From Ceylon to Singapore

MR. CASEY had told us when we went up to Diyatalawa that the transport was due to leave Colombo for Singapore the following day, and this was indeed Captain Logan’s plan. But the passengers had been having such a good time in Ceylon that they persuaded him to wait one day longer, so we boys had one more day to spend in going about the city. We put it in to good advantage. We met Sidney and Howard and Kenneth at the hotel, and with them we made a call at the Young Men’s Christian Association Building. This was the first such institution we had found since leaving New York, and we were curious to know about the work as it was carried on in the tropics. We found the building to be a cheerful place, and very similar to other buildings of the sort in the United States. There was a reading-room and the secretary’s office downstairs, and on the second floor was a large hall which was used for meetings and ordinarily for the educational classes which are conducted by the Association. There the young Singalese can learn type-writing, stenography, bookkeeping, and the other subjects which are taught in American business colleges. The secretary told us that they are willing students and learn fast.

But the best thing we learned is that the Singalese are not only embracing English studies, but are also learning to know the value of English religion. The churches of Ceylon increase in size every month, and the Buddhist temples are no longer frequented by any but the older natives, who refuse to listen to any new ideas. When we boys visited some of these temples on the last day of our stay, we were surprised to find them such dilapidated, tumble-down affairs. When I remarked to Sidney that it was strange they weren’t in better repair, he said that the priests have all they can do to collect a living for themselves, with-out attempting to improve the temples. I think it would not be too much to hope, that if I should go around the world again in ten or fifteen years, I might find Ceylon a Christian country.

A Jinrikisha Ride

On this last afternoon we decided to take a long jinrikisha ride through the country about Colombo, and it was a pleasant experience to look back upon during our voyage to Singapore. We appreciated the wonderful vegetation, although by this time it was no novelty, and we had become so accustomed to ‘rikisha riding that the peculiar motion didn’t affect us in the least. We remained in the country until nearly seven o’clock, and then returned to the hotel in time for one more good dinner. Timmie and I ate as much as we could. We knew that we would have to exist on messroom fare for several days to come, and it would be pleasant to feel that we had at least eaten something worth having in Colombo. After dinner the British regimental band gave another concert, and there was dancing until midnight. We boys enjoyed ourselves more than at any previous time during the trip. The only thing that marred the evening’s pleasure, was my fear that Captain Linder might put in an appearance and observe that his masters-at-arms were having a very good time. I didn’t doubt that he would order us back to the ship if he found us dancing at the hotel. But he didn’t make his appearance, and everything was delightful. At eleven-thirty we felt it necessary to go back to the transport, and Howard and Kenneth packed up their be-longings and went with us, since the transport was to sail at daylight, and they didn’t care about rising at four in the morning to go aboard. Sidney Webster accompanied us down to the landing-stage. We were sorry to say good-bye to this good friend, who had done so much to make our visit to Ceylon pleasant and profitable. We couldn’t be sure that we would ever see each other again, but we parted with the hope that our paths might sometime cross as we go back and forth in the world.

I stood my watch as usual on board ship, while Timmie went at once to bed. Mr. Casey visited us on deck about three in the morning, and said that he had slept long enough. ” You go down to your bunk,” he ordered, ” and don’t wake up till dinner-time.” I followed his advice, and had no knowledge of the time we left the harbor of Colombo and started for Singapore. When I visited the fo’c'stle head about noon the shore was rapidly fading from view, and about all we could discern of sunny Ceylon was the majestic peak of Mt. Adam. Mr. Casey said that we were rounding the southern extremity of the island, and that by evening we would be heading north by east for the Straits of Malacca. After such a series of interesting experiences on land, it was almost a relief to be at sea again, but after two or three days I was as tired of the ship as ever. One of the sailors had given me twelve hundred miles as the distance from Colombo to Singapore, and when I discovered that it was fifteen hundred instead, I was as much disappointed as if I had been sentenced to five days in prison instead of four.

Troubles of the Passengers

But we sailors up forward were not nearly so tired of the voyage as were the passengers. They had been together in close quarters for more than two months, and they appeared to have exhausted all their capacity for having a good time. Some of them refused to speak to the others, and Mr. Casey often re-marked that if the voyage should be continued to Manila without any stop at Singapore, none of them would be on speaking terms when we reached the Philippines. It is sometimes trying to live with a lot of strange people in a friend’s house, and it is a hundred times more so on a ship, where it is nearly impossible to be alone for any length of time.

