HotFreeBooks.com
Life at Puget Sound: With Sketches of Travel in Washington Territory, British Columbia, Oregon and California
by Caroline C. Leighton
Previous Part     1  2  3  4
Home - Random Browse

One thing that I am always very much impressed with, in regard to the Chinese, is the feeling of there being something ancient about them, no matter how young they may be themselves; not only because many of them wear clothes which appear to have been handed down from their remotest ancestors, but they have ancient ideas. This boy, although he is of such a cheerful temperament, seems always to keep his own death in view, as much as the old Egyptian kings ever did. He pays a kind of burial-fee, amounting to nearly a quarter of his wages, every month, to some one appointed by the Chinese company to which he belongs; and when R—— remonstrated with him, and told him how foolish and unnecessary it was, and how much better it would be to spend the money for something else, he seemed to regard his remarks with great horror, and said he must pay it; to leave off wasn't to be thought of, for then, he said, he should have "no hole to get into" (meaning no grave), and there would be no apples thrown away at his funeral.

We one day heard him speaking of one of his countrymen as an Irish Chinaman; and, when we asked him what he meant, he said there were Irish Chinamen, French Chinamen, and Spanish Chinamen. Our own observation seems to confirm this idea. We see often among them the light, careless temperament which marks the French; these are the men who support the theatres, and patronize the gaming-dens. The grave, serene Spanish is the common type; and, since the hoodlum spirit has broken out among the Californians, it has called out a coarse, rough class among the Chinese, corresponding to the lower grades of the Irish. To this class belong the "Highbinders,"—men bound by secret oaths to murder, robbery, and outrage. The actual crimes that can be justly charged against the Chinese in this country are due, almost wholly, to the spirit that evoked these men.

Their ingenuity is equal to their perseverance in accomplishing an end. The Six Companies having made a regulation in regard to the wash-houses, that there should be at least fifteen houses between every two of them, one of the washmen was notified that he must give up his business, there being only fourteen houses between his and the next establishment. Although the Six Companies' directions are absolute law, he had no idea of doing this. He carefully examined the fourteen buildings, and found among them a deserted pickle manufactory, which he hired for one day, with the privilege of putting up a partition which would divide it into two houses,—in that way fulfilling the requirements of the law.

APRIL 30, 1877.

There has lately been a great excitement about the Chinese here, and several meetings have been held to consider how to get rid of them; and anti-Chinese processions, carrying banners with crossed daggers, have paraded the streets. One night the Chinese armed themselves, and went up on to the tops of their houses, prepared to fire on a mob. They issued a proclamation, saying, that they were not much accustomed to fighting (I remember learning, in the geography, that they dressed themselves in quilted petticoats when they went to battle), but they should sell their lives as dearly as they could.

Another proclamation which they sent out was very characteristic of them; it showed so good an understanding of the subject, suggesting so artfully that, if the Chinamen were not allowed unlimited freedom to come here, Americans should not be allowed to go to China.

In an "Address to the Public" which they recently put forth, they explained, that, instead of taking the places of better men, as they are accused of doing, they considered that, in performing the menial work they did, they opened the way to higher and more lucrative employments for others; saying several times, in their simple, impressive way, "We lift others up."

In regard to the other chief accusation,—that they do not profit the country any, do not invest any thing here, but send every thing home to China,—they said, "The money that you pay us for our labor, we send home; but the work remains for you,"—as, for instance, the Pacific Railroad.

In trying to accumulate arguments against them, the anti-Chinese party have made a great deal of the fact that they are bound to companies, who advance money for them to come here, and say that the cooly trade is like the slave-trade. One of the anti-Chinese speakers said he helped make California a free state, and seemed to think he was employed in the same meritorious way now. Upon investigation, it proved that many of them do mortgage themselves—that is, their services—for a number of years, to get here; and that it is often in order that they may support poor relatives at home, who would otherwise starve. This shows some of their heathen virtues. A good deal of the objection to them seems to be on the ground of their being Pagans; some of the speakers saying that it is "so very demoralizing to our Christian youth," that they should be here,—quite overlooking a very large class of the population who are worse than Pagans, and vastly more dangerous.

The idea now seems to be, to drive them away by discriminating against them in State and city regulations; as, for instance, by enforcing the "pure-air ordinance," by which every Chinaman who sleeps where there is less than five hundred cubic feet of air for each person, pays a fine of ten dollars, but white people sleep as they choose. Then, as they value their cues above all things, and are greatly disgraced if they lose them,—having even been known to commit suicide when deprived of them,—an old ordinance is restored, by which every one who is put in jail must have his hair cropped close. They are often arrested on false charges. Then a special tax is levied on their wash-houses, and a new regulation made, by which no one can carry baskets on poles across the sidewalks; that being the way they carry about vegetables to sell. All these little teasing things, and a great many other annoyances which have not any pretence of legality, they bear with patience, and seem in all ways to show more forbearance even, and give, if possible, less ground for complaint, than before.

