
ask a maiden’s hand, offered the young man a seat—offered it with many
words of welcome and compliment. The bridegroom sat down, after calling
the elder Brahmins everything that is honourable, superior, and
admirable. Then they performed the peculiar worship of the “blessed and
kind waters,” the girl’s father providing all the _impedimenta_ of the
ceremony. The elder man offered the younger a tray of sweets, called
_madhuparka_. The bridegroom called upon the gods to partake of his
noble father-in-law’s bounty. The gods did not do so—that I could
perceive; but no one seemed disconcerted, and the bridegroom ate a
little himself. The host called to a servant to bring a cow. The
bridegroom protested that the cow was an innocent and useful animal, and
entreated that its life might be spared. The elder Brahmin conceded
this; which ended the welcoming ceremony, which is called _madhuparka_,
after the sweet which is given to the bridegroom. Many years ago it was
customary, at a Hindoo wedding, to sacrifice a cow and distribute the
fresh beef.

Then came the _Kanyá-dána_ ceremony; the giving of the bride by her
father to the bridegroom. The bride and bridegroom sat together, facing
the east. Near them, but facing the north, sat her parents. The father
“worshipped” the young couple; and all the guests called upon the gods
for a thick shower of blessings. The priests handed the father sacred
grass and water, and then they prayed with him, in Sanskrit. Then the
old Brahmin rose up, and placing the girl’s hand in her lover’s, but
with a blade of grass between them, said solemnly to the bridegroom,
“She is no longer mine; she is thine.” The bride’s mother pronounced
glad consent. Then the young Brahmin, holding his wife tightly by the
hand, and looking at her, but speaking to the gods, said, “I entreat
you, oh my gods, to bless and prosper the gracious man and wife who have
given me this most sweet gift.” A priest drew from between the clasped
hands the blade of grass. The marriage was irrevocable. They were man
and wife for ever.

Then the proud young husband, looking very manly and handsome, said to
his bride, clearly and earnestly, words that I thought very sweet,
although they were partly prescribed. “Moved by the gods, the great god
Varuna has given you to me, oh my dear, that I may know ambrosial
happiness. Your father in giving you to me has given me his very life.
You are my life of life.” He laid his slim brown hand upon her veiled
right shoulder. “It is Love that gave this, Love that received it. O
Love! all this is thine. My bride, enter thou the Ocean of Love; I
accept thee out of Love. Thou art rain; the heavens give thee, the earth
receives thee.” Are not those beautiful words? They are prescribed,
truly; but so are the words of our marriage service.

Then came the _Kautukágára_ ceremony—the prettiest part of the
marriage. I was allowed to see it, as a great concession. The young
husband and wife went, with a priest and a number of Hindoo maidens,
into an inner room. This room is strangely painted, and is called
_Kautukágára_. The bride tied a love-knot on her husband’s wrist, and he
did the same to her; then he drew the veil from her dimpled brown face
and kissed her; then he replaced the veil with a soft silken sari, that
he had brought as a gift to his bride, but the little glowing face was
left uncovered. The priest took a bit of red string and tied together
the garments of husband and wife, and placed a crown of tinsel, of gold,
silver, and jewels upon her head. A prayer was made by the bridegroom—a
prayer that their hearts might grow into each other; and while he
prayed, he painted, with collyrium, his bride’s eyes, and she painted
his. Then he gave her some droll presents, which he produced from a
mysterious somewhere among his own garments. I noticed a porcupine-quill
and a looking-glass. Then he tied about her neck the marriage string. It
is an odd necklace—a cord upon which a strange melée of trinkets are
hung. It is called the tali. It is worn by all married Hindoo women. It
is almost if not the only thing that I have never known a Hindoo woman
to pawn. The tying of the tali ended the _Kautukágára_ ceremony. We
returned to the other room.

The _Viváha-hôma_ or marriage sacrifice began. The young couple sat upon
a primitive, flower-decked altar. Then the priests poured ghee-libations
to the invisible gods. Then the bride’s father anointed her head heavily
with ghee, saying, “Become thou the sovereign ruler over thy
father-in-law, over thy mother-in-law, over thy sister-in-law, and over
thy brothers-in-law”—a very liberal invocation; but I thought I
observed that, in the majority of high-caste Hindoo families, it was
most frequently fulfilled. Hindoo women are very potent members of
Hindoo society, and in home life they are often supreme. I know many
Hindoo men who are extremely devoted to their wives, and consider them
before all others.

The young husband was rash enough to confirm his father-in-law’s large
prophecy, and added to the bride, “I take thy hand that thou mayest live
with me as thy husband, for a long time; the gods Bhaga, Aryamá, Savitá,
and Purandhi have given thee to me that I may be a householder. Soma
gave thee to Gandharva, Gandharva gave thee to Agni, and Agni gave thee
to me with wealth and sons. As in the word _Sâma_ the syllables _Sâ_ and
_ama_ are mutually connected and interdependent, so are we; I am _ama_,
thou art _Sâ_. I am the heavens, thou art the earth. As a _Sâ_ma verse
is related to Rik of which it is composed, so am I to thee; then
shouldst thou follow me. Like these pairs, let us marry, produce
progeny, obtain sons; may they be many and may they live long.”

Then they performed the ceremonies of _As’ma’rohana_ and _Mangal Fe’rà_.
Near the altar burned a sacred fire. About it lay a circle of stones.
The bridegroom caught his wife’s hand and said, “Come lady! place thy
foot on this stone, and be as firm as it is. Resist whatever is evil.”
He stooped down and placed her right foot upon the stone. Together, but
he preceding her, they went round the fire, treading carefully upon the
stones. Back to their seats they went. The bride gave an oblation to the
fire, her husband saying, “This woman prays that she may be pleasing and
helpful to her relatives, and that her husband may live long.” The
little bride was looking very important, but oh! so tired. Four times
they went round that flaming fire. Four times she gave an oblation, and
he repeated his little speech.

Then they performed a ceremony which, when it was explained fully to me,
I thought very significant. It was called _Saptapadi_, or “taking seven
steps.” Seven heaps of rice were laid upon the floor, near each other,
slanting toward the north-east. Again the bridegroom took his wife’s
little brown hand. She put her foot upon the first heap as he said,
“Take the first step and become the partner of my drinks.” On they went,
she stepping on each little rice heap, he saying, “Take the second step
and become the partner of my food.” “Take the third step and become the
partner of my wealth and prosperity.” “Take the fourth step and become
the partner of my good health.” “Take the fifth step and become the
partner of my cattle.” “Take the sixth step and become my companion in
all the seasons.” “Take the seventh step and become my friend.”

That ended the serious part of the long complicated ceremony. The newly
married twain fed each other solemnly from a bowl of sugar; and then
grave ceremonial gave way to mirth and noise. Presents were made to the
priests. A feast was served; and an excellent feast it was. They gave me
some, but I had to eat it apart; with them I might not sit, nor
eat,—even the courtesy of a high-caste Brahmin failed before such a
desecration of caste purity. All night long trumpets blared, shrill
native fifes shrieked, drums and wild songs rent the air, and great
fires flared up to heaven, making the big clumps of slender bamboos look
red.

I fear I have been tedious; I hope I have been clear. A Hindoo marriage
is an intricate performance. I have not described it entirely. The
religious ceremonies were supplemented by many others that were customs,
not observances of faith.

The vows of a Hindoo marriage are most beautiful. Unfortunately they are
repeated in Sanskrit, and the bridal pair rarely, if ever, know
Sanskrit. Let us hope that they know the meaning of the words they utter
parrot-like. Certainly young children are as ignorant of the sense as of
the language. I have seen a Hindoo bridegroom of five—a sweetly pretty
boy he was.

But the ritual of the Hindoo marriage ceremony, whether it means much or
little to the celebrants, can, at least, show us what the great founders
of mighty Hindooism meant Hindoo marriage to be. And it behoves us to
understand the spirit, the essence, of Hindoo life before we alter it by
the right of might—I mean the might of right. Moreover it behoves us to
know how Hindoo usages work. Child-marriage is revolting; but I have
heard Hindoos make one or two tiny points in its favour. I saw something
of Hindoo home-life, and I thought that it was, as a rule, devoted and
happy; I know more than one eminent Hindoo to-day who is beautifully
under his wife’s little brown, be-ringed thumb.

The Hindoo women cling to their racial customs far more pertinaciously
than do the men. I knew several delightful Hindoo women; they despised
me, but they were very kind and courteous, and I admired them
exceedingly. One of them was a woman of great intellectual strength and
commensurate culture. One day she said to me, “What is this ‘woman’s
rights,’ of which so much you talk?” I disclaimed any share in the
epidemic that had attacked so many of my sisters, and then I explained
to her the movement as eloquently as I could, and as justly as a woman
was able to do who despised that of which she spoke.

“I see,” she said, turning her great, languid eyes on mine; “they would
have us renounce an immense, veiled, real power, for a little apparent
power; they would make us lose our power over men, to have, of
ourselves, and our lives, the little control that men do have of
themselves and of their lives. In Europe, women who are not strong,
think too much, talk too much. The big thought in the little brain will
not go, only one part of it. And the sound of their own voices it makes
them mad.”

Nothing so surprised me in the East as did the upper class Hindoo
women—their content, their position, and their enormous influence. The
men of Ind are comparatively easily converted to our social _modus
operandi_. We underrate the strong opposition we will encounter from the
Hindoo women.



                               CHAPTER IX


                       KING THEEBAW’S STATE BARGE

WE went from Calcutta to Rangoon. In Burmah the shadow of a great
personal sorrow fell upon us. Our reminiscences of Burmah are too sad
and too sacred to be put between the covers of a book. But there is a
great deal that is interesting that I may try to tell about Burmah
before I catch up my little personal narrative in China.

Burmah has almost unprecedented natural wealth. Minerals, woods,
marbles, and gems are in Burmah in seemingly inexhaustible stores.
Useful vegetation springs in spontaneous plenty from the pregnant soil.
Nature does almost everything for the Burmans, and yet, Orientals though
they are, they are exceptionally industrious. The palmyra tree leaf
gives them paper. Butter, sugar, and flour, or their substitutes, grow
on trees. Game, fish, fruit, and vegetables are most abundant. And yet
they work—the men and women of Burmah—work with a will and to a right
good purpose.

The marvellous pagodas, that are the artificial glory of the Burmese
landscape, represent all that is best in Burmese art, all that is most
persistent in Burmese industry. They are indescribably beautiful, with
their huge, graceful, jewelled peaks and their lace-like, golden
carvings. Lepers swarm at their gates. Heavy, pungent flowers are
scattered before their thresholds, and often beneath their shadows lie
the full cemeteries of the Europeans. They dot the Burmese landscape
like huge jewels—do these matchless pagodas, and their sweet, swinging
bells and singing gongs break the Burmese silence with clear, tinkling
music.

Except the “monkey-slipping-tree,” almost every tree in Burmah is
festooned with a creeper,—such wondrous creepers! About the tree trunks
glide snakes, pythons, lizards, chameleons, scorpions, and deadly
centipedes. In the river wallow gruesome alligators.

[Illustration: KING THEEBAW’S STATE BARGE.          _Page 80._]

King Theebaw is no longer in Burmah; but Burmah is foul with his memory,
and the more odious memory of his chief queen, Soo-pyah-lat.

Theebaw came of a race in which insanity had found many a victim. The
kindest thing that can be said of his reign is that it was the reign of
a madman. But for Queen Soo-pyah-lat there is no such possible excuse;
her brain was as clear as her heart was bad.

Theebaw was married to three wives; they were sisters, and were named
Soo-pyah-gyee, Soo-pyah-lat, Soo-pyah-galay; but Soo-pyah-lat was the
real queen, the chief queen, and she ruled her two sisters as well as
Theebaw’s concubines, or “under wives.”

Opium, wine, and liquors were forbidden to the king’s subjects, but not
to the king. His potations were so deep that they will be remembered
when he is forgotten.

“The King is still drinking.” No one thing has ever been said oftener of
any one monarch than that was said of the notorious Theebaw, King of the
Burmans, Suzerain of Mandalay, King of the Rising Sun, Lord of the White
Elephant, the Golden Umbrella, and Lord of Earth and Air. If one tithe
of what has been during the last twenty years written about King Theebaw
is true, if a fraction of what they now say in Burmah of him is true,
why then a worse monarch never sat in absolute power upon a barbaric
throne.

It is a strange fact that the Burmese—the pleasantest, most easy-going
of all nations—were ruled for centuries by a cruel bloodthirsty
dynasty. The predecessor of Theebaw, King Mengdon, seems to have been
rather gifted, but he was shifty and treacherous. King Theebaw—unless
Christian literature has wronged him as it never yet wronged heathen
prince—had every bad quality and no one redeeming one. His orgies, his
debauches, the stories of his “posture girls,” are unequalled in the
chronicles of a continent of which many lurid things have been written.

Things were certainly fast and furious while Theebaw ruled Mandalay. But
I doubt if King Theebaw ever did rule at Mandalay. Queen Soo-pyah-lat
was the veritable potentate; she ruled Theebaw. He had an abundance of
wives, but when he showed any special favour to any wife other than
Soo-pyah-lat, she promptly had that other wife trampled to death by the
royal elephants, or killed in some other equally pleasant way. Then she
would, most probably, take King Theebaw in their state barge for a
little post-dated _lune de miel_. Theebaw seems never for an instant to
have resented, disputed, or resisted Soo-pyah-lat’s supremacy. It was
Queen Soo-pyah-lat who hated the British with an intensity beside which
ordinary Asiatic hatred was nothing. It was Queen Soo-pyah-lat who
forced Theebaw to hold out against the English forces, long after
resistance was worse than vain. On the first of January 1886 King
Theebaw, was finally and absolutely overthrown; but before that date he
had caused England much anxiety and his patient subjects great misery.

How often have the eyes of all England been turned toward that wonderful
palace at Mandalay; and almost invariably the wires flashed to the
nations this message: “The King is still drinking.” Yes, the king was
still drinking. Before his gin-filmed eyes swayed the lithe forms of the
flower-decked “posture girls,” and the palace yard ran blood—the blood
of many victims. Wonderful Burmese carvings glimmered and glinted on the
palace walls, and the big gems rose and fell on the bad queen’s breast.

To me there is something very pathetic about the story of King Theebaw.
He was born to a great opportunity. He became the ruler of a most
charming people, the absolute master of as interesting and as beautiful
a country, and as productive, as any on the globe. And his manhood went
down beneath a bad woman’s jewelled foot—he sold his kingship for a
hogshead of grog; and wherever his name was spoken, men said with
disgust, “The King is still drinking.”

When Theebaw ascended the throne in 1878, an eminent Englishman wrote of
him:—“He is little over twenty. He is a tall, well-built, personable
young man. He is very fair in complexion, has a good forehead, clear
steady eyes, and a firm but pleasant mouth. His chin is full and
somewhat sensual-looking, but withal he is a manly frank-faced young
fellow, and is said to have gained self-possession and left the early
nervous awkwardness of his new position with great rapidity.”

Ah, what a different appearance he presented when he was dethroned in
1886! In eight short years he had committed or countenanced atrocities
that entitle his name to be bracketed with the names of Nero and
Caligula.

It is happy for Burmah that Theebaw and Soo-pyah-lat are gone for ever.
The industrious, happy natives eat their morning, noon, and evening rice
under a gentler, if an alien, rule. But what pictures they must have
made in the days and nights of all their glory—the weak bad king and
his strong bad queen!

Think of them in their state barge. It was a picture in itself. Great
golden gods gleamed and glowered on the segregated prow. One of these
indescribable metallic majesties rode upon a grotesque golden horse; and
gods and horse had for eyes jewels of incredible size. Upon the deck was
a house of precious woods. It rose pagoda-like, and was crowned with a
big gem which, fastened to a strong, slender wire, flashed, above the
barge, like a heaven-sent star. Rare journeys they must have had up and
down the lovely Burmese rivers. There are three great rivers in Burmah.
They rise in the high mountains, where the snows never melt, and they
take their wonderful course to the Indian Ocean. Trees crowd on their
banks,—trees that are golden and red and purple with fruit, and yellow
and white with blossom. The scents of mangoe and pine mingle with the
fainter perfumes of the orange and papaya and plantain. Wild asparagus
lifts its slim feathers everywhere. Yams and sweet potatoes grow in wild
plenty. Down to the river’s edge for drink come huge elephants and the
fierce one-horned rhinoceros. Sleek leopards and striped tigers fight
with the wild hog, and hunt the Indian roe and the axis. Wild-cock,
quail, pheasant, and partridge scurry among the scented under-bush; and
great peacocks spread their wonderful fans amid flowers that are
brighter.

Small wonder if Theebaw and Soo-pyah-lat loved to drift up and down
those wonderful rivers.

[Illustration: BURMESE POSTURE GIRLS.         _Page 85._]

It would be difficult to exaggerate the beauty of the Burmese river
banks; I should like to slip between them on such another boat. They lay
on soft crêpey cushions, did Theebaw and Soo-pyah-lat. They had dainty
fare of green turtles’ eggs and esculent swallows’ nests; they ate
strange salads made of the succulent stems of many aquatic plants and of
shrubs; they dipped their jewelled fingers into big carved bowls of
pickled tea; they skinned and ate odd Oriental fruits; they moored their
glittering barge, and caught the big dates from off the graceful
tamarind trees. Green and purple parrots whirled in the moonlight; and
the blue jays winged their graceful way, haply unconscious that they
must die to feather with their splendid azure the state robes of Chinese
mandarins.

Perhaps they landed sometimes to wander hand in hand through the forests
of priceless teak. Perhaps Soo-pyah-lat rejoiced in the immense masses
of gorgeous yellow flowers, and in the huge leaves that measured twenty
inches from stem to tip. Perchance they called their attendants to cut a
hole in some huge oil tree, and light in it a fire, and watched the oil
flow, that they might realise again how great in natural wealth Burmah
was, and how spontaneously she yielded up her treasure to her sons. When
the great tree—it was one hundred and eighty feet high, and its
circumference was sixteen feet,—when it was emptied of its oil, it was
split into long torches; and by their weird light the king and queen
went back to their waiting boat.

Wherever Theebaw walked, over him was carried the great white umbrella.
Umbrellas are the stars and garters of Burmah—the coats of arms—the
insignia of rank. They are not carried as a protection against rain, but
as a proclamation of degree. The white umbrella was sacred to Buddha and
the king. Only over the head of a statue of the god and the head of the
king could it be opened. To the princes of the blood-royal belonged the
gold umbrella. And every class had its umbrella prescribed of shape and
hue.

I do not know which is the more wonderful, the pagodas of Burmah or its
creeping canes. The latter are sometimes three hundred feet long. They
make splendid ropes; and out of them the deft Burmans and defter Chinese
make all conceivable and many inconceivable things.

There are immensely valuable mines in Burmah whose locality was only
known to Theebaw, his queen, and their few most trusted ministers. When
Theebaw was conquered, just eight years ago, he did not betray the
placement of those natural treasure stores. We have been hunting them
ever since, but without success. It has been recently mooted that
Theebaw might be induced to disclose to us their whereabouts. If the
spirit of Soo-pyah-lat whispers in his ear, he will ask a big price for
his knowledge.



                               CHAPTER X


                           ORIENTAL OBSEQUIES

                           _Burmese Burials_

THE Burmese are very philosophical. They have no belief in another life;
but they make the most of this one. They take everything very
easily—everything but death; they hate to die. That is natural on the
part of a people who enjoy life so thoroughly, and who live in such a
pleasant, sunny land. I have seen a Burmese funeral train in a gale of
merriment, but I have never seen a Burmese man or woman who was willing
to die. They are not afraid of death; but they are unutterably saddened
by it. The Burmese are a tender-hearted, affectionate race, and the most
affecting deathbed parting I ever saw was between a Burmese man and his
dying mother.

A Burmese village burns; the entire property—all the belongings of the
inhabitants, are destroyed. The men set to work and build a theatre on
the smouldering ruins; the women gather plantains from the nearest tree,
until their silk tameins are full; the pretty Burmese children climb the
trees and drop the yellow fruit down into their pretty mothers’ out-held
garments; the men complete the impromptu theatre while the women roast
the fruit. Then they eat, and wash their meal down with brook-water,
with laughter, and with song; then they bathe their hands and lips in
the nearest stream, which is sure not to be far away; then they have a
theatrical performance; and so console themselves for the loss of their
homes and their little earthly all. But, for the loss of a relative or a
close friend they are never consoled. They grieve quietly—which is very
un-Eastern—but they grieve persistently.

When a Burmese dies, messengers are at once sent to all his friends, no
matter how far off those friends live. And all the friends hasten to bid
farewell to the body, to arrange for the funeral, and to console—as
best they may—the bereaved family. All the expenses of a Burmese
funeral are met by voluntary gifts.

I have often thought the Burmese the cleanest people on earth; certainly
they are the cleanest people in the East. They wash their dead with
great care, and several times. The last water used is scented. The
Burmese do not believe in immortality, and yet, like all of us who are
disbelievers, in whatever part of the world we live, they fight their
own unbelief, and, when death touches their near and dear, they indulge
their hurt hearts with many a little ceremony inconsistent with their
scepticism. For instance, they place in the mouth of their dead a little
coin called “ferry hire.” They believe, or try to believe, that death is
a river, and that the waterman requires pay. How the superstitions of
the world repeat themselves! How the Greek imagination dominates the
imaginations of all the gentler peoples.

The body is placed on an uncovered bier, which is laid just out of the
house door. There it remains for three days; but it is never left alone.
Then the body is laid in the coffin. The priests, looking very like
copper-coloured Capuchins, come to conduct the dead to its last resting
place.

[Illustration: PAGODA NEAR MANDALAY.         _Page 88._]

The funeral procession, unlike those of any other Eastern people, is
formed largely of vehicles. The Burmese carts are very odd, and are
fittingly picturesque adjuncts to the most graphically beautiful
landscape in Asia. The carts are drawn by great, handsome oxen. They
have two immense wheels, and an indescribable top. The back of the cart
is curved. The Burmese perch themselves on the seat of their native
vehicles in some mysterious way.

These carts form the first part of the funeral procession. They are
decorated with queer primitive flags and flat paper umbrellas. The
beautiful oxen are usually festooned with flowers; but when they are to
be included in a funeral procession, the flowers are taken off them.
This they often resent; for they are by no means devoid of vanity—these
huge gentle oxen of the East.

After the waggons walk the priests, not less than twenty or thirty. They
carry liver-shaped palm-leaf fans, and the umbrellas peculiar to their
priesthood. They carry rosaries, as do all Chinese priests. The Burmese,
who have many of the Mongolian features, always seemed to me to be the
Chinese grown beautiful.

After the priests walk or ride the mourners. They are dressed in white.

Then comes the funeral cart. It is shaped like a house-boat. It is
covered by a softly coloured silk canopy, and it bristles with umbrellas
and pennants.

The close of the funeral procession is of a nondescript character. It is
a catch-all for waggons, not _en regale_, for priests and friends
crowded out of the procession proper, and for stragglers. By the time
the procession reaches its destination, the irregular cortége behind the
funeral cart is very apt to be twice or thrice the length of the regular
cortége that precedes the carriage of the dead.

When the train halts, the coffin is lifted carefully from the waggon. It
is placed upon the ground, on the spot designated by the priests. Then
water is poured over the coffin, while the priests chant. The Burmese
set great store by water. It is almost their only beverage; and water
must be an important item in the daily life of a people of such
exquisite neatness. They have a yearly Water Festival. It begins on New
Year’s Day, and continues for nearly a week. At daybreak on New Year’s
Day the Burmese go to the nearest of their wonderful pagodas. They throw
water upon it, and pray for a plentiful season. A jar of water is
presented, with great ceremony, to the head priest of the pagoda, and
with a prayer that any wickedness they may have committed during the
past year may be forgiven. Then they have a splendid romp. Most of the
Eastern peoples play like children; and the Burmese are the most
frolicsome race in the Orient. They drench each other with water; and he
who gets wettest confidently expects the most good luck for the ensuing
year. The missionaries say that this is a primitive expression of the
theory of the cleansing of sin by water. It reminded me of the New
Year’s customs of the Chinese. Every Chinaman, who possibly can, pays
all his debts on New Year’s Day. What a festival for the Chinese
tradespeople! It reminded me even more of a German habit. On New Year’s
Day German friends who have quarrelled forgive each other. No Burmese
feud can continue after the principals have drenched each other nicely
with water at the Water Festival. The analogy would be more perfect if
the Burmese were more quarrelsome or the Germans more peaceful. The
Burmese very rarely quarrel among themselves.

After the pouring of water upon the coffin, alms are given to all the
poor present. Then every one is given a dish of pickled tea (by the way,
pickled tea is rather nice—far nicer than pickled cabbage). Other
ceremonies follow—all of a quiet, dignified character. Then the body is
burned—usually in the coffin. The funeral procession slowly wends its
way back. The priests guard sacredly the smouldering pile. Three days
later the relatives return and gather up the ashes. Very occasionally
the ashes are put into urns; but as a rule they are buried.

That is a Burmese burial: the burial of human ashes.

[Illustration: BAND AT A BURMESE THEATRICAL PERFORMANCE.         _Page
90._]

On the tenth day after the burial a great feast is held in honour of the
dead, and as an attempt at cheering the bereaved relatives. A Burmese
feast is a very pretty sight. The meal is usually spread on a very low
table, about which the diners sit—sit on the floor of course. Sometimes
the meal is eaten out of doors. Then the bowls of food are arranged on
the ground. The dishes are intertwined with strings of fragrant flowers.
The Burmese string the blossoms of the sweetest of their flowers on long
threads, and make slender, perfumed flower-ropes, which they wear about
their necks, twist among their hair, hang over their doorways, and with
which they decorate their tables.

Nothing could form a prettier picture than a number of Burmese in
festival dress. Their flower-twined heads, their lithe, graceful bodies,
deftly wrapped in delicately-hued silks, their sleeves of embroidered
net, and their jackets of flowered velvet or of brocaded silk, are
enhanced here and there by milky pearls, by curiously carved gold, by
quaintly wrought silver, by softly blue turquoise, and mystic
moonstones.

Rice is the mainstay of Eastern life. It forms the chief ingredient of
every Burmese meal. The Burmese make delicious curry, but they eat less
curry than the other Eastern races. They call their three principal
meals “morning rice,” “noon rice,” and “evening rice.” A Burmese feast
begins with “sea-swallows’ nests soup.” It is wonderfully nourishing.
The people of Burmah are professed vegetarians. But I have eaten both
fish and flesh when the guest of a Burmese lady, and I believe that both
are eaten by all the people, not excepting the priests. Certainly
elaborate meat and flesh dishes are conspicuous at a Burmese feast, and
on every Burmese table are big jars of pickled tea. They serve an
abundance of savoury yellow cakes and of fruit. They have a hot salad of
cooked vegetables, including “ladies fingers,” “bringel,” tomatoes, and
bamboo tips. There are only three courses in an ordinary funeral
feast—1. Soup. 2. Meats, rice, vegetables, etc. 3. Cakes and fruit.
Each viand is put on the table in one large bowl, out of which every one
present eats (as you or I should have done had we lived in the time of
Chaucer) with their fingers. While they eat, they drink a great deal of
water. After they have washed their hands and lips they smoke. All the
Burmese smoke—men, women, and children. I have seen a mother pacify a
child, who cried for the breast at an inopportune moment, by giving him
her cigar, and the baby made a rather successful attempt to puff it. The
Burmese cigars are very large, but they are extremely mild. They are
made of a large green native leaf. They are so gentle that I often
wondered why the Burmese were so fond of them. Perhaps it is well that
their cigars are so gentle and nicotinless, for the Burmese are the most
inveterate smokers in the world.



                               CHAPTER XI


                           ORIENTAL NUPTIALS

                           _Burmese Bridals_

IN Burmah, marriage is not a failure; it is a stupendous success. The
Burmese women are sweetly pretty. They have dainty ways and happy faces.
It would be very ungrateful of them to be less than happy, for they hold
a position unique among the women of the East. I know of but one other
race of women who are upon so entire an equality, socially, legally, and
financially, with men as are the Burmese women,—the American woman is
as free as the Burmese woman, but no more so,—the best type of the most
typically American women I mean. The women who are only half American,
the women in whose families old European customs are family law, are not
nearly so free as the pretty women-folk of Burmah.

There is no religious ceremony connected with a Burmese marriage. The
Burmese do not—in theory at least—regard marriage as a blessing; and
yet I know no other country in the world in which so overwhelming a
proportion of marriages are extremely happy. I never knew a Burmese
husband and wife to quarrel, and Europeans who have spent many years
among the Burmese tell me that such quarrels are almost unknown. This
may be, in part, because the Burmese are dowered with kind, easy-going,
affectionate, faithful temperaments.

The Burmese are tenderly devoted to their children. A common love of
little children cements many a broken marriage, strengthens many a real
love—the world over. But I believe that the reason of reasons for the
universality of happy marriages in Burmah is the sensible way in which
marriage is undertaken and the just way in which it is carried out. We
women of Europe cry out for enfranchisement—cry with shrill, sharp
voices; and I fancy that the more liberty we get the more unfeminine we
grow. In America, we are sadly spoiled, I fear. We have grown fond of
cushions and of sweetmeats. The Burmese women teach an invaluable
lesson—if the women of America and the women of Europe would learn it.
They are on as absolute an equality with men as nature will permit. All
the equality that man can give woman he has given her in Burmah; the
women of Europe can not well ask for more. But if the women of Europe
get all the equality that they want, will they wear it as delicately and
with as much dignity as do the heathen women of Burmah? I fear not. The
Burmese women are as graceful as the women of Japan; as gentle, as
lovable as the women of Denmark; as vivacious as the women of France; as
capable as the women of America, and as feminine as the women of England
at their best: the women who do not aspire to do man’s work and neglect
their own. The women of Burmah accept gracefully the limitations of
nature,—that is the great, great lesson they can teach the women of
England. The limitless consideration of the Burmese men for the Burmese
women has not enervated the women of Burmah. The Burmese women, though
they never bustle, are never loud-mouthed, are never slovenly, yet
are—within reasonable, intelligent limits—the most energetic, the most
industrious women in the world. Petting has not spoiled the women of
Burmah. That is the great, great lesson they have for the women of
America.

[Illustration: BURMESE MOTHER AND CHILD.         _Page 94._]

The marriage yoke rests as easily upon the Burmese necks as a wreath of
roses—for the man and wife pull equally, pull together. Each does his
or her fair part. Each remembers always the rights of the other.
Courtesy and justice are big ingredients in Burmese married life. Small
wonder that in Burmah marriage is a big success.

If the position of the Burmese women is unique, the position of the
Burmese children is unparalleled and almost indescribable. Filial piety
is almost as much a matter of religion in Burmah as in China. On the
other hand, parental coercion is more unknown in Burmah than in the
United States. Burmese children never disobey, but Burmese parents
almost never command; family affection is very strong in Burmah. But the
law of love is the only law known in the home circle. When a girl
reaches a marriageable age—when she has reached young-womanhood and
feels inclined for the greater womanhood of marriage—she very simply
places a light in her own particular casement; then the would-be
Benedicts gather about her. Night after night they “call.” Night after
night she and her parents receive them. The Burmese women are always
most careful in their toilets; but at this period their care becomes
superlative. The Burmese women are always pretty; their taste in dress
is exquisite; and when a Burmese maiden lights the invitational lamp and
sits down to await her suitors, she makes a picture of pretty humanity,
of which we women of Europe may well be envious.

“Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.” I wonder if that
is true. It is musical, it is big with poetry. It pointed a great truth
as Tennyson wrote it. It fell from his pen a truth. But take it alone,
tear it from its high place in English literature; of itself, by itself,
is it true? I have doubts, petty perhaps, but forcibly pertinacious. The
marriage question—that El Dorado of the farthing-a-liners—Ah! there is
no marriage question in Cathay. The women of the East are married, and
they find their happiness in marriage—they never analyse it. They know
as little of elective affinities and of natural selection as do the
perfumed flowers of the Orient. Perhaps they know as much. It is a very
fine thing to discuss marriage in all its imperfections, it is far finer
to experience it in all its perfection. And the women of the Orient, who
never talk of marriage because they are not enough advanced, experience
it and seem to find it rather perfect. What has the world given women,
what has civilisation, education, given them; what can life give them
better than marriage? Nothing! The past gave us nothing, the present
gives us nothing, and in the mysterious bosom of the future lies for us
no greater benison than marriage. Sneer senseless men and unsexed women,
but that is truth, Nature’s greatest truth!

[Illustration: BURMESE MUSICIANS.         _Page 97._]

The Burmese maiden who desires marriage, and tells it through her pretty
lamp, is not over bold, nor does she seem so to her countrymen. The
Burmese regard marriage as so much a woman’s greatest right—they so
entirely believe it to be her highest and best career—that the girl who
announces her readiness for marriage is neither ashamed nor shamed. Let
us look at her for a moment as she sits quietly within her father’s
doorway. Her lamp is lit. The suitors are coming. Yes, she is vastly
pretty. Her long black hair is quaintly, carefully, but not grotesquely
dressed; it is softly perfumed, and fresh, dewy flowers rest amid its
silken coils. Every feature is pretty, but prettiest are her dainty ears
and her small hands and feet. In her ears gleam twin pearls and rubies,
and her little hands are heavy with the same gems. The people of the
East are peculiarly fond of pearls. The fondness culminates in China.
The pearls of the world are worn by the beauties of Canton and Pekin.
The Burmese have all the fine tastes of the Chinese, and none of their
personal ugliness. The women of Burmah wear pearls less profusely than
do the women of China, but they become them more. Mah Me wears a
petticoat, a graceful silken petticoat. It has been woven in a Burmese
loom. The colours are bright and varied, but they are matchlessly
blended, and the pattern is as exquisite as it is Oriental. An outer
skirt (indeed it is a straight piece of soft silk) falls above the
petticoat. It is a soft, bright pink, it is striped with dull, dark
colours, and with gold and silver threads. It falls behind Mah Me in a
pretty demi-train way. Under her arms is folded a broad band of red
silk; it forms a pretty, simple, bodice and keeps in place the pretty,
simple skirts. A sheer muslin jacket covers her shoulders and her upper
arms. It is open from her bosom. She half wears, half carries, a blue
and silver shawl. Her soft brown neck is modestly covered by chains of
purest gold, in which glitter the gems of Burmah—gems dug from the
invaluable mines for which we are so eagerly looking.

Mah Me is smoking a big Burmese cigar. The Burmese cigars look very
formidable, but in reality they are the mildest of weeds. But the
Burmans are devoted to them, and only cease to smoke when they sleep.
To-night is her first night “at home to suitors.” A dozen or more will
probably come. She will give them pickled tea, and they will chat and
sing and play upon their tinkling native instruments. Every Burman is a
musician, skilful and inveterate, if somewhat primitive. The Burmese,
unlike the other Oriental peoples, do not drink tea, they eat it. I
dislike tea as a beverage, but I liked it as a viand. The Burmese pickle
it with oil and garlic. As rice is the staff of Burmese life, so is
pickled tea the dish of Burmese ceremony; so Mah Me gives her suitors
pickled tea. Night after night they come, until she smiles on one more
than on his fellows, then their ranks thin; the favoured remains, the
others go; the betrothal is accomplished; the mothers of the young
couple confer; the bridegroom presents his bride with a dowry; the
marriage is celebrated by a feast; the bride and bridegroom sit side by
side and eat from one dish. No marriage ceremony could be simpler, none
could be more significant. On the marriage night, the friends who have
partaken of the marriage feast pelt the house with stones. This
musicless serenade is kept up for an incredible time, but the silence
and the dark come at last, and the young husband and wife drift quietly
into the happiness of peaceful Burmese married life.

I have sometimes thought, when looking at the Burmese women, that
perhaps one secret of the constant affection of the Burmese husbands was
the constant neatness of the Burmese wives. No one, I believe, has ever
seen a Burmese woman untidy; their persons and their garments are always
fresh, bright, and spotless.

Some one asked me recently, “what about divorce in Burmah?” I never
heard of divorce in Burmah. I am not, of course, prepared to say that
there is no such thing; but certainly it is very rare. When it is
necessary, I daresay they deal with it as simply and as sensibly as they
do with marriage. But the only divorce of which they are very generally
cognisant is the great divorce, the divorce decreed by death.

[Illustration: BHÂMO WOMEN.         _Page 99._]

We have conquered the Burmese; true, but they have conquered the
marriage question, they have solved it,—they have conquered it and
solved it without knowing of its existence. They are heathens; true, but
they are happy in their home lives. May they never learn the weird
Western secret of marital misery. There is much for us to learn in the
Orient, but none of it is more important than the beautiful lesson of
married happiness that is taught by Burmah. There is much in Burmah that
is most imperfect, but in the relative positions of the sexes it is
ideal.



                              CHAPTER XII


    A JAUNT IN A HOUSE-BOAT—THROUGH THE HOME OF THE WILD WHITE ROSE

I HAVE been lying in a steamer chair, in which I have crossed half the
large bodies of water in the world, and trying to recall the absolute
stillness of the night I drove from the theatre in Shanghai to the canal
up which we were going into China,—Chinese China, I mean; not
semi-European China! Nothing moved. The crunching of our carriage wheels
was the only sound we heard. The pungent Chinese flowers scented the
air, and the clear moonlight brocaded the white ground with sharp black
shadows of the blue wistarias.

Many weeks’ hard work was over. We had been playing bravely through the
hot Chinese summer; now we were going to have a rest. This was one of
our delightful little vacations, all the sweeter for being stolen, as
they almost invariably were; and to which I look back as the Swiss going
into exile looks back to the high white peaks of his native mountains.
We can recall several years very full of hard work. But we can also
recall days of rest we snatched from our own busy life as it rushed by
us—days when we were free and breathed new air.

China is intersected with canals, as an oak leaf is netted with veins.
Every primitive people has its favourite mode of travel. The travelling
Chinaman goes in a house-boat, a junk, or a sampan; and the European who
would pierce beyond the outer edge of China must adopt the Chinaman’s
method of journeying,—there is no other way to get into China.

A delightful fellow, who lived in Shanghai, was supping with us one
night. My husband spoke of my mania for seeing queer places, and told
how I had gone in Hong-Kong where no European woman had been before me;
of how I had gone into the Burra Bazaar in Calcutta at midnight, and
told of a hundred other follies, for which I had been soundly scolded at
the time, but which I had thoroughly enjoyed, and remember with
considerable pleasure.

Mr. Brown said, “Would you like to go in a house-boat up one of the
canals into Chinese China, where Europeans almost never go?”

I was overjoyed at the suggestion. There were two difficulties in our
way, but woman-like I ignored them, and man-like they overcame them. The
first difficulty was that we were playing six nights a week, and the
second was that the house-boat was very small and had only one cabin. My
husband agreed to give our company a short holiday. Mr. Brown suggested
that they two could sleep on deck, or if it turned cold, a curtain could
be stretched across the tiny cabin. We were to go, and I was happy.

It was about one in the morning when we reached the boat. It was a funny
little bark, and looked as if it had been carved from a big Chinese nut.
The moonlight was so bright that we could see the faces of the scantily
clad coolies who lay on the deck. They were our sailors. There were only
two servants, the cook and Mr. Brown’s “boy,” who was to act as butler
and general factotum. They stood waiting for us, their bare feet hidden
by the coarse Chinese grass that grew on the banks, their long cues
beautifully braided and finished with red cotton, and their long blue
garments (for all the world like pinafores) new laundried.

I was asked once more if I were afraid—if I really wanted to go; then
our carriage turned back, and we went on board.

The sailors undid our moorings. They took up their long poles, and we
moved on through the moonlit darkness. We stood on deck a few moments
before we went down to supper. We were alone with the night, and with
China. I leaned over the rail and felt that I was the only European
woman in China; those in Shanghai and in Hong-Kong didn’t count, no, nor
even those in Sha-mien. But _I_ was in China, and I was going up, up
into the forbidden country.

Mr. Brown made me go below. What a capital host he was; and what a funny
little cabin. There was a table a little smaller than that at which I’m
writing, and there were seats round the cabin’s sides, a bunk at one
end, and that was all. No not all: there were red curtains at the
windows; there were cushions on the seats; there were satin heaps of
eider down on the one bunk (my bunk); there was a vase of flowers; and
Ah Loon was bringing in the supper.

We had a pigeon pie that would have done credit to the Langham; we had
an omelet in which the blessed cook had stirred _pâté de foie gras_; we
had anchovy sandwiches and salad. The men sipped whisky and water as men
will, and I had some champagne. We had some easy talk, but not for long.
Two of us were tired, so after going on deck for one more look at the
moon-bathed shore and the queer sailors, I said “good-night” and went
below. Ah Loon had taken away the supper and pulled down the little red
curtains. He had dived into my bag and laid out my kimono. I put it on,
pulled up the curtains, put out the lights, and climbed into my
throne-like bed. Yes; and I was as happy as a queen!

I have found that natives and monkeys warm to one who goes among them
fearlessly. And then it would have meant such bitter reckoning for those
sailors if any ill thing had befallen us. The night was still, the
moonlight accented everything, but no leaf moved. Two sounds broke the
stillness now and again. As we passed some temple the tom-toms clashed
out the brazen prayer of the priest who was spending the night in
worship; then as we passed some other boat, our boatmen cried out, in
Chinese, “Make way, make way for us; we have distinguished foreigners
aboard.” I tucked the eider down more cosily about me and sank back,
drowsy with the delicious luxury of being called a “distinguished
foreigner.” A sweet, mild smell of tobacco came from the deck like a
last good-night from my husband and our host. I dozed, then I woke to
feel a faint perfume creep across my face, it was my welcome into China;
it was the scent of the wild white rose.

When I woke in the morning Ah Loon was brightening the cabin with
Oriental disregard of narrow European bedchamber sanctities.

“You sleep wellie?” he said. “I bling you tea decky or you dlinky in
bedie? They gone decky, they done washie.”

I had my tea in bed, and then I induced him to leave the room. The cabin
was sweet with yellow jasmine. One of the sailors had swam ashore to
pull it. I dressed myself, but my boots were gone. I found them in the
cook-house with Ah Loon. He refused to part with them. So I had to take
him back to the cabin and let him button them for me. He wanted to
“dlessie” my “hailie” but I postponed that.

All day we went on through panoramaed details of Chinese life. In one
place big-leaved tobacco plants grew almost to the canal’s edge. The
coolies who were cultivating the field rested from their work to look at
us. It was quite a shock to me to see tobacco untended by American
darkies. A sudden shower drove us below, and made the coolies bundle
into their odd rain-coats. These garments are made of long, coarse
grass. They make one think of the old nursery rhyme, “The beggars are
come to town,” but they keep their wearers dry and they are very light.

Breakfast was ready. The French and the Chinese make the best coffee in
the world. The Chinese are excellent cooks; ours had been borrowed from
the “Shanghai Club,” and he was, what it is a crime for a cook not to
be, an artist. He had done some delightful things with fresh fish, and
he had made a _suprême_ of chicken breasts in which tomatoes, mushrooms,
and olives were mingled with the happiest result. The Chinese fruits (of
course we ended our meal with fruit) are delicious. And you can’t eat
them out of China. They are as pertinacious in their love of home as the
Chinamen themselves. You can buy liches at Covent Garden—dried liches,
but they are no more like the big pink-green fruit you eat in China than
the toy pagoda you buy at the Lowther Arcade is like the great pagoda at
Canton. After breakfast I went and tried to make friends with the cook.
He was crouching over a little naphtha stove. The weird, blue flame made
the six feet by seven kitchen look like a baby “Blue Grotto” and it
threw a purple haze about yellow Yen Yang that turned him into a
picturesque demon. He failed to make me over-welcome, and the sickly
smell of the naphtha disgusted me; so I went back to the cabin.

The rain was over. We went on deck. We were just in time to see a dozen
or more Chinamen of the better class clustered about the base of an old
Pagoda. “Loong Hwa” it was called I think, and it had a long interesting
history. We passed acres and acres of rice, in different stages of
growth. In many of the fields men, women, and children stood knee deep
in the water without which the young rice won’t grow. Then we passed
through a strange crowded city. The “Soochow” canal, on which we were,
seemed to be the city’s principal street. Shops and houses were huddled
together indiscriminately. All were open to the view of passers-by, and
all were swarming with life. The buildings were of brick, of mud, of
wood, and of bamboo. The roofs, which were invariably peaked, were
covered with anything and everything; matting, broken flower pots,
grass, tiles, and fifty other materials. On half the roofs children were
playing or sleeping. Outside a shop, in which a “red button mandarin”
was making a purchase, waited his little body-guard of seven soldiers;
six of them carried round bamboo shields, and one bore his flag. We
passed a famous Chinese temple and paused a little to study a wonderful
idol on the outer wall. It was in _bas relief_, and tinted with every
colour on the Chinese palette.

All that day and all the next—all that night and all the next—we went
on through “that old world which was to us the new.” I have not space
for even passing mention of half the wonders I saw. My pen must skip
much that I shall always remember. But I must not omit a passing
description of our wine-cellar. Three ropes trailed behind our
house-boat. They hung low in the water—one was weighted with a bottle
of beer; one was heavy with a bottle of claret; and one sunk deep in the
cool stream because a bottle of champagne was tied to it. It was the
duty of a half-grown Chinese boy to watch those ropes, and to watch a
grass bag filled with bottles of soda-water which hung over one side.
When a bottle was pulled in, another replaced it; and all our drink was
beautifully cool.

On the third morning we landed. I had to walk across a thick bamboo
pole, which they threw from the deck to the bank. I toddled like a
“small-footed” woman of the best Chinese society; and I should have
fallen had not Mr. Brown on shore and my husband on the boat, held the
two ends of a tightly stretched-rope. I steadied myself by holding to it
with one hand. And I stood in China!

We had a long walk before us—a walk up to where Rome sat enthroned on
the Chinese hills; for we were going to a cathedral presided over by an
eminent Roman Catholic prelate. We had gone about a quarter of a mile,
climbing over rocks, breaking through tangling flowers and shrubs, when
we came upon a sea of perfumed beauty. We had reached the home of the
wild white rose.

Eighteen years before, at Heidelberg, my father found and gave me a wild
white rose. It was the first wild white rose we had ever seen, and,
though William Black tells of wild white roses in England, my father
never saw another. Now I saw a wilderness of wild white roses at my
feet. They lay like unmelting snow-flakes on the breast of the Chinese
summer. We went on, up the hills. We passed through three or four
Chinese farmyards. No one molested us, and they scarcely looked at us,
though Europeans were almost unknown there. Chinese dignity is
imperturbable.

I grew tired. A woman who was hulling corn gave me a glass of milk. But
when my two comrades intimated that they too were tired and thirsty, she
shook her head and frowned. Who shall say that the women of the Orient
are not emancipated?

Half-way up the hill we stopped and looked across China.
Green—green—green! Rice—rice—rice! The food of the nation was
growing on the land of the people. Every known and unknown shade of
green was there. The boundaries of each farm were cleanly outlined; and
in the atmosphere, as clear as that of Italy, we could see for miles and
miles; far in the distance the green fields and the blue sky melted into
each other—making by their mingling a lovely indescribable gray.

We had reached a little chapel. Over the doorway was a crucifix. On the
hill above stood a white cathedral. It would have adorned any street in
Paris or Vienna; and the great gold cross that tipped it flashed like
intersecting rainbows in the noon-day sun.

We waited in the chapel while our cards were sent up to the fathers. The
walls were hung with Scriptural texts (in Chinese characters) and
Biblical illustrations from a Mongolian point of view. Joseph, and a
greater than Joseph, wore “pigtails,” and Mary had “little feet,” and
the ample trousers of a Chinese woman. I have noticed all over the world
that the Church of Rome is very wise in her concessions to the peoples
she would convert. She adapts her teachings to the language her hearers
can easiest understand.

