The route to Bangkok, such as it was, lay on the eastern bank of the
Menam. This time we crossed the stream by the official ferry, a dug-out
canoe fully thirty feet long, which held, besides ourselves and four
paddlers, twenty-two natives, chiefly of the gentle sex. All day we
tramped through jungle as wild as that to the westward, following the
course of the river. Bamboo villages were numerous and for every hut at
least a half-dozen, mangy, yellow curs added their yelping to the uproar
that heralded our approach. We cooked our food where we chose and paid
for it when we had eaten. The inhabitants were indolent “wild men” like
those of the mountains, content to live and die in their nests of jungle
rubbish, with a dirty rag about their loins. Occasionally a family ran
away into the forest when we took possession of their abode. More often
they remained where we found them, squatting on the floor, and watched
our culinary dexterity with lack-luster eyes. Except for their breasts,
there was nothing to distinguish the women from the men. Both sexes wore
their dull, black hair some two inches long and dressed it in a
bristling pompadour that gave them a resemblance to startled porcupines.
Both had jet-black teeth. The younger children were robust little
animals; the older, ungainly creatures with overgrown bellies.
Chief of the obstacles to our progress were the tributaries of the Menam
Chow Pya. Sometimes they were swift and deep. Then we had only to strip
and swim them, our bundles slung around our heads. What we dreaded more
were the sluggish streams, through which we must wade waist deep in
black, foul-smelling slush or half-acres of nauseating green slime,
cesspools that seemed designed to harbor poisonous snakes. Once we
despaired for a time of continuing our way. We had been halted by a
stagnant rivulet more than a furlong wide, too deep to be waded, too
thickly covered with stewing slime to be swum. We wandered back along it
for some distance. No stream could have been less fitting a scene for
romance. Yet what was our surprise to find, where the green scum was
thickest, an old dug-out scow, half roofed with attap leaves, anchored
to a snag equi-distant from either shore; and in it that same youthful
priest of our mountain tramp, engrossed in the entertainment of as
comely a female as one could have run to earth in the length and breadth
of these Siamese wilds. We half suspected that he would resent being
disturbed. At sight of the scowling face that he raised when we hallooed
to him we were sure of it.
Still we could not halt where we were merely out of respect for romance.
We beckoned to him to paddle ashore and set us across. He refused and
snarled back at us. We picked up the stoutest clubs at hand and shook
them at him. He laughed scornfully. I threw my weapon at the craft. It
struck the roof and went through it. The priest sprang up with a whine,
slipped his mooring, and, twisting his face into an ugly grin of feigned
amiability, paddled slowly towards us. We sprang into the scow and five
minutes later were plunging through the jungle beyond.
The sun was still well above the horizon when we reached Kung Chow. The
Dane had told us it was twenty-two miles from Rehang. Kung Chow was no
ordinary jungle village. It consisted of a bungalow of unusual
magnificence, set in the center of a clearing on the bank of the Menam,
with a half-circle of smaller dwellings round about and at a respectful
distance from it. The main building was the residence of the “jungle
king”; the smaller housed his servants and retainers.
Of this royal person we had heard much at breakfast that morning. To the
commander of Rehang he was “almost a fellow countryman,” as he hailed
from Sweden. For many years he had been stationed at Kung Chow as
manager of a company that is exploiting the teak forests, and the style
in which he lived in spite of his isolation had won him his sobriquet.
We found him sitting in state on the veranda of his palace, gazing
serenely out across the clearing. The servants that hovered about him
looked like ludicrous little manikins in his presence, for he would have
tipped the scales at perilously near a quarter-ton. The unruffled mien
with which he noted our arrival bespoke a truly regal poise. We halted
at the foot of the throne and craved the boon of a drink of water.
Judging from the calm wave of the hand with which the “king” ordered a
vassal to fetch it, one would have supposed that white men passed his
palace every hour. He watched us silently as we quenched our thirst.
There was no tremor of excitement in the voice in which he asked our
nationality and destination, and he inquired no further.
“I can put a bungalow at your disposal,” he said, “if you had planned on
We were of half a mind to push on. It lacked an hour of sunset, and, to
tell the truth, we had grown so accustomed to being received with open
arms by Europeans that we were a bit disgruntled at his impassionate
demeanor. In the end we swallowed our pride and thanked him for the
offer. That decision turned out to be the most fortunate of all the days
of our partnership.
The “king” waved a hand once more and a henchman in scarlet livery
stepped forth and led us to one of the half-circle of bungalows. It was
a goodly dwelling, as dwellings go, up along the Menam. Five servants
were detailed to attend us. They prepared two English tub-baths and
stood ready with crash towels to rub us down. The condition of our skins
forced us to dispense with that service. When we had changed our
garments a laundryman took charge of those we had worn. By this time, a
servant had brought a phonograph from the palace and set it in action.
The phonograph is not a perfected instrument; but even its tunes are
soothing when one has heard nothing approaching music for weeks except
the ballads sung by a crack-voiced Australian or the no less symphonic
croaking of lizards.
Then came our evening banquet. For days afterwards James could not speak
of that without a tremor in his voice. The supper of the night before
was a free lunch in a Clark street “slop’s house” in comparison. Least
of the wonders that arrived from the storehouse of his jungle majesty
was a box of fifty fat Habana cigars and a dozen bottles of imported
beer; ice cold in these sweltering tropics.
We had just settled down for an evening chat when a sudden violent
hubbub burst forth. I dashed out upon the veranda. Around the palace
fluttered half the population of Kung Chow, squawking like excited hens;
and the others were tumbling out of their bungalows in their haste to
add to the uproar.
The royal residence was afire. From the back of the building a shaft of
black smoke wavered upward in the evening breeze. When we pushed through
the panic-stricken throng, a slim blaze was licking at a corner of the
back veranda. Its origin was not hard to guess. At the foot of the
supporting bamboo pillar lay a sputtering kettle over a heap of charred
fagots. Around it the natives were screaming, pushing, tumbling over
each other; doing everything, in fact, but what the emergency called
for. A dozen of them carried buckets. Twenty yards away was a stream.
But they were as helpless as stampeded sheep.
James snatched a bucket and ran for the creek. I caught up the tilting
kettle and dumped its contents of half-boiled rice on the blaze. With
the Australian’s first bucketful we had the conflagration under control
and it was but the work of a moment to put it out entirely. When the
last ember had ceased to glow, the first native arrived with water from
the stream. Behind him stretched a long line of servants with
overflowing buckets. They fought with each other in their eagerness to
deluge the charred corner of the veranda. Those who could not reach it
dashed their water on the surrounding multitude, and the real firemen;
then ran for more. We were forced to resort to violence to save
ourselves from drowning.
As the last native was fleeing across the clearing, I looked up to see
“his majesty” gazing down upon us. There was not a sign of excitement in
the entire rotundity of his figure.
“These wild men are a useless lot of animals,” he said. “I’m glad you
turned out.” Then he waddled back into his palace.
We returned to our bungalow and started the phonograph anew. Fully an
hour afterward the “king” walked in upon us. He carried what looked like
a great sausage, wrapped in thick, brown paper.
“I’m always glad to help a white man,” he panted, “especially when he
has done me a service.”
I took the parcel in one hand and nearly lost my balance as he let it
go. It weighed several pounds. By the time I had recovered my
equilibrium “his majesty” was gone. I sat down and unrolled the package.
It contained fifty silver tecals.
Our second day down the Menam was enlivened by one adventure. About
noonday, we had cooked our food in one of the huts of a good-sized
village and paid for it by no means illiberally. Outside the shack we
were suddenly surrounded by six “wild men” of unusually angry and
determined appearance. Five of them carried dahs, the sixth, a long,
clumsy musket. While the others danced about us, waving their knives,
the latter stopped three paces away, raised his gun, and took deliberate
aim at my chest. The gleam in his eye suggested that he was not
“bluffing.” I sprang to one side and threw the cocoanut I was carrying
in one hand hard at him. It struck him on the jaw below the ear. His
scream sounded like a factory whistle in the wilderness and he put off
into the jungle as fast as his thin legs could carry him, his companions
shrieking at his heels.
“When you are attacked by an Oriental mob,” the Dane had said, “hurt one
of them, and hurt him quick. That’s all that’s needed.”
Miles beyond, as we reposed in a tangled thicket, a crashing of
underbrush brought us anxiously to our feet. We peered out through the
interwoven branches. An elephant, with a mahout dozing on his head, was
advancing towards us. Behind him came another and another of the bulky
animals, fifteen in all, some with armed men on their backs, others
bearing a small carload of baggage. We stepped out of our hiding place
in time to meet the chief of the caravan, who rode between the seventh
and eighth elephants on a stout-limbed pony. He was an Englishman, agent
of the Bombay-Burma Lumber Company, and had spent fifteen years in
wandering through the teak forests of Siam. Never before, he asserted,
had he known a white man to cross the peninsula unarmed and unescorted.
For a time he was convinced that we were playing a practical joke on him
and had hidden our porters and guns away in the jungle. Disabused of
that idea, he warned us to beware the territory beyond, asserting that
he had killed two tigers and a murderous outlaw within the past week.
“I shall pitch my camp a few miles from here,” he concluded. “You had
better turn back and spend the night with me. It’s all of thirty miles
from Kung Chow to here, more than enough for one day.”
We declined the offer, having no desire to cover the same territory
thrice. The Englishman wrote us a letter of introduction to his subagent
in the next village, and, as that hamlet was some distance off, we took
our leave at once.
For miles we struggled on through the tangle of vegetation without
encountering a sign of the hand of man. The shadows lengthened eastward,
twilight fell and thickened to darkness. To travel by night in this
jungle country is utterly impossible. We paid for our attempt to do so
by losing our way and sinking to our knees in a slimy swamp. When we had
dragged ourselves to more solid ground, all sense of direction was gone.
With raging thirst and gnawing hunger we threw ourselves down in the
depths of the wilderness. The ground was soft and wet. In ten minutes we
had sunk half out of sight. I pulled my “swag” loose and rolled over to
another spot. It was softer and wetter than the one I had left.
“Hark!” murmured James suddenly. “Is that a dog barking? Perhaps there’s
a village near.”
[Illustration: “An elephant, with a mahout dozing on his head, was
advancing toward us”]
[Illustration: Myself after four days in the jungle, and with the
Siamese soldiers with whom we fell in now and then between Myáwadi and
Rehang. I had sold my helmet]
We listened intently, breathlessly. A far-off howl sounded above the
droning of the jungle. Possibly some dog was baying the faint face of
the moon. There was an equal possibility that we had heard the roar of
some beast abroad in quest of prey. “Tigers abound,” the Englishman had
said. So must snakes in this reptile-breeding undergrowth. A crackling
of twigs close beside me sent an electric shock along my spine. I opened
my mouth to call to James. He forstalled me.
“Hello!” he whispered. “Say, I’ll get a fever if I sleep in this mud.
Let’s try that big tree there.”
It was a gigantic growth for the tropics. The lowest of its
wide-spreading branches the Australian could reach from my shoulders. He
pulled me up after him and we climbed higher. I sat down astride a great
limb, tied my bundle above me, and, leaning against the trunk, sank into
I was aroused by a blow in the ribs.
“Quit it!” cried James angrily, thumping me again, “What the deuce are
you tearing my clothes off for?”
I opened my mouth to protest, but was interrupted by a violent
chattering in the branches above, as a band of monkeys scampered away at
sound of our voices. They soon returned. For half the night those
jabbering, clawing little brutes kept us awake and ended by driving us
from the tree entirely. We spent the hours of darkness left, on the
ground at its foot, indifferent alike to snakes and tigers.
When daylight came we found the river again within a few hundred yards
of our resting place. A good hour afterward we stumbled, more asleep
than awake, into a village on the northern bank of a large tributary of
the Menam. It was Klong Sua Mak, the home of the lumberman’s subagent;
but our letter of introduction served us no purpose, for we could not
find the addressee. It did not matter much. The place had so far
advanced in civilization as to possess a shop where food was sold. In it
we made up for our fast of the night before.
The meal was barely over when we were again in the midst of a village
riot. It was all the fault of the natives. We offered them money to row
us across the tributary, but they turned scornfully away. When we
stepped into one of the dug-outs drawn up on the bank, they charged down
upon us, waving their dahs. It was no such burlesque of a fight as that
of the day before. But for a pike pole in the boat we might not have
continued our wanderings beyond Klong Sua Mak. At the crisis of the
conflict a howling fellow, swinging a great knife, bounded suddenly into
the craft. James caught him by an arm and a leg. A glistening brown body
flashed high in the air; there sounded one long-drawn shriek; and the
bold patriot sank in the murky water some distance behind us. When he
came again to the surface, unarmed, we had pushed off from the shore.
“Damn niggers!” growled the Australian, catching up a paddle. “Serve ’em
right if we kept their bloody old hollow log and went down to Bangkok in
her. What say we do?” he cried, “My feet are nothing but two blisters.”
For answer I swung the craft half round and we glided out into the
Menam. A boat load of natives put out behind us, but instead of
following in our wake they paddled across the river and down the
opposite bank. We stretched out in the bottom of the dug-out and,
drifting with the current, let them outstrip us. Far down the stream
they turned in at a grove above which rose a white building. I dozed a
moment and then sat up suddenly with a shout. The boat load had pushed
off again, and behind them came a second canoe bearing six khaki-clad
soldiers, armed with muskets. The white building was a military post,
and a part of the redoubtable Siamese army was on our trail.
“Swing her ashore,” cried James, grasping his paddle. “No naval battles
The dug-out grounded on the sloping bank. Between the jungle and the
water’s edge was a narrow open space. Adjusting our “swag,” we set off
down the bank at any easy pace. The “wild men” beached their boats near
the abandoned dug-out and dashed after us, shouting angrily. A few paces
away the soldiers drew up a line and leveled five muskets at us. The
sergeant shouted an order commandingly. An icy chill ran up and down my
spinal column, but we marched on with even stride. Knowing what we did
of the Siamese soldier, we were convinced that the little brown fellows
would not dare shoot down a white man in cold blood. Nor was our
judgment at fault. When we had advanced a few yards the squad ran after
us and drew up once more in firing line. The sergeant bellowed in
stentorian tones; but the guns hung fire.
Seven times this manœuvre was repeated. We were already a half-mile from
the landing place. Suddenly, a villager snatched a musket from a soldier
and, running close up on our heels, took deliberate aim. His appearance
stamped him as the bold, bad man of that region. My flesh crawled in
anticipation of the sting of a bullet. I caught myself wondering in what
part of my body it would be lodged. But the fellow vented his anger in
shrieking and aiming; he dared not pull the trigger.
[Illustration: Bangkok is a city of many canals]
Finding us indifferent to all threats, the sergeant changed his tactics.
The scene became ludicrous. One by one the barefooted troopers slipped
up behind us and snatched at our packs and jackets. When we turned on
them they fell back wild eyed. Their persistence grew annoying.
“Tip me off when the next one tries it,” said James.
Out of a corner of an eye I watched a soldier steal up on my companion
and reach for his depleted “swag.”
