Philip John Pinel's journal 1868-1873
The adventures of John Pinel 1849-1930 Part two
There is not very much to write about the time I spent while I was on the Erl King on the China coast, about a year and nine months in all, for the ship was chartered for a second trip of 12 months, which carried into the time when she had to go on to London with the new teas in 1869. For a time I still kept to my wish to go to sea and had thoughts of going on some sailing ship, but after my attack of dysentry, my health was for a time indifferent and as I got to see more of the life in China I began to think that I should be able to get into an office on shore.
I applied to Sir Robert Hart for a clerkship in the Chinese Customs, but the reply I got was that there was too large a portion of Englishmen in the service and that he had to consider other nationalities. The charterers of the Erl King sent an American named Mustard on board to act as our purser, collect Chinese passenger fees, etc, and he was with us for some months. After he left a Macau Portuguese was put on board to take his place. He must have left us about March 1858 and then I got the job at about $50 per month which, with 3 pounds per month from the ship, gave us about 72 pounds per month. My expenses were very small and I saved most of this money. This post I occupied till about October 1868, when I got an appointment in Augustine Heard and Co’s office and was stationed at Shanghai. My discharge from Erl King was for approximately two years.
After I got the job as purser for the Charterers I had a very easy job, good pay and very small expenses so that I was doing well, but I was not satisfied where it was leading and I felt that my time was being wasted. While I was on board Erl King, in the autumn of 1867, a typhoon occurred in Hong Kong. It was a Sunday and had been stifling close and hot with heavy, threatening clouds. About 5 pm, just before we went down to dinner, squalls began to come up from the westward, and by the time we had finished dinner and came up on deck there was no doubt as to what was going to happen. The Chief Engineer was on shore and could not get off, so my father went for the Second and gave him orders to get up steam. Some repairs were being done to the engines and the cylinder covers were left off but these were hastily replaced while steam was being got up. About 9 o’clock we were in a position to start the engines but it was pitch dark and if we had cast off from the buoy, we should probably have ended by running into some mud and made a mess of it. We had dragged one buoy and drifted towards the P & O Steamer Cadiz, she paying out chains as we dragged down towards her. Fortunately, the wind shifted a little and instead of colliding with her, we drifted ahead without touching her. Alongside of us was a fairway kept free for ships passing through the harbour and now having steam up we went up into the fairway paying out chain on the buoy and dropped another anchor which held us, and fortunately nothing drifted foul of us during the night.
The typhoon abated shortly after midnight, and when day broke there was a dreadful scene of disaster all over the harbour. Near us on the other side of the fairway there were six sailing vessels which had dragged their anchors and got foul of one another; masts and yards all in a tangled mass; bulwarks dangerous by grinding against one another and a general state of confusion; this was repeated in other parts of the harbour besides which two or three ships had broken loose from their moorings and gone ashore and several small vessels had capsized, to say nothing of the havoc and loss of life among the Chinese boat population.
Storm at sea
We shortly after made a trip to Shanghai and when we got back to Hong Kong there was another blow, this time from the eastward, not nearly so bad as the other, and as it commenced in the morning, we were able to steam to a part of the harbour where there was no shipping and anchor there till the gale was over. While on the subject of typhoons, I may as well mention two others that we experienced. On a trip up the coast when about halfway, somewhere near Turnabout Island, I woke up one morning and found the ship rolling heavily, no wind but a heavy swell from the east. Shortly after we got shelter under Matson, and other islands of the entrance to Foochow River, but when we got past there, the heavy rolling sea was encountered again, so much so that the ship’s course was altered to bring her more head to sea, still a little or no wind. About 4 o’clock in the afternoon, we were off Namquam Harbour and it was a question whether we should take shelter there; but my father, who was one of the old type of sea captains and didn’t like giving in, not being sure whether the gale was over or still to come on, decided to continue on our course northward. Two hours after, when we had passed Namquam too far to go back, and there was no other harbour available, it was quite evident what was coming on and there was no alternative but to put the ship’s head out to sea and face it. The hurricane lasted all that night and the next day and was at it’s height the second night when the ship lay quite helpless with the engines grind dead slow. About midnight, the glass began to rise and the wind lessened and about 10 o’clock next morning, we again stood on our course and when we ascertained our position, we found that we had drifted about 100 miles to the southeast during the storm.
It so happened that we were in good time for bad weather; about half-full only of sugar, so not too deep and yet with sufficient for necessary ballast. Had we been as steep as we usually were when going north, we might have lived through it, but we should have had a bad time and smashed up things on deck considerably, and had been in ballast, we should have capsized.
