OCR Interpretation


The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, December 19, 1897, Image 31

Image and text provided by University of California, Riverside; Riverside, CA

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85066387/1897-12-19/ed-1/seq-31/

What is OCR?


Thumbnail for 31

BEHIND THE SCENES IN
JAPANESE COURT LIFE
How the Representatives of Foreign
Powers fare in the Land of
the Mikado.
BY FRANK L. COOMBS, EX-MINISTER TO JAPAN.
On the 30th day of May, 1892, I land
ed with my family at Yokohama, the
principal seaport town of Japan. As
we arrived the British steamship Gae
lic, chartered by the Occidental and
Oriental line, crowded with passengers
and flying the British colors, was just
starting on her voyage to San Fran
cisco. In honor of the arrival of the
"American Minister," her spars were
rated with the hangings of our
own glorious banner, while from prow
to stern fluttered the little streamers,
tokens of welcome and emblematic of
the principles I was supposed to repre
sent. £""?£?.-"...-
The Japanese Government, in antici
pation of my arrival, had given orders
for the admission ot my goods and
chattels exempt from customs search
and duty. The next morning we pro
ceeded to Tokyo, seventeen miles dis
tant, and the legation carriage, which
was in waiting, took us to the legation.
The gates of the porter's lodge flew
open, the porter bowed, his wife and
baby bowed, the carriage rolled under
the porte cochere and servants innu
merable and their families, with Ori
ental salutation, installed us in our
new home. In front of us, at the top of
a fifty-foot staff, the flag of the States
waved in welcome of our coming. The
flag is not hoisted except on occasions,
and the arrival of a new Minister pre
sents such an occasion.
Hon. John F. Swift, whose life is so
much a part of the political history of
California, the former Minister, died at
his post of duty and Edwin Dew, be
ing First Secretary of Legation, as
sumed the duties as Charge d'Affaires,
and with him I drove the next morn
ing to the Foreign Office in order to
arrange with Viscount Enomatto, then
Minister of Foreign Affairs, for my
presentation to His Majesty the Em
peror. I was received cordially, con
ducted to a chair, and presently tea
and manila cigars were brought in. I
drank the tea with all the outward
signs of relish. Recognizing the idea
that deceit is a part of diplomacy, I
grew in favor with myself, for I abom
inate tea most wholesomely. I was as
sured, as all Ministers had been, that
the time of my presentation would be
speedily arranged, for until that event
I could have no official standing in Ja
pan. If I had permitted the lingering
taste of tea to taint my reflections they
would have been bitter indeed, but it
did not, for the courtly gentlemen I
had just left, and whom I came to
know so well afterward, reassured me
as I looked into the future, fraught
with so great events for that Empire,
events which seemed to come one after
another, foretelling to my mind the
grave circumstances of war, with its
responsibilities, all of which I am not
permitted to tell. One morning not
long after this I received a communi
cation, bearing the Imperial seal, dated
the 11th day, the 6th month, the 25th
year of Miyi, and signed by the Minis
ter of Foreign Affairs, informing me of
the time I was to present my letter of
credence from the President of the
United States.
Information also arrived that the
same time was arranged for Mrs.
Coombs' presentation to the Empress.
This is customary and required. No
other lady can he presented. The wife
is a member of the official family. In
case the Minister is single, the sister
or other member of the family cannot
occupy the same position. They have
no place in the court life of Japan. I
once presented to His Majesty the Em
peror our Rear Admiral in command of
the Asiatic squadron, but his wife was
not permitted to enter the palace. This
last communication embodied the di
rections that Mrs. Coombs should ap
pear in "Robe montante 8. traine." I
give this simply to illustrate how punc
tilious the court life of which we were
about to become a part.
