Sometimes we found the Indians so deeply interested in a game they were playing, that they took no notice of us. It was played with slender round sticks, about six inches long, made of yew wood, so exquisitely polished that it had a gloss like satin. Some of the sticks were inlaid with little bits of rainbow pearl, and I saw one on which the figure of a fish was very skilfully represented. It is quite incomprehensible, how they can do such delicate work with the poor tools they have. They use only something like a cobbler's knife.
They shuffled the sticks under tow of cedar-bark, droning all the time a low, monotonous chant. It is curious that any thing so extremely simple can be so fascinating. They will sit all day and night, without stopping for food, and gamble away every thing they possess. It appeared to be identical with the old game of "Odd or Even" played by the ancient Greeks, as described by Plato.
We saw here the great conical hat worn by the Cape Flattery Indians, similar in form to the Chinese hat; and also some blankets of their own manufacture, woven of dog's hair.
PORT TOWNSEND, WASHINGTON TERRITORY, April 4, 1869.
This afternoon we rode past the graveyard of the Indians on the beach. It is a picturesque spot, as most of their burial-places are. They like to select them where land and water meet. A very old woman, wrapped in a green blanket, was digging clams with her paddle in the sand. She was one of those stiff old Indians, whom we occasionally see, who do not speak the Chinook at all, and take no notice whatever of the whites. I never feel as if they even see me when I am with them. They seem always in a deep dream. Her youth must have been long before any white people came to the country. When she dies, her body will be wrapped in the tattered green blanket, and laid here, with her paddle, her only possession, stuck up beside her in the sand.
We saw two Indians busy at one of the little huts that cover the graves. They were nailing a new red covering over it. We asked them if a chief was dead. A klootchman we had not noticed before looked up, and said mournfully, "No," it was her "little woman." I saw that she had before her, on the sand, a number of little bright toys,—a doll wrapped in calico, a musical ball, a looking-glass, a package of candy and one of cakes, a bright tin pail full of sirup, and two large sacks, one of bread, and the other of apples.
Another and older woman was picking up driftwood, and arranging it for a fire. When the men had finished their work at the hut, they came and helped her. They laid it very carefully, with a great many openings, and level on the top, and lighted it.
Then the grandmother brought a little purple woollen shawl, and gave it to the old man. He held it out as far as his arm could reach, and waved it, and apparently called to the spirit of the child to come and receive it; and he then cast it into the fire. He spoke in the old Indian language, which they do not use in talking with us. It sounded very strange and thrilling. Each little toy they handled with great care before putting it into the flames. After they had burned up the bread and the apples, they poured on some sugar, and smothered the flames, making a dense column of smoke.
Then they all moved a little farther back, and motioned us to also. We wondered they had tolerated us so long, as they dislike being observed; but they seemed to feel that we sympathized with them. The old man staid nearest. He lay down on the sand, half hidden by a wrecked tree. He stripped his arms and legs bare, and pulled his hair all up to the top of his head, and knotted it in a curious way, so that it nodded in a shaggy tuft over his forehead. Then he lay motionless, looking at the fire, once in a while turning and saying something to the women, apparently about the child, as I several times distinguished the word tenas-tenas (the little one). I thought perhaps he might be describing her coming and taking the things. At times he became very animated. They did not stir, only answered with a kind of mournful "Ah—ah," to every thing he said.
At last their little dog bounded forward, as if to meet some one. At that, they were very much excited and pleased, and motioned us to go farther off still, as if it were too sacrilegious for us to stay there. They all turned away but the old man, and he began to move in a stealthy way towards the fire. All the clumsiness and weight of a man seemed to be gone. He was as light and wiry as a snake, and glided round the old drift that strewed the sand, with his body prostrate, but his head held erect, and his bright eyes fixed on the fire, like some wild desert creature, which he appeared to counterfeit. The Indians think, that, by assuming the shape of any creature, they can acquire something of its power. When he had nearly reached the fire, he sprang up, and caught something from it. I could not tell whether it was real or imaginary. He held it up to his breast, and appeared to caress it, and try to twine it about his neck. I thought at first it was a coal of fire; perhaps it was smoke. Three times he leaped nearly into the flames in this way, and darted at something which he apparently tried to seize. Then he seemed to assure the others that he had accomplished his purpose; and they all went immediately off, without looking back.
APRIL 20, 1869.
We are surprised to find so many New-England people about us. Many of those who are interested in the sawmills are lumbermen from Maine. The two men who first established themselves in the great wilderness, with unbroken forest, and only Indians about them, are still living near us. They are men of resources, as well as endurance. A man who comes to do battle against these great trees must necessarily be of quite a different character from one who expects, as the California pioneer did, to pick up his fortune in the dust at his feet. I am often reminded of Thoreau's experience in the Maine woods. He says, "The deeper you penetrate into the woods, the more intelligent, and, in one sense, less countrified, do you find the inhabitants; for always the pioneer has been a traveller, and to some extent a man of the world; and, as the distances with which he is familiar are greater, so is his information more general and far-reaching."
MAY 30, 1869.
The gulls and crows give parties to each other on the sand, at low-tide. Farther out are the ducks, wheeling about, and calling to each other, with sharp, lively voices. It is curious to watch them, and try to understand their impulses. Sometimes they are all perfectly motionless, sitting in companies of hundreds, in the deepest calm; sometimes all in a flutter, tripping over the water, with their wings just striking it, uttering their shrill cry. They dive, but never come to shore. What one does, all the rest immediately do. Sometimes the whole little fleet is gone in an instant, and the water unruffled above them.
The prettiest among them is the spirit-duck,—its motion is so beautiful, as it breasts the little billows, or glides through the still water. Their bosoms are so like the white-caps, I have to look for their little black heads, to see where they are. Once in a while, a loon comes sailing along, in its slow, stately way, turning its slender, graceful neck from side to side, as if enjoying the scenery. We never see more than two of them together, and they generally separate soon.
Puget Sound and Adjacent Waters.—Its Early Explorers.—Towns, Harbors, and Channels.—Vancouver's Nomenclature.—Juan de Fuca.—Mount Baker.—Chinese "Wing."—Ancient Indian Women.—Pink Flowering Currant and Humming-Birds.—"Ah Sing."
PORT TOWNSEND, September 10, 1869.
We have been spending a day or two in travelling about the Sound by steamer, touching at the various mill-towns and other ports, where the boat calls, to receive and deliver the mails, or for other business. Every time we pass over these waters, we admire anew their extent and beauty, and their attractive surroundings, their lovely bays and far-reaching inlets, their bold promontories and lofty shores, their setting in the evergreen forest, and the great mountains in the distance, standing guard on either side.
The early explorers who visited this part of the country evidently had a high appreciation of it, as their accounts of it show. Vancouver, who came in 1792, expressed so much admiration of these waters and their surroundings, that his statements were received with hesitation, and it was supposed that his enthusiasm as an explorer had led him to exaggeration. But Wilkes, who followed him many years afterwards, confirmed all that he had said, and, in his narrative, writes as follows regarding this great inland sea:—
"Nothing can exceed the beauty of these waters, and their safety. Not a shoal exists within the Straits of San Juan de Fuca, Admiralty Inlet, Puget Sound, or Hood's Canal, that can in any way interrupt their navigation by a seventy-four-gun ship. I venture nothing in saying there is no country in the world that possesses waters equal to these."
In another account Wilkes writes: "One of the most noble estuaries in the world; without a danger of any kind to impede navigation; with a surrounding country capable of affording all kinds of supplies, harbors without obstruction at any season of the year, and a climate unsurpassed in salubrity."
More recently the United States Coast Survey Report of 1858 declares, that, "For depth of water, boldness of approaches, freedom from hidden dangers, and the immeasurable sea of gigantic timber coming down to the very shores, these waters are unsurpassed, unapproachable."
We were at first puzzled by the various names given to the different waters over which we travelled; but soon discovered, that, while the term "Puget Sound" is popularly applied to the whole of them, it properly belongs only to the comparatively small body of water lying beyond the "Narrows," at the southern end, and the arms and inlets that branch therefrom.
The great natural divisions of this system are: the Straits of Juan de Fuca, extending from the ocean eastward about eighty miles, and then branching into the vast Gulf of Georgia to the north, and Admiralty Inlet to the south; Hood's Canal, branching from the latter, on the west side, near the entrance, and running south-west about sixty miles; Possession Sound, branching from the east side, and extending north between Whidby Island and the mainland, as far as Rosario Straits; and Puget Sound, connected with the southerly end of Admiralty Inlet by the "Narrows."
We commenced our recent trip at Victoria, and crossed the Straits of Fuca,—through which the west wind draws as through a tunnel,—to Port Angeles. This place was named by Don Francisco Elisa, who was sent out to this region in 1791 by the Mexican Viceroy. Of course Don Francisco must compliment the Viceroy by giving his name to some important points. This royal personage had a string of ten proper names, besides his titles. These Don Francisco distributed according to his judgment. Being apparently a religious man, he was mindful also of the claims of saints and angels; and, when he reached the first good harbor on the upper coast, he called it Puerto de los Angeles (Port of the Angels).
Proceeding eastward, the next point of interest is New Dungeness, so called by Vancouver from its resemblance in situation to Dungeness on the British Channel. The harbor of this place, like that of Port Angeles, is formed by a long sand-spit that curves out from the shore. On account of this resemblance, Vancouver gave to Port Angeles the name of False Dungeness, thinking it might be mistaken for the other. But this name has been dropped, and the more poetical designation of the Spaniard retained. The pious Elisa called the long-pointed sand-spit at Dungeness "the Point of the Holy Cross."
