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Part 3 In The Shadow Chapter 3

I cannot refrain from telling you about Sylvestre's funeral, which Iconducted myself in Singapore. We had thrown enough other dead intothe Sea of China, during the early days of the home voyage; and as theMalay land was quite near, we decided to keep his remains a few hourslonger; to bury him fittingly.

  It was very early in the morning, on account of the terrible sun. Inthe boat that carried him ashore, his corpse was shrouded in thenational flag. The city was in sleep as we landed. A wagonette, sentby the French Consul, was waiting on the quay; we laid Sylvestre uponit, with a wooden cross made on board--the paint still wet upon it,for the carpenter had to hurry over it, and the white letters of hisname ran into the black ground.

  We crossed that Babel in the rising sun. And then it was such anemotion to find the serene calm of an European place of worship in themidst of the distasteful turmoil of the Chinese country. Under thehigh white arch, where I stood alone with my sailors, the "/DiesIroe/," chanted by a missionary priest, sounded like a soft magicalincantation. Through the open doors we could see sights that resembledenchanted gardens, exquisite verdure and immense palm-trees, the windshook the large flowering shrubs and their perfumed crimson petalsfell like rain, almost to the church itself. Thence we marched to theceremony, very far off. Our little procession of sailors was veryunpretentious, but the coffin remained conspicuously wrapped in theflag of France. We had to traverse the Chinese quarter, throughseething crowds of yellow men; and then the Malay and Indian suburbs,where all types of Asiatic faces looked upon us with astonishment.

  Then came the open country already heated; through shady groves whereexquisite butterflies, on velvety blue wings, flitted in masses. Oneither side, waved tall luxuriant palms, and quantities of flowers insplendid profusion. At last we came to the cemetery, with mandarins'

  tombs and many-coloured inscriptions, adorned with paintings ofdragons and other monsters; amid astounding foliage and plants growingeverywhere. The spot where we laid him down to rest resembled a nookin the gardens of Indra. Into the earth we drove the little woodencross, lettered:

  SYLVESTRE MOAN,AGED 19.

  And we left him, forced to go because of the hot rising sun; we turnedback once more to look at him under those marvellous trees and hugenodding flowers.



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