IN COURT AND KAMPONG
IN COURT & KAMPONG
BEING TALES & SKETCHES OF NATIVE LIFE IN THE MALAY PENINSULA
BY HUGH CLIFFORD
LONDON GRANT RICHARDS 48 LEICESTER SQUARE
First printed April 1897 Reprinted September 1903
To My Wife
My knowledge of all these things was won Ere to gladden my life You came, But the Land I knew, the Deeds saw done Will be never again the same, For You have come, like the rising Sun, To golden my World with your flame.
The nineteen tales and sketches, which are enclosed within the covers of this Book, relate to certain brown men and obscure things in a distant and very little known corner of the Earth. The Malay Peninsula—that slender tongue of land which projects into the tepid seas at the extreme south of the Asiatic Continent—is but little more than a name to most dwellers in Europe. But, even in the Peninsula itself, and to the majority of those white men whose whole lives have been passed in the Straits of Malacca, the East Coast and the remote interior, of which I chiefly write, are almost as completely unknown.
It has been my endeavour, in writing this book, to give some idea of the lives lived in these lands by Europeans whose lot has led them away from the beaten track; by the aboriginal tribes of Sakai and Semang; but, above all, by those Malays who, being yet untouched by contact with white men, are still in a state of original sin. My stories deal with natives of all classes; dwellers in the Courts of Kings; peasants in their kampongs, or villages, by the rivers and the rice-fields; and with the fisher-folk on the seashore. I have tried to describe these things as they appear when viewed from the inside, as I have myself seen them during the many dreary years that I have spent in the wilder parts of the Malay Peninsula. It will be found that the pictures thus drawn are not always attractive—what man's life, when viewed from the inside, ever is pretty to look at? But I have told my tales of these curious companions of my exile, nothing extenuating, but setting down nought in malice.
The conditions of life of which I write, more especially in those sketches and tales which deal with native society in an Independent Malay State, are rapidly passing away. Nor can this furnish matter for regret to any one who knew them as they were and still are in some of the wilder and more remote regions of the Peninsula. One may, perhaps, feel some measure of sentimental sorrow that the natural should here, as elsewhere, be replaced by the artificial; one may recognise with sufficient clearness that the Malay in his natural unregenerate state is more attractive an individual than he is apt to become under the influence of European civilisation; but no one who has seen the horrors of native rule, and the misery to which the people living under it are ofttimes reduced, can find room to doubt that, its many drawbacks notwithstanding, the only salvation for the Malays lies in the increase of British influence in the Peninsula, and in the consequent spread of modern ideas, progress, and civilisation.
I feel this so strongly that, in common with many of my countrymen, I am content to devote the best years of my life to an attempt to bring about some of those revolutions in facts and in ideas which we hold to be for the ultimate good of the race. None the less, however, this book has been written in a spirit of the deepest sympathy with all classes of Malays, and I have striven throughout to appreciate the native point of view, and to judge the people and their actions by their own standards, rather than by those of a White Man living in their midst.
With regard to the tales themselves, many of them have been told to me by natives, and all are more or less founded on fact. Some of the incidents related have come under my personal observation, and for the truth of these I can vouch. For the accuracy of the remaining stories others are responsible, and I can only be held answerable for the framing of the pictures.
BRITISH RESIDENCY, PAHANG, MALAY PENINSULA, November 7, 1896.
As I came through the Desert thus it was, As I came through the Desert.
The City of Dreadful Night.
1. THE EAST COAST 1
2. THE PEOPLE OF THE EAST COAST 17
3. THE EXPERIENCES OF RAJA HAJI HAMID 30
4. THE BATTLE OF THE WOMEN 37
5. IN COCK-PIT AND BULL-RING 46
6. THE WERE-TIGER 62
7. THE AMOK OF DATO KAYA BIJI DERJA 78
8. THE FLIGHT OF CHEP THE BIRD 96
9. THE VAULTING AMBITION 111
10. 'ONE MORE UNFORTUNATE' 125
11. AMONG THE FISHER-FOLK 134
12. THE STORY OF BAYAN THE PAROQUET 151
13. THE TALE OF A THEFT 161
14. IN A CAMP OF THE SEMANGS 171
15. HIS HEART'S DESIRE 182
16. A NIGHT OF TERROR 196
17. IN THE DAYS WHEN THE LAND WAS FREE 210
18. UN MAUVAIS QUART D'HEURE 230
19. UP COUNTRY 245
THE EAST COAST
The charmed sunset linger'd low adown In the red West: thro' mountain clefts the dale Was seen far inland, and the yellow down Border'd with palm, and many a winding vale And meadow, set with slender galingale; A land where all things always seem'd the same! And round about the keel with faces pale, Dark faces pale against that rosy flame, The mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters came.
In these days, the boot of the ubiquitous white man leaves its marks on all the fair places of the Earth, and scores thereon an even more gigantic track than that which affrighted Robinson Crusoe in his solitude. It crushes down the forests, beats out roads, strides across the rivers, kicks down native institutions, and generally tramples on the growths of nature, and the works of primitive man, reducing all things to that dead level of conventionality, which we call civilisation. Incidentally, it stamps out much of what is best in the customs and characteristics of the native races against which it brushes; and, though it relieves them of many things which hurt and oppressed them ere it came, it injures them morally almost as much as it benefits them materially. We, who are white men, admire our work not a little—which is natural—and many are found willing to wear out their souls in efforts to clothe in the stiff garments of European conventionalities, the naked, brown limbs of Orientalism. The natives, who, for the most part, are frank Vandals, also admire efforts of which they are aware that they are themselves incapable, and even the laudator temporis acti has his mouth stopped by the cheap and often tawdry luxury, which the coming of the Europeans has placed within his reach. So effectually has the heel of the white man been ground into the face of Perak and Selangor, that these Native States are now only nominally what their name implies. The alien population far out-numbers the people of the land in most of the principal districts, and it is possible for a European to spend weeks in either of these States without coming into contact with any Asiatics save those who wait at table, wash his shirts, or drive his cab. It is also possible, I am told, for a European to spend years on the West Coast of the Peninsula without acquiring any very profound knowledge of the natives of the country, or of the language which is their speech-medium. This being so, most of the white men who live in the Protected Native States are somewhat apt to disregard the effect which their actions have upon the natives, and labour under the common European inability to view matters from the native standpoint. Moreover, we have become accustomed to existing conditions, and thus it is that few, perhaps, realise the precise nature of the work which the British in the Peninsula have set themselves to accomplish. What we are really attempting, however, is nothing less than to crush into twenty years the revolutions in facts and in ideas which, even in energetic Europe, six long centuries have been needed to accomplish. No one will, of course, be found to dispute that the strides made in our knowledge of the art of government, since the Thirteenth Century, are prodigious and vast, nor that the general condition of the people of Europe has been immensely improved since that day; but, nevertheless, one cannot but sympathise with the Malays, who are suddenly and violently translated from the point to which they had attained in the natural development of their race, and are required to live up to the standards of a people who are six centuries in advance of them in national progress. If a plant is made to blossom or bear fruit three months before its time, it is regarded as a triumph of the gardener's art; but what, then, are we to say of this huge moral-forcing system which we call 'Protection'? Forced plants, we know, suffer in the process; and the Malay, whose proper place is amidst the conditions of the Thirteenth Century, is apt to become morally weak and seedy, and to lose something of his robust self-respect, when he is forced to bear Nineteenth-Century fruit.
Until the British Government interfered in the administration of the Malay States in 1874, the people of the Peninsula were, to all intents and purposes, living in the Middle Ages. Each State was ruled by its own Sultan or Raja under a complete Feudal System, which presents a curiously close parallel to that which was in force in Mediaeval Europe. The Raja was, of course, the paramount authority, and all power emanated from him. Technically, the whole country was his property, and all its inhabitants his slaves; but each State was divided into districts which were held in fief by the Orang Besar, or Great Chiefs. The conditions on which these fiefs were held, were homage, and military and other service. The Officers were hereditary, but succession was subject to the sanction of the Raja, who personally invested and ennobled each Chief, and gave him, as an ostensible sign of authority, a warrant and a State spear, both of which were returned to the Raja on the death of the holder. As in Europe, high treason (derhaka) was the only offence which warranted the Raja in forfeiting a fief. Each of the districts was sub-divided into minor baronies, which were held, on a similar tenure, from the District Chief by a Dato' Muda; and the village communes, of which these baronies were composed, were held in a like manner, and on similar conditions, by the Headmen from the Dato' Muda. When war or any other public work was toward, the Raja summoned the Great Chiefs, who transmitted the order to their Dato' Muda. By the latter, the village Headmen and their able-bodied raayat were called together, the free-holders in each village being bound to the local Penghulu by ties similar to those which bound him to his immediate Chief. In the same way, the Raja made his demands for money-grants to the Great Chiefs, and the raayat supplied the necessary contributions, while their superiors gained the credit attaching to those who fulfil the desires of the King. Under this system, the raayat of course, possessed no rights, either of person or property. He was entirely in the hands of the Chiefs, was forced to labour unremittingly that others might profit by his toil; and neither his life, his land, his cattle, nor the very persons of his women-folk, could properly be said to belong to him, since all were at the mercy of any one who desired to take them from him, and was strong enough to do so. This, of course, is the weak point in the Feudal System, and was probably not confined to the peoples of Asia. The chroniclers of Mediaeval Europe tell only of Princes and Nobles, and Knights and Dames—and merry tales they are—but we are left to guess what was the condition of the bulk of the lower classes in Thirteenth-Century England. If we knew all, however, it is probable that their lot would prove to have been but little more fortunate than is that of the Malay raayat of to-day, whose hardships and grievances, under native rule, move our modern souls to indignation and compassion. Therefore, we should be cautious how we apply our fin de siecle standards to a people whose ideas of the fitness of things are much the same as those which prevailed in Europe some six centuries agone.
