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Chapter 11 LECTURE XI.

  • >  "I then spoke to the President," continues Professor West, in his diary,
  • "of my impecunious position, representing to him the reason of its existence, and mentioning my futile efforts to obtain an advance or addition of credit.
  • He remarked thai the question of the expenses of the Commission had no_ccurred to him, but that he would at-once personally see that it was attende_o, and summoning a messenger sent a request to the head of the General of th_redit Card Department to join us at once.
  • >
  • > " Of course, I recognized that it was not the duty of the President t_ttend to the numerous details consequent upon the departure of th_ommissioners, whether those details were the payment of their expenses, o_he railway schedule of their transportation ; but, as I have alread_ecorded, I had been unable to procure an extension of our family credit, an_ was unwilling to leave Edith and the children dependent upon what, thoug_isguised as the kindness of friends, we all recognized as charity. I was, therefore, glad to have our credit extended before my departure, even thoug_hat consummation required the personal interposition of the President.
  • >
  • > " I oflEered to leave his Excellency to attend to his other business while _aited in the ante-room the arrival of the General of the Credit Car_epartment, but he bade me stay with him. My presence, he was kind enough t_ay, was a relief to him.
  • >
  • > "' I am very weary of the burden of office,' he said. ' My responsibilitie_eem greater than I can bear. In the last week I have not averaged each da_our hours of slumber.  I dare not go to bed, for in my dreams I see million_f helpless people crying to me for help — help that neither I nor any on_lse know how to give. I catch my sleep, here, as chance lets me, between th_isits of people I must see, and the pressure of business that must b_ttended to. My Secretaries have orders never to let me sleep longer tha_ifteen minutes at a time, for if I do, then dreams come to me. I dreamed th_ther night that I was a switchman on a railroad (you know I belonged to th_ailroad division of the industrial army). I had opened the switch to shunt _reight train on to a side track, and, then, suddenly, my limbs wer_aralyzed. I saw a passenger train rushing down the track. I knew that if tha_witch were not closed, and there was no one near to close it but myself, a_wful accident would happen, and hundreds of people killed. But my arms an_egs were paralyzed; I could not move. I tried to cry, out, but I could mak_o sound. Fortunately, at that moment, one of my Secretaries awoke me, but _hall never forget the awful mental agony of that dream. I had slept then ove_n hour. It was after that experience that I gave the order that I shoul_ever be allowed to sleep longer than fifteen minutes at a time.
  • >
  • > " This personal anecdote — or, I might, perhaps, more properly call i_onfession — of the President, has led me to appreciate, in an entirely ne_ight, the difficulties that beset the rulers of our nation.
  • >
  • > " I stayed, therefore, with the President, and tried to relieve his mind b_elling, in as humorous a manner as possible, my journeys from pillar to post, while trying to get an advance of credit. I had succeeded in making th_resident laugh, when Mr. John Dennison, Chief of the Credit Card Department, arrived. The President explained to him what was wanted, and he at once sai_hat he would immediately have cards for a year's credit made out and sent t_e. At the President's suggestion, I agreed to await these cards at th_residential mansion.
  • >
  • > ' " No sooner had Mr. Dennison taken his leave than I bethought myself o_eete's anxiety to return to Boston. I told the President of it.
  • >
  • > " ' It would never do to stand in the way of lovers,' he said with a smile,
  • 'you and I must devise some solution for their difficulties.' He reflected fo_ moment, then said, ' I see no reason why the Commissioners should not b_llowed to take a Secretary with them.  What do you say to my appointing Leet_o that post ? It will at least afford him safe conduct into and out o_oston, and you must arrange with the other Commissioners that he ha_ufficient leisure to see his sweetheart.' He sat down and wrote a few lines, then touched a bell, and said to the Secretary who came in response, ' Sen_ome one at once with that to General Slocum [Lewis M. Slocum, Chief of th_ailroad Department]; see that the commission is made out immediately, an_hen let some one have it at the Commissioners' train, so that Mr. West ca_eceive it before the train leaves.'
  • >
  • > "' Might I ask, Mr. President,' I said ' that a messenger be sent to my son, telling him to be at the depot in time to catch the train ?'
  • >
  • > "' A very, happy suggestion,' replied his Excellency. And he gave order_ccordingly.
  • >
  • > " I remained with the President until a messenger came with the promise_redit cards, then having thanked his Excellency for his many kindnesses, _ook my departure.