We had another blow while in Shanghai. We went next morning; the wind having subsided but the mud in the Yangtze had been so stirred up by the storm that we were steaming through what was now more like liquid mud than water, and the engine tubes got so choked up that we gradually slowed down to about 4 knots, barely stemming the tide and we had to anchor for the night.
One more incident I may mention in connection with our journeys up and down the coast: It happened that there was a steamer wrecked on the coast not far from Hong Kong and the Erl King was the first vessel to pass the place where the crew were ashore. They made signals to us but we did not notice them and we passed on. They were subsequently rescued by another steamer and the matter was mentioned in the the papers as if we were somewhat to blame for not noticing the distress signals. Some two or three weeks later going down the coast, steaming and with all sails set, we noticed rockets sent up from some ship nearer the land. It was a dark night and we could not see from whence the rockets came, and we did not want again to be accused of neglecting distress signals, so although we had gone some miles south of where the rockets showed, we took in all sail and steamed back, finally seeing a small gunboat anchored close to shore. She put off a boat and an officer came on board and when he met my father, said: "We are very sorry. We thought it was the Douglas going north and he wanted to send letters by her".
A nice sort of yarn when we were going south and a nice sort of excuse for bringing a big steamer close to shore on a dark night which meant certain amount of danger. My father was so vexed that he swore soundly at the officer when dignity was offended, and he ordered the crew to be mustered, the answer to which was a ring on the telegraph “Full speed ahead”. This sent the officer flying over the rail in his boat and we pursued our way south. If the officer had had the sense to remain on board instead of beating a retreat, it would have placed my father in an awkward position as we could hardly have taken him on to Hong Kong and we should have had to find some means of conveying him back to his ship. A short time afterwards when we were in Hong Kong, the Commodore sent for my father to come to see him and give an explanation of the affair. My father explained to him the danger of drawing a large steamer close inland on a dark night for so trivial reason as to take a letter and said he would gladly apologize to the Lieutenant who came on board for having sworn at him, but he desired an enquiry into the whole affair. This was the last we heard of it. The naval people did not count on an enquiry.
As I mentioned before, I got an appointment in Augustine Heard and Co’s office about October 1868. I was at first stationed in Shanghai, and not too well satisfied with my position, as I was a sort of a supernumerary without any definite duties. However, after about five months, I was to my great delight transferred to Foochow, where I had just the sort of job I wanted, that of shipping clerk. When I was ordered to Foochow, I asked permission to go via Hong Kong. This was granted and I went down in the Erl King, my last trip in the old ship. After two or three days in Hong Kong, I left for Foochow in the Gesis an American built sile wheat steamer commanded by Captain Ashton. On arrival at the Foochow anchorage, we found there was a flood in the river and it might have taken some time to go up against it in a native boat to the settlement five miles higher up.
The manager of the day-dock was, however, going up in the steam tub Woorung and took me up with him. I landed at Jardine, Mathesson and Co’s place and was from there sent on to Heard’s, which was farther up the river. On my arrival at my destination I was received by Mr F Stone, the manager, who handed me over to his assistant, Mr C N Pethick, who showed me round the establishment and then, much to my surprise, what time I would like to have dinner. I answered “at whatever is your usual time”, on which he informed me that he always took his meals into his own room, and that, as Mr Stone had an engagement to dine out, I should be alone. I thought, here I’ve come to a nice place - only two men living together and they don't even eat at the same table.
It so happened, however, that Mr Stone, out of consideration for me, remained at home that evening so I was not alone after all. As I found out afterwards, Pethick was giving up everything for the study of the Chinese language and could not even spare time for meals, but eat them while he was walking up and down in his room and studying; he practically never left the house nor took exercise of any kind, except that he got walking backwards and forwards in his room studying and committing to hear the Chinese characters which he had written in large type on sheets of paper stuck up on the walls. All this was done preliminary to going up to Peking to study the language, it being the intention of the firm to send two or three men to Peking to learn Chinese thoroughly with the view of doing business directly with the Chinese merchants, instead of through the Compradon (the head Chinese clerk), and so saving his commissions and squeezes. Pethick went to Peking in due course and become one of the best Chinese linguists, eventually occupying the position of secretary to Si Hung Chang.
I took up the study of Chinese with the view of following Pethick to Peking, but the idea of dealing directly with the Chinese merchants was never carried out with the firm, they having made a fresh arrangement with the Compradon as to commission which saved them $10,000 per annum; consequently, when our busy season commenced, I gave up the study of the language and never took it up again.
