The Mountain Above Victoria.
Nevertheless, despite the repulsive appearance of our bearers, we thoroughly enjoyed our excursion up the mountain. At every step our admiration was increased for the magnificent roads which wind about the cliffs in massive terraces, arched over by majestic trees, bordered by parapets of stone, lighted with gas, and lined with broad, deep aqueducts, through which at times the copious rainfall rushes like a mountain stream. It will be seen that such a comparison is not an exaggeration, when I add that not many years ago, thirty-two inches of rain fell here in thirty hours. This mountain is the favorite abode of wealthy foreigners, and hence these curving avenues present on either side, almost to the summit, a series of attractive villas commanding lovely views. On account of their situation, the gardens of these hillside homes are necessarily small; but in the midst of them, about five hundred feet above the town, a charming botanical park has been laid out.
The Cable - Road To Victoria Peak.
Forgetful of our coolies at the gate, we lingered in this garden for an hour or two, delighted with its fine display of semitropical foliage. It is marvelous what skillful gardeners have accomplished here, in transforming what was fifty years ago a barren rock into an open-air conservatory. Palms, banyans, india-rubber trees, mimosas with their tufts of gold, camellias with their snowy blossoms - all these are here, with roses, mignonette, and jessamine, surrounded with innumerable ferns. Occasionally we encountered in this fragrant area a Chinese gentleman, indulging leisurely his love of flowers; for this delightful park is open to all without regard to race or creed, although the population of the island is extremely cosmopolitan. Englishmen, Americans, Germans, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Portuguese, Italians, Parsees, Mohammedans, Jews, Hindus, and fully one hundred and fifty thousand Chinamen, are residents of the city of Victoria alone.
In this retired park one does not realize that Hong-Kong is such a rendezvous for different nationalities; but frequently, while we were walking here, the sharp report of a cannon forced a discordant echo from the neighboring hills and told us that some foreign man-of-war had just appeared within the bay; for here some ship or steamer is continually arriving or departing, and many times a day there comes a deafening interchange of salutes that sends a thrill through every window- pane upon the mountain.
One can well understand, therefore, that with so mixed a population and in such close proximity to China, the officers sent out here by the British government must be men of courage, the garrison of the island strong, and its administration prompt and resolute. A single incident revealed to me the crimes which would undoubtedly creep forth, like vipers from a loathsome cave, were they not kept in check by vigorous justice and incessant vigilance. In one of the residences on the height above Victoria, I met one day at dinner the captain of a steamer anchored in the bay. He asked me to come out some evening and pay a visit to his ship. The following night, soon after dark, I walked down to the pier, intending to embark on one of the many boats along the shore. I was about to enter one, when a policeman rapidly approached. "Give me your name and number," he said roughly to the Chinese boatman. Then turning to me, he politely asked my name, address, and destination, and when I intended to return. "I am obliged to do this," he explained, "for your protection. There is a population of twenty thousand Chinese living in this harbor upon boats alone, besides the usual criminals who drift to such a place. Before we adopted this precaution, a foreigner would sometimes embark on one of these craft and never be seen again. In such a case search was useless. He had disappeared as quietly and thoroughly as a piece of silver dropped into the bay."
The Botanical Park, Hong - Kong.
An Open - Air Conservatory.