I had sent my Boy round to find a place where we might stay, and on our return to the steamer he told me the Dak bungalow was occupied, likewise the circuit house, so we were stranded and homeless on the banks of the Irrawaddy. We then went up to the club, and there found to our relief our Boy was ... mistaken, and that the Dak bungalow was available. A member of the club kindly introduced himself and entertained us whilst we waited for our host, we noticed his hands were both in bandages, but of this more anon. From the club we went back in the starlight to our home on the ship for one more night, our minds at rest and bodies refreshed. The ladies drove in a bullock cart, the writer walked behind—the sand and track were too rough for The Bhamo gharry, and truly we considered our cart was more picturesque and comfortable. The grey wood of the cart and the ladies' white hats and dresses, and the natives' white robes and the grey white sand and white oxen, all blended into a very pretty moth-like harmony; and overhead the sky was mat blue with many solemn stars twinkling. As we crossed the little desert of sand we passed the camp and fires of the Northern peoples, beside their scores of ponies, and bales of cotton, and pack saddles; everything uncovered and open on the dry sand, no need here at this season for shelter excepting from the sun at mid-day.
Miss B. leaves us here, going south by what is called the Ferry Boat, a most excellent little steamer, with roomy, comfortable cabins. It goes down to Katha, thence she goes by train to Mandalay, and straight on to Rangoon, and her R.E. brother in India. We decide to stick to steamers in Burmah as long as we can, the extra time spent on steamers is well balanced by their comfort as against the dust and racket of a train.
The morning fog gave us a little respite—let us have an extra half-hour on board before landing our goods and chattels—but the horn was let off pretty often before we got our luggage up the loose sand on to the level. Chinese coolies in blue dungaree tunics, wide straw hats and ditto shorts carried it in baskets slung from either end of bamboo poles balanced over their shoulders. They are sturdy, cheery fellows, with well-shaped calves and muscular short feet. When the steamer cleared off we were fairly marooned on the sandbank.
No bullock-carts had come, so G. and I sat on her saddle-box and sketched a departing caravan of mules and ponies, each laden with two bales of cotton,—a Chinaman to every four ponies. There were eighty-four ponies, and they filed away, jingling into the morning mist that hung low on the sand flat. It was a little cold, but we got warmer as the sun rose over the Bhamo trees, and pagoda, and Joss House. At first the coolies stood round us, and our baggage, and took stock of us, but gradually the interest flagged, and they sat down, and we drew them, and G. made this sketch of Bhamo, and the sunrise over China.
... A Burmese woman came to the sand's edge with her baby, and built a shelter with a few bamboos, and some matting for roof, and the baby played in the patch of shadow. As it got hotter we grew wearied of waiting. At last our Boy got the two errant bullock-carts, and we went off in procession, a big bullock-cart with our luggage in front, a Burman youth on top with long black hair escaping from a wisp of pink silk, a Macpherson tartan putsoe round his legs, a placid expression, and a cheroot, of course. G. and her maid came behind with recent fragile purchases; pottery, in another bullock-cart, with an older Burman whose face was a delight—so wrinkled, and wreathed with smiles. I tailed behind and sketched as per margin, as we went through the sand—shockingly unacademical wasn't it, to draw walking?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Our first Dak bungalow experience was short. We had just settled down when word came we were to occupy the Deputy-Commissioner's bungalow which is apparently empty, so we only had tiffin in the Dak bungalow.
The D. C. Bungalow is certainly very nice, bar The Mystery. The roses are splendid, in masses; and orchids hang everywhere. I suppose the interest in them at home accounts for their being hung here on every cottage. We had almost a deck load of them on board this morning; roots that may cost a great price in Britain may be bought here for a few pence. They say the road over to China is festooned with orchids, and jungle-fowl sit amongst them and crow. G. intends to get some, and take them home, which means more glass, of course: and I hope to pot the jungle-fowl, so we both feel we have an object in life, and an apology for our itinerance.
But first, a word about THE MYSTERY. It was very delightful being asked to put up in such a charming bungalow—the invitation came by heliograph from a little fort up in the woods on the mountains, many miles away to the north-west, where the Deputy-Commisioner, Mr Levison, was going his rounds.
There was a silence and a stillness about the house that was almost eerie; the impress on a cushion, the cigarette ash, and torn letters on the verandah looked as if the house was in use; but a second glance showed that fine dust lay over all, and made the house feel deserted. The old Burmese man-servant disappeared when we arrived, so G. and I went through the house alone, to fix on our room. We had done this, and I had gone downstairs when G. called me. She had turned over a mattress, and on it was a great space of congealed blood just where a man's throat might have been! I only gathered afterwards how much alarmed she was, and she only gathered afterwards how much alarmed I was. When G. went downstairs I made an exhaustive inspection; the blood was barely a day old! and on the floor I found spots, then gouts, and then marks of naked, gory feet leading to, and from the little bathroom—it looked horribly like "withered murder!" Had the silent bare-footed Burman...? And what had been done with the.... Yes! there was a streak along the foot of the door—it had been dragged out!—Or was it floor varnish? Should I question the servant—would he, or could he, explain? No—I decided it was too late to do anything. So we both pretended we thought little of the matter, turned over the mattress, put our own on top, bolted the doors, put two Colt-Browning repeaters under our pillows, and went asleep, and in the morning were so pleased to find our throats were not slit.
When Captain Kirke and Lieutenant Carter came round later, I had to thank them for their Bundabust, and casually inquired if the last resident in the bungalow was known to be still alive; for the bedroom was so bloody! "Why—Baines!" they said, "of course; he was here two nights! you saw him yesterday at the Club—the man with his hands bandaged; that's Baines; he's always getting into pickles—he nearly bled to death! We had a farewell evening at the Club, and in the night he got up for soda water, the bottle burst and cut his hands, then he cut his feet on the broken glass going to the bathroom to bandage his hands, got into bed, and the bandages came off in the night, and in the morning he was found in a faint—therefore the blood on the mattress." The mystery was explained—And there had nearly been a tragedy.
These deputy hosts of the Deputy-Commissioner, after so kindly relieving our minds, drove us to the polo grounds in their brake, behind unbroken ponies, along a half-made road, which was highly exhilarating—but we feared nothing after our late escape—were we not each a neck to the good?
The Maidan was pretty—a pleasant plain of green grass, beautifully framed with distant jungle and mountains. G. and I made the audience at first, with two or three dozen Burmans and Sikhs. Then General Macleod and Mrs Macleod came, and his aide-de-camp (the General is on an inspection round, of the military police stations), and Mr and Mrs Algy of the Civil Police, a man whose name I can't remember, and that was all the gallery, so there was little to take away from the interest of the game, which was fast, and the turf perfection.
In the evening a delightful dinner-party, the above two deputies entertaining the aforesaid company in the Fort.
7th February.—To-day a young soldier and an artist conclude that they both had their fill of exercise yesterday.
We started at break of day and didn't get home till after sunset and then had to dine at the old Fort and witness a Kachin Pwe in the moonlight till the small hours.
I confess I was tired after the day's shoot, but so was Carter and he was in the pink of condition, which consoled me. It was a memorable day amongst my sporting days, because of the novelty of surroundings, not on account of the bag of snipe.
We turned out before daybreak, which was neither novel nor pleasant; it was cold and very uncomfortable getting from warm blankets into the chilly morning in the draughty bungalow, and reminded me of the way we are turned out in winter starts for Black Game, and woodcock in Morven—being routed out half awake in the dark by a certain energetic sportsman, hurricane lamp in hand.
I had to meet Carter at the Fort where we were to take canoes, and an elephant, across the Irrawaddy to a jheel, five miles through jungle.
The sun came up splendidly, hot and yellow over China, and warmed me comfortably as I drove to the Fort, and the mist off the plain rose and became sunlit cumuli to lie for the rest of the day on the shoulders of the Kachin Highlands.
Carter, I found in the midst of impedimenta; servants, Burmese, Kachins and natives, lunch boxes, cartridges, guns and a Mauser rifle; for though we were going for snipe the country we were to go through holds all sorts of big game, though the chance of our seeing any was remote as the jungle is dense and covers great areas.
A quarter of a mile across the exposed sand of the river bed brought us to the canoes in which we were to cross. Our elephant swam, or waded, across higher up. We divided our party into two, and we crossed in the dugouts. These are graceful long canoes, cut from a teak tree trunk, with a fine smooth surface and with a suggestion about them of being easy to roll over; bamboos lashed alongside steadied them, and allowed our Kachin and Burman to walk along the side when poling. We made use of a slack water on our side, and another behind a sandy reed-covered island half-way across to make up our leeway. Silvery fish were jumping, pursued by some larger fish, and C. and I laid plans to try harling for them after the Shannon or Namsen fashion. On the far side we got all our baggage made fast to the sides of the pad—a sort of mattress on the elephant's back—as it knelt on the shore, and on the top of the pad we stretched ourselves and held on to the ropes as the elephant heaved up. Quite a string of men tailed out behind us over the sands with cartridge bags, and gun cases on their shoulders. On the bank we found a Burman guide at a little village beside a small white pagoda. There were yellow-robed priests walking in the groves of trees and palms, and they noticed us I daresay, but made no sign that to their way of thinking we were doing harm to ourselves by going to kill snipe—the Phoungyi does not judge.
