October 1, 1911.
MY DEAR FATHER,
So! off at last for China; the land flowing with silk and money; the land of mystery and romance; populated with polite, pig-tailed people who are willing to pay for the inestimable benefits of modern civilization in hard cash. Not because they want modern civilization, but because they do not, and yet have realized that if one does not want what is termed civilization nowadays, one must be strong enough to decline it in a civilized manner, i.e., with a powerful army and navy and the most up-to-date engines for destroying life upon the largest scale so far invented; for experience has taught us that, with all, the only reliable way to preserve life at this stage of our development is to render oneself pre-eminent as a destroyer of the same.
It is really surprising how a comfortable feeling of strength helps a diplomatist to reason logically in order to prove that he is in the right. Besides, if he is wrong, it doesn't matter so much, does it?
China is not yet strong enough to throw a boot at any one who is trying to disturb her sleep.
Already we have taught the Chinese to value warships at our own estimate, and started them in the race for supremacy of armament; the winner of which-as he will tell you himself, even without being asked-has expended all the effort, brain-power, and money that have enabled him to win, in order to uphold his right to keep the universal piece.
I have always pictured China as a richly dowered widow of a certain age, whose education has been sadly neglected; and who is possessed of a naivete so free from self-consciousness that she not only can and does wipe her nose on her sleeve, but stoutly maintains that this is the correct thing to do.
Around her are the export travellers of various nations, loudly insisting that it is extremely bad form to dispense with handkerchiefs, and offering to sell her some at a reasonable price, with the essential points of the only true fourteen different religions printed on the box.
From all one hears of China, with her Civilization centuries old, one cannot help speculating as to whether, in the dim and distant past she progressed to such an advanced state of knowledge that she decided voluntarily to adopt Cicero's ideal of philosophical retirement and contemplation," which even I myself, although at least to some extent civilized, must own to a partiality for, especially when I should be at work. The fact that she has been long civilized is evidenced in her inordinate and unholy greed for money.
When I arrive in China I hope and trust I shall never meet a Chinaman who asks me why our women wear hobble skirts, and tight shoes with such high heels that they are able to walk no better than Chinese women before the anti-footbinding movement was instituted.
If I am asked any questions of this nature, I presume the only course open to me will be to smile, assume a superior air, and say, "Pooh! pooh! really, you know, you couldn't understand if I explained." This is the only answer I could give, and would at least have the merit of being true, because the questioner certainly could no understand if I did explain - no one could.
What a relief to know that the leave-taking is over, and that the voice of the sniffer is stilled! Women are all darlings, of course (each of them in her own particular way), but they can never be induced to forego an opportunity of weeping for the mere exhilaration of the thing; and if they have a really fetching sniff, no power on earth can induce them to muffle its plaintive note in a handkerchief of adequate size.
* * * *
I must tell you about one of our passengers, who describes himself as a Southern American. It is interesting to note how he insists upon the distinction "South" when describing his birthplace. Many, many times I have noticed during an age when universal peace is being seriously considered as a feasibility - the bitter feeling that exists between men from the north and south of the same country, or even from adjacent towns. This is evidently the inherited lust for war that the none object of arbitration has to contend with, and which we see exemplified in football riots.
To digress further, for a moment, from the subject of our American, two of the engineers on this ship illustrate my meaning perfectly. It appears that the fact of their being bad friends is notorious, and in talking to one of them recently, the name of the other happened to crop up in conversation. Directly the name of the second was mentioned, the first surprised me by the bitterness of his comments upon his erstwhile companion's parentage, habits, appearance, and apparently irreclaimable depravity. At this I naturally pleaded for a little tolerance, in view of the fact that the individual in question was of the same nationality as my companion. Unfortunately, I used the words "he is a Scotchman like yourself." My friend's face immediately became suffused with a flush of anger.
Like myself?" he replied, with deadly calm; "like mysel'? d--- it, mon, d'ye no ken he cooms fra' Kirkealdy?
I admitted that I was unaware of the fact, and enquired as to the locality of his own birthplace.
"I'm fra' Grangemouth," and, favouring me with a glare of conviction that with that magic word he had dispensed with all necessity for explanation or excuse for argument, he stalked away with his head uptilted like a sergeant-major of the band in full regimentals.
I subsequently ascertained that these towns are nearly twenty-five miles apart; so that apparently there are still a few difficulties in the way of universal peace.
But to return to our American - I beg his pardon, South American - whose forceful personality pervades the entire ship like the smell of cooking in a cheap restaurant. Yesterday four of us were discussing Canada, and I had just ventured an opinion upon the subject in hand, when a voice like the bark of a big dog suddenly aroused exclaimed, "Hell!"; the long, snaky form of my American fellow-voyager undid itself from an adjacent deck-chair, and his face - which is lined like the entrance to Clapham Junction Station - made its terrifying appearance from under an enormous Panama hat.
He deliberately dragged his chair up alongside mine, utterly ignoring a deep groan to which one of my companions was impolite enough to give vent, and tapped me on the knee with a long, bony forefinger, having a knuckle about the same size as my knee, and which was attached to a typically Darwinian arm.
"Say," he said, "you was talking about Canada, eh?"
"When?" I enquired evasively.
"Why, just now."
"Well, yes," I admitted reluctantly; "but none of us professes to know much about it."
"Pooh!" he protested, with a deprecatory wave of the hand, "there aint no call to tell me that - I heard some. Now, d'you know who made Canada?"
"So far as my slight knowledge will allow me to venture an opinion, the Creator included it amongst His other work," I hazarded.
"Aha! there's where you run off the track Now you listen to me. I ain't talkin' about who started it; I asked who made it. See now, I ain't throwin' no bookays at myself when I tell you that if it hadn't been for us Americans it ud a stopped where the Creator left it. No, sir! Americans made Ganada what she is today. It was American farmers came in an' took up the finest of your Canadian wheatlands - which are the finest, an' they've got 'em today. That's Canadian land. Then there's manufactures. When our manufacturers went there first, your nesters [settlers] used to look at 'em side-ways; they didn't warnt to meet 'em no moren a yaller dawg, but flow! why, say I there's the glad hand stickin' out of every door. An' why? Simply because our manufacturers put tip factories to turn out goods to hit 'em where they lived at cheaper prices. No need to talk about the goods neither-there they were, an' the goods spoke for themselves."
"Canned meats?" enquired some silly ass.
"Canned hell! who wants canned meats ?
"Ah, who?" I interrupted.
"An' there ain't nothen wrong with our canned meats neither, let me tell you; the British War Office buys moren ever."
"British War Office?" we enquired in chorus.
"Do you know anything about our War Office?" some one enquired despondently.
"Nothen to speak of."
"Ah!" we all sighed dejectedly, as we rose in a body and left him.
As I want this letter to be posted in Algiers, which port we are rapidly approaching, I must now conclude, and with love to all at home, and my duty to yourself, subscribe myself,
Your affectionate son,
MY DEAR FATHER,
I do not propose to give you a description of Algiers, or, indeed, any of the ports at which we touch, as the same have been described by both abler exaggerators than myself who pay flying visits, and also, which is of far more importance, by people who have had time to study the various towns in question and have written them up thoroughly. Still, I think our method of studying the inhabitants was an excellent one. We sat outside one of the cafe's in the shade, drank cold Bock beer, and allowed the populace to walk past us in procession. Presumably every nationality in the world supplied a representative in national costume for our inspection, except perhaps the Esquimaux, so that we had an interesting and instructive time.
After sitting thus for half an hour, the American arrived with a guide-book, and we had to drive him away with lumps of sugar, but promised to let him tell us about the things he had seen when we returned on board.
Miss Snodgrass, the girl who was crying down my right sleeve as we left the docks, is keeping very fit, and does not appear to be affected by the heat. This is not the case with all the girls, however, one of whom is very fat, and the heat has given her skin the appearance of that of a bofled cow. Even her mother shuts her eyes when she kisses her daughter goodnight.
* * * * *
We also have a missionary on board, He is, at heart, a really good fellow, but so apologetic as to be a nuisance.
He apologizes whenever he walks within five yards of one, when he sits down, and when he gets up. He begged everybody's pardon for being seasick. Yesterday he 'apologized to a sailor who accidentally tripped him up with the bight of a rope. The flabbergasted sheliback, however, mistook his action for sarcasm, and shuffled away swearing lustily.
His wife is a dear little thing, but very timid, and I fear her life is hopelessly still. Yesterday three of us rounded her up in a corner of the deck and made her laugh till she writhed and emitted strange noises.
To see this weary-eyed, usually silent little thing rolled up in a ball, unable to open her eyes, which were streaming with tears, and occasionally gurgling "Ooo-oooo-oh, dooon't I would have made a man laugh in a dentist's chair.
Arbuthnot's story about the man who went to Covent Garden Ball arrayed in tin armour, and became accidentally "toxed" on account of having to drink whisky and soda by means of a straw passed through the slit in his helmet because he bad forgotten how to open the lid, made her scream; and when he came to the part where the reveller either fell or was pushed downstairs, and bent himself so badly that the joints of his armour refused to work, and his subsequent adventures whilst in that condition up to the time when he bad to be "opened" with a tin-opener, she gave in and squirmed till her hair came down.
What a subtly attractive sound is this unaffected, joyous music of a woman's laughter! To compare it to a peal of bells is a gross libel upon women in general that can be fully appreciated by any one who has lived near a church.
Whilst she was lying back in SL state of abject, shaking helplessness, her husband arrived, and looked at her over his spectacles with an expression of blank amazement. He said, "My dear! My dear!" at which she waved one arm wearily, replied "Ooo-oooh" and wagged her head.
Arbuthnot tried to clear the matter up by explaining that she had been telling us funny stories, which she strenuously tried to deny, but without avail.
When we left them together her husband was looking at her over his spectacles in a state of speechless bewilderment, and she was resting a hand on his arm and making mouths at him in her endeavours to explain, without, however, getting any further than "Oooo-oooo."
We have three more stories ready for her tomorrow, for we have registered a vow to alter the look in her eyes before she reaches Hong-kong and continues her disciplinary existence in continual dread of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Personally, I have never met the devil, but, wrong though I may be, I must confess that I have never yet had occasion to find serious fault with either the world or the flesh.
If I were thoroughly disgruntled with both, however, I should keep quiet about it; for it is my firm belief that a man who goes about continually whining is of less use in the world than a nasty smell.
* * * * *
Nothing of sufficient importance to chronicle has occurred during the past three weeks, and I am afraid I shall have to carry you to China more quickly than I intended, for, to be candid, the sea air makes me as lazy as a man whose wife keeps a successful boarding-house, and talking to Miss Snodgrass is a far more interesting occupation than writing letters.
The trip has been most enjoyable, both the Captain-who, by the way, is alluded to as Longfellow because he stood on the bridge at midnight, and the chief steward, "Gravy" (short for Mr. Gray), being, as is usually the case on passenger ships, thoroughly good fellows.
The amount of irritating nonsense that captains and pursers of passenger steamers have to put up with is incredible, and they must be wonderfully gifted with politeness, cheerfulness, and good temper in order to get through the day without clubbing somebody to death. There is always an old gentleman amongst the passengers who has been used to having his newspaper warmed for him in the morning and his food exactly suited to his eccentricities and peculiarities, which latter have become petrified into changeless form by the flux of time. When the stewards serve him in accordance with the customs of the ship, he has great difficulty to prevent himself bursting out crying with rage. He storms and rants with senile decrepitude, uttering sophistical tirades in the cracked falsetto of dotish excitement. He is a nautical nuisance, who can be compared only with the spoiled child on a voyage, who cadges cakes and sweets of which he subsequently relieves himself with noisy renunciation during the night.
Again, there is the lady whose figure is far nearer perfection than her breeding, and whose physical attraction has transported her from Poplar to Park Lane. She alludes to servants as "menials," and "keeps them in their place," because the line of demarcation between her s&f and servility is so faintly defined that it requires continually pointing out; for she is aware that she herself escaped drudgery only, as it were, by the skin of her shoulders.
* * * * *
I find that I shall just have time to jot down my impressions on approaching Shanghai. The first tangible sign that one is getting into touch with that land of mystery, China, is the appearance of the coast shipping. We passed quite close to a large junk crowded with Chinese, and a stranger contrivance it is difficult to image. Picture a great, lumbering hull, roughly built of very heavy hewn logs. The body is shaped like a punt with the stem and stern raised high out of the water, and is fitted with heavy lee-boards.
This strange craft had five masts standing at varying angles out of the perpendicular, not one of them being fitted with stays or shrouds. Upon these masts were set very lofty rectangular sails, stretched upon cross battens of bamboo, presumably in order to prevent bellying, and controlled by dozens of cords, each one fastened to the after end of the sail battens. All of these cords were led together into a single rope before reaching the steersman's hand. The sides forming the freeboard are carried well aft of the transom and rudderhead. On each side of the bow is painted an eye, in order to enable the junk to see where she is going, and on the stern, gaudy pictures of weird and hideous dragons.
The repulsiveness of the latter must be designed to present the average Chinese countenance in a comparatively agreeable light. After examining the faces of several of the crew I was thankful that I saw the dragons first.
The man who was steering possessed a physiognomy that resembled the human face only vaguely. It was a kind of rude insinuation, or facial sneer aimed at the beauty of the human species. I can only describe it by saying that it would be utterly impossible for him to "make faces" at any one, this object being already attained for him by nature.
Nothing that could be done to that face would make it worse-not even if one skinned it. In a spirit of idle curiosity I tried to imagine slight alterations to this end, but found that nature, or the man's mother, or both combined, had, in one supreme effort, concentrated all the superrative ugliness the world has ever contained or imagined, and worked it into that one devoted visage, given it life, and let it go, so that the world might see to what lengths ugliness can reach when the mighty forces of nature are brought to bear with that one specific object, and thus encourage others to rest content with such beauty as bad fallen to their lot.
Miss Snodgrass suggested that perhaps he had been frightened at birth. If his mother bears any resemblance to himself, Miss Snodgrass is most probably correct in her surmise. I shall never call any one ugly again.
I next noticed what I took to be a yellow mud-hank ahead, but was informed by a resident of Shanghai, who had joined the ship at Hong-kong, that this was the river water. There is a distinct and dearly defined line which ebbs and flows with the tide, but never breaks up. This does not augur well for the drainage of a densely populated district.
Shanghai lies some distance up the Whangpoo River, which is broad, turbid, and unbeautiful. Anchored just inside the mouth of this muddy stream are several war junks, armed with a brass cannon apiece, resembling somewhat those used at the Battle of Trafalgar, after due allowance is made for the fact that they are not so modern. A Maxim gun in a Thames skiff would put one of these fighting machines out of action in two or three minutes.
Our vessel steamed quite close to one of the banks of the river, so that I could see the Chinese at work in their fields. The land is extremely fertile, intersected with creeks, and cultivated mostly in patches. Every foot is under either crops or corpses.
I have always been under the impression that the Chinese worship their ancestors, but fail to understand how any one can worship a man and use him for manure as well. Human remains are not buried; they are laid on the surface and sometimes, but not always, covered with earth. I saw several coffins covered with straw only.
The land on each side of the river lies perfectly flat, and very little above water-level. As one approaches Shanghai the banks on each side are lined with wharves and warehouses until the Bund is reached.
The Bund consists of a fine road parallel to the river, and upon the waterside of this thoroughfare a succession of lawns is laid out, having a public garden with bandstand at the approach end. On the opposite bank are more wharves and a factory or two. Adjoining the foreign settlements and further up the river is the walled Native City. All these things, and more also, will I describe to thee later, when I have seen them properly.
Whilst I was waiting to go ashore, a China-man with a face like a rag doll that has been left out in the garden in the rain came up to me and said:-
"You wanchee catchee Shanghai money? suppose you wanchee, my can do."
"I beg your pardon?" I replied, unable to make. out his meaning.
He looked at me patiently, and explained: "Suppose you go shoreside, follin money alle-same no use. You pay my follin money, my pay you China money all plopper. Can?"
"Can what?" I enquired. "Why on earth don't you talk longhand?"
"Parlez-vous Flancay?" he enquired, taking something out of his ear, which upon examination I discovered to be a printed paper giving the rates of money exchange, which I could make nothing of, but deducted that he wished me to exchange "follin" money for Chinese.
Then it occurred to me that this hollow-chested, disreputable yellow degenerate, with a dirty scalp and a pair of pants the seat of which flapped about his knees, not only had the right to call, but actually was calling me a foreigner, and it was borne in upon me that I was indeed a stranger in a strange land.
I afterwards discovered that I had been paid sixty cents short, and had received two brass dollars and four bad twenty-cent pieces. The worst aspect of the affair is that I shall never be able to recognize the animal again, because all Chinese are exactly alike, except the steers-man I saw in the junk as we came in.
Will write you more fully when I am settled down ashore.
Your affectionate son,
MRS. TIMM'S BOARDING HOUSE,
BUBBLING WELL, SHANGHAI,
MY DEAR FATHER,
I arrived in Shanghai on the 4th Inst., and am staying at the above address, or, rather, I take my meals here. It would be untrue to say that I sleep here, because I have only lain down at night and scratched myself so far, but hope for the best, as I have ordered a new mosquito curtain.
I find that it is necessary to have a mosquito curtain with a small mesh. My old curtain had a large mesh, through which the hungry pests could easily obtain access to the cuticle of the would-be sleeper; the result of which was inflammation and profanity.
Having stolen what little nourishment I have been able to obtain from a boarding-house diet, the mosquito, with its paunch distended at any expense, was unable to pass out again.
Here everything is very, very strange as to customs, and even language, into which latter many words are introduced that one never hears round about Roehampton. For instance, the local inhabitants call a person who has not had time to have his constitution destroyed by the climate, his stomach ruined by the food, and his good temper utterly spoiled by Chinese servants, a "griffin." Although they affect to despise any such, one can see that they have a sneaking regard for the newcomer, who is as yet free from the awful disabilities under which they themselves suffer.
Do not think I am decrying the local residents, as this is the last thing I would do, even if only from a feeling of pity; for who could suffer as these poor people do and be amiable? Consider the conditions-mosquitoes that are capable of thought and ingenuity, and that possess bodies as large as snipe; thermometer 1020 in the shade; a very limited and poor diet on account of the fact that each and every article of food, except haricot beans, places one in imminent danger of a distinct complaint peculiar to itself; constant and unremitting drenching with Carlsbad salts (which sell more readily than piece goods), and servants possessed of an inherited guile, improved and perfected through thousands of generations, combined with the bland, shameless mendacity that one usually associates only with the vendor of a rubber plantation.
As if this state of affairs were not bad enough, there are quite a number of Scotchmen settled here, who, as is almost invariably the case, thrive, because they drink nothing but whisky (which is safer than the water), and, having survived a draughty, blue-nosed upbringing in the Land 0' Cakes, can stand anything in the way of climate and food; further, the mosquitoes (being, as I said before, intelligent) do not bite them, because their skins are so hairy and tough, They are in great demand as managers of businesses and superintendents of shipping lines, because they never give anything away, even to their relations.
Ladies are very scarce, and are spoiled, as a natural result; probably on account of the fact that the unmarried ones receive, so I am informed, an average of four proposals a week. As they never accept any one with less than 400 taels per month (which expression I will explain later) and a relation on the Board of Directors or in the firm, as the case 'nay be, they acquire, from the habit of continually rejecting suitors, a kind of "Wha' for?" expression of countenance, which is very disconcerting to a stranger, and makes one get off the pavement when they approach, even if there is plenty of room.
After they are married, however, they become quite nice, especially to any one who is a member of the Country Club, and who has a motor-car or a houseboat and a lot of discretion, coupkd with a placid temperament.
I am of opinion that the tael is retained as a method of calculating payment and receipt by the Chinese principally on account of the fact that it does not actually exist, and in consequence cannot be faked or counterfeited. Anything that does exist is imitated, adulterated, and otherwise used as a method of deception by nearly every Chinaman over three years of age.
Money goes further here than anywhere else in the world. My salary this month is out of sight already, but the "compradores" (native cashiers) are always willing to advance anything one requires by paying one's bills, because they are so adept at working out the exchange and getting commissions on accounts paid.
The town is not at present prosperous, and one reason for the bad times now existing is that the Chinese cheat the foreigners in every conceivable way, and also in every inconceivable way, and if caught, which is seldom, are fined $5, or get a week's imprisonment and immediate re-employment on release Even in prison they are generally better off than out of it. The penalty is so small that they consider the reward well worth the risk, corporal punishment being now abolished.
Should a foreigner, however, be discovered trying to cheat a Chinaman, he is awarded a long term of imprisonment which means ruin, of course; and if he happens to be a German, an American, or a Britisher, he is lucky to escape with his life.
This remark does not apply to promoters of rotten companies, for whom, as you are aware, no adequate punishment can be designed until the advance of science enables our legislators to administer a severer correction than the death penalty.
This muddled state of affairs is principally owing to the fact that all Chinese have to be tried at a place called the Mixed Court, which title it has acquired because everything about it is so mixed up that no one understands what to do.
Any Chinaman can bring a suit against a foreigner before that foreigner's Judge or Consul, but in cases where a foreigner has an action to bring against a Chinaman his only resort is the Mixed Court. The Mixed Court is designed to form a happy medium between the law of nations and the abominable, muddle-headed corruption of China. In this Court sit a foreign assessor of the same nationality as the foreign litigant whose case is down for hearing, and the Mixed Court Magistrate, a Chinaman, who is chosen by the native authorities on account of his uncompromising Chineseness. The judgment of these two arbitrators must coincide, and the time of the Court is mostly taken up by the Chinese Magistrate's efforts to make the foreign assessor's judgment coincide with his own. This can never happen until China has an army and navy sufficiently strong to make the Powers see the force of her arguments, whether they are reasonable or the reverse. Chinese arguments being usually the reverse, her only hope of getting the better of a discussion is by force, even as we did in the days of those persuasive debaters. Raleigh, Drake, Clive, Phip and Dampier.
The Germans, Americans, and British consider it their duty to administer justice tempered with mercy, not to say generosity, to the man who is lodging a complaint against any of their nationals, a diplomatic arrangement of which the wisdom is apparent to all-who happen to live at home. As the Chinese idea would appear to most distinctly favour their own nationals in the Mixed Court, the whole arrangement is a hopeless failure, and - like every other hesitating concession of a higher civilization to a lower-obstructive to advancement by reason of the activity of opposing forces.
The continual bickering and disputes which charructenze the procedure at this Court culminated in a riot some five years ago, and one incident occurred which goes to prove that there is humour even in riots.
