|From Sail to Steam
Naval Recollections, 1878-1905
236 FROM SAIL TO STEAM
JAPAN – COREA - HOME ACROSS AMERICA
IN October, 1898, I was ordered to Hongkong in the Grafton, and directed to hoist my flag in the Barfleur, which was paid off there, and a new crew and officers sent out from England for the new commission. On this occasion I was allowed to select my own Flag Captain, and I was lucky enough to obtain the appointment of the present Sir Stanley Colville, whom I asked to select his own Commander, and his choice was the present Sir David Beatty, who joined us a little later on. I could not have had two better men.
While we were shaking down in the Barfleur at Hongkong, the Fashoda scare occurred. Very warlike telegrams. The funds went down, and for several days it looked as if war with France was highly probable. Admiral Seymour and nearly all the ships were up in the north. The French squadron was probably at Saigon, and it seemed as if I was really going to have a chance at last; but once more it all went off in smoke.
I took the opportunity of the scare to go round the fortifications of Hongkong, to see if the place would be able to take care of itself, in case I went south in the Barfleur to look for the Frenchmen, and should happen to miss them. I found the Brennan torpedo in full working order; a very pretty toy, quite up to date, but, as I have already alluded to this weapon in a former chapter, I need not repeat myself. Further
than the Brennan torpedo, the fortifications of Hongkong in 1898 could not be considered up to date. In fact, " obsolete " would be a more correct expression, as most of the guns were muzzle-loaders. There were a few breech-loading six-inch guns, but these were on very old-fashioned mountings, and there was no quick-firing gun bigger than a six-pounder. The scare blew over, and Hongkong went to sleep again.
Shortly after this we went to the north in the Barfleur, and I saw a good deal more of Japan and Corea than I had done before. Corea was the great bone of contention between the Japs and the Russians; and no wonder, for it lay between Vladivostock and Port Arthur, and if the Japs could establish themselves in one of the fine harbours in the south of the peninsula, they would be able to sever all sea-communication between the two Russian fortresses. On the other hand, if the Russians could get control of one of these harbours- Misanpho, for instance - they would practically command the Straits of Tsushima, and be a deadly menace to the Island Empire. Corea herself did not count. Such government as there was in the capital (Seoul) was corrupt, rotten, and tottering - ready to fall an easy prey to intrigue or bluff, or to the dollars of the highest bidder.
Seoul, when I visited it, was a hot-bed of intrigue, tempered with an occasional murder. Our present Ambassador at Pekin - Sir John Jordan - was at that time Consul-General and Charge d'Affaires at the Corean Court; where the imbecile King - or " Emperor," as he ostentatiously called himself - was more of a prisoner than a King.
The seaport of Seoul is Chemulpo, about twenty-five. miles from the capital, and there is a railway part of the way; but it was so uncertain when the trains would
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start, and still more uncertain when they would arrive, that when Mr. Jordan and Bishop Corfe, of the Corean Anglican Mission, came to stay with me on board the Barfleur, they preferred to walk the twenty-five miles rather than trust to the trains. They were caught in one of the sudden blizzards - of which we had several unpleasant experiences - and when they arrived on board the Barfleur the Bishop's venerable white beard was frozen stiff, and I had to hold his head in front of the stove for some time, to thaw him. Bishop Corfe had served for many years as a naval chaplain, and had well earned the comfortable billet of Chaplain at Portsmouth Dockyard, which he held when the call came for a volunteer to take charge of a projected mission to convert the Corean heathens to Christianity. Out stepped Corfe, and, though getting on in years, but young in spirit, he resigned his post and his well-earned rest, packed up his traps (not many), organized the mission, got himself rated a Bishop, and, with true missionary zeal and self-sacrifice, banished himself to that most unpromising and inhospitable land, where I found him hard at work, and where he continued to work for many years with the most admirable pluck and energy, and utter disregard of all personal comfort. Of course, missionaries don't look, for comfort; but there are degrees of discomfort, and, as I afterwards paid Bishop Corfe a visit at his mission home, I had a fair opportunity of apprizing the amount of comfort he allowed himself, and I came to the conclusion that his frugality was about " the limit," to use a modern expression. His brother-Bishop in North China could at any rate get a wheelbarrow to travel in, but Corfe could not even get that.
