Hugh Charles Clifford.

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

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lie less softly, experience less change, and are chiefly
occupied in supporting themselves and their families.
They rise early, work or idle through the day, and go


to bed very soon after dark. Their lives are entirely
monotonous, dull, and uneventful, but the knowledge
of other and better things is not for them, and they
live contentedly the only life of which they have any
experience. They can rarely afford to support more
than one wife, and, as they love their little ones dearly,
they often live with the same woman all the days of
her life, since divorce entails some degree of separation
from the children.

Down country things are different. The gossip of
the Court, the tales of brave deeds, the learned dis-
cussions, or the rough sports add an interest to life,
which is not to be experienced by the dwellers in the far
interior. The number of unmarried women within
the palace causes the youths of the town to plunge
wildly into intrigues, for which they often have to pay
a heavy price, but which always instil an element of
romance into their lives. This, of course, is the merest
sketch, for no real study of the people can be attempted
in a work written on such unscientific lines as the
present, and the reader supposing such a problematical
person to exist must form his own picture of my
Malay friends from the stories which I shall have to
tell in future pages. It is only too probable that I
shall fail to give any real idea of the people of whom I
write, to any save those who are already able to fill in
the omissions for themselves, and who, therefore, know
as much about Malays as is good for any man ; but, if
I fail, it will be because I lack the skill to depict with
vividness the lives of those whom I know intimately,
and whom, in spite of all their faults, and foibles, and
ignorance, and queer ways, I love exceedingly.


I've spent my life in war and strife,

And now I'm waxing old j
I've planned and wrought, and dared and fought,

And all my tale is told ;
I've made my kill, and felt the chill

Of blades that stab and hew,
And my only theme, as I sit and dream,

Is the deeds I was wont to do.

THESE things were told me by Raja Haji Hamid, as
he and I lay smoking on our mats during the cool,
still hours before the dawn. He was a Selangor man
who had accompanied me to the East Coast, as chief of
my followers, a band of ruffians, who at that time
were engaged in helping me to act as ' the bait at the
tip of the fish-hook,' in an Independent Malay State
to use the phrase then current among my people.

We had passed the evening in the King's Balai
watching the Chinamen raking in their gains, whi 1
the Malays gambled and cursed their luck, with much
slapping of thighs, and frequent references to God and
his Prophet, according to whose teaching gaming is
an unclean thing. The sight of the play, and of the
fierce passions which it aroused, had awakened memories


in Raja Haji's mind, and it was evidently not with-
out a pang that he remembered that the turban round
his head, which his increasing years, and his manifold
sins, had driven him to Mecca to seek, forbade him
to partake publicly in the unholy sport. Like most
of those who have outgrown their pleasant vices, he
had a hearty admiration for his old, prodigal, unregene-
rate self ; and, as I lay listening, he spoke lovingly of
the old days at Selangor, before the coming of the
white men.

1 Allah Tuan ! I loved those old times exceedingly!
When the Company had not yet come to Selangor,
when all were shy of Si-Hamid, and none dared face
his kris^ the " Chinese Axe." I never felt the grip of
poverty in those times, for my supplies were ever at
the tip of my dagger, and they were few who dared
withhold aught which I desired or coveted ! '

' Did I ever tell thee, Tuan y the tale of how the
gamblers of Klang yielded up the money of their banks
to me without resistance ; or the turn of a dice box ?
No ? Ah, that was a pleasant tale, and a deed which
was famous throughout Selangor, and gave me a very
great name.

c It was in this wise. I was in a sorry case, for the
boats had ceased to ply on the river through fear of me,
and my followers were few, so that I could not rush a
town or a Chinese kongsi house. As for the village
people, they were as poor as I, and, save for their
women-folk, I never harassed them. Now, one day,
my wives and people came to me asking for rice, or
for money wherewith to purchase it, and I had nothing
to give them, only one little dollar remaining to me.


