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Hugh Charles Clifford.

In court & kampong; being tales & sketches of native life in the Malay peninsula online

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life, and the want of any substitutes for them, eat into
the heart and brain of him as a corrosive acid eats into
iron. He longs for the fellowship of his own people
with an exceeding great longing, till it becomes a
burden too grievous to bear ; he yearns to find com-
radeship among the people of the land, but he knows
not yet the manner by which their confidence may be
won, and they, on their side, know him for a stranger
within their gates, view him with keen suspicion, and
hold him at arm's length. His ideas, his prejudices,



UP COUNTRT 249

his modes of thought, his views on every conceivable
subject differ too widely from their own, for immediate
sympathy to be possible between him and them. His
habits are the habits of a white man, and many little
things, to which he has not yet learned to attach im-
portance, are as revolting to the natives, as the pleasant
custom of spitting on the carpet, which some old-world
Rajas still affect, is to Europeans. His manners, too,
from the native point of view, are as bad as his habits
are unclean. He is respected for his wisdom, hated
for his airs of superiority, pitied for his ignorance of
many things, feared for what he represents, laughed
at for his eccentric habits and customs, despised for his
infidelity to the Faith, abhorred for his want of beauty,
according to native standards of taste, and loved not at
all. The men disguise their feelings, skilfully as only
Orientals can, but the women and the little children do
not scruple to show what their sentiments really are.
When he goes abroad, the old women snarl at him
as he passes, and spit ostentatiously, after the native
manner when some unclean thing is at hand. The
mothers snatch up their little ones and carry them
hurriedly away, casting a look of hate and fear over
their shoulders as they run. The children scream and
yell, clutch their mothers' garments, or trip and fall,
howling dismally the while, in their frantic efforts to
fly his presence. He is Frankenstein's monster, yearn-
ing for love and fellowship with his kind, longing to
feel the hand of a friend in his, and yet knowing, by
the unmistakable signs which a sight of him causes,
that he is indescribably repulsive to the people among
whom he lives. Add to all this that he is cut off from



250 IN COURT AND KAMPONG

all the things which, to educated Europeans, make
life lovely, and you will realise that his is indeed a
sorry case. The privations of the body, if he has
sufficient grit to justify his existence, count for little.
He can live on any kind of food, sleep on the hardest
of hard mats, or on the bare ground, with his head
and feet in a puddle, if needs must. He can turn
night into day, and sleep through the sunlight, or sleep
not at all, as the case may be, if any useful purpose is
to be served thereby. These are not things to trouble
him, though the fleshpots of Egypt are very good
when duty allows him to turn his back for a space
upon the desert. Privations all these things are called
in ordinary parlance, but they are of little moment,
and are good for his liver. The real privations are of
quite another sort. He never hears music ; never sees
a lovely picture ; never joins in the talk and listens
lovingly to conversation which strikes the answering
sparks from his sodden brain. Above all, he never
encounters the softening influence of the society of
ladies of his own race. His few books are for a while
his companions, but he reads them through and through,
and cons them o'er and o'er, till the best sayings of
the best authors ring flat on his sated ears like the
echo of a twice-told tale. He has not yet learned that
there is a great and marvellous book lying beneath his
hand, a book in which all may read if they find but
the means of opening the clasp which locks it, a book
in which a man may read for years and never know
satiety, which, though older than the hills, is ever
new, and which, though studied for a lifetime, is
never exhausted, and is never completely understood.



UP COUNTRT 251

This knowledge comes later ; and it is then that the
Chapter of the Great Book of Human Nature, which
deals with natives, engrosses his attention and, touching
the grayness of his life, like the rising sun, turns it
into gold and purple.

Many other things he has to endure. Educated
white men have inherited an infinite capacity for feel-
ing bored ; and a hot climate, which fries us all over a
slow fire, grills boredom into irritability. The study
of oriental human nature requires endless patience ;
and this is the hardest virtue for a young, energetic
white man, with the irritable brain of his race, to
acquire. Without it life is a misery for

It is not good for the Christian's health

To hurry the Aryan brown,
For the Christian riles and the Aryan smiles,

And he weareth the Christian down ;
And the end of that fight is a tombstone white,

With the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph clear, A fool lies here

Who tried to hustle the East.