Up forward our society was more varied, and there was always something interesting going on. Each day had its own peculiar events to make it memorable. On one day a soldier would throw a fit and nearly go overboard, and on another there would be a fight in the firemen’s quarters which would lay up two or three men in the hospital. Mr. Casey always advised Timmie and I to keep clear of such disturbances, especially if the fight was being carried on with knives. ” Wait till they’ve been at it long enough to damage each other a little,” he said, ” and then you can step in and use the handcuffs. It’s no use at all to stop ‘em while their ire is still unsatisfied. If they get carved a little, they’re ready to stop, and they won’t want to fight again for a long time to come.” This philosophy seemed plausible, and we were quite willing to follow his advice. We had no desire to get in a mix-up with Spanish firemen.

The most exciting incident of the five days’ voyage was when the key to the No. 4 hatch was missing one night. In this hatch were several cases of wine that were being sent out to the Philippines, and the first officer was in constant fear that some of the waiters or sailors would break them open and make away with their contents. It was only possible to lock one side of the hatch, and there was always danger that the planks might be removed from the other and access had to the wine in that way. On this eventful night, I was ordered to get a trunk out of the hatch by Captain Logan. Mr. Casey always kept the key hanging at the head of the bed, so I went to his room to get it. To my consternation, there was no key there. I looked up Timmie and asked him about it. He hadn’t used the key since the day before. Then we found Mr. Casey, and he said he supposed it was hanging in its usual place. Of course it wasn’t there, and when Captain Linder yelled down to know why the hatch wasn’t open, I had to confess that the key was lost. His face became red with wrath, and he began a tirade the like of which I had never heard before. He called me various unprintable names, and threatened that I would be put off the ship at Singapore. Al-though I didn’t say so, I felt in my heart that nothing would please me better, for I would then be out of his sight at any rate. He railed at me for fully five minutes, and when he stopped it was because he couldn’t think of any more unpleasant things to say.

Discouraging Days

I went foward and told Mr. Casey that I would surely leave at Singapore, if I had to climb out of the port-hole in the night. I felt more unhappy than at any time during the trip. I knew that I was in no way to blame for the loss of the key, as Mr. Casey had it in charge, and I hadn’t used it for three days before. I wished that the wine was at the bottom of the sea. I could hardly sleep that night on account of my state of mind. The next morning I heard that the key had been found, but when I asked where it had been, no one seemed to know except Mr. Casey, and he wouldn’t tell. ” Best not to say anything more about it,” he said, and that was all he would give concerning the mysterious disappearance. After this, however, I avoided Captain Linder more than ever before, and I determined that when I read about dear old sea captains, -I would take the ” dear ” with a grain of salt. It became my firm conviction that lovable sailing-masters only exist in the imagination of the authors of sea-tales.

During the last day of our voyage to Singapore we were continually in sight of land, and because there was something to see beside mere water, the time passed more rapidly than usual. I spent what little leisure time I had seated on the fo’c'stle head watching the panorama on either side. We were passing through the Straits of Malacca; on one side was Penang, and on the other we could discern the coast of Sumatra. We could see high ranges of mountains which appeared purple through the clouds from a distance, and occasionally we were so close to shore that we could observe the palm-trees growing near the water. There were fishing-boats and steamers in sight all day long, so we would have known without a chart that we were nearing some great commercial port.

I awoke on the morning of the sixth day and found that we were anchored in the harbor of Singapore. When I went on deck I found the usual army of bum-boats surrounding us, with the usual supply of fruit, tobacco, etc., for sale. They were not so persistent in their efforts to board the transport as in Colombo, and in this port they were all Chinese. From the surroundings, indeed, I might have supposed that I had wakened in Hong Kong or Shanghai, for Chinese junks were numerous in the harbor, and the natives of the city were mostly from the Yellow Kingdom. As at Colombo, we could see the flags of many nations flying from the mastheads of ships in the harbor, and I wasn’t surprised to learn that Singapore is one of the very greatest commercial cities in Asia.

We were anchored about two miles from the landing-stage, and as it was reported that we would move closer to shore the following day, Timmie and I decided to wait until then before asking permission to visit the city.