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Full text of "Unconducted wanderers"

CORNELL 

UNIVERSITY 
LIBRARY 



Cornell University Library 
OS 508.F69 

Unconducted wanderers, 



3 1924 006 071 751 




The original of tiiis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 



http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924006071751 



UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 




THE AUTHOK 



UNCONDUCTED 
WANDERERS 

BY ROSITA FORBES 

WITH 72 ILLUSTRATIONS » 



LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD 
NEW YORK : JOHN LANE COMPANY MCMXIX 



Printed in Great Briiain 
iy Turnhull &* Spears^ Edinburgh 



TO 

UNDINE 

and to all those dwellers in the wilderness who unfailingly 
helped and encouraged us, who lent us their own know- 
ledge and resource, who laughed not at us but with us 
in all our strange journeys through the back of beyond ! 
To them I dedicate not only this book, which they one 
and all suggested my writing, but my sincere gratitude 
and admiration and a strong desire to welcome them all 
one day in this England for which they have done so much. 

"There's a legion that never was listed 
That carries nor colours nor crest, 
But split in a thousand detachments 
Is breaking a road for the rest," 

JCipting 



CONTENTS 



CHAP. PAGE 

I. The United States of America . . i 



II. California and Hawaii .... 14 

III. Samoa 25 

IV. Savai Island 36 

V. Tonga and Fiji 53 

VI. Nausonga 64 

VII. New Guinea 74 

VIII. New Guinea Customs .... 83 

IX. Java 95 

X. Java and Sumatra 102 

XI. Malay States no 

XII. Siam 124 

XIII. Siam and Cambodia ..... 135 

vu 



X UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

facing page 

A Malayan Dancing Girl io8 

A Tamal Woman in Sumatra .... io8 

The Costume of Siam 114 

A Wat at Bangkok .... . 114 

The Betel-Nut Expression 120 

A Bangkok Canal 120 

A Deserted Temple 126 

" Ayuthia's Lonely Stupas " . . . . 126 

Shan Children at Pai-lin 132 

Our Carriers in Cambodia 132 

Angkor Wat . 138 

Dancing Girls in Angkor Wat .... 138 

A Gate of Angkor-Thom 144 

Our Elephant and our Pirogue .... 144 

Undine in a Malabar 148 

The Fruit-Market at Pnom-Penh . . 148 

In Canton 154 

Travelling de Luxe (the Luggage-van of a^Kwan- 

TUNG Troop-train) ...... 154 

Army Boats at Shui-Chow 156 

Traffic on the North River .... 156 

Fishing Cormorants at Lok-Cheung . . . 158 

Interested Spectators 158 

Lok-Cheung ........ 160 

Our Houseboat near Ping-Shek .... 160 

A Halt in the Rain 162 

Sunshine again 162 

The American Mission Hospital at Chin-Chow . 166 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

The Retinue refresh Themselves 

Discovery of a Boat on the Sian River 

The Ambulance Fleet at Wai-Ya-Ping 

The Barrier of Boats at Yum-Shing . 

Southern Soldiers off to the Battle 

A Red-Cross Hospital near Macao 

A Funeral in Pekin 

A Cab Rank in Pekin . 

In the Summer Palace near Pekin 

The Temple of Heaven, Pekin 

The Mandarin's New Wife . 

The Chinese City in Pekin . 

Pigtails in Pekin .... 

On the Way to the Ming Tombs 

Guardian Beasts at the Ming Tombs 

The Great Wall of China . 

A Korean Funeral 

Umbrella and Hat combined 

A Lady of Seoul . 

Beauty veiled in Seoul 

The Charm of Age in Seoul 

Cautious Costumes on the Atlantic, August 



1918 



XI 

tacing page 
166 



172 
172 
176 
176 
180 
180 
183 
182 
184 
184 
186 
186 
188 
188 
190 
190 

194 

194 
196 



UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 



UNCONDUCTED 
WANDERERS 

CHAPTER I 

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 

UNDINE came from the hospital weary- 
eyed. Many months in icy corridors 
and over-heated ofifices had not dimmed 
the joie de vivre that made the whole 
world a Pandora's casket for her eager fingers, 
but they had drawn faint lines round the blue 
eyes that demanded so arrogantly, so eagerly, the 
best and the worst that life holds ! 

We called her Undine in India because she had 
no soul, and because her moon-gold hair was the 
reincarnation of the siren locks of the Rhine 
maiden, but to-day I know she is veritably Undine 
herself, for there was not a river in Fiji, not a 
stream, a lake, a bog in Siam and Cambodia that 
my elusive companion did not fall into ! Anyone 
but Undine would have been drowned twenty 
times over. 

" I am so tired," said the London maiden, " I 
want to go right away, round the world. I suppose 
you couldn't come with me, could you ? " 



2 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

" Of course not," I replied emphatically. 
" Quite impossible," I added, all the more firmly 
because a fleeting vision crossed my mind of my 
last misunderstanding with a baker's cart, and 
the peculiar look in the sergeant's eye as I asked 
for some green paint for the Government Daimler 
of which I was the optimistic driver. 

Now, though Undine has no soul, she has an 
unfailing sense of humour, a smile which is ex- 
tremely useful with passport officials and customs 
inspectors and a wonderful power of unravelling 
the most mysterious time-tables and Bhippihg 
lists. She is also the ohly woman I know 
who can distinguish betweeh telegraph posts dhd 
miles on a survey map, while her knowledge of 
obscure details of geography, such as the relative 
positions of Shigashi-Ogawa and, let us say, the 
Bilhgherungen hills, is really uncanny. Therefore, 
when she began to talk wistfully of coral islands 
and tropical forests, I knew my fate was sealed. 
It only remained to persuade the A.S.C. authori- 
ties that the Ministers of the Crown might 
suffer from heart failure or nervous collapse if 
I continued to drive them in record time from 
Downing Street to Dulwich — why Cabinet Minis- 
ters wish to go to Dulwich, I've never yet 
discovered ! 

A few weeks later we were on board the largest 
Atlantic liner that German perversity has left us. 
Twenty-six passengers played hide-and-seek in her 
vast saloons, or huddled together on her wide, 



THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 3 

grey decks. Undine and I spent happy hours 
discovering submarines. Our two most reaUstic 
ones turned out to be a playful porpoise and a 
whale blowing his nose ! Most of the passengers 
passed unpleasant nights in the saloon, clutching 
an odd assortment of their dearest possessions. 
The selection sometimes puzzled us, as one woman 
insisted on supplying herself with two large bath 
towels, and a famous theatrical manager refused 
to be parted from an extremely ancient umbrella. 
Undine and I, in the reaction from hospital 
and garage, slept outrageously and were ruth- 
lessly awakened about 11 a.m. by an indignant 
stewardess, who graphically described to us the 
horrors of being torpedoed at midday and being 
obliged to join the crowd of fully-dressed passengers, 
attired in a golden nightdress and a dragon- 
embroidered kimono ! 

New York burst upon us with her towering 
sky-line early one morning, and we had time for 
a swift impression of height and space, and motors 
as thick as ants, and a station that put Buckingham 
Palace to shame, before we found ourselves on a 
private car lunching on waffles and peach ice as 
we swam smoothly over a beautifully laid line 
at something like eighty miles an hour, as re- 
gistered on the neat Uttle speedometer at the end 
of the pink and white drawing-room. Thereafter 
I could have imagined the clock of time had been 
put back three years and I was again in August 
1914, when I heard such sentences as, " Jack's 



4 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

got a commission." " Oh, my Freddie has en- 
listed, you know." 

I remember thinking then that America was 
eager and anxious to give with open hands, but 
that she had not yet learned to go herself. Now, 
she is giving her youth and her strength with just 
as much vigour as eighteen months ago she gave 
of her wealth and her stores. I remember every 
woman had acquired the knitting habit, and every 
man the taxation craze, and talked of " putting 
down " everything from breakfast girdle cakes 
to motors, though petrol was still only one shilling 
— 25 cents — a. gallon. It was the second time 
I'd been in America, and once again I was over- 
whelmed with her vitality, energy, efficiency, self- 
sufficience, practical comforts, power of enjoyment, 
superficiality, good temper and vegetables ! The 
latter, of course, are pluperfect. I remember, 
weeks later. Undine being asked by an enter- 
prising reporter what she liked best in the U.S.A., 
and she promptly replied : 

" The vegetables — and the people ! " 
We were supposed to be staying in the country, 
but we dined and lunched at gorgeous neighbouring 
villas every day, we played an inordinate amount 
of bridge, we motored endless miles in one of a 
small fleet of cars which was always anchored 
in the drive, we wore out all our best frocks 
which were woefully out of fashion in go-ahead 
New York, we acquired the iced-water habit, and 
learned to look upon long distance telephones 



THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 5 

as aids to friendly conversation, not as in our own 
country as mere trials to temper and the vocal 
cords. Also we tried to keep pace with American 
conversation, but in this we failed miserably. 
How they do talk, these effervescent products of 
concentrated vigour ! I remember going to one 
delightful lunch where I managed to squeeze in 
two sentences, Undine never said a word, and our 
pretty hostess never stopped talking even to eat ! 

Our first shock came when, having lunched at 
some discreet restaurant, we calmly ht cigarettes, 
unconscious of the thrill of excitement that ran 
through the hotel, till horrified waiters scurried up 
and ordered us to desist. It was almost as bad 
as on the observation platform of a Canadian 
train, when my enjoyment of my Lady Nicotine 
was suddenly interrupted by a feminine voice 
exclaiming : 

" That is a most criminal and unladylike 
habit ! " 

What a wonderful thing an American tourist 
ticket is ! It grasps you and your belongings on 
the east coast, whirls you through four breath- 
less days and nights on a highly efficient train, 
equipped with barbers and stenographers, but 
burning very bad coal — I don't believe if you sat 
in a funnel in England, you could get quite so 
grimy — hauls you out at a totally unknown 
station, restores to you your hitherto invisible, 
and therefore given-up-for-lost, luggage, deposits 
you in a large car with an unnecessary quantity 



6 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

of cylinders, whirls you up and up over a nine 
thousand feet pass, along ninety-five miles of 
almost impassable roads, and finally deposits you, 
gasping, in an eight feet square tent, with a handful 
of coloured tickets entitling you to eat, sleep, fish 
and shoot, and very stem instructions as to how to 
find a return train at the other end of the Rockies. 

Of course we went to see the Yellowstone 
Canyon like every other tourist since the year one. 
We sat on a sulphur rock and gazed down into the 
immense gorge, precipice after precipice slipping 
away below us to the silken green torrent, crag 
after crag flinging up its mighty summit to meet 
its crown of pines, while the roar of the falls was 
like organ music in a temple of the gods, and 
the sheet of foam was the incense swung before 
their altar. There are supposed to be forty-seven 
different colours in the rocks of the Canyon : 
purple and yellow and every shade of red, from 
carmine to terra-cotta, streak the sulphur white. 
I counted five eagles' nests below me, mostly 
with young birds in them, and once we came 
upon a little bear cub asleep in a tree with 
its head on its paw. Chipmucks, squirrels and 
ground hogs, and occasionally a shaggy black 
bear came and looked at us, and once as we rode 
up a sulphur mountain we saw a herd of elk 
dotted on the plain far below. 

For the rest, I confess to being bored with 
geysers that spouted with the regularity of clock- 
work whales, and hot springs that smoked like 



THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 7 

^ngry jrailway engines, so we went on to Sajt 
Lra]^ City, and listened to the largest organ in 
the world, and gazed at the house of Brigham 
Young, who had nineteen wives and sixty-three 
children. We also rnotored up the Canyon, down 
which the Mormon pilgrims came in 1847, when 
they were driven out of Missouri and Illinois. 
It took them forty years to build their temple, 
and when they first came there wasn't a tree in 
the valley. 

Now, there are avenues down most of the streets 
and all the houses have gardens, yet there is 
practically no rainfall, so every tree has to be 
watered separately. Lately, the Mormon church 
has forbidden polygamy, and its members live 
like quakers, giving a tithe of their income to 
the church, calling each other " brother " and 
" sister," believing that the end of the world 
is imminent — a religious community of excellent 
farmers and citizens, ruled by their elders and 
pastors. 

We loved the Middle West. We rejoiced in its 
warm hospitality and its wholesale enthusiasm 
for the War, in which it welcomed prohibition 
and universal service, accepted the fixed price of 
wheat and lynched the leader of an I.W.W. 
strike ! Denver, at the foot of the mountains, 
introduced us to one of the few real terrors of 
America — the reporter with an absorbent mind 
and a fiendishly inventive brain. We dined one 
night at the Country Club, and I sat between a 



8 UNCONpUCTED WANDERERS 

bishop and a judge, so, as a suitable subject for 
conversation, I chose women's war work. Next 
day we were mobbed by reporters, who photo- 
graphed us at breakfast, tried to interview us 
through the bathroom keyhole, lay in wait for us 
in unsuspected corridors, and rang us up before 
we were awake, so that we took to laying our 
telephone receivers in lonely solitude on a chair ! 

Now, ere I left England, a patriotic parent had 
requested me to impress America in general with 
the fact that German air-raids were more amusing 
than annoying, and on the whole, were looked 
upon as a vastly more diverting spectacle than 
a mere cinema ! Therefore, when a goggle-eyed 
individual, with the expression of a cod-fish and 
the pencil of a post-impressionist, asked me what 
we did when bombs dropped around our Govern- 
ment cars, I said cheerfully : 

" Oh, we put up our umbrellas, silk ones if 
possible, because of the shrapnel ! " 

This was translated in the evening edition into, 
" She put up her umbrella when strong men ran 
for real cover ! " 

After that we fled to the Grand Canyon of 
Arizona, which is one of the seven wonders of 
the modem world. It is not even situated in 
mountainous country — that is the most amazing 
part of it — in the midst of a flat plain, one suddenly 
comes upon this vast chasm, twenty-five miles 
across, and a mile deep. The forest creeps up to 
the edge of the gorge, but there is no trace of 



THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 9 

vegetation amidst the red granite rocks of the 
Canyon itself. It is as if two sportive giants 
had played tug-of-war with the earth, and broken 
it in two. In the sunset, when the mighty crags 
are dyed blood red, one imagines it a battlefield of 
the ancient gods, split in twain by Jove's thunder- 
bolts hurled from heaven. Then violet mists 
come down, the towering pinnacles are lost in 
strange shadows, and it is a desolate, haunted 
world of gorgons and dragons, issuing from en- 
chanted caves ! 

We went across the Painted Desert, past mud- 
waUed Indian villages, surrounded by strange 
shaped hiUs with rugged caves and altars hewn 
out of the rock — I believe they are supposed to 
be Aztec remains, for the Mexicans once inhabited 
Southern Arizona — till cactus and aloes gave way 
to palms, and California met us with scent of 
oranges and a cool sea-breeze. I thought then 
that I would like to live in an orange grove in the 
open country at the foot of the Sierra Madre 
Mountains. I would grow pink oleanders, in 
fat, green tubs outside my vine-wreathed porch, 
and have a gently bucking broncho with a 
high-pommelled Mexican saddle and fringed bridle 
to ride. 

Los Angelos, the city of the angels, is a bustling, 
commercial town, but there is an old Spanish 
Mission of San Gabril, half buried in vine and 
convolvulus, its golden sun-washed belfry bending 
beneath the burden of its music, where mellow 



10 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

parchment-coloured hands seem po clutch at one 
from the shadows of quiet patios, where a breath 
of wind is the rustle of a mantilla, where surely 
a spirit, furtive, mysterious, cruel, walks in the 
columned aisles ! Undine insisted on going to 
Mass there ; and all the congregation was Spanish, 
the women with embroidered shawls and coloured 
fans, bare-headed save for a wisp of black lace. 
I wished I had accompanied her, for, at the 
Cathedral, the sermon began, " England, with all 
her faults, has seen the light," which annoyed 
me quite unreasonably. 

There are twenty-one of those ancient missions, 
strung like pearls on a golden string, all along 
the dusty Camina Real, the original highroad of 
California. They were founded by wandering 
Franciscans between 1750 and 1776, but, sad 
tribute to the ruthless march of civilization, of 
the ninety-three thousand Indians converted by 
the friars before 1800, there are only two thousand 
of their descendants living to-day. There used 
to be big Indian villages attached to each mission ; 
but, when these latter were confiscated by the 
" Young Calif ornian " Government, the Indians 
were ordered to work or to retire to the Reserves. 
The new settlers introduced strong drink, and this 
was responsible for a holocaust of the red men. 
There were endless fights and a few cunning 
murders, upon which whole tribes were wiped out 
in retaliation. In Arizona we saw some Hopi 
Indians dance, and the children had the saddest, 



THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ii 

gravest faces I've ever seen. They remijided 
me of the tragic, painted butterfly-girls of the 
Yoshwara — ^the nightless city — of Tokyo. 

Los Angelos reminded me of an Earl's Court 
Exhibition or a " people's paradise." It was full 
of megaphones, jitney-cars, guides, cinemas, soda- 
fountains and sight-seeing trolleys — ^the latter with 
a large notice painted on the door ; " Keep 
your temper ; nobody else wants it." Certainly 
the Westerners are adepts at humorous placards. 
We stayed once at a small, tin shanty outside 
a mining camp chiefly frequented by cowboys 
and miners, and we were infinitely amused 
with a big notice on a bare wall : " Gentlenien 
are requested to remove their spurs before 
getting into bed." Once again, in Santa Cruz, 
we were struck by the determined enjo5rment 
of the working-classes on a holiday. It was 
neither rowdy nor carelessly hght-hearted— it 
was dehberate, forceful, good-tempered and as 
overpowering as a ceaselessly spinning merry-go- 
round ! 

Santa Barbara is like a gem from the Italian 
Riviera, only its atmosphere is as sparkling and 
exhilarating as the wonderful climate of New South 
Wales, When we arrived at a f airy-palace-hotel set 
in gardens of palms, with a circle of mist-capped 
mountains behind and a blue, blue sea beyond 
a hedge of scarlet canna, and dined amidst masses 
of pink, tropical Ulies, with an overpoweringly 
sweet scent, on shrimp cocktails and chicken 



12 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

Maryland and thousand-island salad, we sighed 
happily and said : 

" We'll stay here a long time." 

Alas, the moving-on craze is not lightly to be 
escaped ! Two days later, after watching a linger- 
ing sunset die over flame-red oleanders and grey 
eucalyptus trees, when the dry, burnt umber 
hills " stood up like the thrones of kings," a 
restless light came into Undine's eyes. 

" Let's move on," she said. 

And I replied thankfully : 

" Yes — ^to-morrow." 

Here is an extract from a letter I wrote home 
eighteen months ago : 

" Every one asks, ' What do you think of 
America ? ' How can one answer ? I admire 
their tireless activity, their clean, personal pride, 
their powers of organization, their blatant 
optimism, their consistent never failing cheer- 
fulness, their friendly interest, their genuine de- 
mocracy, which is not the howling, climbing, 
theatrical type of some countries. I hate their 
habit of chewing gum and expectorating ! I 
loathe their curiosity, familiarity, noisiness, and 
their boots which have bumpy toes ! Of course 
they will win the War. They must. They are 
as energetic and efficient as the Germans, and I 
am beginning to think they are as observant 
and far-sighted. Just one thing I wonder — can 
they, for a year or two, discount the power and 
the lure of money ? That is their difficulty. Each 



THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 13 

nation, I suppose, would gladly give the greatest 
thing she has. Will America count her gift of 
wealth greater than that of personal service ? 
Perhaps not. I went to see a doctor the other 
day, and in course of conversation he said, quite 
simply, ' I've a wife and two children dependent 
on me, and I've nothing but what I earn, but I 
simply must get to France. I will manage it 
somehow, you bet ! ' " 



CHAPTER II 

CALIFORNIA AND HAWAII 

WE went to Del Monte, and drove 
round a wonderful wooded promon- 
tory, where cedars of Lebanon grew 
out of the cliffs at the edge of the 
sea and enormous spotted seals lay about on 
the rocks, lazily flipping their fins, ready to dive 
the instant they were disturbed, while flocks of 
pelicans and cormorants sat in rows on every 
available crag. We saw two more old Spanish 
missions. In one was the oak-tree under which 
Era Junipera Serra formally took over California 
for Spain in 1770. He is buried at El Carmel, 
a lonely, deserted church on a river. It looked 
cold and grey except for its pink plaster tower, 
which reminded me of Siena. 

I left Undine reading novels in a villa on the 
coast, and made a dusty pilgrimage to the Yosemite 
— of which the • Indian name is the " valley of 
sudden shadow " — ^to worship the big sequoias 
in all their lonely splendour. Their height im- 
pressed me much more than their girth — ^for, 
after all, an Indian banyan covers more ground 
— and the fact that it is quite dark and cold in 

14 



CALIFORNIA AND HAWAII 15 

the middle of a grove. The giant redwoods — 
the highest trees in the world — grow to a height 
of between three and four hundred feet, while 
their girth is sometimes one hundred and twenty 
feet, and their diameter, thirty-six feet. The 
oldest tree is supposed to be eight thousand 
years old. 

We drove over an eight thousand feet 
pass amidst giant grey boulders and red barked 
sequoias, and then, in the evening light, began to 
drop down into the golden valley, slipping between 
huge, smooth crags, which shut out the sun, tijl, 
under the towering majesty of El C£Lpitail> we 
reached a lush green meadow, with the clearest 
of all mountain streams winding through it, an 
absurd little log-hut village clinging to one bank, 
atld, at the end, a glimpse of white tents play- 
ing hide-and-seek with scented incense-pines and 
more granite boulders, under the perpetual menace 
of a crag which rises a sheer three-quarters of a 
mile in one straight precipice from the floor of 
the valley. The sun drops behind it at midday, 
and thereafter one lives in shadow. 

It was so beautiful that I almost forgot my 
harassing journey. Generally, Undine looks up 
the trains and I get into them, half an hour before 
they start — ^that is one of the Water-maiden's 
harmless fads ! I have imphcit faith in Undine's 
interpretation of time-tables, even though, through 
following her directions, we spent ten nights in 
the train crossing America. I cannot imagine 



i6 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

how or why ! However, when I parted from 
her at the window of my Pullman car, deep 
peace enfolded me, and I sat placidly in my comer 
till long after I'd passed the junction, and then 
descended rapidly, leaving my suit-case in the 
rack. Of course, there was a taxi strike, and a 
crowd of Japs and dagos fought for the ferry. 
In the next train I could only get an upper berth, 
and dropped all my garments one by one on the 
suffering head of the peevish individual below ; 
and lastly, I overslept and missed breakfast. 
Consequently, when even American enterprise 
confessed that it saw no chance of retrieving my 
suit-case for several days, I collapsed in wrath ! 

i remember I arrived in San Francisco with 
eighty-one cents and a great hunger. I instantly 
fell in love with the gay, switch-back city, built 
on a dozen little hills with the turbulent Pacific 
on one side, and the calm, blue bay, shut in by 
the cliffs of the Golden Gate, on the other. Every 
third building is a restaurant or a cafeteria, and 
every fourth a theatre where patriotic war films 
were displayed. San Francisco had caught the 
war-fever. The most pathetic touch was a tram- 
car conductor, who came from my own English 
county, and said to me : 

" My wife is dead and I've only one son, so I 
wanted 'im to stay, but 'e says to me, ' Father, 
some one 'as to be the first to go, and I'd like it 
to be me.' So 'e up and went ! " 

China-town is only a parody of the real East, 



CALIFORNIA AND HAWAII 17 

so we said good-bye to our newest Ally and sailed 
away in search of real sunshine and the crowded 
languorous life of the unthinking tropics. 

First we came to Oahu, where the sky is still 
the mist-blue sky of Europe and not the molten 
sapphire of the hot lands. We took a little white 
bungalow in the middle of a huge garden. The 
scent of wild ginger was intolerably sweet. Pink 
oleanders tapped against the mosquito netting 
which shut in the wide verandas, and tall, spindly 
palms waved above our roof — I always hoped a 
coco-nut would fall down for us to eat. There 
were magnolias in bloom and fig-trees, and only 
a hedge of scarlet hibiscus separated us from the 
far-famed Waikiki beach where brown Hawaian 
boys came fij^ng in on their surf-boards — bronze 
statues upright upon the breakers, kings of the 
whirling surf, foam-crowned ! It was quite a 
different effect whenever we tried to do it. With 
fiendish ingenuity, our surf-boards used to turn 
over, deposit us on a particularly vicious coral 
rock, deliver several sharp blows on the head as 
we tried to rise from underneath them and float 
triumphantly away, leaving us puffing and panting 
a quarter of a mile from shore. You learn to 
swim in self-defence at Honolulu, but I am always 
considerably happier when I have one foot on 
the ground ! 

A favourite pastime is to try to ride slippery, 
round logs which pitch about on top of the 
breakers. I have never known anyone sit upright 



i8 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

for more than one second, and I spent all my 
time lying fla^ on my face till I slipped off head 
first, when some incautious stranger would help- 
fully seize a disappearing foot and try to pull me 
back with the result that the rest of me remained 
under water, head downwards and drowning. 
Insult was generally added to injury by such 
remarks as, " You'd get along much better if 
you would open your eyes and shut your mouth ! " 
But, oh, the joy when first one mastered the in- 
tricacies of the surf-board and came sweeping 
shorewards at the speed of an express train, on 
the very edge of a wave, tilted a little forward 
with the foam whiriing right and left before one ! 

The population of Honolulu is amphibious. 
It wanders about in bathing kit, generally a la 
Annette Kellerman, at all hours and in all places 
— on foot in the hotel gardens, in cars along the 
big avenues, cloakless and undisguised and burnt 
a beautiful, dark copper brown. 

After we had been battered black and blue by 
recalcitrant surf-boards, and had danced our 
shoes through to the music of soft ukeleles on 
moonlit verandas above an onyx sea ; after we 
learned to appreciate a pine-apple cocktail and 
the papaia that tastes so Uke bath soap on first 
acquaintance ; after we had driven up to the 
high Nuana Pali, from which towering ridge the 
first missionaries used to be lowered in baskets 
to the other side of the island, we decided to 
explore the islands of Hawai and Maui. We 



CALIFORNIA AND HAWAII 19 

departed, laden with the laiis — garlands of 
sweet-scented frangipane, wild white ginger, and 
creamy-gold numaria flowers — that are given 
to all travellers to bring good luck. 

We landed very early at Hilo and motored 
thirty miles over the worst road in the world, to 
a little wooden hotel, overshadowed by giant 
tree ferns, and another eight miles over a still 
more bumpy track, along the edge of old craters, 
through black lava country, bare and bleak, 
with sulphur fumes pouring out of every hollow. 
The living crater of Kilanea, " the House of the 
Eternal Fire," is a huge round bowl at the summit 
of the mountain, perhaps three hundred yards 
across. A hundred feet below the rim the boiling 
black lava is seamed with lurid lines of flame, 
hissing and curhng like the serpents of Inferno, 
while sudden fountains of fire rush up from the 
centre. Strange black crags tower out of the 
molten mass, and clouds of suffocating charcoal 
fumes pour out of the crater. 

We watched the sun set and the moon rise 
over the great bulk of Mauna Lua, thirteen 
thousand feet high. As night came on, more and 
more flame broke from the darkness below till all 
the smoke was crimson, and blood-red rivers 
burst into showers of fireworks. 

The crater is the home of the goddess Pel6, 
and in olden days she had to be propitiated with 
sheep and pigs and chickens, and sometimes even 
a soft-eyed Hawaian maid. Only two years ago. 



20 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

when a flood of lava threatened a village, a 
mournful little procession of men and maidens, 
ancient crones and tiny children, set out, singing 
sad songs of doom, to fling themselves into the 
volcano, and avert the destruction pi the country- 
side. Luckily they were stopped by the police, 
and taken home in Hudson super-sixes. Thus 
science and superstition were somewhat mixed 
up. When the great river of lava poured right 
down to the outskirts of Hilo, and the little town, 
crouched on its coral bay, was on the point of 
disappearing beneath the black mass. Princess 
Ruth, last of the Hawaian d5masty, was brought 
over from Honolulu to avert the disaster. A 
wooden platform was hastily erected on the very 
edge of the flood, and, while the slow-moving 
lava rolled gently round her, the princess poured 
out the blood of fowls as a libation to the angry 
goddess. Unfortunately the flood stopped, and 
the progress of Christianity was retarded several 
generations. 

Pele's hair, gleaming gold in the sunshine, 
litters the edge of the crater. To the unbeliever 
who dares to touch it, it is only a thread of fine- 
spun lava blown up from below, but it is certainly 
bright yellow when seen from a distance ! When 
we got back to our wooden hotel in pitch darkness, 
a Hawaian boy was sitting in the lanai, or porch, 
playing the ukelele, and singing sad old songs 
of death and sacrifice in the volcano. All their 
music is intolerably sad and heart-breakingly 



CALIFORNIA AND HAWAII 21 

sweet. The Hawaian race is dying out. Now- 
adays the islands are populated with haapa 
haulies, half whites, and there are five hundred 
thousand Japanese. I doubt if we saw more 
than a score of the real natives. There are no 
more grass houses, and the old industries are 
forgotten. Only their music is left, and at every 
sheltered comer in the towns you may hear the 
sobbing thrum of an ukelele. The natives will 
not work — ^they leave all the trade to the busy 
Japs and the intelligent Chinese — ^their ambition 
stops at becoming a " beach-boy," who swims 
all day and plays in a string band at one of the 
big hotels at night. 

Maui is one of the most primitive islands. We 
arrived at Lahaina at i a.m. to be landed from 
the middle of the bay in a fishing-boat, and taken 
by a little Filippino boy through many palm- 
trees to a clean, small cottage, where, in spite of 
vigorous mosquitoes, we slept for five blessed 
hours. We breakfasted, in the lanai, on papaia 
and bitter orange juice, broiled barracuda fish 
and olives. Then we explored the little village 
among the palms and looked across at the mist- 
capped mountains of Molokai, Father Damien's 
Isle. There are about seven hundred lepers there 
now, and there is still a gallant Franciscan 
brotherhood and sisterhood living an imprisoned 
lonely life in the tragic colony. The lepers have 
a cinema and a club, gardens and small farms, 
and they are allowed to marry, but the children 



22 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

are taken away at once, as only a very small 
percentage are bom leprous. They are educated 
in a Roman Catholic home in Honolulu, and very 
few of them develop the disease. 

We motored right across the island to Wailuku, 
twenty-two miles along a wonderful road slung 
between sea and sky on the edge of the mountains. 
The " hotel " was a tiny wooden house, full of 
mosquitoes, and we had an amazing lunch, which 
consisted of fish and ' poi,' which looks like grey 
glue, tastes like bitter starch, is made of pounded 
Taro root, and is also used for pasting-up posters, 
and pine-apple pie. It is so funny, one never 
sees a horse on Maui, and legend tells that a 
child from one of the smaller isles on first see- 
ing a pony in the streets of Honolulu shrieked 
with interest, " Oh, mother, what a 'normous 
cockroach ! " 

The animal that really looms large on those 
sunlit shores is a huge, hairy centipede, about 
twelve inches long and as thick as a ship's cable. 
No, it is much too large to be an insect ! It is 
a wild animal, and it has a pleasant habit of 
falling on one suddenly frOm the lanai roof. It 
requires great moral courage to squash one of these 
beasts, and I sympathize entirely with the Russian 
ofl&cer who exclaimed with intense pride one 
night, in slightly defective English, " Madame, 
I am a heroine ! I have killed a centimetre ! " 
A small boy caused nearly as much joy in the 
Cathedral one Sunday by remarking suddenly 



CALIFORNIA AND HAWAII 23 

with an ecstatic glance at St George and the 
Dragon, " Look at ve big centipede, mummy." 

