A Day Goes Overboard-A Sunday Schism-A Desert Island-Water, Water Everywhere-Men with Tails- Anecdotes of the Emperor of Korea-Korean Reforms-Cured by Brigands-The Man who Went to Florida-The Black Current-While Cliffs and Coloured Sails-Fuji Ahoy!A PECULIAR ocean, the Pacific. A large and lonely ocean with few ships and many rutty spots that need mending. Ploughing westward over its restless surface for a week, you come to the place where East meets West with a bump that dislocates the calendar. It is as though a date-pad in your hand were knocked to pieces and the days distributed about the deck. You pick them up and reassemble them, but one is missing. Poor little lost day! It became entangled with the 180th meridian and was dragged overboard never to be seen again.
With us, aboard the admirable Kashima Maru, the lost day happened to be Sunday, which caused a schism on the ship. In the smokeroom, where poker was a daily pastime, resignation was expressed, the impression being that with the lost day went the customary Sunday services. But in reaching this conclusion the smokeroom group had failed to reckon with the fact that missionaries were aboard. The missionaries held a hasty conference in the social hall, and ignoring the irreverent pranks of longitude and time, announced a service for the day that followed Saturday. Upon this a counter-conference was held around the poker table, whereat were reached the following conclusions:
That aboard ship the captain's will is, and of a right ought to be, absolute; that the captain had pronounced the day Monday; that in the eyes of this law-abiding though poker-playing group, it therefore was Monday; that the proposal to hold church services on Monday constituted an attempt upon the part of certain passengers to set their will above that of the captain; that such action was, in the opinion of the smokeroom group, subversive to the ship's discipline, if indeed it did not constitute actual mutiny on the high seas; that members of this group could not, therefore, be party to the action proposed; that, upon the contrary, they deemed it their clear duty in this crisis to stand back of the captain; and finally, that in pursuance of this duty they should and would remain in the smokeroom throughout the entire day, carrying on their regular Monday game, even though others might see fit to carry on their regular Sunday game elsewhere in the vessel.
Had this been the Atlantic crossing we should by now have landed on the other side; yet here we were, pitching upon a cold gray waste a few miles south of Behring Sea, with Yokohama a full week away.
Yet land-land of a kind-was not so distant as I had imagined. Early one morning in the middle of the voyage my steward, Sugimoto, came to my cabin and woke me up to see it. (A splendid fellow, Sugimoto; short and round of body, with flesh solid and resilient as a hard rubber ball, and a circular sweet face that Raphael might have painted for a cherub, had Raphael been Japanese.)
"Good morning, gentleman," said he. "Gentleman look porthole, he see land."
I arose and looked.
A flounce of foam a mile or two away across the water edged the skirt of a dark mountain jutting abruptly from the sea. Through a mist, like a halfraised curtain of gray gauze, I saw a wintry peak from which long tongues of snow trailed downward, marking seams and gorges. It was, in short, just such an island as is discovered in the nick of time by a shipwrecked whaler who, famished and freezing in an open boat, has drifted for days through the storm-tossed pages of a sea story. He would land in a sheltered cove and would quickly discover a spring and a cave. He would devise a skilful means of killing seals, would dress himself in their skins, and subsist upon their meat-preceded by the customary clam and fish courses. For three years he would live upon the island, believing himself alone. Then suddenly would come to him the knowledge that life in this place was no longer safe. About the entrance to his cave he would find the tracks of a predatory animal-fresh prints of French heels in the snow!
Austere though the island looked, my heart warmed at the sight of it; for there is no land so miserable that it is not to be preferred above the sea. Moreover I saw in this land a harbinger. The Empire of Japan, I knew, consisted of several large islands-to the chief one of which we were bound-and some four thousand smaller ones stretching out in a vast chain. This island, then, must be the first one of the chain. From now on we would no doubt be passing islands every little while. The remainder of the voyage would be like a trip down the St. Lawrence River.
Soothed and encouraged by this pleasant thought, and wishing always to remember this outpost of the Island Empire, I asked its name of Sugimoto.
"That Araska, gentleman," he answered.
"Are you glad to see Japan again, Sugimoto?"
"That Araska," he repeated.
"Yes. A part of Japan, isn't it?" Sugimoto shook his head.
