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   Chapter 3 No.3

Here, There and Everywhere By Lord Frederic Hamilton Characters: 48480

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05


Frenchmen pleasant travelling companions-The limitations-Vicomte de Vogue, the innkeeper and the Ikon-An early oil-burning steamer-A modern Bluebeard-His "Blue Chamber"-Dupleix-His ambitious scheme-A disastrous period for France-A personal appreciation of the Emperor Nicholas II-A learned but versatile Orientalist-Pidgin English-Hong-Kong-An ancient Portuguese city in China-Duck junks-A comical Marathon race-Canton-Its fascination and its appalling smells-The malevolent Chinese devils-Precautions adopted against-"Foreign Devils"-The fortunate limitations of Chinese devils-The City of the Dead-A business interview.

M. Des Etangs, the French traveller to whom I have already alluded, agreed to accompany me to the Far East, an arrangement which I welcomed, for he was a very cultivated and interesting man. Unexpectedly he was detained in Ceylon by a business matter, so I went on alone.

I regretted this, for on two previous occasions I had found what a pleasant travelling companion an educated Frenchman can be. I do not think that the French, as a rule, are either acute or accurate observers. They are too apt to start with preconceived theories of their own; anything which clashes with the ideas that they have already formed is rejected as evidence, whilst the smallest scrap of corroborative testimony is enlarged and distorted so that they may be enabled to justify triumphantly their original proposition, added to which, Frenchmen are, as a rule, very poor linguists. This, of course, is speaking broadly, but I fancy that the French mind is very definite and clear-cut, yet rather lacking in receptivity. The French suffer from the excessive development of the logical faculty in them. This same definite quality in the French language, whilst delighting both my ear and my intelligence, rightly or wrongly prevents French poetry from making any appeal to me; it is too bright and sparkling, there is no mystery possible in so clear-cut a medium, added to which, every syllable in French having an equal value, no rhythm is possible, and French poetry has to rely on rhyme alone.

It is not on the cloudless summer day that familiar objects take on vague and fantastic shapes; to effect that, mists and a rain-veiled sky are wanted. Then distances are blotted out, and the values of nearer objects are transformed under the swirling drifts of vapour, and a new dream-world is created under one's very eyes. This is, perhaps, merely the point of view of a Northerner.

As far back as 1881, I had made a trip down the Volga to Southern Russia with that most delightful of men, the late Vicomte Eugene Melchior de Vogue, the French Academician and man-of-letters. I absolve Vogue from the accusation of being unable to observe like the majority of his compatriots, nor, like them, was he a poor linguist. He had married a Russian, the sister of General Anenkoff of Central Asian fame; spoke Russian fluently, and very few things escaped his notice. Though he was much older than me, no more charming companion could be imagined. A little incident at Kazan, on the Volga, amused me enormously. We were staying at a most indifferent hotel kept by a Frenchman. The French proprietor explained to us that July was the month during which the miraculous Ikon of the Kazan Madonna was carried from house to house by the priests. The fees for this varied from 25 roubles (then 2 pounds 10s.) for a short visit from the Ikon of five minutes, to 200 roubles (20 pounds) for the privilege of sheltering the miracle-working picture for an entire night. I must add that the original Ikon was supposed to have been dug up in Kazan in 1597. In 1612 it was removed to Moscow, and was transferred again in 1710 to Petrograd, where a large and pretentious cathedral was built for its reception. In 1812, when Napoleon captured Moscow, the Kazan Madonna was hastily summoned from Petrograd, and many Russians implicitly believe that the rout of the French was solely due to this wonder-working Ikon. In the meanwhile the inhabitants of Kazan realised that a considerable financial asset had left their midst, so with commendable enterprise they had a replica made of the Ikon, which every one accepted as a perfectly satisfactory substitute, much as the Cingalees regarded their "Ersatz" Buddha's tooth at Kandy as fully equal to the original. The French landlord told us that in view of the strong local feeling, he was obliged, in the interests of his business, to pay for a visit from the Ikon, "afin de faire marcher mon commerce," and he invited Vogue and myself to be present at the ceremony.

Next day we stood at the foot of a small back-staircase which had been prepared in Russian fashion for the reception of the Madonna. Both the steps and banisters of the stairs were entirely draped in clean white sheets, to which little sprigs of fir branches had been attached. On a landing, also draped with sheets, a little white-covered table with two lighted candles was to serve as a reposoir for the Ikon. The whole of the hotel staff-all Russians-were present, as well as the frock-coated landlord. The Madonna arrived in a gilt coach-and-four, a good deal the worse for wear, with a coachman and two shaggy-headed footmen, all bareheaded. The priests carried the Madonna up to the temporary altar, and the landlord advanced to pay his devotions.

Now as a Roman Catholic he had little respect for an Ikon of the Eastern Church, nor as a Frenchman could he be expected to entertain lively feelings of gratitude to a miracle-working picture which was supposed by Russians to have brought about the terrible disasters to his countrymen in 1812. Confident in his knowledge that no one present, with the exception of Vogue and myself, understood one word of French, the landlord fairly let himself go.

