- Art Gallery -

 

 

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Cover

BY E. ALEXANDER POWELL

WHERE THE STRANGE TRAILS GO DOWN

THE NEW FRONTIERS OF FREEDOM

THE ARMY BEHIND THE ARMY

THE LAST FRONTIER

GENTLEMEN ROVERS

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


Dyak hunter

A real wild man of Borneo

A Dyak head-hunter using the sumpitan, or blow-gun, in the jungle of Central Borneo


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.

 


To

THE WINSOME WIDOW
MARGARET CAMPBELL McCUTCHEN
WHO, DESPITE COUNTLESS DISCOMFORTS,
ALWAYS KEPT SMILING


[vii]

FOREWORD

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 [viii]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 mélange of the frivolous and the serious, the picturesque and the prosaic, the superficial and the significant. If, [ix]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.


[xi]

AN ACKNOWLEDGMENT

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 [xii]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 Chargé 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[xiii] 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.


[xvi]

CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE
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

[xvii]

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

A real wild man of Borneo Frontispiece
FACING PAGE
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
[xviii]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

MAP

Malaysia 28

[1]

WHERE THE STRANGE
TRAILS GO DOWN

CHAPTER I
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 [2]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 [3]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 [4]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 [5]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?"

[6]"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 [7]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[8] 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?"

[9]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, [10]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.

boats on rapids

Hawkinson taking motion-pictures while descending the rapids of the Pagsanjan River in Luzon

His camera is set up astride of two native dugouts lashed together

people landing from boats

Members of Major Powell's party landing on the south coast of Bali

Mrs. Powell being carried ashore by sailors. The Negros in the distance


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 [11]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 [12]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 [13]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 naïvely, 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

[14]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, [15]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 protegés, 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 [16]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 [17]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'être 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 [18]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."

[19]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 [20]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 [21]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 [22]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. [23]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.

The bull-fight at Parang

bulls fighting

There was a sudden bellow, the two great heads came together with a thud like a pile-driver, and the fight was on

Moro horsemen

The spectators were kept at a distance by Móró horsemen under the Panglima

"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 [24]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."


[25]

CHAPTER II
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 [26]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 [27]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 [28]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."

View larger image

Map of Malaysia

Imbedded in the northern coast of the island, like[29] 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.

[30]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 [31]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 bougainvillæa 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 [32]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 [33]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 [34]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 [35]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 [36]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 [37]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 [38]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 [39]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 [40]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, [41]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, [42]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 [43]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 naïve 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 [44]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 [45]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 [46]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 [47]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 [48]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 [49]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.


[50]

CHAPTER III
"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.

[51]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 [52]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.

With the exception of Rhodesia, and of certain territories in Portuguese Africa, North Borneo is the sole remaining region in the world which is owned and administered by that political anachronism, a chartered company. It was in the age of Elizabeth that the chartered company, in the modern sense of the term, had its rise. The discovery of the New World and the opening out of fresh trading routes to the Indies gave a tremendous impetus to shipping, commercial and industrial enterprises throughout western Europe and it was in order to encourage these enterprises that the British, Dutch and French governments granted charters to various trading associations. It was the Russia Company, for example, which received its first charter in 1554, which first brought England into intercourse with an empire then unknown. The Turkey Company—later known as the Levant [53]Company—long maintained British prestige in the Ottoman Empire and even paid the expenses of the embassies sent out by the British Government to the Sublime Porte. The Hudson's Bay Company, which still exists as a purely commercial concern, was for nearly two centuries the undisputed ruler of western Canada. The extraordinary and picturesque career of the East India Company is too well known to require comment here. In fact, most of the thirteen British colonies in North America were in their inception chartered companies very much in the modern acceptation of the term. But, though these companies contributed in no small degree to the commercial progress of the states from which they held their charters, though they gave colonies to the mother countries and an impetus to the development of their fleets, they were all too often characterized by misgovernment, incompetence, injustice and cruelty in their dealings with the natives. Moreover, they were monopolies, and therefore, obnoxious, and almost without exception the colonies they founded became prosperous and well-governed only when they had escaped from their yoke. The existence of such companies today is justified—if at all—only by certain political and economic reasons. It may be desirable for a government to occupy a certain territory, but political exigencies at home may not permit it to incur the expense, or international relations may make such an adventure inexpedient at the time. In such circumstances, the formation of a chartered company to take over the desired territory [54]may be the easiest way out of the difficulty. But it has been demonstrated again and again that a chartered company can never be anything but a transition stage of colonization and that sooner or later the home government must take over its powers and privileges.

The story of the rise of the British North Borneo Company provides an illuminating insight into the methods by which that Empire On Which the Sun Never Sets has acquired many of its far-flung possessions. Though the British had established trading posts in northern Borneo as early as 1759, and had obtained the cession of the whole northeastern promontory from the Sultan of Sulu, who was its suzerain, the hostility of the natives, who resented their transfer to alien rule, was so pronounced that the treaty soon became virtually a dead letter and by the end of the century British influence in Borneo was to all intents and purposes at an end. Nor was it resumed until 1838, when an adventurous Englishman, James Brooke, landed at Kuching and eventually made himself the "White Rajah" of Sarawak. In 1848 the island of Labuan, off the northwestern coast of Borneo, was occupied by the British as a crown colony and some years later the Labuan Trading Company established a trading post at Sandakan. In an attempt to open up the country and to start plantations the company imported a considerable number of Chinese laborers, but it did not prosper and its financial affairs steadily went from bad to worse. As [55]long as the company kept its representative in Sandakan supplied with funds he managed to maintain a certain authority among the natives. But one day he received a letter bearing the London postmark from the company's chairman. It read:

"Sir: We are sorry to inform you that we cannot send you further funds, but you should not let this prevent you from keeping up your dignity."

To which the agent replied:

"Sir: I have on a pair of trousers and a flannel shirt—all I possess in the world. I think my dignity is about played out."

Another syndicate for the exploitation of North Borneo was formed in England in 1878, however, to which the Sultan of Sulu was induced to transfer all his rights in that region, of which he had been from time immemorial the overlord. Four years later this syndicate, now known as the British North Borneo Company, took over all the sovereign and diplomatic rights ceded by the original grants and proceeded to organize and administer the territory. In 1886 North Borneo was made a British protectorate, but its administration remained entirely in the hands of the company, the Crown reserving only control of its foreign relations, though it was also agreed that governors appointed by the company should receive the formal sanction of the British Colonial Secretary. To quote the chairman of the board of directors: "We are not a trading company. We are a government, [56]an administration. The Colonial Office leaves us alone as long as we behave ourselves."

The government is vested primarily in a board of directors who sit in London and few of whom have ever set foot in the country which they rule. The supreme authority in Borneo is the governor, under whom are the residents of the three chief districts, who occupy positions analogous to that of collector or magistrate. The six less important districts are administered by district magistrates, who also collect the taxes. Though there is a council, upon which the principal heads of departments and one unofficial member have seats, it meets irregularly and its functions are largely ornamental, the governor exercising virtually autocratic power. Unfortunately, there is no imperial official, as in Rhodesia, to supervise the company's activities. As was the case with the East India Company, the minor posts in the North Borneo service are filled by cadets nominated by the board of directors, a system which provides a considerable number of positions for younger sons, poor relations and titled ne'er-do-wells. Most of the officials go out to Borneo as cadets, serve a long and arduous apprenticeship in one of the most trying climates in the world, are miserably paid (I knew one official who held five posts at the same time, including those of assistant magistrate and assistant protector of labor and who received for his services the equivalent of $100. a month), and eventually retire, broken in health, on a pension which permits them to live in a Bloomsbury [57]lodging-house, to ride on a tuppenny bus, and to occasionally visit the cinema.

There is no trial by jury in North Borneo, all cases being decided by the magistrates, who are appointed by the company and who must be qualified barristers. Nor are there mixed courts, as in Egypt and other Oriental countries, though in the more important cases five or six assessors, either native or Chinese, according to the nationality of those involved, are permitted to listen to the evidence and to submit recommendations, which the magistrate may follow or not, as he sees fit. Neither is there a court of appeal, the only recourse from the decision of a magistrate being an appeal to the governor, whose decision is final.

The country is policed by a force of constabulary numbering some six hundred men, comprising Sikhs, Pathans, Punjabi Mohammedans, Malays, and Dyaks, officered by a handful of Europeans. Curiously enough, the tall, dignified, deeply religious Sikhs and the little, nervous, high-strung Dyak pagans get on very well together, eating, sleeping and drilling in perfect harmony. Though the Dyak members of the constabulary are recruited from the wild tribes of the interior, most of them having indulged in the national pastime of head-hunting until they donned the company's uniform, they make excellent soldiers, courageous, untiring, and remarkably loyal. Upon King Edward's accession to the throne a small contingent of Dyak police was sent to England to march in the coronation procession. When, owing to the serious [58]illness of the king, the coronation was indefinitely postponed and it was proposed to send the Dyaks home, the little brown fighters stubbornly refused to go, asserting that they would not dare to show their faces in Borneo without having seen the king. They did not wish to put the company to any expense, they explained, so they would give up their uniforms and live in the woods on what they could pick up if they were permitted to remain until they could see their ruler.

Though the Dyaks make excellent soldiers, as I have said, they are always savages at heart. In fact, when they are used in operations against rebellious natives, their officers permit and sometimes actively encourage their relapse into the barbarous custom of taking heads. An official who was stationed in Sandakan during the insurrection of 1908 told me that for days the police came swaggering into town with dripping heads hanging from their belts and that they piled these grisly trophies in a pyramid eight feet high on the parade ground in front of the government buildings. Imagine, if you please, the storm of indignation and disgust which would have swept the United States had American officers permitted the Maccabebe Scouts, who served with our troops against the insurgents in the Aguinaldo insurrection, to decapitate their Filipino prisoners and to bring the heads into Manila and pile them in a pyramid on the Luneta!

Though the term Dyak is often carelessly applied to all the natives of North Borneo, as a matter of [59]fact the Dyaks form only a small minority of the population, the bulk of the inhabitants being Bajows, Dusuns and Muruts. The Bajows, who are Mohammedans and first cousins of the Moros of the southern Philippines, are found mainly along the east coast of Borneo. They are a dark-skinned, wild, sea-gipsy race, rovers, smugglers and river thieves. Though, thanks to the stern measures adopted by the British and the Americans, they no longer indulge in piracy, which was long their favorite occupation, they still find profit and excitement in running arms and opium across the Sulu Sea to the Moro Islands, in attacking lonely light-houses, or in looting stranded merchantmen. It is the last coast in the world that I would choose to be shipwrecked on.

The Dusuns and the Muruts, who are generally found in widely scattered villages in the jungles of the interior, represent a very low stage of civilization, being unspeakably filthy in their habits and frequently becoming disgustingly intoxicated on a liquor of their own manufacture—the Bornean equivalent of home brew. A Murut or Dusun village usually consists of a single long hut divided into a great number of small rooms, one for each family—a jungle apartment house, as it were. These rooms open out into a common gallery or verandah along which the heads taken by the warriors of the tribe are festooned. It is as though the tenants of a New York apartment house had the heads of the landlord and the rent-collector and the janitor swinging over the front entrance. I [60]should add, perhaps, that the practise of head-hunting of which I shall speak at greater length when we reach Dutch Borneo is fostered and encouraged by the unmarried women, for every self-respecting Bornean girl demands that her suitor shall establish his social position in the tribe by acquiring a respectable number of heads, just as an American girl insists that the man she marries must provide her with a solitaire, a flat and a flivver.

Though the chartered company has ruled in North Borneo for more than forty years, it has only nibbled at the edges of the country. The interior is still uncivilized and largely unexplored, the home of savage animals and still more savage men. Though a railway has been pushed up-country from Jesselton for something over a hundred miles, both road and rolling-stock leave much to be desired, the little tin-pot locomotives not infrequently leaving the rails altogether and landing in the river. Some years ago an attempt was made to build a highway across the protectorate, from coast to coast, but after sixty miles had been completed the project was abandoned. It was known as the Sketchley Road and ran through a rank and miasmatic jungle, it being said that every hundred yards of construction cost the life of a Chinese laborer and that those who were left died at the end. Today it is only a memory, having long since been swallowed up by the fast-growing vegetation.

Dusun women

Dusun women

The Dusuns, who are found in the jungles of the interior, represent a very low state of civilization

Dyak head-hunters

Dyak head-hunters of North Borneo

Every Bornean girl demands that her suitor shall establish his social position by acquiring a few heads

The company has taken no steps toward establishing a system of public schools, as we have done in the [61]Philippines, for it holds to the outworn theory that, so far as the natives are concerned, a little learning is a dangerous thing. Perhaps the company is right. Were the natives to acquire a little learning it might prove dangerous—for the company. There are a few schools in North Borneo, but they are maintained by the Protestant and Roman Catholic missions and are attended mainly by Chinese. Whether they have proved as potent an influence in the propagation of the Christian faith as their founders anticipated is open to doubt. When I was in Sandakan I made some purchases in the bazaars from a Chinese lad who addressed me quite fluently in my own tongue.

"How does it happen that you speak such good English?" I asked him.

"Go to school," he grunted, none too amiably.

"Where? To a public school?"

"No public school. Church school."

"So you're a good Christian now, I suppose?" I remarked.

"To hell with Clistianity," he retorted. "Me go to school to learn English."


The chartered company maintains no public health service, nor, so far as I was able to discover, has it adopted the most rudimentary sanitary or quarantine precautions. It is, indeed, so notoriously lax in this respect that when we touched at ports in Dutch Borneo, the Celebes, and Java, the mere fact that we had come from British North Borneo caused the health [62]officers to view us with grave suspicion. When we were in Sandakan the town was undergoing a periodic visitation of that deadliest and most terrifying of all Oriental diseases, bubonic plague. As it is transmitted by the fleas on plague-infested rats, we took the precaution, when we went ashore, of wearing boots and breeches or of tying the bottoms of our trousers about our ankles with string, so as to prevent the fleas from biting us. It being necessary to go alongside the coal-wharves in order to replenish the bunkers of the Negros, orders were given that rat-guards—circular pieces of tin about the size of a barrel-top—should be fixed to our hawsers, thus making it difficult, if not impossible, for rats to invade the ship by that route, while sailors armed with clubs were posted along the landward rail to despatch any rodents that might succeed in gaining the deck. As the native and Chinese laborers had fled in terror from the wharves, where the dreaded disease had first manifested itself through the deaths of several stevedores, the authorities offered their freedom to those prisoners in the local jail who would volunteer for the hazardous work of cleaning up the wharves and warehouses and sprinkling them with petroleum. Six prisoners volunteered, but they might better have served out their terms, for the next day four of them were dead. Though the stout Cockney, harbormaster, known as "Pinkie" because of his rosy complexion, was pallid with fear, the other European residents of Sandakan seemed utterly indifferent to the danger to which they were exposed. But [63]life in a land like Borneo breeds fatalism. As an official remarked, with a shrug of his shoulders, "After you have spent a few years out here you don't much care how you die, or how soon. Plague is as convenient a way of going out as any other."


The greatest obstacle to the successful development of Borneo's enormous natural resources is the labor problem. The truth of the matter is that life in these tropical islands is too easy for the natives' own good. In a land where a man has no need for clothing, being, indeed, more comfortable without it; where he can pick his food from the trees or catch it with small effort in the sea; and where bamboos and nipa are all the materials required for a perfectly satisfactory dwelling, there is no incentive for work. It being impossible, therefore, to depend on native labor, the company has been forced to import large numbers of coolies from China. These coolies, whom the labor agents attract with promises of high wages, a delightful climate, unlimited opium, and other things dear to the Chinese heart, are employed under an indenture system, the duration of their contracts being limited by law to three hundred days. That sounds, on the face of it, like a safeguard against peonage. The trouble is, however, that it is easily circumvented. Here is the way it works in practise. Shortly after the laborer reaches the plantation where he is to be employed he is given an advance on his pay, frequently amounting to thirty Singapore dollars, which he is [64]encouraged to dissipate in the opium dens and gambling houses maintained on the plantation. Any one who has any knowledge of the Chinese coolie will realize how temperamentally incapable he is of resistance where opium and gambling are concerned. This pernicious system of advances has the effect, as it is intended to have, of chaining the laborer to the plantation by debt. For the first advance is usually followed by a second, and sometimes by a third, and to this debit column are added the charges made for food, for medical attendance, for opium, and for purchases made at the plantation store, so that, upon the expiration of his three-hundred-day contract, the laborer almost invariably owes his employer a debt which he is quite unable to pay. As he cannot obtain employment elsewhere in the colony under these conditions, he is faced with the alternative of being shipped back to China a pauper or of signing another contract. There is no breaking of the law by the planter, you see: the laborer is perfectly free to leave when his contract has expired—as free as any man can be who is absolutely penniless.

Let me quote from a letter from the former Assistant Protector of Labor of British North Borneo. From the very nature of his duties he knows whereof he speaks:

"One sees a large number of healthy, able-bodied Chinese coming into the country as laborers and, at the end of a year or two, instead of going back to their homes with money in their pockets and healthy [65]with outdoor work, they go back as broken beggars, pitifully saturated with disease or confirmed drug fiends. It is really sad to see some of them return home after a struggle of four or five years to save money—a struggle not only against themselves and their acquired opium habit, but against the numerous parasites which always fatten on laborers."

During the term of his indenture the laborer is to all intents and purposes a prisoner, his only appeal against any injustices practised on the plantation being to the Protector of Labor, who is supposed to visit each estate once a month. In theory this system is admirable, but in practise it does not afford the laborer the protection which the law intends, for it frequently happens that laborers who have been brutally mistreated have been coerced into silence by the plantation managers by threats of what will happen to them if they dare to lay a complaint before the inspecting official. Moreover, many of the plantations are so remotely situated, so far removed from civilization, that a manager can treat his laborers as he pleases with little fear of detection or punishment. If negroes are held in peonage, flogged, and even murdered on plantations in our own South, within rifle-shot of courthouses and sheriffs' offices and churches, is it to be wondered at that similar conditions can and do exist in the world-distant jungles of Borneo. Mind you, I do not say that such conditions exist on all or most of the estates in British North Borneo, but I have the best [66]of reasons for believing that they exist on some of them.

One of the most serious defects in the labor laws of North Borneo is that trivial actions or omissions on the part of ignorant coolies, such as misconduct, neglect of work, or absence from the estate without leave, are punishable by imprisonment. As a result, the illiterate and incoherent coolie does not know where he stands. He can never be sure that some trivial action on his part, no matter how innocent his intent, will not bring him within reach of the criminal law. He is, moreover, denied the right of trial by jury, his case usually being decided off-hand by a bored and unsympathetic magistrate who has no knowledge of the defendant's tongue. Moreover, the company's laws permit the punishment of unruly laborers by flogging, with a maximum of twelve lashes. In view of the remoteness of most of the estates, it is scarcely necessary for me to point out that this is a form of punishment open to the gravest abuse.

Although, as I have shown, the British North Borneo Company permits the existence of a system not far removed from slavery, a far more serious indictment of the company's administration lies in its systematic debauchery of its laborers by encouraging them to indulge in opium smoking and gambling for the purpose of swelling its revenues. Nor does its heartless exploitation of the laborer end there, for when a coolie has dissipated all his earnings in the opium dens and gaming houses, which are run under government[67] concessions, he can usually realize a little more money for the same purpose by pawning his few poor belongings at one of the pawnshops controlled by the company. In other words, from the day a laborer sets foot in Borneo until the day he departs, he is systematically separated from his earnings, which are diverted, through the channels provided by the opium dens, the gambling houses and the pawn shops, into a stream which eventually empties into the company's coffers. For, mark you, the chartered company did not go to North Borneo from any altruistic motives. It is animated by no desire to ameliorate the condition of the natives or to increase the well-being and happiness of its imported laborers. It is there with one object in view, and one alone—to pay dividends to its stockholders. As the chairman of the company said at a recent North Borneo dinner in London: "They have acted the parts of Empire makers and yet they are filling their own pockets, for the golden rain is beginning to fall."

Let me show you where this "golden rain" comes from. The two principal sources of revenue of the British North Borneo Company are opium and gambling. Suppose that you come with me for a stroll down the Jalan Tiga in Sandakan and see the gaming houses and the opium dens for yourself. Jalan Tiga (literally "Number Two Street") is a moderately broad thoroughfare, perhaps a quarter of a mile in length, which is solidly lined on both sides with gambling houses, or, as they are called in Borneo, gambling [68]farms, the term being due to the fact that the gambling privileges are farmed out by the government. There may be wickeder streets somewhere in the East than the Jalan Tiga, but I do not recall having seen them. It, and the thoroughfares immediately adjoining, in which are situated the opium dens and the houses of prostitution, form a district which represents the very quintessence of Oriental vice. Over virtually every door are signs in Chinese, Malay and English announcing that games of chance are played within. Such resorts are not camouflaged in Borneo. They are as open as a railway station or a public library in the United States. From afternoon until sunrise these resorts are crowded to the doors with half-naked, perspiring humanity, brown skins and yellow being in about equal proportions, for the Malay is as inveterate a gambler as the Chinese. The downstairs rooms, which are frequented by the lower classes, are thickly sprinkled with low tables covered with mats divided into four sections, each of which bears a number. A dice under a square brass cup is shaken on the table and the cup slowly raised. Those players who have been lucky enough to place their bets on the square whose number corresponds to the number uppermost on the dice have their money doubled, the others see their earnings swept into the lap of the croupier, a fat and greasy Chinaman, usually stripped to the waist. In this system the chances against the player are enormous. The play is very rapid, the dice being shaken, the cup raised, the [69]winners paid and the wagers of the losers raked in too quickly for the untrained eye to follow. The players seldom quit as long as they have any money left to wager, but as soon as one drops out there is another ready to take his place. The upstairs rooms, which are usually handsomely decorated and luxuriously furnished, are reserved for the wealthier patrons, it being by no means uncommon for a player to lose several thousand dollars in a single night. Here cards are generally used instead of dice to separate the players from their money, fan-tan being the favorite game. I was told that the monthly subsidy paid by the British North Borneo Company to the Sultan of Sulu, who comes over from Jolo with great regularity to collect it, never leaves the country, as he invariably loses it over a Sandakan gaming-table. Gambling is a government monopoly in Borneo, the company farming out the privilege each year to the highest bidder. In 1919 the gambling rights for the entire protectorate were sold for approximately $144,000.

Crossing the Jalan Tiga at right angles and running from the heart of the town down to the edge of the harbor is the street of the prostitutes. It is easy to recognize the houses of ill-fame by their scarlet blinds and by the scarlet numbers over their doors. Should you stroll down the street during the day you will find the sullen-eyed inmates seated in the doorways, brushing their long and lustrous blue-black hair or painting their faces in white and vermillion preparatory to the evening's entertainment. Probably four-[70]fifths of the filles de joie in Sandakan are Chinese, the others are products of Nippon—quaint, dainty, doll-like little women with faces so heavily enameled that they would be cracked by a smile. When a Chinese merchant wants a wife he usually visits a house of prostitution, selects one of the inmates, drives a hard bargain with the hard-eyed mistress of the establishment, and, the transaction concluded, brusquely tells the girl to pack her belongings and accompany him to his home. I might add that the girls thus chosen invariably make good wives and remain faithful to their husbands.

Jalan Tiga, Sandakan

The Jalan Tiga, Sandakan

A moderately broad thoroughfare, lined on both sides with gambling-houses

an opium smoker

A patron of a Sandakan opium farm

Each smoker is provided with a lamp for heating his "pill" and a wooden head-rest

Running parallel to the Jalan Tiga is another street—I do not recall its name—in which are the opium farms. Far from being veiled in secrecy, they are operated as openly as American soda fountains. A typical opium farm consists of a two-story wooden house, one of a long row of similar buildings, containing a number of small, ill-lighted rooms which reek with the sickly sweet fumes of the drug. The furniture consists of a number of so-called beds, which in reality are wooden platforms or tables, their tops, which are raised about three feet above the floor, providing space on which two smokers can recline. Each smoker is provided with a block of wood which serves as a pillow and a small lamp for heating his "pill." The number of patrons who may be accommodated at one time is prescribed by law and rigidly enforced, signs denoting the authorized capacity of the house being posted at the door, like the signs in elevators and on ferry-boats in America. For example, the door [71]of one farm that I visited bore the notice "Only fifteen beds. Room for thirty persons." Over-crowding is forbidden by the authorities, not, as in the case of elevators and ferry-boats, for reasons of safety, but for financial reasons. The more opium farms there are, you see, the greater the company's profits.

The opium is purchased by the chartered company from the Government of the Straits Settlements for $1.20 a tael (about one-tenth of a pound troy) and, after being adulterated with various substances, is sold to the opium farmers, nearly all of whom are Chinese, for $8.50 a tael, the company thus making a very comfortable margin of profit on the transaction. The opium farmers either keep opium dens themselves or sell the drug to anyone wishing to buy it, just as a tobacconist sells cigars and cigarettes. The sale of the opium privilege in Sandakan alone nets the government, so I was informed, something over $500,000 annually.

Now, iniquitous and deplorable as such a traffic is, the British North Borneo administration is not the only government engaged in the sale of opium. But it is the only government, so far as I am aware, which virtually forces the drug on its people by insisting that it shall be purchasable in localities which might otherwise escape its malign influence. A planter who, actuated either by moral scruples or by a desire to maintain the efficiency of his laborers, opposes the opening of an opium farm on his estate, might as well sell out and leave Borneo, for the company will [72]promptly retaliate for such interference with its revenues by cutting off his supply of labor. It will defend its action by naïvely asserting that, as the coolies would contrive to obtain the drug any way, the planter, in refusing to permit the opening of an opium farm on his property, is guilty of conniving at the illegal use of the drug!

The British North Borneo Company professes to find justification for engaging in the opium traffic by insisting that, as the Chinese will certainly obtain opium clandestinely if they cannot obtain it openly, it is better for everyone concerned that its sale and use should be kept under government control. The fact remains, however, that China, decadent though she may be and desperately in need of increased revenues, has succeeded, in spite of the powerful opposition of the British-owned Opium Ring, in putting an end to the traffic within her borders, while Siam, likewise under Oriental rule, is about to do the same. It is a curious commentary on European civilization that this vice, which the so-called "backward" races are vigorously attempting to stamp out, should be not only permitted but encouraged in a country over which flies the flag of England. Its effects on the population are summed up in this sentence from a letter written me by a former high official of the chartered company: "Fifty per cent of the thefts and robberies committed during the period that I was magistrate in that territory can be directly traced to opium and gambling."

[73]There is held each year, at one of the great London hotels, the North Borneo Dinner. It is one of the most brilliant affairs of the season. At the head of the long table, banked with flowers and gleaming with glass and silver, sits the chairman of the chartered company, flanked by cabinet ministers, archbishops, ambassadors, admirals, field marshals. The speakers work the audience into a fervor of patriotic pride by their sonorous word-pictures of England's services to humanity in bearing the white man's burden, and of the spread of enlightenment and progress under the Union Jack. But the heartiest applause invariably greets the announcement that the North Borneo Company has declared a dividend. Whence the money to pay the dividend was derived is tactfully left unsaid. The dinner always concludes with the singing of the anthem Land of Hope and Glory. Yet they say that the English have no sense of humor!


[74]

CHAPTER IV
THE EMERALDS OF WILHELMINA

In Singapore stands one of the most significant statues in the world. From the centre of its sun-scorched Esplanade rises the bronze figure of a youthful, slender, clean-cut, keen-eyed man, clad in the high-collared coat and knee-breeches of a century ago, who, from his lofty pedestal, peers southward, beyond the shipping in the busy harbor, beyond the palm-fringed straits, toward those mysterious, alluring islands which ring the Java Sea. Though his name, Thomas Stamford Raffles, doubtless holds for you but scanty meaning, and though he died when only forty-five, his last years shadowed by the ingratitude of the country whose commercial supremacy in the East he had secured and to which he had offered a vast, new field for colonial expansion, he was one of the greatest architects of empire that ever lived. He combined the vision and administrative genius of Clive and Hastings with the audacity and energy of Hawkins and Drake. It was his dream, to use his own words, "to make Java the center of an Eastern insular empire" ruled "not only without fear but without reproach"; an empire to consist of that great archipelago—Sumatra, Java, Borneo, the Celebes, New Guinea, and the lesser islands[75]—which sweeps southward and eastward from the Asian mainland to the edges of Australasia. Though this splendid colonial structure was erected according to the plans that Raffles drew, by curious circumstance the flag that flies over it today is not his flag, not the flag of England, for, instead of being governed from Westminster, as he had dreamed, it is governed from The Hague, the ruler of its fifty million brown inhabitants being the stout, rosy-cheeked young woman who dwells in the Palace of Het Loo.

Though in area Queen Wilhelmina's colonial possessions are exceeded by those of Britain and France, she is the sovereign of the second largest colonial empire, in point of population, in the world. But, because it lies beyond the beaten paths of tourist travel, because it has been so little advertised by plagues and famines and rebellions, and because it has been so admirably and unobtrusively governed, it has largely escaped public attention—a fact, I imagine, with which the Dutch are not ill-pleased. Did you realize, I wonder, that the Insulinde, as Netherlands India is sometimes called, is as large, or very nearly as large, as all that portion of the United States lying east of the Mississippi? Did you know that in the third largest island of the archipelago, Sumatra, the State of California could be set down and still leave a comfortable margin all around? Or that the fugitive from justice who turns the prow of his canoe westward from New Guinea must sail as far as from Vancouver to [76]Yokohama before he finds himself beyond the shadow of the Dutch flag and the arm of Dutch law?

Until the closing years of the sixteenth century, European trade with the Far East was an absolute monopoly in the hands of Spain and Portugal. Incredible as it may seem, the two Iberian nations alone possessed the secret of the routes to the East, which they guarded with jealous care. In 1492, Columbus, bearing a letter from the King of Spain to the Khan of Tartary, whose power and wealth had become legendary in Europe through the tales of Marco Polo and other overland travelers, sailed westward from Cadiz in search of Asia, discovering the islands which came to be known as the West Indies. Five years later a Portuguese sea-adventurer, Vasco da Gama, turned the prow of his caravel south from the mouth of the Tagus, skirted the coast of Africa, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, crossed the Indian Ocean, and dropped his anchor in the harbor of Calicut—the first European to reach the beckoning East by sea. For a quarter of a century the Portuguese were the only people in Europe who knew the way to the East, and their secret gave them a monopoly of the Eastern trade. Lisbon became the richest port of Europe. Portugal was mistress of the seas. But in 1519 another Portuguese seafarer, Hernando de Maghallanes—we call him Ferdinand Magellan—who, resenting his treatment by the King of Portugal, had shifted his allegiance to Spain, sailed southwestward across the Atlantic, rounded the southern extremity of America by the [77]straits which bear his name, crossed the unknown Pacific, and raised the flag of Spain over the islands which came in time to be called the Philippines. Spain had reached the Indies by sailing west, as Portugal had reached them by sailing east.

Though the fabulous wealth of the lands thus discovered was discussed around every council table and camp-fire in Europe, the routes by which that wealth might be attained were guarded by Portugal and Spain as secrets of state. The charts showing the routes were not intrusted to the captains of vessels in the Eastern trade until the moment of departure, and they were taken up immediately upon their return; the silence of officers and crews was insured by every oath that the church could frame and every penalty that the state could devise. For more than three-quarters of a century, indeed, the two Iberian nations succeeded in keeping the secret of the sea roads to the East, its betrayal being punishable by death. In 1580, however, the English freebooter, Francis Drake, nicknamed "The Master Thief of the Unknown World," duplicated the voyage of Magellan's expedition of threescore years before, thus discovering the route to the Indies used by Spain.

At this period the Dutch, "the waggoners of the sea," possessed, as middlemen, a large interest in the spice trade, for the Portuguese, having no direct access to the markets of northern Europe, had made a practise of sending their Eastern merchandise to the Netherlands in Dutch bottoms for distribution by way [78]of the Rhine and the Scheldt. As a result, the enormous carrying trade of Holland was wholly dependent upon Lisbon. But when Spain unceremoniously annexed Portugal in 1580, the first act of Philip, upon becoming master of Lisbon, was to close the Tagus to the Dutch, his one-time subjects, who had revolted eight years before. As a result of the revenge thus taken by the Spanish tyrant, the Dutch were faced by the necessity of themselves going in quest of the Indies if their flag was not to disappear from the seas. Their opportunity came a dozen years later when a venturesome Hollander, Cornelius Houtman, who was risking imprisonment and even death by trading surreptitiously in the forbidden city on the Tagus, succeeded in obtaining through bribery a copy of one of the secret charts. The Spanish authorities scarcely could have been aware that he had learned a secret of such immense importance, or his silence would have been insured by the headsman. As it was, he was thrown into prison for illegal trading, where he was held for heavy ransom. But he managed to get word to Amsterdam of the priceless information which had come into his possession, whereupon the merchants of that city promptly formed a syndicate, subscribed the money for his ransom, and obtained his release. Thus it came about that shortly after his return to Holland there was organized the Company of Distant Lands, a title as vague, grandiose and alluring as the plans of those who founded it. In 1595, then, nearly a century after da Gama had shown the way, four caravels[79] under the command of Houtman, the banner of the Netherlands flaunting from their towering sterns, sailed grandly out of the Texel, slipped past the white chalk cliffs of Dover, sped southward before the trades, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and laid their course across the Indian Ocean for the Spice Islands. When the adventurers returned, two years later, they brought back tales of islands richer than anything of which the Dutch burghers had ever dreamed, and produced cargoes of Eastern merchandise to back their stories up.

