Tales of the Malayan Coast
From Penang to the Philippines
Consul General of the United States at Hong Kong
Illustrated by Henry Sandham
Lothrop Publishing Company
Copyright, 1899, By
Lothrop Publishing Company.
Norwood Press J. S. Cushing & Co.—Berwick & Smith Norwood Mass. U.S.A.
To Our Hero And my friend Admiral George Dewey, U.S.N. I Dedicate this Book
Flagship Olympia, Manila, 21 Sept., 1898.
My Dear Wildman:—
Yours of 12th instant is at hand. I am much flattered by your request to dedicate your book to me, and would be pleased to have you do so.
With kindest regards, I am, Very truly yours,
These stories are the result of nine years' residence and experience on the Malayan coast—that land of romance and adventure which the ancients knew as the Golden Chersonesus, and which, in modern times, has been brought again into the atmosphere of valor and performance by Rajah Brooke of Sarawak, the hero of English expansion, and Admiral George Dewey of the Asiatic squadron, the hero of American achievement. The author, in his official duties as Special Commissioner of the United States for the Straits Settlement and Siam, and, later, as Consul General of the United States at Hong Kong, has mingled with and studied the diverse people of the Malayan coast, from the Sultan of Johore and Aguinaldo the Filipino to the lowest Eurasian and "China boy" of that wonderful Oriental land. These stories are based on his experiences afloat and ashore, and are offered to the American public at this time when all glimpses of the land that Columbus sailed to find are of especial interest to the modern possessors of the land he really did discover.
Page Baboo's Good Tiger 9 Baboo's Pirates 28 How we Played Robinson Crusoe 47 The Sarong 66 The Kris 74 The White Rajah of Borneo 81 Amok! 101 Lepas's Revenge 130 King Solomon's Mines 147 Busuk 181 A Crocodile Hunt 200 A New Year's Day in Malaya 219 In the Burst of the Southwest Monsoon 230 A Pig Hunt on Mount Ophir 254 In the Court of Johore 270 In the Golden Chersonese 293 A Fight with Illanum Pirates 321
TALES OF THE MALAYAN COAST FROM PENANG TO THE PHILIPPINES
BABOO'S GOOD TIGER
A Tale of the Malacca Jungle
Aboo Din's first-born, Baboo, was only four years old when he had his famous adventure with the tiger he had found sleeping in the hot lallang grass within the distance of a child's voice from Aboo Din's bungalow.
For a long time before that hardly a day had passed but Aboo-Din, who was our syce, or groom, and wore the American colors proudly on his right arm, came in from the servants' quarters with an anxious look on his kindly brown face and asked respectfully for the tuan (lord) or mem (lady).
"What is it, Aboo Din?" the mistress would inquire, as visions of Baboo drowned in the great Shanghai jar, or of Baboo lying crushed by a boa among the yellow bamboos beyond the hedge, passed swiftly through her mind.
"Mem see Baboo?" came the inevitable question.
It was unnecessary to say more. At once Ah Minga, the "boy"; Zim, the cook; the kebuns (gardeners); the tukanayer (water-boy), and even the sleek Hindu dirzee, who sat sewing, dozing, and chewing betel-nut, on the shady side of the veranda, turned out with one accord and commenced a systematic search for the missing Baboo.
Sometimes he was no farther off than the protecting screen of the "compound" hedge, or the cool, green shadows beneath the bungalow. But oftener the government Sikhs had to be appealed to, and Kampong Glam in Singapore searched from the great market to the courtyards of Sultan Ali. It was useless to whip him, for whippings seemed only to make Baboo grow. He would lisp serenely as Aboo Din took down the rattan withe from above the door, "Baboo baniak jahat!" (Baboo very bad!) and there was something so charmingly impersonal in all his mischief, that we came between his own brown body and the rod, time and again. There was nothing distinctive in Baboo's features or form. To the casual observer he might have been any one of a half-dozen of his playmates. Like them, he went about perfectly naked, his soft, brown skin shining like polished rosewood in the fierce Malayan sun.
His hair was black, straight, and short, and his eyes as black as coals. Like his companions, he stood as straight as an arrow, and could carry a pail of water on his head without spilling a drop.
He, too, ate rice three times a day. It puffed him up like a little old man, which added to his grotesqueness and gave him a certain air of dignity that went well with his features when they were in repose. Around his waist he wore a silver chain with a silver heart suspended from it. Its purpose was to keep off the evil spirits.
There was always an atmosphere of sandalwood and Arab essence about Baboo that reminded me of the holds of the old sailing-ships that used to come into Boston harbor from the Indies. I think his mother must have rubbed the perfumes into his hair as the one way of declaring to the world her affection for him. She could not give him clothes, or ornaments, or toys: such was not the fashion of Baboo's race. Neither was he old enough to wear the silk sarong that his Aunt Fatima had woven for him on her loom.
Baboo had been well trained, and however lordly he might be in the quarters, he was marked in his respect to the mistress. He would touch his forehead to the red earth when I drove away of a morning to the office; though the next moment I might catch him blowing a tiny ball of clay from his sumpitan into the ear of his father, the syce, as he stood majestically on the step behind me.
Baboo went to school for two hours every day to a fat old Arab penager, or teacher, whose schoolroom was an open stall, and whose only furniture a bench, on which he sat cross-legged, and flourished a whip in one hand and a chapter of the Koran in the other.
There were a dozen little fellows in the school; all naked. They stood up in line, and in a soft musical treble chanted in chorus the glorious promises of the Koran, even while their eyes wandered from the dusky corner where a cheko lizard was struggling with an atlas moth, to the frantic gesticulations of a naked Hindu who was calling his meek-eyed bullocks hard names because they insisted on lying down in the middle of the road for their noonday siesta.
Baboo's father, Aboo Din, was a Hadji, for he had been to Mecca. When nothing else could make Baboo forget the effects of the green durian he had eaten, Aboo Din would take the child on his knees and sing to him of his trip to Mecca, in a quaint, monotonous voice, full of sorrowful quavers. Baboo believed he himself could have left Singapore any day and found Mecca in the dark.
We had been living some weeks in a government bungalow, fourteen miles from Singapore, across the island that looks out on the Straits of Malacca. The fishing and hunting were excellent. I had shot wild pig, deer, tapirs, and for some days had been getting ready to track down a tiger that had been prowling in the jungle about the bungalow.
But of a morning, as we lay lazily chatting in our long chairs behind the bamboo chicks, the cries of "Harimau! Harimau!" and "Baboo" came up to us from the servants' quarters.
Aboo Din sprang over the railing of the veranda, and without stopping even to touch the back of his hand to his forehead, cried,—
"Tuan Consul, tiger have eat chow dog and got Baboo!"
Then he rushed into the dining room, snatched up my Winchester and cartridge-belt, and handed them to me with a "Lekas (quick)! Come!"
He sprang back off the veranda and ran to his quarters where the men were arming themselves with ugly krises and heavy parangs.
I had not much hope of finding the tiger, much less of rescuing Baboo, dead or alive. The jungle loomed up like an impassable wall on all three sides of the compound, so dense, compact, and interwoven, that a bird could not fly through it. Still I knew that my men, if they had the courage, could follow where the tiger led, and could cut a path for me.
Aboo Din unloosed a half-dozen pariah dogs that we kept for wild pig, and led them to the spot where the tiger had last lain. In an instant the entire pack sent up a doleful howl and slunk back to their kennels.
Aboo Din lashed them mercilessly and drove them into the jungle, where he followed on his hands and knees. I only waited to don my green kaki suit and canvas shooting hat and despatch a man to the neighboring kampong, or village, to ask the punghulo (chief) to send me his shikaris, or hunters. Then I plunged into the jungle path that my kebuns had cut with their keen parangs, or jungle-knives. Ten feet within the confines of the forest the metallic glare of the sun and the pitiless reflections of the China Sea were lost in a dim, green twilight. Far ahead I could hear the half-hearted snarls of the cowardly, deserting curs, and Aboo Din's angry voice rapidly exhausting the curses of the Koran on their heads.
My men, who were naked save for a cotton sarong wound around their waists, slashed here a rubber-vine, there a thorny rattan, and again a mass of creepers that were as tenacious as iron ropes, all the time pressing forward at a rapid walk. Ofttimes the trail led from the solid ground through a swamp where grew great sago palms, and out of which a black, sluggish stream flowed toward the straits. Gray iguanas and pendants of dove orchids hung from the limbs above, and green and gold lizards scuttled up the trees at our approach.
At the first plot of wet ground Aboo Din sent up a shout, and awaited my coming. I found him on his hands and knees, gazing stupidly at the prints in the moist earth.
"Tuan," he shouted, "see Baboo's feet, one—two—three—more! Praise be to Allah!"
I dropped down among the lily-pads and pitcher-plants beside him. There, sure enough, close by the catlike footmarks of the tiger, was the perfect impression of one of Baboo's bare feet. Farther on was the imprint of another, and then a third. Wonderful! The intervals between the several footmarks were far enough apart for the stride of a man!
"Apa?" (What does it mean?) I said.