Crossing himself many times after the Orthodox fashion, and making the low prostrations of the Eastern Church, he began: "Ah! vieille planche peinte, tu n'as pas d'idee comme je me fiche de toi." More low prostrations, and then, "Et c'est toi vieille croute qui imagines que tu as chasse les Francais de ce pays en 1812?" More strenuous crossings, "Ah! Zut alors! et re-zut, et re-re zut! sale planche!" which may be Englished very freely as "Ah! you old painted board, you can have no conception of what I think of you! Are you really swollen-headed enough to imagine that it was you who drove the French out of Russia in 1812? Yah! then, you ugly old daub, and yah! again!" The Russian staff, not understanding one word of this, were much impressed by their master's devotional behaviour, but Vogue and I had to go into the street and laugh for ten minutes.

The wife of a prominent official boarded the steamer at some stopping-place, with her two daughters. They were pretentious folk, talking French, and giving themselves tremendous airs. When they heard Vogue and me talking the same language, she looked at us, gave a sniff, and observed in a loud voice, "Evidently two French commercial travellers!" Next morning she ignored our salutations. During the great heat of the day she read French aloud to her daughters, and to my great joy the book was one of Vogue's. She enlarged on the beauty of the style and language, so I could not help saying, "The author will much appreciate your compliment, madame, for he is sitting opposite you. This is M. de Vogue himself." I need hardly say that the under-bred woman overwhelmed us with civilities after that.

The Volga steamers were then built after the type of Mississippi boats, with immense superstructures; they were the first oil-burning steamers I had ever seen, so I got the Captain's permission to go down to the engine-room. Instead of a grimy stokehole full of perspiring firemen and piles of coal, I found a clean, white-painted place with one solitary but clean man regulating polished taps. The Chief Engineer, a burly, red-headed, red-bearded man, came up and began explaining things to me. I could then talk Russian quite fluently, but the technicalities of marine engineering were rather beyond me, and I had not the faintest idea of the Russian equivalents for, say, intermediate cylinder, or slide-valve. I stumbled lamely along somehow until a small red-haired boy came in and cried in the strongest of Glasgow accents, "Your tea is waiting on ye, feyther."

It appeared that the Glasgow man had been Head Engineer of the river steamboat company for ten years, but we had neither of us detected the other's nationality.

On another occasion, whilst proceeding to India in a Messageries Maritimes boat, I made the acquaintance of an M. Bayol, a native of Marseilles, who had been for twenty-five years in business at Pondicherry, the French colony some 150 miles south of Madras. M. Bayol was a typical "Marius," or Marseillais: short, bald, bearded and rotund of stomach. It is unnecessary to add that he talked twenty to the dozen, with an immense amount of gesticulation, and that he could work himself into a frantic state of excitement over anything in two minutes. I heard on board that he had the reputation of being the shrewdest business man in Southern India. He was most capital company, rolling out perpetual jokes and calembour, and bubbling over with exuberant joie de vivre. I think M. Bayol took a fancy to me on account of my understanding his Provencale patois, for, as a boy, I had learnt French in a Provencale-speaking district.

All Englishmen are supposed in France to suffer from a mysterious disease known as "le spleen." I have not the faintest idea of what this means. The spleen is, I believe, an internal organ whose functions are very imperfectly understood, still it is an accepted article of faith in France that every Briton is "devore de spleen," and that this lamentable state of things embitters his whole outlook on life, and casts a black shadow over his existence. When I got to know M. Bayol better during our evening tramps up and down the deck, he asked me confidentially what remedies I adopted when "ronge de spleen," and how I combated the attacks of this deplorable but peculiarly insular disease, and was clearly incredulous when I failed to understand him. This amazing man also told me that he had been married five times. Not one of his first four wives had been able to withstand the unhealthy climate of Pondicherry for more than eighteen months, so, after the demise of his fourth French wife, he had married a native, "ne pouvant vivre seul, j'ai tout bonnement epouse une indigene."