“Now!” I shouted.
The Australian whirled and caught the trooper’s musket in both hands.
The fellow let go of it with a scream, and the whole following band,
sergeant, soldiers, villagers, and bold, bad man turned tail and fled.
Miles beyond we met two lone soldiers perambulating northward, and,
knowing that they were sure to stop at the post of our recent
adversaries, we forced the musket upon them and plodded on clear of
Once more we were benighted in the jungle and again the ground was soggy
and the trees alive with monkeys. On the following day, for all our
sleepiness and blistered feet, we tramped a full thirty miles and spent
that night in an odoriferous bamboo hut, much against the owner’s
will—and our own.
Forty-eight hours after our escape from the soldiers we reached
Pakhampo, an important village numbering several Europeans among its
inhabitants. With one of these we took dinner. His house floated on a
bamboo raft in a tributary of the Menam, his servants were “wild men” of
his own training, and his wife a native. Unfeminine as is the female of
Siam, with her black teeth and her bristling pompadour, half the white
residents of the kingdom, many of them men of education and personality,
are thus mated.
A German syndicate has undertaken the construction of the first railway
of Siam. We struck out along the top of the unfinished grade in the
early afternoon, and, no longer hampered by entangling undergrowth, set
such a pace as we had not before in weeks. Long after dark we reached
the residence of a German superintendent of construction, who gave us
leave to sleep in an adjoining hut, in which were stored several tons of
dynamite. An hour’s tramp next morning brought us to “rail head” and the
work train. Hundreds of Chinese coolies, in mud-bespattered trousers and
leaf hats three feet in diameter, swarmed upon the flat cars as they
were unloaded. With them we jolted away through the sun-scorched jungle.
Ten miles south the train took a siding and stopped before a stone
quarry around which had sprung up a helter-skelter Chinese village. A
deluge drove us into a shop where _samshoo_, food, and coolie clothing
were sold, and we whiled away a gloomy morning in discussing the
characters of the proprietors, whose chief pastime, when they were not
quarreling over their cards, was to toss back and forth about the room a
dozen boxes of dynamite. At noon they set out on these same boxes a
generous dinner of spitted pork, jerked duck, and rice wine; and invited
us to join them. We did so, being hungry, yet anticipating a sad
depletion of our funds when the quarter-hour of Gargantua came. All
through the meal the Chinamen were most attentive. When it was ended
they rolled us cigarettes in wooden wrappers, such as they smoked
incessantly even while eating.
“Suppose they’ll want the whole bloody fortune now,” sighed James, as I
drew out money to pay them. To our unbounded surprise, however, they
refused to accept a copper.
“What the devil do you suppose their game is?” gasped the Australian.
“Something foxy, or I’m a dingo. Never saw a pig-tail look a bob in the
face before without grabbing for it.”
The dean of the shopkeepers, a shifty-eyed old fellow with a straggly
grey cue, swung suddenly round upon us.
“Belly fine duck,” he grinned.
Our faces froze with astonishment.
“Dinner all light?” he went on, “Belly good man, me. No takee dollies
for chow. Many Chinyman takee plenty. You fink allee same me. No damn
fear. One time me live Flisco by white man allee same you, six year.
Givee plenty dollies for joss stick. Me no takee for chow.”
The Celestials had grouped themselves about us, laughing gleefully at
the surprise which the old man had sprung on us. Of the eight Chinamen
in the hut, six spoke “pidgin” English fluently and had understood our
We spent the afternoon in acquiring a Chinese vocabulary for the days to
come. Nor were these jungle merchants poor tutors. At dusk they prepared
a second feast, after which two of them shouldered our packs and led the
way through the wilderness to a point on the main line, where the
locomotive of the work train was to halt on its way south. If we had not
progressed many miles during the day, we had at least discovered an
entirely new side to the Chinese character.
Freed of its burden of flat cars, the engine raced like a thing of life
through the cool, silent night, taking the curves at breathless angles.
We sat high up on the tender chatting with the Eurasian driver, who,
having a clear right of way, left his throttle wide open until the
station lights of Choung Kae flashed up out of the darkness. There was
no hotel in the village; but the railway agent sent his coolies to
arrange a first-class coach for our accommodation. The lamps lighted,
the leather cushions dusted, a chettie set within reach, and our chamber
was ready. A servant brought a bundle of Bangkok newspapers, and we sat
late into the night, listening, for the first time in weeks, to the
voice of the outside world.
At noon next day a passenger train left Choung Kae, and for hours we
rumbled across inundated paddy fields, with frequent halts at excited
bamboo villages. Then towering pagodas rose slowly above the southern
horizon, the jungle died away, and at five o’clock the daily train of
Siam pulled in at the Bangkok station. It is doubtful if Rice, meeting
us face to face, would have recognized the men of whom he had taken
leave in the streets of Rangoon just three weeks before. Until we had
shaved and washed in a barber’s booth we had not the audacity to
introduce ourselves as white men to an innkeeper of the Siamese capital.
Somewhat to our disappointment, Bangkok was in no sense the barbaric
metropolis of heartless infanticides we had so often pictured to
ourselves in fighting eastward through the jungle. Spread out in the
low, flat basin of the Menam, there was something of monotony in her
rambling rows of weather-beaten cottages. Her ill-paved streets were
intersected by many canals, alive with shipping in the morning hours,
but stagnant during the rest of the day with low-roofed boats yawning at
their moorings. Pagodas and rambling temples and monasteries were
everywhere, occupying a large proportion of the city’s area, yet unusual
neither in architecture nor in Oriental ugliness. To the traveler who
has seen the Far-East elsewhere, there was little novelty in the capital
except her floating houses, set on bamboo rafts in the Menam and rising
and falling with the tide.
The inhabitants, lacking the politeness of the Burmese, were dull and
docile, stirring abroad, often, as briefly clothed as their brethren of
the trackless bush. Chinamen were numerous, the European community by no
means small. Not all her white residents dwell in Bangkok by choice. A
majority of them, if popular tradition is to be credited, came thither
hastily and show no longing to depart. For Siam has few treaties of
extradition with the outside world. A few of these exiles have prospered
and are commercial powers in the capital. Others seem content to live
out their declining years in a simple bungalow of the suburbs, with a
native wife and naught to disturb their tropical day-dreams save the
dread of that hour in which France or England may absorb the little
buffer state and drive them forth to seek new refuge. Of these latter we
met a half-dozen, among them two of my own countrymen, who made no
secret of their wayward conduct in other climes.
There were neither beachcombers nor shipping-offices in Bangkok. Deck
passage to Hong Kong, however, cost next to nothing, and four days after
our arrival we made application for tickets at the steamship offices. To
our surprise the company refused to sell them. Deck passage was for
natives only; white men, insisted the agent, must travel first or second
We hurried back to our respective consulates and met again a half-hour
later, each armed with a letter to the obdurate agent. What the
representatives of our outspoken governments had written we had no means
of knowing; but the notes were evidently brief and to the point, for the
clerk, muttering angrily to himself, made out deck tickets with unusual
celerity. The next afternoon an unclad female paddled us lazily across
the Menam in a raging downpour and set us aboard the _Paklat_, a
miniature North German Lloyd steamer that cast off her shore lines three
hours later, and, slipping down over the sand bar at the mouth of the
river, dropped anchor next morning in the cove outside to finish
The _Paklat_ was officered by five Germans and manned by a hundred
Chinese seamen, stokers and stewards, between which two nationalities
conversation was carried on entirely in English. In the first cabin were
several wealthy Oriental merchants; “on deck,” a half-hundred Chinese
coolies. Discipline was there none aboard the craft. The sailors obeyed
orders when they chose and heaped abuse on the officers when they
preferred to loaf. For the latter, in constant dread of being betrayed
to the pirates that abound in these waters, stood in abject fear of the
Never before had the _Paklat_ carried white men as deck passengers. The
Chinese seamen, therefore, considering our presence on board an
encroachment on the special privileges of their race, had greeted our
first appearance with scowls and snarls, and vied with each other in so
arranging their work as to cause us as much annoyance as possible. We
laughed at their enmity and, choosing a space abaft the wheelhouse,
stripped to trousers and undershirt and settled down for a monotonous
Two sweltering days the steamer rode at anchor in the outer bay. On the
afternoon of the second the entire force of stewards, some thirty
strong, marched aft with their bowls of rice and squatted in a
semicircle near us. Not satisfied with merely encroaching on our chosen
precincts, one of the band sat down on the bundle containing my kodak.
When I voiced an objection the fellow leered at me and refused to move.
I threw down the book I was reading and, putting a bare foot against his
naked shoulder, pushed him aside and took possession of my pack. In his
fall he dropped and broke his rice bowl. The entire band, accustomed,
like most Orientals, to avoid angry white men, retreated several yards,
leaving their dishes of “chow” where they had been sitting. The chief
steward, a snaky-eyed Celestial with a good command of English, berated
us roundly in that tongue and then ran forward to summon the first mate.
“Vell! Vell! Und vat I can do?” demanded that pudgy-faced Teuton, when
he had heard both sides of the story. “Vy you come deck-passengers? You
must look out by yourselfs yet,” and, picking his way apologetically
among the screaming stewards, he hurried back to the bridge.
For a moment the Chinamen stood silent. I turned my back upon them and,
sitting down on the bare deck beside the Australian, fell again to
“Kang kweitze!” (Kill the foreign devils!) screamed the chief of the
stewards suddenly. With a roar as of an overturned hive of gigantic
bees, the Chinamen surged forward. A ten-foot scantling, left on the
deck by the carpenter, struck me a stunning blow on the back of the
head, knocking my book overboard; and I landed face down among the
rudder-chains at the rail.
When I collected my wits a dozen Chinamen were belaboring me with bamboo
cudgels. I struggled to my feet. James was laying about him right
merrily. At every blow of his hard, brown fists a shrieking Celestial
went spinning across the deck. We stood back to back and struck out
desperately. Buckets, clubs, and rope-ends beat a continual tattoo on
our heads and shoulders. Of a dozen bamboo stools that had been
scattered about the deck no less than eight were smashed to bits over
our bare crowns. Inch by inch we fought our way around the deck house
and, escaping from our assailants, raced forward.
In the waist stood four of the German officers, huddled together like
“You bloody Dutchman!” cried the Australian, shaking his fist in the
face of the first mate. “You’d hang back and see a man killed. If there
was one Englishman on board we’d clean out that bunch.”
The Chinamen had retreated; but fearing that they would throw our
bundles overboard, we armed ourselves with two stout clubs and again
“Keep avay!” shrieked the first mate, “You make riot and ve all get
“It’d be no loss,” growled James, over his shoulder. We marched around
the deck house, swinging our weapons, and rescued our “swag” without
mishap. In our haste, however, we forgot our shoes and the Australian’s
helmet. Once more we turned back towards the scene of conflict.
“Let dem alone,” pleaded the chief engineer, “vy you pick fight?”
Having no desire to flaunt our belligerency in the face of the crew, and
fancying their anger had cooled by this time, we tossed aside our clubs
and continued unarmed. Grouped abaft the deck house, the Chinamen
allowed us to pass unmolested. We stooped to pick up our footwear.
“Kang kweitze!” screeched the chief steward, and before we could
straighten up they were upon us. It was a more savage battle than the
first. The remaining bamboo stools were wrecked at the first onslaught.
We struggled forward and had all but freed ourselves again when James
stumbled over a bollard and fell prone on the deck. A score of
Celestials swarmed about his prostrate form; every man of them struck
him at least a dozen blows with some weapon. Whole constellations of
shooting stars danced before my eyes as I sprang to his assistance. A
Chinaman bounded forward with a scream and struck at me with a long,
thin knife. Instinctively I threw up my right hand, grasping the blade.
It cut one of my fingers to the bone, split open the palm, and slashed
my wrist. But the fellow let go of the weapon and, thus unexpectedly
armed, we were not long in fighting our way back to the waist.
When we had washed our wounds in salt water and bound them up as best we
could, we marched to the cabin to charge the captain with cowardice. He
denied our assertion and, to prove his valor, armed himself with two
revolvers and led the way aft. It was with considerable satisfaction
that we watched a dozen of our assailants show wounds they had received
in the encounter. The commander endeavored to make light of the affair,
but assigned us to an unfurnished cabin in the deck house and left us to
spend a feverish and painful night on the slats of the narrow bunks. In
the morning there was not a spot the size of a man’s hand on either of
our bodies that was not black and blue. The Australian, too, had
suffered an injury to the spine, and all through the voyage he was
confined to his comfortless couch, where he subsisted chiefly on black
pills doled out by the skipper, not only because his appetite had failed
him but because he lived in constant fear of being poisoned by the
Chinese “boy” who served us.
Eight weary days the decrepit old tramp wheezed like an asthmatic crone
along the indented coast of Cochin-China. On the morning following the
anniversary of my departure from Detroit two small islands of
mountainous formation rose from the sea on our port bow. Several junks,
manned by evil-faced, unshaven Monguls, bobbed up out of the dawn and,
hooking the rail of the _Paklat_ with grappling-irons, towed beside us,
shouting offers of assistance to the passengers possessed of baggage.
More verdant islands appeared and when we slipped into the horseshoe
harbor of Hong Kong it was still half shaded by the wooded amphitheater
that incloses it.
A sampan, floating residence of a numerous family, set us ashore. We
made our way to the Sailors’ Home. My hand had healed, but James had by
no means recovered. As the day waned we made application in his behalf
at the municipal hospital. It was the Australian’s misfortune that he
was a British subject. Had he been of any other nationality his consul
would soon have arranged for his admission. But as an Englishman he was
legally at home and must therefore shift for himself. For several days
he was turned away from the infirmary on threadbare pleas. Then at last
he was admitted, and I turned my attention to outgoing ships, eager to
be off, yet sorry to leave behind the best companion with whom I had
ever shared the joys and miseries of the open road.
The next morning I boarded the _Fausang_, an English cargo steamer about
to sail for Shanghaï, and explained my desires to the good-humored
“Sure, lad!” he cried, booting across the hatchway a Chinaman who was
belaboring a female stevedore. “Come on board to-night and go to work.
We can’t sign you on, but the old man will be glad to give you a few bob
for the run.”
At midnight we sailed. Again I quickly fell into the routine of watch
and watch and life in the forecastle. Four days later we anchored in
quarantine at the mouth of the Woosung, then steamed slowly up the murky
stream between flat, verdureless banks adorned by immense godowns, and
docked close off the Sailors’ Home.
It is at Shanghaï that the American wanderer, circumnavigating the globe
from west to east, begins to feel that he is approaching his native
land. Not only is he technically at home in one section of the
international city, but it is here that he meets the vanguard of
penniless adventurers from “the States.” Tramps from the Pacific slope
venture now and then thus far afield, as those along the opposite
seaboard drift across to the British Isles. But the world that lies
between these outposts knows little of the “hobo.”