It is very bad when the little ones want food, and my
liver grew hot at the thought. None of the woman-
folk dared to say any word, when they saw that my
eyes waxed red j but the little children cried, and I
heard them, and was sad. Moreover, I, too, was
hungry, for my belly was empty. Then I looked upon
my only dollar, and, calling one of my men, I bade
him go to a Chinese store, and buy me a bottle of the
white man's perfume. Now, when one of my wives,
the mother of my son, heard this order she cried out in
anger : " Art thou mad, Father of Che' Bujang ? Art
thou mad, that thou throwest away thy last dollar on
perfumes for thy lights of love, while Che' Bujang
and his brethren cry for rice ? " But I slapped her on
the mouth, and said "Be still ! " for it is not well for
a man to suffer a woman to question the doings of

4 That evening, when the night had fallen, I put
on my fighting jacket, and my Celebes drawers, and
bound my kris, the " Chinese Axe," about my waist,
and took my sword, the " Rising Sun," in my hand.
Three or four of my boys followed at my back, and I
did not forget to take with me the bottle of the white
man's perfume. I made straight for the great Klang
gambling house, and when I reached the door, I halted
for the space of an eye-flick, and spilled the scent over
my hand and arm as far as the elbow. Then I rushed
in among the gamblers, suddenly and without warning,
stepping like a fencer in the sword-dance and crying
" Amok ! Amok ! " till the coins danced upon the gam-
ing tables. All the gamblers stayed their hands from
the staking, and some seized their dagger hilts. Then


I cried aloud three times, "I am Si-Hamid, the Tiger
Unbound ! " for by that name did men then call me
" Get ye to your dwellings speedily, and leave your
money where it is, or I will slay you ! "

' Many were affrighted, some laughed, some hesi-
tated, but none did as I bade them. " Dogs and pigs!"
I cried, " Are your ears deaf that ye obey me not, or
are ye sated with life, and desire that your shrouds
should be prepared ? Obey me, or I will slay ye all,
as a kite swoops upon little chickens ! What is your
power, and what are your stratagems, and how can ye
prevail against me ? I who am invulnerable, I whom
even the fire burns but cannot devour ! "

'With that I thrust my right hand into the flame
of a gaming lamp, and it, being saturated with the
white man's perfume, blazed up bravely even to my
elbow, doing me no hurt, as I waved my arm above my
head. Verily, the white men are very clever, who so
cunningly devise the medicine of these perfumes.

1 Now, when all the people in the gambling house
saw that my arm and hand burned with fire, but were
not consumed, a great fear fell upon them, and they
fled shrieking, and no man stayed to gather up his
silver. This I presently put into sacks, and my men
removed it to my house, and my fame waxed very
great in Klang. Men said that henceforth Si-Hamid
should be named the Fiery Rhinoceros, 1 and not the
Unbound Tiger, as they had hitherto called me.
It was long ere the trick became known, and even
then no man, among those who were within the

1 Fiery Rhinoceros = Badak api, a fabulous monster of Malay



gaming house that night, dared ask me for the money
which I had borrowed from him and his fellows. Ya
Allah, Tuan, but those days were exceeding good
days ! I cannot think upon them, for it makes me
sad. It is true what is said in the pantun of the men
of Kedah :

' Pulau Pinang has a new town,
And Captain Light is its King ;
Do not recall the days that are gone,
Or you will bow down your head,
And the tears will gush forth !

4 Ya Allah ! Ya Tuhan-ku ! Verily, I cannot
think upon it ! '

He tossed about uneasily on his mat for some time,
and I let him be, for the memory of the old, free days
to a Malay raja, whose claws have been cut by the
Europeans, is like new wine when it comes back
suddenly upon him, and it is best, I think, to let a man
fight out such troubles alone and in silence. * Can
words make foul things fair ? ' and, however much
I might sympathise with my friend, there was no
blinking the fact, ..hat he and I were then engaged in
trying to do for another set of Malay rajas, all that
Raja Haji Hamid so bitterly regretted that the white
men had done for him, and for Selangor.