M. Bayol insisted on showing me the glories of Pondicherry himself, an offer which I, anxious to see a Franco-Indian town, readily accepted. There is no harbour there, and owing to the heavy surf, the landing must be made in a surf-boat, a curious keel-less craft built of thin pliant planks sewn together with copper wire, which bobs about on the surface of the water like a cork. At Pondicherry, as in all French Colonial possessions, an attempt has been made to reproduce a little piece of France. There was the dusty "Grande Place," surrounded with even dustier trees and numerous cafes; the "Cafe du Progres"; the "Cafe de l'Union," and other stereotyped names familiar from a hundred French towns, and pale-faced civilians, with a few officers in uniform, were seated at the usual little tables in front of them. Everything was as different as possible from an average Anglo-Indian cantonment: even the natives spoke French, or what was intended to be French, amongst themselves. The whole place had a rather dejected, out-at-elbows appearance, but it atoned for its diminishing trade by its amazing number of officials. That little town seemed to contain more bureaucrats than Calcutta, and almost eclipsed our own post-war gigantic official establishments. On arriving at my French friend's house, the fifth Madame Bayol, a lady of dark chocolate complexion, and numerous little pale coffee-coloured Bayols greeted their spouse and father with rapturous shouts of delight. Later in the day, M. Bayol, drawing me on one side, said, "We have become friends on the voyage; I will now show you the room which enshrines my most sacred memories," and drawing a key from his pocket, he unlocked a door, admitting me to a very large room perfectly bare and empty except for four stripped bedsteads standing in the centre. "These, mon ami, are the beds on which my four French wives breathed their last, and this room is very dear to me in consequence," and the fat little Marseillais burst into tears. I have no wish to be unfeeling, but I really felt as though I had stumbled undesignedly upon some of the more intimate details connected with Bluebeard's matrimonial difficulties, and when M. Bayol began, the tears streaming down his cheeks, to give me a brief account of his first wife's last moments, the influence of this Bluebeard chamber began asserting itself, and it was all I could do to refrain from singing (of course very sympathetically) the lines from Offenbach's Barbe-Bleue beginning:

"Ma premiere femme est morte

Que le diable l'emporte!"

but on second thoughts I refrained.

M. Bayol's garden reminded me of that of the immortal Tartarin of Tarascon, for the only green things in it grew in pots, and nothing was over four inches high. The rest of the garden consisted of bare, sun-baked tracts of clay, intersected by gravel walks. I felt certain that amongst these seedlings there must have been a two-inch high specimen of the Baobab "l'arbre geant," the pride of Tartarin's heart, the tree which, as he explained, might under favourable conditions grow 200 feet high. After all, Marseilles and Tarascon are not far apart, and their inhabitants are very similar in temperament.

I was pleased to see a fine statue of Dupleix at Pondicherry, for he was a man to whom scant justice has been done by his compatriots. Few people seem to realise how very nearly Dupleix succeeded in his design of building up a great French empire in India. He arrived in India in 1715, at the age of eighteen, and amassed a large fortune in legitimate trade; he became Administrator of Chandernagore, in Bengal, in 1730, and displayed such remarkable ability in this post that in 1741 he was appointed Governor-General of the French Indies. In 1742 war broke out between France and Britain, and at the outset the French arms were triumphant. Madras surrendered in 1746 to a powerful French fleet under La Bourdonnais, the Governor of the Island of Reunion, and a counterattack on Pondicherry by Admiral Boscawen's fleet in 1748 failed utterly, though the defence was conducted by Dupleix, a civilian. These easy French successes inspired Dupleix with the idea of establishing a vast French empire in India on the ruins of the Mogul monarchy, but here he was frustrated by the military genius of Clive, who, it must be remembered, started life as a civilian "writer" in the East India Company's service. Dupleix encountered his first check by Clive's dashing capture of Arcot in 1751. From that time the fortunes of war inclined with ever-increasing bias to the British side, and the decisive battle of Plassey in 1757 (three years after Dupleix's return to France) was a death-blow to the French aspirations to become the preponderant power in India.

Dupleix was shabbily treated by France. He received but little support from the mother country; the vast sums he had expended from his private resources in prosecuting the war were never refunded to him; he was consistently maligned by the jealous and treacherous La Bourdonnais, and after his recall to France in 1754 his services to his country were never recognised, and he died in poverty.

G. B. Malleson's Dupleix is a most impartial and interesting account of this remarkable man's life: it has been translated into French and is accepted by the French as an accurate text-book.

The whole reign of Louis XV. was a supremely disastrous period for French Colonial aspirations. Not only did the dream of a great French empire in the East crumble away just as it seemed on the very point of realisation, but after Wolfe's victory on the Heights of Abraham at Quebec, Canada was formally ceded by France to Britain in 1763, by the Treaty of Paris.

This ill fortune pursued France into the succeeding reign of Louis XVI., for in April, 1782, Rodney's great victory over Count de Grasse off Dominica transferred the Lesser Antilles from French to British suzerainty.

The same sort of blight seemed to hang over France during Louis XV.'s reign, as overshadowed the Russia of the ill-starred Nicholas II. Nothing could possibly go right with either of them, and it may be that the prime causes were the same: the assumption of absolute power by an irresolute monarch, lacking the intellectual equipment which alone would enable him to justify his claims to supreme power-though I hasten to disclaim any comparison between these two rulers.

Between Louis XV., vicious, selfish and incapable, always tied to the petticoat and caprices of some new mistress, and the unfortunate Nicholas II., well-intentioned, and almost fanatically religious, the affectionate father and the devoted husband, no comparison is possible, except as regards their limitations for the supreme positions they occupied.

