Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 2



THE Bay of Monterey has been compared by no less a person than
General Sherman to a bent fishing-hook; and the comparison, if less
important than the march through Georgia, still shows the eye of a
soldier for topography. Santa Cruz sits exposed at the shank; the
mouth of the Salinas river is at the middle of the bend; and
Monterey itself is cosily ensconced beside the barb. Thus the
ancient capital of California faces across the bay, while the
Pacific Ocean, though hidden by low hills and forest, bombards her
left flank and rear with never-dying surf. In front of the town,
the long line of sea-beach trends north and north-west, and then
westward to enclose the bay. The waves which lap so quietly about
the jetties of Monterey grow louder and larger in the distance; you
can see the breakers leaping high and white by day; at night, the
outline of the shore is traced in transparent silver by the
moonlight and the flying foam; and from all round, even in quiet
weather, the distant, thrilling roar of the Pacific hangs over the
coast and the adjacent country like smoke above a battle.

These long beaches are enticing to the idle man. It would be hard
to find a walk more solitary and at the same time more exciting to
the mind. Crowds of ducks and sea-gulls hover over the sea.
Sandpipers trot in and out by troops after the retiring waves,
trilling together in a chorus of infinitesimal song. Strange sea-
tangles, new to the European eye, the bones of whales, or sometimes
a whole whale's carcase, white with carrion-gulls and poisoning the
wind, lie scattered here and there along the sands. The waves come
in slowly, vast and green, curve their translucent necks, and burst
with a surprising uproar, that runs, waxing and waning, up and down
the long key-board of the beach. The foam of these great ruins
mounts in an instant to the ridge of the sand glacis, swiftly
fleets back again, and is met and buried by the next breaker. The
interest is perpetually fresh. On no other coast that I know shall
you enjoy, in calm, sunny weather, such a spectacle of Ocean's
greatness, such beauty of changing colour, or such degrees of
thunder in the sound. The very air is more than usually salt by
this Homeric deep.

Inshore, a tract of sand-hills borders on the beach. Here and
there a lagoon, more or less brackish, attracts the birds and
hunters. A rough, undergrowth partially conceals the sand. The
crouching, hardy live-oaks flourish singly or in thickets - the
kind of wood for murderers to crawl among - and here and there the
skirts of the forest extend downward from the hills with a floor of
turf and long aisles of pine-trees hung with Spaniard's Beard.
Through this quaint desert the railway cars drew near to Monterey
from the junction at Salinas City - though that and so many other
things are now for ever altered - and it was from here that you had
the first view of the old township lying in the sands, its white
windmills bickering in the chill, perpetual wind, and the first
fogs of the evening drawing drearily around it from the sea.

The one common note of all this country is the haunting presence of
the ocean. A great faint sound of breakers follows you high up
into the inland canons; the roar of water dwells in the clean,
empty rooms of Monterey as in a shell upon the chimney; go where
you will, you have but to pause and listen to hear the voice of the
Pacific. You pass out of the town to the south-west, and mount the
hill among pine-woods. Glade, thicket, and grove surround you.
You follow winding sandy tracks that lead nowhither. You see a
deer; a multitude of quail arises. But the sound of the sea still
follows you as you advance, like that of wind among the trees, only
harsher and stranger to the ear; and when at length you gain the
summit, out breaks on every hand and with freshened vigour that
same unending, distant, whispering rumble of the ocean; for now you
are on the top of Monterey peninsula, and the noise no longer only
mounts to you from behind along the beach towards Santa Cruz, but
from your right also, round by Chinatown and Pinos lighthouse, and
from down before you to the mouth of the Carmello river. The whole
woodland is begirt with thundering surges. The silence that
immediately surrounds you where you stand is not so much broken as
it is haunted by this distant, circling rumour. It sets your
senses upon edge; you strain your attention; you are clearly and
unusually conscious of small sounds near at hand; you walk
listening like an Indian hunter; and that voice of the Pacific is a
sort of disquieting company to you in your walk.

