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such women on the work; they are never outcasts from any gang. The burden of their assistance is borne freely and generously by all. And indeed the generosity of these people out of their poverty is something to marvel at.

We came one day upon an old woman sitting by one of the huts. The people were all at work, and she was alone, a pathetic sight, stretching her thin chilled hands to the morning sun. And we

asked her who she was, and whether she had been entered in the lists for relief. The old creature shook her head. She had been here three days, she told us in her quavering tones. She had no relations, no children, no one, all were dead long ago. She received no pay from Government, not she. But people were very kind. They gave her a little food here and there out of their pots. She had enough to live on, and all was well.

It is a lesson in courage, in charity, in nobility of soul, that comes to one's very heart, to watch these people. We know what straits they are in. Their crops gone, broken up, starvation kept off from day to day by hard work alone. They are deprived of even their little luxury of a smoke. All Burmans smoke their great white cheroots, which are so very cheap and so very harmless. It is the only stimulant they have, for they neither drink nor do they take opium. Men smoke, and women; boys smoke, and girls, and babies.

And in all these big camps, after they come back from work, and the evening meal is eaten, and the people are sitting round chatting, singing, and laughing, you will never see the gleam of the cheroot. They are living on the margin of existence.

And yet they are never sulky, never cast down, never desponding. They are, as always, very cheerful, very independent, very long-suffering. Crime amongst

them is almost unknown. On the large camp of 7000 people, which I know best, there has not been a quarrel or a fight since the camp commenced.

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They are a wonderful nation. In the villages the private charity is very great. It must be remembered that in small communities half the village are usually kin to each other. A man will marry a girl of his own village, who brings him a further circle of relations in addition to his own. And relationship is a very sacred tie to the Burmese-far closer than we have any idea of amongst ourselves. Any man who is slightly better off than others has always a large circle of relations to whom his charity can flow without going afield for it. So it is that although the amount of private charity that is given is very great compared to the means of the people, enormous yet there is no show for it. There are no subscription-lists, no collection-boxes, no public distribution of alms. If a man of means can in these hard times manage to keep his relations from ruin and starvation, that is as much as he can do. And on the better off among the community, those who have managed even in the hard year to reap enough or earn enough to have a superfluity, the monks and the monasteries are dependent. In every small village there will be a monastery, however poor, and one monk at least. In large villages there are many. Besides ministering to the religious needs of the people, these monks are the schoolmasters. Every monastery is a school where all the little

boys are taught gratuitously. And these monasteries have no endowments. The monks and novices are all of them dependent on the daily charity of the villagers. So far only in one or two cases of villages reduced to veriest destitution have I heard of a monk having been obliged to go elsewhere because the people could not support him. Even in these cases it has been but a superfluous monk, not the principal one of the monastery. As long as there is a man left in the village with means beyond his daily wants, the monks will be fed and the schools kept up. Even upon the famine camps a little food will be spared to give the monks as they come round in their morning procession.

Charity, unostentatious, heartfelt charity, is one of the greatest of virtues in Buddhism-is one of the many beautiful sides of the Burmese character.

I have never heard of any one dying of starvation in Burma.

Even in the famine no such report has ever been sent inno such report will ever be sent in, I think, as long as there is any one who has a meal to spare. Even in the famine of 1856-57, when there was no Government relief, I believe very few people died actually of famine.

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As to the future, who can say? Neither am I brother to the rain that I should be able to say what will happen. will happen. If the early rains are timely and plentiful, the stress will be over in September October; if the late rains good and average crops are reaped, the country will begin to settle down again to its normal condition early in 1898. If there should be another failure, then it must be faced when it comes. We know so little about the causes of the seasons that there is no use speculating upon a remote future. H. FIELDING.

TOUNGTHA, 18. 1. '97.

CONCERNING BILLIARDS.

GOSSIP ABOUT THE GAME AND ITS DEVOTEES.

THIS chief of indoor games, which requires forethought scarcely less than chess, with dexterity of manipulation and control of nerve infinitely greater, has lately attracted much attention; indeed it has been said that interest in the recent match between Roberts and Peall is second only to that felt in the reopening of the Eastern Question and the attitude of Greece. Realising this, we propose to gossip in an irresponsible way about the game and its votaries, whose ways shall be considered as they strike the student of human nature in the billiard-room.

The origin of the game is decently shrouded in the mists of antiquity, and so far all attempts at revelation based on labour in libraries have proved to be vain and profitless. The simple and perhaps not less satisfactory solution is to assume that research will fail for the sufficient reason that record is wanting, and that modern billiards has developed and is developing from some game with balls played first on the ground, in the open or in yards, and afterwards promoted to a table indoors. Its history is checkered, and cannot be said to have a clean defaulter sheet in early life the game seems to have flourished in the highest society, for kings and courtiers played, but later on it penetrated to a lower stratum, got into bad company, and acquired an evil reputation. In fact, as recently as the first half of this century it was respectable in private rooms only, the public room being often "the last refuge of a scoundrel" too idle for honest work, but ready to prey

Whether many

on the unwary. such sharpers are still to be found is doubtful; not because human nature is better, for there are plenty of people as ready as ever to gain what others may lose and not too particular as to the means employed, but because the pigeon has evolved much sagacity in the matter of self-preservation. Instead of being gently taken in by the traditional rook who lets him win two half-crown games and proposes to play for a pound, our developed dove, after touching the silver, is apt to remember a pressing engagement elsewhere. Nevertheless the sharper's business is not wholly gone, nor will it cease so long as the supply of fools lasts, and that is likely to be for some time to come. It is carried on chiefly in public rooms and in those of hotels whenever a victim sufficiently conceited can be found, but the process of plucking is usually on a small scale, accompanied by smoking and drinking. When opportunities arise for a greater coup, the scene is transferred to a private room, as better befitting the graver occasion.

In clubs, too, the billiard-rooms in which occupy a position, so to speak, between those in a private house and public rooms, certain people no doubt add to their small incomes by their skill. They generally prefer pool or pyramids to billiards, play decidedly better than the average of their company, and are ludicrously quick to discern the advent of a player better than themselves, when they either stop altogether, preferring the cheaper

excitement of looking on, or discover the attractions of a love game at billiards. But no sooner has the Napoleon disappeared than the smaller fry are back again, all the keener for their temporary abstinence. Still, billiards has advanced greatly in respectability; all sorts and conditions of men, and ladies too, play, and find the interest of the game, which they are only beginning to understand, sufficient without the inducement of a money stake.

Under favourable circumstances, when the atmosphere is not saturated with tobacco-smoke and the fumes of beer and spirits, there can be no question that the game, in moderation, is good for mind and body; it may be learnt when young - the sooner the better and may be played in old age. But at the same time, the devotion it requires, if more than ordinary excellence is to be attained, is perhaps a drawback, for time is limited, and should be wisely apportioned. If, after work or business is provided for, the balance for recreation is subdivided between many games or pastimes, the share which can be given to billiards is insufficient to secure even moderate proficiency.

It is this, no doubt, which accounts for the vast difference between the form of amateur and professional players. The latter begin for the most part as markers, and after years of work pass their fellows and emerge as players in public and teachers. These considerations, however, need deter no one from trying to do his best, with the reasonable hope, if he has any natural aptitude for crime, that he will succeed in amusing himself and in interesting others. For it is to the credit of billiards that spectators are interested only in a less degree than principals. Sometimes the game pure and

simple deserves attention; far oftener, however, the exhibition of human nature offered to the observer will repay study and afford satisfaction and gratification to every well-regulated mind.

Before passing the various types under review, it may be desirable to gossip on comparatively modern developments of the game. If an ordinary man whose experience extends over ten or twenty years is asked, he will probably reply that the elder Roberts invented the spot-stroke, and that his son discarded it and discovered the secret of nursery cannons—adding, perhaps, if he knows what it means, that he is also the author of the push-stroke, which he will condemn as foul with a certainty in exact proportion to his ignorance. Now, curiously enough, a somewhat careful examination of the books on billiards of the first half of this century leads to the conclusion that though tables and implements generally have been vastly improved, yet the game has not altered as much as might have been expected. Kentfield's matchtable at Brighton was apparently as difficult as any championship (i.e., 3-inch pocket) table now in use, and many of the strokes are shown to have been played much as we play them. His book was published in 1839, and in it the statement is found that the introduction of the red ball is of recent date, the older game having been played with two white balls only. Each player's object was to pocket his adversary's ball and to keep his own on the table. Play was alternate, irrespective of success or failure. That was called the winning game. In the winningand following game the player continued his break till failure, but in both he lost by pocketing his own ball, just as is the case at pool or pyramids, and thence arose

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"I can just remember the old man, and was, when a child, a member of his subscription-rooms at Brighton; he was commonly known as 'Old K. The essence of his game lay in losing hazards and delicate strengths, the latter more or less a modern feature in his day. His largest break was 196, and his greatest number of spotstrokes 57. During the last fifteen or twenty years of his life he rarely played away from his own table-a very difficult one. K.'s play in his later years was almost entirely confined to games with members of his rooms, he playing the one-pocket game, at which he was wonderfully good. His knowledge of the angles of the table was extraordinary, and

his two and three cushion cannons were wonderfully accurate, as also was his play at balls behind the baulk-line. He was a clever man of considerable general information, and a good gardener. His rooms Brighton attracted the best amateurs of the day, but latterly custom fell off, and he died anything but a rich man, early in the seventies, I think."

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amateurs he met. He himself says, "My game, though difficult to beat by those who will not condescend to play defensively, would nevertheless be termed, by the generality of players, a 'pottering game. This is a result to be expected if play is chiefly on a very difficult table.

Looking at his "diagrams and observations," one cannot fail to be struck with the great similarity of the strokes to those now played. A sound game then is still sound, and the strokes that are new are

comparatively few. Under the title "A Cannon of great service" nurseries are described, not of course with every modern development, but the principle is there, and he remarks with complacency that he has made as many as fifteen. He played the spot-stroke, and clearly discerned its importance; there is also a diagram which shows that the push-stroke was played and taught in Kentfield's day.

In one respect Mr Mardon may claim to have been a remarkable player, for Mr Russell Walker recollects having seen him, when eighty-nine years old, make fifteen consecutive losing hazards in the One of Kentfield's most devoted middle pockets, a great performance admirers was Mr Edward Russell at that age. Even if his age is unMardon, who in 1849 published a wittingly exaggerated, the achievebook on billiards, the first part of ment is a remarkable one for an which is chiefly a description of a old man. He must also have match he played with Mr Porker, heard many stories and much who gave him 25 points in 500. gossip concerning the game and It must of course be remembered players, and one regrets that he that 25 points meant a good deal did not record more. He menin those days, so much indeed that tions а gentleman recognised he has illustrated his account of formerly as the "Dutch Baron," the game with nine diagrams of who by retreating judiciouslyhis final break of 25 points. The in other words, by concealing his break, if the diagrams are even game gained signal victories, approximately accurate, is a re- winning every shilling from a markable one, for no single stroke "gentleman who had is played correctly. Mardon, however, never was a fine player, though probably he defeated most

returned

from India with a considerable fortune." Could the Dutchman be any relation of Mr Coxe

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