I have recounted elsewhere how, when Nicholas II. visited India as Heir Apparent in 1890, I saw a great deal of him, for he stayed ten days with my brother-in-law, Lord Lansdowne, at Calcutta and Barrackpore, and I was brought into daily contact with him. The Czarevitch, as he then was, had a very high standard of duty, though his intellectual equipment was but moderate. He had a perfect craze about railway development, and it must not be forgotten that that stupendous undertaking, the Trans-Siberian Railway, was entirely due to his initiative. At the time of his visit to India, Nicholas II. was obsessed with the idea that the relations between Great Britain and Russia would never really improve until the Russian railways were linked up with the British-Indian system, a proposition which responsible Indian Officials viewed with a marked lack of enthusiasm. The Czarevitch was courteous, gentle and sincere, but though full of good intentions, he was fatally inconstant of purpose, and his mental endowments were insufficient for the tremendous responsibilities to which he was to succeed, and in that one fact lies the pathos of the story of this most unfortunate of monarchs.

To return from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, and from the disastrous collapse of the French Colonial Empire to my own infinitely trivial personal experiences, I regretted the business which had detained M. Des Etangs in Ceylon, and deprived me of the company of so agreeable and cultivated a man-of-the-world.

There was a Dr. Munro on board the liner. Dr. Munro, at that time Principal of a Calcutta College is, I believe, one of the greatest Oriental scholars living. On going into the smoking-room of the steamer one morning, I found the genial rotund little Professor at work with an exquisitely illuminated Chinese manuscript before him. He explained to me that it was a very interesting Chinese document of the twelfth century, and that he was translating it into Arabic for the benefit of his pupils. The amazing erudition of a man who could translate off-hand an ancient Chinese manuscript into Arabic, without the aid of dictionaries or of any works of reference, amidst all the hubbub of the smoking-room of an ocean liner, left me fairly gasping. Dr. Munro had acquired his Oriental languages at the University of St. Petersburg, so, in addition to his other attainments, he spoke Russian as fluently as English.

There was another side to this merry little Professor. We had on board the vivacious and tuneful Miss Grace Palotta, who was making a concert-tour round the world. Miss Palotta, whose charming personality will be remembered by the frequenters of the old Gaiety Theatre, was a Viennese by birth, and she sang those tuneful, airy little Viennese songs, known as "Wiener Couplets," to perfection. She readily consented to give a concert on board, but said she must be sustained by a chorus. Dr. Munro himself selected, trained and led the chorus; whilst I had to replace Miss Palotta's accompanist who was prostrate with sea-sickness.

And so the big liner crept on slowly into steaming, oily, pale-green seas, gliding between vividly green islands in the orchid-house temperature of the Malay Peninsula, a part of the world worth visiting, if only to eat the supremely delicious mangosteen, though even an unlimited diet of this luscious fruit would hardly reconcile the average person to a perpetual steam bath, and to an intensely enervating atmosphere. Nature must have been in a sportive mood when she evolved the durian. This singular Malay fruit smells like all the concentrated drains of a town seasoned with onions. One single durian can poison out a ship with its hideous odour, yet those able to overcome its revolting smell declare the flavour of the fruit to be absolutely delicious.

It is a little humiliating for a middle-aged gentleman to find that on arriving in China he is expected to revert to the language of the nursery, and that he must request his Chinese servant to "go catchee me one piecee cuppee tea." On board the Admiral's yacht, it required a little reflection before the intimation that "bleakfast belong leady top-side" could be translated into the information that breakfast was ready on deck. Why adding "ee" to every word should render it more intelligible to the Celestial understanding, beats me. There are people who think that by tacking "O" on to every English word they render themselves perfectly clear to Italians and Spaniards, though this theory seems hardly justified by results. "Pidgin English," of course, merely means "business English," and has been evolved as an easy means of communication for business purposes between Europeans and Chinamen. The Governor of Hong-Kong's Chinese secretary prided himself on his accurate and correct English. I heard the Governor ask this secretary one day where a certain report was. "I placed it in the second business-hole on your Excellency's desk," answered Mr. Wung Ho, who evidently considered it very vulgar to use the term "pigeon-hole."

Considering that eighty years ago, when it was first ceded to Britain, Hong-Kong was a barren, treeless, granite island, it really is an astonishing place. It is easily the handsomest modern city in Asia, has a population of 400,000, and is by a long way the busiest port in the world. It is an exceedingly pretty place, too, with its rows of fine European houses rising in terraces out of a sea of greenery, and it absolutely hums with prosperity. If Colombo is the Clapham Junction, Hong-Kong is certainly the Crewe of the East, for steamship lines to every part of the world are concentrated here. With the exception of racing ponies, there is not one horse on the island.

Macao, the old Portuguese colony, is only forty miles from Hong-Kong. The arrangements on the river steamers are rather peculiar, for only European passengers are allowed on the spar deck. All Chinese passengers, of whatever degree, have to descend to the lower decks, which are enclosed with strong steel bars. Before the ship starts the iron gates of communication are shut and padlocked, so that all Chinese passengers are literally enclosed in a steel cage, shut off alike from the upper deck and the engine-room. These precautions were absolutely necessary, for time and time again gangs of river-pirates have come on board these steamers in the guise of harmless passengers; at a pre-arranged signal they have overpowered and murdered the white officers, thrown the Chinese passengers overboard and then made off with the ship and her cargo. An arms-rack of rifles on the European deck told its own story.

