“Gee, but isn’t He coming with a bang!”
PROBLEMS AND PLACES
In 1884 I kept a diary—kept it the entire year. It was written in the straggling characters of a child of ten. As I peruse it now, twenty-five years afterward, I am struck not so much with what it records, as with what it leaves unrecorded. The great places visited and the names of great men are chronicled, Bible studies and religious observations find a place—but of the fierce struggle of the human soul with destructive and corrupting influences, not a word!
The itinerary of the year included Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Syria, Asia Minor, Cyprus, Crete and Sicily. Of these Syria was of the greatest interest to me. Of the men whose pathway crossed mine, General Gordon was of the most importance; of the others, the King of Greece and the second son of Victoria were unique, but not interesting. One in my position could only meet them as a flunky meets his master, anyway.
Gordon, on his way to his doom in the Soudan, disembarked at Alexandria. It was early in January. There was no parade, no reception of any kind. Gordon was dressed in plain clothes with a cane in his hand. Gladstone had sent him thus to bring order out of chaos in the Land of the Mad Mullah. Officers with a penchant for religious propaganda are scarce either in the army or navy, but into whatever part of the world Gordon went, he was known and recognized and sought after by men engaged in religious work. It was an officer of the Royal Naval Temperance Society, who was at the same time a naval petty officer, who said to me on the wharf at Alexandria—“That’s Chinese Gordon!”
“Where is he going?” I asked.
“Down the Nile to civilize niggers who are dressed in palm oil and mosquitoes,” was the answer. A year later Gladstone sent an army and spent millions of money to bring him back, but it was too late.
While lying off Piraeus, the seaport of Athens, I was doing guard duty on deck in the first watch. I was substitute for a comrade who had gone to visit the ancient city. There had been an informal dinner, and there were whispers among the men that some high mogul was in the Admiral’s cabin. Toward the close of the first watch I was joined on my beat by a man in plain clothes, who, with a lighted cigar in his mouth, marched fore and aft the star-board side of the ship with me. In anticipation of entering Greek waters, I had read for months, and this stranger was astonished to find a common soldier so well informed on the history of Greece. I had not yet been ashore, but I had arranged to go the following day. The gentleman, on leaving, handed me a card on which he had pencilled what I think was an introduction. I had only time to ask him his name, and he said, “George—just George.” Next day I discovered I had been pow-wowing with a king. The effect on me was