We then entered the kaing grass of which we had seen so much from the steamer and realised the difficulty of getting at game in this country. For miles we rode along a narrow path and these reeds were high over our heads, and as we sat we were about ten or eleven feet from the ground! Tiger, gaur, deer, elephant and many other kinds of big game were all in this jungly country which extends for miles, so getting a shot at any of them is a good deal a matter of luck, or time. I expect it was lucky that we did not see anything but the tracks of these beasts, for I think my companion would have tried his small bore at anything. We had a certain anxiety about Gaur, miscalled Bison, for our steed had been badly gored by one—its hind quarters showed the scars—and it was warranted to bolt when it winded them, in which event we would probably have got left, as the reeds and branches would have cleared us off the pad. For five miles we followed the lane in the grass, and passed two Burmans, midway, carrying fruit; they dodged into the reed stems and let us pass and laughingly admitted they were afraid. Here and there we came to a place where we could see over the top of the savannah for a mile or two and expected to spot deer or elephant in the park-like scenery, till we remembered the depth of the grass.
 Col. Pollock says the grass of these savannahs runs from ten to thirty feet high—"Wild Sports of Burmah and Assam."
The slow action of our steed made me think we were getting only slowly over the ground, but I noticed the men behind had pretty hard walking to keep up with us. After an hour or so, we turned off the path and trod down a road for ourselves through the reeds, and came to jungle of trees and undergrowth, with heavy foliaged creepers growing up the trees and from branch to branch, and air roots hanging from aloft, straight as bell ropes—up and down—into creeks, below undergrowth and out into the open again; the elephant being judge of where the ground would bear us, gingerly putting out its great tender feet, sinking deep into mud, making us cling on to the back stays of the pad, then dragging its feet out of the soft mud with a loud sucking sound, leaving great holes slowly filling up with black water. When a tree stump came in our path he would very deliberately crush it down with a rending sound, or if a big branch barred our way, up came the great trunk and slowly folded round it, and down it came with a crash, and was bent under foot. Sometimes a branch was too thick and strong: then the mahout drew his dah, gave three or four chops within the width of an inch—the elephant waiting meantime—when up would come the trunk again, and down went the timber. These Kachin dahs must be well tempered and have a fine edge, for our mahout cut filmy creepers hanging lightly as a hair, as easily as thick branches.
 I noticed later they were not ground to an edge, but shaved with steel spoke-shave.
About ten we got to the jheel; a swamp in an open space of about sixty acres, of water and grass; of a fresh green, surrounded by low woods. Fresh tracks of sambhur and other deer were round it and signs of tiger; so much big game had passed that there were deeply worn paths. I've no doubt that by waiting there, one could have had a shot at big game before long. It made me wish, with all my heart, for time and my 450 cordite express, and I half decided to send for it to Rangoon. Snipe was our hope in the meantime, so we got off some clothes and plunged into the marsh and up got snipe at our first step, and we brought down three, and thought we were in for a great bag. But there was rather too much water; as we went on it came well over our knees, and every now and then up the tops of our thighs so there was too little holding ground for us or snipe. We walked in line, laboriously, halting every now and then to wait for one or the other to flounder out of a deep place; and when the sun got up the glare from the water made me think of sunstroke; however, we persevered and managed to get fourteen couple before lunch time, and I found my American five-shooter the very thing for the work.
How I wish I had known of there being such good snipe shooting at Mandalay, I would certainly have had a go at it there: I think 120 couple was a recent bag to one gun in twenty-four hours.
It was very odd having the elephant walking after us, it seemed so much at home; with his length and number of legs, it could walk slowly but comfortably where we bipeds had to struggle. As it went it twisted its trunk round bunches of the water grass, tore them out of the water and swished the mud off the roots by beating it to and fro across its forelegs till it was clean, and then she stowed it down her mouth, bunch after bunch—what an enormous quantity of food they must swallow! The mahout on its back was in a good place to mark down dead birds; if it had been taught to point and retrieve, it would have been even more useful.
The walking was very tiring, one leg on firm ground and the other up to the top of the thigh in mud and water for one second, and vice versa the next; and the trees kept any breeze there was off the jheel, so we streamed from the tops of our heads. I don't think I ever in my life felt so hot when shooting—or a bottle of lager at lunch so delicious!—even the rough native cheroot came in as a pure joy!
The elephant stood beside us as we lunched, under the trees, flapping its ears in the shade, and occasionally adding a branch of a tree to its morning meal. The sunlight and patches of shadow on its grey skin made its great bulk blend into the background of stems and deep shadows, so that I understood what hunters say about the difficulty of seeing them in heavy jungle: it was as hard to see as an elk in pines. I wondered why it did not join its wild companions in the neighbourhood; for it was once wild, and there was nothing to prevent it going off if it pleased.
After lunch we decided to try for duck; that turned out a failure, but not for anything would I have missed the experience of wandering through jungle, where, without an elephant, we could not have moved. I am glad I am not yet very keen about orchids, or how my teeth would have watered! for they clothed the branches above us; they seemed generally to grow on branches about twenty or thirty feet from the ground, towards the light and air; some trees were literally covered with them at that height.
Our men we had to leave behind, as there was no track, and the Burman guide climbed up the crupper beside us, and we wandered away to some pools he knew, where there might be duck. I think we dozed a little—it was so hot and silent in the forest. There was a feeling of being lost, for there were no landmarks in the interminable beauty of tall trees and undergrowth. It was a puzzle for the mahout and elephant to find openings wide enough to take us and the side boxes on the pad through the tangle. Often a wrong direction was taken, and a circuit had to be made to get round a tree, a mass of creepers, or a deep pool. Both the Burman and the elephant seemed to calculate, to a hair's breadth, the height and width of all it carried. I think the corner of one box only once touched a branch, and when we lay low no branches touched our heads; either the Burman's dah or the elephant's trunk cleared them off us.
The first pool was lit by a golden shaft of light through the greenery, rising fish were breaking its smooth weedy surface, but duck there were none; so we plunged on in the silence in another direction, came out into the kaing grass again, left the comparatively open forest behind us, and entered a trackless sea of reeds, which closed round us thickly on all sides.
The elephant surged through this steadily, waving its trunk in front, then pressing the reeds to right and left, or raising it high, and pulling down masses that threatened to sweep us off the pad. The dust and the heat of the sun overhead, and the monotony of the surging sound was a little oppressive.—It reminded me of moments long ago, in smaller reeds, and a small boy hunting duck round a loch in Perthshire; the stuffy, closed-in feeling, the crashing of the reeds, and the silence when you stopped to listen. Here we paused too, now and again, and the Burman stood up on the pad and tried to get our bearings. We got pretty well lost, I believe. Then on we went, the huge beast crushing through the endless savannahs, as at home in its reeds as a liner surging through pathless seas. The motion and sound kept going all night in my dreams, the slow rolling of vast bones and muscles under the pad, and the crash of the reeds giving way, and the swish as they closed behind us. Here, as in the jungle, pretty blue convolvuli twisted up dead reeds nearly to our level, and peeped up at the sun. When we finally struck the long-sought for pools there were no duck, leastwise, but two, and some snake-birds, as they call a cormorant here that has a neck like an S. Round the edges the grass had been regularly grazed, so I'd bet on a shot there for one who could wait, but, apart from the shot, what would one not give for the pleasure of watching some of Burmah's beasts in their natural state. We were both a little tired by the time we got back in the afternoon to the path to the river, and an hour or two after, when we crossed the sands, and slid off our elephant's back at the river's edge, we had to take kinks out of our lower extremities, and even our elephant seemed very exhausted as it stood in the shallows, and slowly lifted water in its trunk and squirted it into its mouth. She and her mahout lodged the night on the far side.
As we crossed the river in our canoes, the sun was setting, and Carter said, "Isn't this like the West Highlands?" I had been thinking the same, almost admitting to myself that this country is perhaps as beautiful—certainly to the sportsman who neither rents nor owns lands at home, it must be out and away better. The view from his window in the Fort to the west was splendid. The Military Police Bungalow is on the top of the river bank, and beneath us stretched the sands, and the river reflecting violet and gold from the after-glow; then the rolling woods and the distant Chin hills, in purple and red, against the sunset, with one tall rain-column, very slowly passing across the yellow sky. Swing a branch of a heavy-leaved tree across the top of the wide window in Japanesque arrangement, put two men, two pipes, and two pegs in the foreground, the rising bubbles sparkling yellow in the level sunset rays, and the pipe's incense ascending in blue perpendiculars, and you have a suggestion of the perfect peace and entire absence of bustle which we associate with a certain Valley of Pong.
