"I have called you friends, for all things that
I have of the FATHER I have made known unto you
With Chapter Twenty-four of Book First closed the last devachanic experience of a personal life history, a history enacted over one hundred and twenty centuries ago. It has its good and its bad phases. Under the social rules and customs of a people whom the modern world regarded as pure myth until after the cruise of the "Challenger" and the "Dolphin," there existed a personality whom those who have followed this history thus far know by the name of "Zailm," an Atlantean cognomen not less euphonious than its significance is interesting, viz: "I live to love."
According to his narration, Zailm's youth was that of an obscure mountaineer. He was possessed of an overmastering ambition to make his name blaze among those of the noble of earth. He succeeded in his ambition, for his name, his wealth, his social and political position became of the highest of the aristocracy of a proud and, in myriad ways, marvelous people. If he failed in one particular, if his moral life became awry, his record in other respects was most commendable. For the one failure he paid dearly, and, if you credit his own apprehensions, the payment would not be complete for many along, long year after you would have lain
"--Down with the patriarchs of the infant world--
With kings, the powerful of the earth--the wise, the good,
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past"
You have a view of Zailm, that boy so obscure, that man so celebrated throughout a land not paralleled to-day, nor ever
matched since old ocean rolled over it and the sun saw it no more in all his proud course.
From the perusal of that record I ask you to turn to the history of another personality, that of Walter Pierson, my own humble self. If the Poseida Zailm was proud to declare himself a Poseida, I am equally proud to say, "I am an American citizen!"
While I was still so young as to be unable to understand anything concerning my parents' death, except the agony of being left alone, I was orphaned by the fell stroke of an epidemic. I cried in my childishness, and begged to be allowed to see my papa and mamma, nor could I comprehend the statement, "They are dead and gone."
My orphaned boyhood was passed under circumstances of such sharp contrast to those years of my babyhood which knew parental kindness, that my inherent tendency to rove grew stronger, until at twelve years of age I became a cabin-boy on board ship, running away to accomplish my ambition. For many years thereafter I realized that actual hardship was an unforeseen part of the dream of travel and of sailor life; but its toil and trouble had to be endured.
My ability, willingness and honesty in service told in my favor so well, that at eighteen years of age I found myself first mate on a splendid British merchantman. With this advantageous position, intervals in which to study such books as tie captain, an educated man, had on shipboard, were mine, and I used the opportunity to excellent advantage, reciting my lessons to the captain, who took much interest in me. An invention for which many a seafarer has been grateful, and to which many a man whose life has, been spent on the ocean wave has owed continuation of that life, paid me such a handsome sum, in royalties, that ere I was of age I had no small fortune, which by wise investment soon gave me a sum to put in the
bank with the assurance of a fair support for life. I did not long continue in marine service after my money began to accumulate, but left sea life to enjoy travel on terra firma. I had seen the chief ports of every land, and now was bent upon wing the interior of my own country.
In the gold placers of California, I added immense sums to my fortune during the years 1865-6, where I drifted after my discharge from the Army of the Cumberland, having served two years in that, famous corps during the War of the secession.
I gloried in the absence of two fingers, lost by a vicious fragment of shell at the battle of Missionary Ridge. I wonder if any reader remembers the morning of the 25th of November, 1863?
"All night the flash of rifles from the outposts had gleamed through the fog; and when day dawned it had not yet been determined whether the enemy had been forced from his almost unassailable position on the mountain. The morning was clear. All eyes in the Union bivouacs were strained towards the summit. Gradually the east purpled with strengthening light, and just as the sun rose, a squad of men walked out on the rock overhanging the precipice. Then, in full view of the watching tens of thousands, they unfurled 'Old Glory.' Amid thunderous cheers an army of veterans looked long through its tears at the Stars and Stripes, mute announcement of victory."
At the close of this saddest of wan, because the hands of fathers against sons and of brothers against brothers were raised, I presently found myself in the city of my birth, Washington, D. C.