  • >
  • > " I had but little time left at my own disposal, for a special train on th_ichigan Southern was to leave that afternoon at two o'clock, to take us t_lbany, where it had been already arranged that we should meet Commissioner_rom the commanders of the fleets at Boston, New York and Washington. Ther_as barely time for me to hurry to our lodgings, distribute the credit cards, tell Edith and Leete what had taken place, pack my gripsack, lunch and sa_ood-bye to my family, and then catch the train. At my request Edith gave m_alf of the gold coin we had carried with us; and of this, Leete and I eac_ecreted a half about our persons.
  • >
  • > " The road was cleared for us, and we reached Albany the next day abou_oon. The first thing that struck me on our arrival at the city that had onc_een the capital of the great State of New York, was the different aspec_hich the city now presented from what it showed to us when we passed throug_t only a few days before. Then, as I have said, it was overcrowded and almos_everish in the activity of its denizens; now all who could forsake it ha_led, and the numbness of fear was upon it.
  • >
  • > " We were met at the station by a body of Chinese troops, and by the_scorted through almost deserted streets to the municipal building, where th_hinese awaited us. I know not how the others felt, but for myself, lookin_ow backward and seeking to recall the sensations that then visited me, th_cene is implanted in my memory is one of the saddest that can be imagined.
  • Once in a while, a curious face appeared at a window along the line of ou_arch, to disappear again almost immediately, but there were no crowds in th_treets we traversed, and the city seemed strangely silent.
  • >
  • > " When, some score of years ago, I was awakened by Dr. Leete to a new age, and I might almost say to a new world, it took me some time to becom_ccustomed to my surroundings, and especially to those manifestations o_uriosity which my appearance in a new circle always occasioned. My story, however, soon became a twice-told tale to the Bostonians, and at last it wa_nly at rare intervals that I was reminded that I was different from m_ssociates. Now, however, the curiosity which the Chinese evinced whenever _ppeared, recalled the sensations of my first awakening. My story wa_vidently known to them, and no doubt I was a great curiosity in their eyes.
  • But my strange experience did not make me contemptible in their opinion; o_he contrary they thought more of me than of my associates. Ancestors and th_en of antiquity had been so long objects of veneration in the Celestia_mpire, that I, who had been a contemporary with their progenitors seemed i_heir opinion to be entitled to the same respect that they entertained fo_hose progenitors. They listened to me, therefore, as if the accumulate_isdom of two centuries spoke in my words.
  • >
  • > " The Chinese Commissioners were men of high breeding and great intellectua_ttainments. Their polished manners, and skill in conversation (they all spok_xcellent English) would have made them charming hosts, under differen_ircumstances. As it was, they rendered the labors of the Commissioners les_edious than they otherwise would have been.
  • >
  • > " We began by complying with our instructions, and remonstrating on th_nvasion. To this they answered that the proselyting attempted in China by th_ationalists made the invasion a matter of self-protection. To ou_emonstrance on the destruction of life and property in New York and Bosto_hey answered that it had been a necessity occasioned by the riotous behavio_f the Bostonians and by the attempted defense of New York. As for th_eportation of United States citizens they defended it only on the ground o_olicy, declaring that it was true wisdom to decrease the number of opponent_nd afford place for their own fellow-citizens. They laughed to scorn an_roposal to recognize the credit cards of the nation unless an equal sum i_old was placed with them as a collateral for their redemption.
  • >
  • > " Our negotiations, however, were not begun and ended in a day; and when w_ad presented the Nationalistic demands and they had been formulated into th_roper shape, the Chinese Commissioners notified us that before rendering an_ecisive answer they must communicate with the Admirals of the several fleets.
  • This, they said, would take time — probably a week would elapse before a_uthoritative answer could be given—and having learned from our conversatio_hat we were relying almost wholly on chance information as to the conditio_f the cities which they had conquered, they suggested that we spend th_nterval in visiting those cities and with our own eyes viewing the change_hat had taken place.  We telegraphed to Chicago and promptly receive_nstructions to go; and so, with the understanding that we were to meet a_lbany one week hence, we divided ; two of my associates went to Washington, two to New York, and Leete and I accompanied Commissioner Hi to Boston.
  • >
  • > " A special train took us speedily to our destination, where we arrived o_he morning of the 18th. The Admiral still made his headquarters on boar_hip, and thither we at once proceeded. Without  delay, I was at onc_ntroduced to him, and both Commissioner Hi, Leete and myself were invited t_reakfast with him. That meal ended, however, I was informed that Lieutenan_i would be closeted with the Admiral during the day, and would not be able t_ccompany me about town, but I was introduced to Captain Lee, who, I was told, would be my host and cicerone during my stay. Accompanied by the Captain, who_ found to be an agreeable gentleman (as indeed were all the Chinese officer_hat I met), and having given my promise to the Admiral that I would refrai_rom fomenting, encouraging or advising rebellion, I sallied forth.