"No, gentleman. Araska American land."
"That island belongs to the United States?"
"Yes, gentleman. That Araska." I had never heard of an island of that name. Surely Sugimoto was mistaken in thinking it an American possession.
"Could you show it to me on the map?" I asked.
From my dresser he took a folder of the steamship company and opening to a map of the Pacific, pointed to one of many little dots. " Aleutian Islands," they were marked. They dangled far, far out from the end of that peninsula which resembles a long tongue hanging from the mouth of a dog, the head of which is rudely suggested by the cartographic outlines of our northernmost territory. We had sailed directly away from our native land for a week, only to find ourselves, at the end of that time, still in sight of its outskirts. Like many another of his fellow countrymen, good Sugimoto had difficulties with his l's and r's. He had been trying to inform me that the island-the name of which proved to be Amatisnok-belonged to Alaska.
I began to study the map and look up statistics concerning the Pacific Ocean. It was a great mistake. It, is not pleasant to discover that three quarters of the world is worse than wasted, being entirely given over to salt water. Nor is it pleasant to discover, when far out on the Pacific, that more than a third of the surface of the earth is taken up by this one ocean. Any thought of getting General Goethals to remedy this matter by filling up the Pacific is, moreover, hopeless, for all the land in the world, if spread over the Pacific's surface, would only make an island surrounded by twenty million square miles of sea.
Feeling depressed over these facts I now began to look for points of merit; for we are told to try to find the good in everything, and though I fear I pay but scant attention to this canon when in my normal state ashore, at sea I become another man.
On land I have a childish feeling that the Creator has not time to pay attention to me, having so many other people to look after; but a ship far out at sea is a conspicuous object. I feel that it must catch His eye. I feel Him looking at me. And though I hope He likes me, I see no special reason why He should. I am so full of faults, so critical, so prejudiced. Consider, for instance, the way I used to go on about President Wilson and Josephus Daniels and W. J. Bryan. I am afraid that was very wrong in me. Instead of studying their failings I should have remedied my own. I should have given more to charity. I should have been more gentle in expressing my opinions. I should have written often to my sister, who so enjoys getting letters from me. I should have looked for good in everything.
Immediately I begin to run about the ship looking for it. And lo! I find it. The ship is comfortable. It seems to be designed to stay on top of the water. The table is beyond criticism. The passengers are interesting. The very vastness of this ocean tends to make them so. Instead of being all of a pattern, as would be one's fellow passengers on an Atlantic liner, they are a heterogeneous lot, familiar with strange corners of the globe and full of curious tales and bits of information. Instead of talking always of hotels in London, Paris, Venice, Rome and Naples, they speak familiarly of Seoul, Shanghai, Peking, Hongkong, Saigon and Singapore. And amongst them are a few having intimate acquaintance with islands and cities so remote that their names sing in the ears like fantastic songs. Fragrant names. The Celebes and Samarkand!
There was a little Englishman who hunted butterflies for a museum. He told me of great spiders as big as your two hands, that build their webs between the trees in the jungles of Borneo-I think he said Borneo. But whatever the name of the place, he found there natives having tails from two to four inches long-I think he said two to four inches. But whatever the length of the tails, he had photographs to prove that tails there were. The latest theory of man's evolution, he told me, is not the theory of Darwin, but holds that there existed long ago an intermediary creature between man and ape, from which both are derived-the ape having, I take it, evolved upward into the treetops, while man evolved downward-down, down, down, until at last came jazz and Lenine and Trotzky.
Another man had lived for years in Korea. In the old days before it was taken over by Japan, he said, it was a perfect comic-opera country with the Emperor as chief comedian. He knew and liked the Emperor, and told me funny stories about him. Once when His Majesty's teeth required filling the work had to wait until the American dentist in Seoul could have a set of instruments made of gold, that being the only metal permitted within the sacred confines of the Imperial mouth.
The concession to build an electric street railway in Seoul was given to Americans on the understanding that they should import motormen from the United States and that these should be held in readiness to fly to the Emperor's aid in case of trouble. A private wire connected the Imperial bedchamber with that of the manager of the street-car company, so that the latter might be quickly notified if help was needed. For more than a year the wire stood unused, but at last late one night the bell rang. The manager leaped from his bed and rushed to the special telephone. But it was not a revolution. The Emperor had just heard about a certain office building in New York and wished to know if it had, in fact, as many stories as had been reported to him.