Mr. Jordan informed me that the Emperor of Corea
had expressed a wish that I should be presented to him, adding that it was desirable I should be attended by a brilliant staff, in order to make an impression upon His Majesty, who was rather fond of show. I thought that my Flag-Captain, Flag-Lieutenant, and Secretary, constituted a particularly brilliant staff, especially in full dress; but, in order to make our visit still more brilliant and impressive, I invited six more officers - including the Major of Marines - to come up and be presented. They were nothing loth to see what the Corean Court was like, even at the trouble of putting on their full-dress uniforms. So up to Seoul we all went, and were presented to His Imperial Majesty, who stood behind a small square table, with a rusty red cloth upon it, and his hands spread out, as if he wanted to play a game of cards or show us some conjuring trick. His surroundings were equally curious, and on several occasions during the audience it was with the greatest difficulty that we could keep our countenances and avoid laughing right out. His Majesty seemed to be particularly interested as to the health of our gracious Sovereign, Queen Victoria, and questioned me minutely on the subject. He appeared to think that I was in the habit of dining or lunching with Her Majesty at least once a week, and was greatly surprise? to hear that I had never had that honour. Everything, of course, had to pass through an interpreter, and as that gentleman was not quite a master of the English language, and took some time to arrange his thoughts, we got on very slowly, and the audience must have lasted at least half an hour. The red tunic of Major Luke, R.M.L.I., seemed to fascinate the Emperor, who left his table and came round and poked the red tunic with his forefinger, apparently to see what it was made
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of. He fingered the Major's medals and asked him some curious questions, which would have floored anybody but a Marine. Yet through this trying ordeal the Major never turned a hair. Not a smile could be seen on his lips, not even a twitch of the facial muscles (which was more than could be said of the rest of the brilliant staff). The Major was adamant, and set us all a striking example of self-control. He was as cool and collected as he is reported to have been when, next year, he gallantly led a storming-party of the Barfleur's Joeys at the capture of the Tien-tsin forts. Alas! he will visit no more earthly Kings, for the " Last Post " has been sounded for the gallant sea-soldier.
I have in my possession a delightful caricature of the Emperor of Corea, by my friend Captain Smith-Dorrien, R.N. It appeared in Vanity Fair, and is really very like him, attitude and all. In the evening there was a banquet for us at the palace. The Emperor did not appear himself, but he sent some of his high officers of State to entertain us, and we were given an excellent French dinner, with very good wine.
Seoul in 1899 was not an imposing city. Most of the houses were one-storied hovels, and the inhabitants looked like degenerate Chinese. But when we remembered that only twenty years before our visit foreigners were not allowed inside its walls, and the " hermit kingdom " was closed to all Europeans, we were not a little surprised to see electric tramways, an English mission nurse riding a bicycle down the main street, and to eat a good French dinner at the King's palace.
On referring to my private journal, I find a note that " Mr. Jordan prophesies a revolution in China." It broke out next year.
From Chemulpo we went to Misanpho, to which port I have already alluded. It is at the southern end of the Corean Peninsula, and goes by various names: " Douglas Inlet " and " Sir Harry Parkes Sound "; which, together with such names as " Port Hamilton " and " Port Arthur," indicate that these coasts, islands, and harbours, were surveyed and charted by our officers for the benefit of the whole world as well as for ourselves.
Misanpho - to give it its native name - has the makings of an ideal fortified naval base. There are, in fact, three harbours, one inside the other, the outer one being a spacious roadstead, well sheltered by islands, and quite comparable to Spithead. A little farther up the great inlet there is a large and perfectly landlocked harbour, with a depth of about seven fathoms all over it - an ideal anchorage for ships of all classes. Then inside this, again, there is a still larger shallow harbour, with three and four fathoms in it, which would hold light cruisers, destroyers, and small craft. The rise and fall of tide is small, and no doubt our friends the Japs will now make what use they think proper of a port endowed by Nature with such vast and promising possibilities.
