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    Chapter 64

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    Chapter 65
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    When your watch gets out of order you have choice of two things to do:
    throw it in the fire or take it to the watch-tinker. The former is the
    quickest.
    --Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

    The Arundel Castle is the finest boat I have seen in these seas. She is
    thoroughly modern, and that statement covers a great deal of ground. She
    has the usual defect, the common defect, the universal defect, the defect
    that has never been missing from any ship that ever sailed--she has
    imperfect beds. Many ships have good beds, but no ship has very good
    ones. In the matter of beds all ships have been badly edited, ignorantly
    edited, from the beginning. The selection of the beds is given to some
    hearty, strong-backed, self-made man, when it ought to be given to a
    frail woman accustomed from girlhood to backaches and insomnia. Nothing
    is so rare, on either side of the ocean, as a perfect bed; nothing is so
    difficult to make. Some of the hotels on both sides provide it, but no
    ship ever does or ever did. In Noah's Ark the beds were simply
    scandalous. Noah set the fashion, and it will endure in one degree of
    modification or another till the next flood.

    8 A.M. Passing Isle de Bourbon. Broken-up sky-line of volcanic
    mountains in the middle. Surely it would not cost much to repair them,
    and it seems inexcusable neglect to leave them as they are.

    It seems stupid to send tired men to Europe to rest. It is no proper
    rest for the mind to clatter from town to town in the dust and cinders,
    and examine galleries and architecture, and be always meeting people and
    lunching and teaing and dining, and receiving worrying cables and
    letters. And a sea voyage on the Atlantic is of no use--voyage too
    short, sea too rough. The peaceful Indian and Pacific Oceans and the
    long stretches of time are the healing thing.

    May 2, AM. A fair, great ship in sight, almost the first we have seen in
    these weeks of lonely voyaging. We are now in the Mozambique Channel,
    between Madagascar and South Africa, sailing straight west for Delagoa
    Bay.

    Last night, the burly chief engineer, middle-aged, was standing telling a
    spirited seafaring tale, and had reached the most exciting place, where a
    man overboard was washing swiftly astern on the great seas, and uplifting
    despairing cries, everybody racing aft in a frenzy of excitement and
    fading hope, when the band, which had been silent a moment, began
    impressively its closing piece, the English national anthem. As simply
    as if he was unconscious of what he was doing, he stopped his story,
    uncovered, laid his laced cap against his breast, and slightly bent his
    grizzled head. The few bars finished, he put on his cap and took up his
    tale again, as naturally as if that interjection of music had been a part
    of it. There was something touching and fine about it, and it was moving
    to reflect that he was one of a myriad, scattered over every part of the
    globe, who by turn was doing as he was doing every hour of the
    twenty-four--those awake doing it while the others slept--those
    impressive bars forever floating up out of the various climes, never
    silent and never lacking reverent listeners.

    All that I remember about Madagascar is that Thackeray's little Billie
    went up to the top of the mast and there knelt him upon his knee, saying,
    "I see

    "Jerusalem and Madagascar,
    And North and South Amerikee."

    May 3. Sunday. Fifteen or twenty Africanders who will end their voyage
    to-day and strike for their several homes from Delagoa Bay to-morrow, sat
    up singing on the afterdeck in the moonlight till 3 A.M. Good fun and
    wholesome. And the songs were clean songs, and some of them were
    hallowed by tender associations. Finally, in a pause, a man asked, "Have
    you heard about the fellow that kept a diary crossing the Atlantic?"
    It was a discord, a wet blanket. The men were not in the mood for
    humorous dirt. The songs had carried them to their homes, and in spirit
    they sat by those far hearthstones, and saw faces and heard voices other
    than those that were about them. And so this disposition to drag in an
    old indecent anecdote got no welcome; nobody answered. The poor man
    hadn't wit enough to see that he had blundered, but asked his question
    again. Again there was no response. It was embarrassing for him. In
    his confusion he chose the wrong course, did the wrong thing--began the
    anecdote. Began it in a deep and hostile stillness, where had been such
    life and stir and warm comradeship before. He delivered himself of the
    brief details of the diary's first day, and did it with some confidence
    and a fair degree of eagerness. It fell flat. There was an awkward
    pause. The two rows of men sat like statues. There was no movement, no
    sound. He had to go on; there was no other way, at least none that an
    animal of his calibre could think of. At the close of each day's diary,
    the same dismal silence followed. When at last he finished his tale and
    sprung the indelicate surprise which is wont to fetch a crash of
    laughter, not a ripple of sound resulted. It was as if the tale had been
    told to dead men. After what seemed a long, long time, somebody sighed,
    somebody else stirred in his seat; presently, the men dropped into a low
    murmur of confidential talk, each with his neighbor, and the incident was
    closed. There were indications that that man was fond of his anecdote;
    that it was his pet, his standby, his shot that never missed, his
    reputation-maker. But he will never tell it again. No doubt he will
    think of it sometimes, for that cannot well be helped; and then he will
    see a picture, and always the same picture--the double rank of dead men;
    the vacant deck stretching away in dimming perspective beyond them, the
    wide desert of smooth sea all abroad; the rim of the moon spying from
    behind a rag of black cloud; the remote top of the mizzenmast shearing a
    zigzag path through the fields of stars in the deeps of space; and this
    soft picture will remind him of the time that he sat in the midst of it
    and told his poor little tale and felt so lonesome when he got through.

    Fifty Indians and Chinamen asleep in a big tent in the waist of the ship
    forward; they lie side by side with no space between; the former wrapped
    up, head and all, as in the Indian streets, the Chinamen uncovered; the
    lamp and things for opium smoking in the center.

    A passenger said it was ten 2-ton truck loads of dynamite that lately
    exploded at Johannesburg. Hundreds killed; he doesn't know how many;
    limbs picked up for miles around. Glass shattered, and roofs swept away
    or collapsed 200 yards off; fragment of iron flung three and a half
    miles.

    It occurred at 3 p.m.; at 6, L65,000 had been subscribed. When this
    passenger left, L35,000 had been voted by city and state governments and
    L100,000 by citizens and business corporations. When news of the
    disaster was telephoned to the Exchange L35,000 were subscribed in the
    first five minutes. Subscribing was still going on when he left; the
    papers had ceased the names, only the amounts--too many names; not enough
    room. L100,000 subscribed by companies and citizens; if this is true, it
    must be what they call in Australia "a record"--the biggest instance of a
    spontaneous outpour for charity in history, considering the size of the
    population it was drawn from, $8 or $10 for each white resident, babies
    at the breast included.

    Monday, May 4. Steaming slowly in the stupendous Delagoa Bay, its dim
    arms stretching far away and disappearing on both sides. It could
    furnish plenty of room for all the ships in the world, but it is shoal.
    The lead has given us 3 1/2 fathoms several times and we are drawing
    that, lacking 6 inches.

    A bold headland--precipitous wall, 150 feet high, very strong, red color,
    stretching a mile or so. A man said it was Portuguese blood--battle
    fought here with the natives last year. I think this doubtful. Pretty
    cluster of houses on the tableland above the red-and rolling stretches of
    grass and groups of trees, like England.

    The Portuguese have the railroad (one passenger train a day) to the
    border--70 miles--then the Netherlands Company have it. Thousands of
    tons of freight on the shore--no cover. This is Portuguese allover
    --indolence, piousness, poverty, impotence.

    Crews of small boats and tugs, all jet black woolly heads and very
    muscular.

    Winter. The South African winter is just beginning now, but nobody but
    an expert can tell it from summer. However, I am tired of summer; we
    have had it unbroken for eleven months. We spent the afternoon on shore,
    Delagoa Bay. A small town--no sights. No carriages. Three 'rickshas,
    but we couldn't get them--apparently private. These Portuguese are a
    rich brown, like some of the Indians. Some of the blacks have the long
    horse beads and very long chins of the negroes of the picture books; but
    most of them are exactly like the negroes of our Southern States round
    faces, flat noses, good-natured, and easy laughers.

    Flocks of black women passed along, carrying outrageously heavy bags of
    freight on their heads. The quiver of their leg as the foot was planted
    and the strain exhibited by their bodies showed what a tax upon their
    strength the load was. They were stevedores and doing full stevedores
    work. They were very erect when unladden--from carrying heavy loads on
    their heads--just like the Indian women. It gives them a proud fine
    carriage.

    Sometimes one saw a woman carrying on her head a laden and top-heavy
    basket the shape of an inverted pyramid-its top the size of a soup-plate,
    its base the diameter of a teacup. It required nice balancing--and got
    it.

    No bright colors; yet there were a good many Hindoos.

    The Second Class Passenger came over as usual at "lights out" (11) and we
    lounged along the spacious vague solitudes of the deck and smoked the
    peaceful pipe and talked. He told me an incident in Mr. Barnum's life
    which was evidently characteristic of that great showman in several ways:

    This was Barnum's purchase of Shakespeare's birthplace, a quarter of a
    century ago. The Second Class Passenger was in Jamrach's employ at the
    time and knew Barnum well. He said the thing began in this way. One
    morning Barnum and Jamrach were in Jamrach's little private snuggery back
    of the wilderness of caged monkeys and snakes and other commonplaces of
    Jamrach's stock in trade, refreshing themselves after an arduous stroke
    of business, Jamrach with something orthodox, Barnum with something
    heterodox--for Barnum was a teetotaler. The stroke of business was in
    the elephant line. Jamrach had contracted to deliver to Barnum in New
    York 18 elephants for $360,000 in time for the next season's opening.
    Then it occurred to Mr. Barnum that he needed a "card" He suggested
    Jumbo. Jamrach said he would have to think of something else--Jumbo
    couldn't be had; the Zoo wouldn't part with that elephant. Barnum said
    he was willing to pay a fortune for Jumbo if he could get him. Jamrach
    said it was no use to think about it; that Jumbo was as popular as the
    Prince of Wales and the Zoo wouldn't dare to sell him; all England would
    be outraged at the idea; Jumbo was an English institution; he was part of
    the national glory; one might as well think of buying the Nelson
    monument. Barnum spoke up with vivacity and said:

    "It's a first-rate idea. I'll buy the Monument."

    Jamrach was speechless for a second. Then he said, like one ashamed
    "You caught me. I was napping. For a moment I thought you were in
    earnest."

    Barnum said pleasantly--

    "I was in earnest. I know they won't sell it, but no matter, I will not
    throw away a good idea for all that. All I want is a big advertisement.
    I will keep the thing in mind, and if nothing better turns up I will
    offer to buy it. That will answer every purpose. It will furnish me a
    couple of columns of gratis advertising in every English and American
    paper for a couple of months, and give my show the biggest boom a show
    ever had in this world."

    Jamrach started to deliver a burst of admiration, but was interrupted by
    Barnum, who said:

    "Here is a state of things! England ought to blush."

    His eye had fallen upon something in the newspaper. He read it through
    to himself, then read it aloud. It said that the house that Shakespeare
    was born in at Stratford-on-Avon was falling gradually to ruin through
    neglect; that the room where the poet first saw the light was now serving
    as a butcher's shop; that all appeals to England to contribute money (the
    requisite sum stated) to buy and repair the house and place it in the
    care of salaried and trustworthy keepers had fallen resultless. Then
    Barnum said:

    "There's my chance. Let Jumbo and the Monument alone for the present
    --they'll keep. I'll buy Shakespeare's house. I'll set it up in my
    Museum in New York and put a glass case around it and make a sacred thing
    of it; and you'll see all America flock there to worship; yes, and
    pilgrims from the whole earth; and I'll make them take their hats off,
    too. In America we know how to value anything that Shakespeare's touch
    has made holy. You'll see."

    In conclusion the S. C. P. said:

    "That is the way the thing came about. Barnum did buy Shakespeare's
    house. He paid the price asked, and received the properly attested
    documents of sale. Then there was an explosion, I can tell you. England
    rose! That, the birthplace of the master-genius of all the ages and all
    the climes--that priceless possession of Britain--to be carted out of the
    country like so much old lumber and set up for sixpenny desecration in a
    Yankee show-shop--the idea was not to be tolerated for a moment. England
    rose in her indignation; and Barnum was glad to relinquish his prize and
    offer apologies. However, he stood out for a compromise; he claimed a
    concession--England must let him have Jumbo. And England consented, but
    not cheerfully."

    It shows how, by help of time, a story can grow--even after Barnum has
    had the first innings in the telling of it. Mr. Barnum told me the story
    himself, years ago. He said that the permission to buy Jumbo was not a
    concession; the purchase was made and the animal delivered before the
    public knew anything about it. Also, that the securing of Jumbo was all
    the advertisement he needed. It produced many columns of newspaper talk,
    free of cost, and he was satisfied. He said that if he had failed to get
    Jumbo he would have caused his notion of buying the Nelson Monument to be
    treacherously smuggled into print by some trusty friend, and after he had
    gotten a few hundred pages of gratuitous advertising out of it, he would
    have come out with a blundering, obtuse, but warm-hearted letter of
    apology, and in a postscript to it would have naively proposed to let the
    Monument go, and take Stonehenge in place of it at the same price.

    It was his opinion that such a letter, written with well-simulated
    asinine innocence and gush would have gotten his ignorance and stupidity
    an amount of newspaper abuse worth six fortunes to him, and not
    purchasable for twice the money.

    I knew Mr. Barnum well, and I placed every confidence in the account
    which he gave me of the Shakespeare birthplace episode. He said he found
    the house neglected and going-to decay, and he inquired into the matter
    and was told that many times earnest efforts had been made to raise money
    for its proper repair and preservation, but without success. He then
    proposed to buy it. The proposition was entertained, and a price named
    --$50,000, I think; but whatever it was, Barnum paid the money down,
    without remark, and the papers were drawn up and executed. He said that
    it had been his purpose to set up the house in his Museum, keep it in
    repair, protect it from name-scribblers and other desecrators, and leave
    it by bequest to the safe and perpetual guardianship of the Smithsonian
    Institute at Washington.

    But as soon as it was found that Shakespeare's house had passed into
    foreign hands and was going to be carried across the ocean, England was
    stirred as no appeal from the custodians of the relic had ever stirred
    England before, and protests came flowing in--and money, too, to stop the
    outrage. Offers of repurchase were made--offers of double the money that
    Mr. Barnum had paid for the house. He handed the house back, but took
    only the sum which it had cost him--but on the condition that an
    endowment sufficient for the future safeguarding and maintenance of the
    sacred relic should be raised. This condition was fulfilled.

    That was Barnum's account of the episode; and to the end of his days he
    claimed with pride and satisfaction that not England, but America
    --represented by him--saved the birthplace of Shakespeare from destruction.

    At 3 P.M., May 6th, the ship slowed down, off the land, and thoughtfully
    and cautiously picked her way into the snug harbor of Durban, South
    Africa.
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    Chapter 65
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