Page images
PDF
EPUB

and the general aspect of the forest. In Malacca we stayed only two days, being anxious to get into the country as soon as possible. I stayed with a Roman Catholic missionary ; there are several here, each devoted to a particular portion of the population-Portuguese, Chinese, and wild Malays of the jungle. The gentleman we were with is building a large church, of which he is architect himself, and superintends the laying of every brick and the cutting of every piece of timber. Money enough could not be raised here, so he took a voyage round the world, and in the United States, California, and India got enough subscribed to finish it. It is a curious and not very creditable thing, that in the English possessions of Singapore and Malacca, there is not a single Protestant missionary; while the conversion, education, and physical and moral improvement of the non-European inhabitants is left entirely to these French missionaries, who, without the slightest assistance from our Government, devote their lives to christianizing and civilizing the varied population under our rule.

“Here the birds are abundant and most beautiful, more so than on the lower Amazon, and I think I shall soon form a fine collection. They are, however, almost all common species, and are of little value, except that I hope they will be better specimens than usually reach England. My guns are both very good, but I find powder and shot actually cheaper in Singapore than in London, so I need not have troubled myself to bring any. So far both I and Charles have had excellent health. He can now shoot pretty well, and is so fond of it that I can hardly get him to do anything else.

"The Chinese here are most industrious. They clear and cultivate the ground with a neatness which I have never seen equalled in the tropics, and they save every particle of manure, both from animals and men, to enrich the ground.

“The country around Malacca is much more beautiful than near Singapore, it being an old settlement with abundance of old fruit and forest trees scattered about. Monkeys of many sorts are abundant; in fact, all animal life seems more

abundant than in Brazil. Among the fruits I miss the delicious oranges of Para and the Amazon. Here they are scarce and not good, and there is nothing that can replace them."

I may as well state here that the “Charles" referred to in the preceding letter was a London boy, the son of a carpenter who had done a little work for my sister, and whose parents were willing for him to go with me to learn to be a collector. He was sixteen years old, but quite undersized for his age, so that no one would have taken him for more than thirteen or fourteen. He remained with me about a year and a half, and learned to shoot and to catch insects pretty well, but not to prepare them properly. He was rather of a religious turn, and when I left Borneo he decided to stay with the bishop and become a teacher. After a year or two, however, he returned to Singapore, and got employment on some plantations. About five years later he joined me in the Moluccas as a collector. He had grown to be a fine young man, over six feet. When I returned home he remained in Singapore, married, and had a family. He died some fifteen

years since.

At the end of September I returned to Singapore, whence I wrote home as follows:

“I have now just returned to Singapore after two months' hard work. At Malacca I had a strong touch of fever, with the old 'Rio Negro' symptoms, but the Government doctor made me take large doses of quinine every day for a week, and so killed it, and in less than a fortnight I was quite well, and off to the jungle again. I never took half enough quinine in America to cure me.

“Malacca is a pretty place. Insects are not very abundant there, still, by perseverance, I got a good number, and many rare ones. Of birds, too, I made a good collection. I went to the celebrated Mount Ophir, and ascended to the top, sleeping under a rock. The walk there was hard work, thirty miles through jungle in a succession of mud-holes, and swarming with leeches, which crawled all over us, and sucked

when and where they pleased. We lived a week at the foot of the mountain, in a little hut built by our men, near a beautiful rocky stream. I got some fine new butterflies there, and hundreds of other new or rare insects. Huge centipedes and scorpions, some nearly a foot long, were common, but we none of us got bitten or stung. We only had rice, and a little fish and tea, but came home quite well. The mountain is over four thousand feet high. Near the top are beautiful ferns and pitcher-plants, of which I made a small collection. Elephants and rhinoceroses, as well as tigers, are abundant there, but we had our usual bad luck in seeing only their tracks. On returning to Malacca I found the accumulation of two or three posts—a dozen letters, and about fifty newspapers. . . . I am glad to be safe in Singapore with my collections, as from here they can be insured. I have now a fortnight's work to arrange, examine, and pack them, and four months hence there will be work for Mr. Stevens, 1

“Sir James Brooke is here. I have called on him. He received me most cordially, and offered me every assistance at Sarawak. I shall go there next, as the missionary does not go to Cambodia for some months. Besides, I shall have some pleasant society at Sarawak, and shall get on in Malay, which is very easy; but I have had no practice yet, though I can ask for most common things.”

