« PreviousContinue »
by hands or tails, leaping, grimacing, jabbering, pelting each other with fruits; and its loathsome saurians, lying in wait on the slimy banks under the mangroves. All this and far more the dawn revealed upon the Linggi river ; but strange to say, through all the tropic splendour of the morning I saw a vision of the Trientalis Europeæ, as we saw it first on a mossy hillside in Glen Cannich!
But I am forgetting that the night with its blackness and mystery came before the sunrise, that the stars seldom looked through the dense leafage, and that the pale green lamps of a luminous fungus here and there, and the cold blue sheet lightning, only served to intensify the solemnity of the gloom. While the blackest part of the night lasted the “view” was usually made up of the black river under the foliage, with scarcely ten yards of its course free from obstruction-great snags all along it sticking up inenacingly, trees lying half or quite across it with barely room to pass under them, or sometimes under water, where the boat “drove heavily” over them, while great branches brushed and ripped the thatch continually; and as one obstacle was safely passed, the rapidity of the current invariably canted us close on another, but the vigilant skill of the boatmen averted the slightest accident. "Jaga! Jaga !”-caution!
— caution !—was the constant cry. The most unpleasant sensations were produced by the constant ripping and tearing sounds as we passed under the low tunnel of vegetation, and by the perpetual bumping against timber.
The Miss Shaws passed an uneasy night. The whisky had cured the younger one of her severe sick headache, and she was the prey of many terrors. They thought that the boat would be ripped up; that.the roof would be taken off; that a tree would fall and crush us; that the boatmen, when they fell overboard, as they often did, would be eaten by alligators; that they would see glaring eyeballs whenever the cry“ Harimou !”-a tiger!
-was raised from the bow; and they continually awoke me with news of something that was happening, or about to happen, and were drolly indignant because they could not sleep; while I, blasé old campaigner, slept whenever they would let me.
Day broke in a heavy mist, which disappeared magically at sunrise. As the great sun wheeled rapidly above the horizon and blazed upon us with merciless fierceness, all at once the jungle became vociferous. Loudly clattered the busy cicada, its simultaneous din, like a concentration of the noise of all the looms in the world, suddenly breaking off into a simultaneous silence; the noisy insect world chirped, cheeped, buzzed, whistled; birds hallooed, hooted, whooped, screeched; apes in a loud and not inharmonious chorus greeted the sun; and monkeys chattered, yelled, hooted, quarrelled, and spluttered. The noise was tremendous. But the forest was absolutely still, except when some heavy fruit, over ripe, fell into the river with a splash. The trees above us were literally alive with monkeys, and the curiosity of some of them about us was so great that they came down on “ monkey ropes” and branches for the fun of
touching the roof of the boat with their hands while they hung by their tails. They were all fall of frolic and mischief.
Then we had a slim repast of soda-water and bananas, the Hadji worshipped with his face towards Mecca, and the boatmen prepared an elaborate curry for themselves, with salt fish for its basis, and for its tastiest condiment blachonga Malay preparation much relished by European lovers of durian and decomposed cheese. It is made by trampling a mass of putrefying prawns and shrimps into a paste with bare feet. This is seasoned with salt. The smell is penetrating and lingering. Our men made the boat fast, rinsed their mouths, washed their hands, and ate, using their fingers instead of chopsticks. Poor fellows ! they had done twelve hours splendid work.
Then one of them prepared the betel nut for the rest. I think I have not yet alluded to this abominable practice of betel-nut chewing, which is universal among the inhabitants of the Malay Peninsula. The betel nut seems as essential to a Malay as tobacco to a Japanese, or opium to the confirmed Chinese opium-smoker. It is a revolting habit, and if a person speaks to you while he is chewing his " quid" of betel, his mouth looks as if it were full of blood. People say that the craving for stimulants is created by our raw, damp climate; but it is as strong here at the equator, in this sunny, balmy air. I have not yet come across a region in which men, weary in body or spirit, are not seeking to stimulate or stupefy themselves. The Malay men and women being prohibited by the Koran from using alcohol, find the needed fillip in this nut, but it needs preparation before it suits their palates.
The betel nut is the fruit of the lovely, graceful, slender-shafted areca palm. This tree at six years old begins to bear about one hundred nuts a year, which grow in clusters, each nut being about the size of a nutmeg, and covered with a yellow, fibrous husk. The requisites for chewing
. are-a small piece of areca nut, a leaf of the Sirih or betel pepper, a little moistened lime, and, if people wish to be very luxurious, a paste made of spices. The Sirih leaf was smeared with a little fine lime taken from a brass box; on this was laid a little brownish paste, on this a bit of the nut; the leaf was then folded neatly round its contents, and the men began to chew, and to spit, the inevitable consequence.
