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LONG before reaching Misamis the old gray fort at the entrance of the town was picked out by some one looking through the telescope, and many were the theories concerning it. At so great a distance, and with the hot sunlight shining full upon it, the fort might have been a strip of white sand; later it was decided to be a tribunal of unusual proportions, and at last when it loomed full upon us in all the picturesqueness of its gray, moss-grown walls, with weeds trailing in luxurious profusion from every crevice, we decided that there lived the American inhabitants of Misamis. Soldiers gathered under the roof of the nearest watch-tower to observe our entrance into the harbour, while still others, unmindful of the blazing sun, perched on the top of the wall and swung their feet over the side, doubtless making numerous wagers as to the transport’s name and its business in so out of the way a place as Misamis.
Owing to the unreliability of the Spanish charts, the Burnside anchored some distance out of the harbour, and just before tiffin a boat-load of officers from the garrison came out to the ship, accompanied by the titular captain of the port, a young chap who also acted in several other official capacities, a sort of military “crew, and the captain, too, and the mate of the Nancy Bell.” After tiffin the ship sailed into anchorage in the harbour of Misamis, half-way around the old fort, which seemed to grow more picturesque with every turn, till finally we could see the village of Misamis, almost hidden in a bewildering mass of tropical vegetation. Our numerous theories to the contrary, the old fort was uninhabited, save by the ghosts of other days, remaining but a grim relic of the time when Moro pirates swept terror to the hearts of all coast villages south of Luzon. It was within those historic walls that the Signal Corps decided to set up the cable-hut, and early the next morning two parties were sent ashore, one to establish an office in the town, the other to superintend the digging of a trench by native prisoners, just outside the walls of the old fort.
Among these distinguished gentlemen was a so-called colonel of the insurrecto army who had been captured a short time before. The colonel posed as an aristocrat, whose hands had never been soiled by labour, and when his companions in confinement were turned out to assist in making way for liberty by means of the cable trench, he protested vigorously at the indignity, and averred that he was not seeking the opportunity of reimbursing the American government with pick and shovel for his enforced subsistence. He reiterated so often he was an officer and a gentleman, that finally the American major in command at Misamis mildly replied that self-appointed colonels in self-appointed armies were not recognized by any government, and as for his gentility, if it were the genuine article and not a veneer like his title, it would certainly stand the strain of a little honest labour. The arguments were cogent, and the hand of the law more irresistible still, so the high ranking officer took his turn in the trench with the other prisoners.
THE OLD FORT AT MISAMIS
In the late afternoon we women went ashore and created even more of a sensation than we had on the island of Negros. We were literally mobbed by natives anxious for a glimpse of the first American women ever seen in that part of Mindanao, and we walked up to the Headquarters Building with a chattering, crowding, admiring horde at our heels. There the officers held an informal reception in our honour, to which all the socially possible of Misamis were invited, and the native band serenaded us with such choice selections as “A Hot Time,” and “After the Ball,” decidedly off the key, to be sure, but with the best intentions in the world.
The Misamis women were charmed with their white sisters, and could no more conceal their artless delight than so many children. They laughed and giggled nervously. They gesticulated as they talked, and shrugged their pretty shoulders with a grace taught them by our Spanish predecessors. They patted imaginary stray hairs into place in their sleek black coiffures, and settled camisa or panuela with indescribably quick and bird-like movements. Those of them who could speak Spanish talked clothes and babies and servants, or smiled politely at our mistakes in the language, laughing outright at their own futile efforts to speak English. They were astonished that the quartermaster’s wife should have attained the remarkable height of five feet eight inches so young! Was it possible there were other women in America as tall? Taller even? ‘Susmariajoseph! But surely that was a joke? One never could tell when these Americans were joking.
One of the officers presented the Burnside women with some native hats typical of the island, and the Filipinos were overcome with surprise at our interest in such ordinary headgear. What were we going to do with the hats? Wear them ourselves? Oh, no, we hastened to explain, they were to decorate our walls in America, that all our friends might see what pretty hats the Filipino people wear. Decorate the wall with hats? What a very curious idea! They chatted volubly over this idiosyncrasy, and even laughed at it, but quite decorously so that our feelings might be spared. Suddenly one of them, a most vivacious girl, and evidently the belle of the village, leaned over and in persuasive tones suggested that we women leave our hats, each real creations of millinery art, for their walls, at which witticism they all giggled explosively and shrugged their shoulders in rapturous appreciation of our confusion; all but the presidente’s wife, who looked shocked at such presumption and spoke to the younger women warningly in Visayan.