[Footnote 1: Raayat = Peasants, villagers.]
[Footnote 2: Penghulu = Headman.]
Those who love to indulge in that pleasing but singularly useless pastime of imagining what might have been under certain impossible circumstances, will find occupation in speculating as to whether the Malays, had they remained free from all extraneous influence for another thousand years, would ever have succeeded in evolving a system of Government in any way resembling our own, out of a Feudal System which presents so curious a parallel to that from which our modern institutions have sprung. Would the Great Chiefs have ever combined to wrest a Magna Charta from an unwilling King, and the raayat have succeeded in beating down the tyranny of their Chiefs? No answer can be given; but those who know the Malays best will find reason to doubt whether the energy of the race would ever, under any circumstances, have been sufficient to grapple with these great questions. The raayat would have been content, I fancy, to plod on through the centuries 'without hope of change'; and, so far as the past history of a people can be taken as giving an indication of its future, it would seem that, in Malay countries, the growing tendencies made rather for an absolute than for a limited monarchy. The genius of the Malay is in most things mimetic rather than original, and, where he has no other model at hand to copy, he falls back upon the past. An observer of Malay political tendencies in an Independent Native State finds himself placed in the position of Inspector Bucket—there is no move on the board which would surprise him, provided that it is in the wrong direction.
Such changes have been wrought in the condition of the Malay on the West Coast, during the past twenty years of British Protection, that there one can no longer see him in his natural and unregenerate state. He has become sadly dull, limp, and civilised. The gossip of the Court, and the tales of ill things done daringly, which delighted his fathers, can scarcely quicken his slackened pulses. His wooings have lost their spice of danger, and, with it, more than half their romance. He is as frankly profligate as his thin blood permits, but the dissipation in which he indulges only makes him a disreputable member of society, and calls for none of the manly virtues which make the Malay attractive to those who know and love him in his truculent untamed state. On the East Coast, things are different, and the Malay States are still what they profess to be—States in which the native element predominates, where the people still think boldly from right to left, and lead much the same lives as those their forbears led before them. Here are still to be found some of the few remaining places, on this over-handled Earth, which have as yet been but little disturbed by extraneous influences, and here the lover of things as they are, and ought not to be, may find a dwelling among an unregenerate and more or less uncivilised people, whose customs are still unsullied by European vulgarity, and the surface of whose lives is but little ruffled by the fever-heated breath of European progress.
As you crush your way out of the crowded roadstead of Singapore, and skirting the red cliffs of Tanah Merah, slip round the heel of the Peninsula, you turn your back for a space on the seas in which ships jostle one another, and betake yourself to a corner of the globe where the world is very old, and where conditions of life have seen but little change during the last thousand years. The only modern innovation is an occasional 'caster,' or sea tramp, plying its way up the coast to pick up a precarious profit for its owners by carrying cargoes of evil-smelling trade from the fishing villages along the shore. Save for this, there is nothing to show that white men ever visit these seas, and, sailing up the coast in a native craft, you may almost fancy yourself one of the early explorers skirting the lovely shores of some undiscovered country. As you sprawl on the bamboo decking under the shadow of the immense palm leaf sail—which is so ingeniously rigged that, if taken aback, the boat must turn turtle, unless, by the blessing of the gods, the mast parts asunder—you look out through half-closed eyelids at a very beautiful coast. The waves dance, and glimmer, and shine in the sunlight, the long stretch of sand is yellow as a buttercup, and the fringes of graceful casuarina trees quiver like aspens in the breeze, and shimmer in the heat haze. The wash of the waves against the boat's side, and the ripple of the bow make music in your drowsy ears, and, as you glide through cluster after cluster of thickly-wooded islands, you lie in that delightful comatose state in which you have all the pleasure of existence with none of the labour of living. The monsoon threshes across these seas for four months in the year, and keeps them fresh, and free from the dingy mangrove clumps, and hideous banks of mud, which breed fever and mosquitoes in the Straits of Malacca. In the interior, too, patches of open country abound, such as are but rarely met with on the West Coast, but here, as elsewhere in the Peninsula, the jungles, which shut down around them, are impenetrable to anything less persuasive than an axe.
These forests are among the wonderful things of the Earth. They are immense in extent, and the trees which form them grow so close together that they tread on one another's toes. All are lashed, and bound, and relashed, into one huge magnificent tangled net, by the thickest underwood, and the most marvellous parasitic growths that nature has ever devised. No human being can force his way through this maze of trees, and shrubs, and thorns, and plants, and creepers; and even the great beasts which dwell in the jungle find their strength unequal to the task, and have to follow game paths, beaten out by the passage of innumerable animals, through the thickest and deepest parts of the forest. The branches cross and recross, and are bound together by countless parasitic creepers, forming a green canopy overhead, through which the fierce sunlight only forces a partial passage, the struggling rays flecking the trees on which they fall with little splashes of light and colour. The air 'hangs heavy as remembered sin,' and the gloom of a great cathedral is on every side. Everything is damp, and moist, and oppressive. The soil, and the cool dead leaves under foot are dank with decay, and sodden to the touch. Enormous fungous growths flourish luxuriantly; and over all, during the long hot hours of the day, hangs a silence as of the grave. Though these jungles teem with life, no living thing is to be seen, save the busy ants, a few brilliantly-coloured butterflies and insects, and an occasional nest of bees high up in the tree-tops. A little stream ripples its way over the pebbles of its bed, and makes a humming murmur in the distance; a faint breeze sweeping over the forest gently sways the upper branches of a few of the tallest trees; but, for the rest, all is melancholy, silent, and motionless. As the hour of sunset approaches, the tree beetles and cicada join in their strident chorus, which tells of the dying day; the thrushes join in the song with rich trills and grace-notes; the jungle fowls crow to one another; the monkeys whoop and give tongue like a pack of foxhounds; the gaudy parrots scream and flash as they hunt for flies;
And all the long-pent stream of life Bursts downwards in a cataract.
Then, as you lie listening through the long watches of the night, sounds are borne to you which tell that the jungle is afoot. The argus pheasants yell to one another as the hours creep by; the far-away trumpet of an elephant breaks the stillness; and the frightened barking cry of a deer comes to you from across the river. The insects are awake all night, and the little workman bird sits on a tree close by you and drives coffin nails without number. With the dawn, the tree beetles again raise their chorus; the birds sing and trill more sweetly than in the evening; the monkeys bark afresh as they leap through the branches; and the leaves of the forest glisten in the undried dew. Then, as the sun mounts, and the dew dries, the sounds of the jungle die down one by one, until the silence of the forest is once more unbroken for the long hot day.
Through these jungles innumerable streams and rivers flow seawards; for so marvellously is this country watered that, from end to end of the Peninsula, no two hills are found, but there is a stream of some sort in the gut which divides them. Far up-country, the rivers run riot through long successions of falls and rapids, but as they near the coast, they settle down into broad imposing looking streams, miles wide in places, but for the most part uniformly shallow, the surfaces of which are studded with green islands and yellow sandbanks. These rivers, on the East Coast, form the principal, and often the only highways, many of them being navigated for nearly three hundred miles of their course. When they become too much obstructed by falls to be navigable even for a dug-out, they still serve the Malays of the interior as highways. Where they are very shallow indeed they are used as tracks, men wading up them for miles and miles. A river-bed is a path ready cleared through the forests, and, to the Semang, Sakai, and jungle-bred Malay, it is Nature's macadamized road. More often the unnavigable streams serve as guides to the traveller in the dense jungles, the tracks running up their banks, crossing and recrossing them at frequent intervals. One of these paths, which leads from Trengganu to Kelantan, crosses the same river no less than thirty times in about six miles, and, in most places, the fords are well above a tall man's knee. The stream is followed until a ka-naik—or taking-off place—is reached, and, leaving it, the traveller crosses a low range of hills, and presently strikes the banks of a stream, which belongs to another river basin. A path, similar to the one which he has just left, leads down this stream, and by following it he will eventually reach inhabited country. No man need ever lose himself in a Malay jungle. He can never have any difficulty in finding running water, and this, if followed down, means a river, and a river presupposes a village sooner or later. In the same way, a knowledge of the localities in which the rivers of a country rise, and a rough idea of the directions in which they flow, are all the geographical data which are required in order to enable you to find your way, unaided, into any portion of that, or the adjoining States which you may desire to visit. This is the secret of travelling through Malay jungles, in places where the white man's roads are still far to seek, and where the natives are content to move slowly, as their fathers did before them.