When we got back to Honolulu, we tried a new 
water sport. Four people paddle out about a 
third of a mile in an outrigger canoe that looks 
like a large spider, and lie in wait for the great 
breakers. When you see one rising in the distance, 
the Hawaians shout, " Paddle ! " and you swing 
the canoe round and paddle wildly till the wave 
coi^ies up behind, lifts the canoe on its crest, 
and hurls it shorewards at a terrific rate. Great 
fun, but very strenuous ! 

We saw a Hula-Hula dance, when pretty 
Hawaian girls, dark-eyed, with pale skins and 
flower-like mouths, in full skirts of long swing- 
ing straw, crowned with scented wreaths, went 
through the usual African posturings, with more 
grace than is usually found in the " danse du 
ventre." The only merit that I could see was 
the fact that it was utterly different from the 
London music-hall conception of it, except that 
the dancers occasionally used the butterfly- 
fiutterings of the finger-tips. Afterwards the girls 
sang, to the music of guitars and ukeleles, old, 
historical melodies, but the rhythm for the dance 
was thrummed out on dry gourds, and at some 
moments the musicians flung themselves about 
with jerky abdominal movements, singing wildly 
and shaking calabashes with dry seeds rattling 
inside. 

In the olden days, apparently, the King would 



24 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

play on the gourd while the Queen led the dancing 
girls. Queen Liliuokalane composed several hula 
songs. When we were in Oahu she was still 
aUve, and kept up royal state, but she had been 
deposed by the U.S.A. some twenty years ago, 
as she tried to resuscitate a despotic monarchy 
and, I gather, intended to cut off a large number 
of free-born American heads ! It is all such 
pathetically recent history, for King Kamehameha, 
whose last great battle with the heathen natives 
of Oahu took place on the Nuana Pali, first made 
a unified monarchy of the Hawaian Islands in 
1820, and now his race is extinct. 

We saw some exquisite feather cloaks and 
helmets worn by ancient Hawaian royalty, and 
I have never seen anything so wonderful as these 
soft robes made of golden breast feathers of rare 
birds. The chiefs used a gorgeous red feather, 
but yellow was the King's colour, and it must 
have taken millions of birds to make one cloak. 



CHAPTER III 

SAMOA 

A SUPERCILIOUS ocean liner landed 
us one vividly hot day at Pago- 
Pago, and then puffed scornfully away 
towards Sydney, laden with bags of 
copra, leaving us forlornly looking for a dwelling- 
place amidst the dozen ramshackle bungalows 
that line the lovely mountain-locked harbour, 
where two ancient American gunboats doze 
peacefully in the southern sunshine. Eventually 
we found a grimy room above a store, where 
you could buy tinned foods of, alas, very certain 
age and most original colouring, huge paper 
umbrellas, the lastest fashion in lava-lavas — 
the native garment like an attenuated kilt — 
mosquito lotion, coco-nut oil, and hurricane lamps, 
guaranteed to go out at the least breath of wind ! 
We spent the first night entirely exposed to 
the public view, as our room opened, by several 
doors and windows that would not shut, on 
to a wide veranda, where, apparently, the whole 
population of Pago-Pago lounged away its nights 
and days. But there were compensations-r-a 
flood of purple bougainvillaea rioted in turbulent 

25 



a6 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

glory over the front of the house, and one looked 
through slender coco-nut palms and spreading 
bread-fruit-trees to the bluest water in the world 
and a towering mountain wall. 

Far down the harbour lay the gallant little 
sailing-boat that had brought the marooned 
victims of the Hun raider all the way from Mopeha 
Isle. What a story for R. L. Stevenson — and 
these islands are his own country. A nameless 
raider escaped from a South American port, 
hiding among the sunlit coral islands of the 
Southern Pacific ; seventeen ships captured by 
an unknown foe ; then the landing of all the 
crews on the deserted coco-nut island on the 
outskirts of the Tahiti group. When we arrived 
in Pago-Pago rumour had become fact, for late 
one evening, while the American governor was 
dining in his mountain eyrie, an excited tele- 
phone message told of a mysterious sailing-craft, 
which would answer no signals, making for the 
harbour entrance. At that time all the little 
ports were on the alert for the mysterious raider, 
and I imagine the welcome accorded the fugitives 
was not exactly what they had pictured during 
their twelve days tossing in an open dinghy. 

It was a wonderful story as one Williams, 
originally the mate of the sunk sailing-ship Manila, 
told it to me. Apparently, the raider landed 
her victims on Mopeha and was herself wrecked 
on the dangerous coral-reef there, after which 
some of her crew went off in a launch with a 



SAMOA 27 

maxim gun, to be captured ignominiously on one 
of the Fijian islands by a British harbour-dues 
boat, whose crew were armed with two revolvers ! 
The rest of the Germans waited on Mopeha till 
the half-yearly steamer put in with stores for 
the handful of natives who looked after the. 
coco-nut plantations. They easily captured her, 
and thereafter disappeared into the unknown. 

Meanwhile, the refugees had very little food, 
as the raider had landed her stores too far out on 
the reef, and the tide had swept most of them 
away, and the only water was brackish and bitter, 
so they patched up a life-boat saved from the 
wreck, and four gallant individuals started off 
to sail to Tahiti, two hundred miles away, in the 
very teeth of the Trade Wind. After nine days' 
buffeting they were blown back to Mopeha, but, 
nothing daunted, they set off again, heading this 
time for Pago-Pago, twelve hundred miles away ; 
and, with the perilous Trade Wind behind them, 
they actually arrived safely in twelve days. What 
an exploit ! 

Our first morning in Pago-Pago, we took one 
comb, two tooth-brushes, some loaves of bread, 
and a tin of sardines, and tramped right over the 
mountains through dense jungle of strange trees 
and hanging creepers. As we ascended, plantain 
trees and huge taro plants gave place to thickets 
of scented thorns, and slender trees burdened 
with waxen white blossoms, with here and there 
sweet-smelling ginger flowers, pale, creamy yellow, 



28 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

and the star-cold blooms of tobacco plant. I 
remember it rained nearly all the way, and an 
exotic-looking person, dressed in a green lava-lava 
with a flaming hibiscus in his thick curly hair, 
followed us for miles, carrying an enormous curved 
scimitar, with which he doubtlesss intended to 
cut himself a bundle of bananas, but which we 
disliked intensely in close proximity to our un- 
defended backs ! It came in very useful, however, 
at the midday meal, for after struggling in vain 
with the lid of the sardine box we handed it over 
to the gorgeous savage, who quite deftly cut a 
slit, prised it open with his fingers, and licked 
them so appreciatively that we were obliged to 
offer him a share. 

On the other side of the mountains a little 
village grew on the shores of an exquisite coral 
bay. Looking down from the forest-clad ridge, 
the round-roofed houses looked like small brown 
mushrooms ; and, indeed, I never quite lost the 
illusion, for a Samoan house consists of a domed, 
thatched roof supported on a circle of wooden 
poles and generally raised a foot or so above 
Mother Earth on a floor of tiny round pebbles, 
covered in places with thin fibre mats. It is open 
to the winds of heaven, and dogs, children and 
fowls wander in at will. 

In pantomime, as our knowledge of Samoan was 
very limited, we threw ourselves on the mercy 
of the chief, a large, statuesque person in a scarlet 
lava-lava, with neatly tattooed legs. The rest 



SAMOA 29 

of his muscular form was wreathed merely in 
garlands of strongly-scented flowers, and his 
curly dark hair was tinted red at the tips, the 
result of a recent application of lime. By signs we 
asked for lodging, and he graciously placed at our 
disposal a pile of bananas, pine-apples and coco- 
nuts — whose milk we drank with great joy — two 
very hard pillows stuffed with fibre and several 
square yards of his house floor. He also indicated 
that a chicken would shortly make its appearance, 
so we thought it was a good moment to bathe in 
the alluring blue waters. 

With Indian cunning we escaped from all our 
village admirers and scrambled round several 
rocky promontories till we came to a veritable 
mermaid's cave. There we decorated the nearest 
bread-fruit-tree with all our garments and plunged 
into the exquisite sea, rippleless and translucent 
as the rarest emerald. No one can give any true 
description of a coral sea, as the ethereal, crystal 
colours exist nowhere else — a rainbow seen through 
rain or a soap-bubble flashing in the sun are only 
faint reflections of the prismatic scale of colour 
that tints the sea round the southern islands ! 
We swam a long way above delicious ocean 
gardens, where strange blood-red lilies Ufted huge 
coral flowers above smaller shapes of blue and 
green and orange, while flashing metallic fishes, 
vivid turquoise and sapphire, floated round our 
toes. We dropped into transparent depths, where 
feathery crimson ferns grew round giant sea- 



30 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

orchids with blotched, evil petals, and picked up 
shells with the lustre of pearls and sharp as the 
newest razor. i 

Then we drifted lazily back, wondering whether 
the chicken would be eatable, hardly looking 
where we were going till we turned the sharp 
promontory into our silent cave — and found the 
whole village seated in an expectant circle to 
watch us dress ! An animated dumb argument 
then ensued, and we ruthlessly pointed out every 
creature with short hair, insisting on their dis- 
appearance e'er we emerged from our ocean 
refuge. The women utterly refused to move, and 
a few curly-headed, wide-eyed fauns remained 
with them, assuring us loudly that they were girls, 
and this interested audience watched us with 
absorbed admiration as we struggled with re- 
fractory tapes and buttons. Never in their lives 
had they seen a bifurcated garment before, and 
stockings filled them with staring bewilderment. 
The instant the last garment was arranged the 
whole crowd fled helter-skelter to the village to 
entertain the male element with a graphic and 
spirited pantomime of our dressing. They are 
most wonderful mimics, and I laughed helplessly 
over a vivid reproduction of my efforts to bandage 
a coral cut with some strips of plantain leaf. 

After that, as the chickens were stiU stewing 
in a shallow pan on some charcoal embers in the 
mysterious recesses of the women's house, presided 
over by an ancient crone distorted and monstrous 



SAMOA 31 

with the elephantiasis which attacks so many of 
these children of the sun and the sea, we played 
cricket with the village infants who hid their 
brown birthday suits under wonderful belts and 
chains of flowers and leaves. It was not quite 
cricket as she is played at Lord's — ^the ball was 
a small^ green coco-nut, the bat a taro stump, the 
wickets three dried coco-nuts stuck on sticks, 
and, if I remember rightly, the whole field made 
runs at the same time. I know it was a wild 
game, played with loud mirth in the gathering 
dusk, while fires began to gleam under the mush- 
room roofs, and splendid bronze statues, smoking 
rolled leaf cigars, came strolling in with wild 
pig from the forest and with spear and silver 
fish from the reef. 

Our chicken was cooked in such a way that the 
utmo^ ingenuity could scarcely find a morsel to 
eat and, as Samoan custom necessitates a guest 
leaving a portion of every dish for his hosts, we 
felt rather hungry at the end of the feast. We 
sat cross-legged in the centre of the matted floor 
with a circle of the village headmen round us, 
while, in the shadows, crouched the serving boys 
who prepared the native meal of taro-root, and 
brought it on large plantain leaves to each chief 
in turn. Later on, the remains of the feast were 
eagerly shared by the boys ; and then a muscular 
youth, with a crown of plaited grasses, brought in 
a dried calabash full of water and some great 
bunches of bananas, which he promptly stripped 



32 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

from their skins, and squeezed ' in his sinuous 
hands into a yellow pulp that he dropped into 
the water. 

We looked on in fascinated horror as he stirred 
and pounded the pulp with bare, brown hands, but 
there was no escape. A half coco-nut shell full 
of the sweet syrup was handed to each of us, and 
we had to drink it. It tasted rather like banana 
fool, and was, of course, delicious in comparison 
with the kava which we subsequently drank for 
the first time that night. The making of it is 
a solemn ceremony. A flower-crowned girl wails 
a little song or incantation over a green root 
freshly wrenched from the earth. Then some 
powder from a prepared root is given her, and 
she crushes this into water in a great flat wooden 
bowl, kneading it with her hands, and using long 
strands of fibre as a sieve, while the circle of 
headmen clap hands at intervals, and sometimes 
chant monotonous dirges. 

When the kava is ready, the girls fill a coco-nut 
bowl with this native whisky, and a crouching 
boy hands it to the oldest or most important 
chief present, who pours a few drops on the ground 
as a libation to the earth, drinks the rest in one 
long draught, and sends the black polished bowl 
spinning back across the mats to the kava-maker. 
The ceremony is repeated for each headman in 
turn, and then the boys finish up the noisome 
liquid. It tastes like liquorice, hair-oil, vinegar, 
and sand mixed, and, often as I have drunk it. 



EW" 




I 

la ^si„._.. 





SAMOA 33 

I have never managed to do more than sip slowly 
with an anguished expression and watering eyes ! 

When the long ceremony was ended, a few 
women crept in and joined the boys in the shadows. 
The circle of gorgeously tattooed warriors smoked 
on, so we decided the only thing to do was to 
choose the darkest comer, and try to sleep on 
our brick-like pillows. We apparently took the 
right step, for gradually the floor was covered with 
bronze forms in infinitely more graceful attitudes 
than we ever achieved, for the coral stones of 
the floor cut into our shoulders through the thin 
mats, and we dared hardly move for fear of 
touching some dusky savage dreaming of a hunter's 
paradise. Dawn brought a swift turmoil as the 
headmen slipped forth one by one till only a 
few old men remained with the chief to watch 
Undine struggle with her floods of golden hair. A 
Samoan's charm of manner is only equalled by 
his curiosity. One smiling villager seized our 
only comb, briskly combed up his lime-tinted 
curls, laughed happily, patted Undine's bare 
shoulder, and stuck the comb in her hair ; but 
when our host, who had been toying with the 
bottle of mosquito lotion, suddenly drank the 
contents at a gulp we felt it was time to go. 

We fled somewhat rapidly up the mountain 
path, and only paused to breakfast on bread 
and pine-apple, when some miles separated us 
from the village ! Half-way down the other side 
we were met by runners bearing a note from the 



34 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

American Governor, asking us to dine in his white 
bungalow, perched high above the harbour ; so 
we rejoiced in the flesh-pots of Egypt — of the 
tinned variety — with a dark-skinned band dis- 
coursing native music in the veranda, till it was 
time to descend to the terrible 17-ton cargo-boat 
which would take us across to Apia. Various 
friends assured us cheerfully that the Manua 
had been known to take five days to get across 
to Upolu Island, that she leaked, that her engines 
broke down every other journey, and that the 
weather was always rough ! 

Thereafter followed a nightmare, whose chief 
ingredients were a crowd of oily natives, wreathed 
in flowers strongly scented, and an overpowering 
snaell of copra, while the fact that the only cabin 
was a 6 ft. by 4 ft. hole in the deck-house wall, 
with two board shelves as bunks, did not add to 
our deUght, especially as every second wave 
broke well over our grimy floor, destro5dng a few 
dozen enormous cockroaches and sending the 
rest scuttling into our skirts for protection. 
With the morning light came a vision of low- 
l5dng Upolu across our bows, and I remember 
eating sardines in a perilously swaying cabin, 
where everjrthing fell from side to side, and the 
sunburned captain, in dripping oil-skins, opined 
that we might make the harbour in this weather, 
but it would be better to hang outside till night- 
fall — ^his last words were lost as a vicious roll 
sent him suddenly into the scuppers. 



SAMOA 35 

Apia harbour is a tragic sight in spite of 
its fluittering coco-nut palms, and the cheerful 
circle of red-roofed houses under the shelter of 
R. L. Stevenson's hill, for the cruel barrier reefs, 
against which eternally thunder the white Pacific 
breakers, are strewn with the iron skeletons of the 
seven German and American men-of-war which 
were wrecked there twenty years ago. The only 
British ship, the Calliope, steamed out into the 
teeth of the mighty gale, and so was saved while 
all the rest were dashed to pieces on the rock. 
It is splendid to remember in these days, when 
America has sealed her blood-fellowship with us, 
and is upholding our joint tradition of courage 
and self-sacrifice in the trenches of France, that 
the doomed American ships in Apia harbour 
cheered the Calliope as she steamed out to safety 
and the open ocean, which their own engines 
were not strong enough to make ! 



CHAPTER IV 

SAVAI ISLAND 

MY chief recollections of Apia are a 
temperature too hot to be mentioned 
and a horde of particularly vicious 
and vigorous mosquitoes with striped 
legs. I know we left it as soon as possible, and 
a small launch took us to Savai Island, a 
delightful spot outside the realms of civilization, 
inhabited by brown, smiling Samoans, and one 
specimen of the white race — a charming creature 
as bald and pink as a baby, with a smile almost 
as broad as his immense person, which was in- 
variably clad in silk pyjamas of peculiarly vivid 
hues ! 

Even our little launch could not get inside the 
reef at Fango, so we paddled ashore in a long 
canoe, and were met by an inquisitive turtle, 
amidst a circle of native huts and a forest of 
palms. While some cargo was being unloaded, 
we induced a kindly half-caste to cook us fish 
freshly caught, doughnuts and eggs, and, thus 
fortified, we re-embarked and disposed ourselves 
to sleep on the deck-house roof, my feet in 
Undine's hair, and hers kicking me about the 

36 



SAVAI ISLAND 37 

chest. All went well till she nearly kiUed the 
native captain by falling on him suddenly as 
he slept on the deck, clad only in a loin-cloth. 
After that we huddled in the stem In a large 
pool of water, watching the Southern Cross describe 
giddy plunges in an unsteady heaven, and prayed 
for the dawn. 

However, long before the first faint light started 
the golden-throated natives singing their sad 
morning hymns, we swung suddenly through the 
reef, and were landed from a wet small boat in 
a mysterious whispering place, with inky feathers 
of palms shutting out the stars, and sudden 
flashes of murky fires showing natives shrouded 
in cotton — ^to protect them from mosquitoes — 
lying on the floors of faintly looming huts. We 
stumbled some way along the sandy shore till 
we reached a large wooden house, belonging to 
a hospitable half-caste, which we made our head- 
quarters while on the island. That night, I only 
remember sleeping soundly on a 5 ft. camp bed 
without a mattress, sheet or blanket, my feet stick- 
ing out into space, a horde of hungry mosquitoes 
taking advantage of my unprotected state, and 
my very grimy travelling cushion sUpping back- 
wards from under my head. 

Next morning, we woke to a glare of colour — the 
walls were salmon-pink with red doors and window- 
sashes, and our hostess, a graceful Samoan girl, 
wore a scarlet holoku, or overall, with strings of 
pink coral beads and a wonderful crimson Uly 



38 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

in her hair; while even the ink was vermilion. 
A savoury smell was wafted from the kitchen 
hut, and we soon sat down to roast flaky bread- 
fruit, slices of toasted grey taro-root and sea 
worms ! The latter are an acquired taste ! They 
are a great local dehcacy, as they only come 
into the reef once a year. They are very long, 
and very green, and when wrapped in moist 
leaves, and cooked very slowly over ashes, they 
taste not unlike caviare. In any case, one has 
to get used to them in Samoa in the spring, as 
they form the chief native dish. 

The natives are the most delightful race in the 
world, I think. The girls are veritable nymphs 
of dance and song ; flowers seem to be their 
natural clothing and tropical forest their fitting 
background, while the stalwart, vigorous men are 
just as much Tritons of the sea, where you 
see them swimming all day with long, lazy strokes 
or leisurely patrolling the reef, gleaming fish-spear 
in hand. They are a laughing, sunny, childlike 
race who play at life in brilliant sunshine. Their 
hospitality is amazing; any traveller may stop 
at the chief's hut in any village and demand 
lodging and food — ^it wiU never be refused. In 
the larger villages several guest huts are always 
kept ready, and the Taupa, or chief maiden of 
the village, has the honoured task of looking 
after all guests. She sings and dances for them, 
makes them a wonderful bed of piled mats, and 
very often curls up to sleep beside them. 




AN UNCOMFORTABLE DAWN 




SIVA DANCERS OF SAVAI 



SAVAI ISLAND 39 

A quaint ancient custom decrees that if the 
traveller is a man the Taupa shares his couch 
for the first hours of the night, while her attendant 
crones sit round with torches. These old women 
never leave the girl. They are her guardians, 
and if it is an important village, she also has a 
train of yoimg girls to carry out her orders. 
When she marries she loses her position, and 
another princess takes her place. The Taupa 
arranges the Siva-Siva dances, and leads them 
with the men, sometimes wearing a heavy helmet 
made of wood and hair, and she is always first 
of the laughing crowd who sing enchanting songs 
by moonlight to the goddess of the great volcano. 

That scarred desolate mountain is the one 
sinister land-mark in all Savai. From its dark 
crater, a few years ago, flowed the mighty river 
of lava that ruthlessly destroyed a whole country- 
side, swallowing up crowded villages, cultivated 
taro-swamps, and great stretches of forest in its 
relentless progress to the sea. Like a dead 
leviathan the black streak, fifteen miles wide, 
now cuts in two the island, and the only structure 
that withstood its burning rush, that, roofless and 
gutted, still stands triumphant above the tragic 
waste, is a white mission church, whose walls 
are half-buried beneath the lava but whose carved 
windows still look out above a few hardy creepers 
to the untroubled sea ! 

We made a weary pilgrimage to the top of the 
volcano one day, and the expedition was typical 



40 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

of the pleasure-loving Samoan. We had engaged 
a sloe-eyed Adonis with delicious curls to act as 
guide, but three or four dainty bare-footed maidens 
insisted on coming too, and several swains added 
themselves to the procession in order to carry 
unnecessary provisions, and some very necessary 
blankets. We had procured two wonderful horses, 
which we named Rosinante and Dulcibella. The 
former weighed a ton, and when he trotted the 
earth shook and all his legs went in different 
directions at the same time. He was shod on 
two and a half hoofs, and he was only held on 
his feet by the strength of his reins. Dulcibella 
could have been blown off the face of the earth 
with a fly-whisk. She was bright pink, and 
shaped like a pyramid, with no shoes at all. She 
had a mournful mind, and could only run like a 
cockroach, in short jerks. 

I always had to ride Rosinante because he 
cow-kicked, and Undine was not tall enough to 
give the flying leap on to his huge back which 
was necessitated by this unpleasant habit. Conse- 
quently, my bones felt like jelly, and I ate my 
ribs several times when they bumped into my 
mouth ! However, I scored one morning when 
we had to swim a river, for portions of Rosinante 
stuck out like a mountain range, whereas poor 
Dulcibella disappeared altogether in a wave of 
pink, and Undine got remarkably wet. This 
was before she took to falling as a matter 
of course into streams, swamps and ditches in 



SAVAI ISLAND 41 

Fiji and Siam — ^in fact, when we finally recrossed 
the Atlantic, we decided we had fallen off or out 
of everjTthing, including a rickshaw in the Pekin 
plains and a dining-car seat on a swaying Canadian 
Pullman. 

Our volcano expedition proceeded slowly, for 
Adonis — ^who carried a toy rifle, and wore a blue 
yachting cap — insisted on weaving us wonderful 
garlands on the way, and the girls placidly went 
to sleep under every flowering tree. The forest 
was a joy to every sense, but the black, sun- 
scorched lava fields were an aching weariness. 
We plodded over them for hours, stopping oc- 
casionally to drink one of our store of coco-nuts, 
but it was not till the swift twilight was gathering 
her tinted robes for flight that we looked over 
the rim of the world into smoking depths. It 
was not a flaming fountain of fire like Hawaian 
Kilauea, it was not a battlefield of the ancient 
gods like the Arizona Canyon, but it was shadow- 
haunted desolation, and I can understand the 
terror of the Samoan race, who believe that an 
insatiable devil dwells therein, held down and 
half crushed by the huge mountain, bellowing 
forth his rage and agony in hissing steam and 
boiling lava — his breath and his blood. 

It was entirely exquisite sitting up there on 
the rim of the mountain, white moonUght staining 
silver the river of destruction ; but Adonis was 
so exercised as to whether the devil might not 
require a breathing brown sacrifice that we 



42 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

hastily turned our thoughts towards supper. We 
fried bananas above a wood fire, made excellent 
coffee, and ate large slices of pine-apple and the 
ubiquitous yam ; then we camped for the night 
in a tiny wooden hut, originally put up for some 
visiting geologists. Undine and I took possession 
of the wooden table, while Adonis balanced 
himself perilously on a very narrow bench, and 
the rest of our retinue slept in a tangle of flowers 
and mosquito wraps on the floor. 

I do not look back upon that night with pleasure. 
A table top is not the epitome of comfort as a 
bed, especially if you are wearing heavy riding- 
boots and gaiters to outwit the hopeful mosquito. 
Then the retinue insisted with pitiful earnestness 
on shutting the door as well as every other chink 
and cranny " in case a wild pig " came in. They 
assured us that the mountain was the home of 
ferocious boars, but I had a suspicion that their 
fears were not unconnected with the unearthly 
occupant of the volcano ! The last straw was 
when, in the middle of the night, I woke to feel 
a perfect flock of mosquitoes feeding healthily, 
and, groping for the net, discovered that Undine 
had cunningly grabbed the whole thing and 
sheathed it round her like a closely-wound cocoon ! 

When we returned from the volcano, we started 
off to ride round the island on our jaded steeds. 
I always think we must have looked very funny 
in Tautz's pluperfect breeches, surmounted by 
dungaree shirts and panama hats, with immense 



SAVAI ISLAND 43 

paper umbrellas held over our heads, bulging 
plantain baskets full of food, and a few clothing 
necessities tied to the world-worn saddles, and 
knocking against boots which had not been 
cleaned for several months ! A little road starts 
away from the lava fields, wanders through ex- 
quisite coco-nut groves, dips down to the brown 
villages clustering along the sea-shore and finally 
loses itself in deep forest shade. Along this we 
rode at the strange pace chosen by Rosinante 
and DulcibeUa. When we came to a river our 
steeds first rolled into it, and then condescended 
to swim it, puffing, snorting and splashing all 
quite unnecessarily. 

We spent the middle of the day under a con- 
venient bread-fruit tree, and when it was cooler 
rode on to a large village, where the oblong house 
of the chief was conspicuous among the round 
beehives. The bronze statues asleep on the floor, 
or leaning against the pillars which support the 
roof, weaving fibre nets, roused themselves to 
shout " Talofa " ^ as we dropped from our mildly 
surprised horses. The Taupa came out shyly to 
greet us. She was pretty, and was going to be 
married to an old chief on Upolu Isle, whom she 
had never seen. Both she and the owner of the 
house where we spent the night could speak a 
little English, and they asked us about the " big 
war." They told us that they knew that the 
German King had killed our great general, and 

» " Greeting." 



44 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

I am sure that they pictured the Kaiser as having 
personally murdered Kitchener with a battle-axe 
when he was asleep. 

Before we were allowed to sleep that night, on 
a perfectly good deal bedstead standing alone in 
the centre of a sea of mats, we had to hold a sort 
of levee of all the headmen of the village. We 
sat enthroned on two very unstable deal chairs, 
while a great circle of dark figures crouched 
round us on the floor. The oldest made a long 
monotonous speech of which we could under- 
stand very little, except repeated words of welcome, 
till there came a sudden sentence which reduced 
us to helpless, uncontrolled laughter, for the old 
man gazed at us solemnly and remarked : 

" We are very interested to have you here. We 
have never seen anything at all like you before ! " 

I looked sharply at Undine, and realized apo- 
plectically that he was speaking sheer truth, for 
the spectacle of two dishevelled young women, 
clutching knobbly sticks of kava — sacred symbol 
of chieftainship — and clad in scarlet silk kimonos 
— ^which I had insisted on being much more 
suited to the dignity of the occasion than undiluted 
riding kit — from which protruded large brown 
top-boots, must have been certainly unusual in 
those soUtudes. To make matters worse, Undine, 
fumbling feebly for a handkerchief to stifle her 
unseemly mirth, encountered nothing more suit- 
able than some very sticky fly-paper, and the 
remains of a treasured lunch that we meant to 



SAVAI ISLAND 45 

substitute secretly for the sea-worms, which would 
certainly constitute our supper ! 

Our laughter endangered the chairs, so we 
had to subside on to the floor for the rest of the 
ceremony, which, by the way, needed considerable 
courage, for the largest cockroaches I've ever seen 
rushed aimlessly about our feet, and required con- 
stant attention to prevent them scurrying up into 
our hair ! I have seen a Samoan boy drink at 
a gulp a pitcher of water in which were several 
dead cockroaches without turning a hair ! 

That night, for the first time, we saw a Siva- 
Siva. We sat cross-legged on the floor with the 
whole village in serried ranks around us, while a 
monotonous rhythmic thudding, made by the 
beating of scores of bare fists on the rolled mats, 
took the place of music. This strange exotic 
noise in the semi-darkness strung one's nerves 
to intense excitement, till, with a wild shout, 
half a dozen splendid half-naked figures, polished 
and gleaming with oil, wreathed in huge garlands 
of glistening plantain leaves, leaped into the centre 
of the floor. For an instant they stood, poised 
rigidly with clicking thumbs and straining muscles, 
then they whirled suddenly into a rapid fiery 
dance. 

As I watched the gesticulating, leaping figures, 
vague reminiscences of a Highland Gathering reel 
at about 5 a.m., and a dervish dance one 
moonHght night at Benares, flitted through my 
mind, but the Siva is really entirely original, for 



46 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

it combines every form of dancing known. At 
times its attitudes compel comparison with the 
vulgarest postures of a London music-hall ; at 
times it is a ferocious war-dance, when the per- 
formers shout and yell, leap frenziedly over each 
other, hurl themselves from side to side with such 
growing enthusiasm and excitement that the whole 
village generally loses control and joins in ! Some- 
times the performers seem half asleep, merely 
swajdng slowly and moving their hands in stiff 
gestures. Occasionally it is a romp of playful 
children, when boys and girls join together in a 
laughing line, clapping their hands and stamping 
energetically. 

It is strange how the character of native dancing 
changes as you go south through the islands of 
the Pacific. In Hawaii there is the slow and 
sensuous Hula-Hula, which is merely a variation 
of the age-old danse du ventre seen in every 
Moorish cafe or desert tent. The Siva follows as 
a representation of the overflowing vitality of a 
happy nation who express every different natural 
emotion in their dance. Further south comes 
the Meke of Fiji, which may be described as a 
dance with a story, inasmuch as a complete 
drama, generally of battle, is worked out at every 
performance. A complete contrast are the sex- 
dances of New Guinea, or the ghastly war rites 
performed generally after a cannibal feast. The 
East Indies are out of the Pacific, but near enough 
to continue my illustration. In Java there is a 



SAVAI ISLAND 47 

slow posturing dance, with stilted movements 
of the arms and feet, while the finger tips, long 
and sinuous, flutter and dance like fairy butter- 
flies in a southern breeze. This form of art 
reaches its highest perfection in Siam, where a 
dancer practically moves only her wrists and 
fingers, the latter being exaggeratedly supple and 
capable of being doubled backwards till they 
touch the wrist. 

To return to lovely palm-clad Savai, we saw 
the largest Siva in a big village which was en jUe 
for the marriage of the chief's daughter to the 
son of a headman near Apia. The bridegroom 
had already arrived, and was being royally en- 
tertained on roast pig and taro-root when we 
appeared on the scene, infinitely tired, having 
lost our way several times in the forest. 
Dulcibella drooped like a pink ice, and Rosinante 
even forgot to cow-kick, whUe he trailed his nose 
a few inches above the ground till I thought the 
ancient reins would crack. 

