BY E. ALEXANDER POWELL
WHERE THE STRANGE TRAILS GO DOWN
THE NEW FRONTIERS OF FREEDOM
THE ARMY BEHIND THE ARMY
THE LAST FRONTIER
THE END OF THE TRAIL
FIGHTING IN FLANDERS
THE ROAD TO GLORY
VIVE LA FRANCE!
ITALY AT WAR
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
WHERE THE STRANGE TRAILS GO DOWN
WHERE THE STRANGE TRAILS GO DOWN
SULU, BORNEO, CELEBES, BALI, JAVA, SUMATRA, STRAITS SETTLEMENTS, MALAY STATES, SIAM, CAMBODIA, ANNAM, COCHIN-CHINA
BY E. ALEXANDER POWELL
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAP
NEW YORK CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 1921
COPYRIGHT, 1921, BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
Published October, 1921
PRINTED AT THE SCRIBNER PRESS NEW YORK, U. S. A.
THE WINSOME WIDOW MARGARET CAMPBELL McCUTCHEN WHO, DESPITE COUNTLESS DISCOMFORTS, ALWAYS KEPT SMILING
It is a curious thing, when you stop to think about it, that, though of late the public has been deluged with books on the South Seas, though the shelves of the public libraries sag beneath the volumes devoted to China, Japan, Korea, next to nothing has been written, save by a handful of scientifically-minded explorers, about those far-flung, gorgeous lands, stretching from the southern marches of China to the edges of Polynesia, which the ethnologists call Malaysia. Siam, Cambodia, Annam, Cochin-China, the Malay States, the Straits Settlements, Sumatra, Java, Bali, Celebes, Borneo, Sulu ... their very names are synonymous with romance; the sound of them makes restless the feet of all who love adventure. Sultans and rajahs ... pirates and head-hunters ... sun-bronzed pioneers and white-helmeted legionnaires ... blow-guns with poisoned darts and curly-bladed krises ... elephants with gilded howdahs ... tigers, crocodiles, orang-utans ... pagodas and palaces ... shaven-headed priests in yellow robes ... flaming fire-trees ... the fragrance of frangipani ... green jungle and steaming tropic rivers ... white moonlight on the long white beaches ... the throb of war-drums and the tinkle of wind-blown temple-bells....
But it is not for all of us to go down the strange trails which lead to these magic places. The world's work must be done. So, for those who are condemned by circumstance to the prosaic existence of the office, the factory, and the home, I have written this book. I would have them feel the hot breath of the South. I would convey to them something of the spell of the tropics, the mystery of the jungle, the lure of the little, palm-fringed islands which rise from peacock-colored seas. I would introduce to them those picturesque and hardy figures planters, constabulary officers, consuls, missionaries, colonial administrators who are carrying civilization into these dark and distant corners of the earth. I would have them know the fascination of leaning through those "magic casements, opening on the foam of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn."
I had planned, therefore, that this should be a light-hearted, care-free, casual narrative. And so, in parts, it is. But more serious things have crept, almost imperceptibly, into its pages. The achievements of the Dutch empire-builders in the Insulinde, the conditions which prevail under the rule of the chartered company in Borneo, the opening-up of Indo-China and the Malay Peninsula, the regeneration of Siam, the epic struggle between civilization and savagery which is in progress in all these lands—these are phases of Malaysian life which, if this book is to have any serious value, I cannot ignore. That is why it is a melange of the frivolous and the serious, the picturesque and the prosaic, the superficial and the significant. If, when you lay it down, you have gained a better understanding of the dangers and difficulties which beset the colonizing white man in the lands of the Malay, if you realize that life in the eastern tropics consists of something more than sapphire seas and bamboo huts beneath the slanting palm trees and native maidens with hibiscus blossoms in their dusky hair, if, in short, you have been instructed as well as entertained, then I shall feel that I have been justified in writing this book.
E. ALEXANDER POWELL.
York Harbor, Maine, October first, 1921.
For the courtesies they showed me, and the assistance they afforded me during the long journey which is chronicled in this book, I am deeply indebted to many persons in many lands. I welcome this opportunity of expressing my gratitude to the Hon. Francis Burton Harrison, former Governor-General of the Philippine Islands, and to the Hon. Manuel Quezon, President of the Philippine Senate, for placing at my disposal the coastguard cutter Negros, on which I cruised upward of six thousand miles, as well as for countless other courtesies. Brigadier-General Ralph W. Jones, Warren H. Latimer, Esq., and Major Edwin C. Bopp shamefully neglected their personal affairs in order to make my journey comfortable and interesting. Dr. Edward C. Ernst, of the United States Quarantine Service at Manila, who served as volunteer surgeon of the expedition; John L. Hawkinson, Esq., the man behind the camera; James Rockwell, Esq., and Captain A. B. Galvez, commander of the Negros, by their unfailing tactfulness and good nature, did much to add to the success of the enterprise. I am likewise under the deepest obligations to Colonel Ole Waloe, commanding the Philippine Constabulary in Zamboanga; to the Hon. P. W. Rogers, Governor of Jolo; to Captain R. C. d'Oyley-John, formerly Chief Police Officer of Sandakan, British North Borneo; to M. de Haan, Resident at Samarinda, Dutch Borneo; and to his colleagues at Makassar, Singaradja, Kloeng-Kloeng, Surabaya, Djokjakarta, and Surakarta; to the Hon. John F. Jewell, American Consul-General at Batavia; to the Hon. Edwin N. Gunsaulus, American Consul-General at Singapore; to J. D. C. Rodgers, Esq., American Charge d'Affaires at Bangkok; to his late Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Siam; to his Serene Highness Prince Traidos Prabandh, Siamese Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; to his Serene Highness Colonel Prince Amoradhat, Chief of Intelligence of the Siamese Army, who constituted himself my guide and cicerone during our stay in his country; to the French Resident-Superior at Pnom-Penh; and to the other French officials who aided me during my travels in Indo-China. His Excellency J. J. Jusserand, French Ambassador at Washington and his Excellency Phya Prabha Karavongse, Siamese Minister at Washington, provided me with letters which obtained for me many facilities in French Indo-China and in Siam. Nor am I unappreciative of the many kindnesses shown me by James R. Bray, Esq., of New York City; by Austin Day Brixey, Esq., of Greenwich, Conn.; and by Dr. Eldon R. James, General Adviser to the Siamese Government. I also wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to A. Cabaton, Esq., from whose extremely valuable study of Netherlands India I have drawn freely in describing the Dutch system of administration in the Insulinde. I have also obtained much valuable data from "Java and Her Neighbors" by A. C. Walcott, Esq., and from "The Kingdom of the Yellow Robe" by Ernest Young, Esq.
E. ALEXANDER POWELL.
I. MAGIC ISLES AND FAIRY SEAS 1
II. OUTPOSTS OF EMPIRE 25
III. "WHERE THERE AIN'T NO TEN COMMANDMENTS" 50
IV. THE EMERALDS OF WILHELMINA 74
V. MAN-EATERS AND HEAD-HUNTERS 99
VI. IN BUGI LAND 126
VII. DOWN TO AN ISLAND EDEN 143
VIII. THE GARDEN THAT IS JAVA 163
IX. PROSPECT RULERS AND COMIC OPERA COURTS 189
X. THROUGH THE GOLDEN CHERSONESE TO ELEPHANT LAND 208
XI. To PNOM-PENH BY THE JUNGLE TRAIL 246
XII. EXILES OF THE OUTLANDS 270
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
A real wild man of Borneo Frontispiece
Hawkinson taking motion-pictures while descending the rapids of the Pagsanjan River in Luzon 10
Members of Major Powell's party landing on the south coast of Bali 10
The bull-fight at Parang 22
Dusun women 60
Dyak head-hunters of North Borneo 60
The Jalan Tiga, Sandakan 70
A patron of a Sandakan opium farm 70
Catching a man-eating crocodile in a Borneo river 112
Major Powell talking to the Regent of Koetei on the steps at Tenggaroeng 124
State procession in the Kraton of the Sultan of Djokjakarta 124
Some strange subjects of Queen Wilhelmina 130
The volcano of Bromo, Eastern Java, in eruption 170
A Dyak girl at Tenggaroeng, Dutch Borneo 200
A Dyak head-hunter, Dutch Borneo 200
The captain of the body-guard of "The Spike of the Universe" 200
A clown in the royal wedding procession at Djokjakarta 200
An elephant hunt in Siam 228
King Sisowath of Cambodia 234
Rama VI, King of Siam 234
Colorful ceremonies of Old Siam 238
Transportation in the Siamese jungle 248
The head of the pageant approaching the camera in the palace at Pnom-Penh 266
Dancing girls belonging to the royal ballet of the King of Cambodia 268
WHERE THE STRANGE TRAILS GO DOWN
MAGIC ISLES AND FAIRY SEAS
When I was a small boy I spent my summers at the quaint old fishing-village of Mattapoisett, on Buzzard's Bay. Next door to the house we occupied stood a low-roofed, unpretentious dwelling, white as an old-time clipper ship, with bright green blinds. I can still catch the fragrance of the lilacs by the gate. The fine old doorway, brass-knockered, arched by a spray of crimson rambler, was flanked on one hand by a great conch-shell, on the other by an enormous specimen of branch-coral, thus subtly intimating to passers-by that the owner of the house had been in "foreign parts." A distinctly nautical atmosphere was lent to the broad, deck-like verandah by a ship's barometer, a chart of Cape Cod, and a highly polished brass telescope mounted on a tripod so as to command the entire expanse of the bay. Here Cap'n Bryant, a retired New Bedford whaling captain, was wont to spend the sunny days in his big cane-seated rocking-chair, puffing meditatively at his pipe and for my boyish edification spinning yarns of adventure in far-distant seas and on islands with magic names—Tawi Tawi, Makassar Straits, the Dingdings, the Little Paternosters, the Gulf of Boni, Thursday Island, Java Head. Of cannibal feasts in New Guinea, of head-hunters in Borneo, of strange dances by dusky temple-girls in Bali, of up-country expeditions with the White Rajah of Sarawak, of desperate encounters with Dyak pirates in the Sulu Sea, he discoursed at length and in fascinating detail, while I, sprawled on the verandah steps, my knees clasped in my hands, listened raptly and, when the veteran's flow of reminiscence showed signs of slackening, clamored insistently for more.
