Hugh Charles Clifford.

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

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pail, waste-basket, and rubbish heap. The red stain
lying where it did had the look of blood, blood more-
over from some one within the house, whose wound
had very recently been washed and dressed. It might
also have been the red juice of the betel-nut, but its
stains are but rarely seen in such large patches. What-
ever it may have been the Penghulu and his people
had no opportunity of examining it more closely, for
Abdulrahman and Abas followed them out of the
compound, and barred the door against them.

Then the Penghulu set off to tell his tale to the
District Officer, the white man under whose charge
the Slim Valley had been placed. He went with many
misgivings, for Europeans are sceptical concerning
such tales, and when he returned, more or less dis-
satisfied, some five days later, he found that Haji Ali
and his sons had disappeared. They had fled down
river on a dark night, without a soul being made
aware of their intended departure. They had neither
stayed to reap their crops, which now stood ripening
in the fields ; to sell their house and compound, which
had been bought with good money, 'dollars of the
whitest,' as the Malay phrase has it, nor yet to
collect their debts. This is a fact ; and to one who
knows the passion for wealth and for property, which
is to be found in the breast of every Sumatran Malay,
it is perhaps the strangest circumstance of all the weird
events, which go to make up the drama of the Were-
Tiger of Slim.

There is, to the European mind, only one possible
explanation. Haji Ali and his sons had been the
victims of foul play. They had been killed by the


simple villagers of Slim, and a cock-and-bull story
trumped up to account for their disappearance. This
is a very good, and withal a very astute explanation,
showing as it does a profound knowledge of human
nature, and I should be more than half inclined to
accept it as the correct one, but for the fact that Haji
Ali and his sons turned up in quite another part of the
Peninsula some months kter. They have nothing
out of the way about them to mark them from their
fellows, except that Haji Ali goes lame on his right


I have done for ever with all these things,

Deeds that were joyous to knights and kings,

In the days that with song were cherish'd.
The songs are ended, the deeds are done,
There's none shall gladden me now, not one,
There is nothing good for me under the sun,

But to perish as these things perish'd.

The Rhyme of the Joyous Garde,

THE average stay-at-home Englishman knows very
little about the Malay, and cares less. Any fragment-
ary ideas that he may have concerning him are, for the
most part, vague and hopelessly wrong. When he
thinks of him at all, which is not often, he conjures
up the figure of a wild-eyed, long-haired, blood-
smeared, howling and naked savage, armed with what
Tennyson calls the 'cursed Malayan crease,' who
spends all his spare time running amok. As a matter
of fact, amok are not as common as people suppose, but
false ideas on the subject, and more especially concern-
ing the reasons which lead a Malay to run amok^ are
not confined to those Europeans who know nothing
about the natives of the Peninsula. White men, in the
East and out of it, are apt to attribute amok running
to madness pure and simple, and, as such, to regard it


as a form of disease, to which any Malay is liable, and
which is as involuntary on his part as an attack of
smallpox. This, I venture to think, is a mistaken
view of the matter. It is true that some amok are
caused by madness, but such acts are not peculiar to the
Malays. Given a lunatic who has arms always within
his reach, and the result is likely to be the same, no
matter what the land in which he lives, or the race to
which he belongs. In independent Malay States every-
body goes about armed j and weapons, therefore, are
always available. As a consequence, madmen often
run amok^ but such cases are not typical, and do not
present any of the characteristic features which dis-
tinguish the amok among Malays, from similar acts
committed by people of other nationalities. By far
the greater number of Malay amok results from a con-
dition of mind which is described in the vernacular by
the term saklt hati sickness of liver that organ,
and not the heart, being regarded as the centre of
sensibility. The states of feeling which are described
by this phrase are numerous, complex, and differ widely
in degree, but they all imply some measure of anger,
excitement, and mental irritation. A Malay loses
something he values ; he has a bad night in the gam-
bling houses ; some of his property is wantonly damaged;
he has a quarrel with one whom he loves ; his father
dies ; or his mistress proves unfaithful ; any one of
these things causes him 'sickness of liver.' In the
year 1888, I spent two nights awake by the side of
Raja Haji Hamid, with difficulty restraining him from
running amok in the streets of Pekan, because his
father had died a natural death in Selangor. He had