I paid several visits to Misanpho. The Russian and Japanese warships were also frequently coming and going, and landing surveying-parties for land survey, the nautical surveying having been completed some years previously by the British. The place was at that time a sort of No-man's-land. Both Russia and Japan knew that sooner or later they would have to fight it out, and that the possession of Corea would be of the highest strategic importance. Indeed, it is not too much to say that, had Russia once been able to get sufficient troops across the Yalu River and establish
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herself firmly in the Corean Peninsula, Japan would have been done for. It was very amusing to us to watch the rival surveying-parties climbing about the hills with their theodolites, pegging out claims with their little national flags on broomsticks, and evidently looking for sites whereon to erect their batteries so as to command the entrance to this splendid harbour. But, as all the world now knows, the Japs made Fusan - a few miles to the eastward of Misanpho - their jumping-off place and the terminus of their Corean railway, no doubt for good and sufficient reasons, though the harbour is not to be compared to that of Misanpho.
Looking back now on the results of the Russo-Japanese War, not only Russia herself, but all Europe, except Germany, may rejoice that the Japanese frustrated the ambitious schemes of expansion to which Bismarck and his successors had systematically urged their " Eastern neighbour," in order to further their own selfish designs by diverting attention and military power to the Far East instead of towards the West. For had Germany been as ready to strike in 1907 - when Russia was down - as she was seven years later, " Deutschland über Alles " might now have been an accomplished fact: Europe enslaved and the British Empire shattered to fragments.
We used to get good wild-pheasant shooting at Misanpho, also wild duck, teal, and quail, but no woodcock or snipe. We had to work for the pheasants, as they were spread out over a large extent of country, the covers were thick, the hills were steep, the birds got up in all sorts of unexpected places; and if the Admiral, with the full strength of the staff - the Flag-Captain, Flag-Lieutenant and Secretary, and the coxswain and galley's crew for beaters - managed to bag
six brace of pheasants and a few quail, they thought they had had a good day. They had, at any rate, had a good day's exercise in a fine bracing climate; for it would be hard to beat the climate of southern Corea during the winter months.
I saw a good deal more of Japan in 1899 than I had ever done before, and the more I saw of it the better I liked it. It is a most fascinating country, and so are the people themselves. They are not perfect; nor have I, in all my travels, come across any people who are perfect, though the splendid patriotism, devotion to their Emperor, and quixotic (as Europeans think it) sense of personal honour, to be confirmed if necessary by deliberate suicide, are traits of character which are certainly not found in a feeble or degenerate race. They acquired a bad name for commercial integrity when first they started in international commerce, in competition with those nations which had peen trading in the Far East for many years; and I have often heard European merchants compare the Japanese most unfavourably with the Chinese. Thus: " I would trust a Chinese merchant anywhere. His word is as good as his bond. He would sell his wife and children rather than not pay his debts. But I would not trust a Japanese merchant farther than I could see him."
In feudal Japan - that is to say, up to about fifty years ago - the business of a merchant was looked upon with the greatest contempt and disdain, much as it was in England three or four hundred years ago. No self-respecting gentleman could fall so low as to engage in trade or commerce. But, on the other hand, the Chinese had been trading with Europeans for a couple of centuries, and they had no doubt been shrewd enough to discover that honesty was the best policy, which
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may partly account for their integrity. Moreover, it is highly probable that, when Japan first entered the field of international commerce, her embryo merchants did not always meet with traders of unexceptionable probity, so that they would naturally learn the dishonest tricks of the business before they learnt the honest ones - just as, when adults are trying to pick up a strange language, they generally begin with the swear-words. At any rate, I have very little doubt that the merchants of Japan will very soon conform (if they have not already done so) to the standard of commercial probity which now prevails in the Far East, whatever that standard may be, though I scarcely think any Japanese father would ever sell the smallest of his children to pay even the biggest of his commercial debts. For the Japs are passionately fond of children, and do not make away with their female babies, as the Chinese are believed to do, in order to keep down their superabundant population.