Then and there I determined that some day I would myself sail those adventurous seas in a vessel of my own, that I would poke the nose of my craft up steaming tropic rivers, that I would drop anchor off towns whose names could not be found on ordinary maps, and that I would go ashore in white linen and pipe-clayed shoes and a sun-hat to take tiffin with sultans and rajahs, and to barter beads and brass wire for curios—a curly-bladed Malay kris, carved cocoanuts, a shark's-tooth necklace, a blow-gun with its poisoned darts, a stuffed bird of paradise, and, of course, a huge conch-shell and an enormous piece of branch-coral—which I would bring home and display to admiring relatives and friends as convincing proofs of where I had been.
But school and college had to be gotten through with, and after them came wars in various parts of the world and adventurings in many lands, so that thirty years slipped by before an opportunity presented itself to realize the dream of my boyhood. But when at last I set sail for those far-distant seas it was on an enterprise which would have gladdened the old sailor's soul—an expedition whose object it was to seek out the unusual, the curious, and the picturesque, and to capture them on the ten miles of celluloid film which we took with us, so that those who are condemned by circumstance to the humdrum life of the farm, the office, or the mill might themselves go adventuring o'nights, from the safety and comfort of red-plush seats, through the magic of the motion-picture screen. When I set out on my long journey the old whaling captain whose tales had kindled my youthful imagination had been sleeping for a quarter of a century in the Mattapoisett graveyard, but when our anchor rumbled down off Tawi Tawi, when, steaming across Makassar Straits, we picked up the Little Paternosters, when our tiny vessel poked her bowsprit up the steaming Koetei into the heart of the Borneo jungle, I knew that, though invisible to human eyes, he was standing beside me on the bridge.
* * * * *
Until I met the young-old man to whom those magazines which devote themselves to the gossip of the film world admiringly refer as "the Napoleon of the movies," it had never occurred to me that adventure has a definite market value. At least I had never realized that there are people who stand ready to buy it by the foot, as one buys real estate or rope. I had always supposed that the only way adventure could be capitalized was as material for magazine articles and books and for dinner-table stories.
"What we are after" the film magnate began abruptly, motioning me to a capacious leather chair and pushing a box of cigars within my reach, "is something new in travel pictures. Like most of the big producers, we furnish our exhibitors with complete programmes—a feature, a comedy, a topical review, and a travel or educational picture. We make the features and the comedies in our own studios; the weeklies we buy from companies which specialize in that sort of thing. But heretofore we have had to pick up our travel stuff—where we could get it from free lances mostly—and there is never enough really good travel material to meet the demand. For quite ordinary travel or educational films we have to pay a minimum of two dollars a foot, while really unusual pictures will bring almost any price that is asked for them. The supply is so uncertain, however, and the price is so high that we have decided to try the experiment of taking our own. That is what I wanted to talk to you about."
"Before the war," he continued, "there was almost no demand in the United States for travel pictures. In fact, when a manager wanted to clear his house for the next show, he would put a travel picture on the screen. But since the boys have been coming back from France and Germany and Siberia and Russia the public has begun to call for travel films again. They've heard their sons and brothers and sweethearts tell about the strange places they've been, and the strange things they've seen, and I suppose it makes them want to learn more about those parts of the world that lie east of Battery Place and west of the Golden Gate. But we don't want the old bromide stuff, mind you—mountain-climbing in Switzerland, cutting sugar-cane in Cuba, picking cocoanuts in Ceylon. That sort of thing goes well enough on the Chautauqua circuits, but it's as dead as the corner saloon so far as the big cities are concerned. What we are looking for are unusual pictures—tigers, elephants, pirates, brigands, cannibals, Oriental temples and palaces, war-dances, weird ceremonies, curious customs, natives with rings in their noses and feathers in their hair, scenes that are spectacular and exciting—in short, what the magazine editors call 'adventure stuff.' We want pictures that will make 'em sit up in their seats and exclaim, 'Well, what d'ye know about that?' and that will send them away to tell their friends about them."
"Like the publisher," I suggested, "who remarked that his idea of a good newspaper was one that would cause its readers to exclaim when they opened it, 'My God!'?"
"That's the idea," he agreed. "And if the pictures are from places that most people have never heard of before, so much the better. I'm told that you've spent your life looking for queer places to write about. So why can't you suggest some to take pictures of?"
"But I've had no practical experience in taking motion-pictures," I protested. "The only time I ever touched a motion-picture camera was when I turned the crank of Donald Thompson's for a few minutes during the entry of the Germans into Antwerp in 1914."
"Were the pictures a success?" the Napoleon of the Movies queried interestedly. "I don't recall having seen them."
"No, you wouldn't," I hastened to explain. "You see, it wasn't until the show was all over that Thompson discovered that he had forgotten to take the cap off the lens."
"Don't let that worry you," he assured me. "We'll take care of the technical end. We'll provide you with the best camera man to be had and the best equipment. All you will have to do is to show him what to photograph, arrange the action, decide on the settings, obtain the permission of the authorities, the good-will of the officials, the co-operation of the military, engage interpreters and guides, reserve hotel accommodations, arrange for motor-cars and boats and horses and special trains, and keep everyone jollied up and feeling good generally. Aside from that, there won't be anything for you to do except to enjoy yourself."
"It certainly sounds alluring," I admitted. "The trouble is that you are looking for something that can't always be found. You don't find adventure the way you find four-leaf clovers; it just happens to you, like the measles or a blow-out. Still, if one has the time and money to go after them, there are a lot of curious things that might pass for adventure when they are shown on the screen."
"Where are they?" the film magnate asked eagerly, spreading upon his mahogany desk a map of the world.
It was a little disconcerting, this request to point out those regions where adventure could be found, very much as a visitor from the provinces might ask a New York hotel clerk to tell him where he could see the Bohemian life of which he had read in the Sunday supplements.
"There's Russian Central Asia, of course," I suggested tentatively. "Samarkand and Bokhara and Tashkent, you know. But I'm afraid they're out of the question on account of the Bolsheviki. Besides, I'm not looking for the sort of adventure that ends between a stone wall and a firing-party. Then there are some queer emirates along the southern edge of the Sahara: Sokoto and Kanem and Bornu and Wadai. But it would take at least six months to obtain the necessary permission from the French and British colonial offices and to arrange the other details of the expedition."
