CHAPTER XXIII. BHAMO, MANDALAY, RANGOON, AND CALCUTTA.

The finest residence in Bhamo is, of course, the American mission. America nobly supports her self-sacrificing and devoted sons who go forth to arrest the "awful ruin of souls" among the innumerable millions of Asia, who are "perishing without hope, having sinned without law." The missionary in charge told me that he labours with a "humble heart to bring a knowledge of the Saving Truth to the perishing heathen among the Kachins." His appointment is one which even a worldly-minded man might covet. I will give an instance of his methods. This devoted evangelist told me that a poor woman, a Kachin Christian, in whose welfare he felt deep personal interest, was, he greatly feared - dying from blood-poisoning at a small Christian village one hour's ride up the river from Bhamo; and he had little doubt that some surgical interference in her case would save her life. I at once offered to go and see her. I had received great kindness from many American missionaries in China, and it would give me great pleasure, I said, if I could be of any service.

The missionary professed to be grateful for my offer, but, instead of arranging to go that afternoon, named seven o'clock the following morning as the hour when he would call for me to take me to the village. At the time appointed I was ready; I waited, but no missionary came. There was a slight drizzle, sufficient to prevent his going to the sick woman but not sufficient to deter him from going to market to the Irrawaddy steamer, where I accidentally met him. So far from being abashed when he saw me, he took the occasion to tell me what he will, I know, pardon me for thinking an inexcusable untruth. He had written, he said, to the poor woman telling her, dying as he believed her to be, to come down to Bhamo by boat to see me.

In Bhamo I stayed in the comfortable house of the Deputy Commissioner, and was treated with the most pleasant hospitality. To my regret, the Deputy Commissioner was down the river, and I did not see him. He is regarded as one of the ablest men in the service. His rise has been rapid, and he was lately invested with the C.I.E. - there seems, indeed, to be no position in Burma that he might not aspire to. In his absence his office was being administered by the Assistant Commissioner, a courteous young Englishman, who gave me my first experience of the Civil Service. I could not but envy the position of this young fellow, and marvel at the success which attends our method of administering the Indian Empire. Here was a young man of twenty-four, acting as governor with large powers over a tract of country of hundreds of square miles - a new country requiring for its proper administration a knowledge of law, of finance, of trade, experience of men, and ability to deal with the conflicting interests of several native races. Superior to all other authorities, civil and military, in his district he was considered fit to fill this post - and success showed his fitness - because a year or two before he had been one of forty crammed candidates out of 200 who had taken the highest places in a series of examinations in Latin, English mathematics, &c. With the most limited experience of human life, he had obtained his position in exactly the same way that a Chinese Mandarin does his - by competitive examination in subjects which, even less than in the case of the Chinese, had little bearing upon his future work; and now, like a Chinese Mandarin, "there are few things he isn't."

On the face of it no system appears more preposterous; in its results no system was ever more successful. The Assistant Commissioner early learns self-reliance, decision, and ability to wield authority; and he can always look forward to the time when he may become Chief Commissioner.

There is a wonderful mixture of types in Bhamo. Nowhere in the world, not even in Macao, is there a greater intermingling of races. Here live in cheerful promiscuity Britishers and Chinese, Shans and Kachins, Sikhs and Madrasis, Punjabis, Arabs, German Jews and French adventurers, American missionaries and Japanese ladies.

There are many ruined pagodas and some wooden temples which, however, do not display the higher features of Burmese architecture. There is a club, of course; a polo and football ground, and a cricket ground. Inside the fort, among the barracks, there is a building which has a double debt to pay, being a theatre at one end and a church at the other, the same athletic gentleman being the chief performer at both places. But, at its best, Bhamo is a forlorn, miserable, and wretched station, where all men seem to regard it as their first duty to the stranger to apologise to him for being there.

The distinguished Chinese scholar and traveller, E. Colborne Baber, who wrote the classic book of travel in Western China, was formerly British Resident in Bhamo. He spoke Chinese unusually well and was naturally proud of his accomplishment. Now the ordinary Chinaman has this feature in common with many of the European races, that, if he thinks you cannot speak his language, he will not understand you, even if you speak to him with perfect correctness of idiom and tone. And Baber had an experience of this which deeply hurt his pride. Walking one day in the neighbourhood of Bhamo, he met two Chinese - strangers - and began speaking to them in his best Mandarin. They heard him with unmoved stolidity, and, when he had finished, one turned to his companion and said, as if struck with his discovery, "the language of these foreign barbarians sounds not unlike our own!"

