Price Collier.

The West in the East from an American point of view online

. (page 4 of 29)
Online LibraryPrice CollierThe West in the East from an American point of view → online text (page 4 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

undisturbed by the quarrelling birds flapping
their wings lazily in over-fed contentment.

Here was a notable example indeed of differ-
ence of custom and its results. My friend the
Parsi could hardly refrain from the expression
of disgust at our method of delivering our dead
to the earth and the worms.

Because we of the West have succeeded be-
yond measure in material things, as compared


with the East, we are apt to assume that our
methods in spiritual things are for that reason
superior. As I have said elsewhere, this is
faulty reasoning. I doubt if we have any right
to assert ourselves along these lines. These
Parsis are as confident in their faith, their creed,
their methods, horrible though this particular rite
seems to us, as are we. It is this hands-off policy
in such matters on the part of the British which
deserves the highest encomiums for their rule.

It is a pity that in matters of education they
have not adopted the same policy, a pity too
that they are playing into the hands of a minute
minority both in India and in Egypt by pushing
to the front the theory of representative govern-
ment, w^hich the vast majority, at any rate in
India, do not understand, cannot reconcile with
their traditions, and do not want. I should be
sorry to appear bumptious in making this cate-
gorical statement. It is true that I have not
talked with all these three hundred millions of
people, nor has any one else, but I venture to
say, modestly, that I have talked with a greater
variety than most travellers, and with a far
greater variety than most ojfficials, whose work
precludes the possibility of much travel, and the
consensus of those I met bears me out in this


It is not, and this is the crux of the confusion
in most Western minds, that they are not ready
for representative government, and for Chris-
tianity, but that they have no wish to get ready.
They do not want them at all. We Westerners
are exaggeratedly impressed with the superi-
ority of our institutions, both secular and eccle-
siastical. We believe that if only other peoples
understood them they would adopt them. We
spend millions, and many lives, in making them
understand, and my personal opinion is that the
more they understand, the further they are from
adopting our institutions. Our points of view,
our traditions, our moral and mental freezing
and boiling points, are worlds apart. The Ind-
ians who have seen most of England and the
English appreciate them least, and have no over-
powering wish to copy English institutions, or to
become English. The Parsis of Bombay, with
no caste prejudices, who are on the friendliest
footing with the English, who are an intelligent
and intellectually superior people, are as much
Zoroastrians to-day as though the New Testa-
ment were non-existent. The ideals of Chris-
tianity do not appeal to the great mass of the
Eastern races, or not to be too didactic, have not
appealed to them thus far successfully.

With the complaint and criticism of the trav-


eller from the West that everything moves too
slowly in the East, from missionary enterprise to
the means of locomotion, I have no sympathy.
I have ridden ponies, elephants, and camels, and
driven in ox-carts and camel-carriages, and trav-
elled nearly fifty-five thousand miles during the
last year, in trains and ships, and I find them all
too rapid. Even the eight miles an hour on
General Kuroki's old military railway through
Manchuria was too fast. There is so much to
see on every hand that even an ox-cart may go
too fast. When I think that this w^hole volume
contains about two words for every mile I have
travelled, I realize that I am right in saying that
one goes too fast, rather than too slow, in the

The Strand, Broadway, and even the boule-
vards of Paris, wdth the grotesque eccentricities
of the male attire, and the present-day unbifur-
cated trouser gowns of the women, are tame, and
brown, and dull, compared with the kaleido-
scope of moving color in the streets of Bombay.

At the races one day I turned my back on the
horses and counted fifty-eight different kinds of
head-gear amongst the men in the grandstand,
and no doubt there were others I did not see.
The Parsi, with his lacquered cow's hoof, the
Arab, the Persian, the Hindu, the Muhamma-


dan, from north, south, east, and west, were
there, and how many more I know not, and
when it is remembered that the Maharaja of
GwaHor's head-gear is as different from that of
his neighbor at Indore as is the cowboy's som-
brero from the tile of a Beau Brummel, and
that these differences exist all over the East, it
is easy to realize that the streets of Bombay, to a
new-comer, seem to be a waving, moving mass
of form and color.