Macao has belonged to Portugal since 1555. Its harbour has silted up, and its once flourishing trade has dwindled to nothing. Gambling houses are the only industry of the place. There are row and rows of these opposite the steamer landing, all kept by Chin

amen, garish with coloured electric lights, each one clamorously proclaiming that it is the "only first-class gambling house in Macao." A crowded special steamer leaves Hong-Kong every Sunday morning for Macao, for the special purpose of affording the European community an opportunity to leave most of their excess profits in the pockets of the Chinese proprietors of these places. The Captain and Chief Engineer of the boat, who, it is almost superfluous to add, were of course both Clyde men, like good Scots deplored this Sabbath-breaking; but like equally good Scots they admitted how very lucrative the Sunday traffic was to the steamboat company, and I gathered that they both got a commission on this.

The old town of Macao is a piece of sixteenth and seventeenth century Portugal transplanted into China. It is wonderful to find a southern European town complete with cathedral, "pracas," fountains, and statues, dumped down in the Far East. The place, too, is as picturesque as a scene from an opera, and China is the last spot where one would expect to find lingering traces of Gothic influence in carved doorways and other architectural details. As far as externals went Camoens, the great Portuguese poet, can scarcely have realised his exile during the two years, 1556-1558, of his banishment to Macao. He most creditably utilised this period of enforced rest by writing The Lusiads, a poem which his countrymen are inclined to over rate. All the familiar characteristics of an old Portuguese town are met with here, the blue and pink colour-washed houses, an ample sufficiency of ornate churches, public fountains everywhere, and every shop-sign and notice is written in Portuguese, including the interminable Portuguese street names. The only thing lacking seemed the inhabitants. I presume the town must have some inhabitants, but I did not see a single one. Possibly they were taking their siestas, or were shut up in their houses, meditating on the bygone glories of Portugal, tempered with regrets that they had neglected to dredge their harbour.

Admiral Sir Hedworth Meux, the Naval Commander-in-Chief in the Pacific, who happens to be my sister's son, told me that he was sending a destroyer for three or four days up the Canton River, on special service, and asked if I would care to go, and I naturally accepted the offer. The Admiral did not go up himself, but sent his Flag-Captain and Flag-Lieutenant. The marshy banks of the Canton River are lined with interminable paddy-fields, for, as every one knows, rice is a crop that must be grown under water. After the rice harvest, these swampy fields are naturally full of fallen grain, and thrifty John Chinaman feeds immense flocks of ducks on the stubbles of the paddy-fields. The ducks are brought down by thousands in junks, and quack and gobble to their hearts' content in the fields all day, waddling back over a plank to their junks at night. At sunset, one of the most comical sights in the world can be witnessed. A Chinese boy comes ashore from each junk with a horn, which he blows as a signal to the ducks that bedtime has arrived. In his other hand the boy has a rattan cane, with which he administers a tremendous thrashing to the last ten ducks to arrive on board. The ducks know this, and in that singular country their progenitors have probably been thrashed in the same way for a thousand years, so they all have an inherited sense of the dangers of the corporal punishment threatening them. As soon as the horn sounds, thousands of ducks start the maddest of Marathon races back to their respective junks, which they never mistake, with such a quacking and gobbling and pushing of each other aside, as the ungainly fowls waddle along at the top of their speed, as must be witnessed to be credited. The duck has many advantages: in his wild state, his extreme wariness and his powerful flight make him a splendid sporting bird, and when dead he has most estimable qualities after a brief sojourn in the kitchen. Domesticated, though he can scarcely be classed as a dainty feeder, he makes a strong appeal to some people, especially after he has contracted an intimate alliance with sage and onions, but he was never intended by Nature for a sprinter, nor are his webbed feet adapted for rapid locomotion. Sufferers from chronic melancholia would, I am sure, benefit by witnessing the nightly football scrums and speed-contests of these Chinese ducks, for I defy any one to see them without becoming helpless with laughter.

The river in the neighbourhood of Canton is so covered with junks, sampans, and other craft, that, in comparison to it, the Thames at Henley during regatta week would look like a deserted waste of water. One misses at Canton the decorative war-junks of the Shanghai River. These war-junks, though perfectly useless either for defence or attack, are gorgeous objects to the eye, with their carving, their scarlet lacquer and profuse gilding. A Chinese stern-wheeler is a quaint craft, for her wheel is nothing but a treadmill, manned by some thirty half-naked coolies, who go through a regular treadmill drill, urging the boat along at perhaps three miles an hour. In addition to their deck passengers, these boats have rows of little covered niches for superior personages, and in every niche sits a grave, motionless Chinaman, looking for all the world like those carved Chinese cabinets we sometimes see, with a little porcelain figure squatting in each carved compartment.