In his fear of revolution or invasion the Emperor built a palace adjoining the American legation. And when, as happened now and then, there came a coup d'état, threatening his personal safety, he would get a ladder and climb over the wall separating the back yard of the palace from that of the American minister. This occurring frequently, so embarrassed the latter, that in order to put an end to His Majesty's habit of informal calling, he caused the top of the wall to be covered with inhospitable broken glass.
Up to the time of the annexation of Korea by Japan, my informant said, the Koreans were entirely without patriotism, but the Japanese so oppressed them that a strong national feeling was engendered after it was too late. That the Japanese had been harsh and brutal in Korea, he said, was indisputable, but this was the work of militarists, and was contrary to the will of the people of Japan who, when they learned what had been going on, protested with such violence that newspapers had to be suppressed in Japanese cities, and there was clubbing of rioters in the streets by the police. This caused immediate reform in Korea. The brutal Governor General was recalled and was replaced by Admiral Baron Saito, a humane and enlightened statesman who has earnestly striven to improve conditions, with the result that Koreans are to-day being better educated and better governed than they have been within the memory of man. Also they are prospering. First steps are now being taken toward allowing them to participate in their own government, and if conditions seem to justify the extension of their privileges, it is hoped that they may ultimately have home rule.
From another passenger I got a story about an American who was captured by brigands in China. The victim was a civil engineer, very skilful at laying out railroad lines. The American International Corporation wished to send him to China to plan a railroad, but he demurred because he was in bad health. Finally, on being pressed by the company, he consented to go if his private physician was sent with him. This was agreed to.
In China brigands caught the civil engineer but not the doctor. They kept him for a long time. He was taken from place to place over the roughest country, walking all night, sleeping by day in damp caves, eating coarse and insufficient food. At last he was released. He returned in rugged health. The life of the brigand was just the thing that he had needed.
"Out here on the seas, without home newspapers," one thoughtful traveller remarked to me, "we lose touch with the world and never quite make up all that we have lost. When we land we hear about some of the things that have happened, but there are minor events of which we never hear, or of which the news comes to us long after, as a great surprise. I recall one example from my own experience.
"In the New England town in which I live there was a banker, a prominent old citizen with a reputation for being very close, and none too scrupulous in the means he sometimes took for making money.
"It had for years been his habit to go every winter to Florida, but his daughter, who kept house for him, liked the northern winter and remained at home.
"Some years ago, while I was in the Far East, this old man died, but I was gone for a long time and heard nothing of it. When I got back it was winter. One day I met the daughter and stopped to speak to her. It was snowing and a cold wind was whistling down the street. We had been having trouble with the furnace at our house and my mind was full of that. So when I met her I said:
"'One good thing-on a day like this you don't have to worry about your father. Furnaces don't get out of order down there where he is.'
"Now, when I am away, I have the newspapers saved, and on my return I read them all if it takes me a whole week."
Somewhere in those seas that lie between the islands of Formosa and Luzon there arises a wide tepid current, known as the Black Current which, flowing northward, tempers the climate of Hondo, the main island of Japan. "To this beneficent stream," remarks the guidebook, "the shores of Nippon owe their luxuriant greenness."
As we crossed the Black Current a certain greenness likewise was revealed upon my countenance. I did not find the stream beneficent at all. It was only about two hundred miles wide, however, and by morning the worst of it was past. I came on deck to find the Kashima Maru riding like a placid bulky water-fowl upon a friendly sunlit sea. And far away on the horizon lay a streak of mist that was Japan.
In an hour or two the mist attained more substance. It was like a coloured lantern-slide coming slowly into focus. Someone showed me a white dot upon the shadow of a hill and said it was a lighthouse, and some one else discerned a village in a little smudge of buff where land and water met. Gulls were circling around us-gulls with dark serrated margins to their wings; smaller than those we had seen on Puget Sound. Foreign gulls!
