They were printed with those wooden blocks by which these barbarians practised the art of printing for centuries before the time of Caxton. Many of them also were in manuscript, which must have meant years of labour, and hand-painted pictures illustrating some were occasionally to be found. They were all alike consigned to the same funeral pyre, and thousands of volumes of unascertained, but perhaps considerable, value were thus lost to the world for ever. As the bleak, cold winds from the plains swept down the deserted street at night, and moaned dolorously through the ruined houses, rattling doors, and flapping paper windows, it lifted these torn book-leaves, and swirled them round in a fantastic dance of death, until one could almost imagine one heard the lamentation of the ghosts of their long-dead authors—priests, hermits, and scholars—mourning over the ashes of their life-work.
The whole of this campaign is the reverse of flattering to our Western civilisation. Many of the details of the conduct of the Russian, French, and German soldiers do not bear publication. But what it broadly amounts to is the treatment of a venerable civilisation absolutely foreign to our own as if its members belonged to a low class of pestiferous beasts whose most desirable fate would be extermination.
After spending five months with the British forces in the early part of the war in the Transvaal, and then having an opportunity of campaigning with the allied forces in China, it was extremely interesting to make comparisons between them. The greater number of the troops we employed in China were drawn from the Army of India. As regards the French forces, they, at all events during the original march to the relief of the Legations, were drawn from the troops which were stationed at Tonkin. But the French troops that subsequently arrived direct from France, as well as the German contingent, may naturally be taken as average samples of their respective armies. It is true that outside the siege of Tientsin there was very little serious fighting. The engagements on the march up were not severe ones, except that outside the eastern gate of Pekin itself. The action here, however, was entirely confined to the Japanese. If this campaign did not afford opportunities of observing the various troops under severe strain of battle, it made up for it in a way by testing their qualities, resources, and equipment for campaigning under exceptionally trying circumstances. The weather during August, when the march for the relief took place, was exceptionally hot, far surpassing anything that I experienced in South Africa. The roads, where there were any that might be dignified by that name, were extremely bad, the dust was intense, the supply of water of the most inferior quality, and the expedition, not being under the command of one general, added irksome difficulties by the uncertainty of the movements of its constituent parts from day to day.
Fighting is not the sole duty of soldiers in the field, and in almost all their other duties apart from that we had ample and varied opportunities of contrasting their merits. The Japanese infantry were a surprise and a revelation to most of the Allies. Notwithstanding the enormous trouble they have taken with their cavalry, it is immensely inferior to every other arm of their service. This is not to be wondered at when we reflect how little the Japanese are accustomed to horse-riding at home, and what small opportunities they have of acquiring that knowledge of the management of horses which comes instinctively to the English groom, to the Irish farmer's son, or to the field labourer. The defect of a want of efficient cavalry is with the Japanese largely compensated for by the extreme mobility of their infantry. They appear to do everything at the double. All their soldiers seem to be perpetually kept in the best of hard training. If they have not horses at home, they have plenty of rickshaw men, who consider thirty to thirty-five miles of running not an excessive day's work.
Often watching the Japanese manoeuvring in the field, it occurred to me that if the men of her entire army had not served an apprenticeship between the shafts of the rickshaw, they must at least have passed through some training equally severe. On the expedition to Pekin they carried with them a number of light calibre guns, which they pulled into action, without horses, right into the firing line. In every detail of their camp equipment, food-supply, and field hospital corps, there was a neatness of packing and arrangement which apparently resulted in their carrying all their requirements in about a third less space than any of the others. The simple fare of the Japanese soldiers was ideal for campaigning. Broadly speaking, it consists of rice, with what might be called a flavouring of strong-tasting dried fish and mysterious brown condiments suggestive of curry. As they have modelled their fleet on our own, so they have drawn from the French and German armies a selection of their uniform and equipment. The colour of their uniform at home is dark blue. But during the expedition to Pekin their uniform was white, which would have been murderously conspicuous in operations against any force that was composed of less bad marksmen than the Chinese. This is now to be abandoned, and is to be replaced by something in the nature of khaki, as will be the heavy round German caps by something in the nature of straw hats or helmets, which will give more protection against the sun, although not looking so smart.
Although the officers of all the Allies were immensely struck by the discipline and equipment of the Japanese, close observers were still more attracted by the underlying soldier spirit which animates them. An inherent spirit of soldiering seems to possess every little Jap as a natural heritage. They seem to love fighting for fighting's sake. They appear to enjoy the whole thing like schoolboys do their games. They take their killing much more kindly than the others, and appear to be much more familiarised with the idea that it is part of the game. Indeed, there is a zest and a verve and go about them when in action that I have never seen in any other troops. There were numerous instances in the siege of Tientsin of disregard of death. And outside the gates of Pekin ten men who were killed in their attempts to blow it up might apparently have been indefinitely multiplied at the command of their officers without any danger of faltering. When at ten o'clock at night they advanced to take the gate by assault which they had failed to force in the morning, it was immensely attractive to observe the gaiety, almost amounting to hilarity, with which they advanced to the attack. All movements such as this they accompany with singing. And after forcing the gate, when they met with opposition going along the wall and had to lie down before a hot fire from the Chinese, who made a final stand about half a mile from the gate, the Japanese buglers stood up and played some of their quaint war-songs.
At night, in the camps on the way up, what I had mistaken for some Buddhist evening prayer, when the soldiers tramped round like a human prayer-wheel, was, I subsequently discovered, the chanting of a war-song which had been composed by General Fukushima himself.
The interesting thing to observe will be to see how the Japanese behave when they are getting the worst of it, how they will conduct themselves when they are outnumbered, or when under the strain of a losing fight. From a sporting standpoint, I'll be inclined to lay six to four on a Japanese against a Russian regiment. I met some people on the way to Pekin who regarded the Russians as the best war soldiers of the lot. The Russians were intensely like the preconceived idea one is inclined to form of Russians. Solid, deep-chested, heavy and hardy, they gave one the idea of big, heavy farm labourers with a rifle instead of a spade upon their shoulders. They never moved with anything like the quickness which characterised the Japanese, yet they plodded on with a dour stubbornness which gave the impression that if their movements were not quick, they represented a weighty momentum difficult to arrest. Although uncouth, and frequently savage in their behaviour, they yielded a child-like, or almost slavish, obedience to their officers, and on these officers should lie the blame of the innumerable outrages committed by them, from which they might have been restrained if kept properly under control.
Of the many tips which one force got from another, the Russians had an admirable system of carrying with them on the march a sort of locomotive kitchen, which consisted of a huge cauldron underneath which was a coal fire. The contents of the cauldron, which appeared to be the Russian equivalent for Irish stew, were hot and ready for the men at any halt in the march. How delightful such an institution would have been to Tommy in the miserably cold hours between two and four o'clock on the veldt of a South African morning!
As regards the French force on the expedition to Pekin, in discipline and in equipment and the conduct of the men composing it, it was absolutely beneath contempt. Unless the art of foraging and looting can be considered soldier-like qualities, they appeared to me to lack every one.
I looked forward to seeing great things from the Germans. But I must say that I was immensely disappointed. As far as parade-ground drill was concerned they were admirable; as the mechanical and automatic resultants of the efforts of the drill-sergeant they were possibly unequalled. But they appeared to be heavy and slow in their movements. On one little expedition outside Pekin for the purpose of surrounding a body of Boxers, which was undertaken by a combined force of British, Americans, Japanese, and Germans, the encircling movement proved a failure owing to the Germans arriving an hour late at their appointed position. Discussing the Germans one day with a Japanese officer, his criticism on them was, "Very good soldiers, but I tink too much drill drill."