We had a naval interpreter on board, a jovial, hearty, immensely fat old Chinaman. Our destroyer had four funnels, but as we were going up the river under easy steam, only the forward boilers were going, so that whilst our two forward funnels, "Matthew" and "Mark," were smoking bravely, the two after ones, "Luke" and "John," were unsullied by the faintest wisp of a smoke pennant trailing from their black orifices. Our old interpreter was much distressed at this, for, as far as I could judge, his countrymen gauged a vessel's fighting power solely by the amount of smoke that she emitted, and he feared that we should be regarded with but scanty respect.

The British and French Consulate-Generals at Canton are situated on a large artificial island, known as Sha-mien. Here, too, the European business men live in the most comfortable Europe-like houses, surrounded with gardens and lawn-tennis courts. Here is the cricket-ground and the club. Being in the Far East, the latter is, of course, equipped with one of the most gigantic bar-rooms ever seen. The British Consul-General had ordered chairs for us in which to be carried through the city, as it would be derogatory to the dignity of a European to be seen walking on foot in a Chinese town. Our business with the Consul-General finished, we started on our tour of inspection, the party consisting of the Flag-Captain, the Flag-Lieutenant, the interpreter and myself, together with a small midshipman, who, being anxious to see Canton, had somehow managed to get three days' leave and to smuggle himself on board the destroyer. The Consul-General warned us that the smells in the native city would be unspeakably appalling, and advised us to smoke continuously, very kindly presenting each of us with a handful of mild Borneo cheroots.

The canal separating Sha-mien from the city is 100 feet broad, but I doubt if anywhere else in the world 100 feet separates the centuries as that canal does. On the one side, green lawns, gardens, trees, and a very fair imitation of Europe. A few steps over a fortified bridge, guarded by Indian soldiers and Indian policemen, and you are in the China of a thousand years ago, absolutely unchanged, except for the introduction of electric light and telephones. The English manager of the Canton Electric Co. told me that the natives were wonderfully adroit at stealing current. One would not imagine John Chinaman an expert electrician, yet these people managed somehow to tap the electric mains, and the manager estimated the weekly loss on stolen power as about 500 pounds.

No street in Canton is wider than eight feet, and many of them are only five feet broad. They are densely packed with yellow humanity, though there is no wheeled traffic whatever. There are countless miles of these narrow, stifling alleys, paved with rough granite slabs, under which festers the sewage of centuries. The smells are unbelievably hideous. Except for an occasional canal, a reeking open sewer, there are no open spaces whatever. And yet these narrow alleys of two-storied houses are marvellously picturesque, with coloured streamers and coloured lanterns drooping from every house and shop, and the shops themselves are a joy to the eye. They are entirely open to the street in front, but in the far dim recesses of every one there is a species of carved reredos, over which dragons, lacquered black, or lacquered red, gilded or silvered, sprawl artistically. In front of this screen there is always a red-covered joss table, where red lights burn, and incense-sticks smoulder, all of which, as shall be explained later, are precautions to thwart the machinations of the peculiarly malevolent local devils. In food shops, hideous and obscene entrails of unknown animals gape repellently on the stranger, together with strings and strings of dried rats, and other horrible comestibles; in every street the yellow population seems denser and denser, the colour more brilliant and the smells more sickening. We could not have stood it but for the thoughtful Consul-General's Borneo cigars, though the small midshipman, being still of tender years, was brought to public and ignominious disaster by his second cheroot. After two hours of slow progress in carrying-chairs, through this congeries of narrow, unsavoury alleys, now jostled by coolies carrying bales of merchandise suspended from long bamboos resting on their shoulders (exactly as they did in the pictures of a book, called Far Off, which I had as a child), now pushed on one side by the palanquin of a mandarin, we hungered for fresh air and open spaces, less crowded by yellow oblique-eyed Mongolians; still, though we all felt as though we were in a nightmare, we had none of us ever seen anything like it, and in spite of our declarations that we never wished to see this evil-smelling warren of humanity again, somehow its uncanny fascination laid hold of us, and we started again over the same route next morning. The small midshipman had to be restrained from indulging in his yearning to dine off puppy-dog in a Chinese restaurant, in spite of the gastric disturbances occasioned by his precocious experiments with cheroots.

I imagine that every Chinaman liable to zymotic diseases died thousands of years ago, and that by the law of the survival of the fittest all Chinamen born now are immune from filth diseases; that they can drink sewage-water with impunity, and thrive under conditions which would kill any Europeans in a week.