[Footnote 3: Semang = Aboriginal natives of the Peninsula, belonging to the Negrit family.]
[Footnote 4: Sakai = Aboriginal natives of the Peninsula, belonging to the Mon-Annam family.]
The Malay States on the East of the Peninsula are Senggora, Petani, Jambe, Jaring, Raman, Legeh, Kelantan, Trengganu, Pahang, and Johor.
Senggora possesses the doubtful privilege of being ruled by a Siamese Official, who is appointed from Bangkok, as the phrase goes, to kin—or eat—the surrounding district.
The next four States are usually spoken of collectively as Petani, by Europeans, though the territory which really bears that name is of insignificant importance and area, the jurisdiction of its Raja only extending up the Petani river as far as Jambe. It is said that when the Raja of Petani and the ruler of the latter State had a difference of opinion, the former was obliged to send to Kelantan for his drinking water, since he could not trust his neighbour to refrain from poisoning the supply, which flows from Jambe through his kingdom. Uneasy indeed must lie the head which wears the crown of Petani!
All the States, as far down the coast as Legeh, are under the protection of the Siamese Government. Kelantan and Trengganu still claim to be independent, though they send the bunga amas—or golden flower—to Bangkok once in three years. Pahang was placed under British Protection in 1888, and Johor is still independent, though its relations with the Government of Great Britain are very much the same as those which subsist between Siam and the Malay States of Kelantan and Trengganu.
The bunga amas, to which reference has been made above, consists of two ornamental plants, with leaves and flowers, fashioned from gold and silver, and their value is estimated at about $5000. The sum necessary to defray the cost of these gifts is raised by means of a banchi or poll-tax, to which every adult male contributes; and the return presents, sent from Bangkok, are of precisely the same value, and are, of course, a perquisite of the Raja. The exact significance of these gifts is a question of which very different views are taken by the parties concerned. The Siamese maintain that the bunga amas is a direct admission of suzerainty on the part of the Raja who sends it, while the Malay Sultans and their Chiefs entirely deny this, and hold that it is merely tanda s'pakat dan ber-sehabat—a token of alliance and friendship. It is not, perhaps, generally known that, as late as 1826, Perak was in the habit of sending a similar gift to Siam, and that the British Government bound itself not to restrain the Sultan of Perak from continuing this practice if he had a mind to do so. From this it would seem that there is some grounds for the contention of Trengganu and Kelantan that the bunga amas is a purely voluntary gift, sent as a token of friendship to a more powerful State, with which the sender desires to be on terms of amity. Be this how it may, it is certain that Sultan Mansur of Trengganu, who first sent the bunga amas to Siam in 1776, did so, not in compliance with any demand made by the Siamese Government, but because he deemed it wise to be on friendly terms with the only race in his vicinity which was capable, in his opinion, of doing him a hurt.
Direct interference in the Government of Kelantan and Trengganu has been more than once attempted by the Siamese, during the last few years, strenuous efforts having been made to increase their influence on the East Coast of the Peninsula, since the visit of the King of Siam to the Malay States in 1890. In Trengganu, all these endeavours have been of no avail, and the Siamese have abandoned several projects which were devised in order to give them a hold over this State. In Kelantan, internal troubles have aided Siamese intrigues, the present Raja and his late brother both having so insecure a seat upon their thrones that they readily made concessions to the Siamese in order to purchase their support. Thus, at the present time, the flag of the White Elephant floats at the mouth of the Kelantan river on State occasions, though the administration of the country is still entirely in the hands of the Raja and his Chiefs.
The methods of Malay rulers, when they are unchecked by extraneous influences, are very curious; and those who desire to see the Malay Raja and the Malay raayat in their natural condition, must nowadays study life on the East Coast. Nowhere else has the Malay been so little changed by the advancing years, and those who are only acquainted with the West Coast and its people, as they are to-day, will find much to learn when they visit the Eastern sea-board.
Until British interference changed the conditions which existed in Pahang, that country was the best type of an independent Malay State in the Peninsula, and much that was to be seen and learned in Pahang, in the days before the appointment of a British Resident, cannot now be experienced in quite the same measure anywhere else. Both Trengganu and Kelantan have produced their strong rulers—for instance, Baginda Umar of Trengganu, and the 'Red-mouthed Sultan' of Kelantan—but neither of the present Rajas can boast anything resembling the same personality and force of character, or are possessed of the same power and influence, as distinguished Sultan Ahmad Maatham Shah of Pahang, in the brave days before the coming of the white men.
In subsequent articles, I hope, by sketching a few events which have occurred in some of the States on the East Coast; by relating some characteristic incidents, many of which have come within my experience; and by descriptions of the conditions of life among the natives, as I have known them; to give my European readers some idea of a state of Society, wholly unlike anything to which they are accustomed, and which must inevitably be altered out of all recognition by the rapidly increasing influence of foreigners in the Malay Peninsula.
THE PEOPLE OF THE EAST COAST
I have eaten your rice and salt. I have drunk the milk of your kine, The deaths ye died I have watched beside, And the lives that ye lived were mine. Is there aught that I did not share, In vigil, or toil, or ease, One joy or woe that I did not know, Dear hearts beyond the seas?
Although the States on the East Coast lie in very close proximity one with another, the people who inhabit them differ widely among themselves, not only in appearance, in costume, and in the dialects which they speak, but also in manners, customs, and character. The Pahang Malay, in his unregenerate state, thinks chiefly of deeds of arms, illicit love intrigues, and the sports which his religion holds to be sinful. He is a cock-fighter, a gambler, and a brawler; he has an overweening opinion of himself, his country, and his race; he is at once ignorant, irreligious, and unintellectual; and his arrogance has passed into a proverb. He has many good qualities also, and is, above all things, manly and reckless,—as those who know him well, and love him, can bear witness,—but his faults are very much on the surface, and he is at no pains to hide them, being proud rather than ashamed of the reputation which they cause him to bear. He is more gracefully built than are most other natives on the East Coast, he dresses within an inch of his life, and often carries the best part of his property on his back and about his person,—for, like all gamblers, he is hopelessly improvident. He is a sportsman as soon as he can walk upon his feet without the aid of the supporting adan; he is in love as a permanent arrangement, and will go to any length, and run any risk, in order to satisfy his desires; and, as he is exceedingly touchy, and quick to take offence, he frequently seems to be in the condition which is known as 'spoiling for a fight.' He is apt to 'buck' about the brave deeds of himself and his countrymen, in an untamed way which would discredit the Colonel of a Regiment—who is privileged to 'buck' because his officers cannot attempt to check him. He knows many strange tales of 'lamentable things done long ago and ill done'; he is extraordinarily loyal to his Rajas and Chiefs, who have not always acted in a way to inspire devotion; he is capable of the most disinterested affection; he loves his wives and his little ones dearly; and, if once he trusts a man, will do anything in the wide world at that man's bidding. He is clean in his habits; nice about his food and his surroundings; is generally cheery; and is blest with a saving sense of humour, provided that the joke is at the expense of neither himself nor his relations. Like many people who love field sports, he hates books almost as much as he hates work. He can never be induced to study his Scriptures, and he only prays under compulsion, and attends the mosque on Friday because he wishes to avoid a fine. He never works if he can help it, and often will not suffer himself to be induced or tempted into doing so by offers of the most extravagant wages. If, when promises and persuasion have failed, however, the magic word krah is whispered in his ears, he will come without a murmur, and work really hard for no pay, bringing with him his own supply of food. Krah, as everybody knows, is the system of forced labour which is a State perquisite in unprotected Malay countries, and an ancestral instinct, inherited from his fathers, seems to prompt him to comply cheerfully with this custom, when on no other terms whatsoever would he permit himself to do a stroke of work. When so engaged, he will labour as no other man will do. I have had Pahang Malays working continuously for sixty hours at a stretch, and all on a handful of boiled rice; but they will only do this for one they know, whom they regard as their Chief, and in whose sight they would be ashamed to murmur at the severity of the work, or to give in when all are sharing the strain in equal measure.
[Footnote 5: Kechek anak Malaka; bual anak Menangkabau; tipu anak Rambau; bidaah anak Trengganu; pen-akut anak Singapura; penjelok anak Kelantan; sombong anak Pahang.
Wheedlers are the men of Malacca; boasters the men of Menangkabau; cheats the men of Rambau; liars the men of Trengganu; cowards the men of Singapore; thieves the men of Kelantan; and arrogant are the men of Pahang.]
[Footnote 6: Adan = A hand-rail by means of which Malay children are taught to stand and walk.]
