On May 2nd, I again found one on a very high tree, when I had only a small 80-bore gun with me. However, I fired at it, and on seeing me it began howling in a strange voice like a cough, and seemed in a great rage, breaking off branches with its hands and throwing them down, and then soon made off over the tree-tops. I did not care to follow it, as it was swampy, and in parts dangerous, and I might easily have lost myself in the eagerness of pursuit.
On the 12th of May I found another, which behaved in a very similar manner, howling and hooting with rage, and throwing down branches. I shot at it five times, and it remained dead on the top of the tree, supported in a fork in such a manner that it would evidently not fall. I therefore returned home, and luckily found some Dyaks, who came back with me, and climbed up the tree for the animal. This was the first full-grown specimen I had obtained; but it was a female, and not nearly so large or remarkable as the full-grown males. It was, however, 3 ft. 6 in. high, and its arms stretched out to a width of 6 ft. 6 in. I preserved the skin of this specimen in a cask of arrack, and prepared a perfect skeleton, which was afterwards purchased for the Derby Museum.
Only four days afterwards some Dyaks saw another Mias near the same place, and came to tell me. We found it to be a rather large one, very high up on a tall tree. At the second shot it fell rolling over, but almost immediately got up again and began to climb. At a third shot it fell dead. This was also a full-grown female, and while preparing to carry it home, we found a young one face downwards in the bog. This little creature was only about a foot long, and had evidently been hanging to its mother when she first fell. Luckily it did not appear to have been wounded, and after we had cleaned the mud out of its mouth it began to cry out, and seemed quite strong and active. While carrying it home it got its hands in my beard, and grasped so tightly that I had great difficulty in getting free, for the fingers are habitually bent inwards at the last joint so as to form complete hooks. At this time it had not a single tooth, but a few days afterwards it cut its two lower front teeth. Unfortunately, I had no milk to give it, as neither Malays-Chinese nor Dyaks ever use the article, and I in vain inquired for any female animal that could suckle my little infant. I was therefore obliged to give it rice-water from a bottle with a quill in the cork, which after a few trials it learned to suck very well. This was very meagre diet, and the little creature did not thrive well on it, although I added sugar and cocoa-nut milk occasionally, to make it more nourishing. When I put my finger in its mouth it sucked with great vigour, drawing in its cheeks with all its might in the vain effort to extract some milk, and only after persevering a long time would it give up in disgust, and set up a scream very like that of a baby in similar circumstances.
When handled or nursed, it was very quiet and contented, but when laid down by itself would invariably cry; and for the first few nights was very restless and noisy. I fitted up a little box for a cradle, with a soft mat for it to lie upon, which was changed and washed everyday; and I soon found it necessary to wash the little Mias as well. After I had done so a few times, it came to like the operation, and as soon as it was dirty would begin crying and not leave off until I took it out and carried it to the spout, when it immediately became quiet, although it would wince a little at the first rush of the cold water and make ridiculously wry faces while the stream was running over its head. It enjoyed the wiping and rubbing dry amazingly, and when I brushed its hair seemed to be perfectly happy, lying quite still with its arms and legs stretched out while I thoroughly brushed the long hair of its back and arms. For the first few days it clung desperately with all four hands to whatever it could lay hold of, and I had to be careful to keep my beard out of its way, as its fingers clutched hold of hair more tenaciously than anything else, and it was impossible to free myself without assistance. When restless, it would struggle about with its hands up in the air trying to find something to take hold of, and, when it had got a bit of stick or rag in two or three of its hands, seemed quite happy. For want of something else, it would often seize its own feet, and after a time it would constantly cross its arms and grasp with each hand the long hair that grew just below the opposite shoulder. The great tenacity of its grasp soon diminished, and I was obliged to invent some means to give it exercise and strengthen its limbs. For this purpose I made a short ladder of three or four rounds, on which I put it to hang for a quarter of an hour at a time. At first it seemed much pleased, but it could not get all four hands in a comfortable position, and, after changing about several times, would leave hold of one hand after the other, and drop onto the floor. Sometimes when hanging only by two hands, it would loose one, and cross it to the opposite shoulder, grasping its own hair; and, as this seemed much more agreeable than the stick, it would then loose the other and tumble down, when it would cross both and lie on its back quite contentedly, never seeming to be hurt by its numerous tumbles. Finding it so fond of hair, I endeavoured to make an artificial mother, by wrapping up a piece of buffalo-skin into a bundle, and suspending it about a foot from the floor. At first this seemed to suit it admirably, as it could sprawl its legs about and always find some hair, which it grasped with the greatest tenacity. I was now in hopes that I had made the little orphan quite happy; and so it seemed for some time, until it began to remember its lost parent, and try to suck. It would pull itself up close to the skin, and try about everywhere for a likely place; but, as it only succeeded in getting mouthfuls of hair and wool, it would be greatly disgusted, and scream violently, and, after two or three attempts, let go altogether. One day it got some wool into its throat, and I thought it would have choked, but after much gasping it recovered, and I was obliged to take the imitation mother to pieces again, and give up this last attempt to exercise the little creature.
After the first week I found I could feed it better with a spoon, and give it a little more varied and more solid food. Well-soaked biscuit mixed with a little egg and sugar, and sometimes sweet potatoes, were readily eaten; and it was a never-failing amusement to observe the curious changes of countenance by which it would express its approval or dislike of what was given to it. The poor little thing would lick its lips, draw in its cheeks, and turn up its eyes with an expression of the most supreme satisfaction when it had a mouthful particularly to its taste. On the other hand, when its food was not sufficiently sweet or palatable, it would turn the mouthful about with its tongue for a moment as if trying to extract what flavour there was, and then push it all out between its lips. If the same food was continued, it would set up a scream and kick about violently, exactly like a baby in a passion.
After I had had the little Mias about three weeks, I fortunately obtained a young hare-lip monkey (Macacus cynomolgus), which, though small, was very active, and could feed itself. I placed it in the same box with the Mias, and they immediately became excellent friends, neither exhibiting the least fear of the other. The little monkey would sit upon the other's stomach, or even on its face, without the least regard to its feelings. While I was feeding the Mias, the monkey would sit by, picking up all that was spilt, and occasionally putting out its hands to intercept the spoon; and as soon as I had finished would pick off what was left sticking to the Mias' lips, and then pull open its mouth and see if any still remained inside; afterwards lying down on the poor creature's stomach as on a comfortable cushion. The little helpless Mias would submit to all these insults with the most exemplary patience, only too glad to have something warm near it, which it could clasp affectionately in its arms. It sometimes, however, had its revenge; for when the monkey wanted to go away, the Mias would hold on as long as it could by the loose skin of its back or head, or by its tail, and it was only after many vigorous jumps that the monkey could make his escape.
It was curious to observe the different actions of these two animals, which could not have differed much in age. The Mias, like a very young baby, lying on its back quite helpless, rolling lazily from side to side, stretching out all four hands into the air, wishing to grasp something, but hardly able to guide its fingers to any definite object; and when dissatisfied, opening wide its almost toothless mouth, and expressing its wants by a most infantine scream. The little monkey, on the other hand, in constant motion, running and jumping about wherever it pleased, examining everything around it, seizing hold of the smallest object with the greatest precision, balancing itself on the edge of the box or running up a post, and helping itself to anything eatable that came in its way. There could hardly be a greater contrast, and the baby Mias looked more baby-like by the comparison.
When I had had it about a month, it began to exhibit some signs of learning to run alone. When laid upon the floor it would push itself along by its legs, or roll itself over, and thus make an unwieldy progression. When lying in the box it would lift itself up to the edge into almost an erect position, and once or twice succeeded in tumbling out. When left dirty, or hungry, or otherwise neglected, it would scream violently until attended to, varied by a kind of coughing or pumping noise very similar to that which is made by the adult animal. If no one was in the house, or its cries were not attended to, it would be quiet after a little while, but the moment it heard a footstep would begin again harder than ever.
After five weeks it cut its two upper front teeth, but in all this time it had not grown the least bit, remaining both in size and weight the same as when I first procured it. This was no doubt owing to the want of milk or other equally nourishing food. Rice-water, rice, and biscuits were but a poor substitute, and the expressed milk of the cocoa-nut which I sometimes gave it did not quite agree with its stomach. To this I imputed an attack of diarrhoea from which the poor little creature suffered greatly, but a small dose of castor-oil operated well, and cured it. A week or two afterwards it was again taken ill, and this time more seriously. The symptoms were exactly those of intermittent fever, accompanied by watery swellings on the feet and head. It lost all appetite for its food, and, after lingering for a week a most pitiable object, died, after being in my possession nearly three months. I much regretted the loss of my little pet, which I had at one time looked forward to bringing up to years of maturity, and taking home to England. For several months it had afforded me daily amusement by its curious ways and the inimitably ludicrous expression of its little countenance. Its weight was three pounds nine ounces, its height fourteen inches, and the spread of its arms twenty-three inches. I preserved its skin and skeleton, and in doing so found that when it fell from the tree it must have broken an arm and a leg, which had, however, united so rapidly that I had only noticed the hard swellings on the limbs where the irregular junction of the bones had taken place.
