Sketches of Our Life at Sarawak
by Harriette McDougall
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XIII. EVENTS OF 1857 157













Nearly thirty years ago I published a little book of "Letters from Sarawak, addressed to a Child." This book is now out of print, and, on looking it over with a view to republication, I think it will be better to extend the story over the twenty years that Sarawak was our home, which will give some idea of the gradual progress of the mission.

This progress was often unavoidably impeded by the struggles of the infant State; for war drowns the voice of the missionary, and though the Sarawak Government always discouraged the Dyak practice of taking the heads of their enemies, still it could not at once be checked, and every expedition against lawless tribes, however righteous in its object, excited the old superstitions of those wild people. When their warriors returned from an expedition, the women of the tribe met them with dance and song, receiving the heads they brought with ancient ceremonies—"fondling the heads," as it was called; and for months afterwards keeping up, by frequent feasts, in which these heads were the chief attraction, the heathen customs which it was the object of the missionary to discourage.

I dare say, when we first settled at Sarawak, we thought that twenty years would plant Christian communities, and build Christian churches all over the country: but it is as well that we cannot overlook the future; and perhaps, considering the many difficulties which arose from time to time, from the missionaries themselves, and the unsettled country in which they laboured, we ought not to expect more results than have appeared. At any rate we have much to be thankful for, and as every year makes Sarawak a more important State, consolidates its Government, and extends civilization to its subjects, we may look for more success for the missionaries, who can now point to the peace and prosperity of the people, and say, "This is the fruit of Christianity and Christian rulers."

In giving a short account of our life in Borneo, I shall avoid alike all political questions, or, as much as possible, individual histories among the English community. It is already so long ago since we lived in that lovely place, that events, trials, joys, and the usual vicissitudes of life, are wrapt in that mellowing haze of the past, which, while it dims the vividness of feeling, throws a robe of charity over all, and perhaps causes actors and actions to assume a more true proportion to one another than when we walked amongst them. I have, however, not depended on memory alone for the records of twenty years, but have journals and letters to refer to, which my friends in England have been good enough to keep for me. Some parts of "Letters from Sarawak" I shall incorporate into the present little book, for as it treats of the first six years we lived there, and was written at that time, it is sure to be tolerably correct.

In those days, from 1847 to 1853, Sir James Brooke was very popular in England. The story of his first occupation of Sarawak, published in his journals, and the cruizes of her Majesty's ships in those eastern seas—the Dido and the Samarang—were read with avidity, and furnished the English public with a romance which had all the charm of novelty. However difficult and inconvenient it might be for the English Government to recognize a native State under an English rajah, who was at the same time a subject of the Queen of Great Britain, this question had not then arisen; and all classes, high and low, could applaud a brave and noble man, who had stepped out of the beaten track to spend his fortune and expose his life in the cause of savages. There were many fluctuations of sympathy and opinion in after years towards Sir James Brooke; but, through evil report and good report, through difficulty and danger, Sarawak has still advanced, and is as worthy of the interest of the best and wisest of mankind as it was in 1847. At this time, indeed, it seems to me to furnish a lesson in the management of native races which might be useful in our own colonies. English governors always set out with good intentions towards the natives of savage countries, but how is it that war almost always follows their occupation? Surely it is because the settlers go there, not in the interest of the native race, but their own, and the two interests are sure to clash in the long-run.

It requires great patience and forbearance to educate natives up to a rule of justice and righteous laws; but that it may be done, and carry the co-operation of the people themselves, is evident at Sarawak, where the Malays and Dyaks are associated in the Government, and have always stood by their English rajah, even when it was necessary to punish or exile some of their own chiefs. I am aware that an English colony cannot be governed in this way; nevertheless, the spectacle of wild natives, rising by the influence of a few good Englishmen from lawless misrule to a settled government, where vice is punished without partiality, is very beautiful to philanthropists, and makes one think better of human nature and its capabilities. I wish I could portray the hilly and thorny road by which this has been attained! It would, methinks, create a new interest in Sarawak, if the past and the present could be fairly set before the discerning world; we should again hear of missionaries longing to help in the improvement of people who have shown themselves so open to good influences. I have said that I would not touch upon politics, but Church and State are so naturally bound together in the task of civilization, that it is difficult to relate the history of the mission without mentioning the Government. Of course they do not stand in the same relation to one another in a Mahometan country, where the English Church is but a tolerated sect, as they do in a Christian land; still the Christian Church strengthens the Christian ruler, and he in his turn protects the Church by good government, although he may not favour it except by individual preference. For my own part, I have always thought it an advantage to our Dyak Christians that no favour was shown them on account of their faith; at any rate, it was for no worldly interest that they became Christians.

Although our life in Sarawak extended over a period of twenty years, it might naturally be divided into three parts—of six, five, and six years respectively, the intervals being spent in visits to England. These visits, although absolutely necessary, were a drawback to the mission work. When the head of a family is absent, the responsibility is apt to fall upon the younger members, and is sometimes too much for them. However, they always did their best, and always welcomed us home most warmly. It was a joyful sight, on our return, to find the missionaries and school-children waiting for us at the wharf below our houses, the children's dear little faces glad with smiles, and a warm welcome for any baby we brought home. The second time, it was our daughter Mab; and in 1862, our last baby, Mildred,—Mab, Edith, and Herbert being left in England, for no English child can thrive in that unchangeable climate after it is six years old.

The first chapters of this little book will describe the first six years of our stay at Sarawak; but, in speaking of subjects of interest, I shall not stop short at the end of those years, but carry on the subject to the end of our Sarawak experience. It is perhaps necessary to say this to prevent confusion.



While Sir James Brooke was in England, in 1847, he asked his friends to help him in his efforts to civilize the Dyaks, by sending a mission to live at Sarawak.

Lord Ellesmere, Admiral Sir H. Keppel, Admiral C. D. Bethune, Canon Ryle Wood, and the Rev. C. Brereton, formed themselves into a committee, with the Rev. I. F. Stocks for their honorary secretary, and soon collected funds for the purpose. The Rev. F. McDougall was chosen as the head of the mission, and with him were associated the Rev. S. Montgomery and the Rev. W. Wright; but Mr. Montgomery died very suddenly, of fever caught when ministering to the poor of his parish, before the time came for us to embark, so the party was reduced to two clergymen and their wives, two babies and two nurses. We sailed from London in the barque Mary Louisa, four hundred tons, the end of December; Mr. Parr, a nephew of Mrs. Wright's, being also one of the passengers. I had all my life loved the sea, and longed to take such a voyage as should carry us out of sight of land, and give us all the experiences which wait on those "who go down to the sea in ships;" but I little thought how we should all long for land before we saw it again.

The barque was a poor sailer; we thought it a good run if she made eight knots an hour, so no wonder we did not reach Singapore till May 23, 1848. It was a long monotonous voyage, but we were well occupied, and I do not remember ever finding it dull. The sea was all I ever fancied by way of a companion, and, like all one's best friends, made me happy or unhappy, but was never stupid. Then we had to learn Malay and its Arabic characters, with the help of Marsden's grammar and dictionary, and the Bible translated into that language by the Dutch. We lived by rule, apportioning the hours to certain duties, and every one knows how fast time passes under those conditions. The two clergymen busied themselves with teaching the sailors, and several of them presented themselves at Holy Communion in consequence, the last Sunday before we landed. The most trying time we passed was on the coast of Java, becalmed under a broiling sun, the very sea dead and slimy with all sorts of creatures creeping over it. As for ourselves, we were gasping with thirst, for we had already been on short rations of water for six weeks, one of the tanks having leaked out. One quart of water a day for each adult, and none for the babies, so of course they had the lion's share of their parents' allowance. Our one cup of tea in the evening was looked forward to for hours; and what a wonderful colour it was, after all!—but that was the iron of the tank.

On the 23rd of May we landed at Singapore, and had to wait there for four weeks before the schooner Julia, then running between that place and Sarawak, came to fetch us. We reached Sarawak June 29th, entering the Morotabas mouth of the river, which is twenty-four miles from the town of Kuching, whither we were bound. The sail up the river, our first sight of the country and the people, was indeed exciting, and filled us with delight. The river winds continually, and every new reach had its interest: a village of palm-leaf houses built close to the water, women and children standing on the steps with their long bamboo jars, or peeping out of the slits of windows at the schooner; boats of all sizes near the houses, fishing-nets hanging up to dry, wicked alligators lying basking on the mud; trees of many varieties—the nibong palm which furnishes the posts of the houses, the nipa which makes their mat walls, and close by the water the light and graceful mangroves, which at night are all alive and glittering with fire-flies. On the boughs of some larger trees hanging over the stream parties of monkeys might be seen eating the fruits, chattering, jumping, flying almost, from bough to bough. We afterwards made nearer acquaintance with these droll creatures.

At last we reached the Fort, a long white building manned by Malays, and with cannon showing at the port-holes. The Julia was not challenged, however, but gladly welcomed, as she carried not only the missionaries but the mail, and stores for the bazaar; for at that time there were not many native trading-vessels—the fear of pirates was great, and there was good reason to fear!