The return of Houtman's expedition was the signal for a great outburst of commercial enterprise in the Low Countries, seekers after fortune or adventure flocking to the Indies as, centuries later, other fortune-seekers, other adventurers, flocked to the gold-diggings of the Sierras, the Yukon, and the Rand. On those distant seas, however, the adventurers were beyond the reach of any law, the same lawless conditions prevailing in the Indies at the beginning of the seventeenth century which characterized Californian life in the days of '49. The Dutch warred on the natives and on the Portuguese, and, when there was no one else to offer them resistance, they fought among themselves. By 1602 conditions had become so intolerable that the government of Holland, in order to tranquillize the Indies, and to stabilize the spice market at home, decided to amalgamate the various trading enterprises into one great corporation, the Dutch East India Company, which was authorized to exercise the [80]functions of government in those remote seas and to prosecute the war against Spain. When Philip shut the Dutch out of Lisbon, he made a formidable enemy for himself, for, though the burghers went to the East primarily in order to save their commerce from extinction, they were animated in a scarcely less degree by a determination to even their score with Spain.

The history of the Dutch East India Company is not a savory one. It was a powerful instrument for extracting the wealth of the Indies, and, so long as the wealth was forthcoming, the stockholders at home in Holland did not inquire too closely as to how the instrument was used. The story of the company from its formation in 1602 until its dissolution nearly two centuries later is a record of intrigue, cruelty and oppression. It exercised virtually sovereign powers. It made and enforced its own laws, it maintained its own fleet and army, it negotiated treaties with Japan and China, it dethroned sultans and rajahs, it established trading-posts and factories at the Cape of Good Hope, in the Persian Gulf, on the coasts of Malabar and Coromandel, and in Bengal; it waged war against the Portuguese, the Spaniards and the English in turn. When at the summit of its power, in 1669, the company possessed forty warships and one hundred and fifty merchantmen, maintained an army of ten thousand men, and paid a forty per cent dividend.

Meanwhile a formidable rival to the Dutch company, the English East India Company, had arisen, but the accession of a Dutchman, William, Prince of [81]Orange, to the throne of England in 1688 turned the rivals into allies, the trade of the eastern seas being divided between them. But toward the close of the eighteenth century there came another change in the status quo, for the Dutch, by allying themselves with the French, became the enemies of England. By this time Great Britain had become the greatest sea power in the world, so that within a few months after the outbreak of hostilities in 1795 the British flag had replaced that of the Netherlands over Ceylon, Malacca, and other stations on the highway to the Insulinde. When the Netherlands were annexed to the French Empire by Napoleon in 1810 the British seized the excuse thus provided to occupy Java, Thomas Stamford Raffles, the brilliant young Englishman who was then the agent of the British East India Company at Malacca, in the Malay States, being sent to Java as lieutenant-governor. Urgent as were his appeals that Java should be retained by Britain as a jewel in her crown of empire, the readjustment of the territories of the great European powers which was effected at the Congress of Vienna, in 1816, after the fall of Napoleon, resulted in the restoration to the Dutch of those islands of the Insulinde, including Java, which the British had seized. But, though Raffles ruled in Java for barely four and a half years, his spirit goes marching on, the system of colonial government which he instituted having been continued by the Dutch, in its main outlines, to this day. He won the confidence and friendship of the powerful native [82]princes, revolutionized the entire legal system, revived the system of village or communal government, reformed the land-tenure, abolished the abominable system of forcing the natives to deliver all their crops, and gave to the Javanese a rule of honesty, justice and wisdom with which, up to that time, they had not had even a bowing acquaintance. As a result of the lessons learned from Stamford Raffles, the Dutch possessions in the East are today more wisely and justly administered than those of any other European nation.

The Dutch had not seen the last of Raffles, however, for in 1817 he returned from England, where he had been knighted by the Prince Regent, to take the post of lieutenant-governor of Sumatra, to which the British did not finally relinquish their claims until half a century later. His administration of that great island was characterized by the same breadth of vision, tact, and energy which had marked his rule in Java. It was during this period that Raffles rendered his greatest service to the empire. The Dutch, upon regaining Java, attempted to obtain complete control of all the islands of the archipelago, which would have resulted in seriously hampering, if not actually ending, British trade east of Malacca. But Raffles, recognizing the menace to British interests, defeated the Dutch scheme in January, 1819, by a sudden coup d'etat, when he seized the little island at the tip of the Malay Peninsula which commands the Malacca Straits and the entrance to the China seas, and founded Singapore, thereby giving Britain control of the gateway [83]to the Farther East and ending forever the Dutch dream of making of those waters a mare clausum—a Dutch lake.

The thousands of islands, islets, and atolls which comprise Netherlands India—the proper etymological name of the archipelago is Austronesia—are scattered over forty-six degrees of longitude, on both sides of the equator. Although in point of area Java holds only fifth place, Sumatra, Borneo, New Guinea and the Celebes being much larger, it nevertheless contains three-fourths of the population and yields four-fifths of the produce of the entire archipelago. Though scarcely larger than Cuba, it has more inhabitants than all the Atlantic Coast States, from Maine to Florida, combined. This, added to the strategic importance of its situation, the richness of its soil, the variety of its products, the intelligence, activity and civilization of its inhabitants, and the fact that it is the seat of the colonial government, makes Java by far the most important unit of the Insulinde. Because of its overwhelming importance in the matters of position, products and population, it is administered as a distinct political entity, the other portions of the Dutch Indies being officially designated as the Outposts or the Outer Possessions.

Westernmost and by far the most important of the Outposts is Sumatra, an island four-fifths the size of France, as potentially rich in mineral and agricultural wealth as Java, but with a sparse and intractable population, certain of the tribes, notably the Achinese, who [84]inhabit the northern districts, still defying Dutch rule in spite of the long and costly series of wars which have resulted from Holland's attempt to subjugate them. The unmapped interior of Sumatra affords an almost virgin field for the explorer, the sportsman and the scientist. It has ninety volcanoes, twelve of which are active (the world has not forgotten the eruption, in 1883, of Krakatu, an island volcano off the Sumatran coast, which resulted in the loss of forty thousand human lives); the jungles of the interior are roamed by elephants, tigers, rhinoceroses, panthers and occasional orang-utans, while in the scattered villages, with their straw-thatched, highly decorated houses, dwell barbarous brown men practising customs so incredibly eerie and fantastic that a sober narration of them is more likely than not to be greeted with a shrug of amused disbelief. One who has no first-hand knowledge of the Sumatran tribes finds it difficult to accept at their face value the accounts of the customs practised by the Bataks of Tapanuli, for example, who, when their relatives become too old and infirm to be of further use, give them a pious interment by eating them. When the local Doctor Oslers have decided that a man has reached the age when his place at the family table is preferable to his company, the aged victim climbs a lemon-tree, beneath which his relatives stand in a circle, wailing the deathsong, the weird, monotonous chant being continued until the condemned one summons the courage to throw himself to the ground, whereupon the members [85]of his family promptly despatch him with clubs, cut up his body, roast the meat, and eat it. Thus every stomach in the tribe becomes, in effect, a sort of family burial-plot. I was unable to ascertain why the victim is compelled to throw himself from a lemon-tree. It struck me that some taller tree, like a palm, would better accomplish the desired result. A matter of custom, doubtless. Perhaps that explains why we dub persons who are passé "lemons." Then there are the Achinese, whose women frequently marry when eight years old, and are considered as well along in life when they reach their teens; and the Niassais, who are in deadly fear of albino children and who kill all twins as soon as they are born. Or the Menangkabaus, whose tribal government is a matriarchy: lands, houses, crops and children belonging solely to the wife, who may, and sometimes does, sell her husband as a slave in order to pay her debts.

Trailing from the eastern end of Java in a twelve-hundred-mile-long chain, like the wisps of paper which form the tail of a kite, and separated by straits so narrow that artillery can fire across them, are the Lesser Sundas—Bali, noted for its superb scenery and its alluring women; Lombok, the northernmost island whose flora and fauna are Australian; Sumbawa, where the sandalwood comes from; Flores, whose inhabitants consider the earth so holy that they will not desecrate it by digging wells or cultivation; Timor, the northeastern half of which, together with Goa in India and Macao in China, forms the last remnant of [86]Portugal's once enormous Eastern empire; Rotti, Kei, and Aroo, the great chain thus formed linking New Guinea, the largest island in the world, barring Australia, with the mainland of Asia. Of the last-named island, the entire western half belongs to Holland, the remaining half being about equally divided between British Papua, in the southeast, and in the northeast the former German colony of Kaiser Wilhelm Land, now administered by Australia under a mandate from the League of Nations.

The population of Dutch New Guinea is estimated at a quarter of a million, but the predilection of its puff-ball-headed inhabitants for human flesh has discouraged the Dutch census-takers from making an accurate enumeration, as the Papuan cannibal does not hesitate to sacrifice the needs of science to those of the cooking-pot. Though New Guinea is believed to be enormously rich in natural resources, and has many excellent harbors, the secrets of its mysterious interior can only be conjectured. The natives are as degraded as any in the world; their principal vocation is hunting birds of paradise, whose plumes command high prices in the European markets; their chief avocation in recent years has been staging imitation cannibal feasts for the benefit of motion-picture expeditions. But, unknown and unproductive as it is at present, I would stake my life that New Guinea will be a great colony some day.

To the west of New Guinea and to the south of the Philippines lie the Moluccas—Ceram, Amboin, [87]Ternate, Halmahera, and the rest—the Spice Islands of the old-time voyagers, the scented tropic isles of which Camoens sang. Amboin, owing to the fact that Europeans have been established there for centuries on account of its trade in spices, is characterized by a much higher degree of civilization than the rest of the Moluccas, a considerable proportion of its inhabitants professing to be Christians. The flower of the colonial army is recruited from the Amboinese, who regard themselves not as vassals of the Dutch but as their allies and equals, a distinction which they emphasize by wearing shoes, all other native troops going barefoot. Beyond the Moluccas, across the Banda Sea, sprawls the Celebes,[1] familiar from our school-days because of its fantastic outline, the plural form of its name being due to the supposition of the early explorers that it was a group of islands instead of one. And finally, crossing Makassar Straits, we come to Borneo, the habitat of the head-hunter and the orang-utan. Though Borneo is a treasure-house for the naturalist, the botanist, and the ethnologist, the Dutch, as in New Guinea, have merely scratched its surface, almost no attempt having thus far been made to exploit its enormous natural resources. Thus I have arrayed for your cursory inspection the congeries of curious and colorful islands which constitute Netherlands India in order that you may comprehend the problems of civilization and administration which [88]Holland has had to solve in those distant seas, and that you may be better qualified to judge the results she has achieved.


The Insulinde has eight times the population and sixty times the area of the mother country, from which it is separated by ten thousand miles of sea, yet the sovereignty of Queen Wilhelmina is upheld among the cannibals of New Guinea, the head-hunters of Borneo, and the savages of Achin, no less than among the docile millions of Java, by less than ten thousand European soldiers. That a territory so vast and with so enormous a population, should be so admirably administered, everything considered, by so small a number of white men, is in itself proof of the Dutch genius for ruling subject races.

From the day when Holland determined to organize her colonial empire for the benefit of the natives themselves, instead of exploiting it for the benefit of a handful of Dutch traders and settlers, as she had previously done, she has employed in her colonial service only thoroughly trained officials of proved ability and irreproachable character. The Dutch officials whom I met in Java and the Outposts impressed me, indeed, as being men of altogether exceptional capacity and attainments, better educated and qualified, as a whole, than those whom I have encountered in the British and French colonial possessions. Since the war, owing to the difficulty of obtaining men of sufficient caliber and experience to fill the minor posts, [89]which are not particularly well paid, Holland has given employment in her colonial service to a considerable number of Germans, most of whom had been trained in colonial administration in Germany's African and Pacific possessions, but they are appointed, of course, only to posts of relative unimportance.

Every year the Minister of the Colonies ascertains the number of vacancies in the East Indian service, and every year the Grand Examination of Officials is held simultaneously in The Hague and Batavia, the results of this examination determining the eligibility of candidates for admission to the colonial service and the fitness of officials already in the service for promotion. With the exception of the Governor-General and two or three other high officials, who are appointed by the crown, no official can evade this examination, to pass which requires not only an intimate knowledge of East Indian languages, politics and customs, but real scholarship as well. The names of those candidates who pass this examination are certified to the Minister of the Colonies, who thereupon directs them to report to the Governor-General at Batavia and provides them with funds for the voyage. Upon their arrival in the Indies the Governor-General appoints them to the grade of controleur and tests their capacity by sending them to difficult and trying posts in Sumatra, Borneo, the Celebes, or New Guinea, where they must conclusively prove their ability before they can hope for promotion to the grades of assistant resident and resident, and the relative comfort of [90]official life in Java. In the Outposts they at once come face to face with innumerable difficulties and responsibilities, for the controleur is responsible, though within narrower limits than the resident, for everything: justice, police, agriculture, education, public works, the protection of the natives, and the requirements of the settlers in such matters as labor and irrigation. He is, in short, an administrator, a police official, a judge, a diplomatist, and an adviser on almost every subject connected with the government of tropical dependencies. The officials in the Outposts are given more authority and greater latitude of action than their colleagues in Java, for they have greater difficulties to cope with, while the intractability, if not the open hostility of the natives whom they are called upon to rule demands greater tact and diplomacy than are required in Java, where the officials are inclined to become spoiled by their easy-going life and the semi-royal state which they maintain.

Though Holland demands much of those who uphold her authority in the Indies, she is generous in her rewards. The Governor-General draws a salary of seventy thousand dollars together with liberal allowances for entertaining, and is provided with palaces at Batavia and Buitenzorg, while at Tjipanas, on one of the spurs of the Gedei, nearly six thousand feet above the sea, he has a country house set in a great English park. Wherever he is in residence he maintains a degree of state scarcely inferior to that of the sovereign herself. The residents are paid from five [91]thousand dollars to nine thousand dollars according to their grades, the assistant residents from three thousand five hundred dollars to five thousand dollars, and the controleurs from one thousand eight hundred dollars to two thousand four hundred dollars. Though officials are permitted leaves of absence only once in ten years, those who complete twenty-five years' service in the Insulinde may retire on half-pay. Even at such salaries, however, and in a land where living is cheap as compared with Europe, it is almost impossible for the officials to save money, for they are expected to entertain lavishly and to live in a fashion which will impress the natives, who would be quick to seize on any evidence of economy as a sign of weakness.

Netherlands India is ruled by a dual system of administration—European and native. By miracles of patience, tact, and diplomacy, the Dutch have succeeded in building up in the Indies a gigantic colonial empire, which, however, they could not hope to hold by force were there to be a concerted rising of the natives. Realizing this, Holland—instead of attempting to overawe the natives by a display of military strength, as England has done in Egypt and India, and France in Algeria and Morocco—has succeeded, by keeping the native princes on their thrones and according them a shadowy suzerainty, in hoodwinking the ignorant brown mass of the people into the belief that they are still governed by their own rulers. Though at first the princes, as was to be expected, bitterly resented the curtailment of their prerogatives and [92]powers, they decided that they might better remain on their thrones, even though the powers remaining to them were merely nominal, and accept the titles, honors and generous pensions which the Dutch offered them, than to resist and be ruthlessly crushed. In pursuance of this shrewd policy, every province in the Indies has as its nominal head a native puppet ruler, known as a regent, usually a member of the house which reigned in that particular territory before the white man came. Though the regents are appointed, paid, and at need dismissed by the government, and though they are obliged to accept the advice and obey the orders of the Dutch residents, they remain the highest personages in the native world and the intermediaries through whom Holland transmits her wishes and orders to the native population.

In order to lend color to the fiction that the natives are still ruled by their own princes, the regents are provided with the means to keep up a considerable degree of ceremony and pomp; they have their opera-bouffe courts, their gorgeously uniformed body-guards, their gilded carriages and golden parasols, and some of the more important ones maintain enormous households. But, though they preside at assemblies, sign decrees, and possess all the other external attributes of power, in reality they only go through the motions of governing, for always behind their gorgeous thrones sits a shrewd and silent Dutchman who pulls the strings. Though this system of dual government has the obvious disadvantage of being both cumbersome [93]and expensive, it is, everything considered, perhaps the best that could have been devised to meet the existing conditions, for nothing is more certain than that, should the Dutch attempt to do away with the native princes, there would be a revolt which would shake the Insulinde to its foundations and would gravely imperil Dutch domination in the islands.

The most interesting examples of this system of dual administration are found in the Vorstenlanden, or "Lands of the Princes," of Surakarta and Djokjakarta, in Middle Java. These two principalities, which once comprised the great empire of Mataram, are nominally independent, being ostensibly ruled by their own princes: the Susuhunan of Surakarta and the Sultan of Djokjakarta, who are, however, despite their high-sounding titles and their dazzling courts, but mouthpieces for the Dutch residents. The series of episodes which culminated in the Dutch acquiring complete political ascendency in the Vorstenlanden form one of the most picturesque and significant chapters in the history of Dutch rule in the East. Until the last century these territories were undivided, forming the kingdom of the Susuhunan of Surakarta, who, being threatened by a revolt of the Chinese who had settled in his dominions, called in the Dutch to aid him in suppressing it. They came promptly, helped to crush the rebellion, and so completely won the confidence of the Susuhunan that he begged their arbitration in a dispute with one of his brothers, who had launched an insurrection in an attempt to place himself [94]on the throne. Certain historians assert, and probably with truth, that this insurrection was instigated and encouraged by the Dutch themselves, who foresaw that it would be easier to subjugate two weak states than a single strong one. In pursuance of this policy, they suggested that, in order to avoid a fratricidal and bloody war, the kingdom be divided, two-thirds of it, with Surakarta as the capital, to remain under the rule of the Susuhunan; the remaining third to be handed over to the pretender, who would assume the title of Sultan and establish his court at Djokjakarta. This settlement was reluctantly accepted by the Susuhunan because he realized that he could hope for nothing better and by his brother because he recognized that he might do much worse.

In principle, at least, the Sultan remained the vassal of the Susuhunan, in token of which he paid him public homage once each year at Ngawen, near Djokjakarta, where, in the presence of an immense concourse of natives, he was obliged to prostrate himself before the Susuhunan's throne as a public acknowledgment of his vassalage. But as the years passed the breach thus created between the Susuhunan and the Sultan showed signs of healing, which was the last thing desired by the Dutch, who believed in the maxim Divide ut imperes. So, before the next ceremony of homage came around, they sent for the Sultan, pointed out to him the humiliation which he incurred in kneeling before the Susuhunan, and offered to provide him with a means of escaping this abasement. Their offer was [95]as simple as it was ingenious—permission to wear the uniform of a Dutch official. This was by no means as empty an honor as it seemed, as the Sultan was quick to recognize, for one of the tenets of Holland's rule in the Indies is that no one who wears the Dutch uniform, whether European or native, shall impair the prestige of that uniform by kneeling in homage. The Sultan, needless to say, eagerly seized the opportunity thus offered, and, when the date for the next ceremony fell due he arrived at Ngawen arrayed in the blue and gold panoply of a Dutch official, but, instead of prostrating himself before the Susuhunan in the grovelling dodok, he coolly remained seated, as befitted a Dutch official and an independent prince.

The animosity thus ingeniously revived between the princely houses lasted for many years, which was exactly what the Dutch had foreseen. But, though the Susuhunan and the Sultan had been goaded into hating each other with true Oriental fervor, they hated the Dutch even more. In order to divert this hostility toward themselves into safer channels, the Dutch evolved still another scheme, which consisted in installing at the court of the Susuhunan, as at that of the Sultan, a counter-irritant in the person of a rival prince, who, though theoretically a vassal, was in reality as independent as the titular ruler. And, as a final touch, the Dutch decreed that the cost of maintaining the elaborate establishments of these hated rivals must be defrayed from the privy purses of the Susuhunan and the Sultan. The "independent" prince [96]at Surakarta is known as the Pangeran Adipati Mangku Negoro; the one at Djokjakarta as the Pangeran Adipati Paku Alam. Both of these princes have received military educations in Holland, hold honorary commissions in the Dutch army, and wear the Dutch uniform; their handsome palaces stand in close proximity to those of the Susuhunan and the Sultan, and both are permitted to maintain small but well-drilled private armies, armed with modern weapons and organized on European lines. The "army" of Mangku Negoro consists of about a thousand men, and is a far more efficient fighting force than the fantastically uniformed rabble maintained by his suzerain, the Susuhunan. In certain respects this arrangement resembles the plan which is followed at West Point and Annapolis, where, if the appointee fails to meet the entrance requirements, the appointment goes to an alternate, who has been designated with just such a contingency in view. Both the Susuhunan and the Sultan are perfectly aware that the first sign of disloyalty to the Dutch on their part would result in their being promptly dethroned and the "independent" princes being appointed in their stead. So, as they like their jobs, which are well paid and by no means onerous—the Susuhunan receives an annual pension from the Dutch Government of some three hundred and fifty thousand dollars and has in addition one million dollars worth of revenues to squander each year—their conduct is marked by exemplary obedience and circumspection.

[97]Ever since the Dipo Negoro rebellion of 1825, which was caused by the insulting behavior of an incompetent and tactless resident toward a native prince, to suppress which cost Holland five years of warfare and the lives of fifteen thousand soldiers, the Dutch Government has come more and more to realize that most of the disaffection and revolts in their Eastern possessions have been directly traceable to tactlessness on the part of Dutch officials, who either ignored or were indifferent to the customs, traditions, and susceptibilities of the natives. It is the recognition and application of this principle that has been primarily responsible for the peace, progress, and prosperity which, in recent years, have characterized the rule of Holland in the Indies. When a nation with a quarter the area of New York State, and less than two-thirds its population, with a small army and no navy worthy of the name, can successfully rule fifty million people of alien race and religion, half the world away, and keep them loyal and contented, that nation has, it seems to me, a positive genius for colonial administration.


Some one has described the Dutch East Indies as a necklace of emeralds strung on the equator. To those who are familiar only with colder, less gorgeous lands, that simile may sound unduly fanciful, but to those who have seen these great, rich islands, festooned across four thousand miles of sea, green and scintillating under the tropic sun, the description will not [98]appear as far-fetched as it seems. A necklace of emeralds! The more I ponder over that description the better I like it. Indeed, I think that that is what I will call this chapter—The Emeralds of Wilhelmina.

Footnotes:

[1] Pronounced as though it were spelled Cel-lay-bees, with the accent on the second syllable.


[99]

CHAPTER V
MAN-EATERS AND HEAD-HUNTERS

There is no name between the covers of the atlas which so smacks of romance and adventure as Borneo. Show me the red-blooded boy who, when he sees that magic name over the wild man's cage in the circus sideshow or over the orang-utan's cage in the zoo, does not secretly long to go adventuring in the jungles of its mysterious interior. So, because there is still in me a good deal of the boy, thank Heaven, I ordered the course of the Negros laid for Samarinda, which, if the charts were to be believed, was the principal gateway to the hinterland of Eastern Borneo. There are no roads in Borneo, you understand, only narrow foot-trails through the steaming jungle, so that the only practicable means of penetrating the interior is by ascending one of the great rivers. The Koetei, which has its nativity somewhere in the mysterious Kapuas Mountains, winds its way across four hundred miles of unmapped wilderness, and, a score of miles below Samarinda, empties into Makassar Straits, answered my requirements admirably, providing a highroad to the country of my boyish dreams. Though I told the others that I was going up the Koetei in order to see the strange tribes who dwell [100]along its upper reaches, I admitted to myself that I had one object in view and one alone—to see the Wild Man.

Viewed from the deck of the Negros, Samarinda, which is the capital of the Residency of Koetei, was entirely satisfying. It corresponded in every respect to the mental picture which I had drawn of a Bornean town. It straggles for two miles or more along a dusty road shaded by a double row of flaming fire-trees. Facing on the road are a few-score miserable shops kept by Chinese and Arabs and the somewhat more pretentious buildings which house the offices of the European trading companies. Further out, at the edge of the town, are the dwellings of the Dutch officials and traders—comfortable-looking, one-story, whitewashed houses with deep verandahs, peering coyly out from the midst of fragrant, blazing gardens. The Residency, the Custom House, the Police Barracks and the Koetei Club can readily be distinguished by the Dutch flags that droop above them. The river-bank itself is one interminable street. Here dwells the brown-skinned population—Malays, Bugis, Makassars, and a sprinkling of Sea Dyaks. Sometimes the flimsy, cane-walled, leaf-thatched huts, perched aloft on bamboo stilts, stand, like flocks of storks, in clusters. Again they stray a little apart, seeking protection from the pitiless sun beneath clumps of palms. Malays in short, tight jackets and long, tight breeches of kaleidoscopic colors were sauntering along the yellow road, oblivious of the sun.[101] On the shelving beach naked brown men were mending their nets or pottering about their dwellings. Now and then I caught a glimpse of a European, cool and comfortable in topee and white linen. It was all exactly as I had expected. It was, indeed, almost too story-booky to be true. Here, at last, was a green and lovely land, unspoiled by noisy, prying tourists, where one could lounge the lazy days away beneath the palm-trees or stroll with dusky beauties on a beach silvered by the tropic moon. I was impatient to go ashore.

Changing from pajamas to whites, I ordered the launch to the gangway and went ashore to pay my respects to the Resident. To leave your card on the local representative of Queen Wilhelmina is the first rule of etiquette to be observed by the foreigner traveling in the Outer Possessions. In Java, which is more highly civilized, it is not so necessary. Unlike the Latin races, the Dutch are not by nature a suspicious people, but political unrest is prevalent throughout the East, and with Bolshevists, Chinese agitators and other fomenters of disaffection surreptitiously at work among the natives, it is the part of prudence to establish your respectability at the start. To gain a friendly footing with the authorities is to save yourself from possible annoyance later on.

As I approached the shore the glamor lent by distance disappeared. The river-bank, which had looked so alluring from the cutter's deck, proved on closer inspection to be as squalid as the back-yard of a Neapolitan tenement. It was littered with dead cats [102]and fowls and fish and castaway vegetables and rotten fruit and tin cans and greasy ashes and refuse from fishing nets and decaying cocoanuts by the million and sodden rags. This stewing garbage was strewn ankle-deep upon the sand or was floating on the surface of the river, not drifting seaward, as one would expect, but languidly following the tide up and down, forever lolling along the bank. Above this putrefying feast swarmed myriads of flies, their buzzing combining in a drone like that of an electric fan. The sun struck viciously down upon the yellow foreshore, its glare reflected by the hard-packed sands as by a sheet of brass; the heat-waves danced and flickered. Sending the launch back to the cutter, I picked my way across this noisome place to the shelter of the trees along the road. But the shade that had appeared so inviting from the river proved as illusory as everything else. Grass? There was none. The earth was baked to the hardness of asphalt.

To make matters worse, I found that I had landed too far down the beach. The building that I had assumed was the Residency proved to be the Custom House. The Harbor Master, whom I encountered there, seized the opportunity to present me with a bill for a hundred guilders—something over forty dollars—for port dues. It seemed a high price to pay for the privilege of lying in the stream, a quarter-mile off-shore. In all the Dutch ports at which we touched I noted this same disposition on the part of the authorities to charge all that the traffic would bear—and then [103]some. Foreign vessels are rarely seen at Samarinda, and one would suppose that they would be welcomed accordingly, but the Dutch are a business people and do not permit sentiment to interfere with a chance to make a few honest guilders.

The Residency, I found upon inquiry, was two miles away, in the outskirts of the town. And, as there are neither rickshaws nor carriages for hire in Samarinda, I was compelled to walk. It was really too hot to move. In five minutes my clothes were as wet as though I had fallen in the river. The green silk lining of my sun-hat crocked and ran down my face in emerald rivulets. When I had covered half the distance I paused beneath a waringin tree to rest. A breath of breeze from the river, sighing through the palms, brought to my streaming cheeks a hint of coolness and to my nostrils more than a hint of the garbage broiling on the beach. Anyone who could be romantic in Borneo must be in love.

The Assistant Resident, Monsieur de Haan, was as glad to see me as a banker away from home is to see a copy of The Wall Street Journal. I brought him a whiff of that great outside world from which he was an exile, with whose doings he kept in touch only through the meager despatches in the papers brought by the fortnightly mail-boat from Java, or through occasional travelers like myself. Dutch officials in the Indies can obtain leave only once in ten years and Monsieur de Haan had not visited the mother country for nearly a decade, so that when he learned I [104]had recently been in Holland he was pathetically eager to hear the gossip of the homeland. For an hour I lounged in a Cantonese chair beneath the leisurely swinging punkah—the motive power for the punkah being provided by a native on the verandah outside, who mechanically pulled the cord even while he slept—and chatted of homely things: of a restaurant which we both knew on the Dam in Amsterdam, of bathing on the sands of Scheviningen, of band concerts on summer evenings in the Haagsche Bosch. Only when his long-pent curiosity as to happenings in Europe had been appeased did I find an opportunity to mention the reasons which had brought me to Samarinda. I wished to go up country, I explained. I wanted to see the real jungle and the strange tribes which dwell in it; particularly I wished to see the head-hunters. Now in this I was fully prepared for discouragement and dissuasion, for head-hunters are not assets to a country; to a visitor they are not displayed with pride. When, in the Philippines, I wished to see the head-hunting Igorots; when I asked the Japanese for permission to visit the head-hunters of Formosa, I met only with excuses and evasions. At my taste the officials pretended to be surprised and grieved. But Monsieur de Haan, doubtless because he had lived so long in the wilds that head-hunters were to him a commonplace, not only made no objection, he even offered to accompany me.

"We can go up the Koetei on your cutter," he suggested. "It is navigable as far as Long Iram, two [105]hundred miles up-country, which is the farthest point inland that one of our garrisons is stationed. Thus you will be able to see the Dyak country as comfortably as you could see Holland from the deck of a canal boat. On our way we might pay a visit to the Sultan of Koetei, who has a palace at Tenggaroeng. Though he has no real power to speak of, he exercises considerable influence among the wild tribes, of which he is the hereditary ruler. He's the very man to put you in touch with the head-hunters."

The suggestion sounded fine. Moreover, in visiting savages as temperamental as the Dyaks, there would be a certain comfort in having the head of the government along. So, as Monsieur de Haan did not appear to be pressed with business, we arranged to start up-river the following morning.

It was late afternoon when I returned to the Negros. I was completely wilted by the terrible humidity, and, as the river looked cool and inviting in the twilight, I decided to refresh my body and my spirits by a swim. But when I suggested to the Doctor that he join me he shook his head gloomily.

"Nothing doing," he said. "I've been wanting to go in all day but the port surgeon tells me that I'd be committing suicide."

"But why?" I demanded irritably, for I was ill-tempered from the heat. "It's perfectly clean out here in mid-stream and there is no danger from sharks here, as there was at Zamboanga and Jolo."

By way of replying he pointed to a black object, [106]which I took to be a log, that was floating on the surface of the river, perhaps fifty yards off the cutter's gangway.

"That's why," he said dryly.

As he spoke a dugout, driven by half-a-dozen paddles in the hands of lusty natives, came racing down stream. As the canoe drew abreast of us, the paddlers chanting a barbaric chorus, there was a sudden swirl in the water and the object which I had taken for a log abruptly dropped out of sight.

"A crocodile!" I ejaculated, a little shiver chasing itself up and down my spine.

The Doctor nodded.

"The river is alive with them," he said. "Man-eaters, too. The port surgeon told me that they get a native or so every day."

"I've changed my mind about wanting a swim," I remarked, heading for the ship's shower-bath.


(Dusk is settling on the great river and the palm fronds are gently stirring before the breeze that comes with nightfall on the Line. If you have nothing better to do, suppose you sit down beside me in a deck-chair and let me tell you something about these cruel and cunning monsters and the curious methods by which they are captured. Boy! Pass the cheroots and bring us something cold to drink.)

Though crocodiles are found everywhere in Malaysia, they attain their greatest size and ferocity in the[107] rivers of Borneo, it being no uncommon thing for them to attack and capsize the frail native canoes, killing their occupants as they flounder in the water. I suppose that the crocodile of Borneo more nearly approaches the giant saurians of prehistoric times than anything alive to-day. Imagine, if you please, a creature as large as a ship's launch, with the swiftness and ferocity of a man-eating shark, the cunning of a snake, a body so heavily armored with scales that it is impervious to everything save the most high-powered bullets, a tail that is capable of knocking down an ox, and a pair of jaws that can cut a man in two at a single snap. How would you like to encounter that sort of thing when you were having a pleasant swim, I ask you? Compared to the crocodile of Malaysia, the Florida alligator is about as formidable as a lizard. One was captured while we were at Sandakan which measured slightly over twenty-eight feet from the end of his ugly snout to the tip of his vicious tail. Before you raise your eyebrows incredulously you might take a look at the accompanying photograph of this monster. Nor was this a record crocodile, for, shortly before our arrival at Samarinda, one was caught in the Koetei which measured ten metres, or within a few inches of thirty-three feet.

The crocodile obtains its meals by the simple expedient of lying motionless just beneath the surface of a pool where the natives are accustomed to bathe or where they go for water. The unsuspecting brown girl trips jauntily down to the river-bank to fill her[108] amphora—usually a battered Standard Oil tin. As she bends over the stream there comes without the slightest warning the lightning swish of a scaly tail, a scream, the crunch of monster jaws, a widening eddy, a scarlet stain overspreading the surface of the water—and there is one less inhabitant of Borneo. But instead of proceeding to devour its victim then and there, the crocodile carries the body up a convenient creek, where it has the self-control to leave it until it is sufficiently gamey to satisfy its palate. For the crocodile, like the hunter, does not like freshly killed meat. Hence, a crocodile swimming up-stream with a native in its mouth is by no means an uncommon sight on Borne an rivers.

"But it is a quick death," as an Englishman whom I met in Borneo philosophically observed. "They don't play with you as a cat plays with a mouse—they just hold you under the water until you are drowned."

Yet, in spite of the hundreds who fall victim to the terrible jaws each year, the natives seem incapable of observing the slightest precautions. For superstitious reasons they will not disturb the crocodile until it has shown itself to be a man-eater. If the crocodile will live at peace with him the native has no wish to start a quarrel. But the day usually comes when a native who has gone down to the river fails to return. In America, under such circumstances, the relatives of the missing man would send for grappling irons and an undertaker. But in Borneo they summon a professional crocodile hunter. The idea of this is not so[109] much to obtain revenge as to recover the brass ornaments which the dear departed was wearing at the moment of his taking off, for, though human life is the cheapest thing there is in Borneo, brass is extremely dear.