It made "trop de chose," to quote the great Carolus, to go out to dinner after such a full day, but the occasion was somewhat important; General Macleod and Mrs Macleod and his staff were to be entertained at the Military Police Mess.
The dinner was beautifully done, flowers and menu could not have possibly been better, though the party was not large, only our two hosts of the Military Police, the General and his wife, and his aide-de-camp, and G. and myself. I learned afterwards the A.D.C. had charmed G. with tales of the dangers of crossing into China without escort and permits.
We had a great entertainment or Pwe after. We took out cigars and chairs outside, and sat in a half circle in moonlight and shadow. In front of us was a space of silvery grey sand, the stage we will call it; at the back of the scene was a sentinel's box on the stage right, to the left the lower part of a tree, and, between these, a low breastwork of earth, all in shadow against a moonlit distance of mist, and woods and mountains. Enter left (spectators right), the supers from shade of trees, carrying lamps, they are Indian soldiers, Sikhs possibly, in mufti, you cannot distinguish them easily, they sit in shadow, two deep round the back of the stage on the ground and low breastwork, the lamps at intervals on the ground throw up a little warm light on their faces: the hubble-bubble is lit, and goes round from hand to hand, and the smoke of the tobacco hangs a little.
Enter left, dancers and musicians slowly, with shuffling steps. The quiet is broken by a note on a gong, struck softly, and there is an almost inaudible flute melody on reeds, and liquid notes struck on empty bamboos. These dusky figures are Kachin men, with red turbans, and short, white, very loose kilts and bolero jackets. Some of the reflected light from the sand shows their curious, serious, boyish faces. They are short, but well-knit; they dance in a slow figure in a line, hand in hand, the bare feet shuffling with a little sound in the dust. The music is very faint, but you long to be able to remember the uncommon air that seems to have caught the quiet of the hills, and the depths of the bamboo woods.
These Kachin players are natives of the mountains here, and to the north. They are being brought into order, and indeed, a number are enlisting in the Military Police. Till recently, they were free, wild mountaineers, doing a little farming and raiding and vendetta business.
They went off, and came back from the deep shadows of the trees with glittering swords and more strident music, and louder beating on gongs, and harsher notes on chanters, and a loud booming sound on a narrow, six-foot-six drum with bell-shaped mouth; and the figures danced quickly, going backwards, in circles, and breaking into groups, the swords whirling and flickering beautifully in the moonlight, and the audience clapped hands gently in time, and there was an occasional heugh! as used to be the way in our Highland Reel, before the invention of the—lowlander, the screaming "eightsome."
I wish I remembered more of the Pwe—how I wish I could see it over and over again, till I could remember part of one of these quiet reedy tunes, so that I could recall this scene and the charm of Burmah whenever I pleased—for me, not even a scent, or colour, or form, can recall past scenes so vividly as a few notes of an air, the rhythm of some folk-song—a few minor notes, an Alla—Allah, and you breathe the hot air of desert, and feel the monotony of black men, and sand, and sun—Thrum—thrum—thrum, and you are in the soft, busy night, in Spain, and again a few minor notes, strung together, perhaps, by Greig, in the Saeter, and you feel the scent of the pines in the valley rising to the snow—a concertina takes me back to warm golden sunsets in the dog watches in the Doldrums!—guess, I am fortunate receiving sweet suggestions from a concertina!
8th February.—Up in the morning very early, and went with the Algys to witness the Review of Captain Kirke's Kachin and Native Military Police before the General. Mrs Algy looked on from the Fort, and General Macleod and Captain Kirke stood at the saluting base, Mrs Macleod on a white pony behind, and Mr Algy of the Civil Police, and myself represented the B.P. The newly-recruited Kachins' marching and drill was perfection. Their rifles and bayonets they handled with precision, and as if they loved them. They are small men, but well shaped, not quite so bombe, but even more lithe-looking than Ghurkas, Captain K. says they are as good for hill-work; in fact, if it is possible, they are better! They stormed a village after the march past, which was a charming sight to see. The people in the village used black powder, so you could tell from what parts of the brown, sun-dried cane houses the shots came from. They took cover wonderfully, considering it was only sham fight, ran in in sections, generally aimed at something, and fired without flinching, though they wore boots, which must have been a new and painful experience. I felt quite martial myself, and felt how excellent it must be to go fighting with some hundreds or thousands of lives to stake on an issue, and, so reflecting, my admiration increased for those private gentlemen at home, and in the Colonies, who went with only their own lives to Africa, for somebody else to stake.
In the evening the Officers came to the D.-C. Bungalow, and we had music, and drank to the health of our unknown host who is still in the hills, and Captain Kirke pencilled a route map for our ride into China.
Yesterday afternoon we did a little preparation for our trek into China. Mr Kohn, the storekeeper in Bhamo, imports to the East, the essentials of western civilization (in my opinion claret and cut Virginian) and the etceteras; Cross and Blackwell things. And the West, he supplies with Shan swords and orchids, Kachin bags, ornaments in jade, gold and silver, and all sorts of curios. So we got bread from him for seven days, and tinned butter, milk, coffee, and a supply of the dried leaves of a certain aromatic shrub, for an infusion called Tea, also his Uisquebagh, and live ducks and hens in baskets, and six Chinese ponies, and three Chinamen—quite an extensive piece of shopping which took two hours at least.
... It is really very pleasant to feel we are actually going with our own mule train into the wilds, where even Cook's tickets and Empires peter out; there is almost the same exciting feeling as of sailing into uncharted seas, and seeing new lands.
Our mule train cannot exactly be called interminable; but we have four riding ponies to add to the live stock already mentioned, making a caravan of ten beasts. Besides the three Chinese men, there is our Madrassee boy, an Indian cook, in black top-coat and black Delhi cap; he has a plain but honest face, and a stutter and a few words of English, and there is a youthful Burman to help him, and three Indian soldiers, Sowars, to ride behind our illustrious selves! Quite an interesting crowd when you come to think of it, for its size and babel of tongues! but, my certie! I'd nearly left out the cook's charming and stately Burmese wife! She is the most decorative part of the show; with a yellow orchid in her black hair, coppery-brown lungy, green-jacket and pink scarf floating from her shoulders; she carries a black gingham umbrella in one hand, and in the other, of course, a big white cheroot, and behind her toddles her dog, liver and white, half terrier, half daschhound.
We got our packages fast on the pack saddles, and the procession on the road only three hours after the time we had aimed at, which we thought not bad for beginners, and G. and I followed, in a pony trap, with the four ponies and two Sowars, her maid being left in the care of the American missionary's wife.
Out of Bhamo for some miles, the road is macadamised, broad level and straight, with grand columnar trees on either side, and leaves on its surface. Every mile or so you meet or pass groups of Kachins, Chinese or Shans, or people you can't quite place. They walk in Indian file as they are accustomed to in narrow hill and jungle paths. The Chinese men are without women and carry burdens, the Kachins carry their swords slung under the left arm, and their women carry their burdens. Some tribesmen have bows and arrows as well as swords. The Kachin woman's costume is of a pretty colour, a little dark velvet jacket with short sleeves, a kilt to the knee, and dark putties, both of woven colours like tartan, in diced and in herringbone and running patterns. She carries the load in a narrow, finely-woven basket on her back, and her black hair is dressed after the fashion in Whitechapel. She is short with very strong calves. Her jaunty husband comes behind, with his red bonnet or turban cocked on one side, the sword and red tasselled bag hung from his left shoulder. The square Kachin bag or satchel is a pure joy of bright threads and patches and wonderful needlework, and is a little suggestive of a magnificent sporran. His expression is said to be sly, but I don't think so. His head is held straight on a longish neck for his size, his dark, slightly oblique eyes are wide open and mildly startled looking—ditto his mouth, he is neater in figure than the Chinese, and does not look so heavy and potent. The top of his head is wide, his nose short and jaw and chin square but not deep.
As we drove through the fallen leaves and the shade on this fine road, the sun setting behind us lit up the tallest trees and branches in front of us in gold and green against the violet hills in the East. I scribbled figures in sketch-book and G. drove, and the syce sat behind with my gun handy. I also kept a corner of an eye lifting for jungle fowl, and by Jove! we were not two miles out when a hen ran across the road a hundred yards ahead and the sketches flew, and out came the gun; but instead of driving on and getting down when past as I ought—we stopped, and I went on, and when I came up to the place saw a cock scurrying along, and fired just as it got behind a bamboo clump, and I said—"tut, tut," and was very disappointed; as have been many men before me, by the same trifling miscarriage. It seemed a handsome little bird, a glowing bit of orange red colour. It's as fascinating as novel, the sensation of driving through country where you may see game at any time, and which all belongs to you and is gamekeepered by Government for you—it makes you feel a share of the county actually belongs to you.