A good genius dwells at the court of
Japan, and I cannot refrain at this
true /rom rendering to her the tribute
1 er ttibaracter so justly deserves, and in
a (mole way thank her for innumer
aole kindnesses. Baroness Sannomiya
was by birth an English lady, highly
educated and accomplished, and kind
ness, I think, is her controlling passion,
She is the wife of Baron Sannomiya,
the Court Chamberlain. By her address
and good sense she has gained a re
markable influence at court, and ap
preciates the advantages, and in that
country, the requirements of court life
with its thousand forms and technical
observances. She called to kindly offer
suggestions in the way of elaborating
upon the instructions already given. A
person might be ever so familiar with
society's rules, and yet be a novice in
a place like this. Indeed it seems that
the conceit "which grows out of such
experiences is that which leads to er
rors. A breach of etiquette at home
might offend the susceptibilities of a
class; in Japan it would offend a na
tion, and it is the unwritten law to
follow the observances of the court to
which you are accredited, howbeit they
might appear frivolous at home.
We are not all alike, and must take
the world as it is given us. Perhaps
we might have offered some improve
ments, but the world Is better than it
would have been had all our improve
ments been acted upon in the begin
ning. At any rate, it is not our prov
ince to reconstruct the code of laws
In vogue for centuries and largely ac
countable for the forming of charac
ter. There is one thing to he said, the
palace and drawing room have never
made them effeminate. On the con
trary, the Japanese character is at its
best when tried in the big wars that
make ambition virtue. If you will, my
reader, indulge me a minute I will re
veal to your mind's eye the formal pre
sentation at court. You must go your
self in the capacity of Minister.
On the day appointed a carriage from
the imperial household will call at the
legation at 'J o'clock in the morning.
First array yourself in evening attire,
for that is your diplomatic dress. Then
you will step into the carriage with a
gentleman from the palace, who has
come to conduct you thither. Your
wife not forming a part of the "offi
cial" occasion is not permitted to ride
In the imperial carriage. The moment
you drive away your attention is called
to the servants of the legation, with
their man servants and' their maid ser
vants, their relatives by blood and by
marriage swelling the number tenfold,
all interested spectators of that event
which will enable you to see and speak
to their Emperor, whom they never
see. Even this little incident will
afford you food for reflection — reflection
as to why forty million people who
never see their sovereign should revere
above all things an institution which
makes certain such conditions. Once
inside the carriage you will observe
the embroidered trimmings, with the
imperial crest, the sixteen-petaled
crysanthemum, the use of which is
forbidden in the empire save by the
Government. . It is often simulated by
numbers more or less than sixteen, yet
no imitator adopts the forbidden num
ber, for it is the badge of imperialism,
You finally, after a drive of a couple
of miles, come to a moat, and, crossing
over a stone bridge, the gates are
thrown open and you proceed through
an avenue bordered by oaks and
shrubs. On your left, drawn up in line
of salute, you see the Imperial Guard,
brilliant in scarlet and gold, and the
bugle, clear and musical, announces
your approach to the palace. If you
expected lofty spires and gilded domes
rivaling the beauties of the Taj Me
hal you would meet with disappoint
ment, as you see before you a low
building of Japanese architecture. You
mount the broad steps and are con
ducted into a large hall plainly illus
trating to your mind that the beauties
of the palace are to be found on the
inside. How can it be described? Not
at all. It is a place of art, if art means
beauty expressed in simplicity. No
extra trappings of a European court;
"no majestical roof fretted with golden
fire." On the other hand, every piece
of wood shows its forest color. Here
and there is a piece of bronze inlaid
with gold or a piece of cloisonne won
derful in design and workmanship. The
ceilings are decorated with embroi
dered tapestry. The doors are of mas
sive lacquer. Symmetry has so blend
ed the beauties that it leaves upon the
mind no indelible impression of the
prominence of any one feature. You
may look out upon a graveled court,
where fountains are playing, and
finally the water dripping away in lit
tie streams whose banks are lined with
mosses and spanned with fairy bridges.
In an opposite direction, upon a wall In
appropriate place, you behold an em
broidered picture portraying some na
tional event which transpired when the
empire was divided by factions and
clans fought for mastery. Or perhaps
you gaze upon the more peaceful scene
of pilgrims wending their way to a
temple.