The Taupa was rather older than is usual, but 
she was very gorgeous in a wonderful lava-lava 
of painted tapa cloth, which is made from fine 
inner bark soaked in water, beaten into a pulp, 
pulled out into long strips, dried in the sun and 
then painted by the women with the dark red 
juice of certain trees. Above this festive garment 
she wore a gold embroidered blue velvet jacket, 
and her hair, dyed red with lime, was twisted up 
with horsehair and leaves into a great cushion 



48 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

on which she wore, when dancing, a huge 
hebnet. 

This time we were ushered into a vast hut, 
divided up with hangings of painted tapa cloth, 
while the floor was piled with fine mats. A 
princess on her marriage generally gets several 
hundred of these mats given her by her friends, 
and if you can pile quantities one on top of another 
they make very comfortable beds. 

That was a wonderful evening. We sat cross- 
legged in a vast circle, men and women together 
— a rare occurrence — ^while deferential serving- 
boys brought us a sort of chicken soup, which 
was very good, slices of feathery yam, grey 
sticky taro-root, neat little bundles of sea-worms 
done up in big leaves, pine-apple, and, finally, 
some young pigs roasted whole in plaited rush 
baskets. These latter were first displayed whole, 
and then torn to bits by the boys' muscular 
fingers and divided up among the guests. Long 
before the feast was finished our backs ached, 
and our legs were painfully cramped. Surrep- 
titiously we stretch our agonized Hmbs out 
through the pillars into the darkness where all 
the unimportant, uninvited gazed wistfully at 
the feast. When repletion reigned throughout 
the huge circle, the kava ceremony began, and 
we had to return to our crouching tailors' 
attitude. 

Then, when we were getting so sleepy we 
could hardly keep our eyes open, a cheerful stir 



SAVAI ISLAND 49 

announced the arrival of the dancers. First, the 
whole audience began to sway back and forth 
from the waist, chanting softly, and moving their 
arms to the rhythm of the song. This is called 
" the sitting dance," and is supposed to en- 
courage and enhven the waiting Taupa and her 
following, who appeared wreathed with intricate, 
floral decorations, and burnished with oil from 
head to heel. The Taupa danced slowly in the 
centre with half a dozen splendid, statuesque boys 
gyrating madly round her. It was too gymnastic 
to be pretty.. The performers might have been 
acrobats, and, as they grew more and more 
excited, their wUd leaps took them over the 
heads of the enthralled audience, who uttered 
hoarse shouts of encouragement and dehght, while 
all the time they kept up the endless thrumming 
on the mats. Finally, the Taupa sank down 
with gestures of exhaustion, and the men grew 
madder and wilder, grimacing hideously, brandish- 
ing curved knives, shrieking at the top of their 
voices, and straining every nerve and muscle in 
their fevered antics. 

Imagine the scene in the vast dark hut, dimly 
lighted with a few feeble oil lamps, and the gleam 
of a charcoal fire : the brown, half-naked bodies 
leaning out of the shadows, eyes staring, hands 
beating time automatically ; outside the rustling, 
wind-swept night, the intolerably sweet perfume 
of crushed flowers ; inside those leaping, gjnrating, 
dance-maddened figures with torn fragments of 



5o UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

leaf-garlands whirling round them, sweat and oil 
gleaming in the distorted light, faces demoniacally 
twisted, a wild cry shuddering through the strained 
suspense — ^till, with swift grace, the whole audience 
rose suddenly, and flung themselves into a veritable 
turmoil of dance and song. 

What a night ! We were not allowed to creep 
behind the tafa cloth, and sleep on the yielding 
mats, till we, too, had danced. In breeches and 
stockings, hair flying. Undine and I danced reels 
and Irish jigs to a highly interested audience, 
who caught the time with wonderful quickness, 
and beat it accurately for us on the mats. The 
crowning touch was when the morrow's bride- 
groom crept up to Undine and, murmuring that 
she would make an excellent Taupa, suggested 
that his own house was " exactly opposite, and 
it is quite dark." 

The saddest Siva I ever saw was the death- 
dance for a young chief's wife who had died 
in childbirth. Samoan custom allows forty-eight 
hours mourning, but on the third day all the 
Taupas from the neighbouring villages gather in 
the bereaved house and dance till the dawn to 
cheer up the family. I remember so well that 
gathering. There was a blind girl who sang 
with exquisite pathos, and a cluster of old, old 
women who gently massaged the limbs of the 
ancient mother as she lay prone on the ground, 
her neck on a brown wooden pillow. There was 
the gorgeous young husband, like a brown Dis- 



SAVAI ISLAND 51 

cobolus, shedding slow tears whenever he looked 
at the tiny baby, which Undine held pitifully, 
and there was the whole clan, from the smallest 
child to the oldest crone, gathered in the back- 
ground, whUe the slim girls in straw lava-lavas 
danced on a strip of tapa cloth. 

We hated leaving sunlit, lazy Savai, especially 
perhaps as we left at midnight in a twenty-ton 
yawl, which seemed utterly incapable of facing 
the terrible storm which crashed and roared 
against the barrier reef. For twenty-four hours 
we clung for dear life to the rails of the tiny 
deckhouse, when we weren't lying in a huddled 
mass of bananas in the scuppers with the sea 
pouring over us. Whenever we stopped being 
utterly seasick, and gazed forlornly shorewjirds, 
we saw the same mass of black rocks, and I think 
we were only prevented from feebly slipping 
overboard by the native captain, who was like 
a freckled eel, and who spent several hours 
clutching us both, or when a particularly vast 
wave flung us into the midst of rolling copra 
cases, in helping the rest of the crew to rescue 
our long persons from complete collapse in the 
scupper. I still have visions of my head on a 
bare, brawny knee, and a stalwart chocolate arm, 
smelling strongly of copra, to which I clung 
frantically, and lastly, I remember a soft Samoan 
voice sa5dng, " May I leave you now t6 guide my 
boat into the reef ? " and looking up miserably, 
I saw Vailima. 



52 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

" Under the wide and starry sky 
Dig the grave and let me lie. 
Glad did I live and gladly die, / 
And I laid me down with a will. 

This be the verse ye grave for me, 
Here he hes where he longed to be ; 
Home is the sailor, home from sea. 
And the hunter home from the hill." 

I wonder if Stevenson was a good sailor ? 



CHAPTER V 

TONGA AND FIJI 

A DAWDLING banana boat took us to 
the Musical Comedy Tongan Isles. It 
was chiefly inhabited by rats and 
cockroaches ; the former gambolled in 
our hair, and the latter made nightly meals ofi 
our finger nails, so we were glad to get ashore. 
Tonga owns the only real native king in all 
the Pacific. He is a splendid person, about 
6 ft. 7 ins. high, and broad in proportion. He 
wears gorgeous European uniforms, and looks a 
most dignified personage. 

Tonga has a constitutional government with 
a hereditary house of peers and an elected, re- 
presentative house of the people. The chief 
difference between them seemed to me to be 
that the former wore clothes and the latter did 
not ! The King lives in a large European house, 
with panelled rooms, stained-glass windows, 
and this motto over his door : " God and these 
Islands are my inheritance." Unfortunately 
when we were there the Queen's brother was in 
prison for sheep-stealing, but he went out for a 
drive every afternoon in the royal carriage. 

63 



54 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

Altogether it is a topsy-turvy country, for over 
the prison door is posted a large notice reading : 
" Any prisoners not in by 6 p.m. will be locked 
out for the night." 

The Tongan Isles are just low-lying banks of 
coco-nut palms, barely raised above the treacherous 
reef. Only Vavau rises into little hills, from the 
top of one of which you look down on the world's 
loveUest harbour, cut into a thousand bays and 
islands by promontories of palms and bread-fruit- 
trees with an undergrowth of tall, scarlet canna 
lilies. Further inland there are mango-trees on 
which the flying foxes hang as thick as peas. 
We walked right across Haapai to the reef on the 
other side, and watched the natives fishing with 
long prongs, which they dig into their odd-shaped 
victims as they swim inquiringly round their 
toes ! Whenever we sat down to rest, Tongans 
rushed at us with bananas and coco-nuts, so we 
felt rather ill when we got back to the pathetic 
little settlement on the other shore. There we 
met a white man who said to us : 

" Can I do anything for you ? I am the chief 
auditor to the treasury, so I am quite respectable." 

I had visions of extracting much local in- 
formation from him, but Undine, having no soul, 
demanded hastily : 

" Could you find us a bath ? We haven't had 
one for so long." 

" Of course," he replied. " Come along to 
Mrs B.'s, and we'll borrow some towels. Then 



TONGA AND FIJI 55 

I'll take you to Mr F.'s ; he's just fixed up a 
shower, and if it doesn't come down on your 
head when you pull the string, it's very nice." 

So we amused ourselves by dancing round 
under a widely swinging pail with holes bored in 
the bottom, occasionally getting a dribble of 
water on our hair ! However, our friend cheered 
us by explaining that he knew of a " much better 
bath in Nukualofa." 

We lost the last trace of civilized manners 
there for, hearing that the British Consul actually 
possessed a Ford, we calmly marched into his 
house and asked for the loan of it. He was so 
amused that he gave us the car and some tea 
and plum cake — at g.30 a.m. — and himself as 
guide. The road only went eight miles, so we 
left the car, which the natives look upon as a 
direct incarnation of the evil one, in a patch of 
orange flowers, and tramped through muddy 
trails always bordered with flaming cannas to 
look at some huge " blowholes " in the reef, 
through which the breakers come shooting up in 
dazzling pjnramids of foam. When a line of great 
breakers crash against the coral barrier it looks 
as if a row of mighty fountains were playing all 
down the coast. 

On our way back we came to a delicious sandy 
cove full of large green crabs. They were not 
quite so large as the famous land-crab which 
eats the coco-nuts, and causes havoc on the 
plantations. I have heard a mariner's tale of the 



56 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

way the natives kill these monster crustaceans 
which seems to me to be too ingenious to be true. 
The native climbs far up the palm and ties a 
thick wedge of rope round the stem about twenty 
feet from the ground. Presently Mr Crab, having 
eaten a sohd meal, thinks to himself, " Dear me, 
it's time to be getting back to Mrs Crab and the 
children," and commences the long descent. All 
at once his hind claw touches the ledge of rope. 
" Down already," he ruminates. " Who'd have 
thought it ! " Upon which he promptly lets go, 
falls twenty feet to the unsjmipathetic earth and 
breaks his shell on a rock conveniently placed by 
the expectant native ! 

I remember on the occasion when this was 
told me — a bumingly, hot evening on a cargo- 
tramp somewhere off the Queenland coast — the 
captain promptly capped it with the story of the 
coco-nut rat which easily climbs up the tree, but 
dislikes the idea of sliding down again so, having 
made his supper off the interior of a coco-nut, 
curls himself into the empty shell, kicks until 
the great green husk is loosened from the stem, 
and falls earthward in a comfortably padded 
sheath ! 

" It is splendid fun," added the captain with an 
unsuspected twinkle, " to try to shoot the rats 
as they jump out a few feet from the ground ! " 

" Oh," said the hitherto silent planter from the 
Malay States, " why don't you train your rats 
to pick the coco-nuts for you ? We send monkeys 



TONGA AND FIJI 57 

up to do it, but it takes a long time to stop them 
shying the nuts at the overseer. Sometimes we 
have to send a piccaninny up to stop them 
quarrelling, and he generally saves himself trouble 
by picking a large leaf and using it as a parachute 
to sail down with ! " 

Tongan architecture differs from Samoan, in 
that the houses are oval instead of round, and 
entirely shut in with reed screens. Unfortunately 
for the picturesqueness of the islands, cheap 
galvanized iron is gradually taking the place of 
rushes and bamboo. This is typical of the sturdy, 
energetic Tongan who, unlike the languorous, dolce 
far niente Samoan, is full of modem ideas, with 
a keen desire for progress and efficiency. Only 
when you come upon some travelling-party in the 
depths of a forest glade, the whole crowd flower- 
crowned and wreathed, carrying bundles of mats 
and all the family luggage on small wiry ponies, 
singing as they dawdle through the scented shade, 
do you recognize their blood-kinship to the lotus- 
loving Samoan. Nukualofa, a town of white 
houses dotted along a wide open road, is the 
capital. We arrived there just after the marriage 
of the King's daughter, when three hundred pigs 
had been roasted whole on a vast bonfire opposite 
the palace gates ; yet I believe the bride wore 
European wedding attire, and all her trousseau 
came from Sydney. 

Thirty-six hours over a sunlit sea, too often 
punctuated by some grim skeleton ship stuck 



58 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

fast on the cruel reef, brought us to exquisite 
Suva, whose red roofs climb up and up low 
thickly wooded hills, while a great sweep of 
jagged mountains circle away to the west. In 
front, on the misty horizon, lies Biwa Island, the 
home of the fire- walkers. Its natives can saunter 
slowly across white-hot bricks without feeling 
anything at all. Envious dwellers on the main- 
land insist that they rub the juice of an unknown 
herb on their soles, but the true inhabitants of 
Biwa know that the gift was bestowed on their 
race in perpetuity, by a sea-god, caught by mistake 
in a j&sherman's net. Why the fisherman de- 
manded such a peculiar gift as his prisoner's 
ransom it is difficult to say, but I am told it had 
something to do with the great paved ovens which 
the Fijians built in their villages and in which 
they could roEist a beast whole ; apparently the 
clay bricks needed to be stamped or pounded 
into shape while hot. 

Suva seems to be largely inhabited by Hindoos, 
who spend their leisure time in murdering each 
other, and maiming their somewhat fickle women- 
folk who are in a vast minority. This seems to 
be taken as a matter of course, as a solicitor, 
meeting a placid Hindoo carrying the silver- 
decorated head of a young woman by its long 
black hair, and hearing that he was going to the 
police station to give himself up, merely urged 
the murderer to put his burden in a sack, and 
continued his way to the club and tennis ! I 




THE HATHINC FOOL AT SATOTA 









''^fA-.^^-'-.^VV 








A RIVEK VILLAGE IN FIJI 



TONGA AND FIJI 59 

remember asking our bearer how many servants 
there were in the hotel, and he repHed, "Forty- 
eight, and two dead ones." Further explanation 
being required, he explained that a waiter had 
killed a cook the day before, and would certainly 
be hanged by the Sahiblog, so he was as good as 
dead already. 

We chartered a small launch, and threaded 
our way by intricate riverways, through endless 
sugar-cane country, to the eastern coast, and the 
tiny island of Mbau, the ancient capital of Fiji. 
It is most picturesque, for it stands between two 
long promontories of the mainland in a sheltered 
bay. Its houses are like wide-eaved haystacks, 
and the low doors are cut in the solid thickness of 
the straw walls. No house in the world looks so 
cosy on a cold day as the Fijian hay-dwelling, 
and, as one stoops to enter the miniature door, 
one can imagine one is a gnome playing hide- 
and-seek in a stack. Inside they are spacious 
and comfortable, as there are no stones under 
the floor mats as in Samoa, and a sort of huge 
broad divan is built right across one end. This, 
piled high with hay, and then with mats, makes 
a most comfortable bed. Of course the whole 
family sleep on it in a row, and you may find a 
sociable hen laying an egg in your hair, but it is 
far preferable to the floor ! 

Luckily, the hereditary Roko, chief of Mbau, 
was at home, and he entertained us with infinite 
courtesy in a beautiful wooden house adorned 



6o UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

with very artistically plaited reeds in various 
colours. He spoke English fluently, and his son 
had been educated at Oxford, and was now fighting 
in France, yet his wife spoke only sibilant Fijian, 
and was infinitely puzzled as to the correct use 
of knives and forks, while the rest of his relations 
seemed to wander about in the usual skimpy 
lava-lava and little else. Rato Jhonny is the 
descendant of the old kings, the last of whom, 
Thakambau, having contracted too large a 
national debt, sold his country to the British, 
went to Sydney on the proceeds, and brought 
home the germs of measles, which exterminated 
a large portion of his race, as they would insist 
on bathing in the sea as soon as the spots appeared. 
He was served, we noticed, by kneeling boys, and 
even the villagers came into his presence crouching. 

He saw us off most politely when we re- 
embarked next morning, and wished us luck 
with Rato Pope, the Roko of a district farther up 
the coast. All that day we climbed slowly north, 
skirting a wonderful mountain coast-line deeply 
indented into exquisite rocky bays, keeping inside 
the reef the whole time, and arriving at Viti Levu 
late in the afternoon. 

Here our troubles began, as the Roko was away 
and there was no one who could speak any English 
except the schoolmaster, whose fuzzy head was 
decorated with leaves, and who actually added 
a white singlet to the usual lava-lava. There 
was no white person in the place, so we firmly 



TONGA AND FIJI 6i 

took possession of the Roko's European bungalow, 
and called for food, which appeared after a few 
hours' waiting in the usual form — ^fowl, yam, 
bananas. We slept on thin mats spread on 
wooden bedsteads, and we both had a bad attack 
of nerves, and imagined every inquisitive nocturnal 
prowler to be intent on murder, chiefly because 
the Fijians are a wild and fierce-looking race, 
very dark-skinned, with rugged, lined faces and 
immense shocks of outstanding fuzzy hair. After 
a disturbed night we started at daybreak to get 
together our retinue for the seventy-mile ride 
to Nandarivato where, cut off from us by rolling 
hills, deep ravines and forest-clad mountains, 
a district commissioner and a few native police 
perched on a mighty peak and looked down 
over pale green sugar-cane to the turquoise sea. 

We had much dif&culty in getting horses, and 
wasted several hours before we unearthed for 
ourselves " one poor lean horse " and one un- 
broken " two-years horse only just out of bed." 
This was the schoolmaster's description. He, 
himself, coming with us to act as interpreter, 
bestrode the most amazing quadruped I've ever 
seen, off which he fell with patient persistency 
every time he tried to trot, and much time was 
lost in picking him up. A policeman preceded 
us on a fat buck jumper, which was the terror 
of the party. He was becomingly dressed in a 
blue uniform coat with brass buttons, a spotless 
white lava-lava, and a wreath of pink flowers, 



62 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

while his feet and legs were bare. The rear- 
guard was formed by the Bull, or headman of 
the village, his personal retainer, and one or two 
oddments. We had induced six boys to go ahead 
with our soUtary suit-case and two cushions, 
but we soon found them lazily extended under 
a shady tree eating their morning taro-root. 

The procession then started through hilly 
open country, rather like Scotland, crossing many 
rivers and drawing gradually nearer the high 
mountains of the interior. We passed many 
clustered haystack villages, each one more 
picturesque than the last, as they generally stand 
on small plateaux under the sheltering lea of 
some big hill often with a brawling stream pro- 
tecting them in front. At midday we halted at 
a lovely place, ate the usual yam and fowl meal, 
and wasted much time with an elaborate ceremony 
of angona drinking. This differs very little from 
the Samoan kava, but sometimes the coco-nut 
cups are very pretty, being brilliantly polished 
on the outside and stained a delicate greenish- 
blue, looking like enamel on the inside, with 
repeated appUcations of angona. In Fiji a man 
makes the drink, seated cross-legged behind a 
wooden dish to which is attached a piece of the 
angano root on a string and this lies on the floor, 
pointing towards the most important guest. As 
the visitor drinks his portion, all the watching 
circle clap their hands, and shout " Sayandra " 
{" Greeting — good luck ! "). Sometimes the dis- 



TONGA AND FIJI 63 

penser of the brew is most ornately decorated 
with floral garlands, and has smeared his face 
black with charcoal. Sometimes the oldest chief 
makes a long speech of welcome, and then holds 
out a whole tree, root and stem, for the honoured 
guest to touch. If the latter cannot reply in 
sufficiently fluent Fijian, he merely takes the 
tree and hands it to some other chief as a request 
to make a speech of thanks for him. At big 
ceremonies a polished ivory tambu, or whale's 
tooth, is presented to the most important guest. 
This is a symbol of chieftainship, and extremely 
valuable, as any request backed by the gift of 
a tambu is theoretically bound to be granted. 
Thus, if a headman wishes to marry a neigh- 
bouring chief's daughter, he sends an ambassador 
first with the precious tambu. These objects 
are guarded jealously in the family, and any 
Fijian would purchase one from a foreigner for 
a very large sum. Tactful district commissioners 
follow the native custom, and often when asking 
for hospitality on their tours in the interior send 
a whale's tooth with their messenger. 



Missing Page 



66 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

a wholesome respect for the ancient system of 
" draunikau." 

A district commissioner told me a strange 
story of this form of hj^notism. Apparently 
he himself had once been threatened by a witch- 
doctor, but had scornfully laughed at the old 
man's boasted power. The Buh of the village, 
who was loyal to the British, warned his chief 
that it was very dangerous to defy the hypnotist, 
but the D.C., secure in vivid sunshine, in perfect 
health, and in knowledge that it was the twentieth 
century, insisted on daring the witch-doctor to 
do his worst. I believe that some sort of a bargain 
was struck that if the Fijian failed to " draunikau " 
the EngUshman he was to give up his doubtful 
art altogether. Well, the commissioner rode many 
miles down the valley, conducted an informal 
court under a spreading mango-tree, ate an ex- 
cellent dinner prepared by his own cook-boy, 
and went to bed in the largest haystack in the 
village, having completely forgotten the witch- 
doctor's threat. Half-way through the night he 
woke up suddenly bathed in cold sweat and, 
thinking that he'd got a touch of fever, he 
tried to get up to find some quinine, but to 
his horror he found that he was incapable of 
moving. 

At that instant he thought he saw, or actually 
did see, a distorted, Uvid face, with distended, 
fixed pupils in horribly glassy eyes, staring at 
him from a circle of misty light. Only then did 



NAUSONGA 67 

he remember his adventure, and set himself with 
all his might to fight the h5rpnotic power of the 
old native he had left twenty miles up the valley. 
It must have been a horrible struggle of wills. 
The commissioner told me how he felt the sweat 
pouring off his body as he struggled to move, 
how waves of faintness and sickness nearly over- 
powered him, how the vision of the witch-doctor's 
eyes alternately approached and receded before 
his face, how the darkness seemed to be a physical 
weight pressing on him, how he felt the desire to 
struggle gradually leave him, till with a violent 
effort he managed to call out, and the headman of 
the village appeared suspiciously quickly. He had 
evidently been told the story of the threatened 
" draunikau " and was interestedly awaiting the 
result. 

When the headman saw that the Englishman 
was still alive, he was ready to hail him as super- 
man, but the commissioner confessed to me that 
it was several hours before he could throw off 
the effect of that unhuman struggle with a far- 
away adversary in the fevered night. Also, he 
did not return to renew his acquaintance with the 
witch-doctor. Of course, as Christianity gets 
a stronger hold on the Fijian race, such hypnotism 
is djdng out, together with the odd marriage 
customs that used to hold sway. The native is 
even learning the European custom ot divorce, 
and, instead of settling his difficulties with a 
painted club, a young Fijian suggested to an 



68 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

eminent lawyer that he should sue his rival in 
his wife's affections for damages. 

" How much do you want ? " inquired the 
legal luminary. 

" Oh, five shillings ; is that too much ? " 
replied the anxious husband. 

Nausonga appeared to us a perfectly peaceful 
village in spite of its lurid reputation, and we tore 
to pieces with our fingers a particularly tough 
hen, while we disputed peevishly over our worn- 
out horses which had already done over twenty 
miles. The whole village swore that we couldn't 
get over the mountains that night, but we refused 
to wait ; and after an hour's wrangling, during 
which we chewed bananas, snarled at the porters, 
and reiterated our few sentences of Fijian relating 
to our immense importance, and the dire results 
of disobe5dng us, two intrepid and pecuUarly 
ferocious-looking giants shouldered our luggage 
and marched off sulkily. Half-blind with fatigue, 
I started tying a small white bundle containing 
our last remnants of food on to the nearest horse, 
who promptly kicked off that and everything 
else including the saddle in considerably less 
than a minute. It was the two-year-old, and I 
have never in my life seen a horse kick and 
plunge and lay out with such freedom and vigour. 

We collapsed into peals of laughter, and with 
renewed cheerfulness inspected the two wilted, 
weedy, evil-smelling horses, .which were all the 
village could produce. On these we rode eleven 



NAUSONGA 69 

miles over a 2400 ft. precipitous pass at walking 
pace, zigzagging up through tropical tangled forest. 
Each mile seemed eternal, and darkness overtook 
us, while three miles of rock-strewn swampy trail, 
half-overgrown with creepers, still lay between 
us and the nearest village, which was fast asleep 
when we eventually arrived infinitely tired and 
hungry. The houses might really have been 
silent ricks in an English farmyard — ^not a sound, 
not a gleam of light. 

After much shouting we were ushered into a 
very dirty hut overflowing with humanity of all 
sizes and shapes. I remember we crawled into 
the least crowded comer and ate our " last hope " 
— a tin of peaches and two three-day-old rolls, 
which we'd clung to all the way from Mbau in 
case of emergencies. Consequently, when we 
woke next morning, having slept in our riding 
kit as it was very cold, we had nothing but greasy 
taro-root and milkless tea, which we'd brought 
with us. Undine refused both ; and hunger 
acted as a spur, so that after two hours' hard 
riding we burst through the astonished police 
camp at Nandarivato, and almost fell on to the 
D.C.'s veranda demanding food and a bath. 

It wasn't till much later that I noticed that the 
bungalow was set in a perfect paradise of flowers. 
Banks of great tawny lilies, with a background of 
maidenhair, vied with every English favourite 
for pride of colour and scent. One hardly under- 
stands the meaning of hospitality till one is a 



70 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

wanderer in the wilds of some outpost of empire, 
and then one is incapable of expressing the 
gratitude one feels to the gracious, kindly folk 
who harbour one in the homes they have built 
up with such care in the midst of barren desert 
or tropical decay. French and Enghsh, they are 
all the same, and without their unfailing and re- 
sourceful help, without their knowledge of the 
back-of-beyond countries, we could never have 
achieved our many strange journeys. 

A few days later we came down from Nan- 
darivato in state, in company with the com- 
missioner. We had six cheerful convicts to carry 
our luggage, two mounted policemen apparently 
to minister to their wants, and a delightful cook- 
boy in a torn coat galloping wildly on a bay 
thoroughbred. This time each village turned 
out to meet us, and a chorus of " Sayandra " 
and " Sambula " went with us to the largest 
house, which was always specially decorated for 
our reception with splendid vermilion lilies and 
great branches of trees. Ceremony piled upon 
ceremony, but as we had become merely adjuncts 
of the magisterial glory we sank into the com- 
fortable position of onlookers, while songs of 
praise and rhetorical flowers of speech circled 
around us. A bamboo screen had even been 
built in one house to divide off a portion of the 
haystack for our private use, but as they had 
forgotten to make our bedroom anywhere near 
a door, we had to grope about in funereal darkness. 



I. -J ^-J.B^-SV ■ 




THK S'1';V1(T FROM NUMARA 




ANGONA CEREMONY AT A MEKE 



NAUSONGA 71 

and, when I stepped bare-footed on a large wet 
hen, I nearly died of fright ! 

The greatest episode of our progress south 
was a huge " Meke " given in our honour at 
Numbomakito. We arrived early one morning 
to find a great awning of ferns had been erected 
on a plateau. We sat in the shade therefore, 
while some gorgeously decorated men made 
angona. Then a long procession of women came 
up with baskets full of yam and taro-root, which 
they piled in a great pyramid at the commissioner's 
feet, and which afterwards provided the convicts 
and policemen, sitting friendly together in a 
circle, with the largest meal of their lives'. This 
is a custom of Fijian hospitality. A whole village 
may go travelling and may demand food and 
shelter all along the road — ^it will never be refused. 

A huge war-dance followed the food presenta- 
tion, when a hundred magnificent warriors, 
polished with oil and streaked with charcoal, 
in thick short petticoats of hanging straw 
and every sort of fantastical, floral decoration, 
gave us their idea of the Battle of the Somme. 
Shouldering huge ancient clubs, painted and 
carved, the two parties advanced towards each 
other with mincing polka steps. After advancing 
and retiring several times with warlike gestures, 
and much brandishing of weapons, they did a 
sort of chassi-croisi step, turned round and danced 
towards the centre of the sward with crouching, 
panther-like movements. At this point all the 



72 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

German party suddenly fell dead, and lay flat on 
the ground till the medicine-men danced in among 
them, sprinkling them with water, when they 
immediately leaped to their feet and renewed 
the fray. 

It is curious that, though Fijian houses are 
sometimes decorated with pictures of the war 
cut out from illustrated papers, the natives have 
a fixed idea that Hindenburg and French conduct 
a series of lonely duels on a carefully prepared 
field, between two circles of applauding armies. 
One headman remarked to me re the Fijian con- 
tingent that it would learn the English War- 
dance ! I cannot describe how magnificently 
and ingeniously arrayed are these mighty warriors 
with their shocks of upstanding hair. They wear 
massive head-dresses of whole ferns growing, 
roots and all. They have necklaces, bracelets, 
armlets, anklets of plaited leaves, with thick 
girdles of bamboo fronds wound round their 
waists, and standing out like huge crinolines. 
Some original spirits wore looking-glasses, tin 
plates or framed photographs as breast-plates, 
and one head-dress consisted of an immense 
straw fan mounted above a big plant of maiden- 
hair. We asked the leader his name, and he 
replied firmly that he was " Lord George," so I 
suppose when French is weary, Lloyd George 
takes his place in the pas seul with Hindenburg ! 

After this excitement, our loo-mile journey 
to the Rewa river and the coast was uneventful. 



NAUSONGA 73 

except when Undine, riding a little ahead, startled 
us all by suddenly disappearing over a bridge 
while her mouse-like pony lay on its side and 
kicked ! While rules for first-aid to the drowning 
swept through my mind, she proved her kin to 
the water nymph of old by rising slowly from 
the river encased in green slime, with reeds drooping 
from her hat, and water-lilies clinging round her 
feet ! After riding twenty- three miles through one 
very hot day — always in the dank shadow of 
tropical vegetation and drooping groves of bamboo 
— and being still eight miles from our destination, 
we took to the river, and were punted down 
over the rapids, getting very wet in the process, 
and occasionally upsetting a fuzzy-headed oars- 
man into the stream. 

We arrived in a state of complete exhaustion, 
so that in spite of evil-smelling pillows — I wrapped 
up mine in my scarlet silk kimona to shut in the 
strong odour — ^we actually slept well on our hard 
mats. Next day we rode twelve miles down the 
river bank, between banana plantations and the 
giant green ostrich feathers which are clumps of 
bamboo, till we came to the stopping place of the 
launch which, after many breakdowns, takes its 
crowd of native passengers daily to Nausori, 
within motoring distance of Suva. 



CHAPTER VII 

NEW GUINEA 

FROM Fiji we went south, past pine-clad 
Norfolk Island with its ruins of the old 
convict prisons, to the land of the Wattle 
and the Waratah. Australia broke upon 
us with a line of dazzling golden sand, and the 
vision of Sydney heads towering out of the breakers, 
twin guardians of her famous harbour. We 
arrived in the middle of the excitement caused 
by the referendum on conscription, and I re- 
member we dined with the Premier on the critical 
night, and went on with him to the G.P.O., where 
we watched the " noes " pile up their ever- 
increasing majority. 

It was a despondent evening, but it is difficult 
to see how the Nationalists can ever carry Uni- 
versal Service in the face of Labour's battle-cry, 
"Vote 'No' and keep Australia white." Before 
the war, when I spent a very happy year in 
N.S.W., it was borne upon me that the fear of 
low-paid native labour on the docks and on the 
stations was becoming a spectre which might 
some day be exceedingly dangerous to the 
progress and development of that great country. 