After a space he became calmer, for though the
thought of his troubles is often present to the mind
of a Malay raja, the paroxysms, which the memory
occasions, are not usually of long duration. Presently
he began chuckling to himself, and then spoke
again :


1 I remember once, when I was for the moment
rich with the spoils of war, I gambled all the evening
in that same house at Klang, and lost four thousand
dollars. It mattered not at all on which quarter of the
mat I staked, nor whether I staked ko-o^ li-am^ or
tang ; I pursued the red half of the dice as one chases a
dog, but never once did I catch it. At last, when my
four thousand dollars were finished, I arose and
departed, and my liver was hot in my chest. As I
came out of the Farm, a Chinaman, whom I knew,
and who loved me, followed after me, and said, " Hai-
yah, Ungku, you have lost much to-night. That
man with whom you gambled was cheating you, for
he has a trick whereby he can make the red part of
the dice turn to whichever side of the mat he wills."
" Is this true ? " I asked, and he said, " It is indeed

4 Then I loosened the "Chinese Axe" in its scabbard,
and turned back into the Farm. First I seized the
Chinaman by the pig-tail, and my followers gathered
up all the money in the bank, near seven thousand
dollars, so that it needed six men to carry it, and I
then departed to my house, none daring to bar my

'When we had entered the house, I bade the
Chinaman be seated, and told him that I would kill
him, even then, if he did not show me the trick
whereby he had cheated me. This he presently did,
and for near two hours I sat watching him, and
practising, for I had a mind to learn the manner of
his art, thinking that hereafter I might profit by it.
Then, when the dawn was breaking, I led the China-


man down to the river by the hand, for I was loth to
make a mess within my house, and when I had cut
his throat, and sent his body floating down-stream, I
washed myself, performed my ablutions before prayer,
prayed, and went to my bed, for my eyes were heavy
with sleep.'

1 Kasih-an China ! ' I said, * I am sorry for the
Chinaman ! '

c Why are you sorry for him ? ' asked Raja Haji,
c He had cheated me and it was not fitting that he
should live ; besides, he was a Chinaman, and we
counted not their lives as being of any worth. In
Kinta, before Mr. Birch went to Perak, they had a
game called Main China^ each man betting on the
number of the coins which a passing Chinaman
carried in his pouch, and whether they were odd or
even. Thereafter, when the bets had been made,
they would kill the Chinaman and count the coins.'

' They might have done that without killing the
Chinaman,' I said.

'It is true,' rejoined Raja Haji, 'but it was a
more certain way, and, moreover, it increased their
pleasure. But Tuan y the night is very far advanced.
Let us sleep.'

Verily, life in an Independent Malay State, like
adversity, makes one acquainted with strange bed-


Woman is the lesser man, and all her passions matched with mine,
Are as moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wine.

Lockiley Hall.

THIS is a true story. Also, unlike most of the tales
which I have to tell concerning my Malay friends, it
is garnished with a moral j and one, moreover, which
the Women's Rights Committees would do well to
note. I should dearly like to print it as a tract, for
distribution to these excellent and loud-talking institu-
tions, but, failing that, I publish it here, among its
unworthy companions.

To those who live in and around a Malay Court,
two things only take rank as the serious matters of
life. These are the love intrigues, in which all are
more or less engaged at peril of their lives, and the
deeds of daring and violence, long past or newly done,
of discussing which men and women alike never
weary. People talk, think, and dream of little else,
not only in the places where men congregate, but also
in the dimly lit inner apartments, where the women
are gathered together. In the conduct of their love
intrigues, men and women alike take a very active
part, for the ladies of the Peninsula are as often as not


the wooers of the men, and a Malay girl does not
hesitate to make the necessary advances if the swain
is slow to take the initiative, or fails to perceive the
desire which she has conceived for him. In the
matter of fighting, however, the women who are
as often as not the cause act usually as mere spec-
tators, taking no active part themselves, though they
join in a shrill chorus of applause when a shrewd blow
is given, and delight greatly in the brave doings of
their men. Nevertheless, the warlike atmosphere,
with which she is surrounded all the days of her life,
sometimes infects a young Malay Princess, and urges
her to do some daring deed which shall emulate the
exploits of her brothers, and shall show her admirers
how dashing a spirit, and how great a courage are

It was during the hot, aching months, which, in
Merry England, go to make up the Spring of the
year ; and the King and his favourite concubines had
betaken themselves up-river to snare turtle-doves, and
to drowse away the hours in the cool flowering fruit
groves, and under the shade of the lilac - coloured
bungor trees. Therefore the youths and maidens in
the palace were having a good time, and were gaily
engaged in sowing the whirlwind, with a sublime
disregard for the storm, which it would be theirs to
reap, when the King returned to punish. As the
vernacular proverb has it, the cat and the roast, the
tinder and the spark, and a boy and a girl are ill to
keep asunder ; and consequently my friends about the
palace were often in trouble, by reason of their love
affairs, even when the King was at hand ; and on his


return, after he had been absent for a day or two,
there was generally the very devil to pay. Perhaps,
on this occasion, the extreme heat had something to
do with it, and made hot blood surge through young
veins with unwonted fury, for things went even worse
than usual, and, after a week of flagrant and extra-
ordinary ill-doing, Tungku Indut, one of the King's
sons, put the finishing touch to it all, by eloping
with no less than four of his father's choicest dancing
girls !