Your reflections upon the way this
people had preserved memories of the
deeds of many centuries where the
arts of peace and war flourished, are
suddenly interrupted by the appear
ance of the Marquis Naheshima, mas
ter of ceremonies, with the announce
ment that you are to accompany him,
and that the madame, for the present,
is to remain. You proceed through cor
ridors until finally coming to the audi
ence chamber you turn to your right
and find yourself facing his Majesty
the Emperor. After the accustomed
salutation you advance to within a few
feet of him, proceed to read your ad
dress, and at its conclusion present to
him your letter of credence— that little
document which invests you with the
character of Envoy Extraordinary and
Minister Plenipotentiary, with all the
cares and responsibilities of your own
Government, and imposes upon you
such reciprocal obligations as the ac
ceptance of it might entail. The Em
peror replies to you, each sentence be
ing interpreted as he proceeds, and
during this time you avail yourself of
the opportunity which a little time
affords to observe your surroundings.
There is the absence of golden throne
and jeweled crown, such as your boyish
fancy might once have seen in dreams
of Oriental splendor.
On the contrary, the Emperor stands
before you in military attire, his sword
by his side and the badges of the im
perial orders shining upon his breast.
Surrounded by the Minister for Foreign
Affairs, the Minister for the House
hold Department and court attendants,
dressed as he was, except each accord
ing to his rank, he looked like a gen
eral with his aides-de-camp in council
of war. The Emperor is a man of
much force of character, but tyrant
custom has hemmed him in and silent
fate plays continually upon the chords
of life. He gives you that appearance
of ennui which one might mistake for
utter indifference, yet behind this mask
is the keenest interest. Surrounded by
Ministers and the innumerable court
attendants so indispensable to the pa
geantry of imperial power, nothing
comes to him from the outside world
save through them, and nothing goes
out save through the Ministers. Hence
it is that a people brave and emotional
still look upon him as the divine source
of power, and visit all the anathemas
of discontent upon the Ministers them
selves.
Standing upon this vantage ground,
looking into the past, and upon the
conditions which are in a measure
prophetic, one is compelled to reflect
upon the changes to be wrought. The
Crown Prince, about 17 years of age,
has mixed considerably with the out
side world. He probably has his likes
and dislikes, and will take to the
throne a knowledge of politics, a
knowledge of men, their motives and
ambitions; under these conditions, who
can say that the throne will not play
a part in the affairs of men, even as
that of France, dread example to mon
archy, did before its downfall. His
fathers have been spared from the rays
of that fierce light which beats upon
a throne. It is doubtful if, j amid all
these great changes, Japan, with it-»
rapid strides, can preserve intact all
THE SAX" FRAXCISCO CALE. SUNDAY, DECEMBER 19, 1897.
of its ancient policies. Yet it is like
all nations, it must make its own his
tory, the future must judge of its wis
dom, and what 1 have _aid is a warn
ing rather than a prediction.
Retiring from the audience chamber
you are conducted with your wife. to
a small room where the Empress, sur
rounded by her ladies in waiting, is
ready to receive. She asks you such
questions as are calculated to leave
the impression that she knows all
about you and your family. She wears
European dress. Is small of statue,
has an intellectual face, is a v.-r-,
bright and withal a very charitable
woman.
We have just seen the unvarying life
of him who holds the destiny of 40,
--000,000 people and who traces his line
through the oldest reigning dynasty
in the world until it reaches back
through- the unbroken past to him who
founded the Empire and whom tradi
tion traces an origin from the Gods.
When. I say it is the oldest reigning
dynasty in the world, I do not mean to
compare the government and people
in point of age with the old republics
and monarchies. The Empire had its
origin during the prime ' of Grecian
splendor. The heroes of Homer had
lived and died. China, old and gray,
had sat upon the throne, hermit like,
ages before, and about this time gave
to the world one of its greatest phil
osophers.
