BACK HOME FROM AFRICA. NINETY DAYS ON THE WAY THROUGH INDIA, JAVA, CHINA, MANILA AND JAPAN. THREE CHOW DOGS AND A FINAL SERIES OF AMUSING ADVENTURES
At last the day came for us to say good-by to the happy hunting grounds and return to the perils and dangers of civilization. Occasional newspapers had filtered into the wild places and in the peaceful security of our tents we had read of frightful mining disasters in America, of unparalleled floods in France, of the clash and jangle of rival polar explorers, of disasters at sea, of rioting and lynching in Illinois. Automobile accidents were chronicled with staggering frequency, and there were murmurs of impending rebellions in India, political crises in England, feverish war talk in Germany, volcanic threats from Mount Etna, and a bewildering lot of other dreadful things.
In contrast to this dire picture of life in civilized places, our pleasant days among the lions and wild beasts of Africa seemed curiously peaceful and orderly. Now we were to leaveto go back into the maelstrom of the busy places and bid farewell to our friendly savages and genial camp-fires. The Akeleys were remaining some months longer, but Stephenson and I were scheduled to leave.
Just Before Saying Good-by to My Horse
The Boro Boedoer Ruins
There were a few busy days in Nairobi. The horses were sold, the porters were paid off, the trophies were prepared for shipment, and our camp outfits and guns were either sold or packed for their journey homeward. There were affectionate and rather tearful partings from good friends, then a quick railway trip to the coast and a day or two of waiting in Mombasa. The hunting was over. Now it was a mere matter of getting home in ninety days, and for variety's sake we elected to go home through India, Java, China, and Japan. I was curious to note the changes that those countries had undergone since I had last seen them years before.
We had some mild adventures. The first occurred in Mombasa, and concerns the strange conduct of two little white dogs that flashed in and out of our lives.
One day when I returned to my room in the hotel at Mombasa I was surprised to find that two small dogs had established themselves therein. The room boy knew nothing about them; the people around the hotel did not remember having ever seen them before. No clue to their owner was obtainable, and we regarded their advent as something of a mild kind of miracle. They played about the room as if they had long been there. When we went out they were at our heels and in the course of our wanderings through the old streets of the town the two dogs were always close at hand, or, rather, close at feet. When I worked in the room at the hotel they lay on the floor or played near my table and made no effort to rush away to the many temptations of the warm sunshine outside. I became much attached to them. Such steadfast devotion from strange dogs is always flattering.
Then our ship, the Umzumbi, South Africa to Bombay, came into the harbor and anchored a quarter of a mile out from the custom-house dock. We decided to go out and visit her and accordingly shut the door to prevent the two little dogs from joining us. Before we reached the dock they were with us, however, having escaped some way or other. And when we got into the rowboat to go out they looked appealingly after us from the dripping steps of the boat landing. We were sorry, but really we couldn't take them to the ship.
The Two Dogs of Mombasa
Suddenly there was a splash, and one of the little dogs was bravely swimming after us. He wasn't built for swimming, but he was making a gallant effort. We stopped and picked him up, a drippy but grateful little creature. Then we had to row back to get the other one. By much strategy we succeeded in getting on board the Umzumbi without taking them with us, but as we were not sailing until the afternoon we stayed on board only long enough to see that our state-room arrangements were satisfactory and to meet the chief steward.
On our way back through the town the dogs got lost from us, but when we reached the room at the hotel they were comfortably installed in the square of sunshine that streamed through the window. They refused to break home ties. Several more times that day we executed elaborate manuvers to lose them without the painful formality of saying good-by. But all in vain. We tried to give them away and finally succeeded in persuading one woman from up Uganda way that they would be useful to her.
She was considering the matter when we, feeling like heartless criminals, stole away from the room, leaving it locked, and leaving two trustful and trusting little dogs incarcerated within. We told the proprietor of our dastardly conduct, but cautioned him not to liberate the captives until the steamer was hull down on the horizon. So by this time I suppose there are two little white dogs searching Mombasa for two missing Americans and wondering at the duplicity of human nature.
