THE equator burns its course through the Indian Ocean, belts a path across Sumatra, strikes east again into the sea, — and just here Asia ends, and finishes with a period. This is the island and town of Singapore.

There is an hotel in Singapore the town, where you can sit and watch the ships of all the world go by. And that means steamers with red funnels, and freighters with black ones, and yachts that quiver white in the sunlight, and men-of-war that stare a sullen gray. It means white-winged sailing ships, and junks that creak a flap of burnished brown, and myriads of tiny paddling craft that fret the water with their ceaseless motion. It means everything, in fact, that drives upon the sea as the great highway.

You can even sit at your table and see all this if you face the right way, for the sea swims off blue through all the wide doors and openings. The room that you sit in is huge and white and cool. It is of white marble or white plaster, or anyway, of whatever it is, the color is white, so the effect is the same. There are big pillars and a high sort of dome that ends in a skylight, and to most of the pillars are fastened whirring electric fans. And so you sit and are comforted by the cool whiteness about you and the cool whirring above you.

If you go outside you can take a rickshaw or a gharry, — if you are wise, a gharry. They rattle furiously, and the seats are hard, but the roof is thick, and there are shutters that pull up all the way round. The gharry pony is a wee troublesome beast. Sometimes he balks rigid in the roadway, and the gharry rolls over him and he is lost. Sometimes he kicks and plunges on both sides of the road at once, and speaks clamorously to the passers-by. Oftener the gharry-syce runs at his head and stuffs him with bright green grass, and this encourages him to go forward.

At first, you sit and blink at the hard sunlight and the clouds of fine red dust that choke your lungs. Gradually you make out the red road unwinding before you and the hedges covered with red dust. Then you see other gharries passing, and rickshaws, and high English carts with red-faced men and white-faced women. You see victorias roll by with much be-liveried servants and a heavy rattling of chains, and every time you look you see a sleek Chinaman lolling on his cushions, with a wide alpine hat and a fat cigar.

You see Sikh policemen in khaki knickerbockers and red turbans, standing in the streets or marching past in squads. Not so readily you spy government peons, Tamils, and Malays, in white duck with bands of red across their breasts, and pancake hats of red and yellow.

There are quantities of creatures passing you continually whom you seldom notice. They are more or less the color of the road, and their sarongs and loincloths have been burned to almost the color of their wearers. Sometimes there is a flash of green or orange past your window, and you look and shudder at the rings and buttons screwed into ugly noses. These are Tamil women ; they are bold and black, and stride along chewing betel, which leaks red out of the corners of their mouths. The Malay women you rarely see, for their sarongs seem always dun-colored or dustcolored, like the feathers of timid birds. They hood their heads and slip by unnoticed,— but if you knew, you would catch a corner down and round eyes staring at you.

If Sikh women or Bengali chance to pass, you stare after them out of the back of the gharry; but this is not often. They look like beautiful tropical birds, and their plumage is green and saffron and flame-color. They step daintily like birds, and their slender legs are bound tight with coral or pale lemon. Their ankles ring with heavy silver bracelets, and it was the clashing of the chains about their throats that made you look.

You never look at the Chinese in the roads. They are ugly creatures, — coolie women with blue, wide-flapping trousers, and men with bare backs burned a dirty yellow. They swing by with heavy burdens, heads down, muttering a heavy sort of chant.

These, then, are the roadway people, whose naked feet leave patterns in the thick red dust. There are thousands of them, and their twitterings sink unheeded in the vast low hum of Singapore.

There are other people whom you cannot fail to see. They reign in the hotels and shops, and fill gharries and rickshaws, and sometimes dogcarts. If you meet them on foot they are apt to jostle you and stare rudely. They dress like Europeans, only more so, and they love pink and brightest blue. Some of them are ash-color, some are yellow, and all of them are sallow and unhealthy-looking. These are the Eurasians. All the people you cannot quite place are sure to belong to them, — the foreign-looking people in high traps, and the frouzy, wretched women who wear cotton wrappers on their front doorsteps.

But these are the people of Singapore ; besides, there are things, — buildings and bridges, and a dirty little river crammed with boats. There are long red roads with avenues of bright green trees that meet overhead. There are private houses in deep tangled gardens, and cottages called villas staring on the open street. There are polo grounds with lathered horses and dripping sun-burned men, and golf links and tennis courts with heated women. There are barracks for the regiment, and deep-browed bungalows for the officers. There is a wide-spreading garden rustling with rare plant life, and in one corner a dark nook of transplanted jungle, — birds and beasts just trapped, and a restless yawning tiger striped and shining.

Then there is Government House, in a big park that might be England. Particularly in the evening, when the road winds through a bit of meadow land with low mists rising, like English mists, only more unhealthy, — and just beyond where you startle three deer. But the view from the top is not English. That is of the East, with its stretch of shining sea lying hot and languid. And the green islands, green the year round, they are not English. Nor is the blur of spreading brown roofs, nor the slow droning hum that rises above the heat and the red dust. Nor again, when a breeze puffs that way, is the sickish, heavy, clinging breath a Western breath.

The signal station waves its gaunt arms just beyond, and on the bare beams ripples a speech that East and West may read. A speech of colors that light and hover on the naked mast like fluttering butterflies in sunlight, and spell in symbol the passing word.

There are many turns to the winding roads of Singapore. They stretch under avenues of branching trees, and the air is still and heavy with perfume, and the horses step on limp, wide-flaring blossoms. They spread hot and glaring to the water front that reeks of brine and rotting wood. Fragrant and shaded again, they draw into villas and cottages. Then out they run between two lines of marching palms to the island’s rim, with Johore across the way.

There are other places not so nice. One long road of dust and flat-faced houses. You bend low when you enter, and even then your head is brushed by dangling shabby coats and cast-off finery. And in the dim corners are cases filled with the glitter of pawned gold and the trinkets of half the world grown desperate. This road winds narrow into other streets, wretched streets where a noisy, reeling life washes night and day. Heavy, helpless, heated ways where the final misery of the world drifts in. No green shows here, only the trodden red road and the stare of blistered house fronts.

There is yet another part of Singapore. You sit on a wide veranda that leans an elbow in the street, and smoke and drink and stare at the people going past, — and time curls away. There is a thin gray mist in the air, and the harbor is of glass. The boats float in slowly like dreams, and the mist drifts out to sea.

You do not want to move, — never. Perhaps you cannot; you wonder about it languidly. The big, hot, open playground is just across the way. And everywhere is a swimming together of much green, — heavy, motionless lettucegreen. The road looks hot, and passing traps raise great clouds of the eternal red dust. You stare after them lazily and watch them out of sight. You can do this without moving.

And also without moving you can see a great blur of red in the midst of the trees. You have been speculating about it idly for the last hour or so. The ground under it looks like spilled blood, and every few minutes the air about it dims with falling red. It looks very hot and striking in the great smear of green. Sleepily it pleases you, and you wonder what manner of tree, or bush, or beast it is.

Down the same way is the big, yellow, sun-bleached cathedral. Bits of it are sticking through the trees. It looks unEastern and out of place, yet altogether rather nice. It seems to be Sunday, and slow tired bells are telling people so. The punkah-pullers are jerking at their ropes outside. And you actually find yourself inside, with a high, slender, Gothic distance before you, and a glint of long blue windows. The walls and arches look dim, and a white punkah on a very long rope is swinging just above your head.

There are other punkahs, all on long ropes, and all flapping slowly. There seems to be no particular connection between them. They flap and swing most irregularly, and you watch and try desperately hard to fit them to an even time. You give it up at last, but the attempt has got you into a delicious, rhythmical mood that you vaguely feel is sleep. Then you do not know anything very clearly. You are conscious of a deep throbbing that is probably the organ, and of languid groups of voices that fade away before you place them.

Finally a single voice speaks, and that startles you for a moment into listening. At the same time you become distinctly aware of the Eurasian school in front of you. They are all of them in white with white hats, and they look particularly clean. They all have a bit of blue about them. Some have blue sashes with scant bows. The smaller ones wear scarfs of blue across their breasts like peons. Others have only collars and belt ribbons of blue. You wonder why they do not choose different colors, — and then realize how much cheaper a single one must be. You look more closely at the big girl just in front, and find that she is almost white with tawny hair. But the little one next is as nearly black with stiff straight hair. After that you find all shades and features, — and speculate thoughtfully on Eurasians in general.

Your eyes wander farther and watch curiously a jet-black Tamil in white duck. He seems tremendously in earnest and never misses a response. He is rather dramatic, and stands with arms impressively folded. There is a large smattering of gay brunette ladies who nod a great deal and wear artificial flowers and much fluttering ribbon. They sing with great zest, but their voices are not pleasant; they are flat and shrill, and their words round off lamely. They are Eurasians of course. Finally, you pick out a handful of Europeans in limp, outof-date clothes, and a pervading atmosphere of mildew and camphor.

Then your interest wanes, and the last thing you remember is the downward swish of your punkah, and out of an opening a final gleam of pure gold behind a cocoanut.

Afterwards you go home in a rickshaw. Quantities of other rickshaws rattle past you, and the night seems full of double yellow lights. Suddenly an unknown land stretches close at hand. Lights have started in the harbor, and you marvel at their number. You watch the far-away flickerings of sampans and the beacons swaying at heavy mast-heads. There are streets and avenues of these lights, — and unrecorded constellations.

A bugle call rings into the shore, — the last notes with a breeze at their heels. This is later, for the call is “ lights out.” You are alone now on your veranda, and the night is droning on. Rickshaws roll past softly. Out in that other night a vagrant ship pokes off again into the great loneliness.

Far away comes a crash of Chinese cymbals, and much nearer is the low, broken whining of an Indian pipe. But these sounds come far apart, are filled in with spaces of silence, with waves of muffled heavy darkness.

Down the street are the dim lamplighted tents of a wandering circus. At the entrance is a flare of smoke and torches, and the sudden lighting up of native faces. There is a deadened banging and beating going on inside. Snatches of it drift into the listless night, — mirthless, mournful tunes of decades ago.

A heavy, breathless night settles over the town, and beyond in the black sea sink the four great stars of the Southern Cross.

Elizabeth W. H. Wright.