The poll-tax, which is levied on all males over twenty-one years of age, is rigorously collected from the Chinamen, while no special effort is made to collect it from the whites. In crossing the ferry to Oakland, they are often pounced upon by the collector,—in many instances when they are under age; and, unless they can show a tax receipt, their travelling bags or bundles are taken from them, and retained until the requirements of the collector are satisfied. Their wit and shrewdness avail them, however, to avoid this trouble; and a Chinaman who has occasion to cross the ferry can usually borrow the tax receipt of some one who has already paid. This serves as a passport, as it is not easy for a white man to distinguish them as individuals, on account of their similarity in dress, manners, and general appearance.

The police, being extremely vigilant in respect to all violations of law by the Chinese, have sought out their gambling-dens with great diligence, and made many arrests. The Chinese, not to be baffled,—besides resorting to labyrinthine passages, underground apartments, barricades of various kinds, and other modes of secluding themselves, to indulge in their games undisturbed,—have adopted one medium after another in place of cards, substituting something that could be quickly concealed in case the police should surprise them. At one time they made use of squash or melon seeds for this purpose, cutting on them the necessary devices. These could be much more easily concealed about the folds of their loose garments than cards. When this ruse was detected, they made use of almonds in the same way; and, when surprised, hastily devoured them, leaving not a particle of evidence upon which a policeman could base an arrest.

MAY 10, 1877.

One of the strongest arguments against the Chinese has been that they could never affiliate with our people, nor enter into the spirit of our institutions; that they had no desire to become citizens, and had no families here. Now that they have petitioned for common-school privileges for their children, stating how many there are here, and to what extent they are taxed to support schools, there is a louder outcry than ever against them, for such audacity. They are slowly asserting themselves, in different ways, and showing that they understand a good deal that we thought they did not. One of them has now protested against being imprisoned for violating the "pure-air ordinance." The city has made a good deal of money by the fines paid on this account, but it has been thought expedient to stop the arrests while this case is being tried.

Then they are making an effort against the injustice of the city in discriminating against them by charging more for laundry licenses where the clothes are carried about by hand, than where horses are used; in this way obliging any one who does a small business to pay more in proportion than one who does a large business. There are a great many large French laundries here, that all send about wagons. The Chinese carry every thing by hand; they seem altogether too meek and timid to have horses; but, as they adapt themselves to every thing, they have looked about, and met the difficulty, in part, by securing quite a number of poor, abject animals, with which they are beginning to appear in the streets. There is no change they are not willing to make; and their patience and perseverance are unconquerable, about staying and going on with their work. As an Eastern writer said of them: "They bow to the storm, and rise up, and plod on in the intervals." It is very true of them, as we see them here,—so unresisting, and yet so resistless.

We have lately made the acquaintance of a man who has lived thirty years in Shanghae, who explained many of their customs and ideas. He confirmed some things that our boys had told us, but we understood them better from him. He said that the Chinese have such perfect faith in continued life after death, and in a man's increased power in another life, that it was not an unusual thing for any one who had some great injury to avenge, to kill himself, in order to get into a position to do it more effectually. To them a dead man is more important than a living one; and the one great feature of their religion is the worship of their ancestors. They make a great many offerings to them,—as we saw them do at Lone Mountain. If any one dies at sea, or in a foreign country, where there is no friend or relative to do this for him, he becomes a beggar spirit. It is the duty of the Chinese at home to make offerings to beggar spirits as well as to their own relatives. If any great misfortune happens to a man, he thinks he must have neglected or offended some dead relative, or perhaps one of these beggar spirits; and will impoverish himself for years, to atone for it by a great feast. They are very much afraid of the spirits, and build their houses with intricate passages, and put up screens, to keep them from seeing what happens; and they especially avoid openings north and south, as they think the spirits move only in north and south lines. What is more important than almost any thing in a man's life, is to be placed right after his death,—toward the south, that he may receive genial and reviving influences from it; but if he is toward the north, and gets chilling influences from that direction, he wreaks his vengeance on his living relatives who placed him there.