Yet the dynasty of Japan from the
time of its first emperor, that is about
2500 years ago, not speaking accurate
ly, has been the same, and the throne
has been handed from generation to
generation in the unbroken line of de
scent from that time until now. A very
short generalization of Japanese his
tory might be of interest in connection
with these matters. In the thirteenth
century of the Christian era a great
general arose in Japan, who drew
around him the strength of the army,
the great families and strong clans of
the empire. He inaugurated a new
system of government and created an
institution perfectly novel and foreign
to the State, as it had always existed.
He ruled the Empire and made the
Emperor simply a figurehead. He had
the title of Shogun, and the people
paid court to him as their ruler. The
Emperor became still more vested
with the superstitious character de
rived from ancient tradition and was
looked upon as sacred. His surround
ings held him aloof from affairs of
men and concerns of state. He was
never seen in public, but surrounded
by the mysteries of exclusion, he was
not permitted to break the spell sum
moned to protect the unseen and in
visible.
Thus he grew with a knowledge and
ambition in keeping with the purpose
of his gorgeous imprisonment and con
fined as the walls of his palace. Japan
was ruled by the military class. The
strength of government rested upon a
feudal system, the character of men
and women partook of it, and perni
cious caste built the impassable bar
riers between the .rich, and the poor.
The Emperor thus secluded, custom
and observances* gradually built up
that court etiquette, so unique, so
novel, so intricate,' that it becomes a
study to diplomats who have visited
every court in the civilized' world. This
etiquette gradually affected the man
ners of. all the people until courtesy
became a part of the national charac
ter and every custom having its history
and Its meaning. The revolution of
1868 did away with this dual govern
ment and the Emperor of to-day is the
real ruler, . and His Majesty is •a _ man
of strong character and intellectual
force. There are three occasions upon
which '-the Emperor entertains at
breakfast his ministers of state, the
diplomatic corps, officers of the army
and navy and other high officials. Ar
riving at the palace at 10 o'clock in
the morning they are conducted to the
vast hall or waiting room. The foreign
ministers appear in diplomatic dress
and the others in military attire, ac
cording to the rank of each.
As a rule Japanese officials speak
good English and conversation' is ren
dered easy. During an hour of. wait
ing, one is variously entertained; per
haps by the recital of the history of
some specimen of art, or if one's in
clination is to study character and
history, one finds himself watching a
little group of men, foremost in affairs
of the nation, speaking with much
emotion of the days when under the
old regime they were allied against th*s
imperial forces, when their fame and
fortunes for a time were swept away
by the destiny of war. During the
revolution their hands were raised, not
against the Emperor, but to" perpetu
ate that military power, which, as they
thought, constituted the glory of the
Empire. They are to-day the loyal
supporters of the government, recog
nizing the justice of the great events
which for awhile changed their for
tunes.
Their wisdom in council as well as
their valor in the field is a part of
contemporaneous history. Count Oy
ama, one of the heroes of Port Arthur,
and who, perhaps, if It had not been
for the pressure of outside nations,
would have planted the imperial ban
ners upon the walls of Pekin, would be
seen with Count Koruda, another fa
mous character, the center of a little
group. They were both noted wits, and
aside from Government cares they in
dulged their fancies in friendly repar
tee, always to the amusement of an au
dience. Count Mutsu, then Minister for
Foreign Affairs, on account of his im
mediate relations with the diplomatic
corps, kept himself busy entertaining
its members. Count Ito, the Minister
President or Premier, was there, the
man who seemed to hold in his grasp
the past, for he had created New Ja
pan; the .present,, for he was at the
head of state; and the future, for under
Frar)K L. Coombs, Ex-Mit*>ister to JapaQ.
his rule was that decisive war to be
waged on land and sea which was to
humiliate, in point of population, the
most extensive empire in the world
and to elevate Into the front rank of
natibnsone cf the smallest, Thusuniting
in his career the three periods of time
destined to make his country great, he
bore upon his countenance that assur
ance which seemed to make him master
of her destiny. He said little, yet even
then perhaps as he looked upon the
foreign representatives he wondered
what part the country of each would
play in the drama about to be enacted.