The natives of Trengganu are of a very different type. First and foremost, they are men of peace. Their sole interest in life is the trade or occupation which they ply, and they have none of that pride of race and country, which is so marked in the Pahang Malay. All they ask is to be allowed to make money, to study, or to earn a livelihood unmolested; and they have none of that 'loyal passion' for their intemperate Kings, which is such a curious feature in the character of the people of Pahang, who have had to suffer many things at the hands of their rajas. When Baginda Umar conquered Trengganu in 1837, the people submitted to him without a struggle, and, if a stronger than he had tried to wrest the country from him, the bulk of the people would most certainly have acquiesced once more with equal calmness.
Study, trade, the skill of the artisan, 'and fruitful strifes and rivalries of peace,' these are the things in which all the interests of the Trengganu Malay are centred. From his earliest infancy he grows up in an atmosphere of books, and money and trade, and manufactures, and bargainings, and hagglings. He knows how to praise the goods he is selling, and how to depreciate the wares he is buying, almost as soon as he can speak; and the unblushing manner in which he will hold forth concerning the antiquity of some article which he has made with his own hands, and the entire absence of all mauvaise honte which he displays when detected in the fraud, have earned for him the reputation he proverbially bears of being the best liar in the Peninsula. The Pahang boy grows up amid talk of war and rumours of war, which makes him long to be a man that he may use his weapons, almost before he has learned to stand upon his feet. Not so the young idea of Trengganu. Men go about armed, of course, for such is the custom in all Independent Malay States, but they have little skill with spear or knife, and, since a proficiency as a scholar, an artisan, or as a shrewd man of business wins more credit than does a reputation for valour, the people of Trengganu generally grow up cowards, and are not very much ashamed of standing so confessed. In his own line, however, the Trengganu Malay is far in advance of any other natives on the East Coast, or indeed in the Peninsula. He has generally read his Kuran through, from end to end, before he has reached his teens, and, as the Malay character differs but slightly from the Arabic, he thereafter often acquires a knowledge of how to read and write his own language.
But a study of the Muhammadan Scriptures is apt to breed religious animosity, in the crude oriental mind, and the race of local saints, who have succeeded one another at Paloh for several generations, have been instrumental in fomenting this feeling. Ungku Saiyid of Paloh—the 'local holy man' for the time being—like his prototype in the Naulahka, has done much to agitate the minds of the people, and to create a 'commotion of popular bigotry.' He is a man of an extraordinary personality. His features are those of the pure Arab caste, and they show the ultra-refinement of one who is pinched with long fasts and other ascetic practices. Moreover, he has the unbounded vanity and self-conceit which is born of long years of adulation, and is infected by that touch of madness which breeds 'Cranks' in modern Europe, and 'Saints' in modern Asia. He preaches to crowded congregations thrice weekly, and the men of Trengganu flock from all parts of the country to sit at his feet. The Sultan, too, like his father, and his great-uncle, Baginda Umar, has been at some pains to ensure the performance of religious rites by all his people, and, as far as outward observances go, he appears to have been successful. Moreover, the natives of Trengganu love religious and learned discussions of all kinds, and most of them:
When young, do eagerly frequent Doctor and Saint and hear great argument About it and about,
though, like poor Omar, they never seem to arrive at any conclusions which have not previously been used by them as a starting-point. All this makes for fanaticism,—which, however, with so cowardly a people, is more likely to be noisy than violent,—and all such sinful sports as cock-fighting, bull fights, gambling, and the like, are forbidden by law to the people of Trengganu. In spite of all this, however, the natives of this State do not really lead lives in any degree more clean than is customary among other Malays. Their morals are, for the most part, those of the streets of London after eleven o'clock on a Saturday night.
It is as an artisan, however, that the Trengganu Malay really excels. The best products of their looms, the brass and nickel utensils, some of the weapons, and most of the woodwork fashioned in Trengganu, are the best native made wares, of their kind, in the Peninsula, and the extreme ingenuity with which they imitate the products of other States, or Islands of the Archipelago, is quite unrivalled in this part of the world. Silk sarongs, in close imitation of those woven in Pahang and Kelantan, are made cheap, and sold as the genuine articles. Bales of the white turban cloths, flecked with gold thread, which are so much worn by men who have returned from the Haj, are annually exported to Mecca, where they are sold, as articles of real Arabic manufacture, to the confiding pilgrims. All these silks and cloths fade and wear out with inconceivable rapidity, but, until this occurs, the purchaser is but rarely able to detect the fraud of which he has been a victim. Weapons, too, are made in exact imitation of those produced by the natives of Celebes or Java, and it is often not until the silver watering on the blades begins to crack and peel—like paint on a plank near a furnace—that their real origin becomes known. At the present time, the artisans of Trengganu are largely engaged in making exact imitations of the local currency, to the exceeding dolor of the Sultan, and with no small profit to themselves.
In appearance, the Trengganu Malay is somewhat larger boned, broader featured, and more clumsily put together than is the typical Pahang Malay. He also dresses somewhat differently, and it is easy to detect the nationality of a Trengganu man, even before he opens his mouth in speech. The difference in appearance is subtle, and to one who is not used to Malays, the natives of Pahang, Kelantan, and Trengganu have nothing to distinguish them one from another, whereas, after a year or two on the East Coast, what at first are almost imperceptible differences, are soon recognised as being widely distinguishing marks.
The Kelantan man is, to the native of Pahang, what the water-buffalo is to a short-horn. To begin with, to the uninitiated he is wholly unintelligible. He grunts at one like the fatted pig at the Agricultural Shows, and expects one to understand the meaning which he attaches to these grunts. This proves him to be sanguine but unintelligent. He cannot understand any dialect but his own,—which is convincing evidence to non-Kelantan Malays that he is a born fool,—and he is apt to complain bitterly of the accents of strangers, whereas, to all but his own countrymen, it is his accent which appears to be the real grievance. He is plain of face, fat, ugly, and ungainly of body, huge as to the hands and feet, not scrupulously clean in his person and habits, and, like most very fleshy people, he is blessed with an exceedingly even temper, and is excessively happy, good-natured, and stolid. He can break open a door by butting it with his head, and the door is the only sufferer. [Awang Kepala Kras—Awang of the Hard Head—who is a Kelantan Malay, backs himself to butt a trained fighting ram out of time!] He can lift great weights, walk long distances, pole or paddle a boat for many hours at a stretch, and can, and does, work more than any other Malay.
This huge mass of fleshy brown humanity is reared on a pound or two of boiled rice, and a few shreds of fish. To see him eat is to be attacked with a lasting loathing for food. He takes in his rice as though stoking a steamboat. The coal shovel is his ponderous fist, and the extent to which his cheeks are capable of stretching alone regulates the size of his mouthfuls. He is, in every way, coarser-grained than any other Malay. He has much less self-respect; is rarely touchy and sensitive, as are other natives of the Peninsula; and when he is brave, it is with the courage of the blind, who know not the extent of the danger which they are facing. An utter want of imagination goes to the making of more heroes than it is pleasant to think about, since people who cannot picture consequences, and forecast risks, deserve but little credit for the courage which they display, but are unable to appreciate.
To his neighbours on the East Coast, however, all the other remarkable characteristics of the Kelantan Malay are lost sight of, or rather, are completely overshadowed, by his reputation as a thief among thieves. In vain have successive generations of Kelantan rajas cut off the hands, feet, and heads of detected or suspected burglars and robbers; in vain have all sorts of stratagems been adopted by travellers as precautions against thieves; and in vain have the families of convicted men been punished for the deeds of their relations. Nothing, apparently, can stamp out the instinct which prompts high and low, rich and poor, to take possession of any property belonging to someone else whenever the opportunity offers. Men with flocks and herds, and padi swamps, and fruit orchards, steal if they get the chance just as much as does the indigent peasant who has sold his last child into slavery for three dollars in cash. Most of the great chiefs of the country do not steal in person, but they keep bands of paid ruffians who do that work for them, in return for their protection, and a share of the takings. The skill with which some Kelantan Malays pick a pocket, and the ingenuity displayed in their burglaries, would not discredit a pupil of Fagin the Jew; and robbery with violence is almost equally common. Their favourite weapon is an uncanny looking instrument called parang jengok—or the 'peeping' knife—which is armed with a sharp peak at the tip, standing out almost at right angles to the rest of the blade. Armed with this, on a dark night, the robber walks down a street, and just as he passes a man, he strikes back over his left shoulder, so that the peak catches his victim in the back of the head, and knocks him endways. He can then be robbed with ease and comfort, and, whether he recovers from the blow or dies from its effects is his own affair, and concerns the thief not at all. It is not very long ago since two men were found lying senseless in the streets of Kota Bharu, each having put the other hors de combat with a parang jengok, striking at the same moment, in the same way, and with the same amiable intention. To save further trouble they each had their hands cut off, as soon as they came round, by the Sultan's order. This, when you come to think of it, was a sound course for the Sultan to pursue.