I have read that you should get your terrier into the trap about this part of the road; the leopards have demonstrated this by collaring those that have followed the few white men's carriages that have driven along it. You may, see big game from it—I only saw pigs; they crossed the road, grey and bristly fellows, I'd swear they were wild, but I met Shans driving others in leash so like that now I am not quite sure.
It gets cold and dark as we get to the end of our drive, and we are glad to get down and into a rest-house of bamboo, built on trestles; it is like a pretty little shooting-box in the midst of shooting of measureless extent. The moon shines on its thatch, and the lamp lit inside tells us our caravan has arrived before us. The country is flat here, with fields and little jungle. We see the woods rising to the hills which we will reach to-morrow, and wisps of pungent smoke from a village near hang low across the fields. A few minutes walk brings us to where a smith works under a tall solitary tree; the smith, as usual, is brawny, and sparks fly up and bellows blow, and children blink at the glow just as they do elsewhere. The apprentice works the bellows, and at a nod from the smith pulls out the glowing metal, and the two thump away at it cheerily, and shove it back and heap up the charcoal, the bellows go again, and the smith has three whiffs at his pipe; it is a dah, or sword, they are making, welding one bit of iron after another into one piece.
We dine by candle light, and the moonlight comes through the hanging screen window and through the spaces between the planks of the floor, and our music is the distant ringing of the anvil, and the intermittent liquid notes of a Burmese reed instrument in the village.
After dinner, the mail, which we had not time to read yesterday, and our home news from the cold North-West. Two letters are from "The Grey City," both from authors, one with a word picture of that most dreary sight, our empty High Street on a Sunday morning, the poor people in their dens and the better class in St Giles; the other tells us that the "Boyhood of R. L. S." does well, as of course we knew it would; so we pass the evening pleasantly enough with thoughts of East and West, and friends here and there—even though that jungle fowl did get clean away.
Kalychet, 10th February.—It seems quite a long time since we were last night in the plains, in mist and haze and moonlight. It rained, and was very damp indeed during the night. Our slumbers were disturbed by a groaning, creaking, wooden-wheeled lowland train of carts, that seemed to suffer agony for ages—it went so slowly past and out of hearing; perhaps it was the squeaking of the wheels that set all the cocks a-crowing. The more the wheels creak the better, for the Burman believes this creaking and whistling keeps away the "Nats" or spirits of things. The night seemed long and unrefreshing, and in the grey of the morning we found our blankets were wet with fog. But that was down below, now we are up on higher ground, and the air is drier and pleasant.
In early morning we drove in the pony cart half the way from Momouk to this Kalychet, the sowars riding behind with the four ponies. The road lay through green aisles of bamboo that met overhead, and it was cold and wet under them for some hours.
At mid-day we stopped and the syce went back with the pony cart, and I unpacked some fishing tackle to have a try for Mahseer on a river some distance beyond our halting place. I selected a rod from the million of bamboos round us, one of decent growth, not the longest, they ran to ninty feet at a guess, and fastened snake rings on with adhesive plaster from our medical stores, the stuff you get in rolls, an adaptation of a valuable tip from The Field; the tip was for mending rods, but it does as well, or better, for putting on temporary rings.
 An improvement on the splendid tip is to use the gummy tape used for insulating electric wire.
It was a grand river, what I'd call a small salmon river, tumbling into pools over great water-worn boulders, with a tangle of reeds and bamboos above flood mark. It was piping hot fishing, and the water seemed rather clear for the phantom I tried. I had two on for a second, and had a number of touches from small Mahseer that I saw following the minnow, but failed to land anything, so alas!—I can't swear I've caught a Mahseer yet or killed a jungle fowl—my two small ambitions just now. G. collected seeds and roots of wild plants to send home, so she had a better bag than I had. We rode back to our halting place to lunch—or tiffen, or whatever it's called in these parts—a sort of solid breakfast at one o'clock,—on the side of the pony track; the Chinese pack-ponies wandered round eating bamboo leaves and tough looking reeds. Along the road we passed many groups of Kachins, all with swords and mild wondering eyes. This halt was rather a business I thought,—all the packages unladened, pots and pans and fires, and a complicated lunch. I incline to our home fashion when living out of doors, of a crust and a drink at mid-day and a square meal after the day's outing.
As we were getting our cavalcade started, along came Captain Kirke and Carter in shirt-sleeves, riding back hard to Headquarters. They are hard as nails but looked just the least thing tired, having ridden a great distance since yesterday on an inspecting tour from some hill village. They hoped to get to Bhamo by night if their steeds held out.
For the rest of the day we rode, at first with our whole crew, latterly by ourselves and the two Sepoys:—cantered a hundred yards or so and jog-trotted, ambled, walked, cantered again and climbed slowly up hillside paths; through damp hollows, between brakes of high reeds with beautiful fluffy seeds, under tall trees festooned with creepers with lilac flowers, and over hard sunny bits of the path with butterflies floating up against us, and overhead, orchids and pendant air roots and wild fruits. I suppose it was the beautiful surroundings that made the ride so enjoyable, and the change from the plain to the hill air.
Towards evening we rode up a saddle ridge that crossed the valley along which we had been riding, and came out of trees and bamboos into the open. Here we found another pretty public-work's dak bungalow of dark teak uprights and cross beams, with white-washed cane matting between and neat grass thatch laid over bamboos, with wide views up and down the valley of rolling woods and distant hills. To the north-east a distant range of blue hills cut across the valley, touches of sunlight showed they were covered with forest; below us the path led zigzagging into the yellow and green bamboos. Looking back to the south down the valley we had come up, the Chin hills bounded the horizon, but between us and them lay miles and miles of rolling woods, and a haze at the foot of the hills over the plain of the Irrawaddy. The air was delicious, the views enthralling, the lodging comfortable, the country we might call our own, with no one about, except the native Durwan, or caretaker, and his Kachin women folk, only in the distance on a hillside were two Kachins clearing a patch of jungle—otherwise solitude and peace. Our ponies and baggage arrived all right but some time after us; it ought to have been looted if what recent writers say about the Kachins is right—that "they do no honest labour, but live by lifting cattle, looting caravans, and stealing anything upon which they can lay their hands." Krishna and all the others set at once to unpack and get ready our meal, which felt rather late—I should have timed them to arrive before us. It grew chilly in the evening, and our red blankets soon seemed uncommonly attractive.
Sunday forenoon.—You might, if of a contemplative mind, and not harassed by desire for sport, or movement, or travel, stay for many hours, even days, with great content at this Kalychet bungalow, looking out over forest and glen, inhaling the pure air, and even run to poetry were you of the age.
"Watching shadows, shadows chasing,"
—over the forest-clad mountains which have only cleared patches here and there, where Kachins have cut the bamboos, taken a crop or two and then moved on, leaving the ground to lie fallow and grow over weeds again. On the hillside there are two of these clearings across the track above us, some two acres or so in extent, with the bamboos cut and stumps of trees projecting, and in the middle of one of these there is a native hut, like a fragile boat-house, projecting from the slope of the hill. Narrow footpaths through the bamboos lead from our cleared space up to them. Two little Kachin women are climbing up these paths, their cattle in front of them; each has a basket on her back, and she spins as she goes—now they are followed by a sprightly boy and his sister, the boy straight as a dart, with a sword slung across his back, and his gay red-tasselled satchel on his left side; both have bare feet, and neither of them seem to heed the thorns. The girl has a loose bundle of thin hoops of brass and black cane round her hips, under her short black jacket, and two great silver torques round her neck and breast; her clothes are dark blue, black, and red.
... There is the quiet of the mountains; only slightly broken at intervals of an hour or so when a caravan passes, but sometimes these pass perfectly silently without stopping; barefooted carriers with their merchandise slung across the shoulder on bamboos, and sometimes with ponies, and bells jingling cheerily. Just now, one has come from the China frontier, some ten carriers wearing pointed straw hats several feet wide. They unlimber and drink a little water from a spring that spouts out of the side of a hill through a bamboo; they are quiet people—their voices and the gurgling of the spring just reach us. Then from Burmah side come women carriers, Shans, I think, old and young, in dark blue clothes, short petticoats and tall turbans; they come sturdily up the hill and joke with the Chinese coolies as they pass without stopping down the zigzag path into the bamboos, by the path our ponies and people have already followed. But here is movement! and a cheery jingling!—a whole string of Chinese pack ponies, eighty at least, coming up from Bhamo, each laden with bales, a Chinaman to every three ponies. At the end stalks a lean Indian. I suppose he owns the show—his wife follows, a very black thing, a Madrassee, to judge by her not very white and inelegant hangings. They drink and spit at the spring, and he sees us and salaams, and looks in to see the durwan, who is one of his countrymen.
But now we must be jogging too, though it is pleasant here. We leave one sowar behind, in pain he says, but I doubt if he's very ill. So we get on to our rather big polo ponies, one black, the other white, and go down the valley on the path to China—said bridle path quite dry now excepting under bamboo clumps, though it rained hard in the night.