Our messenger came back. The fathers were in retreat, and of course
could not see us; least of all could they see me. But the head of their
order kindly sent me down his “chair,” and two coolies to carry me up to
the cathedral. I appreciated that courtesy, before we reached the top;
for my husband and our friend found the climb very hard. The steep steps
were cut in the rock in a manner typical of the Journey to the Cross.
The first set of steps bore upward to the right; then a rude shrine was
cut in the rocks. That represented the first station. The next set of
steps bore upward to the left; then another niche represented the second
station. The third set of steps bore upward to the right; the fourth
bore upward to the left. There were twelve sets of steps, and at the end
of each a holy lamp burned in front of a niche frescoed with the
pictures that you will find in every illustrated Roman Catholic
prayer-book. From the last station three broad, easy steps led into the
beautiful cathedral. There were no pews; mats lay upon the mosaic floor.
The huge building was empty. At the door the marble basins held holy
water unrippled by devout fingers. The altar-piece was wonderfully fine,
and reminded me of the admirable figure of Mary on the high altar of the
cathedral in Montreal.

We lingered a long time in the cool, vacant fane, speaking in hushed
tones of the vast enterprise of Rome. Her priests have made practically
no converts in China; and they know it. But they persist. They spare no
expense, count no cost of life; because they believe that in after
generations they shall have so permeated Chinese life with Roman
Catholic thought that real conversion of the Chinese may be possible. I
am not a Roman Catholic; but the longer I live—the farther I
travel—the more deeply I respect the Church of Rome. She sent her
Sisters of Charity into the battlefields of old Europe; she has
encouraged art and literature when, but for her, they must have
perished; and her pioneers press always in the advance guard of
civilisation.

It was sunset when we returned to our house-boat. We seized upon the
dinner table. I had had a glass of milk since breakfast, and the
hospitable priests had sent us a light lunch into their outer garden;
but we had climbed eight miles at least; the men had walked up and down
the long, steep steps leading to the cathedral; and we were very hungry.

We went on deck for coffee. We had begun our return journey. I tried to
paint the sunset. How I failed! Red melted into orange, and warm violet
faded to cold green, before I could fix either to my half liking. A few
miles down, the canal widened into a lake. We waited there a little to
watch some novel fishing. On the centre of the lake were three or four
motionless sampans; in each were two or three Chinamen; but the
fishermen were huge cormorants. Each man had two birds; each bird was
fastened, by one foot, to a long string, the other end of which was
secured to the Chinaman’s wrist; each bird had a metal ring about his
throat, to prevent his swallowing the fish he caught. The birds sat on
the edge of the sampans, peering intently into the water. Suddenly one
would plunge into the water, coming up almost instantly, with a silver
fish gleaming in its cruel beak. The cormorants never made a mistake. It
was only after a fierce fight that they could be made to relinquish
their prey; and the men who had them in charge had many a torn finger.
When the boats were full, the men poled to the shore. The birds were
carried some distance from the sampans; the rings were taken from their
necks; and they were given a few of the fish they had been used to
catch. I have seen few sights more weird, more distinctively odd, than
the fishing cormorants of China.

An hour later—it was still bright and light—we passed through a
Chinese town. A high picturesque bridge that spanned the canal was
teeming with people. It was the Chinese hour of rest; the Chinese (the
busiest people on the globe) were doing nothing but enjoying themselves.
They were all talking—their language is never musical, but it is
characteristic.

I have heard a great deal of Chinese antagonism to Europeans; I have
never witnessed it. Friends have told me of hair-breadth escapes from
Chinese mobs, and of loathsomely insulting language to which they have
been subjected by the Chinese. My experience has been quite to the
contrary. I have traversed the length and breadth of the island of
Hong-Kong alone, but for my ’rickshaw coolie. I have gone down into the
depths of old Shanghai; and I have stood, one of three Europeans, in the
midst of ten thousand Cantonese, and I have received courteous
kindness—nothing else. I have had them laugh at me. A woman in Canton
crept up to me and felt the strange European texture of my dress; a
woman in Shanghai begged a glove from me—giving me a ring in return. I
have had presents, unsolicited and unrequited, from almost every class
of Chinese. As we passed beneath the big red bridge, a girl leaned over
the parapet and threw a bunch of sweet-briar into my lap. In reporting
my days in China, I must report unbroken kindness; for no grown woman
can be expected to count the fact that, as she sat on the deck of a
house-boat, half-a-dozen Chinese urchins called out, “La-le-lung!
La-le-lung!” That means a thief, a liar, and something else as
complimentary. And one boy called after us, “Fankwai!” which means
foreign devil. But the delightful frankness of the small boy is too
world-wide to be laid at the door of China; and to me a small boy is the
most delicious animal in the wide world; and I can forgive him sins much
more grievous than calling me a “foreign devil.”

We didn’t land where we had embarked a few nights before. We kept on
down through the entrance to the Soochow creek. There the native houses,
with their queerly ventilated walls, clustered in indescribable
confusion. The roof of every Chinese building is peaked liked the prow
of an ancient ship. I have often wished for leisure to study Chinese
architecture, the few theories I have heard about its peculiarities are
so interesting.

We forced our way through a multitude of native boats, out into the
fresh breezes of the open water,—we were in the river. We made for the
harbour.

We were back in Shanghai; our happy holiday was over. I shall always
hold Mr. Brown’s memory very blessed; and remember as one of the most
pleasant and unique experiences of my life our jaunt in a house-boat
through the home of the Wild White Rose.



                              CHAPTER XIII


                        AN OPIUM DEN IN SHANGHAI

THERE are two Shanghais. New Shanghai is under the control of three
Western powers. Over one section of it floats the French Tricolour; over
another part waves the Stars and Stripes of the United States; above the
third flies the Union Jack. The Chinese who live in New Shanghai are
more or less Europeanised; they speak “pidgen” English or a quaint
burlesque French. They adapt themselves to their pale neighbours—in
many ways, I have eaten in Shanghai with a Chinaman who was deft in his
use of knife and fork. The opium “joints” of New Shanghai are not
typical Chinese opium houses any more than if they were in “China-town”
in San Francisco or in Melbourne. They are so modified for the
convenience of their European habitués that, at the most, they are but
half Mongolian.

In Old Shanghai it is all very different. Drive a few miles—a very
few—from the luxurious European Club; leave your carriage when you come
to a bamboo bridge it may not cross; pass over that bridge; go through
the gate-way of the old city wall; and you are in China!—real
China!—old China, where ancient customs hold their own; where nothing
changes. You pass through that gate by sufferance. Don’t swagger down
those dirty narrow streets. The flag that tops your consulate casts no
protecting shadow here.

At night, Old Shanghai is shut to Europeans. But we went there one
night, armed with especial permission, and escorted by three
white-button mandarins; and, perhaps I ought to add, forbidden by our
Consul.

[Illustration: CITY WALL, OLD SHANGHAI.         _Page 112._]

We saw several opium dens. They varied in their degrees of luxury, but
they were all alike in being vastly unlike anything we had seen in New
Shanghai or in Occidental “China-towns.”

In the humblest of the “joints” we visited in Old Shanghai, on trestles,
some made of wood, some made of bamboo, lay long boards; every alternate
trestle was higher than those next it; this made an incline. The smokers
lay on these inclined boards, their heads at the higher ends, their feet
at the lower; under their heads were hard, small, native pillows; and
between each two smokers was placed a small bamboo cabinet that held the
_impedimenta_ of their dissipation.

Is opium smoking a dissipation? Yes—if it is smoked to excess, and at
the wrong time. But I have lived too long in the East not to feel that
opium has a place—an essential place—in the economy of the Orient.
That we should wean Asia from the use of opium is impossible; that we
are trying, is preposterous; worst of all, we are making ourselves
ridiculous.

The opium den was quiet and decorous. The air was heavy with a peculiar,
pleasant sweetness. The smokers were in different stages of the opium
pleasure; but they were all well-behaved and inoffensive. Would they
have been so had whisky been the form of their indulgence? In a few
hours they would resume the heavy burdens of their poverty-stricken
lives, rested but not enervated. Gin would not have left them so
unharmed!

The outer room, through which we had passed, was of course devoted to
gambling. The Chinaman stimulates his intellect as much by his incessant
playing of intricate games of chance as he stupefies it by his frequent
use of opium.

I have been asked if Chinese women smoke. I believe that they do,—very
much as European women smoke. Their smoking of opium is by no means
universal, nor do they smoke it to excess, nor in its strength. When the
feet of the small-footed women are being bound, I believe that they use
opium rather more than at other times.

That the national use of opium has not dulled the national intellect
must be the testimony of every truthful European who has ever tried to
get the better, in a bargain, of a Chinese man, woman, or child. That
the national use of opium has undermined the national health surely will
be said by no one who has gone through China with eyes half open.

As we drove home, I felt that we had in no way been “slumming”; but
rather that we had been peeping at the interesting real life of a
wonderful people.

Our Consul gave us marrow-bones for supper, and said to me—“You will
burrow once too often into the bowels of the Orient”; but I never did.

I know nothing of the great international issues staked upon England’s
ultimate answer to the Opium Question. I am too lazy (or too wise) to
attempt the quick solving of a problem that has baffled many a wise man
throughout a lifetime. But I know something of the human interests at
stake; and humanitarianism is so much more than internationalism that I
venture to speak _re_ this well-worn subject.

Opium has been a great blessing to Asia, and is so now. True, it is
sometimes used to excess in the East. Here, I have known Englishmen to
make themselves very ill by over-consumption of roast beef and Yorkshire
pudding; Italian noblemen have grown gross from repeated over-feeds of
macaroni; Italian peasants have become disgustingly fat on black bread
and garlic.

Some Chinamen, some Indians, use too much opium; but (we must bear in
mind the enormous populations of both countries) they are the
exceptions, not the rule. The people of the East are naturally moderate.
They are languid, and languor does nothing to excess. In India, in the
Straits Settlements, or in China, a coolie goes bravely to work, after
an enormous meal of rice and curry. Curry is a positive stimulant, a
non-intoxicant stimulant! After some hours the coolie feels a little
less like work; but his work is not half done. He thrusts his hand into
one of the many mysterious recesses of his dirty loin cloth; he draws
forth a yellowish ball, about the size of a wickedly big pill. It is not
opium, but it contains opium. He thrusts it beneath his tongue. He does
not grow sleepy; he does not grow momentarily less intelligent; but his
work grows lighter. His evening-rice does not seem so sadly far off. The
opium ball (ball tinged with opium, to speak correctly rather than
colloquially)—the opium ball has made his flesh as strong temporarily
as his patient Oriental spirit is always willing. The effect of the
opium passes away. His work is over. His curry and rice is ready. He
goes home to it, and to his gentle, meek, contented womankind, no jot
the worse for his little indulgence. Had he worked on with tingling
nerves, and trembling limbs, and craving stomach, he would have been in
a miserable state physically.

Again, I acknowledge that the people of the East sometimes take opium in
injurious and disgraceful quantities, but they are an infinitesimal
proportion. Here in Europe people occasionally select the pleasantest
means of committing suicide, and lull themselves into eternal slumber
with chloroform. For their silly sakes (I might say brave sakes, did I
care to deal with two controversies at once)—for their sakes shall we
do away with chloroform, and make the operating rooms of our hospitals
the hells of horrors they were sixty years ago?

It has often been in my heart to advocate the moderate use of opium for
our own working classes. I have not done so for three reasons. In the
first place I am an unknown woman with an unestablished pen. Who would
listen to me merely because I love Asia and wish Europe well? Secondly,
I am a moral coward; I shrink from the contumely of my own people. Last
of all, and most of all, I doubt if our poor could be so trusted, as can
the people of the Orient, with a drug which is blessing or curse as it
is wisely or unwisely used. Self-denial has become by long usage second
nature to the children of the East. Our Anglo-Saxon poor drain their
pewter mugs to the dregs.

The other day at the British Museum, when searching for exact and
reliable information on a nice point of Oriental law, I had the
misfortune to come across a maudlin book written by a missionary. I
condemn the book, not because of its author’s calling, but because it
was written in a narrow spirit, and in dense ignorance of the subject
embodied in its title. Among other things calculated to rather startle
one who knows the East and loves it, the writer gravely proposed that we
should subjugate “wicked China” by influencing the Chinese to a much
larger use of opium. In Europe the victims of nameless crimes are
sometimes drugged into drunken acquiescence; but I am sure that most
Christians would advocate a conversion of the heathen more intelligently
voluntary on the part of the converts.

Let us speak the truth about Asia or be silent; let us be just to India
at least. There are many subjects vitally important to Her Majesty’s
brown people, subjects intimately connected with their home lives and
their physical well-being, of which most of us know nothing. If we are
too indolent or too indifferent to inform ourselves on those subjects in
the only adequate way—I mean by a long, studious, and sympathetic
residence in India—why then, in the great name of humanity and the name
of Anglo-Saxon justice, let us leave bad enough alone.

There are two classes of men who should not be allowed to write, or at
all events to print. In our profession we always know that a company has
fallen upon very hard times indeed when His Majesty the stage manager is
cast for a part. There are analogous reasons and as strong why an editor
should never dip his pen into the ink-filled well save to write,
“Returned with thanks,” or “Please reduce this charming article from
three columns to one.”

_Re_ writing editors, I have said as much as I dare. “_Re_ writing”
missionaries, please let me speak. Why are they missionaries? What do
they as missionaries accomplish? I have not devoted enough time to
either question, nor have I asked those questions with enough sympathy,
to feel justified in answering. The nineteenth century must work out its
own salvation if it can, and the overplus of Anglo-Saxon population must
find relief and breathing room in many a foreign clime, and through the
channel of many a debatable occupation.

I am dumb before the mass of missionaries and the missionary question.
But against the missionaries who write, not narrow tracts, but
unnecessary and incorrect essays on Eastern peoples and customs, I now
and here wage war.

A missionary goes to Asia, perhaps to sacrifice his life, perhaps to
better his condition. In one thing at least he is sincere—in his
condemnation of the religions of the East. Of these religions he knows
nothing; but the missionary is not perhaps quite so unreasonable as he
appears, for he expects the “native” to accept Christianity as blindly
and as ignorantly as he himself condemns Buddhism, Confucianism, and a
hundred other creeds of which he does not even know the names. I do not
blame the missionary; we all think as keenly as we can, and our thought
is only limited by our circumstances and our capacity.

My quarrel with the missionary is a personal one. I protest against his
ignorance of modes Oriental being perpetuated in type.

I am reading now in the British Museum,—reading to increase my
knowledge of the hemisphere I love. I select from the catalogue thirteen
books. I go to my seat, the books are brought; twelve are written by
missionaries, and they abound in statements so preposterously inaccurate
that even my partial information balks at them.

The man who devotes his life to the study of microbes does not attempt,
when he retires from active practice, to crown his life’s work by
writing an exhaustive treatise on the Law of Evidence. A great Q.C.
rarely spends his old age in the authorship of a book on hip-disease. We
live in an age of specialists; but the missionary, at least the literary
missionary, is a man apart,—he deals in generalities, and they don’t
even glitter.

I came across a book the other day, or rather it came across me. It had
been written by a most estimable man, and it was a most wonderful and
ingenious jumble of lapidarian lore, of geological research, and of the
history of Christianity in Ceylon. It was a book supremely calculated to
exasperate an enthusiastic lapidarian who was indifferent to things
sacred; but then, of course, such a man requires exasperating. But it
occurred to me that it might be equally calculated to embarrass and
puzzle the devout reader who was more religiously minded than generally
well-informed.

I am not jibing at missionaries. Some of the most charming people that I
have met in India were missionaries; and though we radically differed in
much that was to them of the first importance, I found every cause to
respect their intelligence, their mentalities, and their lives.

I spent a good deal of time in the Leper Asylum at Subathu, and learned
a vast deal from the missionary in charge of it, and from his wife. What
a book of intense interest they could write!—for I am sure that they
have too much character to write about what they do not understand; I am
sure that they have too much literary good taste to make a heterogeneous
mixture of theology and irrelevant Orientalism. They both write well,
for I have had charming letters from them both.

But the literary missionary _per se_—the man who knows superficially
one thing and writes books about everything—he ought to be
extinguished.



                              CHAPTER XIV


                         MEMORIES OF HONG-KONG

HONG-KONG exemplifies the national reserve of two great nations.
Hong-Kong is the home of countless Chinamen, and the residence of many
Englishmen, but the two know little of each other.

After having lived for some months in Hong-Kong, I have concluded that
there are no two nations, one Oriental and the other Occidental, that so
closely resemble each other as do the English and the Chinese.
Englishmen are intensely Western; Chinamen are intensely Eastern. But
those are, after all, merely matters involving local colour. Local
colour affects the details of daily national life, but does not
necessarily destroy or create great basic race characteristics.

Chinamen and Englishmen have, in common, indefatigable industry,
indomitable courage, unswerving perseverance, reticence, pride, fidelity
to a bargain, love of law and order, faith in the old, mistrust of the
new. Both love horses; both were originally hunters; both indulge in
games of chance—sometimes too often; both are respecters of rank; both
venerate genius; both are considerate of women and children; both have
produced great and enduring literatures; both have developed science;
both resent the slightest encroachment upon their rights—individual or
national; both are slow to anger and slower to forgive; both lack a
supreme taste in dress; and in a hundred other ways they resemble each
other.

The English race is painted on the canvas of life with stern reliable
grays; the Chinese race is painted with dull serviceable blues. The
Chinese have the advantage of the more vivid, picture-like background.

Nature is brilliant and aggressive in China. Chinese architecture is
fantastic and often crude. But both are softened. The bold, bright
scenery is made lovely and almost gentle by endless trails of dainty
vines, great clumps and long lines of feathery bamboo, fields of wild
white roses, and ragged masses of chrysanthemums. The grotesque
Mongolian architecture is toned to beauty and fitness by its antiquity,
and by its quaint tent-like outlines.

There is no city in the world more beautifully situated than Hong-Kong.
As a matter of fact, there is no city named Hong-Kong, but there is a
city called Hong-Kong. The island is named Hong-Kong, and its one city
is named Victoria, but it is always called Hong-Kong. It is so much more
rational to call a Chinese city by a Chinese rather than an English
name—even though the English flag waves over it—that we may adopt the
custom and forget the fact.

“The Peak” crowns Hong-Kong naturally and socially. The beauty of the
island culminates where the huge ferns break again the lovely broken
outlines of the Peak, and the blue sky backgrounds with topaz the big
green fronds. The European élite of the island lives as near the Peak as
it can, and descends in its coolie-borne chair to the streets and byways
of Hong-Kong. The Peak is the climatic salvation of European life in
Hong-Kong. When the heat of Hong-Kong the lowly is not to be endured of
European vitalities, why then the Europeans of lower Hong-Kong reverse
the action of Hong-Kong’s élite. The dwellers in Hong-Kong the lower
ascend to the Peak, where it is always delightfully comfortable,
invigoratingly cool. But they do not, as a rule, come up in chairs—the
middle-class Anglo-Hong-Kongians; they come up on the cable railway,
which is far quicker, and only costs, if I remember, ten sen!

But there is one more word to be said in praise of the Peak. Europeans
can boast of three gastronomic achievements in Asia. The hotels in the
East are, as a rule, bad; but there are a few exceptions; and of those
few, three are Bonifaced by Europeans. A dear old American darky
presides smilingly over a capital hotel on the Peak.

It poured when we first reached Hong-Kong. But I am always delighted to
get on to firm land—even if it is rain-soaked and muddy.

The chattering coolies and a thousand sampans swarmed about our ship.
The sampans seemed scrupulously clean and were indescribably quaint.
Women stood in them and propelled them, using in a masterly way long
bamboo poles. The women wore full blue trousers, and black sack-like
long-skirted coats that shone like oilcloth. They all wore ear-rings and
bracelets of jade. The men wore their droll rain-coats and
conical-shaped hats that had immense brims and were made of bamboo
splints. They jabbered like magpies; and the scene was infinitely more
Chinese than any I had seen in the harbour at Shanghai. Soon a
business-like little tug came alongside, with Mr. Paulding standing
smiling in the prow. He had a nice new umbrella and a very nice new hat.
I never remember arriving at a new point in our Eastern journeyings and
being met by Mr. Paulding minus a new hat. It was his one mania, and a
very harmless one; but I believe it more than once provoked his Madrassi
boy to tears. Mr. Paulding could never be induced to part with one of
his hats, nor to allow them to be roughly stowed away with the heavy
luggage. Sam used to look both picturesque and pathetic when he
staggered on to a boat, or boarded with difficulty a train, bearing
about his patient but unwilling person some dozens of hat boxes and
topees.

Much to my disappointment we were transferred to the steam launch. I had
artistic yearnings toward a sampan; but we were in a hurry, so the
picturesque was sacrificed to the expeditious.

After breakfast—for it was still early—we walked to the theatre. I
only know of two European theatres in China; but both are excellent—bar
dressing-rooms. The theatre in Hong-Kong is in the Town Hall. It was not
only nice, but it was clean.

We had in Hong-Kong a, for us, long holiday. Madame Patey and an
admirable company of artists had possession of the theatre. We
waited—unless I forget—a week or more, before we opened. The days I
spent in prowling about Hong-Kong; and each night that Madame Patey
sang, we had a feast of music.

Mr. Paulding had engaged a jinrickshaw and a coolie for me before we
arrived. He had learned that wherever we were I would go—go all the
time; and that the drain on the managerial exchequer was rather less if
some vehicle of locomotion was bargained for, for me, before-hand. It
was impossible to hire a carriage, because there were none. The Governor
had a landau, if I remember, and some one else had some kind of a
carriage, and there were a few dog-carts—a very few. Hong-Kong is so up
and down—most of the streets are up so many flights of steps—that a
trap would be comparatively useless. Indeed the ’rickshaws have often to
go very much round about, where a chair “can go right up.” And there are
many nooks of beauty to which the jinrickshaws cannot take you at all.
We were great friends—were Chung Lim, my ’rickshaw coolie, and I,
although he knew no English and utterly failed to understand my Chinese.
He was a little creature, but oh! how he ran. When the amah and the
hotel clerk between them had made him understand that I did not care
where I went, but that I wished to go everywhere, and that I was vastly
more interested in the Chinese than in the European quarter, he went
sturdily to work to show me Hong-Kong, and show me Hong-Kong he did. For
hours he used to run me up and down the long, narrow streets. From the
upper windows of the tall, slim buildings hung the newly-washed garments
of the natives. They were all cut after one generous ungraceful pattern,
and were all of true Chinese blue, which is not true blue at all, it is
so nearly a dull gray. Red paper streamers strung about the open doors
told the shop-keepers’ names and the nature of their wares.

When I wished to stop the jinrickshaw I had to give a most undignified
grunt, or tap Chung Lim sharply with my parasol. As I rarely carried a
parasol I usually had to grunt. Grunting is one of the things a woman
does not like to chronicle of herself; but it was the only sound to
which my Hong-Kong coolie would pay the slightest attention. I tried
screaming once or twice; but he evidently thought that I was singing,
and he ran swiftly on. A grunt was something so akin to his own guttural
mode of speech that he invariably recognised it as an attempt upon my
part to communicate an idea or a desire.

I halted my “human horse” very often. Men passed me with great baskets
of joss sticks; and though Chung Lim shook his head, I used at first to
stop and buy from each vendor a few of the scented sticks; but I soon
found that my coolie was right. They were a very bad quality of joss
sticks indeed, those that I bought on the streets of Hong-Kong; but at
the proper shops (and I soon found where they were), I bought great
armfuls of the slim, fragrant incense sticks. And as I write, the long
spark and the thin flame of a burning joss stick carries me back to
China; and if I shut my eyes a moment, I can fancy myself back in a
grotesque joss house to which Chung Lim and I very often went. It is
called, if I remember, “Tin How.” I always took a bunch of joss sticks
with me. I used to divide them with Chung Lim, who lit his share before
his joss and said “Chin-chin” to me. I think that Chung regarded me as
mad, but he never refused anything I offered him; and though I
persistently prowled about the native quarters of Hong-Kong, my
intrusion was never resented, though it evidently caused a good deal of
amazement. Sometimes I stayed in the joss house and burned incense too,
and tried to sketch the wonderful types of humanity that were gathered
before the big joss. But oftener I roamed about outside, gathering
flowers and trying to make friends with some workmen who were digging a
few yards from the temple door. Often I sat in the ’rickshaw and studied
the exterior of the joss house. I never grew tired of looking at it.
Beneath the roof were depicted, in wonderful relief and bas-relief,
scenes from Chinese history. They were dramatic in outline, and charming
in glorious colouring.

The walls were hung with gorgeous panels, each of which was a prayer or
a sermon. Upon the edge of the roof sprawled strange crustations.
Beneath them was carved a fringe of conventionalised shells. Under this
hung a narrow curtain of wood or stucco, on which, in bas-relief, were
marvellous fruits, quaint flowers, odd figures, and impossible fish.
This scant curtain was finished with an odd lace-like carving which
told, as every bit of conventional decoration in China tells, the
omnipotence of bamboo. Dreadful dragons and indescribable elephants
supported the roof, and rested upon great graceful beams, from which
hung huge lanterns made of silk, of paper, of tinsel, and of bamboo—the
soft lamps of Cathay!

Near the doorway sat a personage—priest or merchant, I knew not which.
He wore gold spectacles, he smoked opium through a silver pipe, and he
committed upon you righteous, ecclesiastical robbery when he sold you
joss sticks and prayers. I do not mean that he prayed for you; that he
would, I fancy, under no circumstances do. But he sold you prayers
printed upon slips of red Chinese paper. The Mongolian characters
puzzled you a bit perhaps! That was insignificant—the Chinese gods
could read them.

Upon the temple steps sat a stolid, motley crew. I used to buy
vicious-looking yellow cakes from one fellow, and from a
sour-appearanced old woman I never failed to buy my handkerchief full of
the nuts of my childhood. She always rang my bit of money on the temple
steps to see that I had not cheated her, and I always was a bit
disappointed in her wares. Can you imagine a woman, who in her old age
will not grow childish, because in her mature womanhood she has never
ceased to be a child,—can you imagine her, half sitting, half
reclining, in a Chinese ’rickshaw, and as the ’rickshaw is pulled
through the pungent, hilly woods of Hong-Kong, saying in her wicked
cosmopolitan heart, as she munches the peanuts of Cathay, “There are no
peanuts but in America, and only an American darky or a naturalised
Italian can roast them”?

Opposite the joss house sat a Chinese fortune-teller. His table stood in
front of a big rock, about which graceful trees hung. Over the table was
a cabalistic cloth, and the Mongolian wizard foretold your fate, using
bamboo slips character-inscribed, and he was quite as infallible as any
Occidental fortune-teller whom I ever patronised.

I often used to manufacture an excuse to go into and to linger in the
courtyard of a Chinese carpenter who interested me greatly. He was one
of the few accessible Chinamen I have ever known. It is very difficult
to write positively of China, even after some residence there. The
Chinese will tell you nothing, and, with a few exceptions, the Europeans
who have spent half their lives there know nothing. But my friend, the
carpenter, did give me a few peeps into China. He was almost always
sawing, and his brother was almost always smoking a slender pipe that
was nearly as long as himself. Two “sew sew” women often sat upon a low
bench mending the tattered garments of the carpenter and his
_confrères_.

“Sew sew amahs” are one of the institutions of China. A London paper has
recently advocated, as an occupation for deftly needled but impecunious
gentlewomen, the going from mansion to mansion and the mending of
dilapidated garments. In China, that has been, for hundreds of years, an
acknowledged profession for women. The “sew sew amahs” are really very
useful. They sit outside your door or in a secluded corner of your
garden, and stitch, stitch, stitch, for two sen a day, until you are
whole again and clothed in your right garments. The Chinese women do not
sew as well as do the Chinese men. It is only in the Orient and in Paris
that man realises what a superior, noble occupation dressmaking is. But
the women of the East mend very adequately; and I for one congratulate
them that, among all their other miseries, they are not expected to
devote their lives to the designing and first sewing of loom-woven fig
leaves.

Has it ever occurred to the champions of the women of the East, that the
Oriental man has not only crushed the Oriental woman beneath his cruel
heel, but that he has robbed her of her most effeminate privilege, since
he has usurped her sharp sceptre—her needle?

Happy Valley is a lovely spot, circled by gray-green hills and feathered
bamboo. It is the race-course of Hong-Kong. Here ponies are run and
frocks from home are worn, sandwiches are eaten and cool wines are
drunk, and, take it all in all, it is quite like a toy Derby. It is a
magnification of the “Ascot” that you may buy in the Lowther Arcade for
a few pounds. No, it is not. No toy maker, though he were as tenderly
sympathetic as sweet Caleb Plummer, much less a maker of toys in
Germany, could manufacture such a toy as nature and Anglo-residents have
made Happy Valley.

Separated from the race-course by a narrow bamboo-edged road is the
Happy Valley Cemetery—an acre of beauty sacred to the eternal sleep of
dead Europeans. I know of no other cemetery so beautiful in all our
world. I know of no place commemorative of the dead that compares in
loveliness with the Happy Valley Cemetery, save only the Taj Mahal. One
is the triumph of nature; one is the supreme art triumph of man: but
over both Death is triumphant, and the Indian Princess and the English
wanderers are at rest—asleep and oblivious.

Only an even more presumptuous pen than mine would attempt to describe
the Hong-Kong Public Gardens. They are matchless. Their flora is both
mighty and lace-like; and from their detailed beauty you look away to
the panoramaed beauty of Hong-Kong.

As I write on from page to page, the little story of our Eastern
wanderings, I grow a bit frightened at my own temerity. I do so want to
describe the wonderland through which we wandered, and I am so unable to
describe it. China baffles me most. The country is so intricate with a
thousand beauties, the people so unapproachable, their customs so
puzzling, so almost inexplicable. But my excuse for trying to do what I
am not fit to do, must be the old excuse, the great excuse, the excuse
of love. I love the Orient; I prattle about it like a child perhaps; but
if I could inspire one tired European to go East for a little to rest
his eyes, his feet, and his heart, in the great, kind Oriental
wonderland, then I should be, for once at least, a benefactor.

My boy and I spent many a happy half-day, being carried up and down the
Hong-Kong hills—he in one chair, I in another. It was in Hong-Kong that
he was promoted from dresses to trousers, and he used to sit in his
high-swung chair, quite fearlessly, and chatter to his bearers. I was a
little frightened at first lest they should drop him, but I soon learned
how foot-sure they were and how careful of their light little burden.
They never encouraged my advances towards good-fellowship; but they were
ready enough to teach him the name of a flower or a bird, to run or to
walk, as he wished. And often and often they spared one of their scanty
coins to buy him a sweetmeat.

The heat in Hong-Kong was not excessive when we were first there, but it
was warm enough to make the Peak a luxury. And it was a charming change
to go to a friend’s bungalow not far from the Bowen Road and drink
afternoon tea. And what dinners we used to have in some of those cool,
white bungalows; and how we sang softly as we went home through the
starlight.

But it was “China town” that I really loved. I have been in Hong-Kong
where European women do not go—where, I believe, no other European
woman has been. I have gone through dark arcades where hundreds of
natives struggled with life and with each other. I have begged a
mouthful of rice from a sampan woman. I have wandered alone until I was
completely lost, and had to ask my way back to the world of hotels and
Europeans. I never met with the slightest incivility. I found the
Chinese everything that I had been told they were not.

At night, when I was not working, I used to get into my ’rickshaw and
let Chung Lim pull me along the beautiful harbour until the beauty of
the night had reconciled me to everything and every one, myself
included.

I do not know where Chung Lim slept, nor where he ate. He was always at
the hotel door when I went down, day or night; always smiling and ready
to run with me to the island’s end. I paid him one yen per day. When we
finally left Hong-Kong, I gave him five yen more than I owed him; and a
sacrilegious English boy who lives in Hong-Kong, and to whose patronage
I recommended Chung Lim, wrote me the other day, “Chung Lim still burns
joss sticks to your memory.”



                               CHAPTER XV


                          A GLIMPSE OF CANTON

WHAT can I write of Canton? If Hong-Kong was wonderful, if Shanghai was
interesting, if Burmah was picturesque, what was Canton? It was
superlative!

I know that Europeans go into Canton and come out of it with stolid
faces, and sneer languidly as they speak of it. I know a woman who
preferred poor little, colourless, on-sufferance Sha-mien, to great,
mysterious, unfathomable, lurid Canton. Ah, well! it takes all sorts to
make a world—and I dare say I revolted her as much as she disgusted me.
“Would you rather live in Canton than in Sha-mien?” some one asks me.
Certainly not—at least not permanently. But I, nevertheless, regard
Sha-mien as utterly insignificant as compared with Canton. The only
significant thing about Sha-mien is its courage in being there at all.
No; I should not prefer Canton to Sha-mien as a place of residence for
myself. I should be sorry to spend twenty unbroken years in Canton, and
I should be displeased to spend twenty unbroken years on the most
magnificent iceberg that ever floated on the Polar Seas. But for all
that I think the iceberg vastly more interesting, more fascinating,
grander, more beautiful, than the snow-flakes that are feebly smudging
my window-pane.

Let me introduce you for a moment to my London back-yard, as I see it at
this moment. It is a grim conglomeration of rubble, dilapidated ivy, of
thin snow blotches, and of burst water-pipes. Nothing could be less
picturesque. No earthly eye could think it beautiful, save the eye of a
plumber. Yet I would rather live here than in Canton, where a million
pictures are yours for the looking. In all Canton I never saw one
unpicturesque bit. And once I almost felt like tearing up my
sketch-book—not because of my own incompetence, for to that I am
accustomed, but because for every sketch I tried to make I must leave
ten thousand unattempted. That made selection very difficult.

We sent Mr. Paulding from Hong-Kong to Canton, to see if we could give a
performance at Sha-mien. He wrote back, “There are not a hundred
Europeans in the place, and there is no theatre. It is expensive getting
here. But if the ‘burra memsahib’ is determined to come, I think we
might clear our X.’s. Leave the company in Hong-Kong, and you two give a
Shakespearian recital in the hotel dining-room. What do you say?”
Perhaps I should explain that “X.’s” means expenses. It is not
theatrical slang, it is dramatic abbreviation. That letter entailed upon
me a mental struggle. I was anxious to see Canton, and my husband
insisted that if I went I must “help him out” with the recital. In all
my wicked life I had never given a recitation—or at least not since I
was a nice little girl with a nice pink sash. Moreover, I had said that
I never would give a recitation. I did not approve of them; for that
matter, I do not approve of them now; but Canton tempted me, and I was
weak.

We made out a programme and mailed it to Mr. Paulding. Mine friend was
prepared with any number of recitations, but the only one I knew was
“Bingen on the Rhine,” and my associate feared that the audience might
have heard that before. Finally, I was put down for two recitations, but
it was not specified what they were to be. My husband selected his three
recitations, and we added to the list four scenes from Shakespeare.

Early one morning, before our babies were awake, we steamed slowly up
the Canton River. I put the thought of the horrid recital out of my
mind; and settled into my cosy steamer chair and said to myself, “If
there be an Elysium on earth it is this—it is this.” The day was
perfect. Ah! how many perfect days this old world has seen, and yet how
she throbs and smiles and blushes into beauty, and looks quite like a
bride, the disreputable weather-beaten old jade, and welcomes the kisses
of each new perfect day, and beneath those kisses assumes the virtue of
loveliness, even though she have it not!

We were carrying some hundreds of coolies, and some thousands of fish to
Canton. The coolies were tightly packed behind a secure grating. The
fish were poured by hundreds into holes, purposely made in the side of
the boat. How they sprang for their freedom, the scaly, silvery,
speckled things, and with what splendid splutter and splash they fell
back into the water-filled hole!

There were four cabin passengers on the delightful little bark. I was
the only woman on the boat—fore or aft. When I am the only woman among
a boat-load of men, and the weather behaves itself, I always say to
myself, “If there be an Elysium on earth it is this—it is this!” The
three gentlemen were—the Editor of a Hong-Kong paper, a charming fellow
and a good friend of ours; an interesting German who spoke French
fluently and told me a great deal about Canton; and last, but if you
please, not least, that extremely fortunate individual who is my
husband.

What a pleasant fellow the captain was! He will, most probably, never
see these lines, and I feel it my duty to describe him. He was my fellow
countryman—and the kind of man who causes you to hold up your head and
say, “It’s a good thing to be an American.” I am supposed to be a bad
American. I don’t quite plead guilty to the accusation; but I certainly
do not fill Sir Walter Scott’s ideal of patriotism. I fear he would even
consider my soul dead. My cosmopolitanism is far more than my
patriotism. But it always gives me a deep thrill of real pleasure to
meet in a foreign land—delightful Americans. I think of my compatriots
as some one thought of a little girl whom they immortalised in the
lines,

            When she was good, she was very, very good.
            But when she was bad, she was horrid.

No one is more charming, more admirable, than a charming American. I
know Americans whom the children of no other nation can excel. If
patriotism consists in praising the shrilly cackling, over-diamonded
women, and the ill-educated, shallow, opinionated men of our _hoi
polloi_—why then I am not patriotic. They, beyond everything else
human, set my teeth on edge, do Americans the vulgar. But because I cry
out at them with genuine American acrimony, it does not follow that I am
stupid enough to think them the only Americans. There is another type of
American of whom I would far rather think, and I wish that he travelled
more. I mean the man who stands hat in hand to welcome you on to the
porch of his Virginia home. I mean the man who is superlatively a
gentleman even when he carries our flag through the wigwams of the wild
west. I mean—oh! well, I mean all that ilk!

Our captain was a courtly, cultivated gentleman. He was highly educated,
and had lived in China intelligently. He was quite a perfect host.

Everything combined to make our little trip enjoyable. The Chinese
butler not only understood his duty but did it. Dinner was eminently
successful. But it was on deck that we were happiest.

China! China! For all your great antiquity, how new and fresh and
fascinating you were to me!

Fortresses and pagodas dotted the banks, with here and there a scattered
collection of squalid huts. The sky was royal, and the perfumed air
swayed the branches of a dozen, to us unknown, trees.

Just before we reached Canton we passed the leper boats. The population
of Canton is too dense for the most truly paternal Government on earth
to risk the presence of lepers in the midst of the Cantonese myriads.
The miserable lepers looked out at us from the windows of their
boat-prisons. Had we been nearer they would have cried to us for food
and cash. The sufferings of the Asiatic lepers are not exaggerated. I
never went amongst them (and in India I went amongst them often) without
thinking, “How long, O Lord! how long?”

Nothing impressed me as more unique in unique China than the
perseverance of the Roman Catholic Church in her desperate attempt to
convert the unconvertible Chinese.

The following telegram was recently sent from Shanghai:—“The Roman
Catholic Mission at Lichuen, near the Szechuen border of the province of
Hu-Peli, has been attacked by a mob. The priests escaped into the
neighbouring provinces.”—_Reuter._ Similar messages have been flashed
to us before; similar messages will be flashed to us again. So long as
Europe overstrains the forbearance of Asia, the blood of a few Europeans
must dampen the ire of the Asiatic populace.

I met in Canton a venerable churchman who has been for many years
eminent in Roman Catholicism in China. Like all men eminent in the
Church of Rome, he was a man of the world, open-minded, cultivated, and
charmingly companionable. I ventured to ask him, “How many Chinamen have
you converted during your long residence here—converted in the fullest,
most absolute significance of the word?”

The old man looked across the Canton river, upon which we were at the
time. To our left lay the floating prisons of the Cantonese lepers. To
our right, floated the “flower boats” of the Cantonese frail. Then he
answered me: “Daughter, none! But”—pointing with his thin white hand to
the left—“we have alleviated suffering, and”—pointing to the right,
“we have checked sin. There is yet great sin and great suffering calling
out to us for help; and we are paving the way for the spiritual success
of the priests unborn. Rome of the seven hills was not built in a day.
Rome, the spiritual, will not be made perfect and entire in a
generation. Little by little we are gaining ground here. A Chinaman
pretends a conversion he does not experience—for the sake of benefits
we confer on him. His children grow accustomed to our blessed symbols
and our holy rites. It is our great hope that his grandchildren, or
perhaps his great-grandchildren, may become truly and entirely sons of
the true Church. In the meantime, we hope and pray and work, and do what
good we may.” This then is the hope of Rome concerning China—to make
possible the conversion of the Chinese of the future.

For this possible future accomplishment Rome spends vast sums of
money—erects superb edifices—risks many noble lives. The Chinese
accept the comforts bought with the money. They take shelter—when it
suits their convenience—in the buildings that they demolish when it
pleases their enraged whim; and they destroy the lives dedicated wisely,
or unwisely, to their service.

[Illustration: CHINESE ACTORS.         _Page 136._]

Rome fails, and I believe will fail. The religion and the life of the
Chinese are one. It is the same with all Eastern peoples except the
Japanese. In the East, religion stands for social sanctities, for
hygienic regulations. Above all, it is the national expression of
patriotism. Moreover, the religions of the East suit the peoples of the
East. The Christian religion does not. The Church of Rome, with her fine
Machiavelian wisdom, does her utmost to make her belief appropriate to
the Mongolian temperament and mentality. Rome fails—because she
attempts the impossible. The religion of China (although in one sense
little respected) is the poetry of China, the art of China, the
tradition of China. It will make way, as the religion of the North
American Indians has made way, when the Chinese are exterminated and
ground in their native dust, as the North American Indians have been
crushed and spiritually exterminated.

Can we blame the Chinese for their allegiance to a form of religion
which has satisfied their extremest ethical need for thousands of years?
I, for one, cannot unqualifiedly condemn them for their cruel
inhospitality, when I recall scenes I have seen in the Chinese quarters
of San Francisco and of Melbourne. I have seen a joss house demolished
by the hands of civilised Anglo-Saxons; but I deplore that China’s not
unnatural retaliation should fall upon a self-sacrificing body of men
who only seek the good of China and the glory of the God in whom they
earnestly believe.

Three years ago, almost to a day, I visited the Roman Catholic Mission
which recently was destroyed by the infuriated Chinese. What a waste of
art and life!

Every Englishman living in China, who is not blinded by an overplus of
religious enthusiasm, will, I think, bear me out that the Chinese cannot
be converted. An Anglican clergyman lived and preached for twenty odd
years in Shanghai; he failed to make many converts. But he consoled
himself inasmuch as he had snatched one brand from the burning. His
“boy,” to whom he paid unusual wages, was a most devout Christian. When
the divine left China he reluctantly parted with “Foo Sing,” bestowing
upon him several Bibles and many yen. Half an hour after the English
mail had sailed, a friend of the churchman’s met “Foo Sing.”

“Well, Foo Sing,” said the European, “what are you going to do now Dr.
—— has gone?”

“Me,” said Foo Sing, “Me go chin chin my own joss. English joss all
played out.”

Rome is attempting a great thing in China. Her methods are dignified;
and the Chinese deal with Rome with proportional brutality. At the
American Missionaries, the men of whom wear false “pigtails” and the
women modified pantaloons, the Chinese merely laugh. One of the
Chinaman’s chief characteristics is his sense of humour.

On the other side of our good ship (to return to our first entry into
Canton), opposite to the poor leper boats, floated the famous flower
boats of Canton. They were the prison palaces of the moral lepers of
Canton. It was daylight now, and the small boats floated demurely on the
rippled water. The matting blinds were down. The women were sleeping.
When the sun had set, the little boats of sin would sparkle with a
thousand lanterns and tinkle with a hundred guitars, and shameless
mandarins would smoke long opium pipes and sip small cups of hot,
perfumed wine.

The unfortunate women of China are at least less scourged by public
opinion than are their Occidental sisters. Nor are they sneered at by
their righteous half-sisters, nor slapped in the face by Mrs. Grundy’s
wee white hands. They live apart.

We anchored some few yards from Canton, and then began what we thought
rare fun. A world of sampans pushed about us, and the women coolies
rushed on deck, demanding our luggage and begging to row us ashore. The
women of the coolie class do all such work in Canton. We fell into the
clutches of a good-natured old thing called “one-eyed Sarah.” She was
very fat, very rich, and very jolly. Our friend the Editor chaffed her
roundly, but she took it all in good part, and gave as good as she took.
When we had accepted her as our boatman, she screamed to two young
girls, who ran lightly up and shouldered our luggage quite calmly. My
box was heavy, and we had quite a collection of little things. Sarah
carried nothing, but she helped us all into her boat, and I learned
afterwards that she would willingly have carried me because she thought
I looked little and helpless. I am at least a head taller than Sarah.

How wonderfully those women guided their boat! They are wonderful
watermen, the sampan women of Canton. We were jammed among some hundreds
of other boats, and our position seemed inextricable and perilous. But
it was neither the one nor the other. In and out they pulled, away from
the steamer, up the narrow water-way that stretches between Canton and
Sha-mien, until they landed us at the steps of the Sha-mien hotel. Then
Sarah did lift me out on to _terra firma_, to the great delight of my
disrespectful husband. “Little girl,” she said patronisingly, “but
plenty heavy.”

Europeans are not allowed to live in Canton. Even to go into Canton they
must have a pass or permit, which must be shown to the guards at the
city gate. Sha-mien is the European concession. There live all the
Occidentals who have diplomatic or other business at Canton. They are
only a handful—the European permanent residents at Sha-mien; eighty
odd, I think, they numbered when we were there—all told I mean; men,
women and children. They live with their lives in their hands. The moral
force of Europe is great, but if the Cantonese become vicious enough,
they will rally across that narrow bridge and massacre every European in
Sha-mien. They have done it before; they will do it again, if they grow
angry enough. I hope that they never may. It is to be hoped that they
will be given no cause.

The hotel was a pleasant, clean, white place. It stood upon green grass
among green trees. A pretty little donkey came and begged a biscuit from
me. It was the pet of Europe in Sha-mien. Our bills were profusely
displayed in the hotel hall. They made me shudder a bit, for our recital
was to be that night.

“Do you know yet what you are going to recite to-night?” asked my
husband meanly.

“I think we’ll cut my recitations out,” I said sweetly.

“No we won’t,” said my husband. He even offered to accompany me up to
our rooms and try to teach me some recitations; but I refused flatly.
When the night came, I would get through it in some desperate fashion.
But now I was going into Canton.

Canton lay just across the canal. It was walled, as almost every Chinese
city is. We could catch no glimpse of the city itself from Sha-mien.
That made me the more impatient to be off.

There are at least three wonders in the East that can never be
exaggerated: the Taj Mahal, sunrise on the Himalayas, and Canton.

I forget our guide’s name—we could not go into Canton without a guide;
but he appeared very much of a gentleman and spoke accurate English. We
went into quaint box-like palanquins. There were four chairs, two for
us, one for our Editor, and one for the guide. Three coolies carried
each chair. Across the bridge; through the guarded gateway: We were in
Canton!

If I could describe it as perfectly as I remember it! I had expected
noise and crowds, new sights, new sounds, new smells, long endless
streets, and tall, tall houses. But what I found was ten times more. The
streets were often so narrow that, if two chairs wished to pass, one had
to retreat into the nearest shop until the other had gone on. The houses
were so tall that they seemed to lean toward each other and to touch at
the vertical point of sight. Indeed many of them did almost meet—they
were so built out with balconies. I don’t know what was in the upper
rooms of those houses; but certainly everything appeared to be on the
balconies. What clothing a poor or middle-class Chinaman possesses
beyond that on his back usually hangs on his balcony. The Chinese have
more cleanliness than they are accredited with by the generality of
Europeans.

We went for miles in Canton without seeing the sky. The density of the
city, the swarming, seething inhabitants, the variety of shops and
trades, are indescribable.

The first shop at which we stopped was the studio of painters on rice
paper. And a very unstudio-like place it was. The artists (two of them
were famous) sat at workman-like tables, doing their careful work. The
rice paper is lovely of itself, and the painting was exquisitely done.
Chinese art is a difficult subject. The Chinese execution is often very
delicate; the Chinese sense of colour is very true, though with the
exception of their dull predominant blue, all their colours are
brilliant in the extreme. But even their characteristic blue they use
rather sparingly in their painting. Chinese drawing impressed me as
primitive, but not inexact; but if I were less ignorant about Chinese
art, I might regard it very differently.

I have a dozen or more of the dainty “rice pictures” that were being
painted in that queer unartistic Cantonese studio. Not one picture has
been painted by one man. For instance, I have among them the figure of a
mandarin. It is not over six inches high, but it represents the
considerable work of three artists, one of them noted throughout China.
He painted the mandarin’s face, and told me that for thirty odd years he
had painted faces, and done no other thing, save to sleep a little, eat
a great deal, worship his ancestors, and chin chin his joss sometimes.
He was a courtly old gentleman, and smilingly allowed me to spoil
several sheets of rice paper, and waste sundry brushfuls of colour,
trying to imitate his methods. The draperies of my little figure were
painted by another artist, and the hands were the work of a third man
who paints nothing but hands. There were men there who painted nothing
but leaves—others who painted only flowers. There were other men who
spent all their lives painting one picture again and again. The picture
they painted one week, they copied the next. And one artist in that room
painted only caterpillars—he had painted nothing else for ten years. He
painted them exquisitely. It will be readily understood that their
execution was deft and exact in the extreme, but that their work lacked
breadth, great atmosphere, and inspiration of design.

Next we stopped at a jeweller’s. They were making queer silver things,
and inlaying them with infinitesimal bits of bright blue feather. The
finished ornaments were more curious than beautiful; but the wings that
lay upon the workmen’s trays were magnificently beautiful. Thousands of
kingfishers are murdered every year to deck these foolish Chinese
baubles. I believe that the meat of the birds is utilised for food; and
that, of course, makes the crime nil—if we are to eat slaughtered
innocents at all.

We bought ivories at one shop, and carved ebonies at another. We saw
baskets full to the brim with rare pearls; we saw seed-pearls sold by
the pound.

Our journalistic friend had come to Canton on business; but he was
neglecting it that he might help us to see more thoroughly the city,
which he probably knew as well as any Englishman in China.

We pressed in between the busy looms in a big weaving establishment. The
men talked learnedly of looms and like machinery all over the world; and
I gloated over the marvellous silks and satins. We went through such
gorgeous collections of black furniture. My husband, who rarely longs
for any creature comfort beyond a cigar, a rowing boat, and a horse, was
as tempted as I—I, who am always and so easily tempted,—and wanted to
buy a boat-load of the great, grotesque, carved things.

On our way back to the city gate, we stopped at a silk shop, and my
husband bought me a shawl that I kissed for its sheer loveliness, and
crêpes that I patted and stroked, and, when we were home, threw in
great, soft, silken heaps on the bed.

Chinese and Japanese embroideries are very different. Each excels in
some qualities. The Japanese are the more admirable in the use of gold
and silver; the Chinese are the superior in the use of many and mingled
colours.

When we reached the hotel—none too soon,—my spirits fell. We had a
hurried but merry dinner, and then we went upstairs, with just an hour
and a half to spare before our great “Shakesperian Recital.”

“James,” said my husband, severely,—he calls me James when I’m
bad—“James, you’re a villain.”

“But you are a saint,” I said in my most wheedling accents. “And you
know you recite superbly. You do all the recital. Tell them I’m
dead—make a speech before you begin, you know. And I will sit at the
door, and take tickets, and lead the applause.”

But he was uncoaxable. So I had to dress, and descend into the little
ante-room off the dining-room. I took with me a book of “Fine Poetical
Selections,” and searched feverishly for something to read. I boast of
having an exceptionally quick “study,” but, of course, I could not
memorise three poems in one hour and five minutes; so I had necessarily
determined to read, and not to recite.

I was the unhappiest woman in China that night.

My husband was in a gale of delight. He had trapped me into a recital
for once.

Well, it began at last. All the Europeans in Sha-mien—save one, I
believe—were there.

Our little stage was very wonderful. While we had been palanquin riding
through Canton, three or four coolies had brought into the dining-room
pieces of bamboo of different lengths. These had not been nailed
together; they had tied them together with wisps of bamboo until the
stage was shaped. Then across the top they had laid smooth planks. Into
these even they had not driven a nail, they had tied them in place. The
result was a perfect little stage.

My _confrère_ opened the, to me, ghastly entertainment. When he came
off, I seized my book desperately, and marched to my doom. They gave me
a cordial little reception. I could have shaken them. Our friend the
Editor, who knew the full measure of my unpreparedness, sat in the front
row, trying manfully to look respectful. Mr. Paulding stood gracefully
near the door. He looked anxious and nervous, and appeared contemplative
of flight.

I thought of Demosthenes, and wondered how it would do to begin by
saying, “Men and women of Sha-mien.” But really they looked too gentle;
so I said instead, “Ladies and gentlemen.” My husband giggled in the
ante-room. I could hear him. I opened the book—opened it by chance at
“Ostler Joe.” It wasn’t quite long enough, so I prefaced it with a
speech. In that speech I told all I knew, and a good deal that I didn’t
know, about the history of the piece, the author of the piece—an
American woman who had made it famous in Washington; and I remember that
I contrived to say something about the Princess of Wales. At that they
broke into hearty applause. Then I began to read. The print was bad, and
the light was worse, but I struggled through in some sad fashion. When I
had finished, it was the most astonished little audience you ever saw;
and Mr. Paulding had left.

I won’t chronicle my other two selections, nor record how they were
received. But, I assure you, on my word of honour as an actress, that I
was not a success.

However, I am, I believe, justified in saying that the second part of
the programme was worse than the first. The second part comprised four
scenes from Shakespeare—so the programme said. Mr. Paulding says that I
wrote the programme; I say that he wrote it. My husband, who, with all
his faults, is a gentle, peace-making man, says that the mistakes in the
programme were made by the Chinese printer. Mr. Paulding and I are both
reluctant to parent the programme when we recall how it was carried out.
The details of the “Four Scenes from Shakespeare” were—

    A Scene from _Romeo and Juliet_.
    A Scene from _Macbeth_.
    A Scene from _Antony and Cleopatra_.
    A Scene from _The Fool’s Revenge_.

At least so the Chinese printer said, but who could expect a Cantonese
compositor ever to have heard of Tom Taylor?

I do not know which of the four tragic selections was the funniest.

Picture Romeo, Macbeth, Antony, and Bertuccio in a nice new dress suit,
nice new patent-leather shoes, nice new white kid gloves; picture
Juliet, Lady Macbeth, Cleopatra, and sweet, simple little Fiordelisa in
a long, black, jetted, sleeveless French frock, ridiculously long tan
gloves, and shoes that were monstrous Parisian burlesques of the “human
foot divine!”

Need I say that there was no scenery? I tried to do my duty as a soldier
of the mask should. But my husband, who is a very shameless person, was
in an unseemly state of hilarity. And indeed, for all my trying, I
cannot say that Juliet’s impassioned words fell “trippingly from my
tongue.”

It was over at last, and the kind, patient audience went sadly out.
Across the globe I send them my greeting. Perhaps they will forgive me
the dire distress I must have inflicted upon them if they ever learn
that their misspent yen enabled me to see Canton.

How good, how English they were, those patient people! They would have
taught me, had I not known long before, that, whatever an English
audience may think, it is incapable of showing disapprobation to a
woman.

When the poor audience had escaped we had supper; our editor, Mr.
Paulding, my husband, and I. The editor said that he preferred my acting
to my reciting. Mr. Paulding said he had enjoyed the entertainment
immensely—especially after he left. My husband laughed and laughed, and
I ate my supper and suggested a midnight prowl through Canton.

But that, like much I say, was easier said than done. The Canton gate
was shut. So we said good-night and retired as nice English people
should. I lit a big flare of joss sticks in our chamber, for I had no
mind to forget, even in my sleep, that I was in Cathay.

We sat for a few moments on our balcony and spun strange webs of fancied
thought about Canton. We struck, with our mental fingers, a thousand
copper gongs and weaved big fabrics of Mongolian romance. And all the
while Canton was asleep.

The Chinese are a very normal people. Though their industriousness prods
them to lamp-lit work, they, as a rule, sleep as soon after sunset as
they can.

The next day broke in big Oriental splendour. There was to be no
Shakespearian Recital that night. We were going to spend the week in
Canton, and I was the happiest woman in Asia.

When we had paid to the Chinese dawn the weak obeisance of buttered
toast, fried fish, and superlatively hot coffee, we sallied forth into
Canton. How shall I describe that week? I can’t describe it. I can only
say, “Go East—go East—go East!”

We found the same chairs awaiting us. Our guide looked brisk and ready;
he had not attended our Shakespearian Recital. They carried us first to
the Cantonese execution-grounds. We did not go into them. I am a
curious, inquisitive, not to say a tautological female, but I did not
care to penetrate into that place of slaughter.

Three or four of our boys went from Hong-Kong to Kowloon to see an
execution. That was what they said; but revelations over which they had
no control led me to believe that they, in part at least, went to pit
the hard-earned wages of histrionic genius against the oblong gold
pieces of Chinese exchange.

They, knowing what a free-lance I was, asked me to go with them to
observe the extinguishment of sinful Chinese life; but my imagination is
more than my courage, and I declined. My husband was (what husband would
not have been?) madly angry.

I have never known whether the boys were joking or not; but I am
inclined to give them and myself the benefit of the doubt and to believe
that they were.

At all events, our Cantonese guide was in grim earnest, and evidently
felt injured because he was prevented from showing us what he apparently
thought the chief glory of his native city.

If you too, good reader, feel deprived of your sanguinary rights, I must
refer you to the printed records of more strongly-minded travellers.
There have been many such, and in their pages you will find your just
due of gory Chinese swords and of ghastly, trunkless Chinese heads in
big brown jars.

We spent several hours in a fascinating shop where old Chinese robes and
marvellous antique embroideries were sold. My husband bought me a
charming, magnificent cape that had belonged very many years before to a
mandarin. It was coarsely designed, but superfinely executed open-work.
Roses, leaves, and butterflies were the burden of its embroidered song.
The points of its irregular edges were finished with queer, silky,
crimson knobs and wee golden bells. Last summer I took off the balls and
the bells and three of the most _prononcé_ butterflies, and the former
cape of the noble yellow man made an inexpressibly effective zouave on
my prettiest house gown.

We were a little disappointed in the temple of the five thousand genii
and in the five-storied pagoda. But the flowery pagoda was a marvel of
quaint beauty; and the changing, panoramic wonder of the streets never
palled upon us.

We had a Chinese lunch with a Chinese dignitary, and he let me prowl
about his mansion and the ridiculous courtyard. He introduced me to his
wife, and she introduced me to her husband’s concubines, with whom she
seemed to be on the best of terms.

In China “concubine” means something very analogous to the “handmaiden”
of Biblical times. She is not a wife, but to Occidental ears the term is
best understood if it is translated “underwife—lesser wife.”

After lunch we visited the sanctum of a Cantonese editor, and from there
we went to one of the large popular markets. Shall I describe it? Shall
I try? Yes; there were—black ones and white ones and gray ones. The
black ones are considered far the most choice. Isn’t it horrible to
think of human creatures eating cats and dogs and rats? Is it not most
horrible? And yet—why? Can we allege one single sound reason against
it? I think not. And yet as I stood in that Cantonese market I did feel
for a moment very much as Hamlet felt when he held Yorick’s earthy skull
in his hands. As for my husband; he fled. I wonder why men are in so
many ways daintier than women?

It was a gruesome sight, that busy market-place, with great piles of
meat cut from animals we scarcely mention when we eat. Poor pussies!
they looked very pathetic. And I could have cried over the massacre of
the puppies. The rats hung in countless numbers upon long, stretched
strings. Probably I would better not describe more minutely. It did
revolt me. And yet I do not know why it should have done so.

Unless we adopt vegetarianism and abstain from eating aught that has
possessed animal life and consciousness, I do not see how we can
consistently condemn the Chinaman, because he is less erratic than we in
his selection of food, and because he is the creature of a sterner
necessity than ours. If we consider the vast numbers of Chinese that
must eat to live,—if we consider the proportional density of the
population,—I am sure that we shall be just enough to realise that the
Chinese must utilise every available atom of wholesome food.

Emperors and heroes have supped off strange flesh in time of war.
According to some historians Napoleon’s larder was reduced to cat’s
flesh, during the retreat from Moscow.

The most elegant woman I ever knew, a French woman who went through the
Commune, told me once, “Ze meat of ze horse, it iz very nasty, but ze
meat of ze rat it is nice, if you know not what it iz.”

“The hand of little employment hath the daintier sense.”

We tip-tilt our nice European noses at a great deal, because we have had
no usage of it. Sometimes we are condemned as unreasonable. Prejudice
and lack of sympathy are near akin to injustice and misjudgment.

We left Canton reluctantly. As we neared Hong-Kong my comrade said to
me—

“James, would anything on earth induce you to repeat that recital?”

“My friend,” I said, “if I could have another long day’s prowl about
Canton I would stand up and recite the whole play of _Hamlet_ all by
myself,—and to an audience of three.” And I meant it.



                              CHAPTER XVI


                           CHINESE PRISONERS

THE Chinese people are law-abiding. With those of their own number who
are law-breakers they have but little sympathy, and the Government has
none at all. I like China. I like the Chinese. Moreover, I respect them.
But in two details of their national life they merit unqualified
condemnation. Their hospitals and their prisons are unmitigated national
disgraces. On second thought I withdraw the word unmitigated. The
Chinese hospitals through which I went were almost everything that
hospitals should not be. But the patients themselves would most
strenuously have opposed, most feverishly have resented, any
improvements along the line of their own comfort. The savants of China
are held back by the taut ropes of public opinion, they are enchained by
the general ignorance, as savants are everywhere else.

The deplorable condition of the Chinese prisons is justified in the
national philosophy. To the Chinese mind a law is a thing to be obeyed.
A law concerns millions, and conserves the welfare of millions. It must
be held inviolate by the individual, be his whim, his personal bent,
whatever it may. The Chinaman who disregards any item of the Chinese law
becomes a social leper. Individual tendency, moral ill-health, inherited
traits, they are not taken into account at all. This is cruel? Yes! But
it renders existence possible in the over-density of Chinese population.

A Chinaman is forgiven nothing because of his ancestry; nor does he
suffer for that ancestry. From the moment of his birth, each Chinaman
has, theoretically and, as far as possible, practically, an equal chance
with every other Chinaman. Rank is nowhere more venerated than in China.
Nowhere does it secure to its possessor more benefits, more privileges;
but it is not inherited. It is conferred by the Emperor—conferred for
personal merit or for personal achievement. No Chinaman is “noble”
except through personal fitness. There are but two exceptions to this
rule—two only. The direct descendants of Confucius have a rank of their
own. It is a high rank. It is respected; but it gives them no power of
interference with national affairs. The descendants of an Emperor are
never less than royal; but they have not necessarily any power. In
brief, then, in China “every man is served according to his deserts,”
and it is greatly to the national credit that they who do not “’scape
whipping” are so very few.

A Chinese prison is called a “kamlo.” Its outer door is barred with
bamboo and is guarded by petty soldiers or policemen. The kamlo contains
two rooms and two yards. One room and one yard are for men; the other
room and yard are for women. The space set apart for women is very much
smaller than that for men; but the women’s quarters and the men’s
quarters are alike in being entirely devoid of any provision for
personal comfort or for personal decency.

Chinese prisoners are, by the Government, provided with absolutely
nothing but the space, beyond which they may not pass. If their friends
thrust food to them through the bars of the prison fence the law does
not interpose; otherwise the prisoners may starve; the law does not
interpose.

I have seen a woman feeding her husband while her six children looked on
and laughed. I have seen a boy of nine pushing his hand through the
slats of the fence and dropping rice into the open mouths of his father
and mother!

I used to take food to the Shanghai prison-yards: I was not jeered at. A
Chinese crowd is, I believe, incapable of jeering at a woman. But I was
condemned for it, and a high Chinese official remonstrated with my
husband. I used to buy Chinese food at a cheap chow-chow shop, and, when
I reached a prison fence, hire a coolie to feed the poor starving
wretches. I did not quite care to feed them myself, and it was quite
impossible for them to feed themselves. No Chinese prisoner, of the
class of which I am writing—minor offenders—can reach his own mouth,
for his neck is invariably locked into a board which is about three feet
square. This board is called a “cangue.” It is very heavy and galls the
neck; it blisters or ossifies the shoulders. The “pig-tail” drags
heavily over it, and pulls the poor enlocked head uncomfortably to one
side. It prevents the hands from lifting rice or water to the craving
mouth, and from brushing from the tingling nose one of the myriad
insects that infest the prisons and prison-yards of China.

I bought a long wooden spoon, to the huge amusement of the Shanghai
gamin, and I never found any difficulty in hiring a coolie to dispense
my petty charity, until one day, when I took rice to the women’s fence.
I had been there often before, but on this day I saw a strange sight.
Three women were locked into one long cangue, and the two other women in
the kamlo-yard vied with the crowd in hurling abusive epithets at their
united heads. They had bad faces, but they looked very hungry and
exhausted. I could induce no one to feed them. My amah, who was with me,
caught me by the hand and cried, “Clome holme, clome to you mallie man.”
I saw that there was something very much amiss; even my ’rickshaw
coolies looked ashamed of me, and so I did go home to my “mallie man,”
as the amah called my husband. We learned that the three women were
procuresses. China does not, I believe, decapitate her female criminals;
but the women who assist the downfall of young Chinese womanhood are
looked upon as criminals apart, and as, than all other criminals, more
vile, and are given the excessive punishment of being locked together by
their necks.

Divorce is as facile to a Chinaman as marriage. The concubine of a
mandarin takes precedence of a coolie’s wife; but the woman who is
general in her immorality, is despised and shunned. As for the older
women who trade in the frailty of their own sex, no one in China has the
least mercy for them, except, of course, the missionaries.

The position of woman is not, in China, altogether inferior to that of
man. It is true of the Chinese, as of every other polygamous people I
have known (except perhaps the wretched Mormons), that with them
womanhood is in some ways guarded, protected, and reverenced as it is
not with us who live in the enlightened West.

A great deal of ignorant nonsense is written about China. Can a people
who are so merciless toward crime be largely immoral?

In their treatment of China itself the Chinese have been exemplary. And
what proves more the virtue of a nation than the use they make of their
own country?

To conserve the physical health and productiveness of China, the Chinese
have exercised the most rigid self-sacrifice.

For thousands of years the Chinese have developed the many resources of
their wonderful country. They have had the great wisdom of patience. The
southern part of the Malay Peninsula and the island of Singapore have
been nearly devastated by the mad over-production of nutmeg trees.
Thousands and tens of thousands of acres of North America are barren or
nearly barren to-day; because the men who owned them, a few years ago,
forced from them larger and more frequent crops than Nature had
capacitated them to give. The Chinese have made no such mistakes. They
have asked no more from their “happy valley of the Seres” than the
surplus of her productiveness. Consequently, China is as full to-day of
mineral, of vegetable, of animal life as when it was virgin to the
husbandry of the first ancestors of the strange yellow people who now
live in and cherish China. Sleek, dappled, big-eyed deer roam as
fearlessly among the pungent forests, and are as plentiful as when the
old Latin writers described the men of Cathay as “great bowmen.” Great
silky hares scurry among the ferns. Golden pheasants nest among the wild
white roses. Snipe and quail thieve fatness from the rice fields. Teal
and pigeons cool their feet in the wet, paddy beds, and wee rice-birds
plume themselves and swing and sway on the swinging, swaying branches of
the purple-flowered wistaria.

Ah, yes, China has grown more beautiful with every passing year, as a
woman grows more beautiful whose home-life is loved and loving! Her
children grow up; her soft hair whitens; but the loveliness of content
and happiness beautifies her features, and she can defy old age, for
love and kindness have kept her young. A happy marriage has made many a
plain woman pretty. China has been very happy in the race that has drawn
its sustenance from her. Her civilisation is one of the oldest extant.
Her architecture is antique. But she, in her own person, is verdant,
fresh, and smiling. She has been loved and cared for tenderly.



                              CHAPTER XVII


                          THE CHINESE NEW YEAR

IF one had a great many debtors and no creditors one might well wish on
New Year’s Day to be among the Chinese a Chinaman.

Every Chinaman, unless he is a very Mongolian blackleg indeed, pays his
debts on New Year’s Day, or on the last day of the old year, that he may
start afresh with fresh books. Think what a splendid arrangement if huge
sums of money were owing to one! Picture the cruel inconvenience if one
were deeply in debt!

I remember one long-ago morning in old Los Angelos. I was a child. Very
early I woke with a cry of terror. There certainly was a terrifying din
in the town. Out of my window I saw a strange, threatening smoke, and
through the window came dire, gunpowdery smells. I remember that I ran,
crying, to my father, and sobbed out that the Indians or the Mexicans
were coming. But I was assured that it was merely the Chinese
celebrating their New Year, and that I might eat my breakfast of fresh
figs and cream in the greatest security.

We had a “washee man” in Los Angelos, a long, lank Chinaman with
abnormally black eyes. He was a great favourite of mine, and I taught
him the alphabet (which I didn’t very well know myself) and the Lord’s
Prayer. He always treated me with great ceremony and respect, and my
baby mind was puffed out delightfully. I felt that I was quite a
missionary light—a friend and an enlightener of the heathen. And I
never could understand why my father laughed at me, and seemed
unenthusiastic about John.

In America every Chinaman is “John,” or at least it was so in those
days; and we were ignorant of the man’s characteristic Mongolian
appellations.

He was always in our debt a few dollars. I don’t know how he managed it,
but he did manage it most deftly. For one thing he never had any change,
and he never came for payment when my father was at home; and as of
course, my mother never had any change either, John usually carried some
small amount over to “all same next time.”

“There are no roses like the roses of Southern California, and no noise
like a Chinese noise,” said my father as we sat on the verandah at
breakfast.

As he spoke John came slowly up the garden path. He was dressed more
like a mandarin than a washerman, but his face was very sad.

“How do. Halpie New Yeal,” he said rather reluctantly. Then he laid,
most reluctantly, two dollars and forty cents beside my mother’s plate.

“What is it, John?” she said.

“Chlange me owey you.”

“You can take it off next month’s bill.”

John’s bright eyes brightened, but he shook his head sadly.

“Must pay. China New Yeal. Chinaman must pay all tin. Me pay plenty yen.
All me owey me pay. Too me pay Joss pidgen.” Then he seemed to shake off
his sorrow at having yielded up the coin. He presented me with a box of
fire-crackers and went away, with the peaceful air of a Chinaman who had
done his duty.

Wherever Chinamen are, the Chinese New Year is observed in the same way.
I have seen it in Los Angelos, in San Francisco, and in New York. In
Melbourne, on the Australian diggings, in Calcutta, in Burmah, in the
Straits Settlements, and in China it is the same. Millions of crackers
fizz and explode; that is the most noticeable feature of the day.
Friends and acquaintances call on each other. Strangers choose the day
to pay visits of respect to Chinese notables. Debts are paid. Feasts are
eaten and shops are closed.

No civilised nation keeps so few holidays as does the Chinese. New
Year’s Day is the one day of national rest. It is the only day of the
year on which all the shops are shut.

The Chinese New Year is not co-occurrent with ours. The festivities
begin on New Year’s Eve, which falls on the 30th day of the 12th moon of
the old year. All China—men, women, and children—sit up to greet the
dawn of the New Year. And they do greet it with the discharge of
millions and billions of crackers. I know a man in Hong-Kong who is
slightly deaf. He declares that his hearing was seriously injured in
Canton on one New Year’s Day. I myself have been in a Chinese city when
the smoke from the New Year’s crackers was almost as dense and as
disagreeable as the London fog in which I am writing.

From midnight on New Year’s Eve every Chinese house is swept and
garnished for the reception of visitors. Joss sticks are lit before the
family gods. The black-carved furniture is polished. Newly-cut sugar
canes are placed beside the threshold, and an incredible quantity of tea
is infused. The master of the house remains at home to do the Celestial
honours to whoever may call. The women of the family and all the younger
men leave home at an early hour, that they may get through a long list
of calls.

Each caller leaves a card. It is a long slip of red Chinese paper. On it
are printed the visitors’ names, titles, and addresses. Friends exchange
presents of tea, sweetmeats, ornaments, and fruits. They exchange long
complimentary letters, the writing of which is in China a fine art.
Every guest is regaled with tea and refreshments, which range from
absurd-looking sweetmeats to tinsel-decked roast pigs.

On New Year’s Day the Chinese wear their dresses of ceremony and their
festival dresses. It is every Chinaman’s ambition to be a mandarin. On
New Year’s Day every Chinaman apes the dress of a mandarin as closely as
the law will allow. On New Year’s Day in Japan—unless we happen, as we
sometimes do, to be in their bad graces—every Japanese man rushes into
a frock coat and under a silk hat. But the Chinese are grandly insular
always, and they borrow nothing from us in their celebration of their
great national holiday. Ah Man’s beau ideal of holiday attire is a
conical hat, a long silk cloak, gigantic shoes, and grotesque stockings.

Whatever the Chinese do they do thoroughly. Thoroughness is their chief
characteristic. They are the most industrious people in the world and
the most tireless. They rarely take a holiday, but when they do, they
take it vigorously. There are no half-way measures about their
merry-making. If they work, they work with a method and a muscle, a
persistence and an exactness, that shames European industry. If they
keep accounts, they compute the fraction of a fraction far beyond where
we lose sight of it. If they drink tea, they drink it as tea elsewhere
never yet was drunk. And if they have a good time, they have it in all
its details. Every lantern is lit that can shed one more ray of merry
light upon the festivity; every shrill instrument is played that can
augment the noise and hubbub. There is only one thing that a Chinaman
loves more than hubbub, and that is noise.

After noise and hubbub he adores gambling. At the New Year season he
gambles excessively. Gambling is a most deplorable habit; but the
Chinese gamble so well, in China gambling is such a fine art, that I
must own I loved to watch them play, and could never feel, at their
great national weakness, half the horror that I knew I ought to have
felt. But gambling certainly is the cause of great misery in China. And
the New Year tide is the gamester’s carnival. Ah well, the Chinese have
so few faults that I think they can afford to plead guilty to this
one—grave though it is. It is a fault born of quick brains, of strong
nerves, of active fingers, and of daring natures.

Are you scowling at me because I say the Chinese have few faults? I
repeat it. If you go among them as I have gone, if you will win your way
with them, if you will come to know them as I have known them, you will,
I think, agree with me. The Chinese are not altogether prepossessing to
European eyes; but they are, I believe, worthy of all European respect
and of great European confidence. You have known some very bad Chinamen,
perhaps? So have I. That proves nothing. Why, I have known some bad
Englishmen,—I have even known one bad American. Travelling Europeans
make no greater mistake than in forming their judgment of a great and
peculiar people from the few members they have slightly known of that
big, national body. I was recently present when an able and eloquent man
said to one of England’s greatest physicians: “I have proof of ten fever
cases where the temperature has been reduced by the power of ——,” the
remedy he was advocating. “Bring me ten thousand such instances, well
authenticated, and I shall think that it deserves scientific
investigation,” said the doctor. I thought that the acme of wise,
prudent reasoning; and I wish that that eminent physician might make and
record a tour of Asia. Whatever he did, he would do well—his calm
exactness would make him eminent in anything. Agassiz never laid down as
a truth of the swallow family what he had observed on the breast of one
swallow! We make ourselves ridiculous if we judge the countless Chinese
nation by a handful of inferior Chinamen whom we have known imperfectly.
We might as justly say that Florence Nightingale was immoral because
there are unfortunate women in London. Shall we call Tennyson illiterate
because our dustman is h-less and h-ey? Shall we believe the Lord Chief
Justice a murderer because Whitechapel once had a Jack-the-Ripper?

The Chinese New Year crackers must afford occupation to a vast number of
poor people. The varieties of the crackers are legion, and the number
fired every New Year’s Day is not to be computed by a small mind or a
limited arithmetician. We were walking once in interior China. It was
early in the Chinese year. We noticed at some distance a strange scarlet
hillock. We went curiously toward it. Not until we were very near did we
discover that it was the remnants of many thousands of crackers. The
burning crackers had been thrown upon a bed of wild white roses; they
had scorched the leaves and seared the stems; but that had been some
weeks before. The débris of the crackers was decaying; it manured the
rose roots, and the roses were pushing up among the torn scarlet-cracker
bits. A thousand fragrant, waxen flowers were backgrounded against the
red shreds of the fireworks.

The beauty of China and the excellence of the Chinese are vividly
backgrounded by all that is grotesque or faulty in the people of China.
Strangely, we seem to be blind to the flower, while we see the
background only too clearly.

I have heard that the Chinese roses are scentless. That proves how much
I must be the slave of my potent imagination. I thought that I had known
no sweeter flower than the wild white rose of China.

There is no country that we misunderstand more grossly than we
misunderstand China; but there is no country that can more afford to be
indifferent to misconception.



                             CHAPTER XVIII


                           ORIENTAL OBSEQUIES

                           _Chinese Coffins_

IF I may say so, without appearing over-anxious to advertise my Irish
ancestry, the most important event in a Chinaman’s life is his funeral.

A Chinese crowd is the culmination of human noise; and the Chinese are
never so noisy as at a funeral. They have hearty appetites at all times,
but they never eat so much as they do at a funeral feast. When I first
lived in China I used to find it almost impossible to distinguish
between a funeral procession and a marriage procession. In the centre of
one the coffined corpse is borne on the shoulders of men. In the centre
of the other similar men bear upon their shoulders the bride, who is in
an enclosed sedan chair, and she is followed by her bridesmaids. But, to
the casual observer, the two ends of the two processions are quite alike
in every other respect. Tom-toms, red-clothed coolies carrying roasted
pigs and other dainties, smaller coolies carrying cheap paper ornaments
of a Mongolian theatrical type,—these are the invariable elements of
both processions.

China, if you know it at all, is the easiest of the Oriental countries
to write about; although it is very difficult to inform yourself about
the Chinese, they are so bitterly exclusive. For any scrap of
information you once obtain is necessarily exact. The versatile Japanese
have a hundred modes of life; the conservative Chinese have one. The
Indian peninsula is inhabited by a hundred distinct peoples; peoples of
varying origins, speaking different languages, obeying differing laws,
wearing dissimilar dress. These Indian tribes intermingle more or less;
their country is so over-populated that they must. But they learn almost
nothing from each other; they adopt nothing from each other. They so
rarely intermarry that for the purposes of general writing I may say
they never do it. The narrow prejudice or the magnificent conservatism
(whichever it is) that has kept the petty Indian tribes distinctly
separated from one another has kept the great unnumbered and almost
numberless Chinese nation, a nation apart from all the rest of the human
world. But, unlike the rigidly conservative Indians, the Chinese have
taken a great many ideas from aliens. We must not think, because as a
people they will not mingle with us nor admit us into their national
heart, nor into their homes, nor into the bowels of their country, that
they never learn anything from us. They have learned a great deal, they
are learning, and they will learn. But what they adopt from us they so
assimilate with their vividly characteristic national modes of thought
and life, that that superficial mammal, the travelling European, never
suspects that many of the conveniences of everyday Chinese life are
adaptations of Aryan customs or of European tools.

The Chinese are to-day the most unique, the most ancient, and the most
misunderstood people on the earth. I say the most ancient because they
are the least changed from what they were long centuries ago. The least
changed—they are not changed at all! The China of to-day is the China
Marco Polo knew. In the thirteenth century commercial intercourse was
frequent between China and Europe. A long caravan route extended from
the southern provinces of China to Genoa. The men who took a year to go
from their Chinese homes to the great Italian mart, taking with them
their precious merchandise of silk and ivory, of tissue and of pearls,
differed in almost no way from the men that of recent years have flocked
to the Australian diggings and the Californian goldfields.

Europe has pierced its aggressive way into China. China, belching with
its congested population, has overflowed into Europe. On the whole, we
have, I think, been treated better in China than the Chinese have been
treated here. We have often been very rude to Ah Foong. Nevertheless he
has gained his point: he has earned enough money to return to the
Celestial Empire, to live there in affluence, and to be buried there
with _éclat_. And when he has left Europe he has taken with him
something more than English gold. A few of us have been in China. (I am
not speaking of the missionaries—I regard them as a people apart.) What
have we gained in China? A strange experience (to me a pleasant one), a
pound of perfumed tea and a bale of flowered crêpe, for both of which we
have paid right handsomely. We have been treated in the main politely;
but, sooner or later, most of us are bowed out of China, if not by the
Emperor, why, then, by the climate.

The Chinese have, at least, three religions—Confucianism, Buddhism, and
Taoism; but the funeral rites of the three sects are almost, if not
quite, identical. There are several reasons for this. The three
religions are much alike, and are all largely founded upon Indian
Buddhism. Moreover, religion is a very second-class affair indeed in
China. The priests are not at all an honoured class; they are usually
treated with open contumely. There are no religious dissensions in
China, it is not a matter of enough importance. The priests of two sects
often live together in the chummiest way. Filial devotion is the real
religion of China. All China is one huge family, and the Emperor is the
“Great Father.” By the way, “Great Father” is what the North American
Indians call God; and the Chinese consider their Emperor a god. How we
human atoms ring our petty changes on a few poor thoughts! There is one
more reason why all Chinese funerals are greatly alike. China is a land
of ceremonials, and the smallest details of those ceremonials are
prescribed by the Leke or _Book of Rites_. To disobey the least rule of
this great national manual is a crime, and a severely punished one.

In two respects only does one Chinese funeral differ from another. The
first is in the amount of money spent, and the second is in the period
after death at which burial takes place.

The first ambition of every Chinaman is to have a splendid coffin. A
poor Chinaman will half starve himself and his family for years that he
may daily hoard a few cash toward the sum needed for the purchase of the
coveted casket. When the coffin is really bought, it is brought home
with great ceremony. It is given the place of honour in the house, and
is regarded as the most valuable piece of furniture in the
establishment. Often a pious son will sell himself into slavery that he
may buy and present to his father an exceptionally handsome coffin. Such
acts of filial piety rarely go unrewarded by the Government. The
obedience of children to parents is so much the central idea of Chinese
life, and upon it so largely depends the safety of the Chinese
Government, that that Government, being one of the most astute and
painstaking in the world, misses no opportunity of strengthening the
idea of filial obedience in the Chinese mind, either _en masse_ or
singly. Among the poorer classes it is customary to buy a very thick
coffin. No self-respecting Chinese family (and the Chinese are the most
self-respecting of all the nations) will bury a parent until they can do
so with more or less Mongolian magnificence; hence, in China, death by
no means implies immediate burial. When a Chinaman dies his neighbours
come in and help the women of the family to make the shroud. The body is
put in its coffin, then the funeral ceremonies begin, if there is money
enough. If there is not, the coffin is put back in its place of honour
until the family finances look up. That is something that occasionally
takes time in Europe. In China money is acquired more slowly; the
coffined body often awaits adequately-ceremonied burial for twenty or
thirty years. I need not, I think, dwell upon the grave necessity under
such circumstances for a very thick, air-tight coffin. Often a Chinese
funeral entails the additional expense of a long journey. A Chinaman
will leave his father unburied rather than inter him anywhere but in the
tombs of his ancestors, which may be in the most distant part of China,
for Ah Foong is rather a traveller.

The day of the death or the day after, the relatives not living in the
house and the friends come to pay the last duties or respect to the
deceased. When the visitors arrive they are shown into a room in which
are all the women and children of the establishment. These latter set up
a dismal howl, in which the visitors join, or to which they listen
sympathetically. When the tympanum of even a Chinese ear begins to ache,
the guests are ushered into another apartment, where the men of the
house give them tea and refreshment. The refreshment varies according to
the means of the family. In the house of the rich it is a dinner. After
the visitors have drank and eaten they are bowed out by one of the
kinsmen of the dead.

[Illustration: FOOCHOW SINGING GIRLS.         _Page 169._]

The dinner of Chinese affluence, wherever, whyever it is served,
consists of five courses—

    1. A very rich thick soup.
    2. Salad and meat.
    3. Birds’ nests, sharks’ fins, and other very nourishing dishes.
    4. Stews.
    5. Fruits and sweetmeats.

The first four courses are eaten with chop-sticks, the last course is
eaten with the fingers; and is not that the way that fruit always should
be eaten? Everything in the first four courses is served superlatively
hot. Except a Chinaman is starving he will not eat cooked food unless it
is bubbling hot. I except sweetmeats; and yet he eats the most
incredible quantities of ice. Wine is served with all the
courses—served hot. It is not intoxicating, and has, to my palate, a
very pleasant taste. I used to dine in America with some people who were
just a bit mad on the temperance question. One day they gave me
unfermented wine; it was an awful moment! But the Chinese dinner-giver
knows the secret of keeping his guests free from the possible ill
effects of alcohol without making himself ridiculous.

At a correct Chinese dinner the women look on from behind a trellis
work. The Chinese hold that the seat of the human understanding is the
stomach.

A well-conducted Chinese funeral is the most gorgeous sight in Asia. It
may seem to us a little tinselly, but that is a mere matter of taste;
but I, who make bold to like the Chinese, can’t claim that they have in
all things a superabundance of taste.

At the front of the funeral procession walk the noisy, musicless
musicians; then come men (they may be friends, they may be coolies)
bearing the insignia of the dignity of the dead, if he had any. Next
walk more men carrying figures of animals, idols, umbrellas, and blue
and white streamers. After them come men carrying pans of perfume. Just
before the coffin walk bonzes—Chinese priests. Over the coffin a canopy
is usually carried. The casket is borne by about a score of men.
Immediately after the coffin walk the children of the deceased. The
eldest son comes first. He is dressed in canvas and leans heavily upon a
stout stick. He is supposed to be too exhausted by grief and fasting to
walk without the aid of this staff. The other children and relatives
follow this chief mourner. They are clothed in white linen garments.
White is the mourning colour of the Danes and of the Chinese. The women
are carried in chairs in the Chinese funeral procession. They sob and
wail at intervals and in unison.

A Chinese funeral procession always has a long way to go. The
burying-places are invariably some distance from the town or village.
Usually they are on a high place. Pines and cypresses are planted about
them if possible. The dead are supposed to be pleased at having a
pleasant situation for their graves. When a Chinese family has
persistent bad luck it is usual for them to shift the bones of their
ancestors to a more desirable place.

When the burying-place is reached the bonzes begin chanting a mass for
the dead, and the coffin is put into the tomb. When the coffin is laid
in its final position, a large, oblong, white marble table is placed
before the tomb. On the middle of it is set a censor and two vases and
two candlesticks, all of as exquisite workmanship as possible. Then they
have a paper cremation; paper figures of men and horses, garments, and a
score of other things are burned. These are supposed to undergo a
material resurrection and to be useful to the dead in the Chinese
heaven. The tomb is sealed up or closed, and an entertainment concludes
the ceremony at the grave.

The forms of Chinese tombs vary somewhat, according to the province in
which they are built, and very much according to the means of the
relative who undertakes the expense. With the very poor the coffin is
placed upon the ground, earth and lime are packed about it, and a rude
grave is formed. With the rich a vault is built, in the form of a
horse-shoe. If the dead was of note or position, the decorations of the
grave and of the coffin are very elaborate. There are a thousand
interesting things to be said about Chinese mourning, about the
ceremonies commemorative of the dead, and about the funerals of the
Chinese Royal Family. But they can’t be put into a paragraph, nor on to
a page. So I leave them.

Chinese religion is so secondary an affair that it is inconsistent.
Theoretically, some of them believe in immortality. In reality, I
believe them to be the veriest materialists, quite devoid of a belief in
an after-life. And yet they periodically carry food to the graves of
their ancestors.

The Chinese are touchingly fanatic in their love of home. China is so
over-productive of human life that a fearful number of the Chinese are
uncomfortable from their birth till their death. That is the only reason
that we sometimes see, as I did yesterday, a red-button mandarin on the
streets of London, and the sole reason that half San Francisco’s soiled
linen is washed by Chinamen. But wherever they go, they carry their
coffins with them. They hope to die in China, but, if by accident or
misfortune, they die in Europe, in America, or in Australia, their last
prayer is that they may rest in a Chinese grave.



                              CHAPTER XIX


                           ORIENTAL NUPTIALS

                          _Chinese Espousals_

THERE are no marriages in China for a hundred days following the death
of an Emperor. But on all other days, marriage processions of various
degrees of gorgeousness follow each other along the streets in
interminable succession.

Theoretically the Emperor is the only Chinaman who sees the face of his
wife before their marriage. As a matter of fact, in the poorer classes,
boys and girls grow up together, play together, work together, and fall
in love with each other. And even in the richer classes, where poverty
does not drive the girls into public view, love matches are not so very
uncommon. Chinese literature is replete with love stories. And the love
poems of China are remarkable from a human point as much as from a
Mongolian.

The most important marriages that ever take place in China are the
marriages of the Emperor. To those marriages every daughter of every
Chinese grandee aspires. When the Emperor ascends the throne, the
grandees of the court bring to him all their unmarried daughters. He
selects all that please him, and the chosen girls rejoice together.

The Emperor of China never allies himself, directly or indirectly, with
any foreign prince. The Chinese Royal Family is purely Chinese. The
daughters of the Emperor are often given in marriage to favourite
mandarins. The family that can furnish his Majesty with one of his many
wives—the family that can form an alliance with one of the sovereign’s
daughters—is sure to gain great influence and power, and to be loaded
with many honours. There is no limit to the number of an Emperor’s
wives, except the limit placed by his own apathy. He is a very absolute
monarch indeed, is the Emperor of China. There is, among the countless
millions of his subjects, one person only who may dare to differ from
him, to admonish him, or even to urgently advise him,—his mother. There
are two things in China mightier than the Emperor of China: the mother
of the Emperor and public opinion. He must heed both, if they speak
emphatically enough.

But among his Majesty’s many wives there is one who is chief. She is
called Hrang-Hou. She is the Empress; she enjoys peculiar prerogatives;
she is usually a person of vast influence. The wives of a Chinese
Emperor are securely shut in a palace of their own. They hold no
communication with the outer world. The outer world sees nothing of
them; but they see China, very much as the people of a country village
often see the world—through a cheap stereoscope. If a wife of the
Emperor expresses curiosity about some famous city, a miniature
representation of that city is probably built in the palace park. Which
is one way of making the mountain come to Mohammed, is it not? The wives
of the Emperor are often allowed to sit behind gratings and watch
ceremonies and feasts. They are lavishly supplied with everything except
freedom, general society, and feet. I fancy that they are all well
educated. I have never known the wife of a Chinese Emperor; but I have
known Chinese women of lesser rank who were positively highly educated.
And nowhere is education more valued—its power more understood—than in
China. Nowhere is education more valuable, for in China a man’s rank
depends solely upon what he can do or has done. It is most probable that
the grandees, who may aspire to bestow their daughters upon the Emperor,
give those daughters—from whose influence they hope so much—every
possible advantage of education.

Chinese widows re-marry, but the practice is not held in high repute.
The widows of the Emperor can never re-marry. Upon his death they are
removed to a building which stands within the palace precincts. It is
called the Palace of Chastity. There the widows of the Emperor—with the
possible exception of her who is now the Empress Mother—must live and
die. But they are held in the greatest honour, treated with the greatest
respect and consideration.

The favourite wife of a Chinese Emperor is a very potential lady, and
she is rather apt to retain her power. She is beautiful, according to
Chinese standards of beauty, or the Emperor would never have chosen her.
She is most probably a woman of unusual culture and education. She is
very possibly a woman of intellect; for she is a grandee’s daughter, and
no meagrely-minded man attains to grandeeship in China. And it goes
without saying that she is the best-dressed woman in China. She has
nothing to do but welcome the suzerain and to please him. She belongs to
no society for the advancement of her own sex. She may not even write to
the daily papers; but she is rather warmly liked by her royal
master-husband for all that. And many a Chinese Emperor has been in
despair at the death of his favourite wife. In the middle of the
seventeenth century, the Emperor Chun-Chee, who was the founder of the
present dynasty, sacrificed, at the tomb of his favourite wife, thirty
odd slaves. That was a nice little _post-mortem_ custom; but it has died
out. Paper men are now burnt at Chinese graves, that the spirit of the
dead may not lack servants in the after-life. And yet, as far as I could
find out, but few Chinamen really believe in an after-life. What a
strange inconsistency on the part of a people usually so consistent!

I have said that only the Emperor’s mother dare cross the Emperor’s
will. But only the God of Marriage knows what battles are fought and won
within those closely-guarded palace gardens, when the sovereign visits
his wives. I have very little faith in the powerlessness of
lock-and-keyed wives. In India I knew a Maharajah who was abjectly
afraid of his purdahed Maharanee’s sharp little tongue.

China is a huge place. Though customs are essentially the same all over
China, some of them are greatly differentiated in detail. This is
probably one reason that almost all English written accounts of Chinese
weddings differ markedly. I fancy that a greater reason is that the
almost impregnable reticence of the Chinese makes it very difficult for
an Occidental to definitely learn much concerning the fundamental
customs of Chinese life.

The age is very variable at which Chinese marriages are contracted. I
have seen Chinese brides of very tender years, and I have seen Chinese
brides who looked positively mature.

Ordinarily a Chinaman buys his wife. He does not see her (or is supposed
not to see her) until the marriage; but his women representatives have a
good long look at her and report to him, or to his parents, if those are
still living. If all the preliminary details are satisfactorily
arranged, the bargain is concluded. The bridegroom pays the bride’s
parents the stipulated “wife-price.” He retires to his own house and
there awaits his unseen bride. She is placed in a closed palanquin, a
fantastic sedan chair, which is carried at the end or in the centre of
the bridal procession. This procession is as elaborate as the means of
the contracting families will permit, and as grotesque as Chinese fancy
can invent. In it are lanterns, musical instruments, fans, umbrellas,
insignia of rank, and covered tables on which are roast pigs and a
hundred and one Chinese dainties. The bearers of all these ornaments and
symbols are clad in bright red, or at least wear red jackets. The
musicians play, the crowd shouts, in sing-song Chinese fashion, and the
two bridesmaids proudly follow the sedan chair. The chair is locked and
the key is carried by a trusted servant. The bridegroom waits at his own
gate, clad in his dress of ceremony. A Chinese dress of ceremony is a
most remarkable collection of remarkable garments; its colours and many
of its details depend entirely upon the rank of its wearer. The key of
the palanquin is handed to the bridegroom. He presses forward; the crowd
draws back; the bridegroom unlocks the palanquin and looks at its
contents. If he is pleased, he leads his bride into his house and the
marriage is celebrated. If the bridegroom is disappointed, the bride is
sent back to her parents and there is no wedding. But in that case the
bridegroom that was to have been, must pay the girl’s parents a sum
equal to the sum for which he bought her. Even after the marriage the
wife can be divorced and returned to her parents upon payment of a sum
identical with the “wife money” which was her first price. The causes
for divorce with which the Chinese popular mind is most sympathetic are
those that arise from the misrepresentation of the bride by her parents.
If she is less attractive in face or figure than she was said to
be—above all, if she has larger feet—every Chinaman is justified, to
the popular mind, in divorcing his wife.

If the bridegroom is pleased and the bride goes in, the friends follow
and a gigantic feast is offered and accepted. The marriage ceremony
itself is far less important, I believe, to the Chinese mind than the
marriage feast. The marriage ceremonies of almost all the Oriental
peoples are strangely alike. The chief detail of the Chinese marriage
ritual is, I understand, the tying together of bride and bridegroom.
Scarlet strings fasten them together, waist to waist and foot to foot.

Nothing seems to me more difficult of description than the position of
woman in China. As I have so often said, reliable and precise
information is so hard to obtain. But more than that, the position of
woman in China is so complex. As a wife she is placed beneath her
husband and is subservient to him, because the Chinese regard the female
as inferior to the male. As a mother she is placed above her son, and he
is subservient to her, because the Chinese regard the parent as superior
to the child. But with the Chinese the superiority of parentage is far
greater than any possible superiority of sex.

My observation in China was, necessarily, limited, but it was very
earnest. It was my observation that the Chinese men were not unkind to
the Chinese women. I spent some time among the water populations of
Hong-Kong and Canton. In both of those cities incredible thousands live
in the crudest native boats,—live in sampans. They seemed very happy,
contented little families, despite their dire poverty. The women worked
hard, but they were certainly consulted about every family matter. I
never saw a race of women who struck me as being less cowed. I often
used to watch them at their wretched meals; it was share and share
alike, with the nicer share for the wife and the tidbits for the baby.
It is true that among the poorer classes of the Chinese the women do
tremendously hard work; but it is also true that they are tremendously
strong. It is as true that women are forced to stupendous labour
wherever poverty is more the rule than the exception. The Chinese women
of the coolie class labour in the fields, they break stones on the
streets of Hong-Kong, they carry heavy boxes on and off the boats that
anchor in the Canton river,—but they are not ciphers in their own
families. I do not believe that they are ever cuffed; I doubt if they
are ever cursed.

A Chinese gentleman is superlatively polite. This may not be generally
known, because the upper classes in China are so reluctant to know us or
to let us know them. But it is true. We know one Chinese family of rank
rather well; we have eaten with the men of the family and with the
women. Truth compels me to mention that the gentleman of the house had
two wives. Whether they ordinarily ate with him I do not know. I fancy
that their doing so when we were there was an act of consideration for
me; yet I am not sure, for they were easy and self-possessed. And this I
do know, that the men of the house were most unfailingly courteous to
them. I believe that, on the whole, Mongolian married life is very
fairly satisfactory to the Mongolians. If they are satisfied, why, in
the name of reasonableness, should they be disturbed? If the women of
the upper classes are not always, or even often, supreme in their home
lives, they are at least secure of deferential and courteous treatment.
One of the chief proverbs of China—and I thought it a delightful
one—is, “You must listen to your wife, but not believe her.”



                               CHAPTER XX


                             CHINESE SHOES

THE Chinese women have enormous feet. They are reputed “small footed,”
but our reputations often wrong us. No Chinese woman has a small foot.
But even a Chinese woman’s huge great toe looks small when in its
solitary deformity it masquerades as an entire foot.

There is nothing so characteristic of the Chinese as thoroughness. The
Chinese are the least beautiful of all civilised peoples; but when they
undertake to be beautiful—even in the mere matter of their women’s
feet—they do it thoroughly. They don’t put a heel in the middle of a
shoe to make a foot look small, nor do they point absurdly an empty
satin toe. No! They bend four of the human toes back and leave the one
big toe to do apparent duty as a lovely, diminutive foot.

To us the small-footed women of China appear twofold martyrs. We think
them martyrs because they suffer when the foot deformity is inflicted
upon them. We think them martyrs because their deformed feet are
useless, and disable them from taking exercise.

We regard exercise as a blessed privilege. The Chinese regard exercise
as a dire necessity.

We, in the West, do most things because we like; they, in the East, do
most things because they must.

That makes the great racial difference. It is not often justly
appreciated. Ignoring it causes us to do the people of Asia innumerable
injustices.

Chinese women know as little of tennis, of golf, of riding to
hounds—even of dancing in its fast and furious Western sense—as we
know of fish-eye soup and of birds’-nest stew. And they care less.

The majority of Chinese women whose feet are bound endure temporary
pain, but they suffer no permanent deprivation. To take voluntary and
unnecessary exercise—to take it as a pleasure—could never occur to a
well-balanced Chinese mind. The Nirvâna of which the Brahmins dream is
the idleness which the most favoured-by-fortune of the Chinese women
realise.

Milton might have written of the small-footed women of China (had he
known them—had he felt an interest in them), ‘They also serve who only
sit and wait.’ They serve indeed a great racial purpose of repose as
they sit and wait for an Occidental enlightenment for which they have no
desire.

The Chinese are the hardest working, the most indefatigable race on
earth. Consequently the _grandes dames_ of old Cathay do even less
material work than the leisured women of any other country.

Nature is the great giver of recompense; Nature saves us from universal
insanity; Nature whispers in the ear of the tired, overworked Chinaman,
“Rest is the superlative form of happiness. To be idle is to be in
paradise.”

The Chinese bind the feet of their women not out of cruelty; they do it
partly out of a deformed, over-civilised, national vanity, but still
more out of a tender kindness. The woman whose feet are “small” can
perform no great physical labour; she cannot trudge beneath the burning
sun to tend the young rice plants; nor can she pole the heavy sampans up
and down the crowded Chinese rivers.

The Chinese do not incapacitate their chosen women from enjoyment but
from hardship. It is often said and printed in the West that the feet of
the women of the Chinese nobility are bound, and that the feet of the
peasant women are left unbound. It has been said that you can learn a
Chinese woman’s rank from her feet. I have even seen it recorded in
good, honest-looking type that the feet of all the Chinese women are
bound.

Excepting only the descendants of Confucius there is no Chinese
nobility, save the momentary nobility of personal merit. A mandarin who
is “noble” because he is able is most probably rich; being rich he can
afford to bind the feet of his daughter. There is no necessity for her
to work. He can go further; he can secure her in perpetual idleness. Her
feet are bound, and her bowl of rice is placed before her; she need
never earn it by the sweat of her pretty little yellow brow.

How the preposterous notion that the feet of all Chinese women are bound
ever entered the most stupid Occidental head is inconceivable. I suppose
that it occurred on the same intellectual principle that impelled a San
Francisco friend to say to me, “You need not tell me there’s any good in
any of the Chinese, for I just know there ain’t. I know two Johns; they
do my washing. They’re both thieves, they both lie, and they both
gamble.”

In the poorer class (we can scarcely use the word peasant of a people by
all of whom the highest nobility is attainable)—in the poorer class
there is apt to be one small-footed girl in each family. If they can see
their combined way to support her, the feet of the prettiest girl are
bound. Don’t fancy that she resents it. She is delighted. She does only
light work after that. She brings a better price in the vast Mongolian
marriage market. Haply, she will, in future, be able to aid and
recompense her devoted family. At the worst, they have the satisfaction
of feeling that they have rescued one of their own flesh and blood from
the seething, sweating struggle for Chinese existence.

Chinese shoemakers are supreme. They are an economy and a delight to
every European woman who lives in Asia. Their work is swift, deft, and
faultless! Their bills are charmingly little. In spite of the hard times
I am beautifully shod to-day, thanks to a little yellow man who lives on
Bentick Street in Calcutta. I forget his name, but I send him a very
hearty chin-chin. Difficulties may arise with my landlord and my
coal-merchant; but I am strong on my feet. I have a box full of lovely
shoes and slippers; the most expensive pair cost me six rupees. As a
rule I furnished the satin and paid my cobbler one rupee. I was with a
friend yesterday, when she bought herself a pair of French boots. I saw
her purse bleed gold, and my heart was full with kind thoughts of my
Chinese shoemaker.

In nothing are the Chinese more thorough than in their stoicism. I only
saw, well, one Chinese hospital; I never had the courage to go into
another. In Hong-Kong a friend who was attached to the English Hospital
took me through it and through the Tung Wah Hospital.

The English Hospital was a great cool place of succour, of comfort, and
of alleviation. The Chinese Hospital was a house of horror. There was
system, but I saw no comfort. The Chinese gentleman who accompanied me
told me that the beds were bare boards because the patients were used to
nothing else and would like nothing else. Why the insane ward was as it
was he did not explain. Indeed I went into the insane “ward” alone; my
two escorts waited at the door. There were several good and sufficient
reasons for this.

In the pharmacy all seemed excellently ordered. We might, I believe,
learn from the Chinese much of great medical value; their drugs, their
instruments, and their therapeutics all deserve trained and competent
study.

The Chinaman dreads the knife as he dreads nothing else; and yet of
recent years China has made great strides in surgery. The Chinese
pharmacopœia is, I fancy, exceptionally rich, and includes many potent,
efficacious herbs of which we know nothing.

I ought, in justice, to say that the Tung Wah Hospital was clean. It was
very clean,—but it was beyond words dreary. It was a cruel place. The
sick and the sick-unto-death lay, I thought, absolutely without
sympathy, certainly without creature comforts. But there, it is so easy
for ignorance to be critical, so impossible for it to criticise justly.
Possibly those poor creatures would have resented the sympathy and have
refused the comforts. So, at least, I was told. I tried to be fair. But
I went out of the handsome carving-decked waiting-room very troubled
about the Tung Wah Hospital, and very sure that its insane ward was a
disgrace to an island over which the English flag floated.

From the Tung Wah Hospital we went on and up, until we passed through
the pretty lodge of the English Hospital. It was a huge house of mercy.
And the pretty brown-eyed Sister who smiled me welcome to the first ward
had English roses at her belt.

[Illustration: CHINESE MUSICIANS.         _Page 184._]

The Chinese are heroically thorough in their struggle for existence.
China has an enormous water population. I forget how many thousands or
tens of thousands live in the sampans of Hong-Kong and Canton; but the
number is gigantic. I made friends in Hong-Kong with a woman who was
born on a sampan, who was married from a sampan to a sampan man, and who
had, in the short sanctity of her husband’s sampan, been seven times a
mother. She had never spent five consecutive hours out of a sampan. Her
loves and hates, her distastes and her appetites, her fears and her
ambitions, were all bounded by the primitive walls of a Hong-Kong
sampan.

When you think of partly English Hong-Kong in all its regal beauty, when
you think of wholly Mongolian Canton in all its super-Asiatic density,
think of them with an outer scum—a scum of poverty, a scum of sampans.
China, the prolific, has overflowed into the yellow Chinese sea, and it
is greatly to the credit of the Chinese overflow that it has found life
both palatable and practicable. I saw in China nothing more wonderful
than the _modus vivendi_ of the sampan people. They do all that men must
do on board their crude, diminutive barks. Nevertheless, they keep the
boats scrupulously clean and very much at the service of any European
who will exchange a few sen for a long, soft float on the swelling
Chinese sea.

Nature herself is thorough in China. When it rains on Hong-Kong, the
island is drenched with a wet splendour that dwarfs into a mere mist all
the rains that ever fell on Europe. The last time that we were in
Hong-Kong it rained incessantly. Between the steamer and the hotel our
boxes were thoroughly drenched. I was very cross when my poor trunks
were opened, and my maid wept, probably because she foresaw damp,
additional labour. We secured an extra room, and every effort was made
to remove the stain of Anne Nevill’s black velvet from Pauline
Deschappelle’s white bridal satin. But alas, the trailing stain of the
Chinese rains was over them all, and I am still the chagrined possessor
of sundry costly gowns that are not the colour they were, because they
have been soaked by the unexaggeratable torrents of the Chinese storms.
The rain came down, the rain came across, the rain seemed to come up
from the seething earth.

My thickening manuscript cries to me, “Halt.” I have left unsaid almost
all that I ought to have said of China, had my information and my
capacity been less meagre. And in the sheerest gratitude I should have
chronicled more that one feast on the Peak, and recorded how sweetly the
Argyll and Sutherlanders played _Annie Laurie_, and how potent their
uniforms looked against the vivid background of the green Chinese flora.

There are sentences, or rather might be sentences, I long to
write—sentences unique with Slavic words and Tartar
phraseology—sentences descriptive of the Russian seamen who ’rickshawed
through Hong-Kong while the Tsarevitz was peeping at Canton.

The Russian men-of-war were too bulky to slip up the narrow Canton
rivers. The Tsarevitz accepted the locomotion of a smaller boat, and the
Russian sailors held in Hong-Kong high holiday.

From Hong-Kong we sent back to Australia about half of our artistic
corps. We were, as we thought, soon going home to England. My husband
wished our departing fellows God-speed and a glad return to their
Antipodean homes. I tried to wring Jimmie MacAllister’s huge hand; and I
wiped my eyes as the big ship carried him back to the land of the
Southern Cross—carried him away from the green hills of Hong-Kong,
where the red flowers of China flashed upon the gray walls of the
English Barracks.

Of the amateurs who filled up our depleted ranks, I will say nothing,
because nothing that I could say would be enough.

I believe that I am a wiser woman for having lived in China. Certainly I
am a happier.

There is, I think, if I may say it again, no other civilised country
that we misunderstand and misjudge as we do China. There is, I
emphatically believe, no other nation so worthy, as are the Chinese, of
our sympathy and respect.



                              CHAPTER XXI


                             JAPANESE TOUCH

WITH the Japanese art is an inspiration. They are incapable of bad taste
in art. If their work is not always great, it is always fine. It
sometimes lacks depth, it never lacks grace.

Lightness of touch, exactness of touch, characterise all Japanese work;
but it would be grossly untrue to say that all Japanese work lacks
strength, depth, and force. Much that the Japanese do, they do “from the
shoulder.” Their cloisonné is rich, their carvings are masterly, and on
the stages of their theatres I have seen handling of group-masses that
was powerful in the extreme.

But finish and delicacy are the most general characteristics of all
Japanese work. Even when the Japanese are positively bold in design and
execution, it is so well bred a boldness that we are apt to lose sight
of it, and be absorbed in admiration of the details.

Japanese finish is so extreme that it is almost veneer. The Japanese are
as polished as their own lacquers; and all their work is a reflection of
themselves.

Art and Nature are at their loveliest in Japan. Nowhere else is Nature
so artistic. Perhaps because nowhere else does there dwell a people so
intensely sympathetic with Nature. In Japan the scenery is so perfect
that we almost suspect it of being studied. And the Japanese
architecture—of hut or of temple—is so appropriate to its background,
so fits the landscape, that we feel that both have been arranged by the
same master-hand.

No other people can boast an art that breaks into so many lines of
beauty, and that smiles with such sweet wealth of colour-harmony. But
there are parts of the globe where both Art and Nature seize upon us
more quickly and hold us more powerfully.

In the Alps, in the Sierra Nevadas, in Tasmania, in Gippsland, in the
Himalayas, Nature takes you by the shoulders and shakes you—shakes a
soul into you if you never had one before.

In Japan, Nature has vines and blossoms in her hair, and wine on her
lips. She smiles into your face. She stretches out to you her warm,
dimpled arms. She has bewitched you. You may tear yourself away from
her, but you will never forget her. She will haunt you in your London
club; and when you are deer-stalking in Scotland or yachting in the
Norway fiords you will close your eyes sometimes and feel once more upon
your cheeks the perfume of her breath. Her beauty has mastered you. You
love her, with a light love, perhaps, but then, alas, the light loves
are the loves that last. You have escaped to honest English civilisation
and to Regent Street, but to the day of your death you will long to go
back to the gentle, scented embrace of the blithe Nature that laughs and
rollicks and lavishes her myriad beauties on Japan.

I have seen strong men weep in Dresden and in Rome, moved to a new
emotion by some gigantic achievement of Occidental art,—an achievement
that was great, but far from faultless. The great proportion of Japanese
art is faultless, but far from great.

After all, I have no right to decide what constitutes greatness. Is a
forest greater than a maple leaf? I doubt it. Art is so infinite,—all
artists are so finite! The artists of Japan embroider with their
pencils, and paint with their needles. They follow their own art ideal.
Because it appeals to us less, it is not necessarily a smaller ideal
than our own.

The very delicacy of touch and mind that makes the Japanese the most
exquisite of all workmen, makes them the most sensitive of all peoples,
the most petulantly resentful of criticism. I fear that it would be
impossible for a European to write an article about Japan that would be
inoffensive to the Japanese, unless it were an article of unqualified
praise.

We reached Nagasaki in the early daylight. So should one always first
see Japan. To touch the shores of Japan in the dawning, to begin a new
day and a new exquisite experience, to steal with the sun into Nagasaki;
that is something to remember for ever, with gratitude. As we approached
Nagasaki it looked like a collection of cheerful Orientalised Swiss
chalets.

Nagasaki nestles against the hilly side of fair, green Kiu-siu like a
quaint burr clinging to the petal of a huge, lovely flower.

Japan in many parts is not unlike Switzerland—Switzerland grown warm
and comfortable, Switzerland reduced to a minute scale, Switzerland
burst into myriad bloom and softened into a new and gentle beauty. The
sun lit up the island more clearly as we stepped into the clean, little,
canoe-like tug that came to take us ashore.

A long line of ’rickshaws, as impatient as prancing horses, stood at the
low, sandy landing-place. Hundreds of quaintly-clad, bright-eyed people,
brown-skinned and buff, were moving daintily about the delicate scene.

Over a very serious, but a rather lazy-looking wooden building floated
the Stars and Stripes, and the Union-Jack-adorned British Consulate
looked as eminently respectable and as unpicturesque as did the official
residence of the American Consul.

Our family divided into three parties when we were well ashore. I was
the only adult wicked enough to ride behind a “human horse.” My husband
went to call at the Consulates, and to inspect the theatre, at which we
intended to play on our return. And Nurse marched bravely off, leading
the boy bairn, and followed by the wee girl bairn, who looked like a
great human snowball in the arms of black John the Madrassi.

I made a bargain with a sturdy, cheerful-looking jinrickshaw coolie, who
spoke good English and better French, and he started off into the heart
of bright, busy Nagasaki.

That coolie was a genius. And, unlike many genii, he had not mistaken
his avocation. He was a capital cicerone. He rang, or rather ran, the
changes on the Nagasaki sights in the deftest and most admirable way.
From the choicest shops to the queerest temple, from beside the jolliest
little vine-hung stream into the densest coolie quarter, for seven hours
he directed my travels in a masterly manner. And just when the captain
(so he afterwards told me) was almost beginning to use inelegant
English, the clever little native whirled me down to the shore, bowed me
into a tug, clapped his hands, laughed, and cried, “Sayonara.”

I do not know what delighted me most in Nagasaki I never knew what
delighted me most in Japan, it was all so delightful. Nagasaki was the
first bit of Japan I ever saw. I found in it a new charm. China was to
me like the land of the mighty magicians; Japan was fairyland.

The Japanese islands are running over with flowers. The Japanese temples
are a-tinkle with the music of bells. The soft-voiced people walk among
the blossoms, and their fine faces are aglow with the love of beauty,
and they themselves are innocently intoxicated with the delight of
living.

Nagasaki is so sweetly clean that one cannot wonder that tourists who
spend a few hours there rush back to their boats and write to the
journals of Europe and America that the Japanese are the cleanest people
on earth. I thought that the first day I was in Nagasaki. Alas, I
learned better in a dozen other Japanese cities!

It was in Nagasaki that I first felt the full force of Japanese
courtesy. My husband lunched in an elaborate fashion with friends at the
hotel, but I begged off and spent all of my seven hours in investigating
Nagasaki. When my coolie thought I had fasted long enough, he dropped
the shafts of the ’rickshaw and ran into a droll little papier-maché
looking house that was perched on the hilly highway, midway between the
cemetery and the bamboo-bridged streamlet. In a few moments he came back
carrying a tea-tray, and followed by a half-grown girl, who had cakes
and fruit in a lacquer basket. An old woman toddled after, and spread a
paper napkin on my lap. I enjoyed my _al fresco_ lunch very much, as I
sat in the ’rickshaw; the sunshine danced about me, but I was cool under
the shade of an immense plum tree. They brought me a strange copper
bowl, filled with warm water, and when I had paid the reasonable bill,
we went back to the little paradise of shops.

The great works of Western art move us to awe. Upon Europeans the
universal effect of Japanese works of art is a mad, insatiable desire to
possess. Very good people long to buy. I am not very good; my enemies
say that I am not good at all. Certainly, until my money gave out I
longed to buy everything I saw in Japan. But when my money gave out, as
it soon did, my one desire was to steal. I do not remember that I ever
did steal anything in Japan, but I often wanted to do so. And my husband
says that he mysteriously lost a hundred yen in Yokohama.

European art—if it is great art—holds us at a distance. Japanese art
woos us; we long to own it—to stroke it. Japanese art is as
approachable as it is fine. Occidental art keeps us in our place.

I saw Nagasaki again, when we were leaving Japan. Again our ship stopped
there for a few hours. We played _Hamlet_ there; it was an ethereal
experience—a fitting end of our stay in the daintiest, prettiest, most
mannerly country on the globe. We walked through the moonlight to the
theatre. The streets were silent, save for the plaintive whistle of the
blind shampooers. It sounded doubly sad to me as I realised that
possibly I should never hear it again.

I have often wondered what Ophelia would have said could she have seen
half the strange flowers I have worn in her name. Cowboys have brought
me the wild flowers of their wilder West (it was my wild West too).
Maharanees have sent me scented roses from behind purdahed gardens. Gold
kings and silver paupers have sent me soft flannel flowers, and pink
colonial roses from the Australian bush,—in all the quarters of the
globe I have been the recipient of the perfumed tribute paid to me
because I represented, however unworthily, the sweet, meek maiden who
was the genius-born daughter of Shakespeare’s pen.

In Nagasaki we had a paucity of scenery; but I had a wealth of flowers
for the “mad scene,” and as I wreathed the wistaria and the honeysuckle
with the pompom-like chrysanthemums, the Japanese lilies, and the
matchless roses, I almost wept over them my farewell to Japan.

In the late starlight we went back from the theatre to the boat. Japan
was almost hidden by the night. We stole into Japan in the dawning; we
stole out of Japan in the midnight dusk. Fit beginning, fit end of an
experience almost too exquisitely beautiful to be a reality,—an
experience of which I shall always think as of a Heaven-sent dream.

But between the early morning when the beauty of Japan dawned upon us,
and the night in whose deep dusk we lost sight of the incomparably
lovely islands, we had many weeks of rare delight,—weeks spent in
Hondo.

The little voyage up the “Inland Sea” was well-nigh marvellous. The
lakes and the mountains were as intricate as a Chinese puzzle, and as
beautiful as we fancy the Garden of Eden.

Kobe—the Hiogo of yore—broke the sylvan panorama of our sail and
Fusiyama accented it. Fusiyama rose between the green Japanese hills and
the blue Japanese sky like a white point of holy exclamation. It was
dormant, but a dozen lesser volcanoes threw up tongues of flame as we
passed.

In Kobe we found old friends—friends from London, from Boston, and from
Nevada. We found shelter in a cosy, well-cuisined hotel, and its
presiding genius had once been our Boniface in Montano. We were given
great hospitality in Kobe. We made some charming Japanese friends. I
revelled in the Japanese shops. And the fierce, rainy day that we sailed
for Yokohama, I was given such a roll of sumptuous black satin, on which
wonderfully skilled Japanese fingers had embroidered great clusters of
purple _fleur-de-lis_!



                              CHAPTER XXII


                    FOUR WOMEN THAT I KNEW IN TOKIO

                             _Mrs. Keutako_

THREE of them were Japanese. One was the Anglo-Saxon wife of a Japanese
gentleman. Two of them I had known in America. Two of them I met for the
first time in Japan.

The two girls whom I knew at Vassar College as Stamatz Yamakawa and
Shige Nagai had become the Countess Oyama and Mrs. Uriu. My new
acquaintances were Mrs. Keutako and Madame Sannomiya. Mrs. Keutako was a
dear bit of Japanese femininity whom I always longed to seize upon and
cuddle. We were really very good friends, though our conversation was
very limited. She knew two words of English. I had the advantage of her
inasmuch as I knew three words of Japanese.

Madame Sannomiya was one of the most powerful personalities of the
Japanese Court; she was English, but her husband was a high functionary
of the Mikado’s household. I called upon her with no vouchment but that
of a few common acquaintances. I went to ask her kindly offices for a
performance of the _Merchant of Venice_ we were ambitious to give before
the Emperor. The attempt upon the life of the Tsarevitz threw the
Japanese Court into a trembling, mortified state of chagrin that doomed
our little plan. But I gained the acquaintance of one of the most
uniquely interesting women I ever met.

The four women of whom I am writing were, I believe, rather familiarly
acquainted, because they were all, more or less, habitués of the
Imperial palace. The differentiation of their individualities could
scarcely have been sharper.

We reached Yokohama one night after dark. When I woke in the early
morning I dressed quickly and went out for a ramble alone,—as I love to
do in a new place. I felt as if I had fallen asleep and dreamed of a
fairy land peopled by the figures off my best tea-cups and off my summer
fans. Japan is perpetually blessed with an atmosphere as clear as
crystal, as soft as down, and as sweet as incense. Nature loves Japan
with the tender, yearning love of a mother for a favourite child. On
Japan Nature lavishes her most fragrant verdure and her utmost
picturesqueness of life. And, to end, she touches the picture she has
made with some delicate trail of graceful vine, some matchless slope of
hillside. She adds to the figures on the canvas the seductive witchery
of unrivalled eyes, the grace of perfect manner; and the people of her
favourite country echo her. The Japanese peasant, who sits upon the
floor to suck his meal of raw eggs, has a handful of superb flowers in a
graceful vase; and the floor upon which he sits is white and clean. But,
as I was to learn, Yokohama is nothing to Tokio. You meet Europeans in
almost every street in Yokohama. I have been days in Tokio without
seeing a European. There are, I believe, only six European ladies
resident in Tokio, and proportionately few European men.

It was in Yokohama that I first met Mrs. Keutako. My husband had mailed
a letter of introduction to Mr. Keutako only that morning, and had added
a line, saying, “My wife and I are coming to Tokio for a few days next
week, and I shall give myself the pleasure of calling upon you.” The
response was very prompt and very Japanese. It was this: a basket of
beautiful roses was brought to my dressing-room that night, with a card
on which was written in English, “With Mrs. Henrico Keutako’s
compliments and welcome.” When the curtain rose we saw in the front row
a Japanese gentleman in European evening dress; beside him sat a
breathing Japanese doll, with glancing, dancing eyes, and brave with
exquisite Japanese raiment.

We sent out a note begging them to have supper with us after the play.
When the curtain fell Mr. Paulding brought them on to the stage. How the
dear little woman bowed; then she laughed and patted my hand, put her
dainty finger on her lips, and shook her head. I bore her off in triumph
to my room. Mr. Keutako was a Harvard graduate, and had spent some years
in England. We could hear him and my husband talking in the next room.
But I don’t believe they enjoyed themselves as much as we did. My guest
took a wild, childish delight in everything. She tried on my rings and
made me try on hers; she tried on several pairs of my slippers; she was
greatly amused at my hare’s foot; she pantomimed to me to “make her up”;
she was in an ecstasy over my blonde wig. The only English she knew was
“Thank you,” but she said it over and over. While she was investigating
all my little belongings, I looked at her. She was dainty and little, of
course. Her skin was a few shades darker than mine; her black hair was
dressed with extreme Japanese elaborateness; she was clad in robes of
pale-blue and pale-pink crêpe, and an outer robe of rich brown satin
dotted sparsely with pale-blue flowers and lined with pale-pink silk.
Her obi was of black and silver, and was fastened in front with three or
four flashing diamonds. She wore four or five more fine diamonds on her
pretty hands, and a big turquoise, that must have felt very heavy on the
wee finger. She wore a deep-red rose at her throat. On the shoulder of
her kimono was embroidered her coat-of-arms; that is a custom with the
Japanese of gentle birth on state or semi-state occasions. She had paid
me the compliment of wearing one of her Court kimonos, though I didn’t
know it at the time. She wore segregated white-silk stockings. She had
thrown off her shoes before she would come into my untidy little den.
The only European detail of her attire (except the fashion of her rings)
was a sheer white handkerchief edged with Valenciennes. I think it was
rather an innovation, for she kept drawing it across her little scarlet
lips, and every time she did so she looked at me and laughed. She was
evidently very puzzled to find that I had joss sticks burning in my
room. She moved like a bird; she laughed like a child. She had gleaming
white teeth, and that indescribable charm of person and manner which is
the great birthright of every Japanese woman.

Japanese courtesy is infectious. When we were ready to go, I took up her
little shoes and tried to put them on her. She snatched them from me
with a pretty little cry of affected horror; she wiped my hands with her
handkerchief. She laughed and bowed, and bowed and laughed, and said
“Thank you, thank you.”

When she saw where the two gentlemen stood waiting for us she skimmed
across the stage like a humming-bird. Seizing her husband by the arm,
she spoke rapidly in Japanese. He translated, “My wife asks, have you
any children?” When he told her, “Yes, I had two,” she made him tell me
that she had two. And then she danced back to me and threw her arms
about me, and laughed so softly. Bless it! What a womanly little person
it was! We couldn’t speak together. Considering that we were both
civilised, our methods of life could scarcely have been more different.
But our babies had made us friends. We went to our ’rickshaws with her
arm still about me; and I felt as if I were again a schoolgirl, whom
some younger child had singled out and favoured with a caress.

It is pleasant to ride at midnight in a ’rickshaw through the streets of
Yokohama. We seemed to be the only living things awake. We glided almost
noiselessly along the silent streets. The naked feet of the coolies who
drew our quaint two-wheeled carriages fell almost without a sound upon
the soft roads. Whenever Mrs. Keutako’s ’rickshaw ran near mine, she
waved her hand and laughed, and laughed and waved her hand.

[Illustration: MRS. KEUTAKO’S DAUGHTER.         _Page 242._]

Our hotel was run on European lines. It was very late, and I was unable
to make any radical change in the menu of our supper. Mr. Keutako we
found pleasant and intelligent. He was a prominent member of the
Japanese Parliament. He was evidently familiar with all our viands, but
our supper-table was palpably a _mensa incognita_ to his pretty little
wife. She watched her husband with shy slyness, and tried to do what he
did; but I could see that she didn’t like our food. I managed to get a
tin of salmon, for I knew that the Japanese are as invariably fond of
fish as cats are. She ate the salmon readily enough, though it was new
to her, and she nibbled a few vanilla wafers as she sipped her
champagne, with which she seemed to have a dainty acquaintance. When we
had left the table I asked her (through her husband) if the gentlemen
might smoke. She nodded and laughed, and drew from her obi a microscopic
silver pipe; she filled it with half a thimbleful of tobacco, mild as
corn silk, which she carried in a silken pouch slung from her obi. She
lit it, using a match with difficulty. She was accustomed to a small box
filled with glowing coals. She handed her pipe to me; I found that one
breath exhausted it. Among many other things typical of this interesting
people, I afterwards learned that all Japanese women of fashion carry
their pipe and pouch when they pay a visit. Their smoking together is an
interchange of courtesy. The tobacco is almost tasteless, and one puff
marks the length of the prescribed smoke. Our husbands talked, and, at
her request, I showed her my baby clothes, and took her upstairs to see
my sleeping children. When we came back to our sitting-room, she
suggested, through her husband, that we should smoke cigarettes. I had
been in the habit of smoking, semi-occasionally, one or two cigarettes
in the strictest conjugal seclusion. I never had smoked before but one
gentleman; but I thought the circumstances demanded any possible
deviation from my usual customs. The gentlemen found a great deal to say
to each other; while they talked we smoked. The next morning I had the
almost unknown affliction of a headache. I learned from Mr. Keutako that
his wife suffered sooner and less pleasantly. She had suggested, as _I_
supposed, a Japanese custom. On _her_ part, _she_ thought that she was
proposing a custom universal with European women. I have often wondered
which of the ladies of the European Legations in Tokio was indirectly
responsible for the _maladresse_ from which we both suffered. I often
reflect how much better it always is to be natural if one can do so
without _gaucherie_.

A few days later we went to Tokio. I used often to wonder how it was
that people were content to live and die in the gray Occident and never
look upon the picture of the Orient. I never wondered more than when we
were in Tokio. I know of no capital in Europe so comfortably and
generously planned, except Vienna. The cities remind me of each other in
many ways. The streets of both are broad and clean. Both are rich in
parks, in drives, in trees, and in places of refreshment. Both are
peopled by a pleasure-loving, pleasure-seeking race. Tokio is very
beautiful, and it would be ungrateful of me not to mention that Tokio
has one of the best hotels in the world.

The Imperial Palace is surrounded by three beautiful moats, all strictly
guarded. It is impossible to look upon, much less to pass into, the holy
of holies, the home of the Mikado, unless your presence is desired
there. Even the members of the Legations know the palace very
superficially, and enter even its outer rooms but rarely. I believe
Madame Sannomiya to be the only European who has really seen the
interior in anything like its entirety.

The architecture of Tokio varies from humble to elaborate; but it is all
picturesque, and, in the heart of the city, all Japanese. Many of the
nobles, who chiefly live in the suburbs, build very Western-looking
houses. The width of the principal streets is almost unequalled. In the
great parks blossoming vine strives with blossoming vine, and flowering
tree crowds flowering tree. Amid them stand quaint statues of quaint
gods, and carved and gilded figures. The distances in Tokio are immense;
but I soon grew glad that it was so,—every inch of the long way was so
thick with interest. The bazaars have not been robbed of their native
colour by travelling multitudes of Europeans. Around Tokio are her
hundred temples; many famous, all marvellous, and not to be indicated by
a few hasty lines. The air blows softly through the carved portals, and
gently sways the golden bells that hang from the jewelled ceiling; and
that air is unpolluted by the breath of many Europeans.

We visited the Keutakos. The father dressed as a European. The mother,
the children, and the servants wore the national costume. The customs of
the house were Japanese; but I was surprised to find the rooms furnished
in the European mode. There was a bust of Scott in the library, and an
engraving of the Coliseum in the dining-room. When I coaxed Mrs. Keutako
to take me upstairs I found everything different. She seemed afraid I
would not like it; and I think she never believed that I thought it
infinitely prettier than the reception rooms downstairs. But it was! The
floors of the long, shady rooms were covered with cool, quaint mattings.
One room pleased me particularly. A long, low screen stood near one end
of the room; an inviting cushion was thrown near it. At the other end of
the room was a tall blue vase, filled with chrysanthemums and
_fleur-de-lis_. There were not a dozen articles in the room; but each
thing in it was perfect. The Japanese always give a work of art the
advantage of being framed in ample space. This is one reason why a
Japanese interior is so effective; another reason is that they are very
loath to give house-room to anything that is not a work of art.

Mrs. Keutako was always at ease. We spent long hours together alone. We
could not speak to each other, but she never let it embarrass her or me.
She let me amuse myself as freely as she had amused herself in my
dressing-room. She understood how glad I was to quietly watch ordinary
Japanese home-life. She had a hundred ways of entertaining me. Sometimes
she would beckon me into the kitchen that I might see what was being
cooked, and how. She sent for her hairdresser that I might see his
wonderful methods. Sometimes she would steal behind me as I sat reading,
and drop a rose on to my book. Sometimes it was her soft ball of a pet
kitten; often it was her soft ball of a baby. One day she made her amah
undress her, and dress her again, that I might see just what a Japanese
woman wore, and how it was put on. She emptied her chests of clothing
for my diversion. It was a wonderful collection. She was very fond of
dress, and her husband delighted in gratifying her; besides, she had
many garments that had been in her family for generations. She showed me
her wedding-dress, she kept it in a sandal-wood box, and touched it
reverently.

She was devoted to her two little girls. They were pretty, and oh, so
quaint! They were well-behaved, but not painfully so. They climbed over
their parents and begged for sweets for all the world like my bairns.
The elder spoke a little English.

Their mother never was guilty of the stupidity of speaking to me in
Japanese; but she would take a fantastic little instrument (I forget its
name) and sing sweet, tinkling Japanese songs as she played upon it for
me.

She had been brought up in luxury. She was the wife of a rich man. She
had plenty of servants; still, she sewed a little, a very little. But
she supervised her house perfectly; and she helped her husband a great
deal in his political working. I have known her to copy notes for him,
and write from his dictation, by the hour, when his secretary and he
were over busy. And I know that he often consulted her about the turn of
a sentence or a fact of history.

The last time I was in Tokio I was alone. I was there on business, and I
was hurried. I only found time to call upon the Keutakos. She received
me with the warm affection of an old friend and all the ceremony of
Japanese etiquette. She gave me clear tea (no milk or sugar) in rare
cups, without handles, and about the size of big thimbles. Then she gave
me sweetmeats from a small lacquered chest of drawers. Each drawer
contained a different kind of sweet; they were all made of sugar, tinted
and shaped in imitation of some flower or leaf.

When I had to go she gave me a silver pipe she had bought for me. It was
in a satin case, and the case matched a pouch which was filled with
Japanese tobacco. A little white box held the whole. I made her write
her name upon it, and mine. We often handle it, and speak of her and her
husband, and I set great store by the excellent photographs she gave me
of her two babies.



                             CHAPTER XXIII


                    FOUR WOMEN THAT I KNEW IN TOKIO

                 _The Countess Oyama[1] and Mrs. Uriu_

STAMATZ YAMAKAWA was born very near the top of the Japanese social
ladder. Shige Nagai came into the world a few rungs lower down.

Assimilation is the _forte_ of the Japanese. They create nothing, but
they improve everything they touch. Japan was once conquered by China.
The Japanese retaliated by completely mastering every detail of Chinese
art, and developing from it a Japanese art system, superior to anything
the Chinese artists have ever been able to accomplish. Japan
successfully invaded Korea. From the spoils of that war (and they were
many) Japan learned to still more enrich her arts.

When Stamatz and Shige were babies, Japan had turned covetous eyes upon
Europe and the United States. Not upon the territories of these
countries, but upon their modes of life, their social customs, their
thought-methods even. The Japanese are complacently conscious of having
the most beautiful country upon earth, and they, the wisest of them at
least, quite understand that they would cut a sorry figure in battle
with a great Western Power. Japan never sought to conquer Western acres;
but Japan longed to acquire everything that was good in Western thought
and in Western methods of life. Things European became highly
fashionable in Japan,—the fashion grew and grew. In ten years it was a
rage. The Japanese Government encouraged boys and young men to visit
Europe and America, and to there take University degrees as far as
possible. The Japanese Government did more; they sent eight or ten (I
think it was eight) girls to America to be educated. All of these girls
were of gentle birth; several were noble. The youngest was seven years
old, the eldest was twelve. The Japanese Minister at Washington, to whom
they were sent in the first instance, was instructed to divide the
little band into twos, and to place each pair into separate American
homes,—of course, only in the homes of men and women of exceptional
culture. Stamatz and Shige were received into the home of Dr. J. S. C.
Abbott, the historian. He was a man of fine attainments, and the
newcomers were initiated into a simple home-life of great refinement.
Five and a half of the ten years they spent in America were spent in
that New England home. They met there a considerable contingent of
eminent Americans. Their home-sickness was mitigated by frequent visits
from the Japanese students at Harvard. They saw the purest American form
of good behaviour. They learned American literature with the rare
advantage, or disadvantage, of intimacy with many of the men who were
making American literature. They studied English literature under a man
who reverenced it. They made delightful trips through the adjacent parts
of America with the best companionship. After five years and a half they
entered Vassar College at Poughkeepsie-on-the-Hudson. Stamatz Yamakawa
entered the freshman class of 1882 with a high average. Shige Nagai was
less capacitated to benefit by the prescribed College course than by a
more elective system of education. She became an “Art Student,” and
devoted herself to music. She was obliged by the College regulations to
pursue the lighter of the studies embraced in the ordinary College
curriculum.

[Illustration: DANJERO IN HIS FAVOURITE RÔLE. DANJERO IN EUROPEAN
COSTUME. DANJERO AS I KNEW HIM.         _P. 253._]

In the fall of 1879—when they had been there a year—I went to Vassar.
A daughter-in-law of Dr. Abbott’s was one of my dearest friends; that
gave me an added interest in my two Japanese college-mates, and it
secured me their immediate acquaintance. It was easy to know Shige.
Stamatz was exclusive; she was very brilliant. Shige was very sweet.
They both wore European dress. Stamatz looked like a very beautiful
Jewess of a poetic type; Shige was broadly and indubitably Japanese.
Stamatz was president of her class in her Sophomore year. She was a
member of the “Shakespeare”—a club always confined to the girls who
were easily first intellectually. She took high honours in English
literature. She wrote charming essays. And I noticed, when I saw her in
Tokio, ten years later, the beautiful purity of her English. She spoke,
as she always had spoken, with a slight accent; but her vocabulary and
her use of it were flawless. Shige was never president of anything; but
every one loved her. She was invaluable at our fortnightly “candy
pulls.” She was splendid on a sleigh ride, or when we went “coasting.”
She spent half her leisure in the infirmary, coddling the sick girls.
She got through her examinations with eminent respectability. She wrote
stiff, correct English. She spoke very broken English, and, when I saw
her in Tokio, her vocabulary had shrunk to meagre dimensions; and she
used it with a fine disregard of narrow propriety. But I have no memory
of an hour’s indisposition at Vassar that I did not hear the click,
click of Shige’s funny little walk, as she came down the corridor
bringing me a pitcher of lemonade and unlimited sympathy. I don’t
remember a headache there that her little fingers didn’t soothe away.
Strangely enough when she wrote to me, after I had left Tokio for
Yokohama, I saw that she wrote English quite as well as she did when we
were in Poughkeepsie. I never saw Stamatz excited, though two red spots
always flamed on her face the days when the Japanese mails were due; and
I have seen her hand shake as she thrust it through the window of our
college post-office and asked for letters. I have never seen Shige when
she wasn’t excited. Stamatz was very beautiful from every standpoint;
she was slim and tall for a Japanese woman. Shige was plain; she was
dumpy and very near-sighted. She had a wee, broad nose. Stamatz was
always self-possessed. Shige was easily flurried. Stamatz played a
wonderful game of chess, and excelled every professor in the faculty at
whist. Shige was immense at blind-man’s-buff, and could dance a
supremely ridiculous version of the Highland-fling. Once a day they
secluded themselves in their “parlour” and spoke Japanese for an hour.
Stamatz was fanatic in her observance of this, and compelled Shige to be
as regular. Stamatz wrote a letter “home” every day. Shige had all a
schoolgirl’s horror of letter-writing. They spent four years at Vassar.
Then, after a six months’ tour of America, they returned to Japan.

When we were in Colombo I learned from some Japanese naval officers that
Stamatz Yamakawa had made a brilliant marriage. She had married the
Minister of War, Count Oyama, an elderly man of high position, great
power, and immense wealth.

As we neared Japan we heard the name Oyama more and more often. The
Count is very popular. He is a courteous gentleman, and is at the head
of Masonry in Japan. The Countess has become a noted hostess. She speaks
French and English fluently; unless I mistake, she speaks German and
Italian well. She is an excellent Latin scholar. I found her very
changed—the flower of her beauty was dead. The girl had been anxious to
maintain for Japan a high intellectual standard in our little college
world; the woman seemed to be half asleep. She had shed her
Occidentalisms as she had shed her Western habiliments. She had sunk
back into the drowsy ease of Oriental existence. She was four times a
mother, and she had four step-children.

Long before we could see the house we knew that our ’rickshaws had
crossed the boundaries of Count Oyama’s Tokio dominions; for everywhere
were outdoor servants. Some were binding up the gigantic rose trees.
Some were training great ropes of violet-flowered wistaria around the
tree trunks. Some were leisurely rolling the velvet lawn. All bore upon
the backs of their kimonos a large Japanese coat-of-arms or crest—the
arms of the ancient house of Oyama. In Japan the members of a noble
family have a small reproduction of the crest woven in or embroidered on
their garments. On the clothes of their servants it appears very much
larger. On the robes of the head of the house it is about the size of a
sixpence. On the back of a coolie the emblazonment is the size of a
generous dinner plate. Count Oyama’s extensive grounds were beautifully
cared for. The house, which was large and plain, and of Western
architecture, was built of red brick. It was partly covered with vines.
The interior was beautifully furnished in the best European style. A few
very rare and beautiful Japanese things were scattered about each room;
but I know a dozen London houses where things Japanese are more _en
évidence_,—though certainly not things of such value and interest.

The Countess received me with all her old grace and graciousness. She
gave us tea and spongecake. The tea service was old English silver. Her
face lit up a little when she told me how she should enjoy showing me
Tokio; but it grew listless when I mentioned Vassar. It was evident to
me that she had spent ten years in exile, because the Mikado had thought
it best. Her exile was over, and she had little pleasure in recalling
it. She spoke as entertainingly as ever of the books she had read in
America; but I could not learn that she had read one printed page of
French or English since her return to Japan. I spoke of _The
Miscellany_, a little college monthly in which she had been greatly
interested, and for which she sometimes wrote. She said, she believed
they sometimes sent her a copy, but she wasn’t sure.

She was dressed quietly, and with but two traces of her Western
residence. She wore bronze slippers of Parisian make; and her very
beautiful hair was worn in the prettiest and simplest of Greek fashions.

A noted European called upon the Countess Oyama; he was accompanied by a
Japanese gentleman. When Stamatz entered the room her countryman bent
seven times to the floor. “Countess!” exclaimed the stranger, holding
out his hand, “if I bow as often and as low as that, I shall fall down.
But I am extremely glad to meet you.” She smiled, and made his call very
delightful; but she never forgave him. Stamatz Yamakawa was born in the
purple, and she loves it.

The Countess Oyama was easily found. I hunted three days for Mrs. Uriu;
and then I only found her because it occurred to my husband to ride out
to Count Oyama’s and ask for Shige’s address.

The little woman’s house was a two hours’ ’rickshaw ride from the
Imperial Hotel; and in Tokio there are two coolies to each ’rickshaw,
and they run very rapidly. When we left the hotel we skirted the outer
moat of the palace. Then we flew through miles of streets, each more
interesting than the others. All were lined with booths. We had a
dissolving view of quaint bronze lamps, rich ivories, unique wood
carvings, and a thousand other temptations. Is it not Sir Edwin Arnold
who says that, when he was in Tokio, he was tempted to sell his boots
that he might buy one more curio? I did sell all my husband’s old
clothes one day. He seemed to feel that I had been indiscreet. And I
have a very choice bit of Satsuma at which he always looks with a very
queer smile. I received a “collect” parcel from Yokohama a few weeks
ago; when the housemaid brought it in, my husband went into the hall,
and brought me in his overcoat, his best umbrella, and his crush hat.
But “he laughs best who laughs last,”—I made him pay for that parcel.

On the coolies ran. We passed the big, bare theatre where Danjero
plays—Danjero, whom we were afterwards to meet, and also to see in one
of Japan’s classic dramas. Next we crossed one of the great parks; and
then we began twisting in and out of innumerable tortuous lanes. They
found the house at last; but I don’t know how they did it.

We went up a funny little path, and knocked at a funny little door. It
was a minute house, purely Japanese. The door slid back. The little fat
servant fell on her nose at our feet, and cried out some words of
ceremonial greeting. We couldn’t make her understand what we wanted. We
couldn’t make her get up. I tried to give her our cards: I might as well
have offered her an infernal machine. Her mistress heard our voices and
came out. The jolly little woman was not changed a bit. She seized me by
one hand and my husband by the other. She had never seen or heard of
him,—she hadn’t seen me for ten years,—but she instinctively knew who
he must be and adopted him with her funny little motherly way.

She had forgotten most of her imperfect English, and, just at first, we
could barely understand each other; and then, somehow, the ten years
seemed but as a day. She overwhelmed me with questions about every one
we had known in our schooldays; but not until she had made us very
welcome, and given us tea. She clapped her hands three times, and the
tea came in. In reality, the servant brought it in; but she came on her
hands and knees, and the tea-tray was far more conspicuous than she.
Shige sent for her five little children; they bobbed us queer little
curtsies, with their queer little bodies, and laughed and ran out.

The only hint of Europe I saw in Mrs. Uriu’s little home were three old
books and a box of cigars, which she brought out for my husband, with a
gleeful laugh.

She was so sorry her husband was away with his ship, he was so nice. He
was a lieutenant in the navy. She was teaching music; the Empress had
founded a girls’ college, and she, Shige, was professor of the piano.

-----

[1] The Countess Oyama is the wife of the Count (sometimes called
Marshal) Oyama who has so recently distinguished himself in the
Chino-Japanese war.



                              CHAPTER XXIV


                    FOUR WOMEN THAT I KNEW IN TOKIO

                           _Madame Sannomiya_

I THOUGHT her the most picturesque bit in the picture of Tokio life: a
European woman living among the Japanese, speaking their language or her
own indiscriminately, as occasion dictated, preserving her individuality
and her national traits, and yet wielding an almost incredible influence
at the conservative Court of the Mikado.

In one way my fellow-Occidentals were a great trial to me in the Orient.
Their ungainly presence was always blotching some otherwise flawless
picture of Eastern life. But in Tokio one so rarely saw a European that
one forgot to resent it when one did, and indeed welcomed it as one more
unique detail of an enchantingly novel whole.

I believe that Madame Sannomiya stands alone—the one European woman, of
high character, high intellect, and charming personality, who has become
a naturalised and potential individual at an Eastern Court.[2] I have
seen, at the courts of native princes in India, European women who, to
speak mildly, would never be received at the Court of St. James’s, and
who would be painfully embarrassed if they were. But this European woman
is very different. She is the respected wife of an eminent man. Her
position is even very unlike that of the wife of a foreign minister, who
is tolerated by diplomatic policy or welcomed by international courtesy.
She is one of the Japanese. They like and honour her. She likes, and is
certainly happy with them.

Yoshitane Sannomiya was the handsomest Japanese man I ever saw, and by
far the manliest-looking. My husband, who had much talk with Mr.
Sannomiya, found him the superior of his countrymen in general
information, in mental grasp, and in his command of English.

A card of his lies before me as I write. Beneath his name is engraved:
“Vice Grand Maître des Cérémonies, et Maître de la Cour de S. M.
l’Impératrice.”

He was a first favourite of both Emperor and Empress, and I often heard
his wife spoken of as the most influential person at the Court. The
statement seems extreme; but when I came to see and know Madame
Sannomiya, I grew to regard the expression as very conceivably exact.

Speaking broadly, the Japanese never do anything. They indicate
everything. Madame Sannomiya indicated nothing. She did everything. The
Japanese have two gifts pre-eminently: the gift of grace and the gift of
touch. Their national gift of touch amounts to national genius. Upon a
common piece of paper, with a blunt pencil, a Japanese artist (and
almost all Japanese are artists) makes four or five strokes. When he
takes away his hand you see a picture; not a thoroughly elaborated
picture, but a picture in which every detail is indicated with inspired
fidelity. He draws three petals—but draws them so that you see the
whole flower. Yes, and you can smell it too, if your soul is half as
artistic as his is! Madame Sannomiya was graceful, but hers was the
grace of a large woman. Her grace supplemented her dignity. The Japanese
admired her dignity; it was novel. It indicated a strange force of
character, and it was saved from ever grating upon them, because it was
never ungraceful. Madame Sannomiya had, rather than the gift of touch,
the gift of grasp. If anything interested or concerned her, she thrust
her supple fingers about its roots. But her fingers were white and warm.
She was superlatively a gentlewoman; and her friends at Tokio respected
her thoroughness and energy of nature, which they never dreamed of
imitating.

I first saw Madame Sannomiya in her own house. I went to her to ask her
a favour—went without a line of introduction. I wonder if any one ever
lived who liked to ask favours? I hate it so much that I have almost
never done it. I believe that I can count the times, partly because they
have been so few and partly because they have made such a nasty
impression on me. There were a number of reasons why this particular
favour should be asked of the Empress by me, through Madame Sannomiya. I
suppose every woman does her duty once in a lifetime; and I did my duty.

I remember that I felt very uncomfortable as I stepped out of the
Imperial Hotel into my ’rickshaw. But put me in a ’rickshaw and whirl me
through the streets of Yeddo, and I defy anything, short of keen
physical pain or deep personal sorrow, to keep me in discomfort over
five minutes. I forgot everything in looking. We may not all paint
pictures, but we may all drink them in, if we are blessed with real
eyesight.

It was a long ride. I had only been in Tokio a few days, and I drank
deep, intoxicating draughts of beauty. We went through streets of native
shops; not shops decked out with things affectedly, exaggeratedly, or
occasionally Japanese—things grouped to snare the heavy-pursed
Europeans—but shops stocked with the everyday necessities of ordinary
Japanese life.

There is not, I believe, a European shop in Tokio. Think of it! It is
the only place of any considerable size I have ever been in that was
entirely destitute of a European shopkeeper.

We went through the quarter of the frail. I noticed that the women were
moving slowly, and that they were clad in soft and dainty raiment. Then
I saw that their eyes were deeply ringed with khol, saw that the lips
that parted about their gleaming teeth were thickly painted. I passed
one woman whose lips, parting about her blackened teeth, were gilded!
Then I recalled some half-forgotten page of Mitford, and knew that I was
in the famous Yoshiwara quarter. I afterwards found that I had not been
in the old walled Yoshiwara, but in one of the many new Yoshiwaras, or,
to speak more correctly, one of the flower districts.

Sexual morality is on so un-Western a basis in Japan that only a long
and careful essay could possibly give untravelled Europeans any
glimmering of its real character. In one brief passing sentence, the
women of whom I am writing have in Japan an acknowledged and assured
position. It is not the highest or the most respected, but it is
tangible and unimpugned. The courtesans of the world are unmistakable in
their resemblance to each other. They may crouch in tattered tinsels on
the steps of a crumbling temple in old Ferozepore; they wear furs in St.
Petersburg; they drink champagne in Paris; they may huddle together from
the sudden rain in a corner of Regent Street; but there is, the world
over, an unmistakable sign upon the faces of the women who have taken
into their own hands the highest law of life and broken it—the women
who have made the great mistake! But this sign is faintest in Japan. The
women in the quarter of Tokio through which we were passing looked at me
quietly. They neither shrank from my eyes nor peered into them. The
jewels flashed on their hands and in their hair. But the wearers did not
flaunt. They walked with a deliberate indolence—these tawny lilies of
the town—an indolence which said, “They toil not, neither do they
spin.”

My coolies ran into the Shiba Park. I was in a hurry, but I made them
rest. Not that they were tired! No self-respecting ’rickshaw coolie ever
owns to being tired until the journey’s end. But I halted them that I
might look. It was the trees! The “big trees” of California are more
huge, the “Black Forest” is denser, but for majestic beauty there are no
trees like to those in the Shiba Park.

Next we passed into the country. In the distance the farm coolies stood
ankle deep in the wet of the yellow “paddy” fields. Here and there,
where some peasant farmer had planted the young rice plants earlier, the
yellow had turned to the softest, brightest green. Now and again I saw a
peasant’s house, with its cool, clean verandah, its quaint paper
windows, and its sliding paper-door. At least I knew it was there. It
was daytime, and every door was open. We passed a funny little company
of Japanese soldiers. The Japanese play at war far less gravely than
your boys and mine do. Frankly, they are very droll in their martial
aspect; and their exquisite good taste makes them conscious of this. The
land of the Hara-kiri is not the land of men who lack fortitude in
death. The Japanese know how to die, but they do not know how to fight;
at least, not against Occidental forces. And, if they did, the odds are
so preposterously against them that they must be beaten in any conflict
with a Western power. They know this; and they avoid war, and will avoid
it in every way consistent with their national self-respect, of which
they have plenty. The present moment seems to give me the lie. But,
elated as the Japanese are over the outcome (so far) of the
Chino-Japanese war, I doubt if they would be mad enough to throw down
the gauntlet to a Western power.

Then we came to pretty, home-like places where liveried servants—or
their Japanese analogies—were working in the ample grounds. We had
reached the suburb where the Sannomiyas lived. Their house, which was a
peculiarly dark red, sat far back amid graceful shady trees and profuse
fragrant flowers. I sent up my card with a pencilled message; for the
servant who answered the door could not understand the most rudimentary
English.

The drawing-room in which I waited was furnished very handsomely. The
necessary articles of furniture had been made either in Europe or after
European models. The bric-à-brac and the ornamental pieces of furniture
(except the piano) were principally Japanese. It was a delightful
collection. The pictures, which were very fine, were both Japanese and
European.

A door opened noiselessly, and I thought of some lines of Scott’s—lines
I had so often had the pleasure of parsing:—

                 The mistress of the mansion came,
                 Mature of age, a graceful dame;
                 Whose easy step and stately port
                 Had well become a princely court.

I never learned who Madame Sannomiya was in Europe, nor how she came to
decide upon so unusual a marriage and the consequent residence. But I
knew before she spoke that she was no adventuress. She had had character
and position all her life. Her every word and motion proclaimed it. She
had been facile in the ways of many a Western Court before she became
one of the Court circle of Japan.

She was a tall, large woman, with a plain, strong face. She had a
quantity of waving fair hair which she wore elaborately dressed. Her
even teeth were large and white. Her hands were over large, but
surpassingly beautiful. When I first saw her she wore a soft pink
cashmere house-robe; it was touched here and there with sage-green,
which might have been Japanese; but I was sure it was French.

I have rarely met a better-informed woman than Madame Sannomiya, and
never one who gave me more the impression of quiet force. She had just
come back from Kioto, where she had been sent as the representative of
the Empress to the Tsarevitch; for I am writing of a time a few days
after the attempt upon the life of his Imperial Highness.

Great preparations had been made in Tokio for the reception of the
Russian prince. The Japanese Court was like a nursery full of children
about to give a tea-party. All the detail of the elaborate arrangements
had devolved upon the master of ceremonies, Mr. Sannomiya. Everything
had been so admirably planned that I shall always believe it had in
reality evolved from the active, capable brain of his English wife. Then
the attempt was made upon the life of the son of the “Great White
Monarch” just as he was entering Japan. The Japanese Court was like a
beehive turned upside down! It was a burlesque reign of terror. Every
one that could went to bed. The Empress set the example; her Majesty
kept her bed for weeks and spent the time crying. The entire nation
seemed to expect the Russian fleet to swoop down upon their little
island and sink it for ever in the deep ocean. The Mikado hastened to
the Tsarevitch at Kioto, and the Empress sent Madame Sannomiya with him.
It was the most sensible thing she could possibly have done. Madame
Sannomiya was charmed with his Imperial Highness, and with his princely,
generous way of passing over and making light of an incident which very
nearly cost him his life, and which did curtail his pleasant trip, for
his Imperial mother very naturally insisted upon his immediate return
home. What mother would not have done so? For weeks the Japanese Court
eschewed all festivities.

A reaction against Western influence had already begun. This
_contretemps_ fanned it into a flame. That is not altogether to be
regretted. It was a pity to see the clear, bright tints of Japanese life
shrouded by the gray of our duller Western existence. It was a crime for
the women of Japan to disfigure their forms (or lack of form) with
inappropriate European gowns. I gloated over Japan; it feasted my eyes
and my mind. I rejoice to feel that the characteristics of her people
are to be preserved yet a little longer. Madame Sannomiya, who, I am
sure, loved Japan and sought its welfare, felt this keenly. She was,
however, ambitious for the Imperial family to have the broadest
cosmopolitan culture. Nor was she a woman of passive ambitions. She told
me how she had deplored the adoption of European dress by the women of
Japan.

It was the second time I visited Madame Sannomiya that she took me into
her dining-room. Above the wainscoting hung a remarkable collection of
framed photographs. They were all of “great folk” and all were
autographed. Almost every crowned head in Europe was represented there.
The largest and the most handsomely framed of the photographs was of
Queen Victoria. Madame Sannomiya was very proud of it, and of the letter
her Majesty had sent with it. The Duke of Connaught was ill in Japan.
Madame Sannomiya nursed him. When his Royal Highness had returned to
England, his Queen-mother sent a note of thanks and her picture to the
woman who had the good fortune to serve the Duke.

I do not know why she was called “Madame” Sannomiya. Her cards are
engraved “Mrs. Yoshitane Sannomiya,” but “Madame” she invariably is
throughout Japan.

She always spoke of the Empress with great and almost tender affection.
I can well understand that her sovereign lady has come to lean upon her,
and often finds it easier to bid Madame Sannomiya decide for her than to
decide for herself. Certainly “Madame” is extremely influential, and I
think she enjoys her influence. No woman in Japan, not of the immediate
blood-royal, is so free of her Majesty’s bedchamber; yet no one seems
jealous. Added to the gift of strength, she has the grace of tact.

-----

[2] In that I was wrong. Viscountess Aoki, the accomplished wife of the
Japanese minister to the Courts of St. James’s and Berlin, is also
European.



                              CHAPTER XXV


                               TOM STREET

I HAD been in Yokohama about half an hour when he opened our
sitting-room door and informed me in charmingly broken English that he
was my jinrickshaw coolie that my husband had engaged him, and that he
was ready to start as soon as I was. As it was about ten o’clock at
night, as it was dark, as I was very hungry, and our dinner was just
coming in, I entreated him to defer until the morning the appointment my
husband had been kind enough to make.

“You did not lose much time in getting me a ’rickshaw here,” I said to
my comrade as we were dining.

“No;” was the answer; “a fellow waylaid me on the verandah. He seemed
amazingly ambitious to go, and as you are more ambitious to go than any
other person I ever met, I thought him just the steed for you, and hired
him.”

I was up early the next morning—very early indeed for me. I stole out,
meaning to take a solitary ramble, but my “pull man” jumped at me and
intercepted me with a clean, cozy ’rickshaw.

In all Yokohama there was not such another ’rickshaw coolie, I am sure.
He taught me half that I know about Japan, and I am confident that what
he taught me was true—he taught it so inadvertently. He insisted that
his name was “Tom Street.” He never would own to having any other or
more Japanese appellation. When I saw that he really wished to be known,
only as Tom Street, I could not, of course, question him further. I had
a theory that he was a Japanese nobleman in disguise, but the theory did
not merit serious investigation. In the first place he had no disguise;
in the second place, I fancy that the police is the most plebeian body
ever joined by a high-born Japanese.

The Japanese are very romantic; they are sensational; they are emotional
to a degree. They reminded me in many ways of the French. They have more
self-control than the French, but are not without a French touch of
hysteria. The spirit of mad romance, of almost affected chivalry which
led the rônins of old Japan to deeds of extreme, elaborate, and artistic
valour, is still rife in Japan, and spurs her _jeunesse dorée_ to strike
strange attitudes in strange places. The Japanese would sometimes be
ridiculous were they not so invariably graceful. As a matter of fact,
they are never ridiculous; their grace is so great that it amounts to
national dignity. We find a Japanese gentleman standing on civil guard
at the street corner. He calls us a ’rickshaw, tells us the time, and is
the angel of general information that a well-regulated policeman should
be. We think Japanese situations amusing sometimes, but they never
approach burlesque.

[Illustration: MRS. KEUTAKO’S BABY.        _Page 224._]

The Japanese have quaint epidemics. Once they had a Chinese epidemic:
everything with them was Chinese. Once they had a Corean epidemic:
everything was Corean. Then they have almost hysterical reactions. Some
years ago they had a European epidemic. They sent the flower of their
youth to Europe to be educated. The ladies of fashion sent to Paris for
their frocks, and every man in Japan who could afford it bought a pair
of English boots, a frock-coat, and a stove-pipe hat. When we were in
Japan a reaction had begun. Europeans were less liked than they had
been. When the attempt was made upon the life of the Tsarevitch it fed
the growing flame of Japanese dislike of Europeans. That dislike has, I
hear, been growing steadily ever since. It culminated a few days ago in
an attack upon a venerable Anglican Archdeacon, who was brutally
assaulted on the streets of Tokio. At least I hope it has culminated. I
hope there is nothing worse to follow. It will decrease again as
causelessly as it rose, this anti-foreign feeling, and we shall ride
again upon the pretty rainbow-hued waves of Japanese popularity.

It all comes from the over-sensitiveness of the Japanese people. It
never comes from their badness of heart, for they have none. Their
hearts are essentially good. It is all a misunderstanding. Let us
remember that, and provoke it as little as possible. Above all, we must
never laugh at the Japanese. That they never forgive. I laughed at them
once. It was a tender, loving laugh, that ought not to have bruised the
wing of a butterfly, nor hurt the face of a baby. It was a mere smile
compared to the laughter I have freely hurled at my own people and had
them join in heartily. It was simply nothing compared to the uproarious
laughs I constantly have at my own expense. And I indulged myself in it
at a most respectful distance, away off here in London. But it gave
great offence.

I once described a red house as white, a house I had seen in Tokio some
years before. This caused quite an excitement, and I was condemned in
eloquent, if not elegant English in the pages of a great and good paper
published in Japan—but published in English.

There is no people that I admire more than I do the Japanese. But I must
describe Japan as it appeared to me, even though it brings upon me an
abusive editorial from far Cathay.

The Japanese are super-sensitive. If they were not, they could not be
the most exquisite artists, the daintiest artisans on earth. We owe
Japan so much—so much that we can perhaps never pay—that we owe it to
ourselves to deal very gently with her few faults. And they are such
gentle faults! Let us remember that the Japanese are the most sensitive
nation on earth, and that for all their genius of assimilation they are
not wholly _en rapport_ with our coarser Western ways.

And yet it would be to them a distinct national gain if the Japanese
could learn that the truest dignity does not search for offence, nor
seize upon it too trivially,—if they could learn that no nation ever
was or ever will be perfect, not even the Japanese nation, and that no
criticism that is entirely laudatory is of the slightest value.

When we were in Japan the feeling against Europeans mumbled and crept.
Now I hear that it is standing erect and declaiming loudly. It has been
throwing stones and mud in Tokio. It will fall asleep again,—let us
hope that it will sleep itself to death. Perhaps, if we are very good
and prove ourselves quite worthy the steadfast friendship of Japan, we
may gain it. That is to be desired; for Japan is the garden of the
world—the Eden of the nineteenth century, and it is a pity that we
should be shut out of it, or admitted on grudging sufferance.

Tom Street knew his Yokohama well. He knew where all the pretty views
were and all the lovely bits. He used to whisk me round a corner with a
dramatic, impressario sort of air, when we came upon a place of
exceptional beauty. He would often stop and say authoritatively, “You
draw that.” Then he would saunter off to gather me an armful of wild
flowers. Many’s the hour that I’ve sat a few yards from some lovely
thatched cottage and tried to sketch it and a bit of its blossoming,
perfumed hedge. Tom always told me frankly what he thought of my
attempt; but he was a good-natured critic. If I had my box of
water-colours with me he would always contrive to get me a dish of
water, begging it from a cottage or dipping it from a brook. Often I
took my little son with me, sometimes in my ’rickshaw, but oftener in
another. That never prevented me from sketching. Tom would amuse the
child for hours. Together they gathered flowers, and Tom wove the
flowers into queer combinations. He built a house once of wild asters,
and made a doll who had a blush rose for a face and a gorgeous kimono
woven of wistarias. He used to teach my boy Japanese in a natural
kindergarten system; and he told him quaint Japanese legends and made
him marvellous Japanese puzzles. Sometimes they chased each other up and
down the warm hill-slopes. Often the baby went to sleep; then Tom,
looking very important, would bring him back in his arms, and put him on
my lap or lay him in his own ’rickshaw.

Tom knew all the choice shops and the crazy bazaar byways where genuine
curios were to be picked up, if one had industry, perseverance,
enthusiasm, and discrimination. He took a keen interest in my purchases,
and would often ask the amah to show him the contents of a bundle. He
laughed with delight at my soft heaps of rainbow crêpe. He actually
tried to buy from me a piece of bronze that I had picked up in Tokio. He
knew something of bronzes did Tom; for a Yokohama curio dealer offered
me just twenty-five times what I gave for my bronze vase, if I would
sell it. Tom told me bluntly that I had paid too much for a piece of
Satsuma; but he was in an ecstasy over a rather unusual water-colour I
got in Yokohama.

Tom was a very well dressed ’rickshaw coolie. He wore strong, whole
shoes, long, neat stockings, and a coat or shirt, and short trousers of
strong, dark-blue stuff. He was crowned with a white straw sailor hat;
it had a clean white ribbon on it, and in the ribbon Tom often stuck a
rose. He was a handsome fellow, splendidly strong; and, for a Japanese,
very large. He was very anxious to come to Europe, and begged us to
bring him. He would do any work we liked, and would work for two years
for nothing. He was intensely curious about the West. He never
questioned me; but often, when he was waiting for me, he would creep
near the verandah steps and ask my husband, “You do this in New York?”
“You have that in London?” “One strong man earn plenty in England?” He
read English rather fairly and was anxious to write it. My husband wrote
his name for him in a blank book. Tom was enchanted. Almost every day he
would bring the book to show how he had improved.

There were a great many Americans in Yokohama, and they were all
delightful people. We had a man-of-war in the harbour, and the charming
fellows who officered it came ashore continually. Admiral Belknap very
kindly loaned us his band, and by doing so rescued us from an orchestral
condition that was dire.

What happy days and nights we spent in the home of the American
gentleman who is the editor of a breezy Yokohama paper! His wife and I
had common friends in San Francisco, and when I sat in her charming home
and watched her graceful ways, and her pretty children, I almost felt
that I was home once more. I should have quite thought it but for the
strange flowers in the vases and the kimonoed servants. I have
everywhere found newspaper people a most delightful part of the
community. In Yokohama, in Shanghai, in Hong-Kong, in Singapore, in
Calcutta, and in a score of other Eastern places I remember with very
great pleasure our journalistic friends. Soldiers and sailors and their
wives are a little nicer than other people, I think, and next to them I
have found the ink-stained fraternity companionable, interesting, and
likeable.

“What about actors?” some one asks. They are my brothers and sisters; I
am proud of them and I love them. But it will be more becoming of me,
perhaps, to let some other pen praise them. Then, too, we met very few
actors in the East, save our own little contingent.

Two charming Boston women used to send me white roses from their pretty
garden. What a place of delight and of restful refinement their house
was! I love to think of it, and of them. In all Yokohama we did not meet
one obnoxious American. There is no society more delightful than the
nicest American society, and in Yokohama there was great social
wealth,—American and English.

We were out in our ’rickshaw, my boy and I, on the thirtieth of May. Tom
pulled aside to let a little procession pass, and my heart gave a great
thump. The man-of-war’s men came marching slowly on. They carried the
United States flag at their head, and the band was playing, “Hail
Columbia.” It was Decoration Day, and the Americans in Yokohama had been
through the scorching sun to lay roses on the graves of the American
sailors who had died in Japan and been buried in the Yokohama European
Cemetery.

Night falls upon Japan a starlit blessing. I used in Yokohama to go,
between the acts, on to the landing of the theatre outer steps. They
were the steps that led to the “stage door” and were nowhere near the
parts of the house to which the public had egress. How strange it used
to seem to me! The steps led down to a fantastic garden. The flowers
were hidden beneath the gray shadows of the big-leafed trees. The
band—the kindly-loaned band of our flag-ship—was playing, “Way down
upon the Swannee Ribber.” Then they changed into, “Massa’s in the cold,
cold Ground.” As the sweet darky melody sobbed into silence, the
pathetic music of the blind shampooer’s cry came from the city, and the
most plaintive song of Japan mingled with the most plaintive song of
America.

I know nothing more characteristic of Japanese good taste and of
Japanese kindliness than the place of profitable industry that Japan has
found for her blind. In Japan massage is only a less perfect luxury,
less perfectly a fine art, than it is in Hindoostan. And what could be
more fit, what could speak more trumpet-mouthed of their national
delicacy, than that to the blind of that nation has been given the
monopoly of massage?

They walk about the streets alone—do the blind shampooers of Japan.
They are as fearless as they are safe. The sad note of their whistle is
an appeal to the kindness and the protection of their people. It is an
appeal that is answered with universal and invariable generosity and
chivalry. I remember, in Japan, many a night that was absolutely silent
save for the sorrowful sound of these poor sightless givers of rest and
of sleep. I recall no night through which I did not hear their one drear
note.

I long to tell how we did not play before the Mikado. But there must be
limits to a chapter, even when it is written by a woman; and I must
squeeze the story of nights of plotting and days of diplomacy into a
page.

We were ambitious to play the _Merchant of Venice_ before his Majesty
and his Court. We brought to bear influence that we thought not
inconsiderable, but we failed. We might, perhaps, have succeeded had it
not been for the mad coolie who tried to kill the Tsarevitch. That
struck a deathblow to our hope, and we missed the privilege we craved of
unfurling the banner we loved, the pennant of great English drama, in
the palace of the Mikado. But we tried very hard, and to our persistence
I, at least, owe many of my happiest memories. “All successes rise
phœnix-like from the ashes of some failure.” We failed to play before
the Mikado,—but to that failure I owe the two most unique experiences I
had in Japan.

One was a jinrickshaw ride from Yokohama to Tokio, the other was a
performance of _Julius Cæsar_ that we gave in a Japanese theatre to a
Japanese audience. Not an audience of cosmopolitanised Japanese, but an
audience of the insular Japanese populace. That was the funnier
experience; the other was the more enjoyable.

As a matter of fact, we played twice in the Japanese theatre; once in
the afternoon, once in the evening. Our auditors sat on benches—very
low benches—and squatted on the auditorium floor. They behaved better
than we did, for we laughed when we should have been tragic. I was sorry
at the time for my individual misconduct. I had not been guilty of
inappropriate laughter on the stage since the first season of my
professional life. But they were so irresistibly funny, those hundreds
of gaping, kimonoed humans. Many of them, very many, were women. Every
woman seemed to have a baby, and the yellow rolly-polies did everything
that babies would naturally be expected to do at a very fine performance
of _Julius Cæsar_. It was a droll experience; but we were glad the next
night to return to the European theatre and our more sophisticatedly
sympathetic audience.

I had great difficulty in inducing Tom Street to pull me from Yokohama
to Tokio. He assured me that I could, in a fraction of the time and for
far less money, go on the train. I assured him that I knew all that, but
that I had often been by train, and that I was determined to go once by
’rickshaw. Tom was positively melancholy, but after I had threatened him
and my husband had bribed him, he consented. I forget how far it is from
Yokohama; I never remember those nice sensible useful points. But it was
between fifteen and twenty miles.

We started in the early dawn, which in Japan, in June, is very early
indeed. John, the Madrassi, was up betimes, and bullied some one into
boiling me an egg and making me a cup of coffee. My husband drew an
ulster over his kimono and came out to see me start. Amah lined the
’rickshaw with a lot of cushions and we started.

Tom had a mate, a happy looking, muscular fellow. He was called a “push
man.” In Tokio when there are two coolies to one ’rickshaw they both
pull, running tandem; but in Yokohama when there are two, one pulls and
one goes behind and pushes. One is a “pull man”; one is a “push man.”

Tom and his fellow changed places several times _en route_ to Tokio.
They rested twice; about fifteen minutes each time. Three hours and a
half after I left Yokohama, I had had a warm bath and was leisurely
eating my delicious breakfast in the Tokio hotel.

Our journey had been through the country and through small
villages—villages where you might search in vain for one taint of
Europe.

I questioned Tom about everything I saw that morning, and about
everything he told me intelligently enough, and, as I afterwards
learned, accurately. He was one of the people, and he knew them and the
manner of their lives.

About half-way between Yokohama and Yeddo we halted at a toll-gate. I
paid the few coppers the old woman in charge demanded of me in the name
of the Government. I bought a horrible liquid something that I could not
drink; my coolies ate raw eggs with gusto; and then on we went. Our
second and only other halt was after we had reached the outskirts of
Tokio. The coolies ate snow mixed with sugar and saki, and served in
long slim goblets.

I was so delighted with my ride that I gave each of my coolies a yen,
and told them to rest all day, and be ready to start back at five
o’clock that evening. At two o’clock, when I came in from the business
calls I had been making, the proprietor of the hotel calmly informed me
that Tom and his friend had returned to Yokohama, and had left word for
me to come by train. I was very angry, for I had counted on that ride
through the Japanese gloaming. I spent a long, busy day; and when I went
back at night my anger had evaporated. Tom was at the station to meet
me.

“How did you dare leave me?” I demanded. “How did you know that I had
enough money to come home on the train?”

“You had plenty yen,” he said; “you gave us two.”

Housekeeping is delightful in Japan, but less easy than it is in China.
Most of the Japanese servants were, like Tom, extremely quick and
capable, but liable at times to take the domestic bit between their
teeth.

When we left Yokohama I gave Tom three yen more than I owed him. He
abused me roundly for not giving him more; but he gave my boy a souvenir
of Japan, and waved his straw hat as we put off from the pier.

I long to see Japan again, to feel the soft breeze of her myriad fans,
to see the glimmering light of her innumerable lanterns, to smell the
perfumes of her blossoms and her joss sticks, and to watch the gay,
gossamer flight of her countless butterflies.



                              CHAPTER XXVI


                           ORIENTAL OBSEQUIES

                          _A Japanese Funeral_

IN Japan it is chiefly the middle class that has become Europeanised.
The upper nobility and the poorer peasantry are the classes most
tenacious of the old national customs. The upper middle class is the
travelled class. The masses are too poor, the nobles are too tied by
grave responsibilities, to go far from Japan. It is the son of some
petty nobleman or well-to-do gentleman who goes to Oxford or Harvard for
his education, and returns home a very Westernised Oriental indeed.
Then, too, class prejudice is always stronger in the very high and in
the very lowly than in the intermediate classes.

I went to a Japanese funeral in Tokio. But I do not for a moment pretend
that it was a typical funeral. Even those who attempt to write
exhaustively about Japan find little or nothing to say about the burial
customs of the Japanese. There are a number of reasons why it is very
difficult to say anything definite. First, all Japan, like Gaul of old,
is divided into three parts: into Japan the old, the conservative, into
Japan the new and iconoclastic, and into Japan the compromising. In this
third Japan, nothing is anything, anything is everything. European
habits and Japanese customs are jumbled together in the most unhappy
way. Then, as for the second reason, if we confine our inquiries to the
old conservative Japanese—the only Japanese picturesquely
interesting—we find them so divided into sects and so subdivided into
families that what you say, truthfully enough, about Yamamato, would be
entirely false about Nozeyama. Japanese religion is a very puzzling
thing to any one who comes of a race accustomed to take religion
seriously. Religion in Japan is a subject by itself—a big subject. I
will try to be intelligible briefly. A large proportion of the Japanese
are Buddhists, free-and-easy Buddhists, lightly-worshipping Buddhists,
but still Buddhists. But these Buddhists are divided into fifteen sects.
The funeral customs of each sect differ from those of the other
fourteen. There are also many of the funeral observances determined by
the rank of the dead, still others decided by the family to which he
belonged, and, again, some dependent upon his financial placement.

I went to a Japanese funeral. It was, I repeat, typical of some Japanese
funerals only.

The day before the interment I went to the house in which the death had
occurred. The dead man had been prominent in the upper mercantile
circles. Hundreds of Japanese men and women were passing noiselessly in
and out of the house. They had come to say good-bye to a man they had
known well and liked well; they were all dressed quietly. It is an
insult to enter a Japanese house of death clad in anything but the
plainest, simplest garments. We passed in with the others. I was with a
Japanese gentleman and his wife. An old man-servant showed us into a
large, handsome room. Another servant took charge of us. Both these men
were dressed in the plainest dark-blue livery; both had red eyes. The
room was furnished in strict Japanese style; it was full of
sorrowful-looking people. Several of them hastened to extemporise a seat
for me out of cushions and the broad window-seat. There were no chairs
in the room, of course, only mats. Japanese courtesy never fails, never
flags; it is the real, the universal religion of Japan, and from it
there are no dissenters. A Japanese allows nothing to lessen the full
measure of graceful politeness which he pays you, because he owes it to
himself to do so. Absolutely nothing!

The condemned man about to perform hara-kiri, bows with extreme civility
to his witnesses and assistants. No sorrow, no trouble, no illness, not
death, not marriage, not even birth itself, in the least way frees a
Japanese from the grave obligation of being very polite. I went one
night in Kobe to the hut of a poor Japanese woman who had been suddenly
taken very ill. When I went in, I saw that the joy of motherhood would
be hers in a very few moments. But I was allowed to do nothing for her
until she had spoken all the prescribed words of Japanese greeting and
given me a cup of tea. No wonder that the Japanese women are more
charming than those of almost any other race, when the poorest and
lowliest of them are so heroic in their practice of a woman’s greatest
charm—courtesy!

The room in which they had so kindly contrived me a delightful seat was
the ante-chamber of the room in which the dead man lay. Maid-servants
were passing round trays of sweetmeats, which every one refused,
pointing to the inner door and shaking their heads. Then a white-haired
old man, who was evidently not a servant, brought us an exquisitely
carved ivory tray. On it were thimble-sized silver cups holding saki.
There are two things in this world I cannot drink—whisky and saki. They
are very much alike. Saki is the Japanese whisky, and is even nastier to
my thinking than Occidental whisky. The friend I was with knew my
repugnance to saki, and hastened over to me as swiftly as she might, for
Japanese etiquette forbids one to move except very slowly in a house of
mourning. “You must drink it,” she whispered, “it is a health to the
dead. And his brother, who is offering it to you, will be deeply
offended if you don’t.” I took the cup and rose, meaning to bow to the
ground as every one else was doing. But the old cup-bearer motioned me
gently back on to my cushions. “Try not yourself with our strange
customs. My sister feels it very kind that you are here.” I had known
the dead man’s wife rather well, years before, in Washington.

Every few moments a servant pushed back from the inside the door of the
next room. When he did so, a few people passed in to the dead. Our turn
came and we went in. A large white cloth was spread upon the floor. In
the centre lay a low bier, on it, clad in his best robes, lay the dead
man. Upon his bosom, half inside the opening of his kimono, lay a rose.
The room was sweet with flowers. The servants stood silently near the
doors, and the whole room spoke of sad, loving care. My two friends bent
and kissed the dead face, and we passed out by a door opposite to that
through which we had entered.

We were leaving the house when word was brought me that the widow would
like to see me. I went upstairs, and was shown into a room just over the
one we had left. It was a typical Japanese bedroom. The bereaved woman
half sat, half lay upon her sleeping mat, one elbow resting upon her
peculiar little Japanese pillow. She was dressed in coarse hempen cloth,
which is the prescribed Japanese mourning. It would be wrong, I think,
for me to write about the five minutes I spent with her. We were
friends, and the wide racial difference between us would afford me a
poor excuse if I utilised her grief for a paragraph.

The next day I went to the funeral service in the temple. The body was
no longer visible. It had been encased, in a sitting posture, in a
square wooden box. Then the box had been filled with carmine to preserve
the body from decay. This is expensive. When it cannot be afforded,
carmine is put in the ears, nose, and mouth of the corpse as a partial
preventative of decomposition.

In a room of the temple had been placed the white stone tablet, upon
which was inscribed the new name by which the dead would enter paradise.
After death, every conservative Japanese, who was a Buddhist, receives a
new name; it is called okurina, or accompanying name. Into this room
passed the incense burners. Each was provided with a paper packet of
incense, which he burned before the tablet. Behind the tablet sat the
priests of the temple. The temple itself was a gay, joyous looking
place, which seemed strangely out of keeping with the grave, subdued
manner of the company. Demeanour is everything at a Japanese funeral;
but were it not so, it would be impossible for a people of such
exquisite good taste to behave lightly on such an occasion.

The cemetery to which we went was also bright and gay. It was built upon
a gently-sloping hillside, and was literally a paradise of
sweet-smelling flowers. The graves were at some distance from each
other, and, without exception, most carefully tended. Over many of them
were built carved marble roofing, peaked in shape. From some of these
roofs hung one of the tiny chimes of bells of which the Japanese are so
fond, and which they invariably have in their temples or prayer-houses.
The coffin was placed in a grave that was half-full of honeysuckle and
roses. More flowers were thrown above the coffin, or rather coffins, for
the inner box had been put in several others. Again incense was burned,
until the air grew very peculiar with the mingling of the fresh perfumes
of the growing flowers and the heavy odour of the preserved spices. Then
we left the dead in the least depressing cemetery I have ever seen. A
tuneful brook ran through that burial ground, and in it were several
squat pagodas or prayer-houses—miniature temples. Everything was clean,
quiet, and in order, except the flowering vines—they ran mad riot
everywhere.

Cremation used to be practised in Japan, but never, I believe, very
generally. Certainly it has long been confined to the lower and poorer
classes, and even they employ it less and less every year.

The custom of burying the dead in a sitting position is general but not
universal, and is decreasing. In many Japanese families, children are
still trained explicitly in the offices of respect they may at any time
be called upon to perform at the obsequies of a relative. One quaint old
custom still holds in Japan. Upon slips of paper are written the names
of all persons present at a funeral. The slips are bound together,
sometimes very elegantly, and handed down from generation to generation
as heirlooms. Curiously, the writing of these lists is the only one
exception I know to the Japanese rule of writing from the right to the
left. The lists of funeral guests are written as we write from left to
right.

The Japanese deal with death and the attendant ceremonies with more
dignity and simplicity than any of the other Oriental peoples. They are
not naturally gloomy, and they never exaggerate gloom. Their burial
grounds are pretty, peaceful places, in every way fitting resting places
for the dead of a superlatively graceful, artistic, pleasant people.



                             CHAPTER XXVII


                           ORIENTAL NUPTIALS

                           _Japanese Wedlock_

CONFUCIUS wrote: “The man stands in importance before the woman; it is
the right of the strong over the weak. Heaven ranks before earth; the
prince ranks before his minister. This law of honour is one.” The
Occidental reformers who would fain place the women of China and Japan
on an equality with the men of those countries, must first disabuse the
Chinese and the Japanese minds of their deeply-rooted reverence for
Confucius. That will be very difficult. Confucius said so much that has
held true for thousands of years, so very much that has stood the test
of ages—he so satisfies the good and the intellectual—that it will be
a very able “foreign devil” who convinces Chung-Fan and Uzeyama that
Confucius was not infallible. And the chief difficulty will again be
with the women. A heathen man sometimes deserts the heathen gods,—a
heathen woman does so, almost never. Upon these especial words, then, of
Confucius, and upon many similar words of his, and upon words in
literature held almost as sacred, are based the relative positions of
the sexes in China and Japan. It is no mistake to suppose that the men
of China and Japan regard women as their own inferiors. But the great
mistake,—and a common and stupid mistake it is,—the great mistake is
made by those who suppose that in China and Japan man is necessarily
unkind, or even ungentle to woman. A great many of us hold that our
children are our inferiors intellectually and physically, and that we
have a right to their obedience. But we do not, as a matter of
consequence, beat or bully the little creatures who cluster about our
knees. If (with the one exception of the Burmans) the men of Asia regard
themselves as superior to their women, they nevertheless, as a rule,
treat those women with extreme tenderness. There is usually something
prettily paternal in the bearing of an Oriental husband to his wife.

Another point is unnoted by the women who sip four o’clock tea in Europe
and America, and mourn over their sisters in benighted Cathay. They
forget the power of love, and how it “raises the lowly and humbles the
great.” If the _fin-de-siècle_ women of Europe have discarded love as a
silly luxury and a useless ally, the women of Asia have not. It is their
mainstay. And when we wring our emancipated hands over the deplorable
condition of the women of Asia we forget that the woman who is loved is
all-powerful.

The women of Japan are, I think, supreme in their own homes. They
exercise, as a rule, little or no influence on public affairs, but I
fancy that their own indifference is the chief cause of this. The
Japanese women are not generally industrious nor keenly intellectual.
They are as dainty, as beautiful, as fine, as the ivory carvings of
Kioto; they are as exquisite, as lovely in tint, as the embroideries of
Tokio. Yet they have few or none of the qualities of statesmen, but they
are to the men of Japan what Japan is to the world,—they are models of
beauty, exemplifications of grace, flowers of courtesy, acmes of
hospitality; they are sweet refuges of rest, something to be looked upon
with delight and to be loved.

Japan is often an open book to the foreigner who can read its quaint,
graceful characters. The moment you put your foot on Japanese soil you
are the guest of all Japan; every Japanese feels himself your host—in
duty bound to welcome you and to humour you. Hence it ought to be the
easiest thing to learn about their national customs and their home-life.
And so it would be, if both were for long the same. The Japanese are as
variable as their own rainbow-crêpes. They are as illusive as the
colours of the prism. To say, “This is done in Japan, this is thought in
Japan, this is felt in Japan, this is liked in Japan,” is as impossible
as to sharply separate the reds from the pinks, the whites from the
creams, on the petals of a blush rose. And also, there are times when
Japan is a very closed book to Europeans—times when the national cry
is, “Japan for the Japanese.” At such times it is difficult to penetrate
into the heart of Japan, and impossible to learn anything of Japanese
home-life.

There are a few families in Japan who cling rigidly to the customs of
old Japan, and they are far more interesting in their
marriage-observances than the subscribers to Japan the new. Japanese
marriages spring from convenience or inclination. But this is so true of
almost all countries that it can scarcely be recorded as vitally
characteristic of Japan. The terms of the marriage are arranged through
a common friend who is called a “middle man.” When the marriage is
finally agreed upon, and the terms settled, a present is sent from the
bridegroom, by the “middle man,” to the bride. This is called the
“complimentary present.” If it is accepted, the family of the bride are
in honour bound not to retract their consent. Then follows a deluge of
presents. Everybody gives everybody gifts in bewildering varieties and
quantities. The bride’s presents, sent by the bridegroom, include seven
varieties of condiments, and seven barrels of wine. These, I believe,
she often bestows upon her parents. For herself she retains the major
part of the presents, which consist of silk, of gold embroideries, and
robes. There is always gold embroidery for a girdle, and a piece of
white silk stuff, which must be woven with a lozenge pattern, a white
silk robe, and other pieces of white silk stuff. The manner in which
these silks are folded is of importance, as is also the way in which
they are carried. The bridegroom sends his prospective father-in-law a
sword and scabbard and a list of all the presents. He sends to his
future mother-in-law a silk robe and wine and condiments. To the
bridegroom is sent, from the bride’s father, a present equal in value to
those sent by the bridegroom to the bride’s parents. But the bride does
not reciprocate the bridegroom’s gifts. On the marriage night two silk
robes are sent to the bride from the bridegroom, and neither these nor
the one sent before, may, under any circumstances, be folded.

The long ceremonies of the marriage night begin with the passing of the
bride from her girl-home to her wife-home. Before the door of each house
is placed a strip of matting. Before the bride’s door is placed the
bridal litter.

She comes! She stands in her father’s doorway, for the last time, as a
child. The blue wistarias hang in thick, hopeful clusters above her
elaborately-coiffured head. A warm, sweet perfume steals from the rose
garden and mingles with the perfume of her warm, sweet lips. The faint,
clean smell of cherry and of apple blossoms comes with the gentle breeze
that stirs the long white veil which the bride wears with the
incomparable grace of a Japanese woman. In the West there is a last
faint glow of sunset. The maiden’s face is warm with a gentle,
well-controlled flush. From behind the rose garden and the honeysuckle
vines steals the new moonlight. In the girl’s eyes shines a great, pure
glory. The bride’s mother gives a little sob. The girl’s dimpled face
quivers for an instant, then she steps into her litter. The bearers lift
it up, and she is off to her new home and her new life. Ring every
golden bell! Bloom every scented blossom of Japan’s great wild-flower
luxuriance! The bride is coming! She is robed in white. On her outer
robe of silk is woven the bridal lozenge. Behind her walk the bearers of
many gifts. That is a person of much importance, he who carries so
importantly the picturesque bamboo and lacquer bucket. Do you know what
is in it? Clams! They are to make the bridal broth; and in all
Massachusetts there are none who can convert clams into pottage so
delicious as can the cooks of Japan. Behind the clams come the presents
which the bride will offer to her husband. They are carried carefully,
on a tray of rare old lacquer. Among those presents are seven
pocket-books, a sword of fine workmanship, a fan, two girdles, two
silken robes sewn together, and a dress of ceremony,—a dress with wings
of hempen cloth. Dresses of ceremony are very important items in the
wardrobe of every Chinese or Japanese noble. It would be greatly
interesting, had one the time, to investigate the why and wherefore, the
significance, of the prescribed garments worn, upon important occasions,
by the Chinese and Japanese. In passing, I may say that there is no part
of a Japanese dress of ceremony more important than the big sleeves of
hempen cloth. They are worn by the dignitary who performs hara-kiri, and
they must, by all means, be taken to the bridegroom by his bride.

Before the bridegroom’s door burn the big “garden torches.” The “garden
torches” are two fires lit, one on either side of the bridegroom’s
portal. Beside each fire sit a man and woman pounding rice. Between the
fires lies a length of matting, on which the bride’s litter is
deposited. When the bride passes, the rice from the left is mingled with
the rice at the right. This is called the “blending of the rice-meal,”
and is analogous to a detail of the old Latin marriage customs. As the
bride passes in, the wicks of two candles are united. This represents
the union of souls and of bodies. The two wicks are allowed to burn
together for a few moments and are then extinguished. This symbolises, I
believe, the hope that the bride and bridegroom may live and die
together.

The marriage celebration is ceremonial, and there is a characteristic
feast, but, in it, there is no religious element. Japanese religion is
very unobtrusive. There is no priest at the hara-kiri ceremonial; there
is no priest at the marriage ceremony. The feast is very Japanese; it is
peculiar (from our point of view), but it is delicate and artistic. A
great many cups of wine are drunk; but each cup is ridiculously small,
and holds but a pigmy thimbleful. The wine is brought in in kettles, to
which are fastened paper butterflies, each a work of art almost as
beautiful as the butterflies of Nature. In the menu are condiments,
soups—of fishes’ fins and of clams, and of carp. Rice is there of
course, but prepared and served with Japanese originality and
daintiness. After the feast, both bride and bridegroom change their
outer garments—he for the dress of ceremony brought by her—she for the
dress given by him. Then the bride goes to the apartments of her
parents-in-law. She takes with her presents for her husband’s parents,
and there is more drinking of wine drops, and dropping of quaint,
pretty, Japanese curtseys. If the bridegroom’s parents are dead he leads
the bride to the tablets on which are inscribed those parents’ names,
and there she makes obeisance, often and deep.

The bridal apartments are arranged with great nicety by the female
friends of the husband and wife. Japanese married life always has the
great advantage of beginning amid pleasant surroundings.

Very many years ago every Japanese bride blackened her teeth and shaved
her eyebrows, but these practices are now confined to the lower classes.
The Japanese people are too finely artistic to perpetuate any custom
that disfigures their persons. The Japanese wives of to-day are beauties
in all ways enhanced, in no ways disfigured. And in their pretty,
flower-scented homes they sit among big carved vases and tinkling music,
and when the silken lanterns are lit, the soft, coloured light drifts on
to the prettiest, daintiest, most winsome women in the world.

The Japanese women are lovable, and all their lives they are loved. For
what more can woman wish? They lead no armies; they preside over no
legislatures, but they reign and rule at home. They are kissed tenderly
and admired exceedingly.

I have tried to describe an old Japanese marriage. Most of the details
are still retained, I believe, in the marriages of the most orthodox
people. But orthodoxy is on the wane the wide world over. Even in China
(its stronghold), it has shrunk, if ever so little. In Japan—where
manner is more than matter, where seriousness is never very deep—in
Japan orthodoxy itself is a chameleon-like, shifting, uncertain thing.
And even the phantom of orthodoxy holds but limited sway in Japan the
_fin de siècle_.

The marriage ceremony among Westernised, modernised Japanese would
differ in many details from the wedding I have described. It would be
less Japanesque, less elaborate, and, I had almost written, less
picturesque; but nothing can lack in picturesqueness—nothing in which
Japanese women play the principal parts.

[Illustration: HINDOO COOLIE WOMEN WITH LOADS OF BAMBOO.         _Page
249._]



                             CHAPTER XXVIII


                                 BAMBOO

THE Orient is wreathed with bamboo. A considerable proportion of the
houses in the East are built of bamboo. And at one season of the year
many thousands of natives are fed on bamboo.

There is nothing else that I should find so impossible to wipe from my
memoried picture of the East as bamboo. It is the one characteristic
common to all the East. Indigo, rice, opium, tea, coffee, cochineal,
gems, spices—they all mean the East, but no one of them means the
entire East. Bamboo is symbolic of all the East. It lifts its graceful,
feathery heads among the cocoanut trees and cinnamon groves of Ceylon.
It touches with rare beauty every few yards of the Chinese landscape. It
breaks up into lovely bits the fields of India. It grows at the base of
the Himalayas. It softens again the soft, fair face of Japan. It thrives
in Singapore, it runs riot in Penang. And wonderfully deft are the
natives in their use of the bamboo. The Chinamen excel in its
manipulation. I have come home, after a sojourn in the East of some
years, with an idea that the Chinamen excel in almost everything
mechanical in which they have an entirely fair chance. There are few
things that a Chinaman cannot make out of bamboo; houses, boxes, and
baskets, furniture, palanquins, ’rickshaws, hats, shields, carriages,
scaffolding, fences, mats, portières,—those are a few of the simplest
uses to which Chin-Yang puts bamboo.

There is nothing else in the vegetable kingdom at once so pliable and so
strong as bamboo. The fingers of Chinese children weave it; the hands of
Indian women pluck it. Yet from it is made scaffolding, upon which stand
a multitude of Chinese workmen.

Once, in Hong-Kong, I saw the Chinese prepare for their Soul Festival.
The Soul Festival is a unique expression of the artistic yearnings of
this peculiar people. It occurs once in every four years. A temporary
house is built of bamboo, it is lined with shelves of bamboo; on those
shelves are placed pictures, vases, flowers—in brief, anything and
everything that marks Chinese progress in the fine arts. The Soul
Festival is the Chinese World’s Fair—but a World’s Fair from which all
the world is rigorously excluded except China. There was a great deal
about the Soul Festival I saw that was incomprehensible to me; and a
Chinese mystery is apt to remain a Chinese mystery to the most inquiring
European. One thing, however, was clear to me at the Soul Festival. That
one thing was the preponderance of bamboo. Not only was bamboo an
important ingredient in the building, and of half the semi-useful
articles displayed, but it was in evidence on the majority of the
pottery, and in many of the pictures. It was the saving grace of the
most hideous carvings. It gave the utmost touch of beauty to the finest
ivories.

Bamboo is as light as it is strong. That makes it invaluable for
receptacles that must be carried. I used often to stop in the streets of
Shanghai to buy Chinese sweetmeats from a chow-chow seller, who had a
portable booth or cabinet. I wondered at the ease with which he carried
it, until one day I lifted it myself. It was inexpressibly light,—it
was made of bamboo. The minor Chinese bridges are made of bamboo; very
quaint and effective they are.

The Foundlings Home at Shanghai was the prettiest sight (humanly
speaking) I saw in China. It was a Roman Catholic Institution. The
Sisters were Chinese. They wore the full, dark-blue trousers and the
light-blue smock, the hideous head-dress, and the green, jade earrings
of the ordinary amah; but each wore upon her bosom a large cross. The
poor little Chinese waifs lay asleep in queer, tall, bamboo cradles.
Some of the elder children sat in sturdy little bamboo chairs, and the
celestial romps of the institution capered beneath the shade of the
bamboo trees.

I went to a court of Chinese justice. The judges sat upon bamboo chairs,
about a bamboo table. The doors of a Chinese prison are barred with
bamboo lattice work. The shields of the Chinese soldiers are made of
bamboo. Of bamboo are made the flutes of the Chinese musicians. The
Chinese poulterer carries across his shoulder a straight bamboo rod, and
on it are hung his feathery wares. The captive song birds of China chirp
their sad music behind the bars of bamboo cages. The Chinese woman who
toddles from her window to see your strange, pale, European face leans
over a bamboo balcony. I had some boxes made in Singapore (Singapore is
full of Chinese) and in Hong-Kong. I used to spend hours watching their
manufacture from the almost green bamboo. The Chinese are unrivalled in
thoroughness and in exactness. I drew a plan of a rather intricate box
for a Chinaman in Singapore. I got a tape measure and showed him the
dimensions I wished. We bargained, as to price, on our fingers. The day
on which it should be completed was determined in the same way. On the
day agreed upon, John arrived with my box. He had padded and lined with
silk, as I had shown him, the compartment for my wigs; he had lined the
little place for “make-up” with tin; my armour fitted into its place to
a nicety. In brief, he had done everything exactly as I had indicated.
Not from one of my many instructions had he deviated by a
hair’s-breadth; and yet I had only shown them on a piece of paper. I had
told him nothing. We were equally ignorant each of the other’s language.
I paid him the exact sum agreed upon, and he said, “Chin-chin,” and went
away very contentedly. That is characteristic of the Chinese: the
quality of fidelity to a bargain. In that they differ from the Japanese.
If a Chinaman agrees to make you a pair of boots for three yen, and to
deliver them on Monday, why then, as sure as Monday comes, come the
boots, made as they were ordered. The bootmaker takes his three yen, and
says, “Thank you.” Make an identical arrangement with a Japanese. On
Monday you never see him. On Tuesday he calls to say that he will bring
the boots on Wednesday. On Thursday he actually brings them. He is very
polite, far more polite than the Chinese cobbler. He demands four yen,
because the boots have taken twice the leather he thought they would.
Nine to one they are not just what you ordered; but there will be about
them that indefinable something that will stamp them works of art; and
the boots the Chinaman made you, though just as you ordered, will be, at
the utmost, masterpieces of mechanical workmanship.

In Bengal I have seen women carrying bundles of bamboo three times their
own height and quite their own circumference. They cut it, the women of
the coolie class, and carry it for miles on their heads. They have a
little pad of rags between their skulls and their tremendous burdens.
They bring the bamboo to the nearest village and sell it to some bamboo
shop.

The Mohurrum is the thriving time for one branch of the bamboo trade,
for at the celebration of the Mohurrum festivals, thousands of tâzias
are carried about the streets before they are thrown, as sacrifices to
the native gods, into the Ganges or its nearest substitute. The tâzias
are marvellous concoctions of paper and tinsel, more or less typical of
Indian religious history or myth. They are carried upon carts or upon
the shoulders of religious enthusiasts. Almost all the Indians, for that
matter, are religious enthusiasts. But whether the tâzias are carried on
carts, or by men, they rest upon bamboo scaffoldings; and most of them
are built upon bamboo framework. The Mohurrum is one of the two great
Mohammedan festivals; it is often provocative of riot and bloodshed, and
it is at such times, when native fanaticism rides its high hobby-horse,
that European interests are most endangered.

Bamboo is a delightful vegetable. Only the young, tender shoots can be
eaten, but they are very palatable. They are dressed with a cream sauce,
such as Americans serve with asparagus points. The natives use them in
an insipid broth. They are a toothsome accompaniment to any game curry.
They are often used in all the nicest curries. I claim to have invented
bamboo salad, and I assure you it is very nice. You boil the young,
tender tips, but not too thoroughly. Then put them in the ice-chest.
When they are thoroughly cold, serve them with a French dressing or with
a rich _mayonnaise_. You can serve them with or without lettuce,
cucumber, etc., but serve a little celery with them, if possible; and,
whether you use the French dressing or the _mayonnaise_, season it with
cayenne until it is quite piquant. The bamboo tips are also very nice
served as a _confiture_ with preserved ginger and candied mangoes. I was
looking, the other day, over the price-list of an Eastern condiment
house here in London; but no Eastern _délicatesse_ was there. The
fruits, the queer combinations, that give the Eastern flavour to your
food and make every mouthful more delicious and pungent than the last,
they are not to be had here; but it is a happiness to remember them.

It is the picturesque aspect of the growing bamboo that I would
emphasise. Except in Japan, almost all the beauties of the East are
positive—aggressive in colour and in line. Bamboo is soft of hue,
graceful, indefinite of outline. It softens and modifies many a mile of
Indian scenery which without it would be crude. I remember, with genuine
gratitude, one glorious clump of bamboo in Jubbulpore. It was so
delicate in tint and shape that it toned to tender half-colours the
rough dyes of the garments of the natives who clustered about it. I
always made a point of including it in my afternoon drive; and many a
starlit night I have walked some considerable distance to see it
outlined, like wonderful gray-green lace, against the opalescent sky,
from which the sunset had not quite gone.

[Illustration: FAN PALM AT SINGAPORE.         _Page 255._]



                              CHAPTER XXIX


                            ON THE HIMALAYAS

FROM Tokio we turned back. Again we stayed in Yokohama, in Kobe, and
stopped just long enough to play once in Nagasaki. We spent some time at
Hong-Kong. At Penang our boat waited a day, and our English friends came
aboard to wish us God-speed. The man we had known best and liked most
was not among them. I had named him “Saint of the Camera.” He was a
capital amateur photographer, and had tramped about Penang most
generously for me when we had been there before, and had fed with
innumerable pretty photographs my insatiable craving for “views.” I
asked where he was. Alas! he was in the English Hospital, fighting a
desperate fight with the fever-fiend.

“I wish that you were as rich as Monte Christo,” I had said to my
husband the first evening that we were in Penang.

“Why?” he said, as in duty bound.

“Because then you could buy me this island, and we would stay here for
ever.”

“Oh, would we? Well, then, I’m glad that I’m considerably less well off
than Monte Christo,” said mine lord, who decidedly prefers Europe to
Asia.

Penang is said by some authorities to be the site of the Garden of Eden.
Certainly no paradise could be lovelier. Nature laughs and revels in
Penang; and there, too, is native life most varied, most picturesque. A
dozen different races live in Penang. Their places of worship, their
houses, their garments, are insistently differentiated. Penang is one
big garden of exotics; among them, we found one sweet home-rose—the
rose of English hospitality. From Penang we went to Singapore.

I have no pleasanter memories than my memories of Singapore. No place
could be more beautiful, nor more interesting; and I thought that
nowhere in the East was there such pleasant European society. And surely
no other spot on earth is such a paradise of fruit.

Singapore is a place of splendid varieties. It is the island of a great
future.

The Malays are perhaps the least vivid feature of Singapore. They are an
inoffensive people, but not, I thought, as interesting as the other
Oriental peoples. Chinese industry and European intelligence were the
great motive powers at Singapore.

Tanglin, outside the town of Singapore, is an ideal barrack. It was a
soldier’s paradise I thought.

Singapore, with its wonderful mixture of races, was strangely
fascinating, even to people who had been through the East rather
exhaustively; but I doubt if we should remember Singapore half so
pleasantly, did we not remember it as the residence of Sir Charles
Warren.

If I felt free to glide into purely personal reminiscences, I should
record of Singapore that there we greatly liked a man, and greatly
thanked a host.

On our way to China we had spent a month or more in Singapore. Now we
passed a few more pleasant weeks there. Then came a few sad days in
Rangoon and a memorable passage back to Calcutta. It was late in July
and the elements were in indescribable confusion. Only an expert could
tell which was sky and which was sea. And neither sea nor sky could have
been uglier.

[Illustration: NATIVES READING AT PENANG.         _Page 256._]

We lost a great number of sheep overboard in the storm; and I, too, very
nearly went overboard. I should have deserved my fate; but the poor
innocent sheep did not deserve theirs. Yet perhaps it is pleasanter to
die by drowning than by slaughter. I love the deck of a boat, but I hate
the “down below.” I never go below more than is absolutely necessary.
But on this trip I had my own way once too often. I don’t know how I had
inveigled the Captain, but I had. My steamer chair was lashed to the
hatch. I was snug and dry under my rugs. The ship rolled and pitched
splendidly, the rain rushed down in nasty torrents, and the salt spray
curled and split into a hundred whipcords, before it struck my face.

The Captain and my captain came up every few moments to reason with me
and to invite me down, but I shook my wilful head at them. The night,
the storm, and the fresh, angry air, seemed to me far more pleasant than
the close, warm, sociable saloon would have been.

About ten o’clock John came up and made, with difficulty, his frightened
way to my side.

“Master say you want something? Please he like come bring you down. It
is very late.”

“All right, I’ll come down with you, John,” I said.

“Oh no, memsahib, please not,” cried John, “Master be very angry. It
want two gentlemen help you this bad night.”

Some imp of contrariness possessed me. I was cross at having to go down
at all; and I answered John roughly. “Bring the rugs,” I said, “and I’ll
come by myself, if you are afraid to help me.” Poor John, he was afraid
to help himself; and, in sooth, we had a very staggery time of it
between the steamer chair and the gangway. But we grasped the brass rod
at last and went slowly, and, as I thought, surely down. How often we
are most in danger when we think that danger is over! I was on the last
step when a lurch more tremendous than all the tremendous others tore
the brass rod from my hand, and I lay across the saloon doorway, a
rather mangled mass of wilful woman.

I had interrupted a game of whist. I was rather badly hurt, but they
were all very good to me; even the Captain and the long-suffering
husband, both of whom I had defied by staying on deck, through the
storm, and both of whom I had disobeyed by coming below without their
help.

There was a young army surgeon on board; I forget his name, but I shall
always remember him. He had been invalided home from Mandalay. He was
seriously ill; but he left his state-room and came to mine. I shall
never forget how very ill he looked as he bent over my rather badly cut
eye. I am sure that he was far worse than I was, but he saved me from
the full consequences of my folly; and he looked so very white and spent
that I forgot to moan, and let my fancy wander to a score of
battlefields where unselfish medicos have won their Victoria Crosses;
and before my mind had quite come back my eye was mended.

Our second season in Calcutta was delightful, but warm. “Cinch, cinch,”
was our constant cry; which meant that we wanted the punkah-wallahs to
pull harder.

Punkahs are the puissant antidotes of the Indian climate. They are not
always needed, nor everywhere; but when they are needed, they are needed
badly! There are two kinds of punkahs—hand punkahs, and the long canvas
punkahs that hang from the ceiling and are pulled by the coolies, who
sit in the hall or in an outer room. The hand punkahs are huge fans,
made of palm leaves, and swung near your face, by the tireless arms of
indefatigable punkah-wallahs.

Some of the hand punkahs are very beautiful. In Calcutta, at the
theatre, I was kept cool by the breath of a big Egyptian-shaped thing
that was inlaid with bits of brilliantly-hued glass. In Rawal Pindi I
was cooled by the breeze of a square of scented grass. In Patiala the
servants of the Maharajah fanned me with wire-outlined, leaf-fringed,
sandalwood-sprinkled ovals of crimson silk.

In every part of India I bought, for a few pies, in the native bazaars,
the common fans of the people. I don’t suppose that my entire collection
cost me ten pounds. But to me they are full of interest and of story,
those crude fans of the Asiatic populace. That plaited, vivid one means
Allahabad to me. That little, useless-looking, spangled one I bought
almost at the base of Mount Everest. There was small need for fans
there; but fans are a matter of course in Asia, and custom is greater
than necessity. For every Oriental city or town in which I have slept I
have a fan.

The genii of this world are limited in number. I knew one of them in
Calcutta; he was an old, poor Hindoo. He had his price (as most of us
have); and it was two annas from sunrise to sunrise. I gave him three
annas, and only claimed his services from 8 P.M. till 12 P.M. I think he
loved me. He could only do one thing, but he did it perfectly. Our
second season in Calcutta was, beyond expression, hot. It was indecently
hot. But, whatever the rest of the world suffered, from 8 P.M. until
midnight I was cool and happy. To write more correctly, I was cooled and
kept happy. The one thing that my meagrely-clad brown genius could do,
was fan; and he did it. From the moment I stepped from the gharri into
the stage doorway of the Theatre Royal, Calcutta, I was surrounded by
the perfection of breeze.

There were moments incidental to my changes of costume when I had to
temporarily banish him from my dressing-room. He always resented this;
he seemed to feel it a reflection upon his fanning. To tell the truth, I
often felt rather supercilious; for, though he never ceased to fan me,
he was more often asleep than awake. I usually had to waken him before I
ejected him.

We played _The Lights o’ London_ in terrible weather. My third dress was
a warm gray gown, and over it I wore a warmer gray cloak and hood. I
don’t know how the old man managed it, but he did manage always to crawl
behind the canvas rocks; and while I sat, a melting mass of cross
feminality, he fanned and fanned me. When I moved, he moved; wherever I
stood, he stood behind me; and whether the audience appreciated or
underrated my genius, he never ceased to fan me. A friend, a dear
friend, was kind enough to tell me that in Bombay I played Bess Marks
very much worse than I had in Calcutta. I attributed it entirely to the
absence of my punkah-wallah.

I have never had a more devoted servant. When he could not by any
possible contrivance fan me, he used to go and fan my husband. I wonder
if he had read a book entitled, _Love me, Love my Husband_.

When we went into the Punjab, the punkahs—the big punkahs swung from
the ceiling—that had been a luxury became a necessity. Not a necessity
to comfort, but to life. But before we went into the Punjab we went up
on the Himalayas.

My lines of life have crossed and recrossed the globe, up and down. I
shall always think of the Himalayas as Nature’s masterpiece. I shall not
try to describe them: my failure would be too great.

We crept to the Himalayas from Calcutta—crept through pleasant, native
places, across the Ganges, up the most wonderful of railways. It seems
profane to speak of man’s achievement and of the Himalayas at the same
time; but the difficulties that Nature has thrown in the way of the
Darjeeling railway make its accomplishment a thing sublime. Engineering
may have had greater triumphs, but it has had none that are more greatly
displayed.

Our train turned upon itself and crossed its own tracks like a mad,
hunted thing. It seemed to take most desperate chances; but still it
went on and up; and man’s mind triumphed over Nature’s matter.

Alas that three score years and ten should mark the average limit of so
stupendous a triumph! And yet if, as some of us think, man’s mind is but
a form of Nature’s matter, it is only meet that our active, nervous
personalities should be reabsorbed into the great, quiet, placid, potent
whole of Nature.

The colour-rich pen of William Shakespeare would, I think, have found
itself inadequate to paint the scenery through which we passed from the
banks of the Ganges to the base of Mount Everest. All I can say of that
scenery is: It is there; go and see it!

We passed groups of hill people. They were to us a new type of Asiatic
humanity. They reminded us strangely and strongly of our own North
American Indians. They set us thinking. We tried to recall all we had
ever read about the cradle of the Aryan race. We tried to remember the
great racial divisions of humanity. And when we found ourselves in a
fine mental tangle we gave it up, saying, “What a great and undeniable
fact is the brotherhood of all humanity!” and then we ceased to think
and only looked—at Nature. We passed through tea plantations, and
through miles of cochineal and indigo; that relieved our tension and
told us once more that ours was the most practical race in the world;
for the plantations were, almost without exception, owned and managed by
Anglo-Saxons.

Before we reached Darjeeling we had several sunlit views of the far,
snow-covered heights of the great mountains. From Darjeeling we saw them
every day—for at Darjeeling we had only sunshine and good fortune. We
saw Mount Kinchinjunga at sunrise, at sunflood, and at sunset. We could
not see Mount Everest from Darjeeling, but before daylight one morning
we went together on horseback and crept to the base of Mount Everest; we
lifted our faces reverently and looked upon it.

Darjeeling fascinated me as much because of the hill tribes we found
there as for its own wonderful beauty. My husband says that I ruined him
in furs and phulkaris, but he has accused me of ruining him in every
bazaar in the Orient; and now that we are at home in London, he has
quite constituted himself the curator of my curios.

At Darjeeling is one of the lovely homes of those very interesting
people, the Maharajah and Maharanee of Cooch Behar.

The Maharajah of Cooch Behar was the handsomest man I ever saw. But I
did not discover it the first time I saw him. The Maharanee was with
him, and I had no eyes for any one else. The Maharanee of Cooch Behar is
indescribably lovely. No intense poem of old Oriental literature
contains a description of woman’s loveliness, that would be an
exaggeration if it had been written about her Highness. In Calcutta and
in Darjeeling she and her husband came to see us play very often.
Whenever they came, I used to scurry through my changes that I might
stand at the peep-hole and look upon the exquisite Eastern beauty of the
Maharanee. The Maharajah I first saw, without his wife, at the Calcutta
Races; then I realised what a handsome husband his handsome wife had.
Naturally enough, the Cooch Behar children are exceptionally pretty. It
was in Darjeeling that I used to see them. The Maharajah of Cooch Behar
and his wife stand for all that is best and wisest in Indian life. Their
culture is broadly cosmopolitan, their loyalty to their own people is
deep and tireless, but not pedantic nor narrow. They adore and adorn the
country of their birth. They greatly credit the country of their
allegiance.

We went from Darjeeling back to Calcutta. Then we went to Bombay,
stopping a week or more at Allahabad and Jubblepore. I revelled again in
the native quarters; we were made very happy at night in the theatres,
and in the cantonments we met a lot of charming English people. I often
wonder how many thousands of charming English people there are in India.
There are very many, I know.

Bombay I always associate with Tokio and Vienna. They are the three most
lavish cities I have ever seen. And yet, Bombay lacked to me something
of the charm of Calcutta. Bombay is undoubtedly the more beautiful of
the two cities, but it is far the less dense. Humanity fascinates me
more than Nature. I boast of being cosmopolitan. I love several
countries as much as, or more than, my own, and yet, the cosmopolitanism
of Bombay oppressed me. The cosmos seemed to me objectionably
conglomerate. But Bombay was delightful; its shortcomings were very few,
its charms were very, very many. Must I leave Bombay—the Queen of the
Eastern seas—with a sentence? Perhaps as well leave it that way as
another, since I cannot devote the pages of a volume to its praise. The
swarming, native quarters, the beautifully-built European section, the
pretty Parsi women, the changeable silks and the inch-thick rugs of the
borri wallahs, the bright-blue, glistening, dancing bay, the dank
recesses of the Elephanta caves, the vultures on the Parsi Towers of
Silence, call out to me for recognition. But there is a nineteenth
century full to overflowing of tourists to recall them all, better,
perhaps, than I could, but not more lovingly than I should—had I the
space and the power to more than mention them.

If I filled one page with each golden memory I have of the Orient, those
pages would, though they were printed on tissue, make a rather thick
volume.

[Illustration: HILL PEOPLE—BHOOTEAS AND NEPAULESE.         _Page
264._]



                              CHAPTER XXX


                                MY AYAH

A THORNLESS, black blossom grew upon the hills that stretch between
Poona and Bombay. When I was domiciled in a bungalow on those hills, I
had the good luck to gather that black blossom into the garland of my
personal retinue. By birth she was a Hindoo, a high-caste Hindoo; by
profession and necessity she was an ayah. I never knew a sweeter-natured
woman. Unlike most of her people, she had learned very little from the
Europeans. Her mental horizon had scarcely widened through her contact
with us. She hadn’t a big mind, but she had a huge heart; I never met so
impersonal a member of my own sex. All she thought or wished for herself
was to bathe at sunrise, and, when she was very hungry, to eat a little.
The only dissipation she ever craved was to sit some moments in the sun.
The only necessity of her nature was to love something.

I broke down at the end of a hard, hot season in Bombay. My husband said
that it was an attack of fever, caught from spending too much time in
the native city. I feared that it was an attack of conscience, brought
on by spending too much money in the native bazaars. But I never told
him so; I never can bring myself to contradict my husband. At all
events, I broke down very thoroughly, and was peremptorily forbidden the
trip to Calcutta, which my husband and our company were about to take.
To remain in Bombay was out of the question. We found a Hindoo gentleman
who had a bungalow at Khandalah, a bungalow he wished to let. Khandalah
is a railway station mid-way between Poona and Bombay. There is a
sanitarium, not far from there, for sick soldiers. Save for their
occasional presence, when convalescent, the place is destitute of
Europeans. We went to look at the bungalow. I must not stop to describe
the wonderful journey up to the top of the high hills, or I shall never
reach Khandalah. I must not stop to tell you of Khandalah (a clump of
many native huts and a few native bungalows, sprinkled like eccentric
fungi on the aromatic hillsides), or I shall never reach the bungalow. I
must not stop to tell you of the bungalow, with all its glory of fruit
and flowers, and all its wealth of dilapidation, or I shall never reach
my ayah. To be brief, I fell in love with Khandalah and with Mr.
Bhaishankar’s bungalow. You would have done the same if you had been
there. We rented the bungalow. In three days we took possession. The
order of our procession when we left Bombay was:

    1. My husband and I.

    2. Our two children.

    3. Our European nurse and housekeeper.

    4. My little daughter’s ayah.

    5. John, my husband’s Madrassi boy.

    6. Mettu, my Mohammedan boy.

    7. Abdul, my little son’s chokera.

    8. A mistree.

    9. A dhursi, who brought his wife, their five children and his
    sister (I think the sister was another wife, called a sister out
    of deference to my narrow views of matrimony).

    10. Three dogs.

    11. Twelve boxes (chiefly filled with provisions, for I had
    stored most of my chests of raiment at Bombay).

The next day my husband had to leave us. He had an appointment to again
unfurl the Shakespearian banner over the black hole of Calcutta.

Three days after, the ayah we had grew homesick, said she was dying and
wanted to die in Bombay. I sent her back. I grew very ill and another
ayah was a necessity. We took one of the only two who applied. I studied
her for weeks,—I studied a good many things that hot weather. I read a
quantity of English literature that ought to lift me into conversational
pre-eminence for years. I had abundant leisure. For over four months I
saw only five European faces—my two children, the European woman who
has been for years our faithful servant and friend, a doctor (from
Lanauli, the nearest European settlement), and the nurse who came to
help him fight my illness.

Ayah (I have had many ayahs, but only one is enthroned in my
memory)—Ayah was very stupid, I thought, when she first came. She knew
very little English and she didn’t learn a dozen new words all the time
she was with me. But she had the gift of divination. If you were half
kind to her she knew all your wants instinctively, and she had the grace
of giving joyful service.

I have been served more or less—usually less—all over the world, and I
believe that there are only two perfect servant-races left: the Southern
darkies of the United states and the natives of India. The Japanese
servants are deft, but they never love you. And there is no perfection
in service in which there is no affection. If you speak a kind, familiar
word to a Japanese servant he regards you with frigid contempt. Do it to
any other servant in the world and he presumes upon it—unless he is a
native of India or an American darkie. Those two understand it, rejoice
in it, and become your staunch friends, but no whit the less your humble
servants. Even here, in England, the race of servants is dying out; they
have ceased to respect themselves and their work. Consequently they are
ill at ease and make you so.

I never knew Ayah’s history nor learned to pronounce her name,—though I
used often to see her family and knew all their circumstances. Her most
vivid characteristic was an intense terror of all British soldiers. But
she was with me a long time before I found it out. We were playing in
Mhow; I had taken Ayah to the regimental theatre, as I had no other maid
with me. My husband’s boy called her from my dressing-room when I was
changing. She came back with the first frown I ever saw on her dear,
old, black face. To my utter amazement she spoke sulkily. “Our sahib is
drinking with the Colonel sahib,” she said bitterly, “and the Colonel
sahib say will memsahib have some coffee burruf, or some wine burruf?”
She was openly disappointed with me when I did not decline both. She
went out without a word, and came back with the mess-corporal. When she
had taken the tray from him she closed the door with rude abruptness.

“What is the matter, Ayah?” I asked. (I knew that she never did anything
without a reason.)

She turned to me quickly and I saw that there were tears in her eyes.
Homer says that Athene was cow-eyed. My ayah’s beautiful eyes, too, were
bovine.

“Oh, memsahib, I so sorry our sahib drink with a lal coatie sahib! I so
cross you let Colonel sahib send my memsahib some thing.”

“Why, Ayah?”

“Our sahib is good; my memsahib is good. All lal coatie sahib is bad.”

The next night, as we drove to the theatre, Ayah carried four cubic feet
of something wrapped in a bit of blanket. My husband noticed it, and
asked her—

“In the name of all the native wonders, what have you got there, Ayah?”

“Me got burruf and beer and chickeny for my memsahib. My memsahib not
want drink or eat from Colonel lal coatie!”

Poor Ayah! the longer she stayed with me the more I grieved her, for I
never went into an Indian cantonment without learning to like the
redcoat soldiers more and more. But she never ceased to strive for my
reformation. It was in Allahabad that an officer in the South Wales
Borderers foolishly persisted in becoming very chummy with my small son.
The result was that one day, while we were drinking tea, our
four-year-old contrived to cut a slit, about two inches long, in the
military trousers. Our hotel was a long way from our friend’s quarters
and he looked very miserable. I called to Ayah for needle and thread.
There was a gleam of triumph on her black face when she saw why they
were needed. But, when I moved to repair the damage my baby had done,
she snatched the thimble from my finger almost roughly.

“Don’t touch, memsahib,” she whispered hoarsely, and then, speaking with
the downcast eyes of Oriental humility, “Ayah will serve the sahib.”

And so she took from me what she thought a degradation. But she did the
mending very badly, and my children’s clothes could have told how really
well she could sew.

Ayah was generosity incarnated, and in my moments of hospitality was
always my proud assistant. But if any soldier friend broke bread with
us, she had a horrid habit of keeping tally of all he ate and drank. In
Muttra, a friend of my husband’s, a captain in the 7th Dragoons, knowing
that we must be almost starving at the Dâk Bungalow, drove up, after our
first performance, and sent in to know if he might bring in some supper.
I said, “He might indeed.” The supper was in three baskets, the first
filled with cold jellied meats and dainty supper sundries; the second
held beer, and in the third and largest basket there was more “Perier
Jouet” than we used in our week’s stay. Captain —— shared with us the
supper his kind thoughtfulness had provided. When I said good-night and
left the men free to smoke till daylight, Ayah rose from her post of
vantage on the verandah and followed me into my room. When she had done
all I needed, and I told her to put out the light and go, she paused to
mutter—

“The Captain sahib drink two bottle beer, and eat three piece sanwish.”

That so amused me that I told my husband in the morning. It vexed him,
and he took Ayah to task.

“Your memsahib would have had no supper if Captain —— had not put
himself out to bring it,” he said.

“He is a mean sahib,” was the answer; “he bring my memsahib wine, and
then he drink it. And too he smoke plenty cigarette when memsahib go. I
smell him.”

I never could find out that Ayah had any cause for her dislike of the
military. The disproportion between European men and women in India has
not been without unpleasant results, but I am convinced that none of
those results had ever touched Ayah. I believe that her feeling was the
result of a fierce, protoplasmic hatred that was engermed in the nature
of her ancestors, before the Mutiny. But nothing ever softened it. The
history of my life in India is the history of kindness heaped upon me by
soldier hands. Ayah never let that kindness move her. In Campbellpore
the Colonel’s bungalow was given up to us. We were fed from the
officers’ mess, the Elephants (the Elephant Battery was at Campbellpore)
saluted us, and the regimental drag rushed us up and down the one sandy
street. Ayah took it grimly. All over India, after we had reduced our
company of twenty-seven to four, the officers, and often officers’
wives, played with us, enabling us to play _Caste_, _Our Boys_, etc., to
good business, and to tarry in the pleasant cantonments. And the
men—they used to make my dressing-rooms so cozy, and wait upon me hand
and foot. I could fill a volume with grateful memories of the regiments
in India. Ayah never wavered in her hate, and yet she was so grateful to
any civilian who gave me a rose or my baby a rattle. Only one soldier
ever won her liking or approval. When we went from Calcutta to Rangoon
there was on board a tall, stern man with a fine face and the bearing of
a chief. He was ceaselessly good to our babies, and Ayah always spoke to
me of him as the “big, good sahib.” When we reached Singapore, this
gentleman came one night to my husband’s dressing-room door, to offer us
the first of many kind hospitalities. He was dressed in uniform, but
Ayah, whom I had sent to reclaim my cold cream, knew him. She rushed
back to me—

“Memsahib, memsahib, Warren sahib is a lal coatie.”

“Yes,” I said, “Sir Charles Warren is the Commander-in-Chief here. The
burra lal coatie sahib, Ayah.”

She almost wept. But her intuitive recognition of a great and noble man
triumphed over her prejudice. A month later, when we were leaving
Singapore, I heard her tell John, the Madrassi—

“In England the Rajah make some sahibs be lal coaties. English Rajah
make Warren sahib be lal coatie. Warren sahib very sorry. Warren sahib
very good sahib.”

I meant to tell his Excellency, when I saw him next, but I forgot to do
so. That’s a pity, for he would have had such a splendid laugh.

Ayah was not a great respecter of rank _per se_. The presence of a Rajah
threw our other native servants into great excitement. Ayah took it very
calmly.

She broke her caste repeatedly. She ate whatever I gave her to eat. She
literally feasted on bread I had broken. My dhursi would have died
first. But the Hindoo loathing of pork never left Ayah. When we went to
Khandalah we took too much bacon. The population was entirely native and
we couldn’t give it away. Finally, I told Ayah to put it in a basket and
take it down to one of the gullies, and throw it away. She flatly
refused to touch it, directly or indirectly. It was the only time she
ever demurred at any order of mine.

When we were travelling she lay or sat at my feet. On the seat she would
not sit, unless to hold one of the children. We always gave her what was
left from our lunch when we ate in the train. Nothing would induce her
to eat one crumb until we had entirely finished. As my children ate most
of the time, she often suffered a long self-inflicted fast.

Her favourite drink was the liquor of tinned asparagus. She learned to
make a French salad dressing, as I like it. I have never been able to
teach a white servant that!

She would fan me for unbroken hours. How often I have fallen asleep
under the wonderful soothing of her touch! She would make the fortune of
a Turkish bath.

Her love for children and animals never failed. There was a really
passionate attachment between her and my monkey, “Ned.” I think that
both their hearts answered to the throb of some distant kinship.

[Illustration: A THORNLESS BLACK BLOSSOM.         _Page 273._]

She grew to be very deft in my dressing-room. Her wonderful anticipation
of my slightest wish made her invaluable in the excitement of a “first
night.” She never spoke in the theatre unnecessarily. I used often to
let her stand in the wings and watch the play. She liked that, but she
always looked on with an expression of disapproval until I came on to
the stage. Then she appeared delighted. No matter how badly I did my
work, no matter what the audience thought, Ayah thought me splendid and
ignored the other actors. I have often thought what a dramatic critic
she would make.

We sent her to the circus in Bombay. She had never seen anything of the
kind before. She was so moved by fright and delight that she lost her
way and was brought home to the hotel, very late, by two policemen. She
was ill with terror, and for weeks didn’t get over her shame, which I
fear was added to by my husband’s teasing.

I took her to see the Taj Mahal, when we were in Agra,—a monument of
human love and accomplishment of human art so supreme that I would
scarcely dare to write about it. I showed Ayah all over it, and she
said, “It’s a big bungalow!”

She was genuinely and deeply grateful. She was strictly honest. She took
the greatest pleasure in all my baby’s pretty clothes. I hoped never to
part with her. Her children were married, and she would have gone
anywhere with me. But her poor old mother, to whom she was devoted, was
ill, and I was obliged to say, “Go to her, Ayah, if you think you
ought.” My husband took her from Karachi to Bombay in August of 1892,
and I never saw her again.

A friend, who was our guest in Karachi, and who had come from Mooltan to
spend with us our last days in India, went with me to see them off. He
was very angry because I took my ayah in my arms and kissed her when we
parted. Dear soldier boy! I liked him immensely, but I loved my ayah
better than any living thing I left in India. I had proved her worth,
and I knew it. She loved me and I loved her. We had stood together
beside a baby’s cradle and fought a long fight with the Angel of Death.
I shall never forget her; and I never remember her without feeling in my
heart what Rudyard Kipling had the genius to say—

             By the living God that made you,
             You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!



                              CHAPTER XXXI


                                 SAMBO

HE had but one shirt and it was very ragged. He washed it every few
nights after dark. He was too young for a coolie, and too old for a
chokera. When I was cross with him I called him “coolie,” and he hung
his head. When I was pleased with him I called him “chokera,” and he
looked up and smiled. We never could pronounce his name. It is not the
custom in India to call your native servants by name, but we quarrelled
with the custom. Failing to gain the mastery over his proper
appellation, my children called him “Sambo”—perhaps partly because that
was something like his name, and partly because they had some inherited
memory of darkie servants on their great-great-grandfather’s plantation.

I paid him three annas a day. His duties were various. He did errands
with a fair degree of precision, but never with celerity. He fed the
pets and the chickens. He helped the other servants a very little. He
played with and waited on the children. In that he excelled.

We were keeping house on the hills. We were within a stone’s throw of a
railway station; but we were miles from the nearest European. At first
there were four of us; my two children and I, and their nurse, who was
also my housekeeper and rock of defence. We needed an additional servant
to do indefinite scraps of work. The Hindoo stationmaster recommended
Sambo, and Sambo was engaged.

He had less knowledge of English than any one else I ever met who
attempted to speak it. When he was frightened he forgot the little
English he did know. And he almost always was frightened—at least, when
he first came to us. He developed and improved amazingly under kindness,
as almost all natives do.

When he had been with us a few days, he ran to me crying bitterly that
the “chota sahib” had struck him. My small boy and he had been playing
horse, and my son had been either so careless or so naughty as to strike
Sambo too hard. I made the child give Sambo an anna of his pocket-money,
for indemnity. Sambo was delighted. A few days after, I caught him
trying to induce his young master to repeat the blow for which he had,
on a former occasion, been so handsomely recompensed. I informed them
both that when the next blow was struck I should “cut” Sambo’s pay and
my youngster’s pocket-money, one half-anna each, and present the anna to
the mallie’s children. I hope that my little one never again struck
Sambo; if he did, Sambo never told on him.

I was giving Sambo a severe scolding one afternoon about his appearance.
One shoulder was out of his shirt, one arm was half bare, and the skirt
of his shirt hung about his bare brown legs like a coarse fringe. In
India one grows accustomed to the nude, as one does in the Pitti Palace
or in the Vatican itself. But one likes to draw the line somewhere with
one’s personal attendants. I had often spoken to Sambo about his
rapidly-diminishing garment, and thought his disregard of what I had
said impertinent. So now I spoke very sharply, and he slunk away. The
dhursies, who were sitting on one end of the verandah, looked after him
and laughed. They were both sleek and fat and amply clad. My ayah was at
the other end of the verandah building brick houses for my baby. She
rose quietly and came to me. “Memsahib,” she said softly, but with the
confidence of a conscious favourite, “no scold Sambo, no be angry. He
got one shirt—no more. Not Sambo fault. He so poor. His grandmother so
old—so poor. Sambo no father—no mother.” Then she went back to her
“missie baba.” When my ayah told me anything I knew that it was true. It
is not “correct” in India to let your conscience prick you about
anything in connection with the natives. But I have never been correct,
and I hope I never shall be. I looked from the dhursies, who were making
my boy a dozen new white suits, to the other end of the verandah. We
were on the hills, living quite out of the world, but my baby’s little
white frock had pale-blue shoulder-knots. She had whole blue socks on
her little pink feet. And the dainty frock itself was the second she had
worn that day. I went inside. Sambo was sitting on the ground, outside
the nursery door, trying to mend his tatters. He had borrowed a needle
and thread from my housekeeper. I called her to me, and we put our heads
together. We found some Roman shirts and togas in one of our boxes. They
had originally been worn by gentlemen of artistic temperament, residing
in Melbourne, who had impersonated Roman senators for the nominal
honorarium of two shillings a night. The shirts and togas were made of
unbleached calico, and were bordered with red, or blue, or yellow. They
were all too large for Sambo. Our Victorian “captain of the supers” had
been particular as to height, and Sambo was only fourteen. I made the
dhursies put away their work and alter the six best shirts for Sambo. I
meant it kindly, but I almost killed him. The night they were finished,
he lay awake until morning, crying for joy, crying himself almost into a
fever. I gave him the togas to match the shirts and he was very proud. I
gave him two huge tartans that had done duty in _Rob Roy_. The natives
came for miles to see the memsahib who had given her chokera “six shirt,
six sari, and two shawl.” Dear old Ayah was as delighted as Sambo,
though she had children of her own to whom I had usually given all our
discarded garments.

Sambo was slowly emerging from a frightened, almost useless encumbrance,
into a cheerful, moderately useful servant, when he met with a shocking
misfortune. It completely unnerved him, and threatened to set him back
three months in his development. We were living at Khandalah. Most of
our provisions came from Bombay. We sent, however, to Lanaulie—a
distance of four miles—for soda, lemonade, butter, and anything of
which we ran short. Sometimes we took Lanaulie in in our afternoon
drive. Sometimes we sent Sambo. He would take an empty box three feet by
two by three on his head, and march off cheerfully enough, returning a
few hours later with the things I wanted. We always gave him a list and
the money. One Saturday we discovered as late as three o’clock that we
were out of sugar, butter, tea, and some other articles which were, to
our pampered European palates, necessities. “We must send Sambo on the
train,” I said, “else he’ll be too late.” The little general store at
which we dealt closed at six. Because the boy was to go luxuriously on
the train, I made out rather a long order. I gave him six annas and a
ten-rupee note, saying, “Tie the ten rupees up tight, and buy your
ticket out of the six annas.” Sambo went,—but he failed to return. I
had told him he might come back by train. Travelling in India is not
expensive. When it is done third-class it is decidedly cheap. We were
living on the line between Poona and Bombay, and the trains were
frequent. He should have been back at five. At six we wondered. At seven
we were a little anxious. At eight I had my dinner, minus sugar, butter,
and a few other incidentals. Ayah sat on the floor sewing buttons on to
the children’s clothes; her face was drawn and stern. Just when dinner
was over, Sambo rushed in. “Memsahib! Memsahib!” he cried, and fell at
my feet. He had thrown his box down at the door. It was empty. My bearer
and the khitmatgar dragged him to his feet. His big thick lips were
quite white, and they were trembling piteously. Every vein on his body
showed white and rigid against his black skin. It was a long time before
we could get him to speak a word. When at last he did speak, it was in
Hindustani. Ayah translated, and with unconcealed anger, though she
scarcely lifted her eyes from her work. “He say man no give tings
memsahib want. He no have money. He lose ten rupee. He say he pray
memsahib not beat hard.” Ayah evidently repeated the last sentence
reluctantly.

“Tell him that European women do not strike servants,” I said grandly.

The unwonted occurrence had drawn all the servants to the door. At my
remark they burst into concerted laughter. It is not Anglo-Indian
etiquette for a servant to laugh at a memsahib; yet my servants, who
were fairly well bred, laughed now; even my own “boy,” who was usually a
model of propriety. The cook, a dignified old Goanese, who took many
liberties because he knew he was the best _chef_ between Poona and
Bombay, took a step forward. “Memsahib,” said the old fellow, “vera much
memsahib, European beat plenty—plenty hard.”—“Then tell him that I
don’t,” I said rather shortly, and went out. To do myself justice I was
very angry. It was too late to send anywhere for what I required.
Moreover, that ten-rupee note had been my last one; and my next letter
from my husband in Calcutta was not due until Tuesday. And in Khandalah
there were neither banks nor pawnshops.

Sambo came to me at five every morning, and went home at eight or nine
at night. That night Ayah said to me, “Sambo not come back morning
morrow. He thief. He too frightened.” I had a long talk with the
European woman who has for years shared all my ups and downs, nursing my
babies, keeping my accounts, mending my gowns, and doing me a hundred
other loving services. We didn’t know what to think. The ten rupees were
gone, and at an inconvenient moment. But we were in doubt whether Sambo
had lost or stolen them.

When I woke in the morning Sambo was stealing about the house doing his
work with trembling hands. His big, soft eyes were very red. When I saw
that he had come back I was sure that he was innocent of any worse fault
than carelessness. My housekeeper went to the stationmaster, from whom
Sambo had bought his ticket, and to the storekeeper in Lanaulie. Neither
could give any conclusive testimony. He had bought his ticket out of the
six-anna piece. He had handed in my order at the little store; it was
then that he had discovered, or seemed to discover, his loss. He had
cried and seemed very terrified. He had spent hours hunting for the
note. I thought it greatly to his credit that he had come back to me; he
could so easily have disappeared. But he had been careless, and I more
than half suspected him of having shown the note on the train, in a
moment of boyish braggadocio. I told him that night that I should cut
his pay an anna a day until he had paid back the ten rupees. He seemed
to think my decision a kind one. The next morning he came to the
bungalow a little late, and he had an ugly scar upon his back. I
ascertained with some difficulty that the scar was his grandmother’s
autograph. It was the only one she knew how to write, and she had
inscribed it upon her grandson’s back with a stick, because he had
brought home two annas instead of three. I sent the bearer for a gharri.
When it came I took Ayah with me, and went in search of the grandmother.
We passed through the native bazaar, and found her in a miserable little
native hut. It was a chill, cool day. She lay half asleep upon the mud
floor of her “home.” She was as ragged and far filthier than Sambo had
been when I first saw him. The skin hung in thick wrinkles, half
clinging to, half falling from, her bent bones. Her dark-red gums were
toothless. In one palsied hand she grasped a stout stick. On her narrow
forehead, beneath her scant gray hair, a circle of white paper and a
daub of red paint denoted I know not what length of performed prayer and
caste altitude. A brightly-burnished chattee stood in one corner. The
woman and the chattee were all the room contained; and it was the only
room in the house. I had come with big wrath in my heart. It was gone.
Her poverty, her misery, had scarred Sambo’s back—not she. “Why does
she sleep?” I asked Ayah. “Because she has no rice to eat,” was the
answer. We went back to the bazaar. I bought fifteen pounds of rice for
a rupee, and a big bag of gram for three annas, a bottle of milk for one
anna, a packet of curry ingredients for two annas, six eggs, a few
plantains, a loaf of bread, some firewood, a box of matches, a few
simple cooking utensils, a bar of soap, a pair of cheap blankets, and a
chicken. A chicken sounds rather lavish, but it only cost two annas. I
have bought them in India for less. When we went back, Ayah lit a fire,
and then we woke the old woman. She ate ravenously, though she seemed
scarcely to have strength to eat at all. And I wondered what moment of
distress had given her the sudden power to deal her grandson so cruel a
blow. She had, however, the strength to thank me abundantly. I left a
few small coins with her; bade Ayah tell her that if she never beat
Sambo again she should be helped, and drove home through the soft, sweet
twilight. Please don’t think that I am a philanthropist. I am not. I am
a woman, and, like most women, very selfish. But I had tinned asparagus
and a glass of very good claret for my dinner that night; and I should
have lost half the flavour of the one and the bouquet of the latter had
I not known that one old bag of Hindoo bones was no longer cold and
famished. After dinner, out amid my little paradise of Indian flowers, I
enjoyed the perfumed Indian night and the cup of coffee that Sambo
brought me far more because I had arranged that, while he was in my
service, his back should not again ache so cruelly. I gained among the
simple natives the reputation of great generosity. And any European who
fails to buy that reputation at the cost of a few wisely-spent rupees
foregoes one of the greatest charms of an Indian sojourn.

A few days before Christmas my husband came home from Calcutta. The day
of his arrival I saw Ayah and Sambo consulting together anxiously. I
asked Ayah what the matter was. I thought her answer very naïve and
droll: “We say is your sahib nice sahib? Will us like your sahib?”—“I
hope so,” I said cheerfully. Ayah shook her head sadly and replied, “Me
like no sahib.” I noticed, however, that all the other servants and even
the mallie’s family, who lived in a hut near by, seemed greatly elated.
It appears that they thought it far more of a social distinction to be
the servants of a sahib than to be those of a memsahib. But Ayah did not
like men, and poor Sambo had had so uncomfortable a life that he dreaded
any new development.

My husband came at twilight. He was followed by six or seven coolies;
for he had brought every one in my little establishment something. Sambo
was very amazed. He had never dreamed of such a home-coming. After
dinner all hands were called in to help to undo the parcels. Sambo sat
on the floor, a useless heap of round-eyed boy. For my four-year-old son
there was a big, ventilated wooden house. When it was opened a pair of
beautiful little monkeys were disclosed. Sambo uttered a quick little
cry of joy, and said something in excited Hindustani. Ayah was always my
interpreter, perhaps because, after Sambo, she knew less English than
any servant I had. She translated now: “Sambo say he feed monkeys, he
wash monkeys, he be very good to monkeys.” And he kept his word. He was
a most devoted valet to our mischievous pets. A few days ago, the
monkey, whom I still have, seemed a little ill. I sent for the
monkey-keeper at the Zoo. He remarked upon the beautiful condition of
“Ned’s” coat and skin. “It’s had fine care when it was little, mum;” and
he was quite right. Sambo had given it the best care.

A great big doll was in the next parcel. It had a fine satin frock, and
could open and close its eyes in a most seductive way. Ayah’s heart
warmed to the sahib at the sight, and she gathered baby and doll into
one delighted embrace. When she realised that the sahib had brought her
a silver bangle, she crept over and kissed my dress. My husband made
Ayah many a little gift after that. She would always say, “Salaam,
sahib,” and then seize upon and kiss some part of my raiment. I used to
tease her by telling her that she ought to kiss her master’s coat sleeve
instead of mine; but though she grew really fond of him, she was always
horrified at my suggestion.

When Sambo saw the fine red and gold turban that had been brought to him
from Calcutta, he wiped his eyes. When the last parcel was undone, the
newly-arrived master made the servants stand in a line against the wall.
There were fourteen of them; they were all smilingly anticipant of
something pleasant; all except Sambo—he was horribly frightened. Each
servant was asked in a stern tone if he or she had been good and served
the memsahib well. They all said they had, except poor Sambo. He was one
of those people who, Mr. Middlewick tells us, always “wept when they was
spoke to harsh.” Then into each expectant hand was put a rupee. Sambo
had never had an entire rupee before. I think it dawned upon him, as he
stood looking at it, that his new sahib was a jolly, fun-loving fellow,
and the kindest master in the world.

It was our fourth consecutive Christmas far from home; but we kept high
holiday. That is an easy, inexpensive thing to do in India. There was a
rocking-horse—such a rocking-horse! and a splendid doll’s house. There
was a little gift for each servant, and a small coin, which they liked
even better. After breakfast I called Sambo to me, and gave him ten
rupees. I expected him to cry, but he did not. He looked up with bright
smiling eyes and said, “Sambo love memsahib. Sambo be good. Memsahib
jao, Sambo die.”

We had a grand dinner, and every servant who would take it had all they
could eat and a bottle of beer. Only two refused to break their caste.
The dhursie and the mallie were true to their faith. The next day they
were the only two natives on the place who seemed quite well. The
obvious moral is, that strict religious observance is accepted of the
gods.

I have yet some of the little gifts that our servants gave me and the
children that Christmas. Each of them spent very little, but not one of
them could afford that little. I have never spent a Christmas in the
East, no, nor a birthday, without receiving many tokens of my native
servants’ good-will.

Sambo had strictly Eastern ideas of the relative positions of man and
woman. One day, in the midst of a great romp with the children, my
husband broke a cup belonging to a rare set of old china that had been
given me in Tokio. I shook him. Sambo, who was in the room, covered his
face with his hands and fled, crying, “The sahib will kill the
memsahib!” I think he was relieved when he found that I was permitted to
live yet a little longer. But I fear that he never again felt for his
master entire respect. He said to my nurse, “Hindoo woman shake Hindoo
man, Hindoo man kill Hindoo woman. Little European woman shake big
European man, he laugh. Crab! Crab!” As for me, I had disgraced myself
in his eyes for ever; I should have felt honoured and delighted to have
my best china broken at the dear hand of my lord and master.

In India no “up-to-date” European feeds his servants. You give them from
two annas to eleven annas a day; and you know that two annas a day is a
fortune to a native. You know it, because every European that has lived
in India longer than you tells you so. When we lived on the hills we
kept chickens. A chicken is a luxury in England. In India it is a drug;
but a drug we swallow, because meat is so bad and so scarce. Sambo had a
genius for chickens—I mean an intense sympathy with chickens. It’s the
same thing. He always fed our chickens; we looked on and admired. The
garden about the bungalow looked empty, but when Sambo stepped on to the
verandah with a dish of scraps, and cried, “_Ah! Ah! Ah!_” the garden
swarmed with feathered denizens. One day I threw a crust to a chicken.
We had been lunching, as we often did, on the verandah. When I had gone
to my own room I looked out, and thought I saw Sambo pick up and eat the
crust the fowl had disdained. That gave me a painful thought. I went to
the larder—oh yes, we had one even there—and gathered on to a plate
bits of meat and hunks of et ceteras. I called Sambo and told him to
take the plate of food to the dogs and monkeys. I watched him, and saw
him steal a piece of stale bread from the dish. I called Ayah and
questioned her. She said, “Sambo very hungry, memsahib. He no eat two
days but little I give him. His grandmother very sick. Send no food.”—
“But,” I said, “he has three annas a day.”—“Yes, but two go to man they
debt. One feed grandmother.” They had borrowed, as almost all Indians
do, from a usurer more pitiless than those who, through the columns of
the London dailies, proffer pecuniary accommodation to younger sons and
M.P.’s. Sambo, though well-incomed, from the Anglo-Indian point of view,
was almost starving. The poor old woman, of whom I had thought as being
very comfortable, also was very hungry. After that I fed Sambo, which I
shall always feel was very good of me. He ate so unlimitedly! He ate a
loaf of bread as we eat an apple, and found it an appetiser. He romped
with my children like another child, but watched over them like another
mother.

I noticed one morning that he was trembling. I found that he and the
mistree had been sleeping in the open without a film of cover. I had
thought that I had been very good to all my servants; and two of them
had been shivering with the cold! I gave them two miserable blankets,
and permission to sleep in the henhouse. They thought me kind, and
repaid me a hundredfold, as I have always found that “natives” will.

It is the custom in India to abuse your Indian servants. The dear black
faces of American darkies clustered about my cradle. Perhaps, for that
reason, I found myself very much _en rapport_ with my native servants in
India. I liked them, and I thought I understood them. They seemed to
like and understand me.

Let me crown Sambo! I found out, through the most peculiarly revealed
chain of circumstances, that he had lost, not stolen, the ten-rupee
note; and it made me devoutly thankful that I had not been too hard upon
the black innocent, nor soiled my nice European lips by calling him a
thief.



                             CHAPTER XXXII


                     HOW WE KEPT HOUSE ON THE HILLS

WE lived for six months absolutely among the natives. Half of that time
my husband was not with us at all, but in Calcutta. The latter half he
was at home occasionally, but only occasionally, for he was working in
Bombay.

Nothing ordinary could have been more complete than our isolation from
Europeans. For months we saw no white faces but our own. It was not a
thrilling experience, because we were in no danger, we suffered no
inconvenience, and we could telegraph to Bombay at any moment. But it
was an interesting experience and a pleasant one. It was an experience
that taught one the value of books and the value of one’s self—if one
had any. It gave one calm and repose—calm and repose one could never
afterwards quite lose. For up there on the Indian hills one learned how
infinite Nature was, how irrevocable time and fate were, and how finite
self was!

The hills about Khandalah were more beautiful than grand. The jungles
were inexhaustible mazes of sweetness and beauty. Our own bungalow was a
delightful place. But it was not Nature that most satisfied and
entertained me. It was the people. The brown people—the common people
of Ind.

A woman—a woman whose mind and whose personality were on a larger scale
than mine—wrote to me from America, “What a privilege to be alone with
the mountains!” I held it more a privilege to be alone with the natives,
to study them, and to learn them, as I hope I did a little.

My stay in Khandalah increased wonderfully my already large respect for
the natives. My servants behaved beautifully. Each little duty was as
exactly performed as if we had been living _en régale_ in Calcutta or
Bombay. Every petty little Eastern ceremony was punctiliously performed.

Every meal was as formally served and as carefully prepared as if we had
been in Calcutta, and a dozen people coming to dinner. Each morning my
favourite flowers were freshly gathered into the vases. None of my likes
and dislikes were ever forgotten by my faithful brown friends. Ayah I
loved best of all. I used to abuse the dhursies, and fly into a weekly
fury with the dhobie. She was a wretch! The cook and I had sundry
squabbles, but I adored his dishes, and that made him adore me. Methu,
my own boy, was a perfect servant, save for a habit he had of stealing
beverage, and the mallie was a perfect mother to me.

I believe that I was once or twice unkind to the dhute wallah, but he
was always unkind to me; so I forgive myself.

Sambo crept slowly into my good graces; and I wish I had them, one and
all, here in London. I hope they are all hale and hearty in their pretty
hillside huts, and I send them my salaams.

We had incredibly little furniture in our bungalow, but we had a wealth
of pretty, filmy draperies. We had precious things from China and
Japan,—had them in cabinets well above the children’s heads. And our
garden was an Oriental paradise—a perfumed dream of plenty and of
matchless loveliness. I used to lie for hours in a hammock, watching the
stars, listening to the jackals, smelling the fresh ottar of the rose
trees, dreaming my woman’s dreams and perhaps companioning myself with a
cigarette, or perhaps my pet monkeys lay asleep in my arms. Sometimes my
hammock swung low with the added weight of my bairns; but not often at
night. They used to fall asleep with the sun; for from sunrise till
sunset they chased and rolled through the scented tangles of our
wonderful garden. They were always entirely safe, though great green
snakes and jackals were common, and panthers and tigers not over rare.
Our great dog never left them,—nor did Ayah nor Sambo. All those three
were faithful unto death, and Nizam, the dog, was decidedly clever.

I learned to read in Khandalah. I spent a great deal of my childhood in
my father’s library. I grew up among books, the spoiled child, the
companion of a booky man. But it was in Khandalah—alone on the Indian
hills, at the edge of the Indian jungle, that I learned how great is the
privilege of reading—that I learned to reverence books and to handle
them with devout fingers. I had many books with me. Some were old
friends; some had been selected for me by the best read man and the most
comprehensively minded I ever knew. But in Khandalah I learned even a
greater joy than the joy of reading. I learned the joy of living: I
learned what a privilege it is to live.

Yes, I who have always loved life, I across whose life an everlasting
shadow had fallen—the shadow of a little grave—learned in my hill
solitude what a good thing it was to be alive. I should not have liked
it for ever; but for six months it was ideal. “Could you have endured it
alone?” a friend has asked me. Ah! I don’t know. I had my babies, and
their nurse who is my dear friend, and sometimes I had my husband. I
fear that I could endure but little alone. I am not self-reliant. A few
nights ago I read in a London paper, “There is nothing on earth so
lonely as a lonely woman.” I think that I have never read anything
truer. I would rather be a confirmed invalid—yes, and a bedridden
one—than a lone woman. But if I were a lone woman (which, to be frank,
I can’t for a moment imagine myself) I would rather face my loneliness
alone, in just such an Indian bungalow—alone, but for native servants
and books and flowers and pet animals. I was not alone in Khandalah; but
society in every ordinary sense I had none. Yet I was never once lonely.
And when I ought to have gone to Bombay, I sent my nurse, and curled
myself up in my hammock.

It is a privilege to be alone with Nature. Yes, and it is also a
privilege, a great privilege, sometimes to be alone with one’s self.

Yes, it was a charming existence—ours at Khandalah. We were as free, as
untrammelled by artificialities, as out of the world, as if we had been
gipsies living in a tent. And yet we were as comfortable, our little
_ménage_ was as well ordered, as if we had been domiciled in the best of
hotels. Our omelets were always perfect; our gravies were never insipid;
our _pièce de résistance_ was always done to a turn; our _entrées_ were
always pretty, as well as toothsome; and our table was invariably a
thing of beauty.

If I raised my voice and said, “Boy,” some one answered, “Memsahib,” and
in a moment stood before me ready to obey. That was the acme of
civilisation, was it not? And yet all day I might lie on the grass if I
liked, and burrow in the sweet-scented ferns, and romp and roll with my
babies and our dog and our monkeys, forgetting that I was a matron and
ought to behave.

Oh, those days and those nights! We had no social obligations, no duties
save to satisfy our own natures and to love and cuddle and cherish two
babies. No care, save the care of trying to forget sorrow. No pain, but
the sweet pain, the pain sweeter than joy—the pain of remembering.

It was a selfish life—the life I led there. Sometimes my conscience,
which is usually the least troublesome friend I have, pricked me; then I
tumbled out of my hammock and trudged off, on charity intent, to the
little bazaar. In Khandalah, you can be a great philanthropist for
half-a-crown.

That is one of the chief joys of living in Asia. You can be so very good
at such a small cost.

We left our Khandalah bungalow even more suddenly than we had gone into
it. I lost my temper because the landlord sent a servant from Bombay to
strip one of the lemon trees, and omitted to say, “By your leave.” I
believe that the landlord was legally right; but the garden-wealth of
flower and fruit had been one of the great inducements to us when we
took the place, and the landlord broke his moral if not his legal bond
when he helped himself to his own lemons. At the time I was as nearly an
invalid as so aggressive a woman can be, and I had an invalid’s selfish
liking for those lemons. We had the only lemon trees in fruit for miles.
Limes are the common tart fruit in that part of the world. But limes are
one of the very few things tropical that I have never learned to love. I
detest them; and I heartily grudged my landlord his lemons. Our month
was almost “up.” “We’ll move,” I said.

“Where to?” asked my housekeeper.

“Anywhere,” I said. “But we’ll move to-morrow.”

And move we did. She, not I, accomplished it. I shall never know how she
did it. At daylight she left in a gharri. At noon she returned
triumphant. She had rented a bungalow at Lanaulie.

We packed in three hours; at least, every one but I packed. Packing is a
useful occupation, and I never, by any chance, do anything useful. It
was a wonderful day. My lucky husband was in Bombay. Three big bullock
carts were loaded with our goods and chattels. When the last blanket
load of et ceteras had been more or less securely fastened on to the
cart, when our last chicken had been caught and placed a crowing crown
upon the apex of the highest load, we started amid the wailings of the
mallie and the metrani, who were the only servants who were not to
accompany us. The mallie belonged body and soul to the landlord, and the
metrani was not a favourite of mine. I led the procession. I was in a
rather inelegant barouche, and my four-year-old son accompanied me.
“Wadie” and baby and Ayah brought up the rear in another and more
inelegant barouche. They were guarding the luggage—or thought they
were. The men servants walked beside the bullock carts and were supposed
also to protect my belongings.

Our new domicile was about three miles from our old. We arrived at our
destination about six. The others arrived about eight. My son and I
spent the interim in gazing upon our new domain, in being fairly decent
to the extremely civil Goanese house-agent, and in getting
preposterously hungry.

At eight o’clock the train drew near the bungalow gate. Ned and Cissy,
my pet monkeys, were screaming wrathfully, my baby was asleep, and my
aforesaid goods and chattels looked very dilapidated and shaken. We
extemporised a bed for baby, and found a loaf of bread for the monkeys.
The coolies hurled my ignominious parcels ignominiously to the ground;
and the patient oxen stood placidly in the flood of swiftly come
moonlight, which magnified and silvered their big, white beauty.

Our new abode was far more elegant—far less picturesque—than our old.
Our new garden was a young, methodical thing. Our bungalow was
systematically divided into proportional rooms, and over every door were
panoramas of coloured glass. They were sectioned into monotonous
squares, but the cruel reds, the crude greens, the impossible purples,
and the magnificent yellows, would have told us that we were in Asia,
had we not already known it.

It was nearly ten o’clock when the last cart had been unloaded and
driven away. Then we discovered that we had almost nothing to eat. The
hampers that had been hastily filled from our Khandalah larder had
disappeared. It was too late to send to the bazaar. Fortunately one of
the gharries was still waiting, as the gharri wallah and I had had a
slight difference of opinion _re_ remuneration. When I found that we
stood upon the verge of midnight and famine, I yielded to the
charioteer, on condition that he should drive, and drive quickly, with
the house-agent, who had volunteered to see what he could gather
together for us in the way of food. He came back in about three-quarters
of an hour with several loaves of bread, two dozen eggs, and seven or
eight seers of rice. In the meantime, the mistree had borrowed “curry
stuff” from the mallie, and had killed a chicken. We had put the babies
to bed, after giving them a huge supper of bread and milk and bananas.
It was almost midnight when they called me to dinner. “I’m almost
starved, Wadie,” I said, “and so thirsty. I hope they have cooled the
beer.” Alas, they had not—for the very good reason that there was no
beer to cool! It had been stolen with the baskets of food. I had to
drink water with my curry, and water does not go well with curry. I was
very angry that night, and vowed European vengeance upon the coolies who
had stolen all our fresh vegetables, a cask of oysters, a pigeon pie, a
dozen other viands, and, worse than all, my beer. But in the morning,
when we found that they had taken nothing but food and drink, I forgave
them. To confess the whole depth of my moral obliquity, I have never
been able to regard the stealing of food as wrong. Good people have
often told me that my moral sense is diseased. Perhaps it is, for I am
far more apt to regard the man who goes hungry a fool, than to regard
the man who steals bread a thief. So I laughed in the morning, and wired
to my husband, who was in Bombay, “Have moved to Lanaulie. All food has
been stolen. Send everything on next train.”

The night of our arrival, when we had finished our midnight dinner, I
told the servants that they could have all the food in the house. They
ate until daylight—caste or no caste. Sambo told me the next
morning—told me with tears in his eyes—that he had never before had
three eggs at once. I remember how much rice and how many plantains they
ate, for it was really phenomenal. But I will not tell you, for you
might not credit it. I venture to mention the little item of bread. The
five ate eight loaves of bread!

Lanaulie was not so pretty a place as Khandalah, but it was very lovely.
There were a few Europeans in Lanaulie, but we lived some distance from
any one. My nearest European neighbour and my only European friend was
my physician—a charming man.

We had been in Lanaulie only a few days when my landlord came from
Bombay to see me. He was a high-caste Hindoo gentleman, and will always
remain my beau ideal of a landlord. I thought that he had come for his
rent when the boy brought me his card, but he had not. He had come to
ask if we were comfortable, and to bring up a car-load of things that
would, he thought, make the bungalow more home-like to Europeans. Wasn’t
that nice of him? I believe that the place we had rented was his chief
pride. We were only able to get it, because the death of a prominent
member of his family having occurred in Bombay, Hindoo etiquette obliged
the entire family to remain in Bombay through a long period of mourning.
My landlord was a most interesting man and a large-minded one. His wife,
whom I never met, was a strict observer of caste. She felt rather badly
that Europeans were in their country house. Her dining-room was not in
the house; but, in the Hindoo fashion, in an outer house. This room was
locked from us by the mistress’s order, and in this dining-room were
stored her Lares and Penates, namely, their cooking utensils and their
chattees and their silk robes. Rigid high-caste Hindoos put on a silk
garment before they eat. My landlord was far less conservative than his
wife. He often had afternoon tea with us, and was kindly ready to
explain to me any of their puzzling customs.

No strict Brahmin eats meat. I know a prominent Hindoo gentleman who
used, with his son, to steal into the Lanaulie Hotel or even to the Dâk
Bungalow, and in a private room have a hearty meal of meat. Father and
son did it slyly, not because of public opinion, which they valued at
about its real worth, but to save the feelings of the Hindoo wife and
mother, who would have been in despair had she known that they ever ate
meat.

I often shut my eyes and dream that I am back on my verandah at
Lanaulie. I see the bhistie and his bullock come through the flowers to
beg. The bhistie wants pice and the pretty bullock wants bread and
fruit. They get both. The bhistie salaams—the bullock rubs his nose
against my shoulder, and they go slowly, patiently back to their
never-ending work. I see the sun set behind the splendid hills, I smell
the world of roses that stretches about my door. A thousand fire-flies
glitter in the grass. The big stars come out, the jackals call in the
jungle, and now and then they scurry across our garden. I am holding a
baby in my arms—a little baby that was born in Lanaulie.



                             CHAPTER XXXIII


                           ORIENTAL OBSEQUIES

                     _The Parsi Towers of Silence_

OUR company had divided and respectively gone where all bad actors and
where all good actors go,—to Australia and to London.

We lingered on in India for a few months. We were going through the
cantonments of the Punjab before we sailed for home. We had engaged two
other professionals and had made out programmes that reminded me of our
Canton Recital. My husband had me down for a recitation in almost every
programme; but when the time came I very rarely did recite.

We were in Bombay for some weeks before we started on our little final
tour.

It was in Bombay, on a bright Sabbath day, that I first saw a Tower of
Silence. We drove from the sunny Apollo Bundar, through the cool, green
park, past the statue of the Queen—the most beautiful statue of Queen
Victoria that has ever been executed.

I must own that I felt a little frightened. I had heard so much from
Anglo-Indians about the horrors of the Parsi method of entombment that,
in spite of my, perhaps, morbid desire to see and understand all the
characteristic phases of Eastern life, I was almost nervous as we drove
to the outer gate of the beautiful gardens that enclose the last
resting-place of the Parsis who die in Bombay.

The dokhma—to give the correct name to the round Parsi sepulchres, that
we, in our easy Anglo-Indian fashion call Towers of Silence—the dokhma
is always placed on high ground. The sanitary reasons for this are
obvious. In Bombay there are three Towers. They were built at different
periods and mark the increase in Bombay of Parsi affluence, and of Parsi
numbers. The oldest and smallest was built soon after the followers of
Zoroaster had fled from Persia to Ind.

These Parsi mortuaries were in every way different from what I had
imagined them; but, after seeing what they really are, my utmost
philosophy revolts and sickens at the thought of the poor dead body,
torn, as it is, by the claws and beaks of the human-flesh-fed vultures.
But that the Parsi disposition of the dead is anything but healthy, I
dispute; and the surroundings and situation of the Bombay dokhmas are
dignified and beautiful in the extreme. When our carriage stopped we
walked up a gradual rise, gravel-paved and tree edged, to a vine-covered
lodge. Here we were eagerly seized upon by one of the half-dozen
gatekeepers, who are glad to act as guides to curious strangers. We went
on and up, passing groups of graceful, luxuriant trees, and beds of
brilliant, ill-assorted flowers. Our guide took us into a little house,
in which is kept a model of the dokhma. From this you learn what the
inner construction of every Parsi dokhma is; for into no dokhma are you
allowed to look. On the bottom of the Tower is a thick flooring of lime.
A few feet above is the grating upon which the bodies are laid. This
grating is divided into three tiers; not above each other, but inside
each other. Each tier is divided into the same number of sections. These
sections are formed by iron rays that spring from the centre of the
Tower to its outer circumference or wall; hence, the compartments of the
inner tier are smaller than those of the centre tier, those of the
centre tier smaller than those of the outer. The outer tier is reserved
for the bodies of men, the inner tier for the bodies of children, and on
the centre tier the swooping vultures find the bodies of the Parsi
women.

Only the attendants of the dokhma are allowed to enter it with the dead.
They pass quickly up a narrow aisle that runs from the doorway, and
place the dead upon the appointed place; they tear the sheets rapidly
from the body; for the vultures are waiting, and they do not wait
tamely. Only one article is left upon the corpse: the kusti. The
attendants hurry away, and the vultures, with horrid cries, rush down
upon their prey.

The kusti is one of the two badges of the followers of Zoroaster. It is
a woollen cord, and is hollow. Only the women of the priest caste are
allowed to weave it. It must be woven of seventy-two threads and be
about a sixteenth of an inch in diameter. It is first woven as a
continuous cord, and has, of course, no ends. About a foot of the warp
is left unwoven; then it is passed on to a priest. He cuts the unwoven
bit in the centre. This makes two ends of loose threads. These he braids
to within an inch of their extremities; then he divides each braid into
three little braids. All the time he repeats prescribed prayers in Zend,
not one word of which he understands. The Parsi prayers are handed down
from generation to generation, learned mechanically, and it is very
exceptional for even a high priest to understand them.

The kusti is tied loosely about the waist, early in the Parsi life—at
or before puberty, I believe. It denotes chastity, which is the chief
requirement of the Parsi religion. The kusti is the last garment to
leave the Parsi’s body. It is torn off by the devouring vultures.

The vultures are kept and bred, by the attendants of the dokhmas, for
the purpose of cleaning the flesh from off the bones of the Parsi dead.
They are only a few hours, at the longest, in executing their gruesome
task. The dokhma is roofless. When the rain falls, it washes the dust of
the crumbling bones down to the lime flooring. From there it gradually
drains away, and is absorbed again into the economy of nature, in a way
absolutely harmless to the living.

A few yards from the Tower of Silence is a white stone. It is kept
clean, and shines up from the green grass. Nearer the dokhma than this
stone no one may go, save the dead and the professional attendants. It
is the Stone of Parting, the Stone of Good-bye, of Everlasting Farewell.
Beyond it, the dead must go from those who have loved him, those he has
loved; go alone, into the place of death, and into the something after
death, which, in Parsi usage, seems to us worse than death itself.

I stood by that white stone one day, with one of the most remarkable men
in the East—a Parsi. The birds shrieked angrily as they sat upon the
towers. The old attendant said stoically, “We have had no funeral since
early yesterday, they are getting——” I drew back that I might not hear
the horrid end of his sentence. Then I said to my companion—a
liberal-minded man, with whom we had often discussed involved social
issues—“Do you not dislike it?”—“No,” was his reply, “my wife was laid
there twenty years ago; and I shall lie there in a few years. It is our
Parsi custom.”

When a Parsi dies, the body is at once washed, clothed in garments that
are clean, white, and old, carried into a room on the lowest floor of
the house, and laid on slabs of stone. An iron bier is brought in. The
Parsi women sit on carpets, near the dead. The Parsi men sit, in long
rows, on benches, outside the house. The priests recite prayers. After
they have recited the first seven chapters of the Izashne (a Parsi
religious book) the dead is placed upon the bier. Then a dog is brought
in and made to look at the body! Then the prayers are continued. The
body is carried from the house amid gesticulations of deep respect. A
procession is formed and the remains are followed to the dokhma by
relatives, friends, and professional attendants, all dressed in old,
clean, white clothes. Prayers are again recited at the “Good-bye Stone,”
and while the body is being placed in the Tower.

On the third day after the death, all the friends of the dead gather, in
the afternoon, at the house of the nearest surviving relative. From
thence they go to the Fire Temple, where a commemorative service is
held. These services recur at stated intervals; and at the end of the
Parsi year are several holidays, sacred to the dead.

I have mentioned the Fire Temple; but the Parsis are not fire
worshippers, though it is a common error to call them so.

One of the most eminent of modern Parsis has explained so well the exact
attitude concerning the introduction of fire in the religious
observances of the devout Parsi, that I quote from him.

“The Parsis are called by others ‘Fire Worshippers,’ and they defend
themselves by saying that they do not worship the fire, but regard it
and other great natural phenomena and objects as emblems of the divine
power. To me it appears that the imputation, on the one hand, is wrong;
and the defence, on the other hand, a little over-shot. Though the Parsi
‘remembers, praises, loves, or regards holy’ whatever is beautiful, or
wonderful, or harmless, or useful in Nature, he never asks from an
unintelligent material object assistance or benefit; he is, therefore,
no idolater or worshipper of matter. On the other hand, when the Parsi
addresses his prayers to Hormuzd, or God, he never thinks it at all
necessary that he should turn his face to any particular object. He
would say, and does say, his ‘Hormuzd yasht’ (prayer to Hormuzd)
anywhere whatever, without the slightest misgiving. Again, when he
addresses the angel of water, or any other but that of fire, he does not
stand before the fire. It is only when he addresses the angel of fire
that he turns his face to the fire. In short, in addressing any
particular angel, he turns his face to the object of that angel’s
guardianship as his emblem; but, in his prayers to Hormuzd, he
recognises or uses, or turns his face to, no emblems whatever. Since
fire only could be brought within the limits of the temple—any of the
grand objects of nature (as the sea, the sun, etc.) being unavailable
for this purpose—the temples naturally became the sanctuaries of fire
alone, and hence has arisen the mistake of the Parsis being regarded as
‘Fire Worshippers.’”

This is precisely what I was told by every intelligent Parsi with whom I
spoke on the subject; but very few of them expressed it so clearly and
ably.

I was asked, in Bombay, to follow a little Parsi baby to the dokhma. I
intended doing so—not out of curiosity—but out of sympathy and liking
for its mother. I even started; but before we were half-way there I
turned back. I thought of that little white stone where the white-robed
procession must stop, beyond which the mother might not go. The vultures
sometimes scream when the halt is made at the “Farewell Stone.” I could
not go. I could not see that little baby’s body carried to the hungry
birds, in the presence of the pale, pretty, little Parsi woman, upon
whose breast I had seen it the week before.

God help any mother when she parts with her dead child! But I think the
glad shrieks of those swooping beast-birds must be even harder to bear
than the first fall of the earth on the coffin lid.

Asia is the graveyard of countless millions. Asia is the home of many,
many distinct races, all of which have different burial customs. All are
more or less interesting.

The Parsis, who rank above most of the Oriental peoples in civilisation,
dispose of their dead in the most repulsive manner of any race in Asia.
But they break no sanitary law when they throw their dead to the
merciless vultures.

The Hindoo disposal of the dead is, more than that of any other Eastern
people, save the Burmese, in entire consonance with the health of Asia’s
living millions.

The Burmese also practise cremation, and are, therefore, as much as the
Hindoos, the guardians of public health. It is the Burmese who most hate
death, and who mourn longest for their dead.

The Chinese are, in their funeral rites, the most fantastic, the
noisiest, and the most callous. Their custom of keeping the dead
unburied for long years, and their mode of interment, which is usually
above ground, are a positive menace, not alone to their own health and
the health of the stranger within their gates, but also to the health of
all Asia.

The Japanese, who are Past Masters of the difficult art of living
gracefully, pleasantly, satisfactorily, and with dignity, meet death
with more self-control than any of their fellow Asiatics. There is
nothing in their funeral customs to offend the most fastidious European
or the most prejudiced American. Their cemeteries, if we are to have
cemeteries at all, might well be models for the civilised world—models
of peaceful, quiet beauty, ideal resting-places surrounded by the
everlasting hills, which lift their high, hopeful heads as if in promise
of immortality—places full of flowers that live so brightly and die so
sweetly that they whisper with their gentle, perfumed lips the only one
consolation for death—if death be eternal.

The Cingalese, the Sikhs, the Mohammedans, deserve mention in this
little series; but then so do a score of others. May they all rest in
peace, the simple native folk, and know no trouble, feel no pain, in
that strange land from which is sent us no Book of Travels, and not even
a newspaper letter—“The undiscover’d country from whose bourn no
traveller returns!”



                             CHAPTER XXXIV


                           ORIENTAL NUPTIALS

                           _A Parsi Wedding_

THE Parsi gentlemen are charming. The Parsi women are delicate in
appearance, refined and womanly, and, I thought, rather stupid; but very
possibly what I was rude enough to think stupidity was reserve. I found
it quite impossible to get acquainted with them, or at least to pass
beyond the barriers of slight acquaintance. I “made friends” with but
one Parsi woman. She was dainty in all her ways, gracious and hospitable
to a degree, an ideal housekeeper, from a Parsi point of view, a loved
and loving wife, a devoted and happy mother; but she was rather
uneducated, and had, I thought, no great mental capacity.

When we were first living in Bombay, I found the Parsi men rather
difficult. My husband would tell me that this one was decidedly clever,
and the other one highly educated; yet, if I entered the room where he
was sitting with both of them, they invariably froze conversationally.
One condoled with me about the weather, and the other asked me if I did
not find the Bombay shops superior to those in Calcutta. I replied that
I never went shopping, that if I really had to have anything, my nurse
bought it for me. One of them laughed heartily and evidently thought
that I was joking; the other cast down his eyes and looked embarrassed.
He went home an hour later and told his wife that I was not quite right
in my head, and that my husband had to carry about a nurse for me, who
dressed me and undressed me, and that I was not allowed to go into a
shop alone.

It was some weeks before I could make those two Parsi men—of whom we
saw a great deal—understand that they could discuss in my presence
anything of serious importance, not to mention the doings of the French
Academy or the writings of Herbert Spencer, without being guilty of a
rudeness analogous to that of speaking before me in a language with
which I was unacquainted. We became good friends, and they were angels
of patience in telling me all I longed to know about the history of
their race, its manners and customs, and its belief. But I suspect that
they would have liked me better had I thought—as did the wife of a
prominent Parsi at Poona—that St. Petersburg was the capital of Italy!
I believe that there are no men in the world more kind to their women
than the Parsi men; but they do not regard those women as their
intellectual fellows; nor do the women aspire to be so regarded. This
simplifies the Parsi marriage question amazingly—simplifies it to the
loss of the men and to the gain of the women.

The Parsis are in a transition state. The customs that they all rigidly
observed fifty years ago are now observed by less than half their
number, and rarely with entire rigidity. The Parsi wedding I saw a
little over two years ago in Bombay was not the Parsi wedding of the
last century; but it was picturesque in the extreme. It was un-European
and merits description, I think; for, were I to return to Bombay in
1950, I should expect to find almost all the old Parsi customs quite
discarded.

The father of the bridegroom came a few days before the marriage to
invite us to the ceremony and to the feast, which was very polite of
him, as invitations are usually given by priests, and only when an
especial compliment is intended does the father of one of the
contracting parties go in person to bid the guest. In this instance it
was a love match, which always makes it a bit more interesting to a
woman; and the bride was exquisitely pretty, which always makes it more
interesting to a man. Both bride and bridegroom belonged to very wealthy
and prominent Parsi families. All the Bombay Parsi _élite_ were there.

Child marriages are still, I believe, a part of the Parsi code, but not
of the Parsi custom. Children are still betrothed very young, but not
often. The bridegroom of whom I am writing was about twenty-seven, and
the bride looked about twenty.

At four in the afternoon, the bridegroom and his friends marched to the
house of the bride. The men were all dressed in white, and very striking
they looked. Almost every well-to-do (_i.e._ well-fed) Parsi man is
handsome. A band of music was with the procession, and played
unceasingly. Formerly the Parsi women formed a considerable part of
every Parsi marriage procession; but on this occasion there were only
men. The bridegroom’s mother had preceded him, inconspicuously, to the
house of the bride, bearing with her the prescribed gift of a dress. At
the end of the procession walked a score or more of coolies carrying on
their heads shallow baskets, heaped with cocoanuts. At every turn of the
street, a cocoanut was waved about the bridegroom’s head, then broken
and thrown away. Some time before the bride’s house was reached, her
only sister met the procession, carrying three silver chattees. Into the
upper one the bridegroom dropped a rupee. That was, I believe,
symbolical of his determination never to fail to befriend his wife’s
family. At the threshold of the house, an aunt of the bride threw rice
and water and an uncooked egg beneath the feet of the bridegroom; then
she welcomed him in; and he was careful to put his right foot in before
his left.

We women—about two hundred Parsis and three Europeans—were waiting in
a large, handsomely-furnished room. The bride’s father had spent some
time in France when a young man, and Louis XV. cabinets were crowded
between black, carved Indian tables, and creamy Chinese ivories. The
Parsi ladies sat on small silk carpets that had been placed for them on
the floor. I and my two compatriots (whom I did not know) sat in solemn
elegance upon a solitary satin sofa. The men all sat about the walls, on
low, narrow, backless benches, and I noticed that the European men, of
whom there were about twenty, looked neither graceful nor comfortable.
The father of the bride and the father of the groom sat down side by
side, and the chief priest blessed them. In the centre of the room a low
platform of stone had been built; this is called the “wedding booth.”
Sometimes a complete booth is erected and richly decorated, but not
invariably. The stone foundation, however, must be laid. It denotes
purity and chastity. Chastity in the best and broadest sense is the
beginning and end of the Parsi religion. Two chairs were placed, side by
side, upon the stone foundation. Then the bride came in with her mother.

I caught my breath, she was so pretty! Her skin was fairer than mine,
but with a lovely olive tinge in it. Her scarlet lips were trembling
with a shy, half smile. She was dressed, or rather wrapped, in a
pale-blue satin sari; it was edged with a delicate embroidery of pink
and gold. Her little hands were heavy with gems. Her slender throat was
hidden by a string of big pearls, and a string of bigger diamonds. There
were diamonds at her girdle, and diamonds caught here and there her
satin draperies. As she moved slowly forward, her graceful garment half
hid, half revealed, the delicate outlines of her _svelte_ figure. She
lifted her big brown eyes for a half instant to the face of the man who
was waiting for her, and I thought of Byron’s Zadie.

The contracting couple were seated upon the chairs that were on the
stone. They were facing each other. Then the ceremony proper began. A
priest tied their right hands together with a soft, silken, bright-red
thread. Two younger priests stepped forward, carrying a large piece of
yellow cloth. This they held between the bride and bridegroom. The chief
priest stood near them, holding in one hand a lit censer and in the
other a dish of benjamin. Another priest gave a handful of rice to both
the bridegroom and his bride. The chief priest began a long prayer. At a
certain word, for which the young couple listened intently, he threw the
incense into the fire. At that moment the couple threw their handfuls of
rice each into the other’s face. Then their position was changed, and
they were placed side by side. Two of the priests stood before them, and
two witnesses stood beside them, holding brass plates heaped with rice.
The priests began the marriage blessing. This they recited in Zend and
Sanscrit, and at every sentence they pelted the couple with rice.

Then the priest put the two questions, “Have you espoused her?” and
“Have you espoused him?” He was answered, “Yes, I have espoused her,”
and “Yes, I have espoused him.” The questions and the answers were in
Persian, of which, I believe, the contracting parties, the priests, and
the guests, were equally ignorant.

During the long prayers I looked at the assembled company as often as I
could tear my eyes from the bride’s pretty, flushing face. I saw a royal
banquet once. It was in Munich, in celebration of the marriage of the
King’s brother with the Emperor of Austria’s daughter. I have always
remembered it as a gigantic display of diamonds. But it was
insignificant beside the display of diamonds at that Parsi wedding. Many
of the Parsis in Bombay are very rich. All the Parsis are extravagantly
fond of gems; and the Parsi men dearly delight in decking their women to
the utmost. A European man, who was more bored than interested with the
strange marriage service, told me afterwards that he had tried to
compute how many lakhs of rupees were represented there by
diamonds,—“But I had to give it up after half an hour,” he said; “the
things flashed and danced so, that they made my head ache.” All the
women were exquisitely dressed. The Parsis have an almost French
abundance of good taste. Indeed they are like the French in many ways.
The bride’s mother wore more diamonds than any lady present, excepting
only the bridegroom’s mother. It was hard to say which of those two was
the most bejewelled, and harder still to understand how they held their
heads up, and moved their arms.

After the marriage benediction there were other ceremonies, more
fanciful and less interesting. The husband and wife (which they now
were) ate out of one dish, and each found in it a ring.

The marriage feast followed in an adjacent room. This was a very
European innovation. Among strictly conservative Parsis the marriage
feasts are all held at the house of the bridegroom’s father.

Upon the floor of the “dining-room” were laid long silken carpets. They
were about a foot and a half wide, and about fifty feet long. Upon them
the Parsi guests seated themselves. We Europeans were shown to an
elaborately-laid table, in an adjacent room. I asked permission to sit
and eat with the Parsis. They made me very welcome, and I ate all sorts
of good things, with my fingers. I do not know whether my intrusion was
felt a pollution, as it would have been at an orthodox Hindoo feast. My
hosts (which they all seemed to feel themselves) were too well bred to
let me feel that I was _de trop_, and I believe they were far too
sensible to resent my respectful curiosity. Indeed the presence of the
Parsi ladies was so very improper that they could well afford to wink at
the greater enormity of eating with one European woman.

When we were living at Khandalah our nearest neighbours were Parsis. I
never grew to know them well. We had very little in common, the graceful
feminine women and I, but my bairns became very much at home in their
bungalow. My boy used to come home with bulging pockets, and I very
often took a surreptitious nibble of the Parsi sweetmeats that had been
given him—they were so very good. But I had tasted nothing in Khandalah
so nice as many of the dishes given me at this Parsi wedding in Bombay.
I had a plantain leaf for a plate, and, as I have said, my fingers for
forks. The other Europeans laughed at me, and told me they had oysters
and champagne and a score of other conventional dainties at their nicely
damasked table. I returned their laugh with something very like a sneer.
I had eaten of a hundred unknown delicacies, and I could have oysters
and champagne galore any time at the hotel.

Except in the matter of hats and caps, many Parsi men, on ordinary
occasions, dress quite like Europeans; but I have never seen a Parsi
woman in European dress. In this respect, at least, they are wiser than
the Japanese women, whom they are like in being fragile, pretty, and
dainty.

Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji said, in a paper read before the Liverpool
Philomathic Society in 1861: “There is neither bigamy nor polygamy
amongst the Parsis. They are simple monogamists.” When Mr. Naoroji wrote
that, it was undoubtedly true. In the strict, narrow sense it is true
now, but in the broadest and most beautiful sense, it is, I think, no
longer wholly true. Chastity is the great law of Parsi life, and the
Parsi women have, I believe, been guarded, not only from any possible
infringement of that law, but even from the knowledge that the law is
ever broken. But I am disinclined to believe that the Parsi men obey the
chief command of their ancestral faith as staunchly as they used to do.
Perhaps, alas, when the Parsi women have learned to mingle as freely
with the Europeans, and to adopt their ways as fully as the Parsi men do
now, they may gain the sad knowledge that there is one law for man and
another for woman—that right is of one sex and wrong of another.

Periodically there is an Occidental agitation for the advancement and
the emancipation of the women of the Orient. As far as that agitation
aims at giving the women of the East medical succour in their hours of
pain, as far as it seeks to teach them the best possibilities and the
best care of their own bodies and of their children’s, it has my warmest
sympathy; but when it attempts their disturbance, mental and moral, I
deplore it. Intellectuality, education, enfranchisement, are all very
fine, but happiness is far finer. Over-educate, abnormally develop
woman’s intellect, create in her a longing for freedom which will gall
her, and you destroy half her happiness. We are very learned, you and I
who live in the West; we understand quadratic equations and we read
Greek; we are man’s equal, or think we are. Let us be satisfied with our
own big mental attainments, and let us leave the Marthas of the East
their placid content, their sweet, unsophisticated happiness.



                              CHAPTER XXXV


        AT SUBATHU, WHERE THE BAGPIPES PLAY AND THE LEPERS HIDE

WE went from Bombay to Mhow,—such a desolate cantonment!—such a dâk
bungalow! But we had a charming audience for our first funny little
performance. The last time I had played—some months before in
Bombay—the bill had been the _Merchant of Venice_, and we had had ample
accessories of scenery and supernumeraries. This was very different;
there were only four of us. When we were not on the stage we were
rushing madly into another costume and another character; and the less
said about the regimental scenery the better. But the regimental
audience was ideal. _Uncle’s Will_, scenes from _Hamlet_, scenes from
_Othello_, and sprinklings of recitations—they received them all with
the greatest good-nature, and beamed upon us with hearty kindness.

Our next halt was at Allahabad, where we felt almost at home. We divided
our nights between the Railroad Theatre and the Regimental Theatre, and
our days went all too swiftly in the bazaars and in the barracks.

Then we went to Cawnpore. We played there, but for once in my life I
felt that acting was a very secondary consideration. One could not think
of one’s self, nor even of one’s work, when one stood for the first time
upon that sadly sacred ground. I should, in time, no doubt, have grown
used to being in Cawnpore, and have taken up right merrily the petty
thread of my personal existence; but we were in Cawnpore but a few days,
and all the time I seemed to hear the cries of women and children, and
see the red-handed natives drunk with butchery.

An army friend went to Cawnpore with us, so that for the nonce our
little “troupe” was augmented to five—quite a regiment. In Cawnpore I
went through the bazaars very little, but we wandered back each day to
the little graveyard that clusters about the Well, and to the Memorial
Church. An uncle of my husband’s was killed at the Cawnpore
massacre,—that saddened him and saddened me.

Lucknow and Agra were very beautiful, and greatly interesting; and
through the streets of both marched the soldiers—our soldiers!

The Residency at Lucknow is a tomb commemorating the fidelity and
devotion of English women. At Agra is the Tomb of Tombs—the most
beautiful of all tombs. It tells the story of a man’s love and
grief—love for a wife, and grief for her death.

On through Meerut and Muttra—through regiments of new friends and
companies of old. How pleasant those days were, and how hot! Umballa was
a place of horror.

We went to Patiala for a week or two. We were lodged at the State Dâk
Bungalow; we were the Maharajah’s guests—and certainly our host was
very princely. He is the owner of innumerable horses. We were met at the
station by a state carriage—such a state carriage!—and it and another
were at our disposal while we remained in Patiala.

Though the Maharajah was surrounded by quite a little coterie of
Europeans, Patiala is the most genuinely native place, of any
considerable size, that I know in India. The bazaars were absolutely
guiltless of European taint. I could have spent years in Patiala, not
because of the treasure-rich palace, not because of the wonderful games
of Polo, not for the pretty little river, nor for the huge caparisoned
elephants, but for the quaint, genuine flavour of native life.

The Sikhs are a splendid race of men. To look into the eyes of the best
manner of Sikh is to feel that you can trust him.

We played at Patiala—I forget how many nights. We played merely for the
Maharajah and his guests. We played at whatever hour pleased him, and we
were paid whether we played or not. We had heard of the Maharajah as a
pleasure-loving young fellow, and we expected to please him most with
our comediettas and farces, but it was the scenes that we did from
Shakespeare that his Highness demanded, over and over. We found him an
inveterate and appreciative theatre-goer, and my husband, who came to
know the Maharajah much better than I did, was often surprised by a long
and correctly quoted passage from Shakespeare. The theatre at Patiala
was charming and comfortable.

The Maharajah of Patiala has one of the best bands to which I ever
listened. The parks and public grounds are beautifully kept, and
Patiala—with its rose gardens and its purdah-hidden harems—is thriving
in the heart of modernised Asia.

We met in Patiala, and afterwards in Simla, the European lady who has
recently married the Maharajah of Patiala. Such a marriage may, of
course, change many old time-honoured Patiala customs.

We went back to Umballa, and then we journeyed up into the Himalayas.
Into cantonments where there was not so much as a Dâk Bungalow, and we
had to eat and sleep as best we might. We left the railway and
civilisation at Kalka. We went up to Dagshai in doolies, and on
horseback. Ayah sat with our little luggage on an ekka, and she said she
didn’t like it. I could see no earthly reason why she should like it.
But I thought that she was beautifully clever to stick on; any ordinary
mortal would have tumbled in fragments on the ground.

It was a marvellous ride. Every few hours we stopped and lit a fire by
the mountain roadside—a fire of twigs. We made tea, and warmed milk,
and ate a little cold lunch, and washed our hands and faces while the
coolies lay resting in the shade and smoking their hookahs.

Our road went from beauty into beauty that was greater. At Darjeeling we
had seen the Himalayas covered with snow. Now we saw the Himalayas aglow
with bloom, perfumed with fruit and athrob with life—the life of bird
and of beast.

It is strange how confident you grow in the coolies who carry you up and
down the steep mountain paths of Asia. I have had my bearers go on their
hands and knees to manage some peculiarly difficult bit of road. But I
have never had them stumble or even shake me roughly—save once, which
didn’t count.

Ayah seemed more fearful than I—and she always insisted upon carrying
Baby over the rough parts. That gave her a great deal to do, for most of
the paths over the Himalayas were very rough.

Up—up—up we went, until we reached high Dagshai. That was no place for
European civilians. It was wholly and solely for British soldiers and
bazaar natives. But they were all glad enough to see us. We meant money
to the natives and entertainment to the warriors. We were given an
officer’s empty bungalow. Some one sent us afternoon tea. It was about
six o’clock. By midnight our bungalow was furnished, our larder was
filled, and we had half a dozen servants pottering about as
industriously as if they had been in our employ for years. That could
only happen in India, I think. But it happened in India very
easily—quite as a matter of course. The natives take things as they
come, and they are accustomed to making shift. Their own lives are often
one long make-shift. That makes them very useful in our little domestic
emergencies.

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and a detachment of the
Derbyshires were in Dagshai. The Derbyshires were old friends of ours.
They had welcomed us to Jubblepore and to Umballa. The Highlanders, too,
we had known in Hong-Kong. It used to give one quite a feeling of having
come home, to go into a strange cantonment and see a familiar uniform or
a well-known tartan.

In the 93rd there were boys whose surnames had been by their fathers
written gloriously upon the history of the Mutiny.

It was some hours’ journey from Dagshai to Subathu. We got into our
chairs in the early morning; it was not far from sunset when we came in
sight of the Subathu barracks. The bagpipes called us a quaint Scotch
welcome, and as we rounded the last khud and passed by the parade
ground, the windy music sounded very sweet to me. And I could have cried
with all my heart, “Bring on the Tartan!”

And again we had come to friends, for we had known the regiment in
Colombo. There is no regiment in the service that we have had cause to
like—yes, to love, more than the Gordon Highlanders. No wonder that
every man in the regiment is proud to be in it.