The town of Kuching consisted in those days of a Chinese bazaar and a Kling bazaar, both very small, and where it was scarcely possible to find anything an English man or woman could buy. Beyond was the court of justice, the mosques, and a few native houses. Higher up the river lay the Malay town, divided into Kampongs, or clusters of houses belonging to the different chiefs or principal merchants of the place. Opposite the bazaar, on the other side of the river, stood the rajah's bungalow, as well as two or three others belonging to Europeans, embosomed in trees, cocoa-nuts and betel-nut palms, and other fruit-trees. Behind the rajah's house rose the beautiful mountain of Santubong, wooded to its summit nearly 3000 feet, with a rock cropping out here and there. At this bungalow we landed, and were hospitably entertained for a few days until the upper part of the court-house could be made ready for our party.

Shall I ever forget my first impressions of the rajah's bungalow? A peculiar scent pervaded it. You looked about for the cause till your eyes fell on two saucers, one filled with green blossoms, the other with deep golden ones, much the same shape—the kenanga and the chimpaka, flowering trees, which grew near the house. Their flowers were picked every day for the rooms, as the rajah loved the scent, and so did the Malays. The ladies steeped the blossoms in cocoa-nut oil and anointed themselves, placing them also in their long black hair, with wreaths of jessamine flowers threaded on a string. These perfumes were rather overpowering at first, but I learnt to like them after I had been some time in Sarawak. The large, bare, cool rooms were very refreshing after the little cabins of the Julia. And then the library! a treasure indeed in the jungle; books on all sorts of subjects, bound in enticing covers, always inviting you to bodily repose and mental activity or amusement, as you might prefer. This library, so dear to us all because we were all allowed to share it, was burnt in 1857 by the Chinese rebels. It took two days to burn. I watched it from our library over the water, and saw the mass of books glowing dull red like a furnace, long after the flames had consumed the wooden house. It made one's heart ache to see it. An old gentleman of our English society watched it too, and I wondered why his head shook continually as he sat with his eyes fixed on those sad ruins; but I found afterwards that the sight, and doubtless its cause, had palsied him from that day. But I must not linger too long in the rajah's bungalow, though the white pigeons seem to call to me from the verandahs; we must take boat again (for there are no bridges over the Sarawak river), and cross to the court-house.

This square wooden house, with latticed verandahs like a big cage, was built by a German missionary, who purposed having a school on the ground floor and living in the upper story; but as soon as he had built his house he was recalled to Germany, and the only trace of him that remained was a box full of torn Bibles and tracts, which, I am sorry to say, had been used as waste paper in the bazaar for tying up parcels since he left, but as the tracts were not in any language the people could understand they were scarcely to blame. Rajah turned the house into a court of justice, and we settled ourselves in the upper rooms, which were divided from one another by mat walls. The river flowed under this house at spring tides, and then nests of ants would swarm into it: the rapidity with which these little creatures would carry all their eggs up the posts and settle the whole family under a box in your bedroom was marvellous; but as they were not pleasant companions there, a kettle of hot water had to put an end to the colony.

These little black ants did not sting, but there was a large red ant, half an inch long, who was most pugnacious; he stood up on his hind legs and fought you with amazing courage, and his jaws were formidable. We made our first acquaintance with white ants while we lived in the court-house. On unpacking a box of books, which had been our solace during the voyage, we found them almost glued together by the secretion of these creatures. The box had been standing on the ground floor of the hotel. The white ants had eaten through and through the books, and picked all the surface off the bindings; they were disgusting to look at and to smell. Some years afterwards, one of our missionaries had a box of clothes sent her from Singapore. It was necessary clothing, for she had lost her effects, like the rest of us, during the Chinese rebellion. I warned Miss Coomes that she must unpack the box directly, on account of the white ants; but she put it off till the next day, and at night these wretches ate through the bottom of the box, and munched up the new linen and stockings. We soon learnt to guard against their attacks by using no wood except balean, or iron-wood, which is too hard for them to bite. English oak seemed like a slice of cake to white ants.

No sooner were we settled at the court-house, than we had visits from all the principal Malays, and also some Dyaks who happened to be at Sarawak. My husband opened a dispensary in a little room behind the store-room, and had plenty of patients. I used to hear continual talking and laughing going on there, and by this means Mr. McDougall learnt to talk the Malay language, which he only knew from books when he first arrived. The pure Malay of books is very different from the colloquial patois of Kuching. To my sorrow, I learnt this some time after, when I was trying to prepare two women for baptism: they listened to me for some time, and then one said to the other, "She talks like a book," which I fear meant that they only half understood me.

Soon after this we took four little half-caste children to bring up. They were running about in the bazaar, and their native mothers were willing to part with them; so Mary, Julia, Peter, and Tommy were housed in a cottage close by, under the care of a Portuguese Christian woman, the wife of our cook. Every day I used to spend some hours with them, that we might become friends. The eldest of these children was only six years old, Tommy, the youngest, but two and a half; so they wanted a nurse. They were baptized on Advent Sunday, 1848, and were the beginning of our native school.



We stayed at the court-house a whole year, while our house on the hill was being prepared. The hill, and the ground beyond it, about forty acres in all, was given to the mission by Sir James Brooke. It was then some way out of the town, but as the Chinese population increased, the town grew quite to the foot of the hill—College Hill, as it was then called—and a blacksmith's quarter even invaded the mission land. At first, in order to cultivate the property, nutmegs and spice-trees were planted, but the soil was not good enough for them; when their roots pierced through the pit of earth in which they were planted, and reached the stiff clay of the hill, they died off. It was necessary to do something to keep the land clear of the coarse lalang grass, which grew wherever the jungle was cut down. So after a while a herd of cattle was collected, and they improved the poverty of the land, at the same time furnishing milk and a little butter. I say a little, because even when seven cows were in milk, as they only gave two quarts a day each, and there were always plenty of children in and out of the mission to consume it, but little was left for butter-making. Cocoa-nut trees were planted in the low ground, and some few grew up; but wild pigs were great enemies to them, for they liked to eat the cabbage out of the heart of the young tree, which of course killed it. In that seething warmth of Sarawak you could almost see plants grow. If you scattered seeds in the ground, they sprouted above it on the third day. I planted some of those little coral-looking seeds which are to be found in every box of Indian shells, the seed of the satin-wood, and they grew up into beautiful forest trees in twelve years' time. We used to make long strings of these coral seeds, and use them in Christmas decorations.

By degrees we had a very bright garden about the house. The Gardenia, with its strongly scented blossom and evergreen leaves, made a capital hedge. Great bushes of the Hybiscus, scarlet and buff, glowed in the sun—they were called shoe-flowers, for they were used instead of blacking to polish our shoes. The pink one-hundred-leaved rose grew freely, and blossomed all the year round. Shrubs of the golden Allamander were a great temptation to the cows, if they strayed into the garden. The Plumbago was one of the few pale-blue flowers which liked that blazing heat. Then we had a great variety of creepers—jessamine of many sorts, the scarlet Ipomea, the blue Clitorea, and passion-flowers, from the huge Grenadilla with its excellent fruit, to the little white one set in a calyx of moss. The Moon-flower, a large white convolvulus, tight-shut all day, unfolded itself at six o'clock, and looked lovely in the flower-vases in the evening. The Jessamine and Pergolaria odorotissima climbed up the porch, and in the forks of the trees opposite I had air-plants fastened, which flowered every three months, and looked like a flight of white butterflies on the wing. The great mountain of Matang stood in the distance, and when the sun sank behind it, which it always did in that invariable latitude about six o'clock, I sat in the porch to watch the glory of earth and sky. How dear a mountain becomes to you, is only known to those who live in hilly countries. One gets to think of it as a friend. It seems to carry a protest against the little frets of life, and, by its strength and invariableness, to be a visible image of Him who is "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." But I am running on too fast with the garden before the house is built.

The hill was first cleared of jungle, and flattened at the top, then the foundation was dug, and great sleepers were laid ready for the upright posts. A wooden house is joiner's work, and rather resembles a great bedstead. All the wood is first squared and cut, which takes a long time, because the balean-wood is extremely hard, and consumes a great deal of labour; but once ready, the house rises from the earth like magic, for every beam and post fits into its place.

We had brought a great box of carpenter's tools with us from England, among them valuable moulding-planes; we wished the carpenters to learn, in building the house, how to make the arches and ornamental mouldings for the church.

Happily for us, when the Mary Louisa was wrecked in the straits on her way home, the crew were all saved, and the ship-carpenter came over to Sarawak to see if my husband would employ him. As he was a capital joiner, he was set over a gang of workmen at once. All the plans for the house and church were made by Frank (my husband), and I was set to draw patterns of the doors and windows, the verandah railings, and the porch. Stahl was an intelligent German workman, and soon learnt Malay enough to direct the men. The Malays levelled the hill and dug the foundations; the Chinese were employed as carpenters, but they, too, could speak Malay. I remember making great friends with one of them, Johnny Jangot, John of the Beard, so called on account of a few long hairs at the tip of his chin, for the Chinese are a beardless race. Johnny used to eat his breakfast in the court-house to save himself trouble. What a set-out it was! Rice, of course; then three or four little basins with different messes—duck, fish, chicken, and plenty of soy-sauce; more basins with vegetables, all eaten with the help of chop-sticks; and a teapot snugly covered with a cosy. I asked one day to taste the tea, and Johnny poured me out a tiny cup of hot, sweet, spirits and water! Samchoo is a spirit made from rice, and very strong, as our poor English sailors used to find to their cost when her Majesty's ships paid us a visit. The Chinese said that the English drank the samchoo cold and raw, and therefore it poisoned them, whereas they always qualified it with hot water. It did not taste strong, which made it all the more pernicious. Johnny drank real tea all day long, and smoked a good deal of tobacco—it seemed to me he did very little else; but he was not a bad workman, though of course it was not such a day's work as an Englishman can do.