Exactly a week after I had caught this interesting little animal, I succeeded in shooting a full-grown male Orangutan. I had just come home from an entomologising excursion when Charles [Charles Allen, an English lad of sixteen, accompanied me as an assistant] rushed in out of breath with running and excitement, and exclaimed, interrupted by gasps, "Get the gun, sir,—be quick,—such a large Mias!" "Where is it?" I asked, taking hold of my gun as I spoke, which happened luckily to have one barrel loaded with ball. "Close by, sir—on the path to the mines—he can't get away." Two Dyaks chanced to be in the house at the time, so I called them to accompany me, and started off, telling Charley to bring all the ammunition after me as soon as possible. The path from our clearing to the mines led along the side of the hill a little way up its slope, and parallel with it at the foot a wide opening had been made for a road, in which several Chinamen were working, so that the animal could not escape into the swampy forest below without descending to cross the road or ascending to get round the clearings. We walked cautiously along, not making the least noise, and listening attentively for any sound which might betray the presence of the Mias, stopping at intervals to gaze upwards. Charley soon joined us at the place where he had seen the creature, and having taken the ammunition and put a bullet in the other barrel, we dispersed a little, feeling sure that it must be somewhere near, as it had probably descended the hill, and would not be likely to return again.
After a short time I heard a very slight rustling sound overhead, but on gazing up could see nothing. I moved about in every direction to get a full view into every part of the tree under which I had been standing, when I again heard the same noise but louder, and saw the leaves shaking as if caused by the motion of some heavy animal which moved off to an adjoining tree. I immediately shouted for all of them to come up and try and get a view, so as to allow me to have a shot. This was not an easy matter, as the Mias had a knack of selecting places with dense foliage beneath. Very soon, however, one of the Dyaks called me and pointed upwards, and on looking I saw a great red hairy body and a huge black face gazing down from a great height, as if wanting to know what was making such a disturbance below. I instantly fired, and he made off at once, so that I could not then tell whether I had hit him.
He now moved very rapidly and very noiselessly for so large an animal, so I told the Dyaks to follow and keep him in sight while I loaded. The jungle was here full of large angular fragments of rock from the mountain above, and thick with hanging and twisted creepers. Running, climbing, and creeping among these, we came up with the creature on the top of a high tree near the road, where the Chinamen had discovered him, and were shouting their astonishment with open mouths: "Ya Ya, Tuan; Orangutan, Tuan." Seeing that he could not pass here without descending, he turned up again towards the hill, and I got two shots, and following quickly, had two more by the time he had again reached the path, but he was always more or less concealed by foliage, and protected by the large branch on which he was walking. Once while loading I had a splendid view of him, moving along a large limb of a tree in a semi-erect posture, and showing it to be an animal of the largest size. At the path he got on to one of the loftiest trees in the forest, and we could see one leg hanging down useless, having been broken by a ball. He now fixed himself in a fork, where he was hidden by thick foliage, and seemed disinclined to move. I was afraid he would remain and die in this position, and as it was nearly evening. I could not have got the tree cut down that day. I therefore fired again, and he then moved off, and going up the hill was obliged to get on to some lower trees, on the branches of one of which he fixed himself in such a position that he could not fall, and lay all in a heap as if dead, or dying.
I now wanted the Dyaks to go up and cut off the branch he was resting on, but they were afraid, saying he was not dead, and would come and attack them. We then shook the adjoining tree, pulled the hanging creepers, and did all we could to disturb him, but without effect, so I thought it best to send for two Chinamen with axes to cut down the tree. While the messenger was gone, however, one of the Dyaks took courage and climbed towards him, but the Mias did not wait for him to get near, moving off to another tree, where he got on to a dense mass of branches and creepers which almost completely hid him from our view. The tree was luckily a small one, so when the axes came we soon had it cut through; but it was so held up by jungle ropes and climbers to adjoining trees that it only fell into a sloping position. The Mias did not move, and I began to fear that after all we should not get him, as it was near evening, and half a dozen more trees would have to be cut down before the one he was on would fall. As a last resource we all began pulling at the creepers, which shook the tree very much, and, after a few minutes, when we had almost given up all hope, down he came with a crash and a thud like the fall of a giant. And he was a giant, his head and body being fully as large as a man's. He was of the kind called by the Dyaks "Mias Chappan," or "Mias Pappan," which has the skin of the face broadened out to a ridge or fold at each side. His outstretched arms measured seven feet three inches across, and his height, measuring fairly from the top of the head to the heel was four feet two inches. The body just below the arms was three feet two inches round, and was quite as long as a man's, the legs being exceedingly short in proportion. On examination we found he had been dreadfully wounded. Both legs were broken, one hip-joint and the root of the spine completely shattered, and two bullets were found flattened in his neck and jaws. Yet he was still alive when he fell. The two Chinamen carried him home tied to a pole, and I was occupied with Charley the whole of the next day preparing the skin and boiling the bones to make a perfect skeleton, which are now preserved in the Museum at Derby.
About ten days after this, on June 4th, some Dyaks came to tell us that the day before a Mias had nearly killed one of their companions. A few miles down the river there is a Dyak house, and the inhabitants saw a large Orang feeding on the young shoots of a palm by the riverside. On being alarmed he retreated towards the jungle which was close by, and a number of the men, armed with spears and choppers, ran out to intercept him. The man who was in front tried to run his spear through the animal's body, but the Mias seized it in his hands, and in an instant got hold of the man's arm, which he seized in his mouth, making his teeth meet in the flesh above the elbow, which he tore and lacerated in a dreadful manner. Had not the others been close behind, the man would have keen more seriously injured, if not killed, as he was quite powerless; but they soon destroyed the creature with their spears and choppers. The man remained ill for a long time, and never fully recovered the use of his arm.
They told me the dead Mias was still lying where it had been killed, so I offered them a reward to bring it up to our landing-place immediately, which they promised to do. They did not come, however, until the next day, and then decomposition had commenced, and great patches of the hair came off, so that it was useless to skin it. This I regretted much, as it was a very fine full-grown male. I cut off the head and took it home to clean, while I got my men to make a closed fence about five feet high around the rest of the body, which would soon be devoured by maggots, small lizards, and ants, leaving me the skeleton. There was a great gash in his face, which had cut deep into the bone, but the skull was a very fine one, and the teeth were remarkably large and perfect.
On June 18th I had another great success, and obtained a fine adult male. A Chinaman told me he had seen him feeding by the side of the path to the river, and I found him at the same place as the first individual I had shot. He was feeding on an oval green fruit having a fine red arillus, like the mace which surrounds the nutmeg, and which alone he seemed to eat, biting off the thick outer rind and dropping it in a continual shower. I had found the same fruit in the stomach of some others which I had killed. Two shots caused this animal to loose his hold, but he hung for a considerable time by one hand, and then fell flat on his face and was half buried in the swamp. For several minutes he lay groaning and panting, while we stood close around, expecting every breath to be his last. Suddenly, however, by a violent effort he raised himself up, causing us all to step back a yard or two, when, standing nearly erect, he caught hold of a small tree, and began to ascend it. Another shot through the back caused him to fall down dead. A flattened bullet was found in his tongue, having entered the lower part of the abdomen and completely traversed the body, fracturing the first cervical vertebra. Yet it was after this fearful wound that he had risen, and begun climbing with considerable facility. This also was a full-grown male of almost exactly the same dimensions as the other two I had measured.
On June 21st I shot another adult female, which was eating fruit in a low tree, and was the only one which I ever killed by a single ball.
On June 24th I was called by a Chinaman to shoot a Mias, which, he said, was on a tree close by his house, at the coal-mines. Arriving at the place, we had some difficulty in finding the animal, as he had gone off into the jungle, which was very rocky and difficult to traverse. At last we found him up a very high tree, and could see that he was a male of the largest size. As soon as I had fired, he moved higher up the tree, and while he was doing so I fired again; and we then saw that one arm was broken. He had now reached the very highest part of an immense tree, and immediately began breaking off boughs all around, and laying them across and across to make a nest. It was very interesting to see how well he had chosen his place, and how rapidly he stretched out his unwounded arm in every direction, breaking off good-sized boughs with the greatest ease, and laying them back across each other, so that in a few minutes he had formed a compact mass of foliage, which entirely concealed him from our sight. He was evidently going to pass the night here, and would probably get away early the next morning, if not wounded too severely. I therefore fired again several times, in hopes of making him leave his nest; but, though I felt sure I had hit him, as at each shot he moved a little, he would not go away. At length he raised himself up, so that half his body was visible, and then gradually sank down, his head alone remaining on the edge of the nest. I now felt sure he was dead, and tried to persuade the Chinaman and his companion to cut down the tree; but it was a very large one, and they had been at work all day, and nothing would induce them to attempt it. The next morning, at daybreak, I came to the place, and found that the Mias was evidently dead, as his head was visible in exactly the same position as before. I now offered four Chinamen a day's wages each to cut the tree down at once, as a few hours of sunshine would cause decomposition on the surface of the skin; but, after looking at it and trying it, they determined that it was very big and very hard, and would not attempt it. Had I doubled my offer, they would probably have accepted it, as it would not have been more than two or three hours' work; and had I been on a short visit only, I would have done so; but as I was a resident, and intended remaining several months longer, it would not have answered to begin paying too exorbitantly, or I should have got nothing done in the future at a lower rate.
