Sunday, March 13th.—We had the Litany at 11.30, and evening service later, with most successful Chants, the result of much practising yesterday and on Friday. At noon we had steamed 195 miles, and were in lat. 12 deg. 16' N. and long. 88 deg. 55' E. Great Coco distant 278 miles.
Monday, March 14th.—There was a nice breeze in the early morning, and sails were accordingly set. At 9 A.M. we ceased steaming, and proceeded under sail alone. At noon we had run 181 miles, and were distant 97 miles from Great Coco.
Tuesday, March 15th.—Little Coco was sighted at daylight. Later on we saw all the other islands of the Preparis group in succession, and were able to congratulate ourselves on having made a good landfall. At noon we had sailed 120 miles, and were in lat. 14 deg. 5' N. and long. 93 deg. 29' E., the Krisha Shoal being distant 150 miles.
In the evening we had our first nautical entertainment since we have all been on board together. It proved a real success, and appeared to afford great enjoyment to all, the credit being mostly due to Mabelle and the Doctor, who took an immense deal of trouble to make everything go off properly, and were well rewarded by the universal appreciation of their exertions. I am sure that these amusements do good in relieving the unavoidable tedium and monotony of a long voyage.
Wednesday, March 16th.—Soundings were taken at frequent intervals throughout the morning, for we were uncertain as to the strength of the currents, and could not see far ahead, as the sky was both overcast and misty. About noon Tom got an observation, and found that we were in lat. 15 deg. 28' N. and long. 95 deg. 40' E., having sailed 140 miles during the past twenty-four hours. The Krisha Shoal was then about ten miles to the N.W.
Towards five o'clock I was reading quietly on deck, when I was startled by an appalling shriek, followed by a good deal of commotion forward. A moment afterwards I saw poor Pitt bleeding profusely from his right hand. Having sent for the Doctor and some ice, I got hold of the wrist, and bound it up as best I could until the Doctor appeared, who then proceeded with his instruments to tie the arteries properly and to sew up the wounds. While opening some soda-water for the children one of the bottles burst in the poor man's hand, cutting five arteries and nearly blowing off the top of his second finger. It was a ghastly business altogether, and although he bore it bravely he could not help crying out occasionally. I stood it all pretty well till just at the end, and then fainted, which was stupid; but sitting in the sun in a cramped position, with such sights and sounds was rather trying. It was a comfort to know that I was able to be of some use at first.
At 7.45 P.M. we made Point Baragu Light, and at 10 P.M. sail was shortened, for by this time we were rushing along before a strong, fair wind, and did not quite know how far it might carry us by daylight. After dark the sea was brilliantly lit up by millions of minute nautilidae, and from time to time we passed through shoals of large medusae, increasing and decreasing the light which they emitted as they opened or closed their feelers, to propel themselves through the water. They looked like myriads of incandescent lamps floating just below the surface of the water and illuminating everything as they passed with I do not know how many thousand or million candle-power. The effect was indeed fairy-like, and one felt reluctant to go below so long as there was even the faintest chance of seeing another blazing shoal.
Fortunately, the description of the China Bakeer pilot-brig given in the sailing-directions is very precise and clear, or a wretched little native boat, on the look-out for a job, might have imposed herself upon us as the genuine craft, and have got us into serious trouble. The shoals hereabouts are numerous and the water generally is shallow. This native craft was rigged very much like an ordinary pilot-boat, and flew a huge ensign at the main until dark, besides burning enough blue lights, flash-lights, and flare-lights afterwards to draw any ship from her safe course. It would therefore not have been surprising if we had allowed ourselves to be misled by her. We heard afterwards that only a few days ago she nearly led H.M.S. 'Jumna' on to a dangerous shoal.
Thursday, March 17th.—The government pilot came on board at 6 A.M., and we at once got up the anchor and proceeded under steam up the branch of the Irrawaddy called the Rangoon River, leading to the town of that name. Its banks are flat, low, and densely wooded. The Great Pagoda is seen shortly after entering the mouth, and at Monkey Point the river divides into two portions (one of which is only a creek, while the other is the main branch, which passes Rangoon). Later on the factories, wharves, offices, public buildings and houses of the city become visible in quick succession.
Little more than thirty years ago Rangoon consisted of a mere swamp, with a few mat huts mounted on wooden piles, and surrounded by a log stockade and fosse. Now it is a city of 200,000 inhabitants, the terminus of a railway, and almost rivals Bombay in beauty and extent. It possesses fine palaces, public offices, and pagodas; warehouses, schools, hospitals, lovely gardens and lakes, excellent roads, and shady promenades.
We arrived opposite the town about half-past ten, passing through quite a crowd of shipping, amongst which were several fine clippers and steamers, bound to all parts of the world. The rice season is now at its height, and everybody is working his hardest. So great is the competition, that some merchants complain that they have made no profit since the time of the great Indian famines of 1874 and 1877, the only successful traders now being the owners of mills, who derive their gains from merely crushing rice.
Early in the afternoon, Mr. Symes, Secretary to the Chief Commissioner, came on board, bringing a kind note from Mrs. Crossthwaite, the wife of the Chief Commissioner (who is away in Mandalay), asking us all to go and stay at Government House during our visit to Rangoon. We declined this proffered kindness, but accepted an invitation to dinner. Several other visitors came on board in the course of the afternoon, and at five o'clock we landed and went for a drive.
Important as are the commercial aspects of the place, it is not these which interest and arrest the attention of the stranger, but rather what is old, quaint, and perhaps more or less effete. The appearance of the people themselves, to begin with, is most picturesque. Nearly all the men are naked to the waist, or wear a small white open linen jacket, with a voluminous putso wound tightly round their loins and gathered into a great bundle or knot in front. Their long hair is beautifully trimmed, plaited, and oiled, and their glossy locks are protected from the sun by an oiled-silk umbrella. The women wear much the same costume, except that the tamieri which replaces the putso is gayer in colour and more gracefully put on. There seems to be a strong family likeness between our own Scotch kilts, the Malay sarongs, the Burmese putsos and tamieris, and the Punjaubee tunghis. They are evidently the outcome of the first effort of a savage people to clothe themselves, and consist merely of oblong or square unmade pieces of cloth wound round the body in a slightly differing fashion. Some people profess to be able to recognise the Bruce and Stewart plaids in the patterns of the sarongs. Stripes and squares are comparatively cheap, while anything with a curved or vandyked pattern is expensive, because for each curved or vandyked line a special instrument, called a loon, must be used. Hence the probable derivation of langoti, by which name the same garment is called in India. The rain-hats are also remarkable, being sufficiently large to enable the wearer to dispense with an umbrella, though an oiled-paper parasol is generally carried in case of a shower.
But it was not only the people who interested me. There were the great pagodas, like huge hand-bells, gilded and decorated in various styles, with curious little htees, or gilt crowns, at the top, ornamented with rubies and emeralds. On the extreme summit, in the place of honour, is almost invariably fixed an English soda-water bottle, while the minor positions of importance are occupied by tonic-water bottles, which are of the same shape, but of a blue colour. The still more inferior places are crowned by dark green square-shouldered seltzer-water bottles. It seems a curious idea that a crown, which is not only a real work of art, but is made of rich materials, and worth 30,000l. sterling, after having been placed with much pomp and ceremony on the top of the finest pagoda in Burmah (Shway Dagohu, the gilded spire of which rises as high as St. Paul's Cathedral), should be surmounted and surrounded by the most commonplace articles of the conquering 'barbarian hordes.'
Presently we passed the funeral car of a Phoongyee, or Buddhist priest—a marvellous structure, reminding one of the Juggernaut cars of India. The funeral of a Phoongyee is always made the occasion of a great function. The body is embalmed and placed on one of these huge cars; and the people from the surrounding villages flock to the ceremony, bringing cartloads of fireworks, for the manufacture of which the Burmese are celebrated. Great rivalry arises as to which village shall be fortunate enough, through its representative, to set the gorgeous canopy on fire, and thereby release the good man's departed spirit and send it straight to heaven without any further transmigration or trouble. This happy consummation is supposed to occur directly the large funeral pile, which is always of highly inflammable materials, takes fire. The result is that many accidents occur, besides a great deal of heart-burning and loss of life; for sometimes at whole quarter of the town is set on fire and much property destroyed in these contests.
It is the custom, when a Phoongyee of the highest rank dies, to preserve the body in honey until the funeral car has been built, which is generally a matter of some weeks. The body of the car is surmounted by a sort of baldacchino, decorated with blue and green bottles and pieces of broken glass or porcelain. When all is ready, the body, attired in a common yellow robe (during life the robes are of silk, satin, or velvet, or cotton, according to the priest's rank), is placed on the car; women then seize the ropes attached to the front of the cumbrous vehicle, and men those behind. After a prolonged struggle, supposed to typify the conflict between good and evil spirits, the women gain the day, and the car proceeds on its way to the funeral pile, upon which the body is placed, and which is finally set on fire by huge rockets.
