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View of Castle Island, Cape Gotto


First view of Japan — Curious islands — Papenberg — Massacre of Christians — Visit from the officials — Harbour of Nagasaki — Desima Of old — Desima of the present day — Japanese factory — Town of Nagasaki — Tea-houses — Salamanders — Buddhist temples — Large camphor-trees — Tombs — Mimic processions — Dr. Siebold's residence — Excursions — Epunga — Natural productions — Scenery — Trade of Nagasaki — Its capabilities as a Sanatarium.

AT daylight on the 12th of October, 1860, the swift little barque 'Marmora,' in which I was a passenger from China, was rapidly approaching the coast of Japan — a country at the ends of the earth, and well named by its inhabitants "the Kingdom of the Origin of the Sun." When I came on deck in the morning the far-famed shores of Zipangu lay spread before my wondering eyes for the first time. Having heard and read so many stories of this strange land — of its stormy coasts, on which many a goodly vessel had been wrecked; of its fearful earthquakes, which were said to have thrown up, in a single night, mountains many thousands of feet above the level of the sea; of its luxuriant vegetation, full of strange and beautiful forms; of its curious inhabitants; and last, but not least, of its salamanders! — I had long looked upon Japan much in the same light as the Romans regarded our own isles in the days of the ancient Britons.

My first view of these shores, however, did a good deal towards dispelling this delusion. It was a lovely morning. The sun rose from behind the eastern mountains without a cloud to obscure his rays. The Gotto islands and Cape Gotto were passed to the north of us, and with a fair wind and smooth sea we were rapidly approaching the large island of Kiu-siu, on which the town of Nagasaki is situated. The land is hilly and mountainous, and in many instances it rises perpendicularly from the sea. These perpendicular rocky cliffs have a very curious appearance as one sails along. There are also a number of queer-looking detached little islands dotted about; and one almost wonders how they got there, as they seem to have no connexion with any other land near them. Some of them are crowned with a scraggy pine-tree or two, and look exactly like those bits of rockwork which are constantly met with in the gardens of China and Japan. No doubt these rocky islands have suggested the idea worked out in gardens, and they have been well imitated. Others of these rocks look in the distance like ships under full sail, and in one instance I observed a pair of them exactly like fishing-junks, which are generally met with in pairs. Nearer the shore the islands are richly clothed with trees and brushwood, resembling those pretty "Pulos" which are seen in the Eastern Archipelago. The highest hills on this part of the mainland of Kiu-siu are about 1500 feet above the level of the sea; but hills of every height, from 300 to 1500 feet, and of all forms, were exposed to our view as we approached the entrance to the harbour of Nagasaki. Many of these hills were terraced nearly to their summits, and at this season these terraces were green with the young crops of wheat and barley.

The pretty little island of Papenberg stands as if it were a sentinel guarding the harbour of Nagasaki. Pretty it certainly is, and yet it is associated with scenes of persecution, cruelty, and bloodshed of the most horrible description. "If history spoke true," says Captain Sherard Osborn, "deeds horrid enough for it to have been for ever blighted by God's wrath have been perpetrated there during the persecutions of the Christians in the seventeenth century. It was the Golgotha of the many martyrs to the Roman Catholic faith. There, by day and by night, its steep cliffs had rung with the agonized shrieks of strong men, or the wail of women and children, launched to rest, after torture, in the deep waters around the island. If Jesuit records are to be believed, the fortitude and virtue exhibited by their Japanese converts in those sad hours of affliction have not been excelled in any part of the world since religion gave another plea to man to destroy his fellow-creature; and may it not be that the beauty with which Nature now adorns that rock of sorrows is her halo of glory around a spot rendered holy by the sufferings, doubtless, of many that were brave and good?" As we passed the island we gazed with awe and pity on its perpendicular side, from which these Christians were cast headlong into the sea.

As soon as our ship rounded Papenberg the harbour and town of Nagasaki came full into view. On each side of this entrance to the bay there are numerous batteries, apparently full of guns. On Papenberg itself, as well as on every little island and headland, fortifications were observed as we sailed along. There is also a flagstaff and telegraph station on one of the bills; and the moment a ship is seen approaching, a signal is made and passed on to Nagasaki. We were not molested by either guard-boat or customhouse officer, but allowed to sail quietly in to our anchorage. Here we were boarded by sundry officials, who immediately began to put all sorts of questions regarding the ship, her cargo and passengers; and the information obtained was all committed to paper. The commanding officer was then informed that two of these gentry would be left on board, and he was requested to give them shelter and accommodation in the cabin.

