Singapore — End of the Voyage Near
( Originally Published 1903 )
WHEN the Eddy boys and Timmie and I landed at Johnston's pier in Singapore; we found dozens of Chinese rikisha men anxious to pull us about the city, and as we knew almost nothing about the place, we followed our usual custom of riding around aimlessly, seeing what we could of the street-life and the people. Sidney Webster had given us a little book, telling something about the Colony, before we left Ceylon, and we read in it that Singapore has a population of about 160,000, three-fourths of whom are Chinese. The city forms the capital of the colonial division called the Straits Settlements, which embraces Penang and several other islands in the neighborhood of the Straits of Malacca. This Colony has its own stamps and coinage, and is a government quite distinct from India and Burmah. We were rather disgusted at the difference in the money we found in various English dependencies. Every port we visited had a new system, and it wasn't always easy for us to learn the exact values of coins during a few days' stay.
We saw some handsome buildings in the business streets of Singapore, but outside the half-dozen chief thoroughfares we found only Chinese shacks and a swarming Chinese population. It was very interesting on the first day to leave the jinrikishas and visit the Chinese shops and peep into their dwellings; but we discovered that an hour or two among the varied smells of Chinese streets was about all we could stand. There were some beautiful things on sale in the different stores. We examined a great many of them, and bought but few, for I was still determined to save my spending-money until I reached Japan, and the other boys had already disposed of their extra cash in Ceylon.
One thing I did was to buy some white duck suits. The blue uniform of the master-at-arms was very uncomfortable on board the transport, and I knew that when I reached Manila I would want some cooler clothing to wear. I visited one of the best Chinese tailors in the city, and he made me several suits of excellent material for a dollar and a half each. He said he could make them as cheap as seventy-five cents, but I thought the larger price was little enough to pay. The suits fitted me very well when they were finished, and I could hardly have got along without them in Manila. They were of an excellent quality of white duck, and would have cost seven or eight times as much in the United States, so I was greatly pleased with my purchase. Chinese tailors are quick workmen, and deliver goods on time.
A Tropical Fairyland
We tired of riding about Singapore long before evening. There was but little to see that we hadn't already seen in Ceylon, and since the Colony is comparatively new, there were no museums of interest and no public buildings worth visiting. I said that we might just as well go back to the McClellan, but Kenneth Eddy had learned from some source that there would be a band concert in the Royal Botanical Gardens at nine o'clock in the evening, and we all agreed that this would be worth waiting for. We had a lively remembrance of the beautiful gardens at Kandy, and welcomed the chance of visiting another tropical Eden. We had dinner at a hotel where we saw most of the ship's passengers, and about eight o'clock our four jinrikishas started for the four-mile trip to the Gardens. They had 'rikishas in Singapore in which two people could ride, but we boys thought one person was enough for a Chinese to pull four miles.
When we reached the Gardens we might have imagined ourselves in fairy-land. The gorgeous foliage was illumined with thousands of paper lanterns, and the scene about the band-stand was brilliant, indeed. All the society of the port was promenading under the palms, and we enjoyed watching the variety of costumes. There were many rich Chinese, and a few wealthy Malays, and among the European colony there were Russians, French, Germans, and of course a great number of English. We boys, who had always been used to thinking of the Chinese as poor laundrymen, were surprised to find so many of them wealthy in Singapore Every afternoon at five, dozens of them may be seen driving on the Esplanade, with horses and carriages which have been sent from Europe, and not a few of them are millionaires. -
The concert in the Gardens was given by one of the British Regimental bands. There were eighty instruments, and we thought the music even better than we had heard in Cairo, Gibraltar and Colombo. It lasted until eleven o'clock, and then we were all ready to return to the transport, where I was obliged, as usual, to go on watch at midnight.
We were anchored at Singapore for six days and they were very tiresome days to me. I was by this time so anxious to leave the McClellan that I almost counted the hours until we should be in Manila, and as there was little to see at Singapore, I could imagine no good reason why we should remain so long. It developed finally that the Congressmen among the passengers were anxious to go to Hong Kong from Singapore, instead of sailing direct to Manila, and they had cabled the War Department for permission to do so. They waited several days, hoping for a favorable reply, and when they received no answer on the sixth day, Captain Logan said he would be obliged to sail. I was very glad that the permission to visit Hong Kong was not forthcoming, for such a trip would mean that I would remain on the transport about ten days longer than I had planned for. Fate seemed against our reaching the Philippines within a reasonable time.
We had filled our bunkers with coal at Singapore, and after we were about twenty hours from port it was discovered that the fuel was almost useless for generating steam. We crept through the water at a rate so slow that we scarcely seemed to move at all, and for two days we made barely six knots an hour. This was tantalizing to passengers and crew alike. The passengers were tired of one another, and the crew was tired of the ship.
Busy Days for "Jimmy Legs "
When we were about three days from Manila, I decided that it would be a good plan for me to see Captain Linder and tell him that I wanted to leave the ship at that port. He knew it all the time, of course, but I thought he might expect some notice from me. So I mustered my nerves together and knocked at his cabin door. He said " Come in," and when I stood there before him he stared at me with his usual pleasant expression. " I would like to leave when we reach Manila," I murmured. The corner of his lip twitched a little, and I wondered what was coming. " There'll be time enough to talk about that when we get there," he said, and I left the room with my heart in my boots. I had a presentiment all along that he might attempt to keep me on the transport out of spite, and now I felt sure that this was his plan. Of course he could do it, within the law, since I had " signed on " for twelve months, and only three had passed, but I made up my mind that I would jump overboard and risk drowning, rather than be on that miserable ship much longer. When I consulted Mr. Casey and Timmie and Jack, and others of my friends up forward, they said it was nonsense for me to feel that way. They said it would be easy enough for me to get off if I wanted to, whether the Captain gave me my discharge or not. But notwithstanding these assurances, the next few days were filled with worry for me, and I longed to see Manila Bay, so that something would be settled about what I was to do.