The practice stains the teeth black. I tasted the nut, and found it pungent and astringent, not tempting. The Malays think that you look like a beast if you have white teeth.
The heat was exhausting, the mercury 87° in the shade as early as 8.30, and we all suffered more or less from it in our cramped position and enforced inactivity. At nine, having been fourteen hours on the river, we came on a small cleared space, from which a bronzed, frank-faced man, dressed in white linen, hallooed to us jovially, and we were soon warmly greeted by Captain Murray, the British Resident in the State of Sungei Ujong. On seeing him we hoped to find a gharrie and to get some breakfast, and he helped us on shore as if our hopes were to be realised, and dragged us
under the broiling sun to a long shed, the quarters of a hundred Chinese coolies, who are making a road through the jungle. We sat down on one of the long matted platforms which serve them for beds and talked, but there was no hint of breakfast, and we soon learned that the Malacca runner had not reached the Residency at all, and that the note sent from Permatang Pasir, which should have been delivered at 1 a.m., had not been received till 8 a.m., so that Captain Murray had not been able to arrange for our transport, and had had barely time to ride down to meet us at such "full speed" as a swampy and partially-made road would allow. So our dreams of breakfast
could not or would not go, and the Malay syce with difficulty got it along by dragging it, and we had to walk up every hill in the fierce heat of a tropic noon. "At the large Chinese village of Rassa a clever little Sumatra pony met us, and after passing through some roughish clearings, on which tapioca is being planted, we arrived here at 4 a.m., having travelled sixty miles in thirty-three hours.
The Residency is on a steepish hill in the middle of an open valley, partially cleared and much defaced by tin-diggings. The Chinese town of Serambang lies at the foot of the hill. The valley is nearly surrounded by richly-wooded
ended in cups of stewed tea given to us by a halfnaked Chinaman, and to our chagrin we had to go back to the boat and be poled up the shallowing and narrowing river for four hours more, getting on with difficulty, the boatmen constantly jumping into the water to heave the boat off mud banks.
When we eventually landed at Nioto, a small village, Captain Murray again met us, and we found a road and two antiquated buggies, sent by a Chinaman, with their component parts much lashed together with rope. I charioteered one of these with reins so short that I could only reach them by sitting on the edge of the seat, and a whip só short that I could not reach the pony with it. At a Chinese village some policemen brought us coco-nut milk. After that the pony
hills, some of them fully three thousand feet high. These, which stretch away to the northern State of Salangor, are bathed in indigo and cobalt, slashed with white here and there, where cool streams dash over forest-shaded ledges. The house consists of two attap-roofed bungalows, united by their upper verandahs. Below there are a garden of acclimatisation and a lawn, on which the Resident instructs the bright little daughter of the Datu Klana in lawn tennis. It was very hot, but the afternoon airs were strong enough to lift the British ensign out of its heavy folds and to rustle the graceful fronds of the areca palms.
Food was the first necessity, then baths, then sleep, then dinner at 7:30, and then ten hours' more sleep.
Residency, Sungei Ujong,
January 30th. We have been here for four days. The heat is so great that it is wonderful that one can walk about in the sunshine; but the nights, though the mercury does not fall below 80°, are cool and refreshing, and the air and soil are both dry, though a hundred inches of rain fall in the year. These wooden bungalows are hot, for the attap roofs have no lining, but they are also airy. There is no one but myself at night in the one in which my room is, but this is nothing after the solitude of the great, rambling Stadthaus. Since we came a sentry has been on duty always, and a bulldog is chained at the foot of the ladder which leads to both bungalows. But there is really nothing to fear from these “treacherous Malays." It is most curious to see the appurtenances of civilisation in the heart of a Malay jungle, and all the more so because our long night journey up the Linggi makes it seem more remote than it is. It is really only sixty miles from Malacca.
The drawing-room has a good piano, and many tasteful ornaments, books, and china-gifts from loving friends and relations in the far-off homeand is as livable as a bachelor would be likely to make it. There is a billiard table in the corridor. The dining-room, which is reached by going out of doors, with its red-tiled floor and walls of dark, unpolished wood, is very pretty. In the middle of the dinner table there is a reflecting lake for
a “hothouse flowers ;” and exquisite crystal, menu cards with holders of Dresden china; four classical statuettes in Parian, with pineapples, granadillas, bananas, pomegranates, and a durian blanda, are the “table décorations.” The cuisine is. almost too elaborate for a traveller's palate, but plain meat is rarely to be got, and even when procurable is unpalatable unless disguised. Curry is at each meal, but it is not made with curry powder. Its basis is grated coco-nut made into a paste with coco-nut milk, and the spices are added fresh. Turtles when caught are kept in a pond until they are needed, and we have turtle soup, stewed turtle, curried turtle, and turtle cutlets ad nauscam. Fowls are at every meal, but never plain roasted or plain boiled. The first day there was broiled and stewed elephant trunk, which tastes much like beef.