The harbour of Nagasaki is one of the most beautiful in the world. It is about a mile in width, and three or four in length. When you are inside it appears to be completely land-locked, and has all the appearance of an inland lake. The hills around it are some 1500 feet in height, and their surface is divided and broken up by long ridges and deep glens or valleys which extend far up towards the summits. These ridges and glens are for the most part richly wooded, all the more fertile spots are terraced and under cultivation. The whole scene presents a quiet and charming picture of Nature's handiwork intermingled with the labour of man.

On the south side of the harbour there has been a portion of land set apart for the subjects of foreign nations whose Governments have lately made treaties with Japan. The various Consuls, most of whom are also merchants, reside at present in small houses or temples on the sides of the hill behind the settlement. It is an interesting sight to see the flags of several Western nations — English, French, American, and Portuguese — flying at this distance from home. A great portion of the land set apart for the foreign settlement was in the course of being reclaimed from the sea, and ere long a town of considerable size will rise on the shores of this beautiful bay.

The island of Desima — dear old Desima, where the Dutch have traded and dreamed so long — lies a little further up the bay, and looks in the distance like a small fort or breastwork in front of Nagasaki.1 In these days, when Japan has to a great extent been opened to foreigners, it is amusing to read the account of the restrictions which were placed upon the movements of the Dutch during the period when all the trade of Japan was their own. The little island was only separated from Nagasaki by a narrow canal spanned by a stone bridge, but the dwellers on either side were prevented from seeing each other by means of a high wall. The bridge was closed by a gate, beside which was a guardhouse occupied by police and soldiers; and no one was allowed to quit the island on any pretence without the permission of the Governor. Japanese were not allowed to visit the Dutch without permission, excepting those who were appointed to inspect their dwelling-place, and then only at certain hours. The Japanese servants of the Factory were obliged to leave the island at sunset, and to report themselves at the guardhouse to prove that they had really left the Factory. The only individuals exempt from leaving the island at sunset were women who had forfeited the first claim of their sex to respect or esteem, and no female of good character was permitted on any pretence to set foot upon Desima. A placard set up near the bridge-gate announced this in the plainest and coarsest terms.

When any member of the Factory wished to visit the town of Nagasaki, or the country in its vicinity, for a little recreation or amusement, he was obliged to send in a petition to the Governor twenty-four hours beforehand. Leave was usually granted, providing the captive was accompanied by a certain number of officials, police-officers, and a compradore. These again had their servants and friends, so that the attendants and hangers-on of one unfortunate pleasure-seeker usually amounted to some twenty or thirty persons, all of whom he was bound to entertain.

On entering the town of Nagasaki the pleasure-party was soon surrounded and followed by all the boys and idlers within reach, who shouted "Holanda! Holanda!" or "Holanda Capitain!" in the Dutchman's ears, and rendered his walk anything but an agreeable one. The excursion into the surrounding country must, however, have fully repaid the unfortunate captive for the disagreeables of the town. The scenery amongst the hills is of the most charming description, and must have been fully appreciated by men who were cooped up on a little mud-bank like the island of Desima.

Such was the state of affairs only three or four years ago. At the time of my visit in the autumn of 1860 all this had undergone a wonderful change — certainly wonderful for Japan. The old bridge which connects the island with the town of Nagasaki is still there, and presents a venerable and somewhat ruinous aspect; the guardhouse is now empty, the gate has been removed, a part of the wall has been thrown down, and the Dutch are no longer the prisoners they once were. Like other foreigners, they can now visit the town when they choose, and roam about the surrounding country to any distance within twenty-five or thirty miles, without any interference from the Japanese.

In my wanderings in Desima I stumbled upon a large rough piece of rock, on which were carved the words "Kæmpfer" and "Thunberg." No other eulogy was necessary. It is pleasing to note that the modern Dutch reverence the names of these men of science who have done so much to make us acquainted with the people and natural productions of Japan.