We imagined that the ship from Mombasa to Bombay would be nearly uninhabited by passengers. Few people are supposed to cross that part of the Indian Ocean. But when we embarked on the Umzumbi on February first we found the ship full. There were British army officers bound for India, rich Parsees bound from Zanzibar to Bombay, two elderly American churchmen bound from the missionary fields of Rhodesia to inspect the missionary fields of India; two or three traveling men, a South African legislator bound for India on recreation bent, and a few others.
After leaving Mombasa our travels were upon crowded ships, on crowded trains, and from one crowded hotel to another crowded hotel. It seemed as if the whole world had suddenly decided to see the rest of the world.
Bombay was crowded and we barely succeeded in getting rooms at the Taj Mahal. There were swarms of Americans outward bound and inward bound. You couldn't go down a street without encountering scores of new sun hats and red-bound "Murrays." The taxicabs were full of eager faces peering out inquiringly at the monuments and points of interest that flashed past.
The train to Agra was crowded and we succeeded in getting reservations only by the skin of our teeth. Also the hotels at Agra were jammed and many people were being turned away, while the procession of carriages jogging out toward the Taj Mahal was like an endless chain. Upon all sides as you paused in spellbound rapture before the most beautiful building in the world, you heard the voice of the tourist explaining the beauties of the structure.
During the Tourist Rush
The Taj Mahal is justly called the most beautiful edifice in the world. It is so exquisite in its architecture and its ornamentation that one may believe the story that it was designed by a poet and constructed by a jeweler. It was built by Shah Jehan as a memorial to his wife and for centuries it has stood as a token of his great love for her.
When I visited it this year I was surprised to find that Lord Curzon had placed within the great marble dome a hanging lamp as a memorial to his own wife. It seemed like a shocking piece of presumptionmuch as if the president of France should hang a memorial to one of his own family over the sarcophagus of Napoleon, or a president of the United States should do the same at Washington's tomb at Mount Vernon. It seemed like an inexpensive way of diverting the most beautiful structure of the world to personal uses.
And yet later I was compelled to modify this opinion when I saw how much excellent work Lord Curzon did toward restoring the old palaces of Agra and preserving them for future generations. As a reward for this work, perhaps, there may have been some justification in placing a memorial lamp in the dome of the Taj, especially as the lamp is exquisite in workmanship and adds rather than detracts from the stately beauty of the interior. But just the same the first verdict of the spectator is that Lord Curzon displayed a colossal egotism in so doing.
The tourist's beaten track in India was as thronged with American sightseers as the château country in France. Lucknow was crowded, Benares was crowded, Calcutta was crowded, and the trains that ran in all directions were crowded. A traveler wore a look of perpetual anxiety lest he should fail to get hotel or railway accommodations.
The India of one's imaginationthe somber land of mystery, of untold riches, of eastern enchantment, of far-away romancewas gone, buried under picture post-cards, hustling tourists, and all the commonplaces of a popular tourist track. It was distinctly disappointing from one point of view, and yet, I suppose, one should rejoice that his fellow countrymen have cash and energy enough to travel in distant places, even though they destroy the romantic charm of those places by so doing.
Tourists in India
The rush of Americans through India was as brisk as was the rush of Americans through Europe ten years ago. Age was no handicap. There were old couples, sixty, seventy, and eighty years old, jogging along as eagerly and excitedly as young bridal couples. The conversation one encountered was always pretty much the samehow such a train was crowded, how accommodations could not be secured at such a hotel, how poor the hotels were, and how long they would have to wait to get a berth on some outgoing ship. There were many people hung up in Bombay and Calcutta vainly trying to get away, but the boats were booked full for two or more voyages ahead.