The women of Kelantan are, many of them, well favoured enough. They are, for the most part, fine upstanding wenches, somewhat more largely built than most Malay women, and they appear more in public than is usual in the Peninsula. At Kota Bharu, women, both young and old, crowd the markets at all hours of the day, and do most of the selling and buying. They converse freely with strangers, go about unveiled, and shew no signs of that affected bashfulness, which cloaks the very indifferent morals of the average Malay woman, but which it is a point of honour with her to assume when in the presence of men.
In Kelantan, both men and women dress differently from Malays in other States. The men wear neither coats nor trousers, but they bind a sarong and three or four sashes about their waists. The sarong generally comes down to the knee, and, when seated, the knee-caps are often exposed, even in the King's Balai,—a practice that would not be tolerated in any other part of the Peninsula. The women also dispense with an upper garment, and make up the deficiency by a lavish use of sarong and scarves. The shoulders and upper portion of the chest, however, are left bare. These and other practices, cause the Kelantan Malays to be much despised by the peoples of other Native States, who regard them as unmannerly and uncouth. Indeed, prior to 1888, few Kelantan men dared to set foot in Pahang, for, as an old Chief once said in my presence, the only use a Pahang native had for a Kelantan Malay, before the coming of the white men, was 'as a thing wherewith to sharpen the blade of his dagger,' and this, be it remembered, is not a mere facon de parler.
After straining my jaws, doing violence to my tongue, and racking my throat, I have acquired a working knowledge of the Kelantan patois, and can now understand and speak it almost as easily as I do the more refined dialects. This has helped me to, in some degree, understand the people, and, though they have many bad qualities, I like them. In a rude, rough way, and without the swagger of the Pahang Malay, they are sportsmen. I shot over one of them for four years, and, until he went blind, he was as good a retriever as one would desire to possess. At Kota Bharu bull fights, matches between rams, cocks, quails, and human prize fighters, are the chief amusement of the people. The latter sport is peculiar to Kelantan. The fights begin with the ungainly posturing, and aimless gesticulation, with which all who have witnessed a Malay sword-dance are familiar, but when the fencers come to close quarters the interest begins. They strike, kick, pinch, bite, scratch, and even spit, until one or the other is unable to move. No time is called, catch as catch can, and strike as best, and where best you may, are the simple rules of these contests, and the sight is a somewhat degrading and unpleasant one, though it excites the spectators to ecstasies of delight and laughter. Most big Chiefs in Kelantan keep trained men to take part in these prize fights, and heavy bets are made on the result.
And the life of these people? Whether in Pahang, Trengganu, or Kelantan it is much the same. Up country the natives live more chastely than do the people of the capital; they work harder, age sooner, lie less softly, experience less change, and are chiefly occupied in supporting themselves and their families. They rise early, work or idle through the day, and go to bed very soon after dark. Their lives are entirely monotonous, dull, and uneventful, but the knowledge of other and better things is not for them, and they live contentedly the only life of which they have any experience. They can rarely afford to support more than one wife, and, as they love their little ones dearly, they often live with the same woman all the days of her life, since divorce entails some degree of separation from the children.
Down country things are different. The gossip of the Court, the tales of brave deeds, the learned discussions, or the rough sports add an interest to life, which is not to be experienced by the dwellers in the far interior. The number of unmarried women within the palace causes the youths of the town to plunge wildly into intrigues, for which they often have to pay a heavy price, but which always instil an element of romance into their lives. This, of course, is the merest sketch, for no real study of the people can be attempted in a work written on such unscientific lines as the present, and the reader—supposing such a problematical person to exist—must form his own picture of my Malay friends from the stories which I shall have to tell in future pages. It is only too probable that I shall fail to give any real idea of the people of whom I write, to any save those who are already able to fill in the omissions for themselves, and who, therefore, know as much about Malays as is good for any man; but, if I fail, it will be because I lack the skill to depict with vividness the lives of those whom I know intimately, and whom, in spite of all their faults, and foibles, and ignorance, and queer ways, I love exceedingly.
THE EXPERIENCES OF RAJA HAJI HAMID
I've spent my life in war and strife, And now I'm waxing old; I've planned and wrought, and dared and fought, And all my tale is told; I've made my kill, and felt the chill Of blades that stab and hew, And my only theme, as I sit and dream, Is the deeds I was wont to do.
These things were told me by Raja Haji Hamid, as he and I lay smoking on our mats during the cool, still hours before the dawn. He was a Selangor man who had accompanied me to the East Coast, as chief of my followers, a band of ruffians, who at that time were engaged in helping me to act as 'the bait at the tip of the fish-hook,' in an Independent Malay State—to use the phrase then current among my people.
We had passed the evening in the King's Balai watching the Chinamen raking in their gains, while the Malays gambled and cursed their luck, with much slapping of thighs, and frequent references to God and his Prophet,—according to whose teaching gaming is an unclean thing. The sight of the play, and of the fierce passions which it aroused, had awakened memories in Raja Haji's mind, and it was evidently not without a pang that he remembered that the turban round his head,—which his increasing years, and his manifold sins, had driven him to Mecca to seek,—forbade him to partake publicly in the unholy sport. Like most of those who have outgrown their pleasant vices, he had a hearty admiration for his old, prodigal, unregenerate self; and, as I lay listening, he spoke lovingly of the old days at Selangor, before the coming of the white men.
'Allah Tuan! I loved those old times exceedingly! When the Company had not yet come to Selangor, when all were shy of Si-Hamid, and none dared face his kris, the "Chinese Axe." I never felt the grip of poverty in those times, for my supplies were ever at the tip of my dagger, and they were few who dared withhold aught which I desired or coveted!'
'Did I ever tell thee, Tuan, the tale of how the gamblers of Klang yielded up the money of their banks to me without resistance; or the turn of a dice box? No? Ah, that was a pleasant tale, and a deed which was famous throughout Selangor, and gave me a very great name.
'It was in this wise. I was in a sorry case, for the boats had ceased to ply on the river through fear of me, and my followers were few, so that I could not rush a town or a Chinese kongsi house. As for the village people, they were as poor as I, and, save for their women-folk, I never harassed them. Now, one day, my wives and people came to me asking for rice, or for money wherewith to purchase it, and I had nothing to give them, only one little dollar remaining to me. It is very bad when the little ones want food, and my liver grew hot at the thought. None of the woman-folk dared to say any word, when they saw that my eyes waxed red; but the little children cried, and I heard them, and was sad. Moreover, I, too, was hungry, for my belly was empty. Then I looked upon my only dollar, and, calling one of my men, I bade him go to a Chinese store, and buy me a bottle of the white man's perfume. Now, when one of my wives, the mother of my son, heard this order she cried out in anger: "Art thou mad, Father of Che' Bujang? Art thou mad, that thou throwest away thy last dollar on perfumes for thy lights of love, while Che' Bujang and his brethren cry for rice?" But I slapped her on the mouth, and said "Be still!"—for it is not well for a man to suffer a woman to question the doings of men.
'That evening, when the night had fallen, I put on my fighting jacket, and my Celebes drawers, and bound my kris, the "Chinese Axe," about my waist, and took my sword, the "Rising Sun," in my hand. Three or four of my boys followed at my back, and I did not forget to take with me the bottle of the white man's perfume. I made straight for the great Klang gambling house, and when I reached the door, I halted for the space of an eye-flick, and spilled the scent over my hand and arm as far as the elbow. Then I rushed in among the gamblers, suddenly and without warning, stepping like a fencer in the sword-dance and crying "Amok! Amok!" till the coins danced upon the gaming tables. All the gamblers stayed their hands from the staking, and some seized their dagger hilts. Then I cried aloud three times, "I am Si-Hamid, the Tiger Unbound!"—for by that name did men then call me—"Get ye to your dwellings speedily, and leave your money where it is, or I will slay you!"
'Many were affrighted, some laughed, some hesitated, but none did as I bade them. "Dogs and pigs!" I cried, "Are your ears deaf that ye obey me not, or are ye sated with life, and desire that your shrouds should be prepared? Obey me, or I will slay ye all, as a kite swoops upon little chickens! What is your power, and what are your stratagems, and how can ye prevail against me? I who am invulnerable, I whom even the fire burns but cannot devour!"
'With that I thrust my right hand into the flame of a gaming lamp, and it, being saturated with the white man's perfume, blazed up bravely even to my elbow, doing me no hurt, as I waved my arm above my head. Verily, the white men are very clever, who so cunningly devise the medicine of these perfumes.
'Now, when all the people in the gambling house saw that my arm and hand burned with fire, but were not consumed, a great fear fell upon them, and they fled shrieking, and no man stayed to gather up his silver. This I presently put into sacks, and my men removed it to my house, and my fame waxed very great in Klang. Men said that henceforth Si-Hamid should be named the Fiery Rhinoceros, and not the Unbound Tiger, as they had hitherto called me. It was long ere the trick became known, and even then no man, among those who were within the gaming house that night, dared ask me for the money which I had borrowed from him and his fellows. Ya Allah, Tuan, but those days were exceeding good days! I cannot think upon them, for it makes me sad. It is true what is said in the pantun of the men of Kedah:
'Pulau Pinang has a new town, And Captain Light is its King; Do not recall the days that are gone, Or you will bow down your head, And the tears will gush forth!