Opposite Desima, and on the other side of the bay, the Japanese have a large factory in active operation. The machinery has been imported from Europe, and the superintendents are Dutch. The Japanese workmen appear to be most expert hands at moulding and casting, and in the general management of steam machinery. In this respect they are far in advance of their neighbours the Chinese. Indeed, to adopt everything foreign which they suppose to be useful, however different it may be from what they possess themselves, and to make themselves masters of the mode of working it, is a marked feature in the character of the Japanese people.

Nagasaki, or Nangasaki, as it is sometimes called, is situated on the northern shores of the bay, and is supposed to contain about 70,000 inhabitants. It is about a mile in length, and three-quarters of a mile in width, and fills up the space of ground between the shores of the bay and the hills which surround it. The streets are wide and clean, compared with those in Chinese towns; but as a general rule the shops are poor, and contain few articles of much value. Substances used as food, eggshell porcelain, lacquer ware of an inferior kind, and modern bronzes, are plentiful and comparatively cheap. Although the houses of the common people have a poor and mean appearance, there are some of considerable pretensions. Curiously enough, the largest and most notable buildings in the town, if we except the palace of the Governor, are what are called teahouses — places of amusement, where the entertainments are not such as accord with our ideas of morality. They seem at the present day much in the same condition in which Kæmpfer found them nearly two hundred years ago.

"The handsomest buildings," says Kæmpfer, "belonging to the townspeople, are two streets all occupied by courtesans. The girls in these establishments, which abound throughout Japan, are purchased of their parents when very young. The price varies in proportion to their beauty and the number of years agreed for, which is, generally speaking, ten or twenty, more or less. They are very commodiously lodged in handsome apartments, and great care is taken to teach them to dance, sing, play upon musical instruments, to write letters, and in all other respects to make them as agreeable as possible. The older ones instruct the young ones, and these in their turn serve the older ones as their waiting-maids. Those who make considerable improvement, and for their beauty and agreeable behaviour are oftener sent for, to the great advantage of their masters, are also better accommodated in clothes and lodging, all at the expense of their lovers, who must pay so much the dearer for their favours. One of the sorriest must watch the house overnight, in a small room near the door, free to all comers upon the payment of one noise. Others are sentenced to keep the watch by way of punishment for their misbehaviour.

"After having served their time, if they are married, they pass among the common people for honest women, the guilt of their past lives being by no means laid to their charge, but to that of their parents or relations who sold them in their infancy for so scandalous a way of getting a livelihood, before they were able to choose a more honest one. Besides, as they are generally well bred, that makes it less difficult for them to get husbands. The keepers of these houses, on the contrary, though possessed of never so plentiful estates, are for ever denied admittance into honest company."

The houses of the high officials, wealthy merchants, or retired gentlemen, though generally small, and only of one or two stories in height, are comfortable and cleanly dwelling-places. One marked feature of the people, both high and low, is a love for flowers. Almost every house which has any pretension to respectability has a flower-garden in the rear, oftentimes indeed small, but neatly arranged; this adds greatly to the comfort and happiness of the family. As the lower parts of the Japanese houses and shops are open both before and behind, I had peeps of these pretty little gardens as I passed along the streets; and wherever I observed one better than the rest I did not fail to pay it a visit. Everywhere the inhabitants received me most politely, and permitted me to examine their pet flowers and dwarf trees. Many of these places are exceedingly small, some not much larger than a good-sized dining-room; but the surface is rendered varied and pleasing by means of little mounds of turf, on which are planted dwarf trees kept clipped into fancy forms, and by miniature lakes, in which gold and silver fish and tortoises disport themselves. It is quite refreshing to the eye to look out from the houses upon these gardens. The plants generally met with in them were the following: — Cycas revoluta, Azaleas, the pretty little dwarf variegated bamboo introduced by me into England from China, Pines, Junipers, Taxus, Podocarpus, Rhapis flabelliformis, and some ferns. These gardens may be called the gardens of the respectable working classes.

Japanese gentlemen in Nagasaki, whose wealth enables them to follow out their favourite pursuits more extensively, have another class of gardens. These, although small according to our ideas, are still considerably larger than those of the working classes; many of them are about a quarter of an acre in extent. They are generally turfed over; and, like the smaller ones, they are laid out with an undulating surface, some parts being formed into little mounds, while others are converted into lakes. In several of these places I met with azaleas of extraordinary size — much larger than I have ever seen in China, or in any other part of the world, the London exhibitions not excepted. One I measured was no less than 40 feet in circumference! These plants are kept neatly nipped and clipped into a fine round form, perfectly flat upon the top, and look like dining-room tables. They must be gorgeous objects when in flower. Farfugium grande, and many other variegated plants still undescribed, were met with in these gardens, in addition to those I have named as being favourites with the lower orders.