In connection with this scheme of trading directly with the native merchants, the firm engaged an elderly man, who had been a missionary, to act as interpreter until their own clerks were equal to the job. His name was Justice Doolittle, and during the time of his agreement he occupied an office to himself and, as there was no interpreting to be done, he spent his time in compiling a Chinese-English. I don't know if it was ever completed or printed, as shortly after he left us he got into bad health and had to return to America.
At the time I arrived in Foochow, an amateur dramatic performance was being arranged and Mr Stone was taking a leading part in getting it up though he, himself, did not act as he had lately received news of his mother’s death in America. The ladies did not act their parts, having been taken by men, and as I was young and had a smooth face, I was picked upon for a young lady part. I couldn’t act a little bit, but what was counted was that I should dress up well and look the part of a pretty young lady. This I think I did fairly well. Being the slack season, the community of foreigners was very small and there was only one European lady in the commercial community, a Mrs Adell, and she looked after my get-up, lent me one of her dresses, etc. The play was a farce, “Poor Pillicoddy”, and took place in a godown (store) fitted up as a temporary theatre. Probably a very poor performance but it served to passed an evening in a place like Foochow where there is no entertainments except dinner parties.
In this way I got to know all the Europeans, and soon settled down to the life of the place and I think the happiest years of my life were the four I spent in Foochow. In the busy tea season there was plenty of work; a good thing for it was too hot to get much comfort or enjoyment out of life, but in the autumn, winter and early spring, the climate was delightful and there was plenty time for sport and for houseboat trips up and down the river. I think the Min one of the most beautiful rivers in the world - wooded and beautifully varied scenery, with here and there a brown Chinese village nestling among the foliage - no staring white houses to mar the landscape as one sees on European rivers.
It was about 30 miles from Foochow to the mouth of the river and three or four of us young men would go down in the houseboat on Saturday night, take a run out to sea for an hour or two on Sunday morning and then back up the river, reaching home about 4 or 5 o’clock on Sunday afternoon. This was a summer trip. In the winter we more frequently went up river. We would go up about 30 miles before coming to the rapids; if we wanted to go higher up we had to go in a Chinese boat of a type especially constructed for going up and down rapids. There was also a trip to the back of the foreign settlement, which was in a large alluvial inland round which another branch of the river flowed, and up a small tributary called the Gun Fu River, at the navigable end of which there was a small Buddhist Monastery, beautifully situated about 1,000 to 1,200 feet up one of the mountain gorges.
The houseboat belonging to our firm was 60 feet long and about 13 feet beam; drew about 2 ft 6 in of water.She had a house nearly 30 feet long; there was a main cabin about 15 feet long behind that, a sleeping cabin about 7 feet and other accommodation farther aft. In the two cabins there were sleeping accommodation for about six people. This boat was kept by the firm for the purpose of communication with the anchorage, nine miles from the settlement; she had a crew of twelve Chinese and when not required for business purposes, was available for trips up and down the river - shooting excursions, etc. As I was very fond of being on the water, I had many a pleasant day in this boat (The Celinea) on the waters of the Min. In my description of the houseboat, I omitted to say that she had two masts fitted with Chinese sails. The main-mast was on a hinge and could be lowered down, and the foremast was smaller, lifted out so that she could go under the bridges of which there were two when going up the river.
My first year at Foochow was spent as shipping clerk, a position generally given to the junior. We were agents for the P & O Company who had two small steamers, the “Azop” and “Formosa” running as branch lines to Sevatow, Amoy and Foochow, and making each about three trips a month; there were also two steamers owned by Douglas Lapraik & Co running on this line.
When our steamer happened to take the mail during the busy tea season, I had a lively time of it as I had all the steamer work to do, beginning about 6 am and ending any time about midnight and 2 am the next morning, after which I had I frequently had to go down the river in the houseboat to get the Bill of Lading signed and see the the steamer off. However the next day after the mail day was always a loafing day and I was young then and rather enjoyed the trip to the anchorage with breakfast on board the steamer before she sailed out then run up the river to Foochow.
During my second year, I was promoted to the post of bookkeeper, which I had until I was transferred to the Yokohama (Japan) office in March 1873 and was peculiar that I was just four years to the day in Foochow. The first winter I was in Foochow I got an attack of smallpox, caught probably by going on board the British gunboat Dwarf as I found out afterwards that the Chinese boat that attended the ship had it on board. It was a mild attack and I was not told what was the matter with me, and only learnt it from the doctor of the Dwarf who paid me a visit when I was recovering. As soon as I was well enough, I took a trip to Amoy going down in the Azop and returning in the Formosa.
