James and I raised a vigorous protest against this proposition. The only reply to our outburst was the assertion of the head man that we should stay whether we liked it or not. As the night was well advanced, we feigned capitulation and made ready to retire. The village chief lighted us into one of the small rooms of his dwelling and left us to turn in on the bamboo floor.
Had we anticipated any great difficulty in escaping in the morning it would have been a simple matter to have taken French leave during the night. Bolts and bars were unknown in M?sawt, and even had our door been fastened, it would have needed only a few kicks at the flimsy 杭州桑拿 walls of our chamber to make an exit where we chose. We had no desire to lose a night’s rest, however, and fell asleep with the conviction that the head man would not be as energetic in executing his order as in giving it.
Nor was he. While the mists still hovered over M?sawt, we packed our “swag” and entered the council chamber in marching array. The chief was already astir, but the only effort he made to thwart us was to shout somewhat meekly when we stepped out into the dripping dawn.
At the eastern end of the town began a faint suggestion of a path, but it soon faded away and we pushed and tore our way through the jungle, guided only by the pocket compass. The militant vegetation wrought havoc to our rags and cut and gashed us from brow to 424ankles; the perspiration ran in stinging streams along our lacerated skins and dripped from our faces. Though we fought the undergrowth 杭州桑拿按摩双飞 tooth and nail it is doubtful if we advanced two miles an hour.
The sun was high when we came upon the first evidence that man had passed that way before—a clearing not over six feet square, in the center of which was a slimy pool and a few recently-cut joints of bamboo. With these we drank our fill of the tepid water and had thrown ourselves down in the shade when we were startled to our feet by the sound of human voices. The anticipation of an attack by murderous dacoits turned quickly to that of a forcible return to M?sawt, as there burst into the clearing a squad of soldiers.
There were seven in the party, a sergeant and four privates, armed with muskets, and two coolie carriers, each bowed under the weight of two baskets slung on a bamboo pole. After the first gasp of astonishment the soldiers sprang for the bamboo cups beside the waterhole, while the servants knelt 杭州夜桑拿 down to set their burdens on the grass. The fear that the troopers had been sent to apprehend us was quickly dispelled by their acquiescence in permitting us to handle their weapons. They were bound for Rehang, but why they had been released from garrison duty at the frontier village so long before the time set, we could not learn.
A formidable force was this indeed. There was far less suggestion of the soldier about the fellows than of half-grown youths playing at a military game. The sergeant, larger than the others, came barely to James’ chin; and the Australian was not tall. The privates were undeveloped little runts, any one of whom the average American school boy could have tied in a knot and tossed aside into the jungle. There was little of the martial air either in their demeanor or in their childlike countenances. They were dressed in regulation khaki, except that their trousers came only to their knees, leaving their 杭州夜网hzyw scrawny legs bare. On their heads were flat forage caps of the German type; from their belts hung bayonets; and around the waist of each was tied a stocking-like sack of rice.
We conversed with them at some length, so adept had we become in the language of signs. Long after I had forgotten the exact means employed in communicating our thoughts, the ideas that we exchanged remained. Among other things I attempted to impress upon the sergeant the fact that my own country held possessions not far from his own. He caught the idea well enough, except that, where I had said Philippines, he understood Siam. His sneers were most scathing. 425The bare suggestion that the white man held any sway over Muang Thai—the free country—was ludicrous. Even the carriers grinned sarcastically. A strange thing is patriotism. Here were these citizens of a poor little state, stranded between the possessions of two great powers, boasting of their unalienable independence, utterly oblivious of the fact that their national existence could not last a week if 杭州足浴合作商家 one of those powers ceased to glare jealously at her rival. When they had eaten a jungle lunch, the soldiers stretched out for their siesta, and we went on alone.
It was long hours afterward that we made out through a break in the undergrowth two miserable huts. Not having tasted food since the night before, we dashed eagerly forward. Two emaciated hags, dressed in short skirts and ugly, broad-brimmed hats of attap leaves, were clawing the mud of a tiny garden patch before the first hovel. I called for food and shook a handful of coppers in their faces, but, though they certainly understood, they made no reply. We danced excitedly about them, shrieking our Siamese vocabulary in their ears. Still they stared, with half-open mouths, displaying uneven rows of repellant black teeth. We had anticipated such a reception. Even the missionary of Moulmein had warned us that the jungle folk of Siam would not sell food to travelers. The age of barter has not yet penetrated these mountain fastnesses. What value, after all, were copper coins in any quantity to the inhabitants of this howling wilderness?
We waded through the mire to the next hutch. Under it were squatted two men and a woman, and a half-dozen mud-bespattered brats sprawled about a crude veranda overhead. This family, too, received us coldly, answering neither yes nor no to our request for food. We climbed the rickety bamboo ladder into the hut and began to forage for ourselves. The men scrambled up after us. When I picked up a basket of rice, the bolder of the pair grasped it with both hands. I pushed him aside and he retreated meekly to a far corner. In other baskets we found dried fish, a few bananas, and a goodly supply of eggs. Beside the flat mud fire-place were two large kettles and a bundle of fagots. While James broke up branches and started a blaze, I brought rain water from a bamboo bucket, in cocoanut shells, and filled the kettles.
