ABOUT nine o’clock in the morning we anchored in the bay at Colombo, Ceylon. The island, with its abundance of green trees, was very restful and pleasing to our eyes after the spell of heat we had passed through on the ocean coming from Aden.
Preparations had been made by the passengers before we anchored, to go ashore, and as we came slowly into the small harbor, where a number of vessels were lying, we all stood impatiently on deck waiting for the first opportunity to desert the ship.
With all our impatience we could not fail to be impressed with the beauties of Colombo and the view from the deck of our incoming steamer. As we moved in among the beautiful ships laying at anchor, we could see the green island dotted with low arcaded buildings which looked, in the glare of the sun, like marble palaces. In the rear of us was the blue, blue sea, jumping up into little hills that formed into snow drifts which softly sank into the blue again. Forming the background to the town was a high mountain, which they told us was known as Adam’s Peak. The beach, with a forest of tropical trees, looked as if it started in a point away out in the sea, curving around until near the harbor it formed into a blunt point, the line of which was carried out to sea by a magnificent breakwater surmounted by a light-house. Then the land curved back again to a point where stood a signal station, and on beyond a wide road ran along the water’s edge until it was lost at the base of a high green eminence that stood well out over the sea, crowned with a castle-like building glistening in the sunlight.
Little boats filled with black-men, we could see coming out towards us from the shore, but my eyes were fastened on a strangely shaped object, resting on the surface of the water in the bay. It seemed a living, feathered thing of so strange a shape that I watched it with feelings akin to horror. What horrible feathered monster could that lovely island produce, I wondered, noticing with dismay that the ship was heading for it. Just as we were upon it, there was a flutter of wings and a cloud of birds flew across and settled down upon the breakwater, where some fishermen, their feet overhanging the stony sides, were watching their lines. I looked back at what had raised so much consternation in my mind, and saw now that it was relieved of a feathered mass off birds,-a harmless red buoy!
Accompanied by a friend, I was the first to step ashore. Some passengers who started in advance of us, took a steam launch. My escort said that he would give me a novel experience, and also show me a small boat that traveled faster than a steam launch. The gentleman who had offered to be my escort during our jaunt on land, was a traveler of vast experience. He has averaged a yearly tour of the world for several years, and knows the eastern countries as he knows his home. Still, when I saw the boat in which he intended to take me ashore, I rather doubted his judgment, but I said nothing.
The boat was a rudely constructed thing. The boat proper was probably five feet in length and two feet in width across the top, narrowing down to the keel, so that it was not wide enough to allow one’s feet to rest side by side in the bottom. There were two seats in the middle of the boat facing one another. They are shaded by a bit of coffee sack that must be removed to give room for passengers to get in. The two men sit at either end of this peculiar boat, and with one paddle each. The paddle is a straight pole, with a board the shape and size of a cheese-box head tied to the end of it, and with both those paddles on the same side they row us ashore. The boat is balanced by a log the length of the boat and fastened out by two curved poles, probably three feet from the boat. These boats are called by tourists, outriggers, but are called by the people of Ceylon, catamarans.
With but slight exertion the men sent the boat cutting through the water, and in a few moments we had distanced the steam launch and had accommodations engaged at the hotel before the launch had landed its passengers. It is said at Colombo that catamarans are used by the native fisherman, who go out to sea in them, and that they are so seaworthy and so secure against capsizing that no case of an accident to a catamaran has ever been reported.
A nearer view of the hotel, the Grand Oriental, did not tend to lessen its attractiveness-in fact it increased it. It was a fine, large hotel, with tiled arcades, corridors airy and comfortable, furnished with easy chairs and small marble topped tables which stood close enough to the broad arm-rests, for one to sip the cooling lime squashes or the exquisite native tea, or eat of the delicious fruit while resting in an attitude of ease and laziness. I found no place away from America where smoking was prohibited, and in this lovely promenade the men smoked, consumed gallons of whiskey and soda and perused the newspapers, while the women read their novels or bargained with the pretty little copper-colored women who came to sell dainty hand-made lace, or with the clever, high-turbaned merchants who would snap open little velvet boxes and expose, to the admiring gaze of the charmed tourists, the most bewildering gems. There were deeply-dark emeralds, fire-lit diamonds, exquisite pearls, rubies like pure drops of blood, the lucky cat’s -eye with its moving line, and all set in such beautiful shapes that even the men, who would begin by saying, “I have been sold before by some of your kind,” would end by laying down their cigars and papers and examining the glittering ornaments that tempt all alike. No woman who lands at Colombo ever leaves until she adds several rings to her jewel box, and these rings are so well known that the moment a traveler sees one, no difference in what part of the globe, he says to the wearer, inquiringly:
“Been to Colombo, eh?”