'Ya Allah! Ya Tuhan-ku! Verily, I cannot think upon it!'
[Footnote 7: Fiery Rhinoceros = Badak api, a fabulous monster of Malay tradition.]
He tossed about uneasily on his mat for some time, and I let him be, for the memory of the old, free days to a Malay raja, whose claws have been cut by the Europeans, is like new wine when it comes back suddenly upon him, and it is best, I think, to let a man fight out such troubles alone and in silence. 'Can words make foul things fair?'—and, however much I might sympathise with my friend, there was no blinking the fact, that he and I were then engaged in trying to do for another set of Malay rajas, all that Raja Haji Hamid so bitterly regretted that the white men had done for him, and for Selangor.
After a space he became calmer, for though the thought of his troubles is often present to the mind of a Malay raja, the paroxysms, which the memory occasions, are not usually of long duration. Presently he began chuckling to himself, and then spoke again:
'I remember once, when I was for the moment rich with the spoils of war, I gambled all the evening in that same house at Klang, and lost four thousand dollars. It mattered not at all on which quarter of the mat I staked, nor whether I staked ko-o, li-am, or tang; I pursued the red half of the dice as one chases a dog, but never once did I catch it. At last, when my four thousand dollars were finished, I arose and departed, and my liver was hot in my chest. As I came out of the Farm, a Chinaman, whom I knew, and who loved me, followed after me, and said, "Hai-yah, Ungku, you have lost much to-night. That man with whom you gambled was cheating you, for he has a trick whereby he can make the red part of the dice turn to whichever side of the mat he wills." "Is this true?" I asked, and he said, "It is indeed true."'
'Then I loosened the "Chinese Axe" in its scabbard, and turned back into the Farm. First I seized the Chinaman by the pig-tail, and my followers gathered up all the money in the bank, near seven thousand dollars, so that it needed six men to carry it, and I then departed to my house, none daring to bar my passage.'
'When we had entered the house, I bade the Chinaman be seated, and told him that I would kill him, even then, if he did not show me the trick whereby he had cheated me. This he presently did, and for near two hours I sat watching him, and practising, for I had a mind to learn the manner of his art, thinking that hereafter I might profit by it. Then, when the dawn was breaking, I led the Chinaman down to the river by the hand,—for I was loth to make a mess within my house,—and when I had cut his throat, and sent his body floating down-stream, I washed myself, performed my ablutions before prayer, prayed, and went to my bed, for my eyes were heavy with sleep.'
'Kasih-an China!' I said, 'I am sorry for the Chinaman!'
'Why are you sorry for him?' asked Raja Haji, 'He had cheated me and it was not fitting that he should live; besides, he was a Chinaman, and we counted not their lives as being of any worth. In Kinta, before Mr. Birch went to Perak, they had a game called Main China, each man betting on the number of the coins which a passing Chinaman carried in his pouch, and whether they were odd or even. Thereafter, when the bets had been made, they would kill the Chinaman and count the coins.'
'They might have done that without killing the Chinaman,' I said.
'It is true,' rejoined Raja Haji, 'but it was a more certain way, and, moreover, it increased their pleasure. But Tuan, the night is very far advanced. Let us sleep.'
Verily, life in an Independent Malay State, like adversity, makes one acquainted with strange bed-fellows.
THE BATTLE OF THE WOMEN
Woman is the lesser man, and all her passions matched with mine, Are as moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wine.
This is a true story. Also, unlike most of the tales which I have to tell concerning my Malay friends, it is garnished with a moral; and one, moreover, which the Women's Rights Committees would do well to note. I should dearly like to print it as a tract, for distribution to these excellent and loud-talking institutions, but, failing that, I publish it here, among its unworthy companions.
To those who live in and around a Malay Court, two things only take rank as the serious matters of life. These are the love intrigues, in which all are more or less engaged at peril of their lives, and the deeds of daring and violence,—long past or newly done,—of discussing which men and women alike never weary. People talk, think, and dream of little else, not only in the places where men congregate, but also in the dimly lit inner apartments, where the women are gathered together. In the conduct of their love intrigues, men and women alike take a very active part, for the ladies of the Peninsula are as often as not the wooers of the men, and a Malay girl does not hesitate to make the necessary advances if the swain is slow to take the initiative, or fails to perceive the desire which she has conceived for him. In the matter of fighting, however, the women—who are as often as not the cause—act usually as mere spectators, taking no active part themselves, though they join in a shrill chorus of applause when a shrewd blow is given, and delight greatly in the brave doings of their men. Nevertheless, the warlike atmosphere, with which she is surrounded all the days of her life, sometimes infects a young Malay Princess, and urges her to do some daring deed which shall emulate the exploits of her brothers, and shall show her admirers how dashing a spirit, and how great a courage are hers.
It was during the hot, aching months, which, in Merry England, go to make up the Spring of the year; and the King and his favourite concubines had betaken themselves up-river to snare turtle-doves, and to drowse away the hours in the cool flowering fruit groves, and under the shade of the lilac-coloured bungor trees. Therefore the youths and maidens in the palace were having a good time, and were gaily engaged in sowing the whirlwind, with a sublime disregard for the storm, which it would be theirs to reap, when the King returned to punish. As the vernacular proverb has it, the cat and the roast, the tinder and the spark, and a boy and a girl are ill to keep asunder; and consequently my friends about the palace were often in trouble, by reason of their love affairs, even when the King was at hand; and on his return, after he had been absent for a day or two, there was generally the very devil to pay. Perhaps, on this occasion, the extreme heat had something to do with it, and made hot blood surge through young veins with unwonted fury, for things went even worse than usual, and, after a week of flagrant and extraordinary ill-doing, Tungku Indut, one of the King's sons, put the finishing touch to it all, by eloping with no less than four of his father's choicest dancing girls!
Now, these girls were as the apple of her eye to Tungku Indut's half-sister, Tungku Aminah. They belonged to her mother's household, and had been trained to dance from earliest infancy, with infinite care and pains. Nor had they attained their present degree of efficiency, without the twisting back of tortured fingers, and sundry other gentle punishments, dear to Malay ladies, being frequently resorted to, in order to quicken their intelligence. That her brother should now carry off these girls, after all the trouble which had been expended upon their education, was a sore offence to Tungku Aminah; and that the girls themselves were very willing captives, and had found a princely lover, while she remained unwedded, did not tend to soothe her gentle woman's breast. Her mother was also very wroth, and sent threatening messages to Tungku Indut, presaging blood and thunder, and other grievous trouble when the King returned. Tungku Indut, however, resolutely declined to give the girls up. He knew that he had gone so far that no tardy amends could now cover his ill-deeds, and, as he had a fancy for the girls, he decided to enjoy the goods the gods had sent him until his father came back, and the day of reckoning arrived. His stepmother, therefore, resigned herself to await the King's return; but Tungku Aminah could not brook delay, and she resolved to attack Tungku Indut in his house, and to wrest the girls from him by force of arms.
Circumstances favoured her, as her mother, who was the only person capable of thwarting her project, was ill with fever, and had retired early to her bed and her opium pipe. Tungku Aminah was thus left at liberty to do whatsoever she wished; and accordingly, at about eleven o'clock that night, she sallied forth, from within the stone wall which surrounded her mother's palace, at the head of her army.
It was at this moment that word was brought to me that strange things were toward, and I, and the Malays who were with me, ran out to our compound fence, and witnessed all that ensued with our eyes glued to the chinks in the plaited bamboos.
Presently the army came pouring down the street in the pale moonlight, and halted in front of my compound, which chanced to face the house at that time occupied by Tungku Indut, the door of which abutted on the main thoroughfare. Tungku Aminah led the van, strutting along with an arrogant and truculent swagger most laughable to see. She was dressed for the occasion after the fashion of the Malay warrior. Her body was encased in a short-sleeved, tight-fitting fighting jacket, which only served to emphasise the femininity of her bust. She wore striped silk breeches reaching to the middle of her shins; a silk sarong was folded short about her waist; and her thick hair was tucked away beneath a head handkerchief twisted into a peak in the manner called tanjak. At her belt she carried a kris, and also, a smaller dagger, called a 'pepper-crusher' in the vernacular, and in her hand she held a drawn sword, which she brandished as she walked. At her back came some three hundred women, moving down the street with that queer half-tripping, half-running gait, which Malay women always affect when they go abroad in a crowd at the heel of their Princess. The way in which they run into and press against one another, on such occasions, together with the little quick short steps they take, always reminds me of young chickens trying to seek shelter under their mother's wing. The army was wonderfully and fearfully armed. Some of the more fortunate had spears and daggers; one or two carried old swords; but the majority were armed with weapons borrowed from the cook-house. The axes and choppers, used for breaking up firewood, were the best of these arms, but the number of these was limited, most of Tungku Aminah's gallant three hundred being provided with no better weapons than the kandar sticks, on which water pails are carried; spits made of wood hardened in the fire; cocoa-nut scrapers lashed to sticks; and a few old pocket-knives and fish-spears. What they lacked in equipment, however, they made up in noise, one and all combining to raise an indescribable and deafening babel.