74 



NEW GUINEA 75 

The spectre has grown since those peaceful 
days. 

We spent Christmas Day on a glassy sea some- 
where within the Great Barrier Reef. It was 
torridly hot, but we ate plum-pudding with the 
delightful captain of an ancient tub which 
wandered slowly round the Solomon Islands and 
dreary little Queensland ports, and heard stories 
of the Sydney strikes when every labour man, 
butcher, baker, railwayman, tram-driver, sailor, 
engineer stopped work, and for seven weeks all 
the business of the town was done by volunteers. 
Women managed the bakeries, squatters with 
large bank balances ran the trams, farm-hands 
signed on as able-bodied seamen. The captain 
said it was a nightmare, as all the stewards were 
sea-sick and the men at the wheel never could 
realize that a ship was not run on the principle 
of a watch. One actually inquired : " Hi, 
mister, I've got her wound up and she's turning 
round. If I unwind her, will it hurt her works ? " 

It was a quaint voyage. We were the only 
women on board. The rest of the dozen passengers 
were flotsam from the hemp and tobacco planta- 
tions of the ruthless isles. They vied with each 
other in telling us strange tales, and sometimes 
slipped by accident into relating the simple truth, 
because the things they had seen and done under 
the Southern Cross were so much stranger than 
the stories they could invent ! They talked 
glibly of vanilla and coco and copra as we lay 



76 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

limply on the thirty-foot deck, while the scorching 
sun crept slowly under the tattered awning and 
licked worn canvas shoes, and glasses that had 
held " Doctor Funk " cocktails and, as the boat 
rolled on the oUy sea, crept up to the white anaemic 
faces of those who earn their bread — and drink 
— ^in the tropics. 

We slipped into Port Moresby harbour one 
grey wet morning, and all my preconceived ideas 
of savage New Guinea " slowly and silently 
vanished away." I had dreamed of a tangle of 
orchids drooping over dark fever-haunted rivers, 
with alligators Ijdng on mud banks, great scented 
forests where cannibals performed their horrid 
rites, green snakes slipping into blazing masses 
of tropical flowers, birds of Paradise flitting like 
living jewels above huge painted creepers, honey 
sweet ! Alas, we landed in the " dry belt." 
Port Moresby consists of a handful of red-roofed, 
corrugated iron shanties flung down pell-mell 
on a sandy hillside amidst a few stunted blue 
gum trees. Its roads are mere wandering trails 
with many a pitfall to the unwary, but its in- 
habitants point out with pride two excellent 
street lamps which shed a murky ray over various 
ant-hills and sand-heaps. 

The hotel caused us infinite delight. It was 
like a large bam divided by sheets of galvanized 
iron into dim cubicles, which resounded with the 
sayings of every lodger under the spider-haunted 
roof. We began to realize the defects of such a 



NEW GUINEA ^^ 

system when we were wakened at 3 a.m. by a 
violent altercation between two tearful individuals 
in the next compartment as to which should 
take off the boots of the other. Undine forcibly 
prevented me from issuing forth in great wrath 
and a pink cripe-de-Chine nightgown to offer to 
remove all their boots if only they would be quiet. 
Port Moresby is hospitable, and it is cheerful, 
in spite of the heat which reduces every one to 
the consistency of oozing syrup, but it could 
scarcely be called quiet. It is too prone to settle 
its small differences with the aid of a revolver, 
or, taking an extreme view of the undesirability of 
human life, try to end it with a blunt razor outside 
the hotel dining-room. 

One day we went along the coast for about an 
hour in a Government launch to inspect a hemp 
plantation. We were met by the overseer at 
the jetty, requested to seat ourselves on a couple 
of pacldng - cases on a tiny trolly and pushed 
along an uneven log track by a " bunch of boys." 
It was slow work, as the little line wound uphill 
all the time through endless blue gum-trees and 
tree-ferns, but, luckily, the overseer was a talka- 
tive young man, and entertained us with stories 
of the hundred and fifty boys working on the 
plantation. Labour is generally recruited from 
very remote districts, and from the smaller islands 
of the Archipelago. The boys sign on for one to 
three years at the munificent wage of los. a month 
and their food. They go back to their villages 



78 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

with a few knives and belts and strips of bright 
calico, and are regarded with exaggerated respect 
and awe for the rest of their lives, which are not 
unduly prolonged, as they are generally killed 
and eaten when they are too old to work or even 
to look after themselves. 

The Papuans do not seem to have much family 
affection. On one occasion we wished to see 
a feast on a certain far-off plantation, which we 
understood was in honour of the recent birth of 
a child. We found this was altogether a mistake, 
as the child in question formed the chief dish at 
the feast ! Needless to say, this was only dis- 
covered later when, severe questions being asked 
as to the disappearance of various children duly 
registered on the plantation books, the only answer 
forthcoming was, " We eat him kai-kai ! " These 
Guri-Bari boys are unpleasant-looking creatures, 
with their coal-black skins, broad repulsive 
features, and short woolly hair. They wear 
gleaming white bones stuck through their nostrils, 
enormous shell earrings, and huge knives stuck 
in the pieces of string which form at the same 
time their belts and their only clothing. They 
cheerfvilly eat raw toads and rats or anything 
else they can get hold of. You see them some- 
times with a live bird or small rodent tied to their 
belts waiting till they have time to devour it, 
with or without cooking it. They have a great 
fear of horses, being utterly ignorant of what 
species of animal they are. When they first 



NEW GUINEA 79 

came to that plantation they said, " The big 
white man rides a large pig. Let us kill it or it 
will eat us "; so they tried to murder the unfortunate 
beast with stones and spears. 

Civilization, of course, is much retarded by the 
quantity of different languages spoken. A boy 
from the coast can't understand the talk of a 
village twenty miles inland, and sometimes two 
villages separated by a river or a narrow valley 
speak entirely different tongues. The white men 
have invented a sort of pigeon " Motu " which is 
understood a certain distance along the coast; 
otherwise it is like the Tower of Babel. 

To return to the hemp plantation, the manager's 
house of red corrugated iron was set on a slight 
rise in the midst of two thousand acres of hemp, 
which looks like rows and rows of tall, smooth- 
leaved cactus. After an excellent tinned lunch 
— everything in Papua comes out of a tin, except 
when a rare steamer arrives with Australian meat 
in cold storage — ^we were mounted on the usual 
raw-boned, hard-mouthed quadrupeds and taken 
round the estate. We saw the boys cutting and 
stacking the long pointed leaves, pihng them on 
trucks and pushing them down to the shed where 
an engine tore off the outer green sheath, and 
shredded the inner pulp into white, juicy fibre. 
We saw the latter drying, Hke tangled white 
clouds fallen out of a summer sky, on long lines 
of wire, and, finally, we saw the dried product 
packed into bales ready for transport to the coast. 



8o UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

Then we rode back to our launch and chugged 
through the winding harbour, broken up into so 
many bays, and dotted with so many islands 
that once the whole Australian fleet lay hidden 
there, and no one in Port Moresby knew there 
was a single warship in their harbour. 

We passed some picturesque Water Villages, 
built high on piles above the sea so that they are 
protected from attack on three sides. They are 
only joined to the land by a few ladders and rough 
wooden gangways. The first sight of Elevara or 
Hanumabana is utterly bewildering : straw and 
reed houses perched up in the air, the family 
pig seated placidly in a rudely constructed stye 
just above the waves, brown babies hanging in 
plaited fibre bags from any convenient post, the 
next meal cooking on a tiny charcoal fire on a 
wooden shelf projecting in front of the house door, 
long boats, piled with bananas and sago, poled 
swiftly through the water streets by tall ebony 
figures devoid of other covering than a few shells 
or feathers, their massive mop of hair standing 
out like a bushy halo round their heads. 

One is struck by the grace and poise of the 
women in their short, swinging petticoats of 
straw, sometimes dyed orange or red, barely 
sweeping their slender knees, open at one side so 
that the whole of an elaborately tattooed limb is 
visible. Generally the rest of their shapely 
persons, even their faces, is stained or tattooed 
in bright blue, and they wear armlets of shell 



NEW GUINEA 8i 

rings, and perhaps a lobster's claw or two in their 
hair. Add to this a nose bone and a scarlet 
lip-ring and the effect is startling. 

Unfortunately, they all chew betel-nut, so their 
teeth are stained scarlet with the juice, and 
generally pushed forward almost out of their 
mouths by perpetually sucking the large nut. 
On shore, under the palm-trees, one sees women 
moulding the great clay-pots which, at a certain 
season of the year, they take down the coast on 
a big double-sailed lakatoi — ^which is made by 
fastening together many of their fiat, fishing 
boats — and barter for sago. 

When a lakatoi returns laden with grain there 
is a great dance in the village, always at night. 
We saw one on a very dark night, when no moon 
threw dancing shadows of palms across the beach. 
Out of the heavy blackness came the beating of 
a drum. The Ught of a few far-off torches 
flickered occasionally across the two lines of 
dancers who, linked closely together, man and 
maid alternately, moved slowly and rhythmically 
up and down. Sometimes the lines met and, 
joining, came down the centre two and two, till 
they swung apart in a slowly swaying circle. 
Some of the men beat together clicking white 
bones, and all drummed monotonously with their 
feet. It was silent, restrained, and sinister — 
kin to the windless night, the dull booming of 
the surf on the reef, and the sickly sweet scent of 
oil and flowers. Sometimes a torch flared up 



82 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

and disclosed the fantastic head-dresses, whole 
skins of beasts, rows of waving birds of paradise, 
or grinning masks of painted wood and clay as 
well as long chains of seeds and plaited grasses, 
rings and anklets of white bones, ropes of shells, 
necklaces of dogs' teeth wrenched from the living 
animal that they may retain their lustre. There 
was no shouting, no laughter. 

The drum was like the earth's pulse beating, 
the thrumming of the feet was her coursing 
blood. There was something relentless, cruel, 
passionate about that dance, yet it was slow, 
quiet, and almost sleepy ! One felt an under- 
current that one could not understand, and my 
vision of strange, deathless rites, age-old as the 
earth, came back to me there in the darkness ! 



CHAPTER VIII 

NEW GUINEA CUSTOMS 

WHEN kangaroo meat and mangoes 
began to pall on us and we had 
learned to distinguish from his 
harmless brethren the vicious malaria 
mosquito who bites one standing on his head 
and waving his hind-legs in the air ; when we'd 
innocently attempted to rescue the latest victim 
of the razor monomania, under the impression 
that he was having a fit ; when we'd grown grey 
hairs in the heads of the powers that be with our 
thirst for information, we decided to go inland. 

With the temperature that of a hot bath we 
started cheerfully off on a buckboard, which, as 
the initiated weU know, is harder than the hearts 
of the Huns, or than the rocks on which one falls 
from one's pet Parnassian heights ! It was drawn 
by two world-worn and weary horses, who fell 
over the trace-chains and their own noses at 
every second step. I nearly upset the whole 
thing driving it down the main street of Port 
Moresby, as I could not find the brake, so we 
went down the hill at a hand gallop, missing the 
only tree and several heaps of stones by a hair- 

83 



84 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

breadth, and plunging round the corner on one 
wheel and an eyelash ! 

From ten till three we bumped perilously 
through sand-drifts and creeks, over rock-strewn 
rutted roads, between desolate blue gum-trees 
athirst for their native Australia and huge white 
ant-hills. Then, when we began to feel that our 
aching bones were indissolubly part of that 
rattling, jolting buckboard, we saw a big tobacco 
plantation dipping down to a muddy river, so 
we turned into an even worse road and jerked 
up to a wide verandahed bungalow with wicked, 
spotted orchids climbing up the pillars. The 
planter was, as usual, extraordinarily kind and 
devoted to us his last tin of Marie biscuits and 
a young omelet which two fuzzy-headed creatures 
cooked with breathless interest. Then he showed 
us a short cut between neat rows of tiny tobacco 
plants under sheltering straw mats, over a bridge 
which might have shaken the nerve of the youngest 
and maddest aviator, for it was only a few strands 
of wire plaited with willow thongs, slung from 
two sagging cables sixty feet above a grey river 
where snouts of greedy alligators poked out of 
the water. 

Then came more jolting down a long bush road, 
and towards dusk we came to a Government rest- 
house made of galvanized iron and straw, from 
whence the most energetic woman I've ever met 
rushed forth to meet us. Between snatches of 
ribald song and violent bursts of abuse of things 




EAST AND WEST 




CARRYING HEMl' IN 1>APUA 



NEW GUINEA CUSTOMS 85 

in general, she conjured hot baths out of the 
river, roast pork out of the primitive oven, and 
horses out of the bush, so that we stumbled over 
the creek in darkness, and, as the Southern Cross 
swung up into a sapphire sky, we started up the 
Bluff. It was a wonderful ride in the starlight, 
with the great crag looming above our heads, 
and long tentacles of hanging creeper clutching 
at us as we passed, but my most vivid memory is 
of the tin hut perched among rows of pineapple 
just over the ridge, where a mighty native, attired 
in a magnificent feather crown and a piece of 
string, produced coco and eggs and bacon under 
the direction of the sleepy manager. 

We woke to a world of drifting violet shadows 
on the soaring Owen Stanley range, whose snow- 
clad summits pierce the clouds, and whose 
northern slopes guard the untrodden country, 
happy hunting-ground of cannibals and head 
hunters. The last intrepid planter who pene- 
trated to an inhospitable village was eaten with 
his clothes and everything else. The punitive 
expedition recovered his boots after they had 
been cooked for many days to make them tender. 
I gather, however, that the Papuans are careful 
to kill their dinner before they cook it, and it is 
generally a swift end beneath battle-axes and 
spears. Not so in some districts, as in Northern 
Rhodesia and along the "great green greasy" 
Zambesi river, where every bone of the victim is 
broken to relax the muscles and make the flesh 



86 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

tender, and he is hung in cool, running water to 
keep down the inflammation until the chief chef 
is ready for him. 

Curiously enough, there is no actual law 
against cannibalism in New Guinea, I mean if A 
commits a murder and B devours the corpse, 
the latter has committed no legal offence. This 
worried intensely the lawyers of the coast until 
they decided that the act could justifiably be 
punished under the heading of " Indecent be- 
haviour to a corpse." In some of the inland 
villages all the warriors Uve together in a high 
straw house, perhaps one hundred feet long. It is 
divided into cubicles, and over the door of his 
own particular compartment each warrior hangs 
the skulls of his defeated enemies. Up the Fly 
river, you see occasionally a kind of Totem Pole 
strung with skulls from top to bottom. No 
woman is allowed to enter such houses, and in 
certain districts all boys of sixteen are taken 
from their homes, and kept shut up in one of these 
" dongas " for several weeks or even months. 
The missionaries have tried hard to break this 
custom, as the boys are supposed to undergo 
certain rites of initiation during this period of 
rigorous seclusion. 

However, I should imagine the sullen, suspicious 
Papuan of the interior is difficult to convert to 
new ideas, as witness this delicious story told 
me by a Roman Catholic priest. A would-be 
Christian arrived at his house one day and said 



NEW GUINEA CUSTOMS 87 

he wished to be baptized. As he had attended 
a mission school for some time the priest con- 
sented, but finding that he answered to the name 
of " Snowball," he decided to re-christen him 
Patrick. The boy was duly immersed in the 
nearest pool and told that his name was now 
Pat, and that it behoved him most particularly 
not to eat meat on Fridays. Unfortunately, 
the very next Friday the priest discovered his 
latest convert devouring a large piece of kangaroo. 
" Oh, Pat, don't you know that this is Friday, 
and I told you only to eat fish on that day ? " he 
reproved sternly. " Me no eat meat. Me eat 
fish," said the erstwhile " Snowball " eagerly. 
" But I can see it is meat. It is very wrong to 
tell me lies," was the indignant answer. " But 
this no meat," insisted Patrick. " I put him in 
the water and 1 christen him fish ! " 

Very little is really known about the strange 
folk who inhabit the wild forest country of the 
interior. Some of the villages are entirely built 
in the trees, and their only approach from the 
solid earth is a long ladder that can be pulled 
up at the approach of an enemy tribe. These 
glorified dovecotes are often of two stories with 
an admirably constructed platform in front of 
the door, on which all cooking is done. It was 
once officially reported that the natives of a 
certain district north of the Owen Stanley range 
had tails ! This was because the long ends of 
their tapa cloth belts flew out behind them as 



88 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

they ran. The tapa cloth is made out of inner 
bark fibre and painted with juices brown and red. 
It was a day of dreaming peace and curly 
snowfiake clouds when we left our tin hut, and 
rode along the ridge, our destination a big rubber 
plantation beyond the dry belt. We rode some 
time through exquisite long grass country in 
which tall feathery fronds reached above our 
waists, then we dropped into gloomy mangrove 
swamps haunted by swarms of mosquitoes, which 
literally blackened our clothes as we scuttled 
through them. There were alligators, which the 
natives like to eat, in the rivers, and orange and 
white orchids hanging in clumps from dripping 
tree branches. Occasionally a hornbill with a 
jarring screech flew clumsily across the trail. 
They are the ugliest birds I've ever seen in spite 
of their gorgeous tawny orange and black plumage, 
for their quaint, curved, razor-edged bills are 
literally a third of their length. There were 
flights of sulphur-crested cockatoos in the blue 
gum country, but we didn't see our first bird of 
paradise till we left the dry belt behind us and 
plunged into luxurious forest, steamy and dark 
beneath the tangled wealth of creeper. These 
gorgeous flame-red birds with exquisite panoply 
of shimmering tails are of the crow species and 
are as common as the homely rook in England. 
The pale yellow variety comes from German 
New Guinea and is rarely found in Papua, but 
the red ones do much damage to the crops, and 




A FAMILY OKOUI' AT ELF.VARA 




A NEW GUINEA COAST-I.INE 



NEW GUINEA CUSTOMS 89 

every planter regrets the Government fine for 
shooting them. 

It is a severely punishable offence to export 
them, but rare specimens find their way out of 
the country hidden in hat linings, or folded 
between the pages of local newspapers, or forming 
part of the stuffing of innocent travelling cushions. 
I knew one ingenious woman who marched on to 
the ship with a complete petticoat of the precious 
birds under her fashionably voluminous skirt, 
and she confided to me afterwards that she had 
suffered agonies of terror, it being a windy day, 
lest a fluttering orange frond should detach 
itself and float gently down to the inspector's 
feet. On the self -same occasion one of the male 
passengers was seen jauntily walking up the 
gangway with a delicate swajdng feather pro- 
truding from his coat collar. We left it to the 
harassed customs official to discover where the 
rest of the bird was ! 

Goura pigeons are other lovely inhabitants 
of Papua. They are deep smoke-blue in colour, 
and carry most exquisite upstanding crests on 
their heads. I remember I once bought thirteen 
for two bottles of whisky from a blear-eyed settler 
who assured me he badly needed the spirit for 
his neuralgia ! The natives kill, with their bows 
and arrows, the glorious goura pigeons for food, 
and use quantities of birds of paradise to make 
the enormous head-dresses used in their dances, 
though really I should have thought their immense 



90 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

shocks of hair would be sufficiently exotic orna- 
mentation. The only reason they mind going 
to prison is because their hair is cut off there, and 
they are not allowed to join in the dances unless 
they are shock-headed. 

Long before we reached our destination we 
fell in with a heated and damp surveyor jogging 
along on an old brown pony and suitably attired in 
open-work grey flannel trousers and an ancient 
pyjama coat from which most of the buttons were 
missing. His boys almost fled at our approach. 
They evidently considered us a new specimen of 
mankind, and we heard them asking : " Are 
these a new kind of Sinabada ? " ^ We joined 
forces with the surveyor for a time, and he took 
us through trackless blue gum country to the 
edge of a mighty ravine, where a torrent thundered 
down over a great precipice, and a strange bird 
village clung to the top of the opposite cliff. I 
don't think we ever reached that particular 
township, but we came to one cluster of rough 
straw huts in a clearing of the primeval jungle 
where we saw a most interesting bird dance. 

The broad-featured women, darkly tattooed, 
huddled round a charcoal pan and giggled, while 
the old men inhaled smoke from long hollow 
bamboo pipes, burnt with intricate black designs. 
The young men fetched long tapering spears 
and their mightiest head-dresses, and squabbled 
for some time over their most precious decora- 

' Sinabada =chieftainess, great lady. 



NEW GUINEA CUSTOMS 91 

tion — a long and very old woollen stocking ! 
With infinite pride the winner drew on the coveted 
prize, and it reefed itself half-way down his leg 
and considerably impeded his movements. 

It is difficult to describe the bird dance, but it 
is exactly like the alternately grotesque and 
dignified posturings of Great Bustards on a 
Scotch moor in the mating season. Then it 
changed and the performers used the springing, 
swa5dng steps of the dancing cranes, hopping, 
gesticulating with such grace and agility that 
one could almost see fluttering wings spreading 
out from their ebony bodies, and imagine their 
whistling caUs really proceeded from the throats 
of a love-sick bird piping to its mate in the 
spring-time ! 

I imagine that the Papuans are a very low 
and degraded type of native, as they have scarcely 
any tribal law ; they acknowledge no hereditary 
chief, and certainly age receives no veneration, 
as it merely provides meals for the younger 
generation ! In many districts one comes across 
a clearly Jewish type with a very hooked nose. 
In fact, substitute a white skin and you would 
not hesitate to claim the result as of Hebrew 
parentage ! They are nomads who rarely Uve 
in one place for more than a few months. One 
week there is a prosperous straw village deep in 
the shade of some scarlet flame-trees, the next, 
most of the houses are destroyed, and the whole 
tribe has migrated many miles away. This is 



92 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

one of the difficulties the missionaries have to 
contend with — ^their scholars and their congre- 
gation may vanish in a night. 

We went one long expedition down the coast 
in the Governor's deUghtful yacht. We started 
very early and slipped along inside the reef for 
many sunht, lazy hours, the only unfortunate 
episode being when the native butler, contented 
in the knowledge that his fluffy hair stood out 
almost as wide as the cabin door, reflectively 
combed back the woolly mass with a loaf of 
bread, which he afterwards calmly placed on 
the table. I looked with horror at the immaculate 
private secretary who was doing host to see if 
he had noticed the contretemps, but he was 
contentedly immersed in salmon mayonnaise, so 
I left him to the old adage, " What the eye does 
not see, the mind does not trouble about ! " 

It reminded me of the way the Hindoos catch 
prawns. Any Indian morning you may see 
little brown figures, armed with long hooks, 
fishing in the muddy rivers. Presently they pull 
out the decayed corpse of a native who has pro- 
bably died of plague, and on it prawns are clinging 
thick and fast. Eagerly they are pulled off — 
the more corpse that adheres to them the tastier 
the curry — and flung into a basket to be sold to 
the burra hotels ! N.B. — This story should be 
told to the newly arrived European at the crucial 
moment when he is revelling in his first acquaint- 
ance with the famous prawn curry at Colombo. 




THE AUDIENCE 




THE PERFORMERS 



NEW GUINEA CUSTOMS 93 

If he is too much worried, it should be pointed 
out to him — considerably later on — ^that the 
buming-ghats of the Ganges are one of the sights 
of the world ! If he does not understand the 
sequence of thought, let him simmer in hisi 
disappointed greed ! 

The destination of His Excellency's white yacht 
was the village of Gailoe built nearly a quarter of 
a mile out on the coral reef. We got into the 
dinghy and rowed through the main street, 
followed by a train of hollow log canoes, poled by 
sUm, laughing girls, for Gailoe is far-famed for 
the beauty of its maidens. Indeed, they were 
weirdly and wonderfully tattooed : we saw one 
symmetrical goddess attired in an intricate design 
of black snakes painted on her own firm brown 
skin. We climbed laboriously up one of the 
rickety wooden ladders, stooped through a low 
entrance, and found ourselves in an immaculately 
clean and unexpectedly large interior, the floor 
made of smooth wood beams and the walls of 
elaborately plaited reeds. In the centre was a 
blackened circle in which smouldered a few 
charcoal embers. Of furniture or even mats 
there was not a trace. A large calabash full of 
water stood in one comer, and some strings of- 
certain bright-coloured seeds and shells, amulets 
against witchcraft, hung from the roof beams, 
while rows of turtle skulls were ranged along the 
walls. Otherwise it was utterly empty. 

That was almost our last day in New Guinea, 



94 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

and always I shall have a memory of steaming 
into the beautiful harbour with the crowded 
hills purple against a blazing sunset, and seeing 
the customs house flag flying at half-mast. A 
man with whom we had dined the night before 
was dead. Life and death go hand in hand in 
the ruthless islands of the southern seas. 



CHAPTER IX 

JAVA 

ONE of the gymnastic Papuan mos- 
quitoes must have accompUshed his 
nefarious design, for the instant we 
arrived at Cairns — a desolate, galvan- 
ized iron township surrounded by blue gums and 
banana trees — I collapsed with dengue fever. 
However, Undine nursed me so strenuously that, 
in self-defence, I found it necessary to recover 
in spite of a delightful toy which she borrowed 
from the only chemist one hot, dry day when I 
was babbling cheerfully of cannibals and cater- 
pillars ! It was called a Home Thermometer, 
and one's temperature either ran out altogether 
at one end past a scarlet notice which said, " Call 
a doctor at once," or sank despairingly to about 
60, where " No danger " was written in sulphur 
yellow. 

A dilatory steamer finally picked us up in the 
middle of a cyclone, carried us for three peaceful 
days north to Thursday Island, ringed with its 
fleet of pearl fishers, and forthwith plunged 
headlong with us into the North-West monsoon. 
For unnumbered days we lay in wet deck-chairs, 

»6 



96 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

lashed to any convenient rail, while the fo'c'sle 
plunged down into great breakers which broke 
right over the deck, covering the bridge in spray, 
and the propeller sailed triumphantly out of 
the water, and pretended it was an aeroplane. 
When I wasn't falling downstairs to the hermetic- 
ally sealed saloon to have soup upset in my lap, 
and potatoes dribbled in my hair, I remember I 
chased elusive but very strong smells through 
cockroach-haunted passages, with a tin of Keating's 
powder, to the infinite fury of the chief steward, 
who generally followed with a broom. 

How glad we were to reach Java, in spite of 
some delightful Australians, wounded in the war, 
who cheered our dripping hours on the unsteady 
decks with stories of Gallipoli as seen through 
the rose-coloured spectacles of the cheerful Anzacs ! 
One, who had contributed a hand to the tragedy 
and the glory of Suvla Bay, reduced us to helpless 
nodrth with his description of the kindly soul who 
visited him in hospital, and exclaimed in im- 
pulsive pity, " Oh, my dear man, have you lost 
your hand for good ? " One wonders what would 
be the correct answer — " Oh no, I left it in the 
bathroom by mistake," or, " Well, the doctor 
says it will grow again in a few months ! " 

Certainly the joys of civilization are great ! 
We arrived at fascinating Batavia early in the 
morning, having motored up from the wharf ten 
miles away, alongside a big canal full of odd- 
shaped barges and house-boats. We were de- 




A GUKI BARI BOY 




A TRAVELLING PARTY OFF PORT MORESBY 



JAVA 97 

posited by various friends at an immense and 
ruinously expensive hotel, and instructed to 
follow the Dutch custom of sleeping all the after- 
noon. But, of course, we didn't. The town 
was much too attractive. We set forth on foot, 
and trotted over round uneven cobble-stones to 
the native bazaars, where we meant to buy silk 
stockings and Java straw hats, but the wily 
Hindu was too clever for us, and we soon found 
ourselves the unwilling possessors of so much 
ancient and extremely heavy brassware that we 
were obliged to return in haste. The betel-nut 
sets are rather attractive, as they consist of great 
beaten brass bowls containing a jar for the leaves, 
two boxes for the nuts, a couple of bowls for 
the mixture when made, and a cup to hold the 
requisite chalk. The juice of the nut is squeezed 
out and mixed with chalk into a rose-pink paste, 
which is then sucked to the great detriment of 
the appearance. 

We drank the most wonderful coffee in the 
world in the sitting-room veranda of our palatial 
rooms, and, having turned our backs carefully 
on the printed tariff— as we considered it dis- 
couraging — we watched very fat Dutchmen ^ 
attired in violet-hued pyjamas and much adipose 
tissue asleep in deck-chairs, their bare feet tilted 
heavenwards, and sonorous grunts issuing- from 
their unshaven faces. Afterwards we drove 
round the white well-ordered town in the smallest 
cart I've ever been in. It resembled the Indian 



98 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

ecca, or a hencoop with a tasselled awning over it, 
and was drawn by a nine-hand pony almost 
hidden by his jingUng, silver-decorated harness. 
The whole turn-out can be bought for a few 
shillings, and to hire it costs threepence an hour ! 
Canals run down the centre of the main streets, 
and all the red-tiled paths are bordered with 
trees, under which sit brown Sudanese coolies in 
cartwheel hats and scarlet loin cloths, selling 
great bunches of furry-red lechees — which, stripped 
of their outer bark, taste like juicy grape-plums — 
and piles of pink, sticky " bullocks' hearts " — 
a shiny pear-like fruit. 

We ended our day in an open-air cafe, where 
we sat in immense basket-chairs, drinking a fiery 
liqueur called a " paheit," which is guaranteed to 
remove all sense of discretion after three seconds, 
listening to the band and watching the population 
flow past, bare-headed, in toy victorias drawn 
by gaily decorated pairs of tiny ponies. They 
don't dine in Java till 9 or 10 p.m., and then 
they wade through an eleven-course meal, eating 
roast veal and apricots together, black bread and 
cheese with their fish, and finishing with very 
rich cream cakes. It is a distressing fact that 
almost the first sentence we learned in Malay 
was, " Give me some more." 

Next morning we had to drag ourselves out of 
bed at 5 a.m., and eat German sausage and black 
bread and cheese in darkness, in order to catch 
an early train. All Javanese trains seem to 



JAVA 99 

start about 6 a.m., and they stop at nightfall, 
so travelling is tedious. When we left Batavia 
the streets were flooded a couple of feet deep 
after the heavy rain, and we almost swam over 
the delicate bridges, and through wide, shady 
avenues where each shop, with its white-columned 
veranda, stands back in its own spacious garden. 
We were going up to Soebang to stay with the 
assistant manager of a great block of British 
plantations, a kingdom within a kingdom, for it 
consists of 500,000 acres with a population of 
250,000 natives who are taxed by the Tuan — 
king of the lands — one-fifth of their rice crop and 
one free day's work per week from every man 
between the age of fourteen and forty-five. The 
Company have their own police, their own harbour 
and forty miles of coast-line, and about one 
hundred white men superintending the work. 
Tea, sugar, rice, rubber, coffee, coco-nuts — ^you 
can see them all grown within a twenty-mile 
radius. 

We left the crawling train at Pegadon Baru 
and finished our journey on a tiny one-cylinder 
trolley, which ran jerkily along narrow rails 
through endless rice-fields — ^where water buffaloes 
dragged primitive wooden ploughs — to the head- 
quarters of the plantations, a white, old-fashioned 
Dutch building with wide, cool verandas wreathed 
in climbing orchids and yellow trumpet vines. 
Everything was too comfortable after the tin 
shacks of New Guinea. The beds were like small 



100 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

rooms, with a square mosquito frame ten or 
twelve feet above one's head, shutting one in 
completely, no sheet or coverlet of any kind, 
just a pillow lying forlornly on the immense 
stretch of white mattress and a " Dutch Wife," 
a sort of short bolster which I believe you are 
supposed to place across your shivering form so 
that the middle bit of you at least is warm ! The 
house was run by soft-eyed Malays, who said to 
themselves, " The Tuan has bought two new wives ; 
they must have bpen very expensive ones ! " 

For some days we scoured the country in a 
Hudson super-six, which I drove to the imminent 
danger of goats and dreamy 'water buffalo, but 
I could not rival the performance of the native 
chauffeur, who killed eleven and a half hens in 
quite a short run ! The country was very green 
under the incessant rain, and thickly cultivated ; 
blue, volcanic hills rise towards the centre of the 
island ; herds of water buffalo wallow in the 
muddy rivers ; tall cranes stand dejectedly in 
the rice fields; a few scarlet flame-trees blaze 
forth from a sheltered corner, but on the whole 
there are very few flowers. 