For the first time since leaving America I saw American money. It is very popular in Colombo and commands a high price-as jewelry! It goes for nothing as money. When I offered it in payment for my bills I was told it would be taken at sixty per cent discount. The Colombo diamond merchants are very glad to get American twenty dollar gold pieces and pay a high premium on them. The only use they make of the money is to put a ring through it and hang it on their watch chains for ornaments. The wealth of the merchant can be estimated by his watch chain, they tell me; the richer the merchant the more American gold dangles from his chain. I saw some men with as many as twenty pieces on one chain. Most of the jewelry bought and sold in Colombo is sold in the corridor of the Grand Oriental Hotel. Merchants bring their wares with them and tourists find it pleasanter than visiting the shops.
Leading off from this corridor, pleasant in its coolness, interesting in its peculiarities, is the dining-hall, matching the other parts of the hotel with its picturesque stateliness. The small tables are daintily set and are richly decorated daily with the native flowers of Colombo, rich in color, exquisite in form, but void of perfume. From the ceiling were suspended embroidered punkas, that invention of the East which brings comfort during the hottest part of the day. The punkas are long strips of cloth, fastened to bamboo poles that are suspended within a short distance of the tables. They are kept in motion by a rope pulley, worked by a man or boy. They send a lazy, cooling air through the building, contributing much to the ease and comfort of the guest. Punkas are also used on all the ships that travel in the East.
Very good food was served at the hotel-which was all the more palatable to the passengers from the Victoria after the trials they had had for the past fortnight in eating the same kind of food under daily different names. Singalese waiters were employed, and they were not only an improvement on the English stewards, to whose carelessness and impudence we had been forced to submit, but they were interesting to the Westerner.
They managed to speak English very well and understood everything that was said to them. They are not unpleasing people, being small of stature and fine of feature, some of them having very attractive, clean-cut faces, light bronze in color. They wore white linen apron-like skirts and white jackets. Noiselessly they move over the smooth tile floor, in their bare, brown feet. Their straight black hair is worn long, twisted in a Psyche knot at the back of the head. On the crown of the head, instead of circling it from ear to ear, is always set a tortoise shell comb, like those worn by American school children. It was some time before I could tell a Singalese man from a Singalese woman. It is not difficult to distinguish the different sexes after one knows that the Singalese men wear the comb, which is as distinct a feature of their dress as men’s trousers in America. Singalese women would not think of donning this little comb any more than a sensitive American woman would think of wearing men’s apparel.
I did not hear the term waiter, or garcon, after leaving America. After leaving the English ships I did not hear the word steward, but instead, in the hotels and ships in the East, all the servants were called “boy.” We can call “steward!. . . . waiter!. . . . garcon!” until we are weary, without any result, but the moment we whisper “boy!” a pleasant black fellow says, “yes, sir,” at our side, and is ready to do our bidding.
At tiffin I had some real curry, the famous native dish of India. I had been unable to eat it on the Victoria, but those who knew said it was a most delicious dish when prepared rightly and so I tested it on shore. First a divided dish containing shrimps and boiled rice was placed before me. I put two spoonfuls of rice on my plate, and on it put one spoonful of shrimps; there was also chicken and beef for the meat part of the curry, but I took shrimps only. Then was handed me a much divided plate containing different preserved fruits, chuddah and other things hot with pepper. As instructed, I partook of three of this variety and put it on top of what had been placed first on my plate. Last came little dried pieces of stuff that we heard before we saw, its odor was so loud and unmistakable. They called it Bombay duck. It is nothing more or less than a small fish, which is split open, and after being thoroughly dried, is used with the curry. One can learn to eat it.
After all this is on the plate it is thoroughly mixed, making a mess very unsightly, but very palatable, as I found. I became so given to curry that I only stopped eating it when I found, after a hearty meal, curry threatened to give me palpitation of the heart. A story is told concerning the Bombay duck that is very amusing.
The Shah of Persia was notified that some high official in India intended to send him a lot of very fine Bombay duck. The Shah was very much pleased and, in anticipation of their arrival, had some expensive ponds built to put the Bombay ducks in! Imagine his consternation when he received those ill-smelling, dried fish!