We learn a good deal from the boys we have. I should like very much to go into their schools, they are so well taught in many respects. One of our boys once took some fruit-wax, and modelled a perfect little duck. He said he was taught at school how to do it. He also drew several animals with an exceedingly life-like appearance. This early instruction is no doubt the basis of the acknowledged superiority of the Chinese as carvers in wood and ivory.

I have often wondered that more of them do not die in coming to a climate so different from their own, and adopting such new modes of life as most of them are obliged to do. But they all seem to have been taught the rudiments of medicine. A young American boy, if he is sick, has not the remotest idea what to do for himself; but the Chinese boys know in most cases. We have often seen them steeping their little tin cups of seeds, roots, or leaves on the kitchen stove, which they said was medicine for some ailment or other, but "Melican man no sabbe Chinaman medicine;" and sometimes, when they did not have their own remedies at hand, I have offered them pellets or tinctures from my homoeopathic supply, which they could rarely be induced to accept, alleging that "Melican medicine no good for Chinaman." One of our little boys went to a Chinese doctor for himself one day, and when he came back, I asked him what the doctor said. He told me that he pressed with his finger here and there on his flesh, to see if it rose readily, and the color came back. I saw that he meant if any one was not very sick, that the flesh was elastic; and I thought it was quite a good test, and one that might perhaps be useful to our doctors. They have one curious idea in their treatment, which is, that, if any one is sick, he is to eat an additional meal instead of less. Nevertheless, they seem to get well with this arrangement.

The belief in a future life, and in improved conditions hereafter, seems to be universal among them. A poor Chinaman was found dead near us, with a letter beside him, which was translated at the inquest held over the body.

THIRD MONTH, 27th DAY [May 4].

TO MY FATHER AND MOTHER,—I came to this country, and spent my money at the gambling-table, and have not accomplished any thing. Where I am now, I cannot raise money to return home. I am sick, and have not long to live. My life has been a useless one. When you have read this letter, do not cry yourselves sick on my account. Let my brothers' wives rear and educate my two cousins. I wish to be known as godfather to one of them. I desire Chow He, my wife, to protect and assist you. When you both are dead, she may marry if she wishes. In this world I can do no more for you, father and mother. You must look to the next world for any future benefit to be received from me.

TONG GOOT LOON.

SEPTEMBER 10, 1877.

The Chinese generally appear unwilling to talk with us about their religious customs and ideas, apparently from superstitious feelings. Occasionally we meet with an intelligent one, who readily answers our questions, and tells us about many of their festivals celebrated at home, which are not recognized here. Notwithstanding their solemn faces and methodical ways, they are as fond of celebrations as the San Francisco people themselves. They celebrate the Festival of the Little Cold, and of the Great Cold; of the Little Snow, and of the Great Snow; of the Moderate Heat, and of the Great Heat. Early in the autumn comes the Festival of Pak-lo, or the White Dew; later in the autumn, the Festival of Hon-lo, or the Cold Dew. About the time of our harvest moon, the fifteenth day of eighth moon, they celebrate the Festival of the Full Moon, eating moon-cakes, and sending presents to their friends, of tea, wine, and fruits; in February, the Festival of Rain and Water; early in the spring (the sixth day of second moon), the Festival of Enlivened Insects. On the third day of third moon they celebrate, for three days and nights, the birthday of Pak Tai, god of the extreme north; in spring, the birthday of the god of health; in spring also, the great Festival of Tsing Ming (Clear and Bright). On this occasion, they visit and worship at the tombs. In all great festivals the ancestors must share. In early summer occurs the Festival of the Prematurely Ripened. The hour for the offering of each sacrifice is most carefully chosen,—that of the spring sacrifice being at the first glimmering of dawn.

This shows as close observation of nature on their part as the Indians display, and reminds me of the names the Makahs give to the months: December, the moon when the gray whale appears; March, the moon of the fin-back whale; April, the moon of sprouts and buds; May, the moon of the salmon-berry; June, the moon of the red huckleberry; November, the moon of winds and screaming birds. The Makahs select the time of the full moon as an especially favorable one to communicate with the Great Spirit.