"But that doesn't exhaust the possibilities by any means," I continued hastily, for nothing was farther from my wish than to discourage so fascinating a plan. "There ought to be some splendid picture material among the Dyaks of Borneo—they're head-hunters, you know. From there we could jump across to the Celebes and possibly to New Guinea. And I understand that they have some queer customs on the island of Bali, over beyond Java; in fact, I've been told that, in spite of all the efforts of the Dutch to stop it, the Balinese still practise suttee. A picture of a widow being burned on her husband's funeral pyre would be a bit out of the ordinary, wouldn't it? That reminds me that I read somewhere the other day that next spring there is to be a big royal wedding in Djokjakarta, in middle Java, with all sorts of gorgeous festivities. At Batavia we would have no difficulty in getting a steamer for Singapore, and from there we could go overland by the new Federated Malay States Railway, through Johore and Malacca and Kuala Lumpur, to Siam, where the cats and the twins and the white elephants come from. From Bangkok we might take a short-cut through the Cambodian jungle, by elephant, to Pnom-Penh and——"
"Hold on!" the Movie King protested. "That's plenty. Let me come up for air. Those names you've been reeling off mean as much to me as the dishes on the menu of a Chinese restaurant. But that's what we're after. We want the people who see the pictures to say: 'Where the dickens is that place? I never heard of it before.' They get to arguing about it, and when they get home they look it up in the family atlas, and when they find how far away it is, they feel that they've had their money's worth. How soon can you be ready to start?"
"How soon," I countered, "can you have a letter of credit ready?"
Owing to the urgent requirements of the European governments, vessels of every description were, as I discovered upon our arrival at Manila, few and far between in Eastern seas; so, in spite of the assurance that I was not to permit the question of expense to curtail my itinerary, it is perfectly certain that we could not have visited the remote and inaccessible places which we did had it not been for the lively interest taken in our enterprise by the Honorable Francis Burton Harrison, Governor-General of the Philippines, and by the Honorable Manuel Quezon, President of the Philippine Senate. When Governor-General Harrison learned that I wished to take pictures in the Sulu Archipelago, he kindly offered, in order to facilitate our movements from island to island, to place at my disposal a coast-guard cutter, just as a friend might offer one the use of his motor-car. There was at first some question as to whether the Governor-General had the authority to send a government vessel outside of territorial waters, but Mr. Quezon, who, so far as influence goes, is a Henry Cabot Lodge and a Boies Penrose combined, unearthed a law which permitted him to utilize the vessels of the coast-guard service for the purpose of entertaining visitors to the islands in such ways as the Government of the Philippines saw fit. And, in a manner of speaking, Mr. Quezon is the Government of the Philippines. Thus it came about that on the last day of February, 1920, the coast-guard cutter Negros, 150 tons and 150 feet over all—with a crew of sixty men, Captain A. B. Galvez commanding, and having on board the Lovely Lady, who accompanies me on all my travels; the Winsome Widow, who joined us in Seattle; the Doctor, who is an officer of the United States Health Service stationed at Manila; John L. Hawkinson, the efficient and imperturbable man behind the camera; three friends of the Governor-General, who went along for the ride; and myself—steamed out of Manila Bay into the crimson glory of a tropic sunset, and, when past Cavite and Corregidor, laid her course due south toward those magic isles and fairy seas which are so full of mystery and romance, so packed with possibilities of high adventure.
* * * * *
Governor-General Harrison believed, by methods that are legitimate, in adding to the American public's knowledge of the Philippines, and it was owing to his broad-minded point of view and to the many cablegrams which he sent ahead of us, that at each port in the islands at which we touched we found the local officials waiting on the pier-head to bid us welcome and to assist us. At Jolo, which is the capital of the Moro country, two lean, sun-tanned, youthful-looking men came aboard to greet us: one was the Honorable P. W. Rogers, Governor of the Department of Sulu; the other was Captain Link, a former officer of constabulary who is now the Provincial Treasurer. In the first five minutes of our conversation I discovered that they knew exactly the sort of picture material that I wanted and that they would help me to the limit of their ability to get it. For that matter, they themselves personify adventure in its most exciting form.
Rogers, who was originally a soldier, went to the Philippines as orderly for General Pershing long before the days when "Black Jack" was to win undying fame on battlefields half the world away. The young soldier showed such marked ability that, thanks to Pershing's assistance, he obtained a post as stenographer under the civil government, thence rising by rapid steps to the difficult post of Governor of Sulu. A better selection could hardly have been made, for there is no white man in the islands whom the Moros more heartily respect and fear than their boyish-looking governor. Mrs. Rogers is the daughter of a German trader who lived in Jolo and died there with his boots on. A year or so prior to her marriage she was sitting with her parents at tiffin when a Moro, with whom her father had had a trifling business disagreement, knocked at the door and asked for a moment's conversation. Telling the native that he would talk with him after he had finished his meal, the trader returned to the table. Scarcely had he seated himself when the Moro, who had slipped unobserved into the dining room, sprang like a panther, his broad-bladed barong describing a glistening arc, and the trader's head rolled among the dishes. Another sweep of the terrible weapon and the mother's hand was severed at the wrist, while the future Mrs. Rogers owes her life to the fact that she fainted and slipped under the table. I relate this incident in order to give you some idea of the local atmosphere.
A few weeks before our arrival at Jolo, Governor Rogers, in compliance with instructions from Manila, had ordered a census of the inhabitants. But the Moros are a highly suspicious folk, so, when some one started the rumor that the government was planning to brand them, as it brands its mules and horses, it promptly gained wide credence. By tactful explanations the suspicions of most of the natives were allayed, but one Moro, notorious as a bad man, barricaded himself, together with five of his friends, three women and a boy, in his house—a nipa hut raised above the ground on stilts—and defied the Governor to enumerate them. Now, if the Governor had permitted such open defiance to pass unnoticed, the entire population of Jolo, always ready for trouble, promptly would have gotten out of hand. So, accompanied by five troopers of the constabulary, he rode out to the outlaw's house and attempted to reason with him. The man obstinately refused to show himself, however, even turning a deaf ear to the appeals of the village imam. Thereupon Rogers ordered the constabulary to open fire, their shots being answered by a fusillade from the Moros barricaded in the house. In twenty minutes the flimsy structure looked more like a sieve than a dwelling. When the firing ceased a six-year-old boy descended the ladder and, approaching the Governor, remarked unconcernedly: "You can go in now. They're all dead." Then Rogers called up the census-taker and told him to go ahead with his enumeration.
The provincial treasurer, Captain Link, is a lean, lithe South Carolinian who has spent fifteen years in Moroland. He is what is known in the cattle country as a "go-gitter." It is told of him that he once nearly lost his commission, while in the constabulary, by sending to the Governor, as a Christmas present, a package which, upon being opened, was found to contain the head of a much-wanted outlaw.
"I knew he wanted that fellow's head more than anything else in the world," Captain Link said naively, in telling me the story, "so it struck me it would be just the thing to send him for a Christmas present. I spent a lot of time and trouble getting it too, for the fellow sure was a bad hombre. It would have gotten by all right, but the Governor's wife, thinking it was a present for herself, had to go and open the package. She went into hysterics when she saw what was inside and the Governor was so mad he nearly fired me. Some people have no sense of humor."
Atop of the bookcase in Captain Link's study—the bookcase, by the way, contains Burton's Thousand and One Nights, the Discourses of Epictetus, and President Eliot's tabloid classics—is the skull in question, surmounted by a Moro fez. Across the front of the fez is printed this significant legend:
THIS IS JOHN HENRY JOHN HENRY DISOBEYED CAPTAIN LINK Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
While we are on the subject, let me tell you about another of these advance-guards of civilization who, single-handed, transformed a worthless island in the Sulu Sea into a veritable Garden of the Lord and its inhabitants from warlike savages into peaceful and prosperous farmers. In 1914 a short, bespectacled Michigander named Warner was sent by the Philippine Bureau of Education to Siassi, one of the islands of the Sulu group, to teach its Moro inhabitants the rudiments of American civilization. Warner's sole equipment for the job consisted, as he candidly admitted, of a medical education. He took with him a number of Filipino assistants, but as they did not get along with the Moros, he shipped them back to Manila and sent for an Airedale dog. He also sent for all the works on agriculture and gardening that were to be had in the bookshops of the capital. For five years he remained on Siassi, the only white man. As even the little inter-island steamers rarely find their way there, months sometimes passed without his hearing from the outside world. But he was too busy to be lonely. His jurisdiction extended over two islands, separated by a narrow channel, but this he never crossed at night and in the daytime only when he was compelled to, as the narrow channel was the home of giant crocodiles which not infrequently attacked and capsized the frail native vintas, killing their occupants as they struggled in the water.
