Hugh Charles Clifford.

Studies in brown humanity, being scrawls and smudges in sepia, white, and yellow, by Hugh Clifford .. online

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By Grant Allen.

Linnet. 6s.

An African Millionaire. 6s.
By R. S. Warren Bell.

The Cub in Love. is. 6d.
By Frederic Breton.

True Heart. 6s.
By G. B. Burgin.

The Cattle-Man. 6$.

" Old Man's " Marriage. 6s.
By Hugh Clifford.

In Court and Kampong. 7s. 6d.
By George Egerton.

The Wheel of God. 6s.
By George Fleming.

Little Stories about Women. 3s. 6d.
By R. Murray Gilchrist.

A Peakland Faggot. 28. 6d.
By Marie and Robert Leighton.

Convict 99. 3s. 6d.
By Haldane M'Fall.

A Black Vagabond. 6s.
By Leonard Merrick.

The Actor-Manager. 6s.

One Man's View. 3s. 6d.
By W. C. Morrow.

The Ape, the Idiot, and Other People. 6s.
By Helmuth Schwartze.

The Laughter of Jove. 6s.
By Gordon Seymour.

The Rudeness of the Honourable Mr.

Leatherhead. 2s.
A Homburg Story. 2s.
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By Lady Troubridge.

Paul's Stepmother. 3s. 6d.

London : Grant Richards, 1898.






• »* • •

* ••• » • • • • •




'in court and kamfong'




€o 3. <&. «.

A» helpless Debtors come to lay

Poor presents at the feet
Of those they ne'er can hope to pay,

So come I, as 'tis meet,
To lay this book on thy dear knee,

In token that I know,
Of love and sacrifice for me,

How great the debt I owe.

H. C.



The tales and sketches of which this book is com-
posed have a very definite object underlying their
apparent lightness. To some extent, it must be
confessed, they wear the garb of fiction ; but, none
the less, they are s7ucfiesj)f things as tney are, — drawn
from the life. The facts related in the stories which
I have named c In the Valley of the T£lom,' 'The
Fate of Leh the Strolling Player,' ■ His Little Bill,'
'At the Heels of the White Man,' 'A Malay
Othello,' 'The Weeding of the Tares,' and 'From
the Grip of the Law,' are all things which have
actually occurred in the Malay Peninsula during the
last ten or twenty years. The tale told by Tiikang .

Burok, which is peculiarly painful and characteristic, ju/' _^J
is known to many people in the interior of Pahang,
and is, I believe, true in every detail. I can only
claim these stories as my own in that I have filled in .

the pictures from my knowledge of the localities in ^
which the various events happened, and have generally
told my tales in the fashion which appealed to me as



the most appropriate. Umat, who is the subject of
one of the sketches, is a very real person indeed, and
as I write these lines he is sleeping peacefully over the
punkah cord, with which he has become inextricably
entangled. The purely descriptive chapters are the
result of personal observation in a land which has
become very dear to me, which I know intimately,
and where the best years of my life have hitherto been
spent. The remaining stories are somewhat more
imaginative than their fellows ; but * The Spirit of
the Tree* and 'The Strange Elopement of Chaling
the Dyak' were both related to me as facts, in the
manner which I have described. As regards the
former, the man whom I have called Trimlett
certainly had an exceedingly ugly wound on his foot,
for which he accounted in rather a curious manner.
As for Chaling, I have no hesitation in expressing my
own profound disbelief in its main features ; but this
is merely a private opinion, by which I would ask no
man to be unduly influenced. I am indebted to the
Editor of Macmillan s Magazine for permission to
republish the story of the Schooner. The tale is one
which has long been current among the native and
European pearlers of the Archipelago, from whom I

heard it, and by whom it is unquestioningly believed.

In writing these tales and sketches it has mainly
been my design to illustrate, in as readable a manner
as I am able, the lives lived by those among the natives
of the Peninsula who have not yet been changed out


jifu. (V*-

of all recognition by the steadily increasing influence
of Europearo-y to picture their habits and customs,
their beliefs and superstitions, their tortuous twists of
thought, and incidentally to give some idea of the
lovely land in which they move and have their being.
These things have seemed to me to be all the better
worth recording because innovation is doing its work
in the Peninsula with surprising rapidity, and the
people, and to some extent even their surroundings,
are undergoing a complete and radical change, which
will leave them quite other than they were before we
came amongst them, and as a few of them still are in
some of the remoter places of which my stories tell.