If the Germans suffer from too much mechanical "drill drill," the Americans certainly suffer from the opposite. Self-reliance, independence, and individuality of action are all very desirable qualities, but the Americans suffer immensely from the want of discipline and drill. Perhaps the democratic feeling of the States does not lend itself so easily to discipline. Each one of Napoleon's soldiers was supposed to carry a marshal's baton in his knapsack. The American soldier has taken it therefrom, and is rather inclined to be a marshal unto himself, thinks himself quite as good as his superior officer, if not better, and, more than any other soldier, is given to grumbling, and spends a lot of his attention, which should be concentrated on merely obeying, to expressing his individual opinion. The United States soldiers are far and away the best fed in the world. Their standard of comfort, not to say luxury, is immensely higher, and would be absolutely ruinous in an army the size of any of those of Europe.
Comparing the various forces—as I had an opportunity of observing them in China—with those of our own in South Africa, I am filled with a much higher idea of the latter than before I had such a standard of comparison. Our army, composed as it is in part of Colonial regiments, is now a combination of various admirable qualifications. The resourcefulness and individuality of action, which is the most admirable thing to be found in the American army, was quite equalled by men who composed such regiments as the Imperial Light Horse, the South African Horse, Brabant's Horse, the New Zealanders, and the Canadians.
The inspiring, ingrained fighting spirit of the Japs is to be found in the Irish regiments, who are probably the best fighting men in the world; the chivalrous gallantry of artillery in action, which Zola wrote of in La Debacle, I saw in quivering vitality at Elandslaagte and Rietfontein, and not by the hastening of a step was the old tradition of our artillery (to go into action at a gallop and come out at a walk) forgotten in actions outside Ladysmith. Superior-speaking, long-range critics talk disparagingly of our soldiers in the Transvaal. Germans talk of how things should have been done, forgetting that the little expedition they sent out to China was kept waiting for a month at Tientsin before the men could start for Paoting-fu, owing to the non-arrival of some essentials of their equipment.
Far be it from me to think of posing as a military expert or a sort of composite military attache to the allied forces. I speak merely as an observant outsider. In riding to hounds one soon learns the men one would select to ride against the pick of another pack. One feels in his "innards" the man he would like to go tiger-shooting with, although it would be another matter to put down his reasons in writing, and much more so with soldiers in the field.
From what I have seen in South Africa and China, I feel and know it—luminously know it in the marrow of my intelligence—that for that South African job, if it were to be done over again, I would select the British; that they have done, not alone as well, but better than any other nation would have done. Many things might have been done better. But apart from the question of transport, when I saw the others there were everywhere signs of their probable failures being infinitely more numerous.
There are only two armies that, granted the possibility of their being landed in South Africa, could have conceivably tackled the job. These are the Japanese and the Germans. The Japs would probably have failed from their want of efficient mounted infantry or cavalry; the beer-blown Germans would have been worn down by men of better physical training. The war-knowledgeable brain, looking out through spectacled eyes, would droop tired in its physical limber until it was brought on a level with the less scientific but more practical weapon of the polo-playing, cricketing, footballing British officer.
The Chinese had reached that ideal which we, at the end of the past century, were making an initial attempt to attain to in the calling together of the Hague Conference. For they had reached the stage of advanced development where the pen is really mightier than the sword—where the highest class in the community is that of the scholar, the next that of the man who tills the soil, and the last that of the man whose occupation it is to kill his fellow-man. Thus the Orientals were naturally at the mercy of the Western countries, the largest expenditure of whose revenue is absorbed by the cost of killing-machines and men to work them.
The Chinese have a saying that, as the best iron is not made into nails, so the best men are not made into soldiers. With our Western civilisation, the best men and steel and soldiers found them an easy victim. There are no people in the world who have a higher regard for abstract justice and right than the Chinese. It is admitted by every man who has had large commercial dealings with them that there are no people who have a greater regard for straightforward, honest dealing. In our dealings with them, as regards this campaign, right and justice in every case have given place to might.
When the German officer I have referred to above pointed towards the fields of millet which he wished to have burned, I was strikingly reminded of a certain mysterious picture which some years ago had been inspired or drawn by his Emperor and Kaiser. It had been called by some "The Yellow Peril," and depicts the figure of Germania, surrounded by the nations of Europe, standing on a pinnacle, and pointing to a broad plain below traversed by a river, and from the plain volumes of smoke rose skywards. No one seemed to know quite definitely what the actual meaning of the picture was. But since this latest crusade towards Pekin, the real meaning of it is suggested. In this campaign of revenge, with the Germans as the leading performers in it, animated and inspired by the speeches of their Emperor, the picture, now illustrative of recent history, might bear a more actual meaning.
"And Caesar's spirit raging for revenge, With Ate by his side, come hot from hell, Shall in these confines, with a monarch's voice, Cry 'Havoc!' and let slip the dogs of war, That this foul deed shall smell above the earth With carrion men, groaning for burial."
THE CRUCIFIXION OF CHRISTIANITY IN CHINA
It was the garden of the Mission of Peitang. Not a blade of grass was showing above the ground. The roots of the grass itself had been torn up, eaten by the last few starving animals within the besieged compound before they had been killed, and the trees were absolutely stripped of their bark as high as the beasts could reach. At one side of the garden a great open crater, fringed with the ruins of buildings, showed where a mine had exploded. The cross on the Cathedral hard by was broken, and its Gothic architecture additionally fretted by the scoring marks of shot and shell. But I think nothing told more forcibly the tale of the ordeal through which the garrison had passed than did these gnawed, naked tree-trunks.
I was shown round the day after its relief by one of the Sisters, which, by the way, was effected by the Japanese, but not until the third day after the Legations had been relieved, although it was only twenty minutes' ride distant from them. The Mother Superior, seventy-four years of age, who had spent thirty-eight years of her life in Chinese mission work, lay dying—a daughter of Count Barais, of Chateau Barais, near Bordeaux. She had belonged to the Order of Sisters of Charity since her eighteenth year. Three mines had exploded within the Mission enclosure, and walls and roofs were riddled and lay tossed about in grotesque confusion. I went into the Cathedral church, which they were using as a hospital.
Coming from the glare of white light outside, it was some moments before I could distinguish anything in the gloom within. By degrees one made out rows of rounded forms of little children lying on the floor. Above, the stained-glass windows were broken in many places, and the roof perforated where shells had entered, letting in shafts of light that fell aslant the gloom. High up on the wall one lit up a figure of Christ that with bowed head and extended, nail-pierced hands seemed to point in eloquent silence to the little suffering children below. The entire floor of the church, even up to the extinguished lamp of the sanctuary, was occupied with them. In one explosion alone eighty children were killed, and a still greater number injured. Many more were ailing for want of sufficient food, because when the actual relief came they had been reduced to only two ounces of rice per day, and had but two days' rations left. Other children, who were helping the nuns, moved noiselessly about among the prostrate forms. The hushed silence of sanctuary was broken only by low moaning, or the querulous sobbing of little children weary with pain. The Sister brought me to see one little mite, whom she called the "first fruit" of their recommenced labour.
It was a strange story, that of this little child. The French soldiers who occupied that quarter of the city had come across a house where, stretched on the kang side by side, were the bodies of all its occupants. They had committed suicide on the advent of the Allies. As the soldiers had not time to bury them immediately, intent as they were on pillaging and looting the neighbourhood, they threw lime on the bodies. After two days, when they came to throw their remains into a pit which had been dug for their burial, they found that the youngest victim was yet alive, and carried her, with her hair still caked with lime, to the nuns.
In the midst of these ruins these good women, mostly of gentle birth, were striving to recommence their labours, and nurse, and feed, and teach the children that remained. But, conversing with them, one perceived, underlying their heroic resignation, a strain of very human despondency and disappointment. Their talk here was not of compensation. It was merely of how they could get their ruined mission-house fit for work again—the work for which they had left father and mother and friends, and their homes in far-off France.
It was not quite the same elsewhere, however. There were some missionaries who appeared to take a different view of the situation. Already they were lodging claims with their respective Consuls, and in order to guard themselves against the dilatoriness or uncertainty of action of their various Governments they were taking measures to secure immediate compensation.