! He called at the legation one time
when the ordinary observances of our
official relations did not exact it. It
was unusual and, as he said, it was a
friendly call. He asked me concerning
the government of the several States,
their relation to the Federal Govern
ment, and. in fact, the harmony of that
complete system which the Fathers
long ago inaugurated to insure human
liberty. He discussed Alexander Ham
ilton and the constitution, and I be
came convinced that the spirit of Ori
ental despotism never darkened the
thoughts of this progressive statesman,
and. indeed, I do not think it is a part
of the national character. /. ■ ;./
• At the appointed time the guests were
ushered into the • throneroom, the Ja
panese officials with the Minister Pres
ident at their head, the. diplomatic
corps with the Minister for Foreign Af
fairs at the head. Thus forming two
rows the Emperor passed between and
repaired to the banquet hall and seated
himself upon a dais of slight elevation.
The guests then "followed, taking their
appointed places according to prece
dence as established by ancient rules,
when Count Ito advanced to the front
and- in a speech extended to his Ma
jesty the congratulations of the coun
try, and the dean of the diplomatic
corps congratulated -him on the part of
the foreign representatives. Every per
son * was - ; then ' seated *to • a Japanese
breakfast/which he was to endeavor to
realize with chopsticks. The Chinese
Minister near me asked me if I had
ever seen them used before. It may be
that my awkwardness suggested the in
quiry. I knew that in this I was on a
par with the rest of the company, save
those native and to the manner born.
But the remark of the Chinese Minister
brought to my mind the early days of
California, blessed country, when the
California boy looked upon every phase
and condition of life — could plow,
run a threshing machine, shoot a rifle,
ride a broncho, and learned, out of
childish conceit, the mannerisms of
many people. It was then we had the
first influx of Chinese, and every coun
try lad around the harvest field and In
mining camp had seen this Oriental
custom, yet had never had the desire to
master it.
At the conclusion of the breakfast
the company rose, and after the Em
peror had retired repaired to the smok
ing-room, and being presented with a
souvenir of the occasion departed. 1
cannot forfeit this occasion without
paying a tribute of respect to the mem
ory of Count Mutsu. then Minister of
State for Foreign Affairs. Tall and
slight, it seemed that his frail body
was unequal to the task of his intellect.
Even at that time the disease which
ended in his death a few months ago
had begun its fatal work. For nearly
a year I discussed with him the various
phases of the emigration question as it
affected the two countries, demonstrat
ing to him the entire justice in the po
sition of the laboring people of this
country in their opposition to competi
tion from Japanese labor in the United
States. I instanced the policy of his
own Government on this question, and
argued that a social revolution would
result from an invasion of the outside
world into the labor fields of Japan.
That these questions should be met
and solved in their incipiency and be
fore they could reach a stage that
would bring about international com
plications as a result of this, he issued
orders to the Governors of the several
districts directing them to restrain
labor emigration to the United States,
and also sent an order to the Japanese
Consul at Hawaii to prevent the Japa
nese on the islands from coming here
after the expiration of their terms of
contract. This' was supplemented by
an Imperial ordinance to the same ef
fect soon after I left, which Mr. Dun,
my successor, ' informed me ■' was in
furtherance of the policy inaugurated
when I was there. "'*./: '^ V*;'-,'" "
After I had presented my letter of
recall and immediately .before my de
parture Count Mutsu called on me at
the legation. He said that he desired
to assure me as a private citizen, for
we no longer held official relations, that
he would labor in line of the sugges
tions I had made, from time to time on
this question during the course of my
short diplomatic life. As a matter of
fact, and it Is no secret I fear to di
vulge, it was well understood between
us that the new treaty, ' which was a
sine qua non with the Japanese, would
deal with this grave question as well
as with other matters pertaining to
American interests. ■ • "
Should these lines by chance reach
the eyes of his countrymen, I ask tne
privilege of placing upon the grave of
Count Mutsu a tribute his memory
justly deserves: "A statesman, whose
first thought was for his country, rec
ognizing in all things the great law
which gives the right of each nation to
control its own destiny." In all of
those things pertaining to the inter
ests of American citizens he seemed to
evince a lively interest and a just con
sideration. Perhaps another social
event might serve to illustrate the hero
worship and the love of heroes so much
a part of the Japanese character. One
evening a dinner was given by one of
the imperial Princes, and after dinner,
when the guests had repaired to the
smoking room, . I was" informed : that
"His Imperial Highness desired to see
me." He could not speak English, so
every word had to be interpreted. He
conducted us through a great' hall, and
finally into a little room, evidently in
tended as his study, and as we crossed
its threshold, pointing to a picture on
the opposite wall, he said, through the
interpreter: "He was my guest while
in Japan."