“THE NATIVE BAND SERENADED US”
She was a shy and rather fat old lady — the presidente’s wife — and seemed greatly impressed by any statistics translated into Visayan for her information. Speaking Spanish but indifferently, she made up for her linguistic deficiencies by a pair of eyes which let nothing escape them; and she stared at us continually throughout the afternoon, seeming to be studying this new species of woman as intently as a naturalist might some strange butterfly under a microscope. Whenever we caught her eye she looked away hastily as if detected in an impropriety, and then furtively resumed her inspection, taking in every detail of our wearing-apparel, from the real hats upon our heads to the stout soled walking boots on our feet, the shine of our patent leathers seeming to inspire her with more respect than any other part of our costume.
The only other shoes in the room, excepting those worn by the Americans and some few of the native men, were the proud possession of a tiny girl eight years old. This fashionable young person boasted also a European hat of coarse white straw stiffly trimmed with blue ribbon and blue ostrich tips. That the feathers had a wofully limp, depressed, and bedraggled appearance; that the ribbon was obviously cotton; and the straw of the coarsest weave, in no wise detracted from the glorious knowledge that it was a hat, a real hat such as the Americanas themselves were wearing. Sustained by this fact the young lady, who, in addition to the shoes and millinery, wore only a single other garment, comported herself with great dignity. Even in the trying circumstance of passing between one and the light, she was quite unconscious of anything amiss, the proud assurance of being dressed in the height of style as to her head and feet, precluding all worry as to minor details.
Among others met that afternoon at the Headquarters Building was a Spanish gentleman of charming manners. He invited our party from the ship, and the officers stationed in town, to stop at his house on our return to the launch and have some refreshments, an invitation we gladly accepted. So the courtly Castilian, beaming with hospitable intent, hurried ahead to prepare for our coming, we following shortly after in his footsteps. But to the young Spaniard’s ill concealed chagrin and our own embarrassment, the whole Filipino contingent accompanied us to the house. Fully as many more natives gathered at every available door and window, while outside the band, which had brought up a tuneful and triumphant rear, played the “Star Spangled Banner.” After all had partaken of Senor Montenegro’s enforced liberality, we repaired to the launch, accompanied by almost the entire population of Misamis, and amidst a shrill chorus of “Hasta la vista,” and “Adios,” we steamed back to the Burnside, whose twinkling lights shone out dimly against the evening sky.
The next morning a party of Signal Corps men, accompanied by a guard of fifteen soldiers from the fort, sailed at peep o’ day in the ship’s launches, the two in tandem towing a native banca loaded with cable, which was to be laid in the Lintogup River and upper Panguil Bay, a stretch of water too shallow for the Burnside herself to attempt its navigation. This cable was in turn to be connected at Lintogup with Tukuran, on the southern coast of Mindanao, by a land line across a mountainous country.
When the party started there were guns and ammunition enough on the two launches to have quelled a good sized insurrection, but as little was really known of the upper bay and river, and as many rumours were rife among the natives of Misamis as to warlike Moros and Monteses living on these shores, and more disquieting rumours still among the officers that it was a camping place for insurrectos, it was thought best to amply provide against any emergency.
THE LINTOGUP RIVER
Unfortunately, no information could be obtained as to the rise and fall of the tides or the strength of the current, a fact that delayed the expedition many days and necessitated the return of one or other of the launches for a renewal of rations, fresh water, and coal, not once but thrice. The first, second, and third relief expeditions, we called them, and teased the officer in charge unmercifully over his hard luck.
But at last, despite adverse winds and tides; despite the fact that one of the Filipino guides ran the launch aground, with malice aforethought, no doubt, as on his return to Misamis he was arrested on indubitable evidence as a spy; despite the fact that the sailing banca ran on the bar, and while trying to pull her off she and her five miles of cable were swamped; despite the fact that the ship’s launch Grace, or the Disgrace, as she was afterward called, distinguished herself by blowing up twice and almost scalding everyone on board; despite the fact that all the odds were against the expedition’s success, and that it took six days and nights to accomplish what might have been done in a third of the time — despite all this, I say, the cable was at last laid and the luckless workers returned.