Babu, who is always en grand tenue, has taken command of everything and saves our host all trouble. He carves at the sideboard, scolds the servants in a stage whisper, and pushes them indignantly aside when they attempt to offer anything to “his young ladies,” reduces Captain Murray's butler to a nonentity, and as far as he can turns the Residency into Government House, waiting on us assiduously in our rooms, and taking care of our clothes. The dinner bell is a bugle.
In houses in these regions there is always a brick-floored bathroom, usually of large size, under your bedroom, to which you descend by a ladder. This is often covered by a trapdoor, which is often concealed by a couch, and in order to descend the sofa cushion is lifted. Here it is an open trap in the middle of the room. A bath
is a necessity-not a luxury—so near the equator, and it is usual to take one three, four, or even five times a day with much refreshment. One part of Babu's self-imposed duty is to look under our pillows for snakes and centipedes, and the latter have been found in all our rooms.
I must now make you acquainted with our host, Captain Murray. He was appointed when the Datu Klana asked for a Resident four years ago. He devotes himself to Sungei Ujong as if it were his own property, though he has never been able to acquire the language. He is a man about thirty-eight, a naval officer, and an enterprising African traveller; under the middle height, bronzed, sun-browned, restless, almost eccentric, never still for five minutes, disconnected in his conversation from the habit of living without any one in or out of the house to speak to; professing a misanthropy which he is very far from feeling, for he is quite unsuspicious, and disposed to think the best of every one; hasty when vexed, but thoroughly kindhearted; very blunt, very undignified, never happy (he says) out of the wilds; thoroughly well-disposed to the Chinese and Malays, but impatient of their courtesies, thoroughly well-meaning, thoroughly a gentleman, but about the last person that I should have expected to see in a position which is said to require much tact if not finesse. His success leads me to think, as I have often thought before, that if we attempt to deal with Orientals with their own methods we are apt to find them more than a match for us, and that thorough honesty is the best policy.
He lives alone, unguarded, trusts himself by night and day without any escort among the people, keeps up no ceremony at all, and is approachable at all hours. Like most travellers, he has some practical knowledge of medicine, and he gives advice and medicines most generously, allowing himself to be interrupted by patients at all hours. There is no doctor nearer than Malacca. He has been so successful that people come from the neighbouring States for his advice. There is very little serious disease, but children are subject to a loathsome malady called puru. Two were brought with it to-day. The body and head are covered with pustules containing matter, looking very much like smallpox, and the natives believe that it must run its course for a year. Captain Murray cures it in a few days with iodide of potassium and iodine, and he says that it is fast disappearing.
Captain Murray is judge, "sitting in equity," superintendent of police, chancellor of the exchequer, and surveyor of taxes, besides being Board of Trade, Board of Works, and I know not what besides. In fact, he is the Government, although the 'Datu Klana's signature or seal is required to confirm a sentence of capital punishment, and possibly in one or two other cases; and his Residential authority is subject only to the limitations of his own honour and good sense, sharpened somewhat, were he other than what he is, by possible snubs from the Governor of the Straits Settlements or the Colonial Secretary. He is a thoroughly honourable man, and means well by
all the interests of his little kingdom, and seems both beloved and trusted.
On Sunday morning we had English service and a sermon, the congregation being augmented by the only other English people-a man from Australia, who is here road-making, and his wifee and in the afternoon, disregarding a temperature of 85°, we went through the Chinese village of Serambang.
It is still the new-year holidays, and hundreds of Chinamen were lounging about, and every house was gaily decorated. The Malays never join house to house, the Chinese always do so, and this village has its streets and plaza. The houses are all to a certain extent fireproof-that is, when a fire occurs, and the attap thatched roofs are burned, the houses below, which are mostly shops, are safe. These shops, some of which are very large, are nearly dark. They deal mainly in Chinese goods and favourite Chinese articles of food, fireworks, mining tools, and kerosene oil. In one shop twenty “assistants," with only their loose cotton trousers on, were sitting at round tables having a meal-not their ordinary diet, I should think, for they had seventeen different sorts of soups and stew's, some of them abominations to our thinking.