Swarms of Malayans — ^imported labour — Sudan- 
ese from the north of the island, Javanese 
from the south, vie with each other in the vivid 
colours of their sarongs and the unwieldy vastness 
of their Chinese hats. Closed bullock-carts creak 
along the deeply rutted roads, looking like moving 
temples ; while the small reed and lath houses 




HAT STALL IN A >AVA BAZAAR 




THE SULTAN S FIGHTING COCKS 



JAVA loi 

look exactly like match-boxes. All this in a 
cloudy rain-swept setting of intense green, with 
skittish goats driven by small brown imps dressed 
in a golden straw hat and a smile, and yellow 
flying-foxes hanging head downward on the 
mango-trees as thick as gooseberries. 



CHAPTER X 

JAVA AND SUMATRA 

ONE night we all packed ourselves into 
the trolley and rattled down through 
the rice to Pegadon Baru to see a 
Malay harvest feast. We were met 
by scores of coolies with flaring torches, and carried 
across the deep mud, shoulder high, in huge 
chairs mounted on a dozen poles. Our arrival, 
in the brilliantly lit and gorgeously decorated 
hall, reminded me of the carefully timed entrance 
of the fairy queen and the principal boy in a 
Drury Lane pantomime. 

I felt our muddy brogues and short tweed 
skirts were hardly equal to the occasion, especially 
as singing girls insisted on crouching at our feet, 
and wailing forth songs about our great grandeur. 
An amiable Dutchman, unskilled in the intricacies 
of the English tongue, translated one oft-re- 
peated sentence as, "You are a very large 
EngUsh lady," which I thought unconsciously 
descriptive. 

We ate many strange foods to the music of 
zithers and brass gongs, and watched graceful 
olive-skinned girls, with smooth black hair above 

102 



JAVA AND SUMATRA 103 

their brooding Eastern eyes, posturing slowly 
and stiffly, with sinuous, thin arms and long 
douhle-jointed fingers, henna-stained at the tips. 
They wore short velvet jackets, gold embroidered, 
with orange floating scarves and heavy silken 
sarongs to their small jewelled feet. Alas, their 
singing voices are like fairy mice, squeaking 
monotonously in shrill, nerve-jarring tones. It 
is a most singular thread of sound, frail, at- 
tenuous, yet infinitely sharp. It never changes a 
semitone, and the singer is as immobile as the 
sphinx, scarcely even moving her lips. 

The superlative Hudson took us right across 
the blue mountains to Bandoeng, where once 
again we fell in love with Dutch colonization, 
Dutch manners, and Dutch coffee. It is de- 
lightful to drive through the streets at night when 
all the population is drinking its pre-prandial 
paheits in the caf6s, or on the brilliantly illu- 
minated verandas of the stately white houses. 
I have come to the conclusion that the Dutch 
build the best colonial houses in the world. In 
Java and Sumatra, or in South Africa, it is always 
the same model — solid and white, with big, cool 
courts and lofty, columned stoeps, wreathed 
with orchids or vines according to the country. 
Inside, the floors are marble-tiled or of dark 
polished wood, and the great brass-bound oak 
chests and gleaming marqueterie bureaux fill 
my soul with envy ! 

We saw rubber trees dripping their white sap 



104 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

into little tin cups, and the sheets of evil-smelling 
gelatinous substance hanging out to dry. We 
saw pale Sudanese girls stamping far-famed 
Orange Pekoe into square cases for export— 
these girls are lotus flowers abloom at thirteen, 
and ancient, haggard grandmothers at thirty. 
We saw whole hillsides white with the coffee 
in bloom, and we made pigs of ourselves over 
ripe brown mangosteens, king of all tropical 
fruit. Then we spent a long hot day in a 
" schnell-trein " — obviously a corruption of snail- 
train — ^which chugged through exquisite hilly 
country in its own serpentine fashion, and finally 
dropped us at Djokjakarta among scarlet hibiscus 
and white, drooping Datura blossom — ^the Hindu 
death-flower. 

Of course we made a pilgrimage to the world- 
famed Borobadoer, driving out there in a toy 
cart drawn by four amazingly small and swift 
ponies. Suddenly, out of the pale green sugar- 
cane of the exquisite Kedoe valley, rises the great 
grey temple against a background of feathery 
coco-nut palms with transparent lilac shadows 
on the jagged mountain range beyond. Legend 
tells that the colossal work was undertaken by 
an ancient king as a penance for marrying his 
own daughter. Seven great carved terraces rise 
one above the other, enclosing the summit of a 
hill, and at the top a contemplative Buddha, 
enthroned on a sacred lotus, sits within a cupola 
above a bottomless well, possibly used as a burial 




THE BOROBAUOEK 




BUDnHIST^MONASTERY AT I'EMANG 



JAVA AND SUMATRA 105 

place for priests and kings of old. The seven 
terraces are supposed to represent the seven 
planes of man's existence, as he ascends from 
the material to the spiritual, and the walls of 
each terrace are elaborately carved with scenes 
from the Buddhist and Brahminic legends. 

R. Friederich says : 

" The mixture of Buddhism and Brahminism 
is best seen in the three upper and inner galleries 
of Boro Budur. In the first we see the history 
of Sakyamuni, from the annunciation of his 
descent from the heaven of Indra tUl his trans- 
formation into Buddha, with some scenes of his 
life. The first thirteen scenes in the second gallery 
likewise represent Buddha as a teacher with some 
of his pupils ; after that it would seem as if a 
concordat had been formed between the different 
cults ; we have first in three separate scenes 
Buddha, Vishnu (Batara Guru), and Siva all 
together, and other groups follow Buddhistic and 
Sivaite without distinction. It is only in the 
fourth gallery that we again find Buddha 
dominant." 

It is very interesting the way in which many 
famous temples in the East have been used as 
worshipping places for different cults, apparently, 
at the same time. In the largest temple at 
Angkor in Cambodia there are statues of Buddha, 
of Siva the Destroyer, and of Krishna in the same 
court. In the Kutab Minar at Delhi there are 
relics of Hindu worship under the shadow of the 



io6 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

Mohammedan Pillar of Victory. Even at ruined 
Saranath; one of the earliest Buddhist monas- 
teries, where there is still a Jain temple, there 
are some smaU statues of Hindu deities. Curiously 
enough, though Brahminism ousted Buddhism, 
and became the ruling religion of India, the latter 
was the basis on which the former developed from 
" the creed of a caste to the religion of a nation." 

As a matter of fact, the Hindu temples at 
Prambanan appealed to me more than the 
solid mass of the Borobadoer, which is dwarfed 
by the glorious peaks of Kedoe, purple above 
the fields of grain. There are three principal 
buildings, and half a dozen smaller ones, all 
standing together in a grassy field. They are 
cuneiform, and open at the top to show great 
statues of Krishna, Shiva, Vishnu, and the 
elephant-headed Ganesh, before whom fresh 
marigolds are laid. Hanumau, the monkey god, 
is provided with daily rice, and huge sacred cows 
are the carved guardians of his shrine. It re- 
minded me of India and the sweet scent of crushed 
marigolds and ghee in the Golden Temple at 
Benares beside the holy Ganges. 

The Djokjakarta also possesses a wondrous 
bazaar, where in close, crowded alleys, between 
wooden booths, you may buy anything, from a 
pair of Birmingham boot-laces to a battered 
silver cow-bell, or from a basket of strange, 
sticky sweetmeats to a colossal brass elephant 
or the admirably wrought model of an ancient 



JAVA AND SUMATRA 107 

village. Undine couldn't resist the elephant, and 
it broke all our boxes one after another with its 
unwieldy weight, and, I think, when we finally 
arrived in England, two of its legs stuck stiffly 
out of the shattered hat-box. As we progressed 
round the world, we gradually threw away all 
our clothes to make room for odd curios, till 
ivory, china, bronze and brass were mixed up 
inextricably with a few dilapidated silks and 
muslins ! 

One morning, early, we went to see the Sultan's 
palace, and I felt we had really stepped into 
The Arabian Nights' Entertainments. First, we 
passed a guard of slaves with curly, black pigtails, 
sugar-loaf hats, and tall scarlet spears. Then 
we saw the red-splashed wall against which all 
suspected traitors are beheaded, I gather without 
being given much time to prove their innocence. 
Next, after crossing several court-yards, we came 
upon a guard of nobles, mostly asleep on fat, 
yellow bolsters ; they had wonderful jewelled 
ivory swords stuck in their scarlet sashes, and 
blue cloth coats above embroidered sarongs 
with long trains. Into the inner courts no native 
may penetrate unless he is excessively dicolleti — 
as our guide explained triumphantly in French 
— ^the men to the coloured sash, which marks 
their waists and their rank, and the women to a 
slightly higher line ! 

Farther on, we found the harem guard of old, 
grey-haired women, also with exquisite krisses 



io8 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

stuck through the folds of their embroidered 
belts. We saw the Sultan's clothes being brought 
from the bath in a scarlet lacquer chest carried 
on the shoulders of old women under gorgeous 
gold umbrellas. Outside the marble and gold 
audience hall, we found a circle of Ministers, 
smoking very long, thin pipes and sitting on 
beautiful Persian rugs, round an old carved well 
out of which every moment I expected to see 
arise the genii of the enchanted palace. The 
Sultan has sixty fighting cocks, each one with a 
separate attendant. Except when they are taken 
out for exercise, these cocks sit in cages on the 
top of poles thirty to fifty feet high, as it is 
supposed to give them bold hearts and great 
courage to live high up in the air. 

Our last effort in Java was not very successful, 
for we motored endless nules from Sourabaya to 
Tosari to see the Bromo Crater, which erupts 
regularly every twenty minutes. We spent two 
very cold nights in a little wooden hotel shivering 
under all the blankets, coats, and hearth-rugs we 
could collect, and came down from the inhospitable 
mountains having seen nothing at all, as thick 
mist had enshrouded us the whole time. After 
that we went to Sumatra, where there are more 
delightful white towns with dainty gardens and 
excellent hotels, but, unlike Java, civilization is 
confined to within a fifty-mile radius of the coast. 
In the interior are endless forests and high 
mountain ranges with blue Toba Lake hanging 




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JAVA AND SUMATRA 109 

dizzily between earth and heaven. When they 
have nothing better to do, the fierce Achenese 
come down from the north of the island and 
harry the peaceful Dutch settlers. 

We motored whole days through tobacco and 
tapioca plantations and through the grey teak 
forests, where lurk a small species of tiger and 
crowds of chattering monkeys, and we inspected 
Battok villages, where all the houses have steep, 
thatched roofs with immense eaves and are de- 
corated with clay oxen heads with real horns. 
All the labour in Sumatra is Tamal or Malayan, 
for the native Battok will not work ; he prefers 
to live in comfort in the hills. When Medan, 
with its absurd new mosque and its blindly 
racing eccas, each pony trying to out-trot or 
out-gallop its neighbour, palled upon us, we went 
aboard a Dutch tramp steamer and amused 
ourselves all the evening, as it was a neutral boat, 
trying to signal to the cautious British steamers, 
slinking swiftly through the straits with all lights 
veiled, but they scornfully ignored our efforts 
at conversation. 



CHAPTER XI 

MALAY STATES 

PENANG is a fairy island, almost too lovely 
in the flaming sunset, when its tall palms 
bend down over shadowy bougainvillaea 
to a hundred rock-girt bays. A wonderful 
Buddhist monastery hangs like a pendent jewel 
on the mountain-side above a sea of coco-nut 
fronds. All one afternoon Undine and I wandered 
through its quiet courts, where strong-scented 
musk ran riot over emerald dragons, and latticed 
turrets hung with turquoise bells were reflected 
in pools, full of sacred tortoises — signs of longevity. 
We drank green tea from fragile cups with 
pale, shaven priests, ascetic wearers of the Triple 
Cord, vowed to Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, 
and we came down the myriad steps into the 
twilight woods feeling we had taken with us 
some of the cold peace of those remote shrines, 
some of the aloofness of those grave lives. I 
have felt the same thing in the cloistered monas- 
teries of Japan, where, on some high mountain, 
often shut out from the sun by immense walls of 
rocks, boys of twelve and fourteen renounce the 
world they have never known and grown old and 

UO 



MALAY STATES iii 

grey in endless study. Forty years of learning 
make a Buddhist priest on far-off Koyo-san ! 

My next vivid recollection is of a little wooden 
rest-house at Padang Besar lost in the folds of 
the Malay hills, with a sheet of water and dried- 
up marsh in front and all around thick bush of 
Durien trees laden with their evil-smelling fruit, 
betel-nut palms and coarse brown grass stretching 
away to the queerly shaped hills, which shoot up 
suddenly out of the plain like monoliths and 
pyramids. In the distance a few Sikhs and 
Tamals were working on a railway, which will 
eventually join the Siamese line from Singora to 
Bangkok. At that moment it had only materi- 
alized in stray bits, but, nothing daunted, we had 
set out two days earlier from Penang to travel 
overland. 

It was not one of our most successful efforts, 
as we had roused ourselves with difficulty at 
5 a.m. to catch an early train that did not exist. 
We sat for a hungry hour in the native station- 
master's office while he kept repeating, " There 
is no train. There is no line. You cannot go." 
And, in truth, that day we only managed to get 
across to the mainland and about fifteen miles 
through rice and palms, after which the irritated 
train dropped us in the middle of a sandy waste 
and departed. I was just urging on Undine the 
immediate necessity of transporting ourselves to 
a Chinese joss-house — ^the only building within 
sight — as being at least preferable to spending 



112 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

twenty-four hours on an unsheltered platform, 
when the District Commissioner rode by. 

Of course he ought to have seen, by all the laws 
of romance, two fair-haired English girls in 
fresh white muslins and pink and white com- 
plexions sitting on gold-fitted, crocodile leather 
dressing-cases — how do such heroines avoid having 
their priceless belongings stolen, I wonder ? 
Various natives in Hawaii and Samoa relieved us 
of most of our possessions quite indiscriminately, 
starting with a kodak and a Cartier watch and 
ending up with some tooth-powder in a scarlet 
box, which evidently appealed to their sense of 
colour. Well, the picture presented to the as- 
tonished eyes of the D.C. was not very alluring. 
Instead of two figures from an Anglo-Indian 
novel, he merely perceived two heated, haggard 
young women clutching sun umbrellas, which 
had long ago been broken on the backs of re- 
calcitrant ponies, and shepherding bulging boxes 
tied up with frayed rope. Their hats were 
slipping off the backs of their heads ; one had a 
cold in her " dose " and had transferred most of 
the dust from a singularly grimy carriage on to 
her face ; the other was stained with much 
betel-nut juice, and the soles of her shoes flopped 
as she walked ! 

Nevertheless, he nobly came to the rescue 
and marched us up the hill to his bachelor eyrie, 
and fed us on such divine curry made of prawns 
and coco-nut and pine-apple and nuts and all 



MALAY STATES 113 

the odd sort of things you don't expect to find 
in curry. That evening we motored twelve miles 
through lovely jungle country to a Planters' Club, 
where we sat for three solid hours on the veranda 
swapping rubber tales, which were certainly as 
elastic as the raw product they dealt with, and 
eating curry puffs, whUe a tailor-bird sat placidly 
on his nest above our heads, and winked one 
beady eye at us. At 10 p.m., by which time we 
were completely comatose, we were swept off to 
dine with the fattest planter, who seemed to 
specialize in blue Persian cats and old brass 
boxes. We went home drowsily at midnight 
with one or two specimens of each article packed 
away in the car, and rose next morning while the 
dew was still shining on the purple bougainvillaea, 
to spend many hours on a tortoise-slow train 
and many more on a construction car, which 
bumped and banged us over uneven rails to 
desolate Padang Besar and the lonely rest-house 
run by a squinting Chinese cook. 

Next day an excited railway engineer came 
down the line on a trolley and told us that all 
the bridges were broken and we must retrace 
our steps to Alor Star and motor across the 
peninsida. This we did all through one long 
dark night. It was nearly a hundred miles over 
rough jungle tracks, and about 2 a.m. we struck 
the Siamese Customs, apparently in the middle 
of a primaeval forest. They insisted on untying 
every box from their perilous resting-places on 



114 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

the foot-boards and mudguards, and opening 
them all. We both promptly lost our worn-out 
tempers and demanded what they were looking 
for. " I don't know, but must look," they re- 
plied and went on fumbling while Undine almost 
woke up to hsten to my unrivalled flow of abuse ! 

We reached Singora about 4 a.m. and, failing 
to wake any one at the very dirty rest-house, 
we simply broke our way in and slept the sleep 
of utter exhaustion on bare trestle-beds. After 
that we wandered slowly north on a crawling 
train which stopped every night at a Siamese 
rest-house. Sometimes it was too exhausted to 
continue its journey next day, so we spent a day 
at Tong-Sung and explored the country round, 
which is very interesting as nearly all the sudden 
monohth mountains are crowned with the white 
spire of a temple and there is one huge, dim 
cave, where a gigantic, recumbent Buddha, all 
dull gold and carmine, sleeps in colossal splendour 
beneath the granite roof. This is one of the 
largest statues I've ever seen and would even 
bear comparison with the Sleeping Buddha at 
Kyoto, or the same divinity in the Wat at 
Bangkok. 

One night we found ourselves stranded in a 
particularly dreary rest-house with two railway 
engineers, so, having nothing better to do, we 
attempted to smoke opium. We borrowed a 
long bamboo pipe and bought several tubes of 
the black, sticky paste, but we couldn't even 



MALAY STATES 115 

roll the pellets ourselves, and had to enlist the 
services of a Chinese drug fiend. An opium 
pipe has at the end a large closed bowl with one 
small hole, on top of which the smoker sticks a 
tiny round ball of opium, piercing it, as he rolls it, 
with a thin skewer. He then holds the pipe 
over a lamp and the pellet begins to sizzle, and a 
really experienced smoker can inhale the whole 
thing in one long draft of the sickly sweet smoke. 
I have heard of Chinamen smoking anything up 
to one hundred pipes a night, but a dozen would 
be too many for the average European. We 
were not very successful. Undine felt a little 
dizzy, the men spluttered and choked, and certainly 
I never achieved that blissful state of exhilaration, 
clarity of mind and mental independence so well 
described in La Bataille and FumSe d' Opium. 

Bangkok is an intoxicating city. It reminds 
me of Dulac's illustrations to Omar Khayydm, 
or the setting of " Chu Chin Chow." I am sure 
both artists must have visited, at least in their 
dreams, the languorous golden city on the Menam 
river ! The town is intersected by scores of 
canals, crowded with queer-shaped barges laden 
with grain and fruit and, moored under vermilion 
flame-trees or pink-flowered paunceanas, you see 
quaint house-boats on which whole families live, 
year in, year out. Most of the traffic goes by 
water, so the streets are comparatively empty, 
except for fljdng rickshaws, a procession of the 
royal white elephants, the motors of the legations, 



ii6 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

and an endless variety of uniforms. All the 
commerce of the country is carried on by the 
Chinese, for the Siamese do not condescend to 
trade. With the exception of the peasants they 
are all in the army or the civil service. 

The King's chief amusement is designing new 
wonderful uniforms, so, when one glides through 
the brilliantly lit streets at night in a swift- 
flowing rickshaw, with gaudy Chinese signs, 
scarlet lanterns and glaring theatre posters making 
an artistic background for fantastic uniforms of 
every hue, one feels one has wandered on to the 
stage at Daly's by mistake. There are stalls 
outside the theatres laden with lotus-leaf 
cigarettes, the black tobacco rolled up in pink 
petals. Women sit on the paving-stones fr5dng 
crisp flat cakes, over a few cinders, to provide 
very necessary refreshment for the theatre-goers. 
The performance sometimes lasts several days. 
In Malay there are companies of travelling players, 
who give a performance in any conveniently 
open spot and whole villages appear with food 
and bedding and camp round the temporary 
theatre during the three or four days that one 
play will take to perform. 

One night, in Bangkok, we went to see a 
Chinese play, which was terribly noisy and was 
conducted to the continuous accompaniment of 
an ear-splitting band of crashing cymbals, gongs, 
and drums, played by a group of half-naked 
men who sat well in the front of the stage. 



MALAY STATES 117 

Though it was supposed to be a serious drama, 
all the actors were attired in gargoyle masks 
with much false hair and flowing mandarin robes, 
and they leaped and whirled round the stage 
to the accompaniment of great flag-waving and 
brandishing of ornate weapons. 

A Siamese play is much more interesting, as one 
can follow the story a little, though it is generally 
very long drawn-out. I remember seeing one, 
which concerned the love affairs of a princess 
whose parents promised her hand in marriage 
to any suitor who could lift a certain heavy 
weight, with the easy-to-be-foreseen result that 
all the exquisite young princes strained their 
muscles in vain and a brawny peasant achieved 
the prize. At the point when the princess was 
wailing at the feet of her future bridgeroom, 
after endless discussion with her parents, and 
between her parents, our patience gave out and 
we left her to her fate. The costumes were most 
wonderful, for they were all made of that gorgeous 
Eastern tissue, shot gold and sapphire or sUver 
and royal purple, laden with tinsel embroidery 
and stage gems. 

The Siamese have a special version of the one- 
piece garment which starts as an attenuated 
lava-lava in Samoa, changes its name to sula- 
sula and lap-lap in Fiji and Papua respectively, 
elongates itself into the graceful sarong of Malaya, 
and, finally, loses itself in the long, winding 
drapery of the Hindus. In Siam men and women 



ii8 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

wear the same gannent, and I think it is very 
ugly, for the end of the sarong is passed between 
the knees and fastened up behind, thus making 
a pair of baggy bloomers, and leaving the legs 
bare to the knee. The Court ladies wear 
European stockings and shoes, the back view of 
which is really ludicrous. 

At the theatre all the performers had chalk- 
white faces under their tall spiral crowns, and 
the women's parts were taken by men, who talked 
in shrill, high-pitched voices. The most inter- 
esting point is the way in which they express 
emotion with their hands. Their fingers are 
like india-rubber and extraordinarily long and 
flexible. They can double them back to the 
wrist and wave them all separately in subtle 
undulations like playful eels. Their joints and 
muscles are trained from their earliest youth, and 
sometimes, in far country villages, you see children 
practising intricate hand exercises to acquire the 
necessary sinuous flexibility. Except for their 
wrists and fingers the performers hardly move. 

Bangkok is almost as topsy-turvy in some 
ways as Tonga. The King drives about in a 
60 h.p. Napier Umousine, and was educated at 
Oxford, but, by ancient law, he has to marry, as 
his first wife, his own sister. Luckily he has fifty 
or sixty to choose from ! His brother, the heir- 
apparent, married a Russian grande dame, but 
she wears the Siamese bloomers and crawls about 
on hands and knees when in the presence of the 



MALAY STATES 119 

King ! The ordinary Siamese girls are stumpy 
in figure, with close-cropped hair like a man, and 
their mouths and teeth are distorted with sucking 
betel-nut. " One cannot distinguish between 
boys and girls at first," said a witty Gaul, "and 
later one pretends one cannot ! " I saw one of 
the princesses, and she was quite lovely, pale as 
an Italian girl, slender, with sad, dark eyes, wavy 
black hair, which would have done credit to 
Marcel, and delicate patrician features. 

The temples at Bangkok are as wonderful as 
Amritsar's golden shrine or the great ly^yasu at 
Nikko. They are exquisite structures of white 
marble, encrusted with gold and crystals and 
roofed with wonderfiil mellow orange tiles that 
gleam like molten sunshine. They stand in vast 
marble courts, lonely and quiet, where long rows 
of serene-faced Buddhas sit throned above the 
heads of rare pilgrims. The gates are guarded by 
curly Chinese lions carved in grey stone, or by 
colossal giants and dragons fantastically gUt and 
studded with intricate mosaic. The doors are 
gorgeous works of art — ^burnished steel, damascened 
in ivory and mother of pearl. I cannot describe 
the effect of Eastern sunshine on this glory of 
marble, bronze, and rococo splendour. 

Of course it is tawdry when you look into it 
closely and see that the flashing, scintillating 
pagodas are only inlaid with myriad fragments 
of coloured glass and china ; but, when you pass 
between rows of giant golden birds under the 



120 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

shadow of carved roofs hung with a thousand 
silver bells that make music for every drifting 
breeze, when you watch yellow-robed, shaven 
priests reading their tasselled breviaries beside 
some slender, jewelled minaret, with a solemn 
gong beating from a jasmine- wreathed turret, 
when you drive down an avenue as wide as the 
Rue de la Paix and see the shimmering glory of 
the golden palace roofs surmounted by the cupolas 
and stupas of the Royal Wat, when you walk 
through long frescoed haUs to the glittering 
temple where the famous Emerald Buddha, carved 
out of a solid block of jade, is throned under 
a seven-tiered golden umbrella above guardian 
rows of life-size Buddhas and Kwanons, you can 
only forget the tawdriness and lose yourself in 
sheer delight of colour and fantastic shape. 

The form of Buddha changes a little in each 
different country in which he is worshipped. In 
Japan the great Kamakura Buddha is a very 
sohd figure, voluminously draped, with close 
curly hair on a round head. In China, he is 
taller and thinner, with much more expression 
on his face and less drapery. In Cambodia, he is 
very slight, with a small waist and longish neck. 
Generally he has a high top-knot on his head, 
and often in the big standing statues his figure 
is slender, exaggeratedly curved, and rounded like 
a woman's. The tjrpical Siamese Buddha has 
a flame on his head, or a many-tiered, spiral 
crown, and wears elaborate robes which, wind- 




THE BEETEL-NUT EXPRESSION 




A BANGKOK CANAL 



MALAY STATES 121 

swept, fly out from the figure almost like those 
of the headless Victory of the Louvre. There are 
seven positions for the hands of Buddha, of which 
the most usual are folded in meditation or raised in 
blessing, but nearly always in Siam one hand drops 
down over the pedestal with a finger pointed earth- 
wards — an attitude suggesting human sympathy. 

In Bangkok, there is a large Chinese town by 
the river — a city of teeming half-clad humans, 
redolent of every spice under the sun, with swaying 
orange lanterns and gilded, curly sign-boards. 
The narrow, winding paths are roofed with 
fluttering strips of gaudy cottons and fined with 
open-fronted shops, whose mixture of fruit, flowers, 
cigarettes, beaten silver, brass, china, and cheapest 
European rubbish flow down on to the uneven 
cobbles in a riot of colour and scent. Beggars 
drift slowly along with wooden begging-bowls, 
Buddhas gaze calmly from unexpected niches, 
curved half-moon bridges span crowded canals, 
and every conceivable trade, from painting to 
shoemaking, is carried on in the six-foot wide 
alleys under cages full of song-birds. 

We rushed down to the Chinese bazaar the very 
first day, and the fierce defight of bargaining took 
possession of us, so that we hardly noticed that 
we'd been joined by an elderly, benevolent 
stranger till we'd spent all our own money and 
most of his ! Then we ruefuUy awoke to the 
fact that it was already 2 p.m. and breakfast 
was a dim memory of the far-away past. The 



122 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

benevolent stranger turned out to belong to the 
Ministry of the Interior, and we dined with him 
one night at a Chinese restaurant, on sharks' 
fins, decayed birds' eggs which had been buried 
in black mud, fungus, and much pale green tea. 
The table-cloth looked like a battlefield after four 
pairs of chopsticks had been wielded for nearly 
two hours. Chinese dinners are infinitely long ! 

Always we were lured back to the bazaars 
by the river. I remember spending a waste- 
ful afternoon there with an amiable secretary 
to our Legation. We bargained cheerfully for 
bundles of aigrettes and rusty silver daggers, for 
gorgeous red and green porcelain bowls stamped 
with the royal " Garuda " bird, a mythical creature 
with several human arms and legs in addition to 
his wings and hooked beak, and for rice spoons 
decorated with dancing gods. We peered into 
opium dens, but the smokers only looked stupid 
and the sleepers as if they suffered from nasal 
catarrh ! We tried to suck betel-nut, and we 
burnt long pink tapers to Hoti, the god of good 
luck. We visited the sacred crocodiles in a temple 
garden, and we had our fortunes told by a priest 
who shook long sticks, printed with characters, 
out of a bowl which stood on a high altar. What 
a mixed-up afternoon ! 

After we'd surfeited ourselves with Oriental 
glories we went to see the new audience hall, 
which cost about three million tickals — a tickal 
is worth one and sixpence — ^to build, and is con- 



MALAY STATES 123 

siderably finer than any European public building 
I've seen. It is just like a glorified Guildhall — 
all marble and red plush and gilding and mural 
paintings done by some Italian artist, only, where 
in England there would be a fresco of Queen 
Philippa pleading for the burghers of Calais, or 
some such scene of patriotic history, there is a 
giant Buddha with a gallery over his head, from 
which tourists used to be allowed to look down 
at the throne under its many-tiered umbrella, till 
the Queen-Mother, horrified at the idea that a 
woman might be standing above the head of 
Buddha, forbade the practice. 

We were very anxious to possess some genuine 
old images, but we were distinctly amused at the 
result of that wish expressed to a kindly French- 
man. He met us, beaming, at the top of his 
white veranda stairs, when we came to dine one 
night, with the joyous exclamation : 

" Mesdames, quelle chance ! Hier j'ai envoy6 
mon voleur of&ciel vous chiper deux Bouddhas 
d'un temple quelconque — et les voilk ! " 

And there indeed they were, as large as life and 
twice as heavy ! — two great golden idols, raped 
from their age-old altars. We were wildly de- 
lighted, but the combined efforts of the muscular 
dinner-party could hardly lift these massive 
blocks of bronze into the car, and, so far, the 
combined efforts of various French consulates 
and suspicious steamship companies have not 
been able to get our treasures to England. 



CHAPTER XII 

SIAM 

WE went by train to Ayuthia, the 
ancient ruined capital of Siam. 
Four hundred years ago it was 
destroyed by the conquering Burmese, 
but some of the old city still stands in the midst 
of wild jungle, with a vast, forgotten Buddha 
throned above a tangle of trumpet-vine, and 
tall, grey stupas towering out of thickets of 
quivering Durien trees. It is an exquisite sight 
in the sunset when the fallen walls are dyed red 
and each battered cupola and temple, for a few 
minutes, is gilded anew. 

The Amiable Secretary wrenched two days' 
leave from a reluctant Minister and came with us, 
which was lucky, as not one single soul in Ayuthia 
could speak any English. As the native governor 
had been warned that we were coming, he sent 
to meet us at the station a launch and a stiff 
little wooden officer who disapproved of us 
intensely because we refused to spend a burning 
hot afternoon inspecting the barracks and museum. 
There are no roads, so we floated down the river 
to the rest-house, which is a quaint, thatched, 

124 



SIAM 125 

two-roomed, wooden matchbox built on a floating 
platform in mid-stream. When there was a 
wind, the whole place rocked so violently that 
my sea-sick soul shivered. 