One of the peculiarities of Indian travel has been the fact that most tourists plan to be in India during December, January and February. Hence they arrive in bunches, and try to get away in a bunch, which is impossible owing to the limited capacity of the steamships. This year the swarms of tourists have been so great that many of them could not get out of the country until late in March and along in April.
The Americans have become the great travelers of the world. In India there are two American tourists for one of all other nationalities. The hotel registers bristle with U.S.A. addresses and the shops and hotels regard the American trade as being the most profitable. One desirable result of the American tendency to fare afield has been the steady improvement in hotel and railway accommodations in the Far East.
We said good-by to India without much regret; in fact, we were elated to secure accommodations on a small Indo-China boat that made the run to Penang and Singapore in about eight days. No berths could be secured on the ships that go by the way of Burma. Those ships were booked full for several trips ahead. So we settled down comfortably on the good ship Lai Sang and droned lazily down through the Bay of Bengal. There were accommodations for only twelve first-class passengers, and there were only six on board. We had elbow room for the first time since leaving Africa.
When we stopped at Penang there were two distinct sensations. One was that Georgetown, the capital of the Island of Penang, is the prettiest tropical city I have ever seen; and the other was the first shock of the rubber craze. From that time on we were constantly in a seething roar of rubber talk; everybody was buying rubber shares and everybody else was talking about starting rubber plantations. The fever was epidemic. Planters were destroying profitable cocoanut groves in order to replace them with rubber trees. Nearly every local resident was putting his last cent in rubber shares and the tales of suddenly increased wealth inflamed the imaginations and cupidity of every one who heard them. I mentally jotted down the names of one or two companies that are going to declare enormous dividends soon, but that's as far as I've got in my rubber investments.
Penang, like Hongkong, is an island. The city on the island is Georgetown, while the city on Hongkong is Victoria; but you will never hear any one speak of Georgetown or Victoria. It is just Penang and Hongkong, and the other names are useless incumbrances.
Singapore was crowded with Americans fighting for accommodations on the China and Japan steamers; other Americans fighting to get reservations on the Java steamers; still other Americans who, in despair, were going to Hongkong by way of Borneo and the Philippines. They were willing to go first, second or third classany way at all to get on a ship.
At Raffles' Hotel
The Singapore hotels were crowded and we got the last room in the Raffles Hotel. The great and stately veranda, which serves the double purpose of a bar and an out-of-door reception-room, was usually crowded. That veranda is the redeeming feature of Raffles Hotel. In other respects this great hotel, situated at the cross-roads where East and West and North and South meet, is not up to what a good hotel should be.
We got the last state-room on a steamer to Java, and to our great surprise we found the ship to be the nicest we had traveled on, and the cooking to rival that of the great restaurants of Paris.
Cholera was rampant in certain parts of Java, but that didn't stop the sightseers. Nothing less than an earthquake or a lost letter of credit could have stopped them.
Our adventures in Java were a repetition of "crowds." The Hotel des Indes in Batavia was crowded and we got the last room. The railways were crowded, but not so much as the ones in India, and the carriages are most comfortable.
For a week we did volcanoes and gorgeous scenery, and realized what a delightful place Java is. It is even nicer than Japan, and the hotels are the best in the East.
My chief purpose in going to Java was to get a Javanese waterwheel. They had one at the world's fair in Chicago, and I have remembered it ever since as one of the most musical things I have ever heard. A friend of mine wanted me to get him one and I volunteered to do so. I supposed that we would hear waterwheels just as soon as we got off the ship. But I was evidently mistaken.
Nobody in Java, so far as I could discover, had ever seen or heard of a Javanese waterwheel. I inquired of dozens of peoplepeople who had lived there all their livesbut they looked blank when I spoke of waterwheels. I drew pictures of it, but that didn't enlighten them.
Finally in despair, after a week of vain searching, I drew the plans for a waterwheel and had it made. And I am taking it home with me, hoping that it may make music. Next year, owing to the demand I created for waterwheels, I suppose the Javanese will start making them for the tourist trade.