The professional crocodile hunters are usually Malays. One of the best known and most successful in Borneo is an old man who runs a ferry across the Barito at Bandjermasin. He has capitalized his skill and cunning by organizing himself into a sort of crocodile liability company, as it were. Anyone may secure a policy in this company by paying him a weekly premium of 2½ Dutch cents. When one of his policy holders is overtaken by death in the form of a pair of four-foot jaws the old man turns the ferry over to one of his children and sets out to fulfill the terms of his contract by capturing the offending saurian, recovering from its stomach the weighty bracelets, anklets and earrings worn by the deceased, and restoring them to the next of kin. In order to make good he sometimes has to kill a number of crocodiles, but he keeps on until he gets the right one. This is not as difficult as it sounds, for the big man-eaters usually have their recognized haunts in certain deep pools in the rivers, many of them, indeed, being known to the natives by name. The old ferryman at Bandjermasin has been so successful in the conduct of his curious avocation that, so the Dutch Resident assured me, he has several hundred policy holders who pay him their premiums[110] with punctilious regularity, thereby giving him a very comfortable income.

The method pursued by the crocodile hunters of Borneo is as effective as it is ingenious. Their fishing tackle consists of a hook, which is a straight piece of hard wood, about the size of a twelve-inch ruler, sharpened at both ends; a ten-foot leader, woven from the tough, stringy bark of the baru tree; and a single length of rattan or cane, fifty feet or so in length, which serves as a line. One end of the leader is attached to a shallow notch cut in the piece of wood, the other end is fastened to the rattan. With a few turns of cotton one end of the stick is then lightly bound to the leader, thus bringing the two into a straight line. Then comes the bait, which must be chosen with discrimination. Though the body of a dog or pig will usually answer, the morsel that most infallibly tempts a crocodile is the carcass of a monkey. But it must not be a freshly killed monkey, mind you. A crocodile will only swallow meat that is in an advanced stage of decomposition, the more overpowering its stench the greater the likelihood of the bait being taken. The bait is securely lashed to the pointed stick, though anyone but a Malay would require a gas-mask to perform this part of the operation.

Everything now being ready, the bait is suspended from the bough of a tree overhanging the pool which the crocodile is known to frequent, being so arranged that the carcass swings a foot or so above the surface of the stream at high water level, the end of the rattan[111] being planted in the bank. Lured by the smell of the bait, which in that torrid climate quickly acquires a bouquet which can be detected a mile to leeward, the crocodile is certain sooner or later to thrust its long snout out of the water and snap at the odoriferous bundle dangling so temptingly overhead, the slack line offering no resistance until the bait has been swallowed and the brute starts to make off. Then the man-eater gets the surprise of its long and checkered life, for the planted end of the rattan holds sufficiently to snap the threads which bind the pointed stick to the leader. The stick, thus caused to resume its original position at right angles to the line, becomes jammed across the crocodile's belly, the pointed ends burying themselves in the tender abdominal lining.

The next morning the hunter finds bait and tackle missing, but a brief search usually reveals the coils of rattan floating on the surface of some deep pool at no great distance from the spot where the bait was taken. At the bottom of the pool Mr. Crocodile is writhing in the throes of acute indigestion. Taking the end of the line ashore, the hunter summons assistance. A score of jubilant natives lay hold on the rattan. Then ensues a struggle that makes tarpon fishing as tame in comparison as catching shiners. At first the monster tries to resist the straining line, its tail flailing the water into foam. The great jaws close on the leader like a bear-trap, but the loosely braided strands of baru fiber slip between the pointed teeth. The leader holds. The natives haul at the line as sailors[112] haul at a halliard. Soon there emerges from the churning waters a long and incredibly ugly snout, followed by a low, reptilian head, with venomous, heavy-lidded, scarlet eyes, a body as broad as a row-boat and armored with horny scales, and finally a tremendous tail, twice as long as an elephant's trunk and twice as powerful, that spells death for any human being that comes within its reach. Sometimes it happens that the hunters momentarily become the hunted, for the infuriated beast, catching sight of its enemies, may come at them with a rush and a bellow, but more often it has to be dragged to land, fighting every inch of the way.

Now comes the most hazardous part of the whole proceeding—the securing of the monster. By means of a noose, deftly thrown, the great jaws are rendered harmless. Another noose encircles the lashing tail and binds it securely to a tree. The front legs are next lashed behind the back and the hind legs treated in the same fashion. Thus deprived of the support of its legs, the crocodile is helpless and it is safe to release its tail. A stout bamboo is then passed between the bound legs and a score of sweating natives bear the captive in triumph to the nearest government station, where the bounty is claimed. The crocodile is then killed, the stomach cut open and its contents examined, any brassware or other ornaments worn by its victim at the time of his demise being handed over to the heirs.

men hauling on a crocodile

Catching a man-eating crocodile in a Borneo river

The method of fishing pursued by the Dyaks of[113] Borneo is quite as curious, in its way, as their manner of catching crocodiles. Instead of netting the fish, or catching them with hook and line, they asphyxiate them, using for the purpose a poison obtained from the tuba root, known to scientists as Cocculus indicus. When a Dyak village is in need of food the entire community, men, women and children, repairs to a stream in which fish are known to be plentiful. Across the stream a sort of picket fence is erected by planting bamboos close together. In the center of this fence is a narrow opening leading into an enclosure like a corral, the walls of which are made in the same fashion. When this part of the preparations has been completed a party of natives proceeds up-stream by canoe for a dozen, or more miles, taking with them a plentiful supply of tuba root. Early the next morning the canoes are filled with water, in which the tuba root is beaten until the water is as white and frothy as soapsuds. When a sufficient quantity of this highly toxic liquid has thus been obtained, it is emptied into the stream and, after a brief wait, the canoes are again launched and the fishermen drift slowly down the current in the wake of the poison. Many of the fish are stupefied by the tuba and, as they rise struggling to the surface, are speared by the Dyaks. Other, seeking to escape the poisonous wave, dart down-stream and, when halted by the barrier, pour through the opening into the corral, where they are captured by the thousands. I might add that the tuba does not affect the flesh of the fish, which can be eaten with safety. As a[114] means of obtaining food in wholesale quantities fishing with tuba is perhaps justified. As a sport it is in the same class with shooting duck from airplanes with machine-guns.


Monsieur de Haan, wearing the brass-buttoned white uniform and gold-laced conductor's cap which is the garb prescribed for Dutch colonial officials, came abroad the Negros shortly after breakfast. The gangway was hoisted, Captain Galvez gave brisk orders from the bridge, there was a jangle of bells in the engine-room, and we were off up the Koetei, into the mysterious heart of Borneo. Above Samarinda the great river flows between solid walls of vegetation. The density of the Bornean jungle is indeed almost unbelievable. It is a savage tangle of bamboos, palms, banyans, mangroves, and countless varieties of shrubs and giant ferns, the whole laced together by trailers and creepers. Contrary to popular belief, there is little color to relieve the somber monotony of dark brown trunks and dark green foliage. It is as gloomy as the nave of a cathedral at twilight. Here and there may be seen some vine with scarlet berries and many orchids swing from the higher branches like incandescent globes of colored glass. But it is usually impossible for one on the ground to see the finest blooms, which turn their faces to the sunlight above the canopy of green. Gray apes chatter in the tree-tops; strange tropic birds of gorgeous plumage flit from bough to bough, monstrous reptiles slip silently through the[115] undergrowth; insects buzz in swarms above the putrid swamps; occasionally the jungle crashes beneath the tread of some heavy animal—a rhinoceros, perhaps, or a wild bull, or an orang-utan. (I might mention, parenthetically, that orang-utan means, in the Malay language, "man of the forest," while orang-outang, the name which we incorrectly apply to the great red-haired anthropoid, means "man in debt.") The Bornean jungle is a place of indescribable dismalness and dread, its gloom seldom dissipated by the sun, its awesome silence broken only by the stirrings of the unseen creatures which lurk underfoot and overhead and all around.

The palace of the Sultan of Koetei stands in the edge of the jungle at a horseshoe bend in the river. You come on it with startling abruptness—miles and miles of primeval wilderness and then, quite unexpectedly, a bit of civilization. In no respect does its exterior come up to what you would expect the palace of an Oriental ruler to be. It is a great barn of a place, two stories in height, painted a bright pink, with the arms of Koetei emblazoned above the entrance. It reminded me of a Coney Island dance hall or one of the tabernacles built for Billy Sunday.

A broad flight of white marble steps leads to a wide, covered terrace of the same incongruous material. This terrace opens directly into the great throne-hall, a lofty apartment of impressive proportions, though its furnishings are a bizarre mixture of Oriental taste and Occidental tawdriness. Its marble[116] floor is strewn with splendid rugs and tiger-skins; hanging from the ceiling are enormous cut-glass chandeliers; set in the walls, on either side of the scarlet-and-gold throne, are life-size portraits of the present Sultan's father and grandfather done in glazed Delft tiles, which seem more appropriate for a bathroom than a throne-hall. From each end of the apartment scarlet-carpeted staircases, with gilt balustrades, lead to the second floor. Under one of these staircases is a sort of closet, with glass doors, which looks for all the world like a large edition of a telephone booth in an American hotel. The doors were sealed with strips of paper affixed by means of wax wafers, but, peering through the glass, I could made out a large table piled high with trays of precious stones, ingots of virgin gold and silver, vessels, utensils and images of the same precious metals. It was the state treasure of Koetei and was worth, so the Resident told me, upward of a million dollars.

When I was at Tenggaroeng the young Sultan, an anaemic-looking youth in the early twenties, had not yet been permitted by the Dutch authorities to ascend the throne, the country being ruled by his uncle, the Regent, an elderly, affable gentleman who, in his white drill suit and round white cap, was the image of a Chinese cook employed by a Californian friend of mine. Upon the formal accession of the young Sultan the seals of the treasury would be broken, I was told, and the treasure would be his to spend as he saw fit. I rather imagine, however, that the Dutch [117]controleur attached to his court in the capacity of adviser will have something to say should the youthful monarch show a disposition to squander his inheritance.

Up-stairs we were shown through a series of apartments filled to overflowing with the loot of European shops—ornate brass beds, inlaid bureaus and chiffoniers, toilet-sets of tortoise-shell and ivory, washbowls and pitchers of Sèvres, Dresden and Limoges, garnish vases, statuettes, music-boxes, mechanical toys, models of all ships and engines, and a thousand other useless and inappropriate articles, for, when the late Sultan paid his periodic visits to Europe, the shopkeepers of Paris, Amsterdam and The Hague seized the opportunity to unload on him, at exorbitant prices, their costliest and most unsalable wares. Opening a marquetry wardrobe, the Regent displayed with great pride his collection of uniforms and ceremonial costumes, most of which, the Resident told me, had been copied from pictures which had caught his fancy in books and magazines. That wardrobe would have delighted the heart of a motion-picture company's property-man, for it contained everything from a Dutch court dress, complete with sword and feathered hat, to a state costume of sky-blue broadcloth edged with white fur and trimmed with diamond buttons. I expressed a desire to see the royal crown, for I had noticed that the pictures of former sultans, which I had seen in the throne-room, showed them wearing crowns of a peculiar design, strikingly similar to those worn by the Emperors of Abyssinia. My request resulted in a whispered colloquy [118]between the Resident, the Controleur, the Regent and the young Sultan. After a brief discussion the Resident explained that the Controleur kept the crown locked up in his safe, but that he would get it if I wished to see it. To the obvious relief of everyone except the young Sultan I assured them that it did not matter. He seemed distinctly disappointed. I imagine that he would have liked to have gotten his hands on it.

Outside the palace—just below its windows, in fact—is a long, low, dirt-floored, wooden-roofed shed, such as American farmers build to keep their wagons and farm machinery under. This was the royal cemetery. Beneath it the former rulers of Koetei lie buried, their resting-places being marked by a most curious assortment of fantastically carved tombs and headstones. Some of the tombs hold the ashes of men who sat on the throne of Koetei when it was one of the great kingdoms of the East, long before the coming of the white man.

Lady luck was kind to me, for shortly after our arrival at Tenggaroeng a delegation of Dyaks from one of the tribes of the far interior appeared at the palace to lay some tribal dispute before the Regent for his adjudication. There were about a score of them, including a rather comely young woman, whose comeliness was somewhat marred, however, according to European standards at least, by the lobes of her ears being stretched until they touched her shoulders by the great weight of the brass earrings which depended from them. The warriors were the finest physical [119]specimens of manhood that I saw in all Malaysia—tall, slim, muscular, magnificently developed fellows, with bright, rather intelligent faces. They had the broad shoulders and small hips of Roman athletes and when the sun struck on their oiled brown skins they looked like the bronzes in a museum. Unlike the natives we had seen along the coast, whose garments made a slight concession to the prejudices of civilization, these children of the wild "wore nothing much before and rather less than 'arf o' that be'ind." Several of them were armed with the sumpitan, or blow-gun, which is the national weapon of the Dyaks, and each of them carried at his waist a parang-ilang, the terrible long-bladed knife which the head-hunter uses to kill and decapitate his victims.

Monsieur de Haan, as well as the other Dutch officials whom I questioned on the subject, attributed the prevalence of head-hunting in Borneo to the vanity of the Dyak women. He explained that, just as American girls expect candy and flowers from the young men who are attentive to them, so Dyak maidens expect freshly severed human heads. The warrior who refused to present his lady-love with such grisly evidences of his devotion would be rejected by her and ostracized by his tribe. Nor does head-hunting end with marriage, for the standing of both the man and his wife in the community depends upon the number of grinning skulls which swing from the ridgepole of their hut. Heads are to a Dyak what money is to a man in civilized countries—the more he has, the greater his importance.[120] The Controleur at Tenggaroeng assured me very earnestly that his Dyak charges were by no means ferocious or bloodthirsty by nature and that they practised head-hunting less from pleasure than from force of custom. But I am compelled to accept such an estimate of the Dyak character with reservations. From all that I could learn, head-hunting is a sport, like fox-hunting in England. Nor does it, as a rule, involve any great risk to the hunters, for the head-hunting raids are usually mere butcheries of defenceless people, the Dyaks either stalking their victim in the bush and killing him from behind, or attacking a village when the warriors are absent and slaughtering everyone whom they find in it—old, men, women, and children. The head of an orang-utan, by the way, is as highly prized in many of the Dyak tribes as that of a human being. Nor is this surprising, for the warrior who single-handed can kill one of the mighty anthropoids is deserving of the trophy.

During my stay in Borneo I heard many theories advanced in explanation of head-hunting. Some authorities claimed that it is the Dyak's way of establishing a reputation for prowess. Others asserted that he takes heads merely to gratify the vanity of his women. There are still others who hold the opinion that the Dyak believes that he inherits the courage and cunning of those he kills. In certain of the Dyak tribes the heads are treated with profound reverence, being wreathed with flowers, offered the choicest morsels of food, and sometimes being given a place at the table,[121] while in other tribes they are hung from the ridgepole and displayed as trophies of the chase. My own opinion is that, though prestige and vanity and superstition all contribute to the prevalence of head-hunting, in the inherent savagery of the Dyak is found the true explanation of the custom.

I have already made passing mention of that characteristic weapon of the Dyaks, the sumpitan, or, as it is called by foreigners, the blow-gun. The sumpitan is a piece of hard wood, from six to eight feet in length and in circumference slightly larger than the handle of a broom. Running through it lengthwise is a hole about the size of a lead-pencil. A broad spear-blade is usually lashed to one end of the sumpitan, like a bayonet, thus providing a weapon for use at close quarters. The dart is made from a sliver of bamboo, or from a palm-frond, scraped to the size of a steel knitting-needle. One end of the dart is imbedded in a cork-shaped piece of pith which fits the hole in the sumpitan as a cartridge fits the bore of a rifle; the other end, which is of needle-sharpness, is smeared with a paste made from the milky sap of the upas tree dissolved in a juice extracted from the root of the tuba. With the possible exception of curare, this is the deadliest poison known, the slightest scratch from a dart thus poisoned paralyzing the respiratory center and causing almost instant death. The dart is expelled from the sumpitan by a quick, sharp exhalation of the breath. In fact, M. de Haan told me that among certain of the Dyak tribes virtually all of the men suffer from[122] rupture as a result of the constant use of the blow-gun. Though I have heard those who have never seen the sumpitan in use sneer at it as a toy, it is, at short distances, one of the most accurate weapons in existence and, when its darts are poisoned, one of the deadliest. In order to show me what could be done with the sumpitan, the Regent stuck in the earth a bamboo no larger than a woman's little finger, and a Dyak, taking up his position at a distance of thirty paces which I stepped off myself, hit the almost indistinguishable mark with his darts twelve times running. That, as the late Colonel Cody would have put it, "is some shooting."

In Borneo the use of the blow-gun is not confined to the Dyaks. They are also used by fish! That is to say, by a certain species of fish. This fish, which is remarkable neither in size nor color, seldom being larger than our domestic goldfish, is known to the natives as ikan sumpit (literally "fish with a sumpitan") and to science as Toxodes jaculator. But it is unique among the finny tribe in possessing the curious power, on corning to the surface, of being able to squirt from its mouth a tiny jet of water. This it uses with unerring aim against insects, such as flies, grasshoppers and spiders, resting on plants along the edge of the streams, causing them to fall into the water, where they become an easy prey to these Dyaks of the deep. It was lucky for us that the crocodiles were not armed with blow-guns!

When Latins engage in a serious quarrel they are[123] prone to decide it with the stiletto, or, if they belong to the class which subscribes to the code, they meet on the field of honor with rapiers or pistols; Anglo-Saxons are accustomed to settle their disputes in a court of law or with their fists; but when Dyaks become involved in a controversy which cannot be adjusted by the tribal council, they have recourse to the s'lam ayer, or trial by water. This curious method of deciding disputes is conducted with great formality, according to the rules of an established code. For example, should two husky young head-hunters become involved in a lovers' quarrel over a village belle—the lobes of whose ears are probably pulled down to her shoulders by the weight of her brass earrings—they adjourn, with their seconds and their friends, to what might appropriately be called the pool of honor. Almost any place where there are four or five feet of water will do. Into the bottom of the pool the seconds drive two stout bamboo poles, a few yards apart. The rivals then wade out into the water and take up their positions, each grasping a pole. At a signal from the chief who is acting as umpire they plunge beneath the water, each duelist keeping his nostrils closed with one hand while with the other he clings to the pole so as to keep his head below the surface. As both of them would drown themselves rather than acknowledge defeat by coming to the surface voluntarily, at the first sign either of the two gives of being asphyxiated, the seconds, who are watching their principals closely, drag the rivals from the water. They are then held up by[124] the heels, head downward, in order to drain off the water they have swallowed, the one who first recovers consciousness being declared the victor and awarded the hand of the lady fair. It is a quaint custom.

As I have no desire to strain your credulity to the breaking-point, I will touch on only one more Dyak custom—the disposal of the dead. It seems a fitting subject with which to bring this account of the wild men to a close. Certain of the Dyak tribes expose their dead in trees, some burn them, while still others bury them until the flesh has disappeared, when they exhume the skeletons, disarticulate them, and seal the bones in the huge jars of Chinese porcelain which are a Dyak's most prized possession. Sometimes these burial-jars are kept in the family dwelling—a rather gruesome article of furniture to the European mind—but more often they are deposited in a grave-house, a small, fantastically decorated hut or shed which serves as a family vault. But I doubt if any people on the face of the globe have so weird a custom of disposing of their dead as the Kapuas of Central Borneo, who hollow out the trunk of a growing tree and in the space thus prepared insert the corpse of the departed. The bark is carefully replaced over the opening and the tree continues to grow and flourish—literally a living tomb.

Major Powell with Regent and Sultan

Major Powell talking to the Regent of Koetei on the steps of the palace at Tenggaroeng

From left to right: the regent, Major Powell, the prime minister, the Sultan of Koetei (who has since ascended the throne), and the Dutch resident, M. de Haan

a royal procession

State procession in the Kraton of the Sultan of Djokjakarta

Noticing that I was interested in the equipment of the Dyaks, the Regent of Koetei called up their chief and, without so much as a by-your-leave, presented me with his sumpitan and the quiver of poisoned darts, his [125]wooden shield—a long, narrow buckler of some light wood, tastily trimmed with seventy-two tufts of human hair, mementoes of that number of enemies slain on head-hunting expeditions—a peculiar coat of mail, composed of overlapping pieces of bark, capable of turning an arrow, and his imposing head-dress, which consisted of a cap formed from a leopard's head, with a sort of visor made from the beak of a hornbill, the whole surmounted by a bunch of yard-long tail-feathers from some bright-plumaged bird. When the presentation was concluded all the chieftain had left was his breech-clout. He did not share in my enthusiasm. From the murderous glance which he shot at me when the Regent was not looking, I judged that if he ever met me alone in the jungle he would get his shield back, with another scalp to add to his collection. And I could guess whose head that scalp would come from.


[126]

CHAPTER VI
IN BUGI LAND

The Negros was not fast—thirteen knots was about the best she could do—so that it took us two days to cross from Samarinda, in Borneo, to Makassar, the capital of the Celebes. Our course took us within sight of "the Little Paternosters, as you come to the Union Bank," where, as you may remember, Sir Anthony Gloster, of Kipling's ballad of The Mary Gloster, was buried beside his wife. Before our hawsers had fairly been made fast to the wharf at Makassar it became evident that among the natives our arrival had created a distinct sensation. The wharf was crowded with Bugis, as the natives of the southern Celebes are known, who tried in vain to make themselves understood by our Filipino crew. Instead of the boisterous curiosity which had marked the attitude of the natives at the other ports, the Bugis appeared to be laboring under a suppressed but none the less evident excitement. When I went ashore to call on the American Consul they made way for me with a respect which verged on reverence. This curious attitude was explained by the Consul.

"Your coming has revived among the natives a very curious and ancient legend," he told me. "When the[127] Dutch established their rule in the Celebes, something over three centuries ago, the King of the Bugis mysteriously disappeared. Whether he fled or was killed in battle, no one knows. In any event, from his disappearance arose a tradition that he had founded another kingdom in some islands far to the north, but that, when the time was propitious, he would return to free his people from foreign domination. Thus he came in time to be regarded as a divinity, a sort of Messiah. Curiously enough, the natives refer to him by a name which, translated into English, means 'the King of Manila.' Some months ago it was reported in the Makassar papers that the Governor-General of the Philippines expected to visit the Celebes upon his way to Australia, whereupon the rumor spread among the Bugis like wild-fire that 'the King of Manila' was about to return to his ancient kingdom, but the excitement gradually subsided when the Governor-General failed to appear. But when the Negros entered the harbor this morning, and it was reported that she was from Manila and had on board a white man who had some mysterious mission in the interior of the island, the excitement flamed up again. The natives, you see, who are as simple and credulous as children, believe that you are the Messiah of their legend and that you have come to liberate them from Dutch rule."[2]

[128]"But look here," said I, annoyance in my tone, "this isn't as funny as it seems. Tying me up to this fool tradition may result in spoiling my plans for taking pictures in the Celebes. Of course the Dutch authorities know perfectly well that I haven't come here to start a revolution, but, on the other hand, they may not want a person whom the natives regard as a Messiah to go wandering about in the interior, where Dutch rule is none too firmly established anyway, for fear that my presence might be used as an excuse for an insurrection."

"Don't let that worry you," the Consul reassured me. "I'll take you over now to call on the Governor. He's a good sort and he'll do everything he can to help you. Then I'll send the editors of the vernacular papers around to the Negros this afternoon to call on you. You can explain that you're here to get motion-pictures to illustrate the progress and prosperity of the Celebes, and it might be a good idea to tell them that some of your ancestors were Dutch. That will help to make you solid with the authorities. The interview will appear in the papers tomorrow and in twenty-four hours the news will have spread among the Bugis that you're not their Messiah after all."

"But I'm not Dutch," I protested. "All my people were Welsh and English. The only connection I have with Holland is that the house in which I was born is on a street that has a Dutch name."

"Fine!" he exclaimed enthusiastically. "Born on Van Rensselaer street, you say? Be sure and tell 'em[129] that. That's the next best thing to having been born in Holland."

"I know now," I said, "how it feels to refuse a throne."

At tiffin that noon on the Negros I told the story to the others. "So you see," I concluded, "if I had been willing to take a chance, I might have been King of the Bugis."

"They wouldn't have called you that at home," the Lovely Lady said unkindly. "There they would have called you the King of the Bugs."


Nature must have created Celebes in a capricious moment, such a medley of bold promontories, jutting peninsulas, deep gulfs and curving bays does its outline present. Indeed, its coast line is so irregular and so deeply indented by the three great gulfs or bays of Tomini, Tolo, and Boni that it is small wonder that the first European explorers assumed it was a group of islands and gave it the name of plural form which still perpetuates the very natural mistake. Its length is roughly about five hundred miles but its width is so varying that while it is over a hundred miles across the northern part of the island at the middle it is a scant twenty miles from coast to coast.

Though the census of 1905 gave the population of the island as less than nine hundred thousand, the latest official estimate places it at about three millions. The actual number of inhabitants is probably midway between these figures. But, to tell the truth, the temperament[130] of the savages who inhabit the interior is not conducive to an accurate enumeration, the Dutch census-takers being greeted with about the same degree of cordiality that the moonshiners of the Kentucky mountains extend to United States revenue agents.

The three most important peoples of Celebes are the Bugis, the Makassars, and the Mandars. The medley of more or less savage tribes dwelling in the island are known as Alfuros—literally "wild"—which is the term applied by the Malays to all the uncivilized non-Mohammedan peoples in the eastern part of the archipelago. For the Bugis to refer to the tribes of the interior as wild is like the pot calling the kettle black. The Bugis, a passionate, half-savage, extremely revengeful people, originally occupied only the kingdom of Boni, in the southwestern peninsula, but from this district they have spread over the whole of Celebes and have founded settlements on many of the adjacent islands. They are the seamen of the archipelago, the greatest navigators and the most enterprising tradesmen, and were, in times gone by, the greatest pirates as well. In fact, the harbor master at Makassar told us that the crews of many of the rakish looking sailing craft which were anchored in close proximity to the Negros were reformed buccaneers. Certainly they looked it. They may have reformed, but that did not prevent Captain Galvez from doubling the deck-watch at night while we were in Celebes waters. He believed in safety first.

native women of the interior of Dutch Borneo

Some strange subjects of Queen Wilhelmina

Native women of the interior of Dutch Borneo

[131]The Winsome Widow had been very enthusiastic about going to the Celebes because Makassar is the greatest market in the world for those ornaments so dear to the feminine heart—bird-of-paradise plumes. I explained to her that it was against the law to bring them into the United States, but no matter, she wanted to buy some. To visit Makassar without buying bird-of-paradise plumes, she said, would be like visiting Japan without buying a kimono. The bird is usually sold entire, the prices ranging from twenty-five to thirty dollars, according to size and condition, though, owing to the ruthless slaughter of the birds to meet the demands of the European market, prices are steadily advancing. The Winsome Widow bought four of the finest birds I have ever seen—gorgeous, flame-colored things with plumes nearly two feet long. How she proposed getting them into the United States she did not tell me, and I thought it as well not to ask her. She had them carefully packed in a wooden box made for the purpose which she did not open until nearly two months later, when we were steaming down the coast of Siam on a cargo boat, long after I had sent the Negros back to Manila. Imagine her feelings when, upon opening the box to feast her eyes on her contraband treasures, she found it to contain nothing but waste paper! I suspect that the sweetheart of one of our Filipino cabin-boys is now wearing a hat fairly smothered in bird-of-paradise plumes.

The Bugis' love of the sea has given them almost a monopoly of the trade around Celebes. Despite their fierce and warlike dispositions they are industrious and[132] ingenious—qualities which usually do not go together; they practise agriculture more than the neighboring tribes and manufacture cotton cloth not only for their own use but for export. They also drive a thriving trade in such romantic commodities as gold dust, tortoise shell, pearls, nutmegs, camphor, and bird-of-paradise plumes. They dwell for the most part in walled enclosures known as kampongs, in flimsy houses built of bamboo and thatched with grass or leaves. But as diagonal struts are not used the walls soon lean over from the force of the wind, giving to the villages a curiously inebriated appearance. In several of the eight petty states which comprise the confederation of Boni the ruler is not infrequently a woman, the female line having precedence over the male line in succession to the throne. The women rulers of the Bugis have invariably shown themselves as astute, capable and warlike as the men, the princess who ruled in Boni during the middle of the last century having defeated three powerful military expeditions which the Dutch sent against her. Everything considered, the Bugis are perhaps the most interesting race in the entire archipelago.

The Bugis are said to be more predisposed toward "running amok" than any other Malayan people. Having been warned of this unpleasant idiosyncrasy, I took the precaution, when among them, of carrying in the right-hand pocket of my jacket a service automatic, loaded and ready for instant action. For when a Bugi runs amok he will almost certainly get you[133] unless you get him first. Running amok, I should explain, is the native term for the homicidal mania which attacks Malays. Without the slightest warning, and apparently without reason, a Malay, armed with a kris or other weapon, will rush into the street and slash at everybody, friends and strangers alike, until he is killed. These frenzies were formerly regarded as due to sudden insanity, but it is now believed that the typical amok is the result of excitement due to circumstances, such as domestic jealousy or gambling losses, which render the man desperate and weary of life. It is, in fact, the Malay equivalent of suicide. Though so intimately associated with the Malay, there are good grounds for believing the word to have an Indian origin. Certainly the act is far from unknown in Indian history. In Malabar, for example, it was long the custom for the zamorin or king of Calicut to cut his throat in public after he had reigned twelve years. But in the seventeenth century there was inaugurated a variation in this custom. After a great feast lasting for nearly a fortnight the ruler, surrounded by his bodyguard, had to take his seat at a national assembly, on which occasion it was lawful for anyone to attack him, and, if he succeeded in killing him the murderer himself assumed the crown. In the year 1600, it is recorded, thirty men who would be king were killed while thus attempting to gain the throne. These men were called Amar-khan, and it has been suggested that their action was "running amok" in the true sense of the term. From this it would appear that a king of[134] Calicut was about as good an insurance risk as a president of Haiti.

The act of running amok is probably due to causes over which the culprit has some measure of control, as the custom has now virtually died out in the Philippines and in the British possessions in Malaysia, owing to the drastic measures adopted by the authorities. Among the Mohammedans of the southern Philippines, where the custom is known as juramentado, it was discouraged by burying the carcass of a pig—an animal abhorred by all Moslems—in the grave with the body of the assassin. When I was in Jolo the governor told me of a novel and highly effective method which had been adopted by the officer commanding the American forces in that island for discouraging the custom. A number of American soldiers had been killed by Moros running amok. The American commander took up the matter with the local priests but they only shrugged their shoulders with true Oriental stoicism, saying that when a man went juramentado it was the will of Allah and that nothing could be done. The next day an American soldier, a revolver in either hand, burst into a Moro village, notorious for its juramentados, firing at everyone whom he saw and yelling like a mad man. The terrified villagers took to the bush, where they remained in fear and trembling until the crazy Americano had taken his departure. That evening the village priests appeared at headquarters to complain to the American commander.

[135]"But Americans have just as much right to go juramentado as the Moros," said the general. "I can do nothing. The man is not responsible. It is the will of Allah." That was the end of juramentado in Jolo.


The wharves and godowns which line Makassar's water-front form an unattractive screen to a picturesque and charming town. Though, owing to its commercial importance as a half-way station on the road from Asia to Australia, Makassar promises to become a second Singapore, it has as yet neither an electric lighting, gas, nor water system. It is, however, very beautifully laid out, the streets, which are broad and well-kept, being lined by double rows of magnificent canarium trees or tamarinds, whose branches interlace high overhead in a canopy of green. The European life of Makassar centers in the great grass-covered plein, or common, where band concerts, reviews, horse races, festivals, and similar events are held. Facing on the plein is the palace of the Governor of the Celebes, a one-story, porticoed building with white walls and green blinds, in the Dutch colonial style, a type of architecture which is admirably adapted to the tropics. Next to the palace is the Oranje Hotel, a well-kept and comfortable hostelry as hotels go in Malaysia. On its terrace the homesick Europeans gather toward twilight to sip advocat—a drink which is a first cousin to the egg-nogg[136] of pre-Volstead days, very popular in the Indies—and to listen to the military band playing on the plein.

Diagonally across the plein rise the massive walls of Fort Rotterdam, erected by one of the native rulers, the King of Goa, with the assistance of the Portuguese, when the seventeenth century was still in its infancy and when the settlement on the lower end of Manhattan Island was still called Nieuw Amsterdam. The capture of the fort by the Dutch in 1667 signalized the passing of Portuguese power in Asia. Pass the slovenly native sentry at the outer gate, cross the creaking drawbridge, and, were it not for the tropical vegetation and the oppressive heat, you might think yourself in the Low Countries instead of a few degrees below the Line, for the crenelated ramparts, the shaded, gravelled paths, the ancient garrison church, the officers' quarters with their steep-pitched, red-tiled roofs, make the interior a veritable bit of Holland, transplanted to a tropic island half the world away.

Makassar has a population of about fifty thousand, including something over a thousand Europeans and some five thousand Chinese, but as most of the natives live in their walled kampongs in the environs, the city appears much smaller than it really is. The retail trade is almost wholly in the hands of the Chinese, many of whom are men of great wealth and influence. There was also a small colony of Japanese, but, as a result of the boycott which the Chinese had instituted against them in reprisal for Japan's refusal to evacuate Shantung, they were unable to[137] find markets for their wares or to obtain employment and, in consequence, were being forced to leave the island. The only American in the Celebes when we were there was the representative of the Standard Oil Company—a desperately homesick youngster from Missouri who had been a lieutenant of aviation. He introduced himself to us on the terrace of the Oranje Hotel, begged the privilege of buying the drinks, and pleaded with an eagerness that was almost pathetic for the latest news from God's Country. At almost every place of importance which we visited in Malaysia we found these agents of Standard Oil—alert and clean-cut young fellows, who, far from home and friends, are helping to build up a commercial empire for America oversea.