no quarrel with the people of Pahang, but his l liver
was sick,' and to run amok was, in his opinion, the
natural remedy. This is merely one instance of many
which might be cited, and serves to illustrate my con-
tention that amok is caused, in most cases, by a con-
dition of mind, which may result from either serious
or comparatively trivial causes, but which, while it
lasts, makes a native weary of life. At such times,
he is doubtless to some extent a madman just as all
suicides are more or less insane but the state of
feeling which drives a European to take his own
life makes a Malay run amok. All Malays have the
greatest horror of suicide, and I know of no properly
authenticated case in which a male Malay has com-
mitted such an act, but I have known several who ran
amok when a white man, under similar circumstances,
would not improbably have taken his own life. Often
enough something trivial begins the trouble, and, in
the heat of the moment, a blow is struck by a man
ag-ainst one whom he holds dear, and the hatred of self

O '

which results, causes him to long for death, and to
seek it in the only way which occurs to a Malay
namely, by running amok. A man who runs amok,
too, almost always kills his wife. He is anxious to die
himself, and he sees no reason why his wife should
survive him, and, in a little space, become the property
of some other man. He also frequently destroys his
most valued possessions, as they have become useless to
him, since he cannot take them with him to that
bourne whence no traveller returns. The following
story, for the truth of which I can vouch in every
particular, illustrates all that I have said :


In writing of the natives of the East Coast, I have
mentioned that the people of Trengganu are, first and
foremost, men of peace. This must be borne in mind
in reading what follows, for I doubt whether things
could have fallen out as they did in any other Native
State, and, at the time when these events occurred, the
want of courage and skill shown by the Trengganu
people made them the laughing stock of the whole of
the East Coast. To this day no Trengganu man
likes to be chaffed about the doings of his countrymen
at the amok of Biji Derja, and any reference to it, gives
as much offence as does the whisper of the magic
words * Rusty buckles ' in the ears of the men of a
certain cavalry regiment.

When Baginda Umar ruled in Trengganu there
was a Chief named To' Bentara Haji, who was one
of the monarch's adopted sons, and early in the present
reign the eldest son of this Chief was given the title of
Dato' Kaya Biji Derja. At this, the minds of the
good people of Trengganu were not a little exercised,
for the title is one which it is not usual to confer upon
a commoner, and Jusup, the man now selected to bear
It, was both young and untried. He was of no paiti-
cular birth, he possessed no book-learning such as the
Trengganu people love and was not even skilled in
the warrior's lore which is so highly prized by the
ruder natives of Pahang. The new To' Kaya was
fully sensible of his unfitness for the post, and deter-
mined to do all that in him lay to remedy his de-
ficiencies. He probably knew that, as a student, he
could never hope to excel ; so he set his heart on
acquiring the elemu hulubalang^ or occult sciences,



which it behoves a fighting man to possess. In
Trengganu there were few warriors to teach him the
lore he desired to learn, though he was a pupil of
Tungku Long Pendekar, who was skilled in fencing
and other kindred arts. At night-time, therefore, he
took to haunting graveyards, in the hope that the
ghosts of the mighty dead the warriors of ancient
times would appear to him and instruct him in the
sciences which had died with them.

Women are notoriously perverse, and To' Kaya's
wife persisted in misunderstanding the motives which
kept him abroad far into the night. She attributed
his absences to the blandishments of some unknown
lady, and she refused to be pacified by his explanations,
just as other wives, in more civilised communities,
have obstinately disregarded the excuses of their
husbands, when the latter have pleaded that c business '
has detained them.

At length, for the sake of peace and quietness, To'
Kaya abandoned his nocturnal prowls among the
graves, and settled down to live the orderly domestic
life for which he was best fitted, and which he had
only temporarily forsaken when the Sultan's ill-advise?!
selection of him to fill a high post, and to bear a great
name, had interrupted the even tenor of his ways.

One day, his father, To' Bentara Haji, fell sick,
and was removed to the house of one Che' Ali, a
medicine man of some repute. To' Kaya was a duti-
ful son, and he paid many visits to his father in his
sickness, tending him unceasingly, and consequently
he did not return to his home until late at night. I
have said that this was an old cause of offence, and



angry recriminations passed between him and his wife,
which were only made more bitter because To' Kaya
mistook a stringy piece of egg, in his wife's sweet-
meats, for a human hair. To a European, this does
not sound a very important matter, but To' Kaya, in
common with many Malays, believed that a hair in
his food betokened that the dish was poisoned, and he
refused to touch it, hinting that his wife desired his
death. Next night he was also absent until a late
hour, tending his father in his sickness, and, on his
return, his wife again abused him for infidelity to her.
He cried to her to unbar the door, which, at length,
she did, using many injurious words the while, and
he, in his anger, replied that he would shortly have to
stab her to teach her better manners.