For some weeks after, a cloud of flies could be seen all day, hovering over the body of the dead Mias; but in about a month all was quiet, and the body was evidently drying up under the influence of a vertical sun alternating with tropical rains. Two or three months later two Malays, on the offer of a dollar, climbed the tree and let down the dried remains. The skin was almost entirely enclosing the skeleton, and inside were millions of the pupa-cases of flies and other insects, with thousands of two or three species of small necrophagous beetles. The skull had been much shattered by balls, but the skeleton was perfect, except one small wristbone, which had probably dropped out and been carried away by a lizard.
Three days after I had shot this one and lost it, Charles found three small Orangs feeding together. We had a long chase after them, and had a good opportunity of seeing how they make their way from tree to tree by always choosing those limbs whose branches are intermingled with those of some other tree, and then grasping several of the small twigs together before they venture to swing themselves across. Yet they do this so quickly and certainly, that they make way among the trees at the rate of full five or six miles an hour, as we had continually to run to keep up with them. One of these we shot and killed, but it remained high up in the fork of a tree; and, as young animals are of comparatively little interest, I did not have the tree cut down to get it.
At this time I had the misfortune to slip among some fallen trees, and hurt my ankle; and, not being careful enough at first, it became a severe inflamed ulcer, which would not heal, and kept me a prisoner in the house the whole of July and part of August. When I could get out again, I determined to take a trip up a branch of the Simunjon River to Semabang, where there was said to be a large Dyak house, a mountain with abundance of fruit, and plenty of Orangs and fine birds. As the river was very narrow, and I was obliged to go in a very small boat with little luggage, I only took with me a Chinese boy as a servant. I carried a cask of medicated arrack to put Mias skins in, and stores and ammunition for a fortnight. After a few miles, the stream became very narrow and winding, and the whole country on each side was flooded. On the banks were an abundance of monkeys—the common Macacus cynomolgus, a black Semnopithecus, and the extraordinary long-nosed monkey (Nasalis larvatus), which is as large as a three-year old child, has a very long tail, and a fleshy nose longer than that of the biggest-nosed man. The further we went on the narrower and more winding the stream became; fallen trees sometimes blocked up our passage, and sometimes tangled branches and creepers met completely across it, and had to be cut away before we could get on. It took us two days to reach Semabang, and we hardly saw a bit of dry land all the way. In the latter part of the journey I could touch the bushes on each side for miles; and we were often delayed by the screw-pines (Pandanus), which grow abundantly in the water, falling across the stream. In other places dense rafts of floating grass completely filled up the channel, making our journey a constant succession of difficulties.
Near the landing-place we found a fine house, 250 feet long, raised high above the ground on posts, with a wide verandah and still wider platform of bamboo in front of it. Almost all the people, however, were away on some excursion after edible birds'-nests or bees'-wax, and there only remained in the house two or three old men and women with a lot of children. The mountain or hill was close by, covered with a complete forest of fruit-trees, among which the Durian and Mangusteen were very abundant; but the fruit was not yet quite ripe, except a little here and there. I spent a week at this place, going out everyday in various directions about the mountain, accompanied by a Malay, who had stayed with me while the other boatmen returned. For three days we found no Orangs, but shot a deer and several monkeys. On the fourth day, however, we found a Mias feeding on a very lofty Durian tree, and succeeded in killing it, after eight shots. Unfortunately it remained in the tree, hanging by its hands, and we were obliged to leave it and return home, as it was several miles off. As I felt pretty sure it would fall during the night, I returned to the place early the next morning, and found it on the ground beneath the tree. To my astonishment and pleasure, it appeared to be a different kind from any I had yet seen; for although a full-grown male, by its fully developed teeth and very large canines, it had no sign of the lateral protuberance on the face, and was about one-tenth smaller in all its dimensions than the other adult males. The upper incisors, however, appeared to be broader than in the larger species, a character distinguishing the Simia morio of Professor Owen, which he had described from the cranium of a female specimen. As it was too far to carry the animal home, I set to work and skinned the body on the spot, leaving the head, hands, and feet attached, to be finished at home. This specimen is now in the British Museum.
At the end of a week, finding no more Orangs, I returned home; and, taking in a few fresh stores, and this time accompanied by Charles, went up another branch of the river, very similar in character, to a place called Menyille, where there were several small Dyak houses and one large one. Here the landing place was a bridge of rickety poles, over a considerable distance of water; and I thought it safer to leave my cask of arrack securely placed in the fork of a tree. To prevent the natives from drinking it, I let several of them see me put in a number of snakes and lizards; but I rather think this did not prevent them from tasting it. We were accommodated here in the verandah of the large house, in which were several great baskets of dried human heads, the trophies of past generations of head-hunters. Here also there was a little mountain covered with fruit-trees, and there were some magnificent Durian trees close by the house, the fruit of which was ripe; and as the Dyaks looked upon me as a benefactor in killing the Mias, which destroys a great deal of their fruit, they let us eat as much as we liked; we revelled in this emperor of fruits in its greatest perfection.
The very day after my arrival in this place, I was so fortunate as to shoot another adult male of the small Orang, the Mias-kassir of the Dyaks. It fell when dead, but caught in a fork of the tree and remained fixed. As I was very anxious to get it, I tried to persuade two young Dyaks who were with me to cut down the tree, which was tall, perfectly straight and smooth-barked, and without a branch for fifty or sixty feet. To my surprise, they said they would prefer climbing up it, but it would be a good deal of trouble, and, after a little talking together, they said they would try. They first went to a clump of bamboo that stood near, and cut down one of the largest stems. From this they chopped off a short piece, and splitting it, made a couple of stout pegs, about a foot long and sharp at one end. Then cutting a thick piece of wood for a mallet, they drove one of the pegs into the tree and hung their weight upon it. It held, and this seemed to satisfy them, for they immediately began making a quantity of pegs of the same kind, while I looked on with great interest, wondering how they could possibly ascend such a lofty tree by merely driving pegs in it, the failure of any one of which at a good height would certainly cause their death. When about two dozen pegs were made, one of them began cutting some very long and slender bamboo from another clump, and also prepared some cord from the hark of a small tree. They now drove in a peg very firmly at about three feet from the ground, and bringing one of the long bamboos, stood it upright close to the tree, and bound it firmly to the two first pegs, by means of the bark cord and small notches near the head of each peg. One of the Dyaks now stood on the first peg and drove in a third, about level with his face, to which he tied the bamboo in the same way, and then mounted another step, standing on one foot, and holding by the bamboo at the peg immediately above him, while he drove in the next one. In this manner he ascended about twenty feet; when the upright bamboo was becoming thin, another was handed up by his companion, and this was joined by tying both bamboos to three or four of the pegs. When this was also nearly ended, a third was added, and shortly after, the lowest branches of the tree were reached, along which the young Dyak scrambled, and soon sent the Mias tumbling down headlong. I was exceedingly struck by the ingenuity of this mode of climbing, and the admirable manner in which the peculiar properties of the bamboo were made available. The ladder itself was perfectly safe, since if any one peg were loose or faulty, and gave way, the strain would be thrown on several others above and below it. I now understood the use of the line of bamboo pegs sticking in trees, which I had often seen, and wondered for what purpose they could have been put there. This animal was almost identical in size and appearance with the one I had obtained at Semabang, and was the only other male specimen of the Simia morio which I obtained. It is now in the Derby Museum.
I afterwards shot two adult females and two young ones of different ages, all of which I preserved. One of the females, with several young ones, was feeding on a Durian tree with unripe fruit; and as soon as she saw us she began breaking off branches and the great spiny fruits with every appearance of rage, causing such a shower of missiles as effectually kept us from approaching too near the tree. This habit of throwing down branches when irritated has been doubted, but I have, as here narrated, observed it myself on at least three separate occasions. It was however always the female Arias who behaved in this way, and it may be that the male, trusting more to his great strength and his powerful canine teeth, is not afraid of any other animal, and does not want to drive them away, while the parental instinct of the female leads her to adopt this mode of defending herself and her young ones.
In preparing the skins and skeletons of these animals, I was much troubled by the Dyak dogs, which, being always kept in a state of semi-starvation, are ravenous for animal food. I had a great iron pan, in which I boiled the bones to make skeletons, and at night I covered this over with boards, and put heavy stones upon it; but the dogs managed to remove these and carried away the greater part of one of my specimens. On another occasion they gnawed away a good deal of the upper leather of my strong boots, and even ate a piece of my mosquito-curtain, where some lamp-oil had been spilt over it some weeks before.