Java in a State of High Cultivation
Just as Russia is the land of "nitchevo," Spain the land of "mañana," and China the land of "maskee," so Java is the land of "never mind." You will hear the expression dozens of times in the course of a talk between residents of Javaat the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of sentences.
"I think it will rain to-morrow, butnever mind."
"I missed the train, butnever mind."
"I'm not feeling well, butnever mind."
You hear it all the time, all through Java.
In Java we had the best coffee we had struck since leaving Paris, in fact, the first real good coffee we had found. Even worthy Abdullah, our camp cook, was considerable of a failure at coffee making. The Boro Boedoer ruins are among the most stupendous in the world; the volcanoes of Java are like chimneys in Pittsburg, the terraced rice fields are beautiful beyond belief, butnever mind. I think I shall remember Java chiefly for its delicious coffee and for my house-to-house hunt for a waterwheel.
I was sitting one day in the Singapore club talking to Colonel Glover of the British army, when a hand tapped me on my shoulder. I looked around and there stood the King of Christmas Island. I no more expected to see him than I did the great Emperor Charlemagne, for it had been many years since we were college mates at Purdue University. His story is romantic. He is the nephew of Sir John Murray, who owns immense phosphate deposits in Christmas Island, two hundred miles south of Java Head. Years ago he went out to help work these great deposits and has climbed up until now he is the virtual head of the island. His authority is absolute and he has come to be called the King of Christmas Island. His every-day name is that of his distinguished uncle, Sir John, but his Sunday name is "King."
For a day or two we motored around Singapore and it was worth seeing to note how the tourists stared when I casually said, "Well, King, let's have a bamboo." In a day or two he was going to meet his wife, who was just coming from England with a little three-months-old crown prince whom he had not yet seen. Then, together, the royal family was going back to Christmas Island on one of the king's ships.
The Call of the East
The China coast is distinguished for its excellent United States consular officials. And it hasn't been so for many years. Our representative in Singapore, Mr. Dubois, is one of the best men I have yet encountered in one of our consulates. He is a new-comer in Singapore and yet in his few months he has added more prestige to our consulate general than all the former men put together. One can not but wonder why he is not a minister or an ambassador, instead of only a consul general.
Hongkong has been fortunate in having an excellent representative in Mr. Rublee, and his recent untimely death is a distinct loss to the country. Mr. Wilder is in Shanghai and he is decidedly a man of the best mental and temperamental equipment. So now an American traveler may go up and down the China coast and "point with pride" to his nation's representatives. How different it was ten or twelve years ago!
We barely managed to get on board the Prinz LudwigSingapore to Hongkong. It is one of the N.D. Lloyd's crack ships and everybody tries to take it. We got the last cabin, as usual, and spent hours thanking our lucky stars.
The China Sea is chronically disposed to be disagreeable, but on this occasion it was quite well behaved. There were three days of delightful sunshine and then a sudden blighting chill in the air. We landed in Hongkong with overcoats buttoned up and with garments drenched by the rains and mist clouds that battled around the great peaks of this little island. The hotels were jammed to the sidewalks and we got the last room at the Hongkong Hotel, while throngs were turned away; the steamers for the States were booked full for several voyages ahead and tourists were rushing around in despair. The Asia had been booked up to the limit for weeks and it seemed as if we might have to wait a long time before getting berths on any ship. But some one unexpectedly had to give up a state-room and we were fortunate in getting it.
I had a great desire to see Manila again. It had been ten years since I left there in the "days of the empire" and everything in me quivered with longing to revisit the place where I spent my golden period of adventure. We booked on the old Yuen Sang, a friend of former days, and the skipper, Captain Percy Rolfe, handsome, cultured, and capable, was still in command. He loves the China Sea and has steadfastly refused to be lured away by offers of greater ships and more important commands. When we engaged our passage the agent warned us that the vessel was carrying a cargo of naphtha and kerosene and that we might not wish to risk it; but we went. A Jap and a Chinaman were the only two other passengers, and they were invisible during the sixty hours to cross.