The great body of water north of Vancouver's Island, which had not yet received its name, he called Canal de Nuestra Senora del Rosario (the Channel of Our Lady of the Rosary). When Vancouver, in the following year, gave his own name to the island, he called this body of water the Gulf of Georgia, in honor of George III., the reigning king of England. The name given by Elisa is still retained by the strait east of the De Haro Archipelago.
The next place at which we stopped was Port Townsend. This was named, by Vancouver, Marrowstone Point, from the cliff of marrowstone at the head of the peninsula; but this name was afterwards given to the headland on the opposite side of the entrance to Port Townsend Bay, to the south-east of the town, and the name of Townshend, one of the lords of the Admiralty, was given to the bay. The town afterwards took the same name, dropping the h from it. Admiralty Inlet commences here, and was named by Vancouver in honor of the Board of Admiralty for whom he sailed. Hood's Canal was named for another of the lord-members of the Board.
Opposite, across the inlet, to the north and east, lies Whidby Island, which Vancouver named for one of his lieutenants. It is a pity it could not have had some more poetic name, it is so beautiful a place; it is familiarly known here as the "Garden of the Territory." It was formerly owned and occupied by the Skagit Indians, a large tribe, who had several villages there, and fine pasture-grounds; their name being still retained by the prominent headland at the southern extremity of the island. I heard one of the passengers remark that there were formerly white deer there. I strained my eyes as long as it was in sight, hoping to see one of these lovely creatures emerge from the dark woods; but in vain. Wilkes says that the Skagit Indians had large, well-built lodges of timber and planks. But, since so many tribes have been swept away by the small-pox, most of them have lost their interest in making substantial houses, feeling that they have so little while to live. North of Whidby is Fidalgo Island, named for a Spanish officer. Between them is a narrow passage, called Deception Pass, very intricate and full of rocks, above and below the water, and most difficult to navigate,—in striking contrast to the waters of the Sound in general.
We called at Port Ludlow and Port Gamble, the latter on Hood's Canal, near the entrance,—Teekalet being its Indian name. Returning to Admiralty Inlet, we presently passed Skagit Head, at the entrance of Possession Sound, so named by Vancouver to commemorate the formal taking possession, by him, of all the territory around the Straits of Fuca and Admiralty Inlet, on the king's birthday.
We steamed serenely on, over the clear, still water, to Port Madison, and then crossed the inlet to Seattle. Thence we proceeded south, and passed Vashon Island, which has many attractive features. Quartermaster's Harbor, at the southern end, is a lovely place; and beautiful shells and fossils are to be found there. Occasionally we came across a great boom of logs, travelling down to some sawmill; or a crested cormorant, seated on a fragment of drift, sailed for a while in our company. We passed on through the "Narrows," and entered Puget Sound proper, named for Peter Puget, one of Vancouver's lieutenants, who explored it.
All Vancouver's friends, patrons, and officers—lieutenants, pursers, pilots, and pilot's mates—are abundantly honored in the names scattered about this region. He appears, too, to have had a good appreciation of nature, and praised, in his report, the landscape and the flowers. He regarded somewhat, in his nomenclature, the natural features of the country; as in Point Partridge, the eastern headland of Whidby Island; Hazel Point, on Hood's Canal; Cypress Island, one of the San Juan group; and Birch Bay, south of the delta of Fraser River.
The Spanish explorers in this region do not seem to have taken much pains to record and publish the result of their discoveries. Vancouver held on to his with true English grip, and often supplanted their names by others of his own choosing.
At night we reached Steilacoom, where there was formerly a military post. It has an imposing situation, with a fine mountain view; and there are some excellent military roads leading from it in various directions.
We spent a pleasant day at Olympia, which lies at the southern extremity of the Sound, and resembles a New-England village, with its maples shading the streets, and flower-gardens. It has an excellent class of people, as have the towns upon the Sound in general; and the evidences of taste and culture, which are continually seen, are one of the pleasantest characteristics of this new and thinly settled part of the country.
There are no sawmills on the Straits of Fuca, and the slight settlements along its shores have scarcely marred their primitive wildness and beauty. The original forest-line is hardly broken; the deer still come down to the water's edge; and the face of the country has apparently not changed since Vancouver, nearly a hundred years ago, stooped to gather the May roses at Dungeness; or Juan de Fuca, two centuries earlier, "sailed into that silent sea," and looked round at the mountains,—not less beautiful, though more imposing, than those that lay about his own home on the distant Mediterranean.
DECEMBER 10, 1869.
We have just seen an English gentleman who came over to this country for the purpose of ascending Mount Baker, first called by the Spaniards Montana del Carmelo. He was three years in trying to get a small company to attempt the expedition with him. Indians do not at all incline to ascending mountains; they seem to have some superstitious fear about it. I believe this mountain has never been explored to any extent. He describes the colors of the snow and ice as intensely beautiful. He has travelled among the Alps, but saw an entirely new phenomenon on the summit of Mount Baker,—the snow like little tongues of flame. In the deep rifts was a most exquisite blue. On the last day's upward journey, they were obliged to throw away all their blankets,—as they were not able to carry any weight,—and depend on chance for the night's shelter. How well Fate rewarded them for trusting her! They happened at night upon a warm cavern, where any extra coverings would have been quite superfluous. It was part of the crater, but they slept quietly notwithstanding.
JANUARY 15, 1870.
We have now a little Chinese boy to live with us; that is, he represents himself as a boy, but he seems more as if he were a most ancient man. He might have stepped out of some Ninevite or Egyptian sculpture. He is like the little figures in the processions on the tombs, and his face is perfectly grave and unchanging all the time. I feel about him, as I do about some of the Indians,—as if he had not only his own age, but the age of his race, about him.
There never could be any thing more inappropriate than that he should be named "Wing," for no creature could be farther from any thing light or airy. One reason, I think, why he seems so different from any of his countrymen that we have seen, is because he has never lived in a city, but only in a small village, which he says has no name that we should understand.
He works in the slowest possible way, but most faithfully and incessantly, and never shows the slightest desire for any recreation or rest. Even the anticipation of the great national Chinese feast, which is to be celebrated next month, and which occurs only once in a thousand years, has failed to arouse any enthusiasm in him, and he is apparently quite indifferent to it.
Our goat has taken a great dislike to him,—I think just because he is so different from herself. She is always making thrusts at him with her horns, and trying to butt him over. But he preserves, even toward her, his uniform sweet manner; calls her a "sheep," entirely ignoring her rude, fierce ways; leads her to pasture every day, under great difficulties; and attempts to milk her, at the risk of his life. The serenity of these people is really to be envied; they go on their way so perfectly undisturbed, whatever happens.
APRIL 30, 1870.
The tides are very peculiar here. Every alternate fortnight they run very low, and then the beach is uncovered so far out that we can take long rides on it, as far as the head of the bay.
We are very much entertained with seeing the old Indian crones digging clams. They appear to be equally amused with us, and chuckle with delight as we pass. It seems very strange to see human beings without the least approach to any thing civilized or artificial, with the single exception of the old blankets knotted about them with pieces of rope; but when I compare them with civilized women of the same age, who are generally helpless, I see that they have a great advantage over them. They are out everywhere, in all weathers, and do always the hardest of the work. We meet them often in the woods, so bowed down under the loads of bark on their backs, that it looks as if the bark itself had a stout pair of legs, and were walking. Our horse is always frightened, and can never get used to them.
We can ride now for hours on the beach, looking at the water on one side, and on the other at the densely wooded bluffs, now most beautifully lighted up by the pink flowering currant. It is like the rhodora at home, in respect to coming very early,—the flowers before the leaves. At first it is of a delicate faint pink; but as the season advances it becomes very deep and rich in color, and contrasts most beautifully with the drapery of light-gray moss, and the dark fir-trees.
This flower attracts the humming-bird, and furnishes its earliest food. This delicate, tropical-looking little creature is the first bird to arrive; coming often in March from its winter home in California, where it lives on another species of flowering currant that blooms through the winter.
In making some excavations here, there have been found the bones and teeth of the American elephant, and with them a bone made into a wedge, such as the Indians here use in splitting wood; which seems to imply great antiquity for their race.
AUGUST 10, 1870.
We have a new China boy, Ah Sing, who is very impulsive and enthusiastic, quite a different character from the unemotional Wing. He is almost too zealous to learn. R. began to teach him his letters, to make him contented. I hear him now repeating them over and over to himself, with great emphasis, while he is washing the clothes. He is so big and strong, that they come out with great force. A few nights ago, after everybody had gone to bed, he came down past our room, and went into the kitchen. R. followed him to see what was the matter, and, as the boy looked a little wild, thought perhaps he was going into a fit. He had seized the primer, and was flourishing it about and gesticulating with it; and finally R., who has a wonderful faculty for comprehending the Chinese, divined that he had gone to bed without a lesson, and could not sleep until he had learned something.
Rocky-mountain Region.—Railroad from Columbia River to Puget Sound.—Mountain Changes.—Mixture of Nationalities.—Journey to Coos Bay, Oregon.—Mountain Canyon.—A Branch of the Coquille.—Empire City.—Myrtle Grove.—Yaquina.—Genial Dwellers in the Woods.—Our Unknown Neighbor.—Whales.—Pet Seal and Eagle.—A Mourning Mother.—Visit from Yeomans.
PORT TOWNSEND, November 18, 1872.