When once I was in these woods I found it difficult to turn
homeward. All woods lure a rambler onward; but in those of
Monterey it was the surf that particularly invited me to prolong my
walks. I would push straight for the shore where I thought it to
be nearest. Indeed, there was scarce a direction that would not,
sooner or later, have brought me forth on the Pacific. The
emptiness of the woods gave me a sense of freedom and discovery in
these excursions. I never in all my visits met but one man. He
was a Mexican, very dark of hue, but smiling and fat, and he
carried an axe, though his true business at that moment was to seek
for straying cattle. I asked him what o'clock it was, but he
seemed neither to know nor care; and when he in his turn asked me
for news of his cattle, I showed myself equally indifferent. We
stood and smiled upon each other for a few seconds, and then turned
without a word and took our several ways across the forest.

One day - I shall never forget it - I had taken a trail that was
new to me. After a while the woods began to open, the sea to sound
nearer hand. I came upon a road, and, to my surprise, a stile. A
step or two farther, and, without leaving the woods, I found myself
among trim houses. I walked through street after street, parallel
and at right angles, paved with sward and dotted with trees, but
still undeniable streets, and each with its name posted at the
corner, as in a real town. Facing down the main thoroughfare -
"Central Avenue," as it was ticketed - I saw an open-air temple,
with benches and sounding-board, as though for an orchestra. The
houses were all tightly shuttered; there was no smoke, no sound but
of the waves, no moving thing. I have never been in any place that
seemed so dreamlike. Pompeii is all in a bustle with visitors, and
its antiquity and strangeness deceive the imagination; but this
town had plainly not been built above a year or two, and perhaps
had been deserted overnight. Indeed, it was not so much like a
deserted town as like a scene upon the stage by daylight, and with
no one on the boards. The barking of a dog led me at last to the
only house still occupied, where a Scotch pastor and his wife pass
the winter alone in this empty theatre. The place was "The Pacific
Camp Grounds, the Christian Seaside Resort." Thither, in the warm
season, crowds come to enjoy a life of teetotalism, religion, and
flirtation, which I am willing to think blameless and agreeable.
The neighbourhood at least is well selected. The Pacific booms in
front. Westward is Point Pinos, with the lighthouse in a
wilderness of sand, where you will find the lightkeeper playing the
piano, making models and bows and arrows, studying dawn and sunrise
in amateur oil-painting, and with a dozen other elegant pursuits
and interests to surprise his brave, old-country rivals. To the
east, and still nearer, you will come upon a space of open down, a
hamlet, a haven among rocks, a world of surge and screaming sea-
gulls. Such scenes are very similar in different climates; they
appear homely to the eyes of all; to me this was like a dozen spots
in Scotland. And yet the boats that ride in the haven are of
strange outlandish design; and, if you walk into the hamlet, you
will behold costumes and faces and hear a tongue that are
unfamiliar to the memory. The joss-stick burns, the opium pipe is
smoked, the floors are strewn with slips of coloured paper -
prayers, you would say, that had somehow missed their destination -
and a man guiding his upright pencil from right to left across the
sheet, writes home the news of Monterey to the Celestial Empire.

The woods and the Pacific rule between them the climate of this
seaboard region. On the streets of Monterey, when the air does not
smell salt from the one, it will be blowing perfumed from the
resinous tree-tops of the other. For days together a hot, dry air
will overhang the town, close as from an oven, yet healthful and
aromatic in the nostrils. The cause is not far to seek, for the
woods are afire, and the hot wind is blowing from the hills. These
fires are one of the great dangers of California. I have seen from
Monterey as many as three at the same time, by day a cloud of
smoke, by night a red coal of conflagration in the distance. A
little thing will start them, and, if the wind be favourable, they
gallop over miles of country faster than a horse. The inhabitants
must turn out and work like demons, for it is not only the pleasant
groves that are destroyed; the climate and the soil are equally at
stake, and these fires prevent the rains of the next winter and dry
up perennial fountains. California has been a land of promise in
its time, like Palestine; but if the woods continue so swiftly to
perish, it may become, like Palestine, a land of desolation.