When I first went to Foochow, Mr F Stone was in charge of the office. He was replaced by Mr Marcus Daly, who had been on a trip to England just before the tea season commenced. A new tea taster, Mr M E Bennett, an American, came from England this season and he replaced Mr Daly in charge in the autumn of 1869 and remained in charge until the autumn of 1872. In the winter of 1871-72, Bennett had a trip to Australia to look up administration; I was in temporary charge while he was away. While in Australia he got engaged to a lady pianist, Madame Schapper, who was touring Australia and it was arranged that he should go to London to marry her. The next autumn, 1871, he left for London to carry out his intention of getting married again, leaving me in temporary charge of the Foochow branch. In addition, he left me his power of attorney in order that I might cash certain remittances which he expected from London and pay the seamen for teas which he had bought and shipped home.
I was rather gratified with Bennett’s confidence in me and never dreamed that anything could be wrong or that any trouble could arise, and I am quite convinced that Bennett when he left Foochow expected that ample remittance would be sent out and that his debts to the tea men would be paid in due course. But from the first, everything went cross-wise. A good large remittance came out just after he left Foochow and he intercepted the letter in Hong Kong and instead of sending the draft on to me, he cashed it and invested the money in shares. Evidently Bennett thought that more remittances would be coming out quickly and that the tea men would wait, but what I think really happened was that his friends in London, in the absence of proper instructions, sent this large draft just in time to catch him before he started for home and then held back other moneys until his arrival in London. I waited in vain in expectation of further remittances and after a time the tea men began to get impatient and I began to get anxious. I reckoned on the time he would arrive in London and hope that the return mail would bring me a letter but none came; the next and the third mail also arrived without letters and the tea men wanted payment and said they looked on the firm as being responsible as the teas were not bought specially in Bennett’s name.
There was now nothing left for me to do except to write to Hong Kong and inform the head office how matters stood and as I expected, there was a big row over it. At first they were inclined to blame me for not letting them know sooner. As it was, Bennett was discharged and new arrangements were arranged for the conduct of the Foochow business, and I was transferred to the Yokohama office. If only Bennett had instructed his friends to continue remitting, or even if he had looked into matters on his arrival in London, all might have been well for him, for I don't think he was in financial difficulties. Before the trouble arose, he had a grand wedding somewhere in Kent with a special train from London to convey guests. From a letter I received from him late, I think he got a job in the Bank of New York, of which his father was President. Bennett was a good friend to me and I was very sorry for his downfall.
When I first went to Foochow, it was the most important Tea Post in china, the export being principally to Great Britain, and to a smaller extent to America and the Australian Colonies. A few fine teas were also bought for Russia, and later a Russian started the preparation of brick tea for Russia, via Siberia. Up to 1869, sailing vessels had carried nearly all the tea, except two or three cargoes by steamer at the beginning of each season, but in 1870 there was a difference of opinion between the native tea men and the foreign buyers as to the value of the article and the market, instead of opening in May, remained closed until sometime in July.
In the meanwhile the clipper ships continued to arrive, and when the buying at last commenced, the anchorage with its fleet of waiting ships was a magnificent sight. About 25 of the finest clippers in the world were waiting to load for London; about an equal number of smart little vessels for Australia; two or three steamers for London and one or two American ships, probably the finest fleet of merchant vessel that had ever been got together in any one port. Some of these ships were four or five months lying at anchor before they got their cargo and sailed, and even then, it was a very low rate of freight. This was the last year of the sailors; after this no more were built and they were replaced by steamers, and thus one romance of the old China trade come to an end. My father was interested in two of the sailing ships, the Ada and the Erne, and for a time he got a very good return for the money he had invested in them. Eventually they were both sold.
There was not much to record of my residence in Foochow - a very busy time during the hot summer and nothing to do in the pleasant cool months of the winter and early spring, except to loaf lazily, varied by houseboat trips up the country and the spring race meeting. One day was very much like another - early breakfast in my own room about 8 o’clock, then dress and go to the office until noon; then lunch, and then again in the office (if there is any work to do) till four or five o’clock; then a ride or a game of bowls; up to the club, a game of billiards; home to dinner, which was at eight in the summer and seven in the winter - to bed about 10 o’clock. This was the usual days routine.
The city of Foochow contains about one million inhabitants and is situated a mile or two from the foreign settlement, or rather from the European residences and business places, for there is no regular foreign settlement; the latter being on a large island formed by the division of the river into two streams which reunite lower down, close to what is known as Pagoda anchorage, and where the ships lie at anchor. The business places are mostly on the banks of the river and the dwellings on the hill at the back, which is a healthier and cooler situation. Our dwelling house was unfortunately in the same compound as the office and the go-downs and Chinese quarters, and was a hot hole in the summer.