Aboo Din tore his hair and called upon Allah and the assembled Malays to witness that he was the father of this Baboo, but that, in the sight of Mohammed, he was innocent of this witchcraft. He had striven from Hari Rahmadan to Hari Rahmanan to bring this four-year-old up in the light of the Koran, but here he was striding through the jungle, three feet and more at a step, holding to a tiger's tail!
I shouted with laughter as the truth dawned upon me. It must be so,—Baboo was alive. His footprints were before me. He was being dragged through the jungle by a full-grown Malayan tiger! How else explain his impossible strides, overlapping the beast's marks!
Aboo Din turned his face toward Mecca, and his lips moved in prayer.
"May Allah be kind to this tiger!" he mumbled. "He is in the hands of a witch. We shall find him as harmless as an old cat. Baboo will break out his teeth with a club of billion wood and bite off his claws with his own teeth. Allah is merciful!"
We pushed on for half an hour over a dry, foliage-cushioned strip of ground that left no trace of the pursued. At the second wet spot we dashed forward eagerly and scanned the trail for signs of Baboo, but only the pads of the tiger marred the surface of the slime.
Aboo Din squatted at the root of a huge mangrove and broke forth into loud lamentations, while the last remaining cur took advantage of his preoccupation to sneak back on the homeward trail.
"Aboo," I commanded sarcastically, "pergie! (move on!) Baboo is a man and a witch. He is tired of walking, and is riding on the back of the tiger!"
Aboo gazed into my face incredulously for a moment; then, picking up his parang and tightening his sarong, strode on ahead without a word.
At noon we came upon a sandy stretch of soil that contained a few diseased cocoanut palms, fringed by a sluggish lagoon, and a great banian tree whose trunk was hardly more than a mass of interlaced roots. A troop of long-armed wah-wah monkeys were scolding and whistling within its dense foliage with surprising intensity. Occasionally one would drop from an outreaching limb to one of the pendulous roots, and then, with a shrill whistle of fright, spring back to the protection of his mates.
A Malay silenced them by throwing a half-ripe cocoanut into the midst of the tree, and we moved on to the shade of the sturdiest palm. There we sat down to rest and eat some biscuits softened in the milk of a cocoanut.
"There is a boa in the roots of the banian, Aboo," I said, looking longingly toward its deep shadow.
He nodded his head, and drew from the pouch in the knot in his sarong a few broken fragments of areca nut. These he wrapped in a lemon leaf well smeared with lime, and tucked the entire mass into the corner of his mouth.
In a moment a brilliant red juice dyed his lips, and he closed his eyes in happy contentment, oblivious, for the time, of the sand and fallen trunks that seemed to dance in the parching rays of the sun, oblivious, even, of the loss of his first-born.
I was revolving in my mind whether there was any use in continuing the chase, which I would have given up long before, had I not known that a tiger who has eaten to repletion is both timid and lazy. This one had certainly breakfasted on a dog or on some animal before encountering Baboo.
I had hoped that possibly the barking of the curs might have caused him to drop the child, and make off where pursuit would be impossible; but so far we had, after those footprints, found neither traces of Baboo alive, nor the blood which should have been seen had the tiger killed the child.
Suddenly a long, pear-shaped mangrove-pod struck me full in the breast. I sprang up in surprise, for I was under a cocoanut tree, and there was no mangrove nearer than the lagoon.
A Malay looked up sleepily, and pointed toward the wide-spreading banian.
My eyes followed the direction indicated, and could just distinguish a grinning face among the interlacing roots at the base of the tree. So I picked up the green, dartlike end of the pod, and took careful aim at the brown face and milk-white teeth.
Then it struck me as peculiar that a monkey, after all the evidence of fright we had so lately witnessed, should seek a hiding-place that must be within easy reach of its greatest enemy, the boa-constrictor.
Aboo Din had aroused himself, and was looking intently in the same direction. Before I could take a step toward the tree he had leaped to his feet, and was bounding across the little space, shouting, "Baboo! Baboo!"
The small brown face instantly disappeared, and we were left staring blankly at a dark opening into the heart of the woody maze. Then we heard the small, well-known voice of Baboo:—
"Tabek (greeting), Tuan! Greeting, Aboo Din! Tuan Consul no whip, Baboo come out."
Aboo Din ran his long, naked arm into the opening in pursuit of his first-born—the audacious boy who would make terms with his white master!
"Is it not enough before Allah that this son should cause me, a Hadji, to curse daily, but now he must bewitch tigers and dictate terms to the Tuan and to me, his father? He shall feel the strength of my wrist; I will—O Allah!"
Aboo snatched forth his arm with a howl of pain. One of his fingers was bleeding profusely, and the marks of tiny teeth showed plainly where Baboo had closed them on the offending hand.
"Biak, Baboo, mari!" (Good, come forth!) I said.
First the round, soft face of the small miscreant appeared; then the head, and then the naked little body. Aboo Din grasped him in his arms, regardless of his former threats, or of the blood that was flowing from his wounds. Then, amid caresses and promises to Allah to kill fire-fighting cocks, the father hugged and kissed Baboo until he cried out with pain.
After each Malay had taken the little fellow in his arms, I turned to Baboo and said, while I tried to be severe,—
"Baboo, where is tiger?"
"Sudah mati (dead), Tuan," he answered with dignity. "Tiger over there, Tuan. Sladang kill. I hid here and wait for Aboo Din!"
He touched his forehead with the back of his brown palm. There was nothing, either in the little fellow's bearing or words, that betrayed fear or bravado. It was only one mishap more or less to him.
We followed Baboo's lead to the edge of the jungle, and there, stretched out in the hot sand, lay the great, tawny beast, stamped and pawed until he was almost unrecognizable.
All about him were the hoof-marks of the great sladang, the fiercest and wildest animal of the peninsula—the Malayan bull that will charge a tiger, a black lion, a boa, and even a crocodile, on sight. Hunters will go miles to avoid one of them, and a herd of elephants will go trumpeting away in fear at their approach.
"Kuching besar (big cat) eat Baboo's chow dog, then sleep in lallang grass,"—this was the child's story. "Baboo find, and say, 'Bagus kuching (pretty kitty), see Baboo's doll?' Kuching no like Baboo's doll mem consul give. Kuching run away. Baboo catch tail, run too. Kuching go long ways. Baboo 'fraid Aboo Din whip and tell kuching must go back. Kuching pick Baboo up in mouth when Baboo let go.
"Kuching hurt Baboo. Baboo stick fingers in kuching's eye. Kuching no more hurt Baboo. Kuching stop under banian tree and sleep. Big sladang come, fight kuching. Baboo sorry for good kuching. Baboo hid from sladang,—Aboo Din no whip Baboo?"
His voice dropped to a pathetic little quaver, and he put up his hands with an appealing gesture; but his brown legs were drawn back ready to flee should Aboo Din make one hostile move.
"Baboo," I said, "you are a hero!"
Baboo opened his little black eyes, but did not dispute me.
"You shall go to Mecca when you grow up, and become a Hadji, and when you come back the high kadi shall take you in the mosque and make a kateeb of you," said I. "Now put your forehead to the ground and thank the good Allah that the kuching had eaten dog before he got you."
Baboo did as he was told, but I think that in his heart he was more grateful that for once he had evaded a whipping than for his remarkable escape. A little later the punghulo came up with a half-dozen shikaris, or hunters, and a pack of hunting dogs. The men skinned the mutilated carcass of the only "good tiger" I met during my three years' hunting in the jungles of this strange old peninsula.
An Adventure in the Pahang River
There was a scuffle in the outer office, and a thin, piping voice was calling down all the curses of the Koran on the heads of my great top-heavy Hindu guards.
"Sons of dogs," I heard in the most withering contempt, "I will see the Tuan Consul. Know he is my father."
A tall Sikh, with his great red turban awry and his brown kaki uniform torn and soiled, pushed through the bamboo chicks and into my presence.
He was dragging a small bit of naked humanity by the folds of its faded cotton sarong.
The powerful soldier was hot and flushed, and a little stream of blood trickling from his finger tips showed where they had come in contact with his captive's teeth. It was as though an elephant had been worried by a pariah cur.
"Your Excellency," he said, salaaming and gasping for breath.
"It is Baboo, the Harimau-Anak!"
Baboo wrenched from the guard's grasp and glided up to my desk. The back of his open palm went to his forehead, and his big brown eyes looked up appealingly into mine.
"What is it, Tiger-Child?" I asked, bestowing on him the title the Malays of Kampong Glam had given him as a perpetual reminder of his famous adventure.
Dimples came into either tear-stained cheek. He smoothed out the rents in his small sarong, and without deigning to notice his late captor, said in a soft sing-song voice:—
"Tuan Consul, Baboo want to go with the Heaven-Born to Pahang. Baboo six years old,—can fight pirates like Aboo Din, the father. May Mohammed make Tuan as odorous as musk!"
"You are a boaster before Allah, Baboo," I said, smiling.
Baboo dropped his head in perfectly simulated contrition.
"I have thought much, Tuan."
News had come to me that an American merchant ship had been wrecked near the mouth of the Pahang River, and that the Malays, who were at the time in revolt against the English Resident, had taken possession of its cargo of petroleum and made prisoners of the crew.