To visit the woods while they are languidly burning is a strange
piece of experience. The fire passes through the underbrush at a
run. Every here and there a tree flares up instantaneously from
root to summit, scattering tufts of flame, and is quenched, it
seems, as quickly. But this last is only in semblance. For after
this first squib-like conflagration of the dry moss and twigs,
there remains behind a deep-rooted and consuming fire in the very
entrails of the tree. The resin of the pitch-pine is principally
condensed at the base of the bole and in the spreading roots.
Thus, after the light, showy, skirmishing flames, which are only as
the match to the explosion, have already scampered down the wind
into the distance, the true harm is but beginning for this giant of
the woods. You may approach the tree from one side, and see it
scorched indeed from top to bottom, but apparently survivor of the
peril. Make the circuit, and there, on the other side of the
column, is a clear mass of living coal, spreading like an ulcer;
while underground, to their most extended fibre, the roots are
being eaten out by fire, and the smoke is rising through the
fissures to the surface. A little while, and, without a nod of
warning, the huge pine-tree snaps off short across the ground and
falls prostrate with a crash. Meanwhile the fire continues its
silent business; the roots are reduced to a fine ash; and long
afterwards, if you pass by, you will find the earth pierced with
radiating galleries, and preserving the design of all these
subterranean spurs, as though it were the mould for a new tree
instead of the print of an old one. These pitch-pines of Monterey
are, with the single exception of the Monterey cypress, the most
fantastic of forest trees. No words can give an idea of the
contortion of their growth; they might figure without change in a
circle of the nether hell as Dante pictured it; and at the rate at
which trees grow, and at which forest fires spring up and gallop
through the hills of California, we may look forward to a time when
there will not be one of them left standing in that land of their
nativity. At least they have not so much to fear from the axe, but
perish by what may be called a natural although a violent death;
while it is man in his short-sighted greed that robs the country of
the nobler redwood. Yet a little while and perhaps all the hills
of seaboard California may be as bald as Tamalpais.

I have an interest of my own in these forest fires, for I came so
near to lynching on one occasion, that a braver man might have
retained a thrill from the experience. I wished to be certain
whether it was the moss, that quaint funereal ornament of
Californian forests, which blazed up so rapidly when the flame
first touched the tree. I suppose I must have been under the
influence of Satan, for instead of plucking off a piece for my
experiment what should I do but walk up to a great pine-tree in a
portion of the wood which had escaped so much as scorching, strike
a match, and apply the flame gingerly to one of the tassels. The
tree went off simply like a rocket; in three seconds it was a
roaring pillar of fire. Close by I could hear the shouts of those
who were at work combating the original conflagration. I could see
the waggon that had brought them tied to a live oak in a piece of
open; I could even catch the flash of an axe as it swung up through
the underwood into the sunlight. Had any one observed the result
of my experiment my neck was literally not worth a pinch of snuff;
after a few minutes of passionate expostulation I should have been
run up to convenient bough.

To die for faction is a common evil;
But to be hanged for nonsense is the devil.

I have run repeatedly, but never as I ran that day. At night I
went out of town, and there was my own particular fire, quite
distinct from the other, and burning as I thought with even greater