One reverend gentleman, for instance, was to be seen day after day holding a sale of loot in a house that he had taken possession of. Another, an American, was carrying on a similar sale in a palatial mansion which he had commandeered. The latter was to be seen surrounded by jade and porcelain vases, costly embroideries from the spoiled temples, sable cloaks and various other furs, and rows of Buddhas arranged like wild-fowl in a poulterer's shop. As his stock became depleted he was in a position to ask any unsatisfied customer to call in again, as his converts were bringing in fresh supplies of loot almost every day!
Indeed, not satisfied with the proceeds of his loot sale, this worthy man was enterprising enough to levy compensation on the Chinese, and, in addition to recovering the full value of the damage sustained by his converts, inflicted fines that exceeded that amount—according to his own admission—by one-third.
There are others who took possession of Chinese houses wholesale, and found a source of income in letting or leasing them. The fact of their having a number of converts to support was given by them as a justification of their actions. Unquestionably they had a large number more or less dependent upon them, but some other means might surely have been found. They were very busy in those days. And perhaps that accounts for their taking no notice of the actions of various portions of the Allied soldiery. Wholesale robbery, cruelty, and the raping of women were going on all round; a regular orgy of rapine surged through the captured city. Yet not one solitary voice of protest was heard.
It would be gratifying to think that, amidst all these exponents of the doctrine of the Sermon on the Mount, there was one who called for mercy on the conquered, or asked that even common humanity should be shown them, or even reminded the generals of their own rules of war and fair fighting, or who raised his voice for justice, even if he did not in compassion. What an opportunity lost, which would not have been thrown away on the Chinese, of showing in practice what they had been preaching—"Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for them that despitefully use you." If, instead of selling images of Buddha, they had used their influence to preserve his temples from desecration and defilement, or offered sanctuary to his priests, it is certain that they would have more materially furthered the cause they have in hand.
It would be wrong to say that not one solitary voice was raised. 'Tis true it was not raised by any missionary. But there is a rough-looking soldier with a strong face that looks as if it had been hewn out of a block of red sandstone with a blunt hatchet—General Chaffee, of the United States Army. He would be called in England a "ranker." He, not content, as Sir Alfred Gaselee was, with keeping his own men from disgracing their country's flag, wrote a letter of remonstrance to Count Waldersee, and received a snub in return for an action which, nevertheless, redounds immensely to his credit.
Christianity in China has received a staggering blow, from which it will not recover during the lives of the present generation. Its progress, so far as any one can see, in the immediate future is at an end. It is even questionable whether it will not be wiped out altogether in Northern China. The terrible assaults by Boxers will largely decrease the number of converts. The temporal advantages that formerly ensued from its profession are now more than counterbalanced by the hatred and persecution that Christianity entails. The worst blow it has received has been through the conduct of the Allied soldiery during the late invasion. These men have crucified it in China as truly as the soldiers of Pilate did its Founder. And even the Christian missionaries raised no protest against the crucifixion.
Let us hear what a Chinaman says in a book just published, the author writing under the name of "Wen Ching." I heard the identical opinions expressed by many intellectual Chinese.
"For their gifts," he says, "to the West in the shape of silk, tea, and the magnetic compass, the Chinese have so far in return received opium, missionaries, and bombardment." "The literati, the backbone of China ... are not kindly spoken of by missionaries, nor are they liked by foreigners."
It is only "the lower orders that have always been very susceptible to the teaching of foreigners. Their ignorance and their poverty furnish ample reasons for their willingness to join the churches of the Europeans."
Also "the claims of missionaries to a right of travel and residence in the interior ... are founded on no higher authority than an interpolation by a missionary translator into the Chinese text of the treaty between France and China." That "the disturbance of a local fengshui by a church spire is considered as much of a grievance as the erection of a hideous tannery beside Westminster Abbey would be."
He says that "the Christian religion spread chiefly, if not entirely, among the poorer people, until it was discovered that political advantages accrued to the convert." For "in many places the missionary intrudes himself into the Chinese court, and sits beside the magistrate to hear a case between his convert and a non-Christian native. The influence of the missionary is very great, and the official is often pestered and worried by the messengers of the Gospel." Therefore the Christian converts are voted a "source of trouble and a nuisance."
Still, in this writer's opinion, "nothing has done so much harm to the cause of the missionary as this forcing the opium trade on the people." "If there are honest missionaries," he remarks, "there are also sincere believers in the ancient faiths of Cathay to resent the insidious encroachments of blatant foreign priests, who preach to the heathen the doctrines of self-imposed poverty and mendicancy, and yet themselves live sumptuously enough in comfortable houses, surrounded by a wife and a numerous progeny, in the midst of heathen squalor and misery."
These are just a few extracts from the views of an intelligent Chinaman as regards the question of missionaries in his country. But in conversation with others I heard similar opinions more forcibly put. They point out that the various exponents of Christianity insist that each alone expounds the right version, which is puzzling to the Chinese, and that the missionaries actually have not agreed as to the name of their God, as they use five different characters.
Within the radius of an eighteen-penny cab fare from where I write, I think there is plenty of spiritually productive work for all the missionaries in China; work for all the sincere, self-sacrificing missionaries—and there are still many of them in China—men animated by the spirit of the Twelve Fishermen, who have not adopted their profession as a means of livelihood, in addition to a secure income getting an extra L30 for every baby born in their families. And within the radius I speak of, they would not first have the task of weaning the people away from the doctrines of Confucius or Buddha—"Him all wisest, best, most pitiful, whose lips comfort the world," which doctrines are the very breathing—the life—of their social as well as spiritual being. When the Chinese see the German Emperor using missionaries as live-bait to catch a province, and the French insisting upon being given another as the price of a few members of one of those religious orders they have expelled from France, it is no wonder that from that stricken, bullied, cheated people the cry goes up to the empty heavens—
"To my own Gods I go. It may be they shall give me greater ease Than your cold Christ and tangled Trinities."
EX ORIENTE LUX
What is a barbarian? In many of the Chinese edicts we see the term perpetually applied to those people outside the Celestial Kingdom, and to all those who are not Chinese. The Japanese are far too polite to use such a word. Yet I have spoken to Japanese artists who, in referring to European taste in Art, used a word equivalent to barbarous. The average free-born Briton travelling round the world carries with him, or is supposed to carry with him, his Bible, and a taste for Bass's beer and beefsteak. According as a country does or does not possess these essentials, and according as its own attributes of civilisation are removed from his own standards of perfection, so does he regard its inhabitants as more or less barbarians. (I was rather amused watching a play in Tokio once, where the villain of the piece was a red-whiskered Englishman, in a loud crossbar suit and a fore-and-aft cap, who was always shown on the stage with half a dozen bottles of Bass on a table beside him.) When we bear in mind how much Britishers despise their next-door neighbours across the Channel for their defective beefsteakiali-ties, it is not surprising that such a feeling should be greatly intensified when they come in contact with a civilisation so much more alien and remote from their own as that of China and Japan. It needs only a quiet observation and the smallest degree of intellectual elasticity to be forced to the conclusion that the advantages are not altogether on our side, and that there is great scope for the East to send social missionaries to the West. Socially, I think we have far more to learn from them than they have to learn from us. And, curiously enough, if such a mission were started, it would not be entirely to teach us new things, but in many ways it would be recalling us to points which we have hurried away from in the rapid progress of our material civilisation for the last couple of hundred years.
The central idea, the social pivot, the focus of the life, of the civilisation of the East is to be found in their idea of the home. The home is the centre of gravity of their existence, round which everything else revolves. In China it is the all-pervading, all-vivifying idea of social life, of religion, and of government. The life of the family is not only of to-day, but extends back into a venerable past, and is the hope and care of the future.
For us, the dead past buries its dead, and the flowers that we lay on the newly-made grave quickly wither on the freshly-turned clay on which we have left them—except where the place of natural ones is taken by those deliciously ironical representations in the shape of tin—waterproof imitations which save the mourner the trouble of renewal.