  • >
  • > " There was less change in the aspect of the city than I had expected. Ther_ere fewer stragglers m the streets than usual — indeed, I learned that al_hose business did not require them to be abroad were required to stay a_ome. The main streets were patroled by soldiers, who saluted my conductor (who was in the full uniform of his rank), and looked curiously at me. We too_ur way to the Municipal Building, where the Council were still prisoners, an_hich was still the place from which municipal aflfairs were directed. I wa_ermitted to see these unfortunate gentlemen, who composed the Council, and t_onverse with them, but only, however, in the presence of Captain Lee. The_ailed my arrival with joy, as one from that outside world from which the_ere secluded, but Captain Lee had warned me that they had been purposely kep_n ignorance of all that had transpired outside of Boston since the 4th, an_ad requested me not to give them information on this point. To all thei_uestions I was, therefore, unable to give an answer, while they in turn coul_ell me little of what had transpired in the city. I left them with regret; and then, at my request, went to the house that but so short time ago had bee_y home. It had been turned into a barrack for the soldiery, and had bee_acked and dismantled. It was like home no longer, and weary and disheartene_y what I had seen, I begged the Captain to take me back to his ship.
  • >
  • > " It was five o'clock when we reached the ship, and I was at once shown t_y apartment — a room adjoining the Captain's, and as luxuriously fitted wit_ll the conveniences as a stateroom in a private yacht would have been in m_outh. A bath refreshed me greatly, and a cup of excellent tea subsequentl_artaken of in the Captain's cabin made me feel quite myself again. At seve_e dined with the Admiral, and I met the commanders of the ships then in th_arbor. After dinner, most of the superior officers of the Chinese servic_ropped in, evidently in consequence of a previous invitation, and the cabi_as quite crowded. I did not at first realize that I was the attraction the_ad come to see, but when one or two had politely asked me questions abou_aval affairs and discipline in the nineteenth century, I realized the fac_hat 1 was as great a curiosity to these highly-educated gentlemen as I ha_een a few hours previously to the common soldiers, and many years ago to D_eete and his contemporaries.
  • >
  • > " When, about midnight, the guests had all departed, and the Captain and _nd a couple of the junior officers of the ship were left alone, I ventured t_peak of what I had noticed.
  • >
  • > "' Yes,' he said, ' we have heard in China of your wonderful experiences, and it is not strange that we should be anxious to see an individual wh_epresents the highest type of the civilization of two centuries. It is _avorite matter of discussion with us, whether the civilization of thi_ountry was higher in the nineteenth century than it is to-day. Our bes_hinkers are by no means agreed on the answer and it would be interesting t_now what your opinion is after a practical experience in both.'
  • >
  • > "' I have no hesitation in answering at once,' I said, ' that th_ivilization of to-day is vastly higher than that of the nineteenth century, with the sole exception of the power of self-defense. In the days of my yout_ou would not so easily have conquered us; but I am not so sure,' I added, '
  • that we will not under our present civilization develop powers of resistanc_nd retaliation which will astonish the world.'
  • >
  • > " We sat talking for an hour or so longer and then retired.
  • >
  • > " The next morning while breakfasting the Captain noticed me examining th_aintings which decorated the walls of his cabin, and spoke of it.
  • >
  • > "' Yes,' said I, ' in the nineteenth century the cabins of our war-ship_ere not usually galleries of fine arts. But it seems to me that I have see_ost of these paintings before, so that it may be that they are recen_cquisitions ?'
  • >
  • > "' They are,' said Captain Lee. ' They were part of the collection of th_assetts, and were purchased by me only a day or two ago. Oil paintings b_aster hands are no more now than in your early days, part of the furnishing_f a war-ship. Though of course then as now the commanding officer ma_ecorate his cabin as he chooses, provided of course that he does no_nterfere with the working power of the ship.'
  • >
  • > " I need not record here the details of my observations in Boston, as I hav_oted them on a separate paper from which my report to the President an_ongress will be drafted. Suffice to say that while I saw much that compelle_e to admire the ingenuity with which our invaders have made the main feature_f our Nationalistic theory serve the ends of their own government, I saw als_uch that caused me great grief in the apathy of our citizens and th_ebasement which had already begun to show in society, I reserve all comment_n this subject, however, for my report.  I was not sorry, however, when th_ime came for me to return to Albany with Commissioner Hi."