On our return down the stream, we had the fortune to fall in with a very old male Mias, feeding on some low trees growing in the water. The country was flooded for a long distance, but so full of trees and stumps that the laden boat could not be got in among them, and if it could have been we should only have frightened the Mias away. I therefore got into the water, which was nearly up to my waist, and waded on until I was near enough for a shot. The difficulty then was to load my gun again, for I was so deep in the water that I could not hold the gun sloping enough to pour the powder in. I therefore had to search for a shallow place, and after several shots under these trying circumstances, I was delighted to see the monstrous animal roll over into the water. I now towed him after me to the stream, but the Malays objected to having the animal put into the boat, and he was so heavy that I could not do it without their help. I looked about for a place to skin him, but not a bit of dry ground was to be seen, until at last I found a clump of two or three old trees and stumps, between which a few feet of soil had collected just above the water, which was just large enough for us to drag the animal upon it. I first measured him, and found him to be by far the largest I had yet seen, for, though the standing height was the same as the others (4 feet 2 inches), the outstretched arms were 7 feet 9 inches, which was six inches more than the previous one, and the immense broad face was 13 1/2 inches wide, whereas the widest I had hitherto seen was only 11 1/2 inches. The girth of the body was 3 feet 7 1/2 inches. I am inclined to believe, therefore, that the length and strength of the arms, and the width of the face continues increasing to a very great age, while the standing height, from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head, rarely if ever exceeds 4 feet 2 inches.
As this was the last Mias I shot, and the last time I saw an adult living animal, I will give a sketch of its general habits, and any other facts connected with it. The Orangutan is known to inhabit Sumatra and Borneo, and there is every reason to believe that it is confined to these two great islands, in the former of which, however, it seems to be much more rare. In Borneo it has a wide range, inhabiting many districts on the southwest, southeast, northeast, and northwest coasts, but appears to be chiefly confined to the low and swampy forests. It seems, at first sight, very inexplicable that the Mias should be quite unknown in the Sarawak valley, while it is abundant in Sambas, on the west, and Sadong, on the east. But when we know the habits and mode of life of the animal, we see a sufficient reason for this apparent anomaly in the physical features of the Sarawak district. In the Sadong, where I observed it, the Mias is only found when the country is low level and swampy, and at the same time covered with a lofty virgin forest. From these swamps rise many isolated mountains, on some of which the Dyaks have settled and covered with plantations of fruit trees. These are a great attraction to the Mias, which comes to feed on the unripe fruits, but always retires to the swamp at night. Where the country becomes slightly elevated, and the soil dry, the Mias is no longer to be found. For example, in all the lower part of the Sadong valley it abounds, but as soon as we ascend above the limits of the tides, where the country, though still flat, is high enough to be dry, it disappears. Now the Sarawak valley has this peculiarity—the lower portion though swampy, is not covered with a continuous lofty forest, but is principally occupied by the Nipa palm; and near the town of Sarawak where the country becomes dry, it is greatly undulated in many parts, and covered with small patches of virgin forest, and much second-growth jungle on the ground, which has once been cultivated by the Malays or Dyaks.
Now it seems probable to me that a wide extent of unbroken and equally lofty virgin forest is necessary to the comfortable existence of these animals. Such forests form their open country, where they can roam in every direction with as much facility as the Indian on the prairie, or the Arab on the desert, passing from tree-top to tree-top without ever being obliged to descend upon the earth. The elevated and the drier districts are more frequented by man, more cut up by clearings and low second-growth jungle—not adapted to its peculiar mode of progression, and where it would therefore be more exposed to danger, and more frequently obliged to descend upon the earth. There is probably also a greater variety of fruit in the Mias district, the small mountains which rise like islands out of it serving as gardens or plantations of a sort, where the trees of the uplands are to be found in the very midst of the swampy plains.
It is a singular and very interesting sight to watch a Mias making his way leisurely through the forest. He walks deliberately along some of the larger branches in the semi-erect attitude which the great length of his arms and the shortness of his legs cause him naturally to assume; and the disproportion between these limbs is increased by his walking on his knuckles, not on the palm of the hand, as we should do. He seems always to choose those branches which intermingle with an adjoining tree, on approaching which he stretches out his long arms, and seizing the opposing boughs, grasps them together with both hands, seems to try their strength, and then deliberately swings himself across to the next branch, on which he walks along as before. He never jumps or springs, or even appears to hurry himself, and yet manages to get along almost as quickly as a person can run through the forest beneath. The long and powerful arms are of the greatest use to the animal, enabling it to climb easily up the loftiest trees, to seize fruits and young leaves from slender boughs which will not bear its weight, and to gather leaves and branches with which to form its nest. I have already described how it forms a nest when wounded, but it uses a similar one to sleep on almost every night. This is placed low down, however, on a small tree not more than from twenty to fifty feet from the ground, probably because it is warmer and less exposed to wind than higher up. Each Mias is said to make a fresh one for himself every night; but I should think that is hardly probable, or their remains would be much more abundant; for though I saw several about the coal-mines, there must have been many Orangs about every day, and in a year their deserted nests would become very numerous. The Dyaks say that, when it is very wet, the Mias covers himself over with leaves of pandanus, or large ferns, which has perhaps led to the story of his making a hut in the trees.
The Orang does not leave his bed until the sun has well risen and has dried up the dew upon the leaves. He feeds all through the middle of the day, but seldom returns to the same tree two days running. They do not seem much alarmed at man, as they often stared down upon me for several minutes, and then only moved away slowly to an adjacent tree. After seeing one, I have often had to go half a mile or more to fetch my gun, and in nearly every case have found it on the same tree, or within a hundred yards, when I returned. I never saw two full-grown animals together, but both males and females are sometimes accompanied by half-grown young ones, while, at other times, three or four young ones were seen in company. Their food consists almost exclusively of fruit, with occasionally leaves, buds, and young shoots. They seem to prefer unripe fruits, some of which were very sour, others intensely bitter, particularly the large red, fleshy arillus of one which seemed an especial favourite. In other cases they eat only the small seed of a large fruit, and they almost always waste and destroy more than they eat, so that there is a continual rain of rejected portions below the tree they are feeding on. The Durian is an especial favourite, and quantities of this delicious fruit are destroyed wherever it grows surrounded by forest, but they will not cross clearings to get at them. It seems wonderful how the animal can tear open this fruit, the outer covering of which is so thick and tough, and closely covered with strong conical spines. It probably bites off a few of these first, and then, making a small hole, tears open the fruit with its powerful fingers.
The Mias rarely descends to the ground, except when pressed by hunger, it seeks succulent shoots by the riverside; or, in very dry weather, has to search after water, of which it generally finds sufficient in the hollows of leaves. Only once I saw two half-grown Orangs on the ground in a dry hollow at the foot of the Simunjon hill. They were playing together, standing erect, and grasping each other by the arms. It may be safely stated, however, that the Orang never walks erect, unless when using its hands to support itself by branches overhead or when attacked. Representations of its walking with a stick are entirely imaginary.
The Dyaks all declare that the Mias is never attacked by any animal in the forest, with two rare exceptions; and the accounts I received of these are so curious that I give them nearly in the words of my informants, old Dyak chiefs, who had lived all their lives in the places where the animal is most abundant. The first of whom I inquired said: "No animal is strong enough to hurt the Mias, and the only creature he ever fights with is the crocodile. When there is no fruit in the jungle, he goes to seek food on the banks of the river where there are plenty of young shoots that he likes, and fruits that grow close to the water. Then the crocodile sometimes tries to seize him, but the Mias gets upon him, and beats him with his hands and feet, and tears him and kills him." He added that he had once seen such a fight, and that he believes that the Mias is always the victor.
My next informant was the Orang Kaya, or chief of the Balow Dyaks, on the Simunjon River. He said: "The Mias has no enemies; no animals dare attack it but the crocodile and the python. He always kills the crocodile by main strength, standing upon it, pulling open its jaws, and ripping up its throat. If a python attacks a Mias, he seizes it with his hands, and then bites it, and soon kills it. The Mias is very strong; there is no animal in the jungle so strong as he."
It is very remarkable that an animal so large, so peculiar, and of such a high type of form as the Orangutan, should be confined to so limited a district—to two islands, and those almost the last inhabited by the higher Mammalia; for, east of Borneo and Java, the Quadrumania, Ruminants, Carnivora, and many other groups of Mammalla diminish rapidly, and soon entirely disappear. When we consider, further, that almost all other animals have in earlier ages been represented by allied yet distinct forms—that, in the latter part of the tertiary period, Europe was inhabited by bears, deer, wolves, and cats; Australia by kangaroos and other marsupials; South America by gigantic sloths and ant-eaters; all different from any now existing, though intimately allied to them—we have every reason to believe that the Orangutan, the Chimpanzee, and the Gorilla have also had their forerunners. With what interest must every naturalist look forward to the time when the caves and tertiary deposits of the tropics may be thoroughly examined, and the past history and earliest appearance of the great man-like apes be made known at length.
