HotFreeBooks.com
British Borneo - Sketches of Brunai, Sarawak, Labuan, and North Borneo
by W. H. Treacher
Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

* * * * * *

We remounted the elephants and returned to the house of the Governor. * * * After this there came to the house of the Governor ten men, with as many large wooden trays, in each of which were ten or twelve porcelain saucers with the flesh of various animals, that is, of calves, capons, pullets, pea-fowls and others, and various kinds of fish, so that of meat alone there were thirty or two-and-thirty dishes. We supped on the ground on mats of palm-leaf. At each mouthful we drank a porcelain cupful, the size of an egg, of a distilled liquor made from rice. We ate also rice and sweetmeats, using spoons of gold, shaped like our own. In the place where we passed the two nights, there were always burning two torches of white wax, placed on tall chandeliers of silver, and two oil lamps of four wicks each, while two men watched to look after them. Next morning we came on the same elephants to the sea side, where forthwith there were ready for us two prahus, in which we were reconducted to the ships."

Of the town itself he says:—

"The city is entirely built in the saltwater, the King's house and those of some chieftains excepted. It contains 25,000 fires, or families. The houses are all of wood and stand on strong piles to keep them high from the ground. When the flood tide makes, the women, in boats, go through the city selling necessaries. In front of the King's palace there is a rampart constructed of large bricks, with barbacans in the manner of a fortress, on which are mounted fifty-six brass and six iron cannon."

With the exception of the statement concerning the number of families, Mr. CRAWFORD considers PIGAFETTA'S account contains abundant internal evidence of intelligence and truthfulness. I may be allowed to point out that, seeing only the King's house and those of some of the nobles were on terra firma, there could have been little use for elephants in the city and probably the two elephants PIGAFETTA mentions were the only ones there, kept for State purposes. It is a curious fact that though in its fauna Borneo much resembles Sumatra, yet, while elephants abound in the latter island, none are to be found in Borneo, except in a restricted area on the North-East Coast, in the territories of the North Borneo Company. It would appear, too, that the tenets of the Mahomedan religion were not strictly observed in those days. Now, no Brunai noble would think of offering you spirits, nor would ladies on any account be permitted to appear in public, especially if Europeans were among the audience. The consumption of spirits seems to have been on a very liberal scale, and it is not surprising to find PIGAFETTA remarking further on that some of the Spaniards became intoxicated. Spoons, whether of gold or other material, have long since been discarded by all respectable Brunais, only Pagans make use of such things, the Mahomedans employ the fingers which Allah has given them. The description of the women holding their market in boats stands good of to-day, but the wooden houses, instead of being on "strong piles," now stand on ricketty, round nibong palm posts. The description of the obeisance to the King is scarcely exaggerated, except that it is now performed squatting cross-legged—sila—the respectful attitude indoors, from the Sanskrit cil, to meditate, to worship (for an inferior never stands in the presence of his superior), and has been dispensed with in the case of Europeans, who shake hands. Though the nobles have now comparatively little power, they address each other and are addressed by the commonalty in the most respectful tone, words derived from the Sanskrit being often employed in addressing superiors, or equals if both are of high rank, such as Baginda, Duli Paduka, Ianda, and in addressing a superior the speaker only alludes to himself as a slave, Amba, Sahaya. I have already referred to the prohibition of the use of yellow by others than the Royal family, and may add that it is a grave offence for a person of ordinary rank to pass the palace steps with his umbrella up, and it is forbidden to him to sit in the after part of his boat or canoe, that place being reserved for nobles. At an audience with the Sultan, or with one of the Wazirs, considerable ceremony is still observed. Whatever the time of the day, a thick bees' wax candle, about three feet long is lighted and placed on the floor alongside the European visitor, if he is a person of any rank, and it is etiquette for him to carry the candle away with him at the conclusion of his visit, especially if at night. It was a severe test of the courteous decorum of the Malay nobles when on one occasion, a young officer, who accompanied me, not only spilt his cup of coffee over his bright new uniform, but, when impressively bidding adieu to H. H. the Sultan, stood for sometime unconsciously astride over my lighted candle. Not a muscle of the faces of the nobles moved, but the Europeans were scarcely so successful in maintaining their gravity.

Mr. DALRYMPLE'S description of Brunai, furnished to the Field in August, 1884, is as follows:—

"On a broad river, sweeping round in an imposing curve from the South-Eastward, with abrupt ranges of sandstone hills, for the most part cleared of forest, hemming it in on either side, and a glimpse of lofty blue mountains towering skywards far away to the North-East, is a long straggling collection of atap (thatch made of leaves of nibong palm) and kajang (mats of ditto) houses, or rather huts, built on piles over the water, and forming a gigantic crescent on either bank of the broad, curving stream. This is the city of Brunai, the capital of the Yang di Pertuan, the Sultan of Brunai, aetat one hundred or more, and now in his dotage: the abode of some 15,000 Malays, whose language is as different from the Singapore Malay as Cornish is from Cockney English, and the coign of vantage from which a set of effete and corrupt Pangerans extended oppressive rule over the coasts of North-West Borneo, from Sampanmangiu Point to the Sarawak River in days gone by, ere British enterprise stepped in, swept the Sulu and Illanun pirates from the sea, and opened the rivers to commercial enterprise.

"Standing on the summit of one of the above-mentioned hills, a fine bird's eye view is obtained of the city below. The ramshackle houses are all built in irregular blocks or clusters, but present on either side a regular frontage to the broad river, and following its sweeping curve, form two imposing crescent, divided by a fine water-way. Behind these main crescents are various other blocks and clusters of buildings, built higgledy piggledy and without plan of any sort. On the true left bank are some Chinese shops built of brick, and on the opposite bank a brick house of superior pretensions and a waving banner proclaiming the abode of the Chinese Consular Agent of the British North Borneo Company. * * *

"A heterogeneous collection of buildings on the right side of the upper part of the city forms the palace (save the mark!) of the Sultan himself. A little further down a large, straggling, but substantial plank building, with a corrugated iron roof, marks the abode of the Pangeran Temenggong, a son of the former Sultan and the heir apparent to the throne of Brunai. Two steam launches are lying opposite at anchor, one the property of the Sultan, the other belonging to the heir apparent. * * *

"The public reception room of the Sultan's palace is a long apartment with wooden pillars running along either side, and supporting a raised roof. Beyond these on either side, are lateral compartments. At the far end, in the centre of a kind of alcove, is the Sultan's throne. The floors are covered with matting. * * *

"Although the glories of Brunai have departed, and it is only the shadow of what it was when PIGAFETTA visited it, a certain amount of state is still kept up on occasions. A boat comes sweeping down the river crowded with Malays, a white flag waving from its stern, seven paddles flashing on either side, and an array of white umbrellas midships. It is the Pangeran di Gadong coming in state to pay a ceremonial visit. As it sweeps alongside, the Pangeran is seen sitting on a gorgeous carpet, surrounded by his officials. One holds an umbrella over his head, while another holds aloft the tongkat kraidan, a long guilded staff, surmounted by a plume of yellow horse hair, which hangs down round it. The most striking point in the attire of the Pangeran and his Officers is the beauty of the krises with which they are armed, the handles being of carved ivory ornamented with gold, and the sheaths of beautifully polished wood, resembling satin wood. Cigars and coffee are produced, and a bichara ensues. A Quakers' meeting is no bad metaphor to describe a Malay bichara. The Pangerans sit round in a circle smoking solemnly for some time, until a question is put to them, to which a brief reply is given, followed by another prolonged pause.

"In this way the business on which they have come is gradually approached.

"Their manners are as polished as their faces are immobile, and the way to a Malay's heart lies through his pocket.

"To the outsider, Brunai is a city of hideous old women, for such alone are met with in the thronged market place where some hundreds of market boats jostle each other, while their inmates shriek and haggle over their bargains, or during a water promenade while threading the labyrinths of this Oriental Venice; but if acquainted with its intricacies, or if paying a ceremonial visit to any of the leading Pangerans, many a glimpse may be had of some fair skinned beauty peeping through some handy crevice in the kajang wall, or, in the latter case, a crowd of light-skinned, dark-eyed houris may be seen looking with all their might out of a window in the harem behind, from which they are privileged to peep into the hall of audience.

"The present population of Brunai cannot exceed 12,000 to 15,000 souls, a great number having succumbed to the terrible epidemic of cholera a year ago. The exports consist of sago, gutta percha, camphor, india-rubber, edible birds' nests, gum dammar, etc., and what money there is in the city is almost entirely in the hands of the Chinese traders. * * *

"In the old days, when it enjoyed a numerous Chinese population, the surrounding hills were covered with pepper plantations, and there was a large junk trade with China. At present Brunai lives on her exports of jungle produce and sago, furnished by a noble river—the Limbang, whose valley lies but a short distance to the Eastward. One great advantage the city enjoys is a copious supply of pure water, drawn from springs at the base of the hills below the town on the left bank of the river. * * *

"Such is a slight sketch of Brunai of the Brunais. If the Pangerans are corrupt, the lower classes are not, but are law abiding, though not industrious. And the day may yet come when their city may lift her head up again, and be to North Borneo what Singapore is to the straits of Malacca."

This description gives a capital idea of modern Brunai, and I would only observe that, from the colour of his flag and umbrellas the nobleman who paid the state visit must have been the Bandahara and not the Di Gadong.

The aged Sultan to whom Mr. DALRYMPLE refers was the late Sultan MUMIM, who, though not in the direct line, was raised to the throne, on the death of the Sultan OMAR ALI SAIFUDIN, to whom he had been Prime Minister, by the influence of the English, towards whom he had always acted as a loyal friend. He was popularly supposed to be over a hundred years old when he died and, though said to have had some fifty wives and concubines, he was childless. He died on the 29th May, 1885, having previously, on the advice of Sir C. C. LEES, then British Consul-General, declared his Temenggong, the son of OMAR ALI SAIFUDIN to be his successor. The Temenggong accended the throne, without any opposition, with the title of Sultan, but found a kingdom distracted by rebellion in the provinces and reduced to less than a fourth of its size when the treaty was made with Great Britain in 1847.

I have said that there is no ground rent in Borneo, and that every one builds his own house and is his own landlord, but I should add that he builds his house in the kampong, or parish, to which, according to his occupation, he belongs and into which the city is divided. For instance, on entering the city, the first kampong on the left is an important one in a town where fish is the principal article of animal food. It is the kampong of the men who catch fish by means of bambu fishing stakes, or traps, described hereafter, and supply the largest quantity of that article to the market; it is known as the Kampong Pablat.

Next to it is the Kampong Perambat, from the casting net which its inhabitants use in fishing. Another parish is called Membakut and its houses are built on firm ground, being principally the shops of Chinese and Klings. The last kampong on this side is that of Burong Pinge, formerly a very important one, where dwelt the principal and richest Malay traders. It is now much reduced in size, European steamers and Chinese enterprise having altered entirely the character of the trade from the time when the old Brunai nakodahs (master or owner of a trading boat) would cruise leisurely up and down the coast, waiting for months at a time in a river while trade was being brought in. The workers in brass, the jewellers, the makers of gold brocade, of mats, of brass guns, the oil manufacturers, and the rice cleaners, all have their own kampongs and are jealous of the honour of each member of their corporation. The Sultan and nearly all the chief nobles have their houses on the true left bank of the river, i.e., on the right bank ascending.

The fishing interest is an important one, and various methods are employed to capture the supply for the market.

The kelong is a weir composed of nets made of split bambu, fastened in an upright position, side by side, to posts fixed into the bed of the stream, or into the sand in the shallow water of a harbour. There are two long rows of these posts with attached nets, one much longer than the other which gradually converge in the deeper water, where a simple trap is constructed with a narrow entrance. The fish passing up or down stream, meeting with the obstruction, follow up the walls of the kelong and eventually enter the trap, whence they are removed at low water. These kelong, or fishing stakes as they are termed, are a well known sight to all travellers entering Malay ports and rivers. All sorts of fish are caught in this way, and alligators of some size are occasionally secured in them.

The rambat is a circular casting net, loaded with leaden or iron weights at the circumference, and with a spread sometimes of thirty feet. Great skill, acquired by long practice, is shewn by the fisherman in throwing this net over a shoal of fish which he has sighted, in such a manner that all the outer edge touches the water simultaneously; the weights then cause the edges of the circumference to sink and gradually close together, encompassing the fish, and the net is drawn up by a rope attached to its centre, the other end of which the fisherman had retained in his hand. The skill of the thrower is further enhanced by the fact that he, as a rule, balances himself in the bow of a small "dug-out," or canoe, in which a European could scarcely keep his footing at all. The rambat can also be thrown from the bank, or the beach, and is used in fresh and salt water. Only small fish and prawns are caught in this way. Prawns are also caught in small kelong with very fine split bambu nets, but a method is also employed in the Brunai river which I have not heard of elsewhere. A specially prepared canoe is made use of, the gunwale on one side being cut away and its place taken up by a flat ledge, projecting over the water. The fisherman sits paddling in the stern, keeping the ledged side towards the bank and leaning over so as to cause the said ledge to be almost level with the water.

From the same side there projects a long bambu, with wooden teeth on its under side, like a comb, fastened to the stern, but projecting outwards, forwards and slightly upwards, the teeth increasing in length towards its far end, and as they sweep the surface of the water the startled prawns, shut in by the bank on one side, in their efforts to avoid the teeth of the comb, jump into the canoe in large quantities.

I have described the method of using the dip net, or serambau, on page 30. Many kinds of nets are in use, one—the pukat—being similar to our seine or drag net.

The hook and line are also used, especially for deep sea fishing, and fish of large size are thus caught.

A favourite occasional amusement is tuba fishing. The tuba is a plant the juice of which has strong narcotic properties. Bundles of the roots are collected and put into the bottom of the canoes, and when the fishing ground is reached, generally a bend in a river, or the mouth of a stream which is barred at low tide, water is poured over the tuba and the juice expressed by beating it with short sticks. The fluid, thus charged with the narcotic poison, is then baled out of the canoes into the stream and the surface is quickly covered by all sorts of fish in all stages of intoxication, the smaller ones even succumbing altogether to the poison.

The large fish are secured by spearing, amid much excitement, the eager sportsmen often overbalancing themselves and falling headlong into the water to the great amusement of the more lucky ones. I remember reading an account of a dignified representative of Her Majesty once joining in the sport and displaying a pair of heels in this way to his admiring subjects. The tuba does not affect the flesh of the fish, which is brought to the table without any special preparation.

The principal export from Brunai is sago flour. The sago palm is known to the natives under the name of rumbiah, the pith, after its first preliminary washing, is called lamantah (i.e., raw), and after its preparation for export by the Chinese, sagu. The botanical name is Metroxylon, M. Laevis being that of the variety the trunk of which is unprotected, and M. Rumphii that of the kind which is armed with long and strong spikes, serving to ward off the attacks of the wild pigs from the young palm.

This palm is indigenous in the Malayan Archipelago and grows to the height of twenty to forty feet, in swampy land along the banks of rivers not far from the sea, but out of the reach of tidal influences. A plantation once started goes "on for ever," with scarcely any care or attention from the proprietor, as the palm propagates itself by numerous off-shots, which take the place of the parent tree when it is cut down for the purpose of being converted into food, or when it dies, which, unlike most other palms, it does after it has once flowered and seeded, i.e., after it has attained the age of ten or fifteen years.

It can also be propagated from the seed, but these are often unproductive.

If required for food purposes, the sago palm must be cut down at its base before it begins to flower, as afterwards the pith or farina becomes dried up and useless. The trunk is then stripped of its leaves and, if it is intended to work it up at its owner's house, it is cut into convenient lengths and floated down the river; if the pith is to be extracted on the spot the trunk is split in two, longitudinally, and is found to contain a mass of starchy pith, kept together by filaments of woody fibre, and when this is worked out by means of bambu hatchets nothing but a thin rind, the outer bark, is left. To separate the starch from the woody fibre, the pith is placed on a mat in a frame work over a trough by the river side; the sago washer then mounts up and, pouring fresh water over the pith, commences vigorously dancing about on it with his bare feet, the result being that the starch becomes dissolved in the water and runs off with it into the trough below, while the woody fibre remains on the mat and is thrown away, or, if the washer is not a Mahomedan, used for fattening pigs. The starch thus obtained is not yet quite pure, and under the name of lamantah is sold to Chinese and undergoes a further process of washing, this time by hand, in large, solid, wooden troughs and tubs. When sufficiently purified, it is sun-dried and, as a fine white flour, is packed in gunny bags for the Singapore market. At Singapore, some of this flour—a very small proportion—is converted into the pearl sago of the shops, but the greater portion is sent on direct to Europe, where it is used for sizing cloth, in the manufacture of beer, for confectionery, &c.

It will be seen that the sago palm thus affords food and also employment to a considerable number of both natives and Chinese and, requiring little or no trouble in cultivation, it is a perfect gift of the gods to the natives in the districts where it occurs. It is a curious fact that, though abounding in Sarawak, in the districts near Brunai and in the southern parts of British North Borneo on the West Coast, it seems to stop short suddenly at the Putatan River, near Gaya Bay, and is not found indigenous in the North nor on the North-East. Some time ago I sent a quantity of young shoots to a Chief living on the Labuk River, near Sandakan, on the East Coast, but have not yet heard whether they have proved a success.

A nasty sour smell is inseparable from a sago factory, but the health of the coolies, who live in the factory, does not appear to be affected by it.

The Brunais and natives of sago districts consume a considerable quantity of sago flour, which is boiled into a thick, tasteless paste, called boyat and eaten by being twisted into a large ball round a stick and inserted into the mouth—an ungraceful operation. Tamarind, or some very acid sauce is used to impart to it some flavour. Sago is of course cheaper than rice, but the latter is, as a rule, much preferred by the native, and is found more nutritious and lasting. LOGAN, in the Journal of the Indian Archipelago, calculates that three sago palms yield more nutritive matter than an acre of wheat, and six trees more than an acre of potatoes. The plantain and banana also flourish, under cultivation, in Borneo, and Mr. BURBIDGE, in his preface to the Gardens of the Sun, points out that it fruits all the year round and that its produce is to that of wheat as 133 : 1, and to that of the potato as 44 : 1. What a Paradise! some of my readers will exclaim. There can be no want here! I am sure the figures and calculations above quoted are absolutely correct, but I have certainly seen want and poverty in Borneo, and these tropical countries are not quite the earthly paradises which some old writers would have us believe. For our poor British "unemployed," at any rate, I fear Borneo can never be a refuge, as the sun would there be more fatal than the deadly cold here, and the race could not be kept up without visits to colder climates. But if sago and bananas are so plentiful and so nourishing, as we are taught by the experts, it does seem somewhat remarkable, in this age of invention, that some means cannot be devised of bringing together the prolific food stores of the East and the starving thousands of the West.

Both before, during and after the day's work, the Malays, man and woman, boy and girl, solace and refresh themselves with tobacco and with the areca-nut, or the betel nut as, for some unexplained reason, it is called in English books, though betel is the name of the pepper leaf in which the areca-nut is wrapped and with which it is masticated.

A good deal of the tobacco now used in Brunai is imported from Java or Palembang (Sumatra), but a considerable portion is grown in the hilly districts on the West Coast of North Borneo, in the vicinity of Gaya Bay, by the Muruts. It is unfermented and sun-dried, but has not at all a bad flavour and is sometimes used by European pipe smokers. The Brunai Malays and the natives generally, as a rule, smoke the tobacco in the form of cigarettes, the place of paper being taken by the fine inner leaf of the nipa palm, properly prepared by drying. The Court cigarettes are monstrous things, fully eight inches long sometimes, and deftly fashioned by the fingers of the ladies of the harem.

Some of the inland natives, who are unable to procure nipa leaf (dahun kirei), use roughly made wooden pipes, and the leaf of the maize plant is also occasionally substituted for the nipa. It is a common practice with persons of both sexes to insert a "quid" of tobacco in their cheek, or between the upper lip and the gum. This latter practice does not add to the appearance of a race not overburdened with facial charms. The tobacco is allowed to remain in position for a long time, but it is not chewed. The custom of areca-nut chewing has been so often described that I will only remind the reader that the nut is the produce of a graceful and slender palm, which flourishes under cultivation in all Malayan countries and is called by Malays pinang. It is of about the size of a nutmeg and, for chewing, is cut into pieces of convenient size and made into a neat little packet with the green leaf of the aromatic betel pepper plant, and with the addition of a little gambier (the inspissated juice of the leaves of the uncaria gambir) and of fine lime, prepared by burning sea shells. Thus prepared, the bolus has an undoubtedly stimulating effect on the nerves and promotes the flow of saliva. I have known fresh vigour put into an almost utterly exhausted boat's crew by their partaking of this stimulant.

It tinges the saliva and the lips bright red, but, contrary to a very commonly received opinion, has no effect of making the teeth black. This blackening of the teeth is produced by rubbing in burnt coco-nut shell, pounded up with oil, the dental enamel being sometimes first filed off. Toothache and decayed teeth are almost unknown amongst the natives, but whether this is in some measure due to the chewing of the areca-nut I am unable to say.

It used to be a disagreeable, but not unusual sight, to see the old Sultan at an audience remove the areca-nut he had been masticating and hand it to a small boy, who placed it in his mouth and kept it there until the aged monarch again required it.

The clothing of the Brunai Malays is simple and suitable to the climate. The one garment common to men, women and children is the sarong, which in its general signification means a sheath or covering, e.g., the sheath of a sword is a sarong, and the envelope enclosing a letter is likewise its sarong. The sarong or sheath of the Brunai human being is a piece of cotton cloth, of Tartan pattern, sewn down the side and resembling an ordinary skirt, or petticoat, except that it is not pleated or attached to a band at the waist and is, therefore, the same width all the way down. It is worn as a petticoat, being fastened at the waist sometimes by a belt or girdle, but more often the upper part is merely twisted into its own folds. Both men and women frequently wear nothing but this garment, the men being naked from the waist up, but the women generally concealing the breasts by fastening the sarong high up under the arms; but for full dress the women wear in addition a short sleeved jacket of dark blue cotton cloth, reaching to the waist, the tight sleeves being ornamented with a row of half-a-dozen jingling buttons, of gold if possible, and a round hat of plaited pandan (screw-pine) leaves, or of nipa leaf completes the Brunai woman's costume. No stockings, slippers, or shoes are worn. Ladies of rank and wealth substitute silk and gold brocade for the cotton material used by their poorer sisters and, in lieu of a hat, cover their head and the greater part of the face with a selendang, or long scarf of gold brocade. They occasionally also wear slippers. The gold brocade is a specialty of Brunai manufacture and is very handsome, the gold thread being woven in tasteful patterns on a ground of yellow, green, red or dark blue silk. The materials are obtained from China. The cotton sarongs are also woven in Brunai of European cotton twist, but inferior and cheap imitations are now imported from Switzerland and Manchester. In addition to the sarong, the Brunai man, when fully dressed, wears a pair of loose cotton trowsers, tied round the waist, and in this case the sarong is so folded as to reach only half way down to the knee, instead of to the ankle, as ordinarily.

A short sleeved cotton jacket, generally white, covers his body and his head dress is a small coloured kerchief called dastar, the Persian word for turban.

The nobles wear silks instead of cottons and with them a small but handsome kris, stuck into the sarong, is de rigueur for full dress. A gold or silver betel-nut box might almost be considered as part of the full dress, as they are never without one on state occasions, it being carried by an attendant.

The women are fond of jewellery, and there are some clever gold and silversmiths in the city, whose designs appear to be imitated from the Javanese. Rings, earrings, broaches to fasten the jacket at the neck, elaborate hairpins, massive silver or gold belts, with large gold buckles, and bracelets of gold or silver are the usual articles possessed by a lady of position.

The characteristic earring is quite a specialty of Brunai art, and is of the size and nearly the shape of a very large champagne cork, necessitating a huge hole being made for its reception in the lobes of the ear. It is made hollow, of gold or silver, or of light wood gilt, or sometimes only painted, or even quite plain, and is stuck, lengthwise, through the hole in the ear, the ends projecting on either side. When the ladies are not in full dress, this hole occasionally affords a convenient receptacle for the cigarette, or any other small article not in use for the time being.

The men never wear any jewellery, except, perhaps, one silver ring, which is supposed to have come from the holy city—Mecca.

The Malay kris is too well known to need description here. It is a dagger or poignard with a blade varying in length from six inches to two feet. This blade is not invariably wavy, or serpentine, as often supposed, but is sometimes quite straight. It is always sharp on both edges and is fashioned from iron imported from Singapore, by Brunai artificers. Great taste is displayed in the handle, which is often of delicately carved ivory and gold, and just below the attachment of the handle, the blade is broadened out, forming a hilt, the under edge of which is generally fancifully carved. Age adds greatly to the value of the kris and the history of many is handed down. The highest price I know of being given for a Brunai kris was $100, paid by the present Sultan for one he presented to the British North Borneo Company on his accession to the throne, but I have heard of higher prices being asked. Very handsomely grained and highly polished wood is used for the sheath and the two pieces forming it are frequently so skilfully joined as to have the appearance of being in one. Though naturally a stabbing weapon, the Malays of Brunai generally use it for cutting, and after an amok the blade employed is often found bent out of all shape.

The parang is simply an ordinary cutlass, with a blade two feet in length. As we generally carry a pocket knife about with us, so the Brunai Malay always wears his parang, or has it near at hand, using it for every purpose where cutting is required, from paring his nails to cutting the posts of which his house is built, or weeding his patch of rice land.

With this and his bliong he performs all his carpentry work; from felling the enormous timber tree in the jungle to the construction of his house and boat. The bliong is indeed a most useful implement and can perform wonders in the hands of a Malay. It is in the shape of a small adze, but according to the way it is fitted into the handle it can be used either as an axe or adze. The Malays with this instrument can make planks and posts as smooth as a European carpenter is able to do with his plane.

The parang ilang is a fighting weapon, with a peculiarity in the shape of the blade which, Dr. TAYLOR informs me, is not known to occur in the weapons of any other country, and consists in the surface of the near side being flat, as in an ordinary blade, while that of the off side is distinctly convex. This necessitates rather careful handling in the case of a novice, as the convexity is liable to cause the blade to glance off any hard substance and inflict a wound on its wielder. This weapon is manufactured in Brunai, but is the proper arm of the Kyans and, now, also of the Sarawak Dyaks, who are closely allied to them and who, in this as in other matters, such as the curious perforation of a part of their person, which has been described by several writers, are following their example. The Kyans were once the most formidable Sub-Malay tribe in Northern Borneo and have been alluded to in preceding pages. On the West coast, their headquarters is the Baram River, which has recently been added to Sarawak, but they stretch right across to the East Coast and Dutch territory.

There are many kinds of canoes, from the simple dug-out, with scarcely any free-board, to the pakerangan, a boat the construction of which is confined to only two rivers in North Borneo. It is built up of planks fastened together by wooden pegs, carvel fashion, on a small keel, or lunas. It is sharp at both ends, has very good lines, is a good sea boat and well adapted for crossing river bars. It is not made in Brunai itself, but is bought from the makers up the coast and invariably used by the Brunai fishermen, who are the best and most powerful paddlers to be found anywhere. The trading boats—prahus or tongkangs—are clumsy, badly fastened craft, not often exceeding 30 tons burthen, and modelled on the Chinese junk, generally two-masted, the foremast raking forward, and furnished with rattan rigging and large lug sails. This forward rake, I believe, was not unusual, in former days, in European craft, and is said to aid in tacking. The natives now, however, are getting into the way of building and rigging their boats in humble imitation of the Europeans. The prahus are generally furnished with long sweeps, useful when the wind falls and in ascending winding rivers, when the breeze cannot be depended on. The canoes are propelled and steered by single-bladed paddles. They also generally carry a small sail, often made of the remnants of different gaily coloured garments, and a fleet of little craft with their gaudy sails is a pleasing sight on a fresh, bright morning. At the sports held by the Europeans on New Year's Day, the Queen's Birthday and other festivals, native canoe races are always included and are contested with the keenest possible excitement by the competitors. A Brunai Malay takes to the water and to his tiny canoe almost before he is able to walk. Use has with him become second nature and, really, I have known some Brunai men paddle all day long, chatting and singing and chewing betel-nut, as though they felt it no exertion whatever.

In the larger canoes one sees the first step towards a fixed rudder and tiller, a modified form of paddle being fixed securely to one side of the stern, in such a way that the blade can be turned so as either to have its edges fore and aft, or its sides presented at a greater or less angle to the water, according to the direction in which it is desired to steer the boat.

