« EelmineJätka »
“I now write you a letter, I hope for the last time, for I trust our future letters may be viva voce, as an Irishman would say, while our epistolary correspondence will be confined to notes. I really do now think and believe that I am coming home, and as I am quite uncertain when I may be able to send you this letter, I may possibly arrive not very long after it. Some fine morning I expect to walk into 79, Pall Mall, and shall, I suppose, find things just the same as if I had walked out yesterday and come in to-morrow! There will you be seated on the same chair, at the same table, surrounded by the same account books, and writing upon paper of the same size and colour as when I last beheld you. I shall find your inkstand, pens, and pencils in the same places, and in the same beautiful order, which my idiosyncrasy compels me to admire, but forbids me to imitate. (Could you see the table at which I am now writing, your hair would stand on end at the reckless confusion it exhibits !) I suppose you have now added a few more secretaryships to your former multifarious duties. I suppose that you still walk every morning from Kensington and back in the evening, and that things at the archdeacon's go on precisely and identically as they did eight years ago. I feel almost inclined to parody the words of Cicero, and to ask indignantly, 'How long, O Georgius, will you thus abuse our patience ? How long will this sublime indifference last?' But I fear the stern despot, habit, has too strongly riveted your chains, and as, after many years of torture the Indian fanatic can at last sleep only on his bed of spikes, so perhaps now you would hardly care to change that daily routine, even if the opportunity were thrust upon you. Excuse me, my dear George, if I express myself too strongly on this subject, which is truly no business of mine, but I cannot see, without regret, my earliest friend devote himself so entirely, mind and body, to the service of others.
"I am here in one of the places unknown to the Royal Geographical Society, situated in the very centre of East
"Mr. Silk was private secretary and reader to the then Archdeacon Sinclair, Vicar of Kensington.
Sumatra, about one hundred miles from the sea in three directions. It is the height of the wet season, and the rain pours down strong and steady, generally all night and half the day. Bad times for me, but I walk out regularly three or four hours every day, picking up what I can, and generally getting some little new or rare or beautiful thing to reward me. This is the land of the two-horned rhinoceros, the elephant, the tiger, and the tapir ; but they all make themselves very scarce, and beyond their tracks and their dung, and once hearing a rhinoceros bark not far off, I am not aware of their existence. This, too, is the very land of monkeys; they swarm about the villages and plantations, long-tailed and short-tailed, and with no tail at all, white, black, and grey; they are eternally racing about the tree-tops, and gambolling in the most amusing manner. The way they jump is amazing. They throw themselves recklessly through the air, apparently sure, with one or other of their four hands, to catch hold of something. I estimated one jump by a long-tailed white monkey at thirty feet horizontal, and sixty feet vertical, from a high tree on to a lower one; he fell through, however, so great was his impetus, on to a lower branch, and then, without a moment's stop, scampered away from tree to tree, evidently quite pleased with his own pluck. When I startle a band, and one leader takes a leap like this, it is amusing to watch the others—some afraid and hesitating on the brink till at last they pluck up courage, take a run at it, and often roll over in the air with their desperate efforts. Then there are the long-armed apes, who never walk or run upon the trees, but travel altogether by their long arms, swinging themselves from bough to bough in the easiest and most graceful manner possible.
“But I must leave the monkeys and turn to the men, who will interest you more, though there is nothing very remarkable in them. They are Malays, speaking a curious, halfunintelligible Malay dialect—Mohammedans, but retaining many pagan customs and superstitions. They are very ignorant, very lazy, and live almost absolutely on rice alone, thriving upon it, however, just as the Irish do, or did, upon potatoes. They were a bad lot a few years ago, but the Dutch have brought them into order by their admirable system of supervision and government. By-the-by, I hope you have read Mr. Money's book on Java. It is well worth while, and you will see that I had come to the same conclusions as to Dutch colonial government from what I saw in Menado. Nothing is worse and more absurd than the sneering prejudiced tone in which almost all English writers speak of the Dutch government in the East. It never has been worse than ours has been, and it is now very much better; and what is greatly to their credit and not generally known, they take nearly the same pains to establish order and good government in those islands and possessions which are an annual loss to them, as in those which yield them a revenue. I am convinced that their system is right in principle, and ours wrong, though, of course, in the practical working there may and must be defects; and among the Dutch themselves, both in Europe and the Indies, there is a strong party against the present system, but that party consists mostly of merchants and planters, who want to get the trade and commerce of the country made free, which in my opinion would be an act of suicidal madness, and would, moreover, seriously injure instead of benefiting the natives.
“ Personally, I do not much like the Dutch out here, or the Dutch officials; but I cannot help bearing witness to the excellence of their government of native races, gentle yet firm, respecting their manners, customs, and prejudices, yet introducing everywhere European law, order, and industry.”
“Singapore, January 20, 1862. “I cannot write more now. I do not know how long I shall be here; perhaps a month. Then, ho! for England !”
When I was at Sarawak in 1855 I engaged a Malay boy named Ali as a personal servant, and also to help me to learn the Malay language by the necessity of constant communication with him. He was attentive and clean, and could cook very well. He soon learnt to shoot birds, to skin