We visited the little joss-house, very gaudily decorated, the main feature of the decorations being two enormous red silk umbrellas, exquisitely embroidered in gold and silks. The crowds in this village remind me of Canton, but the Chinese look anything but picturesque here, for none of them—or at all events, only their captains—wear the black satin skull cap; and their shaven heads, with the small patch of hair which goes into the composition of the pigtail, look very ugly. The pigtail certainly begins with this lock of hair, but the greater part of it is made up of silk or cotton thread plaited in with the hair, and blue or red strands of silk in a pigtail indicate mourning or rejoicing. None of the Chinese here wear the beautiful long robes worn by their compatriots in China and Japan. The rich wear a white, shirtlike garment of embroidered silk crape over their trousers and petticoat, and the poorer only wear loose blue or brown cotton trousers, so that one is always being reminded of the excessive leanness of their forms. Some of the rich merchants invited us to go in and drink champagne, but we declined everything but tea, which is ready all day long in teapots kept hot in covered baskets very thickly padded, such as are known with us as "Norwegian Kitchens."
In the middle of the village there is a large, covered, but open-sided building like a market, which is crowded all day—and all night too-by hundreds of these poor, half-naked creatures standing round the gaming tables, silent, eager, excited, staking every cent they earn on the turn of the dice, living on the excitement of their gains -a truly sad spectacle. Probably we were the first European ladies who had ever walked through the gambling house, but the gamblers were too intent even to turn their heads. There also they are always drinking tea. Some idea of the profits made by the men who “ farm” the gambling
licences may be gained from the fact that the revenue derived by the Government from the gambling farms” is over £ 900 a year.
Spirits are sold in three or four places, and the licence to sell them brings in nearly £700 a year, but a drunken Chinaman is never seen. There are a few opium inebriates, lean like skeletons, and very vacant in expression; and every coolie smokes his three whiffs of opium every night. Only a few of the richer Chinamen have wives, and there are very few women, as is usual in a mining population.
We went to pay complimentary visits for the new year to these “captains” with the Malay interpreter, and were received with a curious mixture of goodwill and solemnity. Wine, tea, and sweetmeats were produced at each house. Their houses are very rude considering their ample means, and have earthen floors. They have comfortable carriages, and their gentle sweet-mannered children were loaded with gold and diamonds. In one house a sweet little girl handed round the tea and cake, and all, even to babies who can scarcely toddle across the floor, came up and shook hands. A Chinese family impresses one by its extreme orderliness, filial reverence being regarded as the basis of all the virtues. The manners of these children are equally removed from shyness and forwardness. They all wore crowns of dark red gold of very beautiful workmanship, set with diamonds. When these girl-children are twelve years old, they will, according to custom, be strictly secluded, and will not be seen by any man but their father till the bridegroom lifts the veil at the marriage ceremony.
After these visits, in which the “Capitans China,” through the interpreter, assured us of their perpetual and renewed satisfaction with British rule, Mr. Hayward, the interpreter, and I paid another visit of a more leisurely kind to one of the Chinese gambling houses, which, as usual, was crowded. At one end several barbers were at work. A Chinaman is always being shaved, for he keeps his head and face quite smooth, and never shaves himself. The shaving the head was originally a sign of subjection imposed by the Tartar conquerors, but it is now so completely the national custom that prisoners feel it a deep disgrace when their hair is allowed to grow. Coolies twist their five feet of pigtail round their heads while they are at work, but a servant or other inferior only insults his superior if he entershis presence with his pigtail otherwise than pendent. The gaming house, whose open sides allow it to present a perpetual temptation, is full of tables, and at each sits a croupier, well clothed, and as many half-naked Ghinamen as can see over each other's shoulders crowd round him. Their silent, concentrated eagerness is a piteous sight, as the cover is slowly lifted from the heavy brass box in which the dice are kept, on the cast of which many of them have staked all they possess. They accept their losses, as they do their gains, with apparent composure. They work very hard and live on very little, but they are poor just now, for the price of tin has fallen
nearly one-half in consequence of the great tin discoveries in Australia.
Along with Mr. Hayward I paid a visit to the Court House, a large, whitewashed room, with a clean floor of red tiles, a tiled daïs with a desk for the judge, a table with a charge-sheet and some books upon it, and three long benches at the end for witnesses and their friends. A punkah is kept constantly going. There are a clerk, a Chinese interpreter who speaks six Chinese dialects, and a Malay interpreter who puts the Chinese interpreter's words into English. As the judge does not understand Malay, it will be observed that justice depends on the fidelity of this latter official. 'Though I cannot say that the dignity of justice is sustained in this court, there is not a doubt that the intentions of the judge are excellent, and if some of the guilty escape, it is not likely that any of the innocent suffer. The Datu Bandar sometimes sits on the bench with the Resident.