We had quite a pleasant journey back from the East, and saw some things we must have passed in the night on our trip thither. About the Rocky-mountain region we saw what appeared to be immense ruins; but they were really natural formations, resembling old castles, with ramparts and battlements and towers. I could not help feeling as if they must belong to some gigantic extinct race. On the wide, solitary plains they were most imposing.
At the Laramie Plains, where we stopped a while, we were so blinded by the glittering crystals of quartz and specks of mica, we could well understand why the name of the Glittering Mountains was first given to the Rocky-mountain Range.
We saw at Cheyenne a most curious cactus. Outside, it was only a green, prickly ball; inside, was a deep nest, filled with a cluster of pink blossoms.
We looked into the beautiful Blue Canyon—blue with mist. Hundreds of feet below us was the gliding silver line of a stream.
At one of our stopping-places was a team of buffalo and oxen working together. To see this chief Manitou of the Indians so degraded, was like seeing a captive Jugurtha.
We found great changes had taken place within a year between Columbia River and Puget Sound. Where we used to cross alone, in the deepest solitude of the forest, there were cars running, gangs of Chinamen everywhere at work, great burnt tracts, and piles of firewood. Once in a while a stray deer bounded by, and turned back to look at us, with pretty, innocent curiosity. And there were still some of the old trees left standing, gnarled and twisted, and so thickly coated with moss, that great ferns grew out of it, and hung down from the branches. What a pity to destroy the work of centuries, the like of which we shall never see again!
We saw to-day some of the pretty spotted sea-doves, that have just arrived to spend the winter with us. Puget Sound, with its mild climate, is their Florida or Bermuda. In early spring they return to the rocky lagoons of the North, to pair and breed.
DECEMBER 15, 1872.
With our wider range from the hill-top to which we have removed, we notice more how the appearance of the mountains changes with the changes of the sky. This morning they were all rose-color; and are now so ghostly, the snow like shrouds about them. Before, we had only single chains and solitary peaks; here, we look into the bosom of a mountainous country, and every change in the light reveals something new. Where we have many times looked without seeing any thing, at length some beautiful new outline appears in faint silver on the distant horizon. Heaven ought to be more real to us for living in sight of what is so inaccessible, and so full of beauty and mystery.
MARCH 9, 1873.
We are very much struck with the mixture of nationalities upon this coast. We were so fortunate as to secure last winter the services of a splendid great Swedish girl, the heartiest and healthiest creature I ever saw. There did not seem to be a shadow of any kind about her, nor any thing more amiss with her in any way than there is with the sunshine or the blue sky. All kinds of work she took alike, with equal readiness, and never admitted to her mind a doubt or anxiety on any subject.
We felt sorry enough, when we had had her only three weeks, to have the foreman of the mill come and beg us to release her. It seems they were engaged to be married when they left Sweden; but, being of thrifty natures, they had agreed to work each a year before settling down in marriage. The constant sight of her charms proved too much for him, and they decided that all they needed to begin life together was their wealth of affection and their exuberant health and spirits.
Her size may be imagined, when I mention that her lover brought up six rings in succession, to try to find one big enough to go over her finger. Finally he squeezed on the largest one he could obtain, as an absolutely essential ceremony to bind them together, and smiled with delight to see that it could never be taken off.
The only help we could find in her place, at such short notice, was a Russian boy, lately arrived from Kodiac. When we first saw him, we were quite disheartened at his appearance, his mouth and eyes were so like those of a fish, and he seemed so terribly uncivilized. I attempted to intimate that I thought we could not undertake to do any thing with him. He seemed to suspect what I thought,—although he could not understand my words,—and took up a piece of paper, and wrote some Russian words on it. I asked him what they meant; and he said, "Jesus Christ, he dead; he get up again; men and devils he take them all up." I supposed the most civilized person he had ever seen was the priest; and, as the priest had taught him that, he thought it was a kind of introduction for him, and that I should feel it to be a bond of union between us. I did not feel quite so much as if he were a fish or a seal afterward. All the time, even over the hot cooking-stove, he kept his rough fur cap on his head. His great staring eyes rolled round in every direction; and he looked so utterly uncouth and so bewildered, that I doubted very much if he could ever be adapted to our needs.
To my great surprise, however, he learned very fast, stimulated by his curiosity to know about every thing. What made him appear so very stupid at first was, that he felt so strongly the newness of all his surroundings. After he learned to talk with us, he interested us very much with accounts of his own country, and with the letters he read us from his father, an old man of ninety, who had spent his life in charge of convicts in Siberia. He wrote his father that he was homesick; and the old man replied: "You homesick—work! work by and by make you strong!" His letters were directed only: "Son mine—George Olaf." He seemed to trust to some one on the way, to take an interest in their reaching him.
The boy generally set up his hymn-book in some place where he could occasionally glance at it, and chant his Russian hymns, while he was about his work. On the other side, the nurse sang Dutch songs to the baby.
JULY 1, 1873.
We have just returned from a long, rough journey in southern and western Oregon. We crossed the Coast Range of mountains,—not so high and snow-capped as the Cascades, but beautiful to watch in their variations of light and shade, always the shadows of clouds travelling over them, and mists stealing up through the dark ravines. A Dutchwoman—our fellow-passenger—was in ecstasies, exclaiming continually: "How beautiful is the land here! How bracht [bright]!"—noticing all the sun-lighted places; but I was more attracted by the shadows. I heard another hard-looking woman say to a man, that she cried when she saw the hills, they were so beautiful. There was a deep welcome in them; something human and responsive seemed to fill the stillness. In these solitary places, remote from all other associations, it seems as if Nature could communicate more directly with us.
I noticed, more than I ever did before, the difference in the appearance and bearing of the flowers; how some seemed only to flaunt themselves, and others had so much more character. As we passed a little opening in the woods, a great dark purple flower, that was a stranger to me, fixed its gaze upon me so that I felt the look, as we sometimes do from human eyes. Any thing supernatural is so in keeping with these solitary places, I felt as if some one had assumed that form to greet me. There were some beautiful new flowers; among them a snow-white iris, which was very lovely. It seemed like a miracle that this fair little creature should come up so unsoiled out of the rough, black earth.
We crossed the mountain range through a canyon. The road wound round and round the sides of it, sometimes so narrow that it seemed hardly more than an Indian trail. We had a true California driver, who shouted out to us every few minutes, to hold on tight, or all to get together on one side, or something equally suspicious; but dashed on without any regard to danger. We were in constant expectation of being hurled to the bottom; but it quickened our senses to enjoy the beauty about us, to feel that any moment might be our last. We saw below us great trees that filled the canyon. They were so very tall, that it appeared as if, after having grown into what would be recognized everywhere as lofty trees, they had altered their views altogether as to what a tall tree really should be, and started anew. We did not wholly enjoy looking down at their great mossy arms, stretched out as if to receive us. Everywhere was the most exquisite fragrance, from the Linnaea and other flowers. At the bottom was a little thread of a brook. After we passed through the canyon, the brook came out, and went down the mountain side with us. It was very lively company. Sometimes it hid from us, but we could tell where it was, by the rushing of the water. Then it would appear again, whirling and eddying about the rocks. In some places, its bed was of pure, hard stone, with basins full of foam. Sometimes the rocks were covered with dark, rich moss. There were retired little falls in it, that seemed like nuns, so unregarding as they were of all the commotion about them. Then the whole body of water would gather itself up, and shoot down some rock, and cut like a sword-blade into the still water below. We shall long remember that little, leaping, dancing branch of the Coquille, that runs from the Coast Mountains to the sea.
Upon learning that we were approaching "Empire City," we attempted a hasty toilet,—as appropriate for entering a metropolis as circumstances would permit,—but we were kindly informed that we might spare ourselves the trouble, as the place consisted at present of but a single house; a carpenter having established himself there, and, with a far-seeing eye, given the place its name, and started a settlement by building his own dwelling, and a play-house in the woods for his little daughter.
We spent one night in a myrtle-grove. The trees leaned gracefully together, and the whole grove for miles was made of beautiful arched aisles. Coming from our shaggy firs, and the rough undergrowth that is always beneath them, to these smooth, glossy leaves, and clear, open spaces of fine grass, was like entering fairy-land, or the "good green wood" of the ballads. I looked for princes and lovers wandering among them, and felt quite transformed myself. The driver I regarded as a different man from that moment; to think that he should show so much good taste as to draw up for the night in that lovely place.
In coming from the mountain, we had to ride a good deal of the way without seeing where we were going; and once we found ourselves with a great roof over our heads, hollowed out of the solid rock, and covered with dripping maiden's-hair. All the rock about was like flint, and worn into strange shapes by the water.
One day we were accompanied quite a distance through the woods by a female chief, Yaquina. I think that she is a celebrated woman in Oregon, and that Yaquina Bay was named for her. She was mounted on a little pony, and riding along in a free and joyous way, looking about at the green leaves and the sunshine. I thought of Victoria with her heavy crown, that gives her the sick headache, and wondered how she would like to exchange with her.
We were quite interested in some of the people we saw, one of them especially,—a man whose house had no windows. We felt at first as if we could not stop with him; but he came out to our wagon, looking so bright and clean, and had such an air of welcome as he said, "We are not very well provided, but we are very accommodating," that we at once decided to stop, particularly as the driver said the horses could not possibly go enough farther to get to any better place that night. He ushered us in very hospitably, and looking round the room—the chairs being rather scarce—said, "There are plenty of seats—on the floor." I saw some books on a shelf, and, going to look at them, found "Mill's Logic," and "Tyndall on Sound," and several others, scientific and historical. We found him, as he said we should, eager to make us comfortable. He noticed that the baby did not look well, and went out into the woods, and cut down a little tree that he said would do her good, and urged us to take it with us. He said that he was generally called in by his neighbors, in case of sickness or accident. He had learned to help himself in most ways, as he came there originally with only fifty cents in his pocket.