I had asked the colonial governor for a guard of five Sikhs and a launch, that I might steam up the coast and investigate the alleged outrage before appealing officially to the British government.
Of course Baboo went, much to the disgust of Aboo Din, the syce.
I never was able to refuse the little fellow anything, and I knew if I left him behind he would be revenged by running away.
I had vowed again and again that Baboo should stay lost the next time he indulged in his periodical vanishing act, but each time when night came and Aboo Din, the syce, and Fatima, the mother, crept pathetically along the veranda to where I was smoking and steeling my heart against the little rascal, I would snatch up my cork helmet and spring into my cart, which Aboo Din had kept waiting inside the stables for the moment when I should relent.
Since Baboo had become a hero and earned the appellation of the Harimau-Anak, his vanity directed his footsteps toward Kampong Glam, the Malay quarter of Singapore. Here he was generally to be found, seated on a richly hued Indian rug, with his feet drawn up under him, amid a circle of admiring shopkeepers, syces, kebuns, and fishermen, narrating for the hundredth time how he had been caught at Changhi by a tiger, carried through the jungle on its back until he came to a great banian tree, into which he had crawled while the tiger slept, how a sladang (wild bull) came out of the lagoon and killed the tiger, and how Tuan Consul and Aboo Din, the father, had found him and kissed him many times.
Often he enlarged on the well-known story and repeated long conversations that he had carried on with the tiger while they were journeying through the jungle.
A brass lamp hung above his head in which the cocoanut oil sputtered and burned and cast a fitful half-light about the box-like stall.
Only the eager faces of the listeners stood out clear and distinct against the shadowy background of tapestries from Madras and Bokhara, soft rich rugs from Afghanistan and Persia, curiously wrought finger bowls of brass and copper from Delhi and Siam, and piles of cunningly painted sarongs from Java.
Close against a naked fisherman sat the owner of the bazaar in tall, conical silk-plaited hat and flowing robes, ministering to the wants of the little actor, as the soft, monotonous voice paused for a brief instant for the tiny cups of black coffee.
I never had the heart to interrupt him in the midst of one of these dramatic recitals, but would stand respectfully without the circle of light until he had finished the last sentence.
He was not frightened when I thrust the squatting natives right and left, and he did not forget to arise and touch the back of his open palm to his forehead, with a calm and reverent, "Tabek, Tuan" (Greeting, my lord).
So Baboo went with us to fight pirates.
He unrolled his mat out on the bow where every dash of warm salt water wet his brown skin, and where he could watch the flying fish dash across our way.
He was very quiet during the two days of the trip, as though he were fully conscious of the heavy responsibility that rested upon his young shoulders. I had called him a boaster and it had cut him to the quick.
We found the wreck of the Bunker Hill on a sunken coral reef near the mouth of the Pahang River, but every vestige of her cargo and stores was gone, even to the glass in her cabin windows and the brasses on her rails.
We worked in along the shore and kept a lookout for camps or signals, but found none.
I decided to go up the river as far as possible in the launch in hope of coming across some trace of the missing crew, although I was satisfied that they had been captured by the noted rebel chief, the Orang Kayah of Semantan, or by his more famous lieutenant, the crafty Panglima Muda of Jempol, and were being held for ransom.
It was late in the afternoon when we entered the mouth of the Sungi Pahang.
Aboo Din advised a delay until the next morning.
"The Orang Kayah's Malays are pirates, Tuan," he said, with a sinister shrug of his bare shoulders, "he has many men and swift praus; the Dutch, at Rio, have sold them guns, and they have their krises,—they are cowards in the day."
I smiled at the syce's fears.
I knew that the days of piracy in the Straits of Malacca, save for an occasional outbreak of high-sea petty larceny on a Chinese lumber junk or a native trader's tonkang, were past, and I did not believe that the rebels would have the hardihood to attack, day or night, a boat, however unprotected, bearing the American flag.
For an hour or more we ran along between the mangrove-bordered shores against a swiftly flowing, muddy current.
The great tangled roots of these trees stood up out of the water like a fretwork of lace, and the interwoven branches above our heads shut out the glassy glare of the sun. We pushed on until the dim twilight faded out, and only a phosphorescent glow on the water remained to reveal the snags that marked our course.
The launch was anchored for the night close under the bank, where the maze of mangroves was beginning to give place to the solid ground and the jungle.
Myriads of fireflies settled down on us and hung from the low limbs of the overhanging trees, relieving the hot, murky darkness with their thousands of throbbing lamps.
From time to time a crocodile splashed in the water as he slid heavily down the clayey bank at the bow.
In the trees and rubber-vines all about us a colony of long-armed wah-wah monkeys whistled and chattered, and farther away the sharp, rasping note of a cicada kept up a continuous protest at our invasion.
At intervals the long, quivering yell of a tiger frightened the garrulous monkeys into silence, and made us peer apprehensively toward the impenetrable blackness of the jungle.
Aboo Din came to me as I was arranging my mosquito curtains for the night. He was casting quick, timid glances over his shoulder as he talked.
"Tuan, I no like this place. Too close bank. Ten boat-lengths down stream better. Baboo swear by Allah he see faces behind trees,—once, twice. Baboo good eyes."
I shook off the uncanny feeling that the place was beginning to cast over me, and turned fiercely on the faithful Aboo Din.
He slunk away with a low salaam, muttering something about the Heaven-Born being all wise, and later I saw him in deep converse with his first-born under a palm-thatched cadjang on the bow.
I was half inclined to take Aboo Din's advice and drop down the stream. Then it occurred to me that I might better face an imaginary foe than the whirlpools and sunken snags of the Pahang.
I posted sentinels fore and aft and lay down and closed my eyes to the legion of fireflies that made the night luminous, and my ears to the low, musical chant that arose fitfully from among my Malay servants on the stern.
The Sikhs were big, massive fellows, fully six feet tall, with towering red turbans that accentuated their height fully a foot.
They were regular artillery-men from Fort Canning, and had seen service all over India.
They had not been in Singapore long enough to become acquainted with the Malay language or character, but they knew their duty, and I trusted to their military training rather than to my Malay's superior knowledge for our safety during the night.
I found out later that the cunning in Baboo's small brown finger was worth all the precision and drill in the Sikh sergeant's great body.
I fell asleep at last, lulled by the tenderly crooned promises of the Koran, and the drowsy, intermittent prattle of the monkeys among the varnished leaves above. The night was intensely hot; not a breath of air could stir within our living-cabin, and the cooling moisture which always comes with nightfall on the equator was lapped up by the thirsty fronds above our heads, so that I had not slept many hours before I awoke dripping with perspiration, and faint.
There was an impression in my mind that I had been awakened by the falling of glass.
The Sikh saluted silently as I stepped out on the deck.
It lacked some hours of daylight, and there was nothing to do but go back to my bed, vowing never again to camp for the night along the steaming shores of a jungle-covered stream.
I slept but indifferently; I missed the cooling swish of the punkah, and all through my dreams the crackle and breaking of glass seemed to mingle with the insistent buzz of the tiger-gnats.
Baboo's diminutive form kept flitting between me and the fireflies.
The first half-lights of morning were struggling down through the green canopy above when I was brought to my feet by the discharge of a Winchester and a long, shrill cry of fright and pain.
Before I could disentangle myself from the meshes of the mosquito net I could see dimly a dozen naked forms drop lightly on to the deck from the obscurity of the bank, followed in each case by a long, piercing scream of pain.
I snatched up my revolver and rushed out on to the deck in my bare feet.
Some one grasped me by the shoulder and shouted:—
"Jaga biak, biak, Tuan (be careful, Tuan), pirates!"
I recognized Aboo Din's voice, and I checked myself just as my feet came in contact with a broken beer bottle.
The entire surface of the little deck was strewn with glittering star-shaped points that corresponded with the fragments before me.
I had not a moment to investigate, however, for in the gloom, where the bow of the launch touched the foliage-meshed bank, a scene of wild confusion was taking place.
Shadowy forms were leaping, one after another, from the branches above on to the deck. I slowly cocked my revolver, doubting my senses, for each time one of the invaders reached the deck he sprang into the air with the long, thrilling cry of pain that had awakened me, and with another bound was on the bulwarks and over the side of the launch, clinging to the railing.
With each cry, Baboo's mocking voice came out, shrill and exultant, from behind a pile of life-preservers. "O Allah, judge the dogs. They would kris the great Tuan as he slept—the pariahs!—but they forgot so mean a thing as Baboo!"
The smell of warm blood filled the air, and a low snarl among the rubber-vines revealed the presence of a tiger.
I felt Aboo Din's hand tremble on my shoulder.
The five Sikhs were drawn up in battle array before the cabin door, waiting for the word of command. I glanced at them and hesitated.
"Tid 'apa, Tuan" (never mind), Aboo Din whispered with a proud ring in his voice.
"Baboo blow Orang Kayah's men away with the breath of his mouth."
As he spoke the branches above the bow were thrust aside and a dark form hung for an instant as though in doubt, then shot straight down upon the corrugated surface of the deck.
As before, a shriek of agony heralded the descent, followed by Baboo's laugh, then the dim shape sprang wildly upon the bulwark, lost its hold, and went over with a great splash among the labyrinth of snakelike mangrove roots.