Many of the volunteers were stationed at the Country Club, and one citizen soldier showed such keenness to get to work that his eagerness was the cause of some speculation. when questioned as to whether be had any especial cause to desire wholesale slaughter, be replied, "Oh, no, it's not that exactly, but if they will riot I'm going to look for my Chinese tailor. I owe him $160."
The Japanese is the only foreigner who can indulge in a misdemeanour with impunity, as in his case drunkenness and an assault on the police are only punished by a severe caution and perhaps $1 fine.
A Japanese once explained to me that the reason of their leniency is because they are such a kind-hearted race that they cannot bear to see anyone suffer, but I feel sure he was only referring to his own race, as in spite of the fact that a Jap goes practically unpunished for assault here, even if committed on the police whilst on duty, if a foreigner in Japan hits a Japanese, the punishment is invariably imprisonment without the option of a fine, and a long imprisonment at that.
This is on a par with the open-door policy as applied to their recently annexed territory; the door is wide open, but it is so small that only a Jap can pass in.
Not that I have a word to say against the Japs, for nothing could be farther from my intention, but they do love themselves with such an all-absorbing passion that they have no sentiment to spare for other races.
I will bear in mind what you say about saving money, so soon as I get any material to work with; meantime, if you have a couple of racing saddles to spare, with weight cloths, please send them along.
Having only just time to catch the mail, I must now conclude, and, with love and duty to mother and all at home, subscribe myself,
Your dutiful son,
79, BUBBLING WELL CRESCENT, SHANGHAI,
MY DEAR FATHER,
You will notice that I have left Mrs. Timm's Boarding Establishment. I could hardly do otherwise, for she was extremely rude to me on Friday evening at dinner, just because I told the "boy" to serve my soup after the fruit, in a finger bowl. This at twelve pounds sterling a month with extras. Oh, shades of the Cecil and Savoy! Gastronomic memories of the Berkley and Prince's bring tears of useless longing to my eyes, till I can barely see to capture the elusive haricot bean which is daily fed to me because it is safe. And yet the variety of foods offered to and consumed by such as are acclimatized is positively bewildering, for one sees the "old hands," whose stomachs are presumably too far gone to be capable of revolt, eating sauerkraut, raw meat, frogs, and canned snails.
The choice of liquids is limitless. I was introduced to a man yesterday who, in a moment of expansion, told me that the doctor had ordered him off wine, whisky, and beer. In reply to my solicitous inquiry as to whether the abstinence affected his health adversely, he smilingly informed me that he never felt better in his life; which happy state of affairs he attributed to vodka, schnapps, and absinthe, none of which his medical man had even mentioned.
The local Health Office issues a printed set of rules-which deserve far more attention than they receive-aimed at the prevention of such diseases as are contracted through the digestive tract-nudis verb is, to prevent your swallowing live germs in food or liquids. Admonition is directed principally toward cleanliness, and advice is given to avoid eating or drinking anything that has not been recently cooked or otherwise sterilized.
The latter advice is generally followed, especially by the proprietors of boarding-houses and hotels, in many of which one is offered food that has been cooked half a dozen times, without taking the curry into account at all.
There is still an apparently insurmountable difficulty in the way of cleanliness, however, and that is the regrettable fact that one is not-in the present state of the law-allowed to boil or otherwise sterilize the cook; who, judging from a passing glimpse I had of ours, is in far greater need of the process than is the food. Of course, one can show the cook any amount of new ways of cooking, but, left to his own initiative, his menu will follow an orderly and changekas round. It is only by changing one's hotel, boarding-house, or restaurant that one achieves variety. The cook at the Shanghai Club had, for many years, included "roast beef and York-shire pudding" amongst his dishes. One day he was told to change this to roast beef and horse-radish sauce, but, although forced to make the change, big innate conservatism prompted him to name the dish in the menu "Roast Beef and Horseradishire Sauce."
Chinese methods of farming and feeding animals, or rather, letting animals feed, are so, let us say, primitive that many residents grow their own vegetables and keep their own poultry and pigs for hygienic reasons, but lose them when they are ready to eat, for Chinese reasons. When poultry is ready for the tame the birds are invariably stolen, so that the owner has to buy in the market after all. His Chinese servants knew this would happen all along.
If one keeps a coolie to look after the fowls, they gradually "die." If the coolie happens to be short of money, their death-rate assumes alarming proportions.
Another surprise in store for the poultry fancier is the astounding fact that a young, plump pullet can grow old-horribly old-during a single night. This tragedy occurs most frequently during dark nights, when one is out to dinner. A similar fate befell a handsome young cockerel of mine recently. I called the coolie, and pointing to the ancient, disreputable bird which stood blinking his weary old eyes at me, inquired in the vernacular "What thing?" which is the form generally used here by any one desiring an explanation. The coolie looked at me sadly, shook his head, sighed despondently, and replied:
"I think so he belong sick."
Now, if that coolie had blushed, if be had looked away in shame even, a reply might be possible; but when a man, whom you could no more punch than you could punch a woman, gives you an answer like that, with a look of conscious virtue and deep sympathy, what can you do? There is only one thing to do, of course, and that is to give up keeping fowls - as I did.
Keeping pigs is also an expensive process, because the coolie's family has greater need of the pig's food and far better chance of getting it than the animals themselves.
I know a man who kept four pigs for nearly ten days, but three "died," and his wife made a pet of the one remaining because it used to follow her about like a dog. She did not know that this habit was acquired because the poor beast was hungry, so she tied a piece of blue ribbon round its neck and called it Maud, because it was always coming into the garden Soon after Maud had a litter-of two. When the owner expressed surprise at their scant number, the coolie attributed her debility to the hot weather.
Naturally, you people at borne well have several theories to advance with a view to improvement. You will wonder why one doesn't get rid of the coolie. The answer is simple. If one dismisses the coolie one has to engage another-and the new man is invariably worse. Again, one has ascertained and guarded against probably twenty-four methods of stealing practised by the old coolie, whereas the new servant will have twenty-four devices that are quite new to one; and further, when one sends away a domestic here, a goodly proportion of one's belongings go with him. The articles chosen are such as are not in everyday use. He will take your winter underclothes in the summer, your summer garments in the winter, and so on.
The habit of dismissing servants has another danger in the fact that once dismissed your "boy" disappears entirely, but the loss of everything afterwards stolen is debited to his account by the other servants, who take this opportunity of stealing more and charging the crime to the absent one.
A question of general importance now engaging our attention is: What is to be the effect of the abolition of public opium-smoking? The only way we can judge as to whether the curse is undergoing abatement is by keeping a tally of the amount consumed both in public and private, especially the latter; then, when results are known we can decide as to whether we are having our Indian leg pulled.
There can be no doubt that the prohibition is being seriously taken h hand, and is to some extent effective, so far as Indian opium is concerned. This points to two conclusions-firstly, that China can reform, and secondly, that she will-in every case where foreigners are exploiting her vices or corrupt practices for their own benefit.
Where the official classes are gathering the loot, to say nothing of that cogent individual the Chief Eunuch, the opposition to reform is so intricately interwoven through the entire body politic that the threads must be withdrawn one by one.
The worst aspect of the affair, however, is that when these threads are withdrawn there will remain only the place where the fabric used to be.
There is still another interesting phase of the "reduction" in opium-growing of which you will, in all probability, not have heard, which is as follows: Only about one farmer in a hundred is an opium farmer. The Government introduced a rule that no farmer is allowed, from a certain date, to grow more than 10 per cent. opium on his land. The wily opium farmer, however, is not downcast; he simply arranges with nine other farmers, who never before grew opium in their lives, to give him 10 per cent of their land for the cultivation of the poppy, whilst he, in return, grows a corresponding patch of beans on his own farm in exchange.
The opium thus grown is sent down country in the following manner. There are, as you may know, three kinds of beans grown largely in the opium districts, viz., yellow, red, and black. Opium used to be made up and transported in balls. Now, however, the opium farmer makes it up into cakes of the same size and shape as a black bean cake, plasters it over with black beans, broken pieces, and dust, and lo! there is a cake of opium passing through that defies detection from a black bean cake, and every-body is happy but the Indian opium exporter.
Moreover, the prohibition has been the cause of several riots, rioting being the Chinese method of voting against a measure of which they do not approve. It is a ballot by bamboo, or referendum by rifle. Immediately dissatisfaction manifests itself, there appear the professional thieves and looters, who live by robbery alone. These men, working in gangs, inflame the people by violent speeches. Immediately law and order are deposed they carry out their prearranged plan of looting the most valuable goods in the district, leaving the rioters to be shot or captured as chance may decide. Long before serious danger threatens, however, these pests are out of the danger-zone with their loot and are laying their plans for further rapine.
Nothing could give the professional plunderer a better weapon to stir up a conflict with authority than the Opium Edict. Both the farmers, who are thus deprived of an immensely profitable crop, and the smokers, whose craving remains unsatisfied - being ignorant and desperate - are not only willing but anxious to seize any violent means the adoption of which shows promise of enabling them to resume the vicious habit.
In the case of one riot which recently arose owing to the prohibition of opium-growing, the local magistrate sent his runners to a certain farm with instructions to destroy the crop. Immediately they had succeeded in, their objective the farmer collected some of his sporting friends and destroyed the runners, after which the avengers advanced on the Yamen and set about the task of destroying the magistrate ?0.
This official thereupon crawled under the bed and sent a message out to the effect that if it was opium that they wished to grow, he, personally, would be the very last person in the world to put the least obstruction in the way of that profitable and most excellent industry; further explaining that he had destroyed the crop because he was under the impression that the farmer wished it to be destroyed, and had only sent the runners to lend a hand, or words to that effect.
I do not profess to know the exact circumstances of this particular case, but should have liked an opportunity of laying a small bet that if that farmer had paid the runners a few dollars there would have been no destruction of the crop and no riot.
Investigators can, by travelling along the railways, convince themselves that poppy cultivation has practically ceased-along the railways. Let them investigate along unbeaten tracks, however, and they will alter their opinions, and probably find an explanation of the enormous supply of opium that lies stored in Shanghai alone even now.
One effect of the new regulations is that the coolie class is indulging in smoking cheap cigarettes in continually increasing quantities, and as these cigarettes, when alight, smell like somebody standing too close to the fire, I am of opinion that they cannot be considered as a healthy substitute.
The thermometer registered 102 degrees in the Hongkew Police Station last week (which is true, because the police say so), and this sultry weather makes it very difficult for the ladies to decide how to dress.
Some of them perspire and some of them chance it.
I do not know if the hot weather brings them out more than the cold, but one certainly sees more of them in the summer.
One lady I met last night was intermittently attired in an X-ray costume of such heroic daring that I was rendered so nervous as to be unable to talk rationally, with the result that once in my confusion I fell over a chair. She laughed so heartily at my accident that something gave way. What it was, I do not know, as I fled in terror directly I heard it go-inexcusably rude of me, I know, but then, what could I do? For aught I knew to the contrary it might have been even more rude to stay!
I note your remarks about joining a Club for social intercourse, but there is not one suitable; the nearest thing of the kind being the Shanghai Club, to which all the taipans belong, which renders it undesirable, as I don't care about mixing with taipans; they get on my nerves.
However, I was forgetting: you do not know what a taipan is. A taipan, let me explain, is a red-faced man (the redder the face, the taipanner the taipan) who has either sufficient brains or bluff to make others work for hint and yet retain the kudos and the bulk of the spoil himself. He is invariably "in Atvith the Chinese," and generally has a peculiar habit of pressing the thumb of the right hand against the index finger, which seems to be a secret sign, though I have not yet discovered what it means.
In short, taipan is lingua franca for "head of the firm."
I do not contend for one moment, that the fact of a man having a red face means. that he has led a fiery life; for the rosy tint may be acquired by exposure to the sun and wind, or may be caused by a bad digestion. I merely comment on the remarkable fact that all taipans are red-faced men, and one can approximately assess their individual incomes by the shade. Neither has this facial colour scheme any connection with blushing, for taipans never blush, even when they rise at an annual meeting of share-holders for the fifth time and explain that the glorious prospects to which they drew attention at every previous meeting require pointing out yet once again, because they have receded so far into the dim distance that shareholders with ordinary eyesight cannot make them out at all.
To revert to the subject of social clubs, however, Shanghai is well provided. So far I have discovered the Masonic Club, open only to the members of that mysterious brotherhood whose ambition would appear to be passing through arches; the Junior Club, German Club, American Club, French Club, Italian Club, Portuguese Club, Country Club - which latter is run by masculine women and paid for by nice men with pink cheeks and long, silky eye-lashes - and finally the Ward Road Athletic and Social Club, commonly known as the "Spartans."
The last-named has, however, died an heroic death, owing to the fact that the members could not retain the services of either a medical man or a committee for a longer period than one week. It appears that one of their regulations was to the effect that any member must be prepared to get up and box four rounds at any hour during the night. If it was decided that a certain member was becoming slack, or soft, and not taking sufficient exercise, the committee would advance on his house in a body at about 3 a.m. with a set of boxing gloves, turn him out of bed, clear the room, and insist upon his doing his duty for the sake of his health and the reputation of the Club.
Everything ran smoothly till the committee visited a certain member who had changed. his room without notifying the secretary. The new tenant was a six-foot Irishman, who, as luck would have it, had just sought repose after a somewhat wild evening; and, although he appeared to be quite unacquainted with either the rules or the art of boxing, the way he could handle a footbath was a revelation which so deeply impressed the visitors that the flub could never again get a committee to serve.
As it is getting late, I must now conclude, with love to all from
Your affectionate son,
79, BUBBLING WELL CRESCENT, SHANGHAI,
MY DEAR FATHER,
Since writing you last week, the "harem" skirt has made its comic, baggy appearance in Shanghai. People tell me that it will not become a popular fashion, but personally I incline to the belief that women who have legs which a cattle-dealer would describe as "beef to the heel', will fight for its retention with the hysterical courage born of despair.
The average woman, however, whose symmetrical limbs are the chief, if not the only relief to the dismal prospect of a muddy city street on a rainy day, will, I hope and trust, dismiss the horrible thing to the housekeeper's department with the curt command "Dusters."
Moreover, if this sartorial buffoonery is not quickly suppressed such husbands as are of a selfish or nepotic disposition will insist upon its permanent retention; a calamity that will be deeply deplored by the large class of bachelors, and also the still larger class who would like to be.
If women must have novelty in dress, or feel dissatisfied with the natural shape of their bodies, why not design a sensible costume? This would be breaking new ground, as the attempt has never been made since the days of ancient Greece; but the raiment must stimulate man's idealistic imagination, not smother it in the forbidding folds of a "harem" skirt.
As a direct result of the first appearance of the dress here, two policemen went to hospital, one fainted (he was Scotch), and the other ruptured a blood-vessel laughing (he was Irish).
I have frequently wondered why women are ridiculed for spending so much time and thought upon dress. To one who has seen and appreciated the delightful attraction of a citic bathing costume at Ostend, and also groaned in spirit at a pretty girl, who otherwise appeared sane, inviting the unspeakable anathemas of the artistic temperament by offending nature in a Nue serge, shapeless garment trimmed with washed-out yellow braid, this attitude is inexplicable.
Personally, I would, as a married man, cheerfully spend half my income, should such expenditure be necessary, in order to avoid the unutterable horror of a wife clothed in flannelette; for the only good point about this abominable, clammy, soul-destroying material appears to consist in its highly inflammable character. Who invented the stuff I know not. Perhaps its inventor has benefited the human race, because practically everybody you meet seems to consider it his or her duty to go about clothed-except the women who wear openwork-and the stuff is cheap; but the villain who dyes the greater part of it a deep, bilious, disgusting pink, like cheap sweets, and sells it to innocent women who don't know any better, should be placed under restraint and forced to work for the State for seven years.
You asked me in your last letter some questions about the Society of the place. Now, I must impress upon you the fact that "society," like morals and whisky, is a vague, unstable term, used with totally different meanings, which vary with the latitude and longitude; and you, being so fortunate as to belong to our family; will have the requisite intelligence to realize this. Wherefore I must tell you, that upon receipt of your letter I set forth to ascertain to which species Shanghai Society belongs.
Following the advice of the Fashionable Intelligence Editor of the local society paper, I made direct for the Avenue Paul Brunat, which, by the way, is the residential district where such local architects as are of a humorous temperament erect brick and stone jokes in proof of the fact, and then drive their friends out that way in order to enjoy a good laugh.
In this architectural wonderland lives by far the better half of a prominent taipan, with whom I am slightly acquainted; that is to say, as slightly as I have been able to manage. As this lady is reputed to be a leader of fashion, I decided to interview her upon the subject of Society.
After awaiting the departure of two ladies who were petitioning for an increase of salary for their respective husbands, I was shown in, and upon explaining my business was allowed to sit on a hassock at her feet and listen.
I could at once see she was a Society lady, because she used paint, and yet was quite respectable, on very, very nearly so.
She informed me that her husband was out, and after tendering my congratulations on that fortunate happening, we proceeded to discuss the object of my visit.
In effect, she explained that Society proper in Shanghai consisted of herself and another lady who had gone home for the hot weather.
"But the Bubbling Well people?" I interjected.
Her beautifully executed eyebrows soared upward like the wings of a bird, and settled in her hair.
"Of course, there are people who, I am given to understand, live in the Bubbling Well district, but really, you know - er - may I give you another cup of tea?"
Hastily apologizing for this gaucherie, I left to procure further knowledge.
In the course of five days I learned of sixty-four other cliques, mainly consisting of one family, or at most two, not one of whom knows the others officially.
The only conclusion the griffin can reach in these circumstances is, that it is very difficult to get into Society in Shanghai because there isn't any; and that anybody with social ambitions must make his or her own. Judging from what I saw of it, it would be a far more interesting occupation to keep rabbits.
In the line of amusements we are fortunate in the possession of a very comfortable and well-designed theatre, at which one or two touring companies show, as also do our own Amateur Dramatic Club and the French A.D.C.
The amateurs put up a really excellent performance, and the town is under a deep obligation to these painstaking and really clever people. The "small part" actors also deserve gratitude which is frequently reserved only for the leads. A man who has to take the part of the villagers, and whose opportunity for achieving a histrionic triumph consists in the line "Three cheers for the squoire! 'Ooray! 'Ooray! 'Ooray!" is, in my opinion, little less than a hero.
We also have several kinematograph shows, which provide us 'with astigmatic representations of various small boys weeping over their mothers' graves, and refusing to be comforted even by depressing fathers with cotton-wool eye-brows, whose method of administering consolation to their leaking offspring consists in laying a hand on their bowed heads and sobbing as if indulging in a course of Mr. Sandow's exercises for development of the chest.
These films, which are described as containing a "heart interest," in actual fact merely hold a thousand candle-power lamp to the blue devils. As, however, all our flickergraph halls are fitted with a bar, the object of displaying these melancholy films may be to drive the audience to drink at thirty cents per drink; for I presume there are many more who, like myself, cannot bear them, and in consequence seek refuge in a ninety cent doze on those occasions when we are doing escort duty.
Why morbid people who can attend, free of cost, a real funeral in the open air, and one which does not stagger about on a quivering churchyard, should visit a kinematograph show where the proprietors exhibit these depressing films I fail to understand.
Science is undoubtedly making great strides, but treads on art at every step.
And now there is talk of combining this debauch of deformity, this inelegant eyesore, with the scream-language of the gramophone.
When our pretty cousin of the future insists upon being taken to a "show" of this type, we shall be obliged to watch in profane silence whilst a palsied gentleman with the blind staggers makes love to a quaking maiden, and listen to his metallic, agonized yelp: "Phyllis! Phyllis! O-o-o-er, Phyllis, I lo-o-o-ove you." In his excited efforts to grave his "lines" deep in the receiving record the "lo-ove" will sound like the wail of a lost soul at 330 Fahr. on a wet night. That is, unless some one amongst the audience who is artistically inclined sneaks round behind and brains the operator with a chair, trusting to the great provocation to weigh with the jury, or to the plea - as I read somewhere that a prisoner recently did plead, under similar circumstance that he was merely exterminating vermin.
The Chinese have recently erected a semiforeign theatre. A few days ago I attended one of the performances, which ran from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. I ran at 10 p.m. As you are aware, the old Chinese theatrical performance was a very primitive affair-deficient in scenic effects. Not so the new development. As we entered, a storm at sea was being represented on a modern, well-lit stage. The waves were coolies on their hands and knees under a blue-green cloth. The bow of a battleship entered from the o.p. side, lit up by red fire. The magazine exploded (Chinese crackers). The crew seized lifebelts and jumped overboard, doing considerable execution amongst the "waves." Enter another ship to the rescue. The Admiral who jumped from the sinking vessel wore a Field-Marshal's hat and "slashed" coat and trousers of a material similar to that forming a gentleman's sleeves in the days of Good Queen Bess. He rescued a foreign lady, dressed in a motor veil and a costume of bright pink and blue. The scene changes to a hospital, and coolies carry in the rescued. All, however, have in the meantime been arrested, possibly for attempted suicide, and the police who guard them are armed with "Daisy" air-guns and dressed in a job-line of cricketing blazers and caps. A foreign ambassador with an enormous red nose is concerned in the plot somehow, and he wears a red sash over the shoulder, six medals, a frockcoat with gold epaulettes, a top-hat, and an ordinary elastic cricketing belt! Of course, the Chinese are born actors, and the acting itself was perfect-but the costumes!
Your affectionate son,
MY DEAR FATHER,
The weather is still very hot here, and I am beginning to feel the effects of it, and, I fear, show them. Anyhow, my "run down" appearance has been noticed by a friend named Brown, who is the owner of a fine houseboat. In the kindness of his heart, he invited me to go away for a week-end in the country and recuperate.
Having accepted, four of us started away last Saturday to a place known as the Hills, accompanied by a dog, the kind they call a chow dog, which name the beast justified by smelling out and eating a three-pound joint of beef that we were keeping for Sunday tiffin.
These houseboats are large, roomy affairs, their clumsiness being amply compensated for by their comfort, and they are eminently suitable for the creek and river work for which they are constructed. They are propelled by sail and "yuloh."
To request me to describe a yuloh, however, is-like asking for a description of many other Chinese survivals that have never been introduced into Europe-setting me a task difficult to perform.
The method of using a yuloh is similar to that employed by fishermen to propel a small boat with one oar over the stern, known as sculling or "wangling"; but when one sees the oar one realizes that the Chinese mind is capable of the most recondite reasoning.
The yuloh is a long oar with about three feet of the handle bent down from the plane of the blade, which latter is feathered down from the centre ridge with one flange larger than the other. At the point of fulcrum is a little hollow or socket, made to receive a pin witb a broad head like the round end of a bolt, and to the inboard end or handle of the yuloh is attached a line about four feet six inches long, which is fastened down to the decic.
The boatman rests the yuloh on the pin, grasps the line with one hand and the yuloh with the other, gives a peculiar swing to his body in order to concentrate practically all his force on the rope, which is now strained taut, and-Presto! you are wriggling through the water at a surprising rate by means of a perfect system of applied mechanics that was in use probably many centuries before Noah went into the salvage business.
One should be very careful in arranging these houseboat trips, if ours was a characteristic example; for soon after leaving Siccawei a drink was suggested, and the boy was called to open the bottles. Glasses were distributed, bottles of beer produced, and the order given to the boy "Makee open."
The boy looked uncomfortable.
"Makee open," we roared in chorus.
"Corkscrew no got," says the boy with a bland smile.
"How fashion no got?" screams Brown, with a catch in his voice.
"My no savvy," replies the boy indignantly; "master no talkee wantchee corkscrew."
Brown tries hard to think of a suitable remark, but there isn't one, so he becomes inarticulate.
Never mind," exclaims some one, "give me some chow water."
"Chow water!" yells Brown.
"Chow water kong have makee break," replies the boy.
"How fashion makee break?" says Brown quietly, with a glitter in his eye, edging toward the boy.
"My no savvy," comes the reply from the boy as he feels for the door, keeping his eye on Brown, "I think so coolie ?
Here Brown springs, but we catch him in mid-air and sit on him.
So soon as Brown regained his composure, we sat down to discuss the situation, and had just decided to make a corkscrew out of wire and sup off beer, sardines, raw eggs, and jain, when our ears were assailed by blood-curdling yells and screams that made me think we were being attacked by pirates.
When this deafening din was at its height, there came a splintering crash, and the bow of a native cargo-boat rammed through the window by which I was sitting and hit me in the back of the neck.
Through the opening thus made in the boat's side was now borne in upon the evening breeze the most searching, heartrending, and altogether astounding stench that I have ever been introduced to in any part of the world.
Rushing on deck, half dazed by the shouting and giddy from that poisonous smell, we found the laodah of our houseboat and all the coolies hanging on for dear life to a native boat loaded down with manure of a description that I must refrain from specifying.
"Let go!" shouts Brown frantically.
"Must pay five dollar," answers the laodah, "belong he fault."
"Cast off!" screams Brown hysterically through his handkerchief, "maskee five dollar, maskee every damthing; suppose you no go away from be chop chop, you makee die," and poised aloft a ten-foot boathook, with which I am convinced the laodah would have been brained, had he not at that moment released the cargo-boat, which drifted away in the darkness.
The air having cleared somewhat, we entered the cabin, but the stench would not go, even after we had made the boy wipe it off the walls and ceiling, where it had condensed.
Happening to look down, I discovered the cause - it was the dog; he had evidently jumped on board the cargo-boat during the confusion and missed his footing after getting on board. Brown wanted to have him washed, but we were desperate by this time, and I carefully and gingerly wrapped him up in a newspaper and threw him through the window. The horrible beast, however, returned during the night and
slept on my shirt, which was hanging up on the floor.
Until after dawn I got no sleep, for just as I was dozing off for the first time, another terrific crash and bump threw me across the cabin.
"What thing, laodah?" says Brown in a voice of despair.
"Maskee," comes back the voice of the laodah; "have makee bit one small piece stone bridge."
Hoping to escape the mosquitoes, I now ascended to the roof, and lying down, was, I believe, about to drift off into slumber, when I was startled by a warning shout from the laodah, and sitting up suddenly, my head came into violent contact with the coping stone of a bridge. Had I lain still I should have escaped unhurt, but the laodah's caution made me sit up just in time to receive the full force of the impact.
Being more than half stunned, I embraced the stonework with both arms, while the houseboat glided from under me, the raised part at the back of the cabin scraping off in its passage two layers of skin from that part of my anatomy with which it came in contact.
After scrambling on to the bridge and extracting several splinters from my flesh, I had to walk painfully along the bank over the sharp stones with my bare feet to regain the boat, in stepping on board of which I awakened Brown, who asked me why on earth I couldn't keep quiet and let people sleep, instead of wandering about the country looking for amusement at midnight.
I tried to reply, but the words stuck in my throat, so I returned to the cabin.
On arrival at our destination in the morning the crew went ashore; but being far too tired to do likewise ourselves, we slept soundly till midday, at which time I was awakened by Brown, who shook me and asked me what was the matter with my face.
"Face?" I enquired sleepily, "what face?"
"Yours," said Brown; "it is an hanging down in lumps-that is, if it really is your face."
Upon looking in the glass I was horrified to find that my eyelids and cheeks had been so badly bitten by mosquitoes that I was quite unrecognizable, so much so, that when Smith woke up and I said good-morning to him, he answered: "Good-morning! who the are you?" and I was obliged to get Brown to introduce me again.
The return trip is more or less of a blank to me, which state of affairs happened in this way. The stove smoked so abominally into the cabin that we were unable to cook anything, and as a consequence had to feed on the most weird mixtures, against which nature revolted in the form of indigestion and heartburn.
Brown, like the doddering idiot he undoubtedly is, suggested as an infallible cure the swallowing of the yolk of a raw egg floating in beer, great care being taken not to break the yolk. We had plenty of eggs and plenty of beer on board.
Personally, I found that I could swallow the beer, but experienced great difficulty with the egg, for in eight tries I only managed three, but was not going to be beaten by a mere egg, so T kept it up till I had consumed six, in spite of the fact that the feat seemed to get more and more difficult as time went on. I had lost all count of the beer and quite forgotten the heartburn.
The next thing I remember was arriving at the Bund on Monday morning, and being met by two friends on the way to the office. How spick and span and comfortable they looked! whilst I was feeling as if God didn't love me any more, and my clothes were a misfit.
One asked me where the fight had occurred, and the other suggested that I should go direct to the Isolation Hospital and await developments.
Seizing my clothes, I jammed them into my kitbag anyhow, the desire to bide being uppermost in my mind; but as fate would have it I met, during my journey to my rooms, I firmly believe, every single friend and acquaintance I have in Shanghai. Fortunately, few of them recognized me and the majority of people crossed over to the other side of the road as I approached and regarded me with pity and disgust.
Dr. Jackson says I may be able to go to the office again in two or three days, and as I have an appointment with him in ten minutes' time I must conclude this letter, with my duty to yourself and love to mother.
Your affectionate son,
MY DEAR FATHER,
You will remember my telling you in my last letter that I had taken a houseboat trip to try to recover from a run-down appearance due to the heat. On my return to Shanghai the doctor ordered me to Japan as all antidote to the houseboat trip, which holiday, I told him, I really couldn't afford, but would make some sacrifices and go. I don't wish him to think I have enough money to be an invalid.
My friends advised me to try to find a companion for the journey, so I threw out some enquiries with this end in view, which only had the disastrous effect of bringing Brown round to see me, with the news that he was taking his two boys over to Yokohama for a holiday. These two olive-branches are aged respectively seven and nine, and have a reputation for devilment which is highly amusing-to hear about.
Brown knew that I had booked my passage, so escape was impossible.
We were timed to sail at 5.80 a.m. last Wednesday by the Samshu Marn, and the first signs of dawn found me at the N.Y.K. wharf, climbing the gangway.
Sitting on one of the hatchways surrounded by a pile of luggage was Jack, Brown's elder son, eating a horrible greasy, semi-transparent, green and yellow mass of bilious-looking material having a pink chop on it which he informed me was some Chinese sweetatuff that he had found on the deck.
The appearance of the thing alone made me offer him twenty cents to throw it away. I wasn't feeling bright myself, and never do if I get up before the streets are properly aired - the idea of his actually eating it made me feel quite ill.
My efforts, however, were fruitless; for I discovered afterwards he had taken my twenty cents, thrown the sweetmeat in a place from which he subsequently retrieved it, and then bought sufficient to last him the trip with the money.
Leaving Jack well charged with ammunition for one of the most earnest and painstaking attacks of seasickness I have ever seen, I made for Brown's cabin.
I found the place in indescribable confusion and Brown's legs protruding from under the bottom bunk. On hearing me enter, he withdrew the rest of his body, bumped big head, swore, wiped his face, and asked me where Humphrey was.
Humphrey, I should explain, is Brown's younger boy (the name means "domestic peace"). Jones told me that "Hump," as he is generally called, is a judgment on Brown for marrying the prettiest girl in Shanghai.
Jones, I should explain, "also ran" for the present Mrs. Brown before Brown and she became engaged owing to his motor developing acute constipation of the petrol feed-pipe, whereby the pair of them spent the night seven miles out of town on the Rubicon Road, and only managed to get home at daylight, when Brown discovered, to his histrionically perfect surprise, that the petrol feed-tap had turned itself off.
But to resume. I congratulated Brown on losing Hump and asked him where Mrs. Brown was.
"Hetty is in bed," be answered.
Not coming with us!" I exclaimed in dismay.
"No," answered Brown, "I am going to Japan for a pleasure trip."
"But the boys?" I exclaimed in astonishment; "who is going to see to them?"
"They are as good as gold with me," replied Brown proudly, "and besides, I have taken a bunk for you in here, so that if anything, should happen, you can give me a hand."
"You see, old chap, I am not afraid of them unless they are sick. You know what kids are - they eat anything, and I hear there is a typhoon outside, and I am not a good sailor myself, but I know you are."
"Where are you off to?" enquired Brown anxiously.
"I'm going to try to find Hump," I said weakly; "and I may also try to get a transfer. I didn't know about the typhoon; perhaps after all it would be better to put off the trip till the weather is better."
My voice, however, was drowned steamer's deep-toned whistle, and when the deck we were leaving the wharf.
Brown was now engaged in a frantic search for Hump, enquiries from the Japanese only eliciting a grin and a stare in most cases. He was, however, eventually discovered, and extracted, not without difficulty, from a ventilator.
He looked the most pitiable object imaginable, being covered with filth and oil. He explained that he had heard some one talking down the shaft of the ventilator and had climbed in to listen, and, as he naively put it, "then I slided down and stuck."
When I found time to look around after straightening up, we were fighting our way into a typhoon; so, finding they did not intend to batten down, I made for the deck and discovered with pleasant surprise that I was acquainted with a charming lady passenger who was dinging to the rails at the top of the companion.
I struggled toward her, and with my politest bow asked whether I could be of any assistance.
"Gug-gug-o~er," she answered, keeping her head turned the other way.
"Pardon?" I yelled in the shrieking wind.
"If you don't gug-gug-away I'll n-never sp-ooo-er-speak to you ag-ooh-again," she answered, without turning round.
I decided I could be of no assistance here, and was about to start off in search of the stewardess, when she suddenly turned and, throwing her arms round my neck, implored me to save her.
"I know I look simply awful," she gasped, "but you'll be a pal, won't you? Do I really look very bad?"
"Not a bit" I answered, shutting my eyes and trying to think of something else. "You're looking fine; feel bad?"
I was just explaining that she was looking better than any other lady on the ship, at which she brightened up wonderfully, when Brown appeared, with a face like soiled blotting-paper, dragging Jack along with one hand and Hump with the other, both of their faces being ditto.
Hump was only partially cleaned, and Jack was already deeply regretting the Chinese sweets and striving to show his repentance by not only throwing away all he had not yet eaten, but also by giving up all he had already consumed,
Looking Brown squarely in the eye, I expostulated with him in no measured terms for bringing the children up on deck. I really felt quite indignant.
"What can r do with them, old chap?" said Brown plaintively; "they won't stop below."
'40o-er," he replied, making the most repulsive faces.
It's all very well for you to say oo-er," I answered; "remember it was you wbo got married, not I. It was you who brought the boys on the ship, and now, just because you have over-eaten yourself, you want to pile all your troubles on my shoulders. Brown, I am surprised at you,. I really am."
"Take 'em," implored Brown, "just one minute; I only want to-hup," and with a gesture of despair he threw his overflowing offspring at me and staggered away.
Leaving Miss Snodgrass with the two results of Brown's susceptibility, I went in search of the stewardess.
This poor woman I discovered absolutely smothered in babies, all of whom had been evidently fed on sour milk for some time previous to sailing, and surrounded by a crowd of women all talking at once and most of them asking her why she didn't "do something," while she, poor soul, was wiping up babies two at a time and trying to look cheerful.
what her remuneration is I am unaware, but if she receives less than $500 per month it is a disgrace to civilization.
Even while I was standing there, three ladies wanted to know their way to the doctor's cabin, one demanded some puppy biscuits, another wanted a new tube for a feeding-bottle, which the stewardess was to see was quite clean and didn't leak, because baby had wind already, poor mite; another required some special ink for a fountain pen, two called for castor oil, and one old lady was asking for an explanation of her carelessness in not looking after Tony, her Japanese spaniel, which, as anyone could see, hadn't bad its nose wiped for hours, poor darling.
Seeing it was impossible to obtain assistance in this quarter, I went in search of Brown, and found the remains of him hanging over the rail.
"Come on, Brown," I said; "fetch your boys and take them to the cabin. You're all right."
"Am I?" and he turned on me a haggard face that would have melted the heart of a West End money-lender.
"Well, hurry up," I said, relenting, "and come as soon as you can."
"I am being as-hup-quick as I-oh-hup-ugh I-go to - I," he gurgled.
I could see he was telling the truth, so had no option but to return to the boys and their fair companion.
Eventually I fixed Miss Snodgrass in her cabin, and Brown and the boys also in theirs, and went down to dinner.
Only three other passengers appeared: a green one, a white one, and a yellow one. The green one fell at the second course and the white one succumbed to the roast mutton. The yellow stayed well, but his manner was strange and his eye wild. His method was to take a mouthful and wait, with a thoughtful look in his eye, and then, if nothing happened, chew and wait again; then, if all was still well, he would swallow, and after an interval for thought - rather expectant though it seemed to me, reminding me of the look I once saw on the face of a man who accidentally swallowed a pipe stem - go through the process again.
But all difficulties have an end, and next day we were through the typhoon and running easier. Everyone sneaked back to meals, and the yellow passenger and I put on airs.
Jack and Hump were continually turning up when I was talking to Miss Snodgrass, as children always will, till I threatened Brown that whenever I found them alone I would feed them with condensed milk, pickles, and jam. This plan worked splendidly.
On arrival at our destination, a dapper little Japanese in uniform, with a smile that overlapped his face, came up to Miss Snodgrass and myself and said:
"I am the plague."
"Which one?" I enquired.
"The cholera plague," he replied, waving his arm comprehensively toward the town.
"Go and see Brown," I answered; at which he smiled more than he conveniently could, drew in his breath with a hissing sound, and handed me a paper, which read: "Infected Port Regulations - Identification Card," which proceeded to ask who you were, age, colour of eyes, colour of hair (if any), whether married; if so, how many children, and if not why, &c., in seemingly endless array.
Miss Snodgrass kept the card covered whilst she filled it in.
So did I.
No sooner had we satisfied the plague than up popped another row of teeth, which said: "I am the police."
"Go and see Brown, No. 7," I whispered with an air of great mystery; and this time my strategy worked, for I saw him no more, but I am prepared to swear Brown did.
However, we eventually arrived without accident, except that Hump fell down an ash-shoot when looking for crickets, whilst Jack wedged his head firmly in a small inside porthole and had to be oiled before he could be withdrawn. To make matters worse, while he was firmly fixed by the head, one of the Chinese passengers stole his boots.
Japan is a beautiful country for a tourist having money to spend with a lavish hand. It is the yellow New Jerusalem in a kimono, but possesses few charms for a business man. If even an American drummer visits the country he is fortunate to get away with the clothes he brought with him, and every port is crawling with touts.
The Japanese want to do all the business in the world themselves-for themselves.
With your politically stage-managed impressions of its inhabitants you may consider that I am exaggerating - a charge to which I plead guilty in many cases, but not in this.
If you are still unconvinced, ask any foreign business man quartered in the country who is not selling Japanese produce abroad; but you must do so at once, for in the course of a few years there will be none to ask.
You may make room for a Sap in your own country, and he will take his hat off to you and smile till he could whisper in his own ear; but in. his native land he spreads his elbows out till there is no room for you, and when you politely protest he shakes his head and doesn't understand.
You are not permitted to buy land in Japan, but if you marry a Japanese woman you may pay for some and register it in her name. This is a concession in your favour - typical in design.
Everything the Japanese buy abroad is bought as a pattern, from ships to beer. When the Japanese have got the "hang" of an article, they send some business men to have a look round the factory where it was made. Not that any one can justly blame them, for they, like every other commercial nation, are out for trade; but what is to be said for the home manufacturers who give information to a people who give nothing in return but smiles, samples, and simulated simplicity?
Yet the country itself is a pure delight. I stayed at an hotel built of paper pasted on the framework of a "set piece" such as we used to see at "Brock's Benefit" at the Crystal Palace in the days when I had to reach up to take your hand, and you used to make knots in the elastic with which my sailor hat was kept in place. In this kindergarten hostelry I saw no furniture that would have looked out of place in a doll's house; and you take your food on the mat, as it were. The only thing that reminded me of Europe was the bill; yet I have never been overcharged with less annoyance to myself; but perhaps this can be accounted for by the fact that the perfectly charming proprietress, in saying "sayonara" (goodbye), begged me most earnestly to come back soon. At that time the suspicion had not eaten as a canker into my complacence that I was paying enough to keep the proprietress and staff for months, and yet I would cheerfully do it again, because they belong to the beautiful things of life.
As I approached the hotel I heard sounds of scurrying, then the slap, slap of Japanese slippers as three girls shot out of the interior on to the doorstep, took a rapid survey of me, and then bowed their flower-bedecked heads with a servility that made me feel uncomfortable - under the circumstances. They were all charming, they bubbled with merriment, and dimpled with laughter. Each wore a brilliantly coloured kimono traced in bold yet successful designs. All were pretty.
The novelty of the situation is added to by the fact that one has to take one's boots off, squat on the floor, and clap one's hands instead of ringing the bell, though to be sure little clapping was necessary in my case, for there was an almond eye at a slit in the paper door watching to see that I wanted for nothing.
After a really excellent dinner and a bottle of claret with a mark I never expected to see in Japan, and that must have been a pure accident, I decided to go for a walk, and passed out the back way. I had proceeded only a couple of yards in the dusk, however, when I fell over something which, upon investigation, I discovered to be one of the waitresses having a bath in a little wooden tub.
She smiled at me very pleasantly and inquired whether my dinner had been "ah ri." Having reassured her upon this point, I apologised for having startled her and prepared to resume my walk.
"What you mean, startled?" she inquired, as she went on soaping her toes.
"Frightened you," I explained.
"Oh, that all ri!" she assured me. "I not frightened." And, after bidding her good-night, just to show her that I wasn't frightened either, I left her smiling at me over the top of the tub in the moonlight, an opalescent idyll in soap and water.
In Tokio the traveller would - at first glance - assume that he had arrived at a British port. Signboards in English are displayed broadcast. Over every door is a name in English letters. Every other man one meets is wearing a top-hat and frock-coat - but what a top-hat and what a frock-coat! Ask one of these gentlemen the way to the post-office in English, however, and he smiles broadly at your ignorance of his language - for not one word of yours does he know.
So to bed at last in peace, as it is getting very late, goes
Your affectionate son,
MY DEAR FATHER,
I returned from Japan last night, and have decided to stay quietly in Shanghai and recuperate after my holiday. How awfully fatiguing holidays are!
In reply to your query as to the nature of the businesses in Shanghai, I am afraid you ask a quqstion beyond my power to answer, but with all due deference, I should say that the wharf and godown business is of the greatest importance here.
I cannot get a satisfactory explanation of how the term "godown" originated, and why it was substituted for warehouse, but understand that the word "godown" is used because, if one buys shares in a company owning godowns, the value will immediately go down.
In substantiation of this contention, I must admit I have not so far beard of a wharf and go-up company in the East.
Then there is the piece goods trade, which deals in piece goods, or rather did, piece goods being cotton stuff that the natives buy to patch their clothes with; hence the name. Just now, however, the natives have not enough money to buy patches with, and not enough clothes to attach patches to, even if they had, so they go about still better ventilated than before. Meantime, the piece goods merchant cuts down his wife's dress allowance, reduces the number of his midday cocktails to three, and tells the shroffs to call again.
"Shroff" is the name applied to the employe of every local firm whose duty it is to collect money, and in view of the prevailing system of credit, the shroff's lot is not a happy one in hard times; for a man's position here is not ruled so much by what he can earn as by what he can owe and still remain at large.
Getting into debt always requires a certain amount of genius, but it is only the really talented man who can get out of debt again.
Generally speaking there is not much to fear in lending a man money if he is settled down here, because if a man is dishonest be may as well book his passage at once. He can do no business after his first crooked deal.
There are exceptions to every rule, of course. We keep ours in the municipal gaol.
It is not the amount a man owes but the way he owes it, that is of vital importance, and in this connection it is as well to bear in mind that poverty is no crime: it is only the horrible punishments with which poverty is visited that gave rise to so ridiculous an idea.
I should say insurance ranks nest and is by far the most profitable; but that is principally because the methods of doing business are different here, and the insured is made to pay his premiums promptly, but should he be so wicked, so criminally negligent, as to have a fire, he is arrested immediately. In his frantic efforts to escape the meshes of the law, which of course, if a native, he doesn't understand, he usually overlooks his claim, but should the law Drove powerless to put him out of harm's way, and he timidly suggests compensation, the manager has only to frown heavily and he runs away and hides himself.
The fire insurance companies have also formed an association, thus doing away with competition and dictating their own terms-take it or leave it! If one wants insurance, one must be very polite and do as one is told; run one's business as the Association wishes, and then they will give the matter their consideration.
What is required is an Insurers' Association, or combine, of all big hongs, wharves, &c., which would act exclusively in concert in all matters relating to insurance. I think this would be the only way to make the scornful smile of the Association fade away and gradually die.
In common fairness, however, it must be admitted that the Chinaman's last hope when he is on the verge of bankruptcy is a fire. He considers that the "foreign devil" has made him a bet of the face value of his policy that he can neither have a fire by accident nor set fire to his house himself without being found out.
In one case tbat came to my notice recently, a Chinaman actually set fire to his house, and the dead body of his own child was found inside by the firemen. A doctor's examination of the corpse disclosed the fact that the child had been dead two days.
Our Fire Brigade is composed entirely of volunteers, which speaks well for the public spirit of its members. They are, moreover, just as efficient as any brigade in the world.
Stockbroking is also carried on, but the methods of business are different from those adopted in and around Capel Court. The fluctuations of the market are very wide. It frequently happens that one goes to bed wondering what make of car to buy, and at tiffin next day is calculating how much one's furniture will fetch under the hammer.
There is, of course, the usual speculative description of business, such as the Watch Club. One of this type started here some months ago, and its members, I feel sure, never did so much watching before in their lives. Some of them are stfll at it.
A Watch Club, as you are doubtless aware, is an amalgamation of members in which forty mugs subscribe $1 per week on the chance of winning an amalgam watch that ticks and keeps sufficiently good time for the members to know when the payments are due. The promoter conducted the concern well till it got rather too big for him to handle alone, when, as was to be expected, as he was an expert watcher himself, and was using his ears also, he heard something crack and stood from under. But this precaution on his part was futile, as the other watchers got hold of him and pushed him underneath again, so that when the club fell it gave him a nasty jar-very nearly a stone jug. Anyhow, he came to the conclusion that he could watch more comfortably from a distance. His motto was "Watch and Prey."
There is also the missionary business. Of course, there are plenty of good missionaries who do not think it is a business or know they are parties to making it one; and again there are others. For the sake of the former, one says little on the subject, like the sailor's parrot but one wonders whether a carefully arranged commercial campaign in the guise of religion is a money-changer's within the meaning of the Act of God.
The businesses which suffer from the worst management, strange to say, are those of a semi-public character. In dealing with the officials connected with this class of concern, one is exposed, in the majority of cases, to the most arrogant, asinine discourtesy, puerile ignorance, or senile decrepitude.
Another class of business of great importance is that known as the Export and Import Merchants, a name applied to a concern which does not wish to appear out of place if seen selling Bibles, dice, or rifles, and which covers an enormous ground. On this ground can be discovered hard-bitten taipans who "engage" a compradore with "security" (beautiful word, security), buy stock (with his money), and then engage market shroffs (with ditto, ditto) to sell the stock. Possibly as a result, we have here taipans who treat their employe's with snubbing discourtesy upon the "keep them in their place" principle, which can be translated "keep them out of their place" - the method is one of self-defence: an indefensible, sandbag method of defence.
When I arrived as a griffin, of course, I had this in my 'riNd, and selected my taipan with the greatest care, believing it better to have a good taipan than a good salary at the start; for, following this course of action, the griffin who is "exclusive" in his dealings with taipans acquires both, if he deserves to. And I do. One cannot be too particular where taipans are concerned.
The business man who is conspicuous by his absence is the bookmaker, and more's the pity, say I. If you can imagine a racecourse without a "ring "; shotiting that stirs the blood, the sudden hush when "they're off, witty men with white hats and beefy faces, ever ready with jokes and repartee, I confess candidly I cannot. Anyhow, they tell me the race meetings here are tame, and this must be the reason; also one usually has to lay evens or odds on to bet on our totalizator.
Protection against fraud is an easy matter if licences are issued and deposit insisted upon, as you know. Not that there is any desire on the part of the authorities to suppress betting, for bookmaking is carried on, of course, but by a trust known as the Race Club (proprietary), which bets upon the "heads I win, tails you lose" principle at 10 per cent, commission, leaving you no chance of choosing odds." Imagine one in ten of every dollar that is laid out in sweeps or bets of any description, where no other kind of betting may take place! Of course the Club is quite above-board and its proprietary members are honourable sportsmen who would stoop to nothing unfair, but the point is, in my humble opinion, that they love themselves too much, and look on their own interests through the small end of the telescope, and on their duties to the racing public through the large end.
Let it be said on the other side that its profits can only be used by its voting members for the encouragement of racing amongst the members themselves.
Of course, if r do not like betting with them, I need not, but then I am precluded from betting with any one else; and again, if I do not like to attend their meetings, I need not; but then there is no other worth attending. I love racing under ordinary conditions, and these ten-per-centers have taken up the best part of my recreation ground; confound them!
Journalism, considered for the moment as a business, is a failure here; the Shanghailanders haven't enough sense to buy what I write and too much to buy what the others write; consequently there is no money in it.
Hello? Twelve o'clock - where's my nightcap? Here's to you, who have all the kindliest thoughts of.
Your affectionate son,
MY DEAR FATHER,
I have received a letter from mother asking me if we are well provided with churches here, and whether I have a good pastor to sit under. I am not at all sure that I know what the term "sit under" means (unless indeed it implies that one becomes "addled"), so I did not refer to it but assured her that this being the headquarters of the missionary movement we have an unrivalled choice of spiritual nourishment and to my personal knowledge at least one good sporting parson of the genuine type, who is himself a human being and thus capable of doing real good work.
An angelic, spiritual clergyman always reminds me of a rainbow - God's sign in the heavens - an object for awed admiration, but incapable of coming down to earth and lending a stranded sailor five dollars, or getting a half-nelson on him and helping to persuade him out of the public-house and deposit him with a resounding bump upon the deck of his ship just before she sails.
Please reassure mother on this point yourself, and if she asks any further questions, answer them in a way to please her. I never could tell her any untruths myself, because she has such an altogether pathetic belief in me; but I know that you do not mind going to any length to make her happy, and this is an opportunity of which I hope and trust you will take the fullest advantage.
whilst upon the subject of churches, I find that I am living quite close to one having a peal of bells. There are eight of them, and four only are in tune. In running down the scale the last four give tongue in a succession of notes so fiendishly ingenious in their diabolical discord as to make one's nerves writhe as if having a tooth stopped.
Church bells, as you know, were originally used to scare away evil spirits. In this respect the peal in question would have been signally successful, for they are enough to scare any one-living, dead, or merely unconscious.
If the early Christians used relics of barbarism similar to these, one can almost picture an emperor of ancient Rome being aroused at '7 o'clock on Sunday morning, after a feast night, by a blood-curdling dissonance hammering at his already thumping brain, and giving orders in elaborately embroidered language for all the Christians who could be found to be burned without a moment's delay.
The Japanese men may no longer appear in the public gardens in their native evening dress. In this connection I must explain that out East everything is reversed, and the Japanese evening dress covers the upper part of the person, but exposes the lower more or less, according to the velocity of the wind. Now the Japs must wear foreign clothes on both ends, or Roan and Hakama.
This official stipulation issued by the Japanese Consul, with unintentional candour admits that the Japanese does not class himself as a foreigner in his heart, for he uses the term "foreign clothes" in China as opposed to the Japanese ordinary dress, excepting only in the consular notification Hoari and Hakama, of which words I do not know the meaning, but trust for all our sakes that they are not the Japanese equivalents for a figleaf and a piece of string.
The notification says nothing about the Jap girls, but the authorities, knowing what thick ankles they have, deem it unnecessary to touch upon this part of the affair.
So do I.
Shanghai is a wonderful place for the mixing together of nationals, and the results are extremely perplexing As instance the case of a man here who is in debt, and his creditor cannot obtain satisfaction, because he does not know to which Consul to apply, the facts being as follows.
The debtor's mother is an Austrian lady of rank, who married a Spaniard much more rank than herself, and had by him a son (the person in question), who appears to be the rankest of the family.
She successfully buried her husband last year, and came to Shanghai in the course of her travels, where she met a gentleman who is the son of an Indian watchman and a Chinese lady, and who has succeeded in business sufficiently well to make quite a handsome appearance; so much so that she fell in love with him, or something, and married him.
Our debtor is the son of this lady by the first marriage, as I explained before, but now it appears there are further complications, for the fact has just come to light that the Spaniard, soon after the birth of our debtor, sued for and obtained a divorce upon the ground that the boy was not his, a Russian being cited as Corespondent.
Now the question arises as to the nationality of this complicated individual, and I understand that the Court of Consuls has given orders that a drop of his blood is to be analysed.
We obviously need a Mixed Consul.
Yesterday evening I had one of the biggest surprises that I have ever experienced. On entering the vestibule of the Astor House Hotel, whom do you think I saw sitting demurely in a corner reading an evening paper? You could never guess; it was Mrs. Waydon-Brinkley.
You remember Waydon-Brinkley, the broker, and his wife-that deeply religious woman who drank nothing but barley-water at dinner, and swallowed so much tea at other times that she couldn't sit still for more than half an hour at a time on account of her nerves or something?
She is on her way to Japan. Having been divorced by her husband, she is taking a tour round the world till the dust settles. The alimony seems to agree with her, for she is bright enough now.
I spent a very pleasant half-hour with her until, quite suddenly, it was borne in upon me that she was a divorcee; and, as you are aware, no other thing in life is so intolerable to a bachelor as a married woman who is so lost to all sense of duty as to make an idiot of herself - with somebody else.
Within five minutes of our meeting she was giving me a detailed account of Waydon-Brinkley's faults. I asked her about Smith-Smith, as you will recollect, was the co respondent. She then launched out upon a tirade against Smith, who, judging from her account, is a greater villain than Waydon-Brinkley.
It thereupon occurred to me that if both Waydon-Brinkley and Smith are villains in her eyes, I, who have always found them quite good fellows, must appear to her-when she got to know me-in the light of a thoroughpaced scoundrel, so I glanced at the clock and asked her if I could order anything for her. She assented very graciously, and when the "boy" arrived in response to my summons, I ordered some barley-water, bade her good-night, and left her.
You will be interested to hear that there are no workhouses here, because if a man has the misfortune to be short of money, he either borrows it, or signs a chit (I 0 U) for what he requires. When pay-day comes, if he is unable to pay he orders more goods. This encourages the tradesman, and makes him think business is improving. Again, when one owes a heavy bill the shopkeeper is far more deferential. He is obliged to be. Then, when the day does come round when one can pay, the joy that shines in the radiant face of the tradesman gives one that pleasant glow of satisfaction that can only be attained by giving pleasure to others.
There are one or two men here who live upon their friends; but they do it so nicely and so cheerily that being one of the victims is regarded almost as a privilege. Also there are more good-hearted men here to the square mile than anywhere else in the world.
A man who whines under adversity is a distressing complaint to be at large amongst any community, for his diseased mind is infectious, and with characteristic openhandedness he is always looking for some one with whom to share his troubles; but his joys are hugged to his own bosom and cherished in secret and alone.
Personally, I do not mind accepting the generosity of the feminine of this type, because there is always a selfish pleasure in comforting women, and the process is rendered the more easy by your knowledge that their troubles are not half as serious as your own; for if a woman has received one of those cruel blows that stun, she remains dazed and silent-always silent.
Shanghai is a town with strong sporting proclivities, and nearly everybody rides. Ordinary ponies, not sufficiently fast for racing, cost about ? or less, and their keep amounts to ? lOs. per month.
We have clubs devoted to the following sports: Rifle-shooting, revolver-shooting, clay pigeons, hockey, football, cricket, tennis, baseball, bowls, boxing, swimming, rowing, "yottin," motoring, badgers, draghounds, paper-hunting (cross-country, mounted), pony-racing, pok, golf, amateur acting and debating. The latter I class as a sport because I recently attended one of the sessions. All these clubs are prosperous and all are used, with the greatest good-fellowship, by men belonging to many different nations.
To a Britisher with insular ideas, thoroughly manured by music-hall patriotic songs and carefully edited school history-books, it is positively disturbing to find out what a really decent fellow a German, Frenchman, Italian, or indeed any foreigner, can be when you really get to know him, for the only fault one can find with most of them here is that they are not British; for which one cannot blame them, because they couldn't possibly help it. Moreover, it is unfair to throw this misfortune in their teeth.
Your affectionate son,
MY DEAR FATHER,
The questions you ask about the Chinese character in general I am quite unable to answer, although I have made enquiries; for I find that it is only after years of patient study of the native character that the student fully realizes that he knows nothing whatever about his subject, and never will. It is only the more intelligent who are able to reach this advanced stage; the remainder write books, from the conflicting opinions of which I have been obliged, with all due deference, to form this opinion.
How can I form an opinion of a race of human beings whose fundamental ideas I can never understand? Let me quote an example by way of explanation. Last Monday my "boy" altered the figures of a bill I usually give him to pay from $11.00 to $14.00. Seeing that all my belongings have been stolen with the exception of bare necessities, this is the only method of robbing me still open to him, for his latest scheme of changing my good dollars that I lay upon my dressing-table at night, for brass ones has been detected.
Having proved the forgery against him, I lost my temper. I admit my fault but r am only human, so I kicked him downstairs.
Presently I began to repent; I felt that I had been unfair - a bully - so finally, feeling thoroughly ashamed of myself, I rang the bell.
My boy entered reluctantly and fearfully, but on my presenting him with a dollar, with the idea of purchasing one shilling and ninepence worth of self-respect, his expression changed from sullen hate to rapture as he smilingly took the money and departed. Five minutes having elapsed, I heard a timid knock at the door, which opened about an inch to admit the tip of an apprehensive nose, followed by the remainder of what does duty for the face of our house-coolie.
"What do you want?" I enquired with irritation.
Advancing on tip-toe with an air of great mystery, he approached my chair, and bending down in exactly the opposite position to that usually assumed by one person in bowing to another, he remarked over his shoulder; "Suppose you wanchee kick some more alle same, master, you pay my ninety cents can do!"
It is highly diverting, from an Eastern view-point, to read complaints from home upon the servant question; let me assure you, you do not know what trouble in this respect really means.
One hears employers here openly confess that it is useless trying to prevent servants from stealing, and that one must "allow" a certain amount for "squeeze."
This is equivalent to saying, "I am not to be worried about the Chinese servant; he is going to rob me-very wdl, I give in, I am tired "-and is one of the symptoms of Maskeeitis, which disease is explained later on in this letter.
All my beautiful socks that mother knitted at home have vanished, my shirts have disappeared, I am underpantless, singletless, and collarless, and now that there is nothing more to steal I am boyless.
"Allow" quotha! I didn't allow anything. I never had an opportunity. I was looked upon as a useful source of suly, and woke up one morning to discover that I had been inveigled into playing a game I didn't understand. as a result of which I had been huffed.
My boy is now in search of another griffin, but I have hopes-he is very deaf-that the trams may yet avenge me.
It is useless taking him to the police. They are, for one thing, too busy catching dogs at ten dollars apiece, 'and for another they must have clear proof.
I showed the inspector my chest of drawers (which are the only kind of drawers I have left), which he had to confess were clear enough, but didn't constitute proof. So, with tears of mortification, I pulled up my trousers and showed him I had only the top part of one sock attached to my boot-tops. I opened my waistcoat and convinced him I had only a dicky underneath, and a pair of detachable cuffs stuck in my coat-sleeves with paste. The only thing he could do for me, however, was to advise me to sleep in my trousers and coat and thus be sure of these, at least if the worst happened.
How is it that the police do not receive instructions to issue licences to boys, giving their father's name and address, or that of a guarantor, such card to be endorsed by employers, I put down amongst the enormous number of things I do not know owing to my extreme griffinity. A heavy penalty could be imposed upon any one found "faking" these passes. The pass system works well in Rhodesia, where it has been in use for years.
This would, of course, be only the first step, so much I realize; but every one here decries any effort that fails to land one at the end of the journey before one starts, and when this preposterous method of attainment is found to be impracticable (except by the Chinese, who contrive to do everything in this manner), the usual comment is "Maskee."
"Maskee," let me explain, is Huangpoonese for "never mind," and its continual use produces an effect upon the foreigner similar to that attained by the Chinese as a result of the opium habit. It is called Maskeeitis.
Another affliction from which we suffer is the washman, who charges by the piece, irrespective of the description of garment. Consequently, if he tears your shirt into four pieces you pay for four and lose three other things, thus striking a balance. He also hires your clothes out to natives by arrangement with your boy, and his methods of washing are peculiar, as instance his mode of procedure in washing socks, which he does by putting four or five pairs on his feet at one time and going for a walk in the creek.
There is one phase of the Chinese character, however, which is becoming more noticeable every day. This is their insistent demand for reform. It is as unmistakable as it is inspiring in the grandeur and boldness of its scope. One sees its unwearying, splendid persistence in the Imperial decrees. During the past few years decrees have been issued from the throne destroying and prohibiting everything in China that is abused and made a vehicle for illicit commissions, injustice, oppression, or "squeeze," the latter term being the local equivalent for extortion.
All these decrees end with the injunction "Let all tremble and obey." Whether any one trembles I am unaware, but it is obvious that no one obeys. Obedience is impossible, because if every institution that has been converted into a means of extortion were abolished there would be no institutions remaining.
The method of reform which at present prevails would appear to be as follows: There exist official censors whose duty it is to report any irregularities by memorial to the throne. Presuming these censors do their duty, there must be presented about eleven thousand memorials per diem. As comparatively few reach the throne, however, we can only assume that even censors are willing to "listen to reason."
These impeachments, or memorials, are handed from the throne to certain "boards," such as the Board of Finance, Board of Agriculture, Board of Communications, Board of Civil Appointments, Board of Uncivil Disappointments, Board of Rites, Board of Wrongs, &c., for investigation and report.
The use of the term "board" in this sense is delightfully apt nomenclature, where the subject is so inanimate and characteristically wooden.
These boards, presumably after a few months or years, send up recommendations in reply by means of another memorial. This memorial containing the recommendation then probably has to await its turn.
What happens next-if anything-no one appears to know, but, judging by results, after the lapse of say fifteen or twenty years the memorial is brought up for perusal "in due course," as they say at our War Office. In glancing through its faded pages the powers that bc-officially referred to as US-may ascertain that one Tsu Bing Bung has been unmasked as an unmitigated scoundrel, and the sole cause of all the trouble. Tsu Bing Hung is sent for. Tremble and obey. The messenger subsequently returns to the presence and informs it that Tsu Ring Bung died eight years ago, and that his present address can be only vaguely hinted at by his intimate friends who knew the kind of life he led.
This flagrant breach of etiquette annoys US immensely, and the Board of Posthumous Punishments is ordered to investigate and report. After the lapse of a few years the B. of P. P makes its report, recommending that the son be sent for and totally destroyed. Officialdom being now thoroughly roused, this memorial is rushed through in three years, the recommendation noted and approved and runners despatched, but the son doesn't tremble and obey, because he is the proprietor of a large laundry in Liverpool, and is living on the premises.
US is now in a quandary, and can't think who the Confucius to refer the damthing to next. Whilst US scratches the imperial head, however, the President of the Board of Imperial Audience Arrangers announces the Deputy-Assistant-Probationary-Vicc-President of the Board of Inanimation, who enters backwards on hands and knees. He has another memorial held daintily in his mouth, which, when he has spat it out, is discovered to contain bitter complaints of the same abuse in the same quarter.
The course for US to pursue is now obvious. US hands the new memorial to same board as before for investigation and report. Interval. Receipt of memorial containing recommendations precisely simflar to the previous one, with the exception that this time it is Wu Kung Mow that is the offender. Filed. Interval. Wu Xung Mow succumbs to senile decay. Interval. Wu is sent for (t. and o.), and so the reformation proceeds, slowly, I must admit, but proceed it does - which is distinct advance in a country where everything else proceeds backwards.
personally, however, I am not one of those who scream for China's reformation - yet; and my reason for saying this is that sixty Years after she actually did reform, abolish likin (the tax on merchandise moving inland, which is enforced every few miles) and official corruption, and spread education-not, of course, the old type of education at present in vogue-she would be in a position to wipe the floor with any other four nations combined. personally, I would infinitely prefer death to being ruled by a Chinaman.
Fortunately for the human race there is a natural law which prevents any people attaining a world-mastery until such nation has achieved a very high state of mental development. Numbers alone will not suffice. China is not yet qualified, but when she is-as indeed she will be some day - she should rule the world. Inasmuch, however, as development of intellect is universal, we have cause to hope that by the time China is in a position to rule, that natural flower of intellect, universal peace, will be a feasibility, if not the obvious necessity that it is rapidly proving itself to be.
Any intelligent person who has seen the mutilated corpse of a soldier whose income was one shilling and threepence per diem before he gave his life for a cause the merits of which he had no opportunity to study, will feel the impossibility of continuity for any such horrible contravention of the axiom of the survival of the fittest. And the capacity for heroism combined with physical perfection is valued at present at one shilling and threepence a day in an age of money worship!
So the death-rattle of a "Tommy" is inaudible amongst the noisy congratulations showered upon the successful, businesslike army contractor.
Even so we all have our faults in the department of officialdom; but China is undoubtedly reforming, and if we do not reform China, China will reform us within a measurable space of time. Again, if China reforms herself, and we develop along the lines of commercialism only, what a terrible price we shall have to pay for our lesson!
I am surprised at your expressing a doubt that our local mosquitoes can think; the fact is obvious to any observer. Their fiendish ingenuity is well exemplified by an incident that occurred last Tuesday. I had taken a lady in to dinner at a certain house here and was doing my poor best to entertain her. My efforts, I was pleased to observe, were meeting with some measure of success, when suddenly she gave a violent jump and a little gasp. Fearing she was ill, I anxiously inquired whether I could be of any assistance.
"I am afraid you cannot," she replied hastily, "it's a (ah-oooo, there it goes again) mosquito."
"Allow me," I insisted; "I am a crack shot -hardly ever miss.
"This one is-ugh-out of range," she replied, with an impatience that was justified by my denseness.
With admirable presence of mind she then engaged the attention of the guests in her vicinity by relating a cycling adventure, and accompanied the recital with dramatic action, her imitation of a cyclist at full speed being particularly realistic.
Mosquitoes will have to get up very early in the morning to get the best of her.
Please go to Crook's in Regent Street and send the biggest box of roses you can get to Gladys at Roehampton, in the name of your affectionate son,
P.S. Will pay you next time I see you.
MY DEAR FATHER,
In answer to your inquiry as to the principal occupation of the Chinese peasant class, which, by the way, forms 90 per cent. of the population, I must inform you that their time is spent mainly in the vocation of agriculture, the chief productions therefrom being smells, graves, and rice, in the order named.
China is the country of the small landholder, for land, being very difficult to steal, is looked upon as the only really safe investment, the holdings being handed down from father to son. The farmer who succeeds in making his land smell more abominably than his neighbours is looked upon with respect, admiration, and envy by the surrounding population.
The amount of crops that the Chinese farmers can raise from one small piece of land is indeed surprising, but the amount of smell they can produce from the same tiny piece of ground is positively incredible.
However, no Chinaman is considered to be in the highest sense worthy of admiration until he is dead. Although this would appear to the uninitiated to be hard to understand, as one gets to know the Chinese lower classes better, one realizes that this is the only sound and just way of regarding the matter.
Although I have no strong feelings on the subject, I must confess that I prefer them dead myself, but so intense is the native feeling on this matter that, if a fellow-countryman will only die, his friends and relatives show their gratitude with an energy that amounts in effect to worship.
The height of every Chinaman's ambition is consequently to become an ancestor, and he is never truly happy until he has succeeded in doing so-neither are his relatives and friends.
It is quite remarkable that in the smaller villages and country districts the population dress exclusively in rags. One never sees a well-dressed native who is not a high official; the reason for this being that the villager is aware that any ostentation-and by ostentation in this connection is meant a coat with less than five patches-will arouse the cupidity of the officials, which cupidity the said officials will not hesitate to gratify.
In Shanghai, however, where protection is assured, the wealthy Chinese go to the other extreme, and indulge in the most ostentatious display by means of adorned carriages and Australian horses-which latter are usually decorated with silver-mounted, harness, ornate trappings, spavins, string-halt, and capped elbows-gaudily painted motor-cars and women, big cigars, and Boston garters.
Shanghai is the goal, the Mecca, of every light-fingered, useless, born-tired, work-shy native waster who cannot get a living in his native place because he is too well known and understood there to be trusted. The punishments that would inevitably overtake him should he remain in his native village are so severe, so necessary, so just, that the dread of them drives him to the protective care of the Shanghai Municipal Council, which does not bamboo him even when he is caught stealing, but gives him a fairly comfortable, well-fed time in a gaol that is a palace compared to his home; and which considers him innocent until he is definitely proved guilty-a form of legislation he would go hundreds of miles to obtain, as it suits his highly trained, inborn genius for evasion and scientific lying infinitely better than the methods employed in the unconstrained administration of his own laws.
The Chinese authorities consider a Chinaman guilty until he is definitely proved innocent probably because he usually is guilty. Even if he is innocent of the particular charge of the moment, he is most probably guilty of several other offences-or would be if he had the opportunity.
Justice being blind, they consider it only necessary to induce her to hit out in any direction, for whoever gets hurt is certain to deserve it either now or in the near future.
Moreover, justice, in China, is not only blind, but deaf to all sounds except the musical chink of dollars.
It is probably the paternal indulgence on the part of the Council, to which I have referred, that has earned that body the name of "City Fathers."
The Chinese, like women, are divided into two main divisions-good and bad; and a further similarity is that you never can tell under which beading to place them until too late. A good Chinaman is like a good woman, a pearl of great price, just splendid, and not sufficiently common to be a drug in the market.
Yet another feminine characteristic of the race is, that if you afterwards recollect the exact moment from which you imagined you were commencing to get your own way (in consequence of which your vigilance relaxed), you can from that moment date the time they began to get theirs.
To deal with the good ones first, however, the Chinese gentleman and man of honour is such a very excellent individual that one is obliged to make allowances for the bad ones for his sake; more especially as the faults of the bad ones are mostly the faults of a child.
The promise of a Chinese gentleman is inviolable, and infinitely to be preferred to our most complicated legal contract; for the reason that once given there is no desire to break it; the anxiety, nay, the whole object in life being to keep it to the letter; whereas with some foreigners any loophole which can be opened by means of a law, ancient or modern, will. at times be used with incredible meanness as a means of evading a promise accepted in good faith. A Chinese gentleman would no more plead that legal invitation to blackguardism, the Gaming Act, for instance, than would an English gentleman.
Unfortunately, this type of Chinaman is not at the bead of affairs, as a rule, either in diplomacy or business.
If it should ever be your good fortune to meet a Chinese gentleman and man of honour, you may know that you have met the highest type of gentility there is-from every point of view but the physical one.
Both classes aye marvellously adaptable. It is just this adaptability of theirs that astonishes one beyond all else in China. There are Chinese gentlemen here who can make you as good a speech-in English, of course-as could the late Lord Salisbury, and an infinitely better one than Mr. Lloyd George or Mr. Roosevelt.
One sees the ubiquitous Chinaman looking after an electric-light plant, working the limelight at the theatre, driving steam-rollers and the engines on the railways. He it is who makes ladies' costumes to measure, builds you a wharf or a brougham, and makes you a suite of furniture in the newest style from old kerosene cases. He sets up type to print your newspapers and books, despite the fact that the compositors who do the actual work cannot read or write a word of English, but pick out letters "alle same."
When he handles bamboo his ingenuity finds its widest scope. He eats it in the form of bamboo shoots-which, by the way, are a most delicious vegetable; drinks out of it shaped as a cup; sleeps on it cut up into bamboo shavings, which make excellent, resilient stuffing for mattresses; and is, finally, carried to his grave by means of bamboo poles.
Amongst a thousand and one articles he manufactures from it are mats, drain-pipes, baskets, hats, shoes, furniture, needles, houses, brushes, egg-beaters, ropes, and scaffold-poles. A Chinaman without his bamboo would be as helpless as a woman stranded on an iceberg without her clothes.
Of course, there is nothing remarkable in the fact that the Chinese can do wonderful things along their own particular lines, but there is something very extraordinary in the fact that after a lesson or two you can get a coolie to drive an electric tram or a motor-car for twenty dollars a month in wages and "find" himself. The only disadvantage to their adaptability lies in the fact that they persist in adapting your ideas of how a thing should be done to their own. If you tell a 'ricksha coolie to hurry up he goes slower; not because he doubts that you are in a hurry, but because he is quite satisfied that hurrying is a stupid idea, and he refuses to be a party to any such nonsense. Besides, he isn't in a hurry, and if you are, why in the name of all that's reasonable don't you get out and run yourself?
If you show him the right way to do anything foreign fashion, he obeys, goes home at night, thinks out another way, and follows his own method ever after. No amount of bad language, protest, or rage will move him; for his chief delight is to achieve a similar result to yours by a method entirely his own, and then look at you to see whether you are impressed. When you again explain the method you desire him to adopt, and demonstrate it, he says "yes," smiles, and continues as before.
This is not exactly obstinacy. He is sure his way is better; that is all; and if you are too obstinate to see it, the fault is not his,
When you ask him if he understands, he invariably says "yes," in order to save you a lot of useless explanation; for he knows quite well how he is going to do the job-he is going to do it his own way. He has the idea somewhere in his mind that he knows better than you do, and nothing will ever drive it out until he is killed either by the bursting of a boiler or the explosion of a match-factory. He is the only man alive who can smoke cigarettes in a gunpowder factory and only get blown up once every four or five years.
He navigates a junk (sailing vessel) with a sail about one hundred and fifty feet high, uses no ballast and no keel, and only gets drowned once in a lifetime - which is a mere nothing to a Chinaman, because there are plenty more - millions and millions.
He drives about in a carriage the springs of which are held together with ordinary wrapping string and the traces with an old bootlace, but never has an accident. He can use a condemned steam-launch for years and years by stuffing the cracks in her boiler with cotton-waste and mud tied down with string.
When he is ill he goes to a Chinese doctor, who doses him with dried centipedes, by the aid of which he is soon completely cured. If you gave him the proper medicine for his complaint, I am quite convinced he would die forthwith, just to show you that his way was the better.
He is usually very placid, but when thoroughly roused is a demon incarnate. Sometimes he becomes so annoyed that he will actually dance with rage, jumping both feet from the ground at the same time. Should he feel so insulted that his injury must be wiped out in blood, be makes no attempt to destroy his enemy, but kills himself instead, in order to get his enemy into trouble. This latter mode of revenge has occurred frequently when the desire for revenge is greater than the love of life-and facts go to prove that, with the Chinese, this state of mind is not uncommon.
His main object in life is to avoid "losing face," though to look at him is to wonder why. Losing face actually means "blushing for shame." No Chinaman "loses face" by stealing, but by being found out; which is a point of resemblance between the Chinese and our great financiers.
No trick is too subtle for him. He mixes little clay balls with the soya beans that he sells, and you cannot detect them unless you are an expert. These imitation beans are offered for sale quite openly in the native shops situate in bean-growing districts. He introduces a special kind of white clay into his vegetable tallow. When live cattle were being sold to the Army, they were driven on to a scale and weighed as they stood. He pumped water into their stomachs with a force-pump to increase the weight.
His genius for deception and fraud is not content with the scope offered for its exercise within the limits of the material world: his insatiable appetite for chicanery is therefore pandered to by the puerile deceits he practises upon that spirit world in which he implicitly believes, and takes into account from the cradle to the grave.
Thus he offers to the spirits of his dead relatives round discs of cardboard, stamped to resemble silver dollars and coated with silver paper; paper sycee-that is, ingots of silver formerly used in currency; and slices of real food pasted upon a bamboo framework so that the general appearance assumes the guise of a solid mass of appetizing eatables.
In his house-design he never allows one door to directly face another or a street to run in a straight line. The object of this is to prevent the passing through of devils - because devils can, in his opinion, only travel in a direct line, and are incapable of turning corners.
He also affixes mirrors over his door and sometimes on the cap of a male child, in order to "reflect" the evil spirit and cast him back from whence he came.
As you know, the Chinaman works all day and every day. For him there is no Sunday and no holiday until China New Year, when every shop is shut for about five days, the stock sealed up in cabinets, debts paid in full (which is no small matter, since hardly a Chinaman trades with his own money), best clothes donned, and a regular orgy of gambling commenced. During this season one seldom sees one's servants.
Last China New Year, five of us were living in a mess in Haskell Road. We employed one coolie for cleaning up, one cook - who, in turn, as is Chinese custom, employed a boy to do his work-and each of us bad a boy to look after our clothes, &c. We managed to get through the five days somehow, and upon resuming the even tenor of our way after the holidays I happened to go into the kitchen to see that everything had been cleaned. To my surprise I discovered the coolie dressed up in silks, leaning back at his ease and watching the others work. Upon investigation I discovered that this coolie had won all the others possessed in the world, and was paying them a small wage to perform such duties as fell to his own lot.
As to your enquiry respecting the general aspect of the country in the vicinity of Shanghai, I can only say, speaking broadly, that it is a monotonous level plain, which is accounted for by the fact that the soil consists of nothing but mud, which in the nature of it must lie flat. The original settlers had to dig ditches and creeks every few yards to drain the land and enable them to stand upon it without sinking in.
If upon holiday bent the Shanghailander goes to Japan, Wei-Hai-Wei, Tsintau (German), or one of the few miniature health-resorts used principally by missionaries, who, having safely saved their SOU's, are engaged in carefully conserving their bodies in as comfortable circumstances as the funds will allow.
An amusing incident occurred at Tsintau this summer. Two Jews engaged in the opium trade - one of whom was a notorious gambler - were spending their holiday at this German resort. This was the occasion of the gambler's first visit to the town, but his companion had been to Tsintau previously. On the first evening of their stay they went for a walk, in the course of which they came to a hill about five hundred feet high.
"Fine hill that, and very difficult to climb," said one.
"Don't think much of it," dissented the gambler.
"Much harder to climb than it looks," insisted his companion, "and I'd bet you couldn't get to the top of it in an hour, especially seeing how you are blowing already."
"Nonsense," answered the gambler, scenting a bet. "I'll wager fifty dollars I climb to the top and return here in an hour."
"Done," agreed his companion, "that's a bet, but I'll wait for you in the hotel. I can see from there. When you are on top, wave your handkerchief."
And so it was agreed, slips exchanged, and off went the gambler for the summit at his best speed. When be had ascended about one-third of the distance, however, be came to a wire fence, which he climbed forthwith, and was about to continue his journey when he found himself confronted by a German soldier with a horrible scowl and a fixed bayonet.
"Where are you going?" asked the soldier, pointing the bayonet at the Jew's top trousers button.
"Only to the top of that hill," answered the opium merchant.
"Tie this handkerchief round your eyes," answered he with the rifle, "and come with me."
"Where to?" asked the Jew, thinking of his fifty dollars.
"You'll find out when you're there," was the only answer forthcoming.
To cut a long story short, he was then led, blindfold, to the quarters of the officer in command of the garrison, detained an hour whilst said officer finished his dinner, and obliged to remain in custody pending identification. The unkindest cut of all lay in the fact that it was absolutely necessary for him to send for the man who made the bet with him in order to establish his identity, for he knew no one else in Tsintau, and his friend insisted upon the bet being paid before performing the service on his behalf necessary to ensure his liberty.
There is another story going the rounds. A certain half-caste lady is, for some reason best known to herself, most desirous of hiding the nature of her origin. Not only so, but she resents, with a great deal of spite, any allusion to her. "mixed" blood. On one occasion she entered a leading store to purchase some stockings in the new, fashionable shades. Unfortunately the assistant who served her had been snubbed on a previous occasion and was awaiting an opportunity to get even. Eaving asked for stockings, the assistant desired to know the shade she required. "Flesh colour" replied the Eurasian lady, and the man brought a box containing deep yellow hose and laid them out for her inspection.
Your affectionate son,
I feel I must sit down and write you a nice long letter, which I am prompted to do firstly by a sense of duty. You may wonder at my using the word "duty" in this connection, but when you consider that a woman who consents to marry a man agrees to be all in all to him, does it not occur to you that when a woman very nearly marries a man she must ever after take a great interest in her very nearly husband?
Is it because he is continually brought to her mind at those times when she cannot help allowing her reveries to re-enact the scenes in the past that she loves? I can only speculate, but the fact is undoubted that ever since your proposal my interest in you has become insistent; I even go to your home and read all the letters you write to your people.
Judging from your, it must be confessed, somewhat jaundiced correspondence, one can only presume that Shanghai is a terrible place for liver; and you really do write such arrant nonsense about girls. Where is the pain? Has some Shanghai lassie scorned your, I fear, somewhat depreciated affections?
Do you remember the day you told me you wished to marry me; and the place, just above Boulter's Lock? I, at least, shall never forget. You certainly propose divinely. I do not remember ever having heard a proposal that was put with more delicate tact, in all my experience.
I confess - now - that the horrid thought came to me that perhaps you had got it all out of a book, but I haven't come across it yet, although I have read heaps and heaps of love stories on purpose; but there! I know you wouldn't be so vulgar.
And oh ! do you remember my refusal? What sentiment! what a giddy altitude of emotion we reached! The delicate tenderness with which I expressed the poignancy of my regret was so kind and touching that the tears came into your poor little eyes, and as for me, I cried and cried - oh, it was lovely, but so exhausting, Jim, I felt quite faint after it. I do wish men wouldn't do these things - at least not so often.
The Thames is evidently mixed up in some occult way with my horoscope; all my proposals have occurred on its broad and placid bosom, except those two I told you about at the Welcome Club, and the one at Hurlingham - Bob's, you know.
Poor old Bob! he is settled. You remember Violet - Eaton Square Violet; the girl with the copper beech hair, who has the artistic temperament and plays things on the violin that make people fidget? She used to have unsatisfied longings, and wore horrid art shades of green, and straight up and down things from Liberty's, and low heels, and looked at one more in sorrow than in anger. She annexed him, artistically too, by explaining some psychic problem while sitting on the same settee with him after dinner; which so worked upon Bob's impressionable nature that he grabbed her by the hair in the end, and repeatedly kissed her with such violent emotion that, as she explained to me afterward, she was too thoroughly frightened to refuse him.
As a result of this startling experience, she counselled me most earnestly never to monkey about with a man's soul if he has auburn hair and a red neck.
Whoever wrote about the British being the least emotional of races wasn't a woman, or, if it was a woman who committed that error, she must have been ug-plain.
I think the British as a race are getting more emotional every day; perhaps on account of the entente; anyhow, we are having more trouble with our servants than ever before, though Mrs, Denby says there is not nearly so much bother with her housemaids since you left. Take, for instance, my maid. Of course, she is French, but the butler isn't. Now, to illustrate my meaning. This afternoon, whilst I was arranging flowers in my bedroom, she rushed in and swooned on my pink 6olienne that I was keeping for Violet's wedding and had been examining on a chair.
When I had brought her round with the aid of some brandy, she had the hardihood to explain that mother had just caught her kissing Baxter (Baxter is the butler, you know) in the linen-cupboard.
I told her, of course, that if she couldn't find a more suitable place to amourize than our linen-cupboard she would have to go. Menial love-making is so crude, don't you think?
But to return to Bob. Can you possibly imagine him, after a night at White's, coming slowly and gingerly downstairs, holding the banisters with one clammy hand and his throbbing head with the other, and praying fervently that his one boiled egg will be good to him? do you remember the time he opened the bad one at the Manor-to find Violet in her yellowest green art costume, sitting intently watching him with her unblinking eyes (that always remind me of poached eggs), a "missionary" expression on her face, and "painful duty" questions on her tongue: Ugh!
Poor, poor old Bob!
I met the Welimore girl last night, and she asked all kinds of questions about you, and appeared to be so interested that I took her away from her men and talked to her about you.
She tells me you treated her awfully badly, so I suppose you must have been good to her. Never be good to a girl, Jim; you will get a fearful name if you are good to girls, and only the bad ones will have anything to do with you, and you know you really must think of settling down, now that the scandal about Dolly has blown over and she is married so nicely.
The Welimore girl also told me to tell you that she has not forgotten, and never will. When I said "Forgotten what?" she blushed (she certainly is pretty). Now, I do hope, Jirn, you have not been horrid with the Wellmore girl as well. I am going to draw her out about it, and if I find that you have said anything to her that you did not mean, or meant anything you did not say, I shall tell Mr. Denby how much you really owe the Conduit Street tailor-so there.
Thanks ever so much for the lovely roses, but you mustn't be extravagant, Jim, or else you will never be able to save up enough to make a home for yourself.
Father saw the roses when they arrived, and asked whom they were from. I told him, of course, and he said that be supposed you hadn't got any Lloyd Georges out East. He told me to tell you not to come borne again until the Conservatives get into office, especially if you have saved any money-but I assured him there was no fear of that (your saving money, I mean).
To this long letter I shall certainly expect you to send an equally long reply to one who was very nearly your own
MY DEAR FATHER,
You will be interested to learn that the foreigners here are in the habit of holding a regatta annually at a place called Hen-li, though whether the name was grown locally I do not know; to me it sounds like a stretch of imagination. Although held at a place outside the foreign settlements, there has, until this year, been no serious difficulty with the natives. Objections, however, were forthcoming in the case of the regatta held last Saturday, 24th inst., and the Shanghai Taotai refused at the last moment to issue the passes necessary to enable houseboats, &c., to proceed to the scene. The Senior Consul thereupon requested the Taotai not to be silly, which request the Taotai promised to comply with, and as a result issued the necessary passes, which proves conclusively that he kept his word.
Of course. it is not the Taotai that is principally to blame; the silliness that caused the trouble must be laid at the door of the people who arranged the regatta without going through the courteous formality of obtaining permission. When the Taotai received an objecting petition from the local smell-farmers to the effect tbat the foreigners would damage their crops, and take away with them some of the odours they had been maturing with such trouble and care, he had no alternative but to carry out the wishes of the local inhabitants as expressed by their officials, whose duty it is to see, among other things, that the people in their charge do not build up the great fortunes which cause such political trouble in America. Personally, I attended the regatta in an armoured cruiser disguised as a motor-boat, with a view to putting up a good fight in case of trouble, and leaving open a means of escape in the event of disaster, and I must confess that I have not enjoyed an outing so much for a long time, which prompts me to take off my hat to the committee who arranged the function, make them my best bow, and thank them for a very pleasant week end.
The regatta itself took place in glorious weather. Everybody was very happy, especially in the evening, for at our Hen-li, if there are not as many people as attend the home tournament, there are quite as many drinks, and if one enters into the spirit - and soda - of the thing, the place looks quite crowded at night.
The committee, however, with admirable forethdught placed empty barrels every few yards along the towing paths, so that any one who could not find his way home at night might sleep in one, and they also put up notices requesting visitors not to fall off the raised paths into the rice crops, evidently with the idea that should any one feel like falling down, the notice would remind him to fall outwards into the river.
I only saw these notices disregarded in one case, and the offender, after picking himself up from a rice bed, apologized to the crop and immediately afterwards fell into the river, which showed that his offence was at least un-intentional.
Personally, I found myself stranded at something a.m. on the bank of the river opposite to the ironclad that brought me up, so proceeded to walk across the bridge. This bridge is built of iron, and the cross ties are the sleepers on which the rails are laid - there is nothing between them. I am sure this is the case, because after going about ten yards with my dog in my arms, I trod on nothing and fell through into the river, followed by the faithful beast I had been carrying, and we both swam home together.
Your query as to the visible effect of the awakening of China is too much for me alto- I am only a griffin; I will enquire further into the matter.
So far, however, China appears to me a nation that cannot possibly become more alert than is at present the case, for of the five different countries I have seen, and whose people I have had time to study, I must confess that I never came across one whose inhabitants are more wide awake than the Chinese.
For a foreigner, I consider I am pqssessed of a fair average amount of intelligence, and I own that never in the whole course of my experience have I been "done" so frequently and with such ease as I have in China.
Moreover, so far as I can at present judge, China did not develop at all: she was apparently born fully grown, hair and teeth included. Where the rest of mankind advanced through the successive stages of development known as the stone, bronze, and iron ages respectively, China, owing to her preposterous method of progressing backwards, started with the steal age, and all one hears about the awakening of China seems to mean that she is about to retrograde sufficiently to give herself the necessary facilities to annex in a more civilized, extensive, and gentlemanly way than she at present has the power to do, viz., by brute force.
Another trait of the Chinese character that even my short experience has given me time to observe, is that they do not fight, as we understand the term, for they are exponents amongst methods of dispute of the means universally employed by lower class women to get the better of an altercation, viz., hair-pulling, scratching -for which latter purpose they grow their finger nails to an enormous length-and vituperation, of which three, vituperation is considered to be of the greatest importance.
The explanation of this appears to be, that the Chinese, by employing many thousands more written characters than any other nation, are enabled to express their thoughts with a degree of subtle meaning that empowers them to heap such vitriolic, loathsome abuse upon each other, that the unskilful are unnerved and mentally incapacitated by the stunning force of malediction used by the adept.
This is a land of triumph for backstairs diplomacy: neither armipotence nor muscle can find a market, for both are outclassed by patient, subtle intrigue.
If I could afford the luxury r should be delighted to assent, so far as I am personally concerned, to the Chinese propagandism "China for the Chinese," for from what I have so far seen of them, they thoroughly deserve to have to deal with themselves exclusively - though in this I trust I am not uncharitable.
They are reputed to be ignorant and behind the times, yet, behind the scenes, pulling the strings, supplying the motive power that moves 80 per cent. of the business in Shnghai, is John Chinaman, impassive, inscrutable, giving his word and keeping it, once given, though the heavens fall-unless be can see a way to get out of it without "losing face," but giving nothing else, and keeping everything else within reach.
Women and Chinamen bear a further resemblance to each other in that they are both practically impossible to understand, and the Chinese "boy" respects the foreign "missy" accordingly, for it is only amongst women that he meets his master at his own game. This to a great extent accounts for the extraordinary popularity of the institution of marriage in Shanghai, a woman being the best available go-between for a man in his dealings with the natives, though I do not deny that in some instances other reasons may weigh with the contracting parties.
Ladies are, of course, at just as great a disadvantage in dealing with the Chinese as men. No one amongst the gentler sex can therefore take offence at the foregoing unless she is prepared to admit that she is no lady.
Another instance of the characteristic similarity between Chinese men and the women of other races can be pointed out in the smooth whiteness of the skin of indoor workers and those continually clothed, and their freedom from hair on the body. Again, the waists and feet of Chinamen who are not gross are extremely small in the large majority of cases, and their muscles are not sharply defined. Very few Chinamen have beards, and it is an extremely difficult matter to get them to cut off their long hair, in which they take great pride. The queue-cutting movement recently instituted by Mr. Wu Titig Fang will probably take years to mature and become generally followed, though some few advanced Chinamen are already prepared to make the "sacrifice." They also have a passion for bargaining and a predilection for elaborate and costly raiment.
Hello! twelve o'clock. Good-night.
I am still Sojourning in a land of delight conjured up by your letter, which was the pleasantest possible way of reminding me that I am not forgotten.
I am sorry you find my letters home somewhat peevish. This is not because some Shanghailand lassie has scorned my advances, however, for I have not yet had an opportunity of making any, the reason for this being that I arrived here in the close season, which doesn't end till the Caledonian Ball, and during this period no girl is allowed to stray farther than ten yards from her mother's side.
I wonder what has given the Shanghai matrons the idea that such vigilant overseeing is necessary? Surely when they were young they didn't - But no! it cannot be.
I am more than surprised to read your news about Violet and Bob; I think Bob is very lucky to get her; she will do him a lot of good. I notice an improvement already, for you mention his eating an egg for breakfast. When I was fraternizing with Bob, it wasn't safe to mention breakfast to him at all during the morning, except on the day of a big shoot. He once threw a loaf at me for having what he called the bad taste to mention food at the nauseous hour of 8 a.m. It was from Bob that we got the term breakfast and soda."
His mother always ordered his breakfast to be taken up to his room, but his menu used to make a noise exactly like the opening of a large seltzer.
She never saw the untouched food, because he invariably threw it out of the window on to one spot, which he called his breakfast cemetery. The dear old lady was so proud of Bob, too, for she used to explain that he couldn't drink much at night because he was always so thirsty in the morning!
Your remarks about Kitty Wellmore and Daisy positively made me shudder. Good Heavens! one may not be ordinarily civil to a girl nowadays I admit, of course, that there was a scandal about Daisy, but neither she nor I gave cause for it, for it came about thusly:
While she was secretly engaged to Jim Crawley, her present husband, he wrote her a somewhat prejagulent letter on plain notepaper, and signed it simply "Jim." This her mother found, and Daisy, in abject terror lest her engagement should be discovered just at the time that there was such a terrible row about Crawley, told her mother that I sent it, because she thought no one who knew me would believe it, so that it could do me no harm. This is what Daisy told me.
What she told Crawley was that she did it because my name was so extremely niffy already on account of suchlike incidents that one more couldn't hurt me.
What Crawley told me was that she did it because his name was so gamey. over one or two other happenings of a similar nature, of which he was equally innocent, that Daisy's mother wouldn't stand any more, and that unless I wished to ruin two lives, &c. - finishing up with the quotation "Bear ye one another's burdens."
What I told Crawley was - but never mind what I told Crawley.
Kitty Welimore's case is quite a different matter, and if possible even less blameworthy, for that little trouble happened as follows: Directly I found that I was hopelessly in love with you, and couldn't hold it I looked around for a girl that I was confident loved some one else. Kitty was qualified, and I explained that I was about to propose to another girl who had a critical taste in proposals, having been the recipient of so many, and would she, Kitty, allow me to practise, provided I, in return, gave her the benefit of my opinion as to how her various attitudes in this difficult situation would appear to the ass who was proposing. You see, I did not wish all my patient efforts to be thrown away by my making a mess of the proposal itself.
To this, like the good sort that she is, Kitty agreed, until she became engaged herself. She told me that her proposal went through (as she put it) "spiffingly," and that I bad earned her eternal gratitude; but by that time I was fairly well advanced in my subject, as you so kindly admit.
However, I am still cheerful, for I am addicted to turning round the bright side of imagination I have always been dubious as to whether building castles in the air is, after alt such a profitless occupation. Condemnation of this elfin architecture is universal, byt I have not yet heard the speech for the defence.
I submit m'lud, this mental occupation is closely allied to hope, that it is in fact a descendant (or perhaps an ascendant) in the direct line, having many characteristics which are hereditary, and that it is the means of picturing ideals which are so alluringly desirable that effort and perseverance are stimulated to their achievement.
Let's pretend, then, that I am going to win the Champion Sweepstakes, or even the Hankow Lottery, or to save money. You will notice that I have put the chances in the order of their feasibility, for my experience of banking accounts is that they are as hard to open as a locked safe with the wrong key, and Yet close automatically, and that it is almost impossible to be really mean, unless one has plenty of money to act as an inducement.
One of the wealthiest men I know is, by the way, always otherwise occupied when the time comes to pay for any trivial expenditure we have jointly incurred; and I believe it is this characteristic of his that enables him to put his hand in his pocket-and keep It there - which made him rich. Hence the term means." Ent again, if I built up a competence on these lines you would very properly refuse to marry me.
Here goes -Let's pretend that I am possessed of sufficient means to offer you a half share in that enchanting honeyed lunacy which is called honeymoon for short. My ideal would be to set the scene in a cottage at Pangbourne-on-Thames, furnished in the revived "Old English" style, which is the antithesis of the toboggan horsehair sofa, antimacassar, wax fruit in glass case, and delirium-tremens wall-paper period. Amongst these ideal surroundings we would write a happy travesty of that popular domestic tragedy known as "Love in a Cottage."
Doesn't the cottage somehow look familiar to your mind's eye? Let your imagination conjure up its small porch smothered in climbing dog-roses, the old-time garden with rows of van- coloured hollyhocks standing primly back against the high hedge, and pretending that they are shyly indifferent to the admiration they excite.
Honk! honk! pouf! enter you and I in a 40-h.p.Darracq (ex Hankow Lottery proceeds), which in its panting efforts to recover its breath squirts a 90-h.p. stench over the dog-roses and hollyhocks, which soon takes the conceit out of them. As we alight we gracefully consign our car to the garage by a wave of the hand to our gold-mounted chauffeur (one thousand pounds a year, all found, when we are in funds).
We now dress for dinner, which operation is performed by taking off our hats and goggles and splashing about round the pump, each waiting a turn at the bar of Sunlight soap.
We don't even have to go upstairs-because there aren't any-and the old family servant Baxter (late chauffeur), around whose person hovers a reminiscence of petrol, announces that dinner is served, whereupon in comes the Irish stew, which we call an entree for old times' sake.
We are both highly elated over an offer just to hand to publish my latest book on domestic economy in a popular edition at fourpence half-penny per copy (I to receive the halfpenny).
Terrible commotion without. Enter Baxter with his collar missing and his right hand bandaged. He announces that Mr. Bloggs insists upon seeing us immediately.
"Bloggs?" I enquire haughtily, "Bloggs? Who or what is Bloggs?"
"Bloggs is the tradesperson as I 'ave honoured with your custom, sir - meat."
We severely reprimand Baxter for allowing our peace to be disturbed by any vulgar tradesman, more especially one so lost to aH sense of ordinary civility as to ask for money; threaten to pay him the six months' wages owing to him upon the first convenient opportunity, and dispense with his services.
Baxter, moved to tears, is just explaining that the tradesperson executed a flanking movement by kicking him on the shins, when enter Bloggs with a bill about four yards long, and an inflamed eye, announcing that we must pay or look out. We reply that we have no choice but to look out. At this Bloggs wishes to know why we ordered the meat if we didn't intend to pay for it. In reply we enquire whether be can be really serious in supposing that we should voluntarily choose to starve.
At this moment he catches sight of your face in te rose lamplight, his jaw drops, he goes "hot and cold all over," his adamantine heart is melted at the sight of your ravishing beauty, and the situation is saved. He doesn't mind if he does - not quite all the soda, and thank you kindly, sir-and as to the little matter of the bill, why, he 'opes as 'ow we will overlook his bad temper, and he will call again at a more suitable time.
After this episode you make love to me with the utmost violence, to compensate me for the worries and cares I have to undergo to provide a home for you.
(Slow music, very softly expressing yearning tenderness.)
Mter what might appear to some an interminable time, I recover. We take the train up to town, and finish the evening at Daly's Theatre, followed by supper at Xettners', on the strength of the publication of my new book. "One quart and one pint of No. 36 straight off the ice, but keep the pint till I call for it, and mind the oysters are in the deep shell."
If I win the Hankow Lottery I will cable immediately. Meantime, please keep your mental vision resolutely fixed on the doud cottage depicted above, to which I beg you will pick up your skirts and fly for refuge if any one else proposes to you; for with all humility I beg you will never dare, for one calendar second, to imagine that you are ever going to marry any other than
MY DEAR FATHER,
Replying to your query as to the number of Consuls here, there are fourteen in all. Seeing that every question of importance is regarded from fourteen national points of view, agreement must require great tact.
On one occasion it happened that a certain Consul stood out against all the others who wished to close a gambling school owned by one of his nationals. At the time it was currently reported that there was only one of his own countrymen in the town, but so complicated is the legal procedure in this international settlement that the greatest difficulty was experienced in effecting the arrest of this single representative of a South American Republic, whose property lay just outside the boundary on Chinese territory; the difficulty being that his own Consul refused to issue a warrant, and no other Consul was competent to do so.
In the present Gilbertian state of the law here, any one-horse Republic can send a Consul and one subject to take up his abode in the settlement - or just out of it. If that Consul, from reasons of policy or - well, let us say any reasons at all-chooses to "protect" that subject, and refuses to issue a warrant for his arrest in a case of gambling or pimping, or any other crooked practice which may be tolerated in his own benighted country, none of the other Consuls are empowered to interfere.
In the case under discussion, however, the Council decided to risk it, but so determined was the resistance that the gambler referred to armed his Indian watchmen and actually fired on the police when they arrived. The police rough-handled an Indian watchman, and one of the constables, although obeying orders, was summoned for assault.
During the fracas the watchman bit a policeman in the arm, and a local paper reported the incident as follows: "The Indian watchman who bit a constable in the arm last Thursday at the Aihambra is not expected to recover."
The report did not say whether he was summoned for failing to keep the piece, but it would appear to be a somewhat excessive punishment to put a man in hospital who is already tired of feeding on "slops."
The gambling den was closed, however, in this instance, and there were no international complications.
Not only does the Municipal Council have to consider the view of its actions that will be taken by fourteen Consuls of different nationalities, but it is obliged to take into account the Chinese authorities also, whose policy is invariably one of obstruction.
Our settlement abuts upon some of the poorest most dilapidated and insanitary property imaginable, inhabited by beggars and thieves, a perfect hotbed for bubonic plague and other diseases, and a dumping-ground for ever-accumulating filth.
In consequence we are continually trying to obtain an extension of the settlement to form a belt around our land, over the salutary and police administration of which we shall have some control. Every move in this direction, however, is met with a most determined resistance, and the question is perpetually a bone of contention.
I note your query as to the meaning of the term "abacus," and will try to explain it to the best of my knowledge and belief, An abacus, then, is an ancient form of rosary used by the Chinese in the exercise of their religion. and consists of a shallow box, across the open top of which stout wires are stretched, having a number of movable knobs of wood threaded upon them. The instrument is employed by the Chinese principally as a means of working out the exchange of taels into dollars by double entry-one entry for you, and one for themselves.
Again it becomes necessary to explain that payment in dollars is customary - generally speaking - only in the retail trades, large amounts being calculated in taels. The clearest conception of the idea you could get would be to compare it with your custom of paying in guineas and being forced to use an "exchange rate" that varies daily.
In modern times (that is, since foreigners came to China and improved upon these antiquated methods by the introduction of double-entry bookkeeping and balance-sheets) the abacus is used to find out where the accountant's mistake occurred.
The Municipal Council has inaugurated a mosquito campaign, so that the girls can wear openwork in the approaching summer without getting punctured. Their method of extermination is to pour crude petroleum into the ditches that contain stagnant water. I understand that there is nothing a mosquito dislikes so cordially as crude petroleum. Probably those Shanghailanders who live near the ditches treated in this manner will soon be able to understand why. I got a whiff of some myself the other day, and must confess I seldom smelt a more crude smell.
Mosquitoes bite most frequently round the ankles, and it is for this reason that the youth of the town use strawberry coloured socks, bespattered with bright yellow spots, which either drive the pests away or stupefy them should they attempt to light upon the wearer's foot.
I saw a man yesterday with a pair of astigmatic pattern hose that made me feel quite giddy, and I am much bigger than a mosquito.
Before I close this letter, I must acquaint you with a really smart piece of work for which I presume our Health Officer is responsible. To whomsoever is responsible, I take off my hat, make my best bow, and with my hand on my heart say "Thank you." I refer to the discovery of plague-infected rats in the settlement, and the energetic means employed in their destruction.
The man who is responsible for their discovery certainly does not suffer from "Maskeeitis, and whatever his salary, his brains are worth more to the community than ever the community could pay, wherefore we are still in his debt.
Your affectionate son,
MY DEAR FATHER,
The longer I remain in Shanghai, the more convinced do I become that the town is a riddle difficult to solve. Those that have the answer, pay it into the Bank; and when one asks them how they manage it, they either make. a noise like the statue of Sir Harry Parkes on the Bund, or favour one with an artistic improvement on the widely adopted methods of Ananias.
The town is the more difficult to understand on account of the fact that the business Chinese are altering as rapidly as, if not more so than, the official classes. It used to be the saying here that a Chinaman's word is as good as his bond. My experience may be peculiar, but on account of that experience I have no further use for either the one or the other. I shall in future stipulate for dollars, and plenty of time in which to test them.
There still survive, however, a few of the old school of business Chinese who can be trusted absolutely. Most of these are very old fashioned. They have hardly "advanced" at all.
If the Chinese, as a whole, were reliable, what a business nation they would make! The habit of lying appears to be much more universal, deep rooted, and a tar greater obstruction to progress than that of opium-smoking.
The system adopted by the retail shopkeeper is typical of his business ideas. So far as I am able to ascertain, the owner engages a large staff, the majority of whom live, not upon wages, but upon what, as a lawyer would put it, they can pick up, scrape up, grub up, squeeze out root out, wrench out, wheedle out, threaten out, plot out, or otherwise obtain.
If one enquires the price of an article from the smallest boy in the establishment, the youth adds on so much in order to pay himself and those over him who threaten him with sudden death if he doesn't share his illlgotten gains. Go higher and enquire of the burglar who is acting as assistant manager, and the price is less, as the small brigand and the intervening bandits do not require to be considered. Enquire of the Chief Marauder and you get a quotation at about 20 per cent. above what he is prepared to accept. Haggle for the reduction of 20 per cent., and if you are successful, you obtain an article worth about half the price you gave for it.
I may state without fear of contradiction, except, of course, from those who do not know the first thing about it that shopping in Shanghai amongst the Chinese stores is almost as bad as shopping amongst the foreign ones. These latter, of course, represent the "possible," or extreme limit of the boundary between trade and body-snatching.
As an example of slimness, a case came to my knowledge last week wherein the owner of a godown let part of it, and arranged with the tenant to make a small reduction on the rent in consideration of his allowing the "To Let" sign to remain up. This was done so that the landlord could still avail himself of the reduction allowed off the rates for unlet property.
I have often wondered whether an honest. Chinaman could be obtained by feeding him from his earliest infancy upon manufactured baby food, interspersed with frequently administered violent purgatives.
Feeding bottles, however, cannot be used by the Chinese, because the mother cannot trust the baby with the bottle; and as a result the brat sucks in the elements of dishonesty with its mother's milk.
Dishonesty is the only quality possessed by the Chinese that enables foreigners to make a living here. If they were honest they could beat us out in trade in six months. Fortunately for us, the only way to eradicate the cheating instinct would be to flood the entire country to the depth of forty fathoms for six weeks.
Judging from this standpoint, it certainly does not look well for the many people here who are making big money out of Chinese business. That there is a large class "in the know" there is no doubt, as, per capita of the population, we have probably a larger percentage of inhabitants who keep motor-cars than any other city in the world, while some of your taipans are so disgustingly wealthy that they don't even have to live with their wives.
You will the more easily realize what this means when I tell you that, whereas it costs in England, as you are aware, about the same to keep a horse as a wife, here one can keep ten ponies for the same money as it is necessary to spend to keep even a small woman. Most of the men here, with limited means, naturally prefer the ponies and single wickedness.
Had I known at the time of my arrival what I have since learned, I should have applied for a job as a missionary. Christianity, judging by the results apparent here, fetches a far higher price than piece goods, or any other home export; and the sales department is subsidized by all those thousands of wealthy people in various parts of the world who suffer from either an itchy conscience or fatty degeneration of the brain.
The race able to cope with the Chinese most successfully is, undoubtedly, the Japanese, who appear to be so fitted by nature to play this intricate game of business spoof that they can hold their own and a bit of the other man's as well.
If one is observant, one can see the Japanese flag becoming more and more prevalent about our streets.
You may be interested to know that the skating-rink craze has taken hold of the town. From personal experience I can vouch that teaching a heavy woman to skate is as hard work as going four rounds with the gloves; and not half so interesting after, say, her third fall, when the novelty has worn off.
It is a noticeable fact that the first thing a woman thinks about when she falls down in a skating rink is her leg. The second thing is her other leg. The third is her hat, and the fourth and last whether she has hurt herself. The views of the men looking on are, strange to say, quite similar, except that they don't trouble about the two latter. This is not callousness; it is only because the masculine idea is that a woman can only fall upon one part of her anatomy, which part is so munificently endowed by nature to meet the shock that she cannot possibly hurt herself.
A noticeable characteristic of this complicated town is its uncompromising conservatism. The only novelty that is thoroughly appreciated is a new drink or a pretty woman.
The business men have traded for years and years in a thoroughly easy-going way, and have been successful. Now that times are harder, competition is far more keen, and the Chinese are profiting by the lessons they have learned whereby they can get the better of each other by foreign dodges as well as native, without outside assistance, I firmly believe these old crusted business men will stand by their obsolete guns till their banking accounts are in shreds.
The newcomer, seeing this, is apt to imagine that he is going to improve matters by the introduction of new ideas and more modern procedure. It will be only by the expenditure of some thousands of taels, and at least six months' work before he can satisfy himself that the only way to introduce new ideas into a Shanghai taipan is by mixing them with his drinks.
Your affectionate son,
MY DEAR FATHER,
I have just returned from the Saddle Islands, which I reached by means of the H.A.L. steamer Tsintau, a very comfortable little ship. I am unaware at what time we arrived, as I do not, as you know, get up officially until eight, and I made up my mind not to go ashore until the island was properly aired.
Coming on deck at nine o'clock, I found that we were anchored in a little deep-set bay; the morning was glorious, and the blue sea, with its darker smudges here and there caused by cloud shadows, was breaking upon the fangs of the entrance to the bay in high feathers of spray, like white ostrich plumes, and around three sides of us were the heaped-up, rugged hills.
From the top of the bill, the view is grand. Many little rocky islands are dotted about, upthrust through the sea, with their line of breakers at the base, like white lace petticoats swishing around their feet.
In returning to the little sandy inlet, where the ship's boat landed and delivered us, we had to pass through a Chinese village, which hangs on, as it were, by its eyebrows to the face of the hill. Here we found the inhabitants hard at work upon their staple industry - manufacturing smells - and apparently trade was flourishing with them. My first introduction to the village was made as I suddenly came round a corner and ran into a line of fish hanging up on a string in the sun, in front of a large smell factory. The fact that these fish were left unguarded, in a country where theft is considered an accomplishment, at first surprised me greatly, till I realized that if any one took the stuff away the owner, in the house near by, would immediately become aware of its absence on account of the change in the atmosphere.
As we had just left the summit of the hill, entering this village was like receiving a blow in the face with a pillow stuffed with pollution just as one was leaving Paradise. A little farther along we encountered the local Stock Exchange for Stinks, and were obliged to flee, so that I cannot tell you any more about the village.
After this experience I can understand why the Chinese do not use scent. There isn't any strong enough.
We had a glorious swim from the ship's gangway upon our return. No one can appreciate clean sea water and hills more than a Shanghailander at the end of the summer.
Training for the Autumn Race Meeting has started, and the first batch of griffins is here. They are a particularly nasty tempered lot, and bite, kick, buck, and scratch. At least one can buck better than an American broncho, for he sent his rider half way to heaven the other morning. The rider (or rather tried-to-rider) turned two complete somersaults before returning to earth. I do not believe any broncho-buster would have kept with that pony when he put up the performance referred to, yet it is quite on the cards that he will be as quiet as a sheep for the remainder of his life, for the China pony is like the Chinaman-directly you have made up your mind what he is going to do he alters his tactics.
It is surprising that so few of these wonderful little animals are exported, for a handier, more useful all-round mount cannot be imagined.
They carry a man weighing 150 lb. a mile in 2.06 minutes when trained, which, considering they scale on an average thirteen hands, and coat so little, may be considered remarkable, for it is only after a pony has proved his pace that his price advances - which is a matter of gambling. Their immunity from sickness and faults is remarkable.
The Chinese, with characteristic business acumen, do not send a pony stallion or mare away from the breeding districts; and the fact that they do not take them off the grass until they are at least four years old probably accounts for the absence of foot trotibles and lameness amongst them.
They are, generally speaking, as game as a bantam, and though it would be absurd to compare them with an English, or, to go still farther, an Irish hunter, if we exiles had to do without the plucky little China pony half our sport would disappear. To us he is as invaluable as a greyhound to a farmer in the Peterborough country at home; and you know what that means. Mention of the China ponies reeMis the fact that they have been worked upon polar expeditions. Yet they are successfully used here for polo at a temperature of 990 in the shade-and damp at that! They are transported from Manchuria by sea, and in some cases driven overland.
Now that there is a claimant to the discovery of the North Pole, I expect we shall find several others. We have at least one in Shanghai, who asserts that he was there years ago, but that as he has no proofs he did not claim the honour. As a matter of fact he has already earned such a reputation by his paralysing lies, that he evidently knew it would be useless his putting forward any claim.
As he pathetically remarked, it is only a truthful man who can lie with any prospect of success. Now that people can see for themselves that it is possible to discover the Pole, lie has decided to tell the truth, and own up to having been there himself.
This man is well known here, and is a member of a certain club affected by mercantile marine officers, which should be, in. itself, a sufficient guarantee of his integrity. It appears that he reached the Pole in the company of two Esquirnaux (as against the other explorers' one), and that he claims the territory so discovered in the name of the Shanghai Municipal Council. As a matter of fact, it is quite useless for America, or any other nation, to try to support a claim against our Council, for the Americans are children at diplomacy in comparison with the Chinese, and the Chinese even cannot hold their own with our City Fathers. Our man is awaiting the published statements of both explorers, for he has some information which he claims will utterly confound either of them, unless they strictly adhere to the truth. In any case he is convinced that they cannot deny his priority of right.
I feel that, whatever the truth of Dr. Cook's story, be is entitled to our regard, for his name will thunder down the ages as either the greatest explorer or the greatest liar that ever lived, and, whichever may turn otit to be the truth, he is a man of mark. Both Christopher Columbus and Ananias are prominent names in history, yet it is worthy of note that Ananias has' hit the popular fancy even more than C. Columbus, Esq.
Your affectionate son,
MY DEAR FATHER,
You will doubtless be interested to hear that we have a Chinese suffragette, a lady who bolted her learning in America. This lady is of opinion that intercourse is too free between men and women. Free! The thought of a Bond Street bonnet-shop makes me shudder even now.
Miss Kong, the lady referred to, does not tell us whether, if the suffragettes obtain equal rights with men, they will go red in the face, thump the table, and insist upon paying half of the household expenses.
She also expresses surprise that the American women don't know how to cook or to sew, quite ignoring the fact, apparently, that no young woman does.
Even admitting, for the sake of argument, that the trouble and time spent by the Chinese girl, and the pain endured by the Chinese men as a result of her culinary education, are worth the unspeakable filth which results, I quite fail to see why she should recommend our women to mess about in the kitchen and upset the cook.
Personally, I wouldn't marry the prettiest woman in the world, given the opportunity, if she insisted upon doing her own cooking. Marriage has been described as giving half one's food to get the other half cooked. This is, of course, an absurd philosophy, since no woman under forty-five can cook, and then she is fitted for no other occupation. There is neither difficulty nor expense about getting a new cook, but the same cannot be said about getting one's wife a new complexion.
Again, imagine sitting opposite to a lynx-eyed wife, with a slab of dreadnought pudding upon one's plate, and trying to conjure it bit by bit under the table to the cat without being observed!
Again, as to sewing. Imagine the dear, thrifty little wife making one's socks and ties, to say nothing of waistcoats, Cast your thoughts over the home-made ties you have seen; call to mind the waistcoats; let your shuddering imagination dwell upon thick, hairy, worsted socks with four darns in each foot, that conthually try to crawl down over your boots, and tell me why this wretched woman is trying to upset the march of civilization in foreign lands. Avaunt, woman! cook seaweed and explosive eggs, sew preposterous pants for your own mankind, but leave us in comfort.
Whilst she confines her efforts to teaching Chinese women their household duties, all is well; but methinks she could have done this without leaving the salubrious streets of her native land. Making Chinese clothing cannot require a great deal of learning. It is only necessary to stitch together a garment that will fit any of the family equally badly, and there you are! Moreover, this is a one man one coat country; the garment, being entailed, descends to the male heir.
We recently received a visit from a troupe of entertainers who have entertained us immensely, but not in the manner advertised in the bills. The show was not a success, and directly the ghost ceased to walk, the proprietor commenced to run, and left the poor munirners stranded here. Then we heard that one of the actors, who was married, had run away with one of the actresses who wasn't. Public sympathy was aroused to such an extent that a substantial amount was raised by subscription for the deserted fair one. Now it transpires that the joke is on us, for this elaborate "plant" has been worked by the same trio, I understand, on four previous occasions, the method being for them to effect a happy reunion in some more profitable locality and sort themselves out again.
In the line of entertainment, Shanghai expects a great deal for a very little money, and is very apt to complain about its lack of amusement, yet when anyone puts up the very best show the probable returns will warrant, Shanghailanders put their hands in their pockets, and -keep them there.
Perhaps the explanation of this is that Shanghai just wants to be left alone, make its money quietly, have a good time on Saturday night, and cool its. head under the electric fans in church on Sunday morning, thus building up a reputation for a quiet and regular life which is very nearly, but not quite, justified by the facts.
As I write, we have only about another ten days of the heat to endure, after which saddles, guns, and dancing shoes will have to be overhauled, as the races, paper-hunts, and dances will shortly require our attention. The close season - for birds ends during September, and that for girls with the Caledonian B-all.
As to shooting, I am afraid the day is past for good bags. Time was when the sportsman could return with his houseboat loaded down with deer and a goodly number of pheasant, snipe, quail, bamboo partridge, hares, woodcock, plover, duck, geese, wild turkey or sand-grouse, according to district shot over, but nowadays he must go far afield and be content with two or three brace of birds a day.
The natives are also more hostile to the sport as practised by foreigners than heretofore, and trouble is becoming more and more common. The cry "Lally bong" (thief) follows the sportsman everywhere.
The price of accidents has also advanced out of all reason. Should a native be inadvertently punctured by a careless or incompetent gunner, trouble spreads like a prairie fire, and the whole countryside is roused within half an hour. When one finds that this admittedly righteous indignation has for its sole object the acquisition of gain, one cannot help losing a certain amount of sympathy for the agitators, for the indignant relatives are immediately soothed to placid content by the transfer of a satisfactory number of dollars.
The end of September will also witness the return of all those employes who have taken a trip home on six months' leave. I say employe's because I do not know any employers who have been able to afford it this year, trade being so bad. These home-trippers usually depart in high glee at the prospect of getting away from Shanghai, and come back with even greater glee at the prospect of returning to it, which, you will observe, is the best possible frame of mind for each occasion. It will, I trust, be my good fortune to experience both next year. I am, in fact, already anticipating some of the delights of looking up old haunts, and, when my mind runs upon this subject, I always think of old George, the head-waiter at my favourite restaurant.
I remember his smile when I returned from Africa the second time. He bustled up with a cheery greeting, as if I had been away a week, and remarked: "Ah, sir, glad to see you back again. Let me see, two years next month, isn't it, sir? Yessir, that's it [right to a month tool, and you'll start with anchovies and capers, sir, I suppose, as usual? Yessir," and over the meal I got more news than I could have obtained from any one else I know, for old George Wows his West End, and the inside history thereof, like a book.
Your affectionate son,
MY DEAR FATHER,
The worst feature of the summer here is undoubtedly the hot, stifling nights. We have so far bad three memorable ones during which not a breath of air seemed available. If you lie down and try to sleep the perspiration runs into your mouth and chokes you. There is a story here of a man who on account of this inconvenience slept in the bath, but the poor chap forgot to pull the plug out of the waste pipe, and he was drowned in his own perspiration at 3.30 next morning.
The last hot night we had, I drank one bottle of Eno's and three of barley water. At 5.30a.m. I had to go up to St. George's for a drink.
It is unwise to keep either intoxicating liquors or mineral waters in the house during the hot weather. If one does so, during the nights when sleep is impossible, one cannot avoid becoming either "toxed" or painfully distended with carbonic acid gas.
A hot night is the very devil in Shanghai. Sleeping under an electric fan is apt to give one eatarrh of the bowels. Not sleeping under an electric fan means not sleeping at all. If one lives in a quiet district the groans of the fat ladies and the blood-curdling imprecations of the adipose men who live within a hundred yards of one are so distressing that any hopes of sleep must be finally abandoned.
In your question about the doctors you do not say whether you mean native or foreign; if foreign, I really don't know anything about them, except that they are owed more money than would enable the majority of them to go home and live without doing any one further injury for the remainder of their lives. No one can owe the grocer money, but a doctor, of course, doesn't matter, he is "so good, don't you know."
The worthy Dr. Lalcacca, whose murder you will have heard about, was an example of this kind of medico. He did more good in a quiet way than many a philanthropist, and I admire his charity more than Carnegie's, because no one heard about it, It was simply that the bill didn't come in, that's all.
The Chinese doctor, however, is a thing of pure joy, provided, of course, one doesn't have anything to do with him professionally. His prescriptions range from dried spiders to powdered deer-horns. He requires no degree, but builds tip a reputation by spreading the fame of his cures amongst imaginative people; upon somewhat similar lines to those adopted by the proprietors of our own patent medicines, but without their facilities for advertisement and wholesale deception. Each doctor has a certain number of cures that have been kept a secret, and handed down from father to son. Many women "practise" medicine, and I have known some of them who, as a result of their high reputation, can and do charge as much as 700 taels - about ?7 - for taking a case in hand.
The Chinese doctor is an adept at that branch of surgery and homeopathy which falls under the head of counter-irritation.
For pains in the leg such as accompany gout, rheumatism, &c., be thrusts needles about five inches long into the flesh (acupuncture). The effect is magical for the gouty or rheumatic pains cannot be felt for some time after the needles are withdrawn. In obstinate cases these needles are left imbedded in the flesh, cotton is tied to the protruding ends, soaked in fat and lighted. The needles thus become nearly red- hot, in which state they are accounted as more effective.
For throat troubles he rubs dirty brass coins on the skin of the neck until inflammation is set up. It is highly probable that after this treatment the patient doesn't know whether he has sore throat or not, and his skin is giving him such a devil of a time that he doesn't care. One of the native doctor's most reliable cures for derangement of the stomach (a serious corn plaint when one realizes that the Chinaman regards the stomach as the thinking apparatus) is live earthworms swallowed with honey. A "dose" of medicine frequently consists of a quart of liquid, and a pill weighing two ounces is not uncommon, whereas a "treatment" may comprise twenty-five packages of various dried vermin, entrails, claws and what not ranging from the genital organs of a cat to powdered tigers' bones. In the case of many of these concoctions a propitious day must be selected for their preparation. The idea that the virtues of an animal or even a human being are transmitted to the eater of its or his flesh still prevails. For this reason tigers' blood promotes courage, and soldiers have been known to eat the heart of a decapitated robber chief in order to absorb the fearlessness of the deceased.
The blood of executed criminals is also highly prized for its virtue as a cure for consumption, though I have been unable to assign any reason - even Chinese reason - for this
In justice to the best class of Chinese doctor, however, they have some herb medicines of such wonderful value and efficacy in bowel complaints that they are worthy of careful investigation and study by the faculty.
The Chinese make good patients. I myself have seen a Chinaman, working on a building, stop a full hod of bricks falling from a height of fifty feet with his head. He immediately plugged the nasty wound with a double handful of mortar and continued working.
He was on piece-work.
No thought of the Workmen's Compensation Act troubled him, but the Chinese foreman probably docked him a few cash for the mortar.
I once saw a Chinaman, walking across the road with his mouth agape and his thoughts far away, suddenl have his interest in his immediate surroundings aroused by an electric tram travelling at the rate of eight miles an hour bitting him in the only part of the anatomy over- worked by those who live a sedentary life. The impact sent him about twenty yards in a succession of variegated somersaults. Immediately he stopped he scrambled to his feet, glanced fearfully over his shoulder, and made off at top speed as if pursued by Satan himself. He probably thought he would be prosecuted for obstruction.
It is amongst these people that the Chinese doctor "practises."
The most interesting happening this week is the final closing of the Aihambra, which is a gilded palace of gambling, and the resort of ladies whose claim to virtue has been allowed to lapse.
This establishment is situate some way out of the International Settlement, and has been run for many years under Spanish protection. This protection was obtained by the proprietor as a subject of the Argentine Republic, the affairs of which turbulent State were in charge of the Spanish Consul of that day.
As a result of this case, one can only conclude that the Council and police are quite capable of looking after the town, for they certainly unravelled a tangled skein of legal process in this instance. We are to-day awaiting with interest the final act in a play that could never have been set in any other part of the world; for the International Settlement, from the point of view of legal procedure, possesses complications that could only be equalled by an extravagant comic opera.
The Aihambra would make an excellent Lunatic Asylum, under municipal control. The town is badly in need of one, and the old associations of the place make the suggestion peculiarly appropriate.
Your affectionate son,
MY DEAR FATHER,
Recently a go-ahead individual imported some hundreds of excellent rubber-tyred 'rick-shas, anti placed them at our disposal. More power to him. Unfortunately be didn't import any one to pull them, and as a result of employing local labour the vehicles now have soft tired coolies as well as wheels. Whenever I require a ricksha, I call one of the new ones, but they don't come because I am not an American sailor, neither do I carry the distinctive marks of the globe-trotter, and the womenfolk that honour me with their society do not wear green veils banging down their charming backs.
The 'ricksha is undoubtedly a handy means of transport, but has its disadvantages. In the old days, I understand, the local "pullman-cars" were in a most dilapidated condition.
I myself on one occasion, stepped into one of the old type and sat down somewhat heavily, whereat the entire vehicle collapsed, and I found myself standing amongst the ruins-no less than twelve separate pieces. The coolie thereupon demanded compensation, as I had taken away his means of livelihood.
As it is still illegal to kill Chinese in public I took no reprisals, but secured another 'ricksha only to make - the disconcerting discovery that the coolie favoured garlic as an article of diet.
It is a distressing experience to talk to any person who eats garlic, as its devotees usually belong to a gesticulating race, given to blowing their arguments in one's face from a distance of about four inches. Under the circumstances, however, one can resort to stratagem; for just as one feels that one is about to faint, one can call their attention to a passing object, and, whilst they look away, breathe deeply.
With a 'ricksha coolie, however, one must hang one's bead out over the side of the machine, or wait for a side street to supply a slant of wind.
If you pay a 'ricksha coolie more than his fare, he doesn't thank you, because he cannot understand that you overpaid him out of kindness-of which virtue he has had no experience and consequently has no conception. He concludes that you overpaid him because you are ignorant and a fool.
In this he is quite right.
He keeps a stock of brass twenty-cent and ten-cent pieces in order to give you change. 'Ihese he buys for a few cash apiece, there being a regular trade in bad coins, the rates of purchase varying according to the amount of real silver used in the process of manufacture.
When you have paid him with a good twenty- cent piece, he will wait till your back is turned, then run after you, and, placing his muddy paw upon the sleeve of your white coat, pull you back, and show you the obviously brassy coin he has substituted for your good one whilst your back was turned.
Of course your rage rises like a foaming torrent if you know the trick, but what can you do? If you hit him you will probably injure the poor brute for life; you mustn't kill him outright; so you mutter to yourself "Be calm," and walk away with him following you along the pavement and leaving the marks of his pre tensile organ on your clean coat whilst the bystanders look at you in scorn as one who is trying to rob a poor, innocent 'ricksha coolie.
After that you pay him his exact fare and no more, for then he knows that you are a sensible person with whom it is useless trying any tricks.
The 'ricksha coolie's favourite prey is a drunken sailor or a tourist, and the American naval seaman is his ideal; but he will run half a mile to escape a missionary, whose calling he can detect at a glance; for he knows as well as I, and far better than you do, that missionaries have no money to spare, because their furniture and summer holidays cost such a lot of money.
There is a pathetic humour for the initiated in recalling the incident of the "Chinese Slavery" cry once heard in Britain. No one could make slaves of a large number of Chinese, with their secret societies, guilds, and wonderful cleverness in seeking out and using to the fullest advantage every law and regulation of their employers that works to the advantage of labour.
If you could see the clothing of the average poor coolie, and your geometrical eye could appreciate the concave curve of his neglected, attenuated stomach, your bowels of compassion would yearn towards him, and you would never- by political agitation or any other means-place difficulties in his way when happy chance offered him employment and food in any foreign land where his services could be controlled in such a manner that white labour could find additional sources of employment as a result of his advent. The least said about morals and politics the better, for I am intensely and happily ignorant of either, but somebody for ever appears to be trying to prevent the Chinese coolie giving his matchless services to those who most require them under the excuse that he will not be properly clothed and fed. In consequence the poor devils have to stay in China practically naked and starve by the thousand yearly.
I see that the English public are shying at Chinese pork. Here, at least, is a point of resemblance between Shanghailanders and Londoners.
If you take my advice you will give pont sausage a miss in baulk also till this trade ceases, as I expect the unsold meat will be covered by a multitude of skins.
If you happen to see Sir Thomas Sutherland, the taipan of the P. & O., please tell him that we consider it would be only fair, as he has taken away our pork, for him to send us some English pork in the refrigerating chambers on the return journey. The exchange will suit us admirably, and we will cheerfully pay the extra cost. We also have some ducks and geese which we shalL be glad to exchange in the same way for some of your farm-fed stock, also some fish. Any other of our foodstuffs you may fancy from time to time, don't hesitate to ask for, and so far as Shanghai is concerned, you are welcome-upon the same terms.
There is talk of increasing the Customs duties. An increase in the Customs duties will also mean an increase in the cost of living. Indirectly nearly everything we spend in Shanghai comes from the Chinese. We earn it from them, and they steal back as much of it as they can. In some cases, of course, this process is reversed, but not often, and even when it is, we know much more law than they do, and the law, in my humble opinion, isn't such an "hass" as many people think, especially when invoked by a clever man who is determined to wriggle out of paying his just debts.
This being the case, if living requires more money, the money must come from the Chinese; otherwise it will not be worth our while to stop. We shall then be forced to retire from the field, and help some other country to develop its resources so that there will be the necessary nioney to pay us for doing the job.
If the Chinese increase the Customs duties, they will certainly apply the bulk of the proceeds to building a navy. When they have a strong navy they will want to fight. When they fight they will have to have some one to fight with, at least for as long as their navy will last, and the question then arises, with whom are they going to fight?
By the time Dr. Sun Yat Sen gets through with his modest programme, however, and the forthcoming renewal of the Russo-Japanese War is an accomplished fact it would seem that there will be no lack of employment for the man behind the gun in China.
Your affectionate son,
MY DEAR FATHER,
At the time of writing we are at the very top-notch of the thermometer. If the mercury climbs any higher, something will break, and we shall begin to burn. I have tried everything I can think of to keep cool. The bulk of my wearing apparel is discarded, and if I shed any more I shall certainly be arrested. Oh, to be a woman or a Chinaman till the end of September, and not have to worry about keeping oneself covered up!
I believe one feels the heat here more than in any other city - in the world, yet the people follow their ordinary occupations, eat roast beef and steak and kidney pudding, go to office during the heat of the day in linen collars, play tennis, get married, and conduct themselves generally as if this were London in May.
Last Thursday I met George Lassing, who was passing through to Japan. He came ashore in evening dress and a single collar, and showed him round After we had seen all that was worth seeing, and a lot that wasn't, he was a limp wreck; his collar lay down on his coat like an "Eton," and his shirt front resembled a dish-cloth. Going off to his ship in a sampan, he said:
"And you live here, eh, Denby?"
"I do," I replied.
I thought hard for two minutes, but had to confess in the end that I didn't know the answer, and I've thought since, but I haven't got it yet. I must confess that I, personally, feel that the attraction is less since the rubber boom collapsed and the Russo-Japanese War came to an end.
It is particularly rough on a man living in a place like this and having hosts of friends who look him up at short intervals whilst they are travelling round the world.
You have to show them round, and at about 3 a.m. they ask you where you propose to spend the rest of the evening. They can lie back the next morning and sleep, but you have to work all day, holding your throbbing head and trying to remember how you managed to spend the best part of a month's salary in about eight hours, and where you lost the left tail of your dress coat.
It is a mistaken idea to suppose that the East-even if the birthplace of original sin - still allows it greater freedom than the West; yet such is the idea of most male tourists, and they insist upon dragging you out to show them your local dissipations.
What desperate efforts we do make to beautify our iniquities with the rosy glow of wine! Yet we invariably come back to our early morning gallop in the fresh, sweet air, or our before breakfast swim, and thus realize that the world is a beautiful garden in which to stand with one's arms upstretched to the sun and shout for the joy of health.
But again, if we never had a wild night or a headache, and had never been bored to semi-consciousness by vacuous remarks, or stiffered in powerless sympathy with the strained, pathetic gaiety of tired women with unhealthy eyes and drawn, painted cheeks, perchance our sombre contrast would no longer throw up the really beautiful into sharp relief-and we have such short memories.
Perhaps my moodiness is partly accounted for by the fact that I am suffering from the after-effects of a Chinese dinner, or chow-chow. I have attended a big dinner at home, and felt bilious next day, but after this Chinese horror I feel that I shall notice the effects for the rest of my life. No foreign medicine can cope with the mass of garbage, both cooked and raw, that I was compelled to swallow.
My companion who induced me to attend this function is a well-known business man, and it was necessary for him to attend for business reasons. I think myself looking back upon what occurred, that he had made a lot of money out of his Chinese host, and that the Chinaman was having his revenge. Of course you will say, "Why did you not give every dish a miss in baulk?" I will explain.
The man who accompanied me impressed me with the fact that the dinner cost a lot of money, and that it was very uncomplimentary to the host not to eat. That is where they have you, and that is why I have a mouth like the waste-pipe of a kitchen sink, and see airballs every time I look at the sky.
The initial horror of the affair was encountered on the way to the restaurant. We started along Nanking Road in 'rickshas, and I had visions of going to a Chinese garden, sitting out under the stars, absorbing local colour, enjoying quaint dishes, and generally making a nodding acquaintance with some of the mysteries of the East about which I could, in afterlife, lie fearlessly to my friends at home.
The first disillusion occurred when we were half way along Nanking Road, where my 'ricksha, following my companion's, turned down a narrow, noisy, dirty little street.
"Hi!" I shouted after him, "where on earth are you going?"
"It's all right," he replied over his shoulder.
"All right!" I yelled, with my handkerchief to my nose, "you surely don't mean to try and get me to eat anything down this sewer?"
"It's better further along," he replied, and with this I was forced to be content.
Each narrow street in a Chinese district is characterized by its own smell, which is lidded in by overhanging roofs from opposite buildings and confined by huge, hanging signs slung cross-wise. Each portion of that street has its own characteristic variation on the main scheme of stink, like divisions in a Neapolitan ice.
The local inhabitants do not require or cultivate any sense of direction: they find their way about from earliest infancy by the sense of smell.
Eventually, after going about a mile through an atmosphere which reminded me of the back staircase of a half-crown Soho restaurant at dinner-time, and that would be a paradise to any one interested in the theory of germs, we stopped opposite a building having more gold paint, carving, and dirt upon it than any I bad previously seen. We entered, and my companion handed the attendant two slips of paper with Chinese characters upon them. The attendant then bowed, shook bands with himself, and showed us inside.
A Chinaman probably shakes hands with himself because he is the only person he knows that he can be thoroughly sure of.
We passed through a stone courtyard where they store the vegetables that have gone bad (nothing is ever thrown away here) and upstairs into the front room. There we found four Chinese who appeared delighted to see us, and were very polite and very, very greasy.
After eating some nuts and seeds that you have to crack with your teeth - though why, I fail to see, since there is nothing inside them - we sat down at the table.
In the centre were dishes containing shelled pigeon's eggs swimming in some stuff I cannot be sure of, but fancy must have been vaseline. Little cubes of pork surrounded by what appeared to be chickweed, and other delicacies I cannot even guess at. One dish, however, caught my eye and held it. Lying right in the middle of the table, surrounded by stewed grass-hoppers, were some eggs cut in half, with black yolks. I asked my companion why they dyed their eggs.
"Dyed?" he replied; "those aren't dyed, the colour comes with age."
"But what are they here for?" I enquired.
"The Chinese eat them."
Something turned over in my stomach, and I had to grip the chair.
"Good-night," I said, and was half way out of my seat before he could stop me; but it was useless. He begged me, for the sake of our friendship, to resume my place. I asked him whether he had considered our friendship when he invited me to this culinary practical joke, but he exetised himself upon the plea that he thought I should be interested. I told him that I might be interested if I didn't feel so damnably sick, and he advised me to try to think of something else, but I couldn't-those eggs, lying there naked and shamelessly exposed, fascinated me.
To make matters worse, just at that moment a Chinese stretched out a claw with two sticks held in the talons and gripped the most disgusting egg on the dish. I shut my eyes and counted twenty. The Chinaman on my left must have noticed something, for he explained that many foreigners wondered why they kept their eggs to a ripe old age, and yet they - the foreigners ate cheese in an advanced stage of decomposition. I explained that cheese was cheese always, but that eggs, after the copyright expired, became a public nuisance; yet he couldn't see the point somehow.
He argued that an egg, after it had died, stunk with all its might for a few months, and then resumed its odourless state from sheer exhaustion and became beautiful once again; whereas cheese gathered strength and energy to stink with a continually increasing violence as time elapsed.
What is the use of arguing with a benighted savage like that?
And again, he is quite right; so I smiled in a superior way and changed the subject, trusting to luck that he would think I had several other arguments with which to confound him, but mercifully refrained from using them out of politeness.
The next course consisted of a brown ball of something in a Httle dish, surrounded by a lot of green something else. I was about to take the brown thing, drop it on the floor and put my foot on it, when I caught the host's eyes fixed on me, so I had to put the stuff in my mouth. Then I bit it. It was pure pork fat!
When I recovered consciousness, a man was bringing round what I at first took to be about seven pounds of steaming tripe in his hands, seeing which I staggered to my feet, determined to fight my way out if necessary, but to my unspeakable relief, it turned out to be a bunch of hot, wet towels. Each man took one and wiped his face. This would be a splendid custom to introduce into Europe - for the men - and is very refreshing; but I couldn't help wondering who had been using mine before my turn came.
During the dinner they gave us Chinese wine. It is served in special metal cups, probably because it would corrode ordinary glass. The flavour is somewhat similar to that of mixed crude petroleum and petrol, but is far more potent, and tastes like one of those buzzy things the dentists use to take the tartar off your teeth.
After the others had finished eating, six sing-song girls made their appearance; for the custom here is for a diner to send for one of these entertainers after dinner to sing to him. They have their "amahs" (or duennas) with them, and one or two musicians.
They were all beautifully dressed in elaborate flowered-satin coats, and mine wore pink silk trousers trimmed with frilling, but her face was one of the most careless pieces of work I have ever seen. I felt convinced that had I dug my finger into her cheek the impress would remain as in dough, and longed to make the experiment.
All had small feet, the result of tightly binding them in linen from babyhood, which had the effect of making them walk like automatic dolls; for their feet are mere stumps, without muscular play.
Seeing a small-footed woman walk always gives me that creepy feeling of the skin which one associates with shrimps crawling up one's spine, for I cannot disabuse my mind of the impression that every step causes her pain; though, of course, such is not the case.
I turned to the moon-faced maiden who had taken up her position on a stool behind my chair, and was about to ask her whether she had been to any dances lately, or engage her in some equally inane conversation such as is expected of one on these occasions, when she looked me squarely in the eye, made a horrible face, and let out a yell that detached a piece of plaster from the ceiling, which fell to the floor with a crash.
Jumping from my seat, I yelled to my friend to get some brandy.
"What do you want brandy for?" he screamed.
"Look!" I shouted, pointing to the girl, "she's got some female complaint, and got it badly."
"Don't be an ass," he roared, "she's singing"; and glancing around at my fellow-guests, I was astonished to observe that they listened to her hysterical screams unmoved - nay, if anything, they appeared to enjoy them.
That was my first experience of Chinese vocal music. It is worse than a gramophone.
The Chinese each held the left hand of one of these apparitions and smiled a beatific smile.
At irregular intervals, and without the slightest warning, one of them would let out a screech like a girl who has found a beetle in her bed. I held the bejewelled fore-limb of the lady who had overstrained her pharynx under the misapprehension that she was entertaining me, and wondered, not without some trepidation, what was going to happen next; but I couldn't smile, because I was uncertain whether I was going to be ill again.
However, even a Chinese dinner comes to an end, and I eventually returned home and wrote a letter to the man who had invited me, telling him I should hold him responsible if anything serious happened to me, and asking him to be kind enough to keep out of my way for a week.
How I envy you your week ends up the river, with a lobster salad, a bottle of bubbly, and a fruit salad off the ice!
Your affectionate son,
MY DEAR FATHER,
Your question as to the management of the affairs of this town is easily answered. There are no politics here except those of an international character, which probably accounts for the excellent way the ratepayers' interests are looked after in the town itself.
The Municipal Council is composed of men who appear to be intimately acquainted with every wickedness of which the human mind is capable; for they guard against lawlessness with an ingenuity only possible to those of ripe experience.
Of course, this only shows what keen observers they are; no one would suggest that they have been wicked themselves.
For the services they render the town, they do not, I understand, receive payment - though one of their number has recently been awarded four months' imprisonment - neither are they knighted, but on the other band they are slanged sufficiently to satisfy even the most ambitious politician.
The opinion of the ratepayers is obtained at the annual ratepayers' meeting from those who are not there. This opinion, thus obtained, is acted upon for the rest of the year by the Council so far as they consider advisable, if it meets with the approval of the Consular Body.
The Consular Body is a mysterious power that dwells in Shanghai, and everything we do here has to meet with its approval. It is called the Consular Body because Consuls do not need any minds. Consuls who have minds almost invariably get into trouble with their Foreign Office. Foreign Offices of any nationality, as you are aware, deal only with tabulated forms and precedent, and strongly object to being worried; so the home officials employ bodies for work abroad to fill in the forms that have been in use for centuries.
Ratepayers who pay less than 50 taels per annum are not allowed to vote, but men who bought land which has advanced in value by reason of other people's work are entitled to several votes, in order to enable them to keep the people who did the work in their proper place, and teach them to regard property and money with that respect and veneration which is its due-when it is in. the possession of those who frame the laws.
When you have made sufficient money here out of the men who are unable to pay more than 50 taels per annum in rates because you have taken most of their ready cash, you can go home and leave your power to vote with a good old crusted taipan, instructing him to plump against every alteration which may imperil your interests.
Thus the government of the settlement has passed into the bands of a few men who represent the "best business interests," that is to say, a few of the old-established hongs or firms whose innate modesty and retiring disposition have both been sacrificed to public duty. When you consider the matter you will admit their claim, viz., that the best business interests are invariably one's own interests.
This system has evolved our form of government by the people for the PEOPLE.
I must confess that plural voting seems to me a singular way of obtaining the opinion of the majority.
Then there is the Watch Committee. The members of this body go about at night disguised as ordinary people, listen behind doors, and look through keyholes.
The police force is composed principally of Indians, who also supply a great deal of the crime. They are of two castes, viz., Malwais and Manjhas. The force is further recruited from English, Scotch, Irish, and Chinese.
Last Sunday I took a trip up river in a motorboat with some ladies, and I have stunk of gasoline ever since. It got in my boots, down my neck, and into my hair. I met one of the ladies yesterday in Nanking Road, and she said: "Ah, Mr. Denhy, I didn't recognize you in that sun-hat, but knew it was you directly, by the smell; how are you? Phew!"
We went up to a place they call Minghong, but as the staple industry there seems to be the manufacture of smells from fish; we didn't stay long, for we had our own stench with us and couldn't stand any more.
We therefore turned down river a bit and stopped at another and smaller village, where the people make another kind of smell which isn't quite so bad. Here we saw spotted babies with indecorous noses, who wore dirt hstead of clothes because they couldn't afford the latter, and screamed "Foreign devil!" at us. One feels that being a foreign devil has its compensations.
If China has the oldest civilization in the world, it is either suffering from senile decay or is in its second childhood. It certainly has never been washed.
When I compared the dainty frills and laces worn by our ladies with the filthy rags and mutilated feet of these poor women, I marvelled at the attitude taken up by the latter. The villagers stared at us for a few moments, and then resumed their occupations, but there was a look about them as much as to say: "You may be better dressed than we are in a kind of way, but after all we are the people that count, and we do not wish to concern ourselves with you."
After a glance at the women in this village, one can only assume that the habit of binding their feet has been forced upon them in order to allow the men to escape when run after by such horrible apparitions.
The Chinese have an extraordinary way of keeping their dead in remembrance, Instead of erecting a stone with a lot of sniffy poetry upon it they put the corpse in a coffin, which they lay out in the sun near the house. After two or three years the dear departed commences to get thoroughly ripe, and his memory clings round the place and comes stealing in through every crack and crevice in the walls, unless there happens to be a strong wind the other way.
This is surely the most effective method to adopt in order to ensure a deep and lasting regret for one's death being felt by one's surviving relatives and the surrounding Inhabitants generally.
It cannot cost these villagers much to live, but, however little that is, the money is worth far more than the life. I presume that one of these people could live for six months on the price of a bottle of good champagne. If I were given my choice, I would choose the champagne.
Notwithstanding the disadvantages under which their lives are spent however, our civilization doesntt appear to better them, despite the fact that we do all we can to improve their lot. We sell them millions of cheap cigarettes which smell like a wet dog that has crawled under the stove; they take over most of our Australian horses that have got spavins or string halt, and our provisions that were stored too close to the ship's boilers.
We send them missionaries who would do far more good at home, we sell them rifles in order that they may kill themselves like civilized beings, and build them war ships so that we may have something to sink if we go to war with them, The Municipal Council takes numbers of them in hand, and teaches them useful trades, such as making coconu-fibre matting, road-mending, stone-breaking, &c., and is so considerate as to chain them together in case they might get lost.
We allow them to come into the settlement and trade, spit on the floor of our offices, and give us both aural and ocular demonstrations as to the ridiculous way we waste our money in the purchase of handkerchiefs. We lend them money upon land at the absurdly low rate of 12 per cent., taking upon our own shoulders all the risk of that land being stolen during the night.
We allow them the privilege of mixing socially with our Indian police, and, in short, do all that we can to show them that our aims are not selfish, and yet these ingrates call us "foreign devils."
But maskee! we will continue the good work in the hope that some day we may be able to save enough to go home and live quietly on two or three thousand a year, with the knowledge that we have done our best to introduce the blessed gift of civilization into China, and in the hope that its acquisition will be as profitable to them as its disbursement was to us.
Your affectionate son,
MY DEAR FATHER,
At the time of writing, Shanghai is dull, d--- dull.
Everybody is trying to quench an incredible thirst with a ridiculously inadequate quantity of liquid. The women go down town at 4 p.m., lap up enough ice-cream to give a healthy savage the colic, then come home to dinner, and fix the man who has put in an hour at the Club with a frozen stare conveying icy dis-approbation, not to say glacial contempt.
It is so infernally hot, however, that one feels this doesn't matter, even if the women are pretty, Nothing matters. Love may laugh at lock-smiths, but he couldn't raise a grin at 990 in the shade, even if we take into consideration his scanty costume. Romeo would never dream of climbing up the balcony even, to say nothing of clasping Juliet in his arms, with the perspiration dripping off his nose, even if Juliet made no objection.
I am continually wondering how it is that the women look so cool during the hot weather. In a crowded tram, one sees several men mopping their faces, but never a woman mopping hers. Of course there are some who dare not do so, but women are not all at this disadvantage, and they certainly cannot be always full of ice-cream.
The openwork season is now in full swing in Shanghai. One is told that the women Undress in openwork in order to keep cool; anyhow, there is no doubt that the men have to look the other way in order to do likewise. Shanghai openwork is the openest there is.
One woman who uses the Bubbling Well cars every day dresses in a halo, a devout demeanour, and nine pieces of knotted thread. whenever that woman enters a car in which I happen to be, I fidget. I simply cannot help doing so. I try my best to keep my eyes on the advertisements on the roof, but without avail. I know it is rude to take advantage of her intermittent decency, because I am convinced by the look on her face that she doesn't mean it - at least not in that way. Understand? But it is quite useless; I've got to look or burst. There is a kind of fascination about it. I feel that if any of those threads carried away I should scream, and I cannot help looking to ascertain whether they have. If women wear openwork in order to keep cool, they should have some consideration for others. It makes me perspire with fright - a kind of nameless dread. But I don't believe they do. By and by I will ask one of them.
I note that in your letter to hand you enquire about the state of trade. I must confess that I am sorry you do so, as the subject is just now a painful one. There are at present too many here to make a living out of the commerce available, and there is insufficient money to go round. This means that there are several unable to square up. Shanghai is passing through a crisis far more serious than most people imagine.
It must be borne in mind that Shanghai is not a place where a foreigner can live cheaply. Of course there are foreigners and foreigners. Again there are semi-foreigners, and to go still further there are people that can only be described as highly complicated accidents. I am dealing with the foreigner proper, who came into the world with a proof of parental good conduct in the form of a pass-in check, signed, sealed, and delivered by Mrs. Grundy in the domestic bliss department of the Registrar's office.
During bad times a Chinaman can live with comfort upon flatulence and hope, but the foreigner exists upon I 0 U's, which in this connection are a financial form of galloping consumption. Hence, hard times in Shanghai are very hard - in the end - for the foreigner.
Despite the depression, however, it is our duty to talk cheerfully about the good times coming, and smile like the Cheshire Cat in "Alice in Wonderland," even if one is in a similar position to the cat in question, who had a smile that was prejagulent, but nothing to hang it on except a tree.
There are plenty here like this cat, except for the fact that they don't smile, which is a mistake.
Many thanks for your suggestion advising me to get married. With all due respect, I must point out that I can only regard the matter in two ways. If you increase my 'allowance to enable me to support a wife, as you suggest, there will be no necessity for me to marry, for I can afford to remain a bachelor, and if you don't, I can't marry anyhow, since I positively could not live with a woman who dressed economically.
It is in my opinion quite useless for a man to "make up his mind to marry and settle down," the whole business being accidental and unavoidable, just like earthquakes, floods, typhoid, hydrophobia, and going to heaven.
"The voice that breathed o'er Eden" was, when you come to regard it in the cold grey dawn of common sense, the vice that breathed o'er Eden, and scorched nearly all the beauty out of the garden, leaving us only the salvage.
There is enough glamour and sentiment brought to bear upon the subject of matrimony by women who have only the business of marriage open to them, and those who are too old to be in a position to satisfy themselves that there is nothing in it, to lead one to imagine that the ceremony of rice and prudes is the crowning-point and reward of a sinless and soda-water youth.
I know several married pairs, also several married odd ones, and the proportion of lucky ones in my own particular circle is one in five Now all these husbands are delightful fellows - to me; and the wives - well, really, nothing I could say would convey the sense of how nice they are to every one - except perhaps their husbands. Like enough this is explained by the fact that the husband knows exactly what kind of stockings his wife has on, because he saw them laid out for tier wear.
Oh, the dreariness of living with a satisfied curiosity! Does not the average man require the goad of novelty?
It is admitted that it isn't what a girl really is that a man falls in love with, but what he thinks she is. When he finds out what she actually is, he hides his hopeless boredom in baggy trousers, doubtful collars, earthquake-padern ties, and other abominable signs of a destitute ambition.
For instance, there are only two kinds of men who wear a collar for two days, viz.: those who don't know any better and those who do. All the latter are married.
Not that I have a word to say against women, for in my humble way, as you know, from a housemaid to a duchess (provided of course that they are both clean), I am one of their most sincere admirers; but I admire them plurally only, and, like oysters, violets, and collars, prefer them fresh every day. No, sir, even if I were to meet some poor girl idiotic enough to marry me, I could never, never enter the bonds because - Well, to start with, Gladys wouldn't like it, and if I married any other woman I could never look her in the face again.
By the way, if you could induce her to come out here now-for of course she is altogether different from the others.
I ask you: Is there another girl with hair like hers, or deep-coloured eyes that change so that you think each expression is the most beautiful, till you see the next? And her figure! The foot and ankle of her! Help! Do you think it any use going round to see her and asking her to come out? If you succeed, I'll pay you all the money I owe you, and marry, and settle down, and everything.
You may say, why don't I write and ask her myself?
I did, three months ago, but have received no reply to date. The person who quotes the saying "Silence gives consent" has never in his salad days written to a popular actress asking for an appointment after the show, or heard the reply to his wife's solicitous enquiry, "Is that you, John?" given by the husband who - creeping upstairs at 3 a.m. - slips upon a piece of wet soap left on the top step by a careless housemaid.
Not that it is fair to ask Gladys to change the society of Roehampton for that of Shanghai, for, to tell you the candid truth, there is only one good point about Shanghai society, and that good point is that it is unnecessary to concern oneself with it.
Shanghai is cursed with two evils that Gladys could never tolerate, viz., mosquitoes and snobs. The mosquitoes appear during four months of the year, but the snobs are always in season. They are, like the mosquitoes, of two sexes, and, like mosquitoes, the female is the more poisonous.
One sees women here, not yet thoroughly clear of either housemaid's knee or capped elbow, driving about in carriages and cultivating a painful accent which they fondly imagine, in their triple-expansion ignorance, is a sign of "cultcha."
These are the people who complain that Shanghai is full of cliques. Were it not for the cliques, there is no doubt that Shanghai would be impossible altogether.
I was obliged to attend a snob dinner last week, and am prepared to swear that it compared very unfavourably with a visit to the dentist.
The utmost formality was observed, and the host wore blacking-leather boots with his evening dress. The only thing decently dressed was the salad, and even that appeared to have spent the night under the cook's bed, instead of being crisped up in the ice chest.
The host is a self-made man, and appears to have made a deuce of a mess of it. Nature moulded him as a bricklayer's labourer, and his attempt to remodel himself to the standard of gentility is successful merely as a burlesque.
During the hors d'oeuvres, which consisted of sardines of doubtful vintage and fresh tomatoes (which latter are, I am given to understand, grown under circumstances of the greatest in delicacy, and at which I consequently shied violently), our host, in a loud voice and with a patronizing manner, desired my opinion of his wine. The aperient to which he referred was decanted into a claret jug, but I saw the two empty bottles over against the sideboard.
Any one who imbibed more than bait a bottle would be either a hero or an idiot.
"Ever see such a colour before?" enquired our host, holding a glass of the purple purgative up to the light. "Never!" I replied with decision. "There's a wine!" asserted our host. "Where?" I enquired hopefully, looking round the room. This at $5.00 a dozen and find your own medicine!
There is a great deal of sickness here amongst new arrivals, and this fact is attributed to the water, which drains off the low-lying land into the creeks, carrying filth with it. These creeks never drain properly, as I have already explained to you in my description of the yellow line of river water at the mouth of the Whangpoo, which line never breaks up.
Seeing, then, that the water is the main cause of disease, it is characteristic of the "maskee" attitude of the inhabitants that no scheme has been tried whereby this essential could be supplied to the town from an up-country source where the quality is better. I understand there are several places within easy reach, and that we shouldn't have to go half as far for our supply as several European towns of half our size wisely consider it advisable to do.
Of course, in the good old prosperous days, when foreigners were few and could take things easily (and take a devil of a lot too), the only thing that was drunk was the foreigners.
Nowadays the foreigners cannot afford to get drunk, so they read the analysis of the Shanghai Water Company's water that is published in the Municipal Gazette, see how absolutely safe it is, drink it, and get typhoid.
Taking it all in all, however, joking and persiflage apart, Shanghai is a healthy town, populated by merry, sporting, straight-riding, hard-living men, willing to stake their last cent on a turn of fortune's wheel and smilingly light a cigarette if they lose. The women enter into the spirit of the thing, and spare no pains to make the life of an exile enjoyable - in which they succeed handsomely.
The International and French settlements are the windows through which the light of Western learning will penetrate and show up the dirt in the dark corners of China's ill-managed house, Speaking collectively, the foreigners in Shanghai, as in Hongkong and the other settlements, are as competent to set about the task of cleaning up China's Augean stable as any that could we)! be selected. If they charge a substantial fee they are fully justified in doing so, for the money is well earned, and the work sufficiently heavy to cause even a Hercules to pause and wonder whether the accomplishment of so gigantic a task falls within the scope of human effort.
The town is particularly unsuitable as a dumping-ground for men who cannot "get on" elsewhere, however, for the East makes no provision for the failures of other lands, and neither Shanghai nor Hongkong - being each busy with its own affairs - desires to be put to the trouble and expense of shipping back whence they came men for whom there is no room.
To the pioneers who risked their all in the days when one travelled to China by sailing ship - the "old China hands" - be all honour and glory, for though most of them have gone the way of all flesh, there stands a magnificent town, whose trade is reckoned in millions, to perpetuate their memory-a fitting monument indeed! Let us hope their splendid work will ever be carried on toward its destined fulfilment by men as worthy, with hearts as bold.
Good luck, long life, and happiness to Shanghai, the bright little town which has so long sheltered.
Your affectionate son,