FROM JUNGLE TO JAVA
THE TRIVIAL IMPRESSIONS OF A SHORT EXCURSION TO NETHERLANDS INDIA.
BY ARTHUR KEYSER,
AUTHOR OF "OUR CRUISE IN NEW GUINEA," "CUT BY THE MESS," "AN EXILE'S ROMANCE," ETC., ETC.
THE ROXBURGHE PRESS, LIMITED, FIFTEEN, VICTORIA STREET, WESTMINSTER.
I. A SELECT COMMUNITY 1
II. THE START 7
III. SINGAPORE 14
IV. ON THE WAY TO JAVA 19
V. BATAVIA 23
VI. AN OFFICIAL CALL 34
VII. A CONCERT AT THE CONCORDIA CLUB 39
VIII. CONCERNING THE LOMBOH WAR 44
IX. BUITENZORG 49
X. CUSTOMS AND COSTUMES 56
XI. AN UNTIMELY CALL 62
XII. A MODEL ESTATE 66
XIII. AMONG THE ROSES 76
XIV. GARVET 84
XV. BATHS AND VOLCANOES 89
XVI. THE QUEST FOR A MOTHER 94
XVII. THE QUEST CONTINUED. TJILATJAP 99
XVIII. THE QUEST SUCCESSFUL. THE WODENA'S HOUSE 109
XIX. A VILLAGE HOME IN JAVA 115
XX. BACK TO THE JUNGLE 120
FROM JUNGLE TO JAVA
A SELECT COMMUNITY.
Mr. X., whose impressions and mild adventures I have undertaken the task of editing, has asked me to narrow his personal introduction to such limits as is consistent with the courtesy due to my readers, if haply I find any. He prefers, as his pseudonym implies, to remain an unknown quantity. I need only explain that he is an officer employed in one of the small States of the Malay Peninsula, which are (very much) under the protection of the Colonial Government of the Straits Settlements. The latter, with careful forethought for their ease-loving rulers, appoints officers to relieve them of all the cares and duties of administration, and absolves them from the responsibility of a Government somewhat more progressive in its policy than might commend itself to Oriental ideas, if left without such outside assistance.
As the title intimates, Mr. X.'s duties compel him to make his home in the jungle. The word has many significations in the East, where it is often used to express a region remote from civilization, although perhaps consisting of barren mountains or treeless plains. Mr. X.'s jungle, however, is one realizing what it represents to the untravelled Englishman. It is a land of hill and dale covered with thickly growing forest trees, with here and there by the side of the rivers, which are Nature's thoroughfares, or the main roads made by man, small oases of cultivation. It is a beautiful country, with a climate which those who live in it—and they are the best witnesses—declare to be healthy and agreeable. And the members of the small community who form the European population take a personal pride in the amenities of their beautiful retreat, with its perennial verdure, and glory in their "splendid isolation." Criticisms are resented, and suggestions of indisposition due to climatic influence held to be little short of traitorous. So, as may be imagined, it was a matter of no ordinary interest when X. not only complained of being unwell, but also developed signs of a chronic discontent. For X.—no Mr. was necessary in that little round-table club—certainly was unwell. Of this there could be no doubt, and such a condition of body was little short of an abuse of the privileges of the place. But since he could give no real explanation of his feelings, and only sighed vaguely when engaged in the daily preprandial game of billiards at the club, it was thought best to ignore his new departure, and to leave the subject severely alone.
However, the effect of this wise treatment was entirely ruined by the arrival of the doctor, who bore the sounding official designation of the Residency surgeon. This gentleman was wont to be sceptical in the matter of ailments, limiting his recognition only to honest, downright illness worthy of the attention of a medico whose name stood in front of a formidable array of honourable letters, too numerous for him to mention. But even really great people are not always strictly consistent, and occasionally make small lapses from the straight path of precedent—and so this man of science deigned to cast an eye of interest upon the ailment of X. That it should be worthy of notice at all was enough for the companions of the now much-appreciated invalid, but when the great man added to his notice by bestowing a classical name, expressions of sympathy knew no bounds, and the unwonted solicitude was almost more than the sufferer could bear with the dignified attitude of conscious merit fitting to the occasion. Something rather distingue had happened to the place, something quite new. A vulgar complaint was a subject for reprobation and not sympathy, as casting discredit on this salubrious retreat, but a malady composed of two words out of the Greek Lexicon conferred a distinction perhaps unknown to, and to be envied by, the larger communities beyond the pass. The matter was most seriously discussed, and the decision arrived at that X. wanted a change. Not exactly that a change would do him good, but because, when he came back, the change, from the place he went to, to his happy home in Pura Pura, would work wonders for his health. As the doctor endorsed the former part of the verdict, rather modifying it by suggesting, that there were few conditions of health when a change would not be beneficial to a hard-worked official, there remained nothing but to select the spot to which X.—his leave once granted—must go. It would never, of course, do that he should go to Penang, or even to Hong Kong or Japan, such an expedition would be too ordinary and commonplace. It was felt that X. should do something worthy of the occasion, and show his appreciation of the place he lived in by going to one as similar in respect of people and scenery as could be found, and so, when the person chiefly concerned, knowing what was expected of him, suggested Java, the idea was accepted, and Java it was settled to be. And that night at the Club there was a long sitting, and Manop, the patient barman, had to record the disappearance of many extra "stengahs," as the matter was discussed in all its bearings. Those of the community who had been to Java recalled their experiences and recollections of that country, rather to the annoyance of those others whose travels, though perhaps more extended, had not led them in the same direction, and thus had to accept the unwelcome role of silent listeners. However, goaded by long endurance, one of the party, the scene of whose stories mostly lay in the Antipodes, remarked that certainly when X. returned from Java he must write a book about it, because if he had only half as much to communicate as the present speakers, the book would be full of information. This little sarcasm was entirely spoilt by being taken literally, as it was at once decided that X. must write a book. Vainly he protested that it would be impossible to write a book after only a brief visit to a place, as he could only put into it what was already known to others; his objections were over-ruled, and he was reminded that only the other day, when H. E., the Governor, progressed (which is the official rendering of travelled) through a neighbouring State (known to those present only too painfully well, through many weary days spent in the jungles while exploring and actually constructing the path over which this "progress" was subsequently made), one of the party wrote a book which announced the discovery of a newly found place, and even went so far as to sniff severely at the presumption of those who had undergone these early days of toil, because certain grateful pioneers had named various landmarks after friends who had assisted them in the first months of settlement. "If that State, which we know so well, was discovered so recently," urged one of the speakers, "why not discover Java?" "And as for a fortnight being too brief a time," suggested another—"did the Progress take longer?" And thus, it being an unwritten law in Pura Pura that the wishes of the community should be respected, X. having now returned from leave, has commissioned a chronicler to write about what he saw in Java, though it would be an easier task were the latter allowed to write about the community. But that must not be—at any rate now. Java is the theme—that, and no other.
[Footnote 1: Local name for "peg."]
In the few days which elapsed before the due arrival of official permission for X. to leave the jungle, it might have been observed that he was changed. The hitherto sedate individual became fussy and worried, and members of The Community agreed that he was "journey-proud"—a happy expression used by one of the neighbouring Malay potentates when wishing to describe his feelings at a time of emerging from the security of his own retreat. But there was much to do—clothes not looked at since the distant days when they left those cities on the other side of the pass, had to be inspected and all their lapses laid bare—moths had eaten holes in most conspicuous places, and in others rats had, literally, made their nests. The shirts were whitened shams, as they lay, no more than so many "dickeys," in a row, for when unfolded it was found that they had lost their tails, long since the prey of cockroaches or bedding for the young of mice; collars, when severed from their fray, were sadly diminished in height, and the overhauling of the boot department revealed the fact that there was nothing that would bear a more critical eye than that of "The Community." However, the best had to be made of a bad job, and one Bo Ping, a stitcher in leather, certainly did his best in the matter.