Another old man, at the next stopping-place, made a beautiful picture, as he sat inside his open door, in a great, rough, home-made armchair, with a black bear-skin for a pillow,—a large, strong man, with long, shining, silver hair. We were very much pleased to find that we were to spend the night there, he looked so interesting. All his talk was about fights with wild beasts and Indians, and cutting down the big trees, and making the terrible roads we had been over. There was a good deal of refinement and gentleness, too, about him. He had in his arms a dear little child. He had adopted her, he said, because his were all grown up. She seemed like a soft little bird, so timid and clinging.
When we came to see our accommodations, we were delighted to find every thing so clean and agreeable. We expressed our pleasure to him, and he said, "Yes; a woman, I think, will go a mile or two farther for a clean sheet; and even a man does not altogether like to be tucked into bed with a stranger;" which suggests what the customs are there.
DECEMBER 20, 1873.
We were startled to learn, a few days since, that one of our neighbors had been found dead,—a man about whom there had always been a good deal of mystery in the village. He lived alone, and never spoke of any relations or friends. He was a man of very courteous manners, but on this point he would allow no questions. There was no one to notify of his death, and nobody appeared to claim his property.
The first time we ever saw him, he was riding in the woods, on a handsome horse, with a bright scarlet blanket. He looked so picturesque, and there was so much grace and dignity about him, that I felt as if he did not belong anywhere about here. It seemed as if he might have come riding out of some foreign land, or some distant age,—like a knight going to a tournament.
When we came to know him, we could not help wondering what could induce him to live here. He was thought to be Southern, and it was generally supposed that some difficulties arising at the time of the war had brought him here. He seemed disposed to make the best of our dull life, and always had something that interested him to show us,—a new flower, or curious shell, or some pretty Indian child.
The last time we saw him was Saturday night. It must have been only a few hours before his death, but he appeared in his usual fine health. The next we knew of him was Monday morning, when some men who lived near us said that nothing had been seen of him since his light disappeared Saturday night. As he did not open his house, as usual, on Sunday, they said to themselves, "He does not like to be disturbed," and waited till Monday, when they went to the window; and the dog inside, hearing the noise, came and tore down the curtain, and went back and sat down beside his master, where he lay on the bed, and licked his face; and they saw that he was dead. He was tenderly buried by the people of the village, without religious ceremonies; but they dropped little green branches into his grave in the way of the Free Masons. I was surprised at the delicacy of feeling shown in regard to his desire to remain unknown, rude curiosity concerning any thing peculiar being everywhere so common.
MAY 20, 1874.
This afternoon we went out a little farther than usual in our boat, and saw a herd of whales in the distance,—great free creatures, puffing and snorting, spouting and frolicking, together. The boatman said that a flap from one of their tails would send our boat clean out of the water, and turned hastily about, hallooing in the wildest way, to keep them off.
On our way back we passed some deserted buildings on a sandy point. We inquired about them, and were told that they were the commencement of a city, originally called "New York;" but, having disappointed its founders, the Indian name of Alki (By and By) was given to it in derision.
We saw in the woods near here some magnificent rhododendrons, ten or twelve feet tall, covered with clusters of rose-colored flowers.
One of the boatmen has a pet seal that we sometimes take out in the boat with us. We put him occasionally into the water, feeling that he must be longing to go; but he always stays near the boat, and comes back if we whistle to him, and seems quite companionable. Who would have believed that one of these cold sea creatures could ever have been enticed into such intimacy? Our only idea of them, before this experience, had been of a little dark head here and there in the distance, in the midst of great wastes of water, where, as Lowell says, they—
"Solemnly lift their faces gray, Making it yet more lonely."
One of the captains we sailed with told us that he had at one time a gray eagle he had tamed when young, that often took coasting-voyages with him, leaving the vessel occasionally, and returning to it, even when it had sailed many miles; never, by mistake, alighting on another craft instead of his. Sometimes, when out on a voyage to San Francisco, it would leave the vessel, and return to his house on Port Discovery Bay.
OCTOBER 15, 1874.
As we were passing along near the shore to-day, in our boat, we saw an Indian woman sitting alone on the beach, moaning, and dipping her hands continually in the water. Her canoe was drawn up beside her. We stopped, and asked her if any one was dead. She pointed to a square box in the canoe, and said, "mika tenas" (my child). She said, afterwards, that she was as tall as I, and "hyas closhe" (so good)!
As the poor Indian mother looked round at the waves and the sky to comfort her, I thought, what is there, after all, that civilization can offer, beyond what is given by Nature alone, to every one in deepest need?
Yeomans, our old Port Angeles friend, called on us to-day. Every year since we left there, he has included us in his annual visit to the Seattle tribes. Each time we see him I think must be the last, he looks so very old; but every autumn brings him back, apparently unchanged. He seems to alter as slowly as the old firs about him. I am surprised always at his light tread; he bears so little weight on his feet, but glides along as if he were still in the woods, and would not have a leaf rustle.
 The crouching position, the favorite one of the Indians in life, is preserved by them in the disposition of their dead.
Puget Sound to San Francisco.—A Model Vessel.—The Captain's Relation to his Men.—Rough Water.—Beauty of the Sea.—Golden-Gate Entrance.—San Francisco Streets.—Santa Barbara.—Its Invalids.—Our Spanish Neighbors.—The Mountains and the Bay.—Kelp.—Old Mission.—A Simoom.—The Channel Islands.—A New Type of Chinamen.—An Old Spanish House.
SAN FRANCISCO, March 20, 1875.
We reached here last night, after a rough voyage from Puget Sound. We had all our worst weather first. After three or four days came a bright, clear morning, and the captain called me on deck to see the sunrise. It was all so changed, so beautiful, so joyous,—all around the exquisite green light flashing through the waves as they broke; and as far off as we could see, in every direction, the water leaping and tossing itself into spray. A strong wind had taken the vessel in charge; and it flew swiftly over the water, with no changes needed, no altering of sails, no orders of any kind, and nobody seemed to be about. The captain fixed me a hammock in a sail; and I lay there hour after hour, with no company but the warm, bright sunshine straying over the deck. I felt as if it were an enchanted vessel, on which I was travelling alone.
Cleopatra's barge could not have been more carefully kept. When the men came out to their daily work, all their spare moments were spent in polishing and cleaning every little tarnished or dingy spot. At first it used to seem to me like a wanton risk of life, with the vessel rearing and plunging so that we did not dare to stir on deck, to see them climb the tall masts, and cling there, scraping and oiling them, to bring out the veining of the wood. Perhaps it was partly as a discipline in steadiness, that they were directed to do it,—to get used to working at such a height. What a contrast to the tawdriness of the steamers we had been accustomed to, to see every thing about us made beautiful by exquisite neatness, done chiefly, too, for their own eyes! I saw, then, why the sunshine was so pleasant on the deck; it was because there was nothing about the vessel out of keeping with the pure beauty of nature. I felt safer, too, to think how all things, small and great, conformed to the laws of Heaven.
One day I asked the captain if he had many of the same men with him as on the last voyage we took with him. I remembered his pointing out to me then the fair, honest face of a young Swedish sailor at the wheel. He said most of his men made many voyages with him. I spoke of another captain, who told us his men were almost all new every time. He said that was generally the master's fault; that a captain should not speak to his men just the same in fair weather and in foul. I looked with interest, afterward, to see his management of them, and found that, while every thing went on smoothly, he took pains to converse with them, and to become somewhat acquainted with each man. Then, in emergencies, his brief, clear directions were immediately comprehended, and promptly obeyed. I began to understand the secret of his short voyages (for his vessel had the reputation of being the fastest sailer between San Francisco and the Sound): it was partly from his management of the ship, and partly from his management of the men.
We started in a snow-storm, and at first every thing seemed to be against us. He had told us that March was not generally a very quiet month on the water. We took a tug-boat to tow us out to the entrance of the Straits; but, as the weather grew continually worse, the steamer was obliged to leave us, with wind dead ahead, and against that we had to beat out. As soon as we had made Cape Flattery, the wind changed, and became what would have been a good wind for getting out, but was just the opposite of what we wanted for going down the coast. These reverses the captain received with unruffled serenity; although he dearly delights in his quick trips, and was ready to seize with alacrity the least breath in his favor. After all, he made one of his best voyages, by the help of the strong, steady wind that drove him on at the last. It was perhaps as much, however, from his vigilance in watching when there was so little to take advantage of, and seizing all the little bits of help it was possible to get, as it was from the great help of that powerful wind; for other vessels that started with us, and even days before us, have not come in yet, and they all had the great wind alike.
R—— ventured to inquire of the captain one day, when we were beating about the mouth of the Straits, as to the feasibility of going into Neeah Bay, while it was yet possible to do so; but the captain said he preferred to beat about, and then he was ready to take advantage of the first chance in his favor, which he might lose if he were in shelter.