As to the love of the Chinese and Japanese for their children, it has to be seen to be appreciated. Those wise-eyed little mites, who before they can walk sit perpetually enthroned upon their mothers' backs throughout the livelong day, are a source of so much joy and adoration to their parents that one feels no surprise at not hearing them cry as other children do. I only recollect hearing a child cry once during a two months' stay in Japan, and then there was an excuse for its dolorous plaint, because its mother was shaving its little head with a blunt razor and no soap. It must be obvious to the student of our Western civilisation that the cult of family life is on the decline. The ties and obligations which hold children and parents together are visibly slackening, and this is the more obvious amongst those nations which have been taking the lead in the material progress of our time.
Take the United States, for instance. There, up to a certain point, the father is regarded as the dollar-grinding machine. The tendency is for both sons and daughters to cast themselves loose from parental ties, and strike out afresh for themselves. And their parents are as little responsible for them as they are for the maintenance or happiness of their parents.
Any one who is familiar with life in the East End of London will appreciate how little these worn-out toilers, when old age incapacitates them from work, can rely on being kept out of the Union by their children. With the experience of nearly two thousand years of the progress of Christendom, it is not surprising that a short time ago we should hear the present occupant of the Papal Throne raising his aged voice to recall the attention of the West to how rapidly the idea of the family was being lost, as Leo XIII. did in the Encyclical Address to the Catholic Church on the subject of the Holy Family.
From the more important teaching as regards family life, these Oriental missionaries might then endeavour to tell us something of the Fine Arts in the East, and yet more of the spirit which animates their artists. They would be able to show us that "art for art's sake" with them is no empty phrase. It would doubtless surprise many Westerners to know that a Chinese painter would not think of selling his pictures for money, but paints them for his own pleasure, and gives his work as presents to his friends, and would no more dream of selling a picture than an English girl would of selling a kiss.
The Japanese would have a lot to tell us about bringing art, and that their highest and best art, into the utensils of everyday life, and that there is nothing demeaning in expending the best work on things one handles and uses every day. What a lot they would have to tell us of the cultivation and their love of flowers—a love which seems instinct in the poorest peasant, and which in the more cultivated classes is carried to an exquisite degree of refined development! And again, a Japanese incense party, where different qualities of delicately aromatic incense are passed round—and the pastime consists in placing the different qualities in the order of the beauty of their perfume—would almost suggest that the West had neglected the cultivation of one of the five senses.
At a dinner-party at a well-known restaurant, the other night, it was forcibly brought to my mind what a lot they would have to teach us regarding the enjoyment of such social functions. A perfect din and rattle of plates and knives filled the air, a mob of undisciplined servants charged about tumultuously, garish lights lit up vulgar ornamentation, and one almost had to shout to be heard across the table, while a band of music outside ineffectually endeavoured to drown the din within. There were flowers, it is true, but their profusion was no compensation for an utter lack of artistic arrangement. But there was a complete absence of that repose, that restfulness, that calm, which is considered, and justly considered, amongst Easterns as the essential atmosphere for the enjoyment of a social repast. The Japanese have raised entertainment to the level of a fine art. Their tea ceremonies, as we have badly translated the "Cha'-no-yu," but which might be preferably rendered as "The Fine Art of Welcome and Hospitality," have been a strong influence in preventing them from drifting into the meretricious gaudiness so blatantly en evidence in restaurants like the Carlton, and minister to that purity and simplicity of taste which is so characteristic of Japanese art. Five is considered by them the best number for a dinner-party, as with a larger number separate conversational groups are apt to be formed. The Japanese gentleman has rooms specially built for these parties, and rooms only just large enough to hold his guests comfortably. One scroll is hung in the kakemono, and in front of it one ornament, and afterwards a solitary flower. It would be considered by them extremely bad taste to confuse or dissipate the attention by a variety of ornaments.
A Japanese lady once showed me a photo of the drawing-room at Sandringham, which greatly amused her, and which she kept as a curiosity. (She was too polite to say as a curiosity of barbarism.) But she said, laughing, "Is it not just like a curio-dealer's shop?"
The dinner, which actually precedes the tea-drinking, is served by the host in person, thus doing away with the intrusion of even their deft and quiet-moving servants. Every cup, every plate, is an individual art treasure, from the Godown in which the host's artistic treasures are kept in a seclusion that his most intimate friends have never penetrated. They have probably never seen the same picture or the same ornament twice in the kakemono. From the soft mellow music of the old gong which summons them to the repast, on through its various stages, until the rare and beautiful bowl out of which they have had tea is passed round for appreciative inspection, an air of refined repose has characterised the whole proceedings.
These social missionaries might progress from giving us some insight into these things to the introduction of another institution which would be an unquestionable advantage to our civilisation—I refer to the Geisha. Supposing that they were successful in grafting this Japanese idea, the Western edition would work out somewhat thuswise. Take, for instance, a bachelor coming up from Oxford or Cambridge, or, say, a merchant up from Liverpool or Manchester, instead of having a solitary dinner at his club, if he wished for the relaxation of vivacious female companionship, he would go to the telephone, and ring up "Geishas, Limited," and send word that he wanted one, or more, for dinner that evening. There would in due course, at the restaurant appointed, appear a girl with the dress, appearance, and manners of a lady. Whatever her looks might be, whatever her attractions, she would unfailingly be bright, intelligent, well-mannered, and, above all, entertaining, for her being entertaining would be her metier, her occupation, her raison d'etre. And, contrary to what is frequently supposed from a mistaken acquaintance with this Japanese institution, she would not be in the least facile or accessible. Our ideas of feminine Japan are too much based on the circumscribed experiences of holiday travellers, or books of the bad taste of Pierre Loti's "Madame Chrysantheme." We do not judge the women of England by Leicester Square, nor of Paris by those of the Moulin Rouge. Amongst the accomplishments of these Geisha girls music and singing would be most important. There seems much more refinement and comfort in bringing the music and singing to you than in going to the singing and music. A party of men dining together would not be driven to adjourn to a music-hall after dinner. They could order it as part of the menu.
But these Oriental missionaries, in addition to introducing such an institution, would have a field for their labours in raising their clients and customers to the standard of Japanese civilisation in the enjoyment of it. I present the idea gratis to any enterprising people who are troubled with the question. What to do with our girls!
But Orientals would have little to teach us in what the Chinese call "make face," which enters into many of the actions of our daily life quite as much as it does into theirs. How thankful we should be that it does not also enter into our religious life! How thoroughly the Chinese must be impressed with this by their recent experiences of our Latest Crusaders! I was listening the other day to a gentleman descanting "on the darkness that enveloped those Pagan barbarians," and I was thinking of another darkness or blindness which prevented the speaker, and many like him, from seeing the least gleam of light in the East. Yet it does not require much hand-shading of our intellectual eyes to see EX ORIENTE LUX.
NIGHT IN THE CITY OF UNREST
"How beautiful is night! A dewy freshness fills the silent air; No mist obscures, nor cloud, nor speck, nor stain Breaks the serene of heaven: In full-orbed glory, yonder moon divine Rolls through the dark-blue depths. Beneath her steady ray The desert-circle spreads Like the round ocean, girdled with the sky. How beautiful is night!"
Night really unrobes her beauty only in silence, the silence of the desert. Never can I forget nights spent in Western Australia, far beyond Kalgoorlie, away back in the Never-Never Land, where no rain falls. That is the land of great thirst, where for hundreds of miles one sees no living thing, where no birds sing, not even the mournful call of the jackal echoes across the waste, and not even the chirping ticking of an insect is to be heard to break the utter stillness. Gum trees, whose roots strike down a hundred feet for water, lift up their sparsely-covered branches into the motionless air above, their tongue-like leaves silently saying "I thirst." In that stagnant air they remind one of the giant seaweeds that grow in the depths of the great oceans where the water never moves; and the silence there is the silence of ocean depths, and so has been from the beginning. To-day my horse's tracks made five years ago are probably as fresh as were those which I followed that had been made two years before that time. It must be experienced to be realised, that dead silence; when lying on the ground at night the sound of one's heart-beats or the breathing of one's horse, tethered yards away, alone tells one that the sense of hearing is not lost. It must be experienced to be loved, that wonder of a silent world, where the Spirit of Solitude in his own domain for ever almost palpably seems to brood with finger on pressed lips. It is the contrast with the scene that lies below me that forcibly recalls these nights in the desert. Now, as I write, I am at the Antipodes, and focus points of contrast in every sense to these scenes; the same moon that shines on that far-off desert is the only thing in common.