We had to bring our own bedding and food, 
and a spirit lamp to boil our own tea and eggs ; 
and I remember we forgot the tinned milk, which 
reduced the Amiable Secretary to morbid gloom ! 
All the afternoon we chugged down the river in 
the launch, landing occasionally to look at broken 
monasteries, half-lost in tangled creepers, but 
when it got cool, in the evening, we found an open 
sampan, and drifted lazily through a network 
of canals, between rows of gabled houses, all 
floating on wooden platforms, jostling a hundred 
tiny canoes paddled by old women in vast Chinese 
hats and piled up with fish and fruit under a 
single paper umbrella. Large house-boats were 
moored at intervals down the stream, and savoury 
smells denoted that the evening meal was being 
cooked behind the reed cabins. All the wares 
of an Eastern bazaar were displayed on drifting 
rafts. 

There were opium dens and gambling houses 
open to the river-street, and here and there one 
looked into a floating temple where young priests 
swung heavy censers before the golden images, 
while from the shadows came the deep tones of 
a slowly beaten gong. It was an enchanted 
evening, and we hardly even minded a hard plank, 
a rug, and a grimy travelling-cushion as a bed. 



126 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

We entrusted the only watch to Undine, and, by 
dint of not sleeping at all herself, she managed 
to rouse us before the dawn. We dressed and 
breakfasted in darkness and then, as the sun 
rose, we stood marooned on our swajdng raft, 
shouting for an itinerant sampan — ^the taxi of 
Siam — ^while the morning procession of yellow- 
robed Buddhist priests began to drift past, each 
one paddling a tiny canoe with a big, begging- 
bowl in front of him. They solicit no alms, they 
look neither to right nor to left ; but, as they 
float through the water streets, the women who 
are waiting ready with their offerings stop them, 
and fill up the bowls with rice and fruit. 

We should never have caught the train back 
to Bangkok if Undine had not slyly put on the 
minute hand of the only watch, so that in spite 
of the dilatory languor of the Amiable Secretary 
we flung ourselves on to the platform just one 
minute before the engine started, and at least nine 
minutes after we thought it had departed. How 
wise is Undine — ^the water-maid ! 

Our departure for Chantaboon, from where we 
proposed to ride right across Cambodia to Angkor, 
was not unmixed with humour, for our kindly 
friends insisted on presenting us at the last 
moment with such curious parting gifts. The 
Amiable Secretary pressed upon us a large bronze 
Buddha sealed on a scarlet throne, which sub- 
sequently considerably delayed us, as whenever 
we were particularly pressed for time our coolies 



r"" Tii^ — »i 



m^ 







l*:iX*^i-- 4^ 



A DESERTED TEMPLE 




"ayuthia's lonely stupas' 



SIAM 127 

insisted on repeating long orations to our image ; 
besides which, it always required a special horse 
to itself, and it had to be smuggled through the 
customs department of various countries in a 
hold-all. 

" Oh, merely a bundle of rugs ! " I would hear 
Undine airily remarking. " Rather heavy ! " as 
two porters nearly broke their backs under the 
unyielding weight. " Oh, yes, that is the hfe- 
saving waistcoats — a new Mnd, you know. The 
situation is very serious on the Atlantic just now " ; 
and instantly public sympathy veered in favour 
of the intrepid patriots who would return to their 
country in spite of such risks, and dejected porters 
were curtly ordered to look sharp and not waste 
all day over a piece of paltry hand-baggage. 

The Benevolent Stranger was with difficulty 
prevented from giving us many gallons of filtered 
water to drink among the mountains and forests 
east of Chantaboon, but at long last we were off 
and steaming down the broad river, past tall, 
golden spires and fantastic pagodas to the un- 
pleasantly wobbly sea, with a young French 
Vice-Consul who entertained us with humorous 
accounts of his af aires de cceur et de corps — ^past, 
present, and hoped for, till the long roU of the very 
unsteady boat sent us all hastily below. 

When we first decided to trek to Angkor, we 
poHtely went to our Consulate and asked for 
advice, but they merely waved their heads and 
hands in the air and said : 



128 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

" Quite impossible. You can not go. We do 
not permit it. You might meet a tiger or a wild 
elephant." 

So we went to the French Consulate, which 
bowed with GalUc charm and said sweetly : 

" All France is at your service. Under her 
wing you can travel anywhere." 

The last advice that England condescended to' 
give us was to take our coffins with us, as wood was 
expensive in Cambodia ! 

Twenty-four hours of tossing brought us to 
the river, up which a launch took us in two hours 
to Chantaboon, where we estabUshed ourselves 
in the French Consulate, a great, bare wooden 
building with a few odd bits of rickety furniture 
in it and one decrepit Chinese boy, who varied 
the menu between poached eggs and carrot mash, 
supplemented by red wine. The night we arrived 
there was nothing to eat in the house, so we rowed 
a mile up the river, through a long water-street, 
with the bazaar houses creeping down the banks 
on either side, and a tall white temple cupola 
rising at the further end, to dine with the legal 
adviser to the Siamese Government. He and his 
attractive wife were the only Europeans within 
some sixty miles of pathless forest and barren 
plain, yet Madame appeared in dainty, em- 
broidered frocks, crisp and trim, with beautifully 
ond4le hair, and she gave us a delicious little 
meal on a flower-decked table in a pretty bungalow 
as charmingly arranged as any English dwelling 



SIAM 129 

in a fashionable Indian station. Truly the French 
are a wonderful nation ! 

Next day we discovered that our plan of 
travelling comfortably, if slowly, to Pai-lin in 
a bullock-cart was quite unfeasible, as there was 
no road, scarcely even a buffalo trail. However, 
we unearthed a charming Siamese who had 
acted on occasions as interpreter to the courts- — 
how he achieved this dignity I cannot imagine 
as he never succeeded in saying more than two 
sentences to us, " Arriver bientdt," and " Pas 
moyen de faire." These and a few fragmentary 
questions were his stock-in-trade. However, he 
had a sweet smile and a persuasive manner 
with the eight sullen coolies who carried our 
luggage, food, blankets, water, so we were delighted 
to have him as guide. We started early one 
hot morning to trek first through rice-fields and 
then across a sparsely cultivated plain, where 
scattered water buffaloes cropped the short grass. 
Our first halt was at a primitive wooden temple 
in a grove of palms, where the priests gave us 
coco-nuts to drink, and probably learned a com- 
plete, if somewhat imaginative, history of our 
Uves from our garrulous guide. At midday we 
halted for some hours in a bainboo sala in a tiny 
village, and while we boiled rice and made green 
tea our coolies sliced up large trunks of sugar- 
cane and ate the sweet, white plup, sitting round 
us and watching our cooking with interest. A 
sala is a sort of very simple rest-house with a 



130 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

wooden floor raised a few inches above the earth, 
on piles, and a roof supported on four poles. 
Sometimes there are walls on three sides, when 
it becomes an open shed. Often the whole 
structure is made of plaited bamboo, so that 
one lives in fear of falling through the open-work 
floor on to the half-starved mongrels who lurk 
beneath. Occasionally there is merely a roof 
supported on sticks and one sleeps uncomfortably 
on the ground, and every time a horse moves 
the sound reverberates in one's ears as if the 
earth were a gong. To begin with, I used to 
jump up under the impression that there was 
a stampede, but soon I got used to the fact that 
Mother Earth is a sounding board. 

We used to go to bed with the sun, as we had 
no lamps with us. We took care to halt for the 
night half an hour before dusk fell, so that we had 
time to cook our eggs and rice before discarding 
boots and gaiters and rolling ourselves into our 
rugs in the farthest corner of the sala, with 
our guide, who doffed his khaki uniform in favour 
of a white vest and sarong, snoring beside us, 
and a circle of dusky coolies curled up between 
us and any stray travellers who might be spending 
a night on the way. We had to carry with us 
all the water necessary for drinking, and even 
water for washing was scarce. The morning 
allowance was one kerosene tin full, and we all 
washed in that water in turn, first Undine and I, 
then the guide, who invariably asked, " Are you 



SIAM 131 

clean now ? " and who afterwards carefully 
covered his face with white powder, which 
generally only stuck on in patches, and lastly, 
the coolies. 

While the sun was stiU a rim of fire above the 
mountains, we were up and away, travelling 
through gradually thickening forest country, with 
a few reed and bamboo villages — built on piles — 
where one could get coco-nuts and sometimes 
small loquats. We passed a few travelling priests 
who held black cotton umbrellas over their 
trailing sulphur robes and crimson stoles, but 
when we plunged into the thick gloom of the real 
forest we had the trail to ourselves. We climbed 
slowly up a mountain spur, rested on the top, 
and dropped down into endless bush, supposed 
to be full of small tigers and elephants, but we 
only heard one large beast crash into the bushes ; 
and once I saw a swift fawn shape shnk across 
a small clearing, but I couldn't see its head. 
The worst bit is the tangle of undergrowth and 
creepers, all of which have long, sharp thorns, 
which are amazingly strong. I tore the sleeve 
of a thick smock completely off my arm once. 
To make up for these pointed trials, there were 
yellow orchids and a wonderful mauve flowering 
tree, and nearly always a strong, sweet scent ; 
also, it was almost cool in those shaded solitudes. 

We spent one night on the floor of the native 
school-house in a village on the edge of the forest, 
where a deer had been killed that very day, so 



132 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

they brought us chunks of raw venison, and we 
tried to cook it on our spirit lamp and failed 
nuserably. Next day we started even earlier 
than usual and cheered up by our guide's re- 
iterated assurance, " Arriver bientdt," we rode 
for what seemed unending hours through mon- 
otonous forest. After about five hours the 
perpetual smUe failed in the intense heat, and the 
sentence changed to, " Pas moyen de faire." 
However, as he made us understand, by counting 
on his fingers, that Pai-lin was only five miles 
farther, we insisted on pushing on. 

It got hotter and hotter, hour followed hour, 
but it was always five miles farther, till literally 
our tongues were black with thirst, for we had 
left our train of coolies and the precious water 
miles behind, and our eyes were bloodshot and 
half-bUnd with the sun. Exasperation overflowed 
when I fell off my eleven-hand rat from sheer 
crossness. It stumbled feebly, and I pitched 
swiftly over its amazed head into a thorn bush, 
and utterly refused to move until the guide 
pitifully explained that it was only " five small 
miles " now. Luckily, shortly afterwards, we came 
upon a few houses and a grove of palms by a 
river, and I don't think an57thing in my life has 
ever tasted so good as that coco-nut. It was 
an enormous green one, rather unripe, and I 
drank it all — I should think it held about a quart 
— and asked for a second ! 

Thereafter we grew almost cheerful in spite 




SHAN CHILDREN AT rAI-T.IN 




OUR CARRIERS IN CAMBODIA 



SIAM 133 

of the blazing sun, and actually hurried our 
guide into the one, long street of illusive Pai-lin 
before he had time to say " Pas moyen d'arriver " 
and settle to sleep under a tree. We loudly 
demanded the French administraieur, and were 
taken to his cool, white house, resplendent with 
the Republican flag, by an astonished clerk who 
looked upon us as if we had suddenly descended 
from celestial regions. As we stumbled up the 
veranda steps, we heard a sudden exclamation : 
" Mon Dieu ! Una voix de femme ! " 
Next moment, a delicate silhouette, with a 
gleam of pale silks and tinkle of glass bangles, 
fled through the pink oleanders, and a portly 
form in silk pyjama coat and orange sarong peeped 
out between the jalousies and ejaculated : 
" Pardon, mesdames ! Quelle surprise ! " 
He disappeared, to return a few minutes later 
in conventional attire. We were housed and fed 
with true Gallic hospitality in spite of our in- 
opportune arrival in the midst of the usual siesta 
hours — I am sure we had the only bed in the 
house — and next day we were taken through the 
quaint village, which is quite unlike any other 
place in Cambodia, for the inhabitants are Shans 
from the northern state of Laos. They are of 
Burmese extraction, and they only marry among 
themselves, so they have kept their unusual 
type pure. The women are perfectly lovely, and 
tres Men soignSes ! They wear scores of fine yellow 
glass bangles on their slim wrists, and short silk 



134 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

double-breasted jackets over their gay sarongs. 
They powder their faces very white and shave 
their fine, black hair in rings under a high tiara 
of small white and gold orchids. They have 
exquisite, fine hands, adorned with many sapphires, 
which they mine in the neighbourhood, and they 
snioke long white cigars. I think the Burmese 
and the Korean women are among the loveliest 
in the world, but I myself would give the apple of 
Venus to the latter. 

Pai-lin is famous for its sapphires, and in every 
open-fronted house one can see trays of tiny 
blue stones or watch them being cut and polished 
on primitive machines. I tried to buy some, 
but as the silver piastre of Indo-China has doubled 
in value lately, while the English sovereign is at 
a discount, I came to the conclusion that the 
good blue stones were as expensive as in London, 
though the white ones could be picked up for a 
few shillings. 



w 



CHAPTER XIII 

SIAM AND CAMBODIA 

E left Pai-lin astride even smaller 
ponies, so that we had to sit crouched 
up to avoid trailing our feet on the 
ground. This time we had four or 
five ponies to carry our possessions, and the 
parting gift of the kindly administrateur was 
some real bread, so we were excessively 
cheerful. This state of mind, however, did 
not last long, for it turned out to be a day of 
disasters. 

We had scarcely proceeded a mile beyond 
Pai-lin when we fell into a marsh and emerged 
dripping and covered with slime and mud from 
head to foot. An ordinary horse could have 
waded through perhaps, but the minute, thin 
ponies we were riding sank to their withers and 
were unable to move. I rolled off on my face and 
crept to solid land, looking like a conger-eei. 
Undine, in spite of this tragic warning, subsided 
slowly and gracefully into the deepest mud. 
Unfortunately she laid the kodak down first 
and wallowed on top of it, inextricably mixed up 
with a floundering pony and a large sun umbrella, 

135 



136 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

which latter instantly took on the appearance of a 
solid brown toadstool. 

The natives in charge of the baggage ponies 
did not attempt to come to the rescue : they 
merely stood on the edge and gaped foolishly. 
When we had half dragged, half-lifted the ponies 
out, we set to work on the kodak. The spirit 
level had disappeared altogether, slime oozed 
from the bellows, the shutter was immovable, 
and the view finder was full of mud. The last 
defect we never managed to remedy ; so, in the 
case of the few photographs we did manage to 
take in Cambodia and Cochin-China, we just 
pointed the camera in the direction of the object, 
snapped wildly and trusted to luck. As the 
shutter usually stuck open, we did not achieve 
anjTthing very successful ! 

Even after we had got the baggage ponies 
across the awful marsh, our adventures were not 
ended, for an hour or so later, as I rode slowly 
ahead, driving before me the lazy coolies like a 
flock of sheep, I heard a stifled shriek, and turning 
round, saw just one boot waving wildly in the air, 
while Undine and the pony lay mixed up in a 
wet ditch, the saddle having turned completely 
round ; a breath of wind is sufficient to upset 
the balance of those Cinderella mice ! I rescued 
the water-maiden, and, we continued our way ; 
the hot sxm had baked the slime with which we 
were coated into a complete suit of neatly fitting 
hard clay which cracked as we moved. Worse 



SIAM AND CAMBODIA 137 

was to come, for while we were indulging in our 
midday siesta, after a pleasant meal of tinned 
tongue, bread, and sugar-cane, with lots of coco- 
nut milk, one of our coolies vanished into space 
with our best horse ! 

This incident was never satisfactorily explained. 
It considerably delayed us, for, instead of pro- 
ceeding at a funny, little " triple " reminiscent 
of the Basuto and Zulu pony. Undine and I had 
to walk turn and turn about. At first it was 
delightful swinging through the scented dusk, 
with a red sky behind us, and trailing mauve 
creepers brushing our shoulders as we passed. 
A breeze came down from the hills, and I took 
off my battered panama, and thanked whatever 
gods there be for the wild country and the open 
trail. However, night came on and found us 
still ten miles from our proposed halting- village. 
There were no stars and no moon, only ominous 
rain drops and certain unpleasant, rustling sounds 
in the jungle, so, when we saw a dilapidated, 
thatched sala looming out of the blackness, we 
and the coolies and the horses all camped in it 
together during a very unpleasant night. It was 
pitch dark when we arrived and rather cold. 
We had only a few matches, and one small tallow 
candle, which guttered and went out in the chill 
rising wind. 

The strange presences in the jungle rustled 
nearer, so the natives refused to let the horses 
stay outside unprotected. Consequently we 



138 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

searched for bread and hard-boiled eggs between 
heel-ropes and frightened kicking shapes, and we 
slept on a creaking lumpy cane floor with our 
heads on dirty saddles and anything we could lay 
hold of rolled on top of us, for it was very cold in 
the dawn. I don't think we re^-Uy slept at all, as 
each time any one moved the whole floor shook 
like an earthquake. We got up while the mist lay 
in white wreaths along the ground and wasted 
some time packing the imp-like ponies who took 
a wicked pleasure in rolling on the ground, all 
their legs in the air, as soon as the first article 
was strapped on to the flat wooden pack-saddles. 
When we started that journey I remember we 
longed for the tall crossed bars which stick up 
Uke a double figure of X above the admirable 
pack-saddles used in the Canadian Rockies, but 
after seeing our steeds roll once or twice we no 
longer regretted anything breakable ! 

Luckily for us fortune changed her mind, and 
after a few hours' riding, while yet fifty kilometres 
lay between us and Battambang — or Prat-tam-ban 
as it is sometimes printed on maps — we struck the 
beginning of a forest road and a little farther on 
we came across two French engineers prospecting 
in a battered car, which had brought them two 
hundred miles from Phom-Penh and civilization, 
as Battambang, in spite of its sixteen fonction- 
naires and its few thousand natives, does not 
yet possess a motor. How gladly we packed 
our mud-sheathed forms into the tonneau and. 




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DANCING-GIRLS IN ANGKOR WAT 



SIAM AND CAMBODIA 139 

leaving Buddha and most of our belongings to 
their fate, how we bumped and jolted along the 
grass track. I think it must have been a re- 
markably solid motor, for not once did it hesitate 
at the chasms in the road, and we arrived at 
the Bureau de Travaux PubUcs about midday. 
I wonder if that stately white building is often 
required to provide baths and food for two 
wandering foreigners of the irresponsible sex ! 
In any case it rose to the occasion nobly, and I 
believe it was on that day that I first began to 
wonder why we English consider ourselves the 
finest colonists in the world. Certainly the great 
cities of South Africa, Australia, Canada, and 
India are triumphant momuments to the Empire's 
power, but compare the small corrugated iron 
townships, desolate and untidy, full of saloons 
and bars in which most of the white population 
nightly get drunk, of Northern Queensland, 
Papua, Malaya, Cape Colony, etc., to the clean 
white towns of Cambodia, with well-kept gardens 
and broad avenues, with bright cafes under 
striped awnings where light red and white wine 
and coffee are dispensed, and the comparison 
will be entirely in favour of French Indo-China. 
I remember talking the question over with the 
Resident at Kampong-Chnang after admiring the 
way the natives looked upon him as some cross 
between a deity and a parent ! 

" You rule your natives by fear," he repHed. 
" Whereas we treat ours as friends." 



I40 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

I wonder if that is true. Certainly before the 
War in India the Sahiblog learned only the im- 
perative tense in Urdu and Pushtu. And I 
remember being very much shocked after my 
life as a soldier's wife in the United Provinces, 
when I went to a certain Crown Colony and I saw 
the Governor solemnly shake hands with all the 
native boatmen before going on board his yacht ! 
The French in Cochin-China seem to strike a 
happy mean between the two extremes. Of 
course the Dutch are very successful in Java, 
but they intermarry so enormously with the 
natives that most of their officials are half-castes. 

At Battambang there was an excellent bungalow, 
reminiscent of the dak bungalows provided by 
a paternal government in India. There we rested 
for a day or two and waited for our luggage, 
which did not arrive till we'd almost given it up 
in despair, and pictured it at the bottom of some 
morass. The Resident took us round the spacious, 
beautifully planned town, built high above the 
great river, which at that season was so low that 
one could wade across it in a neat victoria drawn 
by two mice-like ponies, decorated with tricolour 
cockades. The chief exhibit of the place seemed 
to be the long, white native prison, where we were 
shown various very pretty young girls sitting on 
piles of mats on the floor. 

" But that one is so young," I said, pointing 
to a dark-eyed houri of perhaps fourteen. '* What 
is she imprisoned for ? " 



SIAM AND CAMBODIA 141 

" Assassinat de son mari," replied the gaoler 
imperturbably. 

" Good heavens ! How deceptive are ap- 
pearances ! " exclaimed Undine. " And what has 
she done ? " indicating a toothless crone in a 
comer. 

" Mais — ^assassinat de son mari," answered our 
guide without the least emotion. 

How very trying Cambodian husbands must be ! 

We wheedled the pirogue of the douane from a 
smiling, bearded individual, who merely expressed 
the hope that there would be no smuggling while 
his only boat was absent. Then, after inspecting 
a Chum Chum factory, where they make the 
potent liquor — which tastes a little like Japan's 
fiery sake — out of rice, crushed, fomented, and 
distilled by native labour, we started off for the 
Great Lake. For two days and nights six sturdy 
oarsmen rowed us, or poled us, down narrow 
curling rivers from whose high banks grey monkeys 
peered down with crinkled, wise faces. In places 
the water was so shallow that all our crew had 
to get out and push the boat off low sand-banks. 
We cooked eggs, rice and tea in a perilously 
balanced saucepan on a spirit lamp, and at night 
slept peacefully on a couple of narrow mats. 

The boat was about twenty-four feet long and 
five or six feet wide, and there was a ten-foot 
canvas awning over the middle of it. It was a 
tedious, cramped existence, but the river traffic 
was very interesting. Every sort of boat from 



142 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

the priest's scarlet-painted dhow, with high carved 
prow, to the eighteen-inch wide Tonkinese canoe, 
propelled by an ancient wrinkled dame under 
a red paper umbrella, struggled up and down 
the shallow stream. There were myriads of birds, 
great black and white storks with red bills, un- 
wieldy vultures, grey cranes, herons, and dainty 
white egrets. I'd never seen so many before ; 
and they were all so tame one could almost 
catch them. 

Late the second evening the river widened into 
the huge, shallow lake, and the third morning 
we woke in pouring rain to find ourselves anchored 
amidst swarms of mosquitoes at Siemrath. "We 
waded ashore between rows and rows of large 
house-boats, each one of which is the permanent 
home of a family that spends its life touring 
about on the lake fishing. There were also streets 
of smaller craft, with reed screens curved over 
their forward decks making primitive roofs. We 
collected two bullock-carts, put Buddha and the 
luggage into one and ourselves into the other, and 
jolted off through two feet of mud across a wide 
plain. We seemed to spend most of our time 
plunging through endless small rivers, where 
wallowed water buffalo attended by their usual 
followers, the little white egrets. Wherever you 
see a single buffalo, there also you see one of these 
birds, often sitting on the beast's back. A grazing 
herd is accompanied by quite a flock of feathered 
satellites. 



SIAM AND CAMBODIA 143 

After six hours wading through marshland, 
when all our bones felt like a badly-made souffle, 
we arrived at Siemrath proper, and firmly de- 
scended at the door of the administrateur, who, 
like the hero of any correct roman de jeune fille, 
had " une belle barbe blonde " in addition to an 
unusual sense of humour. He gave us an ex- 
cellent meal, and some Quincona wine. We then 
wearily continued our journey, jogging along 
behind our two little fawn bullocks to the Govern- 
ment rest-house at Angkor. Of course the 
sensible way to come to the famous ruins is in the 
high-water season by river steamer from Saigon 
to Kampong-Chnang, and cross the lake in a 
launch. At the rest-house we were met by a 
startled Annamite cook, who hastily removed 
swarms of white maggots from the only bath, 
large families of ants from the beds, and told us 
we could have rice, chicken and eggs, but no 
trimmings. 

However, let me say at once that Angkor is 
worth any journey by land or sea or elephant ! 
It is a great grey city, dating from about the 
ninth century, mentioned by a Chinese traveller 
as flourishing under a powerful king in the 
thirteenth century, and now towering out of 
untrodden forest like Hercules struggling in the 
grip of the seven-headed snake. Legend ascribes 
its origin to Alexander the Great ; ^ but, were 

' With complete disregard of, perhaps, a thousand years and as 
many miles. 



144 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

the geographical situation correct, it might almost 
be the fabulous city described by Mendez 
Pinto. There are two great blocks of buildings 
several miles apart. Each one is enclosed by a 
quadrangle of grey stone walls. Angkor Thom 
— originally the old Qutha Pataburi — is a city 
of mighty palaces, exquisite artificial lakes, 
and stupendous terraces all richly carved and 
decorated. Strangely enough, the half-human 
Siamese bird, the royal " Garuda," constantly 
appears in the sculptured bas-reliefs. The Nakhon 
Wat, five miles south of the dead city, is a colossal 
temple and monastery with sculptures, galleries, 
and towers rising to nearly two hundred feet. 

There are statues of Buddha and Brahmanic 
gods in the vast cloisters, but I have heard that 
the original temple was dedicated to serpent 
worship, and, contradictorily, that the main 
building only dates from the great Siamese 
invasion in the thirteenth century. Whatever 
its origin, Angkor reigns supreme among the 
perished cities of the old world. A37uthia's lonely 
stupas pierce the turquoise sky ; Futehpur Sikri 
gleams red amidst the surrounding maidan ; 
Amber looks down from her high citadel across 
a silver lake ; fierce Zimbabwe rears her mighty 
circles of unhewn masonry above tangled 
Rhodesian thorns and broad-leaved M'pane trees, 
but pride of place must be given to the great 
grey city of Cambodia. 

Some day the enterprising French Government 




A GATE OF ANGKOR-THOM 




'-'^f ^( ■ ■"' '^■j! 






OUR ELEPHANT AND OUR PIROGUE 



SIAM AND CAMBODIA 145 

will develop the surrounding country. There 
will be red sandy roads, vistas of pale towers 
through the carefully clipped trees, and smooth 
lawns round the vast terraces, elaborately carved 
with giants and gorgons by forgotten hands ; 
but, at the moment, one wanders through silent 
forest tracks, perched high on elephants under a 
swajdng bamboo covering. They do not under- 
stand the art of the howdah or the pad in 
Siemrath, so one balances perilously on a flat 
platform, and hopes for the best. Nakhon Wat 
raises its many-towered courts and gorgeous 
central pavilion above a huge mere, full of lilies, 
crossed by an immense stone causeway. Through 
rows of guardian elephants one passes into great 
cloisters fantastically carved, and then down a 
grey marble road to a maze of columned courts, 
in the centre of which, up a score of extrava- 
gantly steep flights of steps, one climbs sky-high 
to the enormous temple, where endless Buddhas 
sit serene under fretted porticoes, and the only 
disturbers of their meditative peace are perfect 
armies of flying foxes. 

We arrived on a Cambodian feast-day, so met 
a pilgrimage of sulphur-robed priests wandering 
through the endless cloisters, and saw some little 
dancing girls, with chalk-white faces, and spiky 
gold crowns, posturing stiffly before a solemn 
image with a crowd of appreciative pilgrims 
watching their movements. 



CHAPTER XIV 

CAMBODIA AND COCHIN-CHINA 

WE spent several days exploring Angkor 
Thom and the outlying palaces and 
temples. Then we set out for the 
shores of the lake on our amiable 
elephants. All one day we plodded through 
scrub and marsh under a blazing sun, rolling 
wearily from side to side on our giddy perches, 
but I think it was one degree better than the 
back-breaking bullock-carts. At sunset we em- 
barked on a real, native sampan, about fourteen 
feet long and five feet wide, with three skinny 
Annamites to row us when there was no wind to 
fill the big brown sail. 

Oh, the unpleasantness of that long journey 
in great heat ! One could not sit upright as the 
half-moon, straw roof was only three feet from 
the deck in the middle, and curved lower at the 
sides, so for three days and nights we lay in that 
rabbit-hole reading French novels, attired in 
thin silk kimonos, with our hair hanging down 
our backs in plaits, as we nearly upset the boat 
when we tried to dress. 

I remember we read with interest and dismay 

146 



CAMBODIA AND COCHIN-CHINA 147 

Claude Farrere's brilliant, but horrible, descrip- 
tion of life in Saigon in Les Civilises. We could 
only crawl out of our long burrow when we anchored 
at night, and the rowers ceased to occupy the 
whole of the four feet of open deck space. The 
blond administrateur had presented us with several 
tins of beans and bacon ; and these, with some 
sour liches, provided our meals. 

The only exciting episode was one dark night 
when Undine insisted on having a mosquito hunt 
in the net which we had managed with infinite 
difficulty to hang under the low roof. I held the 
candle while she chased the elusive pest, and, of 
course, in the excitement caused by finding at 
least a dozen mosquitoes in a secluded comer, 
we set the whole net on fire. It blazed up over 
us and round us with terrifying swiftness, and 
I think this tale would have ended here had not 
one of the Annamites flung himself on the flaring 
mass and gallantly crushed it out. I believe we 
spent the rest of the night arguing as to whose 
fault it was, and searching for Undine's broken 
pearls, till I pointed out that her impulsive flight 
to her water home would have saved her from 
destruction — she can swim--but that it left me 
to choose between burning and drowning ! 

Next morning we arrived at Kampong-Chnang, 
dressed clumsily, leaped from the boat, squeezed 
ourselves into a " Malabar " — a match-box on 
wheels drawn by a rat — and boldly deposited 
ourselves on the door step of Government House, 



148 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

where the Resident, being French and amused, 
promptly offered us two large marble-floored 
rooms, with lovely big bathrooms and huge 
carved beds, so, for a few days, we lived in clover 
and came to the blase conclusion that the chief 
joy of the wilderness is the subsequent return 
to civilization ! 

We motored round the country-side and saw 
small pagodas tucked away between great stone 
boulders, or perched high on far-off hill-tops ; 
and we fed not wisely but too well on the fat 
of the land in a yellow brocade dining-room 
under softly moving punkahs. The third day we 
borrowed the car, which dated from the year 
one, and, in company with the Annamite cook's 
Annamite wife, a little thin creature, pale- 
skinned and wistful-eyed, with long coils of fine 
black hair, dressed in a long brown silk brocaded 
coat over Chinese trousers, with lots of jade and 
crystal ornaments, we motored one hundred miles 
south through a great dusty plain, dotted with 
clumps of sugar-palms, to Pnom-Penh, the capital 
of Cambodia, which possesses an indescribably 
dirty hotel, where you dine amazingly well and 
drink red and white wine over a coarse, check 
tablecloth, imagining you are in Toulouse or 
Montauban. Only the little white grapes are 
missing. Instead you have bananas and pine- 
apple, tangerines and loquots. 

There is a very fascinating fruit-market run 
by slender Annamite women, delicate and re- 




UNDINE IN A MALABAR 




THI? FRUIT-MARKET AT PNOM-PENH 



CAMBODIA AND COCHIN-CHINA 149 

fined-looking, in black satin trousers girt with 
vivid green sashes under their black brocade 
coats. There is a wide river, at least four times 
as broad as the Thames, bearing every sort of 
craft and merchandise down to Saigon. There 
is a white and gold pagoda, throned among 
flowering shrubs on a high little hill in the middle 
of the town, approached by a steep staircase 
carved into hons, dragons and seven-headed 
snakes. There is also the King's palace, to 
which we were escorted, in a minute carriage and 
pair, by the son of the Cambodian ministre du 
palais. He wore a diamond bigger than a hazel- 
nut on one brown finger, and talked fluent French. 
He made our mouths water by showing us the 
crown jewels : great hunks of emerald and 
sapphire barbaricaUy set in rings of pearls, lots 
of exquisite French watches and clocks, presented 
by visiting European royalties, and a marvellous 
inlaid sword, supposed to be eight hundred years 
old, which only the King may draw from its 
sacred, scarlet scabbard. 