Then gradually, very gradually, and by how slow
degrees he shudders in after days to recall, a change
comes o'er the spirit of his nightmare. Almost uncon-
sciously, he begins to perceive that he is sundered from
the people of the land by a gulf which they can never
hope to bridge over. If he is ever to gain their con-
fidence the work must be of his own doing. They
cannot come up to this level, he must go down to the
plains in which they dwell. He must put off many
of the things of the white man, must forget his airs of



252 IN COURT AND KAMPONG

superiority, and must be content to be merely a native
Chief among natives. His pride rebels, his prejudices
cry out and will not be silenced, he knows that he will
be misunderstood by his race-mates, should they see
him among the people of his adoption, but the aching
solitude beats down one and all of these things ; and,
like that eminently sensible man, the Prophet Muham-
mad, he gets him to the Mountain, since it is
immovable and will not come to him.

Then begins a new life. He must start by learning
the language of his fellows, as perfectly as it is given
to a stranger to learn it. That is but the first step in
a long and often a weary march. Next, he must
study, with the eagerness of Browning's Grammarian,
every native custom, every native conventionality,
every one of the ten thousand ceremonial observances
to which natives attach so vast an importance. He
must grow to understand each one of the hints and
doubles ententes^ of which Malays make such frequent
use, every little mannerism, sign and token, and, most
difficult of all, every motion of the hearts, and every
turn of thought, of those whom he is beginning to call
his own people. He must become conscious of native
Public Opinion, which is often diametrically opposed
to the opinion of his race-mates on one and the
same subject. He must be able to unerringly pre-
dict how the slightest of his actions will be regarded
by the natives, and he must shape his course accord-
ingly, if he is to maintain his influence with them,
and to win their sympathy and their confidence. He
must be able to place himself in imagination in all
manner of unlikely places, and thence to instinctively



UP COUNTRT 253

feel the native Point of View. That is really the
whole secret of governing natives. A quick per-
ception of their Point of View, under all conceivable
circumstances, a rapid process by which a European
places himself in the position of the native, with whom
he is dealing, an instinctive and instantaneous appre-
hension of the precise manner in which he will be
affected, and a clear vision of the man, his feelings, his
surroundings, his hopes, his desires, and his sorrows,
these, and these alone, mean that complete sympathy,
without which the white man among Malays, is but as
a sounding brass and as a tinkling cymbal.

It does not all come at once. Months, perhaps
years, pass before the exile begins to feel that he is
getting any grip upon the natives, and even when he
thinks that he knows as much about them as is good
for any man, the oriental soul shakes itself in its brown
casing, and comes out in some totally unexpected and
unlooked-for place, to his no small mortification and
discouragement. But, when he has got thus far, dis-
couragement matters little, for he has become bitten
with the love of his discoveries, and he can no more
quit them than the dipsomaniac can abandon the
drams which are killing him.

Then he gets deep into a groove and is happy.
His fingers are between the leaves of the Book of
Human Nature, and his eager eyes are scanning the
lines of the chapter which in time he hopes to make
his own. The advent of another white man is a
weariness of the flesh. The natives about him have
learned to look upon him as one of their own people.
His speech is their speech, he can think as they do,



254 IN COURT ^ND KAMPQNG

can feel as they feel, rejoice in their joys, and sorrow
in their pains. He can tell them wonderful things,
and a philosophy of which they had not dreamed. He
never offends their susceptibilities, never wounds their
self-respect, never sins against their numerous con-
ventionalities. He has feasted with them at their
weddings, doctored their pains, healed their sick, pro-
tected them from oppression, stood their friend in time
of need, done them a thousand kindnesses, and has
helped their dying through the strait and awful pass of
death. Above all, he understands^ and, in a manner,
they love him. A new white man, speaking to him
in an unknown tongue, seems to lift him for the time
out of their lives. The stranger jars on the natives,
who are the exile's people, and he, looking through
the native eyes which are no longer strange to him,
sees where his race-mate offends, and in his turn is
jarred, until he begins to hate his own countrymen.
Coming out of the groove hurts badly, and going back
into it is almost worse, but when a man is once well
set in the rut of native life, these do not disturb him,
for he is happy, and has no need of other and higher
things. This is the exile's Heaven.