Two months, later I was in faraway California, in one of its most beautiful mountain countries, and formed one of a company of gold miners. So rich were the returns of labor that
we soon began to feel the work onerous, and employed men to do it for us. Amongst these was a man from China. I say a man from China because he certainly appeared, from the very first, to be not one of the class sneeringly called "coolies," but a real man. "Coolies" were numerous in the town, some two or three miles from our mine, but Quong had nothing in common and did not associate with them; neither was he privately addicted to their habits of gluttony, gin-drinking or opium-smoking. His dress was that which always distinguishes the Tchin from other nationalities, but his features were not thus significant. Indeed, his high, prominent forehead, well-developed sinciput, bold eyebrows and delicate neck marked him as a man of high character, spiritual cast, splendid perceptive abilities and nervous temperament. His eyes--such eyes! calm, clear, light gray, resting upon one with so kindly, unprejudiced and dispassionate a gaze, charitable, forgiving and strictly upright and conscientious himself, but always ready to overlook faults in others. Such was the appearance of a remarkable man. His speech was intelligible to every one with whom he had dealings, yet it always seemed to me that his broken English, a commingled Chinese and Anglo-Saxon idiom, would have been wholly unintelligible gibberish in the mouth of any other Chinese. I am no Don Quixote, and do not propose to contend that it is not an evil of serious import to the white man of America, Australia and the people of the Spanish-American republics to be forced to compete with Chinese laborers or the commercial products of that nation. I think it a very real evil, and I sympathize with the Caucasian race. But in all frankness I would ask if the hordes of unskilled, uneducated, almost unassimilable laboring poor of Europe are not an even greater menace? The immigration of either is fraught with fearful peril to the free institutions which I believe in, to the extent of having at the point of the bayonet risked my life for their preservation. But far be it from me to urge a spirit of strife; rather I counsel you to follow Him whose life meant "Peace on earth," and the true brotherhood of man.
In deference to a correct sentiment, these pages will henceforth refer to my one Chinese employee as the "Tchin," or Quong (his given name), instead of "the Chinese."
After the change of policy which gave the hard work to hired men, my partners and myself resided in town, although. one or more of us were always at the mine in the capacity of overseers. We employed two gangs of workers that worked on alternate days, each thus giving but half of the time to labor, although the wages were not reduced in consequence. These easy arrangements made the men extra faithful, for they saw that our object was not to get all the work out of them which they were able to accomplish, irrespective of their comfort or the fact that they were men not beasts of burden. That white men treated thus considerately will do more in the way of results than those who are made to work at their highest power every week-day hour has been my uniform experience. Treat your fellowman as you would like to be treated were you in his place.
None of the men felt the least objection to Quong as a fellow-worker; most of them were ready to admit, indeed, that he did not seem like a heathen. They were right, for he was not one. His demeanor towards all was respectful and manly, rather reticent, very quiet, but always so full of benevolent feeling that he won the affection of his fellow workers. They felt that he was a true man. On one occasion a new man was hired by the company, and he "didn't like pigtails." But in less than a week he fell W, and, unasked, the despised "coolie" not only worked all day, but nursed the sick man through the brief but severe fever, sitting up all night, and only taking a few hours rest next day, his "off" day. No more was heard from the shamed objector to coolies, for he was completely won over, so far as Quong was concerned. Thus he, too, was proved a real Man, when the canker of intolerance was healed.