The British in India in spite of the universal
dislike of ostentation amongst the best of them,
either here or at home, have been obliged to
assume, officially at least, an air of state and cer-
emony. The crimson and gold liveries of the
Viceroy, and of the Governors of Bombay and
Madras; the splendid body-guard of mounted
Sikhs, w^ell horsed, proud in bearing, all of them
over six feet in height, with their turbans and
lances; the crimson-lined state carriages, with
two men in scarlet and gold on the box, and two
standing on the foot-board behind, and always
splendidly horsed, all this makes for the dignity
and splendor that the Asiatic demands of his
ruler. It may be absurd to the American, but
there is no doubt whatever that a Viceroy in a
cloth cap, on a bicycle, would ruin India in a
month. We have prejudices the Oriental thinks


silly; they have prejudices that we had best in
charity and for safety's sake let alone.

The administration of India in England is in
the hands of a Secretary of State for India, as-
sisted by a council of not less than ten mem-
bers appointed for ten years by the Secretary of

The executive authority in India itself is
vested in the Governor-General in Council.
The Governor-General, or, as he is more gen-
erally called, the Viceroy, is appointed by the
Crown, and holds office for five years ; this term
is sometimes extended. The salary of the Vice-
roy is 250,800 rupees a year. The rupee is now
worth one shilling and fourpence, or roughly
thirty-four cents; the salary amounts therefore
to about $84,000 a year; but I should be sorry
to undertake the job and to pay my expenses
out of that sum.

The Council of the Viceroy consists of six
ordinary members besides the Commander-in-
chief of the army, and they are appointed by the
Crown and hold office for five years. This
Council is enlarged into a legislative council by
the addition of sixteen other members appointed
by the Viceroy under certain restrictions.

Further, India is divided into nine provinces:
Bombay, Madras, Bengal, Eastern Bengal,


United Provinces, The Punjab, Central Prov-
inces, North West Frontier Provinces, and
Burma. The Governors of Bombay and Ma-
dras are the most important officials after the
Viceroy, and are appointed by the Crown, and
each carries a salary of $40,000 a year. The
Governors of Bombay and Madras have an
executive council of two members of the Ind-
ian Civil Service appointed by the Crown. The
Lieutenant-Governors of Bengal, Eastern Ben-
gal, United Provinces, the Punjab, and Bur-
ma are appointed by the Viceroy with the ap-
proval of the Crown; the Chief Commissioners
of the Central Provinces and the Agent to the
Governor- General who governs the North W^est
Frontier Provinces are appointed by the Viceroy
in Council. Of these divisions I visited seven,
and in each I was impressed by the enormous
amount of work being done, by the conscientious,
often I thought too conscientious, way in which
it was done, and by the dignity and fearlessness
of the men who were doing it. If it were not
for the too frequent interferences from the India
Office, and the criticism from ignorant politi-
cians, who shamelessly play India off for votes
at home, it would be the most ideally managed,
as it is the most successfully administered, de-
pendency in the world.


It is curious to note that an agnostic even in
office is apt to be more sentimental in his deal-
ings with men than the believer. As an avowed
heretic he may wish to prove that he is even
more merciful than the orthodox; or he may
salve his conscience by assuming an exaggerated
love for humanity as his love of God dwindles.
To worship the God of the multitude must be a
hard thing for the intelligent man, either in the
West or in the East; but to turn from that to
the flattery and adulation of the multitude itself
is to proclaim oneself to all intelligent men, no
matter what rewards and prizes are gained there-
by, as a scoffer among scoffers, as scornful in
the seats of the scorners. Conscience is so piti-
less, that even to be a prince in an ochlocracy
can hardly recompense the intellectual traitor;
and surely a trained mind, laughing in its sleeve,
will find a peculiarly painful punishment await-
ing it somewhere.