There was the rushing of many heavy forms through the red mud, a snapping of great jaws, and there was no mistaking the almost mortal cry that arose from out the darkness. I had often heard it when paddling softly up one of the wild Malayan rivers.
It was the death cry of a wah-wah monkey facing the cruel jaws of a crocodile.
I plunged my fingers into my ears to smother the sound. I understood it all now. Baboo's pirates, the dreaded Orang Kayah's rebels, were the troop of monkeys we had heard the night before in the tambusa trees.
"Baboo," I shouted, "come here! What does this all mean?"
The Tiger-Child glided from behind the protecting pile, and came close up to my legs.
"Tuan," he whimpered, "Baboo see many faces behind trees. Baboo 'fraid for Tuan,—Tuan great and good,—save Baboo from tiger,—Baboo break up all glass bottles—old bottles—Tuan no want old bottle—Baboo and Aboo Din, the father, put them on deck so when Orang Kayah's men come out of jungle and drop from trees on deck they cut their feet on glass. Baboo is through talking,—Tuan no whip Baboo!"
There was the pathetic little quaver in his voice that I knew so well.
"But they were monkeys, Baboo, not pirates."
Baboo shrugged his brown shoulders and kept his eyes on my feet.
"Allah is good!" he muttered.
Allah was good; they might have been pirates.
The snarl of the tiger was growing more insistent and near. I gave the order, and the boat backed out into mid-stream.
As the sun was reducing the gloom of the sylvan tunnel to a translucent twilight, we floated down the swift current toward the ocean.
I had given up all hope of finding the shipwrecked men, and decided to ask the government to send a gunboat to demand their release.
As the bow of the launch passed the wreck of the Bunker Hill and responded to the long even swell of the Pacific, Baboo beckoned sheepishly to Aboo Din, and together they swept all trace of his adventure into the green waters.
Among the souvenirs of my sojourn in Golden Chersonese is a bit of amber-colored glass bearing the world-renowned name of a London brewer. There is a dark stain on one side of it that came from the hairy foot of one of Baboo's "pirates."
HOW WE PLAYED ROBINSON CRUSOE
In the Straits of Malacca
Two hours' steam south from Singapore, out into the famous Straits of Malacca, or one day's steam north from the equator, stands Raffles's Lighthouse. Sir Stamford Raffles, the man from whom it took its name, rests in Westminster Abbey, and a heroic-sized bronze statue of him graces the centre of the beautiful ocean esplanade of Singapore, the city he founded.
It was on the rocky island on which stands this light, that we—the mistress and I—played Robinson Crusoe, or, to be nearer the truth, Swiss Family Robinson.
It was hard to imagine, I confess, that the beautiful steam launch that brought us was a wreck; that our half-dozen Chinese servants were members of the family; that the ton of impedimenta was the flotsam of the sea; that the Eurasian keeper and his attendants were cannibals; but we closed our eyes to all disturbing elements, and only remembered that we were alone on a sunlit rock in the midst of a sunlit sea, and that the dreams of our childhood were, to some extent, realized.
What live American boy has not had the desire, possibly but half-admitted, to some day be like his hero, dear old Crusoe, on a tropical island, monarch of all, hampered by no dictates of society or fashion? I admit my desire, and, further, that it did not leave me as I grew older.
We had just time to inspect our little island home before the sun went down, far out in the Indian Ocean.
Originally the island had been but a barren, uneven rock, the resting-place for gulls; but now its summit has been made flat by a coating of concrete. There is just enough earth between the concrete and the rocky edges of the island to support a circle of cocoanut trees, a great almond tree, and a queer-looking banian tree, whose wide-spreading arms extend over nearly half the little plaza. Below the lighthouse, and set back like caves into the side of the island, are the kitchen and the servants' quarters, a covered passageway connecting them with the rotunda of the tower, in which we have set our dining table.
Ah Ming, our "China boy," seemed to be inveterate in his determination to spoil our Swiss Family Robinson illusion. We were hardly settled before he came to us.
"Mem" (mistress), "no have got ice-e-blox. Ice-e all glow away."
"Very well, Ming. Dig a hole in the ground, and put the ice in it."
"How can dig? Glound all same, hard like ice-e."
"Well, let the ice melt," I replied. "Robinson Crusoe had no ice."
In a half-hour Jim, the cook, came up to speak to the "Mem." He lowered his cue, brushed the creases out of his spotless shirt, drew his face down, and commenced:—
"Mem, no have got chocolate, how can make puddlin'?"
I laughed outright. Jim looked hurt.
"Jim, did you ever hear of one Crusoe?"
"No, Tuan!" (Lord.)
"Well, he was a Tuan who lived for thirty years without once eating chocolate 'puddlin'.' We'll not eat any for ten days. Sabe?"
Jim retired, mortified and astonished.
Inside of another half-hour, the Tukang Ayer, or water-carrier, arrived on the scene. He was simply dressed in a pair of knee-breeches. He complained of a lack of silver polish, and was told to pound up a stone for the knives, and let the silver alone.
We are really in the heart of a small archipelago. All about us are verdure-covered islands. They are now the homes of native fishermen, but a century ago they were hiding-places for the fierce Malayan pirates whose sanguinary deeds made the peninsula a byword in the mouths of Europeans.
A rocky beach extends about the island proper, contracting and expanding as the tide rises and falls. On this beach a hundred and one varieties of shells glisten in the salt water, exposing their delicate shades of coloring to the rays of the sun. Coral formations of endless design and shape come to view through the limpid spectrum, forming a perfect submarine garden of wondrous beauty. Through the shrubs, branches, ferns, and sponges of coral, the brilliantly colored fish of the Southern seas sport like goldfish in some immense aquarium.
We draw out our chairs within the protection of the almond tree, and watch the sun sink slowly to a level with the masts of a bark that is bound for Java and the Bornean coasts. The black, dead lava of our island becomes molten for the time, and the flakes of salt left on the coral reef by the outgoing tide are filled with suggestions of the gold of the days of '49. A faint breeze rustles among the long, fan-like leaves of the palm, and brings out the rich yellow tints with their background of green. A clear, sweet aroma comes from out the almond tree. The red sun and the white sheets of the bark sail away together for the Spice Islands of the South Pacific.
We sleep in a room in the heart of the lighthouse. The stairway leading to it is so steep that we find it necessary to hold on to a knotted rope as we ascend. Hundreds of little birds, no larger than sparrows, dash by the windows, flying into the face of the gale that rages during the night, keeping up all the time a sharp, high note that sounds like wind blowing on telegraph wires.
Every morning, at six o'clock, Ah Ming clambers up the perpendicular stairway, with tea and toast. We swallow it hurriedly, wrap a sarong about us, and take a dip in the sea, the while keeping our eyes open for sharks. Often, after a bath, while stretched out in a long chair, we see the black fins of a man-eater cruising just outside the reef. I do not know that I ever hit one, but I have used a good deal of lead firing at them.
One morning we started on an exploring expedition, in the keeper's jolly-boat. It was only a short distance to the first island, a small rocky one, with a bit of sandy beach, along which were scattered the charred embers of past fires. From under our feet darted the grotesque little robber-crabs, with their stolen shell houses on their backs. A great white jellyfish, looking like a big tapioca pudding, had been washed up with the tide out of the reach of the sea, and a small colony of ants was feasting on it. We did not try to explore the interior of the islet. We named it Fir Island from its crown of fir-like casuarina trees, which sent out on every breeze a balsamic odor that was charged with far-away New England recollections.
The next island was a large one. The keeper said it was called Pulo Seneng, or Island of Leisure, and held a little kampong, or village of Malays, under an old punghulo, or chief, named Wahpering. We found, on nearing the verdure-covered island, that it looked much larger than it really was. The woods grew out into the sea for a quarter of a mile. We entered the wood by a narrow walled inlet, and found ourselves for the first time in a mangrove swamp. The trees all seemed to be growing on stilts. A perfect labyrinth of roots stood up out of the water, like a rough scaffold, on which rested the tree trunks, high and dry above the flood. From the limbs of the trees hung the seed pods, two feet in length, sharp-pointed at the lower end, while on the upper end, next to the tree, was a russet pear-shaped growth. They are so nicely balanced that when in their maturity they drop from the branches, they fall upright in the mud, literally planting themselves.
The punghulo's house, or bungalow, stood at the head of the inlet. The old man—he must have been sixty—donned his best clothes, relieved his mouth of a great red quid of betel, and came out to welcome us. He gracefully touched his forehead with the back of his open palm, and mumbled the Malay greeting:—
"Tabek, Tuan?" (How are you, my lord?)
When the keeper gave him our cards, and announced us in florid language, the genial old fellow touched his forehead again, and in his best Bugis Malay begged the great Rajah and Ranee to enter his humble home.
The only way of entering a Malay home is by a rickety ladder six feet high, and through a four-foot opening. I am afraid that the great "Rajah and Ranee" lost some of their lately acquired dignity in accepting the invitation.
Wahpering's bungalow, other than being larger and roomier than the ordinary bungalow, was exactly like all others in style and architecture.