Warner, who had spent four years among the Visayans before going to Siassi, and who was, therefore, eminently qualified to compare the northern islanders with the Moros, told me that the latter possess a much higher type of intelligence than the Filipinos and assimilate new ideas far more quickly. He added that they have a highly developed sense of humor; that they are quick to appreciate subtle stories, which the Tagalogs and Visayans are not; and that they are much more ready to accept advice on agricultural and economic matters than the Christian Filipinos, who have a life-sized opinion of their own ability. When the day's work was over, he said, he would seat himself in the doorway of his hut, surrounded by a group of Moros, and discuss crops and weather prospects, swap jokes and tell stories, just as he might have done with lighter skinned sons of toil around the cracker-barrel of a cross-roads store in New England. He added that he was sadly in need of some new stories to tell his Moro proteges, as, after six years on the island, his own fund was about exhausted. But he was growing weary of life on Siassi, he told me; he wanted action and excitement; so he was preparing to move, with his Airedale, to Bohol, in the Visayas, where, he had heard it rumored, there was another white man.
Still another of the picturesque characters with whom I foregathered nightly on the after-deck of the Negros during our stay at Jolo was a former soldier, John Jennings by name. He was an operative of the Philippine Secret Service, being engaged at the time in breaking up the running of opium from Borneo across the Sulu Sea to the Moro islands. Jennings is a short, thickset, powerfully-built man, all nerve and no nerves. Adventure is his middle name. He has lived more stories than I could invent. Shortly before our arrival at Jolo Jennings had learned from a native in his pay that a son of the Flowery Kingdom, the proprietor of a notorious gambling resort situated on the quarter-mile-long ramshackle wharf known as the Chinese pier, was driving a roaring trade in the forbidden drug. So one afternoon Jennings, his hands in his pockets and in each pocket a service automatic, sauntered carelessly along the pier and upon reaching the reputed opium den, knocked briskly on the door. The Chinese proprietor evidently suspected the purpose of his visit, however, for he was unable to gain admittance. So that night, wearing the huge straw sun-hat and flapping garments of blue cotton of a coolie, he tried again. This time in response to his knock the heavy door swung open. Within all was black and silent as the tomb. The lintel was low and Jennings was compelled to stoop in order to enter. As he cautiously set foot across the threshold there was a sudden swish of steel in the darkness and the blade of a barong whistled past his face, slicing off the front of his hat and missing his head by the width of an eyelash. As he sprang back the door slammed in his face and he heard the bolts shot home, followed by the sound of a weapon clattering on the floor and the patter of naked feet. Realizing that the men he was after were making their escape by another exit, Jennings hurled himself against the door, an automatic in either hand. It gave way before his assault and he was precipitated headlong into the inky blackness of the room. Taking no chances this time, he raked it with a stream of lead from end to end. Then, there being no further sound, he swept the place with a beam from his electric torch. Stretched on the floor were three dead Chinamen and beside them was enough opium to have drugged everyone on the island. That little episode, as Jennings remarked dryly, put quite a crimp in the opium traffic in Jolo.
* * * * *
Cockfighting, which is as popular throughout the Philippines as baseball is in the United States, finds its most enthusiastic devotees among the Moros, every community in the Sulu islands having its cockpit and its fighting birds, on whose prowess the natives gamble with reckless abandon. Gambling is, indeed, the raison d'etre of cockfighting in Moroland, for, as the birds are armed with four-inch spurs of razor sharpness, and as one or both birds are usually killed within a few minutes after they are tossed into the pit, very little sport attaches to the contest. The villagers are inordinately proud of their local fighting-cocks, boasting of their prowess as a Bostonian boasts of the Braves or a New Yorker of the Giants, and are always ready to back them to the limit of their means.
Some years ago, according to a story that was told me in the islands—for the truth of which I do not vouch—an American destroyer dropped anchor off Cebu, the second largest city in the Philippines. That night a shore party of bluejackets, wandering about the town in quest of amusement, dropped in at a cockpit where a main was in progress. Noting the large wagers laid by the excited natives on their favorite birds, the sailors offered to back a "chicken" which they had aboard the destroyer against all the cocks in Cebu. The natives, smiling in their sleeves at the prospect of taking money so easily from the Americanos, promptly accepted the challenge and some hundreds of pesos were laid against the unknown bird. At the hour set for the fight the grinning sailors appeared at the cockpit with their "chicken," the mascot of the destroyer—a large American eagle! Ensued, of course, a torrent of protest and remonstrance, but the money was already up and the bluejackets demanded action. So the eagle was anchored by a chain in the center of the pit, where it sat motionless and apathetic, head on one side, eyelids drooping, apparently half asleep—until a cock was tossed into the pit. Then there was a lightning-like flash of the mighty talons and all that was left of the Cebuan champion was a heap of bloodied feathers. The "match" was quickly over and the triumphant sailors, collecting their bets, departed for their ship. Ever since then there has been a proverb in Cebu—"Never match your cock against an American chicken."
Governor Rogers informed me that, in compliance with a cablegram from the Governor-General, he had arranged a "show" for us at a village called Parang, on the other side of the island. The "show," I gathered, was to consist of a stag-hunt, shark-fishing, war-dances, and pony races, and was to conclude with a native bull-fight. One of the favorite sports of the Moros is hunting the small native stag on horseback, tiring it out, and killing it with spears. As it developed, however, that there was no certainty of being able so to stage-manage the affair that either the hunters or the hunted would come within the range of the camera, we regretfully decided to dispense with that number of the programme.
When we arrived at Parang it looked as though the entire population of the island had assembled for the occasion. The native police were keeping clear a circle in which the dances were to take place, while the slanting trunks of the cocoanut-palms provided reserved seats for scores of tan and chocolate and coffee-colored youngsters. We were greeted by the Panglima of Parang, the overlord of the district, who explained, through Governor Rogers, that he had had prepared a little repast of which he hoped that we would deign to partake. Now, after you know some of the secrets of Moro cooking and have had a glimpse into a Moro kitchen, even the most robust appetite is usually dampened. But the Governor whispered "The old man has gone to a lot of trouble to arrange this show and if you refuse to eat his food he'll be mortally offended," so, purely in the interests of amity, we seated ourselves at the table, which had been set under the palms in the open. I don't know what we ate and I don't care to know—though I admit that I had some uneasy suspicions—but, with the uncompromising eye of the old Panglima fixed sternly upon us, we did our best to convince him that we appreciated his cuisine.
But the dancing which followed made us forget what we had eaten. During the ensuing months we were to see dances in many lands—in Borneo and Bali and Java and Siam and Cambodia—but they were all characterized by a certain monotony and sameness. These Moro dancers, however, were in a class by themselves. If they could be brought across the ocean and would dance before an audience on Broadway with the same savage abandon with which they danced before the camera under the palm-trees of Parang, there would be a line a block long in front of the box-office. One of the dances was symbolical of a cock-fight, the cocks being personified by a young woman and a boy. It was sheer barbarism, of course, but it was fascinating. And the curious thing about it was that the hundreds of Moros who stood and squatted in a great circle, and who had doubtless seen the same thing scores of times before, were so engrossed in the movements of the dance, each of which had its subtle shade of meaning, that they became utterly oblivious to our presence or to Hawkinson's steady grinding of the camera. In the war-dance the participants, who were Moro fighting men, and were armed with spears, shields, and the vicious, broad-bladed knives known as barongs, gave a highly realistic representation of pinning an enemy to the earth with a spear, and with the barong decapitating him. The first part of the dance, before the passions of the savages became aroused, was, however, monotonous and uninteresting.
"Can't you stir 'em up a little?" called Hawkinson, who, like all camera men, demands constant action. "Tell 'em that this film costs money and that we didn't come here to take pictures of Loie Fuller stuff."
"I think it might be as well to let them take their time about it," remarked Captain Link. "These Moros always get very much worked up in their war-dances, and occasionally they forget that it is all make-believe and send a spear into a spectator. It's safer to leave them alone. They're very temperamental."
"That would make a corking picture," said Hawkinson enthusiastically, "if I only knew which fellow was going to be speared so that I could get the camera focussed on him."
"The only trouble is," I remarked dryly, "that they might possibly pick out you."
* * * * *
In Spanish bull-fights, after the banderillos and picadores have tormented the bull until it is exhausted, the matador flaunts a scarlet cloak in front of the beast until it is bewildered and then despatches it with a sword. In Moroland, however, the bulls, which are bred and trained for the purpose, do their best to kill each other, thus making the fight a much more sporting proposition. The bull-fight which was arranged for our benefit at Parang was staged in a field of about two acres just outside the town, the spectators being kept at a safe distance by a troop of Moro horsemen under the direction of the old Panglima. After Hawkinson had set up his camera on the edge of this extemporized arena the bulls were brought in: medium-sized but exceptionally powerful beasts, the muscles rippling under their sleek brown coats, their short horns filed to the sharpness of lance-tips. Each animal was led by its owner, who was able to control it to a limited degree during the fight by means of a cord attached to the ring in its nose. When the signal was given for the fight to begin, the bulls approached each other cautiously, snorting and pawing the ground. They reminded me of two strange dogs who cannot decide whether they wish to fight or be friends. For ten minutes, regardless of the jeers of the spectators and the proddings of their handlers, the great brown beasts rubbed heads as amicably as a yoke of oxen. Then, just as we had made up our minds that it was a fiasco and that there would be no bull-fight pictures, there was a sudden angry bellow, the two great heads came together with a thud like a pile-driver, and the fight was on. The next twenty minutes Hawkinson and I spent in alternately setting up his camera within range of the panting, straining animals and in picking it up and running for our lives, in order to avoid being trampled by the maddened beasts in their furious and unexpected onslaughts. The men at the ends of the nose-ropes were as helpless to control their infuriated charges as a trout fisherman who has hooked a shark. With horns interlocked and with blood and sweat dripping from their massive necks and shoulders, they fought each other, step by step, across the width of the arena, across a cultivated field which lay beyond, burst through a thorn hedge surrounding a native's patch of garden, trampled the garden into mire, and narrowly escaped bringing down on top of them the owner's dwelling, which, like most Moro houses, was raised above the ground on stilts. It looked for a time as though the fight would continue over a considerable portion of the island, but it was brought to an abrupt conclusion when one of the bulls, withdrawing a few yards, to gain momentum, charged like a tank attacking the Hindenburg Line, driving one of its horns deep into its adversary's eye-socket, whereupon the wounded animal, half-blinded and mad with pain, turned precipitately, jerked the nose-rope from its owner's grasp, and stampeding the spectators in its mad flight, disappeared in the depths of the jungle.
"That," announced the Governor, "concludes the morning performance. This afternoon we will present for your approval a programme consisting of pony races, a carabao fight, a shark-fishing expedition, and, if time permits, a visit to the pearl-fisheries to see the divers at work. This evening we will call on the Princess Fatimah, the daughter of the Sultan, and tomorrow I have arranged to take you to Tapul Island to shoot wild carabao. After that——"
"After that," I interrupted, "we go away from here. If we stayed on in this quiet little island of yours much longer, we shouldn't have any film left for the other places."
OUTPOSTS OF EMPIRE
We sailed at sunset out of Jolo and all through the breathless tropic night the Negros forged ahead at half-speed, her sharp prow cleaving the still bosom of the Sulu Sea as silently as a gondola stealing down the Canale Grande. So oppressive was the night that sleep was out of the question, and I leaned upon the rail of the bridge, the hot land breeze, laden with the mysterious odors of the tropics, beating softly in my face, and listlessly watched the phosphorescent ostrich feathers curling from our bows. Behind me, in the darkened chart-room, the Filipino quartermaster gently swung the wheel from time to time in response to the direction of the needle on the illuminated compass-dial. So lifeless was the sea that our foremast barely swayed against the stars. The smoke from our funnel trailed across the purple canopy of the sky as though smeared with an inky brush.
How long I stood there, lost in reverie, I have no idea: hours no doubt. I must have fallen into a doze, for I was awakened by the brisk, incisive strokes of the ship's bell, echoed, a moment later, by eight fainter strokes coming from the deck below. Then the soft patter of bare feet which meant the changing of the watch. Though the velvety darkness into which we were steadily ploughing had not perceptibly decreased, it was now cut sharply across, from right to left, by what looked like a tightly stretched wire of glowing silver. Even as I looked this slender fissure of illumination widened, almost imperceptibly at first, then faster, faster, until at one burst came the dawn. The sombre hangings of the night were swept aside by an invisible hand as are drawn back the curtains at a window. As you have seen from a hill the winking lights of a city disappear at daybreak, so, one by one, the stars went out. Masses of angry clouds reared themselves in ominous, fantastic forms against a sullen sky. The hot land breeze changed to a cold wind which made me shiver. Suddenly the mounting rampart of clouds, which seemed about to burst in a tempest, was pierced by a hundred flaming lances coming from beyond the horizon's rim. Before their onslaught the threatening cloud-wall crumbled, faded, and abruptly dropped away to reveal the sun advancing in all that brazen effrontery which it assumes in those lawless latitudes along the Line. Now the sky was become a huge inverted bowl of flawless azure porcelain, the surface of the Sulu Sea sparkled as though strewn with a million diamonds, and, not a league off our bows, rose the jungle-clothed shores of Borneo.
Scattered along the fringes of the world are certain places whose names ring in the ears of youth like trumpet-calls. They are passwords to romance and high adventure. Their very mention makes the feet of the young men restless. They mark the places where the strange trails go down. Of them all, the one that most completely captivated my boyish imagination was Borneo. To me, as to millions of other youngsters, its name had been made familiar by that purveyor of entertainment to American boyhood, Phineas T. Barnum, as the reputed home of the wild man. In its jungles, through the magic of Marryat's breathless pages, I fought the head-hunter and pursued the boa-constrictor and the orang-utan. It was then, a boyhood dream come true when I stood at daybreak on the bridge of the Negros and through my glasses watched the mysterious island, which I had so often pictured in my imagination, rise with tantalizing slowness from the sapphire sea.
We forged ahead cautiously, for our charts were none too recent or reliable and we lacked the "Malay Archipelago" volume of The Sailing Directions—the "Sailor's Bible," as the big, orange-covered book, full of comforting detail, is known. As the morning mists dissolved before the sun I could make out a pale ivory beach, and back of the beach a band of green which I knew for jungle, and back of that, in turn, a range of purple mountains which culminated in a majestic, cloud-wreathed peak. An off-shore breeze brought to my nostrils the strange, sweet odors of the hot lands. A Malay vinta with widespread bamboo outriggers and twin sails of orange flitted by an enormous butterfly skimming the surface of the water. I was actually within sight of that grim island whose name has ever been a synonym for savagery. For never think that piracy, head-hunting, poisoned darts shot from blow-guns are horrors extinct in Borneo today, for they are not. Ask the mariners who sail these waters; ask the keepers of the lonely lighthouses, the officers who command the constabulary outposts in the bush. They know Borneo, and not favorably.
You will picture Borneo, if you please, as a vast, squat island the third largest in the world, in fact—half again as large as France, bordered by a sandy littoral, moated by swamps reeking with putrid miasmata and pernicious vapors, covered with dense forests and impenetrable jungles, ridged by mile-high mountain ranges, seamed by mighty rivers, inhabited by the most savage beasts and the most bestial savages known to man. Lying squarely athwart the Line, the sun beats down upon it like the blast from an open furnace-door. The story is told in Borneo of a dissolute planter who died from sunstroke. The day after the funeral a spirit message reached the widow of the dear departed. "Please send down my blankets" it said. But it is the terrible humidity which makes the climate dangerous; a humidity due to the innumerable swamps, the source of pestilence and fever, and to the incredible rainfall, which averages over six and a half feet a year. No wonder that in the Indies Borneo is known as "The White Man's Graveyard."
Imbedded in the northern coast of the island, like a row of semi-precious stones set in a barbaric brooch, are the states of British North Borneo, Brunei, and Sarawak. Their back-doors open on the wilderness of mountain, forest and jungle which marks the northern boundary of Dutch Borneo; their front windows look out upon the Sulu and the China Seas. Of these three territories, the first is under the jurisdiction of the British North Borneo Company, a private corporation, which administers it under the terms of a royal charter. The second is ruled by the Sultan of Brunei, whose once vast dominions have steadily dwindled through cession and conquest until they are now no larger than Connecticut. On the throne of the last sits one of the most romantic and picturesque figures in the world, His Highness James Vyner Brooke, a descendant of that Sir James Brooke who, in the middle years of the last century, made himself the "White Rajah" of Sarawak, and who might well have been the original of The Man Who Would Be King. Though all three governments are permitted virtually a free hand so far as their domestic affairs are concerned, they are under the protection of Great Britain and their foreign affairs are controlled from Westminster. The remaining three-quarters of Borneo, which contains the richest mines, the finest forests, the largest rivers, and, most important of all, the great oil-fields of Balik-Papan, forms one of the Outer Possessions, or Outposts, of Holland's East Indian Empire.
Long before the yellow ribbon of the coast, with its fringe of palms, became visible we could make out the towering outline of Kina Balu, the sacred mountain, fourteen thousand feet high, which, seen from the north, bears a rather striking resemblance in its general contour to Gibraltar. The natives regard Kina Balu with awe and veneration as the home of departed spirits, believing that it exercises a powerful influence on their lives. When a man is dying they speak of him as ascending Kina Balu and in times of drought they formerly practised a curious and horrible custom, known as sumunguping, which the authorities have now suppressed. When the crops showed signs of failing the natives decided to despatch a messenger direct to the spirits of their relatives and friends in the other world entreating them to implore relief from the gods who control the rains. The person chosen to convey the message was usually a slave or an enemy captured in battle. Binding their victim to a post, the warriors of the tribe advanced, one by one, and drove their spears into his body, shouting with each thrust the messages which they wished conveyed to the spirits on the mountain.
With the coming of day we pushed ahead at full speed. Soon we could make out the precipitous sandstone cliffs of Balhalla, the island which screens the entrance to Sandakan harbor. But long before we came abreast of the town signs of human habitation became increasingly apparent: little clusters of nipa-thatched huts built on stilts over the water; others hidden away in the jungle and betraying themselves only by spirals of smoke rising lazily above the feathery tops of the palms. Sandakan itself straggles up a steep wooded hill, the Chinese and native quarters at its base wallowing amid a network of foul-smelling and incredibly filthy sewers and canals or built on rickety wooden platforms which extend for half a mile or more along the harbor's edge. A little higher up, fronting on a parade ground which looks from the distance like a huge green rug spread in the sun to air, are the government offices, low structures of frame and plaster, designed so as to admit a maximum of air and a minimum of heat; the long, low building of the Planters Club, encircled by deep, cool verandahs; a Chinese joss-house, its facade enlivened by grotesque and brilliantly colored carvings; and a down-at-heels hotel. Close by are the churches erected and maintained by the Protestant and Roman Catholic missions—the former the only stone building in the protectorate. At the summit of the hill, reached by a steeply winding carriage road, are the bungalows of the Europeans, their white walls, smothered in crimson masses of bougainvillaea and shaded by stately palms and blazing fire-trees, peeping out from a wilderness of tropic vegetation. Viewed from the harbor, Sandakan is one of the most enchanting places that I have ever seen. It looks like a setting on a stage and you have the feeling that at any moment the curtain may descend and destroy the illusion. It is not until you go ashore and wander in the native quarter, where vice in every form stalks naked and unashamed, that you realize that the town is like a beautiful harlot, whose loveliness of face and figure belie the evil in her heart. Even after I came to understand that the place is a sink of iniquity, I never ceased to marvel at its beauty. It reminded me of the exclamation of a young English girl, the wife of a German merchant, as their steamer approached Hong Kong and the superb panorama which culminates in The Peak slowly unrolled.
"Look, Otto! Look!" she cried. "You must say that it is beautiful even if it is English."
* * * * *
Of those lands which have not yet submitted to the bit and bridle of civilization—and they can be numbered on the fingers of one's two hands—Borneo is the most intractable. Of all the regions which the predatory European has claimed for his own, it is the least submissive, the least civilized, the least exploited and the least known. Its interior remains as untamed as before the first white man set foot on its shores four hundred years ago. The exploits of those bold and hardy spirits—explorers, soldiers, missionaries, administrators—who have attempted to carry to the natives of Borneo the Gospel of the Clean Shirt and the Square Deal form one of the epics of colonization. They have died with their boots on from fever, plague and snake-bite, from poisoned dart and Dyak spear. Though their lives would yield material for a hundred books of adventure, their story, which is the story of the white man's war for civilization throughout Malaysia, is epitomized in the few lines graven on the modest marble monument which stands at the edge of Sandakan's sun-scorched parade ground:
In Memory of Francis Xavier Witti Killed near the Sibuco River May, 1882 of Frank Hatton Accidentally shot at Segamah March, 1883 of Dr. D. Manson Fraser and Jemadhar Asa Singh the two latter mortally wounded at Kopang May, 1883 and of Alfred Jones, Adjutant Shere Singh, Regimental Sergeant-Major of the British North Borneo Constabulary Killed at Ranau 1897-98 and of George Graham Warder District Officer, Tindang Batu Murdered at Marak Parak 28th July 1903 This Monument Is Erected as a Mark of Respect by their Brother Officers
Though Sandakan is the chief port of British North Borneo, with a population of perhaps fifteen thousand, it has barely a hundred European inhabitants, of whom only a dozen are women. Girls marry almost as fast as they arrive, and the incoming boats are eagerly scanned by the bachelor population, much in the same spirit as that in which a ticket-holder scans the lists of winning numbers in a lottery, wondering when his turn will come to draw something. If the bulk of the men are confirmed misogynists and confine themselves to the club bar and card-room it is only because there are not enough women to go round. The sacrifice of the women who, in order to be near their husbands, consent to sicken and fade and grow old before their time in such a spot, is very great. With their children at school in England, they pass their lonely lives in palm-thatched bungalows, raised high above the ground on piles as a protection against insects, snakes and floods, without amusements save such as they can provide themselves, and in a climate so humid that mushrooms will grow on one's boots in a single night during the rains. They are as truly empire-builders as the men and, though the parts they play are less conspicuous, perhaps, they are as truly deserving of honors and rewards.
There is no servant problem in Borneo. Cooks jostle one another to cook for you. They will even go to the length of poisoning each other in order to step into a lucrative position, with a really big master and a memsahib who does not give too much trouble. But there are other features of domestic life for which the plenitude of servants does not compensate. Because existence is made almost unendurable by mosquitoes and other insects, within each sleeping room is constructed a rectangular framework, covered with mosquito-netting and just large enough to contain a bed, a dressing-table and an arm-chair. In these insect-proof cells the Europeans spend all of their sleeping and many of their waking hours. So aggressive are the mosquitoes, particularly during the rains, that, when one invites people in for dinner or bridge, the servants hand the guests long sacks of netting which are drawn over the feet and legs, the top being tied about the waist with a draw-string. Were it not for these mosquito-bags there would be neither bridge nor table conversation. Everyone would be too busy scratching.
The houses, as I have already mentioned, are raised above the ground on brick piles or wooden stilts. Though this arrangement serves the purpose of keeping things which creep and crawl out of the house itself, the custom of utilizing the open space beneath the house as a hen-roost offers a standing invitation to the reptiles with which Borneo abounds. While we were in Sandakan a python invaded the chicken-house beneath the dwelling of the local magistrate one night and devoured half a dozen of the judge's imported Leghorns. Gorged to repletion, the great reptile fell asleep, being discovered by the servants the next morning. The magistrate put an end to its predatory career with a shot-gun. It measured slightly over twenty feet from nose to tail and in circumference was considerably larger than an inflated fire-hose. Imagine finding such a thing coiled up at the foot of your cellar-stairs after you had been indulging in home-brew!
One evening a party of us were seated on the verandah of the Planters Club in Sandakan. The conversation, which had pretty much covered the world, eventually turned to snakes.
"That reminds me," remarked a constabulary officer who had spent many years in Malaysia, "of a queer thing that happened in a place where I was stationed once in the Straits Settlements. It was one of those deadly dull places—only a handful of white women, no cinema, no race course, nothing. But the Devil, you know, always finds mischief for idle hands to do. One day a youngster—a subaltern in the battalion that was stationed there—returned from a leave spent in England. He brought back with him a young English girl whom he had married while he was at home. A slender, willowy thing she was, with great masses of coppery-red hair and the loveliest pink-and-white complexion. She quickly adapted herself to the disagreeable features of life in the tropics—with one exception. The exception was that she could never overcome her inherent and unreasoning fear of snakes. The mere sight of one would send her into hysterics.
"One afternoon, while she was out at tea with some friends, the Malay gardener brought to the house the carcass of a hamadryad which he had killed in the garden. The hamadryad, as you probably know, is perhaps the deadliest of all Eastern reptiles. Its bite usually causes death in a few minutes. Moreover, it is one of the few snakes that will attack human beings without provocation. The husband, with two other chaps, both officers in his battalion, was sitting on the verandah when the snake was brought in.
"'I say,' suggested one of the officers, 'here's a chance to break Madge of her fear of snakes. Why not curl this fellow up on her bed? She'll get a jolly good fright, of course, but when she discovers that he's dead and that she's been panicky about nothing, she'll get over her silly fear of the beggars. What say, old chap?'
"To this insane suggestion, in spite of the protests of the other officer, the husband assented. Probably he had been having too many brandies and sodas. I don't know. But in any event, they put the witless idea into execution. Toward nightfall the young wife returned. She had on a frock of some thin, slinky stuff and a droopy garden hat with flowers on it and carried a sunshade. She was awfully pretty. She hadn't been out there long enough to lose her English coloring, you see.
"'Oh, I say, Madge,' called her husband, 'There's a surprise for you in your bedroom.'
"With a little cry of delighted anticipation she hurried into the house. She thought her husband had bought her a gift, I suppose. A moment later the trio waiting on the verandah heard a piercing shriek. The first shriek was followed by another and then another. Pretty soon, though, the screams died down to a whimper—a sort of sobbing moan. Then silence. After a few minutes, as there was no further sound from the bedroom and his wife did not reappear, the husband became uneasy. He rose to enter the house, but the chap who had suggested the scheme pulled him back.
"'She's all right,' he assured him. 'She sees it's a joke and she's keeping quiet so as to frighten you. If you go in there now the laugh will be on you. She'll be out directly.'
"But as the minutes passed and she did not reappear all three of the men became increasingly uneasy.
"'We'd better have a look,' the one who had demurred suggested after a quarter of an hour had passed, during which no further sound had come from the bedroom. 'Madge is very high-strung. She may have fainted from the shock. I told you fellows that it was an idiotic thing to do.'
"When they opened the door they thought that she had fainted, for she lay in an inert heap on the floor at the foot of the bed. But a hasty examination showed them, to their horror, that the girl was dead—heart failure, presumably. But when they raised her from the floor they discovered the real cause of her death, for a second hamadryad, which had been concealed by her skirts, darted noiselessly under the bed. It was the mate of the one that had been killed—for hamadryads always travel in pairs, you know—and had evidently entered the room in quest of its companion."
"What happened to the husband and to the man who suggested the plan?" I asked. "Were they punished?"
"They were punished right enough," the constabulary officer said dryly. "The chap who suggested the scheme tried to forget it in drink, was cashiered from the army and died of delirium tremens. As for the husband, he is still living—in a madhouse."
* * * * *
Even in so far-distant a corner of the Empire as Borneo, ten thousand miles from the lights of the restaurants in Piccadilly, the men religiously observe the English ritual of dressing for dinner, for when the mercury climbs to 110, though the temptation is to go about in pajamas, one's drenched body and drooping spirits need to be bolstered up with a stiff shirt and a white mess jacket. That the stiffest shirt-front is wilted in an hour makes no difference: it reminds them that they are still Englishmen. Nor, in view of the appalling loneliness of the life, is it to be wondered at that the Chinese bartenders at the club are kept busy until far into the night, and that every month or so the entire male white population goes on a terrific spree. The government doctor in Sandakan assured me very earnestly that, in order to stand the climate, it is necessary to keep one's liver afloat—in alcohol. He had contributed to thus preserving the livers and lives of his fellow exiles by the invention of two drinks, of which he was inordinately proud. One he had dubbed "Tarantula Juice;" the other he called "Whisper of Death." He told me that the amateur who took three drinks of the latter would have no further need for his services; the only person whose services he would require would be the undertaker.
There is something of the pathetic in the eagerness with which the white men who dwell in exile along these forgotten seaboards long for news from Home. After dinner they would cluster about me on the club verandah and clamor for those odds-and-ends of English gossip which are not important enough for inclusion in the laconic cable despatches posted daily on the club bulletin-board and which the two-months-old newspapers seldom mention. They insisted that I repeat the jokes which were being cracked by the comedians at the Criterion and the Shaftesbury. They wanted to know if toppers and tailcoats were again being worn in The Row. They pleaded for the gossip of the clubs in Pall Mall and Piccadilly. They begged me to tell them about the latest books and plays and songs. But after a time I persuaded them to do the talking, while I lounged in a deep cane chair, a tall, thin glass, with ice tinkling in it, at my elbow, and listened spellbound to strange dramas of "the Islands" recited by men who had themselves played the leading roles. At first they were shy, as well-bred English often are, but after much urging an officer of constabulary, the glow from his cigar lighting up his sun-bronzed face and the rows of campaign ribbons on his white jacket, was persuaded into telling how he had trailed a marauding band of head-hunters right across Borneo, from coast to coast, his only companions a handful of Dyak police, themselves but a degree removed in savagery from those they were pursuing. A bespectacled, studious-looking man, whom I had taken for a scientist or a college professor, but who, I learned, had made a fortune buying bird-of-paradise plumes for the European market, described the strange and revolting customs practised by the cannibals of New Guinea. Then a broad-shouldered, bearded Dutchman, a very Hercules of a man, with a voice like a bass drum, told, between meditative puffs at his pipe, of hair-raising adventures in capturing wild animals, so that those smug and sheltered folk at home who visit the zoological gardens of a Sunday afternoon might see for themselves the crocodile and the boa-constrictor, the orang-utan and the clouded tiger. When, after the last tale had been told and the last glass had been drained, we strolled out into the fragrant tropic night, with the Cross swinging low to the morn, I felt as though, in the space of a single evening, I had lived through a whole library of adventure.
* * * * *
I once wrote—in The Last Frontier, if I remember rightly—that when the English occupy a country the first thing they build is a custom-house; the first thing the Germans build is a barracks; the first thing the French build is a railway. As a result of my observations in Malaysia, however, I am inclined to amend this by saying that the first thing the English build is a race course. Lord Cromer was fond of telling how, when he visited Perim, a miserable little island at the foot of the Red Sea, inhabited by a few Arabs and many snakes, his guide took him to the top of a hill and pointed out the race course.
"But what do you want with a race course?" demanded the great proconsul. "I didn't suppose that there was a four-footed animal on the island."
The guide reluctantly admitted that, though they had no horses on the island at the moment, if some were to come, why, there was the race course ready for them. Though I don't recall having seen more than a dozen horses in Borneo, the British have been true to their traditions by building two race courses: one at Sandakan and one at Jesselton. On the latter is run annually the North Borneo Derby. It is the most brilliant sporting and social event of the year, the Europeans flocking into Jesselton from the little trading stations along the coast and from the lonely plantations in the interior just as their friends back in England flock to Goodwood and Newmarket and Epsom. The Derby is always followed by the Hunt Ball. In spite of the fact that there are at least twenty men to every woman this is always a tremendous success. It usually ends in everyone getting gloriously drunk.
Almost the only other form of entertainment is provided by a company of Malay players which makes periodical visits to Sandakan and Jesselton. Though the actors speak only Malay, this does not deter them from including a number of Shakesperian plays in their repertoire (imagine Macbeth being played by a company of piratical-looking Malays in a nipa hut on the shores of the Sulu Sea!) but they attain their greatest heights in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. There are no programmes, but, in order that the audience may not be left in doubt as to the identity of the players, the manager introduces the members of his company one by one. "This is Ali Baba," he announces, leading a fat and greasy Oriental to the footlights. "This is Fatimah." "These are the Forty Thieves." When the latter announcement is made four actors stalk ten times across the stage in naive simulation of the specified number. After the thieves have concealed themselves behind pasteboard silhouettes of jars, Ali Baba's wife waddles on the stage bearing a Standard Oil tin on her shoulder and with a dipper proceeds to ladle a few drops of cocoanut oil on the head of each of the robbers. While she is being introduced one of the thieves seizes the opportunity to take a few whiffs from a cigarette, the smoke being plainly visible to the audience. Another, wearying of his cramped position, incautiously shows his head, whereupon Mrs. Ali Baba raps it sharply with her dipper, eliciting from the actor an exclamation not in his lines. During the intermissions the clown who accompanies the troupe convulses the audience with side-splitting imitations of the pompous and frigid Governor, who, as someone unkindly remarked, "must have been born in an ice-chest," and of the bemoustached and bemonocled officer who commands the constabulary, locally referred to as the Galloping Major. Compared with the antics of these Malay comedians, the efforts of our own professional laugh-makers seem dull and forced. Until you have seen them you have never really laughed.
* * * * *
His Highness Haji Mohamed Jamalulhiram, Sultan of Sulu, was temporarily sojourning in Sandakan when we were there, having come across from his capital of Jolo for the purpose of collecting the monthly subsidy of five hundred pesos paid him by the British North Borneo Company for certain territorial concessions. The company would have sent the money to Jolo, of course, but the Sultan preferred to come to Sandakan to collect it; there are better facilities for gambling there.
Because I was curious to see the picturesque personage around whom George Ade wrote his famous opera, The Sultan of Sulu, and because the Lovely Lady and the Winsome Widow had read in a Sunday supplement that he made it a practise to present those American women whom he met with pearls of great price, upon our arrival at Sandakan I invited the Sultan to dinner aboard the Negros. When I called on him at his hotel to extend the invitation, I found him clad in a very soiled pink kimono, a pair of red velvet slippers, and a smile made somewhat gory by the betel-nut he had been chewing, but when he came aboard the Negros that evening he wore a red fez and irreproachable dinner clothes of white linen. As the crew of the cutter was entirely composed of Tagalogs and Visayans, from the northern Philippines, who, being Christians, regard the Mohammedan Moro with contempt, not unmixed with fear, when I called for side-boys to line the starboard rail when his Highness came aboard, there were distinctly mutinous mutterings. Captain Galvez tactfully settled the matter, however, by explaining to the crew that the Sultan was, after all, an American subject, which seemed to mollify, even if it did not entirely satisfy them. The armament of the Negros had been removed after the armistice, so that we were without anything in the nature of a saluting cannon, but, as we wished to observe all the formalities of naval etiquette, the Doctor and Hawkinson volunteered to fire a royal salute with their automatic pistols as the Sultan came over the side. That, in their enthusiasm, they lost count and gave him about double the number of "guns" prescribed for the President of the United States caused Haji Mohamed no embarrassment; on the contrary, it seemed to please him immensely. (Donald Thompson, who was my photographer in Belgium during the early days of the war, always made it a point to address every officer he met as "General." He explained that it never did any harm and that it always put the officer in good humor.)
When the cocktails were served the Sultan gravely explained through the interpreter that, being a devout Mohammedan and a Haji, he never permitted alcohol to pass his lips, an assertion which he promptly proceeded to prove by taking four Martinis in rapid succession. Now the chef of the Negros possessed the faculty of camouflaging his dishes so successfully that neither by taste, looks nor smell could one tell with certainty what one was eating. So, when the meat, smothered in thick brown gravy, was passed to the Sultan, his Highness, who, like all True Believers, abhors pork, regarded it dubiously. "Pig?" he demanded of the steward. "No, sare," was the frightened answer. "Cow."
Over the coffee and cigarettes the Lovely Lady and the Winsome Widow tactfully led the conversation around to the subject of pearls, whereupon the Sultan thrust his hand into his pocket and produced a round pink box, evidently originally intended for pills. Removing the lid, he displayed, imbedded in cotton, half a dozen pearls of a size and quality such as one seldom sees outside the window of a Fifth Avenue jeweler. I could see that the Lovely Lady and the Winsome Widow were mentally debating as to whether they would have them set in brooches or rings. But when they had been passed from hand to hand, accompanied by the customary exclamations of envy and admiration, back they went into the royal pocket again. "And to think," one of the party remarked afterward, "that we wasted two bottles of perfectly good gin and a bottle of vermouth on him!"
It was after midnight when our guest took his departure, the ship's orchestra playing him over the side with a selection from The Sultan of Sulu, which, in view of my ignorance as to whether Sulu possessed a national anthem, seemed highly appropriate to the occasion. As the launch bearing the Sultan shot shoreward Hawkinson set off a couple of magnesium flares, which he had brought along for the purpose of taking pictures at night, making the whole harbor of Sandakan as bright as day. I heard afterward that the Sultan remarked that we were the only visitors since the Taft party who really appreciated his importance.
* * * * *
Two hours steam off the towering promontory which guards the entrance to Sandakan harbor lies Baguian, a sandy islet covered with cocoanut-palms, which is so small that it is not shown on ordinary maps. Though the island is, for some unexplained reason, under the jurisdiction of the British North Borneo Company, it is a part of the Sulu Archipelago and belongs to the United States. Baguian is famed throughout those seas as a rookery for the giant tortoise—testudo elephantopus. Toward nightfall the mammoth chelonians—some of them weigh upward of half a ton—come ashore in great numbers to lay their eggs in nests made in the edge of the jungle which fringes the beach, the old Chinaman and his two assistants, who are the only inhabitants of the island, frequently collecting as many as four thousand eggs in a single morning. The eggs, which in size and color exactly resemble ping-pong balls and are almost as unbreakable, are collected once a fortnight by a junk which takes them to China, where they are considered great delicacies and command high prices. As we had brought with us a supply of magnesium flares for night photography, we decided to take the camera ashore and attempt to obtain pictures of the turtles on their nests.
As we were going ashore in the gig we caught sight of a huge bull, as large as a hogshead, which was floating on the surface. Ordering the sailors to row quietly, we succeeded in getting within a hundred yards before I let go with my .405, the soft-nosed bullet tearing a great hole in the turtle's neck and dyeing the water scarlet. Almost before the sound of the shot had died away one of the Filipino boat's crew went overboard with a rope, which he attempted to attach to the monster before it could sink to the bottom, but the turtle, though desperately wounded, was still very much alive, giving the sailor a blow on his head with its flapper which all but knocked him senseless. By the time we had hauled the man into the boat the turtle had disappeared into the depths.
Waiting until darkness had fallen, we sent parties of sailors, armed with electric torches, along the beach in both directions with orders to follow the tracks made by the turtles in crossing the sand, and to notify us by firing a revolver when they located one. We did not have long to wait before we heard the signal agreed upon, and, picking up the heavy camera, we plunged across the sands to where the sailors were awaiting us in the edge of the bush. While the bluejackets cut off the retreat of the hissing, snapping monster, Hawkinson set up his camera and, when all was ready, some one touched off a flare, illuminating the beach and jungle as though the search-light of a warship had been turned upon them. In this manner we obtained a series of motion-pictures which are, I believe, from the zoological standpoint, unique. Before leaving the island we killed two tortoises for food for the crew—enough to keep them in turtle soup for a month. The larger, which I shot with a revolver, weighed slightly over five hundred pounds and lived for several days with three .45 caliber bullets in its brain-pan. Everything considered, it was a very interesting expedition. The only person who did not enjoy it was the old Chinese who held the concession for collecting the turtle-eggs. Instead of recognizing the great value of the service we were rendering to science, he acted as though we were robbing his hen-roost. He had a sordid mind.
"WHERE THERE AIN'T NO TEN COMMANDMENTS"
Until I went to British North Borneo I had considered the British the best colonial administrators in the world. And, generally speaking, I hold to that opinion. But what I saw and heard in that remote and neglected corner of the Empire disclosed a state of affairs which I had not dreamed could exist in any land over which flies the British flag. It was not the iniquitous character of the administration which surprised me, for I had seen the effects of bad colonial administration in other distant lands—in Mozambique, for example, and in Germany's former African possessions—but rather that such an administration should be carried on by Englishmen, by Anglo-Saxons. Were you to read in your morning paper that an ignorant alien had been arrested for brutally mistreating one of his children you would not be particularly surprised, because that is the sort of thing that might be expected from such a man. But were you to read that a neighbor, a man who went to the same church and belonged to the same clubs, whom you had known and respected all your life, had been arrested for mistreating one of his children, you would be shocked and horrified.
Save on the charge of indifference and neglect, neither the British people nor the British government can be held responsible for the conditions existing in North Borneo, for strictly speaking, the country is not a British colony, but merely a British protectorate, being owned and administered by a private trading corporation, the British North Borneo Company, which operates under a royal charter. But the idea of turning over a great block of territory, with its inhabitants, to a corporation whose sole aim is to earn dividends for its absentee stockholders, is in itself abhorrent to most Americans. What would we say, I ask you, if Porto Rico, which is only one-tenth the size of North Borneo, were to be handed over, lock, stock and barrel, to the Standard Oil Company, with full authorization for that company to make its own laws, establish its own courts, appoint its own officials, maintain its own army, and to wield the power of life and death over the natives? And, conceiving such a condition, what would we say if the Standard Oil Company, in order to swell its revenues, not only permitted but officially encouraged opium smoking and gambling; if, in order to obtain labor for its plantations, it imported large numbers of ignorant blacks from Haiti and permitted the planters to hold those laborers, through indenture and indebtedness, in a form of servitude not far removed from slavery; if it authorized the punishment of recalcitrant laborers by flogging with the cat-o'nine-tails; if it denied to the natives as well as to the imported laborers a system of public education or a public health service or trial by jury; and finally, if, in the event of insurrection, it permitted its soldiery, largely recruited from savage tribes, to decapitate their prisoners and to bring their ghastly trophies into the capital and pile them in a pyramid in the principal plaza? Yet that would be a fairly close parallel to what the chartered company is doing in British North Borneo. As I have already remarked, North Borneo is a British protectorate. And it is in more urgent need of protection from those who are exploiting it than any country I know. But the voices of the natives are very weak and Westminster is far away.