Japan has been often described as the children's paradise.
During the greater part of 1899 we were tolerably free from alarums and excursions, either Russian, French, or Chinese; and I spent a good deal of time at Yokohama, whence I went first to Tokio, and stayed for several days with Sir Ernest Satow, who was at that time British Minister at the Court of the Mikado, and from whom I received the greatest hospitality and kindness. I and my staff were presented to His Majesty, who desired the Master of his Household (Baron Senemayo) to show us round the new palace at Tokio. I had already seen the old palace at Kioto and greatly admired its quaint and picturesque arrangements and fittings; but when I was told that we were
to be shown round a quite new palace, built and furnished since Japan had been in close contact with European and American ideas of palaces and "white houses," I trembled at the thought of seeing some abortive and incongruous attempt at blending two totally different styles, such as one sees in Egypt and in some of the palaces on the Bosphorus. I was therefore agreeably surprised to find that there was not the smallest suspicion of any attempt to copy either Europe or America. Everything in the palace, though quite new, was in the purest style of Japanese art - chaste, quiet, and beautiful.
I then had a very pleasant trip up-country with Sir Ernest. First to Nikko, famous for its Shinto temples and ancient groves of stately cryptomerias; then on and up to Lake Chusenji, where my kind host had a comfortable wooden bungalow on the edge of the lake, amidst wild and beautiful scenery, and a handy little skiff, in which he and I roved double sculls all about the lake for exercise. There were trout in the lake, but I could not catch them. They did not seem to care about my Irish flies, and I could not rise them nor even tempt them with a Devon minnow. The natives caught them, though always at night, and probably with nets. We never saw them fishing in the daytime, but we had the trout for breakfast, and very good they were, though it was stupid of them not to rise to well-tied flies nor to take an attractive minnow. But there's no accounting for taste.
After another short visit to Wei-hai-wei, when I had the pleasure of entertaining Sir Claude MacDonald (Ambassador at Pekin) for a few days on board the Barfleur, our Commander-in-Chief rang up the whole China Squadron, with the exception of a few small craft and river gunboats, and took us for a cruise up
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the eastern coast of Corea; then on to the coast of Russian Tartary, across to Hakodate, and down the east coast of Japan, calling at many interesting places.
Some of the anchorages on the north-east coast of Corea bear Russian names. Port Lazereff and Korniloff Bay, for instance. It was at the former place that my reputation as a sportsman received a severe shake, in consequence of an event which was known in the squadron as " the Rear-Admiral's deer-drive." There was a peninsula, uninhabited and covered in patches with a scrubby bush. It was about three miles long and a mile and a half broad, and was connected with the mainland by a low, narrow isthmus quite clear of scrub. The peninsula was said to be swarming with deer, and I believe there were a good many on it; but they all stayed there, except one.
My idea was to land a large party of guns and beaters at the end of the peninsula, to form line abreast and drive down towards the isthmus, where I stationed six crack shots with rifles, under the command of Captain Montgomery of the Bonaventure, a sportsman and big-game shooter of renown. These were to mow the deer down by hundreds as they fled panic-stricken across the isthmus.