I will now say a few words as to the supposed existence of a Bornean Orang as large as the Gorilla. I have myself examined the bodies of seventeen freshly-killed Orangs, all of which were carefully measured; and of seven of them, I preserved the skeleton. I also obtained two skeletons killed by other persons. Of this extensive series, sixteen were fully adult, nine being males, and seven females. The adult males of the large Orangs only varied from 4 feet 1 inch to 4 feet 2 inches in height, measured fairly to the heel, so as to give the height of the animal if it stood perfectly erect; the extent of the outstretched arms, from 7 feet 2 inches to 7 feet 8 inches; and the width of the face, from 10 inches to 13 1/2 inches. The dimensions given by other naturalists closely agree with mine. The largest Orang measured by Temminck was 4 feet high. Of twenty-five specimens collected by Schlegel and Muller, the largest old male was 4 feet 1 inch; and the largest skeleton in the Calcutta Museum was, according to Mr. Blyth, 4 feet 1 1/2 inch. My specimens were all from the northwest coast of Borneo; those of the Dutch from the west and south coasts; and no specimen has yet reached Europe exceeding these dimensions, although the total number of skins and skeletons must amount to over a hundred.
Strange to say, however, several persons declare that they have measured Orangs of a much larger size. Temminck, in his Monograph of the Orang, says that he has just received news of the capture of a specimen 5 feet 3 inches high. Unfortunately, it never seems to have a reached Holland, for nothing has since been heard of any such animal. Mr. St. John, in his "Life in the Forests of the Far East," vol. ii. p. 237, tells us of an Orang shot by a friend of his, which was 5 feet 2 inches from the heel to the top of the head, the arm 17 inches in girth, and the wrist 12 inches! The head alone was brought to Sarawak, and Mr. St. John tells us that he assisted to measure this, and that it was 15 inches broad by 14 long. Unfortunately, even this skull appears not to have been preserved, for no specimen corresponding to these dimensions has yet reached England.
In a letter from Sir James Brooke, dated October 1857 in which he acknowledges the receipt of my Papers on the Orang, published in the "Annals and Magazine of Natural History," he sends me the measurements of a specimen killed by his nephew, which I will give exactly as I received it: "September 3rd, 1867, killed female Orangutan. Height, from head to heel, 4 feet 6 inches. Stretch from fingers to fingers across body, 6 feet 1 inch. Breadth of face, including callosities, 11 inches." Now, in these dimensions, there is palpably one error; for in every Orang yet measured by any naturalist, an expanse of arms of 6 feet 1 inch corresponds to a height of about 3 feet 6 inches, while the largest specimens of 4 feet to 4 feet 2 inches high, always have the extended arms as much as 7 feet 3 inches to 7 feet 8 inches. It is, in fact, one of the characters of the genus to have the arms so long that an animal standing nearly erect can rest its fingers on the ground. A height of 4 feet 6 inches would therefore require a stretch of arms of at least 8 feet! If it were only 6 feet to that height, as given in the dimensions quoted, the animal would not be an Orang at all, but a new genus of apes, differing materially in habits and mode of progression. But Mr. Johnson, who shot this animal, and who knows Orangs well, evidently considered it to be one; and we have therefore to judge whether it is more probable that he made a mistake of two feet in the stretch of the arms, or of one foot in the height. The latter error is certainly the easiest to make, and it will bring his animal into agreement, as to proportions and size, with all those which exist in Europe. How easy it is to be deceived as to the height of these animals is well shown in the case of the Sumatran Orang, the skin of which was described by Dr. Clarke Abel. The captain and crew who killed this animal declared that when alive he exceeded the tallest man, and looked so gigantic that they thought he was 7 feet high; but that, when he was killed and lay upon the ground, they found he was only about 6 feet. Now it will hardly be credited that the skin of this identical animal exists in the Calcutta Museum, and Mr. Blyth, the late curator, states "that it is by no means one of the largest size"; which means that it is about 4 feet high!
Having these undoubted examples of error in the dimensions of Orangs, it is not too much to conclude that Mr. St. John's friend made a similar error of measurement, or rather, perhaps, of memory; for we are not told that the dimensions were noted down at the time they were made. The only figures given by Mr. St. John on his own authority are that "the head was 15 inches broad by 14 inches long." As my largest male was 13 1/2 broad across the face, measured as soon as the animal was killed, I can quite understand that when the head arrived at Sarawak from the Batang Lupar, after two or three days' voyage, it was so swollen by decomposition as to measure an inch more than when it was fresh. On the whole, therefore, I think it will be allowed, that up to this time we have not the least reliable evidence of the existence of Orangs in Borneo more than 4 feet 2 inches high.
CHAPTER V. BORNEO—JOURNEY INTO THE INTERIOR.
(NOVEMBER 1855 TO JANUARY 1856.)
As the wet season was approaching, I determined to return to Sarawak, sending all my collections with Charles Allen around by sea, while I myself proposed to go up to the sources of the Sadong River and descend by the Sarawak valley. As the route was somewhat difficult, I took the smallest quantity of baggage, and only one servant, a Malay lad named Bujon, who knew the language of the Sadong Dyaks, with whom he had traded. We left the mines on the 27th of November, and the next day reached the Malay village of Gudong, where I stayed a short time to buy fruit and eggs, and called upon the Datu Bandar, or Malay governor of the place. He lived in a large, arid well-built house, very dirty outside and in, and was very inquisitive about my business, and particularly about the coal-mines. These puzzle the natives exceedingly, as they cannot understand the extensive and costly preparations for working coal, and cannot believe it is to be used only as fuel when wood is so abundant and so easily obtained. It was evident that Europeans seldom came here, for numbers of women skeltered away as I walked through the village and one girl about ten or twelve years old, who had just brought a bamboo full of water from the river, threw it down with a cry of horror and alarm the moment she caught sight of me, turned around and jumped into the stream. She swam beautifully, and kept looking back as if expecting I would follow her, screaming violently all the time; while a number of men and boys were laughing at her ignorant terror.
At Jahi, the next village, the stream became so swift in consequence of a flood, that my heavy boat could make no way, and I was obliged to send it back and go on in a very small open one. So far the river had been very monotonous, the banks being cultivated as rice-fields, and little thatched huts alone breaking the unpicturesque line of muddy bank crowned with tall grasses, and backed by the top of the forest behind the cultivated ground. A few hours beyond Jahi we passed the limits of cultivation, and had the beautiful virgin forest coming down to the water's edge, with its palms and creepers, its noble trees, its ferns, and epiphytes. The banks of the river were, however, still generally flooded, and we had some difficulty in finding a dry spot to sleep on. Early in the morning we reached Empugnan, a small Malay village, situated at the foot of an isolated mountain which had been visible from the mouth of the Simunjon River. Beyond here the tides are not felt, and we now entered upon a district of elevated forest, with a finer vegetation. Large trees stretch out their arms across the stream, and the steep, earthy banks are clothed with ferns and zingiberaceous plants.
Early in the afternoon we arrived at Tabokan, the first village of the Hill Dyaks. On an open space near the river, about twenty boys were playing at a game something like what we call "prisoner's base;" their ornaments of beads and brass wire and their gay-coloured kerchiefs and waist-cloths showing to much advantage, and forming a very pleasing sight. On being called by Bujon, they immediately left their game to carry my things up to the "headhouse,"—a circular building attached to most Dyak villages, and serving as a lodging for strangers, the place for trade, the sleeping-room of the unmarried youths, and the general council-chamber. It is elevated on lofty posts, has a large fireplace in the middle and windows in the roof all round, and forms a very pleasant and comfortable abode. In the evening it was crowded with young men and boys, who came to look at me. They were mostly fine young fellows, and I could not help admiring the simplicity and elegance of their costume. Their only dress is the long "chawat," or waist-cloth, which hangs down before and behind. It is generally of blue cotton, ending in three broad bands of red, blue, and white. Those who can afford it wear a handkerchief on the head, which is either red, with a narrow border of gold lace, or of three colours, like the "chawat." The large flat moon-shaped brass earrings, the heavy necklace of white or black beads, rows of brass rings on the arms and legs, and armlets of white shell, all serve to relieve and set off the pure reddish brown skin and jet-black hair. Add to this the little pouch containing materials for betel-chewing, and a long slender knife, both invariably worn at the side, and you have the everyday dress of the young Dyak gentleman.
The "Orang Kaya," or rich man, as the chief of the tribe is called, now came in with several of the older men; and the "bitchara" or talk commenced, about getting a boat and men to take me on the next morning. As I could not understand a word of their language, which is very different from Malay, I took no part in the proceedings, but was represented by my boy Bujon, who translated to me most of what was said. A Chinese trader was in the house, and he, too, wanted men the next day; but on his hinting this to the Orang Kaya, he was sternly told that a white man's business was now being discussed, and he must wait another day before his could be thought about.