It was built close to the water's edge, on palm posts six feet above the ground. This was for protection from the tiger, from thieves, from the water, and for sanitary reasons. Within the house we could just stand upright. The floor was of split bamboo, and was elastic to the foot, causing a sensation which at first made us step carefully. The open places left by the crossing of the bamboo slats were a great convenience to the punghulo's wives, as they could sweep all the refuse of the house through them; they might also be a great accommodation to the punghulo's enemies, if he had any, for they could easily ascertain the exact mat on which he slept, and stab him with their keen krises from beneath.
In one corner of the room was the hand-loom on which the punghulo's old wife was weaving the universal article of dress, the sarong.
The weaving of a sarong represents the labor of twenty days, and when we gave the dried-up old worker two dollars and a half for one, her syrah-stained gums broke forth from between her bright-red lips in a ghastly grin of pleasure.
There must have been the representatives of at least four generations under the punghulo's hospitable roof. Men and women, alike, were dressed in the skirt-like sarong which fell from the waist down; above that some of the older women wore another garment called a kabaya. The married women were easily distinguishable by their swollen gums and filed teeth.
The roof and sides of the house were of attap. This is made from the long, arrow-like leaves of the nipah palm. Unlike its brother palms—the cocoa, the sago, the gamooty, and the areca—the nipah is short, and more like a giant cactus in growth. Its leaves are stripped off by the natives, then bent over a bamboo rod and sewed together with fibres of the same palm. When dry they become glazed and waterproof.
The tall, slender areca palm, which stands about every kampong, supplies the natives with their great luxury—an acorn, known as the betel-nut, which, when crushed and mixed with lime leaves, takes the place of our chewing tobacco. In fact, the bright-red juice seen oozing from the corners of a Malay's mouth is as much a part of himself as is his sarong or kris. Betel-nut chewing holds its own against the opium of the Chinese and the tobacco of the European.
As soon as we shook hands ceremoniously with the punghulo's oldest wife, and tabeked to the rest of his big family, the old man scrambled down the ladder, and sent a boy up a cocoanut tree for some fresh nuts. In a moment half a dozen of the great, oval, green nuts came pounding down into the sand. Another little fellow snatched them up, and with a sharp parang, or hatchet-like knife, cut away the soft shuck until the cocoanut took the form of a pyramid, at the apex of which he bored a hole, and a stream of delicious, cool milk gurgled out. We needed no second invitation to apply our lips to the hole. The meat inside was so soft that we could eat it with a spoon. The cocoanut of commerce contains hardly a suggestion of the tender, fleshy pulp of a freshly picked nut.
We left the punghulo's house with the old chief in the bow of our boat—he insisted upon seeing that we were properly announced to his subjects—and proceeded along the coast for half a mile, and then up a swampy lagoon to its head.
The tall tops of the palms wrapped everything in a cool, green twilight. The waters of the lagoon were filled with little bronze forms, swimming and sporting about in its tepid depths regardless of the cruel eyes that gleamed at them from great log-like forms among the mangrove roots.
Dozens of naked children fled up the rickety ladders of their homes as we approached. Ring-doves flew through the trees, and tame monkeys chattered at us from every corner. The men came out to meet us, and did the hospitalities of their village; and when we left, our boat was loaded down with presents of fish and fruit.
Almost every day after that did we visit the kampong, and were always welcomed in the same cordial manner.
Wahpering was tireless in his attentions. He kept his Sampan Besar, or big boat, with its crew at our disposal day after day.
One day I showed him the American flag. He gazed at it thoughtfully and said, "Biak!" (Good.) "How big your country?" I tried to explain. He listened for a moment. "Big as Negri Blanda?" (Holland.) I laughed. "A thousand times larger!" The old fellow shook his head sadly, and looked at me reproachfully.
"Tidah! Tidah!" (No, no.) "Rajah, Orang Blanda (Dutchman) show me chart of the world. Holland all red. Take almost all the world. Rest of country small, small. All in one little corner. How can Rajah say his country big?"
There was no denying the old man's knowledge; I, too, had seen one of these Dutch maps of the world, which are circulated in Java to make the natives think that Holland is the greatest nation on earth.
One day glided into another with surprising rapidity. We could swim, explore, or lie out in our long chairs and read and listlessly dream. All about our little island the silver sheen of the sea was checkered with sails. These strange native craft held for me a lasting fascination. I gazed out at them as they glided by and saw in them some of the rose-colored visions of my youth. Piracy, Indian Rajahs, and spice islands seemed to live in their queer red sails and palm-matting roofs. At night a soft, warm breeze blew from off shore and lulled us to sleep ere we were aware.
One morning the old chief made us a visit before we were up. He announced his approach by a salute from a muzzle-loading musket. I returned it by a discharge from my revolver. He had come over with the morning tide to ask us to spend the day, as his guests, wild-pig hunting. Of course we accepted with alacrity. I am not going to tell you how we found all the able-bodied men and dogs on the island awaiting us, how they beat the jungle with frantic yells and shouts while we waited on the opposite side, or even how many pigs we shot. It would all take too long.
We went fishing every day. The many-colored and many-shaped fish we caught were a constant wonderment to us. One was bottle-green, with sky-blue fins and tail, and striped with lines of gold. Its skin was stiff and firm as patent leather. Another was pale blue, with a bright-red proboscis two inches long. We caught cuttle-fish with great lustrous eyes, long jelly feelers, and a plentiful supply of black fluid; squibs, prawns, mullets, crabs, and devil-fish. These last are considered great delicacies by the natives. We had one fried. Its meat was perfectly white, and tasted like a tallow candle.
The day on which we were to leave, Wahpering brought us some fruit and fish and a pair of ring-doves. Motioning me to one side, he whispered, the while looking shyly at the mistress, "Ranee very beautiful! How much you pay?" I was staggered for the moment, and made him repeat his question. This time I could not mistake him. "How much you pay for wife?" He gave his thumb a jerk in the direction of the mistress. I saw that he was really serious, so I collected my senses, and with a practical, businesslike air answered, "Two hundred dollars." The old fellow sighed.
"The great Rajah very rich! I pay fifty for best wife."
I have not tried to tell you all we did on our tropical island playing Robinson Crusoe. I have only tried to convey some little impression of a happy ten days that will ever be remembered as one more of those glorious, Oriental chapters in our lives which are filled with the gorgeous colors of crimson and gold, the delicate perfumes of spice-laden breezes, and with imperishable visions of a strange, old-world life.
They are chapters that we can read over and over again with an ever increasing interest as the years roll by.
The Malay's Chief Garment
No one knows who invented the sarong. When the great Sir Francis Drake skirted the beautiful jungle-bound shores of that strange Asian peninsula which seems forever to be pointing a wondering finger into the very heart of the greatest archipelago in the world, he found its inhabitants wearing the sarong. After a lapse of three centuries they still wear it,—neither Hindu invasion, Mohammedan conversion, Chinese immigration, nor European conquest has ever taken from them their national dress. Civilization has introduced many articles of clothing; but no matter how many of these are adopted, the Malay, from his Highness the Sultan of Johore, to the poorest fisherman of a squalid kampong on the muddy banks of a mangrove-hidden stream, religiously wears the sarong.
It is only an oblong cloth, this fashion-surviving garb, from two to four feet in width and some two yards long; sewn together at the ends. It looks like a gingham bag with the bottom out. The wearer steps into it, and with two or three ingenious twists tightens it round the waist, thus forming a skirt and, at the same time, a belt in which he carries the kris, or snake-like dagger, the inevitable pouch of areca nut for chewing, and the few copper cents that he dares not trust in his unlocked hut. The man's skirt falls to his knees, and among the poor class forms his only article of dress, while the woman's reaches to her ankles and is worn in connection with another sarong that is thrown over her head as a veil, so that when she is abroad and meets one of the opposite sex she can, Moslem-like, draw it about her face in the form of a long, narrow slit, showing only her coal-black eyes and thinly pencilled eyebrows.
In style or design the sarong never changes. Like the tartan of the Highlanders, which it greatly resembles, it is invariably a check of gay colors. They are all woven of silk or cotton, or of silk and cotton mixed, by the native women, and no attap-thatched home is complete without its hand-loom.
One day we crawled up the narrow, rickety ladder that led into the two by four opening of old Wahpering's palm-shaded home. The little punghulo or chief, touched his forehead with the back of his open palm as we advanced cautiously over the open bamboo floor toward his old wife, who was seated in one corner by a low, horizontal window, weaving a sarong on a hand-loom. She looked up pleasantly with a soft "Tabek" (Greeting), and went on throwing her shuttle deftly through the brilliantly colored threads. The sharp bang of the dark, kamooning-wood bar drove the thread in place and left room for another. Back and forth flew the shuttle, and thread after thread was added to the fabric, yet no perceptible addition seemed to be made.
"How long does it take to finish it?" I asked in Malay.
"Twenty days," she answered, with a broad smile, showing her black, filed teeth and syrah-stained lips.
The red and brown sarong which she wore twisted tightly up under her armpits had cost her almost a month's work; the green and yellow one her chief wore about his waist, a month more; the ones she used as screens to divide the interior into rooms, and those of the bevy of sons and daughters of all ages that crowded about us each cost a month's more; and yet the labor and material combined in each represented less than two dollars of our money at the Bazaar in Singapore.