Everything seemed to promise well for a huge battue and venison galore for the whole squadron. Montgomery landed with his party and entrenched across the isthmus, and I landed with the main party and the beaters at the end of the peninsula. I had detachments from nearly all the ships, and mustered about thirty guns and fifty beaters, including six Marine buglers. We then formed line abreast and the drive began. For the first half-mile we kept a fairly good line, and several deer were seen and fired at and missed; but the
ground was far rougher and the bush much thicker than we bargained for. Moreover, the heat was terrific; there was a scorching sun, not a breath of wind, and not a drop of water, that we could find. The ground seemed to get rougher and rougher, the bush thicker and thicker, and the party thirstier and thirstier; until at last the mighty phalanx got thoroughly demoralized and lost all cohesion. Some sat down; some lost their way completely and wandered in every direction except the right one. We never got more than halfway down the length of the peninsula, and the six crack shots waited in vain for the herds of frightened deer that were to be driven past them. Finally most of the party gradually drifted down to the beach and made their way along the shore to the isthmus, where the boats were to meet us. But one section, consisting of a dozen or so, wandered to the off-shore of the peninsula, where they found themselves marooned, and were not rescued until 2 a.m. on the following morning, by Captain Colville in the Barfleur's picket-boat. One small deer was shot by Mr. Midshipman Dix of the Barfleur. It was a mangy-looking little creature, and covered with ticks. I got politely chaffed about the Rear-Admiral's deer-drive for the rest of the cruise.
We then went on to Korniloff Bay, a little farther to the north, where the Bonaventure ran on to an uncharted pinnacle rock. She was ashore for three days, and we had a great job getting her afloat again. During the time she was ashore the weather remained calm, but a few hours after she was afloat it came on to blow and a heavy swell rolled into the bay - a swell which would have made short work of her had she remained on the rock. It was a great piece of luck. After this we had
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various fleet exercises, including a night torpedo attack on the squadron by the picket-boats, steam-pinnaces, and our two destroyers. It took place during a violent thunder-storm, and was supposed to have been partially successful.
Having had plenty of work, the squadron then separated for play. Sir Edward Seymour, though not a fisherman himself, was well aware that many of the officers of his squadron (including the Rear-Admiral) were looking forward eagerly to some salmon-fishing in the rivers of Russian Tartary, to the eastward of Vladivostock. So the ships were dispersed along the coast and told off to various beats. This district of Russia's immense dominions is extremely wild and very sparsely populated. It also looks to be barren in the extreme, though perhaps this may not be the case, and that it is merely waiting for scientific development. At any rate, the few natives one meets along the coast do not appear to trouble the salmon, and anyone who likes can go and fish for them. But, like all the uneducated salmon of the Pacific Ocean, they will not rise to a fly. The minnow and the spoon are the only things they will look at; and I caught some with a pike spoon, as big as the bowl of a dessertspoon.
The Barfleur was told off to a river that runs into the sea at Olga Bay, about seventy miles to the eastward of Vladivostock. We only had four days' fishing, but we caught fifty-nine salmon, weighing 406 pounds, all with spoon or minnow. We also caught a good many white trout, running up to five and six pounds each; but they also would not rise to a fly.
My appointment as second in command on the China Station was only for two years, and not three, like the Commander-in-Chief; so that I was now drawing near
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the end of my tether, and shortly after the above interesting cruise I went down to Hongkong in the Barfleur to meet my relief, who turned out to be my old shipmate Jim Bruce.
At Hongkong I met once more Prince Henry of Prussia, in his flagship the Deutschland, an antiquated broadside battleship. He was making himself extremely popular, especially with the ladies. He spoke English (his mother's tongue) just like an Englishman, and his frank, sailor-like manners, and apparently sincere friendship and admiration for everything English, won all hearts; and he no doubt played his part well, and probably found out many things that it was useful he and his brother should know. In fact, he continued to play the part of royal spy and false friend up to the eleventh hour, and was in England, as the reader will remember, trying to feel John Bull's gouty pulse and diagnose his numerous constitutional ailments, up to the very last moment before his brother with the swelled head threw down the glove and made his bid for world-power or downfall. It is improbable that it will ever be known what reports Prince Henry and the other spies sent to the Kaiser during the spring and summer of 1914.
I was at Hongkong during the darkest days of the South African War, when the issues seemed to be hanging in the balance; when the British forces were repulsed before Colenso with heavy losses, including eleven guns. It was a time of national anxiety when it was not difficult to see who were one's true friends and who one's false friends and potential enemies. The period I allude to was generally known as " Black Week," and it was on this occasion that the German Club at Hongkong thought it a suitable moment to show their gratitude
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for the hospitality of this British colony, by holding a banquet for German residents, and illuminating with coloured lights the club house, to celebrate a grievous British defeat.