After the "bitchara" was over and the old chiefs gone, I asked the young men to play or dance, or amuse themselves in their accustomed way; and after some little hesitation they agreed to do so. They first had a trial of strength, two boys sitting opposite each other, foot being placed against foot, and a stout stick grasped by both their hands. Each then tried to throw himself back, so as to raise his adversary up from the ground, either by main strength or by a sudden effort. Then one of the men would try his strength against two or three of the boys; and afterwards they each grasped their own ankle with a hand, and while one stood as firm as he could, the other swung himself around on one leg, so as to strike the other's free leg, and try to overthrow him. When these games had been played all around with varying success, we had a novel kind of concert. Some placed a leg across the knee, and struck the fingers sharply on the ankle, others beat their arms against their sides like a cock when he is going to crow, this making a great variety of clapping sounds, while another with his hand under his armpit produced a deep trumpet note; and, as they all kept time very well, the effect was by no means unpleasing. This seemed quite a favourite amusement with them, and they kept it up with much spirit.
The next morning we started in a boat about thirty feet long, and only twenty-eight inches wide. The stream here suddenly changes its character. Hitherto, though swift, it had been deep and smooth, and confined by steep banks. Now it rushed and rippled over a pebbly, sandy, or rocky bed, occasionally forming miniature cascades and rapids, and throwing up on one side or the other broad banks of finely coloured pebbles. No paddling could make way here, but the Dyaks with bamboo poles propelled us along with great dexterity and swiftness, never losing their balance in such a narrow and unsteady vessel, though standing up and exerting all their force. It was a brilliant day, and the cheerful exertions of the men, the rushing of the sparkling waters, with the bright and varied foliage, which from either bank stretched over our heads, produced an exhilarating sensation which recalled my canoe voyages on the grander waters of South America.
Early in the afternoon we reached the village of Borotoi, and, though it would have been easy to reach the next one before night, I was obliged to stay, as my men wanted to return and others could not possibly go on with me without the preliminary talking. Besides, a white man was too great a rarity to be allowed to escape them, and their wives would never have forgiven them if, when they returned from the fields, they found that such a curiosity had not been kept for them to see. On entering the house to which I was invited, a crowd of sixty or seventy men, women, and children gathered around me, and I sat for half an hour like some strange animal submitted for the first time to the gaze of an inquiring public. Brass rings were here in the greatest profusion, many of the women having their arms completely covered with them, as well as their legs from the ankle to the knee. Round the waist they wear a dozen or more coils of fine rattan stained red, to which the petticoat is attached. Below this are generally a number of coils of brass wire, a girdle of small silver coins, and sometimes a broad belt of brass ring armour. On their heads they wear a conical hat without a crown, formed of variously coloured beads, kept in shape by rings of rattan, and forming a fantastic but not unpicturesque headdress.
Walking out to a small hill near the village, cultivated as a rice-field, I had a fine view of the country, which was becoming quite hilly, and towards the south, mountainous. I took bearings and sketches of all that was visible, an operation which caused much astonishment to the Dyaks who accompanied me, and produced a request to exhibit the compass when I returned. I was then surrounded by a larger crowd than before, and when I took my evening meal in the midst of a circle of about a hundred spectators anxiously observing every movement and criticising every mouthful, my thoughts involuntarily recurred to the lion at feeding time. Like those noble animals, I too was used to it, and it did not affect my appetite. The children here were more shy than at Tabokan, and I could not persuade them to play. I therefore turned showman myself, and exhibited the shadow of a dog's head eating, which pleased them so much that all the village in succession came out to see it. The "rabbit on the wall" does not do in Borneo, as there is no animal it resembles. The boys had tops shaped something like whipping-tops, but spun with a string.
The next morning we proceeded as before, but the river had become so rapid and shallow and the boats were all so small, that though I had nothing with me but a change of clothes, a gun, and a few cooking utensils, two were required to take me on. The rock which appeared here and there on the riverbank was an indurated clay-slate, sometimes crystalline, and thrown up almost vertically. Right and left of us rose isolated limestone mountains, their white precipices glistening in the sun and contrasting beautifully with the luxuriant vegetation that elsewhere clothed them. The river bed was a mass of pebbles, mostly pure white quartz, but with abundance of jasper and agate, presenting a beautifully variegated appearance. It was only ten in the morning when we arrived at Budu, and, though there were plenty of people about, I could not induce them to allow me to go on to the next village. The Orang Kaya said that if I insisted on having men, of course he would get them, but when I took him at his word and said I must have them, there came a fresh remonstrance; and the idea of my going on that day seemed so painful that I was obliged to submit. I therefore walked out over the rice-fields, which are here very extensive, covering a number of the little hills and valleys into which the whole country seems broken up, and obtained a fine view of hills and mountains in every direction.
In the evening the Orang Kaya came in full dress (a spangled velvet jacket, but no trowsers), and invited me over to his house, where he gave me a seat of honour under a canopy of white calico and coloured handkerchiefs. The great verandah was crowded with people, and large plates of rice with cooked and fresh eggs were placed on the ground as presents for me. A very old man then dressed himself in bright-coloured cloths and many ornaments, and sitting at the door, murmured a long prayer or invocation, sprinkling rice from a basin he held in his hand, while several large gongs were loudly beaten and a salute of muskets fired off. A large jar of rice wine, very sour but with an agreeable flavour, was then handed around, and I asked to see some of their dances. These were, like most savage performances, very dull and ungraceful affairs; the men dressing themselves absurdly like women, and the girls making themselves as stiff and ridiculous as possible. All the time six or eight large Chinese gongs were being beaten by the vigorous arms of as many young men, producing such a deafening discord that I was glad to escape to the round house, where I slept very comfortably with half a dozen smoke-dried human skulls suspended over my head.
The river was now so shallow that boats could hardly get along. I therefore preferred walking to the next village, expecting to see something of the country, but was much disappointed, as the path lay almost entirely through dense bamboo thickets. The Dyaks get two crops off the ground in succession; one of rice, and the other of sugarcane, maize, and vegetables. The ground then lies fallow eight or ten years, and becomes covered with bamboos and shrubs, which often completely arch over the path and shut out everything from the view. Three hours' walking brought us to the village of Senankan, where I was again obliged to remain the whole day, which I agreed to do on the promise of the Orang Kaya that his men should next day take me through two other villages across to Senna, at the head of the Sarawak River. I amused myself as I best could till evening, by walking about the high ground near, to get views of the country and bearings of the chief mountains. There was then another public audience, with gifts of rice and eggs, and drinking of rice wine. These Dyaks cultivate a great extent of ground, and supply a good deal of rice to Sarawak. They are rich in gongs, brass trays, wire, silver coins, and other articles in which a Dyak's wealth consists; and their women and children are all highly ornamented with bead necklaces, shells, and brass wire.
In the morning I waited some time, but the men that were to accompany me did not make their appearance. On sending to the Orang Kaya I found that both he and another head-man had gone out for the day, and on inquiring the reason was told that they could not persuade any of their men to go with me because the journey was long and fatiguing one. As I was determined to get on, I told the few men that remained that the chiefs had behaved very badly, and that I should acquaint the Rajah with their conduct, and I wanted to start immediately. Every man present made some excuse, but others were sent for, and by hint of threats and promises, and the exertion of all Bujon's eloquence, we succeeded in getting off after two hours' delay.
For the first few miles our path lay over a country cleared for rice-fields, consisting entirely of small but deep and sharply-cut ridges and valleys without a yard of level ground. After crossing the Kayan river, a main branch of the Sadong, we got on to the lower slopes of the Seboran Mountain, and the path lay along a sharp and moderately steep ridge, affording an excellent view of the country. Its features were exactly those of the Himalayas in miniature, as they are described by Dr. Hooker and other travellers, and looked like a natural model of some parts of those vast mountains on a scale of about a tenth—thousands of feet being here represented by hundreds. I now discovered the source of the beautiful pebbles which had so pleased me in the riverbed. The slatey rocks had ceased, and these mountains seemed to consist of a sandstone conglomerate, which was in some places a mere mass of pebbles cemented together. I might have known that such small streams could not produce such vast quantities of well-rounded pebbles of the very hardest materials. They had evidently been formed in past ages, by the action of some continental stream or seabeach, before the great island of Borneo had risen from the ocean. The existence of such a system of hills and valleys reproducing in miniature all the features of a great mountain region, has an important bearing on the modern theory that the form of the ground is mainly due to atmospheric rather than to subterranean action. When we have a number of branching valleys and ravines running in many different directions within a square mile, it seems hardly possible to impute their formation, or even their origination, to rents and fissures produced by earthquakes. On the other hand, the nature of the rock, so easily decomposed and removed by water, and the known action of the abundant tropical rains, are in this case, at least, quite sufficient causes for the production of such valleys. But the resemblance between their forms and outlines, their mode of divergence, and the slopes and ridges that divide them, and those of the grand mountain scenery of the Himalayas, is so remarkable, that we are forcibly led to the conclusion that the forces at work in the two cases have been the same, differing only in the time they have been in action, and the nature of the material they have had to work upon.