To get to the Chinese city one had to cross a short bridge to a small island covered with native houses, and then by a long bridge over a very wide branch of the river. The bridge is, in a flowery language of the Chinese, called the “Bridge of Ten Thousand Ages”. It is a very solid structure with piers of granite about ten feet apart, the roadway being made of large stones some sixteen feet long by three foot square, laid from pier to pier, not arches. It must have been a great work constructing this bridge and bringing from the quarries and placing in position these immense blocks of granite, and the piers must be very strong to withstand the fushets and floods which come down the river in spring.
Here I must mention one gruesome sight that I unintentionally witnessed on this same bridge - a man in a cage being stowed to death. The cage was just big enough to stand in, and his head projected from a hole in the top. As he was a short man, a couple of bricks were under his feet, otherwise he would be hanging from the top by his chin and the back of his head. When I saw him the poor wretch had been in the cage for some days and I believed he lingered on for sometime longer before he died. I have an idea that he was drugged with opium and if so, he perhaps did not suffer very much. Each day he was taken to the Magistrate’s Gamen and put out for the public to see in the morning. This will give an idea of cruel nature of the Chinese punishments.
There were no wheeled vehicles in Foochow, as there were no roads suitable for them, only narrow stone graved streets in the city suitable for sedan chairs, or coolies carrying loads on bamboos over their shoulders. In the country there were only narrow paths over, or rather between, the fields - some of these were paved with flat stones. European residents had been at some pains to make narrow gravelled paths in several directions suitable for walking and riding and there was a so-called road trust of which I was for some time secretary and treasurer. Our enterprising Scots-man had imported a donkey and had constructed a little two-wheeled carriage on which he could drive for some little distance along the paths outside the settlement. Of course it was only a toy. During my first three years in Foochow, I thoroughly enjoyed the life and took a great interest in everything going on in the place, but during my last year I was out of health and was very glad when I got orders to go to Japan, as I thought the change would set me up again.
In March 1872 I left Foochow in the small steamer Dragon for Shanghai, en route for Japan, and after a few days there, I left for Yokohama in the American side-wheel steamer Golden Age. This type of ship was very roomy and comfortable to travel in and after touching Nagasaki, we passed through the beautiful inland sea calling at Robe and then a night journey to Yokohama. The Golden Age was a wooden steamer of about 2,000 tons with two tiers of houses on deck and a single-engine, with a walking beam almost as high from the deck as the funnel. She was built in America in about 1850 and her first voyage was to England, where the underwriters refused to take risks on her, considering that a vessel with houses on deck and a walking beam high up could not be seaworthy. This vessel which the English underwriters turned down was when I travelled in her twenty-three years later, looked upon as a first-class risk for trading in any part of the world.
On arrival in Yokohama, I found I was to take the place of the bookkeeper, Mr F T James, who was going on leave. There were two partners, Mr G Farley Jnr, the tea man and Mr Fraser, the silk man, and a Mr Low and myself, besides the Japanese and Chinese assistants. The Establishment was on the Esplanade facing the harbour and at a street corner and consisted of an eight-roomed house of two floors, a small separate building at the rear for the office, warehouses, Chinese and native quartes, etc. I did not like it as I liked Foochow and my health was more or less bad all the time I was in Yokohama. The routine of work was very much the same as in China but more regular office hours were kept than in Foochow.
During the summer Mrs Albert Heard came to stay with us in order to escape the heat of Hong Kong, and Mr Farley’s sister also came as a companion for her. In consequence of this influx, our bedroom accommodation was overtaxed and I went for a time to sleep at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. In the middle of summer, Mrs Heard said that she would like an excursion into the country and insisted that the whole establishment must go. Mr Fraser got out of the trip on the plea of business, but the rest of us had to admit. The party so far as I can re-member, consisted of Mrs Heard and Miss Farley, Mr Farley and the Russian Minister in a carriage, and Mrs Low and myself riding ponies; Low had a pony of his own but I had to hire one and a sorry beast it was.
We rode for about ten or fifteen miles, then left the ponies and went in junrekshaws. We saw Dairbuts - the huge figure of “Bhudda” a bronze figure seated in a lotus leaf about 30 feet high, the inside which forms a temple; then we went on the sea shore, where the sea was beautifully refreshing, to some village where we had lunch and a rest. Afterwards we started on the return journey, all tired out with the heat; again took to the carriage and ponies and I had a bad time; Low’s pony was alright but mine was sluggish and tired and I was tired too, and had to urge the wretched beast along all the way. Fortunately we were able to get a bottle of ale about halfway without which I doubt if I could have held out till we reached Yokohama. I doubt if I was ever so tired in my life but after a night’s sleep, I was all right the next morning.