The native soldiery, who form the bulk of the Makassar garrison, are quartered, with their families, in long, stone barracks—ten couples to a room. For every soldier of the colonial forces, whether European or native, is permitted to keep a woman in the barracks with him. If she is the soldier's wife, well and good, but the authorities do not frown if the couple have omitted the formality of standing up before a clergyman. The rooms in which the soldiers and their families live have no partitions, to each couple being assigned a space about eight feet square, which is chalk-marked on the floor. The only article of furniture in each of these "apartments" is a bed, which is really a broad, low platform covered with a grass-mat, for in a land where the mercury not infrequently climbs to 120[138] in the shade, there is no need for bedding. Here they eat and sleep and make their toilets, the women preparing the meals for their men and for themselves in ovens out-of-doors. At night the beds may be separated by drawing the flimsiest of cotton curtains—the only concession to privacy that I could discover. As Malays invariably have large families, the barrack room usually has the appearance of a day nursery, with naked brown youngsters crawling everywhere, but at night they are disposed of in fiber hammocks which are slung over the parents' heads. The colonel in command at Fort Rotterdam told me that in the new type of barracks which were being built in Java each family would be assigned a separate room, but he seemed to regard such provisions for privacy as wholly unnecessary and a shameful waste of money.

The military authorities not only permit, but encourage the Dutch soldiers to contract alliances of a temporary character with native women during their term of service in the Insulinde, with the idea, no doubt, of making them more contented. During operations in the field the women and children, instead of remaining behind in barracks, accompany the troops almost to the firing-line, a custom which, apparently, does not interfere with efficiency or discipline. Indeed, there are few forces of equal size in the world which have seen as much active service as the army of Netherlands India, for in the extension of Dutch dominion throughout the archipelago the native rulers rarely have surrendered their authority without[139] fighting. Though the newspapers seldom mention it, Holland is almost constantly engaged in some little war in some remote corner of her Indian empire, in certain districts of Sumatra, for example, fighting having been almost continuous these many years.

Though the flag of Holland was first hoisted over the Celebes more than three centuries ago, Dutch commercial interests are still virtually confined to the four chief towns—Makassar, Menado, Gorontalo, and Tondano—and this in spite of the fact that the interior of the island is known to be immensely rich in natural resources. In the native states Dutch authority is little more than nominal, the repeated attempts which have been made to subjugate them invariably having met with discouragement and not infrequently with disaster. Hence the island is still without railways, though it is being slowly opened up by means of roads, some of which are practicable for motor-cars. Most of the roads in the Celebes were originally built by means of the Corvée, or forced labor, the natives being compelled to spend one month out of the twelve in road construction. But, though they were taken for this work at a season when they could best be spared from their fields, it was an enormous tax to impose upon an agricultural population, resulting in grave discontent and in seriously retarding the development of the island. For, ever since Marshal Daendels, "the Iron Marshal," who ruled the Indies under Napoleon, utilized forced labor to build the splendid eight-hundred-mile-long highway which runs from one end of[140] Java to the other, the corvée has been a synonym for unspeakable cruelty and oppression throughout the Insulinde. Each dessa, or district, through which the great trans-Java highway runs was forced to construct, within an allotted period, a certain section of the road, the natives working without pay while their crops rotted in the fields and their families starved. As a final touch of tyranny, the grim old Marshal gave orders that if a dessa did not complete its section of the road within the allotted time the chiefs of that district were to be taken out and hung.

When the Dutch determined to open up Celebes by the construction of a highway system they realized the wisdom of obtaining the cooperation of the native rulers. But when they outlined their scheme to the King of Goa, the most powerful chieftain in the southern part of the island, they encountered, if not open opposition, at least profound indifference. This was scarcely a matter for surprise, however, for the King quite obviously had no use for roads, first, because when he had occasion to journey through his dominions he either rode on horseback or was carried in a palanquin along the narrow jungle trails; secondly, because he was perfectly well aware that by aiding in the construction of roads he would be undermining his own power, for roads would mean white men. To attempt to build a road across Goa in the face of the King's opposition, would, as the Dutch realized, probably precipitate a native uprising, for, without his cooperation, it would[141] be necessary to make use of the corvée to obtain laborers.

But the Governor of the Celebes had been trained in a different school from the Iron Marshal. He believed that with an ignorant and suspicious native, such as the King of Goa, tact could accomplish more than threats. So, instead of attempting to build the road by forced labor, he sent to Batavia for a fine European horse and a luxurious carriage, gaudily painted, which he presented to the King as a token of the government's esteem and friendship. Now the King of Goa, as the governor was perfectly aware, had about as much use for a wheeled vehicle in his roadless dominions as a Bedouin of the Sahara has for a sailboat. But the King did precisely what the governor anticipated that he would do: in order that he might display his new possession he promptly ordered his subjects to build him a carriage road from his capital to Makassar. Thus the government of the Celebes obtained a perfectly good highway for the price of a horse and carriage, and won the friendship of the most powerful of the native rulers into the bargain. After some years, however, the road began to fall into disrepair, but as by this time the novelty of the horse and carriage had worn off, the King took little interest in its improvement. So the governor again had recourse to diplomacy to gain his ends, this time presenting his Goanese Majesty with a motor-car, gorgeous with scarlet paint and polished brass. And, in order that the King might be brought[142] to realize that the roads were not in a condition conducive to comfortable motoring, a young Dutch officer took him for his first motor ride. That ride evidently jolted the memory as well as the body of the dusky monarch, for the next day a royal edict was issued summoning hundreds of natives to put the road in good repair. And, as the King quickly acquired a taste for speeding, in good repair it has remained ever since.

I have related this episode not because it is in itself of any great importance, but because it serves to illustrate the methods used by the Dutch officials in handling recalcitrant or stubborn natives. Though Holland rules her fifty million brown subjects with an iron hand, she has long since learned the wisdom of wearing over the iron a velvet glove.

Footnotes:

[2] Owing to my ignorance of Dutch and Buginese, I was unable to obtain a dependable account of this curious legend, but the several versions which I heard agreed in the main with that given above.


[143]

CHAPTER VII
DOWN TO AN ISLAND EDEN

I went to Bali, which is an island two-thirds the size of Porto Rico, off the eastern extremity of Java, because I wished to see for myself if the accounts I had heard of the surpassing beauty of its women were really true. The Dutch officials whom I had met in Samarinda and Makassar had depicted the obscure little isle as a flaming, fragrant garden, overrun with flowers, a sort of unspoiled island Eden, where bronze-brown Eves with faces and figures of surpassing loveliness disported themselves on the long white beaches, or loitered the lazy days away beneath the palms. But I went there skeptical at heart, for, ever since I journeyed six thousand miles to see the women for whom Circassia has long been undeservedly famous, I have listened with doubt and distrust to the tales told by returned travelers of the nymphs whom they had found, leading an Arcadian existence, on distant tropic isles.

Yet I must admit that, when the anchor of the Negros splashed into the blue waters off Boeleleng, on the northern coast of the island, and a boat's crew of white-clad Filipinos rowed me ashore, I half expected to find a Balinese edition of the Ziegfeld Follies chorus[144] waiting to greet me with demonstrations of welcome and garlands of flowers. What I did find on the wharf was a surly Dutch harbor-master, who, judging from his breath and disposition, had been on a prolonged carouse. Of the women whose beauty I had heard chanted in so many ports, or, indeed, of a native Balinese of any kind, there was no sign. Barring the harbor-master and a handful of Chinese, Boeleleng, which is a place of some size, appeared to be deserted. Yet, as I strolled along its waterfront, I had the uncomfortable feeling that I was being watched by many pairs of unseen eyes.

"Where has everyone gone?" I demanded of the impassive Chinese steward who served me liquid refreshment at the Concordia Club. (Every town in the Insulinde has its Concordia Club, just as every Swiss town has its Grand Hotel.)

"Menjepee," he answered mystically, shrugging his shoulders. "Evlyone stay in house."

"Menjepee, eh?" I repeated. "Never heard of it. Some sort of disease, I suppose, like cholera or plague. If that's why everyone has run away I think that I'd better be leaving."

A ghost of a smile flitted across the Celestial's impassive countenance.

"No clolra. No pleg," he assured me. "Menjepee make by pliest."

Before I could elucidate this curious statement there entered the club a young Hollander immaculate in pipe-clayed topée and freshly starched white linen.

[145]"It's not a disease; it's a religious observance," he explained in perfect English, overhearing my last words. "They call it Menjepee, which, literally translated, means 'silence.' The Balinese are Hindus, you know—about the only ones left in the Islands—and they observe the Hindu festivals very strictly. Their priests raise the very devil with them if they don't. During Menjepee, which lasts twenty-four hours, no native is permitted to set foot outside the wall of his kampong except for the most urgent reasons, and even then he has to get permission from his priest. If he is caught outside his kampong without permission he is heavily fined, to say nothing of being given the cold shoulder by his neighbors."

"I was told in Samarinda," I remarked carelessly, by way of introducing the topic in which I was most interested, "that some of the native girls here in Bali are remarkably good looking."

"I thought you'd be asking about them," the Hollander commented dryly. "That's usually the first question asked by everyone who comes to Bali. But you won't find them on this side of the island. If you want to see them you'll have to cross over to the south side. The prettiest girls are to be found in the vicinity of Den Pasar and Kloeng Kloeng."

"So I had heard," I told him. "I am going to cross the island by motor and have my boat pick me up on the other side. How far is it to Den Pasar?"

"Only about sixty miles and you'll have a tolerably[146] good mountain road all the way. But you can't go today."

"Why not?"

"Menjepee," was the laconic answer. "You won't be able to get anyone to take you. There are only four or five motor cars in Boeleleng and their drivers are all Hindus."

I smothered an expletive of annoyance, for my time was limited and the Negros had already sailed.

"Surely you don't mean to tell me that there is no way in which I can get across the island today?" I demanded. "This Menjepee business is as infernal a nuisance as a taxicab strike in New York."

"Perhaps the Resident might be able to do something for you," my acquaintance suggested after a moment's consideration. "He's a good sort and he's always glad to meet visitors. We don't have many of them here, heaven knows. Look here. I've a sado outside. Suppose you hop in and I'll drive you up to the Residency and you can ask the Resident to help you out."

As we rattled in a sort of governess-cart, called sado, up the broad, palm-lined avenue which leads from Boeleleng to Singaradja, the seat of government, three miles away, I caught fleeting glimpses of natives peering at me furtively over the mud walls which surround their kampongs, but the instant they saw that they were observed they disappeared from view. The Resident I found to be a man of charm and culture who had twice crossed the United States on his[147] way to and from Holland. At first he was dubious whether anything could be done for me, explaining that Menjepee is as devoutly observed by the Hindus of Bali as the fasting month of Ramadan is by the Mohammedans of Turkey, and that the Dutch officials make it a rule never to interfere with the religious observances of the natives. He finally consented, however, to send for the chief priest and see if he could persuade him, in view of my limited time, to grant a special dispensation to a native who could drive a car. I don't know what arguments he used, but they must have been effective, for within the hour we heard the honk of a motor-horn at the Residency gate.

"We have no hotels in Bali," the Resident remarked as I was taking my departure, "but I'll telephone over to the Assistant Resident at Den Pasar to have a room ready for you at the passangrahan—that's the government rest-house, you know. And I'll also send word to the Controleur at Kloeng Kloeng that you are coming and ask him to arrange some native dances for you. He's very keen about that sort of thing and knows where to get the best dancers in the island."

"Tell me," I queried, as I was about to enter the car, "are these girls I've heard so much about really pretty?"

The Resident smiled cynically.

"Well," he replied, and I thought that I could detect a note of homesickness in his voice, "it depends upon the point of view. When you first arrive in Bali you swear that they are the prettiest brown-skinned[148] women in the world. But after you have been here a year or so you get so tired of everything connected with the tropics that you don't give the best of them a second glance. For my part, give me a plain, wholesome-looking Dutch girl with a lusty figure and corn-colored hair and cheeks like apples in preference to all the cafe-au-lait beauties in Bali."

"Au revoir," I called, as I signaled to the driver and the car leaped forward. "If I listen to you any longer I shall have no illusions left."


Save only its western end, which is covered with dense jungle inhabited by tigers and boa-constrictors, Bali is a vast garden, ablaze with the most gorgeous flowers that you can imagine and criss-crossed by a net-work of hard, white roads which alternately wind through huge cocoanut plantations or skirt interminable paddy fields. From the coast the ground rises steadily to a ridge formed by a central range of mountains, which culminate in the imposing, cloud-wreathed Peak of Bali, two miles high. Streams rushing down from the mountains have cut the rich brown loam of the lowlands into deep ravines, down which the brawling torrents make their way to the sea between high banks smothered in tropical vegetation. The most remarkable feature of the landscape, however, are the rice terraces, built by hand at an incredible cost of time and labor, which climb the slopes of the mountains, tier on tier, like the seats in a Roman ampitheatre, sometimes to a height of three thousand feet[149] or more, constituting one of the engineering marvels of the world.

The southern slope of the divide appeared to be much more thickly peopled than the northern, for, as we sped down the steep grades with brakes a-squeal, villages of mud-walled, straw-thatched huts became increasingly frequent, nor did the natives appear to be observing Menjepee as strictly as in the vicinity of Boeleleng, for they stood in the gateways of their kampongs and waved at us as we whirled past, and more than once we saw groups of them squatting in a circle beside the road, engaged in the national pastime of cock-fighting. Now we began to encounter the women whose beauty is famous throughout Malaysia: glorious, up-standing creatures with great masses of blue-black hair, a faint couleur de rose diffusing itself through their skins of brown satin. They were taller than any other women I saw in Malaysia, lithe and supple as Ruth St. Denis, and bearing themselves with a quiet dignity and lissome grace. From waist to ankle they were tightly wrapped in kains of brilliant batik, which defined, without revealing, every line and contour of their hips and lower limbs, but from the waist up they were entirely nude, barring the flame-colored flowers in their dusky hair.

Unlike most Malays, the eyes of the Balinese, instead of being oblique, are set straight in the head. The nose, which frequently mars what would otherwise be well-nigh perfect features, is generally small and flat, with too-wide nostrils, though I saw a [150]number of Balinese women with noses which were distinctly aquiline—the result of a strain of European blood, perhaps. The lips are thick, yet well formed; the teeth are naturally regular and white but are all too often stained scarlet with betel-nut, which is to the Balinese girl what chewing-gum is to her sister of Broadway. The complexion ranges from a deep but rosy brown to a nuance no darker than that of a European brunette, but in the eyes of the Balinese themselves a golden-yellow complexion, the color of weak tea, is the perfection of female beauty. But the chief charm of these island Eves is found, after all, not in their faces but in their figures—slender, rounded, willowy, deep-bosomed, such as Botticelli loved to paint.

Despite the alluring tales brought back by South Sea travelers of the radiant creatures who go about unclad as when they were born, I have myself found no spot, save only Equatorial Africa, where women dispense with clothing habitually and without shame. Indeed, I have seen girls far more scantily clad on the stage of the Ziegfeld Roof or the Winter Garden than I ever have in those distant lands which have not yet received the blessings of civilization. In most of the Polynesian islands the painter or photographer can usually bribe a native girl to disrobe for him, just as in Paris or New York he can find models who for a consideration will pose in the nude, but when the picture is completed she promptly resumes the shapeless and hideous garments of Mother Hubbard cut which[151] the missionaries were guilty of introducing and whose all-enveloping folds, they naïvely believe, form a shield and a buckler against temptations of the flesh. But there are no missionaries in Bali, not one—though the Board of Foreign Missions may interest itself in the islanders after this book appears—and the women continue to dress as they should with such figures and in such a climate.

Because of a flat tire, the driver stopped the car beside a little stream in which two extremely pretty girls were bathing. With the evening sun glinting on their brown bodies and their piquant, oval faces framed by the dusky torrents of their loosened hair, they looked like those bronze maidens which disport themselves in the fountain of the Piazza delle Terme in Rome, come to life. I felt certain that they would take to flight when Hawkinson unlimbered his motion-picture camera and trained it upon them, but they continued their joyous splashing without the slightest trace of self-consciousness or confusion. In fact, when a Balinese girl becomes embarrassed, she does not betray it by covering her body but by drawing over her face a veil which looks like a piece of black fishnet. Their bath completed, the maidens emerged from the water on to the farther bank, paused for a moment to arrange their hair, like wood nymphs of the Golden Age, then wound their gorgeous kains about them and vanished amid the trees. From somewhere on the distant hillside came the sweet, shrill quaver of a reed[152] instrument. The driver said it was a native flute, but I knew better. It was the pipes of Pan....


Rather than that you should be scandalized when you visit Bali, let me make it quite clear that in matters of morality the Balinese women are as easy as an old shoe. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they are unmoral rather than immoral. This is one of the conditions of life in the Insulinde which must be accepted by the traveler, just as he accepts as a matter of course the heat and the insects and the dirt. Though polygamy is practised, it is confined, because of the expense involved in maintaining a matrimonial stable, to the wealthier chiefs and other men of means. A Turkish pasha who maintained a large harem once told me that polygamy is as trying to the disposition as it is to the pocketbook, because of the incessant jealousies and bickerings among the wives. And I suppose the same conditions obtain in the seraglios of Bali. The former rajah of Kloeng Kloeng, now known as the Regent, a stout and jovial old gentleman arrayed in a cerise kain, a sky-blue head-cloth, and a white jacket with American twenty-dollar gold pieces for buttons, told me with a touch of pride that he had twenty-five wives in his harem. But his pride subsided like a pricked toy balloon when the Controleur, who had overheard the boast, mentioned that another regent, the ruler of a district at the western end of the island, possessed upward of three hundred wives—of the exact number he was not certain as it was [153]constantly fluctuating. To my great regret I could not spare the time to pay a visit to this Balinese Brigham Young. There were a number of questions relative to domestic economy and household administration which I should have liked to have asked him.

Until very recent years, the young Balinese girl who married an old husband incurred the risk of meeting an untimely and extremely unpleasant end, for the island was the last stronghold of that strange and dreadful Hindu custom, suttee—the burning of widows. The last public suttee in Bali was held as recently as 1907, but, in spite of the stern prohibition of the practise by the Dutch, it is said that some women faithful to the old customs and to their dead husbands continue to join the latter on the funeral pyre. In fact, the Controleur at Kloeng Kloeng told me that, only a few weeks before my arrival, two women had begged him on their knees for permission to be burned with the body of the dear departed, whom they wished to share in death as in life.

The Balinese, being devout Hindus, burn their dead, but the cremations are held only twice yearly, being observed as holidays, like Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. If a man dies shortly before the cremation season is due, his remains are kept in the house until they can be incinerated with befitting ceremony—though I imagine that, in view of the torrid climate, the members of his family perforce move elsewhere for the time being—but if he is so inconsiderate as to postpone his dying until after one of these semi-annual[154] burnings, it becomes necessary to bury him. In a land where the thermometer frequently registers 100 and above, you couldn't keep a corpse around the house for several months, could you? When cremation day comes round again, however, he is dug up, taken to a temple and burned. There is no escaping the funeral-pyre in Bali. As we were leaving one of the cremation places I overheard the Doctor irreverently humming a paraphrase of a song which was very popular in the army during the war:

"Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, If the grave don't get you the wood-pile must."

Unlike the South Sea islanders, who are rapidly dying out as the result of diseases introduced by Europeans, the population of Bali—which is one of the most densely peopled regions in the world, with 325 inhabitants to the square mile—is rapidly increasing, having more than doubled in the last fifteen years. This is due in some measure, no doubt, to the climate, which, though hot, is healthy save in certain low-lying coastal districts, but much more, I imagine, to the fact that there are scarcely a hundred Europeans on the island, and that, as there are no harbors worthy the name, European vessels rarely touch there. It is well for the Balinese that their enchanted island has no harbors, for harbors mean ships, and ships mean white men, and white men, particularly sailors, all too often[155] leave undesirable mementoes of their visits behind them.

The men of Bali are a fine, strong, dignified, rather haughty race, fit mates in physique for their women. They are considerably taller than any other Malays whom I saw and possess less Mongoloid and Negroid characteristics, these being subdued by some strong primeval alien strain which is undoubtedly Caucasian. Though now peaceable enough, every Balinese man carries in his sash a kris—the long, curly-bladed knife which is the national weapon of Malaysia. Most of the krises that I examined were more ornamental than serviceable, some of them having scabbards of solid gold and hilts set with precious stones. Moreover, they are worn against the middle of the back, where they must be difficult to reach in an emergency. I imagine that the kris, universal though it is, serves as a symbol of former militancy rather than as a fighting weapon, just as the buttons at the back of our tailcoats serve to remind us that their original purpose was to support a sword-belt. But, though the Balinese have made no serious trouble for their Dutch rulers for upward of a decade, they long resisted European domination, as evidenced by the four bloody uprisings in the last three-quarters of a century—the last was in 1908—which were suppressed only with difficulty and considerable loss of life. When the shells from the gunboats began to burst over their towns, the rajahs, recognizing that their cause was lost, nerved themselves with opium and committed the traditional[156] puputan, or, with their wives, threw themselves on the Dutch bayonets. But, though the Balinese have bowed perforce to the authority of the stout young woman who dwells in The Hague, they have none of the cringing servility, that look of pathetic appeal such as you see in the eyes of dogs which have been mistreated, so characteristic of the Javanese.

Though the three-quarters of a million natives in Bali have behind them the traditions of countless wars, the Dutch, who seem to possess an extraordinary talent for governing brown-skinned peoples, maintain their authority with a few companies of native soldiery officered by a handful of Europeans. The success of the Dutch in ruling Malays, who are notoriously turbulent and warlike, is largely due to the fact that, so long as the customs of the natives are not inimical to good government or to their own well-being, they studiously refrain from interfering with them. Nor is there the same social chasm separating Europeans and natives in the Insulinde which is found in Britain's Eastern possessions. Were a British official in India to marry a native woman he would be promptly recalled in disgrace; if a Dutch official marries a native woman she is accorded the same social recognition as her husband. Though in the old days probably ninety per cent of the Dutch officials and planters in the Insulinde lived with native women, these unions are constantly decreasing, today probably not more than ten per cent of the Europeans thus solving their domestic problems. It struck me, moreover,[157] that the Dutch are more in sympathy with their native subjects, that they understand them better, than the British. It is a remarkable thing, when you stop to think of it, that a little nation like Holland, with a colonial army of less than thirty-five thousand men and no fleet worthy of the name, should be able to maintain its authority over fifty millions of natives, ten thousand miles away, with so little friction.

We passed the night in the small rest-house at Den Pasar which the government maintains for the use of its officials. I have said that we passed the night, mark you; I refuse to toy with the truth to the extent of saying that we slept. Why they call it a rest-house I cannot imagine. Never that I can recall, save only in a zoo, have I found myself on such intimate terms with so many forms of animal life as in that passangrahan. Cockroaches nearly as large as mice (before you raise your eyebrows at this statement talk with anyone who has traveled in Malaysia), spiders, centipedes, ants and beetles made my bedroom an entomologist's paradise. Some large winged animal, presumably a fruit-bat or a flying-fox, entered by the window and circled the room like an airplane; and, judging from the sounds which proceeded from beneath the bed, I gathered that the room also harbored a snake or a large rat, though which I was not certain as I saw no reason for investigating. A family of lizards disported themselves on the ceiling and when I menaced them with a stick they departed so hastily that one of them abandoned his tail, which dropped on the[158] wash-stand. A squadron of mosquitoes—a sort of escadrille de chasse, as it were—kept me awake until daybreak, when they were relieved by a skirmishing party of cimex lectulariae, which are well known in America under a shorter and less polite name. Fishes only were absent, but I am convinced that their neglect of me was due to ignorance of my presence. Had they known of it I feel certain that the climbing fish, which is one of the curiosities of these waters, would have flopped on to my pillow.

Upon our arrival at Kloeng Kloeng I found the Controleur, who had been notified by the Resident at Singaradja of our coming, had made arrangements for an elaborate series of native dances to be given that afternoon on the lawn of the residency. It is a simple matter to arrange a dance in Bali, for every village, no matter how small, supports a ballet, and usually a troupe of actors as well, just as an American community supports a baseball team. The money for the gorgeous costumes worn by the dancers is raised by local subscription and the ballet frequently visits the neighboring towns to give exhibitions or to engage in competitions, contingents of the dancers' townspeople usually going along to root for them.

The Balinese dances require many years of arduous and constant training. A girl is scarcely out of the sling by which Balinese children are carried on the mother's back before, under the tutelage of her mother, who has herself perhaps been a dancing-girl in her time, she begins the severe course of gymnastics[159] and muscle training which are the foundations of all Eastern dances. From infancy until, not yet in her teens, she becomes a member of the village ballet or enters the harem of a local rajah, she is as assiduously trained and groomed as a race-horse entered for the Derby. From morning until night, day after day, year after year, the muscles of her shoulders, her back, her hips, her legs, her abdomen are suppled and developed until they will respond to her wishes as readily as her slender, henna-stained fingers.

The lawn on which the dances were held sloped down, like a great green rug, from the squat white residency to an ancient Hindu temple, whose walls, of red-brown sandstone, were transformed by the setting sun into rosy coral. The Bali temples are but open courtyards enclosed within high walls, their entrances flanked by towering gate-posts, grotesquely carved. Within the courtyards, which have arrangements for the cremation of the dead as well as for the refreshment of the living, are numerous roofed platforms and small, elevated shrines, reached by steep flights of narrow steps, every square inch being covered with intricate and fantastic carvings. These carvings are for the most part beautifully colored, so that, when illuminated by the sun, they look like those porcelain bas-reliefs which one buys in Florence, or, if the colors are undimmed by age, like Persian enamel. In some of the temples which I visited, the colorings had been ruthlessly obliterated by coats of whitewash, but in those communities where Hinduism is still a living[160] force, the inhabitants frequently impoverish themselves in order to provide the gold-leaf with which the interiors of the shrines are covered, just as the congregations of American churches praise God with carven pulpits and windows of stained glass.


The stage setting for the dances consisted of a small, portable pagoda, heavily gilded and set with mirrors—nothing more, unless you include the backdrop provided by the Indian Ocean. On either side of the pagoda, which was set in the centre of the lawn, squatted a motionless native holding a long-handled parasol of gold, known as a payong. So far as I could discover, the purpose of these parasol holders was purely ornamental, like the palms that flank a concert stage, for they never stirred throughout the four hours that the dancing lasted. The dancers themselves were extremely young—barely in their teens, I should say—but I could only guess their ages as their faces were so heavily enameled that they might as well have been wearing masks. Their costumes, faithful reproductions of those depicted in the carvings on the walls of the temples, were of a gorgeousness which made the creations of Bakst seem colorless and tame: tightly-wound kains of cloth-of-gold over which were draped silks in all the colors of the chromatic scale. Their necks and arms, which were stained a saffron yellow, were hung with jewels or near-jewels. On their heads were towering, indescribable affairs of feathers, flowers and tinsel, faintly reminiscent of those[161] fantastic headdresses affected by the lamented Gaby. The music was furnished by a gamelan, or orchestra, of half-a-hundred musicians playing on drums, gongs and reeds, with a few xylophones thrown in for good measure. I am no judge of music, but it seemed to me that when the gamelan was working at full speed it compared very favorably with an American jazz orchestra.

All the dances illustrated episodes from the Ramayana or other Hindu mythologies localized, the story being recited in a monotonous, sing-song chant, in the old Kawi or sacred language, by a professional accompanist who sat, cross-legged, in the orchestra. As a result of constant drilling since babyhood, the Balinese dancers attain a perfection of technique unknown on the western stage, but the visitor who expects to see the verve and abandon of the Indian dances as portrayed by Ruth St. Denis is certain to be disappointed. To tell the truth, the dances of Bali, like those I saw in Java and Cambodia, are rather tedious performances, beautiful, it is true, but almost totally lacking in that fire and spirit which we associate with the East. It is probable, however, that I am not sufficiently educated in the art of Terpsichore to appreciate them. It was as though I had been given a selection from Die Niebelungen Lied when I had looked for rag-time. But the natives are passionately fond of them, it being by no means uncommon, I was told, for a dance to begin in the late afternoon and continue without interruption until daybreak. The Controleur told me that he planned[162] to utilize his next long leave in taking a native ballet to Europe, and, perhaps, to the United States. So, should you see the Bali dancers advertised to appear on Broadway, I strongly advise you not to miss them.

Instead of going to Palm Beach next winter, or to Havana, or to the Riviera, why don't you go out to Bali and see its lovely women, its curious customs, and its superb scenery for yourself? You can get there in about eight weeks, provided you make good connections at Singapore and Surabaya. With no railways, no street-cars, no hotels, no newspapers, no theatres, no movies, it is a very restful place. You can lounge the lazy days away in the cool depths of flower-smothered verandahs, with a brown house-boy pulling at the punkah-rope and another bringing you cool drinks in tall, thin glasses—for the Volstead Act does not run west of the 160th meridian—or you can stroll in the moonlight on the long white beaches with lithe brown beauties who wear passion-flowers in their raven hair. Or, should you weary of so dolce far niente an existence, you can sail across to Java with the opium-runners in their fragile prahaus, or climb a two-mile-high volcano, or in the jungles at the western extremity of the island stalk the clouded tiger. And you can wear pajamas all day long without apologizing. Everything considered, Bali offers more inducements than any place I know to the tired business man or the absconding bank cashier.


[163]

CHAPTER VIII
THE GARDEN THAT IS JAVA

I entered Java through the back door, as it were. That is to say, instead of landing at Batavia, which is the capital of Netherlands India, and presenting my letters of introduction to the Governor-General, Count van Limburg Stirum, I landed at Pasuruan, at the eastern extremity of the six-hundred-mile-long island. It was as though a foreigner visiting the United States were to land at Sag Harbor, on the far end of Long Island, instead of at New York. I learned afterward, from the American Consul-General at Batavia, that in doing this I committed a breach of etiquette. Though the Dutch make no official objections to foreigners landing where they please in their Eastern possessions, they much prefer to have them ring the front doorbell, hand in their cards, and give the authorities an opportunity to look them over. In these days, with Bolshevik emissaries stealthily at work throughout the archipelago, the Dutch feel that it behooves them to inspect strangers with some care before giving them the run of the islands.

We landed at Pasuruan because it is the port nearest to Bromo, the most famous of the great volcanoes of Eastern Java, but as there is no harbor, only[164] a shallow, unprotected roadstead, it was necessary for the Negros to anchor nearly three miles offshore. So shallow is the water, indeed, that it is a common sight at low tide to see the native fishermen standing knee-deep in the sea a mile from land. Until quite recently debarkation at Pasuruan was an extremely uncomfortable and undignified proceeding, the passengers on the infrequent vessels which touch there being carried ashore astride of a rail borne on the shoulders of two natives. A coat of tar and feathers was all that was needed to make the passenger feel that he was a victim of the Ku Klux Klan. But a narrow channel has now been dredged through the sand-bar so that row-boats and launches of shallow draught can make their way up the squdgy creek to the custom house at high tide.

Until half a century ago Pasuruan was counted as one of the four great cities of Java, but with the extension of the railway system throughout the island and the development of the harbor at Surabaya, forty miles away, its importance steadily diminished, though traces of its one-time prosperity are still visible in its fine streets and beautiful houses, most of which, however, are now occupied by Chinese. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the place today is found in the costumes of the native women, particularly the girls, who wear a kind of shirt and veil combining all the colors of the rainbow.

From Pasuruan to Tosari, which is a celebrated hill-station and the gateway to the volcanoes of eastern Java, is about twenty-five miles, with an excellent[165] motor road all the way. For the first ten miles the road, here a wide avenue shaded by tamarinds and djati trees, runs across a steaming plain, between fields of rice and cane, but after Pasrepan the ascent of the mountains begins. The highway now becomes extremely steep and narrow, with countless hairpin turns, though all danger of collision is eliminated by the regulations which permit no down-traffic in the morning and no up-traffic in the afternoon. During the final fifteen miles, in which is made an ascent of more than six thousand feet, one has the curious experience of passing, in a single hour, from the torrid to the temperate zone. In the earlier stages of the ascent the road zigzags upward through magnificent tropical forests, where troops of huge gray apes chatter in the upper branches and grass-green parrots flash from tree to tree. Palms of all varieties, orchids, tree-ferns, bamboos, bananas, mangoes, gradually give way to slender pines; the heavy odors of the tropics are replaced by a pleasant balsamic fragrance; the hillsides become clothed with familiar flowers—daisies, buttercups, heliotrope, roses, fuchsias, geraniums, cannas, camelias, Easter lilies, azaleas, morning glories, until the mountain-slopes look like a vast old-fashioned garden. In the fields, instead of rice and cane, strawberries, potatoes, cabbages, onions, and corn, are seen. As the road ascends the air becomes cold and very damp; rain-clouds gather on the mountains and there are frequent showers. At one point the mist became so thick that I could scarcely discern the figure[166] of my chauffeur and we were compelled to advance with the utmost caution, for at many points the road, none too wide at best, falls sheer away in dizzy precipices. But as suddenly as it came, just as suddenly did the mist lift, revealing the great plain of Pasuruan, a mile below, stretching away, away, until its green was blended with the turquoise of the Java Sea. It is a veritable Road of a Thousand Wonders, but there are spots where those who do not relish great heights and narrow spaces will explain that they prefer to walk so that they may gather wild-flowers.