The inhabitants of Canton are, I believe, mostly Taoists by religion, but their lives are embittered by their constant struggles with the local devils. Most fortunately Chinese devils have their marked limitations; for instance, they cannot go round a corner, and most mercifully they suffer from constitutional timidity, and can be easily frightened away by fire-crackers. Human beings inhabiting countries subject to pests, have usually managed to cope with them by adopting counter-measures. In mosquito-ridden countries people sleep under mosquito-nets, thus baffling those nocturnal blood-suckers; in parts of Ceylon infested with snakes, sharpened zig-zag snake-boards are fastened to the window-sills, which prove extremely painful to intruding reptiles. The Chinese, as a safeguard against their devils, have adopted the peculiar "cocked hat" corner to their roofs, which we see reproduced in so much of Chippendale's work. It is obvious that, with an ordinary roof, any ill-disposed devil would summon some of his fellows, and they would fly up, get their shoulders under the corner of the eaves, and prise the roof off in no time. With the peculiar Chinese upward curve of the corners, the devils are unable to get sufficient leverage, and so retire discomfited. Most luckily, too, they detest the smell of incense-sticks, and cannot abide the colour red, which is as distasteful to them as it is to a bull, but though it moves the latter to fury, it only inspires the devils with an abject terror. Accordingly, any prudent man can, by an abundant display of red silk streamers, and a plentiful burning of joss-sticks, keep his house practically free from these pests. A rich Chinaman who has built himself a new house, will at once erect a high wall immediately in front of it. It obstructs the light and keeps out the air, but owing to the inability of Chinese devils to go round corners it renders the house as good as devil-proof.

We returned after dark from our second visit to the city. However much the narrow streets may have offended the nose, they unquestionably gratified the eye with the endless vista of paper lanterns, all softly aglow with crimson, green, and blue, as the place reverberated with the incessant banging of firecrackers. The families of the shopkeepers were all seated at their supper-tables (for the Chinese are the only Orientals who use chairs and tables as we do) in the front portions of the shop. As women are segregated in China, only the fathers and sons were present at this simple evening meal of sewage-fed fish, stewed rat and broiled dog, but never for one instant did they relax their vigilance against possible attacks by their invisible foes. It is clear that an intelligent devil would select this very moment, when every one was absorbed in the pleasures of the table, to penetrate into the shop, where he could play havoc with the stock before being discovered and ejected. Accordingly, little Ping Pong, the youngest son, had to wait for his supper, and was sent into the street with a large packet of fire-crackers to scare devils from the vicinity, and if little Ping Pong was like other small boys, he must have hugely enjoyed making such an appalling din. Every single shop had a stone pedestal before it, on which a lamp was burning, for experience has shown how useful a deterrent this is to any but the most abandoned devils; they will at once pass on to a shop unprotected by a guardian light.

We had been on the outskirts of the city that day, and I was much struck with an example of Chinese ingenuity. The suburban inhabitants all seem to keep poultry, and all these fowls were of the same breed-small white bantams. So, to identify his own property, Ching Wan dyed all his chickens' tails orange, whilst Hung To's fowls scratched about with mauve tails, and Kyang Foo's hens gave themselves great airs on the strength of their crimson tail feathers.

It is curious that, in spite of its wealth and huge population, Canton should contain no fine temples. The much-talked-of Five-Storied Pagoda is really hardly worth visiting, except for the splendid panorama over the city obtained from its top floor. Canton here appears like one endless sea of brown roofs extending almost to the horizon. The brown sea of roof appears to be quite unbroken, for, from that height, the narrow alleys of street disappear entirely. We were taken to a large temple on the outskirts of the city. It was certainly very big, also very dirty and ill-kept. Compared with the splendid temples of Nikko in Japan, glowing with scarlet and black lacquer, and gleaming with gold, temples on which cunning craftsmanship of wood-carving, enamels and bronze-work has been lavished in almost superfluous profusion, or even with the severer but dignified temples of unpainted cryptomeria wood at Kyoto, this Chinese pagoda was scarcely worth looking at. It had the usual three courts, an outer, middle, and inner one, and in the middle court a number of students were seated on benches. I am afraid that I rather puzzled our fat Chinese interpreter by inquiring of him whether these were the local Benchers of the Middle Temple.

The Chinese dislike to foreigners is well known, so is the term "foreign devils," which is applied to them. Our small party met with a most hostile reception that day in one part of the city, and the crowd were very menacing until addressed by our fat old interpreter. The reason of this is very simple. Chinamen have invariably chocolate-coloured eyes, so the great distorted wooden figures of devils so commonly seen outside temple gates are always painted with light eyes, in order to give them an inhuman and unearthly appearance to Chinese minds. It so happened that the Flag-Captain, the Flag-Lieutenant, the midshipman and myself, had all four of us light-coloured eyes, either grey or blue, the colour associated with devils, in the Chinese intelligence. We were unquestionably foreigners, so the prima facie evidence of satanic origin against us was certainly strong. We ourselves would be prejudiced against an individual with bright magenta eyes, and we might be tempted to associate every kind of evil tendency with his abnormal colouring; to the Chinese, grey eyes must appear just as unnatural as magenta eyes would to us. We were inclined to attribute the hostile demonstration to the small snottie, who, in spite of warnings, had again experimented with cheroots. His unbecoming pallor would have naturally predisposed a Chinese crowd against us.

The feeling of utter helplessness in a country where one is unable to speak one word of the language is most exasperating. My youngest brother, who is chairman of a steamship company, had occasion to go to the Near East nine years ago on business connected with his company. The steamer called at the Piraus for eight hours, and my brother, who had never been in Athens, took a taxi and saw as much of "the city of the violet crown" as was possible in the time. He could speak no modern Greek, but when the taxi-man, on their return to the Piraus, demanded by signs 7 pounds as his fare, my brother, hot with indignation at such an imposition, summoned up all his memories of the Greek Testament, and addressed the chauffeur as follows: "o taxianthrope, mae geyito!" Stupefied at hearing the classic language of his country, the taxi-man at once became more reasonable in his demands. After this, who will dare to assert that there are no advantages in a classical education?