But, oh, the bitterness of life in general and that of a cable man in particular! For after all those heroic struggles the first test showed a fault, and, cruel fate, at the far end of Panguil Bay at that! The silence which greeted the reception of this terrible news was as profane as words, and the Powers-that-Be decided on the spot that enough work had been spent on that calamitous cable for the time being, and decided to proceed with the laying of the main lines, leaving the Lintogup stretch until a subsequent visit to Misamis.
Meanwhile there was much work accomplished in the town, a fine telegraph office being established on the principal street; and a trench completed by the shore end party; while much overhauling of the cable in the tanks, and daily drills given to the Signal Corps soldiers in cable telegraphy and the care of the instruments kept those aboard ship busy. Tic — tack, clic — clack, went the little telegraph instrument at one end of the quarter-deck, and clic — clack, tic — tack answered an instrument at the other end, hour after hour through the long, warm mornings, and the longer, warmer afternoons.
On New Year’s eve, several officers from the fort saw the century in with those of us remaining on the Burnside, but the time passed so pleasantly that no one remembered the auspicious occasion until the sound of sharp firing from the shore broke in upon our conversation. The jangling of church bells followed, and one of the shore officers, usually a very cool and self-contained young fellow, sprang to his feet, exclaiming as he buckled on his revolver, “Great heavens! An attack on the town and I not there. May I have a ship’s boat at once?” But even as he spoke the Burnside’s whistle blew a great blast, and several shots from the ship answered those on shore, every man with a revolver, shotgun, or rifle adding his quota of noise to the general hubbub.
And so it was the new century came to Mindanao, some thirteen hours ahead of its advent in New York or Washington. Before eight bells had ceased striking a search-light greeting was sent to our friends at Lintogup, but they, being tired after a hard day’s work, slept supinely on, unaware of our good wishes or the fact that a fine young century had been born to the old, old world.
I am sorry to relate that the next day a court-martial was held in Misamis to try the irrepressible guard who, in a burst of enthusiasm due to their first taste of twentieth century air, had fired off their rifles. The soldiers were sentenced rather heavily, rifle-shots in a Philippine town at that time being productive of dire results. Indeed, the shrill warning of the church bells and scattered shots in a Mindanao village meant one thing only, an uprising in the town or an attack from the outside, the incoming of a new century being of far less importance than the preservation of order and quiet in the garrison, and no cognizance could be taken of a new year which must be ushered in with a clang of firearms or the jangle of church bells — shrill heralds of disaster.
On New Year’s morning the presidente and secretario of Misamis, accompanied by their respective families and a young Moro slave, the property of the secretario, came aboard the Burnside to return our call. It was the first time any of them had ever seen a modern steamship, and loud and voluble were their exclamations of wonder at what we have come to regard as the every-day conveniences of civilization. After seeing the electric light, electric fans, and the shower baths turned on and off several times, the presidente craved permission to essay these miracles himself, and, to his own great surprise, accomplished supernatural results. The old wife watched him tremblingly. Surely, these were works of the Evil One, and, as such, to be left to heretics. But still the man persisted in his madness, and with a turn of his wrist brought light out of darkness or water and wind from the very walls.
Finally he turned around, and with a humourous twinkle in his eye, that belied the gravity of the rest of his face, he said: “The Americanos are a great people — a wonderful people — and how unlike the Filipinos! When a Filipino wants sunshine or rain or wind, he must wait until the good Lord gives it to him. When an Americano wants sunshine or rain or wind, he turns it on!”
The whole party was intensely interested in the big telescope which drew Misamis within a stone’s throw of the ship, and they could not in the least understand how we cooked in the steam galley without any fuel, while the ice-machine and cold storage rooms were quite beyond their comprehension, none of them ever having seen ice before. Of course, on seeing the strange substance, it must be tasted as well, so iced drinks were served on the quarter-deck, these being received with much preliminary trepidation and ultimate gustatory gratification. As for the small Moro slave, I only hope he did not die from his excessive libations, for he drank unnumbered glasses of lemonade, making most violent faces the while, and rubbing his small round stomach continually, as if the unaccustomed cold had penetrated to his very vitals.
On going ashore, each of the three children carried back a box of American candy, the order of our guests’ departure being somewhat delayed by Senora Presidente’s intense fear of going down the gangway. As I have said before, she was a fat old lady, and the way was steep; but finally, after much persuasion, she slipped her bare feet out of their velvet chinelas, gathered her voluminous skirts close about her, and, seating herself upon the top step of the ladder, slid down! Surely a simple solution of the difficulty.