That night all the temples were illuminated, in 
honour of the Cambodian New Year, and all 
travelling priests were entertained freely in their 
courts. It was an interesting sight to watch the 
crowds of pilgrims bowing before the richly- 
decorated and brilliantly-lighted altars, which 
had been erected in the open air. Before these 
altars were many tables, where dusty-robed priests, 
who had travelled down from far-oiff mountain 



150 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

hermitages and monasteries, drank green tea 
while their feet were bathed by young boys. 

By river-steamer and mail-motor, wedged in 
with a crowd of natives for six weary hours, we 
came to Saigon, a proud city of broad boulevards, 
large cafes, glaring cinemas, big hotels, and 
hundreds of little victorias full of trim, bearded 
officers. We meant to stay there some time 
before going back to Singapore, and across to 
Borneo, but we thought the town was gloomy, 
and there were no temples, and the value of the 
piastre was climbing steadily every day, so we set 
out in two rubber-tyred, sky-blue rickshaws to 
look for a Malay-bound boat. Of course there 
was none for a week, so I gave one glance at 
the sombre quays, and asked : 

" Well, is there a boat going anywhere to-day ? " 

" There's a cargo-tramp clearing for Song 
Kong in two hours," they replied with a superior 
smile. " But she doesn't take passengers, and, 
in any case, you can't catch her, as you'd have to 
get your passports stamped, and see the police, 
and get a permission from the French authorities." 

" Oh, can't I ? " said I. " You just wait and 
see." 

After that came two hours' panic. Undine 
fled to the bank and tore money from a harassed 
LiverpudUan in her most fluent French, while 
I rushed to the impressionable British consul 
with both passports. 

" No, you can't see my friend. It's quite 



CAMBODIA AND COCHIN-CHINA 151 

impossible — she's busy. Yes, she does exist ! 
Visez them both quickly, as I'm in a hurry. What 
is the name of our boat ? I don't know. What 
line ? I haven't the vaguest idea. Leave that 
out. Now, please, you must wire for my luggage 
to Penang and Singapore. Yes, I left some at 
both places. And, oh, you must guarantee the 
bill for freight, or I am sure they won't send it 
to China to me ! " 

The consul was just remarking plaintively that 
apparently His Majesty's Consular Authorities 
never had a dull moment after our arrival in 
any port, when — enter an apoplectic Frenchman. 

" Madame cannot possibly go to-day. She 
must interview the chef de police. He would take 
one hour — ^two hours." — " Madame is going 
to-day. Where is the chef de police ? Oh, Mr 
Consul, you'd better come with me ! " 

More panic, but ten minutes firmness produced 
from the French authorities a document with a 
beautiful red seal. Then I packed a bundle of 
rugs, two suit-cases and a hat-box — which Undine 
says will never recover — all in fifteen minutes, 
and rushed to join the Water-maiden at the 
shipping office, to find she had firmly refused to 
pay the fare asked, as being too extortionate, 
and had cut it down by several pounds, to the 
distress and covert amusement of the young Gaul, 
who was too overcome with amazement at anyone 
desiring to travel on a Chinese rice-boat to do 
more than expostulate feebly. 



152 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

Thus it was that we dawdled slowly up to 
Hong Kong in company with one other passenger, 
an " undesirable," wanted by the police of both 
countries, who neatly evaded arrest at Hong Kong 
by shpping overboard the instant the old tub 
anchored at her buoy. 



CHAPTER XV 

SOUTHERN CHINA 

I 

CANTON, strangest city in all the world, 
held us with her lure of wealth and 
pain, mystery and colour. Once across 
the canal, which separates the foreign 
concession, with its neat green lawns and white 
square houses, from the teeming, age-old native 
town crushed in between grey crumbling walls, 
one leaves behind the matter-of-fact atmosphere 
of the twentieth century, and plunges into scenes 
that can have changed very little since the days 
of the Tartar siege. 

Down from the wide arcades one steps through 
a tall gateway into a maze of narrow cobbled 
streets lined with silent shuttered houses. A 
Chinese house always has an air of aloof reserve, 
because it has no windows, and generally a little 
wall is built across the door, a few feet away from 
it, to keep out the evil spirits, which can only 
move in a straight line, and are unable, therefore, 
to twist round behind the protecting wall ! 

Canton streets are so narrow that only one 
sedan-chair can pass through at a time, and even 
then, in the busy markets, one's elbows brush 

153 



154 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

bundles of embroidered shoes or strings of fat 
roasted duck. Above one's head the dark eaves 
of the houses almost meet, strips of gay-coloured 
silk shut out the sun. Carved and gilded dragons 
adorn the projecting beams of the houses. Scarlet 
lacquer vies with golden scrolls in profuse adorn- 
ment of the shops, which are all open to the 
mellow gloom, and hung with great orange 
lanterns. 

Every shop looks like a richly-carved temple, 
and when one does come suddenly upon a great 
shrine, guarded by rows of great stone beasts, 
one is almost disappointed because art can do 
no more. All the wealth of colour and design 
has been lavished in the long streets of the silk 
stores and the jade-merchants, in the market of 
the singing birds, and even in that dim alley, 
where the coffin-makers hammer aU day at the 
vast ungainly tree-trunks that the Chinamen 
buy long before their deaths, and guard jealously 
in their houses. 

Within the great walls of the old city several 
millions lead their crowded lives, every type of 
human being jostles his way through the maze of 
streets : rich merchants sway giddily in cushioned 
chairs above a pulsating, shouting sea of humanity ; 
fragile pink and white dolls totter on tiny feet 
leaning on the arm of a silk-clad amah ; the 
golden-robed lama from Thibet pushes aside the 
beggar, whose sores gleam through indescribable 
tatters ; the pale scholar lifts his long silk coat- 




IN CANTON 




TRAVELLING DE LUXE ! 
(THIS I.UGC-.AGE-VAX OF A KWANTUNG TROOP-TRAIN) 



SOUTHERN CHINA 155 

tails out of the mire, and the neat black-robed 
housewife, with dangling jade ear-rings, is elbowed 
by clamorous coolies monotonously calling, " Hoya, 
hoy a ! " as they trot through the dense crowds 
swinging their burdens from stout poles. 

All the spices of the world mingle with the 
smell of oil and hot humanity ; all the colour of 
the world flows down from the open shop fronts 
in store of oranges and golden shaddock, in wealth 
of gorgeous embroidery, in fantastic shapes of 
jade and crystal, even in massed scarlet cakes 
and saffron macaroni ; all the disease and suffering 
of the world looks out from under the matted 
hair of lepers, or from the kohl-darkened eyes of 
chUd- women. 

It is strange how one can sometimes see the 
spirits of cities. Bangkok is a dancing girl, 
shaking a chime of golden bells from her fluttering 
skirts, dropping perfume from her henna-stained 
finger-tips ; Macao is haunted by the click of 
high heels, the gleam of dark eyes and a tortoise- 
shell comb under a dark mantilla, a wistful spirit 
dragging tired feet through silent deserted streets ; 
but the genius of Canton is something primseval, 
fierce and grasping, hiding raw wounds under 
gorgeous silk, clutching at knowledge and wealth 
behind a veil that is never hfted. 

There are temples, of course, amazingly dirty 
and quite uncared for ; there are flower-boats 
heaped with scented trophies from the country ; 



156 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

there is a broad river bearing the traffic of a nation 
towards the sea ; there are canals crowded with 
heavy junks and painted house-boats ; there are 
tall pagodas on lonely hills, but these things are 
not Canton. Only in long, footsore pilgrimages 
through the teeming bazaars can one come in 
touch even for a minute with the spirit of the 
walled city, changeless — because for the celestial 
race time exists not and fate is unalterable. 

When we had worn out the soles of our shoes 
on the cobbles, and when our rooms were over- 
flowing with tapestry and ivory, bronze animals 
with fatuous smiles and serene, but exceedingly 
heavy, Buddhas, we decided to go up country 
and try to get overland to Hankow and the 
beginning of the Pekin railway. Undine cheerfully 
pointed out to me that we should have to cir- 
cumvent several armies and a great many brigands. 
I replied by reading to her delightful extracts 
from various local newspapers, which gave hair- 
raising accounts of atrocities committed in most 
of the villages through which we intended to 
pass. Then we interviewed the consul, who 
firmly refused us a passport, after which we ex- 
tracted promises from various people to rescue 
or ransom us, and then with a very little, very 
necessary luggage, chiefly filled with the weighty 
silver coinage of the interior, we slipped away 
to the station to find that all trains had been 
commandeered by the troops. 

However, a goods train full of ammunition 




ARMY BOATS AT SHUI-CHOW 





1 _ 


f , , / 


i 




^^SSfflP *^^^- 




**^^Hi- •■ 


BHiHiiiF*viv ^^wj^w^^ 




^^^^^g^^^^l^^^w^ 


fM^%^*«.!i 


P^^^S 






^ -.IbmW 



TRAFFIC ON THE NORTH RIVER 



SOUTHERN CHINA 157 

was about to make its slow progress north, so we 
piled ourselves uncomfortably into the most solid- 
looking van, in company with forty bare-limbed 
coolies and some toy soldiers in charge of a much 
roped-up prisoner, who looked miserably uncertain 
as to his fate. For ten hours we crouched on the 
floor with rain dripping through the roof down 
our backs, and then, when dusk was producing 
eerie shadows in the corners and the coolies were 
gulping their evening rice, there was a sudden 
commotion. The train roared and rattled to a 
standstill, the soldiers grasped their rifles and 
flung themselves to the doors, a Chinese girl 
threw herself shrieking on to the floor, the 
coolies huddled in a frightened heap, and Undine 
remarked sleepily : 

" What ! Brigands so soon ! How very 
trying ! " 

I expected shots to fly through the wall in a 
minute, and was looking for the cleanest place on 
the floor — a Chinese soldier always shoots from 
his hip, and the bullets fly skyward, so as long as 
one lies flat, one is moderately safe — ^when it 
turned out that the cause of all the turmoil was 
the escape of the prisoner, who had quietly slipped 
off the van while his guards were eating. I am 
glad to say he was not recaptured in spite of a 
prolonged search, as he would certainly have been 
shot to pieces before our eyes. 

At Shui-Chow, the rail-head, we emerged stiff 
and grimy, and a hospitable wolfram-buyer took 



158 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

us to his Chinese house, which was adorned with 
an enormous Union Jack nailed on the wall. 
The town was full of little grey soldiers who were 
billeted in all the temples, overflowed into the 
narrow streets, and even camped on the broad 
city wall, overlooking the river. A few wounded 
were straggUng in with tales of defeat. All the 
men were being forcibly recruited by order of 
the magistrate, and one saw them drilling in 
sullen-looking squads in every available comer. 
Blue-bloused countrywomen were tottering along 
carrying great boxes of ammunition. Maxim 
guns were being trained across the river, but the 
two high hills which entirely commanded the 
town were left utterly unguarded. I believe 
the magistrate had actually asked for suggestions 
for the defence of the town from the wolfram- 
buyer, and had been told that the army ought to 
go out and fight in the open. 

" But surely it would get hurt ! " gasped the 
astounded magistrate. 

At the time I thought that was the general 
point of view of the Southern army, but later on 
I changed my mind. The Chinese soldier goes 
to the front in a large, floppy straw hat, with a 
fan, an umbrella, and very often a woman coolie 
to carry his luggage, but apparently he fights 
when he gets there ! 

We spent two days in the grey house with 
a little decorated courtyard in its centre, on to 
which opened all the rooms, sleeping on polished 




FISHING CORMORANTS AT LOK-CIIEUNG 




IN'IERESTED Sl'ECTATORS 



SOUTHERN CHINA 159 

wooden couches, and eating river fish and 
rice, while we tried to get a boat to go up the 
North River. The troops had commandeered 
everything, but by dint of much bribery we 
induced the owner of a long, low salt-boat to 
attempt the journey. We crept away through 
the empty streets at night, avoiding the brilliantly- 
lit gambhng houses, where all the soldiers were 
playing fan-tan, and, feeling like conspirators in 
a Drury Lane melodrama, we reached our boat, 
which was moored beyond the city wall. We 
paddled away in the darkness and picked up our 
carefully selected crew some miles out in the 
country. Thereafter, for three days, we were 
poled and towed up the very rapid stream by a 
mob of howling, yelling coolies, who gurgled and 
gasped like souls in torment as they flung them- 
selves on the bending poles. When asked to 
restrain their vocal efforts, they replied that they 
must let the breath out somehow or they would 
burst! 

I shall always remember waking up the first 
morning under the low, curved roof of the boat 
— ^behind me was a Uttle painted shrine, in front 
of which were burning some joss-sticks, and in 
front I had an uninterrupted view of Undine's 
golden hair spread over a bag of rice and an 
enormous bundle of red blankets which I took to 
be the wolfram-buyer ! A screen of plaited reed 
shut off the front bit of the boat, so, in search 
of our retinue, which consisted of one thin and 



i6o UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

hollow cook-boy, and one fat, jelly-like interpreter, 
I cautiously crept out on hands and knees and 
crawled along the foot-board outside the boat. 
To my amazement, when I reached the front I 
discovered endless bundles of grimy rags, from 
which protruded various unkempt heads, and, 
of course, in the most comfortable comer the fat 
interpreter, with my only cushion under his head. 
Indignantly demanding the reason for the crowd, 
I was told that they were refugees whose only 
hope of getting back to their homes in the country 
was under our protection. As it appeared that, 
in addition to this, their only means of living was 
on our rice, I made a bargain that they must work 
their passage — consequently strange beings ap- 
peared at the poles for short periods, and then 
dropped off into mid-river and waded home. 

At Lok Cheung, loveliest of Kwantung towns, 
with towering pagodas and carved belfries leaning 
right over the swirling brown river, we made our 
first halt to renew provisions. We bought 
chickens and oranges and lots of funny little 
sponge-cakes like Japanese castera, and wherever 
we went we were followed by a wondering crowd 
of women and children, who were extremely 
interested in our skirts and gloves — ^they lifted 
up the former and shouted with mirth at the 
size of our feet, while pointing to their own tiny 
crushed stumps. Certainly our heavy brogues 
were a ludicrous contrast to the dainty em- 
broidered slippers under the swathed bands that 




^>" 









^•t. 



LOK CHEUNG 




OUR HOUSEBOAT NEAR PING-SHEK 



SOUTHERN CHINA i6i 

support the swollen ankles. Mrs 4-inch foot can 
run pathetically on her heels, while Mrs 3-inch 
can only totter uncertainly. Luckily, the young 
girls have almost given up the habit, and, of 
course, the ruddy-cheeked peasant women who 
labour in the rice-fields go barefoot. 

There were very few soldiers at Lok Cheung, 
so we easily got a small boat to continue up the 
river — cramped quarters these, for the roof was 
very low and not solid enough for one to perch 
bamboo-chairs on top, so we had to sit tailor-wise 
all day long, and at night there was always much 
dispute for the outside edge where a little air 
penetrated the reed screens ! As we went on, 
the river narrowed till it became a brawling, 
mountain stream, with dangerous rapids through 
which even our large crew had great difficulty 
in poling us. Sometimes we had a dozen coolies 
on the tow ropes and nearly as many punting — 
yet a hundred times destruction on a sharp 
projecting rock was only saved by a hair's breadth. 
Once we passed the shattered remnants of two 
large boats, which could only just have upset, 
as their disconsolate crew were still drying them- 
themselves on the bank. 

As the river narrowed, the great cliffs towered 
above us on either side, and ,the only traffic 
consisted of small fishing-boats full of cormorants. 
It is interesting to see them working at night 
with torch flames throwing weird shadows over 
rock and water — ^the light attracts a shoal of 



i62 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

fish — ^the big black birds plunge down regardless 
of the strings which attach them to the boat, and 
each comes up with a flash of silver in his beak, 
unable however to swallow the dinner for which 
he has dived as a tight rubber ring is fixed round 
his throat. 

We spent most of our time on board making a 
wonderful Union Jack, but, unfortunately, we 
could not remember where the white went, so we 
had to leave it out altogether, and personally I 
thought it looked remarkably like the battle flag 
of the Southern army ! However, it inspired the 
retinue with much courage and pride, and we 
flew it from the mast till we reached Ping-Shek, 
where such crowds welcomed and followed us 
that it was almost impossible to move. Gaily 
dressed babies were held up to look at us, their 
solemn little faces framed in embroidered skull- 
caps with dangling amulets. Women who were 
the proud possessors of sons followed us into 
the outhouse behind a grain merchant's shop, 
where we proposed to- spend the night, but the 
despised mothers of girls were ruthlessly refused 
admittance. I remember in another village, when 
I admired a girl-baby, the sullen-looking mother 
pushed her into my arms and said, "-Keep her, 
keep her, I don't want her." In the big towns, 
superfluous girls are sold to become dancing and 
singing girls. The desire of every Chinese woman's 
life is to bear a son — ^thus she may hope one day 
to attain the honoured position of mother-in-law. 




A HALT IN THE RAIN 




SUNSHINE AGAIN 



SOUTHERN CHINA 163 

That was an awful night at Ping-Shek. We 
tried to get a bath, but the largest receptacle the 
merchant could produce was a shallow tub which 
leaked badly. However, Undine boldly dragged 
it on to the balcony above the river, but, while 
she was still struggling to find a moderately 
clean place to stand on, a dozen coolies insisted 
on coming into the outhouse to cook their rice. 
The jelly-fish interpreter, scenting trouble, dis- 
appeared from view, and the cook-boy argued 
only half-heartedly with the angry mob, so the 
vision of baths had to fade into the dim and 
distant future. We slept on narrow boards raised 
on trestles, but, as John Chinaman retires to rest 
noisily at midnight and rises with equal clamour 
at 4 a.m., sleep is reduced to a minimum. 
Besides, all the perfumes of Araby would not 
have sweetened the atmosphere of that shed. 
We traced three different odours to a dead and, 
decaying cat in one corner, to several barrels of 
ancient, putrid fish in another, and to various 
completely open drains, but many other elusive 
smells wandered around at their own sweet wUl. 

Morning brought torrents of rain. Neverthe- 
less, after a couple of hours wasted in bargaining 
and weighing loads, we started off across country 
in Sedan chairs borne shoulder-high by ferocious- 
looking coolies, who put one down with a thump 
whenever they got tired or cross, flatly refusing 
to progress another step. For three days we 
meandered slowly across country in this fashion, 



i64 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

chiefly through a desolate hilly region with a few 
grey, gloomy villages, stone built, slate-roofed, 
curly-eaved, generally adorned with some strips 
of scarlet paper exorcising the spirits of evil. 
We lived entirely on eggs and rice, and slept on 
the floor of any peasant's hovel that we came 
across. Sometimes one could get a bundle of 
straw or some trestles and boards, sometimes a 
charcoal fire, whose smoke nearly blinded one, 
as there was no chimney, and every door and 
window was firmly barricaded, as the country 
was full of deserters and small bands of brigands 
who lived by looting. A few weeks previously 
they had captured an American engineer and two 
missionaries and were still holding them up to 
ransom. I don't know which the country people 
feared most — ^the brigands or the army. They 
are the same thing really, for when a particularly 
savage band of robbers defies authority the 
magistrate bribes them to enlist as soldiers. 



CHAPTER XVI 

CHIN-CHOW 

CHIN-CHOW, our destination on the Sian 
river, was in a panic. We came one 
morning into deserted shuttered streets, 
and had difficulty in finding an inn at 
all. Finally we turned two horn-spectacled 
scholars out of an upper room, looking over the 
river to a nine-storied pagoda throned high above 
the town, and modestly furnished with two beds 
made of boards and covered with thin straw mats. 
There we fed gorgeously on strange green soup 
in which floated all sorts of edibles, from macaroni 
to snails and fishes' fins, while we watched the 
hospital boats poling up the river, flying lots of 
small white flags. 

The streets were full of wounded, who lay even 
upon the temple steps. Flags of the various 
generals hung in front of the biggest houses. 
The town had been looted for food and all the 
shops were shut. Tales of disaster were in the 
air and rumours of a battle three miles off. Every 
boat and every ' chair had been seized for the 
troops. The last magistrate had fled, because 
the Southern General had sent in a sudden demand 



i66 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

for 30,000 dollars to pay his troops, and his 
successor of three days was preparing to follow 
his example, after having beheaded five men 
in the main street and forgotten to remove the 
debris. 

Some very gallant American missionaries had 
turned their school, just outside the town, into a 
hospital, and were struggling with a couple of hun- 
dred wounded where they had beds for fifty. They 
worked in peril of their lives, for the Southerners 
had massacred the Northern wounded after a 
recent success, and the North had vowed revenge 
on the first hospital it captured. The doctor 
took us all over the hospital where the toy soldiers 
lay with their rifles under their heads and looks 
of sullen, mute endurance. Some of them had 
walked in miles with appalling abdominal wounds, 
and yet there were very few deaths. The instant 
a patient was in extremis the orderlies hustled 
him out into the veranda for fear of his spirit 
haunting the house. Nearly always, a Chinese 
is put in the cof&n before he is dead, and the 
instant the last breath is gone the lid is shut 
down, so that the spirit may not escape and 
haunt the family. 

Sometimes, when this precaution is not taken, 
search has to be made for the spirit with wailing 
and calling. I've heard these cries at night by 
the river bank after a battle, and it is the most 
weird, unearthly sound — a long, rising " Kii-ii-rie," 
that makes one shiver and forget one lives in an 




THE AMERICAN MISSION HOSPITAL AT CHIN-CHOW 




THE RETINUE REFRESH THEMSELVES 



CHIN-CHOW 167 

electric-lighted, steam-heated age ! Often they 
take the clothes of the dead person and go out 
searching for his spirit ; if they see a little gust 
of wind whirhng some dust into the air, or a dead 
leaf blown suddenly against a wall, they fling 
the clothes on top of it and believe they have 
caught the wandering ghost. One day in Chin- 
Chow we watched the funeral of a soldier. The 
immense coffin — a complete tree trunk, painted 
scarlet at the ends — was borne by some thirty 
mourners, who danced and shouted, jerked and 
bumped their burden, waved rattles, and let off 
fireworks — all this noise to frighten away evil 
spirits. Theirs is a religion of fear, it seems. 

The Confucian code of ethics is little known 
among the peasants and only a very degraded 
form of Buddhism is practised. The propitiation 
of a multitude ' of spirits and the veneration of 
their ancestors alone occupies their minds. I 
was reading an old book of Chinese law once, and 
I discovered that the penalty for striking an 
elder brother was strangling ; for a woman who 
struck her husband it was beheading ; for killing 
a husband or father it was " slow death," which 
I presume means the death by a thousand cuts. 
A story that illustrates the extent to which the 
Chinese carry their veneration of their parents 
is told in the life of the Emperor Li'. He suc- 
ceeded to the throne as a child, and his mother, the 
Empress-Regent, during her son's absence from 
the capital, killed his half-brother, the child of 



i68 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

the former Emperor's favourite, and^ had the 
woman herself so tortured and maimed that she 
resembled nothing human, and could only drag 
herself on the ground. The boy Emperor, re- 
turning to his palace, saw the pitiful spectacle, 
and exclaimed impulsively, " My mother has done 
wrong ! " All the contemporary historians re- 
count this episode, and all of them blame, not 
the Empress for her cruelty, but the Emperor for 
criticizing his mother. 

We utterly failed to get a boat at Chin-Chow, 
and, as our cook seemed to be in great danger of 
being beheaded — he was a native of Kwantung, 
a rival province — we decided to walk down the 
river bank to some smaller village, so set out 
accordingly with large stores of rice, some chickens, 
a few bandages borrowed from the kindly 
Samaritans, a beautiful Red Cross flag, hastily 
pinned together in the mission veranda, and a 
very frightened retinue. The cook-boy was green 
and livid in patches, for which he could hardly 
be blamed, as we'd all seen several of his country- 
folk tied to convenient posts awaiting the advent 
of the great red sword which would end all their 
fears. The interpreter, who always reminded 
me of a plump penguin with his tight white 
trousers tied with ribbons round his slim ankles 
and his long grey silk coat with flapping tails, 
refused to stir out of a curtained chair. Undine 
was feeling extraordinarily Ul, as we'd had to 
drink river water all the way up country, and 



CHIN-CHOW 169 

one might meet anything in that river from a 
humped cow to a soldier's corpse, or from a dead 
mule to a mountain gun. I myself was feeling 
far from courageous — I don't think one can be 
brave on bad eggs and hard rice ! 

However, we finally discovered a decrepit boat 
hidden away in a cave and, after long arguing in 
the burning sun, we prevailed upon an ancient, 
toothless crew to pole us slowly down the stream 
towards the Southern lines. Peace at last ! We 
rigged up a shelter, as this was an open boat, and 
drifted down with the current through wonderful 
purple gorges, where precipice upon precipice 
towered high on either side, shutting out the 
sun, and the river flowed still and deep in perpetual 
shadow. Strange rock houses were hewn out of 
the solid face of the cliffs, and perilous temples, 
dragon-guarded, leaned sheer over the perpen- 
dicular mountain-side — a wild and rugged country, 
but exquisite in the dawn, when the first pale 
Hght broke through the sapphire mists and the 
mighty rocks looked like columns in dim palace 
aisles. 

At Wai-ya-ping we came upon the ambulance 
fleet moored in serried ranks under the shadow 
of a vast cliff. They challenged us, but we floated 
swiftly past, and our two amazing flags probably 
saved us from a volley. Several times we landed 
to try to get fruit or firewood, but always the 
villages were deserted, save for some ancient 
crone who insisted that the fighting was very 



170 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

near. This so terrified the cook that he forgot 
even to feed the chickens, and food became scarce. 
However, at Yum-Shing our progress was very 
effectively stopped by an admirably workmanhke 
barrier of boats and rafts drawn right across the 
river and manned with many soldiers with modem 
rifles and large stores of ammunition. We applied 
bribery, threats, persuasion ; all in vain. There 
was no way to pass that barrier. 

Nothing daunted. Undine insisted on seeing 
the officer in charge, who supplied her with much 
green tea, but listened unmoved to her most 
subtle arguments. She assured him we were so 
used to war in Europe that we felt lost without 
the sound of guns. I gather she left him under 
the impression that there was daily battle in 
Hyde Park, and that one dodged every kind of 
projectile as one shopped in Bond Street. All he 
replied was : 

" You get killed in Europe — ^no trouble. 
Perhaps you get shot here — very much money 
cost ! " 

She returned gloomily to the boat, where the 
wolfram-buyer and I were distributing excellent 
Egyptian cigarettes to the puzzled soldiery. The 
subsequent council of war was interrupted by a 
commotion on the bridge of boats, where stretcher- 
bearers could be seen hurrying to and fro. 

" Of course they're evacuating their wounded," 
I said, and watched with interest the procession 
of the halt and the lame. 



CHIN-CHOW 171 

" I believe they're coming here," said Undine 
in a small awed voice. 

We looked at each other in mute horror. 

" The flag ! That Red Cross flag ! 

I turned to tear it down, but too late — the 
vanguard was upon us. With much bowing, 
smiling, and chin-chinning a limping figure was 
hoisted on to the deck, who cheerfully pointed to 
a most horribly swollen foot, smeared over with 
some black oily substance, which seems to be 
the only dressing they use. We did our best. 
We struggled with sores and broken bones, and 
inflamed, fortnight-old wounds. The only things 
we firmly refused to touch were the awful skin 
diseases. Our stock in trade consisted of Pear's 
soap, cold cream, and the precious bandages that 
we were treasuring for our own need. Bullets 
we had to leave in their hidden resting-places, as 
the warriors had a great dislike of being hurt : the 
smaller the wound the more noise they made. 

" I wonder now how much damage we've done 
with the best intentions ! " I said ruefully as the 
last sufferer was dragged away. 

" I only hope we shall get away from here 
before any of them die," added Undine. 

They have no idea of cleanliness. They wanted 
us to wash our hands every two minutes — ^vague 
memory of some sojourn in a mission hospital, 
I suppose — ^but they didn't like having the wound 
cleaned at all. 

The oddest episode happened at night when. 



172 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

just as we thought of curUng into our rags for a 
few hours' sleep, a little procession of soldiers 
arrived with swinging scarlet lanterns. By signs 
they made us understand that there were wounded 
in the town who needed our assistance. The 
wolfram-buyer and the interpreter were inter- 
viewing some reluctant general, so, while I 
guarded our few belongings, Undine was carried 
ashore by two sturdy warriors and disappeared 
with a flutter of torches up the high steps leading 
into the single narrow street. There, apparently, 
a guard of honour awaited her with several 
hospital flags, and more musical comedy lanterns. 
The whole company marched briskly along to a 
dilapidated court, where she and her two original 
guides plunged into one of those labyrinthine 
Chinese houses that go back and back in a series 
of filthy passages and squalid smoke-filled, airless 
rooms, with here and there a small court piled 
with rubbish. 

On an amazingly dirty bed were l37ing two 
badly wounded soldiers, whose tattered dressings 
had never been removed since they were first 
put on on the battlefield. Undine's description 
of the reeking atmosphere, the circle of bayonets 
behind her, the suspicious, sullen faces of the 
family, and the appalling state of the wounded, 
made me glad that I had elected to stay in mid- 
river with only a mourner's wail, or some clashing 
dispute on the bridge of boats, where the guards 
were gambling, to break the silence of the night. 




DISCOVERY OF A BOAT ON THE SIAN RIVER 





THE AMBULANCE FLEET AT WAI-VA-PING 



CHIN-CHOW 173 

We got up with the dawn next day, and tried 
to get an interview with the officer Undine had 
seen the previous day, but were told that he had 
gone " to look at the battle " and, as we also 
learned that there were two more barricades of 
boats farther down the river, we decided to try 
our fortunes on land. We managed to impress 
some trembling coolies with such a magnified 
sense of our importance that they consented to 
carry our modest luggage, and once more we set 
forth through trampled rice-fields and woods full 
of pale dog-roses. We passed a telegraph section 
putting up a field telegraph, a couple of mountain 
batteries with trains of sturdy mules and some 
officers returning from the front in Sedan chairs, 
with orderlies carrjang their huge swords in 
embroidered scarlet scabbards behind them. Our 
idea was to get through both the Northern and 
Southern armies and strike the river farther 
north, if possible beyond Heng-Sha, which un- 
fortunate town was captured almost every week 
by a different army, while, between whiles, 
brigands pillaged it and held up fat merchants 
to ransom. 

We were challenged at the first outpost, but 
swept through, waving English passports, French 
motor licenses with large red seals — any document 
that looked official and important ! The guard 
started after us, and even the prisoners tied to 
the posts of a cattle-shed evinced a mild interest, 
but the attempt to stop us was only half-hearted. 



174 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

Our triumph, however, was short-Hved, for, after 
traversing a peaceful, sunlit stretch of country, 
we turned into a wood and almost fell over a line 
of Uttle grey soldiers kneeling with rifles ready 
to fire across the low-lying fields in front, while 
several machine-guns protruded wicked-looking 
nozzles from the undergrowth close by. For one 
moment the army did nothing but gape, and 
Undine and I had actually passed through the 
line before they recovered their senses. Then 
they rushed after us and arrested us, and I 
imagine the officers argued as to what was to be 
done with us while we stood forlornly by our 
chairs, Undine firmly clutching the Red Cross 
Flag, and the coolies huddled into little heaps 
round our luggage. Finally, we were sent back 
to headquarters surrounded by an armed guard, 
in company with a batch of prisoners who had 
to be dragged along, howling. 