One day it was more than I could enjoy. The wind roared so loud, and the sound of the waves was so heavy, that I retreated to my berth, and lay down; but I could not keep my mind off the thought of how deep the water was under us. After a while I went on deck and sat there again, and the vessel began to plunge so that it seemed as if it were trying to stand upon one end. I felt so frightened that I thought I would speak to the captain, and ask him if he ever knew a lumber-vessel to tip over; and if I dared I would suggest that he should carry a little less sail. I knew that he was once on a vessel that turned bottom upward in the Straits, and he was left on the overturned hull for three days, in a snow-storm, before help came to him. I spoke to him, and he did not give me much of an answer; but, a little while after, he came to me, and said, "Are you able to go to the forward part of the ship with me? I should like to have you, if you can." So he helped me along to the bow, where it seemed almost too frightful to go, and said, "Kneel down;" and knelt down by me, and said, "Look under the ship." It was one of the most beautiful sights I ever saw,—such a height of foam, and rainbows over it. The dark water beside it seemed to be full of little, sharp, shining needles. I suppose it was moving so quickly that made the elongated drops appear so. Then he took me to the other side, that was in shadow; and there the water was whirled into the most beautiful shapes, standing out distinct from each other, from the swiftness of the motion, that held them poised, like exquisite combinations of snowflakes, only more airy.
Presently he said, "Men don't often speak of these things to each other, but I feel the beauty of it. Nights when the vessel is moving so fast, I come and watch here for hours and hours, and dream over it." When I thought about it afterward, I wondered how he could know that the way to answer my fear was to show me what was so beautiful. I was not afraid any more, whatever the vessel did.
Those three days and nights of lonely watching, floating about in the Straits, must have been a great experience to him, and made him different from what he would otherwise have been; certainly different from most men.
Before sunrise, yesterday morning, we passed the "Seal-Rocks;" as the light just began to reveal a little of the dark, dreamy hills on each side of the long, beautiful entrance to the harbor. A flood of light filled it as we entered, and it must have looked just as it did when it was first named the "Golden Gate." All along, for miles, the water throws itself up into the air, and falls in fountains on the rocky shore. I cannot conceive of a more beautiful harbor in the world; and, as we were two or three hours in coming from the sea up to the city, we had time enough to enjoy it.
The southern headland of the entrance is Point Lobos (Punta de los Lobos, Point of Wolves); the northern, Point Bonita (Beautiful Point).
MARCH 25, 1875.
We could never have stepped out of our wilderness into a stranger city than this. From the variety of foreign names and faces that I see in the streets, I should think I were travelling over the whole world. On one side of us lives a Danish family, on the other a French. I walk along and look up at the signs,—"Scandinavian Society;" "Yang Tzy Association of Shanghae;" "Nuevo Continente Restaurant Mejicano;" "Angelo Beffa, Helvetia Exchange," with the white cross and plumed hat of Switzerland. One street is all Chinese, with shiny-haired women, and little mandarins with long cues of braided red silk. The babies seem to be dressed in imitation of the idol in the temple; their tight caps have the same tinsel and trimmings, and the resemblance their little dry faces bear to it is very curious.
Next to "Tung Wo," "Sun Loy," and "Kum Lum," come "Witkowski," "Bukofski," "Rowminski,"—who keep Russian caviar, etc. Some day, when we feel a little tired of our ordinary food, we think of trying the caviar, or perhaps a gelatinous bird's nest, for variety.
Besides the ordinary residents, we meet many sailors from the hundreds of vessels always in the harbor,—Greeks, Lascars, Malays, and Kanakas. Their picturesque costumes and Oriental faces add still more to the foreign look of the place.
In the midst of the greatest rush and confusion of one of the principal business streets, stands a man with an electrical machine, bawling in stentorian tones, "Nothing like it to steady the nerves, and strengthen the heart,"—ready, for a small fee, to administer on the spot a current of greater or less intensity to whoever may desire it. The contrast is most ludicrous between the need that undoubtedly exists for some such quieting influence, and the utter inefficacy of it, if applied, under such circumstances.
OCTOBER 20, 1875.
We have just returned from Santa Barbara. How buoyant the air seems, and how brisk the people, after our languid, dreamy life there! I, who went there in robust health, spent six months in bed, for no other reason, that I could understand, than the influence of the climate. Perhaps, on homoeopathic principles, as Santa Barbara makes sick people well, it makes well people sick. A physician that I have seen since coming here tells me that he went there himself for his own health, and was so much affected by the general atmosphere of sickness, that he was obliged to return. It is a depressing sight, certainly, to see so many feeble, consumptive-looking people about, as we did there. Where we lived I think it was also malarious, from the estero that winds like a snake about the lowlands near the bay. The favorite part of the city is near the foot-hills. It is probably more healthful there, but we cannot live without seeing at least one little silver line of the sea. So we took up our abode in the midst of the Spanish population, near the water.
We found it very difficult to get any one to help us in our work, although we had supposed that in the midst of poor people we should be favorably situated in that respect. We were told, however, that the true Castilian, no matter how poor, never works; that we might perhaps find some one among the Mexicans to assist us.
Our neighbors were quite interesting to watch, and we were pleased with the simplicity of their lives. They had no apparent means of support, unless it might be lassoing and taming some wild mustangs, which they were sometimes engaged in doing; but this seemed to be more of a recreation than a business with them. They were never harassed nor hurried about any thing. They lived mostly outside their little dark dwelling, only seeking it at noon for a siesta. In the morning they placed a mat under the trees, and put the babies down naked to play on it, shaking dawn the leaves for play-things. Sometimes they cut a great piece of meat into narrow strips, and hung it all over our fence to dry. This dried meat, and melons, constituted a large part of their food. The old mother was called Gracia, but she could never in her youth have been more graceful than now. She was as picturesque still as she could ever have been, and perfectly erect. She wore a little black cap, like a priest's cap, on the top of her head, and her long gray hair floated out from it over her shoulders; and, with her black mantle thrown as gracefully about her as any young person could have worn it, we used to see her starting out every morning to enjoy herself abroad. She appeared one morning at our window, before we were up, with her arms full of roses covered with dew, eager to give them to us while they were so fresh.
We noticed her sometimes out in the yard, preparing some of the family food, by the aid of a curious flat stone supported on three legs, and a stone pestle or roller,—a very primitive arrangement. Kneeling down upon the ground, she placed her corn, or Chili peppers—or whatever article she wished to grind—upon the stone; and, taking the hand-stone, she rolled it vigorously back and forth over the flat surface, crushing up the material, which fell off at the lower end into a dish below. We saw her making tomales, composed of bruised green corn,—crushed by the process just described,—mixed with chopped meat, and seasoned with Chili peppers or other pungent flavoring, and made up into slender rolls, each enveloped in green-corn leaves, tied at the ends, and baked in the ashes,—resulting in a very savory article of food.
Our only New-England acquaintances at Santa Barbara had evidently modified very much their ideas of living. We found them with bare floors; a great bunch of pampas grass, and a guitar hanging against the wall, in true Spanish fashion; the room being otherwise mostly empty.
We had on one side the dark Santa Ynez Mountains, and on the other the sea. The mountains are not very high but bold in their outlines; and the number of crags and ravines gives them a beautiful play of light and shadow. Very early one morning I saw a great gray eagle fly overhead, back to his home in their dark recesses. Some of the slopes are covered with grape-vines, and some with olive-trees. Far up in the hollows can be seen the little white houses of the people who keep the bee-ranches. They live up so high because the flowers last longer there. The mountains form a semicircle on one side of the town; on the other is the beach. An immense bed of kelp, extending for miles and miles along the shore, forms the most beautiful figures, rising and falling as it floats on the water,—so gigantic, and at the same time so graceful. It is of every beautiful shade of pale yellow and brown. In winter the gales sometimes drive it shoreward in such vast quantities that vessels are compelled to anchor outside of it.
There is an old mission there, built in the Moorish style, where all visitors are hospitably received by the Franciscan friars in charge. This mission, like all those we have seen, has a choice situation, sheltered from wind, and with good soil about it. The old monks knew how to make themselves comfortable. Their cattle roamed over boundless pastures, herded by mounted vaqueros; their grain-fields ripened under cloudless skies; their olive-orchards, carefully watered and tended by their Indian subjects, yielded rich returns.
We made the acquaintance of a gentleman from Morocco, who says that the climate there is almost the same as that of Santa Barbara. I suppose the simoom we had there in the summer was a specimen of it. A fierce, hot wind blew from the Mojave desert. There was no possibility of comfort in the house, nor out of it. We could escape the storm of wind and dust by going in, but there was still the choking feeling of the air. The residents of the place could say nothing in defence of it,—only that did not occur often.
We are told that on the 17th of June, 1859, there was much more of a genuine simoom. So hot a blast of air swept over the town as to fill the people with terror. This burning wind raised dense clouds of fine dust. Birds dropped dead from the trees. The people shut themselves up in their thick adobe houses. The mercury rapidly rose to 133 degrees, and continued so for three hours. Trees were blighted, and gardens ruined.
Sailors approaching the coast in a fog can recognize the Santa Barbara Channel by the smell of bitumen which floats on the water. Some of the old navigators thought their vessels were on fire when they noticed it. It gives a luminous appearance to the water at night.
On one side of Santa Barbara is a great table-land, called the Mesa, where there is always a sea-breeze that blows across fields of grain and fragrant grass. That would be a beautiful place to live, but there is no water. The experiment of artesian wells is about being tried.