For more than fourteen years I have dwelt in the
Peninsula in almost hourly contact with natives of all
classes, from Sultans and Rajas to Chiefs and Datos,
from villagers and fisher-folk to the aboriginal tribes of
Sakai and Semang, who people the forests of the remote
interior, and I have ever found the study of my sur-
roundings of absorbing interest. I shall probably hurt
no man's self-complacency, if I say that the things
and places of which I tell are matters concerning
which the ideas of the vast majority of my country-
men are both hazy and fragmentary. But, none the
less, the Peninsula and its sepia-coloured peoples are
curious and worthy of attention, and therefore they
deserve to be better known by the men of the race
which has taken the destiny of the Malays of the /
Peninsula under its especial charge.



In the selection of the subjects of my illustrations
S I have frequently experienced considerable difficulty,
because I have often been driven to choose the ex-
ception rather than the rule, the abnormal rather
than the normal, if my tales are to be rendered
acceptable to any save the very few who are personally
and directly interested in my brown friends. Had I
received my training in the Kailyard School, instead
of among the wilds of the Malay jungles ; had I the
genius of a Barrie, instead of the facility of a mere
writer of official reports, — it is possible that I might so
paint the commonplace, everyday life of the Malays
that I should move my readers to tears and laughter
over every incident of the village on the river banks,
and of the rice- fields which lie behind it. But, alas,
these things are far beyond my reach, and I must
whip my Pegasus over break-neck leaps, must charge
him through barbarous combats, and must tumble him
head-over-heels into some ugly depths, if his antics are
to excite any particular emotion On the flat, and
across the grass, he has no special grace of action to
distinguish him above his fellows.


British Residency,
Fahang, Malay Peninsula,
November 24, 1897.







1 1.




For always roaming with a hungry heart 4j£.

Much have I seen and known.


In the Valley of the Telom

The Fate of Leh the Strolling Player

Umat ......

His Little Bill ....

The Schooner with a Past .

In Arcadia .....

The Spirit of the Tree
At the Heels of the White Man
TOkang BOrok's Story .
On Malayan Rivers
A Malay Othello
Some Notes and Theories concerning Latah
The Weeding of the Tares .
In the Rush of Many Waters .
From the Grip of the Law .
The Strange Elopement of ChXling the
Dyak .....













Where the forest yields to the open space,

And the trees stand back to see
The waters that babble and glisten and race

Thro' woodlands trackless and free ;
Where the soil is ploughed by a thousand feet,

And the salt lies sweet below,
Here nightly the beasts of the jungle meet

To wallow, and bellow, and blow.

The Salt-Lick.

Very far away, in the remote interior of Pahang,
there is a river called the Telom — an angry little
stream, which fights and tears its way through the
vast primaeval forest, biting savagely at its banks,
wrestling impatiently with the rocks and boulders that
obstruct its path, rippling fiercely over long beds of
water-worn shingle, and shaking a glistening mane of
splashing, troubled water, as it rushes downwards in
its fury. Sometimes, during the winter months, when
the rain has fallen heavily in the mountains, the
Telom will rise fourteen or fifteen feet in a couple of
hours, and then, for a space, its waters change their
temper from wild, excited wrath, to a sullen anger,
which it is by no means pleasant to encounter. But



it is when the stream is shrunken by drought that it
is really most dangerous ; for, at such times, sharp and
ragged rocks, over which a raft is usually able to pass
in safety, rise ux> i from the river-bed, to within an inch
or two af the surface, and rip all things cast against
them with keen firm cuts, that need no further hacking
to complete their work of dismemberment. At the
very foot of the largest rapid in the river, one of these
boulders forms, in dry weather, a very efficient trap
for the unwary. The channel of the stream, at this
point, narrows somewhat, and is confined between high
walls of rock, and the boiling waters of the fall are
further troubled by the jagged blocks of granite, with
which the river-bed is studded. One of these leans
slightly up stream, for the friction of ages has worn
away a cavity where the force of the current strikes
most fiercely ; and, when the waters are low, it is
impossible for a raft to avoid this obstacle.