At this she flew into a perfect fury of rage, ' Hei !
Stab then ! Stab ! ' she cried, and, as she shouted the
words, she made a gesture which is the grossest insult
that a Malay woman can put upon a man. At this
To' Kaya lost both his head and his temper, and,
hardly knowing what he did, he drew his dagger clear
and she took the point in her breast, their baby, who
was on her arm, being also slightly wounded. Drop-
ping the child upon the verandah, she rushed past her
husband, and took refuge in the house of a neighbour
named Che' Long. To' Kaya followed her, and cried
to those within the house to unbar the door. Che'
Long's daughter Esah ran to comply with his bidding ;
but, before she could do so, To' Kaya had crept under
the house, and he stabbed at her savagely through the
interstices ot the bamboo flooring, wounding her in
the hip. The girl's father, hearing the noise, ran out


of the house, and was greeted by To' Kaya with a
spear thrust in the stomach which doubled him up,
and, like Abner Dean of Angel's, the subsequent
proceedings interested him no more.' Meanwhile,
To' Kaya's wife had rushed out of the house, and
returned to her home. Her husband pursued her,
overtook her on the verandah, and stabbed her through
the breast, killing her on the spot.

He then entered his house, which was still tenanted
by his son, and his mother-in-law, and set fire to the
bed curtains with a box of matches. Now, the people
of Kuala Trengganu dread fire more than anything in
the world ; for, their houses, which are made of very
inflammable material, jostle one another on every foot
of available ground. When a Trengganu man de-
liberately sets fire to his own house, he has reached the
highest pitch of desperation, and is c burning his ships '
in sober earnest. At the sight of the flames, To'
Kaya's son, a boy of about twelve years of age, made
a rush at the curtains, pulled them down, and stamped
the fire out. To' Kaya's mother-in-law, meanwhile,
had rushed out of the house, seized the baby who still
lay on the verandah, and set off at a run. The sight
of his mother-in-law in full flight was too much for
To' Kaya, who probably owed her many grudges, and
he at once gave chase, overtook her, and stabbed her
through the shoulder. She, however, succeeded in
making good her escape, carrying the baby with her.
To' Kaya then returned to his house, whence his son
had also fled, and set it afire once more, and this time
it blazed up bravely.

As he stood looking at the flames, a Kelantan man


named Abdul Rahman came up and asked him how
the house had caught fire.

' 1 know not,' said To' Kaya.

'Let us try to save some of the property,' said
Abdul Rahman, for, like many Kelantan natives, he
was a thief by trade, and knew that a fire gave him a
good opportunity of practising his profession.

'Good!' said To' Kaya, 'Mount thee into the
house, and lift the boxes, while I wait here and receive

Nothing loth, Abdul Rahman climbed into the
house, and presently appeared with a large box in his
arms. As he leaned over the verandah, in the act of
handing it down to To' Kaya, the latter stabbed him
shrewdly in the vitals, and box and man came to the
ground with a crash. Abdul Rahman picked himself
up, and ran as far as the big stone mosque, where he
collapsed and died. To' Kaya did not pursue him,
but stood looking at the leaping flames.

The next man to arrive on the scene was Pa' Pek,
a Trengganu native, who, with his wife Ma' Pek, had
tended To' Kaya when he was little.

1 Wo',' he said, for he spoke to To' Kaya as though
the latter was his son, ' Wo', what has caused this fire ? '

4 1 know not,' said To' Kaya.

' Where are thy children, Wo' ? ' asked Pa' Pek.

'They are still within the house,' said To'

' Then suffer me to save them,' said Pa' Pek.

' Do so, Pa' Pek,' said To' Kaya, and, as the old
man climbed into the house, he stabbed him in the
ribs, and Pa' Pek ran away towards the mosque


till he tripped over the prostrate body of Abdul
Rahman, fell, and eventually died where he lay.

Presently, Ma' Pek came to look for her husband,
and asked To' Kaya about the fire, and where the
children were.