About noon we reached the village of Menyerry, beautifully situated on a spur of the mountain about 600 feet above the valley, and affording a delightful view of the mountains of this part of Borneo. I here got a sight of Penrissen Mountain, at the head of the Sarawak River, and one of the highest in the district, rising to about 6,000 feet above the sea. To the south the Rowan, and further off the Untowan Mountains in the Dutch territory appeared equally lofty. Descending from Menyerry we again crossed the Kayan, which bends round the spur, and ascended to the pass which divides the Sadong and Sarawak valleys, and which is about 2,000 feet high. The descent from this point was very fine. A stream, deep in a rocky gorge, rushed on each side of us, to one of which we gradually descended, passing over many lateral gullys and along the faces of some precipices by means of native bamboo bridges. Some of these were several hundred feet long and fifty or sixty high, a single smooth bamboo four inches diameter forming the only pathway, while a slender handrail of the same material was often so shaky that it could only be used as a guide rather than a support.
Late in the afternoon we reached Sodos, situated on a spur between two streams, but so surrounded by fruit trees that little could be seen of the country. The house was spacious, clean and comfortable, and the people very obliging. Many of the women and children had never seen a white man before, and were very sceptical as to my being the same colour all over, as my face. They begged me to show them my arms and body, and they were so kind and good-tempered that I felt bound to give them some satisfaction, so I turned up my trousers and let them see the colour of my leg, which they examined with great interest.
In the morning early we continued our descent along a fine valley, with mountains rising 2,000 or 3,000 feet in every direction. The little river rapidly increased in size until we reached Serma, when it had become a fine pebbly stream navigable for small canoes. Here again the upheaved slatey rock appeared, with the same dip and direction as in the Sadong River. On inquiring for a boat to take me down the stream, I was told that the Senna Dyaks, although living on the river-banks, never made or used boats. They were mountaineers who had only come down into the valley about twenty years before, and had not yet got into new habits. They are of the same tribe as the people of Menyerry and Sodos. They make good paths and bridges, and cultivate much mountain land, and thus give a more pleasing and civilized aspect to the country than where the people move about only in boats, and confine their cultivation to the banks of the streams.
After some trouble I hired a boat from a Malay trader, and found three Dyaks who had been several times with Malays to Sarawak, and thought they could manage it very well. They turned out very awkward, constantly running aground, striking against rocks, and losing their balance so as almost to upset themselves and the boat—offering a striking contrast to the skill of the Sea Dyaks. At length we came to a really dangerous rapid where boats were often swamped, and my men were afraid to pass it. Some Malays with a boatload of rice here overtook us, and after safely passing down kindly sent back one of their men to assist me. As it was, my Dyaks lost their balance in the critical part of the passage, and had they been alone would certainly have upset the boat. The river now became exceedingly picturesque, the ground on each side being partially cleared for ricefields, affording a good view of the country. Numerous little granaries were built high up in trees overhanging the river, and having a bamboo bridge sloping up to them from the bank; and here and there bamboo suspension bridge crossed the stream, where overhanging trees favoured their construction.
I slept that night in the village of the Sebungow Dyaks, and the next day reached Sarawak, passing through a most beautiful country where limestone mountains with their fantastic forms and white precipices slot up on every side, draped and festooned with a luxuriant vegetation. The banks of the Sarawak River are everywhere covered with fruit trees, which supply the Dyaks with a great deal of their food. The Mangosteen, Lansat, Rambutan, Jack, Jambou, and Blimbing, are all abundant; but most abundant and most esteemed is the Durian, a fruit about which very little is known in England, but which both by natives and Europeans in the Malay Archipelago is reckoned superior to all others. The old traveller Linschott, writing in 1599, says: "It is of such an excellent taste that it surpasses in flavour all the other fruits of the world, according to those who have tasted it." And Doctor Paludanus adds: "This fruit is of a hot and humid nature. To those not used to it, it seems at first to smell like rotten onions, but immediately when they have tasted it, they prefer it to all other food. The natives give it honourable titles, exalt it, and make verses on it." When brought into a house the smell is often so offensive that some persons can never bear to taste it. This was my own case when I first tried it in Malacca, but in Borneo I found a ripe fruit on the ground, and, eating it out of doors, I at once became a confirmed Durian eater.
The Durian grows on a large and lofty forest tree, somewhat resembling an elm in its general character, but with a more smooth and scaly bark. The fruit is round or slightly oval, about the size of a large cocoanut, of a green colour, and covered all over with short stout spines the bases of which touch each other, and are consequently somewhat hexagonal, while the points are very strong and sharp. It is so completely armed, that if the stalk is broken off it is a difficult matter to lift one from the ground. The outer rind is so thick and tough, that from whatever height it may fall it is never broken. From the base to the apex five very faint lines may be traced, over which the spines arch a little; these are the sutures of the carpels, and show where the fruit may be divided with a heavy knife and a strong hand. The five cells are satiny white within, and are each filled with an oval mass of cream-coloured pulp, imbedded in which are two or three seeds about the size of chestnuts. This pulp is the eatable part, and its consistency and flavour are indescribable. A rich butter-like custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but intermingled with it come wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, brown sherry, and other incongruities. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy. It is neither acid, nor sweet, nor juicy; yet one feels the want of more of these qualities, for it is perfect as it is. It produces no nausea or other bad effect, and the more you eat of it the less you feel inclined to stop. In fact to eat Durians is a new sensation, worth a voyage to the East to experience.
When the fruit is ripe it falls of itself, and the only way to eat Durians in perfection is to get them as they fall; and the smell is then less overpowering. When unripe, it makes a very good vegetable if cooked, and it is also eaten by the Dyaks raw. In a good fruit season large quantities are preserved salted, in jars and bamboos, and kept the year round, when it acquires a most disgusting odour to Europeans, but the Dyaks appreciate it highly as a relish with their rice. There are in the forest two varieties of wild Durians with much smaller fruits, one of them orange-coloured inside; and these are probably the origin of the large and fine Durians, which are never found wild. It would not, perhaps, be correct to say that the Durian is the best of all fruits, because it cannot supply the place of the subacid juicy kinds, such as the orange, grape, mango, and mangosteen, whose refreshing and cooling qualities are so wholesome and grateful; but as producing a food of the most exquisite flavour, it is unsurpassed. If I had to fix on two only, as representing the perfection of the two classes, I should certainly choose the Durian and the Orange as the king and queen of fruits.
The Durian is, however, sometimes dangerous. When the fruit begins to ripen it falls daily and almost hourly, and accidents not unfrequently happen to persons walking or working under the trees. When a Durian strikes a man in its fall, it produces a dreadful wound, the strong spines tearing open the flesh, while the blow itself is very heavy; but from this very circumstance death rarely ensues, the copious effusion of blood preventing the inflammation which might otherwise take place. A Dyak chief informed me that he had been struck down by a Durian falling on his head, which he thought would certainly have caused his death, yet he recovered in a very short time.
Poets and moralists, judging from our English trees and fruits, have thought that small fruits always grew on lofty trees, so that their fall should be harmless to man, while the large ones trailed on the ground. Two of the largest and heaviest fruits known, however, the Brazil-nut fruit (Bertholletia) and Durian, grow on lofty forest trees, from which they fall as soon as they are ripe, and often wound or kill the native inhabitants. From this we may learn two things: first, not to draw general conclusions from a very partial view of nature; and secondly, that trees and fruits, no less than the varied productions of the animal kingdom, do not appear to be organized with exclusive reference to the use and convenience of man.
During my many journeys in Borneo, and especially during my various residences among the Dyaks, I first came to appreciate the admirable qualities of the Bamboo. In those parts of South America which I had previously visited, these gigantic grasses were comparatively scarce; and where found but little used, their place being taken as to one class of uses by the great variety of Palms, and as to another by calabashes and gourds. Almost all tropical countries produce Bamboos, and wherever they are found in abundance the natives apply them to a variety of uses. Their strength, lightness, smoothness, straightness, roundness and hollowness, the facility and regularity with which they can be split, their many different sizes, the varying length of their joints, the ease with which they can be cut and with which holes can be made through them, their hardness outside, their freedom from any pronounced taste or smell, their great abundance, and the rapidity of their growth and increase, are all qualities which render them useful for a hundred different purposes, to serve which other materials would require much more labour and preparation. The Bamboo is one of the most wonderful and most beautiful productions of the tropics, and one of nature's most valuable gifts to uncivilized man.