That evening a ball was given in our honour at the Headquarters Building, which for the time being was transformed into a most attractive place with palms and flags and coloured lanterns, while just outside the broad windows a wonderful tropic sky, hung with silver stars, added its enchantment to the scene. No carriage being available in the town, we walked from the dingy little wharf to the Headquarters Building, arrayed in our very best, and followed by a guard of armed soldiers, our escorts themselves wearing revolvers.
At every corner a dark form would shoot out suddenly from the shadows and there would be the swift click of a rifle as it came to position, while a voice cried, “Halt! Who’s there?” “A friend,” some one would reply, or “Officer of the garrison,” as the case might be. Then again would come the sentinel’s voice telling the person challenged to advance and be recognized, at which one of the number would march forward, and, on being identified, the rest of us were allowed to pass the sentinel, who, meanwhile, kept his rifle at a port, his keen eye watching closely that no enemy slip by under our protection.
It was a rarely beautiful night even for the tropics, that first of January, and as we women wore no wraps of any description, the contrast between our satins and chiffons and the rough khaki clothes of the soldiers was a strange one; and still stranger was the fact of our going under guard to a ball, a ball that at any moment might be interrupted by the bugles blowing a call to arms, whereupon our partners would have to desert us, perhaps to quell an uprising in the town, perhaps to defend it against an attack from the outside.
But fortunately the occasion was not marred by any such sinister happening, and doubtless still lives in the annals of Misamis as a very grand affair, for everyone of consequence in town was invited to the baille, and everyone invited came, not to mention those not invited who came also. When we arrived the rooms were quite crowded and the dancing had begun. Far down the street we heard the music and the sound of the women’s heelless slippers shuffling over the polished floor to a breathlessly fast waltz. If possible the people of Misamis dance faster and hop higher than the people of Dumaguete, and how the women manage to keep on their chinelas during these wild gyrations is quite beyond me.
As the secretario of the town played a harp in the orchestra — surely an evidence of versatility — we ventured to ask if he would play a two-step very, very slowly, and hummed it in ordinary time. At its beginning the Filipinos who had started to dance, stopped aghast. “Faster, faster!” they cried in Spanish. “No one could dance to such slow music. This is a ball, men, not a funeral!” But the secretario held the orchestra back, and in a few moments the Americans had the floor to themselves, the Filipinos stopping partly because they found it impossible to dance to such slow music and partly because they wanted to watch us.
They were all astonished at the apparent lack of motion in American dancing and the fact that we got over the ground without hopping. Many of them asked officers stationed in the town if the women wore a special kind of shoe to balls, as they appeared to be standing still and yet moving at the same time, while one old man was heard explaining to his cronies that we wore little wheels attached to the soles of our slippers — he had seen them — so that we did not have to move at all, the men doing all the dancing and merely pushing us back and forth on the floor. So much for the glide step as contrasted with the hop, though it must be confessed that the natives were quite frank in liking their own dancing better than ours, one of the reasons being that it gave them so much more exercise.
During the evening the natives gave a Visayan dance, called in the native tongue “A Courtship.” As the name implies, a young man and woman dance it vis-à-vis, the man courting the woman rhythmically and to music, she at first resisting, flashing her dark eyes scornfully as she trips by him, holding her fan to her face until he looks the other way, then peeping over its top at him, only to turn her back in disdain when, emboldened by her interest, he approaches. Finally his attentions become more pronounced, at which the girl grows coy, dropping her eyes shyly as they dance past one another, and covering her face again and again from his too ardent gaze; now bending her supple waist from side to side in time with the passionate music; now closing her eyes languorously; now opening them wide and smiling at him tenderly over the top of her fan, a graceful accomplice to her pretty coquetry. At last she surrenders to the wooing, the happy pair dancing away together while the music plays faster and faster until at last it stops with a great crash, that, we trust, not being symbolical of infelicity in wedlock. The dance was very well done, and the native audience enjoyed it thoroughly, calling out chaffingly in Visayan to the couple on the floor, and occasionally beating time to the music with hand or foot.