7 P.M.—Kulong Cha—"There's no place like home" they say, and I thought so; now I think there is, perhaps even better. Our own highlands must have been like this before General Wade and Sir Walter Scott opened them to the tourist; the Pass of Leny or where Bran meets Tay, when there was more forest, and only bridle tracks, and men going armed, must have been like this, even to the free fishing and shooting.
We are in a cup-shaped wooden glen, our rest-house eighty feet up the hillside above the track, and a brawling burn that meets the Taiping a few hundred yards beyond our halting place. The burn suggests good fishing, and the Taiping looks like a magnificent salmon river. It is 7 P.M. and Krishna busy setting dinner, and your servant writing these notes to the sound of many waters and by a candle dimly burning, for the sun has gone below the wooded hills and left us in a soft gloom. Several camp fires begin to twinkle along the road where the caravans we overtook, and others from the east, are preparing for the night. Our Chinese coolies too have their fires going near us, the smoke helping to soften the already blurred evening effect. We have had, for us, a long afternoon's ride—a little tiring and hot in the bottom of the valley when the path came down to the Taiping river,—a winding and twisting path, round little glens to cross foaming burns, level enough for a hundred yards canter, then down, and up, hill sides in zigzags, here and there wet and muddy with uncertain footing, through groves of bamboos and under splendid forest trees, some creepers hanging a hundred feet straight as plumb lines, others twisted like wrecked ships' cables, and flowering trees, with delicious scent every hundred yards or so. We felt inclined to stop and look, and sketch vistas of sunlit foliage through shadowy aisles of feathery bamboos, or splendid open forest views with mighty trees, and the river and its great salmon pools. There were splendid butterflies, some large and black as velvet, with a patch of vivid ultramarine, others yellow with cerulean, and another deep fig green with a blazing spot of primrose, and pigeons, and of course jungle fowl, because I had not my gun!
Our caravan arriving here was picturesque. They came round the corner over the burn bridge, walking briskly, the sick sowar riding in the rear, the cook and his Burmese wife leading—she so neat, with a pink scarf, green jacket, and plum-coloured silk skirt, her belongings in a handkerchief slung over her shoulder from a black cotton parasol, and in her left hand, carried straight as a saint's lilies, a branch of white flowers for G.; then came the Burman youth, also with some bright colour, a red scarf round his black hair and tartan kilt; he carried my gun, and the Chinamen in weather-worn blue dungarees, loose tunics and shorts, and wide yellow umbrella hats slung on their backs, with their shaggy brown and white ponies. We arrived at five, the mules and baggage at six, and already dinner is almost cooked, our belongings in place, beds made, mosquito curtains up,—and this day's journal done!
... Wish somebody would write this day's log for me—I must fish! The burn in front is in grand spate, so is the Taiping river, roaring down discoloured. If I know aught of Highland spates, they will both be down in the hour and fishable. The glen is full of sun from behind us, and the mist is rising in lumps. It rained in the night; when we turned in, the mist had come down in ridges on us, and it felt stuffy and warm under blankets, and the sound of the waters was muffled by the mist. I awoke with a world of vivid white light in my eyes, the glen was quivering with lightning, and the gods played awful bowls overhead! Green trees up the hillsides and contorted mist wreaths showed as in daylight, and then were buried in blackness and thunder. Then the rain came! to put it intil Scottis—a snell showir' dirlin' on the thatch. There was the bleezin cairn, and the craig that lowped and dinnled i' the dead-mirk dail, the burn in spate and the rowin flood o' the Taiping dinging their looves thegither at their tryst i' the glen—ane gran' an' awesome melee. But I don't like these effects, so I buried myself in red blankets, and as the rain thundered down, thought of our coolies; I expect they got from under their hats and went below the floor of our bungalow. The atmosphere, after an hour, grew suddenly pleasant and cool—a breeze rose—there was light in the left, and the glint of many stars—and I pulled on another blanket and slept at last refreshingly. What a night the Chinese up the road must have had. No jungle however thick could have kept out that rain, and it is thin where they are, for many campers have cut down the branches and bamboos for fodder and firewood. They sleep with only a piece of matting over their bodies, the wide straw hat over their head and shoulders; and their fires, of course, were extinguished. The sort of thing our Volunteers enjoyed in S.A., and for which they got rheumatism and experience, and a medal, and no opportunity to wear it.
One of the sepoys has cut me a bamboo, so it's time to be off to put on snake-rings, and get out tackle and try somehow to hang on to one of these Mahseer that I have heard of so much and of which I know so little. Local information there is none, but I have spoons and phantoms, and so—who knows!
The above notes and remarks, full of hope, were written with a little impatience to be "on the water." Now, after two hours scrambling through jungle to and from the river, I've less hope and an empty basket. It was hot and still down in the glen, like the vale wherein sat grey-haired Saturn, and—
"Forest on forest hung about his head Like cloud on cloud. No stir of air was there, Not so much life as on a summer's day Robs not one light seed from the feathered grass, But where the dead leaf fell, there did it rest."
and fruit and flowers too lay sodden under foot. It was tough work getting through the few hundred yards of jungle of creeper thorns and boulders to the river's edge. I fished two or three sheltered runs, and came back soaking from within and without from the heat and wet foliage, scratched by thorns, with ears drumming from the noise of many waters, and no basket, and the river not down two inches and muddy as could be!
We must be off again now—or at least let the pack ponies and servants go.
12th, Monday.—Nampoung, after two hours on our little gees, two hours that seemed days! Hot and stuffy down in the glens in the din and roar of the Taiping in spate, climbing up for a thousand feet, a hundred yards on the level, twisting round corries—such fascinating corries, stuffed with every sort of tropic growth, like the pictures one saw in stories of Jules Verne, but in such rich varied colouring! I vow I saw creepers of two hundred feet, wild plantains with fruit, and great ferns, heavy-leaved dark foliage and feathery bamboos, the leaves yellow and dropping and covering our path with a crisp brown carpet.
We rode generally in single file, our right sides against rocks or cuttings in the yellow earth bank, and every here and there were views through the foliage, sometimes almost straight down below us a thousand feet, where we could catch a glimpse of foaming river and hear its roar coming up to us.
The sowars cut branches for us to hold over our shoulders to keep the heat of the afternoon sun off neck and back—Birnam woods a deux, and Nampoung fort instead of Macbeth's castle.
Nampoung—the edge of the Empire!—We are now well into the Kachin Highlands, 6000 to 7000 feet above the sea, and the air is delicious. The last part of our ride here was very steep. G. and her pony were only just able to scrape up together. I and the sepoys had to walk. Almost in the steepest part some sixty Chinese mules and ponies came down, and we pulled aside at a bit of the path where two could barely pass. It was a cheery sight, the long line of ponies and the blue coats and mushroom hats, jogging, slipping, and jangling down the zigzag path, with an occasional cheery shout to the beasts as they disappeared round corners, appeared again, and finally showed a mile below, when only the sound of their bells came up to us faintly from the tropic woods in the bottom of the Nampoung Valley.
I am not sure that having reached a point within pistol-shot of the back of China fills one with any enormous sense of accomplished endeavour. What strikes me mildly is the feeling of being at the present extremity of British possessions, and we speculate where the March may be in years to come—East or West? The tiny little frontier fort we have arrived at is on a saddle-back hill, and overlooks the angle of China between two valleys, that of the Taiping and its tributary, the Nampoung. As we passed through the wire entanglements on the summit, after our climb up, the Indian sentinel facing China across the glen struck me as being rather a suggestive figure, so here he is.
"Capin Kurruk" was our effective password. Kirke I suppose, had heliographed our arrival, and the Subadar and the native doctor met us. The Subadar, a Sikh, I think, had almost the only Indian face I have seen so far that I liked—big, potent, and with the appearance of a sportsman and gentleman. The doctor was of rather an opposite type, though clever-looking, and spoke a little English.
The dark bungalow was a few hundred yards down the hill from the fort looking down the valley we had come up into the sunset. On these higher hills I see more Kachin clearings, and with the glass make out their sturdy little figures in the tracks leading from one clearing to the other, interminable bamboo jungle above and below them. They certainly have a splendid country to hold. They are said to have come into Burmah with the great Mogul invasion; and when the Northerners retreated, the Kachins stayed and took up their quarters in the hill tops, and have raided the low countries since.
The cut of their women's dress resembles the reindeer skin dress of the Laps in north of Norway, and the geometric ornaments are similar, and the torque or heavy penanular necklet of silver has ends like the druidical serpents head.
12th February.—Down at Kulong Cha the night was warm and stuffy! last night up here at Nampoung it was precious cold. We could hardly sleep, though we had on our whole wardrobe. The weak point was our having only two thin quilts underneath on the charpoys. As these bungalows are all made after one design on the principle of a meat-safe, to keep you cool in the low hot levels, they are only too effective up here. So we turned out very early to find a spot where the sun shone hot on the Empire's wall. In an hour or two we will be down to the Nampoung River, and it will be hot there as an oven.