I do not know whether it is now considered that our Indians are of Oriental origin. It seems at first as if two races could hardly differ more than Indians and Chinese; but, after living long among them, many resemblances attract our attention. We have seen, occasionally, Indians with quite Mongolian features, and short, square frames. Flattening the head among the Indians is considered a mark of distinction, as compressing the feet is with the Chinese; no slave being allowed to practise either. The reverence of the Indians for the graves of their fathers approaches the worship of ancestors among the Chinese. No outrage is greater to the Indians than to desecrate the burial-places of their dead. They often make sacrifices to them, and celebrate anniversaries of the dead with dancing and feasting. The Chinese feast their dead at regular intervals, and carry them thousands of miles across the ocean from foreign countries to rest in their own land at last. The Manitous (ruling spirits) of earth, air, and water, with the Indians, are, in some respects, like the Shin of the Chinese,—spirits that inhabit all nature; but the Shin are inferior deities, not having much power, being employed rather as detectives,—as the kitchen god, or hearth spirit, who at the end of the year reports the conduct of the family to Shang-te, the God of Heaven. Both races are firm believers in the power and efficacy of charms: the Chinaman, in his green-jade bracelet, is demon-proof; the Indian warrior, in a white wolf-skin, rides to certain victory. Both are excessively superstitious, considering that the ruling spirits are sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile; and feel it necessary, in all the commonest acts of their lives, to be constantly on the watch to guard against malign influences,—attributing great power for harm to the spirits of the dead. An Indian, like a Chinaman, will frequently abandon his lodge, thinking some dead relative whom he has offended has discovered him there. He is afraid to speak the name of any one who is dead, and often changes his own name, that the dead person, not hearing the old name spoken, may not so readily find him. Indians and Chinese are alike in the habit of changing their names, having one for youth, another for manhood, and a third for old age; taking new names many times in the course of their lives,—as after any great event or performance.

They resemble each other in their infatuation for gambling,—a Chinaman, after all his possessions have been staked and lost, sometimes selling himself for a term of years, to keep up the game; or an Indian gambling away a hand, an arm, a leg, and so on, and at last the head, until the whole body is lost at the play, and then he goes into perpetual slavery. The Indians will sometimes gamble away their children, though they are usually very fond of them,—the typical "bad Indian" with them being one who is cowardly, or who neglects his children.



XV.

Chun Fa's Funeral.—Alameda.—Gophers and Lizards.—Poison Oak.—Sturdy Trees.—Baby Lizards.—Old Alameda.—Emperor Norton.—California Generosity.—The Dead Newsboy.—Anniversary of the Goddess Kum Fa.—Chinese Regard for the Moon and Flowers.—A Shin Worshipper.

ALAMEDA, CAL., April 5, 1878.

We have left San Francisco, and come across the bay to live. The last thing I did there was to go to a Chinawoman's funeral. I saw in the papers that Chun Fa, the wife of Loy Mong, was dead; and he would like to have all the Christian Chinese and their friends come to the funeral. I thought I would go. Especially at this time, when the Chinese meet with so much bad treatment, we are glad of an opportunity to show our good-will and sympathy; but I did not expect to be so much interested as I was. The columns in the chapel were wreathed with ivy and lilies, and every thing was very quiet and pleasant in the bright forenoon. One side of the church was filled with Chinese women and girls. It is very hard to tell which are women, and which are children, they all have such childlike faces. I suppose it is because they are so undeveloped. Their uncovered heads, and smooth, shining black hair, looked to me at first all exactly alike; all the company seemed of one pattern. But, when I had noticed them longer, I saw some variety in their manners and expressions. To sit there among them, and feel the differences between them and us, and the resemblances,—so much stronger than the differences,—was a curious experience.

It was a school, I found, and Chun Fa seemed to have been the flower of it. They all mourned very much at losing her. She was the wife of one of their principal merchants,—but their wives are often children. She had a sweet, innocent face; and we heard that she was very intelligent, and eager to learn. With her fair, open look, it seemed as if one could have done a great deal with her in the way of development.

An American man first made a prayer in Chinese; then they all sang—

"Shall we gather at the river?"

in English. They sang with so much fervor, that, although it was so unmusical, I felt more like crying than laughing, to think it was for one of those Chinese women who have been so badly spoken of; the papers often saying that they are all prostitutes, that there are no families among them, and that the California people must purify their State by getting rid of them. Then a serene-looking Chinaman chanted something that sounded very soothing and musical, and another made a prayer. Then we went, each one, and took leave of poor little Chun Fa. I thought I should have been willing to have it my funeral, every thing was so genuine about it; no cant, and nothing superfluous.

We met with quite a disappointment in leaving San Francisco, to find that our little Quong could not go with us. We thought we had obtained leave from the proper patron; but at the last a brother appeared who claimed to be superior authority, and forbade his going. As he seemed a very gruff, disagreeable person, and, as the boy said, had never treated him kindly, we advised him to disobey him; but he said it would never do for a little China boy to disobey a father or an older brother; but, when he was old enough, he would take ten dollars, and buy a pistol, and shoot him.

APRIL 30, 1878.