From the Mesa we looked off to the channel islands,—Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Anacapa,—bold, rocky, and picturesque. Anacapa was formerly a great resort for the seal and otter; and the natives from Alaska came down to hunt them, and collected large quantities of their valuable skins. The island is of sandstone, all honeycombed with cavities of different sizes, sometimes making beautiful arches. There is no water on this island, and only cactus and coarse grass grow there. Others of the group have wood and water, and settlements of fishermen. On some of them, interesting historical relics have been discovered,—supposed to be the remains of a temple to the sun, with idols and images. There are also beautiful fossils and corals and abalone shells.
It was hard to make up our minds to leave so lovely a place; but as I looked back, the last morning, to fix the picture of it in my mind, I saw the little white clouds that come before the hot wind, rising above the mountains, and was glad that we were going. Two immense columns of smoke rose out of the canyons, and stood over the place, like genii. In the dry weather it seems that the mountains are almost always on fire, which modifies what is called the natural climate of Santa Barbara, so as to make it very uncomfortable. Its admirers must come from some worse place,—probably often from the interior; no one from Puget Sound ever praises it. We met several families from that region; and they were all anxious to get back to the clear mountain atmosphere of their northern climate, which is as equable as that of Santa Barbara, though far different in character.
We saw there some Chinese quite unlike any that we have met before. We have heard that most of those who come to the Pacific Coast are of an inferior kind, chiefly Tartars. There we saw some quite handsome ones, who had more of an Arab look, and had also elegant manners,—one, especially, who had a little office near us. On the birthday of the Emperor of China, his room was ornamented with a picture of Confucius, before which he burned scented wood; and hanging over it was an air-castle, with the motto, "God is Love."
We visited one day an interesting-looking old house, near our quarter of the town, to see if we could live in it. It was one of the finest there before the place became Americanized, and belonged to an old Spanish don. It stands in the centre of spacious and beautiful grounds, and the avenue leading to it is bordered with olive-trees, which were in bloom. There was a curious, delicate fragrance in the air, quite new to me, which I attributed to them. It was as different from all other odors, as their color is from that of all other trees. They have a little greenish blossom, something like a daphne, and the foliage is of beautiful shades of gray-green, from an almost black to light silvery color. They seem like old Spaniards themselves, they have such an ancient, reserved look. Two magnificent pepper-trees, with their light, graceful foliage trailing from the branches, stand near the door. The house is shut in with dark heavy porches on all sides, and covered with vines. The windows are in such deep recesses, owing to the great thickness of the walls of the house, that the rooms were but dimly lighted, although it was early in the afternoon. Some of the windows are of stained glass, and others of ground glass, to lessen the light still more. It is an adobe house; and the walls are so damp that I gave up all idea of living in it, as soon as I laid my hand on them. The Spaniards, I see, all build their houses on a plan that originated in a hot country, where the idea of comfort was all of coolness and shade. This house, and the one opposite where we lived, are covered with passion-flowers. Near the latter are two dark evergreen-trees,—the Santa Cruz spruce,—trimmed so as to be very stiff and straight, standing like dark wardens before the door. There is a hedge of pomegranate, with its flame-like flowers, which seem to be filled with light. The pepper-tree abounds in Santa Barbara, and the eucalyptus is being planted a good deal. It has a special power to absorb malaria from the air, and makes unhealthy places wholesome.
Our Aerie.—The Bay and the Hills.—The Little Gnome.—Earthquake.—Temporary Residents.—The Trade-Wind.—Seal-Rocks.—Farallon Islands.—Exhilarating Air.—Approach of Summer.—Centennial Procession.—Suicides.—Mission Dolores.—Father Pedro Font and his Expedition.—The Mission Indians.—Chinese Feast of the Dead.—Curious Weather.
SAN FRANCISCO, October 30, 1875.
We have found a magnificent situation. Our little house is perched on such a height, that every one wonders how we ever discovered it. The site of the city was originally a collection of immense sandhills, on the sides and tops of which the houses were built, many of them before the streets were laid out and graded. When the grades were finally determined, and the hills cut through,—as some of them were,—houses were often left perched far above, on the edge of a cliff, and almost as inaccessible as a feudal castle. I feel as if ours might be an eagle's nest, and enjoy the wildness and solitude of it. So does our Scotch shepherd dog, who has been used to lonely places. Sometimes, just as the sun is rising, we see him sitting out on the sandhills, looking about with such a contented expression that it seems as if he smiled. He opens his mouth to drink in the wind, as if it were a delicious draught to him.
The hills are covered with sage-brush, full of little twittering birds. My bed is between two windows, and they fly across from one to the other, without minding me at all. Opposite is Alcatraz, a fortified island, but very peaceful-looking, the waves breaking softly all around it. It has still the Spanish name of the white pelicans with which it used to be covered. The commander of the fort died since we came here, and was carried across the water, with music, to Angel Island, to be buried.
Across the bay is a low line of hills, with softly rounded outlines. They are of pale russet color, from the red earth, and thin, dried grass, that covers them. Farther to the north is Mount Tamalpias, with sharper outlines.
NOVEMBER 8, 1875.
The China boys generally refuse to come out here to live with us, saying it is "too far, too far." The unsettled appearance of this part of the city does not please them. To-day we succeeded in securing a small one. He is a curious-looking little creature, with a high pointed head, stiff, black hair, and small, sparkling eyes. He seems like a little gnome, and might have been living in the bowels of the earth, in mines and caverns, with black coal and bright jewels about him. Before he would agree to come, he said he must go and consult the idol in the temple. He burned little fragrant sticks before him; but how he divined what his pleasure might be, I could not tell.
We hesitated about taking him, considering his very stunted appearance; but he said, "Me heap smart," and that settled it. "Heap" must be a word the Chinese have picked up at the mines. It is in constant requisition in any attempt to converse with them.
Last night we had a heavy shock of earthquake. How different it is from merely reading that the crust of the earth is thin, and that there is fire under it, to feel it tremble under your feet! I was glad to have one thing more made real to me, that before meant nothing. It was a strange, deep trembling, as if every thing were sliding away from us.
NOVEMBER 18, 1875.
It gives one a lonesome feeling to see how many people here lead unsettled lives, looking upon some other place as their home. Even the children, hearing so much talk about the East, seem to have an idea that they really belong somewhere else. One of our little neighbors said to me, "I have never been home;" although she, and all her grown-up brothers and sisters, were born and brought up here. Many of the customs of the place are adapted to a temporary way of living. In most parts of the city, it would be hard to find a street without signs of "Furnished rooms to let." Besides innumerable restaurants, a flying kitchen travels about, with every thing cooking as it goes along, and clean-looking men, with white aprons, to serve the food; one ringing a bell, and looking out in every direction, to see what is wanted.
The numerous windmills, for raising water, give the city a lively look. The wind keeps them always in motion. The constant whirring of the wheels, and the general breezy look of things, distinguish this place from all others that I have seen. Sir Francis Drake, entering the bay nearly three hundred years ago, refers, with great delight, to "a franke wind," that took him "into a safe and good baye." There was, for a long time, some doubt as to which of several ports he made. I think that mention of the wind settles it. The identical wind has been blowing with undiminished vigor ever since. In summer (the time he was here), it will carry a vessel in against the strongest tide.
The city is built mostly of wood. The absence of foliage, and the neutral color of the houses, give the streets a dull gray look, here and there redeemed by the scarlet geranium, which, if not a native, is most thoroughly naturalized,—it grows so sturdily, even in the poorest yards.
APRIL 30, 1876.
We had a long ride out to the Seal-Rocks, past great wavy hills, with patches of gold, brighter than the dandelions and buttercups are at home. This was the eschcholtzia, or California poppy. Occasionally we passed great tracts of lupine. The lowland was a sea of blue iris.
Suddenly, as we surmounted a height, the ocean rolled in before us, line after line of breakers, on a broad beach. When we reached Point Lobos we saw the two great rocks, far out in the water, covered with brown seals that lay in the sun like flocks of sheep, and little slippery, shining ones all the time crawling up out of the water, and dropping back again. As the vessels pass out of the bay, they go near enough to hear them bark; but nothing frightens them away, nor discomposes them in the least, although they are only a few miles from the city, and have a great many visitors. They are protected by law from molestation.
We looked off to the Farallon Islands, which are one of the chief landmarks for vessels approaching the Golden Gate. There was formerly a settlement of Russians there, who hunted the seal and the otter. These islands are still a great resort for seals, also for cormorants and sea-gulls; and the large speckled eggs of the birds are gathered in quantities, and brought to the San Francisco market for sale. They were called by the Spaniards "Farallons de los Frayles" (Islands of the Friars), farallon being a sharp-pointed island.
There is a marvellous exhilaration in the air. The enthusiastic Bayard Taylor said, that, in his first drive round the bay, he felt like Julius Caesar, Milo of Crotana, and Gen. Jackson, rolled into one. It is an acknowledged fact, that both men and animals can work harder and longer here, without apparent injury or fatigue, than anywhere on the Eastern coast. We have heard it suggested that the abundant actinic rays in the dry, cloudless atmosphere are the cause of this invigoration, and also of the unusual brilliancy of the flowers.
JUNE 1, 1876.
The only way in which we know that summer is coming is by the more chilling winds, the increased dust, the tawny color of the hills, and the general dying look of things. Every thing is bare, sunny, and sandy.
We are surrounded with great wastes of sand, which the wind drives against the house, so that it seems always like a storm. Sometimes, when I sit at work at the window, a gopher comes out of the sandhill, and sits down outside it. His company makes me feel still more remote from all civilized things.
JULY 4, 1876.