Hongkong is a free port, and a very busy and moneymaking port. These German merchants had been given equal opportunities of competing in trade with the British merchants who had laboriously established this most important trading-station in Southern China. There were no restrictions placed upon their commercial activities, and they had precisely the same facilities for pushing their German wares as the British merchants had for pushing their British productions, in the Chinese market; and it is scarcely necessary to say that they took full advantage of the opportunities so freely (and perhaps foolishly) granted them, and had become prosperous and rich. And even if Germany did not permit British merchants to establish themselves as rival traders at Kiao-Chow, or at any other German colony, it might at any rate have been expected that the German merchants at Hongkong would have shown some slight respect for the sacred laws of hospitality, even if their views concerning the ordinary courtesies of civil life differed somewhat from those held by other people. Thus, although some of us had for years felt doubts as to the sincerity of German friendship, it came as a shock to the whole British community at Hongkong to learn that the German Club had been illuminated on the night that the news arrived of General Buller's defeat at Colenso. To say that the act was an exhibition of bad taste and bad manners is scarcely strong enough, when we remember the relative positions of hosts and guests in a British colony. It more nearly resembled the act of a savage
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and ill-conditioned cur which snap. at the hand that feeds him.*
I left Hongkong for England, via, America, with my staff, the week after " Black Week," and we received no reliable news of the South African War until we got to Liverpool. I think it was the most unpleasant journey I ever made, for that reason, and that reason only, as otherwise we were very comfortable. We took passage in the old White Star liner Doric for San Francisco, calling at Shanghai, Yokohama, and Honolulu; but we were quarantined at Honolulu, and not allowed to land; which was a great disappointment to me, as I was looking forward with much interest to see what changes had taken place during the forty-three years since last I visited it.
The old Doric was not a flyer, and we were impatient to get to San Francisco, as we felt sure we should there get some news of the South African War. But we were disappointed. The American newspapers had nothing in them about the war, and the people we met at the hotels and restaurants did not seem to know that there was any war going on. This was rather mortifying to
* The Times of March 25th, 1916, in a leading article says-" We have to protect ourselves from ‘peaceful penetration' for all time. There is nothing whatever done by the Germans that throws more light on their character than this process. It is all their own; no people have ever practised it before. It is the art of seeking hospitality in order to betray your unsuspecting host and stab him in the back when he is not looking. No baser depth of treachery is known to mankind. And it has been practised deliberately and systematically for many years by the Germans in all countries. They have all been honeycombed by stealthy German intrigue in financial, commercial, social and political life. Its influence is still with us even now, and is being stealthily used under cover in this very matter of trade policy. The war has revealed a state of things that no one would have believed possible; and the nations that have been the victims of it have resolved to have no more of this diabolical treachery."
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our national vanity, as we thought the eyes of the whole world were fixed on South Africa. But we thought that, at any rate, when we got farther to the eastward - to Chicago and New York - we should find that the enlightened American people and their newspapers would take some interest in our war, even as England had done about the Spanish-American War. Again, however, we were disappointed. The Chicago and New York papers had scarcely anything about South Africa in their columns. There might be scrappy little paragraphs in out-of-the-way corners, as if the matter was of little interest; and, to the best of my recollection, any comments that were made were far from friendly or flattering. " British getting whipped by the Boers." True at the time, no doubt; but as we had not only befriended Uncle Sam at Manila, and had also directly prevented any of the European Powers from taking a hand in support of Spain, I, for one, expected a little more sympathy from him, when we were in trouble. But perhaps I had managed to get hold of the wrong newspapers. In such a spacious country as America there is room for an equally spacious variety of opinions.