A MISAMIS BELLE
It was at this ball we met for the first time a family of American mestizas — three sisters there were, if I remember rightly, — all pretty girls, with regular features and soft brown hair, this hair distinguishing them at once from the other women of the place with their more conventional blue-black tresses. It seems that the grandfather of these girls had been an American sailor, who for some reason or other was marooned at Cagayan, Mindanao. Making the most, or as a pessimist might think, the worst of a disadvantageous situation, he married a native girl and raised a large and presumably interesting family, his descendants being scattered all over the island. The Misamis branch were extremely aristocratic, and so proud of their blue blood that since the arrival of the American troops they have associated with no one else in the village. It is said that the girls even refer to the United States as “home,” and occasionally wear European clothes in preference to the far more becoming and picturesque costume of saya, camisa, and panuela.
While in Misamis I verily believe that family was pointed out to us twenty times at least, and whenever a man lowered his voice and started in with, “You see those girls over there? Well, their grandfather was an American —” I steeled myself for what was to follow, and expressed surprise and interest as politely as possible, for it is hard to attain conventional incredulity over a twice-told tale. After the genealogy of the family had been gone over, root and branch, we would invariably be told the story of how the grandfather, grown rich and prosperous in his island home, once went to Manila on a business trip. He had then lived in Mindanao over thirty years, during which time he had spoken nothing but Visayan, varied occasionally with bad Spanish.
His negotiations at the capital taking him to an English firm, he started to address them in his long unused mother tongue, when to his extreme mortification he found he could not speak a word of English. Again and again he tried, the harsh gutturals choking in his throat, until at last, flushed and angry, he was forced to transact his business in Spanish, all of which amused the Britishers to the chaffing point. Leaving the office, the American flung himself into the street, muttering savagely under his breath, a torrent of old memories surging through his brain, those harsh English words in his throat clamouring for utterance. On and on he went, until at a far corner he suddenly pulled himself up sharply, turned on his heal and with all speed walked back to the English firm, a shrewd smile playing about his hard old mouth. Throwing open the door of the office, he walked abruptly in, saying as he did so, in an unmistakable Yankee drawl, “Blankety blank blank it! I knew I could speak English. All I needed was a few good cuss words to start me off!”
On the afternoon of January 3d, a party of Monteses visited the Burnside. Gaily turbaned and skirted were these Moro men, their jackets fitting so tightly that some one suggested they must have grown on them, that they were “quite natural and spontaneous, like the leaves of trees or the plumage of birds.” One’s olfactory nerves also bore evidence that frequent ablutions or change of garments were not customary among our guests, and the fact that when shown over the ship they evinced but little interest in the bath spoke volumes.
Strange to say, what the Moros most admired were the brass railings around the walls of the saloon, and the brass rods down the different stairways, in fact all the brass fittings on the ship, a thing that puzzled us not a little until the interpreter explained that the Moros thought the brass was solid gold, and were naturally much impressed thereat. Firearms they also enthused over, and looked with envious eyes at the shotguns, rifles, and revolvers exhibited, evincing great delight at the six and the one pounder guns on the quarter-deck. With the greatest equanimity they accepted several little presents made them, nor deigned thanks of any sort for benefits received, stuffing the different articles into their wide girdles with a stolid indifference which was enlivened by a smile once only. This was at a case of needles given to the leading Datto or chief, which, through the interpreter, we told him were for the wives of his bosom; whereupon they all smiled broadly, the interpreter explaining it was because we had sent the needles to women, as among Mindanao Moros men do all the sewing.
Being Mohammedans, they were very careful not to eat anything while on board ship for fear of unconsciously transgressing the Holy Law, even refusing chocolate candy because it might contain pork. They were shown ice, but took little interest in it, nor did they seem surprised at the cold storage rooms or the electric lighting. It is possible they thought Americans had attained the one really great thing in having white skins, after which all else followed as a matter of course.
The next day we went to call on the presidente and his wife. They lived in a bare, forlorn old house, with nothing attractive about it save the floor of the sala, which was of beautiful hard wood polished with banana leaves until it would have served for a mirror. Everything was scrupulously clean, but bespoke poverty, from the inadequate furniture of the sala to the patches and darns on the old wife’s stiffly starched skirt of abaca. This poverty was all the result of the war, we were told, as much of their out of town property had been confiscated or ruthlessly destroyed by the insurgents because of the presidente’s unswerving loyalty to the American government.
Both the presidente and his señora were delighted to see us, and while he discoursed on politics and what the coming of the cable meant to the people of Mindanao, the good housewife bustled about and brought forth the greatest delicacies her larder afforded, laying them out with proud humility on the marble topped table of the sala. There were peaches and pears, canned in Japan, and served right from the tin; there were little pink frosted cakes made in times prehistoric, to judge from their mustiness, and carefully packed away in glass jars for just such great occasions; there was good guava jelly and a Muscatelle that breathed of sunny vineyards in Spain — indubitable evidence of better days.