Were it not for the wild appearance of its Tenngri mountaineers, Tosari, which is the best health resort in Java, might be readily mistaken for an Alpine village, for it has the same steep and straggling streets, the same weather-beaten chalets clinging precariously to the rocky hillsides, the same quaint shops, their windows filled with souvenirs and postcards, the same glorious view of green valleys and majestic peaks, the same crisp, cool air, as exhilarating as champagne. The Sanatarium Hotel, which is always filled with sallow-faced officials and planters from the plains, consists of a large main building built in the Swiss chalet style and numerous bungalows set amid a gorgeous garden of old-fashioned flowers. Every bedroom has a bath—but such a bath!—a damp, gloomy, cement-lined cell having in one corner a concrete cistern, filled with ice-cold mountain water. The only furniture is a tin dipper. And it takes real courage, let me tell you,[167] to ladle that icy water over your shivering person in the chill of a mountain morning.

The mountain slopes in the vicinity of Tosari are dotted with the wretched wooden huts of the native tribe called Tenggerese, the only race in Java which has remained faithful to Buddhism. There are only about five thousand of them and they keep to themselves in their own community, shut out from the rest of the world. They are shorter and darker than the natives of the plains and, like most savages, are lazy, ignorant and incredibly filthy. Because the air is cool and dry, and water rather scarce, they never bathe, preferring to remain dirty. As a result the aroma of their villages is a thing not soon forgotten. The doors of their huts, which have no windows, all face Mount Bromo, where their guardian deity, Dewa Soelan Iloe, is supposed to dwell. Once each year the Tenggerese hold a great feast at the foot of the volcano, and, until the Dutch authorities suppressed the custom, were accustomed to conclude these ceremonies by tossing a living child into the crater as a sacrifice to their god. Though an ancient tradition forbids the cultivation of rice by the Tenggerese, they earn a meager living by raising vegetables, which they carry on horseback to the markets on the plain, and by acting as guides and coolies. They are incredibly strong and tireless, the two men who carried Hawkinson's heavy motion-picture outfit to the summit of Bromo making the round trip of forty miles in a single day over some of the steepest trails I have ever seen.

[168]Growing on the mountainsides about Tosari are many bushes of thorn apple, called Datara alba, their white, funnel-shaped flowers being sometimes twelve inches long. From the seeds of the thorn apple the Tenggerese make a sort of flour which is strongly narcotic in its effect. Because of this quality, it is occasionally utilized by burglars, who blow it into a room which they propose to rob, through the key-hole, thereby drugging the occupants into insensibility and making it easy for the burglars to gain access to the room and help themselves to its contents. Which reminds me that in some parts of Malaysia native desperadoes are accustomed to pound the fronds of certain varieties of palm to the consistency of powdered glass. They carry a small quantity of this powder with them and when they meet anyone against whom they have a grudge they blow it into his face. The sharp particles, being inhaled, quickly affect the lungs and death usually results. A friend of mine, for many years an American consul in the East, once had the misfortune to be next to the victim of such an attack, and himself inhaled a small quantity of the deadly powder. The lung trouble which shortly developed hastened, if it did not actually cause, his death.

That we might reach the Moengal Pass at daybreak in order to see the superb panorama of Bromo and the adjacent volcanoes as revealed by the rising sun, we started from Tosari at two o'clock in the morning. Our mounts were wiry mountain ponies, hardy as mustangs and sure-footed as goats. And it was[169] well that they were, for the trail was the steepest and narrowest that I have ever seen negotiated by horses. The Bright Angel Trail, which leads from the rim of the Grand Canon down to the Colorado, is a Central Park bridle-path in comparison. In places the grade rose to fifty per cent and in many of the descents I had to lean back until my head literally touched the pony's tail. It recalled the days, long past, when, as a student at the Italian Cavalry School, I was called upon to ride down the celebrated precipice at Tor di Quinto. But there, if your mount slipped, a thick bed of sawdust was awaiting you to break the fall. Here there was nothing save jagged rocks. We started in pitch darkness and for three hours rode through a night so black that I could not see my pony's ears. The trail, which in places was barely a foot wide, ran for miles along a sort of hogback, the ground falling sheer away on either side. It was like riding blindfolded along the ridgepole of a church, and, had my pony slipped, the results would have been the same.

But the trials of the ascent were forgotten in the overwhelming grandeur of the scene which burst upon us as, just at sunrise, we drew rein at the summit of the Moengal Pass. Never, not in the Rockies, nor the Himalayas, nor the Alps, have I seen anything more sublime. At our feet yawned a vast valley, or rather a depression, like an excavation for some titanic building, hemmed in by perpendicular cliffs a thousand feet in height. Wafted by the morning breeze a mighty river of clouds poured slowly down the valley, filling[170] it with gray-white fleece from brim to brim. Slowly the clouds dissolved before the mounting sun until there lay revealed below us the floor of the depression, known as the Sand Sea, its yellow surface, smooth as the beach at Ormond, slashed across by the beds of dried-up streams and dotted with clumps of stunted vegetation. Like the Sahara it is boundless—a symbol of solitude and desolation. When, in the early morning or toward nightfall, the conical volcanoes cast their lengthening shadows upon this expanse of sand, it reminds one of the surface of the moon as seen through a telescope. But at midday, beneath the pitiless rays of the equatorial sun, it resembles an enormous pool of molten brass, the illusion being heightened by the heat-waves which flicker and dance above it. From the center of the Sand Sea rises the extinct crater of Batok, a sugar-loaf cone whose symmetrical slopes are so corrugated by hardened rivulets of lava that they look for all the world like folds of gray-brown cloth. Beyond Batok we could catch a glimpse of Bromo itself, belching skyward great clouds of billowing smoke and steam, while from its crater came a rumble as of distant thunder. And far in the distance, its purple bulk faintly discernible against the turquoise sky, rose Smeroe, the greatest volcano of them all.

Bromo volcano

The volcano of Bromo, Eastern Java, in eruption

The descent from the Moengal Pass to the Sand Sea is so steep that it is necessary to make it on foot, even the nimble-footed ponies having all they can do to scramble down the precipitous and slippery trail. It is [171]well to cross the Sand Sea as soon after daybreak as possible, for by mid-morning the heat is like a blast from an open furnace-door. It is a four mile ride across the Sand Sea to the lower slopes of Bromo, but the sand is firm and hard and we let the ponies break into a gallop—an exhilarating change from the tedious crawl necessary in the mountains. Then came a stiff climb of a mile or more over fantastically shaped hills of lava, the final ascent to the brink of the crater being accomplished by a flight of two hundred and fifty stone steps. The crater of Bromo is shaped like a huge funnel, seven hundred feet deep and nearly half a mile across. From it belch unceasingly dark gray clouds of smoke and sulphurous fumes, while now and then large rocks are spewed high in the air only to fall back again, rolling down the inside slope of the crater with a thunderous rumble, as though the god whom the Tenggerese believe dwells on the mountain was playing at ten-pins. Deep down at the bottom of the crater jets of greenish-yellow sulphur flicker in a cauldron of molten lava, from which a red flame now and then leaps upward, like an out-thrust serpent's tongue. No wonder that the ignorant mountaineers look on Bromo with fear and veneration, for it huddles there, in the midst of that awful solitude, like some monster in its death agony, gasping and groaning.

The transition from the lofty solitudes of the Tengger Mountains to the steaming, teeming thoroughfares of Surabaya, the metropolis of eastern Java, is not a pleasant one. For Surabaya—there are no less than[172] half-a-dozen ways of spelling its name—though the greatest trading port in Java, from the point of view of the visitor is not an attractive city. Neither is it a healthy place, for it has a hot, humid, sticky climate, it lacks good drinking water and enjoys no refreshing breeze; mosquitoes feed on one's body and red ants on one's belongings; malaria and typhoid are prevalent and even bubonic plague is not unknown, the combined effect of all these showing in the sallow and enervated faces of its inhabitants. Yet it is a bustling, up-and-doing city, as different from phlegmatic, conservative old Batavia as Los Angeles is from Boston.

Unlike the houses of Batavia, which stand far back from the street in lovely gardens, the houses of Surabaya are built directly on the street, with their gardens at the back. Most of the houses of the better class are in the Dutch colonial style—low and white with green blinds and across the front a stately row of columns. Every house is marked with a huge signboard bearing the number and the owner's name, thus making it easy for the stranger to find the one for which he is looking. There are no sidewalks and, as a consequence, walking is anything but pleasant, the streets being deep in dust during the dry season and equally deep in mud during the rains. I do not recall ever having seen a city of its size with so much wheeled traffic. Indeed, the scene on the Simpang Road about three in the afternoon, when the merchants are returning to their offices after the midday siesta, resembles that on Fifth Avenue at the rush hour, the[173] broad thoroughfare being literally packed from curb to curb with vehicles of every description: the ramshackle little victorias known as mylords, the high, two-wheeled dog-carts, with their seats back to back, called sados, the two-pony cabs termed kosongs, creaking bullock carts with wheels higher than a man, hand-cars and rickshaws hauled by dripping coolies, and other coolies staggering along beneath the weight of burdens swinging from the carrying-poles called pikolans, and every make and model of motor-cars from ostentatious, self-important Rolls-Royces to busybody Fords. Standing in the middle of the roadway, controlling and directing this roaring river of traffic with surprising efficiency are diminutive Javanese policemen wearing blue helmets many sizes too large for them and armed with revolvers, swords and clubs.

The port of Surabaya, which is the busiest in the entire Insulinde, is four miles from the business section of the city, with which it is connected by a splendid asphalt highway lined by huge warehouses, factories, godowns and oil-tanks, many of them bearing familiar American names. In fact, one of the first things to attract my attention in Java was the great variety of American articles on sale and in use—motor cars, tires, typewriters, office supplies, cameras, phonographs, agricultural machinery of all descriptions.

More than a tenth of Surabaya's population is Chinese and their commercial influence dominates the whole city. They have the finest residences, the most[174] luxurious clubs, the largest shops, the handsomest motor cars. I was shown a row of warehouses extending along the canal for one long block which are the property of a single Chinese. Wherever I traveled in the Indies I was impressed by the business acumen and success of these impassive, industrious sons of the Flowery Kingdom. They are the Greeks of the Far East but without the Greek's unscrupulousness and lack of dependability. A Chinese will not hesitate to take advantage of you in a business deal, but if he once gives you his word he will always keep it, no matter at what cost to himself, and if you should leave your pocketbook in his shop he will come hurrying after you to restore it. The Chinese living in the Indies are uniformly prosperous—many of them are millionaires—they have their own clubs and chambers of commerce and charitable organizations; they not infrequently control the finances of the districts in which they live and, generally speaking, they make excellent citizens.


Java has almost exactly the same area—50,000 square miles—and the same population—34,000,000—as England. Agriculturally, it is the richest country of its size in the world. Because I wished to visit the great tea and coffee and indigo plantations of its interior and to see its palaces and temples and monuments, I decided to traverse the island from end to end by train and motor car. Accordingly we left the Negros at Surabaya, directing Captain Galvez to[175] pick us up a fortnight later at Batavia, at the other end of the island.

There are at present more than three thousand miles of railways in operation in Java, about two-thirds of which are the property of the government. With a few exceptions, the lines are narrow gauge. The railway carriages are a curious combination of English, Swiss and American construction, being divided into compartments, which are separated by swinging half-doors, like those which used to be associated with saloons. The seats in the second-class compartments, which are covered with cane, are decidedly more comfortable than those of the first class, which are upholstered in leather. Owing to the excessive heat and humidity, the leather has the annoying habit of adhering to one's clothing, so that you frequently leave the train after a long journey with a section of the seat-covering sticking to your trousers or with a section of your trousers sticking to the seat. To avoid the discomfort of the midday heat, the long-distance express trains usually start at daybreak and reach their destinations at noon, which, though doubtless a sensible custom, necessitates the traveler arising when it is still dark. The express trains have dining cars, in which a meal of sorts can be had for two guilders (about eighty cents) and the first and second-class carriages are equipped with electric fans and screens. In spite of these conveniences, however, travel in Java is hot and dusty and generally disagreeable. After a railway journey one needs a bath, a shave, a haircut, a shampoo, a massage, and a complete[176] outfit of fresh clothes before feeling respectable again.

In many respects, motoring is more comfortable than railway travel. The roads throughout the island are excellent and have been carefully marked by the Java Motor Club, though fast driving is made dangerous by the bullock carts, pack trains and carabaos, which pay no attention to the rules of the road. Nor is motoring particularly expensive, for an excellent seven-passenger car of a well-known American make can be hired for forty dollars a day. Visitors to Java should bear in mind, however, that all their motoring and sight-seeing must be done in the morning, as, during the wet season, it invariably rains in torrents during the greater part of every afternoon.

The hotels of Java, taking them by and large, are moderately good, while certain of them, such as the Oranje at Surabaya, the Grand at Djokjakarta, and the Indies at Batavia, are quite excellent in spots, with orchestras, iced drinks, electric fans, and well-cooked food. Though every room has a bath—a necessity in such a climate—tubs are quite unknown, their place being taken by showers, or, in the simpler hostleries, by barrels of water and dippers. The mattresses and pillows appeared to be filled with asphalt, though it should be remembered that a soft bed is unendurable in the tropics. Every bed is provided with a cylindrical bolster, six feet long and about fifteen inches in diameter, which serves to keep the sheet from touching the body. They are known as "Dutch widows."

If you are fond of good coffee, I should strongly[177] advise you to take your own with you when you go to Java. From my boyhood "Old Government Java" had been a synonym in our household for the finest coffee grown, so my astonishment and disappointment can be imagined when, at my first breakfast in Java, there was set before me a cup containing a dubious looking syrup, like those used at American soda-water fountains, the cup then being filled up with hot milk. The Germans never would have complained about their war-time coffee, made from chicory and acorns, had they once tasted the Java product. Yet I was assured that this was the choicest coffee grown in Java. I might add that, as a result of a blight which all but ruined the industry in the '70s, fifty-two per cent of the total acreage of coffee plantations in the island is now planted with the African species, called Coffea robusta, and thirteen per cent with another African species, Coffea liberia, and the rest with Japanese and other varieties. Though the term "Mocha and Java" is still used by the trade in the United States, few Americans of the present generation have ever tasted either, for virtually no Mocha coffee and very little Java have been imported into this country for many years.

The lazy, leisurely, luxurious existence led by the great Dutch planters in Java is in many respects a counterpart of that led by the wealthy planters of our own South before the Civil War. Dwelling in stately mansions set in the midst of vast estates, waited upon by retinues of native servants, they exercise much the same arbitrary authority over the thousands of brown[178] men who work their coffee, sugar and indigo plantations that the cotton-growers of the old South exercised over their slaves. Indeed, it was not until 1914 that a form of peonage which had long been authorized in Java was abolished by law, for up to that year private landowners had the right to enforce from all the laborers on their estates one day's gratuitous work out of seven.

There are no shrewder or more capable business men to be found anywhere than the Dutch traders and merchants in Java. Many of the great trading houses of the Dutch Indies have remained the property of the same family for generations, their staffs being as carefully trained for the business as the Dutch officials are trained for the colonial service. The young men come out from Holland as cadets with the intention of spending the remainder of their lives in the Insulinde, studying the native languages and acquainting themselves with native prejudices, predilections and customs. They are usually blessed with a phlegmatic temperament, well suited to life in the tropics, take life easily, live in considerable luxury, play a little tennis, grow fat, spend their afternoons in pajamas and slippers, stroll down to the local Concordia Club in the evenings to sit at small tables on the terrace and drink enormous quantities of beer and listen to the band, not infrequently marry native women, and often amass great fortunes.

Though the Javanese peasant is, from necessity, industrious, the upper classes, particularly the nobles, are effeminate, indolent, decadent, and servile. Their[179] amusements are cock-fighting, dancing, shadow plays, and gambling, and they lead an utterly worthless existence which the Dutch do nothing to discourage. Their Mohammedanism is decadent and has none of the virility which distinguishes those followers of Islam who dwell in western lands. Though there is no denying that the natives are immeasurably more prosperous, on the whole, than before the white man came, the Dutch have done little if anything to improve their living conditions. True, their rule is a just and a not unkind one; they have built roads and railways, but this was done in order to open up the island; and they have established a number of industrial and technical schools, but there is no system of compulsory education, and no systematic attempt has been made to ameliorate the condition of the great brown mass of the people. I do not think that I am doing them an injustice when I assert that the Dutch are administrators rather than altruists, that they are more concerned in maintaining a just and stable government in their insular possessions, and in increasing their productivity, than they are in improving the moral, mental, and material condition of the natives.


Lying squarely in the middle of Java are the Vorstenlanden, "the Lands of the Princes"—Soerakarta and Djokjakarta—the most curious, as they are the most picturesque, states in the entire Insulinde. But, because in their form of government and the lives and customs of their inhabitants they are so vastly different[180] from the other portions of the island, I feel that they are deserving of a chapter to themselves and hence shall omit any account of them here.


Bandoeng, the prosperous and extremely up-to-date capital of the Preanger Regencies, is the fifth largest city in Java, being exceeded in population only by Batavia, Surabaya, Surakarta and Samarang. The city, which is the healthiest and most modern in Java, stands in the middle of a great plain, 2300 feet above the sea, having, therefore, a delightful all-the-year-round climate. It has excellent electric lighting, water and sanitary systems, miles of well-paved and shaded streets, and many beautiful residences—the finest I saw in Malaysia—set in the midst of charming gardens. It is planned to remove the seat of government from Batavia to Bandoeng in the not far distant future and the handsome buildings which will eventually house the various departments are rapidly nearing completion. When they are completed Bandoeng will be one of the finest, if not the finest colonial capital in the world. But, attractive though the city is, it holds nothing of particular interest to the casual visitor unless it be the quinine factory. This company seems likely to succeed in cornering the supply of Javanese cinchona bark and is fast building up a world market for its product. The cinchona tree, from which the bark is obtained, was first introduced from South America in the middle of the last century and is now widely grown throughout the Preanger Regencies, both by the [181]government and by private planters. After six or seven years the tree is sufficiently matured for the removal of its bark, which, after being carefully dried, sorted, and baled, is shipped to the factory in Bandoeng, where it is manufactured into the quinine of commerce. The process of manufacture is a secret one, which explains, though it does not excuse, the extreme discourtesy shown by the management toward foreigners desiring to visit the plant.

It takes three and a half hours by express train from Bandoeng to Buitenzorg, the summer capital of the Indies, and the journey is one of the pleasantest in Java, the railway being bordered for miles by marvellously constructed rice terraces which climb the slopes of the Gedei, tier on tier, transforming the mountainsides into a series of hanging gardens. When the shallow, water-filled terraces are illuminated by the tropic sun, they look for all the world like a titanic stairway of silver ascending to the heavens. Take my word for it, the rice terraces of the Preangers are in themselves worth traveling the length of Java to see.

Though Batavia is the official capital of Netherlands India, the hill-station of Buitenzorg, some twenty miles inland, is the actual seat of government and the residence of the Governor-General. Buitenzorg—the name means "free from care"—is to Java what Simla is to India, what Baguio is, in a lesser degree, to the Philippines. It has often been compared to Versailles, and, in its pleasant existence, in the enchanting effects which have been produced by its landscape gardeners,[182] in its great white palace even, one can trace some slight resemblance to the famous home of le Roi Soleil. Buitenzorg is conspicuously different from other Javanese cities, partly because, being the seat of government, its European quarter is exceptionally extensive, but primarily because it boasts the famous Botanical Gardens, in many respects the finest in the world. Its avenues, shaded by splendid trees, are lined with charming, white-walled villas, the residences of the government officials and of retired officers and merchants, set far back in lovely, fragrant gardens. The palace of the Governor-General, a huge, white building of classic lines, faintly reminiscent of the White House in Washington, is superbly situated in the Botanic Gardens, the rear overlooking a charming lotos pond, its surface covered with the huge leaves of the water-plant known as Victoria Regia, amid which numbers of white swans drift gracefully; while the colonnaded front commands a magnificent view of a vast deer park which reminds one of the stately manor parks of England.

When you arrive at the Hotel Bellevue in Buitenzorg, be sure and ask for one of the "mountain rooms." The view which is commanded by their balconies has few equals in all the world. Far in the distance rises the majestic, cloud-wreathed cone of Salak, its wooded slopes wrapped in a cloak of purple-gray. From its foot, cutting a way toward Buitenzorg through a sea of foliage, is a ribbon of brown—the Tjidani River. Its banks, lined by miles of waving palms, are crowded[183] with the quaint, thatched dwellings of the natives, hundreds of whom—men, women and children—are bathing in its water. One of the most curious and amusing sights in Java is that of the native women bathing in the streams. They enter the river wearing their sarongs, gradually raise them as they go deeper into the stream, slip them over their heads when the water has reached their armpits, and, when they have completed their ablutions, reverse the process, thus achieving the feat of bathing in full view of hundreds of spectators without the slightest improper revelation. Hawkinson set up his camera on the bank of the Tjidani and spent several hundred feet of film in recording one of these performances. Even the Pennsylvania State Board of Censors will be unable to find any objection to that bathing scene.

Though the gardens of Buitenzorg are a veritable treasure-house for the botanist and the horticulturist—for the Dutch are the best gardeners in the world—from the standpoint of the casual visitor they cannot compare, to my way of thinking, with the Peradenya Gardens of Ceylon. It is beyond all doubt, however, the finest collection of tropical trees and plants in existence. Here, besides full-grown specimens of every known tree of the torrid zone, are culture gardens for sugar cane, coffee, tea, rubber, ilang-ilang; for all the spice, gum, and fruit trees; for bamboo, rattan, and the hard woods, such as mahogany and teak—in short, for every variety of tree or plant of commercial, ornamental, or utilitarian value. There are also gardens for all[184] the gorgeous flowers of Java: the frangipani, the wax-white, gold-centered flower of the dead, the red and yellow lantanas, the scarlet poinsetta, the crimson bougainvillea, and others in bewildering variety. There are greenhouses to shelter the rarer and more sensitive plants—to shelter them not, as in our hothouses, from the cold, but, on the contrary, from the heat and the withering rays of the sun. Here too is one of the finest collections of orchids in existence, tended by an ancient Javanese gardener who is as proud of his curious blooms as a trainer is of his race horses or a collector of his porcelains. As for the palms, I had no idea that so many varieties existed until I visited Buitenzorg—emperor palms, Areca palms, Banka palms, cocoanut palms, fan palms, cabbage palms, sago palms, date palms, feather palms, travelers' palms, oil palms, Chuson palms, climbing palms over a hundred feet long—palms without end, Amen. Small wonder that the palm is regarded with affection wherever it can be grown, for what other tree can furnish food, shelter, clothing, timber, fuel, building materials, fiber, paper, starch, sugar, oil, wax, dyes and wine?

But, when all is said and done, nothing in those splendid gardens, not the stately avenue of kanari trees whose interlacing branches form a nave as awe-inspiring as that of some great cathedral, not the rare and curious orchids which would arouse the envy of a millionaire, appealed to me so powerfully as a little Grecian temple of white marble, all but hidden by the encircling shrubbery, which marks the sleeping-place of[185] Lady Raffles, wife of that Sir Stamford Raffles who once was the British lieutenant-governor of Java. It pleases me to think that it is toward this little, moss-grown temple that the bronze statue of the great empire-builder, which stands on the Esplanade in Singapore, is peering with wistful eyes, for on its base he carved these lines:

"Oh thou whom ne'er my constant heart One moment hath forgot, Tho' fate severe hath bid us part Yet still—forget me not."

Batavia, the capital of the Indies, is built on both banks of the Jacatra River, in a swampy and unhealthy plain at the head of a capacious bay. Just as New York is divided into the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx, so the metropolis of Netherlands India is divided into the districts of Batavia and Weltevreden, the suburb of Meester Cornelis corresponding to Brooklyn. Batavia is the business quarter of the city; Weltevreden the residential. The former, which is built on the edge of the harbor, is very thickly populated and, because of its lowness, very unhealthy. Only natives, Malays, Chinese and Arabs live here and the great European houses which were once the homes of the Dutch officials and merchants have either fallen into decay or have been converted into warehouses and shops. The Europeans now live in Weltevreden, or Meester Cornelis, though they have their offices in the lower town. Both the upper and lower towns are[186] traversed by the Jacatra—sometimes called the Tjiliwoeng—from which branch canals that spread through the city in all directions, thereby emphasizing its distinctly Dutch atmosphere. The streets are for the most part straight and regular, being paved, as in the mother-country, with cobblestones. Old Batavia contains very few relics of the early days, but it is quaint and delightfully picturesque and its canals, though anything but desirable from the standpoint of health, add much to its individuality and charm. The most characteristic feature of Batavia, that distinguishes it from all other colonial cities of the East, is that in all its construction, both public and private, permanency seems to be the dominant note. The Dutch do not come to Java, as the English go to India and the Americans to the Philippines, in order to amass fortunes in a few years and then go home; they come with the intention of remaining. When their children grow up they are sent back to Holland to be educated, but, once their schooling is completed, they almost invariably return to the East and devote their lives to the development of the land in which they were born.

Batavia, which means literally 'Fair meadows,' was originally called Jacatra. The Dutch established a trading post here in 1610, the land being obtained from the natives by a trick similar to that associated by tradition with the acquisition of the lower end of Manhattan Island by the founders of Nieuw Amsterdam. The Javanese, it seems, were reluctant to sell to the Dutch a parcel of land sufficiently large for the [187]erection of a fort and trading station, but after much discussion they finally consented to part with as much land as could be included within a single bullock's hide, which was their way of saying that their land was not for sale. This crafty stipulation did not worry the equally crafty Dutch, however, for they promptly obtained the largest hide available, cut it into narrow strips, and, placing these end to end, insisted on their right to the very considerable parcel of ground thus enclosed under the terms of the bargain.

A relic illustrative of the barbarous punishments which were in vogue during the colony's earlier days is to be seen by driving a short distance up Jacatra Road, in the lower town. Close by the ancient Portuguese church you will find a short section of old wall. Atop the wall, transfixed by a spear-point, is an object which, despite its many coats of whitewash, is still recognizable as a human skull. Set in the wall is a tablet bearing this inscription:

"In detested memory of the traitor, Peter Erberveld, who was executed. No one will be permitted to build, lay bricks or plant on this spot, either now or in the future.

Batavia, April 14, 1772."

Erberveld was a half-caste agitator who had conspired with certain disaffected natives to launch a revolt, massacre all the Dutch in Batavia, and have himself proclaimed king. Fortunately for the Dutch, the plot was betrayed through the faithlessness of a native girl with whom Erberveld was infatuated. Because of the imperative need of safeguarding the little handful of white colonists against massacre by the natives, it[188] was decided that the half-caste should be punished in a manner which would strike fear to the hearts of the Javanese, who have no particular dread of death in its ordinary forms. The judges did their best to achieve this object, for Erberveld was sentenced to be impaled alive, broken on the wheel, his hands and head cut off, and his body quartered. Why they omitted hanging and burning from the list I can not imagine. The sentence was carried out—the contemporary accounts record that he endured his fate with silent fortitude—and his head is on the wall to-day. But I think that, were I the Governor-General of the Indies, I should have that grisly reminder of the bad old days taken down. Many nations have family skeletons but they usually prefer to keep them out of sight.


[189]

CHAPTER IX
PUPPET RULERS AND COMIC OPERA COURTS

Hamangkoe Boewoenoe Senopati Sahadin Panoto Gomo Kalif Patelah Kandjeng VII, Ruler of the World, Spike of the Universe, and Sultan of Djokjakarta, is an old, old man, yet his brisk walk and upright carriage betrayed no trace of the worries which might be expected to beset one who is burdened with the responsibility of supporting three thousand wives and concubines. When one achieves a domestic establishment of such proportions, however, he doubtless shifts the responsibility for its administration, discipline and maintenance to subordinates, just as the commander of a division delegates his authority to the officers of his staff. The Sultan, who is now in his eighty-ninth year, is a worthy emulator of King Solomon, the lowest estimate which I heard crediting him with one hundred and eighty children. These are the official ones, as it were. How many unofficial ones he has, no one knows but himself. The youngest of his children, now five years old, was, I imagine, a good deal of a surprise, being sometimes referred to by disrespectful Europeans as "the Joke of Djokjakarta."

Djokjakarta, or Djokja, as it is commonly called, is set in the middle of a broad and fertile plain, at[190] the foot of the slumbering volcano of Merapi, whose occasional awakenings are marked by terrific earthquakes, which shake the city to its foundations and usually result in wide-spread destruction and loss of life. It is a city of broad, unpaved thoroughfares, shaded by rows of majestic waringins, and lined, in the European quarter, by handsome one-story houses, with white walls, green blinds and Doric porticos. There are two hotels in the city, one an excellently kept and comfortable establishment, as hotels go in Java; a score or so of large and moderately well-stocked European stores, and many small shops kept by Chinese; an imposing bank of stone and concrete; and one of the most beautiful race-courses that I have ever seen, the spring race meeting at Djokja being one of the most brilliant social events in Java. The busiest part of the city is the Chinese quarter, for, throughout the Insulinde, commerce, both retail and wholesale, is largely in the hands of these sober, shrewd, hard-working yellow men, of whom there are more than three hundred thousand in Java alone and double that number in the archipelago. Beyond the European and Chinese quarters, scattered among the palms which form a thick fringe about the town, are the kampongs of the Javanese themselves—clusters of bamboo-built huts, thatched with leaves or grass, encircled by low mud walls. Standing well back from the street, and separated from it by a splendid sweep of velvety lawn, is the Dutch residency, a dignified building whose classic lines reminded me of the manor houses built[191] by the Dutch patroons along the Hudson. A few hundred yards away stands Fort Vredenburg, a moated, bastioned, four-square fortification, garrisoned by half a thousand Dutch artillerymen, whose guns frown menacingly upon the native town and the palace of the Sultan. Though its walls would crumble before modern artillery in half an hour, it stands as a visible symbol of Dutch authority and as a warning to the disloyal that that authority is backed up by cannon.

Between Fort Vredenburg and the Sultan's palace stretches the broad aloun-aloun, its sandy, sun-baked expanse broken only by a splendid pair of waringin-trees, clipped to resemble royal payongs or parasols. In the old days those desiring audience with the sovereign were compelled to wait under these trees, frequently for days and occasionally for weeks, until "the Spike of the Universe" graciously condescended to receive them. Here also was the place of public execution. In the days before the white men came, public executions on the aloun-aloun provided pleasurable excitement for the inhabitants of Djokjakarta, who attended them in great numbers. The method employed was characteristic of Java: the condemned stood with his forehead against a wall, and the executioner drove the point of a kris between the vertebrae at the base of the neck, severing the spinal cord. But the gallows and the rope have superseded the wall and the kris in Djokjakarta, just as they have superseded the age-old custom of hurling criminals from the top of a high tower in Bokhara or of having the brains[192] of the condemned stamped out by an elephant, a method of execution which was long in vogue in Burmah.

But, though certain peculiarly barbarous customs which were practised under native rule have been abolished by the Dutch, I have no intention of suggesting that life in Djokjakarta has become colorless and tame. Au contraire! If you will take the trouble to cross the aloun-aloun to the gates of the palace, your attention will be attracted by a row of iron-barred cages built against the kraton wall. Should you be so fortunate as to find yourself in Djokjakarta on the eve of a religious festival or other holiday, each of these cages will be found to contain a full-grown tiger. For tiger-baiting remains one of the favorite amusements of the native princes. Nowhere else, so far as I am aware, save only in East Africa, where the Masai warriors encircle a lion and kill it with their spears, can you witness a sport which is its equal for peril and excitement.

On the day set for a tiger-baiting the aloun-aloun is jammed with spectators, their gorgeous sarongs and head-kains of batik forming a sea of color, while from a pavilion erected for the purpose the Sultan, surrounded by his glittering household and a selection of his favorite wives, views the dangerous sport in safety. In a cleared space before the royal pavilion several hundred half-naked Javanese, armed only with spears, stand shoulder to shoulder in a great circle, perhaps ten-score yards across, their spears pointing inward so as to form a steel fringe to the human [193]barricade. A cage containing a tiger, which has been trapped in the jungle for the occasion, is hauled forward to the circle's edge. At a signal from the Sultan the door of the cage is opened and the great striped cat, its yellow eyes glaring malevolently, its stiffened tail nervously sweeping the ground, slips forth on padded feet to crouch defiantly in the center of the extemporized arena. Occasionally, but very occasionally, the beast becomes intimidated at sight of the waiting spearmen and the breathless throng beyond them, but usually it is only a matter of seconds before things begin to happen. The long tail abruptly becomes rigid, the muscles bunch themselves like coiled springs beneath the tawny skin, the sullen snarling changes to a deep-throated roar, and the great beast launches itself against the levelled spears. Sometimes it tears its way through the ring of flesh and steel, leaving behind it a trail of dead or wounded spearmen, and creating consternation among the spectators, who scatter, panic-stricken, in every direction. But more often the spearmen drive it back, snarling and bleeding, whereupon, bewildered by the multitude of its enemies and maddened by the pain of its wounds, it hurls itself against another segment of the steel-fringed cordon. After a time, baffled in its attempts to escape, the tiger retreats to the center of the circle, where it crouches, snarling. Then, at another signal from the Sultan, the spearmen begin to close in. Smaller and smaller grows the circle, closer and closer come the remorseless[194] spear-points ... then a hoarse roar of fury, a spring too rapid for the eye to follow, a wild riot of brown bodies glistening with sweat ... spear-hafts rising and falling above a sea of turbaned heads as the blades are driven home ... again ... again ... again ... yet again ... into the great black-and-yellow carcass, which now lies inanimate upon the sand in a rapidly widening pool of crimson.