Lives there a man who has sat by the riverside at mid-day in the glen, with a pipe and a cup, and a fish in the bag, the air hot and full of the sound of running waters, and the sun laughing in the spirals of the mountain dew, who has not felt that beautiful life could offer nothing better than another fish? (I'd have brought a "man or woman" into this already involved interrogatory sentence, but for the pipe!) So we feel, as we rest by the side of Nampoung River, between China and Upper Burmah, after a morning's ride and an hour's fishing. There is a delicious blend of wood, and hill, and running water, and we have a good Mahseer in the bag—or pot rather—a perfect beauty, though not quite up to the record weights we read of; but it played handsomely, and it comes in handily for lunch. I got it at the tail of a lovely clear running pool, just above the ford where the caravans cross from China. The river must be much netted by the coolies who camp for the night here; as I wound up before lunch one of these, a Chinaman, with a boy came and cast a circular net with great skill over half the pool in which I'd landed the Mahseer, but they didn't get anything, as I expect I'd driven the Mahseer into the rough water at the top of the pool. Down the river where it meets the Taiping I am told there is splendid fishing, but I must content myself with the hope that "a time will come." It is pleasant in the meantime; there are sweet scents in the air, and pleasant colours. Our little camp kitchen, one hundred yards down the river, wreaths the trees with wisps of blue smoke. The Burmese girl and her brother wear bright red and white, and near us there are wild capsicums and lemon trees dangling all over with yellow fruit and sweet-scented blossoms. The fruit has rather a coarse skin, but the juice is pleasant enough under the circumstances.
 Fresh food a treat, as larder is becoming "tinny."
How good the Mahseer was fried, with a touch of lemon! I daresay if it had been big enough to feed all hands it would not have had such a delicate flavour; it was rather like fresh herring. If our servants hadn't much fish, I at least, helped their larder to a crow from a swaying bough above us some forty odd yards—brought it down with a four-inch barrelled Browning's colt. It and its comrades made a racket above us, and disturbed a nap G. and I were having on the bank up the river from our camp, so I drew as I lay and fired, and was fairly well pleased with the shot; but the smiles and astonishment of some Chinese and Kachins, who had gathered from I don't know where, and were very unexpectedly showing their heads round us, were truly delightful, and the feathers were off in a twinkling. I liked these aborigines' expressions after the shot a good deal better than before.
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Then we got up and went on to China, G. on her white pony, the writer on foot, and when we came to the ford the pony wouldn't face the stream for love or a stick, so I'd to carry G. pick-a-back, and it took me to the thick of the thigh and G. well over her ankles. We walked three steps on Chinese ground and stopped, and looked at the Chinese riffraff soldiery that turned out from a cane house, and they likewise looked at us. As they offered no signs of welcome, we began our homeward journey, took a breath, said a prayer, and "hold tight," and waded back. These guards, I am told, lose their heads if they allow anyone to pass without a permit; we did not have one, so I can quite well understand their expressions. G. knew this before we crossed, but I did not, so I reflect. I do not suppose we could have forded sooner as the river was falling; a few hours later, it could have been crossed with less difficulty.
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So we got back to our ponies again, and followed our baggage jogging back down from China, in and out, and up and down the valleys; and it was just as nice as jogging up: we were glad to see the scenes of wood and valley and foaming rivers over again from new points of view.
At Kulong Cha, we stopped the night in the Glen of the Sound of Many Waters. A leopard called on us in the night—came into the back verandah with a velvety thud, and so we each turned out with our Browning revolvers, and when we met with candles dimly burning, each said we "heard a rat!" It probably was in search of the terrier of the Burmese wife of our native cook; but it did not succeed in the quest. Terriers' lives here are short and full of sport, and leopards love them. What an adventuresome day—Bag one crow—one Mahseer.
The desperate play of the Mahseer and our adventure into China had tired us, so that we left Kulong Cha late, after a "European breakfast"; which is to say, a breakfast at or about nine, and rode with much pleasure till lunch time. Then fell in with our servants, camped in flickering shadows under bamboos beside the yellow surging Taiping, the fire going and the air redolent with an appetising smell of roast duck; our last dear duck, whose fellow ducks and hens had accompanied us in the baskets at either end of a pole across a coolie's back from Bhamo.
In less than fifteen minutes by the watch, we had a rod cut, salmon reel attached and rings put on with the invaluable plaster, and all ready for underhand casting. I fished the most magnificent-looking salmon pool; there were fresh leopard tracks on a bank of sand beside it, and G. and the Burmese woman made a great collection of orchids and bulbs, and ants and stinging beasts as they climbed the trees. But alas, I got only one fish, and it was no beauty! I rather think the Taiping water is too discoloured and sandy for Mahseer.
If the ride in the morning was pleasant, that in the afternoon and evening was even more so. As we came down the glens to Kalychet,—the gold of the evening faded in front of us, and left us in soft sweetly-scented darkness. The fire-flies lit up, and their little golden lamps flickering alongside through the intricacies of the dark bamboo stems helped to show us the track.
... How tired we were when we at last reached the rest-house: tired of the delight of the day and the difficulty of riding in the dark. It blew a little during the night and grew cold, but we thought of the heat of the day and made belief that we were very snug, though the wind did play freely through the open floor and cane walls.
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From Kalychet to Momouk in the sun in the morning was perhaps our most enjoyable ride, such heat, and light, and exhilarating air, the air of Norway with southern colour. Butterflies, huge black fellows with dazzling blue patches, fluttered off the sandy bits of road, their shadows blacker than themselves, the ponies' feet crackled the great hard teak leaves. Out of forest and creepers into bamboo thickets; then into glades with flowering kaing grass and wild fruit, redder than tomatoes, hanging from creeping plants; across slender wooden bridges, over roaring streams, always getting lower till the path came out on the plains again on the wide macadamised road.
... It was rather sad getting on to the plain again. We left our hearts in the Kachin Highlands, and thought, with a little melancholy, how long it would be before we breathed clean hill air again.
Our train got a little disorganised getting into Momouk, the pack-ponies' backs were the worse of wear, and our Boy had fallen out with sore feet—the poor fellow had been working up to his collar. He crept in hours after the others and collapsed, his bare soles cracked and legs in pain. Silly fellow won't wear shoes for some caste or religious superstition; he is more fitted for his clerks work than for tramping. I held his pulse and tried to look as if I knew what to do with a sick Hindoo, tucked him up in his blanket under the bungalow and left him in charge of the native Durwan, and arranged to send out a conveyance for him on the morrow from Bhamo.
Then we took the hard high road again in the pony cart, and it felt very hum-drum trundling along on wheels on the straight level road across the plain. Groups of Kachins passed us going homewards to the high ground we had left, and we envied them; for hills are elevating and plains depressing, whatever Shopenhaur or the Fleet Street philosopher may have said to the contrary.
As the evening came on, we passed the Mission House, and the cemetery, and the Dak bungalow and the Club, pretty nearly all there is of European interest in Bhamo, excepting the Fort, and pulled up at the Deputy-Commissioner's Bungalow. The D.C., Mr Leveson, was at home this time, and gave us a very hospitable welcome.
... The military police officers to dinner. The conversation mostly on sport; what constitutes a "good snipe shot," what may be called a "good bag of snipe," and the many ramifications of these subjects. Then music, our host singing, "When Sparrows Build," and Kirke sang and played his own "Farewell to Burmah," of which both music and words expressed the very essence of the charm of this country, and a little of the sweet sadness there is in glens and rivers, and of the peace of evening when the kaing grass is still and the white ibis and crows flight home across the broad river into the sunset. You who know the song of Dierdre of Naoise, fairest of the sons of Uisneach, and the charms of each glen she sings of in Alba—you will know the quality I mean....
"Beloved, the water o'er pure sand, Oh, that I might not part from the East, But that I go with my Beloved."
I think Percy Smith was strongest at coon songs, and Trail sang all sorts, and G. and Kirke played accompaniments, whilst the writer picked out his own to a chantie respecting the procedure to be taken with an inebriated mariner—such a merry evening!—the best of which, to me, was the jolly rattle of witty talk of these youthful administrators, the oldest, if you please, well under thirty, talking of the other soldier men as boys. We finished our concert at one, and the young soldiers had to get home, and start up the river before daybreak for warlike manoeuvres—(or polo?) at Myitkyna, 140 miles north-west of Bhamo; there will be a jolly reunion I gather, of men who have been for long months keeping watch and ward from their lonely mountain eyries o'er the furthest marches of the British Empire!