I had not the heart to take the one that she offered the mistress, but insisted on giving in exchange a pearl-handled penknife, which the chief took, with many a touch of his forehead, "as a remembrance of the condescension of the Orang American Rajah."
Wahpering's wife was not dressed to receive us, for we had come swiftly up the dim lagoon, over which her home was built, and had landed on the sandy beach unannounced. Had she known that we were coming, she would have been dressed as became the wife of the Punghulo of Pulo Seneng (Island of Leisure). The long, black hair would have been washed beautifully clean with the juice of limes, and twisted up as a crown on the top of her head. In it would have been stuck pins of the deep-red gold from Mt. Ophir, and sprays of jasmine and chumpaka. Under her silken sarong would have been an inner garment of white cotton, about her waist a zone of beaded cloth held in front by an oval plate, and over all would have been thrown a long, loose dressing-gown, called the kabaya, falling to her knees and fastened down the front to the silver girdle with golden brooches. Her toes would have been covered with sandals cunningly embroidered in colored beads and gold tinsel.
Wahpering, too, might have added to his sarong a thin vest, buttoned close up to the neck, a light dimity baju, or jacket, and a pair of loose silk drawers. They made no apology for their appearance, but did the honors of the house with a native grace, regaling us with the cool, fresh milk of the cocoanut, and the delicious globes of the mangosteens.
The glare of the noonday sun, here on the equator, is inconceivable. It beats down in bald, irregular waves of heat that seem to stifle every living being and to burn the foliage to a cinder. Even the sharp, insistent whir of the cicada ceases when the thermometer on the sunny side of our palm-thatched bungalow reaches 155 deg.. If I am forced to go outside, I don my cork helmet, and hold a paper umbrella above it. Even then, after I have gone a half-hour, I feel dizzy and sick. I pass native after native, whose only head covering, if they have any at all save their short-cut black hair, is a handkerchief, stiffened, and tied with a peculiar twist on the head, or a rimless cap with possibly a text of the Koran embroidered on its front. It is only when they are on the sea from early morning to sunset, that they think it worth while to protect their heads with an umbrella-shaped, cane-worked head frame like those worn by the natives of Siam and China. The women I meet simply draw their sarongs more closely about their heads as the sun ascends higher and higher into the heavens, and go clattering off down the road in their wooden pattens, unconscious of my envy or wonderment.
The sarong is more to the Malay than is the kilt to the Scotchman. It is his dress by day and his covering at night. He uses it as a sail when far out from land in his cockle-shell boat, or as a bag in which to carry his provisions when following an elephant path through the dense jungle.
The checks, in its design, although indistinguishable to the European, differ according to his tribe or clan, and serve him as a means of identification wherever he may be on the peninsula.
The sarong and kris are distinctly and solely Malayan; they are shared with no other country; they are to be placed side by side with the green turban of the Moslem pilgrim and the cimeter of the Prophet.
A history of one, like the history of the other, embraces all that is tragical or romantic in Malayan story.
And how the Malays use it
In an old dog-eared copy of Monteith's Geography, I remember a picture of a half-dozen pirate prahus attacking a merchantman off a jungle-bordered shore. A blazing sun hung high in the heavens above the fated ship, and, to my youthful imagination, seemed to beat down on the tropical scene with a fierce, remorseless intensity. The wedge-shaped tops of some palm-thatched and palm-shaded huts could just be seen, set well back from the shore.
I used to think that if I were a boy on that ship, I would slip quietly overboard, swim ashore, and while the pirates were busy fighting, I would set fire to their homes and so deliver the ship from their clutches. Little did I know then of the acres of bewildering mangrove swamps filled with the treacherous crocodiles that lie between the low-water line and the firm ground of the coast.
But always the most striking thing in the little woodcut to me were the curious, snake-like knives that the naked natives held in their hands. I had never seen anything like them before. I went to the encyclopaedia and found that the name of the knife was spelled kris and pronounced creese.
The day-dreams which seemed impossible in the days of Monteith's Geography have since been realized. I am living, perhaps, within sight of the very place where the scene of the picture was laid; for it was supposed to be illustrative of the Malay Peninsula; and, as I write, one of those snake-like krises lies on the table before me. It is a handsomer kris than those used by the actors in that much-studied picture of my youth. The sheath and handle are of solid gold—a rich yellow gold, mined at the foot of Mount Ophir, the very same mountain so famous in Bible history, from which King Solomon brought "gold, peacocks' feathers, and monkeys." The wavy, flame-like blade is veined with gold, and its dull silvery surface is damascened with as much care as was ever taken with the old swords of Damascus. It is only an inch in width and a foot in length and does not look half as dangerous as a Turkish cimeter; yet it has a history that would put that of the tomahawk or the scalping-knife to shame. Many a fat Chinaman, trading between the Java islands and Amoy, has felt its keen edge at his throat and seen his rich cargo of spices and bird's-nests rifled, his beloved Joss thrown overboard, and his queer old junk burnt before his eyes. Many a Dutch and English merchantman sailed from Batavia and Bombay in the days of the old East India Company and has never more been heard of until some mutilated survivor returned with a harrowing tale of Malay piracy and of the lightning-like work of the dreaded kris.
I do not know whether my kris has ever taken life or not. Had it done so, I do not think the Sultan would have given it to me, for a kris becomes almost priceless after its baptism of blood. It is handed down from generation to generation, and its sanguine history becomes a part of the education of the young. Next to his Koran the kris is the most sacred thing the Malay possesses. He regards it with an almost superstitious reverence. My kris is dear to me, not from any superstitious reasons, but because it was given me by his Highness, the Sultan of Johore, the only independent sovereign on the peninsula, and because the gold of its sheath came from the jungle-covered slopes of Mount Ophir.
The maker of the kris is a person of importance among the Malays, and ofttimes he is made by his grateful Rajah a Dato, or Lord, for his skill. Like the blades of the sturdy armorers of the Crusades, his blades are considered, as he fashions them from well-hammered and well-tempered Celebes iron, works of art and models for futurity. He is exceedingly punctilious in regard to their shape, size, and general formation, and the process of giving them their beautiful water lines is quite a ceremony. First the razor-like edges are covered with a thin coating of wax to protect them from the action of the acids; then a mixture of boiled rice, sulphur, and salt is put on the blade and left for seven days until a film of rust rises to the surface. The blade is then immersed in the water of a young cocoanut or the juice of a pineapple and left seven days longer. It is next brushed with the juice of a lemon until all the rust is cleared away, and then rubbed with arsenic dissolved in lime-juice and washed with cold spring water. Finally it is anointed with cocoanut oil, and as a concluding test of its fineness and temper, it is said that in the old days its owner would rush out into the kampong, or village, and stab the first person he met.
The sheath of the kris is generally made of kamooning wood, but often of ivory, gold, or silver. The handle, while more frequently of wood or buffalo horn, is sometimes of gold studded with precious stones and worth more than all the other possessions of its owner put together.
The kris, too, has its etiquette. It is always worn on the left side stuck into the folds of the sarong, or skirt, the national dress of the Malay. During an interview it is considered respectful to conceal it; and its handle is turned with its point close to the body of the wearer, if the wearer be friendly. If, however, there is ill blood existing, and the wearer is angry, the kris is exposed, and the point of the handle turned the reverse way.
The kris as a weapon of offence and defence is now almost a thing of the past. It is rapidly going the way of the tomahawk and the boomerang—into the collector's cabinet. There is a law in Singapore that forbids its being worn, and outside of Johore and the native states it is seldom seen. It is still used as an executioner's knife by the protected Sultan of Selangor, its keen point being driven into the heart of the victim; but in a few years that practice, too, will be abolished by the humane intervention of the English government.
It is to be hoped that the record of the kris is not as bad as it has been painted by some, and that at times in its bloody career it has been on the side of justice and right. The part it took in the piracy that once made the East Indian seas so famous was not always done for the sake of gain, but often for revenge and for independence.
THE WHITE RAJAH OF BORNEO
The Founding of Sarawak
In the East Indian seas, by Europeans and natives alike, two names are revered with a singleness and devotion that place them side by side with the national heroes of all countries.
The men that bear the names are Englishmen, yet the countless islands of the vast Malayan archipelago are populated by a hundred European, African, and Asiatic races.
Sir Stamford Raffles founded the great city of Singapore, and Sir James Brooke, the "White Rajah," carved out of a tropical wilderness just across the equator, in Borneo, the kingdom of Sarawak.
There is no one man in all history with whom you may compare Rajah Brooke. His career was the score of a hero of the footlights or of the dime novel rather than the life of an actual history-maker in this prosaic nineteenth century. What is true of him is also true in a less degree of his famous nephew and successor, Sir Charles Brooke, G. C. M. C., the present Rajah.
One morning in Singapore, as I sipped my tea and broke open one cool, delicious mangosteen after another, I was reading in the daily Straits Times an account of the descent of a band of head-hunting Dyaks from the jungles of the Rejang River in Borneo on an isolated fishing kampong, or village,—of how they killed men, women, and children, and carried their heads back to their strongholds in triumph, and of how, in the midst of their feasting and ceremonies, Rajah Brooke, with a little company of fierce native soldiery, had surprised and exterminated them to the last man; and just then the sound of heavy cannonading in the harbor below caused me to drop my paper.