The house was so bare and shabby that this gastronomic outlay seemed an unwarrantable expense, yet what could one do but accept their hospitality in the same generous spirit in which it was offered? So at ten o’clock of a steaming hot morning we cheerfully stuffed ourselves on badly preserved fruits, elderly small cakes with enamelled complexions, and tiny sips of liquid fragrance, our reward of merit being the little señora’s beaming face.
Indeed, she even stopped apologizing after a bit, and while the presidente was toasting everybody from the “Chief Magistrate of America” down to our very humble selves, she sent a muchacho out to borrow the hand-organ belonging to a neighbour, this musical instrument being highly venerated in Misamis. On its arrival the presidente himself turned the crank, and with such vigour that I feared a stroke of apoplexy on his part.
A little later, as we were leaving, the señora took us into what would have been the stable had they possessed horses, a large open space under the house, to the right of which a room had been partitioned off with bamboo. Inside this partition a Filipina servant worked the señora’s loom. Back and forth went the shuttle under the little maid’s deft fingers, and up and down went her slender bare foot on the treadle, so that even as we watched the striped red and cream abaca grew under our very eyes.
Unfortunately I became enthusiastic, and nothing would do but that the old lady must present me with several yards of the pretty stuff. I felt as if I should be tried for larceny, what with those indigestible fruits, the pink cheeked cakes, the Muscatelle, and finally the abaca. I protested vigorously, I even pleaded, but in vain.
“You are my daughter,” laughed the señora, happily, “my white daughter. The abaca is yours — coarse stuff that it is,” and she reached up timidly and kissed me, first on one cheek and then on the other, the joy of giving in her dear old eyes.
The next day dawned so clear and beautiful that three of us decided, there being little work on hand until the Lintogup party’s return, to take a long drive around Misamis, and if we had time to even go so far as its four outposts. On the previous day the presidente had unearthed a queer little carriage out of a junk heap, and put this conveyance and a wise looking piebald pony at our disposal. The carriage was an odd affair between a calesa and carromata in shape, or like a high surrey with a small seat for the driver in front. It was beautifully clean, with a new bit of carpet at our feet, and cushioned in sky-blue tapestry. As there was but a single seat at the back, in addition to the driver’s seat in front, one of the two men of our party offered to relieve the Filipino in charge of the trap, and do the driving himself, but the native shook his head, declaring we would find the pony unmanageable. We thought not, but the driver was firm, and although the back seat was not very wide, we piled in upon the sky-blue cushions, trying to look as pleasant as possible in the circumstances.
After some persuasion on the part of the Filipino, the piebald pony started and proved to be a fine little animal with an unusually clean and even gait. The air was fresh and invigorating, and as we passed other Burnside friends trudging through the sand of the beach or toiling laboriously along the dusty road of the town, we congratulated ourselves on securing the only available trap in the place, and marvelled at the way our pony covered ground.
“Why, any one could drive him,” remarked one of the trio. “He’s a fine little beast.” “To be sure,” assented the others. But just then a treacherous feminine hat blew off, and we had to stop and pick it up. That was but the work of an instant — the stopping — but when it came to starting again — well, you just ought to have seen how that piebald acted! He simply laughed at the idea, his laugh extending in ecstatic chuckles all the way down his spinal column till the very carriage shook with his mirth. Then he planted his two fore feet down hard as much as to say, “I challenge you to budge me one inch from this spot,” and though the Filipino threatened, entreated, implored, and finally beat him unmercifully with the handle of the whip, the piebald stood his ground.
At last the two men clambered out of the high vehicle, and after tugging for some minutes at the rope bridle, succeeded in starting the stubborn animal along, but at so furious a gait that they had all they could do to get up over the wheels and into their seat again. All went well for about a quarter of a mile, when to our surprise the driver started to turn around. “Here, hombre,” called one of the men, in what he was pleased to consider Spanish, “we don’t want to go home yet. We want to go to the outposts — way out, sabe?” Yes, he “sabed,” grinning broadly the while, but this, señor, was the outpost.
We were dumbfounded, and stared stupidly at the white tent among the trees. “Why don’t they call ‘em inposts?” growled one of the men, and then to the driver, “Very well, hombre, take us to the other three. We want to see ‘em all.” But this was easier said than done. Again our wise-looking piebald balked, and balked most awfully. Again the two men, at imminent danger to life and limb, jerked at the rope bridle, and again barely escaped with their lives as they performed the perilous acrobatic feat of falling headlong into the carriage while it was going at full speed.
After the sixth performance of this kind, one being at a street crossing where some raw cocoa beans were drying on a petate in the sun, and the three others at the different outposts, we decided among ourselves that we had best dismiss our cochero and return to the ship, since it had taken us more than two hours to drive where we might have walked in thirty minutes.
It was here a most embarrassing situation arose, for just as we were debating what to pay our Jehu, something in my boot heels suggested that perhaps the native was not a coachman at all, but a Filipino gentleman taking us to drive at the request of the presidente. There was the sign manual of Misamis’s four hundred about him. He wore shoes. Moreover, he sported a very large and very yellow twenty dollar gold piece on his watch-chain. But stronger even than these evidences of native gentility was the freedom from restraint in the very frequent remarks he had tentatively thrown over his shoulder during the drive, and the fact that he had not weakened when, on first coming ashore, we had tried to browbeat him out of driving the horse.
“But if he is a cochero, and we don’t pay him, he’ll think we’re cheating him,” wailed one of us.
“And if he isn’t a cochero, and we do pay him, he’ll be indignant,” affirmed another.
My boot heels gave me another suggestion. Being a woman, I suppose I have intuitions, but I trust my boot heels every time. They are more reliable. “How would it do,” I suggested, with a consciousness of superiority which I trust did not sound in my voice, “How would it do to stop a sentinel and ask whether our friend is a coachman or the mayor of the town?” and even as I spoke a sentinel hove in sight and was promptly interrogated by the men.
“Him?” returned the soldier in answer to our questions, “Him? Why, he’s the richest man in these parts, I reckon, and holds some big job under the government. I forget what just now, but provost marshal, chief of police, or somethin’ like that.” We gasped at our narrow escape, and after getting that villainous automobile horse in motion again, pressed some cigars upon our distinguished host, and on reaching the dock thanked him heartily for our charming morning, impressing upon him that the Burnside was at his disposition at any and all times, an invitation of which he later availed himself.
On the afternoon of January 9th the fault which we had been seeking so long in the cable tank was located, and two and a half miles of cable were taken out before the fault could be removed. We then weighed anchor and buoyed six miles out, talked with Misamis over the wire, and then attached the end to a buoy and dropped it overboard, preferring to wait until morning to make our splice and proceed on our return trip to Dumaguete. At daylight we picked up the buoy, drew the end of the cable on board, spliced it, and at eight o’clock were proceeding toward the island of Negros, laying cable as we went.
Then for the first time did we hoist the cable-ship insignia on the foremast head, three balls, which at a little distance looked not unlike the sign of a pawnshop, though our three balls were hung vertically from the masthead, two red ones with a white octahedron shape between them. After dark two red lights with a white centre light were substituted for these signals, each serving as a warning to other vessels that we were either laying or picking up cable and could not be expected to observe the etiquette of the high seas. In other words, we were to have the right of way. As I understand it, disabled steamers also carry three balls by day, all of them being red in that case, and by night three red lights, our centre white ball by day and centre white light after dark protecting us from well-meant efforts at rescue by other vessels, which would of course foul our cable and cause no end of mischief.
We sailed very slowly to Dumaguete, not over five knots an hour, with the cable paying out perhaps six knots, this speed limitation being necessary in order to stop the ship quickly in case of accident. It seemed a sentient thing, that cable creeping slowly along the paying out machinery, winding itself over the drum, and then stretching out to full length and disappearing down the covered wooden cable troughs on the main and quarter decks, and so into the sea at the stern of the ship; the hose meanwhile playing a stream of water over the drum, brakes, and jockey pulley, where the friction is always greatest. This water ran off in a dirty yellow stream, flooding the forward deck, while the tar from the cable decorated the ship from stem to stern, thus transforming our Burnside from a pretty, trig looking yacht into a veritable work-a-day old scow.
Everyone on board was in the best possible spirits all morning because we were really under way and accomplishing work that showed. Even the natives in the tank, swiftly passing the cable from hand to hand, were singing in barbaric monotone to themselves, while we idle ones on the quarterdeck read a marvellous tale of love and bloodshed to the monotonous accompaniment of the cable shuffling through the wooden troughs beside us.