The avenue leading to the Shway Dagohu Pagoda is guarded at the entrance by two enormous statues of bylus, or monsters, erected to propitiate the evil spirits; bylus and nats being to the Burmese very much what demons and devils are to us. The view of the pagoda from the avenue is indeed wonderful. The great gilt dome, with its brilliant golden htee, grows and grows and increases upon the vision, until its enormous bulk is at last fully realised. Fancy a vast bell-shaped erection, with a pointed handle of solid gold, rising to nearly the height of the cross on the top of St. Paul's, surrounded by numerous smaller pagodas and dagolas, bell-temples, tombs, and rest-houses, some much dilapidated—it being considered more meritorious to build a new temple than to repair an old one. Shway Dagohu itself stands on a planted terrace, raised upon a rocky platform, and approached by a hundred steps. A writer of about forty years ago says:
'The golden temple of the idol may challenge competition, in point of beauty, with any other of its class in India. It is composed of teak-wood on a solid brick foundation, and indefatigable pains are displayed in the profusion of rich carved work which adorns it. The whole is one mass of the richest gilding, with the exception of the three roofs, which have a silvery appearance. A plank of a deep red colour separates the gold and silver, with the happy effect of relieving them.
'All round the principal pagoda are smaller temples, richly gilt and furnished with images of Gautama, whose unmeaning smile meets you in every direction, the sight of which, accompanied by the constant tinkling of the innumerable bells hung on the top of each pagoda, combines with the stillness and deserted appearance of the place to produce an impression on the mind not speedily to be effaced.' Close by live a hundred and fifty families, called 'slaves of the pagoda,' to whose care the edifice is entrusted.
On the walls of one of the rest-houses were some well-drawn frescoes illustrating incidents in the life of Gautama, and statues of all dimensions, from the size of one's hand to something quite colossal. These figures are always represented in one of three positions—either standing, sitting, or lying—the features of each wearing exactly the same amiable but vacant expression, and the hands and feet being invariably turned in the same direction. The carvings over the porch of the principal temple outside the strongly fortified pagoda represent its storming and capture by the English, under General Godwin, in 1852. The naval officers who are depicted carry telescopes of somewhat inconvenient length for practical purposes; but the uniforms of the bluejackets, soldiers, and marines are fairly correct, and all the figures are carved with great spirit.
The pagoda is supposed to have been commenced 588 years B.C., in order to enshrine some hairs of Buddha and the bathing-gown of another holy man who lived two thousand years before him. The building was enlarged from time to time (especially when eight hairs from Gautama's beard were added to the sacred collection), and is now a solid mass of bricks, arranged in rows of steps, with three shrines to hold the precious relics, erected at various heights. The carved teak with which it is covered is solidly gilt from top to bottom, and this process costs 30,000l. each time it is repeated. The new htee was sent down from Mandalay in 1882, and was received with the greatest pomp and ceremony by all the officials, both European and Burmese.
To wander round the top platform or courtyard outside the pagoda in the twilight and listen to the bells was an extraordinary experience for all of us. The big Burmese bells are celebrated for their tone, especially those in the temples. The smaller bells are also good, as are the triangular gongs, called, from their shape, stirrup-gongs. The little bells which are hung on the htees at the tops of the various pinnacles surrounding the soda-water bottles have long clappers, easily moved by the wind; and the sound of these various bells and gongs borne on the evening breeze is harmonious in the extreme.
The King of Siam has constructed a fine rest-house just outside the gates, for the use of the people of his nation, the pagoda itself being open to all peoples, kingdoms, and races. A private individual also built a magnificent wooden rest-house, at the cost of a lac of rupees, just before Lord Ripon visited Rangoon. This virtuous act was supposed to assure him on his death immediate nirvana, or transition to Paradise without undergoing the process of transmigration or the ordeal of Purgatory. As a mark of loyalty and admiration, the founder transferred not only the rest-house, but all the eternal privileges which he had gained by building it, to His Excellency, in recognition of his endeavours to gain for the natives of India a larger amount of liberty and greater privileges.
Mr. Hodgkinson, the assistant Commissioner, met us at the pagoda, and told us all he knew about it in the most interesting way. The drive back to Rangoon through the Dalhousie Park and Gardens, once the appanage of a royal palace, was perfectly delightful. It was rather late, and there was consequently a great rush to dress on board and get back to shore in time to dine with Mrs. Crossthwaite at Government House, three miles from the landing-place. It is a large roomy bungalow with a big verandah, surrounded by trees. Mrs. Crossthwaite, her daughter, Mr. Hodgkinson, Mr. Symes, Tom, Mabelle, Mr. des Graz, and myself formed the party. We had a very pleasant evening, but our long and tiring day made at least one of the guests glad to get on board and go to bed.
Friday, March 18th.—Left the yacht about seven o'clock. Mr. Hodgkinson took us to see a timber-yard, where elephants are extensively used. It was a wonderful exhibition of strength, patience, and dexterity. The docile creatures lift, roll, and push the logs of timber to any part of the yard. They pile it up into stacks high above their heads, seizing one end of a log with their trunk, placing it on the pile of timber, and then taking the other end of the log and pushing it forward, finally placing it on their heads, and sending it into its place. They work undisturbed amid the buzz of circular saws and machinery, where it would seem almost impossible for animals of such huge proportions to escape injury. They carry their intelligence to the point of rigidly enforcing the rights of labour. Nothing will persuade an elephant to do a stroke of work, after he has heard the workmen's dinner-bell, during the hour of midday rest to which he rightly considers himself entitled. Their mental powers seem, indeed, to be very nearly on a level with those of the human workmen, with whose efforts their own are combined. No less than two thousand elephants were formerly employed in the yard of the Bombay and Burmah Company. Steam machinery is now rapidly superseding elephants, for each animal requires at least three men to look after him.
We quitted the Bombay and Burmah Trading Company's teak-yard, most grateful to Mr. Jones, the manager, for his kind reception. Then our party divided, some going to see the pagoda, and others to see the rice-mills. At this season of the year the mill-hands are at work night and day, while from November to February the mills are as a rule closed. In the establishment which we visited a hundred tons of rice are turned out every twelve hours, several processes having to be gone through before the 'paddy' is converted into 'white rice' of the first quality.
While rice is the main element in the trade of Rangoon, teak is the principal article at Moulmein. The finest teak forests are to be found in Northern Burmah. The tree does not flourish south of the 16th degree of latitude.
Returned on board to breakfast, to which Dr. and Mrs. Pedley came. Busy morning with letters and callers. Among the latter were Lord and Lady Stafford, on their way to join the 'Kilwa,' in which they proceed to Moulmein and Singapore. Captain Fanshawe also called, and Mr. Symes and Mr. Hodgkinson came to lunch. Some Burmese curiosity-vendors paid us a visit in the afternoon, and we made some purchases, chiefly of silver and gongs. Posted our budget of letters and sent off telegrams in the evening, and sailed from Rangoon at 11 P.M.
Saturday, March 19th.—Arrived off the Salwen River about 1 P.M., but found that the tide did not suit for going up to Moulmein. We therefore had to anchor until the next morning. Coast pretty, undulating, and covered with jungle. At five o'clock we landed and went to the water pagoda at Point Amherst—a curious wooden structure, held sacred by the Buddhists. Pilgrimages are annually made to this spot from all parts of Burmah and Siam, and are the occasion of vast gatherings of people, who live and sleep entirely in the open air. There is a small native village close by, and also a post-office, telegraph-office, and pilot station; while in the neighbourhood are many of the summer-dwellings of the Rangoon and Moulmein merchants.
Sunday, March 20th.—Steam up early. At 10 A.M. we started to ascend the river to Moulmein. Passed the 'Kilwa' coming down, and arrived about one o'clock. Moulmein is admirably situated on a range of hills, rising to a considerable elevation on the left bank of the Salwen. The town is embosomed in trees, and pagodas and shrines occupy every prominent position. The population consists largely of foreigners, Chinese and Hindoos forming a large proportion of the aggregate number of 50,000. The navigation from the sea to Moulmein up the Salwen is far more difficult than the passage up to Rangoon. The Salwen is one of the great rivers of Asia. Its upper waters have never yet been reached by European travellers. About half-past four we landed and drove up to Salwen Lodge, where we had tea with Colonel and Mrs. Plant. Afterwards to church, which was very hot and full of mosquitoes.
Monday, March 21st.—Landed early, and went to see the jail and another timber-yard where elephants are employed. At the jail a good deal of wood-carving is done, in addition to basket-making and carpentering. Returned to the yacht to breakfast, and received more visitors, including Mr. Menhenaick, the English clergyman here. Colonel and Mrs. Plant came to tea, and we afterwards landed and went to a lawn-tennis party and to dinner at Salwen Lodge.
Tuesday, March 22nd.—Started very early to see the caves, about eight miles from Moulmein. The smaller of the two contains a large number of sacred images, while the other is of vast dimensions. These caves are situated in a sort of cliff, rising abruptly from the plain. The lighting had been specially arranged for us by the kindness of Captain Dodd.
A large portion of Burmah is still uninhabited. Much larger in area, it has not one-fifth of the population of France. But the increase is immensely rapid. Between 1871 and 1881 it was at the rate of 34 per cent.
The inferiority of Burmah in respect of population, notwithstanding the superior fertility of the soil, is to be traced to the physical geography of the country. The great rivers of India flow east or west. The great rivers of the Burmese peninsula flow from north to south. The population of India could readily expand without material change of climate. In Cochin China navigation down the valleys of the great rivers involves changes of temperature and habit such as human nature is not generally able to endure.
At an early hour we found the deck, as usual when we are about to leave a port, cumbered by an inconvenient crowd of unwelcome visitors, consisting in the present instance of dhobis, gharry-wallahs, hotel people, and loafers and idlers generally, all of whom we at once proceeded to get rid of as soon as possible. Among the authorised visitors were the servants of some of our friends on shore, who had kindly sent us parting presents of fruit, jams, curries, curios, and the most lovely orchids, the latter in such profusion that they were suspended all along the boom, causing the quarter-deck to look more like one of Mr. Bull's orchid exhibitions than part of a vessel. We photographed some of them with great success, and with our gods from the caves in the background, they will make an effective picture.