The city of New York is in the form of a wedge, the point of the wedge being the down-town end, a great black mass that now looks driven into the moonlit water. Down here, as if with sheer weight of pressure of crowding humanity, the houses seem driven upward. There being not enough room on the end of the wedge for the people, they are forced upwards for room, as one would squeeze paint from an artist's tube. They rise up in tall, irregular-shaped shafts of various heights, as a child might stand its long toy bricks on end anyhow. As I write I am looking down from the thirtieth story of one of the highest, feeling as if I had been "set on the pinnacle of the Temple" (of Mammon?). The great city lies below me, but though it is night it does not appear to lie in repose. If it sleeps, it is a restless, troubled sleep. The air is vocal with many noises that come up from below as an exhalation; white flames of steam wave from the tops of buildings below me. Up here on this giddy height a hot wind of the upper air is blowing, and a vibrating, murmurous throbbing pulsates through the building itself. This latter is caused by the elevators, those veins and arteries of the structure, and their motion must never cease or else a clot of humanity would be left marooned in the upper storeys. Across the river on the west side a row of lights are moving in one direction, and alongside them a row moving in the opposite, like ants at work. These are the trolly-cars crossing Brooklyn Bridge. North and south, to the sound of a jangling rattle, the trams on the Elevated are moving, and along the streets the trolly-cars, with their booming note, which crescendoes up the scale with increasing speed and diminuendoes with the slackening of it. Out on the water the red and green lights of the steamers move about in irregular tracks. The booming, mournful call of these steamers, like the lowing of a cow for her lost calf, goes on for ever. There are times in the desert when the coyote and the jackal are silent; on forlorn coasts in the hours before the first of dawn the seagulls cease their screaming; but these voices are never silent, calling, circling, and cawing, calling around the City of Unrest. Different notes they sound—the angry scream of the steam siren, the deep boom of the incoming ocean liner, and the note one hears oftenest—a mournful, lost wail, as of a damned soul calling out, "Custos, quid de nocte?" "Custos, quid de nocte?" The feverish hours pass troublously, but there is no response in the night of the City of Unrest.
Now a great change has come over the scene; the moon has been curtained off by a heavy mass of clouds, and its light is shut off from the water. The lights of the city shine out with increased distinctness; the moonlight that whitened the sides of the buildings now has left them black masses of vague shadow, and all at once one gets the impression of looking down into an inverted firmament studded with countless stars of as various magnitudes as in the heavens, from the bright electric arc-lights to tiny gaslights; and from this height of over 400 feet one gets the impression, familiar to those who have looked at the world from a balloon, that the rim of the horizon rises all round. "Around the circle of the desert spreads," but the desert now is of the cloud-covered sky, and far as the eye can reach are the stars of this great city, and now through that firmament of stars there is a dark path in an unilluminated Milky Way which marks the course of the river.
As one looks down from here and listens to the combination of throbbing sounds that come up from below, there is a certain impressiveness in the thought of being in the centre of such focused activity. One seems to be pressing the ear close to the heart of a great country. I wonder what that other city looked like from the pinnacle of whose temple He looked down on the other great cities that had their day? What Carthage looked like? The present edition of Rome and Paris and London, and Pekin from the Imperial pagodas on the top of Coal Hill, I have looked down on at night, but none of them is like this. From the Capitol Rome lies quietly wrapped in the memories of past greatness; from the hill of Montmartre the electric lights here and there give suggestive glimpses of the City of Pleasure. In Pekin, looking across the lotus-pond and the marble bridges, all that is squalid in the city is shrouded in a veil of foliage, and above the tops of the trees only what is beautiful emerges, and the city sleeps in the enjoyment of thoroughly Oriental repose; and, like a solidly-built, healthy man, London sleeps soundly; but the strenuous, restless activity of this city can hardly be said to sleep. I watched it make an attempt at a pause for five minutes on the day of the President's funeral. At an appointed time all the street traffic was supposed to stand still. My! what an effort it was! It was not a real pause; it seemed more like the gasping holding of the city's breath, holding for these five minutes as if something were going to burst; and then at the second when the clock marked the end of the five minutes on went everything spinning with a feeling of absolute relief. As one looks down from here one cannot help speculating as to what is to be the future of what lies below. Is it going to be the greatest city that the world has ever seen—in real greatness, or only in acute development of material civilisation; and are the multitudes that populate it going to get more happiness from the arcs of their little lives than those of Carthage and Rome, or Pekin, or Babylon, or London? Or are they going at the pace that kills? Or at least the pace that tires into premature exhaustion?
But leaving these speculations, as it is now one o'clock, I get into the cage of the elevator and drop down whirring as the floors toss upwards beyond me—"Down twenty-eight," and we pull up with a jerk, and a pale-faced man gets in. "Down twelve," and two tired-looking women and a small boy get on board; and then the floor on which is a newspaper office, and a crowd is waiting to descend. The paper is just going to press, and their work is done. And then right down below the level of the street I go to see the paper actually printed. Immense rolls of paper are being lowered from the street level and handled as easily as if they were of no more weight than a lead pencil, put before machines which devour them to a deafening noise of machinery. The room reminds one of the lower deck of an ironclad in action, and the workers there seem fighting for their lives—fighting against time, fighting against the machine, fighting against the paper, which would fill up the room if it were left at the discharging end of the machines without being sent rapidly aloft; and there on the floor above the men are fighting hand to hand with great bundles of papers that must be sent out in time for the morning trains. Outside in the square stand horses sufficient for the artillery of an army corps awaiting their burdens, and as I go up town by the surface car, although there is not yet any sign of light, I pass hundreds of men on their way down town to make an early start in the battle struggle of a new day in the City of Unrest.
A STREET IN THE CITY OF UNREST
It was a very wonderful sight last night, looking down from that height at the black pool of New York specked with star-like lights—a pool of darkness, where three million people slept, or tried to sleep; but it was like looking into a cup of ink to read destinies. Now, twelve hours afterwards, let us step down below into the centre of the city, when the limelight of a glaring, cloudless sun is turned full on it—when the living microcosm of its active life is thrown on the magic-lantern screen of our retina. Now we are at the base of these high buildings, and no city in Europe can show anything like them. It is difficult to know what to compare them to. We cannot compare Broadway to an avenue of poplars in stone, for the poplars are out of proportion to the avenue—far too high and far too irregular. There is no regular design, no continuous outline; immense, costly, new, they sprout upwards—sprout as if under the drawing-up power of a tropical sun, sprout as if fed with the superabundant fecundity of virgin soil. Unless they were as high, there would not be room for the people down at this crowded end of the wedge-shaped town. The want of finality about them is no less apparent in their irregularity of size than in their sides, generally blank of windows, in expectancy of buildings going up beside them probably higher still. Some of them are to be seen with white marble facades crowned with Corinthian pilasters, and the sides are of red or yellow brick, on which is probably some huge, ugly advertisement announcing that some fine five-cent cigar is "generously good," or holding out hope of relief in the shape of a pill to liver-troubled humanity. Parenthetically, I may remark that this city is, if anything, rather worse than London in the way of placards that scar the face of it. The goblin-like advertisements that spit soap and other things at unoffending eyes at night in Trafalgar Square are bad enough, but the advertisements in New York are worse still. There is a fine square here called Madison, in the centre of which trees rise from fountain-watered grass, and statued figures of people who were men in their day and did things, palatial buildings, dignifying commerce, form the square. Yet while I have been here I have watched, right over a house on one side of it, a huge white hoarding being erected, and have watched a great vulgar advertisement of cigarettes being daubed upon it. A beastly, ugly smear on one of the beauty-spots of the city.