Like the palaces of most Asiatic rulers, the kraton of the Sultan of Djokjakarta is really a royal city in the heart of his capital. It consists of a vast congeries of palaces, barracks, stables, pagodas, temples, offices, courtyards, corridors, alleys and bazaars, containing upward of fifteen thousand inhabitants, the whole encircled by a high wall four miles in length. Everything that the sovereign can require, every necessity and luxury of life, every adjunct of pleasure, is assembled within the kraton. As the Sultan's world is practically bounded by his palace walls, the kraton is to all intents and purposes a little kingdom in itself, for there dwell within it, besides the officials of the household and the women of the harem, soldiers, priests, gold and silversmiths, tailors, weavers, makers of batik, civil engineers, architects, carpenters, stonemasons, manufacturers of musical instruments, stage furniture, and puppets, all supported by the court. The Sultan rarely leaves the kraton save on occasions of ceremony, when he appears in state, a thin, aristocratic-looking old man, somewhat taller than the average of[195] his subjects, wrapped in a sarong of cloth-of-gold, hung with jewels, shaded by a golden parasol, surrounded by an Arabian Nights court, and guarded—curious contrast!—by a squadron of exceedingly businesslike-looking Dutch cavalry in slouch hats and green denim uniforms.

The first impression which one receives upon entering the inner precincts of the kraton is of tawdriness and dilapidation. Half-naked soldiers of the royal body-guard, armed with ten-foot pikes and clad only in baggy, scarlet breeches and brimless caps of black leather, shaped like inverted flower-pots, lounge beside the gateway giving access to the Sultan's quarters or snore blissfully while stretched beneath the trees. The "Ruler of the World" receives his visitors—who, if they are foreigners, must always be accompanied by the Dutch Resident or a member of his staff—in the pringitan, or hall of audience, an immense, marble-floored chamber, supported by many marble columns. The pringitan is open on three sides, the fourth communicating with the royal apartments and the harem, to which Europeans are never admitted. At the rear of the pringitan are a number of ornate state beds, hung with scarlet and heavily gilded, evidently placed there for purposes of display, for they showed no evidences of having been slept in. Close by is a large glass case containing specimens of the taxidermist's art, including a number of badly moth-eaten birds of paradise. On the walls I noticed a steel-engraving of Napoleon crossing the[196] Alps, a number of English sporting prints depicting hunting and coaching scenes, and three villainous chromos of Queen Wilhelmina, Prince Henry of the Netherlands, and the Princess Juliana.

Thanks to the courtesy of the Resident, who had notified the authorities of the royal household of our visit in advance, we found that a series of Javanese dances had been arranged in our honor. Now Javanese dancing is about as exciting as German grand opera, and, like opera, one has to understand it to appreciate it. Personally, I should have preferred to wander about the kraton, but court etiquette demanded that I should sit upon a hard and exceedingly uncomfortable chair throughout a long and humid morning, with the thermometer registering one hundred and four degrees in the shade, and watch a number of anaemic and dissipated-looking youths, who composed the royal ballet, go through an interminable series of posturings and gestures to the monotonous music of a native orchestra.

Those who have gained their ideas of Javanese dancing from the performances of Ruth St. Denis and Florence O'Denishawn have disappointment in store for them when they go to Java. To tell the truth I found the dancers far less interesting than their audience, which consisted of several hundred women of the harem, clad in filmy, semi-transparent garments of the most beautiful colors, who watched the proceedings from the semi-obscurity of the pringitan. I cannot be certain, because the light was poor and their faces were[197] in the shadow, but I think that there were several extremely good-looking girls among them. There was one in particular that I remember—a slender, willowy thing with an apricot-colored skin and an oval, piquant face framed by masses of blue-black hair. Her orange sarong was so tightly wound about her that she might as well have been wearing a wet silk bathing-suit, so far as concealing her figure was concerned. Whenever she caught my eye she smiled mischievously. I should have liked to have seen more of her, but an unamiable-looking sentry armed with a large scimitar prevented.

By extraordinary good fortune we arrived in Djokjakarta on the eve of the celebration of a double royal wedding, two of the Sultan's grandsons marrying two of his granddaughters. Thanks to the cooperation of the Dutch Resident, Hawkinson was enabled to obtain a remarkable series of pictures of the highly spectacular marriage ceremonies, it being the first time, I believe, that a motion-picture camera had been permitted within the closely guarded precincts of the kraton.

The festivities, which occupied several days, consisted of receptions, fireworks, reviews, games, dances, and religious ceremonies, culminating in a most impressive and colorful pageant, when the two bridegrooms proceeded to the palace in state to claim their brides. Nowhere outside the pages of The Wizard of Oz could one find such amazing and fantastic costumes as those worn by the thousands of natives who took part in that procession. Every combination of colors was[198] used, every period of European and Asiatic history was represented. Some of the costumes looked as though they owed their inspiration to Bakst's designs for the Russian ballet—or perhaps Bakst obtained his ideas in Djokjakarta; others were strongly reminiscent of Louis XIV's era, of the courts of the great Indian princes, of the Ziegfeld Follies.

The procession was led by four peasant women bearing trays of vegetables and fruits, symbols of fecundity, I assumed. Behind them, sitting cross-legged in glass cages swung from poles, each borne by a score of sweating coolies in scarlet liveries, were the four chief messengers of the royal harem—former concubines of the Sultan who had once been noted for their influence and beauty. The cages—I can think of no better description—were of red lacquer, about four feet square, with glass sides, and, so far as I could see, entirely air-tight. They looked not unlike large goldfish aquariums. As they were passing us the procession halted for a few moments and the panting coolies lowered their burdens to the ground. Whereupon Hawkinson, who is no respecter of persons when the business of getting pictures is concerned, set up his camera within six feet of one of the cages and proceeded to take a "close-up" of the indignant but helpless occupant, who, unable to escape or even turn away, could only assume an indifference which she was evidently far from feeling.

Following the harem attendants marched a company of the royal body-guard, in scarlet cutaway coats like[199] those worn by the British grenadiers during the American Revolution, pipe-clayed cross-belts, white nankeen breeches, enormous cavalry boots, extending half-way up the thigh, and curious hats of black glazed leather, of a shape which was a cross between a fireman's helmet and the cap of a Norman man-at-arms. They were armed indiscriminately with long pikes and ancient flint-locks, and marched to the music of fife and drum. The leader of the band danced a sort of shimmy as he marched, at the same time tootling on a flute. He looked like the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Perhaps the most curious feature of the procession was provided by the clowns, both men and women—an interesting survival of the court-jesters of the Middle Ages—powdered and painted like their fellows of the circus, and performing many of their stereotyped antics. One of them, wearing an enormous pair of black goggles, bestrode a sort of hobby-horse, made of papier-maché, and, when he saw that Hawkinson was taking his picture, cavorted and grimaced, to the huge delight of the onlookers. The female clowns, all of whom were burdened by excessive avoirdupois, wiggled their hips and shoulders as they marched in a sort of Oriental shimmy.

Dyak girl Dyak head-hunter

A Dyak girl at Tenggaroeng, Dutch Borneo

A Dyak head-hunter, Dutch Borneo

Captain of the bodyguard clown

The Captain of the body-guard of "The Spike of the Universe"

A clown in the royal wedding procession at Djokjakarta

Following a gorgeous cavalcade of mounted princes of the blood, in uniforms of all colors, periods, and descriptions, their képis surmounted by towering ostrich plumes, came a long procession of the great dignitaries of the household—the royal betel-box bearer, the royal cuspidor-carrier, and others bearing on[200] scarlet cushions the royal toothpicks, the royal toothbrush, the royal toilet set, and the royal mirror, all of gold set with jewels. The mothers of the brides, painted like courtesans and hung with jewels, were borne by in sedan-chairs, in which they sat cross-legged on silken cushions. Then, after a dramatic pause, their approach heralded by a burst of barbaric music, came the brides themselves, each reclining in an enormous scarlet litter borne by fifty coolies. Beside them sat attendants who sprinkled them with perfumes and cooled them with fans of peacock-feathers. In accordance with an ancient Javanese custom, the faces, necks, arms, and breasts of the brides were stained with saffron to a brilliant yellow; their cheeks were as stiff with enamel as their garments were with jewels. Immediately behind the palanquins bearing the brides—one of whom looked to be about thirteen, the other a few years older—rode the bridegrooms; one, a sullen-looking fellow who, I was told, already had five wives and plainly showed it, astride a magnificent gray Arab; the other, who was still a boy, on a showy bay stallion, both animals being decked with flowers and caparisoned in trappings of scarlet leather trimmed with silver. The bridegrooms, naked to the waist, were, like their brides, dyed a vivid yellow; their sarongs were of cloth-of-gold and they were loaded with jeweled necklaces, bracelets, and anklets. Royal grooms in scarlet liveries led their prancing horses and other attendants, walking at their stirrups, bore over their heads golden payongs, the Javanese symbol of [201]royalty. Following them on foot was a great concourse of dignitaries and courtiers, clad in costumes of every color and description and walking under a forest of gorgeous parasols, the colors of which denoted the rank of those they shaded. The payongs of the Sultan, the Dutch Resident, and the royal princes are of gold, those of the princesses of the royal family are yellow, of the great nobles white, of the ministers and the higher officials of the country, red; of the lesser dignitaries, dark gray, and so on. This sea of swaying parasols, the gorgeous costumes of the dignitaries, the fantastic uniforms of the soldiery, the richly caparisoned horses, the gilded litters, the burnished weapons, the jewels of the women, the flaunting banners, and the rainbow-tinted batiks worn by the tens of thousands of native spectators combined to form a scene bewildering in its variety, dazzling in its brilliancy and kaleidoscopic in its coloring. Mr. Ziegfeld never produced so fantastic and colorful a spectacle. It would have been the envy and the despair of that prince of showmen, the late Phineas T. Barnum.


A dozen miles or so northwest of Djokjakarta, standing in the middle of a fertile plain which stretches away to the lower slopes of slumbering Merapi, are the ruins of Boro-Boedor, of all the Hindu temples of Java the largest and the most magnificent and one of the architectural marvels of the world. They can be reached from Djokjakarta by motor[202] in an hour. The road, which skirts the foothills of a volcanic mountain range, runs through a number of archways roofed with red tiles which in the rainy season afford convenient refuges from the sudden tropical showers and in the dry season opportunities to escape from the blinding glare of the sun. Leaving the main highway at Kalangan, a quaint hamlet with a picturesque and interesting market, we turned into a side road and wound for a few miles through cocoanut plantations, then the road ascended and, rounding the shoulder of a little hill, we saw, through the trees, a squat, pyramidal mass of reddish stone, broken, irregular and unimposing. It was Tjandi Boro-Boedor (the name means "shrine of the many Buddhas") considered by many authorities the most interesting Buddhist remains in existence. Though in magnitude it cannot compare with such great Buddhist monuments as those at Ajunta in India, and Angkor in Cambodia, yet in its beautiful symmetry and its wealth of carving it is superior to them all.

Strictly speaking, Boro-Boedor is not a temple but a hill, rising about one hundred and fifty feet above the plain, encased with terraces constructed of hewn lava-blocks and crowded with sculptures, which, if placed side by side, would extend for upwards of three miles. The lowest terrace now above ground forms a square, each side approximately five hundred feet long. About fifty feet higher there is another terrace of similar shape. Then follow four other terraces of more irregular contour, the structure being crowned[203] by a dome or cupola, fifty feet in diameter, surrounded by sixteen smaller bell-shaped cupolas, known as dagobas. The subjects of the bas-reliefs lining the lowest terrace are of the most varied description, forming a picture gallery of landscapes, agricultural and household episodes and incidents of the chase, mingled with mythological and religious scenes. It would seem, indeed, as though it had been the architect's intention to gradually wean the pilgrims from the physical to the spiritual, for as they began to ascend from stage to stage of the temple-hill they were insensibly drawn from material, every-day things to the realities of religion, so that by the time the dagoba at the top was reached they had passed through a course of religious instruction, as it were, and were ready, with enlightened eyes, to enter and behold the image of Buddha, symbolically left imperfect, as beyond the power of human art to realize or portray. From base to summit the whole hill is really a great picture-bible of the Buddhist creed.

The building of Boro-Boedor was probably begun in the ninth century, when King Asoka was distributing the supposed remains of Buddha throughout all the countries of the East in an endeavor to spread the faith. A portion of the remains was brought to Boro-Boedor, which had been the center of Buddhist influence in Java ever since 603, when the Indian ruler, Guzerat, settled in Middle Java with five thousand of his followers. In the sixteenth century, when a wave of Mohammedanism swept the island from end to[204] end, the Buddhist temples being destroyed by the fanatic followers of the Prophet and the priests slaughtered on their altars, the Buddhists, in order to save the famous shrine from desecration and destruction, buried it under many feet of earth. Thus the great monument remained, hidden and almost forgotten, for three hundred years, but during the brief period of British rule in Java, Sir Stamford Raffles ordered its excavation, the work being accomplished in less than two months. Since then the Dutch have taken further steps to restore and preserve it, though unfortunately the stone of which it is built was too soft to withstand the wear and tear of centuries, many of the bas-reliefs now being almost effaced. It remains, however, one of the greatest religious monuments of all time.


Conditions at Surakarta—usually called Solo for short—are the exact counterpart of those in Djokjakarta: the same puppet ruler, who is called Susuhunan instead of Sultan, the same semi-barbaric court life, the same fantastic costumes, a Dutch resident, a Dutch fort, and a Dutch garrison. But the kraton of the Susuhunan is far better kept than that of his fellow ruler at Djokjakarta, and shows more evidences of Europeanization. The troopers of the royal body-guard are smart, soldierly-looking fellows in well-cut uniforms of European pattern, to which a distinctly Eastern touch is lent, however, by their steel helmets, their brass-embossed leather shields, their scimitars, and their shoulder-guards of chain mail. The[205] royal stables, which contain several hundred fine Australian horses and a number of beautiful Sumbawan ponies, together with a score or more gilt carriages of state, are as immaculately kept as those of Buckingham Palace. In the palace garage I was shown a row of powerful Fiats, gleaming with fresh varnish and polished brass, and beside them, as among equals, a member of the well-known Ford family of Detroit, proudly bearing on its panels the ornate arms of the Susuhunan. I felt as though I had encountered an old friend who had married into royalty.

As though we had not seen enough dancing at Djokjakarta, I found that they had arranged another performance for us in the kraton at Surakarta. This time, however, the dancers were girls, most of them only ten or twelve years old and none of them more than half-way through their teens. They wore sarongs of the most exquisite colors—purple, heliotrope, violet, rose, geranium, cerise, lemon, sky-blue, burnt-orange—and they floated over the marble floor of the great hall like enormous butterflies. As a special mark of the Susuhunan's favor, the performance concluded with a spear dance by four princes of the royal house—blasé, decadent-looking youths, who spend their waking hours, so the Dutch official who acted as my cicerone told me, in dancing, opium-smoking, cock-fighting and gambling, virtually their only companions being the women of the harem. If the Dutch Government does not actively encourage dissipation and debauchery among the native princes, neither does it[206] take any steps to discourage it, the idea being, I imagine, that Holland's administrative problems in the Vorstenlanden would be greatly simplified were the reigning families to die out. The princes, who were armed with javelins and krises, performed for our benefit a Terpsichorean version of one of the tales of Javanese mythology. The dance was characterized by the utmost deliberation of movement, the dancers holding certain postures for several seconds at a time, reminding me, in their rigid self-consciousness, of the "living pictures" which were so popular in America twenty years ago.

All of the dancers, as I have already remarked, were of the blood royal and one, I was told, was in the direct line of succession. Judging from the vacuity of his expression, the Dutch have no reason to anticipate any difficulty in maintaining their mastery in Soerakarta when he comes to the throne. But the Dutch officials take no chances with the intrigue-loving native princes; they keep them under close surveillance at all times. It is one of the disadvantages of Christian governments ruling peoples of alien race and religion that methods of revolt are not always visible to the naked eye, and even the Dutch Intelligence Service in the Indies, efficient as it is, has no means of knowing what is going on in the forbidden quarters of the kratons. In Java, as in other Moslem lands, more than one bloody uprising has been planned in the safety and secrecy of the harem. Potential disloyalty is neutralized, therefore, by a discreet display of force.[207] Throughout the performance in the palace a Dutch trooper in field gray, bandoliers stuffed with cartridges festooned across his chest and a carbine tucked under his arm, paced slowly up and down—an ever-present symbol of Dutch power—watching the posturing princes with a sardonic eye. That is Holland's way of showing that, should disaffection show its head, she is ready to deal with it.


[208]

CHAPTER X
THROUGH THE GOLDEN CHERSONESE TO ELEPHANT LAND

Since the world began the peacock's tail which we call the Malay Peninsula has swung down from Siam to sweep the Sumatran shore. A peacock's tail not merely in configuration but in its gorgeousness of color. Green jungle—a bewildering tangle of trees, shrubs, bushes, plants, and creepers, hung with ferns and mosses, bound together with rattans and trailing vines—clothes the mountains and the lowlands, its verdant riot checked only by the sea. Penetrating the deepest recesses of the jungle a network of little, dusky, winding rivers, green-blue because the sky that is reflected in them is filtered through the interlacing branches. Orchids—death-white, saffron, pink, violet, purple, crimson—festooned from the higher boughs like incandescent lights of colored glass. The gilded, cone-shaped towers of Buddhist temples rising above steep roofs tiled in orange, red, or blue, their eaves hung with hundreds of tiny bells which tinkle musically in every breeze. The scarlet splotches of spreading fire-trees against whitewashed walls. Shaven-headed priests in yellow robes offering flowers and food to stolid-faced images of brass and clay. Long files of[209] elephants, bearing men and merchandise beneath their hooded howdahs, rocking and rolling down the dim and deep-worn forest trails. Snowy, hump-backed bullocks, driven by naked brown men, splashing through the shallow water on the rice-fields harnessed to ploughs as primeval in design as those our Aryan ancestors used. Bronze-brown women, their lithe figures wrapped in gaily colored cottons, busying themselves about frail, leaf-thatched dwellings perched high on bamboo stilts above the river-banks. And, arching over all, a sky as flawlessly blue as the dome of the Turquoise Mosque in Samarland. Such is the land that the ancients called the Golden Chersonese but which is labeled in the geographies of today as Lower Siam and the Malay States.

If you will look at the map you will see that Lower Siam extends half-way down the Malay Peninsula, running across it from coast to coast and thus forming a barrier between British Burmah and British Malaya, precisely as German East Africa formerly separated the British holdings in the northern and southern portions of the Dark Continent. And, were I to indulge in prophecy, I should say that the day would come when the fate of German East Africa will overtake Lower Siam. History has shown, again and again, that the nation, particularly if it is as small and feeble as Siam, which forms a barrier between two portions of a powerful and aggressive empire is in anything but an enviable position.

Politically that portion of the Malay Peninsula[210] which is within the British sphere is divided into three sections: the colony of the Straits Settlements, the four Federated Malay States, and the five non-federated states under British protection. The crown colony of the Straits Settlements consists of the twenty-seven-mile-long island of Singapore and the much larger island of Penang; the territory of Province Wellesley, on the mainland opposite Penang; Malacca, a narrow coastal strip between Singapore and Penang; and, to the north of it, the tiny island and insignificant territory known as the Dingdings. By the acquisition of these small and scattered but strategically important territories, England obtained control of the Straits of Malacca, which form the gateway to the China Seas. In 1896, as the result of a treaty between the British Government and the rajahs of the native states of Perak, Selangor, Pahang, and Negri Sembilan, these four states were brought into a confederation under British protection. Though they are still under the nominal rule of their own rajahs—now known as sultans—each has a British adviser attached to his court, the Governor of the Straits Settlements being ex officio the High Commissioner and administrative head of the confederation. The non-federated states consist of Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, and Trengganu, the rights of suzerainty, protection, administration, and control of which were transferred by treaty from Siam to Great Britain in 1909, and the Sultanate of Johore, which occupies the extreme southern end of the peninsula, opposite Singapore. In the non-federated, as in[211] the Federated Malay States, British advisers reside at the courts of the native sultans.

Starting at Johore, which, some Biblical authorities assert, is identical with the Land of Ophir, and running through the heart of British Malaya from south to north, is the Federated Malay States Railway, which has recently been linked up with the Siamese State Railways, thus making it possible to travel by rail from Singapore to Bangkok in about four days. Aside from the heat (in the railway carriages the mercury occasionally climbs to 120), the insects, the dust, and the swarms of sweating natives who pile into every compartment regardless of the class designated on their tickets, the journey is a comfortable one.

That section of the F. M. S. Railways which traverses the Sultanate of Johore runs through the greatest tiger country in all Asia. The tiger is to Johore what the elephant is to Siam and the kangaroo to Australia—a sort of national trademark. Even the postage stamps bear an engraving of the striped monarch of the jungle. There is no place in the world, so far as I am aware, save only a zoo, of course, where one can get a shot at a tiger so quickly and with such minimum of effort. In this connection I heard a story at the Singapore Club, the truth of which is vouched for by those with whom I was having tiffin. Shortly before the war, it seems, an American business man who had amassed a fortune in the export business, and who was noted even in down-town New York as a hustler, was returning from a business trip to China. [212]In the smoking-room of the home ward bound liner, over the highballs and cigars, he listened to the stories of an Englishman who had been hunting big game in Asia. The conversation eventually turned to tigers.

"Johore's the place for tigers," the Englishman remarked, pouring himself another peg of whiskey. "The beggars are as thick as foxes in Leicestershire. You're jolly well certain of bagging one the first day out."

"I've always wanted a tiger skin for my smoking room," commented the American. "Could buy one at a fur shop on the Avenue, of course, but I want one that I shot myself. Think I'll run over to Johore while we're at Singapore and get one."

"But I say, my dear fellow," expostulated the Briton, "you really can't do that, you know. We only stop at Singapore for half a day—get in at daybreak and leave again at noon. You can't get a tiger in that time."

"There's no such word as 'can't' in my business. Business methods will bring results in tiger shooting as quickly as in anything else," retorted the American, rising and heading for the wireless room.

A few hours later the American's representative in Singapore, a youngster who had himself been educated in the school of American business, received a wireless message from the head of his house. It read: "Arriving Singapore daybreak Thursday. Leaving noon same day. Wish to shoot tiger in Johore. Make arrangements."

[213]Now the representative in Singapore knew perfectly well that his promotion, if not his job, depended upon his employer getting a tiger. And, as the steamer was due in four days, there was no time to spare. From the director of the Singapore zoo he purchased for considerably above the market price, a decrepit and somewhat moth-eaten tiger of advanced years, which he had transported across the straits to Johore, whence it was conveyed by bullock cart to a spot in the edge of the jungle, a dozen miles outside the town, where it was turned loose in an enclosure of wire and bamboo hastily constructed for the purpose.

When the steamer bearing the American magnate dropped anchor in the harbor, the local representative went aboard with the quarantine officer. Ten minutes later, thanks to arrangements made in advance, a launch was bearing him and his chief to the shore, where a motor car was waiting. It is barely a dozen miles from the wharf at Singapore to Woodlands, the ferry station opposite Johore, and the driver had orders to shatter the speed laws. A waiting launch streaked across the two miles of channel which separates the island from the mainland and drew up alongside the quay at Johore, where another car was waiting. The roads are excellent in the sultanate, and thirty minutes of fast driving brought the two Americans to the zareba, within which the tiger, guarded by natives, was peacefully breakfasting on a goat.

"He's a real man-eater," whispered the agent, handing his employer a loaded express rifle. "We only[214] located him yesterday. Lured him with a goat, you know ... the smell of blood attracts 'em. You'd better put a bullet in him before he sees us. One just behind the shoulder will do the business."

The magnate, trembling with excitement for the first time in his busy life, drew bead on the tawny stripe behind the tiger's shoulder. There was a shattering roar, the great beast pawed convulsively at the air, then rolled on its side and lay motionless.

"Good work," the local man commented approvingly. "It's only an hour and forty minutes since we left the boat a record for tiger shooting, I fancy. We'll be back at Raffles' for breakfast by nine o'clock and after that I'll show you round the city. Don't worry about the skin, sir. The natives'll tend to the skinning and I'll have it on board before you sail."

Now—so the story goes—after dinner in the magnate's New York home he takes his guests into the smoking room for cigars and coffee. Spread before the fireplace is a great orange and black pelt, a trifle faded it is true, but indubitably the skin of a tiger.

"Yes," the host complacently in reply to his guests' admiring comments, "a real man-eater. Shot him myself in the Johore jungle. Easy enough to get a tiger if you use American business methods."


When, upon reaching Singapore, the great seaport at the tip of the Malay Peninsula which is the gateway to the Malay States and to Siam, I learned that[215] small but not uncomfortable steamers sail weekly for Bangkok—a four-day voyage if the monsoon is blowing in the right direction—or that, by crossing the narrow straits on the ferry to Johore, we could reach the capital of Siam in about the same time by the Federated Malay States and Siamese railways, there seemed no valid excuse for keeping the Negros any longer. So, bidding good-by to Captain Galvez and his officers, I gave orders that the little vessel, on which we had cruised upward of six thousand miles, amid some of the least-known islands in the world, should return to Manila. To leave her was like breaking home ties, and I confess that when she steamed slowly out of the harbor, homeward bound, with her Filipino crew lining the rail and Captain Galvez waving to us from the bridge and the flag at her taffrail dipping in farewell, I suddenly felt lonely and deserted.

When the people whom I met in Singapore learned that I was contemplating visiting Siam they attempted to dissuade me. I was warned that the train service up the peninsula was uncertain, that the steamers up the gulf were uncomfortable, that the hotel in Bangkok was impossible, the dirt incredible, the heat unendurable, the climate unhealthy. And when, desiring to learn whether these indictments were true, I attempted to obtain reliable information about the country to which I was going, I found that none was to be had. The latest volume on Siam which I could find in Singapore bookshops bore an 1886 imprint. The managers of the two leading hotels in Singapore knew, or professed to[216] know, nothing about hotel accommodations in Bangkok. Though the administration of the Federal Malay States Railways generously offered me the use of a private car over their system, I could obtain no reliable information as to what connections I could make at the Siamese frontier or when I would reach Bangkok. And the only guide book on Siam which I could discover—quite an excellent little volume, by the way—was published by the Imperial Japanese Railways!

The Siamese are by no means opposed to foreigners visiting their country, and they would welcome the development of its resources by foreign capital, but, owing to the insularity, indifference, timidity and pride which are inherent in the Siamese character, they have taken no steps to bring their country to the attention of the outside world. When one notes the energetic advertising campaigns which are being conducted by the governments of Japan, China, Java, and even Indo-China, where the visitor is confronted at every turn by advertisements urging him to "Spend the Week-End at Kamakura," "Go to the Great Wall," "Don't Miss Boroboedor and Djokjakarta," "Take Advantage of the Special Fares to the Ruins of Angkor," you wonder why Siam, which has so much that is novel and picturesque to offer, makes no effort to swell its revenues by encouraging the tourist industry. That the royal prince who is the Minister of Communications recently made a tour of the United States for the purpose of studying American railway methods suggests, however, that the Land of the White [217]Elephant is planning to get its share of tourist travel in the future.

I might as well admit frankly that my first impressions of the Siamese capital were extremely disappointing. I didn't expect to be conveyed to my hotel atop a white elephant, through streets lined with salaaming natives, but neither did I expect to make a wild dash through thoroughfares as crowded with traffic as Fifth Avenue, in a vehicle which unmistakably owed its paternity to Mr. Henry Ford, or to be bruskly halted at busy street crossings by the upraised hand of a helmeted and white-gloved traffic policeman. Nor, upon my arrival at the hotel—there is only one in Bangkok deserving of the name—did I expect to find on the breakfast table a breakfast food manufactured in Battle Creek, or beside my bed an electric fan made in New Britain, Connecticut, or behind the desk a very wide awake American youth—the son, I learned later, of one of the American advisers to the Siamese Government—who eagerly inquired whether I had brought any American newspapers with me and whether I thought the pennant would be won by the Giants or the White Sox.

Bangkok, which, with its suburbs, has a population about equal to that of Boston, is built on the banks of the country's greatest river, the Menam, some forty miles from its mouth. Though the city has a number of fine thoroughfares, straight as though laid out with a pencil and ruler, between them lie labyrinths of dim and evil-smelling bazaars, their narrow, winding,[218] cobble-paved streets lined on either side by stalls in which are displayed for sale all the products of the country. Because of the intense heat these stalls are open in front, so that the occupants work and eat and sleep in full view of everyone who passes. The barber shaves the heads of his customers while they squat in the edge of the roadway. In the licensed gambling houses groups of excited men and women crowd about gaming tables presided over by greasy, half-naked Chinese croupiers, and, when they have squandered their trifling earnings, hasten to the nearest pawnshop with any garment or article of furniture that is not absolutely indispensable to their existence in order to obtain a few more coins to hazard and eventually to lose. As a result of this passion for gambling, the city is full of pawnshops, some streets containing scarcely anything else. At the far end of one of the bazaar streets is the largest idol manufactory in Siam, for the temples whose graceful, tapering towers dot the landscape are filled with images of Buddha, in all sizes and of all materials from wood to gold set with jewels, most of them donated by the devout in order to "make merit" for themselves. As all Buddhists wish to accumulate as much merit for themselves as possible, in order to be assured at death of a through ticket to Nirvana, the idol-making industry is in a flourishing condition.

Pushing their way through the crowded thoroughfares, their raucous cries rising above the clamor, go the ice cream and curry vendors, carrying the [219]paraphernalia of their trade slung from bamboo poles borne upon the shoulders—perambulating cafeterias and soda fountains, as it were. For a satang—a coin equivalent to about a quarter of a cent—you can purchase a bowl of rice, while the expenditure of another satang will provide you with an assortment of savories or relishes, made from elderly meat, decayed fish, decomposed prawns and other toothsome ingredients, which you heap upon the rice, together with a greenish-yellow curry sauce which makes the concoction look as though it were suffering from a severe attack of jaundice. These relishes are cooked, or rather re-warmed, by the simple process of suspending them in a sort of sieve in a pot of boiling water, the same pot and the same water serving for all customers alike. By this arrangement, the man who takes his snack at the close of the day has the advantage of receiving not merely what he orders, but also flavors and even floating remnants from the dishes ordered by all those who have preceded him. The ice cream vendors drive a roaring trade in a concoction the basis of which is finely shaven ice, looking like half-frozen and very dirty slush, sweetened with sugar and flavored, according to the purchaser's taste from an array of metal-topped bottles such as barbers use for bay rum and hair oil. But, being cold and sweet, "Isa-kee," as the Chinese vendors call it, is as popular among the lower classes in Siam as ice cream cones are in the United States.

Though the streets of Bangkok are crowded with[220] vehicles of every description—ramshackle and disreputable rickshaws, the worst to be found in all the East, drawn by sweating coolies; the boxes of wood and glass on wheels, called gharries, drawn by decrepit ponies whose harness is pieced out with rope; creaking bullock carts driven by Tamils from Southern India; bicycles, ridden by natives whose European hats and coats are in striking contrast to their bare legs and brilliant panungs; clanging street cars, as crowded with humanity as those on Broadway; motors of every size and make, from jitneys to Rolls-Royces—the bulk of the city's traffic is borne on the great river and the countless canals which empty into it. Bangkok has been called, and not ineptly, the Venice of the East, for it is covered with a net-work of canals, or klongs, which spread out in every direction. In sampans, houseboats and other craft, moored to the banks of these canals, dwells the major portion of the city's inhabitants. The city's water population is complete in itself and perfectly independent of its neighbors on land, for it has its own shops and dwellings, its own markets and restaurants, its own theaters, and gambling establishments, its own priests and police. When you go to Bangkok, I strongly advise you to hire a sampan and visit the floating portion of the city after nightfall. The houseboats are open at both ends and you will see many things that the guidebooks fail to mention.

The Oriental Hotel, the banks, the shipping offices, the business houses, and all the legations save only the[221] American, are clustered on or near the river in a low-lying and unattractive quarter of the town. But follow the long, dingy, squalid highway known as the New Road, a thoroughfare lined with third-rate Chinese shops and thronged with rickshaws, carriages, bicycles, motors, street-cars, and Asiatics of every religion and complexion, and you will come at length into a portion of the city as different from the mercantile district as Riverside Drive is from the Bowery. Here you will find broad boulevards, shaded by rows of splendid tamarinds, lined by charming villas which peep coyly from the blazing gardens which surround them, and broken at frequent intervals by little parks in which are fountains and statuary. There is a great common, green with grass during the rainy season, known as the Premane Ground, where military reviews are held and where the royal cremations take place; a favorite spot in the spring for the kite-flying contests in which Siamese of all classes and all ages participate. Fronting on the Premane Ground are the not unimposing stuccoed buildings which house the Ministries of Justice, Agriculture and War. Not far away is the new Throne Hall, a huge, ornate structure of white marble, in the modern Italian style, its great dome faintly reminiscent of the Capitol at Washington. From the center of the spacious plaza rises a rather fine equestrian statue of the late king, Chulalungkorn, and, close by, the really charming Dusit Gardens, beautifully laid out with walks and lagoons and kiosks and a great variety of tropical flowers and shrubs and[222] trees. But, most characteristic and colorful of all, a touch of that Oriental splendor which one looks for in Siam, is the congeries of palaces, offices, stables, courtyards, gardens, shrines and temples, the whole encircled by a crenelated, white-washed wall, which is the official residence of King Rama VI.

There are said to be nearly four hundred Buddhist temples within a two-mile radius of the royal palace, of which by far the most interesting and magnificent is the famous Wat Phra Keo, or Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which is really a royal chapel, being within the outer circumference of the palace walls. I doubt if any space of similar size in all the world contains such a bewildering display of barbaric magnificence, such a riot of form and color, as the walled enclosure in which this remarkable edifice and its attendant structures stand. From the center of the marble-paved courtyard rises an enormous, cone-shaped prachadee, round at the bottom but tapering to a long and slender spire said to be covered with plates of gold. It certainly looks like a solid mass of that precious metal, and at daybreak and nightfall, when it catches the level rays of the sun, it can be seen from afar, shining and glittering above the gorgeously colored roofs of the temples and the many-tinted lesser spires which surround it. Close by the gilded prachadee is the bote or chapel used by the king, surmounted by a similar spire which is overlaid with sapphire-colored plates of glass and porcelain, while a little distance away stands the temple itself, its gilded [223]walls set with mosaics of emerald green. Flanking the gateways of the temple courtyard are gigantic, grotesque figures, fully thirty feet in height, carved and colored like the creatures of a nightmare. They represent demons and are supposed to guard the approaches to the temple, being so placed that they glare down ferociously on all who enter the sacred enclosure. Other figures in marble, bronze, wood and stone, representing dolphins, storks, cows, camels, monkeys and the various fabulous monsters of the Hindu mythology, are scattered in apparent confusion about the temple courtyard, producing an effect as bizarre as it is bewildering. It is so unreal, so incredibly fantastic, that I felt that I was looking at the papier-maché setting for a motion picture spectacle, such as Griffith used to produce, and that the director and the cameraman would appear shortly and end the illusion.

The interior of the main temple is extremely lofty. The walls and rafters are of teak and the floor is covered with a matting made of silver wire. At the far end of this imposing room an enormous, pyramidal shrine of gold rises almost to the roof, its dazzling brilliancy somewhat subdued by the semi-obscurity of the interior. Wat Phra Keo is unique amongst Siamese temples in containing objects of real value. Everything is genuine and costly, as becomes the gifts of a king, though it must be admitted that certain of the royal offerings which are ranged at the foot of the shrine, such as jeweled French clocks, figurines of Sèvres and Dresden porcelain, and a large[224] marble statue of a Roman goddess, are of doubtful appropriateness. Ranged on a table at the back of the altar are seven images of Buddha in pure gold, the right hand of each pointed upward. On the thumb and fingers of each hand glitters a king's ransom in rings of sapphires, emeralds and rubies, while from the center of each palm flashes a rosette of diamonds. High up toward the rafters, at the apex of the golden pyramid, in a sort of recess toward which the fingers of the seven images are pointing, sits an image of Buddha, perhaps twelve inches high, said to be cut from one enormous emerald—whence the temple's name. As a matter of fact, it is made of jade and is of incalculable value. Set in its forehead are three eyes, each an enormous diamond. The history of this extraordinary idol is lost in the mists of antiquity. Tradition has it that it fell from heaven into one of the Laos states, being captured by the Siamese in battle. Since then it has been repeatedly lost, captured or stolen. Its story, like that of so many famous jewels, might fittingly be written in blood.

It is the custom in Siam for every man to spend a portion of his life in a monastery. This rule applies to everyone from the poorest peasant upward, the king and all the male members of the royal family having at some period worn the yellow robe of a monk. This curious custom is, no doubt, an imitation of the so-called Act of Renunciation of Gautama, the future Buddha, who, at the age of twenty-nine, moved by the sufferings of humanity, renounced his rights to his[225] father's throne and, abandoning his wife and child, devoted the remainder of his life to religion. Just as every American boy is expected to go to school, so every Siamese youth is expected to enter a monastery, the stern discipline enforced during this period accounting, I have no doubt, for the docility which is so noticeable a part of the Siamese character. While I was in Siam I was the guest one day of the officers' mess of the crack regiment of the household cavalry. Though my hosts, with few exceptions, spoke fluent English, though several of them had been educated at English schools and universities, and though the conversation over the mess table was of polo and racing and big game shooting and bridge, I learned to my astonishment that every one of these debonair young officers, with their worldly manners and their beautifully cut uniforms, had at one time shaved his head, donned the yellow robe of a monk, and begged his food from door to door. In view of the universality of the custom, it is small wonder that Siam has ten thousand monasteries and that 300,000 of its inhabitants wear the ocher-colored robe.

The periods of time which men devote to monastic life are not uniform. Some spend between a month and a year, others their entire lives. Some enter the monastery in their youth, others in middle age or when old men. But they all shave their heads and don the coarse yellow robe and lead practically the same existence. Each morning, carrying their "begging bowls," they beg their food at the doors of [226]laymen. They come quietly and stand at the door, and, accepting the offerings, as quietly depart without expressing thanks for what is given them, the idea being that they are not begging for their own benefit but in order to evoke a spirit of charity in the giver. During the dry season it is the custom of the monks to make long pilgrimages for the purpose of visiting other monasteries. Each of these itinerant monks is accompanied by a youth known as a yom, who carries the simple requisites of the journey, the chief of which is a large umbrella. Traveling in the interior one frequently meets long files of these yellow-clad pilgrims, with their attendant yoms, moving in silence along a forest trail. When night comes the yom opens the large umbrella which he carries, thrusts its long handle into the ground, and over it drapes a square of cloth, thus extemporizing a sort of tent under which his master sleeps.


To visit Siam without seeing the royal white elephants would be like visiting Niagara without seeing the falls. The elephant stables stand in the heart of the palace enclosure, sandwiched in between the palace gardens and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Each animal—there were only three in the royal stables at the time of my visit—has a separate building to itself, within which it stands on a sort of dais, one hind leg lashed with a rope to a tall, stout post painted scarlet and surmounted by a gilded crown. Much as I dislike to shatter cherished illusions, were I to assert that[227] the elephants I saw in the royal stables were white, I should be convicting myself of color-blindness. The best that can be said of two of them, is that they were a dirty gray, about the color of a much-used wash-rag. The third, had it been a horse, might have been described as a roan, the whole body being a pale reddish-brown, with a sprinkling of real white hairs on the back. All three animals were, in reality, albinos, having the light-colored iris of the eye, the white toe-nails, and the pink skin at the end of the trunk which distinguish the albino everywhere. As a matter of fact, "white elephant" is not a correct translation of the Siamese chang penak, which really means "albino elephant." But most foreigners will continue, I have no doubt, to use the term made famous by Barnum.


Though the albino elephants are never used nowadays save on occasions of great ceremony, being regarded by the educated Siamese with the same amused tolerance with which an Englishman regards the great gilt coach, drawn by eight cream-colored horses, in which the king goes to open Parliament, the ordinary elephant is of enormous economic value to the country, being a combination, as it were, of a motor truck, a portable derrick, and a freight car. Almost anywhere in the back country, where the only roads are trails through the jungle, one can see "elephants a-pilin' teak in the sludgy, squdgy creeks" or being loaded with merchandise for transport into the far interior. Indeed, the traveler who wishes to take a[228] short cut from Siam to Burmah can hire an elephant for the journey almost as easily as he could hire a motor car in America. It is a novel means of travel, but a little of it goes a long way. A good working elephant is a valuable piece of property, being worth in the neighborhood of $2,500., but the prospective purchaser should remember that the possession of one of these giant pachyderms entails considerable overhead, or rather, internal expense. De Wolf Hopper was telling only the literal truth when he sang in Wang of the tribulations of the peasant who had an elephant on his hands:

"The elephant ate all night, The elephant ate all day; Do what he would to furnish food, The cry was 'Still more hay!'"

An elephant hunt in Siam

elephants crossing river

A large herd of wild elephants being driven across a river

elephants being herded

The elephants, herded by domesticated animals, are driven into the corral

Although, as I have already remarked, sophisticated Siamese regard the white elephant with amusement tinged with contempt, there is no doubt that among the bulk of the people the animals are considered as sacred and are treated with great veneration. Indeed, when Siam was forced to cede certain of her eastern provinces to France, the treaty contained a clause providing that any so-called white elephants which might be captured in the ceded territory should be considered the property of the King of Siam and delivered to him forthwith. A number of years ago, a traveling show known as Wilson's English Circus, gave a number of exhibitions in Bangkok, which were attended by the King, the nobility, and members of the European [229]colony. When the proprietor saw that the popular interest in his exhibition was beginning to wear off, he distributed broadcast handbills announcing that at the next performance "a genuine white elephant" would take part in the exhibition. Public curiosity was reawakened and that evening the circus was crowded. After the usual bareback riding, in which the Siamese were treated to the sight of European women in pink tights and tulle skirts pirouetting on the backs of cantering Percherons, two clowns burst into the ring.

"Hey, you!" bawled one of them, "Have you seen the white elephant?"

"Sure, I have," was the response. "The King has a stable full of them."

"Oh, no, he ain't," shouted the first fun-maker. "The King ain't got any white elephants. His are all gray ones. I'll show you the only genuine white elephant in the world," whereupon a small elephant, as snowy as repeated coats of whitewash could make it, ambled into the ring. Though a suppressed titter ran through the more sophisticated portion of the audience when it was observed that the ridiculous looking animal left white marks on everything it touched, it was quite apparent that the bulk of the spectators resented fun being made of an animal which they had been taught to consider sacred, certain of the more devout asserting that the sacrilegious performance would call down the wrath of Buddha. Their prophecies proved to be well founded, for the "white" elephant died at sea a few days later—as the[230] result, it was hinted, of poison put in its food by the Siamese priests and Wilson himself, who had been suffering from dysentery, died the day after he landed at Singapore.

Being a young nation, so far as the adoption of Western methods are concerned, the Siamese are extremely sensitive, being almost pathetically eager to win the good opinion of the Occidental world. Thus, upon Siam's entry into the Great War (perhaps you were not aware that the little kingdom equipped and sent to France an expeditionary force composed of aviation, ambulance and motor units, thus being the only independent Asiatic nation whose troops served on European soil) the king abolished the white elephant upon a red ground which from time immemorial had been the national standard, substituting for it a nondescript affair of colored stripes which at first glance appears to be a compromise between the flags of China and Montenegro. In doing this, I think that the king made a mistake, for he deprived his country of a distinctive emblem which was associated with Siam the whole world over.


Fortune was kind to us in the Siamese capital, for we reached that city on the eve of a series of royal cremations, the attendant ceremonies providing enough action and color to satisfy even Hawkinson. It should be explained that instead of cremating a body immediately, as might be expected in so torrid a climate, the remains are placed in a large jar and kept[231] in a temple or in the house of the deceased for a period determined by the rank of the dead man—the King for twelve months and so downward. If the relatives are too poor to afford the expenses incident to cremation, they bury the body, but exhume it for burning when their financial condition permits. On the day of the cremation, which is usually fixed by an astrologer, the remains are transferred from the jar to a wooden coffin and carried with much pomp to the meru, or place of cremation. When the deceased is of royal or noble blood the meru is frequently a magnificent structure, sometimes costing many thousands of dollars, built for the purpose and torn down when that purpose has been served. The coffin is placed on the pyre, which is lighted by relatives, the occasion being considered one for rejoicing rather than mourning. The royal meru, which had been erected in a small park in the outskirts of the capital at a cost of one hundred thousand ticals, was a really beautiful structure of true Siamese architecture, elaborately decorated in scarlet and gold and draped with hangings of the same colors. Within the meru were three pyres, concealed by gilt screens, on which were set the coffins containing the bodies. As there were a number of bodies to be burned, the ceremonies lasted upward of a week, King Rama going in state each afternoon to the meru, where he took his place on a throne in an elaborately decorated pavilion. After brief ceremonies by a large body of yellow-robed Buddhist priests, the King set fire to the end of[232] a long fuse, which in turn ignited the three pyres simultaneously, the ascending clouds of smoke being greeted by the roll of drums and the crash of saluting cannon.

When I first suggested to friends in Bangkok that I wished to obtain permission for Hawkinson to take pictures of the cremation, they told me that it was out of the question.

"But why?" I demanded. "Motion-pictures were taken of the funerals of the Pope, and of King Edward, and of President Roosevelt, without anyone dreaming of protesting, so why should there be any objection here? Nothing in the least disrespectful is intended."

"But this is Siam," my friends replied pessimistically, "and such things simply aren't done here. No one has ever taken a motion-picture of a royal cremation."

"It's never too late to begin," I told them.

So I took a rickshaw out to the American Legation and enlisted the cooperation of our charge d'affaires, Mr. Donald Rodgers, the very efficient young diplomatist who was representing American interests in Siam pending the arrival of the new minister.

"I'll do my best to arrange it," Rodgers assured me, "but I'm not sanguine about meeting with success. The Siamese are fine people, kindly, hospitable and all that, but they're as conservative as Bostonians."

Two days later, however, he sent me a letter, signed by the minister of the royal household, authorizing[233] Hawkinson to take motion-pictures in the grounds of the meru on the following day prior to the cremation. I didn't quite like the sound of the last four words, "prior to the cremation," but I felt that it was not an occasion for quibbling. So the next day, at the appointed hour—which was two hours ahead of the time set for the cremation—Hawkinson set out for the meru, accompanied by his interpreter. He did not return until dinner-time.

"What happened?" I inquired, by way of greeting.

"What didn't happen?" he retorted. "They turned me out just as the cremation was commencing. When we reached the meru I was met by an official wearing bright-blue pants, who told me that he had been sent to assist me in taking the pictures. Well, I got a few shots of the meru itself, and of the royal pavilion, and of some of the priests and soldiers, but there wasn't much doing because there wasn't any action. So I sat down to wait for things to happen. Pretty soon the troops began to arrive—lancers and a battery of artillery and a company of the royal body-guard in red coats—and after them came the guests: officials and dignitaries in all sorts of gorgeous uniforms covered with decorations. A few minutes later I heard someone say, 'The King is coming,' so I got the camera ready to begin cranking. Just then up comes my Siamese chaperone. 'You will have to leave now,' says he. 'Leave? What for?' said I. 'Because the cremation is about to begin,' he tells me. 'But that's what I've come to take pictures of,' I told him. 'What[234] did you think that I attended this party for?' 'Oh, no,' says he, very polite; 'your permission says that you can take pictures prior to the cremation.' So they showed me the gate."

"Then you didn't get any pictures?" I queried, deep disappointment in my tone.

"Sure, I got the pictures," was the answer. "Some of them, at any rate. That's what I went there for, wasn't it?"

"But how did you work it?" I demanded.

"Easy," he replied, lighting a cigarette. "I told the driver to back his car up against the iron fence which encircles the meru; then I set up the camera in the tonneau, so that it was above the heads of the crowd, screwed on the six-inch lens which I use for long-distance shots, and took the pictures."

King Sisowath

King Sisowath of Cambodia

Though the octogenarian King Sisowath maintains a gorgeous court, he is permitted only a shadow of power

King Rama VI

Rama VI, King of Siam

He is in most respects the antithesis of the popular conception of an Oriental monarch


The present ruler of Siam, King Rama VI, is in most respects the antithesis of the popular conception of an Oriental monarch. Though polygamy has been practised among the upper classes in Siam from time beyond reckoning, he has neither wife nor concubines. Instead of riding atop a white elephant, in a gilded howdah, or being borne in a palanquin, as is always the custom of Oriental rulers in fiction, he shatters the speed laws in a big red Mercedes. For the flaming silks and flashing jewels which the movies have educated the American public to believe are habitually worn by Eastern potentates, King Rama substitutes the uniform of a Siamese general, or, for evening functions[235] at the palace, the dress coat and knee-breeches of European courts. He was educated at Oxford and Cambridge and later graduated from the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, being commissioned an honorary colonel in the British Army. He is the founder and chief of an organization patterned after the Boy Scouts and known as the Wild Tigers, which has hundreds of branches and carries on its rolls the name of nearly every youth in the kingdom. Each year the organization holds in Bangkok a grand rally, when thousands of youngsters, together with many adults from all walks of life, for membership in the corps is not confined to boys, are reviewed by the sovereign, who appears in the gorgeous and original uniform, designed by himself, of commander-in-chief of the Wild Tigers.

In one respect, however, King Rama lives up to the popular conception of an Oriental ruler: like his father before him, he is generous to the point of prodigality. This trait was illustrated not long ago, when he sent eight thousand pounds to the widow of Mr. Westengaard, the American who was for many years general adviser to the Government of Siam, accompanied by a message that it was to be used for the education of her son. This recalls a characteristic little anecdote of the present ruler's father, the late King Chulalongkorn. The early youth of the late king and his brothers was spent under the tutelage of an English governess, who was affectionately addressed by the younger members of the royal family as "Mem." Upon her return to[236] England she wrote a book entitled An Englishwoman at the Siamese Court, in which she depicted her employer, King Mongkut, the father of Chulalongkorn, in a none too favorable light. Some years later, upon the occasion of King Chulalongkorn's visit to England, his former governess, now become an old woman, called upon him.

"Mem," he said, in a course of conversation, "how could you write such unkind things about my father? He was always very good to you."

"That is true, Majesty," the former governess admitted in some confusion, "but the publishers wouldn't take the book unless I made it sensational. And I had to do it because I was in financial difficulties."

When she had departed the King turned to one of his equerries. "Send the poor old lady a hundred pounds," he directed. "She meant no harm and she needs the money."

The chief hobby of the present ruler is, curiously enough, amateur dramatics, of which his orthodox and conservative ministers do not wholly approve. In addition to having translated into Siamese a number of Shakesperian plays, he is the author of several original dramas, which have been produced at the palace under his personal direction and in several of which he has himself played the leading parts. As a result of this predilection for dramatics, he has accumulated an extensive theatrical wardrobe, to which he is constantly adding. When I was in Bangkok I had some[237] clothes made by the English tailor who supplies the court—an excellent tailor, but expensive.

"You'll excuse my taking the liberty, I hope, sir," he said during the course of a fitting, "but, being as you are an American, perhaps you could assist me with some information. I've received a very pressing order for a costume such as is worn by the cowboys in your country, sir, but, though I've found some pictures in the English illustrated weeklies, I don't rightly know how to make it."

"A cowboy's costume?" I exclaimed. "In Siam? Who in the name of Heaven wants it?"

"It's for his Majesty," was the surprising answer. "He's written a play in which he takes the part of an American cowboy and he's very particular, sir, that the costume should be quite correct. Seeing as you come from that country, I thought I'd make so bold, sir, as to ask if you could give me some suggestions."

It was quite apparent that he believed that when I was at home I customarily went about in chaps, a flannel shirt and a sombrero, and, knowing the English mind, I realized that nothing was to be gained by attempting to disillusionize him.

"Let's see what you've made," I suggested, whereupon he produced an outfit which appeared to be a compromise between the costume of an Italian bandit, the uniform of an Australian soldier, and the regalia of a Spanish bull-fighter. Suppressing my inclination to give way to laughter, I sketched for the grateful tailor the sort of garments to which cowpunchers[238]—cowpunchers of the screen, at least—are addicted. If he followed my directions the King of Siam wore a costume which would make William S. Hart green with envy.

King Rama's literary efforts have not been confined to playwriting, however, for his book on the wars of the Polish Succession is one of the standard authorities on the subject. If you go to Siam expecting to see an Oriental potentate such as you have read about in novels, His Majesty, Rama VI, is bound to prove very disappointing.

Colorful ceremonies of old Siam

royal barge

Once each year the King visits the various temples in and near Bangkok, travelling in the royal barge, a gorgeously decorated affair rowed by threescore oarsmen

rice planting ceremony

The rice-planting ceremony. The Minister of Agriculture ploughs a few furrows in a field outside Bangkok, being fallowed by four young women of the court who scatter rice grains on the freshly opened soil

But, though the monarch and his court are as up-to-the-minute as the Twentieth Century Limited, many of the spectacular and colorful ceremonies of old Siam are still celebrated with all their ancient pomp and magnificence. For example, each year, at the close of the rainy season, the King devotes about a fortnight to visiting the various temples in and near Bangkok. On these occasions he goes in the royal barge, a gorgeously decorated affair, 150 feet in length, looking not unlike an enormous Venetian gondola, rowed by three-score oarsmen in scarlet-and-gold liveries. The King, surrounded by a glittering group of court officials, sits on a throne at the stern, while attendants hold over his head golden umbrellas. From the landing place to the temple he is borne in a sedan chair between rows of prostrate natives who bow their foreheads to the earth in adoration of this short, stout, olive-skinned, good-humored looking young man whom [239]nearly ten millions of people implicitly believe to be the earthly representative of Buddha.


Another picturesque observance, the Rice-Planting Ceremony, takes place early in May, when the Minister of Agriculture, as the deputy of the King, leads a long procession of officials and priests to a field in the outskirts of the capital, where a pair of white bullocks, yoked to a gilded plough, are waiting. Surrounded by a throng of functionaries glittering like Christmas trees, the Minister ploughs a few furrows in the field, being followed by four young women of the court who scatter rice grains on the freshly turned soil. Until quite recent years, the officials taking part in this procession claimed the privilege of appropriating any articles which caught their fancy in the shops along the route. But this quaint practise is no longer followed. It was not popular with the merchants. The Siamese, like all Orientals, place much reliance on omens, the position of the lower hem of the panung worn by the Minister of Agriculture on this occasion indicating, it is confidently believed, the sort of weather to be expected during the ensuing year. If the edge of the panung comes down to the ankles a dry season is anticipated, even a drought, perhaps. If, on the contrary, the garment is pulled up to the knees—a raining-in-London effect, as it were,—it is freely predicted that the country will suffer from floods. But if the folds of the silk reach to a point midway between knee and ankle, then the farmers look forward to a [240]moderate rainfall and a prosperous season. It is as though the United States Weather Bureau were to base its forecasts on the height at which the Secretary of Agriculture wore his trousers.

The panung—a strip of silk or cotton about three yards long is the national garment of Siam and among the poorer classes constitutes the only article of clothing. It is admirably adapted to the climate, being easy to wash and easy to put on: all that is necessary is to wind it about the waist, pass the ends between the legs, and tuck them into the girdle, thus producing the effect of a pair of knickerbockers. As both sexes wear the panung, and likewise wear their hair cut short, it is somewhat difficult to distinguish between men and women. Siamese women keep their hair about four or five inches long and brush it straight back, like American college students, without using any comb or other ornament, thus giving them a peculiarly boyish appearance. In explanation of this fashion of wearing the hair there is an interesting tradition. Once upon a time, it seems, a Siamese walled city was besieged by Cambodians while the men of the city were fighting elsewhere and only women and children remained behind. A successful defense was out of the question. In this emergency, a woman of militant character—the Sylvia Pankhurst of her time—proposed to her terrified sisters that they should cut their hair short and appear upon the walls in men's clothing on the chance of frightening away the Cambodians. The ruse succeeded, for, while the invaders [241]were hesitating whether to carry the city by storm, the Siamese warriors returned and put the enemy to flight. The Siamese prince who told me the story, an officer who had spent much of his life in Europe, remarked that he understood that American women were also cutting off their hair.

"True enough," I admitted. "In the younger set bobbed hair is all the vogue. But they don't cut off their hair, as your women did, to frighten away the men."


If you will take down the family atlas and turn to the map of Southern Asia you will see that Siam, with an area about equivalent to that of Spain, occupies the uncomfortable and precarious position of a fat walnut clinched firmly between the jaws of a nut-cracker, the jaws being formed by British Burmah and French Indo-China. And for the past thirty years those jaws have been slowly but remorselessly closing. Until 1893 the eastern frontier of Siam was separated from the China Sea by the narrow strip of Annam, at one point barely thirty miles in width, which was under French protection. Its western boundary was the Lu Kiang River, which likewise formed the eastern boundary of the British possessions in Burmah. On the south the kingdom reached down to the Grand Lac of Cambodia, while on the north its frontiers were coterminous with those of the great, rich Chinese province of Yunnan. Now here was a condition of affairs which was as annoying as it was intolerable to the [242]land-hungry statesmen of Downing Street and the Quai d'Orsay. That a small and defenseless Oriental nation should be permitted to block the colonial expansion of two powerful and acquisitive European nations was unthinkable.

The first step in the spoilation of the helpless little kingdom was taken by France in 1893, when, claiming that the Mekong—which the French were eager to acquire under the impression that it would provide them with a trade-route into Southern China—formed the true boundary between Siam and Annam, she demanded that the Siamese evacuate the great strip of territory to the east of that river. Greatly to the delight of the French imperialists, the Siamese refused to yield, whereupon, in accordance with the time-honored rules of the game of territory grabbing, French gunboats were dispatched to make a naval demonstration off Bangkok. The forts at the mouth of the Menam fired upon the gunboats, whereupon the French instituted a blockade of the Siamese capital and at the same time enormously increased their demands. England, which had long professed to be a disinterested friend of the Siamese, shrugged her shoulders whereupon they yielded to the threat of a French invasion and ceded to France the eastern marches of the kingdom. Meanwhile the frontier between Siam and the new British possessions in Burmah had been settled amicably, though, as might have been expected, in Britain's favor, Siam being shorn of a small strip of territory on the northwest. In 1904 [243]the French again brought pressure to bear, their territorial booty on this occasion amounting to some eight thousand square miles, comprising the Luang Prabang district lying east of the Mekong and the provinces of Malupré and Barsak. Seeing that the process of filching territory from the Siamese was as safe and easy as taking candy from children, the French tried it again in 1907, this time obtaining the provinces of Battambang, Sisophon and Siem-Reap, constituting a total of some seven thousand square miles, thus bringing within French territory the whole of the Grand Lac and the wonderful ruins of Angkor. In 1909 it was England's turn again, but, disdaining the crude methods of the French, she informed the Siamese Government that she was prepared to relinquish her rights to maintain her own courts in Siam, the Siamese being expected to show their gratitude for this concession to their national pride by ceding to England the states of Kelantan, Trengganu and Kedah, in the Malay Peninsula, with a total area of about fifteen thousand square miles. It was a costly transaction for the Siamese, but they assented. What else was there for them to do? When a burly and determined person holds you up in a dark alley with a revolver and intimates that if you will hand over your pocketbook he will refrain from hitting you over the head with a billy, there is nothing to do but accede with the best grace possible to his demands. In a period of only sixteen years, therefore, France and England, by methods which, if used in business, would lead to an [244]investigation by the Grand Jury, succeeded in stripping Siam of about a third of her territory. The history of Siam during that period provides a striking illustration of the methods by which European powers have obtained their colonial empires.

It was the Great War which, by diverting the attention of France and England, probably saved Siam from complete dismemberment. Now, in robbing her, they would be robbing an ally and a friend, for in July, 1917, Siam declared war on the Central Powers, despatched an expeditionary force to France, interned every enemy alien in the kingdom and confiscated their property, thus ridding France and England of the last vestige of Teutonic commercial rivalry in southeastern Asia. The Siamese, moreover, have had a national house-cleaning and have set their country in thorough order. Their national finances are now in admirable condition; they have accomplished far-reaching administrative reforms; they are opening up their territory by the construction of railway lines in all directions; and they have obtained the practical abolition of French and British jurisdiction over certain of their domestic affairs, while a treaty which provides that the United States shall likewise surrender its extra territorial rights and permit its citizens to be tried in Siamese courts has recently been signed.

The future of Siam should be of interest to Americans if for no other reason than that it is the one remaining independent state of tropical Asia. Indeed, it is known to its own people as Muang-Thai—the [245]"Kingdom of the Free." Whether it will remain so only the future can tell. I should be more sanguine about the continued independence of the Land of the White Elephant, however, were it not for the colonial records of its two nearest neighbors, which heretofore, in their dealings with Asiatic peoples, have usually followed

"The good old rule ... the simple plan, That they should take who have the power, And they should keep who can."

[246]

CHAPTER XI
TO PNOM-PENH BY THE JUNGLE TRAIL

Indo-China is a great bay-window bulging from the southeastern corner of Asia, its casements opening on the China Sea and on the Gulf of Siam. Of all the countries of the Farther East it is the most mysterious; of them all it is the least known. Larger than the State of Texas, it is a land of vast forests and unexplored jungles in which roam the elephant, the tiger and the buffalo; a land of palaces and pagodas and gilded temples; of sun-bronzed pioneers and priests in yellow robes and bejeweled dancing girls. Lured by the tales I had heard of curious places and strange peoples to be seen in the interior of the peninsula, I refused to content myself with skirting its edges on a steamer. Instead, I determined to cross it from coast to coast.

I had looked forward to covering the first stage of this journey, the four hundred-odd miles of jungle which separate Bangkok, in Siam, from Pnom-Penh, the capital of Cambodia, on an elephant. Everyone with whom I had discussed the matter in Singapore had assured me that this was perfectly feasible. And as a means of transportation it appealed to me. It seemed to fit into the picture, as a wheel-chair accords[247] with the spirit of Atlantic City, as a caléche is congruous to Quebec. To my friends at home I had planned to send pictures of myself reclining in a howdah, rajah-like, as my ponderous mount rocked and rolled along the jungle trails. To me the idea sounded fine. But it was not to be. For, in shaping my plans, I had been ignorant of the fact that during the dry season, which was then at hand, Asiatic elephants are seldom worked—that they become morose and irritable and are usually kept in idleness until their docility returns with the rains. I was greatly disappointed.

The overland route thus proving impracticable, so far as the first part of the journey was concerned, the sea road alone remained. Of vessels plying between Bangkok and the ports of French Indo-China there were but two—the Bonite, a French packet slightly larger than a Hudson River tugboat, which twice monthly makes the round trip between the Siamese capital and Saigon; and a Danish tramp; the Chutututch, an unkempt vagrant of the seas which wanders at will along the Gulf Coast, touching at those obscure ports where cargo or passengers are likely to be found. The Bonite swung at her moorings in the Menam, opposite my hotel windows, so, made cautious by previous experiences on other coastwise vessels, I went out in a sampan to make a preliminary survey. But I did not go aboard. The odors which assailed me as I drew near caused me to decide abruptly that I wished to make no voyage on her. The Chutututch, I reasoned, [248]must be better; it certainly could not be worse. And when I approached her owners they offered no objections to earning a few-score extra ticals by extending her itinerary so as to drop me at the tiny Cambodian port of Kep. The next day, then, saw me on the bridge of the Chutututch, smoking for politeness' sake one of the genial captain's villainous cigars, as we steamed slowly between the palm-fringed, temple-dotted banks of the Menam toward the Gulf.

elephants on a jungle trail

Transportation in the Siamese jungle

Long files of elephants, bearing men and merchandise beneath the hooded howdahs, rocking and rolling down the dim and deep-worn jungle trails

On many kinds of vessels I have voyaged the Seven Seas. I once spent Christmas on a Russian steamer, jammed to her guards with lousy pilgrims bound for the Holy Land, in a tempest off the Syrian coast. On another memorable occasion I skirted the shores of Crete on a Greek schooner which was engaged in conveying from Canea to Candia a detachment of British recruits much the worse for rum. But that voyage on the Chutututch will linger longest in my memory. From stem to stern she was packed with yellow, half-naked, perspiring humanity—Siamese, Laos, Burmans, Annamites, Cambodians, Malays, Chinese—journeying, God knows why, to ports whose very names I had never before heard. They lay so thick beneath the awnings that the sailors literally had to walk upon them in order to perform their work. From the glassy surface of the Gulf the heat rose in waves—blasts from an opened furnace door. The flaming ball of molten brass that was the sun beat down upon the crowded decks until they were as hot to the touch as a railway station stove at white heat. The odors of crude, [249]sugar, copra, tobacco, engine oil, perspiration and fish frying in the galley mingled in a stench that rose to heaven. In the sweat-box which had been allotted to me, called by courtesy a cabin, a large gray ship's rat gnawed industriously at my suit-case in an endeavor to ascertain what it contained; insects that shall be nameless disported themselves upon the dubious-looking blanket which formed the only covering of the bed; cockroaches of incredible size used the wash-basin as a public swimming-pool.

The other cabin passengers were all three Anglo-Saxons—a young Englishman and an American missionary and his wife. These last, I found, were convoying a flock of noisy Siamese youngsters, pupils at an American school in Bangkok, to a small bathing resort at the mouth of the Menam, where, it was alleged, the mercury had been known to drop as low as 90 on cold days. Because of its invigorating climate it is a favorite hot weather resort for the well-to-do Siamese. Here, in a bungalow that had been placed at their disposal by the King, the missionary and his charges proposed to spend a glorious fortnight away from the city's heat. Now do not draw a mental picture of a sanctimonious person with a Prince Albert coat, a white bow tie and a prominent Adam's apple. He was not that sort of a missionary at all. On the contrary, he was a very human, high-spirited, likeable fellow of the type that at home would be a Scout Master or in France would have made good as a welfare worker with the A. E. F. Once, when a [250]particularly obstreperous youngster drew an over-draft on his stock of patience, he endorsed his disapproval with an extremely vigorous "Damn!" I took to him from that moment.

When, their energy temporarily exhausted, his charges had fallen asleep upon the deck and pandemonium had given place to peace, he told me something of his story. For four years he had labored in the Vineyard of the Lord in Chile, but, feeling that he "was having too good a time," as he expressed it, he applied to the Board of Missions for transfer to a more strenuous post. He obtained what he asked for, with something over for good measure, for he was ordered to a post in the northeastern corner of Siam, on the Annam frontier. If there is a more remote or inaccessible spot on the map it would be hard to find it. Here he and his wife spent ten years preaching the Word to the "black bellied Laos," as the tattooed savages of that region are known. Then he was transferred to Bangkok. There are no roads in Siam, so he and his wife and their five small children made the long journey by river, in a native dugout of less than two feet beam, in which they traveled and ate and slept for upwards of two weeks.

I asked him if he wasn't becoming weaned of Bangkok, which, as a place of residence, leaves much to be desired.

"Yes, I've had about enough of it," he admitted. "I'm anxious to get away."

[251]"Back to the Big Town?" I suggested. "To God's Country?"

"Oh, no; not back to the States," he hastened to assure me. "I haven't finished my job out here. I want to get back to my people in the interior again."

Whether you approve of foreign missions or not, it is impossible to withhold your respect and admiration from such men as that. Though at home they are too often the butts of ignorant criticisms and cheap witticisms, they are carrying civilization, no less than Christianity, into the world's dark places. They are the real pioneers. You might remember this the next time an appeal is made in your church for foreign missions.