4 They are still in the house,' said To' Kaya, * but
I cannot be bothered to take them out of it.'

4 Let me fetch them,' said Ma' Pek.

' Do so, by all means,' said To' Kaya, and, as she
scrambled up, he stabbed her as he had done her hus-
band, and she, running away, tripped over the two
other bodies, and gave up the ghost.

Then a Trengganu boy named Jusup came up,
armed with a spear, and To' Kaya tried to kill him,
but he hid behind a tree. To' Kaya at first emptied
his revolver at Jusup, missing with all six chambers,
and then, throwing away the pistol, he stabbed at him
with his spear, but in the darkness he struck the tree.
c Thou art invulnerable ! ' he cried, thinking that the
tree was Jusup's chest, and, a panic seizing him, he
promptly turned and fled. Jusup, meanwhile, made
off in the opposite direction as fast as his frightened
legs would carry him.

Seeing that he was not pursued, To' Kaya returned,
and went to Tungku Long Pendekar's house. At the
alarm of fire, all the men in the house Tungku Long,
Tungku Itam, Tungku Pa, Tungku Chik, and Che'
Mat Tukang had rushed out, but all of them had
gone back again to remove their effects, with the
exception of Tungku Long himself, who stood looking
at the flames. He was armed with a rattan-work shield,
and an ancient and very pliable native sword. As he


stood gazing upwards, quite unaware that any trouble,
other than that involved by the conflagration, was
toward, To' Kaya rushed upon him and stabbed him
with his spear in the ribs. For a long time they
fought, Tunglcu Long lashing To' Kaya with his
little pliable sword, but only succeeding in bruising
him. At length, To' Kaya was wounded in the left
hand, and almost at the same moment he struck
Tunglcu Long with such force in the centre of the
shield that he knocked him down. He then jumped
upon his chest, and, stabbing downwards, as one stabs
fish with a spear, pinned him through the neck.
Tungku Itam, who had been watching the struggle
as men watch a cock-fight, without taking any part
in it, then ran away. To' Kaya passed out of the
compound, and Che' Mat Tukang, running out of the
house, climbed up the fence and threw a spear at To'
Kaya, striking him in the back. Che' Mat then very
prudently ran away too.

To' Kaya, passing up the path, met a woman
named Ma' Chik a very aged, bent, and feeble crone
and her he stabbed in the breast, killing her on the
spot. Thence he went to the compound of a pilgrim
named Haji Mih, who was engaged in getting his
property out of his house in case the fire spread. Haji
Mih asked To' Kaya how the fire had originated.

c God alone knows,' said To' Kaya, and so saying,
he stabbed Haji Mih through the shoulder.

1 Help ! Help ! ' cried the pilgrim, and his son-in-
law Saleh and four other men rushed out of the house
and fell upon To' Kaya, driving him backwards in the
fight until he tripped and fell. Then, as he lay on


his back, he stabbed upwards, striking Saleh through
the elbow and deep into his chest. At this, Saleh and
all the other men with him fled incontinently. To'
Kaya, then picked himself up. He had not been
hurt in the struggle, for Saleh and his people had not
stayed to unbind their spears, which were fastened
into bundles, and, save for the slight wounds in his
hand and on his back, he was little the worse for his

He next went to the Makam Lebai Salam the
grave of an ancient Saint and here he bathed in a
well hard by, dressed himself, and eat half a tin of
Messrs. Huntly and Palmer's ' gem ' biscuits, which he
had brought with him. Having completed his toilet,
he returned to Haji Mih's house and cried out :

c Where are those my enemies, who engaged me in
fight a little while agone ? '

It was now about 3 A.M., but the men were awake
and heard him.

c Come quickly ! ' he shouted again, Come
quickly, and let us finish this little business with no
needless delay.'

At this, ten men rushed out of Haji Mih's house,
and began to throw spears at him, but though they
struck him more than once they did not succeed in
wounding him. He retreated backwards, and, in
doing so, he tripped over a root near a clump of
bamboos and fell to the earth. Seeing this, the men
fancied that they had killed him, and fear fell upon
them, for he was a Chief, and they had no warrant
from the Sultan. Thereupon they fled, and To'
Kaya once more gathered himself together and


returned to Lebai Salam's grave, where he finished
the tin of 'gem' biscuits.