As years go on the up-country life of which I
write will become less and less common in this
Peninsula of ours, and the Malays will be governed
wholly by men, who, never having lived their lives,
cannot expect to have more than a surface knowledge
of the people whose destinies are in their hands. The
Native States will, I fancy, be none the better governed,
and those who rule them will miss much which has
tended to widen the lives of the men who came before



UP COUNTRT 255

them, and who dwelt among the people while they
were still as God made them.

And those who led these lives ? The years will dim
the memories of all they once learned and knew and
experienced ; and as they indite the caustic minute to
the suffering subordinate, and strangle with swaddlings
of red-tape the tender babe of prosperity, they will
perchance look back with wonder at the men they
once were, and thinking of their experiences in the
days of long ago will marvel that each one of them as
he left the desert experienced the pang of Chillon's
prisoner :

Even I
Regained my freedom with a sigh.

L'ENVOI

By the green shade of the palm trees,

Where the river flows along
To be wedded to the calm seas,

Dwell the people of my song.
With a languid step they wander

Thro' the forest or the grove,
And with listless eyes they ponder

On the glories poets love.
They have little joy in beauty,

Little joy in virtue high, ^,

Honour, mercy, truth, and duty,

Or the creeds for which men die.
But their lives are calm and peaceful,

And they ask for nothing more
Save some happy, listless, easeful

Years, and peace from strife and war.



256 IN COURT AND K AM PONG

Tales I tell of women wailing,

Cruel wrong and bitter strife,
Shrieking souls that pass, and quailing

Hearts that shrink beneath the knife.
Tales I tell of evil passions,

Men that suffer, men that slay,
All the tragedy that fashions

Life and death for such as they.
Yet these things are but as fleeting

Shadows, that more lightly pass
Than the sunlight, which retreating

Leaves no stain upon the grass.
O my friends ! I judge ye lightly,

Listen to the tales I tell.
Answer, have I spoken rightly ?

Judge me, have I loved ye well ?



THE END



Printed by R. R. CLARK, LIMITED, Edinburgh.



BY THE SAME AUTHOR.

" SINCE THE BEGINNING." A Tale of an Eastern
Land. Crown 8vo, Cloth. 6s.

The Sun. " The author deals skilfully with a people still un-
civilised, still swayed by primeval passions. His characters are well
defined, and the tragedy which underlies the lives of the three
principals is poignant and impressive by reason of his simple
directness."

St. James's Gazette. " Mr. Hugh Clifford's knowledge of Malay
life and of the Malay land is undoubtedly great, and makes his story
' Since the Beginning ' very interesting."

Daily Chronicle. "Those who read the story will learn a good
deal and learn it pleasantly of the Malay Peninsula, its inhabitants,
their customs and their manners."

Pall Mall Gazette. " Altogether a book of quite unusual ability,
displaying exceptional powers of observation and description."

Scotsman. "The story is powerfully told."
Academy. "A very careful interpretation of Malayan life and
character."

STUDIES IN BROWN HUMANITY. Crown
8vo, Cloth. 6s.

Guardian. " His new book is quite as entertaining and thrilling
as his last. Mr. Clifford's Malay friends have in no way lost their
interest."

Daily News. "These vivid and powerful pictures of the wild life
of the Malayan Peninsula are of the deepest interest."

Morning Post. " Mr. Clifford approaches his subject with the
sympathy inspired by a country which he ' knows intimately ' that is
' very dear to him,' and the scene of the best years of his life. His
descriptive powers are considerable, his pictures accurate and full of
colour."

The World. " He draws further upon his memory for sketches of
Eastern life, of which the vigour and colour may be compared with
those of Mr. Kipling himself . . . His pages ' palpitate with
actuality,' if we may use a slang phrase of the day ; not one of them
is dull."'

Pall Mall Gazette. " Mr. Clifford is a born artist, who
scrupulously draws the thing as he sees it."



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THE UMBRIAN TOWNS. By J. W. and A. M.
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48 LEICESTER SQUARE, LONDON, W.C.



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Online LibraryHugh Charles CliffordIn court & kampong; being tales & sketches of native life in the Malay peninsula → online text (page 17 of 17)