One old gentleman to whom I was introduced by my friend Mr. Mackenzie — Mr. Matotski — has a nice collection of pot-plants arranged on stages, much in the same way as we arrange them in our greenhouses in England. Amongst them I noted small plants of the beautiful Sciadopitys verticillata, several Retinosporas, some with variegated leaves; Thujopsis dolabrata, and variegated examples of laurel, bamboo, orontium, and Hoya Matotskii — a name given by some Dutch botanist in honour of the old gentleman, and of which he was not a little proud. Mr. Matotski is a fine mild-looking Japanese, rather beyond the middle age. He has a collection of birds, such as gold and silver pheasants; and in his library are some illustrated botanical books, which he shows with great pride to his visitors. He presented me with a few rare plants from his collection, and offered to procure me some others, of which he had no duplicates in his own garden.

In the course of my rambles I came upon some tubs containing living salamanders for sale, and in the same quarter I observed some striking and beautiful kinds of fowls. These were rather above the ordinary size, but were remarkable for their fine plumage. The tail-feathers were long and gracefully curved, and fine silky ones hung down on each side of the hinder part of the back. Bantams were also plentiful, and bold independent-looking little fellows they appeared to be.

Three streams of water, spanned by numerous bridges, run down from the hills through the town; but at the time of my visit they were nearly dry. Besides supplying the town with water, they are used in summer for purposes of irrigation, and for driving water-mills.

A Chinese town of this size and importance would have had walls and fortifications, but there is nothing of the kind at Nagasaki; indeed, such a mode of defence does not seem to be common in Japan. The streets have gates thrown across them at certain places, and these are always closed at night; and, in the case of any disturbance, during the day, should occasion require it.

Behind the town, on the hill-side, there are many large Buddhist temples and gardens. These are placed in the best situations; the view over the town, the bay, and the distant hills is most charming, and well repays the visitor for the toil of the ascent. Camphor-trees of a great size were common about these temples. They were apparently of great age, and were the finest examples of this tree that had come under my observation. The Pinus Chinense, or P. Massoniana, was also common, and attains a great size. Higher up, the hill-sides were covered with many thousands of tombstones, marking the tombs of generations who have long since passed away. This large cemetery forms a prominent object in the landscape, and presents a striking and curious appearance to the stranger who looks upon it for the first time.

One day, during my walks in Nagasaki, I had an opportunity of seeing some extraordinary processions. The first one I saw consisted of a number of men dressed up as Chinamen, who were supporting a huge dragon, and making it wriggle about in an extraordinary manner. Another procession consisted of little children, some so small that they could hardly walk, who were dressed in the Dutch military costume — cocked hats, tailed-coats with epaulets, dress swords, and everything in the first style, closely resembling Mynheer on gala-days, when the trade of Japan was all his own, and Desima — dear little prison — his abiding place. In this procession, Dutch fraus and frauleins were duly represented, and truth compels me to say that they were never shown off to more advantage. The procession was accompanied by a band, dressed up also in an appropriate manner: they had European instruments, and played European music. The day was fine; thousands of people lined the streets, flags were hung from every window, and altogether the scene was most amusing. I followed the procession through the principal streets, and then up to a large temple situated on the hill-side above the town. Here the infantine troop was put through various military manœuvres, which were executed in a most creditable manner. I was amused at the gravity with which everything was done — each child looked as if it was in sober earnest, and scarcely a smile played on one of the many little faces that were taking part in this mimic representation of the good Dutchmen. The exercises having been gone through, the band struck up a lively air, and the little actors marched away to their homes.

On the side of a hill, a few miles out of Nagasaki, and amongst the most beautiful scenery, lives the veteran naturalist, Dr. Von Siebold. His house is some distance away from that of any other European; and his delight seems to be in his garden, his library, and the Japanese country people who are his friends. As I had determined to pay him a visit during my stay in Nagasaki, I chose a fine day, and set out in the direction of his residence after breakfast.

