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In The Burst Of The Southwest Monsoon
by [?]

A Tale of Changhi Bungalow.

We had been out all day from Singapore on a wild-pig hunt. There were eight of us, including three young officers of the Royal Artillery, besides somewhere between seventy and a hundred native beaters. The day had been unusually hot, even for a country whose regular record on the thermometer reads 150 degrees in the sun.

We had tramped and shot through jungle and lallang grass, until, when night came on, I was too tired to make the fourteen miles back across the island, and so decided to push on a mile farther to a government “rest bungalow.” I said good-by to my companions and the game, and accompanied only by a Hindu guide, struck out across some ploughed lands for the jungle road that led to and ended at Changhi.

Changhi was one of three rest bungalows, or summer resorts, if one can be permitted to mention summer in this land of perpetual summer. They were owned and kept open by the Singapore Government for the convenience of travellers, and as places to which its own officials can flee from the cares of office and the demands of society. I had stopped at Changhi Bungalow once for some weeks when my wife and a party of friends and all our servants were with me. It was lonely even then, with the black impenetrable jungle crowding down on three sides, and a strip of the blinding, dazzling waters of the uncanny old Straits of Malacca in front.

There were tigers and snakes in the jungle, and crocodiles and sharks in the Straits, and lizards and other things in the bungalow. I thought of all this in a disjointed kind of a way, and half wished that I had stayed with my party. Then I noticed uneasily that some thick oily-looking clouds were blotting out the yellow haze left by the sun over on the Johore side. A few big hot drops of rain splashed down into my face, as I climbed wearily up the dozen cement steps of the house.

The bamboo chicks were all down, and the shutter-doors securely locked from the inside, but there was a long rattan chair within reach, and I dropped into it with a sigh of satisfaction, while my guide went out toward the servant-quarters to arouse the Malay mandor, or head gardener, whom H. B. M.’s Government trusted with this portion of her East Indian possessions.

As might have been expected, that high functionary was not to be found, and I was forced to content myself, while my guide went on to a neighboring native police station to make inquiries. I unbuttoned my stiff kaki shooting-jacket, lit a manila, which my mouth was too dry to smoke, and gazed up at the ceiling in silence.

It was stiflingly hot. Even the cicadas in the great jungle tree, that towered a hundred and fifty feet above the house, were quiet. Every breath I took seemed to scorch me, and the balls of my eyes ached. The sky had changed to a dull cartridge color.

A breeze came across the hot, glaring surface of the Straits, and stirred the tops of a little clump of palms, and died away. It brought with it the smell of rain.

For a moment there was a dead stillness,–not even a lizard clucked on the wall back of me; then all at once the thermometer dropped down two or three degrees, and a tearing wind struck the bamboo curtains and stretched them out straight; the tops of the massive jungle trees bent and creaked; there was a blinding flash and a roar of thunder, and all distance was lost in darkness and rain. It was one of the quick, fierce bursts of the southwest monsoon.

I did not move, although wet to the skin.

Presently I could make out three blurred figures fighting their way slowly against the storm across the compound. One was the guide; the second was the mandor, naked save for a cotton sarong around his waist; the third was a stranger.