After tiffin we drove to mount Lavania. We went along the smoothest, most perfectly made roads I ever saw. They seemed to be made of red asphalt, and I was afterwards told that they are constructed by convicts. Many of these roads were picturesque bowers, the over-reaching branches of the trees that lined the waysides forming an arch of foliage above our heads, giving us charming telescopic views of people and conveyances along the road. Thatched huts of the natives and glimpses of the dwellers divided our attention with the people we passed on the road.
Mount Lavania we found to be the place we had noticed on entering the harbor. It is a fine hotel situated on an eminence overlooking the sea, and is a favorite resort during the hot seasons. It is surrounded by a smooth green lawn and faces the blue sea, whence it gets a refreshing breeze all the year through.
After dinner, everybody at the Grand Oriental Hotel went out for a drive, the women, and many of the men going bare-headed. Driving through the town, down the wide streets, past beautiful homes set well back in tropical gardens, to the Galle Face drive that runs along the beach just out of reach of the waves that break on the sandy banks with a more musical roar than I ever heard water produce before. The road lies very close to the water’s edge, and by the soft rays of the moon its red surface was turned to silver, the deep blue of the sea was black, and the foamy breakers were snow drifts. In the soft, pure light we would see silent couples strolling along arm and arm, apparently so near the breakers that I felt apprehensive lest one, stronger than the others, should catch them unawares and wash them out to that unknown land where we all travel to rest. Lounging on the benches that face the sea were occasional soldiers in the Queen’s uniform, whom I looked at anxiously, unable to tell whether their attitude of weariness bespoke a rest from labor or hungry home-sickness. One night I saw a native standing waist deep fishing in the roaring breakers. They tell me that many of the fish bite more freely after night, but I thought how easily the fisherman might be washed away, and no one would be the wiser until his absence was noticed by his friends.
Where the Galle Face drive merges into another road, stands the Galle Face Hotel surrounded by a forest of palm trees. Lounging on long-bottomed, easy chairs, on the stone-floored and stone-pillared verandah, one can see through the forest of tall palms where the ocean kisses the sandy beach, and while listening to the music of the wave, the deep, mellow roar, can drift-drift out on dreams that bring what life has failed to give; soothing pictures of the imagination that blot out for a moment the stern disappointment of reality. Or, when the dreams fade away, one can drown the sigh with the cooling lime squash which the noiseless, bare-footed, living bronze has placed on the white arm-rest, at the same time lazily watching the jinrickshas come silently in through the gas-lit gate, the naked black runners coming to a sudden stop, letting the shafts drop so the passenger can step out.
Lazily I sat there one sweet, dusky night, only half hearing my escort’s words that came to me mingled with the sound of the ocean. A couple stood close together, face bending over a face up-turned, hand clasped in hand and held closely against a manly heart, standing, two dark figures, beneath an arch of the verandah, outlined against the gate lamp. I felt a little sympathy for them as wrapped in that delusion that makes life heaven or hell, that forms the foundation for every novel, play or story, they stood, until a noisy new arrival wakened her from blissful oblivion, and she rushed, scarcely waiting for him to kiss the hand he held, away into the darkness. I sighed again, and taking another sip of my lime squash, turned to answer my companion.
Early next morning I was awakened by a Singalese waiter placing coffee and toast on a small table which he drew up close to my curtained bed, after which he went out. I knew from the dim light that crept in through the open glass door which led to the balcony, that it was still early, and I soon went off to sleep. I was awakened shortly by a rattling of the dishes on the table, and opening my eyes I saw, standing on the table, quietly enjoying my toast, a crow!
I was not then used to having toast and tea before arising, as is the custom in Ceylon, so I let the crow satisfy his appetite and leisurely take his departure without a protest. I arose earlier than was my habit, because I had a desire to see what there might be to see while I had the opportunity.
After a cool, refreshing bath, I dressed hastily and went down below. I found almost all of my friends up, some having already started out to enjoy the early morning. I regretted my generosity to the crow when I learned that breakfast was never served until nine o’clock, and as everybody endeavored to have the benefit of the cool, sweet morning, toast and tea was very sustaining.
