Charles Carleton Coffin Part 9

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Greece was sighted at sunrise. With Carleton's mental picture of the great naval victory of Navarino, by which the murderous Turk was driven off the sea, rose boyhood's remembrances of the fas.h.i.+onable "Navarino bonnets," with their colossal flaring fronts, with beds of artificial flowers set between brims and cheeks, making rivalry of color amid vast ostentation of bows and ribbon. With his gla.s.s, he could discern, at one point upon the hillside, the hut of a hermit, who had discovered that man cannot live upon history alone, but that beans and potatoes are desirable. The practical hermit cultivated a garden.

Arrival at Piraeus was at 2 A. M. The party of pa.s.sengers descended the ladder into a boat, and there sat s.h.i.+vering in their shawls, where they were likely to be left to historic meditation until the custom-house opened, except for the well-known fact that silver often conquers steel. One franc, held up before the gaze of a highly important personage possessed of a sword and much atmosphere of authority, secured smiles and welcome to the sacred soil of Greece, immunity from search, and direction to a cafe where all was warm and comfortable, and from which, in due time, hotel accommodations were secured.

In the city of Pericles, they saw the play of "Antigone" in the theatre of Herod Atticus. On visiting the Parthenon, with its marvellous sculpture, which Turkish soldiers had so often used as a target, they found that the chief inhabitants of the ruin were crows.

They met the missionaries who were influential in the making of the new Grecian nation. From Athens they went to Constantinople, where Dr.

Cyrus Hamlin, in Robert College, was lighting the beacon of hope for the Christians in the Turkish empire.

Leaving Europe at that end of it on which the Turks have encamped during four centuries, and where they are still blasting and devouring, Carleton visited Africa, the old house of bondage. At Alexandria his first greeting was a cry for baks.h.i.+sh. Within half an hour after landing, most of his childhood's illusions were dispelled.

A drenching rain fell. The delta of the Nile had been turned into one vast cotton field which looked like a ma.s.s of snow. The clover was in bloom along the railway to Cairo. In this land of the donkey and of the Arabian Nights Entertainments, he received several practical lessons in the art of comparative swindling, soon learning that in roguery both Christians and the followers of the prophet are one.

In studying his Bible amid the lands which are its best commentary, Carleton concluded that the crossing of the Red Sea by the fugitive slaves from Egypt, over an "underground railway made by the order of G.o.d himself," "instead of being in the domain of the miraculous, is under natural law." At Suez, one of the half-way houses of the world, he was amused at the jollity of the Mohammedans, who had just broken their long lenten fast from tobacco and smoke, and who were very happy in their own way.

In thirty hours after leaving Alexandria, the party, now joined by Rev. E. B. Webb, had its first view of Palestine,--a sandy sh.o.r.e, low, level as a Western prairie, tufted with palms, green with olives, golden with orange orchards, and away in the distance an outline of gray mountains. Soon, in Jerusalem, he was among the donkeys, dogs, pilgrims, and muleteers. Out on the Mount of Olives and in starlit Bethlehem, by ancient Hebron, and then down to low-lying Jericho and at the Dead Sea, he was refres.h.i.+ng memory and imagination, shedding old fancies and traditions, discriminating as never before between figures of rhetoric and figures of rock and reality, while feeding his faith and cheering his spirit. Then from Jerusalem, after a twenty days' stay, the party rode northward to Shechem, the home of the Samaritan, and over the plain of Esdraelon. There Carleton's military eye revelled in the scene, and he made mind-pictures of the battles fought there during all the centuries. Then, after tarrying at Nazareth and Beyrout, we find him, April 11th, at Suez, on board a steamer for the East.

At Paris he had seen De Lesseps, amid tumultuous applause, receive from Napoleon III. a gold medal.

Now Carleton was on the steams.h.i.+p _Baroda_, moving down the Red Sea, once thought to be an arm of the Indian Ocean, but which we now know to be only a portion of "the great rift valley,"--the longest and deepest and widest trough on the earth's surface, which extends from the base of Mount Lebanon and the Sea of Galilee, through the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea, the dried up wadies, the Red Sea, and the chain of lakes and Nyanzas discovered in recent years in the heart of Africa, and extending nearly to Zanzibar. Pa.s.sing by Great Britain's garrisons, lighthouses, and coaling stations, which guard her pathway to India, Bombay was reached April 27th.