I was much interested, in going over the Pitt-Rivers collection, at the Oxford University Museum, to find that in the model of a Viking boat the steering gear is arranged in almost exactly the same manner as that of the modern Malay canoe; and indeed, the lines generally of the two boats are somewhat alike.

To the European novice, paddling is severe work, more laborious than rowing; but then a Brunai man is always in "training," more or less; he is a teetotaller and very temperate in eating and drinking; indeed the amount of fluid they take is, considering the climate, wonderfully small. They scarcely drink during meals, and afterwards, as a rule, only wash their mouths out, instead of taking a long draught like the European.

Mr. DALRYMPLE is right in saying that a State visit is like a Quakers' meeting. Seldom is any important business more than broached on such an occasion; the details of difficult negotiations are generally discussed and arranged by means of confidential agents, who often find it to their pecuniary advantage to prolong matters to the limit of their employer's patience. The Brunai Malays are very nice, polite fellows to have to deal with, but they have not the slightest conception of the value of time, and the expression nanti dahulu (wait a bit) is as often in their mouths as that of malua (by-and-by) is by Miss GORDON CUMMING said to be in those of the Fijians. A lady friend of mine, who found a difficulty in acquiring Malay, pronounced nanti dahulu, or nanti dulu as generally spoken, "nanty doodle," and suggested that "the nanty doodles" could be a good name for "the Brunai Malays."

As writing is a somewhat rare accomplishment, state documents are not signed but sealed—"chopped" it is called—and much importance is accordingly attached to the official seals or chops, which are large circular metal stamps, and the chop is affixed by oiling the stamps, blacking it over the flame of a candle and pressing it on the document to be sealed. The chop bears, in Arabic characters, the name, style and title of the Official using it. The Sultan's Chop is the Great Seal of State and is distinguished by being the only one of which the circumference can be quite round and unbroken; the edges of those of the Wazirs are always notched.

By the aboriginal tribes of Borneo, the Brunai people are always spoken of as Orang Abai, or Abai men, but though I have often enquired both of the aborigines and of the Brunais themselves, I have not been able to obtain any explanation of the term, nor of its derivation.

As already stated, the religion of the Brunais is Mahomedanism; but they do not observe its precepts and forms with any very great strictness, nor are they proselytisers, so that comparatively few of the surrounding pagans have embraced the religion of their conquerors.

Many of their old superstitions still influence them, as, in the early days of Christianity, the belief in the old heathen gods and goddesses were found underlying the superstructure of the new faith and tinging its ritual and forms of worship. There still flourishes and survives, influencing to the present day the life of the Brunais, the old Spirit worship and a real belief in the power of evil spirits (hantus) to cause ill-luck, sickness and death, to counteract which spells, charms and prayers are made use of, together with propitiatory offerings. Most of them wear some charm to ward off sickness, and others to shield them from death in battle. If you are travelling in the jungle and desire to quench your thirst at a brook, your Brunai follower will first lay his parang, or cutlass in the bed of the stream, with its point towards the source, so that the Spirit of the brook shall be powerless to harm you.

In caves and on small islands you frequently find platforms and little models of houses and boats—propitiatory offerings to hantus. In times of general sickness a large model of a boat is sometimes made and decked with flags and launched out to sea in the hope that the evil spirit who has brought the epidemic may take his departure therein. At Labuan it was difficult to prevail on a Malay messenger to pass after sunset by the gaol, where executions took place, or by the churchyard, for fear of the ghosts haunting those localities.

Javanese element, and Hindu work in gold has been discovered buried in the island of Pappan, situated between Labuan and Brunai. Mr. INCHE MAHOMET, H. B. M.'s Consular Agent in Brunai, was good enough to procure for me a native history of Brunai, called the Telselah Besar, or principal history. This history states that the first Mahomedan Sovereign of Brunai was Sultan MAHOMET and that, before his conversion and investiture by the Sultan of Johor, his kingdom had been tributary to the State of Majapahit, on the fall of which kingdom the Brunai Government transferred its allegiance to Johor. Majapahit[8] was the last Javanese kingdom professing Hinduism, and from its overthrow dates the triumph of Mahomedanism in Java. This occurred in A.D. 1478, which, if the chronicle can be trusted, must have been about the period of the commencement of the Mahomedan period in Brunai. Inclusive of this Sultan MAHOMET and of the late Sultan MUMIM, who died in May, 1885, twenty-three Mahomedan Sultans have reigned in Brunai and, allowing eighteen years for an average reign, this brings us within a few years of the date assigned to the overthrow of the kingdom of Majapahit, and bears testimony to the reliability of the chronicle. I will quote the first few paragraphs of the Telselah, as they will give the reader an idea of a Brunai history and also because they allude to the connection of the Chinese with Borneo and afford a fanciful explanation of the origin of the name of the mountain of Kinabalu, in British North Borneo, which is 13,700 feet in height:—

"This is the genealogy of all the Rajas who have occupied the royal throne of the Government of Brunai, the abode of peace, from generation to generation, who inherited the royal drum and the bell, the tokens from the country of Johore, kamal almakam, and who also possessed the royal drum from Menangkabau, namely, from the country of Saguntang.

"This was the commencement of the kingdom of Brunai and of the introduction of the Mahomedan religion and of the Code of Laws of the prophet, the beloved of God, in the country of Brunai—that is to say (in the reign of) His Highness Sultan MAHOMET. But before His Majesty's time the country of Brunai was still infidel, and a dependency of Majapahit. On the death of the Batara of Majapahit and of the PATIH GAJA MEDAH the kingdom of Majapahit fell, and Brunai ceased to pay tribute, which used to consist of one jar of the juice of the young betel-nut every year.

"In the time of the Sultan BAHTRI of the kingdom of Johor, Tuan ALAK BETATAR and PATIH BERBAHI were summoned to Johor, and the former was appointed Sultan MAHOMET by the Sultan of Johor, who conferred on him the royal drum and assigned him five provinces, namely, Kaluka, Seribas, Sadong, Samarahan and Sarawak. PATIH BERBAI was given the title of Bandhara Sri Maharaja. After a stay of some little time in Johor, His Highness the Sultan MAHOMET returned to Brunai; but His Highness had no male issue and only one daughter. At that time also the Emperor of China ordered two of his ministers to obtain possession of the precious stone of the dragon of the mountain Kinabalu. Numbers of Chinese were devoured by the dragon and still possession was not obtained of the stone. For this reason they gave the mountain the name of Kinabalu (Kina = Chinese; balu = widow).

"The name of one of the Chinese Ministers was Ong Kang and of another ONG SUM PING, and the latter had recourse to a stratagem. He made a box with glass sides and placed a large lighted candle therein, and when the dragon went forth to feed, ONG SUM PING seized the precious stone and put the lamp in its place and u the dragon mistook it for the precious stone. Having now obtained possession of the precious stone all the junks set sail for China, and when they had got a long way off from Kinabalu, ONG KANG asked ONG SUM PING for the stone, and thereupon a quarrel ensued between them. ONG KANG continued to press his demand for the precious stone, and ONG SUM PING became out of humour and sullen and refused to return to China and made his way back to Brunai. On arriving there, he espoused the Princess, the daughter of Sultan MAHOMET, and he obtained the title of Sultan AHAMAT.

"The Sultan AHAMAT had one daughter, who was remarkably beautiful. It came to pass that a Sheriff named ALLI, a descendant of AMIR HASSAN (one of the grandchildren of the prophet) came from the country of Taif to Brunai. Hearing of the fame of the beauty of the Sultan's daughter, he became enamoured of her and the Sultan accepted him as his son-in-law and the Government of Brunai was handed over to him by His Highness and he was styled Sultan BERKAT. He enforced the Code of Laws of the beloved of God and erected a mosque in Brunai, and, moreover, ordered the Chinese population to make a stone fort."

The connection of the Chinese with Brunai was an important event in Borneo history and it was certainly to them that the flourishing condition of the capital when visited by PIGAFETTA in 1521 was due. They were the sole planters of the pepper gardens, the monopoly of the trade in the produce of which the East India Company negotiated for in 1774, when the crop was reported to the Company to have been 4,000 pikuls, equal to about 240 tons, valued on the spot at 17-1/4 Spanish dollars per pikul. The Company's Agent expressly reported that the Chinese were the only pepper planters, that the aborigines did not plant it, and that the produce was disposed of to Chinese junks, which visited the port and which he trusted would, when the exclusive trade in this article was in the hands of the Company, be diverted from Brunai to Balambangan.

The station at this latter island, as already mentioned, was abandoned in 1775, and the English trade with Brunai appears soon afterwards to have come to an end.

From extracts from the Journal of the Batavia Society of Arts and Sciences published in The British North Borneo Herald of the 1st October, 1886, the first mention of Brunai in Chinese history appears to be in the year 669, when the King of Polo, which is stated to be another name for Bunlai (corruption of "Brunai"), sent an envoy to Pekin, who came to Court with the envoy of Siam. Again, in the year 1406, another Brunai envoy was appointed, who took with him a tribute of the products of the country, and the chronicle goes on to say that it is reported "that the present King is a man from Fukien, who followed CHENG HO when he went to this country and who settled there."

This account was written in 1618 and alludes to the Chinese shipping then frequenting Brunai. It is by some supposed that the northern portion of Borneo was the destination of the unsuccessful expedition which KUBLAI KHAN sent out in the year 1292.

Towards the close of the eighteenth century a Government seems to have arisen in Brunai which knew not ONG SUM PING and, in 1809, Mr. HUNT reported that Chinese junks had ceased visiting Brunai and, owing no doubt to the rapacious and piratical character of the native Government, the pepper gardens were gradually deserted and the Chinese left the country. A few of the natives had, however, acquired the art of pepper cultivation, especially the Dusuns of Pappar, Kimanis and Bundu and when the Colony of Labuan was founded, 1846, there was still a small trade in pepper with those rivers. The Brunai Rajas, however, received their revenues and taxes in this commodity and their exhorbitant demands gradually led to the abandonment of its cultivation.

These rivers have since passed under the Government of the British North Borneo Company, and in Bundu, owing partly to the security now afforded to life and property and partly to the very high price which pepper at present realizes on account of the Dutch blockade of Achin—Achin having been of late years the principal pepper-growing country—the natives are again turning their attention to this article. I may remark here that the people of Bundu claim and shew evidence of Chinese descent, and even set up in their houses the little altar and joss which one is accustomed to see in Chinamen's shops. The Brunai Malays call the Chinese Orang Kina and evidence of their connection with Borneo is seen in such names as Kina-batangan, a river near Sandakan on the north-east coast, Kina-balu, the mountain above referred to, and Kina-benua, a district in Labuan. They have also left their mark in the very superior mode of cultivation and irrigation of rice fields on some rivers on the north-west coast as compared with the primitive mode practised in other parts of Northern Borneo. It is now the object of the Governments of Sarawak and of British North Borneo to attract Chinese to their respective countries by all the means in their power. This has, to a considerable extent, been successfully achieved by the present Raja BROOKE, and a large area of his territory is now under pepper cultivation with a very marked influence on the public revenues. This subject will be again alluded to when I come to speak of British North Borneo.

It would appear that Brunai was once or twice attacked by the Spaniards, the last occasion being in 1645.[9] It has also had the honour in more recent times, of receiving the attentions of a British naval expedition, which was brought about in this wise. Sir JAMES, then Mr. BROOKE, had first visited Sarawak in 1839 and found the district in rebellion against its ruler, a Brunai Raja named MUDA HASSIM, who, being a friend to the English, received Mr. BROOKE with cordiality. Mr. BROOKE returned to Sarawak in the following year and this time assisted MUDA HASSIM to put down the rebellion and finally, on the 24th September, 1841, the Malay Raja retired from his position as Governor in favour of the Englishman.

The agreement to so transfer the Government was not signed without the application of a little pressure, for we find the following account of it in Mr. BROOKE'S Journal, edited by Captain RODNEY MUNDY, R. N., in two volumes, and published by JOHN MURRAY in 1848:—

"October 1st, 1841. Events of great importance have occurred during the last month. I will shortly narrate them. The advent of the Royalist and Swift and a second visit from the Diana on her return from Brunei with the shipwrecked crew of the Sultana, strengthened my position, as it gave evidence that the Singapore authorities were on the alert, and otherwise did good to my cause by creating an impression amongst the natives of my power and influence with the Governor of the Straits Settlements. Now, then, was my time for pushing measures to extremity against my subtle enemy the arch-intriguer MAKOTA." This Chief was a Malay hostile to English interest. "I had previously made several strong remonstrances, and urged for an answer to a letter I had addressed to MUDA HASSIM, in which I had recapitulated in detail the whole particulars of our agreement, concluding by a positive demand either to allow me to retrace my steps by repayment of the sums which he had induced me to expend, or to confer upon me the grant of the Government of the country according to his repeated promises; and I ended by stating that if he would not do either one or the other I must find means to right myself. Thus did I, for the first time since my arrival in the land, present anything in the shape of a menace before the Raja, my former remonstrances only going so far as to threaten to take away my own person and vessels from the river." Mr. BROOKE'S demand for an investigation into MAKOTA'S conduct was politely shelved and Mr. BROOKE deemed "the moment for action had now arrived. My conscience told me that I was bound no longer to submit to such injustice, and I was resolved to test the strength of our respective parties. Repairing on board the yacht, I mustered my people, explained my intentions and mode of operation, and having loaded the vessel's guns with grape and canister, and brought her broadside to bear, I proceeded on shore with a detachment fully armed, and taking up a position at the entrance of the Raja's palace, demanded and obtained an immediate audience. In a few words I pointed out the villany of MAKOTA, his tyranny and oppression of all classes, and my determination to attack him by force, and drive him from the country. I explained to the Raja that several Chiefs and a large body of Siniawan Dyaks were ready to assist me, and the only course left to prevent bloodshed was immediately to proclaim me Governor of the country. This unmistakeable demonstration had the desired effect * * * None joined the party of MAKOTA, and his paid followers were not more than twenty in number.

"Under the guns of the Royalist, and with a small body of men to protect me personally, and the great majority of all classes with me, it is not surprising that the negotiation proceeded rapidly to a favourable issue. The document was quickly drawn up, sealed, signed, and delivered; and on the 24th of September, 1841, I was declared Raja and Governor of Sarawak amidst the roar of cannon, and a general display of flags and banners from the shore and boats on the river."

This is a somewhat lengthy quotation, but the language is so graphic and so honest that I need make no apologies for introducing it and, indeed, it is the fairest way of exhibiting Mr. BROOKE'S objects and reasons and is, moreover, interesting as shewing under what circumstances and conditions the first permanent English settlement was formed in Borneo.

Mr. BROOKE concludes his account of his accession to the Government in words that remind us of another unselfish and modest hero—General GORDON. He says:—

"Difficulty followed upon difficulty; the dread of pecuniary failure, the doubt of receiving support or assistance; this and much more presents itself to my mind. But I have tied myself to the stake. I have heaped faggots around me. I stand upon a cask of gunpowder, and if others bring the torch I shall not shrink, I feel within me the firm, unchangeable conviction of doing right which nothing can shake. I see the benefits I am conferring. The oppressed, the wretched, the outlawed have found in me their only protector. They now hope and trust; and they shall not be disappointed while I have life to uphold them. God has so far used me as a humble instrument of his hidden Providence; and whatever be the result, whatever my fate, I know the example will not be thrown away. I know it tends to a good end in His own time. He can open a path for me through all difficulties, raise me up friends who will share with me in the task, awaken the energies of the great and powerful, so that they may protect this unhappy people. I trust it may be so: but if God wills otherwise; if the time be not yet arrived; if it be the Almighty's will that the flickering taper shall be extinguished ere it be replaced by a steady beacon, I submit, in the firm and humble assurance that His ways are better than my ways, and that the term of my life is better in His hands than in my own."

On the 1st August, 1842, this cession of Sarawak to Mr. BROOKE was confirmed by His Highness Sultan OMAR ALI SAIFUDIN, under the Great Seal. MUDA HASSIM was the uncle of the Sultan, who was a sovereign of weak, vacillating disposition, at one time guided by the advice of his uncle, who was the leader of the "English party," and expressing his desire for the Queen's assistance to put down piracy and disorder and offering, in return, to cede to the British the island of Labuan; at another following his own natural inclinations and siding altogether with the party of disorder, who were resolved to maintain affairs as they were in the "good old times," knowing that when the reign of law and order should be established their day and their power and ability to aggrandize and enrich themselves at the expense of the aborigines and the common people would come to an end. There is no doubt that Mr. BROOKE himself considered it would be for the good of the country that MUDA HASSIM should be raised to the throne and the Sultan certainly entertained a not altogether ill-founded dread that it was intended to depose him in the latter's favour, the more so as a large majority of the Brunai people were known to be in his interest. In the early part of 1845 MUDA HASSIM appears to have been in favour with the Sultan, and was publicly announced as successor to the throne with the title of Sultan Muda (muda = young, the usual Malay title for the heir apparent to the Crown), and the document recognising the appointment of Mr. BROOKE as the Queen's Confidential Agent in Borneo was written in the name of the Sultan and of MUDA HASSIM conjointly, and concludes by saying that the two writers express the hope that through the Queen's assistance they will be enabled to settle the Government of Borneo. In April, 1846, however, Mr. BROOKE received the startling intelligence that in the December, or January previous, the Sultan had ordered the murder of his uncle MUDA HASSIM and of several of the Raja's brothers and nobles of his party, in all some thirteen Rajas and many of their followers. MUDA HASSIM, finding resistance useless, retreated to his boat and ignited a cask of powder, but the explosion not killing him, he blew his brains out with a pistol. His brother, Pangeran BUDRUDIN, one of the most enlightened nobles in Brunai, likewise terminated his existence by an explosion of gunpowder. Representations being made to Sir THOMAS COCHRANE, the Admiral in command of the station, he proceeded in person to Borneo with a squadron of eight vessels, including two steamers. The Sultan, foreseeing the punishment that was inevitable, erected some well-placed batteries to defend his town. Only the two steamers and one sailing vessel of war, together with boats from the other vessels and a force of six hundred men were able to ascend the river and, such was the rotten state of the kingdom of Borneo Proper and so unwarlike the disposition of its degenerate people that after firing a few shots, whereby two of the British force were killed and a few wounded, the batteries were deserted, the Sultan and his followers fled to the jungle, and the capital remained at the Admiral's disposition. Captain RODNEY MUNDY, accompanied by Mr. BROOKE, with a force of five hundred men was despatched in pursuit of His Highness, but it is needless to add that, though the difficulties of marching through a trackless country under a tropical downpour of rain were pluckily surmounted, it was found impossible to come up with the Royal fugitive. Negotiations were subsequently entered into with the Prime Minister, Pangeran MUMIM, an intelligent noble, who afterwards became Sultan, and on the 19th July, 1846, the batteries were razed to the ground and the Admiral issued a Proclamation to the effect that hostilities would cease if the Sultan would return and govern lawfully, suppress piracy and respect his engagements with the British Government; but that if he persisted in his evil courses the squadron would return and burn down the capital. The same day Admiral COCHRANE and his squadron steamed away. It is perhaps superfluous to add that this was the first and the last time that the Brunai Government attempted to try conclusions with the British, and in the following year a formal treaty was concluded to which reference will be made hereafter.

(To be continued.)

Footnotes:

[Footnote 8: CRAWFURD'S Dictionary—Indian Islands—Majapait.]

[Footnote 9: Captain RODNEY MUNDY, R. N., states that in 1846 he captured at Brunai ten large Spanish brass guns, the longest being 14 feet 6 inches, cast in the time of CHARLES III of Spain and the most beautiful specimens of workmanship he had ever seen. CHARLES III reigned between 1759 and 1788.]



CHAPTER IV.

Having alluded to the circumstances under which the Government of Sarawak became vested in the BROOKE family, it may be of interest if I give a brief outline of the history of that State under its European rulers up to the present time. The territory acquired by Sir JAMES BROOKE in 1841 and known as Sarawak Proper, was a small district with a coast line of sixty miles and with an average depth inland of fifty miles—an area of three thousand square miles. Since that date, however, rivers and districts lying to the northward have been acquired by cessions for annual payments from the Brunai Government and have been incorporated with the original district of Sarawak, which has given its name to the enlarged territory, and the present area of Raja BROOKE'S possessions is stated to be about 40,000 square miles, supporting a population of 280,000 souls, and possessing a coast line of 380 miles. The most recent acquisition of territory was in 1884, so that the young State has shewn a very vigorous growth since its birth in 1841—at the rate of about 860 square miles a year, or an increase of thirteen times its original size in the space of forty-three years.

Now, alas, there are no "more lands to conquer," or acquire, unless the present kingdom of Brunai, or Borneo Proper, as it is styled by the old geographers, is altogether swallowed up by its offspring, which, under its white ruler, has developed a vitality never evinced under the rule of the Royal house of Brunai in its best days.[10]

The limit of Sarawak's coast line to the South-West is Cape, or Tanjong, Datu, on the other side of which commences the Dutch portion of Borneo, so that expansion in that direction is barred. To the North-East the boundary is Labuk Pulai the Eastern limit of the watershed, on the coast, of the important river Barram which was acquired by Raja BROOKE, in 1881, for an annual payment of L1,000. Beyond this commences what is left of the Brunai Sultanate, there being but one stream of any importance between the Barram river and that on which the capital—Brunai—is situated. But Sarawak does not rest here; it acquired, in 1884, from the then Pangeran Tumonggong, who is now Sultan, the Trusan, a river to the East of the Brunai, under somewhat exceptional circumstances. The natives of the river were in rebellion against the Brunai Government, and in November, 1884, a party of Sarawak Dyaks, who had been trading and collecting jungle produce in the neighbourhood of the capital, having been warned by their own Government to leave the country because of its disturbed condition, and having further been warned also by the Sultan not to enter the Trusan, could not refrain from visiting that river on their homeward journey, in order to collect some outstanding trade debts. They were received is so friendly a manner, that their suspicions were not in the slightest degree aroused, and they took no precautions, believing themselves to be amongst friends. Suddenly in the night they were attacked while asleep in their boats, and the whole party, numbering about seventeen, massacred, with the exception of one man who, though wounded, managed to effect his escape and ultimately found his way to Labuan, where he was treated in the Government Hospital and made a recovery. The heads of the murdered men were, as is customary, taken by the murderers. No very distinct reason can be given for the attack, except that the Trusan people were in a "slaying" mood, being on the "war-path" and in arms against their own Government, and it has also been said that those particular Dyaks happened to be wearing trowsers instead of their ordinary chawat, or loin cloth, and, as their enemies, the Brunais, were trowser-wearers, the Trusan people thought fit to consider all natives wearing such extravagant clothing as their enemies. The Sarawak Government, on hearing of the incident, at once despatched Mr. MAXWELL, the Chief Resident, to demand redress. The Brunai Government, having no longer the warlike Kyans at their beck and call, that tribe having passed to Raja BROOKE with the river Barram, were wholly unable to undertake the punishment of the offenders. Mr. MAXWELL then demanded as compensation the sum of $22,000, basing his calculations on the amount which some time previously the British Government had exacted in the case of some British subjects who had been murdered in another river.

This demand the bankrupt Government of Brunai was equally incompetent to comply with, and, thereupon, the matter was settled by the transfer of the river to Raja BROOKE in consideration of the large annual payment of $4,500, two years' rental—$9,000, being paid in advance, and Sarawak thus acquired, as much by good luck as through good management, a pied a terre in the very centre of the Brunai Sultanate and practically blocked the advance of their northern rivals—the Company—on the capital. This river was the kouripan (see ante, page 26) of the present Sultan, and a feeling of pique which he then entertained against the Government of British North Borneo, on account of their refusing him a monetary loan to which he conceived he had a claim, caused him to make this cession with a better grace and more readily than might otherwise have been the case, for he was well aware that the British North Borneo Company viewed with some jealousy the extension of Sarawak territory in this direction, having, more than probably, themselves an ambition to carry their own southern boundary as near to Brunai as circumstances would admit. The same feeling on the part of the Tumonggong induced him to listen to Mr. MAXWELL'S proposals for the cession to Sarawak of a still more important river—the Limbang—one on which the existence of Brunai itself as an independent State may be said to depend. But the then reigning Sultan and the other Ministers of State refused their sanction, and the Tumonggong, since his accession to the throne, has also very decidedly changed his point of view, and is now in accord with the large majority of his Brunai subjects to whom such a cession would be most distasteful. It should be explained that the Limbang is an important sago-producing river, close to the capital and forming an actual portion of the Brunai river itself, with the waters of which it mingles; indeed, the Brunai river is probably the former mouth of the Limbang, and is itself but a salt-water inlet, producing nothing but fish and prawns. As the Brunais themselves put it, the Limbang is their priuk nasi, their rice pot, an expression which gains the greater force when it is remembered that rice is the chief food with this eastern people, in a more emphatic sense even than bread is with us. This question of the Limbang river will afford a good instance and specimen of the oppressive government, or want of government, on the part of the Brunai rulers, and I will return to it again, continuing now my short glance at Sarawak's progress. Raja BROOKE has had little difficulty in establishing his authority in the districts acquired from time to time, for not only were the people glad to be freed from the tyranny of the Brunai Rajas, but the fame of both the present Raja and of his famous uncle Sir JAMES had spread far and wide in Borneo, and, in addition, it was well known that the Sarawak Government had at its back its war-like Dyak tribes, who, now that "head-hunting" has been stopped amongst them, would have heartily welcomed the chance of a little legitimate fighting and "at the commandment of the Magistrate to wear weapons and serve in the wars," as the XXXVIIth Article of our Church permits. In the Trusan, the Sarawak flag was freely distributed and joyfully accepted, and in a short time the Brunai river was dotted with little roughly "dug-out" canoes, manned by repulsive-looking, naked, skin-diseased savages, each proudly flying an enormous Sarawak ensign, with its Christian symbol of the Cross, in the Muhammadan capital.

A fine was imposed and paid for the murder of the Sarawak Dyaks, and the heads delivered up to Mr. A. H. EVERETT, the Resident of the new district, who thus found his little launch on one occasion decorated in an unusual manner with these ghastly trophies, which were, I believe, forwarded to the sorrowing relatives at home.

In addition to these levies of warriors expert in jungle fighting, on which the Government can always count, the Raja has a small standing army known as the "Sarawak Rangers," recruited from excellent material—the natives of the country—under European Officers, armed with breech-loading rifles, and numbering two hundred and fifty or three hundred men. There is, in addition, a small Police Force, likewise composed of natives, as also are the crews of the small steamers and launches which form the Sarawak Navy. With the exception, therefore, of the European Officers, there is no foreign element in the military, naval and civil forces of the State, and the peace of the people is kept by the people themselves, a state of things which makes for the stability and popularity of the Government, besides enabling it to provide for the defence of the country and the preservation of internal order at a lower relative cost than probably any other Asiatic country the Government of which is in the hand of Europeans. Sir JAMES BROOKE did not marry, and died in 1868, having appointed as his successor the present Raja CHARLES JOHNSON, who has taken the name of BROOKE, and has proclaimed his eldest son, a youth of sixteen, heir apparent, with the title of Raja Muda. The form of Government is that of an absolute monarchy, but the Raja is assisted by a Supreme Council composed of two European officials and four natives nominated by himself. There is also a General Council of some fifty members, which is not usually convened more frequently than once in two or three years. For administrative purposes, the country is divided into Divisions, each under a European Resident with European and Native Assistants. The Resident administers justice, and is responsible for the collection of the Revenue and the preservation of order in the district, reporting direct to the Raja. Salaries are on an equitable scale, and the regulations for leave and pension on retirement are conceived in a liberal spirit.

There is no published Code of Laws, but the Raja, when the occasion arises, issues regulations and proclamations for the guidance of officials, who, in criminal cases, follow as much as possible the Indian Criminal Code. Much is left to the common sense of the Judicial Officers, native customs and religious prejudices receive due consideration, and there is a right of appeal to the Raja. Slavery was in full force when Sir JAMES BROOKE assumed the Government, all captives in the numerous tribal wars and piratical expeditions being kept or sold as slaves.

Means were taken to mitigate as much as possible the condition of the slaves, not, as a rule, a very hard one in these countries, and to gradually abolish the system altogether, which latter object was to be accomplished by 1888.

The principal item of revenue is the annual sum paid by the person who secures from the Government the sole right of importing, preparing for consumption, and retailing opium throughout the State. The holder of this monopoly is known as the "Opium Farmer" and the monopoly is termed the "Opium Farm." These expressions have occasionally given rise to the notion that the opium-producing poppy is cultivated locally under Government supervision, and I have seen it included among the list of Borneo products in a recent geographical work. It is evident that the system of farming out this monopoly has a tendency to limit the consumption of the drug, as, owing to the heavy rental paid to the Government, the retail price of the article to the consumer is very much enhanced.

Were the monopoly abolished, it would be impossible for the Government efficiently to check the contraband importation of so easily smuggled an article as prepared opium, or chandu, and by lowering the price the consumption would be increased.

The use of the drug is almost entirely confined to the Chinese portion of the population. A poll-tax, customs and excise duties, mining royalties and fines and fees make up the rest of the revenue, which in 1884 amounted to $237,752 and in 1885 to $315,264. The expenditure for the same years is given by Vice-Consul CADELL as $234,161 and $321,264, respectively. In the early days of Sarawak, it was a very serious problem to find the money to pay the expenses of a most economical Government. Sir JAMES BROOKE sunk all his own fortune—L30,000—in the country, and took so gloomy a view of the financial prospects of his kingdom that, on the refusal of England to annex it, he offered it first to France and then to Holland. Fortunately these offers were never carried into effect, and, with the assistance of the Borneo Company (not to be confused with the British North Borneo Company), who acquired the concession of the right to work the minerals in Sarawak, bad times were tided over, and, by patient perseverance, the finances of the State have been brought to their present satisfactory condition. What the amount of the national public debt is, I am not in a position to say, but, like all other countries aspiring to be civilized, it possesses a small one. The improvement in the financial position was undoubtedly chiefly due to the influx of Chinese, especially of gambier and pepper planters, who were attracted by liberal concessions of land and monetary assistance in the first instance from the Government. The present Raja has himself said that "without the Chinese we can do nothing," and we have only to turn to the British possession in the far East—the Straits Settlements, the Malay Peninsula, and Hongkong—to see that this is the case. For instance, the revenue of the Straits Settlements in 1887 was $3,847,475, of which the opium farm alone—that is a tax practically speaking borne by the Chinese population—contributed $1,779,600, or not very short of one half of the whole, and they of course contribute in many other ways as well. The frugal, patient, industrious, go-ahead, money-making Chinaman is undoubtedly the colonist for the sparsely inhabited islands of the Malay archipelago. Where, as in Java, there is a large native population and the struggle for existence has compelled the natives to adopt habits of industry, the presence of the Chinaman is not a necessity, but in a country like Borneo, where the inhabitants, from time immemorial, except during unusual periods of drought or epidemic sickness, have never found the problem of existence bear hard upon them, it is impossible to impress upon the natives that they ought to have "wants," whether they feel them or not, and that the pursuit of the dollar for the sake of mere possession is an ennobling object, differentiating the simple savage from the complicated product of the higher civilization. The Malay, in his ignorance, thinks that if he can obtain clothing suitable to the climate, a hut which adequately protects him from sun and rain, and a wife to be the mother of his children and the cooker of his meals, he should therewith rest content; but, then, no country made up of units possessed of this simple faith can ever come to anything—can ever be civilized, and hence the necessity for the Chinese immigrant in Eastern Colonies that want to shew an annual revenue advancing by leaps and bounds. The Chinaman, too, in addition to his valuable properties as a keen trader and a man of business, collecting from the natives the products of the country, which he passes on to the European merchant, from whom he obtains the European fabrics and American "notions" to barter with the natives, is also a good agriculturist, whether on a large or small scale; he is muscular and can endure both heat and cold, and so is, at any rate in the tropics, far and away a superior animal to the white labourer, whether for agricultural or mining work, as an artizan, or as a hewer of wood and drawer of water, as a cook, a housemaid or a washerwoman. He can learn any trade that a white man can teach him, from ship-building to watchmaking, and he does not drink and requires scarcely any holidays or Sundays, occasionally only a day to worship his ancestors.

It will be said that if he does not drink he smokes opium. Yes! he does, and this, as we have seen, is what makes him so beloved of the Colonial Chancellors of the Exchequer. At the same time he is, if strict justice and firmness are shewn him, wonderfully law-abiding and orderly. Faction fights, and serious ones no doubt, do occur between rival classes and rival secret societies, but to nothing like the extent that would be the case were they white men. It is not, I think, sufficiently borne in mind, that a very large proportion of the Chinese there are of the lower, I may say of the lowest, orders, many of them of the criminal class and the scourings of some of the large cities of China, who arrive at their destination in possession of nothing but a pair of trowsers and a jacket and, may be, an opium pipe; in addition to this they come from different provinces, between the inhabitants of which there has always been rivalry, and the languages of which are so entirely different that it is a usual thing to find Chinese of different provinces compelled to carry on their conversation in Malay or "pidgeon" English, and finally, as though the elements of danger were not already sufficient, they are pressed on their arrival to join rival secret societies, between which the utmost enmity and hatred exists. Taking all these things into consideration, I maintain that the Chinaman is a good and orderly citizen and that his good qualities, especially as a revenue-payer in the Far East, much more than counterbalance his bad ones. The secret societies, whose organization permeates Chinese society from the top to the bottom, are the worst feature in the social condition of the Chinese colonists, and in Sarawak a summary method of suppressing them has been adopted. The penalty for belonging to one of these societies is death. When Sir JAMES BROOKE took over Sarawak, there was a considerable Chinese population, settled for generations in the country and recruited from Dutch territory, where they had been subject to no supervision by the Government, whose hold over the country was merely nominal. They were principally gold diggers, and being accustomed to manage their own affairs and settle their disputes amongst themselves, they resented any interference from the new rulers, and, in 1857, a misunderstanding concerning the opium revenue having occurred, they suddenly rose in arms and seized the capital. It was some time before the Raja's forces could be collected and let loose upon them, when large numbers were killed and the majority of the survivors took refuge in Dutch territory.

The scheme for introducing Chinese pepper and gambier planters into Sarawak was set on foot in 1878 or 1879, and has proved a decided success, though, as Vice-Consul CADELL remarked in 1886, it is difficult to understand why even larger numbers have not availed themselves of the terms offered "since coolies have the protection of the Sarawak Government, which further grants them free passages from Singapore, whilst the climate is a healthy one, and there are no dangers to be feared from wild animals, tigers being unknown in Sarawak." The fact remains that, though there is plenty of available land, there is an insufficiency of Chinese labour still. The quantity of pepper exported in 1885 was 392 tons, valued at L19,067, and of gambier 1,370 tons, valued at L23,772.

Sarawak is said to supply more than half of the sago produce of the world. The value of the sago it exported in 1885 is returned at L35,953. Of the purely uncultivated jungle products that figure in the exports the principal are gutta-percha, India rubber, and rattans.

Both antimony ores and cinnabar (an ore of quicksilver) are worked by the Borneo Company, but the exports of the former ore and of quicksilver are steadily decreasing, and fresh deposits are being sought for. Only one deposit of cinnabar has so far been discovered, that was in 1867. Antimony was first discovered in Sarawak in 1824, and-for a long time it was from this source that the principal supplies for Europe and America were obtained. The ores are found "generally as boulders deep in clayey soil, or perched on tower-like summits and craggy pinnacles and, sometimes, in dykes in situ." The ores, too poor for shipment, are reduced locally, and the regulus exported to London. Coal is abundant, but is not yet worked on any considerable scale.[11] The Borneo Company excepted, all the trade of the country is in the hands of Chinese and Natives, nor has the Government hitherto taken steps to attract European capital for planting, but experiments are being made with the public funds under European supervision in the planting of cinchona, coffee, and tobacco. The capital of Sarawak is Kuching, which in Malay signifies a "cat." It is situated about fifteen miles up the Sarawak river and, when Sir JAMES first arrived, was a wretched native town, with palm leaf huts and a population, including a few Chinese and Klings (natives of India), of some two thousand. Kuching now possesses a well built "Istana," or Palace of the Raja, a Fort, impregnable to natives, a substantial Gaol, Court House, Government Offices, Public Market and Church, and is the headquarters of the Bishop of Singapore and Sarawak, who is the head of the Protestant Mission in the country. There is a well built brick Chinese trading quarter, or "bazaar," the Europeans have comfortable bungalows, and the present population is said to number twelve thousand.

In the early days of his reign, Sir JAMES BROOKE was energetically assisted in his great work of suppressing piracy and rendering the seas and rivers safe for the passage of the peaceful trader, by the British men-of-war on the China Station, and was singularly fortunate in having an energetic co-adjutor in Captain (now Admiral) Sir HENRY KEPPEL, K.C.B.

It will give some idea of the extent to which piracy, then almost the sole occupation of the Illanun, Balinini, and Sea Dyak tribes, was indulged in that the "Headmoney," then paid by the British Government for pirates destroyed, amounted in these expeditions to the large total of L20,000, the awarding of which sum occasioned a great stir at the time and led to the abolition of this system of "payment by results." Mr. HUME took exception altogether to the action of Sir JAMES BROOKE, and, in 1851, charges were brought against him, and a Royal Commission appointed to take evidence on the spot, or rather at Singapore.

A man like BROOKE, of an enthusiastic, impulsive, unselfish and almost Quixotic disposition, who wore his heart on his sleeve and let his opinions of men and their actions be freely known, could not but have incurred the enmity of many meaner, self-seeking minds. The Commission, after hearing all that could be brought against him, found that there was nothing proved, but it was not deemed advisable that Sir JAMES should continue to act as the British representative in Borneo and as Governor of the Colony of Labuan, positions which were indeed incompatible with that of the independent ruler of Sarawak. Sarawak independence was first recognised by the Americans, and the British followed suit in 1863, when a Vice-Consulate was established there. The question of formally proclaiming a British Protectorate over Sarawak is now being considered, and it is to be hoped, will be carried into effect.[12] The personel of the Government is purely British, most of the merchants and traders are of British nationality, and the whole trade of the country finds its way to the British Colony of the Straits Settlements.