Chimney was there none, nor hole in the roof; and the smoke all but choked and blinded us before the task was done. The rice and fish we boiled in one conglomerate mess, pouring it out on a flat leaf 426basket when it approached an edible condition, and dashing out on the veranda for a breath of fresh air. The householder remained motionless in his corner. Having found, after long search, a bamboo joint filled with coarse salt, we seasoned the steaming repast and fell upon it. James had the bad fortune to choke on a fish bone, but recovered in time to swear volubly when he discovered in the concoction what looked suspiciously like a strip of loin-cloth. By the time we had despatched the rice, a dozen eggs, and as many bananas, we were ready to push on. I handed the downcast native a tecal—the rupee of Siam—which he clutched with a satisfied grunt, as well he might, for a shopkeeper would not have demanded a fourth as much for what we had confiscated.
Just at sunset we burst into the straggling village of Banpáwa. Some forty howling storms had added to our entertainment during the day and we had forded an even greater number of streams. My jacket was torn to ribbons; my back and shoulders were sadly sunburned; in a struggle with a tenacious thicket I had been bereft of a leg of my trousers; and the Australian was as pitiable an object to look upon.
Near the center of the village was an unpretentious Buddhist monastery beside which the priests had erected a shelter for travelers, a large thatch roof supported by slender bamboo pillars. Under it were huddled nearly a score of Laos carriers, surrounded by bales and bundles; Banpáwa being an important station of the route followed by these human freight trains of the Siamese jungle. They were surly, taciturn fellows, who, though they stared open-mouthed when we appeared, treated us like men under
a ban of excommunication.
Physically they were sights to feast one’s eyes upon; splendidly developed, though short of stature, with great knots of muscles standing out on their glistening brown bodies. A small loin-cloth was their only attire. Above it their skins were thickly tattooed to their necks with fantastic figures, all in red, representations of strange and repulsive beasts, among which that of a swollen fat pig was most often duplicated. Below the indispensable garment the figures were blue, even more closely crowded together, but stopping short at the knees.
It is said that this custom of making pictorial supplements of themselves was first forced upon the Laos by a wrathful king. A youthful servant, received as an attendant in the royal harem, was rapidly becoming a great favorite among the secluded ladies, when one sad day 427the appalling information leaked out that the supposed country maid was really a man. When the culprit had been duly drawn and quartered, an imperative edict went forth from the palace of his raging majesty, commanding every male in the kingdom to submit forthwith to the tattooers’ needles. Even to-day, this custom, mentioned by Marco Polo, is still universal among the males.
We sought to buy food from our sullen companions. They growled for answer. Like the soldiers, each wore round his waist a bag of rice; a few were preparing their evening meals over fagot fires at the edge of the shelter; but not a grain would they sell. A raging storm broke while we were wandering from one to another, shaking money in their faces. When it had abated somewhat, we hobbled out into the night to appeal to the villagers. There were some twenty huts in the clearing, into each of which we climbed, in spite of our aching legs. Every householder returned us the same pantomimic answer—he never sold food, but he was sure his next door neighbor did, and the neighbor was as sure that it was in the next hovel that our money would make us welcome.
We played this game of puss-wants-a-corner for an hour, and we were still “it” when we reached the last dwelling. The village was really too populous a community in which to repeat the tactics that had won us dinner; but hunger made us somewhat indifferent to consequences. We climbed boldly into the hut and caught up a kettle. The householder shrieked like a man on the rack; and, before we had kindled a fire, a mob of his fellow townsmen swarmed into the shack and fell upon us. They were not particularly fierce fighters. We shook and kicked them off like puppies, but when the last one had tumbled down the ladder we awoke to the sad intelligence that they had carried off in their retreat every pot, pan, and comestible on the premises. Besides the bare walls there remained only a naked brown baby that rolled about the middle of the floor, howling lustily.
The village population was screaming around the shanty in a way that made us glad we had a hostage. James sat down, gazed sadly at the wailing brat and shook his head.
“No good,” he announced. “Not fat enough. Anyway there’s no kettle to cook it in. Let’s vamoose.”
We turned towards the door. A man was peering over the edge of the veranda. By the silken band around his brow we knew him for a Burman; and he spoke Hindustanee. We gathered from his excited chatter in that language that he had come to lead us to a place where 428food was sold. As we reached the ground the throng parted to let us pass, but the frenzied natives danced screaming about us, shaking sticks and cudgels in our faces. A few steps from the hovel some bold spirit struck me a resounding whack on the back of the head. It was no light blow, but the weapon was a hollow bamboo and no damage resulted. When I turned to fall upon my assailant the whole crew took to their heels and fled into the night.
“All I’ve got to say,” panted James, as we hurried on after our guide, “is, I’m bloody glad that’s not a bunch of Irishmen. Where would the pioneer beachcombers of the Malay Peninsula be now if that collection of dish-rags knew how to scrap?”
The Burman led us through a half-mile of mire and brush, and a stream that was almost waist-deep, to a suburb of Banpáwa. Four huts housed the commuters. After long parley our guide gained us admittance to one of the dwellings and sat down to keep us company until our rice and fish had been boiled. He was something of a cosmopolite, fairly clever in piecing together a language of gestures and the few words we had in common. The conversation turned naturally—in view of the fact that we were two as ragged sahibs as one would run across in a lifetime of wandering—to the question of personal attire. Our sponsor was well dressed for the time and place, and the whim suddenly came upon him to substitute a tropical helmet for the silk band about his brow. He offered James a rupee for his topee, and pondered long over the refusal of the offer. Then he rose to depart, but halted on the edge of the night to hold up two fingers.
“Dō rúpika! Achá, sahib?” he pleaded.
“You’re crazy!” retorted the 杭州洗浴中心莞式服务 Australian, “Think I want to get a sunstroke?”