For a moment I was speechless. If I
had been at home it would not have
been so, but in that distant land, a
thousand emotions possessed me and
took me far across the waters, upon
gory battlefields, in council halls and
what was greater,' among the people he
loved, and who loved him, the "Silent
Soldier." Yes, there was General Grant
whose memory was alike preserved in
the halls of princes and In the huts of
peasants. How had this modest man
so commended his memory to the pa
triotism of every country whose people
are moved by the common instincts of
humanity? As hi*-. Highness looked upon
the picture I thought that, he would
have given all the jewels of his line
rather than not have known that
American citizen. As for me, I had
realized the emotions of pride as I had
seen the Stars and Stripes wave o'er
those distant seas. Yet strange and
unaccountable, memory and patriotism
so conjured as to make me feel that I
was In the living presence of the apos
tle of liberty as he stood supreme amid
the storms of the battle of the Wilder
ness.
Yet we cannot wonder that the Jap
anese are hero worshipers; they have
for centuries been fighting out their
own destiny, at times repelling invad
ing armies; again carrying ■ war into
the hearts of other countries; or with
civil broils devastating their own fer
tile fields in the unhappy ; strife for
power. Almost everybody who has
traveled in Japan comes away prepared
to write a book about the country, and
they seem to speak with more assur
ance than people who have lived there
twenty years. Heretofore the export
ing business has been carried on by
foreigners. "':•..• i
There has been an ancient caste pre
judice against commercial life which
has in a large measure prevented in
vestment of money and development
of trade. Now it is going into . the
hands of the Japanese, and a few years
will revolutionize commerce. , They
are a seafaring people; they will own
their own vessels, and the great Pa
cific will bear everywhere upon its bil
lows the Rising Sun* of the East, har
binger of commerce and. trade. This
will surely come about when the rich
of Japan engage in mercantile pur
suits and money is invested in enter
prises.
It is said that the Japanese are not
mechanical and will always be at our
mercy in this regard. They are me
chanical in their own way, and to the
extent of supplying their own needs.
Their skill has so far been directed,
not speaking of the arts, toward those
small things sufficient to supply the
smaller wants of the nation. They
have never made a hay press or thresh
ing machine, because necessity has
never driven them to it. The feudal
system has kept them engaged in the
thousand things that beautify the Em
pire. The mason's art has been be
stowed upon the construction of im
mense walls surrounding castles. Great
stones have been broken from island
quarries and transported to the main
land; stones beyond the capacity of
modern steamers, perhaps, upon wood
en rafts when time and labor were not
supposed to be elements In the econ
omy of life. They have in all this as
well as in a thousand other things,
shown a genius for construction, and
we have no right to assume that it will
not develop.
Amid the wars and rumors of wars
It becomes interesting to contemplate
the position of Japan in the family of
nations. Will she be as England,
hemmed in by the seas, simply a na
val power? If the war with China had
given her a foothold on the continent
she would have peopled Korea and
Manchuria and begun the building of
a new empire. With fortifications and
a standing army on the mainland, with
the accessory of a powerful navy and
a command of the seas between Ja
pan and Asia proper, she would have
become the champion of the East.
She simply demonstrated her power
and roused portentous jealousies. The
increased strength of other nations he
comes a menace to her. England
lies encamped on : China's j southern
shore. Russia will soon complete her
trans-Siberian railway, and be able in
quick order to throw an immense army
into Korea and . Manchuria. Current
dispatches indicate that France and
Germany desire to attend this feast
of the nations.