More than once were the Tchin and I companions on his leisure days. Sometimes we went to the town, but more often we turned our horses' heads away into the wilderness of the
mountains. Without his guidance I had surely been lost there, amid the vast gorges, with their shade of giant pines lying between the almost interminable ridges, those stem ribs of the planet. But Quong was never lost, never hesitated, though the night was upon us so dark on more than one occasion that I could not see my hand before my face, a fact I never quite comprehended at the time, though it is clear to me now. Once at such a time as this I felt the need of a light, so greatly, it was in a cavern which we had found, that he said: "Here, I give you light." I heard him break off a fragment of rock from the side of the wall of the cavern; next he put it into my hand, saying: "Have care now, it must not touch you; like lightning; would kill you." As may be imagined, I touched so little of the rock that Quong directed me to hold it tighter. Then up sprung a brilliant light from the tip of that rock, illuminating all the cave like sunlight! Had this amazing thing occurred a few years later, I should have first pronounced it an electric light, then, bethinking me that no battery was there, nor any dynamo-electric machine, I would have done as I did do, sat down and gazed at the marvelous light, forgetful of where I was. As Quong would give no other explanation than he had already given, I was, perforce, content; only I was not! But his power of keeping his course where not even the track of an animal was to be discerned, was sufficiently astonishing, and I was often amazed at the man for not losing his way amongst ranges of sierra which stretched away to where the vast snowy peaks defined the horizon and kept the blue of the sky from blending insensibly with the blue of the mountains.
When we took such trips as these we were accustomed to leave the mine as early after supper as possible, that is, at half past five in the afternoon. If the other men were fatigued, Quong never seemed to share their weariness, although there was not a fellow worker but admitted that he accomplished more than any of them.
If the night was one of Luna's own,, it was our habit to ride
for several hours, frequently not halting before midnight, when we might be thirty or more miles from the mine.
On one of these occasions, when we and our horses were alone with nature and the night, we stopped in a remote solitude to wait for morning, to sleep or not as we felt most agreeable. Quong sat down on a rock by the edge of a roaring crystal torrent, and gazed in silent enjoyment upon the solitary grandeur of the sombre pines and moonlit peaks. I left him there and wandered up the stream, till, on looking back, I saw that my friend was hidden from view by a sharp turn in the canon. But heedless of this I wandered on, musing at the scene, "rockribbed; ancient as the sun."
It is not possible for a person alive to the beauties of nature, long to remain insensible to the more serious thoughts evolved by meditation pursued amidst the wilds, untroubled by man's sordid methods. Gradually my thoughts assumed a reflective cast, which, almost unperceived, became tinged with the dead black shadow of materialism. Many a time and oft had grim despair seized upon me while pursuing to philosophical end the mysterious questions of the soul; "Whence" and "Whither?" Unreasoning faith had never held any place in my nature, and yet mine was a deeply religious disposition. "To reason is to be lost," thundered the church of those days, and even yet does it maintain this attitude concerning reason as applied to faith. The queries which haunted others pursued me; but I lacked the Ingersollian desire to propound the question, which maddened me, to a world I doubted not had misery enough already. But the despair which arose from the hidden questioning was not less keen because hidden. Eagerly I read scientific works; studied anatomy, physiology, mechanics, the structure of cells and the essays of Darwin and Huxley, and I came to the same conclusions that have troubled the world so mercilessly in all ages. The gray matter of the brain, and the white cerebral substance, the medulla oblongata and vital magnetism, and the blood---these became so much phosphorized fat, haematin, and magnetic vibration; that same "unconscious
cerebration" theory in fact, which even yet disturbs certain philosophers. Thus joy and sorrow, and every other emotion, became a form of vibration, akin to sound waves, heat waves, light waves and undulation in general. I saw, in brief, my joy become a mere vibratory thrill of nerve tissue, similar, but more complex, to the throb of a violin string. My grief became a similar pulsation or wave. But neither were less keen; if my delight were mere pulsation of bundles of fibers proceeding from a cell or nucleus, principally composed of phosphorized fatty substance; if in passing, this delight but gave rise to a magnetic thrill, and a minute quantity of phosphoric acid, while any chance muscular exertion produced, ultimately, only relatively small amounts of carbonic acid and other excretory chemicals, nevertheless, it was keen joy. And my grief over a deceased friend, if it produced exactly the same chemics, having their formulas reducible to the symbols PO4 and CO2, etc., etc., was this emotion less agonizing, less painful? None the less, when all queries were finished, when all were reduced to their ultimates, ever and forever faced me a blank wall, insurmountable, and everything ceased short of God. In my despair I cried: "There is no God, no immortality, and man differs from the oyster only in having a more complex organization. Only because I, believing thus, lack incentive to crime, am I prevented from lust, from murder; what reek if I kill a man and no witness be there? When I, too, die, the clock of life is either worn out, or broken; both are irreparable, and there will be never more resuscitation, nor punishment, for death levels all, equalizes all. Perhaps I myself am only a complex vibration of atoms, not dyads, but mult-atomic arrangements of matter acted upon by--what? Force, wave force, moving ether. We are but puppets, creatures of uncontrollable circumstances. 'Kismet,' says the Arab, and I must say so, too!"