In the East you must accept the customs of the country, and be content with the people: they are not given to change. Stahl made some wheel-barrows for the men to use instead of little baskets in which they carried earth, and which held nothing. But it was no use; they laughed at the wheel-barrows, and said "Eh yaw!" but went on with the baskets.

Every evening we used to walk up the hill to see how the building was getting on, all the children with us; then, as we sat on the timber, I used to draw the letters of the alphabet on the white sand, and the little ones learnt them. We went home through a piece of ground we called our garden. In it grew plenty of pine-apples and sugar-cane, and the gardener always supplied us with pieces of the latter to eat—very refreshing and nice, but the juice ran all over your hands. As for pine-apples, we soon got tired of them; but they made good tarts, and, mixed with plantains and lime-juice, a very pleasant and useful jam.

In clearing the hill our workmen disturbed the haunts of many snakes. We were a good deal visited by cobras for some years. The natives said that the Adam and Eve of all the cobras lived in a cave under our hill.

One day we were having asphalte laid down in the printing-room, to keep away white ants. The room had been emptied to do this, and Stahl went in to inspect the work after the men had gone to their breakfast at eleven o'clock. He saw a large cobra at the end of the room, and hit it with a stick he had in his hand; but the stick broke in two, and the cobra reared itself up with inflated hood. Another minute must have seen Stahl a prey to the monster; but the Bishop, passing by, heard him exclaim when the stick broke, and going quickly in saw Stahl standing, white, fascinated, and motionless, before the cobra. Happily he had a stout walking-stick, and at once felled the reptile; but he took a good deal of killing. It was ten feet long.

This was Adam.

Eve was killed under the verandah of the house almost a year afterwards. She was eight feet long.

One night the Bishop had been reading the Rev. F. Robertson's sermon about St. Paul and the viper. It was late, and being rather sleepy he carried the book in one hand and a candle in the other into his dressing-room, and was just going to set the candle down, when his eye fell on a cobra, coiled up on the chair on which he was about to seat himself. No stick was at hand, but he smote the snake with the book. Struck in the right place, they are not difficult to kill. So "St. Paul and the Viper" put an end to the cobra. That the bite of this snake is not, however, certain death we had a curious instance.

One of our servants, a very strict Mahometan, believed himself charmed against poisonous reptiles, and used to bring me centipedes and scorpions in his hands, saying they never hurt him. He left our service and was employed by the Borneo Company, about half a mile from our house. One day, while cutting rattans in a shed, a cobra bit his thumb. He thought nothing of it, but, putting away his work as usual, went home, cooked his rice and ate his supper. By this time, however, his arm began to swell and his head to swim. Instead of going to the doctor, who then lived close by, he must needs go to the Bishop to cure him; so just as we were sitting down to dinner, about seven o'clock, he reeled into the house. The Bishop cauterized the wound, although it seemed too late to be any use; he was getting cold and faint. However, by dint of being walked up and down between two men, and having two whole bottles of brandy administered to him, a glass at a time, besides sal volatile, chloroform, and every stimulant we had, he got through the night. The Bishop sat up with him all night, and I could hear him, when at last I went to bed, calling out at intervals, "Oh, Allah! Oh, Lord Bishop!"—so terrible was the pain he suffered in his arm. His wife, who was my baby's ayah, appeared in the morning. "Come," said she, "make no more noise, keeping everybody awake, but take up your bed (mat) and let us go home." He meekly obeyed; but, poor man, he had abscesses under his arm, and fell into weak health afterwards; so it is evidently unwise to despise a cobra.

There were many other snakes besides cobras, some poisonous, but most of them harmless.

The Marquis Doria and Signor Becarri, two distinguished naturalists, who lived for some months at Sarawak, collecting bird-skins, insects, and plants, told me that the natives often represented a snake to be poisonous which was not so. However, we had the mata hari, sun-snake, black and coral colour, and a metallic green flat-headed creature, Fortrex trigonocephalus, which were venomous enough. I once had a little flower-snake for a pet. It was beautifully marked with green and lilac, and used to catch flies climbing about the room; but one day it mounted to the top of a high door, the wind blew the door to, and my pretty snake was thrown to the ground and broke its back.

The boa-constrictor—sawar, as the Malays called it—lived in the jungle and rice-swamps. Sometimes it attained an enormous size. An Englishman told me that he and some Malays were exploring the jungle to find traces of antimony ore, and came to an opening in the wood, across which they saw the body of a sawar as thick as his own—he was not very stout—moving along; but they never saw either the head or tail of that snake, for, after watching its progress for a long time, they were seized with a panic at its enormous length, and fled.

A Malay whom we knew very well, Abong Hassan by name, and a mighty hunter, told us that once, when he was seeking deer in the forest, towards evening he sat down to rest, and cook his rice, on what he thought was a great fallen tree. While thus occupied, he felt his seat moving from under him, and, starting up, found he had been making use of a huge sawar lying inert and distended with food. He killed it, and found a full-grown deer in its stomach. These snakes must live to a great age, and grow always, to attain such a size.

Some people kept a small boa in their house to kill rats, but we found they were equally fond of chickens, and therefore not desirable inmates; for at Sarawak chickens were the principal animal food to be had, and it was necessary to keep a stock of them.

After some years we built up the lower story of the mission-house with bricks, to make it more substantial and cooler. The ground floor was at first wholly occupied with the school, the dormitory on one side, the matron's and girls' room on the other, and a large schoolroom through the centre of the house. A similar room over it was our dining-room, and was used for divine service until the church was finished. The library and our bedroom were over the boys' dormitory, and bedrooms for missionaries on the other side. There were also three rooms in the roof, which made good bedrooms, but were too hot for use in the daytime. The roof was covered with shingles of balean-wood, which only grows harder and darker coloured from rain and use. They were blown off sometimes in the storms to which we were subject, but were otherwise more lasting than any other kind of roofing. We used to call this house Noah's Ark, from the variety of its occupants. A bell hung in the porch roof, and rung at different hours to call the workmen and regulate the school. The people in the town got so used to it that, when we discontinued it for a time, they sent a petition that it might begin again, for without it they never knew what o'clock it was. When the school outgrew this house we built another for the boys, their master, and the matron, close by; but I always kept the girls with us until Julia married, when they were sent to the Quop, in charge of the missionary's wife there.

Long before we left the court-house, Mr. and Mrs. Wright decided to give up the Sarawak mission, and went to Singapore, where Mr. Wright became master to the Raffles Institution for the education of boys. We were therefore quite alone until February, 1851, when the Bishop of Calcutta paid us a visit to consecrate the church, and brought with him Mr. Fox from Bishop's College, to be catechist, with a view to his future ordination. Very soon after him came the Rev. Walter Chambers from England, and about the same time Mr. Nicholls also arrived from Bishop's College; but, as he only wished to stay for two years in the country, he had scarcely time to learn the language before he returned to Calcutta.



When we first lived at Sarawak, the coasts and the seas from Singapore to China were infested with pirates. "It is in the Malay's nature," says a Dutch writer, "to rove the seas in his prahu, as it is in the Arab to wander with his steed on the sands of the desert." Before the English and Dutch Governments exerted themselves to put down piracy in the Eastern seas, there were communities of these Malays settled in various parts of the coast of Borneo, who made it the business of their lives to rob and destroy all the vessels they could meet with, either killing the crews or reducing them to slavery. For this purpose they went out in fleets of from ten to thirty war-boats or prahus. These boats were about ninety feet long; they carried a large gun in the bow and three or four lelahs, small brass guns, in each broadside, besides twenty or thirty muskets. Each prahu was rowed by sixty or eighty oars in two tiers, and carried from eighty to a hundred men. Over the rowers, and extending the whole length of the vessel, was a light flat roof, made of split bamboo, and covered with mats. This protected the ammunition and provisions from rain, and served as a platform on which they mounted to fight, from which they fired their muskets and hurled their spears. These formidable boats skulked about in the sheltered bays of the coast, at the season of the year when they knew that merchant-vessels would be passing with rich cargoes for the ports of Singapore, Penang, or to and from China. A scout-boat, with but few men in it, which would not excite suspicion, went out to spy for sails. They did not generally attack large or armed ships, although many a good-sized Dutch or English craft, which had been becalmed or enticed by them into dangerous or shallow water, was overpowered by their numbers. But it was usually the small unarmed vessels they fell upon, with fearful yells, binding those they did not kill, and burning the vessel after robbing it, to avoid detection. While the south-west monsoon lasted, the pirates lurked about in uninhabited creeks and bays until the trading season was over. But when the north-east monsoon set in, they returned to their settlements, often rich in booty, and with blood on their hands, only to rejoice over the past, and prepare for next year's expedition. There are still some nests of pirates in the north of Borneo, although of late the Spaniards have done much to exterminate them. But when Sir James Brooke first visited Sarawak, the nobles there, and their sultan at Bruni, used to permit, nay, encourage, piratical raids against their own subjects at a little distance, provided they shared in the profits of the expedition, thus impoverishing the country they ruled, and putting a stop to all native trade—a short-sighted and wicked policy. It took a good many years of stern resistance on Sir James Brooke's part before the Bruni nobles could be cured of their connivance of pirates, whether Malay or Dyak.