In a light wagon we again drove down Galle Face road, and out past a lake in which men, women, children, oxen, horses, buffalo and dogs were sporting. It was a strange sight. Off on a little green island we saw the laundry folk at work, beating, sousing and wringing the clothes, which they afterwards spread upon the grass to dry. Almost all of the roads through which we drove were perfect with their picturesque curves, and often bordered and arched with magnificent trees, many of which were burdened with beautiful brilliant blossoms.
Everybody seemed to be out. The white people were driving, riding, riding bicycles, or walking. The breakwater, which is a good half mile in length, is a favorite promenade for the citizens of Colombo. Morning and evening gaily dressed people can be seen walking back and forth between the light-house and the shore. When the stormy season comes the sea dashes full forty feet above this promenade, which must be cleansed of a green slime, after the storms are over, before it can be traveled with safety. The Prince of Wales laid the first stone of this beautiful breakwater in 1875, and ten years later it was finished.
It is considered one of the finest in existence.
Colombo reminded me of Newport, R. I. Possibly-in my eyes, at least–Colombo is more beautiful. The homes may not be as expensive, but they are more artistic and picturesque. The roads are wide and perfect; the view of the sea is grand, and while unlike in its tropical aspect, still there is something about Colombo that recalls Newport.
After breakfast, which usually leaves nothing to be desired, guests rest in the corridor of the hotel; the men who have business matters to attend to look after them and return to the hotel not later than eleven. About the hour of noon everybody takes a rest, and after luncheon they take a nap. While they sleep the hottest part of the day passes, and at four they are again ready for a drive or a walk, from which they return after sunset in time to dress for dinner. After dinner there are pleasant little rides in jinrickshas or visits to the native theaters.
I went one night to a Parsee theatre. At the entrance were groups of people, some of whom were selling fruits, and some were jinricksha men waiting to haul the people home after the performance. There was no floor in the building. The chairs were placed in rows on the ground. the house was quite well filled with native men, women and children who were deeply interested in the performance which had begun before we reached there.
The actors were all men; my escort had told me women never think of going on the stage in that country. The stage was not unlike any other stage, and the scenery, painted by native artists, was quite as good as is usually seen. On the left of the stage, close to the wing, was a man, sitting cross-legged on a raised platform, beating a tom-tom. A tom-tom was undoubtedly the mother to the drum. It is made on the same principle, but instead of being round is inclined to be long in shape, The player uses his hands instead of drum-sticks, and when one becomes accustomed to it I do not think the sound of a tom-tom can be called unmusical. The musician who presided over the tom-tom this night was dressed in a thin white material, and he wore a very large turban of the same stuff on his head. His copper-colored face was long and earnest, and he beat the tom-tom with a will that was simply amazing when one was informed that he had been constantly engaged at it since nine in the morning. If his hands did not tire his legs did. Several times I saw him move, as if to find ease by shifting his squatting position, and every time I saw his bare feet turn up, in full view of the audience, I felt an irresistible desire to laugh.
On the right, directly opposite to the tom-tom player, was a man, whose duty it was to play a strange looking organ. He only used one hand, the left, for playing, and with the right he held a book, which he steadily perused throughout the entire performance, reading and playing mechanically without once looking at the actors.
The actors were amusing, at least. The story of the opera was not unlike those in other countries. The basis or plot of the play was a tale of love and tragedy. A tall young man, with his face painted a death-like white, sang shrilly through his very high-arched nose to another young man, dressed in the costume of a native woman. The latter was the lady, and the heroine of the play, and he sang sharply through his nose like his, or her, lover. All the actors sang through their noses, and the thinner their voices and the more nasal sound they employed the more the audience applauded.
The heroine of the play was a maid-servant employed by a very wealthy tea planter, who was the father of the lover who sang through his nose. The lover, like all lovers urged the girl to be his in songs that were issued through his nose for fifteen minutes at a time. He, the heroine, would endeavor to look shy all through this unsufferably long song of nasal sound, and then she would take up the same refrain, and to the same tune sing back at him for the same length, and after his own style, while he would hang his head and listen. Their gestures were very few, and they usually stood in one spot on the stage. Sometimes they would embrace, but only to fall apart and sing at each other again.
The play goes on. A bold, bad robber, whose chalk-whitened face has a most Jewish cast, sees the maid-servant and falls in love with her. She repels his advances and goes into her master’s house. Then the robber puts a cross on the house and vows that he will return with his men to kill the inhabitants, for the heroine, in her simplicity, confesses to the truth of his supposition that she loves another, and that other is her master’s son, so the villain swears that he will return, kill the people of the house, and not only carry off the wealth but the maidservant as well.
After the robber departs, the heroine comes out, and spies the cross upon her house. With a crafty look upon her face, she picks up the chalk which the robber had dropped, and marks all the other houses in the street in just the same way, so that when the robber returns he is foiled in his bold, bad game, for he cannot tell which house holds his charmer, and her wealthy lover and master. He is a patient robber, and lies in wait until the lovers come forth to coo on the street. While they are busy, making love through their noses, the man plays the organ with energy, the turbaned musician beats the tom-tom as if his life depended upon it, and the bold, bad robber clutches at his stomach, twists his face into the most agonized expressions, and otherwise shows his agony to the audience. When they go into the house he is about to follow, when the master appears, and, as he is going in, the robber approaches and, saying that he is a wealthy tea-merchant, begs to be permitted to rest at his house that night. The master most cordially consents, just as the heroine appears, and she, having heard the conversation tells her master not to allow the man to stay. The master becomes very angry at her boldness and promises her a liberal punishment, to take effect later in the day.
The merchant begs to be permitted to have his cases of tea placed within the garden-walls of his host, that the tea may be safe through the night. Of course the host consents, and the next scene shows the chests of tea in the garden, and the bold robber puts out the light at the door and goes into the house to bide his time. Even that heroine dreams, and, like other heroines, selects the cool, sweet night and the garden to dream in. She is surprised to find the garden in darkness, and lays her finger to the side of her nose when she sees the lamp is not burning. As she skips about, smelling the artificial flowers, the lid of a tea-chest is raised slightly, and a man sings something through his nose. She starts back in surprise, but instead of screaming, she answers the inquiry in nasal tones, and she learns that the chests are not filled with tea, but with men who belong to the robber, for whom they mistook her. When the man closes the lid again to wait the bidding to come forth, she deftly locks all the cases, and then calls upon a man servant who helps her, the heroine, to carry these cases containing men into a house in which they are securely locked.
The next scene shows a room in which the people are gathered and making merry. They are all sitting on the floor, and among them is the chief robber. The heroine, and other maidservants are brought in to give a dagger dance. They have bracelets of bells around their wrists and ankles, and the dance is very pleasing. The heroine and another servant dance while battling with each other with their knives. Occasionally they break apart and encircle the room, and the heroine makes motions as if she intended to give the guests a playful thrust. She sees the robber slyly poison her master’s wine, and so she dances around the robber’s way, and sticks her dagger in his heart and goes on with her dance. The guests laugh until they see the robber rise to his feet and fall dead. They see then the thrust was not playful but real, and the girl is caught and the master says she shall die. Then she screeches out the story of the men in the tea-cases and tells about the poisoned wine, and the guests applaud her brave act, and she is told to ask for any favor she wishes. She asks for her master’s son! She gets him, to the music of the tom-tom and the organ, and I suppose they live happy ever afterwards.
I rode home from the theatre in a bullock hackery. It was a very small springless cart on two wheels with a front seat for the driver, and on the back seat, with our backs to the driver and out feet hanging over, we drove to the hotel. The bullock is a strange, modest-looking little animal with a hump on its back and crooked horns on its head. I feared that it could not carry us all, but it traveled at a very good pace. There was a sound of grunt, grunt, grunting that concerned me very much until l found it was the driver and not the bullock that was responsible for the noise. With grunts he urged the bullock to greater speed.
The drive, along tree-roofed roads, was very quiet and lovely. The moonlight fell beautiful and soft over the land, and nothing disturbed the stillness except the sound of the sea and an occasional soldier we met staggering along towards the barracks. At one place we saw a mosque with low, dim lamps hanging about. We went in and found the priests lying about on the stone floor, some at the very foot of the altar. We talked with them in whispers and then returned to the cart, which soon carried us back to the hotel. Just as we turned a corner to go to the hotel, an officer rushed up and, catching hold of a wheel, tried to stop the hackery, telling the driver that we were all under arrest.
The candles in one of the lamps had burned out and we were arrested for driving with a dark side. My companion made it right with the policeman, and we went to the hotel instead of the jail.
Among the natives that haunt the hotel are the snake charmers. They are almost naked fellows, sometimes with ragged jackets on and sometimes turbans on their heads, but more often the head is bare. They execute a number of tricks in a very skillful manner. The most wonderful of these tricks, to me, was that of growing a tree. They would show a seed, then they would place the seed on the ground, cover it with a handful of earth, and cover this little mound with a handkerchief, which they first passed around to be examined, that we might be positive there was nothing wrong with it. Over this they would chant, and after a time the handkerchief is taken off and then up through the ground is a green sprout. We look at it incredulously, while the man says:
“Tree no good; tree too small,” and covering it up again he renews his chanting. Once more he lifts the handkerchief and we see the sprout is larger, but still it does not please the trickster, for he repeats: “Tree no good; tree too small,” and covers it up again. This is repeated until he has a tree from three to five feet in height. Then he pulls it up, shows us the seed and roots.
Although these men always asked us to “See the snake dance?” we always saw every other trick but the one that had caught us. One morning, when a man urged me to “See the snake dance?” I said that I would, but that I would pay to see the snake dance and for nothing else. Quite unwillingly the men lifted the lid of the basket, and the cobra crawled slowly out, curling itself up on the ground. The “charmer” began to play on a little fife, meanwhile waving a red cloth which attracted the cobra’s attention. It rose up steadily, darting angrily at the red cloth, and rose higher at every motion until it seemed to stand on the tip end of its tail. Then it saw the charmer and it darted for him, but he cunningly caught it by the head and with such a grip that I saw the blood gush from the snake’s month. He worked for some time, still firmly holding the snake by the head before he could get it into the basket, the reptile meanwhile lashing the ground furiously with its tail. When at last it was covered from sight, I drew a long breath, and the charmer said to me sadly:
“Cobra no dance, cobra too young, cobra too fresh!”
I thought quite right; the cobra was too fresh!
At Colombo I saw the jinricksha for the first time. The jinricksha is a small two-wheel wagon, much in shape like a sulky, except that it has a top which can be raised in rainy weather. It has long shafts joined at the end with a crossbar. The jinricksha men are black and wear little else than a sash. When the sun is hot they wear large hats that look like enormous mushrooms, but most of the time these hats are hanging to the back of the ‘ricksha. There are stands at different places for these men as well as carriage stands. While waiting for patrons they let their ‘rickshas rest on the shafts and they sit in the bottom, their feet on the ground. Besides dressing in a sash these men dress in an oil or grease, and when the day is hot and they run, one wishes they wore more clothing and less oil! The grease has an original odor that is entirely its own.
One day I was going out in a ‘ricksha and an acquaintance was going with me. The man put his foot on the shaft when I got in, and as he raised it, ready to start, I saw my friend step into her ‘ricksha. She sat down and instantly went out-the other way! The man did not have his foot on the shaft and she overbalanced.
I had a shamed feeling about going around the town drawn by a man, but after I had gone a short way, I decided it was a great improvement on modern means of travel; it was so comforting to have a horse that was able to take care of itself! When we went into the shops it was so agreeable not to have the worry of fearing the horses were not blanketed, and when we made them run we did not have to fear we might urge them into a damaging speed. It is a great relief to have a horse whose tongue can protest.
I have spoken about the perfect roads in Ceylon. I found the roads in the same state of perfection in almost all the Eastern ports at which I stopped. I could not decide, to my own satisfaction, whether the smoothness of the road was due to the entire and blessed absence of beer wagons, or to the absence of the New York street commissioners.
I visited at the temples in Colombo, finding little of interest, and always having to pay liberally for the privilege of looking about. One day I went to the Buddhist college, and while there I met the famous high priest of Ceylon. He was sitting on a verandah, that surrounded his low bungalow, writing on a table placed before him. His gown consisted of a straight piece of old gold silk wrapped deftly around the body and over the waist. The silk had fallen to his waist, but after he greeted us he pulled it up around his shoulders. He was a copper-colored old fellow, with gray hair that was shaved very close to the head. He spoke English quite well, and among other things told me he received hundreds of letters from the United States every year, and that they found more converts to the Buddhist religion in America than in any other land.
The two newspapers in Colombo are in charge of two young Englishmen who are very clever. They are very kind to strangers, and I am indebted to them for a great deal of pleasure during my stay in Ceylon. The hotel manager is a German of high birth. He is untiring in his efforts to make his guests comfortable. His wife is a very pretty little woman, with a beautiful voice. Through her kindness I learned of a tailor in Ceylon who makes gowns, that for style and fit are not excelled. I have seen gowns from Worth that could not equal them, and this man charges for making a gown, five rupees! Five rupees are about two dollars and a half. He will make a gown in two days.
The praises of Kandy had been sung to me, so one morning at seven o’clock I started for Kandy with the Spanish representative, who was going to Pekin, and a jolly Irish lad who was bound for Hong Kong, both of whom had traveled with me from Brindisi. We drove to the station and were passed with the people, through the gate to the train. English cars, and ones that leave everything to be desired, are used on this line. We got into a compartment where there was but one seat, which, luckily for us, happened to be facing the way we traveled. Our tickets were taken at the station, and then the doors were locked and the train started. Before the start, we had entered our names in a book which a guard brought to us with the information that we could have breakfast on the train if so desired. As it was too early for breakfast at the hotel, we were only too glad to get an opportunity to eat. At eight o’clock the train stopped and the guard unlocked our door, telling us to go front to the dining-car. It seemed strange to be compelled to get out of a train, instead of walking through it, in order to get to the other end of it.
The dining-car was fitted up with stationary tables which almost spanned the car, leaving a small space for people to walk along. There were more people than could be accommodated, but as the train had started, they were obliged to stand. Several persons had told me that the breakfast served on this train was considered remarkably good. I thought, on seeing the bill of fare, they had prepared a feast for a chicken hawk. First, there was fish dressed in vinegar and onions, followed by chicken soup, chicken aspic, grilled chicken, boned chicken, fried chicken, boiled chicken, cold chicken and chicken pie!
After we had finished our breakfast we were compelled to remain where we were until the train arrived at some station. Then the dining-car was unlocked and we returned to the other car, being again locked in until the end of our journey. The road to Kandy is spoken of as being very beautiful. It winds up the mountain side and is rather pretty, but nothing wonderful in that respect. It is a tropical land, but the foliage and flowers are very ordinary. About the prettiest things to be seen are the rice beds. They are built in terraces, and when one looks down into the deep valley, seeing terrace after terrace of the softest, lightest green, one is forced to cry: “How beautiful!”
Arriving at Kandy at last, we hired a carriage and went to see the lake, the public library and the temples. In one old temple, surrounded by a moat, we saw several altars, of little consequence, and a bit of ivory which they told us was the tooth of Buddha. Kandy is pretty, but far from what it is claimed to be. They said it was cool, but we found it so hot that we thought with regret of Colombo. Disgusted with all we found worth seeing we drove to Parathenia to see the great botanical garden. It well repaid us for the visit. That evening we returned to Colombo. I was tired and hungry and the extreme heat had given me a sick headache. On the way down, the Spanish gentlemen endeavored to keep our falling spirits up, but every word he said only helped to increase my bad temper, much to the amusement of the Irish boy. He was very polite and kind, the Spaniard, I mean, but he had an unhappy way of flatly contradicting one, that, to say the least, was very exasperating. It was to me, but it only made the Irish boy laugh. When we were going down the mountain side the Spaniard got up, and standing, put his head through the open window in the door to get a view of the country.
“We are going over,” he said, with positive conviction, turning around to us. I was leaning up in a corner trying to sleep and the Irish boy, with his feet braced against the end of the compartment, was trying to do the same.
“We won’t go over,” I managed to say, while the Irish boy smiled.
“Yes, we will,” the Spaniard shouted back, “Make your prayers!”
The Irish boy screamed with laughter, and I forgot my sickness as I held my sides and laughed. It was a little thing, but it is often little things that raise the loudest laughs. After that all I needed to say to upset the dignity of the Irish boy was: “Make your prayers!”
I went to bed that night too ill to eat my dinner. The next morning I had intended to go to the pearl market, but felt unequal to it, and when my acquaintances returned and told me that at the very end of the sale a man bought some left over oysters for one rupee and found in them five hundred dollars worth of pearls, I felt sorry that I had not gone, although there was great danger of getting cholera.
One day I heard a man ask another if he knew the meaning of the word “jinricksha.” the first replied the word meant “Draw man power,” and the second said, with innocent surprise, “I thought it was ‘Pull man car!’” I heard a passenger who came ashore from an Australian boat ask Andrew, a clever native who stands at the hotel door, to get him one of those carts to take a ride. Andrew did not know just what the man wanted as there were many different kinds of carts about.
“I don’t recall the name of them,” the passenger said, in a hesitating manner, “but I believe you call them Jim-Jams!”
He got a jinricksha.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05