We are only an hour's ride by cars and steamer from San Francisco. It is hard to believe it, it is so wholly different a place. Before us is a field of blue nemophilas. To see them waving in the wind, recalled to me what Emerson said about its restoring any one to reason and faith to live in the midst of nature,—so many trivial cares and anxieties disappeared at the sight of it. On the other side, the water rolls softly up to our very door. We bathe in it, floating about at will in warm or cold currents.

The first morning after we moved here, I noticed two small hills and holes, newly dug, beside our door. A curious little head thrust itself out of one, and two small eyes peered at me. They belonged to one of the little underground creatures, called gophers, that we have all about us. They eat roots, and it is almost impossible to cultivate any thing where they are. They appeared to have come just because they saw that the house was going to be occupied. I think they like human company, only they want to keep their own distance. They and the lizards quite animate the landscape. The gopher's wise, old-fashioned looking head is quite a contrast to that of the lizard, with its eager, inquisitive expression. There is always a little twisted-up head and bright eye, or a sharp little tail, appearing and disappearing, wherever we look. They spend their whole time in coming and going. Their purpose seems to be accomplished, if they succeed in seeing us, and getting safely away.

The wagoner who moved us over from San Francisco made some commiserating remarks concerning me, as he deposited the last load of furniture; saying that it was a good place to raise children, but would be very solitary for the woman.

It is a lonely place here, but the water is constant company. As I write, the only sound I can hear is the gentle roll of waves, and now and then an under sound that seems to come from far-off caverns,—so soft and so deep. I never lived so close to the water before, so that its changes made a part of my every-day life. Even when I am so busy that I do not look at it, I feel how the tide is creeping in, filling up all the little inlets, and making all waste places bright and full.

MAY 10, 1878.

We made inquiries of some of the old residents, in reference to the wind, before we decided to come here; but people who live in half-settled places, I find, are very apt to misrepresent,—they are so eager for neighbors. How much wiser we should have been to have consulted the trees!—they show so plainly that they have fought all their lives against a strong sea-wind, bending low, and twisting themselves about, trying to get away from it.

We find that where we live is not Alameda proper, but is called the Encinal District,—encinal being the Spanish for oak. I do not know whether they mean by it the old dusky evergreens, or the poison oak which is every where their inseparable companion. Soon after we arrived, we found ourselves severely affected by it. It was then in flower, and we attributed its strength to that circumstance; but every change it passes through re-enforces its life,—when it ripens its berries, when its leaves turn bright, or when the autumn rains begin. Every thing suits it; moisture or dryness, whichever prevails, appears to be its element. Thoreau, who liked to see weeds overrun flowers, would have rejoiced in its vigor. We never touch it; but any one sensitive to its influence cannot pass near it, nor breathe the air where it grows, without being affected by it. Alameda seems hardly ready for human occupancy yet, unless something effectual can be done to exterminate it. We often see superficial means taken, like burning it down to the level of the earth; but what short-sighted warfare is that which gives new strength after a brief interval! On one account I forgive it many injuries,—that it furnishes our only bright autumn foliage, turning into most vivid and beautiful shades of red. Except for the poison oak, and a few of the long, narrow leaves of the Eucalyptus, that hang like party-colored ribbons on the trees, we have no change in the foliage between summer and winter; there are always the same old dingy evergreen oaks everywhere about us.

There are some cultivated grounds and gardens in the neighborhood, but everywhere interspersed among them are wild fields. The trees have a determined look, as they stand and hold possession of them. The cultivated ones that border the streets, in contrast with them, appear quite tame. I find myself thinking of the latter sometimes as if they were artificial, and only these old aborigines were real; they have so much more character and expression. I heard a lady criticising Alameda, saying that there were so many trees, you could not see the place. We have a general feeling, all the time, as if we were camping out, and everybody else were camping out too. The trees are scattered everywhere; and it is quite the fashion, in this humble part of the town, for people to live in tents while they build their own houses. These trees are of a very social kind, bending low, and spreading their branches wide, so that any one could almost live in them just as they are. They are a great contrast to the firs which we had wholly around us on Puget Sound. They have strange fancies for twisting and turning. I have never seen two alike, nor one that grew up straight. It is not because they are so yielding,—they are as stiff and rugged as they can be,—it must be their own wild nature that makes them like to grow in strange, irregular ways. Sometimes, when I look at great fields of them, I feel as if I were in the midst of a storm, every thing has such a wind-swept look, although it is perfectly still at the time. One day I came upon a body of them, that appeared as if they had all been stopped by some sudden enchantment, in the midst of running away. Often we see trees that look as if they had come out of the wars, with great clefts in their sides, and holes through them. Their foliage is very slight; there is very little to conceal their muscular look. It seems as if we could feel in them the will that tightened all the fibres.