The Dyaks of Sarebas and Sakarran, a brave and noble people, were taught piracy by the Malays who dwelt among them. These Dyaks were always head-hunters, and used to pull the oars in the Malay prahus for the sake of the heads of the slain, which they alone cared for. But, in course of time, the Dyaks became expert seamen. They built boats which they called bangkongs, and went out with the Malays, devastating the coast and killing Malays, Chinese, Dyaks, whoever they met with. The Dyak bangkong draws very little water, and is both lighter and faster than the Malay prahu; it is a hundred feet long, and nine or ten broad. Sixty or eighty men with paddles make her skim through the water as swiftly as a London race-boat. She moves without noise, and surprises her victims with showers of spears at dead of night; neither can any vessel, except a steamer, catch a Dyak bangkong, if the crew deem it necessary to fly. These boats can be easily taken to pieces; for the planks, which extend the whole length of the boat, are not fastened with nails, but lashed together with rattans, and calked with bark, which swells when wet; so that, if they wish to hide their retreat into the jungle, they can quickly unlace their boats, carry them on their shoulders into the woods, and put them together again when they want them. When we first lived at Sarawak no merchant-boat dared go out of the river alone and unarmed. We were constantly shocked with dreadful accounts of villages on the coast, or boats at the entrance, being surprised, and men, women, and children barbarously murdered by these wretches. I remember once a boat being found with only three fingers of a man in it, and a bloody mark at the side, where the heads of those in the boat had been cut off. Sometimes the pirates would wait until they knew the men of a village were away at their paddy farms, then they would fall suddenly upon the defenceless old men, women, and children, kill some, make slaves of the young ones, and rob the houses.

Sometimes, having destroyed a village and its inhabitants, they would dress themselves in the clothes of the slain, and, proceeding to another place, would call out to the women, "The Sarebas are coming, but, if you bring down your valuables to us, we will defend you and your property." And many fell into the snare, and were carried off. If they attacked a house when the men were at home, it was by night. They pulled stealthily up the river in their boats, and landing under cover of their shields, crept under the long house where many families lived together. These houses stand on high poles. The pirates then set fire to dry wood and a quantity of chillies which they carried with them for the purpose. This made a suffocating smoke, which hindered the inmates from coming out to defend themselves. Then they cut down the posts of the house, which fell, with all it contained, into their ruthless hands.

In the year 1849, the atrocities of the piratical Dyaks were so frequent, that the rajah applied to the English Admiral in the straits for some men-of-war to assist him in destroying them. Remonstrances and threats had been tried again and again. The pirates would always promise good behaviour for the future to avert a present danger; but they never kept these promises when an opportunity offered for breaking them with impunity. In consequence of Sir James Brooke's application, H.M.S. Albatross, commanded by Captain Farquhar; H.M.'s sloop Royalist, commander, Lieutenant Everest; and H.E.I.C.'s steamer Nemesis, commander, Captain Wallage, were sent by Admiral Collyer to Sarawak. Then the rajah had all his war-boats got ready to join the English force. There was the Lion King, the Royal Eagle, the Tiger, the Big Snake, the Little Snake, the Frog, the Alligator, and many others belonging to the Datus, who, on occasions like these, are bound to call on their servants, and a certain number of able-bodied men living in their kampongs, to man and fight in their boats. This is their service to the Government. The rajah supplies the whole force with rice for the expedition, and a certain number of muskets. The English ships were left, the Albatross at Sarawak, and the Royalist to guard the entrance of the Batang Lupar River, into which the Sakarran and Sarebas Rivers debouche; but their boats, and nearly all the officers, accompanied the fleet, and the steamer Nemesis went also. On the 24th of July they left us, as many as eighteen Malay prahus, manned by from twenty to seventy men in each, and decorated with flags and streamers innumerable, of the brightest colours,—the Sarawak flag, a red and black cross on a yellow ground, always at the stern. For the Tiger I made a flag, as it was Mr. Brereton's boat, with a tiger's head painted on it, looking wonderfully ferocious. It was an exciting time, with gongs and drums, Malay yells and English hurrahs; and our fervent prayers for their safety and success accompanied them that night, as they dropped down the river in gay procession. They were afterwards joined by bangkongs of friendly Dyaks, three hundred men from Lundu, eight hundred from Linga, some from Samarahan, Sadong, and various places which had suffered from the pirates, and were anxious to assist in giving them a lesson. We heard nothing of the fleet until the 2nd of August, when I received a little note from the rajah, written in pencil, on a scrap of paper, on the night of the 31st of July, and giving an account of how they fell in with a great balla (war fleet) of Sarebas and Sakarran pirates, consisting of one hundred and fifty bangkongs, returning to their homes with plunder and captives in their boats. The pirates found all the entrances of the river occupied by their enemies, the English, Malay, and Dyak forces being placed in three detachments, and the Nemesis all ready to help whenever the attack began. The Lion King sent up a rocket when she espied the pirate fleet, to apprise the rest. Then there was a dead silence, broken only by three strokes of a gong, which called the pirates to a council of war. A few minutes afterwards a fearful yell gave notice of their advance, and the fleet approached in two divisions. But when they sighted the steamer they became aware of the odds against them, and again called a council by beat of gong. After another pause, a second yell of defiance showed they had decided on giving battle. Then, in the dead of the night, ensued a fearful scene. The pirates fought bravely, but could not withstand the superior forces of their enemies. Their boats were upset by the paddles of the steamer; they were hemmed in on every side, and five hundred men were killed, sword in hand; while two thousand five hundred escaped to the jungle. The boats were broken to pieces, or deserted on the beach by their crews; and the morning light showed a sad spectacle of ruin and defeat. Upwards of eighty prahus and bangkongs were captured, many from sixty to eighty feet long, with nine or ten feet beam.

The English officers on that night offered prizes to all who should bring in captives alive: but the pirates would take no quarter; in the water they still fought without surrender, for they could not understand a mercy they never accorded to their enemies. Consequently the prisoners were very few, and the darkness of the night favoured escape.

The peninsula to which they fled could easily have been so surrounded by the Dyak and Malay forces that not one man of that pirate fleet could have left it alive. This blockade the Malays entreated the rajah to make; but he refused, saying that he hoped they had already received a sufficient lesson, and would return to their homes humbled and corrected. He therefore ordered his fleet to proceed up the river, and the pirates went back to Sarebas and Sakarran. This severe punishment cured the Dyaks of those rivers once and for all of piracy, and was the greatest blessing which could have been conferred on those fine tribes. They allowed forts to be built on their rivers, and submitted to English residents, who ruled them with the counsel of their own chiefs. In 1857, when the Chinese rebelled and burnt the town of Kuching, these Dyaks sent their warriors to assist the Sarawak Government; in doing so they joined other tribes whose hereditary enemies they had been for many generations. Some of us felt anxious when we saw the fleet of Sakarrans and Balows lying side by side at the Linga Fort; but they all kept their good faith, and in fighting a common enemy became friends for evermore.

In 1852 Sir James Brooke placed Mr. Brereton in a fort at Sakarran, built at the entrance of the river. He threw himself heartily into the work of improving the people, and gained a good influence over many. One of the most important chiefs, Gassim, attached himself to him, and even gave up the practice of head-taking to please him.

There were certain paddy farms in the country which by ancient custom could only be cultivated by heroes who had taken many heads. One of Gassim's people, however, who had never taken a single head, presumed to clear and plant some of this ground; whereupon the other chiefs complained, and one sent a message to Gassim, that if he did not put a stop to this breach of law, he would fight him. Gassim answered that he was ready to fight with swords if necessary, but first he begged a conference with all the other chiefs to discuss the matter. To this they agreed, and by the force of his eloquence and the justice of his cause, Gassim proved to them that the old custom was bad and ought to be repealed. About that time Brereton brought Gassim and a number of his people to visit Kuching, and the chief breakfasted with us. When all the school-children came in to prayers—for the church was not yet finished—and Gassim heard them repeat the responses and say the Lord's Prayer, he was delighted, and said that he and his people would also like to be Christians.

We used to like the Sakarrans much better than their neighbours, the Sarebas, in those days. They were fine, tall, handsome men, with straight noses and pleasant manners. The Sarebas were coarser-looking people, who disfigured themselves by wearing brass rings all along the lobes of their ears: the one at the bottom was as large as a curtain-ring in circumference, though of slender make; it lay on the chest, and by its weight dragged a great hole in the ear. These rings were inserted when the children were quite young, and pulled their little faces out of shape, giving an uncomfortable expression. Sarawak Malays always said, "A Sakarran Dyak may be trusted, but a Sarebas is deceitful." It is a curious fact, however, that the Sakarrans, with all their fair words and sleek prepossessing looks, did not embrace the gospel as the Sarebas did. The Rev. Walter Chambers lived at Sakarran for some time, but gathered no converts. He then settled himself among the Balows of the Batang Lupar and Linga, and when there was a community of Christians from these rivers, at Banting, where Mr. Chambers had built his church and house, a Sarebas chief, Buda by name, the son of a notorious old pirate, happened to meet some of these Christian Dyaks, and came himself to be taught. He brought his wife, sister, and child. They walked upwards of eighty miles, partly through the mud of the sea-shore, carrying their mats and cooking-pots with them, and established themselves in the mission-house, where they were kindly welcomed, and stayed six weeks, during which time they were so diligent that they learnt to read and made some progress in writing. This was in the rainy season, when all farming operations are in abeyance. The next year they returned at the same time, but, meanwhile, they had not been idle, but had taught all they knew to their countrymen. Shortly afterwards Buda was made a catechist, and he excited so much interest, that in 1867 Mr. Chambers baptized one hundred and eighty of these people, who were once the most dangerous enemies of the English and the most notorious pirates of Borneo. Then Buda proceeded to the village of Seruai, and Mr. Chambers had soon to visit there, for the people were so earnest they would scarcely let him sleep, nor seemed to require any sleep themselves, but day and night learnt the hymns and catechism, which they must know by heart to be baptized. Nearly two hundred were baptized on the Kryan River. A catechist had been placed there, called Belabut. He married Buda's sister, who walked to Banting for instruction. She had much influence over the women of the tribe, and Mr. Chambers said it was delightful to hear her read "her beloved gospel" with the correct pronunciation of an English lady.

The Christians of the Kryan did not keep the good news to themselves, but proceeded to teach the next village of Sinambo. In these villages there are now school-chapels, built by the Dyaks themselves. In 1873, Mr. Chambers, who was then bishop, wrote: "These Sea Dyaks have made the greatest advances in civilization and Christianity. Looking back even five years, there is a great difference. They have abandoned superstitious habits." "They no longer listen to the voices of birds to tell them when to sow their seeds, undertake a journey, or build a house; they never consult a manang[1] in sickness or difficulty; above all, they set no store by the blackened skulls which used to hang from their roofs, but which they have either buried or given away to any people from a distance who cared for them, assuring them at the same time that they 'were no use.'"

[Footnote 1: Heathen doctor.]

Thus we see what a just punishment and a fostering Government, added to the sweet influences of Christianity, have done for these people; but it took years of patience and faith to effect so great a change.

After the pirate fight of 1849, the evil disposed and turbulent, both of the Sakarrans and Sarebas, found a leader in Rentab, a Sarebas chief. He braved the Government for years. In 1852 his war-boats appeared above the Sakarran Fort, and the two young Englishmen there, Mr. Brereton and Mr. Lee, too confident in their strength, attacked the boats with a small force. In this engagement Mr. Lee was killed, and Mr. Brereton escaped with difficulty. Several expeditions were taken into the interior against Rentab; but he was so clever, that even when Captain Brooke battered his stronghold to pieces by having guns dragged up the steep hill on which his fort was built, Rentab managed to escape, and was never taken. His followers, however, fell away from him by degrees, and there are now no pirates in those rivers.



As soon as we removed to College Hill, the building of the church began. On the 28th August, 1850, a few days after the return of the expedition against the pirates, the summit of a rising ground about two hundred yards from the house having been cleared and levelled, a large shed was built over the ground, which the sailors of H.M.S. Albatross, and our workmen, adorned with gay flags and green boughs.

A little procession left our house, the rajah walking first, dressed in full uniform as Governor of Labuan, and Suboo, the Malay executioner, holding a large yellow satin umbrella over his head, as is the custom on all state occasions, for yellow is the royal colour in Borneo; then my husband, in surplice and hood, the English residents, naval officers, and, last, a crowd of Malays and Chinese followed, to witness the ceremony of laying the first great block of wood in the foundation of St. Thomas's Church. After prayers had been read, the rajah lowered the great sleeper into its place, and we all returned home. From that day the church began to rise out of the earth with the same seeming magic as the house had done. It was entirely built of wood—all the beams, rafters, and posts of the hard balean-wood, and the roof covered with balean shingles, like the house. The planking was a cedar-coloured wood, and all the arches and mouldings were finished like cabinet-work, so that it was both handsome and durable. The ornamental pillars were first made of polished nibong palms; but in a few years these had to be cut away, as they were full of white ants, and hard wood substituted. The building of this little church was most interesting to us. When my husband was at Singapore for a short time in 1849, he had the pulpit, reading-desk, a carved wooden eagle, and the chairs made there; also a coloured glass east window was contrived, with the Sarawak flag for a centre light. This pleased the Malays; indeed, they admired the house and church immensely, and always assured us that they knew we could not have built either, unless inspired by good antoos (spirits).

The baptismal font was a huge clam-shell, large enough to dip an infant in, if desired; and this natural font was adopted in all the churches afterwards built at Dyak stations—at Lundu, at Banting, Quop River.

The church bell was a difficult matter. Nothing larger than a ship bell could be found in the straits. At last, a Javanese at Sarawak said he could cast a bell large enough if he had the metal; so Frank bought a hundredweight of broken gongs—there is a great deal of silver in gong metal—and with these the bell was cast. Then an inscription had to be put round the rim—"Gloria in excelsis Deo," in large letters; and the date, Sir James Brooke's name on one side, and F. T. McDougall on the other. It was a great success, and was safe in the little belfry before the church was consecrated, in February, 1851. I do not know whether this bell is now cracked, but it has worked very hard from that day—two services every week-day, and four on Sunday, to say nothing of extra occasions. Before long, we found a gilder who could adorn the reredos. There were seven compartments at the east end: in the centre one was a gilt cross, and in the others, the Lord's Prayer and the Creed, in English, Malay, and Chinese. The gilder was a Chinese catechumen, and was very anxious to do it well; but he knew nothing of English letters, so each letter had to be cut in paper, and he traced it on the wooden panel. It was necessary to watch him narrowly, or he put the letters upside down! Such are the difficulties of making churches in the jungle. All this took some time to complete. I had a very severe illness in November, 1850; and when, about Christmas, I was able to sit in the verandah, the progress of the church was my great amusement, for it was quite near enough to watch from the house.

In August, 1850, a great influx of Chinese came to Sarawak. There was a war at Sambas, the principal Dutch settlement in Borneo, between the Chinese, who were friendly to the Dutch, and who were living at Pernankat, and the Montrado Chinese, who, with the Dyaks of the country, rebelled against the Dutch. The Montrados beat the Pernankat Chinese, and they fled from the place, carrying with them their wives and children, and as much property as they could cram into their boats. The boats were overladen, and many of them perished at sea, but some reached Tangong Datu. On the 26th of August, four hundred of these poor creatures arrived at Sarawak, saying there were three thousand more starving on the sands at Datu, who would follow as fast as they could; and, in course of time, most of them did find their way up the river, although those in charge of the Government (the rajah was at Labuan) tried to persuade them to make a town for themselves at Santubong (one of the mouths of the river). A few of them did settle at Santubong, but every day brought boats full of Chinamen into the place. The rajah fed these poor people for months with rice, and gave them tools that they might clear the ground and make gardens in the jungle. At first, before they could build themselves houses, the whole place seemed upset by them. Many lived in their boats on the river; every shed and workshop in the town was full. One night Frank walked into the church, to see no one was stealing planks from the unfinished building. All was quiet, but by a stray moonbeam he perceived that one end of the church, already boarded, was full of mosquito curtains, and they as full of sleeping Chinamen. Such a thing could not be allowed—nails knocked into the polished walls to tie up the curtains, tobacco perfuming the place, to say nothing of sparks to light the pipes, and a considerable allowance of bugs which Chinese people always carry about with them. Frank jumped straight into the middle of the muslin curtains, with a shout; and amidst a hubbub of tongues, "yaw-yaw" and laughter, bundled them all out into the workmen's shed close by, where they might sleep in peace. It occurred to my husband that some of these Chinese would be glad to have their children brought up with the seven little orphans we had already, so he went to Aboo, the Chinese magistrate, and offered to take ten children into our house to be brought up as Christians, baptized, and educated for ten years. The Chinese value education, and were very glad to give them to us. I shall never forget sitting in the porch one morning to receive my new family. Neither parents nor children could speak Malay. They walked up the stairs, bringing a little boy or girl, nodded and smiled and put the child's hand into mine, as much as to say, "There, take it." One of our Chinese servants then explained to them what we could do for the child, and that it must remain with us until grown up. That day we took Salion, Sunfoon, Chinzu, Queyfat, Assin, Umque, Achin, boys; Achong, Moukmoy, Poingzu, girls. The English nurse we had brought with us to Sarawak had married Stahl, the carpenter, of whom I spoke before, and Mrs. Stahl became the matron of the school when we moved to College Hill, and had these ten Chinese children as well as the orphans to care for. We were very busy sewing for them, with a Chinese tailor to help. Blue jackets and trousers for week-days, and black trousers and white jackets for Sundays, had to be made at once. The girls wore trousers as well as the boys, only wider, and their jackets reached to the knee.

At the end of a week they were all clean and neat. Their heads were shaved every Saturday, and their long tails freshly plaited up with skeins of black or red strong silk, made on purpose. At first a barber came to do this, but soon the elder boys learnt to do it, and it was a regular Saturday business. These ten children soon learnt to speak Malay. Then we took five more, and after that one or two as circumstances threw them in our way. The school at last numbered forty-five, but there was not room in the mission-house for so many; we did not get beyond thirty the first year of the school.

I scarcely think thirty English children could have been so easily reduced to order as these little Chinese. School must have been paradise to them after the hardships they had undergone, and that perhaps made it easier to please them; besides, the Chinese readily submit to rule and method. The day was laid out for them. They rose at half-past five when the day dawned; after a bath in a pond in the grounds, they had a slice of rice-pudding with treacle on it, and then went to church for morning prayers. By seven o'clock they were all at lessons in the big room—such a buzzing and curious singsong of Chinese words—until nine, when the breakfast took place; rice, of course, and a sort of curry of vegetables, also a great dish of fish, either salt or fresh; a little tea for the elder children, no milk or sugar, and water for the rest. They soon learnt to sing their grace before and after meals.

The same kind of meal was repeated at five o'clock, but on Sunday they had pork curried instead of fish, and on festivals chickens. I taught these children to sing from the first. The Chinese are not musical generally, and some of them found the sounds of do, re, mi, very difficult to master, but we had very nice singing in church in time; and when a schoolmaster came who knew plenty of songs, glees, and rounds, the children learnt them quickly, and were often sent for to sing to the rajah and other guests when they came to dinner.

It used to startle strangers to hear "The Hardy Norseman," "The Cuckoo," and such-like songs from the lips of little Chinese boys. Every Saturday evening they came to the house to practise the hymns and chants for Sunday; I had an harmonium in the dining-room. On these occasions they all had a cup of tea and slice of cake, and used to look at the picture newspapers which had come from England the last mail. They were very intelligent boys. It was necessary they should learn Malay and English as well as Chinese, and of course arithmetic, geography, and the usual rudiments of learning. I have often watched the Chinese writing-lesson: it seemed the most difficult branch of their education—one complicated character, something like a five-barred gate, representing a variety of sounds as well as meanings; but our little fellows learnt it all. They had a Chinese master as well as an English, and they soon spoke English as well as we could desire. My husband took the greatest interest in this school. When the children first came he taught them games and made them playthings, and they were always about him. Whenever we went anywhere by boat a crew of boys was added to the rowers. They soon learnt to use their paddles well, and at the public boat-races, on New Year's Day, pulled their own boat in the race and sometimes won it. When my husband became Bishop of Labuan and Sarawak, he always took some of the schoolboys with him in his visits to the different stations. They helped the church services by their singing, and had their especial chums among the Dyak Christian boys in the different tribes. So many boys passed through the school during the twenty years we took an interest in it, that I cannot even remember all of them. Some are now catechists among the Dyak tribes; many entered the service of the Government or the Merchant Company as clerks; some went to Singapore and found employment there. I know of only one who has as yet been ordained, but perhaps that time has scarcely yet arrived in Sarawak. It is difficult for Malays or Dyaks to look up to a Chinaman sufficiently to make him their minister: they are less clever than the Chinese, but look down upon them nevertheless—the Malays, because the Chinese are the workers, and they the gentlemen; the Dyaks, I suppose, because they gave them such a thrashing in 1857. One good consequence of the Chinese school was, that it attracted the attention of the parents towards Christianity, and they presented themselves as catechumens. There were many difficulties with the languages, for the Chinese at Sarawak were not all of the same tribe, and could not understand one another. However, after a while a Chinese professor arrived at Sarawak, bringing his wife and family with him. In those days the women were forbidden to emigrate with their husbands, but Sing Sing put his wife into a large chest with air-holes at the top, and brought her safely from China. The Bishop employed this man, who was well educated, to make translations, and to interpret what he said to the Chinese, so there were soon Bible classes at our house every Wednesday evening. Sing Sing became an inquirer himself while translating the gospel to others. He was soon able to hold cottage lectures in the town, and after some years the Bishop had the happiness to ordain him as minister to his people. There was a large congregation of Chinese at the Sunday services before we left, and it was a good proof of the sincerity of these converts, that while all their heathen countrymen worked at their trades on Sunday as well as other days, our Christians spent their Sunday in worship and rest, which no doubt was an advantage to their health as well as their growth in grace.

At Christmas they always shared in our feasting. We killed an ox, and all the Christians had beef for their dinner, as well as all the queer things they delight in.

In January, 1851, the Church of St. Thomas at Kuching was consecrated by Bishop Wilson, of Calcutta. On the afternoon of the 18th, I was returning from church, and mounting the flight of steps which led to the porch of the house, I saw a large steamer turn the corner of the Pedungen Reach and anchor above the fort. It was the Semiramis bringing the Bishop, Archdeacon Pratt and Mrs. Pratt, the Rev. H. Moule from Singapore, Dr. Beale, the Bishop's physician, and Mr. Fox from Bishop's College. This party, escorted by Frank, who rushed home to dress himself in black (his usual attire being grey flannels and a white muslin cassock), very soon marched into the house, exclaiming with pleasure at the wreaths of white jessamine growing over the stairs, and the fresh air of the hill. We had so lately settled in the house that it was not half furnished, but we gave up our rooms to our guests and stowed ourselves in an empty corner. I remember the satisfaction with which Mrs. Stahl produced the remains of the Christmas plum-pudding, and the comfort it was to have a joint of venison in the house. Dinner was soon on the table, and immediately afterwards the Bishop read prayers and retired to his room. We all went into the library, where we had tea and talk. It was very refreshing to have an English lady to speak to, and Mrs. Pratt was so tall and fair that everybody admired her, especially the Malays, who used to say that it was sufficient pleasure to look at her throat only.

The natives used to flock into the house every evening to see the Tuan Padre besar (the great priest), and all the new-comers. At half-past five a.m. the Bishop's bell used to ring for his servants to dress him, and bring his tea. The whole house was astir then. The Indian servants of the party slept in the verandahs, and seemed to me to talk all night.

The next day was Sunday, but the church was not cleared out for consecration, and most of the fittings had come from Singapore in the Semiramis, and could not be got out on Saturday night. So morning and evening prayers were as usual in the dining-room, and what with the officers of the Semiramis, the English of the place, the school and our home party, the room was very full. The children sang with all their might, and were much interested with the visitors. The Bishop and Archdeacon Pratt preached morning and afternoon. On Wednesday the church was ready. Mrs. Stahl and I were up before dawn, covering hassocks with Turkey red cotton. The church was tiled, but platforms of wood, covered with mats, which were a present from Mr. and Mrs. Stahl, were placed on the tiles, and the chairs just arrived by Semiramis stood on them. We afterwards had to clear the platforms away—they became full of white ants; but they looked very well at first.

When all was ready, Captain Brooke and all the principal English inhabitants met the Bishop at the church door, and presented a petition that he would consecrate the building. He then entered, and walked up and down the church repeating psalms, etc. Then came morning service; afterwards, the Bishop preached, and as he was very energetic and struck the desk with his hand, our gentle Datu Bandar thought he was angry, and slipped quickly out of church. There was a confirmation of a Chinese teacher and my little maid Susan after the celebration of Holy Communion, and then, after three hours and a half service, we returned home. The next morning, early, the Bishop consecrated the burial-ground. He was carried round it in a chair, for he was unable to walk much; and though he was a hale old man of seventy-two, his many years' residence at Calcutta had, I imagine, spoilt his walking powers.

He was very kind and friendly to us all, and admired the church very much. His visit was a boon to the mission. It impressed the native mind with the importance Christians attach to their churches and to public worship. When our church bell called us to prayers twice every day, the Mahometans revived the daily muezzin at the mosque; and the sight of the public practice of religion amongst us quickened the Malays in the performance of their own religious rites, and from that time there were many more pilgrims to Mecca from Sarawak.



Having said so much about the schoolboys, it would be unfair not to mention the girls. Mary, Julia, and Phoebe, the half-caste children, grew up beside us, and so did Polly, who was a Dyak baby brought to me after the pirate expedition of 1849. Her mother fled, and dropped her baby in the long grass, where it was found by an English sailor, who carried it to the boats and gave it to one of the women captives to bring to me—a poor little, skinny thing, with long yellow hair, like a fairy changeling. I got a wet nurse for her and fed her with baby food, but she got thinner and more elfish-looking. One day her nurse was standing by while the other children were eating their dinner, and Polly stretched out her arms to the rice and salt fish, and began to cry. "Oh," said I, "perhaps she can eat;" and from that day the little one ate her rice and discarded the nurse, growing fat and merry like the rest.

Polly had a great talent for languages. Of course she learnt English and Malay at once, hearing both languages from her earliest years. But how she learnt Chinese as well used to surprise me. In 1866 I took Polly to Hongkong. She was then nurse to our youngest child. The lady of the house where we were staying accosted Polly in the pigeon English of the place—a jargon mysterious to unaccustomed ears. It must be allowed that Polly was not unlike a Chinese in appearance. She stared at the lady, and then at me, upon hearing directions she could not understand. I laughed. "Speak to Polly in English," I said, "and she will understand what you mean." "Impossible," answered Mrs. M——; "my servants tell me she must be Chinese, for she can talk in two dialects."

Polly married a Christian Chinaman afterwards, so her taste lay in that direction. When I last heard of her, she was teaching in the day-schools at Sarawak.

Mary married the schoolmaster, Mr. Owen. We brought Julia home with us in 1869, and put her into a training-school for teachers in Dublin, where she was much beloved. When we returned to Sarawak, in 1861, she became the schoolmistress to the girls I then had in the house, and others who came as day-scholars. She was a thoroughly good girl, and a great comfort to me, but of course she married, a young man employed as mate in the Rainbow, a Government vessel running between Sarawak and Singapore. Some years afterwards Forrest died, and Julia married again, an older man very well off. I have no doubt she is bringing up her family in the fear of God, but I have not heard of her lately. I had many trials with the girls, more than I like to recount. All the first little family of Chinese girls we received in 1850 belonged to the tribe who rebelled in 1857, and their relations carried them off when we were driven from the mission-house. They were taken to Bau where their relations lived, but what became of them in the terrible flight to the Dutch country, when many were killed, and still more died of the privations of the jungle, we never could hear.

Sarah and Fanny came to us in 1856. They were little orphans, half Chinese, half Dyak, whom, with two more girls and four boys, the Government had redeemed from slavery and gave to the mission. Some of these children stayed at Lundu with Mr. Gomez and his family; some came to me—Sarah, Fanny, and Betsy, a baby whom I gave out to nurse. Poor little Sarah had a very scarred face from a burn, but she was a bright, clever child. Fanny was better-looking, but more heavy and less impressible. These two girls married native catechists in course of time. I trust they are doing some good among their own people.

In the year 1862 some little captives fell into the hands of Captain Brooke, then ruling at Sarawak. They came from Sarebas, and one of them had been wounded by a spear, though he was only a tiny boy of four years old. Captain Brooke wrote to me to know if I would take this family of children into the school—two girls, Limo and Ambat, and two boys, Esau and Nigo. If I could not take them, he said, they must be sent back to their own country immediately, as there was a boat departing the next day. The Bishop was away from Sarawak, so I had to decide; nor would there have been any doubt in my mind about it, but Esau the eldest boy was covered with kurap, from head to foot. This is a skin disease to which Dyaks are subject, and which suggests the leprosy of the Old Testament, for the outer skin peels off in flakes, and gives almost a "white as snow" appearance to the surface. I doubted whether I ought to take a pupil so afflicted, for it is decidedly catching. I found that Ambat and Nigo had both patches of it here and there from contact with Esau, whereas Limo, who was older, more clothed, and who slept apart, was quite free.

Still, the alternative was nothing less than sending these four children to their heathen relations, and to a place at that time beyond the reach of Christ's gospel—a terrible idea which could not be entertained for a moment. So at last I sent for them, resolving to keep them in our house, and not allow them to go down to the school until the Bishop returned. Shortly afterwards a Chinese doctor came to the Bishop, and said, "If you will give me fifteen dollars I will cure that boy of kurap. I have a wonderful medicine for it, made at the Natunas Islands." So he had the money on condition of the cure. The medicine was an ointment as black as pitch—indeed, I believe there was a good portion of tar in it. With this the doctor smeared Esau all over. He was to wear no clothes, and not to be washed or touched. I used to see him, poor child, skipping about exactly like the little black imps depicted in Punch.

The ointment did not hurt him, but every third day the doctor came and washed it all off with hot water: this was rather a painful operation, but it was worth while undergoing some discomfort, for at the end of a month the disease had vanished, and "his skin came again like the flesh of a child." Esau grew up to be a good man and catechist to his own countrymen, so it was well I ventured to keep him at Sarawak. The other children soon got well when separated from him. Kurap arises, I believe, from poor food and exposure to weather. A Dyak wears no clothes except a long sash wound round him and the ends hanging down before and behind; and when we consider the hot sun and frequent rains which beat upon him, for he lives mostly out of doors, it is no wonder his skin suffers. Limo and Ambat were clever children. In a letter, written about a year after they came to us, I find this passage: "I have only four girls who can read English and understand it. My two little Dyaks, Limo and Ambat, are very fond of learning English hymns, and say them in such a plaintive, touching voice, pronouncing each syllable so clearly, but they don't understand it until it has been explained to them in Malay. Limo's brother and uncle came this week from Sarebas—two fine, tall men, with only chawats[2] and earrings by way of clothes. Limo was delighted; she would have gone away with them in their great boat if I had allowed her. No doubt they told her how much they would do for her at Sarebas. However, I drew a little picture of the women setting her to draw large bamboos full of water, and to beat out the paddy with a long pole—very hard work, and always done by the young girls,—a more truthful and less delightful view of things; so Limo said she would stay with me until she was grown up. I gave her a pair of trousers for each of the men, a present generally much esteemed. But these two were very wild folk; they laughed very much at the trousers, and carried them away over their shoulders."

[Footnote 2: A chawat is a long strip of cotton or bark cloth wound round the body.]

I must not forget to tell the story of my dear child Nietfong, although it is a very sad one. She was the daughter of the Chinese baker who lived in the lane which led from our garden to the town. I used to befriend her mother, a delicate little woman, very roughly treated by her husband. She twice ran to me for shelter when her husband beat her, and though of course I always had to give her up to him when he came begging for her the next day, he knew what I thought of him, and had a sort of respect for me in consequence. This poor woman died young, and left one little girl about four years old. Nietfong used to come up to day-school when she was old enough, and in 1858, when I was so happy as to have an English governess for my Mab, I took the little Chinese girl to live with us and join Mab in her lessons. She was quite a little lady, so gentle, teachable, and well mannered. In 1860 we took our children to England: Mab was six years old, and could not with any safety remain longer in a hot climate. Little Nietfong went home, for her father would not allow her to go to the school in my absence. We returned in 1861, leaving three children in England, and brought a baby girl out with us. As I walked up the lane to the mission-house, Nietfong stood watching for me at the gate. "Take me home with you; oh, I am so glad you are come back!" So I took her home, and Nietfong told me that her father had married again, and that her step-mother was unkind to her, and beat her when she said the prayers I had taught her night and morning; "but," said the child, "I always prayed, nevertheless." She lived with us till she was about thirteen, perhaps not so much; then her father came to the Bishop and said he had sold Nietfong for a good sum of money to a man in China, and must send her there to stay with her grandmother.

In vain I entreated Acheck not to be so wicked. "Tell me how much you would get for your daughter," I said, "and we will give you the money." He laughed, and said I could not afford it, mentioning a large sum, but I do not remember what it was; so I had to break the sad news to Nietfong. We wept and prayed together that she might remain steadfast in her Christian faith. As she then knew English very well, I gave her an English Prayer-book, which she promised to use. Soon after, Acheck himself took her to China; and when he came back, he would only say, "Oh yes, of course she is happy—she is married and well off." I have always felt sure that this dear girl was kept by God's grace from sin and evil, for I believe she truly loved and desired to serve God. There was something especially pure about her. Nietfong was never wilfully naughty; she was one of those blameless ones who seem untouched by the evil around them. We shall not know the sequel of her history until by God's mercy we meet her in the heavenly home.

As I have spoken about the Dyak kurap, I may as well here mention the real leprosy of the East, which was a terrible but not frequent scourge among the Chinese. The Rajah had a small house built out of the town for any men who were so afflicted, and they were fed by Government. The Bishop or his chaplain used to go and teach these poor creatures, but there were not more than three or four of them at a time. We knew one Chinese woman who had leprosy. She became a Christian, and liked to have a cottage lecture at her house. I often went to see her. Her toes gradually dropped off, and her fingers. I never heard her complain. One day I went to see her and found her very ill, constantly sick. She said she had been poisoned; and it seemed probable, for no medicine gave her any relief, and in a few hours she died. The natives have such a horror of leprosy that they do not like to touch the body of any one who has died of it, so the Bishop and Owen, the schoolmaster, laid poor Acheen in her coffin; and this charitable act they performed for any unfortunate who died of this terrible disease.

Acheen had adopted a little boy, Sifok by name. She must have been very kind to the child, for he seemed wild with grief when she died, and was very anxious that whoever had poisoned his mother, as he called her, should be punished. But the case was not clear, and no one was punished. We took Sifok into the school, and I taught him to play the harmonium, which at last he accomplished very fairly.

Amongst our schoolboys was one particularly steady and religious. Tung Fa was so good a Malay and Chinese scholar that he could interpret at the Chinese Bible class, and also the sermon at the Chinese service at church on Sunday. I think he knew his Bible almost by heart. He was never very strong in health; then his feet began to swell, and leprosy declared itself. For a long time he was carried to and from the church in a chair, but at last he was so diseased that he was removed from the school-house, and a little hut was built for him close to us. The boys brought him his food, and of course he had anything he fancied from our kitchen. I think the servants were very kind to him, and he exhibited a beautiful example of patience and resignation until the disease affected his brain; even then he was quite gentle, only he was always begging to be baptized over again that he might die free from sin. This mistake arose entirely from his illness. We were quite thankful when one morning he was found dead in his bed. What a blissful waking, after so much suffering!



The beginning of the year 1851 brought us much sorrow. After my illness in November, 1850, we were persuaded by Sir James Brooke to accompany him to Penang Hill, where the Government bungalow had been placed at his disposal; consequently, after Christmas, we sailed in H.M.S. Amazon, through the kindness of Captain Troubridge, for Singapore, taking our child Harry with us. We had to wait some weeks at Singapore for the Rajah, and soon after our arrival our little boy died of diptheria, leaving us childless, for we had already lost two infants at Sarawak. This grief threw a veil of sadness over the remaining years of our first sojourn in the East. Perhaps it urged us to a deeper interest in the native people than we might have felt had there been any little ones of our own to care for; but those six years "the flowers all died along our way," one infant after another being laid in God's acre.

