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Title: A Vagabond Journey Around the World - A Narrative of Personal Experience
Author: Franck, Harry Alverson
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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      includes the 110 original photographic illustrations.
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      Internet Archive. See

Transcriber’s note:

      Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).


[Illustration: _Harry A Franck_]


A Narrative of Personal Experience



Illustrated with More Than One Hundred Photographs

   _Pour connaître les véritables moeurs d’un pays il
   faut descendre dans d’autres états; car celles des
   riches sont presque partout les mêmes._

                              JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU.


New York
The Century Co.

Copyright, 1910, by
The Century Co.

Published, March, 1910

                            TO MY ALMA MATER
                       THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
                         WITHOUT WHOSE TRAINING



           CHAPTER                                       PAGE

                I. PRELIMINARY RAMBLES                      3


              III. TRAMPING IN ITALY                       43

               IV. THE BORDERS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN        64

                V. A “BEACHCOMBER” IN MARSEILLES           83

               VI. THE ARAB WORLD                         103

              VII. THE CITIES OF OLD                      131

             VIII. THE WILDS OF PALESTINE                 167

               IX. THE LOAFER’S PARADISE                  188

                X. THE LAND OF THE NILE                   215

               XI. STEALING A MARCH ON THE FAR EAST       237

              XII. THE REALMS OF GAUTAMA                  251


              XIV. THREE HOBOES IN INDIA                  289

               XV. THE WAYS OF THE HINDU                  309

              XVI. THE HEART OF INDIA                     327

             XVII. BEYOND THE GANGES                      354

            XVIII. THE LAND OF PAGODAS                    378


               XX. THE JUNGLES OF SIAM                    444

              XXI. WANDERINGS IN JAPAN                    462

             XXII. HOMEWARD BOUND                         483

                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

 Harry A. Franck                                          _Frontispiece_

                                                             FACING PAGE

 A boss cattleman of the Walkerville barns who has
   crossed the Atlantic scores of times                                6

 Upon arrival in Montreal I put up at the “Stock Yards
   Hotel” and get a preliminary hair-cut in anticipation               6

 Women laborers in the linen-mills of Belfast, Ireland                11

 S. S. _Sardinian_. “Lamps does a bit of painting above
   the temporary cattle-pens”                                         11

 A baker’s cart of Holland on the morning round                       18

 A public laundry on the Rhine at Mainz, Germany                      18

 Canal-boats laden with lumber from Nièvre entering Paris             31

 “They are excellently built, the Routes Nationales of
   France”                                                            31

 A typical French roadster who has tramped the highways
   of Europe for thirty years                                         34

 The two French miners with whom I tramped in France.
   Notice shoe-laces carried for sale                                 34

 A Venetian pauper on the Rialto bridge                               55

 My gondolier on the Grand Canal                                      55

 Going for the water. A village north of Rome                         58

 Italy is one of the most cruelly priest-ridden countries
   on the globe                                                       58

 Selling the famous long-horned cattle of Siena outside
   the walls                                                          66

 Italian peasants returning from market-day in the
   communal village                                                   66

 A factory of red roof-tiles near Naples. The girl works
   from daylight to dark for sixteen cents                            76

 Italian peasants returning from the vineyards to the
   village                                                            76

 My entrance into Paris in the corduroy garb and with the
   usual amount of baggage of the first months of the
   trip                                                               94

 “Tony of the Belt”                                                   94

 As I appeared during my tramp in Asia Minor. A picture
   taken by Abdul Razac Bundak, bumboat-man of Beirut                114

 The lonely, Bedouin-infected road over the Lebanon. “Few
   corners of the globe offer more utter solitude than
   Syria and Palestine”                                              127

 The Palestine beast of burden loaded with stone                     127

 Damascus. “The street called Straight—which isn’t”                  133

 A wood-turner of Damascus. He watches the ever-passing
   throng, turning the stick with a bow and a loose
   string, and holding the chisel with his toes                      133

 The most thickly settled portion of Damascus is the
   graveyard. A picture taken at risk of mobbing                     140

 Women of Bethlehem going to the Church of the Nativity              140

 Tyre is now a miserable village connected with the
   mainland by a wind-blown neck of sand                             149

 Agriculture in Palestine. There is not an ounce of iron
   about the plow                                                    149

 On the road between Haifa and Nazareth I meet a
   road-repair gang, all women but the boss                          156

 On the summit of Jebel es Sihk, back of Nazareth. From
   left to right: Shukry Nasr, teacher; Elias Awad, cook;
   and Nehmé Simán, teacher; my hosts in Nazareth                    156

 The shopkeeper and the traveling salesman with whom I
   spent two nights and a day on the lonely road to
   Jerusalem. Arabs are very sensitive to cold, except on
   their feet and ankles                                             176

 A high official of Mohammedanism. It being against the
   teachings of the Koran to have one’s picture taken,
   master and servant turn away their faces                          176

 The view of Jerusalem from my window in the Jewish hotel            183

 Sellers of oranges and bread in Jerusalem. Notice
   Standard Oil can                                                  183

 The Palestine beast of burden carrying an iron beam to a
   building in construction                                          186

 Jews of Jerusalem in typical costume                                186

 A winged dahabiyeh of the Nile                                      190

 Sais or carriage runners of Cairo, clearing the streets
   for their master                                                  190

 An Arab gardener on the estate of the American consul of
   Cairo, for whom I worked two weeks                                197

 Otto Pia, the German beggar-letter writer of Cairo                  197

 An Arab café in Old Cairo                                           200

 An abandoned mosque outside the walls of Cairo, and a
   caravan off for Suez across the desert                            204

 Spinners in the sun outside the walls of Cairo                      211

 Guests of the Asile Rudolph, Cairo. François, champion
   beggar, in the center, in the cape he wore as part of
   his “system”                                                      211

 An Arab market-day at the village of Gizeh                          215

 A woman of Alexandria, Egypt, carrying two bushels of
   oranges. Even barefooted market-women wear the veil
   required by the Koran                                             216

 On the top of the largest pyramid. From the ground it
   looks as sharply pointed as the others                            216

 “Along the way shadoofs were ceaselessly dipping up the
   water that gives life to the fields of Egypt”                     218

 The “Tombs of the Kings” from the top of the Libyan
   range, to which I climbed above the plain of Thebes               218

 A water-carrier of Luxor. A goatskin full costs one cent            222

 The main entrance to the ruins of Karnak                            226

 The Egyptian fellah dwells in a hut of reeds and mud                231

 Arab passengers on the Nile steamer. Except for their
   prayers, they scarcely move once a day                            234

 The Greek patriarch whose secretary I became—temporarily            234

 S. S. _Worcestershire_ of the Bibby Line, on which I
   stowed away after taking this picture                             239

 Oriental travelers at Port Saïd                                     239

 An outrigger canoe and an outdoor laundry in Colombo,
   Ceylon                                                            252

 Road-repairers of Ceylon. Highway between Colombo and
   Kandy                                                             252

 Singhalese ladies wear only a skirt and a short waist,
   between which several inches of brown skin are visible            263

 A Singhalese woman rarely misses an opportunity to give
   her children a bath                                               263

 The woman who sold me the bananas                                   264

 The thatch roof at the roadside, under which I slept on
   the second night of my tramp to Kandy                             264

 Singhalese infants are very sturdy during the first
   years                                                             266

 The yogi who ate twenty-eight of the bananas at a
   sitting                                                           266

 Central Ceylon. Making roof-tiles. The sun is the only
   kiln                                                              268

 The priests of the “Temple of the Tooth” in Kandy, who
   were my guides during my stay in the city                         268

 The rickshaw men of Colombo                                         274

 American wanderers who slept in the Gordon Gardens of
   Colombo. Left to right: Arnold, ex-New York ward
   heeler; myself; “Dick Haywood”; an English lad; and
   Marten of Tacoma, Washington                                      274

 The trick elephant of Fitzgerald’s circus and a
   high-caste Singhalese with circle-comb                            287

 John Askins, M.A., who had been “on the road” in the
   Orient twenty years                                               287

 A Hindu of Madras with caste-mark, of cow-dung and
   coloring-matter, on his forehead                                  295

 Hindus of all castes now travel by train                            298

 “Haywood” snaps me as I am getting a shave in
   Trichinopoly                                                      298

 The Hindu affects many strange coiffures. Natives of
   Madras                                                            305

 A Hindu basket-weaver of Madras                                     305

 The great road of Puri, over which the massive
   Juggernaut car is drawn once a year                               320

 The main entrance to Juggernaut’s temple in Puri. I was
   mobbed for stepping on the flagging around the column             322

 “Suttee” having been forbidden by their English rulers,
   Hindu widows must now shave their heads, dress in
   white, and gain their livelihood as best they can                 324

 A seller of the wood with which the bodies of Hindus are
   burned on the banks of the Ganges. Very despised caste            324

 Bankipur’s chief object of interest is a vast granary
   built in the time of the American Revolution to keep
   grain for times of famine. From its top the traveler
   catches his first glimpse of the Ganges                           338

 Women of Delhi near gate forced during the Sepoy
   rebellion. One carries water in a Standard Oil can,
   another a basket of dung-cakes                                    338

 One of the many flights of steps leading down to the
   bathing-ghats and funeral pyres of Benares                        341

 The Taj Mahal, Agra, India                                          348

 A market-day in Delhi, India. Many castes of Hindus and
   Mohammedans are represented                                       351

 The Hindu street-sprinkler does not lay much dust                   351

 A lady of quality of Delhi out for a drive                          352

 Hindu women drinking cocoanut-milk                                  352

 Bungalows along the way in rural Burma                              380

 Women of the Malay Peninsula wear nothing above the
   waist-line and not much below it                                  380

 A Laos carrier crossing the stream that separates Burma
   from Siam                                                         433

 The sort of jungle through which we cut our way for
   three weeks. Gerald James, my Australian companion, in
   the foreground                                                    440

 “An elephant, with a mahout dozing on his head, was
   advancing toward us”                                              448

 Myself after four days in the jungle, and the Siamese
   soldiers with whom we fell in now and then between
   Myáwadi and Rehang. I had sold my helmet                          448

 Bangkok is a city of many canals                                    450

 A swimming-school of Japan, teachers on the bank,
   novices near the shore, and advanced students, in
   white head-dress, well out in the pool                            464

 Women do most of the work in the rice-fields of Japan               464

 Horses are rare in Japan. Men and baggage are drawn by
   coolies                                                           467

 Japanese children playing in the streets of Kioto                   467

 A Japanese lady                                                     472

 Japanese canal-boats and coolies of Kioto                           478

 The castle of Nagoya, in which many Russian prisoners
   were kept                                                         480

 Laying out fish to dry along the river in Tokio. Japan
   lives principally on fish and rice                                480

 An employee of the Tokio-Yokohama interurban, and some
   street urchins                                                    483

 Fishermen along the bay on my tramp from Tokio to
   Yokohama                                                          483

 The Russian consulate of Yokohama, in which we
   “beachcombers” slept                                              488

 Japanese types in a temple inclosure                                488

 A Yokohama street decorated for the Taft party. The
   display is entirely private and shows the general good
   will of the Japanese toward the United States                     494

                       A FOREWORD OF EXPLANATION

Some years ago, while still an undergraduate, I chanced to be present at
an informal gathering in which the conversation turned to confessions of
respective aspirations.

“If only I had a few thousands,” sighed a senior, “I’d make a trip
around the world.”

“Modest ambition!” retorted a junior, “But you’d better file it away for
future reference, till you have made the money.”

“With all due respect to bank accounts,” I observed, “I believe a man
with a bit of energy and good health could start _without_ money and
make a journey around the globe.”

Laughter assailed the suggestion; yet as time rolled on I found myself
often musing over that hastily conceived notion. Travel for pleasure has
ever been considered a special privilege of the wealthy. That a man
without ample funds should turn tourist seems to his fellow-beings an
action little less reprehensible than an attempt to finance a
corporation on worthless paper. He who would see the world, and has not
been provided the means thereto by a considerate ancestor, should sit
close at home until his life work is done, his fortune made. Then let
him travel; when his eyes have grown too dim to catch the beauty of a
distant landscape, when struggle and experience have rendered him blasé
and unimpressionable.

A spirit of rebellion against this traditional notion suggested a
problem worthy of investigation. What would befall the man who set out
to girdle the globe as the farmer’s boy sets out to seek his fortune in
the neighboring city; on the alert for every opportunity, yet scornful
of the fact that every foot of the way has not been paved before him?
There were, of course, other motives than mere curiosity to urge me to
undertake such an expedition. As a vocation I had chosen the teaching of
modern languages; foreign travel promised to add to my professional
preparation. Were I permitted an avocation it would be the study of
social conditions; what surer way of gaining vital knowledge of modern
society than to live and work among the world’s workmen in every clime?
In the final reckoning, too, an inherent Wanderlust, to which, as an
American, I lay no claim as a unique characteristic, was certainly not
without its influence.

It was not until a year after my graduation that opportunity and my
plans were ripe. I resolved to take a “year off,” to wander through as
much of the world as possible, and to return to my desk in the autumn,
fifteen months later. As to my equipment for such a venture: I spoke
French and German readily, Spanish and Italian with some fluency; I had
“worked my way” on shorter journeys, had earned wages at a dozen
varieties of manual labor in my own country, and had crossed the
Atlantic once as a cattle man and once before the mast. It was my
original intention to attempt the journey without money, without
weapons, and without carrying baggage or supplies; to depend both for
protection and the necessities of life on personal endeavor and the
native resources of each locality. That plan I altered in one
particular. I decided to carry a kodak; and to obviate the necessity of
earning en route what I might choose to squander in photography, I set
out with a sum that seemed sufficient to cover that extraneous expense;
to be exact: with one hundred and four dollars. As was to be expected, I
spent this reserve fund early, in those countries of northern Europe in
which I had not planned an extensive stay. But the conditions of the
self-imposed test were not thereby materially altered; for before the
journey ended I had spent in photography, from my earnings, more than
the original amount,—to be exact again: one hundred and thirteen

The chief object of investigation being the masses, I made no attempt
during the journey to rise above the estate of the common laborer. My
plan included no fixed itinerary. The details of route I left to chance
and the exigencies of circumstances. Yet this random wandering brought
me to as many famous spots as any victim of a “personally conducted
tour” could demand; and in addition, to many corners unknown to the
regular tourist. These latter it is that I have accentuated, passing
lightly over well-known scenes. It is easy and, alas, too often
customary for travelers to weave fanciful tales. But a story of personal
observation of social conditions can be of value only in so far as it
adheres to the truth of actual experience. I have, therefore, told the
facts in every particular, denying myself the privilege even of altering
unimportant details to render more dramatic many a somewhat prosaic
incident. The names of places, institutions, and persons appearing in
the text are in every case authentic; the illustrations are chosen
entirely from the photographs I took during the journey.

The question that aroused my curiosity has been answered. A man _can_
girdle the globe without money, weapons, or baggage. It is in the hope
that the experiences and observations of such a journey may be of
interest to fireside travelers that I offer the following account of my

  The author wishes to acknowledge the courtesy of _Harper’s Weekly_,
  _Outing_ and _The Century Magazine_ in permitting him to republish
  from their pages certain chapters of this book.


                               CHAPTER I
                          PRELIMINARY RAMBLES

On the eighteenth day of June, 1904, I boarded the ferry that plies
between Detroit and the Canadian shore, and, coasting the sloping beach
of verdant Belle Isle, swung off on the first stage of my journey around
the globe. At the landing stage a custom officer glanced through my bag,
stared perplexedly from the kodak to my laborer’s garb, and with a shrug
of his shoulders passed me on into the streets of the Canadian village.

A two-mile tramp brought me to the Walkerville cattle-barns, where
thousands of gaunt calves are rounded up each autumn to come forth in
the summer plump bulls and steers, ready for the markets of old England.
From the long rows of low, brick buildings sounded now and then a deep
bellow or the song or whistle of a stock feeder at his labor. I had
arranged for my passage some days before, and, dropping my bag at the
office, I joined the crew in the yard.

Months of well-fed inactivity had not tamed the spirits of the sleek
animals that were set loose and driven one by one out of the various
stables. The racing, bellowing cattle, urged slowly up the shute into
the waiting cars by blaspheming stockmen, waving lancelike poles above
their heads, gave to the scene the aspect of a riotous _corrida de
toros_. The sun had set and darkness had fallen in the alleyways between
the endless stables before the last bull was tied and the last car door
locked. The shunting engine gave a warning whistle. We, who were to
attend the stock en route raced to the office for our bundles, and,
tossing them on top of the freight cars, climbed after them.

There were no formal leave-takings between the little stock-yard
community on the shute platform and those who were “crossin’ the pond
wi’ the bullocks.” The cars began to move amid such words of farewell as
might have been exchanged with one setting out for the nearby village:

“So long, Jim, keep sober.”

“Don’t fergit me that tin o’ Wills’ Smokin’, Bob.”

“Give me best to Molly down on the Broomielaw, Jim,” with an overdrawn
wink at that worthy standing stolidly on the last car.

Jim and Bob were “boss cattle men,” each of whom, though still young,
had made scores of trips between the barns and the principal ports of
Great Britain.

A short run down the spur brought us to the main line of the Canadian
Pacific; our cars were joined to a train that was making up, and we made
our way to the caboose that had been rammed on behind. Though the
companies permit it, train men look with no kindly eye on the intrusion
of traveling “cow-punchers” into their home and castle. As we emerged
into the glare of the tail-lights, carrying our bundles and poles, a
surly growl gave us greeting:

“Huh! ’Nother bloody bunch o’ cattle stiffs!”

A steady run of thirty-six hours, enlivened by changes of caboose at
unseemly hours, crews of increasing surliness, and a tramp along the
cars at every halt to “punch ’em up” brought us to Montreal. The feeders
at the railroad pens took charge of the shipment and we repaired to the
“Stockyards Hotel,” a hostelry pervaded from bar-room to garret by the
odor of cattle. Thus far our destination had been uncertain, but, not
long after our arrival, information leaked out that we were to sail for
Glasgow on the _Sardinian_ two days later.

On that second evening, I reported at a wharf peopled by a half-hundred
men whose only basis of fellowship, apparently, was pennilessness and
riotous desire to secure passage to the British Isles. Twelve hundred
cattle, collected from several Canadian feeding centers, were to be
shipped and, besides the bosses, twenty cattle men were needed. A few,
like myself, had come overland with the stock trains; but the throng was
made up chiefly of those who had paid a Montreal agency $2.50 for the
privilege of shipping.

Over these we were given precedence. “Farnsworth’s gang” was summoned
first and under the lead of our boss we filed into the shipping-office,
to be greeted by a blustering officer seated before the ship’s log:

“What’s yer name?”

“H. Franck.”

“Ever been over before?”

“Yes, sir, on the Manchester Importer.”

The name was recorded and I touched the pen to make binding the contract
I had signed by proxy.

“All right! Fi’ bob fer the run. Next!”

Our boss was entitled to eight men, four of whom he had already chosen.
The last of these had barely given his name, when the “agency stiffs”
swept aside the policeman who had held them back, and surged screaming
into the office. We left them to fight for the coveted places and,
stepping out into the night, groped our way on board the _Sardinian_.
Even while we wandered among the empty cattle pens, built on her four
decks, we clung jealously to our bundles, for the skill of the Montreal
wharf-rat in “lifting bags” is proverbial among seafaring men.

Towards midnight several loads of baled straw were sent on board, and
those of us who had not succeeded in hiding “turned to” to bed down the
pens. Like many another transatlantic liner, the _Sardinian_, homeward
bound, carried cattle in the spaces allotted to third-class passengers
on the outward journey. It was not, however, for this reason, as one of
my new acquaintances was convinced, that this section of the ship was
known as the steerage.

The bedding completed, we threw ourselves down in the stalls and fell
asleep. Long before the day broke, the entire ship’s company, from the
first mate to the sleepiest “stiff,” was rudely awakened by a stampede
of excited cattle and the blatant curses of their drivers. The
stock-yard tenders had tied up alongside. In three hours our cargo was
complete; the panting animals were securely tied in their stanchions;
the winch had yanked up on deck the three or four bulls that, having
been killed in the rush, were to be dumped in the outer bay; and we were
off down the St. Lawrence. The crew fell to coiling up the shore-lines
and joined the cattle men in a rousing chorus:—

           “We’re homeward bound, boys, for Glasgow town,
           Good-by, fare thee well! good-by, fare thee well!
           We’ll soon tread the Broomielaw now, my belle,
           Good-by, fare thee well; good-by.”

Our passage varied little from the ordinary trip of a cattle boat. A few
quarrels and an occasional free-for-all mélée were to be expected, for
the “stiffs’ fo’c’stle” housed a heterogeneous company. Some of our
mates were skilled workmen of industry and good habits, bound on a visit
to their old homes. Contrasted with them were several incorrigible
wharf-rats, bred on the docks of the United Kingdom, who had somehow
contrived to cross the Atlantic to what had been pictured to them as a
land “where a bloke c’n live like a gent at ’ome widout wavin’ ’is
bleedin’ flipper.” The western hemisphere had proved no such ideal
loafing-place. Bound back now to their accustomed haunts, the
disillusioned rowdies spent their energies in heaping curses on America
and those who had painted it in such glowing colors. They were not
pleasant messmates.

The work on the _Sardinian_ was, as we had anticipated, hard, the food
unfit to eat, and the forecastle unfit to live in. But there were no
“first trippers” among us and all had shipped with some knowledge of the
treatment meted out to “cattle stiffs.”

On the tenth day out, the second of July, we came on deck to find, a few
miles off to starboard, the sloping coast of Ireland, patches of growing
and ripening grain giving the island the appearance of a huge, tilted
checkerboard. Before night fell, we had left behind Paddy’s Mile-stone
and the Mull o’ Kintyre, and it was near the mouth of the Clyde that we
completed our last feeding.

A mighty uproar awakened us at dawn. Urged on by the bellows of Glasgow
longshoremen, the cattle were slipping and sliding down the gangway into
the wharf paddock. Unrestrained joy burst forth in the feeders’
quarters. Enmities were quickly forgotten, the few razors passed quickly
from hand to hand, beards of two weeks’ growth disappeared as if by
magic, bags were snatched open, the rags and tatters that had done duty
as clothing on the voyage were poked in endless stream through the
porthole into the already poisonous Clyde, and an hour later the
“stiffs,” looking almost respectable, were scattering along the silent
streets of Sunday-morning Glasgow.

Strange it seemed next morning to find business moving as usual, with no
sounds of celebration, for it was the Fourth, “Independence” or
“Rebellion” day, according to the nationality of the speaker. At noon we
gathered on board the _Sardinian_ to receive our “fi’ bob” and our
discharges from the Board of Trade. These latter were good for the
return trip on the same steamer, but few besides the bosses intended to
avail themselves of the privilege. As for myself, I found another use
for the document. One who is moving about Europe in the garb of a
laborer must be ever ready to declare his station in life. The answer of
the American tramp that he is “just a’ travelin’” will not pass muster
across the water. To have called myself a carpenter or a teamster
without corroborating testimonials would have been as foolish as to have
told the truth. The discharge from the _Sardinian_, though issued to a
cattle man, did not differ materially from that of an able seaman. My
corduroy suit and cloth cap gave me the appearance of a Jack ashore. I
decided to pose henceforth as a sailor.

[Illustration: A boss cattleman of the Walkerville barns who has crossed
the Atlantic scores of times]

[Illustration: Upon arrival in Montreal I put up at the “Stock Yards
Hotel” and get a preliminary hair-cut in anticipation]

Tucking my kodak into an inside coat pocket, I sold my bag for the price
of a ticket on the night steamer to Belfast. A two days’ tramp along the
highways of the Emerald Isle was a pleasant “limbering up” for more
extended journeys to come. It might have been longer but for an
incessant rain that drove me back to Scotland.

On the afternoon of my return to Glasgow I struck out along the right
bank of the Clyde towards the Highlands. An overladen highway led
through Dumbarton, a town of factories, that poured its waste products
into the sluggish river of poison, and brought me at evening to
Alexandria. A band was playing. I joined the recreating throng and
stretched out on the village green. What a strange fellow is the
Scotchman! In a few short hours he runs through the whole gamut of
emotions, gloomy and despondent when things go wrong, romping and joking
a moment after.

The sun was still well above the horizon when the concert ended, though
the hour of nine had already sounded from the church spire.

Not far beyond the town the hills died away on the left and disclosed
the unruffled surface of Loch Lomond, its western end aglow with the
light of the drowning sun. By and by the moon rose to cast a
phosphorescent shimmer over the Loch and its little wooded islands. On
the next hillside stood a field of wheat shocks. I turned into it,
giving the owner’s house a wide berth. The straw was fresh and clean,
just the thing for a soft bed. But wheat sheaths do not offer
substantial protection against the winds of the Scottish Highlands, and
it was not with a sense of having slept soundly that I rose at daybreak
and pushed on.

Two hours of tramping brought me to Luss, a cozy little village on the
edge of the Loch. I hastened to the principal street in quest of a
restaurant, but the hamlet was everywhere silent and asleep. Down on the
beach of the Loch a lone fisherman, preparing his tackle for the day’s
labor, took umbrage at my suggestion that his fellow-townsmen were late

“Why mon, ’tis no late!” he protested, “’tis no more nor five, an’ a
bonny mornin’ it is, too. But there’s a mist in it,” he added

I glanced at the bright morning sun and the unclouded sky and set down
both statements for fiction. But a clock-maker’s window down the beach
confirmed the first, and the second proved as true before the day was
done. Stifling my premature hunger, I stretched out on the sands to
await the morning steamer; for Ben Lomond, the ascent of which I had
planned, stood just across the Loch.

About six a heavy-eyed shopkeeper sold me a roll of bologna, concocted
of equal parts of pepper and meat, and a loaf of day-before-yesterday’s
bread. The steamer whistle sounded before I had regained the beach. I
purchased a ticket at the shore-end of the distorted wooden wharf and
hurried out to board the craft. My way was blocked by a burly Scot who
demanded “tu p’nce.”

“But I’ve paid my fare,” I protested, holding up the ticket.

“Aye, mon, ye hov,” rumbled the native, straddling his legs and setting
his elbows akimbo. “Ye hov, mon. But ye hovna paid fer walkin’ oot t’
yon boat on oor wharf.”

Ten minutes later I paid a similar sum for the privilege of walking off
the boat at Renwardenen.

Plodding across a half-mile of heath and morass, I struck into the
narrow, white path that zigzagged up the face of the Ben, and soon
overtook three Glasgow firemen, off for a day’s vacation in the hills.
The mist that the fisherman had foreseen began to settle down and turned
soon to a drenching rain. For five hours we scrambled silently upward in
Indian file, slipping and falling on wet rocks and into deep bogs, to
come at last to a broad, flat boulder where the path vanished. It was
the summit of old Ben Lomond, a tiny island in a sea of whirling grey
mist, into which the wind bowled us when we attempted to stand erect. My
companions fell to cursing their luck in expressive Scotch. The remnants
of a picnic lunch under the shelter of a cairn tantalized us with the
thought of how different the scene would have been on a day of sunshine.
I was reminded, too, of the bread and bologna that had been left over
from my breakfast, and I thrust a hand hopefully into my pocket. My
fingers plunged into a floating pulp of pepper, dough, and bits of meat
and paper that it would have been an insult to offer to share with the
hungriest mortal; and I fell to munching the mess alone.

Two of the firemen decided to return the way we had come. With the third
I set off down the opposite slope towards Inversnaid. In the first
simultaneous stumble down the mountain side, we lost all sense of
direction and, fetching up in a boggy meadow, wandered for hours over
knolls and through swift streams, now and then scaring up a flock of
shaggy highland sheep that raced away down primeval valleys. Well on in
the afternoon, as we were telling ourselves for the twentieth time that
Inversnaid must be just over the next ridge, we came suddenly upon a
hillside directly above the landing stage of Renwardenen. On this side
of the Loch was neither highway nor footpath. For seven miles we dragged
ourselves, hand over hand, through the thick undergrowth, and even then
must each take a header into an icy mountain river before we reached our

Here a new disappointment awaited me. Instead of the town I had
expected, Inversnaid consisted of a landing stage and a hotel of the
millionaire-club variety in which my worldly wealth would scarcely have
paid a night’s lodging, even should the house dogs have permitted so
bedraggled a being to approach the establishment. The fireman wandered
down to the wharf and I turned towards a cluster of board shanties at
the roadside.

“Can you sell me something to eat?” I inquired of the sour-faced
mountaineer who opened the first door.

“I can no!” he snapped, “go to the hotel.”

There were freshly baked loaves plainly in sight in the next hovel, but
I received a similar rebuff.

“Have you nothing to eat in the house?” I demanded.

“No, mon, I’m no runnin’ a shop.”

“But you can sell me a loaf of that bread?”

“No!” bellowed the Scot, “we hovna got any. Go to the hotel. Yon’s the
place for tooreests.”

The invariable excuse was worn threadbare before I reached the last hut,
and, though I had already covered twenty-five miles, I struck off
through the sea of mud that passed for a highway, towards Aberfoyle,
fifteen miles distant.

The rain continued. An hour beyond, the road skirted the shore of Loch
Katrine and stretched away across a desolate moorland. Fatigue drove
away hunger and was in turn succeeded by a drowsiness in which my legs
moved themselves mechanically, carrying me on through the dusk and into
the darkness. It was past eleven when I splashed into Aberfoyle, too
late to find an open shop in straight-laced Scotland, and, routing out a
servant at a modest inn, I went supperless to bed. Months afterward,
when I was in training for such undertakings, a forty-mile tramp left no
evil effects; at this early stage of the journey the experience was not
quickly forgotten.

The attraction of the open road was lacking when, late the next morning,
I hobbled out into the streets of Aberfoyle, and, my round of
sight-seeing over, I wandered down to the station and took train for
Stirling. Long before the journey was ended, there appeared, far away
across the valleys, that most rugged of Scotland’s landmarks, the castle
of Stirling. Like the base of some giant pillar erected by nature and
broken off by a mightier Sampson, it stands in solemn isolation in a
vast, rolling plain, the very symbol of staunch independence and sturdy

My imagination far back in the days of Wallace and Bruce, I made my way
up to the monument from the city below, half expecting, as I entered the
ancient portal, to find myself surrounded by those bold and fiery
warriors of past ages. And surely, there they were! That group of men in
bonnets and kilts, gazing away across the parapets. Cautiously I
approached them. What pleasure it would be to hear the old Scottish
tongue and, perhaps, the story of some feud among the fierce clans of
the Highlands! Suddenly one of the group strode away across the
courtyard. As he passed me, he began to sing. A minstrel lay of ancient
days, in the old Gaelic tongue? No, indeed. He had broken forth in the
rasping voice of a Liverpool bootblack, juggling his H’s, as only a
Liverpool bootblack can, in “The Good Old Summer Time.”

An hour afterward I faced the highway again, bound for Edinburgh. The
route led hard by the battle-field of Bannockburn, to-day a stretch of
waving wheat, distinguished from the surrounding meadows, that history
does not know, only by the flag of Britain above it. With darkness I
found lodging in a wheat field overlooking the broad thoroughfare.

The next day was Sunday and the weather calorific. For all that, the
highroad had its full quota of tramps. I passed the time of day with any
number of these roadsters,—they call them “moochers” in the British
Isles. Some were sauntering almost aimlessly along the shimmering route,
others were stretched out at apathetic ease in shady glens carpeted with
freshly-blossomed bluebells. The “moocher” is a being of far less
activity and initiative than the American tramp. He is content to stroll
a few miles each day, happy if he gleans a meager fare from the kindly
disposed. He would no more think of “beating his way” on the railroads
than of building an air-ship for his aimless and endless wanderings. It
is always walk with him, day after day, week after week; and if, by
chance, he hears of the swift travel by “blind-baggage” and the full
meals that fall to his counterpart across the water, he stamps them at
once “bloody lies.”

[Illustration: Women laborers in the linen-mills of Belfast, Ireland]

[Illustration: S.S. _Sardinian_. “Lamps does a bit of painting above the
temporary cattle-pens”]

In stranger contrast to the American, the British tramp is quite apt to
be a family man. As often as not he travels with a female companion whom
he styles, within her hearing and apparently with her entire
acquiescence, “me Moll” or “me heifer.” But whatever his stamping ground
the tramp is essentially the same fellow the world over. Buoyant of
spirits for all his pessimistic grumble, generous to a fault, he eyes
the stranger with deep suspicion at the first greeting, as
uncommunicative and noncommittal as a bivalve. Then a look, a gesture
suggests the world-wide question, “On the road, Jack?” Answer it
affirmatively and, though your fatherland be on the opposite side of the
earth, he is ready forthwith to open his heart and to divide with you
his last crust.

I reached Edinburgh in the early afternoon, and, following the signs
that pointed the way to the poor man’s section, brought up in Haymarket
Square. A multitude of unemployed, in groups and in pairs, sauntering
back and forth, lounging about the foot of the central statue, filled
the place. Here a hooligan, ragged and unkempt as his hearers, was
holding forth, to as many as cared to listen, on the subject of
governmental iniquities. There another, less fortunate than his
unfortunate fellows, wandered from group to group in his shirt-sleeves,
vainly trying to sell his coat for a “tanner” to pay a night’s lodging.

High above towered the vast bulk of Edinburgh castle. A royal infant
lowered from its windows, as happened, ’tis said, in the merry days of
Queen Bess, would land to-day in a most squalid lodging house. Indeed,
this is one point that the indigent wanderer gains over the wealthy
tourist. The cheap quarters, the slums of to-day are, in many a European
city, the places where the history of yesterday was made. The great man
of a century ago did not dwell in a shaded suburb; he made his home
where now the hooligan and the laborer eke out a precarious existence.

The sorry-looking building at the foot of the castle rock bore the

           “Edinburgh Castle Inn. Clean, Capacious Beds, 6d.”

I had too often been misled by similar self-assertive adjurations to
expect any serious striving on the part of the proprietor to keep
anything but the sign in any marked degree of cleanliness. I was not
prepared, however, to find the place as filthy as it proved. The cutting
satire of the ensign was doubly apparent when I escaped again into the
square. A “Bobby” marched pompously up and down not far from the
brazen-voiced speaker, whose power of endurance should have won him a
livelihood somewhere.

“Where shall I find a fairly cheap lodging house?” I inquired.

“Try the Cawstle Inn h’over there,” replied “Bobby,” with a majestic
wave of his Sunday gloves towards the hostelry I had just inspected.

“But that place is not clean!” I protested.

“Not clean! Certainly it’s clean! There’s a bloomin’ law makes ’em keep
’em clean,” and “Bobby” glared at me as if I had libeled the King’s
Parliament and the Edinburgh police-force into the bargain.

I entered another inn facing the square, but was thankful to escape from
it to the one I had first visited. Paying my “tanner” at a misshapen
wicket, I received a stub bearing the number of my sty and passed into
the main room. It was furnished with benches, tables, and a cooking
establishment. For four pence the guest might have set before him an
unappetizing, though fairly abundant, supper. By far the greater number
of the inmates, however, were crowded around several cooking stoves at
the back of the room. Water, fuel, and utensils were provided gratis to
all who had paid their lodging. On the stoves was sputtering or boiling
every variety of cheap food, tended by tattered men who handled
frying-pans with their coat-tails as holders, and cut up cabbages or
peeled potatoes with knives on the blades of which were half-inch
deposits of tobacco. Each ate his concoction with the greatest relish as
soon as it showed the least sign of approaching an edible condition,
generally without any allowance of time for boiling messes to cool,
thereby suffering more than once dire injury.

Three days later I took passage for London and on the afternoon
following my arrival embarked at Gravesend on the _Batavien II_, bound
for Rotterdam. The steerage fare was five shillings; in view of the
accommodations, an extravagant price. My only companions amid the chaos
of so-called mattresses strewn about the hold were a German _Hufschmied_
and his bedraggled spouse, joint possessors of a bundle of rags
containing a most distressingly powerful pair of lungs. The odor of the
mattresses and the stench from the bundle turned the night into a
walking nightmare, which I spent in congratulating myself that the
voyage was to be of short duration.

I climbed on deck at sunrise to find the ship steaming at half speed
through a placid canal. Far down below us were clusters of squat
cottages, the white smoke of kindling fires curling slowly upward from
their chimneys. Here and there a peasant, looking quite tiny from the
height of our deck, crawled along across the flat meadows. Away in the
distance several stocky windmills were turning slowly yet ceaselessly in
the morning breeze.

The canal opened out into the teeming harbor of Rotterdam. A custom’s
officer inquired my profession, slapped me paternally on the back with a
warning in German to beware the “_schlechte Leute_” who lay in wait for
seamen ashore, and dismissed me, while the well-dressed tourist still
fumed over the uninspected luggage in his cabin.

I quickly tired of the confines of the city and turned out along the
flat highway to Delft. The route skirted a great canal; at intervals it
crossed branch waterways, all half-hidden by cumbersome cargo-boats.
Heavily laden boats toiled slowly by on their way to market, empty boats
glided easily homeward. On board, stocky men, bowed double over heavy
pike-poles, marched laboriously from bow to stern. Along the graveled
tow-paths that checkered the flat landscape, buxom women strained like
over-burdened oxen at the tow-ropes about their shoulders. Wherever one
met him the boating Dutchman shared most fairly with his wife the labor
of propelling his unwieldy craft, except that the wife walked and the
Dutchman rode.

In the early afternoon I briefly visited Delft, and pushed on towards
the Hague. No wayfarer, obviously, could in a single day become
accustomed to the national clatter of wooden shoes. Beyond Delft I
turned into a narrow roadway paved in cobblestones and flanked by two
canals. It was a quiet route even for Holland. In serene contentment I
pursued my lonely way, gazing off across the unbroken landscape.
Suddenly a galloping “rat-a-tat” sounded close behind me. What else but
a runaway horse could produce such a devil’s tattoo? To pause and glance
behind might cost me my life, for the frenzied brute was almost upon me.
With a swiftness born of fear I took to my heels. A few yards beyond was
a luckily-placed foot-bridge over one of the canals. I made a flying
leap at the structure and gained it in safety, just as there dashed by
me at full speed—a Hollander of some six summers, bound to market with a
basket on his arm!

“S-Gravenhage,” as the Dutchman calls his capital, was a city teeming
with interest; but Holland was one of those countries which I purposed
to “do” in orthodox tourist fashion and, after a few short hours in the
royal borough, I sought out the highway to Leiden. My seeking was not
particularly successful. The mongrel commixture of German, English, and
pantomime in which I carried on conversation with the natives was a
delectable language, but it did not always gain me lucid directions.
Sharply prosecuted inquiries brought me to a road to Leiden, right
enough, but it was not the public highway. Thanks to some
misconstruction of the native dactylology, I set out for the stamping
ground of Rembrandt along the old royal driveway.

It was a pleasure, of course, to travel by the Queen’s own promenade,
especially as it led through a fragrant forest park. Unfortunately, a
royal demesne is no place in which to find an inn when hunger and
darkness come on. This one had not even a cross-road to lead me back to
the main highway, and I plodded on into the night amid unbroken
solitude. Just what hour it was when I reached Leiden I know not. Beyond
question it was late, for the good people, and even the bad, except a
few drowsy policemen, were sound asleep; and with a painful number of
miles in my legs I went to bed on a pile of lumber.

The warming sun rose none too early, though long before the first
shopkeeper. Still fasting I set off towards Haarlem. On these flat
lowlands this Sabbath day was oppressively hot. Yet how dolorously
devout appeared the peasants who plodded for miles along the dusty
highway to the village church! The men, those same men so comfortably
picturesque in their work-a-day clothes, marched in their cumbersome
Sunday garments like converts doing penance for their sins. The women,
buxom always, but painfully awkward in stiffly starched gowns, tramped
swelteringly behind the males. Even the children, the rollicking
youngsters of the day before, were imprisoned in homemade
straight-jackets and suffered martyrdom in uncomplaining silence. But
one and all had a cheery word for the passerby and never that sour look
which one “on the road” encounters on British highways.

Often, since leaving Rotterdam, I had wondered at the absence of wells
in the rural districts. Surely these peasants’ cottages were not
connected by water-mains! Pondering the question, I had thus far
quenched my thirst only in the villages. But towards noon on this hot
Sunday an imperative call for water drove me to turn in at an isolated
cottage. Beside the road ran the omnipresent canal. A narrow foot-bridge
crossed it to the gate before the dwelling, around which flowed a branch
of the main waterway, giving a mooring for the peasant’s canal-boat. The
gate proved impregnable and it required much shouting to attract the
attention of the householder. At last, from around a corner of the
building, a _Vrouw_ of the most buxom type hove into view and bore down
upon me as an ocean liner sails into a calm harbor. My knowledge of
Dutch being nil, I followed my usual method of coining a language by a
process of elimination. Perhaps the lady spoke some German.

“Ein Glas Wasser, bitte.”


It could do no harm to give my mother tongue a trial.

“A glass of water.”


I tried a mixture of the two languages. For what is Dutch after all than
a jumble of badly spelled English and German words with the endings
lopped off?

“Ein glass of vater.” It was the open sesame.

“Vater?” shrieked the lady with such vehemence that the rooster in the
back yard leaped sideways a distance of six feet. “Vater!”

“Ja, vater, bitte.”

A profound silence succeeded, a silence so absolute that one could have
heard a fly pass by a hundred feet above. Slowly the lady placed a heavy
hand on the intervening gate. A shadow passed over her face, as though
she were mentally calculating the strength of resistance of the barrier
against a madman. Then, with a bovine snort, she wheeled about and
waddled towards the house. Close under the eaves of the cottage hung a
tin basin. Snatching it down without a pause, the human steamship set a
course for the family anchorage, stooped, dipped up a basinful of that
selfsame weed-clogged water that flowed by in abundance at my feet, and
tacked back across the yard to offer it to me with a magnanimous sigh of
resignation. I quenched my thirst thereafter, in rural Holland, at
roadside canals, after the manner of beasts of the field—and Hollanders.

Miles away from Haarlem appeared the great flower-farms for which this
region is famous and, growing more and more frequent, continued into the
very suburbs of the city itself. Across the ultra-fertile plain beyond,
the broad highway to Amsterdam ran as straight as a geometrical line.
From the city of tulips to where it disappeared in the fog of rising
heat waves, the thoroughfare was thronged with vehicles, riders, and,
above all, with wheelmen, who, refusing to swerve a hair’s breadth for
my convenience, drove me ever and anon into the wayside ditch. The
Hollander is, ordinarily, an obliging fellow, and in the main the humble
workman or pedestrian is fairly treated. Yet that distinct line of
demarkation between the “commoner” and the “upper class” is never
obliterated. The American laborer may spend some time in the British
Isles without noting this discrimination; he will not be long on the
continent before the advantage of his status at home is shown forth in
plain relief.

There is not that gradual shading off from the professional man to the
coal-heaver that exists in the United States. One can no more conceive
of a Hollander who looks forward to a career in the gentler walks of
life “beginning at the bottom” than of one who aspires to the papacy
taking a wife. He whose appearance stamps him as of those who live by
the sweat of the brow cannot complain of any overt act of oppression.
Yet he is early reminded that, as a worker with his hands, he has a
distinct place in society and that he must keep to it. Among his fellow
workmen, in his own caste, he lives and moves and has his being as in
our own land. But in other ranks he catches here and there a glance, a
gesture, a protesting silence, that brings home to him his lowly status.

My zigzag tramp ended late in the afternoon, and, after a deal of
wandering in and out among the canals of the metropolis, I took a garret
lodging overhanging a sluggish waterway. The proverbial cleanliness of
Holland is no mere figure of speech. Few cities of the same size have as
little of the slum district within their confines as Amsterdam. The
Dutch laborer is, in many ways, far better off than those of the same
class across the channel. In the city there is always a _Koffie Huis_
close at hand, where eggs, milk, cheeses, and dairy products in general
are served at small cost and in cleanly surroundings. Compare this diet
with that of the British workman, who subsists often, not on food, but
on the waste products of those places where food is prepared. One can
identify a Briton of the lower classes by his teeth. At twenty he has a
dozen, perhaps, that are neither broken off, crumbling, black, nor
missing. At thirty he shows a few yellow fangs. But one cannot determine
the class of the Hollander by the same sign. His diet is too wholesome.

Parks, museums, laborers’ quarters, and the necessity of a protracted
search each evening for my canalside garret kept me three days in
Amsterdam. On the fourth I drifted on board one of the tiny steamers of
the Zuidersee and journeyed to Hoorn. Hoorn is one of Holland’s dead
cities, one of the many from which prosperity and wealth departed to
come no more as the shifting sands of the North Sea blocked up their
channels and drove away the rich commerce that was their fortune. Now
they are dead indeed. A tiny remnant of a great population clatters
along their deserted streets, a few of the ancient mansions house
humbler inmates, and all about is ruin.

By no means regretting the whim that had carried me away to this land of
yesterday, I set back along the See towards Amsterdam. The typical
Hollander is nowhere seen to better advantage than in this district. The
population plies two vocations. Along the shores and on the adjoining
islands the stolid, picturesque fisherman is predominant. In the great,
flat meadows the care of his cattle occupies the no less stolid, if less
quaint, peasant.

There are wheat shocks even in Holland. As night was falling over the
vast plain I withdrew to a roadside field and retired. A Dutchman spied
me out in my resting-place at some silent hour, but sped away across the
country like a firm believer in ghosts when I offered to share my bed. I
awoke at daybreak to find myself within sight of the much maligned
island of Marken, with an unobstructed view of the quaint old church of
Monnickendam, a once populous city that has shrunk to a baggy-trousered
hamlet of fisherfolk. Beyond the town there rattled by occasionally a
milk or baker’s cart, drawn, now by one dog, now by a team of two or
three, harnessed together with utter disregard to size, breed, or
disposition. Sometimes, indeed, a canine and a human team-mate tugged
together at the traces.

There ran a rumor in my favorite Koffie Huis soon after my arrival at
Amsterdam in the afternoon, that a cargo-boat which carried passengers
for a song was to leave at four for Arnheim on the Rhine. I thrust a
lunch into a pocket and hurried down to the mooring-place of the
international liner. She was a canal-boat some twenty-five feet long and
eight wide, as black as a coal-barge, though by no means as clean; her
uncovered deck piled high with boxes, barrels, and crates ranging in
contents from beer mugs to protesting live stock. I scrambled over the
cargo and found a seat on a barrel of oil. It was already after four,
but there was really no reason for my anxious haste. No Dutch cargo-boat
was ever known to depart at the hour set.

It turned out that the overburdened craft was not yet loaded. From time
to time lethargic longshoremen wandered down to the wharf with more
bales, crates, and boxes, and stacked them high about us. It was long
after dark when their task was done, and, what with quarrels between the
captain and the crew as to the proper channel, we were scarcely out of
the harbor when dawn broke.

A long day we spent in jumping about the cargo like jack-rabbits, in a
vain attempt to keep out of the way of the crew searching for a bale to
set ashore at each wayside village. That alone would have been
endurable. But our lives were made miserable by two Hungarians, owners
of a barrel organ, who insisted that the infernal squawk which the
machine emitted was “moosik,” and who had the audacity to invite us
periodically to pay for the torture.

I left the cargo-boat at Arnheim and, halting at the principal cities on
its banks, made my way up the Rhine by steamer and on foot in a few days
to Mainz. From there I turned eastward along the highway to Frankfurt.
Strange and varied had been my sleeping-places in Germany. The
innkeepers of the Fatherland, fearful of punishment for lodging those
who turn out to be “wanted” by His Majesty’s officers, are chary of
offering accommodations to strangers. Whether it was due to the garb
that stamped me as a wanderer or to a foreign accent, it was my fate to
be treated in the Kaiser’s realm as an extremely suspicious member of

It was late at night when I reached Frankfurt. The highway ended among
the palatial edifices of the business section, and I wandered long in
search of the poorer quarters. At last, in a dingy side street a tavern,
offering _logieren_ at one mark, drew my attention. Truly it was a high
price to pay for a bed, but the hour was late and the night stormy. I
entered the drinking-room, and waiting until the _Kellner_ could catch a
moment’s respite from his strenuous task of silencing the shouts of
“_Glas Bier_” that rose above the tumult, made my wants known.

“Beds?” cried the Kellner, too busy with his glasses to look up at me,
“To be sure. We have always plenty of beds. One mark.”

But _mein Herr_ the proprietor was staring at me from the back of the
hall. Slowly he shuffled forward, cocked his head on one side, and
scrutinized me intently from out his bleary eyes.

“What does he want?” he demanded, turning to the tapster.

I answered the query myself and the customary inquisition began.

“Woher kommen Sie?”

[Illustration: A baker’s cart of Holland on the morning round]

[Illustration: A public laundry on the Rhine at Mainz, Germany]

Knowing from experience the order of the questions, I launched forth
into the story of my life, past, present, and future, or as much of it
as was in keeping with the assertion that I was an American sailor on a
sight-seeing expedition in the Fatherland. Plainly my hearers regarded
it as a clumsy tale. Long before I had ended, the proprietor, the
Kellner, and those clients of the house that had clustered around us,
fell to nudging each other with grimaces of incredulity. The _Wirt_,
harassed by the conflicting emotions of greed and fear, blinked his
pudgy eyes and glanced for inspiration into the faces about him. The
temptation to add another mark to his coffers was strong within him. Yet
what would the police inspector say in the morning to the name of a
foreigner on his register? He scratched his grizzly poll with a force
that suggested that he was going clear down through it to extract an
idea with his stubby fingers, glanced once more at the tipplers, and
surrendered to fear.

“Es tut mir leid, Junge,” he puffed, with a prolonged blink, “I am
sorry, but we have not a bed left in the house.”

I wandered out into the night and told my story to a second, a third,
and even a fourth innkeeper with the same result. In despair I turned in
at the fifth house resolved to try a strange plan—to tell the truth. In
carefully chosen words I explained my identity and my purpose in
visiting Germany in laborer’s garb. Never before since leaving Detroit
had I resorted to such an expedient, and I took good care not to repeat
the experiment during my subsequent travels. I had barely elucidated my
situation when the landlord informed me in no uncertain terms that I was
a liar and an ass into the bargain; and that a hasty retreat from his
establishment was the surest way of preserving my good health. He was a
creature of awe-inspiring proportions, and I followed his suggestion
promptly. At midnight a policeman directed me to an inn where suspicious
characters were less of a novelty, and I was soon asleep.

I had not yet well learned the lesson, begun in the British Isles, that
the homes of the famous of a century ago are the slums of to-day. Next
morning I turned back to the brilliant thoroughfares, expecting to find
somewhere along them the birthplace of Goethe. Once amid such
surroundings as the greatest of the Germans might fittingly have graced
by his presence, I addressed myself to a policeman. Goethe? Why, yes,
the name seemed familiar. He was not sure, but he fancied the fellow
lived in the eastern part of the city, and directed me accordingly. The
way led through narrow, winding streets. Now and then I went astray, to
be set right again by other minions of the law. The quest cost me a
goodly amount of shoe-leather and most of the morning, but I found at
last the landmark I was seeking—exactly across the street from the inn
in which I had slept.

There was in Frankfurt after all a lodging house where wanderers free
from the burden of wealth were welcome. I came across it during the
day’s roaming and took care not to forget its location. Several
disreputable humans were wending their way thither as twilight fell and,
joining them, I entered a great, dingy hall, low of ceiling, and poorly
served in the matter of windows. A cadaverous female, established behind
a rust-eaten wicket, was dealing out _Schlafmarken_ at thirty _Pfennig_
(7 cents) each. I pocketed one and hastened to find a place on one of
the wooden benches; for the hall was rapidly filling with members of the
Brotherhood of the Great Unwashed.

Drowsiness came quickly in the stifling atmosphere. I stepped to the
wicket and asked to be shown to my quarters.

“What!” croaked the hollow-eyed matron, “bed? You can’t sleep yet. Wait
till you hear the bell at ten-thirty.”

I turned back to the bench only to find that another squatter had jumped
my claim. Too sleepy to stand unaided, I hung myself up against the wall
and waited. If the dreams from which I was aroused were not much shorter
than they seemed, several days passed before there sounded the sudden
clang of an iron-voiced bell. The resulting stampede carried me to the
second floor.

In an evilly-ventilated room, lower of ceiling than the hall below, I
found that cot thirty-seven, to which I had been assigned, could be
reached only by climbing over several of the sixty which as many men in
varying stages of insobriety were preparing to occupy. By a series of
contortions, in the execution of which I often thumped with my elbows
the man behind me and displaced my cot sufficiently to cause the
downfall of my opposite neighbor, whose equilibrium was far from stable,
I succeeded in removing my shoes and coat. To venture further in the
disrobing process seemed undesirable. I spread my germ-proof jacket
across the animated coverlet and lay down. Before the last sot had
ceased his maudlin grumbling there broke out here and there in the room
a dialogue of snores. Rapidly it increased to a chorus. In ten minutes
the ensemble would have put to shame the most atrocious steam calliope
ever inflicted upon a defenceless public. Reiterated kicks and punches
reduced to comparative silence the few slumberers within reach; by
shying one shoe at a distant sleeper whose specialty was a nerve-racking
falsetto and the other at a fellow whose deep bass set the cots to
trembling in sympathy, I brought a moment’s respite. But the dread of
going forth in the morning unshod drove me on an expedition across the
bodies of my roommates and, by the time I had recovered my footwear, the
chorus was again swelling forth in Wagnerian volume. I gave up in
despair and settled down on the hill and dale mattress to convince
myself that I was sleeping in spite of the infernal bedlam.

There runs a proverb, the origin of which is lost among the traditions
of hoar antiquity, to the effect that misfortunes travel in bands. That
it is true I have never doubted since the day following that
broken-backed night in Frankfurt. It was curiosity that called down upon
my head this new adversity, for naught else could have moved me to
investigate the secrets hidden behind a fourth-class ticket to Weimar.
In all the countries of Europe there is nothing that compares with the
fourth-class railway service of Germany. The necessity of providing some
mode of transportation cheaper than walking may be an excuse for its
perpetration, but woe betide the unsuspecting traveler who, for mere
matter of economy, abandons for this system that of our ancient

Intending to take the nine o’clock train, I purchased a ticket about
eight-forty and stepped out upon the platform just in time to hear a
guard bellow the German variation of “all aboard.” The Weimar train
stood close at hand. As I stepped towards it, four policemen, strutting
about the platform, let out simultaneous war-whoops, and sprang after

“Wo gehen Sie hin?” shrieked the first to reach me.

“Ich gehe nach Weimar.”

“Aber, the train to Weimar is gone!” shouted the second officer.

As I had a hand on the carriage door, I made so bold as to deny the

“Aber, ja, er ist fort!” gasped the sergeant who brought up the rear of
the constabulary deluge. “It is gone! The guard has already said ‘all

The train stood at the edge of the platform long enough to have emptied
and filled again; but, as it was gone ten minutes before it started, I
was forced to wait for the next one at ten-thirty.

The fourth-class carriage, unlike other European cars, was built on the
American plan, with a door at each end. In reality it was nothing more
than a box car with wooden benches around the sides and a few apologies
for windows. Almost before we were under way, the most unkempt couple
aboard stood up and turned loose what they evidently thought was a song.
Many of the passengers seemed to be victims of the same auricular
illusion, for the pair gleaned a handful of Pfennige before descending
at the first station. The bawl of cracked voices, however, was but a
prelude to worse visitations, for, as no train man enters the cars while
they are in motion, fourth-class travelers are the prey of every grafter
who chooses to inflict himself upon them.

We stopped at a station at least every four miles during that day’s
journey. At the first hamlet beyond Frankfurt the car slowly filled with
peasants and laborers in heavy boots and rough smocks, who carried
sundry farm implements ranging from pitchforks to young plows. Sunburned
women, on whose backs were strapped huge baskets stuffed with every
product of the countryside from cabbages to babies, packed into the
center of the car, turned their backs upon those of us who occupied the
benches, and serenely leaned themselves and their loads against us. The
carriage filled at last to its utmost limits, and its capacity passed
belief, a guard outside closed the heavy door with a bang, and uttered a
mighty shout of “_Vorsicht_”! (look out), evidently to inform those near
the portal that they were lucky to have “looked out” before it was
slammed. The station master on the platform, a man boasting a uniform no
American rear-admiral could afford, or dare to appear in, raised a
hunting-horn to his lips and gave as a signal of departure such a blast
as echoed through the ravines of Roncesvalles. The head-guard drew his
whistle and shrilly seconded the command of his superior. The engineer
whistled back to inform the guard that he was ready to do his duty. The
guard repeated his sibilant order. The driver liberated another pent-up
shriek to show how easily his engine could reach high C, or to imply
that he was fast nerving himself up to open the throttle; the man on the
platform whistled again to cheer him on; a heroic squeal came from the
cab in answer; and, with a jerk that sent peasants, baskets, farm-tools,
lime-pails, cabbages, and babies into a conglomerate, struggling mass at
the back end of the car, we were off. To celebrate which auspicious
event the engineer emitted a final shriek and gave a second yank, lest
some sure-footed individual had by any chance retained his equilibrium.

By the time some semblance of order had been restored, unwieldy peasant
women pulled out of the clawing miscellany and stood right end up,
cabbages and babies restored to their proper baskets, pitchforks and
smocks disentangled, the next station was reached and a sudden stop
undid all our efforts, this time stacking the passengers at the front
end. Some minutes after the train had come to a standstill, when
long-distance travelers had lost all hope of relief from the sweltering
congestion, the countrymen began slowly to wander out at the doors. The
exodus continued until there remained in the car only those few
through-passengers, who, utterly cowed and subjugated, shrank back on
the benches to escape attention. Then the vanguard of another multitude,
bound for a village some three miles distant, made its appearance and
history repeated itself.

There were times, too, during the journey when the villages were
apparently too far apart to suit the engine-driver. For occasionally,
soon after having run through his entire repertoire of toots, he
suddenly, remarkably suddenly in fact, brought the engine to a halt in
the open country. But as German railway laws forbid voyagers to step
out, crawl out, or peep out of the car under such circumstances without
a special permit from the guard, countersigned under seal by the
head-guard, there was no means of learning whether the engineer had lost
his courage or merely caught sight of a wild flower that particularly
took his fancy.

Such are the pleasures of a fourth-class excursion in Germany. Travelers
by first-class, it is said, suffer fewer inconveniences, but, however
varied the accommodations may be, the prices are more so. At every
booking-office is posted a placard giving the cost of transportation to
every other town in the Empire. He who would ride on upholstered seats
pays a bit higher rate than in the United States. Second-class costs
one-half, third-class one-fourth as much. Three other rates are quoted:
fourth-class, soldiers’ tickets, and _Hundekarten_ (dog tickets). The
German conscript pays one-half fourth-class fare and rides in a
third-class carriage. Hundekarten cost fourth-class fare. Verily it is
better in Germany to be a soldier than a dog—at least while traveling.

I arrived at Weimar late at night. A stroll to Jena the following
afternoon led through a pleasant rural district well known to the “poet
pair” of Germany and the soldiers of Napoleon. From Jena I turned
westward again, and, braving the rigors of fourth-class travel for two
interminable days, descended during the waning hours of July at the city
of Metz.

When August broke in the east, I turned pedestrian once more and set out
towards Paris on the _Route Nationale_, constructed in the days when
Mayence was a proud French city. The road wound its way over rolling
hills, among the ravines and valleys of which was fought a great battle
of the Franco-Prussian war. For miles along the way, dotting the
hillsides, standing singly or in clusters along lazy brooks, or
half-hidden by the foliage of summer, were countless simple, white
crosses, bearing only the brief inscription “Hier ruhen Krieger-1870.”
Beyond, the colossal statue of a soldier of past decades pointed away
across a deep-wooded glen to the vast graveyard of his fallen comrades.

A mile further on, in the open country, out of sight of even a peasant’s
cottage, two iron posts at the wayside marked the boundary established
by the treaty of Versailles. A farmer with his mattock stood in Germany
grubbing at a weed that grew in France.

Mindful of the lack of cordiality that exists between the two countries,
I anticipated some delay at the frontier. The customhouse was a mere
cottage, the first building of a straggling village some miles beyond
the international line. A mild-eyed Frenchman, in a uniform worn shiny
across the shoulders and the seat of the trousers, wandered out into the
highway at my approach. Behind him strolled a second officer. But the
difficulties I had expected were existent only in my own imagination.
The pair cried out in surprise at mention of my nationality; they grew
garrulous at the announcement that I was bound to Paris _à pied_. But
their only official act was to inspect my bundle, and I pressed on amid
their cries of “bon voyage.”

The highways of France are broad and shaded, her innkeepers neither
exclusive nor intrusive; yet even here pedestrianism has its drawbacks.
Chief among them are the railway crossings. The French system of
protection against accidents is effective, no doubt; but if _monsieur_
the Frenchman were as impatient a being as the American the mortality
would be little lessened, for the delay involved at these _traverses du
chemin de fer_ would choke with rising choler as many as might come to
grief at an unprotected crossing.

On either side of the track is a ponderous _barrière_, the opening and
shutting of which would be slow under the best of circumstances. Being
always tended by a colossal _barrièrière_ (gate-woman) who moves with
the stately grace of a house being raised on jack-screws, the barricade
is unduly effective. Ten minutes before a train is due, _la barrièrière_
hoists herself erect, waddles across the track to draw the further gate,
closes the nearer one, and, having locked both, returns to the shade of
her cottage. The train may be an hour late, but that is beside the
question. This is the time that Madame is hired to lock the gates and
locked they must remain until the train has passed. Woe betide the
intrepid voyager who tries to climb over them, for her tongue is sharp
and the long arm of the law is arrayed on her side.

Plodding early and late, I covered the round-about route through
Châlons, Rheims, and Meaux, and reached Paris a few days after crossing
the frontier. A month of tramping had made me as picturesque a figure as
any _boulevardier_ of Montmartre; moreover, August in the French capital
was neither the time nor the place to display garments chosen with the
winds of the Scottish Highlands in mind. I picked up in the Boulevard
St. Denis, at a gross expenditure of fifteen francs, an outfit more in
keeping with the weather, took up my abode in a garret of the Latin
Quarter, and roamed at large in the city for three weeks.

                               CHAPTER II

The month of August was drawing to a close when I swung my wardrobe of
the city over a shoulder and, wandering down the Boulevard St. Germain,
struck off to the southward. A succession of noisy, squalid villages,
such as surround most cities of the old world, lined the way to Mélun.
Beyond, tramping was more pleasant, for the route swung off across a
rolling country, unadorned with squalling urchins and mongrel curs,
towards Fontainebleau. The foot-traveler in France need have no fear of
losing his way. From Paris to the important cities and frontier towns
radiate “Routes nationales,” each known by a certain number throughout
its length. Signboards point the way at every cross-road; kilometer
posts of white stone keep the wayfarer well informed of the progress he
is making—almost too well, for when he has grown foot-sore and
ill-tempered, each one greets him with a sardonic smile that says as
plainly as words, “Huh! You’re only a kilometer further on, and a
kilometer is not a mile by a long way.”

They are excellently built, these national highways; the heaviest rain
barely forms upon them a perceptible layer of mud. But one could pardon
them a little unevenness of road-bed if only they would strike out for
their goal with the dogged determination of our own axle-cracking
turnpikes. They wind and ramble like mountain streams. They zigzag from
village to village even in a level country. The least knoll seems to
have been sufficient reason in the minds of the constructing engineers
for making wide detours, and where hills abound, there are villages ten
miles apart with twenty miles of tramping between them.

Thus far I had tramped the highways of Europe alone. Beyond Nemours, my
second night’s resting-place, I came upon two wayfarers in the shelter
of a giant oak, enjoying a regal repast of hard bread which they
rendered more palatable by dipping each mouthful in a brook at their
feet. On the plea of an ample breakfast I declined an invitation to
share the feast, but our routes coincided and we passed on in company.
The pair were young miners walking from Normandy to the great
coal-fields of St. Etienne. Thanks to the free-masonry of “the road,”
formalities were quickly forgotten, and before the first kilometer post
rose up to greet us we were exchanging confidences in the familiar “tu”
form. I soon added to my vocabulary the nickname of the French tramp. My
new comrades not only addressed me as _mon vieux_, but greeted by that
title every wayfarer we encountered, until it came to have as familiar a
sound in my ears as the “Jack” of the American hobo. Its analogy to our
“old man” is at once apparent.

There are stern laws in France against wandering from place to place. A
lone traveler may sometimes escape attention, but well I knew that in
trio we should often be called upon to give an account of ourselves. We
were still some distance off from the first village beyond our
meeting-place when an officer appeared at the door of the _gendarmerie_
and, advancing into the highway, awaited our arrival.

“Où allez vous autres?” he demanded, with officious bruskness.

“A St. Etienne.”

“Et vos papiers?”

“Voilà!” cried the miners, each snatching from an inside pocket a small,
flat book showing signs of age and hard usage.

The _gendarme_ stuffed one of the volumes under an arm and fell to
examining the other. Between its greasy covers was a complete biography
of its owner. The first leaf bore his baptismal record, followed by a
page for each of his three years of military service, all much decorated
with official stamps and seals. Then came affidavits of apprenticeship,
variously endorsed and _viséd_, and last a page for every firm that had
employed the miner, giving dates, wages, testimonials, and reasons for
leaving or dismissal. The miner bore the scrutiny with fortitude. With
his official book at hand the French laborer has little dread of the
officers of the law. After each term at his trade he may, if he sees fit
to travel a bit, give variations of the old “looking-for-work” story,
though as the date of his last employment grows more and more remote,
the gendarmerie becomes an increasing obstacle.

Without some such document no one may tramp the highways of France. He
who travels on foot for other reason than poverty, or who, being poor,
will not make his way by begging, is an enigmatical being to any race
but the Anglo-Saxon. To the French gendarme his mode of travel is proof
absolute that he is a _misérable sans-sous_ to whom every law against
vagrancy must be strictly applied.

The officer ended the examination of the books and handed them back with
a gruff bien.

“Maintenant, les vôtres,” he growled.

“Here it is,” I answered, ignoring the plurality of the French pronoun,
and I drew from my pocket a general letter of introduction to our
consular service, signed by the Secretary of State. The gendarme, who
had expected another book, opened the paper with a perplexed air which
increased to blank amazement when, instead of familiar French words, his
eyes fell on a half-dozen lines of incomprehensible hieroglyphics.

“Hein! Que diable!” he gasped. “Qu’est-ce que c’est que ça?”

“My passport,” I explained. “Je suis américain.”

“Ha! Américain! Diable! And that is really a passport? Never before have
I seen one.”

It was not really a passport by any means. I had none. But monsieur le
gendarme was in no position to dispute my word had I told him it was a
patent of nobility.

“Very good,” he went on, “but you must have another paper. Foreign
vagabonds cannot journey in France without a document to prove that they
have worked.”

Here was a poser. It would have been easy to assert that I was a
traveler and no workman, but it would have been still easier to guess
where such an assertion would land me. I rubbed my unshaven chin in
perplexity, then struck by a sudden inspiration, snatched from my bundle
the cattle-boat discharge.

“Bah!” grumbled the officer, “more foreign gibberish! What is that
vilaine langue the devil himself couldn’t read?”

“English,” I replied.

“Tiens, que c’est drôle que cette machine-là,” he mused, holding the
paper out at arm’s length and scratching his head.

However, with some assistance he made out one date on the document, and,
handing it back with a sigh of resignation, gave us leave to pass on.

“A propos!” he cried, before we had taken three steps, “what country did
you say you come from?”

“America,” I answered.

“L’Amérique! And being in America you come to France? Oh, mon Dieu, what
idiocy!” and waving his arms above his head he fled for the shade of his

The ways of my companions would have made them the laughing-stock of
American roadsters. They looked forward to no three meals a day. The
hope of a “set-down” never intruded upon their field of vision. In fact,
they considered that the world was going very well with them if they
collected sous enough for one or two lunches of bread and wine daily.
Yet wine they would have, except for breakfast, or they refused to eat
even bread. Like almost all who tramp any distance in France, they
“played the merchant” and were surprised to find that I ventured along
the highways of their country without doing likewise. That is, they
carried over one shoulder a bundle containing shoe-strings, thread,
needles, thimbles, and other articles in demand among rural housewives.
The demand was really very light. They _did_ make a two or three-sous
sale here and there, but the market value of their wares was of least
importance. By carrying them, the miners evaded the strict laws against
vagrancy. Without the bundles they were beggars, with them they ranked
as peddlers. The ruse deceived no one, not even the gendarme. But it
satisfied the letter of the law.

Still engrossed in discussing the character of the officer who had
delayed us, we reached a large farmhouse. With one of the miners I
lingered at the roadside. The other entered the dwelling, ostensibly to
display his wares. A moment later he emerged with a half-loaf of coarse
peasant’s bread. Madame had needed nothing from his pack, but “she made
me a present of this lump.”

It was while they were canvassing a village in quest of sales, or
crusts, in the dusk of evening that I lost sight of the miners. I had
passed the village inn, and, being always averse to retracing my steps,
continued my way alone. Had I suspected the distance to the next hamlet,
I might have been less eager to press on. Fully three hours later I
stumbled into Les Bussières and, having walked sixty-nine kilometers, it
was not strange that I slept late next morning. Besides, the day was
Sunday, and what with satisfying the curiosity of a company of peasants
in the wine-room and drinking the health of several of them, I did not
set out until the day was well advanced. Beyond the village stretched
the broad, white route, endless and deserted. The long journey before me
would have been less lonely in the company of the miners; but we had
parted and I plodded on in solitude, wondering when I should again fall
in with so cheery a pair.

In passing a clump of trees at the roadside, I was suddenly roused from
my revery by a shout of “Holà! L’américain!” What could have betrayed my
nationality? I halted and stared about me. My eyes fell on the grove and
I beheld my companions of the day before hastily gathering their
possessions together.

We journeyed along as before, producing our papers at each village and
being once stopped in the open country by a mounted gendarme. The miners
played in poor luck all through the morning. A single sou and an aged
quarter-loaf constituted their gleanings. Gaunt hunger was depicted on
their countenances before we reached Briare in the early afternoon and,
breaking the silence of an hour, I offered to stand the _compte_ of a
meal for three.

There was in Briare, as in every town in France larger than a hamlet, an
inn the proprietor of which catered to the vagabond class. None but a
native tramp could have found the establishment without repeated
inquiries; but the miners, needing no second invitation and guided by
some peculiar instinct, led the way down a side street and into a
squalid cul de sac. The most acute foreign eye would have seen only
frowning back walls, but my companions pushed open the door of what
looked like a deserted warehouse and we entered a low room, gloomy and
unswept. Around the table, to which we made our way through a very
forest of huge wine-barrels, were gathered a dozen peasants and a less
solemn pair who turned out to be of “the profession.”

The first greetings over, the keeper set out before us a loaf of coarse
bread and a bottle of wine, demanded immediate payment, and having
received it, resumed his seat on a barrel. His shop was, in reality, the
wine cellar of a café the gilded façade of which faced the main street.
In it the liquor that sold here for four sous the litre would have cost
us a half-franc. One of the miners, having gained my consent to the
extravagance, invested two sous in raw, salt pork which he and his
companion ate with great relish. I was content to do without such
delicacies, for the wine and bread made a very appetizing feast after
hours of trudging under a broiling sun.

[Illustration: Canal-boats laden with lumber from Nièvre entering Paris]

[Illustration: “They are excellently built, the Routes Nationales of

In the course of the afternoon I photographed the miners, a proceeding
which caused them infantine delight, both declaring that this was the
first time in their begrimed existence that they had ever been _tirés_.
We found lodging in a peasant’s wheat stack. I was a bit chary of
spending the night in so deserted a spot with two such vagabonds, for
the kodak and the handful of coins from which I had paid for our dinner
was a plunder worth a roadster’s conspiracy. My anxiety was really
ungrounded. Morning broke with my possessions intact and, after an
hour’s work in picking straw and chaff from our hair and clothing, we
set off at sunrise.

I left my companions behind soon after, for their mode of travel
resulted in far less than the thirty miles a day I had cut out for
myself, and passed on into the vineyard and forest country of Nièvre.
Harvest was over in the few fertile farms that were not given up to the
culture of the grape; the day of the gleaners had come. In the fields
left bare by the reapers, peasant women gathered with infinite care the
stray wheat stalks and, their aprons full, plodded homeward. To the
thrifty French mind there is nothing so iniquitous as to waste the
smallest thing of value. Before this army of bowed backs one could not
but wonder whether it had ever occurred to them that labor also may be

The most extravagant of its inhabitants were already lighting their
lamps when I entered the village of La Charité. To whatever benevolence
the quiet hamlet owes its name, it was typical of those rural
communities that line the highways of France. A decrepit grey church
raised a time-mellowed voice in the song of the evening angelus. Squat
housewives gossiped at the doors of the drab stone cottages lining the
route. From the neighboring fields heavy ox-carts, the yokes fastened
across the horns of the animals, lumbered homeward. In the dwindling
light a blacksmith before his open shop was fitting with flat, iron
shoes a piebald ox triced up on his back in a frame.

In lieu of the familiar sign, _Ici on loge à pied et à cheval_, the
village inn was distinguished from the private dwellings by a bundle of
dried fagots over the door. I entered, to find myself in a room
well-stocked with wooden tables, with here and there a trio of
villagers, over their wine and cards, blowing smoke at the unhewn beams
of the ceiling. In answer to the customary signal, the tapping of pipes
on the tables, an elderly woman appeared and inquired bruskly wherein
she could serve me.

“You have lodgings, n’est-ce pas?”

A sudden, startling silence greeted the first suggestion of foreign
accent. Cards paused in mid-air, pipes ceased to draw, tipplers craned
their necks to listen, and madame surveyed me deliberately, even a bit
disdainfully, from crown to toe. Satisfied evidently, with her
inspection, she admitted that she had been known to house travelers and
hurried away to bring the register, while the smoking and the drinking
and the playing were slowly and half-heartedly resumed. Madame
scrutinized intently each stroke of the coarse pen as I filled in the
various blanks, puzzled several moments over my “passport,” and dropping
all her stiff dignity, became suddenly garrulous:

“What! You are an American? Why, another American has lodged here. It
was in 1882. He was making the tour of the world on a bicycle. He came
from Boston”—she pronounced it with a distressing nasal—“but I could not
understand his French. He did not pronounce the R. He said ‘foncé’ when
he meant ‘français.’ for ‘terre’ he said ‘tèah.’ I will give you his
bed. He had not many hairs on his head. Do you eat ragoût also in
America? He wore such funny pince-nez. Fine wine, n’est-ce pas? He had
hurt his foot—” and thus she chattered on, through my supper and up the
stairs to my chamber.

The room once graced by the man from Boston was stone-floored, with
whitewashed walls, and large enough to have housed a squad of infantry.
Of its two beds, hung with snow-white curtains, I preferred the one
nearer the window. Unfortunately, my compatriot of the pince-nez had
chosen the other and madame would not hear of my violating the precedent
thus established. The price of this lodging, and the usual one in the
rural inns of France, was fifteen cents.

There were times when my zealous efforts to spend for lodging as few
sous as possible brought me to temporary grief. The night following my
sojourn in La Charité is a case in point. I reached St. Pierre le
Moutier some time after dark, and, upon inquiry for the cheapest
auberge, was directed up a dismal alleyway. On the fringe of the open
country I stumbled upon a ramshackle stone building, one end of which
was a dwelling for man, while the other housed his domestic animals.
Inside, under a sputtering excuse for a lamp, huddled two men, a woman
and a girl, around a table that canted up against the wall as if it had
borne too much wine in its long existence and become chronically
unsteady on its legs thereby. So preoccupied was the quartet in
devouring slabs of dull-brown bread and a watery soup from a common bowl
in which floated a few stray cabbage-leaves that my entrance passed

Advancing to attract attention I brought disaster. For in the
semi-darkness I stepped on the end of a board that supported two legs of
the tipsy table, causing the bowl of soup to slide into the woman’s
arms, and the loaf to roll about on the earth floor. The mishap,
evidently no new experience, aroused no comment, but it gained me a
hearing and brought me into the conversation. Of the two men, one was
the proprietor and the second a traveler of the tramp variety who,
though posing as a Parisian, spoke a decidedly mongrel language. With
the fluency of a stranded tragedian he launched forth in a raging
narration of his misfortunes. French at all resembling the educated
tongue had become as familiar to me as English, but the patois and slang
in which the fellow unfolded the story of a persecuted life would have
daunted an international interpreter. I caught the drift of his remarks
by making him repeat each sentence twice or thrice, but he ended with a:
“Heing! Tu comprinds ma’reux le frinçais;” and I was forced to admit
that if the jargon he got off were “frinçais,” I certainly did.

The younger, and consequently less begrimed of the females, led the way
to my “room,” which turned out to be a hole over the stable, some four
feet high, approached by an outside stairway, and containing two of the
filthiest cots a vivid imagination could have pictured. To my disgust I
found that one of the beds was reserved for my friend of the uncouth
tongue. A half-hour later, unstable after a final bottle of wine with
the _aubergiste_, he stumbled into the den and proceeded to make night
hideous—awake, by his multiloquence, asleep, by a rasping snore. A dozen
times I awoke from a half-conscious nap to find him sitting cross-legged
in his cot, puffing furiously at a cigarette, above the feeble glow of
which glistened his cat-like eyes as he stared at me across the
intervening darkness. At daybreak he was gone and I departed soon after.

There is really no reason why the French roadster should go hungry in
autumn. That he does, is due to a strange national prejudice unknown in
America; for at that season half the highways of France are lined with
hedges heavy with blackberries. At first I looked with suspicion on a
fruit left ungathered by the thrifty peasantry, but, coming one morning
upon a hedge unusually burdened with berries, I satisfied myself as to
their identity and fell to picking a capful. A band of peasants, on the
way to the fields, halted to gaze at me in astonishment and burst into
uproarious laughter.

“Mais, mon vieux,” cried a plowman. “Que diable vas tu faire de ces

“Eat them, of course,” I answered.

“Eat them!” roared the peasants, “but those things are not good to eat,”
and the notion struck them as so droll that their guffaws still came
back to me long after they had turned a bend in the highway. Every
Frenchman I approached on the subject held the same view. The two miners
traveled for hours with a gnawing hunger, or invaded lonely vineyards at
imminent risk of capture by the rural gendarmerie, to eat their fill of
half-ripe grapes, sour and acrid. But when I, from my safe position
outside the hedge, held up a heavily-laden bush, their answer was always
the same: “Ah, non, mon vieux. Not any for me.” Obviously I could not
regret the bad repute in which the fruit was held, for when hunger
overtook me I had but to stop and pick my dinner, and except for the few
sous spent for bread and wine, my rations from Fontainebleau to the
Swiss frontier cost me nothing.

My tramp continued past Nevers and Moulin, down through the department
of Allier to the city of Roanne, stretching along both banks of the
upper Loire. A few kilometers beyond, the highway began a winding ascent
of the first foothills of the Alps. Even here the cultivation bespoke
the thrift of the French peasant. Far up the rugged hillside stretched
terraced farms, each stone-faced step of the broad stairways thickly set
with grapevines. Higher still a few wrinkled patches in sheltered
ravines gave sustenance to the most sturdy toilers. Here it is that may
be seen the nearest prototype of that painful figure known far and wide,
that stolid being who leans on his mattock, gazing helplessly away into
meaningless space; nearest, because his exact original no longer dwells
in the fields of France: he has moved southward. Down a glen below the
highway the trunk of a tree, broken off some six feet above the ground
and with a huge knot on one side, stood out in silhouette against the
distant horizon. But for a crudeness of outline one might have imagined
the stump a clumsy, ragged peasant, with a child astride his shoulders.
I stood surveying this figure, wondering what forces of the elements
could have given a mere tree so strange a likeness to a human form, when
it suddenly started, moved, and strode away across the gully.

The highway continued to climb. The patches of tilled ground gave way to
waving forests where sounded the twittering of birds, and here and there
the cheery song of the woodsman or shepherd boy. Some magic there is
inherent in the clear air of mountain heights that calls forth song from
those that dwell among them.

[Illustration: A typical French roadster who has tramped the highways of
Europe for thirty years]

[Illustration: The two French miners with whom I tramped in France.
Notice shoe laces carried for sale]

With sunset came the summit. The road began to descend, the forests fell
away, the tiny fields appeared once more, and the ballad of the
mountaineer was silent. A colony of laborers, engaged in the
construction of a reservoir, gave me greeting from the doors of their
temporary shacks, and lower still I turned in at an auberge half-filled
with a squad of soldiers.

He is an interesting figure, the French conscript. In his make-up is
none of the boisterous braggadocio of the American trooper and of Tommy
Atkins, never that scorn for civilians so often characteristic of the
voluntary, the mercenary soldier. He feels small inclination to boast of
his wisdom even in military matters, for well he knows that the jolly
innkeeper may be able to tell a tale of his own days _sous le drapeau_
that makes the conscript’s favorite story weak and insipid by
comparison. Then, too, it is hard to be boastful when one is sad at
heart; and the French conscript is not happy. To him conscription is a
yoke, akin to disease and death, which fate has fastened upon the
children of men. He dreads its coming, serves under unexpressed protest,
and sets it down in his book of life as three years utterly lost.

There is, indeed, a note of pessimism everywhere prevalent among the
masses of France. It is not a universal note, not even a constant one:
loud-voiced “calamity-howlers” are less in evidence than in our own
optimistic land. But even amid the merry chatter there hovers over every
gathering of French workmen a gloominess, an infestivity that speaks of
lost hope, of fatalistic despair. Briefly and unconsciously, a craftsman
of chance acquaintance summed up this inner feeling of his class: “Ah,
mon pauvre pays,” he sighed, “elle n’est plus ce qu’elle était.”

Chattering groups of Lyonese, mounting to the freer air of the hills in
Sunday attire, enlivened my morning tramp down the descending highway.
By early afternoon I came in sight of the second city of France and the
confluence of the Soâne and Rhône. The vineyards ceased, to give place
to mulberry trees. Even on this day of merry-making the whir of
silk-looms sounded from the wayside cottages, well into the suburbs of
the city. The humble dwellings were succeeded by mansions; the national
highway, by a broad boulevard that led down to the meeting-place of the
two rivers, and the first stage of my journey to southern Europe was

From Lyon I turned northeastward towards Geneva and the Alps. A
serpentine route climbed upward. Often I tramped for hours around the
edge of a yawning chasm, having always in view a rugged village and its
vineyards far below, only to find myself at the end of that time within
stone’s throw of a long-forgotten kilometer-post. Near the frontier
hovered a general air of suspicion. The aubergiste of the mountain
hamlet of Moulin Chabaud hesitated long and studied every dot and letter
of my papers before offering me a chair under the big fire-place; he
remained surly and distraught all through the evening, as if convinced
in spite of himself that he was harboring one whose career had not been
unsullied. When I awoke, a mountain rain was falling, cold and
ceaseless; but preferring always a certain amount of physical discomfort
to sour looks, I pushed on, splashing into Geneva long after nightfall.

It would doubtless require a frequent repetition of such experiences to
stifle that indefinable dread, akin to fear, which oppresses the weary
pedestrian who, entirely unbefriended, enters an unknown city in the
darkness of night. Limping aimlessly through the streets of Geneva in my
water-soaked garments, I felt particularly dismal and forlorn. Genevese,
huddled under their umbrellas, pushed me aside when I attempted to speak
to them or snapped a few incoherent words over their shoulders. In vain
I attempted to escape from the district of jewellers’ shops and
watch-makers’ show-windows, little suspecting that I was virtually on an
island given over almost entirely to business houses and rich dwellings.

A slippery street led to a bridge across the Rhône, and a policeman
beyond pointed out the district gendarmerie as the proper place to
prosecute my inquiries. From a window of the building shown a dim light,
and within sounded a brisk “entrez” in answer to my knock. Two police
sergeants, engrossed in a game of cards, turned to scowl at me across
the room.

“Eh bien, toi! Qu’est-ce qu’il y a?”

“I am looking for a lodging house and the policeman—”

“Lodging! At this time of night? Do you think the city provides a hotel
de luxe for vagabonds, that they may come and go at any hour—?”

“But I intend to pay my own lodging.”

“Pay! Quoi! Tu as de l’argent?”

“Certainly I have money!” I cried indignantly, though to tell the truth
the weight of it was not making me stoop-shouldered.

“Ah!” gasped the senior officer, speaking the word high up in his mouth
after the fashion of Frenchmen expressing supreme astonishment. “Que je
vous aie mal jugé! I thought you were asking admittance to the night

The shock of hearing one he had taken for a vagabond admit that he had
money was clearly a unique experience in the sergeant’s constabulary
career. He had by no means recovered when I turned away to the inn he
had pointed out.

Three days later I boarded a steamer that zigzagged between the cities
flanking blue Lac Léman, and descending at Villeneuve, set out along the
valley of the upper Rhône. Here all was free and open as the mountains
bordering the fertile strip, for the close-hedged fields of France are
not to the taste of the Swiss peasant. No gendarme waylaid me at each
hamlet; I had but to step off the highway to gather apples under the
trees or to escape from the glaring sun.

Night overtook me at St. Maurice, a sure-footed mountain village,
straddling the Rhône where it roars through a narrow gorge on its way to
the lake beyond. Even within doors the villagers speak a high-pitched
treble, so fixed has become the habit of raising their voices above the
constant boom of the cataract. In my lodging directly above, the roaring
intruded on my dreams, and in fancy I struggled against the rushing
current that carried me down a sheer mountainside.

Church-bound peasants fell in with me along the route next morning,
peasants lacking both the noisy gaiety of the French and the gloominess
of the Sunday-clad German. Wayside wine-shops, or a pace too rapid for a
day of rest cut short my acquaintance with each group, but I had not far
to plod alone before the curiosity of a new band gave me companionship
for another space.

At Martigny the highway bent with the river to the eastward; the
mountain wall crowded more closely the narrow valley, pushing the road
to the edge of the stream that mirrored the rugged peaks. Here and there
a foot-hill boldly detached itself from the range, and taking its stand
in the valley, drove off the route on a winding detour.

Two such hills gave Sion a form all its own. An ample Paradplatz in the
foreground held back the jumble of houses tossed upon an undulating
hillside. Back of the village, like gaunt sentinels guarding the valley
of the upper Rhône, stood two towering rocks, the one crowned by the
ruins of an ancient castle, the other by a crumbling church that gazed
scornfully down on the jostling buildings of modern times. A Sunday
festival was raging on the parade-ground. Around the booths and
puppet-shows surged merry countrymen in gay attire; from the flanking
shops hung streamers and the flags of many nations.

I had barely reached the town when a rumble of thunder sounded. Dense,
black clouds, flying before a wind that did not reach us in the valley,
appeared from the north, tearing themselves on the jagged peaks above.
Close on the heels of the warning a storm broke in true Alpine fury. The
festooned multitude broke madly for the shelter of the shops, the gaudy
streamers and booths turned to drooping rags, the puppets humped their
shoulders appealingly, and the parade-ground became a shallow lake that
reflected a bright sun ten minutes after the first growl of thunder.

The oppressive heat tempered by the shower, I rounded the greater of the
sentinel rocks and continued up the valley. Rolling vineyards stretched
away on either hand to the brink of the river or the base of the
enclosing mountains. A burning thirst assailed me. Almost unconsciously
I paused and picked two clusters of plump grapes that hung over the
stone coping of a field above the highway.

A stone’s throw ahead, two men stepped suddenly from behind a clump of
bushes and strolled towards me.

“Do you know what that is?” demanded one of them, in French, as he waved
a small badge before my eyes.

I certainly did. It was the official shield of the rural gendarmerie.

“Yes,” I admitted.

“Back you go with us to Sion!” roared the officer. He was a lean, lank
giant who, evidently in virtue of his length, assumed the position of
spokesman. His companion, almost a dwarf, nodded his head vigorously in

“Eh bien?” I answered, too weary to argue the matter.

“Yes,” blustered the spokesman, “back to Sion and the magistrate—” he
paused, squinted at the dwarf, and went on in dulcet tones, “unless you
pay thirty francs.”

“Thirty francs! Where on earth should I get thirty francs?”

In my excitement I somewhat bungled my French.

“Where go you?” asked the pocket edition of the law. His voice was
soothing and he spoke in German.

“To Italy. I am a workman.”

“Ja! Und in deinem Lande—in your land you may pick grapes when you like,
_was_?” shouted the long one.

“A couple of bunches? Of course!”

“_Was!_ In Italien?” In his voice was all the sarcasm he could call up
from a tolerably caustic nature.

“I am no Italian. I come from the United States.”

“United States!” bellowed the gendarme, looking around at his companion.
“What is this United States?”

“Ah-er-well, there _is_ such a country,” suggested the midget, “but—”

“And in this country of yours you do not speak French, nor German, nor
yet Italian?” snapped the officer, relapsing unconsciously into French.

“No, we speak English.”

“Mille diables! English! What then is that?”

“Ja. Es gibt so eine Sprache,” ventured the dwarf.

The spokesman ignored him.

“Well, pay fifteen francs and we have seen nothing.”


“Then back to Sion and the gendarmerie.”

“Very well, en route.”

The pair scowled and turned aside to whisper together. The tall one
continued, “My comrade says, as you are a pauvre diable on foot—five

“Five francs for two bunches of grapes, comme ça?” I gasped holding them

“Ach! Ein, unglücklicher Kerl,” urged the dwarf. “Say three francs.”

“No!” I cried, “C’en est trop. Two bunches, like that? I have here two

The leader shook his head, glanced at his mate, and took several steps
in the direction of Sion.

“Ah! A poor devil on the road,” breathed the other.

“Well, two it is,” growled the moving spirit.

I took two francs from my pocket and dropped them into the outstretched
palm. The officer jingled the coins a moment, handed one to his
companion, and pocketed the other with the air of a man who had well
performed an unpleasant duty. His threatening scowl had vanished and a
smile played on his lean face.

“Merci,” he said, dropping his shield into a side pocket and turning
back to his hiding-place, “au revoir, monsieur!” And the small man,
following close on his heels, turned to add, “Bon voyage, monsieur

I plodded on into the dusk, eating the high-priced grapes, and wondering
just where the owner of the vineyard entered into the transaction.

Somewhere near the treacherous clump of bushes I passed the unmarked
boundary between French and German Switzerland. Thus far the former
tongue had reigned supreme, though pedestrians often greeted me with
“Bon jour,” “Guten Tag.” But the voice of the street in Sierre, where I
halted for the night, was overwhelmingly Teutonic, and the signs over
hospitable doors no longer read “auberge,” but “Wirtschaft” and
“Bierhalle.” There I lay late abed next morning, and once off, strolled
leisurely along the fertile valley, for a bare twenty miles separated
the town from Brieg, at the foot of the Simplon pass.

You who turn in each evening at the selfsame threshold, you who huddle
in your niche among the cave-dwellers of great cities, you who race
through foreign lands in car and carriage as if fearful of setting foot
on an alien soil, can know nothing of the exhilaration that comes in
tramping mile after mile of open country when life blooms forth in its
prime on every hand. A single day afoot brings delight. Yet only he who
looks day after day on an ever-changing scene, who passes on and ever on
into the great Weltraum that stretches unendingly before him, can feel
the full strength of the Wanderlust within. To stop seems an
irreverence, to turn back a sacrilege. In these days of splendid
transportation we lose much that our forefathers enjoyed. There is a
sense of satisfaction akin to self-pride, a sense of real accomplishment
that thrills the pedestrian who has attained a distant goal through his
own unaided efforts, a satisfaction which the traveler by steam cannot

The highway over the Simplon, constructed by Napoleon in 1805, is still,
in spite of the encroachment of railways, a well-traveled route, though
not by pedestrians. The good people of Brieg burst forth in wailing
sympathy when I divulged my plan of crossing on foot. Traffic between
the village and Domo d’Ossola in Piedmont has for generations been
monopolized by a line of stage-coaches. There was more than the
exhilaration of such a tramp, however, to awaken my revolt against this
time-honored means of transportation, for the fare on one of these
primitive bone-shakers ranged from forty to fifty francs.

With a vagrant’s lunch in my knapsack I left Brieg at dawn, for the
first tramontane hamlet was thirty miles distant. Before the sun rose,
the morning stage rattled by and the jeering of its drivers cheered me
on. The highway showed nowhere a really steep grade, though it mounted
seven thousand feet in twenty-three kilometers. With every turn of the
route the panorama grew. Three hours up, Brieg still peeped out through
the slender _Tannenbäume_, far below, yet almost directly beneath; and
the vista extended far down the winding valley of the Rhône, back to the
sentinel rocks of Sion and beyond. Across the chasm sturdy mountaineers
scrambled from rock to boulder with their sheep and goats, as high as
grew the hardiest sprig of vegetation. Far above the last shrub, ragged,
barren peaks cut from the blue sky beyond figures of fantastic shape;
peaks aglow with nature’s most lavish coloring, here one deep purple in
the morning shade, there another, with basic tone of ruddy pink changed
like watered silk under the reflection of the rays that gilded its

Beyond the spot where Brieg was lost to view began the _réfuges_,
roadside cottages in which the traveler, overcome by fatigue or the
raging storms of winter, may seek shelter. In this summer season,
however, they had degenerated one and all into dirty wine-shops where
squalling children and stray goats wandered about among the tables. I
peered in at one and inquired the price of a bottle of wine. A spidery
female rose up to fleece me of my slender hoard and I beat a hasty
retreat, thankful to have come prepared against the call of hunger, and
content to drink the crystalline water of wayside streams.

The roadway found scant footing in the upper ranges, and burrowed its
way through several tunnels. High above one of them a glacier sent down
a roaring torrent sheer over the route, and through an opening in the
outer wall of the sub-torrential gallery one could reach out and touch
the foaming stream as it plunged into the abyss far below.

Light clouds, that had obscured the sterile peaks during the last hours
of the ascent, all but caused me to pass unnoticed the hospice of St.
Bernard that marks the summit. I stepped inside to write a postal to the
world below, and turned out again into a drizzling rain that soon became
a steady downpour. But the kilometers that had been so long in the
morning fairly raced by on the downward journey, and a few hours brought
me to the frontier.

As if fearful of losing sovereignty over a foot of her territory, Italy
has set a guard-house exactly over the boundary line, amid wild rocks
and gorges. A watchful soldier stepped out into the storm and hailed me
while several yards of Switzerland still lay between us:

“Any tobacco or cigars?”

I fished out a half-used package of Swiss tobacco, wet and mushy. The
officer waved a deprecatory hand.

“What’s this?” he demanded, tapping the pocket that held my kodak.

“A picture machine,” I explained, showing an edge of the apparatus.

“Bene, buona sera,” cried the officer, as he ran for his shelter.

At nightfall I splashed into the scraggy village of Iselle. From a
yawning hole in the mountainside poured forth a regiment of laborers who
scurried towards a long row of improvised shanties, hanging, on the edge
of nothing, over a rushing mountain river. Having once been a
“mud-mucker” in my own land, I followed after, and struck up several
acquaintanceships over the evening macaroni. The band was engaged in
boring a tunnel, thirteen miles in length, from Brieg to Iselle. With
its completion the Simplon tourist will avoid the splendid scenery of
the pass; the stage-coaches will be consigned to the scrap-heaps they
should long since have adorned; and an hour, robbed of sunshine and pure
air, will separate Italy from the valley of the Rhône. Then will the
transalpine voyager degenerate into the subalpine passenger.

                              CHAPTER III
                           TRAMPING IN ITALY

There was next morning nothing to recall the dismal weather of the day
before except the deep mud of the highway and my garments, still
dripping wet when I drew them on. The vine-covered hillsides and rolling
plains below, the lizards basking on every rock and ledge, peasant women
plodding barefooted along the route gave to the land an aspect far
different from that of the valley of the Rhône. It was hard to realize
that the open fields and chilling night winds of Switzerland were not
hundreds of miles away, but just behind the flanking range.

The French and German that had so long served me must now give place to
my none too fluent Italian. In the grey old town of Domo d’Ossola I
halted at a booth to buy a box of matches.

“Avete allumette?” I demanded of the brown-visaged matron in charge.

I have always had an unconquerable feeling that the French “allumette”
ought really to be an Italian word; but my attempt to introduce it into
that language failed dismally.

“Cose sono allumette?” croaked the daughter of Italy, with such
overdrawn sarcasm that it was all too evident that she understood the
term, but did not propose to admit any knowledge of the despised
_francese_ tongue.

“Fiammiferi, voglio dire,” I replied, recalling the correct word.

“Ah! Ecco!” cried the matron, handing me a box with her blandest smile.

I quickly discovered, too, that the language of the Divine Comedy was
not the one in which to make known my simple wants. But being more
familiar with the phraseology of the famous Florentine than with the
speech of the masses, I found myself, in those first days in the
peninsula, prone to converse in poetics despite a very prosaic
temperament. As when, in the outskirts of Domo d’Ossola, I turned to a
chestnut vendor at a fork in the road, and pointing up one of the
branches, demanded:

“Ah!—er—Perme si va nella città dol—Confound it, no, I mean is this the
road to Varese?”

To which the native, to whose lips was mounting a “non capisc’” at sound
of the Dantesque phrase, answered in a twinkling:

“Di s’guro, s’gnor’, semp’ dritt!”

Across northern Italy, almost in a straight line, are scattered several
famous cities, all invaded by the broad highway that leads from the
Simplon to Venice. Most beautiful among them is Pallanza, a village
paradise on the shore of Lago Maggiore, in the lakeside groves of which
I should have tarried longer but for the recollection of how wide the
world is to the impecunious wayfarer. I fished out, therefore, from the
bin of a second-hand book dealer a ragged Baedeker in French, and, thus
armed with a more trustworthy source of information than dull-eyed
peasants, boarded the steamer that connected the broken ends of the
highway. During the short journey a band of English tourists sauntered
about on the deck above me, and my native tongue, unheard since Paris
and not to be heard again until—well, until long after, sounded almost
foreign to my ears.

Beyond Varese next morning, within sight of five snow-capped peaks of
the range I had crossed three days before, I espied from afar the white
sun-shields of two officers, armed with muskets, and marching westward.
Anticipating a quizzing, I turned aside from the sun-scorched route and
awaited their coming in a shaded spot. Strange to say, in this land
burdened with a tax on salt and an unholy visitation of soldiers and
priests, vagrants enjoy far more liberty than in France. Thus far the
indifference of the gendarmerie had been so marked that I had come to
feel neglected. Yet tramps abounded. This very freedom makes Italy a
favorite land among the _Handwerksgesellen_ of Switzerland, Germany, and
Austria, many of whom I had already met, marching southward full of
Wanderlust, or crawling homeward with bitter stories of the miseries of
the peninsula.

The _carabinieri_, spick and span of uniform, their swords rattling
egotistically on the roadway, drew near, and, stepping into the shade,
opened a conversation that needs no translation.

“Di dove siete?”

“Di America, dei Stati Uniti.”

“Di America! Ma! E dove andate?”

“A Venezia.”

“Ma! Come! A piedi?”

“Di siguro. Come volete che fare?”

“Ma! Perche andare a Venezia?”

“Sono marinaio.”

“Ah! Marinaio! Bene!” and without even calling for my papers they
strutted on along the highway.

A wonderful word is this Italian “ma.” Let not the uninitiated suppose
that the term designates a maternal ancestor. But—and that is its real
meaning—it is a useful vocable and like all useful things is greatly
overworked. If an Italian of the masses wishes to express disgust,
surprise, resignation, depression of spirits, or any one of a score of
other impressions, he has merely to say “ma” with the corresponding
accentuation and timbre and his hearers know his opinion exactly. It
takes the place of our “All right!” “Hurry up!” “Quit it!” “Let ’er go!”
“The devil he did!” “Rot!” “Dew tell!” “Cuss the luck!” “Nuff said!”
“D—n it!” and there its meanings by no means cease.

Poverty stalks abroad in Italy. Even in this richer northern section it
required no telescope to make out its gaunt and furrowed features.
Ragged children quarrelled for the possession of an apple-core thrown by
the wayside; the rolling fields were alive with barefooted women toiling
like demon-driven serfs. A sparrow could not have found sustenance
behind the gleaners. In wayside orchards men armed with grain-sacks
stripped even the trees of their leaves; for what purpose was not
evident, though the beds to which I was assigned in village inns
suggested a possible solution of the problem.

The peasant of these parts possesses three beasts of burden: a team of
gaunt white oxen—or cows—an undersized ass, and his wife. Of the three,
the last is most useful. The husbandman does not load his hay on wagons;
a few blades might fall by the wayside. He ties it carefully in small
bundles, piles them high above the baskets strapped on the backs of his
helpmeet, and drives her off to the village, often miles distant. They
are loads which the American workman would refuse to carry—so does the
Italian for that matter; but the highway is animate with what look, at a
distance, like wandering haystacks, from beneath which, on nearer
approach, peer women, or half-grown girls, whose drawn and haggard faces
might have served as models to those artists who have depicted on canvas
the beings of Dante’s hell.

A traveler, ignorant of Italian, wandering into Como at my heels on that
sweltering afternoon, would have been justified in supposing that the
advance agent of a circus had preceded him. Had he taken the trouble to
engage an interpreter, however, he would have learned that a more
serious catastrophe had befallen. The very night before a
longed-hoped-for heir to the throne of Vittore Emanuele had dropped into
his reserved seat on the neck of the Italian tax-payer. On the city
gate, on house-walls everywhere, on the very façade of the cathedral,
great, paste-sweating placards announced the casuality in flaunting
head-lines, and a greater aggregation of adjectives than would be
required in our own over-postered land to call public attention to the
merits of Chow Chow Chewing Gum, or the Yum Yum Burlesque Company. Worst
of all, the manifesto ended, not with expressions of condolence to the
proletariat, but with a command to swear at once loyalty and fealty to
“Il Principe di Piemonte.” Everywhere jostling groups were engrossed in
spelling out the proclamation; but it was quite possible to pass through
the streets of Como without being trampled under foot by its citizens in
their mad rush to carry out the royal order.

Nightfall found me in quest of a lodging in Pusiano, a lakeside village
midway between Como and Lecco. It was no easy task. The _alberghi_ of
Italy—but why generalize? They are all tarred with the same stick. The
proprietor, then, of the Pusiano hostelry, relying for his custom on
those who know every in and out of the town, had not gone to the expense
of erecting a sign. I found, after long and diligent search, the edifice
that included the public resort under its roof; but as the inn had no
door opening on the street, I was still faced with the problem of
finding the entrance. Of two dark passages and a darker stairway before
me, it was a question which was most suggestive of pitfalls set for
unwary travelers, and of dank, underground dungeons. I plunged into one
of the tunnels with my hands on the defensive; which was fortunate, for
I brought up against a stone wall. The second passage ended as abruptly.
I approached the stairway stealthily; stumbled up the stone steps, over
a stray cat and a tin pan, and into the common room of the Pusiano
inn—common because it served as kitchen, dining-room, parlor, and

My wants made known, the proprietor half rose to his feet, sat down
again, and motioned me to a seat. I took a place opposite him on one of
the two benches inside the fire-place, partly because it had been
raining outside, but chiefly on account of an absence of chairs that
left me no choice in the matter. Shrouded in silence I filled my pipe.
The landlord handed me a glowing coal in his fingers and dropped back on
his bench without once subduing his stare. His wife wandered in and
placed several pots and kettles around the fire that toasted our heels.
Still not a word. I leaned back and, gazing upward, watched as much of
the smoke as could find no other vent pass up the chimney. Now and then
a drop of rain fell with a hiss on pan or kettle.

“Not nice weather,” grinned the landlord, and the ice thus broken, we
were soon engaged in animated conversation. Too animated in fact, for in
emphasizing some opinion mine host had the misfortune to kick over a
kettle of boiling macaroni and was banished from the chimney corner by a
raging spouse. Being less given to pedal gesticulation, I kept my place,
and strove to answer the questions which the exile fired at me across
the room.

By meal time several natives had dropped in, and our party at table grew
garrulous and in time so numerous that to serve us became a serious
problem to the hostess, who was neither lithe nor quick of movement. The
supper began with _una minestra_, a plate of soup containing some
species of macaroni and, as usual in these cheap alberghi, several
species of scrap-iron. Then a bit of meat was doled out, somewhat to my
surprise; for the price of this article is so high in Italy that a stew
of kidneys, liver, sheep’s head, or fat-covered entrails is often the
only offering. He who has the temerity and a heavy enough purse to order
a cutlet or a _bistecca_ in such an inn is looked upon with awe and envy
as long as he remains. I seldom had either.

Following the meat dish—it is never served with it—came a bowl of
vegetables, then a bit of fruit and a nibble of cheese for each of us.
Wine, of course, had been much in evidence; the Italian has no
conception of a meal without his national drink. The wayfarer may call
for nothing to eat but the three-cent minestra, and la signora serves it
as cheerily as a dinner at one lira; but let him refuse to order wine,
and her sympathy is forever forfeited. When drowsiness fell upon me the
hostess led the way to an airy, spacious room, its bed boasting a lace
canopy, and its coarse sheets remarkably white in view of the fact that
the Italian housewife does her work in the village brook, and never uses
hot water. Such labor is cheap in the peninsula and for all this luxury
I paid less than ten cents.

Early next day I pushed on toward Lecco. A light frost had fallen during
the night, and the peasants, alarmed at this first breath of winter, had
sent into the vineyards every man, woman, and child capable of labor.
The pickers worked feverishly. All day women plodded from the fields to
the roadside with great buckets of grapes to be dumped into hogsheads on
waiting ox-carts. Men, booted or shod with wooden clogs, jumped now and
then into the barrels and stamped the grapes down. Once full, the
receptacles were covered with strips of dirty canvas, the _contadino_
mounted his cart, turned his oxen into the highway, and fell promptly
asleep. Arrived at the village, he drew up before the chute of the
communal wine-press and shoveled his grapes into a slowly-revolving
hopper, from which, crushed to an oozy pulp, they were run into huge
vats and left to settle.

Halting for a morning lunch in the shadow of the statue of Manzoni, I
rounded that range of mountains, so strangely resembling a saw, which
shelters Lecco from the east wind, and continuing through the theater of
action of “I Promessi Sposi,” gained Bergamo by nightfall. Beyond that
city a level highway set an unchanging course across a vast,
grape-bearing plain, watered by a network of canals. The Alps retired
slowly to the northward until, at Brescia, only a phantom range wavered
in the haze of the distant horizon.

About the time of my arrival in Italy, a strike had been declared in
Milan. The Milanese motormen had refused to groom their horses or
something of the sort. Once started, the movement was rapidly growing
general and widespread. The newspapers bubbled over with it, the air
about me was surcharged with raging arraignments of capitalistic
iniquities. Strikes and lock-outs, however, were no affairs to trouble
the peace of a foot-traveler. When trains ceased to run, I marched
serenely on through clamoring groups of stranded voyagers; when the
barbers closed their shops, I decided to raise a beard. The butchers
joined the movement and I smiled with the indifference of one who had
subsisted for weeks chiefly on bread.

The bakers of northern Italy concoct this important comestible in loaves
of about the size and durability of baseballs. Serving in that capacity
there is good reason to believe that one of them would remain unscathed
at the end of a league game, though the score-book recorded many a
three-bagger and home-run. Still, hard loaves soaked in wine, or crushed
between two wayside rocks were edible, in a way; and, as long as they
were plentiful, I could not suffer for lack of food.

A few miles beyond Brescia, however, the strike became a matter of
personal importance. At each of the bakeries of a grumbling village I
was turned away with the cry of:—

“Pane non ch’è! The strike! The bakers have joined the strike and no
more bread is made!”

To satisfy that day’s appetite I was reduced to “paste,” a mushy mess of
macaroni; and at a Verona inn I was robbed of half my sleep by the
discussion of this new phase of the situation, that roared in the
kitchen until long after midnight.

I was returning across the piazza next morning, from an early view of
the picturesque bridges and the ancient Colosseum of Verona, when I fell
upon a howling mob at the gateway of the city hall. Joining the throng,
I soon gained an inner courtyard, to find what seemed to be half the
population of Verona quarreling, pushing, and scratching in a struggle
to reach the gate of a large wicket that shut off one end of the square.
Behind it, just visible above the intervening sea of heads, appeared the
top of some massive instrument, and the caps of a squad of policemen. I
inquired of an excited neighbor the cause of the squabble. He glowered
at me and howled something in reply, the only intelligible word of which
was “pane” (bread). I turned to a man behind me. He took advantage of my
movement to shove me aside and crowd into my place, at the same time
vociferating “pane!” I tried to oust the usurper. He jabbed me twice in
the ribs with his elbows, and again roared “pane.” In fact, everywhere
above the howl and blare of the multitude, one word rang out clear and
sharp—“pane! pane! pane!” Sad experiences of the day before, and the
anticipation of the long miles of highway before me, had aroused my
interest in that commodity. I dived into the human whirlpool and set out
to battle my way towards the vortex.

With all its noise and bluster, an Italian crowd does not know the
rudiments of football. Even the wretch who had dispossessed me of my
first vantage-ground was far behind when I reached the front rank and
paused to survey the scene of conflict. Inside the wicket a dozen
perspiring policemen were guarding several huge baskets of that baseball
bread already mentioned. Beyond them stood the instrument that had
attracted my attention—a pair of wooden scales that looked fully capable
of giving the avoirdupois of an ox. Still further on, an officer, whose
expression suggested that he was recording nominations of candidates to
fill the King’s seat, presided over a ponderous book, a pen the size of
a stiletto behind each ear, and one resembling a young bayonet in his

One by one the citizens of Verona shot through a small gate into the
enclosure from the surging multitude outside as from a catapult; to be
brought up with a round turn by the shouted question, “Pound or two
pounds?” Once weighed out, the desired number of loaves traveled rapidly
from hand to hand on one side of the official line; while the applicant,
struggling to keep pace with them on the other, paused before the
registering clerk to answer several pertinent personal questions,
corralled his purchase at the table of the receiving teller, and made
his escape as best he could.

Almost before I had time to study the workings of this system, the press
of humanity behind sent me spinning through the gate. “Two pounds!” I
shouted, as I swept by the scales en route for the book. Just in front
of me a gaunt creature paused and gave his residence as Florence. “No
bread for you!” roared every officer within hearing; policemen,
sergeants, and clerks, in a rousing chorus, “Only bread for Veronese!
Get out of here!” and, impelled by two official boots, the stranger
stood not on the order of his going.

That Florentine was a god-send to me. In my innocence I had already
opened my mouth to shout “Americano” to his Self-Complacency behind the
volume, and, had that fateful word escaped me, I should have gone
“paneless” through the long hours of a long day.

“Residenza?” shouted the registrar, as I entered his field of vision.

“Verona, signore.”


“Calzolaio, signore.”

“Street and number.”

I remembered the name of one street and tacked on a number haphazard.

“Bene! Va!” An official hand pushed me unceremoniously towards the
teller. I dropped ten soldi, gathered up my bread, and departed by the
further wicket-gate down a flagstone alley.

Let him who has not tried it take my word that to carry two pounds of
edible baseballs in his arms is no simple task. A loaf rolled in the
gutter before I had advanced a dozen paces. The others squirmed
waywardly in my grasp. With both hands amply occupied, I was reduced to
the indignity of squatting on the pavement to fill my pockets, and even
then a witless observer would have taken me for an itinerant juggler.
Never since leaving Detroit had I posed as a philanthropist, but the
burden of bread called for drastic measures; I must either be charitable
or wasteful.

He who longs to give alms in Italy has not far to look for a recipient
of his benefaction. I glanced down the passageway, and my eyes fell on a
beggar of forlornly mournful aspect crouched in a gloomy doorway. With a
benignant smile I bestowed upon him enough of my load with which to play
the American national game among his confrères until the season closed.
The outcast wore a sign marked, “Deaf and dumb.” Either he had picked up
the wrong placard in sallying forth, or had been startled out of his
rôle by the munificence of the gift. For as long as a screeching voice
could reach me I was deluged with more blessings, to be delivered by the
Virgin Mary; Her Son; every pope, past, present, or to come; or any
saint, dead, living, or unborn, who had a few stray ones about him; than
I could possibly have found use for.

I plodded on towards Vincenza. All that day the hard-earned loaves,
which I dissolved in a glass of wine at village inns, aroused the envy
of pessimistic groups gathered to curse the strike in general and that
of the bakers in particular.

When morning broke again I summoned courage to test the third-class
accommodations of Italy, and took train from Vincenza to Padua. At
least, the ticket I purchased bore those two names, though the company
hardly lived up to the printed contract thereon. We started from
somewhere off in the woods to the west of Vincenza and, at the end of
several hours of jolting and bumping, not excused, certainly, by the
speed of the train, were set down in the center of a wheat field, which
the guards informed us, in blatant voices, was Padua. I had a faint
recollection of having heard somewhere that Padua boasted buildings and
streets, like other cities. It was possible, of course, that the source
of my information had been untrustworthy; I am nothing if not gullible.
But fixed impressions are not easily effaced, and I wandered out through
the sequestered station to whisper my absurd delusion to the first

“Padova!” he snorted, “Ma! Di siguro! Certainly this is Padua! Follow
this road for a kilometer. Just before you come in sight of a
whitewashed pig-sty turn to the left, walk sempre dritt’, and the city
cannot escape you.”

I set out with the inner sense of having been “done” by the railway
company, but the good man’s directions proved accurate and brought me in
due time to the city gate.

The Italian stammers two excuses for this enchanting custom of banishing
his stations to the surrounding meadows. If the city admitted railways
within her walls—and every town larger than a community of goat-herds
_is_ walled—how could the officials of the octroi collect the duty on a
cabbage hidden in the fireman’s tool-box? Or in case of foreign
invasion! A regiment of Austrians ensconced under the benches of the
third-class coach might, if they survived the journey, butcher the
entire population before their presence was suspected. Besides, who
could live in peace and contentment knowing that the sacred intermural
precincts might at any moment be deluged with a train-load of cackling,
beBaedekered tour—But no, now I think of it, my informant offered only
_two_ apologies.

Those who are victims of insomnia should journey to Padua. There may be
in the length and breadth of Europe another community as conducive to
sleep, but it has thus far escaped discovery. The sun is undoubtedly hot
in Italy during the summer months. There runs a proverb in the peninsula
to the effect that only fools and the English—which of course, includes
Americans—venture forth near noonday without at least the protection of
a parasol. But having suffered no evil effects during weeks of tramping
in the country with only a cap on my head, I, for one, should hesitate
to charge entirely to climatic conditions the torpor of the Padovans.

At any rate the city was lost in slumber. The few horses dragged their
vehicles at a snail’s pace; the drivers nodded on their seats; those few
shopkeepers who had not put up their shutters and retired to the bosom
of their families could with difficulty be aroused from their siestas to
minister to the wants of yawning customers. The very dogs slept in the
gutters or under the chairs of their torpescent masters, and, to judge
from many a building that was crumbling away and falling asleep like the
inhabitants, this Morpheusatic tendency was no temporary characteristic.

However, the general somnolence permitted me to view in peace the
statues and architecture for which the drowsy city is justly renowned,
and leaving it to slumber on, I set off at noonday on the last stage of
my journey across northern Italy. The phantom range of the Alps had
disappeared. Away to the eastward stretched a land as flat and unbroken
as the sea which, tossing its drifting sands on a lee shore through the
ages, has drawn this coast further and further towards the rising sun.
Walking had been easier on the long mountain ascents behind, for a
powerful wind from off the Adriatic pressed me back like an unseen hand
at my breast. Certain as I had been of reaching Fusiano on the coast
before the day was done, twilight found me still plodding on across a
barren lowland. With the first twinkling star a faint glow appeared to
the left and afar off, giving center to the surrounding darkness.
Steadily it grew until it illuminated a distant corner of the firmament,
while the wind howled with ever-increasing force across the unpeopled

Night had long since settled down when the lapping of waves announced
that I had overtaken the retreating coast-line. A few ramshackle hovels
rose up out of the darkness, but still far out over the sea hovered the
glow in the sky—no distant conflagration, as I had supposed, but the
reflected lights of Venice. Long cherished visions of a cheering meal
and a soft couch, before my entrance into the city of the sea, vanished;
for there was no inn among the hovels of Fusiano. I took shelter in a
shanty down on the beach and awaited patiently the ten-o’clock boat.

By the appointed hour there had gathered enough of a swarthy crowd to
fill the tiny steamer that made fast with great difficulty to the crazy
wharf. On the open sea the wind was riotous, and our passage took on the
aspect of a transatlantic trip in miniature. Now and then a wave spat in
the faces of the passengers huddled aft. A ship’s officer jammed his way
among us to collect the six-cent tickets. Behind him the officials of
the Venice octroi were busily engaged in levying dues on produce from
the country. Two poor devils, gaunt as death’s heads, crouched in the
waist, guarding between them a bundle of vegetables that could be bought
a few centesimi cheaper on the mainland than in the city. The stuff
could not have satisfied the normal appetite of one man; yet in spite of
their pleadings, the pair were compelled to drop their share of soldi
into the official bag.

By and by the toss of the steamer abated somewhat. I pushed to the rail
to peer out into the night. Off the port bow appeared a stretch of
smooth water in which were reflected the myriad lights of smaller craft
and the illuminated windows of a block of houses rising sheer out of the
sea. We swung to port. A gondola, weirdly lighted up by torches on bow
and poop, glided across our bow. The houses born of the sea took on
individuality, a wide canal opened on our left and curved away between
other buildings, the splendor of their façades faintly suggested in the
light of mooring-post lamp and lantern. It was the Grand Canal. The
steamer nosed its way through a fleet of empty gondolas, tied up at a
landing stage before a marble column bearing the lion of St. Mark, and
the passengers hurried away across the cathedral square to be swallowed
up in the night.

In a city of streets and avenues there are certain signs which point the
way to the ragged section, but among the winding waterways and arcade
bridges of this strange metropolis such indications were lacking. A full
two hours I tramped at utter random, on the blisters of the highway from
Padua, only to turn up at last in an albergo within a stone’s throw of
my landing-place and the Palace of the Doges.

The squares and alleys of Venice are strewn with human wreckage. In the
rest of Italy the most penurious wretch may move from place to place in
an attempt to ameliorate his condition; but on this marshy island the
man unable to scrape together a few soldi for boat or car fare is a
prisoner. The captives are little accustomed to sleep within doors.
Lodging, obviously, must be high in a city where space is absolutely
limited; but there are “joints” where food sells more cheaply than
anywhere else on the continent.

On the evening following my arrival, I came upon one of these
establishments which rubbed shoulders with the cathedral of St. Mark.
Appetite alone certainly could not have enticed me inside, but eager to
scrape acquaintance with the submerged tenth—the fraction seems small—of
Venice, I crowded my way into the kennel. A lean and hungry multitude
surged about the counter. At one end of it was piled a stack of plates;
near them stood a box which, to all appearances, had long done service
as a coal scuttle, filled to overflowing with twisted and rust-eaten
forks and spoons. The room was foggy with the steam that rose from a
score of giant kettles containing as many species of stew, soup, and
vegetable ragoût.

Each client, conducting himself as if he had been fasting for a week
past, snatched a plate from the stack; thrust a paw into the box for a
weapon of attack, and dropping a few coppers of most unsanitary aspect
into the dish, shoved it with a savage bellow at that one of the kettles
the contents of which had taken his fancy. A fogbound server scraped the
soldi into the till, poured a ladleful of steaming slop into the
outstretched trencher, and the customer fought his way into a dingy

[Illustration: A Venetian pauper on the Rialto bridge]

[Illustration: My gondolier on the Grand Canal]

Amid the uproar I had no time to inquire prices. I proffered six cents
to a wrinkled hag presiding over a caldron of what purported to be a
tripe and liver ragoût. She cried out in amazement, handed back four
cents, and filled my plate to the rim. I reached the back-room with half
the mess—the rest being scooped up in the coat sleeves of the famished
throng—and took my place at an already crowded table. Neither bread nor
wine was to be had in the house. On a board propped up across a corner
of the room were several cylinders of corn mush, three feet in diameter
and half as thick. A hairless creature, stripped to the waist, cut off
slabs of the cake for those who would have something to take the place
of bread. The yellow dough sold at two cents a pound, yet each order was
carefully weighed, and purchaser and server watched the scales jealously
during the operation. As a substitute for wine there was a jar of water,
that abominable, germ-infested water of Venice, from which each drank in

Every type of wretch which the city shelters was represented in the
emaciated gathering. Rag-pickers snarled at cathedral beggars. Street
urchins jostled bearded bootblacks. Female outcasts rubbed elbows with
those gruesome beings who pick up a few cents a day at the landing
stages. My boisterous appetite dwindled away at sight of the messes
around me and in the exploration of the mysteries of my own portion. All
at once there burst upon me the recollection that I had seen neither a
dog nor a cat during all that day in Venice, and I turned and fought my
way to the door. Behind me rose a quarrel over my unfinished portion.
Outside, on the square beside the fallen campanile, kind-hearted
tourists were feeding wholesome grain to a flock of pigeons, above which
magnificent statues looked down upon a crowd of homeless waifs huddled
under the portico of the Palace of the Doges.

I turned down to the landing stage one morning resolved on the
extravagance of a gondola excursion. The water cabmen of Venice are not
wont to solicit men in corduroys and flannel shirt. A score of them,
just recovering from a stampede on a tow-head in regulation tourist
garb, greeted my arrival with the fishy eye of indifference. When I
boldly announced my plan, they crowded around me to laugh in derision at
the laborer seeking to play the lord. For some time they refused to take
my words seriously, and even then the first skeptic to be convinced
insisted on proof of my financial solvency before he proffered his

Along the Grand Canal passing gondoliers, without passengers to keep
them decorous, flung cutting jests at my propeller.

“Eh! Amico! What’s that you’ve got?”

“Ch’è un rico, colui quà, eh?”

“Sangue della Vergine, caro mio, dove hai accozzato quello?”

But once assured of his fare, the fellow lost his smirk and became all
servility, pointing out the objects of interest with a mien of owl-like
solemnity, and rebuking his fellow-craftsmen with an admonishing shake
of the head.

Fear drove me forth from Venice before I had rested the miles from Paris
out of my legs—fear that in a few days more the mosquitoes would finish
their nefarious work and devour me quite. On the Sunday evening
following the opening of the carnival, I fought my confetti-strewn way
to the station and “booked” for Bologna. I had not yet, however, learned
all the secrets of Italian railway travel. The official who snatched my
ticket at the exit to the platform and the midnight express handed it
back and pushed me away with a withering glare:

“No third-class on this train,” he growled, “wait for the slow train at
five in the morning.”

How any particular one of the trains of Italy could be discriminated
against by being called slow was hard to comprehend. Perhaps I
misunderstood the gateman. He may have said “the more slower train.” At
any rate, I was left to stretch out on a truck and await the laggard

Under a declining sun our funereal caravan crawled into Bologna, and I
struck out along the ancient highway to Florence. Between the two cities
stretches an almost unbroken series of mountain ranges, a
poverty-stricken territory given over to grazing and wine-production,
and little known to tourists, for the railway sweeps in a great
half-circle around the northern end of the barrier. A few miles from the
university town the highway began a winding ascent in Simplon-like
solitude, save where a vineyard clung to a wrinkled hillside. At such
spots tall, cone-shaped buckets of some two bushels’ capacity stood at
the roadside, some filled with grapes, others with the floating pulp
left by the crushers.

What species of crusher was used I did not learn until nearly nightfall.
Then, suddenly rounding a jutting boulder, I stepped into a group of
four women, their skirts tied tightly around their loins, slowly
treading up and down in as many buckets of grapes. One of them, a young
woman by no means unattractive, sprang out of the bucket with a startled
gasp, let fall her skirts over legs purple with grape-juice far above
the knees, and fled to the vineyard. Her companions, too young or too
old to find immodesty in the situation, gazed in astonishment at the
fleeing girl and continued to stamp slowly up and down.

Darkness overtook me in the solitude of an upper range, far from either
hut or hamlet. A half hour later, a mountain storm burst upon me.

An interminable period I had plunged on when my eyes were gradually
drawn to a faint light flickering through the downpour. I splashed
forward and banged on a door beside an illuminated window. The portal
was quickly opened from within, and I fell into a tiny wine-shop
occupied by three tipplers. They stared stupidly for some time, while
the water ran away from me in rivulets along the floor. Then the
landlord remarked with a silly grin:—

“Lei è tutto bagnato?” (You are all wet.)

“Likewise hungry,” I answered. “What’s to eat?”

“Da mangiare! Ma! Not a thing in the house.”

“The nearest inn?”

“Six miles on.”

“Suppose I must go to bed supperless, then,” I sighed, drawing my
water-soaked bundle from beneath my coat.

“Bed!” cried the landlord, “you cannot sleep here. I keep no lodging

“What!” I protested, “do you think I am going on in this deluge?”

“I keep no lodging house,” repeated the host, doggedly.

I sat down on a bench, convinced that no three Italians should evict me
without a struggle. One by one they came forward to try the efficacy of
wheedling, growling, and loud-voiced bluster. I clung stolidly to my
place. The landlord was on the verge of tears when one of the countrymen
drew me to the window and offered me lodging in his barn across the way.
I made out through the storm the dim outline of a building, and catching
up my bundle, dashed with the native across the road and into a stone
building, with no other floor, as I could feel under my feet, than
Mother Earth. An American cow would balk at the door of the house of a
mountain peasant of Italy; she would have fled bellowing at a glimpse of
the interior of the barn that loomed up as my host lighted a lantern,
and pointed out to me a heap of corn-husks in a corner behind the oxen
and asses. Fearful of losing a moment with his cronies over the wine, he
gave the lantern a shake that extinguished it and, leaving me in utter
darkness, hurried away.

I groped my way towards the heap, narrowly escaped knocking down the
last ass in the row, and was about to throw myself down on the husks
when a man’s voice at my very feet shouted a word that I did not catch.
Being in Italy I answered in Italian:

“Che avete? Voglio dormire qui.”

“Ach!” groaned the voice. “Nur ein verdammter Italiener!”

“Here friend!” I protested, in German, prodding the prostrate form with
a foot, “who are you calling verdammter?”

Before the last word had passed my lips the man in the husks sprang to
his feet with a wild shout.

“Lieber Gott!” he shrieked, clutching at my coat and dancing around me.
“Lieber Gott! Du verstehst Deutsch! You are no cursed Italian! Gott sei
dank! In three weeks I have heard no German.”

Even the asses were protesting before he ceased his shouting and settled
down to tell his troubles. He was but another of those familiar figures,
a German on his Wanderjahr, who, straying far south in the peninsula,
and losing his last copper, was struggling northward again as rapidly as
strength gained by a crust of bread or a few wayside berries each day
permitted. One needed only to touch him to know that he was thin as a
side-show skeleton. I offered him the half of a cheese I carried in a
pocket, and he snatched it with the ravenous cry of a wolf and devoured
it as we burrowed deep into the husks.

All night long the water dripped from my elbows and oozed out of my
shoes, and a bitter mountain wind swept through the unmortared building.
Morning came after little sleep, and I rose with joints so stiff that a
half hour of kneading barely put them in working order. Outside a cold
drizzle was falling, but the peasant grew surly, and, bidding farewell
to my companion of the night, I set out along the mountain highway.

Two hours beyond the barn I came upon a miserable hamlet, paused at an
even more miserable inn for a bowl of greasy water, alias soup, in which
had been drowned a lump of black bread, and plodded on in the drizzle. A
night and day of corn-husks had given me a rococo appearance that I only
half suspected before my arrival at a mountain village late in the
afternoon. It was a typical Apennine town; surrounded on all sides by
splendid scenery, but itself a crowded collection of hovels where steep,
narrow streets reeked with all the refuse of a common habitation of man
and beast. The chief enigma of Italy is to know why ostensibly sane
humans choose to house themselves in an agglomeration of stys, as near
each other as they can be stacked, the outside huts jostling and
crowding their neighbors, as if enviously waiting to catch them off
their guard, that they may push nearer to the center of the unsavory
jumble; while round about them spread great valleys and hillsides

[Illustration: Going for the water. A village north of Rome]

[Illustration: Italy is one of the most cruelly priest-ridden countries
on the globe]

Wallowing through the filth of such a hamlet, I came upon a tumble-down
hostelry of oppressive squalor. About the fire-place were huddled
several slatternly, downcast mortals. I paused in the doorway, wondering
to which to address myself. The rural innkeeper of Italy will never
speak to a new arrival until he has been accosted by the latter. I once
put the matter to the test by entering an inn at five in the afternoon
and taking a seat at one of the tables. Many a side glance was cast upon
me, many a low-toned discussion raged at the back of the room, but at
nine in the evening I was still waiting for the first greeting.

Here, then, I stood for several moments on the threshold. At length, a
misshapen female, unkempt and unsoaped to all appearances since infancy,
fumbled in her apron, rose, and stumped slowly towards me holding out—a
cent! I stepped back, and the charitable lady, misunderstanding my
gesture of protest, returned to her seat, snarling in a cracked falsetto
that beggars nowadays expected francs instead of soldi.

Disgusted at this invidious reception, I pigeon-holed my appetite and
marched on. But I seemed permanently to have taken on the aspect of an
eleemosynary appeal. Two miles beyond the village I passed a ragged
road-repairer and a boy, breaking stone at the wayside. Hard by them was
a hedge, weighed down with blackberries, to which I hastened and fell to
picking my delayed dinner. The _cantoniere_ stared a moment,
open-mouthed; laid aside his sledge, and mumbled something to the boy.
The latter left his place, wandered down the road a short distance
beyond me and idled about as if awaiting someone. With a half-filled cap
I set off again. The boy edged nearer as I approached and, brushing
against me, thrust something under my arm and ran back to the
stone-pile. In my astonishment I dropped the gift on the highway. It was
a quarter-loaf of black bread left over from the ragged workman’s

Late that night I reached a hamlet with a more energetic, if less
charitable innkeeper; and the next afternoon found me looking down upon
the vast Florentine valley, the winding Arno a bluish silver under the
declining sun. By evening I was housed in the city of Dante and Michael

During four days in Florence I played a sort of Jekyll and Hyde rôle,
living with the poorest self-supporting class, but spending hours each
day in cathedral and galleries. Paupers were everywhere in evidence,
fewer than in Venice, perhaps, for here they could escape. Lodgings all
but the utterly penniless could afford. I paid a half-franc daily for an
uncramped chamber within a hop, skip, and jump of the roasting-place of
Savonarola. But those ultracheap eating houses of the canal city were
lacking. Florentines on the ragged edge patronized instead a species of
traveling restaurant. As night fell, there appeared at various corners,
in the unwashed section of the city, men with push-carts laden with
boiled tripe. Around them gathered jostling throngs whose surging ceased
not for a moment until the last morsel had been sold. Each customer
seemed to possess but a single soldo, which he had carefully guarded
through the day in anticipation of the coming of the tripe-man. Never
did the huckster make a sale without a quarrel arising over the size of
the morsel; and never did the vendee retire until a second strip, about
the size of a match, had been added to the original portion to make up
what he claimed to be the just weight.

I spent an undue proportion of my fourth day in Florence viewing her
works of art; for Sunday is the poor man’s day in the museums and
galleries of Europe, there being no admission charged. When the throng
was driven forth from the Pitti palace in the late afternoon, I decided
not to return to my lodging and wandered off along the highway to Rome.
The mountain country continued, but the ranges were less lofty and more
thickly populated than to the north, and when night settled down, I was
within sight of a hilltop village.

It is doubtful if there is another nation on the globe whose people are
such general favorites as our own citizens. The American is a popular
fellow in almost every land, certainly not the least so in Italy.
Through all the peninsula there hovers about one, from that—to the
Italian—magic world of America, a glamor which is sure to arouse
interest to the highest pitch. More than that; there is, among the lower
classes, an attitude almost of deference towards the man in any way
connected with the El Dorado across the sea, as if every breast harbored
the vague hope that this favored of the gods might be moved to carry
home on his return a pocketful of his admirers.

Longing for America, however, does not imply any great amount of
knowledge thereof. In this northern section especially, where one rarely
meets a man whose remotest friend has emigrated, ignorance of the
western hemisphere is astonishing.

An average village crowd, showing some evidence of education, was
gathered in the hostelry of this first town beyond Florence. My arrival
at first aroused small interest in the groups before fire-place and
table. In ordering supper, however, I betrayed a foreign accent.
Immediately there passed between the cronies of the band sundry nods and
occult signs which they fondly believed were entirely incomprehensible
to a newcomer, but which, in reality, said as plainly as words:—

“Now where the deuce do you suppose he comes from?”

I volunteered no information. The cronies squirmed with curiosity.
Several more mysterious symbols flitted across the room, and one of the
tipplers, clearing his throat, suggested in the mildest of tones:—

“Hem—ah—you are German, perhaps?”

A _tedesco_ being no unusual sight in Italy, the listeners showed only a
moderate interest.


The speaker rubbed his neck with a horny hand and turned an apologetic
eye on his fellows.

“Hah! You are an Austrian!” charged another, with a scowl.


“Swiss?” suggested a third.


Interest picked up at once. A voyager from any but these three countries
is something to attract unusual attention in wayside inns.

“Ah!” ventured a fourth member of the group, with a glance of scorn at
his more obtuse companions, “You are a Frenchman?”


The geographical knowledge of the party was exhausted. There ensued a
long, wrinkle-browed silence. The landlady wandered in with a pot,
looked me over out of a corner of her eye, and retreated slowly. The
suspense grew unendurable. A native opened his mouth twice or thrice,
swallowed his breath with a gulp, and purred, meekly:

“Er—well—what country does the signore come from?”

“Sono americano.”

A chorus of exclamations aroused the cat dozing under the fire-place.
The hostess ran in, open-mouthed, from the back room. The landlord
dropped his pipe on the floor and emitted the Italian variation of “dew
tell!” The most phlegmatic of the party abandoned their games and
stories and crowded closely around me.

My advent seemed to two of the habitués to be providential. Some time
before, a wager had been laid between them which, till now, there had
seemed small chance of deciding. One man had wagered that the railway
trains of America run high up in the air above the houses, a tenet which
he sought to defend against all comers by an unprecedented amount of
lusty bellowing, and one which his opponent pooh-poohed with equal
vehemence. For a time I was at a loss to account for his claim that he
had read the information in a newspaper. In the course of his
vociferations, however, he mentioned “Nuova York,” and inquired if it
were not also true that its buildings were higher than the steeple of
the village church, and whether the railways were not thus built to
enable the people to get into such high houses; implying, evidently, his
conviction that Americans never come down to earth. Only then was the
source of his mental picture of an aërial railway system clear. He had
read somewhere of the New York Elevated and had applied the article to
the whole country.

Moreover “Nuova York” was synonymous with America to the entire party.
Not a man of them knew that there were two Americas, not one had ever
heard the term “United States.” America represents to the Italian of the
masses a country somewhere far away, how far or in what direction he has
no idea, where wages are higher than in Italy. Countless times I have
heard questions such as these from Italians who were not without

“Is America further away than Switzerland?”

“Did you walk all the way from America?”

“Who is king of America?”

“Why! Are you a native American? I thought Americans were black!”

Once a woman added insult to injury by inquiring in all sincerity:—

“In America you worship the sun, non è vero?”

On some rare occasions a wiser native appeared, to display his erudition
to the assembly. One evening I mildly suggested that the United States
as a whole is as large, if not larger, than Italy. My hearers were
deafening me with shouts of derision, when one of the party came to my

“Certainly, that’s right!” he cried, “it _is_ larger. I have a brother
in Buenos Ayres and I know. America, or the Stati Uniti, as this signore
prefers to call it, has provinces just like Italy. The provinces are
Brazil, Uruguay, República Argentina, and Nuova York.”

Squelched by which crushing display of geographical erudition, the
gathering maintained a profound silence for the rest of the evening; and
the authority on America began a lecture on that topic, in the course of
which I learned many a fact concerning my native land which I had never

One can be little surprised that the Italian fears to embark for a
country so little known. I met often with people who had set out for
America, gone as far as Genoa, and there abandoned the journey, _perché
aveva paura_. Many, indeed, journey to the seaport, never suspecting
that to reach this land of fabulous wealth they must travel on the
ocean; more than one has only the vaguest notion of what an ocean is.
When the endless expanse of water stretches out before them, all the
combined miseries of their native land and the wheedling of the most
silver-tongued steamship agent cannot induce them to trust themselves on
its billows; and in dread and fear they hurry home again.

It may be said with little danger of error, too, that the average
American knows very little of the Italian of this northern section. He
is, quite contrary to popular notions, a very kind and obliging, even
unselfish fellow, decidedly a different person from the usual immigrant
to our shores. The riffraff and off-casts of their native land, that are
spreading far and wide in our country, living in clans and bands wherein
the moving spirit seems to be he whose record at home is most
besmirched, the “dagoes” of common parlance, are no product of this
northern portion of the peninsula. We have, possibly, been too quick to
attribute to all Italians the characteristics of those undesirables with
whom we have come in contact, more than seven-eighths of whom hail from
the southern section. The Neapolitan, the Sicilian, the Sardinian, from
lands where congested districts breed characters held in as much
contempt by the Italian of the north as by our own citizens, have little
in common with the Venetian, the Florentine, and the Sienese.

                               CHAPTER IV

There are few stretches of roadway in Italy that wind through finer
scenery than that panorama which spreads out along the highway between
Florence and Siena. The pedestrian, however, finds small opportunity to
contemplate the landscape, for his progress is beset with strange
perils. Each peasant of this section possesses a yoke of white oxen, a
bovine type indigenous to the Apennine region, the distinguishing
feature of which is the length of the horns, measuring often six and
even seven feet from tip to tip. Now meet two such beasts, yoked
together, and it is a wide highway that leaves you room to pass.
Moreover, their drivers being invariably sound asleep, the animals
wander at sweet will about the right of way, tossing their heads toward
the passer-by. When one considers that every twenty or twenty-five acres
through this territory constitutes a farm, that every farmer has his
pair of oxen, and that he does his best to lay out his work in such a
manner as to give him the greatest possible amount of time on the road,
leaving real labor to his wife and daughters, it is easily understood
that to make one’s way on foot, requires no mean amount of vigilance,
nimbleness, and endurance.

Nor is that all. On every highway of Europe the wayfarer must be always
on the alert for the sound of an automobile horn. Continental chauffeurs
have small respect for foot-travelers, and the pedestrian who does not
heed their imperative honk is quite apt to come into collision with a
touring-car moving at its highest rate of speed. Now the first note of
protest of an over-burdened ass bears a similarity to the toot of an
automobile horn that can scarcely be accounted for under the head of
coincidences. Moreover, the time ensuing between the first and second
notes is quite long enough for a car to shoot around a corner, send the
unobserving wanderer skyward, and disappear into the gasoline-saturated
Beyond. In consequence, my journey from Florence to Siena was no
pleasure stroll; for when I was not vaulting roadside hedges before
oncoming oxen, I was crouching on the edge of the highway, peering
anxiously round a turn of the route until a second asinine vocable broke
on my ear.

He who would obtain an exact idea of the ensemble of the city of Siena
has but to dump a spoonful of sugar on a well-heaped dish of rice. Some
of the grains remain at the very top of the heap, others cling
tenaciously to the sides as if fearful of falling to the bottom into the
dish itself. For rice, read a rocky hill; for sugar, houses; for dish, a
broad, fertile valley in which space is unlimited, and the visualization
of Siena is complete. Except in that small quarter on the flat summit of
the hill it is one of those up-and-down towns in which streets should be
fitted with ladders; where every householder is in imminent danger, each
time he steps out of doors, of falling into the next block, should he
inadvertently lose his grip on the façade of his dwelling. I scaled the
city without being reduced to the indignity of making the ascent on
hands and knees; but more than once I kept my place only by clutching at
the flanking buildings.

How little the knowledge of the world among the masses of Italy has
increased, since the days of Columbus, was suggested during my evening
in the perennial inn at the summit of the town. Engaged in a game of
“dama” (checkers) with the innkeeper’s small daughter, I strove at the
same time to satisfy the curiosity of the host himself and a band of
strolling musicians, of whom a blind youth accompanied both game and
conversation on a soft-voiced violin.

“When you go to America,” asked the innkeeper, pointing out a move to my
opponent, “you get clear out of sight of land, non è vero?”

I admitted that such experiences were common.

“Ah, I once thought of going to America,” he cried, turning to impress
upon the attentive audience his fearlessness in having dared to conceive
so intrepid a venture, “until they told me that. But you wouldn’t catch
_me_ on a boat that went clear out of sight of land. I don’t mind a trip
from Genoa to Naples, or even to Bastia, where you always have the coast
alongside; but when you leave the land and jump out into the universe,
steering by the stars and going—La Santissima Vergine knows where—ah,
not for me! Why, suppose the captain loses his way when the stars move?
You come to the edge of the world and over you go. Ugh!”

The audience shuddered in sympathy, and the blind youth drew forth from
his instrument a wail such as might have risen from the victims of so
dreadful a fate.

By the time a new topic had been broached the hostess wandered in and
sat down before the register in which I had written my autobiography.
Her eyes fell on the figures indicating my age.

“Aha!” she cried, jabbing the number with a stubby forefinger and
winking good-humoredly, “soldiering _is_ hard work, to be sure. I don’t
blame you a bit. Officers _are_ hard masters.”

I had too often been accused of running away to escape military service
to be at all put out by this familiar accusation.

“Many a boy I know,” went on the woman, “has run away to America just
before he reached his majority and the beginning of his three years in
the army. How strange you Americans should fly over here to Italy for
the same reason!”

“You bet _I_ don’t blame them,” growled the innkeeper.

“But military service is not required in America,” I protested.

“Eh!” cried my hearers, in chorus.

“We don’t have to be soldiers in America,” I repeated.

“What!” shouted the host, “you have no army?”

“Yes; but the soldiers are hired, as for any other trade.”

“But who makes them go?” demanded the blind musician.

“No one. They are paid to go.”

The audience puzzled for several moments over this strange arrangement.
Suddenly the landlady burst out laughing.

“You think to fool us!” she cried. “How, if nobody makes them go, can
there be soldiers to pay?”

“Aye! That’s it!” roared the host.

“They want to go,” I explained.

“Want to be soldiers!” bellowed the innkeeper. “What nonsense! Who wants
to be a soldier and work three years for nothing?”

“But you don’t understand. Those who want to be soldiers are paid

“Ah!” cried the musician, with a sudden burst of inspiration, “when your
name is drawn, you pay a man to go for you?”

“No; the government pays him. Our names are not drawn.”

“How much money the king must spend, paying all the soldiers,” mused my

“Ah! They are a strange people, the Americans,” sighed the host, and he
cast upon me a glance that seemed to say, “and liars, too, very often.”

[Illustration: Selling the famous long-horned cattle of Siena outside
the walls]

[Illustration: Italian peasants returning from market-day in the
communal village]

Weeks before, I had given up all hope of making clear to Italians our
military system. The institution of compulsory service has been so woven
into their picture of life since infancy that barely a man of them has
the power of imagining an existence without this omnipresent fate
hanging over his head. Whatever may be the attitude of the educated
Italian towards it, military service is regarded by the laboring class
as a curse from which there is no escape. We are accustomed to say that
nothing is sure but death and taxes. The Italian would include

Two days after leaving Siena, I turned out in the early morning from
Viterbo, just fifty miles north of Rome. Strange to say, in measure as I
approached the capital the less inhabited became the countryside. For
hours beyond Viterbo the highway wound over low mountains between
whispering forests, in utter solitude. Where the woods ended, stretched
many another weary mile with never a hut by the wayside. Only an
occasional shepherd, clad in sheepskins, sat among his flocks on a
hillside, and gave life to a landscape that suggested the wilds of
Wyoming or the vast steppes of Siberia.

The sun was touching the western horizon as I traversed a rugged
village, but with Rome so close at hand I pressed on. The hamlet,
however, appeared to be the last habitation of man along the highway.
The sun sank in an endless morass, amid the whispering of great fields
of reeds and grasses, and the dismal croaking of frogs. Twilight faded
to black night. Far off, ahead, the reflection of the Eternal City
lighted up the sky; yet hours of tramping seemed to bring the glow not a
yard nearer.

Forty-one miles I had covered when three hovels rose up by the wayside.
One was an inn, but the keeper growled out some protest and slammed the
door in my face. I took refuge and broke an all-day fast in a wine-shop
patronized by traveling teamsters, one of whom offered me a bed on his
load of straw in the adjoining stable.

He rose at daybreak, and for the first few miles the dawdling pace of
his mules was fully fast enough for my maltreated legs. Little by little
I forged ahead. The deserted highway led across a bleak moorland,
rounded a slight eminence, and brought me face to face with the once
center of the civilized world.

To the right and left, on low hills, stood large modern buildings, from
which the mass of houses sloped down and covered the intervening plains,
broken only by the Tiber winding its way through the dull, grey stretch
of habitations. Here and there a dome or steeple reflected the morning
sun, but towering high above the mass, dwarfing all else by comparison,
stood the vast dome of St. Peter’s. Close before me began an unbroken
suburb on both sides of the route; suggesting that the modern Roman
builds only as far from the center of the city as his view of it remains
unimpaired. Countless multitudes have caught their first glimpse of Rome
from this low hilltop. Before the days of railways, pilgrims journeyed
from Civita Vecchia, on the coast, by this same road—millions of them on
foot, and entered the city by this massive western gateway. Through the
portal poured a steady stream of peasants, on wagons, carts, donkeys,
and afoot, checked by officers of the octroi, who ran long lances
through bales and baskets of farm produce. I joined the surging bedlam
and was swept within the walls.

Early that afternoon I made my way across the Tiber and through the
narrow streets of the Borgo to the square before St. Peter’s. About the
papal residence the carriages of le beau monde kept up continual
procession. I threaded my way towards the entrance to the Vatican
galleries, though with little hope that one who had been taken for a
beggar in the miserable villages of the Apennines could get beyond the
door. At the base of the stairway a Swiss guard, resplendent in that red
and yellow uniform which Michael Angelo is accused of having
perpetrated, raised his javelin and accosted me in German:—

“Sorry, Landsmann, but the galleries are just closing; it is one

Taking the speech as a polite way of saying that tramps were not
admitted, I turned away. Another glance, however, showed that visitors
really were leaving, and a “hist” from behind called me back. The guard,
glancing around to see if he were observed by the other servants of the
Holy Father, leaned on his lance and inquired in a low voice:—

“How’s business on the road these days?”

He had, it turned out, once been a penniless wanderer in nearly every
corner of the continent. For some time we chatted in the jargon of “the
road,” that language made up of a mixture of slang and gestures that one
can learn only by tramping the highways of Europe. The guard smiled
reminiscently at each mention of the rendezvous of vagrants to the
north, and, having heard such bits of news from the field of action as I
could give him, carefully outlined for me the various “grafts” of the
Roman fraternity. A companion in office called to him from the top of
the steps and he hurried away with the parting injunction:—

“Come to-morrow, mein Lieber, early, if you want to see the galleries.”

When I had inspected the interior of St. Peter’s I sought out the
rendezvous to which the guard had directed me. A dozen birds of passage
around the wine-tables greeted my entrance in several languages:—

“Ha! En voilà un de plus!”

“Woher, Landsmann? Was gibt’s neues?”

“Y que tal la carretera, hombre?”

“Madre di dio, amico, che fa caldo! Vuoi bere?”

I sipped the glass of wine offered by the Italian—to have drunk it all
would have been “bad form”—and sat down to give an account of myself.

“Aber du bist kein Deutscher?” cried a grizzled vagabond, when I had

“Amerikaner,” I replied.

“American!” shouted the band, in a chorus in which European tongues ran
riot, “Why, there is another American knocking about town. He’ll drop in
before long; meanwhile, have a drink.”

I waited impatiently, for months had passed since I had spoken with a
fellow countryman. In the course of a half-hour there strolled in a
swarthy specimen of the genus vagabundus, attired in a ragged misfit.

“Ach! Du Amerikaner!” cried the chorus. “Here is a countryman of yours.”

I accosted the newcomer. “How are you, Jack?”

He took place on a bench, stared at me a moment, and demanded, in

“What country are you from?”

“Dei Stati Uniti,” I replied. “But they told me you were an American,

“Certainly I am an American!” he shouted, indignantly. “I come from
Buenos Ayres.”

It had been my custom to ramble at random through the cities of Europe,
visiting the points of special interest as I chanced upon them. The
topography of Rome, however, is not of the simplest, and, having picked
up a guidebook for a few soldi in a second-hand stall, I set out
dutifully to follow its lead through the city. It was a work in Italian,
published for the use of Roman Catholic pilgrims. For two days it led me
a merry chase among the churches and chapels of Rome, calling attention
here to the statue of a saint, the bronze foot of which had been kissed
into a shapeless mass by devout _pellegrini_; there to a shrine in which
was enclosed the second bone of the third finger of the right hand of
some martyr or pope, or a splinter of the true cross that had
miraculously found its way to Rome. But as I hurried from chapel to
church and from church to chapel I became suspicious of the profound
silence of the book’s author, a Father Guiseppe Somebody, on the subject
of the monuments of ancient Rome. Having therein more interest than in
martyrs’ bones and kissed statues, I sat down on the steps of the
forty-ninth church, and turned over the leaves in search of reference to
the old-time edifices. Page after page the nomenclature of churches and
chapels continued, interspersed with descriptions of more finger-bones
and splinters; but, up to the last leaf, not a word of ante-Christian
Rome and its ruins. On the final page, in a footnote, the devout author
expressed himself as follows:—

“There are in Rome, besides all the blessed relics and holy places we
have pointed out to the pilgrim, certain ruins and monuments of the days
previous to the coming of Our Holy Saviour. The Faithful, however, will
take care not to defile themselves by visiting these remnants of unholy
pagan and heathen Rome.”

I sold the “Pilgrims’ Guide” for the price of a bottle of wine and set
out to explore the city after my own fashion.

Cæsar, for some reason, has not seen fit to inform posterity whether he
patronized the “Colosseum Tonsorial Parlors,” or carried his own razor.
If he sallied forth for his daily scrape, times were different then;
for, had the conqueror of the Gauls had at hand such barbers as modern
Rome harbors he would certainly have turned Vercingetorix over to their
tender mercies instead of subjecting him to the mild punishment of an
underground dungeon.

There was a shop not far from the wayfarers’ retreat in the Borgo.
Recalling painful experiences elsewhere in the peninsula, I avoided it
as long as possible, but there came a day when I must sneak inside and
take a seat. That, to begin with, was a mere chair, a decidedly rickety
one that squeaked and writhed under me as if afraid, like myself, of the
scowling proprietor, who stropped his razor in the far corner. By and by
he laid the weapon aside, and picking up a small milk-pan, retreated to
the back of the room. The only mirror in the establishment being some
five inches square, there was no means of knowing what game he indulged
in during a prolonged absence.

I had all but fallen asleep, stretched like a suspension bridge between
the chair and the wooden box that did duty as foot-rest, when the
barber, approaching stealthily, slapped me suddenly and emphatically on
the point of the chin with the brush of a defunct or bankrupt
billposter. The blow was nothing compared with the temperature of the
splash of lather that accompanied it. The cold chills set the ends of my
toes tingling. There ensued a lathering of which no American so
fortunate as to have spent all his days in the land of his first
milk-bottle can form a conception. From ear to ear, from Adam’s apple
well up my nostrils, that icy lather was slapped and rubbed in with the
paste-brush and the rasp-like palm of the manipulator, until my first
notion that this thorough soaping was to lighten the work with the razor
was succeeded by the fear that my torturer had decided to dispense with
that instrument entirely. When he had covered all my face but one eye,
the barber laid aside his brush, strolled to the door, and stood with
his arms akimbo, evidently to give his biceps time to recover from their
strenuous exertions.

A fellow-townsman sauntered by, and the two fell into a discussion that
involved, not the batting averages of the major league, but the advance
of a half-cent a liter in the price of wine. The lye on my face began to
draw and tingle, the chair groaned under me, and still the dispute raged
at the door. Fortunately, the townsman was called away before it was
settled. The barber gazed after his retreating form, hummed an opera air
in sotto voce, and glanced at the sky for signs of a storm. Then he
turned slowly around, stared frowningly at me for several moments in an
effort to recall how a man all soaped and ready for the razor had gotten
into his establishment, and, with a sigh of regret at the task before
him, hunted up the razor, stropped it again as if it had lain unused for
six months, and fell to. A hack at one side of my face razed at least a
dozen hairs. The torturer changed his mind concerning the point of
attack and transferred his efforts to the other side—with no gratifying
success, however. He began once more, this time at the point of the
chin, worked his way upward by a series of cuts and slashes, and, having
removed from my face most of the skin, a fair share of the lather, and
even some of the stubble, stepped back to survey his handiwork.

“Here, you’re not finished!” I cried, pointing to my upper lip.

“What! Shave your lip?”


“But why?”

“Because I want it shaved.”

“Santissima Madonna!” he gasped, making several passes before a chromo
print of the Virgin on the back wall. “Here is a man who wants the upper
lip of a woman!”

However, having called the Lady’s attention to his innocence, he shaved
the lip and relieved an anxiety under which I had labored since entering
the shop. For, many a barber of Italy had refused point-blank to
undertake any such unprecedented defilement of the human face, and
driven me forth with a nascent moustache in spite of my protests.

Nearly a week after my arrival in the capital I turned southward again,
on the highway to Naples. For three days the route led through a
territory packed with ragged, half-starved people, who toiled
incessantly from the first peep of the sun to the last waver of
twilight, and crawled away into some foul hole during the hours of
darkness. The inhabitants of this famished section bore little
resemblance to the people of the north. Shopkeepers snarled at their
customers, the “shortchange racket” was always in evidence, false coins
of the smallest denomination abounded—fancy “shoving the queer” with
nickels—and, had not my appearance been quite in keeping with that of
the natives, I should certainly have won the attention of those who live
by violence.

There were other difficulties unknown in the north. The language changed
rapidly. The literary tongue, spoken in Florence and Siena, was almost
foreign here. A word learned in one hamlet was incomprehensible in
another a half-day distant. The villages, almost without exception, were
perched at the summits of the most inaccessible hills, up which each
day’s walk ended with a weary climb by steep paths of rubble that rolled

I found lodging at the wayside only on my fourth day out of Rome, in a
building that was one-fourth inn and three-fourths stable. The keeper,
his wife, and a litter of children had scarcely enough wardrobe between
them to have completely clothed the smallest urchin. All were
barefooted, their feet spread out nearly as wide as they were long, the
thick callous of the soles split and cracked up the sides like the hoofs
of horses that had long gone unshod. The wife and several of her brood
lay on a heap of chaff in a corner of the room reserved for humans. The
father sat on a stool, bouncing the _bambino_ up and down on his
unspeakable feet; another child squatted on the top of the four-legged
board that served as table and, in awe of the new arrival, alternately
handled his toes and thrust his fingers in his mouth.

“You have lodgings for travelers?” I inquired.

“Yes,” growled the proprietor.

“How much for a bed?”

“Two cents.”

I was skeptical and demanded to see the lodging that could be had at
such a price.

“Giovanni!” bawled the head of the charming band, “bring in the bed!”

A moth-eaten youth threw open the back door and fired at my feet a dirty
grain-sack, filled with crumpled straw that peeped out here and there.

When I had smoked a final pipe, the father bawled once more to his
first-born and motioned to me to take up my bed and walk. I followed the
youth across a stable yard towards a wing of the building, picking my
way between the heaps of offal by the light of the feeble torch he
carried. Giovanni waded inside, pointed out to me a long, narrow manger
of slats, and fled, leaving me alone with the problem of how to repose
nearly six feet of body on three feet of stuffed grain-sack. I tried
every combination that ingenuity and some not entirely different
experiences could suggest, but concluded at last to sleep on the bare
slats and use the sack as a pillow.

I had just begun to doze, when an outer door opened and let in a great
draught of night air, closely followed by a flock of sheep that quickly
filled the stable to overflowing. Some of the animals attempted to
overflow into the manger, sprang back when they found it already
occupied, and made known their discovery to their companions by a long
series of “baas.” The information awakened a truly Italian curiosity.
The sheep organized a procession and the whole band filed by the manger,
every animal poking its nose through the slats for a sniff. This
formality over, each of the flock expressed a personal opinion of my
presence in trembling, nerve-racking bleats, which discussion had by no
means ended, when the youth came to inform me that it was morning and
carried off my bed, fearful, no doubt, of my absconding with that
valuable ameublement.

In spite of the bruises on the salient points of my anatomy, I plodded
on at a good pace, hoping, with this early start, to reach Naples before
the day was done. Two pairs of gendarmes, who halted me for long
interviews, made the attempt useless, however; and I was still in the
country when the gloom, settling down like fog, drove into the highway
bands of fatigued humans and four-footed beasts, toiling homeward. The
route descended, the intervening fields between squalid villages grew
shorter and shorter, finally giving way entirely to an unbroken row of
stone houses that shut in the highway. The bands of homing peasants
increased to a stream of humanity against which I struggled to make my

Swept into the backwater of the human current, I cornered a workman and
inquired for Naples.

“Napoli! Ma! _This_ is Napoli!” he bellowed, shoving me aside.

I plunged on, certain that a descending road must lead to the harbor and
its sailors’ lodgings. Ragged, sullen-visaged laborers, now and then an
unsoaped female, swept against me. Donkeys laden and unladen protested
against the goads of their cursing masters. Heavy ox-carts, massive
wagons, an occasional horseman, fought their way up the acclivity, amid
a bedlam of shrill shouts, roaring oaths, the strident yee-hawing of
asses, the rumble of wheels on cobblestones, the snap of whips, the
resounding whack of cudgels; and before and behind a bawling multitude
filled the scene that resembled nothing more nearly than the hurried
flight of its diabolical inhabitants from that inferno which the
Florentine has pictured. It was long after my first inquiry for “Napoli”
that I reached level streets and was dragged into a dismal hovel by a
boarding-house runner. Fifty-five days had passed since my departure
from Paris, thirty-four of which had been spent in walking.

If there is a spot of similar size in the civilized world that houses
more rascals, knaves, and degenerates than Naples, it has successfully
hidden its iniquities. The struggle for existence in this densely packed
section of the peninsula has driven its lower classes in one of two
directions: they have become stolid, unthinking brutes or incorrigible
rogues. Even those who, by day, are employed at professions considered
honorable and remunerative among us, spend their nights and idle hours
as agents of every species of business and deception to be found in
congested centers. Every steamship office, every restaurant, every
hotel, shop, gambling den, or house of prostitution has its scores of
“runners” to entice the stranger or unwary citizen within its doors. We
have “runners” in America, but these procurers that fight for a meager
percentage in Naples are not merely the dregs of city life; even the man
who has left his telegraph instrument or bookkeeper’s stool during the
afternoon prowls through the dark streets in quest of a stray soldo. The
barber roams at large to drag into his shop those whose faces show need
of his services; the merchant stands before his door and bawls and
beckons to the passing throng like a side-show barker; the ticket-agent
tramps up and down the wharves striving to sell passage, at regular
price if necessary; at an exorbitant one if possible. To cheat is second
nature to the Neapolitan of the masses. He cheats his playmates as a
boy, cheats the shopkeeper at every opportunity, enters business as a
man intending to cheat, and sticks to that intention with a persistence
worthy a better cause to the end of his days—to be cheated by the
undertaker and the priest at the finale of his life of deception and
fraud. Yet this same Naples, corrupt, Machiavelian, is, with its
environs, the breeding-ground of the vast majority of Italians who
emigrate to America.

As is usual among poverty-stricken people, gambling is the principal
vice of the southern Italian. Cards and dice are not unknown, but the
game that is dearest to the heart of the Neapolitan is _mora_, the
counting of fingers. The sharp call of “cinque! tre! otto! tre! dieci!”
raised a never-ending hubbub in my lodging house. The sums of money
hazarded were not fabulous; but had there been fortunes at stake the
game could not have been more fiercely contended. Each player, at the
beginning of the contest, jabbed his sheath-knife into the bottom of the
table within easy reach of his hand, and at every dispute waved it
threateningly above his head. A quarrel, one evening, went beyond the
point of vociferations. One player emerged from the contest with a slash
from nose to chin, and another with an ugly cut in the abdomen. But so
ordinary an occurrence was this in the house that a half-hour later the
game was raging as loudly as before.

One fine morning, soon after my arrival in Naples, I awoke to find
myself the possessor of just twenty francs. Thus far I had been a
tourist; for, if I had spent sparingly, I had given my attention to
sightseeing rather than to searching for employment. Having squandered
in un-riotous living the money intended for photographing, the time had
come when I must earn both the living and the photographs.

It had been my intention to ship as a sailor from Naples to some point
of the near east. The cosmopolitan dock loafers assured me, however,
that there was but one port on the Mediterranean in which I might hope
to sign on, and that was Marseilles. The information had come too late,
for the fare to Marseilles as a deck passenger—and that included no food
en route—was twenty-five francs. To be left stranded in Naples, however,
was a fate to be dreaded. I determined to take passage as far as
possible, namely, to Genoa, and to make my way as best I could from
there to the great French port.

By playing rival runners against each other, I reduced the regular fare
of twelve francs to nine francs and a cigar, the stogie being the
commission of the runner. With a day left at my disposal I ruined my
misused shoes among the lava-beds of Vesuvius, slept on a park bench to
save the price of a lodging, and was rowed out to the _Lederer Sandor_,
a miserable cargo-steamer hailing from Trieste. She did not sail until a
full twenty-four hours after the time set, and my stock of bread and
dried codfish gave out while we were but halfway to Genoa. I had noted,
however, that, the ship’s business being chiefly the carrying of
freight, little watch was kept on the passengers. Upon arrival in the
birthplace of Columbus, therefore, I purchased a second stock of
provisions and returned on board, for it was cheaper to hire a boatman
to row me out to the ship than to pay lodgings in the city. Among a
score of through passengers my presence on board attracted no attention
and, knowing that the Sandor was to continue along the Riviera, I was
still seated on one of her hatches when she sailed out of Genoa at noon.

We cast anchor next morning at St. Maurizio and, in the early afternoon,
steamed on towards Nice. As we slipped by gleaming Monte Carlo, and I
was beginning to congratulate myself on having made my way thus far in
spite of a flat purse, the first mate, a native of Trieste, sought me
out on deck.

“What is your name?” he asked, in Italian, waving in his hand a bundle
of tickets, each of which bore the signature of its purchaser.

Plainly my ruse was discovered; but, hoping to confuse the discoverer, I
answered in English. But to no avail. For this young man, who swore at
the sailors in German and cursed longshoremen impartially in Italian and
French, spoke English almost without an accent. I had barely mentioned
my name when he burst out in my own tongue:—

“What are you doing on board? Your ticket is only to Genoa.”

“Yes!” I stammered, “but I want to get to Marseilles and I haven’t the

“No fault of ours, is it?” demanded the officer. “Your ticket reads
Genoa. You will have to pay the price from Genoa to Nice.”

“Haven’t got the half of it,” I protested.

The mate stared at me a moment in silence and hurried away to attend to
more pressing affairs. Whether he forgot my existence purposely or by
accident, I know not; he was busy on the bridge until our arrival at
Nice and, by dropping over the bow to the wharf as dusk fell, I dodged
the vigilant eyes of both ship and custom officers and hurried away,
once more in “la belle France.”

[Illustration: Italian peasants returning from the vineyards to the

[Illustration: A factory of red roof-tiles near Naples. The girl works
from daylight to dark for sixteen cents]

I rose next morning with a one-franc piece in silver and a five-franc
note, both in Italian currency. The silver passed as readily as a French
coin and, fancying the paper would be as eagerly accepted, I did not
trouble to change it into coin of the republic before setting out on the
hundred and fifty mile tramp to Marseilles. The last sou of the silver
piece had been spent when I arrived at Cannes in the evening. I turned
in at an auberge of the famous spa and tendered an Italian note in
payment for a lodging.

“Non d’un chien! We don’t take Italian paper!” cried the aubergiste,
with great vehemence. “Ça ne vaut rien du tout.”

I visited several other inns and such shops as were still open, but the
note I could not pass, even at a discount. I found myself in the
paradoxical situation of being penniless with money in my pocket. A
chill wind blew in from the Mediterranean. I sat down on a step out of
range of the village lights, but soon fell to shivering and rose to
wander on. Down on the sandy beach in front of the principal street were
drawn up several rowboats. I peered from behind the nearest building
until the two officers who patroled the water front had reached the far
end of their beats and, scurrying down to the beach, dropped into the
shadow of the first skiff. Most of the boats were tightly covered with
boards or tarpaulins but, creeping on hands and knees from one to
another, I found two with coverings that had openings in them large
enough to admit a lean and hungry mortal. In the first into which I
thrust my head I made out the forms of two gamins, sound asleep. The
second was uninhabited. I squirmed my way in and found inside a bed of
dirty, but warm reed mats.

Scarcely had I fallen asleep when I was awakened by the chatter of
hoarse voices and looked up to see an angry face peering at me through
the opening.

“Eh! Dis donc, toi!” growled the possessor of the face. “Qu’est-ce que
tu fais dans mon lit?”

“Ton lit,” I answered, sleepily. “If I got here first, how does it come
to be your bed?”

“Hein!” snarled the face. “Ç ’a été mon coucher ces trois mois. Bouge
toi de là, sinon—” and he drew a finger suggestively across his throat.

At this display of emotion one of his companions outside pulled the
speaker away and thrust his own face in at the opening.

“Mais, dis donc, mon vieux!” he murmured. “You don’t mean to rob three
poor devils of the bed they have slept in for weeks, quoi?”

I admitted the injustice of such action and crawled out to join the
three crouching figures in the shadow of the craft.

“Where do you come from?” whispered one of them.

“From Nice. I am on the road.”

“Quoi!” cried the three, in suppressed chorus, “on the road! Then why
don’t you go to the gendarmerie?” and they pointed away across the beach
to a lighted window.

“They’ll give you a bed for three nights,” went on one of the trio;
“we’ve been stowed away there as many times as the law allows or we
wouldn’t make our nests here.”

I crouched out of sight until the patrol had passed once more and dashed
across the sand towards the lighted window. A door stood ajar; inside,
an officer, armed in a way more fitting to a chief of brigands than to
the guardian of a peaceful watering-place, leaned back in his chair,
puffing at a long Italian cigar.

“Bien! Qu’est-ce qu’il y a?” he demanded, laying the stogie on the table
edge and surveying me leisurely from head to foot.

I waved the five-franc piece in the air. “I’m a sailor, walking to
Marseilles, and the innkeepers won’t accept this.”

“Ça!” he cried contemptuously, after examining the bill under the light;
“Why, that’s Italian. No good at all! Why do you come to the gendarmerie
so late? We can’t let vagabonds into the Asile de Nuit at this hour.”

“The Asile de Nuit!” I protested. “I’m not looking for the Asile, but
for an inn; and I don’t see that I’m a vagabond, with a five-franc

“That’s no good,” he finished, “perhaps not, legally, but—Where are your

I handed over the consular letter and the cattle-boat discharge. The
officer studied them a moment as if English were not unknown to him and
fell into a reverie.

“American, eh?” he mused, when his dream had ended; “Sailor? Hum! Well,
go sit out in the hall until I am relieved and I’ll take you to the

I sat down against the wall on the flagstone of the entry and fell into
a doze from which I was awakened by the entrance of another gendarme, in
full armament like his colleague. The latter stepped out a moment later,
growled a “viens,” and hurried off through the deserted streets, his
sword rattling noisily on the pavement in the silence of the night. I
marched close at his heels, wondering what was in store for me; for,
though I had often heard roadsters mention the vagabond quarters which
every city of France maintains, I knew nothing of the institutions at
first hand.

Five minutes’ walk brought us to a small brick building, at the door of
which the gendarme drew out a bunch of gigantic keys and entered. The
first door led into a hallway along which the officer walked some ten
feet and, with more rattling of keys, opened a second that led into
nothing, so far as I could see, but Stygian darkness.

“Voilà!” he shouted, pushing me past him through the door; “Te voilà à
l’Asile de Nuit.”

“But where do I sleep?” I demanded. The darkness was absolute and, at my
first step inside the door, I bumped against what appeared to be the
edge of a heavy table.

“Hein! Diable! Sleep on the shelf,” snapped the gendarme; then,
comprehending that I was unfamiliar with the architectural arrangements
of an Asile de Nuit, he struck a match and by its brief flicker I caught
a glimpse of the night asylum of Cannes.

It was a room about twenty feet long and seven wide, with a single,
strong-barred window at the end facing the street. The entire length of
the room ran a sloping wooden shelf, six feet wide and some four feet
above the floor at the highest edge, with an alleyway a foot wide
between it and the wall behind me. The ledge was occupied by about
fifteen as sorry specimens of humanity as it had as yet been my lot to
see in one collection. They were packed like spoons, with nothing
between their bodies and the twenty-foot bed but their own rags; and
each of the fifteen braced his feet against a board projecting some four
inches above the lower end of the shelf as if his life depended on
keeping in that position.

As the wavering light of the match fell on their faces, a chorus of
surly growls burst from the lips of the speakers, and increased to
shouts and curses when the gendarme crowded a knee between two of the
prostrate forms and exerted his strength to push more closely together
the two divisions of the company thus formed.

“Sacré bleu, vous!” he bellowed. “Bougez vous, donc! Here ’s a comrade.
Do you want all the Asile to yourselves, non de Dieu!” “Crowd in there,”
he commanded, pushing me towards the six-inch space which he had opened
between two of the sleepers. I crowded in, as per order, but did not
succeed in widening the space to any appreciable extent. The gendarme
went out, slammed and locked both doors, and left me to listen to the
growls and oaths that by no means decreased at his exit. The planks, for
all I know, may have been soft enough; with all my struggling I could
not force the slumberers far enough apart to reach the shelf; and I
spent the night lying with one shoulder and one hip on each of my
nearest companions, who alternated in turning over and pushing me back
and forth between them like a piece of storm-tossed wreckage on the open

The king of theatrical costumers, striving to dress unconventionally the
beggar chorus of a comic opera, could have created nothing to equal the
garments of the gathering of tramps from the four corners of Europe that
slid off the shelf with the advent of daylight, and fell to brushing and
rearranging their rags as if some improvement in appearance could result
from such industry. Instinct is so strong in man that, were his only
covering a fig-leaf, he would doubtless give it a shake and a pull upon
arising, if only in memory of days when his attire was less abbreviated.
I rubbed my eyes and waited for some of my companions to make the first
move towards the door. But their toilet finished, they sat down one by
one on the edge of the shelf as if the desire to get outside the
building was the furthest from their thoughts, and fell to exchanging
their troubles in at least four languages.

I rose and, climbing over a forest of legs to the door, grasped the knob
and was about to give it a yank, when the exit of the officer the night
before, with the clang of heavy bolts shot home, came back to memory. I
sat down again with the others, and following their example, filled my
pipe, as the only consolation left me. Nor was one of these outcasts,
who told of days of fasting and the bitter pangs of hunger, without his
supply of the soothing weed.

Traffic was already beginning in the street outside. Now and then some
facetious passer-by stopped to peer through the bars at us and to sneer:
“Bah! Messieurs les vagabonds. Sales bêtes!” Others carried their
jocosity so far as to toss pebbles and clods of earth in through the
grating; to which treatment my companions in misery were powerless to
reply, except by spitting out viciously at their tormentors and
promising them a summary vengeance when once they were released.

An hour after daylight a gendarme came to unlock the doors. I pushed out
with the rest and set off in the direction of Marseilles. I had not gone
five paces, however, when I heard a shout behind me:

“Eh, toi! Où est-ce que tu vas comme ça?”

I turned around in surprise.

“Come along here, you,” roared the officer, and with the rest I filed
back to the gendarmerie, the butt of the derisive grimaces of passing

At headquarters each of us was registered again, as we had been the
night before, after which we were permitted to go our several ways.
There was no means of changing my wealth into French coin until the
banks opened, two hours later. Scorning to delay so long, I turned away
breakfastless to the westward, convinced that some village banker would
come to my assistance by the time France was wide awake. But at high
noon I was still plodding on, dizzy with hunger and the fatigue of
climbing a low, uninhabited spur of the Alps that stretches down to the
Mediterranean west of Cannes, with that infernal Italian note still in
my pocket. At four in the afternoon I reached the village of Fréjus. A
merchant, whom I ran to earth after a long search, agreed to accept the
likeness of Vittore Emanuele at a half-franc discount; and I sat down on
the village green with an armful of bread and dried herring—my first
meal in twenty-eight hours.

I paid, that night, for a flea-bitten lodging in Le Puget, but concluded
next day that the three francs remaining could be better invested in
food than in sleeping-quarters. When darkness again overtook me,
therefore, I applied for accommodations at the gendarmerie of Cuers. The
village was too small to boast an Asile de Nuit, but after long argument
I induced the rustic in charge of the town hall to allow me to occupy
the solitary cell which the hamlet reserved for the incarceration of its
felons. It was a three-cornered hole under the stairway leading to the
upper story, and I spent the night in durance vile; for the rustic, for
some reason unknown, insisted on locking me in.

Next day I pressed steadily onward through a hungry Sunday of pouring
rain, the mud of the highway oozing in through the expanding holes of my
dilapidated shoes. From time to time a facetious innkeeper peered out
through the downpour to shout: “Hé donc, toi! You don’t know it’s
raining, perhaps?” But bent on reaching Marseilles before my last
coppers had been scattered, I dared not linger to give answer.

Late Sunday evening is an inconvenient hour to look for the municipal
officers of an unimportant French village. Back of the central _place_
of Le Beausset I found the hôtel de ville, a decrepit, one-story
building; but I knocked at the back door, the entrée des vagabonds, for
some time in vain. A passing villager advised me to “go right in.” I
opened the door accordingly and stepped inside, only to be driven out
again by a series of feminine shrieks before I had an opportunity to
make out, in a badly-lighted kitchen, the exact source of the uproar. I
sat down in the rain outside the door that had been slammed and bolted
behind me and waited.

When the last café had ceased its shouting, another villager, half in
uniform, pushed past me and knocked for admittance. Certain that he was
a gendarme, I followed him inside. At the back of the room, over a stove
from which rose tantalizing odors, stood two women who, catching sight
of me, deluged the officer with a flood of words.

“Here, mon vieux,” he snapped, whirling upon me, “what do you mean by
marching into my house and frightening my women out of their wits?”

I excused my conduct on the ground of advice too hastily taken. The
gendarme scowled over my papers, tucked them away in a greasy cupboard
behind the stove, and turned with me out into the night. The Asile was
not far distant, and it was unoccupied. The officer set a candle-end on
a beam and, bidding me not to set the place on fire and to exchange the
key for my papers in the morning, departed. I burrowed deep into the
straw with which the shelf was covered and fell to sleep in my
water-soaked garments.

Short rations and plank beds had left me in no condition to cover in a
single day the thirty-five miles between Le Beausset and Marseilles. I
found my legs giving way when darkness caught me some distance from the
harbor and, having no hope of finding a better lodging, sat down against
a tree on an outer boulevard. A bitter wind blew, for it was the last
day of October and well north of Naples. In the far west of my own
country, however, I had learned a trick of great value “on the road.” It
is, that a coat thrown over the head is far more protection while
sleeping out of doors than when worn in the usual manner. I was,
therefore, unmolested as long as the night lasted, no doubt because
passers-by saw in my huddled form only a grain-sack dropped by the

                               CHAPTER V
                     A “BEACHCOMBER” IN MARSEILLES

It was well for my immediate peace of mind that no prophet accosted me
on my way down to the harbor next morning, to foretell the hungry days
that were to be my portion in Marseilles. One of the strikes that
periodically tie up the seaport of southern France was at its height.
Dozens of sailing vessels rode at anchor in the little “Old Harbor”; the
_râde_ behind the great V-shaped breakwater was crowded with shipping;
at the wharves were moored long rows of ocean-liners, among which the
white, clipper-built steamers of the Méssagéries Maritimes predominated,
their cargoes rotting in their holds. In a season of customary activity
it would have been easy to “sign on” some ship eastward bound. On this
November morning, a blind man must have known, from the silence of the
port, that there was small prospect even of finding work ashore.

Six sous rattled in my pocket. I squandered the half of them for a
breakfast and set out on a tour of the warehouses on the wharves. But at
every spot where twenty longshoremen were needed for the unloading of a
mail steamer, there were hundreds surging around the timekeeper,
clamoring for employment. I reached the front ranks of several of these
groups by football tactics, only to be informed, when I shouted my name
to the official on the top of a cask or bale, that he was hiring only
those stevedores whom he knew personally, and could not find places for
a fourth of them. As darkness came on, I gave over the useless tramping
up and down the roadstead, wolfed a “stevedore’s hand-out” in one of the
open-air booths of the Place de la Joliette, and utterly penniless at
last, turned away to the Asile de Nuit, as the only refuge left me.

The night asylum of Marseilles, situated beyond the Avenue de la
République, just off the silent wharves, was no such one-room hovel as
housed the wanderer in Cannes or Cuers. It covered what would have been
a block in an American city and rose to a height of three stories; a
plain, cold structure above the door of which the legend, “Asile de
Nuit,” cut in stone, seemed to suggest how permanent and irremediable is
poverty. Before the entrance were at least a hundred men of every age,
from mere boys to wrinkled greybeards, chattering in groups, leaning
against the building, seated on the sidewalk with their feet in the
gutter, or strolling anxiously up and down. Not all of them were
vagabonds in outward appearance. Here and there were men in
comparatively clean linen and otherwise as faultless in attire as
well-to-do merchants. A half-dozen of them wore dress-suits. _They_ did
not sit with their feet in the gutter; most of them held aloof from
their ragged companions and strutted back and forth with the pompous air
of successful politicians. But their conversation was, like that of the
others, of the “grafts” of the road throughout the continent of Europe.

The “dress-suit vagabond” was a type new to me then. He became a
familiar figure long before my wanderings ended. Wherever I met him, he
hailed from the Kaiser’s realm. The German is admitted by the vagabonds
of every nationality to be the most successful beggar in “the
profession.” It is this well-dressed tramp who awakens the blatant
sympathy of English and American tourists—those infallible judges of
human nature—the world over. “Poor fellow!” will cry the hysterical lady
abroad, when approached by one of this suave-mannered gentry; “He is,
indeed, making a struggle to keep up in the world! Let’s give him
something worth while, Arthur, for, surely, he cannot be ranked with
those lazy, ragged tramps over there.” As a matter of fact, “those
ragged tramps over there” are, more often than not, unpresumptuous
sailors reduced to tatters by the rascalities of shipping companies or
their able assistants, the land sharks of great ports. They would jump
at any chance of employment, while the “poor fellow,” who has begged the
very clothes that give him this false appearance of respectability, has
been approaching just such hysterical ladies for years, fully intends
doing so to the end of his days, and would not accept the presidency of
a railroad.

The Asile of Marseilles was not controlled, as those of other French
cities, by the gendarmerie, but was the branch establishment of a
neighboring monastery. By eight o’clock the crowd before the building
had doubled, the doors were thrown open, and we filed into an office
where three monks, in cowl and _soutane_, sat behind a wicket. In
Europe, man’s fate often hangs on a few scraps of paper. The applicant
for lodging in the Asile was irrevocably turned out into the night
unless he could show two of these all-important documents, one to
establish his identity and nationality, and another to prove that he had
been at work at a not-too-distant date. To forge certificates of
employment is no unsurmountable task to those who cannot come by them
honestly, and the most laudatory ones presented were those of the
“dress-suit tramps.” A grey-haired frère read my papers rapidly and
asked me, in English, with hardly a trace of foreign accent, if I spoke
French. Upon my affirmative reply he pushed the documents I had handed
him to his younger colleague, who entered my name and biography in a
huge book and gave me, with my papers, a check entitling me to a bed in
the Asile for eight nights.

I passed into the common room, a sort of chapel, the long benches of
which were already half-filled with grumbling tramps. In front was a
plain pulpit, around the walls fifteen large crucifixes, and at the back
a table where several men were writing letters with materials furnished
by the establishment. The room was crowded when nine o’clock sounded
from the great Asile bell. The outer door closed with a bang, the
grey-haired monk marched in with a gigantic Bible in his arms, mounted
the pulpit, and launched forth in a service worthy of note for the
length of its prayers and a drowsy discourse on the life of some saint
or other, to which the assembled vagabonds listened with stolid
tolerance as something which must be endured as a punishment for being
penniless. A gong rang out in the hall at the end of the sermon. We
mounted the stairs and each, according to his check, entered one of
several large rooms containing fifty beds apiece. Those who had
registered at some previous date went at once to their cots. The
newcomers filed by a frère in charge of a huge pile of bedding in the
center of the room. As each one received two clean sheets and a
pillow-case, he promptly sought out the cot assigned him, pulled off the
soiled linen, carried it back to the monk, and returned to make up his
bed. The cleanliness of the cots was truly monasterial. But they were so
narrow that to turn over was a precarious operation, and so much harder
than a plank bed as to suggest that they were filled with ground stone.
In spite, however, of the chorus of snores which mocked the printed
notices on the walls, commanding silence, I lay not long awake, for I
had long since parted company with soft beds.

At five in the morning, long before daylight, we were awakened by a
clanging bell and a trio of frères who marched up and down the room,
shouting to us to be up and away. Woe betide the man who turned over for
another nap, for one of the monks was upon him in an instant and, with
an agility and a force that suggested that he had been a champion
wrestler before taking orders, dumped him unceremoniously on the floor.
When we had made up our beds and soused our faces at a hydrant in the
outer courtyard, we were driven out into the dreary streets.

I had fallen in with a stranded English sailor at the Asile. Not even on
shipboard can one strike up acquaintances as quickly as in a band of
sans-sous. For an hour we wandered about the city, shivering in the
chill that precedes the dawn, and then made our way down to the harbor.
A British merchantman was discharging a cargo at one of the wharves. We
slunk on board and, keeping out of sight of the officers, dodged into
the forecastle. The crew was struggling to do away with a plentiful

“I sye, shipmites,” cried my companion, “any show for a bite?”

“Sure, lads!” shouted several of the sailors, with that hearty
unselfishness of the English seamen the world over. “Eat up and give the
old ship a good name!”

“English? Eh, lad?” asked the old tar who gave me his seat at the table.

“My mate is, but I’m an American,” I answered, a bit dubiously.

“Oh, hell,” rumbled the veteran salt, heaping his plate in front of me,
“English _or_ American! What’s the bloody difference? I mean you’re not
a dago or a Dutchman? How long have you been on the beach?”

We did full justice to the ship’s good name and left her with bread and
meat enough in our pockets to stave off the hunger engendered by a day
of tramping up and down the wharves. Next morning the only English
vessel in harbor lay well out in mid-stream, and we subsisted on
unroasted peanuts and broken cocoanut-meat imported for its oil, of
which several vessels from the Orient were discharging whole shiploads.

Penniless sailors swarmed in the Place de la Joliette and the Place
Victor Gélu, the rendezvous of seamen in Marseilles. As my acquaintance
with these “beachcombers” increased, I picked up knowledge of the
“grafts” of the port. On my fourth morning in the city I was aroused
from a nap against the pedestal of the bronze Gélu by a Brazilian
sailor, who had been long stranded in the city.

“Hóla! Yank,” he shouted, “are you coming for breakfas’?”

“Busted!” I answered, shortly.

“Con̄o, me too,” he returned; “come along.”

He led the way round the _vieux port_ and far out along the beach by a
steep road. In that section of Marseilles known as _les catalans_, once
the home of Dumas’ Monte Cristo, we joined a crowd before a granite
building above the entrance of which was a sign reading, “Bouchée de
Pain.” When the door opened we filed through an anteroom where a man
handed each of us a wedge of bread, _de deuxieme qualité_, from several
bushel baskets of similar wedges, and we passed silently on into an
adjoining room. The two rough tables it contained were each garnished
with a jar of water, which, as we ate our bread, passed from hand to
hand. On the walls hung copies of the rules governing the Bouchée de
Pain, and in various parts of the room stood officials who strove to
enforce them to the letter. The important ones were as follows:

                  *       *       *       *       *

“1. No talking is allowed in the Bouchée de Pain.

“2. The bread must be eaten at the tables and not carried away.

“3. Anyone bringing other food into the Bouchée de Pain to eat with his
bread will be summarily ejected.

“4. Bread will be served daily at ten and at three to those who do not
forfeit their right to the kind charity of the city of Marseilles by
disobeying these rules.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

But, as he who has come into contact with tramps and adventurers knows,
it is difficult to suppress the inventive talents of the genus
vagabundus by mere printed statutes, even with a cohort of officers to
enforce them. The second of the rules, especially, was not strictly
adhered to. The crowds that reported daily at the institution were so
great as to fill the tables a third and even a fourth time. The wily
ones about me, knowing that this was only the “first table,” nibbled
their wedges ever so slowly, until the uninitiated had finished their
portions and the officers cried “allez,” when they tucked what was left
under their coats, and tumbled with the rest of us through a back door,
there to trade the wedge for tobacco, or to eat it with what they had
picked up about the city.

“Vámonos, hombre,” said the Brazilian; “now for the soup.”

A full two miles we walked over another steep hill to find, before a
building styled “Cuillère de Soupe,” much the same crowd as had been at
the Bouchée de Pain. The soup was more carefully doled out than the
bread had been. An officer at the door called for our papers, set down
our names in his register, and handed us tickets which entitled us to
soup at eleven and four daily, but only for eight days.

The fates preserve me from ever again tasting the concoction, misnamed
soup, which was set before me when I had gained admittance. A bowl of
water, grey in color, and of the temperature which the doctor calls for
when he has by him neither a stomach-pump nor a feather with which to
tickle the patient’s throat, contained one leaf—and that the very
outside one—of a cabbage, half an inch of the top of a carrot with the
leaves still on it, and three sprigs of what looked like grass. When I
had made a complete inventory of my own dish, I turned to peer into that
of the Brazilian. He had the selfsame portion of a carrot, a companion
to my cabbage-leaf, and three quite similar blades of grass. Certainly,
one could not accuse the soup officials of partiality, and if the cook
was sparing of specimens from the vegetable kingdom he made up for it in
ingredients from the world of minerals. There was salt enough in my mess
to have preserved a side of beef, and pebbles of various sizes and
shapes chased each other merrily around behind the spoon with which I
stirred up the mixture. I know not who supplied the establishment with
water, but the beach was not far distant.

Several times I returned to the Bouchée de Pain before I left Marseilles
behind; the Cuillère de Soupe I struck off my calling list at once.

The city of Marseilles has established these two institutions in an
attempt to reduce the begging class, and to provide an alternative for
the indiscriminate asking of alms, which is strictly forbidden in the
city. The buildings have purposely been placed in the most inconvenient
sections of the municipality and far apart, in the hope that only those
who are in dire want will visit them. As small an amount of food is
given as will sustain life, because it is fancied that this arrangement
will cause the penniless to redouble their efforts to become
self-supporting. Yet the plan is not entirely a success, though the
authorities may not know it. Many a man I have seen at these places whom
I knew had money enough on his person to buy a dozen hotel dinners—money
wheedled out of soft-hearted and soft-headed tourists, which he would
have considered it a sin to pay out for food when cool, green absinthe
could be bought with it. The “dress-suit tramps,” if they had no “bigger
game on the string,” made this walk their daily exercise, and referred
to it as their “constitutional.” Those who wished really to look for
work found that the long tramp twice a day used up both their time and
their strength, until they had little of either left to prosecute their

The strike broke and business was slowly and half-heartedly resumed. All
my efforts to find work, however, turned to naught. It became evident
that if ever I “shipped” for the Orient it must be through the
assistance of someone of better standing. A few of the “beachcombers”
signed on, but every captain who wandered through the Place Victor Gélu
to pick up a sailor was at once surrounded by a half-hundred seamen
headed by their “boarding masters,” and chose his man long before an
“outsider” could gain a hearing. In many a city of Europe I had been
advised by fellow-wayfarers to appeal to the American consul. In the
opinion of my English companion and others: “That’s all the bloody
loafers are shipped over here for, anyway, to give we honest chaps a
lift when we’re down.” Not quite sharing this view, I had, thus far,
thanked the advisers and gone my way. But when I had seen several
“beachcombers” sail away through the assistance of higher authorities, I
determined to make my existence known to our Marseilles representative.

Accordingly, on my return from the Bouchée de Pain one morning, I
stopped in at the consulate. My papers were inspected by a negro
secretary in the outer office, passed on to the vice-consul, and finally
to the consul-general. That official, calling me inside to satisfy
himself as to my nationality, gave me a note to one “Portuguese Joe,”
whom I would find “hanging around on the Place Victor Gélu.” Joe, the
consul explained, was master of a sailors’ boarding house, who undertook
to shelter and feed such penniless mariners as the consul could vouch
for, until he found them berths, and took his reward in a month’s
advance on their wages—the regular blood-money system that is in vogue
in almost every port.

I found Joe “hanging around” as the consul had promised, hanging around
a lamp-post in the center of the _place_, and if he had not been able to
find some such support he would have been lying around the same public
spot. He was a big, greasy, half-breed nigger—I should hate to say
negro—and he had what, in Jack Tar’s parlance, is known as “a full
cargo.” In a ring about him were a score of sailors of various
nationalities and colors, from plain New Yorkers and Baltimore negroes,
to East Indians and men from the Congo Free State, who were making the
boarding master the butt of their raillery. These same men, except,
perhaps, the Anglo-Saxons, would have quailed before this maudlin
rascal, sober, whom they were repaying, now, by their ridicule, for many
a perfidious trick he had played them.

I received a franc from the drunken lout as soon as I had made him
understand the note from the consul, and lost no time in leaving it in a
restaurant. That night I slept on the floor of Joe’s house, with a huge
Antigua negro as a roommate. The house was a shack bordering on the
fish-market and the red-light district, a quarter requiring six
policemen to the block. Several times during the night I started up at
some piercing scream or long-drawn wail, and I borrowed a morning paper
fully expecting to read of deeds of unusual violence. But it was only
the customary list of minor misfortunes that was chronicled; a carousing
sailor run down in that street, an Italian stabbed by a
fellow-countryman in this, a demi-mondaine thrown out of a window in a

Portuguese Joe was a totally different being the next morning from the
besotted wretch that I had seen the day before. Fat and pompous, dressed
as if to attend a fancy ball, he paraded up and down the seamens’
rendezvous, interviewing a captain here, stopping for a tête-à-tête with
another boarding master or a runner there, and scowling haughtily at the
common sailors who ventured to approach him.

Joe was a fair example of the type that is the visitation of seamen
ashore. Jack Tar is the most prodigal of existing beings, either with
the earnings in his pocket or with those he has yet to toil for, and he
bears with far too much resignation the knavery of these shipping
masters. With all its romance, life on the ocean wave is a dreary and
precarious enough existence to the man before the mast, yet many are the
nations that enhance the misery of his lot by tolerating these human
sharks and their nefarious practices in their ports. When Jack comes
ashore, his one desire, in most cases, is to spend his accumulated
earnings as soon as possible. At sea, money is the most worthless of
commodities. The man in the forecastle on a long voyage would not sell
his share of the soggy “plum-duff” that comes with his Sunday dinner for
a month’s wages in cash. Small wonder, then, that he is lavish with his
pounds and shillings during his few days ashore, and that he rarely
thinks of shipping again until his last coin is spent. It is then that
the careless prodigal falls an easy prey to Portuguese Joe and his ilk.
Joe boasted of “never having done a tap of work” in his life. His
mixture of Portuguese and negro blood had made him a tolerably
quick-witted fellow, with considerable tact, as that quality goes among
seafaring men. He had picked up a practicable use of most of the
European languages, and enough knowledge of the niceties of French law
to know how far he could go with impunity in fleecing his victims. In
various ways he had ingratiated himself with captains and the agents of
ships sailing from Marseilles, until he had become one of several
absolute monarchs in that port over slow-witted, spendthrift Jack Tar.
Was business going badly? Then Joe was down aboard some ship talking his
way with his oily tongue into a seat at the captain’s table. Were
sailors in demand? Then he was picking them up everywhere, giving them a
meal or two, and shipping them off with nothing but a bag of ragged
“gear” to show for the month or six weeks’ advance on their wages, which
he hastened back to throw on the gambling table or to spend in the nasty
vices of a great seaport. To be sure, some of this money would have gone
the same way if the sailor had received it. But one could more easily
have tolerated its squandering by the man who had undergone the
sufferings and privations of a long voyage to earn it, and at least we
“beachcombers” should have been spared the sight of Portuguese Joe and
his cronies, strutting back and forth across the Place Victor Gélu, and
putting their heads together to evolve new schemes for robbing other

There were few accommodations in Joe’s hovel, and on the second day I
was transferred to a seamens’ boarding house in the dingy backwater of
the Avenue de la République. The establishment was run by Joe’s brother,
a burly mulatto known in all the lower quarters of the city as
“Portuguese Pete” who, like his brother, lay claim to no family name;
and by his wife, a slatternly white woman of French parentage. In the
windowless upper story were a score of foul nests that ranked as beds.
The one to which I was assigned was a broken-backed cot. After a vain
attempt to sleep, doubled up like a pocketknife, amid the uproar of my
roommates, who were snoring in several languages, I crept down stairs to
borrow a plank from the kitchen wood-pile, and propping up the pallet,
fell asleep. Some time must have passed, for I was in deep slumber and
not even the house cat was stirring, when the cot, mattress, bedding,
and prop came down with a crash that certainly awakened the policeman in
the next block, and left me entangled in a Gordian knot of sheets and
counterpanes of the width of a ship’s hawser. I slept on the floor
during the rest of my stay with Portuguese Pete.

There was one advantage—and one only—gained by the change from the Asile
to this new lodging. The habits of Pete and his spouse were by no means
as austere as those of the monks who turned us out into the cold, grey
dawn. The meals we were to pay so dearly for, when we shipped, were on a
par with the sleeping accommodations. Each morning, after taking turns
in pounding on the proprietor’s door for an hour or two, we usually
succeeded in inducing his consort to descend, in négligé and a vicious
temper, to serve us each a cup of tepid water with a smell of chickory
about it, and a wedge of bread. At noon and night we did duty
alternately before the black, smoky fire-place, in assisting Madame Pete
to prepare the soup and macaroni that were served in painfully meager
quantities with bread and brackish wine. Like the pupils of Squeers, we
dared not ask for more, lest we call down upon our heads the mighty
wrath of Pete.

Pete spoke a cosmopolitan language, an Esperanto of his own making,
concocted from all the tongues represented around his board, with no
partiality or predeliction for any particular one. He who did not know
at least French, English, Italian, and Portuguese or Spanish, with
something of the patois of Provence, had small chance of catching more
than the drift of Pete’s remarks. English words with Italian endings,
Portuguese words with a French pronunciation, French words that started
out well enough but ended with a nondescript grunt, all uttered in a
voice that made the rafters ring and the wine-glasses on the table dance
excitedly, were the daily accompaniments of our gatherings. Yet Pete,
with all his bellow, was the exact antithesis of his brother. He had
spent years before the mast and had been rated an excellent sailor,
before he drifted into Marseilles and became the understudy of
unscrupulous Joe. He was as slow of wit as the seamen who quailed before
his wife’s bleary eye—and as for tact! The only influence or coercion
which Pete could bring to bear on those of his fellow-men who did not
heed the roar of his mighty voice were his no less mighty fists. More
than once he had threatened, like the giant Antiguan, to use these
powerful arguments on his brother’s anatomy; for Joe had never
hesitated, when there was something to be gained by it, to entrap Pete
in the meshes of his Machiavelian plots. As when, during a season of
sharp demand for sailors, he had generously served Pete with “knock-out
drops,” dragged him on board a ship bound for the fever-infected,
west-African coast, and made merry with the two months’ advance offered
for any seaman that could be captured. But Joe let himself be caught
only in the glare of daylight and on the public squares, and there the
wrath of Pete and many another who had fought his way back to Marseilles
with the avowed intention of throttling the rascally half-breed, had
vanished at the sound of that oily tongue. Pete was kind-hearted and
prodigal by nature, and years in the forecastle had by no means cured
him of these faults. Those who knew told tales of his favors to boarders
and of the groaning of his table in the days of prosperity. But evil
times had fallen on Marseilles and, like my fellow-boarders, I always
left Pete’s hovel with a gnawing hunger, and divided my days between
following the clue of some job and wandering with envious eyes through
the market-places.

The band that rose from our table to follow Pete to the ship-chandler’s
office or to tramp at Joe’s heels, by night or by day, to the far end of
the breakwater, in pursuit of a rumor that a ship was “signing on,” was
as variegated in experience as in color. Two hulking, good-hearted
Baltimore negroes were the heroes of the party. In a strike riot of two
months before they had been arrested for killing a gendarme, a crime of
which they were really, though unintentionally, guilty. The prosecution,
however, had not succeeded in proving a case against them. The older had
been sentenced to sixty days and the younger, who had been shot during
the mélée, was left to recuperate in the city hospital. They burst in
upon us almost at the same time during my first days at Pete’s, and took
the head of the board at once. Two nights later the hospital patient—a
youth of nineteen—gave an exhibition of cool, collected grit that is
rarely equaled even among seafaring men. A half-dozen of us had stepped
into a cabaret in the unconventional section of the city. A quarrel
began over some question of racial dislike. In the free-for-all battle
that ensued an Italian drew a long, double-edged sheath knife and sprang
for the youth from Baltimore. The latter had scarcely finished knocking
down another assailant but, without stepping aside ever so little, he
calmly grasped the finely ground blade in his left hand, and while the
blood gushed down his forearm, as the Italian strove to twist the knife
out of his grip of iron, he drew from his hip-pocket a razor, opened it
behind his back as tranquilly as for a morning shave, and slashed his
opponent from ear to chin. With the Italian’s necktie bound tightly
around his wrist, he marched homeward, singing plantation ballads at the
top of his voice, washed his mutilated palm in a bucket, tied it up with
the tail of a shirt, and sallied forth in quest of new adventures.

As near-heroes, there was a stocky little Spaniard, once a
_banderillero_, who had abandoned the bull-ring for the forecastle with
a dozen scars from sharp horns on his neck and body. His tales were
rivaled by a Jamaican negro, the only survivor of a shipwrecked crew,
who had risen to power in a South-Sea island, and by an Australian who
was credited with having thirty-six wives. An Italian who had been on
the operatic stage—what for, we could not find out; a Finn who chewed
tobacco while he ate; and a runaway boy from Madeira, who flooded his
macaroni with tears so regularly that his portion was always served
unsalted, were likewise on exhibition. Then there was “Antoine de la
Ceinture” (Tony of the Belt). Tony was one of the last-but-not-least
sort. Were we bound for the chandler’s office? Then Tony could be
trusted to bring up the rear. Was dinner late in being served? It was
because Tony had not yet put in an appearance. Was Joe lining us up for
inspection before some skipper? Then everyone knew without looking that
it was Tony who answered to his name at the end of the line. But Tony’s
most remarkable feature was his belt. Many of the workmen of France wear
in lieu of suspenders, long, gaily-colored sashes. Yet no belt in the
length and breadth of France could rival Tony’s. It was as red as the
blood that flowed on the night of the mélée—when Tony had lived up to
his reputation by being the farthest from the center of action;—it was a
good yard wide and longer than the longest royal brace ever rove through
a block; and forty times each day Tony must unwind it from around his
waist, give an end to one of us, with a warning to keep it stretched to
its full width, and march off down the street with the other end. There
he would take the first turn around his body, pull the sash taut; and
with a flutter of coat-tails and arms, up the street would come Tony,
spinning round and round as if carried along by a whirlwind, until he
reached his temporary valet, when he would heave a sigh of regret
because the belt was not longer, or brighter, or wider, or didn’t make
him look enough like the spool on which a bolt of cloth is wound, or for
some other reason quite beyond our comprehension; and, tucking in the
end, would tag at the _queue_ of our company to some other section of
the city, there to unwind and wind himself up again.

[Illustration: My entrance into Paris in the corduroy garb and with the
usual amount of baggage of the first months of the trip]

[Illustration: “Tony of the Belt”]

Workers were a drug on the market in Marseilles. There was one happy day
when, in wandering about the _vieux port_, where the fleet of
“windjammers” was rolling and pitching in a heavy gale, I was promised
extraordinary wages by the captain of a clumsy barkentine, flying the
checkerboard Greek flag, to help his depleted crew move the craft to a
safer mooring. He had picked up the Antiguan and—strange to relate—Tony
of the Belt; and together we tugged at hawser and brace for several
hours, while the barkentine under our feet seemed undetermined after
each roll whether to right herself again or turn turtle. But we got her
re-moored at last, and the three francs which the skipper dropped into
my hand had a merry jingle which I had almost forgotten. A day’s work in
the fish-market won me as much more, and I seemed to have struck
prosperity when, the following morning, I spent three hours in rolling
wine-barrels onto harbor trucks. But the only reward which the truckman
and the official taster offered when the task was done was “all the wine
you can hold,” and my humble capacity forced me to accept much less than
union wages. The six-franc fortune dwindled gradually away, though I
spent it sparingly to supplement the meager fare of Pete’s table, or for
an occasional investment of two sous in tobacco. The French government
does not sell the weed in such small quantities. But “beachcombers”
hesitated to spend a half-franc all at once, especially as the
invariable word of greeting from seemingly countless acquaintances was,
“Any smokin’ on you, Jack?” and the dealers—indifferent to the law and
with an eye to business—broke up the legal ten-sous packets into ten
two-sous lots, in their own wrappings. There were fellow-boarders who
laughed at my extravagance. _They_ sallied forth in the morning before
the street-sweepers had made their daily round, and tramped up and down
the Cannebière, a main thoroughfare which evening promenaders littered
with cigar and cigarette butts. But the Anglo-Saxons, for the most part,
refused to employ their talents in “shooting snipes on the Can o’ Beer.”

The boarding-masters of Marseilles refused to believe my assertion that
I was bound away from, and not towards, my native land. Three times
during my stay with Pete, I was called upon to sign on—once on a collier
for Algiers, and twice on tramps bound for the “States.” My refusal to
accept these berths aroused the ire of Joe; and, on the day following
the sailing of the last craft, I was turned out dinnerless from Pete’s
domicile on a world that had grown decidedly cold for a southern
country. I could not greatly regret this ejection; it left Joe unable to
make a demand on my wages, should I ever sign on. My list of
acquaintances had increased; on some occasions I had spent a few sous to
relieve the hunger of some unhoused beachcomber, and the thoughtfulness
stood me now in good stead. As I wandered from Pete’s house down to the
Place de la Joliette, I fell upon one of these, a little, wizened
Alexandrian Jew, who had “just made a haul of a franc” which, with that
unselfishness universal “on the beach,” he offered at once to share.
That night I found myself again in the crowd before the Asile de Nuit.

Quarrels were frequent among the destitutes who collected at the asylum,
but not often was it the scene of such a tragedy as was enacted on this
frosty evening. Five minutes after I had joined the group before the
building, a begrimed and tattered youth strolled up to within a few feet
of me, glanced about him, pulled a revolver from his pocket, fired
instantly at a group of vagabonds who chatted on the curb ten feet away,
and dashed off towards the harbor. The victim, a German who could not
have been over twenty, fell with scarcely a groan, rolled off the
sidewalk into the gutter, gave a few convulsive kicks, and lay still. A
doctor arrived as he was being carried into the office. He had been shot
directly through the heart. My first impulse, when two gendarmes began
inscribing the names of witnesses, was to offer my testimony. Luckily,
it occurred to me in time that justice is a slow process in France, and
that authorities are none too kind in their methods of assuring the
presence in court of such witnesses as lodge at an Asile de Nuit. To be
delayed in Marseilles several months would have put an end to my
wanderings before they had well begun; I backed towards the outskirts of
the increasing crowd and made answer to the excited officer with the
book;—“Moi, monsieur? Je viens d’arriver.”

The assassin was taken, before morning, and his story added to the
annals of “the road.” The dead man had been his companion during his
Wanderjahre in Servia. The few dollars that had been their common
possession he had trusted to his comrade—no unusual custom among tramps.
At a dismal mountain village the treasurer had decamped, leaving the
other to the tender mercies of the Servian police. When he was released
from several weeks of imprisonment as a vagrant, the deserted man
determined to have revenge. By methods peculiar to trampdom, and with a
persistency that would have done credit to the best of detectives, he
had tracked the absconder through Montenegro, the Turkish coast-towns,
and Italy, only to lose all trace of him in Genoa. A chance meeting put
him on the trail again; he tramped to Marseilles and ran the German
youth to earth five months after his act of treachery. The sympathy of
the beachcombers was entirely with the assassin. In the moral code of
“the road” there are few crimes more iniquitous than that of the dead
man. But sympathy availed him nothing, for months afterward the youth
was guillotined in the Place Victor Gélu, that dreary square in which
Portuguese Joe and penniless seamen were accustomed to “hang around.”

When excitement had abated somewhat, the Asile was thrown open—not for
me, however. The second frère received my papers from his superior, as
on the first night, but squinted at me above his glasses.

“Lodged here before?” he demanded.



“Two weeks ago.”

“Then I can’t admit you.”

“But I only stayed five of my eight days.”

“Ça ne fait rien! When you have been admitted once you can’t come back
again for six months. Allez-vous en!”

This mandate proved inexorable. When I attempted to argue the matter a
burly doorkeeper sent me spinning into the street. I wandered away
through the city and, towards midnight, turned down to the wharves. An
empty box car stood behind a warehouse. I crawled inside to find it
already occupied by three English sailors of former acquaintance. To
sleep was impossible, for it was bitter cold. After a couple of hours of
shivering on the icy floor of the car, we crept out and took to tramping
up and down the streets and byways—that most dismal experience, known
professionally as “carrying the banner”—until daybreak.

Long, hungry days passed, days in which I could scarcely withstand the
temptation to carry my kodak to the _mont de piété_ just off the
sailors’ square. Among the beachcombers there were daily some who gained
a few francs, by an odd job, by the sale of an extra garment, or by
“grafting,” pure and simple. When his hand closed on a bit of money, the
stranded fellow may have been weak with fasting. Yet his first thought
was not to gorge himself, but to share his fortune with his companions
under hatches. In those bleak November days, many a man, ranked a
“worthless outcast” by his more fortunate fellow-beings, toiled all day
at the coal-wharves of Marseilles, and tramped back, cold and hungry, to
the Place Victor Gélu to divide his earning with other famished
_misérables_, whom he had not known a week before. More than one man
sold the only shirt he owned to feed a new arrival who was an absolute
stranger to all. These men won no praise for their benefactions. They
expected none, and would have opened their eyes in wonder if they had
been told that their actions were worthy of praise. The stranded band
grew to be a corporate body. By a job here and there I contributed my
share to the common fund, and between us we fought off gaunt starvation.
In a dirty alley just off the Place was an inn kept by a Greek, in which
one could sleep on the floor at three sous, or in a cot at six; and
every evening a band of ragged mortals might have been seen dividing the
earnings of some of them into three-sou lots as they made their way
towards _l’Auberge chez le Grec_.

One spot in all Marseilles was the sole oasis in this desert of
dreariness and desolation, the Sailors’ Home. Here, as winter drove us
away from the sunny side of the breakwater, where we had been able to
swim in early November, we congregated around the roaring stove to
discuss the hopelessness of the situation, and to peruse the newspapers
that kept us somewhat in touch with the moving world outside. But when
dusk fell, the doors were closed behind us, and the biting air and the
squalor of other quarters were only increased by contrast. I turned in
at the Home one morning, to find that misfortune had overtaken the three
Englishmen of the box car. My first acquaintance had arrived in
Marseilles in the thinnest of overalls and jumper. Man can endure far
more than most of us suspect; but night after night out of doors in such
garb had broken the health of the Englishman, and the gendarme who had
found him unconscious on the wharf had bundled him off to the Home. Sick
as he was, it took four days of official red-tape and nonsense to get
him admitted to the hospital, and it was only by strenuous efforts that
we were able to pay his bad _chez le Grec_ while the question was
pending. His two companions had deserted from the British navy in Buenos
Ayres, changed in name and dress, and signed on a “windjammer” for
Genoa. To escape the king’s service had cost them months of labor and
danger, a year’s wages, and their possessions. Nothing will better
indicate the misery of Marseilles on strike than the fact that, with six
months’ imprisonment at Gibraltar and a re-serving of their time in
prospect, they had resolved to endure “the beach” no longer, and had
marched up to the consul’s office to give themselves up. They were held
under arrest at the Home for the first British steamer for the Rock.

There were those among the beachcombers who would not be outdone by the
force of circumstances, who put on a bold front and set out to get the
“living the world owed them.” In beggardom as in the world at large, the
brazenface carries the day, and the modest and unassuming are pushed
into the background. Among the first victims of this class, in foreign
ports, are the consuls. There was in Marseilles a certain Welshman who
won fame for his exploits during this season. Signed off in Barcelona,
he had made his way to the French port, and had received from the
British consul, within an hour of his arrival, two francs and a promise
of clothes, next day. In the morning, as per promise, he was well fitted
out and given another franc. He promptly hunted up a pawn shop, got back
into his rags, and made tracks for the nearest wine-shop. Next morning,
penniless, he was back early to see the consul, spun a pathetic yarn,
and came out with two more francs. This amount, however, could not last
long in a café. The Welshman pocketed the money, marched over to the
American consulate, and proved so satisfactorily that Pittsburg was his
home that two more francs were added to his collection. Day after day
new variations of his story were sprung in all sections of the city. On
his ability to speak some German, he “worked” the Austrian, Swiss, and
German consuls, besides several foreign charitable societies. These
institutions gave only clothing for the most part, but one of the
Welshman’s experience had little difficulty in turning them into money.

Meanwhile, he was “pumping” his own consul, who twice more fitted him
out, only to have him turn up again next morning as ragged and unkempt
as ever. The consul was not blind, but when a vagabond sits down in your
office and refuses to move until he receives a franc, it is often
cheaper to give it than to take time to throw him out. The day came,
however, when the consul determined to put an end to this system of
blackmail, and, after giving the customary franc one morning, he ordered
the Welshman not to come back again under pain of arrest. Bright and
early the next morning the “beachcomber” turned up, a strong smell of
absinthe entering the room with him.

“Good morning, consul,” he burst out, gaily, and loud enough to be heard
by those of us who were listening outside, “I wonder if you can spare me
a couple of francs for a morning bite?”

The consul stepped to the telephone and called for a policeman. A few
minutes later, a gendarme pushed past us, stepped inside, and received
orders to put the offender under arrest. But the Welshman, who lolled
undisturbed in an office chair through all this, had taken the trouble
to make himself familiar with the fine points of international law. He
grasped a heavy ruler from the table as the officer approached.

“If that Frog-eater touches me, I’ll brain ’im,” he shouted, “I’m a
British subject on British soil, and no bloody Frenchman can arrest me!”

The consul knew only too well the truth of this assertion. A French
officer has no more authority within the borders of a foreign consulate
than on London Bridge, and any injury which the Welshman might do the
gendarme in resisting arrest would come under the head of justifiable
self-defense. The consul, however, had police powers in his own office.
He took the belligerent seaman by the arm, led him outside onto the soil
of France, and turned him over to the policeman. The officer conducted
him to the station-house across the way, while several of us tagged
after him.

“Where was he arrested?” demanded the sergeant.

“In the British consulate, monsieur.”

“Vraiment! And the British consul has sent money for his keeping while
he is shut up, eh?”

“Non, monsieur.”

“Non? Then what do you mean by bringing him over here? Allez! Vous!” and
the Welshman, who knew all this process, move by move, made a deep bow
to the sergeant, stuck his thumbs in the armholes of his tattered vest,
strutted out across the park, and back into the consulate.

“Good morning, consul!” he cried, with the blandest of smiles, and
extending a gnarled and far from clean hand. “I’ve just escaped from
grave danger, consul, and I’ve come back to see if, perhaps, you haven’t
changed your mind about that couple of francs.”

The consul looked him over, glanced at the stack of letters and official
papers that demanded his attention, and, with the sheepish look of a man
who feels he is being made game of, admitted that he had.

There ran through the shipping quarters one morning the rumor that the
“Dag” was signing on a crew. She was a tiny wooden brigantine under
Norwegian colors, anchored in the vieux port. She carried a mere handful
of men, was reported as “the hungriest hell that ever weighed an
anchor,” and did not look seaworthy enough to cross an inland lake.
Moreover she was bound for Madagascar by way of the Cape of Good Hope, a
six-month trip at least. This was not the route I had mapped out for
myself. But it was eastward, twenty-five days in Marseilles had left me
ready to jump at any chance, and I raced down to the old harbor with the
rest. It was only a chance meeting with “Dutch Harry,” another of the
rascally boarding masters of the port, that saved me from putting my
name on the “Dag’s” articles. “Dutch” had a contract with the agents of
a tramp steamer from Boston to supply a force of seamen to paint the
vessel in harbor; and an hour later I was hanging over the side on a
swinging plank with the waves of the râde washing over my feet, daubing
paint on the rusty hull. The boarding master received six francs a day
for our labor—and paid us two and a half. But we took our meals with the
crew—whenever the captain was ashore—and I saved enough to come to the
assistance of several of my fellow destitutes, among whom was the
wizened Jew, who had once more fallen on evil days.

This work lasted several days. I was mixing paint on deck, one
afternoon, when the chief mate, strolled by, sauntered back, turned to
look away across the harbor as though he had not seen me within five
feet of him, and muttered as to himself, “We’re going out to-night,
homeward bound for Boston. The company don’t allow us any too many men.
If some of these painters was found stowed away on ’er after the pilot
left ’er, I don’t suppose the old man would do a hell of a lot o’
kicking.” Then he turned until he could glance at me out of the tail of
his eye, looked off across the harbor once more, swung round on his
heel, and marched aft.

If the ship had been eastward bound, the mate’s hint would have fallen
on fertile soil. Several painters disappeared during the afternoon and
they did not go ashore. I took supper with the crew when the day was
done, watched from the pier-head as the newly-painted vessel turned her
prow to the open sea, and hurried back to the dwelling of the boarding
master. “Dutch” was indeed wrathy—especially as I had called for two and
a half francs that he had considered safe in his pocket. When I opened
the door of his wine-shop, he stared at me from behind a dense cloud of
smoke and a tall bottle of greenish contents for several moments. Then
with a roar that only Portuguese Pete of all Marseilles could have
equaled, he burst out, “Why, you damn fool, why in hell didn’t you stow
away on that tub? Didn’t you know she was Boston bound?”

“Aye,” I answered. “But I told you, you remember, I’m not homeward

Several ships bound for Egypt signed on a man or two during the next few
days, but they were all “boarding-house stiffs.” When the mate of the P
& O yacht _Vectis_ sent to the Home for an English quartermaster, I
fancied my time had come, as there was not another English-speaking
sailor “on the beach” after the arrest of the deserters. But the P & O
ships only Britons. The next day my first acquaintance was released from
the hospital and secured the berth.

The last day of November, a month after my arrival in Marseilles, found
me still gazing out upon the Château d’If and up at the ship’s ball on
the summit of Notre Dame de la Garde, and still tramping sorrowfully up
and down the breakwater and the endless wharves. But with the new month
my luck changed. The _Warwickshire_ of the Bibby Line, plying between
England and Burma, put in at Marseilles to await her overland passengers
and sent out a call for a sailor. I was the first man on board,
displayed my discharge from the cattle boat, and was called into the

“It don’t tell in this discharge whether you are an A. B. or not,” said
the mate. “Are you?”

“I am an A. B.,” I replied, though I meant quite a different sort of A.
B. from what the mate understood by my answer. I was signed on at once,
and the next day I watched the familiar harbor of Marseilles grow
smaller and smaller until it faded away on the horizon.

                               CHAPTER VI
                             THE ARAB WORLD

On a placid sea the _Warwickshire_ sped eastward, sighting the mountain
ranges of Corsica and Sardinia, and sweeping through the straits of
Messina so close to the Sicilian shore that we could make out plainly,
from the deck, the evening strollers on the brightly-lighted promenade.
The crew was East Indian. The white quartermasters with whom I messed
were gorged with such food as only a French chef can cook, and valiantly
I struggled to make up for those famished days in the dismal streets of
Marseilles. My official duties were largely confined to “polishin’ ’er
brasses,” and, with all due modesty, I assert that the ship was the
brighter for my presence. The Bibby Line scorned to carry any but
first-class passengers. I took my “watch below” within easy hailing
distance of the promenade deck and those belinened voyagers to whom the
custom of tipping for every possible service had become second nature,
and picked up many a franc and six-pence among them.

On the morning of the fifth day out the brasses were pronounced in a
satisfactory condition, and I was ordered into the hold, with a score of
the native crew, to send up the trunks of Egyptian travelers. The
weather grew perceptibly warmer with every throb of the engines. When I
climbed on deck after the last chest, the deep blue of the ocean had
turned to a shabby brown, but the horizon was still unbroken. Suddenly
there rose from the sea, on our starboard bow, as a marionette bobs up
in a puppet-show, a flat-topped building, then another and another,
until a whole village, the houses of which seemed to sit like gulls on
the ruddy sea, spread out before us. It was Port Saïd. The pilot-boat
had swung alongside and the statue of de Lesseps was plainly visible
before we caught the first glimpse of land, a narrow stretch of reddish
desert sand beyond the town. Slowly the _Warwickshire_ nosed her way
into the canal, the anchor ran out with a rattle and roar of cable, and
there swarmed upon our decks a countless multitude of humans, that
seemed the denizens of some remote and unknown sphere.

Darkness fell soon after. I had signed on the _Warwickshire_ under a
promise that I might leave her at Port Saïd. Through all the voyage,
however, the quartermasters had spent the hours of the dogwatch in
pouring into my ears tales of the horrors that had befallen white men
stranded among the Arabs. The shrieks that rose from the maze of
buildings ashore, the snarling, scowling mobs that raced about our
decks, called back these stories all too vividly. In the blackest of
nights, this new and unknown world was in imagination peopled with
diabolical creatures lying in wait for lone mortals who might venture
ashore unarmed and well-nigh penniless. If I escaped a quick
assassination among these black hordes, a lingering starvation on this
neck of sand might be my lot. The captain had given me leave to continue
to Rangoon. An Englishman, returning to the Burmese district he
governed, had promised me a well-salaried position. Most foolhardy it
seemed to halt in this “dumping ground of rascality” when in a few days
I might complete half my journey around the globe and find a ready

For an hour I sat undecided, staring into the black inferno beyond the
wharves. Palestine and Egypt, however, were lands too famous to be
lightly passed by. I bade farewell to the astonished quartermasters,
collected my few days’ wages from the mate, and with some two pounds in
francs, lire, and shillings in my pocket, dropped into a _feluca_ and
was rowed ashore.

A scene typically Oriental graced my landing. In my ignorance, I had
neglected to spend a half-hour in bargaining with the swarthy boatman
before stepping into his craft. That the legal fare I paid him was
posted conspicuously on the wharf made him none the less assertive in
his demands. For an hour he dogged my footsteps, howling threats or
whining pleas in a cracked treble, now in his native Arabic, now in such
English as he could muster. The summary vengeance of the Islamites,
prophesied with such fullness of detail by my shipmates, seemed at hand;
but I shook the fellow off at last and set out to find a lodging.

The task at which I had grown so proficient in Europe was a far more
difficult problem in this strange world. To be sure, there were several
hotels along the avenue facing the wharves, before which well-dressed
white men lounged at little tables; and black, barefooted waiters
flitted back and forth, carrying cool drinks that we of America are wont
to associate with August mid-days rather than with December evenings.
But a strong financial backing is nowhere so indispensable as in
hostelries offering “European accommodations” in the Orient. There were,
undoubtedly, scores of native inns in the maze of hovels into which I
plunged at the first step off the avenue, but how distinguish them when
the only signs that met my eye were as meaningless as so many spatters
of ink? Even in Holland I had been able to guess at shop names. But
Arabic! I had not the remotest idea whether the ensign before me
announced a lodging house or the quarters of an undertaker. I returned
to the avenue; but the few white men who paused to listen to my inquiry
for a “native” hotel stared at me as at one who had lost his wits, and
passed on with a shrug of the shoulders. A long evening I pattered in
and out of crooked byways, bumping now and then into a swarthy Mussulman
who snarled at me and made off, and bringing up here and there in some
dismal blind alley. Fearful of wandering too far from the lighted
square, I turned back toward the harbor and suddenly caught sight of a
sign in English: “Catholic Sailors’ Home.” Whether the establishment was
Catholic or Coptic was small matter, so long as it announced itself in a
human language, and I dashed joyfully towards it.

The “Home” comprised little more than a small reading-room. Half-hidden
behind the stacks of ragged magazines sat the “manager,” a Maltese boy,
huddled over paper and pencil and staring disconsolately at an
Italian-English grammar. I stepped forward and offered my assistance,
and together we waded through an interminable lesson. Before we had
ended, six tattered white men wandered in and carefully chose books over
which to fall asleep.

“You must know,” said the manager, as he closed the grammar, “that there
am no sleepings here. And we closes at eleven. But I am fix you oop. I
am shelter all these seamans while I lose my place when the Catholic
society found it out.”

He peered out into the night, locked the doors, blew out the lights, and
aroused the sleepers. We groped our way along a stone-paved corridor to
the back of the building.

“You are getting in here,” said the Maltese, pulling open what proved by
morning light to be a heavy pair of shutters, “but be quietness.”

I climbed through after the others. A companion struck a match that
lighted up a stone room eight feet square, once the kitchen of the Home.
Closely packed as we were, it soon grew icy cold on the stone floor. Two
“beachcombers” rose with exclamations of disgust and crawled out through
the window, to tramp up and down the corridor. I groped my way to a
coffin-shaped cupboard in one corner, laid it lengthwise on the floor,
pulled out the shelves, and, crawling inside, closed the doors above me.
My sleep was unbroken until morning.

By the light of day my bedfellows, squatted against the wall of the
corridor, formed a heterogeneous group. At one end sat a Boer dressed in
heavy, woolen garments of the veldt, of a faded, weather-beaten
condition startlingly in keeping with the bronzed and bewhiskered
countenance of the wearer. A seedy Austrian youth lolled open-mouthed
between the South African and an oily Turk. A Liberian negro was sharing
a mangled crust with a Russian Finn, half-hidden behind a forest of
unpruned whiskers. A ragged Englishman stood stiffly erect near the

We found ample time to divulge the secrets of our past before the
turnkey came to release us. With the Englishman I strolled down to the
harbor. Myriads of “coaling niggers,” in dirty, loose robes, as
indistinguishable one from another as ants, swarmed up the sides of
newly-arrived ships, or returned, jaded and begrimed, in densely packed
boat-loads, from a night of toil. The custom police, big, pompous
negroes beside whom the Arabs seemed light colored, strutted back and
forth within the wharf enclosure. As each band of heavers arrived, the
officers laid aside their brilliant fezes, slipped over their gay
uniforms a bag-like garment that covered them to their gaitered shoes,
and gathered the workmen, one by one, in a loving embrace.

“Affectionate fellows, these followers of the prophet,” I mused.

“Aye,” croaked my companion, “and bloody good smugglers, dressed in them
dirty skys’ls.”

They live in coal, these heavers of Port Saïd. Their beds, their wives,
their children, the merchants with whom they come in contact, even the
little baked fish which bleary-eyed females sell them outside the gates,
are covered with its dust.

The Englishman knew of but one “graft” in Port Saïd. Each day, at noon,
the friars of a Catholic monastery served dinner to the penniless. A
crowd overwhelmingly Oriental lined up with us under the trees of the
convent garden to await the serene pleasure of the tawny Arab who
dispensed the charity of the priests. Between a Tartar and a Nubian, I
received, after long delay, a deep tin-plate, a pewter spoon, and a
misshapen slice of bread. The entire party had lost hope of obtaining
anything more edible, when the monasterial servant appeared once more,
straining painfully along with a huge caldron of soup, which he
deposited on the flat grave-stone of a defunct friar. As we filed by
him, the Arab tossed at each of us a ladleful of the boiling concoction.
Whether it landed in our plates or distributed itself generously over
our nether garments depended entirely on our own dexterity, for the
haughty server dumped the ladle where, in his opinion, our dishes ought
to have been, utterly indifferent as to whether they were there or not.

The Englishman disappeared next day, and I joined fortunes with the
seedy Austrian. With a daily dinner and a lodging, even in a cupboard,
assured, I found Port Saïd a more agreeable halting-place than
Marseilles. There was work to be had here, too. On this second afternoon
we were stretched out on the breakwater, under the shadow of the statue
of de Lesseps, watching the coming and going of the pilot-boats and the
sparkle of the canal that dwindled to a thread on the far horizon of the
yellow desert, when a portly Greek approached and asked, in Italian, if
we wanted employment. We did, of course, and followed him back to land
and off to the westward along the beach to a hovel in the native
section. On the earth floor sat two massive stone mortars. The Greek
motioned to us to seat ourselves before them, poured into them some
species of small nut, and handed each of us a stone pestle. When we had
fallen to work, he sat down on a stool, prepared his _narghileh_ and,
except for an occasional wave of the hand as a signal to us to empty the
mortars of the beaten pulp and refill them, remained utterly motionless
for the rest of the day.

Mechanically we pounded hour after hour. The pestles were heavy when we
began, before the day was done my own weighed at least a ton. What we
were beating up and what, in the name of Allah, we were beating it up
for, I do not know to this day. The Austrian asserted that he knew the
use of the product, but fell silent when I asked to be enlightened.
Night sounds were drifting in through the door of the hovel when the
Greek signed to us to stop, and with the air of one who feels himself to
be over-generous but proud of his fault, handed each of us five small
piastres (12½ cents). My companion at once raised his voice in
vociferous protest, in which, at a nudge of his elbow, I joined. The
Greek was hurt to the point of tears. The ingratitude of man, when he
had, out of the kindness of his heart, given us a whole day’s wages for
a half-day’s work! How could we bring ourselves to complain when he had
cut his own profit in half simply because we were men of his own color
for whom he felt an altruistic and unmercenary sympathy? At the end of a
half-hour of noisy clamoring he consented to present us each with
another piastre, and we hurried away across the beach to a native shop
where spitted mutton sold cheaply.

Two days later I took a “deck-passage” for Beirut and boarded a hulk
flying the British flag. By sundown we lost sight of the low-lying port
and set a course northeastward. A throng of Arabs, Turks, and Syrians,
Christian and Mohammedan, male and female, squatted on the half-covered
deck. In one scupper were piled a half-hundred wooden gratings, the use
of which remained a mystery to me until my fellow-passengers fell to
pulling them down one by one and spreading their beds on them. I alone,
of all the multitude, was unsupplied with bedding; even the lean, gaunt
Bedouins, dressed in tattered filth, had each a roll of ragged blankets
in which, their evening prayers and salaams towards Mecca ended, they
rolled themselves and lay down together in a place apart. This dividing
into groups was general, for caste lines are sharp drawn in the Orient
and, when I stretched out on a bare grating, the entire throng was
huddled in a dozen isolated bands, each barricaded by the sturdiest

Morning broke bright and clear. Far off to starboard rose the
snow-capped range of the Lebanon; but we were bearing northward now, and
several hours did not bring us perceptibly nearer the coast. The time
was close at hand when I must learn something of the modes of travel in
Asia Minor, though, to tell the truth, I had small hope of landing, for
passports were reported indispensable in this mysterious land of the
Turk. I strolled anxiously about the deck. In a group of Christian Turks
I came upon two who spoke French, and engaged them in conversation with
the ulterior motive of “pumping” them. A few stories of the highways of
Europe amused the party greatly. Casually I announced my intention of
walking to Damascus. The interpreted statement evoked loud shouts of
incredulity, not unmixed with derision.

“What!” cried one of the French-speaking Turks, waving a flabby hand
towards the snow banks that covered the wall-like Lebanon range, “Go to
Damascus on foot! _Pas possible._ You would be buried in the snow. This
country is not like Europe! There are thousands of murderous Bedouins
between here and Damascus who would glory in cutting the throat of a dog
of an unbeliever! Why, I have lived years in Beirut, and no man of my
acquaintance, native or Frank, would ever undertake such a journey on

“And you would lose your way and die in the snow,” put in the other. All
through the morning the pair were kept busy interpreting the opinion of
the group on the absolutely unsurmountable obstacles against such an
undertaking. It was the first version of a story that grew old and
threadbare before I ended my journeyings in the Orient. But it was a new
tale then, told with an unoriental vehemence, and as I ran my eye along
the snow-cowled wall that faded into hazy distance to the north and
south, I was half inclined to believe that I was nearing a land where my
plans must be abandoned.

The coast line drew nearer. On the plain at the mountain foot appeared
well-cultivated patches, interspersed with dreary stretches of blood-red
sand. At high noon we dropped anchor well out in the harbor of Beirut.
Clamoring boatmen were soon rowing first-class passengers ashore. But
the red flag of quarantine was snapping in the breeze above the custom
house, and as deck passengers, more likely to spread the plague than
tourists well supplied with “backsheesh,” we were detained on board.
Four sweltering hours had passed when a screech sounded ashore, and
several company tenders put out from the inner harbor. Down the gangway
tumbled a mighty cascade of Orientals, male and female, large and small,
dirty and half dirty, pushing, kicking, scratching, and biting each
other with utter disregard of color, sex, or social standing, and
hopelessly entangled with bundles of every conceivable shape. The sinewy
boatmen established something like an equality of burdens by rough and
ready tactics, and amid the shrieks of husbands separated from wives,
children from parents, Bedouins from their priceless rolls of blankets,
the tenders set off for a stern, stone building on a barren rock across
the bay. The spirit of segregation grew contagious. As we swung in
against the rock I caught a haughty Bedouin attempting to separate me
from my knapsack. A well-directed push landed him in the laps of several
heavily-veiled females and I sprang up a stairway cut in the face of the
rock. The building at the summit bore the star and crescent, and the
title “Lazeret.” In small groups we passed into a room where a
pudgy-faced man in European garments, topped by a fez, stared at me long
and quizzically before he beckoned to the first of our party to
approach. One by one my fellow passengers answered a few questions,
received a paper signed by the man in the fez, and fell to quarreling
with him over the price thereof. Well they knew that no amount of
bellowing could reduce the official fee, but as Orientals they could not
have purchased a postage stamp without attempting to “beat down” the
salesman. The officer heaved a sigh of relief when I handed him without
protest the five piastres demanded, and I passed on, still wondering why
I had been taxed. The paper was in French as well as Turkish and
informed me that I had paid for disinfection.

Some time after the last man had paid his fee—the female passengers had
mysteriously disappeared—a second door swung open, an official folded
our papers, tore a round hole in them, and we entered a room containing
several long tables. An unwashed and officious Arab handed to each of us
a garment not unlike a scanty nightshirt, and ordered us to strip. When
our wardrobes had been laid out on the tables in separate heaps, a
half-dozen ragged urchins appeared, rolled each heap into a bundle, and
disappeared through a tight-fitting steel door. Disinfecting a Frank
was, evidently, a new problem in the Lazeret of Beirut. An urchin stared
at my clothing, bawled something to the unwashed official, and passed me
by. The officer picked my garments up one by one with a puzzled air,
handed me my sweater and suspenders, as if he did not feel that such
mysterious articles could be rated as clothing, and sped away with the

A long hour passed. The nightshirts lent their wearers neither dignity
nor modesty. My own had been designed for the smallest of Arabs and did
a white man meager service, but the jabbering natives would not have
been in the least disturbed if their wardrobe had been reduced to the
fig leaf of notorious past. The steel door opened. We filed into the
next room and found our disinfected bundles arrayed on more long tables
and steaming like newly-boiled cabbages. As rapidly as the garments
cooled, I attired myself and turned out upon a tiny square before the
Lazeret. Suddenly there rang out a cry for passports. An icy bubble ran
up and down my spine, but I stepped boldly forward and thrust my letter
of introduction into the face of a diminutive, white-haired officer at
the gate. He received it gingerly, as if expecting it to explode in his
hands, turned it up sidewise, upside down, sidewise once more, and,
certain that he had found its proper position, began to run his finger
up and down the lines, mumbling to himself and shaking his head sagely
from side to side. Slowly he turned, eyed me suspiciously, and after
several preliminary gurgles, wheezed: “Paseeporto? Paseeporto?”

“Sure, it’s a passeporto!” I replied, nodding my head vigorously. The
officer glanced from the paper to my face and back at the paper several
times, plainly as helpless before a problem for which he knew no
precedent as a child. The doctor who had made out our disinfection slips
stepped out into the square, and the officer, knowing that he read and
spoke French, rushed upon him. The good leech could hold the letter
right side up, but he knew no more of its contents than the man who had
read it sidewise. He turned to ply me with questions. I assured him that
American passports were just such simple things, and he accepted my
assertion. The officer thrust the letter into his sack—for in Turkey
passports are held over night by the police and returned to the owner’s
consulate in the morning—and waved his hand as a sign of dismissal.

Darkness had fallen and the city was some miles distant. The doctor
called a sinister-looking native, attired in a single garment that
reached his knees, and ordered him to guide me to the town. We set off
through the night, heavy with the smell of oranges, along a narrow road,
six inches deep in the softest mud. At the outskirts of the city the
native halted and addressed me in Arabic. I shook my head. Like most
uneducated Orientals, he was of the opinion that, if a full-grown Frank
could not understand language intelligible to the smallest child of his
acquaintance, it was through some fault of his hearing. He put the
question again and again, louder and more rapidly with every repetition.
I let him bellow until breath failed him and he gave up and splashed on.
He halted once more in a square, reeking with mud, in the center of the
city, and burst forth in a greater vehemence of incoherency than before.

“Ingleesee?” he shrieked with his last gasp.

“No,” I answered, comprehending this one word, “Americano.”

“Ha!” shouted the Arab, “Americano?” and he began his bellowing once
more. Evidently he was attempting to explain something about my fellow
countrymen, for the word “americano” was often repeated. Exhausted once
more, he struck off to the southward. I shouted “hotel” and “inn” in
every language I could muster, but after a few mumbles he fell silent
and only the splash of our feet in the muddy roadway attended our
progress. We left the city behind, but still the Arab plodded steadily
and silently southward. Many a quartermaster’s story of white men led
into Mussulman traps passed through my mind. Far out among the orange
groves of the suburbs he turned into a small garden and pointed to a
lighted sign above the portal of the building among the trees. It
announced the American consulate. Not knowing what else to do with a
Frank who did not understand the loudest Arabic, the native had led me
to the only man in Beirut to whom he had heard the term “americano”

When I had paid my bill next morning in the French _pension_ to which I
had been directed, my worldly wealth was reduced to one English
sovereign. I turned in at the office of Cook and Son and, tossing the
piece to the native clerk, asked him to change it into coin of the
realm, of small denomination. He turned the sovereign over several
times, bit it, laid it carefully away, and set to pulling out boxes and
drawers and dumping the coins they contained on the counter before me.
There were pieces of copper, pieces of silver, pieces of bronze, tin,
iron, nickel, zinc; coins half the size of a dime, coins that looked
like tobacco tags, coins big enough with which to fell an ox, coins with
holes in them, coins bent double, saucer-shaped coins, coins that had
been scalloped around the edge by some erstwhile possessor of artistic
temperament and hours of leisure; and still the clerk continued to pour
out coins until I felt in duty bound, as a tolerably honest member of
society, to call a halt.

“Say, old man,” I put in, “that was only a sov. I gave you, you know.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” panted the native, dumping another handful that
rattled down the sides of the heap like a bucketful of stones on the
pile under a stone crusher, “I know, and I am very sorry I have not
enough to change him. But I give you this and he just make him up.”

He tossed towards me a gold piece of ten francs.

“What!” I cried, “You don’t mean that I get that heap and ten francs
besides, for one quid?”

“Aywa, efendee, yes, that makes one pound,” he answered.

I pawed over the heap. Each rake brought to light pieces of new and
unique pattern. “Fine collection,” I said, “but what’s the answer?”

The clerk drew a long breath as if for an extended lecture, and picked
up one of the tobacco tags; “This,” he said, “is a metleek. It is
worth eleven-twelfths of a half-penny. Five of these coppers make a
metleek—only not quite—that is—here in Beirut—in Damascus five of them
make a metleek and a little more. Ten metleeks make a bishleek—” he
picked up one of the coins the owner of which would be arrested, in a
civilized country, for carrying concealed weapons, “one bishleek—that
is—except one and a half of these copper coins—that is—here—in
Damascus ten metleeks make a bishleek and four coppers—except not
quite—and in Sidon they make the same as in Damascus—only a little
less—and these coins are worth the same as a bishleek—except not
quite—that is—here—if they have a hole in them they are worth a copper
and three-fourths—more—that is, here—in Damascus they are worth a
copper and one-fourth more, and this dish-shaped one is worth three
bishleeks and three metleeks and two coppers and sometimes
three-fourths of a copper more, except they with holes in them which
are worth two metleeks and a copper and a half more, and this
mejeedieh is worth in Damascus seven bishleeks and seven metleeks and
two coppers and sometimes three and sometimes here not so much by two
and a half coppers and in Jerusalem—”

“And suppose it is a rainy day?”

“Oh, that does not make any difference,” said the clerk, with owl-like
solemnity, “but sometimes on busy days, as on feast days, the bishleek
is worth three coppers and a half more—that is, here—in Damascus it is
worth two more and sometimes not so much—as in Ramadan, and in Sidon it
is worth three-fourths of a copper less and in—here in Beirut—”

“Hold on, efendee,” I cried. “If you have a pencil and a ream of paper
at hand—”

I understood his explanation perfectly, of course, but I had an
unconquerable dread of forgetting it in my sleep.

“Certainly,” cried the obliging clerk, and he dragged forth two sheets
of paper and covered both with figures. Reduced to writing, the monetary
system of Syria was simplicity itself. One could see through it as
easily as through six inches of armor plate.

“Now, in carting this around—” I asked, tucking the sheets of paper away
in a pocket, “you don’t hire a porter—”

“Ah,” said the clerk, “you have not the large purse? Our Syrians carry a
purse which is very long, which is long like the stocking which it is
said are worn by the lady; but if you have not such a long purse and you
have not any ladies—” I drew out a large handkerchief and fell to raking
the heap of coins into it. “Ah,” he cried, “that does very good, only
you do not forget that in Damascus the mejeedieh is worth seven
bishleeks and seven metleeks and two coppers and sometimes—” But I had
escaped into the silence outside.

I reduced my burden somewhat by spending the heaviest pieces of junk for
breakfast and, strolling down to the harbor, sat down on a pier. The
bedlam of shrieking stevedores, braying camels, and the rattle of
discharging ships drowned for some time all individual sounds. In a
sudden lull, I caught faintly a shout in English behind me and turned
around. A lean native in European dress and fez was beckoning to me from
the opening of one of the narrow streets. I dropped from the pier and
turned shoreward. The native ran towards me. “You speak Eengleesh?” he
cried, “Yes? No? What countryman you?”


“No? Not American?” shrieked the native, dancing up and down, “You not
American? Ha! ha! ver’ fine. I American one time, too. I be one time
sailor on American warsheep Brooklyn. You know Brooklyn? Ver’ nice
sheep, Brooklyn. You write Eengleesh, too, No? Yes? Ver’ fine! You like
job? I got letters write in Eengleesh! Come, you!”

He led the way through the swarming bazaar, shouting answers to the
questions I put to him. He claimed the name of Abdul Razac Bundak and
the profession of “bumboat-man,” one of those familiar figures of
Oriental ports, a native who had picked up a fluent use of so-called
English, the language of the shipping world, and turned it to
practicable account. His activities were varied. He sold supplies to
foreign ships, acted as interpreter for officers ashore, led tourists on
sight-seeing expeditions, and, in the busy season, ran a sailors’
boarding house.

Some distance back from the harbor, in a shoe shop kept by his uncle, I
sat down to write three letters at Bundak’s dictation. By the time we
had finished them—and a dozen cigarettes—my familiarity with other
languages had leaked out, and I wrote three more, two in French and one
in Spanish. With one exception, all six were bids to ship captains
accustomed to visit Beirut. The bumboat-man paid me two unknown coins,
and “set up” a dinner in a neighboring shop.

[Illustration: As I appeared during my tramp in Asia Minor. A picture
taken by Abdul Razac Bundak, bumboat-man of Beirut]

That afternoon we piloted a party of Germans through the labyrinthian
bazaars and out across the orange groves to Dog River. Abdul chattered
in his pidgin English, and I strove to turn his uncouth speech into the
language of the Fatherland. In the days that followed, our “company,” as
Abdul styled it, was the busiest in Beirut. The fame of Bundak’s
“faranchee secretary” spread abroad. The scribes who sat in their little
stands in the market-places were called upon now and then to pen letters
in some European language. Hitherto, they had refused such commissions.
Now they despatched an urchin to the shop in Custom-House street, before
which our “company” was wont to sit dreaming over narghilehs supplied by
a neighboring café, and summoned us to some distant corner of the
bazaars. The priest in his confessional was never entrusted with more
secrets than fell from the lips of the scribes amid the droning of
Bundak, the interpreter. Had those men of letters been less indolent,
the volume of their business might well-nigh have doubled. But they
insisted on exercising their profession after the laggard manner of the
East, and ever and anon drifted away into the land of day-dreams with a
sentence stranded on their lips. The palm of the left hand was the
writing desk to which they were accustomed; it was always with
difficulty that I stirred them up to clear a space on their littered
stands. They and their fathers before them had always written from right
to left; they stared in amazement when I began in the left-hand corner.
More than one burst forth in vociferous protest at this unprecedented
use of a pen, and long harangues from the senior member of our firm did
not always convince them that the result of my labor was more than
meaningless scratches. The fees of this new profession were never
princely. The scribes themselves received no more than a bishleek for a
letter, and must supply the materials. But even from the half of our
share I added something each day to the scrap iron in my handkerchief.

When business lagged there were but two resources left to Abdul—to eat
or to drink. Let his narghileh burn out before a summons came, and the
bumboat-man rose with a yawn and we rambled away through the intricate
windings of the bazaars to some tiny tavern, tucked away in an utterly
unexpected corner. The keepers were always delighted to be awakened from
their siestas by our “company.” While we sat on a log or an upturned
basket and sipped a glass of some native concoction which the proprietor
placed on the ground—there being no floor—at our feet, Abdul spun long
tales of the _faranchee_ world. They were bold forays into the field of
fiction, most of them, but with a live faranchee to serve as
illustration, the shopkeepers were never critical and listened
open-mouthed, after the fashion of all children of the East before a
story teller.

There was really no reason why these taverns should not have supplied
all our wants during the day, for the “free lunch” system, that has long
been credited to America, is indigenous to Beirut. With every drink the
keeper served a half-dozen tiny dishes of hazelnuts, radishes, peas in
the pod, cold squares of boiled potatoes, and berries and vegetables
known only in Syria. But Abdul was gifted with an inexhaustible
appetite, and at least once after every transaction he led the way to
one of the many eating-shops facing the busiest streets and squares. In
a gloomy grotto, the front of which was all door, stood two long tables
of the roughest materials, flanked by rougher benches with barely space
enough between them for the passage of clients. The proprietor rarely
stirred from behind a great block of brick and mortar near the entrance,
over which simmered a score of black kettles. I read the bill of fare by
raising the covers of each caldron in succession, chose a dish of the
least unfathomable mystery, picked up a discus-shaped loaf and a cruse
of water from the bench at the entrance, and retreated to the rear.
Whatever I chose, it was almost certain to contain mutton. The sheep
appears in sundry and strange disguises in the Mohammedan world. The
Arabian cook, however, sets nothing over the fire until he has cut it
into small pieces, and each dinner was an almost unbroken succession of
stews of varying tastes and colors. Each order, whether of meat or
vegetables, we ate separately, with a bread-cake.

Abdul rarely concerned himself with the contents of the kettles, for his
unrivaled favorite was a dish prepared by running alternately tiny cubes
of liver and kidneys on a spit and revolving them over the glowing
coals. I, too, should have ordered this delicacy more often had not
Abdul, with his incurable “Eengleesh,” persisted in referring to it as
“kittens.” I parted from the bumboat-man each evening; for, though his
home was roomy enough, he was a true Mohammedan and would never have
thought of introducing even his business partner into the same building
with his wives. Beds were good and rates low in the native inns. Though
we lived right royally in Beirut, my expenses were rarely twenty-five
cents a day.

With all its mud and squalor there was something marvelously pleasing
about this corner of the Arab world. The lazy droning of its
shopkeepers, the roll of the incoming sea, the twitter of birds that
spoke of summer and seemed to belie the calendar, above all, the
picturesque contrast of orange trees bending under the ripening fruit
that perfumed the soft air, with the snowdrifts almost within stone’s
throw on the peaks above, lent to the spot a charm unique. For all that,
I should not have remained so long in Beirut by choice, for the road was
long before me, and to each day I had allotted its portion of the
journey. The traveler in the East, however, must learn that he cannot
lay plans and expect to hold to them as at home. To the Oriental it is
entirely immaterial whether he sets out to-day or to-morrow, and the
view point of the Frank is beyond his grasp. Had you planned a departure
for Monday and find that some petty obstacle makes it impossible? “Oh!
well,” says the native, “Tuesday is as good a day as Monday. Wait until
to-morrow.” Does Tuesday bring some new difficulty? The native will
repeat his consoling advice just as jauntily as if he had not worn it
threadbare the day before. The expression “wasting time” has no meaning
whatever to the Oriental. Twenty-four hours does not represent to him
one-half the value of one of his miserable copper coins. A certain
number of days must run by between his birth and death. What matters it
just how he occupies himself during that period? He is, perhaps, a bit
happier if a task already planned must be put off, for the postponement
reduces the sum-total of exertion of his allotted span, and nothing does
the Oriental hate so much as exertion.

The officials of the Porte, imbued with this philosophy of life, were in
no haste to examine my papers. Not until my third visit to the consulate
did the air of consternation with which the American representative met
me at the door inform me that my letter had been returned.

“What the devil did you pass this note as a passport for?” shouted the
consul; “Why, man, in ten years I never heard of a man entering Turkish
territory without a passport—except one, and he was fined a hundred

“Tourist, wasn’t he?” I answered, “I’ve found that workingmen pass more

“In Europe, perhaps,” said the consul, “but not here. Now don’t venture
into the interior until you have a teskereh—a local passport—unless you
want to be shipped to one of the Sick Man’s dungeons on the double

Four days passed before this document, with its description of my
features in the unfathomable orthography of the Turk, was ready. Even
had I received it earlier, it is by no means certain that I could have
set out for Damascus at once. Native or Frank, not a resident of Beirut
admitted knowing which of her reeking alleyways led to the foothills to
the eastward. Abdul threw up his hands in startled horror when I
broached the subject of my intended journey. “Impossible!” he shrieked,
“There is not road. You be froze in the snow before the Bedouins cut
your liver. You no can go. Business good. Damascus no good. Ver’ col’ in
Damascus now.”

It cost me a day’s earnings one afternoon among the tavern keepers to
revive his flagging memory before he recalled that there was a road to
Damascus, and that caravans had been known to pass over it; but even in
such good spirits he persisted with great vehemence that the journey
could not be made on foot.

The bumboat-man left me next morning at the outskirts of the city and a
bend in the road soon hid him from view. For an hour the highway was
perfectly level, flanked by rich gardens and orange groves, and thronged
with dusky, supple-limbed men and women garbed in flowing sheets. Soon
all this changed. The road wound upward, the delicate orange tree gave
place to the sturdy olive, the fertile gardens to haggard hillsides, the
gay throng to an occasional Arab, grim and austere of visage, leading or
riding a swaying camel. Over the dull solitude fell a silence broken
only by the rising wind sighing mournfully through the jagged gullies
and stocky trees. The summer breeze of the sea level turned chilly and I
found it worth while to seek the sunny side of a boulder before
broaching the lunch in my knapsack. Nearer the summit of the first range
the aspect was less dreary. The cedar forests began and broke the
monotony of the ragged landscape. Here and there a group of peasants was
grubbing on the wayside slopes. To the north or south a flat-roofed
village clung to a mountain flank.

How strange and foreign seemed everything about me! The implements of
the peasants, the food in my knapsack, the very tobacco in my pipe,
every detail of custom and costume seemed but to widen the vast gulf
between this and my accustomed world. If I addressed a fellow-wayfarer,
he answered back an incomprehensible jumble of words, wound the folds of
his unfamiliar garments about him, and hurried on. If I caught sight of
a village clock, its hands pointed to six when the hour was midday. Even
the familiar name of the famous city to which I was bound was
meaningless to the natives, for they called it “Shaam.”

My pronunciation of the word was at fault, no doubt, for though I stood
long at a fork in the route in the early afternoon shouting “Shaam” at
each passer-by, I took the wrong branch. Some hours I had tramped along
a rapidly deteriorating highway before a suspicion of this mistake
assailed me. Even then, with no means to verify it, I kept on. At last
the route emerged from a cutting, and the shimmering sea almost at my
feet showed that I was marching due southward. Two peasants appeared
above a rise of ground beyond. As they drew near, I pointed off down the
road and shouted “Shaam?” The pair halted, wonderingly, in the center of
the highway some distance from me. “Shaam! Shaam! Shaam!” I repeated,
striving to give the word an accentuation that would suggest the
interrogation point that went with it. The peasants stared open-mouthed,
drew back several paces, and peered down the road and back at me a dozen
times, as if undecided whether I was calling their attention to some
phenomenon of nature or attempting to distract their attention long
enough to pick their pockets. Then a slow, half-hearted smile broke out
on the features of the quicker witted. He stood first on one leg, then
on the other, squinted along the highway once more, and began to repeat
after me, “Shaam! Shaam! Shaam.”

“Aywa, Shaam!” I cried.

He turned to his companion. The parley that ensued was long enough to
have settled all differences of opinion in politics, religion, and the
rotation of crops. Then both began to shake their heads so vigorously
that the muscles of their necks stood out like steel hawsers. Two broad
grins that were meant to be reassuring distorted their leathery visages.
They stretched out their arms to the southward and burst forth in
unharmonious duet: “La! la! la! la! la! Shaam! la! la! la! la! la!” The
Arab says “la” when he means “no.” I turned about and hurried back the
way I had come.

Dusk was falling when I traversed for the second time a two-row village
facing the highway. As I expected, there was not a building in any way
resembling an inn. For the Arab, even of the twentieth century,
considers it a sin that “the stranger within his gates” shall be obliged
to put up at a public house. I had already seen enough of the Syrian,
however, to know the chief weakness of his character—insatiable
curiosity. One thing he cannot do is mind his own business. Is there a
trade going on, a debt being paid, a quarrel raging? The vociferations
of bargaining, the jingle of money, the angry shrieks drive from his
head every thought of his own affairs, and he hastens to join the
increasing throng around the parties interested, to offer his advice and
bellow his criticisms. I sat down on a boulder at the end of the

In three minutes a small crowd had collected. In ten, half the
population was swarming around me and roaring at my vain attempt to
address them, as at some entertainment specially arranged for their
enjoyment. A good half-hour of incessant chattering ensued before one of
the band motioned to me to follow him, and turned back into the village.
The multitude surged closely around me, examining minutely every article
of my apparel that was visible, grinning, smirking, running from one
side to the other, lest they lose some point in the make-up of so
strange a creature, and babbling the while like an army of apes.

The leader turned off the highway towards the largest building in the
village. Ten yards from the door he halted, the multitude formed a
semicircle, leaving me in the center like the chief buffoon in a comic
opera ensemble, and one and all began to bellow at the top of his lungs.
A girl of some sixteen years appeared on the threshold. “Taala hena!”
(come here) roared the chorus. The girl ran down the steps. A roar as of
an angry sea burst forth as every member of the company stretched out an
arm towards me. Plainly, each was determined that he, and not his
neighbor, should have the distinction of introducing this novel being.

“Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” shrieked the girl in my ear.

“Ja wohl,” I answered.

The rabble fell utterly silent at the first word, and I asked to be
directed to an inn.

“There is no hotel in our city of Bhamdoon,” replied the girl, with
flashing eyes; “We should be insulted. In this house, with my family,
lives a German missionary lady. You must stop here.”

She led the way to the door. The missionary met me on the steps with a
cry of delight, which she hastened to excuse on the ground that she had
not seen a European in many months.

“What would supper and lodging cost me here?” I demanded. The habit of
making such an inquiry had become almost an instinct among the grasping
innkeepers of Europe. Luckily, the German lady was hard of hearing. The
girl gave me a quick glance, half scornful, half astonished, which
reminded me that such a question is an insult in the land of the Arabs.

“The lady is busy, now,” said the girl, “come and visit my family.”

She led the way along a hall and threw open a door. I pulled off my cap.

“Keep it on,” said my guide, “and leave your shoes there.”

She stepped out of her own loose slippers and into the room. It was
square and low, the stone floor half covered with mats and cushions; in
the center glowed a small, sheet-iron stove, and around three of the
walls ran a divan. Two men, two women, and several children were seated
in a semicircle on the floor, their legs folded in front of them. They
rose without a word as I entered. The girl placed a cushion for me on
the floor. The family sat down again, carefully and leisurely adjusted
their legs, and then one and all, in regular succession, according to
age, cried “lailtak saeedee” (good evening).

In the center of the group set three large bowls, one of lentils and
another of chopped-up potatoes in oil. The third contained a delicacy
made of sour milk—a cross between a soup and a pudding, that is a great
favorite among the Arabs. On the floor, beside each member of the
family, lay several sheets of bread, half a yard in diameter and as thin
as cardboard, each heap bearing a close resemblance to the famous “stack
of wheats” of our own land. The head of the house pushed the bowls
toward me, ordered a stack of bread to be placed beside my cushion, and
motioned to me to eat. I stared helplessly at the bowls, for there was
neither knife, fork, nor spoon in sight. The girl, however, knowing the
ways of faranchees from years in a mission-school in Beirut, explained
my perplexity to her father. He cast upon me such a look as an American
society leader might bestow upon an Australian Bushman at her table,
begged my pardon, through his daughter, for overriding the dictates of
etiquette by partaking of a morsel before his guest had begun, tore a
few inches from a bread-sheet, and folding it between his fingers,
picked up a pinch of lentils and ate. I lost no time in falling to.

A wonderful invention is this _gkebis_ or Arab bread. If one purchases
food in a native bazaar, it is wrapped in a bread-sheet—and a very
serviceable wrapper it is, for it requires a good grip and a fair pair
of biceps to tear it. A bread-sheet takes the place of many table
utensils: arab matrons, ’tis said, never complain of their dishwashing
tasks. It makes a splendid cover for pots and pans, it does well as a
waiter’s tray. Never have I seen it used to cover roofs, nor as shaving
paper—but the Oriental is noted for his inability to make the most of
his opportunities. In its primary mission—as an article of food—however,
gkebis is not an unqualified success. In taste it is not always
unsavory, but ten minutes chewing makes far less impression on it than
on a rubber mat. It is rumored, too, that more than one Frank has lost
his appetite in striving to pronounce its guttural Arabic name. Very
often—as on this occasion—when weeks have passed since its baking, the
gkebis grows brittle and is inclined to break when used as a spoon. My
host picked up one of my sheets, held it against the glowing stove with
the flat of his hand, and returned it. It was as pliable as cloth and
much more toothsome than before.

The younger man rolled cigarettes for the three of us. We had settled
back to chat—through interpreter—when there came a tap at the door and a
few words in Arabic that caused the family to jump hurriedly to their
feet. An awe-struck whisper passed from mouth to mouth; “sheik! sheik!”
The children were whisked into one corner, the door flung open, and
there entered a diminutive man of about sixty. Long, flowing robes
enveloped his form, a turban-wound fez perched almost jauntily on his
head, and his feet were bare, for he had dropped his slippers at the
door. His face, above all, attracted attention. Deep-wrinkled, with a
long scar across one cheek, a visage browned and weather-beaten by the
wild storms that sometimes rage over the Lebanon, there was about it an
expression of frankness; yet from his eyes there flashed shrewd,
worldly-wise glances that stamped him as a man vastly different from his
simple fellow-townsmen.

The sheik greeted the head of the family, took a seat near me on the
divan, salaamed solemnly to each person present, acknowledged the
greetings they returned, and with a wave of his hand bade them be
seated. The newcomer had, quite plainly, been attracted to the house by
the rumor that a faranchee was visiting the family. After a few
preliminary remarks, the drift of which I could follow from his
expressive gestures and the few words I had picked up, he turned the
conversation, with the ease of a diplomat, to the subject of their
strange guest. My hosts needed no urging. For a time the sheik listened
to their explanations and suppositions with an unruffled mien, puffing
the while at a cigarette with as blasé an air as if faranchees were the
most ordinary beings to him.

As a climax to his tale the head of the house remarked that I was bound
to “Shaam” on foot. The ending was fully as effective as he could have
hoped. The sheik fairly bounded into the air, threw his cigarette at the
open stove, and burst forth into an excited tirade. The girl
interpreted. It was the old story of “impossible,” “can’t be done,” and
the rest; but a new element was introduced into a threadbare prediction;
for the sheik declared that, as village magistrate, he would not permit
me to continue in such a foolhardy undertaking. How many weapons did I
carry? None? What? No weapon? Travel to far-off Damascus without being
armed? Why, his own villagers never ventured along the highway to the
nearest towns without their guns! He would not hear of it; and he was
still disclaiming as only an excited Oriental can, when the missionary
came to invite me to a second supper.

I took leave of my host early next morning, swung my knapsack over my
shoulder, and limped down to the road. But Bhamdoon was not yet done
with me. In the center of the highway, in front of the little shop of
which he was proprietor, stood the sheik and several fellow townsmen.
With great politeness, he invited me to step inside. My feet were still
swollen and blistered from the long tramp of the day before, for the
cloth slippers of Port Saïd offered no more protection from the sharp
stones of the highway than a sheet of paper, and I accepted the
invitation. The village head placed a stool for me in the front of the
shop, in full sight from up or down the route. It soon became evident
that I was on exhibition as a freak of humanity, for the sheik pointed
me out with great delight to every passer-by. Apparently, too, he had
chosen this opportune moment to collect some village tax. On the floor
beside me stood an earthenware pot, and the sheik, as soon as his
exhibit had been viewed from all sides, called upon each newcomer to
drop into it a bishleek (ten cents). Like true Orientals, they gave
smaller pieces, some half bishleeks, some one or two metleeks; but not a
man passed without contributing his mite, for the command of the sheik
of a Syrian village is law to all its inhabitants.

Some time I had served as a bait for tax-dodgers when a villager I had
not yet seen put in an appearance, and addressed me in fluent English.
He had gathered a Syrian fortune in Maine and returned, years before, to
the rugged slopes of his native Lebanon. He insisted that I visit his
house nearby and, once there, fell to tucking bread-sheets, black
olives, raisins, and pieces of sugar-cane into any knapsack, shouting
incessantly at the same time of his undying affection for America and
things American. Out of mere pride for his bleak country, he took care,
on the way back to the shop, to point out a narrow path that wound up
the steep slope of a neighboring range.

“That,” he said, “leads to the Damascus road. But no man can journey to
Damascus on foot.”

The earthenware pot was almost full when I took my seat again on the
stool. I turned to my new acquaintance.

“What special taxes is the sheik gathering this morning?” I demanded.

“Eh! What?” cried the erstwhile New Englander, following the indication
of my finger, “The pot? Why, don’t you know what that’s for?”

“No,” I answered.

“Why, that is a collection the sheik is taking up to buy you a ticket to
Damascus on the railroad.”

I picked up my knapsack from the floor and stepped into the highway. The
sheik and several bystanders threw themselves upon me with cries of
dismay. It was no use attempting to escape from a dozen horny hands. I
permitted myself to be led back to the stool and sat down with the
knapsack across my knees. The sheik addressed me in soothing tones,
pointing at the pot with every third word. The others resumed their
seats on the floor, rolled new cigarettes, and fell quiet once more.
With one leap I sprang from the stool into the street and set off at top
speed down the highway, a screaming, howling, ever-increasing but ever
more distant throng at my heels. A half-hour later I gained the summit
of the neighboring range and slid down the opposite slope onto the
highway to Damascus.

For miles the road ascended sharply, elbowing its way through narrow
gorges, or crawling along the face of a mountain where its edge was a
yawning precipice. The giant cedars of the first slopes had given way to
clumps of stunted dwarfs, cowering in deep-cut ravines behind protecting
shoulders of the range. Few were the villages, and being low and flat
and built of the same calcareous rock as the mountains, they escaped the
eye until one was almost upon them. In every hamlet one or more of the
householders marched back and forth on the top of his dwelling, dragging
after him a great stone roller and chanting a mournful dirge that seemed
to cheer him on in his labor. At first sight these flat roofs seem to be
of heavy blocks of stone. In reality they are made of branches and
bushes, plastered over with mud, and, were the rolling neglected for a
fortnight in this rainy season, they would soon sag and fall in of their
own weight. More frequent than the villages were the ruins of a more
pretentious generation, standing bleak and drear on commanding hillsides
and adding to the haggard desolation. At long intervals appeared a line
of camels, plodding westward with a tread of formal dignity, a company
of villagers on horseback, or a straggling band of evil-eyed Bedouins
astride lean asses. Never a human being alone, never a man on foot, and
never a traveler without a long gun slung across his shoulders. The
villagers stared at me open-mouthed, the camel drivers leered
sarcastically, the scowling Bedouins halted to watch my retreating form
as if undecided whether I was worth the robbing.

The snow, which, seen from Beirut, seemed to cover the entire summit of
the range in impenetrable drifts, lay in isolated patches along the way.
Here was no such Arctic realm as Abdul had pictured. The air was crisp
at noonday; by night, no doubt, it would have been bitter cold—mere
autumn weather to us of northern clime. But it was easy to understand
why those accustomed to the perpetual summer of the coast had fancied
the passage an unprecedented hardship.

At the summit, the snow lay deeper. Far below stretched a rectangular
tableland, a fertile plain dotted with clusters of dwellings, and shut
in on every side by mountain ranges. Across it, like a white ribbon, lay
the Damascus highway, growing smaller and smaller, to be lost in
tortuous windings in the foothills beyond.

I reached the plain by evening and halted in a hamlet not far off the
city of Zakleh. Among the heavy-handed peasants who surrounded me was
one who had labored long enough in Italy to have picked up a smattering
of her language. We of the West might well take lessons in hospitality
from the Arab. Imagine a Syrian arriving at night and on foot in, let us
say, a village of rural Kansas; a Syrian in native costume who, in
answer to the questions put to him could do no more than point to the
road across the prairie and gurgle some such word as “Chikak! Cheekako!”
each time with a different accent. An Arabic-speaking villager, arriving
on the scene, would, possibly, pause to inquire the stranger’s wants. He
might direct him to an inn, but he would not consider it his duty to put
himself to the annoyance of seeing that he found it. Such was not the
Italian-speaking Arab’s notion of the proper treatment of strangers. He
took personal charge of me at once, led the way to the caravanserai,
acted as interpreter, quarreled with the proprietor when he tried to
overcharge me, and to save me a dismal evening surrounded by a jabbering
multitude, remained until late at night.

I took leave of him at the door of a stone stable—the only lodging which
the hamlet offered. The few camel drivers already gathered there were
well supplied with bags and blankets which they made no offer to share
with me. When I had watched them chasing through the mysteries and
hiding-places of their manifold garments the nimble creatures with which
they were infected, I lay down on the cobblestone floor without a sigh
of regret. Long before morning, however, I should gladly have accepted
the most flea-bitten covering. The kodak that served me as a pillow
rattled hour after hour with my shivering. I shivered until my neck and
arms ached with the exertion of vainly trying to hold myself still, and
never before had I realized the astonishing length of a December night.

I put off with the first suspicion of dawn and was already halfway
across the plain when the sun climbed the mountain rampart to the
eastward. To the natives the morning was bitter cold. Bands of laborers
on their way to the fields grinned at me sympathetically and passed
their hands over the scarfs wound round and round their necks and heads.
They were certain that, with face and ears unprotected, I was suffering
acutely; yet each and all of them, in low slippers, was bare of leg
halfway to the knee.

Where the plain ended the highway wound upward through a narrow, rocky
defile. Marauding Bedouins could not have chosen a better spot to lie in
wait for their victims. I started in alarm when a shout rang out at the
summit of the pass. The summons came from no highwayman, however. Before
a ruined hut on the hill above, stood a man in khaki uniform, the reins
of a saddle horse that grazed at his feet over one arm. “Teskereh!” he
bawled. I climbed the hillside and handed over my Turkish passport. The
officer grew friendly at once, tethered his horse, and invited me into
the hut. Its only furnishings were a mat-covered bench that served the
guardian as a bed, and a pan of coals. I drew out a few coins and ate an
imaginary breakfast. The officer could not—or would not—understand my
pantomime. He motioned me to a seat, offered a cigarette, and poured out
a cup of muddy coffee from a pot over the coals. But food he would not
bring forth.

While we sat grinning speechlessly at each other, the tinkle of a bell
sounded up the pass. The officer sprang to his feet and hurried down the
hill. Not once before had I been called upon to produce the teskereh
which the American consul had assured me was indispensable, and a
suspicion that one-half the amount it had cost would have sufficed to
blind the officers of the Porte to its absence grew to conviction at
this Thermopylæ of the Lebanon. A war of words sounded from the highway.
I stepped to the door. The soldier and the driver of an overburdened ass
were screaming at each other in the center of the route. When the
quarrel had reached its height, the traveler dropped something into the
guardsman’s hand and continued on his way. The officer climbed the hill,
smiling broadly, “Teskereh, ma feesh!” he cried, “Etnane bishleek!” (he
had no teskereh! Two bishleeks); and he dropped the coins with a rattle
into a stocking-like purse that was by no means empty. I drew him out of
the hut and, once in the sunshine, opened my kodak. He gave one wild
shriek and stumbled over himself in his haste to regain the hovel; nor
could any amount of wheedling induce him to venture forth again until I
had closed the apparatus. Accepting a bribe was a mere matter of
business; to have his picture taken was a sure way to future perdition.

[Illustration: The lonely, Bedouin-infected road over the Lebanon. “Few
corners of the globe offer more utter solitude than Syria and

[Illustration: The Palestine beast of burden loaded with stone]

Beyond the pass stretched mile after mile of desolation absolute, hills
upon hills sank down behind each other, barren and drear, except for an
occasional olive tree, a sturdy form of vegetation that, in itself,
added to the general loneliness. Few corners of the globe can equal in
fearful stretches of utter solitude this land so aptly termed, in
Biblical phraseology, “the waste places of the earth.” All through the
day I tramped on, with never a sight nor sound of an animate object,
save once in mid-afternoon, when I broke my fast on bread-sheets and
cakes of ground sugar-cane at an isolated shop. Darkness fell over the
same haggard wilderness. The wind, howling across the solitary waste,
filled my ears. On this blackest of nights I could not have made out a
ghost a yard away, and the unknown highway led me into many a pitfall.
Long hours after sunset I was plodding blindly on, my cloth slippers
making not a sound, when I ran squarely into the arms of some species of
human whose native footwear had rendered his approach as noiseless as my
own. Three startled male voices rang out in guttural shrieks of
“Allah”—Arabic invocations, evidently, against evil spirits—as the trio
sprang back in terror.

Before I could pass on, one of them—plainly a materialist—struck a
match. The howling wind blew it out instantly, but in that brief flicker
I caught sight of three ugly faces under a headdress that belongs to the
roving Bedouin. With a simultaneous scream of “Faranchee!” the nomads
flung themselves upon the particular corner of the darkness where the
match had shown me standing. The motive of their attack, perhaps, was
Oriental hospitality. In the excitement of the moment I credited them
with a desire to increase their capital in the kingdom of black-eyed
houris, and evacuated the spot by a bit of side stepping that would have
won me fame in the roped arena. In my haste to execute the manœuvre,
however, I fell off the highway, and the rattling of stones under my
feet precipitated another charge. A dozen times during the ensuing game
of hide-and-seek I felt the breath of one of the flea-bitten rascals in
my face. The Arabic rules of the game, fortunately, required the players
to keep up a continual howling for mutual encouragement, while I moved
silently, after the fashion of the West. Aided by this unfair advantage,
I eluded their welcoming embraces until they stopped for a consultation,
and, creeping noiselessly on hands and knees, I lay hold on the highway
and sped silently away, by no means certain whether I was headed towards
Damascus or the coast.

An hour later the howling of dogs heralded my approach to some hamlet.
Once in it, I halted to listen for sounds of human life. Its
inhabitants, apparently, were lost in slumber, for what Syrian could be
awake and silent? The lights that shone from every hovel proved nothing,
for the Arab nations are unaccountably fearful of the evil spirits that
lurk in the darkness. I beat off the snapping curs and started on again.
Suddenly muffled peals of laughter and the excited voices of male and
female sounded from the depths of a building before me. I hurried
towards it and knocked loudly on the iron-studded door. The festivities
ceased as suddenly as if I had touched an electric button controlling
them. For several moments the silence was absolute. Then there came the
slapping of slippered feet along the passageway inside, and a woman’s
voice called out to me. I summoned up my limited Arabic: “M’abarafshee
arabee! Faranchee! Fee wahed locanda? Bnam!” (I don’t speak Arabic!
Foreigner! Is there an inn? Sleep!). Without a word the unknown lady
slapped back along the corridor. A good five minutes elapsed. I knocked
once more and again there came the patter of feet. This time a man’s
gruff voice greeted me. I repeated my Arabic vocabulary. There sounded
the sliding of innumerable bolts and bars, the massive door opened ever
so slightly, and the muzzle of a matchlock was thrust out into my face.

The eyes that appeared above it were evidently satisfied with their
inspection. The door was thrown wide open, and a very Hercules of a
native, with a mustache that would have put the Kaiser to shame, stepped
out, holding his clumsy gun ready for instant use. I could not but laugh
at his frightened aspect. He smiled sheepishly and, retreating into the
house, returned in a moment unarmed, and carrying a lamp and a rush mat.
At one end of the building he pushed open a door that hung by one hinge
and lighted me into a room with earth floor and one window, from which
five of the six panes were missing. A heap of dried branches at one end
stamped it as a wood shed.

A gaunt cur wandered in at our heels. The native drove him off, spread
the mat on the ground and brought from the house a pan of live coals. I
called for food. When he returned with several bread-sheets, I drew out
my handkerchief and began to untie it. My host shook his head fiercely,
made the sign of the cross and pointed several times at the ceiling,
implying, evidently, that he was a convert of the Catholic missionaries
and that the Allah of the Christians would pay my bill.

Barely had the native disappeared when the dog poked his ugly head
through the half-open door and snarled viciously at me. He was a wolfish
animal of the yellow mongrel variety so common in Syria, and in his eye
gleamed a rascality that gave him a startling resemblance to the
thieving nomads that infect that drear land. I drove him off and made
the door fast, built a roaring fire of twigs, and rolling up in the mat,
lay down beside the blaze. I awoke from a half-conscious nap to find
that irrepressible cur sniffing at me and displaying his ugly fangs
within six inches of my face. A dozen times I fastened the door against
him in vain. Had he merely bayed the moon all night it would have
mattered little, for with a fire to tend I had small chance to sleep;
but his silent skulking and muffled snarls kept me wide-eyed with
apprehension until the grey of dawn peeped in at the ragged window.

The village was named Hemeh—a station of the railway from the coast not
far beyond told me as much. The dreary ranges of the day before fell
quickly away. The highway descended a narrow, fertile valley in close
company with a small river, on the banks of which grew willows and
poplars in profusion.

A bright morning sun soon made the air grateful, though the chill of
night and the mountains still hovered in the shadows. Travelers became
frequent; peasant families driving their asses homeward from the morning
market, bands of merchants on horseback, well-to-do natives in a garb
that recalled the ill-omened coat of Joseph. Here passed a camel caravan
whose drivers would, perhaps, purchase just such a slave of his brothers
this very day. There squatted a band of Bedouins at breakfast and their
eating was as ceremonial as any meal among the ancient Jews. Beyond rode
a full-bearded sheik who was surely as much a patriarch in appearance as
Abraham of old.

The road continued its descent, the passing throng became almost a
procession, and I swung at last round a mountain spur that had hidden
from view an unequaled sight. Two miles away, across a vast, level
plain, traversed by the sparkling river, and peopled by a battalion of
soldiers in manœuvre, the white city of Damascus stood out against a
background of dull-red hills, the morning sun gleaming on graceful domes
and minarets of superb Saracenic architecture. It was an ultra-Oriental
panorama before which that first quatrain of Omar sprang unbidden to the
lips. I passed on with the throng and was soon swallowed up in the
multitude that surged through “the Street called Straight”—which isn’t.

                              CHAPTER VII
                           THE CITIES OF OLD

More successfully than all other cities of its age and fame, Damascus
has repulsed the advance of Western civilization and invention. To be
sure, the whistle of the locomotive is heard now in her suburbs; for
besides the railway to the coast, a new line brings to the ancient city
the produce of the vast and fertile Hauran beyond Jordan. A few single
telegraph wires, too, connect “Shaam” with the outside world, and the
whir of the American sewing machine is heard in her long, vaulted
bazaars. But these things make the prehistoric way of the city the
stranger by comparison, and serve to remind the traveler that he is not
on another sphere, but merely far removed from the progressive and
prosaic West.

Here is a man, with a hammer that might have existed in the stone age,
beating into shape a vessel of brass on a flat rock. There a father and
son are turning a log into wooden clogs with a primitive bucksaw, the
man standing on the log, the boy kneeling on the ground beneath. Beyond
them is a turning lathe such as the workmen of Solomon may have used in
the building of his temple. The operator squats on the floor of his open
booth, facing the street—for no Damascan can carry on his business with
his back turned to the sights and sounds of the ever-changing multitude.
With one hand he draws back and forth a sort of Indian bow, the cord
wound once round the stick, which, whirling almost as rapidly as in a
steam lathe, is fashioned into the desired shape by a chisel held with
the left hand and the bare toes of the artisan. Mile after mile through
the endless rows of bazaars such prehistoric trades are plied. Not a
foot of space on either side of the narrow streets is unoccupied. Where
the overdressed owners of great heaps of silks and rugs have left a
pigeon-hole between their booths, sits the ragged vendor of sweetmeats
and half-inch slices of cocoanut. The Damascan does not set up his
business as far as possible from his competitors. In one quarter are
crowded a hundred manufacturers of the red fez of Islam. In another a
colony of brass workers make a deafening din. Beyond, sounds the squeak
of innumerable saws where huge logs are slowly turned into lumber by
hand power. The shopper in quest of a pair of slippers may wander from
daylight to dusk among booths overflowing with every other imaginable
ware, to come at last, when he is ready to purchase the first thing
bearing the remotest resemblance to footwear, into a section where
slippers of every size, shape, and quality are displayed in such
superabundance as to make him forget from very bewilderment what he came

To endeavor to make headway against the surging multitude is much like
attempting to swim up the gorge of Niagara. Long lines of camels splash
through the human stream, utterly indifferent to the urchins under their
feet. Donkeys all but hidden under enormous bundles of fagots that
scrape the buildings on either side, asses bestraddled by foul-mouthed
boys who guide the beasts by kicking them behind either ear and urge
them on by a sound peculiar to the Arab—a disgusting trilling of the
soft palate—dash with set teeth out of obscure and unexpected side
streets. Not an inch do they swerve from their course, not once do they
slacken their pace. The faranchee who expects them to do so is sure to
receive many a jolt in the ribs from asinine shoulders or some unwieldy
cargo and to be sent sprawling, if there is room to sprawl, as the beast
and his driver glance back at his discomfiture with a diabolical gleam
in their eyes. Hairless, scabby mongrel curs, yellow or grey in color,
prowl among the legs of the throng, skulk through the byways devouring
the refuse, or lie undisturbed in the puddles that abound in every
street. The donkey may knock down a dozen pedestrians an hour, but he
takes good care to step over the pariah dogs in his path. Periodically
the mongrels gather in bands at busy corners, yelping and snarling,
snapping their yellow fangs, and raising an infernal din that impedes
bargainings a hundred yards away. If a bystander wades among them with
his stick and drives them off, it is only to have them collect again
five minutes after the last yelp has been silenced.

[Illustration: Damascus. “The street called Straight—which isn’t”]

[Illustration: A wood-turner of Damascus. He watches the ever-passing
throng, turning the stick with a bow and a loose string, and holding the
chisel with his toes]

Where in the Western world does the pursuit of dollars raise such a
hubbub as the scramble for metleeks in the streets of Damascus? A
dollar, after all, is a dollar and under certain conditions worth
shouting for; but a metleek is only a cent and the incessant calling
after it, like a multitude searching the wilderness for a lost child,
sounds penurious. “Metleek!” cries the seller of flat loaves, on the
ground at your feet. “Metleek!” roars the gruff-voiced nut vendor,
fighting his way through the rabble, basket on arm. “Metleek!” screams
the wandering bartender, jingling his brass disks. Unendingly the word
echoes through the recesses and windings of the bazaars; commandingly
from the hawker whose novelty has attracted the ever-susceptible
multitude, threateningly from the sturdy fellow whose stand has been
deserted, pleadingly from the crippled beggar who threads his way
miraculously through the human whirlpool. A great, discordant symphony
of “Metleek!” rises over the land, wherein are blended even the voices
of the pasha in his palace, the mullah in his mosque, and His Impuissant
Majesty in far-off “Stamboul.” Lives there a man in all the realm who
would accept a larger coin even under compulsion?

One figure stands out as the most miserable in all the teeming life of
Damascus—the Turkish soldier. The burden of conscription falls only on
the Mohammedan, for none but the followers of the prophet of Medina may
be enrolled under the Sick Man’s banners. The recruit receives a uniform
of the shoddiest material once a year, and an allowance of about two
cents a day. What the allowance will not cover, he pays for out of his
meager rations. His tobacco, his amusements, the very patches on his
miserable uniform, he reckons in terms of the flabby biscuits that are
served out to him. Every morning there sallies forth from the
tumble-down barracks an unkempt private, hopeless weariness of the petty
things of life stamped on his coarse features, his garb a crazy quilt of
awkward patches, who, holding before him a sack of soggy gkebis
contributed by his fellow-conscripts, wanders through the market places,
adding his long-drawn wail to the chorus of “Metleek.” Individually, he
is a gaunt scarecrow; on parade he bears far more resemblance to a band
of Bowery bootblacks than to a military company. In outward forms he is
as devoutly religious as his taskmaster at Stamboul, or the bejewelled
merchant who picks his way with effeminate tread through the reeking
streets to his mosque. Five times each day he halts for his prayers
wherever the voice of the muezzin finds him. Not even his racial dread
of water deters him from performing the ablutions required by the Koran.
In spite of his poverty he finds means to stain his nails with henna,
and to tattoo the knuckles or the backs of his hands with grotesque
figures that assist materially, no doubt, in the ultimate salvation of
his soul; and he snarls angrily at the dog of an unbeliever who would
transfix his image on photographic paper.

On the Sunday afternoon of my arrival in Damascus a surging multitude
swept me through the entrance to the parade ground opposite the
barracks. A sea of upturned faces surrounded a ragged band that was
perpetrating a concert of German and Italian airs. For a time I hung on
the tail of the crowd. When endurance failed, I withdrew to the only
seat in evidence—a stone pile in a far corner—to change the film in my
kodak. Almost before I had begun, a steady flow of humanity set in
towards me. In a twinkling I was the center of a jostling throng of
Damascans, each one screaming and pushing for a view of the strange
machine; and the players struggled on despairingly with only themselves
as audience. Distressed at having unintentionally set up a counter
attraction, I closed the apparatus and turned away. The move but
aggravated the difficulty. For a moment the Damascans gazed hesitatingly
from the deserted band stand to my retreating figure, swelled with
curiosity, and surged pell-mell after me. My reputation as a
self-sacrificing member of society was at stake. Bravely I turned and
marched back to the struggling musicians—the adjective, at least, is
used advisedly—and held the kodak in plain sight. An unprecedented
audience of music-lovers quickly gathered and for a time the concert
moved with great gusto. But the players were merely human, and only
Arabian humans at that. One by one they caught sight of the “queer
machine” below them. The technique faltered; the trombones lost the
key—or found it, which was quite as disconcerting; the fifers paused;
the cornetists lost their pucker; the leader turned to stare,
open-mouthed as the rest, and an air that had suggested, here and there,
the triumphal march from Aïda died a lingering, agonizing death.

This, surely, was the psychological moment for a photograph! I opened
the kodak. A hoarse murmur rose from the multitude. At last they
recognized the nefarious instrument! I pointed it at the leader. He
screamed like a pin-pricked infant, a man beside me snatched at the
kodak, another thumped me viciously in the ribs, a third tore at my
hair, and the frenzied population of Damascus swept down upon me, bent
on wreaking summary vengeance on a defiler of their religious
superstitions. I left them entangled in their own legs and darted under
the band stand towards the gate. A guard bellowed at me. I squirmed
through his arms and sped far away through the half-deserted streets of
the music-loving metropolis.

Darkness was falling when I caught breath in some unknown corner of the
city. Long lines of merchants were setting up the board-shutters before
their booths. Hardly a straggler remained of the maudlin, daytime
multitude. Dismally I wandered through the labyrinth so animate at
noonday, shut in on either side by endless, high board fences. It
mattered not in what European language I inquired for an inn from
belated citizens; each one muttered “m’abarafshee,” and hurried on. I
sat down before a lighted tobacco booth and feigned sleep. The
proprietor came out to drive off the curs sniffing at my feet and led
the way to a neighboring _khan_, in which the keeper spread me a bed of
blankets on the cobblestone floor.

I ventured next day into the “Hotel Stamboul,” a proud hostelry facing
the stable that serves Damascus as post office, with little hope either
of making known my wants or of finding the rate within my means. The
proprietor, strange to say, mutilated a little French and, stranger
still, assigned me to a room at eight cents a day. The cost of living
was thereby reduced to a mere nothing. The Arab has a great abhorrence
of eating his fill at definite hours and prefers to nibble, nibble all
day long as if in constant fear of losing the use of his jaws by a
moment’s inactivity. Countless shops in Damascus cater to this nibbling
trade. For a copper or two they serve a well-filled dish of fruit, nuts,
sweetmeats, pastry, puddings, ragoût, syrups, or a variety of indigenous
products and messes which no Westerner could identify. They are savory
portions, too, for the Arab cook, however much he may differ in methods
from the Occidental chef, knows his profession. Like the street hawker
who sells a quart of raisins for a cent—the Mohammedan makes no wine—his
prices seem scarcely worth the collecting; and be his customer Frank or
Mussulman, they never vary. In the seaports of the Orient the whiteman
must expect to be “done.” The ignorance and asininity of generations of
tourists have turned seaside merchants into commercial vultures. In
untutored Damascus not a shopkeeper attempted to cheat me out of the
fraction of a copper.

Four days I had passed in Damascus before I turned to the problem of how
to get out of it. I had planned to strike southwestward through the
country to Nazareth. On the map the trip seemed easy. The journey from
the coast had proved, however, that the sketches of the gazetteer were
little to be trusted in this mysterious country. The highway from the
coast, moreover, is one of the few roads in all the land between Smyrna
and the Red Sea. Across the Bedouin-infected wilderness between Damascus
and Nazareth lay only a vaguely marked route, traversed in springtime by
a great concourse of pilgrims. In this late December the rainy season
was at hand. Several violent downpours, that would have convinced the
most skeptical of the literal truth of the Biblical account of the
deluge, had already burst over Damascus, storms that were sure to have
reduced Palestine to a soggy marsh and turned its summer brooks into
roaring torrents.

The passage, however, could not have been more difficult than the
gathering of information concerning it. The dwellers in the cities of
Asia Minor are the most incorrigible stay-at-homes on the globe. Travel
for pleasure or instruction they have never dreamed of. Only the direst
necessity can draw them forth from their accustomed haunts, and they
know no more of the territory a few miles outside their walls than of
the antipodes. It cost me a half-day’s search to find the American
consulate, a shame-faced hovel decorated with a battered shield of the
size and picturesqueness of a peddler’s license. The consul himself
opened the door and my hopes fell—for he was a native. A real American
would have seen my point of view and given me all the information in his
power. This suave and lady-like mortal dealt out cigarettes with a
lavish hand and delved into the details of my existence back to the
fourth generation; but directions he would not give, on the ground that
when I had been stolen by Bedouins or washed away by the rain my ghost
would rise up in the hours of darkness to denounce him. His last reason,
especially, was forceful. “If you attempt to go to Nazareth on foot,” he
cried, “you will get tired.”

Towards evening I ran to earth in the huddled bazaars a French-speaking
tailor who claimed to have made the first few miles of the journey.
Gleefully I jotted down his explicit directions. An hour’s walk, next
morning, brought me out on a wind-swept stretch of greyish sand beyond
the city. For some miles a vague path led across the monotonous waste.
Pariah dogs growled and snarled over the putrid carcasses of horses and
sheep that lined the way. The wind whirled aloft tiny particles of sand
that bit my cheeks and filled my eyes. A chilling rain began to fall,
sinking quickly into the desert. At the height of the storm the path
ceased at the brink of a muddy torrent that it would have been madness
to have attempted to cross. A solitary shepherd plodded along the bank
of the stream. I pointed across it and shouted, “Banias? Nazra?” The
Arab stared at me a moment, tossed his arms aloft, crying to Allah to
note the madness of a roving faranchee, and sped away across the desert.

I plodded back to the city. In the armorers’ bazaar a sword-maker called
out to me in German and I halted to renew my inquiries. The workman
paused in his task of beating a scimitar to venture his solemn opinion
that the tailor was an imbecile and an ass, and assured me that the road
to Nazareth left the city in exactly the opposite direction. “’Tis a
broad caravan trail,” he went on, “opening out beyond the shoemakers’
bazaar.” A bit more hopeful, I struck off again next morning.

The assertion of Abdul that it was “ver’ col’” in Damascus was not
without foundation. In the sunshine summer reigned, but in the shadow
lurked a chill that penetrated to the bones. On this cloudy morning the
air was biting. Before I had passed the last shoemaker’s booth a cold
drizzle set in. On the desert it turned to a wet snow that clung to bush
and boulder like shreds of white clothing. A toe protruded here and
there from my dilapidated cloth slippers. The sword-maker, apparently,
had indulged in a practical joke at my expense. A caravan track there
was beyond the last wretched hovel, a track that showed for miles across
the bleak country. But though it might have taken me to Bagdad or the
steppes of Siberia, it certainly did not lead to the land of the chosen

I turned and trotted back to the city, cheered on by the anticipation of
such a fire as roars up the chimneys of American homes on the memorable
days of the first snow. The anticipation proved my ignorance of Damascan
customs. The proprietor and his guests were shivering over a pan of
coals that could not have heated a doll’s house. I fought my way into
the huddled group and warmed alternately a finger and a toe. But the
chill of the desert would not leave me. A servant summoned the landlord
to another part of the building. He picked up the “stove” and marched
away with it, and I took leave of my quaking fellow-guests and went to
bed, as the only possible place to restore my circulation.

Dusk was falling the next afternoon when I stumbled upon the British
consulate. Here, at last, was a man. The dull natives with their
slipshod mental habits had given me far less information in four days
than I gained from a five-minute interview with this alert Englishman.
He was none the less certain than they, however, that the overland
journey was impossible at that season. Late reports from the Waters of
Meron announced the route utterly impassable.

The consul was a director of the Beirut-Damascus line. Railway directors
in Asia Minor have, evidently, special privileges. For the Englishman
assured me that a note over his signature would take me back to the
coast as readily as a ticket. The next day I spent Christmas in a stuffy
coach on the cogwheel railway over the Lebanon and stepped out at
Beirut, shortly after dark, to run directly into the arms of Abdul Razac

Our “company” was definitely dissolved on the afternoon of December
twenty-seventh and I set out for Sidon. Here, at least, I could not lose
my way, for I had but to follow the coast. Even Abdul, however, did not
know whether the ancient city was one or ten days distant. A highway
through an olive grove, where lean Bedouins squatted on their hams, soon
broke up into several diverging footpaths. The one I chose led over
undulating sand dunes where the misfit shoes that I had picked up in a
pawn shop of Beirut soon filled to overflowing. I swung them over a
shoulder and plodded on barefooted. A roaring brook blocked the way. I
crossed it by climbing a willow on one bank and swinging into the
branches of another opposite, and plunged into another wilderness of

Towards dusk I came upon a peasant’s cottage on a tiny plain and halted
for water. A youth in the Sultan’s crazy quilt, sitting on the well
curb, brought me a basinful. I had started on again when a voice rang
out behind me, “Hé! D’où est-ce que vous venez? Où est-ce que vous
allez?” In the doorway of the hovel stood a slatternly woman of some
fifty years of age. I mentioned my nationality.

“American?” cried the feminine scarecrow, this time in English, as she
rushed out upon me, “My God! You American? Me American, too! My God!”

The assertion seemed scarcely credible, as she was decidedly Syrian,
both in dress and features.

“Yes, my God!” she went on, “I live six years in America, me! I go back
to America next month! I not see America for one year. Come in house!”

I followed her into the cottage. It was the usual dwelling of the
peasant class—dirt floor, a kettle hanging over an open fire in one
corner, a few ears of corn and bunches of dried grapes suspended from
the ceiling. On one of the rough stone walls, looking strangely out of
place amid this Oriental squalor, was pinned a newspaper portrait of

“Oh, my God!” cried the woman, as I glanced towards the distortion, “Me
Republican, me. One time I see McKinley when I peddle by Cleveland,
Ohio. You know Cleveland? My man over there”—she pointed away to the
fertile slopes of the Lebanon—“My man go back with me next month, vote
one more time for Roosevelt.”

The patch-work youth poked his head in at the door.

“Taala hena, Maghmoód,” bawled the boisterous Republican. “This American
man! He no have to go for soldier fight long time for greasy old Sultan.
Not work all day to get bishleek, him! Get ten, fifteen, twenty bishleek
day! Bah! You no good, you! Why for you not run away to America?”

The soldier listened to this more or less English with a silly smirk on
his face and shifted from one foot to the other with every fourth word.
The woman repeated the oration in her native tongue. The youth continued
to grin until the words “ashara, gkamsashar, ashreen” turned his smirk
to wide-eyed astonishment, and he dropped on his haunches in the dirt,
as if his legs had given way under the weight of such untold wealth.

The woman ran a sort of lodging house in an adjoining stone hut and
insisted that I spend the night there. Her vociferous affection for
Americans would, no doubt, have forced her to cling to my coat-tails had
I attempted to escape. Chattering disconnectedly, she prepared a supper
of lentils, bread-sheets, olives, and crushed sugar cane, and set out—to
the horror of the Mohammedan youth—a bottle of _beet_ (native wine). The
meal over, she lighted a narghileh, leaned back in a home-made chair,
and blew smoke at the ceiling with a far-away look in her eyes.

“Oh, my God!” she cried suddenly, “You sing American song! I like this
no-good soldier hear good song. Then he sing Arab song for you.”

I essayed the rôle of wandering minstrel with misgiving. At the first
lines of “The Swanee River” the conscript burst forth in a roar of
laughter that doubled him up in a paroxysm of mirth.

“You damn fool, you,” bellowed the female, shaking her fist at the
prostrate property of the Sultan. “You no know what song is! American
songs wonderful! Shut up! I split your head!”

This gentle hint, rendered into Arabic, convinced the youth of the
solemnity of the occasion, and he listened most attentively with set
teeth until the Occidental concert was ended.

When his turn came, he struck up a woeful monotone that sounded not
unlike the wailing of a lost soul, and sang for nearly an hour in about
three notes, shaking his head and rocking his body back and forth in the
emotional passages as his voice rose to an ear-splitting yell.

The dirge was interrupted by a shout from the darkness outside. The
woman called back in answer, and two ragged, bespattered Bedouins pushed
into the hut. The howling and shouting that ensued left me undecided
whether murder or merely highway robbery had been committed. The
contention, however, subsided after a half-hour of shaking of fists and
alternate reduction to the verge of tears, and my hostess took from the
wall a huge key and stepped out, followed by the Bedouins.

“You know what for we fight?” she demanded, as she returned alone. “They
Arabs. Want to sleep in my hotel. They want pay only four coppers. I say
must pay five coppers—one metleek. Bah! This country no good.”

Four-fifths of a cent was, perhaps, as great a price as she should have
demanded from any lodger in the “hotel” to which she conducted me a
half-hour later.

All next day I followed a faintly-marked path that clung closely to the
coast, swerving far out on every headland as if fearful of losing itself
in the solitude of the moors. Here and there a woe-begone peasant from a
village in the hills was toiling in a tiny patch. Across a stump or a
gnarled tree trunk, always close at hand, leaned a long, rusty gun, as
primitive in appearance as the wooden plow which the tiny oxen dragged
back and forth across the fields. Those whose curiosity got the better
of them served as illustrations to the Biblical assertion, “No man
having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom
of Heaven.” For the implement was sure to strike a root or a rock, and
the peasant who picked himself up out of the mire could never have been
admitted by the least fastidious St. Peter. Nineteen showers flung their
waters upon me during the day, showers that were sometimes distinctly
separated from each other by periods of sunshine, showers that merged
one into another through a dreary drizzle.

A wind from off the Mediterranean put the leaden clouds to flight late
in the afternoon and the sun was smiling bravely when the path turned
into a well-kept road, winding through a forest of orange trees where
countless natives, in a garb that did not seem particularly adapted to
such occupation, were stripping the overladen branches of their fruit.
Her oranges and her tobacco give livelihood—of a sort—to the ten
thousand inhabitants of modern Sidon. From the first shop in the
outskirts to the drawbridge of the ruined castle boldly facing the sea,
the bazaar was one long, orange-colored streak. The Sidonese who
gathered round me in the market would have buried me under their
donations of the fruit—windfalls that had split open—had I not waved
them off and followed one of their number, I knew not whither.

[Illustration: Women of Bethlehem going to the Church of the Nativity]

[Illustration: The most thickly settled portion of Damascus is the
graveyard. A picture taken at risk of mobbing]

He turned in at a gate that gave admittance to a large walled inclosure.
From the doors and down the outside stairways of a large building in its
center poured a multitude of boys and youths, in drab-colored uniforms,
shrieking words of welcome. A young man at the head of the throng
reached me first.

“They students,” he cried; “I am teacher. This American Mission College.
They always run to see white man because they study white man’s language
and country!”

Every class in the institution, evidently, had been dismissed that they
might attend an illustrated lecture on anthropology. The students formed
a circle about me, and the “teacher” marched round and round me,
discoursing on the various points of my person and dress that differed
from the native, as glibly as any medical failure over a cadaver.

“Will you, kind sir,” he said, pausing for breath, “will you show to my
students the funny things with which the white man holds up his

I refused the request, indignantly, of course—the bare thought of such
immodesty! Besides, those important articles of my attire had long since
been gathered into the bag of a Marseilles rag-picker.

I moved towards the gate.

“Wait, sir,” cried the tutor, “very soon the American president of the
school comes. He will give you supper and bed.”

“I’ll pay my own,” I answered.

“What!” shouted the Syrian, “You got metleek? Thees man bring you here
because you sit in the market-place like you have no money.”

Some time later, as I emerged from an eating shop, a native sprang
forward with a wild shout and grasped me by the hand. Grinning with
self-complacency at his knowledge of the faranchee mode of greeting, he
fell to working my arm like a pump handle, yelping at the same time an
unbroken string of Arabic that rapidly brought down upon us every
lounger in the market-place. He was dressed in the blanket-like cloak
and the flowing headdress of the countryman. His weather-beaten visage,
at best reminiscent of a blue-ribbon bulldog, was rendered hideous by a
broken nose that had been driven entirely out of its normal position and
halfway into his left cheek. Certainly he was no new acquaintance. For
some moments I struggled to recall where I had seen that wreck of a face
before. From the jumble that fell from his lips I caught a few
words:—“locanda, bnam, Beirut.” Then I remembered. He of the pump-handle
movement had occupied a bed beside my own during my first days in Beirut
and had turned the nights into purgatory by wailing a native song in a
never-changing monotone, while he rolled and puffed at innumerable

When I had disengaged my aching arm I enquired for an inn. My
long-lost roommate nodded his head and led the way to the one large
building abutting on the street, a blank wall of sun-baked bricks some
forty feet in length, unbroken except for a door through which the
Arab pushed me before him. We found ourselves in a vast, gloomy room,
its walls the seamy side of the sun-baked bricks, its floor trampled
earth, and its flat roof supported by massive beams of such wood as
Hiram sent to Solomon for the temple on Mt. Moriah. Save for a bit of
space near the door, the room was crowded with camels, donkeys, dogs,
and men, and heaps of bundled merchandise. It was the Sidon khan, a
station for the caravan trains that make their way up and down the
coast. Across the room, above the door, ran a wooden gallery, some ten
feet wide. My companion pushed me up the ladder before him, took two
blankets—evidently his own property—from a heap in the corner, and,
spreading them out in a space unoccupied by prostrate muleteers or
camel drivers, invited me to lie down.

The scene below us was a very pandemonium. Donkeys, large and small,
lying, standing, kicking, braying, broke away, now and then, to lead
their owners a merry chase in and out of the throng. Reclining camels
chewed their cud, and gazed at the chaos about them with scornful
dignity. Others of these phlegmatic beasts, newly arrived, shrilly
protested against kneeling until their cursing masters could relieve
them of their loads. Men and dogs were everywhere. Gaunt curs glared
about them like famished wolves. Men in coarse cloaks, that resembled
grain-sacks split up the front, were cudgeling their beasts, quarreling
over the sharing of a blanket, or shrieking at the keeper who collected
the khan dues. Among them, less excited mortals squatted, singly or in
groups, on blankets spread between a camel and an ass, rolled out the
stocking-like rags swinging over their shoulders, and fell to munching
their meager suppers. Here and there a man stood barefooted on his
cloak, deaf to every sound about him, salaaming his reverences towards
the south wall, beyond which lay Mecca.

Before the first grey of dawn appeared, the mingling sounds that had
made an incessant murmur during the night increased to a roar. There
came the tinkling of bells on ass and dromedary, the braying and cursing
of the denizens of the desert. Men wrestled with unwieldy cargoes, or
cudgeled animals reluctant to take up their burdens. At frequent
intervals the door beneath our gallery creaked, and one by one the
caravans filed out into the breaking day.

The khan was almost empty when I descended the ladder. Late risers were
hurrying through their prayers or loading the few animals that remained.
The keeper, sitting crosslegged near the door, rolled me a cigarette and
demanded a bishleek for my lodging. I knew as well as he that such a
price was preposterous, and he was fully aware of my knowledge. He had
merely begun the skirmish that is the preliminary of every financial
transaction in the East. A little experience with Oriental merchants
imbues the faranchee traveler with the spirit of haggling; when he
learns, as soon he will, that every tradesman who gets the better of him
laughs at him for a fool, self-respect comes to the rescue. For who
would not spend a half-hour of sluggish Eastern time to prove that the
men of his nation are no inferiors in astuteness to these suave
followers of “Maghmoód,” however small may be the amount under

By the time my cigarette was half finished I had reduced the price to
four metleeks. Before I tossed it away, the keeper of the khan had
accepted a mouth-organ that had somehow found its way into my pack and
about three reeds of which responded to the most powerful pair of lungs;
and he bade me good-bye with a much more respectful opinion of
faranchees than he would have done had I paid the first amount demanded.

The wail of a leather-lunged muezzin echoed across the wilderness as I
set off again to the southward. A road that sallied forth from the city
stopped short at the edge of an inundated morass and left me to lay my
own course, guided by the booming of the Mediterranean. The cheering
prospect of a night out of doors lay before me; for, if the map was to
be trusted, the next village was fully two days distant. Mile after mile
the way led over slippery spurs of the mountain chain and across marshes
in which I sank halfway to my knees, with here and there a muddy stream
to be forded. Only an occasional sea gull, circling over the waves, gave
life to the dreary landscape. A few isolated patches showed signs of
cultivation, but the cold, incessant downpour kept even the hardy
peasants cooped up in their villages among the hills to the eastward.

The utter solitude was broken but once by a human being, a ragged
muleteer splashing northward as fast as the clinging mud permitted. On
his face was the utter dejection of one who had been denied admittance
at St. Peter’s gate. At sight of me he struggled to increase his pace
and, pointing away through the storm, bawled plaintively, “Homar,
efendee? Shoof! Fee homar henak?” (Ass, sir? Look! Is there an ass
beyond?) When I shook my head he lifted up his voice and wept in true
Biblical fashion, and stumbled on across the morass.

The gloomy day was waning when I plunged into a valley of rank
vegetation, where several massive stone ruins and a crumbling stone
bridge that humped its back over a wandering stream, suggested an
ancient center of civilization. I scanned the debris for a hole in which
to sleep. Shelter there was none, and a gnawing hunger protested against
a halt. From the top of the bridge an unhoped-for sight caught my eye.
Miles away, at the end of a low cape that ran far out into the sea, rose
a slender minaret, surrounded by a jumble of flat buildings. I tore my
way through the undergrowth with hope renewed and struck out towards the
unknown, perhaps unpeopled, hamlet.

Dusk turned to utter darkness. For an interminable period I staggered on
through the mire, sprawling, now and then, in a stinking slough. The
lapping of waves sounded at last, and I struck a solider footing of
sloping sand. Far ahead twinkled a few lights, so far out across the
water that, had I not seen the village by day, I had fancied them the
illuminated portholes of a steamer at anchor. The beach described a
half-circle. The twinkling lights drew on before like wills o’ the wisp.
The flat sand gave way to rocks and boulders—the ruins, apparently, of
ancient buildings—against which I barked my shins repeatedly.

I had all but given up in despair the pursuit of the fugitive glowworms,
when the baying of dogs fell on my ear. An unveiled corner of the moon
disclosed a faintly defined path up the sloping beach, which, leading
across the sand-dunes, brought up against a fort-like building, pierced
in the center by a gateway. Two flickering lights under the archway cast
weird shadows over a group of Arabs, huddled in their blankets.

The arrival of any traveler at such an hour was an event to bring
astonishment; a mud-bespattered faranchee projected thus upon them out
of the blackness of the night brought them to their feet with excited
cries. I pushed through the group and plunged into a maze of wretched,
hovel-choked alleyways. Silence reigned in the bazaars, but the keeper
of one squalid shop was still dozing over his pan of coals between a
stack of aged bread-sheets and a simmering kettle of sour-milk soup. I
prodded him into semi-wakefulness and, gathering in the gkebis, sat down
in his place. He dipped up a bowl of soup from force of habit, then
catching sight of me for the first time, generously distributed the
jelly-like mixture over my outstretched legs.

The second serving reached me in the orthodox manner. To the nibbling
Arabs who had ranged themselves on the edge of the circle of light cast
by the shop lamp, a bowl of soup was an ample meal for one man. When I
called for a second, they stared open-mouthed. Again I sent the bowl
back. The bystanders burst forth in a roar of laughter which the
deserted labyrinth echoed back to us a third and a fourth time, and the
boldest stepped forward to pat their stomachs derisively.

I inquired for an inn as I finished. A ragged Sampson stepped into the
arc of light and crying “taala,” set off to the westward. Almost at a
trot, he led the way by cobbled streets, down the center of which ran an
open sewer, up hillocks and down, under vaulted bazaars and narrow
archways, by turns innumerable.

He stopped at last before a high garden wall, behind which, among the
trees, stood a large building of monasterial aspect.

“Italiano faranchee henak,” he said, raising the heavy iron knocker over
the gate and letting it fall with a boom that startled the dull ear of
night. Again and again he knocked. The muffled sound of an opening door
came from the distant building. A step fell on the graveled walk, a step
that advanced with slow and stately tread to within a few feet of the
gate; then a deep, reverberant voice called out something in Arabic.

I replied in Italian; “I am a white man, looking for an inn.”

The voice that answered was trained to the chanting of masses. One could
almost fancy himself in some vast cathedral, listening to an invocation
from far back in the nave, as the words came, deep and sharp-cut, one
from another: “Non si riceveno qui pellegrini.” The scrape of feet on
the graveled walk grew fainter and fainter, a heavy door slammed, and
all was still.

The Arab put his ear to the keyhole of the gate, scratched his head in
perplexity, and with another “taala” dashed off once more. A no less
devious route brought us out on the water front of the back bay. In a
brightly lighted café sat a dozen convivial souls over narghilehs and
coffee. My cicerone paused some distance away and set up a wailing chant
in which the word “faranchee” was often repeated. Plainly, the revelers
gave small credence to this cry of Frank out of the night. Calmly they
continued smoking and chattering, peering indifferently, now and then,
into the outer darkness. The Arab drew me into the circle of light. A
roar went up from the carousers and they tumbled pell-mell out upon us.

My guide was, evidently, a village butt, rarely permitted to appear
before his fellow-townsman in so important a rôle. Fame, at last, was
knocking at his door. His first words tripped over each other
distressingly, but his racial eloquence of phrase and gesture came to
the rescue, and he launched forth in a panegyric such as never
congressional candidate suffered at the hands of a rural chairman. His
zeal worked his undoing. From every dwelling within sound of his
trumpet-like voice poured forth half-dressed men who, crowding closely
around, raised a Babel that drowned out the orator before his
introductory premise had been half ended. An enemy suggested an
adjournment to the café and left the new Cicero—the penniless being
denied admittance—to deliver his maiden speech to the unpeopled

The keeper, with his best company smile, placed a chair for me in the
center of the room; the elder men grouped themselves about me on similar
articles of furniture; and the younger squatted on their haunches around
the wall. The language of signs was proving a poor means of
communication, when a native, in more elaborate costume, pushed into the
circle and addressed me in French. With an interpreter at hand, nothing
short of my entire biography would satisfy my hearers; and to avoid any
semblance of partiality, I was forced to swing round and round on my
stool in the telling, despite the fact that only one of the audience
understood the queer faranchee words. The proprietor, meanwhile, in a
laudable endeavor to make hay while the sun shone, made the circuit of
the room at frequent intervals, asking each with what he could serve
him. Those few who did not order were ruthlessly pushed into the street,
where a throng of boys and penniless men flitted back and forth on the
edge of the light, peering in upon us. Anxious to secure the good-will
of so unusual an attraction, the keeper ran forward each time my
whirling brought him within my field of vision to offer a cup of thick
coffee, a narghileh, or a native liquor.

I concluded my saga with the statement that I had left Sidon that

“Impossible!” shouted the interpreter. “No man can walk from Sidra to
Soor in one day.”

“Soor?” I cried, recognizing the native name for Tyre, and scarcely
believing my ears. “Is this Soor?”

“Is it possible,” gasped the native, “that you have not recognized the
ancient city of Tyre? Yes, indeed, my friend, this is Soor. But if you
have left Sidon this morning you have slept a night on the way without
knowing it.”

I turned the conversation by inquiring the identity of the worthies
about me. The interpreter introduced them one by one. The village
scribe, the village barber, the village carpenter, the village tailor,
and—even thus far from the land of chestnut trees—the village blacksmith
were all in evidence. Most striking of all the throng in appearance was
a young man of handsome, forceful face and sturdy, well-poised figure,
attired in a flowing, jet-black gown and almost as black a fez. From
time to time he rose to address his companions on the all-important
topic of faranchees. A gift of native eloquence of which he seemed
supremely unconscious, and the long sweep of his gown over his left
shoulder with which he ended every discourse, recalled my visualization
of Hamlet. I was surprised to find that he was only a common sailor, and
that in a land where the seaman is regarded as the lowest of created

“Hamlet” owed his position of authority on this occasion to a single
journey to Buenos Ayres. After long striving, I succeeded in exchanging
with him a few meager ideas in Spanish, much to the discomfiture of the
“regular” interpreter, who, posing as a man of unexampled erudition,
turned away with an angry shrug of the shoulders and fell upon my
unguarded knapsack. I swung round in time to find him complacently
turning the film-wind of my kodak and clawing at the edges in an attempt
to open it. If one would keep his possessions intact in the East he must
sit upon them, for not even the apes of the jungle have the curiosity of
the Oriental nor less realization of the difference between mine and

The city fathers of Tyre, in solemn conviviality assembled, resolved
unanimously that I could not be permitted to continue on foot. Some days
before, midway between Tyre and Acre, a white man had been found,
murdered by some blunt instrument and nailed to the ground by a stake
driven through his body. The tale was told, with the fullness of detail
doted on by our yellow journals, in French and crippled Spanish; and
innumerable versions in Arabic were followed by an elaborate pantomime
by the village carpenter, with Hamlet and the scribe as the assassins,
and the tube of a water-pipe as the stake. Midnight had long since
passed. I promised the good citizens of Tyre to remain in their city for
a day of reflection, and inquired for a place to sleep.

Not a man among them, evidently, had thought of that problem. The
assemblage resolved itself into a committee of the whole and spent a
good half hour in weighty debate. Then the interpreter rose to
communicate to me the result of the deliberations. There was no public
inn in the city of Tyre—they thanked God for that. But its inhabitants
had ever been ready to treat royally the stranger within their gates.
The keeper of the café had a back room. In that back room was a wooden
bench. The keeper was moved to give me permission to occupy that back
room and that bench. Nay! Even more! He was resolved to spread on that
bench a rush mat, and cover me over with what had once been the sail of
his fishing-smack. But first he must ask me one question. Aye! The
citizens of Tyre, there assembled, must demand an answer to that query
and the spokesman abjured me, by the beard of Allah, to answer
truthfully and deliberately.

I moved the previous question. The village elders hitched their stools
nearer, the squatters strained their necks to listen. The man of
learning gasped twice, nay, thrice, and broke the utter silence with a
tense whisper:—

“Are you, sir, a _Jew_?”

I denied the allegation.

“Because,” went on the speaker, “we are haters of the Jews and no Jew
could stop in this café over night, though the clouds rained down
boulders and water-jars on our city of Tyre.”

The keeper fulfilled his promise to the letter and, putting up the
shutters of the café, locked me in and marched away.

[Illustration: Tyre is now a miserable village connected with the
mainland by a wind-blown neck of sand]

[Illustration: Agriculture in Palestine. There is not an ounce of iron
about the plow]

The nephew of the village carpenter, a youth educated in the American
Mission School of Sidon, appointed himself my guide next morning. The
ancient city of Tyre is to-day a collection of stone and mud hovels,
covering less than a third of the sandy point that once teemed with
metropolitan life, and housing four thousand humble humans, destitute
alike of education, arts, and enterprise. Our pilgrimage began at the
narrow neck of wind-blown sand—all that remains of the causeway of
Alexander. To the south of the present hamlet, once the site of rich
dwellings, stretched rambling rows of crude head-stones over Christian
and Mohammedan graves, a dreary spot above which circled and swooped a
few sombre rooks. On the eastern edge a knoll rose above the pathetic
village wall, a rampart that would not afford defense against a
self-confident goat. Below lay a broad playground, worn bare and smooth
by the tramp of many feet, peopled now by groups of romping children and
here and there an adult loafing under the rays of the December sun. Only
a few narrow chasms, from which peeped the top of a window or door,
served to remind the observer that he was not looking down upon an open
space, but on the flat housetops of the closely-packed city.

Further away rose an unsteady minaret, and beyond, the tree-girdled
dwelling of the Italian monks. To the north, in the wretched roadstead,
a few decrepit fishing smacks, sad remnants of the fleets whose mariners
once caroused and sang in the streets of Tyre, lay at anchor. Down on
the encircling beach, half buried under the drifting sands and worn away
by the lapping waves, lay the ruins of what must long ago have been
great business blocks. The Tyreans of to-day, mere parasites, have borne
away stone by stone these edifices of a mightier generation to build
their own humble habitations. Even as we looked, a half dozen ragged
Arabs were prying off the top of a great pillar and loading the
fragments into a dilapidated feluca.

A narrow street through the center of the town forms the boundary
between her two religions. To the north dwell Christians, to the south
Metawalies, Mohammedans of unorthodox superstitions. Their women do not
cover their faces, but tattoo their foreheads, cheeks, and hands. To
them the unpardonable sin is to touch, ever so slightly, a being not of
their faith. Ugly scowls greeted our passage in all this section. I
halted at a shop to buy oranges. A mangy old crone tossed the fruit at
me and, spreading a cloth over her hand, stretched it out. I attempted
to lay the coppers in her open palm. She snatched her hand away with a
snarl and a display of yellow fangs less suggestive of a human than of a
mongrel over a bone.

“Hold your hand above hers and drop the money,” said my companion. “If
you touch her, she is polluted.”

To a mere unbeliever the danger of pollution seemed reversed. But mayhap
it is not given to unbelievers to see clearly.

Once across the line of demarkation cheery greetings sounded from every
shop. Generations of intermarriage have welded this Christian community
into one great family. Often the youth halted to observe:

“Here lives my uncle; that man is my cousin; this shop belongs to my
sister’s husband; in that house dwells the brother-in-law of my father.”

America was the promised land to every denizen of this section. Hardly a
man of them had given up hope of putting together money enough to
emigrate to the new world. The brother of my guide voiced a prayer that
I had often heard among the Christians of Asia Minor.

“We hope more every day,” he said, “that America will some time take
this land away from the Turks, for the Turks are rascals and the king
rascal is the Sultan at Stamboul. Please, you, sir, get America to do
this when you come back.”

My cicerone was a true Syrian, in his horror of travel. His family had
been Christians—of the Greek faith—for generations, and Nazareth and
Jerusalem lay just beyond the ranges to the eastward; yet neither he,
his father, nor any ancestor, to his knowledge, had ever journeyed
further than to Sidon. His teachers had imbued him with an almost
American view of life, had instilled in him a code of personal morals at
utter variance with those of this land, in which crimes ranging from
bribery to murder are discussed in a spirit of levity by all classes.
But they had not given him the energy of the West, nor convinced him
that the education he had acquired was something more than an added
power for the amassing of metleeks. Some day, when he had money enough,
he would go to America to turn his linguistic ability into more money.
Meanwhile, he squatted on his haunches in the filth of Tyre, waiting
more patiently than Micawber for something to “turn up.”

The highest ideal, to the people he represented, is the merchant—a
middle-man between work and responsibility who may drone out his days in
reposeful self-sufficiency. The round of the streets led us to the
liquor and fruit shop kept by his father, a flabby-skinned fellow who
stretched his derelict bulk on a divan and growled whenever a client
disturbed his day-dreams. To his son he was the most fortunate being in

“Why,” cried the youth in admiration, “he never has to do anything but
rest in his seat all day and put up his shutters and go home at night!
Would you not like to own a shop and never have to work again all the
days of your life?”

My answer that the dénouement of such a fate would probably be the
sighing of willows over a premature grave was lost upon him.

An unprecedented throng was gathered in the café when I reached it in
the evening. The proprietor danced blindly about the room, well nigh
frantic from an ambitious but vain endeavor to serve all comers.
“Hamlet,” done with his day’s fishing and his sea-going rags, was again
on hand to give unconscious entertainment. The village scribe, if the
bursts of laughter were as unforced as they seemed, had brought with him
a stock of witty tales less threadbare than those of the night before;
and the expression on the face of my guide, and his repeated refusals to
interpret them, suggested that the stories were not of the jeune fille

The village carpenter was the leader of the opposition against my
departure on foot, and finding that his pantomime had not aroused in me
a becoming dread of the Bedouin-infected wilderness, he set out on a new
tack. A coasting steamer was due in a few days. He proposed that the
assembled Tyreans take up a collection to pay my passage to the next
port, and set the ball rolling by dropping a bishleek into his empty
coffee cup. A steady flow of metleeks had already set in before my
protests grew vociferous enough to check it. Why I should refuse to
accept whatever they proposed to give was something very few of these
simple fellows could understand. The carpenter wiped out all my
arguments in the ensuing debate by summing up with that incontestable
postulate of the Arab: “Sir,” he cried, by interpreter, appealing to the
others for confirmation, “if you go to Acre on foot, you will get

I slept again on the rush mat. My guide and his uncle accompanied me
through the city gate next morning, still entreating me to reconsider my
rash decision. The older man gave up just outside the village and with
an “Allah m’akum’” (the Lord be with you) hurried back, as if the
unwonted experience of getting out of sight of his workshop had filled
him with unconquerable terror. The youth halted beyond the wind-blown
neck of sand, and, after entreating me to send for him as soon as I
returned to America, fled after his uncle. From this distance the gloomy
huddle of kennels behind recalled even more readily than a closer view
those lines of the wandering bard:

                  “Dim is her glory, gone her fame,
                  Her boasted wealth has fled.
                  On her proud rock, alas, her shame,
                  The fisher’s net is spread.
                  The tyrean harp has slumbered long,
                  And Tyria’s mirth is low;
                  The timbrel, dulcimer, and song
                  Are hushed, or wake to woe.”

For the first few miles the way led along the hard sands of the beach.
Beyond, the “Ladder of Tyre,” a spur of the Lebanon falling sharply off
into the sea, presented a precipitous slope that I scaled with many
bruises. Few spots on the globe present a more desolate prospect than
the range after range of barren hills that stretch out from the summit
of the “Ladder.” Half climbing, half sliding, I descended the southern
slope and struggled on across a trackless country in a never-ceasing

It was the hour of nightfall when the first habitation of man broke the
monotony of the lifeless waste. Half famished, I hurried towards it. At
a distance the hamlet presented the appearance of a low fortress or
blockhouse. The outer fringe of buildings—all these peasant villages
form a more or less perfect circle—were set so closely together as to
make an almost continuous wall, with never a window nor door opening on
the world outside. I circled half the town before I found an entrance to
its garden of miseries. The hovels, partly of limestone, chiefly of
baked mud, were packed like stacks in a scanty barnyard. The spaces
between them left meager passages, and, being the village dumping ground
and sewer as well as the communal barn, reeked with every abomination of
man and beast. In cleanliness and picturesqueness the houses resembled
the streets. Here and there a human sty stood open and lazy smoke curled
upward from its low doorway; for the chimney is as yet unknown in rural
Asia Minor.

A complete circuit of the “city” disclosed no shops and I began a
canvass of the hovels, stooping to thrust my head through the
smoke-choked doorways, and shaking my handkerchief of coins in the faces
of the half asphyxiated occupants, with a cry of “gkebis.” Wretched hags
and half-naked children glared at me. My best pulmonary efforts evoked
no more than a snarl or a stolid stare. Only once did I receive verbal
reply. A peasant whose garb was one-fourth cloth, one-fourth the skin of
some other animal, and one-half the accumulated filth of some two-score
years, squatted in the center of the last hut, eating from a stack of
newly baked bread-sheets. Having caught him with the goods, I bawled
“gkebis” commandingly. He turned to peer at me through the smoke with
the lack-luster eye of a dead haddock. Once more I demanded bread. A
diabolical leer overspread his features. He rose to a crouching posture,
a doubled sheet between his fangs, and, springing at me half way across
the hut, roared, “MA FEESH!”

Now there is no more forcible word in the Arabic language than “ma
feesh.” It is rich in meanings, among which “there is none!” “We haven’t
any!” “None left!” “Can’t be done!” and “Nothing doing!” are but a few.
The native can give it an articulation that would make the most
aggressive of bulldogs put his tail between his legs and decamp. My eyes
certainly had not deceived me. There was bread and plenty of it. But
somehow I felt no longing to tarry, near nightfall, in a fanatical
village far from the outskirts of civilization, to wage debate with an
Arab who could utter “ma feesh” in that tone of voice. With never an
audible reply, I fled to the encircling wilderness.

The sun was settling to his bath in the Mediterranean. Across the
pulsating sea to the beach below the village stretched an undulating
ribbon of orange and red. Away to the eastward, in the valleys of the
Lebanon, darkness already lay. On the rugged peaks a few isolated trees,
swaying in a swift landward breeze, stood out against the evening sky.
Within hail of the hamlet a lonely shepherd guarded a flock of
fat-tailed sheep. Beyond him lay utter solitude. The level plain soon
changed to row after row of sand dunes, unmarked by a single footprint,
over which my virgin path rose and fell with the regularity of a tossing

The last arc of the blazing sun sank beneath the waves. The prismatic
ribbon quivered a moment longer, faded, and disappeared, leaving only an
unbroken expanse of black water. Advancing twilight dimmed the outline
of the swaying trees, the very peaks lost individuality and blended into
the darkening sky of evening. In the trough of the sand dunes the night
made mysterious gulfs in which the eye could not distinguish where the
descent ended and the ascent began.

Invariably I stumbled half way up each succeeding slope. The shifting
sands muffled to silence my footsteps. On the summit of the ridges
sounded a low moaning of the wind, rising and falling like far-off
sobbing. A creative imagination might easily have peopled the
surrounding blackness with flitting forms of murderous nomads. Somewhere
among these never-ending ridges the “staked faranchee” had been done to

Mile after mile the way led on, rising and falling as rhythmically as
though over and over the same sandy billow. Sunset had dispelled the
rain, but not a star broke through the overcast sky, and only the
hoarse-voiced boom of the breakers guided my steps. Now and then I
halted at the summit of a ridge to search for the glimmer of a distant
light and to strain my ears for some other sound than the wailing of the
wind and the muffled thunder of the ocean. But even Napoleon was once
forced to build a hill from which to sweep the horizon before he could
orientate himself in this billowy wilderness.

The surly peasant was long since forgotten when, descending a ridge with
my feet raised high at each step in anticipation of a succeeding ascent,
I plunged into a slough in which I sank almost to my knees. From force
of habit I plowed on. The booming of the waves grew louder, as if the
land receded, and the wind from off the sea blew stronger and more
chilling. Suddenly there sounded at my feet the rush of waters. I moved
forward cautiously and felt the edge of what seemed to be a broad river,
pouring seaward. It was an obstacle not to be surmounted on a black
night. I drew back from the brink and, finding a spot that seemed to
offer some resistance beneath my feet, threw myself down.

But I sank inch by inch into the morass, and fearful of being buried
before morning, I rose and wandered towards the sea. On a slight rise of
ground I stumbled over a heap of cobblestones, piled up at some earlier
date by the peasants. I built a bed of stones under the lee of the pile,
tucked my kodak in a crevice, and pulling my coat over my head, lay
down. A patter of rain sounded on the coat, then another and another,
faster and faster, and in less than a minute there began a downpour that
abated not once during the night. The heap afforded small protection
against the piercing wind, and, being short and semicircular in shape,
compelled me to lie motionless on my right side, for only my body
protected the kodak and films beneath. The rain quickly soaked through
my clothing and ran in rivulets along my skin. The wind turned colder
and whistled through the chinks of the pile. The sea boomed incessantly,
and in the surrounding marshes colonies of unwearying frogs croaked a
dismal refrain. Thus, on the fringe of the Mediterranean, I watched out
the old year, and, though not a change in the roar of the sea, the
tattoo of the storm, nor the note of a frog, marked the hour, I was
certainly awake at the waning.

An Oriental proverb tells us that “He who goes not to bed will be early
up.” He who goes to bed on a rock pile will also be up betimes—though
with difficulty. The new year was peering over the Lebanon when I rose
to my feet. My left leg, though creaking like a rusty armor, sustained
me; but I had no sooner shifted my weight to the right than it gave way
like a thing of straw and let me down with disconcerting suddenness in
the mud. By dint of long massaging, I recovered the use of the limb; but
even then an attempt to walk in a straight line sent me round in a
circle from left to right. Daylight showed the river to be lined with
quicksands. It was broad and swift, but not deep, and some distance up
the stream I effected a crossing without sinking below my armpits. Far
off to the southeast lay a small forest. A village, perhaps, was hidden
in its shade, and I dashed eagerly forward through a sea of mud.

The forest turned out to be a large orange grove, surrounded by a high
hedge and a turgid, moat-like stream. There was not a human habitation
in sight. The trees were heavily laden with yellow fruit. I cast the
contents of my knapsack on the ground, plunged through moat and hedge,
and tore savagely at the tempting fare. With half-filled bag I regained
the plain, caught up my scattered belongings, and struck southward,
peeling an orange. The skin was close to an inch thick, the fruit inside
would have aroused the dormant appetite of an Epicurean. Greedily I
stuffed a generous quarter into my mouth—and stopped stock-still with a
sensation as of a sudden blow in the back of the neck. The orange was as
green as the Emerald Isle, its juice more acrid than a half-and-half of
vinegar and gall! I peeled another and another. Each was more sour and
bitter than its forerunner. Tearfully I dumped the treasure trove in the
mire and stumbled on.

Two hours later, under a blazing sun—so great is the contrast in this
hungry land between night and unclouded day—I entered a native village,
more wretched if possible than that of the night before. Scowls and
snarls greeted me in almost every hut; but one hideously tattooed female
pushed away the proffered coins and thrust into my hands two
bread-sheets the ragged edge of which showed the marks of infant teeth.
They were as tender as a sea boot, as palatable as a bath towel, and
satisfied my hunger as a peanut would have satisfied that of an
elephant. But no amount of vociferation could induce the villagers to
part with another morsel, and, thankful for small favors, I trudged on.

A well-marked path, inundated here and there and peopled by bands of
natives, turned westward beyond an ancient aqueduct, and at noonday I
passed through the fortified gate of Acre. The power of faranchee
appetites was the absorbing topic of conversation in the stronghold when
I fell in with a band of emigrating Bedouins, and departed. The white
city of Haiffa, perched on the nose of recumbent Mt. Carmel across the
bay, seemed but a stone’s throw distant. It was an illusion of sea and
sun, however. Long hours I splashed after the Arabs through surf and
rivulet along the narrow beach, my shoes swinging over my shoulder, and
night had fallen before we parted in the Haiffan market place.

At a Jewish inn, in Haiffa, I made the acquaintance of a
fellow-countryman. He was a _dragoman_ of a well-known tourist company,
born in Nazareth, of Arab blood, and had never been outside the confines
of Asia Minor. His grandfather had lived a few years in New York, and,
though the good old gentleman had long since been gathered to his
fathers, his descendants were still entitled to flaunt his
naturalization papers in the faces of the Turkish police and
tax-gatherers and to greet travelers from the new world as compatriots.
Nazry Kawar, the dragoman, was overjoyed at the meeting. He dedicated
the afternoon to drawing, for my benefit, sketches of the routes of
Palestine, and took his leave, promising to write me a letter of
introduction to his uncle, a Nazarene dentist.

Early the next morning I passed through the vaulted market of Haiffa and
out upon the road to Nazareth. It was really a road, repaired not long
before for the passage of the German Emperor; but already the labor of
the Sultan’s servants had been half undone by the peasants, to whom a
highway is useful only as an excellent place in which to pitch stones
picked up in the adjoining fields. For once the day was clear and balmy
and a sunshine as of June illuminated the rugged fields and their
tillers. Towards noon, in the bleak hills beyond the first village, two
Bedouins, less bloodthirsty than hungry, fell upon me while I ate my
lunch by the wayside. Though they bombarded me with stones from opposite
sides, they threw like boarding-school misses and dodged like ocean
liners, and I had wrought more injury than I had received when I
challenged them to a race down the highway. They were no mean runners,
but the appearance over the first hill of a road-repair gang, a score of
bronze-faced, sinewy women under command of a skirt-clad male, forced
them to postpone their laudable attempt to win favor with the houris.

[Illustration: On the road between Haifa and Nazareth I meet a
road-repair gang, all women but the boss]

[Illustration: On the summit of Jebel es Sihk, back of Nazareth. From
left to right: Shukry Nasr, teacher; Elias Awad, cook; and Nehmé Simán,
teacher; my hosts in Nazareth]

An hour later I gained the highest point of the route. Far below the
highway, colored by that peculiar atmosphere of Palestine a delicate
blue that undulated and trembled in the afternoon sunshine, stretched
the vast plain of Esdraelon, walled by mountain ranges that seemed
innumerable leagues away. The route crawled along the top of the western
wall, choked here between two mountain spurs, breathing freely there on
a tiny plateau, and, rounding at last a gigantic boulder, burst into

A mere village in the time of Christ, Nazareth covers to-day the
bowl-shaped valley in which it is built to the summits of the
surrounding hills and, viewed from a distance, takes on the form of an
almost perfect amphitheatre. In the arena of the circus, a teeming,
babbling bazaar, I endeavored in vain to find the dentist Kawar to whom
my letter was addressed. When my legs grew aweary of wandering through
the labyrinth and my tongue refused longer to deform itself in attempts
to reproduce the peculiar sounds of the Arabic language, I sat down on a
convenient and conspicuous bazaar stand, rolled a cigarette, and leaned
back in the perfect contentment of knowing that I should presently be
taken care of. Near me on all sides rose a whisper, in the hoarse voice
of squatting shopkeepers, in the treble of passing children under heavy
burdens, a whisper that seemed to grow into a thing animate and hurried
away through the long rows and intricate byways of the market as no
really living thing of the Orient ever does hurry, crying: “Faranchee!
Fee wahed faranchee!” Before my first cigarette was well lighted an
awe-struck urchin paused nearby to stare unqualifiedly, with the manner
of one ready to take to terror-stricken flight at the first inkling of a
hostile move on the part of this strange being, in dress so ludicrous,
and whose legs were clothed in separate garments! Here, surely, was one
of those dread boogiemen who are known to dine on small Arabs, and so
near that—perhaps he had better edge away and take to his heels
before—but no, here are a dozen men of familiar mien collecting in a
semicircle back of him! And there comes his uncle, the camel driver.
Perhaps the boogieman is not ferocious after all, for the men crowd
close around, calling him “faranchee” and “efendee,” and appearing not
in the least afraid.

The camel-driver is doubly courageous—who would not be proud to be his
nephew?—for he actually addresses himself to the strange being, while
the throng behind him grows and grows.

“Barhaba!” says the camel-driver, in greeting, “Lailtak saeedee! Where
does the efendee hail from? Italiano, perhaps?”

“No, American.”

“Amerikhano!” The word runs from mouth to mouth and the faces of all
hearers light up with interest. “America? Why, that is where Abdul el
Kassab, the butcher, went, long years ago. It is said to be far away,
further than “El Gkudis” (Jerusalem) or “Shaam” (Damascus).” But the
camel driver has derived another bit of information. Listen! “Bahree!
The faranchee is a bahree, a sailor, a man who works on the great water,
the ‘bahr’ that anyone can see from the top of Jebel es Sihk above, and
on the shores of which this same camel driver claims to have been. It is
even rumored that to reach this America of the faranchee and of Abdul el
Kassab, one must travel on the great water! Indeed, ’tis far away, and,
were the faranchee not a bahree, how could he have journeyed from
far-off America to this very Nazra?”

But my Arabic was soon exhausted and the simple Nazarenes, to whom a man
unable to express himself in their vernacular was as much to be pitied
as a deaf-mute, burst forth in sympathetic cries of “meskeen” (poor
devil). The camel driver, striving to gain further information, was
rapidly becoming the butt of the bystanders, when a native, in more
festive dress, pushed through the throng and addressed me in English. I
held up the letter.

“Ah,” he cried, “the dentist Kawar?” and he snatched the note out of my
hand and tore it open.

“But, here,” I cried, “are you the dentist?”

“Oh, no, indeed,” said the native, without looking up from the reading.

“Then what right have you to open that letter?” I demanded, grasping it.

The native gazed at me a moment, the picture of Innocence Accused and
astonished at the accusation.

“Oh, sir,” he said; “the Kawar is my friend. If it is my friend’s
letter, it is my letter. If it is my letter, it is my friend’s letter.
Arabs make like that, sir. I am Elias Awad, cook to the British
missionary and friend to the dentist. Very nice man, but gone to Acre.
But Kawar family live close here. Please, you, sir, come with me.”

Ten minutes later I had been received by the family Kawar like a
long-lost friend. One glimpse of their dwelling showed them to be people
of Nazarene wealth and position. The head of the house, keeper of a
dry-goods store, had once been sheik or mayor of Nazareth and was a man
of extreme courtesy. He spoke only Arabic. His sons, ranging from
bearded men to a boy of nine, had been impartially distributed among the
mission schools of the town. Two spoke English and one German and were
stout champions of the Protestant faith. The fourth and fifth spoke
French and Italian, respectively, and posed as devout Catholics. The
youngest, already well versed in Russian, clung to the faith of his
father, the orthodox Greek. Amid the bombardment of questions in four
languages I found a moment, here and there, to congratulate myself on my
ignorance of the tongue of the Cossacks.

While the evening meal was preparing, the cosmopolitan family, a small
army in assorted sizes, sallied forth to show me the regulation
“sights.” With deep reverence for every spot reminiscent of Jesus, they
pointed out Mary’s Well, the Greek church over the supplying spring, the
workshop of Joseph, and many a less authentic relic; and, utterly
oblivious of the incongruity, halted on the way back to cry: “This, sir,
is the house of the only Jew, thank God, who still dwells in Nazareth!”

Supper over, the Protestants dragged me away to a little church on the
brow of the valley. The service, though conducted in Arabic, was
Presbyterian even to the tunes of the hymns; the worship quite the
antithesis. For the men displayed the latest creations in fezes in the
front pews, and the women, in uniform white gowns, sat with bated breath
on the rear benches. Now and then a communicant kicked off his loose
slippers and folded his legs in his seat; and the most devout could not
suppress entirely a desire to stare at a faranchee who sat bareheaded in
church! After the benediction the ladies modestly hurried home, but not
one of the males was missing from the throng that greeted our exit. To
these my companions hastened to divulge my qualities, history, and
raison d’être, as exactly as some information and an untrammeled
imagination permitted. Among the hearers were two young men, by name
Shukry Nasr and Nehmé Simán, teachers of English in the mission school,
who, eager for conversational practice and touched with the curiosity of
the Arab, refused to leave until I had promised to be their guest after
my stay with the Kawars was ended.

The next day was one long lesson on the customs and traits of the
better-class Arab. Shukry Nasr and Nehmé Simán called early and led me
away to visit their friend, Elias, the cook. On the way I protested
against their refusal to allow me to spend a single metleek even for
tobacco. “You are our guest, sir,” said Nehmé; “we are very glad to have
you for a guest and to talk English. But even if we did not like, we
should take good care of you, for Christ said, ‘Thou shalt house the
stranger who is within thy gates.’”

“Why,” cried the cook, when our discussion had been carried into his
room in the mission, “in the days of my father, for a stranger to pay a
place to live would have been insult to all. A stranger in town! Why,
Let _my_ house be his—and _mine_!—and _mine_! would have shouted every
honorable citizen!”

“But Nazareth is getting bad,” sighed Shukry. “The faranchees who are
coming are very proud. They will not eat our food and sleep in our small
houses. And so many are coming! So some inns have been built and even
the Italian monastery like to have pay. Very disgraceful!”

“Did you give any policemen a nice whipping?” asked Elias, suddenly.

“Eh?” I cried.

“If a faranchee comes to our country,” he explained, “or if we go to
live in America and come back, the policeman cannot arrest.”

“Yes, I know,” I answered.

“If a policeman touches you, then, you must give him a nice whipping,”
continued the cook. “If _my_ father had been to America I would give
nice whippings every day. Many friends I have—” and he launched forth
into a series of anecdotes the heroes of which had returned with
naturalization papers for the sole purpose, evidently, of making life
unendurable for the officers of the Sultan.

“If they only refuse to obey the soldiers,” said Nehmé, “that is
nothing. Everybody does that. But here is the wonderful! They do not
have even to give backsheesh!”

“Do you have backsheesh in America?” demanded Shukry.

“Ah—er—well—the name is not in common use,” I stammered.

“It is in my town of Acre that the backsheesh is nice,” cried the cook,
proudly, “and the nicest smuggling. Have you seen that big, strong gate
to my town, sir? Ah, sir, many nice smugglings go in there. But how you
think?”—he winked one eye long and solemnly—“The nice smugglings are the
ladies. Many things the lady can carry under her long dress.”

“But there are the guards,” I put in.

“The guards? Quick the guard get dead if he put the finger on the lady.”

“Then why not have a woman guard?” I suggested.

“Aah!” cried the cook. “How nasty!”

“But the man,” he went on, sadly, “must pay backsheesh if he smuggle a
pound of arabee (native tobacco, so-called in distinction from
“Stambouli,” the revenued weed) or if he make a man dead.”

“What!” I cried, “Backsheesh for murder?”

“Oh, of course,” apologized the cook, “if the man that makes dead has no
money, he is made dead by the soldiers—”

“‘Kill’ is the English word, Elias,” put in Nehmé.

“Oh, yes,” continued Elias, “if the man that kills has money, the
officer sends a soldier after him. The man puts his head through his
door and drops some mejeediehs in the soldier’s hand. Then the soldier
comes back and gives almost all the mejeediehs to the officer, and they
decide that the man has run away and cannot be find. But if it is a
faranchee has been made—er—killed, very bad, for the consul tell the
government to find the man and kill him—and if the man have not so much
money that the government cannot find—very bad!”

“To-morrow,” said Shukry, as I stropped the razor which the cook invited
me to use, “you are coming to live with me.”

“To-morrow,” I answered, “I go to the Sea of Galilee.”

“Ah!” cried the three, in chorus, “Then we give you a letter to our good
friend, Michael Yakoumy. He is teacher in Tiberias and he takes much
pleasure to see you.”

“And you take a letter for my wife,” said Elias. “She is nurse in the
hospital. Often I write but the government lose the letter.”

“So you’re married?” I observed, through the lather.

“No! no!” screamed the cook. “How you can come to my house if I am
married? This only my—my—”

“Fiancée,” said Nehmé.

“Or sweetheart,” said Shukry.

“Aah!” muttered Elias, “I know the word ‘sweetheart.’ But I don’t like.
How you call a woman _sweet_? Every woman bad, and if she live in
Palestine or America, she cannot be trust”; and Nehmé and Shukry, in all
the wisdom of seventeen years, nodded solemnly in approval.

“But _your_ fiancée—” I began.

“All the same,” said the cook, “but every man shall get married—Look
out, sir, you are cutting your moustaches!”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Aah!” shrieked the cook, as I scraped my upper lip clean, “why
faranchees make that? So soon I my moustaches would shave, so soon would
I cut my neck.”

There is a road that, beginning down by Mary’s Well and winding its way
out of the Nazarene arena, leads to Cana and the Sea of Galilee. Nehmé
and Shukry, however, true sons of Palestine, utterly ignored the highway
when they set out next morning to accompany me to the first village.
From the Kawar home they struck off through the village and traversed
Nazareth as the crow flies, with total disregard of the trend of the
streets. Down through the market, dodging into tiny alleys, under
vaulted passageways, through spaces where we were obliged to walk
sidewise, they led the way. Where a shop intervened, they marched boldly
through it, stepping over the merchandise and even over the squatting
keeper, who returned their “good morning” without losing a puff at his
narghileh. With never a moment of hesitation in the labyrinth of bazaars
nor among the dwellings above, they stalked straight up the slope of
Jebel es Sihk, by trails at times almost perpendicular, and out upon a
well-marked path that led over the brow of the hill.

At the summit they paused. To the north rose the snow-capped peak of Mt.
Hermon. Between the hills, to the west, peeped the sparkling
Mediterranean. Eastward, unbroken as far as the eye could see in either
direction, stretched the mighty wall of the trans-Jordan range. The view
embraced a dozen villages, tucked away in narrow ravines, clinging to
steep slopes, or lying prone on sharp ridges like broken-backed
creatures. Shukry’s enumeration savored of Biblical lore. There was
Raineh, down in the throat of the valley; further on Jotapta and Ruman;
across the gorge Sufurieh, the home of fanatical rascals among whom
Christians are outlaws. Every hamlet has a character of its own in
Palestine. The inhabitants of one may be honest, industrious, kindly
disposed towards any advance of civilization; while another, five miles
distant, boasts a population of the worst scoundrels unhung, bigoted,
clannish, and sworn enemies to every fellow-being who has not had the
good fortune to be born in their enlightened midst. This diversity of
characteristics, so marked that a man from across the valley is styled
“foreigner,” makes resistance to the Turk impossible and breeds a deadly
hatred that raises even to-day that sneering question, “Can any good
thing come out of Nazareth?”

The teachers took their leave in Raineh. Beyond Cana, perched on a
gentle rise of ground among flourishing groves of pomegranates, the
highway wavered and was lost in the mire. I set my own course across a
half-inundated plain. Late in the afternoon the Horns of Hutin, adorned
by a solitary shepherd whose flock grazed where once the multitude
listened to the Sermon on the Mount, rose up to assure me that I had not
gone astray, and an hour later the ground dropped suddenly away beneath
my feet and the end of my pilgrimage lay before me. Near seven hundred
feet below sea level, in a hollow of the earth dug by some gigantic
spade, glimmered the blue Sea of Galilee, already in deep shadow, though
the sunshine still flooded the plain behind me. I stepped over the edge
of the precipice and, slipping, stumbling from rock to rock, steering
myself by clutching at bush and boulder, fell headlong down into the
city of Tiberias.

A city of refuge in ancient times, Tiberias is to-day one of the few
towns of Palestine in which the Jewish population preponderates. It is a
human cesspool. Greasy-locked males squat in the doorways of its
wretched hovels; hideous females, dressed in an open jacket stiff with
filth, which discloses to the public gaze their withered, bag-like
breasts and their bloated abdomens, wallow through the sewerage of the
streets in company with foul brats infected with every unclean disease
from scurvy to leprosy. Dozens of idiots, the hair eaten off their
heads, and their bodies covered with running sores, roam at large and
quarrel with mongrel curs over the refuse. For these are the “men
possessed of devils,” privileged members of society in all the Orient.
An Arab proverb asserts that the king of fleas holds his court in
Tiberias. To be king of all the fleas that dwell in Palestine is a
position of far greater importance than to be czar of all the Russias;
and it is strange that His Nimble Majesty has not long ago chosen a
capital in which it would not be necessary to disinfect his palace

The home of Michael Yakoumy, from the windows of which stretched an
unobstructed view of the sea from the sortie of the Jordan to the site
of Capernaum, was a model of cleanliness. Here, in this wretched hamlet,
that whole-hearted descendant of Greek immigrants toils year after year
at a ludicrous wage, striving to instill some knowledge and right living
into the children of the surrounding rabble. He was, all unknowingly, a
true disciple of the “simple life” in its best sense, displaying the
interest of a child in the commonplace occurrences of the daily round,
not entirely ignorant of, but wholly unenvious of the big things of the
world outside.

I attended the opening of his school next morning and then turned back
towards Nazareth. At the foot of the precipitous slope a storm broke and
the combination of water and jagged rocks wrought disaster to my
worn-out shoes. When I reached sea level they were succumbing to a rapid
disintegration. In the first half-mile across the plain the heels, the
soles, the uppers, the very laces, dropped bit by bit along the way. For
a time the cakes of mud that clung to my socks protected my feet, but
the socks, too, wore away and left me to plod on barefooted over the
jagged stones of the field.

Long before I had reached the mountainous tract about Cana, I was
suffering from a dozen cuts and stone-bruises; and the journey beyond
must have appealed to a Hindu ascetic as a penance by which to win
unlimited merit. As for Cana, it will always be associated in my mind
with that breed of human who finds his pleasure in bear-baiting and
cock-fighting. For, as I attempted to climb into the village market, my
feet refused to cling to the slimy hillside and I skidded and sprawled
into a slough at the bottom, amid shrieks of derisive laughter from a
group of villagers above.

By the time I reached Raineh it was as dark as a pocket, and the path
over the Jebel was out of the question. The winding highway pursued its
leisurely course and led me into Nazareth at an hour when every shop was
closed. For some time I could not orientate myself and wandered
shivering through the silent bazaars, the cold, dank stones underfoot
sending through me a thrill of helplessness such as Anteus must have
felt when lifted off the strength-giving earth. Then a familiar corner
gave me my bearings, and I hobbled away to the home of Elias.

The village shoemaker, being summoned next morning, appeared with
several pairs of Nazarene slippers, heelless and thin as Indian
moccasins; again shod, I set out with the teachers for the home of
Shukry. It was a simple dwelling of the better class, halfway up the
slope of Jebel es Sihk, and from its roof spread out the bowl-shaped
village at our feet, Mt. Tabor, and the lesser peaks away in the
distance. The recent death of his father had left the youth to rule over
the household. In all but years he was a mature man, boasting already a
bristling moustache, for humans ripen early in the East.

It was January seventh according to our calendar, or Christmas Day
according to the Russian, a time of festival among the Greek churchmen
and of ceremonial visits among all Christians. Our shoes off, we were
sitting on a divan when the guests began to appear. Each arrival—all
men, of course, though Shukry’s mother hovered in the far background—was
greeted by the head of the family standing erect in the center of the
room. There was no hand-shaking, but a low kow-tow by guest and host and
a carelessly mumbled greeting. Then the visitor slid out of his
slippers, squatted on the capacious divan, and, when all were firmly
seated, the salutation “naharak saeed” was exchanged, this time being
clearly enunciated. If the newcomer was a priest, Shukry’s small brother
slid forward to kiss his hand and retired again into an obscure corner.
These formalities over, the guest, priest or layman, was served
cigarettes and a tiny cup of coffee. Frankness is the key to the Arab
character. The hypocritical smirks of our own social gatherings are not
required of the Nazarene who lays claim to good breeding. If the visitor
was a friend or fellow-churchman of his host an animated conversation
broke out and, interrupted at brief intervals by new arrivals, raged
long and vociferously. Those who professed a different faith—the Greek
priests especially—sipped their coffee in absolute silence, puffed at a
cigarette, and, with another “naharak saeed,” glided into their slippers
and departed.

Later in the day I made, with my host, the round of the Christian
families, deafened with questions in Protestant homes, suffered to sit
in painful silence in Greek dwellings, and undermining my constitution
with every known brand of cigarette. Our course ended at the Kawar home.
The former mayor, dressed in latest faranchee garb, with a vast expanse
of white vest, sat cross-legged in his white stocking-feet, a fez
perched on his head. The conversation soon turned to things American.

“Many years ago,” translated the eldest son, on behalf of his father, “I
began to wonder why, by the beard of the prophet, faranchees come from a
great, rich country like America to travel in a miserable land like

A long dissertation on the joys and advantages of globe-trotting drew
from the former sheik only an exclamation of “M’abaraf!” (I don’t

“An American who was in Nazareth long ago,” he went on, by mouth of
offspring, “told me a strange story. I did not believe him, for it
cannot be true. He said that in America people _buy_ dogs!” and the mere
suggestion of so ludicrous a transaction sent the assembled group into
paroxysms of laughter.

“They _do_,” I replied.

The pompous ex-mayor fell into such convulsions of merriment that his
rotund face grew the color of burnished copper.

“BUY dogs?” roared his sons, in a chorus of several languages. “But what

Never having settled that question entirely to my own satisfaction, I
parried it with another: “How do _you_ get a dog if you want one?”

“W—w—w—why,” answered the eldest son, wiping the tears from his eyes,
“if anyone _wants_ a dog he tells someone else and they give him one;
but who ever WANTS a dog?”

Once the guest of the better-class Arab, the traveler is almost certain
to be relayed from one city to another through an endless chain of the
friends of his original host. I had announced my intention of leaving
Nazareth in the morning. The ex-mayor, after attempting to frighten me
out of my project by the usual bear-stories, wrote me four letters of

“Without these letters,” he explained, “you would not dare stay in
Gineen or Nablous, for my friends are the only Christians and those are
very bad towns. My friends in Jerusalem and Jaffa—if you ever get there
alive—may be able to help you find work.”

                              CHAPTER VIII
                         THE WILDS OF PALESTINE

The sun, rising red and clear next morning, put to rout even the
protests of Nehmé and Shukry against my departure on Sunday. Elias
sorrowfully said farewell at the mission gate. The teachers, carrying
between them a package at which they cast mysterious glances now and
then, conducted me to the foot of the Nazarene range. Pointing out a
guiding mountain peak that rose above Gineen, far across the trackless
plain of Esdraelon, they bade me good-by almost tearfully, thrust the
package into my hands, and turned back up the mountain pass. Half
certain of what the bundle contained, I did not open it until noonday
overtook me, well out on the plain. Inside was a goodly supply of
gkebis, oranges, native cheeses, and black olives; and at the bottom, a
bundle of home-made cigarettes, and a package of “arabee,” with a book
of papers.

Late afternoon brought me to the edge of Esdraelon. A veritable garden
spot, covered with graceful palms and waving pomegranates and perfumed
with the fragrance of orange and lemon groves, covered the lower slope
of the peak that had been my phare. Back of the garden stood the
fanatical town of Gineen. The appearance of a defenseless unbeliever in
their midst aroused its inhabitants to scowls and curses, and a few
stones from a group of youngsters at a corner of the bazaar rattled in
the streets behind me. My letter was addressed in native script. The
squatting shopkeeper to whom I displayed it attempted to scowl me out of
countenance, then, recalling his duty of hospitality towards whoever
should enter his dwelling, called a passing urchin and, mumbling a few
words to him, bade me follow. The urchin mounted the sloping
market-place, made several unexpected turnings, and, pointing out a
large house surrounded by a forbidding stone wall, scampered away like
one accustomed to take no chances of future damnation by lingering at
the entrance to a Christian hotbed.

I clanged the heavy knocker until the sound echoed up and down the
adjoining streets, and, receiving no response, sat down on the curb. A
well-dressed native wandered by and I displayed the letter. He glared at
it, muttered “etnashar săă” (twelve o’clock, i. e., nightfall by Arabic
reckoning) and continued his way. From time to time visitors paused at
neighboring gates or house doors and, standing in the center of the
street, lifted up their voices in mournful wails that endured long
enough to have given the wailer’s pedigree from the time of Noah; and
were finally admitted. Beggars made the rounds, wailing longer and more
mournfully than the others, seldom ceasing until a few bread-sheets or
coppers were tossed out to them. Bands of females, whose veils may have
covered great beauty or the hideous visages of hags, drew up in a circle
round me now and then to discuss my personal attractions, and to fill me
with the creepy feeling one might experience at a visit of the White
Caps or the Klu-Klux Klan.

Full two hours I had squatted against the wall when an old man, in
European garb, slowly ascended the street, mumbling to himself as he ran
through his fingers a string of yellow beads. He paused at the gate and
pulled out a key. I sprang to my feet and handed him the letter. He read
it with something of a scowl and, motioning to me to wait, went inside.
A long delay followed. At last the gate groaned and gave exit to the
ugliest creature in the Arab world. He was a youth of about twenty, as
long as a day without bread, and too thin to deflect a ray of light. His
shoulders were bowed until his head stuck out at right angles to his
body; his long, yellow teeth protruded from his lips; in his one eye was
the gleam of the rascal; and his very attitude stamped him as one who
hated faranchees with a deadly hatred. Around his lank form hung a
half-dozen long, flowing garments as from a hat-rack, and on his head
was the coiffure of the Bedouin.

I caught enough of his snarling harangue to know that he was a family
domestic ordered to conduct me to the servants’ quarters. On the
opposite side of the long street he unlocked a battered door, and
admitted me to a hovel furnished with a moth-eaten divan and a pan of
dead coals. A dapper young native entered soon after and addressed me in
fluent French.

“My family is in a sad situation,” he explained; “we are friends of the
Kawar and so always the friends of his friends. But we are the only
Christians in Gineen and so we can only give you servant quarters.” His
train of reasoning was not particularly clear. “But you must not stay in
Gineen to-night. If you wait until to-morrow, you must go on alone and
in the mountains are Bedouins who every day catch travelers, and fill
their eyes and mouths and noses with sand, and drag them around by a
rope, and cut them up in small pieces, and scatter them all around! You
must go to-night, with the mail-train. Then you will be safe.”

“I’ve tramped all day,” I protested; “I’ll find lodgings in the town if
I am inconveniencing your family.”

“Mon Dieu!” shrieked the young man; “there you would be cut to pieces in
an hour! Gineen hates Christians. If you stop here, they will beat my

His distress, real or feigned, was so acute that I assented at last to
his plan. He ordered the misshapen servant to bring me supper, and

The living caricature followed his master and returned with a bowl of
lentils and several “side dishes.” With him appeared two companions,
almost as unprepossessing of mien as himself; and he had no sooner
placed the food on the floor than all three squatted around it and,
clawing with both hands, made way with the meal so rapidly that I had
barely time to snatch a few mouthfuls. When the last scrap had
disappeared, the newcomers fell to licking out the bowls. The elongated
servant set up the wailing monotony that is the Arabic notion of a song,
and, swaying back and forth and thrusting out his misplaced fangs in a
fixed leer, he continued for an unbroken two hours a performance which
the roars of mirth from his mates proved was no compliment to

Towards nine in the evening he turned his fellow-rascals into the
street, and motioning to me to take up my knapsack, dived out into the
night. By good fortune I managed to keep at his heels without splitting
my head on the huts among which he dodged and doubled in an effort to
shake me off before we arrived at the mail-train khan. The keeper was a
bitter enemy of unbelievers and admitted me only under protest, and with
a steady flow of vile oaths that was unchecked as long as I remained in
the building. My guide deposited his cadaverous frame on a heap of chaff
and took up his song of derision and his leering where he had left off.

At the appearance of the mail train the song ceased, and the singer,
having briefly stated the desire of his master, disappeared. The snarls
of the servant and the khan-keeper had been friendly greetings compared
with those of the three drivers of the mail train. To all appearances
they were more to be feared than capture by sand-stuffing Bedouins; but
my sponsor was a man of higher caste than mere muleteers and would
surely in some degree hold them responsible for my safe arrival—so it
seemed—and I determined to stick to the plan. Of the four mules that
made up the train, one was saddled with the mail-sacks and, at a signal
from the leader, the driver sprang astride the others. The khan door
opened, letting in a cutting draught of January air, and I followed the
party outside, fully expecting to be offered a mount. The train,
however, kept steadily on. The hindmost Arab signed to me to grasp the
crupper of his mule; then he cut the animal across the flanks perilously
near my fingers. Only then did the truth burst upon me. Instead of
letting me ride, as certainly the Christian had expected them to do, the
rascals had taken this golden opportunity to reverse the usual order of
things Oriental. The true believers would serenely bestride their
animals and the faranchee might trot behind like a Damascus donkey-boy.
I fancied I heard several chuckles of delight, half-smothered in blatant

The night was as black as a Port Saïd coaling nigger. In the first few
rods I lost my footing more than once and barked my shins on a dozen
boulders. The practical joke of the Arabs, however, was not ended. Once
far enough from the khan to make a return difficult, the leader shouted
an order, the three struck viciously at their animals, and with a rattle
of small stones against the boulders away went the party at full gallop.
I lost my grip on the crupper, broke into a run in an attempt to keep
the pace, slipped and slid on the stones, struck a slope that I had not
made out in the darkness, and stumbling halfway up it on my hands and
knees, sprawled at full length over a boulder.

I sat up and listened until the tinkle of the pack-mule’s bell died away
on the night air; then rose to grope my way back to the khan. It was
closed and locked. By some rare fortune I found my way to the street in
which the Christian lived and pushed open the door of the hovel. The
room was unoccupied, though the lighted wick of a tallow lamp showed
that the servant had returned. I spread out three of the four blankets
folded away on the divan and lay down. A moment later the walking
mizzenmast entered, leaped sidewise as though he saw the ghost of a
forgotten victim, and spreading the remaining blanket in the most
distant corner, curled up with all his multifarious garb upon him. I
rose to blow out the light, but the Arab set up a howl of abject terror
that might have been heard on the northern wall of Esdraelon, and I

The route between Gineen and Nablous was in strange contrast to that of
the day before, much like a sudden transition from Holland to an
uncivilized Tyrol. Directly back of the fanatical town lay range after
range of rocky peaks, half covered with tangled forests of oak and
terebinth. A pathway there was, but it indicated little travel, and
broke up now and then into forking trails from which I could only choose
at random. Against a mountain side, here and there clung a black-hide
village of roving Bedouins. These were the tribes which, if rumor was to
be believed, busied themselves with corralling lone Christians and
scattering their remains among the wooded valleys. To-day, however, they
were engaged in a no more awful vocation than the tending of a few
decimated flocks of fat-tailed sheep.

Late in the morning I came in sight of the mud village of Dothan. A
well-marked path marched boldly up to the first hovel, ran close along
its wall, swung round behind the building, and ended. It neither broke
up into small paths nor led to an opening in the earth; it merely
vanished into thin air as if the hovel were the station of some aërial
line. A score of giant mongrels, coming down upon me from the hill
above, gave me little time for reflection. Luckily—for my clothing, at
least—there lay within reach a long-handled kettle such as natives use
in boiling lentils; and half the mangy population of the village,
tumbling down the slope to gaze upon the unprecedented sight of a lone
faranchee in their midst, beheld him laying about him right merrily. Not
one of the villagers made the least attempt to call off the curs. It was
the usual Arab case of every man’s dog no man’s dog.

The village above was a crowded collection of dwellings of the same
design as those of the Esquimaux, with mud substituted for snow, perched
on a succession of rock ledges that rose one above the other. The human
mongrels inside them answered my inquiries with snarls and curses, one
old hag exerting herself to the extent of rising to spit at me through
her toothless gums. Wherever a narrow passageway gave suggestion of a
trail I scrambled up the jagged faces of the rock ledges in an effort to
find the route. As well might a landlubber have attempted to pick out
the fore-royal halyards. Regularly I brought up in back yards where
several human kennels choked the ground with their sewerage and the air
with their smoke, and the reward of every scramble was several gashes in
my hands and volleys of curses from the disturbed householders.

I caught sight at length of a peasant astride an ass, tacking back and
forth through the town, but mounting steadily higher. Shadowing him, I
came out upon an uninhabited ledge above. The precipitous path beyond
was but a forerunner of the entire day’s journey. Over the range I
overtook the peasant, and not far beyond a horseman burst out of a
tributary cut and joined us. The peasant carried a cudgel and a long,
blunt knife, and seemed quite anxious to keep both in a position that
would attract attention. The horseman, in half-civilian, half-military
trappings, carried two pistols and a dagger in his belt, a sword at his
side, and a long, slim gun across his shoulders. The countryman offered
me a mount, but, as his beast was scarcely my equal in weight, I
contented myself with trudging at the heels of the animals.

About noon, in a narrow plateau, we came upon an open well from which a
party of Bedouins, that I should not have chosen to meet alone,
scattered at sight of the officer. My companions tethered their animals
on the lip of grass and drew out their dinners. The officer knelt beside
the well with a pot; but the water was out of reach of his corpulent and
much-garbed form, and the peasant being of the Tom Thumb variety, I won
the eloquent gratitude of both by coming to the rescue. Vainly I
struggled to do away with the food that was thrust upon me from either
side. The officer was, evidently, a man of wide experience and
savoir-faire. Not only did he display no great astonishment at the
faranchee manner of eating, but he owned a mysterious machine that
filled the peasant with speechless awe. The mystery was none other than
an alcohol lamp! Not until the coffee was prepared could the countryman
be enticed within ten feet of it. But once having summoned up courage to
touch the apparatus, he fell upon it like a child upon a mechanical toy
and examined its inner workings so thoroughly that the officer spent a
half-hour in fitting it together again.

During the afternoon the peasant turned aside to his village, and not
far beyond, the horseman lost his way. I could not but speculate on the
small chance I should have had alone on a route which eluded a native
well acquainted with the country. We had followed for some distance a
wild gorge which, ending abruptly, offered us on one side an impassable
jungle of rocks and trees, and on the other a precipitous slope covered
for hundreds of feet above with loose shale and rubble. The officer
dismounted and squatted contentedly on his haunches. In the course of an
hour, during which my companion had not once moved except to roll
several cigarettes, a bedraggled _fellah_ approached and replied to the
officer’s question by pointing up the unwooded slope. Three times the
horse essayed the climb, only to slide helplessly to the bottom. The
Arab handed me his gun and, dismounting, sought to lead the steed up the
slope by tacking back and forth across it. Several times the animal fell
on its haunches and tobogganed down the hill, dragging the cavalryman
after him. The gun soon weighed me down like a cannon; but we reached
the summit at last, and were glad to stretch ourselves out on the solid
rock surface of the wind-swept peak.

The officer spread out food between us. To the southward lay a panorama
that rivaled the prospect from the summit of Jebel es Sihk. Two ranges
of haggard mountains, every broken peak as distinct in individuality as
though each were fearful of being charged with imitation of its fellows,
raced side by side to the southeast. Between them lay a wild tangle of
rocks and small forests through which a swift stream fought its way,
deflected far to the southward in its struggle towards the Mediterranean
by the rounded base of the mountain beneath us. Over all the scene
hovered utter desolation and solitude, as of an undiscovered world
innumerable leagues distant from any human habitation.

For an hour we followed the trend of the stream far below, rounding
several peaks and gradually descending. The path became a bit more
distinct; but our surroundings lost none of their savage aspect, and as
far as the eye could see appeared neither man, beast, nor fowl. Suddenly
the cavalryman, rounding a jutting boulder before me, reined in his
horse with an excited jerk, and, grasping his sword, pointed with the
scabbard across the valley. “Nablous!” he shouted. I hastened to his
side. On a small plateau far below us, and moated by the rushing stream,
in a setting of haggard wilderness, stood a city, a real city, with
street after street of closely packed stone buildings of very modern
architecture. Like a regiment drawn up in close ranks, the houses
presented on four sides an unwavering line; inside there was not an open
space, outside hardly a shepherd’s shelter.

We wound down the mountain path to an ancient stone bridge that led
directly into the city. A squad of those ragged, half-starved soldiers
indigenous to the Turkish empire would have stopped me at the gate but
for my companion, who, with a wave of the hand, drove them off. Without
prelude we plunged into the seething life of the bazaars. The streets
were as narrow, as intricate, and as numerous as those of Damascus; but
their novelty lay in the fact that they were nearly everywhere vaulted
over, and one had the sensation of strolling through a crowded subway
from which rails and cars were lacking. The shoes of the horse rang
sharp and metallic against the cobblestones as the animal plowed his way
through the jabbering multitude, and by keeping close at his heels, I
escaped the returning waves of humanity that rebounded from the unbroken
line of shops on either side of the narrow passages to fill our wake.
The cavalryman dismounted before a shop that minutely resembled its
neighbors, handed the reins to a keeper who advanced to meet him, and
urgently invited me to spend the night in the inn above. My Nazarene
friends, however, had intrusted me with personal epistles, which I felt
in duty bound to deliver.

The addressee was one Iskander Saaba, a Nazarene school teacher. His
house was not nearly so easily found as the proof that the inhabitants
of Nablous were fanatical, unreasonable haters of Christians. In the
cities of Asia Minor the streets are neither named nor the houses
numbered. Mr. Smith, you learn, lives near the house of Mr. Jones. If
you pursue the investigation further you may gather the information that
Mr. Jones lives not far from the house of Mr. Smith, and all the raving
of western impatience will not gain you more. A few yards from the inn a
water carrier and a baker’s boy struck me simultaneously in the ribs
with their respective burdens. A wayward donkey, bestrided by a leering
wretch, ran me down. A tradesman carrying a heavy beam turned a corner
just in time to give me a distinct view of a starry firmament in a
vaulted passageway. These things, of course, were purely accidental. But
when three stout rascals grasped the knapsack across my shoulders and
clung to it until I had kicked one of them into a neighboring shop, and
a corner street vendor went out of his way to step on my heels, I could
not so readily excuse them. As long as I remained in the teeming bazaars
these sneaking injuries continued. Wherever I stopped a crowd quickly
gathered and showed their enmity openly by jostling against me, by
reviling the whole faranchee race, and even by spitting on my nether

In a residential district my inquiries were answered at last, and I was
soon welcomed with true Arabian hospitality by Iskander Saaba. A most
pleasant evening I spent in the dwelling of the youthful teacher, a cosy
house adjoining the mission school, the windows of which looked down on
the roaring river far beneath. The family and a white-haired native,
whom Saaba introduced as “my assistance in the school,” plied me with
questions ranging from the age of my grandfather to the income of my
various cousins, and gasped when I pleaded ignorance. But these things
were but harmless examples of the frankness of the Arab, at which only
an underfed mortal could have taken offense.

A steady rain was falling next morning and my host awoke me with the old
saw—“To-morrow is just as good a day as to-day.” When I had convinced
him that this was not an Occidental proverb, he set out to pilot me
through the city. On the way he paused often to purchase food or
tobacco, with which he stuffed my knapsack in spite of my protests,
answering always: “It is far to Jerusalem, and some day I will come to
America.” All in all, he did not spend twenty-five cents; but I was well
nigh staggering under my load when I took leave of him at the southern
gate of the city and struck off across the oblong plateau shielded by
Mt. Ebal and Mt Gerizim. Since the day when it was called Shechem, a
city of refuge, Nablous has carried on much traffic with Jerusalem, and
in recent years the pusillanimous Turk has set himself to the task of
building a connecting highway. The section beyond the southern gate
promised well; but in this rainy season it was a river of mud which
clung to my shoes in great cakes and made progress more difficult than
in the trackless mountains to the north.

The highway ended abruptly at noonday, as I had been warned it would.
“It is all complete,” Shukry had said, “except over the mountain, the
highest mountain in Palestine, and over that it runs not.” The barrier
must, indeed, have been a problem to the engineers, for it towered
hundreds of feet above, as nearly perpendicular as nature is wont to
construct her works. Diagonally up the face of the cliff a path was cut,
but no spiral stairway, compressed within a slender tower, ever offered
more difficult ascent. At the summit I came again upon the road, as
wide, as finely ballasted, as well engineered, as the most exacting
traveler could have demanded; yet, as it stood, utterly useless. It had
been built that carriages might pass from Nablous to the Holy City; but
no wheeled vehicle in existence could have been dragged up that
wall-like hillside; and the sure-footed ass, who still carries on the
traffic between the two cities, would make the journey exactly as well
had the highway never been proposed. One could read in that road the
character of the power that holds Palestine, and fancy its builders,
like the highway, wandering irresolutely from east to west and west to
east, and halting at the highest point to peer helplessly over the dizzy
edge upon the section below.

Long after nightfall I stumbled upon an isolated shop, occupied by the
keeper and an errant salesman of tobacco. The building was no more than
a wooden frame covered over with sheet iron; and the rain, that began
soon after I turned in with the drummer on one of the shelves that
served as bunks, thundered on the roof through the night and made sleep
as impossible as inside the bass drum at a Wagnerian performance. In the
morning, a deluge more violent than I had ever known, held us prisoners;
and, the weather being bitterly cold, I kept to my shelf and listened to
the roaring of the tin shack through the longest day that ever rained
and blew itself into the past tense.

The storm had abated somewhat when I set out again on the following day.
One stone village broke the dreary prospect; the ancient Bethel, beyond
the sharp hills of which the highway side-stepped to the eastward. The
rain of the preceding days had, no doubt, left the peculiar atmosphere
of Palestine unusually humid. In no other way can I account for the
strange vision that appeared late in the morning. The hills ahead were
somewhat indistinct, in the valleys lay a thick, gray mist, while
overhead, the sky was dull and leaden. Before me, well above the
horizon, hung a long dark cloud which, as I looked, took on gradually
the faint shape of a distant line of buildings. It could have been no
more than a mirage, for beneath it was a considerable strip of sky; yet
it grew plainer and plainer until there rode in the heavens, like the
army in that weird painting of the soldier’s dream, a dull, gray city, a
long city, bounded at one end by a great tower, at the other shading off
into nothing. Then suddenly it vanished. Black clouds, hurrying westward
from across Jordan, wiped out the vision as one erases a lightly
penciled line. Yet the image was Jerusalem. Miles beyond, the fog lifted
and showed the city plainly, and it was that same long city bounded on
the eastward by a great tower, but with solid footing now on a dull,
drear hill that sloped to the west. The highway led downward across
bleak fields, past the reputed Tombs of the Kings and Judges, to-day the
refuges of shivering shepherd boys, and through the Damascus gate into
the crowded bazaars of the Holy City.

[Illustration: The shopkeeper and the traveling salesman with whom I
spent two nights and a day on the lonely road to Jerusalem. Arabs are
very sensitive to cold, except on their feet and ankles]

[Illustration: A high official of Mohammedanism. It being against the
teachings of the Koran to have one’s picture taken, master and servant
turn away their faces]

A howling horde swept me away through markets infinitely dirtier and far
less picturesque than those of Damascus, up and down slimy stone steps,
jostling, pushing, trampling upon me at every turn, not maliciously, but
from mere indifference to such familiar beings as faranchees. At the end
of a reeking street I turned for refuge to an open doorway, through
which I had caught a glimpse of a long greensward and a great mosque
with superbly graceful dome. A shout rose from a rabble of men and boys
at one side of the square. In Damascus, such demonstrations, bursting
forth each time I entered a mosque enclosure, had soon subsided. So I
marched on with an air of indifference. The shouts redoubled. Men and
youths came down upon me from every direction, howling like demons, and
discharging a volley of stones, some of which struck me in the legs,
while others whistled ominously near my head. I beat a hasty retreat.
Not until later in the day did I know the reason for my expulsion. I had
trespassed on the sacred precincts of the mosque of Omar on the summit
of Mt. Moriah, where no unbeliever may enter without an escort of bribed

A second attempt to escape the throng led me down more slimy steps and
along a narrow alley to a towering stone wall, where Hebrews, rich and
poor, filthy and bediamonded, alternately kissed and beat with their
fists the great beveled blocks of stone, shrieking and moaning, with
tears streaming down their cheeks. It needed no inquiry to tell me that
I had fallen upon the “Jews’ Wailing-Place.”

Random wandering brought me at noonday into the European section about
David street. Light as had been my expenditures in Palestine, my
fortunes had fallen. A sum barely equal to forty cents jingled in my
pockets. It was high time to seek employment. With this end in view, I
sought out the addressee of my letter. Unfortunately, his influence was
not far-reaching in the city, for he was a mere man-of-all-work in a
mission school outside its walls.

“But it is all right,” he cried; “if you are an American, I will take
you to ‘the Americans.’”

“The Americans” proved to be a community of my countrymen of Quaker
ancestry, who dwelt in a great modern building to the northwest of the
city. The errand boy introduced me into the inner courtyard, thickly
planted in orange and lemon trees, and a self-appointed committee
invited me in to supper. It seemed almost a new experience to sit again
at a white-decked table, partaking of such familiar dishes as roast pork
and rice pudding, with men and women of my own land chatting on every
side. An aged native of Pennsylvania, for no better reason, apparently,
than that he had crossed the Atlantic forty years before on the ship
that had brought me to Glasgow, espoused my cause and set himself to the
task of supplying me with employment, and of getting me to heaven as
well. The meal over, the colony adjourned to the parlor on the second
floor for a short religious meeting, and then spent the evening in mild
merry-making. Several visitors dropped in, among them two natives in
faultless evening attire, a disconcerting contrast to my own, but still
wearing their fezes. My sponsor announced one as the Superintendent of
Public Instruction and the other as the Chief of Police. Though they did
not speak English, neither would have been out of place in the most
accomplished society.

“These men,” said the Pennsylvanian, “are Mohammedans, and each has
several wives. Yet for years they have been welcome guests here, for
according to their code of morals they are very moral men. The
Superintendent, there, is a famous singer.” He was even then beginning a
duet with one of the young ladies at the piano, and that with the clear
tone of a man who sait faire.

“The Chief of Police has been rather roughly used?” I suggested. Across
his left cheek was a great scar and his left eye was missing.

“Every Christian,” said the man beside me, “should blush with shame at
sight of that scar. Each year, as you know, the Christian pilgrims to
Jerusalem celebrate feasts and festivals in the churches here, and for
years clashes and free fights have frequently broken out between
followers of rival creeds. For that reason the Turks have found it
necessary to establish a guard in every general Christian edifice. Two
years ago, at the Feast of the Assumption in the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre, the Greek and Armenian pilgrims, in spite of the guards, fell
upon each other. The Chief, there, a man of very peaceful and kindly
temperament, went among the combatants and spoke to them through an
interpreter. Instead of dispersing, the frenzied pilgrims swept down
upon this whole-hearted Mohammedan, and some good Christian, of one side
or the other, slashed him across the cheek with a heavy knife and gouged
out his eye. They tell us, you know, over in America that Mohammedans
are savages and Christians are civilized. I, too, used to think that;
but I have lived a long time in Jerusalem now.”

Several members of the community, in business in David street, promised
to find me work. A round among them in the morning, however, brought
only reiterated promises, and I wandered away through the city. Scores
of Christian pilgrims were engaged in a similar occupation, and my
weather-beaten and bedraggled appearance led more than one of these
devout nomads to accost me. I soon fell in with an Italian who had spent
nearly two years in making his way from his home in Urbino to carry out
a vow made in an hour of distress.

“Why do you not go to a hospice?” he asked, when he had learned my
situation. “I have been in one for three weeks and get both food and
bed. There is the Russian, the Greek, the Armenian, the Coptic, the
Italian, the French—”

“But no American?” I put in, less eager for charity than for a glimpse
of the life within these institutions.

“N—no,” admitted the pilgrim; “no American—but I’ll tell you! Go to the
French hospice. Archbishop Ireland of America is there this week and—”

“Where is it?” I asked.

The pilgrim led the way through several narrow, uneven streets and
pointed out a time-blackened door. A French servant met me in the
anteroom and listened to my request.

“Are you a Catholic?” he demanded.

“No,” I answered.

“Wait,” he murmured.

A few moments later he returned with the information that “the reverend
father could admit only those of the faith.” “You must look to the
Protestants,” he concluded.

“But I believe there are no Protestant hospices here?” I suggested.

“Ah! It is true,” cried the servant, waving his hands above his head,
“but tant pis! You should be a Catholic and all would be well.”

I turned away to the American consulate. If there was work to be had by
faranchees in the city, the consul, surely, should know of it. I fought
my way through a leering throng of doorkeepers and _kawasses_ into the
outer office. While I waited for an interview the population of our land
increased. A greasy, groveling Jew, of the laboring classes, the
love-locks at his temples untrimmed and unperfumed, pushed timidly at
the swinging door several times, entered, and bowed and scraped before
the native secretary to attract his attention.

“Gonsul,” he wheezed, holding out his naturalization papers, “Gonsul, I
vant rregister my vife; she got boy.”

The secretary glanced at the papers and duly enrolled the new arrival as
an American citizen, with all the immunities and privileges thereunto

A moment later I was admitted to the inner office. The kindly,
white-haired consul asked for a detailed account of my journey in

“I am often much exercised,” he said, when I had finished; “I am often
much incensed that, with all the hospices for every other brand of
Christian, there are no accommodations in Jerusalem for American
pilgrims. It seems like cruel discrimination—”

“But I am scarcely a pilgrim,” I suggested.

“Yes, you are! Yes, you are!” cried the consul; “But never mind. I shall
give you a note to the Jewish hotel across the way and you may pay the
bill when you earn the money. For ‘the Americans’ will find you work,
you may be sure. See me again before you leave the city.”

I mounted an outdoor stairway on the opposite side of David street to a
very passable hostelry. The window of the room assigned me offered a
far-reaching view. Directly below, walled by the backs of adjoining
shops, stenched the ancient pool of Hezekiah. To the north, east, and
south spread a jumble of small buildings, their dome-shaped roofs of mud
or stone thrown into contrast by a few houses covered with red tiles,
the general level broken by several minarets and the architectural
hotch-potch of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. At the further edge of
the city, yet so near as to be as plainly visible from base to dome as
in the compound itself, stood the beautiful mosque of Omar. From the
valley of Jehoshaphat beneath rose the Mount of Olives; the
stone-terraced Garden of Gethsemane of the lower slope backed by a
forest of olive trees; the summit crowned by the three-storied tower on
the “Russian Calvary.” Beyond, a desolation of rolling hills stretched
away to the massive wall of the mountains of Moab.

Descending to the street after dinner, I came upon the Pennsylvanian.
With him was an English resident who wished some documents turned into
French. I began on them at once and worked late into the night. In the
three days following, I interspersed my sightseeing with similar tasks.
The bazaars were half-deserted during this period; for on Friday the
Mohammedans held festival, Saturday and Sunday were respectively the
Jewish and Christian Sabbath, and the influence of each of the sects on
the other two was so marked that the entire population lost energy soon
after the middle of the week. On Saturday, the hotel guests subsisted on
the usual meals of meat, meat, meat; this time served cold, for what
orthodox Jew could bid his servants build a fire on the Sabbath? The day
grew wintry cold, however. The proprietor summoned a domestic, and,
speaking a Yiddish that closely resembled German, issued several orders,
ending with the wholly irrelevant remark, “I believe this is one of the
coldest days we have had in many a year.”

The servant scratched his moth-eaten poll, shuffled off, and returned
with a bundle of fagots that were soon crackling in the tiny sheet-iron

Sunday found me unoccupied, and, pushing through the howling chaos at
the Jaffa gate, I strolled southward along a highway, which afforded,
here and there, a glimpse of the Dead Sea. Turning off at the tomb of
Rachel, I climbed into the wind-swept village of Bethlehem.

From a cobblestone square in the center of the town, a low doorway,
flanked by blocks of unhewn stone so blackened by the none too cleanly
hands of centuries of pilgrims as to give it the appearance of a huge
rat hole, offered admittance to the Church of the Nativity. A score of
worshiping Christians gave me welcome in the grotto of the manger by
tramping on my lightly-shod toes and I quickly retreated to the
cedar-groined church above. At their altar in one section of the
transept a group of bejeweled dignitaries of the Greek church were
celebrating mass. Plainly, it was a solemn and holy occasion to the
patriarchs and their assistants. A small army of acolytes hovered round
the priests like blackbirds over an ear of corn, advancing and
retreating with great robes and surplices of rich design, each of which
served only for a kow-tow to some object of religious veneration. In the
center of the transept, a few feet away from the worshiping priests,
just where the Greek territory meets that of some other sect, stood the
Sultan’s guard. He was a typical soldier of the Porte, his uniform of
patches stretched and bagged out of all semblance to modern clothing,
his head covered with a moth-eaten fez, its tassel long since departed
and its lower edge turned from its original red to a greasy brown
through long contact with the oily scalp of its wearer. Lazily he leaned
on the muzzle of the musket under his armpit, one dusty foot resting on
the other, and gazed with an unshaven grimace, half of scorn, half of
pity, at those gullible beings who performed their amusing antics to a
false god. His relief arrived soon after. The scoffer stalked out of the
church, cast his musket on the cobblestones, and turning an ultra-solemn
face towards Mecca, stepped out of his shoes and bowed down in afternoon

From the Pools of Solomon, I returned to Jerusalem. The English resident
came next morning with another document, which I returned at noon and,
having paid my bill, presented myself at the consulate to announce my

“How much money have you?” asked the consul.

“A ten-franc piece.”

“Good! Now, my lad, take my advice. There is a steamer leaving Jaffa for
Egypt to-morrow. Take the afternoon train—ten francs will more than pay
your fare—and once in Jaffa perhaps you can get a berth on the steamer.
Ask the American consul there to give you his assistance.”

“I can save money by walking,” I ventured.

“Impossible!” cried the consul; “It’s forty miles to Jaffa; the ship
leaves at noon, and there is not another for ten days. Take the train.
You can’t walk there in time.”

Just to prove that the consul had underestimated my abilities as a
pedestrian, I spent half my wealth for a roll of films and struck out on
the highway to the coast. Long after dark I usurped lodgings in Latron,
the home of the penitent thief, and put off again before daylight, in a
pouring rain, across the marshy plain of Sharon. It was nearly noon when
I reached the port; but the sea was running mountain high and the task
of loading the steamer was proceeding slowly. A native offered to pilot
me to the dwelling of the American consul for a few coppers. Urged on by
an occasional jab in the ribs, he splashed through the streets,
ankle-deep in Jaffa soil in solution, to a large hotel that made great
effort to pose as an exclusive faranchee establishment. I dashed into
the office in a shower of mud that raised a shriek of horror from the
immaculately attired clerk, and called for the consul.

“Impossible!” cried the clerk; “The consul is at dinner.”

Two steps towards the dining-room convinced him that my business was of
pressing importance. He snatched wildly at my dripping garments and sent
a servant to make known my errand.

[Illustration: The view of Jerusalem from my window in the Jewish hotel]

[Illustration: Sellers of oranges and bread in Jerusalem. Notice
Standard Oil can]

Had the low comedian of a Broadway burlesque suddenly appeared in full
regalia amid these Oriental surroundings, I should have been far less
astonished than at the strange being who pounced down upon me. He was
tall, this American consul, tall as any man who hoped to be ranked as a
man could venture to be, spare of shank as the contortionist who drives
the envious small boy to bathe himself in angle-worm oil in the secret
recesses of the barn for the fortnight succeeding circus day—and he was
excited. Several other things he was as well—among them, a Frenchman,
and, despite his efforts, none but the words of his native tongue would
go forth from his lips—and that foreign jargon it was not my place, as a
common sailor, to understand. He stood framed in the doorway of the
dining-room—though, to be frank, the frame was a good six inches too
short, and wrinkled the picture sadly—and between whirlwind gusts of red
hot Gaelic, tore at his dancing mane.

“Sacré nom d’un chien!—to be disturbed entre le dessert et le fromage—by
a sunburned, muddy wretch—and with a knapsack!—Un misérable
court-le-monde, mille tonnerres!—Un sans-sous—and these fellows were
always after money—”

Had I been able to understand him, I might have protested. As it was,
what more could I do than try to rush a word across the track where one
train of invectives broke off and another began:—

“Say, mister, be youse the Amurican consil—?”

But the words were mercilessly ground under the wheels;—

“—And where should he get this money?—Mille diables!—Was he a
millionaire because he was consul for a few countries?—Un vagabond!—Par

“Say, mister, can’t youse talk English?”

“Anglais—angl—engl—Engleesh—certainly he could parle Engleesh!—But to
be called from dinner avant le demi-tasse—An American?—yes, yes,
oui—certainment, American consul—and to be called out—Sailor,
hein!—Aha! Quoi?—From Jerusa—Couldn’t be—no
train—hein?—walk?—diable!—non!—impossible!—Comment?—consul in
Jerusalem told—Par le barbe de—Help me?—A poor Jaffa consul with no
salary help a man sent by the Jerusalem consul who drew des millards
de francs!—le coquin—Hein?—Quoi?—My paper that?—A ragged sailor with a
letter from the Secretary of State?—Un vagabond?—coming during
dinner—Quoi?—my letter?—Quelle histoire—what a lie!—elle était
volée!—Oui—If he did his duty, he would keep it for the lawful
owner—elle était volée—still, he would—”

He certainly would, for I had already twisted it out of his hands.

“Diable!—Quoi?—Write letter to the cap!—didn’t know him!—ship’s
agent—hein? certainly—one of his best friends—write letter?—of
course—but the din—and money?—Hein?—Quoi?—dis donc!—Pas
d’argent?—no money?—vraiment!—sailor, and not want money!—Sainte
Vierge au—Note?—certainly—at once—why hadn’t I said long
ago—No!—no!—n’importe!—not the least harm done—wasn’t hungry
anyway—appetite very poor—only a note?—pas d’ar—Delighted to know
me—my letter?—certainly it was my letter—Never doubted it for a
moment—Would I take a demi-tasse?—No?—Hurry?—of course—at
once!”—and he was gone.

A moment later the clerk handed me an unfolded note and I hurried away
to the wharf, a half-mile distant. The ship still rode at anchor. I
rushed to the wicket and presented the epistle. Why had I not been
warned that Jaffa was the refuge of worn-out comic opera stars? The
agent who peered out at me wore a glass eye, a headdress of the Middle
Ages, and—by the beard of Allah!—a celluloid nose.

His face puckered up as he read the missive—all, that is, except the
nose, which preserved a noncommital serenity. “Ah!” he snored, drawing
out a ticket from the rack, “Very well! The fare is twelve francs.”

“The fare? But doesn’t the consul ask you to give me a berth as a

The noseless one pushed the note towards me. It was in French, but a
warning whistle from the harbor made me forget my ignorance of that
language. The letter was as upset in construction as the consul had been
when he noted my name. It ran:—


  The bearer, Harris Frank, is an American sailor who wishes to go to
  Egypt. Will you kindly sell him a ticket and oblige, your humble,
  etc., etc.

                                                        ____ ____,
                                              American Consular Agent.

A letter authorizing the company to sell me a ticket that it would have
been delighted to sell to any species of man or ape who had the money!
It was as valuable as a letter from the mayor of New York would be in
buying a subway ticket! I dumped my possessions recklessly on the floor
and sped away to the hotel at a pace that spilled four natives in the
mire, by actual count. The consul was as raving as before. He had just
lain down for his siesta and was convinced that I had repented my
refusal to ask for money. A few words reassured him. He fidgeted while I
explained the desired wording of the new note; and I was soon speeding
back to the owner of the junk-shop face.

He read the new communication after the leisurely way of the East, and
said:—“Well, as a sailor we can give you a ticket at half-price—six

I snatched the note out of his hand. The goblins catch that
scatter-brained consul! He had unburdened himself as follows:—


  The bearer, Frank Harris, is an American sailor without funds who
  wishes to go to Egypt. Kindly sell him a ticket as cheaply as
  possible, and oblige, etc., etc.

                                                        —— ——,
                                              American Consular Agent.

Utterly indifferent to the rain, I sat down against a pillar outside the
office. Four paltry francs rattled in my pocket. Long, penniless days on
the Jaffa beach seemed my promised lot. Stevedores were struggling to
breast the towering waves. Now and then a giant comber overturned a
laden rowboat high on the beach. Barefooted natives waded into the surf
with tourists in their arms. Each warning whistle seemed to thrust Egypt
further and further away. If only—

I felt a tap on the shoulder. A young native in the uniform of Gook and
Son was bending over me.

“Go on board anyway,” he said.

“Eh?” I cried.

“The captain is English. If you are a sailor he will give you work.”

“But I can’t get on board,” I answered.

For reply, the native pointed to the tourist-company boat, laden with
baggage and mails, at the edge of the wharf. I snatched up my knapsack
and dropped into the craft.

The steamer was weighing anchor when I scrambled up the gangway. I
fought my way through a chaos of tumbled baggage, seasick natives, and
bellowing seamen, and attempted to mount to the bridge. A burly Arab
seaman pushed me back. When darkness fell on an open sea I had not yet
succeeded in breaking through the bodyguard that surrounded the captain.
Writhing natives covered every spot on the open deck. I crawled under
the canvas that covered the winch, converted my bundle into a pillow,
and fell asleep.

In what seemed a half-hour later I awoke to find the ship gliding along
as smoothly as in a river. I crawled out on deck. A bright morning sun
was shining, and before my astonished eyes lay Port Saïd. The ticket
collector had neglected to look under the winch for passengers.

The steamer was held in quarantine for several hours. I purchased food
of a ship’s boy and settled down to await the good will of the port
doctors. As I lined up with the rest, to be thumped and prodded by order
of His Majesty, the Khedive, a new plan flashed through my mind. The
ship was to continue to Alexandria. That port, certainly, gave far
easier access to the real Egypt than Port Saïd, and it was an unexplored
city. Instead of disembarking with the others, therefore, I sought out
the captain once more—and once more was repulsed by a thick-witted

I returned to the deck and sat down on a hatch. To my dismay, the native
purser began to collect the tickets before the last tender was unloaded.
He approached me and held out his hand.

“Where can I see the captain?” I demanded.

“M’abarafshee,” he answered, shaking his head, “bilyeto!” (ticket).

Certainly I must offer some excuse for being on board without a ticket.
The lean form of the purser bending over me called up the memory of the
Jaffa consul. I rummaged through my pockets, and, spreading out his
second note to the ship’s agent, laid it in the purser’s hand. The
consul’s yellow stationery bore a disconcerting contrast to the bundle
of dark-blue tickets. The officer gave vent to his astonishment in an
avalanche of Arabic.

“M’abarafshee!” I imitated.

He opened his mouth to launch a second avalanche, hesitated, scratched
his head, and, with a shrug of the shoulders, went on gathering
“bilyetos” from the native passengers.

Some time later he descended from the upper deck and, beckoning to me,
led the way to the bridge. The steamer was preparing to get under way.
The captain, a burly Briton, stormed back and forth across the ship,
striving to give orders to the crew in such Arabic as he could muster,
and bursting the bounds of that unnatural tongue with every fourth
word, to berate the blockheads in forcible excerpts from the
King’s—private—English. His eye fell upon me.

“Here,” he roared, profanely, ’tis true, but to the point, “what the
bloody —— is all this?” and he waved the now ragged note in my face.

“Why, that’s a note from the Amurican consil in Jaffa, sir, sayin’ I
want t’ ship for Egypt.”

The purple rage on the skipper’s face, the result of his attempt to set
forth in Arabic thoughts only expressible in English, subsided somewhat
at the sound of his own tongue.

[Illustration: The Palestine beast of burden carrying an iron beam to a
building in construction]

[Illustration: Jews of Jerusalem in typical costume]

“But,” he went on, in milder tones, “this note asks the company to give
you as cheap a passage as possible; and it’s addressed to the agent, not
to the captain of this ship.”

“What, sir!” I cried, “Is that all? Why, the consil knowed I ’adn’t no
money, sir.”

“It’s open; why the devil didn’t you read it?” retorted the skipper.

“Aye, sir,” I answered, “but it’s wrote in some foreign lingo.”

“Eh?—er—well, that’s right,” admitted the commander, with a waver of
pride in his voice. “It’s written in French, and this is what it
says”—and he translated it.

“Why that bloomin’ consil—” I gasped.

“American sailor, are you?” demanded the captain.

I handed him my Sardinian and Warwickshire discharges.

“Well,” he mused, “if that note had been in English, I’d—”

“I’m ready to turn to with the crew, sir,” I put in.

“N—no. That’ll be all right,” said the skipper, stuffing the note into
his pocket as he turned his attention to the seamen on the deck below.
“Cover that hatch, you bloody fools, before a sea fills her!”

Early the next morning I disembarked in Alexandria.

                               CHAPTER IX
                         THE LOAFER’S PARADISE

He who travels à force de bras may regulate his sight-seeing as exactly
as the moneyed tourist by clinging to one fixed plan—to fall penniless
and be forced to seek employment only in those cities with which he
would become well acquainted. In all north Africa no spot offered more
attractions for an extended stay than Cairo. Once arrived there,
whatever the fates had in store for me, I should be on chosen ground. At
all hazards I must reach Cairo before I “went broke.”

On my second morning in Alexandria, I repaired to the railway station,
only to find that I had delayed my departure a bit too long. The
third-class fare to the capital was low, but, unfortunately, just three
piastres more than I possessed. Should I take train as far as possible
and finish the journey on foot and penniless, or should I save the money
on hand for food en route and tramp the entire distance?

Pondering the question, I dropped into a bench on the Place Mohammed
Ali, and fell to whittling a stick. A countryman, strolling by, paused
to stare, and sitting down on the far end of the bench, watched me
intently. Now a Frank is no more of a novelty in Alexandria than in
Kansas City, even though in ragged garb; for, given a great port
anywhere on the earth’s surface, you will find Jack Tar, at least,
rambling penniless and forlorn through her streets. Either the native
was astonished to see a man work, even with his hands, when he was not
paid to do so, or the knife had attracted his attention. Inch by inch,
he slid along the bench.

“Very good knife, kwice cateer,” he murmured.

Two months in the Arab world had given me vocabulary enough for simple
conversations. “Aywa,” I answered, tossing away the stick and closing
the knife.

The fellah gave a gasp of delight.

“But it shuts up, like a door,” he cried.

I opened and closed it several times for his edification; then slid down
in my seat, my thoughts elsewhere.

“You sell it?” grinned the Arab.

“Eh!” I gasped, straightening up in astonishment, “you—”

“I’ll give you five piastres,” wheedled the peasant, “gkamsa tarifa.”

“Take it!” I cried, and, grasping the coin he held out to me, I dashed
away to the station.

A half-hour later I was speeding southward across the fertile delta of
the Nile. What a contrast was this land to that I had so lately left
behind! Every few miles the train halted at a bustling city; between
them mound-like fellaheen villages and well-cultivated fields raced
northward. Inside the car—of American pattern—prosperous, well-groomed
natives perused the latest newspapers and smoked world-famous cigarettes
with the blasé air of Parisian commuters. Even the half-blind victims of
ophthalmia leaned back in their seats in the perfect contentment of
well-fed creatures. An eyeless pre-adamite in one corner roared with
laughter at the sallies of his companions. Far more at ease was he, for
all his affliction, than I, with neither friend nor acquaintance in the
length and breadth of the continent.

The Oriental panorama grew dim. One could with difficulty distinguish in
this ultra-flat country, where every object stood out sharply against
the horizon, between a distant village and a reclining water-buffalo,
nearer at hand. The western sky turned ruddy a moment, dulled to a
brown, and the darkness that falls so quickly in tropical countries left
me to stare at my own face beyond the window. An impressive reflection
indeed! A figure to inspire prospective employers with confidence! The
lights that were springing up across the plain were of no village where
inhabitants welcomed strangers with open arms. Every click of the wheels
brought me nearer the metropolis of Africa, a great city, of which I
knew little more than the name, and where I should soon be set adrift in
the darkness with the ludicrous sum of ten cents in my pocket! Perhaps
in all Cairo there was not another penniless adventurer of my race? Even
if there were, and a “vagabond’s retreat” somewhere among these long
rows of streets that flashed by as those of London in approaching St.
Pancras, small chance had I of finding it. For, were my Arabic as fluent
as my English, no policeman could direct me to so unconventional a

The train halted in a vast, domed station. A mighty press of humanity
swept me through the waiting-rooms and out upon a brightly-lighted
square. There the screaming throng of hackmen, porters, donkey boys, and
hotel runners drove me to take refuge behind a station pillar. I swung
my knapsack over my shoulder and gazed, utterly undecided, across the
human sea.

Suddenly a voice sounded above the roar:—“Heh! Landsmann, wohin?” I
stared eagerly about me, for this simple greeting, properly accented, is
the password of the German tramp wherever he wanders. Under a
neighboring arc-light stood a young man of ruddy, sunburned countenance,
in a stout, if somewhat ragged, suit and a cloth cap. At my sign of
recognition, he dived into the crowd and fought his way to my side.

“Ah!” he shouted, in German, “I knew only one of the boys would blow in
with a knapsack and a corduroy suit! Where are you turning up from? Just
got in from Zagazig myself. Been down there grubbing up some cash. How
long have you been away? Business any good down at the coast? Don’t
believe it is. Cairo’s the place for easy winnings. Bet you blew in
without a piastre? Give ’em the stony face on the train? I did, though a
fellow down in Zagazig ticketed me. Gave me the cash, the wise one, and
of course I planted it and stared them off.”

Had I not already served an apprenticeship in German slang, I should
have come off with a very indistinct notion of the recent activities of
my new acquaintance. I broke in as soon as possible to assure him that I
had never dared to hope that civilization was so up-to-date in Egypt
that one could “beat his way” on the railroads, and to protest that I
could doubly deny his charge of having “eingeblasen” without a piastre.

“It’s my first trip to Cairo,” I concluded. “I bought my own ticket—”

“What!” roared the German, “Ticketed yourself! Lieber Gott, aber du bist
roh! Tick—But then,” he continued, in a hushed voice, “now I think of
it, so did I! Schafskopf, ja! I paid good money to come to Cairo the
first time! Höllespein, what a greenhorn I was!”

As he talked, we had left behind the howling throng. No need to ask
where he was leading me.

“There’s an Asile in Cairo,” he put in, “but you’re too late to-night.
You’ll meet all die Kamaraden where we’re going, for they’re most of
them ausgespielt with the churchman and can’t talk the Asile tickets out
of him.”

We crossed a rectangular square where street cars clanged their way
through a multitude, and turned down a street flanked by
brightly-lighted shops.

[Illustration: A winged dahabiyeh of the Nile]

[Illustration: Sais or carriage runners of Cairo, clearing the streets
for their master]

“It’s the Moosky,” said the German. “Good old lane. Many a piastre I’ve
picked up in her.”

He dodged into a side alley, jogged over a street, and entered the
headquarters of “die Kameraden.” It was a wine shop with connecting
kitchen, on the lower floor of a four-story building; just such a
rendezvous as one finds in Germany. A shuffling Jew was drawing beer and
wine for several groups of noisy faranchees at the tables, to the
accompaniment of a continual jabber in Yiddish to which the tipplers
replied, now and then, in German. A long-unwashed female wandered in
from the back room with a steaming plate of meat and potatoes.

“Der Jude has lodgings,” said my companion, pointing at the ceiling.
“Three small piastres. You can still eat a small piastre worth.”

Great impression two and a half cents would have made on an all-day
appetite! Almost before I realized it, I had called for a supper that
took my last copper.

By the time I finished eating, the “comrades” were demanding the
biography of “der Ankömmling.” As all the party spoke German, I gave an
abbreviated account of myself in that language.

“And what countryman are you?” asked a youth at a neighboring table.

“Ich bin Amerikaner.”

The entire party, the Jew included, burst into uproarious laughter so
suddenly that two black urchins, peering in upon us, took to their

“Amerikaner! Ja! Ja!” shrieked the merrymakers, “Freilich! We are all
Americans. But what are you when you tell the truth to your good
comrades? Amerikaner! Ha! Ha!—”

The cane of the first speaker beat a tattoo on the table and the mirth
subsided. Plainly, he was a man of authority in the gathering.

“Now, then,” he cried, as though I were entitled by the rules of “the
union” to enter two answers, “what country _are_ you from?”

I repeated my first assertion.

“So you are an American, rheally?” he demanded, suddenly, in clear
English, though with a marked accent.

A long reply in my own tongue upset his conviction that I should not be
able to understand him. The others, however, grinned skeptically and
fell to chattering again, glancing up from time to time to mutter,
“Amerikaner! Ja, gewiss.” I scraped up a half-pipe of tobacco from the
corners of a pocket, and fell asleep over the fumes.

A whining voice sounded in my ear:—“H’raus, Hop! Will mich
einschliessen!” I opened my eyes to find the Jew bending over me. The
room was nearly empty. Of the few “comrades” who remained one was the
youth who had addressed me in English. I caught up my bundle and turned
towards the door.

“Du bist, aber, ganz kaput?” demanded the young man, “have you no


He rose and followed after me.

“If you are ein richtiger Amerikaner,” he said, “I can show you where to
pick up the price of a lodging.”

I nodded. The youth called to the Hebrew to leave his door unlocked, and
led the way down the Moosky, across the square, and along a street that
flanked a wooded park.

“Esbekieh Gardens, those,” he said. “I’m taking you to the American
Mission Hospital. There are eight American preachers there, but your
best chance now is Reverend ——. He lives in the third story, first door
to the right of the stairway. You will find him studying. He studies
until two in the morning. Knock on the door once. He won’t answer; but
push it open and begin a hard-luck story right away. Now don’t tell him
that you’ve just come to Egypt, nor that you’re a sailor; and, if he
asks you if you speak German, say no. Tell him you are a civil engineer,
or a plate-layer, or a mason, and that you’ve just walked down from
Central Africa—your clothes fit that—and that you could get no work
there, or—or that you got sick; yes, that’s better, for he’s an old wise
one and knows there’s plenty of work up the river. Tell him you speak
only English and that you are an American—that is if you _are_—and he
will give you ten piastres. If you’re not sure you can talk English
without a foreign accent—I can’t tell whether you do or not—well, I
wouldn’t disturb the old man. He doesn’t like Germans.”

The youth pointed out a door of the Mission and slipped into the blacker
night of one of her pillars. I stepped inside, and, mounting to the
first landing, sat down to think matters over. The night air of January
was too cold to sleep out of doors even should I succeed in hiding where
the patrol could not rout me out. But to come at midnight to disturb an
aged missionary with a stereotyped tale of woe! Yet I knew the bitter
hopelessness of looking for work after a night in the streets, and “a
deep breath for breakfast.” Work? Why, of course! Just the point! I must
find work before I left Cairo; why could I not ask for a small loan and
pay it back?

I continued up the stairs and knocked on the door that had been
indicated. There was no response, but a tiny thread of light showed on
the threshold. I stepped inside. In the far corner of a small room, a
white-haired man closed, over a finger, the book he was reading, and
turned the light of a student lamp full upon me. I began my story—not
the one the German had plotted—and stated my case briefly. To my dismay,
the word “borrow” fell flat.

“I rarely,” said the old man, in a voice that would have chorded well
with the last key of a piano, “I rarely give money to a man who has just
come to the country. What business has he here without sufficient funds
to establish himself? I have never given money to sailors. I know their
ways too well. But after long months of daily visits from ‘Americans’
who speak English as if they had learned it in the slums of Berlin, I am
glad to see a real American again; though sorry to find that he is
without money, and still more so that he is a sailor. Here is a
half-dollar”—handing me a ten-piastre piece—“I hope you will not drink
quite all of it up. What state are you from?”

“Michigan. You understand I am only borrowing this until I can find

“Young man,” said the missionary, rising to his feet, “you already have
the money—the amount I give, if I give at all. No additions to your tale
will cause me to offer more. Why, then, attempt to raise false hopes
within my breast? So you are from Michigan? I am from Pittsburg. Good
night,” and without giving me time for reply, he sat down and lost
himself in the pages of his book.

“You were gone a long time,” said the German, as I emerged from the
doorway. “You couldn’t show _him_ you were an American?”

I held out the coin in my hand.

“Ei! Gott!” cried my companion, “you got it? You are an American, then,
a genuine American! It’s the test I always apply. He can tell an
American at his first three words.”

“But why didn’t the crowd believe me?” I demanded.

“Ach!” burst out the youth, “Here in Cairo all the boys are Americans.
We have Germans, Austrians, Hungarians, Poles, Norwegians, all sorts in
the union, and everyone is an ‘American’—except among the comrades. And
not three of them ever saw the United States! It is because, of all the
foreigners in Egypt, the Americans are the easiest and the most
generous. Then you know what a bad reputation Germans have as
beggars—all turning out on their Wanderjahre? The Germans here will help
us. Yes! But how? By giving us a loaf of bread, or an old pair of shoes,
or two piastres. Bah! But the Americans! They give pounds and whole
suits, and they don’t ask to hear the whole story of your past life.
Americans? Why, there are dozens of American missionaries, judges,
merchants, engineers, and ei! Gott! the tourists! There’s your rich
harvest, mein Freund! Why, a year I’ve been in Cairo learning English
and picking the roosters. I’ve been up to see that greybeard four times!
I dressed differently every time and practised every story for weeks
until I got the accent right. Three times I got ten piastres, but the
fourth he asked me questions, and, as I hadn’t practised the answers, I
talked wild English and tangled myself up. Then I tried to get out of it
by saying I was a Pennsylvania Dutchman. The old man started in on
geography, and when I told him Pennsylvania was on the Gulf of Mexico he
took his cane and chased me out. I’ve studied maps of the United States
since then, though. He couldn’t catch me again. I know every city.”

“Yes,” he went on, as we turned into the now deserted Moosky, “all die
Kunde try to be Americans. Aber Gott! The fools! They are too pig-headed
ever to learn to talk English with an American accent. But you! Du
glücklicher Kerl! You can live in Cairo until you grow a beard!”

I paid my lodging and followed the German up a narrow, winding stairway
at the back of the shop. On the third story he pushed open a door much
like the drop of a home-made rabbit trap, which gave admittance to a
small room where four of six beds were already occupied. It needed only
one long-drawn breath to prove that the “bedclothes” had not seen the
washtub during several generations of “the boys,” and that a can of
insect powder could be used to great advantage. But he who is both
penniless and hypercritical should remain at home. I took the bed beside
that of the German and was soon asleep.

I awoke next morning to find my guide of the night before sitting on his
bed at a dry-goods box before the single window, sipping black coffee
from a tin can and eating a boiled egg and a slab of bread with one
hand, and slowly penning a letter with the other. Having seen enough of
him already to be convinced that he was a man of considerable education,
I was surprised to find that he wielded a pen with such apparent

“It’s this English script that troubles me,” he remarked, as if in
answer to my unexpressed question. “When you have written all your life
in German script, it is hard to change.”

“Then you’re writing English?” I cried.

He motioned to the letter before him as he swallowed the last of the
coffee:—“Of course! A man can’t eat if he doesn’t work. There’s a New
York millionaire just come to town. His name is Leigh Hunt, and I’m
writing to ask him for employment. He won’t have any, of course, but he
may send me a pound or two. I found it too hard to learn to speak
English without a foreign accent, so I write instead.”

He reached inside the box that served as table and tossed a dozen
unstamped letters on my bed. All were addressed to Englishmen or
Americans, among them people of international reputation.

“Read them according to the dates,” said the youth, “and see if my
English hasn’t improved. I copied them all and sent out the copies. All
but two sent me money. One wrote me to come and see him to-day. The
other I haven’t heard from. You don’t spell ‘poverty’ with a capital, do

As he had spoken but one sentence in English since our meeting, I was
surprised to note the fluent use of that language in his letters. None
of them contained actual errors; and only a peculiar turning of a
phrase, here and there, which a reader off his guard might easily have
overlooked, betrayed the nationality of the writer. The stories they
told were proof of an inventive imagination. A dozen “hard-luck tales,”
no one of which resembled the others, were all signed by different
Americanized names, over different addresses. Here a youth from
Baltimore, who had come to Egypt to open a store, had been robbed of all
he possessed. There a civil engineer from New York had been forced to
leave his work on the Berber-Suakim line and hasten down to Cairo to
attend a sick wife and four small children. An aged stone mason, who had
been injured while working on the barrage at Assuan, prayed for
assistance to get back to his home in Cincinnati. A California
prospector, just returned from an unsuccessful expedition into the
Uganda protectorate, was lying ill and penniless in a miserable

Nor did the resourceful German confine himself to his own sex. The last
letter was an appeal to a well-known American lady from a young girl who
had come from Boston to act as stenographer to a tourist firm that had
not materialized, and who sought assistance before starvation should
drive her to ruin.

“How about this Boston story?” I asked.

“Best of the lot,” replied the youth. “Sent me two pounds and a letter
full of wise advice—for females.”

“But didn’t she ask to see you?”

“Bah! Most of them are too busy enjoying themselves. They prefer to send
a bank note and forget the matter. Once in a while, one of them sends
for me and, if I think he is not too clever—most millionaires aren’t,
you know—I go to see him, and generally get something on the
Pennsylvania Dutch story.”

“Where do you get the names?”

“Mostly from this,” said the youth, reaching into the box once more and
pulling out a Paris edition of the New York Herald. “If a millionaire
starts for Egypt, or lands here, or catches cold, or bruises his toe,
the Herald knows it—and never forgets the address. Then there is a
society paper published here in Cairo—”

“Do you write German letters, too?”

“Not many. I used to, when I first came to Africa, but it’s a poor game.
I began to study English when I came to Cairo, a year ago. My first
letters must have been bad, for I got no answers. But they make me a
living now, and an occasional spree.”

“How much time does your letter writing take?”

“Four hours. I used to write at all times. Then I read of an author who
wrote, rain or shine, from nine till one, and I find it a good idea. But
to-day I’m going to break the rule and show you where you can talk the
pounds out of some rich Americans. Why,” he cried, enthusiastically,
“there hasn’t been a real American working the crowd since I’ve been
here. We’ll go into partnership. I know all the ropes and you can do the
writing and interviewing; and, when we get Cairo pumped out, we’ll go up
the Nile! I know every white man from here to Cape Town. I’ve covered
Africa from one end to the other—with an American partner, too. But he
was a real Pennsylvania Dutchman and had a little accent. You’ll do much
better. Africa’s all good; though Cairo’s the best, for there’s no
vagrancy law here. We’ll make an easy living together or my name isn’t
Otto Pia.”

“Ever think of going to America?”

[Illustration: An Arab gardener on the estate of the American consul of
Cairo, for whom I worked two weeks]

[Illustration: Otto Pia, the German beggar-letter writer of Cairo]

“Never,” he cried, “unless I was drunk. Never again a white man’s
country for me! Here, a white wanderer is an isolated case of
misfortune, far from his native shore. At home, he is only a common
tramp, one among thousands, and the man who would give him pounds here
would give him to the police there. That’s why few of die Kunde who come
here—if they have brains enough to weave Märchen—ever go back. Do you
know the secret of getting the sympathy of the rich? It’s to make them
think we’re much worse off here than at home and to keep before them the
idea that we cannot find work. For that reason I am a plate-layer in
Cairo; for plate-layers are only needed far up the Nile. If I’m up the
Nile, I’m a stenographer, or a waiter, or anything else that there is
sure to be no work for. No, mein Freund, never your United States for
me! And you’ll not go back either, when I’ve showed you how easy it is
to pick the roosters here. A tramp, you know, is like a prophet—’er gilt
nichts in seinem Vaterlande.’”

“While you’re dressing and thinking up a few good Märchen,” he went on,
turning to his writing, “I’ll copy this letter. Then I’ll show you a few
of the easiest marks.”

I protested, however, that I had come to Cairo to work rather than to
weave “fairy tales.”

“Work?” he shouted, throwing aside his pen and springing to his feet, “A
fellow who can write and talk English—and German, too, wants to _work_
in Cairo? Why, mein lieber Kerl, you—you—” but the words stuck in his
astonished throat.

I descended to the street and set out to visit such European contractors
as I could locate. Long after dark, foot-sore and half-famished, covered
with the dust of Cairo, I returned to the rendezvous and sat down at one
of the tables. It was quite evident that die Kunde were neither
foot-sore nor hungry, and their garments were as immaculate as
second-hand garments can be made. The “wise ones” had loafed in the
cafés and gardens, had written a letter or told a hard-luck story
somewhere, and turned up at night with money enough to make merry
through the whole evening. I, having tramped all day, from one address
to another, turned up with—an appetite.

Otto Pia watched me, with a half-smile on his countenance, for some time
after I had entered. Then he raised his cane and rapped on the table for

“Ei! Gute Kamaraden!” he cried, “I have something to show you! Guk’ mal!
Here is a comrade who is an American—do you hear—a real American, not a
patched-up one; and this real American—in Cairo—wants to _work_!”

“_Work?_” roared the chorus, “_Work_ in Cairo—and a real American—Lieber
Gott—Ist’s denn ein Esel?—”

I ate a meager supper and crawled away to bed. On the following day, I
tramped even greater distances, and returned to the wine shop with only
the price of a lodging left from the missionary’s donation. Pia rose and
took a seat beside me.

“Lot of work you found, eh?” he began. “Didn’t any of them offer you

“Most of them,” I answered.

“And you didn’t take it?” cried the German, “Why, you—you—you’re a
disgrace to the union.

“I know how you feel though,” he went on, “I was the same once. When I
ran away from Germany—to escape the army—I wouldn’t take a cent I hadn’t
earned; and I starved a month in Pietermaritzburg, looking for work as
you are here, before I got over my silly notions. Ach! I was an ass! I
tell you it’s no use. You won’t find work—especially in those rags. If
you _will_ work, let me take you where you can get some clothes first.”

It was all too evident that he was right. Weather-beaten garments might
pass muster in the wilderness of Palestine, but they were wholly out of
place in the Paris of Africa. Twice that day, those who had refused me
employment had offered to fit me out in their cast-off clothing. I
concluded to profit by the experience of Pia.

The German abandoned the composition of pathetic short stories for an
hour next morning to conduct me to the Secretary of the “Cairo Aid
Society,” a minister of the Church of England. Having pointed out the
rectory, he left me without a sign of recognition, and marched
unfalteringly down the street until he vanished behind the next row of
houses. I mounted the broad steps and pressed the electric button. A
jet-black Arab opened the door.

“I want to see the Reverend ——,” I began.

“Very sorry, but Reverend —— not in,” replied the servant, with a flash
of ivory teeth in a very friendly smile.

“When will he be in?”

“Ah! Reverend —— gone to Iskanderia. No can tell. Come back maybe three
day, maybe week,” and the black face grew so sorrowful with pity that I
hastened to leave, lest tears should begin to flow.

The German was awaiting me about four steps from the spot where he had
disappeared at a brisk walk.

“You’re back soon,” he said, “what luck?”

“He is not in.”

“Not in? Höllespein! Certainly he’s in! He never goes out before noon.
Do you think I’m a bungler at my profession? I know the hours of every
padre in Cairo, exactly, always! Who told you he was not in?”

“His servant.”

“Was! Ein verdammter Schwartze? Herr Gott, aber du bist roh! Two days
looking for work, and you don’t know yet that every nigger servant will
tell you his master is out? Not in!”—and he burst forth in his
peculiarly silent, yet uproarious laughter.

A new light had broken in upon me. This, then, was the reason that of
some forty white men whom I had called on for employment, a bare dozen
had been at home? I left my companion to conquer his risibility alone,
and, hastening back to the rectory, brought the servant to the door with
a vicious ring.

“I’ve heard the Reverend —— _is_ in. I want to see him.”

There was no smile on the ebony face now. Even through the mask of black
skin one could see anger welling up, the blind rage of the Mussulman
against the hated unbeliever.

“I say Reverend —— not in!” snarled the servant, in hoarse sotto voce,
“Go away.”

With a string of English oaths that spoke better of his linguistic
abilities than the influence of his master, he shut the door, quickly,
yet noiselessly.

I pressed a finger against the electric button and kept it there. A
quick muffled patter of footsteps sounded inside, a whispered
imprecation came through the keyhole. My finger was growing numb. I
relieved it with a thumb without breaking the circuit.

“Go away,” growled the servant, fiercely, half opening the door, “go
way, damn you, I cut your neck”—and his speech did not end there. I
relieved my thumb with another finger. The murderous gleam in the Arab’s
eyes blazed forth more fiercely, then by a stern command of the will
changed to an appeal.

“My God, stop!” he begged.

“Is your master in Iskanderia?”

A cry of rage trembled on his lips and was forced back.

“No,” he snapped, throwing open the door.

I stepped inside and followed him along the hall. At the entrance to a
well-stocked library he turned to me with a hoarse whisper:—“Damn you!
Why for you ring bell? I make you full of holes—”

A light step sounded in the passage and a grey-haired English lady
stepped towards us.

“Yes, sir,” continued the Arab, without a pause, “master see you right
away, sir. Step inside, please, sir.”

“Maghmoód,” said the lady, “who was ringing the door bell so long?”

“Think button get stuck, lady, when gentleman push,” replied the Arab,
beaming upon me, “Shall I bring chocolate, lady?”

I sat down in the library and was joined almost at once by a sturdy,
well-groomed old gentleman—a Briton by every token.

“Have trouble in getting in?” he demanded abruptly, before I had spoken.

“Why—er—the servant thought at first you were not in,” I admitted.

“That rascal!” cried the minister, “I have dismissed ten servants since
I became secretary of the Society, for no other fault. Maghmoód knows
that it is my duty to keep open house during the morning; yet for some
reason I cannot fathom, an Arab domestic cannot bear the thought of
seeing his master give assistance of any kind to Europeans in
unfortunate circumstances. It is a servant problem that has often been
discussed among English residents; yet even the plumber and the
carpenter continue to be shut out from houses where they have been sent
for, unless they are well acquainted with native tricks.

“Now as to your case”—he needed no enlightenment as to my errand,
evidently—“you need clothes, of course. Ordinarily, I have several suits
on hand, sent by Englishmen in the city; but there has been such a run
of German tramps that I have nothing left. I shall have something before
long, surely. Meanwhile, I will give you a four-day ticket to the Asile
Rudolph, our Society building. What is your trade?”

“I have worked as carpenter, mason, blacksmith, stevedore—”

“Good! Good!” said the rector. “You should find work easily. If you
don’t, come back when your ticket runs out. I shall call Maghmoód up on
the carpet. Good-day, my man.”

I hastened to join the German.

“That’s good as a beginning,” he said, as I displayed the ticket, “It
shows you are on the trail, and you can work him for tickets for two or
three weeks. But I must get back to my desk. Follow this avenue to the
parade grounds; where you saw the Khedive’s guard drilling, you know.
The Asile is close by.”

[Illustration: An Arab café in Old Cairo]

In a side street in which sprawled and squalled native infants
uncountable, I tugged at a bell rope protruding from a stern brick wall,
and was admitted by a bare-legged Arab to the courtyard of the Asile
Rudolph. The superintendent, seated before the “office,” called for my
ticket. He was a sprightly Englishman, in the autumn of life, long a
captain in the Black Sea service, and still known to all as “Cap
Stevenson.” Around two sides of the court were the kitchen and
sleeping-rooms of the male inmates. Opposite the entrance towered the
Women’s Asile, a blank wall except for one window opening, through which
the English matron thrust her head at frequent intervals to berate the
captain, in a caustic falsetto, for the hilarity of his charges.

Among my new companions, some two score of ragged, care-free fellows who
had already gathered around the tables in the open air dining-room, the
German vagabond predominated. The French, Italian, and Greek tongues
were frequently heard, there were two or three castaways from the
British Isles; but as long as I remained at the Asile I was the sole
representative of the western hemisphere.

An Arab servant bawled out from the depths of the kitchen, and, as we
filed by the door, handed each of us a bowl of steaming soup and an
ample slab of bread. There was no French parsimoniousness about the
Asile Rudolph. Each bowl held a liberal quart—of something more than
discolored dishwater, too—and down at the bottom were three cubes of
meat. Never did a bowl appear during all the days that I wondered at the
audacity of the society’s butcher without exactly three such cubes, of
exactly the same size. To my companions they were the daintiest of
morsels. The best-dressed vagabond never dreamed of tasting his soup
until he had fished out this basic flesh and laid it on the table before
him to gloat over until he had finished his liquid refreshment. Once
gorged with soup, he sliced the cubes carefully, dipped the strips in
rock salt, and slowly munched them, one by one, in his eyes the far-away
look of keen enjoyment. As for myself, when I attempted to cut up my
first cube, it bounded away over my head and before I could turn around
to follow its flight had disappeared into the pocket of some
quicker-witted guest. I dismembered the second morsel with the
assistance of a fellow-boarder, and inflicted upon my teeth a piece of
convenient size. An hour later, I deposited the still undamaged delicacy
outside a factory gate at the further end of the city. When I turned out
to renew my search it was gone.

Thoughtful guests of the Society made provision during the noon-hour of
plenty for the twenty-four hours to come; for morning and evening
brought only coffee or tea, and bread. There was, however, something
more than bed and board in store for the lucky possessor of one of the
Reverend ——’s tickets—a shower bath! It was closed during the day, but I
was by no means the last to finish the evening meal, and, once inside
the wooden closet, it was only the protest that the stream could be used
to even better advantage among my companions that saved me from a watery

I began my fourth day’s search by applying at the office of the chief
owners of modern Egypt—Thomas Cook and Son. There is hardly a walk in
life, from the architect to the donkey-boy, that is not represented
among the employees of that great tourist agency. Somewhere in those
cosmopolitan ranks, I might find my place. I proffered my services to
the company as a sailor on their Nile steamers, as an unskilled workman
in any of their enterprises, as a man with a trade in the Bulak factory
where their floating palaces are constructed. Nothing came of it. In
desperation, I struck out in a struggle directly against the economic
law of labor, and, instead of dropping lower with each refusal, sought
to climb higher.

It was true, admitted the manager, that the company was in need of
clerks. It was still more in need of interpreters, and, to all
appearance, I was qualified for either position. “But—but—I’m sorry, old
chap,” and he looked sternly at my heelless slippers and ragged
corduroys, “but really, you won’t do, don’t you know. I can give you a
note to a well-known contractor—”

I accepted it with pleasure; for the name of Cook and Son, embossed at
the top of a letter of introduction, has great weight in Egypt. The
contractor to whom the note was addressed gave me—another. The addressee
of the second gave me a third. Two, three, four days, I spent in
delivering notes to the European residents of Cairo and waging battle
against her Islamite servant body. Night after night I returned to the
Asile with one stereotyped answer in my head:—

“I really haven’t anything I can put you at now. I’ll give you a letter
to ——. Are you on the rocks? Well, here, perhaps this dollar will help
you out. You don’t want it? Well, I’ll keep you in mind.”

The employers were divided into two classes: those who offered money as
the easiest means of getting rid of an unwelcome visitor, and those who
had been “on the rocks” themselves and protested against my refusal to
accept alms in the words of the water-works superintendent:—“Take it,
man, there is no harder work than looking for work; why not be paid for
it?” The strangest fact of all, one that impresses itself on the
out-of-work the world over, was the conviction of each that I should
easily find employment. “Why, to be sure,” exclaimed a superintendent of
shops in Bulak, “_we_ haven’t anything to offer just now; but a man with
your list of trades will certainly find work in Cairo in a few hours,
without the slightest trouble.” It would have been hard to convince him
that I had heard that same statement in a half-dozen languages a score
of times a day for a week past. Gradually the assertion of “the
comrades,” that he who would work in the Egyptian capital was an ass,
took on new force.

Rich or penniless, however, he who does not enjoy the winter season in
Cairo must be either an invalid, a prisoner, or an incurable pessimist.
Here one does not need to add to every projected plan, “weather
permitting.” The sojourner in the land of Egypt knows, as he goes to his
rest at night, that, whatever misfortune to-morrow may bring, it will be
lightened by joyous sunshine. Nor need the sans-sous lack entertainment
in this city of the Nile. One had but to stroll to the vicinity of the
Esbekieh Gardens to hear a band concert, to see some quaint native
performance, or to find some excitement afoot. At all hours of the day
those fortunate beings whose names graced the pages of Pia’s society
papers displayed their charms to the watching throng. At frequent
intervals the Khedive and his bodyguard thundered by. Now and then the
bellow of Cairo’s champion saïs heralded the approach of the Khedive’s
master, Lord Cromer. Nay, entertainment there was never lacking—merely

When my ticket ran out on the morning of the fourth day, I did not apply
at once for another. The evening before, the Greek proprietor of a
famous cigarette factory had promised me a position, had even explained
to me my probable duties as general porter in the establishment. But
when I had inveigled my way into the inner sanctum for the second time,
it was only to learn that a compatriot of the proprietor had applied
earlier in the morning, and was already at work. Not to be outdone by
his fellow-faranchees, the Greek offered me—a letter of introduction.

The hour of public audiences at the rectory was passed. The day,
moreover, was Saturday, a half-holiday among contractors. In the hope of
earning a night’s lodging by some errand, I joined the howling mob of
guides, interpreters, street-hawkers, and fakirs, before Shepherd’s
Hotel. I was the sole Frank in the gathering. Die Kameraden, whatever
their nationality, would have been transfixed with horror had they seen
one of their own patrician class competing with “niggers” for
employment. As a last resort, had “the business” been utterly outrooted
in Cairo, the members of “the union” might have consented to busy
themselves with some genteel occupation; but had gaunt starvation
squatted on his haunches in their path, they would never have stooped to
the work of natives.

My presence was soon noised through all the screaming multitude, and I
was cleverly “pocketed” by a dozen snake swallowers and sword jugglers,
and gradually forced towards the outskirts of the crowd. When I resorted
to force and beat my way to the front rank, I was little better off than
before. For two hours I watched the natives about me selling, begging,
running errands, or marching away to guide a tourist party through the
city; without once seeing a beckoning finger in answer to my own offers
of service. At frequent intervals, a lady appeared on the hotel piazza,
ran her eyes slowly over the front ranks, stared at me a moment, and,
summoning some one-eyed rascal beside me, sent him across the city with
a perfumed note. The ladies, certainly, were not to be blamed. It was so
much more romantic; there was so much more local color in one’s doings,
don’t you know, if one’s errands were run by a Cairene in flowing robes,
rather than by a tramp such as one could see at home any day in St.
Charles or Madison Square! What if one paid an exorbitant price for such
services? It was to a picturesque figure, don’t you know, whose English
was excruciatingly funny.

It is half disgusting, half pathetic, this ebb and flow of the
population of Egypt at the crook of a tourist finger. From the door, on
which every eye was fixed, emerged the blatant figure of a pompous
pork-packer, or the half-baked offspring of a self-made ancestry. With a
wild howl the mob rose en masse and surged forward, threatening to break
my ribs against the foot of the piazza. If the pork packer scowled, the
throng fell back like a receding tide. If the half-baked offspring
raised an eyebrow, the multitude swept on, tossing me far up the steps
into the arms of “buttons,” on guard against the besiegers below.

He was a coarse-grained cockney, this “buttons,” and, in carrying out
his orders to repel boarders, he was neither a respecter of persons nor
of his mother tongue. A score of times I was pushed down the steps I had
not chosen to ascend, with a violence and profanity out of all keeping
with racial brotherhood.

[Illustration: An abandoned mosque outside the walls of Cairo, and a
caravan off for Suez across the desert]

But every dog has his day. A sallow youth issued from the hotel and
called for a man to carry a letter. “Buttons” was already raising a hand
to point out a pock-marked Arab who had departed on four commissions
since my arrival, when the tidal wave of humanity set me on the piazza.
I shouted to the sallow youth just as “buttons” fell upon me. The youth
nodded. It was a long-sought opportunity. I reversed rôles with the
cockney and landed him in a picturesque spread-eagle on the heads of the
backsheesh-seeking multitude. Had he not been wont to use his influence
in favor of a very limited number of the throng, he would have been more
immaculate in appearance, when he was dug out by his pock-marked
confederate and restored to his coign of vantage. Meanwhile I had
received the letter and a five piastre piece in payment, and had
departed on my errand.

The coin paid my evening meal and a lodging for two nights in “the
union,” and left me coppers enough for a native breakfast. Sunday was no
time either to “forage,” or to visit rectors of the church of England.
In company with Pia, who would under no circumstances use his inventive
pen on the Sabbath, I visited those few corners of Cairo to which my
search had not yet led me; the Mohammedan University of El Azkar, the
citadel, and the ruined mosques beyond the walls.

When all other resources fail him, the Anglo-Saxon wanderer has one
unfailing friend in the East—Tommy Atkins. However penniless and
forlorn he may be, the glimpse of a red jacket and a monkey cap on a
lithe, erect figure, hurrying through the foreign throng, is certain
to give him new heart. Thomas has become a familiar sight in Cairo
since the days of the Arabi rebellion. Down by the Kasr-el-Nil bridge,
out in the shadows of the pencil-like minarets of Mohammed Ali’s
mosque, in parade grounds scattered through the city, he may be found
any afternoon perspiringly chasing a football or setting up his
wickets in the screaming sunlight, to the astonishment and delight of
a never-failing audience of apathetic natives. He doesn’t pose as a
philanthropist—simple T. Atkins—nor as a man of iron-bound
morality—rather prides himself, in fact, on his incorrigible
wickedness. But the case has yet to be recorded in which he has not
given up his last shilling more whole heartedly than the smug tourist
would part with his cigar band.

Thomas, however, has no overwhelming love for “furriners—Dutchmen,
dagoes, and such like.” It would be out of keeping with his profession.
That was why Pia, after pointing out to me the least public entrance to
the cavalry barracks, on this Sunday noon, strolled on down the street.
The officers’ dinner was already steaming when I was welcomed by the six
privates of that day’s mess squad. By the time it had been served, I was
lending the cooks able assistance in disposing of the plentiful
remnants, amid the stories and laughter of a red-coats’ messroom. Even
the bulging pockets with which I departed were less cheering than the
last bellow from the barrack’s kitchen:—“Drop in to mess any day, Yank,
till you land something. No bloody need to let your belly cave in while
there’s a khaki suit in Cairo.”

I was admitted to the library of the Reverend —— the following morning
without so much as a hinted challenge from Maghmoód. The good rector was
more distressed than surprised that I had not yet found work.

“The difficulty is right here,” he cried, as he made out a second Asile
ticket. “No one will hire you in those rags, if you have a dozen trades.
I must pick you up something that looks less disreputable. Come on
Wednesday. I shall surely have something to offer.”

I fished out the note of the Greek cigarette maker and bore greetings
from one European resident to another for two days more. On the third, I
returned to the rectory and received a bundle of astonishing bulk.

“These things may not all fit you,” said the rector, “but it is all we
have been able to collect.”

Red-eyed with hope, I hurried back to the Asile and opened the package.
Just what I should have represented in the garments that came to view I
have not yet concluded. On top was a pair of trousers, in excellent
condition, but of that screaming pattern of unabashed checks in which
our cartoonists are accustomed to garb bookmakers and Tammany
politicians. In texture, they were just the thing—for Arctic explorers,
and they resigned in despair some four inches above my Nazarene
slippers. Next came a white shirt, with a mighty expanse of board-like
bosom—and without a single button; then the low-cut vest of a dress
suit, and, lastly, a minister’s long frock coat, with wide, silk-faced

The first shock over, I bore the treasure back to the rectory. But the
good padre refused to unburden me. “Oh, I don’t want them around the
house!” he protested, “If you can’t wear them, sell them.” Even the
proprietor of “the union,” however, refused to come to my rescue. With
much cajoling, I lured an unsophisticated newcomer at the Asile inside
the vest and trousers, and intrusted the other garments to the
safe-keeping of Cap Stevenson.

The endless stream of notes, having its source at the office of Cook and
Son, flowed on unchecked. If my object had been merely to gain intimate
acquaintance with the Cairenes of all classes, I could not have chosen a
better method. No tourist, with his howling bodyguard of guides and
dragomans, ever peeped into half the strange corners to which my
wanderings led me. My command of Arabic, too, increased by leaps and
bounds; for the necessity of giving expression of my innermost thoughts
to the servant body of Cairo required an ever-increasing vocabulary.

The two-hundredth letter of introduction—if my count be not at
fault—took me to that ultra-fashionable world across the Nile. The
director of the Jockey Club read the latest epistle carefully, and, with
sportsman-like fairness, gave me another. The delivery thereof required
my presence in the great Gezireh Hotel. For once I was not even
challenged by the army of servants; the very audacity of my entrance
into those Elysian Fields left the astonished domestics standing in
petrified rows behind me. The superintendent was most kind. He gave me,
even without the asking, a letter of introduction! The curse of Cain on
him who invented the written character! My entire Cairene experience had
been bounded by this endless chain of notes through all the cycle of her
cosmopolitan inhabitants.

The new missive carried me back to Shepherd’s Hotel, and for once I
escaped employment by a hair’s breadth. The portly Swiss manager was
inclined to overlook the shortcomings in my attire. He needed a cellar
boy, could use another porter, or “you may do as a bell-boy,” he mused,
with half-closed eyes, “if—”

What vision was this? Might I aspire even to displace mine ancient
enemy, in all the splendor of two close rows of bright, brass buttons,
and pace majestically back and forth with the sang-froid of a lion
tamer, above the common horde I had so lately quitted? What folly to
keep silent concerning those acquirements that especially fitted me to
serve a cosmopolitan clientèle, while fickle fortune was holding forth
this golden prize! I broke in upon the manager’s brown study with a
deluge of German. He opened wide his eyes. I addressed him in French. He
sputtered with astonishment. I continued in Italian. He waved his hands
above his head like a swimmer about to go down for the third time. I
added a savoring of Spanish and Arabic for good measure, and he clutched
weakly at a hotel pillar.

Gradually, strength returned to his trembling limbs. He rubbed his
astonished gorge with a ham-like hand and dislodged an imprisoned
shriek:—“Aber, mein lieber Kerl! Speaking all those langvages and out of
a job—and in rhags! Why—you—you—you must haf been up to some crhooked
business, yes?” He glanced fearfully about him at the silver ornaments
of the office. “I—I—I am very sorry, we haf not now a single vacancy.
But—but you vill not haf the least trouble—mit so viel’ Sprachen—in
getting a position, not the slightest! I gif you a note—to Cook and

I wandered sadly away across the city and stumbled upon the American
legation. Long battle won me admittance to the office of the secretary.
Beyond that I could not force my way. The secretary heard my case, and,
eager to be off to some afternoon function, thrust an official sheet
into his typewriter and set forth in a “to-whom-it-may-concern” the
half-dozen trades I mentioned; and several others to which I had never
aspired. A second sheet he ruined with a score of addresses, and bade me
be gone. If there was any corner of Cairo from Heliopolis to Masr el
Attika which I had not already visited, these documents soon repaired
the oversight. Two days the new task required, and it brought no reward,
save one. The head of the Egyptian railway system promised me a pass to
the coast when I chose to leave the country. I did not choose at once,
and, returning on the third day to the legation, fought my way into the
sanctum of the consul-general himself.

“If you are looking for work of a specific character,” said that
gentleman, “I can do no more than has already been done—give you more
addresses. If you are merely looking for _work_, I can give you
employment at once.”

I pleaded indifference to qualifying adjectives.

The consul chose a card from his case, turned it over, and wrote on the
back:—“Tom;—Let Franck do it.”

“Take this,” he said, “to my residence; it is opposite that of Lord
Cromer, near the Nile, and give it to my butler.”

“Tom,” the commander-in-chief of the servant body of a vast
establishment, proved to be a young American of the pleasantest type. I
came upon him dancing blindly around the ballroom of Mr. Morgan’s
residence, and shouting himself hoarse with the Arabic variation of “Get
a move on!” The consul, it transpired, was to give a dinner, with
dancing, to the lights of society wintering in the city. In the two days
that remained before the eventful evening the ballroom floor must be
properly waxed. Twelve native workmen, lured thither by the
extraordinary wage of twenty-five cents a day, had been holding down the
aforementioned floor since early morning. About them was spread powdered
wax. In their hands were long bottles. Above them towered the dancing

“Put some strength into it,” he bellowed, by way of variation, as I
stepped across the room towards him. For the three succeeding strokes,
the dozen bottles, moving in unison, to the chant of a thirteenth
“workman” who had been hired to squat in a far corner and furnish vocal
inspiration, nearly crushed the powdered wax under them. But this
unseemly display of energy was of short duration.

I delivered the cabalistic message. The Arabs bounded half across the
room at sound of the shriek emitted by its addressee:—“I’ll fire ’em!”
bellowed Tom. “I’ll fire ’em _now_. An American? I’m delighted, old man!
Get on the job while I kick these niggers down the stairs. Had any
experience at this game?”

I recalled a far-off college gymnasium, and nodded.

“Take you’re own gait, only so you get it done,” cried the butler,
charging the fleeing Arabs.

I discarded the bottle process and rigged up an apparatus after the
fashion of a handled holly-stone. By evening, the polishing was half
completed. When I turned my attention to the dust-streaked windows, late
the next afternoon, the ballroom floor was in a condition that boded ill
for any but sure-footed dancers. The outbreak of festivities found me
general assistant to the culinary department, separated only by a
Japanese screen from the contrasting class of society; represented by
such guests as Lord Cromer and his youthful Lady, the ex-Empress
Eugenie, the Crown Prince of Sweden, and the brother of the Khedive.
Deeply did I regret the lack of inventiveness that forced me to report
to the sleepless inmates of the Asile to which Cap Stevenson admitted me
long after closing hours, that the conversation of so distinguished a
gathering had been commonplace, the dancing unanimated, and the flirting

By arrangement with Tom, I continued to “do it” long after the day of
the ball. The fare at the servants’ table was beyond criticism, but I
declined a blanket and a straw-strewn stall in the consul’s stable, and
retained my cot at the Asile at a daily cost of two piastres. As my
earnings grew, I repaired, one night, to the American Mission Hospital,
mounted to the third story, knocked on the first door to the right,
pushed it open, and astonished an aged missionary from Pittsburg out of
a night’s labor. One idle hour, too, I examined again the garments I had
left with Cap Stevenson and found them less useless than I had once
imagined. The shirt, being tied together, front and back, with string,
awoke the envy of all the “comrades.” For the bosom was of many layers,
and, as each one became soiled, I had but to strip it off, and behold!—a
clean shirt. When I had laid the bundle away again, it contained only
the minister’s frock coat.

Cap Stevenson had made a scientific study of the genus vagabundus that
enabled him to gauge with surprising precision the demands that would be
made on the Asile from day to day. There fell into my hands, one
evening, a Cairo newspaper, containing the following item:—

                                            SUEZ, _February 2d, 1905_.

  The French troop-ship ——, outward bound to Madagascar with five
  hundred recruits, reports that while midway between Port Saïd and
  Ismaïlia, in her passage of the canal, five recruits who had been
  standing at the rail suddenly sprang overboard and swam for the
  shore. One was carried under and crushed by the ship’s screw. The
  others landed and were last seen hurrying away into the desert. All
  concerned were Germans.

I entered the office to point out the item to the superintendent.

“Aye,” said Cap, “I’ve seen it. That’s common enough. They’ll be here
for dinner day after to-morrow.”

They arrived exactly at the hour named, the four of them, weather-beaten
and bedraggled from their swim and the tramp across the desert, but
supplied with the Reverend ——’s tickets. Two of the quartet were very
engaging fellows with whom I was soon on intimate terms. One of this
pair had spent some months in Egypt years before, after using the same
means to make the passage from Europe.

On the Friday after their arrival, this man of experience met me at the
gate of the Asile as I returned from my day’s labor.

“Heh! Amerikaner,” he began, “do you get a half holiday to-morrow?”

“Sure,” I answered.

“I’m going to take Hans out for a moonlight view of the Pyramids. It’s
full moon and all the tourist companies are sending out tally-ho
parties. Want to go along?”

I did, of course. The next afternoon I left the Asile in company with
the pair. At the door of the office, I halted to pay my night’s lodging.

[Illustration: Spinners in the sun outside the walls of Cairo]

[Illustration: Guests of the Asile Rudolph, Cairo. François, champion
beggar, in the center, in the cape he wore as part of his “system”]

“Never mind that,” said Adolph, the man of experience, “we’ll sleep out

“Eh?” cried Hans and I.

Adolph pushed open the outer gate, and we followed.

“Suppose you’ll pay our lodging at the Mena House?” grinned Hans, as we
crossed the Kasr-el-Nil bridge.

“Don’t worry,” replied Adolph.

We pushed through the throng of donkey boys beyond the bridge and,
ignoring the electric line that connects Cairo with the pyramids of
Gizeh, covered the eight miles on foot. Darkness fell soon after our
arrival, and with it rose an unveiled moon. The tourists were out in
force. Adolph led the way in and out among the ancient monuments and
pointed out the most charming views with the discernment of an
antiquarian. The desert night soon turned cold. The tourist parties
strolled away to the great hotel below the hill, and Hans fell to

“Where’s this fine lodging you’re telling about?” he chattered.

“Komm’ mal her,” said Adolph.

He picked his way over the tumbled blocks towards the third pyramid,
climbed a few feet up its northern face, and disappeared in a black
hole. We followed, and, doubled up like balls, slid down, down, down a
sharply inclined tunnel, some three feet square, into utter darkness. As
our feet touched a stone floor, Adolph struck a match. The flame showed
two small vaults and several huge stone sarcophagi.

“Beds waiting for us, you see?” said Adolph. “Probably you’ve chatted
with the fellows who used to sleep here? They’re in the British Museum,
in London.”

He dropped the match and climbed into one of the coffins. I chose
another and found it as comfortable as a stone bed can be, though a bit
short. Our sleeping chamber was warm, somewhat too warm in fact, and
Hans, given to snoring, awoke echoes that resounded through the vaults
like the beating of forty drums. But the night passed quickly, and, when
our sense of time told us that morning had come, we crawled upward on
hands and knees through the tunnel and out into a sunlight that left us
blinking painfully for several moments.

A throng of tourists and Arabian rascals was surging about the
monuments. A quartet of khaki-clad Britishers kicked their heels on the
forehead of the Sphinx, puffing at their pipes as they exchanged the
latest garrison jokes. We fought our way through the clinging Arabs,
climbed to the summit of the pyramid of Cheops, took in the regulation
“sights,” and strolled back to Cairo.

Many a strange bit of human driftwood floated ashore in the Asile
Rudolph, but their stories would take too long in the telling. Yet no
account of that winter season in Cairo would be complete without mention
of “François.” François was, of course, a Frenchman, a Parisian, in
fact, and, contrary to the usual rule, it was he, and not a German, who
won and still holds the mendicant championship of Egypt. To all who
spoke French, he was known as the most loquacious and jolly lodger at
the Asile. The Reverend —— had long since turned him away from the door
of the rectory; but François would not be driven from his accustomed
bed, and paid his two piastres nightly.

As a young man the Frenchman had worked faithfully at his trade; he
admitted it with shame. Three years in the army, however, had awakened
within him an uncontrollable Wanderlust, and during the twenty-three
years since his discharge, he had tramped through every country of
Europe. He was a man of meager education and by no means the native
ability of Pia and many of the German colony. But long years before his
arrival in Egypt, he had evolved “un système” to which his fame as a
mendicant was due. The first part of this system concerned his personal
appearance. He was pale of complexion, though in reality very robust,
and he had trained his shoulders into a droop that suggested the last
stages of consumption. His garb, in general, was that of a French
workman, but over this he wore a cloak with a long cape that gave him an
aspect not unlike a monk, and, combined with his drooping shoulders and
sallow, long-drawn face, created a figure so forlorn as to attract
attention in any clime. Nothing, François asserted, had contributed so
much to his success as this cloak. Rain or shine, from the Highlands of
Scotland to the shores of the Black Sea, in the depth of winter or in
midsummer, he had clung to this garb for twenty years, replacing in that
time a dozen cloaks by others of identical design. Even in Egypt he
refused to appear in public without this superfluous outer garment, and,
though the African sun had turned the threadbare cape almost as yellow
as the desert sands, he was not to be separated from it until he had
picked up another in some charitable institution of the city.

The second part of François’s system was extremely simple. The method
which Pia so successfully manipulated was too complicated for a man of
little schooling; yet François rarely made a verbal appeal for alms. On
a score of cards, which he carried ever ready in a pocket of his cloak,
was written in as many languages this petition:—

“I am ill and in misery. Please help me.”

The French card was his own production. The others he had collected from
time to time as he made friends in the various countries he had visited.
For, with all his wanderings, François knew hardly a word of any
language but his own.

I set out with the French champion, one Sunday afternoon, to visit the
mosque of Sultan Hassan. Not far from the Asile gate, he caught sight of
a well-dressed man, whose appearance stamped him as a German. François
shuffled his cards with a hasty hand, chose the one in the corner of
which was written, in tiny letters, the word “allemand,” and set off at
a trot. Arrived within a few paces of his intended victim, he fell into
a measured tread, thrust out the card, and waited with sorrowful face
and hanging head. The German returned the card with a five-piastre

Cairo is nothing if not cosmopolitan, and it is doubtful if every one of
the cards did not make its appearance at least once during the
afternoon. American tourists, English officers, French entrepreneurs,
Greek priests, Italian merchants, Turkish clerks, Indian travelers, even
the Arab scribes sitting imperturbable beside their umbrella-shaded
stands,—all had the misery of François called to their attention.
Whether it was out of gratitude for a sight of the familiar words of his
native tongue, or out of pity for the abject creature who coughed so
distressingly and pointed to his ears like a deaf mute whenever a
question was put to him, rare was the man who did not give something.
François collected more than a hundred piastres during that single
promenade. Yet before we set out he had called me aside and drawn from
an inner pocket a purse that contained twenty-six English sovereigns in

But it was his method of dispensing his income that made the Frenchman
an enigma to his confidants. François neither drank nor smoked; he
rarely, if ever, indulged even in the mildest dissipation. Not far from
the Asile, he stopped at a café for his petit déjeuner of chocolate and
rolls and his morning paper; and, had he met the Khedive himself out for
a stroll, François would not have appealed to him before that breakfast
was over. He was strictly a union man, was François, in his hours of

But his daily expenditures were for bed and breakfast only. There were
scores of French chefs in Cairo, ever ready to welcome whomever knew the
kitchen door and the language of the cuisine. If his shoes wore out,
there were several French shops in the vicinity of the Esbekieh Gardens.
If he were in need of nothing more costly than a bar of soap, François
begged one of the first druggist he came upon. The sovereigns which
cosmopolitan Cairo thrust upon him were spent almost entirely for
souvenirs for his relatives in Paris. The most costly albums of Cairene
views, fine brass ware, dainty ornaments of native manufacturer were
packed in the bazaars and shipped away to those fortunate brothers,
sisters, and cousins of François in the French capital. Only once in
twenty-three years had he visited them, but few were the towns and
cities of all Europe the arts and manufactures of which were not
represented in that Parisian household. As a supplement to his gifts,
there came semi-annually a letter from François, announcing some new
success in his career as a traveling salesman.

[Illustration: An Arab market-day at the village of Gizeh]

                               CHAPTER X
                          THE LAND OF THE NILE

One fine morning, some two weeks after my introduction to Tom, I vacated
my post in the consul’s household and set about laying plans for a
journey up the Nile. My wages had not been reckoned on the American
scale, but for all that I was a man of comparative affluence when I
turned off the Moosky for my last visit to the headquarters of “the

The German is nothing if not systematic, be he prime minister or errant
adventurer. The Teutonic tramp does not wander at random through lands
of which his knowledge is chaotic or nil. He profits by the experience
of his fellow-ramblers. If he covers an unknown route, he returns with a
notebook full of information for his fellows. Thanks to this method, the
German beggar colony of Cairo had long contained a bureau of information
to which many a vagabond of other nationality bewailed his linguistic
inability to gain access. The archives of “the union” were particularly
rich in Egyptian lore. For there is but one route in Egypt. He who has
once journeyed up or down the Nile, with open eyes, is an authority on
the whole country.

Several of die Kunde were romping about on as many vermin colonies when
I entered, on this February afternoon, the room in which Pia was
accustomed to pen his eleemosynary masterpieces. It was an informal and
chance gathering that included nearly every authority in “the union” on
the territory beyond the Tombs of the Mamelukes. My projected journey
awakened great interest in all the group.

“As for myself,” said Pia, “I can’t see why you go. Most of the comrades
do, of course, but they will make the journey worth while. As for a man
who will only work! Pah! You will starve and die in the sands up there.”

The emaciated door was kicked open and a burly young man entered and
threw himself across the foot of one of the cots.

“Ah, now,” Pia went on, “there is Heinrich. He is going up the Nile too,
in a few days. He’s been up six times already. Why don’t you go up with
him? He knows all the ropes and you, being an American—”

“Was!” roared the newcomer, “Ein Amerikaner? Going up the river? Shake,
mein lieber! We go up together! We’ll do more business—”

“But if I go up, I’ll spend considerable time sight-seeing—”

“Sights? There’s something I never could understand. All the tourists go
up to see _sights_! Thank the Lord they do; what would the business be
without them? But what the devil do they see? Hundreds of miles of dry,
choking sand, with nothing but dirty Nile water to wash it off your face
and out of your throat! A lot of smashed-up rocks, covered with pictures
of hens and roosters, all red hot under the cursed sun that never stops
blazing. And besides that, niggers—millions of dirty niggers, blind
niggers, and half-blind niggers who do nothing but crawl around after
decent white men and beg. That’s all there is in Egypt, if you go up the
Nile, till you come to the sudd-fields of Uganda.”

“Well what do you go up for?” I asked. Even this brief acquaintance with
Heinrich convinced me that he would die the death of a martyr rather
than disgrace die Kamaraden by working.

“What for? Why so I won’t starve, to be sure. If I could wiggle the
feather and paint like Otto there, I’d see hell freeze over before I’d
move a mile south of Cairo. But I can’t, so I must go over the
soft-hearted ones again. I’ve worked ’em pretty hard the last two years,
but the game’s good yet. I’ve grown this beard since the last trip, and
got a new story all bolstered up. I’m a civil engineer this time, with a
wife and three children here in Cairo. Going up, I’ll be making for the
Berber-Suakim line, after spending all I had on the kid’s doctor bills.
Coming down, it’s the fever story—that’s always good—or my wife is dying
and, if we can get her back to Hamburg before she croaks, she’ll get an
inheritance her uncle just left her. Pretty neat that, eh?” grinned
Heinrich, turning to his admiring mates. “Thought that out one night
when I couldn’t sleep. Brand new, isn’t it? Aber, Gott, mein lieber,” he
addressed me once more, “if you’ll only come along! I can’t speak
English, and most of the soft ones know my face. But I’ll point out
everyone of them from here to Assuan. I’ll lay low and we’ll share

[Illustration: A woman of Alexandria, Egypt, carrying two bushels of
oranges. Even barefooted market-women wear the veil required by the

[Illustration: On the top of the largest pyramid. From the ground it
looks as sharply pointed as the others]

I declined to enter into an offensive alliance against the “soft ones,”
however, and turned to Pia for the information which he had once
promised to give me. While he talked, every other lounger in the room
added his voice from time to time; and from deep wells of experience I
gleaned a long list of names, flanked by biographical details, as we
journeyed mentally up the river. This vagabond’s edition of “Who’s Who
in Egypt” completed, Pia laid down several rules of the road.

“I don’t see why you go up,” he began. “You can make a fortune right
here. If you are determined to go, get a good story and always stick to
it, changing it enough to fit different cases. Some, it will pay you to
ask for work—you know the breed; others, just ask for money. Take
anything they give you. You can sell it if you don’t want it. Always see
the big men long before train time. They will often offer to buy you a
ticket to wherever you want to go; and, if the train is soon due, they
may go to the station and buy it. But if you touch them long before
train time, they may give you the money and go back to business. Then
you can spend a couple of piastres to the next station and work that the
same way. The sugar factories are all good—they’ll even give you work,
perhaps, if you are fool enough to take it. Always hit the young
Englishmen. They’re almost all of them adventurers with nothing much to
do with their money. When you catch a missionary, make him take up a
collection for you among the native Christians. He must do it, by the
rules of the Board of Missions.

“The ticket game is always best. If you get three or four men in each
town to give you the price to Assiut or Assuan, you can make the trip in
a month and pick up good money. When you get a lot of silver, change it
at any of Cook’s offices into gold sovereigns and sew them up in your
clothes. Be sure not to let any money rattle when you’re spinning a
hard-luck yarn. And don’t be a fool, like some of the comrades who have
gone up for one trip. They pump a town dry, and, not satisfied to wait
until they hit Cairo again, go on a blow-out and lie around drunk for a
week where those who gave them ticket money can see them. That queers
the burg for the next six months. Of course you know enough to be of the
same church, and very pious, when you hit a missionary, and to be from
the same state when you touch an American? Above all never let a boat
load of tourists go by without touching them. Always go down to the dock
and make enough noise so that they all hear you. Some of the boys who
are good at it throw a fit when they get in a crowd of rich ones. But as
you talk English, a good tale of woe will do as well. When you get well
up the river, and a good tan, and a couple of weeks’ beard, spring the
old yarn of ‘lost my job and must get down to Cairo.’ And always wait
for a train. You’ll miss the whole game if you walk; and you’ll die of
sunstroke, besides.”

In the face of Pia’s warning, I left Cairo on foot the next morning,
and, crossing the Nile, turned southward along a ridge of shifting sand
beyond the village of Gizeh. Along an irrigating ditch, that flanked the
ridge, scores of _shadufs_, those human paradigms of perpetual motion,
were ceaselessly dipping, dipping, the water that gives life to the
fields of Egypt. Between the canal and the sparkling Nile, groups of
fellahs, deaf to the blatant sunshine, set out sugar cane or clawed the
soil of the arid plain. On the desert wind rode the never-ceasing squawk
of the _sakka_, or Egyptian water-wheel.

Beyond the pyramids of Sakkara, I sought shelter in the palm groves that
cover the site of ancient Memphis, and took my siesta on the recumbent
statue of Rameses. A backsheesh-thirsty village rose up to cut off my
return to the sandy road, and forced me to run a gauntlet of
out-stretched hands. ’Tis the national anthem of Egypt, this cry of
backsheesh. Workmen at their labor, women bound for market, children
rooting in the streets, drop all else to surge after the faranchee who
may be induced to “sprinkle iron” among them. Even the unclothed infant
astride a mother’s shoulder thrusts forth a dimpled hand to the passing
white man with a gurgle of “sheesh.”

As darkness came on I reached the railway station of Mazgoona, some
thirty miles from Cairo. The village lay far off to the eastward; but
the station master invited me to supper and spread a quilt bed in the
telegraph office.

A biting wind blew from the north when I set out again in the morning. A
hundred yards from the station, a cry of “monsoor” was borne to my ears,
and a servant summoned me back to his master’s office.

“I have just received a wire,” said the latter, “from the division
superintendent. He is coming on the next train. Wait and ask him for a

A half-hour later there stepped from the north-bound express, not the
grey-haired man I had expected, but a beardless English youth who could
not have been a day over twenty. It was a new experience to apply for
work to a man younger than myself, but I respectfully stated my case.

“I haven’t a vacancy on my division just at present,” said the boy.
“There is plenty of work in Assiut, though. Want to go that far south?”

[Illustration: “Along the way shadoofs were ceaselessly dipping up the
water that gives life to the fields of Egypt”]

[Illustration: The “Tombs of the Kings” from the top of the Libyan
range, to which I climbed above the plain of Thebes]

“Yes,” I answered.

He drew a card from his pocket and scribbled on it two fantastic Arabic

“Take the third-class coach,” he said, handing me the pass. “This covers
my division; but you might drop off in Beni Suef and look about.”

Following his advice, I halted near noonday at that wind-swept village.
There was no need to make inquiry for the European residents; they were
all duly recorded in the “comrades’ Baedeker.” As in Cairo, however,
they offered money in lieu of work, and clutched weakly at the nearest
support when I refused it. A young Englishman, inscribed in my notes as
“Bromley, Pasha, Inspector of Irrigation; quite easy,” gave me evening
rendezvous on the bank of the canal beyond the village. Long after dark
he appeared on horseback, attended by two natives with flaming torches,
and, being ferried across the canal, led the way towards his _dahabeah_,
anchored at the shore of the Nile.

“I fancied I’d find something to put you at,” he explained, as he turned
his horse over to a jet-black groom who popped up out of the darkness,
“but I didn’t, and the last train’s gone. I’ll buy you a ticket to
Assiut in the morning.”

“I have a pass,” I put in.

“Oh,” said the Englishman, “well, you’ll put up with me here to-night,

He led the way across the gangplank. The change from the bleak wastes of
African sand to this floating palace was as startling as if Bromley,
Pasha, had been possessor of Aladdin’s lamp. Richly-turbaned servants,
in spotless white gowns, sprang forward to greet their master; to place
a chair for him; to pull off his riding boots and replace them with
slippers; to slip the Cairo daily into his hands; and sped noiselessly
away to finish the preparation of the evening meal. Had Bromley, Pasha,
been a fellow countryman, I might have enjoyed the pleasure of his
company instead of dining alone in the richly-furnished anteroom. But
Englishmen of the “upper classes” are not noted for their democratic
spirit, and the good inspector, no doubt, dreaded the uncouth table
manners of a plebeian from half-civilized America.

Breakfast over, next morning, I returned to the village and departed on
the south-bound express. The third-class coach was densely packed with
huddled natives and their unwieldy cargo; all, that is, except the bench
around the sides, on which a trio of gloomy Arabs, denied the privilege
of squatting on the floor, perched like fowls on a roost. The air that
swept through the open car was as wintry as the Egyptian is wont to
experience. Only the faces of the males were uncovered. The women,
wrapped like mummies in fold after fold of black gowns, crouched utterly
motionless, well-nigh indistinguishable from the bundles of baggage.
Even the guard, wading through the throng, brought no sign of life from
the prostrate females; for their tickets were invariably produced by a
male escort.

The congestion was somewhat relieved at the junction of the Fayoum
branch. The men who had reached their destination rose to their feet,
struggled to extricate their much-tied bundles, and rolled them over
their fellow travelers and down the steps. Not a female stirred during
this unwonted activity of her lord and master. When he had safely
deposited his more valuable chattels on the platform, he returned to
grasp her by the hand and drag her unceremoniously out the door.

Around the train swarmed hawkers of food. Dates, boiled eggs, baked
fish, oranges, and soggy bread-cakes, in quantity sufficient to have
supplied an army, were thrust upon whomever ventured to peer outside.
From the neighboring fields came workmen laden down with freshly cut
bundles of sugar cane, to give the throng the appearance of a forest in
motion. Three great canes, as long and unwieldy as bamboo fish rods,
sold at a small piastre, and hardly a native in the car purchased less
than a half-dozen. By the time we were off again, the coach had been
converted into a fodder bin.

The canes were broken into two-foot lengths, and each purchaser,
grasping a section in his hands, bit into it, and, jerking his head from
side to side like a bulldog, tore off a strip. Then with a sucking that
was heard above the roar of the train, he extracted the juice and cast
the pulp on the floor about him. At each station, new arrivals squatted
on the festive remnants left by their predecessors and spat
industriously at the valleys which marked the resting places of the
departed. The pulp dried rapidly, and by noonday the floor of the car
was carpeted with a sugar-cane mat several inches thick.

My pass ran out in the early afternoon, and I set off to canvass the
metropolis of upper Egypt. Several Europeans had already expressed their
regrets when, towards evening, I caught sight of the stars and stripes
waving over an unusually large building. I turned in at the gate and
made inquiry of a native grubbing in the yard.

“Thees house?” he cried, “you not know what thees is? Thees American

I drew out my notes. Beneath the name of the hospital appeared this
entry:—“Dr. Henry and Dr. Bullock, Americans; easy marks; very

“Come and see house,” invited the native. “Very beeg.”

He led the way to one side of the building, where nearly a hundred
natives, suffering with every small ailment from festered legs to
toothache, were huddled disconsolately about the office stairway.

“Thees man come get cured,” said my guide. “Thees not sick nuff go bed.
American Doctors very good, except”—and his voice dropped to a
whisper—“wants all to be Christian.”

The patients filed into the office, emerged with cards in their hands,
and crowded about the door of the dispensary. As the last emaciated
wretch limped away, a slender, middle-aged white man descended the

“Thees Dr. Henry,” whispered the native. “Doctor, thees man be

I tendered my letter of introduction from the American consulate.

“A mechanical engineer!” cried the doctor. “Fine! Just the man we are
looking for. Come with me.”

An engineer I was not—of any species. That profession had been forced
upon me by the carelessness of Mr. Morgan’s secretary. But there flashed
suddenly across my mind the saying of an erstwhile employer in
California:—“When you’re looking for work, never admit there’s anything
you can’t do.” I followed after the doctor.

At the rear of the establishment, Dr. Bullock and a well-dressed native
were superintending the labors of a band of Egyptians, grubbing about
the edge of a large reservoir.

“Now, here is the problem,” said the older man, when he had introduced
me to his colleague. “This reservoir is our water supply. It is filled
by the inundations of the Nile. But towards the end of the dry season
the water gets so low that our force-pump will not raise it. The native
engineer whom we have called in is a graduate of the best technical
school in Cairo. But—ah—er”—his voice fell low—“you know what natives
are? Now what do _you_ suggest?”

Compelled to spar for wind, I asked to be shown the pump and to have the
reservoir sounded. The native engineer hung on our heels, listening for
any words of wisdom that might fall from my lips. Fortunately, I had
once seen a similar difficulty righted.

“There are two possible solutions of the trouble,” I began, in an
authoritative voice, swinging round until the native appeared on the
edge of my field of vision. “The first is to buy a much more powerful
pump”—the native scowled blackly—“the second is to build a smaller
reservoir halfway up, get another small pump, and—er—relay the water to
the top.” The engineer was smiling blandly at the doctors’ backs. “Now
the first would be costly. The second requires only a few yards of pipe,
a cheap pump, and a bit of excavating.”

“Ah!” cried the native, rushing forward, “That is my idea exactly, only
I did not wish to say—”

“Bah!” interrupted Dr. Henry, “Your idea! Why don’t you fellows ever
have an idea until someone else gives you one? I’m glad. Dr. Bullock,
that we’ve got a man at last who—”

“Yes,” I repeated, “I should put in two pumps, by all means.”

“I’ll send in the order to Cairo to-night,” said the doctor. “Bring your
men in the morning, efendee, and set them to digging the reservoir. You
don’t need another man to help you on that, I hope?”

“You will find little work in Assiut, just now,” he went on, as we
entered the hospital. “By all means go to Assuan. There is employment
for every class of mechanic on the barrage. I suppose two dollars will
about cover your fee?” He dropped four ten-piastre pieces into my hand.
“But you must stay to supper with us. We have one bed unoccupied, too;
but three men have died in it in the past month, and if you are

“Not in the least,” I protested.

I rose long before daylight next morning, and groped my way to the
station. A ticket to Luxor took barely half my fee as consulting
engineer. At break of day, the railway crossed to the eastern bank, and
at the next station the train stood motionless while driver, trainmen,
and passengers executed their morning prayers in the desert sand.
Beyond, the chimneys of great sugar refineries belched forth dense
clouds of smoke, and at every halt shivering urchins offered for sale
the crude product of the factories, cone-shaped lumps, dark-brown in

The voice of the south spoke more distinctly with every mile. We were
approaching, now, the district where rain and dew are utterly unknown.
The desert grew more arid, the whirling sand finer, more penetrating.
The natives, already of darker hue than the cinnamon-colored Cairene,
grew blacker and blacker. The chilling wind of two days past turned
tepid, then piping hot, and, ere we drew into Luxor, Egypt lay, as of
old, under her mantle of densest sunshine.

[Illustration: A water-carrier of Luxor. A goatskin full costs one cent]

The tourist colony of Luxor, housed in two great faranchee hotels, would
be incomplete without a rendezvous for “the comrades.” Close by the
station squats a tumble-down shack, styled the “Hotel Economica,”
wherein, dreaming away his old age over a cigarette, sits Pietro
Saggharia. Pietro was a “comrade” once. His tales of “the road,” gleaned
in forty years of errant residence in Africa, and couched in almost any
tongue the listener may choose, are to be had for a kind word, even
while the exiled Greek is serving the forbidden liquor to backsliding
Mohammedans and the white wanderers who take shelter beneath his roof.

I left my knapsack in Pietro’s keeping and struck off for the great
ruins of Karnak. The society intrusted with the preservation of the
monuments of upper Egypt has put each important ruin in charge of a
guardian, and denies admittance to all who leave Cairo without a ticket
issued by the society. The price thereof is little short of a vagabond’s
fortune. I journeyed to Karnak, therefore, resolved to be content with a
view of her row of sphinxes and a circuit of her outer walls.

About the approach to the ancient palaces the seekers after backsheesh
held high court. Before I had shaken off the last screeching youth, I
came upon a great iron gate that shut out the unticketed, and paused to
peer through the bars for a glimpse of the much-heralded interior. On
the ground before the barrier squatted a sleek, well-fed native. He rose
and announced himself as the guard; but made no attempt to drive me off.

“You don’t see much from here,” he said, in Arabic, as I turned away.
“Have you already seen the temple? Or perhaps you have no ticket?”

“La, ma feesh,” I replied; “therefore I must stay outside.”

“Ah! Then you are no tourist?” smiled the native. “Are you English?”

“Aywa,” I answered, for the Arabic term “inglesi” covers all who speak
that tongue, “but no tourist, merely a workingman.”

“Ah,” sighed the guard, “too bad you are an inglesi then; for if you
spoke French, the superintendent of the excavations is a good friend of
workingmen. But he speaks no English.”

“Where shall I find him?”

“In the office just over the hill, there.”

I took the direction indicated, and came upon a temporary structure,
before which an aged European sat motionless in a rocking chair. About
him was scattered a miscellaneous collection of statues, broken and

“Are you the superintendent, sir?” I asked, in French.

The octogenarian frowned, but answered not a word. I repeated the
question in a louder voice.

“Va t’en!” shrieked the old man, grasping a heavy cane that leaned
against his chair and shaking it feebly at me. “Go away! You’re a
beggar. I know you are.”

Evidently the fourth layer of shirt bosom, uncovered specially for the
occasion, had failed in its mission. I pleaded a case of mistaken
identity. The aged Frenchman watched me with the half-closed eyes of a
cat, clinging to his stick.

“Why do you want to see the superintendent?” he demanded.

“To work, if he has any. If not, to see the temple.”

“You will not ask him for money?”

“By no means.”

“Bien! En ce cas—Maghmoód,” he coughed.

A native appeared at the door of the shanty.

“My son is the superintendent,” said the old man, displaying a grotesque
pattern of wrinkles that was meant for a smile. “Follow Maghmoód.”

The son, an affable young Frenchman attired in the thinnest of white
trousers and an open shirt, was bowed over a small stone covered with
hieroglyphics. I made known my errand.

“Work?” he replied, “No. Unfortunately the society allows us to hire
only natives. I wish I might have a few Europeans to superintend the
excavations. But I am always pleased to find a workman interested in the
antiquities. You are as free to go inside as if you had a ticket. But it
is midday now. How do you escape a sunstroke with only that cap? You had
better sit here in the shade until the heat dies down a bit.”

I assured him that the Egyptian sun had no evil effects upon me and he
stepped to the door to shout an order to the sleek gatekeeper just out
of sight over the hill. That official grinned knowingly as I appeared,
unlocked the gate, and, fending off with one hand several elusive
urchins, admitted me to the noonday solitude of the forest of pillars.

As the shadows began to lengthen, a flock of “Cookies” invaded the
sacred precincts, and, stumbling through the ruins in pursuit of their
shepherds, two dragomans of phonographical erudition, awoke the dormant
echoes with their bleating. With their departure, came less precipitous
mortals, weighed down under cameras and notebooks. Interest centered in
one animated corner of the enclosure. There, in the latest excavation,
an army of men and boys toiled at the shadufs that raised the sand and
the water which the sluiceways poured into the pit to loosen the soil.
Other natives, naked but for a loin-cloth, groped in the mud at the
bottom, eager to win the small reward offered to the discoverer of each
archæological treasure.

One such prize was captured during the afternoon. A small boy, half
buried in the ooze, suddenly ceased his wallowing with a shrill shriek
of triumph; and came perilously near being trampled out of sight by his
fellow-workmen. In a twinkling, half the band, amid a mighty uproar of
shouting and splashing, was tugging at some heavy object still hidden
from view.

They raised it at last,—a female figure in blue stone, some four feet in
length, which had suffered downfall, burial, and the onslaughts of the
Arab horde without apparent injury. The news of the discovery was
quickly carried to the shanty on the hill. In a great pith helmet that
gave him a striking resemblance to a walking toadstool, the
superintendent hurried down to the edge of the pit and gave orders that
the statue be carried to a level space, about which a throng of excited
tourists lay in wait with open notebooks. There it was carefully washed
with sponges, gloated over by the aforementioned tourists, and placed on
a car of the tiny railway system laid through the ruins. Natives, in
number sufficient to have moved one of Karnak’s mighty pillars, tailed
out on the rope attached to the car, and, moving to the rhythm of a
weird Arabic song of rejoicing, dragged the new find through the temple
and deposited it at the feet of the aged Frenchman.

As evening fell, I turned back to the Hotel Economica. Several
“comrades” had gathered, but neither they nor Pietro could give me
information concerning the land across the Nile, which I proposed to
visit next day. The Greek knew naught of the ruins of Thebes, save the
anecdote of a former guest, who had attempted the excursion and returned
wild with thirst, mumbling an incoherent tale of having floundered in
seas of sand.

“For our betters,” said Pietro, in the softened Italian in which he
chose to address me. “For the rich ladies and gentlemen who can ride on
donkeys and be guarded by many dragomans, a visit to Thebes is very
well. But common folk like you and I! Bah! We are not wanted there. They
would send no army to look for _us_ if we disappeared in the desert.
Besides, you must have a ticket to see anything.”

I drew from my pocket the folders of the Egyptian tourist companies. A
party from the Anglo-Saxon steamer, tied up before the temple of Luxor,
was scheduled to leave for an excursion to Thebes in the morning. What
easier plan than to shadow these more fortunate nomads?

Fearful of being left behind, I rose at dawn and hastened away to the
bazaars to make provision for the day—bread-cakes for hunger and oranges
for thirst. A native boatman, denied a fee of ten piastres, accepted
one, and set me down on the western bank. The shrill screams of a troop
of donkey boys, embarking their animals below the temple, greeted the
rising sun. Not long after their landing a vanguard of three veiled and
helmeted tourists stepped ashore, and, mounting as many animals, sped
away into the trackless desert. I followed them as swiftly as was
consistent with faranchee dignity until the last resounding whack of a
donkey boy’s stave came faintly to my ear; then sat down to await the
next section. The inhabitants of a mud village swooped down upon me,
and, convinced that I had fallen from my donkey, sought to force upon me
a score of wabbly-kneed beasts. My refusal to choose one of these “ver’
cheap, ver’ fine” animals was taken as an attempt at facetiousness,
which it was to their interests as prospective beneficiaries to roar at
with delight. When the supposed canard waxed serious, their mirth turned
to virulence, and I was in a fair way to be mounted by force when the
steamer party rode down upon us.

’Twas an inspiring sight. The half-mile train of donkeys that trailed
off across the desert was bestridden by every condition of Anglo-Saxon
from raw-boned scientists and diaphanous maidens to the corpulent
matrons and mighty masses of self-made men whose incessantly belabored
animals brought up the rear. I kept pace with the band and even
outstripped the stragglers. After an hour’s swift march, that left me
dripping with perspiration, the party dismounted to inspect a temple.
Gates were there none, and what two guardians could examine the tickets
of such a band all at once? I had satisfied my antiquarian tastes before
an observant dragoman pointed me out to the officials, and my consequent
exit gave me just the time needed to empty the sand from my slippers
before the cavalcade set off again.

[Illustration: The main entrance to the ruins of Karnak]

The sharp ascent to the Tombs of the Kings was more irksome to an
over-burdened ass than to a pedestrian. Even though the jeering donkey
boys succeeded in pocketing me in the narrow gorges, it was I who
carried news of the advancing throng to the gate of the mausoleum. A
native lieutenant of police was on hand to offer assistance to the
keeper against the unticketed. But the lieutenant spoke Italian, and was
so delighted to find that he could hold converse with me without being
understood by the surrounding rabble, that he gave me permission to
enter, in face of the gate tender’s protest.

Sufficiently orientated now to find my way alone, I took silent leave of
the party and struck southward towards a precipitous cliff of stone and
sand. To pass this barrier the bedonkeyed must make a circuit of many
miles. Clinging to crack and crevice, I began the ascent. Halfway up, a
roar of voices sounded from the plain below. I groped for a safer hand
hold and looked down. About the lieutenant at the foot of the cliff was
grouped the official party, gazing upward, confirmed now, no doubt, in
their earlier suspicion that I was some madman at large. Before their
circuit of the mountain had well begun, I had reached the summit above
the goal from which they were separated by many a weary mile.

The view that spread out from the rarely visited spot might well have
awakened the envy of the tourists below. North and south, unadorned by a
vestige of verdure, stretched the Lybian range, deep vermilion in the
valleys, the salient peaks splashed blood-red by the homicidal sunshine.
Below bourgeoned the plain of Thebes, its thick green carpet weighted
down by a few fellaheen villages and the ponderous playthings of an
ancient civilization. As the eye wandered, a primeval saying took on new
meaning:—“Egypt is the Nile.” Tightly to the life-giving river,
distinctly visible in this marvelous atmosphere for a hundred miles,
clung the slender land of Egypt, a spotless ribbon of richest green,
following every contour of the Father of Waters. All else was but a
limitless sea of yellow, choking sand.

I descended to the Tomb of Queen Hatasu and spent the afternoon among
the ruins on the edge of the plain. Arriving alone and unannounced, I
had little difficulty in entering where I chose. For were the guardian
not asleep, I had only to refuse to understand his Arabic and his
excited gestures, until I had examined each monument to my heart’s
content. I had passed the Colossi of Memnon before the tourists, jaded
and drooping from a day in the saddle, overtook me, and I made headway
against them to the bank of the river. There they shook me off, however.
The dragomans in charge of the party snarled in anger when I offered to
pay for the privilege of embarking in the company boat. There was
nothing else to do, much as I rebelled against the recrimination, but to
be ferried over with the donkeys.

I departed, next day, by the narrow-gauge railway to Assuan, and reached
that watering place of the first cataract in time to grace the afternoon
concert. Pietro’s retreat is the last of the chain. Nearly six hundred
miles, now, from the headquarters of die Kunde, I was reduced again to a
native inn and the companionship of a half-barbaric horde. It was no
such palace as housed my fellow-countrymen on Elephantine Island; but
the bedroom on the roof was airy, and the bawling of a muezzin in the
minaret above summoned forth no other faranchee to witness the gorgeous
birth of a new day.

Some miles beyond Assuan lay the new barrage, where work was plentiful.
Just how far, I could not know; still less that it was connected with
the village by rail. From morning until high noon, I clawed my way along
the ragged cliffs overhanging the impoverished cataract, ere I came in
sight of the vast barrier that has robbed it of its waters. Among the
rocks of what was once the bed of the Nile, sat a dozen wooden shanties.
From the largest, housing the superintendent, came sounds of revelry out
of all keeping with the gigantic task at hand. It transpired, however,
that this was no ordinary dinner-hour festival. I had arrived, as so
often before, mal à propos.

“Work?” gurgled the superintendent, handing back my papers, “The bloody
work is off the slate, Yank.”

Was it the Egyptian sun that had made him so merry? Perhaps. But there
was more than one bottle, blown with the name of Rheims, scattered in
the sand before the hut.

“Yesh,” confided the Englishman, “she’s all over, old cock. We’re goin’
down in the morning. A few dago masons and the coolies will mess about a
few weeks more; but all these lads are, hick—‘Sailin’ ’ome to merry
England; never more to roam,’” and his voiced pitched and stumbled over
the well-known melody. “But the man that comes up to work in this
murderin’ sun should be paid for it, boys, even if it’s only a bloomin’
intention. ’Ere, lads, pass the ’at for the Yank. ’E can’t go ’ome
to-mor—” but I was gone.

I was still the proud possessor of fifty piastres. That sum could not
carry me down to the Mediterranean; for the fare by train to Cairo was
sixty-five, and the steamer rate of forty-five did not include food.
Moreover, ’tis the true vagabond spirit to push on until the last
resource is exhausted; and what a reputation I might win among the Kunde
by outstripping the best weaver of Märchen among them!

The railway was ended, but steamers departed twice a week from Shellal,
above the barrage. At the landing a swarm of natives were loading a
dilapidated barge, and a native agent was dozing behind the bars of a
home-made ticket office.

“Yes,” he yawned, in answer to my query, “there is to-night leaving
steamer. Soon be here. The fare is two hundred and fifty piastres.”

“Two hun—” I gasped. “Why, that must be first-class.”

“Yes, very first class. But gentleman not wish travel second class?”

“Certainly not. Give me a third-class ticket.”

The Egyptian fell on his feet and stared at me through the grill.

“What say gentleman? Third-class! No! No! Not go third-class.
Second-class one hundred and eighty piastres, very poor.”

“But there _is_ a third-class, isn’t there?”

“Third-class go. Forty piastres. But only for Arabs. White man never go
third-class. Not give food, not give sleep, not ride on steamer; ride on
barge there, tied with steamer with string. All gentlemen telling me
must have European food. Gentlemen not sleep with boxes and horses on
barge? Very Arab; very stink—”

“Yes, I know; but give me a third-class ticket,” I interrupted, counting
out forty piastres.

The native blinked, sat down dejectedly on his stool, and, with a sigh
of resignation, reached for a ticket. Suddenly his face lighted up and
he pushed my money back to me.

“If white man go third-class,” he crowed, “must have pass of Soudan
gover’ment. Not can sell ticket without.”

“But how can I get a pass before I am in the Soudan?”

“There is living English colonel with fort, far side Assuan.”

I hurried away to the railway station. The fare to Assuan was a few
cents, and one train ran each way during the afternoon. But it made the
up-trip first! I struck out on the railroad, raced through Assuan, and
tore my way through the jungle to the fort, three miles below the
village. A squad of khaki-clad black men flourished their bayonets
uncomfortably near my ribs. I bawled out my errand in Arabic, and an
officer waved the sentinels aside.

“The colonel is sleeping now,” he said; “come this evening.”

“But I want a pass for this evening’s steamer.”

“We cannot wake the colonel.”

“Is there no one else who can sign the order?”

“Only the colonel. Come this evening.”

Order or no order, I would not be red-taped out of a journey into the
Soudan. I readjusted my knapsack and pranced off for the third time on
the ten-mile course between Assuan and Shellal. Night was falling as I
sped through the larger village. When I stepped aside for the
down-train, my legs wobbled under me like two pneumatic supports from
which half the air had escaped. The screech of a steamboat whistle
resounded through the Nile valley as I came in sight of the lights of
Shellal. I broke into a run, falling, now and then, on the uneven
ground. The sky was clear, but there was no moon and the night was black
despite the stars. The deck hands were already casting off the shore
lines of the barge, and the steamer was churning the shallow water. I
pulled off my coat, threw it over my head, after the fashion in which
the fellah wears his gown after nightfall, and, thus slightly disguised,
dashed towards the ticket office.

“A ticket to Wady Haifa,” I gasped in Arabic, striving to imitate the
apologetic tone of an Egyptian peasant. For once I saw a native move
with something like haste. The agent glanced at the money, snatched a
ticket, and thrust it through the bars, crying: “Hurry up, the boat is
go—” but the white hand that clutched the ticket betrayed me. The agent
sprang to the door with a howl, “Stop! It’s the faranchee! Come back—”

I caught up my knapsack as I ran, made a flying leap at the slowly
receding barge, and landed on all fours under the feet of a troop of

The Arab who stood grinning at me as I picked myself up was evidently
the only man on the craft who had witnessed my hurried embarkation. He
was dressed in native garb, save for a tightly buttoned khaki jacket.
His legs were bare, his feet thrust into low, red slippers. About his
head was wound an ample turban of red and white checks, on either cheek
were the scars of three long parallel gashes, and in the top of his
right ear hung a large silver ring.

[Illustration: The Egyptian fellah dwells in a hut of reeds and mud]

The scars and ring announced him a Nubian; the jacket, a corporal of
cavalry; the bridle in his hand, custodian of the horses; and any
blockhead must have known that he answered to the name of Maghmoód. We
became boon companions, Maghmoód and I, before the journey ended. By
night we shared the same blanket; by day he would have divided the
contents of his saddlebags with me, had not the black men who trooped
down to each landing with baskets of native food made that sacrifice
unnecessary. He spun tales of his campaigns with Kitchener in a
clear-cut Arabic that even a faranchee must have understood, and, save
for the five periods each day when he stood barefooted at his prayers,
was as pleasant a companion as any denizen of the western world could
have been.

When morning broke I climbed a rickety ladder to the upper deck. It was
so densely packed from rail to rail with huddled Arabs that a poodle
could not have found room to sit on his haunches. I mounted still higher
and came out upon the roof of the barge, an uncumbered promenade from
which I could survey the vast panorama of the Nile.

Its banks were barren, now. The fertile strips of green, fed by the
shaduf and the sakka, had been left behind with the land of Egypt.
Except for a few tiny oases, the aggressive desert had pushed its way to
the very water’s edge, here sloping down in beaches of softest sand,
there falling sheer into the stream in rugged, verdureless cliffs. Yet
somewhere in this yellow wilderness a hardy people found sustenance. Now
and then a peasant waved a hand or a tattered flag from the shore, and
the steamer ran her nose high up on the beach to pick up the bale of
produce he had rolled down the slope. With every landing a group of
tawny barbarians sprang up from a sandy nowhere to slash from the
gorgeous sunlight fantastic shadows as black as their own leathery

On the level with my promenade deck was that of the first-class
passengers. There were no English-speaking travelers among them. Half
the party were priests of the Eastern Church, phlegmatic, robust men in
long black gowns and a headdress like an inverted “stovepipe,” beneath
which a tangled thicket of hair and beard left barely more than nose and
eyes visible. The laymen, evidently, were of the same faith. They took
part in the religious services, and their speech was redundant with the
softened S of modern Greek.

Maghmoód, perhaps, betrayed my confidences. At any rate, the
oily-skinned Armenian who accosted me from the steamer in execrable
French knew more of my affairs than I had told to anyone but the

“My friends have been wondering,” he began, abruptly, “how you will find
work in the Soudan if you have not money enough to go to Khartum, where
the work is? We are all going to Khartum. The venerable patriarch there,
with the longest beard, is the head of our church in Africa, going there
to look after the Greeks. You should come too.”

Several times during the afternoon, he returned to ply me with
questions. As we halted before the cliff-hewn temple of Abu Simbel, I
descended to the lower deck to pose Maghmoód for a picture. He had just
called up Mecca, however, and before he deigned to notice my existence,
a voice sounded above me:—“Faranchee, taala hena.” I looked up to see
the servant of the Armenian beckoning to me from the upper deck.

“All the cabin passengers have been saying,” maundered the master, when
I reached the roof of the barge, “that you must get to Khartum. We were
about to take up a collection to buy you a ticket when the venerable
patriarch showed us a better plan. He is in need of a servant who can
write English and French. Of course, he is very rich, like all the head
patriarchs, and he will, perhaps, pay you much. If he does not need you
when he gets to Khartum, there is plenty of work there. Come with me to
the cabin.”

The “venerable patriarch” spoke only his native tongue. One of his
attendant priests, however, was well versed in Italian, and through him
his chief dictated a letter to the English mudir of Wady Halfa, and a
second to the French consul at Assiut. Neither epistle contained matter
of international importance. I half suspected that my employment was
little more than charity in disguise; yet the Greek assured me that my
services were indispensable. Who knows? But for the force of
circumstances, I might still be gracing the suite of the patriarch of

We tied up at Wady Halfa after nightfall. The first man to cross the
gang plank was an English officer bearing an order forbidding any one to
land. A telegram from Assuan announced the outbreak of the plague, and
the steamer was to be held in quarantine.

A loud-voiced protest rose from the Greeks. The train to Khartum was to
depart soon, and the service is not hourly in the Soudan. A swift
correspondence took place between the steamer and the mudiria. The
priests were permitted to disembark. The laymen revolted against such
discrimination and were soon released. Within a half-hour, the
second-class passengers followed after them; and, with no man of
influence left on board, the steamer slipped her moorings and tied up in
the middle of the river at the foot of the second cataract.

We were landed early next morning and the Armenian, in company with
three Greek residents, met me at the top of the bank.

“The patriarch has made this man your guardian,” he explained, pointing
to one of his companions. “He is keeper of the Hotel Tewfekieh. He has
your third-class ticket to Khartum, and you will live with him until you

It was then Thursday morning. The next train was scheduled to leave on
Saturday night. In two days I had more than exhausted the sights of Wady
Halfa, and time hung heavily on my hands. Until my meeting with the
Greeks, I had never dreamed of proceeding beyond the second cataract.
The sun-baked city of Omdurman teemed with interest, perhaps; but a
sweltering two-day journey across the desert was no pleasant
anticipation. Moreover, half my allotted time had already passed, and my
trip around the globe was by no means half completed. Unfortunately, my
worldly wealth, if it was my own, was tied up in a bit of cardboard in
the possession of my host. It was a small fortune, too, more than ten
dollars. Had I been the possessor of half that amount, I should have
turned back to Port Saïd forthwith. The good patriarch, certainly, would
shed no tears of regret if I failed to appear before him on Tuesday
morning. My “guardian,” too, always spoke of the ticket as _my_
property, and would, no doubt, relinquish it if I could offer a
reasonable excuse for turning back. But I could not, and who should say
that the railway company would refund the money if I could.

I had, therefore, resolved to carry out the plan as first proposed,
when, one afternoon, a native soldier broke in on my musing and summoned
me to the office of the commissioner of customs.

“I hear you’re going to Khartum,” said that official. “You know you must
have a pass from the mudir. Thought I’d tell you so you wouldn’t get
held up at the last moment. The mudiria is closed now, but as soon as it
opens, you can get a pass all right.”

“Hope not,” I muttered, as I turned away.

The next morning a servant in a turban of daring color-scheme ushered me
into the office of Governor Parsons, Pasha, raised his palms to his
forehead, and withdrew. The mudir was a slight, yet sturdy Englishman of
that frank, energetic type which the British government seems singularly
fortunate in choosing as rulers of her dependencies abroad. My
application for a pass awakened within him no suspicion of my real
desire. He jotted down my answers on the official blank before him as if
this granting of permission to ragged adventurers to enter a territory
so lately pacified were but a part of his daily routine.

“Name? Birthplace? Nationality? Age? Profession?” He read the questions
in a dispassionate voice that quickly dispelled my hope of having the
official ban raised against me. “Purpose in going to Khartum? Probable
length of stay?”

Oh, well, it did not matter. There would be a satisfaction in having
penetrated so far into Africa, and I could trust to fortune to bring me
down again.

“I see no reason to refuse you a passport,” said the mudir, in his
deliberate, clear-cut enunciation. “By the way, one other question which
the law requires me to ask. Of course you have sufficient means to
support yourself in Khartum, or to pay your way down again?”

“I’ve got three piastres,” I answered, striving to conceal the joy
within me.

“What! No more?”

He turned the paper meditatively in his fingers.

“As a rule, we do not grant passports to those who may by any chance
find themselves unprovided for. It is a precaution necessary for the
protection of the individual, for Khartum is a far-call from
civilization. But then, I am not going to keep you back if you wish to
go. I have an infinite faith, justified by years of observation, in the
ability of a sailor, especially a young chap, to take care of himself.”
He pressed his official seal on a red pad and examined it intently.
Fate, evidently, was bent on sending me to Khartum. I resolved to take a
more active hand in the game.

“Well, a couple of chaps I was talkin’ with in Wady give the place a
tough name, too, sir,” I began. “You see, I didn’t know that when I was
down below, and since then I’ve been thinkin’, sir, that it would be a
bad port to get on the beach in.”

“And these Greeks, are you certain they will employ you? Did they give
their address?”

“They didn’t give no address, sir, only said they was goin’ to Khartum.
I was thinkin’ it would be better to get down to Port Saïd and ship out,
instead of goin’ up. But the ticket’s already bought, sir, an’—”

[Illustration: Arab passengers on the Nile steamer. Except for their
prayers, they scarcely move once a day]

[Illustration: The Greek patriarch whose secretary I became—temporarily]

“Oh,” smiled the mudir, “that will offer no difficulty. It is a
government railway and I can give you a note to the A. T. M., requesting
him to refund you the price of the ticket. On the whole, after what you
have said, I think I had better refuse you a pass.”

He tore up the blank slowly and, pulling out an official pad, wrote an
order to the railway official. I tucked it in my pocket and returned to
the hotel.

“What’s the matter?” cried the Armenian, as I sat down with sorrowful
face in a corner of the pool room.

“The mudir has refused me a pass to Khartum,” I sighed.

“Refused you a pass?” echoed the Armenian, turning to the Greeks that
had gathered around us.

Cries of sympathy sounded on all sides.

“Never mind,” purred the interpreter, patting me on the shoulder,
“Khartum isn’t much and the patriarch will get along somehow without

“Yes, but there’s no work here to earn my fare down the river.”

The remark precipitated a long debate. At last, the interpreter turned
to me with a smiling face.

“We have it!” he cried. “As the mudir has refused you permission,
perhaps he will refund you the price of the ticket if you go and ask
him? That will be enough—”

“But the ticket isn’t mine,” I protested.

“Not yours?” cried the Armenian, “what nonsense! Of course it’s yours.
Whose else is it? The patriarch didn’t pay you anything else for your
work! Certainly, it’s your ticket.”

He took it from the sad-eyed hotel keeper and thrust it into my hand.
“Now run over to the mudiria and ask the governor if he can’t fix it so
you can get the money back.”

I ran—past the mudir’s office and into that of the traffic manager. He
was a young Englishman of the type of those who, according to Pia, “have
nothing much to do with their money.”

“Do you think,” he asked, as he handed me the price of the ticket, “that
two quid will carry you down to Port Saïd?”

“Sure,” I replied.

“I’m afraid it won’t,” he went on; “better have another quid.”

He thrust his hand into his pocket and drew out a handful of gold.

“No, I’m fixed all right,” I protested.

“Go ahead, man; take it,” he insisted, holding out a sovereign. “Many a
one I’ve had shoved on me when I was down and out.”

“No, I’m all right,” I repeated.

“Well, here,” said the manager; “I’m going to make you out a check on my
bank in Cairo for a couple of quid. I think you’ll need it. If you
don’t, chuck it in the canal and no harm done. We chaps never want to
see a man on the rocks, you know.”

He filled out the check as he talked, and, in spite of my protest,
tucked it into one of my pockets. I acknowledged my thanks; but months
afterward I scattered the pieces of that bit of paper on the highway of
another clime.

Late that night I departed from Wady Halfa, reaching Assuan on Monday
morning. On the following day I boarded the steamer _Cleopatra_, of the
Cook Line, as a deck passenger, and drifted lazily down the Nile for
five days, landing here and there with the tourists of the upper deck to
visit a temple or a mud village. At the Asile Rudolph, Cap Stevenson
welcomed me with open arms, but “the union” was wrapped in mourning.
Pia, the erudite, had departed, no man knew when nor whither. The end of
the Cairo season was at hand. All its social favorites were turning
their faces towards other lands. I called on the superintendent of
railways to remind him of his promise, and, armed with a pass to Port
Saïd, bade the capital farewell.

                               CHAPTER XI
                    STEALING A MARCH ON THE FAR EAST

As the American “hobo” studies the folders of the railway lines, so the
vagrant beyond seas scans the posters of the steamship companies. Few
were the ships plying to the Far East whose movements I had not followed
during that Cairene month of February. On the journey from Ismaïlia to
the coast we passed four leviathans, gliding southward through the canal
so close that we could read from the windows of the train the books in
the hands of the passengers under the awnings. The names on every bow I
knew well. Had I not, indeed, watched the departure of two of these same
ships from the breakwater of Marseilles? Yet what a gulf intervened
between me, crawling along the edge of the desert, and those fortunate
mortals, already eastward bound! Gladly would I have exchanged places
with the most begrimed stoker on board.

Had I been permitted to choose my next port, it should have been Bombay.
He who is stranded at the mouth of the Suez Canal, however, talks not of
choice. He clutches desperately at any chance of escape, and is content
to be gone, be it east or west, on any craft that floats. Not that ships
are lacking. They pass the canal in hundreds every week. But their crews
are yellow men, or brown; and their anchorage well out in the stream,
where plain Jack Tar may not come to plead his cause.

All this I recalled, and more, as I crawled through the African desert
behind a wheezing locomotive. But one solemn oath I swore, ere the first
hovel bobbed up across the sand—that, be it on coal barge or raft, I
should escape from this canalside halting-place before her streets and
alleys became such eyesores as had once those of Marseilles.

It was high noon when we drew into Port Saïd, and I hurried at once to
the compound behind the Catholic monastery. I was just in time. Even as
I laid my knapsack on the ground and lined up with the rest, the Arab
servant issued from the kitchen with those same battered tins in which
he had served us months before. Barely had he disappeared again when
three of the company swooped down upon me. One I had known at the Asile
Rudolph. The second—cheering prospect!—was that identical sun-bleached
Boer who had squatted against the wall of the “Home” on the early
December morning of my first Egyptian day; in those identical
weather-beaten garments which he still inhabited. The third I did not
recognize. He was a portly German whose outward appearance stamped him
as a successful weaver of Märchen, and he spread his squat legs and
gazed at me for some time with what appeared to be an admiring grin
before he spoke.

“Sie sprechen Deutsch, nicht wahr?” he began. “You, perhaps, haven’t
seen me, but I saw you in Jerusalem. You were making pictures with a
photograph machine.” A roar of laughter set his fat sides to shaking.
“Donner und Blitzen! I have been on the road a good twenty years; I know
about every game die Kunde play. But that certainly is the best I ever
fell upon. Ach, what a story! I’ve been telling them of the comrade with
the photograph machine ever since, die Kunde, and it’s a tale they never
try to beat. Herr Allah, dass ist, aber, gut!” and he bellowed with
mirth until the Arab servant, to whom hilarity in one accepting alms was
the height of impudence, threatened to summon the black policeman
outside the gate.

The dinner over, I left my bundle with the Maltese youth and hurried
away to the shipping quarter. As I anticipated, the demand for sailors
was nil. The situation was most graphically described, perhaps, by the
American consul.

“A man on the beach in this garbage heap,” he testified, “is down and
out. He had better be sitting with the penguins on the coast of
Patagonia. We haven’t signed on a sailor since I was dumped here. If you
ever make a get-away, it will be by stowing away. I can’t advise you to
do it, of course; but if I was in your shoes, I’d stick away on the
first packet homeward bound, and do it quick, before summer comes along
and sends you to the hospital. The skippers are tickled to death to get
a white sailor, anyway, for these niggers are not worth the rice the
company feeds ’em. You’re welcome to tumble up these office stairs every
morning, if you like, but I’m not going to promise to look out for
anything for you. I’d only lose my lamps a’ doing it.”

I returned to the Home at nightfall, and shared the kitchen—but not the
cupboard—with the Boer. Early the next morning, I reached the
water-front in time to see a great steamer nosing her way through the
small craft that swarmed about the mouth of the canal. Her lines looked
strangely familiar. Had I not known that the _Warwickshire_ was due in
Liverpool on this first day of March, I should have expected to see my
former messmates peering over the rail of the new arrival. I made out
the name on her bow as she dropped anchor opposite the main street, and
turned for information to a nearby poster.

[Illustration: S.S. _Worcestershire_ of the Bibby Line, on which I
stowed away after taking this picture]

[Illustration: Oriental travelers at Port Saïd]

“Bibby Line,” ran the notice, “_S. S. Worcestershire_. Recently
launched. Largest, best equipped, fastest steamer plying between England
and British Burma. First-class passengers only. Fare to Colombo,
thirty-six guineas.”

A sister ship of the vessel that had rescued me from Marseilles! The
very sight of her was reminiscent of the prime roasts we had been wont
to serve the fishes of the Mediterranean. I hastened to the landing
stage and accosted the officers as they disembarked, with the tourists,
for a run ashore.

“Full up, Jack,” answered one of them.

I recalled the advice of the American consul. A better craft to “stick
away on” would never drop anchor in the canal. Bah! How ludicrous the
notion sounded! The Khedive himself could not even have boarded such a
vessel, in sun-bleached corduroys and Nazarene slippers. By night, with
no moon? The blackest night could not hide such rags! Besides, the
steamer was sure to coal and be gone within a couple of hours. I trained
my kodak upon her, and turned sorrowfully away.

A native fair was in full swing at the far end of the town. Amid the
snake-charmers and shameless dancers, the incident of the morning was
soon forgotten. Darkness was falling when I strolled back towards the
harbor. At the shop where spitted mutton sold cheaply, I halted for
supper; but the keeper had put up his shutters. No doubt he was sowing
his year’s earnings among the gamblers at the fair. Hungrily I wandered
on, turned into the main street of the European section, and stopped
stock still, dumb with astonishment. The vista beyond the canal was
still cut off by the vast bulk of the _Worcestershire_!

What an opportunity—if once I could get on board! Perhaps I might! In
the terms of the paddock, it was “a hundred-to-one shot;” but who could
say when better odds would be chalked up? A quartermaster was almost
sure to halt me at the gang plank. Some palpable excuse I must offer him
for being rowed out to the steamer. If only I had something to be
delivered on board, a basket of fruit, or—shades of Cairo!—of course—a
letter of introduction!

Breathlessly, I dashed into the Home, snatched a sheet of paper and an
envelope from the Maltese youth, and scribbled an appeal for employment,
in any capacity. Having sealed the envelope against the prying eyes of
subordinates, I addressed it in a flourishing hand to the chief steward.

But my knapsack? Certainly I could not carry that on board! I dumped the
contents on the floor and thrust the kodak and my papers into an inside
pocket. There was nothing else—but hold! That bundle at the bottom? The
minister’s frock coat, of broadcloth, with wide, silk-faced lapels! What
kind fairy had gainsaid my reiterated threats to throw away that useless
garment? Eagerly I slipped into it. The very thing! With my unshaven
face and bleached legs in the shadow, I could rival Beau Brummel
himself. Many an English lord, touring in the East, wears a cap after

“Scrape that stuff together for me,” I bawled, springing past the
Maltese youth. “If I don’t turn up within a week, give ’em to the

The _Worcestershire_ was still at anchor. Two Arab boatmen squatted
under a torch on one corner of the landing stage. The legal fare was six
pence. I had three. It cost me some precious moments to beat down one of
the watermen. He stepped into his felucca at last and pushed off
cautiously towards the rows of lighted portholes.

As we neared the steamer, I made out a figure in uniform on the lowest
step of the ship’s ladder. The game was lost! I might have talked my way
by a quartermaster, but I certainly could not pass this bridge officer.

The boatman swung his craft against the ladder with a sweep of the oar.
I held up the note:

“Will you kindly deliver this to the chief steward? The writer wants an
answer before the ship leaves.”

“I really haven’t time,” apologized the mate. “I’ve an errand ashore and
we leave in fifteen minutes. You can run up with it yourself, though.
Here, boatman, row me over to the custom wharf.”

I sprang up the ladder. Except for several sahib-respecting Lascars, who
jumped aside as I appeared, the promenade deck was deserted. From
somewhere below came the sound of waltz music and the laughter of merry
people. I strolled leisurely around to the port side and walked aft in
the shadow of the upper cabins. For some moments I stood alone in the
darkness, gazing at the reflection of the lower portholes in the canal.
Then, a step sounded at the door of the saloon behind me, a heavy
British step that advanced several paces and halted. One could almost
feel the authority in that step; one could certainly hear it in the
gruff “ahem” with which the newcomer cleared his throat. An officer, no
doubt, about to order me ashore! I waited in literal fear and trembling.

A minute passed, then another. I turned my head, inch by inch, and
peered over my shoulder. In the shaft of light stood a man in faultless
evening attire, gazing at me through the intervening darkness. His dress
suggested a passenger; but the very set of his feet on the deck proved
him no landsman. The skipper himself, surely! What under officer would
dare appear out of uniform during a voyage?

I turned my head away again, determined to bear the impending blow with
fortitude. The dreaded being cleared his throat once more, stepped
nearer, and stood for a moment without speaking. Then a hand touched me
lightly on the sleeve.

“Beg pahdon, sir,” murmured an apologetic voice; “beg pahdon, sir, but
’ave you ’ad dinner yet? The other gentlemen’s h’all been served, sir.”

I swallowed my throat and turned around, laying a hand over the place
where my necktie should have been.

“I am not a passenger, my man,” I replied haughtily; “I have a
communication for the chief steward.”

The flunky stretched out his hand.

“Oh, I cawn’t send it, you know,” I protested. “I must deliver it in
person, for it requires an answer before the ship leaves.”

“Lord, you can’t see _’im_,” gasped the Briton; “we’re givin’ a ball and
’e’s in the drawrin’-room.”

The sound of our voices had attracted the quartermaster on duty. Behind
him appeared a young steward.

“You’d best get ashore quick,” said the sailor; “we’re only waitin’ the
fourth mite. Best call a boatman or you’ll get carried off.”

“Really!” I cried, looking anxiously about me, “But I must have an
answer, you know.”

“I couldn’t disturb _’im_,” wheezed the older steward.

“Well, show me where he is,” I protested.

“Now we’re off in a couple o’ winks,” warned the quartermaster.

“’Ere, mite,” said the youth; “I’ll take you down.”

I followed him to the deck below and along a lighted passageway. My
disguise would never stand the glare of a drawing-room. I thrust the
note into the hands of my guide.

“Be sure to bring me the answer,” I cautioned.

He pushed his way through a throng of his messmates and disappeared into
the drawing-room. A moment later he returned with the answer I had

“So you’re on the beach?” he grinned, “you sure did get it on Clarence,
all right. ’Ard luck. The chief says the force is full an’ the company
rules don’t allow ’im to tyke on a man to work ’is passage. Sye, you’ve
slipped your cayble, anyway, ayn’t you? We’re not ’ome-ward bound; we’re
going out. You’d best rustle it an’ get ashore.”

He turned into the galley. Never had I ventured to hope that he would
let me out of his sight before he had turned me over to the
quartermaster. His carelessness was due, no doubt, to his certainty that
I had “slipped my cayble.” I dashed out of the passageway as if fearful
of being carried off; but, once shrouded in the kindly night, paused to
peer about me.

There were a score of places that offered a temporary hiding; but a
stowaway through the Suez Canal must be more than temporarily hidden. I
ran over in my mind the favorite lurking places on ocean liners. Inside
a mattress in the steerage? First-class only. In the hold? Hatches all
battened down. On the fidleys or in the coal bunkers? Very well in the
depth of winter, but sure death in this climate. In the forecastle?
Indian crew. In the rubbish under the forecastle head? Sure to be found
in a few hours by tattle-tale natives. In the chain locker? The anchor
might be dropped anywhere in the canal, and I should be dragged
piecemeal through the hawse-hole.

Still pondering, I climbed to the spot where I had first been accosted.
From the starboard side, forward, came the voice of the fourth mate,
clambering on board. In a few moments officers and men would be flocking
up from below. Noiselessly, I sprang up the ladder to the hurricane
deck. That and the bridge were still deserted. I crept to the nearest
lifeboat and dragged myself along the edge that hung well out over the
canal. The canvas cover was held in place by a cord that ran alternately
through eyeholes in the cloth and around iron pins under the gunwale. I
tugged at the cord for a minute that seemed a century before I succeeded
in pulling it over the first pin. After that, all went easily. With the
cover loosened for a space of four feet, I thrust my head through the
opening. Before my shoulders were inside my feet no longer reached the
ship’s rail. I squirmed in, inch by inch, after the fashion of a
swimmer, fearful of making the slightest noise. Only my feet remained
outside when my hand struck an oar inside the boat. Its rattle could
have been heard in Cairo. Drenched with perspiration, I listened for my
discoverer. The festive music, evidently, engrossed the attention of the
entire ship’s company. I drew in my feet by doubling up like a
pocketknife, and, thrusting a hand through the opening, fastened the
cord over all but one pin.

The space inside was more than limited. Seats, casks, oars, and
boat-hooks left me barely room to stretch out on my back without
touching the canvas above me. Two officers brushed by, and mounting to
the bridge, called out their orders within six feet of me. The rattle of
the anchor chain announced that the long passage of the canal had begun.
When I could breathe without opening my mouth at every gasp, I was
reminded that the shop where spitted mutton sold cheaply had been
closed. Within an hour, that misfortune was forgotten. The sharp edge of
the water cask under my back, the oars that supported my hips, the seat
that my shoulders barely reached, began to cut into my flesh, sending
sharp pains through every limb. The slightest movement might send some
unseen article clattering. Worst of all, there was just space sufficient
for my head while I kept my neck strained to the utmost. The tip of my
nose touched the canvas. To have stirred that ever so slightly would
have sent me packing at the first canal station.

The position grew more painful hour by hour, but with the beginning of
the “graveyard” watch my body grew numb and I sank into a half-comatose
state that was not sleeping.

Daylight brought no relief, though the sunshine, filtering through the
canvas, disclosed the objects about me. There came the jabbering of
strange tongues as the crew quarreled over their work about the deck.
Now and then, a shout from a canal station marked our progress.
Passengers mounting to the upper deck brushed against the lifeboat in
their promenading. From time to time confidential chats sounded in my

All save the officers soon retreated to the shade below. In the arid
desert through which we were steaming that day must certainly have been
calorific. But there, at least, a breeze was stirring. By four bells,
the Egyptian sun, pouring down upon the canvas, had turned my hiding
place into an oven. By noon, it resembled nothing so cool and
refreshing. A raging thirst had long since put hunger to flight. In the
early afternoon, as I lay motionless on my grill, there sounded the
splash of water, close at hand. Two natives had been sent to wash the
lifeboat. For an hour they dashed bucketful after bucketful against it,
splashing, now and then, even the canvas over my head.

The gong had just sounded for afternoon tea when the ship began to rock
slightly. A faint sound of waves breaking on the bow succeeded. A light
breeze moved the canvas ever so little and the throb of the engines
increased. Had we passed out of the canal? My first impulse was to tear
at the canvas and bellow for water. But had we left Suez behind? This,
perhaps, was only the Bitter Lakes? Or, if we had reached the Red Sea,
the pilot might still be on board! To be set ashore now was a fate far
more to be dreaded than during the first hours of my torture, for it
meant an endless tramp through the burning desert, back to Port Saïd.

I held my peace and listened intently for any word that might indicate
our whereabouts. None came, but the setting sun brought relief, and
falling darkness found my thirst somewhat abated. The motion of the ship
lacked the pitch of the open sea. I resolved to take no chances with
victory so close at hand.

With night came the passengers, to lean against the boat and pour out
confidences. How easily I might have posed as a fortune-teller among
them during the rest of the voyage! A dozen schemes, ranging from an
enthusiastic project for the immediate evangelization of all the Indias
to the arrangement of a tiger-hunt in the Assam hills, were planned
within my hearing during that motionless evening. But the sound of music
below left the deck deserted, and I settled down to the less humiliating
occupation of listening to the faint tread of the second mate, who paced
the bridge above me.

An hour passed. Other thoughts drove from my memory the secrets that had
been forced upon me. Suddenly, there sounded a light step and a
frou-frou of skirts, suggestive of ballroom scenes. Behind came a
heavier tread, a hurried word, and a ripple of laughter. Shades of the
prophet! Why must every pair on board choose that particular spot to
pour out their secrets? Because a man and a maid chanced to pause where
I could hear their lightest whisper, was I to shout a warning and tramp
back to starve in the alleyways of Port Saïd? I refused the sacrifice,
and for my refusal, heard many words—and other sounds. The moon was
beautiful that night—I know, though I did not see it. A young English
commissioner had left his island home two weeks before, resolved to
dwell among the hills of India in a bungalow alone—that, too, I know,
though I saw him not. Yet he landed with other plans, plans drawn up and
sealed on the hurricane deck of the _Worcestershire_ in the waning hours
of the second of March; amid many words—and other sounds.

The night wore on. Less fearful, now, of discovery, I moved, for the
first time in thirty hours, and, rolling slowly on my side, fell asleep.
It was broad daylight when I awoke to the sounding of two bells. The
ship was rolling in no uncertain manner. I tugged at the cord that bound
down the boat cover and peered out. For some moments barely a muscle of
my body responded to the command of the will. Even when I had wormed
myself out I came near losing my grip on the edge of the boat before my
feet touched the rail. Once on deck, I waited to be discovered. The
frock coat lay in the lifeboat. No landlubber could have mistaken me for
a passenger now.

Calmly, I walked aft and descended to the promenade deck. A score of
bare-legged Lascars were “washing down.” Near them, the sarang, in all
the glory of embroidered jacket and rubber boots, strutted back and
forth, fumbling at the silver chain about his neck. I strolled by them.
The low-caste fellows sprang out of my way like startled cats. Their
superior gazed at me with a half-friendly, half-fawning smile. If they
were surprised, they did not show it. Probably they were not. What was
it to them, if a sahib chose to turn out in a ragged hunting-costume for
an early promenade? Stranger things than that they had seen among these
enigmatical beings with white skins. Unfortunately the _Worcestershire_
was a bit too cumbersome or I might have carried it off before my
presence on board was suspected.

Some time I paced the deck with majestic tread without catching sight of
a white face. At last a diminutive son of Britain clambered unsteadily
up the companionway, clinging tenaciously to a pot of tea. “Here, boy,”
I called; “who’s on the bridge, the mate?”

“Yes, sir,” stammered the boy, sidling away; “the mite, sir.”

“Well, tell him there’s a stowaway on board.”

“Wat’s that, sir? You see, sir, I’m a new cabin boy, on me first trip—”

“And you don’t know what a stowaway is, eh?”

“No, sir.”

“If you’ll run along and tell the mate, you’ll find out soon enough.”

The boy made his way aft, clutching, now and then, at the rail, and
mounted to the upper deck. Judging from the grin on his face as he came
running back, he had added a new word to his vocabulary.

“The mite says for you to come up on the bridge, quick. ’E’s bloody

I climbed again to the hurricane deck. The mate’s sanguinary choler had
so overcome him that he had deserted his post and waited for me at the
foot of the bridge ladder. He was burly and lantern-jawed, clad in the
négligé of early morning in the tropical seas; bareheaded, barefooted,
his hairy chest agap, his duck trousers rolled up to his knees, and a
thick tangle of dishevelled hair waving in the wind. With the ferocious
mien of an executioner, he glared at me in utter silence.

“I’m a sailor, sir,” I began; “I was on the beach in Port Saïd. I’m
sorry, sir, but I had to get away—”

The mate gave no other sign of having heard than to push his massive jaw
further out.

“There was no chance to sign on there, sir. Not a man shipped in months,
sir, and it’s a tough place to be on the beach—”

“What the holy hell has that got to do with me and my ship!” roared the
officer, springing several yards into the air and descending to shake
his sledge-hammer fist under my nose. “You —— ——, I’ll give you six
months for this directly we get to Colombo. You’ll stow away on my ship,
will you? Get to hell down off this deck before I brain you with this
bucket, you —— ——,” but his subsequent remarks, like his attire, were
for early morning use, and would have created a even greater furor in
that vicinity, a few hours later, than his bare legs.

Not certain to what quarter of the _Worcestershire_ the nautical term
applied, I started forward. Another bellow brought me to a halt.

“You —,” but never mind the details. The new order, expurgated, amounted
to the information that I was to wait in the waist until the captain had
seen me.

I descended, snatched a draught of tepid water at the pump, and leaned
against the port bulwarks. Too hungry to be greatly terrified, I had
really taken new heart at the mate’s threat. “Colombo” he had said.
Until then I had feared the _Worcestershire_, like most East-Indiamen,
would put in at Aden; and unwelcome passengers, turned over to the
British governor there, were invariably packed off on the first steamer
to Port Saïd.

An hour, two hours, three hours, I stood in the waist, returning the
stares of every member of the ship’s company, Hindu or English, whose
duties or curiosity brought him to that quarter. With the sounding of
eight bells a steward returned from the galley with a can of coffee.
Once started, an endless procession of bacon, steaks, and ragoûts filed
by under my nose. To snatch at one of the pans would have been my
undoing. I thrust my head over the bulwarks, where sea breezes blew, and
stared at the sand billows of the Arabian coast. Not until the denizens
of the “glory-hole” had returned to their duties did I venture to turn
around once more. “Peggy,” the stewards’ steward, peered furtively out
upon me.

“Eh! Mite,” he whispered; “’ad anythink to eat yet?”

“Not lately.”

“Well, come inside. There’s a pan o’ scow left to dump.”

Very little of it was dumped that morning.

I had barely returned to my place when four officers descended the
starboard ladder to the waist. They were led by the mate, immaculate
now, as the rest, in a snow-white uniform. His vocabulary, too, had
improved. A “sir,” falling from his lips, singled out the captain. My
hopes rose at once. The commander was the exact antithesis of his first
officer. Small, dapper, almost dainty of figure and movement, his
iron-gray hair gave setting to a face in which neither toleration nor
authority had gained the mastery.

With never a sign of having seen me, the officers mounted the poop
ladder and strolled slowly aft, examining as they went. “Peggy” appeared
at the door of the “glory-hole” with a dish cloth in his hands.

“Morning h’inspection,” he explained, in a husky whisper; “they’ll be
back on the port side directly they’ve h’inspected the poop. The little
cuss’s the old man, Cap Harris, commodore in the Nyval Reserve. ’E’s all

“Hope he lives out the voyage,” I muttered.

“The fat, jolly chap’s the chief steward,” went on “Peggy.” “Best man on
the ship. The long un’s the doctor.”

A stowaway takes no precedence over any other apparatus on board ship
that needs regulating. After their reappearance in the waist the
officers halted several times within a few feet of me to scrutinize some
article of the steamer’s equipment. When the scuppers had been ordered
cleaned and the pump had been pronounced in proper sanitary condition,
the mate turned to the captain and pointed an accusing finger at me:—

“There he is, sir.”

“Ah,” said the skipper. “What was your object, my man, in stowing
yourself away on this vessel?”

I began the story I had attempted to tell the first officer. The captain
heard it all without interruption.

“Yes, I know,” he mused, when I had finished. “Port Saïd is a very
unfortunate place to be left without funds. But why did you not come on
board and ask permission to work your passage?”

What stowaway has not heard that formula, even though the inquirer has
refused that permission a dozen times during the voyage?

“I did, sir!” I cried, “That’s just what I did! I brought a letter to
the chief steward. That’s how I come on board, sir.”

“That’s so!” put in the “fat jolly chap” eagerly; “he sent a note to me
in the drawing-room the night of the ball. But I sent back word that my
force was full.”

“I see,” pondered the captain. “You’re the first man that ever stowed
away on a vessel under my command,” he went on, almost sadly; “you make
yourself liable to severe punishment, you know?”

“I’d put him in irons and send him up, sir,” burst out the mate.

“N-no,” returned the skipper, “that wouldn’t be just, Dick. You know
Port Saïd. But you know you will have to work on the voyage,” he added,
turning to me.

“Why, certainly, sir,” I cried, suddenly assailed with the fear that he
might see, through my coat, the kodak that contained a likeness of his

“You told the chief officer you were a sailor, I believe?”

“A. B., sir—and steward.”

“Have you anything you can put him at, Chester?”

“I’ve more than I can use now,” replied the heavy-weight.

“Beg pardon, sir,” put in the mate, “but the chief engineer says he can
use an extra man down below.”

He was a kindly fellow, was the mate. Not only was the stoke hole an
inferno in that latitude, but the Hindu firemen would never have ceased
gloating over the sahib who had been sentenced to the degradation of
working among them.

“No! No!” answered the commander; “The man is a sailor and a steward. He
is not a stoker. You had better take him on deck with you, Dick.”

He started up the ladder; but the mate loathed to acknowledge himself
defeated. He made a sign to the doctor.

“Stick out your tongue,” commanded Sangrado, suddenly.

I complied.

“Does that look as if he had been without food for forty-eight hours?”
demanded the mate.

What he hoped to prove by the question I could not fathom. It would
never do to incriminate “Peggy,” and I kept silent. The leech shrugged
his shoulders.

“Huh,” muttered the mate, “I know what I’d do with him if I was in

“Take him on deck with you, Dick,” repeated the captain, from above.

“And his accommodation?” put in the chief steward.

“There are a few berths unoccupied in the quarters of your men, are
there not?”

“Two or three, I believe.”

“Give him one of those and increase the mess allowance by one. Get
something to eat now, my man, and report to the chief officer, forward,
when you have finished.”

“I’ll send you down a couple of cotton suits,” whispered the chief
steward, as he labored up the ladder; “you’ll die of the plague with
that outfit on.”

I lingered in the “glory-hole” long enough to have eaten breakfast and
hurried forward. The mate, scowling, began a rapid-fire of questions, in
the hope of tangling me up in a contradictory story. The attempt failed.

“Box the compass,” he snarled, suddenly.

I did so. For an hour he subjected me to a severe nautical examination
without any startling satisfaction.

“Umph!” he growled at last, “Take that holly-stone with the handle”—it
weighed a good thirty pounds—“and go to polishing the poop. You’ll work
every day from six in the morning until seven at night, with a half-hour
off for your mess. From four to six in the morning and from eight to ten
at night, you’ll stand look-out in the crow’s-nest and save us two
Lascars. On Sunday you’ll stand look-out from four to eight, nine to
twelve, two to seven, and eight to ten. Look lively, now, and see that
the poop deck begins to shine when I come aft.”

Without a break, I continued this régime as long as the voyage lasted.
Having once imposed his sentence upon me, the mate rarely gave me a
word. Less from fear of his wrath than of a leer of satisfaction on his
rough-hewn face, I toiled steadily at the task he had assigned. The
holly-stone took on great weight, but the privilege of viewing every
tropical sunrise and sunset from the crow’s-nest I would not have
exchanged for a seat at the captain’s table. My messmates were
good-hearted, their chief ever eager to do me a kindly service. The
Hindu crew took vast joy in my fancied degradation, and those intervals
were rare when a group of the brown rascals were not hovering over me,
chattering like apes in the forest, and grinning derisively. But the
proudest man on board was the sarang; for it was through him that the
mate sent me his mandates. Since the days when he rolled naked and
unashamed on the sand floor of his natal hut on the banks of the Hoogly,
the native boatswain had dreamed of no greater bliss than to issue
commands to a sahib.

Ten days the _Worcestershire_ steamed on through a motionless sea, under
a sun that waxed more torrid every hour. The “glory-hole” became
uninhabitable. Men who had waded through the snow on the docks of
Liverpool two weeks before took to sleeping on the deck of the poop, in
the thinnest of garb. With the smell of land in our nostrils, the
good-night chorus was sung more than once on the eleventh evening, and
our sleep was brief. Before darkness fled I had climbed again to my
coign of vantage on the foremast. The first gray of dawn revealed the
dim outline of a low mountain range, tinged with color by the unborn
sunrise behind it. Slowly the mountains faded from view as the lowlands
rose up to greet us. By eight bells we were within hailing distance of a
score of brown-black islanders, unburdened with clothing, who paddled
boldly seaward in their outrigger canoes. The _Worcestershire_ found
entrance to a far-reaching breakwater, and, escorted by a great school
of small craft, rode to an anchorage in the center of the harbor. A
multitude swarmed on board, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, and in the
resulting overthrow of discipline I left my stone where the mess-call
had found it, and hurried below to make up my “shore bundle.” By the
kindness of the chief steward, I was amply supplied with cotton suits.
The frock coat, still in the lifeboat, I willed to “Peggy,” and reported
to the captain. His permission granted, I tossed my bundle into the
company launch, and, with one English half-penny jingle-less in my
pocket, set foot on the verdant island of Ceylon.

                              CHAPTER XII
                         THE REALMS OF GAUTAMA

Difficult, indeed, would it be to choose a more striking introduction to
the wonderland of the Far East than that egg-shaped remnant left over
from the building of India. How incomplete and lusterless seems the
picture drawn by the anticipating imagination when one stands at last in
the midst of its prolific, kaleidoscopic life! Sharp and vivid are the
impressions that come crowding on the traveler in jumbled, disordered
succession, and he experiences a confusion such as comes with the first
glance at a great painting. He must look again and again before the
underlying conception stands out clearly through the mass of unfamiliar

It would have been strange if the white man of peripatetic mood had not
found his way to this Eden of the eastern seas. Within ten minutes of my
landing I was greeted by a score of “beachcombers” gathered in the black
shade under the portico of a large government building. In garb, they
were men of means. It costs nothing worth mentioning to keep spotless
the jacket and trousers of thinnest cotton that make up the wardrobe of
the Indias. More than their sun-baked faces, their listless movements
and ingrown indolence betrayed them as “vags.” Those of the band who
were not stretched out at full length on the flagging of the veranda
dangled their feet from the encircling railing or leaned against the
massive pillars, puffing lazily at pipe or cigarette. On the greensward
below, two natives sat on their heels before portable stands, rising now
and then to pour out a glass of tea for the “comber” who tossed a Ceylon
cent at their feet.

Theoretically, the party had gathered to seek employment. The morning
hour, since time immemorial, had called the exiles together in the shade
of the shipping office to lay in wait for any stranger, the “cut of
whose jib” stamped him as a captain. “Shipping,” however, was dull.
Imbued with the habit, “the boys” continued to gather, but into their
drowsy yarning rarely intruded the fear of being driven forth from this
island paradise.

Now and again some energetic member of the band rose to peer through the
open door of the shipping office; yet retreated hastily, for a roar as
of an angry bull was the invariable greeting from within. When courage
came, I ventured to glance inside. A burly Englishman, as nearly naked
as a mild sense of propriety permitted, lay on his back in a reclining
chair, on the arm of which he threw a mass of typewritten sheets every
half-minute, to mop up the perspiration that poured down his rotund face
and hairy chest in spite of the heavy velvet _punkahs_ that swung slowly
back and forth above him.

“Shippin’ master,” volunteered a recumbent Irishman behind me. “But
divil a man dast disturb ’im. If you valy your loife, kape out of ’is

At noonday the office closed. The beachcombers wandered languidly away
to some other shaded spot, and seeking refuge from the equatorial sun in
a neighboring park, I dreamed away my first day’s freedom from the
holly-stone. A native runner roused me towards nightfall and thrust into
my hands a card setting forth the virtues of “The Original and
Well-Recognized Sailors’ Boarding House of Colombo, under Proprietorship
of C. D. Almeida.” It was a two-story building in the native quarter of
Pettah, of stone floor, but otherwise of the lightest wooden material.
The dining-room, in the center of the establishment, boasted no roof.
Narrow, windowless chambers of the second story, facing this open space,
housed the seafaring guests.

Almeida, the proprietor, was a Singhalese of purest caste. His white
silk jacket was modestly decorated with red braid and glistening brass
buttons. Beneath the folds of a skirt of gayest plaid peeped feet that
had never known the restraint of shoes, the toes of which stood out
staunchly independent one from another. For all his occupation he clung
stoutly to the symbols of his social superiority—tiny pearl earrings and
a huge circle comb of celluloid. Fate had been unkind to Almeida. Though
his fellow-countrymen, with rarely an exception, boasted thick tresses
of long, raven-tinted hair, the boarding master was well nigh bald. His
gray and scanty locks did little more than streak his black scalp, and
the art of a lifetime of hair dressing could not make the knob at the
back of his head larger than a hickory nut. Obviously no circle comb
could sit in position so insecure; at intervals as regular as the
ticking of his great silver watch, that of Almeida dropped on the ground
behind him. Wherever he moved, there slunk at his heels a native urchin
who had known no other task in many a month than that of restoring to
its place the ornament of caste.

[Illustration: An outrigger canoe and an outdoor laundry in Colombo,

[Illustration: Road-repairers of Ceylon. Highway between Colombo and

The simple formality of signing a promise-to-pay made me a guest. Four
white men and as many black leaned their elbows on the unplaned table,
awaiting the evening meal. In an adjoining grotto, two natives were
stumbling over each other around a kettle and a fire of fagots. Both
were clothed in the scantiest of breechclouts. Now and then they
squatted on their smoothly polished heels, scratched savagely at some
portion of their scrawny bodies, and sprang up again to plunge both
hands into the kettle.

In due time the mess grew too hot for stirring. The pair resumed their
squat and burst forth in a dreadful chatter of falsetto voices. Then
fell ominous silence. Suddenly the cooks dashed into the smoke that
veiled the entrance to the cave, and, flinging themselves upon the
caldron, dragged it forth into the dining-room. The senior scooped out
handfuls of steaming rice and filled our plates. The younger returned to
the smoky cavern and laid hold on a smaller pot that contained a curry
of chopped fish. Besides these two delicacies, there were bananas in
abundance and a chettie of water, brackish, discolored and lukewarm.

Having distributed heavy pewter spoons among the guests, the cooks
filled a battered basin with rice and, dropping on their haunches,
thrust the food into their mouths with both hands. The blazing fagots
turned to dying embers, the wick that floated in a bottle of oil lighted
up a bare corner of the table, and the rising moon, falling upon the
naked figures, cast weird shadows across the uneven floor.

Almeida took his leave. The dropping of his comb sounded twice or thrice
between the dining-room and the street, and the patter of his bare feet
mingled with the whisper of the night outside. I laid my head on a hand
as a sign of sleepiness, and a cook led the way to the second story and
into one of the narrow rooms. It was furnished with three wooden tables
of Dachshund legs. From two pegs in the wall hung several diaphanous
tropical garments, the property of my unknown roommates. I inquired for
my bed; but the cook spoke no English, and I sat down on the nearest
table to await a more communicative mortal.

A long hour afterward two white men stumbled up the stairs, the first
carrying a candle high above his head. He was lean and sallow,
gray-haired and clean shaven, with something in his manner that spoke of
better days. His companion was a burly, tow-headed Swede.

“Oho! Ole,” grinned the older man; “here’s a new bunkie. Why don’t you
turn in, mate?”

“Haven’t found my bed yet,” I answered.

“Your bed!” cried the newcomer, “Why, damn it, man, you’re sitting on

I followed the example of the pair in reducing my attire to the
regulation coolie costume and, turning my bundled clothing into a
pillow, sweated out the night.

Over the tea, bananas, and cakes of ground cocoanut that made up the
Almeida breakfast, I exchanged yarns with my companions of the night.
The Swede was merely a sailor; the older man a less commonplace being.
He was an Irishman named John Askins, a master of arts of Dublin
University and a civil engineer by profession. Twenty years before, an
encroaching asthma had driven him from his native island. In his
wanderings through every tropical country under British rule, he had
picked up a fluent use of half the dialects of the east, from the
clicking Kaffir to the guttural tongue of Kabul. Not by choice was
Askins, M. A., a vagabond. Periodically, however, employment failed him
and he fell, as now, into the ranks of those who listened
open-mouthed—when he chose to abandon the slang of “the road” and the
forecastle—to his professorial diction.

Brief as was my acquaintance with Ceylon, I had already discovered two
possible openings to the wage-earning class. The first was to join the
police force. Half the European officers of Colombo had once been
beachcombers. Between them and our band existed a liaison so close that
the misdemeanors of “the boys” were rarely punished, and more than one
white castaway was housed surreptitiously in the barracks on Slave
Island. I had no hesitancy, therefore, in applying for information to
the Irishman whose beat embraced the cricket-ground separating Pettah
from the European quarter.

He painted the life in uniform in glowing colors. His salary was fifty
rupees a month. No princely income, surely, for bear in mind that it
takes three rupees to make a dollar. The “graft,” too, he admitted
sadly, was next to nothing. Yet he supported a wife—a white one, at
that, strange to say—and three children, kept several servants, owned a
house of his own, and increased his bank account on every pay day.
Ludicrous, you know, is the cost of living in Ceylon.

I hurried eagerly away to the office of the superintendent of police. An
awkward squad of white recruits was sprinkling with perspiration the
green before the government bungalow, from which a servant emerged to
inquire my errand. The alacrity with which I was admitted to the inner
sanctum aroused within me visions of myself in uniform that were by no
means dispelled by the hasty examination to which the superintendent
subjected me.

“Yes! Yes!” he broke in, before I had answered his last question; “I
think we can take you on all right. By the way, what part of the country
are you from? You’ll be from Yorkshire side, I take it?”

“United States.”

“A-oh! You don’t say so? An American! Really, you don’t look it, you
know. What a shame! Had a beat all picked out for you. But as an
American you’d better go to the Philippines and apply on the force
there. We can’t give you anything in Ceylon or India, don’t you know.
Awfully sorry. Good day.”

None but a man ignorant of the ways of the Far East could have conceived
my second scheme in one sleepless night. It was suggested by the fact
that, in earlier years, I had, as the Englishman puts it, “gone in for”
cross-country running. Returning to Almeida’s, I soon picked up a
partner for the projected enterprise. He was a young and lanky
Englishman, who, though he had never indulged in athletic sports, was
certain that in eluding for a decade the police of four continents he
had developed a record-breaking stride.

In a shady corner of Gordon Gardens we arranged the details of our plan,
which was—why not admit it at once?—to become ’rickshaw runners. The
hollow-chested natives who plied this equestrian vocation leased their
vehicles from the American consul. That official surely would be glad to
rent the two fine, new carriages that stood idle in his establishment.
The license would cost little. Cloth slippers that sold for a few cents
in the bazaars would render us as light-footed as our competitors. We
could not, of course, offer indiscriminate service. Half the population
of Colombo would have swept down upon us, clamoring for the unheard-of
honor of riding behind a sahib. But nothing would be easier than to hang
above our licenses the announcement, “for white men only.”

“By thunder,” enthused the Briton, as we turned out into the sunlight
once more, “it’s a new scheme all right, absolutely unique. It’s sure to
attract attention mighty quick.”

It did. So quickly, in fact, that had there been a white policeman
within call when we broached the subject to the American consul, we
should have found lodging at once in two nicely padded chambers of the
city hospital.

“Did you two lunatics,” shrieked my fellow-countryman, from behind the
protecting bulwark of his desk, “ever hear of Caste? Would the Europeans
patronize you? You bet they would—with a fine coat of tar and feathers!
You’d need it, too, for those long, slim knives the runners carry. Of
all the idiotic schemes! Why, you—you—don’t you know that’s a crime—or,
if it isn’t, the governor would make it one in about ten minutes. Go lie
in the shade somewhere until you get your senses—if you’ve got one!”

Years ago, I came to the conclusion that the day of the enterprising
young man is past. But it was cruel of the consul to put the matter so
baldly. Luckily, the Englishman possessed four cents or we should have
been denied the bitter joy of drowning our grief and dissolving our
partnership in a glass of arrack.

From the distance of the western world the rate in Almeida’s boarding
house—a half rupee a day—does not seem exorbitant. It was, however. In
the native restaurants that abounded in Colombo, one could live on half
that amount; and as for lodging—what utter foolishness to pay for the
privilege of sleeping on a short-legged table when the ground was so
much softer? No sooner, therefore, had a pawnbroker of Pettah appraised
my useless winter garments at two rupees than I paid my bill at the
“Original Boarding House” and became resident at large.

On the edge of the native section stood an eating shop that had won the
patronage of half the beachcombers in the city. It was a low, thatched
shanty, constructed, like its neighbors, chiefly of bamboo. The front
wall—unless the canvas curtain that warded off the blazing sunshine be
reckoned such—was all doorway, before which stood a platform heaped high
with multicolored tropical fruits.

A dozen white men bawled out a greeting as I pushed aside the curtain
and crowded into a place on one of the creaking benches around the
table. At the entrance stood the proprietor, guarding a home-made safe,
and smiling so vociferously upon whomever added to its contents that his
circle comb rose and fell with the exertion. Plainly in sight of the
yawning customers, in a smoke-choked back room, two chocolate-colored
cooks, who had evidently divided between them a garment as large as a
lady’s handkerchief, toiled over a long row of kettles.

The dinner was table d’hôte, and cost four cents. A naked boy set before
me a heaping plate of rice, four bananas, a glass of tea, and six small
dishes of curried vegetables, meat, and shrimps. The time had come when
I must learn, like my companions, to dispense with table utensils. I
began the first lesson by following the movements of my fellow-guests.
Each dug in the center of his mound of rice a hole of the size of a
coffee-cup. Into this he dumped the curries one after another and buried
them by pushing in the sides of the excavation. The interment finished,
he fell upon the mess with both hands, and mixed the ingredients as the
“board-bucker” mixes concrete—by shoveling it over and over.

Let no one fancy that the Far East has no etiquette of the table. It was
the height of ill-breeding, for example, to grasp a handful of food and
eat it from the open palm. Obviously, the Englishman beside me had
received careful Singhalese training. Without bending a joint of his
hand, he plunged it into the mixture before him, drew his fingers
closely together, and, thrusting his hand to the base of the thumb into
his mouth, sucked off the food by taking a long, quick breath.

I imitated him, gasped, choked, and clutched at the bench with both
hands, while the tears ran in rivulets down my cheeks. ’Twas my
introduction to the curries of Ceylon. A mouthful of cayenne pepper
would have tasted like ice cream in comparison. The stuff was so
calorific—in chillies, not in temperature—that it burned my fingers.

“Hot, Yank?” grinned the Englishman. “That’s what all the lads finds ’em
when they first get out here. In a week they’ll be just right. In a
month you’ll be longin’ for Madras where they make ’em ’otter.”

The dinner over, the guests threw under their feet the food that
remained; washed their fingers, surreptitiously, of course, in a chettie
of drinking water; and sauntered out into the starlit night. Across the
way lay the cricket ground of Colombo, a twelve-acre field, silent and
deserted. While the policeman yawned at the far end of his beat, I
scrambled over the bamboo fence, and, choosing a spot where the grass
was not entirely worn off, went to bed. The proverbial white elephant
was never more of a burden than my kodak had become. Hitherto, I had
easily concealed it in a pocket of my corduroy coat. Now my entire
wardrobe could have been packed inside the apparatus, and wherever I
wandered I was forced to lug the thing under one arm, like a pet poodle,
wrapped in a ragged cover that deceived the covetous as to its real
value. By night it served as pillow, and so fixed a habit had its
possession become, that I ran no more risk of leaving it behind than of
going away without my cap.

The grassy slope was as soft as a mattress, the tepid night breeze just
the right covering. I quickly fell asleep. A feeling, as of someone
close at hand, aroused me. Slowly I opened my eyes. Within a foot of me,
his naked body glistening in the moonlight, crouched a coolie. I bounded
to my feet. But the native was quicker than I. With a leap that would
have done credit to a kangaroo, he shot suddenly into the air, landed
noiselessly on his bare feet some three yards away, and, before I could
take a step in his direction, was gone.

Midnight, certainly, had passed. The flanking streets were utterly
deserted. Not a light shone in the long rows of shops. Only the
ceaseless chanting of myriads of insects tempered the stillness of the
night. I drew a cord from my pocket, tied one end to the kodak and
another to a wrist, and lay down again. The precaution was wisely taken.
A tug at my arm awakened me a second time and, as I started up, a black
rascal, closely resembling my first visitor, scampered away across the
playground. Dawn was drawing a thin gray line on the black canvas of
night. I left my bed unmade and wandered away into the city.

Before the sun was high I had found employment. A resident in the
Cinnamon Gardens had advertised for a carpenter, and for the three days
following I superintended the labors of a band of coolies in laying a
hardwood floor in his bungalow. During that period, a rumor, spreading
among the beachcombers, aroused them to new wakefulness. Colombo was
soon to be visited by a circus! It was not that the mixed odor of
sawdust and pink lemonade appealed greatly to “the boys.” But tradition
whispered that the annual show would bring employment to more than one
whose curry and rice advanced with laggard steps.

Dropping in at Almeida’s when my task was ended, I found Askins agog
with news of the coming spectacle.

“She’ll be here in a week or ten days,” he cried, gayly. “That means a
few dibs a day for some of us. For circuses must have white men. Niggers
won’t do. That’s our game, Franck. Just lay low and when she blows in,
we’ll swoop down on the supe and get our cognoms on the pay roll.

“Or say!” he went on, in more excited tones. “Better still! You won’t
need to lie idle meantime, either. An idea strikes me. Remember the
arrack shop where the two stokers set us up a bottle of fire-water the
other day? Well, just across the street is the Salvation Army. Now you
waltz down to the meeting there to-night and get converted. They’ll hand
you down a swell white uniform, put you right in a good hash-house, and
throw a few odd grafts in your way. All you’ll have to do’ll be to baste
a drum or something of the kind twice a day, and you can have quite a
few chips tucked away by the time the circus comes.”

“Good scheme,” I answered, “but I’ve got a few chips tucked away now,
and if she isn’t due for ten days that will give me time for a jaunt
into the interior of the island.”

“Well, it’s a ramble worth making,” admitted the Irishman, “but look out
for the sun, and be sure you’re on hand again for the big show.”

The city of Colombo is well spread out. Though I set off early next
morning, it was nearly noon when I crossed the Victoria bridge at Grand
Pass and struck the open country. Great was the contrast between the
Ceylon of my imagination and the reality. A riot of tropical vegetation
spread out on every hand; in the dense shadows swarmed naked humans
uncountable. But jungle was there none, neither wild men, nor savage
beasts. Every acre was producing for the use of man. The highway was
wide, well-built as in Europe, close flanked on either side by thick
forests of towering palm trees. Here and there, bands of coolies
repaired the roadway, or fought back the aggressive vegetation with
ax-like knives. Clumsy, broad-wheeled bullock carts, in appearance like
our “prairie schooners,” creaked by behind humped oxen ambling seaward
at a snail’s pace. Under his protecting roof, made, not of canvas, as
the first glimpse suggested, but of thousands of leaves sewn together,
the scrawny driver grinned cheerily and mumbled some strange word of
greeting. Even the heat was less infernal than I had anticipated. The
glare of sunshine was dazzling; a wrist uncovered for a moment was
burned red as with a branding-iron; my face shown browner in the mirror
of each passing stream; but often are the sun’s rays more debilitating
on a summer day at home.

In the forest the slim bamboo and the broad-leafed banana tree abounded;
but the cocoanut palm predominated. In every grove, prehensile coolies,
armed with heavy knives, walked up the slender trunks, and, hiding
themselves in the tuft of leaves sixty feet above, chopped off the nuts
in clusters of three. One could have recited a poem between the moment
of their launching and the time when they struck the soft, spongy earth,
to rebound high into the air. ’Tis a national music, the dull, muffled
thump of cocoanuts, as reminiscent, ever after, of dense, tropical
forests as the tinkle of the donkey bell of Spain, or the squawk of the
water wheel of Egypt.

I stepped aside from the highway in the mid-afternoon, and lay down on a
grassy slope under shielding palms. A crackling of twigs drew my
attention, and, catching sight of a pair of eyes filled with mute
wonder, I nodded reassuringly. A native, dressed in a ribbon and a
tangle of oily hair, stepped from behind a great drooping banana leaf
and advanced with faltering steps. Behind him emerged a score of men and
boys, as heavily clothed as the leader; and the band, smiling like a
company of ballet dancers en scène, moved forward hesitatingly, halting
frequently to exchange signs of mutual encouragement. Their timidity was
in strange contrast to the boisterous or menacing attitude of the Arab.
One felt that a harsh word or a gesture of annoyance would have sent
these deferential country-folk scampering away through the forest. A
white man, whatever his station in life, is a tin god in Ceylon.

With a simultaneous gurgle of greeting, the natives squatted in a
semicircle at the foot of the knoll on which I lay, as obsequious in
manner as loyal subjects come to do homage to their cannibal king. We
chatted, intelligibly if not glibly, in the language of signs. My pipe
aroused great curiosity. When it had burned out, I turned it over to the
leader. He passed it on to his companions, each and all of whom, to my
horror, tested the strange thing by thrusting the stem halfway down his
throat and sucking fiercely at it. Even when they had examined every
other article in my knapsack, my visitors were not content, and implored
me with tears in their eyes to give them leave to open my kodak. I
distracted their attention by a careful inspection of their tools and
betel-nut pouches. With truly Spanish generosity they insisted on
presenting me with every article that I asked to see; and then sneaked
round behind me to carry off the gift while I was examining another.

I rose to continue my way, but the natives burst out in vigorous
protest, and, despatching three youths on some unknown errand, dropped
again on their haunches and fell to preparing new chews of betel-nut.
The emissaries soon returned, one carrying a jack-fruit, another a bunch
of bananas, and the third swinging three green cocoanuts by the
rope-like stem. The leader laid the gifts, one after another, at my
feet. Two men armed with jungle knives sprang forward, and while one
hacked at the adamantine jack-fruit, the other caught up a cocoanut,
chopped off the top with one stroke, and invited me to drink. The
milk—the national beverage of Ceylon—was cool and refreshing, but the
meat of the green nut as inedible as a leather strap. The jack-fruit, of
the size and appearance of a water melon, was split at last into
longitudinal slices. These, in turn, split sidewise into dozens of
segments not unlike those of the orange, each one containing a large,
kidney-shaped stone. The meat itself was white, coarse-grained, and
rather tasteless. The bananas were smaller, but more savory than those
of the West Indies. When I had sampled each of the gifts, I distributed
them among the donators, and turned down to the highway.

It is easy to account for the vagabond’s fondness for tropical lands. He
loves to strut about among reverential black men in all the glory of a
white skin; it flatters him astonishingly to have native policemen and
soldiers draw up at attention and salute as he passes; he adores, of
course, the lazy indolence of the East. But all these things are as
nothing compared with his one great advantage over his brother in
northern lands. He escapes the terror of the coming night. Only he who
has roamed penniless through a colder world can know this dread; how,
like an oppressive cloud, rising on the horizon of each new day, it
casts its gloom over every niggardly atom of good fortune. In the north
one must have shelter. Other things which the world calls necessities
the vagrant may do without, but the night will not be put off like
hunger and thirst. In the tropics? In Ceylon? Bah! What is night but a
more comfortable day? If it grows too dark for tramping, one lies down
in the bed under his feet and rises, refreshed, with the new dawn.

From my forest lodging bordering the twenty-first mile post, I set out
on the second day’s tramp before the country people were astir. The
highway, bursting forth from the encircling palm trees now and then,
stalked across a small, rolling plain. Villages rose with every mile,
rambling, two-row hamlets of bamboo, where elbow room was ample. Between
them, isolated thatched cottages peeped from beneath the trees. Here
were none of the densely-packed collections of human stys so general in
Italy and the land of the Arab; for Ceylon, four centuries tributary to
Europe, knows not the fear of marauding bands.

As the sun climbed higher, grinning groups of rustics pattered by, the
men beclouted, the women clad in a short skirt and a shorter waist,
between which glistened ten inches or more of velvety brown skin. Hunger
and thirst come often in the tropics, but never was highway more
liberally stocked with food and drink. Half the houses displayed for
sale the fruits of the surrounding forest, and tea and cocoanut cakes
could be had anywhere. On a bamboo pedestal before every hovel, however
wretched, stood an earthenware _chettie_ of water, beside which hung as
a drinking-vessel the half of a cocoanut-shell; commonly slimy and
moss-grown. Great was the joy of every family whose hut I entered—silent
joy, generally, for the unhoped-for honor of welcoming a white man left
one and all, from the half-naked wife to the babe in arms—no household
lacked the latter—speechless with awe and veneration. They are charming
children, these smiling brown people, and industrious, though moving
always after the languid manner of the tropical zone.

Bathing is the national hobby of Ceylon. Never a stream crawling under
the highway but was alive with splashing natives. Mothers, plodding
along the route, halted at every rivulet to roll a banana leaf into a
cone-shaped bucket and pour uncounted gallons of water on their
sputtering infants, crouched naked on the bank of the stream. Travelers
on foot or by bullock cart took hourly dips en route. The husbandman
abandoned his tilling at frequent intervals to plunge into the nearest
water hole. His wife, instead of calling on her neighbors, met them at
the brook and, turned mermaid, gossiped in cool and comfort. The men,
subjected only to a loin cloth, gave no heed to their clothing. The
women, wound from knees to armpits in gossamer-like sheets of snowy
white, emerged from their aquatic couches and, turning themselves round
and round in the blazing sunshine like spitted fowls over a fire,
marched homeward in dry garments.

With the third day the landscape changed. The slightly rolling lowlands
of the coast gave way to tea-clad foothills, heralding the mountains of
the interior. The highway, mounting languidly, offered noonday vista of
the ranges that have won for Ceylon the title of “Switzerland of the
tropics.” Here were none of the rugged peaks and crags of the Alps nor
the barren wilderness of Palestine. Endless, to the north and south,
hovering in a sea-blue haze, stretched rolling mountains, thick clothed
in prolific vegetation. Unaggressive, effeminate they seemed, compared
with northern highlands; summits and slopes a succession of graceful
curves, with never an angular stroke, hills plump of contour, like
Ruben’s figures.

[Illustration: Singhalese ladies wear only a skirt and a short waist,
between which several inches of brown skin are visible]

[Illustration: A Singhalese woman rarely misses an opportunity to give
her children a bath]

Try as I would, I had not succeeded in making my daily expenditures
since leaving the coast more than ten cents. Near the summit of the
route I paused at an amateur shop by the wayside. It was a pathetic
little hovel, built of rubbish picked up in the forest. A board,
stretched like a counter across the open doorway, was heavily laden with
bananas. Near at hand a plump, brown matron, in abbreviated skirt and a
waist little more than neckerchief, was spreading out grain—with her
feet—on a long grass mat. Unfortunately, the list of Singhalese words
that I had jotted down at the dictation of Askins lacked the
all-important term “how much.” I pointed at the fruit and tossed a coin
on the counter. It was a copper piece, worth one and three-fourths
cents; enough, surely, for the purchase of a half-dozen bananas. The
matron approached, picked up the coin gingerly, and, turning it over and
over in her hand, stared at me with wide-open eyes. Had I been niggardly
in my offer? I was thrusting a hand into my pocket for another copper,
when the female, motioning to me to open my knapsack, dropped into it
three dozen bananas, hesitated, and, assuming the air of one whose
conscience is master of his cupidity, added a fourth cluster.

A furlong beyond, in a shaded elbow of the route, I turned to the task
of lightening my burden. Small success would have crowned my efforts but
for the arrival of a fellow-wayfarer. He was a man of fifty or sixty,
blacker of skin than the Singhalese. A ten-yard strip of cloth, of a
pattern in which two-inch stripes of white and brilliant red alternated,
was wrapped round his waist and fell to his knees. Over his head was
folded a sheet of orange hue. In either hand he carried a bundle,
wrapped in cloth and tied with green vines. The upper half of his face
was that of meekness personified; the rest was covered with such a beard
as one might swear by, deeply streaked with gray.

Painfully he limped to the roadside, and squatted on his heels in the
edge of the shade. By every token he was “on the road.”

“Have a bite, Jack?” I invited, pushing the fruit towards him.

A child’s voice squeaked within him. Gravely he rose to his feet to
express his gratitude in every known posture of the human figure except
that of standing on his head. That formality over, he fell to with a
will—and both hands—so willingly in fact that, with never a pause nor a
choke, he made way with twenty-eight bananas. Small wonder if he would
have slept a while in the edge of the shade after so noteworthy a feat.

I rose to plod on, however, and he would not be left behind,—far behind,
that is. Reiterated solicitations could not induce him to walk beside
me; he pattered always two paces in the rear, too mindful of his own
inferiority to march abreast with a sahib. From the gestures and gasps
that my questions drew forth, I gathered that he was a _yogi_, a holy
man—temporarily at least—bound on a pilgrimage to some shrine in the
mountains. Two hours beyond our meeting, he halted at a branch road,
knelt in the highway, and, ere I had divined his intention, imprinted a
sonorous kiss on the top of one of my Nazarene slippers. Only my
dexterity saved the other. He stood up slowly, almost sadly, as one
grieved to part from good company—or bananas, shook the dust of the
route from his beard, and, turning into the forest-throttled byway, was

Night, striding over the mountains in the seven-league boots he wears in
the tropics, playfully laid hand on me just at the entrance to the inn
of the Sign of the Palm Tree. The landlord demanded no fee; the far-off
howling of dogs lulled me to sleep. With dawn, I was off once more.
Sunrise waved his greeting over the leafy crests of the Peradiniya
Gardens, and her European residents, lolling in their church-bound
’rickshaws, stared at my entrance into the ancient city of Kandy.

Centuries ago, this mountain-girdled metropolis of the interior was the
seat of the native king. To-day, the monarch of Ceylon is a bluff
Englishman, housed within sight of the harbor of Colombo in a stone
mansion more appropriate to Regent’s Row than to this land of swaying
palm trees. The descendant of the native dynasty still holds his mock
court in the capital of his forefathers, struggling against the
encroachment of trousers and cravats and the wiles of courtiers
stoop-shouldered with the wisdom of Oxford and Cambridge. But his duties
have narrowed down to that of upholding the ancestral religion. For
Kandy is a holy city. Buddhists, not merely of Ceylon but of India and
the equatorial islands, make pilgrimage to its ancient shrine. Long
before the coming of the Nazarene, tradition whispers, there was found
in Burma one of the teeth of Gautama, the Enlightened One. How it came
to be picked up thus far from the burial place of the Wandering Prince
is as inexplicable as the discovery of splinters of the true Cross in
strange and sundry regions far distant from Calvary. Be that as it may,
a rich embassy from the king of Burma bore the relic to this egg-shaped
island, and over it was erected the celebrated “Temple of the Tooth.”

[Illustration: The woman who sold me the bananas]

[Illustration: The thatch roof at the roadside, under which I slept on
the second night of my tramp to Kandy]

It is a time-worn structure of gray stone, simple in architecture from
the view point of the Orient, set in a lotus grove on the shores of a
crystal-clear lake. Mindful of the assaults that I had more than once
provoked by entering a house of worship in the East, I contented myself
with a circuit of its double, crenelated walls and a peep up the broad
steps that led to the interior.

The keeper of the inn to which fate assigned me had two sons, who,
thanks to the local mission-school, spoke fluent English. The older was
a youth of fifteen. In the West he would have been rated a child. Here
he was accepted as a man, to whom the problems of life had already taken
form. Our conversation turned naturally to the subject of religion;
naturally, because that subject is always first and foremost in the
East. His religion sets for the Oriental his place in the community; it
tells him what work he shall do all the days of his life, what his
children and his children’s children shall do. According to the dictates
of his faith he eats or refrains from eating, he seeks repose or watches
out the night, he greets his fellow-beings or shuns them like dogs.
Society is honey-combed with sects and creeds and castes. Every man
wears some visible symbol of his religion, and before all else he
scrutinizes the sign of caste of any stranger with whom he comes in
contact. No secondary matter, nor something to be aired once a week, is
a man’s religion in the East. It stalks at his heels as relentlessly as
his shadow at noonday.

“I suppose,” I was saying, soon after the son of the innkeeper had
broached this unavoidable topic, “I suppose that, as you have been
educated in a Protestant school, you are a Christian?”

The youth eyed me for a moment with noncommittal gravity.

“May I know,” he asked in reply—to change the subject, I
fancied—“whether you are a missionary?”

“On the contrary,” I protested, “I am a sailor.”

“Because,” he went on, “one must know to whom one speaks. I am a
Christian always—when I am in school or talking to missionaries.

“There are many religions in the world, and surely that of the white man
is a good religion. We learn much more that is useful in the schools of
the Christians than in our own. But, my friend,” he leaned forward with
the earnestness of one who is about to disclose a great secret, “there
is but one true religion. He who is seeking the true religion—if _you_
are seeking the true religion, you will find it right here in our island
of Ceylon.”

It comes ever back to that. Hordes of missionaries may flock to the
“heathen” lands, bulky reports anent the thousands who have been
“gathered into the fold” may rouse the charity of the pious at home; yet
in moments of sober earnest, when, in the words of Askins, “it comes to
a show-down,” the convert beyond seas is a stout champion of the faith
of his ancestors.

“Many people,” continued my informant, “nearly all the people of Ceylon
who would learn from the Christians, who are hungry and poor, or who
would have work, pretend the religion of the white man. For we receive
more, the teachers are our better friends if we tell them we are
Christians. And surely we do the right in saying so? We wish all to
please the missionaries and we have no other way to do; for it gives
them much pleasure to have many converts. Have you, I wonder,” he
concluded, “visited our Temple of the Tooth.”

“Outside,” I answered. “Are sahibs allowed to enter?”

“Surely!” cried the youth, “The Buddhists have not exclusion. We are
joyed to have white men in our temples. To-night, we are having a
service very important in the Temple of the Tooth. With my uncle, who
keeps the cloth-shop across the way, I shall go. Will you not forget
your religion and honor us by coming?”

“Certainly,” I answered.

Two flaring torches threw fantastic shadows over the chattering throng
of Singhalese that bore us bodily up the broad stairway to the sacred
shrine. In the outer temple, at the top of the flight, surged a maudlin
multitude around a dozen booths devoted to the sale of candles, bits of
cardboard, and the white lotus-flower sacred to Gautama, the Buddha.
Above the sharp-pitched roar of the faithful sounded the incessant
rattle of copper coins. The smallest child, the most ragged mendicant,
struggled against the human stream that would have swept him into the
inner temple, until he had bought or begged a taper or flower to lay in
the lap of his favorite statue. From every nook and corner, the effigy
of the Enlightened One, defying in posture the laws of anatomy, surveyed
the scene with sad serenity.

[Illustration: Singhalese infants are very sturdy during the first

[Illustration: The yogi who ate twenty-eight of the bananas at a

Of all the throng, I alone was shod. I dropped my slippers at the
landing, and, half expecting a stern command to remove my socks,
advanced into the brighter light of the interior. A whisper rose beside
me and swelled in volume as it passed quickly from mouth to
mouth:—“Sahib! sahib!” I had dreaded lest my coming should precipitate a
riot, but Buddha himself, arriving thus unannounced, could not have won
more boisterous welcome. The worshipers swept down upon me, shrieking
their hospitality. Several thrust into my hands newly purchased
blossoms, another—strange action, it seemed then, in a house of
worship—pressed upon me a badly-rolled cigar of native make; from every
side came candles and matches. At the tinkle of a far-off bell the
natives fell back, leaving a lane for our passing. Two saffron-robed
priests, smiling and salaaming at every step, advanced to meet me and
led the way to a balcony overlooking the lake.

In the semi-darkness of a corner squatted, in scanty breechclouts and
ample turbans, three natives,—low-caste coolies, no doubt, to whom fell
the menial tasks within the temple inclosure; for before each sat what
appeared to be a large basket. I took station near them with my
attendant priests, and awaited “the service very important.”

Suddenly the cornered trio, each grasping in either hand a weapon
reminiscent of a footpad’s billy, stretched their hands high above their
heads and brought them down with a crash that would have startled a less
phlegmatic sahib out of all sanity. What I had taken for baskets were
tom-toms! Without losing a single beat, the drummers began, with the
third or fourth stroke, to blow lustily on long pipes from which issued
a plaintive wailing. I spoke no more with my interpreter. For the
“musicians,” having pressed into service every soundwave lingering in
the vicinity, monopolized them during the ensuing two hours. Two simple
rules govern the production of Singhalese music: first, make as much
noise as possible all the time; second, to heighten the effect, make

Puffing serenely at my stogie, I marched with the officiating monks, who
had given me place of honor in their ranks, from one shrine to another.
Behind us surged a murmuring, self-prostrating multitude. No one sat
during the service, and there was nothing resembling a sermon. The
priests addressed themselves only to the dreamy-eyed Buddhas, and craved
boons or chanted their gratitude for former favors in a rising and
falling monotone in which I caught, now and then, the rhythm and rhyme
of poetry.

It was late when the service ended. The boiler-factory music ceased as
suddenly as it had begun, the worshipers poured forth into the soft
night, and I was left alone with my guides and a dozen priests.

“See,” whispered the intermittent Christian. “You are honored. The head
man of the temple comes.”

An aged friar, emerging from an inner shrine, drew near slowly. In
outward appearance, he was an exact replica of the surrounding priests.
A brilliant yellow robe was his only garment. His head was shaven; his
arms, right shoulder and feet, bare.

Having joined the group, he studied me a moment in silence, then
addressed me in the native tongue.

“He is asking,” explained my interpreter, “if you are liking to see the
sacred tooth?”

I bowed my thanks. The high priest led the way to the innermost shrine
of the temple, a chamber in arrangement not unlike the holy sepulchre in
the church of that name in Jerusalem. In the center of the vault he
halted, and, imitated in every movement by the attendant priests and my
guide, fell on his knees, and, muttering a prayer each time, touched his
forehead to the pavement thrice.

Erect once more, he drew from the tabernacle before him a gold casket of
the size of a ditty-box. From it he took a second, a bit smaller, and
handed the first to one of his companions. From the second he drew a
third, from the third a fourth. The process was repeated until nearly
every subordinate priest held a coffer, some fantastically wrought, some
inlaid with precious stones. With the opening of every third box all
those not already burdened fell on their knees and repeated their first
genuflections. There appeared at last the innermost receptacle, not over
an inch each way, and set with diamonds and rubies. Its sanctity
required more than the usual number of prostrations and murmured
incantations. Carefully the superior opened it, and disclosed to view a
tooth, yellow with age, which, assuredly, never grew in any human mouth.
Each of the party admired the molar in turn, but even the high priest
took care not to touch it. The fitting together of the box of boxes
required as much mummery as its disintegration.

The ceremony was ended at last, the tabernacle locked, and we passed on
to inspect other places of interest. Among them was the temple library,
famous throughout the island. It contained four books. Two of these—and
they were thumb-worn—were in English,—recent works of Theosophists. For
the priests of Buddha, far from being the ignorant and superstitious
creatures of Western fancy, are often liberal-minded students of every
phase of the world’s religions. Printed volumes, however, did not
constitute the real library. On the shelves around the walls were
thousands of metal tablets, two feet long, a fourth as wide, and an inch
thick, covered on both sides with the hieroglyphics of Ceylon. When I
had handled several of these, and heard a priest read one in a mournful,
sing-song chant, like the falling of water at a distance, I acknowledged
myself content and turned with my guides toward the door.

[Illustration: Central Ceylon. Making roof-tiles. The sun is the only

[Illustration: The priests of the “Temple of the Tooth” in Kandy, who
were my guides during my stay in the city]

The high priest followed us into the outer temple. During all the
evening he had addressed me only through an interpreter. As I paused to
pick up my slippers, however, he salaamed gravely and spoke once more,
this time, to my utter amazement, in faultless English.

“White men,” ran his speech, “often join the true religion. There are
many who are priests of Buddha in Burma, and some in Ceylon. They are
much honored.”

“You see,” explained the son of the innkeeper, as we wended our way
through the silent bazaars, “he did not wish that you should at first
know that he speaks English. He has done you great honor by asking you
to become a priest; for so he meant. But often come white men to the
temple and mock all that is brought to see, making, many times, very
cruel jokes, and he who is close to Buddha waited to see. You have not
done so. Therefore are you honored.”

We mounted to the second story of the inn and, stripped naked, lay down
on our _charpoys_—native beds consisting of a strip of canvas stretched
on a frame. But it was long before I fell asleep; for the youth, seeing
it his clear duty, harangued me long and ungrammatically from the
neighboring darkness on the virtues of the “true religion.”

Somehow the impression gained ground rapidly among the residents of
Kandy that the white man who had attended the Sunday evening service
contemplated joining the yellow-robed ascetics at the Temple of the
Tooth. Just where the rumor had its birth I know not. Belike the mere
fact that I had turned none of the rites to jest had won me favor. Or
was it that my garb marked me as one more likely to attain Nirvana than
the bestarched Europeans whose levity so grieved him who was “close to

At any rate, the rumor grew like the cornstalk in Kansas. With the
morning sun came pious shopkeepers to fawn upon me. Before I had
breakfasted, two temple priests, their newly-shaven heads and faces
shining under their brightly-colored parasols like polished brass,
called at the inn and invited me to a stroll through the market place.
Never an excursion did I make in Kandy or its environs without at least
a pair of saffron-garbed companions. That I should find a ready welcome
in the temple a hundred natives assured me, the priests by veiled hints,
the laymen more openly. They were moved, perhaps, by a no more
altruistic motive than a desire to have on exhibition in the local
monastery a white priest. But to their credit be it said that no
suggestion of a material inducement crept into their arguments.

“Buddhism,” ran their plea, “is the true religion. The mere fact that it
has many more followers than any other religion proves that, does it
not? And the doctrine of the Enlightened One embraces every anomaly of
humanity—even white men. Only those who accept it can hope for future
happiness. Even if you are not yet convinced of its truth, why not
accept it now and run no risk of future perdition?”

Surely, the most conscientious of Christian missionaries never attempted
proselytism less underhandedly.

My escape from Kandy savored of strategy, but I reached the station
unchallenged, and, exchanging my last two rupees for a ticket to
Colombo, established myself in a third-class compartment. It was already
occupied by a native couple more gifted with offspring than attire.
Barely had I settled down to study Singhalese domestic life at close
range, however, when a mighty uproar burst out near at hand. A
half-breed in the uniform of a guard raced across the platform, and,
thrusting his head into the compartment, poured forth on my apparently
unoffending companions a torrent of incomprehensible words. Had he
denounced me as a victim of the plague? Plainly the family was greatly
frightened. The father sprang wildly to his feet and attempted to clutch
a half-dozen unwieldy bundles in a painfully inadequate number of hands.
The wife, no less terrified, raked together from floor and benches as
many naked urchins, in assorted sizes, but entangled, in her haste, the
legs of her lord and master, and sent him sprawling among his howling
descendants. With a sizzling oath, the trainman snatched open the door
and, springing inside, tumbled baggage, infants, and parents
unceremoniously out upon the platform. Still bellowing, he drove the
trembling wretches to another compartment; a party of well-dressed
natives took possession of the recently vacated benches; and we were

That self-congratulatory attitude common to traveling salesmen the world
over betrayed the caste of my new companions. All of them spoke English,
and, eager to air their accomplishments, lost no time in engaging me in
conversation. Marvelous was the information and the variations of my
mother tongue that assailed me from all sides. It is with difficulty
that one refrains from “stuffing” these vainglorious, yet childish
fellows and it was evident that some other European had already yielded
to the temptation. But my astonishment at the treatment of the exiled
family had by no means subsided.

“Will some of you chaps tell me,” I interrupted, “why the guard ordered
those other natives out of here, and then let you in?”

The drummers glared at me a moment in silence, looked at each other, and
turned to stare out of the windows. Most grossly, evidently, had I
insulted them. But even an insult cannot keep an Oriental long silent.
The travelers fidgeted in their seats, nudged each other, and focused
their stare once more upon me.

“Know you, sir,” said the most portly of the group, with severe
countenance, “know you that those were base coolies, who are not allowed
to ride in the same compartment with white gentlemen. We,” and the brass
buttons of his embroidered jacket struggled to perform their office,
“are high-caste Singhalese, sir. Therefore may we ride with sahibs.”

                              CHAPTER XIII

The train rumbled into Colombo in the late afternoon. I made my way at
once through the pattering throng to Almeida’s. In the roofless
dining-room sat Askins, puffing furiously at his clay pipe and
scribbling with a sputtering pen in one of several half-penny notebooks
scattered on the table before him. At the further end lolled the Swede
and two fellow-beachcombers, staring at the writer as at the performer
of some mighty miracle.

“Doing?” grinned the Irishman, in answer to my question. “Oh! Just
another of my tales. You know you can’t knock around British-India for
twenty years without picking up a few things. About the time Ole took
his first bath I began jotting down some of the mix-ups I’ve wandered
into. That lot went to amuse Davy Jones when a tub I was playing second
engineer on threw up the sponge in the Bay of Bengal. Later on I knocked
the best of the yarns together again, and I tear off another now and
then when life gets dull.

“Published? Oh, I may shove them off one of these days on some penny
weekly. But if I don’t, the coroner can have them for his trouble when I
come to furl my mainsheet. He won’t find anything else.”

“Vonderful!” cried Ole, with a Dr. Watson accent, “I haf study in der
school an’ I rhead sometimes a story in der dog-vatch; min der man vitch
can make der stories! Vonderful, by Gott!”

“By the way, Franck,” said Askins, gathering the notebooks together,
“how about the yellow-birds who tried to shave your sky-piece over in

“Why, who has been telling you—?” I gasped.

“Haven’t heard a word,” replied the Irishman; “but I knew they’d flag
you. How did it turn out?”

I related my experiences with the temple priests.

“It’s an old game out here,” mused Askins. “In the good old days,
whenever one of the boys went broke, it was get converted. Not all
played out yet either. There’s a bunch of one-time beachcombers
scattered among the Burmese monasteries. An old pal of mine wears the
yellow up in Nepal. No graft about him, though. He’s a firm believer.

“Now and then a down-and-outer, especially over Bombay side, turns
Mohammedan. But most of ’em don’t take to the surgical operation, and
the cross-legged one remains the favorite. Of course, there’s always the
missionaries, too, but there’s not much in it for a white man to turn
Christian. There was good money in the Mohammedan game before it was
worked out. There’s a little yet. Of course, you know you won’t get a
red by tying up with the rice-bowlers, but it’s a job for life—if you

“Huh! Yank,” roared the Swede, peering at me through the smoke, “you get
burn some, eh, playin’ mit der monkeys in der jungle? Pretty soon you
ban sunstroke. Here, I make you trade.”

He pointed to the tropical helmet on the table before him.

“You’re on,” I responded.

“He ban good hat,” said Ole, proudly; “I get him last week from der
Swede consul. Min he too damn big. What you give?”

For answer I tossed my cap across the table.

“Nah!” protested the Scandinavian, “I sell him for tventy cents or I
take der cap an’ vun coat.”

I mounted to the floor above and returned with a cotton jacket that I
had left in the keeping of Askins.

“How’s this?” I demanded.

“He ban all right,” answered Ole, slipping into it; “der oder vas all
broke by der sleeves.”

I donned the helmet and strolled down to the landing jetty, where “the
boys” were accustomed to gather of an evening to enjoy the only cool
breeze that ever invaded Colombo. Few had been the changes in the
beachcomber ranks during my absence. Amid the drowsy yarning there
sounded often a familiar refrain:—“The circus is coming.” No one knew
just when; but then, one doesn’t worry in Ceylon. If he hasn’t rice, he
eats bananas. If he can’t find work, it is a joy merely to lie in the
shade and breathe.

The publicity of the cricket grounds had led me to seek other
sleeping-quarters. Opposite the shipping-office, in the heart of the
European section, lay Gordon Gardens, a park replete with fountains, gay
flower pots, and grateful shade. By day it was the rendezvous of the
élite of the city, white and black. By night its gates were closed, and
stern placards warned trespassers to beware. Small hindrance these,
however, for in all Colombo I had no better friend than Bobby, who
patroled the flanking street. Under the trees the night dew never fell,
the ocean breeze laughed at the toil of the punkah-wallah, the fountains
gave bathroom privileges, and prowling natives disturbed me no more; for
Bobby was owl-eyed. This new lodging had but one drawback. I must be up
and away with the dawn; for within pea-shooting distance of my chamber
towered the White House of Ceylon, and Governor Blake was reputed an
early riser and no friend of beachcombers.

One by one there drifted ashore in Colombo four fellow-countrymen, who,
following my example, soon won for Gordon Gardens the sub-title
“American Park Hotel.” Model youths, perhaps, would have shunned this
quartet, for each plead guilty to a checkered past. As for myself, I
found them boon companions.

Henderson, the oldest, was a deserter from the Asiatic squadron. Arnold,
middle-aged, laden with the spoils—in drafts—of a political career in
New York, awaited in Ceylon the conclusion of the Japanese-Russian war
before hastening to Port Arthur to open an American saloon.

Down at the point of the breakwater, where we were wont to gather often
for a dip in the brine, I made the acquaintance of Marten. He was a boy
of twenty-five, hailing from Tacoma, Washington. Arriving in the Orient
some years before with a record as a champion swimmer, he had spent two
seasons in diving for pearls on the Coromandel coast. Not one of the
native striplings who surrounded each arriving steamer, clamoring for
pennies, was more nearly amphibious than Marten. It was much more to
watch his submarine feats than to swim that the beachcombers sallied
forth each afternoon from their shady retreats.

We swam cautiously, the rest of us, for the harbor was infested with
sharks. On the day after my arrival, the _Worcestershire_ had buried in
the European cemetery of Colombo the upper half of what had been one of
my companions in the “glory-hole.” The appearance of a pair of black
fins out across the sun-flecked waters was certain to send us scrambling
up the rough face of the breakwater.

[Illustration: The rickshaw men of Colombo]

[Illustration: American wanderers who slept in the Gordon Gardens of
Colombo. Left to right: Arnold, ex-New York ward heeler; myself; “Dick
Haywood”; an English lad; and Marten of Tacoma, Washington]

But not so Marten. While we fled, he swam straight for the coming
monsters of the deep. When they were almost upon him he dived with a
shout of hilarity and a dash of foam into their very midst, to come to
the surface smiling and unscathed, perhaps far out across the harbor,
perhaps under our dangling feet. How he put the sharks to flight no man
knew. The “gang” was divided in its opinion between the assertion of the
swimmer himself that he “tickled ’em under the belly,” and the
conviction of Askins that he had merely to show them his face—for Marten
was not afflicted with manly beauty.

The last member of our party was a bully born on the Bowery, younger in
years than Marten, older in rascality than Henderson. As to his name, he
owned to several, and assured us at the first meeting that “Dick
Haywood” would do well enough for the time being. His chief claim to
fame was his own assertion that he had escaped from Sing Sing after
serving two years of a seven-year sentence. The story of his “get-away,”
with which he often entertained twilight gatherings on the jetty,
smacked of veracity. For all an innate skepticism, I found no reason to
disagree with the conclusion of the “gang” that his “song and dance” was
true. Certainly there was no doubt among his most casual acquaintances
of his ability to get into Sing Sing. He was clever enough, fortune
favoring, to have broken out.

Fleeing his native land, Haywood had brought up in Bombay and, having
enlisted in the British army, was assigned to a garrison in Rajputana.
Obviously, so temperamental a youth must soon weary of the guard duty
and pipe-clay polishing that make up the long, long Indian day of Tommy
Atkins. He engineered a second “get-away.” The enlistment papers and a
buttonless uniform in his bundle certified to this adventure. In the
course of time he reached Calcutta, chiefly through the fortune of
finding himself alone in a compartment of the Northwest Mail with a
Parsee merchant of more worldly wealth than physical prowess. A rumor of
this escapade soon drove him to Madras. There his unconventional habits
again asserted themselves and fortune temporarily deserted him. He was
taken in the bazaars in the act of “weeding the leathers.”

Once more he escaped, this time from a crowded court room, and finding
India no longer attractive, turned southward to Ceylon, hoping to make a
final “get-away” by sea.

Few of “the boys” gave credence to these last tales. But they were true.
For a newcomer in the ranks reported on the day of his arrival, before
he had laid eyes on the culprit, that Madras was placarded with
descriptions—they fitted Haywood exactly—of a man charged with
desertion, robbery, pick-pocketing, and escape from custody.

Awaking penniless on the morning following my return from Kandy, I
decided to investigate a charity system in vogue in British-India.
Kind-hearted sahibs, members of a national association known as the
“Friend-in-Need Society,” maintain in the larger cities a refuge for
stranded Europeans and Eurasians. Above the door of each Society
building appear the initial letters of its title. The inventive
wanderer, for other reasons than this, perhaps, has dubbed the kindly
institution the “Finish.”

In Colombo the Society offered only out-door relief, meal tickets
distributed by its president or secretary. I found the first of these
officials to be the youthful editor of Colombo’s English newspaper, with
offices a ship’s length from Gordon Gardens. Tickets, however, had he

“This office was too blooming handy,” he explained, throwing aside his
blue pencil to mop his brow. “If the hooligans loafing in the Gardens or
on the jetty had an idle hour on their hands, they spent it inventing
tales and strolled up here to see how much they could get out of the
Society by springing them on me. There was more than one of them, too,
that I’d have taken on the staff if he could have dished up as good a
yarn every week. But the thing got to be a fad, and, when I found that a
couple of fellows that applied to me had their pockets full of dibs at
the time, I decided to let the secretary, the Baptist minister, do the
distributing. His parsonage is four miles from the harbor, and the man
that will walk that far in Ceylon deserves all he can get out of him.”

Far out beyond the leper hospital, where putrescent mortals peered
dejectedly through the palings, I came upon the bungalow of the Reverend
Peacock, set well back from the red highway in a grove of palms. Several
old acquaintances, including Askins, had assembled. One of them stood
abjectly, hat in hand, before the judgment-seat at the end of the

The secretary was a man of pugilistic build, with the voice of a
side-show barker. His very roar seemed an assertion that he was an
infallible judge of human nature. Yet, strangely enough, he treated most
liberally the professional vagrants, and turned away empty-handed those
whose stories were told stammeringly for want of practice. Among those
who appeared before him that morning, for example, were two grafters,
Askins and myself; and an Italian sailor, really deserving of

The Irishman chose to state his case in the language of university

“Surely,” cried the reverend gentleman, in delight, “this must be the
first time a man of your parts has found himself in this predicament?”

“Verily, yes, Reverend Peacock,” quoth the learned son of Erin, with an
unrestrainable sigh, “the first indeed. As I can’t count the other
times, they don’t count,” he murmured to himself. “It’s the asthma,
reverend sir.”

“I shall be glad to make yours a special case,” said the secretary;
“Step aside into my study.”

I advanced to tell my tale and received eight tickets, twice the usual
number. A moment later the Italian was driven from the parsonage grounds
with the nearest approach to an oath that a minister is entitled to
include in his vocabulary.

The tickets, worth four cents each, entitled the holder to as many meals
of currie and rice, tea, bananas, and cakes in a native shop chosen by
the Society; it was the poorest in town. A faulty management was
suggested, too, by the fact that the proprietor was easily induced to
make good the Society vouchers in a neighboring arrack-shop.

Three day later, as dawn was breaking, I climbed the fence of the
“American Park Hotel” and strolled away to the beach for a dip in the
surf. Breakfast would have been more to the point, but my last ticket
was spent. One by one, “the boys,” little suspecting that this was to
prove the red-letter day of that Colombo season, turned back into the
squat city; and as the sun mounted higher I retreated to the freight
wharves, where the vague promise of a job had been held out to me the
day before.

The dock superintendent was slow in coming. At ten o’clock I was still
stretched out in the shade of his veranda, when I was suddenly aroused
by a shout from the shore end of the pier. I sprang up to see the Swede
struggling to keep a footing in the maelstrom of bullock carts, coolie
carriers, and shrieking stevedores, and waving his arms wildly above his

“Circus!” he cried, “Der circus is coom, Franck! Creeket ground!” and,
turning about, he dashed off at a pace that is rarely equaled in Ceylon
by white men who look forward to a long and active life.

I dived into the throng and fought my way to the gate. The Scandinavian
was already far down the red driveway leading to the native section.
Among such a company of out-of-works as graced Colombo at that season,
there was small chance of employment to those who lingered. I dashed
after the flying Norseman and overtook him at the entrance to the public

A circus at the hour of its arrival presents a chaotic scene under the
best of circumstances. When it has just disembarked from a sea voyage,
in a land swarming with half-civilized brown men, its disorder is
oppressive. The center of the cricket field was a wild confusion of
animal cages, rolls of canvas, scattered tent poles, and all else that
goes to make up a traveling menagerie, not forgetting those pompous
persons whose hectic garb make them as effective advertising mediums as
walking billboards.

At the moment, these romantic beings were doing garrison duty; for the
recumbent circus was in a state of siege. Around it surged an
ever-increasing multitude of natives, peering, pushing, chattering,
falling back terror-stricken before the frenzied circus men who, armed
with iron-headed tent stakes, charged back and forth across the space;
but sweeping out upon the scattered paraphernalia again after each

We battled our way into the inner circle and shouted an offer of our
services to the blaspheming manager. He was a typical circus boss;
Irish, of course, bullet-headed, of powerful build, and free of
movement, with a belligerent cast of countenance that proclaimed his
readiness to engage in a “scrap” at any time that he could find leisure
for such entertainment. Tugging at a heap of canvas, he peered at us
between his out-stretched legs, and shouted above the din of battle:—

“Yis, I want four min! White wans! Are you fellows sailors? There’s a
hill of a lot o’ climbin’ to do.”

“Both A. Bs.,” I answered.

“All right! If ye want the job, bring two more.”

We turned to scrutinize the sea of humanity about us. There was not a
white face to be seen.

“Ve look by Almeida’s!” shouted the Swede, as we charged the mob.

Before we could escape, however, I caught sight of a familiar slouch hat
well back in the crowd, and a moment later Askins stood beside us.
Behind him came Dick Haywood and, our squad complete, we dashed back to
the boss.

“Well!” he roared, “I pay a quid a week an’ find yerselves! Want it?”

“A pound a week,” muttered Askins, “that’s more’n two chips a day. Aye!
We’ll take it.”

“All right! Jump onto that center pole an’ get ’er up. If these niggers
get in the way, brain ’em with a tent stake. Stip lively now!”

The upper canvas was soon spread and a space roped off. The boss tossed
a pick-ax at me and set me to grubbing holes for the seat supports.
Carefully and evenly I swung the tool up and down in an old maid’s
stroke. The least slip would have broken a Singhalese head, so closely
did the natives press around me. To them the sight of a white man
employed at manual labor was the source of as much astonishment as any
of the wonders of the circus. Few, indeed, had ever before seen a
European manipulating heavier tools than pen or pencil. Within an hour
the news had spread abroad through the city that the circus had imported
the novelty of the age, some “white coolies;” and all Colombo and his
wife omitted the afternoon siesta and trooped to the cricket ground to
behold this reversal of society.

The mob that I drove from hole to hole increased rapidly. My mates,
carrying seat boards or sawdust for the ring, were as seriously
handicapped. Haywood of the untamed temper, taking the caustic advice of
the boss too literally, snatched up a tent stake and stretched two
natives bleeding on the ground. Even that brought small relief.

Strange comments sounded in my ears; for the native who speaks English
never loses an opportunity to display his learning. A pair at my elbow
opened fire in the diction of schoolbooks:—

“This sight is to me astounding!” shrieked the high-caste youth to his
older companion; “I have never before know that Europeans can do such

“Why, indeed, yes!” cried the babu. “In his home the sahib does just so
strong work as our coolies, but because he is play cricket and tennis he
is doing even stronger. He is not rich always and sitting in shade.”

“But do the white man not losing his caste when he is working like
coolies?” demanded the youth. “Why is this man work at such? Is he
perhaps prisoner that he disgraces himself lower than the keeper of the

“Truly, my friend, I not understand,” admitted the older man, a bit
sadly, “but I am reading that in sahib’s country he is make the workings
of coolie and yet is not coolie.”

There were others besides the native residents whose attention was
attracted to the “white coolies.” Here and there in the crowd I caught
sight of a European scowling darkly at us; just why, I could not guess,
unconscious of having done anything to provoke the ill-will of my race.
In due time, however, I learned the cause of their displeasure.

When night fell, all was in readiness for the initial performance;
though at the cost of a day’s work that we agreed could not be indulged
in more than semi-annually, even for an inducement of “more than two
chips.” The tents, large and small, were stretched, the circle of seats
complete. Rings, flying apparatus, properties, and lights were ready for
use. A half-thousand chairs, reserved for Europeans, had been ranged at
the ring side, the cage of the performing lion bolted together, and the
ticket booth set up at the entrance. The boss gave vent to a final
snarl, called a ’rickshaw, and drove off to his hotel for dinner.
Luckily, Askin’s credit was good in the favorite shop across the way. We
ate our currie and rice quickly, and returned to stretch out on the
grass at the players’ entrance.

Our pipes were barely lighted when two Europeans, dressed in snow-white
garments, stepped forward out of the darkness. We recognized in them two
Englishmen connected with the Lipton Tea Company.

“It strikes me, me men,” began one, in a high, querulous voice, “that
you chaps should know better than to do coolie labor in sight of all the
natives of the city.”

“What’s that?” I cried, in my surprise, though I heard Askins chuckling
behind me.

“I suppose you chaps have only come to Ceylon,” suggested the other, in
a more conciliatory tone. “You probably don’t realize what a different
world this is out here. You cawn’t work at manual labor here, you know,
the way you can in Hyde Park. Why, you will destroy the prestige of
every white man on the island, if—”

“You’ve stirred up a fine kettle of fish already,” burst out the first
speaker. “But Arthur, these chaps are not bank clerks. They cawn’t
understand the sowt of language you talk to your stenographer, you
knoaw. They are only sailors. Let me tell them the trouble.

“Now look heah, me men. This awfternoon my Hindu servant stuck his head
in at my office door, and shouted right out for me to go to the cricket
ground and see the sahib coolies. By four o’clock he was talking back
every time I called him to do an errand. To-night, blawst me, he was so
slow in filling my pipe that I had to chuck a boot at him. By to-morrow
morning I suppose he’ll tell me to prepare me own bawth, bah Jove. This
sort of thing, ye knoaw, is giving the natives the notion that they’re
as good as Englishmen.”

“Think you’ll find,” said Askins, puffing slowly at his broken pipe, “if
you reflect a bit, that this unwonted arrogance in the aborigines and
the noticeable decrease in their respect for Europeans, which you
attribute entirely to our alleged indiscretion, are very largely due to
the recent victories of Japan over Russia.”

The Swede snorted like a stalled winch. The boot-chucker peered through
the darkness at the rags that covered Askins, M. A. Even “Arthur” could
not suppress a chuckle at his companion’s notion of a mere sailor’s
vocabulary. Before the other had recovered, he took up the broken thread
of the sermon.

“Reginald is right, me men, all the same. Ye knoaw of all the castes out
here only the very lowest work with their hands, and they are despised
by every other class. Why, the lowest caste in Ceylon, ye knoaw, won’t
undertake our meanest labor. We have to send over for Tamil and Hindu
coolies. Now the Englishmen are at the top of this caste system. The
natives look up to us as above their highest caste. If this highest
class, then, does labor that would degrade those of their lowest caste,
you can see where their reverence for white men would soon go.

“Chaps have come out here at different times, missionaries especially,
determined to treat the natives like equals, saying it was all rot and
wrong to keep up this caste system. And they chatted with their
servants, and patted the babies on the back, and sat at the same table
with natives, and even planted their own gardens. And those who haven’t
got knives in their ribs for hoodooing the children are looked upon as
insane or degenerate, or as men being punished for some crime. Why, if
these people ceased to look upon us as their social superiors they’d
drive us into the sea in a month. If you chaps want to stop long in
Colombo you’d better drop this circus job.”

“But if that’s all the work we can find on the whole blooming island?” I

“Work!” cried Reginald, excitedly, “Why, blawst it! Don’t work! Better
loaf than make us all lose caste with the natives.”

“But if the wily chip continues to elude us?” drawled Askins.

“Eh!” gasped Reggie.

“I mean if the currie and rice refuse to come at our whistle?”

“Oah! Yeou mean if you have no money to buy food?”

“You’ve hit it,” replied the Dublin sage; “that’s the very idea.”

“Why, blawst it, me man,” shrieked Reggie, “don’t you know there’s a
Friend-in-Need Society in Colombo? What do you fawncy we contribute to
it for? Now if you chaps don’t stop disgracing all the—”

“What’s the bloody row?” growled a voice in the darkness.

Our employer loomed up out of the night.

“Oh! That’ll be all right,” he asserted, in a soothing voice, when the
controversy had been explained to him; “The tints is all up. T’night
I’ll give these byes their uniforems, an’ whinever the show is goin’ on
an’ the niggers can see thim, they’ll wear thim.”

“Uniforms!” cried the Englishmen. “That’s different, ye knoaw.”

“Of course,” continued Reggie, lighting a cigarette, “it will be all
right with uniforms. When a man weahs a uniform, the natives think he is
doing something they cawn’t do, ye knoaw, and he keeps his cawste. Oah,
yes, that’ll do very nicely, Mr. Manager. We’ll be off, then,” and the
pair tripped away into the night.

“Fitzgerald’s Circus” was an Australian enterprise. Its personnel, from
Fritz himself to the trick poodle, hailed from the little continent. In
competition with the circuses of our own land this one-ring affair would
have attracted small attention; but its annual circuit of Oriental
cities, from Hong Kong to Bombay, was on virgin soil where the most
stereotyped “act” was greeted with bursts of enthusiasm.

To us, surfeited and sophisticated beings from an unmarveling world, the
sights of interest were in the amphitheater of benches rather than in
the ring. The burners lighted, we dashed off to don our uniforms. These
were light blue in color and richly trimmed with gold braid—things of
glory above which even the bald crown of Askins and the straw-tinted
thatch of the Swede inspired a deep Singhalese reverence. The designers
of the garments, however, having in mind durability rather than the
comfort of scores of annual wearers, had forced upon us a costume
appropriate to the upper ranges of the Himalayas.

Our first uniformed duties were those of ushers, and between the
appearance of the frightened vanguard of the audience and the first
fanfare of the audacious “orchestra,” life moved with a vim. The hordes
that swarmed in upon us before the barker had concluded his first appeal
comprised every caste of Singhalese society. Weighty problems unknown to
the most experienced circus man of the western world crowded themselves
upon us, demanding instantaneous solution. A delegation of priests in
cheese-cloth robes raised their shrill voices in protest because the
space allotted them gave no room for their betel-nut boxes. Half-breeds
shouted strenuous objections to being seated with natives. Merchants
refused to enter the same section with shopkeepers. Shopkeepers were
chary of pollution at the touch of scribes. Scribes cried out hoarsely
at contact with laborers. Skilled workmen screamed in frenzy at every
attempt to make place among them for mere coolies.

The lower the caste of the newcomer the more prolonged was the uproar
against him, and the more vindictive his own disgust at his inferiors.
The Hindu _sudra_, in his scanty loin-cloth, was abhorred of all, and
shrank servilely behind the usher during the circuit of the tent, while
each section in turn rose against him. The natives, for the most part,
refused to sit as circus seats are meant to be sat on, but squatted
obstinately on their heels, hugging their scrawny knees. Wily ’rickshaw
runners could be kept from crawling in among the chairs only by extreme
vigilance and occasional violence. Buxom brown women, caught in the
crush of humanity, ran imminent peril of being separated from their
loosely-fastened skirts, and through it all native youths from the
mission-schools, swarmed round us, intent on displaying their “English”
by asking useless and unanswerable questions.

The entrance of the European patrons, staid and pompous of demeanor, put
the natives on their best behavior, and, with the appearance of the
bicyclers for the first act, even the Eurasian forgot that the despised
sudra sat under the same tent with him. The heterogeneous throng settled
down into a motionless sea of strained, astonished faces. Fitzgerald
sahib prided himself on the smooth manner in which his entertainment was
run off, and to the four of us fell the task of supplying the oil to his
circus machinery. The “Wonderful Cycle Whiz! Never Before Performed by
Australians! Never!” once over, we had one minute to pull down the
bicycle track and carry the heavily weighted sections outside the tent.
While we lowered “Master Waldron’s” trapeze with one hand, we placed and
held the hurdles with the other. Tables and chairs for “Hadgie Tabor’s
Hand-Balancing Act!” must appear as if by magic. In breathless
succession the trick ponies must be led on, the ring cleared for the
performing elephant, set again for the “Astounding Jockey Act,” and
cleared for the “Hungarian Horses.”

Then “Mlle. Montgomery,” forgetting her bunion, capered into the glare
of publicity in a costume that made even the tropically-clad Singhalese
women gasp with envy. Most valiantly we struggled during her “Daring
Equestrian Act!” to drop the streamers low on her horse’s flanks, and to
strike the fair equestrienne squarely on the head with our paper hoops;
not so much from a desire to charm the audience with our dexterity as to
escape the sizzling comments which the fairy-like “mademoiselle” flung
back in snarling sotto voce at each blunderer.

Away with hoops and ribbons! Properties for the clown act! On the heels
of the fools came that “Mighty Demonstration of Man’s Power over
FEROCIOUS BEASTS!” during which an emaciated and moth-eaten tiger,
crouched on a horse, rode twice round the ring with the contrite and
crestfallen countenance of a hen-pecked suburbanite who has returned
home without recalling the reason for the knot in his handkerchief.

Ten minutes’ intermission, that was no intermission for us, and there
came more properties, hoops and rings of fire, tables and chairs,
performing dogs to be held in leash, and a final act for which we set up
the elephant’s bicycle and drove the lion out for a spin on the huge
animal’s back. Had our uniforms been as airy as the raiment of the Hindu
coolies slinking at the tail of the howling hordes that poured through
the exit, our labyrinthian paths about the enclosure could easily have
been traced by the streams of sweat left behind us. Even though our
tasks were by no means ended with the performance, we rarely waited for
the disappearance of the last stragglers to strip as far as unexacting
Singhalese propriety would permit.

When the last property had been laid away, we arranged our beds by
setting together several chairs chosen from the general havoc, and
turned in. Unless we were disturbed by prowling natives, we even slept;
though rarely all at once and never for an extended period.

The boss, during that strenuous first day, had promised us ample leisure
when once the tents and cages were set up. Unfortunately, he forgot his
promise. Each day we were stirring at dawn, and, after a banana and a
wafer across the way, we fell to work. The benches, which the departing
multitude had scattered pellmell in their dash for the cooler night
outside, must be reset. The chairs of the sahibs, strewn about the ring
like wreckage washed ashore, must be rearranged in symmetrical rows and
decorated with ribbons. Cast-off programs, banana peelings, betel-nut
leaves, and all the rubbish of a band of merrymakers had to be picked
up; the tent ropes “sweated” to keep them taut; the lion’s cage minutely
inspected; the ring re-sprinkled with sawdust and, a job abhorred,
freshly whitewashed. Between these regular duties came a hundred and one
chores of the boss’s finding; and, whatever the task in hand, it must be
interrupted ever and anon to throw tent stakes at the awe-stricken faces
that peered through the openings in the canvas. Strange fortune if we
were finished when the cry of “touch off the lights” sent us shinnying
up the tent poles and ropes in Jack Tar fashion to kindle the gasoline
burners. Not even the Reverend Peacock could have accused us, during
those merry days, of living, like drones, on the industry of others.

Fitzgerald’s Circus had been domiciled nearly a week in Colombo, when I
was unexpectedly advanced from the position of a “swipe” to one of
weighty importance. It was during an idle hour late one afternoon. The
four of us were displaying our accomplishments in the deserted ring,
when it was my good fortune, or bad, according to the individual point
of view, to be detected by the ringmaster and the proprietor in the act
of “doing a hand-stand.” Certain so commonplace a feat in itself could
not have attracted the attention the pair bestowed upon me, I regained
my accustomed posture fully expecting to lose my cherished “quid a week”
for this defilement of the sawdust circle. I waited contritely. The
ringmaster looked me over with critical dispassion from my shorn head to
my bare feet, turned his perpetual scowl on “Fitz” for a moment, and
addressed me in the metallic voice of a phonograph:—

“Know any other stunts?”

Was the question meant seriously, or was this caustic sarcasm but a
forerunner of my dismissal?

“One or two,” I admitted.

“Where’d ye learn ’em?” snapped the ringmaster.

I pleaded in exoneration a few years of gymnasium membership.

“Gymnasium on shipboard?” asked the owner.

“Why, no, sir, on land.”

“Could you do a dive over that chair into the ring, a head-stand, a
stiff-fall, and a roll-up?” rasped the ringmaster.

A chuckle and a snort sounded from my companions. Losing a job was, from
their point of view, neither a disgrace nor a misfortune—merely a joke.

“Yes, sir, I can work those,” I stammered.

“You’re a sailor?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then a few tumbles won’t hurt you any. Can you hold a man of twelve
stone on your shoulders?”

I made a brief mental calculation; twelve times fourteen—one hundred and
sixty-eight pounds.

“Sure,” I answered.

“Well,” snapped the ringmaster, savagely, “I want you to go on for
Walhalla’s turn.”

“Whaat!” I gasped; “Walha—!” In my astonishment I had all but taken to
my heels. Walhalla and Faust were our two clowns, and the joy with which
the antics of the pair were greeted by the natives kept them more in
evidence than any other performer. My companions roared with delight at
the fancied jest.

“Here! You swipes,” cried the ringmaster, whirling upon them; “go over
and brush the flies off that elephant! An’ keep ’em brushed off! D’ye
hear me!”

“Now, then, Franck,” said the proprietor—this sudden rise in the social
scale had given me even the right to be addressed by name—“Walhalla has
a fever. Out for good, I suppose. Damn it, Casey!” turning to his
right-hand man, “I’m always losing my exhibits. Look at this trip! My
best bare-back skirt dies of cholera in Singapore. My best cycler breaks
his neck in Rangoon. The plague walks off with my best trap man in
Bombay—damn the hole! Why in hell is it always the stars that go? Now
it’s Walhalla. Five turns cut out already. If we lose any more, we’re
done for. We can’t, that’s all. Now—”

“But I’m no circus man!” I protested, as his eye fell on me.

“Oh, hell!” said the ringmaster, “You’ve been with us long enough to
know Walhalla’s gags, and you can work up the stunts in a couple of

“But there’s the violin act!” I objected, recalling a combination of
alleged music and tumbling that always “brought down the house.”

“We’ll have to cut that out. But you can put on the others.”

“There’ll be ten chips a day in it,” put in “Fitz,” casually.

“Eh—er—ten rupees!” I choked. Self-respecting beachcomber though I was,
I would have turned missionary at that price.

“All right, sir. I’ll make a try at it,” I answered.

“Of course,” said “Fitz.” “Go and get tiffin and be back in half an
hour. I’ll have Faust here for a rehearsal.”

I sprang for an exit, but stopped suddenly as a thought struck me:—

[Illustration: The trick elephant of Fitzgerald’s circus and a
high-caste Singhalese with circle-comb]

[Illustration: John Askins, M.A., who had been “on the road” in the
Orient twenty years]

“But say,” I wailed, “we’re aground! The clothes—!”

“Stretch a leg and get tiffin!” cried the ringmaster; “Walhalla’s rags
are all here.”

From nightfall until the audience, which “Fitz” was holding back as long
as possible, stormed the tent, I worked feverishly with Faust in
perfecting “gags,” tumbles, and the time-honored brands of “horse-play.”
When our privacy was invaded, I scurried away to the dressing-tent to be
made up. Several long-established antics we were obliged to omit until
the next day gave more opportunity for rehearsal; but the clouted
audience was uncritical, the Europeans indifferent to “tommy-rot,” and
the performance passed with no worse mishap to the new member of the
troupe than one too realistic fall and an occasional relapse into

Yet life as a circus clown was nothing if not serious—under the paint.
The least difficult functions of this new calling were those executed in
public. To strike “Mlle. Montgomery” squarely on the head with a paper
hoop while holding one leg in the air, and to fall down from the
imaginary impact with a whoop was as simple a matter as to do the same
thing in all solemnity and the uniform of a “swipe.” It was back in the
dressing-tent, scraping dried paint off one side of my blistered
countenance while my fellow fool daubed fresh colors on the other,
jumping out of one ridiculous costume into one more idiotic, turning the
place topsy-turvy in a mad scramble for a misplaced dunce cap or a lost
slap-stick, that I began to lose my fascination for this honored
profession. On those days when we favored Colomboans with two
performances, there was little hilarity in the dethroned scaramouch who
made his bed of chairs at the ring side. I wondered no more at the
funereal countenance with which Walhalla had been wont to haunt our
morning hours before the fever fell upon him.

One long week I wore the cap and bells on the cricket ground of Colombo.
All good fortune, however, must have an end—even ten-rupee incomes for
stranded wanderers. There dawned a day when our canvas dwelling came
down by the run, and the mixed odor of sweat and sawdust was wafted away
on the hot monsoon that sweeps across the playground of Ceylon. The
season of Fitzgerald was over. The naked stevedores bundled into the
ship’s hold the chest that contained Walhalla’s merry raiment as
carelessly as they threw the sections of the lion’s cage on top of it.
On the forward deck the moth-eaten tiger peered through the bars at his
native jungle behind the city, and rubbed a watery eye; at the rail an
unpainted Faust stared gloomily down at the churning screw. There were
no tears shed by the united quartet that, from the far end of the
breakwater, watched the circus sink hull-down on the southern horizon;
but as we straggled back at dusk to join the beachcombers under the
palms of Gordon Gardens, I caught myself feeling now and then in the
band of my trousers for the sovereigns I had sewed there.

                              CHAPTER XIV
                         THREE HOBOES IN INDIA

The departure of Ole for home as a consul passenger, closely followed by
that of Askins for India, “ere his elusive chips made their escape,”
left me the oldest “comber” on the beach. That honor might quickly have
fallen to the next of heir but for the pleading of a fellow-countryman;
for the merry circus days had left me a fortune that would carry me far
afield in the vast peninsula to the north. Marten of Tacoma, tally clerk
of the British Steam Navigation Company, promised to secure me a place
in the same capacity if I would delay my departure until pay day, that
he might accompany me. I agreed, for the ex-pearl-fisher spoke
Hindustanee fluently. Within an hour I was seated, notebook in hand, at
the edge of a hatch of a newly arrived vessel, drawing four rupees a day
and free from the dread of losing caste.

On the morning of April fourth, we took leave of the navigation company
and, having purchased tickets on the afternoon steamer to Tuticorin, set
out to bid farewell to our acquaintances in the city. The hour of
sailing was close at hand when Haywood, the much-wanted, burst in upon
us at Almeida’s.

“I hear,” he shouted, “that you fellows are off for India.”

We nodded.

“I’m going along,” he announced.

Naturally, we scowled. But on what ground could we protest? One does not
choose his fellow-passengers on an ocean voyage. Moreover, I owed the
erstwhile resident of Sing Sing some consideration. For a week before,
as we were leaving the favorite shop in Pettah, after a midnight lunch,
a Singhalese, mad with hasheesh smoking, had sought a quarrel with us.
Knowing the weakness of a native fist, I made no attempt to ward off a
threatened blow. Before it fell, Haywood suddenly flung the screaming
fellow into the gutter, and only then did I note that the hand I had
thought empty clutched a long, thin knife.

We held our peace, therefore, resolving to shake off our unwelcome
companion at the first opportunity, and, marching down to the quarantine
station, tumbled with a multitude of Indian coolies into a barge that
soon set us on board the _S. S. Kasara_.

“You see,” said Haywood, two hours later, pointing away to Ceylon
hovering on the evening horizon, “if I’d hung round that joint another
week, I’d been pinched sure. I got to get out of British territory, and
with no show to ship out of Colombo, the only chance was to make a break
through India. If I’d come alone, I’d ’ave been spotted. But with three
of us I won’t be noticed half as quick.”

Suddenly a cabin door within reach of our hands opened, and into our
midst stepped Bobby, in full uniform.

“What the devil!” I gasped, “Thought your beat was between the clock
tower and the Gardens?”

Over Haywood’s face had spread the hue of a shallow sea, and his lower
jaw hung loose on its hinges.

“Aha! Bobs,” grinned Marten, “doin’ a skip act, eh? Well, I’m mum.”

“Skip bloody ’ell,” snorted Bobby, “I’m h’off to Madras to snake back a
forger they’ve rounded up there.”

“Sure that’s all?” demanded my partner.

“Yep,” smiled Bobs.

Haywood drew a deep breath and rose to his feet.

“By God, Bobs,” he muttered, “do you want to give me heart-failure?
Thought sure you was campin’ on my trail.”

“Naw,” answered the policeman, “none o’ the toffs in Colombo ayn’t seen
them notices yet. But you’d best keep on the move.”

The rumor that there were three white men “on deck with the niggers”
soon found its way to the cabin, and brought down upon us a visitation
that poor Jack Tar must often suffer in the Orient. He was a missionary
from Kansas, stationed in the hills of Mysore. Marten and I, refusing to
admit his assertion that, as sailors, we were, ex officio, drunken,
dissolute, ambitionless louts, were cruelly abandoned to future
damnation. But Haywood, who had been wondering till then where he could
“raise the dust for an eye-opener in the morning,” pleaded guilty to
every charge and, in the course of a half-hour, was duly “converted.”

“Do you men know why you have no money; why you must travel on deck with
natives?” demanded the missionary, in parting. “It’s because you’re not

We might have pointed out that the Lascars chattering about the deck
drew a monthly wage because they were Hindus. But why prolong the
argument? Haywood had already pocketed the two rupees that made our
toleration worth while.

We landed with Bobby in the early morning and bade him farewell sooner
than we had expected. For a native on the wharf handed him a telegram
announcing that the forger was already en route for Colombo in charge of
a Madras officer. Tuticorin was an uninspiring collection of mud huts
and reeking bazaars. Our halt there was brief. It would have been
briefer had we not chanced to run across Askins. The erudite wanderer
had stranded sooner than he had anticipated. I took pleasure in setting
him afloat again, and caught the last glimpse of his familiar figure,
beginning to bend a bit now under the weight of twenty years of
“knocking about,” as the train bearing us northward rumbled through the

Even the beachcomber does not walk in India. To ride is cheaper.
Third-class fare ranges from two-fifths to a half a cent a mile, and on
every train is a compartment reserved for “Europeans and Eurasians
only,” into which no native may enter on penalty of being frightened out
of his addled wits by a bellowing official.

Descending at the first station to quench a tropical thirst, I was
astonished to see Bobby peering out of a second-class window.

“I couldn’t read the bloody wire without me glasses,” he confided, as I
drew near, “an’ I don’t think I’ll be able to find ’em before this ’ere
ticket’s run out. We don’t git h’off fer a run up to Madras every
fortn’ght, an’ I ayn’t goin’ to miss this one.”

As I turned back to join my companions, the missionary from Kansas
appeared at the door of the same compartment. Evidently he had thought
better of his heartless decision to leave me to perdition, for he flung
the door wide open.

“Come and ride with me to the next station,” he commanded; “I want to
talk to you.”

“I’m third-class,” I answered.

“Never mind,” said the padre, “I know the guard.”

Having no other plausible excuse to offer, I complied, and endured a
half-hour sermon. Through it all, Bobby sat stiffly erect in his corner,
for to my amazement the minister did not once address him.

“How’s this?” I demanded, as we drew into the first station. The Kansan
was choosing some tracts from his luggage in the next compartment. “Why
don’t he try to convert you, being so good a subject?”

“’E did,” growled Bobby, “bloody ’ell, ’e did. But I shut ’im off. Told
’im I was one o’ the shinin’ lights o’ the Salvation Army in Colombo.
Blawst me h’eyes, why can’t these padres sing their song to the niggers
an’ let h’onest Englishmen alone! One of ’em gits to wind’ard o’ me
every time I breaks h’out fer a little holidye.”

Armed with the tracts, I returned to my solicitous companions and
settled down to view the passing landscape. It bore small resemblance to
that of Ceylon. On either hand stretched treeless flat-lands, parched
and brown as Sahara, a desert blazed at by an implacable sun and
unwatered for months. A few native husbandmen, remnant of the workers in
abundant season, toiled on in the face of frustrated hopes, scratching
with worthless wooden plows the arid soil, that refused to give back the
seed intrusted to it. There is no sadder, more forlorn, more hopeless of
human creatures than this man of the masses in India. His clothing in
childhood consists of a string around his belly and a charm-box on his
left arm. Grown to man’s estate, he adds to this a narrow strip of
cotton, tied to the string behind and hanging over it in front.
Regularly, each morning, he draws forth a preparation of coloring matter
and cow-dung—for the cow is a sacred animal—and daubs on his forehead
the sign of his caste, but the strip of cotton he renews only when
direst necessity demands. His home is a wretched mud hut, too low to
stand in, where he burrows by night and squats on his heels by day. With
the buoyant Singhalese he has little in common. Sad-faced ever, if he
smiles there is no joy in the grimace. Enchained and bound down by an
inexorable system of caste, held in the bondage of an enforced habit of
mind, habitually overcome with a sense of his own inferiority, he is
disgusting in his groveling.

A hundred miles north of the seacoast, we halted to visit the famous
Brahmin temple of Madura. Haywood’s interest in architecture was
confined to such details as the strength and resistance of window bars,
but he had developed a quaking fear of daytime solitude and would not be
separated from us.

The temple served well as an introduction to the fantastic extravagance
of Oriental building. Its massive outer walls inclosed a vast plot of
ground. In the center, surrounded by a chaos of smaller edifices, rose
the inner temple, its cone-shaped roof and slender domes a great field
of burnished gold before which the eye quailed in the cutting sunlight.
Above all, the four gateways to the inclosure challenged attention.
Identical in form, yet vastly different in minor detail, they towered
twelve stories above the lowly huts and swarming bazaars of the city
that radiates from the sacred area. Four thousand statues of Hindu
gods—to quote mathematical experts—adorned each gateway, hideous-faced
idols, each pouring down from four pairs of hands his blessing on the
groveling humans who starved beneath.

Within the gates, under vaulted archways, swarmed multitudes; pilgrims
in the rags of contrition, shopkeepers shrieking the virtues of their
wares from their open booths, screaming vendors of trinkets, abject
coolies cringing before their countrymen of higher caste, loungers
seeking relief from the sunshine outside. A sunken-eyed youth wormed his
way through the throng and offered us guidance at two annas. We
accepted, and followed him down a branch passageway to the lead-colored
pond in which unfastidious pilgrims washed away their sins; then out
upon an open space for a nearer view of the golden roofs. High up
within, whispered the youth, while Marten interpreted, dwelt a god; but
we, as white men, dared not enter to verify the assertion.

We turned back instead to the quarters of the sacred elephants. Here
seven of the jungle monsters, chained by a foot, thrashed about over
their supper of hay in a roofless stable. They were as ready to accept a
tuft of fodder from a heathen sahib as from the dust-clad faquir who had
tramped many a burning mile to perform this holy act for the acquiring
of merit. Children played in and out among the animals. The largest was
amusing himself by setting the urchins, one by one, on his back. But in
the far corner stood another that even the clouted keepers shunned. The
most sacred of a holy troop, our guide assured us, for he was mad, and
wreaked a furious vengeance on whomsoever came within reach of his
writhing trunk. Yet—if the sunken-eyed youth spoke truly—it was no
misfortune to have life crushed out by this holiest of animals. The
coolie suffering that fate was reborn a farmer, the peasant a
shopkeeper, the merchant a warrior. Was it satisfaction with their
station in life or a weakness of faith? We noted that even the despised
sudras avoided the far corner.

“And how about a white man?” asked Haywood.

“A sahib,” said our guide, “when he dies, becomes a crow. Therefore are
white men afraid to die.”

We turned out again into the bazaars. Naked girls, carrying baskets,
were quarreling over the offal of passing beasts. The façade of every
hut was decorated with splashes of manure, each bearing the imprint of a
hand. For fuel is there none in this treeless land, save bois de vache.

With nightfall, Haywood, promising to return quickly, set out to visit
the missionaries of Madura, to each of whom the Kansan had given him a
note. Before he rejoined us at the station he had succeeded in “raising
the wind” to the sum of three full fares to the next city. Yet he
sneered at our extravagance in purchasing tickets for a night ride, and,
tucking away the “convert money” in the band of his tropical helmet,
followed us out upon the platform. The train was crowded. A band of
coolies, whom the station master, in the absence of white travelers, had
thrust into the European compartment, tumbled out as rats scurry from a
suddenly lighted room, and left us in full possession.

In India, as in Europe, tickets are not taken up on the train; they are
punched at various stations en route by local officials, misnamed
“collectors.” The collectors, however, are commonly Eurasian youths,
deferential to white men and no match in wits for beachcombers.

Having turned out the light in the ceiling of our compartment, we
stretched out on the two wooden benches and laid plans for the morrow.
At each halt Marten kept look-out. If the collector carried no lantern,
Haywood had merely to roll under a bench until he had passed. At a
whisper of “bull’s-eye” our unticketed companion slipped through the
opposite door, and watched the progress of the half-breed by peering
under the train at his uniformed legs. Once he was taken red-handed. It
was after midnight, and we had all three fallen asleep. Suddenly there
came the rapping of a punch on the sill of the open window.

“Tickets, sahibs,” said an apologetic voice.

“Say, mate,” whispered Haywood, “I’m on the rocks. Can’t you slip me?
Have a cigar.”

The Eurasian declined the proffered stogie with a startled shake of the
head, punched our tickets, and passed on without a word. Haywood sat on
tenter-hooks for several moments, but the engine screeched at last, and
he lay down again, vowing to wake thereafter at every halt.

We arrived at Trinchinopoly in the small hours and stretched out on a
station bench to sleep out the night undisturbed. The chief of Haywood’s
difficulties, however, was still to be overcome, for the only exit from
the platform was guarded by a Eurasian who was sure to call for tickets.
It was Marten, given to sudden inspirations, who saved the day for the
New Yorker. As we approached the gate, he ran forward and, to my
astonishment, attempted to force his way through it without producing
his ticket.

[Illustration: A Hindu of Madras with caste-mark, of cow-dung and
coloring-matter, on his forehead]

“Here! Ticket, please, sahib,” cried the Eurasian.

“Oh! Go to the devil!” growled Marten.

“Ticket! Where is your ticket? Stop!”

Marten pushed the collector aside and stepped out.

“Ah!” screeched the official, “I know! You haven’t any ticket. You stole
your ride. Come back, or I’ll call a policeman.”

The man of inspiration sprang at the half-breed with a savage snarl and
grasped him by the collar.

“What in hell do you mean by saying I haven’t any ticket? I’ll break
your head.”

“But I know you haven’t,” persisted the collector, though somewhat

“Do you think that sahibs travel without tickets?” roared Marten,
drawing the bit of cardboard from his pocket. “Take your bloody ticket,
but don’t ever tell a sahib again that he’s stealing his rides.”

The Eurasian stretched out a hand to me, mumbling an apology, but was so
overcome with fear and the dread of accusing another innocent sahib that
Haywood stepped out behind us unchallenged.

We were waylaid by a peregrinating barber, and took turns in squatting
on our heels for a quick shave and a slap in the face with a damp cloth.
The service cost two pice (one cent). The barber was, perhaps, twelve
years old, but an American “tonsorialist” would have gasped at the
dexterity with which he manipulated his razor, as he would have wondered
at several long, slim instruments, not unlike hat pins, which he rolled
up in his kit as he finished. These were tools rarely employed on
sahibs, but no native would consider a shave complete until his ears had
been cleaned with one of them.

The city of Trichinopoly was some miles distant from the station. Though
we were agreed that such action was the height of extravagance, we
hailed a bullock cart and offered four annas for the trip to the town.
An anna, let it be understood once for all, is the equivalent of the
English penny. The cart was the crudest of two-wheeled vehicles, so
exactly balanced on its axle that the attempt of two of us to climb in
behind came near suspending the tiny, raw-boned bullock in mid-air. A
screech from the driver called our attention to the peril of his beast,
and under his directions we succeeded in boarding the craft by
approaching opposite ends and drawing ourselves up simultaneously. The
wagon was some four feet long and three wide, with an arched roof; too
short to lie down in, too low to sit up in. One of us, in turn, crouched
beside the driver on the knife-like edge of the head-board, with knees
drawn up on a level with the eyes, clinging desperately to the
projecting roof. The other two lay in close embrace within, with legs
projecting some two feet behind.

The bullock was a true Oriental. After much urging, he set out at the
mincing gait of a man in a sack-race—a lame man, of very limited
vitality. A dozen heavy welts from the driver’s pole and as many shrill
screams urged him, occasionally, into a trot. But it lasted always just
four paces, at the end of which the animal shook his head slowly from
side to side, as though shocked at his unseemly conduct, and fell again
into a walk. The cart was innocent of springs, the roadway an excellent
imitation of an abandoned quarry. Our sweltering progress was marked by
a series of shocks as from an electric battery.

Marten ordered the driver to conduct us to an eating-shop. The native
grinned knowingly and turned his animal into a by-path leading to a
sahib hotel. When we objected to this as too high-priced, he shook his
head mournfully and protested that he knew of no native shop which white
men might enter. We bumped by a score of restaurants, but all bore the
sign “For Hindus Only.”

At last, in a narrow alleyway, the bullock fell asleep before a
miserable hut. The driver screeched, and a startled coolie tumbled out
of the shanty. There ensued a heated debate in the dialect of southern
India, in which Marten fully held his own. For a time, the coolie
refused to run the risk of losing caste through our polluting touch, but
the princely offer of three annas each won him over, and we disembarked,
to squat on his creaking veranda.

The bullock cart crawled on. The coolie ran screaming into the hut and
reappeared with three banana leaves, a wife, and a multitude of naked
urchins, all but the youngest of whom carried a cocoanut shell filled
with water or curries. These being deposited within reach, the native
spread the leaves before us, and his better half dumped in the center of
each a small peck of rice that burned our over-eager fingers. The meal
over, we rose to depart; but the native shrieked with dismay and
insisted that we carry the leaves and shells away with us, as no member
of his family dared touch them.

We wandered on through the bazaars towards the towering rock at the
summit of which sits Tommy Atkins, puffing drowsily at his pipe, in
utter indifference to the approach of that day when his soul, in
punishment for eating of the flesh of the sacred cow, shall take up
its residence in the body of a pig. Our dinner had been more abundant
than substantial. Within an hour I caught myself eyeing the food
spread out in the open booths on either side. There were coils of
rope-like pastry fried in oil, lumps, balls, cakes of sweetmeats,
_chappatties_—bread-sheets smaller and more brittle than those of the
Arab—pans of dark red chillies, potatoes cut into small cubes and
covered with a green curry sauce. The Hindu is as much given to
nibbling as the Mohammedan. By choice, perhaps, he would eat seldom
and heartily, but he lives the most literally from hand to mouth of
any human creature, and no sooner earns a half-anna than he hurries
away to sacrifice it to his ever-unsatisfied hunger. The coolie is
rarely permitted to enter a Hindu restaurant, the white man never; and
brief were the intervals during my wanderings in India that I lived on
other fare than that of the low-caste native. The prices could not
have been lower, but to eat of the messes displayed under the ragged
awnings of Indian shops requires an imperturbable temperament, an
unrestrainable appetite, and a taste for edible fire acquired only by
Oriental residence.

There are caste rules, too, of which I was supremely ignorant when I
dropped behind my companions and aroused a shopkeeper asleep among his
pots and pans. For months I had been accustomed, in my linguistic
ignorance, to pick out my own food; but no sooner had I laid hand on a
sweetmeat than the merchant shot into the air with an agonized scream
that brought my fellow-countrymen running back upon me.

“What’s the nigger bawling about, Marten?” demanded Haywood.

“Oh, Franck’s gone and polluted his pan of sweets.”

“But I only touched the one I picked up,” I protested, “and I’m going to
eat that.”

“These fool niggers won’t see it that way,” replied Marten; “if you put
a finger on one piece, the whole dish is polluted. He’s sending for a
low-caste man now to carry the panful away and dump it. Nobody’ll buy
anything while it stays here.”

The keeper refused angrily to enter into negotiations after this
disaster and we moved on to the next booth. Under the tutelage of
Marten, I stood afar off and pointed a respectful finger from one dish
to another. The proprietor, obeying my orders of “ek annika do, cheh
pisika da” (one anna of that, six pice of this) filled several
canoe-shaped sacks made of leaves sewn together with thread-like weeds,
and, motioning to me to stand aloof, dropped the bundles into my hands,
taking care to let go of each before it had touched my palm.

Go where we would, the cry of pollution preceded us. The vendor of green
cocoanuts entreated us to carry away the shells when we had drunk the
milk; passing natives sprang aside in terror when we tossed a banana
skin on the ground. The seller of water melons would have been compelled
to sacrifice his entire stock if one seed of the slice in our hands had
fallen on the extreme edge of the banana leaf that covered his stand.

As we turned a corner in the crowded market place, Haywood, who was
smoking, accidentally spat on the flowing gown of a turbaned passer-by.

“Oh! sahib!” screamed the native, in excellent English, “See what you
have done! You have made me lose caste. For weeks I may not go among my
friends nor see my family. I must stop my business, and wear rags, and
sit in the street, and pour ashes on my head, and go often to the temple
to purify myself.”

“Tommy-rot,” said Haywood.

But was it? Certainly not to the weeping Hindu, who turned back the way
he had come.

These strange superstitions make India a land of especial hardship to
the white vagabond “on the road.” He is, in the natural course of
events, as safe from violence as in England; but once off the beaten
track he finds it difficult to obtain not only food and lodging, but the
sine qua non of the tropics—water. In view of this fact the rulers of
India have established a system which, should it come to his ears, would
fill the American “hobo” with raging envy. The peninsula, as the world
knows, is divided into districts, each governed by a commissioner and a
deputy commissioner. Except in isolated cases, these executives are
Englishmen, of whom the senior commonly dwells in the most important
city of his territory, and the deputy in the second in size. The law
provides that any penniless European shall, upon application to any one
of these governors, be provided with a third-class railway ticket to the
capital of the next district, and also with “batter”—money with which to
buy food—to the amount of one rupee a day. The beachcomber who wanders
inland, therefore, is relayed from one official to another, at the
expense of the government, to any port which he may select. This ideal
state of affairs is well known to every white vagrant in India, who
takes it duly into account, like every published charity, in summing up
the ways and means of a projected journey.

[Illustration: Hindus of all castes now travel by train]

[Illustration: “Haywood” snaps me as I am getting a shave in

Not many hours after our arrival in Trichinopoly, Marten had “gone
broke.” The four rupees a day of a tally clerk was a princely income in
the Orient; but the ex-pearl-fisher was imbued with the adventurer’s
philosophy that “money is made to spend,” and as the final act of a day
of extravagance had tossed his last anna to an idiot roaming through the
bazaars. Haywood was anxious to “salt down” the rupees in his hat band,
I to make the acquaintance of so important a personage as a district
commissioner. Thus it happened that as noonday fell over Trichinopoly,
three cotton-clad Americans emerged from the native town and turned
northward towards the governor’s bungalow.

Heat waves hovered like fog before us. Here and there a pathetic tree
cast its slender shadow, like a splash of ink, across the white highway.
A few coolies, their skins immune to sunburn, shuffled through the sand
on their way to the town. We accosted one to inquire our way, but he
sprang with a side jump to the extreme edge of the roadway, in terror of
our polluting touch.

“Commissioner sahib keh bungalow kéhdereh?” asked Marten.

“Hazur hum malum neh, sahib (I don’t know, sir),” stammered the native,
backing away as we approached.

“Stand still, you fellows,” shouted Marten; “you’re scaring him so he
can’t understand. Every nigger knows where the commissioner lives.
Commissioner sahib keh bungalow kéhdereh?”

“Far down the road, oh, protector of the unfortunate.”

We came upon the low rambling building in a grove among rocky hillocks.
Along the broad veranda crouched a dozen punkah-wallahs, pulling
drowsily at the cords that moved the great velvet fans within. Under the
punkahs, at their desks, sat a small army of native officials, mere
secretaries and clerks, most of them, yet quite majestic of appearance
in the flowing gowns, great black beards, and brilliant turbans of the
high-class Hindu. Servants swarmed about the writers, groveling on their
knees each time a social superior deigned to issue a command. White men
were there none.

The possessor of the most regal turban rose from his cushions as we
entered and addressed us in English:—

“Can I be of service to you, sahibs?”

“We want to see the commissioner,” said Marten.

“The commissioner sahib,” replied the Hindu, “is at his bungalow. He
will perhaps come here for a half hour at three o’clock.”

“But we want tickets for the one o’clock train,” Haywood blurted out.

“I am the assistant commissioner,” answered the native. “What the
commissioner sahib can do I can do. But it is a very long process to
draw upon the funds of the district, and you cannot, perhaps, catch the
one o’clock train. Still, I shall hurry as much as possible.”

In his breathless haste he resumed his seat, carefully folded his legs,
rolled a cigarette with great deliberation, blew smoke at the punkahs
for several moments, and, pulling out the drawers of his desk, examined
one by one the ledgers and documents within them. The object of his
search was not forthcoming. He rose gradually to his feet, made inquiry
among his hirsute colleagues, returned to his cushions, and, calling a
dozen servants around him, despatched them on as many errands.

“It’s the ledger in which we enter the names of those who apply for
tickets,” he explained, “it will soon be found”; and he lighted another

A servant came upon the book at last—plainly in sight on the top of the
assistant’s desk. That official opened the volume with unnecessary
reverence, read half the entries it contained, and, choosing a native
pen, prepared to write. He was not amusing himself at our expense. He
was fully convinced that he was moving with all possible celerity.

Slowly his sputtering pen rendered into the crippled orthography of his
native tongue comprehensive biographies of the two mythological beings
whom Marten and Haywood chose to represent; and the writer turned to me.
I protested that I intended to buy my own ticket; but the assistant,
regarding me, evidently, as an accessory before the fact, insisted that
the story of my life must also adorn the pages of his ledger. The entry
completed, he laid the book away in a drawer, locked it, and called for
a time-table.

“The third-class fare to Tanjore,” he mused, “is twelve annas. Two
tickets will be one and eight. Batter for a half-day for two, one rupee.
Total, two rupees and eight annas. I shall now draw upon the treasurer
for that amount,” and he dragged forth another gigantic tome.

“Tanjore?” cried Marten. “Why, that ain’t fifty miles from here! Is that
as far as you’re going to ship us?”

“A commissioner lives there,” replied the Hindu, “and he will send you
on. Each district is allowed to spend only enough for a ticket to the
next one.”

“If we have to go through this every forty miles,” groaned Marten,
“we’ll die before we get anywhere.”

“Let’s try the commish,” suggested Haywood; “where’s his joint?”

The assistant pointed at the back door, and we struck off through the
rock-strewn grove. On the way, Marten fell victim to another

“I’ve got it!” he crowed, as we came in sight of the bodyguard of
servants, flitting in and out among the plants and vines of the
commissioner’s veranda, “Just watch my smoke.”

A native conducted us into a broad, low room, richly furnished and
cooled by rhythmically moving punkahs. The governor of the district was
a very young man, the junior, perhaps, of some of our trio. He bade us
be seated, ordered a servant to bring us cooling drinks, and, when they
were served, signified his readiness to hear our story. Marten stepped
forward and, assuming the attitude of an orator on whose word hangs the
fate of nations, proceeded to trot out the inspiration.

“We have come to you, Mr. Commissioner,” he began, “because we must be
in Madras to-morrow morning, and we can’t make it unless we go through
on the one o’clock train. We’re seamen, sir, from a tramp that tied up
in Colombo last month. A couple of nights ago we got shore leave and
went for a cruise around the city. The skipper told us to be on board at
midnight. We landed on the wharf at eleven, an’ paid off our ’rickshaws
an’ yelled for a sampan. But blast me eyes, sir, if she wasn’t gone!
She’d pulled ’er mud-hook at ten o’clock, sir, we found out, an’ was off
two hours before the skipper told us to come back, an’ we was left on
the beach. We knowed she was makin’ fer Madras, so we comes over to
Tuticorin an’ started to catch ’er. She’ll be off to-morrow morning for
’ome, an’ if we don’t make ’er we’ll be left on the beach, an’ all our
clothes is on board, sir. One of us”—pointing at me—“’as dibs enough to
take ’im through, but the assistant commissioner won’t give us two
tickets only to Tanjore, an’ eight annas batter, an’ if we stop in every
district it’ll take a week to get there, an’ cost the gover’ment a lot
o’ batter. Couldn’t you give us a ticket straight through, sir, so’s we
can make ’er, an’ all our clothes an’ papers is on board, sir.”

“Are you sure your captain will let you back on board?” asked the

“Sure,” cried Marten and Haywood as one man.

The Englishman snatched an official sheet from a drawer, scrawled a few
lines on it, and handed it to our spokesman.

“Here’s an order for through tickets and a day’s batter,” he said.
“Hurry down to the office and give it to my assistant.”

The Hindu force was dismayed at the note. The assistant scanned the
signature suspiciously, while secretaries and clerks crowded around him.

“Why, that will be nearly ten rupees!” gasped an official, perusing the

“I wonder,” mused the assistant, “has the commissioner sahib power to
grant such an order?”

The force did not know. There were few things of importance, apparently,
that it did know; but the haste with which it abandoned more irksome
duties and fell to pulling out ponderous volumes proved that it was
eager to learn.

“Yes, here it is,” sighed the senior officer at last, pointing out a
page to his colleagues, “‘within the discretion of the commissioner.’”

“Well, julty karow!” shouted Marten.

There is, you see, a Hindu equivalent for “hurry up.” Philologists have
noted it, translators have found it valuable, natives use it to
interpret the expression that falls so often from sahib lips. But the
records make no mention of a man who has induced a Hindu actually and
physically to julty karow.

“Come,” urged Haywood, “we want to make the one o’clock train.”

“I will hurry,” promised the assistant, transforming his turban into a
sheet and gravely rearranging it. “I shall now make out the order.”

“But give us the tickets and cut out the red tape,” growled Marten.

“Oh, sahib, that is impossible,” gasped the Hindu. “I must make out the
order and send it to the secretary to be sealed. Then it will go to the
treasurer, who will make a note of it and send it to the auditor to be
stamped and signed. Then it will be returned to the treasurer, who will
file it and make out a receipt to send back to the secretary, who will
send it to me to be signed, and the auditor—”

But Marten had fled through the back door and we dashed after him.

“You know,” said the commissioner, as he finished writing a second note,
“you can’t hurry the Aryan brown. Kipling has written four lines that
cover the subject. I’ve told them to give you the tickets at once and
look up the law afterward. But you probably cannot catch the one o’clock
train. There is, however, a night express that reaches Madras in the
morning, and you may take that, even though there is an excess fare, if
they cannot get you off by the other.”

The second note demoralized the force. Urged on by the threat of new
expenditures, the assistant strove bravely for once against his
lethargic Oriental nature. But hurry he could not, from lack of
practice. His pen refused to write smoothly, the treasurer’s keys were
out of place, and, when found, refused to fit the lock of the strong
box. The senior gave up at last, and, promising that a secretary would
meet us at the station in the evening with the higher-priced tickets,
bade us good day.

As we rose to depart, Marten asked for water. The high-caste officials
scowled almost angrily at the request; they cried out in horrified
chorus when Haywood stepped towards a chettie in the corner of the room.

“Don’t touch that, sahib!” shrieked the assistant; “I shall arrange to
give you a drink.”

He spoke like a man on whom had suddenly fallen the task of launching a
first-class battleship. One can smile with indulgence at the naked,
illiterate coolie who clings to the silly superstitions of caste. The
ignorance and sterility of a brain weakened by centuries of habitual
desuetude pardons him. But to see educated, full-grown men among men
descend to the fanatical childishness of ridiculous customs seems, in
this twentieth century, the height of absurdity.

Among the servants within the building were none low enough in caste to
be assigned the task of bringing us water. The assistant sent for a
punkah-wallah. One of the great folds of velvet fell motionless and
there sneaked into the room the most abject of human creatures. A curt
order sounded. The sudra dropped to a squat, raised his clasped hands to
his forehead, and shuffled off towards the chettie. Certainly, had he
had a tail it would have been close drawn between his legs.

Picking up a heavy brass goblet, he placed it, not on the table, but on
the floor in the middle of the room. The officials nearest the blighted
spot abandoned their desks, and the entire company formed a circle
around us. Haywood stepped forward to pick up the cup.

“No, no,” cried the force, “stand back!”

The coolie slunk forward with the chettie and, holding it fully two feet
above the goblet, filled the vessel, and drew back several paces.

“Now you may drink,” said the assistant.

“Do you want more?” he asked, when the cup was empty.


“Then leave the lota on the floor and stand back.”

The punkah-wallah filled it as before.

“Good day,” repeated the assistant, when we acknowledged ourselves
satisfied, “but you must carry the lota away with you.”

“But it costs a good piece of money,” suggested Haywood.

“Yes,” sighed the Hindu, “but no one dares touch it any more.”

A native clerk met us on the station platform at nightfall, with tickets
and “batter.” On the express that thundered in a moment later were two
European compartments; but Haywood was roused to the virile profanity of
the Bowery at finding one of them occupied by natives. At the climax of
an aria that displayed to advantage his remarkable vocabulary of
execrations, a deep, solemn bass sounded from the next compartment:—

“Young man! Have you no fear of the fires of hell?”

“Oh! Lord!” gasped Marten, “Another padre!”

“Will you drive these niggers out of here!” screamed Haywood to a
passing guard.

“Take the next compartment behind,” answered the official, over his
shoulder; “There’s only one man in it.”

“Yes! But he’s a missionary!” bawled Marten.

The guard was gone. The station master gave the signal for departure and
we boarded the express with a sigh of resignation. Haywood swore to wait
for the next train rather than endure a sermon; but the fear of being
left behind fell upon him, and, as the engine screeched, he scrambled
through the door after us.

The sermon was immediately forthcoming, and the information we gleaned
anent the future dwelling-place of blasphemous seamen was more
voluminous than encouraging. Luckily, towards midnight the missionary
exhausted both his text and his voice, and left us to enjoy such sleep
as the ticket punchers permitted.

[Illustration: The Hindu affects many strange coiffures. Natives of

[Illustration: A Hindu basket-weaver of Madras]

In Haywood, as in others of his ilk, neither the Hindu nor his
institutions awakened any noticeable degree of respect. To him all
natives, from Brahmins to sudras, were “niggers,” and such of their
customs as did not conform to the standards set up in the vicinity of
Mulberry Bend he branded “damn nonsense.” He was a graduate of a school
in which differences of opinion are decided in favor of the disputant
first able to crawl to his feet at the end of the controversy. Nay,
more: he had won public recognition in that brand of oratory, and had
long since outgrown the notion that there was any court of last appeal
other than a “knock-out.” There were several little points on which
Marten and I should have been convinced in spite of our better judgment
had not a cruel fate enrolled the New Yorker in the welter-weight class.

Now the Hindu has never been able to see what advantage or satisfaction
arises from marring the visage of an enemy. He takes great joy in giving
a foe unpleasant information concerning the doings of his ancestors back
to the sixth generation, in carrying off his wife, or in gathering
together a band of friends to accuse him in court of some atrocious
crime. But his anger rarely expresses itself in muscular activity.

“When a sahib becomes angry,” a babu once confided to me, “he goes
insane. He loses his mind and makes his hands hard and pushes them often
and swiftly into the face or the stomach of the other man, or makes his
feet go against him behind. It is because he is crazy that he does such
foolish things, that have not something to do with the thing that has
made him angry.”

Having no fear, therefore, of being repaid in his own coin, Haywood had
contracted the pleasant little habit of “beating up” a native on the
slightest provocation. Such conduct, of course, is not confined to
beachcombers. Many a European hotel in the Orient displays conspicuous
placards politely requesting guests not to beat or kick the servants;
but to make their complaints to the manager.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt, the Hindu heartily deserves an occasional
chastisement. The subtle ways in which he can annoy a white man without
committing an act that can legally be punished, transcend the
imagination of the Western mind. For centuries past, too, the sahib has
been permitted to defend himself against such persecution after the
orthodox manner of the Occident. But the good old days, alas, are gone.
A very few years ago an act was passed making assault upon a native a
crime. The world outside credited it to the humanity of Lord Curzon.
Residents within the country whisper that an overwhelming desire to win
the good will of the natives had its rise at the moment when a certain
great European power began to gaze longingly from its bleak steppes in
the north upon this vast peninsula below the Himalayas. The Hindu, of
course, has not been slow to realize his new power. Slap a native
lightly in the face, and the probability is that he will appear in court
to-morrow with a lacerated and bleeding countenance and a score of
friends prepared to swear on anything from the Vedas to the ashes of a
sacred bull that you inflicted the injury.

Haywood was fully cognizant of this state of affairs. Certainly it would
have been wisdom, too, on the part of one anxious to pass through India
as unostentatiously as possible to have endured an occasional petty
annoyance, rather than to attract attention by resenting it. But
endurance was not Haywood’s strong point, and a score of times we felt
called upon to warn him that his belligerency would bring him to grief.

In the early morning after our departure from Trichinopoly, the prophecy
was fulfilled. The express stopped at a suburban station of Madras, and
Haywood beckoned to a vendor of bananas on the platform. Now the youths
of India are wont to gamble with bananas, because matches are too
costly, and we were not surprised that the New Yorker blazed up
wrathfully when the hawker demanded two annas for four.

He paid the exorbitant price under protest, and settled down to break
his fast. The fruit, however, proved to be long past the stage when it
could appeal to a sahib taste, and the purchaser rose to shake his fist
at the deceitful vendor. The shadow of a derisive grin played on the
features of the native; the thumb of his outspread hand hovered,
entirely by accident, around the end of his nose; and he fell to
chanting a ditty that a man ignorant of the tongue of Madras would have
considered quite harmless.

“He says,” interpreted Marten, “that your grandfather was the son of a
pig, and fed your father on the entrails of a yellow dog; that your
grandmother gave birth to seven puppies, and your mo—”

But Haywood had snatched open the door, and, before the terrified native
could move, he “made his foot go against him behind” in no uncertain
manner. The Hindu shrieked like a lost soul thrown into the bottomless
pit, abandoned his basket, and ran screaming down the platform.

Barely had the New Yorker regained his seat when a native officer
appeared at the window.

“What for you strike the coolie?” he stammered, angrily; “You come with
me! I arrest you,” and he attempted to step into the compartment.

“Oh, rot!” shouted Marten, “_you_ arrest a white man! Get out of here or
I’ll break your neck.”

The policeman tumbled out precipitately.

“Don’t let him bother you, Haywood,” went on my partner. “Make him get a
white cop if he wants to arrest you.”

“Huh! Don’t imagine for a minute any nigger is going to pinch _me_,”
snorted the New Yorker, settling down and lighting his pipe.

“I’ll get you a white policeman,” screamed the officer, “down at the
Beach station, and I’ll ride there with you.”

He stepped up on the running board once more.

“You’ll ride with the rest of the niggers,” roared Marten. “This
compartment is reserved for Europeans.”

The officer was fully aware of that fact. He stepped into the next
compartment and, ordering the natives who had been peering at us over
the top of the partition to sit down, glued his eyes upon us. The train
went on. As far as the next station, Haywood laughed at the threat of
arrest on so slight a charge. Before we had reached the second, he had
grown serious, and, as we drew near the third, he addressed us in an

“Say! I’m going to let this fellow pinch me.”

“What!” whispered Marten, “you’re a fool! A nigger policeman can’t
arrest a white man!”

“He can if the white man lets him,” retorted Haywood. “There’s always a
bunch of Bobbies at the Beach station and any white cop in Madras would
recognize me, an’ they’d hand me out about five years of the lock-step.
One of you claim my bundle’s yours, an’ take it an’ this note from the
padre to the Christer it’s addressed to, an’ leave ’em there.”

“Heh, you,” he called to the officer above us; “if you want to run me in
I’ll go along.”

The officer came near smiling. What native would not have envied him the
honor of conducting a sahib to a police station? I swung the New
Yorker’s bundle over my shoulder and we stepped out. The policeman
walked at a respectful distance from his prisoner and led the way across
the Maidan. Three furlongs from the railway, he entered the yard of a
small, brick cottage, framed in shrubbery and flowers, and, opening the
door for Haywood, closed it in our faces.

We turned away towards the Y. M. C. A. building, an imposing modern
edifice that housed the addressee of Haywood’s note.

“I’ll pick you up again in a day or two,” said Marten, at the foot of
the steps. “I’ve got an uncle living in town with a nigger wife, and I
always touch him for a few good meals when I land here.”

The association manager consented to take charge of Haywood’s bundle,
and offered me one night’s lodging until I could “look around.” I
accepted gladly, though there were still four sovereigns in the band of
my trousers. Force of habit led me down to the harbor; but, as I
anticipated, I ran no danger of employment in that quarter. The
boarding-houses swarmed with native seamen, and the shipping master had
not signed on a white sailor in so long that he had concluded the type
was extinct. I drifted away into the bazaars and, turning up at the
association building at nightfall, retreated to a veranda of the second
story with a blanket supplied by the manager.

                               CHAPTER XV
                         THE WAYS OF THE HINDU

It was my good fortune to find employment the next morning. The job was
suggestive of the spy and the tattle-tale, but the most indolent of
vagabonds could not have dreamed of a more ideal means of amassing a
fortune. I had merely to sit still and do nothing—and draw three rupees
a day for doing it. Almost the only condition imposed upon me was that
the sitting must be done on a street car.

Let me explain. The electric tramways of the city of Madras are numerous
and well-patronized. The company does not dare to entrust the position
on the front platform to aborigines; for in case of emergency the Hindu
has a remarkable faculty of being anywhere but at his post, and of doing
anything but the right thing. But as conductor, a native or Eurasian of
some slight education does as well as a real man. He has only to poke
the pice and annas into the cash register he wears about his neck and
punch and deliver a ticket. Yet it is surprising, nay, sad, to find how
many accidents befall him while engaged in this simple task. He will
forget, for instance, to give the passenger the ticket that is his
receipt for fare paid; coppers will cling tenaciously to his fingers in
spite of his best efforts to dislodge them; he has even been known, in
his absent-mindedness, to overlook his friends on his tour of collection
through the car. Don’t, for a moment, fancy that he is dishonest. It is
merely because he is a Hindu and was born that way.

To correct these unimportant little faults, the corporation has a force
of inspectors, occasionally sahibs, commonly Eurasians, clad in khaki
uniforms and armed with report pads, who spring out unexpectedly from
obscure side streets to offer expert assistance to passing conductors.

But, of course, mathematical experts do not dodge in and out of the
sun-baked alleyways of Madras for the good of their health. The spirit
of India is sure to attack them sooner or later, even if it has not been
with them since birth. Cases of friendship between inspectors and
conductors are not unknown, and it is not the way of the Oriental to
attempt to reduce his friend’s income. In short, the auditors must be
audited, and, all unknown to them or its other servants, the corporation
employs a small select band of men who do _not_ wear uniforms, and who
do _not_ line up before the wicket on pay day.

It was by merest chance that I learned of this state of affairs and
found my way to a small office that no one would have suspected of being
in any way connected with the transportation system of Madras. An
Englishman who was ostensibly a private broker deemed my answers to his
cross-examination satisfactory, and I was initiated at once into the
mysterious masonry of inspector of inspectors. The broker warned me not
to build hopes of an extended engagement, rather to anticipate an early
dismissal; for the uniformed employés were famed for lynx-eyed
vigilance, and my usefulness to the company, obviously, could not endure
beyond the few days that might elapse before I was “spotted.” He did not
add that a longer period might give me opportunity to form too intimate
acquaintances, but he wore the air of a man who had not exhausted his

My duties began forthwith. The Englishman supplied me with a handful of
coppers that were to return to the corporation through its cash
registers. I was to board a tramway, find place of observation in a back
seat, and pay my fare as an ordinary passenger. The distance I should
travel on each car, the routes I should follow, my changes from one line
to another, were left to my own discretion. Upon alighting, I was to
stroll far enough away from the line to allay suspicion and return to
hail another car. The company required only that I make out each
evening, in the private office, a report of my observations, with the
numbers of the cars, and sign a statement to the effect that I had
devoted the eight hours to the interests of the corporation. What could
have been more entirely mon affaire? If there was a nook or corner of
Madras that I did not visit during the few days that followed, it was
not within strolling distance of any streetcar line.

Among the sights of the city must be noted her human bullocks. Horses
are rare in Madras. The transportation of freight falls to a company of
leather-skinned, rice-fed coolies whose strength and endurance pass
belief. Their carts are massive, two-wheeled vehicles, as cumbersome as
ever burdened a yoke of oxen. The virtues of axle-grease they know not,
and through the streets of Madras resounds a droning as of the Egyptian
sakkas on the plain of Thebes. Yet two of these emaciated creatures will
drag a wagon, laden with great bales from the ships, or a dozen steel
rails, for miles over hills and hollows, with fewer breathing spells
than a truckman would allow a team of horses.

My devotion to corporate interests brought me the surprise supreme of my
Oriental wanderings. At the corner of the Maidan, where the tramway
swings round towards the harbor, a gang of coolies was repairing the
roadway. That, in itself, was no cause for wonder. But among the
workmen, dressed like the others in a ragged loin-cloth, swinging his
rammer as stolidly, gazing as abjectly at the ground as his companions,
was a white man! There could be no doubt of it. Under the tan of an
Indian sun his skin was as fair as a Norseman’s, his shock of unkempt
hair was a fiery red, and his eyes were blue! But a white man ramming
macadam! A sahib so unmindful of his high origin as to join the ranks of
the most miserable, the most debased, the most abhorred of human
creatures! To become a sudra and ram macadam in the public streets,
dressed in a clout! Here was the final, lasciate ogni speranza end. A
terror came upon me, a longing to flee while yet there was time, from
the blighted land in which a man of my own flesh and blood could fall to

Again and again my rounds of the city brought me back to the corner of
the Maidan. The renegade toiled stolidly on, bending dejectedly over his
task, never raising his head to glance at the passing throng. Twice I
was moved to alight and speak, to learn his dreadful story, but the car
had rumbled on before I gathered courage. Leaving the broker’s office as
twilight fell, I passed that way again. A babu loitering on the curb
drew me into conversation and I put a question to him.

“What! That?” he said, following the direction of my finger. “Why,
that’s a Hindu albino.”

I turned away to an eating-shop, the proprietor of which had long since
alienated his fellow-countrymen by professing conversion to
Christianity, and sat down for supper. It was the official “bums’
retreat” of Madras. A half-dozen white wanderers were gathered. I looked
for Marten among them; but he had found pleasure, evidently, in the
company of his chocolate-colored cousins, and when the last yarn was
spun he had not put in an appearance. I stepped out again into the night
to find a lodging.

Had I imagined that I alone, of all Madras, was planning to sleep
beneath the stars, I should have been doomed to disappointment. For an
hour I roamed the city, seeking a bit of open space. If there was a
passageway or a platband too small to accommodate a coolie or a street
urchin, it was occupied by a mongrel cur. The night was black. There was
danger of running upon some huddled family in the darkness, and the
pollution of touch might prove mutual. I left the close-packed town
behind and struck off across the Maidan. Here was room and to spare; but
the law forbade, and if officers did not enforce the ordinance, sneak
thieves did—Hindu thieves who can travel on their bellies faster than an
honest man can walk, making less noise than the gentle southern breeze,
and steal the teeth from a sleeper’s mouth and the eyes from under his
lids ere he wakes. I kept on, stumbling over a knoll now and then,
falling flat in a dry ditch, and fetching up against a fence. Groping
along it, I came upon the highway that leads southward along the shore
of the sea. A furlong beyond was a grove of high trees, with
wide-spreading branches, like the pine; and beneath them soft beach
sand. I halted there. A landward breeze had tempered the oppressive
heat; the boughs above whispered hoarsely together. At regular intervals
through the night, the sepulchral voice of the Bay of Bengal spoke
faintly across the barren strand.

When I awoke, it was broad daylight, and Sunday. The day of rest brings
small change to the teeming hordes of India, but conductors and
inspectors were permitted to whisper together unobserved, and I took
advantage of the holiday to put my wardrobe in the hands of a _dhoby_. A
dhoby, in any language but Hindustanee, is a laundryman. But the word
fails dismally as a translation. Within those two syllables lurks a
volume of meaning to the sahib who has dwelt in the land of India. The
editors of Anglo-Indian newspapers, who may only write and endure, are
undecided whether to style him a fiend or a raving maniac. Youthful
philosophers and poets, grown eloquent under the inspiration of a newly
returned basket, fill more columns than the reporter of the viceroy’s

For the dhoby is a man of energy. High above his head, like a flail, he
swings each streaming garment and brings it down on his flat stone as if
his principal desire in life were to split it to bits. Not once, but as
long as strength endures, and when he can swing no more he flings down
the tog and jumps fiendishly upon it. His bare feet tread a wild
Terpsichorean orgie, and when he can dance no longer he falls upon the
unoffending rag and tugs and strains and twists and pulls, as though
determined that it shall come to be washed no more. Flying buttons are
his glee. If he can reduce the garment to the component parts in which
the maker cut it, his joy is complete. When the power to beat and tramp
and tug fails him, he tosses the shreds disdainfully into the stream or
cistern and attacks the wardrobe of another helpless client. Yet he is
strictly honest. At nightfall he bears back to its owner the dirt he
carried away, and the threads that hold it together. When all other
words of vituperation seem weak and insipid, the Anglo-Indian calls his
enemy a dhoby.

The cook of the rendezvous offered, for three annas, to wash all that I
owned, save my shoes and the inner workings of my pith helmet. In a more
commonplace land the possessor of a single suit would have been
bedridden until the task was done. But not in India. A large
handkerchief was ample attire within the “bums’ retreat.” The
beachcombers gathered in the dining-room saw in the costume cause for
envy, not ridicule; for few could boast of as much when wash-day came
for them, and the hours that might have been spent under sheets and
blankets in a sterner clime passed quickly in the writing of letters.

From the back yard, for a time, came the shrieks of maltreated garments.
Then all fell silent. In fear and trembling, I ventured forth to take
inventory of my indispensable raiment. But as a dhoby the cook was a
bungler. There were a few rents in the gear arrayed on the eaves gutter,
a button was missing here and there, and there was no evidence of snowy
whiteness. But every garment could still be easily identified, and an
hour with a ship’s needle, when the blazing sun had done its work,
sufficed to heal the wounds, though not the scars, of combat.

Not a word of Haywood had reached me since the police station had
swallowed him up. Evidently he was still forcibly separated from
society; but had he escaped with a light sentence or fallen victim to
“five years of the lock-step?” When my Monday report had been filed, I
set out to find the answer to that question. Such cases, they told me,
were tried at a court in a distant section of the city. Its officials
knew nothing of the New Yorker however, and I tramped to the suburban
station where the “crime” had been committed. Inquiry seemed futile. The
vendor was there, as blithesome as ever, and his bananas were hoary with
age, but the fourteen words of Hindustanee I had picked up were those he
did not know. The policeman on the platform had heard some discussion of
the case, but had no definite information to offer. Then came the relief
squad, and the officer who had made the arrest directed me to another
distant court.

There were several buildings of judicial aspect scattered over the great
campus, but they were closed for the night. The door of a hut, such as
servants dwell in, stood ajar, and I entered. A high-caste native was
gathering together books and papers from the desk of a miniature court
room. I made known my errand.

“Haywood?” answered the Hindu, “Ah! Yes, I know about him. I know _all_
about him, for he was tried before me.”

The New Yorker had swallowed his pride, indeed, to consent to being
tried by a “nigger” rather than to come into contact with white

“And what did you hand him?” I ventured.

The justice, striving to appear at ease in a pompous dignity that was as
much too large for him as the enormous blue and white turban that
bellied out above his thin face like an un-reefed mainsail in a stiff
breeze, chose a ledger from the desk and turned over the leaves.

“Ah, here it is,” he exclaimed, pointing out an entry; “Richard Haywood,
Englishman. Charge, assault. Found in his possession, four annas, three
pice, one pocketknife, one pipe, three cigarettes, two buttons.” They
were nothing if not exact, but they had overlooked one of the uses of
the bands on pith helmets. “Plea, guilty. Sentence, five rupees fine.
Prisoner alleging indigence, sentence was changed to one week in the
Presidency jail.”

“Suppose I pay his fine?” I asked. “Will he be released at once?”

“Yes, but the case has passed out of my jurisdiction. You must pay it to
the warden.”

No sojourner in Madras need make inquiry for the great white building
that houses her felons. I reached it in time to find the massive gate
still unlocked and gained admittance to the warden’s office. He denied
my request for an interview with Haywood, however, on the ground that
prisoners for so brief a period were not allowed visitors. I opened my
mouth to mention the fine, then stopped. Perhaps the New Yorker had some
secret reason for choosing to swelter seven days in an Indian prison. If
he was anxious to be free, he had only to take down his hat and, like
the magician, produce from it the money that would set him at liberty. I
resolved to run no risk of upsetting subtle plans, and turned back into
the city.

Two days later, the broker confided to me the sad news that I had been
“spotted.” Marten, who had joined me in the grove lodging, the night
before, proposed to apply at once to the secretary of the Friend-in-Need
Society for a ticket northward. Eager to investigate the Home which the
society operates in Madras, I accompanied him. The secretary was an
English magistrate who held court in a building facing the harbor. The
court room was crowded to suffocation. While we waited for the native
policeman to return with an answer to our note I caught enough of the
interpreter’s words to learn that the perspiring Briton under the
punkahs was weighing the momentous question of the damages due a
shopkeeper for temporary loss of caste.

The attaché, after long absence, brought the information that the trial
was at its climax and that he dared not disturb proceedings. But Marten,
familiar with the “ropes” of official India, snorted in disgust and led
the way down a passage that brought us to an anteroom behind the
judgment seat. Beckoning to me to follow, he pushed aside the officers
who would have barred our progress, and marched boldly into the court
room, halting before the stenographer’s table. I anticipated immediate
imprisonment for contempt of court; but the magistrate, eager, as who
would not have been, for a moment’s relief from native hair-splitting,
signed to the interpreter to stay the case, and, sliding down in his
daïs until he was all but lying on his back, bade us step up beside him.
Marten, who had transferred to Calcutta the phantom ship he was
pursuing, applied for a through ticket; I, for admission to the Society

“I’ll give you both a chit to the manager for to-night,” said the
justice, when we had spun our yarns. “The Home is rather overcrowded,
but we always try to find a place for Englishmen, even if we can’t
accommodate all the Germans, Italians, and Turks that turn up.”

“But we’re not Englishmen,” I put in.

“Nonsense,” yawned the judge. “When I say Englishmen of course I include
Americans, but as to you”—he turned to Marten—“I can’t give you a ticket
to Calcutta. That’s more than a thousand miles. I’ll have the manager
ship you to Vizagapatam in the morning. That is half way, and the
commissioner there will send you on.”

He made out the notes and we departed. As we passed the street entrance,
the corpulent babu was again pouring forth the woes of the polluted

But for a sign over the entrance, the Home might have been taken for the
estate of an English gentleman of modest income. The grounds were
extensive and well-wooded. The gate was guarded by a lodge, beyond which
the Home itself, a low, rambling bungalow, peeped through the trees. A
score of vagabonds, burned brown in face and garb, loitered in the shade
along the curb. Half were Eurasians. There is no more irreclaimable
vagrant under the sun’s rays than the tropical half-breed when once he
joins the fraternity of the Great Unwashed. Reputation or personal
appearance are to him matters of utter indifference. A threadbare jacket
and trousers—sad commentaries of the willfulness of the dhoby—mark his
social superiority to the coolie; but he goes barefooted by choice,
often bareheaded, and in his abhorrence of unnecessary activity is as
truly a Hindu as his maternal ancestor. Like the native, too, he is
indifferent to bodily affliction—so it bring no pain—and laughs at
encroaching disease as though he shared with the Brahmin the conviction
that his present form is only one of hundreds that he will inhabit.

At our arrival a youth of this class was entertaining the assembled
wanderers with a spicy tale. His language was the lazy, half-enunciated
English of the tropical hybrid, and he chuckled with glee as often as
his companions. Yet he was a victim of the dread “elephantiasis” so
common among natives. His left foot and leg below the knee were swollen
to four times their natural size, and to accommodate the abnormal limb
his trouser leg was split to the thigh. As the gate opened, he rose and
dragged his incurable affliction with him, leaving in the sand
footprints like the nest of a mongrel cur.

The manager was a bullet-headed Irishman, chosen, like many another, for
his knowledge of the wily ways of the vagrant, gleaned in many a year
“on the road.” The Home, though more ambitious in its scope, resembled
the Asile Rudolph of Cairo. The meals, consisting of native food, were
served in the same generous portions, and the cots, in spite of the
unconventional habits of the inmates, were as scrupulously clean.
Adjoining the quarters of the transient guests, the society provided a
permanent home for aged and crippled beachcombers. We sat late under the
veranda, listening to strange tales of the road of earlier days from a
score of old cronies who quarreled for a pinch of tobacco and wept when
their words were discredited. Sad fate, indeed, for those who, in the
years of their strength and inspiration, had made the world their
playground, to be sentenced thus to end their days in the meager bit of
space to which sightless eyes or paralyzed limbs confined them, while
they wandered on in spirit over boundless seas and trackless land.

Early the next morning the manager led the way to the Beach station and,
having supplied Marten with a ticket to Vizagapatam and a day’s
“batter,” bade us bon voyage. The journey was long; it might also have
been uneventful but for my companion’s incorrigible longing to annoy his
fellow-beings. The weak point in Marten’s make-up was his head. Years
before, during his days before the mast, he had gone ashore in a
disreputable port after paying off from a voyage of several months’
duration and, overladen with good cheer, had been so successfully
sand-bagged that he not only lost his earnings but emerged from the
encounter with a broken head. At the hospital it was found necessary to
trepan his skull. But the metal plate had proved a poor substitute for
sound bone; and the ex-pearl-fisher was wont to warn every new
acquaintance to beware “horse-play,” as a blow on the head might result
in serious injury.

The favorite occupation of the Hindu on his travels is sleeping. If
there is an alien voyager in his compartment he sits stiffly in his
place, on guard against a loss of caste. When his companions are all of
his own class, he stretches out on his back and slumbers, open-mouthed,
like a dead fish. But the benches are short. The native, therefore,
seeks relief by sticking his feet out the window. An Indian train
bristles from engine to guard-van with bare, brown legs that give it the
aspect of a battery of small guns.

Our express had halted, late in the afternoon, on a switch beside a
train southward bound. Marten, chancing to have a straw in his
possession, leaned out of the window and fell to tickling the soles of a
pair of protruding feet. Their owner was a sound sleeper. For several
moments he did not stir. As our train started, he awoke suddenly and
sprang up with so startling a whoop that my companion recoiled in
surprise and struck his head sharply on the top of the window.

The native was quickly avenged. For a moment his tormentor clung to the
casement, straining in every limb, then fell to the floor, writhing in
agony. Plainly he had lost consciousness, but he thrashed about the
compartment like a captive boa constrictor, twisting body and limbs in
racking contortions, and foaming at the mouth until his ashy face was
covered with spume, and dirt from the floor. His strength was
supernatural. To attempt to control him was useless,—forbidden, in fact,
on the day that he had warned me of his injury. I took refuge on one of
the benches to escape his convulsions.

The express sped on in the falling darkness. The next station was far
distant. Before me rose a vision of myself surrounded by stern officials
and attempting in vain to explain the presence of a corpse in my
compartment. Foolhardy, indeed, had I been to choose such a companion.

For a long hour his fit continued. Then the contortions of his body
diminished little by little; his arms and legs twitched spasmodically in
lessening jerks; his eyes, glassy and bloodshot, opened for a moment,
closed again, and he lay still. Through the interminable night he
stretched prone on the floor, motionless as a cadaver. When morning
broke in the east he sat up suddenly with a jest on his lips and none
the worse, apparently, for his ravings. But his memory retained no
record of occurrences from the moment when the wild shout of the Hindu
had sounded in his ears three hundred miles away.

An hour later we were purchasing sweetmeats in the bazaars of
Vizagapatam. The flat, sun-baked fields of southern India had been left
behind. The surrounding country was hilly and verdant; to the eastward
stretched the blue bay of Bengal. In the offing a ship lay at anchor.
Naked coolies, bent double under bales and bundles, waded waist-deep
into the sea and cast their burdens into a lighter. Adjoining the
bazaars, a sudra village of inhabited haycocks huddled together in a
valley. Before the huts men, women, and children crouched on their
haunches in the dust, their cadaverous knees on a level with their
sunken eyes, their fleshless talons clawing at scraps of half-putrid
food. Now and again they snarled at each other. More often they stared
away as vacantly as ruminating animals at the vista of squalor beyond.
Beside the village rose a barren rock, monument to the medley of
religions that inflict India. On its summit, within a space of little
more than an acre, commanding an outlook far out over the sea, stood a
Brahmin temple, a Mohammedan mosque, and a Christian church, each
reached by its own stairway cut in the perpendicular face of the rock.

Several miles separated the sudra village from the government buildings.
On the way native policemen and soldiers drew up at attention and
saluted as we passed. An entire squad, loitering before the central
station, fell quickly into ranks and stood stiffly at present-arms as
long as we remained in sight. In this English-governed land, the native
sees in every sahib a possible superior officer to whom it is safest to
be deferential.

We reached in due time the commissioner’s office. His only
representative in the deserted bureaus was an emaciated punkah-wallah,
turned watchman, who bowed his head in the dust before the door as
Marten addressed him.

“Nay, sahibs,” he murmured, “the commissioner sahib and the little
commissioners are absent, protectors of the miserable. To-day is the
Brahmin new year”—it was April thirteenth—“oh, charitable one, and a
holiday. The sahibs may come to-morrow. But nay! To-morrow is a feast of
the Mohammedans and a holiday also.”

“And the next day is Sunday,” I put in, when Marten had interpreted.

“The commissioner’s bungalow?” he demanded.

“In the forest beyond the hills,” murmured the coolie, pointing
northward. “Two cigarettes distant, oh, greatest of sahibs.”

To the grief of many a peregrinating beachcomber, the “appearances” of
the British governors of India are as rare as those of world-famed
tenors. We continued along a shimmering highway, winding among trees,
the dense shadows of which gave our eyes occasional relief, and a mile
beyond found the commissioner at home. Marten gained a hearing and
emerged with a note to the assistant commissioner. Once entangled in the
meshes of Oriental red-tape, there was no escape; and from midday till
late afternoon we raced back and forth through the streets and byways of
Vizagapatam, and routed out no fewer than twelve Hindu officials from
their holiday siestas. Even then my companion won a ticket only halfway
to the city on the Hoogly.

We caught the night express and reached Berhampore next morning. At his
bungalow, a youthful commissioner was so moved by Marten’s account of
the loss of his phantom ship—the story had lost nothing in frequent
repetitions—that he waived all legal formalities and gave him an order
on the station master for a ticket to his destination. Had he followed
the movements of the abandoned seaman for the rest of the day he might
have listened skeptically to the tale of the next wanderer to seek his

On the shores of the Bay of Bengal, some two hundred miles south of the
capital and a day’s tramp from the main line, lies Puri, the city of
Juggernaut. I should have visited it alone had not Marten, utterly
indifferent to the suspense of his grieving shipmates, insisted on
accompanying me.

We alighted at Khurda Road and purchased tickets to the sacred city at a
price that could scarcely have covered the cost of printing. A train of
unusual length for a branch line was already so densely packed with
pilgrims that those who tumbled out of the compartment which the station
master chose to assign us were in imminent danger of being left behind.
Iron-voiced vendors danced about the platform. Their wares were the
usual greasy sweets, doughy bread-sheets and curried potatoes that had
been our fare for long days past. But this was “holy food,” prepared by
the priests of the hallowed city; for the Hindu on his pilgrimages to a
sacred shrine may not eat of worldly viands. For all that the hawkers
sold to us gladly, not abating, however, by a copper, the exorbitant
prices to which their monopoly and the superstitions of their regular
customers entitled them.

Night was falling when we descended at Puri. The station, as part of a
system abhorred of the gods of Hind, stood in the open country, a full
two miles from the sacred city. Not even the inhabitants of Benares are
more fanatical than those of Puri. Natives coming upon us in the
darkness along the road of sacrifice sprang aside in terror, and
shrieked a long-drawn “sahib hai!” to warn others to beware our
polluting touch. In the bazaars, many a merchant cried out in anger when
we approached his tumble-down shop; and only with much wheedling could
we draw one of them forth into the street to sell us sweetmeats and
fruits. Half the shacks were devoted to the sale of _dude_, which is to
say, milk—of bullocks and goats, of course, for the udders of the sacred
cow may not be violated. We paused at one to purchase. A vicious-faced
youth took our pice gingerly and filled two vessels much like
flowerpots. I emptied my own and stepped forward to replace it on the
worm-eaten board that served as counter. The youth sprang at me with a
scream of rage and fear, and, before the pot had touched the counter,
Marten knocked it out of my hand and shattered it to bits on the
cobblestones, then smashed his own beside it. The two pice I had paid
for the milk included the price of the vessel, great quantities of which
are made of the red clay of neighboring pits. The crash of pottery that
startled the silence of the night at frequent intervals were signs, not
of some sad accident, as I had supposed, but that a drinker had finished
his dude. The miserable, uneven streets were paved in fragments of
broken pots.

There was not a native hut in Puri that we could enter, much less sleep
in, and, our evening meal finished en marche, we returned to the station
and asked permission of the Eurasian agent to occupy two of the wicker
chairs in the waiting-room. He refused, not only because it was against
the rules, which didn’t matter, but because he was sure to be found out
if he disobeyed them. He knew of better quarters, however, and directed
us accordingly. We stumbled off through the railway yards and came upon
the first-class coach he had mentioned, on a deserted side track. It was
the best “hotel” of our Indian trip. The car was built on the lines of
the American Pullman, with great couches upholstered in soft leather.
There were burnished lamps that we could light with impunity when the
heavy curtains had been drawn, several large mirrors, and running water.
Small wonder if we slept late next morning and found it necessary to
reconnoiter a bit, for the sake of the station master’s reputation,
before making our exit.

[Illustration: The great road of Puri, over which the massive Juggernaut
car is drawn once a year]

The inventive genius of the Hindu has bedecked the dwelling of god
Juggernaut with that extravagance of barbaric splendor beloved of the
Oriental. Admittance is denied the sahib, but without is much to be
seen. The temple rises in seven domes, one above each of four stone
stairways deep-worn by centuries of pilgrim feet and knees, and three
within the crumbling, time-eaten wall. They are domes, though, only in
general outline. The Hindu strives for bizarre effects in his
architecture; he dreads, above all, plain surfaces. The smaller domes
rise en perron like the terraced vineyards of the Alps, the steps half
hidden under glittering ornamentations,—hideous-faced gods of many arms,
repulsive distortions of sacred animals, haggard, misshapen gargoyles.
Above them towers Juggernaut’s throne room, resembling a cucumber stood
on end and suggesting that its builder, starting with the dome as his
original conception, was loath to bring his creation to completion, and
pushed his walls onward and upward to a dizzy height, to end at last
abruptly in a flat cupola. Mayhap his despotic master had doomed him to
that fate which has so often befallen successful architects in the
Orient, of losing his hands when his masterpiece was completed.

Everywhere the temple bears witness to the ravages of time. The
splendors of earlier days are faded and crumbling; there hovers over all
not so much an air of neglect as of the inability of these groveling,
British-ruled descendants of the talented creators to arrest the decay,
an acknowledgment that the days of such constructions and the Hindus of
such days are passé.

Pilgrims swarm in Puri at all seasons. Our way through the narrow
streets was often barred by shrieking processions; a hundred pious
families had pitched their tents at the edge of the great road. But it
is in the month of July, when the bloodthirsty god makes his annual
excursion to a smaller temple two miles distant, that untold multitudes
pour in upon the wretched hamlet. The car, weighing many tons, is set up
outside the temple, and Juggernaut, amid the clamor of barbaric rites,
is placed on his throne therein. Hordes of natives eager to “acquire
merit” surge round the chariot, screaming and struggling in the frenzy
of fanaticism for a place at the long ropes, and, to the accompaniment
of weird incantations, the procession starts. The great road, scene in
bygone centuries of uncounted human sacrifices, stretches away straight
and level to the smaller temple. It is the most generous roadway in
India, fully a furlong wide, in reality a great plain, covered with
withered grass where the tramp of many feet has not worn it bare. A
thousand naked bodies, burnished by the blazing sunlight, strain like
demons at the ropes. As one falls, a hundred others surge forward to
fight for his place. The aged peasant to whom this pilgrimage has
dissipated the meager earnings of a lifetime, returns to his native
village with inner assurance of the favor of the gods in his next
existence if he can force his way through the rabble for one weak tug.

But the ponderous car moves slowly. A scanty rice diet is not conducive
to great physical strength, and the massive wheels cut deep into the
sandy plain. The ruts of the last journey, made nine months before, were
by no means obliterated at the time of our visit. Short as is the
distance between the two temples, the passing oftentimes endures a week;
and the struggle for places decreases day by day as those who have
performed their act of devotion turn homeward. The last fanatics drop
out one by one. The ropes lose their tautness and sag of their own
weight. A scanty remnant of the multitude gives a few “dry pulls”; and
the grim-visaged god completes his journey behind bands of coolies hired
for the occasion.

They sacrifice no more to Juggernaut. John Bull has scowled on the
custom. But the American superintendent of the mission hospital among
the trees at the roadside bore witness that the insatiate monster has
still a goodly quota of victims; for annually the plague breaks out
among the superstitious, devitalized pilgrims and leaves hundreds to die
on the flat, sandy coast like fish tossed ashore.

He who has journeyed through this strange land will be slow ever after
to look upon animals as devoid of intelligence and the power to reason.
Encircling the temple, we chanced upon one of her sacred bulls setting
forth on his morning rounds through the thatch-roofed bazaars that make
up the town of Puri. He was a sleek, plump beast, with short, stumpy
horns and a hump, as harmless, apparently, as a child’s pet poodle. We
kept him company, for, strange to say, the fanatics, who had all but
mobbed us for setting foot on the flagging before a temple gate, offered
no protest when we petted this most reverenced of animals. He was too
near the gods no doubt to be polluted even by a sahib touch.

[Illustration: The main entrance to Juggernaut’s temple in Puri. I was
mobbed for stepping on the flagging around the column]

Setting a course for the nearest shop, he advanced with dignified tread,
shouldering his way through the multitude, pushing aside all who stood
in his path, not rudely, but firmly, something almost human in his
manner, of waywardness, self-complacency, and arrogance. The
impoverished descendants of an ancient house would have marched with
that stately air of superiority, the son of a nouveau riche with that
attitude of primary proprietorship in the world and its goods. Native
reverence for the animal was little short of disgusting. Pilgrims
prostrated themselves before him; hawkers stepped aside with muttered
prayers; scores of women fell on their knees and elbows in the teeming
streets, bowed their heads low in the dust, and ran to kiss his flanks.

Marching boldly up to the first booth, the bull chose a morsel of green
stuff from the inclined platform, and, chewing it leisurely after the
manner of an epicure, strolled on to the next stall. In the days of his
novitiate, ’tis said, the sacred calf eats his fill of the first food he
comes upon. A few weeks of experience, however, make him discriminating
in his tastes. Through the long rows of shops the beast levied on all,
stopping longest where the supplies were freshest, and awaking a mild
protest from the keeper. It was only a protest, however; taking the form
of a chanted prayer. For how may the Hindu know that the soul of his
grandfather does not look out through those bovine eyes! At any rate, he
acquires merit for every leaf and stock that he loses. Now and again,
Marten interpreted a rogation.

“Hast thou not always had thy fill, oh, holy one!” prayed the native,
rocking his body back and forth in time to his chant, “I would willingly
feed thee. Hast thou not always found welcome at my shop? But I am a
poor man, O king of sacred beasts. I pray thee, therefore, take of the
goods of my neighbor, who is the possessor of great wealth. For my
poverty is extreme, and if thou dost not desist, to-morrow may I not be
here to feed thee.”

As if in answer to the prayer, the animal moved on to the booth of the
neighbor, who bore no outward sign, at least, of the great wealth that
had been charged against him. His stock was fresh, however, and the bull
ate generously in spite of the keeper’s incantation. A second and a
third time the prayer was repeated, but to no effect. Then the Hindu,
picking up the joint of a bamboo, murmured the prayer into it.

“Thou canst not hear the prayer of a poor man, O sacred one, through thy
ears,” wailed the merchant. “Listen then to this petition,” and, rising
in his place, he struck the animal sharply over the nose with the
bamboo. The bull turned a reproachful gaze on the violator of his
sanctity, looked sorrowfully at him for a moment through half-closed
eyelids, and strolled slowly away.

Conspicuous among the swarming thousands of Puri are the widows. With
the death of her husband the Hindu woman must shave her head and dress
in a snow-white sheet that clings closely about her as she walks. Under
no circumstances may she marry again nor lay aside the garb that
announces her bereavement. More often than not her departed spouse has
left her unprovided with this world’s goods, and in India the woman’s
means of earning a livelihood are—well, painfully limited. Under a
humane British rule the widow’s fate is less cruel than in the days when
she mounted the funeral pyre with her dead, perhaps; but it is certainly
no less humiliating. The uninformed sahib would seem justified in
supposing that the chief interest of the Indian wife is the preservation
of her husband’s health.

The Hindu woman of the masses enjoys an almost Occidental freedom from
seclusion. Compared with the coarse females of Mohammedan lands, she is
modest, almost dainty—pretty, too, in her younger days, for all her
color. But age comes early, and with the increase of wrinkles and
barbaric jewelry her charms fade. Her costume is more ample than that of
the Singhalese,—a single strip of cloth of ten or twelve yards wound
round her body from neck to ankles, leaving only arms and left shoulder
bare. Lithe and supple by nature, her every movement might be graceful
were it not the custom of her husband, dreading the tax collector, to
load her down with his surplus wealth. As a girl she is bedecked with
gaudy trinkets before her costume has advanced beyond the fig-leaf
stage; as a matron, her passing sounds like a junk-shop in the grasp of
a cyclone. It is no unusual experience to meet a female wearing rings on
every finger and toe; bracelets on both arms from wrists to elbows;
rings in the top, side, and lobe of each ear; and three nose-rings, one
of which, some two inches in diameter, pierces the left nostril and
swings back and forth against the cheek of the wearer. What a throb of
joy must come to the husband who presses so precious a wife to his
bosom! But on the other hand, as once I caught Marten musing to himself,
“Suppose she flew de coop?”

[Illustration: “Suttee” having been forbidden by their English rulers,
Hindu widows must now shave their heads, dress in white, and gain their
livelihood as best they can]

[Illustration: A seller of the wood with which the bodies of Hindus are
burned on the banks of the Ganges. Very despised caste.]

The term “old maid” has no synonym in Hindustanee, and needed none until
the first female missionary invaded the peninsula. Bachelors, too, are
rare. There chanced to fall into my hands an Anglo-Indian sheet wherein
was propounded this enigma over the signature of “a puzzled babu.”

“Why,” demanded the puzzled one, after the usual incomprehensible
introduction necessary to prove his knowledge of the sahib tongue, “is
the Englishman living many times without a wife? If the Hindu is more
than very young and has not yet married himself he is contemplated
wicked and unclean. I am reading that in all the white man countries
there live more women than the men are. Why has not every sahib taken
one for his wife?”

Why not, indeed?

Marten had begun to display an arrogant author’s pride in the tale that
had carried him so rapidly northward. Several times he had gone out of
his way in Puri to tell some Eurasian or babu the sad story of his
marooning, and, as afternoon crept on, he resolved to repeat it once
more for the entertainment of the commissioner of the district.

“But,” I protested, “you have a ticket to Calcutta. You can’t use two!”

“Right,” he answered, “but it’s about six cigarettes from the commish’s
bungalow to the station, and he may come up with the dibs without
sending a nigger so far to buy the pasteboard. If he don’t loosen we’ll
have to fix it up with the station master.”

The commissioner had fled to the hills and his deputy was a native; a
strange one, though, for he not only acceded to the request of the
stranded seaman for a through ticket, but actually and visibly hurried
to complete the necessary formalities before the departure of the daily
train. He did not “come up with the dibs,” however, nor would the
station master buy back the ticket which a government clerk purchased
for my companion. But there was some gain in the manœuvre; for upon his
arrival in Calcutta the railway officials very kindly refunded to Marten
some four rupees on the unused portion of the ticket from Berhampore.

An express similar to that from which we had alighted twenty-four hours
before rumbled into Khurda Road soon after we reached the main line. We
strolled along the platform and pulled open the door of the European
compartment—and fell back in astonishment. A familiar topee with bulging
hatband swung from a peg near the ceiling. On a bench beneath, reposed
the bundle which I had once lugged across the Maidan of Madras, and
beside it sat Haywood! For some cause unknown he had been released at
the end of six days’ imprisonment and had lost no time in taking the
north-bound express—without a ticket.

His joy at the reunion exceeded our own. Marten grumbled under his
breath at the fate that kept us in such baneful company, and, though he
did not hesitate to invent fanciful tales to explain to querulous
collectors the presence of three tropical helmets when only two
travelers were visible, he said nothing of the extra ticket in his
hatband. Several times during the night Haywood found it expedient to
drop out the further door for a stroll in the darkness, but he escaped
detection and, as the day dawned, alighted with us at the Howrah
terminal. He had “held down” the same train without paying an anna of
fare, for 1,032 miles!

The pontoon bridge connecting Howrah with Calcutta was alive with
coolies tramping from their wretched hovels on the western bank to a day
of toil in the city. A multitude of natives disported in the muddy
waters of the Hoogly before a sacred bathing ghat. Below the bridge
scores of ships lay at anchor, native sampans and barges inveigled their
way among them, from the docks came the rattle of steam cranes and the
shrill chatter of stevedores at their labor. Here, at last, was a real
city, with all its familiar roar and bustle. My companions departed to
visit a missionary notorious for his friendliness to beachcombers, and I
plunged at random into the stream of humanity that surged through the
dusty streets.

                              CHAPTER XVI
                           THE HEART OF INDIA

Late that afternoon we were reunited at the Sailors’ Home. As time wore
on the conviction grew that we must shake off Haywood once for all. Go
where we would, he was ever at our heels, bringing disgrace upon us.
Picking pockets was his glee. When other excitement failed he turned to
filching small articles from the booths along the way. The last straw
was added to our burden as we were returning to the Home along the
Strand on our second day in Calcutta. The sophisticated inhabitants of
the metropolis, far from springing aside at the approach of a European,
are more accustomed to push him into the gutter. To be jostled by a
“nigger” was an insult that Haywood could not brook. He resorted to
Bowery tactics; but to little effect, for the Strand was crowded. The
day was hot. The higher caste natives, our chief annoyers, carried
umbrellas that soon suggested to the New Yorker a better means of
retaliation. Opening his pocket knife, he marched boldly through the
throng, slashing viciously at every sunshade whose owner provoked his
ire. An angry murmur rose behind us. Before we had reached the Home, a
screaming mob of tradesmen surged around us, waving ruined umbrellas in
our faces. Decidedly it was time to abandon the perpetrator of such
outrages. Hints had availed nothing, frankness less. Violence against a
“pal” was out of keeping with the code of morals of “the road.” There
was nothing left but strategy.

The New Yorker ate heartily that evening. His plate was still heaped
high with currie and rice when Marten and I retired to a bench in the
garden of the Home. Plan had I none, as yet, for continuing my journey,
for Calcutta was worth a week of sight-seeing. But plans are quickly
made in the vagabond world.

“Look here, mate,” said Marten, in a stage whisper, “we’ve got to ditch
that fellow. The cops’ll be running us in along with him some day.”

I nodded. A seaman came to stretch himself out in the grass near at
hand, and we fell silent. Darkness was striding upon us when a servant
of the Home advanced to close the gate leading into the street. Suddenly
Marten raised a hand and shouted to the gateman.

“Let’s dig out,” he muttered.

“Where?” I queried.

“Up country.”

“Sure,” I answered, springing to my feet.

We slipped out through the gate, stalked across the Maidan among the
statues of sahibs who have made history in India, past old Fort William,
and down to the banks of the Hoogly. The tropical night had fallen, and
above the city behind blazed the brilliant southern cross. For an hour
we tramped along the docks, jostled now and then by black stevedores and
native seamen. The cobble stones under our feet gave way to a soft
country road. A railway crossed our path and we stumbled along it in the
darkness. Out of the night rose a large, two-story bungalow.

“Guards’ shack,” said Marten.

A “goods train” was making up in the yards. A European in the uniform of
a brakeman ran down the steps of the bungalow, a lantern in his hand.
Behind him came a coolie, carrying his lunch-basket.

“Goin’ out soon, mate?” bawled Marten.

“All made up,” answered the Englishman, peering at us a moment with the
lantern high above his head, and hurrying on.

“Think we’ll go along,” shouted Marten.

The guard was already swallowed up in the darkness, but his voice came
back to us out of the night:—

“All right! Lay low!”

A moment later the tiny British engine shrieked, a man in the
neighboring tower opened the block, and the diminutive freight screamed
by us. We grasped the rods of a high, open car and swung ourselves up.
On the floor, folded to the size of a large mattress, lay a tarpaulin
car-cover. A cooling breeze, sweeping over the moving train, lulled us
to sleep. Once we were awakened by the roar of a passing express, and
peered over the edge of the car to find ourselves on a switch. Then the
train rattled on and we stretched out again. A second time we were
aroused by shunting engines, and the guard, passing by, called out that
he had reached the end of his run. We climbed out, and, retreating to a
grassy slope, slept out the night.

The morning sun showed an extensive forest close at hand. A red, sandy
roadway, deep-shaded by thick overhanging branches, led off through the
trees. Here and there in a tiny clearing a scrawny native cooked a
scanty breakfast over a fire of leaves and twigs before his thatch hut.
Above us sounded the note of a tropical bird. The jostling multitudes
and sullen roar of Calcutta seemed innumerable leagues distant.

The forest opened and fell away on either hand; and we paused on the
high, grassy bank of a broad river, glistening in the slanting sunlight.
Below, in two groups, natives, male and female, were bathing. Along a
highway following the course of the river stretched a one-row town, low
hovels of a single story for the most part, above which a government
building and a modest little church stood out conspicuously.

A quaint, old-fashioned spire against the background of an India horizon
is a landmark not easily forgotten.

“Thunder!” snorted Martin. “Is this all we’ve made? That bloody train
must have been side-tracked half the time we was poundin’ our list’ners.
I know this burg. It’s Hoogly, not forty miles from Cally. But there’s a
commish here. He’s a real sport, and ticketed me to Cally four years
ago. Don’t believe he’ll remember my figure-’ead, neither. Come on.”

We strolled on down the highway. Before the government building a score
of prisoners, with belts and heavy anklets of iron connected by two
jointed bars, were piling cobble stones.

“But here!” I cried suddenly; “He’ll only give you a ticket back to
Calcutta if we’re so near there.”

“No bloody fear,” retorted Marten; “he’ll ticket me the way I want to
go. That’s old Lord Curzy’s law.”

“Then you’ll have to drop that yarn about the _Guiseppe Sarto_.”

Marten had thus christened his phantom ship, not because he hoped to win
favor with the Pope, but because he had been hard-pressed for an Italian
name. Commissioners who listened to his “song and dance” had a
disconcerting habit of drawing from a pigeon-hole the latest marine
guide at the mention of an English vessel. But Italian windjammers,
unlisted, might be moved about as freely as pawns on a chessboard.

“Drop nothing,” snapped the ex-pearl fisher. “Think I’m goin’ to let a
good yarn like that go to waste, an’ after me spendin’ a whole bloody
day learnin’ to pronounce that dago name—an’ the skipper’s? Not me! I’m
goin’ to send the Joe Taylor”—in familiar parlance he preferred the
English version of the name—“over to Bombay, this time. I’ll have ’er
due there in four days.”

We turned in at an imposing lodge gate and followed a graveled walk
towards a great, white bungalow with windows commanding a vista of the
sparkling Hoogly and the rolling plains beyond. From the veranda,
curtained by trailing vines, richly-garbed servants watched our approach
with the half-belligerent, half-curious air of faithful house dogs.
Having no personal interest in the proceedings, I dropped into a rustic
bench beside the highway. A chatter of Hindustanee greeted my companion;
a stocky Punjabi rose from his heels and entered the bungalow.

There ensued a scene without precedent in my Indian experience. A tall,
comely Englishman, dressed in the whitest of ducks, stepped briskly out
upon the veranda, and, totally ignoring the awful gulf that separates a
district commissioner from a penniless beachcomber, bawled out:—

“I say, you chaps, come inside and have some breakfast.”

Much less would have been my astonishment had he suddenly opened fire on
us from a masked battery. I looked up to see Marten leaning weakly
against a veranda post.

“I only come with my mate, sir,” I explained. “It’s him as wants the
ticket. I’m only waitin’, sir.”

“Then come along and have some breakfast while you wait,” retorted the
Englishman. “Early risers have good appetites, and where would you buy
anything fit to eat in Hoogly? I’ve finished, but Maghmoód has covers
laid for you.”

We entered the bungalow on tiptoe and took places at a flower-decked
table. Two turbaned servants slipped noiselessly into the room and
served us viands of other lands. A punkah-wallah on the veranda kept the
great fans in motion. Upon me fell the vague sense of having witnessed
scenes like this in some former existence. Even here, then, on the banks
of the Hoogly, men ate with knives and forks from delicate china ware,
wiping their fingers on snow-white linen rather than on a leg of their
trousers, and left fruit peelings on their plates instead of throwing
them under the table! It seemed anachronistic.

“I told you,” murmured Marten, finishing his steak and a long silence,
and mopping his plate dry with a slice of bread plastered with butter
from far-off Denmark; “I told you he was a real sport. He’s the same
one, an’ give me a swell hand-out four years ago.”

Maghmoód entered bearing cigars and cigarettes on a silver tray, and the
information that we were to follow the commissioner to his office, two
miles distant.

An hour later we were journeying leisurely northwestward in a crowded
train that halted at every hamlet and cross-road. Marten had received a
ticket to Bankipore, far beyond the destination of the local at Burdwan,
where we alighted three hours before the arrival of the night express. A
gaping crowd surrounded us as we halted to purchase sweetmeats in the
bazaars and, flocking at our heels, quickly drew upon us the attention
of the local police.

Dreading Russian spies, the Indian government has, during the few years
past, required its officers to follow closely the trail of foreigners
within the country. The native policeman, however, could not distinguish
a suspicious character from a member of the viceroy’s council, and takes
a childish delight in demonstrating his importance to society by
subjecting every sahib stranger who will suffer it to a lengthy
cross-examination. Half the gendarmes of Burdwan, eager to win from
their superiors reputation for perspicacity, sought to bring us before
the recorders at the police station. Their methods were ludicrous. They
neither commanded nor requested; they invited us in the flowery phrases
of compliment to accompany them, and, when we passed on unheeding,
turned back in sorrow to their posts.

Two lynx-eyed officers, however, hung on our heels, and, following us to
the station as night fell, joined a group of railway gendarmes on the
platform. A lengthy conference ensued; then the squad lined up before
the bench on which we were seated, and a sergeant drew out one of the
small volumes which the government has adopted as a register for
transient Europeans.

“Will the sahibs be pleased to give me their names?” wheedled the
sergeant, in the timid voice of a half-starved Villon addressing his
verses to a noble patron.

I took the book and pencil from his hand and filled out the blanks on a

“And you, sahib?” said the officer, turning to Marten.

“Oh, go to the devil!” growled my companion; “I ain’t no Roossian. You
got no damn business botherin’ Europeans. Go chase yourself.”

“The sahib must give the informations or he cannot go on the train,”
murmured the native.

“How the devil will you stop me from goin’?” demanded Marten.

The officer muttered something in the vernacular to his companions.

“You would, would you?” bellowed Marten.

“Ah! The sahib speaks Hindustanee?” gasped the sergeant. “What is your
name, please, sir?”

“Look here,” growled Marten, “I’ll give you my name if you’ll promise
not to ask any more fool questions.”

The native smiled with delight and poised his pencil.

“And the name, sir?”

“Higgeldy Piggeldy,” said Marten.

“Ah! And how is it spelled, please, sahib?”

The sergeant wrote the words slowly and solemnly at my companion’s

“And which is the sahib’s birthplace?” he wheedled.

“You bloody liar,” roared Marten; “didn’t you say you wouldn’t ask
anything else?”

“Ah! Yes, sahib,” bleated the babu; “but we must have the informations.
Please, sir, which is your birthplace?”

“If you don’t chase yourself, I’ll break your neck!” roared Marten,
springing to his feet.

The assembled officers fell over each other in their haste to escape the
onslaught. Marten returned to the bench and sat down in moody silence.
The sergeant, urged forward by his fellow officers, advanced timidly to
within several paces of us and, poised ready to spring, addressed me in
gentle tones:—

“Sahib, the police wish, please, sir, to know why the sahibs have come
to Burdwan.”

“Because the local dropped us here, and we had to wait for the express.”

“But why have you not take the express all the time?”

“We were at Hoogly. It doesn’t stop there.”

“Then, why have you not stay in the station? Why have you walked in the
bazaars and in the temples?”

“To see the sights, of course.”

“But there are not sights in Burdwan. It is a dirty village and very
poor and very small. Europeans are coming to Benares and to Calcutta,
but they are not coming in Burdwan. Why have the sahibs come in Burdwan,
and the sun is very hot?”

“I told you why. The sun doesn’t bother us.”

“Then why have the sahibs bought sweets and chappaties in the bazaars?”

“Because we were hungry.”

“Sahibs are not eating native food; they must have European food. Why
have you bought these?”

“For Lord’s sake, hit that nigger on the head with something!” burst out
Marten. “I want to sleep.”

The sergeant retreated several paces and continued his examination.

“And why have the sahibs gone to the tem—?”

The shriek of an incoming train drowned the rest, and we hastened
towards the European compartment.

“You must not go in the train!” screamed the sergeant, while the squad
danced excitedly around us. “Stop! You must answer—”

We stepped inside and slammed the door.

“The train cannot be allowed to go!” screeched the babu, racing up and
down the platform. “The sahibs are not allowed to go. You must hold the
train, sahib!” he cried to a European guard hurrying by.

“Hold nothing,” answered the official. “Are you crazy? This is the
Bombay mail,” and he blew his whistle.

The sergeant grasped the edge of the open window with one hand and,
waving his notebook wildly in the other, raced along the platform beside

“You must answer the questions, sahibs—”

The train was rapidly gaining headway.

“Get down, sahibs! Come out! You are not allowed—”

He could hold the pace no longer. With a final shriek he released his
hold and we sped on into the night.

Hours afterward we were awakened by a voice at the open window. A native
officer was peering in upon us.

“I have received a telegraph from Burdwan for a sahib who has not
answered some questions,” he smiled, holding up his notebook.

“My name’s Franck,” I yawned.

“Then it must be the other sahib,” said the native. “You are, sir, I
think, Mr. Higgeldy Piggeldy?”

“Naw! Mine’s Marten,” said my companion, drawing out his papers. “Bloody
funny name, that. Can’t be no Englishman. Must be a Roossian.”

We left the express at daybreak. Bankipore was suffering from one of the
long droughts that have ever been the blight of this section of India.
The flat plains of the surrounding country spread out an arid, sun-baked
desert as far as the eye could see. Along the roadway the dust rose in
clouds at every step, the trees stood lifeless in ragged shrouds of
dead, brown leaves. The few low-caste natives still energetic enough to
bestir themselves dragged by at the listless pace of animals turned out
to die, utter hopelessness in their shriveled faces, their tongues
lolling from their mouths. The sear grass of the great Maidan was
crushed to powder under our feet; a half-mile stroll brought on all the
symptoms of physical fatigue; the moistureless, dust-laden air smarted
in our throats and lungs and left our lips and nostrils parched and

In the center of the Maidan, as far as possible from the human kennels
of the surrounding town, were pitched several sun-bleached tents. A
dun-colored coolie, squatting in a dusty patch, cried out at our
approach; and a native of higher caste pushed aside the flap of the tent
and, shading his eyes under an outstretched hand, gazed towards us. He
was dressed in uniform, his jacket open at the throat, and his bare feet
thrust into a pair of shabby slippers. A figure commonplace enough, yet
at sight of him we gasped with delight. For on his head sat a fez! It
was far from becoming to its wearer; a turban would have offered more
protection against the Indian sun, but it heralded a Mohammedan free
from the fanatical superstitions of the Brahmin faith. We might quench
our thirst at once with no pollution of the cup; and depart without
feeling that creepy sensation of guilt that one experiences at home in
stopping in a saloon for a drink of water—if such things happen. How the
point of view towards one’s fellow men change with every advance to the
eastward! In this superstitious land an Islamite seemed almost a

But we were thirsty.

“Pawnee hai? Oh! Maghmoód, we would drink,” cried Marten.

The follower of the prophet smiled at the words of the vernacular as he
answered in perfect English:—

“Assuredly, gentlemen. I should be delighted. Step inside, where it is

His was no crude-builded language of the babu. An Oxford fellow could
not have expressed his thoughts more clearly, nor given more immediate
evidence of a sahib point of view.

The tent was furnished with mats and couches. In one corner stood a
chair and a desk littered with papers. The Mohammedan handed us a
chettie of water. When we had drunk our fill, he offered cigarettes and
motioned to a couch.

“Be seated, gentlemen,” he said. “Unless you have urgent business you
may as well rest a bit.”

“Gee!” puffed my companion, leaning back on his elbows; “I’m glad a
Mohammedan’s superstitions don’t make him believe all this tommy-rot
about pollution.”

Marten of Tacoma was not distinguished for tact.

“We try, at any rate,” smiled the officer, “to be sane in our beliefs.”

“Of course,” went on my mate, “you have plenty of fool superstitions,
too; and you put rings in your wives’ noses, to lead ’em around by, I

A flash of fire kindled the eye of our host, but he smiled again as he

“We try, though, sir, to be sparing of unnecessary insults.”

“Gee!” murmured Marten, without looking up; “This is a good cigarette.”

“Is this an encampment?” I put in, feeling it my duty to lead the
conversation into other channels. “I don’t see any sepoys about.”

“Oh, by no means,” said the Mohammedan; “this is police headquarters.
The smaller tents house the men.”

“Then you are not a soldier?”

“Not in recent years. I am chief of police for Bankipore.”

Marten cast a half-startled glance at the profile of the man he had
taken for a simple sergeant, and assumed a more dignified posture.

“The police, then, live in tents here?” I went on.

“If we didn’t, few of us would be living at all,” replied the chief.
“Early in March, with the famine, the plague broke out, and the
inhabitants have been dying in hundreds ever since. Ten of the force
were carried from their huts to the funeral pyres in the first week.
Then we set up the tents.”

“Doesn’t the government try to check the epidemic?”

“Try! We have been fighting it tooth and nail since the day it began.
But what can we do among ignorant, superstitious Hindus? Our people are
poor. They live in filthy huts with dirt floors, into which rats can dig
easily. If we attempt to fumigate a house, the family abandons it and
sleeps on the ground outside, the surest way of taking the plague. If we
try to purify their water and food we have a riot on our hands. The
huts, too, are so packed together and burdened with filth that the only
way to clean them would be to burn up the town. We have a force of
government doctors. Medicine, also, is free to all. But you know my
people. They would far rather die of plague than run the risk of losing
caste through the doctor’s touch. If a man dies, his family prefers to
scoop a hole in the floor and squat on his grave, rather than to turn
his body over to Christians or Mohammedans. We have strict laws against
concealing sickness and death, but it is difficult to enforce them. To
make things worse, the rumor is always going the rounds that the sahib
government has ordered the doctors to poison their patients or cast a
spell upon them; and among the masses such tales are readily believed.
What can you expect of ignorant, fanatical people who barely realize
that reading and writing exist, and who never learn anything except on
hearsay? Police and doctors and government medicine will never wipe out
the plague. The only thing that can stop it is rain, and until that
comes Bankipore will keep on dying.”

Marvelous was the manner in which this son of the Orient ran on in an
alien tongue, never at a loss for the word to express his meaning

“Do all those attacked by the plague die?” I asked.

“I have been keeping tab on the cases,” returned the chief, “and I find
that a fraction of less than ninety-six per cent result fatally. I know
of men who have recovered. Our former district commissioner was one. If
the victim is a European or a well-to-do native he has about one chance
for life to three for death. But among the sudras, the coolies, the
peasants, the poor shopkeepers, there is small hope. They have always
half starved on a rice diet, the drought has left us famine-stricken for
a year; obviously, having no constitutions to fall back upon, they
merely lie down and die, never making an effort unless their religious
superstitions are in danger of violation. No, it is only rain that will
save us,” he concluded, pushing aside the flap of the tent and gazing
hopelessly at the cloudless sky.

We turned away into the town. It needed no word from the chief of police
to call attention to the ravages of plague and famine. The shopkeepers,
humped over their wares, wore the air of dogs ever in the fear of a
beating; the low-caste natives stared greedily at the stale,
dust-covered foodstuffs spread out along the way; fleshless
personifications of misery crawled by, whining for cowries—the
sea-shells that charitable India bestows on her beggar army. The
inhabitants were not hungry. That is their normal condition. They were
starving. Yet the general misery made them none the less slaves of their
omnipresent superstitions. The gaunt, sunken-eyed merchant screamed in
frenzy when our fingers approached his octogenarian rice cakes and
chappaties; he held his bony claw on a level with our knees to catch the
coppers we offered. His stock was plentiful, if grey-bearded; his prices
as low as in the days of abundance. It was, after all, chiefly a famine
of annas.

At the great government bungalow, on a low hill to the eastward of the
town, were few evidences of affliction. The official force, from the
richly-gowned and turbaned judge, holding court on the veranda, to the
punkah-wallah who cooled his court-room, were glossy, well-fed
creatures. The commissioner, who drove up in a dog cart ornamented with
two footmen in scarlet and white livery, and who marched with majestic
tread through a lane of kowtowing inferiors, certainly had not come
without his breakfast. But even he must have known of the famine, for in
the stringy shade of thin-foliaged trees nearby huddled scores of
wretches waiting for leave to appeal for government assistance.

Native starvelings, obviously, should not take precedence over a sahib.
While I dropped into a proffered seat at the right hand of the judge,
Marten followed the Englishman inside. A long line of prisoners,
shackled in pairs and guarded by many native policemen, awaited
judgment. Two by two they dropped on their knees in the sun-scorched
dust, sat down on their heels, and, raising clasped hands to their
faces, rocked slowly back and forth. The judge muttered a half-dozen
words, which writers behind him jotted down in ponderous volumes, waved
a flabby hand, and the culprits passed on.

“These,” whispered an interpreter in my ear, “are wicked thieves. They
have stolen chappaties in the bazaars. They have prison for three
months. These next escape quickly with six weeks. They have cut a coolie
with knives. Those who kneel now have polluted high-caste food.”

Close to an hour the procession continued. An aged coolie, wrinkled and
creased of skin as if he had been wrung out and hung up to dry, and a
naked, half-grown boy brought up the rear. While they knelt, the
secretary turned over the pages of his book.

“More thieves,” said the interpreter. “The boy has stolen a brass lota;
the man, the lunch of a train guard, three months ago. Their prison is

The judge spoke and a policeman produced a large bunch of keys and
removed their shackles. Man and boy fell on their faces in the dust, and
rising, wandered away over the brow of the hill.

A moment later Marten emerged from the bungalow.

“The old song and dance is as good as ever!” he cried, when we were out
of earshot. “I got a boost to Allahabad an’ two days’ batter an’ the
commish’s sympathy. Come on; let’s take in the sights.”

Bankipore’s chief object of interest was a stone granary, in shape an
immense bee-hive or hay-cock, depository in days of plenty for years of
famine. As such things go in India, it was a very modern structure,
having been erected in the time of the American revolution. It was
empty. An outside stairway, winding upward, led to a circular opening in
the apex, through which trains of coolies, in days gone by, poured a
steady stream of grain. Within was Stygian darkness. We were rewarded
for the perspiring ascent by a far-reaching view of the famine-stricken
plains, and off to the eastward I caught my first glimpse of the Ganges.

We halted late that night at Buxar, far short of Allahabad, and took
slower train next morning to Moghul Serai. For to have remained on board
the express would have been to pass in the darkness the holy city of

The pilgrim train was densely packed with wildly-excited natives and
their precious bundles. Not once during the seven-mile journey across
the arid plateau did a vista of protruding brown feet greet us as we
looked back along the carriages. The windows of every compartment framed
eager, longing faces, straining for the first glimpse of the sacred
city. To many of our fellow-travelers this twentieth of April had been
in anticipation, and would be in retrospect, the greatest day of their
worldly existence. For the mere sight of holy “Kashi” suffices to wipe
out many sins of past decades. Even the gods of the Brahmin come here to
consummate their purification.

[Illustration: Bankipur’s chief object of interest is a vast granary
built in the time of the American Revolution to keep grain for times of
famine. From its top the traveler catches his first glimpse of the

[Illustration: Women of Delhi near gate forced during the Sepoy
rebellion. One carries water in a Standard Oil can, another a basket of

As we rounded a low sand dune, a muffled chorus of exclamations sounded
above the rumble of the train, and called me to the open window. To the
left, a half-mile distant, the sacred river Ganges swept round from the
eastward in a graceful curve and continued southward across our path. On
the opposite shore, bathing its feet in the sparkling stream, sprawled
the holy city. Travelers familiar with all urban dwelling places of man
name three as most distinctive in sky-line,—New York, Constantinople and
Benares. The last, certainly, is not least impressive. Long before
Gautama, seeking truth, journeyed thither, multitudes of Hindus had been
absolved of their sins at the foot of this village on the Ganges. To the
bathing ghats and shrines of the Brahmin the Buddhist added his temples.
Then came the Mohammedan conquerors with new beauties of Saracenic
architecture. In the toleration of British rule Jain and Sihk and even
Christian have contributed their share to this composite monument to the
world’s religions. Through it all, the city has grown without rhyme or
reason. Temples, monasteries, shrines, kiosks, topes, mosques, chapels
have vied with each other and the huts and shops of the inhabitants in a
wild scramble for place close to the absolving waters of the Ganges,
until the crescent-shaped “Kashi” of to-day lies heaped upon itself, as
different from the orderly cities of the western world as a mass of
football players in hot scrimmage from a company of soldiers. From the
very midst of the architectural scramble, giving center to the picture,
rise two slender minarets of the Mosque Aurunzebe, needing but a
connecting bar to suggest two goal posts.

The train rumbled across the railway bridge and halted on the edge of
the city. No engineering genius could have surveyed a line through it.
We plunged into the riot of buildings and were at once engulfed in a
whirlpool of humanity. Damascus and Cairo had seemed over-populated;
compared with Benares, they were deserted. Where the chattering stream
flowed against us, we advanced by short spurts, pausing for breath when
we were tossed aside into the wares of bawling shopkeepers, or against a
façade decorated with bois de vache. Worshipers, massed before outdoor
shrines, blocked the way as effectually as stone walls. Cross currents
of pilgrims, bursting forth from Jain or Hindu temple, bore us away with
them through side streets we had not chosen to explore. Pilgrims there
were everywhere, of every caste, of every shade, from the brass-tinted
hillman to the black Madrasi, representatives of all the land of India
from the snow line of the Himalayas to Tuticorin by the sea. Among them
the inhabitants of Benares were a mere handful.

Sacred bulls shouldered us aside with utter indifference to what had
once been the color of our skins. Twice the vast bulk of a holy elephant
loomed up before us. On the friezes and roofs of Hindu temples monkeys
wearing glittering and apparently costly rings on every finger scampered
and chattered with an audacity that to the natives was an additional
proof of their divinity.

We had been buffeted back and forth through the tortuous channels for
more than an hour when a frenzied beating of drums and a wailing of
pipes bore down upon us.

“Religious procession!” screamed Marten, dragging me after him up the
steps of a Jain temple. “We’ll have to hang out here till it gets by.
How’s them fer glad rags?”

The paraders were, indeed, attired in astonishing costumes, even for
India. The street below us was quickly filled with a screaming of colors
no less discordant than the harrowing “music” to which a thousand
marchers kept uncertain step. Some of the fanatics, not satisfied with
an exaggeration of native garb, masqueraded in the most fantastic of
guises, among which the most amusing was that of a bold fellow
burlesquing a sahib. He was “made up” to emphasize the white man’s
idiosyncrasies, and marched in a hollow square where no point could be
hidden from the view of the delighted bystanders. To the Hindu, he is an
ass who wears jacket and trousers in preference to a cool, flowing robe;
the tenderness of sahib feet is the subject of many a vulgar jest. The
burlesquer was attired in a suit of shrieking checks that fitted his
slender form as tightly as a glove; on his feet were shoes with great
projecting soles in which he might have walked with impunity on red-hot
irons. His flour-powdered face was far paler than that of the latest
subaltern to arrive from England; over his long hair he wore a
close-cropped wig of sickly yellow hue; and his tropical helmet would
have given ample shade for four men. He was smoking a homemade imitation
of a “bulldog” pipe, and swung a small fence rail jauntily back and
forth as he walked. Every dozen yards he feigned to fall into a rage
and, dancing about in a simulation of insanity, rushed upon the
surrounding paraders, striking wildly about him with his clenched fists.
The fact that he never opened his lips during this performance brought
great delight to the natives, accustomed to give vent to their anger by
taxing their vocal organs to the utmost.

There were other suggestions of the Hindu’s hatred of his rulers, the
boldest of which brought up the rear of the procession. Two natives bore
aloft a rough wooden cross on which a monkey was crucified—with cords
rather than with nails. How widespread are the teachings of Christian
missionaries was suggested by the fact that the most illiterate
countryman “saw the point,” and twisted his lean features into the ugly
grimace that is the low-caste Hindu’s manner of expressing mirth.

[Illustration: One of the many flights of steps leading down to the
bathing ghats and funeral pyres of Benares]

We fought our way onward to the center of the town and descended a great
stone stairway beneath the slender minarets. Up and down the embankment
groups of thinly-clad pilgrims, dripping from their ablutions, smoked
vile-smelling cigarettes in the shadow of temple walls or purchased holy
food at the straw-thatched booths. Here and there members of the most
despised caste in India stood before ponderous scales, weighing out the
wood that must be used in the cremation of the Hindu dead who hope to
attain salvation. The abhorrence of their fellow-beings hung lightly
upon the wood-sellers, tempered as it was by the enjoyment of a monopoly
compared with which an American trust is a benevolent institution.

In the bathing ghats, segregation of sexes prevailed. The men wore loin
clothes, the women white winding sheets through which the contour and
hue of their brown bodies shone plainly as they rose from the water.
From time to time bands of natives, covered with the dust of travel,
tumbled down the stairways and plunged eagerly into the purging river.
There is no sin so vile, says the Hindu, that it cannot be washed away
in the Ganges at the foot of Benares. Let us hope so, for its waters
certainly have no other virtues. Gladly would I, for one, bear away any
portable burden of peccadillos in preference to descending into that
fever-infected flow of mud. A ray of sunlight will not pass through a
wineglassful of Ganges water. Yet pilgrims not only splashed about in
it, ducking their heads beneath the surface and dashing it over their
faces, they rinsed their mouths in it, scraped their tongues with sticks
dipped in it, spat it out in great jets, as if bent on dislodging some
tenacious sin from between their back molars.

Our circuit of the city brought us back to the station long enough
before train time to give opportunity for a duty that falls often to the
roadster in India,—a general “wash up.” Twice that day we had been taken
for Eurasians. Benares ends abruptly at the railway line; beyond,
stretches a flat, monotonous landscape of arid, unpeopled moorland.
Armed with a two-pice lump of soap of the hue of maple sugar, we slid
down the steep bank below the railway bridge in an avalanche of sand and
rubble. Once there, Marten decided that he was “too tired” to turn
dhoby, and stretched out in the shade of the bank. I approached the
stream, sinking halfway to my knees in the slime. There would have been
no Indian impropriety in disrobing at once, but there would certainly
have been a sadly sunburned sahib ten minutes afterward. Ordinary
beachcombers, like my companion, being possessed of but two cotton
garments, must have retired unlaundered or blistered. I, however, was no
ordinary vagabond. My wardrobe included three pieces. It was the
simplest matter in the world, therefore, to scrub the jacket while
wearing the shirt and the shirt while wearing the jacket, and to wrap
the garment de luxe around my legs while I soaked the third in the
accumulation of Hindu sins.

“Say, mate,” drawled Marten, while I daubed my trousers with the
maple-sugar soap, “you’ll sure go to heaven fer scrubbin’ your rags in
that mud. There’s always a bunch of Hindu gods hangin’ around here. I
don’t want to disturb a honest laborin’ man, o’ course, but I’d be so
lonesome if you was gone that I’m goin’ to tell you that there’s one
comin’ to take you to heaven now, an’ if you’re finished with livin’—”

I looked up suddenly. Barely ten feet away the ugly snout of a crocodile
was moving towards me.

“Stand still!” shouted Marten, as I struggled to pull my legs from the
clinging mud. “He’s a god, I tell you. Besides, he’s probably hungry.
Don’t be so damn selfish.”

The trouser, well aimed, ended his speech abruptly as I reached dry
land. I worked, thereafter, with wide-open eyes; and before the task was
ended, caught sight of no less than fourteen of the river gods of India.

We regained the station in time for the train to Moghul Serai, and,
catching the northwest express, arrived in Allahabad late at night. The
Strangers’ Rest, vagabonds’ retreat a half mile from the station, was
long since closed; but the Irish superintendent was a light sleeper, and
we were soon weighing down two charpoys under the trees of the inner

The jangling of the breakfast bell awakened us. The Allahabad “Rest” was
famed far and wide for its “European chow.” All through the night we had
embraced ourselves in joyful anticipation of reviving our flagging
memories on the subject of the taste of meat. Marten had even dared to
dream a wondrous dream, wherein he had pursued a Gargantuan beefsteak as
broad as the arid plain below Benares, in thickness like unto a native
hut, across half the land of India, only to wake as he was falling upon
it in the foothills of the Himalayas.

“An’ the bloomin’ thing was steamin’ hot,” he driveled, as we raced for
the dining-room with a mob of ordinarily phlegmatic roadsters, “an’ the
juice was runnin’ out all over the fields”—we dropped into places at the
table—“an’ it was that bloody rare that—ah—er—wha—what the devil’s
this?” he gasped, pointing at the plate before him.

“Eh?” cried the superintendent, from the doorway.

“I was askin’,” murmured Marten, “what kind o’ meat this might be.”

“That?” smiled our portly host. “Why, ’tis dhried fish, to be sure. The
day’s Good Friday, you’ll be remimberin’.”

So we were glad rather than sorry that the piety of the English rector,
to whom that power was deputed, forbade him issuing tickets to stranded
seamen until the next day.

Nothing short of a promise to set up a bottle of arrack would have
enticed another sojourner at the Rest outside its shady grove. I set off
to explore the city of Allah alone. Life moved sluggishly in its broad,
straight streets; for the day’s inactivity of Europeans and Eurasians
had clogged the wheels of industry. Lepers swarmed under the trees along
the boulevard passing the Rest—lepers male and female, without fingers,
or lips, or eyelids, some with stumps for feet, and others with great
running sores where their faces should have been. Still others had lost
their vocal cords, so that their speech, as they crept close up behind
the passing sahib to solicit alms, was an inarticulate gurgle.

Great credit should be given to the Mohammedan women of Allahabad and
beyond, who, with no Worth to do them service, display individuality of
dress sufficient to attract a flagging attention. To be exact, it isn’t
a dress at all, being merely a jacket and a pair of thin, cotton
trousers, full above the knee and close-fitting below, like
riding-breeches. The costume originated with its wearers, no doubt. Far
be it from me, at least, to accuse them of copying the garb of the
sahibs who gallop along the broader thoroughfares.

We slept again under the spreading trees, and might have slept well, had
not the spot chanced to be the rendezvous of all the mosquitoes of the
northwest provinces. With morning our host marched away at the head of a
band of wandering minstrels to carry entertainment to the English
rector. The performance endured beyond all precedent. One by one the
artists straggled back to the grove, some glad, some sorrowful; and
among the latter was Marten. In accordance with our plan to continue
towards the Punjab, he had promised to send the “_Guiseppe Sarto_” from
the harbor of Bombay, where it had ridden at anchor since the day that
we entered Hoogly, to Kurachee at the mouth of the Indus. The classic
tale had aroused the old-time sympathy; the rector had listened gravely;
the story must surely have brought its reward had not the teller, too
cock-sure of his lines, forgotten momentarily the contemplated revision
of the text and blurted out the familiar name so distinctly that
correction was impossible. He had drawn, therefore, when the division of
lots fell, a ticket to Bombay.

There were two reasons why Marten had no desire to visit that port:
first, because I had refused to accompany him; second, because the
commissioners of that uncharitable presidency have contracted the
reprehensible habit of committing to the workhouse the penniless white
man taken within their borders. But the die was cast. The law required
that the holder of a government ticket depart by the first train, and
even had it not, there was no one else in Allahabad to whom to appeal.
The grief of the former pearl fisher was acute, lachrymose, in fact. To
dry his tears I consented to accompany him to the capital of the next

We took leave of the Irishman as darkness fell and before the night was
well on its wane had sought a sharp-cornered repose at the station of
Jubbulpore. The commissioner of that district, moved by a more carefully
constructed tale, granted the stranded mariner a ticket to Jhansi. The
route mapped out for him led southward to the junction with the main
line, which I, anxious to explore a territory off the beaten track,
chose to gain by an unimportant branch. We separated, therefore,
promising to meet again next day at Bina.

Returning northward to the village of Khatni, I spent the night on a
station settee, and boarded the mixed train that sallies forth daily
from that rural terminal. It was in charge of a Eurasian driver and
guard, of whom the latter gave me full possession of a roomy compartment
adjoining his own. The country was rolling in outline, a series of broad
ridges across which the train rose and fell regularly. To right and left
stretched jungle, uninhabited and apparently impenetrable. The villages
rarely comprised more than a cluster of huts behind the railway
bungalow, to which the inhabitants flocked to greet the arrival of the
train, the one event that enlivened a monotonous daily existence. Now
and then I caught sight of some species of deer bounding away through
the low tropical shrubbery, and once of that dreaded beast of India—a
tiger. He was a gaunt, agile creature, more dingy in color than those in
captivity, who advanced rapidly, yet almost cautiously, clearing the low
jungle growth in long, easy bounds. On the track he halted a moment,
gazed scornfully at the sluggard locomotive, then sprang into the
thicket and was gone.

We halted at midday at the station of Damoh. Certain that my private
carriage could not be invaded in a district where Europeans were almost
unknown, I left my knapsack on a bench and retreated to the station
buffet. At my exit a strange sight greeted my eyes. Before the door of
my compartment was grouped the population of Damoh. Inside stood a
native policeman, in khaki and red turban. Under one arm he held the
guidebook, a tobacco box, a pipe, a spool of film, and the leaf-wrapped
lunch that had made up the contents of my knapsack. The sack itself, a
half-dozen letters, and the kodak-cover lay on the floor under his feet.
By some stroke of genius he had found the springs that released the back
of the kodak, and having laid that on the bench beside him, was
complacently turning the screw that unwound the ruined film, to the
delight of his admiring fellow-countrymen.

The natives fled at my approach, and the officer, dropping my
possessions on the floor, dashed for the shelter of the station-master’s
office. I followed after to make complaint, and came upon him cowering
behind a heap of baggage, his hands tightly clasped over the badge that
bore his number.

“He says,” interpreted the Eurasian agent, when I had demanded an
explanation, “that it is his duty to look in empty compartments for lost
articles, but that he has not taken the littlest thing, not even a box
of matches, and asks that you forgive him. If you cannot put the queer
machine together again, he will.”

“These fellows are always prying into things like monkeys,” put in the
guard, “I’d make complaint to the inspector at Bina.”

A change came over the face of the policeman. Till then he had been the
picture of contrition; now he advanced boldly and poured forth a deluge
of incomprehensible lingo.

“Why, what’s this?” cried the station-master. “He says you assaulted

“Does he look like it?” I demanded.

“No,” admitted the agent, “most sahibs leave marks.”

“Oh! That’s the old trick,” snorted the guard. “He understood the word
‘inspector’ and thinks he’ll keep out of hot water by making a counter

“I don’t believe the tale,” said the agent, “but he insists on making a
complaint, and I shall have to telegraph it to the inspector at the end
of the line.”

The train went on. There being no European officers in the district I
could not be placed under arrest, but it was not long before I found the
police drag-net drawing close around me. The first station beyond Damoh
was a populous town, and among the natives who crowded the platform my
attention was drawn to two sturdy fellows in the garb of countrymen who
elbowed their way through the throng and stared boldly in upon me.
Apparently they had designs on my depleted pocketbook, but, indifferent
to so slight a loss, I returned their scowls and settled back in my
seat. We were well under way again when I turned from my contemplation
of the distant landscape and glanced along the swaying cars. From the
next compartment, his eyes glued on my own, hung one of the countrymen.
Annoyed, I moved to the opposite side of the car. The head and shoulders
of the second rascal protruded from the window ahead. The situation
burst upon me. These, then, were “plain-clothes guys” assigned the duty
of shadowing me to my destination.

As long as the journey lasted, the detectives sat motionless in their
places, their heads twisted halfway round on their shoulders, staring
like observant owls at the only means of exit from my compartment. I
descended at Bina as twilight fell, and they hung on my heels until I
had been accosted by a young Englishman in khaki uniform.

“The station-master at Damoh,” began the Briton, “reports that you
assaulted a native officer. Will you come with me, please?”

He led the way to the waiting-room, and, producing a notebook, jotted
down my story.

“He needed a good drubbing whether he got it or not,” he admitted, when
I had concluded. “Unfortunately I cannot release you until the inspector

“When will that be?”

“To-morrow, probably, on this same train.”

“But I can’t afford to be delayed twenty-four hours,” I protested. “I’m
short on cash and I’ve got to meet a mate.”

“I am sorry,” returned the Englishman, “but as deputy inspector I have
no power in the matter. I do not want to lock you up if you will promise
not to leave the station precincts. You may sleep in the first-class

Whether he relied entirely on my promise, I did not learn. At any rate,
he ordered the agent to arrange a cane couch for me, and not long after
his departure a coolie arrived from the barracks with such a dinner as I
did not often enjoy during my days of liberty. The next day the fare was
even more generous, and was supplemented by several delicacies which the
Eurasian guard sent from the messroom of the railway bungalow. The
latter had not neglected to make public my story, and every hour brought
Englishmen, Eurasians, or babus to express their conviction that I was
being grossly mistreated. Among them was a leathery little Irishman, a
traveling photographer with headquarters in Agra, and a discussion of
our common interests ended with his writing me a “chit” to his employer,
whom he represented as in need of an assistant.

The deputy inspector hovered about the station, and during one of his
visits I asked for a book with which to while away the time. He must
have pondered long over the shelves in his bungalow in quest of a volume
that would appeal to a sailor of slight education, of American
nationality, who was ostensibly suffering severe depression of spirits.
His choice demonstrated the unfailing perspicacity of the Briton. He
came back bearing a thumb-worn copy of “Bill Nye’s History of the United

With nightfall came the inspector to listen to a repetition of my story.

“Your account,” he announced, “agrees entirely with that of the Eurasian
guard. I shall release you at once.”

An hour afterward I left Bina and, halting at Jhansi and the free state
of Gwalior, arrived in Agra three days later. Until then I had fancied
that Marten had passed me during the night of my captivity. But as I
alighted, I was surprised to see, in a letter-rack such as is maintained
at most Indian stations for the convenience of travelers, a post card
across which my name was misspelled in bold, blue letters. On the back
was scrawled this simple message:—

                                           GODAWARA, INDIA—April 25th.


  Missed the train to Bina becaze I knoked the block off a nigger
  polisman. They draged me down hear and the comish finned me 15 dibs
  and then payed the fine and put me rite as far as Agra. I wil pick
  you up ther on the 27th.

                                                          BUSTED HEAD.

The twenty-seventh was past. The ex-pearl-fisher had evidently gone on,
and I saw him no more.

Reduced now to a handful of coppers, I lost no time in seeking out the
photographer to whom my “chit” was addressed. He was a Parsee of slender
build, dressed in European garb, the trousers of which, fitting his long
legs all too snugly, gave him a strangely spiderlike appearance. A small
velvet skull-cap, embroidered in red and pink with representations of
flowers and leaves, sat imperturbable on the top of his head, holding
its place with every movement of his lithe body as if nailed there.
Suggestion was there none, in his mien, of strange religious beliefs.
His English was fluent, his manner affable, yet tempered with a
ceremonial coldness, as of one convinced of the necessity of being ever
on his dignity.

We came quickly to terms. The shop, well stocked with photographic
supplies, was in charge of a Eurasian clerk, and my new duties confined
me within the narrow limits of the dark-room. He who would taste
purgatory has but to find employment in a photographer’s workshop in
India. As the door closed behind me, I muttered a determination to hold
my new-found position for a fortnight. Before the first set of plates
had been transferred to the fixing-bath, the resolution weakened; when
an hour had passed, a voice within me whispered that three days’ wages
would be amply sufficient for all present needs. There were new elements
of the photographer’s craft to be learned in the Parsee’s laboratory,
too, such as the use of ice in every process, and during the learning I
conducted, all unintentionally, a series of researches in the action of
NaCl on the various chemicals in my charge. In short, the stoke-hole of
an ocean-liner would have been hibernal by comparison. My employer’s tap
on the door, with the suggestion that it was time to set up the
shutters, did not need to be repeated.

Once in the street, the Parsee hailed a Hindu hansom, a sort of stranded
ferryboat set up on two circular table-tops and attached to what had
once been a pair of bullocks, and we were driven off. That we reached
the residence of my employer before morning and in good health was
reason for self-congratulation, for it was nearly a mile distant. The
axle-grooves in the misapplied table-tops were as near the center as if
they had been bored by a musket in the hands of a blind man at one
hundred paces. The driver was with great difficulty inspired to action,
and was totally incapable of transmitting such inspiration to his
animals. Along the boulevard the craft moved at the cumbersome gait of a
land crab; in the rougher streets it pitched and rolled like a derelict
in the trough of the waves.

[Illustration: The Taj Mahal, Agra, India]

The Parsee, accustomed to this fancied solution of the transit problem
of Agra, fell into that half doze of dreamy contentment typical of the
home-coming suburbanite the world over, and roused himself only when the
rattle of the cobble stones of his own courtyard disturbed his
ruminations. We alighted equi-distant from two squat bungalows, of which
the fire-worshiper gave me leave to enter the former, ere he retired to
the bosom of his family in the other. My new home housed a band of
servants and a lodger. The deep veranda was curtained by a network of
creeping vines that the drought had touched with autumn colors. As I
mounted the steps, a long-drawn groan sounded from the semi-darkness,
and I was greeted by the sight of the lodger tossing deliriously on one
of two dilapidated willow armchairs with which the piazza was furnished.
A fever raged within him—the first symptoms, he was convinced, of the
plague that would carry him off before dawn. Plainly he did not care to
go. The charpoys within were all occupied. I preëmpted the unoccupied
chair and listened through the night to the Eurasian’s frenzied endeavor
to frighten off the grim visitor.

To the grief of the Parsee, I fled from his sweat-box the next
afternoon, and, having visited Agra and her incomparable Taj Mahal, took
night train to Delhi. The traveler who journeys slowly northward through
this land of strange scenes and superstitions loses sight, oftentimes,
of the fact that no other political entity includes within its borders
so many heterogeneous elements. India is not the dwelling place of one
people. The Punjabi of the north differs as much from the Maduran as the
Scotchman from the Neapolitan. The hillman and the man of the plains
prove on close acquaintance to have little more in common than their
brown skins and their misery. Shake your fist at a Madrasi and he will
take to his heels. Deny a Gurka the privilege of fighting and you have
robbed him of all that makes life worth living.

The casual tourist, noting only slight changes from day to day, may not
realize this diversity of population. But let him push on to
Shahjehanabad, the city of King John, which they who dwell elsewhere
call Delhi. Here is a different world, an Arab world almost, to remind
him that Islam once held vast sway in the land of Hind. Easily might he
fancy himself again in Damascus. As in “Shaam,” here are labyrinthian
streets, each given up to a single trade. In shaded nooks and corners
the black-bearded scribe plies his art; from many a minaret sounds the
chant of the muezzin; the fez vies with the turban for supremacy.
Lean-faced Bedouins and files of cushion-shod camels bring with them a
suggestion of the wild sweep of the desert; and, if another touch is
needed, over all hovers those crowning symbols of Mohammedan
civilization,—filth and pariah dogs.

But with the squalor came new privileges to sahib wanderers. Of
Mohammedan eating-shops there were plenty, and never a protest rose
against me when I paused to choose from the steaming kettles framed in
the doorway. The messes, if the blear-eyed Islamite who stirred the
fires under them was to be believed, contained no other flesh than
mutton. There were bones in more than one dish that looked suspiciously
small for those of the sheep; and the rabbit is not indigenous to India.
But quién sabe? The light-skinned vagrant is too thankful, certainly,
for an opportunity to satisfy his carnivorous tastes to appoint himself
a committee of investigation or to inquire into the status of the pure
food law.

It was this scent of a more western world perhaps, which soon brought
upon me the realization that our unplanned excursion “up country” had
carried me a thousand miles afield. I awoke one morning resolved to turn
eastward once more. Unfortunately the turning lacked impetus, for in my
pocket were four lonely coppers. A half-day’s search in the native city
failed to bring to light any demand for white-skinned labor, and I
concluded to make public my offer of services through the district

The afternoon siesta was ended and the élite of Delhi were awakening to
new life when I crossed the bridge spanning the railway yards and
entered the cantonment and the European section. Over miles of rolling
country, thinly streaked by the shade of those few withered trees that
had outlived the drought, were scattered the barracks, government
offices, and the bungalows of white residents. At the district court a
lonely babu clerk welcomed me with the information that the government
force was enjoying a Mohammedan holiday, that the next day was sacred to
some Hindu saint or sacred ape, and the third, the Christian day of
rest. The road to the commissioner’s residence passed those of a score
of English officials, each situated in a private park, on the lodge gate
of which an ensign set forth the name of the owner and the titles which
a grateful monarch permitted him to attach thereto. An hour beyond the
court, I was confronted by the astonishing pedigree of the ruler of the
district and turned aside with bated breath into his estate. The
honorable commissioner sahib was not at home, asserted the native butler
who was whitewashing canvas shoes on the back veranda; he had gone to
the honorable Englishmen’s club.

[Illustration: A market-day in Delhi, India. Many castes of Hindus and
Mohammedans are represented]

[Illustration: The Hindu street-sprinkler does not lay much dust]

A score of smart traps and dog carts, in charge of gorgeously liveried
saïs were drawn up about the long, two-story club-house. On the
neighboring courts four pairs of linen-clad Englishmen, surrounded by a
select audience of admiring memsahibs and a hundred wondering servants,
were playing tennis with that deliberate, dispassionate energy which the
Briton of the “clawsses” puts into everything from a casual greeting to
a suicide. The honorable commissioner sahib K. C. B., M. A., V. C, Bart,
etc., was stretched out in a reclining chair in the smoking-room of the
club, his attention divided between a cigarette and cooling beverage and
the activities of several other distinguished preservers of the
alphabet, who were driving a red and two white balls about a green table
with characteristic vim and vigor. The native who pointed out the mighty
man from the shelter of a veranda fern refused in an awe-struck whisper
to deliver my message until I had threatened to enter this sanctum of
social superiority unannounced. The Englishman bellowed a protest at
being disturbed, but rose and advanced to the door, glass in hand.

“I say, you know,” he cried, in a voice having its domicile in the pit
of his stomach, “this isn’t my office, my man. I cawn’t be attending to
official duties day and night. Come to the high-court to-morrow and I
will look into your case.”

“If any of the gentlemen inside, sir, or you, could put me onto a job
where I could earn the price of a tick—”

“A job! In Delhi? Do you fawncy there are full-rigged ships on the
Jumna? Come to my office at ten-thirty or eleven in the morning.”

“But to-morrow is a holiday.”

“Hah! By Jove, so it is! Well, come to my bungalow instead.”

“How about some work about the club? Anything at all.”

“See here, my man,” protested the commissioner, turning away, “this is
no employment bureau. I’m going over for a game of tennis and I’ll bid
you good day.”

“Then you’ll need someone to chase tennis balls for you,” I called after
him, “I’m fairly fast on my feet.”

“Chase tennis balls!” cried the governor, coming back. “Do you mean you
would run around before a crowd of native servants—you—a white man—and—”

“Sure. Won’t you?”

“Eh—er—wha—I? When I play tennis? Why, of course, for exercise; but you
were talking about work.”

“Well, let’s call it exercise if you’d rather.”

He stared at me a moment in silence, but, being an unusually
quick-witted Englishman, grinned as he turned away.

“Very well,” he said, over his shoulder, “wait for me over at the second
court. I’ll give you a rupee a set—in railway fare—to-morrow.”

I was perspiringly engaged as official ball-chaser of the Delhi tennis
club until twilight put an end to the sport, fagging three games for the
commissioner and as many more for his friends. The reward, however, was
not immediately forthcoming; and I turned back as penniless as I had
come, towards Delhi, four miles distant. The half-audible melody of a
summer night was broken now and then by the patter of native feet along
the dusty roadway, but I tramped on for the most part in silence. Once I
was startled by a lusty chorus of male voices that burst out suddenly
from the darkness ahead in words of my own tongue; and a moment later a
squad of red-coats, bound barrack-ward after a merry afternoon on leave,
trooped by me, arm in arm, singing at the top of their lungs, “The Place
where the Punkah-wallah Died.” It is a sorrowful ditty, this favorite
ballad of the Tommy Atkins of India, bearing as it does the final word
on the infernal calidity of the peninsula. The punkah-wallah is as
insensible to the sun’s rays as any living mortal, his station is a
shaded veranda, his labor the languid moving of a weightless fan. He of
the ballad died of the heat at his post.

Bent on finding lodging in a deserted coach, I slid down the steep slope
at the edge of the European section into the broad railway yards. A
policeman patrolled the bank above; detectives lurked in the narrow
alleyways between the long rows of side-tracked cars; and the headlights
of puffing switch-engines turned streaks of the night into broad day. I
escaped detection only by vigilant dodging. There were goods’ vans
without number, an endless forest of them, but they were sealed or
loaded with some vile-smelling cargo; passenger coach was there none. I
struck off boldly across the tracks towards the lighted station. The
glare of a head-light was turned full upon me and without the slightest
warning I felt myself launched into space so suddenly that I did not
lose my upright posture. The sensation of falling seemed of several
minutes’ duration, as one experiences in a dream of being thrown from a
high building. Long after the world above had disappeared, I landed in
utter darkness, all unhurt except for the barking of my nose. Near at
hand several live coals gleamed like watching eyes. I had walked into a
cinder-pit on the round-house track.

[Illustration: A lady of quality of Delhi out for a drive]

[Illustration: Hindu women drinking cocoanut-milk]

By dint of a cat-like spring from the top of the largest heap of ashes,
I grasped the rail above and drew myself out, to find the engine crew
preparing to descend into the pit to recover my body. The station
platform was crowded. Beyond, surrounded on all sides by the teeming
bazaars, lay a thick-wooded park known as Queen’s Gardens. Placards on
the ten-foot picket fence forbade trespassing after nightfall; but
though I climbed the barrier in full sight of strollers and shopkeepers
they held their peace, convinced, no doubt, that the sahib who entered
at that hour was called thither by official duties. I stretched out in
the long grass, but the foliage overhead offered no such shelter as the
trees of equatorial Ceylon, and I awoke in the morning dripping wet from
the fallen dew.

Again that afternoon I did service at the tennis court, earning two
rupees more than the sum required to carry me back to Calcutta, and,
returning to the city, boarded the Saturday night express. The European
compartment was commodious and furnished not only with a wash-room but
with two wooden shelves on which I slept by night, undisturbed by
Eurasian collectors. Following the direct line through Cawnpore and
Allahabad, the train drew into Howrah on Monday morning. Not once during
the journey had my box-stall been invaded. Nine hundred and fifty-four
miles I had traveled, in a private car on an express—and the ticket had
cost $2.82! Truly, impecunious victims of the Wanderlust should look
upon India as the promised land.

                              CHAPTER XVII
                           BEYOND THE GANGES

Two hours after my arrival in Calcutta there entered the American
consulate, high up above the Maidan, a white man who should have won the
sympathy even of the hard-hearted manager who had denied him admittance
to the Sailors’ Home for once having deserted that institution for a
trip “up-country.” He was the possessor of a single rupee. His cotton
garments, thanks to dhobies, Ganges mud, and forty-two hundred miles of
third-class travel, were threadbare rags through which the tropical sun
had reddened his once white skin. Under one arm he carried a tattered,
sunburned bundle of the size of a kodak. European residents of a far-off
district might have recognized in him the erstwhile ball-chaser of the
tennis club of Delhi. In short, ’twas I.

“Years before you were born,” said the white-haired sahib who listened
to my story, “I was American consul in Calcutta, the chief of whose
duties since that day has been to listen to the hard-luck tales of
stranded seamen. Times have changed, but the stories haven’t, and won’t,
I suppose, so long as there are women and beer, and land-sharks ashore
to turn sailors into beachcombers.”

As he talked he filled out a form with a few strokes of a pen.

“This chit,” he said, handing it to me, “is good for a week at the
Methodist Seamens’ Institute. You have small chance of finding work in
Calcutta, though you might try Smith Brothers, the American dentists,
down the street; and you certainly won’t sign on. But get out of town,
somewhere, somehow, before the week is over.”

“Yes, sir,” I answered, opening the door. “Oh, say, Mr. Consul, was
there an American fellow by name of Haywood in to see you?”

“Haywood?” mused the old man. “You mean Dick Haywood, that poor seaman
who was robbed and beaten on an Italian sailing vessel, and kicked
ashore here without his wages?”

“Why—er—yes, sir, that’s him,” I replied.

“Yes, I sent him away a week ago, to Rangoon as a consul passenger. But
his was an especially sad case. I can’t spend money on every Tom, Dick,
and Har—”

“Oh! I wasn’t askin’ that, sir,” I protested, closing the door behind

The Seamens’ Institute occupied the second story—and the roof—of a
ramshackle building in Lall Bazaar street, just off Dalhousie square.
Even about the foot of the stairway hovered a scent of squalor and
compulsory piety. On the walls of the main room, huge placards,
illuminated with texts from the tale of the prodigal son and the stains
of tobacco juice, concealed the ravages which time and brawlers had
wrought on the plaster. Magazines and books of the Sunday-school species
littered chairs and shelves. Four sear-faced old Tars, grouped about a
hunch-backed table, played checkers as if it were an imperative duty,
and cursed only in an undertone. For the office door stood open. I
entered and tendered my “chit” to the Irish manager.

“Ye’re welcome,” he asserted, as he inscribed my name in a huge volume;
“but mind ye, this is a Methodist insteetootion and there’s to be no
cuss-words on the primaces. An’ close the door be’ind ye.”

“The cuss-words ye’ve picked up,” growled a grizzled checker-player,
when I had complied with the order, “ye must stow whilst ye’re here. But
if ye want to learn some new wans, listen at yon keyhole when he’s
workin’ his figyurs.”

My “chit” entitled me to three meals of forecastle fare a day, the
privileges of Sunday-school literature and checkerboards, the use of a
crippled cot, and the right to listen each evening to a two-hour sermon
in the mission chapel. In the company that gathered around the
mess-board at noon were few whose mother-tongue was other than my own.
The British Isles were ably represented; there were wanderers from
Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and even two from “the States.”

My compatriots were Chicago youths whose partnership seemed singularly
appropriate—in India. For the one was named William Curry and the other
Clarence Rice.

“D’y ’iver put yer two eyes on a betther combeenation thon thot to be
floatin’ about this land uv sunburn an’ nakedness?” demanded my
companion on the right. “Why, whin they two be on the beach they’d ’ave
only to look wan anither in the face to git a full meal. An’ yit they’re
after tellin’ us they’re goin’ to break it oop.”

“You bet we be!” ejaculated Rice, forcing an extraordinary mouthful into
one cheek to give full play to his tongue. “This bunch don’t go pards no
more in this man’s land!”

“Fer why?” asked a sailor.

“Here’s how,” continued Rice. “In Nagpore the commissioner give us a
swell set-down an’ everything looked good fer tickets to Cally. ‘What’s
yer name?’ sez the guy to Bill, when we come into the office after
puttin’ away the set-down. ‘An’ what’s yours?’ he sez to me, after Bill
had told him. ‘Clarence Rice,’ sez I. ‘Go on,’ hollers the commish.
‘None o’ yer phony names on me! Ye’re a pair o’ grafters. Git out o’
this office an’ out o’ Nagpore in a hour or I’ll have ye run in—wid yer
currie an’ rice!’”

“Yes,” sighed Curry, “that’s what they handed us all the way from
Bombay. We was three weeks gettin’ across.”

The meal over, I descended to the street with the one self-supporting
guest of the mission. He was a clean-cut, stocky young man of
twenty-five, named Gerald James, from Perth, Australia. Until the
outbreak of the Boer war he had been a kangaroo hunter in his native
land. A year’s service in South Africa had aroused his latent Wanderlust
and, once discharged, he had turned northward with two companions.
Arrived in Calcutta, his partners had joined the police force, while
James, weary of bearing arms, had become a salesman in a well-known
department store.

I disclosed my accomplishments to his manager that afternoon, but he did
not need to glance more than once at my tattered garb to be certain that
his staff was complete. At their barracks the Australian’s partners
assured me that their knowledge of the city proved that the only choice
left to a white man stranded in Calcutta was to don a police uniform.
Evidently they knew whereof they spoke, for employers to whom I gained
access during the days that followed laughed at the notion of hiring
white laborers; and, though scores of ships lay at anchor in the Hoogly,
their captains refused to listen even to my offer to work my passage. To
join the police force, however, would have meant a long sojourn in
Calcutta, and at any hour of the day one might catch sight of two
coolies hurrying across the Maidan with the corpse of the latest victim
of the plague.

Nothing short of foolhardy would have been an attempt to cross on foot
the marshy, fever-stricken deltas to the eastward. One possible escape
from the city presented itself. Through the Australian officers, whose
beat was the station platform, I made the acquaintance of a Eurasian
collector who promised to “set me right with the guard” as far as
Goalando, on the banks of the Ganges. The signs portended however, that
once arrived there I should be in far worse straits than in the capital.

A chance meeting with a German traveler, who spoke no English, raised my
hoard to seven rupees; but the purchase of a new roll of films reduced
it again to less than half that amount, and at that low level my
fortunes remained for all my efforts. Sartorially, I came off better;
for the manager of the mission, calling me into his office one morning,
asked my assistance in auditing his account-book, and gave me for the
service two duck suits left behind by some former guest. I succeeded,
too, in trading my cast-off garments and my dilapidated slippers for a
pair of shoes in good condition.

At the Institute, life moved smoothly on. Each day began with a stroll
along the docks and two hours of loafing in the courtyard of the
Sailors’ Home, where seamen, paying off, were wont to display their
rolls, and captains had even been known, in earlier days, to seek
recruits. After dinner, those of long experience in Oriental lands
retired to their crippled cots or a shaded corner of the roof, while the
“youngsters” played checkers or pieced together some story from the
magazine leaves that the “boy” had thrown into a hasty jumble before
morning inspection. From four to sunset was the period of individual
initiative, when the inventive set off to try the effect of a new “tale
of woe” on beneficent European residents. The “old hands,” less
ambitious, lighted their pipes and turned out for a promenade around
Dalhousie square. Thus passed the sunlit hours. He who had lived through
one day with the “Lall Bazaar bunch” knew all the rest.

But as the days were alike, so were the nights different. Each evening
of the week was dedicated by long custom to its own special attraction,
and newcomers fell as quickly into the routine as a newly arrived prince
into the social swirl of the capital. On Monday, supper over, the
company rambled off to that section of the Maidan adjoining the
viceroy’s palace to listen to the weekly band concert, during the course
of which the fortunate occasionally picked up a rupee that had fallen
from the pocket of some inebriated Tommy Atkins. On Tuesday the
rendezvous was the Presbyterian church at the corner of the square; for
it was then and there that charitable memsahibs, incorporated into a
“Ladies’ Aid Society,” ended their weekly sewing-bee by distributing
among the needy the evidences of their skill with the needle. Hour after
hour, a long procession of beachcombers filed up the narrow stairway of
the Institute, to dump strange odds and ends of cosmopolitan raiment on
the floor. The night was far spent before the last trade had been

Wednesday, however, was the red-letter date in the Institute calendar.
On that evening came the weekly “social.” In company with an “old
timer,” I set off early for the English church far out beyond Fort
William, in the chapel of which we were served such unfamiliar
delicacies as ice cream—so the donators dared to name it—and cake. The
invitations were issued to “all seamen on shore in the city,” but found
acceptance, of course, only among the penniless, for the arrack-shops of
Calcutta are subject to no early closing law.

In a corner of the chapel sat several young ladies and the junior rector
of the parish, a handsome English youth, announced on the program as the
president of the meeting. We were favored, however, only with a view of
his well-tailored back, for the necessity of furnishing giggle motifs
for the fair maidens and the consumption of innumerable cigarettes left
him no time for sterner duties.

When the last plate had been licked clean, the gathering resolved itself
into a soirée musicale. A snub-nosed English miss fell upon the piano
beside the pulpit, and every ragged adventurer who could be dragged
within pistol-shot of the maltreated instrument inflicted a song on his
indulgent mates. More than once the performer, indifferent to memsahib
blushes, refused either to expurgate or curtail the ballad of his
choice, and it became the duty of a self-appointed committee to drag him
back to his seat.

The suppression of a grog-shop ditty had been followed by several
moments of fidgety silence when a chorus of hoarse whispers near the
back of the chapel relieved the general embarrassment. A tow-headed
beachcomber—a Swede by all seeming—was forced to his feet and advanced
self-consciously up the aisle. He was the sorriest-looking “vag” in the
gathering. His garb was a strange collection of tatters, through which
his sunburned skin peeped out here and there; and his hands, calloused
evidences of self-supporting days, hung heavily at his sides. The noises
thus far produced would have been prohibited by law in a civilized
country, and I settled back in my seat prepared to endure some new
auditory atrocity. The Swede, ignoring the stairs by which more
conventional mortals mounted, stepped from the floor to the rostrum, and
strode to the piano. The audience, grinning nervously, waited for him to
turn and bellow forth some halyard chantie. He squatted instead on the
recently vacated stool and, running his stumpy fingers over the keys,
fell to playing with unusual skill—Mendelssohn’s “Frühlingslied.” Such
surprises befall, now and then, in the vagabond world. Its denizens are
not always the unseeing, unknowing louts that those of a more laundered
realm imagine.

“The Swanee River” was suggested as the Swede stalked back to his seat,
and the rafters rang with the response; for there was scarcely one of
these adventurers, from every corner of the globe, who could not sing it
without prompting from beginning to end. During the rendition of “God
Save the King,” the youthful rector tore himself away from the
entrancing maidens, and puffing at his fortieth cigarette, shook us each
by the hand as we passed out into the night. A pleasant evening he had
spent, evidently, in spite of our presence.

“After all,” mused the “old timer,” as he hobbled across the Maidan at
my side, “Holy Joes is a hell of a lot like other people, ain’t they?”

Of the entertainments of other evenings I may not speak with authority,
for on that day I had concluded to take the Eurasian collector at his
word and escape from Calcutta before I had outlived my welcome. As I
stretched out on the roof of the Institute on my return from the chapel,
the man beside me rolled over on his blanket and peered at me through
the darkness.

“That you, Franck?” he whispered.

The voice was that of James, the Australian.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Some of the lads,” came the response, “told me you’re going to hit the
trail again.”

“I’m off to-morrow night.”

“Where away?”

“Somewhere to the east.”

The Australian fell silent a moment, and his voice was apologetic when
he spoke again.

“I quit my job to-day. There’s the plague, and the summer coming on, and
they expected me to take orders from a babu manager. Calcutta is no
good. I’d like to get to Hong Kong, but the boys say no beachcomber can
make it in a year. Think you’ll come anywhere near there?”

“Expect to be there inside a couple of months.”

“How if we go pards?” murmured James. “I’ve never been on the road much,
but I’ve bummed around Australia some after kangaroos, and I’ve got
fourteen dibs. I’ll put that up for my part of the stake.”

“Sure,” I answered, for of all the inmates of the Institute there was no
one I should sooner have chosen as a partner for the rough days to come,
than James.

“How’ll we make it?” he queried. “It’s a long jump.”

“I’ll set you right to Goalando,” I replied, “and you can fix me up on
the Ganges boat, if the skipper turns us down. If we can make Chittagong
I think we can beat it through the jungle to Mandalay, though the boys
say we can’t. Then we’ll drop down to Rangoon. They say shipping is good
there. But let’s have it understood that when we hit Hong Kong each one
goes where he likes.”

“All right,” said the Australian, lying down once more.

Thursday passed quickly in the overhauling of our gear, and, having
stuffed our possessions into James’ carpetbag, we set off at nightfall
for the station; not two of us, but three, for Rice of Chicago had
invited himself to accompany us.

“What! So many?” cried the guard, when the Eurasian had introduced us,
“That’s a big bunch of deadheads for one trip. Well, pile on. I’ll see
that the collectors slip you.”

My companions returned to the waiting-room for the carpetbag, and I fell
into step with the station policeman, James’ former partner. The
platform was swarming with a cosmopolitan humanity. Afghans, Sihks,
Bengalis, Tamils, and Mohammedans strolled back and forth or took
garrulous leave of their departing friends through the train windows.
Suddenly my attention was drawn to a priest of Buddha pushing his way
through the throng. The yellow robe is rare in northern India, yet it
was something more than the garment that led me to poke the policeman in
the ribs. For the arms and shoulder of its wearer were white and the
face that grinned beneath the shaven poll could have been designed in no
other spot on earth than the Emerald Isle!

“Blow me,” cried the officer, “if it ain’t the Irish Buddhist, the
bishop of Rangoon! I met ’im once in Singapore. Everybody in Burma knows
’im;” and he stepped forward with a greeting.

“Do I rimimber ye?” chuckled the priest, “I do thot. Ye were down in the
Sthraits. Bless me, and ye’re up here on the force now, eh? Oo’s yer

“American,” said the Australian, “off fer Chittagong with a pard o’

“Foine!” cried the Irishman. “I’m bound the same. I’m second-class, but
I’ll see ye on the boat the-morrow.”

He passed on and, as the train started, James and Rice tumbled into an
empty compartment after me. The guard kept his promise and not once
during the night were we disturbed. When daylight awakened us our car
stood alone on a side-track at the end of the line.

Goalando was a village of mud huts, perched on a slimy, sloping bank of
the Ganges like turtles ready to slip into the stream at the first hint
of danger. A shriveled Hindu, frightened speechless by the appearance of
three sahibs before his shop door, sold us a stale and fly-specked
breakfast, and we turned down towards the river. On the sagging
gangplank of a tiny steamer, moored at the foot of the slippery bank,
stood the Irish Buddhist, his yellow robe drawn up about his knees,
scrubbing his legs in the muddy water.

“Good mornin’ te ye!” he called, waving a dripping hand. “Come on board
and we’ll have a chat. She don’t leave till noon.”

“The time’ll pass fast,” I suggested, “if you’ll give us your yarn.”

“Sure and I will,” answered the Irishman, “if ye’ll promise te listen te
a good sthraight talk on religion after.”

What was it in my appearance that led every religious propagandist to
look upon me as a possible convert? Even the missionary from Kansas had
loaded me down with tracts.

The Irishman led the way to a cool spot on the deserted deck, sat down
Turkish fashion, and, gazing out across the sluggish, brown Ganges, told
us the story of an unusual life.

He was born in Dublin in the early fifties. As a young man he had
emigrated to America, and, turning “hobo,” had traveled through every
state in the Union, working here and there. He was not long in
convincing both Rice and me that he knew the secrets of the “blind
baggage” and the ways of railroad “bulls.” More than once he growled out
the name of some junction where we, too, had been ditched, and told of
running the police gauntlet in cities that rank even to-day as “bad

“Two years after landin’ in the States,” he continued, “I hit
Caleefornia and took a job thruckin’ on a blessed fruit-boat in the
Sacreminto river, the Acme—”

“What!” I gasped, “The Acme? I was truckman on her in 1902.”

“Bless me eyes, were ye now?” cried the Irishman. “’Tis a blessed shmall
worrld. Well, ’twas on the Acme thot I picked oop with a blessed ould
sea dog of the name of Blodgett, and we shipped out of Frisco fer Japan.
Blodgett, poor b’y, died on the vi’age, and after payin’ off I wint on
alone, fitchin’ oop at last in Rhangoon. Th’ English were not houldin’
Burma thin, and white min were as rare as Siamese twins. Bless ye, but
the natives were glad to see me, and I lived foine. But bist of all, I
found the thrue religion, as ye wud call it, or philosophy as it shud be
called. Whin I was sure ’twas right I took orders among thim, bein’ the
foirst blessed white man te turn Buddhist priest.”

“Good graft,” grinned Rice.

“The remark shows yer ignerance,” retorted the son of Erin. “Listen. Oop
te the day of me confirmation I was drhawin’ a hunder rupees a month. I
quit me job. I gave ivery blessed thing I owned to a friend of moine,
even te me socks. At the timple, an ould priest made me prisint of a
strip of yellow cloth, but they tore it inte three paces te make it
warthless, and thin sewed the paces togither agin fer a robe, and I’ve
worn it or wan loike it iver since. If I’d put on European clothes agin,
fer even wan day, I’d be expilled. I cut off me hair and as foine a
mustache as iver ye saw. If I’d lit them grow agin I’d be expilled. If
I’d put on a hat or shoes I’d be expilled. So wud I if I owned a
farthin’ of money, if I shud kill so much as a flee, if I’d dhrink a
glass of arrack, if I tuched the ouldest hag in the market place with so
much as me finger.

“Foine graft, say you and yer loikes. Listen te more. Whin I tuk the
robe, and that’s twinty year an’ gone, I become a novice in the faymous
Tavoy monistary. Ivery blessed morning of me loife fer foive year, I
wint out with the ither novices, huggin’ a big rhice bowl aginst me
belly. We stopped at ivery blessed house. If we’d asked fer inything
we’d ’a been expilled. The thrue Buddhists all put something inte the
bowl, rhice generally and curry, sometoimes fish. Whin they were full we
wint back te the monistary, an’ all the priests, ould wans and novices,
had dinner from what we’d brung them. Thin we gave the rist te the
biggars, fer blessed a thing can we ate from the noon te the nixt

“’Twas harrd, the foirst months, atin’ nothin’ but curry and rhice. Now,
bless ye, I’d not ate European fud if ’twas set down before me. Ivery
blessed afternoon I sthudied the history of Buddha and Burmese with the
ould priests. ’Twas a foine thing fer me. Before I found the thrue faith
I was that blessed ignerent I cud hardly rade me ouwn tungue. To-day,
bless ye, I know eight languages and the ins an’ outs of ivery religion
on the futstool. I was a vile curser whin I was hoboin’ in the States,
and ’twas harrd te quit it. But ivery toime I started te say a cuss-ward
I thought of the revired Gautama and sid ‘blessed’ instead, and I’m
master of me ouwn tungue, now.”

“Then you really worship the Buddhist god,” put in James.

“There agin,” cried the Irishman, “is the ignerance of them that follows
that champeen faker, Jaysus, the son of Mary and a dhrunken Roman
soldier. The Buddhists worship no wan. We riveere Buddha, the foinest
man that iver lived, because he showed us the way te attain Nirvana,
which is te say hiven. He was no god, but a man loike the rist of us.

“After foive year I was ordayned and foive more I was tachin’ th’ ither
novices and the childr’, the Tavoy monistary bein’ the big school of
Rhangoon. Thin I was made an ilder, thin the abbot of the monistary,
thin after fifteen year, the bishop, as ye wud call it, of Rhangoon. Th’
abbots and the bishops have no nade te tache, but, bless ye, I’m tachin’
yit, it bein’ me duty te give te ithers of the thrue faith what I’ve

“’Tis the bishop’s place te travel, and in these six years gone I’ve
visited ivery blessed Buddhist kingdom in Asia, from Japan te Caylon;
and I was in Lhassa talkin’ with the delai lama long before Yoonghusband
wud have dared te show his face there. There’s niver a Buddhist king nor
prince thot hasn’t traited me loike wan uv them, though they’d have cut
the throats of iny ither European. I’m comin’ back now from three months
with the prince uv Naypal, taychin’ his priests, him givin’ me the
ticket te Chittagong.”

“But if you can’t touch money?—” I began.

“In haythen lands we can carry enough te buy our currie and rhice. I
hove here three rupees,”—drawing out a knotted handkerchief from the
folds of his robe—“if there’s a anna of it lift whin I land in Burma,
I’ll give it te the foirst biggar te ask me. In Buddhist cuntries the
blessed people give us what we nade, as they’ll give it te inywan ilse
thot’s nadin’ it. They’re no superstitious, selfish bastes loike these
dhirty Hindus. Whin we come te Chittagong ye can stop with me. Thin I’ll
give ye a chit te the Tavoy in Rhangoon and ye can stay there as long as
iver ye loike. If iver ye have no place te put oop in a Buddhist town,
go te the monistary. And if ye till them ye know me, see how foine ye’ll
be traited.”

“Aye, but we’d have to know your name,” I suggested.

“As I was goin’ te tell ye, it’s U (oo) Damalaku.”

“Don’t sound Irish,” I remarked.

“No, indade,” laughed the priest, “that’s me Buddhist name. The ould wan
was Larry O’Rourke.”

“Ye call thot graft, you and yer loikes,” he concluded, turning to Rice,
“givin’ oop yer name and yer hair and a foine mustache, and yer clothes,
an’ ownin niver a anna, and havin’ yer ouwn ignerant rhace laughin’ at
ye, and havin’ yer body burned be the priests whin yer born agin in
anither wan! But it’s the thrue philosophy, bless ye, and the roight way
te live. Why is it the white min thot come out here die in tin year?
D’ye think it’s the climate? Bless ye, no, indade, it’s the sthrong
dhrink and the women. Luk at me. Wud ye think I was fifty-five if I
hadn’t told ye?”

He was, certainly, the picture of health; deeply tanned, but with the
clear eye and youthful poise of a man twenty years younger. Only one
hardship, apparently, had he suffered during two decades of the yellow
robe. His feet were broad and stumpy to the point of deformity, heavily
calloused, and deeply scarred from years of travel over many a rough and
stony highway.

“It’s a strange story,” said James.

“I’m askin’ no wan te take me word in this world of liars,” responded
the Irishman, somewhat testily. “Here ye have the proof.”

He thrust a hand inside his robe and, drawing out a small, fat book,
laid it in my lap. It contained more than a hundred newspaper clippings,
bearing witness to the truth of nearly every assertion he had made. The
general trend of all may be gleaned from one article, dated four years
earlier. In it the reader was invited to compare the receptions tendered
Lord Curzon and the Irish Buddhist in Mandalay. The viceroy, in spite of
months of preparation for his visit, had been received coldly by all but
the government officials. Damalaku had been welcomed by the entire
population, and had walked from the landing stage to the monastery,
nearly a half-mile distant, on a roadway carpeted with the hair of the
female inhabitants, who knelt in two rows, foreheads to the ground, on
either side of the route, with their tresses spread out over it.

When he had despatched a Gargantuan bowl of curry and rice in
anticipation of eighteen hours of fasting, the Irishman drew us around
him once more and began a long dissertation on the philosophy of Buddha.
Two morning trains had poured a multicolored rabble into the mud
village, and the deck of the steamer was crowded with natives huddled
together in close-packed groups, each protected from pollution by a
breastwork of bedraggled bundles. Newcomers picked their way gingerly
through the network of alleyways between the isolated tribes, holding
their garments—when such they wore—close round them, and joined the
particular assembly to which their caste assigned them. The Irishman, at
first the butt of Hindu stares, was soon surrounded by an excited throng
of Burmese travelers.

As the afternoon wore on a diminutive Hindu, of meek and childlike
countenance, appeared on board, and, hobbling in and out through the
alleyways on a clumsily-fitted wooden leg, fell to distributing the
pamphlets that he carried under one arm. His dress stamped him as a
native Christian missionary. Suddenly, his eye fell on Damalaku, and he
stumped forward open-mouthed.

“What are you, sahib?” he murmured in a wondering tone of voice.

“As you see,” replied the Irishman, “I am a Buddhist priest.”

“Bu—but what country do you come from?”

“I am from Ireland.”

Over the face of the native spread an expression of suffering, as if the
awful suspicion that the missionaries to whom he owed his conversion had
deceived him, were clutching at his heartstrings.

“Ireland?” he cried, tremulously, “Then you are not a Buddhist! Irishmen
are Christians. _All_ sahibs are Christians,” and he glanced nervously
at the grinning Burmese about us.

“Yah! Thot’s what the Christian fakers tell ye,” snapped the Irishman.
“What’s thot ye’ve got?”

The Hindu turned over several of the tracts. They were separate books of
the Bible, printed in English and Hindustanee.

“Bah!” said Damalaku, “It’s bad enough to see white Christians. But the
man who swallows all the rot the sahib missionaries dish oop fer him,
whin the thrue faith lies not a day’s distance, is disgoostin’. Ye shud
be ashamed of yerself.”

“It’s a nice religion,” murmured the convert.

“Prove it,” snapped the Irishman.

The Hindu accepted the challenge, and for the ensuing half-hour we were
witnesses of the novel spectacle of a sahib stoutly defending the faith
of the East against a native champion of the religion of the West.
Unfortunately, he of the wooden leg was no match for the learned bishop.
He began with a parrot-like repetition of Christian catechisms and,
having spoken his piece, stood helpless before his adversary. A school
boy would have presented the case more convincingly. The Irishman, who
knew the Bible by heart, evidently, from Genesis to Revelations, quoted
liberally from the Scriptures in support of his arguments, and, when the
Hindu questioned a passage, caught up one of the pamphlets and turned
without the slightest hesitation to the page on which it was set forth.

Entangled in a network of texts and his own ignorance, the native soon
became the laughing-stock of the assembled Burmese. He attempted to
withdraw from the controversy by asserting that he spoke no English.
Damalaku addressed him in Hindustanee. He pretended even to have
forgotten his mother tongue, and snatched childishly at the pamphlets in
the hands of the priest. When all other means failed, he fell back on
the final subterfuge of the Hindu—and began to weep. Amid roars of
laughter he clutched the tracts that the Irishman held out to him and,
with tears coursing down his cheeks, hobbled away, looking neither to
the right nor left until he had disappeared in the mud village.

The steamer put off an hour later and, winding in and out among the
tortuous channels of the delta, landed us at sundown in Chandpore, a
replica of Goalando. Our passage—for the captain had refused to “slip”
us—had reduced our combined fortunes to less than one fare to
Chittagong. We scrambled with the native throng up the slimy bank to the
station, resolved to attempt the journey without tickets. It lacked an
hour of train time.

“Will you take this to Chittagong?” I asked, thrusting the carpetbag
into the hands of the Irish bishop. “We’re going to beat it.”

“Sure,” replied the priest, “it shud be easy be night with this crowd.”

It soon became apparent, however, that some tattling Hindu had warned
the railway officials against us. As we strolled along the platform,
peering casually into the empty compartments and striving to assume the
air of men of unlimited means, the station-master emerged from his
office and fell into step with us.

“The evening breeze is very pleasant, is it not, sahibs?” he murmured,
smiling benignly.

“Damn hot,” growled James.

“The gentlemen are going by the train?”


“There will be many people go to Chittagong. Much nicer if the sahibs
buy their tickets early.”

“We bought tickets in Goalando,” I answered.

“Ah! Just so,” smiled the babu, but the smile suggested that he knew as
well as we the destination of those Goalando tickets.

He dropped gradually behind and was swallowed up in the crowd. Rumor
runs with incredible swiftness among the Hindus, and the natives who
stepped aside to let us pass stared suspiciously at us. We turned back
at the end of the platform to find a police officer strolling along a
few paces in the rear, ostensibly absorbed in the study of the
firmament. Three others flitted in and out among the travelers. The
police of Chandpore could not, of course, arrest us, could not, indeed,
keep us out of any compartment we chose to enter. But well we knew that,
if they reported us on board, the station-master would hold the train
until we dismounted, were it not till morning.

We strolled haughtily past the baggage-car and dodged around to the
other side of the train. Here in the darkness it should be easy to
escape observation. Barely three steps had we taken, however, when we
ran almost into the arms of a native sentry, and his cry was answered by
at least three others out of the night. The coaches were well guarded

“The nerve o’ that damn babu!” exploded Rice, “thinkin’ he can keep
you’n me, what’s got away from half the yard bulls in the States, from
holdin’ down his two-fer-a-nickle train! Bet he never heard of a hobo.
Come on! We’ll put James onto the ropes an’ do it in Amurican style.
It’ll be like takin’ cowries away from a blind nigger baby wid

We returned to the station to glance at the clock. Rice, in his scorn,
could not refrain from making a pair of ass’s ears at the astonished
babu. With a half hour to spare, we struck off through the bazaars and,
munching as we went, picked our way along the track to a box-car a
furlong from the station. In an American railroad yard the detectives
would have been thickest at this vantage-point, but the babu knew naught
of the ways of hoboes.

A triumphant screech from the engine put an end to James’ schooling;
and, as the silhouette of the fireman before the open furnace door sped
by, we darted out of our hiding place. The Australian, urged on by our
bellowing, dived at an open window and dragged himself onto the
running-board. We swung up after him, and making our way forward,
entered an empty compartment.

“Well, we made her,” gasped James, throwing aside his topee and mopping
his face, “but what about the collectors?”

“Yah! There’s the trouble,” scowled Rice.

“The only game,” I answered, “is to refuse to wake up.”

“Fine!” cried the Chicago lad, “that’s the best scheme yet.”

I thought so too—until later.

We had slept two hours, perhaps, possibly three, when our dreams were
disturbed by the thump of a ticket-punch on the window-sill and the
unmistakable dulcet of a Eurasian:—

“Tickets, please, sahibs. Give me your tickets.”

We lay on our backs, imperturbable.

“Tickets, sahibs!” shrieked the Eurasian.

James was snoring lightly and peacefully; Rice, with long-drawn snarls,
like the death-rattle of a war-horse, as if striving not merely to
deceive the collector but to frighten him off.

“Tickets, I say, sahibs, tickets!”

The voice was high-pitched now, and the rapping of the punch echoed back
to us from the station building. Three more collectors joined their
colleague and murderously assaulted the car door.

“Hello there! Tickets! It’s the collector! Wake up! _Tickets!_”

The uproar drowned the mumble in which Rice cursed the unusual length of
the train’s halt. An official thrust an arm through the open window and
shook me savagely. The others, bellowing angrily, followed his example,
and rolled us back and forth on the hard benches. The helmet that had
shaded my eyes rolled to the floor. Rice, who had lain down, as he
afterward expressed it, “wrong end to,” was caught by the ankle and
dragged to the window. Still we slumbered.

Suddenly the uproar subsided.

“What’s this?” cried a sterner voice outside.

I opened my eyes ever so slightly and caught a fleeting glimpse of a
Eurasian in the uniform of a station-master.

“Let them alone,” he ordered, “they’ve had too much arrack. No matter if
their tickets are not punched at every station.”

The train started with a jerk, the station lights faded, and we sat up

“Worked like a charm,” chuckled James.

“Thought it would,” I answered.

“Great!” grinned Rice, “Wouldn’t go in the States, though;” and we lay
down again.

Three more times during the night we were assaulted by a force of
collectors, but slumbered peacefully on. When I awoke again it was broad
daylight. The train was speeding along through unpeopled jungle.
Evidently it was behind time, or we should long since have reached
Chittagong. James stirred on his bench, sat up, and took to filling his
pipe. Rice opened his eyes a moment later and fished through his pockets
for the “makings” of a cigarette. I took seat at the window and stared
ahead for signs of the seaport.

Suddenly a white mile-post flashed by, and my shout of astonishment
brought James and Rice to their feet in alarm. My eyes had deceived me,
perhaps, but I fancied the stone had borne three figures. We crowded
together and waited anxiously for the next.

“There it is!” cried my companions, in chorus. “Two hundred and

“Two hundred and seventy-three miles?” shrieked James. “The whole run to
Chitty’s not half that far! Soorah Budjah! Where have we been snaked off

“Let’s see whether we’re going or coming,” I suggested.

“Two hundred and seventy-four!” bellowed Rice, who was riding half out
the window, “An’ they ain’t no dot between ’em! We’re goin’, all right!”

“Oh Lord! And all our swag!” groaned James.

Still it was possible that the posts indicated the distance to some
other city than Chittagong, and we sat down and waited anxiously until
the train drew up at the next station. It was nothing more than a bamboo
hamlet in the wilderness. We sprang out and hurried towards the babu

“How soon do we get to Chittagong?” I demanded.

“Chittagong!” gasped the babu. “Why, you going wrong, sahibs. Chittagong
two hundred and eighty miles down there,” and he pointed along the track
the way we had come.

“Then why the deuce did they let us take this train?” shouted James.
“Where is it going, anyway?”

“This train going in Assam,” replied the native, “Where gentlemen coming
from? Sure you wishing go Chittagong? Let me see tickets.”

“Oh, we know where we want to go, all right,” said James, hastily.
“We’re coming from Chandpore.”

“Ah! Chandpore!” smiled the babu. “I understand. Train from Chandpore
breaking in two thirty miles further. Part going to Chittagong, part
coming here. You sitting in wrong car. Maybe you sleep?” “But,” he
added, as a puzzled frown passed over his face, “many collectors are at
this junction. Why they have not wake you?”

“That’s what I’d like to know,” bellowed Rice. “This is a thunder of a

The shriek of a locomotive sounded, and a moment later a south-bound
train drew up on the switch.

“This train going in Chittagong,” said the babu, “you can go with it.”

“Do you think we’re going to pay our fare for two hundred and eighty
miles,” demanded James, “just because the collectors didn’t tell us to

“Oh, no, sahibs,” breathed the babu, “I will tell it to the guard. Let
me take tickets that I show him.”

“But we’ll have to hurry or we’ll miss her,” said James, starting
towards the side-tracked train.

“Oh, plenty time,” murmured the babu, “Let me take tickets;” and he
stretched out a hand.

Apparently it had come to a “show down.”

“Holy cats!” screamed Rice, suddenly springing into the air. “I remember
now! I had all the bloody tickets in my pocket, and when the collector
hollered fer ’em I give ’em to him. But I went to sleep an’ he never
give ’em back.”

“Very poor collector,” condoled the babu, “but, never mind, I will tell
to the guard how it is.”

The north-bound train pulled out and he stepped across the track to
chatter a moment in excited Hindustanee with a uniformed half-breed.

“Ah! Very nice!” he smiled, coming back, “On this train is riding the
sahib superintendent. You telling him and he tell you what do.”

Our jaws fell. No doubt it seemed “very nice” to the babu, but had we
suspected that there was an Englishman within a hundred miles of where
we stood, Rice certainly would have invented no such tale. It was too
late to retract, however, and the Chicago lad, as the author of the
story and the only one familiar with its details, crossed to the
first-class coach. At his first words, a burly Englishman, dressed in
light khaki, opened the door of a compartment and stepped down to the

“It’s all off,” muttered James.

But the Englishman listened gravely, nodded his head twice or thrice,
and pointed towards a third-class coach.

“Didn’t call me a liar an’ didn’t say he believed me,” explained Rice,
when the compartment door had closed behind us. “Says he’ll look into
the matter when we get back to the junction. I see somethin’ doin’ when
we land there.”

Late in the afternoon the train drew up at the scene of our pummelling
the night before, and the Englishman led the way to the station-master’s
quarters. That official, however, was as certain as we that no tickets
for Chittagong had been taken up.

“Three sahibs have gone through in the night,” asserted his assistant,
“but with much noise we have not made them awake. Certainly our
collectors do not take up Chittagong tickets here.”

“You see how it is, my men?” said the superintendent, “If they had been
taken up he would have them.”

“By thunder,” shouted Rice, “I’ll bet a pack o’ Sweet-Caps the guy that
took ’em was no collector at all. He was some bloomin’ nigger that
wanted to take his family to Chittagong.”

“It is possible,” replied the Englishman, as gravely as though he were
discussing a philosophical problem, “but the company does not guarantee
travelers against theft. As we have found no trace of the tickets you
will have to pay your fare to Chittagong.”

“We can’t!” cried the three of us, in chorus. On that point we could
second Rice without feeling a prick of conscience.

“Yes,” murmured the superintendent, as if he had not heard, “you will
have to pay.”

He took a turn about the platform.

“But we’re busted!” we wailed, when he again stopped before us.

“Get into your compartment,” he said, quietly. “I will wire the agent at
Chittagong to collect three fares.”

“I tell you we haven’t got—”

But he was already out of earshot. No doubt he was convinced that with
time for reflection we should be able to unearth several rupees which we
had forgotten. Certainly he did not believe that white men would venture
into that wilderness without money—no Englishman of his class would.

Dark night had fallen when we alighted at Chittagong. A babu agent
awaited us, telegram in hand. Luckily, his superior, an Englishman, had
retired to his bungalow. The Hindu led the way to a lighted window and
read the message aloud. It was a curt order to collect three fares, with
never a hint of the unimportant detail we had confided to the

The agent, of course, would not be convinced of our indigency. To our
every protest he replied unmoved:—

“But you must pay, sahibs.”

“You bloody fool!” shrieked Rice, “How can we pay when we’re busted?”

“You may not pass through the gates until you have paid,” returned the

“All right,” said James, wearily, “we won’t. Show us where we’re going
to sleep and send up supper.”

The shot told. The babu unfolded the telegram meditatively and backed up
to the window to read it again. He scratched his head in perplexity,
stood now on one leg, now on the other, and stared from us to the paper
in his hand. Then he trudged down the platform to seek advice of the
baggage master, paused to chatter with the telegraph operator, and
returned to the truck on which we were seated.

“Oh, sahibs,” he wailed, “we have not food and to sleep in the station,
and the superintendent has not said what I shall do. But you will give
me your names to write, and to-morrow you will come back and pay the
fares; and if you do not, I will send your names to the superintendent—”

“And he can have ’em framed and hung up in his bungalow,” concluded
James. “Sure! You can have all the names you want.”

We gave them and turned away, pausing at the gate to ask the collector
to direct us to the Buddhist monastery. He chuckled at the fancied joke
and refused for some time to take our question seriously.

“It is very far,” he answered at last. “You are going through the town,
making many turns, and through the forest and over the hill before you
are coming to it by the crossroads.”

In spite of these explicit directions we wandered a full two hours along
soft roadways and over rolling hillocks without locating the object of
our search. Pedestrians listened respectfully to our inquiries, but
though we used every word in our Oriental vocabularies that could in any
way be applied to a religious edifice, they shook their heads in
perplexity. One spot at the intersection of two roads seemed to answer
vaguely to the collector’s description, but it was surrounded on every
side by dense groves in which there was no sound of human occupancy.

We were passing it for the fourth time when a gruff voice sounded from
the edge of the woods and a native policeman, toga-clad and armed with a
musket, stepped towards us. His face was almost invisible in the
darkness; the whites of his eyes, gleaming plainly, gave him the uncanny
appearance of a masked figure.

“Buddha!” cried James, with a sweeping gesture, “Boodha, Buddhaha,
Boodista? Buddha sahib keh bungalow kéhdereh?”

The officer shivered and peered nervously about him, like one convinced
of the white man’s power over hobgoblins. As we turned away, however, he
uttered a triumphant shout and dashed off into the forest. A moment
later the sound of human voices came to us from the depth of the grove;
a light flashed through the trees, swung to and fro as it advanced; and
out of the woods, a lantern high above their heads, strode three
yellow-robed figures.

“Bless me!” cried the tallest, in stentorian tones, “It’s the’
Americans! Where in the name uv white min have ye been spindin’ the
blessed day? Lucky y’are te foind our house in th’ woods on a black
noight like this. It’s hungry ye’ll be. Come te the monistary.”

He led the way through the forest to a square, one-story building,
flanked by smaller structures; one of a score of native priests set
before us a cold supper of currie and rice, gathered by the novices
early that morning, and a half-hour later we turned in on three charpoys
in a bamboo cottage behind the main edifice.

As the sun was declining the next afternoon we climbed the highest of
the verdure-clad hills on which Chittagong is built, to seek information
from the district commissioner. For the native residents, priest or
layman, knew naught of the route to Mandalay. The governor, aroused from
a Sunday siesta on his vine-curtained veranda, received us kindly, nay,
delightedly, and, having called a servant to minister to our thirst,
went in person to astonish his wife with the announcement of European
callers. That lady, being duly introduced, consented, upon the
solicitation of her husband, to contribute to our entertainment at the

White men come rarely to Chittagong. Chatting, like social equals, with
a district ruler stretched out in a reclining chair between us, we came
near to forgetting for the nonce that we were mere beachcombers.

“And now, of course,” said our host, when James had concluded an
expurgated account of our journey from Calcutta, “you will wait for the
steamer to Rangoon?”

“Why, no, Mr. Commissioner,” I answered, “we’re going to walk overland
to Mandalay, and we took the liberty of calling on you to—”

“Mandalay!” gasped the Englishman, dropping his slippered feet to the
floor, “_Walk_ to Man—Why, my dear fellow, come here a moment.”

He rose and stepped to a corner of the veranda, and, raising an arm,
pointed away to the eastward.

“That,” he said, almost sadly, “is the way to Mandalay. Does that look
like a country to be traversed on foot?”

It did not, certainly. Beyond the river, dotted here and there with
crazy-quilt sails, lay a primeval wilderness. Range after range of bold
hills and mountain chains commanded the landscape, filling the view with
their stern summits until they were lost in the blue and hazy eastern
horizon. At the very brink of the river began a riotous tropical jungle,
covering hill and valley as far as the eye could see, and broken nowhere
in all its extent by clearing or the suggestion of a pathway.

“There,” went on the commissioner, “is one of the wildest regions under
British rule. Tigers abound, snakes sun themselves on every bush, wild
animals lie in wait in every thicket. The valleys are full of
dacoits—savage outlaws that even the government fears; and the spring
freshets have made the mountain streams raging torrents. There is
absolutely nothing to guide you. If you succeeded in traveling a mile
after crossing the river, you would be hopelessly lost; and if you were
not, what would you eat and drink in that wilderness?”

“Why,” said James, “we’d eat the wild animals and drink the mountain
streams. Of course we’d carry a compass. That’s what we do in the
Australian Bush.”

“We thought you might have a map,” I put in.

The commissioner stepped into the bungalow. The music ceased and the
player followed her husband out onto the veranda.

“This,” he said, spreading out a chart he carried, “is the latest map of
the region. You mustn’t suppose, as many people do, that all India has
been explored and charted. You see for yourselves that there is nothing
between Chittagong and the Irawaddy but a few wavy lines to represent
mountain ranges. That’s all any map shows and all any civilized man
knows of that section. Bah! Your scheme is idiotic. You might as well
try to walk to Lhassa.”

He rolled up the map and dropped again into his chair.

“By the way,” he asked, “where are you putting up in Chittagong?”

“We’re living at the Buddhist monastery,” I answered.

“What!” he shouted, springing up once more. “In the Buddhist monastery?
You! White men and Christians? Disgraceful! Why, as the governor of this
district, I forbid it. Why haven’t you gone to the Sailors’ Home?”

“Never imagined for a moment,” I replied, “that there was a Home in a
little port like this.”

“There is, and a fine one,” answered the commissioner, “and just waiting
for someone to occupy it.”

“No place for us,” retorted James. “We’re busted.”

“Nothing to do with it,” cried the Englishman. “Money or no money,
you’ll stop there while you’re here. I’ll write you a chit to the
manager at once.”

Had we rented by cable some private estate we could not have been more
comfortably domiciled than in the Sailors’ Home of Chittagong. The city
itself was a garden-spot, the Home a picturesque white bungalow, set in
the edge of the forest on the river bank. The broad lawn before it was
several acres in extent, the graveled walk led through patches of
brilliant flowers. Within, the building was furnished almost
extravagantly. The library numbered fully a thousand volumes—by no means
confined to the output of mission publishing houses—in one corner were
ranged the latest English and American magazines, their leaves still
uncut. The parlor was carpeted with mats, the dining-room furnished with
punkahs. In the recreation room, instead of a dozen broken and greasy
checkerboards, stood a pool-table, and—_comble de combles_—a piano!

Three native servants, housed in an adjoining cottage, were at our beck
and call. For, though weeks had passed since the Home had sheltered a
guest, everything was as ready for our accommodation as though the
manager—for once a babu—had been living in daily expectation of our

An hour after our installation, we were reclining in veranda chairs with
our feet on the railing, watching the cook in hot pursuit of one of the
chickens that was doomed to appear before us in the evening currie, when
a white man turned into the grounds and advanced listlessly, swinging
his cane and striking off a head here and there among the tall flowers
that bordered the route. Once in the shade of the bungalow, he sprang up
the steps with outstretched hand, and, having vociferated his joy at the
meeting, sat down beside us. Whatever other vocation he professed, he
was a consummate storyteller, and entertained us with tales of frontier
life until the shades of night fell. Suddenly, he interrupted a story at
its most interesting point to cry out, à propos of nothing at all:—

“The commissioner sent for me this afternoon.”

“That so?” queried James.

“Yes, he thinks you fellows are going to start to Mandalay on foot.
Mighty good joke, that,” and he fell to chuckling, glancing askance at
us the while.

“No joke at all,” I protested. “We _are_ going on foot, just as soon as
we can find the road.”

“Don’t try it!” cried the Englishman, raising his cane aloft to
emphasize his warning. “I haven’t introduced myself. I am chief of
police for Chittagong. The commissioner has given orders that you must
not go. The force has been ordered to watch you, the boatmen forbidden
to row you across the river. Don’t try it, or my department will be
called in,” and with that he dropped the subject abruptly and launched
forth into another yarn.

Late that night, when Rice had been prevailed upon to leave off pounding
atrocious discords on the piano, we made a startling discovery. There
was not a bed in the Home! While James hurried off to rout out a
servant, we of “the States” went carefully through each room with the
parlor lamp, peering under tables and opening drawers in the hope of
finding at least a ship’s hammock. We were still engaged in the search
when the Australian returned with a frightened native, who assured us
that we were wasting our efforts. There had never been a bed nor a
charpoy in the Home. Just why, he could not say. Probably because the
manager babu had forgotten to get them. Other sailor sahibs had slept,
he knew not where, but they had made no protest.

It was too late to appeal to the manager babu to correct his oversight.
We turned in side by side on the pool table and took turns in falling
off at regular intervals through the night.

With the first grey of dawn we slipped out the back door of the bungalow
and struck off through the forest towards the uninhabited river bank
beyond. For in spite of the warning of the chief of police and Rice’s
protest that we should “hold down such a swell joint” as long as
possible, we had decided by majority vote to attempt the overland

To elude the police force was easy; to escape the jungle, quite a
different matter. A full two hours we tore our way through the
undergrowth along the river without finding a single break in the sheer
eastern bank that we should have dared to swim for. Rice grew petulant,
our appetites aggressive, and we turned back promising ourselves to
continue the search for a route on the following day.

The servants at the Home, knowing the predeliction of sahibs for morning
strolls, greeted our return with grinning servility and an ample _chotah
hazry_. While we were eating, the chief of police bounded into the room
with a new story and the information that the commissioner wished to see
us at once; and bounded away again, protesting that he was being worked
to death.

In his bungalow on the hilltop, the ruler of the district was pacing
back and forth between obsequious rows of secretaries and assistants.

“I have given orders that you are not to start for Mandalay,” he began,
without preliminary.

“And how the deuce will we get out any other way?” demanded James.

“If you were killed in the jungle,” went on the governor, as if he had
heard nothing, “your governments would blame me. But, of course, I have
no intention of keeping you in Chittagong. I have arranged, therefore,
with the agents of the weekly steamer to give you deck passages, with
European food, to Rangoon. Apply to them at once and be ready to start
to-morrow morning.”

This proposition found favor with James, and with two against me I was
forced to yield or be unfaithful to our partnership. We returned to the
monastery that afternoon to bid the Irish bishop farewell and to get the
note that he had promised us. In a blinding tropical shower we were
rowed out to the steamer _Meanachy_ next morning and for four days
following lolled about the winch, on the drum of which the Chinese
steward served our “European chow.” The steamer drifted slowly down the
eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal, touching at Akyab, and, rounding the
delta of the Irawaddy on the morning of May thirteenth, dropped anchor
three hours later in the harbor of Rangoon.

                             CHAPTER XVIII
                          THE LAND OF PAGODAS

Somewhat back from the wharves, yet within earshot of the cadenced song
of stevedores and coal-heavers, stand two shaded bungalows, well-known
among the inhabitants of the metropolis of Burma. The larger is the
Sailors’ Home, the less important the Seamen’s Mission. Rangoon, it
transpired, was suffering a double visitation of beachcombers and the
plague. The protest of the managers of both mariners’ institutions, that
they were already “full up with dead ones,” gave us small grief. For
were we not sure of admission to a more interesting residence? But there
was real cause for wailing in the assurance of the cosmopolitan band who
listened to the tale of our “get-away” from Calcutta, that we had fallen
on one of the least auspicious ports in the Orient.

There was work ashore for all hands, white or brown, for the servants of
the plague doctors had daubed on house-walls throughout the city the
enticing offer:—“Dead Rats—Two pice each.” But even the penniless
seamen, who had learned during long enforced residence in the Burmese
capital that their services were useful in no other field, scorned to
turn terriers.

It was my bad fortune to reach Rangoon a bit too late to be greeted by
an old acquaintance.

“Up to tree day ago,” cried one of the band at the Home, “dere was one
oder Yank on der beach here, ja. Min he made a pier’ead yump by er tramp
tru der Straits.”

“That so?” I queried.

“Aye,” put in another of the boys, “’e was a slim chap with a bloody lot
of mouth, always looking fer a scrap, but keepin’ ’is weather-eye peeled
fer the Bobbies.”

“Bet a hat,” I shouted, “that I knew him. Wasn’t his name Haywood?”

“Dick ’Aywood, aye,” answered the tar; “leastway that was the ’andle ’e
went by. But ’e’s off now fer good, an’ bloody glad we are to be clear
of ’im.”

We struck off through the city, taking leave of Rice before the door of
the first European official whose beneficence he chose to investigate.
The native town, squatting on the flat plain along the river, was
reminiscent of the Western world. Its streets were wide and parallel, as
streets should be, no doubt, yet lacking the picturesqueness of narrow,
meandering passageways, so common elsewhere in the Orient. Sidewalks
were there none, of course. Pedestrians mingled with vehicles and
disputed the way with laden animals and human beasts of burden. Before
and behind, on either side, as far as the eye could see, stretched
unbroken vistas of heterogeneous wares and yawning shopkeepers. For to
the Burman no other vocation compares with that of merchant. A flat city
it was, with small, two-story hovels for the most part, above which
gleamed a few golden pagodas.

In the suburbs the scene was different. Vine-grown bungalows and squat
barracks littered a rolling, lightly-wooded country that sloped away to
a clear-cut horizon. Here and there shimmered a sun-flecked lake; along
umbrageous highways strolled khaki-clad mortals with white faces and a
familiar vocabulary. High above all else, as the Eiffel tower over
Paris, soared the pride of Burma, the Shwe Dagón pagoda.

We climbed the endless vaulted stairway to the sacred hilltop, in
company with hundreds of natives bearing their shoes, when such they
possessed, in their hands, and amid the bedlam of clamoring hawkers. Now
and again a pious pilgrim glanced at our rough-shod feet, but smiled
indulgently and passed us by. The village of shrines at the summit of
the knoll was an animated bazaar, stocked with every devotional
requisite from bottled arrack to pet snakes. Even the tables of the
money-changers and the desks of the scribes were not lacking to complete
the picture.

Barefooted worshipers, male and female, wandered among the glittering
topes, setting up candles or spreading out lotus blossoms before the
serene-visaged statues; kowtowing now and then, but puffing incessantly,
one and all, at long native cigars. Near the mouth of the
humanity-belching stairway creaked a diminutive clothes-reel
overburdened with such booty as the red-man, returned from a scalping
expedition, hangs over the entrance to his wigwam. While we marveled, a
panting matron with close-cropped head pushed past us and added to the
display a switch of oily, jet-black hair. Her prayer had been granted
and the shorn locks bore witness to her gratitude.

Shrines and topes were but doll-houses compared with the central mass of
masonry, towering upward to neck-craning height and covered with
untarnished gold from tapering apex to swollen base. It was a monument
all too brilliant in the blazing sunlight. Tiny pagodas floated before
our eyes as we glanced for relief into the deep shadows of the
encircling sanctuaries. Burmen from the sea to the sources of the
Irawaddy are inordinately proud of the Shwe Dagón. Its destruction, they
are convinced, would bring national disaster in its train. Their rulers
have turned this superstition to account. Down at the edge of the
cantonment below, John Bull has mounted two heavy cannon that are
trained on the pagoda day and night. A brief word of command from the
officer in charge would reduce the sacred edifice to a tumbled mass of
ruins. Ten regiments of red-coats would be far less effective than those
two pieces of ordnance, in maintaining the sahib sway over Burma.

Rice of Chicago scorned to share the simple life among the wearers of
the yellow robe. As the day waned, he joined us at the Home with the
announcement that he had “dug up a swell graft” among the European
residents and, declining to disclose the details thereof, strutted away
towards the harbor.

We set off alone, therefore, the Australian and I, to the monastery that
had witnessed the metamorphosis of the erstwhile Larry O’Rourke. The
far-famed institution occupied an extensive estate flanking Godwin Road,
a broad, shaded thoroughfare leading to the Shwe Dagón. Its grounds were
surrounded by a crumbling wall and a shallow, weed-choked ditch that
could not be styled moat for lack of water. Three badly-warped planks,
nailed together into a drawbridge that would not draw, led through a
breach in the western wall, the main entrance, evidently, for many a

Inside was a teeming village of light, two-story buildings, with deep
verandas above and below, scattered pell-mell about the inclosure as if
they had been constructed in some gigantic carpenter-shop, shipped to
their destination, and left where the expressman had thrown them off.
The irregular plots and courts between them were trodden bare and hard
or were ankle-deep in loose sand. Here and there swayed a tall,
untrimmed tree, but within the area was neither grass nor flower nor
garden patch. For the priest of Buddha, forbidden to kill even a grub or
an earthworm, may not till the soil about his dwelling.

[Illustration: Bungalows along the way in rural Burma]

[Illustration: Women of the Malay Peninsula wear nothing above the
waist-line and not much below it]

The surrounding town was no more densely populated than the monastery
village. Besides a small army of servants, male and female, in layman
garb, there were yellow-robed figures everywhere. Wrinkled, sear-faced
seekers after Nirvana squatted in groups on the verandas, poring over
texts in the weak light of the dying day. More sprightly priests,
holding a fold of their gowns over an arm, strolled back and forth
across the barren grounds. Scores of novices, small boys and youths,
saffron-clad and hairless like their elders, flitted in and out among
the buildings, shouting gleefully at their games.

We turned to the first bungalow, a servants’ cottage evidently; for
there were both men and women and no shaven polls in the group that
crowded the veranda railing. Twice we addressed them in English, once in
Hindustanee; but the only response was a babel of strange words that
rose to an uproar. The women screamed excitedly, the men shouted
half-angrily, half-beseechingly and motioned to us to be off. As we
mounted the steps the shrieking folk took to their heels and tumbled
through the doors of the cottage, or over the ends of the veranda,
leaving only a few decrepit crones and grandsires to keep us company.

Here was no such welcome as the Irishman had prophesied; but first
impressions count for little in the Orient, and we sat down to await
developments. For a time the driveling ancients stared vacantly upon us,
mumbling childishly to themselves. Then there arose a chorus of excited
whispers; around the corners of the bungalow peered gaping brown faces
that disappeared quickly when we made the least movement. At last a
native whom we had not seen before advanced bravely to the foot of the

“Goo’ evening,” he stammered, “will you not go way? There is not plague
in the monastery.”

“Eh!” cried James, “We’d be more like to go if there was.”

“But are the sahibs not doctors?” queried the Burman.

The suggestion set the Australian choking with laughter.

“Doctors!” I gasped, “We’re sailors, and we were sent by Damalaku.”

The babu uttered a mighty shout and dashed up the steps. The fugitives
swarmed upon the veranda from all sides and crowded around us, laughing
and chattering.

“They all running way when you coming,” explained the spokesman,
“because they thinking you plague doctors and they ’fraid.”

“Of what?” asked James.

“Sahib doctors feel all over,” shuddered the babu, “not nice.”

Our errand explained, the interpreter set off to announce our arrival to
the head priest, and the grinning servants squatted in a semicircle
about us. Suddenly James raised a hand and pointed towards the breach in
the wall.

“Seems other beachcombers know this graft,” he laughed.

A burly negro, dressed in an old sweater of the White Star line and the
rags and tatters of what had once been overalls and jumper, stepped into
the inclosure. Anxious to make a favorable impression at the outset, he
had halted in the street to remove his shoes, and, carrying them in one
hand, he shuffled through the sand in his bare feet, about the ankles of
which clung the remnants of a bright red pair of socks. In color, he was
many degrees darker than the Burmese; and the apologetic, almost
penitent mien with which he approached struck the assembled natives as
so incongruous in one attired as a European that they greeted him with
roars of laughter. When he addressed them in English they shrieked the
louder, and left him to stand contritely at the foot of the steps until
we, as the honored guests of the evening, had been provided for. There
is needed more than the whiteman’s tongue and garb to be accepted as a
sahib in British-India.

The babu returned, and, bidding us follow, led the way back into the
village and up the out-door stairway of one of the largest bungalows.
Inside, under a sputtering torch, squatted an aged priest of sour and
leathery countenance. He squinted a moment at us in silence, and then
demanded, through the interpreter, an account of our meeting with
Damalaku. We soon convinced him that the note was no forgery. He
dismissed us with a grimace that might have been expressive either of
mirth or annoyance, and the babu set off towards a neighboring bungalow.

“You are sleeping in here,” he said, stopping several paces from the
cottage, “Goo’ night.”

“Thunder!” muttered James, as we started to mount the steps to a
deserted veranda, “He might, at least, have told ’em what we want. If
there’s anything I hate, it’s talking to natives on my fingers and
listening to their jabber all the evening without an interpreter. He—”

“Hello, Jack!” shouted a voice above us, “Where the blazes did you come

We fell back in astonishment and looked up. Framed in the doorway of the
brightly-lighted bungalow stood a white priest.

“Englishmen?” he queried.

“I’m American,” I apologized.

“The thunder you are!” cried the priest, “So’m I. On the beach, eh?”

“Yep,” I answered.

“Well, come up on deck, mates. But first,” he added hastily, in more
solemn tones, “in respect for the revered Buddha and his disciples, take
off your shoes down there.”

“And socks?” I asked, struggling with a knot in one of my laces.

“Naw,” returned the priest, “just the kicks.”

We crossed the veranda and, having deposited our shoes in a sort of
washtub outside the door, followed the renegade inside.

The typical Indian bungalow is a very simple structure. The Oriental
carpenter considers his task finished when he has thrown together—if the
actions of so apathetic a workman may be so described—a frame-work of
light poles, boarded them up on the outside, and tossed a roof of thatch
on top. The interior he leaves to take care of itself, and the result is
a dwelling as rough and ungarnished as an American hay-loft.

The room in which we found ourselves was some twenty feet square and
extremely low of ceiling, its skeleton of unhewn beams all exposed, like
the ribs of a cargo steamer. Two rectangular openings in opposite walls,
innocent of frame or glass, admitted a current of night air that made
the chamber almost habitable. In the center of the floor, which was
polished smooth and shining by the shuffle of bare feet, was a large
grass mat; while beyond, on a low daïs, squatted a gorgeous, life-sized
statue of Buddha.

At the moment of our appearance, a score of native priests were crouched
on as many small mats ranged round the walls. They rose slowly, really
agog with curiosity, yet striving to maintain that phlegmatic air of
indifference that is cultivated among them, and grouped themselves about
us. In the brilliant light cast by several lamps and long rows of
candles before the statue, we had our first clear view of the American
priest. He was tall and thin of figure, yet sinewy, with a suggestion of
hidden strength. His face, gaunt and lantern-jawed, was seared and
weather-beaten and marked with the unmistakable lines of hardships and
dissipation. It was easy to see that he was a recruit from the ranks of
labor. His hands were coarse and disproportionately large. As he moved
they hung half open, his elbows a bit bent, as though he were ready at a
word of command to grasp a rope or a shovel. The rules of the priesthood
had not been framed to enhance his particular style of beauty. A thick
shock of hair would have concealed the displeasing outline of a bullet
head, the yellow robe hung in loose folds about his lank form, his feet
were broad and stub-toed. But it was none of these points in his
physical make-up that caused James to choke with suppressed mirth. A
Buddhist priest, be it remembered, must ever keep aloof from things
feminine. The American had been a sailor, and his bare arms were
tattooed from wrist to shoulder with female figures that would have
outdone those on the raciest posters of a burlesque show!

Our hosts placed mats for us in a corner of the room and brought forth a
huge bowl of rice and a smaller one of blistering currie. While we
scooped up handfuls alternately from the dishes, they squatted on their
haunches close at hand, watching us, it must be admitted, somewhat
hungrily. The American had not yet mastered the native tongue. His
interpreter was a youthful priest who spoke fluent English. With these
two at our elbows, the conversation did not drag. The youth was a human
interrogation point; the convert, for the nonce, a long-stranded mariner
eager for news of the world outside. Were “the boys” still signing on in
Liverpool at three pound ten? Did captains still ship out of Frisco with
shanghaied crews, as of yore? Were the Home in Marseilles and the
Mission in Sydney still closed to beachcombers? Was the Peter Rickmers
still above the waves? His questions fell fast and furious, interspersed
with queries from his companion. Then he grew reminiscent and told us,
in the vocabulary of them that go down to the sea in ships, tales of his
days before the mast and of his uninspiring adventures in distant ports.
For the moment he was plain Jack Tar again, swapping yarns with his

The youth rose at last and laid a hand on the convert’s shoulder. He
started, blinked a moment, and glanced at his brilliant garment. Then he
rose to dignified erectness and stood a moment silent, gazing down upon
us with the half-haughty, half-pitying mien of a true believer
addressing heathen.

“You will excuse us,” he said, in his sacerdotal voice. “It is time for
our evening devotions.”

He moved with the others to the further side of the room, where each of
the band lighted a candle and came to place it on the altar. Then all
knelt on a large mat, sank down until their hips touched their heels
and, with their eyes fixed steadfastly on the serene countenance of the
statue, rocked their bodies back and forth to the time of a chant set up
by one of the youngest priests. It was a half-monotonous wail, rising
and falling in uneven cadence, lacking something of the solemnity of the
chanted Latin of a Catholic office, yet more musical than the three-tone
song of the Arab. One theme, often repeated, grew familiar even to our
unaccustomed ears, a long-drawn refrain ending in:—

                     “Vooráy kalma-á-y s-ă-ă-mée,”

which the swaying group, one and all, caught up from time to time and
droned in deep-voiced chorus.

The worship lasted some twenty minutes. When the American returned to
us, every trace of the seaman—save the tattooing—had disappeared. He was
a missionary now, fired with zeal for the “true faith”; though into his
arguments crept occasionally a suggestion that his efforts were less for
conversion than for self-justification. Now and again he called on his
sponsor in Buddhist lore and ritual to expatiate on the doctrines he was
striving to set forth. The youth needed no urging. He drew a book from
the folds of his gown and, for every point brought up by the American,
read us several pages of dissertations or tales of the miracles
performed by the Wandering Prince.

The hour grew late for beachcombers. A dreadful fear assailed us that
the night would be all sermon and no sleep. We sank into an open-eyed
doze, from which we started up now and then half determined to turn
Buddhists that we might be left in peace. Towards midnight the
propagandists tired of their monologues and rose to their feet. The
white man led the way to a back room, littered with kettles and bowls,
bunches of drying rattan, and all the odds and ends of the
establishment, and pointed out two mats that the servants had spread for
us on the billowy, yet yielding floor of split bamboo.

“Take my tip, mate,” said the Australian, as we lay down side by side,
“that bloke don’t swallow any more of this mess about the transmigration
of souls than I do. Loafing in the shade’s his religion.”

We were awakened soon after daylight by a hubbub of shrill laughter and
shouts behind the bungalow. I rose and peered through a window opening.
In the yard below, a score of boys, some in yellow robes, some in
nothing worth mentioning, were engaged in a game that seemed too
energetic to be of Oriental origin. The players were divided into two
teams; but neither band was limited to any particular part of the field,
and all mingled freely together as they raced about in pursuit of what
seemed at first sight to be a small basket. It was rather, as I made out
when the game ceased an instant, a ball about a foot in diameter, made
of open wickerwork. This the opposing contestants kicked alternately,
sending it high in the air, the only rule of the game being, apparently,
that it should not touch the ground nor any part of the player’s body
above the knees. When this was violated, the offending side lost a

The wiry, brown youths were remarkably nimble in following the ball, and
showed great skill in returning it—no simple matter, for they could not
kick it as a punter kicks a pig-skin without driving their bare toes
through the openings. They struck it instead with the sides of their
feet or—when it fell behind them—with their heels; yet they often kept
it constantly in the air for several minutes. It was a typical Burmese
scene, with more mirth and laughter than one could have heard in a whole
city in the land of the morose and apathetic Hindu.

The servants brought us breakfast. Behind them entered the American
priest. He squatted on the floor before us, but refused to partake,
having risen to gorge himself at the first peep of dawn. Whatever its
original purpose, the rule forbidding wearers of the yellow robe to eat
after noonday certainly makes them early risers.

The meal over, we fished our shoes out of the tub and, promising the
American to return in time for supper and “evening devotions,” turned
away. At the wooden bridge connecting the monastery with the world
outside, we met the foraging party of novices returning from their
morning rounds. Far down the street stretched a line of priests,
certainly sixty in all, each holding in his embrace a huge bowl, filled
to the brim with a strange assortment of native foodstuffs.

“Mate,” said James, later in the morning, as we stood before a world map
in the Sailors’ Home, “it looks to me as if we’d bit off more ’n we can
chew. There’s nothing doing in the shipping line here, and not a show to
earn the price of a deck passage to Singapore. And if we could, it’s a
thunder of a jump from there to Hong Kong.”

“Aye,” put in a grizzled seaman, limping forward, “ye’ll be lucky lads
if ye make yer get-away from Rangoon. But once ye get on the beach in
Singapore, ye’ll die of ould age afore iver ye see ’Ong Kong, if that’s
’ow yer ’eaded. Why mates, that bloody ’ole is alive with beachcombers
that’s been ’ung up there so long they’d not know ’ow to eat with a
knife if iver they got back to God’s country. Take my tip, an’ give ’er
a wide berth.”

“It would seem foolish anyway,” I remarked, addressing James, “to go to
Singapore. It’s a good fifteen degrees south of here, a week of loafing
around on some dirty tub to get there, and a longer jump back up
north—even if we don’t get stuck in the Straits.”

“But what else?” objected James.

“Look how narrow the Malay Peninsula is,” I went on, pointing at the
map. “Bangkok is almost due east of here. We’d save a lot of travel by
going overland, and run no risk of being tied up for months in

“But how?” demanded the Australian.

“Walk, of course.”

The sailors grouped about us burst out in a roar of laughter.

“Aye, ye’d walk across the Peninsula like ye’d swim to Madras,” chuckled
one of them. “It’s bats ye have in yer belfry, from a touch o’ the sun.”

“But Hong Kong,” I began—

“If it’s ’Ong Kong, ye’ll go to Singapore,” continued the seaman, “or
back the other way. There’s no man goes round the world in the north
’emisphere without touching Singapore. Put that down in yer log.”

“If we walk across the Peninsula,” I went on, still addressing James,
“it would—”

“Yes,” put in the “Askins” of the party, “it would be a unique and
onconventional way of committin’ suicide, original, interestin’, maybe
slow, but damn sure.”

“Now look ’ere, lads,” said the old seaman, almost tearfully, “d’ ye
know anything about that country? There’s no wilder savages nowhere than
the Siameese. I know ’em. When I was bo’s’n on a windjammer from the
Straits to China, that’s fourt—fifteen year gone, we was blowed into the
bay an’ put ashore fer water. We rowed by thousands o’ dead babies
floatin’ down the river. We ’adn’t no more ’n stepped ashore when down
come a yelpin’ bunch o’ Siameese, with knives as long as yer arm, an’
afore we could shove off they’d killt my mate an’ another ’and—chopped
’em all to pieces. Them’s the Siameese, an’ the dacoits in the mountains
is worse.”

In short, the suggestion raised such an uproar of derision and chatter
among “the boys” that we were forced to retreat to the street to
continue our planning. For all the raillery, I was still convinced that
the overland trip was possible; necessary, in fact, for there was no
other escape from the city. “The boys” might be right, but there was a
promise of new adventures in the undertaking, and, best of all, the
territory was unknown to beachcombers. For the truest satisfaction of
the Wanderlust is to explore the world by virgin routes and pose as a
bold pioneer in the rendezvous of the “profession” ever after.

James asserted that he was “game for anything,” and, though we had no
intention of quitting Rangoon for a week, we turned our attention at
once to gathering information concerning the route. The task proved
fruitless. Our project was branded idiotic in terms far more cutting
than I had heard even in Palestine and Syria. We appealed to the
American consul; we canvassed half the bungalows in the cantonment and
every European office in the city; we tramped far out past the Gymkana
station to the headquarters of the Geographical Society of Burma, and,
surrounded by excited bands of native clerks, pored over great maps and
folios ten feet square. All to no purpose. The original charts showed
only wavy, brown lines through the heart of the Peninsula; and not a
resident of Rangoon, apparently, had the slightest knowledge of the
territory ten miles east of the city.

Our inquiries ended, as we had dreaded, by attracting the attention of
the police. Late in the afternoon, while we were lounging in the Home,
an Englishman in khaki burst in upon us.

“Are you the chaps,” he began, “who are talking of starting for Bangkok
on foot?”

“We’ve been asking the way,” I admitted.

“Well, save yourselves the trouble,” returned the officer. “There is no
way. The trip can’t be made. You’d be killed sure, and your governments
would come back at us for letting you go. I have orders from the chief
of police that you are not to leave Rangoon except by sea, and I have
warned the patrolmen on the eastern side of the city to head you off.
Thought I’d tell you.”

“Thanks,” said James, “but we’ll hold down Rangoon for a while yet

“Yes, I know,” laughed the Englishman. “So the government is going to
give you a guide to show you the sights. Come in, Pearson!”

“Pearson” entered, grinning. He was a sharp-eyed Eurasian in uniform,
gaunt of face and long of limb. The Englishman took his leave and the
half-breed sat down beside us. When we left the Home he followed us to
the monastery. When we slipped on our shoes next morning, he was waiting
for us at the foot of the steps. He was a pleasant companion and his
stories were well told; but we could no more shake him off than we could
find work in Rangoon. For three days he camped relentlessly on our

“Look here, James,” I protested, as we were breakfasting on Monday
morning, “the longer we hang around Rangoon, the closer we’ll be
watched. If ever we get away, it must be now, before they think we’re

“But Pearson—” began James.

“There’s one scheme that always works with Eurasians,” I answered.

The Australian raised his eyebrows.

“Firewater,” I murmured.

“Swell,” grinned James.

We put the plan into execution at once, halting at the first arrack-shop
beyond the monastery to show the detective our appreciation of his
services. By eight bells he was the most jovial man in Rangoon; by noon
he felt in duty bound to slap on the back every European we encountered.
Luckily, good cheer sells cheaply in Burma, or the project would have
made a serious inroad on our fortune of seven rupees.

We halted, well on in the afternoon, at an eating house hard by the
Chinese temple. The Eurasian, alleging lack of appetite, ignored the
plate of food that was set before him.

“See here, Pearson,” I suggested, “you’ve been sticking close to us for
a long time. The government should be proud of you. But I should think,
after three days, you’d like to get a glimpse of your wife and the

“Yesh, yesh,” cried the half-breed, starting up with a whoop, “I’m close
to ’ome ’ere. I’ll run round a minute. Don’t mind, old fel, eh? I’ll be
back fore you’re ’alf through,” and he stumbled off up the street.

Once he was out of sight, we left our dinner unfinished, and hurried
back to the Home. The manager was sleeping. We laid hold on the knapsack
that we had left in his keeping and struck off through the crowded
native town.

“This is no good,” protested James. “All the streets leading east are

“The railroad to Mandalay isn’t,” I replied. “We’ll run up the line out
of danger, and strike out from there.”

The Australian halted at a tiny drug store, and, arousing the
bare-legged clerk, purchased twenty grains of quinine. “For jungle
fever,” he muttered as he tucked the package away in his helmet. That
was our “outfit” for a journey that might last one month or six. In the
knapsack were two cotton suits and a few ragged shirts. As for weapons,
we had not even a penknife.

Just beyond the drug store we turned a corner and came face to face with
Rice, sauntering along in the shade of the shops as if life were a
perpetual pastime, a huge native cigar stuck in a corner of his frog’s

“We’re off, Chi!” cried James, hardly lessening his pace. “Want to go

“Eh!” gasped our former partner, “Hit the trail? An’ the rains comin’
on? Not on yer tintype. Ye’re bughouse to quit this burg. The graft is
swell, an’ I see yer finish in the jungle.”

“Well, so long,” we called, over our shoulders.

A mile from the Home we entered a small suburban station. The native
policeman strutting up and down the platform eyed us curiously, but
offered no interference. We purchased tickets to the first important
town, and a few moments later were hurrying northward. James settled
back in a corner of the compartment, and fell to singing in sotto voce:—

                    “On the road to Mandalay,
                    “Where the flying fishes play—”

About us lay low, rolling hills, deep green with tropical vegetation.
Behind, scintillated the golden shaft of the Shwe Dagón pagoda, growing
smaller and smaller, until the night, descending swiftly, blotted it
out. We fell asleep, and, awakening as the train pulled into Pegu, took
possession of two wicker chairs in the waiting-room. A babu, sent to
rout us out, murmured an apology when he had noted the color of our
skins, and stole quietly away.

Dawn found us already astir. A fruit-seller in the bazaars, given to
early rising, served us breakfast and we were off; not, however, until
the sun, peering boldly over the horizon, showed us the way, for we had
no other guide to follow.

A sandy highway, placarded the “Toungoo Road,” led forth from the
village, skirting the golden pagoda of Pegu, a rival of the Shwe Dagón;
but soon swung northward, and we struck across an untracked plain. Far
away to the eastward a deep blue range of rugged hills, forerunners of
the wild mountain chains of the peninsula, bounded the horizon; but
about us lay a flat, monotonous stretch of sandy lowlands, embellished
neither by habitation nor inhabitant.

Ten miles of plodding, with never a mud hole in which to quench our
thirst, brought us to a teeming bamboo village hidden away in a tangled
grove. When we had driven off a canine multitude and drunk our fill, we
should have gone on had not a babu pushed his way through the gaping,
beclouted throng and invited us to his bungalow. He was an employé of a
projected railway line from Pegu to Moulmein, even then under
construction, that was to bring him, on the day of its completion, the
coveted title of station-master. In anticipation of that honor he had
already donned a brilliant uniform of his own designing, the sight of
which filled his fellow townsmen with unutterable awe.

We squatted with him on the floor of his open hut and dispatched a
dinner of rice, fruit, and bread-cakes—and red ants; no Burmese lunch
would be complete without the latter. When we offered payment for the
meal, the babu rose up chattering with indignation and would not be
reconciled until we had patted him on the back and hidden our puerile
fortune from view.

Railways are strictly handmade in Burma. Within hail of the village
appeared the first mound of earth, its summit some feet above the
high-water mark of flood time; and a few miles beyond we came upon a
construction gang at work. There were neither steam cranes, “slips,” nor
“wheelers” to scoop up the earth of the paddy-fields. Of the band, full
three hundred strong, a few toiled with shovels in the shallow trenches;
the others swarmed up the embankment in endless file, carrying flat
baskets of earth on their heads. They were Hindus, one and all, of both
sexes; for the Burman scorns coolie labor. The workers toiled steadily,
mechanically, though ever at a snail’s pace, and the basketfuls fell too
rapidly to be counted. But many thousands raised the mound only an inch
higher; and, where the grading had but begun, one day’s labor did not
suffice to cover the short grass.

Beyond, were other gangs and between them deserted trenches and sections
of embankment. The dyke was not continuous. The company sub-let the
grading by the cubic yard to dozens of Hindu contractors, each of whom,
having staked out some ten rods along the right of way, threw up a ridge
of the required height and moved on with his band to the head of the
line. Their trenches were sharp-cornered, flat-bottomed, and contained
little pagoda-shaped mounds of earth with a tuft of grass on top, by
which the depth could be estimated.

Early in the afternoon we came upon a small, sluggish stream, beyond
which stood a two-story bungalow of unusual magnificence for this corner
of the world. A rope was stretched from shore to shore, and the
primitive ferry to which it was attached was tied up at the western
bank. We boarded the raft and had all but pulled ourselves across when a
greeting in our own tongue drew our attention to the bungalow. On the
veranda stood an Englishman, bareheaded and smiling.

James sprang hastily ashore, leaving me to bring up the rear—and the
knapsack; but at the top of the bank he stopped suddenly and grasped me
by the arm.

“Holy dingoes!” he gasped. “Do my eyes deceive me? I’m a Hottentot if it
isn’t a white woman!”

It was, sure enough. Beside the Englishman stood a youthful memsahib, in
snow-white gown. A millinery shop could not have looked more out of
place in these blistered paddy fields of the Irawaddy delta.

“Trouble you for a drink of water?” I panted, halting in the shade of
the bungalow, which, like all dwellings in this region, stood some eight
feet above the ground, on bamboo stilts.

“A drink of water!” cried the lady, smiling down upon us. “Do you think
we see white men so often that we let them go as easily as that? Come up
here at once.”

“We’re just sitting down to lunch,” said the man. “I had covers laid for
you as soon as you hove in sight.”

“Thanks,” I answered, “we had lunch three hours ago.”

“Great Cæsar! Where?” gasped the Englishman.

“In a bamboo vil—”

“What! Native stuff?” he cried, while the lady shuddered, “With red
ants, eh? Well, then, you’ve been famished for an hour and a half.”

We could not deny it, so we mounted to the veranda.

“Put your luggage in the corner,” said the Englishman. “Do you prefer
lemonade or seltzer?”

I dropped the bedraggled knapsack on the top step and followed my
companion inside. In our vagabond garb, covered from crown to toe with
the dust of the route, the perspiration drawing fantastic arabesques in
the grime on our cheeks, we felt strangely out of place in the
daintily-furnished bungalow. But our hosts would not hear our excuses.
When our thirst had been quenched, we followed the Englishman to the
bathroom to plunge our heads and arms into great bowls of cold water
and, greatly refreshed, took our places at the table.

The Burmese cook who slipped noiselessly in and out of the room was a
magician, surely, else how could he have prepared in this outpost of
civilization such a dinner as he served us—even without red ants? If
conversation lagged, it was chiefly the Australian’s fault. His remarks
were ragged and brief; for, as he admitted later in the day: “It’s so
bloody long since I’ve talked to a white man that I was afraid of making
a break every time I opened my mouth.”

The Englishman was superintendent of construction for the western half
of the line. He had been over the route to Moulmein on horseback, and
though he had never known a white man to attempt the journey on foot, he
saw no reason why we could not make it if we could endure native “chow”
and the tropical sun. But he scoffed at the suggestion that any living
mortal could tramp from Moulmein to Bangkok, and advised us to give up
at once so foolhardy a venture, and to return to Rangoon as we had come.
We would not, and he mapped out on the table-cloth the route to the
frontier town, pricking off each village with the point of his fork.
When we declined the invitation to spend the night in his bungalow, even
his wife joined him in vociferous protest. But we pleaded haste, and
took our leave with their best wishes.

“If you can walk fast enough to reach Sittang to-night,” came the
parting word, “you will find a division engineer who will be delighted
to see you. That is, if you can get across the river.”

“It’s Sittang or bust,” said James, as we took up the pace of a forced

Nightfall found us still plodding on in jungled solitude. It was long
afterwards that we were brought to a sudden halt at the bank of the
Sittang river. Under the moon’s rays, the broad expanse of water showed
dark and turbulent, racing by with the swiftness of a mountain stream.
The few lights that twinkled high up above the opposite shore were
nearly a half-mile distant—too far to swim in that rushing flood even
had we had no knapsack to think of. I tore myself free from the
undergrowth and, making a trumpet of my hands, bellowed across the

For a time only the echo answered. Then a faint cry was borne to our
ears, and we caught the Hindustanee words “Quam hai?” (Who is it?). I
took deep breath and shouted into the night:—

“Dö sahib hai! Engineer sampan, key sampan kéyderah?”

A moment of silence and the answer came back, soft yet distinct, like a
nearby whisper:—

“Achá, sahib.” (All right.) Even at that distance we recognized the
deferential tone of the Hindu coolie.

A speck of light descended to the level of the river, and, rising and
falling irregularly, came steadily nearer. We waited eagerly, yet a
half-hour passed before there appeared a flat-bottomed sampan, manned by
three struggling Aryans whose brown skins gleamed in the light of a
flickering lantern. They took for granted that we were railway
officials, and, while two wound their arms around the bushes, the third
sprang ashore with a respectful greeting and, picking up our knapsack,
dropped into the craft behind us.

With a shout the others let go of the bushes and the three grasped their
oars and pulled with a will. The racing current carried us far down the
river, but we swung at last into the more sluggish water under the lee
of a bluff, and, creeping slowly up stream, gained the landing stage. A
boatman stepped out with our bundle, and, zigzagging up the face of the
cliff, dropped the bag on the veranda of a bungalow at the summit,
shouted a “sahib hai,” and fled into the night.

The Englishman who flung open the door with a bellow of delight was a
boisterous, whole-hearted giant of a far different type from our noonday
host; a soldier of fortune who had “mixed” in every activity from
railway building to revolutions in three continents, and whose
geographical information was far more extensive than that to be found in
a Rand-McNally atlas. His bungalow was a palace in the wilderness; he
confided that he drew his salary to spend, and that he paid four rupees
a pound for Danish butter without a pang of regret. The light of his
household, however, was his Eurasian wife, the most entrancing
personification of loveliness that I have been privileged to run across
in my wanderings. The rough life of the jungle seemed only to have made
her more daintily feminine. One would have taken his oath that she had
just budded into womanhood, even in face of the four sons that rolled
about the bungalow; plump-cheeked, robust little tots, with enough
native blood in their veins to thrive in a land where children of white
parents waste away to apathetic invalids.

We slept on the veranda high above the river, and, in spite of the
thirty-two miles in our legs and the fever that fell upon James during
the night, rose with the dawn, eager to be off. As we took our leave,
the engineer held out to us a handful of rupees.

“Just to buy your chow on the way, lads,” he smiled.

“No! no!” protested James, edging away. “We’ve bled you enough already.”

“Tommy rot!” cried the adventurer, “Don’t be an ass. We’ve all been in
the same boat and I’m only paying back a little of what’s fallen to me.”

When we still refused, he called us cranks and no true soldiers of
fortune, and took leave of us at the edge of the veranda.

Sittang was a mere bamboo village with a few grass-grown streets that
faded away in the encircling wilderness. In spite of explicit directions
from the engineer, we lost the path and plunged on for hours almost at
random through a tropical forest. Noonday had passed before we broke out
upon an open plain where the railway embankment began anew, and satiated
our screaming thirst with cocoanut milk in the hut of a babu contractor.

Beyond, walking was less difficult. The rampant jungle had been laid
open for the projected line; and, when the tangle of vegetation pressed
upon us, we had only to climb to the top of the broken dyke and plod on.
The country was not the unpeopled waste of the day before. Where bananas
and cocoanuts and jack-fruits grow, there are human beings to eat them,
and now and then a howling of dogs drew our attention to a cluster of
squalid huts tucked away in a productive grove. Every few miles were
gangs of coolies who fell to chattering excitedly when we came in view,
and, dropping shovels and baskets, squatted on their heels, staring
until we had passed, nor heeding the frenzied screaming of high-caste
“straw-bosses.” Substantial bungalows for advancing engineers were
building on commanding eminences along the way. The carpenters were
Chinamen, slow workmen when judged by Western standards, but evincing
far more energy than native or Hindu.

The migratory Mongul, rare in India, unknown in Asia Minor, has invaded
all the land of Burma. Few indeed are the villages to which at least one
wearer of the pig-tail has not found his way and made himself a force in
the community. His household commonly consists of a Burmese wife and a
troop of half-breed children; and it is whispered that the native women
are by no means loath to mate with these aliens, who often prove more
tolerant and provident husbands than the Burmen.

Those Celestial residents with whom we came in contact were shrewd,
grasping fellows, far different from the gay and prodigal native
merchants. The pair in whose shop we stifled an overgrown hunger, well
on in the afternoon, received us coldly and served us in moody silence.
Their stock in trade was exclusively canned goods among which American
labels were not lacking. Their prices, too, were reminiscent of the
Western world. When we had paid them what we knew was a just amount,
they hung on our heels for a half-mile, screaming angrily and clawing at
our tattered garments.

Where the western section of the embankment ended began a more open
country, with many a sluggish stream to be forded. We were already
knee-deep in the first of these when there sounded close at hand a snort
like the blowing of a whale. I glanced in alarm at the rushes about us.
From the muddy water protruded a dozen ugly, black snouts.

“Crocodiles!” screamed James, turning tail and splashing by me. “Beat

“But hold on!” I cried, before we had regained the bank, “These things
seem to have horns.”

The creatures that had startled us were harmless water buffaloes, which,
being released from their day’s labor, had sought relief in the muddy
stream from flies and the blazing sun.

As the day was dying, we entered a jungle city, named Kaikto, and
jeopardized the honor in which sahibs are held in that metropolis of the
delta by accepting a “shake-down” in the police barracks. From there the
route turned southward, and the blazing sun beat in our faces during all
the third day’s tramp. Villages became more numerous, more thickly
populated, and the jungle was broken here and there by thirsty

When twilight fell, however, we were tramping along the railway dyke
between two dense and apparently unpeopled forests. The signs portended
a night out of doors, and we were already resigned to that fate when we
came upon a path leading from the foot of the embankment across the
narrow ridge between two excavations. Hoping to find some thatch shelter
left by the construction gangs, we turned aside and stumbled down the
bank. The trail wound away through the jungle and brought us, a mile
from the line, to a grassy clearing, in the center of which stood a
capacious _dak bungalow_.

Public rest-houses of this sort are maintained by the government of
British-India, where no other accommodations offer, for the housing of
itinerant sahibs. They are equipped with rough sleeping quarters for a
few guests, rougher bathing facilities, a few reclining chairs, and a
babu keeper to register travelers and entertain them with his wisdom;
for all of which a uniform charge of one rupee a day is made. There is,
besides, a force of native servants at the beck and call of those who
would pay more. A punkah-wallah will keep the velvet fans in motion all
through the night for a few coppers; the _chowkee dar_ or Hindu cook
will prepare a “European” meal on more or less short notice.

But the bungalow that we had chanced upon in this Burmese wilderness was
apparently deserted. We mounted the steps and, settling ourselves in
veranda chairs, lighted our pipes and stretched our weary legs. We might
have fallen asleep where we were, listening to the humming of the
tropical night, had we not been hungry and choking with thirst.

The bungalow stood wide open, like every house in British-India. I rose
and wandered through the building, lighting my way with matches and
peering into every corner for a water bottle or a sleeping servant. In
each of the two bedrooms there were two canvas charpoys; in the main
room a table littered with tattered books and magazine leaves in
English; in the back chamber several pots and kettles. There was water
in abundance, a tubful of it in the lattice-work closet opening off from
one of the bedrooms. But who could say how many travel-stained sahibs
had bathed in it?

I returned to the veranda, and we took to shouting our wants into the
jungle. Only the jungle replied, and we descended the steps for a
circuit of the building, less in the hope of encountering anyone than to
escape the temptation of the bathtub. Behind the bungalow stood three
ragged huts. The first was empty. In the second, we found a snoring
Hindu, stretched on his back on the dirt floor, close to a dying fire of

We awoke him quickly. He sprang to his feet with a frightened “achá,
sahib, pawnee hai,” and ran to fetch a chettie of water, not because we
had asked for it, but because he knew the first requirement of travelers
in the tropics.

“Now we would eat, oh, chowkee dar,” said James, in Hindustanee, “julty

“Achá, sahib,” repeated the cook. He tossed a few fagots on the fire,
set a kettle over them, emptied into it the contents of another chettie,
and, catching up a blazing stick, trotted with a loose-kneed wabble to
the third hut. There sounded one long-drawn squawk, a muffled cackling
of hens, and the Hindu returned, holding a chicken by the head and
swinging it round and round as he ran. Catching up a knife, he slashed
the fowl from throat to tail, snatched off skin and feathers with a few
dexterous jerks, and less than three minutes after his awakening, our
supper was cooking. Truly, the serving of sahibs had imbued him with an
unoriental energy.

We returned to the veranda, followed by the chokee dar, who lighted a
decrepit lamp on the table within and trotted away into the jungle. He
came back at the heels of a native in multicolored garb of startling
brilliancy, who introduced himself as the custodian, and, squatting on
his haunches in a veranda chair, took up his duties as entertainer of
guests. There was not another that spoke English within a day’s journey,
he assured us, swelling with pride; and for that we were duly thankful.
Long after the cook had carried away the plates and the chicken bones,
the babu chattered on, drawing upon an apparently unlimited fund of
misinformation, and jumping, as each topic was exhausted, to a totally
irrelevant one, without a pause either for breath or ideas. Fortunately,
he had arrived with the notion that we were surveyors of the new line,
and we took good care not to undeceive him; for railway officials were
entitled to the accommodations of dak bungalows without payment of the
government fee. We still had a few coppers left, therefore, when the
cook had been satisfied, and, driving off the inexhaustible keeper, we
rolled our jackets and shoes into two “beachcomber’s pillows” and turned

We slept an hour or two, perhaps, during the night. Of all the hardships
that befall the wayfarer in British-India, none grows more unendurable
than this—to be kept awake when he most needs sleep. Either his resting
place—to call it a bed would be worse than inaccurate—is too hard, or
the heat so sultry that the perspiration trickles along his ribs,
tickling him into wakefulness. If a band of natives is not chattering
under his windows, a fellow roadster snoring beside him, or a flock of
roosters greeting every newborn star, there are a dozen lizards at least
to make the night miserable.

The dak bungalow in the wilderness housed a whole army of these pests;
great, green-eyed reptiles from six inches to a foot long. Barely was
the lamp extinguished, when one in the ceiling struck up his refrain,
another on the wall beside me joined in, two more in a corner gave
answering cry, and the night concert was on:—

                      “She-kak! she-kak! she-kak!”

Don’t fancy for a moment that the cry of the Indian lizard is the
half-audible murmur of the cricket or the tree toad. It sounds much more
like the squawking of an ungreased bullock-cart:—

                      “She-kak! she-kak! she-kak!”

To attempt to drive them off was worse than useless. The walls and
ceiling, being of thatch, offered more hiding places for creeping things
than a hay stack. When I fired a shoe at the nearest, a shower of
branches and rubbish rattled to the floor; and, after a moment of
silence, the song began again, louder than before. Either the creatures
were clever dodgers or invulnerable, and there was always the danger
that a swiftly-thrown missile might bring down half the thatch

                      “She-kak! she-kak! she-kak!”

Wherever there are dwellings in British-India, there are croaking
lizards. I have listened to their shriek from Tuticorin to Delhi; I have
seen them darting across the carpeted floor in the bungalows of
commissioner sahibs; I have awakened many a time to find one dragging
his clammy way across my face. But nowhere are they more numerous nor
more brazen-voiced than in the jungles of the Malay Peninsula. There
came a day when we were glad that they had not been exterminated—but of
that later.

Early the next morning we fell into a passable roadway that led us every
half-hour through a grinning village, between which were many isolated
huts. We stopped at all of them for water. The natives showed us marked
kindness, often awaiting us, chettie in hand, or running out into the
highway at our shout of “yee sheedela?” This Burmese word for water
(yee) gave James a great deal of innocent amusement. Ever and anon he
paused before a hut, to drawl, in the voice of a court crier:—“Hear ye!
hear ye! hear ye! We’re thirsty as Hottentots!” Householders young and
old understood. At least they fetched us water in abundance.

The fourth day afoot brought two misfortunes. The rainy season, long
delayed, burst upon us in pent-up fury not an hour after we had spent
our last copper for breakfast. Where dinner would come from we could not
surmise, but “on the road” one does not waste his energies in worry.
Something would “turn up.” It is in wandering aimlessly about the
streets of a great city in the midst of plenty that the penniless
outcast feels the inexorable hand of fate at his throat—not on the open
road among the fields and flowers and waving palm trees.

The first shower came almost without warning; one sullen roar of
thunder, the heavens opened, and the water poured. Thereafter they were
frequent. At times some hut gave us shelter; more often we could only
plod on in the blinding torrent that, in the twinkle of an eye, drenched
us to the skin. The storms were rarely of five minutes’ duration. With
the last dull growl of thunder, the sun burst out more calorific than
before, sopping up the pools in the highway as with a gigantic sponge,
and drying our dripping garments before we had time to grumble at the
wetting. Amid the extravagant beauties of the tropical landscape the
vagaries of the season were so quickly forgotten that the next downpour
took us as completely by surprise as though it had been the first of the

During the morning we met a funeral procession en route for the place of
cremation. Wailing and mourning there were none. Why should death bring
grief to the survivors when the deceased has merely lost one of his
innumerable lives? There came first of all dozens of girls dressed as
for a yearly festival. About their necks were garlands of flowers; in
their jet-black hair, red and white blossoms. Each carried a flat
basket, heaped high with offerings that made us envious of him who had
been gathered to his fathers. Here one bore bananas of brightest yellow;
another, golden mangoes; a third, great, plump pineapples. The girls
held the baskets high above their heads, swaying their bodies from side
to side and tripping lightly back and forth across the road as they
advanced, the long cortège executing such a snake-dance as one sees on a
college gridiron after a great contest. The chant that rose and fell in
time with their movements sounded less a dirge than a pean of victory;
now and again a singer broke out in merry laughter. The coffin was a
wooden box, gayly decked with flowers and trinkets, and three of the
eight men who bore it on their shoulders were puffing at long native
cigars. Behind them more men, led by two saffron-clad priests, pattered
through the dust, chattering like school girls, yet adding their
discordant voices now and then to the cadenced chorus of the females.

The sun was blazing directly overhead, leaving our pudgy shadows to be
trampled under foot, when we heard behind us a faint wail of “sahib!
sahib.” Far down the green-framed roadway trotted a beclouted brown man,
waving his arms above his head. We were already fifteen miles distant
from the dak bungalow; small wonder if we were surprised to find our
pursuer none other than that chowkee dar who had skinned our chicken so
deftly the night before. A misgiving fell upon us. No doubt the fellow
had found out that we were no railway officials after all, and had come
to demand the bungalow fee of two rupees. We stepped into the shade and
awaited anxiously the brown-skinned nemesis.

But there was no cause for alarm. Amid his chattering the night before,
the babu custodian had forgotten his first duty—to register us. When his
error came to light, we were gone; and he had sent the cook to get our
names. That was all; and for that the Hindu had run the entire fifteen
miles. When we had scribbled our names on the limp, wet rag of paper he
carried in his hand, he turned aside from the road and threw himself
face down in the edge of the forest.

The beauties of the landscape impressed themselves less and less upon us
with every mile thereafter. Not that our surroundings had lost anything
of their charm, the scenery was rather more striking; but the dinner
hour had passed and our bellies had begun to pinch us. The Burmese, we
had been told, were charitable to a fault. But what use to “batter” back
doors, when we knew barely a dozen words of the native tongue? Here and
there a bunch of bananas hung at the top of its stocky tree, but the
fruit was hopelessly green; cocoanuts there were in abundance, but they
supplied drink rather than food. Still hunger grew apace. The only
alternative to starving left us was to exploit the shopkeepers,—to eat
our fill and run away.

We chose a well-stocked booth in a teeming village, and, advancing with
a millionaire swagger, sat down on the bamboo floor and called for food.
The merchant and his family were enjoying a plenteous repast. The wife
grinned cheerily upon us for the honor we had done her among all her
neighbors, and brought us a bowl of rice and a strange vegetable currie.
While we ate, the unsuspecting victims squatted around us, shrieking in
our ears as though they would force us to understand by endless
repetitions and lusty bellowing. When we addressed them in English, they
cried “nămelay-voo,” and took deeper breath. When we spoke in
Hindustanee, they grinned sympathetically and again bellowed
“nămelay-voo.” How often I had heard those words since our departure
from Rangoon! At first, I had fancied the speaker was attempting to
converse in French. It was easy to imagine that he was trying to say
“what is your name?” But he was not, for when I answered in the language
of Voltaire, the refrain came back louder than before:—“Nămelay-voo?”

We did not eat our fill at the first shop. To have done so would have
been to leave the keeper a pauper. When our hunger had been somewhat
allayed, we rose to our feet.

“I’m sorry to work this phony game on you, old girl,” said James, “but I
know you couldn’t cash a check—”

“Nămelay-voo?” cried the personage thus disrespectfully addressed, and
the family smile broadened and spread to the family ears. We caught up
the knapsack and walked rapidly away; for well we knew the agonized
screams that would greet our perfidy and the menacing mob that would
gather at our heels. Four steps we had taken, and still no outcry. We
hurried on, not daring to look back. Suddenly a roar of laughter sounded
behind us. I glanced over my shoulder. Not a man pursued us. The family
still squatted on the bamboo floor of the booth, doubled up and shaking
with mirth.

We levied on the shopkeepers whenever hunger assailed us thereafter,
though never eating more than two or three cents’ worth at any one
stall. Never a merchant showed anger at our rascality. So excellent a
joke did our ruse seem to the natives that laughter rang out behind us
at every sortie. Nay, many a shopkeeper called us back and forced upon
us handfuls of the best fruit in his meager little stock, guffawing the
while until the tears ran down his cheeks, and calling his neighbors
about him to tell them the jest, that they might laugh with him. And
they did. More than once we left an entire village shaking its sides at
the trick which the two witty sahibs had played upon it.

When night came on we appropriated lodgings in the same high-handed
fashion, stretching out on the veranda of the most pretentious shop in a
long, straggling village. Unfortunately, the wretch who kept it was no
true Burman. A dozen times he came out to growl at us, and to answer our
questions with an angry “nămelay-voo.” Darkness fell swiftly. It was the
hour of closing. The merchant began to drag out boards from under his
shanty and to stand them up endwise across the open front of the shop,
fitting them into grooves at top and bottom. When only a narrow opening
was left, he turned upon us with a snarl and motioned to us to be off.
We paid no heed, for so fierce an evening storm had begun that the shop
lamp lighted up an unbroken sheet of water at the edge of the veranda.
The shopkeeper blustered and howled to make his voice heard above the
rumble of the torrent, waving his arms wildly above his head. We
stretched our aching legs and let him rage on. He fell silent at last
and squatted disconsolately in the opening. He could have put up the
last board and left us outside, but that would have been to disobey the
ancient Buddhist law of hospitality.

A half-hour had passed when he sprang up suddenly with a grunt of
satisfaction and stepped into his dwelling. When he came out he carried
a lantern and wore a black, waterproof sheet that hid all but a narrow
strip of his face and his bare feet. Bellowing in our ears, he began a
pantomime that we understood to be an offer to lead us to some other

“Let’s risk it,” said James. “This is no downy couch, and he’s probably
going to take us to a Buddhist monastery. If he tries any tricks we’ll
stick to him and come back.”

We stepped into the deluge and followed the native along the highway in
the direction we had come. The storm increased. It was not a mere matter
of getting wet. There was not a dry thread on us when we had taken four
steps. But the torrent, falling on our bowed backs, weighed us down like
a mighty burden, a sensation one may experience under an especially
strong shower bath.

Mile after mile the native trotted on; it seemed at least ten, certainly
it was three. The mud, oozing into our dilapidated shoes during the day,
had blistered our feet to the ankles; our legs creaked with every step.
The Australian fell behind. I stumbled over a knoll and sprawled into a
river of mud that spattered even into my eyes. A bellow brought the
Burman to a halt. I splashed forward and grasped him by a wrist.

“Hold him!” howled James from the rear. “The bloody ass will take us
clear back to Pegu. There’s a house down there. Let’s try it.”

We skated down the slippery slope, dragging the shopkeeper after us, and
stumbled across the veranda into a low, rambling hovel of a single room.
At one end squatted a half-dozen low-caste men and as many slatternly,
half-naked females. In a corner was spread an array of food stuffs; in
another, several dirty, brown brats were curled up on a heap of rush
mats and foul rags. James sprang through the squatting group and fell
upon the wares.

“Only grains and vegetables,” he wailed. “Not a damn thing a civilized
man’s dog could eat unless it was cooked. It’s no supper for us, all
right. What say we turn in?”

He dived towards the other corner and tumbled the sleeping children
together. The natives stared stupidly, offering no sign of protest at
this maltreatment of their offspring. The Australian threw himself down
beside the slumberers.

“Holy dingoes!” he gasped, bounding again to his feet, “What a smell!”

We had indeed fallen upon squalor unusual in the land of Burma.

Our guide, waiving the rights of higher caste, squatted with the others.
Then he began to chatter, and, that accomplishment being universal among
his countrymen, he was soon joined by all the group; the old men first,
in rasping undertones, then the younger males, in deeper voice, and
last, the females, in cracked treble.

We sat down dejectedly on two Standard Oil cans. For an hour the natives
jabbered on, gaping at us, chewing their betel-nut cuds like ruminating
animals. Green-eyed lizards in wall and ceiling set up their
nerve-racking “she-kak! she-kak!” The mud dried in thick layers on our

Suddenly James bounded into the midst of the group and grasped the
shopkeeper by the folds of his loose gown.

“We want something to eat!” he bellowed. “If there’s any chow in this
shack show it up. If there isn’t, cut out this tongue rattle, you
missing link, and let us sleep!” and he shook the passive Burman so
savagely that the cigarette hanging from his nether lip flew among the
sleeping children.

The shopkeeper, showing neither surprise nor anger, regained his
equilibrium, picked up his lantern, and marched with dignified tread out
into the night. Apparently he had abandoned us in spite of the law of

But he was a true disciple of Gautama, for he sauntered in, a few
moments later, in company with five men in high-caste costumes.

“Any of you chaps speak English?” I cried.

The newcomers gave no sign of having understood. One, more showily
dressed than his companions, sat down on a heap of rattan. The others
grouped themselves about him, and a new conference began. The rain
ceased. The lizards shrieked sardonically. James fell into a doze,
humped together on his oil can.

Suddenly I caught, above the chatter, the word “babu.”

“Look here,” I interrupted, “If there’s a babu here he speaks English.
Who is he?”

The only reply was a sudden silence that did not last long.

“Babu,” cried the shopkeeper, some moments later. This time there could
be no doubt that he had addressed the silent Beau Brummel on the rattan

“You speak English!” I charged, pointing an accusing finger at him.
“Tell them we want something to eat.”

The fellow stared stolidly. If the title belonged to him he was anxious
to conceal his accomplishments.

“It’s some damn sneak,” burst out James, “come here to eavesdrop.”

Four days in the jungle had weakened the Australian’s command over his
temper. Or was his speech a ruse? If so, it succeeded in its object. A
flush mounted to the swarthy cheek of the native; he opened and closed
his mouth several times as if he had received a heavy blow in the ribs,
and spoke, slowly and distinctly:—

“I am not damn snake. I have been listening.”

“Of course!” bellowed James, “I repeat, you are a sneak.”

“Don’t!” shuddered the babu, “Don’t name me damn snake. If they know you
talk me so I fall in my caste.”

“Well, why didn’t you answer when I spoke to you?” I demanded.

“I was listening to find out what you were wishing,” stammered the

“You half-baked Hindu!” shouted James. “You heard us say a dozen times
we wanted something to eat.”

“But,” pleaded the babu, “this is a very jungly place and we have not
proper food for Europeans.”

“Proper be blowed!” shrieked the Australian. “Who’s talking about
European food? If there’s anything to eat around here trot it out. If we
_haven’t_ got money we can pay for it. Here’s a good suit of clothes—”
he caught up the knapsack and tumbled his “swag” out on the floor.

“There’s only native food,” objected the Burman. “White men cannot—”

“What you can eat, so can we,” I cried. “Take the suit and bring us

“Oh! We cannot take payment,” protested the babu.

“Jumping Hottentots!” screamed James. “Take pay or don’t, but stop your
yapping and tell them we want something to _eat_.”

“I shall have prepared some food which Europeans can eat,” murmured the
native in an oily voice. He harangued the group long and deliberately.
An undressed female rose, hobbled to a corner of the room, lighted a
fire of fagots, and squatted beside it. Though it was certainly
midnight, we gave up all hope of expediting matters, and waited with set
teeth. For a half-hour not a word was spoken. Then the female rose and
strolled towards us, holding out—four slices of toast!

“If I’d known there was bread in this shack,” cried James, as we
snatched the slices, “there’d have been damn little toasting.”

“I have worked for Europeans,” said the babu proudly, yet with a touch
of sadness in his voice, “and I know they cannot eat the native bread,
so I have it prepared as sahibs eat it.”

“We’ve been eating native bread for months,” mumbled James, “days
anyway. You’re a bit crazy, I think. Got any rice?”

“There is rice and fish,” said the Burman, “but can you eat that too?”

“Just watch us,” said James.

The female brought a native supper, and we fell to.

“How wonderful!” murmured the babu, “And you are sahibs!”

When we acknowledged ourselves satisfied, two blankets were spread for
us on the floor, the chattering visitors filed out into the night, and
we stretched out side by side to listen a few hours to the croaking of
irrepressible lizards.

The following noonday found us miles distant. It was our second day
without a copper; yet the natives received us as kindly as if we had
been men of means. The proximity of Moulmein, where sahib muscular
effort might be turned to account, filled us with new hope and we
splashed doggedly on.

Villages there were without number. Their tapering pagodas dominated the
landscape. On the east stretched the rugged mountain chain, so near now
that we could make out plainly the little shrines far up on the summit
of each conspicuous peak. Tropical showers burst upon us at frequent
intervals, wild deluges of water from which we occasionally found
shelter under long-legged hovels. Even when we scrambled up the bamboo
ladders into the dwellings, the squatting family showed no resentment at
the intrusion; often they gave us fruit, once they forced upon us two
native cigars. It was these that made James forever after a stout
champion of the Burmese; for two days had passed since we had shared our
last smoke.

Queer things are these Burmese cigars! They call them “saybullies,” and
they smoke them in installments; for no man lives with the endurance
necessary to consume a saybully at one sitting. They are a foot long, as
thick as the thumb of a windjammer’s bo’s’n, rather cigarettes than
cigars; for they are wrapped in a thick, leathery paper that almost
defies destruction, even by fire. In the country districts they serve as
almanacs. The peasant buys his cigar on market day, puffs fiercely at it
on the journey home, stows it away about his person when he is
satisfied, and pulls it out from time to time to smoke again. As a
result, one can easily determine the day of the week by noting the
length of the saybullies one encounters along the route.

To determine the ingredients that make up this Burmese concoction is not
so simple a matter. Now and then, in the smoking, one comes across
pebbles and fagots and a variety of foreign substances which even a
manufacturer of “two-fers” would hesitate to use. But the comparison is
unjust, for the saybully _does_ contain tobacco, little wads of it,
tucked away among the rubbish.

Men, women, and children indulge in this form of the soothing weed. As
in Ceylon, the females, and often the males, wear heavy leaden washers
in their ears until the aperture is stretched to the size of a rat hole.
It is a wise custom. For, having no pockets, where could the Burmese
matron find place for her half-smoked saybully were she denied the
privilege of thrusting it through the lobe of her ear?

Dusk was falling when we overtook a fellow pedestrian; a Eurasian youth
provided with an umbrella and attended by a native servant boy. When he
had gasped his astonishment at meeting two bedraggled sahibs in this
strange corner of the world and volunteered a detailed autobiography, I
found time to put a question over which I had been pondering for some

“As your mother is Burmese,” I began, while we splashed on into the
night, “you speak that language, of course?”

“Oh! yes,” answered the Eurasian, “even better than English.”

“Then you can tell us about this phrase we have heard so much. It’s
‘nămelay-voo.’ Sounds like bum French, but I suppose it’s Burmese?”

“Oh! yes, that is Burmese.”

“What the deuce does it mean?”

“I don’t know,” replied the youth.

“Eh! But it’s certainly a common expression. Every Burman we speak to
shouts ‘nămelay-voo.’ What are they trying to say?”

“I don’t know,” repeated the half-breed.

“Mighty funny, if you speak Burmese, that you don’t understand that!”

“But I do understand it!” protested the youth.

“Well, what is it then?”

“I don’t know. I don’t understand.”

“Say, what are you giving us?” cried James. “Don’t you ever say

“Certainly! Very often, every day, every hour!”

“Well, what do you mean when you say it?”

“I don’t understand. I don’t know.”

“Look here!” bellowed the Australian, “Don’t you go springing any stale
jokes on us. We’re not in a mood for ’em.”

“Gentlemen,” gasped the half-breed, with tears in his voice, “I do not
joke and I am not joking. ‘Nămelay-voo’ is a Burmese word which has for
meaning ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t understand!’”

It was black night when we stumbled down through the village of Martaban
to the brink of the river of the same name, a swollen stream fully two
miles wide where our day’s journey must have ended, had we not fallen in
with the Eurasian. His home was in Moulmein, and, summoning a sampan, he
invited us to embark with him. The native boat was either light of
material or water-logged, and the waves that broke over the craft
threatened more than once to swamp us. Crocodiles, whispered our
companion, swarmed at this point. Now and then an ominous grunt sounded
close at hand, and the boatman peered anxiously about him as he strained
wildly at his single oar against the current that would have carried us
out to sea. Panting with his exertions, he fetched the opposite shore,
beaching the craft on a slimy slope; and we splashed through a sea of
mud to a roughly-paved street flanking the river.

“You see Moulmein is a city,” said the Eurasian, proudly, pointing along
the row of lighted shops, with fronts all doorway, like those of
Damascus. “We have even restaurants and cabs. Will you not take supper?”

We would, and he led the way to a Mohammedan eating-house in which we
were served several savory messes by an unkempt Islamite, who wiped his
hands, after tossing charcoal on his fire or scooping up a plate of
food, on his fez, and chewed betel-nut as he worked, spitting perilously
near to the open pots. The meal over, the Eurasian called a “cab.” It
was a mere box on wheels, about four feet each way, and had no seats.
When we had packed ourselves inside, the driver imprisoned us by
slamming the air-tight door, and we jolted away.

Fearful of calling paternal attention to his extravagance, the youth
dismissed the hansom at the edge of the quarter in which he lived, and
we continued on foot to his bungalow. His father was an emaciated
Englishman of the rougher, half-educated type, employed in the Moulmein
custom service. He greeted us somewhat coldly. When we had been duly
inspected by his Burmese wife and their eighteen children, we threw
ourselves down on the floor of the open veranda and, drenched and
mud-caked as we were, sank into corpse-like slumber.

                              CHAPTER XIX

“Now lads,” said our host, as we were finishing a late breakfast the
next morning, “I’ll ’ave to ask you to move on. If I was fixed right
you’d be welcome to ’ang out ’ere as long as you’re in town, but I don’t
draw no viceroy’s salary an’ I’ve got a fair size family to support. Up
on the ’ill there, lives an American Christer. Go up an’ give ’im your
yarn an’ touch ’im fer a few dibs.”

We did not, of course, take the advice of the Englishman. James and I
were agreed that it would not be consistent with our dignity to turn to
so base a use as the purchase of currie and rice the funds needed for
the distribution of Bibles and tracts among the aborigines. We did call
on the good padre, but for no other purpose than to crave permission to
inspect his cast-off foot wear. The tramp from Pegu had wrought disaster
to our own. My companion wore on his right foot the upper portion of a
shoe, the sole of which he had left somewhere in the Burmese jungle; on
the left, the sole of its mate, to which there still adhered enough of
the upper to keep it in place. He was better shod than I.

But missionaries domiciled in the far corners of the brown man’s land
are not wont to be satisfied with a casual morning call from those of
their own race. The “Christer” espied us as we started up the sloping
pathway through his private park, and gave us American welcome at the
foot of the steps. Our coming, he averred, was the red-letter event of
that season. Before we had time even to broach the object of our visit,
we found ourselves stammering denials to the assertion he was shouting
to his wife within, that we were to stay at least a fortnight.

Our new host was a native of Indiana, a missionary among the Talaings,
as the inhabitants of this region are known. His dwelling, the Talaing
Mission, was a palatial bungalow set in a wooded estate on the outer rim
of the city. Its windows commanded a far-reaching view over a gorgeous
tropical landscape. Within, it was not merely spacious, airy, and
lighted with soft tints of filtered sunshine—blessings easily attained
in British-Burma, it was hung with rich tapestries, carpeted with downy
rugs, decorated with Oriental works of art. The room to which we were
assigned was all but sumptuously furnished; and it was by no means the
“bridal chamber.” At table we were served formal dinners of many
courses; a white-liveried chowkee dar slipped in and out of the room,
salaaming reverentially each time he offered a new dish; a punkah-wallah
on the back veranda toiled ceaselessly; a gardener clipped away at the
shrubbery in the mission grounds; a native _aya_ followed the two tiny
memsahibs who drove about the house a team of lizards, harnessed in
tandem with the reins tied to their hind legs. In short, the reverend
gentleman lived in a style rarely dreamed of by men of the cloth at
home, or by the sympathetic spinsters to whose charity the adjacent
heathen owed their threatened evangelization.

For all his profession, however, the man from Indiana was one whose
acquaintanceship was well worth the making. To us especially, for when
he was once convinced that our plea for employment was genuine, he
quickly found something to put us at. One would have fancied that a
“handy man” had never before entered the mission grounds. There was
barely a trade of which we knew the rudiments that we did not