Then an equal preparation was required for the wardrobes of Usoof and Abu, the two followers selected to accompany X. upon his travels. This entailed many visits from the local tailors, who spent long hours in the back premises, accompanied by all their friends and relations—for in Pura Pura, as amongst many other Eastern peoples, for one person at work there are always ten looking on. Thus the interest in these proceedings was not centred upon X.—to some he played quite a secondary part in the matter, being merely an incident connected with the departure of Usoof, who was going to Java, which was his birthplace—as all the world knew—but which he had left years ago, when little more than a baby in arms. Usoof was going home to find his relations and tell them all about himself, and "Tuan" X. happened to be going too. This being a fact widely reported and discussed nightly far into the small hours of the morning, while friends ate light refreshments of bread and sugar with pink-coloured syrups to wash them down, it is not to be wondered at that X. began at last to feel that it was settled he was going principally to search for Usoof's mother, who was possibly living in a village somewhere in Java, her name unknown; indeed, her still being in the land of the living was a matter of conjecture. This quest, however, which obtained additional interest from the little that was knowable of its object, is alluded to here, so that when it is subsequently related how it led X. from the beaten track of tourists, there may be no surprise, since it can be understood that it would have been impossible for him to return to Pura Pura without some attempt to perform that which was expected of him.
[Footnote 2: Malay equivalent for Mister = Sahib.]
In due time arrived the document permitting X. to leave Pura Pura, and the day of departure was fixed. Usoof and Abu had already gone on ahead in a bullock cart with the luggage, and X. was to leave next morning. Several of "The Community" kindly came to see the start and sat calm and superior over their long "stengahs," while the intending traveller endeavoured to compress into a quarter of an hour the final instructions for the regulation of affairs in his absence. However, after writing various little memos and giving many injunctions to the syces and tenants generally, concerning the care of the horses, sheep, geese, dogs, bears, tame storks, porcupines, and other live stock which belonged to the household, the traveller mounted into his sulky, with that sinking in the region of his heart which comes to all those temporarily about to leave Pura Pura's secluded calm. And thus he drove forth into the great populous world beyond. The first glimpse of it was distant twenty-four miles, and reached after a drive through some of the most beautiful jungle scenery imaginable. This oasis of civilization was the capital of the State at whose port it was necessary to embark. Here X. remained for the night, accepting hospitality from the kind doctor who had looked upon his complaint and so scientifically localised and named it. To one fresh from the jungle, this evening appeared full of novelty and life, from the fact of there being strange faces present. One of the party was a French Roman Catholic priest, known to all in the various States as a man of practical good works and a congenial companion. And there was also a gentleman of title—a visitor fresh from England—who should have been called a globe-trotter had he not, in the course of the meal, thanked Providence that he had come across none of that genus in those localities. This gentleman, who rejoiced at the absence of globe-trotters, was bound for such a variety of places in such a short space of time that X. could only regard him with bewilderment and envy. For while he had only undertaken his journey after the mature consideration of a month, during which time the correspondence concerning leave and medical certificates had assumed proportions of official magnitude, this traveller carried with him all the documents connected with his plans in the form of a piece of paper on which was written exactly where he must sleep, lunch, and dine during the ensuing fortnight. It would be interesting to know if this visitor actually accomplished his task and saw all that he proposed in the time allowed. Perhaps, when he gets home, his community—the other titled people—will put pressure on him to write a book, and satisfy our legitimate curiosity.
On the following morning X. boarded the train on the railroad which connects the capital with the sea. He found himself an object of interest to the dwellers in those distant parts, not only as the fleshly embodiment of the personality hitherto known as initials at the bottom of official minutes, but as the champion who had not long since descended from his mountain for the purpose of engaging the railway in litigation, in consequence of his garments having suffered from sparks on the occasion of his last venture in the train.
This case had excited considerable interest, and X. had made a triumphant exit, as he drove away from the court with portions of charred wardrobe packed in behind. During the present journey there were no sparks, and the coast was reached without any incident which might promise litigation. The party consisting of X., Usoof and Abu, embarked on the s.s. Malacca, a fairly comfortable steamship with a kindly captain. The sniff of the sea was delightful to the jungle-wallah, and, freed from official chains, he reclined in a long chair feeling that all his plans and preparations had at least a present good result. The only incident of the voyage that remains in his memory is the fact that a Chinese passenger sitting opposite at dinner drank a bottle of whisky and a bottle of claret mixed, and appeared to suffer no subsequent inconvenience. In the evening the ship lay off Malacca. There are few more suggestive views than this one of twinkling lights, here and there disclosing momentary peeps of that picturesque old town, peeps that conjure forth visions of half forgotten stories of that place of many memories, told, in the jungle by the flicker of the camp fire, by Malays, adepts at relating tales handed down by their fathers.
Then the cool evening of a tropical climate, the sea glinting in silver moonlit streaks around the ship, which throwing a huge shadow on the water lies silently swinging to her anchor before the peering little red stars of that solitary old-world city. Scenes such as these are some compensation to many a home-sick exile.
Ah, well,—we must not get sentimental and out of tune, though the snores of the whisky-claret Chinaman are particularly discordant. However he passed—as happily passengers do—and so did the night and the early dawn as the s.s. Malacca approached the beautiful island of Singapore (does everyone know it is an island?) Ask you another! Well, can my readers say straight off what constitutes the Straits Settlements, and which are islands? but never mind—skip this and hurry on over the bracket, if an answer were really wanted the bracket would not be there.
I see that X. has it in his notes that the first view of this city is the most beautiful in the East—does he mean the approach, the view, or the city. It perhaps does not greatly matter, but it is certain that he recorded the fact that to a poor jungle-wallah like himself it seemed very vast and full of life, as he dressed himself and prepared to re-enter the world from which he had so long been absent. A gharry—a close carriage on four wheels with a dirty-looking driver and a tiny pony—now conveyed, or rather set forth to convey, the traveller to the hospitable house of a certain distinguished general who resides in Singapore.
Singapore is a city in which it is notoriously difficult to find one's way about, as all the roads seem alike—they are all excellent—and so do the houses. Had I not undertaken to tell you how X. went to Java, I should like to stop and relate how once on this account the writer dined at the wrong house—and dined well—while his host, whose name he never knew, preserved an exquisite sang-froid and never showed surprise; but such egotistic digressions might possibly annoy X. who has a right to claim the first place in this little history.
The driver apparently knew where no one as an individual lived, and entirely relied on strange local descriptions known only to the native inhabitants, therefore it was vain for X. to try and explain where he wanted to go. It transpired from interrogations of passers by that no gharry driver or Malay policeman had heard of the General or even that such a personage existed—X. never told the General that—and thus the gharry containing X., and the two which followed with the suite and luggage, drove backwards and forwards puzzling people as they went, for such twistings and turnings argued ignorance of locality, and ignorance of locality meant a globe-trotter, and yet no mail steamer was in, and, again, no globe trotter would be followed by two Malays. And presently he again endeavoured to explain where he wanted to go in forcible Malay—this made the problem more difficult—till the passers by, mostly cooks going to market, gave it up as one too deep, or perhaps too trivial, for solution. The morning drive thus lasted till Europeans early for office appeared in their smart buggies and fast trotting horses, and one of these magnates of commerce coming to the rescue, it was explained to the gharry syce that the Commander of all the Forces occupied a house where Mr. So-and-so used to live, after the celebrated Mr. So-and-so had sold off his racing stud and given up the house—"didn't the driver remember?" "Yes, was not Omad the chief syce" to the gentleman alluded to? At this the driver exclaimed, "of course," and whipping up his pony, with a withering look at his face, which implied "if only he had had the sense to tell me that before," he drove direct to one of the largest and most imposing mansions of the town.
Saved from the hotels of Singapore, where bewildered travellers grumble and strange-looking jungle-wallahs come down to drink, X. felt all the half-dormant memories of civilization return to him, as, passing the sentry, he entered the spacious hall and received a kindly welcome from his host.
Having, as the books say, removed the traces of his journey, no very palpable ones in this case, since washing is practicable and customary on board s.s. Malacca, X. joined his host at breakfast and was informed of the programme of the day—consisting of an afternoon drive, dining out in the evening, and thence to hear the regimental band play by moonlight in the gardens. What a gay place Singapore seemed to X., who nightly dined alone, and to whom the sound of a band was a memory of bygone days—and a band by moonlight too. Yes, that also had memories all its own. On moonlight nights he is wont to sit on the verandah and listen to the drowsy monotonous singing of the Malays who dwell in the villages below his hill. Very agreeable is that chanting sound as it ascends, telling of companionship and content, although for that very reason making the solitary European feel more solitary still. Native servants have given him his dinner and left him to seek their own amusement. He is a duty only, something finished with and put away for the night, left solitary upon the broad verandah, half envying the natives who can enjoy the moonlight in the society of their friends.