At dawn he returned to Haji Mih's house. Here
he halted to bandage his wounds with the rags of
cotton that had been bound about some rolls of mats
and pillows, which Haji Mih had removed from the
house at the alarm of fire. Then he shouted to the
men within the house to come out and fight with him
anew, but no one came, and he laughed aloud and
went on down the road till he came to Tungku Pa's
house. Tungku Pa and a man named Semail were in
the verandah, and when the alarm was raised that To'
Kaya was coming, Tungku Pa's wife rushed to the
door, and bolted it on the inside, while her husband
yammered to be let in.

When To' Kaya saw him, he cried to him as he
would have cried to an equal :

C O Pa! I have waited for thee the long night
through though thou earnest not. I have much
desired to fight with a man of rank. At last we have
met, and I shall have my desire.'

Semail at once made a bolt of it, but To' Kaya
was too quick for him, and as he leaped down, the
spear took him through the body, and he died. Then
Tungku Pa stabbed down at To' Kaya from the
verandah and struck him in the groin, the spear head
becoming bent in the muscles, so that it could not be
withdrawn. Now was Tungku Pa's opportunity,
but instead of seizing it and rushing in upon To'
Kaya to finish him with his krls, he let go the handle
of the spear, and fled to a large water jar, behind
which he sought shelter. To' Kaya tugged at the


spear, and at length succeeded in wrenching it free,
and Tungku Pa, seeing this, broke cover from behind
the jar, and took to his heels. To' Kaya was too
lame to attempt to overtake him, but he cried out :

4 He, Pa ! Did the men of old bid thee fly from
thy enemies ? '

Tungku Pa halted and turned round. c I am only
armed with a krls^ and have no spear as thou hast,' he

4 This house is thine,' said To' Kaya. c If thou
dost desire arms, go up into the house, and fetch as
many as thou canst carry, while I await thy coming.'

But Tungku Pa had had enough, and he turned
and fled at the top of his speed.

'Hah! Hah! Hah! Ho! Ho! Ho!' laughed
To' Kaya. c Is this, then, the manner in which the
men of the rising generation fight their enemies ? '

Seeing that Tungku Pa was in no wise to be
tempted or shamed into giving battle, To' Kaya went
past the spot where the body of Ma' Chik still lay,
until he came to the pool of blood which marked the
place where Tungku Long Pendekar had come by
his death. Standing there, he cried to Tungku Itam
who was within the house :

c O Tungku ! Be pleased to come forth if thou
desire to avenge the death of Tungku Long, thy
cousin. Now is the acceptable time, for thy servant
has still some little life left in him. Hereafter thou
mayst not avenge thy cousin's death, thy servant
being dead. Condescend, therefore, to come forth
and fight with thy servant.'

But Tungku Itam, like Gallic, cared for none of


these things, and To' Kaya, seeing that his challenge
was not answered, cried once more :

4 If thou will not take vengeance, the fault is none
of thy servant's,' and, so saying, he passed upon his way.

The dawn was breaking grayly, and the cool land
breeze was making a little stir in the fronds of the
palm trees, as To' Kaya passed up the lane, and
through the compounds, whose owners had fled
hastily from fear of him. Presently, he came out on
the open space before the mosque, and here some four
hundred men, fully armed with spears and daggers,
were assembled. It was light enough for To' Kaya
to see and mark the fear in their eyes. He smiled

' This is indeed good ! ' cried he. * Now at last
shall I have my fill of stabbing and fighting,' and,
thereupon, he made a shambling, limping charge at
the crowd, which wavered, broke, and fled in every
direction, the majority rushing into the enclosure of
Tungku Ngah's compound, the door of which they

One of the hindermost was a man named Genih,
and to him To' Kaya shouted :

1 Genih ! it profits the Raja little that he gives
thou and such as thee food both morning and evening !
Thou art indeed a bitter coward. 1 If thou fearest me
so greatly, go seek for guns and kill me from afar

Genih took To' Kaya's advice. He rushed to the
Balai, or State Hall, and cried to Tungku Musa, the
Sultan's uncle and principal adviser :

1 Pcn-akut fahit.


1 Thy servant To' Kaya bids us bring guns where-
with to slay him.'

Now, all was not well in the Balai at this moment.
When the first news of the amok had reached the Sultan,
all the Chiefs had assembled in the palace, and it had
been unanimously decided that no action could be taken

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Online LibraryHugh Charles CliffordIn court & kampong; being tales & sketches of native life in the Malay peninsula → online text (page 6 of 17)