The benches were crowded almost entirely with Chinamen, and a number of policemen stood about. I noticed that these were as anxious as our own are to sustain a case. The case which I heard, and which occupied more than an hour, was an accusation against a wretched Chinaman for stealing a pig. I sat on the bench and heard every word that was said, and arrived at no judicial conclusion, nor did the Resident, so the accused was dismissed. He did steal that pig, though! I do not see how truth can be arrived at in an Oriental court, especially where the witnesses are members of Chinese secret societies. Another case, of alleged nocturnal assault, was tried, in which the judge took immense pains to get at the truth, and the prisoner had every advantage; and when he was found guilty, was put into a good gaol, from which he will be taken out aily to work on the roads.
Malays being Mussulmans, are mostly tried by the “Divine Law" of the Koran, and Chinamen are dealt with “in equity.” The question to be arrived at simply is, “Did the prisoner commit this crime or did he not ? " If he did he is punished, and if he did not he is acquitted. There are no legal technicalities by which trial can be delayed or the ends of justice frustrated. Theft is the most common crime. One hundred and fourteen persons were convicted last year, which does not seem a large proportion (being less than one per cent.) out of an unsettled mining population of twelve thousand. The Resident's restlessness, which often gives him the appearance of eccentricity, came out very strongly during the tedious business of disposing of charges. He was never still for two minutes, but was either hammering on the desk, whittling its edge, humming snatches of airs, making remarks to me, exclaiming, “ Bother these fellows!” or “Do get on, and don't keep us broiling here for ever!” knowing that only the Malay interpreter understood him. Mr. Hayward, through whose hands the crime of Singapore and Malacca has filtered for twenty years, was very critical on the rough-and-ready method of proceeding here, and constantly interjected suggestions, such as, “ You don't ask them questions before you swear them,” etc. Informal
as its administration is, I have no doubt that justice is substantially done, for the resident is conscientious and truly honourable. He is very lovable, and is evidently much beloved, and is able to go about in unguarded security.
It was not far from the Court House to the prison, a wholesomely situated building on a hill at Rassa, made of concrete, with an attap roof. The whole building is one hundred feet long by thirty feet broad. There are six cells for solitary confinement. A gaoler, turnkey, and eight warders constitute the prison staff. The able-bodied prisoners are employed on the roads and other public works, and attend upon the scavengers' cart, which outcome of civilisation goes round every morning! The diet, which costs fourpence a day for each prisoner, consists of rice and salt fish, but those who work get twopence-halfpenny a day in addition, with which they can either buy luxuries or accumulate a small sum against the time when their sentences expire. Old and weakly people do light work about the prison. One man was executed for murder last year under a sentence signed by the Datu Klana. I have not been in a prison since I was in that den of horrors, the prison of the Naam-Hoi magistrate at Canton, and I felt a little satisfaction in the contrast.
The same afternoon we all made a very pleasant expedition to the Sanatorium, a cabin which the Resident has built on a hill three miles from here. A chair with four Chinese bearers carried Miss Shaw up, her sister and the two gentlemen walked, and I rode a Sumatra pony on an Australian stockman's saddle not only up the steep jungle path, but up a staircase of two hundred steps in which it terminates, the sagacious animal going up quite cunningly. One charm of a tropical jungle is that every few yards you come upon something new, and every hundred feet of ascent makes a decided difference in the vegetation. This is a very grand forest, with its straight, smooth stems running up over one hundred feet before branching, and the branches are loaded with orchids and trailers. One cannot see what the foliage is like which is borne far aloft into the summer sunshine, but on the ground I found great red trumpet flowers and crimson corollas, like those of a Brobdingnagian honeysuckle, and flowers like red dragon-flies enormously magnified, and others like large, single roses in yellow wax, falling slowly down now and then, messengers from the floral glories above," wasting (?) their sweetness on the desert air.” A traveller through a tropical jungle may see very few flowers and be inclined to disparage it. It is necessary to go on adjacent rising ground and look down where trees and trailers are exhibiting their gorgeousness, Unlike the coarse weeds which form so much of the undergrowth in Japan, everything which grows in these forests rejoices the eye by its form or colour; but things which hurt and sting and may kill lurk amidst all the beauties. A creeping plant with very beautiful waxy leaves, said by Captain Murray to be vanilla, grows up many of the trees.
When we got up to the top of this, which the Resident calls Plantation Hill,” I was well pleased to find that only the undergrowth had