MAY 15, 1878.

The great event to us lately has been the advent of the baby lizards. The streets are all laid with planks, clean and sunny. The lizards delight in them, they are so bright and warm. I like to see, as I walk along, these curious little bodies, in old-fashioned scale armor, stopping and looking about, as if they were drinking in the comfort of the sunshine, just as I am. Although they stop a great deal, it is very difficult to catch one, for their movements are like a flash. I did succeed once in holding one long enough to examine his beautiful steel-blue bands. The babies are as delicate as if they were made of glass, and as light and airy as if they belonged to fairy-land. They run, all the time, backward and forward, just for the pleasure of moving, over the sidewalk, and under it.

When I read in the papers, every week, about the people who kill themselves in San Francisco,—and they generally say that they do it because there does not seem to be any thing worth living for,—I wonder if it would not make a difference to them if they lived in the country, and saw how entertaining the world looks to the lively little creatures about us, who think it worth while to move so quickly, and look well about on every side, for fear they may miss seeing something.

JULY 2, 1878.

When we first came here in the spring, and found the ground all blue and yellow and white with blossoms, I thought how interested I should be, to watch the succession of flowers. But that was all. In these dry places, we have only spring flowers. I did, though, the other day, see something red in the distance, and, going to it, found a clump of thistles, almost as tall as I am, of a bright crimson color. The fields are very dry now, and it seems to be the season of the snakes. Under the serpent-like branches, we find nothing but the cast-off skins of the snakes.

There are some curious old men here who tend cattle, sitting under the trees, with their knitting. I think they are Germans. They do not appear to understand when I speak to them. I thought they might be "broke miners," who are generally the most curious people here-abouts.

One of these "broke miners" is employed to take care of two little children near us, whose mother is dead. He dresses them with their clothes hind-side before, and liable at any moment to drop entirely off; but seems to succeed very well in amusing them, quilting up his dishcloths into dolls for them, and transforming their garments into kites. His failing seems to be that a kind of dreamy mood is apt to steal over him, in which he wanders on the beach, regardless of hours; and the master of the house, coming home, has to hunt high and low for him, to come and prepare the meal. On the last bright moonlight night, he wholly disappeared.

OCTOBER 15, 1878.

We have finally been driven off by the wind from our cottage on the bay. Margie has been so accustomed to moving, that she takes it as easily as an Indian child would. A few days before we left, she gave me an account of the moving of the man opposite, which was all accomplished before breakfast in the morning. First, she said, he put all his things on a wagon, and then took his house to pieces, and put that on; and then he and the wagoner sat down and drank a pot of coffee together, and started off, on their load.

We did not take our house with us, but found a rather dilapidated one, in what is called Old Alameda. It is quite attractive, from the trees and vines about it, and the spacious garden in which it stands. It is owned by an old German woman, who lives next to us. She is rich now, and owns the whole block, but still holds to her old peasant customs, and wears wooden shoes. Opposite is a French family, who go off every year to a vineyard, to make wine; and, next to them, a poor Spanish family, who carry round mussels to sell.

MARCH 3, 1879.

We have had a real winter; not that it was very cold or snowy,—that it never is here,—but so excessively rainy as to keep us a good deal in-doors. The grass grew up in the house, and waved luxuriantly round the edges of the rooms. The oak-trees surprised us by bursting out into fresh young green, though we had not noticed that they had lost any of their hard, evergreen leaves.

APRIL 10, 1879.

While we were crossing the ferry between San Francisco and Oakland one day, a peculiar-looking person appeared on the deck of the boat, who saluted the assembled company in a most impressive manner. He was a large man, serene and self-possessed, with rather a handsome face. On his broad shoulders he wore massive epaulets, a sword hung by his side, and his hat was crowned with nodding peacock feathers. I noticed that he passed the gates where the tickets are delivered, unquestioned, giving only a courteous salute, instead of the customary passport. Upon inquiry, I learned that he was the "Emperor Norton, ruler of California," according to his fancy; and that he passed free wherever he chose to go,—theatres opening their doors to him, railroads and steamers conveying him without charge. He was an old pioneer, distraught by misfortunes, and humored in this hallucination by the people. He was in the habit of ordering daily telegraphic despatches sent to the different crowned heads of Europe. He had once been known to draw his sword upon his washer-woman, because she presumed to demand payment for his washing; whereupon the Pioneer Society, learning of the affair, took upon itself the charge of meeting all little expenses of this nature.