Since leaving Victoria we had sighted only one ship, but now an unladen freighter, pointing high and showing a broad strip of red underbody, reeled by like a gay drunkard, and was no sooner gone astern than we picked up on the other bow a wallowing stubby caravel with a high-tilted poop like that of the Santa Maria-a vessel such as I had never dreamed of seeing asail in sober earnest. And she was hardly gone when we overhauled a little fleet of fishing boats having the lovely colour of unpainted wood, and the slender graceful lines of viking ships. All of them but one carried a square white sail on either mast, but that one had three masts and three sails, two of which were yellow, while the third was of a tender faded indigo. It promised things, that boat with coloured sails!
Distant white cliffs, tall and ghostly like those of Dover, brought memories of another island kingdom, far away through the cheek of the world, whose citizens were at this moment sleeping their midnight sleep-last night. Presently the white cliffs vanished, giving place to a wall of hills with conical tops and bright green sides splattered with blue-green patches of pine woods. And when I saw the brushwork on those wrinkled cone-shaped hills, so unlike any other hills that I had seen, I knew that Hokusai and Hiroshige, far from being merely decorative artists, had "painted nature as they saw it."
The villages along the shore could now be seen more plainly-rows of one-story houses taking their colour from the yellow wood of which they were constructed, and the yellow thatch of their roofs, both tempered by the elements.
Then, as I was looking at a village on a promontory reaching out to meet us, some one cried: "Fuji! Come and look at Fujiyama!" and I ran forward and gazed with straining eyes across the sea and the hilltops to where, shimmering white in the far-off sky, there hung-was it indeed the famous fan-shaped cone, or only a luminous patch of cloud? Or was it anything at all?
"Right there. Don't you seep"
"No. Yes, now I think____"
"It's gone. No! There it is again!"
So must the chorus ever go. For Fuji, most beautiful of mountains, is also the most elusive. Later, in Tokyo, when some one called me to come and see it, it disappeared while I was on the way upstairs.
Splendid as Vesuvius appears when she floats in opalescent mist above the Bay of Naples with her smoke plume lowering above her, she is, by comparison with Fuji, but a tawny little ruffian. Vesuvius rises four thousand feet while Fuji stands three times as high. And although the top of Pike's Peak is higher than the sacred mountain of Japan by some two thousand feet, the former, starting from a plain one mile above sea-level, has an immense handicap, whereas the latter starts at "scratch." Thus it comes about that when you look at Pike's Peak from the plains what you actually see is a mountain rising nine thousand feet; whereas when you look at Fuji from the sea the whole of its twelve thousand and more feet is visible.
Aside from Fuji's size, the things which make it more beautiful than Vesuvius are the perfection of its contour, the snow upon its cone, and the atmospheric quality of Japan-that source of so much disappointment to snapshotting travellers who time their pictures as they would at home.
A Japanese friend on the ship told me that though Fuji had been quiescent for considerably longer than a century there was heat enough in some of its steaming fissures to permit eggs to be boiled. Eighteen or twenty thousand persons make the climb each year, he said, and some devout women of seventy years and over struggle slowly up the slope, taking a week or more to the ascent, which is made by able-bodied men in half a day or less. Peasants of the region speak of Fuji not by name but merely as O Yama, "the Honourable Mountain," but my Japanese friend added that though the honorific O, used so much by his countrymen, was translated literally into English as "honourable," it did not have, in the Japanese ear, any such elabor- ate and ponderous value, but was spoken automatically and often only for the sake of cadence.
"We say O without thinking," he explained, "just as you begin with 'dear sir,' in writing to a stranger who is not dear to you at all."
For Fuji, however, I like the full English polysyllabic of respect. It is indeed an "honourable mountain." The great volcanic cone hanging, as it sometimes seems, in thin blue air, has an ethereal. look suggesting purity and spirituality, so that it is not difficult for the beholder from another land to sense its quality of sacredness, and to perceive its fitness to be the abiding place of that beautiful goddess whose Japanese name means "Princesswho-makes-the-Blossoms-of-the-Trees-to-Flower."
"There are two kinds of fools," says a Japanese proverb: "-those who have never ascended Fuji and those who have ascended twice." To this category I would add a third kind of fool, the greatest of them all: the fool who fails to appreciate the spectacle of Fuji. A creature who would be disappointed in Fuji would be disappointed in any spectacle, however grand-be it the Grand Cañon, the Grand Canal, or the Grand Central Station.