Here in Singapore X. need envy no one, for was he not to go out after dinner and hear a band in the moonlight, and a band played by Europeans? The reality equalled expectation, for moonlight in the beautiful gardens of Singapore, with the elite of society sitting in their carriages or strolling along the grass by the lake would have been a pleasant evening even to people more blase than X., nor did that person enjoy it any the less from catching sight of Usoof and Abu standing as lonely amongst this mass of strangers as ever he was wont to feel when brooding in his solitude at home, while they sang songs in the moonlight to their friends.
The evening ended up with the glorious dissipation of supper at the regimental mess. The immediate result of this outing was pleasure, the subsequent one—probably the addition of another syllable to the compound Greek word with which X.'s ailments had been identified.
ON THE WAY TO JAVA.
On the following day, remembering what was expected of him, X. hired a gharry and proceeded to discharge all such obligations as etiquette demanded from one in his peculiar official position. The first and foremost of these was to inscribe his name in a book in the ante-room of the office of the Colonial Secretary. The names in this book would make interesting reading, and, thought X., probably become a source of wealth could one take it into the smoking-room of a London club and lay ten to one that no three people present could locate the places named upon a map. Perak—or as they would call it in the smoking-room, Pea rack—Selangor, Pahang—called at home Pahhang—Jelebu, Sungei Ujong—also Londonized into Sonjeyajang—and many others of unaccustomed sound.
[Footnote 3: Pronounced Perah.]
Official routine over (this should be semi-official routine, suggests X., who fears that he may be held responsible for any error of the writer, which may lead it to be supposed that he is arrogating to himself any real Colonial Office rank)—however, it is difficult to be so observant of nice distinctions—X. next paid a visit to Messrs. John Little and Co. Every one who has been to Singapore has been to John Little's, for it is better known to the dwellers in that city than even Whitely to Londoners. Whitely has rivals, John Little has none. From this famous provider of necessaries and superfluities to the hospitable club is but a step, and there the traveller lunched. This club is the meeting-place of all the prominent merchants in Singapore. The building is a fine one, with a verandah overlooking the sea, and the members always cordially welcome strangers and neighbours from the adjoining peninsula. Having said this much I feel compelled to risk incurring the displeasure of X., who will be credited with having told me, and add that the company is better than the cooking. The quality of the fluids and the quantity are without reproach, but the food!—that is one of the things they manage better in the jungle.
In the afternoon the General was again as good as his word, and took his guest for a drive, showing to his wondering eyes all the beauties of the new water-works. The China mail had that morning come in, and this favourite resort was dotted over with evident passengers, some of them globe-trotters. What would the titled traveller have said had his hurried steps taken him that way? In the evening His Excellency gave a dinner party to twenty guests culled from the most select circles in Singapore. To sit at table with so many Europeans would at any time have been a new sensation to X., but to suddenly find himself one of such a distinguished company was almost alarming in its novelty. However, being happily situated by the side of Beauty, the situation expanded generally, and had any member of The Community been watching, he might have thought that X. was proving false to the creed that there was no place like Pura Pura for a man to dwell in.
That which to the other diners was a matter of every day, to him was both a present pleasure and a glimpse of the past.
It was, of course, quite hopeless to attempt to explain to anyone whence he came, or where he lived, for the very name of Pura Pura was unknown to them, and so it was necessary to pose as a passenger passing through en route to Java.
Some amongst the company had been to Java (including the host), and all spoke in high terms of the civility to be found there.
In the morning the traveller took leave of his kind host, who left first at 5.30 a.m. for some early little game of war, a description of which would probably have been as vague to a civilian as would the geographical position of Pura Pura, or the exact official status of X., to members of the company of the previous evening. The great soldier having driven off in full uniform through a throng of salaaming menials of various nationalities, X. entered his humble gharry, and, followed by Usoof and Abu, drove to the Messagerie wharf. The steamer for Batavia was the s.s. Godavery, which was in connection with the mails for home. The cost of the passage is, perhaps, for the actual distance travelled, the most expensive in the world. The time taken by the voyage is thirty-six hours.
The voyage on board the Godavery resembled similar ones, with the notable difference that the excellent cuisine made X. wish that the time to be spent in transit were longer. The only people who were not contented were Usoof and Abu, for each of whom their employer was paying the sum of three dollars a night. These particular Mahomedans refused to touch the food shovelled out to them, and to crowds of natives of all colour and class—by the rough and ready Chinese servants, and towards the end of the second day, having eaten nothing, they presented a very woebegone and miserable appearance. However, a few more judiciously placed dollars produced them a square meal of bread and tea, after which they smiled.
There is perhaps no sensation so agreeable as the arrival in a strange port. Thoughts and conjectures as to the possibilities that lie beyond the landing place are innumerable, and fancy and anticipation are equally strong. When the Godavery steamed into Batavia it was still dark and the rain was coming down in torrents. It all looked miserable enough, but, once alongside the wharf, daylight began to appear and the passengers trooped ashore. The station was more than a quarter of a mile from the place of landing, and this distance the poor people had to hurry along in the rain.
The unfortunate natives—carrying bundles containing their belongings—were drenched to the skin. Also the European passengers—less objects of pity, as only the portion of their wardrobe actually worn was exposed to the rain—came in for a considerable share of the moisture of that wet arrival. It is true there was a magnificent covered way, but this was hopelessly blocked up with trucks and other railway gear, which were, presumably, more susceptible to cold than the passengers. The luggage was quickly and courteously passed by the Custom House officials, and the travellers entered a luxuriously fitted train—apparently a show train, as X. never met another like it in Java.
Arrival in Batavia town created a good first impression, as there were no pestering crowds, as there are in Singapore, and there were many carriages waiting for hire, all two-horsed and good.
The drive to the hotel was a long one, through the business portions of the town, till the residential side was reached. Here detached houses are situated alongside the principal road, on the other side of which flows a canal, giving to the place an appropriate Dutch appearance.
The hotel was a most imposing building outside, with apparently countless rooms, but the thing which immediately struck X. as something uncommon was the fact that the floors of the apartments were level with the ground and not raised as is the case in Singapore and the Peninsula, and he felt feverish as he noticed it. The traveller was allotted a fair sized room opening on to a court yard, with other rooms and other openings to the right and to the left, and in fact all round him, and in front of these rooms sat people in every stage of deshabille. There seemed to be no privacy and what, perhaps, under the circumstances was fortunate,—no shyness. X. however had not yet reached that point of his observations, and, entering his room, he shut the door and ordered his first meal in Java. This turned out to be a terrible repast, consisting of a plate of cold clammy selections from the interior of some edible beast, two cold hard-boiled eggs, three small cold fish roasted in cocoanut oil, and something intended to resemble ham and eggs. This first meal is mentioned in detail as it was but a foretaste of an equally trying series. X. thought of Dagonet and that power of description which, when relating dyspeptic woes, will compel the sympathy of the hardiest feeder.
It did not take long to skim hastily over the surface of these uninviting viands, and now X. turned his attention to the notices which stared at him from every wall. These in many languages threatened all travellers with penalties if, immediately after their arrival, they neglected to obtain permission to reside in Netherlands India. After reading this, X. lost no time in sending for a conveyance to drive to the British Consulate. The gentleman who received him there was extremely civil and gave him all the information in his power. It appeared that if the traveller was anxious for facts about Java, the officials of that country were equally so in requiring the same from him, and he was obliged to fill in a printed form stating his age, birthplace, residence and occupation, etc., and, when this was done, pay one guilder and a half for his trouble. The next step was to go to the Bank, and nothing could exceed the kindness with which he was received at this place, and the thoughtful manager assisted the stranger to decide where he had better go in order to best see something of the country, and what was most to the point, wrote for him the names of places and hotels which seem outlandish and terrible on first meeting with them. X. learnt to his dismay that the system of obtaining money by cheque was almost unknown, and it would always be necessary to carry money and, when more was wanted, receive it by registered letter through the post. The idea of carrying ready money to a person who had for years followed the customs of the East and depended on cheques and "chits," seemed a new trouble for which he had not been prepared. On the drive back to the hotel through streets sloppy with mud, the first new impression made upon the traveller was caused by the number of natives selling vegetables—good wholesome English looking specimens, especially carrots. This was a refreshing sight after years of seeing no familiar vegetables, except those which passed long periods of imprisonment in tins.
All along the route natives of either sex were bathing in the filthy water of the canal without even a suspicion of that modesty which characterises the Malays. Impression No. 2 was noted to the effect that none of the natives wore boots or shoes, and all plashed barefooted through the mud. He had already had his attention called to this absence of shoes when coming up in the train by the notice (not to say the excitement) attracted by the neatly-booted feet of his followers. Could it be possible that they would also be obliged to go barefooted through the muddy streets? And still worse thought—would it fall to his lot to break it to them? The natives all appeared larger and more strongly built than the Malays of the Peninsula, but, as in Singapore, they were a hybrid lot, and there were also to be seen a variety of other nationalities—Malay nationalities—but, strange to say, no Arabs, and, more remarkable still, no Chinamen. To those readers who may not have visited that part of the world of which I write, it should be explained that Singapore is almost entirely populated by Chinese, and in the native states they materially outnumber the Malays, so that the eye is accustomed to see Chinese everywhere and regard them as the real inhabitants of the country. Their absence in a Malay town strikes anyone coming from the Peninsula as strange. Cf course there are Chinese in Batavia, and many of them, as X. soon learnt, but they do not pervade the whole place as is the case in the English colonies over the way.
Reaching the hotel X. was relieved to find that Usoof and Abu had discarded their boots, and were picking their way delicately across the mud of the courtyard. Also they had been provided with an excellent curry. Then he prepared to get ready for his own lunch, and next to bathe. In order to do this it was necessary to run the gauntlet of many eyes, as the bathroom was some distance off, and, to reach it, the entire length of the verandah must be passed. On to this verandah opened the doors of bedrooms, the occupant of each sitting in his long chair in front—exactly, as Abu remarked, like vendors holding stalls in a market. The long chairs were of the luxurious kind, with short seats and long movable arms, and on which latter the occupants extended their naked feet. This of course refers to the men. Ladies also sat there, in what X. subsequently learnt was not altogether considered deshabille, namely, the sarong and kabaya of the country. The first-named garment, it may be explained for the benefit of readers in the West, is a close-fitting petticoat such as the natives wear, and the latter a white linen jacket. It required some courage to take that first walk along this verandah, but things seldom continue to seem strange, unless other people look as if they thought them so, and as these reclining rows of visitors lay back doing nothing, not even reading, with an air of unconcern, it was not difficult for X. to assume one too. However, he could not but believe that he helped to fill in that vacant blank in which the sitters sank, as he passed along, himself clad in wondrous garments made of gaudy silks woven by the skilled natives of the Peninsula, while Usoof and Abu followed, bringing the towels and soap. Nor did he entirely deceive himself, since he was subsequently informed by Usoof that the "boy" of a Nyonia, or what in Singapore is called a "mem," told him that his lady had instructed him to discover whether X. had many more of those silk sarongs for sale.
Lunch was perhaps the first real revelation of life in Java, since it introduced the traveller to that which a majority of the people seem to live for (and always sleep after)—the rice-table. This rice-table has been so often described that it need not be done in detail here; but the basis, as it were, of this rice-table is, as may be supposed, rice, and with this foundation in your plate, innumerable dishes of eggs, fish, meat, etc., are offered by a string of attendants, who expect you to put some of each on the top of it. Probably this is only a literal and exaggerated interpretation of a Malay curry, which is incomplete without the countless little relishes which should accompany it. This particular dish, or rather function, is seen in its fullest development in the up-country places, visited later, and the one in Batavia was scarcely a fair sample, as though X. was unaware of this at the time, its proportions had evidently been toned down and diminished out of deference to the cosmopolitan character of the guests, who, probably like our traveller, had on former occasions given their ignorance away by asking for more plates and taking each dish seriously, as though it were a separate course, sent up before its time, at the risk of getting cold. To a person accustomed to Singapore there was something novel and cheering about the first meal in the vast dining-hall of this hotel. The floor was of marble—scrupulously clean—and the Javanese waiters were dressed in a uniform of white trimmed with red, presenting a pleasing contrast to the slipshod dirty "boy" of an ordinary hotel, whose habit it is to clatter round flapping your face and brushing your food with his long, unclean, hanging sleeves. Though in the native states from whence X. came it is no uncommon thing to see Malays wait at table, yet in Singapore, with the exception of Indian servants, it is very seldom that there are any attendants but Chinese.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the meal was the absence of bread. This could be procured, when asked for, but was not provided, as it is elsewhere, as a matter of course, and was regarded as an extra. An excellent arrangement of this marble hall was that it was permitted to smoke immediately after lunch. As, availing himself of this, X. smoked his cigarette and meditated contentedly, he noted all the various details which might interest The Community at home. One rather prominent detail was a lady at a neighbouring table dressed only in a sarong and kabaya, with her extremities bare. The lower portion of these were thrust into some loose sandal slippers, the upper turned back as far under the chair as the stretch of the sarong would allow. It was not a costume which, from X.'s point of view, appeared elegant, though, like most articles of apparel worn by beauty, capable of becoming elegant if elegantly worn; still in the present instance more natural elegance would be required in proportion to that of the costume, there being so little of the latter. Returning to the publicity of his apartment, X. was met by Usoof and Abu, both with very long faces and evidently in considerable distress. On being interrogated it transpired that they had nowhere to bathe. Now to bathe, and bathe constantly, is as necessary to a Malay as are regular meals to a European. X., being sadly aware that he would be held responsible for everything that went wrong or did not fit in with the exact views of these children of nature, thought it best to be brave at the commencement of things and affect an indifference which he was far from really feeling, and, therefore, with a jerk of his head towards the canal, replied that that was where people bathed. "Yes, perhaps people," said Abu, with meaning, and then for fear X. should not be sufficiently intelligent to catch the tone, added "people who don't mind filth or water like that in a drain." This seemed to need no answer, and as Usoof had reserved his remarks X. knew that worse was to come, and he would be more prudent to wait and reply on the whole question, instead of being drawn into argument as though he were actually to blame for this terrible state of affairs. But as Usoof still kept silence X. rashly thought he had gained an easy victory, and airily added, "All right, you must make the best of it and go to the canal." Then the reserved remarks found vent, "Was the Tuan aware that all the women in the place bathed there?" "Yes," this had to be admitted, since the Tuan himself had noticed it, and, as has been recorded above, not without some comments of his own. "Then how can I bathe there at the same time?" continued Usoof, "I should be ashamed." "Well, if they are not you need not be," rather frivolously replied his master, as he sought escape from further conversation by burrowing in a box full of books. It may as well be recorded here that the couple never did bathe in that canal, and eventually drove some miles into the country, where they performed their modest ablutions by a village well. They also refused to permit any clothes to be sent to the wash in Batavia, and they were not far wrong, since the water of the canal was equally unfitted for washing either clothes or the human body it was their office to adorn.
AN OFFICIAL CALL.
After luncheon X. took a drive. All the most noteworthy features of Batavia are duly set forth in guide books, and it is therefore only advisable to mention those few points of difference from an English colonial town which seemed to the traveller worthy of note. The principal one was that all the residents' houses were built along the side of the high road; there were no secluded mansions standing in their own grounds as in Singapore. All the houses were obtrusively en evidence, so much so, that people, socially inclined, take their evening drive and note at a glance, by the lights displayed, who is at home and ready to receive. Those not prepared to entertain sit in semi-darkness. The houses seemed as devoid of privacy as were the verandahs of the hotels. Planted on each side of the road were huge towering trees testifying by their presence that the town was not of mushroom growth. No Europeans were met; this was understood later when it was explained that at this hour of the day they were all asleep. At first it seemed that there were no shops, but closer observation discovered them under the same roof as some of the private dwellings, standing detached away from the road. The English Church wore a deserted aspect, closed and uncared for. Possibly the driver libelled the community when he informed the traveller that it was never used. The ordinary carriage is a dos-a-dos, a most uncomfortable conveyance like an Irish car turned end on, but excellent carriages are provided by the hotels.
Later our traveller proposed to call upon the Resident—the chief authority in the place—and present his letters of introduction. He had been told that he must not call before 7.30 in the evening, and also that he must wear dress clothes. It seemed an outrageous thing to do, to put on dress clothes in broad daylight in an hotel and to go out about dinner time to call, and when he summoned Usoof to assist him, that grave-faced individual did so with a kind of silent pity for his master compelled to do unaccountable things in a land of strangers.
However, when X. had arrayed himself, as though he were dining out, his heart failed him. He felt it was impossible to go to the house of a stranger like this just at the hour for dinner without appearing as though he hoped he would be asked to stay for that meal. And so he shamefacedly untied his white tie and asked Usoof to provide him with a morning coat. This apprehension might have been spared, however; the call was never actually paid, for, in the drive that led up to the house of the Resident, he met a carriage coming out containing a gentleman and three ladies. This turned out to be the Resident with his wife and daughters. It was an agreeable surprise to find that the carriage stopped, and the traveller had the somewhat difficult task of introducing himself and explaining his appearance in the dark. The Resident, who spoke excellent English, was most cordial and kind. He regretted that he was not at home to receive the intended visit, but he was obliged to attend a reception given in honour of the General, the hero of the Lomboh War. Then the great official expressed a hope that X. had secured his permit, and told him that he must renew it when he reached Buitensug, which was the limit of his jurisdiction. X. noticed that the Resident was not in dress clothes and mentally congratulated himself that he wore none either, or most certainly as the carriage drove away he would have looked like a person disappointed of a dinner.
The hotel was most gorgeously illuminated with electric light, and the marble dining hall was extravagantly lurid. Had X. consulted his convenience he would certainly have worn his black sun spectacles, but actually feared to alarm his followers by exhibiting any further tendency to eccentricity on their first day in a strange country, and so he resigned himself to blink owlishly throughout the meal. The absence of a punkah, a necessity to which he was accustomed, was also a trial. However, there was little fear of getting hot by over indulgence at the table, as the chilly cocoanut-oily viands were excellent checks to any imprudent display of appetite. Towards the end of the repast the proprietor of the hotel informed X. that the Resident of Batavia wished to speak to him through the telephone. If there is one place where he exhibits himself in an unfavourable light it is in front of that horrible, muttering, jibbering instrument, when, after the introductory "Who's there?" and information as to who you are repeated ad nauseam, there rumble to your ear the most exasperating sounds, so full of meaning and yet conveying nothing, until it seems as though the person at the other end were mocking you, and the tone of his voice gets so irritating that you long to throw down the tubes and make a rush at him. However, on this occasion X. wisely left the whole matter in the hands of the proprietor, who presently informed him that the Resident invited him to an open air concert given at the Concordia Club in honour of the General, then the man of the hour, and, if he would care to come, an English friend would presently call for him at the hotel. The only possible answer to such a welcome invitation was duly transmitted.
X. has, according to his own account, all his life been a most fortunate individual. Wherever he went he has always, as the phrase has it, "fallen on his feet." On this expedition his luck did not desert him, and on the appearance of his fellow countryman which took place (to be exact in speaking of an event now historical) at 9 p.m., there commenced a new departure which forged a first link in the chain of events which was to happily land him in the most beautiful country that he had ever yet beheld. X. has always thought of telephones more kindly since.
A CONCERT AT THE CONCORDIA CLUB.
The traveller was naturally much impressed with the scene at the Concordia Club. In the beautiful gardens, which were gorgeously illuminated, people were walking about and sitting down as though it were an English summer night. But, as in the East thoughts of health and diet always occupy an extraordinarily prominent place in the minds of all who have dwelt there for any length of time, that which chiefly struck the stranger was the apparently reckless indifference to fever displayed by those flaneurs who dawdled about under the trees on this treacherous soil, as though it were the harmless green grass of Hurlingham at home. And it almost relieved him to hear presently from a lady, to whom he expressed this astonishment, that the doctors declared this season of open air concerts was certainly the most busy time for colds and fever. The Resident and his party were seated at a round table on the top of the flight of marble steps leading to the Club. To each person of this group X. was presented in turn, after which he had the honour of a seat on the right hand of his host and thus full opportunity to enjoy the novelty of the surroundings and the excellent music of the band. As the party gathered round the table included some of the greatest names in the country, people who were in a position to have an intimate knowledge of recent events, the conversation proved interesting and instructive. Thus the Englishman heard the story of the Balineri war—that terrible defeat and massacre of the Dutch troops under the command of the general, who ultimately retrieved the position, and to do honour to whom all were assembled to-night. X. listened as people spoke of the unparalleled treachery of the natives, the sufferings of the troops, and the assistance rendered to the enemy by the importation of arms by a European. And severe remarks were made as to this latter incident, some present insisting that the culprit was an Englishman from Singapore. War was in the air—everyone talked of the war, and such an impression did the matter make upon X., who heard the conduct of the campaign discussed wherever he went, throughout his stay, that it may be of interest to give in a separate chapter the story of what was said about the recent war.
All those who joined the party on the terrace spoke English, to the relief of X.—and as new guests arrived to join the circle they were formally introduced by name to each one among the company in that precise manner which is the fashion in America. And likewise when any individual rose to leave he would bid good-night to each separate member of the party.
When I undertook to compile this little account of how X. went to Java, it had been my intention to arrange what he saw and what he heard in some order of sequence, but from the nature of his manner of observation, I find this to be impossible, and therefore must record each impression he received and facts of interest which he heard, just as they came to him, regardless of apparent want of connection. As the chief object of this sketch is to assist others intending to spend a short holiday in that beautiful island belonging to our neighbours, this little originality may pass.
Thus on this occasion the traveller learnt that, contrary to his former ideas on the matter, the Civil Service was much underpaid, and that, though it corresponds with our Indian Civil Service in standard of examination, etc., the scale of pay and of pensions falls far short of its prototype. And it may be mentioned here, as showing what an important part naval officers are expected to play in Dutch East India, that all midshipmen have to pass in the Malay language. The command of the squadron on the waters of Netherlands India is the prize of the service, to the holding of which the most distinguished naval officers look forward. The Governor General of the Dutch possessions in the East is known as His Excellency during his term of office. The admiral who commands there not only has the same title during the years of his command, but is entitled to retain it for the remainder of his life. In the course of conversation the Resident kindly informed X. that he must not be annoyed at being obliged to obtain a permit to travel, since it had been found necessary to insist that even his own countrymen should do so, and he had recently caused notices to be issued and posted in all the steamers and hotels, so that there might be no misunderstanding in the matter. After the concert and the conclusion of a most agreeable evening X. was introduced to the Harmonic Club, where he had supper.
This, like the Concordia, is a magnificent building with marble pillars and floors, more in accordance with his early ideas of the gorgeous East than anything which the traveller had seen. The Harmonic Club was built during the time when Java was an English possession—and his informant, the Englishman, sighed. It was not long before the new comer also sighed, when, having seen the beauties of this glorious country, he remembered that but for the blindness of some former rulers, unmindful of the advice of those on the spot who should know, another India might have been held for England. But as the natural beauty of the country was enhanced and made complete by the sight of universal prosperity and content, the sound of such a sigh from an English visitor is the greatest compliment the present proprietors could be paid.
The first day of X.'s stay in Java was now over—a pleasant day enough, as he admitted to himself, after a long seclusion in the jungle—the place on which, after all, his last thoughts rested, that negatively happy jungle and its kindly inhabitants—represented to his immediate view by two inanimate bundles on the floor entrenched behind a barricade of boxes in a corner of the room. These were the faithful Usoof and Abu, long since gone to rest—forgetful of all the troubles of their first day in a new country.
CONCERNING THE LOMBOH WAR.
Lomboh is an island to the east of Java. The Raja of Lomboh did not come to Batavia at a time when it was expected of him, and after some correspondence the Resident of the nearest district was sent to see him. After—in true oriental fashion—promising to give him audience, and then failing to do so—keeping the Resident waiting a week—he finally sent a message refusing to meet him. Then troops were sent. But their departure was not effected without a commencement of that bickering which marked the whole subsequent course of events. The General in command was junior to the Admiral over whom he was put. A compromise was effected by a second general being appointed. When the expedition reached its destination the Balineri showed great astonishment at this parade of force, and affected to be at a total loss to understand why they had come.
This unexpected turn of events finally ended in a great "chumming up" which developed into social functions and the taking of a photograph, in which the Raja's generals and other chiefs of the expedition were all taken in one large group. This photograph was sent to Buitenzorg—the seat of Government—as a proof of the unreality of the scare, and the diplomatic ease with which the expedition had been able to come, see and conquer.
The photograph is not now to be purchased. After the festivities and photography the Dutch force camped by the Palace walls, and the general in command reported officially that the matter was settled.
On receipt of this welcome news the Governor General was so delighted that he gave a dinner party that same evening, and after the meal was over stood on the billiard table and made a little speech announcing the bloodless success and happy termination of the affair Lomboh.
The Palace where the troops had camped was a kind of village—a collection of houses surrounded by a huge wall. Each day the Dutch held parades and drill outside the village, and tried to astonish the natives with the wonders of their Winchesters and field guns. At these the people professed great astonishment, examining those modern weapons with intense interest, and asking questions innumerable as to their construction and cost. The latter is almost invariably the first question which occurs to a native mind.
The Balinese must be clever actors, since all the while they possessed hundreds of Winchesters and many pieces of field ordnance within those deceitful walls. They were deceitful walls, for they were extensively loop-holed, the apertures being cunningly stopped up with mortar. One evening the crisis came. The officers while playing whist—dressed in their lounge clothes of sarong and their feet bare, were attacked and shot down almost to a man. When the poor fellows sought refuge under the walls, hand grenades were fired to dislodge them. A general panic and flight followed. Those fugitives who had managed to effect an orderly retreat, took refuge in a temple about half way between their camp and that of another detachment. It was only then that they realized to the full extent the nature of the terrible disaster, for here they met a poor remnant of that other detachment fighting their way to them for help—they also having been treacherously attacked.
But this was not all, no warning had yet been sent to a third detachment which had been left on the coast. This column, ignorant of any disaster, marched in to the recent camp and had scarcely time to wheel round before the guns in the loopholes opened fire, almost annihilating them, a few only escaping back to the boats.
How deeply affected were the Dutch and their friends, the whole civilized world, at the arrival of this terrible news, is matter of history, and for a time something like consternation reigned in Buitenzorg and Batavia.
After telegraphic communication with Europe, and the fortunate mislaying of a certain message deprecating any prompt action, the Governor General took a popular step in deciding to send every available man to the seat of war, and to render all possible assistance.
This was done, and the Dutch forces subsequently retrieved their fortunes, in some measure avenging the death of their comrades. But it was at no small sacrifice, since Java—the Government of which place much reliance on military display—was almost destitute of troops. As an illustration of this it is related that during this war the Sultan of Deli elected to pay a visit to Batavia. As only two battalions of troops were left it was considered impolitic that he should know it, therefore the men were marched past him first when he was dining in the capital, and then despatched by train to represent other battalions, and march past him once again on the occasion of his visit to Buitenzorg the following day.
The description of the tears of the aged Sultan of Lomboh at the destruction of his beautiful palace, and the marvellous stories of how jewels and millions of treasure were borne away by the victorious General more resembled a page for the "Arabian Nights" than a record of facts in the present day. On the other hand, accounts of the terrible hardships endured by the brave Dutch soldiers sounded more modern, and were only too easy of belief.
The seat of the war was only half a day from the Javanese port of Soerabaya, and enough money had been collected in Java and Holland to pay the cost of the entire war, and yet it was so mismanaged that officers had only rice to eat, and nightly camped out on the ground without shelter in that fever-giving climate.
On the afternoon of the day of his arrival, a Sunday, having declined a kind invitation to a party for the theatre, X. decided to leave for Buitenzorg. He thought he sniffed fever mingled with the other very apparent odours in his room on the ground floor, while Usoof and Abu not only could not bathe but were unable to send his clothes to the wash. The combination of reasons and of smells was strong.
It may be mentioned here, it being about as apropos in this place as it would be in any other, that all functions in Java, from a reception of the Governor General to a performance by a travelling show, take place on a Sunday.
The train left Batavia at 4.30 and X. reached Buitenzorg at six.
So much that is misleading has been written about Buitenzorg—the Washington of Java, that X. was woefully deceived. It certainly is a beautiful place—indeed exquisitely so, but a traveller is scarcely satisfied with the beauties of nature when he pays to mankind for creature comforts which he fails to obtain. The most agreeable feature of the journey to a stranger who has, as it were, been long hemmed in by dense jungles in the Peninsula, was certainly the long stretches of open country reminding him of the pasture lands and fields which fly past the train at home. Cattle and ponies grazing complete the illusion, and X. could scarcely refrain from outspoken exclamations of delight.
It had been much impressed upon the traveller that he must by all means obtain a room at the Belle Vue Hotel, and if possible, one overlooking the back which governs the famous view. This was achieved by telegram. On arrival a carriage with three ponies conveyed him to the hotel—a poor building on a lovely site, which bristled with possibilities.
The famous back terrace of rooms was at the further side of the courtyard to the entrance, and, once duly installed, X. was delighted with the outlook. Just immediately below the window was the railway line—below that rushed a large, broad, shallow mountain river in which half the native population seemed to be bathing. Beyond these stretched an unbroken view of picturesque villages, whose scattered red-roofed houses peeped here and there from among the palms and other graceful trees. Beyond again, the mountain—with five distinct sugar-loaf tops, tops which had to be watched while counting as they emerged and disappeared in turn from out and in the hanging land of clouds. Yes, the view had certainly not been overrated, and X. was glad he came.
Usoof and Abu refused to consider anything beautiful, and could only exclaim with horror at the bathers in the river, who evidently shocked their ideas of propriety. Their master was not surprised at their comments, but his own views were broader and his moral perceptions perhaps blunter, and experience had taught him the propriety of the injunction concerning Rome and the Romans. But it was nevertheless quite certain that the most moderate London County Councillor could not have borne the sight of that river without a shock to his system. After revelling in the view from the verandah a black coat was donned for dinner, which the wearer subsequently found rendered him conspicuous, and he then crossed the courtyard to the dining room prepared to dine well off fresh fish, mutton, and other products of the country. Although the soup was on the table cooling, the company sat outside round a little table drinking gin and bitters. Not wanting any, X. as Clark Russell would say, hung in the wind, and then after a few seconds—seeing that dinner was certainly ready—seated himself. This isolated action rendered him almost as conspicuous as his coat, which was also alone in its sombre glory. Presently others followed the stranger's example, and the meal began. Then ensued a period of disillusion. There was no punkah, the glare of the lamplight was blinding, and the food—all of it—coarse, greasy and cold. The soup which had been waiting was of the variety known as tinned, an old acquaintance which X. had hoped to have left in the jungle until his return. This, and other messes, would not have mattered so greatly, had not the proprietor of the hotel, a pompous gentleman (X. afterwards learnt he was President of the Race Club), stood sentry over the door, whence issued the rows of servants with the dishes, narrowly watching what each guest partook of and detecting with an eagle eye the uneatable scraps which the defeated diner had striven to conceal beneath his knife and fork. The most amusing thing during the progress of the meal was the conversation of an elderly English couple, who, in truly British tourist fashion seemed to imagine they were alone, and the people round them but figures of wax who could neither hear nor be affected by anything they might say. "Oh, how they soak the fish in grease," the lady would exclaim; or, "This is good meat, but ruined, yes, positively ruined in the cooking; look, my dear, it is (doubtfully, and sniffing at her plate), it is absolutely soaked in grease—oh, what a pity, how can you eat it, dear—but you would eat anything," the speaker continued garrulously, "for yesterday you ate the fish on board that steamer when it was almost rotten—I smelt it from my cabin before we came out, etc," and much more in the same strain. To all these domestic remarks, her companion vouchsafed no reply, but continued his dinner as though accustomed to such an accompaniment.
It was as much as X. could do to refrain from laughing, and, fearful of hurting the feelings of others himself, he would take another helping when the proprietor was looking, and felt uncommonly "hot" at the conduct of his compatriot. However, worse was to come, for at the end of dinner, when the "boys" brought coffee made in the way usual to the country—a few drops of cold essence of coffee at the bottom of the cups, which had to be filled up with boiling milk or water—the lady from England could not contain her indignation, but loudly scolded the waiter for such a stingy way of putting so little in the cup, since "coffee should surely be cheap in Java," and then proceeded to empty the contents of all the cups into two, one for herself and one for her husband, while saying with a smile "we like a cup of coffee, not a drop." Then while she sipped her full cup like one on whom there unwillingly dawns the unpleasant consciousness of having made a mistake, the lady further addressed the waiter and asked, "Do they always drink cold coffee in Java?" The waiter, who could only stand passive while this calm robbery was committed—for had not the whole company to wait for a second brew—made reply with the only English of his vocabulary, "yes." X., who had the doubtful advantage of understanding as well as seeing all that was going on, glared fiercely as he saw himself deprived of the only portion of the meal which was at all likely to be good, and could willingly have caused an interruption by using his napkin and bread as a sling and a stone. The "yes" of the native apparently checked the embarrassment which the lady was beginning to feel, and triumphantly she exclaimed, "My goodness, what a country." Then the husband blew his nose with discomfort, and, her attention attracted, his good wife exclaimed, "My dear, you have a cold, let us go to bed," and they went. X., and possibly others, found satisfaction in the thought that people might go to bed after partaking of such a concoction as that couple had done, but that they certainly would not sleep. Nor did they, as the sequel showed. For the lady and her husband also had a room on the terrace suite, and this was divided only by a thin partition from that of X., and though he did not wish to listen, the first words which greeted his gratified ears on the following morning were, "Oh, darling, I have had such a dreadful night; I never closed my eyes." X. heard no more as he delicately buried his head in the pillows, lest he should be dragged too deep in domestic confidences; but he had heard enough—he was avenged. And they knew themselves it was the coffee, since it was noticed that this night after dinner the sleepless couple each firmly declined the brimming cups, which, with kind forethought for the public good, the proprietor had ordered to be handed to them.
CUSTOMS AND COSTUMES.
Early in the morning X. went out to explore, and, naturally, his first visit was to those wonderful gardens which are the first in the world, and are the resort of naturalists from all portions of the globe.
In a sketch of this nature it would be presumption to attempt to describe the marvels of this garden, one of the sights of the East, which it is worth while going to Java to see. During his walk the traveller was at every turn astonished at the evidences of wealth amongst the natives, the tiled roofed houses and plentifully stocked orchards and gardens, while goats and sheep browsed everywhere. In the streets everyone appeared to be selling—there seemed none left to buy—and they sold the most attractive looking fruits and vegetables, together with a variety of flowers. The population is large, and for some distance round the town stretched rows and rows of native houses built close together, backs and fronts facing each other in every angle and position, showing that the people must surely live together in unity, en famille or rather en masse, in marked contrast to the Malay villages, where, as a rule, each house stands in an enclosure of its own grounds. But there they have unlimited space, here apparently they have unlimited people.
Himself living an isolated life amongst a native race, it was only natural that X. should be more inclined than the ordinary traveller to notice the people of the country and their surroundings. He had heard so many stories of their oppression by the Dutch and the uncomfortable conditions under which they lived, that the actual appearance of the natives came as a surprise, which only increased the more he saw and the further he travelled in Java.
As to higher life in Java, to any one who has been there or knows anything of the country, its social conditions are well known. But however much may have been previously heard of them, it cannot but give the ordinary Englishman a shock, when he is for the first time confronted with them in their reality. Intermarriage with the people of the country is not only condoned, but almost encouraged, and it is no uncommon thing to meet the children of these marriages in the highest society. Cases occur where people, holding great positions, legitimize their children, and after years of unsolemnized intercourse lead their mother to the altar. The mothers of many children being educated in Holland, probably in the future to enter the service of the country, are simply native women still living in their villages. The accident of birth would seldom be considered a bar when ascending official heights, nor is a mixed parentage any obstacle to such distinction.
Many instances of this were observed by X. during his visit, and, though the state of affairs appeared to him rather strange, he was obliged to own that from a Dutch point of view there existed many and weighty arguments in its favour, the pros and cons of such a question are certainly beyond the scope of a book which only purports to note for the benefit of intending travellers such things as merit observation.
So far as I can gather, there were few excursions to be made from Buitenzorg and few sights, but in the afternoon he drove to see a famous stone covered with Hindoo inscriptions, the first indication brought to his notice of the real origin of this now Mahommedan people.
Late in the day X. decided to call upon the official who holds the position corresponding with that of an English Colonial Secretary, and to ask his assistance in obtaining a pass to continue his journey into the interior. Though warned not to call before 7 p.m., just as it was getting dusk, the traveller felt nervous and fidgety, unable to really believe that he would be doing right to make a call so late, and thus six o'clock found him approaching the very modest-looking dwelling in which the great official dwelt. A glance was enough to show that he was wrong and his informant right, since in front of him, at a desk in a room off the verandah, sat his host still clothed in the undress of pyjamas—not having yet made his toilet for the evening. However, though X. felt guilty of a gaucherie, the sense of it came entirely from his own consciousness, and not at all from the manner of the gentleman whom he interrupted, for without the least trace of either annoyance or surprise, but as though the untimely appearance of a stranger and a foreigner was a daily occurrence, he bade him welcome with polite cordiality. This official was as agreeable and well informed as anyone the traveller had met, and X. always waxes enthusiastic when speaking of him. With true courtesy he at once abandoned the work on which he was engaged, without that last lingering look at the table which so often ruins the grace of a similar sacrifice, and forthwith evinced the utmost interest in the affairs of his guest. He quickly reassured him concerning his pass, and, on hearing that he was in some way connected with the Government across the Straits, immediately promised to procure for him a special permit which would enable him to travel where he would, and ensure assistance from all with whom he came in contact. Though, at this time relying upon his own ability to manage the order of his going, X. may not have attached much importance to the future part which this permit would play, at the end of his travels he gladly acknowledged that it proved of the utmost utility, and there was more than one occasion on which he felt impelled to record words of gratitude towards him who had so thoughtfully provided it.
Apropos of the calling hour, it may be mentioned here that this is a social rock on which many English people strike. I use this nautical simile advisedly since, not so very long ago, no less a person than a British Admiral wishing to follow the hours to which he was accustomed paid his official call on the Dutch Naval Commander at five o'clock. The Dutch Admiral, who was not then dressed, and did not intend to dress until seven o'clock, declined to receive him at such an unusual hour, and the question of dress, always one of the first importance in the British Navy, then became rather a burning one, until tactful mediators paved the way for a more successful visit. Whereas, in the East, English people maintain their usual habits and customs—did not our grandfathers wear tall hats when pig-sticking in India?—the Dutch in Java adopt the habits and the clothes they consider most fitting for the climate. It is not intended to imply that both are loose, though certainly the former are somewhat relaxed. No visitor to the country is competent to give a judgment for or against the manners he finds there. X. longed to impress this on more than one tourist whom he met on his travels.
Few Dutch ladies in Java mind being seen in what to us appears undress—a sarong and kabaya—and frequently, when without guests, it is the custom to dine in this scanty apparel. In consequence there is a dislike to dining out, which involves the wearing of European clothes in all their fashionable tightness, and many a story is told in Batavia of sudden illness amongst lady guests during the evening—illness easily attributable to the unusual compression of garments, worn only on such rare occasions.
There is seldom necessity for dressing since Europeans scarcely ever call in Java—of ladies it may be said they never call—though in the mornings they drive round in covered carriages visiting their intimate friends, clad in the skirts of the country so universally adopted.
AN UNTIMELY CALL.
It was this same custom which caused discomfiture to X. on the following day, when having received the promised special permit, a document calling upon all officials to assist him, in the name of the Governor-General himself, he decided that it would be only right that he should present himself at the house of the ruler who had signed it, and in token of gratitude and respect inscribe his name in his book. As the traveller had no intention of seeing anyone or attempting to enter the gorgeous palace which stands in the midst of the famous gardens, there seemed no need to trouble about the time for the call, and therefore it seemed well to make it the excuse for a walk and fit it in with his afternoon stroll. Accordingly about 5 o'clock found him walking up the broad avenue, on either side of which were browsing deer in great numbers—a very novel feature to anyone who for years had only seen such creatures wild excepting one time when—but no I must withhold the temptation to wander off the broad avenue which leads the visitor up to the stately pile in front of him as, like he did a little further on, I would wish to get it over. For it is not pleasant even to record the admittedly awkward situations in which X., who had always prided himself on his savoir faire, now so often found himself.
As he approached the portico (it reminded him much of Gorhambury, the seat of Lord Verulam, in Hertfordshire) the stranger became aware, rather than actually saw, that there were two figures seated on the main verandah having tea. He almost felt their eyes upon him in wonder and amusement, and, as he gradually neared the steps without in any way looking up, it was in some mysterious manner conveyed to him that these figures were ladies, and their dress, the sarong and kabaya! What was he to do. He could not turn and fly, nor could he diverge from the broad path and wander across the grass like any common trespasser—and, even while he wondered, his steps took him deliberately on, feeling self-conscious in the most literal understanding of the word—and inexorably each moment took him nearer, though in the endeavour to put off the evil moment he had, perhaps unknown to himself, slowed down his previously deliberate saunter until his feet were now doing little more than marking slow time. However, the visitor gazed alternately at the tops of the trees and the roof of the palace, as though things of absorbing interest were there taking place, and at last he was obliged to realize that he had reached the lowest step of the imposing staircase.
X. assures me that it is a fact, he never once lowered his eyes or focussed the little party before him, although ultimately the tea table could not have been more than a few yards off. There stood the stranger with a vacant expression which would have made the fortune of a performer in a waxwork show, and hoped and almost prayed that a servant of some kind would appear, receive his signature or his card and allow him to return to the comfortless obscurity of his hotel. There was no bell, and no servant came, and the silence at length became unbearable. Relief came at last from the tea party for the voice of a lady suddenly fairly shrieked for a "boy." After this explosion the tension of the situation was relieved, and there was a sound as of chairs hastily pushed back and the patter of little feet and the rustle of sarongs, which led X. to infer that there had been some sort of a retreat. Then a flurried native appeared, he seemed a kind of gardener hastily fetched from his duties, possibly the mowing machine, and pouring forth words in a strange dialect he pointed wildly to another flight of steps and another door. Following this menial, a veritable deus ex machina, X. was led down those palatial steps and up another flight round the corner. There the gardener threw open a door and seemed disposed to resign his custody of the stranger, preparing to return again to his machine. But X. steadily declined to enter alone into that vast hall, nor would he even stay to look for a book in which to write his name, for he felt that the hasty retreat he had heard was not carried beyond the nearest pillars, and each moment he tarried, the fugitives were wondering what he could be doing while, alas, their tea was getting cold. And so he thrust his card, his only guarantee of good faith, into the soiled hand of the solitary attendant of this Eastern palace and fled—but fled he hoped with dignity. As he walked down the avenue with conscious and deliberate steps—admiring the view on the right of him and the view on the left of him—never looking back, though the desire for one glance was so overpowering that the nape of his neck actually ached, he conquered, and finally emerged from those great gates without any further satisfaction to the curiosity aroused by his first involuntary glimpse. But so long as he remained in Java he never paid another call before dusk, a more convenient time, when such contretemps are not likely to occur.
A MODEL ESTATE
X. was informed that the proper journey from Buitenzorg was by carriage via Poentjuk to Sindanglaya, where a stay should be made at Gezondleid's establishment after securing an upstairs room. The next stage in the traveller's journey is to Tjandjoer and thence to Garvet. And after a week at Garvet on again to Djoedja, Solo, Semarang, etc., but the traveller had already had sufficient of hotel life in Java, and so determined to at once avail himself of a kind invitation he had received to stay on an estate, not many miles from Soekaboemi. After a few hours' rail in a first-class carriage (this fact is worth recording as it was very seldom that such accommodation could be had, even if a first-class ticket had been issued), he duly reached the station where he had been instructed to alight. Here his host had sent two ponies to meet him, one for himself and one for his servant, as well as several coolies to carry his luggage. So, Abu being left at the house of the stationmaster in care of the rest of the luggage (a terrible quantity, the cost of its transport almost equalled the first-class fare of its owner), X., followed by Usoof, started on the ten mile ride which led to their destination. The path was a very rough one, and for the first portion of the distance the way was through an open country planted with padi as far as the eye could reach. The little ponies cared nothing for the stony path, and went gamely along as though accustomed to canter on a hard high road. After crossing the valley the route began to ascend the range of hills, at the summit of which, 2,000 feet high, the estate was situated. For almost the entire length of this ascent the view was so glorious that the traveller continued to exclaim in wonder to his companion to stop and look. Usoof who, as has been related, was a native of the country, affected to gaze at it with the unconcern of a proprietor, merely reminding his master that he had always said, that his was a very fine country. For miles below the padi fields stretched away narrowing in the distance, and here and there amidst this expanse of emerald green were dotted little clumps of green of a darker shade, these being the trees surrounding the clusters of houses inhabited by the fortunate owners of the land. And every now and again athwart the green carpet, stretched out below, glittered belts of water sparkling like silver in the sun. The hills, which were also all planted with padi, looked like grassy slopes with a back-ground formed by terraces of hill-tops. One above the other they lay in ranges, until, in the furthest distance, mountains of noble height towered like giants above them all. It surely was a view worth going far to see, a wealth of green such as an untravelled eye could not even dimly realise. No troubles of travel, no greasy cookery or breadless meals could matter one jot if this was the reward. The view repaid the enterprise even if the path by which it were approached led only to a wayside inn of the most unpretentious type, but its joys were enhanced by the anticipation of a visit to a couple well known for their hospitality to strangers. The host being a fellow-countryman who had had the good fortune to marry a Dutch lady of most distinguished family. Almost at the summit of the hill, about eight miles from the station, stood a little halting house bearing the English-looking signboard with the legend of the "Pig and Whistle." Here refreshments awaited the travellers, and then the journey was continued along a jungle path which shortly emerged on to the cultivated slopes of the estate. These slopes were covered with cinchona trees, which X. afterwards learnt were in process of being rapidly replaced by tea-plants. Presently at a dip in the road the first glimpse was caught of the house below. A little English cottage, it appeared, nestling cosily in a hollow, close beside a mountain stream. A nearer approach revealed that the cottage was covered with blue convolvulus and other creepers, and that the verandahs were enclosed with glass. It all reminded him somehow of a well-known cottage by Boulter's Lock, and there came a curious thrill of home memories at the sight of a typical English home. On the further side of the stream stood a little detached pavilion, kept exclusively for guests, after the fashion of all Dutch houses in the East. This annexe is generally considered the house of the elder son, but it is more usually built and used for the accommodation of guests; an excellent arrangement in a country where both entertainers and entertained wish occasionally to repose in attire, whose lightness is best suited to the climate. A rustic bridge connected the two buildings, and just above it was the bath room, into which a portion of the stream had been diverted, so as to form a natural shower bath. The stream and bridge and cottage, with their back-ground of hills and fore-ground of roses, combined to make such a picture that X. longed to be able to sketch it and take it away and keep it. The interior of this cottage was as cosy and home-like as the outside promised it would be, and, wonder of wonders! it had real wall paper on the walls. This almost unheard of luxury in the East was a triumph of the skill of the hostess, and had so far successfully defied the ravages of mildew and damp. The chief characteristic of the house was that it looked like a home, its tasteful decoration and contents indicating that the inhabitants had come to stay. Most houses in the East have an unmistakeable air of being mere temporary shelters, where the owners are lodging till they can get away to their household goods now warehoused "at home."
This was only the second house X. had seen in this part of the world, where the owners looked as if they lived in it (the other was in Selangor). In this ideal spot it was the good fortune of the traveller to spend some days—days pleasantly spent in riding about the estate—which he soon grew to covet, and in watching the planting of the tea, which, it was hoped, would eventually enable the kind host and hostess to return with wealth to their native land. The climate at this elevation was delightful, cool, and invigorating, and it was possible to follow English hours and habits. Instead of getting up at 5 a.m. to go for a ride, as was the custom in Pura Pura, X. found himself starting for a ride after breakfast, about ten o'clock, without fear of the sun, and this total change lifted his spirits, and he recorded silent thanks to The Community who had suggested Java for his jaunt.
As may be imagined, during his stay in the hills the visitor was able to learn much about the country, and hear many things that not only interested him, but excited his admiration for the administration of the precise and order-loving race who owned this beautiful island. Contrary to what he had been led to believe, chiefly, perhaps, by a book which had given currency to the impression, he found that the planters were greatly assisted by the Government officials, who endeavour to work with them, and, whenever possible, to meet their wishes. The coolies certainly all appeared happy, when X. got accustomed to seeing them crouch servilely in the ditches when he or his host passed by. English officials in the native states of the Peninsula are accustomed to pass their lives amongst the Malays, to listen to and help them in their troubles, and to be constantly surrounded by them as followers or companions, and the inmates and affairs of each household are known, much as those of the cottagers on his estate would be to a home-staying country squire in England. It can then be understood how strange it seemed to X. to ride amongst people of the same race and see them crouch down as he passed, not even daring to lift their eyes, as it is counted an offence should they meet the gaze of one of the ruling race. What could the latter really know of these people, he wondered, when knowledge had to be obtained from across such a social gulf as this. He could not conceal the disagreeable impression made upon him, but many reasons were afterwards given to him as to why this state of things should exist, and some of them were, he was compelled to admit, good ones. The chief and foremost was, perhaps, that all Javanese customs and manners are full of exaggerated formality and etiquette. These the Dutch adopted as they found them, including all outward tokens of respect for those of superior rank, deeming that all Europeans should be treated with the same ceremony as the native headman.