The Dyak houses are all raised on posts, and are often two or three hundred feet long and forty or fifty wide. The floor is always formed of strips split from large Bamboos, so that each may be nearly flat and about three inches wide, and these are firmly tied down with rattan to the joists beneath. When well made, this is a delightful floor to walk upon barefooted, the rounded surfaces of the bamboo being very smooth and agreeable to the feet, while at the same time affording a firm hold. But, what is more important, they form with a mat over them an excellent bed, the elasticity of the Bamboo and its rounded surface being far superior to a more rigid and a flatter floor. Here we at once find a use for Bamboo which cannot be supplied so well by another material without a vast amount of labour—palms and other substitutes requiring much cutting and smoothing, and not being equally good when finished. When, however, a flat, close floor is required, excellent boards are made by splitting open large Bamboos on one side only, and flattening them out so as to form slabs eighteen inches wide and six feet long, with which some Dyaks floor their houses. These with constant rubbing of the feet and the smoke of years become dark and polished, like walnut or old oak, so that their real material can hardly be recognised. What labour is here saved to a savage whose only tools are an axe and a knife, and who, if he wants boards, must hew them out of the solid trunk of a tree, and must give days and weeks of labour to obtain a surface as smooth and beautiful as the Bamboo thus treated affords him. Again, if a temporary house is wanted, either by the native in his plantation or by the traveller in the forest, nothing is so convenient as the Bamboo, with which a house can be constructed with a quarter of the labour and time than if other materials are used.
As I have already mentioned, the Hill Dyaks in the interior of Sarawak make paths for long distances from village to village and to their cultivated grounds, in the course of which they have to cross many gullies and ravines, and even rivers; or sometimes, to avoid a long circuit, to carry the path along the face of a precipice. In all these cases the bridges they construct are of Bamboo, and so admirably adapted is the material for this purpose, that it seems doubtful whether they ever would have attempted such works if they had not possessed it. The Dyak bridge is simple but well designed. It consists merely of stout Bamboos crossing each other at the road-way like the letter X, and rising a few feet above it. At the crossing they are firmly bound together, and to a large Bamboo which lays upon them and forms the only pathway, with a slender and often very shaky one to serve as a handrail. When a river is to be crossed, an overhanging tree is chosen from which the bridge is partly suspended and partly supported by diagonal struts from the banks, so as to avoid placing posts in the stream itself, which would be liable to be carried away by floods. In carrying a path along the face of a precipice, trees and roots are made use of for suspension; struts arise from suitable notches or crevices in the rocks, and if these are not sufficient, immense Bamboos fifty or sixty feet long are fixed on the banks or on the branch of a tree below. These bridges are traversed daily by men and women carrying heavy loads, so that any insecurity is soon discovered, and, as the materials are close at hand, immediately repaired. When a path goes over very steep ground, and becomes slippery in very wet or very dry weather, the Bamboo is used in another way. Pieces are cut about a yard long, and opposite notches being made at each end, holes are formed through which pegs are driven, and firm and convenient steps are thus formed with the greatest ease and celerity. It is true that much of this will decay in one or two seasons, but it can be so quickly replaced as to make it more economical than using a harder and more durable wood.
One of the most striking uses to which Bamboo is applied by the Dyaks, is to assist them in climbing lofty trees by driving in pegs in the way I have already described at page 85. This method is constantly used in order to obtain wax, which is one of the most valuable products of the country. The honey-bee of Borneo very generally hangs its combs under the branches of the Tappan, a tree which towers above all others in the forest, and whose smooth cylindrical trunk often rises a hundred feet without a branch. The Dyaks climb these lofty trees at night, building up their Bamboo ladder as they go, and bringing down gigantic honeycombs. These furnish them with a delicious feast of honey and young bees, besides the wax, which they sell to traders, and with the proceeds buy the much-coveted brass wire, earrings, and bold-edged handkerchiefs with which they love to decorate themselves. In ascending Durian and other fruit trees which branch at from thirty to fifty feet from the ground, I have seen them use the Bamboo pegs only, without the upright Bamboo which renders them so much more secure.
The outer rind of the Bamboo, split and shaved thin, is the strongest material for baskets; hen-coops, bird-cages, and conical fish-traps are very quickly made from a single joint, by splitting off the skin in narrow strips left attached to one end, while rings of the same material or of rattan are twisted in at regular distances. Water is brought to the houses by little aqueducts formed of large Bamboos split in half and supported on crossed sticks of various heights so as to give it a regular fall. Thin long-jointed Bamboos form the Dyaks' only water-vessels, and a dozen of them stand in the corner of every house. They are clean, light, and easily carried, and are in many ways superior to earthen vessels for the same purpose. They also make excellent cooking utensils; vegetables and rice can be boiled in them to perfection, and they are often used when travelling. Salted fruit or fish, sugar, vinegar, and honey are preserved in them instead of in jars or bottles. In a small Bamboo case, prettily carved and ornamented, the Dyak carries his sirih and lime for betel chewing, and his little long-bladed knife has a Bamboo sheath. His favourite pipe is a huge hubble-bubble, which he will construct in a few minutes by inserting a small piece of Bamboo for a bowl obliquely into a large cylinder about six inches from the bottom containing water, through which the smoke passes to a long slender Bamboo tube. There are many other small matters for which Bamboo is daily used, but enough has now been mentioned to show its value. In other parts of the Archipelago I have myself seen it applied to many new uses, and it is probable that my limited means of observation did not make me acquainted with one-half the ways in which it is serviceable to the Dyaks of Sarawak.
While upon the subject of plants I may here mention a few of the more striking vegetable productions of Borneo. The wonderful Pitcher-plants, forming the genus Nepenthes of botanists, here reach their greatest development. Every mountain-top abounds with them, running along the ground, or climbing over shrubs and stunted trees; their elegant pitchers hanging in every direction. Some of these are long and slender, resembling in form the beautiful Philippine lace-sponge (Euplectella), which has now become so common; others are broad and short. Their colours are green, variously tinted and mottled with red or purple. The finest yet known were obtained on the summit of Kini-balou, in North-west Borneo. One of the broad sort, Nepenthes rajah, will hold two quarts of water in its pitcher. Another, Nepenthes Edwardsiania, has a narrow pitcher twenty inches long; while the plant itself grows to a length of twenty feet.
Ferns are abundant, but are not so varied as on the volcanic mountains of Java; and Tree-ferns are neither so plentiful nor so large as on that island. They grow, however, quite down to the level of the sea, and are generally slender and graceful plants from eight to fifteen feet high. Without devoting much time to the search I collected fifty species of Ferns in Borneo, and I have no doubt a good botanist would have obtained twice the number. The interesting group of Orchids is very abundant, but, as is generally the case, nine-tenths of the species have small and inconspicuous flowers. Among the exceptions are the fine Coelogynes, whose large clusters of yellow flowers ornament the gloomiest forests, and that most extraordinary plant, Vanda Lowii, which last is particularly abundant near some hot springs at the foot of the Penin-jauh Mountain. It grows on the lower branches of trees, and its us strange pendant flower-spires often hang down so as almost to reach the ground. These are generally six or eight feet long, bearing large and handsome flowers three inches across, and varying in colour from orange to red, with deep purple-red spots. I measured one spike, which reached the extraordinary length of nine feet eight inches, and bore thirty-six flowers, spirally arranged upon a slender thread-like stalk. Specimens grown in our English hot-houses have produced flower-spires of equal length, and with a much larger number of blossoms.
Flowers were scarce, as is usual in equatorial forests, and it was only at rare intervals that I met with anything striking. A few fine climbers were sometimes seen, especially a handsome crimson and yellow Aeschynanthus, and a fine leguminous plant with clusters of large Cassia-like flowers of a rich purple colour. Once I found a number of small Anonaceous trees of the genus Polyalthea, producing a most striking effect in the gloomy forest shades. They were about thirty feet high, and their slender trunks were covered with large star-like crimson flowers, which clustered over them like garlands, and resembled some artificial decoration more than a natural product.
The forests abound with gigantic trees with cylindrical, buttressed, or furrowed stems, while occasionally the traveller comes upon a wonderful fig-tree, whose trunk is itself a forest of stems and aerial roots. Still more rarely are found trees which appear to have begun growing in mid-air, and from the same point send out wide-spreading branches above and a complicated pyramid of roots descending for seventy or eighty feet to the ground below, and so spreading on every side, that one can stand in the very centre with the trunk of the tree immediately overhead. Trees of this character are found all over the Archipelago, and the accompanying illustration (taken from one which I often visited in the Aru Islands) will convey some idea of their general character. I believe that they originate as parasites, from seeds carried by birds and dropped in the fork of some lofty tree. Hence descend aerial roots, clasping and ultimately destroying the supporting tree, which is in time entirely replaced by the humble plant which was at first dependent upon it. Thus we have an actual struggle for life in the vegetable kingdom, not less fatal to the vanquished than the struggles among animals which we can so much more easily observe and understand. The advantage of quicker access to light and warmth and air, which is gained in one way by climbing plants, is here obtained by a forest tree, which has the means of starting in life at an elevation which others can only attain after many years of growth, and then only when the fall of some other tree has made room for then. Thus it is that in the warm and moist and equable climate of the tropics, each available station is seized upon and becomes the means of developing new forms of life especially adapted to occupy it.