My road led me through the heart of the town. The streets, as I have already remarked, were wide and clean, and contrasted most favourably with towns of equal size in China. The common necessaries of life seemed to be abundant everywhere. Amongst fruits I observed the Diospyros kaki, pears, oranges, Salisburia nuts, chesnuts, water melons, acorns, &c. The vegetables consisted of carrots, onions, nelumbium roots, turnips, lily-roots, ginger, Arum esculentum, yams, sweet potatoes, and a root called "gobbo," apparently a species of Arctium.

After passing through the town the road led me up a beautiful rice valley, terraced in all directions and watered abundantly by the streams which flow from the mountains. On each side of the valley the hills are richly wooded, partially with trees and partially with brushwood. The trees I observed were Pinus Massoniana, Cryptomeria, Retinospora, camphor, oaks, camellias, &c. The view from one side, looking down upon and over the valley, and resting on the opposite hill, is rich indeed, and I almost envied Dr. Siebold his residence, which is situated on the left-hand side going up the valley. I found him at home, and he received me most kindly. His house is a good one for Japan, and his workshop or library, to which he introduced me, contains works of all countries on his favourite pursuits connected with natural history. But it was to the garden that my attention was more particularly drawn.

On a level with the house and around it are small nurseries for the reception and propagation of new plants, and for preparing them for transportation to Europe. Here I noted examples of most of the plants figured and described in Dr. Siebold's great work, the 'Flora Japonica,' so well known to all lovers of oriental plants; and several new things hitherto undescribed. A new Aucuba with white blotches on the leaves was striking; there was also the male variety of the old A. japonica, numerous fine Conifers, such as Thujopsis dolabrata, Sciadopitys verticillata, Retinospora pisifera and R. obtusa, and many other objects of interest. Plants with variegated foliage were numerous, and many of them were very beautiful. Amongst the latter I may mention Thujas, Eleagnus, Junipers, bamboos, Podocarpus, Camellias, Euryas, &c.

On the hill-side above the house Dr. Siebold is clearing away the brushwood in order to extend his collections and to obtain suitable situations for the different species to thrive in. For example, he will have elevation for such plants as require it, shade and dampness for others, and so on. Long may he live to delight himself and others with his enlightened pursuits!

Dr. Siebold speaks the Japanese language like a native, and appears to be a great favourite with the people around him, amongst whom he has great influence. "Doctor," said I to him on taking my leave, "you appear to be quite a prince amongst the people in this part of Japan." He smiled and said he liked the Japanese, and he believed the regard was mutual; and with a slight cast of sarcasm in his countenance, continued: "It is not necessary for me to carry a revolver in my belt, like the good people in Desima and Nagasaki."

During my stay in Nagasaki at this time I was greatly indebted to Mr. Evans, of the well-known house of Messrs. Dent and Co., of China. Mr. Webb, the head of that house in Shanghae, kindly furnished me with letters of introduction and credit; so that even "at the ends of the earth" I found myself quite at home. Mr. Evans introduced me to a number of native gentlemen whose gardens were rich in the botanical productions of Japan; and I am glad to take this opportunity of stating, that to him and to Mr. Mackenzie I am indebted for many important additions to my collections. Everywhere we were received with the most marked politeness by the Japanese — a politeness which I am vain enough to think we did not abuse in the slightest degree.

I have already stated that according to treaty foreigners are now allowed to visit the country in the vicinity of the ports that have been opened to trade. The distance allowed is ten ri, or from twenty-five to thirty miles. I was not slow to avail myself of this liberty in order to examine the natural products and agriculture of the country. Day by day excursions were made, either on foot or on horseback. One of these was to a place called Epunga, a kind of picnic station amongst the hills, about four or five miles from the town. The summer agricultural productions of the country through which I passed were much like those in the province of Chekiang in China — that is, rice and Arum esculentum on the low lands, and sweet potatoes, buckwheat (Polygonum tataricum), maize, &c., on the dry hilly soil. In winter, wheat, barley, and rape are produced on the dry lands, and the rice-lands are generally allowed to lie fallow.