Now, these girls were as the apple of her eye to
Tungku Indut's half-sister, Tungku Aminah. They
belonged to her mother's household, and had been
trained to dance from earliest infancy, with infinite
care and pains. Nor had they attained their present
degree of efficiency, without the twisting back of
tortured fingers, and sundry other gentle punishments,
dear to Malay ladies, being frequently resorted to, in
order to quicken their intelligence. That her brother
should now carry ofF these girls, after all the trouble
which had been expended upon their education, was a
sore offence to Tungku Aminah ; and that the girls
themselves were very willing captives, and had found
a princely lover, while she remained unwedded, did
not tend to soothe her gentle woman's breast. Her
mother was also very wroth, and sent threatening
messages to Tungku Indut, presaging blood and
thunder, and other grievous trouble when the King
returned. Tungku Indut, however, resolutely de-
clined to give the girls up. He knew that he had
gone so far that no tardy amends could now cover his
ill -deeds, and, as he had a fancy for the girls, he


decided to enjoy the goods the gods had sent him
until his father came back, and the day of reckoning
arrived. His stepmother, therefore, resigned herself
to await the King's return ; but Tungku Aminah
could not brook delay, and she resolved to attack
Tungku Indut in his house, and to wrest the girls
from him by force of arms.

Circumstances favoured her, as her mother, who
was the only person capable of thwarting her project,
was ill with fever, and had retired early to her bed
and her opium pipe. Tungku Aminah was thus left
at liberty to do whatsoever she wished ; and accord-
ingly, at about eleven o'clock that night, she sallied
forth, from within the stone wall which surrounded
her mother's palace, at the head of her army.

It was at this moment that word was brought to
me that strange things were toward, and I, and the
Malays who were with me, ran out to our compound
fence, and witnessed all that ensued with our eyes
glued to the chinks in the plaited bamboos.

Presently the army came pouring down the street
in the pale moonlight, and halted in front of my com-
pound, which chanced to face the house at that time
occupied by Tungku Indut, the door of which abutted
on the main thoroughfare. Tungku Aminah led the
van, strutting along with an arrogant and truculent
swagger most laughable to see. She was dressed for
the occasion after the fashion of the Malay warrior.
Her body was encased in a short-sleeved, tight-fitting
fighting jacket, which only served to emphasise the
femininity of her bust. She wore striped silk breeches
reaching to the middle of her shins ; a silk sarong was


folded short about her waist ; and her thick hair was
tucked away beneath a head handkerchief twisted into
a peak in the manner called tanjak. At her belt she
carried a kris, and also, a smaller dagger, called a
1 pepper-crusher ' in the vernacular, and in her hand
she held a drawn sword, which she brandished as she
walked. At her back came some three hundred women,
moving down the street with that queer half-tripping,
half-running gait, which Malay women always affect
when they go abroad in a crowd at the heel of their
Princess. The way in which they run into and press
against one another, on such occasions, together with
the little quick short steps they take, always reminds
me of young chickens trying to seek shelter under
their mother's wing. The army was wonderfully and
fearfully armed. Some of the more fortunate had
spears and daggers ; one or two carried old swords ;
but the majority were armed with weapons borrowed
from the cook-house. The axes and choppers, used
for breaking up firewood, were the best of these arms,
but the number of these was limited, most of Tungku
Aminah's gallant three hundred being provided with
no better weapons than the kandar sticks, on which
water pails are carried ; spits made of wood hardened
in the fire j cocoa-nut scrapers lashed to sticks ; and a
few old pocket-knives and fish-spears. What they
lacked in equipment, however, they made up in noise,
one and all combining to raise an indescribable and
deafening babel.