Rumor had it that “the graft” was good in the Chinese port. Before I had
been a day ashore I came across a dozen or more fellow-countrymen who
had picked up a living for weeks among the tender-hearted white
residents and tourists. That was no great difficulty, to be sure, for
samshoo, the Chinese fire-water, sold cheaply; and an abundant meal of
milk, bread, potatoes, and eggs was to be had for ten cents “Mex” in the
establishment of a native who enjoyed the distinction of having lived in
There were delightful spots, too, in the close-packed city. Along the
Bund in the English section was a pleasant little park to which white
men, Indians, or plain “niggers” might retreat; but to which no
Chinaman, be he coolie or mandarin, was admitted. When the sun was well
on its decline a stroll out Bubbling Well Road proved an agreeable
experience. Towards nightfall the European rendezvous was the broad,
grassy Maidan, where Englishmen, in spotless flannels, and
crumple-shirted Americans, perspired at their respective national
pastimes. So numerous were the residents of Shanghaï hailing from “the
States” that each evening two teams struggled against each other in a
series that was to decide the baseball championship of southern China.
European Shanghaï is the center of business activity. Round about it
lies many a square mile of two-story shanties that throttle each other
for leave to stand erect, fed by a maze of narrow footpaths aglow with
brilliant signboards and gay joss-houses, and surcharged with sour-faced
Celestials who scowl threateningly at the European pedestrian or mock
his movements in exaggerated gesture and grimace. Cackling vendors
zigzag through the throng; wealthy Chinamen in festive robes and
carefully oiled cues pick their way along the meandering lanes; burly
runners, bearing on one shoulder a lady of quality crippled since
infancy by dictate of an ancient custom, jog in and out among the
There is in Shanghaï an institution known officially as “Hanbury’s
Coffee House,” popularly, as the “bums’ retreat.” Of the two titles the
latter is more exactly descriptive. But its charges were lower than
those of the Sailors’ Home, and on my third day in the city I moved
thither. With my “swag” under one arm I strolled into the common room
and approached the proprietor behind the register. A dozen beachcombers
were sitting over cards and samshoo at the small tables. As I reached
for the pen a sudden shout sounded behind me:—
“By God! There’s the very bloke now! The bum that carries a camera.
The speaker dashed across the room with outstretched hand. It was
Haywood, that much-wanted youth, famous for his adventures in Sing Sing
“I was this minute spinnin’ your yarn to Bob here,” he cried, indicating
a grinning seaman at his heels, “when who should come in but yourself as
big as life. Gee! I thought for a minute this rice-water was beginning
to put me off my feet. So you’ve beat it to here, eh? Show Bob the
phizz-snapper or he’ll think I’m a liar.
“Say,” he continued, as Bob turned the apparatus over in his stubby
fingers with the nervousness of a bachelor handling a baby, “where in
Niggerland did you and Marten go that night you beat me out of the
chow-room at the Home in Cally? You sure faded fast.”
“Up country,” I answered, and gave him a brief account of my travels
since we had separated.
“Well, I’ve had a hell of a run, too,” he said, when I had finished,
“though there was no jungle in it. When I made that pier-head jump out
of Rangoon I thought I was signed on A. B. But the skipper thought
different and it was down in the sweat-box for mine. The lads had told
me she was bound for China, but before we was two days out the mate
passed the tip that she was off for the States. It near give me heart
failure, but I took a ramble through the bunkers and as they was half
empty I knew the old man’d have to put in somewhere for coal. So I tried
soldierin’, hopin’ to be kicked ashore. In three weeks we dropped into
Yoko, but when I hit the skipper for my discharge he give me the glassy
eye. So I packed my swag and went down the anchor-chain into a sampan at
midnight, and the next mornin’ give the consul a song and dance about
the tub bein’ the hungriest craft afloat and the mate the meanest. He
took it all in and when the old man come ashore he told him to pay me
off p. d. q.
“The month’s screw give me a good blow-out that ended in two days by me
gettin’ broke an’ pinched. When I got out I hit it off for Kobe on a
passenger and turned a little trick the night I got there that landed me
over seventy yen. It was a cinch I had to fade away, so I took a
pasteboard to Naggy. But the graft was no good there, so I picked up
with Bob an’ a deck passage an’ here we are. This is plenty near enough
the States for mine. But say,” he concluded, in a confidential whisper,
“I haven’t got a red. Happen to have the price of a flop that ain’t
In memory of old times I paid his lodging for the night and we wandered
out into the city.
When I awoke two mornings later a dismal downpour promised a day of
forced inactivity; and inactivity in a foreign land means ennui and a
stirring of the Wanderlust. I packed my “swag” hurriedly, therefore, and
an hour later was slipping down the Woosung on board the _Chenan_ of the
Nippon Yusen Kaisha. Among several hundred third-class passengers I was
the only European; but I have yet to be treated more considerately by
fellow-travelers. Our sleeping quarters consisted of two inclined
platforms running half the length of the ship, on which, in my
ignorance, I neglected to preempt a claim. But I lost nothing thereby,
for no sooner was it noised among the Japanese that an American was
unprovided for, than a dozen crowded round to offer me their places. I
joined a party of four students returning from Pekin, and, by packing
ourselves together like spoons, we found room without depriving any
other of his quarters.
Three times daily we filed by the galley and received each a small
wooden box divided into three compartments; the larger contained rice,
the smaller, oily vegetables and tiny baked fish. With each meal came a
new pair of chopsticks. Japanese food does not appeal greatly to the
white man’s appetite; but the food supplied on the _Chenan_ was far less
depressing to the spirits than the steerage rations on many a
On the second morning out, the rolling green hills of Japan rose slowly
above the sun-flecked sea. My companions hailed each landmark with
patriotic fervor and strove to convince me that we had reached the most
beautiful spot on the globe. In reality they were not far wrong. The
verdure-framed harbor of Nagasaki was little less charming than that of
Hong Kong; from the water’s edge rose an undulating, drab-roofed town
that covered the low coast ranges like a wrinkled brown carpet, and
faded away in the blue wreaths of hillside forests.
The port was bustling with activity. Sampans, in which stood policemen
in snow-white uniforms, scurried towards us. Close at hand two dull grey
battle ships scowled out across the roadstead. Doctors, custom officers,
and gendarmes crowded on board. For the first time in months I was
sensible of being in a civilized country. In consequence there were
formalities without number to be gone through; but a sailor’s discharge
is a passport in any land. By blazing noonday I had stepped ashore.
“Set me down at the Sailors’ Home,” I ordered, stepping into the first
’rickshah to reach me.
“No good,” answered the runner, dropping the shafts. “Sailor Home he
“We’ll go and see,” I replied, knowing the ways of ’rickshah-men.
But the Home was unoccupied, sure enough, and its windows boarded up.
The runner assumed the attitude of a man who had been insulted without
“Me know ver’ fine hotel,” he said, haughtily, “Many white sailor man
stop. Me takee there. Ver’ fine.”
I acquiesced, and he jogged out along the strand driveway and halfway
round the sparkling harbor. Near the top of one of the ridges on which
Nagasaki is built he halted at the foot of a flight of stone steps cut
in a hillside.
“Hotel topside,” he panted, pointing upward.
In the perfumed grove at the summit stood a house so frail and dainty
that it seemed a toy dwelling. Its courtyard was gay with nodding
flowers, about the veranda posts twined red-blossomed vines. In the
doorway stood a Japanese woman, buxom, yet pretty. Though her English
was halting, her welcome was most cordial. She led the way to a quaintly
decorated chamber, arranged cushions, and bade me sit down. I laid aside
my bundle and gazed out across the panorama of the harbor, delicate in
coloring; a scene rarely equaled in any clime. Fortunate, indeed, had I
been to find so charming a lodging.
A panel moved noiselessly aside. The proprietress again slipped into the
room and clapped her hands thrice. Behind her sounded a choral whisper,
and six girls, lustrous of coiffure, clad in gaily flowered kimonas,
glided towards me with so silent a tread that they seemed to float
through the air. All were in the first bloom of youth, as dainty of face
and form as they were graceful of movement. Twice they circled around
me, ever drawing nearer, then, halting a few feet away, they dropped to
their knees, touched their foreheads to the floor, and sat up smiling.
The landlady, standing erect, gazed down upon me.
“Sailor man, how you like?” she purred, “Ver’ nice?”
“Yes, very nice,” I echoed.
“Well, take which one you like and get married,” she continued.
The ’rickshah-man, alas, knew the ways of sailors but too well. I picked
up my bundle and, glancing regretfully down upon the harbor, stepped out
on the veranda.
“What!” cried the matron, following after me, “You not like get married?
Ver’ nice room, ver’ good chow, ver’ nice wife, fifteen yen one week.”
I crossed the flowery courtyard towards the stone stairway.
“You no like?” called the landlady, “Ver’ sorry. Good-bye.”
Beside a canal down near the harbor I found a less luxurious hotel. The
proprietor, awakened from a doze among the bottles and decanters of the
bar-room, gurgled a thick-voiced welcome. He was an American, a wanderer
since boyhood, for some years domiciled in Nagasaki. The real manager of
the hotel was his Japanese wife, a sprightly matron whose farsighted
business acumen was evidenced by a stringent rule she had laid down
forbidding her besotted spouse entrance, except at meal hours, to any
other section of the hostelry than the bar-room. Most interesting of the
household were the offspring of this pair, a boy and girl of twelve and
ten. In them were combined the best qualities of the parent races. No
American children could have been quicker of wit nor more
whole-heartedly diligent at work or play; no Japanese more open to
impression nor more inherently polite of demeanor. Already the father
was accustomed to refer to his son problems too complicated for his own
unresponsive intellect; the mother left to her daughter the details of
flower-plot and wardrobe.
Lodged in an airy chamber, I could have slept late next morning had I
not been awakened at daybreak by what seemed to be a rapid succession of
revolver shots. I sprang to the window, half fearing that the proprietor
was assassinating his wife in a drunken frenzy. In the yard below
squatted the half-breed children, with a stick of “punk” and a great
bundle of fire-crackers. I had forgotten the date. It was the Fourth,
and Nagasaki was celebrating. All through the day bombilations sounded
at regular intervals about the city; nor was the racket instigated
entirely by American residents.
Ordinarily the boy and girl of the hotel dressed exactly like their
playmates and no sooner turned their backs on their father than they
lapsed at once into the native tongue. But on this American day the boy
wore a knickerbocker suit and leather shoes; his sister had laid aside
her kimona and wooden sandals to don a short frock and long stockings.
Instead of the intricate coiffure of the day before, her jet-black hair
hung in two braids over her shoulders; and not once during all that
festal day did a word of Japanese pass between them.
Two days later, garbed in an American khaki uniform chosen from the
stock of a pawnbroker popular with soldiers returning from the
Philippines, I sought out the railway station and took third-class
passage for Hiroshima. Two policemen blocked my entrance to the
platform, and, in spite of my protest that my history was recorded in
full on the hotel register, they filled several pages of their notebooks
with an account of my doings. For the war with Russia was at its height
and a strict watch was kept on all white men within the empire.
The train wound off through a rolling, sylvan country, here circling the
base of a thickly-wooded hill, there clinging close to the shore of a
sparkling bay. Not an acre capable of production was untilled. Peasants
toiled in every valley, on every hillside; their neat cottages dotted
the landscape as far as the eye could see. Populous, wide-awake villages
succeeded each other rapidly. The stations were well-equipped buildings
bearing both in Japanese and English the name of the town they served.
In his eagerness to imitate the western world the Jap has adopted one
custom which might better have been passed over. The gorgeous landscape
was half hidden at times by huge unsightly signboards bellowing forth
the alleged virtues of every conceivable ware.
The coaches were built on the American plan, and every carriage was a
smoking-car; for the use of tobacco is well-nigh universal in Japan
among both sexes. Barely had a lady folded her legs under her on a bench
across the aisle than she drew out a pipe in appearance like a long lead
pencil, the bowl of which held much less than the smallest thimble, and
a leather pouch containing tobacco as fine as the hair of the head. The
pipe lighted, she took one long pull at it, knocked out the residue on
the back of the seat before her, refilled the bowl, exhaled from her
lungs the first puff, and, turning the pipe upside down, lighted it
again from the glowing embers of the first filling. The pipe held only
enough for one puff; the smoker filled it a score of times before she
was satisfied, always keeping the smoke in her lungs until the bowl was
refilled, and using a match only for the first lighting. Dining-cars
were there none. At nearly every station boxes containing a goodly
supply of rice, several boiled and pickled vegetables, one baked fish,
and a pair of chopsticks only half split in two, were sold on the
platform. The contents were always the same; the price fixed and
[Illustration: A swimming-school of Japan, teachers on the bank, novices
near the shore, and advanced students in white head-dress, well out in
[Illustration: Women do most of the work in the rice-fields of Japan]
I had not taken care to choose a through-train to Hiroshima. Not long
after nightfall the one on which I was traveling reached its terminal, a
town named Hakata, and left me to spend the night in the waiting-room.
Before I had fallen asleep a band of youths employed about the station
began a series of tricks that kept me wide-awake until morning. They
threw vegetables and rotten fruit at me through the windows; they pushed
open the door to roll tin cans across the floor; if I fell into a doze
they sneaked inside to deluge me with water or drag me off my wooden
couch. Much we hear of the annoyances to which the kindly Japanese
residents on our Pacific slope are subjected; yet no band of San
Francisco hoodlums could have outdone these youths in concocting schemes
to make life miserable for a foreigner in their midst.
Two hours’ ride from Hakata brought me to Moji and the ferry that
connects the southern island with the largest of the kingdom. Policemen
halted me on both sides of the strait and twice I was compelled to
dictate the history of my past. From Shimonesaki the railway skirted the
shore of the Inland Sea, passing the military hospital of Itsukaishi,
where hundreds of convalescing soldiers, attired in flowing white
kimonas with a great red cross on their breasts, strolled and lolled in
the surrounding groves.
I descended in the twilight at Hiroshima in company with two
English-speaking youths who had taken upon themselves the task of
finding me a lodging. The proprietor of a hotel not far from the station
acknowledged that he had never housed a white man, but begged for
permission to show his versatility. I bade my new acquaintances
farewell. The hotel office was a sort of patio, paved with small stones,
from which a broad stairway with quaintly carved balustrade led upward.
Mine host shouted a word of command. A smiling matron, short of stature,
her inclination to embonpoint rendered doubly conspicuous by the ample
_oba_ wound round and round her waist, appeared on the landing above and
beckoned to me to ascend. I caught up my bundle; but before I had
mounted two steps the proprietor sprang forward with a scream and,
clutching at my coat-tails, dragged me back. A half-dozen servant girls
tumbled wild-eyed into the patio and joined the landlord in heaping
abuse upon me. I had dared to start up the stairway without removing my
shoes! The sight of a guest at a Fifth-avenue hotel jumping into bed
fully clad could not have aroused such an uproar.
I pulled off the offending brogans; the keeper added them to a long line
of wooden sandals ranged along the wall; and the matron conducted me to
a small chamber with a balcony opening on the street. Everything about
the apartment added to the feeling that I was a giant among
Lilliputians; the ceiling, gay with gorgeously tinted dragons, was so
low, the walls mere sliding panels of half-transparent paper stamped
with flowers and strange figures, the highly-polished floor so frail
that it yielded under every step. With a flying start a man could have
run straight through the house and left it a wreck behind.
The room was entirely unfurnished. The hostess placed a cushion for me
in the center of the floor and clapped her hands. A servant girl slipped
in, bearing a tray on which was a tiny box of live coals, several
cigarettes, a joint of bamboo standing upright, and a pot of tea with
cup and saucer. Having deposited her burden at my feet, and touched her
forehead to the floor, the maid handed me a cigarette, poured out tea,
and remained kneeling a full half-hour, filling the tiny cup as often as
I emptied it. When she was gone I picked up the joint of bamboo,
fancying it contained sweetmeats or tobacco. It was empty, however, and
I was left to wonder until the hostess returned. When she had understood
my gestures she began a wordy explanation; but I shook my head. With a
grimace that was evidently meant to be an apology, she caught up the
hollow joint and spat into it. The thing was merely a Japanese spittoon.
A maid soon served supper. She brought first of all a table some eight
inches high, then a great wooden bucket brimming full of hard-packed
rice, and lastly, several little papier-mâché bowls. One held a greasy
liquid in which floated the yolk of an egg, another a small, soggy
turnip, a third a sample of some native salad, at the bottom of the
fourth lay in dreary isolation a pathetic little minnow. Of rice there
was sufficient for a squad of soldiers; but without it the meal could
not have satisfied a hungry canary.
[Illustration: Horses are rare in Japan. Men and baggage are drawn by
[Illustration: Japanese children playing in the streets of Kioto]
As I ate, the girl poured out tea in a cup that held a single swallow.
Fortunately, I had already served my apprenticeship in the use of
chopsticks, or I should have been forced to revert to the primitive
table manners of the Hindu. As it was, it required great dexterity to
possess myself of the swimming yolk; and he who fancies it is easy to
balance a satisfying mouthful of rice on the ends of two slivers has
only to try it to be disillusioned.
The meal over, I descended for a stroll through the town. The host
brought my shoes, grinning sympathetically at the weight thereof, and I
stepped out to mingle with the passing throng. There is nothing more
inimitable than the voice of the street in Japan. He who has once heard
it could never mistake it for another. There is no rumble of traffic to
tire the senses, no jangle of tramways to inflict the ear. Horses are
almost as rare as in Venice, and the rubber-tired ’rickshah behind a
grass-shod runner passes as silently as a winged creature. The rank and
file, however, are content to go on foot, and the scrape, scrape, scrape
of wooden clogs sounds an incessant trebled note that may be heard in no
There are Oriental cities in which the stranger would hesitate to wander
after nightfall; in this well-ordered land he feels instinctively that
he is running less risk of disagreeable encounter than in any metropolis
of our own country. Class and mass mingle in the multitude; evil and
brutal faces pass here and there; the European is sometimes subjected to
the annoyance of unseemly curiosity, he may even be roughly jostled now
and then; for the politeness of the Jap is individual, never collective.
But rarely does the sound of brawling rise above the peaceful falsetto
of scraping clogs.
I returned to the hotel fancying I was doomed to sleep on the polished
floor; but the matron, apprised of my arrival, glided in and inquired,
by the cosmopolitan pantomime of resting her cocked head in the palm of
her hand, if I was ready to retire. I nodded, and at her signal a
servant appeared with a quilt of great thickness, which she spread in
the center of the floor. To an uncritical wanderer this seemed of itself
a soft enough resting place, but not until six pudding-like counterpanes
had been piled one on top of the other was the landlady content. Over
this couch, that had taken on the form of a huge layer-cake, the pair
spread a coverlet—there were no sheets—and backed out of the room. I
rose to disrobe, but before I had touched a button they were back again,
this time dragging behind them a great net, stout enough in texture to
have held Paul’s draught of fishes. Disentangled, the thing proved to be
canopy-shaped. While the matron attached the four corners of the top to
hooks in the ceiling, the maid tucked the edges in under the stack of
I was not averse to retiring at once, but at that moment there arrived a
cotton-clad youth who announced himself as a police interpreter.
Official Hiroshima was anxious to know more of the _Americajín_ whose
arrival had been reported by the station guards. The youth drew forth a
legal form and read, in a sing-song voice, questions covering every
period of my existence since squalling infancy. Between each the pause
was long, for the interpreter must repeat each answer to the
open-mouthed females kneeling beside us and set it down in the muscular
native script. I passed a yawning half-hour before he was finished, and
another before he ended a smoke-choked oration on the joy which my
coming had awakened in the hearts of his fellow officers. Ere he
departed he found opportunity to inquire into my plans for the future. I
announced my intention of continuing eastward in the morning.
“You must go so fastly?” he queried, with grief-stricken countenance.
“Then you shall go on the ten o’clock train; there is no other but very
I had no notion of leaving Hiroshima on any train, but, considering my
plans no affair of his, I held my peace. He departed at last and a
moment later I was sorry I could not call him back long enough to
interpret my orders to the matron and her maid. The pair refused to
leave the room. When I pointed at the door they waved their hands
towards the bed in a gesture that said I was at liberty to disrobe and
turn in. But neither rose from her knees. I tried more energetic
pantomime. The matron certainly understood, for she dismissed the
servant; but refused herself to withdraw. I began to unbutton my jacket,
hoping the suggestion would prove effective. She sighed audibly and
settled down on her heels. I sat down on my cushion and lighted a
cigarette, determined to smoke her out. She drew out a tobacco pouch and
a pipe, picked the cigarette out of my fingers to light the first
filling, and blew clouds of smoke at the ceiling.
Perhaps she was waiting to tuck me in when once I was abed. The notion
seemed ludicrous; yet that was exactly for what she was waiting. With
much shouting I prevailed upon her at last—not to leave the room, but to
turn her back to me. Slipping off my outer garments, I crawled under the
net and drew the coverlet over me. The matron rose gravely to her feet
and marched twice round my couch, tucking in a quilt corner here,
fastening a fold of the _kaya_ there. Then, closing the panels on every
side, she picked up the lamp and departed.
The room soon grew stuffy. I crawled out to push back one of the panels
opening on the veranda. Barely had I regained my couch, however, when a
trembling of the floor announced approaching footsteps and that
irrepressible female appeared on the balcony, silhouetted against the
starlit sky. Calling out something I did not understand—fortunately
perhaps—she pushed the panel shut again. I am accustomed to sleep with
wide open windows; but it was useless to contend against fate. My
guardian angel of the embonpoint knew that the only safe sleeping
chamber was a tightly-closed room; and in such I spent the night.
Rarely have I experienced a stranger sensation than at the moment of
awakening in that hotel of Hiroshima. It was broad daylight. The sun was
streaming in across the balcony, and the incessant scraping of clogs
sounded from the street below. But the room in which I had gone to bed
had entirely disappeared! I sat up with bulging eyes. Under me was the
stack of quilts, but all else was changed. The net was gone and I sat
alone and deserted in the center of a hall as large as a dancing
pavilion, the front of which for its entire length opened on the public
street. The transformation was no magician’s trick, though it was
several moments before I had sufficiently recovered to admit it. The
servant girls had merely pushed together the panels.
For all the sinuosities of her streets and my ignorance of the Japanese
tongue I had no great difficulty in picking up the highway out of
Hiroshima. A half-century ago it would have been more dangerous to
wander unarmed through rural Japan than in China. To-day the pedestrian
runs no more risk than in England. There is a suggestion of the British
Isles, too, in the open country of the Island Kingdom. Just such
splendidly constructed highways stretch away between bright green hedge
rows. Populous villages appear in rapid succession; the intervening
territory, thickly settled and fertile, shows the hand of the
industrious husbandman. But old England herself cannot rival this
sea-girdled kingdom in her clear, exhilarating air of summer, in her
picturesque landscapes of checkerboard rice fields, certainly not in the
scenic charm of the Inland Sea.
The roadway, dropping down from the plateau of Hiroshima, soon brought
to view this sapphire-blue arm of old Ocean, and wound in and out along
the coast. Here and there a ripple caught the glint of the sun; in the
middle distance and beyond tiny wooded isles rose from the placid
surface; now and again an ocean liner, awakening memories of far-off
lands, glided by almost within hailing distance. In shallow coves unclad
fishermen, exempt from sunburn, disentangled their nets and heaped high
their catches in wicker baskets.
It needed a very few hours on the road to teach me that Japan is the
home of the ultra-curious. Compared with the rural Jap the Arab is as
self-absorbed as a cross-legged statue of the Enlightened One. I had but
to pass through a village to suspend every activity the place boasted.
Workmen dropped their tools, children forgot their games, girls left
their pitchers at the fountain, even gossips ceased their chatter; all
to stare wide eyed if I passed on, to crowd round me if I paused.
Wherever I halted for a drink of water the town rose en masse to witness
my unprecedented action. My thirst quenched, the empty vessel passed
from hand to hand amid such a chorus of gasps as rises from a group of
lean-faced antiquarians examining a vase of ante-Christian date. To stop
for a lunch was almost dangerous, for the mob that collected at the
entrance to the shop threatened to do me to death under the trampling
clogs. In the smaller villages the aggregate population, men, women, and
children, followed me out along the highway, leaving the hamlet as
deserted as though the dogs of war had been loosed upon it. Once I
passed a school at the recess hour. Its two hundred children trailed
behind me for a long mile, utterly ignoring the jangling bell and the
shouts of their excited masters.
Well on in the afternoon I had taken refuge from the sun in a wayside
clump, when a youthful Jap, of short but stocky build, hurrying along
the white route, turned aside and gave me greeting. There was nothing
unusual in that action; a dozen times during the day some garrulous
native, often with a knowledge of English picked up during Californian
residence, had tramped a mile or more beside me. But the stocky youth
threw himself down on the grass with a sigh of relief. He was out of
breath; the perspiration ran in streams along his brown cheeks; his
nether garments were white with the dust of the highroad. Like most
villagers of the district he wore a dark kimona, faintly figured, a dull
brown straw hat resembling a Panama, thumbed socks, and grass sandals.
Perhaps his haste to overtake me had been prompted merely by the desire
to travel in my company; but there was about him an air of anxiety that
I set off again and he jogged along beside me, mopping his streaming
face from time to time with a sleeve of his kimona. He was more
supremely ignorant of English than I of Japanese, but we contrived to
exchange a few confidences by grunts and gestures. He, too, had walked
from Hiroshima. The statement surprised me, for the white stones at the
wayside showed that city to be twenty-five miles distant. Enured to
tramping by more than a year “on the road,” I had covered the distance
with ease; but it was no pleasure stroll for an undersized Jap.
Once my companion pointed from his legs to my own, raised his eyebrows,
and sighed wearily. I shook my head. He pointed away before us with
“Kobe,” I shouted.
“So am I,” he responded by repeating the name and thumping himself on
I knew he was lying. Kobe was more than a hundred miles away;
third-class fare is barely a sen a mile in Japan; it is far cheaper to
ride than to buy food sufficient to sustain life on such a journey. The
fellow was no beggar, for we had already toasted each other in a glass
of _saki_. Certainly he was not covetous of the yens in my pocket, for
he was small and apparently unarmed, and there was nothing of the
footpad in his face or manner. Yet he seemed fearful of losing sight of
me. When I stopped, he stopped; if I strode rapidly forward, he
struggled to keep the pace, passing a sleeve over his face at more
Could it be that he was a “plain clothes cop” sent to shadow me? The
suspicion grew with every mile; it was confirmed when we entered a long
straggling village. My companion dropped back a bit and, as we passed a
police station, I caught him waving a surreptitious greeting to four
officers in uniform, who nodded approval.
A spy! What reason had the police of Japan to dog my footsteps? My anger
rose at the implied insult. The fellow was urging me to stop for the
night; instead I redoubled my pace. Not far beyond the route forked,
and, turning a deaf ear to his protests, I chose the branch that led
away over steep foothills. The short legs of the Jap were unequal to the
occasion. He broke into a dog trot and puffed along behind me. His grass
sandals wore through; he winced when a pebble rolled under his feet.
Night came on, the moon rose; and still I marched with swinging stride,
the little brown man panting at my heels.
Three hours after sunset, amid the barking of dogs and the shouting of
humans, I stalked into the village of Hongo and sat down in the doorway
of an open shop. A moment later the spy, reeling like an inebriate, his
face drawn and haggard, dropped at full length on the matting beside me.
His endurance was exhausted; and small wonder, for Hiroshima was
forty-six miles away over the hills.
In the twinkling of an eye we were surrounded by a surging throng of
dirty yokels. For Hongo is a mere mountain hamlet and its inhabitants do
not practice all the virtues for which their fellow countrymen are
noted. To stay where we were was to court annihilation by the stampeding
multitude. I struggled to my feet determined to press on. The spy
screamed weakly and the villagers swept in upon us and imprisoned me
within the shop. A long conference ensued. Then the spy, leaning on two
men, hobbled up the street, while another band, promising by gestures to
find me lodging, dragged me along with them, the mob howling at our
The fourth or fifth booth beyond proved to be an inn, a most un-Japanese
house, for it was squalid and dirty. The frightened keeper bade us enter
and set a half-dozen slatternly females to preparing supper. The entire
village population had gathered in the street to watch my every movement
with straining eyes. I sat down on a stool and it smashed to bits under
me. A clawing, screaming mob swept forward to roar at my discomfiture. A
half hundred of the boldest pushed into the shop in spite of the
keeper’s protest and drove me further and further towards the back of
the building, until I was forced to beat them off to save myself being
pushed through the rear wall. A woman brought me rice. The boors fought
with each other for the privilege of being the first to thrust their
fingers into it. Another servant poured out tea. The villagers snatched
the cup from my fingers before I had drunk half the contents, and passed
it from hand to hand. A third domestic appeared with a saucer of baked
minnows. Each of a half-dozen of my persecutors picked up a fish in his
fingers and attempted to thrust it into my mouth. They had no notion
that such conduct was annoying. It was merely their way of showing
The throng at the doorway surged slowly but steadily nearer. I caught up
several clogs from the floor and threw them at the front rank of the
rabble. The multitude fell back into the street, but my immediate
entourage continued to snatch cups from my fingers and to poke me in the
face with baked minnows. Vocal protest was useless. I picked up the bowl
of rice and flung the contents into their faces. This time the
affectionate fellows understood. When the dish was filled again they
granted me elbow-room sufficient to continue my meal.
[Illustration: A Japanese lady]
A saner man might have profited by experience and taken care not to
re-arouse the waning curiosity. In a thoughtless moment I filled my
pipe. Before it was lighted I suddenly recalled that “bulldog” pipes
have not been introduced into Japan. But it was too late. A hoarse
murmur sounded in the street, like the rumble of far-off thunder at
first, then swelling louder and louder; and with a deafening roar the
astonished multitude surged pellmell into the shop, shrieking,
scratching, tearing kimonas, trampling pottery under their clogs,
bowling over the guardian shopkeeper, sweeping me off my feet, and
landing me high and dry on a chest against the rear wall. It required a
quarter-hour of fighting to drive them out again into the night and
nothing short of grapeshot could have cleared the street before the
building as long as there remained a possibility of once more catching
sight of that giant pipe.
I took good care to keep it out of sight thereafter; but the multitude
had not visibly diminished when, towards midnight, I signed to the
proprietor that I was ready to retire. The inn boasted only one
sleeping-chamber, a raised platform in one corner of the room carpeted
with grass mats and partitioned off with dirty curtains suspended from
the ceiling. This foul-smelling apartment I was forced to share with a
dozen men and boys, odoriferous and ragged, who chattered like excited
apes for an hour after I had lain down. All night long I was on
exhibition. For when my companions were not striking matches to study my
physical and sartorial make-up, the proprietor outside was raising a
corner of the curtain to display me to a group of gabbling rustics.
Profiting by experience, the police authorities did not set one man the
task of following me all the next day. The first of a relay of spies
overtook me at the outskirts of the village. He was long and lean, and
for ten miles he stalked along several yards behind me, making no
attempt to cultivate my acquaintance. At the first large village he was
relieved by a stocky youth of more sociable disposition, who walked at
my side and offered to “set ’em up” in a roadside saki shop at least
once in every mile. As often I halted to watch some native craftsman. In
one tiny hamlet a dozen women and girls, all naked above the waist line,
were weaving reed mats in an open hovel. Far from objecting to my
curiosity, they invited us to enter and placed ragged cushions for our
accommodation. Before we were seated the head of the establishment began
to chatter. She was well past middle age and of the form of a
well-stuffed grain sack,—just the type of human that can talk for an
unlimited period without anything to talk about. The Japanese word for
“yes” along the shores of the Inland Sea is “ha.” It was the only reply
which my companion found opportunity to interject into the conversation,
and for a full half-hour he sat crosslegged on his cushion, observing at
regular intervals and with funereal countenance:—“ha!—ha! ha! ha!—ha!
A few miles beyond he retired in favor of a much older man whose
penchant was to be taciturn and stealthy in the discharge of his duty.
Anxiously he strove to impress upon me that he was traveling in my
direction by merest chance. If I halted, he marched past me with an
expression of total self-absorption and slipped into some hiding-place a
few yards down the highway until I went on. There was relief from the
monotony of tramping in concocting schemes to shake him off, but every
such attempt failed. If I slipped into a shop to run out the back door,
the howling of the pursuing multitude betrayed me; if I dashed suddenly
off into a wayside forest, I succeeded in rousing the spy to feminine
shrieks of dismay, but before I could cover a mile he was again at my
heels. In the afternoon I abandoned the road and darted away up a
mountain path. At the summit I came upon a temple and a deep blue lake
framed in tangled forests. This time, apparently, I had outwitted my
shadower. I threw off my clothes and plunged in for a swim. When I
regained the bank, the spy, panting and dripping with perspiration, lay
on his back in a shady thicket beside my garments.
It was nearly sunset and the fourth lap in the police relay when a man
pushed his way through a village mob that surrounded me and greeted me
in a jargon that bore some resemblance to my native tongue. I sat down
by a shop door to rest, and for a half-hour the fellow plied me with
questions in near-English, with a sullen scowl and an arrogant manner
that said as plainly as words that he had a decidedly low opinion of
white men. His comprehension of my remarks was by no means complete; his
interpretation of them to the gaping throng was probably even less
lucid. About all he seemed to gather was that I was traveling on foot,
from which he concluded that I was penniless.
I rose to depart and he caught me by an arm.
“So you tramp?” he cried. “One time me go States. Many time see tramp.
In States tramp many time hungry. Not in Japan. Jap man all good; give
plenty. Wait. I make you present.”
Having found his people the least lovable and by far the most selfish on
the globe, I awaited the proposed benefaction with great curiosity. The
fellow turned and harangued the gathering at great length. His hearers
crowded up to give me congratulatory slaps on the back. I expected to
have at least a ticket to my own land forced upon me. Having published
his generosity to the four winds, the charitable fellow set the
cavalcade in motion and marched down the street at my side.
“Jap man ver’ good,” he reiterated, while his admirers beamed upon me.
“You damn tramp. No business in Japan, but ver’ hungry. Me give you
He opened his hand and displayed a copper sen.
Being covetous of the half-cent as a souvenir of Japanese generosity, I
stretched out a hand for it. The philanthropist snatched his own away.
“Not give money to damn tramp!” he cried. “Wait for shop. Me buy you two
Rice cakes being valueless as souvenirs, I rejected the kind offer and
left the cavalcade to chatter their astonishment.
The village was long. A half-mile beyond I stopped at a shop and ordered
supper, the price of which amounted to six cents. A great hubbub soon
arose in the street outside, and, before the meal was served, my
would-be benefactor, red-eyed with rage, fought his way into the booth.
“Why you tell you have no money?” he bellowed.
I denied having made any such statement.
“But you walk by the feet!” he screamed. “Me going to give you one sen
because you not starve. You run way and buy dinner like rich man. You
damn tramp, try be thief—”
I rose and kicked him into the street. His physical courage was on a par
with his philanthropy. But his bellowing of my alleged perfidy aroused
great anger in the gathering, and I was all but mobbed when I left the
The half-mountainous scenery, the rampant curiosity of villagers, and
the spy relay continued for two days more, at the end of which I turned
in at the Sailors’ Home of Kobe. Among the cosmopolitan beachcombers who
spun their yarns in the back yard of the institution was one victim of
the Wanderlust whose misfortunes are rarely equaled even in the vagabond
world. He was a youth of twenty, son of an Italian father and a Japanese
mother. In early childhood—his mother having died—he had returned with
his father to Naples. Ten years later a tavern brawl left him an orphan;
utterly so, for never had he heard a hint of the existence of parental
Driven from the garret that had been his home, he joined the waifs that
prowl among the garbage heaps of the Italian metropolis until he had
grown large enough to ship as a _mozzo_ on a coasting steamer. With the
end of his apprenticeship came a longing to visit the land of his birth.
He joined the crew of an East-Indiaman and “jumped her” in Kobe.
In the long interim, however, he had utterly forgotten the language of
his childhood. English would have served him well enough, but unlike
most seamen he had picked up barely a word of that tongue. His Italian
was fluent, but it was Neapolitan Italian, and it is doubtful if there
were a dozen men in all Japan who understood that dialect. A man
suddenly struck deaf and dumb could not have found himself in sadder
straits. There were European residents in the suburban villas of Kobe,
there were generous tourists in her shops and hotels; but it was useless
to tell them hard-luck tales in a language they could not understand.
The Italian consul drove him off with wrathful words, indignant at the
attempted imposition of a masquerading Jap. The Japanese were even less
inclined to give succor to one who, in features a fellow countryman,
aped the white man in garb and refused to speak the native tongue.
Under the weight of his calamities, the half-breed—tainted, perhaps,
with the fatalism of the East—had degenerated into a groveling,
cadaverous wretch, who cowered by day in a corner of the yard of the
Home and crawled away by night into noisome hiding places. From time to
time he contrived to get arrested, but the police were cruelly lenient
and soon drove him forth again into a world that denied him even prison
I had not been an hour in the Home when a servant summoned me to the
office. The superintendent and two police officers awaited me.
“Say, Franck,” began the former, “I hope that story you told me was on
the level? The cops have it you’re a Russian.”
“You came last night? You walked from Hiroshima?” demanded one of the
“Right you are,” I answered.
“This is the one,” he continued, turning to the superintendent, “The
police followed him from Hiroshima. He is a Russian, they telegraph me.”
“Nonsense!” said the manager; “He’s an American.”
“How can that be?” queried the second officer. “He wears even a Russian
A light broke in upon me. No wonder I had been so popular with the
police for four days past.
“Russian nothing,” I answered. “This is an American uniform from the
“Just the kind the Russians wear,” objected the officer, stretching out
a hand to feel the texture of my jacket. “How, Mr. Manager, do you know
he is an American?”
“By his talk, of course,” replied the superintendent.
“But _you_ are an _Englishman_,” retorted the detective.
“Just the reason I can tell an American,” responded the manager.
“Here! Look these over,” I put in, producing my papers.
The officers, however, were unreasonably skeptical and not only
discussed the documents at great length but insisted on inscribing in
their notebooks a very detailed account of my movements since entering
the country. It was all too evident that they did not believe that I
traveled on foot by choice; and as long as I remained in Kobe I was
conscious of being shadowed each time I left the Home.
On my third day in the city I rose early and passed out along the
highway to the eastward. The police, evidently, had been caught napping,
for no spy overtook me, and by noonday I was wandering through the maze
of streets and canals of Osaka. My presence in that city was soon known,
however, for an interpreter sought me out in the early evening at the
inn to which I had retired. As if his quizzing were not sufficient, a
second officer aroused me at dawn and not only put me through the usual
catechism but followed at my heels until I had entered the precincts of
the railway station. There two officers dragged me into their booth and
subjected me to a cross-examination the length of which caused me to
miss the second train I had hoped to catch.
Luckily the service was frequent. I purchased a ticket to Kyoto and
boarded the ten o’clock express. Barely had I settled down in my seat,
however, when two officers dashed into the car.
“The police captain say you come police station!” cried one of them,
catching me by the arm. “Captain like speak you.”
“The captain be blowed!” I answered, pushing him away.
“You come! Captain say not go with this train!” shouted the officer.
His companion came to his assistance and the pair laid hands on me. I
braced my knees against the back of the next seat and let them pull. In
the Western world we hear much of _jiu-jitsu_ and the physical prowess
of the Japanese. As for her policemen, and this was but one of many a
personal encounter they forced upon me, it was never my misfortune to
meet one with more strength than a schoolgirl. For fully five minutes
the pair tugged and yanked at my arms and legs; but not once during that
time was I in the least danger of being dragged from my seat.
The pair held the trump card, however, for they forbade the express to
move while I remained on board. I took pity on my fellow passengers,
therefore, and, pushing the pair aside, followed them into the station.
In the first-class waiting-room they arranged a Morris chair for my
accommodation, brought me several English newspapers and a packet of
cigarettes, and, requesting me to remain until they returned, hurried
away. There were several policemen in the square outside, however, who
peered in upon me from time to time.
I had been reading nearly an hour when another interpreter stepped into
“The police captain have sent me,” he announced, with a conciliatory
smile, “to say that you are not the man which he think and that you can
go when you are care to.”
I caught the fourth train and reached Kyoto in the early afternoon—and
was immediately arrested. In short, not a day passed during the rest of
my stay in the country, except in the open ports, that I was not taken
into custody several times. Every officer to clap eyes on my khaki-clad
figure was sure to demand my surrender, convinced that to his eagle eye
his country owed its preservation. It was never difficult to shake off a
pair of officers, a few slaps always sufficed; but, unlike other
Orientals, they did not run away. They dogged my footsteps into temples
and bazaars, through shrieking slum sections, down alleyways reeking
with refuse, until an interpreter came to establish my nationality.
[Illustration: Japanese canal-boats and coolies of Kioto]
I spent a day in Kyoto and could have spent many more with pleasure. At
the station next morning four yen more than sufficed for a ticket to
Tokyo, with unlimited stop-overs. At Maibara a squad of Russian
prisoners, garbed in Arctic cloaks and fur caps, huddled in a sweltering
group on the platform. As long as the train halted not the hint of a
jeer rose from the surrounding multitude, and the townspeople came in
continual procession to offer the stolid fellows baskets of fruit,
packets of tobacco, and all manner of delicacies. I left the train at
Nagoya, third city of the kingdom, in which the chief point of interest
is a great castle, at that season the residence of hundreds of Russian
Among the few guests at the inn to which I turned at nightfall was an
invalided sergeant, nearly recovered from two bullet wounds received in
Manchuria. A paper panel separated his room from my own. We pushed it
aside and shared a double-sized chamber. From the moment of our meeting
the sergeant was certain that I was a Russian. Gestures of protest and
innumerable repetitions of the word “Americajín” did not alter his
conviction in the least. Too well he knew the czar’s uniform and the
cast of features of the “Moosky!”
We conversed almost uninterruptedly for three hours, during which time
barely a word passed our lips. Certainly the sergeant must have been an
actor in his preliminary days, for there was no thought nor opinion so
complex that he could not express it clearly and concisely in pantomime.
Rendered into English his gestures and grimaces ran as follows:—
“Well, you _are_ a nervy fellow, yes, indeed! I suppose you’re only an
escaped prisoner; but you’ll be shot as a spy the moment you’re found
out. You’re not a Russian? Nonsense! Don’t spring any such yarns on me.
I’ve seen too many of you fellows. You may fool these unsophisticated
stay-at-homes, but I know you as I should know my own father. So would
any of the boys who have been to the front. Oh, come, stop it! It’s no
use telling _me_ you’re an American. Tell that to the civilians and the
policemen, the blockheads. It’s a mighty fine joke on them. But we’re
alone now; let’s be honest. You needn’t be in the least afraid of me.
I’m on, but I wouldn’t peach for the world. But I’m afraid your scheme
won’t work. There is not another man besides myself in Nagoya who would
keep your secret. The first schoolboy or old woman to find you out will
run his legs off to tell the police. You can bank on that. A year ago,
before I’d seen the world, I was as big a tattle-tale as the rest; but I
take a more cosmopolitan view of life since I got these scars, and I can
sympathize with a man now even if his skin _is_ white.”
The police interpreter came at this point to take my deposition, and the
sergeant preserved a noncommittal gravity during the interview, though
he winked twice or thrice as the policeman bent over his notebook. When
the visitor was gone, the soldier took up the story of his army life. It
was a gesticulatory epic, rich in detail, amusing in incident. From the
parting with his parents he carried me along with him through the
training camp of recruits, across the Sea of Japan on a crowded
transport, into the winter-bound bivouac in Manchuria, on cruel forced
marches to the northward, into many a raging battle, to the day when he
fell helpless in the bottom of a trench. His musket stood in a corner of
the room. He used it often in the story and took great delight in
assuring me that it had sent many of what he considered my
fellow-countrymen to their final reckoning. He imitated their death
throes with striking realism, rolling about the floor with twitching
limbs and distorted features, choking and gasping as a man does in the
last struggle. In comedy he was as effective as in tragedy. His
caricature of a Russian at his prayers was a histrionic masterpiece; his
knowledge of the “Moosky” service as exact as that of a patriarch.
We turned in towards midnight and parted in the morning the best of
friends. From Nagoya the railway turned southward, and, following the
old royal highway along the coast of the main island, gave us frequent
glimpses of the ocean. The country grew less mountainous, often there
were miles of unbroken paddy fields in which uncountable peasant women
wallowed in the inundated mire, clawing with bare hands the mud about
the roots of the rice plants. On the slopes, too steep to be flooded,
long rows of tea bushes stretched from the railway line to the wooded
I tired of riding at four and dropped off at Numadzu, a village of
fishermen where the inhabitants to this day, I fear, remember me as the
most unobliging of mortals. My host spoke some English. Taking advantage
of his linguistic accomplishment, I requested him to prepare a bath. A
servant placed and filled a tub in the center of the inn courtyard. I
had begun to disrobe when a panel was pushed aside and into the patio
stalked a dozen men and women, the landlord at their head.
“Here!” I protested; “I thought this was a bath room?”
“Sure! Bath room, a’ right,” returned my host. “Go ’head, make bath.”
“Are you crazy?” I demanded. “Drive those women out of here until I have
[Illustration: The castle of Nagoya, in which many Russian prisoners
[Illustration: Laying out fish to dry along the river in Tokio. Japan
lives principally on fish and rice]
“Why for?” inquired the Jap, while the company squatted along the wall.
I explained my objections and pushed them out one by one. The proprietor
was the last to go.
“Why for you so damn selfish?” he growled. “Why you not make bath if
ladies here? They not hurt you. They come see if you white all over. You
come see ladies make bath they not give damn kick. Damn selfish
I closed the panels and returned to my tub. But the curiosity of the
unselfish ladies was not so easily overcome. As I ceased my splashing a
moment, a poorly suppressed cough sounded above me, and I looked up to
see the entire party gazing down upon me from an upper balcony. I caught
up a cobblestone and they withdrew; but, though callers innumerable
dropped in during the evening, the proprietor never tired of relating
the story of my unprecedented selfishness.
Two policemen interviewed me on my way to the station next morning, a
third was in waiting when I descended at the village of Gotemba, and a
spy dogged my footsteps during the day’s tramp among the foothills of
Fujiyama. It is the ambition of the Mikado’s government to “keep tab” on
every foreigner from the day of his arrival in the country until his
departure; and local officers strive diligently to supply the
information demanded. But the system is something of a farce. The most
tolerant tourist is apt to tire of being incessantly interviewed and, in
a spirit of retaliation or merely for the sake of variety, to try his
hand at fiction. As for beachcombers, there are few indeed who do not
take delight in weaving “fairy tales” for gullible officials.
In the open ports of Japan I scraped acquaintance with more than a score
of white sailors who had journeyed across the country afoot or “on the
cushions.” They passed for Americans, nearly every man of them, though
three-fourths were Europeans and at least four, to my knowledge,
Russians. But the point of nationality aside, there was not one of them
who told police interpreters the same story twice. The Jap finds great
difficulty in pronouncing the letter “L.” Jocular beachcombers of my
acquaintance swore on their discharge books that they had lain awake
nights to piece together names unpronounceable for the next policeman.
Hence it was that the traveler who announced himself at one station as
“Alfred Leland from Lincolnlane,” assured the officers of the next that
he was “Lolo Lipland Longlock from Los Angeles.” It mattered little what
the wanderer dubbed himself; a police interpreter could not tell an
American from a Zulu name, and though “Lolo Lipland Longlock” spoke only
a half-hundred words of English, the name, alleged nationality, and
“fairy tale” were solemnly inscribed on the records. That was well
enough for the gullible interpreter; but what of the puzzled government
bookkeeper at Tokyo, who poured over volumes of reports from the rural
districts, seeking in vain to find out what had become of “Alfred Leland
I reached Yokohama that night and, having deposited my bundle in the
Sailors’ Home, continued next day to Tokyo. Financially I was near the
end of my rope. My daily expenditures in Japan had barely averaged
twenty-five cents; but even at that rate the fortune arising from the
gratitude of the “jungle king” of Kung Chow and the generosity of the
_Fausang’s_ captain had been gradually dissipated. Bankruptcy mattered
little now, however, for Tokyo was the last city in my itinerary. Once
back in Yokohama, it would be strange if I could not soon sign on some
craft homeward bound. I squandered the seven yen that remained,
therefore, in three days of riotous living in the capital; and, on a
morning of late July, wandered out along the highway to the neighboring
There was preaching and singing in the Sailors’ Home of Yokohama on the
evening of my arrival. The white-bearded missionary styled the service a
“mass meeting for Christ.” The beachcombers in attendance were not those
to cavil at names. So long as they were permitted to doze away the
evening in comfortable chairs, “holy Joe” might assign any reason he
chose for their presence, though there were those near me at the back of
the room who grumbled now and then at the monotonous voice that
disturbed their dreams.
No such protest, certainly, rose to the lips of the herculanean Chilian
with whom I had fallen in during the afternoon, for whatever his inner
feelings, they were stifled by his deep-rooted respect for religious
services. One by one, the beachcombers drifted out into the less
strident night; but the South American clung to his place as he would
have stuck to his look-out in a tempestuous sea. Had “holy Joe” been
gifted with a commonplace sense of the fitness of things he might have
held one hearer until the benediction. Late in the evening, however, he
broke off his absorbing dissertation on the Oneness of the Trinity to
assign a hymn, and, stepping down among us, fell to distributing pledges
of the “Royal Naval Temperance Society.”
“Válgame Dios!” breathed the Chilian, as a pamphlet dropped into his
lap. “He asks me to sign the pledge, me, who haven’t had the price of a
thimbleful in two months! This is too much! Vámonos, hombre!” and,
stepping over the back of his chair, he stalked to the door.
In the darkness outside, a cringing creature accosted us. Something in
the whining Italian in which he spoke led me to look more closely at
him. It was the Neapolitan half-caste; more ragged and woe-begone than
ever, and smudged with the dust of the coal bunkers in which he had
stowed away in Kobe harbor.
I told his story to the Chilian as we struck off together towards the
park which I fancied must be our resting-place for the night. The South
American, however, had not been three months “on the beach” without
learning some of the secrets of Yokohama. He marched self-confidently
down the main thoroughfare, past the German and American consulates,
turned a corner at the European post-office, and, brushing along a
well-kept hedge, stopped in the deep shadow of a short driveway. Before
us was a high wooden gate flanked by two taller pillars, beyond which
the thin moonlight disclosed the outlines of a large, two-story
“Look here, friend,” I interposed, “if you’re going to try burglary—”
“Cállete la boca, hombre!” muttered the Chilian. “The patrol will hear
you. Come on,” and, placing both hands on the top of the gate, he
vaulted it as easily as if it had been only half its six feet in height.
I followed, and the half-breed tumbled over after me, his heels beating
a noisy tattoo on the barrier. Once inside, however, the Chilian seemed
to lose all fear of the patrol and crunched along the graveled walk,
“Lucky thing for the beachcombers, this war,” he said; “If there were
peace we’d be sleeping in the park. Suppose the Czar knew he was giving
us posada?” he chuckled, marching around to the back of the building.
There was no sign of life within. Mounting to the back veranda, our
guide snatched open one shutter of a low window. The half-breed was
trembling piteously, though whether from hunger, fatigue, or fear, I
could not know. One needed only to look hard at him to set his teeth
But I myself had no longing to be taken for a burglar.
“Here! What’s the game?” I demanded, nudging the Chilian.
“Why, man,” he replied, “this is our hotel, the Russian consulate,” and
he stepped in through the open window.
My misgivings fled. Japan and Russia were at war; the consulate,
therefore, must be unoccupied, and more than that, it was Russian
territory, on which the police of Japan had no more authority than in
Moscow. I swung a leg over the window sill.
“Ascolta!” gasped the half-caste, snatching at my jacket; “Ci sono
I paused to listen. From somewhere close at hand came a muffled snort.
“Come on,” laughed the Chilian. “It’s one of the boys, snoring. Several
of them make posada here.”
When we had climbed in and closed the shutter, he struck a match. The
room was entirely unfurnished, but carpeted with grass mats so soft that
a bed would have been superfluous. The Chilian pulled open the door of a
closet and brought forth a candle, pipe, blanket, and a paper novel in
“Of course it’s only the servants’ quarters,” he apologized, spreading
out the blanket and lighting candle and pipe; “the main part of the
house is tight locked. But there’s plenty of room for such of the boys
as I have passed the word to,—sober fellows that won’t burn the place
He picked up the novel and was still reading when I fell asleep.
Sunlight streaming into my face and the sound of an unfamiliar voice
awakened me in what seemed a short hour afterward. The window by which
we had entered stood wide open, and a Japanese in European garb was
peering in upon us.
“What you make here?” he demanded, as I sprang to my feet. “Come out
quick or I call the police.”
The Chilian stirred and thrust aside the jacket that covered his face.
“Go on way!” he growled, in the first English I had heard from his lips.
“Go on way an’ leave us to sleep.”
“I call the police,” repeated the native.
“Bloody thunder, police!” bawled my partner, sitting up. “Go on way or I
break your face.”
The Jap left hastily.
“Close the shutters,” continued the Chilian, in his own tongue. “Too
early to get up yet. That fellow is from the French consul, who has
charge of this place. He disturbs us every morning, but he can do
Two hours later the Chilian stowed away his property. When the coast was
clear, we climbed the gate and returned to the Home.
Life on the beach in Yokohama might have grown monotonous in the days
that followed but for the necessity of an incessant scramble for rice
and fishes. Out beyond the park were a score of native shops where a
Gargantuan feast of rice and stewed _niku_—meat of uncertain
antecedents—sold for a song. There were times, of course, when we had
not even a song between us; but in the Chinese quarters nearer the
harbor, queued shopkeepers offered an armful of Oriental fruits and the
thin strips of roasted pork popularly known as “rat-tails” for half a
vocal effort. Or, failing this, there were the vendors of _soba_, who
appeared with their push-carts as dusk fell, demanding only two sen for
a bowl of this Japanese macaroni swimming in greasy water, and the use
of a badly-worn pair of chopsticks. The Chilian was versatile, I had
been “busted” before; between us we rarely failed to find the means of
patronizing at least the street vendors before retreating to Russian
Never had I doubted, on the day of my stroll back from Tokyo, that the
end of August would find me again in “the States.” By the time I had
learned to vault the consulate gate as noiselessly as the Chilian, the
Pacific seemed a far greater barrier. For shipping was dull in Yokohama;
the shipping, that is, of white seamen. That day was rare in which at
least one ship did not weigh anchor; but their crews were Oriental. His
book might be swollen with honorable discharges, his stubby fingers
nimble at making knots and splices; but plain Jack Tar from the western
world was left to knock his heels on the long stone jetty and hurl
stentorian oaths at each departing craft.
A “windjammer,” requiring a new crew, would have solved many personal
problems; and there were three such vessels, two full-rigged ships and a
bark, riding at anchor far out beyond the breakwater. But as far back as
the oldest beachcomber could remember, they had showed no signs of life,
and their gaunt masts and bare yards had long since come to be as
permanent fixtures in the landscape as the eternal hills beyond.
Moreover, rumor had it that the crafts were full-handed. Now and then a
pair of their apprentices dropped into the Home of an evening; more than
one of “the boys,” skirmishing for breakfast in the gray of dawn, had
come upon the light of one of their crews on his beams’ ends in the
gutter of the undignified district beyond the canal. But sober or
besotted, not a man of them dreamed of clearing out; and “the boys” had
long since given up all hope of being called to fill a vacancy.
I had, of course, lost no time in making known my existence at the
American consulate. Captains were not unknown in the legation; not many
moons since, a man had actually been signed on in that very building!
Each interview with the genial consul was full of good cheer; yet, as a
really satisfying portion, good cheer was infinitely inferior to a bowl
of soba. Between pursuing that elusive substance through the streets of
Yokohama and over her suburban hills, and wiping our feet on the mats of
steamship offices of high and low degree, neither the Chilian nor I
found cause to complain of the inactivity of existence.
In one thing the South American was eccentric. He would not beg. Though,
to tell the truth, there was small temptation to be overcome in that
regard; for the Jap is an ardent believer in the old adage anent the
initial dwelling place of charity. Twice we found work in the city, the
first in the press room of one of Japan’s English newspapers, the second
on the wharf. But if the price of living was low, the wage scale was
even more debased; and there were others to partake of our earnings, for
in Yokohama were at least a score of beachcombers with well-developed
appetites, closely banded together in a profit-sharing company.
When work failed, the blanket in the cupboard netted one yen. That gone,
there were a few odds and ends of wearing apparel in my bundle to be
offered up. The Chilian owned two pair of shoes; an extraordinary
amplitude of wardrobe that smacked of foppishness. He felt more
comfortable when the extra pair had been transferred from “holy Joe’s”
keeping to the sagging line above the pawnshop door. When the shoes had
been eaten, intercourse with the broker lapsed. Except for my kodak and
our pipes not a thing remained but the clothes we stood in.
Then came the legacy from “Frisco Kid.” The “Kid” was one of the few
Americans among us. On the first evening that we were forced to retreat
“sobaless” to the Home, he drew me aside for a moment.
“You know,” he whispered, “the _Pliades_ is going out to-night? I’m
going to have a try at sticking away on her, an’ the washee man has a
few of my rags.”
He thrust into my hand a wooden laundry check.
“If I don’t turn up in the morning, the stuff’s yours. So long. I’ll
give ’em your regards in the States.”
At nine next day he had not returned, and, having satisfied the
laundryman with a few coppers borrowed from the missionary, we feasted
royally on the contents of the bundle,—a khaki uniform and two shirts.
It was on Saturday, nearly two weeks after my return from Tokyo, that
the first prospect of escape from Japan presented itself,—a promise from
the consul to speak in my behalf to the captain of a fast mail steamer
to sail a few days later. Therein lay the last hope of completing my
journey in the fifteen months set, and I took care that the consul
should suffer no lapse of memory.
Early the following Monday, the last day of July, I turned in at the
consulate just as two men, absorbed in conversation, emerged. One was
the vice-consul; the other, a man of some fifty years, stalwart of
figure and of a meditative cast of countenance rendered more solemn by
thick-rimmed spectacles, a Quakerish felt hat, and long black locks. I
set him down at once for a missionary, and, with a seaman’s instinctive
aversion for the cloth, stepped aside to let him pass. The vice-consul,
however, catching sight of me as he shook the stranger’s hand, beckoned
to me to approach.
“By the way,” he said, addressing the stranger; “here is an American
sailor who has been hanging around for a couple of weeks, and he has not
been drunk once—”
Obviously not; it takes money even to buy saki.
“Can’t you take him on, captain?”
Captain, indeed! Of what? The mail steamer, perhaps. I stepped forward
“Umph!” said the stranger, looking me over. “On the beach, eh? Why, yes,
I am none too full-handed. But it’s too late to sign him on; my articles
have been endorsed.
“Still,” he went on, “he can come on board and I’ll set him down as a
stowaway, and sign him on when once we’re clear of port.”
“Good!” cried the vice-consul. “There you are! Now don’t loaf and make
us ashamed to ask a favor of the captain next time.”
“Here’s a yen,” said the captain. “Go get something to eat and wait for
me on the jetty.”
I raced away to the Home to invite the Chilian to a farewell luncheon;
then returned to the appointed rendezvous. The day was stormy, and a
dozen downpours drenched me as many times during the seven hours that I
waited. Towards nightfall the captain drove up in a ’rickshaw and,
without giving me the least sign of recognition, stepped into his
launch. As he disappeared in the cabin below, I sprang to the deck of
Ten minutes later I should have given something to have been able to
spring back on the wharf. The launch raced at full speed out across the
harbor, past the last steamer riding at anchor, and turned her prow
towards the open sea. Where in the name of Father Neptune was she bound?
I wiped the water from my eyes and gazed in astonishment at the receding
shore. The last tramp was already far astern. The higher waves of the
outer bay caught the tiny craft as she slipped through the mouth of the
breakwater and sent me waltzing about the slippery deck. Had the
long-haired lunatic in the cabin chosen a launch for a sea voyage or—?
Then all at once I understood, and gasped with dismay. Far off through
the driving rain appeared the towering masts of the sailing vessels, and
that one towards which we were headed had her sails bent, ready for
departure. That blessed vice-consul had sentenced me to work my way home
on a windjammer!
[Illustration: The Russian consulate of Yokohama, in which we
[Illustration: Japanese types in a temple inclosure]
Dusk was settling over the harbor when the launch bumped against the
ship’s side. The rain had ceased. Several seamen, sprawling about the
forward deck, sprang to their feet as I poked my head over the bulwarks.
“Hooray!” bellowed a stentorian voice, “A new shipmate, lads. Turn out
The rest was lost in the resulting uproar. Sailors in every stage of
undress stumbled out of the forecastle; pimple-faced apprentices bobbed
up from amidships; even “Chips” and the sailmaker lost their dignity and
hurried forward, and in the twinkling of an eye I was surrounded by all
hands and the cook.
The “doctor” gave me leave to dry my uniform in the galley, and I
retired to the forecastle to spin my yarn to the excited crew. A general
laugh greeted the account of my meeting with the captain.
“A stowaway, is it!” cried one of the seamen. “There’d be more truth in
sayin’ you was shanghaied. That’s a favorite game with the old man to
cut down expenses an’ square ’imself with the owners. Sign you on! Of
course ’e could if ’e’d wanted. No damn fear! An’ ’im five ’ands short.
Hell, if this was a civilized port not a clearance paper would ’e get
until ’e’d signed on the crew the articles calls for. Howsomever, ’ere
you are, an’ it’s no use kickin’ after you’re ’ung. But it’s a ragged
deal t’ ’ave t’ work your passage ’ome on a windjammer.”
“This tub?” he went on, in answer to my request for information. “Aye,
when I’ve lighted up, I’ll gi’ you ’er story in a pipeful. She’s the
_Glenalvon_, square-rigged ship an’ English built, as you can see wi’
your eyes shut, 1927 tons, solid enough, being all iron but ’er decks
an’ the blocks; but that’s all’s can be said for ’er. This crowd shipped
on ’er out o’ Newcastle two year ago with coal for Iquique, loaded
saltpetre for Yokohama, and she’s bound now for Royal Roads in
ballast—to load wheat for ’ome, like ’nough. With a cargo she’s a good
sailor, an’ ’as made the States in twenty-four days; but with only mud
in ’er bottom an’ foul wi’ barnacles there’s no knowin’. Maybe a month.”
“Countin’ yourself there’s thirty-three on board, one of ’em a woman an’
two of ’em goats. To begin with, there’s the skipper. Ten t’ one you
took ’im for a ‘Christer.’ They all does ashore, but ’e’s a hell of a
way from bein’ one afloat. He’s a bluenoser named Andrews, an’ the
biggest —— that ever come out o’ Halifax. Mind you don’t fall foul of
“The mate’s a bluenoser, too, bit longer ’n a belayin’-pin, with no ’air
under ’is cap, an’ no sailorman. Oo ever seen a bald-’ead as was? _’E_
ain’t been caught ’igher aloft these two year ’n the spanker-boom.
“Second mate’s a Irish lad, just got ’is papers an’ a good seaman, but
hazin’ the boys like all these youngish chaps. The doctor’s a Swede,
Chips comes from the same island, an’ Sails is a Dutchman. Then there’s
seven men in the port watch an’ five in the second mate’s, ten
apprentices amidships, only three of ’em big enough t’ be more ’n in the
way, an’ ‘Carrot-top,’ the cabin boy. The skipper’s wife—if she is—is a
scrawny heifer you wouldn’t be seen walkin’ down the Broomielaw with; a
bluenoser, too, some says, but there’s no knowin’, for not a ’and ’as
she spoke these two year. An’ there you ’ave the outfit, four less ’n
when she shipped ’er mud-hook—after losin’ one off the Horn, two
clearin’ out in Chilly, an’ plantin’ my mate in the English cementery up
there on the Bluff.”
By the time my clothes were dry the second mate came forward to assign
me to the starboard watch, and I turned in with my new messmates. That
we were not called until dawn was a sure sign that the day of sailing
had not come. After breakfast four apprentices rowed the captain and his
wife ashore, and we spent the day painting over the side.
Once turned in again, it barely seemed possible that I had fallen asleep
when there came a banging on the iron door of the forecastle and a
blatant bellow of:—
“All hands! Up anchor, ho!”
With only five minutes’ grace to jump into our clothes, we tumbled out
precipitately. Twenty-two men and boys, their heads still heavy with
sleep, grasped the bars of the capstan on the forecastle-head just as
five bells sounded, and for four hours we marched round and round the
creaking apparatus. One man at a steam winch could have raised the
anchor in ten minutes, but here everything was entirely dependent on
man-power; the _Glenalvon_ had not so much as a donkey-engine.
Dawn found us still treading the never-changing circle in time to a
mournful dirge sustained by long-winded members of the crew. The sun
rose and the sweat ran in streams along the bars. Hunger gnawed us
inwardly. The skipper turned out for his morning constitutional, a
steamer slipped by us, at every revolution I caught myself gazing
regretfully across the bay at the flag-pole of the Russian consulate.
Then all at once the second mate, peering over the side, raised a hand.
“Belay all!” bellowed the skipper, from the poop. “Lay aloft, all hands!
Shake ’em out! Man the wheel!”
The crew sprang into the rigging. We loosened a dozen sails and, leaving
a man on each mast to clear the downhauls, slid down on deck again and
sheeted home the topgallants and the lower topsails. Then came a more
arduous task,—to hoist the upper topsail yards. Every human being on
board except the captain and his wife tailed out on the rope; even then
we were not enough. The massive iron yard rose, but only inch by inch,
and every heave seemed to pull our arms half out of their sockets.
Seamen, like Arabs, work best in unison under the inspiration of music.
“Sails,” the _Glenalvon’s_ acknowledged leader in vocal productions,
burst out in a rasping shriek:—
“As I was walkin’ down Ratcliffe Highway.”
All hands caught up the chorus in a roar that the distant cliffs threw
back at us:—
“BLOW! BOYS! BLOW THE MAN DOWN!” heaving together at each repetition of
the word “blow.”
“A pretty young maid I chanced for to meet.”
“OH! GIVE US SOME TIME TO BLOW THE MAN DOWN!”
“Says she, ‘Young man, will you stand treat?’”
“BLOW! BOYS! BLOW THE MAN DOWN!”
“‘Delighted,’ says I, ‘for a charmer so sweet.’”
“OH! GIVE US SOME TIME TO BLOW THE MAN DOWN!”
The yard rose a bit faster but by no means rapidly. The skipper paced
the poop, cursing us all for blunderers.
“Steward!” he roared, “bring a bottle of grog!”
The “doctor” let go the rope as if it had suddenly turned red-hot, and
ran for the lazaret. A smile of anticipation flitted along the line of
perspiring faces. A promise of double wages for all hands would have
been less effective. The resulting heave took me so by surprise that I
was carried off my feet.
The cook appeared on the quarter-deck, and the skipper snatched the
bottle he carried and examined it attentively. We were too far away to
hear their conversation; but the yard was moving skyward by leaps and
bounds. Then suddenly the lord and master of us all turned and pitched
the bottle into the sea.
“My Gawd!” ran a horrified whisper along the rope. “E’s threw it
overboard. ’E thinks we’re sodgerin’.”
But for the tenacity of a few of us the yard must have come down by the
Inspiration came again, however, for the cook ran off and returned with
a second flagon. The first, it turned out, had a tiny hole in the bottom
and was empty.
The topsail was quickly sheeted home and I lined up with the rest before
the galley-door to drink my “three fingers” of extremely poor whiskey.
Then, breaking up into smaller groups, we hoisted the “fore-and-afters,”
and, when we turned in for breakfast an hour late, weak and ugly from
hunger, the _Glenalvon_ was carrying every stitch of canvas but the
three royals and her cross-jack.
“At least,” I told myself, rubbing my aching arms between mouthfuls of
watery “scouse,” “we’re off, and the worst is over.”
Which proved only how little I knew of the vagaries of “windjammers.”
Tokyo Bay, shaped like a whiskey bottle with the neck turned westward,
is so nearly land-locked that few masters of sailing vessels attempt to
beat their way out of it. When we had begun to heave anchor a fair wind
promised to carry the _Glenalvon_ straight out to sea. By dawn, however,
it had shifted and before grog had been served it blew from exactly the
opposite point of the compass. Nothing was left but to tack back and
forth against it. A bellow summoned us on deck before breakfast was half
over, to go about ship. A few more mouthfuls and a short pipe and we
wore ship again. But it was no use. The head wind increased, the bay was
narrow; on the third tack the skipper ventured too close ashore, lost
his head, and roared out an order:—
“Let go the anchor!”
The “mud-hook” dropped with a mighty roar and rattle of cable; the
fore-and-aft sails came down with a run; ropes screamed through the
blocks; the topsail yards fell with a crash; the topgallants bellied out
and snapped in the breeze with the boom of cannon; the blocks at the
corners of fore and main sails threshed about our heads; ropes and steel
cables of every size squirmed about the decks, snatching us off our feet
and slashing us in the faces; pulleys, belaying-pins, apprentices, and
goats sprawled in every direction. It seemed, as a seaman put it, that
“all hell had been let loose”; and in three minutes the work of five
arduous hours had been utterly undone.
When the uproar had abated we took up the task of reducing the chaos to
order; furled the sails, squared the yards, coiled up the thousand and
one ropes that carpeted the deck, manned the pump and washed down. To an
unbiased observer this would have seemed work enough for one day, but
after a bare half-hour for dinner we were routed out once more and sent
over the side with our paint-pots.
Exactly this same experience—without the grog—befell us the next day,
and the next, and the next. It came to be our regular existence, this
being called soon after midnight to man the capstan, and to work
incessantly until twilight fell. Day after day the wind blew steadily in
at the mouth of the bottle, barely veering a point; and, what was most
regrettable, it was just the breeze to send us flying homeward, once we
were out of the bay. My shipmates were less downcast than I, for it
mattered little to them whether they earned their wages in Tokyo Bay or
on the open sea. But even they began in time to grumble at the long
hours and to curse the captain for his parsimony in refusing to charter
A week went by. The bark that had long ridden at anchor near the
_Glenalvon_ towed out to sea and sailed away. The mail steamer glided by
so close that the Chilian hailed me from her forecastle-head. A dozen
craft went in and out, and still the peerless cone of Fujiyama gazed
down upon us. Had there been any chance of the request being granted, I
should long since have craved to be set ashore.
There were ominous whispers in the forecastle that it was dangerous to
be forever tacking back and forth in Tokyo Bay. Nor was such gossip
idle. One morning, after the usual fiasco, we dropped anchor not far
from the northern shore. Immediately a small Japanese war-vessel steamed
out and hailed us; but her officers spoke no English, and our captain,
consigning them all to purgatory, turned down into his cabin. He was up
again in short order and what he saw caused his jaw to sag and his
rugged countenance to take on a sickly green pallor. Just beneath our
bow, a half-ship’s length ahead, the Japs had anchored a small buoy
bearing the red flag that indicates the presence of a submarine mine.
The “old man” did not wait for a repetition of the offer of the Japanese
to tow him to a safer anchorage. The crew manned the capstan with
unusual alacrity and a cable was quickly made fast to the stern
bollards. At the very moment, however, when we were beginning to
congratulate ourselves on a narrow escape, the cable parted. Urged on by
half a gale, the _Glenalvon_ commenced to drift rapidly and unerringly
towards the red flag. For one brief moment pandemonium reigned.
“Carrot-top” and half the apprentices were for jumping overboard; but
the foremast hands behaved like men, and a second cable was made fast
just in time.
For all this experience Captain Andrews persisted in his attempt to beat
out of the bay. The harbor of Yokohama came to be a sight odious to all
on board, the crew was worn out in body and spirit, I began to despair
of ever again taking up the well-fed existence of a landsman, and all
because our niggardly skipper had set his heart on saving a paltry sixty
pounds. But he was forced to yield at last, and all hands rejoiced that
his miserliness had recoiled on his own head. On the morning of August
eleventh we turned out to heave anchor for the tenth time. The skipper
had been rowed ashore the afternoon before and a tug was waiting to take
us in tow. Late in the day she dropped us outside the narrows and when
night fell the _Glenalvon_, under all sail, was tossing on the open sea.
Officially my presence on board was still unknown. Next morning, as the
starboard watch was about to turn in, I received an order to lay aft.
The skipper was sitting at the cabin table with the open log before him.
“Here’s the entry I’ve just made,” he said, as I stepped in. “This
morning, soon after losing sight of land, a stowaway was discovered on
board, who gives the name of H. Franck, nationality, American, and
profession, seaman. He has been turned to with the crew and entered on
the articles with the rating of A.B., at one pound a month”—my shipmates
drew three—“under the maritime regulations covering such cases.”
I touched the pen with which the captain had inscribed my name on the
articles, muttered a “thank you,” and returned to the forecastle.
[Illustration: Yokohama street decorated for the Taft party. The display
is entirely private and shows the general good will of the Japanese
toward the United States]
My signing on was by no means the last episode to break the monotony of
the voyage. In fact, unexpected episodes came with such frequency during
the trip that even they in time grew monotonous. First of all, the
breeze that had held us bottled up for twelve days shifted to a head
wind that soon increased to a gale. For more than a week it blew
steadily from the same quarter, varying only in violence. Rain poured
almost incessantly. Lashed by the storm, the sea rose mountains high,
and the ship, being in ballast, reared like a cowboy’s broncho, or lay
on her beams’ ends like a mortally wounded creature. There was no
standing on the deck. The best pair of sealegs was as useless as the
wabbly shanks of a landlubber. We moved about like chamois on a mountain
peak, springing from bollard to bulwarks and from bulwarks to hatch
combing, or dragging ourselves hand over hand along the braces to
windward. A steady gale would have made life less burdensome, for so
erratic was the weather that every square of canvas from the
mizzen-royal to the flying-jib must be furled, reefed, and shaken out
again a dozen times a day. The bellow to lay aloft was forever ringing
in our ears; we lived in the rigging, like apes in their tree tops. If
the trimming of sails languished for a moment, there was a standing
order to go about ship as often as men enough for the manœuvre reached
It was a submarine task, this wearing ship. The lee braces rarely
appeared above the water line, and, once tailed out on them, every man
clung to his rope like grim death, for it was literally his only hold on
life; to let go meant a short shift to Davy Jones’ locker. With every
roll the sea swept high above our heads and left us floundering in the
scuppers like fish strung on a line. There were no rousing “chanties” to
cheer us on, for not even the sailmaker could air his vocal
accomplishments to advantage under water. But even without such
inspiration no man thought of loafing at the lee braces; and more than
once we took “a long pull and a strong pull” before the ship righted and
brought us sputtering and choking to the surface. Out on the jib-boom
the duckings were of even longer duration, for there one went down,
down, down into the cool, green depths of the sea until the world above
seemed lost to memory.
There were chronic pessimists on board the _Glenalvon_, there were
several who posed as infallible prophets in maritime matters; but it is
certain that not one of the ship’s company had anticipated any such trip
as this. Word drifted forward that the “old man” swore never before to
have known such weather on the north Pacific. All hands took solemn oath
that rounding the Horn had been a house-boat excursion in comparison. In
the forecastle the conviction grew that there was a “Jonah” on board.
The identity of the culprit came to be the question of the hour.
Gradually the crew broke up into three contending factions. One group
accused me, as a newcomer, of being the hoodoo, another regarded the
bald-headed mate as the source of evil, while the suspicions of the
third fell on the one-eyed goat. The varying notions gave rise to many a
heated debate, to mutual vituperation, and occasional blows; but the
real cause of our misery was never clearly established.
The head wind, the pouring rain, and the intermittent gales continued,
not only for days but for weeks. The weather turned bitter cold. Unable
to hold to her course, the _Glenalvon_ ran “by the wind” far to the
north. One night on the second week out the one-eyed goat froze to
death. With only my khaki uniform I should have suffered a similar fate
but for the kindness of a shipmate, who, having purchased at auction the
clothing of the man lost off the Horn, and being deterred by a seaman’s
superstition from wearing a “dead man’s gear” on the same voyage, put
the garments at my disposal. In the thickest raiment we shivered at
noonday; no man’s chest contained sufficient wardrobe to keep him warm
during the long night watches.
A mere enumeration of the hardships and misfortunes that befell the
_Glenalvon_ during that voyage would draw out this yarn to unprecedented
length. We slept in wooden bins with a sack of chaff at the bottom, and
lashed ourselves fast to keep from being thrown out on the deck. The
condition of the beds mattered little, though, for we rarely found
opportunity to occupy them. The skipper worked his crew like
galley-slaves because it was his nature to do so; the bald-headed mate
kept the starboard watch on deck two-thirds of the time because he had a
grudge against the second mate that included even the men under him.
Every garment forward of the mainmast was dripping wet or frozen from
one week’s end to the other. The rigging was coated with ice from
bulwarks to masthead. The sails were frozen as stiff as sheet iron and
reduced our fingers to mere bleeding stumps. The food in the lazaret
fell so low that we were reduced to half rations; which was as well,
perhaps, for the stuff had been on board for more than two years and
there was not an ounce of it that could not be smelled from the royal
yard, as it passed from galley to forecastle. The “salt horse” was
worm-eaten, the pork putrid; the man who split open a sea biscuit and
found therein less than a dozen weevils carried it around to his mates
as a curiosity. The biscuits in one cask, broached towards the end of
the voyage, were stamped with the date 1878.
The effect of this delectable diet was an epidemic of boils. As many as
five men were laid up at a time from this cause, even though the skipper
refused to enter on the sick-list any one with less than a dozen. An old
Welchman in the port watch displayed forty-two at one time. Having
joined the ship more recently, I escaped the attack, but with that
single exception not a sailor nor an apprentice was spared, and even the
second mate appeared one morning with a shame-faced air and a bandage
peeping out from the sleeve of his ulster.
Accidents were as common as boils. But for the fact that a seaman prides
himself on indifference to minor injuries, there would have been nothing
left but to heave to and turn the craft into a floating hospital. The
stoutest apprentice was struck on the head by a flying block and
rendered senseless for days. A burly Swede, the best seaman on board,
clung too zealously to a tack sheet, which, yanking his hands through a
hawser hole, broke his right arm. Looking forward to an easy passage,
the captain had rigged out the ship in her oldest suit of sails. One by
one the gale reduced them to ribbons. The bursting of canvas sounded
above the roar of every storm. As each sail went, new ones of
double-weight canvas were dragged from the locker and hoisted aloft. It
was ticklish work to bend a sail on the icy yards, with the foot-rope
slippery and every line frozen stiff, while the ship swung back and
forth far below like a cork on the end of a stick. Every sail of the
“soft-weather suit” carried away before that unchanging head wind and
even the new canvas could not always withstand its violence. Between
Yokohama and Royal Roads the _Glenalvon_ lost no fewer than twenty-seven
The most dismal day of the voyage was the second of September. About
seven bells of the morning watch, the mate, fearing a blow, let go about
half the canvas. All of it except the fore-royal had been furled when I
returned the “scow-pans” to the galley. It was then about three minutes
to eight bells, and under ordinary circumstances the flying royal would
have been left for the next watch. There were, however, in the port
watch, two apprentices, nearly out of their time, who had won the enmity
of the first mate.
“What the devil are you hanging back for?” he shouted, advancing upon
them. “Lay aloft and furl that royal!”
The apprentices mounted, muttering to themselves. Eight bells sounded
before they were halfway up the mast. Squirming out on the yard, one
hundred and sixty feet above the deck, they took in the slack of the
sheet. But their anger, evidently, had not abated, for one, grasping a
gasket, wound it once round the sail, and yanked savagely at it. The
rope carried away. With flying arms the apprentice fell head foremost,
struck on a back-stay, bounded against the foresail, and crashed on the
deck a few feet from the forecastle door. His brains washed away in the
One by one the crew slunk into the forecastle, shuddering or grumbling.
Soon, however, there came a summons for all hands to lay aft. We
hastened to execute the order. The captain, no doubt, wished to express
his sorrow at the misfortune. He stood at the break of the poop, puffing
fiercely at a huge, black cigar; and not a word did he utter until every
man had assembled.
Then, stepping to the rail, he raised a clenched fist and bellowed:—“Why
the bloody hell don’t you damn fools be careful! Don’t you know we’re
short-handed already? Lay aloft, a couple of hands, to furl that
royal—and clean up that mess forward.”
On the eighth of September we crossed the meridian less than half a
degree south of the Aleutian Islands. During the week ending that noon
we had been routed out from every watch below, we had pulled and hauled
and reefed and furled times without number, and we had covered just
But on that day the Jonah weakened, for the wind turned northerly, and,
though the gale continued, the _Glenalvon_ caught the breeze on her beam
and raced homeward like a steamer. The invalids began to pick up, though
the garbage doled out to us was as nauseating as ever. Then came an
unlooked-for catastrophe to depress our rising spirits. The tobacco gave
out! Those fortunate beings who had a plug laid away would not have sold
it for its weight in gold. They chewed each quid for half a day and
stuck it up on the bulkhead above their bunks, smoking it when it had
dried. The Swede gave a suit of clothes, a sou’wester, and a half-worn
pair of shoes for two cubic inches of the weed. Another offered a
month’s wages for a like amount and was deterred from carrying out the
transaction only because the skipper refused to note it in the articles.
The tobaccoless smoked the ground beans that passed for coffee—or tea,
according to the hour; and, when the “doctor” refused longer to supply
the stuff, they smoked rope-yarns and scraps of leather picked up in the
rubbish under the forecastle-head.
It must not be supposed that our labors were confined to the mere task
of sailing the vessel. Far from it. The “old man” begrudged every sailor
his watch below; he would have died of apoplexy had he caught one of us
loafing during his watch on deck. He was a firm believer in the
rust-eaten adage, “Six days shalt thou labor and do all that thou art
able; and, on the seventh,—holystone the deck and scrape the cable.” We
did both these things and a great many more. It mattered not in the
least whether the watch had been robbed of its “time below” for several
consecutive days, there must be no idling during “ship’s time.” On this
passage of the Pacific there was not a day that the _Glenalvon_ carried
the same canvas steadily for four hours; yet we found time during the
trip to paint the entire hold from keel to deck, to overhaul every yard
of rigging, to chip and rub off with sand and canvas all paint above
decks and daub on a new coat, to scour and oil every link of the cable,
to overhaul the capstan, and to braid rope-yarns enough to have supplied
the British merchant marine for a twelvemonth to come. When all else
failed we were sent down in the hold to sop up the saltpetre saturated
bilge-water,—and lost most of the skin on our hands in consequence.
There was no getting the upper hand of Captain Andrews. One memorable
day when the wind held good for a few hours and even the second mate was
gazing helplessly at several unoccupied seamen, the “old man” gathered
the watch together and dragged out of the hold the “automobarnacles.” It
was a contrivance not unlike a wagon-box fitted with great stiff
brushes, designed to do the work ordinarily accomplished in dry dock.
With a rope attached to each end the thing was thrown over the side and
dragged back and forth under the hull, each circuit leaving the crew
blue in the face and often tearing asunder two barnacles as huge as
On the nineteenth day of September the rumor drifted forward that we
were nearing port. There was no confirming it. The dignity of the
quarter-deck requires that the skipper shall permit information of this
sort to leak out only in such a way that it cannot be traced to him. The
pessimists in the forecastle swore that the voyage was not half over,
the conservatives vowed that we were still several days’ run from the
coast; but for all that, an unwonted excitement prevailed on board.
In the middle of the afternoon watch all disputes were settled by an
order to get the anchor over the side. It needed no cursing to arouse
every man to his best efforts. The watch below forgot their sleepiness
and turned out to scramble into the rigging, laughing childishly. In
record time the anchor swung from the cathead and we waited impatiently
for signs of land.
But the fog horn had been croaking at regular intervals for days. The
best pair of eyes could not have made out a mountain a ship’s length
away. Moreover, the skipper was none too sure of his whereabouts; his
reckonings, like those of many a “windjammer’s” captain, were fully as
much dependent on guesswork as mathematics. At four bells, therefore, we
wore ship and ran due north. At midnight we went about again, and for
two days we beat up and down the coast, while the crew nibbled
worm-eaten biscuits in helpless rage.
On the twenty-first the gale died down to a moderate breeze and we hove
to as near the entrance to Puget Sound as the skipper’s reckoning
permitted. In the early afternoon the fog thinned and lifted, and a
mighty cheer from the watch on duty brought every other man tumbling out
of his bunk. A few miles off to starboard a rocky promontory rose
slowly, throwing off the gray mist like a giant freeing himself of a
cumbersome garment. A tug hovering under the lee shore spied the
flapping canvas of the _Glenalvon_ and darted out to meet us.
As the tow-line slipped over the bollards, the first bit of news from
the outer world passed between our skipper and the tug captain.
“Is the —— in yet?” bellowed the former, naming the bark that had passed
us in Tokyo Bay.
“Aye,” came back the answer, “three weeks ago—”
A sizzling oath mounted to the lips of the “old man.”
“You’re down for lost, captain,” continued the newcomer. “She reported
you aground on Saratoga Spit.”
“Aground hell!” roared our beloved commander, “Though we’ve struck
everything but ground, and no bloody mistake.”
All night long the tug strained at the hawser, while the second mate,
dreading the loss of his reputation as a “hazer,” called upon us to trim
the bare yards each time the light breeze shifted a point. In the
afternoon we dropped anchor in a quiet cove close off a wooded shore
decorated by several wigwams, and the “old man,” being rowed ashore,
returned at dusk with a side of fresh beef and a box of plug tobacco.
The next morning I turned to with the crew as usual and toiled from
daylight to dark. No hint of relief having reached me by the next
afternoon, I marched aft and asked for my release.
“What’s your hurry?” demanded the skipper. “I’ll sign you on at full
wages and you can make the trip home in her.”
“Thank you kindly, sir,” I answered, “but I’m home now, once I get
“Aye!” snorted the captain, “And in three days you’ll be on the beach
and howling to sign on again. I can’t sign you off here, anyway, without
paying port dues. Turn to with the crew until she’s dumped her ballast
and tied up in Tacoma, and I’ll give you your board-of-trade discharge.”
I protested against such a delay as forcibly as the circumstances
“Huh! That’s it!” growled the master. “Every man jack of you with the
price of a drink coming to him puts his helm hard down if a shift of
work turns up. Well, to-morrow’s Sunday. I’ll get some money of the
agents when I go ashore and pay you off on Monday morning. But I’ll have
to set you down on the log as a deserter.”
“Very good, sir,” I answered.
Fifty-seven days after boarding the _Glenalvon_ I bade farewell to her
crew. Dressed in khaki uniform and an ancient pair of sea boots that had
cost me four messes of plum duff, I landed with the captain at a rocky
point on the further side of the cove. He marched before me until we had
reached the door of an isolated saloon, then turned and dropped into my
hand seven and a half dollars.
“I’ve brought you here,” he said, “to save you from losing your wages to
those sharks down there in Squiremouth. You must be back on board by
“Eh!” I gasped.
“Oh, I have to tell you that,” snapped the skipper, “or I can’t set you
down as a deserter,” and, pushing aside the swinging doors before him,
I plodded on towards the city of Victoria. The joy of being on land once
more, above all of being my own master, was so acute that it was with
difficulty that I refrained from cutting a caper in the public highway.
For once I realized the full strength of that instinct which drives the
seaman on the day he is paid off from a long voyage to plunge headlong
into the wildest excesses of dissipation.
In reality I was still in a foreign land; yet how every detail about me
suggested the fatherland from which I had so long been absent. The
wooden sidewalk drumming under my boots; the cozy houses, roofed with
shingles instead of tiles, and each standing with retiring modesty in
its own green lawn; the tinkle of cow-bells in neighboring pastures—a
hundred unimportances, that passed unheeded when I dwelt among them,
stood forth to call up reminiscences of my pre-wandering existence. In
Victoria every passer-by seemed a long-lost friend, so familiar did each
look in feature, garb, and actions. All that day, as often as I heard a
voice behind me, I whirled about and stared at the speaker, utterly
astonished that he should be speaking English.
I caught the night boat for Seattle and landed at midnight in my native
land after an absence of four hundred and sixty-six days. For two days
following I did little but sleep, then set out one evening to “beat my
way” eastward, landing in Spokane the second night thereafter. My wages
as a seaman being nearly exhausted, I put up at the “Ondawa Workingman’s
Inn,” purchased a job at an employment agency, and spent a week “bucking
the concrete board” for J. Kennedy, a bustling Irish contractor to whom
Spokane is indebted for most of her sidewalks. At the end of that time I
turned over another dollar to the employment agency and shipped as a
railway laborer to Paola, Montana. The train halted at midnight at the
station named, an isolated shanty in a wild mountain gorge; but, having
no desire to tramp ten miles across the parched foothills to the camp of
the contractor, I went on, like several of the “agency gang,” by the
same train—this time crouched on the steps of a Pullman car. My
companions dropped off one by one as the night air set their teeth
chattering, but I clung to my place until daylight came and the
conductor, raising the vestibule floor above my head, invited me to “hit
A four-mile walk brought me to Havre. From one of its restaurants I had
barely emerged when a ranchman accosted me. When night fell I was
speeding eastward in charge of seven car-loads of cattle. Six days later
I turned the animals over to the tender mercies of a packing-house in
Chicago, and, on the morning of October fourteenth, entered the portals
of my paternal home.