I reached Sarawak early in November, and remained in Borneo fourteen months, seeing a good deal of the country. The first four months was the wet season, during which I made journeys up and down the Sarawak river, but obtained very scanty collections. In March I went to the Sadong river, where coal mines were being opened by an English mining engineer, Mr. Coulson, a Yorkshireman, and I stayed there nearly nine months, it being the best locality for beetles I found during my twelve years' tropical collecting, and very good for other groups. It was also in this place

They were sent by sailing ship round the Cape of Good Hope, the overland route being too costly for goods.

1

that I obtained numerous skins and skeletons of the orangutan, as fully described in my “ Malay Archipelago."

In my first letter, dated May, 1855, I gave a sketch of the country and people :

“As far inland as I have yet seen this country may be described as a dead level, and a lofty and swampy forest. It would, therefore, be very uninviting were it not for a few small hills which here and there rise abruptly-oases in the swampy wilderness. It is at one of these that we are located, a hill covering an area of, perhaps, three or four square miles, and less than a thousand feet high. In this hill there are several coal seams; one of these three feet and a half thick, of very good coal for steamers, crops out round three-fourths of the hill, dipping down at a moderate angle. We have here near a hundred men, mostly Chinese; ground has been cleared, and houses built, and a road is being made through the jungle, a distance of two miles, to the Sadong river, where the coal will be shipped.

"The jungle here is exceedingly gloomy and monotonous; palms are scarce, and flowers almost wanting, except some species of dwarf gingerworts. It is only high overhead that flowers can be seen. There are many fine orchids of the genus cælogyne, with great drooping spikes of white or yellow flowers, and occasionally bunches of the scarlet flowers of a magnificent creeper, a species of æschynanthus. Oak trees are rather common, and I have already noticed three species having large acorns of a red, brown, and black colour respectively.

“Our mode of life here is very simple, and we have a continual struggle to get enough to eat, as all fowls and vegetables grown by the Dyaks go to Sarawak, and I have been obliged to send there to buy some.

“ The old men here relate with pride how many 'heads' they took in their youth ; and though they all acknowledge the goodness of the present rajah, yet they think that if they were allowed to take a few heads, as of old, they would have better crops. The more I see of uncivilized people, the better I think of human nature on the whole, and the essential

differences between civilized and savage man seem to disappear. Here we are, two Europeans, surrounded by a population of Chinese, Malays, and Dyaks. The Chinese are generally considered, and with some amount of truth, to be thieves, liars, and reckless of human life, and these Chinese are coolies of the lowest and least educated class, though they can all read and write. The Malays are invariably described as being barbarous and bloodthirsty ; and the Dyaks have only recently ceased to think head-taking a necessity of their existence. We are two days' journey from Sarawak, where, though the government is nominally European, it only exists with the consent and by the support of the native population. Yet I can safely say that in any part of Europe where the same opportunities for crime and disturbance existed, things would not go so smoothly as they do here. We sleep with open doors, and go about constantly unarmed; one or two petty robberies and a little fighting have occurred among the Chinese, but the great majority of them are quiet, honest, decent sort of people. They did not at first like the strictness and punctuality with which the English manager kept them to their work, and two or three ringleaders tried to get up a strike for shorter hours and higher wages, but Mr. Coulson's energy and decision soon stopped this by discharging the ringleaders at once, and calling all the Malays and Dyaks in the neighbourhood to come up to the mines in case any violence was attempted. It was very gratifying to see how rapidly they obeyed the summons, knowing that Mr. Coulson represented the rajah, and this display of power did much good, for since then everything has gone on smoothly. Preparations are now making for building a 'joss-house,' a sure sign that the Chinese have settled down contentedly."

In my next letter, a month later, I gave the following account of an interesting episode :

“I must now tell you of the addition to my household of an orphan baby, a curious little half-nigger baby, which I have nursed now more than a month. I will tell you presently how I came to get it, but must first relate my inventive

« EelmineJätka »