It was a most unpleasant march. I know I 
felt every moment that a bullet would find a 
resting-place in my back. The wolfram-buyer 
stormed in fluent Kwantungese, but as the 
soldiers were Hunan men nobody understood 
him. Undine read a novel, chiefly upside down, 
and the interpreter looked as if he were dying of 
heart disease. We were taken to a sort of barracks 
square, where the prisoners were instantly 
pushed into a very dark shed — then there was a 
pause, and our guard looked at us doubtfully, 
so we very firmly stalked out in the direction of 



CHIN-CHOW 175 

the general's quarters. Various excited officers 
tried to stop us ; but, feeling desperate, hungry, 
dirty, and extraordinarily tired, we didn't much 
care what happened to us, so we went on rapidly. 
The general had rather a nice house, with a garden 
full of mulberry-trees. We all sat on the veranda 
and drank strong green tea till our brains reeled, 
while we tried to persuade blandly impassive 
Orientals that it was essential for us to get through 
to Chang-Sha. 

They repeatedly urged us to stay in the village 
till the war was over, and it was only with great 
difficulty that we persuaded the general to give 
us a pass, eyen to go back ! The North is sup- 
ported by the foreign powers, so the South is 
extremely anti-foreign ; perhaps they looked upon 
us as spies. Late that night, having had nothing 
to eat since dawn, we regained the river to find 
that soldiers were occupying all the boats. 
However, for once the jellyfish interpreter be- 
stirred himself, and about 4 a.m. we found our- 
selves poling slowly up-stream, the crew consisting 
of an old woman, a toothless septuagenarian, 
and a small boy tastefully attired in a blue sash 
and one straw sandal. 

Then began our 300-miles retreat. The 
South had had several successes, so the country 
was clear of Northern troops, but there was a 
steady stream of refugees hurrying like ants 
in all directions. Delicately painted girls 
in pale silk coats, clutching most of their house- 



176 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

hold possessions on their knees, looked timorously 
from Sedan chairs ; portly merchants in purple 
silk waded through rain and mud ; strings of 
wounded ambled along on small, shaggy ponies — 
and always it rained as if the skies had burst. 
For a week we struggled on with little rest, fearing 
to find the north river impassable. When we 
did arrive back at Ping-Shek, only one boatman 
would face the torrent, and he did it only because 
his wife's greed exceeded his own fears. I cannot 
imagine why we got down safely. The rapids 
were roaring whirlpools through which we dashed, 
swirling right across the river, sometimes turning 
completely round, the water pouring in torrents 
right over us, four men clinging for dear life to 
the rudder, the rest hammering equally feverishly 
at boards which continually broke loose under 
the strain. It was impossible to keep one's feet. 
One lay in the bottom of the boat, while every 
timber shuddered and cracked, and the wild 
howls of the boatmen rose piercingly above the 
crash of the turbulent water. 

Ours was the only boat on the river — gone 
were fishermen and cormorants, slow - moving 
salt boats and family junks. Sometimes amazed 
peasants shouted to us from the banks as we 
whirled past, but the next jutting rock, the next 
sharp corner engaged our whole attention. In 
the smooth stream between the rapids the whole 
crew crouched down chin-chinning to the spirits. 
It took us six days and nights to go up that river. 




THK liARKIF.K OF KClAlS AT VIIM-sHlNC 




SOUTUKkN SOIIiIKHS OFF TO THF; liATTLE 



CHIN-CHOW 177 

We came down in less than twelve hours, and 
were inside the grey walls of Shui-Chow before 
nightfall. Great masses of troops had moved 
in since our departure, and we watched them 
drilling briskly across the river. The cavalry 
ride ponies scarcely larger than Shetlands, and 
they look like little brown mice scampering 
about. A first-class ambulance station had been 
erected at the railroad, and all the horses were 
decorated with half a dozen red crosses all over 
them. Our train journey provided us with no 
excitement, which was lucky, as two days later 
the mail between Canton and Kowloon — ^the 
British Concession on the mainland opposite 
Hong Kong — ^was attacked by several hundred 
brigands, and every carriage was ransacked. 
There were nearly two hundred fully-armed 
soldiers on the train, but it never occurred to 
them to fight ! 

Hong Kong appeared to us a sort of Nirvana 
of shower baths and French cooking. We had 
not had our clothes off for three weeks, we 
had not met a hot bath for so long that we'd 
almost forgotten the existence of such things ; 
the number of eggs — mostly bad — ^that we'd eaten 
would horrify the food controller, and Undine's 
golden hair was like mouldy hay ! We spent a 
cheerful week discussing what we were going to 
eat at every meal, and were further enlivened by 
the news that the stem consul who had refused 
us a Chinese passport for the Interior had grown 

M 



178 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

several new grey hairs and wasted a good deal 
of Government money trying to trace us. His 
gratitude for our safe return not being unmixed 
with wrath, he had sent the minions of the law 
to arrest us on the Canton platform. 

Now the up-country train generally arrives 
any time between five p.m. and midnight, but 
that particular day it chose to pant into the 
surprised station about four o'clock, so we were 
both eating buttered toast on board a big white 
river steamer when the representatives of law 
and order arrived on the platform. However, 
I believe they spent a very pleasant evening 
searching all the hotels in Canton, no doubt 
under the impression that they were looking for 
dangerous spies instead of too adventurous, travel- 
worn tourists ! 

Rumours afterwards reached us that we'd been 
arrested as we stepped on board an American 
liner, that we were found hiding in the Portuguese 
settlement of Macao, and that we were disguised 
as men ! It seems easy to attain notoriety in 
China ! 



CHAPTER XVII 

NORTHERN CHINA 

WE spent a few peaceful days at Macao, 
which it is impossible to believe is 
really in China. It is just like any 
other yeUow-washed arcaded town 
in the South of France, with shady cobbled 
streets and many white convents, with green 
jalousies, perched on its half-dozen hills. It is 
the oldest of all European settlements in China, 
and entirely Portuguese, having been founded 
one hundred years before the first Englishman 
discovered the " Middle Empire." 

Macao lives for two things only, its gambling 
and its opiiijm smuggling. Therefore it is a 
sleepy deserted town, grey and so quiet that one 
feels one must tread softly for fear of waking 
ghosts of the dead ages. By the way, there is 
a statue of Marco Polo^ in the hall of the five 
hundred Genii at Canton. He is the only in- 
dividual in a hat, and he sits next to the only 
man who has borne a child. I forget the exact 
story of the latter, but the statue is painfully 
realistic, and, though the father died, the son 
lived to become a very famous mandarin ! 

1 An Italian traveller to whom the foundation of Macao is often 
erroneously ascribed. 



i8o UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

Hong Kong is rather an attractive place when 
the great peak is not entirely swathed in mist. 
There is a street of the flower-sellers which climbs 
steeply up the mountain, and is lined on both sides 
with basket stalls covered with red and tawny 
orange lilies, scented carnations, pale heavy- 
headed hydrangeas, waxen magnolias and lovely 
English roses. The Chinese quarter is interesting 
at night when every great five-storied house is 
a restaurant or gambling hall, blazing and glaring 
with a myriad electric lights, while the crash 
of cymbals and banging of mighty brass gongs 
deafens one as one passes. We went to a Chinese 
theatre one night with a fat Kwantung merchant 
and his wife. 

" She is my newest wife," he said placidly. 
" I have three, you know, and this one has no 
son, so I do not let her live with the others." 

We sat on long benches, eating oranges and 
liches, and gazed at a bare stage on to which 
the audience had overflowed, so that there was 
barely room for the half-dozen performers and 
the somewhat unclothed and very heated bands- 
men with their noisy drums and gongs. There 
was no scenery. A chair was carried in labelled 
in Chinese, " This is a precipice," and a table 
marked, " An altar." The actors wore marvellous 
embroidered garments and hats somewhat after 
the style of Gaby Deslys. The speeches were 
interminable, and at the most pathetic moment 
of the melodrama the graceful heroine would 




rj,i^f4ggf^f^.^^^ii!^:,^mm^ iii. Mwi.u i Mi l,- , 



iliiiiliH 



A REI>-CROSS HOSPITAL NEAR MACAO 




A FUNERAL IN PLKLN 



NORTHERN CHINA i8i 

contemplatively expectorate on the carpet. The 
man who took the chief woman's part was a 
famous actor who earned a salary of about 18,000 
dollars a year ! 

After a day in Shanghai, which is an un- 
interesting commercial city redeemed by a dark 
tortuous bazaar, containing the temple garden 
that is supposed to have provided the original 
design for all the blue-and-white wiUow-pattem 
china, we went north, in a train crowded with 
Northern soldiers in grey and red, to Nankin. 
The ancient capital has seen, I suppose, more 
wars, rebelHons, massacres and fires than any 
other city in the world. At the present day it is 
chiefly in ruins, since a large portion of the town 
was rased to the ground in the last rebellion, and 
has never been rebuilt. There are few relics now 
of any of the royal dynasties which made it 
their home. The Tai Pings revived its glories 
for a time between 1852 and 1864, when it fell 
into the hands of the Imperialists, who deserted 
it shortly afterwards for the more conveniently 
situated Pekin. We drove out beyond the im- 
mense grey walls, through rice-fields and bare 
plains to the Ming tombs asleep on a low 
hillside, guarded by an avenue of delicious beasts 
— grey stone elephants, camels, dogs and odd 
creatures between dragons and wolves. There 
were a few mighty statues of giants standing in 
patches of long grass, but the whole place was 
deserted and unkempt. 



i82 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

We fell in with a little police ofl&cer, astride 
a ragged pony, who insisted on having his photo- 
graph taken under the shadow of the great tortoise 
of longevity. Afterwards he took us to the 
police-station, where with much bowing and un- 
ending ceremonies of politeness, we were given 
strong green tea to drink. Chinese ceremonial 
of hospitality is infinitely complicated. Visiting 
the house of a mandarin, the guest will be met by 
his host on the doorstep, and begged to enter 
first. I believe he should refuse three times, 
and then scuttle across to get on the left-hand 
side, while his host will politely attempt to, foil 
the manoeuvre. Next the mandarin says, " Walk 
slowly, I implore you." To which the right 
answer is, " Not at all, I shall walk very quickly." 
This, I suppose, is because a slow gait is the 
privilege of age and dignity. 

When, after nerve-wracking repetition, you 
finally reach the bare room where you are to sit, 
your host requests you to indicate the exact 
position on the floor on which you would like 
your mats placed. You reply with a few choice 
eulogies of the honourable floor, at the same time 
expressing your complete consciousness of your 
abject unworthiness to sit on it at all ! Finally, 
when the serving boy is placing a pile of mats 
beside an opium stool, you make a feint of 
removing several, with the remark that one is 
quite sufficient for your indescribably insignificant 
self. The only other point I can remember is 




A CAB RANK IN PEKIN 




IN THE SUMMER PALACE NEAR PEKIN 



NORTHERN CHINA 183 

that you are not supposed to ask your host any 
questions, which makes conversation exceedingly 
difficult, and you may not leave until you are 
requested to do so ! 

We once went to dinner with a Chinese family, 
and it was one of the most trying efforts of our 
journey. The men, who were chiefly students, 
could talk Enghsh, but their embarrassed sisters 
understood no word of our language. The girls 
wore pale blue silk trousers and long brocaded 
coats fastened high up under the chin with jade 
buttons. They had bracelets, ear-rings and hair 
slides of pearls, roughly set in gold, and they all 
wore pink flowers in their well-oiled hair. The 
youngest was extremely pretty, in spite of her 
chalk-white powder, and she had the loveliest 
curly mouth I have ever seen. The table was 
banked high with masses of flowers, though only 
the bright coloured heads were used. We started 
with green tea and soup, but after that, during 
thirty-two courses, we had nothing to drink at all. 
Napkins soaked with hot scent were handed 
round at intervals for us to mop our flushed faces, 
and, at the end, when human endurance had 
been rudely strained by shark's fins, pulpy bird's- 
nest jelly, grey fungus, black eggs, oUy roast duck 
skin, and indescribably sticky sweets, five more 
courses were suddenly placed upon the table at 
the same time, but, luckily, green tea came with 
them. 

The whole time during dinner a noisy band 



i84 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

clashed and clanged in an adjoining room, and a 
few painted singing girls wailed in nasal, high- 
pitched tones behind our chairs. I have never 
understood the social position of these girls, for 
every householder seems to possess several in 
addition to one or more wives. I remember a 
lovely Chinese lady, who looked like a piece of 
Dresden China in fancy dress, remarking placidly 
one day : 

" You see, my mother used always to choose 
my father's concubines for him, as he was so 
very lazy ! " 

I shall never forget the train journey up to 
Tientsin and Pekin. All the traffic was dis- 
organized to allow troop-trains to be rushed 
south. The returning soldiers, wounded, on leave 
or deserters, crowded the long narrow carriages, 
irrespective of class. The only seats we could 
get at all were in a straw-benched second-class 
compartment crowded with grey warriors. The 
Northern troops are of much larger and stronger 
physique than the little Kwantungese, and many 
of them are Mongols with parchment skins and 
slit eyes. The pigtail, which was imposed on the 
Chinese at the point of the Tartar sword, still 
flourishes in the North, whereas the Southerners 
have shaved their heads since the institution 
of the Republic. For thirty-two hours we sat, 
cramped on the top of our suit-cases, with Buddha 
falling over our feet and a hat-box as a pillow ! 
In the middle of the night the train jerked to 





mt^^/^^M 



NORTHERN CHINA 185 

a sudden standstill, and a party of fully-armed 
officers sprang on board while a guard appeared 
at the door of every carriage. Each travelling 
soldier produced a card, which was rapidly in- 
spected, and several hastily hid under any avail- 
able covering. Most of these were dragged forth 
protesting, and there were violent disputes before 
the deserters could be removed forcibly. 

This scene of course delayed us, but I don't 
think we arrived more than four or five hours 
late, which is very good for a Chinese train ! As 
we came north, the country changed in character. 
Gone were the purple hills and grey stone villages 
of the South. An arid plain, sparsely cultivated 
at rare intervals, stretched away on either side, 
brown and bare, while the few villages consisted 
of square mud houses very similar to the adobe 
huts of the Arizona Indians. We saw trains of 
tiny toy donkeys, their riders sitting sideways 
on large square pillows, ambling across the sandy 
waste, and occasionally there appeared a line of 
shaggy camels led by blue-bloused boys, in wide 
sailor straw hats lined with blue, and tied under 
the chin with pale blue ribbons. 

Pekin struck me as a city of immemorial 
tragedy, bowed down by the weight of its too 
spendid past, oppressed by its long heritage of 
bloodshed and cruelty. Its temples and palaces 
are, for the most part, crumbling and ill-kept, 
with grass-grown courtyards, and its wide dusty 
streets are badly paved, and bordered by decrepit, 



i86 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

uneven houses with attractive comer beams, 
carved with fantastic dragon heads, sticking far 
out across the side-paths. The Temple of Heaven 
is lovely and lonely, with lapis lazuli roofs raised 
above circular white stone terraces, elaborately 
carved, in the middle of a great green park full 
of English cow-parsley and sweet-scented mimosa 
trees. There is a wonderful pagoda in the Winter 
Palace, which stands on a hill above three lotus- 
covered lakes. From its grey carved arches you 
can look right across Pekin and the brown 
burned-up plain to a semicircle of blue hills. 

In the foreground are the gleaming yellow 
roofs of the " Purple Forbidden City," enclosed 
in its quadrangle of dull red walls, and circled 
by, a wide moat thick with pink lotus-flowers. 
The maze of courts and palaces, which once were 
sacred to the " Sons of Heaven " and their 
courtiers, are now open to the wandering tourist. 
Republican soldiers lean idly over the marble 
parapets, and look down upon tiny green gardens 
and toy canals winding under fantastic half-moon 
bridges between carved white pillared railings. In 
one golden fortress-palace, high built on a massive 
wall, the boy who reigned for the few brief weeks 
of a Midsummer Night's madness spends his im- 
prisoned life, and plays with goldfish instead of 
with the destinies of subject millions. 

It was not so much the buildings of Pekin that 
interested me as the thronged busy streets of 
the Chinese city, which exists within its separate 




THK CHINESE CrfY IN I'EKIN 




PIGTAILS IN I'EKIN 



NORTHERN CHINA 187 

walls, distinct from the quadrangles of the three 
other cities, the Tartar, the Imperial and the 
Forbidden. It is such a strange mixed crowd, 
conglomerate of every race and every nation. 
Tartars, Mongols, Manchus, Lamas from Thibetan 
mountains in golden flowing robes and fringed 
orange velvet hats like Britannia's helmet, slim 
Chinese from the South — pigtails, shaven crowns, 
and shock-headed Peters all jostle in noisy con- 
fusion. There are mandarin ladies tottering on 
wooden stilts, with fat amahs holding umbrellas 
over their heads. There are Manchu women 
with painted carmine cheeks, and their hair 
screwed back round square black cardboard, 
shaped like a student's mortar-board, and adorned 
with a perfect garden of artificial flowers. There 
are slit-eyed Mongolians riding splendid white 
horses reminiscent of giant Arabs, and fat Tartars 
in their many wadded coats and broad sailor 
hats, astride sturdy hill ponies with red fringed 
bridles. There are peasants on pillows on minute 
donkeys, which look as if they would disappear 
altogether beneath their rider's bulk. There are 
shuttered carriages, between the slits of whose 
jalousies you can glimpse frail sUk-clad girls 
painted and jewelled, and there are splendid 
Japanese cavalry spick and span on well-bred 
Australian walers, or a troop of khaki-clad 
Americans swinging along in slouched hats with 
a drifting chorus of " Stonewall Jackson " or 
" Land of Hope and Glory." East and West 



i88 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

apparently mixed, but really separated by a 
chasm of knowledge and custom, religion, and 
point of view " till earth and sky stand presently 
at God's great judgment seat." 

Undine and I visited our Legation in a state 
of some trepidation, as we supposed the erratic 
consul of the South had sent flying wires to 
Pekin to have us stopped should we actually 
manage to get through overland. However, we 
were welcomed with great kindness and much 
amusement, and treated with that deference, 
not unmixed with awe, which should always be 
paid to lunatics, heroines and desperate criminals. 
Once more we unwound our tattered evening 
frocks from brass censers and ivory gods and, 
urged at a series of dinner parties to repeat our 
tale of adventure, I promptly said I should write 
a book. 

" And call it Tall Stones of Two Truthful 
Travellers," added Undine cheerfully. 

" You'd much better sell a description of your 
invasion of Hunan under a faked flag, without 
a passport, to the local newspaper. You'd make 
much more than that fifty dollars the consul got 
out of you," suggested an amazed guest. 

However, before our heads were entirely turned, 
we deserted Kublai Khan's tragic capital, and 
made a pilgrimage to the Great Wall and the 
Ming Tombs. ^ The latter necessitated a seven 

1 The last Ming Emperor drowned himself in the Yang-tsze- 
Kiang in 1644 when the victorious Tartars captured Nankin. In 



,0. . ' •« J*«».^ 




ON THE WAY TO THE MINT, TOMBS 




JUAKDIAN HEASTS AT THE MINC, TOMIiS 



NORTHERN CHINA 189 

hours' ride on ridiculously small donkeys across 
a hot sandy desert, and, let me confess at once, 
we thought the red and yellow pagoda tombs 
scattered round a wide deserted valley desperately 
uninteresting, except for the long avenue of long 
leggity beasties which were even finer than those 
at Nankin. We were so hot and cross and thirsty 
by the time we arrived at the biggest tomb 
that I remember we quarrelled violently with the 
Chinese guardian of the gate over a ten cent piece 
— about 3d. — which he insisted was a bad one ! 
I think he would probably have murdered us 
had it been a little less hot ! 

It is queer that China always gave us a sinister 
impression, even though on no single occasion 
did anyone do anything deliberately to frighten, 
annoy or hurt us, and this in spite of the fact 
that we always went about alone in the slums 
of Pekin, that we travelled night and day in 
troop-trains, and that we got mixed up with 
several armies in Hunan. Nevertheless, the whole 
country is like a volcano. I have a feeling that 
it might erupt at any moment, but I am sure 
it would erupt silently. My own impression of 
John Chinaman is that he is an arrant coward 
when alone or in small numbers, but that he is 
also simple-minded and amiable when not hustled 
or worried. Of course he is frightfully cruel in 

olden days, when the Emperors went to the tombs of their an- 
cestors, wooden villages were erected at intervals all along the 
way from Pekin, as it would not be pleasant for imperial eyes to 
look out from the vpalanquin upon nothing but a desert. 



igo UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

odd ways. In|the smaller villages I have often 
seen a living rat hanging in a butcher's shop by 
a great hook thrust through the skin of its back. 
If nobody happens to buy the creature before 
nightfall, a popular amusement is to pour a little 
inflammable spirit over it, set it alight, and watch 
its blazing contortions. 

The punishments are appalling. Torture is 
still recognized as a form of justice, and strangula- 
tion is considered an easy death. It is generally 
reserved for persons of high rank, and when a noble 
is condemned to die a scarlet silk cord is sent to 
his prison, and he is left to be his own executioner. 
I remember, in Canton, one of the police officials 
was condemned to death by authority in Pekin. 
He was therefore invited to a large dinner- 
party in the native city, and after he had eaten 
and drunk himself into a state of happy placidity 
he was taken out into a back court and killed. 
Not so very long ago, in the streets of Canton, 
you could see wooden cages in which malefactors 
hung by their necks, their toes just touching the 
ground, and were either strangled or starved 
slowly. Beheading is a most unwelcome form 
of death among the Chinese, because if the head 
is not buried at once with the body the spirit 
enters the next world headless, and the gods 
can see at once that it has been a malefactor 
on earth. 

Reading the history of China one notices how 
few emperors died a natural death. They fell 




THE r,KKAT WALL O I'' CHINA 



fK^^-r^!^' 




A KOREAN !■ UNEKAI. 



NORTHERN CHINA 191 

in battle, they died by poison or by a treacherous 
sword, they were murdered in exile, put out of 
the way by their wives and mothers, or committed 
suicide before the advance of conquering enemies. 
Death is a thing of no account in the East, and 
the way he comes troubles his victims not at all, 
but a funeral is a matter of enormous importance. 

I think we must have been in Pekin during an 
auspicious week for burials. Of course no such 
event as a marriage or a funeral takes place without 
first consulting the fortunetellers. In Canton 
there is a Hall of the Sleeping Dead, where the 
great polished coffins lie, each in a separate 
chamber, waiting an auspicious moment for burial. 
There is generally a picture of the deceased 
hanging above an altar covered with food and 
flowers. If the body is that of a woman, models 
of her jewels are placed on the altar, so that she 
may have them with her in the next life. Only 
once have I heard of a mourning cage, and that 
was in honour of a woman. The light bamboo 
structure, about seven feet square, was erected 
in the largest room in the house under a big 
portrait of the dead woman, and the bereaved 
husband shut himself up in it for many days 
of rigid, secluded mourning, eating, sleeping and 
living entirely in the cramped space. 

We saw several processions in Pekin, and 
luckily managed to photograph one. First came 
very disreputable-looking coolies in tattered red 
and green garments carrying flags and lanterns 



192 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

covered with Chinese characters. They were 
followed by small boys in embroidered garments, 
bearing paper effigies, which are afterwards 
burned. Then came an empty palanquin and 
an empty chair — sometimes these are only models 
made of suitably coloured paper — and after these 
walked men in long white robes, while immedi- 
ately behind them came the heavy coffin in 
a gorgeous scarlet, green, and gold palanquin, 
mounted on heilf a dozen scarlet poles, borne aloft 
by a score at least of porters in red and green with 
pointed vermilion hats, who jumped about and 
shook their burden as much as they could. Lastly 
came the women of the family all dressed in white, 
with wide white bands round their foreheads. 
They sat crouched on mattresses on the floor of 
the hansom-cab of Pekin, which is like a yellow 
wooden dog kennel on big wheels, drawn by a 
mule with a tasselled bridle. They kept up a 
perpetual wailing as they drove slowly through 
the streets, which seemed ridiculously out of 
keeping with the dancing palanquin in front. 




UMI!KF,I I.A AMI I!AT I (IM H I M'', 1 1 




A I.AIlV OF SKIIIM, 



CHAPTER XVIII 

NORTHERN CHINA AND KOREA 

THE Great Wall of China is one of the 
most wonderful sights of the world. 
Somehow it always ranks in my mind 
with the Victoria Falls as a miracle of 
nature ! That is because it looks so immovably, 
so indissolubly part of the country-side. From 
time immemorial it has existed, and through all 
time it shall stay, a monument to one of 
the greatest Chinese sovereigns, Che Hwang-te — 
known as the first universal Emperor — who con- 
structed ^roads and canals, splendid public build- 
ings and a marvellous palace. He defeated the 
Heung-Noo Tartars, and, in order to protect the 
border of his northern states from their incursions 
he started building a gigantic wall which was to 
stretch from the sea right across the vast empire 
to the furthest western corner. 

It is interesting to note that the boundaries of 
his empire in 214 B.C. almost coincided with those 
of modern China to-day. This amazing Emperor 
had all books of history and literature relating to 
ancient China burnt at one fell swoop. The only 
explanation of this holocaust is that he wished 

•M 193 



194 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

to break the power of custom and tradition. 
Unfortunately some of the books of Confucius 
and of the sage Mencius shared the doom of other 
less distinguished philosophers ! The Great Wall 
crawls up and down high mountains and deep 
gorges like a colossal serpent. Two carriages 
could drive abreast along the top, and a number 
of the old square watch towers are still standing. 
We went a day's journey into the mountains to 
see it at its best, and stood on a great peak 
and watched the monster wall winding away for 
miles on either side, sometimes mighty against 
the skyline, sometimes doubling back in a hairpin 
curve and dipfJing suddenly into a valley. It is 
an awe-inspiring sight. 

North we went, past Shan-hai-Kuan, where 
the Great Wall creeps out of the sea like a monster 
leviathan, past Mukden, where one platform is 
Chinese and the other Japanese, and so on to 
Seoul, a delicious city huddled into a pretty 
valley between exquisite mountains half covered 
with cedar forests. There are many tiered gates 
and tall pagodas hung with bells ; there are 
old brass-bound, vermilion chests for sale by the 
side of narrow canals ; there is the gay light- 
hearted butterfly atmosphere of Japan, just as 
there are kimonos in the streets and cherry- 
blossom on the hill-sides. But far and away the 
greatest fascination of Korea is found in the 
people themselves. 

You look down the wide main street of Seoul, 




F»-1 



' *^ 




NORTHERN CHINA AND KOREA 195 

between the Japanese houses and modern tele- 
graph poles, and yet you imagine yourself at a 
summer party given by Fragonard or Watteau. 
Only those two masters could paint the fragile 
delicacy of Korean garments. They are all 
fairylike, transparent white. The men wear long 
frock-coats of filmy white silk gauze over wide 
white Turkish trousers ; these are tied round the 
chest with a sash of the same material tied 
in a large bow. On their heads are perched 
absurd little Welsh tall hats of transparent 
black gauze, and these are worn over a sort of 
skull-cap made of black canvas — ^it looks like 
a closely-fitting meat-safe. The hats are often 
tied under the chin with long tortoise-sheU chains ; 
and heavily wadded white linen stockings and 
straw shoes are worn. 

The women are even more picturesque. Mix 
a chorus girl in a Dutch revue with a picture of 
an early Victorian maiden with smoothly brushed 
back hair and a fichu, add a portrait of Manet's 
and perhaps, bearing in mind always that the 
lady in question is of the East, Eastern, you may 
have a slight, if somewhat muddled, conception 
of what a Korean girl looks Uke ! In case you 
haven't, let me explain that she is pale and 
powdered, with shining black hair coiled low on 
the nape of the neck in an elaborate chignon, 
and pierced with great jade pins. From well 
above the waist hangs the daintiest of wide filmy 
skirts of the same ethereal gauze in snowy white 



196 UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

or palest blue or delicate eau-de-nil, through 
which one catches gUmpses of equally diaphanous 
baggy trousers held up by a gay folded sash of 
purple or powder blue, with gold embroidered 
purses dangling. The colour of the sash generally 
matches the. delicious curly-tipped satin shoes, 
like Moorish slippers, only with straw soles. The 
short-sleeved bodice is merely a folded kerchief 
tied with a big white bow, and they go bare- 
headed save when, to escape chill breezes from the 
hiUs, one of them would throw over her head 
a voluminous green linen coat with magenta 
strings, so that she looked Uke a vivid-coloured 
nun peering out from the enveloping folds. 

We spent most of our time stalking unsus- 
pecting peasants and bourgeois with a kodak, and 
I still have visions of Undine's pink-frocked 
form chasing a particularly attractive costume 
and secreting herself in a convenient doorway to 
snap suddenly as her victim passed. The Chinese 
dislike being photographed, as they consider' it 
brings a curse. Chair-bearers in Hong Kong 
drop their unfortunate fares at once in the middle 
of a street. We were told they had a super- 
stition that if photographed " ' air on 
their shoulders they were doon bearers 
all their lives. The Japanese, , hails 
with delight the opportunity of perpetuating his 
cheerful and enlightened smile ; but,, as a nation, 
how infinitely we preferred the Celestial race ! 

When we came to Fusan and the sea we looked 




CAUTIOUS COSTUMES OX THE ATLANTIC, AUGUST, iqiS 



NORTHERN CHINA AND KOREA 197 

at each other doubtfully, and asked simultane- 
ously, " Where shall we go now ? " Undine was 
all for exploring Harbin, chiefly, I think, with a 
view to wrapping herself in sables and ermines 
for the rest of her natural Hfe, but I hankered 
after the land of wistaria and azaleas. Fujiyama 
is a witch-woman, and wherever one wanders the 
spell of her stiowy crown and her encircling 
girdle of lakes draws one back. So we went across 
to Shimonoseki, and, full of memories of a golden 
summer walking from end to end of Butterfly- 
land, we dreamed through the long night journey 
of grey, sombre Kyoto, Amano-Hashidate, where 
the Bridge of Heaven spans a turquoise gulf, 
and of Nikko, the wonder of all ages amidst her 
Cyprus avenues. Bustling Kobe woke us with 
the dawn, and we dragged Buddha from two 
very surprised porters, and dumped him into a 
rickshaw for the last time. 

Coffee and grape-fruit and fat little fishes were 
served us by painted maidens in gay kimonos 
and stiff-bowed obis. We sat on a wide veranda 
and looked right across the great harbour to the 
open sea. Just in front of us the Fushimi Maru 
was taking on cargo for Victoria and Seattle. 
We had come east on her from Marseilles three 
years before. In the distance there was a 
thick line of smoke. Many shipX were evidently 
getting up steam to slip out on the midday tide. 
The smoke hung low across the wide roadstead. 
A little wind blew it into strange shapes. For 



igS UNCONDUCTED WANDERERS 

a moment it wavered into steel blue and earth 
brown figures, then it drifted back into a solid 
bank across the harbour — ^like smoke above a 
battlefield. I turned away sharply. 

" Where shall we go first ? " I asked, and 
began talking hurriedly of Yokaichiba and steep 
Icao, till I noticed that Undine was not listening 
at all. 

She was gazing out across the water, and her 
blue eyes were full of visions. A playful wind 
was blowing up the smoke in grey, feathery puffs 
— almost I could hear the booming of the guns. 
All my plans seemed suddenly dull and senseless. 
Undine, with an impatient shrug, turned back 
to the golden grape-fruit — and there was silence. 

" So our holiday is ended," I said suddenly. 

Our eyes met. 

" Shall we go down to the office and see if we 
can get passages on the old Fushimi ? " smiled 
Undine happily. 



THE END 



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