We had a splendid Centennial procession. Things that we imitate at home are all real here. Instead of having our own people dressed up in foreign costume, we have Italians, French, Swiss, Russians, Germans, Chinese, Turks, etc., all ready for any occasion. The newspapers mentioned as a remarkable fact, that there were no suicides for a week beforehand; every one seemed to have something to look forward to.
The night before the celebration, the French residents built up a great arch, as high as the highest buildings, with fine decorations, for the procession to pass under. Some doubt was expressed about the Germans liking to pass beneath the French arch; so three thousand Germans, to show their good-will, went and sung the Marseillaise under it.
The Jews have the handsomest church in San Francisco, which they decorated with the greatest enthusiasm, and had Centennial services, in which they said that they, of all people in the world, ought to appreciate America, as, before they came here, they were outcasts everywhere, while here they were unmolested and prosperous.
I liked best in the procession the Highlanders, who were real Scotchmen, in plaids, and bonnets with eagle feathers. Every one had a claymore by his side, and a thistle on his breast; and there were pipers playing on bagpipes to lead them.
There are a great many Germans in San Francisco, and the brewers had a car dressed with yellow barley and other ripe grains. The great fat men looked so full of enjoyment, it was really picturesque to see them, under the nodding grain. For the first time in my life I appreciated them, as I saw how poorly a thin man would convey the idea of comfort. There are a good many Italian fishermen here too. They are always just fit for processions, without any alteration whatever; their pretty green boat "Venezia," and their Captain Caesar Celso Morena, seem made for it. They had Roman guards, in golden scale armor. The California Jaegers with their wild brown faces, that seemed to transport us to the great hot plains where they herd and lasso the half-tamed animals, walked too in the procession; and the baby camel, born lately in San Francisco, a great pet. They were led by the silver cornet band, whose music was exquisitely clear and sweet.
AUGUST 2, 1876.
In this homeless city, built upon sandhills, and continually desolated by winds, it is no wonder that the blue bay looks attractive, especially to any one thrust aside in the continual vicissitudes of this unsettled life. The first news we heard, on our return from Santa Barbara, was that Ralston, the great banker, and one of the chief favorites in social life, had sought the calm of its still depths as better than any thing life could offer. How serenely the water lay in the sunshine, as we looked at it, hearing this news, which had stirred the city to its utmost! Here all secrets are guarded, all perplexities end. The passion for suicide seeks mostly this pathway, though there is an unprecedented number of intentional deaths of all kinds.
This morning's paper records the suicide of a Frenchman, who half reconciled me to his view, by the cheerful, intelligent way in which he spoke. He left a letter stating that he died with no ill feeling toward any one, and full of faith in God as a Father; that he did not consider that he was to blame for what he was about to do, as he had tried in vain to get work,—probably because he was wholly deaf. He made so little fuss about what almost every one would have considered a terrible calamity,—that his life should end in this way,—that it seemed a pity it could not otherwise have been made known what kind of a man he was. He gave a little account of himself, beginning, "I was born in the province of Haute Vienne, in France, and have lived mostly at the mines," going on to speak as quietly of what he was about to do, as he might if he were going to move from one town to another, not having succeeded in the first; ending by saying, "I have taken the poison,—an acid taste, but not disagreeable." He made only one request,—that a package of old letters should be laid on his breast, and buried with him. A valuable member of society might have been saved, if the result in his case could have been the same as with a man we knew in Santa Barbara, who, becoming discouraged by continual rheumatism, combined with poverty, took a large dose of strychnine, with suicidal intent, but, to his astonishment, was entirely cured of his rheumatism; and the notoriety he acquired presently procured him an abundance of work.
In the winter a man who called himself Professor Blake, a "mind-reader," gave some exhibitions of his power, which were considered wonderful. It might have been better for him, however, not to know what people thought, as it proved. A few weeks ago a man was discovered dead, with this letter beside him: "I die of a weary and a heavy heart, but of a sound mind. If there should be one or two persons to whom I should be known, let them, out of charity to the living, withhold their knowledge. Should my eyes be open, close them, that I may not chance, even in death, to see any more of this hated world." Notwithstanding his wish, of course every effort was made to find out who he was; and it proved to be this "mind-reader."
These cases are very depressing to think of; only that it makes one feel more certain of another life, to see how unfinished and unsatisfactory some things are here.
SEPTEMBER 6, 1876.
I have found two beautiful places to visit,—the old Spanish graveyard of the Mission Dolores, and Lone Mountain Cemetery. They have long, deep grass, and bright, exquisite flowers. On the waste tracks about the cemetery, I can still find the fragrant little yerba buena (good herb), from which the Spanish Fathers named the spot where San Francisco now stands, in the primitive times, long before gold was discovered. The cross on the summit of Lone Mountain, erected by the Franciscan friars, is quite impressive from its height and size. It is seen from all parts of the city.
The Mission Dolores (Mission of our Lady of Sorrow) is south of the city, sheltered from the wind, with a clear stream flowing near. The fathers displayed their customary shrewdness in the selection of this situation. The bleak sandhills to the north they left for the future city, and settled themselves in this pleasant valley. The pioneer missionary of Northern California—Father Junipero Serra, that rigorous old Spaniard who used to beat his breast with stones—established himself here, with his Franciscan monks, in the fall of 1776. His old church is still standing,—an adobe building, with earthen floor, the walls and ceiling covered with rude paintings of saints and angels.
The Presidio of San Francisco was established in the spring preceding, by a colony sent out by the Viceroy of Mexico, accompanied by a military command. Father Pedro Font came with the expedition. He was a scientific man, and recorded his observations of the country and the people. Just before starting, a mass was sung for their happy journey, to the Most Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, whom they chose for their patroness, together with the Archangel Michael and their Father Saint Francis.
When they reached the vicinity of the Gila River, the governors of several of the rancherias came out to meet them, with the alcalde, and a body of Pimas Indians, mounted on horses, who presented them with the scalps of several Apaches they had slain the day before. At the next stopping-place along the river, they were met by about a thousand Indians, who were very hospitable, and made a great shed of green boughs for them, in which to pass the night.
Father Pedro observed that the country must formerly have been inhabited by a different race, as the ground was strewn with fragments of painted earthenware, which the Pimas did not understand making. He saw also the ruins of an ancient building, with walls four and six feet thick. On the east and west sides were round openings, through which, according to the Indian traditions, the prince who lived there used to salute the rising and setting sun.
The company travelled on, singing masses, and resting by the way, until they reached what Father Pedro called "a miracle of Nature, the port of ports" (San Francisco Bay). He ascended a table-land, that ended in a steep white rock, to admire what he calls the "delicious view,"—including the bay and its islands, and the ocean, with the Farallons in the distance, of which he made a sketch. He mentioned Angel Island, which still bears that name. The commandant planted a cross on the steep white rock, as the symbol of possession, and also at Point Reyes (Point of Kings), and selected the table-land for the site of the Presidio. Father Font explored the country about the bay, and made some surveys. He noticed some Indians with launches made of tules (bulrushes), in which they navigated the streams.
It would have been fortunate for the Indians if all the priests sent among them had been of as gentle a spirit as Father Pedro. He says, in his account of this expedition, that they received him everywhere with demonstrations of joy, with dancing and singing. But, some years after, we hear that the soldiers were sent out from the Presidio to lasso the Indians. They were brought in like wild beasts, immediately baptized, and their Christianization commenced. Kotzebue, one of the early Russian explorers, says that in his time (1824) he saw them at Santa Clara driven into the church like a flock of sheep, by an old ragged Spaniard, armed with a stick. Some of the more humane priests complained bitterly of this violent method of converting the heathen, and insisted that all the Indians who had been brought in by force should be restored "to their gentile condition."
In the old Mission of Santa Barbara, we saw some of the frightful pictures considered so very effective in converting them. One special painting, representing in most vivid colors the torments of hell, was said of itself alone to have led to hosts of conversions; but a picture of paradise, in the same church, which was very subdued in its treatment and coloring, had failed to produce any effect.
The services of the Indians belonged for life to the missions to which they were attached. They were taught many useful things. They watered and kept the gardens and fields of grain, and tended the immense herds of cattle that roamed over the hills. Traders came to the coast to buy hides and tallow from the ranches and the missions, and the product of their fields. For seventy years, these old monks, supported by Spain, were the rulers of California. Spain's foreign and colonial troubles, however, led her to appropriate to other purposes the "Pious Fund" by which the missions were maintained. Jealousy of their growing power, and revolutions in Mexico, hastened their downfall. The discovery of gold in 1848 introduced the element which was to prove their final destruction.
It is a curious fact that the first adventurer who ever set foot on this soil, Sir Francis Drake, although he was here for only a month, repairing his ship, became convinced that there was no earth about here but had some probable show of gold or silver in it. If news had spread then as rapidly as now, in these days of newspapers and telegraphs, it would not have lain two hundred and seventy years untouched, and then been discovered only by accident.
NOVEMBER 3, 1876.