The rafts, which are used upon the upper reaches
of the Malayan rivers, are formed of about eighteen
bamboos, lashed side by side, and firmly kept in place
by stout wooden stays above and across. They are
usually some twenty feet in length, and, though they
have great flotage, their very lightness causes them to
wallow knee-deep when the furious waters of a rapid
roar over them and about them, while they whirl
down stream at a headlong, desperate pace. The more
shrunken the stream, the greater the speed at which a
raft spins down a fall, for the rapid itself is unchanging,
while, at such times, the volume of water is in-
sufficient to break the drop, and soften the descent.

Thus it is that, at the rapid in the Telom, of


which I speak, a raft charges down the channel between
the high walls of granite, and comes to eternal grief
upon the leaning rock, which obstructs the passage,
waiting so calmly and so patiently for its prey.

A harsh, sharp crack — the agonised pain-cry of the
bamboos — sounds above the roar of the waters, as the
raft strikes the boulder fairly and squarely. Another
second, and the bow is fast wedged beneath the pro-
jecting ledge of the slanting rock. The bamboos
give another despairing shriek j and the tail of the
raft rises swiftly to a perpendicular position, waggling
irresolutely, while the bow is buried more deeply
beneath the boulder, which grips it fast. Then, like
the sail of a windmill, the raft whirls round in the air,
the fixed bow serving as its axis, and, with a flap, it
smites the racing waters beyond the obstructing rock.
Every one of the bamboos is smashed in an instant
into starting, shrieking slivers, which have power to
cut more sharply than the keenest knife. The men,
who lately manned the raft, are cast high into the air.
Then they are broken pitilessly upon the rocks, are
cut and wounded cruelly by the matchwood that was
once their raft, or are to be seen struggling powerlessly
in an angry torrent.

Jgram Musoh Karam — the Rapid of the Drowned
Enemy — the place is named in the vernacular, and
native tradition tells of an invading expedition utterly
destroyed in this terrible rock-bound death-trap. But
men who know the records of the river are aware that
the Telom spares friend no more than it once spared
foe ; and the tale of its kills waxes longer and longer
as the years slip away.


None the less, it is during the driest season, when
the stream, shrunken to the lowest limits, is most
angry and vicious, that the valley of the Telom fills
with life. It is then that the black tin ore, found in
the sands and shingles of the river-bed, is most
accessible, and the Malays come hither, in little family
parties, to wash for it. Men, women, and little
children stand in the shallows, deftly shaking their
great flat wooden trays, with a circular motion, and
storing small pinches of tin in the hollows of bamboos.
At night-time, they camp in rude shelters on the
banks of the stream, roast such fish as they have caught
in the cleft of split sticks, and discuss the results of the
day's toil. The amount of their earnings is very
small, but Malays are capable of a great deal of patient
labour when it chances to take a form that, for the
moment, they happen to find congenial.

At this season, too, the jungles are one degree less
damp and sodden than they are at other times, and the
searchers for getah and rattans seize the opportunity,
and betake themselves to the forests, for well they
know how unpleasant life can be when the rain falls
heavily, and what sun there is cannot force its way
through the tangled canopy of leaves and creepers, to
dry what the rain has soaked.

Meanwhile, the magnificent duri-an groves of the
upper reaches of the Telom are rich in a profusion of
splendid fruit, and the semi-wild tribes of Sakai * come
from far and near to camp beneath the shade of the
giant trees, and there to feast luxuriously. No man

1 Aboriginal tribes of the Malay Peninsula, belonging to the Mon-
Annam family.


knows who planted these gardens, for the Sakai asks
no questions as long as food is plentiful, and the
Malays are equally lacking in curiosity upon the
subject. But the trees are very ancient, and the fruit
has formed one of the main food-supplies of the Sakai
since first they roamed through these forests.

So the wild tribes gather together in the groves,
camping there for weeks at a time, and gorging rap-
turously. In the silent night-time, the dulled thud of
the fruit, falling upon the rank grass, sounds in the
ears of the watchers, and a wild stampede ensues from
under the shelters of the forest-dwellers, in order that
the fruit may be instantly secured. This is a some-
what necessary, precaution, for tigers love the duri-an^
and a man must be quick in the gathering, if he would
avoid a fight for possession with one of these monsters.