Japan is probably the most beautiful country in the world. Owing to a warm stream similar to the Gulf Stream, there is always a sufficiency of moisture in the air to encourage the growth of vegetation, and trees and shrubs on the coast grow right down to the water’s edge; the variety of trees, too, is wonderful and when added to this, is considered the lofty hills and mountains with glorious Fujiyama, snow-capped and towering over 12,000 feet above sea level, one can quite understand that Japan is the Isle of beauty.
In the autumn of 1873, a couple of friends asked me to join them on a trip to the neighbourhood of Fujiyama; I consented but I must say that in the interval before we started, sitting before a fire and shivering in our dining room in Yokohama, I felt much inclined to back out. However, on the trip I went and it proved a most enjoyable one. We started in rickshaws along the main road or “Toknido” to Odawarra from whence we had to walk up a mountain path to “Meanoshita” which was to be our headquarters. It was a beautiful walk through well-wooded mountain scenery but was rather a trial for me as I was not in good condition; however, Meanoshita was reached at last and a meal and rest put me alright. The Tea house we stopped at was situated in the Bolearni district which surrounds Fujiyama and there were hot springs and other evidences of volcanic agency in the immediate neighbourhood. The water from a hot spring about half a mile away and was brought to us by hollow bamboo pipes and filled a number of baths into which kept constantly running and overflowing; the water was so hot that I could that I could not get into my bath in the morning until a couple of buckets of cold water had been poured in, then I went on the balcony and dressed while there was a sharp frost covering the ground with white; in the keen mountain air I did not feel the cold nearly so much as sitting before the fire in Yokohama.
During our stay at Myanoshita which extended to about a week, we made excursions in different directions; one day to Hakone Lake, a beautiful little blue gem surrounded by green hills with a view of Fusiyama some miles distance; another day we went up a mountain pass, a hot walk under the blazing sun, the summit of the pass was about 4,000 feet high and it was all I could do to reach it but when I did I was amply rewarded for the exert-ion. We had an uninterrupted view of Fusiyama - nothing but the sweep of the valley between us and the grand snow-capped peak; it was a sight I will never forget. Fujiyama is an extinct volcano and is in shape a perfect truncated cave except there is a small lump about half way up. Many Europeans have been to the top and I believe there is no great difficulty in the climb except that it is very tiring, part of the way having to be made through lava ashes.
The hot springs near our Tea house consisted of pure hot water without any unpleasant taste and smell and a few miles away, were some hot sulphur springs that smelt vilely, like rotten eggs. These were considered good for skin diseases and the natives used to bathe in them - we did not try it. On the return journey, one of our companions (Robilliard) and I decided to walk into Yokohama; it was a long journey about 45 miles. We did the greater part of the journey one day and were thoroughly tired out when we reached the place where we were to passed the night, too tired to eat or sleep well. We walked the remaining 17 miles the next morning after a bath and lunch, I was perfectly right again.
We made occasional trips to Tokio which could be reached by a short train journey. There we wandered through the temple grounds and also had the entry at times to the grounds belonging to the Imperial palace, which which had been destroyed by fire some time previously. My health was not good and I suffered a good deal from insomnia. After a bad attack, I took a trip to Robe and from there had two or three days in the county. This little change set me up for a time, but I got bad again and arranged to have a month or six weeks holiday.
I went to Hong Kong in the P & O steamer Orissa, and then up the coast to Foochow, expecting to have two or three weeks amongst old friends. This was the slack season and at a time when there was little or nothing doing. Mr George Oliver who was in charge of the Foochow branch, wanted a holiday and took advantage of my being there to obtain permission from the head office to leave me in charge while he went away; this suited me splendidly as it gave me a long time in Foochow. just what I wanted. On his return, I went down the coast in the Douglas to Hong Kong and thence by the P & O steamer Bombay back to Yokohama.
I was better in health for a time, but got again into a low state and the doctor advised me to take a trip home. Now it so happened that sometime previously, the firm had been revising their agreements with their employees and went up one for three years for me to sign; the terms were satisfactory but taking my health into consideration, I wanted to arrange for a trip to England during the three years and I stipulated that I should have six months leave, either on full pay or my passage home and out paid. Mr Farley to whom I spoke, promised to refer the matter to Head Office, which apparently he neglected to do. Some weeks afterwards, he again asked me to sign the agreement as it was wanted in Hong Kong. I asked him how about my stipulation for leave; he said “That will be all right” but never told me that he had never referred the matter to Head Office. Trusting him, I signed the agreement and thought no more about it.