The clothes from the wash had arrived on board, for a wonder, though the much-needed ice had not. It was, however, impossible to wait for it, and accordingly at 12.45 we got up the port-anchor, and at 1.30 the starboard-anchor, and proceeded down the river, taking several instantaneous photographs en route. About four o'clock we met the 'Rangoon' coming up. She is a powerful paddle-wheel steamer, carrying the mails, and doing the distance of 110 miles between Rangoon and Moulmein, or vice versa, in all states of the tide—which sometimes runs seven knots—in eleven hours. Her decks were crowded with passengers, mostly natives. In the bows was a group of Phoongyees in their yellow robes.
The pilot-boat met us at Point Amherst, with Tab on board, bringing more fruit and orchids. He had arrived at Rangoon on the 20th, and had left there this morning, after having had a real good time of it with Colonel Euan Smith and the Manchester Regiment, his only regret being that he had not killed a tiger. We waved adieux to the skipper, pointed the yacht's head to the southward, made sail, and, as soon as it was cool enough, lowered the funnel and set the mainsail.
Wednesday, March 23rd.—A pleasant but very shy breeze, which frequently obliged us to tack. At noon we had made good 60 miles under steam, and 40 under sail, Singapore being distant 1,050 miles. Lat. 15 deg. 33' N.; long. 97 deg. 13' E.
Thursday, March 24th.—The twelfth anniversary of Baby's birthday. She was delighted with the presents which had already been collected for her at various places, and with the promise of others.
A hot calm day. We had run 101 miles since noon yesterday, and were in lat. 14 deg. 32' N.; long. 97 deg. 27' E. At 3 P.M. we raised the funnel, and at 4 began to steam.
In the evening we had our second nautical entertainment in honour of the day. Muriel's 'first appearance' as 'Little Buttercup,' in the old-fashioned costume of a Portsmouth bumboat woman, consisting of a blue gown, red shawl, and bonnet of antique shape, was greeted with vociferous applause, and it was only out of deference to her feelings of mingled modesty and fatigue (for it was very hot and airless below in the crowded 'assembly room') that her song was not rapturously encored. The evening's entertainment was brought to a close in the orthodox manner by the drinking of healths and the expression of good wishes for all friends, absent or present.
Friday, March 25th.—A fine breeze sprang up at 1 A.M. At 7.30 we ceased steaming, and at 10 A.M. lowered the funnel. At noon we had run 138 miles under steam and 32 under sail, Singapore being 837 miles distant. Position, lat. 11 deg. 41' N.; long. 97 deg. 14' E.
We saw the Moscos group of islands yesterday evening, and early this morning sighted the North, Middle, and South islands. It is here that the finest, though not the largest, edible birds'-nests are found; but the nests are built by a bird of quite a different species from that of Borneo.
Saturday, March 26th.—Early this morning we passed Tenasserim.
During the day we were continually sighting various little islands, as well as high mountain-peaks belonging to the more distant mainland. At noon we had run 160 miles, and our position was lat. 9 deg. 17' N.; long. 97 deg. 0' E., Singapore being still 687 miles distant.
The day proved intensely hot and steamy, with scarcely any air, though the thermometer was not so high as one would have fancied. Thankful we all were when, after some little delay, caused by the difficulty of obtaining sufficient draught in the furnaces, we were able at four o'clock to steam ahead and so create a breeze for ourselves. Lightning flashed and gleamed on all sides, and the air felt sulphurous and suffocatingly oppressive. At 7.45 P.M. we were overtaken by a heavy squall of wind, accompanied by thunder, lightning, and rain, which obliged us to close all ports and skylights. Fortunately the storm did not last long, though the weather continued showery all night.
Sunday, March 27th.—The day broke dull, cloudy, and squally, and so continued. At noon we had run 139 miles under steam and 11 under sail, Singapore being 537 miles distant. Position by dead reckoning—no observations being possible—lat. 7 deg. 5' N.; long. 98 deg. 16' E.
In the afternoon we made the Butan Islands. The evening looked dull, but the sky was occasionally lighted up by flashes of the most brilliant lightning. The sea was so full of phosphorescence that when Baby and I had our ante-prandial 'hose' our bathing-dresses glistened beautifully. I felt rather unwell all day, and not being able to go down to afternoon prayers, listened to them from the deck.
Monday, March 28th.—Another squally day, with a good deal of rain and a fresh head-wind. It was delightful on deck, but very hot below.
At noon we had run 170 miles under steam, and were only 350 miles from Singapore. A good deal more lightning at night, and a great deal of phosphorescence; also a very bad-looking, nearly new moon—flat on her back and surrounded by a big halo. I saw a moon at Tangiers with a similar appearance last year, just before the terrible cyclone at Madrid.
To-day we were to the north of Acheen Head and Brasse Island, but too far off to see the land. Scarcely any Cape in the world is sighted by so many vessels and touched at by so few as Acheen Head. Lord Reay warned us most strongly against approaching it too closely in our comparatively defenceless condition, on account of the piratical character of the inhabitants.
Tuesday, March 29th.—I had a good night in the cool deck-house, and woke refreshed. I have been rather overworked lately, and am consequently beginning to sleep badly and lose my appetite.
At noon we were in lat. 2 deg. 55' N.; long. 101 deg. 28' E. The run proved to be 188 miles under steam, and left us 175 miles from Singapore.
We could now see the high land near Sabagore, and in the afternoon found ourselves off Cape Rachada, a pretty little place with tall trees nearly to the water's edge, and a long line of snowy white beach with a background of blue mountains.
Wednesday, March 30th.—At daybreak we were off Pulo Pisang, and shortly afterwards the pilot came on board—an unintelligible and unintelligent sort of man, who could not tell us anything, and who had great difficulty in understanding what we said. He brought us, however, the latest papers.
At 7.30 A.M. the P. & O. steamer 'Bokhara,' from London, passed, and we asked her to report us as following her closely. The morning was brilliant, and the lights and shadows over the city of Singapore made it look even prettier than when I last saw it. As we had to coal, we proceeded right through the new harbour, and moored alongside Tanjong Pagar. Tab landed to make arrangements at the hospital for the reception of the Doctor, who was to remain there during our stay at Singapore, and soon returned with a very favourable report of the establishment. Dr. Simon, who was chief of the hospital at Malacca when we were there in 1867, now occupies a similar post here.
We had not been long at the coaling-wharf when our old friend the Sultan of Johore drove down and came on board. He was delighted to see us, though surprised at our sudden appearance, for he had been on the look-out for two or three days, and had sent two steamers out to meet us, which we had missed by taking another channel. The Sultan was profuse in his offers of hospitality, and wanted us to stay a week or two with him and to make all sorts of interesting excursions up the river in his new steam-yacht. This was impossible: but we promised to go to tea with him at his town house in Singapore to-night, and to visit him at his palace at Johore to-morrow.
We had many visitors in the morning, including one or two friends who had just arrived by the 'Bokhara.' In the afternoon the Doctor landed to go to the hospital, and later on we went on board the 'Bokhara,' and then landed and drove in the Sultan's carriages to the hospital, where, after some delay and difficulty, we found the doctor established in a comfortable room. Afterwards we took a long drive—very much longer than we had expected—through the prettiest part of Singapore. A steep climb up a hill and through a pretty garden brought us at last to the Sultan's town-house, which is full of lovely things, especially those brought from Japan. Such delightfully hideous monsters in bronze and gold, such splendid models, magnificent embroideries, matchless china, rare carvings, elaborate tables and cabinets, are seldom found collected together in one house. After a long examination of all these pretty things, Tom arrived, and then we had to show them to him all over again. By this time we were quite ready for tea served in the verandah, with all sorts of nice fruits and cakes. Altogether it was a charming little entertainment, and we regretted having so soon to return to the hotel, where a numerous company assembled at dinner in the large saloon and verandah. The drive down afterwards to the pier in jinrikishas proved delightful to the children.
Thursday, March 31st.—Hove the anchor up at 1.30 P.M. and proceeded under steam, with pilot on board, through the Straits of Johore to the Sultan's palace, where we dined and slept.
Friday, April 1st.—An early drive, and a walk through the charming gardens which surround the palace, occupied the first part of the morning very agreeably, and later we returned to the yacht to receive a number of visitors. At 11.30 we got under way, and, with the Sultan on board, steamed through the Straits of Singapore.
Saturday, April 2nd.—Weighed anchor between 1 and 2 A.M. and proceeded under steam towards Borneo. Mr. Crocker, the recently appointed Governor of North Borneo, who was on board, gave us much interesting and valuable information during the voyage about the new colony which has been formed by the British North Borneo Company.
It was a very hot day, but we were all busily occupied in tidying up and settling down again after our short but pleasant run on shore.
At noon we were in lat. 1 deg. 26' N., long. 105 deg. 39' E., having run 105 miles. At 4 P.M. we made Victory and Barren Islands, passing close to them later in the evening.
We were talking to-day of the St. John Ambulance Association, and as an illustration of what a useful institution it would be in these parts, Mr. Crocker spoke of the case of an unfortunate man who had broken, or rather smashed, his arm so badly as to make it evident that his only chance of life lay in removing the shattered limb. There was no doctor near, nor anyone who knew anything of surgery. Somebody had, however, fortunately seen a surgical book at Government House. This was brought, and one man read aloud from it, while the other did his best to follow the instructions, and with the aid of an ordinary knife and saw, cut off the arm. The wound healed in a marvellous manner, and the man is now alive and well.
