Isle O' Dreams

Cover of book Isle O' Dreams
Categories: Fiction » Literature

From Content: As the tubby little China Coast steamer marched up Manila Bay, Trask stood under the bridge on the skimpy "promenade deck" and waited impatiently for the doctor's boat to come alongside.


He was the only white passenger among a motley lot of Chinese merchants and half-castes of varied hues, and he was glad the passage was at an end. He had made the trip with a Finnish skipper, disconcertingly cross-eyed, a Lascar mate who looked like a pirate and had a voice like a school-girl, a purser addicted to the piccolo late at night, and fellow-passengers who jabbered interminably about nothing at all in half a dozen languages. So Trask regarded the spires and red roofs of Manila with the hungry eyes of a man[4] who has been separated from civilization and his own kind too many days to remember. Before the steamer anchored, Trask saw the Taming passing out for Hong Kong, white moustaches of foam at her forefoot and her decks alive with men and women. She was as smart as a big liner. But he looked away from her to the Luneta and the villa-like Bay View Hotel, white and stately, at the lip of the bay. That was his goal, for he had promised Marjorie Locke he would be in Manila the day before, and he was now a day late. The customs boarding officer took him ashore with his bags and graciously allowed him to depart in a quilez, after holding his baggage for examination. Trask went whirling up Calle San Fernando, through Plaza Oriente, Calle Rosario, Plaza Moraga, over the Bridge of Spain and into shady Bazumbayan Drive, skirting the moat of the Walled City. It was a roundabout way but the quickest, for the cochero made his ponies travel at a good clip for a double fare. The rig shot across the baking Luneta, and ere it had come to a full stop before the Bay View Trask was out and into the darkened hall of the tourist headquarters[5] of the Philippine capital. The place appeared deserted except for a sleepy muchacho, who staggered out from some palms, looking for the new guest's baggage. "Have you got an outside room?" demanded Trask of the drowsing English clerk behind the railing, as he pulled the register toward him and scanned the open page. "I say! Mr. Trask!" The young man looked up. "Correct," he said. "Where did we--?" "I'm Wilkins, sir, G. O. H., Colombo. You were there last year, sir, in from Singapore. You had an argument with a 'rickshaw man. I was managing the bar at the time." "Sure enough, Wilkins! How d'ye do!" and Trask extended a hand which Wilkins shook with fervour, striking a bell with the other for the Chinese bar-boy. "Two stone gingers with a finger of Scotch," said Wilkins. "Fine room on the bay-side, Mr. Trask. And you'll find it quiet enough." "It does look quiet for you," said Trask, as he wrote[6] his name in the register and took off his helmet. It was plain that the tropics had put their mark upon him, for in contrast to the deep tan of burnt umber over cheeks and chin, the upper part of his forehead showed a white band of skin, the helmet line of the veteran traveller in low latitudes. His black eyes were embedded in nests of tiny wrinkles, the "tropical squint," which no mere griffin ever has as a passport. "Yes, sir," said Wilkins. "The China boat cleaned the place up this morning. Not a tripper left." "No?" cried Trask, with sudden concern. He turned to the register again and flopped back the pages. "You must have a man here named Locke, an American, travelling with his daughter." "Gone," said Wilkins. "Left on the Taming to catch the Pacific Mail at Hong Kong." "If that isn't my blooming luck!" moaned Trask, shutting the register with a slam and turning his back to the desk, a picture of limp despair."

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