The Californians have a jolly, good-natured way of regarding idiosyncrasies, and a kind of lavish generosity in the distribution of their alms, quite different from the careful and judicious method of the Eastern people. We hear that some of the early miners, passing along the streets of San Francisco, just after it had been devastated by one of the terrible fires that swept every thing before them, and seeing a lone woman sitting and weeping among the ruins, flung twenty-dollar gold pieces and little packages of gold dust at her, until all her losses were made good, and she had a handsome overplus to start anew.

I noticed in Oakland a man who drew the whole length of his body along the sidewalk, like an enormous reptile, moving slowly by the help of his hands, unable to get along in any other way, holding up a bright, sunny, sailor face. On his back was a pack of newspapers, from which men helped themselves, and flung him generally a half or a quarter of a dollar, always refusing the change. That such a man could do business in the streets, was a credit to the kindliness of the people incommoded by him. I hardly think he would have been tolerated in New York or Boston; but his pleasant face and fast-disappearing papers showed that he was not made uncomfortably aware of the inconvenience he caused.

One day, while waiting at the ferry, I saw two men employed in a way that attracted the attention of every one who passed. One of them, who had in his hand a pair of crutches, ascended some steps, and, crossing them, nailed them to the wall, close to the gateway where the passengers passed to the boat. The other arranged some light drapery in the form of wings above them. Below they put a small table, with the photograph of a little newsboy on it. All the business-men, the every-day passengers crossing to their homes on the Oakland side, appeared to understand it, and quietly laid some piece of money beside the picture. It seems that it was the stand of a little crippled boy who had for a year or two furnished the daily papers to the passengers passing to the boat. The money was for his funeral expenses, and to help his family. It was very characteristic of the Californians to take this dramatic and effective way of collecting a fund. Men who would have been very likely to meet a subscription-paper with indifference, on being appealed to in this poetic manner, with no word spoken, only seeing the discarded crutches and the white wings above, with moist eyes laid their little tribute below, as if it were a satisfaction to do so. I thought how the little newsboy's face would have brightened if he could have seen it, and hoped that he might not be beyond all knowledge of it now.

We have had an opportunity to observe some fine-looking Chinamen who have been at work on the railroad all winter opposite our house. There are a hundred or more of them. We understand that they are from the rural districts of China. They are large, strong, and healthy, quite different from the miserable, stunted, sallow-faced creatures from the cities, of whom we see so many, showing that this inferiority is not inherent in the race, but is the effect of unfavorable circumstances.

MAY 15, 1879.

Day before yesterday was the anniversary of the birthday of the Chinese goddess Kum Fa, or Golden Flower, guardian of children. She is worshipped chiefly by women; but some of the workers on the railroad begged branches of the feathery yellow acacia, which is now in bloom, to carry with them to the temple in San Francisco. They are so unpoetic in many ways, that we should hardly expect them to be so fond of flowers; but they mourn very much if the bulbs which they keep growing in stones and water in their houses in the winter do not open for the new year.

The moon and the flowers they enjoy more than any thing else. In many things they are children, and like what children like. The moon holds a very important place to them, and the dates of the new year and all their festivals are determined by its changes. We used to see one of our boys standing, sometimes for hours together, with his arms folded, gazing into the moonlit sky. When questioned as to what he was doing, he said he was "looking at the garden in the moon," and listening to "hear the star-men sing."

This boy appeared to be a Shin worshipper. He made many drawings representing these spirits, with astonishing facility and artistic skill, but, when pressed to explain them, said it was not good to speak much about them. Some rode upon clouds; some thrust their heads out of the water, or danced upon the backs of fishes; some looked out of caves among the hills. There were serene, peaceful ones, with flowers or musical instruments in their hands; others were fierce and hostile, brandishing weapons, and exploding bombs. Everywhere was the wildest freedom and grace, and apparently much symbolic meaning which we could not understand.



LEE AND SHEPARD'S NEW BOOKS.

LIFE AT PUGET SOUND

WITH SKETCHES OF TRAVEL IN

WASHINGTON TERRITORY, BRITISH COLUMBIA, OREGON, AND CALIFORNIA. 1865-1881.

BY

CAROLINE C. LEIGHTON.

The vast inland sea, popularly known as Puget Sound, ramifying in various directions, the wide-spreading and majestic forests, the ranges of snow-capped mountains on either side, the mild and equable climate, and the diversified resources of this favored region, excite the astonishment and admiration of all beholders. To the lovers of the grand and beautiful, unmarred as yet by any human interference, and untrammelled by the conventionalities which pertain to longer settled portions of the globe, it presents an endless field for observation and enjoyment. There is already a steady stream of emigration to this new "land of promise," and everything seems to indicate for it a vigorous growth and development, and a brilliant and substantial future.