But it is the Pacific that exercises the most direct and obvious
power upon the climate. At sunset, for months together, vast, wet,
melancholy fogs arise and come shoreward from the ocean. From the
hill-top above Monterey the scene is often noble, although it is
always sad. The upper air is still bright with sunlight; a glow
still rests upon the Gabelano Peak; but the fogs are in possession
of the lower levels; they crawl in scarves among the sandhills;
they float, a little higher, in clouds of a gigantic size and often
of a wild configuration; to the south, where they have struck the
seaward shoulder of the mountains of Santa Lucia, they double back
and spire up skyward like smoke. Where their shadow touches,
colour dies out of the world. The air grows chill and deadly as
they advance. The trade-wind freshens, the trees begin to sigh,
and all the windmills in Monterey are whirling and creaking and
filling their cisterns with the brackish water of the sands. It
takes but a little while till the invasion is complete. The sea,
in its lighter order, has submerged the earth. Monterey is
curtained in for the night in thick, wet, salt, and frigid clouds,
so to remain till day returns; and before the sun's rays they
slowly disperse and retreat in broken squadrons to the bosom of the
sea. And yet often when the fog is thickest and most chill, a few
steps out of the town and up the slope, the night will be dry and
warm and full of inland perfume.


The history of Monterey has yet to be written. Founded by Catholic
missionaries, a place of wise beneficence to Indians, a place of
arms, a Mexican capital continually wrested by one faction from
another, an American capital when the first House of
Representatives held its deliberations, and then falling lower and
lower from the capital of the State to the capital of a county, and
from that again, by the loss of its charter and town lands, to a
mere bankrupt village, its rise and decline is typical of that of
all Mexican institutions and even Mexican families in California.

Nothing is stranger in that strange State than the rapidity with
which the soil has changed-hands. The Mexicans, you may say, are
all poor and landless, like their former capital; and yet both it
and they hold themselves apart and preserve their ancient customs
and something of their ancient air.

The town, when I was there, was a place of two or three streets,
economically paved with sea-sand, and two or three lanes, which
were watercourses in the rainy season, and were, at all times, rent
up by fissures four or five feet deep. There were no street
lights. Short sections of wooden sidewalk only added to the
dangers of the night, for they were often high above the level of
the roadway, and no one could tell where they would be likely to
begin or end. The houses were, for the most part, built of unbaked
adobe brick, many of them old for so new a country, some of very
elegant proportions, with low, spacious, shapely rooms, and walls
so thick that the heat of summer never dried them to the heart. At
the approach of the rainy season a deathly chill and a graveyard
smell began to hang about the lower floors; and diseases of the
chest are common and fatal among house-keeping people of either

There was no activity but in and around the saloons, where people
sat almost all day long playing cards. The smallest excursion was
made on horseback. You would scarcely ever see the main street
without a horse or two tied to posts, and making a fine figure with
their Mexican housings. It struck me oddly to come across some of
the CORNHILL illustrations to Mr. Blackmore's EREMA, and see all
the characters astride on English saddles. As a matter of fact, an
English saddle is a rarity even in San Francisco, and, you may say,
a thing unknown in all the rest of California. In a place so
exclusively Mexican as Monterey, you saw not only Mexican saddles
but true Vaquero riding - men always at the hand-gallop up hill and
down dale, and round the sharpest corner, urging their horses with
cries and gesticulations and cruel rotatory spurs, checking them
dead with a touch, or wheeling them right-about-face in a square
yard. The type of face and character of bearing are surprisingly
un-American. The first ranged from something like the pure
Spanish, to something, in its sad fixity, not unlike the pure
Indian, although I do not suppose there was one pure blood of
either race in all the country. As for the second, it was a matter
of perpetual surprise to find, in that world of absolutely
mannerless Americans, a people full of deportment, solemnly
courteous, and doing all things with grace and decorum. In dress
they ran to colour and bright sashes. Not even the most
Americanised could always resist the temptation to stick a red rose
into his hat-band. Not even the most Americanised would descend to
wear the vile dress hat of civilisation. Spanish was the language
of the streets. It was difficult to get along without a word or
two of that language for an occasion. The only communications in
which the population joined were with a view to amusement. A
weekly public ball took place with great etiquette, in addition to
the numerous fandangoes in private houses. There was a really fair
amateur brass band. Night after night serenaders would be going
about the street, sometimes in a company and with several
instruments and voice together, sometimes severally, each guitar
before a different window. It was a strange thing to lie awake in
nineteenth-century America, and hear the guitar accompany, and one
of these old, heart-breaking Spanish love-songs mount into the
night air, perhaps in a deep baritone, perhaps in that high-
pitched, pathetic, womanish alto which is so common among Mexican
men, and which strikes on the unaccustomed ear as something not
entirely human but altogether sad.

The town, then, was essentially and wholly Mexican; and yet almost
all the land in the neighbourhood was held by Americans, and it was
from the same class, numerically so small, that the principal
officials were selected. This Mexican and that Mexican would
describe to you his old family estates, not one rood of which
remained to him. You would ask him how that came about, and elicit
some tangled story back-foremost, from which you gathered that the
Americans had been greedy like designing men, and the Mexicans
greedy like children, but no other certain fact. Their merits and
their faults contributed alike to the ruin of the former
landholders. It is true they were improvident, and easily dazzled
with the sight of ready money; but they were gentlefolk besides,
and that in a way which curiously unfitted them to combat Yankee
craft. Suppose they have a paper to sign, they would think it a
reflection on the other party to examine the terms with any great
minuteness; nay, suppose them to observe some doubtful clause, it
is ten to one they would refuse from delicacy to object to it. I
know I am speaking within the mark, for I have seen such a case
occur, and the Mexican, in spite of the advice of his lawyer, has
signed the imperfect paper like a lamb. To have spoken in the
matter, he said, above all to have let the other party guess that
he had seen a lawyer, would have "been like doubting his word."
The scruple sounds oddly to one of ourselves, who have been brought
up to understand all business as a competition in fraud, and
honesty itself to be a virtue which regards the carrying out but
not the creation of agreements. This single unworldly trait will
account for much of that revolution of which we are speaking. The
Mexicans have the name of being great swindlers, but certainly the
accusation cuts both ways. In a contest of this sort, the entire
booty would scarcely have passed into the hands of the more
scupulous race.

Physically the Americans have triumphed; but it is not entirely
seen how far they have themselves been morally conquered. This is,
of course, but a part of a part of an extraordinary problem now in
the course of being solved in the various States of the American
Union. I am reminded of an anecdote. Some years ago, at a great
sale of wine, all the odd lots were purchased by a grocer in a
small way in the old town of Edinburgh. The agent had the
curiosity to visit him some time after and inquire what possible
use he could have for such material. He was shown, by way of
answer, a huge vat where all the liquors, from humble Gladstone to
imperial Tokay, were fermenting together. "And what," he asked,
"do you propose to call this?" "I'm no very sure," replied the
grocer, "but I think it's going to turn out port." In the older
Eastern States, I think we may say that this hotch-potch of races
in going to turn out English, or thereabout. But the problem is
indefinitely varied in other zones. The elements are differently
mingled in the south, in what we may call the Territorial belt and
in the group of States on the Pacific coast. Above all, in these
last, we may look to see some monstrous hybrid - Whether good or
evil, who shall forecast? but certainly original and all their own.
In my little restaurant at Monterey, we have sat down to table day
after day, a Frenchman, two Portuguese, an Italian, a Mexican, and
a Scotchman: we had for common visitors an American from Illinois,
a nearly pure blood Indian woman, and a naturalised Chinese; and
from time to time a Switzer and a German came down from country
ranches for the night. No wonder that the Pacific coast is a
foreign land to visitors from the Eastern States, for each race
contributes something of its own. Even the despised Chinese have
taught the youth of California, none indeed of their virtues, but
the debasing use of opium. And chief among these influences is
that of the Mexicans.

The Mexicans although in the State are out of it. They still
preserve a sort of international independence, and keep their
affairs snug to themselves. Only four or five years ago Vasquez,
the bandit, his troops being dispersed and the hunt too hot for him
in other parts of California, returned to his native Monterey, and
was seen publicly in her streets and saloons, fearing no man. The
year that I was there, there occurred two reputed murders. As the
Montereyans are exceptionally vile speakers of each other and of
every one behind his back, it is not possible for me to judge how
much truth there may have been in these reports; but in the one
case every one believed, and in the other some suspected, that
there had been foul play; and nobody dreamed for an instant of
taking the authorities into their counsel. Now this is, of course,
characteristic enough of the Mexicans; but it is a noteworthy
feature that all the Americans in Monterey acquiesced without a
word in this inaction. Even when I spoke to them upon the subject,
they seemed not to understand my surprise; they had forgotten the
traditions of their own race and upbringing, and become, in a word,
wholly Mexicanised.