As they halted before Tungku Indut's house, the
shrill screams of defiance from three hundred dainty
throats pierced my ear-drums like a steam siren, and


they were all so marvellously noisy, brave, and defiant,
that, in spite of an occasional girlish giggle from one
or another of them, I began to fear there would be
bad trouble before the dawn. So wild was their excite-
ment, and so maddening was the din they made, that,
though Tungku Aminah shrieked louder than any one
of them, she could not make herself heard above the
tumult ; and it was not until she had scratched the
faces of those nearest to her, and smitten others with
the flat of her sword, that she succeeded in reducing
her followers to even a partial silence. Then she beat
upon the barred door of Tungku Indut's house with
her naked weapon, and cried shrilly to her brother :

* Come forth, Indut ! Come forth, if thou art in
truth the son of the same father as myself! Come
forth ! '

c Come forth ! ' echoed the army, and the deafening
din of defiance broke out once more, and was again
with difficulty repressed by Tungku Aminah.

4 Come forth ! ' she shrilled once more, ' come
forth that I may rip thy belly, and cause thy entrails
to gush out upon the ground ! '

4 Come forth, thou accursed and ill-omened one ! '
echoed the army, with the unanimity of Pickwick's
thirty boarders.

Indut, however, did not show any signs of coming
forth ; but when the women had screamed themselves
hoarse and out of breath, his gruff voice sounded from
within the house, like the growl of a wild beast, after
all that shrill feminine yelping.

4 Go hence, lang ! ' he shouted, 4 get thee to thy
bed, thou foolish one ; disturb not one who desires to


slumber, and waken not the fowls with thy unmaidenly

Now, when Tungku Aminah heard these words
she dropped her sword, and beat upon the door with
her little bare hands, weeping and screaming in a
perfect ecstasy of rage, and showering curses and
imprecations on her brother. The army joined in the
torrent of abuse, and a very pretty set of phrases were
sent spinning through the clean night air. At length,
Tungku Aminah, finding that she only bruised her
hands, again took up her sword, and, as soon as she
could make herself heard, renewed her challenge to
her brother to come forth.

When this scene had continued for about twenty
minutes, and I was beginning to fear that the Devil
would prompt Tungku Aminah to fire her brother's
house, and that I should get burned out also,
suffering, as the Malays says, like the woodpecker in
the falling tree, a sudden and unexpected turn was
given to affairs, which speedily brought things to an
abrupt conclusion.

During one of the pauses for breath, indulged in by
the clamouring women, Tungku Indut was heard to
arise from his couch with great noise and deliberation.
A hushed silence immediately fell upon the assembled
women, and, in the stillness, Tungku Indut's words
were distinctly heard by all of us.

4 Awang ! ' he said, naming one of his followers,
' Awang ! Bring me my sword ! '

That was all, but it was enough and to spare. A
shrill shriek was raised by the listening women, a
shriek, this time, of fear and not of defiance, and in a


moment the army of three hundred ladies was in full
flight. Never was there such a rout. They tumbled
over, and trampled upon one another in their frantic
desire to escape, and maimed one another, as they
fought their way up the narrow roadway, in their
panic. All respect for persons, rank, or position, was
completely lost sight of, commoners pushing past
rajas in their deadly fear of being the hindermost, who
is the proverbial prey of the pursuing devil. Too
breathless to scream, and sweating with fear and
exertion, they scuffled up the street, to the sound of
rending garments and pattering feet, nor did they rest
until the palace was regained, and the doors securely

On the King's return, the dancing girls were, of
course, surrendered ; and I do not like to think what
was the measure of bodily pain and suffering, that these
dainty creatures were called upon to pay as the price
of their escapade. It was a sore subject with Tiingku
Indut, too, and he and his father were not on speaking
terms, on this account, for near a twelvemonth after.

As for Tungku Aminah, she is as truculent as ever,
and bears a great reputation for courage among her
fellow country-women. It is not every girl, they say,
who would so boldly have attacked ; and of the retreat,
which only a few of us witnessed, no mention is ever

One has heard of the Women's Rights Meeting in
Boston, which was broken up in confusion by the
untimely appearance of three little mice ; and of that
other meeting, in which the aid of the Chairwoman's

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