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How We Played Robinson Crusoe
by [?]

In the Straits of Malacca

Two hours’ steam south from Singapore, out into the famous Straits of Malacca, or one day’s steam north from the equator, stands Raffles’s Lighthouse. Sir Stamford Raffles, the man from whom it took its name, rests in Westminster Abbey, and a heroic-sized bronze statue of him graces the centre of the beautiful ocean esplanade of Singapore, the city he founded.

It was on the rocky island on which stands this light, that we–the mistress and I–played Robinson Crusoe, or, to be nearer the truth, Swiss Family Robinson.

It was hard to imagine, I confess, that the beautiful steam launch that brought us was a wreck; that our half-dozen Chinese servants were members of the family; that the ton of impedimenta was the flotsam of the sea; that the Eurasian keeper and his attendants were cannibals; but we closed our eyes to all disturbing elements, and only remembered that we were alone on a sunlit rock in the midst of a sunlit sea, and that the dreams of our childhood were, to some extent, realized.

What live American boy has not had the desire, possibly but half-admitted, to some day be like his hero, dear old Crusoe, on a tropical island, monarch of all, hampered by no dictates of society or fashion? I admit my desire, and, further, that it did not leave me as I grew older.

We had just time to inspect our little island home before the sun went down, far out in the Indian Ocean.

Originally the island had been but a barren, uneven rock, the resting-place for gulls; but now its summit has been made flat by a coating of concrete. There is just enough earth between the concrete and the rocky edges of the island to support a circle of cocoanut trees, a great almond tree, and a queer-looking banian tree, whose wide-spreading arms extend over nearly half the little plaza. Below the lighthouse, and set back like caves into the side of the island, are the kitchen and the servants’ quarters, a covered passageway connecting them with the rotunda of the tower, in which we have set our dining table.

Ah Ming, our “China boy,” seemed to be inveterate in his determination to spoil our Swiss Family Robinson illusion. We were hardly settled before he came to us.

“Mem” (mistress), “no have got ice-e-blox. Ice-e all glow away.”

“Very well, Ming. Dig a hole in the ground, and put the ice in it.”

“How can dig? Glound all same, hard like ice-e.”

“Well, let the ice melt,” I replied. “Robinson Crusoe had no ice.”

In a half-hour Jim, the cook, came up to speak to the “Mem.” He lowered his cue, brushed the creases out of his spotless shirt, drew his face down, and commenced:–

“Mem, no have got chocolate, how can make puddlin’?”

I laughed outright. Jim looked hurt.

“Jim, did you ever hear of one Crusoe?”

“No, Tuan!” (Lord.)

“Well, he was a Tuan who lived for thirty years without once eating chocolate ‘puddlin’.’ We’ll not eat any for ten days. Sabe?”

Jim retired, mortified and astonished.

Inside of another half-hour, the Tukang Ayer, or water-carrier, arrived on the scene. He was simply dressed in a pair of knee-breeches. He complained of a lack of silver polish, and was told to pound up a stone for the knives, and let the silver alone.

We are really in the heart of a small archipelago. All about us are verdure-covered islands. They are now the homes of native fishermen, but a century ago they were hiding-places for the fierce Malayan pirates whose sanguinary deeds made the peninsula a byword in the mouths of Europeans.

A rocky beach extends about the island proper, contracting and expanding as the tide rises and falls. On this beach a hundred and one varieties of shells glisten in the salt water, exposing their delicate shades of coloring to the rays of the sun. Coral formations of endless design and shape come to view through the limpid spectrum, forming a perfect submarine garden of wondrous beauty. Through the shrubs, branches, ferns, and sponges of coral, the brilliantly colored fish of the Southern seas sport like goldfish in some immense aquarium.