On the hill-sides I observed the Japan wax-tree (Rhus succedaneum) cultivated extensively. It occupies the same position on these hills as the Chinese tallow-tree (Stillingia sebifera) does in Chekiang. It grows to about the same size, and, curiously enough, it produces the same effect upon the autumnal landscape by its leaves changing from green into a deep blood-red colour as they ripen before falling off. Some camphor-trees (Laurus camphora) of enormous size were observed about the temples on the outskirts of Nagasaki, and Cryptomeria japonica was a very common tree on all the hill-sides. The latter is often used as a fence round gardens, and a very pretty one it makes. When I first saw it used for this purpose, it struck me that something of the same kind might be done with it at home, now that it is so common in every nursery. The Japanese manage it much in the same way as we do our yew hedges; and when kept regularly clipped it is not only exceedingly pretty, but it also is so dense that nothing can get through it. The tea-plant is also common on these hill-sides, but the great tea country of Japan is 200 or 300 miles further to the northward, near the famous Miaco, where the Spiritual Emperor resides.

At this season the tea was just coming into flower, so that I was enabled to procure specimens for the herbarium. It is no doubt identical with the China plant, and may have been introduced from China; although, as the productions of the two countries are very similar in character, it may be indigenous. In its mode of growth and habits it resembles the plant in cultivation about Canton, commonly called Thea bohea.

Epunga, to which I was bound while making these observations, was reached in due course. I found the proprietor had a nice little private garden, and also a nursery in which he propagated and cultivated plants for sale. On the premises there was a building, apparently for the use of foreigners, which was only opened when any foreigner came out from Nagasaki for a day's pleasure. Like many other places of the kind, its walls were defaced with the writing of the great men who had visited it, and who took this means of immortalising themselves. Doggrel lines, some of them scarcely fit to meet the eye, were observed in many places written in Dutch, German, or Russian. Our own countrymen had not been there long enough to visit the place and leave their marks; doubtless these will be found also in good time.

The nursery garden at Epunga was found to contain a large collection of Japanese plants — some of which were new to me — and others of great rarity and interest. Several species were purchased for my collection, and duly brought in to the town the next day.

Having finished my examination of the nursery, I started, in company with some other gentlemen, on an expedition to the top of a hill some 1500 feet above the level of the sea, and celebrated the fine and extensive view to be obtained from its summit. It was a glorious autumnal day, such a day as one rarely sees in our own changeable climate. The sky was cloudless, so that when we reached the top our view on all sides was bounded only by the horizon. Looking to the south-east, far below us we saw the town of Nagasaki, with the beautiful bay in its front. On its smooth waters were the ships of several nations at anchor, besides a number of boats and junks of native build, and rather picturesque in their way. Turning round and looking to the north-west, the eye rested on many hundreds of little hills having a conical form, and covered to their summits with trees and brushwood. Behind them were mountains, apparently 2000 or 3000 feet in height, and a deep bay looking like an inland sea. Amongst the hills there were many beautiful and fertile valleys, now yellow with the ripening rice crops; and numerous villages and farmhouses gave life to the scene, which was one of extraordinary beauty and interest.

On our way home we visited a little garden belonging to an interpreter to the Japanese Government. Here again I noticed some azaleas remarkable for their great size, and an extraordinary specimen of a dwarfed fir-tree. Its lower branches were trained horizontally some twenty feet in length; all the leaves and branchlets were tied down and clipped, so that the whole was as flat as a board. The upper branches were trained to form circles one above another like so many little tables, and the whole plant had a most curious appearance. A man was at work upon it at the time, and I believe it keeps him constantly employed every day throughout the year!

Since the opening of the port of Nagasaki to other nations besides the Chinese and Dutch, its trade has been greatly enlarged. The harbour is now gay with the ships of all nations, and a brisk trade has sprung up between Japan and China — a trade which the quiet old Dutchmen never seemed to have dreamed of. Large quantities of seaweed, salt fish, and sundry other articles are exported to China; while the Chinese import medicine of various kinds, Sapan wood, and many other kinds of dyes. The exports to Europe are chiefly tea, vegetable wax (the produce of the Rhus already noticed), and copper, which is found in large quantities in the Japanese islands. At present there is little demand for our English manufactures, but that may spring up in time. Although Nagasaki may never become a place of very great importance as regards trade, it will no doubt prove one of the most healthy stations in the East; and may one day become most valuable as a sanatarium for our troops in that quarter of the globe.

1 It is about 600 feet in length, and 240 in width.

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