Do hideous, natural causes of fright seek those moments to appal poor, despairing man when he is already a prey to shapes of awful oppressiveness to his very soul's life? I have thought no, and even the next moment thought so; soul in peril, and
body also, for then in my path arose a terror, a huge grizzly bear, Ursus horribilis. "Surely horrible enough," I thought, as the animal raised himself in frightful posture. I had no weapon except a clasp knife, and the remembrance emphasized the reality of my peril. Wildly I looked about for a tree, into the branches of which to climb for safety. None except giant pines were near; down the stream towards Quong were cottonwoods, but to go there was to put my friend, unwitting his peril, into extreme danger. Yet bruin was rapidly forcing me to decide on the courses of flight, or remaining to be eaten, so I turned to run and--stood face to face with the Tchin! Calm and cool himself, he bade me have no fear.
Stock still I stood, amazed to see him walk slowly up to the grizzly which, from its fierce-eyed aspect, changed to docility of looks, got down on all fours, and awaited the man's approach! Was Quong insane? I expected to see him rent in pieces; instead, he placed his hand on the head of the animal and said:
The order was obeyed at once, and then Quong sat down on the prostrate animal and fondled its great, stiff ears! Very gently, the bear licked the human hand, as gently indeed as if caressing its own cubs. What occult power was here? Was the Tchin a worker of miracles? Never before had any action betrayed to me this ability of his. True, the example of producing the light in the cave was one, but it had not then so occurred to me because I knew enough, and at the same time, not enough, to know that the production of electric light was a possibility, but not possible to any electrician or chemist in the way the Tchin performed it. It was not possible to ordinary science then, nor is it now any more so. But it would be possible to them if they would but take the proper occult method; it is one of the earliest learned and easiest feats performed by the novitiate. But I was not then a novitiate.
After a few moments Quong got up and, speaking to the
conquered ursine, said: "Go!" As obediently as before the shaggy beast lumbered heavily off up the canon and was soon lost to view amongst the rocks and shadows of the night.
Once more the granite boulders shone silvery in the glorious summer moonlight; the dark pines swayed in the gentle breeze which, descending from its play with the whispering boughs, blew the spray of the rushing torrent over the grateful wild flowers nodding on the banks. And beside the rocks, the crags and peaks, the torrent and the pines, the moon shone down on two figures, two men. One stood wrapped in meditation; the other, not thinking at all, simply regarded the first with eyes where amazement yet lingered. Neither moved, neither spoke. But one, at least, though he thought not, yet felt. I felt how little difference existed between men, so that they were worthy men. I would have acknowledged the Tehin as my equal before the world; perhaps, indeed, as my superior. In the clearest nights some mists come over and obscure the face of things. So with the soul; in its clearest moments it knows Truth, only to forget in later moments how Truth seemed. Them, anon, the fogs clear away again. Sometimes, alas, it is after the obscured orb has set. So also the soul: death may get its darkness over it ere the clouds of prejudice have melted, or it may not.
But there in the moonlight, the sky of my soul was also clear. But neither man moved, neither spoke.