The misfortune of a dangerous illness brought
us the good fortune to spend some two weeks
as the guest of the Governor of Bombay. Here
we saw housekeeping, as I saw it again later as
the guest of the Viceroy at Calcutta, on the mag-
nificent and dignified scale made necessary by
the climate, the social demands, the high posi-
tion of the host, and his unceasing and unending


procession of guests. Very few of them are of
his own choosing or inviting, few of them indeed
his personal friends, but Bombay is the door to
India, and England has many friends all over
the world, and for reasons of state, or courtesy,
or of frank hospitality. Government House
Bombay receives them all, some to stay a night
or two, and all to lunch or to dine. Dinners of
a dozen, or of twenty, or of seventy, night after
night, and the dinner of seventy as well and as
noiselessly served as the tete-a-tete dinner in our
own sitting-room. At the head of this establish-
ment the Governor of Bombay, with a besetting
sin of toiling when he should be at play, at exer-
cise, or in bed.

The steward, or manager of an establishment
as well conducted as this must be a housewifeic
jewel of the Koh-i-noor variety. But that is
behind the scenes. I can only speak of the re-

A man who has a province of 75,000 square
miles and a population of over 15,000,000 to
govern, including a city the size of Bombay,
must have his hands full, and can spare little
time for his guests and their entertainment.

I had heard of the institution called an aide-
de-camp before, and I have met them in other
parts of the world; but just as there are peaches


outside of Jersey, strawberries elsewhere than in
Maryland, clam-bakes elsewhere than in Fair
Haven, INIassachusetts, soft-shell crabs, oysters,
terrapin, canvas-back ducks elsewhere than in
America, but none quite so good, so if you would
know the fine flower of aide-de-campship you
must needs go to India.

A man with as many strings to his bow as a
governor of one of these great provinces must
have many servants, capable, willing, and effi-
cient, or the business would soon be in a tangle.
These men must not only be capable, willing
and efficient, they must be loyal, and if in ad-
dition they like their chief, you have a corps of
assistants approaching perfection. There is the
Military Secretary, the Private Secretary, the
Physician, and others, each with his duties.
But besides their specific duties they are the hosts
by proxy of their chief, and everywhere and at
all times they are there to save him trouble and
to make his work easy.

Every day in your dressing-room before din-
ner you find a type-written list of the guests you
are to meet that night, and the name of the lady
assigned to you to take in to dinner. Austrian
and Polish nobles, Russian and French princes,
German diplomats, members of Parliament, offi-
cials, British and Indian, Royal Highnesses, all


must be properly placed, and all must know wlio
their neighbors are, and as a result what subjects
of conversation may cause friction and are to be
avoided. When all are assembled in the draw-
ing-room, the aide on duty for that day appears
with the Governor, whom he announces: His
Excellency! That gentleman makes the round
of the room, shaking hands with each, offers
his arm to the lady entitled to that honor, and
we go in to dinner where a score or more of
turbaned servants, in crimson and gold liveries
and barefooted, serve the meal.

It is noticeable that the other Europeans are
impressed by the stately and dignified way things
are done by the British officials in India. The
Governor is easily king, no matter who is there,
and during my stay he entertained all sorts, in-
cluding royalty and high diplomacy, renowned
travellers, sportsmen, journalists, and statesmen.
One gets an impression of the sturdy self-con-
trol, of the patient mental power, which are the
driving force behind the handful of Englishmen
who hold this country. They have it in their
blood, the best of these people, and these highly
placed Englishmen almost without exception —
I only met one exception, and the harm he
does, although negatively, makes one gasp to
think what would happen were there more like


him — take the throne with an air of authority
and a lack of self-consciousness, as of men sitting
down for a chat with a friend.

In these democratic days much ceremony and
formality, a semblance of pomp, makes the ob-
server uneasy very often lest something, so to
speak, should come unstarched, or go wrong,
lest the procession should be marred by a sense
of unreality, and tempt one to titter. Not so
here. Even after the novelty wears off, one is
not impressed by the artificiality so much as
more and more impressed by a growling feeling
that this is not the simulacrum, but the reality
of power. But it takes a big man to carry it
off, England, by one of her blunders, still has a
knot of them here in India.