I was disappointed with the views in the Rockies, and it was tantalizing to run into one of those wooden snow-tunnels just as you thought you were coming to a fine bit of scenery. One evening just after dinner we stopped at Omaha for a couple of hours, and I was politely requested to grant an interview to the special correspondent of the Omaha Bee. It was the only time I have ever been interviewed by an American newspaper reporter, and it was very amusing. He did seem to know that there was war going on in South Africa, but he took little interest in it, and directed most of his
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inquiries towards the state of affairs in China and Japan; and I was quite willing to give him my opinions freely - for whatever they might be worth. He was not at all troublesome or unduly inquisitive, but most courteous, polite, and humorous, and not the least like Mr. Jefferson Brick, so unkindly drawn by Dickens. My friend was kind enough to send me a copy of the Omaha Bee to New York, with an account of our interview.
We spent nearly a whole day at Chicago, and I am not the least distressed to think that I shall probably never see it again. The day itself was dark, bleak, and dismal, with occasional rain showers; but I cannot imagine that the most brilliant sunshine could make it other than the ghastly, uninteresting, mushroom city which it seemed to me to be.
Then on to Niagara Falls City, where we spent a very busy day; but I am not going to inflict upon the reader a feeble attempt to describe the Falls. He has probably read plenty of descriptions and seen plenty of photographs, and formed his own ideas as to what the Falls are really like. I had done so myself, but discovered that my ideas were all wrong. I could not, however, avoid recalling the story of the unsentimental Irishman who, when asked if he did not think it very marvellous that such an immense body of water - so many thousand tons a minute - should come tumbling down that great height, replied that he did not see anything to hinder it.
The Niagara electric power works were most interesting, and, as I was lucky enough to have a letter of introduction to one of the managers, I and my party were shown over the works and had everything explained to us. Most of the power generated is transmitted to Buffalo, through a small cable, at an enormously high
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voltage. In my ignorance I asked the manager why they went to the trouble of transforming the electricity into that immensely high and dangerous voltage, and then bringing it back again to a safe workable voltage when it got to Buffalo. " Well, sir," he said, " if we were to send it to Buffalo at a working voltage, we should want a copper cable three feet in diameter, and I don't think there is copper enough in the United States to make one." What struck me most about the power-station was its spotless cleanliness and the comparative silence of the great turbines, each generating I forget how many horse-power in the form of an electric current; but I hate statistics, and I have no doubt it will be all the same to the reader whether they each generated ten or twenty thousand horse-power. Anyhow, there was bottled lightning enough to have electrocuted all the inhabitants of Niagara Falls City.
Next day on to Albany, and while we were standing on the platform our New York train steamed into the station, with a notice-board on the front of the engine, in very large letters, informing us and everyone whom it might concern that it was " THE fastest train in the world." I was not prepared to admit the claim, as I do not believe it was as fast as some of our English trains, though I am bound to admit that it ran with exceptional smoothness. The Americans are an ambitious people. They like to have the biggest and the best of everything and quite right too. Why shouldn't they ? They cannot have the most ancient family mansions, nor the oldest and most venerable abbeys or cathedrals; but there is no reason why they should not have the newest and the biggest, if they like to build them. And if it pleases them to think that they have the fastest train and the biggest gooseberry, they
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do no harm to anyone. No international peacemaker has yet offered a prize for the fastest train, the biggest gooseberry, or the cow with the longest tail, and until such a prize is offered there is no need to argue about it.
I had not been in New York since 1862 (thirty-eight years), and I certainly had no recollection of it. Most towns are growing and changing; but there cannot be many, and those only in the New World, which grow and change as fast as New York. For an American friend tells me, while I am now writing, that if I were to revisit it after the lapse of this further sixteen years, it would seem as strange to me as it did in 1900. In fact, it is now claimed that Greater New York contains a few more inhabitants than Greater London. So all good Americans ought to be quite happy, and not bother about the cow with the longest tail.
We crossed the Atlantic in the Campania, and on landing at Liverpool we got the first reliable news of the South African War that we had been able to obtain since leaving Hongkong. It was a very trying journey, and, so far as news was concerned, we might as well have been marooned on a desolate island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. But it was pleasant to learn that John Bull had at last shaken himself awake, and was sending out Lord Roberts and sufficient reinforcements.
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