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An Earthquake Lasting Forty-five Seconds. Smallpox and other Diseases in the Philippines.




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April 6th.

The other night I dreamt I was climbing up a long hill on a bicycle. Once at the top, I started down over the other side at a terrific pace. Somehow or other, by mistake, the wheel ran off into the gutter at the side of the road, and bounced around in such a dangerous manner that it all but upset. However, with tremendous exertion, I managed to jump the mechanism back onto the smooth ground again, and continued safely down to the bottom of the hill at a two-forty gait. Arrived at the bottom, I conveniently woke up, and heard a rat under the bed trying to slide one of my shoes off across the floor.

Next morning on coming to the office, several of my business friends asked me if I had felt the severe earthquake shock during the night. I said "No,"and inquired as to the particulars. It seems that the shock lasted some forty-five seconds, and my chum was awakened by his bed commencing to rock around and by the four walls of his room attempting to move in different directions. Nothing in the city was much injured, I believe, and next day the really excellent observatory, conducted by the Jesuits, gave out a full illustrated description of the affair.

Up at our new bungalow, the only incidents worthy of note have been the attempted stealing of my pony and the consumption of my best shoes by one of our house rats.

A Philippine burglar, curiously enough, takes off his clothes, smears his dark skin with coconut oil, and prowls around like a greased pig that cannot be caught. One of these slippery thieves got into our stable, unhitched my pony, and took him almost to the front gate before the sleepy coachman found his wits. But prompt action saved the day, and the lubricated robber escaped, leaving his booty pawing the ground.

But with my shoes I was not so fortunate, I woke up suddenly to hear something being dragged across the floor. Thinking it was only a rat making off with a boot jack with which to line his nest, I refrained from tempting Providence by leaving the protection of the mosquito netting. Next morning I found that one of these rodents had pulled a pair of my patent-leather shoes off a low shelf beneath the bed, dragged them out into the hallway behind a hatrack, and eaten up the most savory portions of the bindings. Complementary to the prowess of the rat or to the lightness of my shoes -- which? -- I keep them now as articles on which the patent has run out -- worthless, but curiosities.

Otherwise things have run smoothly, and each evening we lie in the long chairs on the broad veranda, watching the Southern Cross come up over the hills, or the score of brushfires of dried ricestalks that illuminate the darkness away off toward the mountains. The music from our piano seems to give much delight to the members of the servants' hall, now nine in number, besides several puppies and gamecocks. The other night, although in the midst of the hot season, we had a prodigious cold snap again, when the thermometer went down to sixty, after being ninety-five during the day, and two blankets were not at all uncomfortable.

I see the papers that there are at least two cases of smallpox in Boston, that everybody is alarmed and hundreds are getting vaccinated. Curious state of affairs -- isn't it? -- when everyday out here you see small children running around in the streets, covered with evidences of this disease. Nobody thinks anything about smallpox in Manila, and one ceases to notice it if a Philippine mamma sits opposite you in a tramcar, holding in her lap a scantily clothed child whose swarty hide is illuminated with those unmistakable markings. Some weeks ago there were even four hundred deaths a week in Manila from this disease alone.; and from the way in which the afflicted mix with the hale and hearty, you can only wonder that there were not four thousand. But smallpox flourishes best in the cool, dry days of our winter months, and is now being stamped out by the warmer weather. An effort is being made to have everybody vaccinated, and the steamers from Japan have brought down whole cargoes of lymph, but the natives do not see any reason why they should undergo this experiment, and would much prefer to have the smallpox than to be vaccinated. And this being the case, it is no wonder that almost seventy-five percent. of them bear those uncomplimentary marks of the disease's attention.

Now that I have inoculated my page with a reference to this rather unpleasant subject, it is only a bit of sad truth to tell of the only fatality caused by the malady in our little Anglo- Saxon colony. Recently I weny into the Bay with a young Enlishman who had always lived in terror of this one disease, and had avoided both contact with the natives and excursions into the infected districts. The launch took me to the vessel which we were loading, and then carried him on to that receiving cargo from his concern. Later she returned with him , picked me up, and together we went ashore to stop a moment at the club before going home for the day. I never saw him again , poor chap, though I did take over his stable, for next morning he was taken with black smallpox and died in a week.

The families of the lightermen in the Bay -- crowded as they are into the hen coops over the stern of the bulky craft -- are full of it, and hence the fatal ending to our little afternoon excursion. As a rule , however, the members of the English-speaking colony get so used to this disease that they have no special fear in suddenly turning a sharp corner of running into some native sufferer.

In days gone by, when cholera decimated Manila's numbers, when people died faster than they could be buried, when business was at a standstill and the city one great death house, were the times that tried men's souls. But now that those big water mains which run along the ground bring fresh water from far up into the hills, the natives have given up the deadly practice of drinking from the river, and thanks to the good supply system, no longer give the cholera free admittance.

Besides smallpox, then, fever is about the greatest enemy, and certain types of the malarial variety seem so common that the sufferers from them often walk into the club, drop into a chair, and say, "Got the fever again, Means onother lay-off." If they can keep about, the old stagers never give up; but novices buy thermometers and cracked ice, and either go through a terrific siege, like my friend, whose eight weeks struggle shrunk his head so that in convalescence his hat touched his ears, or escape with a week's initiation. Typhoid seems also common, and there is generally one number of the colony, for whom the rest are anxious, strtched out in ice baths and wishing he had never seen the Philippines. The old hands -- who, by the way, seem to be regular sufferers from the fever -- all say the only way to be safe is to drink plenty of whisky, but so far I have found that the less one takes the better off he is.

Someone in the States has suggested that if things get too hot it would be well to run to Hong Kong for a change of scene. But if there is any place in the world that is hotter, stickier, more disagreeable than Hong Kong, in the months from May to October, let us hear from it. It is far worse in summer than in Manila, for, completely shut in as it is by the mountains, it does not recieve the benefit of the southwest monsoon, which blows with great force over the Philippines during the above months. Even Japan itself gets a good roasting for the two or three months of the hot season, and there is not much left to do but to seek cold weather in Australia. Our only very hot months here are said to be April and May; sometimes part of June. The sun now is directly overhead and going fast to the north of us, but so far the temperature has never been unbearable. The mercury stands at about ninety-five from twelve to three each day, but somehow or other one does not feel it so much in the cool white suits, unless he attemps to fall asleep on some of the sheet-iron roofs. The nights are still cool and comfortable, and what with a cold snap now and then, such as I spoke of above, fans are having a poor sale. In the afternoon, walking, rowing, and tennis are still possible, and the bands of the Luneta still have enough wind left to give us the "Funeral March" or "Prize Song."


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