We steamed out of Hongkong in a chilling wind and at once plunged into a fog, but the next morning we ran into smooth seas and warm weather. A full moon hung over the empty waste of waters and the nights were gorgeous.
As we neared the coast of Luzon I became much excited, for in my memory were those vivid, expectant days of old when our little American fleet crossed this selfsame stretch of sea to find and destroy the Spanish ships. I lived over again those boding days when the air was electric with impending danger.
It was long before daylight when the Yuen Sang, at half-speed, arrived at Corregidor. The captain wished to report his number to the signal station, and we had to wait until light had come before the ship could enter. So the engines were stopped and for an hour we drifted on under the ship's momentum. The silencing of the engines on a ship is always ominous, and just now, with the dim bulk of Corregidor looming grimly before us, it seemed as if there was something particularly sinister about our stealthy approach.
From five o'clock onward we stood on the bridge, our voices unconsciously hushed as we spoke. Here was where the Baltimore had dropped a Greek fire life preserver and for a long time it had bobbed about on the tumbling sea, weird and terrifying to those who didn't know what it was. There was where the soot in the McCulloch's funnel had suddenly blazed up like the chimney of a blast furnace. And over there on the lower edge of the black bulk of the island was where a little signal light had flared up and then died out, leaving every man on our ships tense with expectant dread, and all about us here had reigned a silence so penetrating that it in itself was harder to bear than the thunder and flash of guns.
And still we drifted on, nearer and nearer to Boca Chica, the northern passage into Manila Bay. Dawn and light came slowly. In poetry the dawn of the tropics may come up like thunder and the transition of darkness to light may be startling and sudden, but in my own experience the tropic dawn comes slowly and pervadingly. First a faint grayness, gradually growing brighter until the sun shoots up joyous and golden in its glory, painting the skies with flaming banners and penciling the tips and edges of clouds with the fires of morning. When we lazily drifted in toward Corregidor from the China Sea that morning, it was light enough to see distinctly for nearly an hour before the sun rose.
Presently a fluttering string of signal flags appeared on the top of the island, and a moment later our engines resumed their throbbing and we headed boldly into Boca Chica. Here on the left was Mariveles Bay, the scene of the famous German ship, Irene, incident, which electrified the world.
Every point that rose before my eyes was pregnant with historic memories and suggestions. I was thrilled and yet I half-dreaded my return to Manila, for fear that the peace and commercialism of the present days would be disappointing to one who knew it when each day was filled with trouble and threats of trouble; when the city lay always as if under an impending cloud and when the borders of the bay rang with the thunder of guns and the sputter of musketry.
As the Yuen Sang steamed across the twenty-five miles of the bay it seemed as if it were only yesterday that I had been there. The waters were glassy and smooth, just as the bay used to be every morning of the long blockade, when the air was still and the broad glistening water was tranquil and at rest.
The surprises came in Manila. Great changes had taken place in the harbor, new breakwaters were where there had been none before, new buildings were up, and still more were building. Big electric cars rushed along where formerly the snail-like horse cars crept painfully by. The city was unbelievably clean and the main streets were full of busy life.
I visited the old houses where we had once lived in economical splendor, with servants and carriages and expenses that were microscopic as compared to those of the present day. Upon all sides were the visible evidences that some day Manila will be the finest city of the Orient if the time ever comes when capital may feel assured that our occupation has some prospect of permanence.
In my old days I used to know a beautiful Mestiza girl in Manila. She was very pretty and very nice. I used to draw pictures of her and struggle bravely with the Spanish language. And she was kind and patient with my efforts to learn. Her name was Victoria and she kept a little shop where she and her ancestors for generations before had sold silk jusi and piña cloth. I visited her often there and sometimes went out to her home, a beautiful big Spanish house in Calle Zarigoza.