17th February.—I vow that there is this morning, at the same time, a suggestion in the air of both spring and autumn. There is a touch of autumn grey, and the plants in the garden droop a little as they do at home before or after frost. A level line of cloud rests half-way up the steel blue hills, it has hung there motionless for hours since the sun rose, and the air is very pure, with a sweet scent of stephanotis and wood-smoke and roses. Possibly it is the stephanotis and the wood-smoke combined that makes me think of spring—spring in Paris; but more probably Paris is brought to my mind this morning by the interview we had yesterday with M. Ava about our berths on the cargo boat down to Mandalay; he is the Bhamo Agent for the Flotilla Company. M. Ava left Paris at the time of the birth of the Prince Imperial, and came to Burmah with his own yacht, and has stayed here ever since. I wish he would write a book on the changes of life he has seen; about the court life of the Empire, and his semi-official yachting tour, and of his long residence with Thebaw and his queens, of the intrigue and ceremonies in their golden palaces, the thrilling episodes of which he was witness, and of the many changes of fortune he has himself experienced.
... Someone said last night, "How interesting it would be if an artist were to paint the various types of the tribes here," and my conscience smote me for not seizing the occasion. So to-day I got my Boy to ask the native cook, to ask his Burmese wife, to ask her Kachin female assistant to pose for me, and here she is. Isn't she sweet?—and seventeen, she says, and she is so shy!—and has a queer, queer look in the back of her narrow eyes that I'd fain be able to translate; perhaps there's a little pride of race, and perhaps a little of the timidity of a wild thing from the jungle—perhaps all the histories of old Mongol invasions and retreats if we could but read! Her dress is rather rich, jacket black velvet, edged with red, tall turban of blue frieze cloth, and kilt and putties of the colours of low-toned tartan made of hand-woven cloth, in diced and herring-boned patterns. She has a silver torque round her neck of the druidical shape, the ends of the circle almost meeting, and bent back with two shapes like flat serpents' heads. In her ears are silver ornaments the size and shape of Manilla cheroots, enamelled and tasselled with red silk. As I drew her, the rest of Mr Leveson's domestics, Burmese and native, sat round on the lawn and helped by looking on, and were greatly delighted in seeing the buxom beauty reproduced in colour on paper.
A Burmese matron then came along with her daughter to sell two silver swords with ivory handles, and I got the swords, and a sitting of a few minutes from the daughter, and here she is: a fairly average Burmese girl, but not nearly one of the prettiest. The green broadcloth jacket you see up here frequently, but further south the girls all wore thin white jackets. As I painted, G. and the servants packed orchids, box after box—I must be at my packing too; leopards' skins, and Kachin and silver-mounted Shan dahs are my most interesting trophies.
Dined with the Algys of the Civil Police force—Captain Massey there, a pleasant bungalow, a wealth of roses on the table, heavy red curtains against white and pale blue plastered walls; a wood fire and lots of open air and music, and talk of sport and big game. I am asked to a great drive of geese, sambhur, and syn, but cannot accept for want of time—was there ever anything more annoying!
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19th February.—Good-bye, sweet Bhamo. You weep, and we weep; but we go with a hope we may return.
How it pours! The Chinese ponies on the sandbank huddle together. A Burmese lady goes up the bank to loosen the painter of her canoe; she wears a pink silk skirt and white jacket, and carries a yellow paper umbrella and apparently thinks little of the downpour. I've noticed heaps of these pretty oiled paper umbrellas in the bazaars, I suppose being prepared for this kind of weather. Even in pouring wet, Bhamo is beautiful. Good-bye again; we will tell our friends at home that there is such a desirable quiet country on this side of Heaven, where the mansions truly are few, but the hosts are very kind.
Now we let go our wire rope from the red and black timber head in the sand, slip away quietly into the current and leave the sandbank to the Chinese ponies and a few bales of cotton, all in the dripping rain.
The kaing grass is drooping with the downpour, but it will be dry as tinder in an hour or two, dry on the top at least.
Now, great Irrawaddy—take us safely down your length, and preserve us from sandbanks and let us spend some more hours on your lovely banks; and we will go down with your rafts of bamboos, and teak, and pottery, and canoes, and we will avoid all trains till you fraternise with old ocean again in Rangoon river. Then we will bid you good-bye, it may be for years, but we hope not for ever.
... At Katha again. The wet pigeon-grey sky lifting, the river the colour of the Seine. The decorative fig and cotton trees have leaves just budding, and through the grey stems of the leafless Champaks with wax white flowers we see groups of figures in dainty colours in the quiet light, and of course there is the glint of white and gold of a pagoda.
... In the morning we woke early and drank in the beauty of the clouds lifting off the river and floating up the corries in the distant hills. We did not awake early intentionally; the wet mist in the night tautened the cord of the fog horn, and when the steam pressure rose, off it went loud and long enough to waken seventy sleepers.
... We pass villages quickly on our way down. We have a flat on either side, but there is only a half-hearted bazaar in one, and the other is empty, so we can use it as our promenade.
By lunch time the sky had all cleared into a froth of sunshine and blue and white clouds. The sand and distant forest and hills became well nigh invisible in the bright light, and the river seemed a shield of some fine metal, that took all the sky and smoothed it and reflected it with concentrated glitter. For our foreground we have the white table on deck in shade, with a heap of roses and white orchids in a silver bowl; the fallen petals blend into the half-tone of the table cloth, and there's peace and quiet and sleep, to the pulsation of the paddles and the hissing of the foaming water passing astern.
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At Tayoung in the evening we swing round, head up stream, and lie along the shore—too late to go shooting, so we put on a cast of flies and cast over rising fish, and get a dozen very pretty fish in half-an-hour. I confess I put a tiny piece of meat on each fly, but hardly enough to call it bait fishing. These were all silvery, "butter fish," excepting one, which was rather like a herring. Meantime we had the heavy sunk line baited with dough, and by and bye it began to go out into the stream, and we paid out line rapidly, and then suddenly hauled taut and were fast to a "big un." It was pull devil, pull baker for about five to ten minutes, when the big fish came alongside, and we got a noose round its tail and hauled it on board. It weighed twenty-eight lbs!
... The 22nd.—I think, but who can tell?—for each glorious hot day is as monotonously beautiful as the day before; all bright and shining, the blue and white sky reflected in the endless silky riband of the river down which we steadily paddle, between silver strands and bowery woods, stopping only for the night, and possibly for an hour or two in the day, when we go ashore to sketch, or sometimes to shoot.
I have been trying to make up my mind which of two perfect days' shooting was the best. This afternoon's shoot and tramp through the jungle—Bag, my first brace francolin, to my own gun, or a day last year in stubble and turnips, and twenty-five brace partridges to my own gun and black pointer. I think the jungle day has it, though the bag was so small, by virtue of its beauty, as against the trim fields of the Lothians.
We started together, G. and her maid to collect seeds and roots and orchids, and I wandered on to shoot with a Burmese guide.
Some of the tall trees have shed their leaves, and are now a mass of blossom. One high tree had dropped a mat of purple flowers, as large as tulips, across the dried grass and brown leaves at its foot. Another tree with silvery bark had every leafless branch ablaze with orange vermilion flowers. "Fire of the Forest," or "Flame of Forest," I heard it called in India,—its colour so dazzling, you see everything grey for seconds after looking at it. Then there were brakes of flowering shrubs like tobacco plants with star like white flowers, and the scent of orange blossom; and others with velvety petals of heliotrope tint, and masses of creepers with flowers like myrtle, and a fresh scent of violets and daisies—the air so pure and pleasant that each scent came to one separately; and, as the most of the foliage is dry and thin just now, these flowers and green bushes were the more effective. Certainly the surroundings were more beautiful than those we have in low ground shooting at home, and the smallness of the bag was balanced by this, and the delightfully unfamiliar sensation of both shooting and right-of-way, being free to you or your neighbour.
With a shade of luck, I'd have had quite a decent bag; but you know how some days things just miss the bag—you can't exactly tell why—so it was this afternoon; there should have been two hares, and two quail, and two birds that seemed very like pheasants. One fell in impenetrable thorns, and we could not get nearer than about ten yards, and I missed another sitting. To restore my reputation with the Burmese boy, I had to claw down some high pigeons from untold heights on their way home to roost. After this, as I was loading, a partridge got up from some stubbly grass in a clearing, with an astonishingly familiar whirr, and went clear away, and I'd barely loaded when a Button quail whipped over some bushes, and it dropped, but in impenetrable thorns! I'd not heard of Burmese partridges, but the flight and whirr were unmistakeable, though the bird was larger than those at home. So we went on, longing for the company of my silky, black-coated pointer Flo, and a couple of hardy mongrel spaniels—together we would soon have filled the bag!... It is such fun going through new country, without a ghost of an idea which direction to take or what method to pursue, or what game to expect.