Such an incident is happily quite exceptional. Indeed, it is almost impossible to imagine the combination of courage, determination, and endurance which must have been required on both sides. But minor accidents are of frequent occurrence in these wild regions, and a knowledge of how to render first aid in such cases would often be of invaluable service.
We had an 'Ambulance' case on board to-night, for a vein burst suddenly in the Doctor's leg. Fortunately Pratt was close at hand, and with ice and ligatures checked the haemorrhage. Without his prompt help the consequences might have been serious.
Sunday, April 3rd.—At 6 A.M. sighted St. Pierre. The wind was fair and light, but it did not seem to temper the intense heat. At noon we were exactly under the sun, and were therefore all as shadowless as Peter Schlemihl. Despite the heat we had the Litany at half-past eleven, and evening-service at half-past six. At 10 P.M. we anchored off Tanjong Pulo, at the mouth of the river Kuching, on which stands Kuching itself, the capital of Sarawak.
Tom feels the heat greatly, and has been unwell for the last day or two. To-night I had an anxious time looking after him, and could get no help from the Doctor, who was himself ill and delirious.
Monday, April 4th.—The anchor was hove at 6.30 A.M., and we proceeded towards the entrance to the river, meeting several natives in fishing-boats, who told us that Rajah Brooke was away at Labuan in his steam-yacht the 'Aline.' We therefore hesitated about going up the river, especially without a pilot; but it seemed a pity to be so near and to miss the opportunity of seeing Kuching. So off we went up the narrow muddy stream, guided only by the curious direction-boards fixed at intervals on posts in the water, or hung from trees on the banks.
This plan of making every man his own pilot seems both sensible and useful; but the general effect of the notice-boards was not picturesque. The wording of some of the notices was brief and practical, though such a caution as 'Hug this close on the outside,' painted in large letters on a board at the water's edge, had a certain quaintness about it which amused us. We ascended the river at half-tide, when the channel is pretty clearly apparent; but at high tide the way must be difficult to find. The scenery was somewhat monotonous until we approached Kuching, but we were assured that further inland, towards the mountains, it becomes really beautiful. The town itself seemed a busy little place, and there were two steamers lying alongside the wharf. Our arrival, without a pilot, caused much surprise, especially as we had not been expected until a day or two later. In fact, a pilot was just starting for the mouth of the river to look out for us. The 'Lorna Doone,' a small steamer, had also been despatched to Labuan to let the Rajah know that we were coming. After reaching our destination we found great difficulty in turning round, owing to the narrowness of the river. The heat was fearful, and the sun poured down through the double awnings with an intensity which must be felt to be understood. We were rather afraid of both the fever and the mosquitoes, and as neither the Rajah nor Ranee was at Kuching, we decided to drop down the river again with the afternoon tide.
After a short delay we landed with Mr. Maxwell at some neat little steps close to the jail, where there appeared to be but few prisoners. The public offices and buildings of Kuching seem to be particularly suitable for this hot climate. Not far off is the market, with nothing left for sale in it except a few vegetables and pines, the meat and fruit markets being over for the day, and the fish—the staple commodity of the place—not having yet come in. At high tide the prahus which we had seen waiting at the mouth of the river would sail swiftly up, bringing the result of their morning's work, the crew of each eager to be first and so to command the best prices.
Most of these prahus are propelled by two, three, and four, or even eight, paddles; and one which we saw had twenty. The larger ones only come out as a rule for warlike purposes or on high days and holidays, especially on New Year's Day, which is a great festival in Borneo, when five hundred warriors frequently compete in one race. It must be wonderful to see their paddles flashing, their boats dashing through the water, and to hear their wild shouts and war-cries. If only we could have stayed, a race would have been got up for our edification, although most of the warriors are out on the war-path just now, looking after stray jobs in their line, arising from the difficulties between the Sultan of Brunei and the Kadyans.
A long narrow room over the market is used as the museum at Kuching, and after climbing up by a steep ladder we came to a trapdoor, of which the key could not be found for some time. The collection is interesting, and gives a good idea of the manners and customs of the Dyaks. It comprises specimens of their household utensils, weapons, dress, matwork, besides models of their dwellings and canoes. Some of the basketwork was cleverly woven in beautiful patterns, marked out and dyed with the juice of coloured berries and seaweed. The head-flatteners, or boards used by the Milanos to alter the natural shape of their infants' heads, specially attracted our attention, and I felt it difficult to decide whether the invention aimed at increasing the child's beauty or its brains.
We were shown one of the ingenious air-compressing tubes which have been used by the natives for hundreds of years past to produce fire. It seemed to afford a proof of the truth of the old adage that there is nothing new under the sun. Professor Faraday alluded in one of his lectures to the possibility of producing fire by means of compressed air as a discovery of comparatively modern science; whereas the fact has long been recognised and put to practical use in these obscure regions of the earth. The war-jackets were made of birds' feathers and wild beasts' skins, or of the barks of trees. Sometimes these garments were liberally decorated with small bells, cowries, and pieces of metal cut from old petroleum and preserved meat tins, which jingle and rattle as the wearer moves. Others were like chain-armour, of which the strips were fastened together by bits of hide or leather. The shields seemed of all sorts of shapes and sizes, some long and narrow, some circular, and some large enough to cover a man completely, and they were nearly all ornamented with tufts of black, silky, human hair. The kreises and parongs were similarly decorated, as well as with fine horsehair dyed bright scarlet, and streaked with white. Some of the weapons had splendidly carved handles and very fine bead-decorations, and many of the blades were inlaid with gold and silver. Sulu and Brunei have for centuries been celebrated for their arms, specially for their steel and damascene-worked armour, as well as for their bronze guns. The latter are used as current coin by the native tribes in their more important transactions. If a slave be bought or sold, or a quantity of rice, sago, or beans changes hands, the value is almost always reckoned in bronze guns. Grey-shirtings, a more convenient form of money for small dealings, have now gone out of fashion, but blue cloth still holds its own. Chinese 'cash' and Spanish dollars are in circulation, but the natives will not look at a 'bit,' nor at any other sort of coin, either gold or silver. The metal which the natives prefer for their guns is composed of Chinese cash melted up, and for their swords they use the iron bands by which cotton bales are kept together. Outside the Government buildings stand some beautiful and curious cannon, of moderate calibre. Some came from Brunei, while others had only just been captured on the Barram and Leyun rivers, during the Rajah's expedition, and were just being cleaned up and placed in position. The carving and modelling of many of them were extremely good.
The Rajah's carriage, a neat waggonette and pair, driven by an English coachman, was waiting to take us to Mr. Maxwell's house, where we were to lunch. We drove along excellent roads, passing a church, school-house, and club, to a very pretty bungalow, standing in a pretty garden, and perched on the summit of a hill. The air felt much cooler here than in the town or on the river, and gave us excellent appetites for a nice impromptu little lunch. One delicacy consisted of fresh turtles' eggs, which I am afraid we did not all appreciate, for they tasted like ordinary eggs mixed with coarse sand. They are quite round, about the size of a small orange, with soft white leather, or rather parchment-like shells, and are found in great abundance on an island near Kuching. The natives make a coarse oil from the inferior eggs.
The walls of the dining-room were covered with shields, kreises, spears, and arms of all kinds, collected by Mr. Maxwell himself. In some of them mason-bees were making or had already made their nests! No wonder Mrs. Maxwell complained bitterly of the mischief they did, and of the ravages of white ants, which are even more destructive. The dampness of the climate, moreover, makes it necessary to have the contents of wardrobes and bookcases frequently taken out and shaken, turned, and examined.
We drove down to the river, intending to take boat and cross to the island and fort, but were only just in time to rush into the Government offices and so escape a terrible thunderstorm accompanied by torrents of rain. In this shelter we had to stay until it was time to embark on board the 'Adeh,' in which we were to go down the river.
In the meantime the rest of our party had been lunching at the fort, where they had much enjoyed the view from the heights—a sight which I rather envied them. Presently we saw them come down in the pouring rain, get into the Rajah's ten-paddled boat, and set off to join us. We were all drenched by the time we got on board the 'Adeh.' Here we were joined by Major and Mrs. Day, as well as by two Dyak soldiers in full war-costume, in readiness to be sketched or photographed.
Shortly after starting the strong current caught our bow and carried us into the bank, causing us to collide with and considerably damage two schooners, as well as the balcony of one of the numerous wooden houses standing on piles in the river. The bowsprit of one of the schooners was completely interlaced with the stanchions, ropes, and railings of our gangway, and it must have been a good stick not to snap off short. The tide was now much higher than when we came up, but the temperature had been considerably lowered by the thunderstorm, and was still further reduced by the rain, which continued to fall throughout the afternoon, making photography well-nigh impossible. The Dyaks seemed at first rather frightened by the camera, which they called 'the engine;' but they were very civil and obliging, and assumed all sorts of attitudes, warlike and otherwise, for our edification. Their scanty clothing was elaborately ornamented with bead-work and embroidery, and the little mats which they carry to sit down upon were made of exquisitely fine plaited grass-work. Their arms were highly decorated with human hair of various colours, as well as with cowries, beads, and little woven balls of Brunei work.
In due time we reached Quop, the highest point to which large vessels can ascend from the sea. Here we quitted the 'Adeh,' and took all the party, including the two Dyaks—who were very much astonished, and I think rather frightened—on board the 'Sunbeam' to tea; after which we said farewell with regret to our kind friends, and, with the 'Adeh' to guide us over the treacherous shoals and mud-banks, steamed away, until we were once more fairly at sea and had lost sight of our pilot in the gathering darkness.
Tom had another bad night, fancying he had caught the fever, and that we should all have it from going up the river. I had just persuaded him to take a sleeping-draught, and try and get some comfortable sleep, when I heard a tremendous noise on deck. I feared at first that some of the men, as often happens in these out-of-the-way places, had been treated to poisonous liquor and were now suffering from the effects of it; but on running up to make inquiries, and, if possible, quiet the disturbance, I was just in time to catch sight of the rat, whose presence on board has only recently been detected, scuttling off in the bright moonlight. He must have been tempted from his lair on the top of the deck-house by the fragrant smell of the new pineapples from Kuching, which were hung in the port cutter, but on venturing forth he had at once been 'spotted' by one of the men. When I arrived on the scene the whole crew had been called, and were in hot pursuit—I need scarcely say, with no success whatever.
Tuesday, April 5th.—A calm, close day, with a heavy swell running down from the China Sea, probably caused by a typhoon. Everybody most uncomfortable. Sails and boats were several times reported, but they turned out to be only little islands such as those of Nipa and Nibong, or else groups of floating palms swept down by the Bruit and Barram rivers. These two rivers and the Rajang have the unpleasant peculiarity of washing small floating islets out to sea, which seriously endanger navigation.
At noon we had steamed 173 miles, and were in lat. 3 deg. 38' N., long. 111 deg. 56' E., Labuan being 222 miles distant.
Tom is still unwell; but I think it is better that he should be obliged to exert himself on deck, instead of remaining in his cabin.
Wednesday, April 6th.—At daybreak it was so hazy that our position could not be ascertained. Between 10 and 11 A.M. sights were worked out, and it was found that a current had set us thirty miles to E.N.E. At noon we had run 230 miles under steam, and, putting the yacht's head round, we steered direct for the northern entrance to Victoria Harbour, off Labuan Island, where we dropped anchor at 2 P.M.
Not long afterwards Lieutenant Hamilton, R.N. (Harbour-master, Postmaster, Captain of the Port, Treasurer, and I believe the holder of half a dozen other offices under the British Government), and Mr. Everett called. They told us all the news, and recommended our going alongside the wharf to coal and water at this, the last British port before our long voyage to Australia. It is quite the funniest, most out-of-the-world place we have ever been in, just as Sarawak is the most wonderful little independent state—well managed, complete in itself, with its small army, still smaller navy, and miniature government. Labuan has not possessed a Governor since Sir Charles Lees (then Mr. Lees) left, but it boasts capital public offices, a first-rate Government House, Secretary's residence, church, parsonage, and other amenities of advanced civilisation. Only there is nobody to govern, and hardly anything for the officials to do. At present the colony of Labuan seems a farce, and ought either to be done away with or placed on an entirely different footing. The best plan would probably be to make it an adjunct to the Straits Settlements, at the same time establishing a protectorate over Sarawak and Brunei.
Dr. and Mrs. Leys came on board in the afternoon, and later on we landed with them at the very rotten and rickety wooden pier, and reached a grass sward, by the side of which stand the public offices and a few shops. Some of the party walked, while others drove in various little pony-carriages. Baby and I went with Dr. Leys to see a party of Sarawak Dyaks who had just come in from the Barram River with wedges of gutta-percha, which they were offering for sale, as well as some weapons and clothing just captured. We bought a good many interesting things, such as jackets made of cotton, grown, dyed, and woven by the Dyaks, horn and tortoiseshell combs, kreises, parongs, knives, pipes, tobacco-pouches, travelling-bags of plaited matting, and sumpitans or blowpipes from which poisoned arrows are discharged. They prize these latter very highly, and are generally loth to part with them, so that we may consider ourselves fortunate in having come across these few members of a tribe just returned from a warlike expedition judiciously combined with the more peaceful and profitable trade of gathering gutta-percha and india-rubber. We also met a group of bird's-nest collectors, from whom we bought some nests of both the black and white varieties, scientifically known as Callocalia. Then we purchased two small rhinoceros-horns, greatly prized here for their supposed medicinal virtues, and considered to be worth their weight in gold. We succeeded likewise in getting some pairs of splendid pearl-shells, with fine golden lips and incipient pearls adhering to them; but I am obliged to admit that they were frightfully expensive.
After visiting all the shops in the town—few in number, and nearly all kept by Chinamen—we went for a drive into the country. It was just like driving through one vast park, along soft springy green roads leading through fragrant jungle. There were no fences, and fruit-trees of every kind abounded, heavily laden with oranges, pomaloes, mangoes, mangosteens, durians, and other delicacies—all, unfortunately for us, at present unripe.
The incongruity of some of the things which were pointed out to us during our drive was very amusing. There, for instance, stood a large jail, in the happy condition of being tenantless. So long, indeed, had it been empty that the gates stood permanently open, and the jailers had all departed for other lands, with the exception of the chief official, who remained in the colony, indeed, but who had long since turned his attention to other avocations. The system of plurality appears to prevail in Labuan, and it is said that amusing situations have more than once arisen in consequence of the multiplicity of offices centred in one individual. The postmaster, for instance, has been known to write to the treasurer for payment for the delivery of mails, the harbour-master to the same official for the value of coals consumed, the captain of the port for the homeward passage-money of some shipwrecked sailors—all three letters and the replies thereto being in the same handwriting. I rather think, by the way, that the Labuan treasury was at a low ebb when we were there; for I know that the question arose whether it contained enough money to meet some fifty or sixty dollar notes of ours which we had given in exchange for our purchases.
The pension-list is very large in the island of Labuan. There is a church, but no acting clergyman, though there are three on the pension-list, and the bishop only comes twice a year, or sometimes twice in two years, according to the requirements of the remainder of his large diocese, which comprises North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore, besides Labuan. He is expected to arrive to-morrow from Sandakan, but I fear we shall just miss him.
There is an hospital, but no resident doctor—only two on the inevitable pension-list. I believe, however, that a surgeon is now on his way out from England to take up the duties of the post. Government House is surrounded by a charming park and garden, and resembles an old-fashioned West Indian planter's residence of the best class. It might well serve to illustrate scenes in 'Tom Cringle's Log' or 'Peter Simple.' It is built entirely of a dark wood like mahogany, and the rooms themselves looked snug and well arranged; but, alas, the white ants have attacked one wing of the house, and it will have to be pulled down or rebuilt.
Snakes are not numerous in Labuan, but the other day Mrs. Leys found one comfortably coiled up on the sofa, just where she was going to lie down. Not far from the town Dr. Leys once shot an alligator on its nest, which contained thirty-nine eggs. Two of these he gave me, and I hope to get them home safely, for they are not easily to be procured. We were also shown some beautiful shells and weapons, and a war-jacket made of bearskin, decorated with small bells and pieces cut from kerosene-oil tins.
Our drive down to the shore, along the grassy roads of the park, in the clear moonlight, was most delightful. The yacht had gone off to her anchorage, and we had to wait some time for a boat. In the interval we amused ourselves with a Chinese open-air theatre, waxwork exhibition, and a puppet-show.
Thursday, April 7th.—Weighed at 7 A.M. Mr. Everett and Lieutenant Hamilton came on board, and soon afterwards the mail steamer arrived, with the Bishop on board. We steamed across to the mouth of the Brunei River, admiring the beautiful views on our way, especially at Coal Point, where we transferred ourselves to the Rajah of Sarawak's steamer 'Lorna Doone,' and proceeded up the river, the scenery of which is very picturesque. The late Sultan built a wall of stones across the channel with the view of keeping out the British fleet under Sir Thomas Cochrane and Captain Keppel—now Admiral of the Fleet Sir Harry Keppel; and although he did not succeed in his object, the result has been to make the navigation extremely difficult. The bay itself is surrounded by vast forests, and not long ago a steamer was prevented from entering the river for three days, in consequence of a fierce jungle fire, the dense volumes of smoke from which completely obscured the entrance. The hills on either side of the river are prettily wooded, but here and there the land has been cleared and laid out in terraces for the cultivation of pepper by the Chinese. Brunei River has been called the Rhine of the East, and I think it deserves that name better than the town does its proud title of the Venice of the East, the sole point of resemblance in the latter case being that both cities are built upon piles.
Some members of another tribe of Dyaks came on board to-day, with seven heads which they had captured, not on the war-path, but while engaged in a nominally peaceful expedition into the jungle in search of gutta-percha, camphor, and beeswax. They had chanced to come across some natives belonging to a hostile tribe, and had promptly secured as many heads as they could.
The approach to the town of Brunei is extremely picturesque, but the place itself is not imposing. The wooden houses stand, as I have said, upon piles, and there is no means of communication between them except by boats, varying in size from house or shop boats to tiny canoes almost invisible beneath the widespreading hats of their occupants. The flooring of the houses is all open, and all refuse-matter falls or is thrown into the water beneath.