A few days ago, I wandered on to the solitary Chinese quarter of Lone Mountain, and happened upon the celebration of the Feast of the Dead. Hundreds and hundreds of Chinamen were bowing over the graves in the sand. Each grave had on it little bright-colored tapers burning, sometimes large fires beside, made of the red and silver paper they use at the New Year. Each had curious little cups and teapots and chop-sticks, rice, sugar-cane, and roast chicken. I saw some little white cakes, inscribed with red letters, similar to children's Christmas cakes with names on them. Every thing that seems nice to a Chinaman was there. They were so engrossed in what they were doing, that they took no notice whatever of my observation of them. At each grave they spread a mat, and arranged the food. Then some one that I took for the nearest friend clasped his hands, and bowed in a sober, reverent way over the grave; then poured one of the little cups of rice wine out on the sand. It reminded me of the offerings I saw made to the spirit of the dead Indian child, at Port Townsend. Then two dead men were brought out to be buried, while we stood there; and the instant they were covered with the sand, the Chinamen called to each other, "fy, fy!" (quick, quick!),—to light the fire, as if it were to guide them on the way, as the Indians think. They threw into the air a great many little papers. I asked if those were letters to the dead Chinamen, and they said, "Yes,"—but I am not sure if they understood me.
It produced such a strange effect, in this wild, desert-looking place, to see all these curious movements, and the fires and the feasts on the graves, that I felt utterly lost. It was as if I had stepped, for a few moments, into another world.
The Chinamen are so very saving, never wasting any thing, and they have to work so hard for all their money, and pay such high duty on the things they import from home, that they would not incur all this expense unless they felt sure that it answered some end. It is a matter for endless pondering what they really believe about it. They are satisfied with a very poor, little, frugal meal for themselves; but on this occasion every thing was done in the greatest style. At one place was a whole pig, roasted and varnished; and every grave had a fat, roasted chicken, with its head on, and dressed and ornamented in the most fanciful manner. The red paper which they use for visiting-cards at the New Year, and seem to be very choice of then, they sacrificed in the most lavish way at this time. They fired off a great many crackers to keep off bad spirits.
Most of the graves were only little sand-mounds for temporary use, until the occupants should be carried back to China; but one was a great semi-circular vault, so grand and substantial-looking that it suggested the Egyptian Catacombs. Over one division of the graveyard, I saw a notice which I could partly read, saying that no woman or child could be buried there.
The Chinese are so out of favor here now, that the State Government is trying to limit the number that shall be allowed to come. About a thousand arrive on each steamer. How foolish it seems to be afraid of them, especially for their good qualities! the chief complaint against them being that they are so industrious, economical, and persevering, that sooner or later all the work here will fall into their hands.
JANUARY 9, 1877.
We have been having some very strange weather here,—earthquake weather, it is called by some persons. It seems as if it came from internal fires. It has been so warm at night that we could not sleep, even with two open windows.
The chief thought of every one is, "When will it rain?" Prayers are offered in the churches for rain. It is also the subject of betting; and the paper this morning said that several of the prominent stockbrokers were confined to their rooms, with low spirits, on account of the condition of stocks, caused by the general depression from the dry season. We watch the sky a good deal. Strange clouds appear and disappear, but nothing comes of them. To-day, when I first looked out of my window, there were two together, before it, most human-like in appearance, that seemed to hold out their arms, as if in appeal; but, as I watched them, they only drew their beautiful trailing drapery after them, and moved slowly away.
There is a curious excitement about this weather, coming in the middle of winter. These extremes of dryness, and this strange heat at this season, reversing all natural order, may be one cause of the peculiarities of the Californians; and they are certainly peculiar people. I recently took a little excursion to Oakland, crossing the bay by the ferry, and riding some distance in the cars. A pleasant feeling came over me as I saw that it was like crossing the Merrimac from Newburyport to Salisbury; the distance was about as far, and there were the same low trees and green grass on the opposite side. I felt quite at home, until, on entering the cars, my eyes lighted on this notice, posted conspicuously everywhere: "Passengers will beware of playing three-card monte, strap, or any other game of chance, with strangers. If you do, you will surely be robbed." All visions of respectable New England vanished at that sight.
Quong.—His Protege.—His Peace-Offering.—The Chinese and their Grandmothers.—Ancient Ideas.—Irish, French, and Spanish Chinamen.—Chinese Ingenuity.—Hostility against the Chinese.—Their Proclamations.—Discriminations against them.—Their Evasion of the Law.—Their Perseverance against all Obstacles.—Their Reverence for their Ancestors, and Fear of the Dead.—Their Medical Knowledge.—Their Belief in the Future.—Their Curious Festivals.—Indian Names for the Months.—Resemblance between the Indians and Chinese.—Their Superstitions.
SAN FRANCISCO, February 20, 1877.
Some time since, we asked the washman to send us a new boy. One evening, in the midst of a great storm of wind and rain, the most grotesque little creature appeared at the door, with his bundle under his arm, as if he were sure of being accepted. We thought we must keep him for a day or two, on account of the weather, and just to show him that he could not do what we wanted; but he proved too amusing for us to think of letting him go. His name is Quong. He is shorter than Margie, who is only nine, and has much more of a baby face, but a great deal of dignity; and he assures me, when they go out together, that he shall take good care of Margie and the baby, and if there is any trouble he will call the police. We felt a little afraid to trust them with him at first, because the Chinese are so often attacked in the streets; but he has unbounded confidence in the police, and has a little whistle with which to call them. It reminds me of Robin Hood; he takes such great pleasure in making use of it, and comes out so safe from all dangers by the help of it.
The first Sunday that he was here, we told him that he could go out for a while, as all the Chinese do on that day. When he came back, I asked him where he had been. These little boys are all petted a good deal at the wash-houses, and I supposed he had been there enjoying himself. But he said that he went every Sunday to see a small boy that he had charge of, who was too young to work; that he sent him now to school, but next year he should tell him, "No work, no eat;" and, if he did not do something to support himself, he should not give him clothes any more. I remember reading that the Chinese were considered men at fourteen. It is very comical to see such a little creature assume these responsibilities, and take such pride in them. He says that he is ten, but his face is perfectly infantine; and he is a baby too in his plays. He rolls and tumbles about like a young dog or kitten. If it rains, he seems like a wild duck, he is so pleased with it; and then, when the sun comes out, he hardly knows how to express his enjoyment of it; he looks at me with such a radiant face, saying, "Oh, nice sun, nice!" I feel ready at that moment to forgive him for every thing that we ever have to blame him for,—such a sun seems to shine out of him; and I feel as if we made a mistake to be critical about his little faults, which are mainly attributable to his extreme youth.
He has lately been away to celebrate the new year. "Going home to China," he calls it, because at that time the Chinese eat their national food, and observe their own customs. We told him, before he left, that he must be sure to come back in two days; but three passed, with no sign of him. Then R—— went down to the wash-house, and left word that he must come directly back. In the course of the afternoon, he walked in. The moment he opened the door, we said to him, very severely, "What for you stop too long?" But he walked up to me, without a word, and put down before me a little dirty handkerchief, all tied up in knots, which I finally made up my mind to open. It was full of the most curious sweet-meats and candy, little curls of cocoanut, frosted with sugar; queer fruits, speckled with seeds; and some nuts that looked exactly like carved ram's-heads with horns. We had to accept this as a peace-offering, and put aside our anger.
He is much pleased to be where there is a woman. Although he is so young, he says that he has lived generally only with men,—Spanish men, he says, where there was "too much tree." I suppose it was some rather unsettled place,—a sheep-ranch, perhaps.
He is so unsophisticated that he will answer all our questions, as the older ones will not, if they can. I asked him, one day, about the ceremonies that I saw at Lone Mountain,—what they burned the red and silver paper on the graves for; and he said that in the other world the Chinamen were dressed in paper, and, if they did not burn some for them on their graves, they would not have any clothes. I told him I saw a boy kneel down on a grave, and take a cup of rice wine, and sip a little, and then pour it out on the sand. He said, Oh, no, that he did not drink any, only put it to his lips, and said, "Good-by, good-by," because the dead Chinaman would come no more.
Whenever he speaks of any thing mysterious, we can see, by the darkening of his face, how he feels the awe of it. One of his friends, in hurrying to get his ironing done, to get ready to celebrate the new year, brought on an attack of hemorrhage of the lungs. Of course, it was necessary to keep him entirely still, which his companions knew; but, at the same time, they were so afraid that he might die where he was, that they insisted on carrying him to another place, a long way off, which killed him. For, they said, if he died at the wash-house, he would come back there; and then all the Chinamen would leave, or they would have to move the house. His grandmother, the boy said, came back in a blue flame, and asked for something to eat, and they had to move the house; then she came back to where the house stood before, but could not get any farther.
The Chinese stand in great awe of their grandmothers. In their estimate of women, as in many of their other ideas, they are quite different from the rest of the world; with them a woman increases in value as she grows older. The young girl who is a slave to her mother can look forward to the prospect of being a goddess to her grandchildren.
MARCH 20, 1877.
Quong observes every thing, and asks endless questions about what he sees. He says that the French and Spanish people here like the Chinamen "too much" (a good deal); and that the "Melicans half likee, half no likee;" but the Irishmen "no likee nothing,"—seeing so plainly who their true enemies are. Many of the principal people here are Irish. On St. Patrick's Day, R—— told him that he was going to take Margie to see the procession, and that he could go too; but he said, with an air of immense superiority, that he did not care to go and see the "whiskey men;" he would rather stop at home, and do his work.
I feel now that all my responsibilities are shared. A while ago, R—— was obliged to stay out one night till twelve o'clock; and, when he came home, he found the boy, with his little black head on the kitchen table, fast asleep. When he waked him, and asked him what he was there for, he said, that, as every one else was asleep, he staid there to take care of the house. On another occasion, when R—— was to be out late again, I took pains to tell him to go right to bed, as soon as he had washed the dishes. He looked up at me, as if he were going to suggest the most insuperable obstacle to that, and asked, "Who fuff the light?" (put it out.)