As they halted before Tungku Indut's house, the shrill screams of defiance from three hundred dainty throats pierced my ear-drums like a steam siren, and they were all so marvellously noisy, brave, and defiant, that, in spite of an occasional girlish giggle from one or another of them, I began to fear there would be bad trouble before the dawn. So wild was their excitement, and so maddening was the din they made, that, though Tungku Aminah shrieked louder than any one of them, she could not make herself heard above the tumult; and it was not until she had scratched the faces of those nearest to her, and smitten others with the flat of her sword, that she succeeded in reducing her followers to even a partial silence. Then she beat upon the barred door of Tungku Indut's house with her naked weapon, and cried shrilly to her brother:—
'Come forth, Indut! Come forth, if thou art in truth the son of the same father as myself! Come forth!'
'Come forth!' echoed the army, and the deafening din of defiance broke out once more, and was again with difficulty repressed by Tungku Aminah.
'Come forth!' she shrilled once more, 'come forth that I may rip thy belly, and cause thy entrails to gush out upon the ground!'
'Come forth, thou accursed and ill-omened one!' echoed the army, with the unanimity of Pickwick's thirty boarders.
Indut, however, did not show any signs of coming forth; but when the women had screamed themselves hoarse and out of breath, his gruff voice sounded from within the house, like the growl of a wild beast, after all that shrill feminine yelping.
'Go hence, Iang!' he shouted, 'get thee to thy bed, thou foolish one; disturb not one who desires to slumber, and waken not the fowls with thy unmaidenly shouting.'
Now, when Tungku Aminah heard these words she dropped her sword, and beat upon the door with her little bare hands, weeping and screaming in a perfect ecstasy of rage, and showering curses and imprecations on her brother. The army joined in the torrent of abuse, and a very pretty set of phrases were sent spinning through the clean night air. At length, Tungku Aminah, finding that she only bruised her hands, again took up her sword, and, as soon as she could make herself heard, renewed her challenge to her brother to come forth.
When this scene had continued for about twenty minutes, and I was beginning to fear that the Devil would prompt Tungku Aminah to fire her brother's house, and that I should get burned out also,—suffering, as the Malays says, like the woodpecker in the falling tree,—a sudden and unexpected turn was given to affairs, which speedily brought things to an abrupt conclusion.
During one of the pauses for breath, indulged in by the clamouring women, Tungku Indut was heard to arise from his couch with great noise and deliberation. A hushed silence immediately fell upon the assembled women, and, in the stillness, Tungku Indut's words were distinctly heard by all of us.
'Awang!' he said, naming one of his followers, 'Awang! Bring me my sword!'
That was all, but it was enough and to spare. A shrill shriek was raised by the listening women,—a shriek, this time, of fear and not of defiance,—and in a moment the army of three hundred ladies was in full flight. Never was there such a rout. They tumbled over, and trampled upon one another in their frantic desire to escape, and maimed one another, as they fought their way up the narrow roadway, in their panic. All respect for persons, rank, or position, was completely lost sight of, commoners pushing past rajas in their deadly fear of being the hindermost, who is the proverbial prey of the pursuing devil. Too breathless to scream, and sweating with fear and exertion, they scuffled up the street, to the sound of rending garments and pattering feet, nor did they rest until the palace was regained, and the doors securely barred.
On the King's return, the dancing girls were, of course, surrendered; and I do not like to think what was the measure of bodily pain and suffering, that these dainty creatures were called upon to pay as the price of their escapade. It was a sore subject with Tungku Indut, too, and he and his father were not on speaking terms, on this account, for near a twelvemonth after.
As for Tungku Aminah, she is as truculent as ever, and bears a great reputation for courage among her fellow country-women. It is not every girl, they say, who would so boldly have attacked; and of the retreat, which only a few of us witnessed, no mention is ever made.
One has heard of the Women's Rights Meeting in Boston, which was broken up in confusion by the untimely appearance of three little mice; and of that other meeting, in which the aid of the Chairwoman's husband and brothers had to be sought, in order to eject a solitary derisive man, who successfully defied the assembled emancipated females to move him from his position; but neither of these stories seems to me to illustrate the inherent feebleness of women, when unaided by the ruder sex, quite as forcibly as does the pleasant story of Tungku Aminah and her brother, Tungku Indut.
IN COCK-PIT AND BULL-RING
There's joy in all sport, no matter the sort, In each game that is fought for and won; There's joy in the skill, that helps to a kill, Be the weapon, rod, spear, or gun. There's joy in the chase, in the rush of a race, In all that is fierce and strong; There's joy in the strife, that is war to the knife, Let those who will, brand it as wrong. But no joy that we know, in our life here below, For man, or for bird, or for cattle, Can come within sight of the gorgeous delight, The glorious frenzy of battle!
Taking them by and large the Malays have no bowels. Physical pain, even if endured by human beings, excites in them but little sympathy or compassion, and to the beasts that perish they are often almost as wantonly cruel as an English drayman. The theory that men owe any duties to the lower animals, is one which the Malays cannot be readily made to understand; and the idea of cruelty to a beast can only be expressed in their language by a long and roundabout sentence. The Malays can hardly be blamed for this perhaps, seeing that, even among our immaculate selves, a consideration for animals is of comparatively modern origin, and the people of the Peninsula, as I have been at some pains to show, are in their ideas on many subjects, much what our ancestors were some hundreds of years ago. A few animals, however, are hedged about and protected by some ancient superstition, the origin of which is now totally forgotten, but even these do not escape scot free. Thus, it is a common belief among Malays, that, if a cat is killed, he who takes its life, will in the next world, be called upon to carry and pile logs of wood, as big as cocoa-nut trees, to the number of the hairs on the beast's body. Therefore cats are not killed; but, if they become too daring in their raids on the hen-coop, or the food rack, they are tied to a raft and sent floating down-stream, to perish miserably of hunger. The people of the villages, by which they pass, make haste to push the raft out again into mid-stream, should it in its passage adhere to bank or bathing hut, and on no account is the animal suffered to land. To any one who thinks about it, this long and lingering death is infinitely more cruel than one caused by a blow from an axe, but the Malays do not trouble to consider such a detail, and would care little if they did.
In spite of the stupid callousness with regard to pain inflicted on animals, of which this is an instance, the Malays are not as a race cruel in the sports wherein animals take a part, and, on the East Coast especially, little objection can be raised, save by the most strait-laced and sentimental, to the manner in which both cock and bull-fights are conducted. Many, of course, hold that it is morally wrong to cause any animals to do battle one with another, and this is also the teaching of the Muhammadan religion. The Malays, however, have not yet learned to breathe the rarefied atmosphere, which can only be inhaled in comfort, by the frequenters of Exeter Hall, and, seeing that Allah has implanted an instinct of combat in many animals, the Malays take no shame in deriving amusement from the fact.
In the Archipelago, and on the West Coast of the Peninsula, cock-fights are conducted in the manner known to the Malays as ber-taji, the birds being armed with long artificial spurs, sharp as razors, and curved like a Malay woman's eyebrow. These weapons make cruel wounds, and cause the death of one or another of the combatants, almost before the sport has well begun. To the Malay of the East Coast, this form of cock-fighting is regarded as stupid and unsportsmanlike, an opinion which I fully share. It is the marvellous pluck and endurance of the birds, that lend an interest to a cock-fight,—qualities which are in no way required, if the birds are armed with weapons, other than those with which they are furnished by nature.
A cock-fight between two well-known birds is a serious affair in Pahang. The rival qualities of the combatants have furnished food for endless discussion for weeks, or even months before, and every one of standing has visited and examined the cocks, and has made a book upon the event. On the day fixed for the fight, a crowd collects before the palace, and some of the King's youths set up the cock-pit, which is a ring, about three feet in diameter, enclosed by canvas walls, supported on stakes driven into the ground. Presently the Juara, or cock-fighters, appear, each carrying his bird under his left arm. They enter the cock-pit, squat down, and begin pulling at, and shampooing the legs and wings of their birds, in the manner which Malays believe loosen the muscles, and get the reefs out of the cocks' limbs. Then the word is given to start the fight, and the birds, released, fly straight at one another, striking with their spurs, and sending feathers flying in all directions. This lasts for perhaps three minutes, when the cocks begin to lose their wind, and the fight is carried on as much with their beaks as with their spurs. Each bird tries to get its head under its opponent's wing, running forward to strike at the back of its antagonist's head, as soon as its own emerges from under its temporary shelter. This is varied by an occasional blow with the spurs, and the Malays herald each stroke with loud cries of approval. Basah! Basah! Thou hast wetted him! Thou has drawn blood! Ah itu dia! That is it! That is a good one! Ah sakit-lah itu! Ah, that was a nasty one! And the birds are exhorted to make fresh efforts, amid occasional bursts of the shrill chorus of yells, called sorak, their backers cheering them on, and crying to them by name.