We masters-at-arms were exceedingly busy during the last of the voyage. The passengers wanted their trunks brought up from the No. 4 hatch so that they could make ready to go ashore for good, and every time that hatch was open the first officer made one of us "stand by " to see that the cases of wine were not disturbed. He couldn't have been more watchful if those cases had contained diamonds and the crew were pirates, and after I reached Manila I often laughed over this queer feeling on his part. I determined that if I ever met any of the officers for whom that wine was intended, I would inform them of the nuisance it was to the masters-at-arms, so that they might appreciate it all the more.
When I had a spare moment I was obliged to spend it in writing, for of course there were numerous letters I wanted to send to my friends at home, to let them know of my safe arrival in Manila. I had written often to dear Mrs. Irwin and Jack, and Will Renwick and the other boys during the trip, and I knew they would all be waiting anxiously to know that I had seen the last of the transport.
Beside my work, and the writing, I had a great deal of thinking to do. I was about to reach the first objective point of my trip around the world, and must begin to think how I was to get to China and Japan, and back to San Francisco. Manila would be more than eleven thousand miles from New York, but it was also that far back to New York again, and I must begin to consider ways and means of getting there. Fortunately I would reach the Philippines with a considerable sum of money in my pocket. My wages during the long voyage would amount to a good deal, and I had spent but few dollars in the different ports we visited. If I could in some way earn some more money in Manila, I would be able to make a trip through China and Japan, and perhaps I could get a position of some sort to work my way from japan to San Francisco. All these plans re- quired consideration, and I had no time for loafing or reading books.
The prospect of saying good-bye to some of the fellows in the crew was by no means pleasant. Mr. Casey, in particular, had won my heart by his uniform kindness and good-will, and I didn't like to feel that I might never see him again. Timmie was trying to decide whether he, too, had better leave the ship and work his way home with me. I wanted him to do this, because it would be pleasant to have company, and he was a boy to whom I had become greatly attached in three months' time, and I now looked upon all the sailors as my friends. They said unpleasant things sometimes, and my feelings were often hurt by some of the side-remarks, but I realized that they meant no harm, and they would be truly sorry to see me leave the transport. Old Dan Driscoll and Jim Syphers and others were characters I could never forget, and I would always be glad that I met them on my trip around the world.
On the other hand, I would be very glad to say farewell to several of the ship's officers, and I could contemplate with pleasure the likelihood that I would never see them again. I felt sorry to have learned that some men can be mean in such petty things, but no doubt the experience will be of benefit to me when I come in con-tact with others of the same sort. One of the best things about travel is the knowledge we gain of human character.
At last the looked-for day arrived. I awoke one Monday morning, and when I looked out of the port-hole I saw before me an extensive city, with ranges of purple mountains in the background. I knew that this was Manila at last, and when I hurriedly dressed and went to the fo'c'stle head I found that we were proceeding slowly up the famous bay to our anchorage. Howard and Kenneth Eddy were just out of bed, too, and when they reached the fo'c'stle they were nearly wild with delight. They were about to meet their father and mother, after a separation of many months, and they could hardly wait. Howard had been in Manila before, so he pointed out to Timmie and I the various points of interest which we could see from the deck. He showed us Cavite, and the scene of Dewey's famous battle, and pointed out the sunken hulls of two Spanish cruisers which were still visible above the water. Then he pointed out some of the chief public buildings of Manila when we neared the shore, and told us where the business and residential districts were located
There were many ships in the bay, and several transports which had come out with troops and supplies from San Francisco. They gave us a warm welcome, for the McClellan had been expected -for several days, and everyone was on the lookout for her. The passengers were on deck with their baggage, anxious to get off as soon as possible, but it was to be some time until they were permitted to greet their husbands, wives and friends. Howard and Kenneth were greatly excited when they discovered a launch steaming out rapidly from the mouth of the Pasig River. " I know that's father coming to meet us," said Kenneth, and when the boat came nearer, it turned out to be him sure enough. Mrs. Eddy was on board, too, and they exchanged air-kisses with the boys whom they were awaiting so anxiously. The launch followed us in to the anchorage, and even after we stopped, and the gangway was lowered, no one was permitted to come on board except the health officers, who went about vaccinating everybody who hadn't been through that operation successfully within a few weeks previous. Timmie and I had submitted to it at Ismailia, where it was also required by the rules of the port, but it didn't " take," and we had to be scratched again in Manila Bay. When the vaccinating was over, we supposed that the friends of the passengers could board the transport, but it was announced that the Commanding General was coming out to welcome the Congressmen, and until he mounted the gangway no subordinate could do so, however anxious he might be to kiss his wife. The General was rather slow in making his appearance, and it was noon before the passengers had landed with their baggage. I took down the addresses of the Eddys and others of our friends, and Timmie and I promised that we would see them just as soon as we were able to go ashore.
When they had all gone, the ship looked like a deserted place. The saloon cabins were emptied of the clothing and knickknacks which had made them cosy and homelike during the long voyage, and the deck-chairs were folded up and put away. The crew seemed overjoyed to know that the passengers were gone, and that for a while they would have the ship to themselves. Before Captain Lin-der had time to go ashore, I sought him out and asked when I might expect to get my discharge. " Not for a week or two, anyhow," was the startling reply. " You'll have to stay here and help check off this freight." My eyes filled with tears of anger. Here I was in Manila Bay at last, and not permitted to go ashore. I thought of the letters from home and the friends I wanted to see, and I determined to go into Manila if I was put into the brig for it.