At the next cleared space we came to, two birds, mightily like pheasants, were feeding on some ground that had once been tilled, so, by signs to the Burmese boy (he cleans the knives on board) I easily made him understand he was to drive them over me, and we each made a circuit, he round the open, the gun behind a brake of dog roses and plantains, and the birds came over with rather too uncertain flight for pheasants. I got one, and the other fell far into thorns, but they were, after all, only a large kind of magpie, but with regular gamey-brown wings, blue-black heads, and long tails that gave them on the ground a passing resemblance to pheasants. The next open space seemed absolutely suited for partridges, and, as we walked into the middle, up got two and came down to quite a conventional right and left, and our glee was unbounded when we found them in the dried grass. The colours of their plumage was handsome, not quite so sober as that of our partridge at home, and their size and shape was almost between that of a grouse and a partridge; Francolin, I've since heard they were. Two hares I just got a glimpse of, greyish in colour, and very thin-looking beasts. Then the sun got low, and we heard deer barking in knolly ground, and would fain have sat the evening out quietly, and waited, and watched the night life of the jungle.
 There is not a specimen quite like them in S. Kensington.
It was dark when we made for the river and the soft, dusty track through the green grass at its edge. Big beetles passed us humming, and we met some children with lamps swinging, and they sang as they went, to keep away the Nats or spirits of things.
Our steamer looked pleasantly homelike, lying a yard from the shore. The purdahs were up and showed the lamp-lit table on deck, set for dinner, and flowers, books and chairs, a cosy picture. The light was reflected in the grey river, and waved slightly in the ripple of the current from the anchor chain. A cargo steamer, forsooth! a private yacht is the feeling it gave.
There are only two passengers besides ourselves, a Mr and Mrs S. With the master and mate we make six at dinner, and the concert after, in which the first mate plays piano accompaniments to all the chanties we can scrape together—"Stormy Long,"—"Run, let the Bulgine Run,"—"Away Rio:" cheerful chanties like "The Anchor's Weighed," with its "Fare ye well, Polly, and farewell Sue," and sad, sad songs of ocean's distress, like "Leave her, Johnnie; Its time to leave her." Neither the master nor mate have seen salt water for many a day, but I know their hearts yearn for the wide ocean and tall ships a-sailing; for all the beauties of all the rivers in the world pale beside the tower of white canvas above you, and the surge and send of a ship across the wide sea.
... 23rd February.—Kyonkmyoung—not pronounced as spelt, and spelling not guaranteed. We spent the night at above village. Now we are passing a wooded shore, and two remarkable pagodas side by side, like two Italian villas, with flat roofs and windows of western design, each has a white terrace in front with a small pagoda spire, and in the trees there are many white terraces and steps up to them from the river's edge.
... The up-river mail has passed us, it had been delayed on a sandbank; we ship an American family party from it. Having lost some hours on the sandbank, they cannot now proceed up the river to Bhamo, as they had intended, so they returned with us to Mandalay. The first gangway plank was hardly down when they were ashore and away like a bullet, with a ricochet and a twang behind; a Silver king, they say, and a future president!—How rapidly Americans travel, and assimilate facts, and what extraordinary conclusions some of them make.
We slow-going Scots hang on at Mandalay for a little. We have not half seen the place, and wish to spend hours and hours at the pagoda, watching the worshippers there, and trying, if possible, to remember enough expressions and forms and colours to use at home. Our fellow passengers, Mr and Mrs S., elect to stay on board. They have some days to spare, waiting for a down-river steamboat, wisely preferring that, to the bustle through to Rangoon in the train.
... Mr S. is playing the piano, G. and I are painting, Mrs S. sewing, and all the morning, from the lower deck, there comes the continual chink of silver rupees, where Captain Robinson and his mate are settling the trade accounts of the trip, blessing the Burmese clerk for having half a rupee too much; funny work for men brought up to "handle reef and steer."
Three steamers, similar to our own, with flats, lie alongside the sandbank, all in black and white, with black and red funnels and corrugated iron roofs, and "Glasgow" painted astern. Bullock-carts bump along the shore in clouds of dust, and the bales come and go, and trade here is still really picturesque; there are no ugly warehouses or stores, and everything is open and above board—just, I suppose, as trade went on in the days of Adam or Solomon.
Went to the railway station, we were obliged to do so. We must leave the river to get down to Rangoon and Western India, to catch our return P. & O. from Bombay. We have decided to return by the north of India, and not by Ceylon, though we are drawn both ways. Ceylon route by steamer all the way, seems so much easier for tired travellers, than going overland in trains; but what would friends at home say if we missed Benares, Agra, and Delhi.
... A native stationmaster, in a perfunctory manner, points out the kind of 1st class carriage we have to travel in. It is not inviting, and we get back to the river, and make a jotting of our steamer and the shore against the evening sky, and the bullock-carts slowly stirring the dust into a golden haze.... Then we go to live on shore with friends for a day or two.
I despair of making anything, in the meantime, of the Arrakan Pagoda, and the great golden Buddha with the wonderful light on it, and the kneeling tribesmen and women from over Asia. It is one of the finest, if not the finest, subject for painting I have ever seen, and yet I can't see one telling composition. Looking at the people kneeling, from the side, you can't see the Buddha, and, looking at the Buddha, you only see the peoples' backs.
From the train to Rangoon, you see very little of the country: we felt rather unhappy in it after the comfort of the steamer. A native stationmaster lost half our luggage for us—vowed he'd put it on board. I knew that he knew that he had not done so, but I could do nothing. It was glaringly hot at the station; several Europeans wore black spectacles, and I had to do the same, for needle like pains ran through my eyes since the day on the snipe jheel at Bhamo.
The first part of the journey was smooth enough, but bless me! they brought up the Royal train from Rangoon at ten miles an hour faster than we travel down! How uneasily must have lain a head that is to wear a crown.
We couldn't sleep at night for the carriage seemed to be going in every direction at once—waggled about like a basket, and we shook so much we laughed at a mosquito that aimed at a particular feature. But in the early morning we did actually sleep for a little, and about 4 or 5 A.M. were awakened, for tea, and plague inspection at 6 A.M., about two hours before getting into Rangoon!—a plague on tea and inspectors at that hour of the morning!
It wasn't pure joy that journey. Ah! and it was sad too, getting to the cultivated plains round Rangoon—eternal rice fields and toiling Indians—uglier and uglier as we neared civilisation. The saddest sight of all, the half-bred Burman and Indian woman or man—the woman the worst; with, perhaps, a face of Burmese cast, over-shadowed with the hungry expression of the Indian, and a black thin shank and flat foot showing under the lungy, where should be rounded calf and clean cut foot. We may be great colonists we Britons, but I fear our stocking Burmah with scourings from India is only great as an evil.
Now I will pass Rangoon in my journal. We stayed a day or two at a lodging in a detached teak villa in a compound which contained native servants, and crows ad nauseum—it was dull, stupid and dear, and we were sorry we had not gone to the hotel, and our greatest pleasure was visiting the Shwey Pagoda again, and the greatest unpleasantness was getting on board the British India boat the "Lunka" for Calcutta. We were literally bundled pell mell on board, some twenty passengers and baggage, and some five hundred native troops all in a heap in the waist on top of us—what a miserable muddle. The French passengers smiled derisively at the inefficacy or rather total absence of any system of embarkation of passengers, and the Americans opened their eyes! Always they repeat on board—"Why, you first class passengers don't pay us." On the Irrawaddy river boats they say this too, but they make you jolly comfortable for all that.
It was six hours of struggle, mostly in the sun, before I got our things into our cabin, and half our luggage lay on deck for the night with natives camping on it! The officers on board were very pleasant and agreeable, as they were on board the last British India boat we were on, but the want of method in getting passengers and their baggage off the wharf and into boats and on board was almost incredible.... There was a vein of amusement, I remember, when I can get my mind off the annoying parts of our "Embarkation." I got a chanter from a Chinese pedlar in the street in the morning—heard the unmistakeable reedy notes coming along the street as I did business in the the cool office of Messrs Cook & Co., and leaving papers and monies went and met the smiling Chinese pedlar of sweetmeats who sold me his chanter. The position of the notes is the same as on our chanter, and the fingering is the same; afterwards on board when I played a few notes on it the beady black eyes of the Ghurkas in the waist sparkled, and they pulled out their practice chanters from their kit at once—and there we were!—and the long-legged, almond-eyed Sikhs on their baggage looked on in languid wonder.
 Getting off at Calcutta was indescribable—if possible worse than the embarkation—a sauve qui peut.
Would you like a description of Calcutta? I wish I could give it. It was a little different from what I expected, smaller, and yet with ever so much more life and bustle on the river than I'd expected. Commerce doesn't go slow on account of heat, and here, as in Burmah, I was surprised to see so much picturesque lading and unlading of cargoes going on by the river banks, and the green grass and trees running from the banks into the town. But we will jump Calcutta, I think, it is too big an order; but before going on may I say that the architecture is, to my mind, better than it is said to be. In Holdich's "India" it is unfavourably compared with that in Bombay, but do you know, I almost prefer the classic style of Calcutta to the scientific rococco Bombay architecture, but I offer this opinion with the greatest diffidence, for I know the author of "India" is an artist—still—"I know what I like," as the burglar said when he took the spoons.