I have always thought that if I were not
myself, or as Mr. Choate gallantly and wittily
phrased it, could not be my wife's next husband,
I should like above all things to have been the
secretary to a great man, Cromwell, Hampden,
Washington, Lincoln, Bismarck, and had a hand
in the chosen doings of the picked giants of

It must be some such feeling as this which
stirs in the breast of the ideal aide-de-camp.
The aides of the Viceroy, of the Governor of
Bombay, and of the Governor of Madras who


in distinction from other officials in India re-
ceive their commissions from the Crown, wear
their aiguillettes of gold over the right shoulder,
as representatives of royalty; other A. D. C.'s
wear them over the left shoulder. A witty gen-
tleman eating honey in the country turned from
the dish and remarked meditatively: "If I lived
in the country I should certainly keep a bee!"
If I lived in officialdom I would make any sac-
rifice to keep an aide-de-camp!

An aide-de-camp is a person whose business
it is to be agreeable. His task is one requiring
unceasing vigilance, good health, good looks, a
kindly disposition, and not only manners, but
what is the finer flower of manners, manner.
His duties are so multifarious, his accomplish-
ments necessarily so varied, that it seems at
first glance a preposterous joke to propose to
any one mortal that he should perform them,
combine them, conceal them deftly, and not die
of megalomania.

He begins his day, let us say, at Government
House, by taking a guest to ride at 7 a. m. — it is
too hot to ride at any other hour. He cares no
more for that particular guest than for the grand-
sire of the horse he is riding, but he is a very
clever and a very observant guest if he discovers
it. As the clock strikes seven he appears, smil-


ing, shaven, clean, with a "I hope I have not
kept you waiting!" He is full of such phrases
as that by the way. Indeed he is an anthology
of colorless and comforting phrases, not quite
flattering, not quite humble, but partaking of
both, which steep the unsuspecting in an aroma
of superiority and security. He has listened to
your banalities about horses and horseflesh, in
the smoking-room the night before, with a cer-
tain worshipful awe in his eyes, and you now
find that he rides as though he were in a cradle,
and you perhaps as though you were on a ship's
deck. He modestly defers to you as to whether
we trot, or walk, or canter, and he is ready to
go on or stop, as best pleases you. He has a
thousand things to do that day, and you nothing,
but he is positively reckless as to time if only you
are happy. If you will only waste his time,
nothing apparently will give him greater pleas-
ure. He leaves you at the door of your bungalow
on your return with thanks for your company,
and hope in his eyes and on his tongue, that
you will favor him with your company again.
You make what you consider a remarkably
quick change and arrive at the breakfast-room.
Apparently he has been there for hours. All in
white, booted and spurred, with aiguillettes over
his shoulder, ribbons on his breast, for he is


on duty to-day, no heat, no wilted collar, no
single hair in disarray, he awaits you, and even
his smile is cool and inviting. If there are many
guests at breakfast or at luncheon he gently
insinuates you into the room, but by his manner
alone he transforms you into feeling like a whole
procession, and you swell with satisfaction as he
hands you to the best place vacant. He takes
his place, with an expression, conveyed wholly by
his corporeal attitude, as though to say: "As for
me, what matters it where I sit!" He succeeds
by some curious personal magnetism, born I
suppose of long practice, in giving you the im-
pression that you are riding upon a very tall
elephant, magnificently caparisoned, while he is
standing in the street admiring you.

After he has seen that you have your cigar or
cigarette, and asked solicitously if you have seen
the last Renter telegrams and the newspaper, he
leaves you, but he leaves you in a delicious at-
mosphere not of mere comfort, but of comfort
that you begin to feel you have deserved by some
effort of your own. There is a marked difference
between common or garden comfort and A. D. C.
comfort. The latter is lighted and scented with
a certain subtle something that makes you feel
that your state of languorous ease has been won
by you after long and arduous toil; while as a


matter of scientific fact, it is only the A. D. C.
wand which has played upon your egotism, and
made it seem for the nonce noble.

If you wish to do an errand in the tow^n before
luncheon, he will either accompany you himself,
or provide you w^ith a companion. If he goes
himself he instals you in the right-hand corner
of the carriage or motor, in the place of honor,
and you sail away, soldiers and policemen salut-
ing, and others salaaming as you pass. He does
not say it, but his air implies that these marks
of respect are due to your imposing personal-
ity, and not to the royal liveries.

If a member of your party is ill, he never for-
gets to send her flow^ers, to inquire for her health,
and to suggest other comforts.

He has done an hour's work before the morn-
ing ride, and despite the air of idleness and the
apparent contempt for time, he has done two
hours' more work before the drive.