But it is not only by human beings that the valley
of the Tdlom is overrun during the dry season of
the year ; for it is then that the great Salt-Lick of
Misong is crowded by game. The Misong is a
small stream, which falls into the Tglom on its left
bank, some miles above the rapids. About a couple
of thousand yards up the Misong, from its point of
junction with the Telom, there is a spot where the
right bank, though covered with virgin forest, is much
trodden by the passage of game. The underwood is
worn down, and has become thin and sparse. The
trees are smooth in places, and here and there are
splashed by great belts of mud, eight feet from the
ground, which mark the spots where wild elephants
have stood rocking backwards and forwards, gently
rubbing their backs against the rough bark. In many


places, the earth is trodden down to the water's edge
in great deep clefts, such as the kine make near Malay
villages, at the points where, in the cool of the after-
noon, they go to wallow in the shallows of the river.

A bold sweep of the Misong, at this spot, forms of
the left bank a rounded headland, flat and level, and
covering some two acres of ground. In places, short,
closely-cropped grass colours the soil a brilliant green,
but, for the most part, this patch of open bears the
appearance of a deeply-ploughed field. This is the
Salt-Lick of Misong.

The earth is here impregnated with saline deposits,and
the beasts of the forest come hither in their hundreds to
lick the salt, which, to them, and to the lowest of our
/human stock also, is 'sweeter' than anything in the
world. When the waters of the Misong are swollen,
the salt cannot be got at, and the lick is deserted, but
in the dry weather, the place is alive with game.
Here may be seen the tracks of deer ; the hoof-marks
of the selddang^ the strongest of all the beasts j here is
found the long, sharp scratch made by the toes of the
rhinoceros ; the pitted trail, and deep rootings left by
the wild swine ; the pad-track of the tiger ; the tiny
footprints of the kanchil^ the perfectly formed deer
which, in size, is no larger than a rabbit ; and the
great round sockets, punched by the ponderous feet of
the elephants in the soft and yielding soil. Here
come, too, the tapir, and the black panther, and packs
of wild dogs, and the jungle cats of all kinds, from the
brute which resembles the tiger in all but bulk, to the
slender spotted animal, built as lightly and as neatly as
a greyhound. Sitting in the fork of a tree, high


above the heads of the game, so that your wind cannot
disturb them, you may watch all the animal life of the
jungle come and go, and come again, within a few
yards of you, and, if you have the patience to keep
your rifle quiet, you may see a thousand wonderful

It was to the Salt-Lick of Misong that my friend,
Pandak Aris, came, one day, with two Sakai com-
panions, from his house below the rapids. When I
knew him, he was an old man of seventy or there-
abouts, wizened and dry, with deep furrows of wrinkle
on face and body. His left arm was stiff and power-
less, and he bore many ugly scars besides. His closely
cropped hair was white as hoar-frost, and, on his chin,
grew a long goat's beard of the same hue, which
waggled to and fro with the motion of his lips. Two
yellow fangs were set in his gums, and his mouth was
a cavern stained dark-red with betel-nut juice. His f
words came indistinctly through his quid, and from his
toothless gums, but he had many things to tell con-
cerning the jungles, in which he dwelt, and, when I
camped near his house, we were wont to sit talking
together far into the night.

In his youth, he had come to Pahang from Rembau,
drifting aimlessly, as young men will, to the fate
which awaited him, he knew not where. She — these
fates are always feminine — proved to be a Jelai girl,
who lived near the limits of the Sakai country, and,
after he had married her, they took up their abode a
couple of days' journey up the Telom river, where they
might be completely alone ; for no other Malays live
permanently in this valley. Here, she had borne him



three sons, and two daughters, and he had planted
cocoanut and fruit trees, which now cast heavy shade
about the roof of his dwelling. That all happened
nearly fifty years before I first met Pandak Aris, and,
during all that long, long time, he had lived contentedly
•without once leaving the district in which he had his
home. He remained wrapped up in his own joys and
sorrows, and in his own concerns, rarely seeing a
strange face, from year's end to year's end, and entirely

y. undisturbed by the humming and throbbing of the
great world without. Think of it, ye White Me n !
V \ He had only one life on earth to live, and this is how
' t/T he spent it — like thejrog under the cocoanut-shell, as

the Malays say, who dreams not that there are other
worlds than his. Wars had raged within sixty miles
of his home, but his peace had not been broken ; great
changes had taken place in the Peninsula, but they had
affected him not at all ; and the one great event of his
life, which had left its mark scored deeply upon both
his mind and his body, was that which had befallen
y^him at the Salt-Lick of Misong, a score of years and
more, before I chanced upon him. He told me the tale,
brokenly as a child might do, while we sat talking in
the dim light of the damar torch, which guttered in
its clumsy wooden stand, set in the centre of his mat-
covered floor, and, as he spoke, he pointed, ever and
anon, to his stiff left arm, and to the ugly scars upon
his body, calling upon them, like Sancho Panza, to
prove that he did not lie !