We stayed six weeks amid the lovely scenery and in the cooler air of Penang Hill, and returned to Sarawak in May, Admiral Austin giving us a passage in H.M.S. Fury. The admiral gave me his cabin to sleep in, all the gentlemen sleeping in the cuddy. I woke in the night, hearing a rushing sound in the air, then, patter, patter, all over the bed. I jumped up, and called Frank to bring a light and see what was the matter. "Oh," said a voice from the cuddy, "better not: it is only cockroaches, and if you saw them you would not go to sleep again." This swarm of cockroaches came out several times before daylight. The next night I put up a mosquito-net to protect my face and hands from these disgusting creatures. When a steamer has been nearly three years in these hot latitudes it becomes horribly full of rats and cockroaches. My husband, taking a trip in H.M.S. Contest, in 1858, woke one morning unable to open one eye. Presently he felt a sharp prick, and found a large cockroach sitting on his eyelid and biting the corner of his eye. They also bite all round the nails of your fingers and toes, unless they are closely covered. It must be said that insects are a great discomfort at Sarawak. Mosquitoes, and sand-flies, and stinging flies which turn your hands into the likeness of boxing-gloves, infest the banks of the rivers, and the sea-shore. Flying bugs sometimes scent the air unpleasantly, and there are hornets in the woods whose sting is dangerous. When we look back upon the happy days we spent in that lovely country, these drawbacks are forgotten; the past is always beautiful, and shadows, even of sorrow and sickness, only enhance the interest of the picture. Sin alone, in ourselves and those about us, can make the past hateful, and the great charm of the future is that it is untouched by sin. Happy, then, are those who are able to look back on the past with smiles of thankfulness, while they stretch out their arms hopefully to the future.

Sarawak looked very peaceful on our return; and now began the interest of the Dyak missions. From our first arrival at Kuching my husband had taken every opportunity of visiting the Dyak tribes, and sometimes a chief would come to the town with a number of his people, to pay their rice tax, or purchase clothes, tobacco, gongs, gunpowder, whatever the bazaar possessed which they valued. They brought with them beeswax, damar, honey, or rattans to exchange for those things. On these occasions the whole party came up to the mission-house to hear the harmonium, see the magic-lantern, and beg presents. At first they would ask for arrack, but finding nothing but claret to be had with us, soon left off that request. Plates and cups were always valued, and they used to say we had so many more than we could possibly want in the pantry, that of course we would give them some. To their honour be it said, they never stole one, and were invariably refused, for we had not any more than we wanted. The Dyaks hung their plates in loops of rattan very ingeniously against the walls of their houses; but a plantain-leaf folded up is more often used by them in lieu of plates, and they could not have a better substitute. I never enjoyed a meal so much as some cold rice and sardines eaten off a plantain-leaf in the jungle at Lundu, after a long walk to the waterfall. The servant with the provision basket had lost his way, and as we sat hungry under the great trees at the foot of the fall, a Dyak friend produced a box of sardines and a parcel of cold rice, and divided it amongst us. When at last the basket of cold chickens arrived we handed them over to the Dyaks, feeling quite superior to such civilized food.

The Lundu Dyak chief was a great friend and admirer of Sir James Brooke from his first arrival in the country. He and his tribe were the determined enemies of the pirates, and with the Balows of the Batang Lupar braved the Sarebas and Sakarrans, even when they were most powerful. At the pirate fight of 1849 the Lundu chief lost two of his sons: they were killed by an ambush set by Lingi the Sarebas chief. Only one son, Callon, remained, and he was not his father's favourite. Poor old Orang Kaya! it was a terrible trial, and nearly brought him to his grave. Some time afterwards, he and Callon were at Sarawak to pay their tax. Lingi, who had then submitted to the Rajah, had been in Sarawak for some days, professedly to trade, but really to see if he could not take Sir James Brooke's head. This was prevented by the watchfulness of the Malays, who, suspecting Lingi, never let him get near the Rajah when they sat talking after dinner, as was the custom in those days. So Lingi went away foiled, and the day they dropped down the river the Lundus heard of it. Revenge seemed ready at hand: they had a fast boat, were a large party, and brave to a man. They entreated the Rajah to let them follow Lingi and take his head—never again would they take a head, only Lingi's, the Rajah's enemy and their own. Of course they were refused, and it must have been a terrible strain on their affection and fealty to the Rajah, not in this instance to follow the traditions of their ancestors, and gratify their personal revenge by killing a traitor. But they obeyed, and Lingi got safely back to Sarebas, little knowing how narrowly he escaped. The old Lundu chief was a Christian before he died. He always professed a desire to be of the same religion and brother to the white man, but when, after due instruction, his son and grandson came to Kuching to be baptized, he was not well enough to accompany them, Mr. Gomes promised to baptize him on their return; but when that event took place Orang Kaya was dead, gone where, no doubt, the will was taken for the deed, as he was a Christian at heart. Mr. Gomes was from Bishop's College, Calcutta. Soon after he came to us, in 1852, he went to Lundu and remained there until 1867, when his children requiring more education than he could give them at a Dyak station, he went to Singapore, and accepted the post of missionary priest there.

Mr. Grant was Government resident at Lundu, and the ruler and missionary devoted themselves to the improvement of the people. In 1855, when we returned to our home after our first visit to England, we received a delightful visit from Mr. Gomes and twelve Dyaks, whom he brought to be baptized at St. Thomas's Church. Callon's son Langi, and half a dozen other boys, lived with Mr. Gomes, and ran after him all day—nice little fellows, who fraternized with our boys at the school-house. There were also five men, the chief of whom was Bulan (Moon), one of the manangs, or witch-doctors, of the tribe. These manangs, being as it were the priests of Dyak superstitions, and getting their living by pretended cures, interpretations of omens and the voices of birds, were of course the natural enemies of truth and enlightenment. Bulan, however, had tried to be an honest manang, and finding it impossible had turned with all his heart to Christianity. His brother Bugai, also a Christian, was a very intelligent person, and became catechist at Lundu.

There was also a very rich old man, Simoulin by name, who was baptized at this time. His wife had opposed his conversion with all her might; indeed, she declared she would leave him and carry half the property with her. Simoulin said quietly, "If she will she must: she is only a woman, and her judgment in the matter is not likely to be good." Christianity had strong opponents in the women of all the Dyak tribes. They held important parts in all the feasts, incantations, and superstitions, which could not be called religion, but were based on the dread of evil spirits and a desire to propitiate them. The women encouraged head-taking by preferring to marry the man who had some of those ghastly tokens of his prowess. When Sir James Brooke forbad head-taking among the tribes in his dominions, it was the women who would row their lovers out of the rivers in their boats, and set them down on the sea-coast to find the head of a stranger. When heads were brought in, it was the women who took possession of them, decked them with flowers, put food into their mouths, sang to them, mocked them, and instituted feasts in honour of the slayers. The young Dyak woman works hard; she helps in all the labours of sowing, planting out, weeding, and reaping the paddy. She beats out the rice in a wooden trough, with a long pole, or pestle. She grows the cotton for clothing, dyes and weaves it. She carries heavy burdens, and paddles her boat on the river. All these are her duties, and in performing them she quickly loses her smooth skin, bright eyes, and slender figure. It is only the young girls who can boast of any beauty, but the old women are very important personages at a seed-time or harvest festival. They dress themselves in long garments embroidered with tiny white shells, representing lizards and crocodiles. With long wands in their hands, they dance, singing wild incantations. They have already prepared the food for the feast—chickens roasted in their feathers; cakes of rice, spun like vermicelli and fried in cocoa-nut oil; curries, and salads of bitter and acid leaves; sticks of small bamboo filled with pulut rice and boiled, when it turns to a jelly and is agreeably flavoured with the young bamboo. It is the women also who serve out the tuak, a spirit prepared from rice and spiced with various ingredients, tobacco being one. The men must drink at these feasts; they are very temperate generally, but on this occasion they are rather proud of being drunk and boasting the next day of a bad headache! The women urge them to drink, but do not join in the orgies, and disappear when the intoxicating stage begins. I trust that this description belongs only to the past; at any rate, we know that in those places where the missionaries have long taught, their people follow a more excellent way of rejoicing in the joy of harvest, and, after their thanksgiving service in church, pour out their offerings of rice before the altar to maintain the services, and minister to the sick and needy.

For many years, however, the women were opposed to a religion which cleared away the superstitious customs which were the delight of their lives, their chief amusement and dissipation, and a means of influencing the men. It was not until the year 1864 that Mr. Gomes asked us to visit Lundu and welcome a little party of women, the first converts to the faith which their fathers and husbands had long professed. This is a long digression from the history of the Lundus' visit to Kuching in 1855, which was at the time a great event. I find the following passage in my journal: "Every evening, before late dinner, the Lundus go up to Mr. Gomes's room to say their prayers, and sing, or rather chant, their hymns. There is something very affecting in this little service—the Dyak voices singing of Christ's second coming with His holy angels, and rejoicing that He came once before for their salvation; then praying for holy, gentle hearts to receive Him. I always feel on these occasions as if I heard these precious truths afresh when they are spoken in a tongue till lately ignorant of them. Indeed, there can scarcely be a more joyful excitement than such passages in the life of a missionary; they are worth any sacrifice. After English morning service, Mr. Gomes has prayers in church for his Dyaks. He then instructs them in the baptismal service. This makes five daily services in church, two English, two Chinese, and one Dyak. We clothed all the candidates in a new suit of cotton garments with a bright-coloured handkerchief for their heads. It would be considered very irreverent for Easterns to uncover their heads in church. I taught the school-children to sing 'Veni, Creator Spiritus' at this baptism, while the clergy were arranging the candidates and sponsors round the font. The font was wreathed with flowers by my children. There was quite a full church, for the Chinese Christians all came to see the Dyaks baptized, and all the English of the place were present. Mr. Gomes baptized, and my husband signed them with the cross. They all spoke up bravely in answering to their vows: may God give them grace to keep them."

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