In a moment the great guns from Fort Canning answered. I counted—seventeen—and turned inquiringly to the naked punkah-wallah, who stood just outside in the shade of the wide veranda, listlessly pulling the rattan rope that moved the stiff fan above me.
His brown, open palm went respectfully to his forehead.
"His Highness, the Rajah of Sarawak," he answered proudly in Malay. "He come in gunboat Ranee to the Gymkhana races,—bring gold cup for prizes and fast runners. Come every year, Tuan."
I had forgotten that it was the first day of the long-looked-for Gymkhana races. A few hours later I met this remarkable man, whose thrilling exploits had commanded my earliest boyish admiration.
The kindly old Sultan of Johore, the old rebel Sultan of Pahang, the Sultan of Lingae, in all the finery of their native silks and jewels, the nobles of their courts, and a dozen other dignitaries, were on the grandstand and in the paddock as we entered, yet no one but a modest, gray-haired little man by the side of the English governor had any place in my thoughts. We knew his history. It was as romantic as the wild careers of Pizarro and Cortez; as charming as those of Robinson Crusoe and the dear old Swiss Family Robinson; as tragic as Captain Kidd's or Morgan's; and withal, it was modelled after our own Washington. In him I saw the full realization of every boy's wildest dreams,—a king of a tropical island.
The bell above the judges' pavilion sounded, and a little whirlwind of running griffins dashed by amid the yells of a thousand natives in a dozen different tongues. The Rajah leaned out over the gayly decorated railing with the eagerness of a boy, as he watched his own colors in the thick of the race.
The surging mass of nakedness below caught sight of him, and another yell rent the air, quite distinct from the first, for Malayan and Kling, Tamil and Siamese, Dyak and Javanese, Hindu, Bugis, Burmese, and Lascar, recognized the famous White Rajah of Borneo, the man who, all unaided, had broken the power of the savage head-hunting Dyaks, and driven from the seas the fierce Malayan pirates. The yell was not a cheer. It was a tribute that a tiger might make to his tamer.
The Rajah understood. He was used to such sinister outbursts of admiration, for he never took his eyes from the course. He was secure on his throne now, but I could not but wonder if that yell, which sent a strange thrill through me, did not bring up recollections of one of the hundred sanguinary scenes through which he and his great uncle, the elder Rajah Brooke, had gone when fighting for their lives and kingdom.
The Sultan of Johore's griffin won, and the Rajah stepped back to congratulate him. I, too, passed over to where he stood, and the kindly old Sultan took me by the hand.
"I have a very tender spot in my heart for all Americans," the Rajah replied to his Highness's introduction. "It was your great republic that first recognized the independence of Sarawak."
As we chatted over the triumph of Gladstone, the silver bill, the tariff, and a dozen topics of the day, I was thinking of the head-hunters of whom I had read in the morning paper. I was thinking, too, of how this man's uncle had, years before, with a boat's crew of English boys, carved out of an unknown island a principality larger than the state of New York, reduced its savage population to orderly tax-paying citizens, cleared the Borneo and Java seas of their thousands of pirate praus, and in their place built up a merchant fleet and a commerce of nearly five millions of dollars a year. The younger Rajah, too, had done his share in the making of the state. In his light tweed suit and black English derby, he did not look the strange, impossible hero of romance I had painted him; but there was something in his quiet, clear, well-bred English accent, and the strong, deep lines about his eyes and mouth, that impressed one with a consciousness of tremendous reserve force. He spoke always slowly, as though wearied by early years of fighting and exposure in the searching heat of the Bornean sun.
We became better acquainted later at balls and dinners, and he was never tired of thanking me for my country's kindness.
In 1819, when the English took Malacca and the Malay peninsula from the Dutch, they agreed to surrender all claims to the islands south of the pirate-infested Straits of Malacca.
The Dutch, contented with the fabulously rich island of Java and its twenty-six millions of mild-mannered natives, left the great islands of Sumatra, Borneo, and Papua to the savage rulers and savage nations that held them.
The son of an English clergyman, on a little schooner, with a friend or two and a dozen sailors, sailed into these little known and dangerous waters one day nineteen years later. His mind was filled with dreams of an East-Indian empire; he was burning to emulate Cortez and Pizarro, without practising their abuses. He had entered the English army and had been so dangerously wounded while leading a charge in India after his superiors had fallen that he had been retired on a pension before his twenty-first year. While regaining his health, he had travelled through India, Malaya, and China, and had written a journal of his wanderings. During this period his ambitions were crowding him on to an enterprise that was as foolhardy as the first voyage of Columbus.
He had spied those great tropical islands that touched the equator, and he coveted them.
After his father's death he invested his little fortune in a schooner, and in spite of all the protests and prayers of his family and friends, he sailed for Singapore, and thence across to the northwest coast of Borneo, landing at Kuching, on the Sarawak River, in 1838.
He had no clearly outlined plan of operations,—he was simply waiting his chance. The province of Sarawak, a dependency of the Sultan of Borneo, was governed by an old native rajah, whose authority was menaced by the fierce, head-hunting Dyaks of the interior. Brooke's chance had come. He boldly offered to put down the rebellion if the Rajah would make him his general and second to the throne. The Rajah cunningly accepted the offer, eager to let the hair-brained young infidel annoy his foes, but with no intention of keeping his promise.
After days of marching with his little crew and a small army of natives, through the almost impenetrable rubber jungles, after a dozen hard-fought battles and deeds of personal heroism, any one of which would make a story, the head-hunters were crushed and some kind of order restored. He refused to allow the Rajah to torture the prisoners,—thereby winning their gratitude,—and he refused to be dismissed from his office. He had won his rank, and he appealed to the Sultan. The wily Sultan recognized that in this stranger he had found a man who would be able to collect his revenue, and much to Brooke's surprise, a courier entered Kuching, the capital, one day and summarily dismissed the native Rajah and proclaimed the young Englishman Rajah of Sarawak.
Brooke was a king at last. His empire was before him, but he was only king because the reigning Sultan relinquished a part of his dominions that he was unable to control. The tasks to be accomplished before he could make his word law were ones that England, Holland, and the navies of Europe had shirked. His so-called subjects were the most notorious and daring pirates in the history of the world; they were head-hunters, they practised slavery, and they were cruel and blood-thirsty on land and sea. Out of such elements this boy king built his kingdom. How he did it would furnish tales that would outdo Verne, Kingston, and Stevenson.
He abolished military marauding and every form of slavery, established courts, missions, and school houses, and waged war, single-handed, against head-hunting and piracy.
Head-hunting is to the Dyaks what amok is to the Malays or scalping to the American Indians. It is even more. No Dyak woman would marry a man who could not decorate their home with at least one human head. Often bands of Dyaks, numbering from five to seven thousand, would sally forth from their fortifications and cruise along the coast four or five hundred miles, to surprise a village and carry the inhabitants' heads back in triumph.
To-day head-hunting is practically stamped out, as is running amok among the Malays, although cases of each occur from time to time.
As his subjects in the jungles were head-hunters, so those of the coast were pirates. Every harbor was a pirate haven. They lived in big towns, possessed forts and cannon, and acknowledged neither the suzerainty of the Sultan or the domination of the Dutch. They were stronger than the native rulers, and no European nation would go to the great expense of life and treasure needed to break their power. Brooke knew that his title would be but a mockery as long as the pirates commanded the mouths of all his rivers.
With his little schooner, armed with three small guns and manned by a crew of white companions and Dyak sailors, he gave battle first to the weaker strongholds, gradually attaching the defeated to his standard. He found himself at the end of nine years their master and a king in something more than name. Combined with the qualities of a fearless fighter, he had the faculty of winning the good will and admiration of his foes.
The fierce Suloos and Illanums became his fast friends. He left their chiefs in power, but punished every outbreak with a merciless hand.
One of the many incidents of his checkered career shows that his spirit was all-powerful among them. He had invited the Chinese from Amoy to take up their residence at his capital, Kuching. They were traders and merchants, and soon built up a commerce. They became so numerous in time that they believed they could seize the government. The plot was successful, and during a night attack they overcame the Rajah's small guard, and he escaped to the river in his pajamas without a single follower.
Sir Charles told me one day, as we conversed on the broad veranda of the consulate, that that night was the darkest in all his great uncle's stormy life. The hopes and work of years were shattered at a single blow, and he was an outcast with a price on his head.
The homeless king knelt in the bottom of the prau and prayed for strength, and then took up the oars and pulled silently toward the ocean. Near morning he was abreast of one of the largest Suloo forts—the home of his bitterest and bravest foes.
He turned the head of his boat to the shore and landed unarmed and undressed among the pirates. He surrendered his life, his throne, and his honor, into their keeping.
They listened silently, and then their scarred old chief stepped forward and placed a naked kris in the white man's hand and kissed his feet.
Before the sun went down that day the White Rajah was on his throne again, and ten thousand grim, fierce Suloos were hunting the Chinese like a pack of bloodhounds.