It was in the afternoon that Pandak Aris, and his
two Sakai followers, reached the Salt-Lick of Misong.
They had been roaming through the forest, blazing


gitah trees since morning, for it was Pandalc Aris's
intention to prepare a large consignment of the
precious gum, against the coming of the washers for
tin, in the next dry season. They all three knew the
Salt-Lick well, and as it was an open space near
running water, and they were hungry after their
tramp, they decided to halt there, and cook rice.
They built a little fire near the base of a giant tree,
which grows a hundred yards or so inland from the
left bank, at a point where the furrowed earth of the
Salt-Lick begins to give place to heavy jungle. The
dry sticks blazed up bravely, the flame showing pale in
the brighter sunlight of the afternoon, while the thin
vapours danced furiously above it. The black rice-pot
was propped upon three stones in the centre of the
crackling fuel, and while one of the Sakai sat stirring
the rice, and the other plucked leeches from his
bleeding legs, and cut them into pieces with his wood-
knife, Pandak Aris began preparing a luscious quid
of betel-nut, from the ingredients contained in the
little brass boxes which he carried in a small cotton
handkerchief. The gentle murmur of bird and insect
life, which precedes the wild clamour of the sunset
hour, was beginning to purr through the forest, and
the Mfsong sang drowsily as it pattered between its
banks. Pandak Aris's eyes began to close sleepily, and
the Sakai, who had dismembered his last leech,
stretched himself elaborately, and then, rolling over on
his face, was asleep before his nose touched the grass !
This is the manner of the Sakai, and of some of the
other bwer_animai8.

Suddenly, a wild tumult of sound broke the stillness.



The Sakai who was cooking had screamed a shrill cry
of warning to his companions, but, above his frightened
cry, came the noise of a furious trumpeting, like a
steam siren in a fog, the crashing of boughs and
branches, and a heavy tramping which seemed to shake
the earth. The cooking Sakai had swung himself into
a tree, and was now swarming up it like a monkey,
never pausing to look below, until the topmost fork
was reached. His sleeping fellow, at the first alarm,
had awaked with a leap, which carried him some yards
from the spot where he had been lying, for the Sakai,
who can fall asleep like an animal, can also wake into
complete alertness like any other forest creature. A
second later, he, too, was sitting in the highest fork of
a friendly tree, and all this had happened before Pandak
Aris, who had been merely dozing, was completely
awake to the fact that danger was at hand. Then he,
also, leaped up, and, as he did so, two long white tusks
with a trunk coiled closely about one of them, two
little fierce red eyes, and a black bulk of dingy,
crinkled hide, came into view within a yard of him.

Pandak Aris sought shelter behind the big tree
from the onslaught of the squealing elephant, and, a
moment later, he also swung himself into safety among
the branches overhead, for a jungle-bred Malay is
quick enough, if he be not compared with the Sakai,
whose activity is that of a frightened stag.

The elephant charged the fire fiercely, scattering
the burning brands far and wide, trampling upon the
rice-pot, till it was flattened to the likeness of sheet
tin, kneading the little brass betel-boxes deep into the
earth, and keeping up all the while a torrent of angry


squealings. The whole scene only lasted a moment
or two, and then the furious brute whirled clumsily
round, and, still sounding his war-cry, disappeared
into the echoing forest, as suddenly as he had emerged
from it.

Pandak Aris and the two Sakai sat in the trees, and
listened to the trumpeting of the elephant, as it grew
fainter and fainter in the distance.

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Online LibraryHugh Charles CliffordStudies in brown humanity, being scrawls and smudges in sepia, white, and yellow, by Hugh Clifford .. → online text (page 1 of 20)