This almost feminine regard for your com-
fort, and the sight of him modestly curled up on
a sofa at tea-time, like a stretching house cat,
may lead you astray. Take him on at billiards,
at racquets, at real tennis or lawn tennis, at polo
or cricket or a day's shooting, or go through a
day's hard ride in camp or at manoeuvres with
him, and you find that he plays all the games


you know and many more, and he beats you at
all of them easily and apologetically. Among
this knot of embroidered and decorative young
gentlemen you may find a distinguished per-
former upon the piano-forte, who will play you
his own compositions; another who publishes
fugitive poems; another who could easily make
his living as a caricaturist; but none of these
accomplishments is foisted upon you, rather are
they dragged forth, or discovered by accident.
None of them will speak of himself, or his do-
ings, experiences, or successes, and one and all
abhor lime-light upon themselves or their deeds.
^Vllat an education a little of their companion-
ship would be for many of my countrymen,
who after half an hour's acquaintance seem to
fill the atmosphere with exclamation points, and
repetitions of the ninth letter of the alphabet.

On all official occasions, after dinner, or at
dances, the A. D. C.'s attentions to the forlorn,
the scraggy, the three-cornered, the convex-
backed, the concave-chested, the self-conscious,
the awkward, the acidulous of the opposite sex,
would put the most fanatical Salvation Army
captain to shame.

I have grown to look upon A. D. Csliip at its
best, as one of the healing professions. It min-
isters to the social soul diseased. It deals with


the more hidden maladies of vanity, self-con-
sciousness, social awkwardness, non-appreciated
virtues, hypothetical prowesses, and soothes
them unobtrusively, gently, and successfully.
Chatterton, and Byron, and Poe might all have
been saved by the ministrations of an accom-
plished A. D. C.

As for his relations with his chief, he sur-
rounds him with a purring adulation which
soothes irritation, and lays the dust of the small
attritions and futilities of the daily task. He
gives spiritual subcutaneous injections of con-
fidence and courage; waves aside the phantoms
of discouragement; lights up the dark places of
dull duties ; and helps to fulfil the deeds in hours
of insight willed, which must be done, like most
severe tasks, in hours of gloom.

If he really likes and respects his chief, his
voice and mien are a veritable paean and halle-
lujah of praise, when he appears before the
guests and announces: His Excellency! You
are at once prejudiced in the great man's favor,
prone to believe that he is indeed Excellent.

There is nothing mawkish about this loyalty,
nothing effeminate. It is like the tenderness
with which an engineer oils his great ship-pro-
pelling machinery, or the gentleness and care of
a sportsman for his guns.


In a climate where the greatest discomforts
come from the heat, and the entomological off-
spring of the heat, the houses are built for cool-
ness and for shade. At Government House
Bombay, there is a large central bungalow con-
taining the drawing-rooms, dining-room, billiard-
room, ballroom, smoking-room, the entertain-
ing-rooms in short, and surrounding it are the
bungalows containing the living apartments of
the Governor, his staff, and his guests. We
were royally housed in a bungalow overlooking
the bay, with reception-hall, sitting-rooms, bath-
rooms, and bedrooms, and with separate en-
trances and outer halls. The service is at first
uncanny, so noiseless are the barefooted attend-
ants. You wash your hands in your dressing-
room, and almost before you are out of the room
a silent brown man has slipped in to change the

Servants are of course cheap as measured by
our standards, though by no means as cheap as
they were twenty-five years ago; but they are
also so bound, partly by caste rules, partly by
lethargy, partly by centuries of habit, that it re-
quires many of them to keep the household ma-
chine going, even when it is of modest propor-
tions. In the case of the Governor of a great
province or more particularly in the case of the


Viceroy, the number required is legion. No
one of them will undertake another's task, and
the social and religious differences between
them are so g-reat that there are no illustrations
from American life that will serve to mark them.
Between the low-caste sweeper of the garden
walks and the Sikh soldier on guard at the front
door, for example, there is a social difference not
of degrees but of latitudes. It is criminal to
think of associating together.

We must not forget that we are among people

Online LibraryPrice CollierThe West in the East from an American point of view → online text (page 4 of 29)