We can scarcely let a country such as this, with its local and other resources, so close to Singapore and on the route to China, fall into the hands of any other European Power, and the only means of preventing such a catastrophe is by the proclamation of a Protectorate over it—a Protectorate which, so long as the successors of Raja BROOKE prove their competence to govern, should be worked so as to interfere as little as possible in the internal affairs of the State. The virulently hostile and ignorant criticisms to which Sir JAMES BROOKE was subjected in England, and the financial difficulties of this little kingdom, coupled with a serious dispute with a nephew whom he had appointed his successor, but whom he was compelled to depose, embittered the last years of his life. To the end he fought his foes in his old, plucky, honest, vigorous and straightforward style. He died in June, 1868, from a paralytic stroke, and was succeeded by his nephew, the present Raja. What Sir JAMES BROOKE might have accomplished had he not been hampered by an opposition based on ignorance and imperfect knowledge at home, we cannot say; what he did achieve, I have endeavoured briefly to sketch, and unprejudiced minds cannot but deem the founding of a prosperous State and the total extirpation of piracy, slavery and head-hunting, a monument worthy of a high, noble and unselfish nature.

In addition to that of the Church of England, there has, within the last few years, been established a Roman Catholic Mission, under the auspices of the St. Joseph's College, Mill Hill.

The Muhammadans, including all the true Malay inhabitants, do not make any concerted effort to disseminate the doctrines of their faith.

The following information relative to the Church of England Mission has been kindly furnished me by the Right Reverend Dr. HOSE, the present Bishop of "Singapore, Labuan and Sarawak," which is the official title of his extensive See which includes the Colony of the Straits Settlements—Penang, Province Wellesley, Malacca and Singapore and—its Dependencies, the Protected States of the Malay Peninsula, the State of Sarawak, the Crown Colony of Labuan, the Territories of the British North Borneo Company and the Congregation of English people scattered over Malaya.

The Mission was, in the first instance, set on foot by the efforts of Lady BURDETT-COUTTS and others in 1847, when Sir JAMES BROOKE was in England and his doings in the Far East had excited much interest and enthusiasm, and was specially organized under the name of the "Borneo Church Mission." The late Reverend T. MCDOUGALL, was the first Missionary, and subsequently became the first Bishop. His name was once well known, owing to a wrong construction put upon his action, on one occasion, in making use of fire arms when a vessel, on which he was aboard, came across a fleet of pirates. He was a gifted, practical and energetic man and had the interest of his Mission at heart, and, in addition to other qualifications, added the very useful one, in his position, of being a qualified medical man. Bishop MCDOUGALL was succeeded on his retirement by Bishop CHAMBERS, who had experience gained while a Missionary in the country. The present Bishop was appointed in 1881. The Mission was eventually taken over by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and this Society defrays, with unimportant exceptions, the whole cost of the See.

Dr. HOSE has under him in Sarawak eight men in holy orders, of whom six are Europeans, one Chinese and one Eurasian. The influence of the Missionaries has spread over the Skerang, Balau and Sibuyan tribes of Sea-Dyaks, and also among the Land-Dyaks near Kuching, the Capital, and among the Chinese of that town and the neighbouring pepper plantations.

There are now seven churches and twenty-five Mission chapels in Sarawak, and about 4,000 baptized Christians of the Church of England. The Mission also provides means of education and, through its press, publishes translations of the Bible, the Prayer Book and other religious and educational works, in Malay and in two Dyak dialects, which latter have only become written languages since the establishment of the Mission. In their Boys' School, at Kuching, over a hundred boys are under instruction by an English Master, assisted by a staff of Native Assistants; there is also a Girls' School, under a European Mistress, and schools at all the Mission Stations. The Government of Sarawak allows a small grant-in-aid to the schools and a salary of L200 a year to one of the Missionaries, who acts as Government Chaplain.

The Roman Catholic Mission commenced its works in Sarawak in 1881, and is under the direction of the Reverend Father JACKSON, Prefect Apostolic, who has also two or three Missionaries employed in British North Borneo. In Sarawak there are six or eight European priests and schoolmasters and a sisterhood of four or five nuns. In Kuching they have a Chapel and School and a station among the Land-Dyaks in the vicinity. They have recently established a station and erected a Chapel on the Kanowit River, an affluent of the Rejang. The Missionaries are mostly foreigners and, I believe, are under a vow to spend the remainder of their days in the East, without returning to Europe.

Their only reward is their consciousness of doing, or trying to do good, and any surplus of their meagre stipends which remains, after providing the barest necessaries of life, is refunded to the Society. I do not know what success is attending them in Sarawak, but in British North Borneo and Labuan, where they found that Father QUARTERON'S labours had left scarcely any impression, their efforts up to present have met with little success, and experiments in several rivers have had to be abandoned, owing to the utter carelessness of the Pagan natives as to matters relating to religion. When I left North Borneo in 1887, their only station which appeared to show a prospect of success was one under Father PUNDLEIDER, amongst the semi-Chinese of Bundu, to whom reference has been made on a previous page. But these people, while permitting their children to be educated and baptized by the Father, did not think it worth their while to join the Church themselves.

Neither Mission has attempted to convert the Muhammadan tribes, and indeed it would, at present, be perfectly useless to do so and, from the Government point of view, impolitic and inadvisable as well.

Footnotes:

[Footnote 10: On the 17th March, 1890 the Limbang River was forcibly annexed by Sarawak, subject to the Queen's sanction.]

[Footnote 11: Since this was written, Raja Sir CHARLES BROOKE has acquired valuable coal concessions at Muara, at the mouth of the Brunai river, and the development of the coal resources of the State is being energetically pushed forward.]

[Footnote 12: This has since been formally proclaimed.]



CHAPTER V.

I will now take a glance at the incident of the rebellion of the inhabitants of the Limbang, the important river near Brunai to which allusion has already been made, as from this one sample he will be able to judge of the ordinary state of affairs in districts near the Capital, since the establishment of Labuan as a Crown Colony and the conclusion of the treaty and the appointment of a British Consul-General in Brunai, and will also be able to attempt to imagine the oppression prevalent before those events took place. The river, being a fertile and well populated one and near Brunai, had been from old times the common purse of the numerous nobles who, either by inheritance, or in virtue of their official positions, as I have explained, owned as their followers the inhabitants of the various villages situated on its banks, and many were the devices employed to extort the uttermost farthing from the unfortunate people, who were quite incapable of offering any resistance because the warlike Kyan tribe was ever ready at hand to sweep down upon them at the behest of their Brunai oppressors. The system of dagang sera (forced trade) I have already explained. Some of the other devices I will now enumerate. Chukei basoh batis, or the tax of washing feet, a contribution, varying in amount at the sweet will of the imposer, levied when the lord of the village, or his chief agent, did it the honour of a visit. Chukei bongkar-sauh, or tax on weighing anchor, similarly levied when the lord took his departure and perhaps therefore, paid with more willingness. Chukei tolongan, or tax of assistance, levied when the lord had need of funds for some special purpose or on a special occasion such as a wedding—and these are numerous amongst polygamists—a birth, the building of a house or of a vessel. Chop bibas, literally a free seal; this was a permission granted by the Sultan to some noble and needy favourite to levy a contribution for his own use anywhere he thought he could most easily enforce it. The method of inventing imaginary crimes and delinquencies and punishing them with heavy fines has been already mentioned. Then there are import and export duties as to which no reasonable complaint can be made, but a real grievance and hindrance to legitimate trade was the effort which the Malays, supported by their rulers, made to prevent the interior tribes trading direct with the Chinese and other foreign traders—acting themselves as middlemen, so that but a very small share of profit fell to the aborigines. The lords, too, had the right of appointing as many orang kayas, or headmen, from among the natives as they chose, a present being expected on their elevation to that position and another on their death. In many rivers there was also an annual poll-tax, but this does not appear to have been collected in the Limbang. Sir SPENCER ST. JOHN, writing in 1856, gives, in his "Life in the Forests of the Far East," several instances of the grievous oppression practiced on the Limbang people. Amongst others he mentions how a native, in a fit of desperation, had killed an extortionate tax-gatherer. Instead of having the offender arrested and punished, the Sultan ordered his village to be attacked, when fifty persons were killed and an equal number of women and children were made prisoners and kept as slaves by His Highness. The immediate cause of the rebellion to which I am now referring was the extraordinary extortion practised by one of the principal Ministers of State. The revenues of his office were principally derived from the Limbang River and, as the Sultan was very old, he determined to make the best possible use of the short time remaining to him to extract all he could from his wretched feudatories. To aid him in his design, he obtained, with the assistance of the British North Borneo Company, a steam launch, and the Limbang people subsequently pointed out to me this launch and complained bitterly that it was with the money forced out of them that this means of oppressing them had been purchased. He then employed the most unscrupulous agents he could discover, imposed outrageous fines for trifling offences, and would even interfere if he heard of any private disputes among the villagers, adjudicate unasked in their cases, taking care always to inflict a heavy fine which went, not to the party aggrieved, but into his own pocket. If the fines could not be paid, and this was often the case, owing to their being purposely fixed at such a high rate, the delinquent's sago plantations—the principal wealth of the people in the Limbang River—would be confiscated and became the private property of the Minister, or of some of the members of his household. The patience of the people was at length exhausted, and they remembered that the Brunai nobles could no longer call in the Kayans to enforce their exactions, that tribe having become subjects to Raja BROOKE. About the month of August, 1884, two of the Minister's messengers, or tax collectors, who were engaged in the usual process of squeezing the people, were fired on and killed by the Bisayas, the principal pagan tribe in the river. The Tumonggong determined to punish this outrage in person and probably thought his august presence on the spot in a steam-launch, would quickly bring the natives to their knees and afford him a grand opportunity of replenishing his treasury.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse