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A Night's Sleep in a Hen-coop





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On shore there seemed to be about four huts, two pig-sties, and nothing more. Stared at by a crowd of natives whom our arrival suddenly incubated from somewhere, and who swarmed down to see who we were , we talked with our boatmen, but only succeeded in finding out that we had come to a place not down on the map or on the highroad to the next village whither we were bound. It was simply a collection of huts, children, and pigs, situated at the lake's edge and connected with the outer world by a footpath that led up over the hills eight miles to the nearest pueblo. To walk those eight miles at eleven o'clock was out of the question, and to sleep in one of those little dirty huts ashore was just as bad. The crowd of natives had grown, and so, to avoid being over-run with the eminently curious, we pushed off from shore and anchored out in the lake, to eat a little "chow" and decide what to do. Weariness tempered our decision, which was to sleep where we were, in the banca, under the hen-coop, and, having made it known to our trusty but hard-looking crew, they fell down like shots and, in less than a minute, were asleep in all sorts of jackstraw positions. One slept on the oars, another on the poles, a third on our collection of volcanic rocks, a fourth in the bottom of the boat, a fifth sitting up, and a sixth -- I don't know where.

We three lay down side by side in the little cooped-over roost, and found there was just room to reside like sardines in a box. Our feet were out under the stars at one side, and heads at the other, and there we were, and there we slept, in an unknown wilderness. Though no one could change his position we all rested fairly well, and nothing happened to mar the beauty of the night. As the sun reddened the east, feeling more like awakened chickens than anything else, we packed up, paid out some of the heavy dollars, that mad each of us feel like sinkers on a fish-line, and loaded what little luggage we had upon a bony pony ashore. Adieus were said to the lake and to our crew, and our little caravan started up a broad foot-path for the village of Tanauan, about eight miles away. It was a long walk, on no refreshment save a night's sleep in a hen-coop, but after passing over hills and dales, by nipa huts of all sizes and descriptions, and after being stared at by curious natives, we arrived at our destination, a good-sized village, in two and a half hours. We responded to an invitation of the captain of the pueblo, to take possession of his house, and got up a very decent breakfast out of our fast depleting stock. The old captain treated us most cordially, and after a three-hours' stay helped us to load ourselves and our chattels aboard two stout-wheeled, carromatas each hitched to two ponies.

Off again, once more, our course was shaped overland toward the other great lake up back of Manila, by ruts two feet deep in places, and the bad sections far more numerous than the good pieces. We got stuck in the mud, had to pry our conveyances and the ponies out, and I fear did not enjoy the beauties of the rather tame scenery on the way. At last the crest of a hill brought the Laguna de Bay in sight, and in less than an hour we reached the village of calamba, on its shores. A shabby little native house was put at our disposal after we boldly walked up and took possession of it; a swarm of children were shoved out of the one decent room, and in a short time our boy was giving us canned turtle-soup and herrings. In the afternoon we merely lounged about the town and took a swim in the lake, while in the evening, early after the very good little dinner gotten up by our servant there was nothing to do but to turn in , even though the house was surrounded by the curious, who had looked in at the windows to watch people dining with knives, forks, plates, and napkins.

The floor of our room was of bamboo slats, just below whose many openings were four fighting- cocks and when bed-time came we were tired enough to tumble down on the canes just as we stood. The cock who sang out of tune woke us at about sunrise Tuesday morning, and after one more swim in the lake we packed up our traps and prepared ourselves to take the little Manila steamer that left at eight o'clock on its thirty- mile return trip. The sail down the lake and into the Pasig River was cool, delightful, and without incident, and at noon Tuesday we pulled up at the wharf at Manila, having completed an almost perfect circle of travel one hundred and fifty miles in circumference, to be heartily congratulated on having successfully made a trip which few perform but many covet. My own cane sleeping machine seemed good again after hen-coops and bamboo floors, and smooth roads and civilization far better than ruts and rickety carromatas.


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