Bang-bang; bang-bang; bang—loud, insistent; ping-ping—sharp, piercing; the first from the trolly-car, the second from a steam-trailing automobile; a booming roar from the ground accompanying the first, a buzzing rattle the second. Just a block away a far louder rattle still comes from the elevated railway. Here, down town, the streets are paved with cobble stones, and the severity of the climate in the winter is given as the excuse for the irregularity of the surface. Heavy lorries and wheels of horsed vehicles jangle over them, but the general uproar is so great that the bells on the horses' collars are inaudible, and sight is the only sense that makes their approach perceptible. The stream of trolly-cars passes and re-passes, perpetually making short pauses for the passengers to nip in quickly or—get left. Across from where I write is a restaurant with a legend above it, "Quick Lunch." This, I think, is rather peculiar to New York; in other cities it would be either "Good Lunch," or "Cheap Lunch;" here the attraction is that it is "quick." It is only necessary to watch the way that the customers hurry in and hurry out to see the significance of it. The day is not half long enough for the workers down here, and the work is at such high pressure that time for feeding can hardly be spared; it is not feeding or taking a meal, it is just stoking the human engine, and quick stoking at that.
The streets of London, even in the City, are calm and peaceful in comparison with those here in New York. The very ground throbs with vibration, the air throbs with the medley of noises, the buildings throb with both. It is not quite obvious why the streets should be so noisy. All the bells and gongs and danger-signals, one would think, would be equally effectual if they were not so loud, but now the competition of sounds is so great that any warning must almost be explosive in its violence to be audible at all. It is no wonder that we find in this city so many people suffering from nerves; it is quite surprising the number of men I have met who dare not drink coffee, men who have had to give up smoking, men and women who were too nervous to travel in a hansom, and who at frequent intervals have to retire to the country owing to various kinds of nervous trouble. There seems to be no question but that this suffering from nervous disorders is on the increase; it would be surprising if it were otherwise, considering the pace at which these people live; and when one sees thin, pallid, spectacle-wearing little children, one sees specimens of the rising generation who are destined to be still greater sufferers. As against this, and off-setting it, the taste for outdoor games seems to be on the increase, and for young business men who have little time for taking exercise nothing can be more admirable than clubs such as the athletic and the racquet clubs here, which give opportunities of taking indoor exercise on a scale unapproached by any similar institution in London.
When I left London in August and came here, it would be difficult to determine in which city the streets were more torn up. The construction of the underground railway here is in evidence all over the city; explosions from blasting are to be heard at intervals throughout the day, and in various directions huge caverns yawn, at the bottom of which hundreds of men and steel drills are hard at work. I have noticed within the last few years how the power of the street policeman has increased for regulating traffic. In return for the potatoes which Ireland originally received from America, she has ever since been supplying this country with policemen and politicians, and these former great burly, beltless Milesians now despotically rule the traffic as effectually as the London bobbies. It is characteristic that the youngsters about the streets should be keener, sharper, more active even than the youngsters of London. The lithe, thin, cigarette-smoking gamins that sell newspapers down town are a study in themselves as they dart and double through the traffic and the crowded sidewalks, selling innumerable editions of voluminous papers throughout the day.
Early in the morning going down town, during the luncheon hour, or going up town in the evening, one is struck by the enormous number of women workers who now find employment in this great city—in some offices hundreds of women, forming almost the entire staff, are employed. Their competition must make it harder still for the male clerks. Independent, self-reliant, business-like, a curious type is being developed of these bread-earners—a type that suggests the evolution of a neutral sex. Perhaps it is not altogether to be wondered at, and is only a manifestation of the idea of equality, that in the down-town cars the man no longer gives up his seat to the woman who stands holding on to the leather strap over her head in the crowded car, and does not remove his hat in the elevator when a woman enters.
Now a black-plumed vehicle comes spinning round the street corner, followed by three or four carriages with the crape-wearing drivers: apparently it is only the denseness of the traffic that prevents the hearse galloping and compels the driver to be content with a quick trot. Quick lunch, rapid life, fast funeral, devouring cremation, or else the weary toiler is laid down to have a first try at a real long sleep in the quivering bosom of the City of Unrest.
A GLIMPSE OF A SOUTHERN CITY
Every variety of climate, pace, and people is to be found in this great tract of country which has for its flag the Stars and Stripes, and any variety of taste ought to be capable of being gratified within its confines. If I were to come to live on this side of the Atlantic I think I should elect to settle in a Southern city. New York has many attractions; it has drawn to it, vortex-like, much of the best that is bright, able, active, powerful, but, vortex-like, the life swirls, spinning ceaselessly at a terrific rate, in that noisy city of unrest. Chicago accentuates the worst features of life in New York while having few of its compensations, and the large cities in the East and centre are blends of the life of both diluted with dulness. San Francisco is a thing apart—the air of the Pacific seems to blow different impulses on the people, and great and glorious air and climate and scenery are there, bracing with the breeziness of the West. Florida and the shores of the Gulf of Mexico are too near the tropics for my taste, tending towards hammock-basking too much.
Give me a Southern city, say in Georgia; and I have one in my mind's eye. There the people do not live so fast as to have no time to enjoy their life, while they have all that makes life enjoyable. Successful effort is my nearest approach to a definition of what constitutes happiness. There, there is every scope for various effort. The city and country around are still in process of active growth. "Fecundity" is writ large across the surface of the State, on fields, in mills, in mines. All the men are busy the livelong day. Here it is different from in England; you do not find a large section of men who spend the day either at various kinds of sport, at cricket, or loitering listlessly about the clubs. An idle man would be a solitary of his own sex. But it is not the material conditions that constitute the chief attraction of life in a Southern city, excellent as they are; the principal charm of the South is the character of the people themselves. There is an undefined flavour of old-world politeness and courtesy perfuming their environment The bow of a Southern gentleman does not appear to be the jerk of a string-pull; it suggests having been learned remotely from the bow that brought the sword projecting through the long coat-tails as the hat was removed from the powdered wig.
There is an indefinite something that tells one that all these people have had grandfathers and grandmothers, instead of as in New York, where the suggestion is that they are the offspring of stock-market tickers or have been shot into the world through a pneumatic tube.
That almost universal formula in America on a man being introduced bears here a real significance, "I am glad to meet you, Mr. Blank." The English equivalent is "How-d-do?" and, although inarticulate, there is frequently a silent suggestion of the phrase, "Bored to meet you," "Awfully bored to meet you." In the South they are glad to meet and welcome the stranger at their gates, and he must be hard to please if he does not have a good time within them.
The general rule that the men are at work all day has its effect in various ways on the life of the community. The social life differs from that of England in many marked features, in none more than in the part played by the Southern girl. At the first reception given by the mother of the young debutante, the men of the set in which she is to move are presented to her, and tacitly it is a presentation to them, by the mother, of what she holds most tenderly precious; to them, in trust in their honour, in full confidence in their courtesy, and, although their hearts are covered with the immaculate shirt-front of latter-day conventionality, with as full reliance on knightly service as if that stiff shirt were the armour of the day of chivalry. This social feature or condition of things strikes me as especially admirable. It strikes me as so infinitely preferable to the constant espionage of chaperonage, so much more above board and honourable towards both the young men and girls alike. They can go driving, to a theatre—where boxes are much more open and less like bathing-machines than ours—to lunch in the big club-room—an annexe to the exclusively male portion to which ladies are admitted—and will be driven to and from a dance, and will receive afternoon calls without a chaperon. Results point overwhelmingly to its success from every point of view. A breach of that code of conduct which needs not to be written would mean eternal social damnation. It is being perpetually borne in on me what a much better time the American girl has than our English sisters, and in many ways she deserves to have it so. If the man keeps horses and carriages so that he may take her out for drives in the afternoon, bring her to the theatre, take her to and from dances, if he keeps her supplied with flowers to an extent unknown Englandwards, if he is constantly giving dinner-parties and supper-parties for her, it is because she is worthy of it all and more.
To begin with, she is never blasee; and, thank goodness, it is not yet considered in America "good form" to appear blase, even if one is not. Being full of interest and constantly au courant with events, she is always companionable, and is able to talk intelligently of many things. Being gifted with a heaven-sent sense of humour, she is never dull; and what closer bond of social sympathy is there than a sense of humour in common? In conversational fence the thrust and parry of her play is as quick and keen as her touch is true and light, and through it all ripples a sunny Southern gaiety that is as fond of giving pleasure or amusement as she is readily susceptive of either. But be not tempted in this summer region, O wanderer from the chilly North, to wear your heart upon your sleeve for the sun to shine on, or else she will pluck it off, saying, with laughing eyes, that it is no place for it, and she will put it with a row of probably half a dozen already on hers, and from time to time she will pick morsels from it at her pleasure; and the reason that it does not hurt more is because of the prettiness of her lips.
It is when one meets the mothers of these girls that one sees whence comes their charm; an old-world queenliness of motherhood, mingling with warm-hearted cordiality, renders them immediately as lovable as their daughters.
The billion-dollar trust is very adollarable, and so is the Tobacco and Standard Oil and the rest; but in the assets of the nation, more valuable, to my mind, is the heirloom of the tradition of gentle manners and cordial kindliness held so well in trust by the people of that city of the South.
THE PENALTY OF THEIR PACE IN THE CITY OF UNREST
A dinner-party at Sherry's—twenty people sat around a table beautiful with the choicest flowers—the room was full of diners; there was more noise and clatter than one would hear even in the Carlton or Prince's; and the Hungarian band was playing—seemed the suitable panting life-breath of the scene—sensuous a little—strenuous—feverishly restless. Bright, gay, quick, and keyed loudly in order to be audible, were the voices of the diners; exchange of repartee, quick as the fire of a pom-pom, was shot and returned. Well-aimed marksmanship it was, too—no cartridges wasted. Flash of costly jewels or still brighter eyes as the shots were sped at marks worth firing at and well capable of replying. Men who had done things were there: the senator—a great lawyer—several of America's greatest business men, and the women who had helped or spurred or hindered them, but who were all worth working for or helpfully hinderous blast-furnaces to ambition. But one seat away was a man who was one of the greatest mine-owners in America, and controlled railways that were connected and dependent on these mines. Pale and sallow, with sparse hair over his big bulging forehead, power and decision and resolution were stamped on every line of his face; a small army of men worked for him—worked underground or on railroads, or looked to him as the donor of dividends, the regulator of their incomes, the arbiter of their financial destinies.
He drank no wine at dinner, yet now and again a curious up-and-down lifting movement of the table could be traced to one of his knees, which he kept crossed over the other. He waved away the coffee with the remark that it was years since he dared indulge in it; but when, after obviously impatient waiting, the time came when he might light a long cigar, he puffed out a stream of smoke with a sigh of relief, and the table was no longer shaken from that on. Presently some remark drew from him the reply, "No; the most desirable things in the world are health and sleep. I would give two million dollars to be able to sleep six hours each night. I would give twice that to be able to digest a good meal properly. I would give I don't know what to be able to rest, just rest quietly again."
And the lady next him said: "How well I understand that feeling! I don't see why we should be compelled to go on, on, on at that pace. Sometimes now when I have to drive in a cab I can barely keep myself from shrieking out aloud from sheer nervousness. I have not dined at home in my own house for three months except once, and that was when, in reply to a remonstrance to my daughter for going out so much, she said she would dine at home on Christmas Day. It is this perpetual rush, I expect, makes us so nervous; but it is so hard to stop, even when our nerves pay the price."
* * * * *
Coming out of a newspaper office in New York I happened to meet an old friend of the Cuban war times. Paler, thinner, and more drawn his face looked in the V of his turned-up collar than when I had seen him last. After talking for a few minutes I asked him whither he was going, and found he was going to take a special kind of bath and rubbing, which was part of the treatment he was undergoing for the desperate nervous trouble he was suffering from.
"It is pretty hard lines," said he. "As you know, I never drank, and took fairly good care of myself. I have not slept more than an hour or two for the past week."
Then he told me how, going home to Brooklyn a few evenings before, the nervousness had come so badly on him that he had to hire a boy to go with him. He could not go across the bridge alone.
"At the present moment," said he, "there are nine men in our office suffering from the same complaint."
He seemed to think that the treatment was doing little good; that doctors could do next to nothing.
"Rest, long rest, is what we want, I suppose; but how can a fellow get rest working in a big newspaper office in this city?"
* * * * *
The Remington machine had been rattling on like a Maxim gun in action, the operator taking down dictation on to the machine so quickly that it was almost as good as short-hand. It stopped suddenly, and the fragile anaemic woman who was working it laid down her hands in her lap, saying she was afraid she could not continue. In reply to the question if she was ill she said no—that it was simply she was nervous. She said she had only just returned from the country, where she had been resting for a week—a rest that she could ill afford, but it evidently had not been long enough.
"It is terrible, especially for those who have to keep working for a living, who have to work on to keep their heads above water."
"I suppose it is the penalty we pay for all this," she said, looking out from the window at which she sat.
Down far below was one of the busiest squares in New York; a double line of trolly-cars perpetually running through it that clanged their bells as they swung around the corner; automobiles that pinged their warning gongs and darted in and out amongst the stream of traffic fish-like; labouring horses struggling under heavy loads; the cars packed with people like cattle, standing up and hanging from the straps in the roof, toilers coming back from work; the sidewalks crowded with hurrying people. The seats in the centre of the square held slouching figures with bent heads, figures of dog-tired men—dog-tired with work or the looking for it. A sharp insistent clanging arose above the other sounds like a wailing scream of pain as an automobile ambulance rushed hospital-wards, carrying off one of those wounded in the struggle.
No one can quietly watch the seething life of the City of Unrest without being struck with the prevalence of nervous troubles amongst the people. Every day one meets instances. "I dare not drink coffee; I have not drunk it for years," one so often hears—then the piteous longing for sleep denied. "I am not going to any dances this winter; my doctor will not allow me, on account of my nerves," one of the most charming girls in New York said to me a few days ago. The doctors all declare that this nervousness is alarmingly on the increase, and throughout every class of the community—from those who work hardest, through the longest hours, to earn their bread, to those who work at the pursuit of pleasure—the mad social rush of the Charge of the Four Hundred. It is obvious that this pace cannot slacken—every year adds fresh impetus. What will it be in fifty years—at the end of the century? What will the offspring of these quivering, twitching, highly strung men and women be like? Quo vadis, Americane?
Already there are antidotes or remedies for this growing evil—sanatoria where the worn-out over-worked are compelled to seek refuge, asylums of repose for those who have long lost the art of enjoying it. More useful, perhaps, are the facilities for getting healthy exercise which are offered by athletic clubs, gymnasia, and the squash courts and tennis courts now being laid out on the tops of so many of the best houses. But these are only trifling against the magnitude of the menacing evil. Thousands have not the time to enjoy them, and must pay the penalty of the pace of their progress in the City of Unrest.
THE MILLION-MASTER IN THE CITY OF UNREST
Seven-thirty o'clock: the coffee and toast had been placed by the valet on the table beside his bed; the warm water was already running into the bath in the adjoining room; three suits of clothes, carefully brushed and ironed, were laid on the sofa when he was called. He seemed to be awake all of a sudden—quite awake. As he was called, a young man came into the room with a bundle of newspapers. "Let me see," said Mr. X., "I think I can take half an hour extra this morning—read away;" and then the young man began reading rapidly from the papers. He had from long training learned to know what interested the boss, and read selections from one paper after another which he had previously gone over—some closing prices of particular stocks first, then some foreign and general news summary, and then X. asked him to read particulars of what he wanted to learn more about. After about fifteen minutes he had had enough, and one of his secretaries, with a bundle of letters in one hand and a notebook in the other, came in. As he read the letters, X. dictated, or mostly just indicated, the replies; they were all business letters. Then his place was taken by another. His letters were mostly invitations, charitable appeals, letters from his steward and the head of his stables at Lakewood, from the skipper of his yacht, from dealers who had pictures that he ought to buy, from the caretaker of his house in Newport, and letters from house-agents in London about a house he wanted there for the Coronation. At eight he took his bath, and while drying and dressing the litany of letters and responses continued, punctuated at intervals by the bell of the telephone on the table by his bedside, and so on through the breakfast, now laid in an adjoining study, until it was time to telephone to the stables for his automobile. Same telephone message occupied fifteen minutes. Just before leaving he sent to his wife's room to find out where he was dining. Madame was being massaged, but sent word that they were giving a dinner-party at Sherry's, having three boxes at the theatre afterwards, and that then she expected him to come to the Astorbilts' ball. Long cigar, fur coat, gloves, and into the automobile, his secretary sitting beside him, still going through the unfinished letters.
Three inches of snow had fallen during the night—hard, dry snow, on which the horses slipped and struggled as it was being beaten flat, and on which his automobile would have skidded ungovernably if Fifth Avenue had not been already well sprayed by the sand-sprinklers. Progress in the upper part of the Avenue was rapid enough; but from Madison Square slow, halting, and intermittent, horses were falling in all directions, stopping the surface-cars packed with a multitude of toilers, all going city-wards; the gong of the automobile clanged petulantly. Down town the upper altitudes of the sky-scrapers were lost in a vague mist of swirling snow that eddied through the chasm-like clefts between them—there were gaps where other gigantic iron frames were rising up to the rattling Maxim-gun-like sound of the steam riveters.
At length they arrived at the high pilloried portico of the immense building in which his office was situated; passing through the revolving doors—mill-wheels perpetually kept turning by a stream of humanity—one of a number of elevators brought him to the floor entirely occupied by his offices. The walls and counters were of white grey-lined marble; polished mahogany desks and burnished brass railings glistened everywhere. Through waiting-rooms and offices he passed to his private office. It was a plain room, richly carpeted, soft leather chairs, a big table on which were only a few papers; a telephone stood on the right-hand side of the blotter. There were some maps on the walls, nothing more. On a mahogany stand against the wall in the centre of the room, near his desk, stood the ticker, like a sacred image on a pedestal. Strange little god, mysterious little oracle—I don't think I would have felt surprised if on entering he had knelt down before it and said a short prayer. Instead, he seated himself at his desk and commenced speaking into the telephone. There was a switch-board of his private exchange outside the private office which communicated to each of the heads of his departments. Without the delay of sending or going for them, he spoke to six or seven one after the other. Then his confidential clerk came in with a number of papers in his hands. Tickety, tickety, tick, the oracle was speaking all the time, but he took no notice of its remarks—still it went on, as if knowing that sooner or later he would be drawn towards it; and so he was, and passed the tape through his fingers, pausing here and there; and so throughout the day that little chattering fetish dominated him and every one that entered the room. Men came in, and while waiting, or in a pause in conversation, would be drawn to see what was on its tongue. There is nothing more striking about business in New York than the ease and rapidity with which business is carried out. There had been a bad break in sugar in the morning; X. meant to have some if it came to a certain figure. All the morning down, down, it toppled. Within a few seconds of the time a deal was made from the centre of the Stock Exchange it appeared on the tape in X.'s office. It dropped to his price. "Now, time this," said he; "1204 I want. Buy me 5000 sugar at 92" (twenty seconds gone). "He has got my message, and I am holding the wire till I get a reply. Now he has sent it on his private wire to the Stock Exchange; his own telephone-boy has already his number on the telegraph-board. If he is not immediately available a two-dollar broker will execute the order." Here comes the reply: "3000 at 92 was all he could get at the price." (Time, 1 min. 35 sec.) To those who are used to the aggravating slowness of the telephone in London, that in New York is a revelation of rapidity, and so much does it enter into the daily life of the community that it would now give something like a stroke of paralysis to the City if all the telephone-wires should be suddenly swept down or the operators suddenly go on strike.
A lunch at the luxuriously furnished Club situated at the top of the building, and not such a serious interruption to business, as during it three messengers come with notes from his office for him. Not much time to dawdle over lunch, as he had three meetings to preside at during the afternoon; then up to the Union Club, a few moments' chat with some friends—change into evening clothes, on to Sherry's—inside the door of the great restaurant he sees a number of people he knows. "Hallo, you, with whom are you dining to-night?" "Why, with you." "Glad of it." Then he sees Mr. Sherry, and finds his table to see how many he has dining with him. A little late, but radiant in a Worth gown and wearing black pearls, his wife arrives—it is the first time he has seen her during the day.
"So sorry to be late, poppa, but that last rubber of bridge was such a slow one, and I won eight dollars." "Good for you." After dinner he sits in the back of the box; the play or the plot does not interest him; his mind is full of more dramatic scenes—plots that, instead of play, can be made into reality—real live characters that he could make dance to the music of his millions. Then on to that great ball in one of the palaces of Fifth Avenue, a palace to which architects, painters, sculptors, have combined to raise into a dream of luxury such as Rome never equalled.
Strolling through the picture-gallery with an old friend, she who, though born to millions, kept fresh that perfume of womanliness which we call charm: "You look tired to-night," said he. "No wonder; out every night now for four months; lunches, bridge, calls, dinners, theatres, suppers, dances, and the treadmill never stops. I sometimes wish Tom only owned a tiny cottage, and that I had to cook his dinner for him." "And that you might ask me to dine off pork and beans." "You, too, look tired, my master of millions." "I am," said he, "but I am not master of millions, it is the millions who are my master—slave-masters with many-lashed whip that keep me hourly toiling in their service, that never let me rest, keep me working and fighting, and have robbed me of repose, keep a glare of limelight on my life, and after all can buy so little, not real success (I was beaten this week by K. in that Union-Pacific deal), not one drop of blue blood into my veins, not one night of sound delicious sleep, not one kiss from the lips of love."
THE WOMAN WHO WORKS IN THE CITY OF UNREST
At a quarter to seven the alarm-clock went off next her bed—how she would have liked to sleep for another hour, or lie warm and cosy under the clothes! The training in the habit of doing what she did not like helped her into a little tin bath, and to dress close to the radiator, as it was a bitterly cold morning. At 7.30 she stepped out into a snow-covered street and then hurried across Washington-square. Bitterly cold wind shivered through the white coral-like branches of the trees. The snow brought out the carving on the Washington Arch; the snow seemed to suit the whole square, and make it seem still less a part of the City—the Sleepy Hollow in the City of Unrest, with the solid big houses around it where ladies and gentlemen lived who had refused to be hustled into joining in the general dollar scramble.
In the street on the other side of the square she entered a restaurant, already full of breakfasters. She sat down at one of the marble tables with a couple of men she knew, ordered an orange, coffee, porridge, roll, two eggs—total, thirty cents. Her friends were in offices down town, one of them not earning as much as she was. They were comrades, chums, so much that he often borrowed a dollar from her during those critical days at the month's end.
Breakfast finished, and a glance at the paper—at least, enough to read the headings—and then out on Broadway to take the down-town car. Two passed as she stood at the corner, so packed that there was not standing-room even on the platform for another; then one stopped from which a few passengers struggled out, and she got in. All along the centre of the car men and women were standing, holding on to the straps, swaying backwards and forwards as the car swooped forward, and jerking forward every time it stopped. No idea in such a car of the men sitting down, against whose knees hers rubbed, to get up and relinquish their seats—why should they? She did not expect it. Was she not by her very going down town taking the place of a possible man there? was she not showing that she could do a man's work? Equality—he might think himself called on to give up his seat to one of the weaker sex. But there is no sex in the City. Swaying, squeezing, jostling, twenty minutes of uncomfortable cattle-truck-like journey brought her to the big office where she worked.
Men do not doff their hats in the down-town elevators which brought her up to the big office where she was employed, a great room near the top of one of the high down-town buildings; the windows looked out on the river, now a white mass of down-flowing ice, through which the calling steamers worked their way laboriously towards the harbour, to the Statue of Liberty standing beside what now looked a white gravel path of entry to the city.