We anchored a little above the 'Packnam,' and sent a messenger to the Sultan to enquire when it would be convenient to him to receive us, for which purpose he appointed two o'clock. In the interval we went for a row, in quite the intensest heat I ever felt, to see something of the town and the market. The women's hats were enormous—from three to four feet in diameter. Anything more curious than the appearance of a boat-load of these ladies can scarcely be imagined. It looked just like a bunch of gigantic mushrooms which had somehow got adrift and was floating down the stream. The marketing is, of course, all done in boats; and it was interesting and amusing to watch the primitive system of exchange and barter. Very little money passed, though some of the hideous old women had little heaps of Chinese cash in front of them. All the young women are kept shut up in the houses, and those let out to buy and sell are indeed frightful specimens of the human race. A couple of durians seemed to buy a hat. I could not arrive at any idea of the price of other articles. The fish is brought up here from the sea, just as at Kuching, by large boats to a certain point and thence in prahus. Both fresh fish and stale fish—very stale and offensive it seemed to us—appeared to be the leading article of commerce.
Besides the small canoes and prahus there were a good many large house and shop boats, with quite a goodly supply of stores, all owned by Chinese.
Borneo produces about half the sago used by the civilised world. On our way among the houses we had many opportunities of observing the primary process of preparing sago for the market. It is not very inviting, and is productive of a most sickening smell. The large logs of the sago-tree are brought down from the jungle by river and moored in the dirty water against the piles underneath the houses, the consoling feature of this arrangement being that the water is running. One log is selected at a time for treatment. A man stands over it, and with an instrument, something between a hatchet and a hoe, extracts all the pith of the tree, which is the sago. This he pitches on to a mat suspended between four poles over the river, and, having poured water over it, he and any members of his family who may happen to be available proceed to run round and jump and dance upon the whole mass, singing and smoking all the time. This pressure has the effect of squeezing the fine sago starch through the mat into a trough below (usually an old canoe), full of water, where it remains until it settles. The water is then run off, and the white sticky mass is sold to Chinamen. It is satisfactory to know that it goes through a good many more washings before it is considered fit for the market.
Brunei is said to have been at one time a town of 25,000 houses—such as they were—with an average of from five to seventeen occupants to each house. This does not, however, include the Sultan and his relatives, with their numerous retinues. Then the numbers dwindled down to 10,000 inhabitants; and at present it is difficult to believe that there are more than half that number; but we are told that some 5,000 are now away on the war-path.
At two o'clock exactly we landed, or, to be more precise, climbed up a narrow ladder, the rungs of which were very far apart, to a wooden staging supported on piles. It was a difficult feat to perform gracefully, and the noise of a salute of nineteen guns, fired almost in our ears, did not tend to facilitate matters or make one feel more comfortable. Then we were led up a long wooden pier, on which stood some small but beautifully ornamented cannon, of Brunei manufacture, until we came to a large room, at one end of which stood a sort of dais, like an enlarged bedstead, covered with mats. On this the Sultan—an ugly, smiling, feeble old man—shortly afterwards took his seat. He was attended by retainers bearing betel-boxes, spittoons, weapons, and all sorts of things which his Majesty might want or fancy that he wanted. He received us affably, shaking hands with us all, and inviting us to be seated, after which he ordered large wax candles to be placed in front of Tom and me, Tom's candle, however, being much the bigger of the two. This was intended as a great compliment, and if times had not been so bad and beeswax so scarce, the candles would, we were informed, have been of even greater size. We were then offered cigarettes and excellent tea, flavoured with herbs, very hot and sweet.
The sides of the room had been left open, for the sake of coolness, but the surrounding space was filled by a dense mass of human beings eager to see what was going on, so that there was not much fresh air. Conversation rather languished, for neither of the interpreters was very quick, and we had considerable misgivings as to the value and correctness of their translation of our pretty little speeches.
At last, after presenting the Sultan with some slight offerings and expressing our warm thanks for the kind reception accorded us, we retired, being escorted to the boat by the First Wazier and another officer of state. Having again admired the cannon, and heard the history of their manufacture, we re-embarked in our boats under a fresh salute of nineteen guns. I fear the poor town of Brunei must have been put to great expense by the Sultan's desire to do us honour. Just as we were starting, the large candles, hastily blown out, were put into our boat, as a last and very special compliment.
We returned straight on board the 'Lorna Doone,' and had scarcely arrived ere we saw a long, smartly ornamented thirty-paddle canoe emerge from among the houses near the Sultan's palace, and come swiftly towards us. It had a white flag at the stern and a green flag at the bow, and was crowded with people carrying umbrellas of all sorts, sizes, and colours, which served as insignia of the rank of their owners. Among them two very large yellow Chinese umbrellas, surrounded by three little carved galleries, were conspicuous. One was carried over Pangeran Bandahara, and the other over his younger brother, Pangeran di Gadong, who holds the position of Second Wazier of Brunei, but who had not appeared at the palace in consequence of his not being on speaking terms with the present Sultan. The two royalties, without their umbrellas, but accompanied by an interpreter and a few of the chief officers, came on board the 'Lorna Doone,' and were received by us in the extremely small deck-house, the remainder of the suite having to content themselves with looking through the windows and strolling about the deck. It was very puzzling to be obliged to invent fresh civilities, for we felt that our recent visit had quite exhausted our stock; but I luckily bethought me that there was some connection by marriage between the Sultans of Brunei and Johore; and the discussion of this point, which must have cost the poor interpreters much mental effort, lasted us a long time. In fact, with the exception of a short interval spent in enquiries as to our respective ages, it carried us on until it was time for our visitors to take their departure, which they did with many effusive hand-shakings, and many no doubt charming little farewell speeches.
The way in which the connection between the Sultans of Brunei and Johore came about is rather curious. The Sultan of Sulu had been engaged in negotiations for the marriage of a princess of Johore (an aunt of the present Sultan) to one of his sons. The Sultan of Brunei had also set his mind on the same young lady. When the Sulu fleet of prahus started to bring the fair—or dark—princess to her new home, the Brunei fleet followed as far as the Straits of Johore, and anchored outside, but in the night a swift Brunei prahu stole softly along the shore, carried the young lady off, crept through the fleets again, and was soon out at sea on its way back to Brunei. The next morning, when the princess was not forthcoming and the true state of affairs was discovered, the Sulu fleet was naturally anxious to start in pursuit; but the Brunei prahus intercepted them, and before the Sulus could fight their way through, the lady had been safely lodged in the Sultan's harem at Brunei.
If the weather had not been so exhaustingly hot, and Tom had not been so much afraid of our getting fever, I should have tried to persuade him to take us to Sulu, which must be a most interesting country, judging from the description of Burbridge, Wallace, and others. The natives retain many traces of the old Spanish dominion in their style of dress and ideas generally. They have excellent horses, or ponies, and are adepts at pig-sticking. Occasionally boar-hunts are organised on a large scale, which allow of a fine display of horsemanship, as well as of gaudy costumes. At the feasts given by the Sultan, the dishes, and even the plates, are all of mother-of-pearl shells, of the finest golden-lipped variety, each with one or more large pearls adhering to it. In some cases visitors have been tempted to pocket their plates, and strict watch and ward has therefore to be kept over them. There were some Sulus on the 'Lorna Doone' with us, wearing horsey-looking trousers, short jackets with buttons on the sleeves, bright sashes stuck full of knives and other arms, and jaunty little turbans, something like a Maccaroni's cap with the traditional feather stuck in it. They seemed altogether superior in point of civilisation and appearance to the Sarawak and Brunei Dyaks; and if the taste of the lady whose adventures I have just recorded was at all consulted, I cannot help thinking she made a mistake in the selection of her adopted country.
After the Sultan's nephew had departed, we had a visit from Achu Mohammed, who has been British Consul here for many years, often in very troublous times. With him came an army of shopkeepers, or rather manufacturers, from whom we bought several curious specimens of Brunei wares. The metalwork is really beautiful, especially the brass sirrhi-boxes, and some kettles with an ingenious arrangement in the lid, causing them to whistle loudly when the water boils. This place is also celebrated for its earrings, which are exactly like champagne-corks in size and shape, and are made of gold or silver gilt, and studded with rubies, emeralds, and other stones found in the neighbourhood. The narrow part of the cork is fixed in a large hole in the ear, down the back of which a row of little earrings is often worn in addition.
Brunei looked very pretty as we left it, in the light of the now setting sun. The 'Packnam' had already started on her return journey, and there was not much time to spare if we wanted to save the tide and the light. On our way down the river we again saw the heights from which Sir Harry Keppel had bombarded the town, and the Chinese pepper-terraces, now fast falling to decay. By five o'clock we had arrived alongside the 'Sunbeam,' with quite a cargo of purchases, and soon afterwards, having said farewell to our friends and entrusted to their care a very heavy mail for England, we steamed away.
The spot where we had anchored in Brunei Bay was exactly opposite the Muara coal-mines, of which we could just see the shafts, with one or two houses beside them. On our return to the yacht we found that the owners of these mines had been on board, and had expressed a hope that we would postpone our departure long enough to enable us to visit the colliery, which seems likely to become a valuable property. The seam is twenty-six feet thick, and the coal is of good quality. After the Labuan failure, however, one is disposed not to be over-sanguine in such matters. When Mr. Cowie first brought his wife out here the place looked so desolate and dreary that she absolutely refused to land. After a while she was persuaded to make a closer inspection, and, being a very bad sailor, has never left the place since, except once, when the Rajah of Sarawak sent his steam-launch for her on New Year's Day to enable her to go and see some sports at Labuan. She was afraid to come on board the yacht, and we had not time to call upon her and take her some books and papers, as I should like to have done, for her life must be terribly isolated.