The fate of China becomes import
ant to Japan. As Milton so graphi
cally describes that ancient realm
where sat enthroned "sable vested
night, eldest of things," encroached
upon by the new powers gradually
"weakening the scepter of old night,"
so these modern forces of civilization,
year after year, little by little, are en
croaching upon the realm of that
monarch old until prophecy fore
shadows dissolution. Japan is being
surrounded by the greatest armies and
greatest navies of Europe. Yet there
she stands, unique in position," the cen
tral figure of the East, with the bal
ance" of power, a brave and warlike
people, and time may prove her a con
queror.
Christmas at
Michigan Bluffs.
Away back among the mountains on
the old ; American River .they tell a
story that reads like fiction. Yet every
word of it is true. - /; "■'/
When Barney Riley came to Michi
gan Bluffs people told him that he was
too late. Everything was taken, they
said. There were no more rich placer
claims to be staked out on the Ameri
ca^ River. .Winter. was fast approach
ing. Even if he should find prospects
he could not work his claim underneath
thirty-foot snowbanks. He would bet
ter return while there was yet time,
people' advised him, unless— and they
arched their brows significantly— unless
he had money. If he had money it was
different. He might in that event take
chances.
Barney Riley, however, paid no at
tention to the advice, and before the
day was over every one in Michigan
Bluffs knew that the handsome young
Irishman had located on the opposite
ridge. He wasted no time, but at once
set to work constructing his cabin. . In
the evening he . returned to town for
supplies, packing them across the can
yon on his back.
"Are you going to stay the winter?"
asked the merchant of whom he bought
his goods. //'*'-
"I am going to do that same," said
Barney.
"Well, I wish you luck," was the re
ply* . ' Yiij : -
The principal merchant of Michigan
Bluffs was a keen-eyed young man
from Sacramento. Back in the States
he had been a lawyer. Quick to see and
seize an advantage, when ! the gold
seekers of the Sacramento Sierras be
gan to - make* discoveries of older and
richer river systems than any they had
before worked for ore, near the summit
of the divide, he had packed in by mule
train a stock of groceries to the new
district. Prices .were high enough in
Sacramento. Before Michigan Bluffs
was reached a ham car..** to be worth a
good part of its weight in gold.
The next day and each succeeding
day saw Barney 'at 'work upon his
claim. Week by week he became more
and more feverishly active with the
saw and adz. Yard by yard his sluices
grew. All day long he worked upon
them, and when there was moon some
times half the night. His visits to the
store became more and more infre
quent.
"All right, old man," he would" say to
himself; "next week we will have the
water running,' and then we'll have
some dust."
Next week came and the .week after.
Still was there no water. Provisions
were growing perilously . low. Barney
could but work the harder. His cheeks
became pinched, and his face took on
lines of anxiety.
"Yet another week," hie told himself.
"Another week and everything will be
shipshape. One more week and we'll
have the water." - ';..'■'• ...
That night' he made. another trip to
the town across the canyon.
"You'd better " lay in your winter
stores," advised the merchant. "There'll
come a snow some of these days that'll
block things." . . .'■'.... - , '•
"I'll be over next week," said Barney.
"My sluices will be running by that
time."
With that he returned, to .'his cabin
on the ridge. He had spent his last
cent, and' bore with him provisions for
two weeks. His sluices were all but
completed. A few days more and he
would be a producer instead of a con
sumer. >; *
The next morning he continued his
labors,", and the succeeding days. On
the evening of the third day he placed
in position the last section of sluice.
He turned on the ', water.' The system
worked perfectly. There was scarcely,
a leak in the entire line.
"In the morning I shall begin work
in earnest," he said.
That night the wind changed and it
blew in cold from the east. Then it set
in to snow, and before morning dawned
the sluices were frozen solid, and the
white mantle of winter lay wrapped
about the hills. The frost king had set
his seal upon earth's treasures. Hardy
must he be who would break that seal.
It was three weeks later and the day
before Christmas. Upon a couch lay
the wasted figure of a man who was
fingering a loaded musket.
"It's pretty desperate odds," mut
tered the thin lips, "but I guess it
would go if I worked it right. I could
slip up to the door of his store and get
a drop on him easy enough. Then help
myself, say I. Stealing's no crime for a
starving man."
The wasted form sat upright and in
serted a fresh primer in the firearm.
Then it stole to the window and looked
out.
It was the day before Christmas.
"Something's wrong over at Barney's,"
said the storekeeper of Michigan Bluffs
to his assistant. "He hasn't been over
for three weeks. Put on your snow
shoes. I'm going to investigate."
An hour or two later there was a
great hallooing and calling at Barney
Riley's cabin across the canyon. Only
the roof and a tiny corner of one win
dow projected from the snow.
"Hello-o-o! O-o-oh, Barney!"
A pinched face appeared at the win
dow, behind the muzzle of a rifle.
"I've got the drop on you," snarled
the face. "Move on, now. I don't allow
nobody on my ranch to spy out my af
fairs."
"Come, come! Put up the gun. We're
no claim jumpers. We've come to see
you. You know me. I'm the storekeep
er. We've brought you some goods."
"I didn't order any goods."
"That's all right, Barney. I thought
likely you'd need them, so I brought
them over."
"I tell you it's no use. I haven't any
dust, or any money, or anything."
"I knew you hadn't. That's why I
brought them." "'.'*
"You brought the stuff and knew I
couldn't pay for it?"
"You can pay me next summer."
"And you're going to trust me? You
are not afraid of me?"
"I am not afraid of you."
"Well, gentlemen," said Barney, and
his voice choked with emotion, "it's a
God's blessing for someone to have
faith in a man." /•;/•-/
"Shall we hand you the things
through the window?" asked the store
keeper.
Barney broke down completely.
"Gentlemen," he said, "I was desper
ate. I hadn't a bite to eat in the house.
I didn't mean you no harm; indeed I
didn't. I wouldn't have hurt you; not
a hair of your head. Only I was des
perate. When a man's desperate hun
gry he isn't responsible, is he now?"
The clerk thought he had reference
to the incident of a few moments be
fore. "That's all right," he said. "You
thought we were claim jumpers."
"I swear I wouldn't have hurt you.
All I wanted was a bite to eat. I had
it all planned for to-night. I was so
fearfully hungry. A man isn't so much
to blame, now, is he, if he holds up a
store when he's so fearfully hungry?"
"Come," said the merchant, "you're
out of your head. You mustn't talk
any more. I don't know what you're
talking about, and I don't want to.
You're out of your head. A cup of hot
coffee will do you more good than any
thing else just now. See that you take
care of yourself or you'll be sick. I'll
send you some more stuff next week.
Don't do any more worrying now. Get
well. I'll see you through."
With that the merchant returned to
his own side of the canyon. Never a
word to anyone did he say about the
occurrences of that morning, save to
the clerk.
"1 sometimes wonder that there is
not more lawlessness among the min
ers during a hard winter," he said to
him; and when the clerk murmured a
reply he changed the subject. Barney
Riley needed his help. That was enough
for him to know.
That merchant was Leland Stanford.
And that Is the true story of the first
Christmas at Michigan Bluffs.
WILLIAM J. NEIDIG.
■ **> ■ ;
A HOLY LAUGH*
Brunswick tele-train to St. Louis Republic.
A remarkable, religious revival is in
progress in the northern end of this
country, in which a new feature of re
ligious enthusiasm known as the "holy
laugh" has been prominent. The meet
ings have been conducted in a large
barn several days by a traveling evan
gelist. Many of the converts become
so hysterical under the excitement
that they give vent to a sound between
a bellow and a guffaw, which has been
designated as the "holy laugh." Sev
eral of the more high-strung members
went into trances and yesterday young
William Hickman died after being in
a cataleptic condition sixty hours.
Never in the history of this section has
a religious demonstration been punc
tuated with such striking physical ac
companiments, • and the effect appears
to be contagious.
31

xml | txt