Imatges de pàgina
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"Cainballes” of Michael, Lord of Montaigne.

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It is a nation .. that hath no kinde of trafficke, no knowledge of letters, no intelligence of numbers, no name of magistrate, nor of politike superioritie; no use of service, of riches, or of povertie; no contracts, no successions, no partitions, no occupation but idle; no respect of kindred, but common, no apparell but naturall, no manuring of lands, no use of wine, corne, or mettle. The very words that import lying, falshood, treason, dissimulations, covetousnes, envie, detraction, and pardon, were never heard of amongst them.

Even the Chinese Classic for children begins in its delightful attractive way,

Man at the origin was of a Wholesome Disposition; yet although at first he Held Closely to this Original, in after days he Fell away therefrom.

twenty-five miles of this road in repair. It will be easily understood how in country like this the labor-supply is his chief difficulty. His solution thereof was manifest before we were gone many miles.

Where the road goes large to circumvent granite boulder,

came around the corner suddenly upon а mighty tree which had fallen across the path. Six feet at least in diameter, it lay among the splintered timber and bamboo, in a death-bed of its own strewing, a gray, smooth, unbroken bole, fifty yards in length, with the river snarling among the branches at its head, deep below us, and a rood of earth hanging above on its upturned roots. Here was an obstacle; but al. ready a family of the Mai Darat, men, women and children, were assailing it with their biting thin-lipped hatchets. And what I noticed also was that an orchid, as big as a rhododendron-bush, had been torn from the head of the fallen giant in defiance of the Krengga ants, and lay with its great yellow blossoms freaked with jet ready as an offering to the mender of the by-way. “Bor" (good), says he: “mai bor” (good men); and they seemed very well content. There it was I made my first essay in the use of their language: “Pe singòt" (Don't be afraid), a very useful word to know if you wish to deal with this timid folk. To every gang we met, the signor gave a word of praise and a joke with a lump of tobacco, telling them to come in to us at our destination; and while we legged it along he told me a great deal about his people, and especially he enlarged upon his theory, which was not after all a very new one, though he seemed to think it So. It was the commonplace of a hundred years ago, the primordial virtues of the savage and the degeneracy of our latter-day civilization. You have noted it in Rasselas, that blameless Abyssinian; you have it also in the

My Virgil knows nothing about modern anthropology and sticks to the old idea. "They are-a primi-tive," he says, swinging his arms with an air of en. thusiasm. According to him they do not steal, they do not lie, they do not break any of the commandments, and when they get anything to work for, they do work.

When the afternoon was getting late we reached our destination at the nineteenth mile, and pitched our camp in the unfurnished shanty which Government has built for the accommodation of chance travellers on the bank of the brawling Jura brook, a sight of the clear waters of which, as we crossed it on two long bamboos set in crosspi

nough to convince me that no tin-mining of any sort was taking place within its drainage area above this point. Indeed we are here in a re. gion aloof from all commerce, where the sole traders are the sparse upland families who keep clean Virgil's path for him. The shanty, which is no more than a zinc roof, a floor of split

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bamboo, and two cubicles planked off at one end, lies in a little amphitheatre of a hundred yards across, with the tree-tops rising so steep all round it that the sun (I found) did not rise over them till past eight and seldom broke through the white mist for another hour. Pushing our way through the bushes of the overgrown compound, we were soon installed, while the Chinese servants, who appeared to enjoy the novelty, went straight to the cookhouse behind, and entered upon their duties. By this time it was too late to do more than despatch a messenger to the nearest family, about four miles farther up the valley. So we slept warm and comfortable in blankets, and free from mosquitoes, it being there about 2,000 feet above sea-level.

People who sleep nearly naked in a bleak mountain unsheltered from the saturated winds of heaven, reject the appointed road to health, wealth and wisdom, and cower melancholy monkeys over their fire till the morning sun has dispersed the clouds. Con. sequently, not until past ten did our guests appear, trooping in a long procession over the bamboo bridge below our veranda. Do not, accustomed to Malays, expect your hillman to loaf casually up to your door and then to sit down, looking as if he had come through sheer absence of mind, and had not very likely planned his visit for a week beforehand. Such are not the ways of the unsophisticated. These people marched straight up to the ladder, “So like-a take a forteresse," as my guide put it; and sat down in a ring on the floor. First there were l'a Jumat and his wife Pa Stoe, a venerable couple according to the generations of the jungle, who must have been getting on for sixty. He, probably inured by lifelong habit, declined all clothing, and, from his tousled head of faded hair to his battered feet, had no covering for the skin that lay in

wrinkles upon him but a pair of pink bathing-drawers. His wife wore her hair plain-that is to say, matted by nature, and grizzled and indescribably dirty; and now, since I like these people, and desire only good to report of them, I will say once and for all that they were all indescribably dirty as to their hair. It is true that the younger women must coquettishly have combed theirs, otherwise nature reigned supreme. And another thing-they do not wash at all, ever. Some of the dirt rubs or flakes off them, and some does not. For my part, I think they are quite right. A poor, cold game is washing in cold water without soap and drying yourself on leaves, as every one will agree who has played it. The old lady, whose expression was severe. but not unpleasing, wore

a khaki. jacket, fastened at the neck with a simple mother-of-pearl button, also a cotton Malay sarong.

Then there was their son Urup--a. strapping young fellow of five feet one. or two. (It is curious how quickly a man adjusts his standards to those of the people he is judging.) Urup prided himself on his travels, spoke Malay fuently, which none of his companions. could; he was, moreover, very proud of this accomplishment, and of his easy, confident manner with Europeans. It. was not long before we were on intimate terms, and he told me a great deal; and when he had nothing new totell, he repeated himself unblushingly. To him I am indebted for most of iny knowledge that was not derired from the signor. He wore a pair of striped? pyjamas cut short at the knee.

Urup had two wives, Pa Rousày and Pa Ntoné, who sat shoulder to shoulder together in my circle of new acquaint

At the time it occurred to me this might be from sheer nervousness, not from goodwill, but later I found them to be very good friends. They wore no coats, and were clad only in.

ance.

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their native gala dress—a strip of red bark, some four feet long by a foot and a half broad, twisted round their hips in a knot at the left side, so that it was open down the left thigh to give free scope to the limbs when walking. At either hip there was hung a big tụft of dried grasses or herbs fixed into a bamboo socket, partaking of the nature both of an ornament and of a charm against sickness. They wore necklaces of children's beads and twenty or thirty turns of brass picture-wire tightly wound round their upper arms, with bangles of the same at their wrists. Their hair was frizzed out to an enormous extent (it is naturally crinkly) and stuck with bamboo combs.

Pa Rousày struck me as one of those unfortunate people who, thanks to a grotesque exterior, are never taken quite seriously by their friends. I thought she seemed the butt of the party. She certainly was an extraordinary figure—if figure she can be called, inasmuch as she had none. was considerably smaller than the other, which gave her the appearance of being on the perpetual wink. Her face and breast were temporarily tattooed with blue and red lines and white dots stippled upon them, and she had the cheerfullest, merriest expression, and she certainly danced and sang the best of them all. But, alas! for the inconstancy of Man, even the Primitive. Pa Rousày was childless; she was no longer young.

Hence Pa Ntoné. She was a beauty among her people black fuzzy hair, light brown skin, large dark eyes, and a mouth which was large but beautifully shaped. Sprays of a flower rather like white lilac were in her hair, and the holes in her ears were kept open by little round bits of wood. Tethered to her wrist by six inches of fibre was the peace-offering that she brought, a green woodpecker, which lay croaking dismally on the floor beside her. She

LIVING AGE VOL. VIII. 441

wore the upper garment I have already described, bringing it round upon her lap as she sat down, out of the fold of which, as a young kangaroo from its mother's pouch, there peered the round face of Pati, a little boy of one or two, staring through his elfin locks at the strangers. His mother rolled him a cigarette tiny roll of tobacco wrapped in a bit of dry nipah-palm leaf-and sometimes he puffed at it and anon he took the breast. Once before I had seen a tame Sakai woman suckling a kitten, but this struck me more peculiar still.

It was after our acquaintnce had ripened a little that I ventured to joke, with Urup, the much be-married, about his multiplied responsibilities, and my comments being translated caused general amusement, the poor Indian being satisfied with a far less excellent joke than must be set before the reader of "Maga.” Urup grinned and said “Bor: good. It is a good plan," somewhat defiantly. The ladies under discussion appeared engrossed with their rice, and said nothing. The relations of the two wives seemed, as I have said, quite amicable. It was later, just after taking the photographs, that Virgil delighted Pa Rousày by presenting her with a cotton jacket of a cheerful magenta hue which he produced with a magnificent air. She put it on at once, and her feelings being too many to sit down under, she must needs get up and march round and round the room. Of course the other young women clamored for a coat apiece too, but there were no more that time; so they satisfied themselves with marching in an admiring tail after the leading lady; and if envy, hatred and malice, or any uncharitableness was in their hearts, then they are not the simple folk I take them to be. Pa Ntone's disappointment, it is true, was mitigated by two brass curtain rings which I found in my pocket. And as they were too big

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for her fingers, at my suggestion she black granite boulders dappled with put them on her toes, and stamped foam in pools and shining stickles. In about rejoicing. Besides these there the foreground are the two boys shivwere Pa Roup, a matronly looking wo- ering and huddled together, one polishman with a very deep voice, and her ing 'the other with a block of soap. husband, against whom I only find the What an advertisement it would make! words Private James in my notes. No Si Ranting came out with his skin as characteristic trait had he, of any dis- smooth as Naaman's, but, alas and tinctive kind. Lastly there were the alack! as fast as he grew dry, so two sons of the patriarchal couple, I quickly did the miracle fade away. forget their real native names, which I When the cooks came in noisily bearmay say were rather hard to extract, ing the great chatty or bowl of steam. they preferring to be known by Malay ing rice, who shall describe the ennames. I have them down in my notes thusiasm? It was good to see people as Si Ranting (Master Twig), a boy of with such obvious appetites, so about fourteen, newly married to an spicuously thankful for their victuals. equally immature wife, and Si Tan, his Only one thing was lacking, some upbrother, of eight or ten. They were land equivalent for the resounding each of them dressed in a loin-cloth grace:which could not have scantier been. The elder of the two boys was suffer

A boar's head in hand bear I,

Decked with wreathes and rosemary; ing from disease very common

And I pray you gentleman all be among the Upland People, a sort of

merry, flaky sloughing off of the skin upon the

Quot estis in convivio. whole body and limbs. That made up

Caput apri defero

Reddens laudes Domino. the first day's party.

At first the presence of a stranger This lack the omnivorous infant clearput some constraint upon them, which ly felt as he raised his voice and was happily dispelled as soon as mightily proclaimed, “Cha Ba, Eat great brick of tobacco with sirih leaves rice, Cha Ba!" There had been preand betel-nut had been set down in the pared twelve big leaves for plates, upon middle of them; whereupon they looked which Pa Stoe helped out the rice in at each other and burst out laughing. equal portions, two being carefully Then Pa Rousày and her sister-in-law folded up and put aside for absent -or how shall I express the relation- friends at home. Meanwhile looked on ship?-went out to see to the washing with benignant eyes the Founder of and cooking of the rice, and I got into the Feast. conversation with the rest as well as After the meal accounts were taken, I could and began my vocabulary, but that in no too avaricious a spirit. about which I shall have something to My guide opened his boxes on the floor, say presently.

and the sight of so much wealth was We also filled up the time by having in itself a pleasure. First was given our photographs taken, and an interest- several double handfuls of red tobacco, ing collection they make. Perhaps the with as many of nipah cigarette wrapmost "heureusë resoolt," again to quote pers. Then (but this was a solemn and my guide, is the view looking up river noble giving) a red blanket to the anfrom the bamboo bridge; the jungle cient Pa Jumat. Urup had a chopper, forms an arch of dark foliage be

one else a sarong; beads and spangled where the broad leaves catch brass wire found eager acceptance, as the sunlight, and the river runs among did matches, some salt and a ball of

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and better understand the vocal score.) This is one song as it was translated to me:

Leader. Going, going on hill and

mountain, Chorus. Hill and mountain, hill, and

mountain,

and so on, the chorus taking up the last words of the leader's improvisation.

Climbing, climbing, climbing, climb

ing,
Over streams and over rivers,
Rivers deep and little rivers,
Rivers shallow, flooded rivers,
The river Gol and the river Bidor,
The river Jelai, the river Klung.

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string. Also a dollar apiece all round, a gift wbich was acceptable, as a compliment to their civilization, but of little material use to them. And of course the ce, one small sack of it for a beginning, it not being considered good policy for the giver to leave himself beggared in that respect upon the first day. So off they went in high spirits.

Next day they came again, most of them with one or two others, and the same scenes occurred. On the third day, Virgil being out, I with some trepidation acted as their host. It was a most successful entertainment, consisting of a concert followed by Dumb Crambo, but the guests did the entertaining. The day before they had been begged, but could not be persuaded to sing; nothing but a very little halfhearted humming, “De, de, ng, de, a, de," &c., could be elicited, but a great deal of hanging back, pushing forward, giggling and slapping. Now, whether they had grown accustomed to me or whether they had partly forgotten my existence (I was sitting in an unobtrusive corner desperately attempting to sketch them), anyhow Urup, his eyes falling upon a Sakai mandolin, a plain joint of bamboo with two fibres strung along it, picks it up, and after mechanically twanging the strings a little, breaks suddenly into song in a clear ringing deep voice, and the others joined in the chorus. His tune ran as it were upon a certain note, and the subject of each verse appeared distinct, of birds or beasts or of their known familiar haunts, and while the chorus repeats in slow recitative the words and the note, the leader trills ahead in runs and shakes up and down the scale, - not that there any scale in our sense of the word. (You must pray accept this most untechnical description as better than none; listen to a child humming to himself on summer moring, and you will hear the tune

It is fine music, manly, not boisterous, plaintive but never repining, the song of a full memory, a reminiscence. It is direct as the gait of an elephant and stately, harmonious to wild and silent places.

From singing the girls fell to dancing. And now I must mention trivial incident, as it shows how little we understand each other. They were hardly begun when the old lady Pa Stoe jumped up with a scandalized expression, and stopped the performance. Of course I could not understand her indignant comments nor the girls' deprecatory replies, but I guessed it was the old story. “Of course they mustn't let themselves go before white man," I thought, and I cursed her in my heart as she bundled them all out of the house. But I was mistaken. All she had said was, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might," or words to that effect.

And when they came back with bunches of leaves in their hair and at their waists, she smiled in benign approval on the performance, and the dance began in due form. They stood swaying from the knees, and waving their arms. Every now and then they made a sudden whoop and a jump and change of places, just as in the Highiand schot.

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