Presently time is called, the watch being a small section of cocoa-nut in which a hole has been bored, that is set floating on the surface of a jar of water, until it gradually becomes filled and sinks. At the word, each cock-fighter seizes his bird, drenches it with water, cleans out with a feather the phlegm which has collected in its throat, and shampoos its legs and body. Then, at the given word, the birds are again released, and they fly at one another with renewed energy. They loose their wind more speedily this time, and thereafter they pursue the tactics already described, until time is again called. When some ten rounds have been fought, and both the birds are beginning to show signs of distress, the interest of the contest reaches its height, for the fight is at an end if either bird raises its back feathers, in a peculiar manner, by which cocks declare themselves to be vanquished. Early in the tenth round the right eye-ball of one cock is broken, and, shortly after, the left eye is bunged up, so that for the time it is blind. Nevertheless, it refuses to throw up the sponge, and fights on gallantly to the end of the round, taking terrible punishment, and doing but little harm to its opponent. One cannot but be full of pity and admiration for the brave bird, which thus gives so marvellous an example of its pluck and endurance. At last time is called, and the cock-fighter, who is in charge of the blinded bird, after examining it carefully, asks for a needle and thread, and the swollen lower lid of the still uninjured eye-ball is sewn to the piece of membrane on the bird's cheek, and its sight is thus once more partially restored. Again time is called, and the birds resume their contest, the cock with the injured eye repaying its adversary so handsomely for the punishment which it had received in the previous round, that, before the cocoa-nut shell is half full of water, its opponent has surrendered, and has immediately been snatched up by the keeper in charge of it. The victorious bird, draggled and woebegone, with great patches of red flesh showing through its wet plumage, with the membrane of its face, and its short gills and comb swollen and bloody, with one eye put out, and the other only kept open by the thread attached to its eyelid, yet makes shift to strut, with staggering gait, across the cock-pit, and to notify its victory, by giving vent to a lamentable ghost of a crow. Then it is carried off followed by an admiring, gesticulating, vociferous crowd, to be elaborately tended and nursed, as befits so gallant a bird. The beauty of the sport is that either bird can stop fighting at any moment. They are never forced to continue the conflict if once they have declared themselves defeated, and the only real element of cruelty is thus removed. The birds in fighting, follow the instinct which nature has implanted in them, and their marvellous courage and endurance surpass anything to be found in any other animals, human or otherwise, with which I am acquainted. Most birds fight more or less; from the little fierce quail, to the sucking doves which ignorant Europeans, before their illusions have been dispelled by a sojourn in the East, are accustomed to regard as the emblems of peace and purity; but no bird, or beast, or fish, or human being fights so well, or takes such pleasure in the fierce joy of battle, as does a plucky, lanky, ugly, hard-bit old fighting-cock.
The Malays regard these birds with immense respect, and value their fighting-cocks next to their children. A few years ago, a boy, who was in charge of a cock which belonged to a Raja of my acquaintance, accidentally pulled some feathers from the bird's tail. 'What did you do that for? Devil!' cried the Raja.
'It was not done on purpose Ungku!' said the boy.
'Thou art marvellous clever at repartee!' quoth the Prince, and, so saying, he lifted a billet of wood, which chanced to be lying near at hand, and smote the boy on the head so that he died.
'That will teach my people to have a care how they use my fighting-cocks!' said the Raja; and that was his servant's epitaph.
'It is a mere boyish prank,' said the father of the young Raja, when the matter was reported to him, 'and moreover it is well that he should slay one or two with his own hand, else how should men learn to fear him?' And there the matter ended; but it should be borne in mind that the fighting cock of a Malay Prince is not to be lightly trifled with.
I have said that all birds fight more or less, but birds are not alone in this. The little wide-mouthed, goggled-eyed fishes, which Malay ladies keep in bottles and old kerosine tins, fight like demons. Goats sit up and strike with their cloven hoofs, and butt and stab with their horns. The silly sheep canter gaily to the battle, deliver thundering blows on one another's foreheads, and then retire and charge once more. The impact of their horny foreheads is sufficient to reduce a man's hand to a shapeless pulp, should it find its way between the combatants' skulls. Tigers box like pugilists, and bite like French school-boys; and buffaloes fight clumsily, violently, and vindictively, after the manner of their kind.
The natives of India have an ingenious theory, whereby they account for the existence of that ungainly fowl, the water-buffalo,—a fact in natural history, which certainly seems to call for some explanation. The High Gods, they say, when creating all things, made also the cow, the highest of the beasts that perish. This the devil beheld, and, in futile emulation, striving to outdo the work of the High Ones, he imitated their creation, and produced the water-buffalo! Every one who knows this brute, must admit that the Indian theory bears on its face the imprint of truth; for a more detestable beast of the field does not exist, and it would be difficult, for any one less skilled in evil than His Satanic Majesty, to have conceived the idea of so diabolical an animal. In the Malay Peninsula, its principal functions would appear to be stamping bridle-paths into quagmires; dragging unwieldy lumbering carts, and thereby frightening horses into fits; tugging and frequently running away with, all manner of primitive ploughs and sledges; and humiliating as publicly as possible, any white man that it does not gore. It seems to cherish a peculiar spite against all Europeans; for a buffalo, that is as mild as a lamb with the most unattractive native, cannot be brought to tolerate the proximity of the most refined, and least repulsive of white men. Which one is there amongst us, who does not bear a grudge against the water-buffalo as a class, and against some one black or pink bully in particular? Which of us is there, who has not passed moments in the company of these brutes, such as might well 'score years from a strong man's life'? Some of us have been gored by the brutes, and most of us, who have pursued the crafty snipe bird in his native padi swamps, have put in various mauvais quarts d'heure, with some of these sullenly vindictive animals mouching after us, much in the way that a gendarme pursues a gamin. Then has entered upon the scene a Delivering Angel, in the shape of a very small, very muddy, very naked child of exceedingly tender years. This tiny deus ex machina has straightway tackled the angry monster, with all the fearlessness of a child, has struck it twice in the face, in a most business-like manner, has piped 'Diam! Diam!'—which sounds like a curse word,—in a furious voice, and finally has hooked his finger into the beast's nose ring, and has led it away reluctant, and crestfallen, but unresisting. Most of us, I say, have experienced these things at the hands of the small boy and the water-buffalo; and, when both have disappeared in the brushwood, and the sweat of fear has had time to dry on our clammy foreheads, we have one and all cursed the Devil who made the brute, and have felt not a little humiliated at the superiority of the minute native boy over our wretched and abject selves.
[Footnote 8: Diam! = Be still!]
All these bitter memories crowd into our minds, when we find ourselves in a Malay bull-ring, and we should be more than human if we felt any keen sympathy for the combatant buffaloes. We are apt to experience also an intense sense of relief at the thought that the brutes are about to fight one another, and will be too busy to waste any of their energies in persecuting the European spectators, with the amiable intention of putting them to the shame of open shame, and generally taking a rise out of them.
The bulls have been trained and medicined, for months beforehand, with much careful tending, many strength-giving potions, and volumes of the old-world charms, which put valour and courage into a beast. They stand at each end of a piece of grassy lawn, with their knots of admirers around them, descanting on their various points, and with the proud trainer, who is at once keeper and medicine man, holding them by the cord which is passed through their nose-rings. Until you have seen the water-buffalo stripped for the fight, it is impossible to conceive how handsome the ugly brute can look. One has been accustomed to see him with his neck bowed to the yoke he hates, and breaks whenever the opportunity offers; or else in the padi fields. In the former case he looks out of place,—an anachronism belonging to a prehistoric period, drawing a cart which seems also to date back to the days before the Deluge. In the fields the buffalo has usually a complete suit of grey mud, and during the quiet evening hour, goggles at you through the clouds of flies, which surround his flapping ears and brutal nose, the only parts that can be seen of him, above the surface of the mud-hole, or the running water of the river. In both cases he is unlovely, but in the bull-ring he has something magnificent about him. His black coat has a gloss upon it which would not disgrace a London carriage horse, and which shews him to be in tip-top condition. His neck seems thicker and more powerful than that of any other animal, and it glistens with the chili water, which has been poured over it, in order to increase his excitement. His resolute shoulders, his straining quarters,—each vying with the other for the prize for strength,—and his great girth, give a look of astonishing vigour and vitality to the animal. It is the head of the buffalo, however, which it is best to look at on these occasions. Its great spread of horns is very imposing, and the eyes which are usually sleepy, cynically contemptuous and indifferent, or sullenly cruel,—are for once full of life, anger, passion, and excitement. He stands there quivering and stamping, blowing great clouds of smoke from his mouth and nose: