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mines, I think. But we must be careful, very careful, and insist upon verifying everything, quite independently of their reports. Let me see! I have met the Russian ambassador-but no, there have been two more since then. However I am not without influence altogether."
He waved his hand for me to go, and I slipped off, after a good kiss from my mother, who always gave way to the sentimental vein, when my father fell into the financial. And sure enough our finances were
of a pensive character just now. My duty was clearly to allow my dear parents plenty of time to discuss me from my birth up to the present moment; and finding myself just a little in the fidgets and unfit for steady work, off I set through the park to our old house, to enquire whether Stoneman happened to be at home. For he had taken his holiday, and was come back; and so far as one could judge him by his looks and walk, he found himself better suited in his native land than elsewhere.
CHAPTER XXX.-IN THE QUIET PLACES.
"Gone to the City, sir," said the man, who opened the door which I knew so well, and it had a few reasons for remembering my childhood, impressed or indented upon its lower panels; "but he wanted to see you particular, Master George; and he will be home by two o'clock. I was to send down, and ask you to step this way by two o'clock, if you could any way spare the time, for he thinks to have a bit of a treat for you."
How small are our natures! was pleased with Biddles for making a "he" of his master; when at every breath it would have been "Sir Harold," while we could afford his livery. A fine old Englishman was this, full of pure feeling, and in heart disdainful of gold in comparison with rank; though compelled by his stomach to coerce the higher organ. "How is your little Bob, Biddles?" I asked; and it was better than half-a-crown to him.
Before I had time to pick more than fifty holes in the stockbroker's taste as compared with our own, in came the man himself, full of high spirits, and alive with that vigour which the sparkling metal gives. Any man must be a cur who can
snarl at a good friend, for enjoying the marrow-bone, which has dropped betwixt his paws. Jackson Stoneman was not without his faults; but it would have been mean to make them greater than they were, just because he was able to pay for them.
"Just the man I wanted-the very man," he said, as if I was worth all the Stock Exchange; "what luck I have had all day! And you are come to crown it. Here, you shall have my new Dougall, and I shall shoot with my old Lancaster."
"What a deuce of a hurry you are in!" I answered, for his mind could give me ten yards from scratch at any time. "I am not come here to shoot. I have no time for such trifles. I want to have a serious talk with you.”
"Who do you think looked at me over the palings?" he spoke as if he had quaffed a fine Magnum of Champagne, although he was a man of very great discretion. "Over the palings, my boy; and after putting me down so the other day! I assure you it has quite set me up again; though I am afraid it was only an accident."
"You may be quite certain of
that," I replied, for he wanted a little quenching; "she went to get the last of the globe-artichokes, and of course when she heard a horse she looked up. Old Sally looks up whenever any one goes by."
"I tell you there was no looking up about it. Globe-artichokes are as high as any woman's head. You are not going to put me down about that. And she kissed her hand to me. What do you think of that?"
"If you took off your hat, she could do no less to a kind friend of her mother. My affairs in that line are not flourishing. But I don't want another fellow to be made a fool of, Jackson. Can't you try to show a little common sense?" "Grapes sour, George? Well, I am sorry. But I fear you have not invested well, my son. What are those foreign girls? Do you think I would ever look at them, with a ghost of a chance of a thorough English maiden? When it comes to an English girl, you know where you are, and no mistake."
"All this is below contempt," I answered, for he had taken altogether the wrong tone with me. "Let me hear no more of such stuff; we are not boys. What is it you want me to shoot?"
"Well, that is a gracious way of putting it, when I offer you a chance anybody else would jump at. Guy Fawkes' day not come, and behold three woodcocks marked down in the Pray-copse!"
"I don't believe a word of it. They never come here yet. The earliest I ever shot was on the fifteenth. But if you can swallow it, I don't mind going with you." "Well said. And back to dine with me at six o'clock. No scruple about certificate in this, though to my mind the woodcock is the best of British game. We'll call for the
spaniels at Ponder's cottage. Best foot foremost!"
It was a bright autumnal afternoon, after a touch of white frost, and against the sky every here and there some bronzy leaf would swing and glisten like the pendulum of a clock at winding-time. But most of the foliage now had finished its career of flaunt and flutter, and was lying at our feet in soft brown strewage, or pricking its last crispage up, where a blade of grass supported it. While at every winding of the meadow path (which followed the hedge like a selvage), how pleasant it was to see afar the wavering sweeps of gentle hill, and plaits of rich embosomed valley, with copse, and turnip-field, and furzy common patched with shadow. It made me bless the Lord at heart for casting my lines in a quiet land, where a man beholds no craggy menace, black rush of blind tempests, bottomless gulfs, unfathomed forests, and peaks that would freeze him into stone. For the people that live there must be in a wild condition always; to tremble at nature's fury, or to shudder at her majesty, or look around on all that wraps them up, with desolate indiffer
I glanced at Stoneman walking briskly with his gun upon his shoulder, and death to at least a dozen woodcocks in the keen flash of his eyes; and I said to myself
"Please God, I will take a gamecertificate, next August; there is nothing like a good day's shooting to save one from blood-thirstiness."
Jackson, my boy!" I said, with the refrain of a fine old Yankee song arising in my memory, "you have been over half the world; but have you ever been in the Caucasus?"
"No, and don't want," he answered shortly; "get robbed enough in London village. But they strip you naked there, I hear, and send
you down a waterfall. Shamyl did it to some young chap, who might have set up against him."
"That is a fiction of his enemies. The Avar Chief was dry in his manner to strangers; and who can wonder at it? But he never harmed one of his own race. I wish we had a few such patriots."
"Very well. You start the band. You are qualifying well, with all those Egyptian fellows in the valley. But George, you are much too good for that. There are pretty girls in every caravan ; but we don't jump over the broomstick with them."
Dariel and a broom-stick! dignation may flash as fast in the meadows as in the mountains. "You idiot! You talk like an utter cad," I cried; and he being quick of temper too, stood his gun against a tree, and looked at me. I set my gun by the side of his. "Let us have it out," was all I said.
But a gleam of reason came across him. He might have polished me off perhaps, though he would not have found it very easy, for I was the heavier of the two, and in tidy rural condition. "What rot this is!" he said, lowering his hands. "If you like to have a good smack at me, you can. But I won't hit a fellow with Grace's eyes." I knew that he had meant business, and that there was no white feather in his nature.
He begged my pardon, and we shook hands; and I felt just a little ashamed of myself, although when I think of what he said, I see no misbehaviour on my part.
ing after us, and whether it was that Jackson's hand shook after menacing "the eyes of Grace," or that mine was extra steady through that firm assertion of Dariel, it came to pass that I knocked over both of the birds that we put up, when they were sailing away from Jackson's gun. The other longbill saved his bacon, by keeping it out of human eyes. These lucky shots, and the pleasant walk, and very fine behaviour of the dogs-who were children of the animals I had loved and chastened, in the better days both for them and me-put me into so noble a frame of mind, that after an excellent dinner and a glass or two of Port wine with the violet bouquet in it, I up and told Stoneman my own love-story; for I knew that the whole of it must come out now.
He, being pretty much in the same condition, though without anything like my excuse for it, listened as if he had never heard anything half so surprising and engrossing and inspiriting. In fact, he seemed to take the whole of it as applicable to his own case, though it was beyond my power to perceive even the faintest analogy. His was an ordinary love-affair with nothing remarkable about it, unless it were that money, which is the usual obstacle by its absence, was the obstacle here by its presence. But in my case money was the last thing thought of. Sûr Imar had never mentioned it; and as for me, I only hoped that Dariel might never own a shilling, because then she would appreciate my few halfcrowns. And I still possessed her ruby cross, and meant to keep it, until it should be mine by legal right. Ah, who can spy any chance of that through all the gloom impending?
VOL. CLXI.-NO. DCCCCLXXVIII.
HOW THE FAMINE CAME TO BURMA.
ALTHOUGH here in Burma we cannot do things on the extensive scale they do in India, although we do not estimate the distressed area by tens of thousands of square miles and our suffering population by millions, nevertheless the famine of 1896-97 is a very real thing to us.
Its effects are entirely confined to the upper province, the country that was annexed in 1885, when Mandalay was taken and King Thibaw deposed.
In Lower Burma there is no scarcity at all, but, on the contrary, a bumper crop of rice, the largest on record. In the seaward provinces of Arracan and Tenasserim, and in the delta of Irrawaddy, which together form the lower province, the rains never fail.
Out of the endless ocean to the south-west the wind comes up punctually in May, and from then until September rain is almost incessant there. The rivers, too, rise and flood their banks, and the country is turned into one vast swamp. In this rich wet land the rice is grown, and when the rains have ceased and the rivers gone down it is reaped. There are of course good seasons and bad seasons, but anything approaching to a scarcity is unknown. There is always a surplus, this year it amounts to over one and threequarters of a million tons of rice.
But about 150 miles north of Rangoon, near the line dividing the two provinces, all this is altered. The rain suddenly ceases. As you come up by train or by river, the change is extraordinary. In a few miles you leave the dense soaking mists and flat alluvial land of the lower country, and come
out into dry undulating uplands, where the sun shines for ever. The whole world is changed around you. The rice, which cannot exist except in water, has given way to sessamum, and cotton, and jowar crops, which abhor damp. The grass, which grows 15 feet high in the uncultivated land below, is changed into a thin meagre herbage which barely covers the ground. The jungle has deteriorated into thorn-bushes and cutch-trees. And this extends with but little alteration for 400 miles, until, north of Shwebo, you come to the hill country again, where rain is ample.
On both sides, this tract is bounded by great mountain ranges; on the east by the Shan plateau, and on the west by the Chin hills, and through it north and south flows the Irrawaddy river. It is this stretch of country that is really the home of the Burman. Within it lie all the old Burman capitals-Pagan and Sagain, Ava and Amarapura and Shwebo, and many another.
Lower Burma has been but recently Burmanised. The population is really Talaing, and in 1825, when the first Burmese war occurred, we found the Burmese in Pegu as conquerors. Now it would be hard to find in Lower Burma, except in remote places, any one calling himself Talaing. There has been a large emigration from the upper country to the delta, and the superior race has absorbed the inferior. This emigration has been caused in part, no doubt, by the increasing scarcity of rain in the upper province. Whereas in Lower Burma the annual rainfall averages from 100 to 200 inches, in the centre of
Upper Burma, the tract that I am writing of, it is only from 18 to 30 inches, and even this scanty fall is not well distributed. It comes not in days of mild soaking rain, but in sudden heavy showers, that last for an hour or two, fill all the ravines with torrents and drain away in a few days, leaving the country as arid as before. There is, I think, considerable evidence that this failure of the rain is a matter of this century, even of the latter part of the century, and that in former years Upper Burma was much more fruitful than it is now.
In what is now the very driest part of the dry tract there are the remains of the old city of Pagan. Six hundred years ago this was the capital of a little kingdom, and to judge by the remains of innumerable pagodas in the neighbourhood, it must have been of some considerable size. Now, cities are not built in deserts. Above all necessities for a large city are a copious and well-distributed water-supply, and a fertile surrounding country. Large cities require water for domestic consumption, and for gardens and orchards, and numerous purposes. Moreover it must not be necessary to go far for it. Now, in the Pagan of to-day the only water is the Irrawaddy river, which flows near, and the country around is barren and unfertile. Supplies for a large number of people could not be obtained on the spot, but would have to be brought from a very considerable distance. With out a doubt, the country round Pagan must in those days have been fertile and well watered by a sufficient rainfall.
But there are evidences in much later days that the rainfall has decreased. Here and there all over this tract, wherever there is a piece
of clay land stiff enough to retain water, you will find it levelled and embanked into rice-fields. In late years they have never been worked; but if you ask the villagers about them they will say: "Yes-these are good fields when there is rain; but only twice or thrice in our lifetime have we been able to reap them. In our fathers' days crops would be obtained every second year or so, and our grandfathers worked them every year." They are fields beyond any possibility of irrigation. of irrigation. So clearly this was rain. The villagers will also tell you that, except the great famine of 1856-57, it was not until King Thibaw's time that rain began to fail. In his father King Mindoon's reign there was no scarcity. "That was because he was a religious man," they say. "He convened the great Synod, and he was very just and honourable, a protector of wisdom. But King Thibaw was weak. The kingdom fell into bad hands. Religion was forgotten, and in consequence the country suffered." That is the explanation.
Curiously enough, the first few years of the British conquest were good years. But the country was so distressed, so disturbed, that fields were not ploughed, seed was not sown. Fields were not cultivated from fear of us, from fear of dacoits, from ignorance of what was about to happen, and so the cultivators had but little in hand wherewith to combat the bad times which began in 1890. The rainfall in the early part of that year was scanty in many places, and though the later rains were fairly good, yet there was a deficiency. In 1891 the crops were still shorter, and in 1892 there was a scarcity-hardly amounting to a famine, but still a severe scarcity-in Yamethin, in Meiktila,