I determined to find her and went over to her shop. Fatal mistake! Ten years and the tropics work many changes in the soft-eyed daughters south of the fifteenth degree of latitude.
I once read a story by Pierre Loti, a sad and haunting story of how he sought, after years of absence, to find an old-time sweetheart in Stamboul. He didn't find her and he should be grateful for his failure.
Ten Years After
I found Victoria. She recognized me at once, although I hardly knew in her the slender, pretty Victoria of old. Her eyes were soft and nice, but smallpox had pitted her nose and cheeks and the deadly incubus of flesh had upholstered her in many soft and cushiony folds. I asked her if she had married and she said she never had, which information I matched with promptness. She spoke English quite well and seemed prosperous andyes, motherly. There's no other word for it, although she is now hardly thirty.
It was a terrible disappointment, a collapse of delightful memories, and as I walked away from her little silk shop with a vague promise to call again I knew perfectly well that I should never go back.
I left Manila after less than two days and rolled and plunged and tumbled back across the China Sea to Hongkong. I bought a little chow dog puppy from the Chinese steward on board, but I suppose it will grow up and get fat one of these days, too. Allison Armour and his nephew, Norman Armour, were with us and in Hongkong the latter bought two chow dog puppies to send home. They looked exactly like teddy bears. Later he resolved that the trouble and risk were too great, inasmuch as he was not returning by the Pacific, so he gave them to me. And with three chow dogs and my friend Stephenson I embarked on the Asia for the twenty-eight day trip to Frisco.
The ship was jammed and we found a little fat man consigned to the sofa in our state-room. He was pleasant looking, but we little realized what hours of nocturnal horror were in store for us. He was the champion snorist of the five continents. He could snore in all keys, all languages, all directions, and it was like trying to sleep in the same room with a fog-horn. Nothing could waken him and he went to sleep before he struck the bed. And from that moment on through the night he tried the acoustic properties of that end of the ship to the utmost. After two or three nights of sleeplessness we resolved to rebel, mutiny, revolt, and if necessary joyfully to commit justifiable homicide.
Never an American Flag
One night Stephenson turned on the light and reached for his cane. "What are you going to do? Kill him?" I asked eagerly. But he only poked at the quivering form to awaken it, and merely succeeded in changing the key from B flat to a discord of minors.
At Yokohama somebody got off and by buying an extra berth we moved into another state-room and slept for twenty-four hours. We called him "Snoring Cupid," because of his cherubic appearance and proficiency in snoring.
It was the cherry blossom season in Japan. Through the constant rain we saw the hillsides pink with loveliness. But it was cold and disheartening and after five days in Japan we turned with relief to the voyage homeward. And it was very pleasant. Lots of pleasant things happened, but nothing more.
It is good to be back where the American flag is a familiar sight and not a curiosity. We saw thousands and thousands of merchant ships, but except in Manila and Honolulu we never saw a solitary American flag on one of them.
And that's the end of our hunting trip. We are now back where we have to pay two or three times as much for things as we did in the Orient. A cigar that costs three cents gold in Manila costs twelve and one-half cents gold in San Francisco! Butnever mind. A pleasant time was had.
CHAPTER ONE | CHAPTER TWO | CHAPTER THREE | CHAPTER FOUR | CHAPTER FIVE | CHAPTER SIX | CHAPTER SEVEN | CHAPTER EIGHT | CHAPTER NINE| CHAPTER TEN | CHAPTER ELEVEN | CHAPTER TWELVE | CHAPTER THIRTEEN | CHAPTER FOURTEEN | CHAPTER FIFTEEN | CHAPTER SIXTEEN | CHAPTER SEVENTEEN | CHAPTER EIGHTEEN | CHAPTER NINETEEN | CHAPTER TWENTY | CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE | CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
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