THE GOLDEN TRUTH SERIES.

A uniform edition of unequalled selections from the best religious authors. Edited by Mrs. C.A. Means. Dainty volumes, in gold and colors, each, $1.25. Comprising:—

GOLDEN TRUTHS.

"Abounds in gems of truth and beautiful suggestions. A book from which the thoughtful will gather hope."—Baltimore American.

LIVING THOUGHTS.

"A sweet volume of selections from the best writers for Christian instruction, meditation, and comfort."—Christian Secretary, Hartford.

WORDS OF HOPE.

"A volume of religious selections designed for the cheer and consolation of sorrowing friends. Sympathy for a friend in sorrow can be expressed in no more delicate or acceptable manner than by the presentation of these words of hope."—Boston Post.

EUROPEAN BREEZES.

By MARGERY DEANE. Cloth. gilt top, $1.50. Being chapters of travel through Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Switzerland.

"It is just the story that a bright, intelligent woman could relate to a circle of friends, and is written in a snappy, off-hand style. The travels of the writer were mostly confined to the German countries of Europe and to an incursion into that little-travelled country of Hungary. The last chapter in the book is in some respects the best, for it is the most practical, giving, as it does, information in regard to the expenses of a European trip that many an extended traveller has searched for long and far, in vain."—Oregonian.

Sold by all booksellers, or sent by mail, post-paid, on receipt of price.

LEE AND SHEPARD, Publishers, Boston, Mass.

LEE AND SHEPARD'S NEW BOOKS.

WHAT SHALL WE DO WITH OUR DAUGHTERS?

Superfluous Women and other Lectures. By Mrs. Mary A. Livermore. Price, $1.25.

"Earnest, sensible and elevating in tone, these discourses express with sincerity and power the best thoughts of the day regarding the momentous topics with which they deal, and will long be a beacon light to guide the aspirations of the future."—Boston Traveller.

"Mrs. Livermore's book is something to be glad of, and will always have an historic interest as marking the evolution of an existing social question."—Boston Transcript.

TWELVE MONTHS IN AN ENGLISH PRISON.

By Mrs. S.B. Fletcher. 12mo. Cloth. $1.50.

"This volume contains a most thrilling narrative of the experiences of a well-known spiritualist in a situation where the visible ministrations of invisible forces are proven by the testimony of the jailers themselves. Its appearance is destined in create a profound impression, and probably a most lively discussion.

"Many of the scenes and incidents are startling, and if the book should fail to change certain notions in regard to spiritualism, it certainly will confound sceptical thinkers and writers."—Boston Transcript.

HIS TRIUMPH.

By Mrs. Mary A. Denison. Author of "That Husband of Mine," "Like a Gentleman," etc. 16mo. Cloth. $1.00.

"This brightly old domestic idyl deals with actors and theatrical affairs, in the midst of which personages and scenes, the heroine, a charming young wife, acts out a little comedy of her own. This sprightly account of how a modern Eve circumvented a nineteenth century serpent is sure to find favor with novel readers."—The Art Interchange.

Uniform with Lee and Shepard's Dollar Novels.

LIKE A GENTLEMAN. NUMA ROUMESTAN. KINGS IN EXILE. THE PUDDLEFORD PAPER. THE FORTUNATE ISLAND. THE TIGHT SQUEEZE.

FORE AND AFT.

A Personal Narrative of Sea Experiences. By Robert B. Dixon. 16mo. Cloth. 320 pages. Price, $1.25.

This is a book which, like the famous "Two Years Before the Mast," interests young and old alike, and is decidedly pleasant reading to a sea-lover. It has the air of VRAISEMBLANCE, and holds one with the fascination of real struggles with storms and fire and mutiny, and all the perils and marvels of the ever-changing sea.

Sold by all Booksellers, and sent by mail, post-paid, on receipt of price.

LEE AND SHEPARD, Publishers, BOSTON.



TRANSCRIBERS NOTE:

Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as possible, including obsolete and variant spellings. Date entries have been normalized. Obvious typographical errors in punctuation have been fixed. Corrections [in brackets] in the text are noted below:

Page 168 succestion [succession] Page 198 heavp [heavy] Page 201 boy [boys] Page 204 comorants [cormorants] Page 204 in in [in] Page 255 the the [the]

THE END

Previous Part     1  2  3  4
Home - Random Browse