In the interior, in the distressing hot weather of India, Carleton found this the land of punkas, tatties, and odors both sweet and otherwise. He was impressed with the amount of jewelry seen, not in the bazaars, but on the persons of the women. "Through all ages India has swallowed up silver, and the absorption is as great as ever to-day." He was amused at the little men's big heads, covered with a hundred and fifty feet, or more, of turban material, which made so many of them look like exaggerated tulips. He noticed the phenomena of religion, the trees smeared with paint, the Buddhist caves, the Towers of Silence, the phallic emblems of nature-wors.h.i.+p.

Evidently he was not converted to cremation, for he wrote, "The earth is our mother, and it is sweeter to lie on her bosom amid blooming flowers or beneath bending elms and sighing pines in G.o.d's Acre." He noticed how rapidly the railways were breaking down caste. "The locomotive, like a ploughshare turning the sward of the prairies, is cutting up a faith whose roots run down deep into bygone ages.... The engine does not turn out for obstructions, such as in former days impeded the car of progress."

Though caste was stronger than the instincts of humanity, this relic of the brutishness of conquest was not allowed to have sway in railway carriages.

Carleton sums up his impressions of the religions of India in this sentence: "The world by wisdom knew not G.o.d." He found his preconceived ideas of central India all wrong. Instead of jungles, were plateaus, forest-covered mountains, groves, and bamboo. With the thermometer at 105 in the shade, the woodwork shrunk so that the drivers of the dak or ox-cart wound the spokes of the wheels with straw and kept them wet, so that Carleton noticed them "watering their carriage as well as horses." Whether it was his head that swelled or his hat which shrunk, he found the latter two sizes too small at night. In India, between June and October, little business is done.

The demand for cotton, caused by the American war, had set India farmers to growing the bolls over vast areas, but the cost of carriage to the seaboard was so great that new roads had to be built.

"Sahib Coffin" at the garrison towns was amused at both the young British officers, with their airs, and at the old veterans, who were as dignified as mastiffs. Living in the central land of the world's fairy tales, he enjoyed these legends which "give perfume to literature, science, and art." At Allahabad, in the middle of the fort, he saw a pillar forty-two feet high, erected by King Asoka, 250 B. C., bearing an inscription commanding kindness to animals. In one part of India, at the golden paG.o.da of Benares, he found the monkeys wors.h.i.+pped as G.o.ds, or at least honored as divine servants, while in the North they were pests and thieves, the enemy of the farmer.

Among other hospitalities enjoyed, was a dinner with an American, Mr.

C. L. Brown, who represented the Tudor Ice Company, of Boston, and who sold solidified water from Wenham Lake. The piece that clinked in the gla.s.s of Carleton, "sparkling and bright in its liquid light," had been harvested in 1865, three years before. He described it as a "piece of imprisoned cold, fragment of a bygone winter," which called up "bright pictures of boys and girls with their rosy cheeks and flas.h.i.+ng skates,--a breeze of old a.s.sociations." At Benares, various root ideas of Hindoo holiness were ill.u.s.trated, including the linga wors.h.i.+p and the pa.s.sion for motherhood in that strange phallic cult which, from India to j.a.pan, has survived all later forms of religion.

In Calcutta, Old India had already been forgotten in the newer and more Christian India. He visited especially the American Union Mission Home, where Miss Louise Hook and Miss Britton were training the girls of India to n.o.bler ideals and possibilities of life. After seeing the school, Carleton wrote: "Theirs is a great work. Educate the women of India, and we withdraw two hundred millions from gross idolatry. This mighty moral leverage obtained, the whole substratum of society will be raised to a higher level. The mothers of America fought the late war through to its glorious end. They sustained the army by their labor, their sympathy, their heroic devotion. The mothers of India are keeping the idols on their pedestals."

Personal accidents in India were minor and amusing, mostly. Crossing the Bay of Bengal on the _Clan Alpine_, one of England's opium steamers bound to China, a boiler blew up. The "priming" of the iron, the life of the metal, having been burned out in pa.s.sing from fresh to salt water, was the cause of the trouble. Nineteen persons, eighteen natives and a Scotsman, were killed or badly scalded. Carleton rushed out from his stateroom, amid clouds of steam that made his path nearly invisible, and was happy in finding his wife safe on deck at the stern. At sunset the Christian was given the rites of burial. The dead Hindoos, not being used to religious attentions paid to corpses, were heaved into the sea, and the voyage continued. This was not the first or the last time that Carleton experienced the sensation of being blown up while on a steamboat.



At Penang, in the Spice Islands, the verge of the Flowery Kingdom seemed to have been reached. "We might say that that land had bloomed over its own borders, and its blossoms had fallen here.... Nearly the entire population of this island, 125,000 in all, are Chinese." At Singapore, the town of lions, he met an American hunter named Carroll, who lived with the natives and had won fame as a dead shot.

Fortunately for humanity, that contests with the aboriginal beasts a possession of this part of the earth, the leonine fathers frequently devour their cubs, else the earth would be overrun with the lions.

Seventeen days on the _Clan Alpine_ pa.s.sed by, and then, on the 10th of June, the captain pointed out the "' Ears," two black specks on the distant horizon, which gave them their first glimpse of China.

On afternoon, Mrs. Coffin had the pleasure of being told, by the healthy-looking captain of the sampan or boat by which they were to get ash.o.r.e, that she was "a red-faced foreign devil." This was a Chinese woman, of thirty-five or forty, who commanded the craft. The next day, Sunday, they went to church in sedan-chairs, and sat under the punkas or swinging-fans, which cooled the air. On Monday, while going around with, or calling upon, the missionaries Preston, Kerr, and Parker, the Americans who had a sense of the value of minutes found that the "Chinese are an old people. Their empire is finished, their civilization complete, and time is a drug." The walls of the great Roman Catholic Cathedral, costing over four million dollars, were then but half-way up.

Being a true Christian, without cant or guile, Carleton, as a matter of course, was a warm friend of the missionaries, and always sought them out to visit and cheer them. He rarely became their guest, or accepted hospitality under the roofs either of American consuls or missionaries, lest critics might say his views were colored by the of others. He would have his own mind and opinions judicial.

Nevertheless, he knew that those who knew the language of the people were good guides and helpers to intelligent impressions. In Shanghai he met Messrs. Yates, Wilson, and Thomson, and, in the Sailors'

Chapel, Rev. E. W. Syle, afterwards president of the Asiatic Society of j.a.pan. Carleton noticed that when the collection was taken up among the tars present, the plate, when returned, showed several silver dollars. The travellers went up the Yangtse in a New York built Hudson River steamer, commanded by a Yankee captain from Cape Ann. At Wuchang he called on Bishop Williams, whom he had met in London at the Pan-Anglican council, and who afterwards made so n.o.ble record of work in the Mikado's empire.

So far from being appalled at what he saw of the Chinese and their civilization, Carleton noted many things to admire,--their democratic spirit, their compet.i.tive civil service examinations, and their reverence for age and parental authority. At the dinners occasionally eaten in a Chinese restaurant, he asked no questions as to whether the animal that furnished the meat barked, mewed, bellowed, or whinnied, but took the mess in all good conscience.

From the middle of the Sunrise Kingdom, the pa.s.sage was made on the American Pacific mail-steamer _Costa Rica_, through a great storm. In those days before lighthouses, the harbor of Nagasaki was reached through a narrow inlet, which captains of s.h.i.+ps were sometimes puzzled to find. They steamed under and within easy range of the fifty or more bronze cannon, mounted on platforms under sheds along the cliffs.

Except at s.h.i.+monoseki, in 1863 and 1864, when floating and fast fortresses, steamers and land-batteries exchanged their shots, to the worsting of the Chos.h.i.+u clansmen, the military powers of the j.a.panese had not yet been tested. Accepting the local traditions about the Papists' Hill, or Papenberg, from which, in 1637, the insurgent Christians are said to have been hurled into the sea, Carleton wrote, "The gray cliff, wearing its emerald crown, is an everlasting memorial to the martyr dead."

It was in this harbor that the American commander, James Glynn, in 1849, in the little fourteen-gun brig _Preble_, gave the imperious and cruel j.a.panese of Tyc.o.o.n times a taste of the lesson they were to learn from McDougall and Pearson. Soon they reached Des.h.i.+ma, the little island which, in j.a.pan's modern history, might well be called its leaven; for here, for over two centuries, the Dutch dispensed those ideas, as well as their books and merchandise, which helped to make the j.a.pan of our day. Carleton's impressions of the j.a.panese were that they had a more manly physique, and were less mildly tempered, but that they were lower in morals, than the Chinese. The women were especially eager to know the mysteries of crinoline, and anxiously inspected the dress of their foreign sisters.

j.a.pan, in 1868, was in the throes of civil war. The lamp of history at that time was set in a dark lantern, and very few of the foreigners, diplomatic, missionary, or mercantile, then in the islands, had any clear idea of what was going on, or why things were moving as they were. It may be safely said that only a handful of students, who had made themselves familiar with the ancient native records, and with that remarkable body of native literature produced in the first half of this century, could see clearly through the maze, and explain the origin and meaning of the movement of the great, southern clans and daimios against the Tyc.o.o.n. It was in reality the a.s.sertion of the Mikado's imperial and historic claims to complete supremacy against the Shogun's or lieutenant's long usurpation. It was an expression of nationality against sections. The civil war meant "unite or die."

Carleton naturally shared in the general wrong impressions and darkness that prevailed, and neither his letters nor his writing give much light upon the political problem, though his descriptions of the scenery and of the people and their ways make pleasing reading. In reality, even as the first gun against Sumter and the resulting civil war were the results of the clash of antagonistic principles which had been working for centuries, so the uprising and war in j.a.pan in 1868-70, which resulted in national unity, one government, one ruler, one flag, the overthrow of feudalism, the abolition of ancient abuses, and the making of new j.a.pan, resulted from agencies set in motion over a century before. Foreign intercourse and the presence of aliens on the soil gave the occasion, but not the cause, of the nation's re-birth.

The new government already in power at Kioto, under pressure of bigoted s.h.i.+ntoists, revamped the ancient cult of s.h.i.+nto, making it a political engine. Persecution of the native Christians, who had lived, with their faith uneradicated, on the old soil crimsoned by the blood of their martyr ancestors, had already begun. Carleton found on the steamer going North to Nagasaki one of the French missionaries in j.a.pan, who informed him that at least twenty thousand native Christians were in communication with their spiritual advisers. At sea they met the j.a.panese steamer named after Sir Harry Parkes, the able and energetic British minister, who was one of the first to understand the situation and to recognize the Mikado. This steamer had left Nagasaki three weeks previously, with four hundred native Christians.

These had been tied, bundled, and numbered like so many sticks of firewood, and carried northward to the mountain-crater prisons of Kaga.

Many of these prisoners I afterwards saw. When in Boston I used to talk with Mr. Coffin about j.a.panese history and politics, and of the honored Guido F. Verbeck, one of the finest of scholars, n.o.blest of missionaries, and best friends of j.a.pan. No one was more amused than Carleton over that mistake, in his letter and book, from hearsay, about "Mr. Verbeck, a Dutchman who is trading there" (Nagasaki).

They pa.s.sed safely through the straits of s.h.i.+monoseki, admiring the caves, the surf, the mult.i.tudes of sea-fowl, the silver streams falling down from the heights of Kokura, on the opposite side of Chos.h.i.+u, and from mountains four thousand feet high, and made beautiful with terraces and shrubbery. Through the narrow strait where the water ran like a mill-race, the steamer ploughed her way. They pa.s.sed heights not then, as a few years before, dotted numerously with the black muzzles of protruding cannon, nor fortified as they are now with steel domes, heavy masonry, and modern artillery. Here in this strait, in 1863, the gallant David McDougall, in the U. S. corvette _Wyoming_, performed what was perhaps the most gallant act ever wrought by a single commander in a single s.h.i.+p, in the annals of our navy. Here, in 1864, the United States, in alliance with three European Powers, went to war with one Parrott gun under Lieutenant Pierson on the _Ta-Kiang_.

Like nearly all other first gazers upon the splendid panorama of the Inland Sea, Carleton was enthralled with the ever changing beauty, while interested in the busy marine life. At one time he counted five hundred white wings of the Old j.a.pan's bird of commerce, the junk. At the new city of Hiogo, with the pretty little settlement of Kobe yet in embryo, they spent a happy day, having Dr. W. A. P. Martin to read for them the inscriptions in the Chinese characters on the s.h.i.+nto temple stones and tablets.

The s.h.i.+p then moved northward, through that wonder river in the ocean, the Kuro-s.h.i.+wo, or Black Current, the Gulf Stream of the Pacific, first discovered and described by the American captain, Silas Bent.

The great landmarks were clearly visible,--Idzu, with its mountains and port of s.h.i.+moda, where Townsend Harris had won the diplomatic victory which opened j.a.pan to foreign residence and commerce; white-hooded Fuji San, looking as chaste and pure as a nun, with her first dress of summer snow; Vries Island, with its column of gray smoke. Further to the east were the Bonin Islands, first visited by Captain Reuben Coffin, of Nantucket, in the s.h.i.+p _Transit_, in 1824.

When past Saratoga Spit, Webster Isle, and Mississippi Bay, the party stepped ash.o.r.e at Yokohama, where on the hill was a British regiment in camp. The redcoats had been ordered from India during the dangers consequent upon civil strife, and belonged to the historic Tenth Regiment, which Carleton's grandfather and his fellow patriots had met on Bunker Hill.

It was a keen disappointment to Carleton not to be able to see Tokio, then forbidden to the tourist, because of war's commotion. A heavy battle had been fought July 4, 1868, at Uyeno, of old the place of temples, and now of parks and exhibitions, in the northern part of the city. The Mikado's forces then moved on the strongholds of the rebels at Aidzu, but foreigners knew very little of what was then going on.

After a visit to the mediaeval capital of the Shoguns, at Kamakura, he took the steamer southward to Nagasaki, and again set his face eastward. He was again a traveller to the Orient, that is, to America.

On the homeward steamer, the _Colorado_, were forty-one first-cla.s.s pa.s.sengers, of whom sixteen were going to Europe, taking this new, as it was the nearest and cheapest, way home. Below deck were one thousand Chinese. Before the steamer got out of the harbor it stopped, at the request of Admiral Rowan, and four unhappy deserters were taken off.

The Pacific Ocean was crossed in calm. It seemed but a very few days of pleasant sailing on the great peaceful ocean,--with the days'

gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, which hollowed out of the sky caverns upon caverns of light full of color more wonderful than Ali Baba's treasure-chamber, and nights spiritually lovely with the silvery light of moon and stars. On August 15th, 1868, they pa.s.sed through the Golden Gate, and "Aladdin's palace of the West," the cosmopolitan city of San Francisco, was before their eyes.

Not more wonderful than the things ephemeral and the strange changes going on in the city, wherein were very few old men, but only the young and strong of many nations, were the stabilities of life.

Carleton found time to examine and write about education, the libraries, churches, asylums, charities, and the beginnings of literature, science, and art. In one of the schools he found them debating "whether Congress was right in ordering Major Andre to be executed." Lest some might think Carleton lacking in love to "Our Old Home," we quote, "It is neither politic, wise, nor honest to instill into the youthful mind animosity towards England or any other nation, especially for acts committed nearly a century ago."

In his youth he had played the battles of Bunker Hill and Bennington, in which his living ancestors had fought, and of which they had told him,--using the roadside weeds as British soldiers, and sticks, stones, and a cornstalk knife for weapons. In after-life, he often expressed the emphatic opinion that our school histories were viciously planned and written, preserving a spirit that boded no good for the future of our country and the world. In the nineties, he was asked by the Harpers to write a history of the United States for young people. This he hoped to do, correcting prejudices, and emphasizing the moral union between the two nations using English speech; but all too soon the night came when he could not do the work proposed.

Remaining in California over two months, Carleton started eastward in the late autumn over the Central Pacific railway, writing from Salt Lake City what he saw and knew about Mormonism and the polygamy and concubinage there shamefully prevalent. From the town of Argenti, leaving the iron rails, they enjoyed and suffered seven days and nights of staging until smooth iron was entered upon once more. They pa.s.sed several specimens of what Carleton called "pandemonium on wheels,"--those temporary settlements swarming with gamblers and the worst sort of human beings, male and female. They abode some time in the city of Latter Day Saints. They saw Chicago. "Home Again" was sung before Christmas day. Once more he breathed the salt air of Boston.

Carleton wrote a series of letters on "The Science of Travel," showing where, when, and for how much, one could enjoy himself in the various countries and climates in going around the world.

Carleton summed up his impressions after completing the circuit of the globe in declaring that three aggressive nations, England, Russia, and the United States, were the chief makers of modern history,--America being the greatest teacher of them all, and "our flag the symbol of the world's best hope."



Charles Carleton Coffin Part 9

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Charles Carleton Coffin Part 9 summary

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