Again we were domiciled in an empty bungalow. But our housekeeping was
very simple. Our bungalow was near the officers’ mess, and from there
our meals were sent us.

We had expected to be in Subathu some days, but we stayed much longer.
Baby was ill and we dared not travel. But we went on playing, and night
after night we did our work with hopeful hearts and a full house,
because of a regiment’s hospitality. When we had exhausted our own
little repertoire, the regimental amateurs played with us, and that
enabled us to play _Caste_ and several other pieces that are dear to the
heart of Tommy Atkins.

One subaltern played Eccles for us on threes hours’ notice, and played
it splendidly. But Captain Macready was the histrionic genius of the
corps. I have never seen an amateur who compared with him for finish,
artistic breadth, and actor-like exactness. Captain Macready inherits
his dramatic gift, probably, for he is the son of one of the greatest
actors who ever played upon our English stage. There are other names in
the regiment that come back to me warmly. But if I told of them all, it
would read too much like a leaf out of the Army List.

It was at Subathu that I first went freely among the lepers. The wife of
the regimental chaplain gave me a letter to the superintendent of the
leper asylum. I was a little frightened at first, when I passed into the
place of pain, but the terror of the place was too great for petty
feeling to last.

[Illustration: H.H. THE MAHARAJAH OF PATIALA ON HIS FAVOURITE RACER.
        _Page 320._]

I have always believed that charity should begin at home. And I believe
it still. But the lepers are a people apart. Their misery cries out
above all other human misery. Science and love should unite their utmost
strength to wipe this great and antique curse off the face of our earth.
If you think I exaggerate, when I say that there is no human misery that
compares with the misery of leprosy, go among the lepers and see.

And what shall I say of the man and woman who are devoting their lives
to those Subathu lepers? They were people of unusual culture—people who
would have been first among almost any of their fellows, and they, who
were not fanatics, but healthy, wholesome human creatures had elected to
live with and for the lepers. I felt, when I saw them last, on the steps
of their bungalow, that I could cover their hands with kisses and bless
them. I feel so still.

There are no words that would even partly describe the agonies of those
lepers. Some of them moaned, some prayed, some wept, some only crouched
on their beds and waited for death.

One poor fellow I shall never forget. He belonged to the highest Brahmin
caste. He would no more have eaten with me, nor have let me touch his
chattee, than he would have jumped into a river of fire. But his Brahmin
courtesy he never laid aside for a moment. When I came to the door of
his hut, he invariably struggled on to his feetless legs and cried me a
smiling “salaam.”

One morning we journeyed on to Kausali. It is a wonderful place, high,
high on the hills. We were there a week or more, and then we came sadly
back to Subathu, for we had left our little baby in the cantonment
cemetery at Kausali.



                             CHAPTER XXXVI


                         IN THE OFFICERS’ MESS

PEOPLE who have seen both tell me that my performance of Polly Eccles is
inferior to that of Mrs. Bancroft. But I have, I fancy, excelled Mrs.
Bancroft in one particular: I have doubled Polly and the Marquise. I did
it in Simla—did it with _éclat_.

The generous friend who was coming from Subathu to play the Marquise was
detained at the last moment. We were in despair. The house was
beautifully sold for that, our first night in Simla, and we could ill
afford to return the money; we could still less afford to postpone our
opening and break faith with our public.

“I will double the part with Polly,” I said as we sat mournfully on the
stage at two in the afternoon.

“It’s an impossible double,” said Sam Gerridge.

“It’s a very ugly double,” I said. “But if you like, I’ll try it.”

We took the prompt-book and we did some remarkable things to it. But I
am sure that Robertson himself would have forgiven us—under all the
circumstances—had he been there.

Then we had a flying rehearsal of the changes, and I went back to the
hotel to face the grave difficulty of dresses for Madame la Marquise. I
had frocks enough that would do for the part at a pinch. But the great
desideratum was to contrive something into which and out of which I
could get with very great rapidity. I think that we did well, Ayah and
I. She didn’t in the least know what it was all about, but she did what
she was told—and did it exactly. Dear old black treasure! How calm, how
helpful she was!

Fortunately there had been no question of studying for me. I had played
so many times in _Caste_, I had rehearsed so many Marquises, and my
“study,” as we play-folks call the memory of words, has always been a
blessed and useful one. It never fails or betrays me.

The first act went as well as I had ever known it to do. We were all
just enough nervous to be rather brilliant. There were three Gordon
Highlanders in the caste, and well as they had played their parts in
their own regimental theatre, they excelled themselves at Simla.

Captain Macready’s “George D’Alroy” was a masterly performance.
Surgeon-Captain Barratt’s “Hawtree” was really fine.

The second act came. I went on, more pins than anything else. When the
Marquise was announced I cried, “Oh, let me see her!” D’Alroy picked me
up and carried me through the folding doors at the back. I pulled out
pins as we went. Ayah was there at her post. Screens had been arranged
for me and, while I made a change, I called out that I greatly desired
to see a “real live Marchioness.” Ayah never spoke, but she worked like
the heroine she was, and I went back on to the stage, as La Marquise de
St. Maur, in less than one minute after I left it as Polly.

How they cheered me! I had heard that Simla audiences were cold, and
that they looked unkindly upon professionals, whom they regarded as
intruders in Simla. But we must speak of people as we find them, even if
we find them in Simla. And I found that audience kind to a fault. My
professional experience has been very varied, and it was no great thing
for me to change frock and wig inside of a minute. But I suppose they
thought it quick work, and they applauded and commended as if I had done
something very plucky. I made seven “changes” that night, and they
greeted each in the heartiest way. It was brisk work, but on the whole
it was rather good fun and left one no time to think. Poor Ayah was
rather puzzled. But the next night it all dawned upon her and she
exclaimed, “I now see, lal coatie memsahib no come. My memsahib do two
piece—her proper piece, and lal coatie memsahib’s piece. Now lal coatie
memsahib yes come, my memsahib do one piece, her proper piece.”

Strangely enough I have since then doubled Polly and the Marquise not
once but thrice: once at Murree, twice at Rawal Pindi.

There is no spot in India lovelier than Simla. We went on “off nights”
to play at the regimental theatre at Jutogh, a tiny cantonment a few
miles from Simla. Several companies of different regiments were
stationed there for rifle practice. We went and came in ’rickshaws. I
often dream of those rides. Simla seemed very near heaven when the stars
came up over the big trees and the moon hung low over the mountains. And
the birds thought it was day, and called to their mates. The ride was
long—but to me it never seemed half long enough. I could have leaned
back in my ’rickshaw and let the coolies pull me on into eternity, up to
the infinite. One felt very near Nature up there in the hills. I often
thought of home as we went slowly on through the night and the great
silence. But I never was home-sick, save for the past, and I knew in my
heart that I should feel it bitterly when we came to say a last good-bye
to India. And I did feel it, very bitterly indeed.

But it was the grandest of grandeur when the storms broke up there in
the mountains. Then one could hold one’s breath and think what an atom
one was, and how little anything mattered.

I shall never cease to regret India. The country itself appealed to me;
the people delighted me. But, above all, it was India that taught me how
staunch, how kind, how true, how generous, how altogether noble our race
is,—I learned that in the cantonments of India.

There are a hundred little midnight hospitalities that I wish I might
chronicle. Perhaps some day I may. One I remember with especial
gratitude, because it was offered us by men whom we did not know. I have
had many a cosy little after-the-play supper in an Officers’ Mess, and
many a hamper of goodies sent from the same bountiful quarter, but one
night, when the rain poured down as if it would wash Simla away, we were
urged into the mess at Jutogh by hosts who were to us entire strangers.
Even now I don’t remember their names, though they all, if I remember,
exchanged cards with my husband. But I remember the kind hands that
pulled us in out of the rain, into the warmth and good cheer. We had
just finished playing at the desolate little cantonment theatre, and
were facing, with what grace we could, the long ride back to Simla. When
they came for us, we were abominably dishevelled, but the invitation
into comfort and good cheer was irresistibly pleasant. It was a
charmingly pretty place. But I believe that the interiors of all
officers’ messes are that,—all have been that I have ever seen. I was
vulgarly hungry, and would have been delighted with a sandwich and a mug
of milk; but with a great courage which is the birthright of men—

                     “from Severn and from Clyde
                   And from the banks of the Shannon—”

they had aroused not only the khansamah but the mess cook; and the cook
and the khansamah submitting, as poor natives must to tyrannous
Englishmen, gave us a hot supper that made the rain sound like music.

It was always a wonder to me where all the good things came from that
found their way into regimental larders. I suppose that, as a matter of
fact, they came from all the four quarters of the globe. I know that
they had, in that out-of-the-way place, viands that I could by no means
have bought in the big bazaars of Simla.

People talk of the good old times. Veterans tell of the great old
battles. I believe in the British army as it stands, man to man and
shoulder to shoulder. I believe that it would come triumphant through
any test. Opportunity makes heroes. Given the opportunity (which I pray
they never may be) I for one am sure that the men in the ranks and the
men who officer England’s forces would to-day prove themselves, one and
all, heroes.

Above all I have faith in the subaltern. I think he is a very
undervalued person. The Major-General regards him as of less importance
than a private; and the private regards him as of no importance at all.
He is in great demand for private theatricals. He is made useful as an
orderly officer and about the stables. He distinguishes himself at polo;
and is splendidly _en evidence_ on the regimental drag and at gymkanas.
I have been told that he writes eloquent love letters. But he does more
than that. He takes life and its vicissitudes like a man. Whatever he
does, he does like a man, and when his hour comes, he takes his life in
his hand, and if he falls—he falls with his face to the foe and with
never a murmur. Perhaps his heart cries out sometimes, in the thick of
battle or the loneliness of the cantonments, cries out for home and for
mother. But he keeps a smiling face to the world; and, take him all in
all, he is as true to himself as the sun is to its orbit. If he takes
you out in his “tum-tum” (and he will if you are not too very old and
ugly) he will come very near breaking your neck, but he probably won’t
do it. In the first place, his pony is sagacious and not over mettled;
in the second, his sais knows his business; and in the third, he himself
is not half so reckless as he pretends to be.

“Do you ever run over a native?” I asked a subaltern in Allahabad.

He was simply rushing through the densest part of the native quarter,
and I wondered if our drive wouldn’t end at the police court.

“Not often,” he said, “they are very clever about getting out of the
way. And it is ridiculously expensive to run over a native. It costs
fifty rupees the first time, and a hundred the second.”

Dear lad! he wouldn’t have hurt a fly. Every dog in the cantonment loved
and trusted him. But I believe that a heartless magistrate did once fine
him twenty rupees for shaking his bearer.

Yes; I most cordially like the subaltern. Make him your friend if you
can, and count yourself lucky. He will be staunch and true as long as he
lives, and he will do any earthly thing for you.



                             CHAPTER XXXVII


                    AT THE MOUTH OF THE KHYBER PASS

THE two names in India most fascinating to me were Kashmir and
Afghanistan. I longed to see Afghanistan even more than I longed to see
Kashmir. I knew hosts of men who had been in Kashmir; I knew four or
five women who had lived there. I knew two or three men who had been in
Afghanistan, but no woman, and the men had not stayed there long, nor
had they seen much. One of them was a fairly high official. He had
ridden out every morning in Kabul. He was attended by a subservient
retinue, provided by the Ameer. When he mounted they salaamed until
their foreheads touched their saddle-cloths. If he rode to the right he
was followed humbly; if he rode to the left he was stopped humbly, but
effectually. “There was cholera in that part of the town. Their master,
the Ameer, would command their death did they allow his English brother
to catch infection.”

[Illustration: AFREDEEDS AT THE KHYBER PASS.         _Page 329._]

All this fired my desire to see Afghanistan. The journey from Rawal
Pindi to Peshawar was extremely trying. The weather was vivid, the
topography of the country was flat, and it was unrelieved by
architecture of any interest. We stopped a few days at Campbellpore, the
most uninteresting cantonment in India, in spite of the elephants who
salute and salaam, and in spite of the splendid regimental drag. I shall
remember the kindness of the “Elephant Battery” when I have forgotten
Campbellpore; but at the time Campbellpore was a geographical
horror—mitigated by the regiment—but still a horror.

After we left Campbellpore we crossed the Attock Bridge. We tried to
think it picturesque, because it was so famous. It was not picturesque,
unless the sightseer was endowed with an imagination that saw beauty in
any spot superlatively arid.

It never rains at Peshawar; so all the officers of the Scots Fusiliers
say; but it was raining when our train crawled into the station, and it
rained most of the time we were there. I had a petty triumph at
Peshawar, and a bitter disappointment. I had been told—worse than that,
my husband had been told—that I could not go into the native city
without the protecting presence of numerous Englishmen. Nevertheless,
every day for two weeks I spent several hours in Old Peshawar with only
my ayah, our chokera, and our gharri wallah and sais. I did not suffer
the least inconvenience from my foolhardiness.

To a woman there is nothing more delightful in being in India than the
delight of buying, for a few pence, a something that she feels sure will
be to her an artistic delight, for many years of colourless Western
residence. The Indian artisans, or the Indian artists (for in India the
highest art is highly mechanical) lack the fine exactitude and the
superlative grace of the Japanese amateurs. But no art is so
characteristic as the Indian art. They have inherited everything, they
have invented nothing, nor do they appropriate anything. The very
rigidity of the Indian caste lines has kept the Indian art lines pure,
if it has also kept them crude. When you are in Peshawar you are so near
the borderland, across which the bravest British soldier goes with more
or less trepidation, that the most callous European tourist is justified
in feeling himself dangerously near the interesting cradle of Indian
art. You can buy a great many things in Peshawar; you can buy two things
there that you can buy nowhere else in perfection—waxwork and the skins
of snow-leopards.

We associate leopards with torrid jungles, but, on the principle that
the greatest heat is cold and the extremest cold hot, the Indian
leopards sometimes find their way up to the snows of the Himalayas. The
baby leopards that are born there are gray and white, not brown and
yellow. They are rare, and still more rarely caught. They are called
“snow-leopards”; they look as if they were thickly powdered with snow,
and they smell of the high, cold hills. I bought the skin of one in
Peshawar for forty rupees—about three pounds. It was beautifully
marked; the claws were perfect, and the teeth impressive. A few days
ago, I was asked ten pounds for the skin of a clawless, toothless
snow-leopard—a manufactured, European-looking fellow—and I was
inclined to doubt if he had seen as much of the Himalayas as I had.

“Waxwork” is more difficult of description. I am too ignorant of
Oriental mythology to appreciate the peculiarities of Oriental anatomy
as portrayed on Indian purdahs; and the Peshawar waxwork is very
anatomical. Three-legged cows follow five-legged cows in the wake of a
mightily-turbaned Rajah, who sits astride a very peculiarly constructed
peacock. I have often had my fragile heart broken by seeing displayed in
a London shop the duplicate of some article I had bought in the
East—some article I had thought unobtainable in Europe. But I believe I
am quite secure in my sole possession of some very fine specimens of
Peshawar waxwork. You can buy waxwork in almost every Indian bazaar and
in half a dozen London shops, but only the cheaper sorts. The wonderful
curtains, teeming with wax representations of Indian life and Indian
history; purdahs, over which expert Indian artists spend months and even
years, can only be bought, I believe, in two or three shops in Old
Peshawar. I bought some wonderful bits of metal work in Peshawar. I have
one quaint vessel, so characteristic in its shape that, though it has
never been used, I always fancy it smells of coffee. I bought a
marvellous little table of fine Kashmir work, and a ridiculous native
chair constructed in the coarsest way. The two are typical of the most
careful extreme and of the most careless extreme of Indian workmanship.

One day I spent some hours in a shop where I had discovered a
fascinating collection of Bokhara work, of skins, and of Afghan weapons.
The shop was far back in a dark, barn-like building; it was more like an
empty granary than anything else. The proprietor rolled up half a dozen
skins for me to sit on; then he sent his servants climbing up bamboo
ladders into the garret. They brought down huge rolls of temptation.
When I came to pay for what I had bought, my purse was gone. A great
excitement ensued, initiated by Ayah and my chokera, both of whom I had
taken in with me. We hastened to the gharri, followed by the merchant
and all his assistants. Both the gharri wallah and the sais were fast
asleep, lying across the road some yards from the gharri. About fifty
natives, men, women, and children, were crowded about the carriage. They
were examining my wrap and a Maltese lace scarf I had carelessly left on
the seat. They made way for me good-humouredly; and on the front seat
lay my purse. Nothing had gone from it. That was the nearest to being
mobbed I ever came in the East. Yet I was told by European women, who
had lived for two years or more in Peshawar, that nothing would tempt
them to venture into the native city, without half a company of
soldiers.

You enter Old Peshawar through one of the picturesque, dilapidated
gates, to which you become so used in the Orient. As you go on, the
streets grow narrower and the natives thicker. There were streets where
I saw nothing but pottery, most of it blue and green, all of it very
common. It looked very rich and effective a few yards off, but when I
went to the booths, in which it was displayed, it was unmitigatedly
ugly. I bought one dish, because I thought it was the ugliest piece of
pottery I had ever seen. It is made of mud and is very breakable.
Strangely enough I managed to bring it safely home, and it even escaped
the destructive fingers of the Custom House officers at Liverpool. There
were streets, miles long, where I saw nothing but shoes and shoemakers.
Most of the shoes were bright red or green, thickly embroidered with
tinsel and mock pearls.

A queer zig-zag canal runs through Old Peshawar; it is crossed by bamboo
bridges. On the banks, under the blazing sun, sat the sellers of mettie
and other Indian sweets. There were piles of countless melons, some of
them bursting with their own lusciousness, there were mountains of
cocoanuts, and huge heaps of curry stuffs. I stopped to buy a bag of
gram, of which I am as fond as an Indian. A high-caste woman came up,
and bargained with the old man who had the stall, for a few pie worth of
gram. She wore the graceful red trousers of her caste, and was hidden in
the full folds of her white bourkha. A naked black baby toddled at her
side. He had thick silver bangles on his ankles and a string of blue
beads about his fat waist.

My husband and an officer friend arranged to take me to the Khyber Pass.
By the way, the correct spelling of that is Kaibar, I think, but I
haven’t the courage of my knowledge; I fear not every one would
recognise the word. The “tum-tum” was packed full of ice, a hamper of
provisions was slung beneath. The escort was ready; we were to start at
midnight; to avoid, as far as possible, the fearful heat of the torrid
place into which we were going. At ten o’clock we were having a
wonderfully nice little supper with some officers who were going with us
on horseback. I remember that I had an oyster on my fork when an orderly
came in with a note saying that the commanding officer was extremely
sorry, but he could not allow me to go. Only that day Afredeeds had
fired upon a non-commissioned officer who was escorting a gun from near
the Pass to Peshawar. I sent a return message, pleading very hard for
permission to go; but it was refused. My husband might go, if he chose,
but the commanding officer was a Queen’s servant, and he would not risk,
in the slightest way, the life of a woman. I was so disappointed at
missing the excursion that the men all gave it up and remained with me
in Peshawar. We lingered on in Peshawar for two weeks hoping that the
Pass would become safer; but it did not. The war cloud thickened, and I
was forced to leave without getting even a passing glimpse of the land
of the Ameer. One morning early I rode out with a young officer. We went
as near the mouth of the Pass as I could induce my friend to take me. As
it was, he said he would be cashiered if we were caught. I had one
glimpse of a group of Afredeeds, however, and a fine, manly-looking lot
they were, despite their cruel faces.

Peshawar—Peshawar of the cantonments—is dull and vapid. It is
reiterated drifts of sand, and since I might not journey into
Afghanistan I was glad to leave Peshawar.



                            CHAPTER XXXVIII


                AN IMPROMPTU DINNER-PARTY IN THE PUNJAB

WE had finished the last of several brief but delightful theatrical
engagements in Rawal Pindi—if one may use the phrase “theatrical
engagement,” in connection with so small a band of strolling players as
we had been. The afternoon train was carrying the last of our little
company to Bombay. In twenty-four hours we two were going on—by a
pleasantly broken route—to Karachi. But, in the meantime, we are going
to give a dinner-party. How it all comes back! We had played _Caste_ the
night before, with the kind help of regimental amateurs. Such a funny
performance of _Caste_! (But that’s a story by itself.) At the close of
the performance we had asked “Hawtree,” “George D’Alroy,” and the
prompter to risk a dinner (so called) with us the next night. “Hawtree”
was a popular subaltern in the 60th Rifles; his real name is a grand old
English name. The prompter (also in the 60th) was no less a person than
the son of his Excellency Lord Roberts. “George D’Alroy” was a young
Irishman; his blood and his eyes were very blue, but they were the only
blue thing about him. He was a Gordon Highlander, doing special duty at
Rawal Pindi. Besides playing “D’Alroy” he had danced and sung
“Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay” between the acts, arrayed in my “Polly” wig, all
my jewellery (real and otherwise), and a specially-constructed costume.

India is, _par excellence_, the land of bad hotels. We were living in
Rawal Pindi at one of India’s few not bad hotels. They gave us
fruit,—they knew how to cook tomatoes, and (test of tests!) their ice
never gave out. But the capable European manager, who had another
hostelry at one of the hill stations, was away, and I felt that it
behoved my hostess-ship to aid, though not abet, the khansamah.

At five o’clock, when the early Indian sun called softly all men to rise
and pay Sabbath worship to lavish Nature, my ayah brought me my chota
haziri. Chota haziri means little breakfast. Translated by an
unsupervised khansamah or a mean European boarding-house memsahib, it
means two small slices of cold toast and one cup of vile tea. But a
well-trained ayah translates it: “one cup of good tea, one bunch of
black grapes, one Bombay mango, red heart of one melon, and an egg just
come.” Indian fruit in the early Indian morning! It is something even to
remember it. I had my bath; there are three kinds of baths that can only
be properly enjoyed in the Punjab: sun baths, mud baths, and water
baths. I got into my gharri—a barouche, if you please, but a very
shabby one; with a rather black, rather naked coachman, and a very
black, very naked footman; and I was driven to the “bazaar”: driven
through green picture bits of landscape, canopied by the marvellous blue
of perfect sky, and clothed with the indepreciable silver of Indian
lakes, where the pink water-lilies floated: driven through the native
streets, with their fascinating panorama that was teeming with life
primitive after many centuries,—streets dense with Oriental
architecture, some rich, mostly squalid, all graceful—and all having
matchless accessories: driven to a “bazaar” that beggars my description,
and would, unless you have seen it, overtax your imagination.

It was easy enough to provide myself with the materials for a capital
dinner, only, unfortunately, in India at that time of the year the
variety was so limited, that, whatever I selected, I might be sure that
my guests had eaten of it very recently, and cooked far better than I
could offer it to them. For the 60th Rifles have a famous mess, and I
can testify that the mess of the Gordon Highlanders is excellent.

I was back at the hotel at eight, and after breakfast I had a confab
with the khansamah. I gave him my little menu, and told him what I would
cook and what he was to cook. I think that I can write out the menu now,
it was one I so often fell back upon in the East:—

        Sandwiches of caviare and hard-boiled eggs.     Olives.
                              Tomato soup.
              Salmon (tinned, of course).       Cucumbers.
          Beef-steak. Mushrooms (tinned).    Grilled potatoes.
              Fricassee of chicken livers and sweetbreads.
    Roast pigeons with bread sauce and limes.       Baked tomatoes.
                   Asparagus (tinned, but delicious).
                             Chicken curry.
    Mayonnaise salad. (No mess cook can make that as well as I can.)
    Ices.   Creams.   Sweets.   (The Indians excel at making them.)
                                 Fruit.
                                Coffee.

But two items I hadn’t selected were provided us—one by the khansamah,
one by that fickle purveyor, Fate. The khansamah enlivened us with the
worst champagne I have ever tasted. We couldn’t drink it, but it gave us
a theme for small-talk. And we pretended to prefer claret. Fate’s
contribution was a nastier one; for like the Egyptians of old we had a
death’s head at our feast. About an hour before we expected our friends,
I heard the rapid canter of a horse, and my ayah, who was sitting on the
verandah, exclaimed, “Lal coatie sahib!” The natives have only this one
term for all British soldiers. No matter what their uniforms, they are
all “red coats.” We were the only guests in the hotel, so I ran out.
Yes, the rider was one of the boys we were expecting later. I had always
seen him so jolly; but now he looked very worn and white. “I have come
to ask you to excuse me to-night,” he said. “I have been all the
afternoon with a poor chap—a private—who has just died. Cholera! It
was very tough. I feel a bit done.” But I vetoed that. It was the time
of all times when an English boy needed a little cheering.

It was a very grave little dinner-party when we sat down; the spirit of
cholera was with us. Oh! what precautions you would all take, here in
London, if you knew of cholera half that I know! How I wish that I could
voice some sharp word of warning that the mothers of England would heed!
My servants think me a bit mad and very troublesome. But I know what I
know. I have paid a terrible price for my knowledge. And so I insist,
and see that they obey. All our garbage is burned. Our drinking water is
boiled. We smell of carbolic from cellar to attic. And in the nursery
there is a bottle of chlorodyne, a flask of brandy, and mustard and
linen ready for plasters. Cholera is very quick. It must be fought
quickly or in vain.

Yes, we began our meal very gravely. But English soldiers are taught the
courage of cheerfulness, and we were not gloomy, though my husband and I
were leaving on the morrow, perhaps never again to see the three soldier
boys we liked so much; and for them that morrow held the dreaded
possibility of “cholera camp.” The champagne helped us to be almost
merry, though not in a conventional way. It is remarkable what vile
champagne is sold in the East and with the very best labels! The
khansamah was very quaint as bottle after bottle was opened, amid an
expectant silence that was not broken by a pop or a fizz. “It was always
the way with the best champagne,” he assured us. “The very best
champagne never jumped about like a nautch-girl. It was all good wine,
not half of it bad gas. Such champagne the ‘sahibs’ did not often see.”
He was in despair when the “sahibs” would not drink it; he was in
downright distress the next morning when my husband declined to pay for
it. “He must pay—indeed he had paid the Parsi from whom he had procured
it, and he could not get back his many rupees. He had procured it with
great difficulty. It had been wanted for the Maharajah of Kapurthala. He
was a most poor man, and he had sold the memsahib a priceless dog for so
few rupees. He wept at our feet.” We were really rather fond of the
khansamah, and we knew that we had only paid treble for a huge half-bred
bull-dog that I had fancied for my children; so the bill was paid less
the price of one of the half-dozen bottles that had been opened.

The following letter reached us a few days before we sailed from
Karachi. It is one of the most valued things in my cabinet of curios:—

                             Hakin Raig, Mannigar Imperial Hotel,
                                                 Rpindi, 14/8/1892.

    Mr —— Noble sur and gentlamen.
         Karachi city.

    Sir,—You cutted the hotel Bille 15 Rupees. And you tolded to me
    I must say to Jamasji he sold me crab wine—and what remark you
    make of it. I done all arrangements with Jamasji. He said i
    don’t care. I am not making here myself wine. This fault of the
    shampain maker. Please hear my prayer—you write noble sur to
    shampain maker. He live in france his name is Mr. Cliquot. You
    tell him he sell Jamasji bad wine. And you send me money by m.o.
    what you like. I pray for twenty rupees. Fifteen you cutted the
    hotel bill. Five make me present. She is poor man. She will pray
    for your long life and procespairity.

                                             Yours faithfully
                                                    HAKIN RAIG.

    Please tell my salam to your noble lady wife with yourself, and
    say if the dog is well.

We sent him a small money-order, but we haven’t yet written to “Mr.
Cliquot, Shampain Maker, France.”

I have just been looking in the last Army List. Neither of the three
young soldiers who dined with us a year ago are missing from the noble
roll. I am so glad; so many whom we knew and liked in India a year ago
are gone. I am personally thankful for every one of those brave lives
spared. For if it were not for the never-to-be-for-a-moment forgotten
memories of personal sorrows, I should count as the pleasantest days of
my life those when we were strolling players in the cantonments of the
Punjab. I wonder how many European women there are in London to-day
home-sick for India? I know one. And they do say that the Duchess of
Connaught knows another. Dear old Punjabi cantonments! Shall I ever see
them again?

[Illustration: IDOLS IN A SIAMESE PAGODA.         _Page 341._]



                             CHAPTER XXXIX


                                SALAAM!

HOW shall I say good-bye to India and to all that I left there? I can’t
say it. I say instead, “Salaam, burra salaam.”

Hopes are impotent things often; but I hope that some day I may go back
to the East. I wish that I could have written more adequately of the
Orient—I wish it very much.

There are many places to which my heart goes back eagerly, but of which
I have not found time to write a sentence.

We passed some dreadful but delightful months in the cantonments of the
Punjab, when the Punjab was hottest.

Murree was to me the most delightful spot in India. It is a hill
place—a resting spot and a breathing station for soldiers who are worn
out, or blessed with indulgent Colonels. The pleasantest friends that we
made in India, we made in Murree. They were indefatigable amateurs in
Murree. Ah, what performances we gave! Major Frere, the Commandant,
played Hawtree faultlessly; and Major Chancellor (alas! he is dead now)
gave a performance of Sir George Carlyon in _In Honour Bound_, that
would have greatly credited any professional. We had a Talbot Champneys
there who played the part better than I ever saw it played, and a
Belinda who made me look to my laurels in my favourite part of Mary
Melrose.

And the bazaars down the hill! What rugs! What skins! What phulkaris!
Murree is up towards Kashmir; and the bazaar teemed with Afghans, and
with ten thousand things that were lovely.

How we roamed at night over the mountain paths, and sang songs of home,
and regretted that we were going away!

From Rawal Pindi we went on alone, my husband and I. We left our two
children in Murree that they might stay in the cool, healthy place until
we were ready to sail.

I felt very blue when we left for Pindi, for I knew that I was taking my
last tonga ride.

Do you know what a tonga is? It is a unique vehicle that grows in India;
and though it is somewhat lacking in comfort, you grow to like it, and
learn to sit at your ease in it and not to fall out.

The tonga rides in India are delightful. For me no other scenery has so
strong a fascination as that in the hills of India; and I recall no
happier days than those when we left a cantonment at daylight, and drove
over the wild hills to another—drove until dusk, perhaps into the
starlight. Every few hours we drew up at a Dâk Bungalow; and when the
bungalow proved good, and the curry was faultless,—which happened more
often than not,—India had nothing more to offer us.

From Rawal Pindi we went to Lahore. But we did no work there. I remember
writing my candid opinion in the book that was kept by the eating-house
khansamah, and that he did not like what I wrote. We prowled about
Lahore quite like leisure people. Then we went on to Mooltan. We went to
stay two days, but we stayed two weeks. A friend who was stationed there
took possession of us at the station. He took us home to his bungalow;
and I often wonder how we ever left it. We pretended to play; but we
really visited our friend and the brother officer with whom he chummed.

We did play one night with the help of the officers. But the heat was
inexpressible; it was fearful. We panted. A few nights later we were to
have played. We went to the theatre. Ayah was in tears, and Abdul was
excited. Abdul said that he thought the balcony (we were going to give,
need I say what scene from Shakespeare?) would tumble down when I stood
upon it; and Ayah sobbed out that the dhobie hadn’t brought my gown,
which she had given him to press, and that she didn’t know where he
lived. My husband and one host addressed themselves to solidifying the
balcony; and our other host and I drove off in search of the dhobie. We
found that good and great native, but not until we had had a prolonged
drive and sundry adventures. My companion was not as fond of the natives
as I was, and I fancy he spoke rudely to the dhobie.

We bribed the gharri wallah to drive rapidly back to the theatre. We
were very late, but when we reached the play-house, we found it almost
as empty as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. My husband and three officers sat
out in the compound calmly smoking; Ayah was packing up; and Abdul was
pulling from off the balcony the pink roses that had been procured for
me with a good deal of difficulty.

“Whatever’s the matter?” I said, remembering how packed we had had the
theatre a few nights before.

“Cholera!” was the answer. It was answer enough. Cholera had broken out
in the bazaar. The theatre had been put “out of bounds.” So I gathered
my roses into my arms, and we drove back to the bungalow.

We were leaving Mooltan the next night; so this night we sat up even
later than our late usual. There were six of us there, for two other
officers had come home with us. It was Saturday night. We sat under the
great punkahs, and we played poker a little. But that we soon gave up.
My husband said I was cheating; but I think he was bored, because we
were only playing for matches. Perhaps we all felt that we would rather
chat away our last night in Mooltan.

I shall never forget Mooltan. I can see it now. I can see the 15th
Bengal Lancers at their morning parade. I can hear their grave,
courteous “Salaam.” Then a cloud of swift dust dashes the picture: the
polo ponies are coming! The trees in Mooltan—I can see them too, and
feel their grateful shadow. I can see an old ruin where the wild flowers
twisted among the crumbling fragments of what was once some great
Hindoo’s glory. It is growing dusk. I’m miles away from the bungalow;
I’m in a dark little den. A native sits on the floor. He is making me
something big and blue, something bright and beautiful. It is Mooltani
ware. I’ve been here for hours, watching it grow beneath the skilful
brown fingers. The potter is almost done now. In another moment I am
driving home through the dusk with a tum-tum load of blue pottery.

I think the sais was indignant that I had refused to let a coolie bring
it. And the _beau soldat_ who was driving had to drive very
slowly—which I am sure he had never before in all his life done. But I
wanted to carry home my spoils myself, because I wished to be sure that
I had the identical pieces that I had seen made; and I have them—or at
least some of them now. Part of them were slaughtered by the clumsy
fingers of the Custom House officers at Liverpool. But I have some left,
and when I look at them I think of Mooltan and our friends there.

There is something very charming about the home lives of the officers in
India. Those who are unmarried seem to have a wonderful talent for
making rooms pretty and home-like. I know of nothing nicer than the
pride that those young officers take in their quarters, and of nothing
more gentlemanly, nor more soldierly than the way they keep up their
order and beauty.

The best housekeepers I have ever known have been soldiers. And the best
cook I ever knew was a poet. I really think that we women need to look
after the laurels we have or are supposed to have, rather than hunt for
new ones.

We left Mooltan at dusk on Sunday. Our little ones had come down from
Murree, and we had Ned, the monkey (whom a bold, bad subaltern had tried
to steal), and Nizam, the dog, and Abdul and Ayah—so that with “Wadie”
and ourselves we were a party of nine; quite a respectable number.

“Good-bye” we cried to one friend, and “_auf wiedersehen_” to the other;
for one was to join us at Sukkur, and go on with us to Karachi. The rain
came down in wild fury before the train started. The wind sobbed and the
window glasses shivered and chattered. And I whispered “Salaam, burra
Salaam” to the cantonment where I had been so much at home,—the last
cantonment of many in which I was leaving friends,—the last cantonment
in India that I loved.

We spent a dreadful day and an indescribable night at Sukkur. I am
enthusiastic about the East—but I except a few places; Sukkur is
emphatically one of them.

I shall never forget the Dâk Bungalow there; and I feel very sure that
the khansamah will never forget me.

In the evening we gave a performance. It was the second time that we
ever gave an entire performance by ourselves; and I remarked at the time
that it would be the last. My husband says I lost my temper; but I deny
it. I was calmly and justly furious—that was all.

Our recital in Canton had been bad enough, but this was worse. In Canton
we gave a recital in evening dress. In Sukkur we gave a dramatic
performance in costume. In Canton it was cool. In Sukkur it was horridly
hot.

We played _Sweethearts_. Yes, we did, with two characters cut out. We
played _A Happy Pair_, and we gave two scenes from _Macbeth_, a scene
from _Hamlet_, and a scene from _Romeo and Juliet_.

The worst of it was they liked it—they really did, and the next morning
a deputation asked us to stay another night and do it again; but I
refused, on the ground that there was not room in the Dâk Bungalow for
myself and the khansamah. My husband says that the heat and some of the
cholera regulations, notably that which forbade us ice and soda-water,
had made me ugly. He is mistaken—as he so often is. I was never ugly in
my life. I was indignant.

The journey to Karachi was wonderfully interesting. We succeeded in
getting ice, and life seemed brighter.

Karachi I liked less than any other important place in the East. And yet
we spent long happy days out fishing, and the nights surpassed all the
nights of my memory. The moon was matchless. I don’t know where it went
to at dawn; there didn’t seem room for it in the sky. When the moon
shone on the sands and the ocean at Karachi, it was a marvel in white,
silver, and gold that I have never seen equalled.

Perhaps I saw Karachi unfortunately. I was not pleased with the Dâk
Bungalow. If I expressed myself frankly and freely _re_ that Dâk
Bungalow I might, I fear, find myself involved in a suit for libel. And
the cholera was raging. Two of our dhobies died from it, and wherever we
went, every few yards we came upon a fire—a bonfire built by the
natives to burn up the poison fumes.

Everything comes to those who wait, and a great deal more comes to those
who don’t. The day came when we left India; I, at least, was deeply
sorry. Whatever home and the future might give me—I was leaving much in
India. Much that was sacred and precious. I had buried hopes in the East
and lost ambitions; but I had found much that was helpful and soothing.
India, I cry you “Salaam,” and I throw mogree flowers at your feet!

We looked toward England with longing eyes. Yet we left the Orient with
reluctant feet.

It rained viciously when we reached Liverpool. We did not care. We were
home—home at last! We looked into each other’s eyes and were glad. We
had come, hand in hand, out of the storied East. We were going, hand in
hand, into London,—the actor’s Mecca.

As I glance back through my pages, I fear that I have written too
personally; but it was the only way I could write.

I was born with a talent. Perhaps I will be forgiven for boasting of it,
because I freely confess that it is the only talent I have ever had. I
inherited it from my father, who had it to a very great degree. It is a
talent that sometimes brings sorrow; but certainly no other talent
brings half so much joy. And I venture to think that if a woman can have
but one talent, it is the very best talent that she can have: the talent
of loving. I have loved the East dearly. Unless I had written of the
East as I saw it—unless I had written of my daily life there, I must
have been silent. And I wanted to speak; I had something to say. I do so
hope that I have said it. It is this, “Go East—go East!”

Every blemish in my little book belongs to me, and not one to my theme.

India is far from my feet, but close to my heart; and I would waft to
Rangoon and to Kausali a message—a message borne on the breath of
English wood violets.



                                GLOSSARY


_Note._—Only the utmost nicety of scholarship would justify one in
feeling sure that any (English) spelling of a Hindustani word was
correct. Indeed, one who is not a scholar, must, after some years’
residence in India, come to the conclusion that all spellings of a
Hindustani word are correct.

In this dilemma I have tried to avoid spellings that were pedantic. But
I have also tried to avoid spellings that were over-English.

In the following glossary, the definitions indicate the meanings in
which the words have been used in the preceding pages. Many of the words
have several other meanings. And Anglo-Indian Hindustani is not always
exact Hindustani.

The Japanese, Chinese, and Burmese words are indicated by parenthetical
initials.

                                                             L. J. M.

_Agni_               A Hindoo god.
_Amah (C. and J.)_   A nurse, a maid, a female servant.
_Anna_               A small coin; a sixteenth of a rupee.
_Aryama_             A Hindoo god.
_As’ma’rohana_       A division or part of the Brahmin marriage ceremony.
_Ayah_               A nurse, a maid, a female servant.

_Baba_               Baby.
_Babus_              Bengali clerks, or book-keepers.
_Bazaar_             Native market.
_Bearer_             A valet, a man who partly does ordinary housemaid’s
                       work—usually a Mohammedan.
_Betel-nut_          The nut of the areca palm. It is very hot.
_Bhaga_              A Hindoo god.
_Bhistie_            Water-carrier.
_Bonzes (C. and J.)_ Priests.
_Borri-wallah_       A pedlar of cloth, silk, etc. and of pins, needles,
                       and all sorts of small necessaries.
_Bourkha_            A wrapper used by the Mohammedan ladies of Peshawar
                       when going through the streets.
_Boy_                Any male servant.
_Bukshish_           A present, a tip, anything given servants beyond
                       their actual wages, etc., etc.
_Bungalow_           A house, a residence.
_Burra_              Large, great, foremost, or chief.
_Burruf_             Ice, or iced.

_Cangue (C.)_        A square board, on the principle of a stock, into
                       which the neck of a Chinese prisoner is locked.
_Cash (C.)_          A coin of very small value.
_Cedar jao_          Go straight ahead (_cedar_, straight; _jao_, go).
_Chair (C.)_         A bamboo chair, slung on bamboo poles that are
                       carried on the shoulders of Chinese coolies.
_Chattee_            An earthen or metal vessel, usually used for carrying
                       water.
_Chicken-work_       Coarse native embroidery, usually on white cotton
                       cloth.
_Chin-chin (C.)_     How do you do! good-bye; thank you.
_Chit_               A note, a bill, a written order for goods,
                       refreshments, etc., a written recommendation.
_Chokera_            A small boy-servant.
_Chota_              Small, little.
_Chota-haziri_       Little breakfast, a light breakfast, usually served
                       very early, in the sleeping apartment.
_Chow-chow (C.)_     Food.
_Chowringhee_        A street in Calcutta.
_Cinch_              Pull.
_Coolie_             One who does the hardest and roughest and most
                       nondescript work and receives the smallest pay; an
                       unskilled, low-priced, day labourer.
_Crab_               Bad.
_Cue (C.)_           The long braid of hair and silk or cotton worn by a
                       Chinaman.

_Dâk bungalow_       A resting-house for travellers. It is provided by the
                       Government in parts of India where there are few or
                       no hotels. The dâk bungalows of India vary as much
                       in the character of their accommodation and their
                       degrees of comfort as do the hotels of Europe.
_Dhobie_             A washerman, very occasionally a washerwoman.
_Dhurrumtollah_      A street in Calcutta.
_Dhursi_             A tailor, a man-dressmaker.
_Dhute_              Milk.
_Doolies_            Rough wooden chairs or palanquins in which you are
                       carried by coolies on the hills of India.
_Durwan_             A lodge-keeper, a front-door keeper, a gate-keeper.

_Ekka_               A rude, peculiar native carriage. I have only once
                       seen a European in an ekka. In Northern India
                       Europeans use ekkas as carry-alls for luggage and
                       servants.

_Fakir_              A religious mendicant, a holy man wandering or living
                       under an extreme religious vow.
_Fankwai (C.)_       Foreign devil.

_Gandharva_          A Hindoo god.
_Gharri_             A carriage.
_Gharri-wallah_      A coachman.
_Ghât_               Literally, steps up to or down from a place.
_Ghee_               Clarified butter.
_Gram_               A leguminous seed much used by the natives. It tastes
                       very like a pea-nut.
_Gymkhana_           The place where sports are held. The holding of
                       sports.

_Hara-kiri (J.)_     Ceremony of disembowelment. An honourable method of
                       self-slaughter formerly exacted of Japanese
                       criminals or victims of high rank.
_Hookah_             An Oriental pipe in which the tobacco-smoke passes
                       through water.

_Jao_                Go.
_Jinrickshaw_        A two-wheeled vehicle pulled by a coolie or by
                       coolies.
_Joss (C.)_          A god.
_Joss sticks (C. and Small incense sticks.
  J.)_

_Kali_               A Hindoo goddess.
_Kamlo (C.)_         A prison.
_Kanya-dana_         A part of the Brahmin marriage ceremony.
_Kautukagara_        A room in which part of the Brahmin marriage ceremony
                       is performed.
_Khansamah_          A butler, a man housekeeper.
_Khitmatgar_         A waiter, a dining-room servant, an under butler.
_Khud_               A valley.
_Kimono (J.)_        The principal or outer robe worn by both men and
                       women.
_Kither_             Where, which way.
_Kusti_              A hollow woollen cord worn by Parsi men.

_Lakh_               One hundred thousand, one hundred thousand rupees.
_La-la-lung (C.)_    A thief, a liar, etc.
_Lal-coatie sahib_   A red-coat gentleman, a British soldier.

_Madhuparka_         A sweet mixture used at Brahmin marriages.
_Maharajah_          A Hindoo sovereign prince.
_Maharanee_          A Maharajah’s wife; his chief or queen wife if he has
                       more than one wife.
_Maidan_             A park, a common.
_Mallie_             A gardener.
_Mangal Fe’ra_       A portion of the Brahmin marriage ceremony.
_Memsahib_           Lady, mistress.
_Metrani_            One of the lowest, or sweeper caste. A low-caste
                       Hindoo who removes slops and débris, and who does
                       work which Hindoos of no other caste will do.
_Missie Baba_        A girl baby, young lady.
_Mistree_            A carpenter, a cook.
_Mohurrum_           The chief of the Mohammedan festivals.

_Nautch_             A professional dance, an Oriental music-hall, a
                       theatrical performance. A word so eastern that it
                       cannot be translated into English.
_Nautch ghât_        A theatre, the place where a nautch is held.

_Obi (J.)_           A narrow belt worn above the broad sash. A girdle. It
                       fastens in front.
_Okurina (J.)_       A new name given to the dead.

_Padre sahib_        Clergyman, chaplain.
_Phulkaris_          Draperies embroidered, and with small, circular,
                       slightly convex mirrors sewn in the pattern.
_Pice_               A small coin equal in value to one-fourth of an anna.
_Pie_                A very small coin worth a fraction of a pice.

_Potsoe (B.)_        Skirt cloth worn by a man.
_Punkah_             A fan, also a large fan made of cloth and hung from
                       the ceiling.
_Punkah-wallah_      A man who pulls or swings a punkah.
_Purandhi_           A Hindoo god.
_Purdah_             A curtain.

_Rajah_              An Indian prince of a lower rank than a Maharajah.
_’Rickshaw_          An abbreviation of jinrickshaw.
_Rupee_              An Indian silver coin, originally worth two
                       shillings. It is now worth one shilling and
                       threepence.

_Sahib_              A gentleman, master, sir.
_Sais_               A groom, a footman.
_Saki (J.)_          A liquor made of rice.
_Salaam_             This word has more meanings than any other word I
                       know. It is used to express ceremonious and
                       complimentary greeting. It means “thank you.” It
                       means acquiescence.
_Sampan (C.)_        A small, rude, native boat.
_Saptapadi_          “Seven steps,” part of the Brahmin marriage ceremony.
_Sari_               A cloth or garment worn by women. One end is wrapped
                       about the hips, and, hanging to the ground, forms a
                       skirt. The other end is brought up and worn over
                       the head.
_Satsuma (J.)_       A peculiarly beautiful and valuable pottery. It is
                       especially noted for its high glaze, the exquisite
                       painting with which it is decorated, and for its
                       interesting history.
_Savitá_             A Hindoo god.
_Sayonara (J.)_      Good-bye. But it is also used by Europeans and to
                       Europeans as a greeting or salutation.
_Sen (C. and J.)_    A cent, one hundredth of a yen.
_Sew-sew amahs (C.)_ Women who go from door to door and do mending.
_Shástras_           A sacred book, considered to be of divine authority.
_Snátaka_            A Brahmin who has finished his studies.
_Soma_               A Hindoo god.

_Tali_               A cord or necklace on which talismans are strung. It
                       is worn by all Hindoo married women.
_Tamein (B.)_        Skirt cloth worn by a woman.
_Tâzia_              A concoction of paper, tinsel, etc., carried in
                       Mohammedan processions.
_Tiffin_             Lunch.
_Tom-tom (C.)_       A brass musical instrument, or rather instrument of
                       noise.
_Tonga_              A vehicle used on the hills. It will hold four,
                       including the driver.
_Topee_              A pith sun-hat or helmet.
_Tum-tum_            A dogcart.

_Viváha-hôma_        The marriage sacrifice. Part of the Brahmin marriage
                       ceremonial.

_Wallah_             A man.

_Yen (C. and J.)_    A dollar. It is worth a little more than three
                       shillings.

                                THE END


                _Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, _Edinburgh_



Transcriber’s Notes:

Archaic spellings and hyphenation have been retained. Punctuation and
obvious typesetting errors have been corrected without note. Some
illustrations have been moved slightly from their original positions to
keep paragraphs intact. Glossary was added to the Contents for reader
convenience.

[End of _When We Were Strolling Players in the East_ by Louise Jordan
Miln]





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