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The Homeward Trip
The Stop at Singapore
They say that anticipation is half of enjoyment, but the Chamber of Commerce Party never could have imagined the pleasure we were to have in Singapore, although the expected palms waved greetings from the shore as an indication of the tropical scenes we were to see.
We had heard it said that, "He who tries to hurry the Orient shall come to a speedy grave," and we thought there must be some truth in it, when at the junction of two busy streets we saw a lazy native peacefully reposing, on his cot bed, in the middle of two lines of traffic. Nice quiet spot for a nap, while the sun was beating down with such force that the men of the party drew their new helmets well down over their heads. Stanley, exploring darkest Africa, could not have heard more precautions and sunstroke warnings, than the men of this party. But the guide-book authors do not seem to care whether the sun strikes the women or not. Guess they believe that the women's hair will protect them, or, perhaps, it is reasoned, that as the ships usually touch China first, (one of the greatest hair markets of the world), the women cheated by nature, are supposed to have gotten a goodly supply before they reach Singapore.
But do not let this give our friends the idea that the women were neglected in Singapore. They say there are only three unmarried white girls left in that city and that these are taking their time about deciding upon which of the army of males they will select. One fine looking chap told a group of ladies of our party that it was two months before he learned that in order to secure dances with the popular matrons, it was necessary to phone the week before the dance to find out whether he was to be favored with the sixth or seventh or ninth dance.
Now before any girl who chances to read the foregoing and packs her trunks for this tropical spot, let me warn her that it is so hot that the powder stays on about as well as water on a duck's back, and a lizard is liable to drop in her lap at any time. At least that is what happened to the smallest debutante of our party, Miss Sallie Glide, at one of the dances given in honor of the San Francisco Delegates. And while some of the young couples of our party were strolling through the wonderful botanical gardens admiring the Travelers Palm, whose fan-shaped branches are said to be the compass of the desert, as their branches always point east and West, a family of wild monkeys (with the baby monkeys clinging to the mothers' breasts) crossed the path. And a little further on a snake charmer giving his cobras an airing, was encountered. If the element of danger appeals to her, then this is the place for her, for she may expect to see one of these big snakes unaccompanied by its master at any time if she ventures in the thicket. And just a short trip out of the city is the tiger in his native jungle. Phil Lyon and Carl Westerfeld went on a hunt, but H. J. Judell came nearest to killing one. He shot between the eyes, as the guide directed, but missed the brute.
The variety and brilliancy of the clothing of the cosmopolitan inhabitants rivals the scarlets and greens of the botanical gardens. The natives, perhaps, try to make up in vivid coloring what they lack in quantity. Others are entirely unadorned and most of the children are also naked.
Alfred Esberg, C. B. Lastrete, Dwight Grady and J. Parker-Currier were given a dinner at the executive mansion of the English governor, Sir Laurence Guillemard. This was the first time that American travelers were so honored.
The Chinese Chamber of Commerce gave a beautiful reception to our party. As we entered the banquet hall, the band played the "Star Spangled Banner" and the moving picture machine recorded our activities. Speeches were made and conditions discussed, while the champagne flowed freely. The ladies were given orchids.
Someone remarked that the white people in Singapore seem bent on checking the over-powering heat with internal irrigation. At eleven A. M. all assemble at a special resort for the morning "eye-openers," between twelve and two, business stops in order to give the thirsty inhabitants time for tiffin accompanied by a half dozen whiskeys and sodas or "gin-rickeys"; after four all business ceases for tea, and, if the tea cup appears it is usually accompanied by a substantial stick in it, to rouse drooping spirits. Of course during dinner and the evening Bacchus reigns. Now, I suppose some of you understand why there are so many apparently contented men in Singapore, in spite of the climate.
All the lovers that were accustomed to haunt the top deck, called the "Honey-moon Deck of the Empire State," took rides through the jungle. The tropical moonlight reflecting the palms in the rippling water and the trip through the Gap (a break in the hills disclosing the sea far beyond, as one of the justly famous sunsets was in progress), are said to have done their work, and four couples, the gossips say, are expected to announce their engagements. One of the ship's wits said, "Again the dashing widows have proven far more attractive than some of their unmarried sisters." Mrs. Carrie Schwabacher, offered a linen shower to the first couple that were married on board, but they all seemed bashful. Louis Mooser suggested that the name of the ship be changed from Empire State to "Vampire State."
Some of our party visited homes in Singapore and found one solution of the "servant problem." In many cases, the mistress of the house pays a No. 1 boy, or upper servant, as you know they call them there, a fixed sum to purchase so many meals and to take the entire responsibility of the buying and running of the house, while she comes and goes and entertains as a guest at a hotel. There are no unexpected huge bills at the end of the month; if the cook leaves, why should she worry, No. 1 boy just gets another.