All the hillsides round Chinese cities are dotted with curious stone erections in the shape of horseshoes. These are the tombs of wealthy Chinamen; the points of the compass they face, and the period which must elapse before the deceased can be permanently buried, are all determined by the family astrologers, for Chinese devils can be as malignant to the dead as to the living, though they seem to reserve their animosities for the more opulent of the population.

It is to meet the delay of years which sometimes elapses between the death of a person and his permanent burial, that the "City of the Dead" exists in Canton. This is not a cemetery, but a collection of nearly a thousand mortuary chapels. The "City of the Dead" is the pleasantest spot in that nightmare city. A place of great open sunlit spaces, and streets of clean white-washed mortuaries, sweet with masses of growing flowers. After the fetid stench of the narrow, airless streets, the fresh air and sunlight of this "City of the Dead" were most refreshing, and its absolute silence was welcome after the deafening turmoil of the town. We were there in spring-time, and hundreds of blue-and-white porcelain vases, of the sort we use as garden ornaments, were gorgeous with flowering azaleas of all hues, or fragrant with freesias. All the mortuaries, though of different sizes, were built on the same plan, in two compartments, separated by pillars with a carved wooden screen between them. Behind this screen the cylindrical lacquered coffin is placed, a most necessary precaution, for Chinese devils being fortunately unable to go round a corner, the occupant of the coffin is thus safe from molestation. Other elementary safeguards are also adopted; a red-covered altar invariably stands in front of the screen, adorned with candles and artificial flowers, and incense-sticks are perpetually burning on it. What with the incense-sticks and abundant red silk streamers, an atmosphere is created which must be thoroughly uncongenial, even to the most irreclaimable devil. The outer chapel always contains two or four large chairs for the family to meditate in.

It must be remembered that the favourite recreation of the Chinese is to sit and meditate on the tombs of their ancestors, and though in these mortuaries this pastime cannot be carried out in its entirety, this modified form is universally regarded as a very satisfactory substitute. In one chapel containing the remains of the wife of the Chinese Ambassador in Rome, there was a curious blend of East and West. Amongst the red streamers and joss-sticks there were metal wreaths and dried palm wreaths inscribed, "A notre chere collegue Madame Tsin-Kyow"; an unexpected echo of European diplomatic life to find in Canton.

The rent paid for these places is very high, and as the length of time which the body must rest there depends entirely upon the advice of the astrologers, it is not uncharitable to suppose that there must be some understanding between them and the proprietor of the "City of the Dead."

We can even suppose some such conversation as the following between the managing-partner of a firm of long-established family astrologers and that same proprietor:

"Good-morning, Mr. Chow Chung; I have come to you with the melancholy news of the death of our esteemed fellow-citizen, Hang Wang Kai. A fine man, and a great loss! What I liked about him was that he was such a thorough Chinaman of the good old stamp. A wealthy man, sir, a very wealthy man. The family are clients of mine, and they have just rung me up, asking me to cast a horoscope to ascertain the wishes of the stars with regard to the date of burial of our poor friend. How inscrutable are the decrees of the heavenly bodies! They may recommend the immediate interment of our friend: on the other hand, they may wish it deferred for two, five, ten, or even twenty years, in which case our friend would be one of the fortunate tenants of your delightful Garden of Repose. Quite so. Casting a horoscope is very laborious work, and I can but obey blindly the stars' behests. Exactly. Should the stars recommend our poor friend's temporary occupation of one of your attractive little Maisonettes, I should expect, to compensate me for my labours, a royalty of 20 per cent. on the gross (I emphasize the gross) rental paid by the family for the first two years. They, of course, would inform me of any little sum you did them the honour to accept from them. From two to five years, I should expect a royalty of 30 per cent.; from five to ten years, 40 per cent.; on any period over ten years 50 per cent. Yes, I said fifty. Surely I do not understand you to dissent? The stars may save us all trouble by advising Hang Wang Kai's immediate interment. Thank you. I thought that you would agree. These terms, of course, are only for the Chinese and Colonial rights; I must expressly reserve the American rights, for, as I need hardly remind you, the Philippine Islands are now United States territory, and the constellations may recommend the temporary transfer of our poor friend to American soil. Thank you; I thought that we should agree. It only remains for me to instruct my agents, Messrs. Ap Wang & Son, to draw up an agreement in the ordinary form on the royalty basis I have indicated, for our joint signature. The returns will, I presume, be made up as usual, to March 31 and September 30. As I am far too upset by the loss of our friend to be able to talk business, I will now, with your permission, withdraw."

Had I been born a citizen of Canton, I should unquestionably have articled my son to an astrologer, convinced that I was securing for him an assured and lucrative future.

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