The young Englishman was likewise an outpost of progress, though in a different fashion. For seven years he had worn the uniform of an officer in the Royal Navy. At the close of the war, seeing small prospect of promotion, he had entered the employ of a British company which held a vast timber concession in the teak forests of northern Siam, far up, near the Chinese border. He was, he explained, a "girdler," which meant that his duties consisted in riding through the forest area allotted to him, selecting and girdling those trees which, three years later, would be cut down. To girdle a tree, as everyone knows, is to kill it, which is what is wanted, there being no market for green teak, which warps. He remained in the forest for four weeks at a stretch, he told me, without seeing a white man's face, his only companions his [252]coolies and his Chinese cook. His domain comprised a thousand square miles of forest through which he moved constantly on horseback, followed by elephants bearing his camp equipage and supplies. Once each month he spent three days in the village where the company maintains its field headquarters. Here he played tennis and bridge with other girdlers—young Englishmen like himself who had come in from their respective districts to make their monthly reports—and in gleaning from the eight-weeks-old newspapers the news of that great outside world from which he was a voluntary exile. One would have supposed that, after seven years spent in the jovial atmosphere of a warship's wardroom, his solitary life in the great forests would quickly have become intolerable, and I expressed myself to this effect. But he said no, that he was neither lonely nor unhappy in his new life, and that his fellow foresters, all of whom had seen service in the Army, the Navy or the Royal Air Force, were equally contented with their lot. I could understand, though. The wilderness holds no terrors for anyone who went through the hell of the Great War.

We dropped anchor at midnight off Chantaboun, where a launch was waiting to take him ashore. He was going up-country, he told me, to inspect a timber concession recently acquired by the company that employed him. Yes, he would be the only white man, but he would not be lonely. Besides, he would only be in the interior a couple of months, he said. He followed the coolies bearing his luggage down the gangway and [253]dropped lightly into the tossing launch, then looked up to wave me a farewell.

"Good luck," he called cheerily.

"Good luck to you!" said I.

That is the worst of this gadding up and down the earth—it is always—"How d'ye do?" and "Good-by."

Three days out of Bangkok the anchor of the Chutututch rumbled down off Kep, on the coast of Cambodia. Kep consists of a ramshackle wooden pier that reaches seaward like a lean brown finger, an equally decrepit custom house, a tin-roofed bungalow which the French Government maintains for the use of those fever-stricken officials who need the tonic of sea air, a cluster of bamboo huts thatched with nipa—nothing more. You will not find the place on any map; it is too small.

It is in the neighborhood of three hundred kilometers from Kep to Pnom-Penh, the capital of Cambodia, and for nearly the entire distance the highway has been hewn through the most savage jungle you can imagine. There was only one motor car in Kep and this I hired for the journey. I say hired, but bought would be nearer the truth. It was an aged and decrepit Renault, held together with string and wire, and suffering so badly from asthma and rheumatism that more than once I feared it would die on my hands before I reached my destination. It had as nurses two Annamites, who took unwarranted liberties with the truth by describing themselves as mechaniciens. [254]Accompanying them were two sullen-faced Chinese. All four of them, I found, proposed to accompany me to Pnom-Penh. At this I protested vigorously, on the ground that, as the lessee of the machine, I had the right to choose my traveling companions, but my objections were overruled by the Chef des Douanes, the only French functionary in Kep, who assured me that if the car went the quartette must go, too. One of the Annamites, he explained, was the chauffeur, the other was the cranker, for in Indo-China automobiles are not equipped with self-starters and the chauffeurs firmly refuse to crank their own cars. They thus "save their face," which is a very important consideration in the estimation of Orientals, and they also provide easy and pleasant jobs for their friends. It is an idea which some of the labor unions in America might adopt to advantage. I make no charge for the suggestion. The two Chinese, it appeared, were the joint owners of the machine, and both insisted on going along because neither would trust the other with the hire-money. Thus it will be seen, we made quite a cozy little party.

The road to Pnom-Penh, as I have already remarked, leads through a peculiarly lonely and savage region. And it is very narrow, bordered on either side by walls of almost impenetrable jungle. A place better adapted for a hold-up could hardly be devised. And of the reputations or antecedents of my four self-imposed companions, I knew nothing. Nor was there anything in their faces to lend me confidence in the [255]honesty of their intentions. As we were about to start a native gendarme beckoned me to one side.

"Beaucoup des pirats sur la route, M'sieu," he warned me in execrable French.

"Brigands, you mean?" I asked him.

"Oui, M'sieu."

That was reassuring.

"How about these men?" I inquired, indicating the motley crew who were to accompany me. "Are they to be trusted?"

He shrugged his shoulders non-commitally. It was evident that he did not hold of them a high opinion.

Producing my .45 caliber service automatic, I slipped a clip into the magazine and ostentatiously laid it beside me on the seat. It is the most formidable weapon carried by any civilized people. True, the German Lüger is larger....

"Tell them," I said to the policeman, "that this gun will shoot through twenty millimeters of pine. Tell them that they had better dispose of their property and burn a few joss-sticks before they start to argue with it. And tell them that, no matter what happens, the car is to keep going."

But I was by no means as confident as I sounded, for the road was notoriously unsafe, nor did I put much trust in my companions. I confess that I felt much happier when that portion of my journey was over.

As the road to Pnom-Penh is quite uninteresting—just a narrow yellow highway chopped through a [256]dense tangle of tropic vegetation—suppose I take advantage of the opportunity to tell you something of this little-known land in which we find ourselves.

French Indo-China occupies perhaps two-thirds of that great bay-window-shaped peninsula which protrudes from the southeastern corner of Asia. In area it is, as I have already remarked, somewhat larger than Texas; its population is about equal to that of New York and Pennsylvania combined. It consists of five states: the colony of Cochin-China, the protectorates of Cambodia, Annam and Tongking, and the unorganized territory of Laos, to which might be added the narrow strip of borderland, known as Kwang Chau Wan, leased from China. In 1902 the capital of French Indo-China was transferred from Saigon, in Cochin-China, to Hanoi, in Tongking.

By far the most interesting of these political divisions is Cambodia, which, for centuries an independent kingdom, was forced in 1862 to accept the protection of France. An apple-shaped country, about the size of England, with a few score miles of seacoast and without railway or regular sea communications, it lies tucked away in the heart of the peninsula, its southern borders marching with those of Cochin-China, its frontier on the north co-terminous with that of Siam. Though the octogenarian King Sisowath maintains a gorgeous court, a stable of elephants, upwards of two-hundred dancing-girls, and one of the most ornate palaces in Asia, he is permitted only a shadow of power, the real ruler of Cambodia being the French [257]Resident-Superior, who governs the country from the great white Residency on the banks of the Mekong.

I know of no region of like size and so comparatively easy of access (the great liners of the Messageries Maritimes touch at Saigon, whence the Cambodian capital can be reached by river-steamer in two days) which offers so many attractions to the hunter of big game. Unlike British East Africa, where, as a result of the commercialization of sport, the cost of going on safari has steadily mounted until now it is a form of recreation to be afforded only by war profiteers, Cambodia remains unexploited and unspoiled. It is in many respects the richest, as it is almost the last, of the world's great hunting-grounds. It is, indeed, a vast zoological garden, where such formalities as hunting licenses are still unknown. In its jungles roam elephants, tigers, rhinoceroses, leopards, panthers, bear, deer, and the savage jungle buffalo, known in Malaya as the seladang and in Indo-China as the gaur—considered by many hunters the most dangerous of all big game.

Nailed to the wall of the Government rest-house at Kep was the skin of a leopard which had been shot from the veranda the day before my arrival, while raiding the pig-pen. The day that I left Kampot an elephant herd, estimated by the native trackers at one hundred and twenty head, was reported within seven miles of the town. Twice during the journey to Pnom-Penh I saw tracks of elephant herds on the road—it looked as though a fleet of whippet tanks had passed.

[258]Nevertheless, I should have put mental question-marks after some of the big game stories I heard while I was in Indo-China had I not been convinced of the credibility of those who told them. Only a few days before our arrival at Saigon, for example, an American engaged in business in that city set out one morning before daybreak, in a small car, for the paddy-fields, where there is excellent bird-shooting in the early dawn. The car, which, owing to the intense heat, had no wind-shield, was driven by the Annamite chauffeur, the American, a double-barrel loaded with bird-shot across his knees, sitting beside him on the front seat. Rounding a turn in the jungle road at thirty miles an hour, the twin beams of light from the lamps fell on a tiger, which, dazzled and bewildered by the on-coming glare, crouched snarling in the middle of the highway. There was no time to stop the car, and, as the jungle came to the very edge of the narrow road, there was no way to avoid the animal, which, just as the car was upon it, gathered itself and sprang. It landed on the hood with all four feet, its snarling face so close to the men that they could feel its breath. The American, thrusting the muzzle of his weapon into the furry neck of the great cat, let go with both barrels, blowing away the beast's throat and jugular vein and killing it instantly. With the aid of his badly frightened driver, he bundled the great striped carcass into the tonneau of the car and imperturbably continued on his bird-shooting [259]expedition. Some people seem to have a monopoly of luck.

Though Saigon and Pnom-Penh do not possess the facilities for equipping shooting expeditions afforded by Mombasa or Nairobi, and though in Indo-China there are no professional European guides, such as the late Major Cunninghame; the elaborate and costly outfits customary in East Africa, with their mile-long trains of bearers, are as unnecessary as they are unknown. The arrangements for a tiger hunt in Indo-China are scarcely more elaborate and certainly no more expensive, than for a moose hunt in Maine. A dependable native shikari who knows the country, a cook, half-a-dozen coolies, a sturdy riding-pony, two or three pack-animals, a tent and food, that is all you need. With such an outfit, particularly in a region so thick with game as, say, the Dalat Plateau, in Annam, the hunter should get a shot at a tiger before he has been forty-eight hours in the bush. In a clearing in a jungle known to be frequented by tigers, the carcass of a bullock, or, if that is unavailable, of a pig, is fastened securely to a stake and left there until it smells to high heaven. When its odor is of sufficient potency to reach the nostrils of the tiger, the hunter takes up his position in the edge of the clearing, or on a platform built in a tree if he believes in Safety First. For investigating the kill the tiger usually chooses the dimness of the early dawn or the semi-darkness which precedes nightfall. With no warning save a faint rustle in the undergrowth a lean and tawny form slithers on padded [260]feet across the open—and the man behind the rifle has his chance. I have found, however, that even in tiger lands, tigers are by no means as plentiful as one's imagination paints them at home. It is easy to be a big-game hunter on the hearth-rug.

Pnom-Penh, the capital of Cambodia, stands on the west bank of the mighty Mekong, one hundred and seventy miles from the sea. Pnom, meaning "mountain," refers to the hill, or mound, ninety feet high, in the heart of the city; Penh was the name of a celebrated Cambodian queen. Until twenty years ago Pnom-Penh was a filthy and unsanitary native town, its streets ankle-deep with dust during the dry season and ankle-deep with mud during the rains. But with the coming of the French the flimsy, vermin-infested houses were torn down, the hog-wallows which served as thoroughfares were transformed into broad and well-paved avenues shaded by double rows of handsome trees, and the city was provided with lighting and water systems. The old-fashioned open water sewers still remain, however, lending to the place, a rich, ripe odor. Pnom-Penh possesses a spacious and well ventilated motion-picture house, where Charlie Chaplin known to the French as "Charlot" and Fatty Arbuckle convulse the simple children of the jungle just as they convulse more sophisticated assemblages on the other side of the globe.

But all that is most worth seeing in Pnom-Penh is cloistered within the mysterious walls of vivid pink which surround the Royal Palace. Here is the [261]residence of His Majesty Prea Bat Samdach Prea Sisowath, King of Cambodia; here dwell the twelve score dancing-girls of the famous royal ballet and the hundreds of concubines and attendants comprising the royal harem; here are the stables of the royal elephants and the sacred zebus; here a congeries of palaces, pavilions, throne halls, dance halls, temples, shrines, kiosks, monuments, courtyards, and gardens the like of which is not to be found outside the covers of The Thousand and One Nights. It is an architectural extravaganza, a bacchanalia of color and design, as fantastic and unreal as the city of a dream. The steep-pitched, curiously shaped roofs are covered with tiles of every color—peacock blue, vermilion, turquoise, emerald green, burnt orange; no inch of exposed woodwork has escaped the carver's cunning chisel; everywhere gold has been laid on with a spendthrift hand. And in this marvelous setting strut or stroll figures that might have stepped straight from the stage of Sumurun—fantastically garbed functionaries of the Household, shaven-headed priests in yellow robes, pompous mandarins in sweeping silken garments, bejeweled and bepainted dancing-girls. It is not real, you feel. It is too gorgeous, too bizarre. It is the work of stage-carpenters and scene-painters and costumers, and you are quite certain that the curtain will descend presently and that you will have to put on your hat and go home.

From the center of the great central court rises the famous Silver Pagoda. It takes its name from its [262]floor, thirty-six feet wide and one hundred and twenty long, which is covered with pure silver. When the sun's rays seep through the interstices of the carving it leaps into a brilliancy that is blinding. On the high walls of the room are depicted in startling colors, scenes from the life of Buddha and realistic glimpses of hell, for your Cambodian artist is at his best in portraying scenes of horror. The mural decorations of the Silver Pagoda would win the unqualified approval of an oldtime fire-and-brimstone preacher. Rearing itself roofward from the center of the room is an enormous pyramidal altar, littered with a heterogeneous collection of offerings from the devout. At its apex is a so-called Emerald Buddha—probably, like its fellow in Bangkok, of translucent jade—which is the guardian spirit of the place. But at one side of the altar stands the chief treasure of the temple—a great golden Buddha set with diamonds. The value of the gold alone is estimated at not far from three-quarters of a million dollars; at the value of the jewels one can only guess. It was made by the order of King Norodom, the brother and predecessor of the present ruler, the whole amazing edifice, indeed, being a monument into which that monarch poured his wealth and ambition. Ranged about the altar are glass cases containing the royal treasures—rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds of a size and in a profusion which makes it difficult to realize that they are genuine. It is a veritable cave of Al-ed-Din. The covers of these cases are sealed with [263]strips of paper bearing the royal cypher—nothing more. They have never been locked nor guarded, yet nothing has ever been stolen, for King Sisowath is to his subjects something more than a ruler; he is venerated as the representative of God on earth. For a Cambodian to steal from him would be as unthinkable a sacrilege as for a Roman Catholic to burglarize the apartments of the Pope. And should their religious scruples show signs of yielding to temptation, why, there are the paintings on the walls to warn them of the torments awaiting them in the hereafter. It struck me, however, that the Silver Pagoda offers a golden, not to say a jeweled opportunity to an enterprising American burglar.

On the south side of the courtyard containing the Silver Pagoda is a relic far more precious in the eyes of the natives, however, than all the royal treasures put together—a footprint of Buddha. It was left, so the priests who guard it night and day reverently explain, by the founder of their faith when he paid a flying visit to Cambodia. Over the footprint has been erected a shrine with a floor of solid gold. Buddha did not do as well by Cambodia as by Ceylon, however, for whereas at Pnom-Penh he left the imprint of his foot, at Kandy he left a tooth. I know, for I have seen it.

In an adjacent courtyard is the Throne Hall, a fine example of Cambodian architecture, the gorgeous throne of the monarch standing on a dais in the center of a lofty apartment decorated in gold and green. Close by is the Salle des Fêtes, or Dance Hall, a [264]modern French structure, where the royal ballet gives its performances. Ever since there have been kings in Cambodia each monarch has chosen from the daughters of the upper classes two hundred and forty showgirls and has had them trained for dancing. These girls, many of whom are brought to the palace by their parents when small children and offered to the King, eventually enter the monarch's harem as concubines. Admission to the royal ballet is to a Cambodian maiden what a position in the Ziegfeld Follies is to a Broadway chorus girl. It is the blue ribbon of female pulchritude. Unlike Mr. Ziegfeld's carefully selected beauties, however, who frequently find the stage a stepping-stone to independence and a limousine, the Cambodian show-girl, once she enters the service of the King, becomes to all intents and purposes a prisoner. And Sisowath, for all his eighty-odd years, is a jealous master. Never again can she stroll with her lover in the fragrant twilight on the palm-fringed banks of the Mekong. Never again can she leave the precincts of the palace, save to accompany the King. The bars behind which she dwells are of gold, it is true, but they are bars just the same.

When I broached to the French Resident-Superior, who is the real ruler of Cambodia, the subject of taking motion-pictures within the royal enclosure, he was anything but encouraging.

"I'm afraid it's quite impossible," he told me. "The King is at his summer palace at Kampot, where he will remain for several weeks. Without his permission [265]nothing can be done. Moreover, the royal ballet, which is the most interesting sight in Cambodia, is never under any circumstances permitted to dance during his Majesty's absence."

"But why not telegraph the King?" I suggested, though with waning hope. "Or get him on the telephone. Tell him how much the pictures would do to acquaint the American public with the attractions of his country; explain to him that they would bring here hundreds of visitors who otherwise would never know that there is such a place as Pnom-Penh. More than that," I added diplomatically, "they would undoubtedly wake up American capitalists to a realization of Cambodia's natural resources. That's what you particularly want here, isn't it—foreign capital?"

That argument seemed to impress the shrewd and far-seeing Frenchman.

"Perhaps something can be done, after all," he told me. "I will send for the Minister of the Royal Household and ask him if he can communicate with the King. As soon as I learn something definite, you will hear from me."

The second day following I received a call from the chief of the political bureau.

"Everything has been arranged as you desired," was the cheering news with which he greeted me. "The défilé will take place in the grounds of the palace tomorrow morning. Already the necessary orders have been issued. Thirty elephants with their state housings; eighty ceremonial cars drawn by sacred bullocks; [266]the royal body-guard in full uniform; a delegation of mandarins in court-dress; a hundred Buddhist priests attached to the royal temple; and, moreover, his Majesty has granted special permission an unheard-of thing, let me tell you!—for the royal ballet to give a performance expressly for you to-morrow afternoon on the terrace of the throne-hall. It will be a marvelous spectacle."

"Bully!" I exclaimed. "Won't you have a drink?"

"There is one thing I forgot to mention," the official remarked hesitatingly, as he sipped the gin sling which is the favorite drink of the tropics. "There will be a small charge for expenses—tips, you know, for the palace officials."

"Oh, that's all right," I replied lightly. "How much will the tips amount to?"

"Only about two hundred piastres," was the somewhat startling answer, for, at the then current rate of exchange a piastre was worth about $1.50 gold. "The resident will pay half of it, however, as he believes that the pictures will prove of great value to the country."

Yet most people think that tipping has reached its apogee in the United States!

elephants leading a pageant

Photo by the Goldwyn-Bray-Powell Malaysian Expedition

 

The head of the pageant approaching the camera in the palace at Pnom-Penh

When we entered the gate of the palace the next morning, I felt as though I had been translated to the days of Haroun-al-Raschid, for the vast courtyard, flanked on all sides by marble buildings with tiled roofs of cobalt blue, of emerald green, of red, of brilliant yellow, was literally crowded with elephants, [267]bullocks, horses, chariots, palanquins, soldiers, priests, and officials all the pomp and panoply of an Asiatic court, in short. Though close examination revealed the gold as gilt and the jewels as colored glass, the general effect was undeniably gorgeous. In spite of the brilliance of the scene, Hawkinson was as blasé as ever. He issued orders to the Minister of the Household as though he were directing a Pullman porter.

"Have those elephants come on in double file," he commanded. "Then follow 'em with the bullock-carts and the palanquins. I'll shoot the priests and the mandarins later."

"But the priests must be taken at once," the minister protested. "They have been waiting a long time, and they are already late for the morning service in the royal temple."

"Well, they'll have to wait still longer," was the unruffled answer. "Tell them not to get impatient. I'll get round to them as soon as I finish with the animals. Think what it will mean to them to have their pictures shown on the same screen with Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford! I know lots of people who would be willing to wait a year for such a chance."

Just then there approached across the courtyard a trio of youths in white uniforms and gold-laced képis, their breasts ablaze with decorations. At sight of them the minister doubled himself in the middle like a jack-knife. They were, it appeared, some of the royal princes—sons of the King.

[268]There ensued a brief colloquy between the minister and the eldest of the princes, the conversation evidently relating, as I gathered from the gestures, to the Lovely Lady and the Winsome Widow, who at the moment were delightedly engaged in feeding candies to a baby elephant.

"His Highness wishes to know," the minister interpreted, "when the ladies of your company are to appear. His Highness is a great admirer of American actresses; he saw your most famous one, Mademoiselle Theda Bara, at a cinema in Singapore."

It seemed a thousand pities to destroy the prince's delusion.

"Tell his Highness," I said, "that the ladies will not act in this picture. They only play comedy parts."

The princes received the news with open disappointment. If the Lovely Lady and the Winsome Widow had only consented to appear on the back of an elephant, or even in a palanquin, I imagine that they might have received a mark of the royal favor in the form of a Cambodian decoration. It is a gorgeous affair and is called, with great appropriateness, the "Order of a Million Elephants and Parasols."

dancing girls

Photo by the Goldwyn-Bray-Powell Malaysian Expedition

 

Dancing girls belonging to the royal ballet of the King of Cambodia

The dancers ranged in age from twelve to fifteen. The costumes were wonderful creations of cloth-of-gold heavily embroidered with jewels

That afternoon, on the broad marble terrace of the throne-hall, which had been covered with a scarlet carpet for the occasion, the royal ballet gave a special performance for our benefit. The dancers were much younger than I had anticipated, ranging in age from twelve to fifteen. Dancing has ever been a great institution in Cambodia, the dances, which have behind [269]them traditions of two thousand years, being illustrative of incidents in the poem of the Râmâyana and adhering faithfully to the classical examples which are depicted on the walls of the great temple at Angkor, such as the dancing of the goddess Apsaras, her gestures, and her dress. The costumes worn by the dancing-girls were the most gorgeous that we saw in Asia: wonderful creations of cloth-of-gold heavily embroidered with jewels. Most of the dancers wore towering, pointed head-dresses, similar to the historic crowns of the Cambodian kings, though a few of them wore masks, one representing the head of a fox, another a fish, a third a lion, which could be raised or lowered, like the visors of medieval helmets. The faces of all of the dancers were so heavily coated with powder and enamel that they would have been cracked by a smile. It was a performance which would have astonished and delighted the most blasé audience on Broadway, but there in the heart of Cambodia, with the terrace of a throne-hall for a stage, with palaces, temples, and pagodas for a setting, with a blazing tropic sun for a spot-light, and with actors and audience clad in costumes as curious and colorful as those worn at the court of the Queen of Sheba, it provided a spectacle which we who were privileged to see it will remember always. What a pity that Cap'n Bryant was not alive so that I might sit on the steps of his Mattapoisett cottage and tell him all about it.


[270]

CHAPTER XII
EXILES OF THE OUTLANDS

From Pnom-Penh, the capital of Cambodia, to Saigon, the capital of Cochin-China, is in the neighborhood of two hundred miles and two routes are open to the traveler. The most comfortable and considerably the cheapest is by the bi-weekly steamer down the Mekong. The alternative route, which is far more interesting, consists in descending the river to Banam, a village some twenty miles below Pnom-Penh, on the opposite bank of the Mekong, where, if a car has been arranged for, it is possible to motor across the fertile plains of Cochin-China to Saigon in a single day. That was the way that we went.

Though separated only by the Mekong, that mighty waterway which, rising in the mountains of Tibet, bisects the whole peninsula, Cochin-China is as dissimilar from Cambodia as the ordered farmlands of Ohio are from the Florida Everglades. In Cambodia, stretches of sand covered with low, scraggy, discouraged-looking scrub alternate with tangled and impenetrable jungles. It is a savage, untamed land. Cochin-China, on the other hand, is one great sweep of plain, green with growing rice and dotted with the bamboo poles of well-sweeps, for water can be found everywhere at thirty [271]to forty feet. These striking contrasts in contiguous states are due in some measure, no doubt, to differences in their soils and climates and to the industry of their inhabitants, but more largely, I imagine, to the fact that while the Frenchman has been at work in Cochin-China for upwards of sixty years, Cambodia is still on the frontier of civilization.

The roads which the French have built in Indo-China deserve a paragraph of mention, for, barring the rivers and the three short unconnected sections of railway on the East coast of the peninsula, they form the country's only means of communication. The national highways consist of two great systems. The Route Coloniale, which was the one I followed, has its beginning at Kep, on the Gulf of Siam, runs north-eastward through the jungles of Cambodia to Pnom-Penh, and, recommencing at Banam, swings southward across the Cochin-China plain to Saigon. The Route Mandarine, beginning at Saigon, hugs the shores of the China Sea and, after traversing twelve hundred miles of jungle, forest and mountain land in Annam and Tongking, comes to an end at Hanoi, the capital of Indo-China. The entire length of the Route Mandarine may now be traversed by auto-bus—an excellent way to see the country provided you are inured to fatigue, do not mind the heat, and are not over-particular as to your fellow passengers. A motor car is, of course, more comfortable and more expensive; a small one can be rented for ninety dollars a day.

Nowhere has the colonizing white man encountered [272]greater obstacles than those which have confronted the French road-builders in Indo-China; nowhere has Nature turned toward him a sterner and more forbidding face. But, though their coolies have died by the thousands from cholera and fever, though their laboriously constructed bridges have been swept away in a night by rivers swollen from the torrential rains, though the fast-growing jungle persistently encroaches on the hard-won right-of-way, though they have had to combat savage beasts and still more savage men, they have prosecuted with indomitable courage and tenacity the task of building a road "to Tomorrow from the Land of Yesterday."

Saigon, the capital of Cochin-China and the most important place in France's Asiatic possessions, is a European city set down on the edge of Asia. So far as its appearance goes, it might be on the Seine instead of the Saigon. The original town was burned by the French during the fighting by which they obtained possession of the place and they rebuilt it on European lines, with boulevards, shops, cafés, a Hôtel de Ville, a Théâtre Municipal, a Musée, a Jardin Botanique, all complete. The general plan of the city, with its regular streets and intersecting boulevards, has evidently been modeled on that of the French capital and the Saigonnese proudly speak of it as "the Paris of the East." In certain respects this is taking a considerable liberty with the truth, but they are very lonely and homesick and one does not blame them. Most of the streets, which are [273]paved after a fashion, are lined with tamarinds, thus providing the shade so imperatively necessary where the mercury hovers between 90 and 110, winter and summer, day and night. At almost every street intersection stands a statue of some one who bore a hand in the conquest of the country, from the cassocked figure of Pigneau de Behaine, Bishop of Adran, the first French missionary to Indo-China, to the effigy of the dashing Admiral Rigault de Genouilly, flanked by charging marines, who took Saigon for France.

The most characteristic feature of Saigon is its café life. During the heat of the day the Europeans keep within doors, but toward nightfall they all come out and, gathering about the little tables which crowd the sidewalks before the cafés in the Boulevard Bonnard and the Rue Catinat, they gossip and sip their absinthes and smoke numberless cigarettes and mop their florid faces and argue noisily and with much gesticulation over the news in the Courrier de Saigon or the six-weeks-old Figaro and Le Temps which arrive fortnightly by the mail-boat from France. They wear stiffly starched white linen—though the jackets are all too often left unfastened at the neck—and enormous mushroom-shaped topées which come down almost to their shoulders and are many sizes too large for them, and they consume vast quantities of drink, the evening usually ending in a series of violent altercations. When the disputants take to backing up their arguments with blows from canes and bottles, the café proprietor unceremoniously bundles them into [274]pousse-pousses, as rickshaws are called in Saigon, and sends them home.

Along the Rue Catinat in the evenings saunters a picturesque and colorful procession—haggard, slovenly officers of the troupes coloniales and of the Foreign Legion, the rows of parti-colored ribbons on their breasts telling of service in little wars in the world's forgotten corners; dreary, white-faced Government employees, their cheeks gaunt from fever, their eyes bloodshot from heavy drinking; sun-bronzed, swaggering, loud-voiced rubber planters in riding breeches and double Terais, down from their plantations in the far interior for a periodic spree; women gowned in the height of Paris fashion, but with too pink cheeks and too red lips and too ready smiles for strangers, equally at home on the Bund of Shanghai or the boulevards of Paris; shaven-headed Hindu money-lenders from British India, the lengths of cotton sheeting which form their only garments revealing bodies as hairy and repulsive as those of apes; barefooted Annamite tirailleurs in uniforms of faded khaki, their great round hats of woven straw tipped with brass spikes like those on German helmets; slender Chinese women, tripping by on tiny, thick-soled shoes in pajama-like coats and trousers of clinging, sleazy silk; naked pousse-pousse coolies, streaming with sweat, graceful as the bronzes in a museum; friars of the religious orders in shovel-hats and linen robes; sailors of the fleet and of the merchant vessels in the harbor, swaggering along with the roll of the sea in their gait; Armenian peddlers with [275]piles of rugs and embroideries slung across their shoulders; Arabs, Indians, Malays, Cambodians, Laos, Siamese, Burmese, Chinese, world without end, Amen.

But, beneath it all, a paralysis is on everything—the paralysis of the excessive administration with which the French have ruined Indo-China. There are too many people in front of the cafés and too few in the offices and shops. There is too much drinking and too little work. The officials are alternately melancholy and overbearing; the natives cringing and sullen. It is not a wholesome atmosphere. Corruption, if not universal, is appallingly common. Foreigners engaged in business in Saigon told me that it is necessary to "grease the palms" of everyone who holds a Government position. As a result of this practise, officials who are poor men when they arrive in the colony retire after four or five years' service with comfortable fortunes—and France does not pay her public servants highly either. And there are other vices. The manager of a great American corporation doing business in Saigon told me that ninety per cent of the city's European population are confirmed users of opium. And, judging from their unhealthy pallor and lacklustre eyes, I can well believe it. But what else could you expect in a country where the drug is sold to anyone who has money to pay for it; where it is one of the Government's chief sources of revenue?

On the native population the hand of the French lies heavily. In 1916 there was an attempted jail delivery of political prisoners in Saigon, but the plot was [276]discovered before it could be put into execution, the ring-leaders arrested, and thirty-eight of them condemned to death. They were executed in batches of four, kneeling, blind-folded, lashed to stakes. The firing party consisted of a platoon of Annamite tirailleurs. Behind them, with machine guns trained, was drawn up a battalion of French infantry. The occasion was celebrated in Saigon as a public holiday, hundreds of Frenchmen, accompanied by their wives and children, driving out to see the sight. The next day picture postcards of the execution were hawked about the streets. But the authorities in Paris evidently disapproved of the proceeding, for the governor of the colony and the commander of the military forces were promptly recalled in disgrace. The terrible object-lesson doubtless had the desired effect, for the natives cringe like whipped dogs when a Frenchman speaks to them. But there is that in their manner which bodes ill for their masters if a crisis ever arises in Indo-China. I should not like to see our own brown wards, the Filipinos, look at Americans with the murderous hate with which the Annamites regard the French. In Africa, by moderation and tolerance and justice, France has built up a mighty colonial empire whose inhabitants are as loyal and contented as though they had been born under the Tricolor. But in far-off Indo-China French administration seems, even to as staunch a friend of France as myself, to be very far from an unqualified success.

During the ten days that I spent in Saigon I stayed [277]at the Hôtel Continental. I shall remember it as the place where they charged a dollar and a half for a highball and fifty cents for a lemonade. It was insufferably hot. I can sympathize now with the recalcitrant convict who is punished by being sent to the sweat-box. Battalions of ferocious mosquitoes launched their assaults against my unprotected person with the persistence that the Germans displayed at Verdun. In the next room the tenor of the itinerant grand opera company that was giving a series of performances at the Théâtre Municipal squabbled unceasingly with his woman companion. Both were generally much the worse for drink. One particularly sultry afternoon, when the whole world seemed like the steam room of a Turkish bath, their voices rose to an unprecedented pitch of violence. Through the thin panels of the door came the sound of scuffling feet. Some heavy article of furniture went over with a crash. Then came the thud of a falling body.

"Thou accurst one!" I heard the tenor groan. Then "Help me!... I'm dying!"

"She's done it now!" I exclaimed, springing from my bed.

"Are you stifling with blood?" the woman hissed, fierce exultation in her tone.

"Help me!... I'm dying!" moaned the man. "And done to death by a woman!"

It was murder—no doubt about that. Clad only in my pajamas though I was, I prepared to throw myself against the door.

[278]"Die, thou accurst one! Perish!" shrieked the woman.

I was on the point of bursting into the room when I was arrested by the sound of the tenor's voice speaking in normal tones. There followed a woman's laugh. I paused to listen. It was well that I did so. They were rehearsing for the evening's performance the murder scene from La Tosca!

On another occasion, long after midnight, I was aroused from sleep by a terrific racket which suddenly burst forth in the streets below. I heard the crash of splintering bottles followed by the steps of the native gendarmes beating a hasty retreat. Then, from throats that spoke my own tongue, rose the rollicking words of a long-familiar chorus:

"I was drunk last night, I was drunk the night before, I'll get drunk tomorrow night If I never get drunk any more; For when I'm drunk I'm as happy as can be, For I am a member of the Souse Fam-i-lee!"

Leaning from my casement, I hailed a passing Frenchman.

"Who are they?" I asked him.

"Les touristes Americains sont arrivés, M'sieu," he answered dryly.

By the light of the street-lamps as he turned away I could see him shrug his shoulders.

Thinking it over, it struck me that I had been overharsh in my judgment of the homesick exiles who in [279]this far corner of the earth are clinching the rivets of France's colonial empire.

The next morning I set sail from Saigon for China. Leaving the mouth of the river in our wake, we rounded the mighty promontory of Cap St. Jacques and headed for the open sea. The palm-fringed shore line of Cochin-China dropped away; the blue mountains of Annam turned pale and ghostly in the evening mists. A sun-scorched, pestilential land.... I was glad to leave it. But already I am longing to return. I want once more to sit at a café table beneath the awnings of the Rue Catinat, before me a tall glass with ice tinkling in it. I want to hear the pousse-pousse coolies padding softly by in the gathering twilight. I want to see the little Annamite women in their sleazy silken garments and the boisterous, swaggering legionnaires in their white helmets. I want to stroll once more beneath the tamarinds beside the Mekong, to smell the odors of the hot lands, to hear again the throbbing of the tom-toms and the soft music of the wind-blown temple bells. For

"When you've 'eard the East a-callin' You won't never 'eed naught else."



				

				

				

				

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