At about four in the afternoon, however, just as we were lazily deciding to ring for tea, there came a rush of feet from the forward part of the ship and a jangle of the engine-room’s bell meaning “Full speed astern!” But quick as the ship was in coming to a standstill, and quick as were the Signal Corps men in stopping the machinery, the cable itself was quicker, and in less time than it takes to tell it, a tangle of cable in the tanks blocked the drum, causing so tremendous a strain that the cable broke, the end going overboard.
‘We were all sick at heart, none more so than the poor Filipino who had been knocked flat by the cable on its erratic departure from the tank. Fortunately, the native was more frightened than hurt, and not many moments later joined in a game of monte with his friends not on duty at the time. The cable laying machinery was then transformed into a grappling machine, and by half past seven that evening the strain on the dynamometer showed we had in all probability hooked something. An hour later the end was on board, and by midnight a satisfactory splice had been made by a sergeant of the Signal Corps, in charge of such work, and his band of native cable splicers. Then sufficient tests were made to ascertain if the joint were perfect, that is, if the insulation of the new piece of cable, when added to that already laid, gave the right answer.
Meanwhile some one ascertained our position with a sextant, these observations being marked on the cable map and entered in the log to facilitate the work of locating and repairing the splice in case of accident at that particular point, though it must be confessed that these splices often proved more sound than the original cable. After this data had been duly registered, the bight was lowered over the side of the ship and we were again under way, “dragging our tail behind us” like the poetical sheep of the nursery rhyme.
Everything worked perfectly after this, and we arrived off the Dumaguete buoy the following afternoon. On sighting it, a boat was lowered, in which our “able cable seaman,” as we called him, with his crew of native “ buoy jumpers,” set forth to fasten the cable attached there to a stout rope from the ship. Then the buoy was cut away and taken into the little boat, the cable being heaved aboard by means of the drum, where, after detaching the mushroom anchor, tests were made and final telegraphic instructions sent to Misamis about connecting the office there. Then the final splice was made, and the two women of the Burnside were given the privilege of cutting the slip-ropes that held the cable on the ship. It had already been lowered over the bows, and only these ropes held it in place.
“If anything goes wrong now, you are to blame,” said the Powers-that-Be severely, and I, personally, felt the responsibility of so momentous an event, and awaited with no little nervousness the signal which would tell us to sever the ropes, for it was important that the two fastenings should be cut at exactly the same moment to avoid a strain on the cable. “Now!” called the cable expert. It was a thrilling moment. My little kris dagger seemed scarcely to make an impression on the stout Manila rope. “Faster! Harder!” called some one, and we sawed with all our strength. A moment more and the green waters of the bay had opened and closed over the cable — the first stretch of it laid on the trip — and we women had helped do it.
Everyone on board was excited over the great event, the very natives, tired as they were, sending up a faint viva, and at dinner that evening it was easy to see a strain had been lifted from all the officers. Not a man but was freshly shaved and attired in immaculate white linen in contradistinction to the inevitable khaki. Later, however, the young officer who had been sent ashore to make the final adjustments in the Dumaguete office, came aboard with the disheartening information that Misamis could not be raised, and the ensuing depression on the Burnside was appalling.
The next morning a wire was run ashore connecting the cable hut with the ship, and by what is called a capacity test, the trouble was located at Misamis. So late that night, instead of going to Iligan, as we had expected, we sailed for Misamis again, arriving there a little after one on the following day. The fault was found in a lightning arrester which one of the operators had neglected in the cable hut. This was remedied, and the cable connection between Misamis and Dumaguete completed.
Immediately the natives poured into the cable office with numberless messages for friends or business acquaintances, and knots of men gathered about the building and congratulated each other on the great event. At last the much talked-of communication with the outer world was at hand, a marvel no less astounding to the minds of these people than would be the realization of those stories of Harun-al-Rashid’s days to our more complex civilization, those dear, delightful days of genie and fairy, when two and two didn’t always make four, and when nothing was too impossible to happen.
LAYING CABLE FROM A NATIVE SCHOONER
That afternoon a schooner was hired, and five miles of cable for the Misamis shore end of Iligan’s line of communication was put aboard her. At daybreak on Monday, January 14th, the schooner started out to lay the cable, while a second party dug the trench and prepared for the landing of the shore end. This was all completed by ten o’clock, and we were under way for Iligan, towing the schooner at our stern. We sailed very slowly, as bearings and soundings were being taken all day, anchoring off our destination late that afternoon.