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 C?sar! 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 393my 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 佛山桑拿按摩全套价格 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, 佛山桑拿价格2012 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 march.
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 佛山桑拿网2019论坛 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 394that 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 water.
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:—
“D? 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 佛山桑拿论坛蒲友 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 佛山桑拿论坛888 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 佛山桑拿女qq 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; 395plump-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 佛山桑拿全套特服 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 佛山桑拿葵花蒲点 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 396himself 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 it!”
“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 paddy-fields.
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 397aside 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.