I have often been astonished to see how well people resist the relaxing influences of these out-of-the-way places. Their houses all have a nice homelike look; the ladies are well dressed, and apparently keep their households in excellent order. In the rare case of unexpected visitors dropping in, meals are produced at short notice without bustle or confusion, the table being often decorated with flowers, and always arranged with refinement and elegance. What struck me as perhaps even more remarkable than the neatness and order of their houses was, that these ladies, who have to do, or at all events very closely superintend the doing of, the more important part of the household work, talk far less about their servants and domestic troubles than many people in England, who only have to give an occasional order. They have also plenty of conversation on other than local subjects, though there are no circulating libraries within reach, and the supply of books and newspapers must necessarily be limited. It may be that this scarcity leads them to study the volumes which they possess more closely.
Friday, April 8th.—To our great disappointment, we passed Gaya Island and Bay before daybreak, and were therefore unable to see anything of the magnificent harbour, where the North Borneo Company has one of its many stations.
At 6 A.M. we opened out Ambong Bay, behind which rose Kina Balu (in English 'the Chinese Widow'), 13,700 feet high, looking most beautiful through the morning mist. A little to the north of this spot the Tainpasick River runs into the sea, and we are told that the best way of reaching the lower elevations of the mighty mountain, with their endless wealth of orchids and pitcher-plants, lies on that side.
Finding that to pass outside Banguey Island would involve our making a large circuit, and losing some fine scenery, we decided to go through the Mallewalle Channel, and to anchor off Kudat for the night. At noon we had come 160 miles under steam, Kudat being thirty miles distant. At 2 P.M. we reached the northernmost point of the island of Borneo, which used to be the favourite place of assembling for the large fleets of pirate prahus, formerly the terror not only of the neighbouring Straits but of much more distant seas and countries.
The entrance to Marudu Bay, another of the many fine natural harbours on this gulf-indented coast, is most picturesque. At 4 P.M. we anchored off Kudat, in the small bay of that name, which is only an indentation of the shore of the larger Marudu Bay.
We landed at the usual rickety Borneo pier, and were met by Mr. Davies, the Resident, and Dr. Lamb, the company's doctor for this district. Tab and Mr. Pemberton soon made friends with Dr. Lamb, and went out snipe-shooting with him, the rest of the party meantime strolling about the bazaars, which, though neither large nor well stocked, afforded an opportunity of picking up a few curios, such as saws from the nose of a saw-fish, sirrhi-boxes, gongs, old china jars, Java sarongs, and so forth. We were also shown two large heaps of gum from the interior, lying on the seashore ready for shipment. Then we took a few photographs, including one of a house on piles, and another of a long Borneo house, in which many families live under one roof, with separate entrances for each family. Afterwards we strolled slowly on up the hill, towards the Residency. It was a pretty walk, but rather tiring this hot evening. I felt nearly exhausted myself, and was grieved to see how completely done up Tom was by what ought to have been for him very easy work. When at last the verandah was reached he was quite worn out and glad to lie down in one of the comfortable basket chairs. Delicious tea and cool champagne-cup soon refreshed us, however, and made us better able to admire the charming garden, with its profusion of plants and flowers, and to watch the antics of two tame mias, or orang-outangs, which were chained in separate palm-trees close to the house. They were ugly—nay, hideous animals—but very amusing in their ways. Their names were Zachariah and Jane; and Zachariah, being the tamer of the two, was allowed to run about loose. He came to his master to be fed, then ran up his own palm-tree, from which he jumped easily on to Jane's, and tried to entice her to other tree-tops; but of course her chain prevented this. It made quite a little comedy, for when Zachariah had teased her sufficiently he brought her bunches of fresh leaves, and evidently did his best to induce her to, as it were, kiss and make friends. We watched them with much interest for a long time, and at last tried to take a photograph, but I fear they were too restless to allow it to turn out well.
Some fine specimens of the heads of wild cattle shot by Mr. Davies stood in the verandah. One head alone required four men to move it. Mr. Davies gave me some interesting curios brought from a village where a rather severe fight took place recently. The natives posted themselves with great cunning behind some rocks on the top of a hill, which our people had to scale. From this shelter they hurled down spears and poisoned arrows, wounding many of their assailants, while our rifles were of no effect against them until the height had been carried.
On our way back to the yacht we had to cross a rickety wooden bridge over a muddy creek, in which some of the party thought they saw a crocodile; not a rare sight on this coast, though they are not so numerous here as in Sarawak, where the Government offers a reward of a dollar a foot for all those killed. Last year 2,000 dollars were paid for 2,000 feet of crocodiles of all sizes and ages.
Dr. Lamb, who dined on board with us, appears to be greatly interested in his work, though the life is rather rough. He has a good deal of riding about the country to vaccinate the natives, who seem fully to understand the value of the operation in mitigating the ravages of smallpox—a disease by which the country was at one time decimated. Our regret at not having been able to stop at Gaya was increased when we heard from Dr. Lamb that the Assistant Resident, Mr. Little, had just returned from a successful ascent of Kina Balu, having reached the summit by a new route, and brought down a wonderful collection of plants and flowers.
About ten o'clock Mr. Davies came on board, and with Dr. Lamb and Tab started off on a shooting expedition across the bay.
Saturday, April 9th.—The night was hot and oppressive, and we could not help feeling somewhat anxious about the sportsmen, whose expedition in search of wild cattle has a decided spice of danger in it. Two o'clock came, and then four, and still they did not return. At last, to our great relief, at half-past six they arrived alongside, bringing with them a fine young Sambur buck, the carrying of the carcass having delayed them considerably. They were disappointed not to have succeeded in killing a buffalo, especially as they had seen several herds of them in the distance; but the natives who had been sent to drive the cattle performed their task with such indiscreet ardour, and with so much noise, that of course they frightened the cattle away.
Directly the sportsmen came on board we started, and proceeded under steam close under Malleangau, and thence southward of the fatal Egeria Rocks to the western extremity of the island of Mallewalle, passing to the northward of Mandarilla, and to the southward of Kakabau, whence we steered for Tigabu. By noon we had steamed eighty-seven miles since leaving Kudat. Tom went up on the fore-yard at 6.30 A.M., and did not come down until 1.30 P.M., when we had virtually passed the most dangerous part of the coast. We sent his breakfast up to him in a bucket, for he did not dare leave his post for one moment, the channel being most intricate, and the only guide the difference in colour of the coral patches. He suffered considerably from the heat of the almost vertical sun, which blistered his legs, in spite of extra protection, and made the glasses, which he had constantly to use, so hot that they burnt his hands and eyes, as they did ours when he brought them down on deck.
About 4 P.M. we touched on a coral patch, in two fathoms, not marked on the chart (in lat. 6 deg. 40' N., long. 117 deg. 52' E.), which rather astonished us, and caused us to go still more slowly and carefully for some time. The sea being absolutely smooth, and the sky overcast, there was neither break nor reflection to help the look-out, though Tom thought that he had noticed something peculiar in the colour of the water a few moments previously. He was almost continuously in the foretop again from two o'clock until dark, when he took up his position on the topgallant forecastle.
We passed between Tigabu and Lipeendung, and outside Sandy Island, Balhalla, Lankayau, Langaan, and Tong Papat, entering the Bay of Sandakan at 11.45 P.M., and anchoring off the town of Eleopura exactly at eight bells.
Easter Sunday, April 10th.—Eleopura looked extremely picturesque in the pale moonlight, with the grand sandstone bluff of the island of Balhalla standing out boldly in the foreground against the starlit sky; but the coast-line seemed still more beautiful in the bright morning sunshine. The brilliant light was relieved by some heavy thunder-clouds fringing the Bay of Sandakan and hanging in denser masses over the mouths of the numerous rivers which empty themselves into it. Balhalla, with its cliff of red sandstone running sheer down to the sea, is clothed on the shoreward side with the richest tropical vegetation, including vast quantities of the beautiful nepenthes, or pitcher-plant, which forms so prominent a feature in the flora of Borneo.
Mr. Flint, the harbour-master, came on board at six o'clock to offer us the hospitality of his bungalow. After breakfast he and Mr. Crocker landed with the kind intention of arranging for us to spend a short time on shore to recruit a little from the effects of the intense heat, the air being naturally much cooler on the hills than down in the bay. We had service at 11.30, and the present Governor, Mr. Treacher, and afterwards two other gentlemen, came to lunch. Later on we all landed, some of us going to the little church, where Tom read the service. There is no resident clergyman at Sandakan, but the Governor supplies his place every Sunday, except when the Bishop happens to pay a visit to the place, as he did last week.
The luxury of getting on shore to large airy rooms, with deep cool verandahs, and the feeling of perfect rest and repose, can only be fully appreciated after a long and anxious voyage in a hot climate on board a comparatively small ship. Nor can anyone who has not suffered, as we all have, from prickly heat, understand how pleasant are fresh-water baths. We all felt far too comfortable and delightfully indolent for letter-writing, or even for reading, and could do nothing but enjoy to the utmost the delights of the shore under such agreeable conditions. Our good-natured host had turned out, bag and baggage, in order to make room for us, and had gone to Government House, leaving his comfortable bungalow entirely at our disposition. Some of the gentlemen, for whom there was not sufficient room, went to another bungalow not far distant.
Monday, April 11th.—We were all up early, anxious to make the most of our time in this pleasant spot. Tom went off for a ride with the Governor, while Mabelle and Baby took a long walk with Mr. von Donop (the Secretary) and Mr. Callaghan; and Muriel and I proceeded to the top of the hill to see the Doctor. Some of the gentlemen went off shooting, and did not return until late in the day.
