Page images
PDF
EPUB

exceptions, and there are in every country enlightened and liberal spirits who do not abhor a stranger merely because he is such.

Among the excursions made in the vicinity of Yedo, some were to the gardens or nurseries, where plants are reared for sale. Mr. Fortune says he has never seen, in any part of the world, such a large number of plants cultivated for sale. The pretty Nanking square porcelaia pots, the masses of deep green foliage, and the quaint form and colouring of little rocks of agate, crystal, or other rare stone placed in the pots, produced a novel and striking effect. In Japan, as in China, the art of dwarfing plants has been brought to a high state of perfection. A box is noticed only one inch square by three inches high, in which were actually growing and thriving a bamboo, a fir, and a plum-tree. The price of this portable grove was about 1001. Unfortunately, the Yakonins, who had their profits to make, made our collector pay considerably more than the market price for what purchases he effected. The most remarkable feature in these nurseries was, however, the number of plants with variegated leaves. The Japanese have long cultivated this art. Mr. Fortune was luckily enabled to select in these extensive nurseries a great number of new ornamental shrubs and trees, which will one day, it is hoped, produce a striking and novel effect upon our English parks and pleasure-grounds.

Another excursion was to Ogee, which is described as the Richmond of Japan, and its celebrated tea-house is a sort of “Star and Garter Hotel.” As if it were not enough to have pretty living damsels, in one of these gardens there were imitation ladies made up out of the flowers of the chrysanthemum. An enthusiastic florist would no doubt prefer the latter. The Japanese gardener, it appears, understands the cultivation of these chrysanthemums better than we do, and Mr. Fortune obtained some new varieties at the temple of Ah-sax-saw, which may create as great a change among chrysanthemums as the modest “ Chusan daisy" did when she became the parent of the present race of pompones.

Among other places visited was the temple of Eco-ying, erected to the memory of 180,000 human beings who lost their lives in an earthquake about a hundred and fifty years ago. At the hotel, the young girls, kneeling in front and on each side of our traveller, poured out his tea, and begged him to eat of the cakes and fruits, while one of them busied herself in taking the shells off some hard-boiled eggs, dipping them in salt, and putting them into his mouth. Surely, he remarks, all this was enough to satisfy and refresh the most weary traveller, and to send him on his way rejoicing. The handsomest girls our traveller saw in Japan, he, however, declares to be the Bikuni, or mendicant nuns, who are generally related to the begging mountain priests.

But the best of friends must part at last, and Mr. Fortune was obliged to bid adieu to kind hosts, adhesive Yakonins, and fair waiting-maids, and set sail with his arboreal and Aoral treasures for Shanghae. On his way he visited Osaca, which, with its port of Hiogo, is described by Sir R. Alcock as the best trading place in Japan. Mr. Fortune corroborates this statement, and he adds: “ Whatever tends to promote luxury, or to gratify sensual pleasures, may be had at as easy a rate here as any. where, and for this reason the Japanese call Osaca the universal theatre of pleasures and diversions.” Moreover, Osaca is only one day's journey from Miyako, the real capital of Japan, and to which the Daimios of Yedo appear recently to have taken themselves off, even to the Prince of Kanga with his forty thousand retainers. Unfortunately, on the other hand, that article of the treaty which ensures the opening of Hiogo to trade, has not yet been carried out.

Mr. Fortune returned from Shanghae to Nagasaki in 1861, and arrived there upon a holiday, when the greater portion of the population were engaged in the praiseworthy operation of kite-flying. This time he had to exchange the placid waters and the wild and romantic scenery of the Inland Sea for the disagreeables of the outward passage, and he was thus detained two days by a gale. Upon the occasion of this second visit to Japan, Mr. Fortune was aided by an old Chinese servant in collecting shells and insects as well as plants. All countries are beautiful in spring, but Japan was found to be pre-eminently so. The primrose of that season is of a rich magenta colour—the “ Queen of Primroses."

Having ransacked Yokuhama and Kanagawa, Mr. Fortune accepted an invitation from the American minister to visit Yedo again, Sir R. Alcock being at that time absent. Mr. Myburgh, in charge of the legation in Sir Rutherford's absence, took offence at this. Mr. Fortune was & British subject, and should therefore have obtained the sanction of the British legation, and not have availed himself of American protection. He was therefore at once ordered to quit the place. A more contemptible stretch of petty official tyranny we never read of. It was in vain that our unfortunate botanist explained and apologised, go he must, or incur the terrible anger of Mr. Myburgh, and so the opportunity of acquiring new spring-plants from the nurseries wherewith to adorn our public and private gardens was lost to the country through the peevishness of a man dressed up in a little vain and brief authority.

Although Yedo is a large city, and remarkable in many ways, it cannot be compared with London, Paris, or any of the chief towns in Europe, either in the architecture of its buildings, the magnificence of its shops, or in the value of its merchandise. It has no Woolwich or Greenwich -no St. Paul's or Westminster Abbey-no Champs Elysées or Versailles ; it has nothing to show like the Boulevards in Paris or like Regent-street in London. Indeed, the habits and wants of the people are so different from those of European nations, that we have little in common for a comparison. But, nevertheless, Yedo is a wonderful place, and will always possess attractions peculiarly its own in the eyes of a foreign visitor. It is of great size for an Oriental city; its palace surrounded by deep moats and grassy banks, the official quarter, the residences of the native princes, its wide streets, and beautiful bay, will always be looked upon with a certain degree of interest. Then, the views which are obtained from the hills in its neighbourhood are such as may well challenge comparison with those of any other town in Europe or elsewhere, Its suburbs, too, as I have already shown, are remarkable in many ways. Those beautiful valleys, wooded hills, and quiet lanes fringed with noble trees and evergreen hedges, would be difficult to match in any other part of the world.

With regard to the population of Japan, Mr. Fortune remarks that travellers have hitherto formed their conceptions mainly from going along the Tokaido, or imperial highway; but on leaving the highway, he says, a very different scene presents itself, and there are in the country the means of supplying all the necessaries of life to a population far greater than that which exists in Japan at the present day.

Upon the subject of politics, our traveller agrees with the views of Sir R. Alcock, as expounded by us in a previous notice. “It is becoming clearer,” he intimates, “ every day that the government of the Tycoon, with whom we have made our treaties, is powerless to enforce those treaty rights. The feudal princes, with that curious personage the Mikado, or Spiritual Emperor,' are stronger than the government at Yedo; and until a change takes place, resulting in the formation of a powerful government, either at Miyako or Yedo, and the destruction of the feudal system, there will, I fear, be little security for the lives of our countrymen in this part of the world. How this is to be accomplished, whether by civil war, or by the interference of foreign powers, is at present uncertain.”

Elsewhere he observes: “With all our care in opening up this trade, it is much to be feared that a time may come, and that it is not very distant, when Japan will have to pay dearly for her former exclusive policy. As a nation, we have an abhorrence of war and all its attendant horrors, but somehow or other—owing, no doubt, partly to our widespread dominions, and to our extensive commerce-we have war always forced upon us against our inclinations; and that this will be one of the results of our new treaty with Japan, there is, as I have already said, but too much reason to anticipate.” We hope not. The people, as all travellers agree, are not hostile to us; on the contrary, many are most favourable. It is a pity that they should be made to suffer for their rulers, and if they or their Tycoon take it into their heads to get rid of the feudal Daimios and their murderous retainers, there need be no necessity for war.

When Mr. Fortune had finished his work in Japan, the Chinese war having been brought to a successful termination, he was enabled to visit the new ports of Chefoo (Chi-fu) and Tien-tsin on the Gulf of Pe-chele or Pi-chili, and also the capital city of Peking, and the mountains which lie immediately beyond it. His work contains a faithful description of this part of his travels over a country which, until the last war, was almost as little known to Europeans as Japan itself. Mr. Fortune does not think much of Chefoo, or rather Yentae, for that is the name of the place, as a port for trade; but he describes it as a very salubrious station, at that time occupied by the French. Of Tien-tsin, its salt-heaps, and heaps of less pleasant things, we have already had enough ; yet Mr. Fortune declares it to be an important commercial station, well worthy the attention of the merchants of foreign countries. The English have, it is to be observed, established hospitals both in Tien-tsin and in Peking. Mr. Fortune says he believes that no religious efforts in China are likely to be crowned with so much success as those of the medical missionary. The excursion to the mountains beyond Peking was rewarded by the discovery of a noble oak-tree, and finding that the Pinus Bungeana, already introduced by Mr. Fortune in England, grows there with a thick trunk, which branches off at a height of some three or four feet into eight or ten branches, rising perpendicularly to the height of eighty or one hundred feet, and that it may thus be made to constitute a very remarkable object in our landscapes at home. The new oak (Quercus sinensis) is almost certain also to prove perfectly hardy in Europe, and Mr. Fortune believes that it will turn out one of the most valuable things he brought away from Northern China.

STRATHMORE;
OR, WROUGHT'BY HIS OWN HAND.

A LIFE ROMANCE.

BY THE AUTHOR OF “ GRANVILLE DE VIGNE,” &c.

There are depths in Man that go the lengths of lowest Hell, as there are heights that reach highest Heaven; for are not both Heaven and Hell made out of him, made by him, everlasting Miracle and Mystery that he is ?—CARLYLE.

Oblivion cannot be hired.—Sir Thomas BROWNE's “ Urn Burial."

Good and evil we know, in the field of this world, grow up together almost inseparably; and the knowledge of good is so involved and interwoven with the knowledge of evil, that those confused seeds which were imposed upon Psyche as an incessant labour to cull out and sort asunder were not more intermixed. MILTON.

PART THE FIRST.

[ocr errors]

STRATHMORE OF WHITE LADIES. WHITE LADIES meant neither snowdrops, by their pretty old English name, ghosts in white cere-clothes, nor belles in white tarlatan. It was only an old densely-wooded estate down in one of those counties that give Creswick his cool chequered shade and wild forest streams, and lend Birket Foster his shallow sunny brooks and picturesque roadsides; but which, I am told by superior taste, are terribly insipid and miserably tame, with many other epithets I do not care to repeat, having a lingering weakness myself for the old bridle-paths with the boughs meeting above head, the hawthorn hedges powdered with their snowy blossom, and the rich meadow lands with their tall grasses, and clover, and cowslips, where cattle stand up to their hocks in fresh wild thyme, and shadows lengthen slowly and lazily through long summer days.

White Ladies was an ancient and stately abbey, the last relic of lands once wide and numerous as Warwick's ere he fell at Gladsmoor Heath; a single possession—though that lordly enough—where it had once been but one among a crowded beadroll of estates that had stretched over counties before they were parcelled out and divided, some amongst the hungry courtiers who fattened upon abbey lands; some among the Hanoverian rabble, who scrambled for the goodly spoils of loyal gentlemen ; some, later on, among the vampires of Israel, who, like their forefather and first usurer, Jacob, know well how to treat with the famished, and sell us our mess of pottage at no smaller price than our birthright. In the days of Monkery and of Holy Church, White Ladies had been a great Dominican monastery, rich in its wealth and famous in its sanctity, and though since those days the great Gothic pile had been blasted with petronels, burned with flame, and riddled with the bullets of the Ironsides ; when the western sun slanted in flecks of gold through the boughs of the wych-elms, and fell on the panes of the blazoned windows; or the moonlight streaming across the sward, gleamed through the pointed arches and aisles, and down the ivy-covered cloisters; the abbey had still a stately and solemn beauty, given to it in ancient days by the cunning hand of master masons; in the days when men built for art and not for greed, and lavished love in lieu of lusting gold, when they worked for a long lifetime to leave some imperishable record of their toil, grandly heedless how their names might perish and be forgot. It stood down in deep secluded valleys on the borders of Wales, shut in by dense forest lands. that covered hill and dale for miles about it, and sheltered in their recesses the dun deer in their coverts and the grey herons by their pools; a silent, solitary, royal place, where the axe never sounded among the centenarian trees, and the sylvan glory was never touched by the Vandal of time and the Goth of steam that are swiftly sapping what Tudor iconoclasts spared, and destroying what Puritan petards left free.

Through the dark elm-boughs that swayed against the marvellous carvings with which Norman builders had enriched the abbey; through the tangled ivy that hid where Cromwell's breach had blasted, and where Henry's troops had sacked; through the deep heraldic blazonries upon the panes, where the arms of the Strathmores with their fierce motto, Slay, and spare not !” were stained; the summer sun shone into one of the chambers at White Ladies. In olden days, and turn by turn as time went on and fortunes changed, the chamber had been the audienceplace of the Lord Abbot, where he had received high nobles who sought the sanctuary because the price of blood was on their heads, or thriftless kings of Plantagenet who came to pray the aid of Mother Church for largesse to their troops ere they set sail for Palestine. It had been the bower-room of a captive queen, where Mary had sat over her tapestry thinking of the days so long gone by, when on her soft childish brow, fair with the beauty of Stuart and Guise, the astrologer had seen the taint of foreshadowed woe and the presage of death under the soft golden curls. It had been the favourite haunt of Court beauties where they had read the last paper of Spec, and pondered over new pulvillios, and rejoiced that the peace had been made at Utrecht, to bring them the French mode and Paris chocolate, and thought in their secretly-disaffected hearts of the rising that was fomenting among the gallant gentlemen of the North, and of the cypher letter lying under the lace in their bosoms from one brave to rashness, and thrice well-beloved because in danger for the Cause, who was travelling secretly and swiftly to St. Germain. Now the Plantagenets had died out, root and branch, and the tapestry woven by Mary was faded and motheaten, and the Court beauties were laid in the chapel vault, and oriel-chamber was scented with Manillas, Burgundies, and liqueurs, while three or four men sat at breakfast with a group of retrievers on the hearth. The sun falling through the casements, shone on the brass andirons, the oak carvings, the purple silk of the hangings on the walls, and on the game and fruits, the steaming coffee and the golden Rhenish, that were crowded in profusion on the table, at which the host and the guests of White Ladies lounged, smoking and looking over the contents of the letter-bag, peel. ing an apricot, or cutting into a haunch à la Marinade, silent, lazy, and inert, for there was nothing to tempt them out but the rabbits, and the morning was warm, and the shaded room pleasant. At the head of his table the host sat in the deep shadow, where the light of the outer day did not reach, but left the dark purple hangings of the wall with the

« EelmineJätka »