In Bhamo I had the pleasure of meeting the three members of the Boundary Commission who represented us in some preliminary delimitation questions with the Chinese Government. A better choice could not have been made. M. Martini, a Frenchman, has been twenty years in Upper Burma, and is our D.S.P. (District Superintendent of Police). Mr. Warry, the Chinese adviser to the Burmese Government, is one of the ablest men who ever graduated from the Consular Staff in China; while Captain H. R. Davies, of the Staff Corps, who is on special duty in the Intelligence Department, is not only an exceptionally able officer, but is the most accomplished linguist of Upper Burma. These were the three representatives.

I sold my pony in Bhamo. I was exceedingly sorry to part with it, for it had come with me 800 miles in thirty days, over an unusually difficult road, at great variations of altitude, and amid many changes of climate. And it was always in good spirit, brave and hardy, carrying me as surely the last twenty miles as it had the first twenty. Yet, when I came to sell it, I was astonished to learn how many were its defects. Its height, which was 12.3 in Nampoung, had shrunk three days later to 11.3 in Bhamo. This one subaltern told me who came to look at the pony with the view, he said, of making me an offer. Another officer proved to me that the off foreleg was gone hopelessly; a third confirmed this diagnosis of his friend, and in a clinical lecture demonstrated that the poor beast was spavined, and that its near hind frog was rotten, "as all Chinese ponies' are," he added. One of the mounted constabulary, a smart officer, fortunately discovered in time that the pony was a roarer; while the Hungarian Israelite who lends help on notes of hand, post-obits, personal applications, and other insecurities, and is on terms of friendly intimacy with most of the garrison, when about to make an offer, found, to his great regret, that the pony's hind legs were even more defective than the fore. The end of it was that I had to sell the pony - for what it cost me. I am indebted to the Reverend Mr. Roberts, of the American Baptist Mission, for helping me to sell my pony. Mr. Roberts has a pious gift for buying ponies and selling them - at a profit. He offered me 40 rupees for my pony. 1 mentioned this offer at the Bhamo Club, when a civilian present at once offered me 50 rupees for the pony; he did not know the pony, he explained, but - he knew Roberts.

In a steamer of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company I came down the river from Bhamo to Mandalay. When I left the Commissioner's bungalow, the entire staff of the establishment and of some neighbouring bungalows assembled to do me honour, creeping up to me, and with deep humility carrying each an article of my possessions from my room down to the porch. There were the dhobie and bearer, the waterman with his goatskin waterbag, the washerman who washed my blue Chinese garments as white as his own, the syce who did not collect grass, the cook who sent me ten bad eggs in three days, and the Christian Madrasi, the laziest rascal in Bhamo, who early confessed to me his change of faith and the transformation it had effected in the future prospects of his soul. There was the Burmese watchman, and the English-speaking Burmese clerk, and the coolie who went to the bazaar for me, and many others. They lined the stairs as I came out, and placed their hands reverently to their foreheads when I passed by. It was pleasant to see such disinterested evidence of their good will, and my only regret was that I could not reward them according to their deserts. But to the Chinese coolie who was grinning to see my paltry outfit carried by so many hands, and who gathered together all I possessed and swung off with it down past the temples to the steamer landing in the native city, I gave a day's pay, and cheerfully - though he then asked for more.

In Mandalay I was taken to the club, and passed many hours there reading the home papers and wandering through its gilded halls. Few clubs in the world have such a sumptuous setting as this, for it is installed in the throne-room and chambers and reception-halls of the palace of King Theebaw.

In the very centre of the building is a seven-storeyed spire, "emblematic of royalty and religion," which the Burmese look upon as the "exact centre of creation." The reception-hall at the foot of the throne is now the English chapel; the reading-room with its gilded dais where the Queen sat on her throne, with its lofty roof, its pillars of teak, and walls all ablaze with gilding, was the throne-room of Theebaw's chief Queen.

Mandalay is largely Chinese, and on the outskirts of the city there is a handsome temple which bears the charming inscription, so characteristic of the Chinese, "enlightenment finds its way even among the outer barbarians."

There is a military hospital with two nursing sisters, highly trained ladies from Bart.'s. Australians are now so widely distributed over the world that it did not surprise me to find that one of the two sisters comes from Melbourne.

From Mandalay I went by train to Rangoon, where I lived in a pretty villa among noble trees on the lower slope of the hill which is crowned with the famous golden pagoda, the "Shway-dagon," the most sacred temple of Indo-China. We looked out upon the park and the royal lake. I early went to the Intelligence Department and saw Major Couchman. In his office I met the chief Chinese interpreter, a Chinaman with a rare genius for languages. He is a native of Fuhkien province, and, of course, speaks the Fuhkien dialect; he knows also Cantonese and Mandarin. In addition, he possesses French, Hindustani, Burmese, Shan, and Sanscrit, and, in an admirable translation which he has made of a Chinese novel into English, he frequently quotes Latin. Fit assistant he would make to Max Muller; his services command a high salary.

The Chinese in Rangoon are a predominating force in the prosperity of the city. They have deeply impressed their potentiality upon the community. "It seems almost certain," says a great authority, perhaps the greatest authority on Burma - J. G. Scott (Shway Yoe) - " that in no very long time Burma, or, at any rate, the large trading towns of Burma, will be for all practical purposes absorbed by the Chinese traders, just as Singapore and Penang are virtually Chinese towns. Unless some marvellous upheaval of energy takes place in the Burmese character, the plodding, unwearying Chinaman is almost certainly destined to overrun the country to the exclusion of the native race."

The artisans of Rangoon are largely Chinese, and the carpenters exclusively so. The Chinese marry Burmese women, and, treating their wives with the consideration which the Chinaman invariably extends to his foreign wife in a foreign country, they are desired as husbands even above the Burmans. Next to the British, the only indispensable element in the community is now the Chinese.

The best known figure in Burma is the Reverend John Ebenezer Marks, D.D., Principal of the St. John's College of the S.P.G. Dr. Marks has been thirty-five years in Burma, is still hale and hearty, brimful of reminiscences, and is one of the most amusing companions in the world. I think it was he who converted King Theebaw to Christianity. His school is a curiosity. It is an anthropological institute with perhaps the finest collection of human cross-breeds in existence. It is away out beyond the gaol, in large wooden buildings set in extensive playgrounds. Here he has 550 students, all but four of whom are Asiatics of fifteen different nationalities - Chinese, Karens, Kachins, Shans, and a varied assortment of Hindoos and Malays, both pure and blended with the native Burmese. All the different races represented in Burma have intermarried with the native Burmese, and the resulting half-breeds have crossed with other half-breeds. Most of the better class Eurasian boys (European-Asian) are educated here some being supported by their fathers, some not. The former Dr. Marks ingeniously calls after their mothers; the latter, who have been neglected, retain the names (when they are known), of their fathers. It is amusing to meet among the latter the names of so many brave Englishmen who, in the earlier days when morals had not attained the strictness that now characterises them, gallantly served their country in Burma.

No woman in the world is more catholic in her tastes than the Burmese. She bestows her loves as variously as the Japanese. She marries with equal readiness Protestant or Catholic, Turk, Infidel, or Jew. She clings cheerfully to whichever will support her; but above all she desires the Chinaman. No one treats her so well as the Chinaman. If she is capable of experiencing the emotion of love for any being outside her own race, she feels it for the Chinaman, who is of a cognate race to her own, is hardworking, frugal, and industrious, permits her to live in idleness, and delights her with presents, loving her children with that affection which the Chinaman has ever been known to bestow upon his offspring. The Chino-Burmese is not quite the equal of his father, but he is markedly superior to the Burmese. The best half-caste in the East is, of course, the Eurasian of British parentage. Englishmen going to Burma are, as a rule, picked men, physically powerful, courageous, energetic, and enterprising; for it is the possession of these qualities which has sent them to the East, either for business or in the service of their country. And their Burmese companions - of course I speak of a condition of things which is gradually ceasing to exist - are all picked women, selected for the comeliness of their persons and the sweetness of their manners.

After a stay of two or three weeks in Rangoon, I went round by the British India steamer to Calcutta. Ill fortune awaited me here. The night after my arrival I was laid down with remittent fever, and a few days later I nearly died. The reader will, I am sure, pardon me for obtruding this purely personal matter. But, as I opened this book with a testimony of gratitude to the distinguished surgeon who cut a spear point from my body, where nine months before it had been thrust by a savage in New Guinea, so should I be sorry to close this narrative without recording a word of thanks to those who befriended me in Calcutta.

I was a stranger, knowing only two men in all Calcutta; but they were friends in need, who looked after me during my illness with the greatest kindness. A leading doctor of Calcutta attended me, and treated me with unremitting attention and great skill. To Mr. John Bathgate and Mr. Maxwell Prophit and to Dr. Arnold Caddy I owe a lasting debt of gratitude. And what shall I say of that kind nurse - dark of complexion, but most fair to look upon - whose presence in the sick room almost consoled me for being ill? Bless her dear heart! Even hydrochlorate of quinine tasted sweet from her fingers.