In 1848 Rajah Brooke decided to visit his old home in England, and ask his countrymen for teachers and missions. His fame had preceded him. All England was alive to his great deeds. There were greetings by enthusiastic crowds wherever he appeared, banquets by boards of trade, and gifts of freedom of cities. He was lodged in Balmoral Castle, knighted by the Queen, made Consul-General of Borneo, Governor of Labuan, Doctor of Laws by Oxford, and was the lion of the hour.
He returned to Sarawak, accompanied by European officers and friends, to carry on his great work of civilization, and to make of his little tropical kingdom a recognized power.
He died in 1868, and was carried back to England for burial, and I predict that at no distant day a grateful people will rise up and ask of England his body, that it may be laid to rest in the yellow sands under the graceful palms of the unknown nation of which he was the Washington.
His nephew, Sir Charles Brooke, who had also been his faithful companion for many years, succeeded him.
Sarawak has to-day a coast-line of over four hundred miles, with an area of fifty thousand square miles, and a population of three hundred thousand souls. The country produces gold, silver, diamonds, antimony, quicksilver, coal, gutta-percha, rubber, canes, rattan, camphor, beeswax, edible bird's-nests, sago, tapioca, pepper, and tobacco, all of which find their way to Singapore, and thence to Europe and America.
The Rajah is absolute head of the state; but he is advised by a legislative council composed of two Europeans and five native chiefs. He has a navy of a number of small but effective gunboats, and a well-trained and officered army of several hundred men, who look after the wild tribes of the interior of Borneo and guard the great coast-line from piratical excursions; otherwise they would be useless, as his rule is almost fatherly, and he is dearly beloved by his people.
It is impossible in one short sketch to relate a tenth of the daring deeds and startling adventures of these two white rajahs. Their lives have been written in two bulky volumes, and the American boy who loves stories that rival his favorite authors of adventure will find them by going to the library and asking for the "Life of the Rajah of Sarawak."
There is much in this "Life" that might be read by our statesmen and philanthropists with profit; for the building of a kingdom in a jungle of savage men and savage beasts places the name of Brooke of Borneo among those of the world's great men, as it does among those of the heroes of adventure.
One evening we were pacing back and forth on the deck of the Rajah's magnificent gunboat, the Ranee. A soft tropical breeze was blowing off shore. Thousands of lights from running rickshas and bullock carts were dancing along the wide esplanade that separates the city of Singapore from the sea. The strange old-world cries from the natives came out to us in a babel of sound.
Chinese in sampans and Malays in praus were gliding about our bows and back and forth between the great foreign men-of-war that overshadowed us. The Orient was on every hand, and I looked wonderingly at the slightly built, gray-haired man at my side, with a feeling that he had stepped from out some wild South Sea tale.
"Your Highness," I said, as we chatted, "tell me how you made subjects out of pirates and head-hunters, when our great nation, with all its power and gold, has only been able after one hundred years to make paupers out of our Indians."
"Do you see that man?" he replied, pointing to a stalwart, brown-faced Dyak, who in the blue and gold uniform of Sarawak was leaning idly against the bulwarks. "That is the Dato (Lord) Imaum, Judge of the Supreme Court of Sarawak. He was one of the most redoubtable of the Suloo pirates. My uncle fought him for eight years. In all that time he never broke his word in battle or in truce. When Sir James was driven from his throne by the Chinese, the Dato Imaum fought to reinstate him as his master.
"Civilization is only skin deep, and so is barbarism. Had your country never broken its word and been as just as it is powerful, your red men would have been to-day where our brown men are—our equals."
An hour later I stepped into my launch, which was lying alongside. The American flag at the peak came down, and the guns of the Ranee belched forth the consular salute.
I instinctively raised my hat as we glided over the phosphorescent waters of the harbor, for in my thoughts I was still in the presence of one of the great ones of the earth.
A Malayan Story
If you run amok in Malaya, you may perhaps kill your enemy or wound your dearest friend, but you may be certain that in the end you will be krissed like a pariah dog. Every man, woman, and child will turn his or her hand against you, from the mother who bore you to the outcast you have befriended. The laws are as immutable as fate.
Just where the great river Maur empties its vast volume of red water across a shifting bar into the Straits of Malacca, stands the kampong of Bander Maharani.
The Sultan Abubaker named the village in honor of his dead Sultana, and here, close down to the bank, was the palace of his nephew—the Governor, Prince Sulliman.
A wide, red, well-paved road separated the village of thatch and grass from the palace grounds, and ended at a wharf, up to which a steam-launch would dash from time to time, startling the half-grown crocodiles that slept beneath the rickety timbers.
Sometimes the little Prince Mat, the son of the Governor, came down to the wharf and played with the children of the captain of the launch, while his Tuan Penager, or Teacher, dozed beneath his yellow umbrella; and often, at their play, his Excellency would pause and watch them, smiling kindly.
At such times, the captain of the launch would fall upon his face, and thank the Prophet that he had lived to see that day. "For," he would say, "some day he may speak to me, and ask me for the wish I treasure."
Then he would go back to his work, polishing the brass on the railings of his boat, regardless of the watchful eyes that blinked at him from the mud beneath the wharf.
He smiled contentedly, for his mind was made up. He would not ask to be made master of the Sultan's marvellous yacht, that was sent out from Liverpool,—although the possibility made him catch his breath: he would ask nothing for himself,—he would ask that his Excellency let his son Noa go to Mecca, that he might become a hadji and then some day—who knows—Noa might become a kateeb in the attap-thatched mosque back of the palace.
And Noa, unmindful of his father's dreaming, played with the little Prince, kicking the ragga ball, or sailing miniature praus out into the river, and off toward the shimmering straits. But often they sat cross-legged and dropped bits of chicken and fruit between the palm sleepers of the wharf to the birch-colored crocodiles below, who snapped them up, one after another, never taking their small, cruel eyes off the brown faces that peered down at them.
Child-life is measured by a few short years in Malaya. The hot, moist air and the fierce rays of the equatorial sun fall upon child and plant alike, and they grow so fast that you can almost hear them!
The little Prince soon forgot his childhood companions in the gorgeous court of his Highness, the Sultan of Johore, and Noa took the place of his father on the launch, while the old man silently mourned as he leaned back in its stern, and alternately watched the sunlight that played along the carefully polished rails, and the deepening shadows that bound the black labyrinth of mangrove roots on the opposite shore. The Governor had never noted his repeated protestations and deep-drawn sighs.
"But who cares," he thought. "It is the will of Allah! The Prince will surely remember us when he returns."
On the very edge of Bander Maharani, just where the almost endless miles of betel-nut palms shut from view the yellow turrets of the palace, stood the palm-thatched bungalow in which Anak grew, in a few short years, from childhood to womanhood. The hot, sandy soil all about was covered with the flaxen burs of the betel, and the little sunlight that found its way down through the green and yellow fronds drew rambling checks on the steaming earth, that reminded Anak of the plaid on the silken sarong that Noa's father had given her the day she was betrothed to his son.
Up the bamboo ladder and into the little door,—so low that even Anak, with her scant twelve years, was forced to stoop,—she would dart when she espied Noa coming sedately down the long aisle of palms that led away to the fungus-covered canal that separated her little world from the life of the capital city.
There was coquetry in every glance, as she watched him, from behind the carved bars of her low window, drop contentedly down on the bench beneath a scarred old cocoanut that stood directly before the door. She thought almost angrily that he ought to have searched a little for her: she would have repaid him with her arms about his neck.
From the cool darkness of the bungalow came the regular click of her mother's loom. She could see the worker's head surrounded by a faint halo of broken twilight. Her mind filled in the details that were hidden by the green shadows—the drawn, stooping figure, the scant black hair, the swollen gums, the syrah-stained teeth, and sunken neck. She impulsively ran her soft brown fingers over her own warm, plump face, through the luxuriant tresses of her heavy hair, and then gazed out at the recumbent figure on the bench, waiting patiently for her coming.
"Soon my teeth, which the American lady that was visiting his Excellency said were so strong and beautiful, will be filed and blackened, and I will be weaving sarongs for Noa."
She shuddered, she knew not why, and went slowly across the elastic bamboo strips of the floor and down the ladder.
Noa watched the trim little figure with its single covering of cotton, the straight, graceful body, and perfectly poised head and delicate neck, the bare feet and ankles, the sweet, comely face with its fresh young lips, free from the red stains of the syrah leaf, and its big brown eyes that looked from beneath heavy silken lashes. He smiled, but did not stir as she came to him. He was proud of her after the manner of his kind. Her beauty appealed to him unconsciously, although he had never been taught to consider beauty, or even seek it. He would have married her without a question, if she had been as hideous as his sister, who was scarred with the small-pox. He would never have complained if, according to Malayan custom, he had not been permitted to have seen her until the marriage day. He must marry some one, now that the Prince had gone to Johore, and his father had given up all hope of seeing him a hadji; and besides, the captain of the launch and the old punghulo, or chief, Anak's father, were fast friends. The marriage meant little more to the man.
But to Anak,—once the Prince Mat had told her she was pretty, when she had come down to the wharf to beg a small crocodile to bury underneath her grandmother's bungalow to keep off white ants, and her cheeks glowed yet under her brown skin at the remembrance. Noa had never told her she was beautiful!