I got ill again and while laid up, an order came for me to go to Hong Kong. I was not well enough to leave by the first steamer, but a few days later we went by the French mail steamer. On arrival at Hong Kong, I asked to have my leave and found that Mr George Heard, the partner then in charge, knew nothing about the arrangement I had made with Mr Farley. I offered to go to Foochow, as I thought the climate might suite me better than Yokohama, but he would not entertain my proposal but said I could either remain in Hong Kong or take six months leave and he would write to Mr Farley and find out what promises had been made to me. I chose the latter and booked my passage by the American mail steamer to San Francisco. A few days later I left Hong Kong by the side-wheel steamer Japan for San Francisco, calling at Yokohama en route, where we were joined by two other employees of the firm - Mr Cunningham, The Hong Kong Tea Taster, and Mr Livingstone, Mrs Albert Heard’s brother who was a clerk at Kobe office. there was only about a dozen or twenty European passengers on board and several hundred Chinese in the steerage. We had a perfectly smooth passage across the Pacific until within two days run of San Francisco, when a strong breeze sprang up and lasted till we reached port. I and five other passengers formed a whist party and we played in the afternoons and evenings. If we all wanted to play we used to cut in, but usually there was one or two who wanted to do something else and the advantage of having six in the party was that any one or two could stay out without spoiling the game for others.
One incident of the voyage I must mention: There was a Jew furniture dealer who quarrelled with his wife, and she threatened to leave him and bought a ticket to San Francisco which she flourished in his face. The good lady thought he would beg her to stay, which he did not, and even when she came on board the steamer, she thought he would come off and beg her to come back home, but he let her go and was probably glad to get rid of her. After we got to sea, the good lady repented of her act and asked the Captain if he would put her on board the westward-bound steamer when we got in mid-ocean. It was customary for them to take such a course as to meet with one another mid-way so as to render assistance in case of an accident, for there were very few ships in the North Pacific in those days. The Captain told her that he would do as she wished if she would pay for her return passage. To do this she sold some of her jewellery to other passengers and so raised the necessary funds. When the Captain had heard of her deserting her husband, he blurted out without thinking: “I shouldn’t like it if my wife left me”, the poor woman burst into tears and said: “I love him still.” As it happened, we did not meet the other steamer and so we had to go on to San Francisco. What became of her afterwards and whether she rejoined her good man, I never heard.
Our passage to San Francisco occupied 22 days and on landing, we went to the Occidental Hotel and wandered round the town during the day, going to the theatre at night, and the next morning, at 7 O’clock, we started in the train for New York, a seven days journey.
There was not much to be said about our train journey; my two travelling companions had seats in the Pullman car, and for a part of the journey, we had separate compartment; stoppages were made three times a day for meals with the exception of one small stay when we had a dining car on the train; this was after we got into the Eastern states. The first day out, we were engaged in climbing the Sierra Nevadas over 7,000 feet high; the scenery was wild and beautiful. Towards evening, we reached a point on the track called “Cape Horn”. The road was cut out of the rocky side of the mountain and the outside of the carriages literally overhung the precipice so that we would look down on the top of the pine trees some 55 feet below us. The next two days we were passing through a dreary and uninteresting country, practically a desert with nothing growing except sage bush. After this, we got to Omaha where the two lines the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific meet; there we had to change carriages.
We passed through Chicago, when we had a stop long enough to enable us to take a walk through the town - from then the route passed through the Southern portion of Canada till it again crossed into the United States at Niagara. Young Livingstone and I left the train at Niagara and took up our quarters for a couple of days at the “Cataract House” on the American side of the falls; there on the second day we again took the train for New York, with sixteen hours journey arriving after a night in the train about 7 O’clock in the morning. I went to the Fifth Avenue Hotel and then found word from Mr Cunningham that he proposed to cross the Atlantic the following day and I there and then made up my mind to accompany him if I could, my difficult being out of money. I had a letter of Credit on Everett and C Barton from whom to get money for my passage to England and I knew if I could find their Agents in New York the credit would be honoured, the difficult being that the name of the firm in question was Smith, and it might be difficult to find out the right Smith amongst so many of that name; however, I got hold of the directory and made a note of several likely Smiths, then chartered a cab and started on my search. By a stroke of luck the first place I called at happened to be the right one and in addition, I found my friend Cunningham there, so all was smooth sailing - I got that money I wanted and took my passage to Liverpool by Lurnau Line steamer City of Richmond which was to start the following morning.
Before I describe my passage to England, I must say a few words about my short stay in the United States. I have already mentioned San Francisco and Chicago. Our next halting place was Niagara. The hotel we stopped at was a pure resort of tourists but being out of season, was nearly empty. The falls were a grand sight and like other things on a large scale, it was impossible to realize the greatness until we had seen them several times - the vast amount of solid green water that tumbles over the the rocky ledge is almost beyond the human mind to fully grasp; it does not flow in broken water a spray but in a solid unbroken mass until it falls into the river far below where great clouds of spray arise.
It is possible to get underneath and behind the falls in what is called the Cave of Winds, but I did not attempted and was content with an outside view. The hotel in which I stopped in New York was a gorgeous place but without any of the real comfort of a good English hotel. The decorations were gaudy but, in my opinion, in bad taste. New York was a large city but very different from what it is today. I am writing in 1874 and it was many years later before a 20 to 40 story building known as “Sky Scrapers” that now adorn the city were built. I had not time to do more than have a rumble through the town which was old fashioned and nothing remarkable.
We started from New York on a Saturday morning - the steamer was of the old-fashioned type about 4,000 tons, a good roomy saloon and a good smoking room but none of the luxuries of the modern floating palace of this year 1924. Speaking from recollection, I should say we had about 100 passengers in the saloon and a large number in the steerage, most of them being Irish emigrants returning home as owing to a period of depression, they were unable to find work in America.
We started from New York on a Saturday and the next day, Sunday, was close and hot with little or no wind but towards evening, a small roll of sea sprang up so much so that as I was going to bed, one of the stewards was going round screwing up the ports in the saloon which had been open all day; now the saloon was a large square apartment extending the whole width of the vessel. Aft from this ran a passage with two rows of state rooms on either side; the outer ones lighted by scuttles and the inner ones by lights from the deck. Mine was one of the inner ones on the starboard side. I went to bed and woke up soon after finding the ship rolling heavily and the cabin being close and hot, I felt a little squeamish and had a thought of going into the saloon and lying down on one of the settees; however, I said to myself: I’m not going to give up and turned over and went to sleep again. Shortly after, the ship gave a very heavy lurch and a lot of passengers’ baggage which had been left in the before-mentioned passage, went flying away leeward. This woke me up and I had hardly dosed off again when I was roused by a crash and a sound of falling water. I jumped up and clambered over the boxes in the passage and on reaching the saloon, met a passenger coming out who had done what I thought of doing; gone there to lie down - and looked like a drowned rat. The saloon skylight had been smashed and the water was coming down solid and green, not in bucket falls but in tons. Shortly after that, she again shipped in a big sea which again half filled the saloon and it was not pleasant to look at, for one did not know what was going on at the other end of the ship.
However, she soon began to have an even motion and by morning, although it was still blowing hard, it was nothing but an ordinary gale.We found out afterwards that we had passed through a cyclone and that it was when the wind suddenly shifted and made heavy cross seas, that she shipped the water. The rest of the voyage was uneventful and in due course, we arrived at Liverpool.
On our arrival, I put up at the North Western Hotel in Lime Street and went to look up my old friends, Mr and Mrs Fox, not the Mrs Fox of my childhood but a second wife, much younger, who also had been an acquaintance of ours. To my surprise, I found that the next day was the 21st birthday of Mrs Fox’s son Willie, the little friend of my school days in Liverpool and a party was to be given in honour of the event. I was, of course, asked to be one of the guests and I put off my trip to London in consequence. I attended the birthday party and the next day went by train to London and put up at the Charing Cross Hotel. After a few days in London and looking up some friends, I made my way to Jersey to spend a few weeks with my father and step-mother. When my father went home from China in 1869 and retired from the sea, he married a young wife who, however, lived less than a year.
After another interval of about two years, he married again and when I arrived home, I found that his household consisted of himself, his wife, his wife’s mother (Mrs Risebough), an old lady of about 70 and his child, an infant rather more than a year old; also my brother Oswald. My stepmother was a very good woman only about three or four years older than me and she and I have been from that day to this, the best of friends. After spending some time in Jersey and going around with my father to visit all the uncles and aunts and sundry friends, I, with my father, returned to London and after staying at the Arundel Hotel for a few days, I got lodging in North London near Ampthill Square while my father returned to Jersey. I don’t remember how long I stayed in London, but with the exception of visits to old friends I remember the time was rather a dreary one and I was not sorry when the time arrived for me to go back to Jersey to spend Christmas with my people.