In the Strange South Seas
IN THE STRANGE SOUTH SEAS
By Beatrice Grimshaw
Author Of “From Fiji To The Cannibal Islands,” Etc.
London: Hutchinson & Co. Paternoster Row
IN THE STRANGE SOUTH SEAS
In desire of many marvels over sea,
When the new made tropic city sweats and roars,
I have sailed with young Ulysses from the quay,
Till the anchor rattled down on stranger shores.
MOST men have their loves, happy or hopeless, among the countries of the earth. There are words in the atlas that ring like trumpet calls to the ear of many a stay-at-home in grey northern cities—names of mountains, rivers, islands, that tramp across the map to the sound of swinging music played by their own gay syllables, that summon, and lure, and sadden the man who listens to their fifing, as the music of marching regiments grips at the heart of the girl who loves a soldier.
They call, they call, they call—through the long March mornings, when the road that leads to everywhere is growing white and dry—through restless summer nights, when one sits awake at the window to see the stars turn grey with the dawn—in the warm midday, when one hurries across the city bridge to a crowded eating-house, and the glittering masts far away down the river must never be looked at as one passes. Of a misty autumn evening, when steamers creeping up to seaport towns send long cries across the water, one here, and another there, will stir uneasily in his chair by the fire, and shut his ears against the insistent call.... Why should he listen, he who may never answer?
(Yokohama, the Golden Gate, Cape Horn, the Rio Grande, Agra, Delhi, Benares, Bombay, the Amazon, the Andes, the South Sea Islands, Victoria Nyanza, the Pyramids, the Nile, Lhassa, Damascus, Singapore, the tundras, the prairies, trade-winds, tropics, and the Line—can’t you hear us calling?)
Love is not stronger than that call—let sweetheartless girls left alone, and the man of cities who has loved the woman of the wandering foot, give bitter witness. Death is not stronger—those who follow the call must defy him over and over again. Pride of country, love of home, delight in well-known faces and kindly hearts that understand, the ease of the old and well-tried ways, the prick of ordinary ambitions hungering for the showy prizes that every one may see—these are but as dead leaves blown before the wind, when the far-off countries cry across the seas. Not one in a hundred may answer the call; yet never think, you who suppose that love and avarice and the lust of battle sum up all the great passions of the world, that scores out of every hundred Englishmen have not heard it, all the same. “In the heart of every man, a poet has died young”; and in the heart of almost every Briton, a wanderer once has lived. If this were not so, the greatest empire of the world had never been.
So, to The Man Who Could Not Go, I address this book—to the elderly, white-waistcoated city magnate, grave autocrat of his clerkly kingdom (never lie to me, sir—what was your favourite reading in the sixties, and why were you a very fair pistol shot, right up to the time when you were made junior manager?)—to the serious family solicitor, enjoying his father’s good old practice and house, and counting among the furnishings of the latter, a shelf of Marryats, Mayne Reids, and Michael Scotts, wonderfully free of dust—to the comfortable clergyman, immersed in parish cares, who has the oddest fancy at times for standing on dock-heads, and sniffing up odours of rope and tar—to all of you, the army of the brave, unwilling, more or less resigned Left Behinds, who have forgotten years ago, or who will never, forget while spiring masts stand thick against blue skies, and keen salt winds wake madness in the brain—to all I say: Greeting! and may the tale of another’s happier chance send, from the fluttering pages of a book, a breath of the far-off lands and the calling sea.
Fate and Her Parcels—How It All came true—The First South Sea Island—Coleridge and the Tropics—The Spell of the Island Scents—What happens to Travellers—Days in Dreamland—A Torchlight Market—The Enchanted Fei.
LIKE an idle messenger-boy, Fate takes a long while about her rounds, but she will get through with them and deliver all her parcels, if you give her time enough.
She has so much business that she confuses orders very often, and you are never sure of getting what you sent for. Still,