I had been very anxious to go to the black bird's-nest caves of Gomanton, but was assured by everybody that the difficulties would be found insurmountable. All agreed that it was absolutely necessary to await the return and the report of Messrs. Walker and Wilson, who had gone to Gomanton to survey the road and to ascertain the practicability of utilising the vast quantity of the excellent guano with which the floor of the caves is thickly covered. A shorter expedition has been therefore proposed, and it is arranged that we shall cross the bay and look at the bilian-wood cutting. The party divided, some going in the steam-launch, and some in Captain Flint's boat to a picnic on the other side of the bay. The distant views of Sandakan are very fine, as is also the aspect of the north bluff of the island of Balhalla, where the best white birds'-nests in the world are found, and are collected at terrible risk to life and limb. We glided through a perfect archipelago of small islands, where we saw curious houses, inhabited by Bajaus, or sea-gipsies. These huts are built on piles in the water, and round them dart the natives in their tiny canoes, throwing spears at the numerous shoals of fish. So pleasant had been the voyage that we seemed to reach our destination almost immediately. It was a long unfinished pier, composed of a few split Nipa palms fixed, at intervals of a couple of feet apart, on piles driven into the bed of the river. This primitive jetty stretched far out into the stream, and was reached by a ladder of the same rough style, with a space of at least two feet between each rung; not at all a landing-place for ordinary mortals—European, at all events—and only suitable for angels, Dyaks, or monkeys. Nevertheless it is the timber-loading station for ships trading with Sandakan, and stands at the mouths of Sapa Gaya and Suanlamba Rivers, down which most of the best timber is floated in rafts or towed by steam-launches from the interior. Fortunately some native prahus were drawn up alongside the pier, and into these we stepped, and so got ashore, climbing up the steep bank to the cosy little bungalow above. There we found Messrs. Walker and Wilson, now on their way back from the caves, of which they gave an interesting description. They seemed, however, to be firmly impressed with the idea that it would be impossible for us to visit them, the difficulties of the expedition being far too great for anyone unaccustomed to Borneo jungle-life. They had been obliged to swim rivers, wade through mud up to their arms, sleep in damp caves, and endure other hardships not very conducive to health in a malarious district. Of course they had got completely soaked through, baggage and all, and were now doing their best to dry everything on the grass—a process not facilitated by a tremendous thunder-shower which came on suddenly during our visit. The effect of the storm was very grand, as the heavy clouds came rolling up the bay to discharge their burden of electricity and rain just over our heads; but the moment it passed, out came the sun as brightly as ever. We had a most cheery picnic in the little five-roomed bungalow. The one piece of furniture, except the table and two chairs, which our hosts had brought with them, was a comfortable hammock-cot, of which the children at once took possession, to make a swing. While we were sitting in the deep verandah, a steamer arrived alongside the pier, towing several rafts, which we saw unlashed and pulled to pieces in true primitive fashion, the heavy bilian-wood or ironwood of which they were composed being simply cast into the river, as near the shore as possible, to be fished out at low tide. Bilian-wood when newly cut is of a dark sand-colour, and, being hard and durable, is used for purposes where those qualities are required.
All pleasant things must come to an end, and we were soon obliged to start again on our return voyage. We shipped Mr. Walker and Mr. Wilson on board the steam-launch and towed their boat. All went well till we got near the entrance to the Bay, where we encountered such a high sea that we had to cast the boat adrift to prevent her from being swamped. We stopped at the yacht to give our friends an opportunity of seeing her. Nearly all the crew, and even the stewards, were ashore at rifle-practice. Several visitors came on board and detained us for some time; so that when we landed we were only just able to have a look at the Museum and get up to Mr. Flint's bungalow in time to dress for dinner at Government House, where we found quite a large party of gentlemen assembled to meet us.
None of our sportsmen turned up to dinner except Mr. Cook. Afterwards various kinds of dances were performed by the natives for our entertainment. In some of the war-dances the men displayed much agility and gracefulness, darting from side to side in their war-cloaks of toucans' feathers, which floated out behind them with each movement. They were armed with shields, spears, and kreises. It was really a most picturesque scene, and the large open verandah of Government House, with the background of sea, sky, and distant mountains, seen in the bright moonlight, with the 'Sunbeam' peacefully at anchor in the foreground, formed an appropriate setting. The Dusuns and Sundyaks are very fond of dancing, and seize every opportunity of indulging in the amusement. In times of abundant harvest, it is said, dancing goes on in every village all night long, and night after night.
Tuesday, April 12th.—Mabelle and the children went out for a ride this morning, while Tom and I paid a visit to Dr. Hoffmeister, whom we found much better. It was very hot work walking down to the shore again, and even the children seemed to find the temperature rather trying. Fortunately for the inhabitants of Sandakan, the nights are always cool, a fact to which the little community owes its excellent health and the preservation of its strength and energy.
In the course of the morning we visited the town to see the bazaars and have another look at the Museum. There is a fish and general market at Eleopura, besides Government buildings, barracks, a hospital, hotels, several stores, and a club, to say nothing of a small temporary church, a mosque, and a joss-house. On the green in front of the Government building stands a handsome Irish cross, raised to the memory of poor Frank Hatton and other explorers who have perished in North Borneo. At the Government Offices we found a few interesting curiosities, particularly some finely woven mats that had been prepared in the interior for the Colonial Exhibition in London but were not ready in time; an elephant's tusk of enormous size, and some teeth found in the jungle near here. This collection will doubtless form the nucleus of a larger museum. It comprises also gems, weapons, rat-traps, bird-calls, eggs, stuffed orang-outangs, and specimens of native stuffs and mats. The sarongs from Java and Celebes are very curious, the pattern being elaborately worked in a sort of thick coloured wax, which makes them quite stiff. Some of them are expensive, costing sixty or seventy dollars each. There did not seem to be any of the curious fire-tubes for producing fire which we had seen in the Museum at Kuching.
I returned early on board the 'Sunbeam' to complete the arrangements for resuming our voyage this evening. Further deliberation has convinced us that the visit to the Gomanton Caves is quite out of the question, notwithstanding the kind offers of assistance which we have received from Mr. Treacher and others. We have accordingly decided to content ourselves with an attempt to reach the Madai Caves in Darvel Bay, which are said to be somewhat easier of access. Mr. Treacher, Mr. Crocker, and Mr. Callaghan have offered to accompany us, and to engage the requisite men for the expedition.
There was a large party to lunch at Government House, and more came in afterwards to attend my informal Ambulance meeting, at which the Governor took the chair, and Tom explained the work of the society. I also ventured to say a few words, and Mr. Crocker supported the movement very cordially. Everybody in Eleopura was present, besides many from Kudat and Silam, and all seemed interested in the subject. Dr. Walker took the scheme up warmly. I earnestly hope it may go on and prosper. There can be no country where it would be more likely to be of use, considering the wild sort of life people have to lead here. I presented the new centre with a roll of anatomical drawings and a good many books and papers. I trust, therefore, that we may regard the Eleopura branch of the Ambulance Association as fairly started.
After the meeting, feeling very tired, I went in my chair with Mr. Wilson to the church, which is a pretty little building, and thence, a little higher up the hill, to the hospital. This appears to be an excellently well-managed institution, but is still sadly in want of a European ward, especially in view of the fact that the trade and population of the place are rapidly increasing. Ascending a few steps higher we arrived at the club, with its deep verandahs and spacious windows and doors, arranged to catch every breath of air, and to command the finest views. The cemetery lies in another valley right behind the club. It is a pretty spot, nicely kept, and quite away from the town.
From the club we proceeded to the rifle-butts, passing through so narrow and overgrown a path that my bearers declined to proceed, until Mr. Wilson peremptorily insisted upon their doing so. Even as it was, I had to walk the last part of the way. Arrived at the butts, we found that our forecastle-cook had proved himself the best shot by several points. Altogether, the practice may be regarded as highly satisfactory, considering how long it is since our men have had an opportunity of handling a rifle. I distributed certificates of efficiency, and then we all went back to an early dinner at Mr. Flint's, after which we had to re-embark. The nice-looking Sikhs who are in charge of the convicts here having carried our luggage down to the boats, there was nothing for us to do but to say good-bye to our kind hosts, and return to the 'Sunbeam' once more. We found her lying alongside the wharf, where she had come to take in water, and quite crowded with our new friends, who were determined to see the last of us, and who almost all brought us some little curio to keep in remembrance of our visit to Sandakan. The tide was low, and it was no easy task to get down to the deck of the yacht from the somewhat lofty pier. At last we were safely on board, and slowly steamed away, amid a volley of ringing cheers, which we returned by sending up blue lights and flights of rockets.
The carrying capacity of the yacht was now rather severely tested, for in addition to our own party we had Messrs. Treacher, Crocker, and Callaghan as passengers, besides some thirty Sikhs, policemen, coolies, and others, whose services would be required for the expedition to the Madai Caves.
Wednesday, April 13th.—Oppressively hot. We made Tanjong Unsang at daylight, and steamed southward and westward along a fine coast. At noon we had come 135 miles, and were in lat. 4 deg. 57' N., long. 118 deg. 47' E.
All hands were busily engaged during the morning in preparing the large cutter for Tab's projected shooting expedition this afternoon. She is a fine big boat, temporarily fitted with a ridge-roofed awning and boards on which beds can be placed, thus making her almost like a house-boat. Everything that could be thought of as likely to be wanted was put into her; but notwithstanding all that foresight and care could do, I felt rather uncomfortable about this lonely and somewhat risky enterprise.