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The dragon and the chrysanthemum (1909) by Hume Nisbet ( Travel and Description)

The dragon and the chrysanthemum

The dragon and the chrysanthemum



The author illustrates his travels with an interesting style and great command of expressions.

Excerpt:

the shape of funds or closely attached friends but it will decidedly get mouldy and rusty if it takes too long a rest anywhere. I find this peculiarity in my own case, as a human stone that has done some rolling since first detached. 
Every decade a restlessness and discontent preys upon me, which signifies that I shall have to go on the ' trek or Wallaby Track ' before I can again taste peace or pleasure. Short trips do but brief good in the matter of rubbing off this poisonous mould which checks growth; the resting place becomes like a clotted flock mattress to a bed-ridden invalid, too weak to make a move for himself; too sluggish to ask help in the lifting; who can only lie and peevishly grumble at discomforts of his own making. The vague unhappiness grows and spreads until from being easy-minded, I become a decidedly unpleasant companion and carking friend. 

I abhor the idea of making the necessary preparations; to pack up is ob- noxious; Biscay Bay with its horrors looms like nearing nightmares; and lastly, but not least, the thought of the unknown companions who must share my cabin and ocean transit fills me with dismay. But the inner orders to march thunder at me and force me out of my torpidity. With heavy groans of regret, I begin to roll up my ' swag ' and prepare for the unknown. Every ten years this tyrannical master-spirit kicks me from comfort to discomfort, and forces me off to be buffeted by the blasts, nipped by the frosts, and scorched by the fierce suns until I have done the needful penance of leagues; after which I may look forward to another spell of rest.

 I mention this at the start of this present pilgrimage; not as an excuse for inflicting the results on my contented readers, who find the pleasures of home and friendship sufficient for their desires, but, if possible, to gain the sympathy of my fellow victims to the fever of this cureless complaint, which, like malaria, never entirely leaves the blood of the rover. Writing one's travels has become rather a thankless task to the professional word-painter now that transit is so easy, eventless, and comfortable. One needs some excitement to stir the blood and make the ink flow, and there is but small chance of being moved, even by hunger, onboard these magnificent ocean hotels. 

The daily routine of luxury and lack of care or danger presses heavily upon our souls, not to mention other internal organs. We know that we are approaching from many former visits to each of the landmarks. We bathe, dress, eat, talk — ah! yes; we talk, during the intervals between eating and sleeping, and as we are most respectable, easy-placed and decently bred people, fancy becomes crushed and numb before the vapidity of those saloon conversations on board a great ocean liner. We talk 'Golf,' ' Bridge,' ' Polo,' and politics from the House of Lords' point of view, and confound, unanimously, all Nonconformists, Free Traders and Socialists. 

The deadliness of such topics cannot be gauged by the inexperienced. Of course, between the rising and the sleeping, we do other things, such as getting sea-sick in the Bay, through which all must pass to reach warmth and sunshine. We smoke, also, a great deal and drink a little — it is not respectable to drink much at the present period of the progress of society. If there are nice women on board we make ourselves agreeable to them, flirt discreetly if they are spinsters, and a trifle more recklessly if they are married, and safe. We also do a flutter at the cards and drop some gold and silver, or pick them up, play idiotic games on deck during the day and more sentimental ones at night, get up concerts and dances, and waltz as closely round the seventh and tenth commandments as social discretion and respectability will permit us to get. Likewise, there are occasions when we can become even vulgarly angry, and find that glowing incentive to action which the robust old reformer, Martin Luther, said always inspired him to work. He said: ' I never work better than when I am inspired by anger; when I am angry I can write, pray, and preach well, for then my whole temperament is quickened, and my understanding sharpened.' Without going into the question of the ' understanding being sharpened ' by anger, we must agree with Martin as to the temperament being quickened by this ardent passion. Personally, 

I must also confess that if I had not been at times roused up by this emotion during my peregrinations eastward on this tour, I should have precious little more to interest my readers than any other of the enlarged diaries and chronicles of small beer published as travels. I trusty, however, to be able to awaken a languid interest, now and again, by my observations. Not much, I fear, for everyone possessed of means sufficient to travel have been there, written about it, or exhausted it in conversation. I am also of opinion that few people now are capable of getting up much interest about any subject- Only charges of dynamite could do this, and the smartest writer cannot make explosive bombs out of paper and ink. In the sphere where I ruminate at present my friends generally can afford to circumnavigate the globe in search of health or change from the dreary monotony of their daily small excitements.
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