Again, the Mexicans, having no ready money to speak of, rely almost
entirely in their business transactions upon each other's worthless
paper. Pedro the penniless pays you with an I O U from the equally
penniless Miguel. It is a sort of local currency by courtesy.
Credit in these parts has passed into a superstition. I have seen
a strong, violent man struggling for months to recover a debt, and
getting nothing but an exchange of waste paper. The very
storekeepers are averse to asking for cash payments, and are more
surprised than pleased when they are offered. They fear there must
be something under it, and that you mean to withdraw your custom
from them. I have seen the enterprising chemist and stationer
begging me with fervour to let my account run on, although I had my
purse open in my hand; and partly from the commonness of the case,
partly from some remains of that generous old Mexican tradition
which made all men welcome to their tables, a person may be
notoriously both unwilling and unable to pay, and still find credit
for the necessaries of life in the stores of Monterey. Now this
villainous habit of living upon "tick" has grown into Californian
nature. I do not mean that the American and European storekeepers
of Monterey are as lax as Mexicans; I mean that American farmers in
many parts of the State expect unlimited credit, and profit by it
in the meanwhile, without a thought for consequences. Jew
storekeepers have already learned the advantage to be gained from
this; they lead on the farmer into irretrievable indebtedness, and
keep him ever after as their bond-slave hopelessly grinding in the
mill. So the whirligig of time brings in its revenges, and except
that the Jew knows better than to foreclose, you may see Americans
bound in the same chains with which they themselves had formerly
bound the Mexican. It seems as if certain sorts of follies, like
certain sorts of grain, were natural to the soil rather than to the
race that holds and tills it for the moment.

In the meantime, however, the Americans rule in Monterey County.
The new county seat, Salinas City, in the bald, corn-bearing plain
under the Gabelano Peak, is a town of a purely American character.
The land is held, for the most part, in those enormous tracts which
are another legacy of Mexican days, and form the present chief
danger and disgrace of California; and the holders are mostly of
American or British birth. We have here in England no idea of the
troubles and inconveniences which flow from the existence of these
large landholders - land-thieves, land-sharks, or land-grabbers,
they are more commonly and plainly called. Thus the townlands of
Monterey are all in the hands of a single man. How they came there
is an obscure, vexatious question, and, rightly or wrongly, the man
is hated with a great hatred. His life has been repeatedly in
danger. Not very long ago, I was told, the stage was stopped and
examined three evenings in succession by disguised horsemen
thirsting for his blood. A certain house on the Salinas road, they
say, he always passes in his buggy at full speed, for the squatter
sent him warning long ago. But a year since he was publicly
pointed out for death by no less a man than Mr. Dennis Kearney.
Kearney is a man too well known in California, but a word of
explanation is required for English readers. Originally an Irish
dray-man, he rose, by his command of bad language, to almost
dictatorial authority in the State; throned it there for six months
or so, his mouth full of oaths, gallowses, and conflagrations; was
first snuffed out last winter by Mr. Coleman, backed by his San
Francisco Vigilantes and three gatling guns; completed his own ruin
by throwing in his lot with the grotesque Green-backer party; and
had at last to be rescued by his old enemies, the police, out of
the hands of his rebellious followers. It was while he was at the
top of his fortune that Kearney visited Monterey with his battle-
cry against Chinese labour, the railroad monopolists, and the land-
thieves; and his one articulate counsel to the Montereyans was to
"hang David Jacks." Had the town been American, in my private
opinion, this would have been done years ago. Land is a subject on
which there is no jesting in the West, and I have seen my friend
the lawyer drive out of Monterey to adjust a competition of titles
with the face of a captain going into battle and his Smith-and-
Wesson convenient to his hand.

On the ranche of another of these landholders you may find our old
friend, the truck system, in full operation. Men live there, year
in year out, to cut timber for a nominal wage, which is all
consumed in supplies. The longer they remain in this desirable
service the deeper they will fall in debt - a burlesque injustice
in a new country, where labour should be precious, and one of those
typical instances which explains the prevailing discontent and the
success of the demagogue Kearney.

In a comparison between what was and what is in California, the
praisers of times past will fix upon the Indians of Carmel. The
valley drained by the river so named is a true Californian valley,
bare, dotted with chaparal, overlooked by quaint, unfinished hills.
The Carmel runs by many pleasant farms, a clear and shallow river,
loved by wading kine; and at last, as it is falling towards a
quicksand and the great Pacific, passes a ruined mission on a hill.
From the mission church the eye embraces a great field of ocean,
and the ear is filled with a continuous sound of distant breakers
on the shore. But the day of the Jesuit has gone by, the day of
the Yankee has succeeded, and there is no one left to care for the
converted savage. The church is roofless and ruinous, sea-breezes
and sea-fogs, and the alternation of the rain and sunshine, daily
widening the breaches and casting the crockets from the wall. As
an antiquity in this new land, a quaint specimen of missionary
architecture, and a memorial of good deeds, it had a triple claim
to preservation from all thinking people; but neglect and abuse
have been its portion. There is no sign of American interference,
save where a headboard has been torn from a grave to be a mark for
pistol bullets. So it is with the Indians for whom it was erected.
Their lands, I was told, are being yearly encroached upon by the
neighbouring American proprietor, and with that exception no man
troubles his head for the Indians of Carmel. Only one day in the
year, the day before our Guy Fawkes, the PADRE drives over the hill
from Monterey; the little sacristy, which is the only covered
portion of the church, is filled with seats and decorated for the
service; the Indians troop together, their bright dresses
contrasting with their dark and melancholy faces; and there, among
a crowd of somewhat unsympathetic holiday-makers, you may hear God
served with perhaps more touching circumstances than in any other
temple under heaven. An Indian, stone-blind and about eighty years
of age, conducts the singing; other Indians compose the choir; yet
they have the Gregorian music at their finger ends, and pronounce
the Latin so correctly that I could follow the meaning as they
sang. The pronunciation was odd and nasal, the singing hurried and
staccato. "In saecula saeculoho-horum," they went, with a vigorous
aspirate to every additional syllable. I have never seen faces
more vividly lit up with joy than the faces of these Indian
singers. It was to them not only the worship of God, nor an act by
which they recalled and commemorated better days, but was besides
an exercise of culture, where all they knew of art and letters was
united and expressed. And it made a man's heart sorry for the good
fathers of yore who had taught them to dig and to reap, to read and
to sing, who had given them European mass-books which they still
preserve and study in their cottages, and who had now passed away
from all authority and influence in that land - to be succeeded by
greedy land-thieves and sacrilegious pistol-shots. So ugly a thing
may our Anglo-Saxon Protestantism appear beside the doings of the
Society of Jesus.

But revolution in this world succeeds to revolution. All that I
say in this paper is in a paulo-past tense. The Monterey of last
year exists no longer. A huge hotel has sprung up in the desert by
the railway. Three sets of diners sit down successively to table.
Invaluable toilettes figure along the beach and between the live
oaks; and Monterey is advertised in the newspapers, and posted in
the waiting-rooms at railway stations, as a resort for wealth and
fashion. Alas for the little town! it is not strong enough to
resist the influence of the flaunting caravanserai, and the poor,
quaint, penniless native gentlemen of Monterey must perish, like a
lower race, before the millionaire vulgarians of the Big Bonanza.


Robert Louis Stevenson

Sorry, no summary available yet.