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Title: Wanderings among South Sea Savages and in Borneo and the Philippines

Author: H. Wilfrid Walker

Release date: March 1, 2001 [eBook #2564]
Most recently updated: October 29, 2022

Language: English

Credits: Jeroen Hellingman

Belles of Papua

Belles of Papua

Wanderings Among South Sea Savages

And in Borneo and the Philippines

London Witherby & Co. 1909

My brother Charles
This record of my wanderings
in which he took so deep an interest,
is affectionately dedicated. [v]


In a book of this kind it is often the custom to begin by making apologies. In my case I feel it to be a sheer necessity. In the first place what is here printed is for the greater part copied word for word from private letters that I wrote in very simple language in Dayak or Negrito huts, or in the lonely depths of tropical forests, in the far-off islands of the Southern Seas. I purposely made my letters home as concise as possible, so that they could be easily read, and in consequence have left out much that might have been interesting. It is almost unnecessary to mention that when I wrote these letters I had no thought whatever of writing a book. If I had thought of doing so, I might have mentioned more about the customs, ornaments and weapons of the natives and have written about several other subjects in greater detail. As it is, a cursory glance will show that this book has not the slightest pretence of being “scientific.” Far from its being so, I have simply related a few of the more interesting incidents, such as would give a general impression of my life among savages, during my wanderings in many parts of the world, extending over nearly a score of years. I should [vi]like to have written more about my wanderings in North Borneo, as well as in Samoa and Celebes and various other countries, but the size of the book precludes this. My excuse for publishing this book is that certain of my relatives have begged me to do so. Though I was for the greater part of the time adding to my own collections of birds and butterflies, I have refrained as much as possible from writing on these subjects for fear that they might prove tedious to the general reader. I have also touched but lightly on the general customs of the people, as this book is not for the naturalist or ethnologist, nor have I made any special study of the languages concerned, but have simply jotted down the native words here used exactly as I heard them. As regards the photographs, some of them were taken by myself while others were given me by friends whom I cannot now trace. In a few cases I have no note from whom they were got, though I feel sure they were not from anyone who would object to their publication. In particular, I may mention Messrs. G. R. Lambert, Singapore; John Waters, Suva, Fiji; Kerry & Co., Sydney; and G. O. Manning, New Guinea. To these and all others who have helped me I now tender my heartiest thanks. I have met with so much help and kindness during my wanderings from Government officials and others that if I were here to mention all, the list would be a large one. I shall therefore have to be content with only mentioning [vii]the principal names of those in the countries I have here written about.

In Fiji:—Messrs. Sutherland, John Waters, and McOwan.

In New Guinea:—Sir Francis Winter, Mr. C. A. W. Monckton, R.M., The Hon. A. Musgrave, Capt. Barton, Mr. Guy O. Manning, and Dr. Vaughan.

In the Philippines:—Governor Taft, afterwards President of the United States, and Mr. G. d’E. Browne.

In British North Borneo:—Messrs. H. Walker, Richardson, Paul Brietag, F. Durége, J. H. Molyneux, and Dr. Davies.

In Sarawak:—H.H. The Rajah, Sir Charles Brooke, Sir Percy Cunninghame, Dr. Hose, Archdeacon Sharpe, Mr. R. Shelford, and the officials of The Borneo Company, Ltd.

To all of these and many others in other countries I take this opportunity of publicly tendering my cordial thanks for their unfailing kindness and hospitality to a wanderer in strange lands.

H. Wilfrid Walker. [ix]


List of Illustrations

  1. Frontispiece—Belles of Papua.
  2. A Chief’s Daughter and a Daughter of the People
  3. A “Meke-Meke,” or Fijian Girls’ Dance
  4. Interior of a large Fijian Hut
  5. A Fijian Mountaineer’s House
  6. At the Door of a Fijian House
  7. A Fijian Girl
  8. Spearing Fish in Fiji
  9. A Fijian Fisher Girl
  10. A Posed Picture of an old-time Cannibal Feast in Fiji
  11. Making Fire by Wood Friction
  12. An Old ex-Cannibal
  13. A Fijian War-Dance
  14. Adi Cakobau (pronounced “Andi Thakombau”), the highest Princess in Fiji, at her house at Navuso
  15. A Filipino Dwelling
  16. A Village Street in the Philippines
  17. A River Scene in the Philippines
  18. A Negrito Family
  19. Negrito Girls (showing Shaved Head at back)
  20. A Negrito Shooting
  21. Tree Climbing by Negritos
  22. A Negrito Dance
  23. Arigita and his Wife
  24. Three Cape Nelson Kaili-Kailis in War Attire
  25. Kaili-Kaili House on the edge of a Precipice
  26. “A Great Joke”
  27. A Ghastly Relic [xvi]
  28. Cannibal Trophies
  29. A Woman and her Baby
  30. A Papuan Girl
  31. The Author with Kaili-Kaili Followers
  32. Wives of Native Armed Police
  33. A Papuan Damsel
  34. Busimaiwa, the great Mambare Chief, with his Wife and Son (in the Police)
  35. A Haunt of the Bird of Paradise
  36. The Author starting on an Expedition
  37. A New Guinea River Scene
  38. Papuan Tree-Houses
  39. A Village of the Agai Ambu
  40. H. W. Walker, L. Dyke-Acland, and C. A. W. Monckton
  41. View of Kuching from the Rajah’s Garden
  42. Dayaks and Canoes
  43. Dayak in War-Coat
  44. Dayak Women and Children on the Platform outside a long House
  45. Dayaks Catching Fish
  46. A Dayak Woman with Mourning Ornaments round waist
  47. On a Tobacco Estate
  48. On a Bornean River

Life in the Home of a Fijian Prince.


Life in the Home of a Fijian Prince.

Journey to Taviuni—Samoan Songs—Whistling for the Wind—Landing on Koro—Nabuna—Samoans and Fijians Compared—Fijian Dances and Angona Drinking—A Hurricane in the Southern Seas—Arrival at Taviuni—First Impressions of Ratu Lala’s Establishment—Character of Ratu Lala—Prohibition of Cricket—Ratu Lala Offended—The Prince’s Musical Box.

Among all my wanderings in Fiji I think I may safely say that my two months’ stay with Ratu (Prince) Lala, on the island of Taviuni, ranks highest both for interest and enjoyment. As I look back on my life with this great Fijian prince and his people, it all somehow seems unreal and an existence far apart from the commonplace life of civilization. When I was in Suva (the capital) the colonial secretary gave me a letter of introduction to Ratu Lala, and so one morning I sailed from Suva on an Australian steamer, taking with me my jungle outfit and a case of whisky, the latter a present for the Prince,—and a more acceptable present one could not have given him.

After a smooth passage we arrived the same evening at Levuka, on the island of Ovalau. After a stay of a day here, I sailed in a small schooner which carried copra from several of the Outlying islands to Levuka. Her name was the Lurline, and her captain was a Samoan, whilst [4]his crew was made up of two Samoans and four Fijians. The captain seemed to enjoy yelling at his men in the Fijian language, with a strong flavouring of English “swear words,” and spoke about the Fijians in terms of utter contempt, calling them “d——d cannibals.” The cabin wag a small one with only two bunks, and swarmed with green beetles and cockroaches. Our meals were all taken together on deck, and consisted of yams, ship’s biscuit and salt junk.

We had a grand breeze to start with, but toward evening it died down and we lay becalmed. All hands being idle, the Samoans spent the time in singing the catchy songs of Samoa, most of which I was familiar with from my long stay in those islands, and their delight was great when I joined in. About midnight a large whale floated calmly alongside, not forty yards from our little schooner, and we trembled to think what would happen if it was at all inclined to be playful. We whistled all the next day for a breeze, but our efforts were not a success until toward evening, when we were rewarded in a very liberal manner, and arrived after dark at the village of Cawa Lailai,1 on the island of Koro. On our landing quite a crowd of wild-looking men and women, all clad only in sulus, met us on the beach. Although it is a large island, there is only one white man on it, and he far away from here, so no doubt I was an interesting [5]object. I put up at the hut of the “Buli” or village chief, and after eating a dish of smoking yams, I was soon asleep, in spite of the mosquitoes. It dawned a lovely morning and I was soon afoot to view my surroundings. It was a beautiful village, surrounded by pretty woods on all sides, and I saw and heard plenty of noisy crimson and green parrots everywhere. I also learnt that a few days previously there had been a wholesale marriage ceremony, when nearly all the young men and women had been joined in matrimony.

Taking a guide with me, I walked across the island till I came to the village of Nabuna,2 on the other coast, the Lurline meanwhile sailing around the island. It was a hard walk, up steep hills and down narrow gorges, and then latterly along the coast beneath the shade of the coconuts. Fijian bridges are bad things to cross, being long trunks of trees smoothed off on the surface and sometimes very narrow, and I generally had to negotiate them by sitting astride and working myself along with my hands. In the village of Nabuna lived the wife and four daughters of the Samoan captain. He told me he had had five wives before, and when I asked if they were all dead, he replied that they were still alive, but he had got rid of them as they were no good.

The daughters were all very pretty girls, especially the youngest, a little girl of nine years [6]old. I always think that the little Samoan girls, with their long wavy black hair, are among the prettiest children in the world.

We had an excellent supper of native oysters, freshwater prawns and eels, fish, chicken, and many other native dishes. That evening a big Fijian dance (“meke-meke”), was given in my honour. Two of the captain’s daughters took part in it. The girls sit down all the time in a row, and wave their hands and arms about and sing in a low key and in frightful discord. It does not in any way come up to the very pretty “siva-siva” dancing of the Samoans, and the Fiji dance lacks variety. There is a continual accompaniment of beating with sticks on a piece of wood. All the girls decorate themselves with coloured leaves, and their bodies, arms and legs glisten as in Samoa with coconut-oil, really a very clean custom in these hot countries, though it does not look prepossessing. Our two Samoans in the crew were most amusing; they came in dressed up only in leaves, and took off the Fijians to perfection with the addition of numerous extravagant gestures. I laughed till my sides ached, but the Fijians never even smiled. However, our Samoans gave them a bit of Samoan “siva-siva” and plenty of Samoan songs, and it was amusing to see the interest the Fijians took in them. It was, of course, all new to them. I drank plenty of “angona,” that evening. It is [7]offered you in a different way in Samoa. In Fiji, the man or girl, who hands you the coconut-shell cup on bended knee, crouches at your feet till you have finished. In Fijian villages a sort of crier or herald goes round the houses every night crying the orders for the next day in a loud resonant voice, and at once all talking ceases in the hut outside which he happens to be.

The next two days it blew a regular hurricane, and the captain dared not venture out to sea, our schooner lying safely at anchor inside the coral reef. I have not space to describe my stay here, but it proved most enjoyable, and the captain’s pretty Samoan daughters gave several “meke-mekes” (Fijian dances) in my honour, and plenty of “angona” was indulged in, and what with feasts, native games and first-class fishing inside the coral reef, the time passed all too quickly. I called on the “Buli” or village chief, with the captain. He was a boy of fifteen, and seemed a very bashful youth.

We sailed again about five a.m. on the third morning, as the storm seemed to be dying down and the captain was anxious to get on. We had not gone far, however, before the gale increased in fury until it turned into a regular hurricane. First our foresheet was carried away; this was followed by our staysail, and things began to look serious, in fact, most unpleasantly so. The captain almost seemed to lose his head, and cursed [8]loud and long. He declared that he had been a fool to put out to sea before the storm had gone down, and the Lurline, being an old boat, could not possibly last in such a storm, and added that we should all be drowned. This was not pleasant news, and as the cabin was already half-full of water, and we expected each moment to be our last, I remained on deck for ten weary hours, clinging like grim death to the ropes, while heavy seas dashed over me, raking the little schooner fore and aft.

Toward evening, however, the wind subsided considerably, which enabled us to get into the calm waters of the Somo-somo Channel between the islands of Vanua Levu and Taviuni.

The wreckage was put to rights temporarily, the Samoans, who had previously made up their minds that they were going to be drowned, burst forth into their native songs, and we broke our long fast of twenty-four hours, as we had eaten nothing since the previous evening. It was an experience I am not likely to forget, as it was the worst storm I have ever been in, if I except the terrible typhoon of October, 1903, off Japan, when I was wrecked and treated as a Russian spy. On this occasion a large Japanese fishing fleet was entirely destroyed. I was, of course, soaked to the skin and got badly bruised, and was once all but washed overboard, one of the Fijians catching hold of me in the nick of time. [9]We cast anchor for the night, though we had only a few miles yet to go, but this short distance took us eight or nine hours next day, as this channel is nearly always calm. We had light variable breezes, and tacked repeatedly, but gained ground slowly. These waters seemed full of large turtles, and we passed them in great numbers. We overhauled a large schooner, and on hailing them, the captain, a white man, came on deck. He would hardly believe that we had been all through the storm. He said that he had escaped most of it by getting inside the coral reef round Vanua Levu, but even during the short time he had been out in the storm, he had had to throw the greater part of his cargo overboard. From the way he spoke, he had evidently been drinking, possibly trying to forget his lost cargo.

Before I left Fiji I heard that the Lurline had gone to her last berth. She was driven on to a coral reef in a bad storm off the coast of Taviuni. The captain seemed to stand in much fear of Ratu Lala. He told me many thrilling yarns about him; said he robbed his people badly, and added that he did not think that I would get on well with him, and would soon be anxious to leave.

I landed at the large village of Somo-somo, glad to be safely on terra firma once more. It was a pretty village, with a large mountain torrent dashing over the rocks in the middle of it. The [10]huts were dotted about irregularly on a natural grass lawn, and large trees, clumps of bamboo, coconuts, bread-fruit trees, and bright-coloured “crotons” added a great deal to the picturesqueness of the village. At the back the wooded hills towered up to a height of nearly 4,000 feet, and white streaks amid the mountain woods showed where many a fine waterfall tumbled over rocky precipices.

Ratu Lala lived in a wooden house, built for him (as “Roko” for Taviuni), by the government, on the top of a hill overlooking the village, and thither on landing I at once made my way. I found the Prince slowly recovering from an attack of fever, and lying on a heap of mats (which formed his bed) on the floor of his own private room, which, however, greatly resembled an old curiosity shop. Everything was in great disorder, and piles of London Graphics and other papers littered the ground, and on the tables were piled indiscriminately clocks, flasks, silver cups, fishing rods, guns, musical boxes, and numerous other articles which I discovered later on were presents from high officials and other Europeans, and which he did not know what to do with. Nearly every window in the house had a pane of glass3 broken, the floors were devoid of mats or carpets, and in [11]places were rotten and full of holes. This will give some idea of the state of chaos that reigned in the Prince’s “palace.”

Ratu Lala himself was a tall, broad-shouldered man of about forty, his hair slightly grey, with a bristly moustache and a very long sloping forehead. Though dignified, he wore an extremely fierce expression, so much so that I instinctively felt his subjects had good cause to treat him with the respect and fear that I had heard they gave him. He belongs to the Fijian royal family, and though he does not rank as high as his cousin, Ratu Kandavu Levu, whom I also visited at Bau, he is infinitely more powerful, and owns more territory. His father was evidently a “much married man” since Ratu Lala himself told me that he had had “exactly three hundred wives.” But in spite of this he had been a man of prowess, as the Fijians count it, and I received as a present from Ratu Lala a very heavy hardwood war-club that had once belonged to his father, and which, he assured me, had killed a great many people. Ratu Lala also told me that he himself had offered to furnish one hundred warriors to help the British during the last Egyptian war, but that the government had declined his offer. One of the late Governors of Fiji, Sir John Thurston, was once his guardian and, godfather. He was educated for two years in Sydney, Australia, and spoke English well, though in a very thick voice. [12]Not only does he hold sway over the island of Taviuni, but also over some smaller islands and part of the large island of Vanua Levu. He also holds the rank of “Roko” from the government, for which he is well paid.

After reading my letter of introduction he asked me to stay as long as I liked, and he called his head servant and told him to find me a room. This servant’s name was Tolu, and as he spoke English fairly well, I soon learned a great deal about Ratu Lala and his people.

Ratu Lala was married to a very high-caste lady who was closely related to the King of Tonga, and several of whose relatives accompanied us on our expeditions. By her he had two small children named Tersi (boy) and Moe (girl), both of whom, during my stay (as will hereafter appear) were sent to school at Suva, amid great lamentations on the part of the women of Ratu Lala’s household. Two months before my visit Ratu Lala had lost his eldest daughter (by his Tongan wife). She was twelve years old, and a favourite of his, and her grave was on a bluff below the house, under a kind of tent, hung round with fluttering pieces of “tapa” cloth. Spread over it was a kind of gravel of bright green Stones which he had had brought from a long distance. Little Moe and Tersi were always very interested in watching me skin my birds, and their exclamation of what sounded like “Esa!” (“Oh look!”) showed [13]their enjoyment. They were two of the prettiest little children I think I have ever seen, but they did not know a word of English, and called me “Misi Walk.” They and their mother always took their meals sitting on mats in the verandah. Ratu Lala had two grown-up daughters by other wives, but they never came to the house, living in an adjoining hut where I often joined them at a game of cards. They were both very stately and beautiful young women, with a haughty bearing which made me imagine that they were filled with a sense of their own importance.

As is well known all over Fiji, Ratu Lala, a few years before my stay with him, had been deported in disgrace for a term of several months, to the island of Viti Levu, where he would be under the paternal eye of the government. This was because he had punished a woman, who had offended him, by pegging her down on an ants’ nest, first smearing her all over with honey, so that the ants would the more readily eat her.4 She recovered afterwards, but was badly eaten. As regards his punishment, he told me that he greatly enjoyed his exile, as he had splendid fishing, and some of the white people sent him champagne.

His people were terribly afraid of him, and [14]whenever they passed him as he sat on his verandah, they would almost go down on all fours. He told me how on one occasion when he was sitting on the upper verandah of the Club Hotel in Suva with two of his servants squatting near by, the whisky he had drunk had made him feel so sleepy, that he nearly fell into the street below, but his servants dared not lay hands on him to pull him back into safety, as his body was considered sacred by his people, and they dared not touch him. He declared to me that he would have been killed if a white man had not arrived just in time. He was very fond of telling me this story, and always laughed heartily over it. I noticed that Ratu Lala’s servants treated me with a great deal of respect, and whenever they passed me in the house they would walk in a crouching attitude, with their heads almost touching the ground.

Ratu Lala’s cousin, Ratu Kandavu Levu, is a very enthusiastic cricketer, and has a very good cricket club with a pavilion at his island of Bau. He plays many matches against the white club in Suva, and only last year he took an eleven over to Australia to tour that country. I learned that previous to my visit he had paid a visit to Ratu Lala, and while there had got up a match at Somo-somo in which he induced Ratu Lala to play, but on Ratu Lala being given out first ball for nought, he (Ratu Lala) pulled up the stumps and carried them off the ground, and henceforth forbade [15]any of his people to play the game on the island of Taviuni. I was not aware of this, and as I had brought a bat and ball with me, I got up several games shortly after my arrival. However, one evening all refused to play, but gave no reasons for their refusal, but Tolu told me that his master did not like to have them play. Then I learned the reason, and from that time I noticed a decided coolness on the part of Ratu Lala toward me. The fact, no doubt, is that Ratu Lala being exceptionally keen on sport, this very keenness made him impatient of defeat, or even of any question as to a possible want of success on his part, as I afterwards learnt on our expedition to Ngamia.

I intended upon leaving Taviuni to return to Levuka, and from thence go by cutter to the island of Vanua Levu, and journey up the Wainunu River, plans which I ultimately carried out. Ratu Lala, however, wished me to proceed in his boat straight across to the island of Vanua Levu, and walk across a long stretch of very rough country to the Wainunu River. My only objection was that I had a large and heavy box, which I told Ratu Lala I thought was too large to be carried across country. He at once flew into a violent passion and declared that I spoke as if I considered he was no prince. “For,” said he, “if ten of my subjects cannot carry your box I command one hundred to do so, and if one hundred of my subjects [16]cannot carry your box I tell fifteen thousand of my subjects to do so.” When I tried to picture fifteen thousand Fijians carrying my wretched box, it was altogether too much for my sense of humour, and I burst forth into a hearty roar of laughter, which so incensed the Prince that he shut himself up in his own room during the few remaining days of my stay.

He had a musical box, which he was very fond of, and he had a man to keep it going at all hours of the day and night. It played four tunes, among them “The Village Blacksmith,” “Strolling ’Round the Town,” and “Who’ll Buy my Herrings” till at times they nearly drove me frantic, especially when I wanted to write or sleep. Night after night the tunes followed each other in regular routine till I thought I should get them on the brain. How he could stand it was a puzzle to me, especially as he had possessed it for many years. I often blessed the European who gave it him, and wished he could take my place.

Whenever a man wished to speak to Ratu Lala he would crouch at his feet and softly clap his hands, and sometimes Ratu Lala would wait several minutes before he deigned to notice him. [17]

1 C is pronounced as Th.: e.g., “Cawa”—“Thawa.”

2 Nabuna, pron. Nambuna.

3 Panes of glass in a Fijian house are very unusual, but this house, being Government-built, was European. I can only recall one other instance, that of Ratu Kandavu Levu on his small island of Bau, and then it was only in the native house where he entertained European guests.

4 These circumstances were a matter of common knowledge, at the time of my visit, all over Fiji. On the other hand it must be remembered that Ratu Lala did not think he was doing any harm, for the woman, having done wrong, required punishing, and naturally South Sea Island ideas of punishment, inherited from past generations, differ radically from those of Europeans.

My Further Adventures with Ratu Lala.

Fijian Huts—Abundance of Game and Fish—Methods of Capture—A Fijian Practical Joke—Fijian Feasts—Fun after Dinner—A Court Jester in Fiji—Drinking, Dress, and Methods of Mourning—A Bride’s Ringlets—Expedition to Vuna—Tersi and Moe Journey to School—Their Love of Sweets—Rough Reception of Visitors to Vuna—Wonderful Fish Caught—Exhibition of Surf-board Swimming by Women—Impressive Midnight Row back to Taviuni—A Fijian Farewell.

In comparison with Samoan huts, the Fijian huts were very comfortable, though they are not half as airy, Samoan huts being very open; but in most of the Fijian huts I visited the only openings were the doors, and, as can be imagined, the interior was rather dark and gloomy. In shape they greatly resembled a haystack, the sides being composed of grass or bunches of leaves, more often the latter. They are generally built on a platform of rocks, with doors upon two or more sides, according to the size of the hut; and a sloping sort of rough plank with notches on it leads from the ground to each door. In the interior, the sides of the walls are often beautifully lined with the stems of reeds, fashioned very neatly, and in some cases in really artistic patterns, and tied together with thin ropes of coconut fibre, dyed various colours, and often ornamented with rows of large white cowry shells. The floor of these huts is much like a springy mattress, being [18]packed to a depth of several feet with palm and other leaves, and on the top are strips of native mats permanently fastened, whereas in Samoa the floor is made up of small pieces of brittle white coral, over which are loose mats, which can be moved at will. In Fijian huts there is always a sort of raised platform at one end of the hut, on which are piles of the best native mats, and, being the guest, I generally got this to myself. The roof inside is very finely thatched, the beams being of “Niu sau,” a native palm,1 the cross-pieces and main supports being enormous bits of hard wood. The smaller supports of the sides are generally the trunks of tree-ferns. The doors in most of the huts are a strip of native matting or fantastically-painted “tapa” cloth, fastened to two posts a few feet inside the hut. In some huts there are small openings in the walls which answer for windows. The hearth was generally near one of the doors in the centre of the hut, and fire was produced by rubbing a piece of hard wood on a larger piece of soft wood, and working it up and down in a groove till a spark was produced. I have myself successfully employed this method when out shooting green pigeon (“rupe”) in the mountains.

With regard to food, I at first fared very well, although we had our meals at all hours, as Ratu Lala was very irregular in his habits. Our chief [19]food was turtle. We had it so often that I soon loathed the taste of it. The turtles, when brought up from the sea were laid on their backs under a tree close by the house, and there the poor brutes were left for days together. Ratu Lala’s men often brought in a live wild pig, which they captured with the aid of their dogs. At other times they would run them down and spear them; this was hard and exciting work, as I myself found on several occasions that I went pig hunting. One of the most remarkable things that I saw in Taviuni, from a sporting point of view, was the heart of a wild pig, which, when killed, was found to have lived with the broken point of a wooden spear fully four inches in length buried in the very centre of its heart. It had evidently lived for many years afterwards, and a curious kind of growth had formed round the point.

As for other game, every time I went out in the mountain woods I had splendid sport with the wild chickens or jungle fowl and pigeons, and I would often return with my guide bearing a long pole loaded at both ends with the birds I had shot. The pigeons, which were large birds, settled on the tops of the tallest trees and made a very peculiar kind of growling noise. Many years ago (as Ratu Lala told me) the natives of Taviuni had been in the habit of catching great quantities of pigeons by means of large nets suspended from the trees. The chickens would generally get up [20]like a pheasant, and it was good sport taking a snap shot at an old cock bird on the wing. It was curious to hear them crowing away in the depths of the forest, and at first I kept imagining that I was close to some village. I also obtained some good duck shooting on a lake high up in the mountains, and Ratu Lala described to me what must be a species of apteryx, or wingless bird (like the Kiwi of New Zealand), which he said was found in the mountains and lived in holes in the ground, but I never came across it, though I had many a weary search. Ratu Lala also assured me that the wild chickens were indigenous in Fiji, and were not descended from the domestic fowl. We had plenty of fish, both salt and fresh water, and the mountain streams were full of large fish, which Ratu Lala, who is a keen fisherman, caught with the fly or grasshoppers. He sometimes caught over one hundred in a day, some of them over three pounds in weight. The streams were also full of huge eels and large prawns, and a kind of oyster was abundant in the sea, so what with wild pig, wild chickens, pigeons, turtles, oysters, prawns, crabs, eels, and fish of infinite variety, we fared exceedingly well. Oranges, lemons, limes, large shaddocks, “kavika,” and other wild fruits were plentiful everywhere.

During my stay here in August and September the climate was delightful, and it was remarkably cool for the tropics. I often accompanied Ratu [21]Lala on his fishing excursions, and he would often recount to me many of his escapades. On one occasion he told me that he had put a fish-hook through the lip of his jester, a little old man of the name of Stivani, and played him about with rod and reel like a fish, and had made him swim about in the water until he had tired him out, and then he added, “I landed the finest fish I ever got.”

I added a good many interesting birds to my collection during my stay here, among them a dove of intense orange colour, one of the most striking birds I have ever seen. Plant life here was exceedingly beautiful and interesting, especially high up in the mountains, palms, pandanus, cycads, crotons, acalyphas, loranths, aroids, freycinetias, ferns and orchids being strongly represented, and among the latter may be mentioned a fine orange dendrobium and a pink calanthe. I found in flower a celebrated creeper, which Ratu Lala had told me to look out for. It had very showy red, white and blue flowers, and in the old days Ratu Lala told me that the Tongan people would come over in their canoes all the way from the Tonga Islands, nearly four hundred miles away, simply to get this flower for their dances, and when gathered, it would last a very long time without fading. I tried to learn the traditions about this flower, but Ratu Lala either did not know of any or else he was not anxious to tell me about them. [22]

The coastal natives, like most South Sea Islanders, were splendid swimmers, but, so far as I was concerned, it was dangerous work bathing in the sea here, as man-eating sharks were very numerous, and during my stay I saw a Fijian carried ashore with both his legs bitten clean off.

Usually, when out on expeditions, we occupied the “Buli’s” hut and lived on the fat of the land. At meal times quite a procession of men and women, glistening all over with coconut oil, would enter our hut bearing all sorts of native food, including fish in great variety, yams, octopus, turtle, sucking-pig, chicken, prawns, etc. They were brought in on banana and other large leaves, and we, of course, ate them with our fingers. Good as the food undoubtedly was, I was always glad when the meal was over, as it is very far from comfortable to sit with your legs doubled up under you. Afterwards I could hardly stand up straight, owing to cramp. I found it especially trying in Samoa, where one had to sit in this manner for hours during feasts, “kava”-drinking and “siva-sivas” (dances). Sometimes a glistening damsel would fan us with a large fan made out of the leaf of a fan palm,2 which at times got rather in the way. I never got waited on better in my life. Directly I had finished one course a dozen girls were ready to hand me other dishes, and when I wanted a drink a girl immediately [23]handed me a cup made out of the half-shell of a coconut filled with a kind of soup. We generally had an audience of fully fifty people, and when we had finished eating, a wooden bowl of water was handed to us in which to wash our hands. Ratu Lala would generally hand the bowl to me first, and I would wash my hands in silence, but directly he started to wash his hands, everyone present, including chiefs and attendants, would start clapping their hands in even time, then one man would utter a deep and prolonged “Ah-h,” when the crowd would all shout together what sounded like “Ai on dwah,” followed by more even clapping. I never learned what the words meant. In this respect Ratu Lala was most curiously secretive, and always evaded questions. Whenever he took a drink, a clapping of hands made me aware of the fact.

One day, when they had chanted after a meal as usual, Ratu Lala turned around to me and mimicked the way his jester or clown repeated it, and there was a general laugh. This jester, whose name was Stivani, was a little old man who was also jester to Ratu Lala’s father. Ratu Lala had given him the nickname of “Punch,” and made him do all sorts of ridiculous things—sing and dance and go through various contortions dressed up in bunches of “croton” leaves. He kept us all much amused, and was the life and soul of our party, but at times I caught the [24]old fellow looking very weary and sad, as if he was tired of his office as jester.

The “angona” root (Piper methysticum) is first generally pounded, but is sometimes grated, and more rarely chewed by young maidens. It is then mixed with water in a large wooden bowl, and the remains of the root drawn out with a bunch of fibrous material. It is then ready for drinking.

On gala and festal occasions the Fijians were wonderfully and fantastically dressed up, their huge heads of hair thickly covered with a red or yellow powder, and they themselves wearing large skirts or “sulus” of coloured “tapa” and pandanus ribbons and necklaces of coloured seeds, shells, and pigs’-tusks. In out-of-the-way parts the “sulus” are still made of “tapa” cloth, and the women sometimes wear small fibrous aprons. They also often wear wild pigs’-tusks round their necks.

I noticed that many Fijian women were tattooed on the hands and arms, and at each corner of the mouth (a deep blue colour). Both men and women gave themselves severe wounds about the body, generally as a sign of grief on the death of some near relative. I once noticed a young girl of sixteen or seventeen with a very bad unhealed wound below one of her breasts, which was self-inflicted. Her father, a chief, had died only a short time previously. They often [25]also cut off the little finger for similar reasons. Like the Samoans, the Fijians often cover their hair with white lime, and the effect of the sun bleaches the hair and changes it from black to a light gold or brown colour.

A marriageable young lady in Fiji would generally have a great quantity of long braided ringlets hanging down on one side of her head. This looked odd, considering that the rest of her hair was erect or frizzly. It was a great insult to have these ringlets cut. I heard of it once being done by a white planter, and great trouble and fighting were the result.

I accompanied Ratu Lala on several expeditions to various parts of the island, and we also visited several smaller islands within his dominions. On these occasions we always took possession of the “Buli’s,” or village chief’s, hut, turning him out, and feeding on all the delicacies the village could produce. After we had practically eaten them out of house and home we would move on and take possession of another village. The inhabitants did not seem to mind this; in fact, they seemed to enjoy our visit, as it was an excuse for big feasts, “meke-mekes” (dances) and “angona” drinking.

One of the most enjoyable expeditions that I made with Ratu Lala was to Vuna, about twenty miles away to the south. A small steamer, the Kia Ora, which made periodical visits to the [26]island to collect the government taxes in copra, arrived one day in the bay. Ratu Lala thought this would be a good opportunity for us to make a fishing expedition to Vuna. We went on board the steamer while our large boat was towed behind.

At the same time Ratu Lala’s two little children, Moe and Tersi, started off, in charge of Ratu Lala’s Tongan wife and other women, to be educated in Suva. It was the first time they had ever left home, but I agreed with Ratu Lala, that it was time they went, as they did not know a word of English, and, for the matter of that, neither did his Tongan wife. When we all arrived at the beach to get into the boat, we found a large crowd, chiefly women, sitting on the ground, and as Ratu Lala walked past them, they greeted him with a kind of salutation which they chanted as with one voice. I several times asked him what it meant, but he always evaded the question somehow, and seemed too modest to tell me. I came to the conclusion that it ran something like “Hail, most noble prince, live for ever.” The next minute all the women started to howl as if at a given signal, and they looked pictures of misery. Several of them waded out into the sea and embraced little Tersi and Moe. This soon set the children crying as well, so that I almost began to fear that the combined tears would sink our boat. Their old grandmother waded out into the sea up to her neck and stayed there, [27]and we could hear her howling long after we had got on board the steamer. When we got into Ratu Lala’s boat at Vuna there was another very affecting farewell. Some months later when I returned to Suva, I asked a young chief, Ratu Pope, to show me where they were at school, and I found them at a small kindergarten for the children of the Europeans in Suva.

They seemed quite glad to see their old friend again, and still more so when I promised to bring them some lollies (the term used for sweets in Australasia) that afternoon.

When I returned I witnessed a pretty and interesting sight The two little children were standing out in the school yard while several Fijian men and women of noble families who had been paying the little prince and princess a visit, were just taking their leave. It was a curious sight to see these old people go in turn up to these two little mites and go down on their knees and kiss their little hands reverently in silence. All this homage seemed to bore the small high-born ones, and hardly was the ceremony over when they caught sight of me, and, rushing toward me with cries of “Misi Walk siandra, lollies,” they nearly knocked over some of their visitors, who no doubt were greatly scandalized at such undignified behaviour.

To return to our visit to Vuna. Sometime previously, Ratu Lala had warned me that whenever he landed at this place with a visitor it was [28]an old custom for the women to catch the visitor and throw him into the sea from the top of a small rocky cliff. To this I raised serious objections, but arrayed myself in very old thin clothes ready for the fray. However, upon landing, very much on the alert, I was agreeably surprised to find that the women left me alone. Yet in part Ratu Lala’s story was true, as he assured me that quite recently he had been forced to put a stop to the custom, as one of his last visitors was a European of much importance who was greatly incensed at such treatment, and complained to the government, who told Ratu Lala that the custom must end.

We came to fish, and fish we did, just off the coral reef, but it would take space to describe even one-half of the curious and beautiful fish we caught. When I took the lead in the number of fish caught, Ratu Lala seemed greatly annoyed, and I was not sorry to let him get ahead, when he was soon in a good temper again. The Fijians generally fished with nets and a many-pronged fish-spear, with which they are very expert, and I saw them do wonderful work with them. They also used long wicker-work traps. Ratu Lala, on the contrary, being half-civilized, used an English rod and reel or line like a white man. Ratu Lala told the women here to give an exhibition of surf-board swimming for my benefit. As they rode into shore on the crest of a wave I many times expected to see them dashed against [29]the rocks which fringed the coast. I had seen the natives in Hawaii perform seventeen years before, but it was tame in comparison to the wonderful performances of these Fijian women on this dangerous rock-girt coast.

A great many “meke-mekes” or dances were got up in our honour, but Ratu Lala detested them, and rarely attended, but preferred staying in the “Buli’s” hut, lying on the floor smoking or sleeping. He, however, always begged me to attend them in his place. After a time I found the performances rather wearisome, and not nearly so varied and interesting as the “siva-sivas” in Samoa. There the girls sang in soft, pleasing voices, the words being full of liquid vowels. Here in Fiji the singing was harsh and discordant, as k’s and r’s abound in the language.

When it came to the ceremony of drinking “angona” I worthily did my part of the performance. Drinking “angona” is a taste not easily acquired, but when one has once got used to it, there is not a more refreshing drink, and I speak from long experience. In Fiji I was often presented with a large “angona” root, but it would be considered exceedingly bad form did you not return it to the giver and tell him to have it at once prepared for himself and his people, you yourself, of course, taking part in the drinking ceremony.

After a stay of several days at Vuna we rowed [30]back by night. It was a perfect, calm night, and with the full moon, was almost as bright as day. We rowed all the way close to shore, passing under the gloomy shade of dense forests or by countless coconuts, the only sound besides the plash of our oars being the cry of water fowl or some night bird, while the light beetles3 flashed their green lights against the dark background of the forest, looking much like falling stars. There are certain moments in life that have made a lasting impression on me, and that moonlight row was one of them.

We made several expeditions together that were every bit as interesting and enjoyable as the one to Vuna. On one occasion we visited the north part of the island, as well as Ngamia and other islands. We rowed nearly all the way close into shore and saw plenty of turtles. Ratu Lala started to troll with live bait, as we had come across several women fishing with nets, and on our approach they chanted out a greeting to Ratu Lala, and in return he helped himself to a lot of their fish. Ratu Lala had fully a dozen large fish after his bait, and some he hooked for a few seconds. This only made him the keener, and after leaving the calm Somo-somo Channel, although we encountered a very rough sea, he had the sail hoisted and we travelled at a great rate in and out amongst a lot of rocky islets, shipping any amount of water which soaked us and our [31]baggage, and half-filled the boat. I expected we should be swamped every moment, and from the frightened looks of our crew I knew they expected the same thing. Hence, I was not reassured when Ratu Lala remarked that it was in just such a sea, and in the same place, that he lost his schooner (which the government had given him) and that on that occasion he and all his crew remained in the water for five hours. When I explained that I had no wish to be upset, he said, “I suppose you can swim?” I said “Yes! but I do not wish to lose my gun and other property,” to which he replied, “Well, I lost more than that when my schooner went down.” I was therefore not a little relieved when he had the sail lowered. He explained that he never liked being beaten, even if he drowned us all, and all this was because I had bet him one shilling (by his own desire) that he would not get a fish. I mention this to show what foolhardy things he was capable of doing, never thinking of the consequences. I could mention many such cases. We at length came to some shallows between a lot of small and most picturesque islands, and as it was low tide, and we could not pass, we, viz., Ratu Lala, myself, and the other chiefs, got out to walk, leaving the boat and crew to come on when they could (they arrived at 4 a.m. the next morning). I was glad to get an opportunity to dry myself, and we started off at a good rate for our destination, but [32]unfortunately we came to a spot where grew a small weed that the Fijians consider a great luxury when cooked, and Ratu Lala and his people stayed here fully two hours, till they had picked all the weed in sight, in spite of the heavy rain. It was amusing to see all these high-caste Fijians and old Stivani, the jester, running to and fro with yells of delight like so many children, all on account of a weed which I myself afterwards failed to enjoy.

On the way I shot three duck, and later, when it was too dark to shoot, we could see the beach between the mangroves and the sea was almost black with them. On the other side of us there was a regular chorus of wild chickens crowing and pigeons “howling” in the woods. After four hours’ hard walking we arrived at our destination, Qelani, long after dark, dead tired, and soaked to the skin. We put up at the “Buli’s” hut; he was a cousin of Ratu Lala, and was a hideous and sulky-looking fellow, but his hut was one of the finest and neatest I had seen in Fiji. As I literally had not had a mouthful of food since the previous evening, I was glad when about a dozen women entered bearing banana leaves covered with yams, fish, octopus, chickens, etc. We stayed here some days, but we had miserable, wet weather. There was excellent fishing in the stream here, and Ratu Lala especially had very good sport. Many of the fish averaged one-and-a-half pounds and more, but he told me that they often run to five [33]pounds. There were three kinds, and all excellent eating. The commonest was a beautiful silvery fish, and another was of a golden colour with bright red stripes. During the latter part of my stay in Qelani I suffered from a slight attack of dysentery, and it was dull lying ill on the floor of a native hut with no one to talk to, as Ratu Lala always tried to avoid speaking English whenever possible, and would often only reply in monosyllables. It would often seem as if he were annoyed at something, but I found that he did this to all white men, and meant nothing by it. I soon cured myself by eating a lot of raw leaves of some bush plant, also a great quantity of native arrow-root.

In spite of my sickness I managed to shoot a fair number of duck, wild chickens and pigeon, and also a few birds for my collection. One day, in spite of the rain, I was rowed over to Ngamia, which is a wonderfully beautiful island, about three hours from Qelani. It was thickly covered with a fine cycad which grows amongst the rocks overhanging the sea. The natives call it “loga-loga,”4 and eat the fruit. I landed and botanized a bit, finding some new and interesting plants, and then rowed on a few miles to call on the only white man on the island, an Australian named Mitchell, who has a large coconut property. He was astonished and pleased to see me, and introduced me to his Fijian wife, and his two pretty half-caste daughters soon got together a good [34]breakfast for me. He seemed glad to see a white man again, and nearly talked my head off, and was full of anecdotes about the fighting they had with the Fijian cannibals in 1876. He told me that in the last great hurricane his house was blown over on to a small island which he owned nearly half-a-mile away.

To describe all the incidents of my long visit would fill a book, but I think I have written enough to show what a very interesting time I spent with this Fijian Prince. It was without doubt one of the most curious experiences of all my travels in different parts of the globe. With all his faults, Ratu Lala was a good fellow, and he certainly was a sportsman. All Fiji knows his failings, otherwise I should not have alluded to them. The old blood of the Fijians ran in his veins, his ancestors were kings who had been used to command and to tyrannise; therefore he could never see any harm in the many stories of his escapades that he told me, and he seemed much offended and surprised when I advised him not to talk about them to other Europeans. When I started off to Levuka I was greatly surprised to see all the women of Somo-somo sitting on the beach waiting to see me depart, and as I walked down alone they greeted me in much the same way as they often greeted Ratu Lala, in a kind of chanting shout that sounded most effective. It was a Fijian farewell! [35]

1 Ptychosperma sp.

2 Pritchardia Pacifica.

3 Elateridæ

4 Pron.: longa-longa.

Among Ex-Cannibals in Fiji.


Among Ex-Cannibals in Fiji.

Journey into the Interior of Great Fiji—A Guide Secured—The Start—Arrival at Navua—Extraction of Sago—Grandeur of Scenery—A Man covered with Monkey-like Hair—A Strangely Coloured Parrot—Wild Lemon and Shaddock Trees—A Tropical “Yosemite Valley”—Handclapping as a Native Form of Salute—Beauty of Namosi—The Visitor inspected by ex-Cannibals—Reversion to Cannibalism only prevented by fear of the Government—A Man who would like to Eat my Parrot “and the White Man too”—The Scene of Former Cannibal Feasts—Revolting Accounts of Cannibalism as Formerly Practised—Sporadic Cases in Recent Years—An Instance of Unconscious Cannibalism by a White—Reception at Villages en route—Masirewa Upset—Descent of Rapids—Dramatic Arrival at Natondre (“Fallen from the Skies”).

Toward the end of my stay in the Fijian Islands I determined to make a journey far into the interior of Viti Levu (Great Fiji), the largest island of the great Fijian archipelago. Suva, the chief town in Fiji, and the headquarters of the government, is on this island, but very few Europeans travel far beyond the coast, and my friends in Suva declared that I would have a fit of repentance before I had travelled very far, as the interior of the island is extremely mountainous and rough. After a great deal of trouble I managed to get an interpreter named Masirewa, who came from the small island of Bau. He was a fine-looking fellow, and, like most Fijians, possessed a tremendous mop of hair. His stock of English was limited, and we often misunderstood each other, but he proved a most amusing [38]companion, if only on account of his unlimited “cheek.”

I ought here to mention that Fijians vary a great deal, both in colour and language. Fiji is the part of the Pacific where various types meet, viz., Papuan, Malayan, and Polynesian. The mountaineers around Namosi, which I visited, who were all cannibals twenty-five years ago, are much darker in colour than the coast natives, and they are undoubtedly of Papuan origin.

I left Suva with Masirewa on the morning of October 12th, and after a short sea voyage of three or four hours on a small steam launch, we arrived at the village of Navua. I had a letter to Mr. McOwan, the government commissioner for that district. He put me up for the night, and we played several games of tennis, and my stay, though short, was an exceedingly pleasant one. The whites in Fiji are the most hospitable people in the world. They are of the old régime that is dying out fast everywhere.

The next day I set out on my journey into the interior, Masirewa and another Fijian carrying my baggage (which was wrapped up in waterproof cloth) on a long bamboo pole. We followed the course of the Navua River for some distance. In the swamps bordering the river grew quantities of a variety of sago palm (Sagus vitiensis) called by the natives Songo. They extract the sago from the trunk, and the palm always dies after [39]flowering. After passing through about four miles of sugar cane, with small villages of the Indian coolies who work in the cane fields, we left behind us the last traces of civilization. We next came to a very beautiful bit of hilly country, densely wooded on the hills, though bordering the broad gravelly beaches of the river were long stretches of beautiful grassy pastures. Darkness set in as we ascended some thickly wooded hills. The atmosphere was damp and close, and mosquitoes plentiful, and small phosphorescent lumps seemed to wink at us out of the darkness on every side. I had to strike plenty of matches to discover the track, and continually bumped myself against boulders and the trunks of tree-ferns. It was late when we arrived at the village of Nakavu, on the banks of the Navua River, where I was soon asleep on a pile of mats in the hut of the “Buli,” or village chief.

The next morning I resumed my journey with Masirewa and two canoe-men in a canoe, and we were punted and hauled over numerous dangerous rapids, at some of which I had to get out. We passed between two steep, rocky cliffs the whole way, and they were densely clothed with tree-ferns and other rank tropical vegetation, the large white sweet-scented datura being very plentiful. The scenery was very beautiful, and numerous waterfalls dashed over the rocky walls with a sullen roar. Ducks were plentiful, but [40]my ammunition being limited, I shot only enough to supply us with food. I felt cramped sitting in a canoe all day, but I enjoyed myself in spite of the continuous and heavy rain.

Late in the afternoon we arrived at the small village of Namuamua, on the right bank of the river, with the village of Beka on the other side. We were given a small hut all to ourselves, and we fared sumptuously on duck and boiled yams. The next morning I was shown a curious but ghastly object, viz., a man covered with hair like a monkey, and I was told that he had never been able to walk. He dragged himself about on his hands and feet, uttering groans and grunts like an animal.

I hired two fresh bearers to carry my baggage, and after we had crossed the river three or four times we passed over some steep and slippery hills for some distance. I managed to shoot a parrot that I had not seen on any of the other islands. It was green, with a black head and yellow breast. The rain came down in torrents, and I got well soaked. We went for miles through woods with small timber, but full of bright crotons, dracænas, bamboos, and a very sweetscented plant somewhat resembling the frangipani, the flower of which covered the ground. We passed under the shade of sweet-scented wild lemon and shaddock trees, but we got the bad with the good, as a horrible stench came from a [41]small green flowering bush. A beautiful pink and white ground orchid (Calanthe) was plentiful.

We travelled along a steep, narrow strip of land with a river on each side in the valleys below. We met no one until we arrived at the village of Koro Wai-Wai, which is situated on the banks of a good-sized river at the entrance to a magnificent gorge of rocky peaks and precipices. Here we found the “Buli” of Namosi squatting down in a miserable, smoky hut where we rested for a few minutes, and the hut was soon filled with a crowd of natives, all anxious to view the “papalangi” (foreigner). The “Buli” agreed to accompany me to Namosi, although his home was in another village. Continuing our journey, we had hard work climbing over boulders, and along slippery ledges overhanging the foaming river many feet below. Steep precipices rose on each side of us, and the gorge grew more narrow as we proceeded. The scenery was grand, and rather resembled the Yosemite Valley, but had the additional attraction of a wealth of tropical foliage. Steep rocky spires topped by misty clouds towered above us and little openings between rocky walls revealed dark green lanes or vistas of tangled tropical growth which the sun never reached. We met many natives, who sat on their haunches when the “Buli” talked to them, and clapped their hands as we passed. This was out of respect for the “Buli,” who was an insignificant looking little [42]bearded man and quite naked except for a small “Sulu.”

We soon arrived at Namosi. It is a large town situated between two steep walls of rock, and was by far the prettiest place I had seen in Fiji, and that is saying a good deal. The town is on both banks of the Waiandina River, with large “ivi” and other beautiful trees overhanging the water; brilliant coloured crotons, dracænas, and other fine plants imparted a wealth of colour to the scene, and many of the grand old trees were heavily laden with ferns and orchids. During many years’ wanderings all the world over, I do not think I have ever come across a more beautiful and ideal spot.

The “Buli” was greeted with cries of “m-m-ka-a” in shrill voices by the women, for all the world like the caw of an old crow. I learned that the “Buli” had not been here for some time, but I seemed to be the chief object of interest, and was followed everywhere by an admiring and curious crowd of dark brown, shiny boys and girls, the former just as they were born and the latter wearing a strip of “Sulu.” We put up in a chief’s house, and after getting through the usual boiled yams, I went on a tour of inspection around the town, but I soon found that I was the one to be inspected. There was a hum of voices in every hut, and doorways were darkened with many heads. Groups of young men, women and children [43]assembled to see the sight, but scampered away if I approached too near. No white man but the government agent had been here for several years, I was told. Thirty-odd years ago they would not have been satisfied to “look only,” but would have wished to taste, and many of the present inhabitants would have made chops of me, and were no doubt peering out of their huts to see if I was fat or lean, and wishing for days gone by but not forgotten. Isolated cases of cannibalism still occur in out-of-the-way parts of Fiji, and it is only fear of the government that stops them, otherwise these mountaineers would at once return to cannibalism. Masirewa came out and stood with folded arms among a large crowd talking about me, and no doubt taking all the credit for my appearance, and staring at me as if he had never seen me before, so that I felt much inclined to kick him.

In the evening, as I skinned the parrot I had shot, Masirewa told me how one man had said that he would like to eat the parrot, and that he had replied: “And the white man too.” There was a large and very interested crowd around me as I worked, and they were very much astonished when told that the birds in England were different from those in Fiji, and I was inundated with childish questions about England. Masirewa seemed to be trying to pass himself off on these simple mountaineers as a chief, and was clearly beginning to give [44]himself airs, so that when he started to eat with the “Buli” and myself, I had to snub him, and told him sharply to clean my gun and eat afterwards.

I slept the next morning till seven o’clock, and Masirewa told me that the natives could not understand my sleeping so late, and that they thought I was drunk on “angona,” of which I had partaken the night before. “Angona” is the same as “kava” in Samoa, and is the national beverage in Fiji. Masirewa now only wore a “sulu” and discarded his singlet. I suppose it was a case of “In Rome do as Rome does,” but he certainly looked better in the dark skin he wore at his birth. I was shown the large rock by the river where more than a thousand people had been killed for their cannibal feasts. They were usually prisoners captured in the Rewa district, also a few white men. They were cut open alive and their hearts torn out, and their bodies were then cut up for cooking on the rock, which I noticed was worn quite smooth. Sometimes they would boil a man alive in a huge cauldron.

While staying at Namosi the “Buli” gave me some lessons in throwing native spears, and in using the bow. Whilst practising the latter I narrowly missed, by a few inches, shooting a woman who stepped out suddenly from behind a hut.

I was out most of the day shooting pigeons [45]in the woods close by, accompanied by the “Buli,” Masirewa, and several boys. The woods were full of a wonderfully beautiful creeper, a delicate pink and white clerodendron which grew in large bunches; there was also a very pretty hoya (wax flower) scrambling up the trees. We filled ourselves with the juicy pink fruit of the “kavika,” or what is generally known as the Malacca or rose-apple. The trees were plentiful in the woods, grew to a large size, and were literally loaded with fruit, the fallen fruit resembling a pink carpet. Another very good fruit was the “wi,” a golden fruit about the size of a large mango. I have seen both cultivated in the West Indies.

On my return to the village I had a most interesting interview with these ex-cannibals, one old and two middle-aged men, thanks to Masirewa, my interpreter. He first asked them how they liked human flesh, and they all shouted “Venaka, venaka!” (good). Like the natives of New Guinea, they said it was far better than pig; they also declared that the legs, arms and palms of the hands were the greatest delicacies, and that women and children tasted best. The brains and eyes were especially good. They would never eat a man who had died a natural death. They had eaten white man; he was salty and fat, but he was good, though not so good as “Fiji man.” One of them had tasted a certain Mr. ——, and the meat on his legs was very fat. They chopped his feet [46]off above the boots, which they thought were part of him, and they boiled his feet and boots for days, but they did not like the taste of the boots. They often kept some of their prisoners and fattened them up, and when the day came for killing one, it was the women of Namosi’s duty to take him down to the large stone by the river, where they cut him open alive and tore his heart out. Lastly, I asked if they would still like to eat man if they got the chance, and they were not afraid of being punished, and there was no hesitation in their reply of “Io” (yes), uttered with one voice like the yelp of a hungry wolf, and it seemed to me that their eyes sparkled. They were certainly a very obliging lot of cannibals.

Cannibalism is, of course, practically extinct now in Fiji, but in recent years I am told that there, have been a few odd cases far back in the mountains. On one occasion a man told his wife to build an oven and that he was going to cook her. This she did, and he then killed, cooked, and ate her. Whilst in Fiji I met an Englishman who in the seventies had tasted human meat at a native feast, he believing it was pig, and at the time he thought it was very good. I was told that in the old days when they wanted to know whether a body was cooked enough they looked to see if the head was loose. If the head fell off it was thought to be “cooked to perfection,” but I will not vouch for this story being correct. [47]

I gave the “Buli” a box of matches, and he seemed as pleased as if it was a purse of gold; they light all their fires here by wood friction, Some of the pet pigs around here were very oddly marked with stripes and spots of brown, black and white. Whilst in Fiji I often came across natives far from any village who were being followed by pet pigs, as we in England might be followed by dogs. Masirewa amused me more each day by his cheek and self-assurance. Once I asked him what he said to the chief of the hut we were in, and he replied: “Oh! I tell him Get out, you black fellow.’ ”

We left Namosi early the next morning, a large crowd seeing us off, and I was sorry to bid farewell to one of the most beautiful spots in this wide world. We passed through the villages of Nailili and Waivaka, where I called at the chiefs’ huts and held a kind of “at home” for a few minutes, the people simply swarming in to look at me. The “Buli” of Namosi had sent messengers on in front to give notice of my approach, and at each village they had the inevitable hot yams ready to eat, which Masirewa made the most of. At the entrance to each village there was usually a palisade of bamboo or tree-fern trunks, and here a crowd of girls and children would often be waiting, and on my approach they would set up loud yells and scamper off, till I began to think that I must look a very ferocious kind of “papalangai.” [48]At Dellaisakau the natives looked a very wild lot. Some of the men had black patches all over their faces, and some had great masses of hair shaped like a parasol. One or two of the women wore only the old-time small aprons of coconut fibre.

We followed the Waiandina River amid very fine scenery. The sloping hills were covered with woods, and we passed under a canopy of bamboo, the large trumpet flowers of the white datura, tree-ferns, large “ivi,” “dakua” and “kavika” trees loaded with ferns and fine orchids in flower. We crossed the river several times, and I was carried across by a huge Fijian whose head and neck were covered with lime. Rain soon set in again, and we literally wallowed in mud and water. I got drenched by the soaking vegetation, so I afterwards waded boldly through rivers and streams, as it was impossible to get any wetter.

At Nasiuvou the whole village turned out to greet me, and I held my usual reception in the chief’s hut. The chief seemed very annoyed that I would not stay the night. No doubt he thought that I would prove a great attraction for his people. The banks of the Waiandina River were crowded as I got into a canoe, and Masirewa, in trying to show off with a large paddle, lost his balance and fell into the water, the yells of laughter from the crowd showing that they were not lacking in humour. Masirewa did [49]not like it at all, but I was very glad, as he had been giving himself too many airs. I dismissed my two bearers and took only one canoe man and made Masirewa help him. We went down several rapids at a great pace. It was dangerous but exhilarating, and we had several narrow escapes of being swamped, as the canoe, being a small one, was often half-filled with water. We also had several close shaves from striking rocks and tree trunks. Ducks were plentiful, and I shot one on the wing as we were tearing down a rapid. The scenery was very fine; steep wooded mountains, rocky peaks with odd shapes, steep precipices, fine waterfalls, grand forests, and picturesque villages, and the scenery as we wound among the mountains was most romantic.

Toward evening we arrived at the large town of Nambukaluku, where we disembarked. Except for a few old men and children we found it deserted, and we learned that the “Buli,” who is a very important chief, had gone to stay at the village of Natondre for some important ceremonies for a few days, and most of the inhabitants had gone with him. Thither I determined to go, and we set off along a mountain path. The rain was all gone, and it was a lovely, still evening. Suddenly I heard distant yells and shouts and the beating of the “lalis” (hollow wooden drums), and I set off running, leaving Masirewa and my canoe man carrying my baggage far behind, and on turning [50]a sharp corner I came full upon the village of Natondre and a most interesting sight. Hundreds of natives were squatting on the ground of the village square, and about one hundred men with faces black and in full war paint, swinging war clubs, were rushing backward and forward yelling and singing while large wooden drums were beaten. They were dressed in most fantastic style, some only with fibrous strings round their loins, and others with yards of “tapa” cloth wound around them. Several women were jumping about with fibre aprons on, and all had their hair done up in many curious ways and sprinkled with red and yellow powders. Huge piles of mats were heaped in the open square, speeches were made, and the people all responded with a deep “Ah-h” which sounded most effective from the huge multitude. I came up in the growing dusk and stood behind a lot of people squatting down. Suddenly some one looked round and saw me—sensation—whispers of “papalangai” were heard on all sides, and looks of astonishment were cast in my direction. Certainly my entrance to Natondre could not have been more dramatic, and I believe that they almost thought that I had fallen from the skies, which is the literal meaning of the word “papalangai.” [51]

Mock War-Scene at the Chief’s House.

War Ceremonies and Dances at Natondre Described—The Great Chief of Nambukaluku—The Dances continued—A Fijian Feast—A Native Orator—The Ceremonies concluded—The Journey continued—A Wonderful Fungus—The bark of the rare Golden Dove leads to its Capture—Return to more Civilised Parts—The Author as Guest of a high Fijian Prince and Princess—A souvenir of Seddon—Arrival at Suva.

Masirewa soon arrived and I learned that there were some very important ceremonies in which one tribe was giving presents to another tribe, in settlement of some disputes that had been carried on since the old cannibal fighting days, and as I passed into the “Buli’s” hut I noticed that the dancers were unwinding all the “tapa” cloth from around their bodies and throwing it on the piles of mats. I immediately went behind a “tapa” screen where the “Buli” slept, and began to get into dry clothes. This evidently made some of the crowd in the hut angry, as they thought I was lacking in respect to the “Buli” by changing in his private quarters, as in Fiji the very high chiefs are looked upon as sacred. One fellow kept shouting at me in a very impudent way, so when Masirewa came in, I told him about it, and he lectured the crowd and told them that I was a very big chief; this seemed to frighten them. Later on, I found that Masirewa had complained, and [52]the impudent man was brought up before one of the chiefs, who gave him a lecture before myself and a large crowd in the hut I put up in. Masirewa translated for me, how the chief said: “The white man, who is a big chief, has done us honour in visiting our town,” and to the man: “You will give us a bad name in all Fiji for our rudeness to the stranger that comes to us.” I learned that the man was going to be punished, but as he looked very repentant I said that I did not wish him punished, so he was allowed to sneak out of the hut, the people kicking him and saying angry words as he passed.

I supped with the great “Buli” that evening, and we fared sumptuously on my duck, river oysters and all sorts of native dishes. We were waited upon by two warriors in full war paint, and the “Buli’s” young and pretty wife, shining with coconut oil all over her body, sat by me and fanned me. The “Buli” was an aristocratic-looking old fellow with a large nose and a very haughty look. He is a very important chief, but knew no English, and we carried on our conversation through the medium of Masirewa. He spoke in a kind of mumble, with a very thick voice. Once when he had been mumbling worse than usual there was a kind of restrained titter from someone in the crowd at the back. The “Buli” heard it, and slowly turning his head he transfixed the crowd with his piercing gaze for many seconds [53]amid a dead silence. I wondered afterwards if anything ever happened to the unfortunate one who was so easily amused. I learned that besides having an impediment in his speech, the “Buli” was also paralyzed in one leg. I Put up in a different hut, the “Buli” apologizing for his hut being crowded with the influx of visitors.

I watched a “meke-meke” or native dance that evening in which about a dozen girls covered with oil took part. There was a sound of revelry the rest of the night, for there was feasting and dancing in several huts, and discordant chanting and the hum of many voices followed me into my dreams. The next morning I went out shooting pigeons in some thick pathless woods about two miles away, and I also shot some flying foxes which I gave to my companions, as the Fijians consider them a great delicacy, as do many Europeans. These woods were full of pineapples, which in places barred our way. Many of them were ripe, and I found they possessed a fine flavour.

In the afternoon the ceremonies were continued, the “Buli” sending for me to sit by him in the doorway of his hut to watch them. First about forty women with “tapa” cloth wound around their bodies went through various evolutions, swaying their arms about and chanting in their usual discordant manner. They then unwound the “tapa” from their bodies and threw it in a heap on the ground, following this by more manœuvres. [54]About twenty men came into the square, some with their faces blacked and their bodies stained red with some pigment, and wearing only aprons of coconut strings, with bracelets of leaves on their arms and carved pigs’ tusks hanging from their necks. They went through some splendid dancing, falling down on the ground and bouncing up again like india-rubber balls. They sang, or rather chanted, all the time, and so did a kind of chorus of men who beat on wood and bamboo, while the dancers danced round them in circles, and squares, and then bent backward, nearly touching the ground with their heads. As they danced they kept splendid time, with their arms, legs and heads.

Then amid shrill yells and cries from the crowd, another procession approached from the far end of the village in single file. First came several men with spears, which they shook on the ground every now and then, shaking their bodies at the same time in a fierce manner. Behind them in single file came a lot of women, each bearing a. rolled-up mat, which they threw down in a heap. These mats are made from the dried “pandanus” leaf. Then several men appeared bearing enormous Fiji baskets full of large rolls of food wrapped up in leaves, also smaller baskets made of the fresh leaves of the crimson dracæna, also full of food. From the enormous number of baskets, the food supply was enough to feed a large [55]multitude. They were all put down together by the mats.

Then there was dead silence, in which you could almost have heard the proverbial pin drop, and an oldish man stepped forward and stood by the mats and baskets, his body wound round with “tapa” till it stuck out many feet from his body. The crowd broke silence with an ear-piercing yell. He then spoke, and was interrupted from time to time with cries of approval or the reverse, and sometimes loud laughter, while the “Buli,” sitting by me, every now and then shouted out, or broke into a childish giggle. Then the speaker uttered a lot of short sentences very fast, and every one present said “Venaka” (good) at the end of each sentence. Then the old man unwound the “tapa” around him and threw it on the mats, as did others.

Silence again, and I began to think all was over, but suddenly there was another shrill sort of yell from the crowd, and from the back of our hut, amid a tremendous uproar from all present and the beating of “lalis” (drums), appeared a procession of about fifty warriors in their usual picturesque get-up, all brandishing large war-clubs. They paraded into the square in very stately fashion, singing in their curious and savage discords, and then went through some grand dances, keeping wonderful time with their clubs and bodies, and from time to time giving forth a loud yell which [56]was really thrilling. They next rushed backward and forward brandishing their clubs and killing an imaginary foe, and then clapped their hands together in even time. Then off came the “tapa” from around them, and the heap was made still larger.

Another yell from the crowd. Then silence, followed by more speaking, and every now and then a deep “Ah-h” from all present, which sounded like distant thunder and was most impressive. Then all the people clapped their hands and chanted a few words in low suppressed voices, and the ceremony, lasting between four or five hours, was over. From time to time a man would approach the “Buli” and fall down on all fours and clap his hands before he could speak. I felt at times as if I was watching a comic opera or a ballet, and there were many amusing incidents. I think honours were fairly easy between the big show and myself, as the people kept whispering and looking around at me the whole time. I never passed a hut without causing excitement, and there would be cries of “papalangai” and a mass of faces would appear at the doors. Wherever I went I was followed at a respectful distance by a crowd of girls and children, but if I turned to retrace my steps there was a panic-stricken rush to get out of my way. On one occasion a little child of about two years old yelled with fright when I passed near it. I was much astonished that a white [57]man should make such a stir in any part of Fiji, but it is only so in very out-of-the-way villages such as these. I was exceedingly lucky to witness these ceremonies, as they were the most important ones that had taken place in Fiji for many years, and few of the old white residents had seen their equal. I was all the more lucky, as I never expected to see them when I started from Suva.

The next morning I said “Samoce”1 (good-bye) to the great “Buli,” who, though he was a big chief, was not above accepting with evident glee the few shillings I pressed into his hand, and with Masirewa and two fresh bearers continued my journey in the pouring rain. Once we had to swim across a swift and swollen river, then we went over steep hills, down deep gullies, wading through streams and passing all the time through thick forests. We stopped once to feed on wild pineapples, the pink “kavika.” and the golden “wi,” but Masirewa was a bad bushman and slipped, and stumbled, swore and grumbled, and many times I had to wait till he came up with me. We followed a deep and beautiful gulch for some distance, wading all the way through a shallow stream which flowed over a natural slanting pavement with a smooth surface, and I found it hard to keep my footing. We got a magnificent view from the top of a high hill of the country to the [58]eastward, with large rivers winding among beautiful undulating wooded country as far as the eye could reach. We passed through but one village, named Naqeldreteki, and from here I saw two very fine waterfalls falling side by side over a steep cliff several hundred feet straight drop into the forest below. It was about here that I came across a most beautiful sort of fungus of a bright scarlet and orange, and in the shape of a perfect star.

I heard what I took to be the gruff bark of a dog, when it suddenly dawned upon me that there could not be any dogs here, as we were far from any village. Upon investigation I discovered that it was a bird that was the author of the noise, and I soon brought it down with a load of dust-shot, and to my great delight it proved to be the golden dove, a bird which I had hunted for in vain in the other islands. It was of a very fine metallic golden-yellow colour, and the feathers being long and narrow, gave it a very odd appearance. I could only mutter “venaka, venaka” (good), and in spite of the heavy rain reverently and slowly rolled it up in cotton wool and paper, to the great amusement of my three Fijians. Among the most interesting features of bird life in the Samoan and Fijian Islands were the various members of the dove family, which looked wonderfully brilliant with their metallic greens, and their orange, crimson, purple, yellow, pink, cream and olive green. The latter part of the journey was [59]through bushy country dotted about with many large orchid and fern-laden trees.

We arrived toward dusk at the large village of Serea, on the Wainimala River, which is a branch of the Rewa River, and I put up in the large hut of the “Buli.” I began to feel like an ordinary mortal again, as the people here did not exhibit any great surprise on seeing me, no doubt because, being in the Rewa district, they see a few Europeans from time to time. After a change into dry clothes and a supper off one of the large pigeons I had shot en route, I had a large and interested crowd to watch me skin my dove, and there were roars of laughter during the process, especially when Masirewa told them it would be made to look like a real bird with glass eyes. Masirewa at one time spoke sharply to the “Buli” who, I thought, looked a bit annoyed, so I asked Masirewa what he said. “Oh,” he said airily, “I told him to keep his pig of a child away from the white chief.” Masirewa, was a character, and evidently had no respect for chiefs and princes, etc., as he treated all the “Bulis” as his equals, which was very different from the generally cringing attitude of the Fijians to their chiefs. Even the high and mighty “Buli” of Nabukaluku2 seemed to like his cheek. Masirewa liked to show off his English, though no one understood a word, and his favourite way of addressing them when he was annoyed was “You all black [60]devil pigs.” Whilst I was skinning my dove, the people brought in a horrible-looking carved figure with staring eyes. It was about five feet high, and they waxed very merry, whenever I looked up at it from my skinning.

I left early next morning in the pouring rain, and found as I passed through Serea that it was quite a town. Quite a large crowd escorted me down the steep banks of the river (Wainimala), and we were soon spinning down stream in a large canoe. We soon joined another river which, together with the Wainimala, formed the Rewa, the largest river in Fiji. The scenery was both varied and picturesque, and once I got the canoe paddled up a little shady creek where there was a very beautiful waterfall, and where I was glad to stretch my legs for a few minutes after being cramped up in the canoe. There were many pretty and quaint villages on the banks, and the people often rushed out of their huts to see us pass. Ducks were plentiful, and I got a fair bag and used up my remaining cartridges, and the rest of the way I had to be content with pointing my gun at them, which was very tantalizing. We arrived about three p.m. at the village of Viria, and I stayed with the “Buli” in his hut almost overhanging the river. In the evening I took a stroll with the “Buli” round the village, and then we sat on a log by the river chatting, with Masirewa acting as interpreter. We continued our journey [61]the next morning, and late in the day we passed large fields of sugarcane. We had returned to civilization once more, and I could not help feeling a pang of regret. We arrived at the village of Navuso about four p.m., and I was the guest of Andi (princess) Cakobau (pronounced Thakombau) and her husband, Ratu (prince) Beni Tanoa. Princess Cakobau is the highest lady of rank in Fiji, and belongs to the royal family. She is very stately and ladylike, and in her younger days was very beautiful. She does not know any English, but she wrote her autograph for me in my note-book to paste on her photograph, as she writes a very good hand. Her husband is also one of the highest chiefs in Fiji, and speaks good English. They proved most hospitable, and presented me with some Fijian fans when I left the next morning, and the Princess gave me a buttonhole of flowers out of her garden. Dick Seddon, the Premier of New Zealand, had once visited them, and I noticed his portrait that he had given them fastened to a post in their hut. I left Navuso by steam launch which called at the large sugar-mills a little lower down, and reached Suva that afternoon, feeling very fit after one of the most enjoyable and interesting expeditions that I ever made. [62][63]

1 Pronounced “Samothe.”

2 “b” pronounced “mb.”

My Life Among Filipinos and Negritos and a Journey in Search of Bearded Women.


At Home Among Filipinos and Negritos.

Arrival at Florida Blanca—The Schoolmaster’s House Kept by Pupils in their Master’s Absence—Everyday Scenes at Florida Blanca—A Filipino Sunday—A Visit to the Cock-fighting Ring—A Strange Church Clock and Chimes—Pugnacious Scene at a Funeral—Strained Relations between Filipinos and Americans—My New Servant—Victoriano, an Ex-officer of Aguinaldo’s Army, and his Six Wives—I Start for the Mountains—“Free and easy” Progress of my Buffalo-cart—Ascent into the Mountains—Arrival at my Future Abode—Description of my Hut and Food—Our Botanical Surroundings—Meetings with the Negritos—Friendliness and Mirth of the Little People—Negritos may properly be called Pigmies—Their Appearance, Dress, Ornaments and Weapons—An Ingenious Pig-arrow—Extraordinary Fish-traps—Their Rude Barbaric Chanting—Their Chief and His House—Cure of a Malarial Fever and its Embarrassing Results—“Agriculture in the Tropics”—A Hairbreadth Escape—Filipino Blowpipes—A Pigmy Hawk in Pigmyland—The Elusive Pitta—Names of the Birds—A Moth as Scent Producer—Flying Lizards and other kinds—A “Tigre” Scare by Night—Enforced Seclusion of Female Hornbill.

When collecting in the Philippines, I put in most of my time in the Florida Blanca Mountains, in the province of Pampanga, Northern Luzon. I arrived one evening after dark at the good-sized village of Florida Blanca, which is situated a few miles from the foot of the mountain, whose name it shares. I carried a letter to the American schoolmaster, who was the only white man in the district, and had been a soldier in the late war. It seemed to me a curious policy on the part of the American government to turn their soldiers into schoolmasters, especially as in most cases they are very ignorant themselves. I believe, however, the [66]chief object is to teach the young Filipinos English, and so turn them into live American citizens. The Americans are far from popular in the Philippines, and when in Manila I was strongly advised not to wear khaki in the jungle for fear of being taken for an American soldier.

The American’s house was dark and still when I arrived at Florida Blanca, but whilst I was wondering what to do, I was surprised to hear a small voice, coming out of a small adjoining house, say in good English (though slowly and with a strong accent), “Thee—master—has—gone—into—thee—mountains—to—kill—deer—and—pigs.” This was from one of the American’s own pupils, an intelligent little fellow named Camilo. As I learnt that he was not expected back for two or three days, there was nothing left but to make myself as comfortable as possible in his house until his return. Camilo was soon boiling me some water, and I opened some of my provisions, as I had eaten nothing for eight hours. The house was an ordinary Filipino one, raised fully ten feet from the ground and built of native timber, the peaked roof, which had a frame-work of bamboo, being thatched with palm-leaves. The divisions between the rooms were of plaited bamboo work, and the sliding windows were latticed, each division being fitted with pieces of pearl shell. The next morning I was invaded by quite an army of small boys, who, to my surprise, all spoke English very [67]prettily in their slow way and with a quaint accent. I have never come across a more bright and intelligent set of little fellows, all very friendly and not a bit shy, yet most polite and well-mannered. They were manly little fellows, with the faces of cherubs, and they were always smiling. Though the ages of my five little favourites, Camilo, Nicolas, Fernando, Dranquilino and Victorio, ranged only from eleven down to seven (the latter being little smiling-faced Victorio), they did all my errands for me, bought me little rolls of sweetish bread, eggs and fruit, and were most honest. They talked to me as if they had known me all their lives, acted as my guides and showed me all there was to see. They generally followed me in a row, with their arms round each other’s neck in a most affectionate way, and I never heard any of them use one angry word amongst themselves. The few days that I spent here, I wandered through the narrow lanes and collected a few birds and butterflies. These lanes were very dusty at the time, and were hemmed in with an uninteresting shrubby growth on each side. The country round Florida Blanca was for the most part covered with rice-fields, which, at the time of my visit, were parched and covered with short stubble, this being the dry season. I was not very successful in my collecting, and looked forward to my visit to the mountains, which I could see in the distance, and which appeared well covered with damp-looking forests. [68]I noticed quantities of white egrets, which settled on the backs of the water buffaloes. I would often pass these water buffaloes with their heads sticking out of a way-side pond of mud and water. They were generally used for drawing the curious wagons of the country, which were rather like those one sees in Mexico, with solid wooden wheels. Generally when I met these water buffaloes out of harness, they were horribly afraid of me and stampeded, at the same time making the most extraordinary noises, something between a squeak and a short blast on a penny trumpet. They are usually stupid-looking brutes, but this showed that they were intelligent enough to distinguish between me and a Filipino. The pigs here had three pieces of wood round their necks fastened together to form a triangle, an excellent idea, as it prevented them from breaking through the fences. The day following my arrival was a Sunday, and the church, a large building of stone and galvanized iron, was almost opposite the American’s house. I watched the people going to early mass (the Filipinos are devout Roman Catholics). All the women wore gauzy veils thrown over their heads, white or black were the prevailing colours and sometimes red. I thought they looked very nice in them. I had asked Camilo to boil me some water, but he begged off very politely, as he had to go and put on his cassock and surplice to attend the service in the church, where he sang all alone. [69]When he returned, I asked him to sing to me what he had sung in the church, and he at once complied, singing the “Gloria Patri” in a very clear and sweet voice. After mass was over, the church bell began to toll and an empty lighted bier came out of the church. It was preceded by three acolytes bearing a long cross and two large lighted candlesticks, and followed by a crowd of people. They were no doubt going to call at a house for the corpse. Shortly afterwards an old Filipino priest came out and got into one of the quaint covered buffalo wagons with solid wooden wheels (already mentioned), and drove slowly round by the road. It was hot and sultry, and thunder was pealing far away in the mountains. Under a clump of trees (of a kind of yellow flowering acacia), which grew just outside the large old wooden doors of the church, there was a group of village youths and loafers, and two or three men went past with their fighting cocks under their arms, Sunday afternoon out here being the great day for cock-fighting. There seemed to be a sleepiness in the air quite in keeping with the day of the week, and I was nearly dozing off when little Nicolas came in. I asked him if he knew where the cook-fighting took place, and added, “you savez” (slang for “understand”). His eyes flashed, and he said, “Me no savage,” but when I explained that I did not call him a “savage,” his eyes, smiled an apology, and he [70]willingly offered to show me the place where the cock-fighting was to be.

On entering the large bamboo shed or theatre where the cock-fighting took place, I was met by the old Presidente of the village, to whom I had brought a letter from Governor Joven (the Governor of the province), whom I had visited at Bacolor on my way hither. He conducted me to a seat on a raised clay platform, and sat next to me most of the time, but as the fighting progressed he got very excited, and had to go down into the ring. I had often witnessed it before in tropical America, but here the left feet of the cocks were armed with large steel spurs shaped like miniature cutlasses, which before the fight began were encased in small leather sheaths. The onlookers worked themselves up into a state of great excitement, and there was a great deal of chaff, mixed with angry words, and plenty of silver “pesos” were exchanged over the results. But it was cruel work, and the crouching spectators were often scattered right and left by the furious birds, whilst on one occasion a too venturesome onlooker received a rather severe gash on his arm.

The church clock here was a thing to wonder at. It had no dial, and struck only about five times a day. When it struck ten there was an interval of over twenty seconds between each stroke until the last two strokes, these coming quickly together, as if it was tired of such slow work! As there was [71]no face to the clock, I was puzzled to know whether to set my watch at the first or last stroke, or to split the difference.

There were a great many funerals during my stay here in December, there being a regular epidemic of cholera and malaria. This was the unhealthy season, and I was told that there were as many deaths in Florida Blanca during the months of December and January as during all the rest of the year put together.

One day I watched from my window a funeral procession on its way from the church to the cemetery. The Padre was not there, and this no doubt accounted for the acrobatic display given by the three men in cassocks and surplices, who led the way, bearing a cross and two candles. They started by playfully kicking each other, and this soon developed into angry words, so that I expected a free fight. One of them tucked his unbuttoned cassock round his neck, and egged the other two on. The coffin followed on a lighted bier, and the string of mourners followed meekly behind, no doubt looking upon this display as nothing out of the common.

The interior of the church was very cold and bare, and there were no seats. I learnt that the American and the Filipino Padre did not hit it off together. There were one or two opposition schools in the village, run by Filipinos, who did their utmost to prevent the children from learning [72]the language of the hated Americanos. The American did not make himself any more popular by pulling down the old street sign-boards bearing Spanish names, and substituting ugly card-board placards marked in ink with fresh names, such as America Street, McKinley Street, and Roosevelt Street; he had also named a street after himself! Later on I learnt that this American schoolmaster was a kind of spy in the American secret police, and that he had to listen outside Filipino houses at night to overhear the conversation of suspected insurgents. I was told this by Victoriano, my Filipino servant in the mountains, who often accompanied the American in his nightly rounds, and was the only man in the secret. This Victoriano, whom I always called Vic for short, was the best servant that I have had during my wanderings in any part of the world. He spoke Spanish and knew a little English, as he had once been a servant to an Englishman near Manila. With my small knowledge of Spanish, and his smattering of English, we hit it off very well together. He acted as gun-bearer, cook, laundry maid, housemaid, interpreter and guide. Later on he told me that he had been an officer in the insurgent Aguinaldo’s army, and that he had been imprisoned by the Spaniards for four years on the island of Mindanao for belonging to a revolutionary society. He was a tall, thin fellow of only thirty-two years of age, and yet his present wife in Florida [73]Blanca was his sixth, all the others being dead. I used to chaff him about having poisoned them, which much amused him. After some days the American returned, and he told me of a very good spot in which to collect up in the mountains, so one morning I started off with Vic for a long stay in these mountain forests. We left Florida Blanca before the sun had risen, my luggage being carried in one of the curious buffalo wagons. We soon left the dry rice-fields behind, and for some distance passed over a wide uninteresting plain of tall grass, dotted about with a few trees. After going some distance our two buffaloes were unyoked and allowed to soak in a small pond. This process was repeated every time we came to any water, and this, together with the slow progress of the buffaloes, made the journey longer than I had anticipated. After crossing a fair-sized river, we began a gradual ascent into the mountains. My luggage was then carried for a short distance, and after travelling through some bamboo thickets and crossing a rocky stream, I beheld my future abode. It was a small grass-thatched hut, with a flooring of split bamboo, raised four feet from the ground; up to this we had to climb by means of a single bamboo step. About two-thirds of the hut consisted of a flooring of bamboo, fairly open on all sides but one; this part did as my bedroom, and to get to it I had to crawl through a hole—one could hardly call it a door! It was quite dark [74]inside, but there was just room enough to lie down on the split bamboo floor. All round the hut was a large clearing, planted with maize, belonging to a Filipino, who from time to time lived in another small hut about one hundred yards away. He also owned the one I was living in, and for this I paid him the not very exorbitant sum of one peso (two shillings) a month. Tall gaunt trees rose out of the corn on all sides, and in the early morning they were full of bird-life—parrots, parakeets, cockatoos, pigeons, woodpeckers, gapers and hornbills, etc. A clear rocky stream flowed by the side of the hut, the sound of whose rushing waters by night and day was like music to the ear in this hot and thirsty land, whilst shaded as it was by bamboos and trees, it was a delightful spot to bathe in every morning and evening. I was well pleased with my surroundings, and looked forward to a successful and interesting stay. I fared well though the food was rough, and I subsisted chiefly on rice and papayas, together with pigeons, doves, parrots, and the smaller hornbill, called here “talactic,” all of which fell to my gun. The surrounding country in these lower mountains was a mixture of forest and open grass-country, the grass often growing far over my head. The forest, which abounded in clear, rocky streams of cold water, was very luxuriant and beautiful, especially in many of the cool, damp ravines further back in the mountains. But near my camping ground a [75]great deal of the forest seemed to be half smothered with large thickets of bamboo, and consequently the larger trees were rather far apart. There was also a climbing variety of bamboo, which scrambled up to the tops of the largest trees. The undergrowth in places was most luxuriant and consisted of different species of palms, rattans, tree-ferns, pandanus, giant ginger, pipers, pothos, begonias, bananas, caladiums, ferns, selaginellas and lycopodiums, and many variegated plants. Growing on many of the trees were some fine orchids. Chief amongst them may be mentioned a very beautiful “vanda,” which grew mostly on trees in the open grass country, and which I witnessed in full bloom during my stay here. They presented a wonderful sight. Out of the large sheaths of fan-like leaves grew two grand flower-spikes, bearing from thirty to forty large white, chocolate and crimson flowers. Of these there were two varieties, and on one large plant I saw fully a dozen flower-spikes. Further back in the mountains I came across some fine species of Phalaenopsis.

I early made the acquaintance of the little Negritos, the aborigines of these mountains, and during my wanderings I would often stumble across their huts in small clearings in the forest. They never seemed to have any villages, and I hardly ever saw more than one hut in one place, and they were nearly always miserable bamboo [76]hovels. As for the little people themselves, they seemed perfectly harmless, and from the first treated me with the greatest friendliness, and would often pay me a visit at my hut, sometimes bringing me rice and “papayas” or a large hornbill, which had been shot with their steel-pointed arrows. They were quite naked except for a very small strip of cloth. Their skin was of a very dark brown colour, their hair frizzly, and the nose flat. They were by far the smallest race of people I had ever seen, and they might quite properly be termed pigmies. I certainly never came across a Negrito man over four feet six inches, if as tall, and the women were a great deal smaller, coming as a rule only up to the men’s shoulders; the elderly women looked like small children with old faces. Both sexes generally had their bodies covered with various patterns cut in their skins, a kind of tattooing it might be called, but the skin was very much raised. Many of them had the backs of their heads in the centre shaved in a curious manner, like a very broad parting. I did not see them wearing many ornaments, but the men had tight-fitting fibre bracelets on their arms and legs, and the women sometimes wore necklaces of seeds, berries and beads; they would also sometimes wear curiously carved bamboo combs in their hair. The men used spears and bows and arrows; these latter they were rarely without. Their arrows were often works of art, very fine and neat patterns being [77]burnt on the bamboo shafts. The feathers on the heads were large, and the steel points were very neatly bound on with rattan. These steel points were often cruel-looking things, having many fishhook-like barbs set at different angles, so that if they once entered a man’s body it would be impossible to extract them again. A very clever invention was an arrow made for shooting deer and pig. The steel point was comparatively small, and it was fitted very lightly to a small piece of wood, which was also lightly placed in the end of the arrow. Attached at one end to the arrow-head was a long piece of stout native cord, which was wound round the shaft, the other end being fastened to the main shaft. When the arrow was shot into a pig, for instance, the steel head soon fell apart from the small bit of wood, which in its turn would also drop off from the main shaft. The thick cord would then gradually become unwound, and together with the shaft would trail on the ground till at length it would be caught fast in the bamboos or other thick growth, and the pig would then be at the mercy of its pursuers. The steel head, being barbed, could not be pulled out in the pig’s struggles to break loose. I had one of these arrows presented to me by the chief of these Negritos, but, as a rule, they are very hard to get as the Negritos value them very highly. An American officer I met in Manila told me that he had been quartered for some time in a district [78]where there were many Negritos, and though he had offered large rewards for one of these arrows he was not successful in getting one. The women manufacture enormous baskets, which I often saw them carrying on their backs when I met them in the forest. I was much struck with the cleverness of some of their fish-traps; these were long cone-like objects tapering to a point, the insides being lined with the extraordinary barb-covered stems of a rattan or climbing palm, and the thorns or barbs placed (pointing inwards) in such a way that the fish could get in easily but not out.

These Negritos were splendid marksmen with their bows and arrows, and during my stay amongst them I became quite an adept in that art; their old chief used to take a great delight in teaching me, and my first efforts were met with hearty roars of laughter. They were certainly the merriest and yet the dirtiest people I have ever met. Whenever I met them they were always smiling. When, as happened on more than one occasion, I lost my way in the forest and had at length stumbled upon one of their dwellings, I made signs to let them understand that I wanted them to show me the way back. This they cheerfully did, and led the way singing in their peculiar manner; it was a most wild and abandoned and barbaric kind of music, if it could really be called music at all. It consisted chiefly of shouting and yelling in different scales, as if the singers were [79]overflowing with joy at the mere idea of being alive. I would often hear them singing, or yelling like children, in the deep recesses of the forest. In fact the contentment and happiness of these little people was quite extraordinary, and I had a great affection for them. They would do almost anything for me, and their chief and I soon became great friends. He was a most amusing old fellow, and nearly always seemed to be laughing. Yet they were also the dirtiest people I had ever seen, and never washed themselves: consequently they were thick with dirt, which even their dark skins could not hide. They grew a little rice and tobacco, and the old chief always kept me well supplied with rice, which seemed of very fair quality. He also kept a few chickens and would often send me a present of some eggs, which were very acceptable. In return I would give him an old shirt or two, which he was very proud of. By the time I left, these shirts were almost the colour of his skin, and he evidently did not wish to follow my advice as to washing them. His house was a very large one for a Negrito’s, and far better built than any others that I saw. When the maize which grew round my hut was ripe, the Filipino owner got several men and women up from Florida Blanca to help him to harvest it, and many of them slept underneath my hut. At nights I would generally have quite a crowd round me watching me skin my birds, and although I did not understand a word [80]of their Pampanga dialect, their exclamations of surprise and delight when a bird was finished were quite complimentary. Poor Vic had to endure a running fire of questions as to what I was going to do with my birds and butterflies, but to judge by the way he lectured on me, he no doubt enjoyed it, and possibly told them some wonderful yarns about “My English,” as he called me. One day a man at work in the maize had a bad attack of “calenturas” (malarial fever). I gave him some quinine and Epsom salts and this treatment evidently had a good effect, as the next day I was, besieged by a regular crowd of Filipinos of both sexes, who wished to consult me as to their various ills, and Vic was called in to act as interpreter. A good many of them, both men and women, took off nearly all their clothes to show me bruises and sores that they had, and I was in despair as to what treatment to recommend. At last when one old woman had parted with most of her little clothing to show me some sores, I told Vic to tell her that she had better get a good wash in the river (as she was the reverse of clean). This prescription raised a laugh, but the old lady was furious, and my medical advice was not again asked for. After the maize was cut, the owner started to sow a fresh crop without even taking out the old stalks, which had been cut off a few inches from the ground. This was the way he did it. He made holes in the ground with a hoe in one hand, [81]and in the other hand he held a roasted cob of corn, which he kept chewing from time to time. His wife followed him, dropping a grain into each hole and filling in the soil with her feet. It would have made a good picture under the heading of “Agriculture in the Tropics”! Vic told me that they got four crops a year, so one can hardly wonder at their taking things easily. A rough bamboo fence separated the maize from a copse of bamboo jungle and forest, in which I was one day collecting with Vic, when I attempted to jump over a very low part of the fence. Vic, however, called out to me to stop, and it was lucky he did so, as otherwise the consequences would have been terrible for me. Just hidden by a few thin creepers, there had been arranged there a very neat little pig-trap, consisting of a dozen or more sharp bamboo spears firmly planted in the ground, and leaning at a slight angle towards the fence. Except for Vic’s timely warning I should have been stuck through and through, as the bamboo points would stand a heavy weight without breaking, and if I had escaped being killed, I should certainly have been crippled for life. I naturally felt very angry with my neighbour for not having asked Vic to tell me about this, as the previous day when out alone I had climbed to the top of this fence and then jumped down into the creepers below; luckily I had not then noticed this low part further down. [82]

Many of the Filipinos are very good shots with their blowpipes, and Vic possessed one. It was about nine feet in length, and possessed a sight made of a lump of wax at one end. Like the bows of the Negritos, it was made out of the trunk of a very beautiful fan-palm (Livistona sp.). Two pieces of the palm-wood are hollowed out and then stuck together in a wonderfully clever fashion, so that the joins barely show. Vic was fairly good with it when shooting at birds a short distance away. His ammunition consisted of round clay pellets, which he fashioned to the right size by help of a hole in a small tin plate, which he always carried with him.

Birds were fairly plentiful in these mountain forests, and I was glad to get one of the interesting racquet-tailed parrots of the genus Prioniturus, that are only found in the Philippines and Celebes. It was curious that up here amongst the pigmy Negritos I should get a pigmy hawk. It was by far the smallest hawk I had ever seen, being not much larger than a sparrow. Several species of very beautiful honey-suckers, full of metallic colours, used to frequent the bright red flowers of a creeper that generally clambered up the trees overhanging the streams, and these flowers proved very popular with many butterflies, especially the giant gold and black Ornithopteras and various rare papilios of great beauty. There was one bird I was most anxious to get, and though I saw it once I had to leave Luzon without it. It was a [83]pitta, a kind of ground thrush. Thrushes of this genus are amongst the most brilliant of all birds, and in my own collections I possess a great number of different species that I have collected in other countries. This one that I was so anxious to get was locally called “Tinkalu.” Amongst both Filipinos and Negritos it has the reputation of being the cleverest of all birds, and, as Vic expressed it, “like a man.” It hops away into the thickest undergrowth and hides at the least sound. Certainly no bird has ever given me such a lot of worry and trouble. Many a weary hour did I spend going through swamps and rivers, bamboo and thorny palms, dripping with perspiration and tormented by swarms of mosquitos and sand-flies, and all to no purpose!

Thanks to Vic, I soon picked up most of the local names of the various birds, which were often given on account of the sounds they made. The large hornbill was named “Gasalo,” the smaller kind “Talactic,” the large pigeon “Buabu,” a bee-eater “Patirictiric,” and other names were “Pipit,” “Culiaun,” “Alibasbas,” “Quilaquilbunduc,” “Papalacul,” “Batala,” “Batubatu,” “Culasisi.” Some of the spiders here were of great size, and in these mountain forests their webs were a great nuisance. These webs were often of a yellow glutinous substance, which stained my clothes, and when they caught me in the face, as they often did, it was the reverse of pleasant. [84]

Mosquitos and sandflies were very numerous and ants were in great force, so that one evening when I discovered that they were hard at work amongst all my bird skins, it took me up to 5 a.m. to separate them before I could get to bed.

I discovered a diurnal moth that possessed a most powerful and delicious scent. Vic, who had never noticed it before, was delighted, and proposed my catching them in quantities and turning them into scent. Whilst on the subject of scent, I might mention that in these forests I would often come across a good-sized tree which was called Ilang-ilang. It was covered with plain-looking green flowers, which possessed a wonderful fragrance. I learnt that the Filipinos collected the flowers, which were sent to Manila and made into scent, but that they generally cut down the tree in order to get the flowers.

I saw here for the first time the curious flying lizards. Their partly transparent wings were generally of very bright colours; they fly fully twenty yards from one tree to another, and quickly run up the trees out of reach. Another quaint lizard, was what is generally known as the gecko. It is said to be poisonous in the Philippines, and is generally found on trees or bamboos and often in houses. In comparison to the size of this lizard the volume of its voice was enormous. I generally heard it at night. First would come a preliminary gurgling chuckle; then a pause [85](between the chuckle and what follows it). Then comes loud and clear, “Tuck-oo-o,” then a slight pause, then “Tuck-oo-o” again repeated six or seven times at regular intervals; at other times it sounds like “Chuck it.” When it was calling inside a hollow bamboo, the noise made was extraordinary. There were a great number of bamboos in the surrounding country, and they were continually snapping with loud reports, which I would often imagine to be the reports of a rifle until I got used to them. Wild pig were very plentiful, and at night they would often grub up the ground a few yards from my hut. One night I was skinning a bird, with Vic looking on, when we heard some animal growling close by, and Vic without any warning seized my gun (which I always kept loaded with buckshot) and fired into the darkness. He said that it was a “tigre,” and called out excitedly that he had killed it, but although we hunted about with a light for some time, we saw no signs of it. No doubt it was some animal of the cat family. Vic, as in fact all Filipinos, had a mortal dread of snakes, and he would never venture out at night without a torch made of lighted bamboo, as he said they were very plentiful at night. The large hornbills (“Gasalo”) were very hard to stalk, and as they generally frequented the tallest trees they were out of shot. They usually flew about in flocks, and made a most extraordinary noise, rather like [86]a whole farmyard full of turkeys, guinea fowls and dogs. The whirring noise they made with their wings was not unlike the shunting of a locomotive. I had often before heard of the curious habit of the male in plastering up the female with mud in the hollow of a tree, leaving only a small hole through which he fed her until the single egg was hatched and the young one was ready to fly. Vic knew this, and further informed me that the smaller species, named here “Talactic,” had the same custom of plastering up the female.

Many evenings, when I had finished my work, I would get Vic to teach me the Pampanga, dialect, and wrote down a large vocabulary of words, and when some years afterwards I compared them word for word with other dialects and languages throughout the Malay Archipelago, I found that, with a few exceptions, there was not the slightest affinity between them. [87]

A Chapter of Accidents.

A Severe Bout of Malaria in the Wilds—The “Seamy Side” of Exploration—Unfortunate Shooting of the Chief’s Dog—Filipino Credulity—Stories of the Buquils and their Bearded Women—Expedition Planned—Succession of contretemps—Start for the Buquil Country—Scenes on the Way—A Negrito Mother’s Method of Giving Drink to Her Baby—Exhausting Marches Amid Striking Scenery—The Worst Over—A Bolt from the Blue—Negritos in a Fury—Violent Scenes at a Negrito Council of War—They Decide on Reprisals—Further Progress Barred in Consequence—Return to Florida Blanca.

As I mentioned before, this was the unhealthy season in the Philippines, and Vic assured me that these lower mountains were even more unhealthy than the flat country. I myself soon arrived at a similar conclusion, as a regular epidemic of malaria now set in among my pigmy friends, the Negritos, and the old chief told us that his favourite son was dying with it; next my neighbour and his wife were prostrated with it, and when they had slightly recovered, they left their hut and returned to Florida Blanca. Vic himself was next laid up with it, and seemed to think he was going to die. When I was at work in the evening he would shiver and groan under a blanket by my side; this, coming night after night, was rather depressing for me, all alone as I was. At other times he would imagine we were hunting the wary and elusive pitta, and would start up crying, “Ah! el tinkalu, it is there! [88]por Deos, shoot, my English, shoot!” or he would imagine we were after butterflies, and would cry out, “Caramba, mariposa azul muy grande, muy bueno, bueno!” I was forced to do all the cooking for both of us, though it was quite pathetic to see poor Vic’s efforts to come to my assistance, and his indignation that his “English” should do such work for him. At one time I half expected that he would die, but with careful nursing and doctoring I gradually brought him round.

During all the time that he was ill. I did but little collecting, and no sooner was Vic on the road to recovery than I myself was seized with it, and Vic repaid the compliment by nursing me in turn. It was a most depressing illness, especially as I was living on the poorest fare in a close and dirty hut. When you are ill in civilization, with nurses and doctors and a good bed, you feel that you are in good hands, and confidence does much to help recovery. But it is a different matter being sick in the wilds, without any of these luxuries, and you wonder what will happen if it gets serious. Then you long for home and its luxuries, with a very great longing, and cordially detest the spot you are in, with all those wretched birds and butterflies! It is Eke a long nightmare, but as you get better you forget all this, and the jaundiced feeling soon wears off, and you start off collecting again as keen as ever. One day a small skinny brown dog somehow managed to [89]climb up the bamboo step into my hut during Vic’s temporary absence, and I suddenly awoke to find it helping itself to the contents of a plate that Vic had placed by my side. I was far too ill to do more than frighten it away. This happened a second time before I was strong enough to move, but the third time I was well enough to seize my small collecting gun (which was loaded with very small cartridges), and when it was about thirty yards away I fired at it, simply intending to frighten it, as at that distance these small cartridges would hardly have killed a small bird. It stopped suddenly and, after spinning round a few times yelping, it turned over on its back. Even then I thought it was shamming, but on going up to it I found it was dead, with only one No. 8 shot in its spleen. On Vic’s return he was much alarmed, as he said the dog belonged to the Negrito chief, who was very fond of it, and would be very angry with me if he knew. So we hid the body in the middle of a clump of bamboo about a quarter of a mile away from the hut. But the following day the sky was thick with a kind of turkey buzzard, which had evidently smelt the dog’s corpse from some distance, and they were soon quarrelling over the remains. Vic worked himself up into a state of panic, saying that it would be discovered by the Negritos, but a few days later I sent him over to the Negrito chief’s hut to get me some rice, and the chief [90]mentioned that his chief wife had lost her dog, which she was very fond of, and that he thought that I must have killed it. Vic in reply said that that could never be, as in the country that I came from the people were so fond of dogs that they were very kind to them, and treated them like their own fathers. The chief then said that a pig must have killed it, and so the incident ended.

About this time Vic asked my permission to return to Florida Blanca for a few days, as he had heard that his wife had run away with another man, and he offered to send his brother to take his place. His brother could also speak English a little, and was assistant schoolmaster to the American. He proved, however, an arrant coward, and, like most Filipinos, lived in great fear of the Negritos. When out with me in the forest he would start, if he heard a twig snap or a bamboo creak, and look fearfully about him for a Negrito. He told me that the Negritos will kill and rob you if they think there is no chance of being found out, and he mentioned a case of an old Filipino being killed and robbed by these same Negritos a few months previously. I managed to string together the following absurd story from his broken English. He said that if you heard a twig break in the forest once or even twice you were safe enough, but if a twig snapped a third time, and you did not call out that you saw the Negrito, you would get an arrow into you. He [91]said that once when he heard the stick “break three time” (to use his own words), he called out “Ah! I see you Negrite, and the Negrite he no shoot, but came out like amigo (friend).” His English was too limited for me to point out the many weak and absurd points of the story, as, for instance, why the Negrito should make the twigs break exactly three times, and why he should not shoot because he thinks he is seen. I only mention this anecdote to illustrate the credulity of the Filipinos. The next day, when we were out collecting in the morning, I suddenly saw him start when a bamboo snapped, so I called out, “Buenos diaz, Señor Negrite.” This was too much for my man, who ran off home and refused to follow me in the forest that afternoon, and when I returned that evening he was nowhere to be seen, and I found out later that he had returned to Florida Blanca. In consequence I was forced to do all my own cooking, which was not pleasant, as I had to do it all in the hot sun, and this brought on a return of my fever. At last, one morning, as I was endeavouring to light a fire to cook my breakfast, and muttering unpleasant things about Vic and his brother, I suddenly looked up and Vic stood before me like a. silent ghost. I say like a ghost, because he looked like one, thin and gaunt as he still was from fever. He, too, had had a return of the fever and had not yet recovered, but sooner [92]than that “his English” should be alone, he had dragged himself over in the cool of the night. The next day his wife and two children arrived. She had been on a visit to her mother in another village, which accounted for Vic’s thinking she had run away. They occupied the hut of my late neighbour, and before many days had gone they were all bad with fever. It was easy to see that the woman hated me, and imagined I was the cause of her having to come and live in these lonely and unhealthy mountains. Vic told me that there had been so much sickness in Florida Blanca that there was no quinine left in the place. My own stock was getting low, and Vic and his family, as well as myself, used it daily. I had cured the old Negrito chief with it, and he was very grateful to me, and presented me with some very fine arrows in return.

For some time past I had heard rumours of an extraordinary tribe of Negritos who lived further back in the mountains, and were named Buquils, and whose women were reported to have beards. Vic, whom I always found to be most truthful in everything, and who rarely exaggerated, declared it was true, and furthermore told me that these Buquils had long smooth hair, which proved that they could not have been Negritos. Besides, I learnt that they were quite a tall people. Nowhere in the whole world is there such a diversity of races as in the Philippines, and so it would be [93]quite impossible even to guess what they were. Vic had once seen some of them himself when they came on a visit to the lower mountains. Though I thought the story, as to the women having beards, a fable, I determined to visit them before I left these mountains, and the old Negrito chief, who also told me that the women really did have beards, offered to lend me some of his people to carry my things. But one day Vic heard that his lather was dying, and when I tried to cheer him up he sobbed in a mixture of broken Spanish and English, “One thousand señoritas can get, one thousand children can get, but lose one father more cannot get.” On this account I had to return to Florida Blanca, and besides we were all very bad with constant attacks of fever, and in this village we could at all events get bread, milk and eggs to recuperate us. The American had left for a long holiday, so I managed to hire a small house where I could sort my collections before returning to Manila, where I intended catching a steamer for the south Philippines.

One day the village priest (a Filipino) called on me, and in course of conversation we spoke about these Buquils. He was most emphatic that it was true about the women having beards, and he also told me that no Englishman, American or Spaniard had ever penetrated so far back in the mountains as to reach their villages. When he had left I thought it over, and decided to go and [94]see them for myself, though I was still suffering from fever. Vic, whose father had recovered from his illness, declared his willingness to accompany me; in fact I knew that he would never allow me to go without him. He was quite miserable at the idea of our parting, which was close at hand. As luck would have it, the day before we decided to start, Vic was down with fever again, and the following day I was seized with it. Never before or since have I been amongst so much fever as I was in this district. In any case I had made up my mind to see these Buquils, but we had now lost two days, and there was only just enough time left to get there and back and to journey back to Manila and catch my steamer. The day after my attack we started for the mountains once more at about two p.m., my fever being still too bad for me to start earlier. It had been very dry lately, with not a drop of rain and hardly a cloud to be seen, but just as we were starting it came on to rain in torrents and this meant that the rainy season had set in. It seemed as if the very elements were against us, and even Vic seemed struck with our various difficulties. I was sick and feverish, and my head felt like a lump of lead, as I plodded mechanically along in the rain through the tall wet grass. I felt no keenness to see these people at the time, fever removes all that, but I had so got it into my head before the fever that I must go at all hazards, that I felt somehow as if I was [95]obeying someone else. We passed my old residence a short way off, and I stayed the night at the Negrito chief’s hut, which I reached long after dark. He seemed very glad to see me again, and turned out most of his family and relations to make room for me. My troubles were not yet ended, as the two Filipinos whom I had engaged to carry my food and bedding could not start till late, and consequently lost their way, and were discovered in the forest by some Negritos, who went in search of them about 2 a.m. Meanwhile I had to lie on the hard ground in my wet clothes, and as I got very cold a fresh attack of fever resulted. I had intended to start off again about four a.m., but it was fully four hours later before we were well on our way. I managed to eat a little before I left, our rice and other food being cooked in bamboo (the regular method of cooking amongst the Negritos). I here noticed for the first time the method employed by the Negrito mothers for giving their babies water; they fill their own mouths with water from a bamboo, and the child drinks from its mother’s mouth. In the early morning thousands of metallic green and cream-coloured pigeons and large green doves came to feed on the golden yellow fruit of a species of fig tree (Ficus), which grew on the edge of the forest near the chief’s hut. They made a tremendous noise, fluttering and squeaking as they fought over the tempting looking fruit. [96]

We took five Negritos to carry the rice and my baggage—two men, two women, and a boy. The women, though not much more than girls, were apportioned the heaviest loads; the men saw to that, and looked indignant when I made them reduce the girls’ loads. As we continued on our journey, I noticed that our five Negrito carriers were joined by several others all well armed with bows and extra large bundles of arrows, and on my asking Vic the reason, he told me that these Buquils we were going to visit were very treacherous, and our Negritos would never venture amongst them unless in a strong body. As we went along the narrow track in single file some of the Negritos would suddenly break forth into song or shouting, and as they would yell (as if in answer to each other) all along the line, I could not help envying them the extreme health and happiness which the very sound of it seemed to express; my own head meanwhile feeling as if about to split. I shall never forget that walk up and down the steepest tracks, where in some places a slip would have meant a fall far down into a gorge below. If Vic was to be believed, I was the first white man to try that track, and I would not like to recommend it to any others. Deep ravines, that if one could only have spanned with a bridge one could have crossed in five minutes or less, took us fully an hour to go down and up again, and I could never have got down some of them except for being able [97]to hang on to bushes, trees and long grass. Whenever we passed a Negrito hut we took a short rest. My Negritos, however, wanted to make it a long one, as they seemed to be very fond of yarning, and when I insisted on their hurrying on, Vic got frightened and declared they might clear out and leave us, which would certainly have been a misfortune. At length we arrived at a chief’s hut, where we had arranged to spend the night. It was situated at the top of a tall, grassy peak, from which I got a wonderful view of the surrounding country: steep wooded gorges and precipices surrounded us on all sides, and in the distance the flat country from whence we had come, and far far away the sea looked like glistening silver. The flat country presented an extraordinary contrast to the rugged mountains which surrounded me. It was so wonderfully flat, not the smallest hill to be seen anywhere, except where the lonely isolated peak of Mount Aryat arose in the distance, and far away one could just see a long chain of lofty mountains. The effect of the shadows of the distant clouds on the flat country was very curious. Early the next morning, at sunrise, the view looked very different, though just as beautiful. The chief seemed very friendly. He was a brother of my old friend, with whom I had stayed the previous night. This chief, however, was very different to his brother, being very dignified, but he had a very good and kind face, whilst my old friend was a [98]“typical comic opera” kind of character. From what I could understand these two and another brother ruled over this tribe of Negritos between them, each being chief of a third of the tribe Soon after my arrival I turned in, as I was very tired and feverish and had had no sleep the previous night. The Negritos, as usual, were very merry and made a great noise for so small a people. I never saw such people for laughter whenever anything amused them, which is very often; they were a great contrast in this respect to the Filipinos. This natural gaiety helps to explain their many and varied dances, one of which consists in their running round after each other in a circle.

I felt very much better next morning, and we started off very early, our numbers being increased by the chief and many of his men, so that I now found myself escorted by quite an army. I took note round here of the methods used by the Negritos in climbing tall, thick trees to get fruit and birds-nests. They had long bamboo poles lashed together, which run up to one of the highest branches fully one hundred feet from the ground. They often fastened them to the branch of a smaller tree, and thence slanting upwards to the top of a tall tree, perhaps as much as sixty feet and more away from the smaller tree. These Negritos axe splendid climbers, but it seemed wonderful for even a Negrito to trust himself on [99]one of these bamboos stretching like a thread from tree to tree so far from the ground. I shall never forget the scramble we now had into the deepest gorge of all, and how we followed the bed of a dried-up stream, which in the rainy season must be a series of cascades and waterfalls, since we had to scramble all the way over large slippery boulders covered with ferns and begonias. We at length came to a tempting-looking river full of large pools of clear water, into which I longed to plunge. The banks were extremely beautiful, being overhung by the forest, and the rocky cliffs were half hidden by large fleshy-leaved climbers and many other beautiful tropical plants. It was one of those indescribably beautiful spots that one so often encounters in the tropical wilds, and which it is impossible to paint in words. A troop of monkeys were disporting themselves on a tree overhanging the river. Vic was most anxious for me to allow him to shoot one, but I have only shot one monkey in my life, and it is to be the last, and I always try and prevent others from doing so. We waded the river in a shallow place, and climbed up the steep hill on the other side. We had gone a good distance over hills covered with tall grass, and I was now looking forward to a bit of decent walking, as hitherto it had been nearly all miserable scrambling work, and the Negritos told Vic that the worst was now over. But we were approaching a hut, overhanging a rocky cliff, when we heard the [100]sound of angry voices and wailing above us, and we soon perceived four Negritos (three men and a woman) approaching us. I thought the old woman was mad; she was making more noise than all the others put together, shouting and screaming in her fury. At first I thought they might be hostile Negritos who resented our intrusion, but they belonged to the tribe of the chief who was with me, and they were soon talking to him in loud, excited voices. Our own party soon got excited, too, and, as may be imagined, I was longing to find out the cause of all this excitement. Vic soon told me the reason. It appeared that on the previous day a large party of our Negritos had gone into the territory of the Buquils in order to get various kinds of forest produce (as they had often done in the past), and had been treacherously attacked by these Buquils, and many of them killed. One of these was the brother of a sub-chief, who now approached us, and who was, I believe, the husband of the frenzied woman. It was a very excitable scene that followed. I suppose one might call it a council of war. It was a mystery to me where all the Negritos came from and how they found us out; but they came in ones and twos till there was a huge concourse of them present, all gathered round their chief and squatting on the ground. About the only one who behaved sensibly was my friend the chief. He spoke in a slow and dignified manner, but the rest worked themselves [101]up into a furious rage, and twanged their bowstrings, and jumped about and fitted arrows to their bows, and pointed them at inoffensive “papaya” trees, whilst two little boys shot small arrows into the green and yellow fruit, seeming to catch the fever from their elders. One man actually danced a kind of war-dance on his own account, strutting about with his bow and arrow pointed, and getting into all sorts of grotesque attitudes, moving about with his legs stiffened, and pulling the most hideous faces, till I was forced to laugh.

But it seemed to be no laughing matter for the Negritos. The old woman beat them all; she did not want anyone to get in a word edgeways, but screamed and yelled, almost foaming at the mouth, till I almost expected to see her fall down in a fit. I never before witnessed such a display of fury.

Vic kept me well advised as to the progress of the proceedings, and it was eventually settled that each of the three brother chiefs were to gather together three hundred fighting men, making nine hundred altogether, and these in a few days’ time were to go up and avenge the deaths of their fellow tribesmen. From the enthusiasm displayed amongst the little men, this was evidently carried unanimously, but I noticed two young men sitting aloof from the rest of the crowd and looking rather sullen and frightened, and as they did not join [102]in the general warlike demonstrations, it was evidently their first fight. Here, however, I made Vic interrupt in order to draw attention to myself. What Vic translated to me was to the effect that it was out of the question for us to go on into the enemy’s country, which we should have reached in another two hours’ walk. If we did they would certainly kill us all by shooting arrows into us from the long grass (in other words, we should fall into an ambush), and, in fact, since they had killed some of this tribe they would kill anyone that came into their country. By killing these men they had declared war. This was the sum total of Vic’s translation, and I saw at once that it was out of the question for me to go on, as no Negrito would go with me, and I could not go alone. In any case I should have been killed. Vic told me that very few of these Buquils ever leave their mountain valleys, and so most of them had never seen a Filipino, much less a white man. And so I met with a very great disappointment, and was forced to leave without proving whether or no the story of these bearded women was a myth. Lately I heard a rumour that an American had visited them and proved the story true. My disappointment may well be imagined. I had come over the worst track I had ever travelled on in spite of rain and fever, but I at once saw that all my labours were in vain and that I could not surmount this last difficulty. But I was lucky in one way. The chief told Vic that if we had gone yesterday [103]we should all have been killed, as without knowing anything about it, we should have got there just after the fight. So for once fever had done me a good turn, a “providencia,” I think Vic called it, as I should have reached my destination the previous day if I had not been delayed by fever. Out of curiosity to see what the chief would say, I told Vic to tell him that I would help him with my gun, but the chief was ungrateful and contemptuous, saying that they would shoot me before I could see to shoot them. Vic thought I was serious, and said he would not go with me, and begged me not to go, saying, in a mixture of English and Spanish, “What will your father, your sister, and your brother say to me when Buquil arrow make you dead?” Needless to say I was not keen on stalking Buquils who were waiting for me with steel arrows in long grass, and, besides, if I went with the gallant little nine hundred, I should miss my steamer. I never heard the result of that fight, much as I should like to have known it. After the meeting had dispersed, we returned to the river and rested. I bathed and took a swim in a big, deep pool under a huge tree, which was one mass of beautiful white flowers. I have never enjoyed a swim more. Vic also took a wash, and to my great surprise one of the Negritos proceeded to copy him, and as Vic soaped himself the Negrito tried to do the same thing with a stone, with which he succeeded in getting rid of a great deal of dirt. It surprised [104]and amused the other Negritos, both men and women, who jeered and roared with laughter at the unusual spectacle of a Negrito washing himself.

I signed to them to give our boy carrier a wash, as he seemed the noisiest of the party, and two men got hold of him to duck him, but he seemed so terrified that I stopped them. The youngster evidently hated me for the fright he had received, as later on when I made him a present of a silver ten-cent piece to make up for his fright—this is a very handsome present for a Negrito—he threw it on the ground and stamped his foot in anger. The Negritos shot several fish and large prawns with a special kind of long pointed arrow; these we ate with our rice by the river side before returning. The night I stayed with my old friend, the comic chief, I found him actually in tears and much cut up at the idea of his two sons having to take part in the fight. I suppose it was compulsory for them to fight, but it appeared rather odd to me that a chief should object to his sons taking part in a fight, as the Negritos are considered very plucky fighters. The chief sent four Negritos to carry my things down to Florida Blanca. The following day I started back to Manila, where I caught my steamer for the southern Philippines. Vic was much distressed at my departure and shed many tears as I said good-bye to him, his grief being such that even a handsome tip could not assuage it. [105]

In the Jungles of Cannibal Papua.


On the War-Trail in Cannibal Papua.

Expedition against the Doboduras—We hear reports about a Web-footed Tribe—Landing at the Mouth of the Musa River—A Good Bag—Barigi River Reached—A Flight of Torres Straits Pigeons—A Tropical Night Scene—Brilliant Rues of Tropical Fish—Arrival of Supplies—Prospects of a Stiff Fight—Landing of the Force—Pigs Shot to Prevent them from being Cooked Alive—Novelty of Firearms—A Red Sunrise—Beauty of the Forest—Enemies’ War Cry First Heard—Rushing a Village—Revolting Relics of Cannibal Feast—Doboduras eat their Enemies Alive—Method of Extracting the Brains—Extensive Looting—Firing at the Enemies’ Scouts—An Exciting Chase—When in Doubt Turn to the Right—Another Village Rushed—Skirmishes with the Enemy—Relics of Cannibalism general in the Villages—Camp Formed at the Largest Village—Capture of Prisoners—An “Object, Lesson”—Carriers ask Leave to Eat one of the Slain—Arigita’s Opinion—Cannibal Surroundings at our Supper—Expectation of a Night Attack.

We were three white men, Monckton was the resident magistrate, while Acland and I myself were non-officio members of the expedition, being friends of Monckton.

We had been some time at Cape Nelson, where the residency was, a lonely though beautiful spot on the north-east coast of British New Guinea. Whilst here I had made good collections of birds and butterflies, and had made expeditions into the surrounding and little known country, including the mountains at the back, where no white man had yet been. And now (September 17th, 1902) we were off on a government exploring and punitive expedition into the unknown wilds of this fascinating and interesting country.

We three sat on the stern of the large whale [108]boat, while the twenty police and our four boys took turns at the oars. They were fine fellows these Papuan police, and their uniforms suited them well, consisting as they did of a deep blue serge vest, edged with red braid, and a “sulu” or kilt of the same material, which with their bare legs made a sensible costume for the work they had to perform in this rough country. As they pulled cheerfully at their oars they seemed in splendid spirits, for they felt almost sure that they were in for some fighting, and this they dearly love.

Our boys, however, did not look quite so happy, especially my boy Arigita, who was a son of old Giwi, chief of the Kaili-kailis. He—old Giwi—had gone on the previous day with three or four large canoes laden with rice and manned by men of the Kaili-kaili and Arifamu tribes, and we intended taking more canoes and men from the Okeina tribe en route.

Our expedition was partly a punitive one, as a tribe named Dobodura had been continually raiding and slaughtering the Notu tribe on the coast, with no other apparent reason than the filling of their own cooking pots.

Although the Notus lived on the coast, little was known of them, though they professed friendship to the government. The Doboduras, on the other hand, were a strong fighting tribe a short way off in the unknown interior, no white men having hitherto penetrated into their country: [109]hence they knew nothing about the white man except by dim report.

After we had settled our account with them we intended going in search of a curious swamp-dwelling tribe, whose feet were reported to be webbed, like those of a duck, and many were the weird and fantastic rumours that reached our ears concerning them.

The sea soon got very “choppy,” and up went our sail, and we flew along pretty fast. We had left behind us Mount Victory (a volcano which is always sending forth volumes of dense smoke) some time before, and some time afterward we were joined by a fleet of fourteen large canoes, most of them belonging to the Okeina tribe, but also including the three Kaili-kaili canoes sent off on the previous day.

We all then went on together, and late in the afternoon we landed at a spot near the mouth of the Musa River. We spent the evening shooting, and had splendid sport, our bag consisting of ducks of various species, pigeon, spur-winged plover, curlew, sandpipers, etc. We also saw wallaby, and numerous tracks of cassowary and wild pig. After some supper on the beach, the Kaili-kaili, Arifamu and Okeina carriers, numbering over one hundred, were drawn up in line, and Monckton told them that he did not want so many carriers. If they (the Okeinas) would like to come, he would not give them more than tobacco, and not [110]axes and knives, which he gave to the Kaili-kaili and Arifamu carriers. They unanimously wished to go even without payment, as they were confident that we should have some big fighting, and they, being a fighting tribe, simply wished to go with us for this reason. Monckton sent off the carriers that night, so that they could get a good start of us. It was a bright moonlight night, and it was a picturesque scene when the fleet of canoes started off amidst a regular pandemonium of shouting and chatter. I do not suppose that this quiet spot had ever before witnessed such a sight. We were off next morning before sunrise, and continued our way in a dead calm and a blazing sun.

We soon caught up with our canoes, which had gone on in advance on the previous night. A breeze sprang up and we made good progress under sail, and soon left the canoes far behind. We saw plenty of large crocodiles, and a persevering but much disappointed shark followed us for some distance.

We camped that night just inside the mouth of the Barigi River, on the very spot where Monckton was attacked the previous year by the Baruga tribe. They had made a night attack upon him as he was encamped here with his police, and had evidently expected to take him by surprise, as they paddled quietly up. But he was ready for them, and gave the leading canoe [111]a volley, with the result that the river was soon full of dead and wounded men, who were torn to pieces by the crocodiles. The rest fled, but he captured their chief, who was wounded.

Upon our arrival late in the afternoon Acland and I started out with our guns after pigeon, taking our boys and some armed police, as it was not safe to venture far from the camp without protection.

The vegetation was very beautiful, and there was a wonderful variety of the palm family. We wandered through very thorny and tangled vegetation. We espied a fire not far off and went to inspect it, but saw no natives, though there were plenty of footprints in the sand.

Towards evening we saw thousands of pigeons settle on a few trees close by on a small island, but they were off in clouds before we got near. They were what is known as the Torres Straits pigeon, and were of a beautiful creamy-white colour. On the banks of this river were quantities of the curious nipa palm growing in the water. These palms have enormous rough pods which hang down in the water, and there were quantities of oysters sticking to the lower parts of their stems. We dynamited for fish and got sufficient to supply us all with food.

About nine p.m. all the canoes turned up and the camp was soon alive with noise and bustle. The carriers had had nothing to eat since the day [112]before, and poor old Giwi, the chief, squeezed his stomach to show how empty he was, but still managed to giggle in his usual childish fashion.

They brought with them two runaway carriers who had come from the Kumusi district, where many of the miners start inland for the Yodda Valley (the gold mining centre). They had travelled for five days along the coast, and had hardly eaten anything. They had avoided all villages en route, otherwise they themselves would undoubtedly have furnished food for others, though there was little enough meat on them. There were many different tribes in this neighbourhood, and Monckton was far from satisfied as to the safety of our camp if we were attacked. We sent off a canoe with Okeina men up the river to get provisions from the Baruga tribe who had attacked Monckton the previous year, and they now professed friendship to the government. The Okeinas were friendly with them, but as they paddled away in the darkness Monckton shouted out after them to give him warning when they were coming back with the Baruga people, and they shouted back what was the Okeina equivalent for “You bet we will.”

We pitched our mosquito nets under a rough shelter of palm leaves, and I lay awake for some time watching the light of countless fire-flies and beetles which flashed around me in the darkness, while curious cries of nocturnal birds on the forest-clad[113] banks and mangroves from time to time broke the stillness of the tropical night, and followed me into the land of dreams, from which I was rudely awakened early the next morning by clouds of small sandflies, which my mosquito net had failed to keep out.

We stayed here the following day, and put in part of our time dynamiting for fish at the mouth of the river. It was a curious sight to see the fish blown high into the air as if by a regular geyser. We got about three hundred; they were of numerous species, and most of them of good size. Many were most brilliantly coloured, indeed the fish in these tropical waters are often the most gorgeous objects in nature, and would greatly surprise those who are only used to the fish of the temperate zone. During the day the Okeinas returned. They were followed by several canoes of the Baruga tribe with their chief, who brought us four live pigs tied to poles, besides other native food, which, together with the fish, saved us from using the rice for the police and carriers. New Guinea is not a rice-producing country, and the natives not being used to it, are far from appreciating it. A little later some of the Notu tribe from further north arrived by canoe. They had again been raided by the Dobodura tribe, and many of them killed and captured. They said the enemy were very strong, and Monckton told us that it was more than likely that they could [114]raise one thousand to fifteen hundred fighting men. We determined to resume our journey the next day, and go inland and attack their villages. We seemed likely to be in for a good fight, and the police especially were highly elated. Old Giwi, who bragged so much about his fighting capabilities at starting, shook his head and thought it a tall order, and that we were not strong enough to tackle them.

We left again early on the morning of September 20th, the canoes with our carriers having gone on the previous night. Early in the afternoon we passed large villages situated amid groves of coconut palms. These belonged to the Notus, who had been suffering such severe depredations at the hands of the Doboduras. Shortly before arriving at our destination we found the carriers waiting for us on shore, they having too much fear of the Notus to reach their villages before us.

We determined to land on the far side of one particularly large village. Rifles were handed around, and we strapped on our revolvers, and all got ready in case of treachery. Then came a scene of excitement as we landed in the breakers. Directly we got into shallow water the police jumped out, and with loud yells rushed the boat ashore. There was still greater excitement getting the canoes ashore amid loud shouting, and one of the last canoes to land, filled, but was carried ashore safely, and only a few bags of rice got wet. [115]

We pitched our camp on a sandy strip of land surrounded on three sides by a fresh water lagoon, our position being a good one to defend, in case we were attacked. Monckton then took a few police and went off to interview the Notus.

After a time he returned with the information that the Notus appeared to be quite friendly, and anxious to unite with us against the common foe on the morrow.

Several of them visited our camp during the day and brought us native food and pigs, which latter Monckton shot with his revolver, to prevent our carriers cooking them alive. It was quite amusing to see the way the Notus hopped about after each report, some of them running away, and small blame to them, seeing that it was the first time that they had ever heard the report of a firearm.

The next morning saw us up long before daybreak, and in the dim light we could see small groups of Notu warriors wending their way amid the tall coconuts in the direction of our camp, till about seventy of them had assembled. They were all fully armed with long hardwood spears, stone clubs and rattan shields (oblong in shape and of wood covered with strips of rattan, with a handle at the back), and led the way along the beach. The sun soon rose above the sea a very red colour, and a superstitious person might have considered it an omen of bloodshed. [116]

It was hard work walking in the loose sand, and I was glad when we branched off into the bush to walk inland. We passed through alternate forests and open grass land, the forest in places being quite luxuriant, and new and beautiful plants and rare and gaudy birds and butterflies made one long to loiter by the way. Amongst the palm family new to me was a very beautiful Licuala, perhaps the most beautiful of all fan-leaved palms, and a climbing palm, one of the rattans (Korthalzia sp.), with pinkish stems and leaves resembling a gigantic maidenhair fern, which looked very beautiful scrambling over the trees, together with two or three other species of rattans.

Our combined force was over two hundred strong, the Notus leading the way, then came most of the police, then we three white men, then more police, and our Kaili-kaili, Arifamu and Okeina carriers brought up the rear bearing our tents, baggage and bags of rice.

As we wended our way down the narrow track there were several moments of excitement, and the Notus several times fell back on to us in alarm, but their fears seemed groundless.

We continued our march for many hours, and just as we came to the end of a long bit of forest, the Notus came rushing back on to us in great confusion. We soon learned the reason. At the end of a grassy stretch of country was a village [117]surrounded by a thick grove of coconut and betel-nut palms, and some of the enemy’s scouts had been seen, and we heard their distant war-cry, a prolonged “ooh-h-h, ah-h-h,” which was particularly thrilling, uttered as it was by great numbers of voices. The Notus all huddled together, then replied in like language, but their cry did not seem to possess the same defiant ring as that of the Doboduras.

We three took off our helmets and crouched down with the police just inside the forest, with our rifles ready for the expected rush of the enemy, having sent the Notus out into the open, hoping thereby to draw the enemy after them. We meant then to give them a lesson, make some captures, and come to terms with their chief. Two or three times the Notus came rushing back, and I fully expected to see the Doboduras at their heels, but they were evidently aware that the Notus were not alone, and all I could see was the distant village and palm-trees shimmering in the quivering heated air, and the heads of the Dobodura warriors crowned with feather head-dresses bobbing about amid the tall grass, while ever and anon their distant war-cry floated over the grassy plain.

We decided to rush the village, which we later found was named Kanau, but when we got there we found it deserted. In the centre of the village was a kind of small raised platform, on which [118]were rows of human skulls and quantities of bones, the remnants of many a gruesome cannibal feast. Many of these skulls were quite fresh, with small bits of meat still sticking to them, but for all that they had been picked very clean. Every skull had a large hole punched in the side of the head, varying in size, but uniform as regards position (to quote from Monckton’s later report to the government). The explanation for this we soon learnt from the Notus, and later it was confirmed by our prisoners. When the Doboduras capture an enemy they slowly torture him to death, practically eating him alive. When he is almost dead they make a hole in the side of the head and scoop out the brains with a kind of wooden spoon. These brains, which were eaten warm and fresh, were regarded as a great delicacy. No doubt the Notus recognised some of their relatives amid the ghastly relics. We rested a short time in this village, and our people were soon busy spearing pigs and chickens, and looting. The loot consisted of all sorts of household articles and implements, including wooden pillows, bowls, and dishes, “tapa” cloth of quaint designs, stone adzes, beautiful feather ornaments, “bau-baus” or native bamboo pipes, wooden spears, and a great quantity of shell and dogs’-tooth necklaces.

We saw three or four of the enemy scouting on the edge of the forest, and I was asked to try to [119]pick one off, but before I could fire they had disappeared. Then several Notus ran out brandishing spears, and danced a war-dance in front of the forest, but their invitation was not accepted. We next saw several armed scouts on a small tree about five hundred yards away, and we all lined up and gave them a volley; whether we hit any of them or not it is hard to say, but they dropped down immediately into the long grass. At any rate, it must have astonished them to hear the bullets whistling round them, even if they were not hit, as it was the first time they had ever heard the report of a firearm of any description. Some of the police went out to sneak through the long grass, and we soon heard shots, and they came back with the spears, clubs and shields of two men they had killed. They also brought a curious fighting ornament worn on the head, made of upper bills of the hornbill.

We continued our march through some thick forest, and at length came to the banks of a river, where we suddenly crouched down. An armed man was crawling along the river bed, peering in all directions, and shouting out to his friends on the opposite bank. We were anxious to make a capture. Monckton suddenly gave the word, and up jumped a dozen police in front of me and plunged into the river and gave chase. I followed hard, but the police in front were gradually leaving me far behind. Till then I always fancied [120]I could run a bit, but I knew better now. Seeing the man’s shield, which he had thrown away in his flight, I at once collared it as a trophy of the chase. Then looking around, I found that I was quite alone, and the thick jungle all around me resounded with the loud angry shouts and cries of the enemy. I found out afterwards that my friends and the rest had no intention of giving chase, but had been highly amused in watching my poor effort to keep up with the nimble barefooted police. I shall never forget those uncomfortable few minutes as I rushed down the track in the direction the police had taken. Visions arose before me of the part I should play in a cannibal feast, and I expected every minute to feel the sharp point of a spear entering the small of my back, just as I had been seeing our people drive their spears clean through some running pigs.

To my dismay I found the track divided, and it was impossible to tell which way the police had gone. To turn back was out of the question. I had come a good way, and I had no idea where the rest were, and from the uproar at the back I imagined the Doboduras were coming down the track after me. I hastily decided to go by the old saying, “If you go to the right you are right,” and it was well for me that I did so, as I found out later from the police that if I had gone to the left—well, there would have been nothing left of me, especially after one Dobodura meal, as [121]the enemy were there in full force. As it was, I soon afterward came up with the police, feeling rather shaky and white.

The police had captured a middle-aged woman, whose face and part of her body were thickly plastered with clay. This was a sign of mourning. We learnt that she was a Notu woman, who had been captured some time previously by the Doboduras. She was much alarmed, and whined and beat her breasts, and caressed some of the police. We made her come on with us, and the rest of the party soon joining us, we came to another village, which we “rushed,” but it, too, was deserted. There was more killing of fowls and pigs, and a scene of great confusion as our people speared and clubbed them and ran about in all directions, looting the houses, picking coconuts, and cutting down betel-nut palms, many of them decorating themselves with the beautifully variegated leaves of crotons and dracænas, some of which were of species entirely new to me. It seemed a bit curious that these wild cannibals should exhibit such a taste for these gay and brilliantly coloured leaves and flowers, which they had evidently transplanted from forest and jungle to their own village.

We continued our way through bush and open country, our police having slight skirmishes with small bands of natives. One big Dobodura rushed at Sergeant Kimi with uplifted club, but Kimi [122]coolly knelt down and shot him in the stomach when he was only a few yards off. The round, sharp stone on the club being an extra fine one, I soon exchanged it with Kimi for two sticks of tobacco (the chief article of trade in New Guinea, and worth about three half-pence a stick).

Toku, Monckton’s boy, and a brother of my boy, Arigita, who carried his master’s small pea-rifle, shot a man in the back with it as the man fled, and thereafter was a hero among the boys. Arigita wished to emulate his brother, and begged hard to do some shooting on his own account with my twelve-bore shot gun, which he carried, and he seemed very much hurt because I would not allow it.

We passed through many more villages, embowered in palm groves, and in each village we saw plenty of human skulls and long sticks with human jawbones hanging upon them. On one I counted twenty-five; there were also long rows of the jawbones of pigs, and a few crocodiles’ heads. These villages were all deserted, the natives having fled. At length we came to what appeared, from its great size, to be the chief village, which we later learnt was named Dobodura. It extended some distance, and stood amid thousands of coconut palms. Here we determined to camp, but we found that most of the police had rushed on ahead after the Doboduras, much to Monckton’s annoyance, for it was risky, to [123]say the least, as the enemy might easily have attacked each party separately. But the police and carriers, now that they had “tasted blood,” seemed to get quite out of hand, and their savagery coming to the surface, they rushed about as if demented. However, they soon returned with more captured weapons of warfare, having killed two more men, and they also brought two prisoners, a young man and a young woman. The prisoners looked horribly frightened, having never seen a white man before, and they thought they would be eaten: so Constable Yaidi told me.

The man was a stupid looking oaf, and seemed too dazed to speak. The woman, however, if she had been washed, would have been quite good-looking. She had rather the European type of features, and was quite talkative. She told us that most of her people had gone off to fight a mountain tribe, who had threatened to swoop down on this village. These complications were getting exceedingly Gilbertian in character. To begin with, the Kaili-kaili and Arifamu carriers were afraid of the Okeinas, who in their turn were afraid of the Notus; the Notus feared this Dobodura tribe we were fighting, and the Doboduras seemed to be in fear of a mountain tribe. We ourselves were by no means sure of the Notus, and kept on guard in case of treachery. These tribes, we heard, were nearly always fighting, and always have their scouts out. [124]

To return to the prisoners. We showed them how a bullet could pass clean through a coconut tree, and they seemed to be greatly impressed. They were then told to tell their chief to come over the next morning and interview us, and that we wished to be friendly. We then gave them some tobacco and told them they could go, and it was evident that they were astonished beyond words at their good fortune. As they passed through our police and carriers, I feel sure that they suspected us of some trick on them.

A bathe in the cool, clear river close by was delightful after a very hard day, but we, of course, had an armed guard of police around us, and practically bathed rifle in hand, as the growth was dense on the opposite bank.

Our people seemed to be quite enjoying themselves, looting the houses, and one of the police was chasing a pig in this village, when he was attacked by a man with a club. The policeman was unarmed, but immediately wrenched the club from the man’s hand and smashed his skull in, and the body lay barely one hundred yards from our tent. This was too tantalizing for our carriers, who came up and begged permission to eat it, although they knew full well that Monckton had given orders that there was to be no cannibalism among them. Needless to remark, the request was refused, but they had the pluck to ask again before the expedition was over. [125]

My boy Arigita had often eaten human meat, and as he expressed it in his quaint pidgin English, “Pig no good, man he very good.” It can be imagined it must be really good, as the Papuan thinks a great deal of pig. We had a good appetite for supper, in spite of the fact that we ate it within a few yards of a half-burnt heap of human skulls and bones, which appeared quite fresh. Our various tribes were all camped separately, and they looked very picturesque round their different camp fires, with their spears stuck in the ground in their midst, their clubs and shields by their sides, and the firelight flickering upon their wild-looking faces.

To our astonishment, our late man prisoner returned and said that his chief wished to see us that night. At once there was a great commotion among our police and the Notus, who all spoke excitedly together, and were unanimous that this implied treachery, and that behind the chief would come his men, who would attack us unawares. We also learned that it was not their usual habit to make friendly visits at night. Monckton thought the same, and told the man that if the chief or any of his people came near the camp that night they would be shot. The man also informed us that all his tribe had returned; no doubt swift messengers went after them to bring them back. The man went, and we waited expectantly for what might happen. Everyone [126]seemed certain that we should be attacked, and if so, we had a very poor chance with from a thousand to fifteen hundred well-armed savages making a rush on us in the semi-darkness, as there was no moon, and it was cloudy.

The enemy would rush up and close with our people, and while we should not be able to distinguish friend from foe, we should not be able to fire in the darkness at close quarters. They could then spear and club us at will. Now we had always heard that Papuans never attack at night, but the police and Notus told us that these Doboduras nearly always attacked at night, and if we had known this before we should most certainly have made ourselves a fortified camp outside the village. But it was too late to think of this now, and we knew that we were in a very awkward position. The fact that they could gather together so large a force as was alleged, was estimated by Monckton from the size of these villages, which showed that they were a very powerful tribe.

The whole police force were put out on sentry duty, as also four or five Kaili-kailis who had been taught at Cape Nelson to use a rifle. [127]

We Are Attacked By Night.

A Night Attack—A Little Mistake—Horrible Barbarities of the Doboduras—Eating a Man Alive—A Sinister Warning—Saved by Rain—Daylight at Last—“Prudence the Better Part”—The Return—Welcome by the Notus—“Orakaiba.”

I was busily engaged in writing my notes of the day, with my rifle by my side, when suddenly a shot rang out, followed by another and another, then a volley from all the sentries on one side of the camp, and the darkness was lit up by the flashes of their rifles. Then came the thrilling war-cry, “Ooh-h-h-h! ah-h-h-h!” that made one’s blood run cold, especially under such surroundings. All the camp was now in the utmost confusion, and there was a great panic among our carriers, who flung themselves on the ground yelling with fear. Never was there such a fiendish noise! I sprang to my feet, flinging my note-book away and picking up my rifle, and ran back to where Monckton was yelling out: “Fall in, fall in, for God’s sake fall in!”

Two houses were hastily set on fire, and instantly became furnaces which lit up the surroundings and the tops of the tall coconut palms over-head, which even in this moment of danger appeared to me like a glimpse of fairyland. I [128]noticed a line of fire-sticks waving in the darkness outside. They seemed to be slowly advancing, and in the excitement of the moment I mistook them for the enemy—and fired!

Luckily, my shot did not take effect, as I soon found out that these fire-sticks were held by some of our own carriers, who had been told by Monckton to carry them so that we could distinguish them from the enemy in case we were attacked. Monckton turned to where the Notus, were, and seeing them all decked out in their war plumes, dancing about among the prostrate carriers, and waving their clubs and spears, naturally took them for Dobodura warriors, and nearly fired at them. He angrily ordered them to take off their feathers.

Calmness soon settled down again, and we learned that the police had fired at some Doboduras who were creeping up into the camp. How many there were we could not tell, but later on we learnt that some of them had been killed, and seeing the flash of the rifles, which was a new experience to them, the rest had retreated for the time being, but soon rallied together for attack that night or in the small hours of the morning. Knowing that if they once rushed us in the darkness we should all be doomed for their cooking pots, the state of our feelings can be imagined.

The first attempt came rather as a shock to a peaceful novice like myself, and seeing warriors [129]in full war paint and feathers rushing about with uplifted club and spear amid our prostrate squirming carriers, I had a very strong inclination to bury myself in the nearest hut and softly hum the lines, “I care not for wars and quarrels,” etc. We sat talking in subdued tones for some time, expecting every minute to hear the thrilling war cry of the Doboduras, but nothing was to be heard but the crackling of the embers of the burning houses, the low murmur of our people around their camp fire, and the most dismal falsetto howls of the native dogs in the distance. These howls were not particularly exhilarating at such a time, and I more than once mistook them for the distant war-cry of the Doboduras.

The Papuans, as a rule, do not torture their prisoners for the mere idea of torture, though they have often been known to roast a man alive, for the reason that the meat is supposed to taste better thus. This they also do to pigs, and I myself, on this very expedition, caught some of our carriers making preparations to roast a pig alive, and just stopped them in time. For this reason Monckton would always shoot the pigs brought in for his carriers, but in this case one pig was overlooked. I have heard of cases of white men having been roasted alive, one case being that of the two miners, Campion and King. But we had learnt that this Dobodura tribe had a system of torture that was brutal beyond words. In [130]the first place they always try to wound slightly and capture a man alive, so that they can have fresh meat for many days. They keep their prisoner tied up alive in the house and cut out pieces of his flesh just when they want it, and we were told, incredible as it seems, that they sometimes manage to keep him alive for a week or more, and have some preparation which prevents him from bleeding to death.

Monckton advised both Acland and myself to shoot ourselves with our revolvers if we saw that we were overwhelmed, so as to escape these terrible tortures, and he assured us that he should keep the last bullet in his own revolver for himself. This was my first taste of warfare. Monckton had had many fights with Papuans, and Acland, besides, had seen many severe engagements in the Boer war, but he said he would rather be fighting the Boers than risking the infernal tortures of these cannibals. It all, somehow, seemed unreal to me, and I could hardly realise that I was in serious danger of being tortured, cooked and eaten. It is impossible to depict faithfully our weird surroundings. We chatted on for some time, and tried to cheer each other up by making jokes about the matter, such as “This time to-morrow we shall be laughing over the whole affair,” but the depressed tone of our voices belied our words, and it proved to be but a very feeble attempt at joking. We longed for [131]the moon, though that would have helped us little, as it was cloudy.

It is quite unnecessary to go into further details of that awful night. I know we all owned up afterward that it was the most trying night we had ever spent, and for my part I hope I may never spend another like it. None of us got a wink of sleep. I tried to sleep, but I was too excited to do so; besides, all my pockets were crammed full of rifle and revolver cartridges, and I had my revolver strapped to my side, ready for an attack, or in case we got separated in the confusion that was sure to ensue. At about 3 a.m. it began to rain, the first rain we had had in New Guinea for five or six weeks, and that saved us, for we learned later on that about that time the Doboduras were gathering together for a rush on our camp, when the rain set in, and, odd as it may seem, we heard that they had a superstition against attacking in the rain. What their reason was, I never got to hear fully, but we were unaware of all these things as we silently waited and longed for the dawn to break. I never before so wished for daylight. It came at length, and what a load it took off our minds! We could now see to shoot at all events. We saw the Dobodura scouts in the distance on the edge of the forest, but we had made up our minds to “heau” (Papuan for “run away”) as things were too hot for us. There was a scene of great [132]excitement as we left, and from the noise our people made they were evidently glad to get away.

The Notus led the way, and they started to hop about, brandishing their spears. They did excellent scouting work in the long grass, rushing ahead with their spears poised. This time the rear guard was formed by some of the police. All the villages we passed through were again deserted, but we heard the enemy crying out to one another in the forest and jungle, telling each other of our whereabouts. We expected an attack, and I often nearly mistook the screeches and cries of cockatoos and parrots and the loud, curious call of the birds of paradise for some distant war-cry, which was quite excusable, considering the state of our nerves and the sleepless night we had spent.

The Notus were great looters, and as we passed through the various villages they took everything they could lay their hands on, and our entrance into a village was marked by a scene of great confusion. Pigs and chickens were speared, betel-nut palms cut down, and hunting nets, bowls, spears and food hauled out of the house, but Monckton was very strict in stopping them from cutting houses and coconut palms down. Ere long we left the last village behind, and halting just inside the forest, sent a man up a tree, who reported the last village we had passed through [133]to be full of people. The police had a few shots, but apparently without success.

When we again reached the coast we knew that we were now safe from attack. Monckton was much puzzled that no attack had been made on us during the return journey, as he felt sure they were not afraid of us, and after we had killed so many of their people he was certain they would try for revenge. He also thought they expected us to camp that night in their country, and that we were only out hunting for them, as we did not hurry away very fast, but stopped a short time in each village.

We found the tide high, so we took off our boots and waded most of the way, and in time arrived at a creek up which the sea was rushing in and out with great violence. We were helped over by police on each side of us, who half dragged us across, otherwise we should have been washed off our legs, so great was the suction. I was very fond of these strong, plucky, good tempered and amusing Papuan police. Often when we were encamped for the night, I would hear them chaffing each other in pidgin English for the benefit of the “taubadas” (masters); they would slyly turn their heads to see if we were amused, and how delighted they were if they saw us smile at their quaint English,

In the evening we found ourselves back in the Notu villages, and were met by many Notus [134]bearing coconuts, which they opened and handed to us. I suppose these were meant as refreshment for the victors, for as such they no doubt regarded us, as well as saviours of their tribe. I could quite imagine the Notu warriors bragging on their return of their own deeds of valour, although all the killing was done by the police. Meanwhile, however, as we passed through the squatting crowds, we were greeted with loud cries of “orakaiba” (peace). [135]

On the War-Trail Once More.

Further Expedition Planned—Thank-offerings of Notu Chiefs—The Voyage—A Gigantic Flatfish—Negotiating a Difficult Bar—Moat Unhealthy Spot in New Guinea—Hostility of Natives—Precautions at Night—Catching Ground Sharks and a “Groper”—Shark-flesh a Delicacy to the Natives—Wakened by a War Cry—A False Alarm—A Hairbreadth Escape—Between “Devil and Deep Sea”—Dangers of the Goldfield—Two Miners Eaten Alive—Unexpected Visit from a White Man—“Where’s that Razor?”—Crime of Cutting Down a Coconut Tree—Walsh’s Camp—Torres Straits Pigeons—My Boy an ex-Cannibal—A Probable Trap—Relapse into Cannibalism of our Own Allies—Narrow Escape from a New Guinea Mantrap—Attack on a Village—Second Visit to Dobodura—Toku’s Exploit—Interview with our Prisoners—Reasons for Cannibalism—The Night Attack on our Camp and Enemies’ Fear of our Rifles described by our Prisoners—Bravery of one of our Carriers—Treatment of a Prisoner.

“Yes,” said Monckton on our return to the coast, “we have got to punish those Doboduras at all costs. They are the worst brutes I’ve come across in New Guinea.” And Monckton knew what he was talking about, as he had been a resident magistrate in British New Guinea for many years and had travelled all over the country, and had a wider experience of the cannibals than any man living.

This tribe (as has already been mentioned), when they capture a prisoner, tie him to a post, keep him alive for days, and meanwhile feed on him slowly by cutting out pieces of flesh, and [136]prevent his bleeding to death with a special preparation of their own concoction, and finally, when he is nearly dead, they make a hole in the side of the head and feed on the hot fresh brains.

Both Acland and I myself fully agreed with Monckton, as we were not by any means grateful to the Doboduras for giving us the worst fright of our lives. We had, it is true, killed a good many of them, but we recognised the fact that our force was insufficient to hold its own, much less to punish these brutal tribesmen. So we determined to journey up north and get help from the magistrate of the Northern Division on the Mambare River, before returning to the Dobodura country.

That evening four Notu chiefs came into camp to thank us for killing their enemies, and they brought with them presents of dogs’ teeth and shell necklaces, and seemed greatly excited, all talking at once, each trying to out-talk his fellows, and wagged their heads at us in turn. We left very early the next morning in our whaleboat for the Kumusi River, but left all our carriers and stores with most of the police behind in one of the Notu villages to await our return, as we now felt sure that we could trust the Notu tribe.

It was a hot and uneventful voyage. A fish which looked like an enormous sole, but which was larger than the whaleboat, jumped high [137]in the air not many yards away. Toward evening we arrived opposite the bar of the Kumusi River, and we had a very uncomfortable few minutes getting through the breakers into the river, for if we had been upset we should soon have become food for the sharks and crocodiles, which literally swarmed here. We got through the worst part safely, but then stuck fast on a small sand-bank, and one or two good-sized breakers half-filled the boat; but we all jumped out and hauled her off the sand into the deep, calm waters beyond.

After rowing up the river a short distance, we landed at a spot where there was a trader’s store, looked after by an Australian named Owen. From here miners go up the river to the gold fields in the Yodda Valley, and cutters are constantly putting in at this store with miners and provisions.

This district has the reputation of being one of the most unhealthy spots in New Guinea, and the natives round here are none too friendly, and hate the government and their police, so that during the last three years, three or four resident magistrates in the locality have either been murdered or have died of fever.

We arranged to have our meals with Owen at the store, and we slept in a rough palm-thatched shed with a raised flooring of split palm-trunks, which was very hard and rough to sleep on, and gave me a sleepless night. We got two of our [138]police to sleep in front of the doorway, as it was more than likely that the natives might attempt to murder us. These precautions may have been justified as, in the middle of the night both Acland and I myself saw two natives peering into the hut.

The next day we sent off a messenger to the northern station for more police, and it was fully a week before they arrived. Meanwhile we spent our time dynamiting and catching fish. We caught some large ground sharks fully four hundred pounds in weight, and also a “gorupa” (“groper”), a very large fish of about three hundred and fifty pounds. This fish is the terror of divers in these parts they fear it more than any shark. Both shark and fish proved most acceptable to our police; they are especially fond of shark.

One morning about five o’clock I was aroused by hearing a shrill war-cry close by. The police rushed up with their rifles and told us we were attacked. It can be imagined it did not take us long to buckle on our revolvers and seize our rifles and run, half-asleep as we were, in the direction of the noise, which was repeated from time to time in a very ferocious manner. On turning a sharp corner by the river, instead of warlike warriors, we beheld about a dozen natives hauling in the sharkline we had left baited in the water the previous evening, with a very large shark at the [139]end of it. Being greatly excited they had from time to time yelled out their war-cry. We felt very foolish at being roused from our slumbers for nothing, but still there was some slight consolation in knowing that even the police were deceived.

Owen, the Australian, not long before had had rather an amusing, and at the same time exciting, adventure with a large crocodile in a swamp close to the store. He noticed it fast asleep in the swamp, and so waded out to it through the mud, making no noise whatever. When within a few yards of the saurian, he threw a double charge of dynamite close up to it, and then turned to fly. He found he could not move, but was stuck firmly in the mud. His struggles and yells for help had meanwhile awoke the crocodile, which came for him with open jaws. It looked as if it was a case of either being blown to pieces by the dynamite or furnishing a meal for the crocodile.

Luckily the fuse was a long one, and the crocodile floundered about a good deal in the mud ere it could reach him. Some friendly natives rushed in and dragged him out just as the crocodile reached him. The crocodile fled in one direction and the dynamite went off in another, but Owen and the natives only just avoided the explosion.

Owen told me that there were about fifty miners [140]in the goldfields of the Yodda Valley, but that most of them were beginning to leave, although there is plenty of gold to be got. The climate is a bad one, and provisions, etc., are very dear, and so gold has to be got in very large quantities to pay. As the miners decrease, there is bound to be trouble with the natives, who are very treacherous. The miners, who are nearly all Australians or New Zealanders, have generally to work in strong bands with their rifles close at hand.

Only a short time ago the two miners, Campion and King (whom I have elsewhere mentioned), while working in the bed of a creek, had just traded with some apparently friendly natives for a pig and some yams, and sat down for a smoke and a rest, thinking that the natives had left, but these cunning cannibals were awaiting just such an opportunity, and were lying hid amidst the thick foliage clothing the steep banks of the creek. Suddenly, making a rush, they got between the miners and their rifles, and speared both in the legs, taking care not to kill them, as the cannibals in this part of New Guinea consider that meat tastes better, be it pig or man, when cooked alive. They then tied them with ropes of rattan to long poles and carried them off to their village, where they were both roasted alive over a slow fire. These facts were gathered from some prisoners afterwards captured by a government [141]force. A strong band of miners also attacked their villages, and gave no quarter.

On the fifth day of our stay here one of our police came rushing up to us excitedly with the information that a whaleboat was in sight, and we knew that a white man would be in it. There was at once a cry from Monckton, “After you with the razor, Acland.” Now it had been understood that none of us were to shave during the expedition, and consequently we had grown large crops of beards and whiskers, and looked a veritable trio of cut-throats. However, it appeared that Acland had smuggled away a razor-possibly for all we knew to enable him to captivate some fair Amazon, who might otherwise have thought he was only good for her cooking pot. Half-an-hour later three clean-shaven individuals met a tall unshaven man as he stepped out of his boat on to the beach, and his first remark was, “Oh, I say, (reproachfully) you fellows, where’s that razor!” It was Walsh, Assistant Resident Magistrate for the Northern Division, and none of us had met him before.

He and another Englishman, a celebrated trader named Clark (he was an old resident, well-known in New Guinea), with a force of police, were returning from an expedition down the coast, and were at present encamped about sixteen miles south of here, near some small islands known as Mangrove Islands. [142]

Leaving Clark in charge, Walsh had come over with a small cutter, which we promptly hired to carry the extra stores of rice and provisions which we had purchased from Owen. It is astonishing the amount of rice it takes to feed one hundred carriers and twenty-five native police during a six weeks’ exploring expedition.

Two days later ten police arrived, sent down at Monckton’s request from the Mambare or Northern Station. These, with Walsh’s nine, made an addition of nineteen police to our force. A celebrated old Mambare chief named Busimaiwa arrived at the same time, together with many of his tribe, which was friendly to the government. I say celebrated because he was the leader in the murder of the resident magistrate of the Northern Division, the late Mr. ——, together with all his police. But he has since been pardoned by the government. The magistrate and his police were killed through treachery, being unarmed at the time. They were all eaten, but ——’s skull was afterwards recovered. Old Busimaiwa, had a son in our police force.

We were off early the next morning, we four white men and most of the police going in the two whaleboats, while the rest walked along the shore. These latter had to pass through many small villages on the way, but the inhabitants did not wait to find out whether they were friends or foes, and the police found the villages empty. [143]

From the whaleboat I suddenly noticed a tall coconut palm come falling to the ground, and I immediately called Monckton’s attention to the fact. He was very much annoyed, as he knew that it was cut down by some of our party, contrary to regulations. According to government laws, to cut down a coconut tree in New Guinea is a crime, and a serious one at that. Even when attacking a hostile village it is strictly forbidden, though one may loot houses, kill pigs, out down betel-nut palms, and even kill the inhabitants. But the coconut-palm is sacred in their eyes.

However, the government has an eye to the future of the country, as, besides being the main article of food in a country whose food supply is limited, the coconut tree means wealth to the country, when it gets more settled and the natives are able to do a large business in copra with the white traders.

That evening, when in camp, we discovered the culprit to be no less a personage than the sergeant of Walsh’s police, who was in command of the shore party, his sole excuse for breaking the law being that he thought it too much trouble to climb the tree after the coconuts. When the whole of the police force had been drawn up in line Monckton, as leader of the expedition, cut the red stripes from the blue tunic of the sergeant, and he was reduced to the ranks.

After a rough voyage, there being a good swell [144]on, we arrived at Walsh’s camp on the mainland, opposite the Mangrove Islands, and here we found Clark, whom I had met before in Samarai. The camp was situated in the midst of a small native village, and later on the inhabitants and others turned up armed with their stone clubs, spears and shields, and offered to help us. They also wanted us to go and fight their enemies a short way inland from here. Monckton’s reply was not over polite. He ended by ordering them at once to clear out of their village, as he had no use for them.

Toward evening we all went pigeon shooting, as thousands of Torres Straits pigeons flock round here at twilight and settle chiefly on the small islands close to the mainland. We had excellent sport. The birds flew overhead, and we shot a great number between us.

Three of us white men were down with fever that evening. As the cutter had not arrived with the rice, etc., from the Kumusi River, we had to remain here the whole of the next day.

Toward evening we again went pigeon shooting, each of us taking possession of a small island, but the birds were not nearly as plentiful as yesterday, and small bags were the result. On these islands were plenty of houses, which we heard were deserted a few weeks ago, owing to the frequent attacks of hungry cannibals on the mainland.

On my island I discovered several very fresh-looking [145]human skulls and bones. My boy, Arigita, regaled me with yarns while we waited for the pigeons. He told me he had often eaten human meat, and expressed the same opinion on the matter as the ex-cannibals I had met in the interior of Fiji had done. I had good reason for suspecting the young rascal of having partaken of human meat since he had been my servant.

I noticed plenty of double red hibiscus bushes on these islands, and I came across a new and curious dracæna with extremely short and broad red and green leaves, that was certainly worth introducing into cultivation.

We continued our journey in the whaleboats the next morning, and after going some distance we heard a shout, and saw a man on the beach frantically waving to us, but as he would not venture near enough, we had to go on without finding out what was the matter. Shortly afterward we heard three loud blasts on a conch shell, which is always used to call natives together, but the bush being thick, we could see nothing. I myself believe it was a trap, the man evidently trying to get us ashore, so that his tribe might attack us. However, our shore party, who came along later, saw no sign of any natives.

Towards evening we landed at the spot where we had started inland last time against the Doboduras. Here we determined to camp. We immediately sent down to Notu for our carriers [146]and the rest of the police, who arrived after dark, all seeming delighted and relieved to be with us once more. We learned that after we had left the Notu people killed and ate two runaway carriers from the Kumusi, and after indulging in a great feast, fled and deserted their villages, so our late cannibalistic allies evidently feared retribution at our hands.

These carriers, belonging to the miners in the Kumusi and Mambare districts, are constantly running away, and they then try to work their way down the coast to Samarai, from whence they are shipped. But they never get there, being always killed and eaten on the way. One of our own carriers had died at Notu, but the police had seen to it that he was properly buried. However, it is more than likely that he was dug up after they had left, and eaten.

The cutter arrived early the next morning.. The rice was soon landed, and we started off along the same track as before. We now had over forty police, and although we did not this time have the assistance of the Notus, we had many more carriers.

During this march our police luckily discovered in time some slanting spears set as a man trap, which projected from the tall grass over the narrow track. Such spears are hard to see, especially for anyone travelling at a good speed, and I was told that the points were poisoned. Another trap, [147]common in New Guinea, is to place a fallen tree across the track and dig a deep pit on the other side from which the enemy is expected to come. This pit is filled with sharp upright spears, and then lightly covered over so that a man stepping over the tree, which hides the ground on the other side, will fall into the pit.

After marching for some distance, we came to the end of a bit of forest, from whence we could see the first hostile village. We frightened away several armed scouts. The village appeared to be full of armed men in full war-paint and plumes, so we divided our force into two parties, each cutting round through the forest on both sides of the village, in an endeavour to surprise the enemy. We were only partially successful, as the Doboduras discovered our plans just in time. Though we rushed the village, and a few shots were fired, we only succeeded in capturing two old men and a small boy, who were not able to get away in time. The houses were full of household goods, in spite of our previous raid, when this and other villages were well looted by our people, so we were evidently not expected to return.

We did not stay long here, but soon resumed our march. It was a very hot day, and after walking through the open bits of grass country, it was always pleasant to get into the cool and shady forest, full of delicate ferns, rare palms and orchid-laden trees. We passed on through two other [148]villages, with their gruesome platforms of grinning skulls as the only vestige of humanity.

At length we came to the large village, which is named Dobodura, after the tribe, and in which we had spent such a horrible night on our last visit. The village was full of yelling warriors. Rushing up, we shot several who showed fight. Most of them, however, fled before us. Toku, Monckton’s boy, and brother of my boy Arigita, again made use of his master’s pea-rifle, but this time he did not meet with any success, and very narrowly escaped getting a spear through him.

A short time before, when Monckton was out on an expedition, Toku was carrying his master’s revolver, but happened to lag behind the rest of the party without being noticed, when a man jumped out of the jungle and picked young Toku up in his arms, covering up his mouth so that he could not cry out, and proceeded to carry him off, no doubt intending to have a live roast. But Toku, managing to draw Monckton’s revolver, shot him dead right through the head, and Monckton, hearing the shot, turned back, and soon discovered young Toku calmly sitting on his enemy’s dead body. But, alas! the hero had to suffer in the hour of his triumph, as Monckton ordered him to be flogged for lagging behind the rear guard of police.

Besides killing several of the Doboduras, we also took several prisoners, both men and women. [149]We rested here, but several of the police, whose fighting blood was now fully roused, went out with some of our armed natives, skirmishing in one or two parties till late, and we could hear shots in all directions. As we found out later, they had slain several more of the enemy, with no loss to themselves.

We chose a splendid camp, with the river (which we were informed was the Tamboga River) on one side.

The forest trees were felled on the other side, forming a strong barrier, very different from our last camp here in the centre of the village, and without any defences at all. We had a most refreshing bathe in the river, but kept our rifles close at hand, as the enemy could have easily speared us from the reeds on the opposite bank.

After supper we interviewed the prisoners, and we now learned the real sequel to our last visit and what a narrow escape we had that night from being all massacred. It appeared that our fighting during the daytime astonished them much, as they could not understand how we could kill at such a distance, rifles being quite new to them. Our fame soon reached a large village much further on, and they said to the Dobodura people: “Ye are all cowards; we will show you that we can destroy these strange people.” They started off that night and surrounding our camp on all sides, crept up for a rush; but, luckily for us, our sentries [150]saw some of them and fired. The first shot killed one of them, and others were hit. Then came the blaze of many rifles. This terrified them and they fled. The horrible noise of the rifles and the flashes of fire in the darkness astonished them, but what made them depart for good was seeing one of their men fall at the first shot. It was a very lucky shot, and it probably saved our lives that night. When asked why they raided the Notus, the prisoners said that they were friends until two years ago, when they quarrelled, and had been constantly fighting since. In particular they now blamed the Notus for the late drought, which they said was due to their sorcery, the result being that they were forced to live on sago alone, and to vary this diet were compelled to get human meat.

I was the only one out of five white men not down with fever, but I was glad that we passed a quiet night, with no attack on the camp. In the morning one of our carriers, who ventured less than fifty yards beyond the barrier, received a spear through his left arm and another through his side, and though I am almost afraid to relate it for fear of being thought guilty of exaggeration, the man plucked the spear out of his side in a moment, and, hurling it back, killed his opponent. I ventured outside and proved the truth of the man’s story, by finding the Dobodura man transfixed with his own spear. Both our man’s wounds [151]were bad ones, but he did not seem to mind them at all, and was for some time surrounded by a crowd of admiring natives.

We started off early in search of a large village of which a prisoner told us, but had not gone far when a man jumped out of the long grass and threw a spear at one of our carriers, only a few paces in front of me. Fortunately he missed him, but only by a few inches. As he was preparing to throw another spear, one of our men, whom he had not noticed, owing to an abrupt bend in the narrow track, which brought him close to the spearman, sprang forward and buried his stone club in the man’s head, who sank down without a groan.

It was cloudy, but very close, and we passed through open grass country, bounded on each side by tall forest, in which bird-life seemed plentiful, cockatoos and parrots making a great noise. Birds of paradise were also calling out with their very noticeable and peculiar falsetto cry.

After going some distance we catechized the prisoners, and while an old man declared that there was a large village ahead, the two women prisoners said that the track was only a hunting one and led to the mountains.

The old man evidently wanted to get us away from his village, to enable his tribe to return, but the women, not being so loyal, told us the [152]truth, no doubt because they found the forced marching on a hot day a little too much for them. We sat down for a consultation, but hearing a loud outcry in the rear, I suddenly came across about a dozen of the now indignant police pelting the old man with darts made out of a peculiar kind of grass, which grew around here. The old man, who was handcuffed, hopped high in the air, uttering loud yells every time a dart hit him, so I imagined they hurt, and though I, too, felt much annoyed, I had to put a stop to this cruel sport, when one of the aggrieved policemen cried out to me: “Taubada (master), why you stop him get hurt? This fellow he ki-ki (eat) you if he get chance.” [153]

The Return From Dobodura.

Horrible Fate of one of our Enemies—Collecting in Cannibal—Haunted Forest—I Shoot a new Kingfisher, and a Bird of Paradise—Natives’ Interest in Bird-Stuffing—Return Journey begun—Tree-house in a Notu Village—Peacemaking Ceremonies—Notu Village described—Our Allies sentenced for Cannibalism—Parting with Walsh and Clark.

We decided to return, and sent off a strong body of police in advance to surprise some of the surrounding villages. On the way back we found the man who was brained by one of our carriers still breathing. He was a ghastly sight, with his brains projecting out, and he was being eaten alive by swarms of red ants, which almost hid his body and found their way into his eyes, ears and nose. By the convulsions that from time to time shook the man’s body, he was evidently still conscious, but could not possibly have lived for more than a few hours at most, after our thus finding him. New Guinea, like most tropical countries, had its full share of these pests (ants), some species of which actually make webs, and, by way of supplementing the web itself, work leaves in.

Acland, who had been suffering all day long from bad fever, now collapsed and could walk no further, but had to be carried in a hammock. When we got back to our old camping ground, I [154]took an armed guard of police and went in search of birds for my collection, in the adjoining forest, and shot a new kingfisher (Tanysiptera) and a bird of paradise (Paradisea intermedia). It was rather exciting work, as one went warily through the thick growth, from whence might issue a spear any minute, and I held on to my rifle all the time, except, of course, when I saw a bird, and then I made a quick change to my shotgun, lest I should prove a case of the hunter hunted.

On my return I had a large crowd of carriers around me watching me skin my birds, while Arigita explained everything to them in lordly fashion, only too pleased to get the chance of being listened to, while he expounded to them his superior knowledge. What he told them I, of course, could not tell, but he informed me that when I put the final stitch in the nostrils of the birds, my audience declared that I did this to prevent the birds from breathing and so one day coming to life again. When the wise Arigita asked them how this could be, since they had seen me take out the body and brains, they scoffed at him and said that spirits would come inside the skins so that they could sing again.

Monckton, meanwhile, had made a raid on the native gardens and brought in quite a lot of taro. The police had killed several more Doboduras, and in one place they had quite a fight. Our [155]old man prisoner escaped in the night, although he was handcuffed.

We returned to the coast the next day, as there seemed no chance of our coming to terms with these Doboduras. Our only chance would have been to defeat them in a big engagement. They seemed too frightened of us to stand up for a big fight, but hid themselves in the bush, and were thus hard to get at. We left ten police behind to trap the natives, and, thinking we had left, a few of them returned to the village, and the police shot four more of them and soon caught up with us, bringing in the shields, stone clubs and spears of the slain.

During both these expeditions we had killed a good many of these people, and it ought to be a lesson to them to leave the Notus alone in future, although there is little doubt that the Notus themselves make cannibalistic raids on some of their weaker neighbours. I did not like the looks of the Notus, and they, as well as the Doboduras, have a most repellent type of features, and look capable of any kind of cruelty and treachery. They are very different from the gentle-looking Kaili-kailis.

The sea was very rough, and it was exciting work launching the canoes. One was thrown clean out of the water by a breaker. The majority of the carriers and half the police went round by the beach, but we in the two whaleboats had some [156]exciting moments in the rough sea, though with the sails up we made good progress. We passed two of the canoes partially wrecked, and apparently in great difficulties.

We eventually landed long after dark in Eoro Bay, some distance the other side of the large Notu village, near which we had previously camped. We landed opposite a good-sized village belonging to the Notu tribe, from which all the inhabitants fled on our approach. We wandered about the village with flaming torches, looking out for huts to pass the night in, as it was too late to pitch camp. But unhappily the huts were full of lice, and it was impossible to get any sleep.

I saw here for the first time one of the curious native tree houses. It was high up in a tall pandanus tree, and had a very odd appearance. We spent the whole of the next day in this village, while our carriers brought in and mended their canoes. They, too, had a very rough time of it, but no lives were lost.

During the day I witnessed a very interesting ceremony, which I take the liberty of describing in Monckton’s own words, given in his report to the Government. He says: “October 7th. Found that some of the mountain people had been out to Notu and wished to make peace with them. The Notu people had also ascertained that the Dobodura had retreated into the large sago swamp, and were quite certain that they had [157]no danger to fear from them for some time to come. They also said that after the police had departed they would very likely be able to re-establish their ancient friendly relations with the Dobodura. A peace-offering was brought from the mountain people, which the Notu people asked me to receive for them. The ceremony was strange to me, and had several peculiar features. Two minor chiefs came to where I was sitting and sat down. About twenty men then approached and drove their spears into the ground in a circle with the butts all leaning inwards. Many of the spears had a small piece broken off at the butt end. From these spears were then hung clubs, spears and shields, and native masks and fighting ornaments. An old chief then said they had given me their arms. Next they placed cloth, fishing nets and spears and other native ornaments inside the circle, and the same old chief said they had given me their property. After this ten pigs, five male and five female, were brought and placed inside the ring with a quantity of sago and a little other food. Then followed cooking vessels full of cooked food. The old chief then said, ‘We have given you all we have as a sign we are now the people of the Government.’ I gave them a good return present, and told them that they were at liberty to take any articles they wanted or their pigs back again, but this they absolutely refused to do, saying that it would destroy the effect of what [158]they had done. The female prisoners were now sent back to Dobodura with a message to the Dobodura, that I should return in a few months and make peace with them, should they in the meantime refrain from murdering the coastal people, but should they persist in their raiding I should return and handle them still more severely.” In return we gave them presents of axes, knives, beads, tobacco, etc., which were laid down on the top of each pig.

Monckton very kindly presented Acland and myself with all the clubs, native masks, “tapa” cloth and ornaments, and the pigs and other food came in very useful for our police and carriers, as our rice supply was getting low.

This was a very picturesque village, shaded by thousands of coconut and betel nut palms and large spreading trees, among which was a very fine tree, with very beautiful green and yellow variegated leaves (Erythrina sp.). There was also a great variety of dracænas, striped and spotted with green, crimson, white, pink and yellow.

In most of these villages there were many curious kinds of trophies—crossed sticks, standing in the middle of the village, with a centre pole carved and painted in various patterns, and with a fringe of fibre placed near the top. Hanging on these sticks were the skulls and jawbones of men, pigs and crocodiles. I went out in the afternoon with gun and rifle, and saw several wallabies, [159]but could not get a shot at them on account of the tall grass.

In the evening the chiefs of the large Notu village who had in our absence killed and eaten the two runaway carriers, visited us in fear and trembling. Monckton told them they must give up to us the actual murderers and send them up to the residency at Cape Nelson (or Tufi) within the next three weeks. He did not ask for those that ate them. Possibly one hundred or more partook of the feast, and for this they could hardly be blamed, as, being cannibals, it is quite natural that they should eat fresh meat when they got the chance. Indeed, our own carriers could not understand why we would not allow them to eat the bodies of those we had slain.

The next morning we five white men parted company, Walsh and Clark, with the Mambare and their own police, returning to the north, while Monckton, Acland and I went southward again to continue our explorations in another direction. [160][161]

Our Discovery of Flat-Footed Lake Dwellers.


Our Discovery of Flat-Footed Lake Dwellers.

Rumours at Cape Nelson of a “Duckfooted” People in the Interior—Conflicting Opinions—Views of a Confirmed Sceptic—Start of the Expedition—Magnificence of the Vegetation—Friendliness of the Barugas—The “Orakaibas” (Criers of “Peace”)—Tree-huts eighty feet from the ground-Loveliness of this part of the Jungle—Description of its Plants—A Dry Season—First Glimpse of Agai Ambu Huts—Remarkable Scene on the Lake—Flight of the Agai Ambu in Canoes—Success at Last—A Voluntary Surrender—The Agai Ambu Flat-footed, not Web-footed—Sir Francis Winter’s subsequent Visit and fuller Description of these People—Their Physical Appearance, Houses, Canoes, Food, Speech and Customs—My Account Resumed—Making Friends with the Agai Ambu—A Country of Swamps—Second Agai Ambu Village—Extraordinary Abundance and Variety of Water-fowl—Strange Behaviour of an Agai Ambu Women—Disposal of the Dead in Mid-lake Food of the Agai Ambu—Their Method of Catching Ducks by Diving for them—An Odd Experience—Mosquitos and Fever—Last View of Agai Ambu—An Amusing Finale.

Many were the wild and fantastic rumours we had heard at the Residency at Cape Nelson, on the north-east coast of British New Guinea, concerning a curious tribe of natives whose feet were reported to be webbed like those of a duck, and who lived in a swamp a short way in the interior, some distance to the north of us. I myself had at first been inclined to sneer at these reports, but Monckton, the Resident Magistrate, with his superior knowledge of the Papuans, as the natives of New Guinea are called, was sure that there was some truth in the reports, as the Papuan who has not come much in contact with the [164]white man is singularly truthful though guilty of exaggeration.

I knew this, but I had in mind the case of the Doriri tribe, who lived in the interior a little to the south of us. These Doriri (who had had the kindly forethought to send us word that they were coming down to pay us a visit to eat us, for the Papuan, though a savage, is often most suave and courteous and by no means lacking in humour), were reported to us as having many tails, but needless to say when we made some prisoners, we were scarcely disappointed to find that the said tails protruded from the back of the head (in much the same fashion as the Chinaman’s pigtail); in this case each man had many tails, which were fashioned by rolling layers of bark from a certain tree—closely allied, I believe to the “paper tree” of Australia—round long strands of hair.

We three white men had many a long talk as to whether these swamp-dwellers were worth going in search of, but I soon came round to Monckton’s way of thinking. Acland, alone, however, maintained to the last that the whole thing was a myth, and jokingly said to Monckton: “When you find these duck-footed people, you had better see that Walker does not take them for birds, and shoot and skin a couple of specimens of each sex and add them to his collection.” (For my chief hobby in this and many other countries [165]all over the world consisted in adding to my fine collections of birds and butterflies in the old country.)

As we three, with our twenty-five native police and four servant boys, rowed up the Barigi River in our large government whaleboat, on our way to search for these “duck-footed” people, I could not help being struck with the very great beauty of the scene. Giant trees laden with their burden of orchids, parasites and dangling lianas, surrounded us on both sides, their wide-spreading branches forming a leafy arcade far over our heads, while palms in infinite variety, intermixed with all sorts of tropical forms of vegetation, and rare ferns, grew thickly on the banks.

Some distance behind us came our large fleet of canoes, bearing our bags of rice and over one hundred carriers, and as they paddled down the dark green oily waters of this natural arcade, with much shouting and the splashing of many paddles, it made a scene which is with me yet and is never to be forgotten. As we proceeded, the river got more narrow, and fallen trees from time to time obstructed our way. We at length landed at a spot where we were met by a large number of the Baruga tribe, who brought us several live pigs tied to poles, and great quantities of sago, plantains and yams. They had expected us, as we had camped in their country the previous night. They had been “licked” into friendliness [166]by Monckton, who less than a year ago (as elsewhere mentioned) had sunk their canoes, and together with the aid of the crocodiles, which swarm in this river, had annihilated a large force of them. And now to show their friendliness they were prepared to do us a good turn, by helping us to find these duck-footed people, with whom (they told us) they were well acquainted.

Oyogoba, the chief of the Baruga tribe, came to meet us. He assured us of the friendliness of his people, and himself offered to accompany us. His arm had been broken in the encounter with Monckton and his police, and Monckton had immediately afterwards set it himself. It now seemed quite sound.

We soon resumed our journey, on foot, passing through very varied country, plains covered with tall grass and bounded by forest, through which at times we passed. At other times we had to force our way through thick swamps in which the sago-palm abounded, from the trunks of which the natives extract sago in great quantities.

About mid-day we arrived at a fair-sized village belonging to the Baruga tribe. It was surrounded by a tall stockade of poles, and as we entered it, the women sitting in their huts greeted us with their incessant cries of “orakaiba, orakaiba” (peace). On this account the natives of this part of New Guinea are generally termed “Orakaibas” by other tribes. [167]

The houses here seemed larger and better built than most Papuan houses that I had hitherto seen, and there were many curious tree-houses high up among the branches of some very large, trees in the village, some being fully eighty feet from the ground. They had broad ladders reaching up to them, and looked very curious and picturesque. These ladders are made of long rattans from various climbing palms. These rattans, of which there were three double strings, are twisted in such a way as to support the pieces of wood which form the steps. In one case a ladder led from the ground in the usual way to a house built in a small tree about thirty feet from the ground, but a second ladder connected this house with another one in a much larger tree about eighty feet off the ground. I climbed the first ladder, but the second one swayed too much.

These tree-houses axe built partly as look-out houses, from which the approach of the enemy is discovered, and partly as vantage points from which the natives hurl down spears at their opponents below when attacked.

Resuming our journey, after a brief halt in this village, we soon came to the Barigi River again, which we crossed, camping in a small deserted village close by. Here I noticed several more tree-houses in the larger trees. This had been a very hot day, even for New Guinea, and I could not resist taking a most refreshing bathe [168]in the river, though I must confess I was glad to get out again, having rather a dread of the crocodiles, which infest parts of this river, though they were not nearly so numerous up here as in the lower reaches of the river which we had traversed in the morning.

We were up the following morning before sunrise, and were all much excited at the prospect before us of discovering this curious tribe. This day would show whether or no our journey was to prove fruitless. Soon after leaving the village we entered a dense forest, the growth of which was wonderfully beautiful. Tall pandanus trees, some of them supported by a hundred and more long stilted roots, which rose many feet above our heads, reared their crowns of ribbon-like leaves above even some of the giants of the forest. Palms of all shapes and sizes, dwarfed, tall, slender and thick, surrounded us on every side, and at least three different species of climbing palms scrambled over the tallest trees. The tree trunks were hidden by climbing ferns and by a white variegated fleshy-leafed pothos. Orchids, though not numerous, were by no means scarce on the branches of some of the larger trees, and were intermixed with many curious and beautiful ferns. There were many large-leafed tropical plants somewhat resembling the heliconias and marantas of tropical America.

Flowers were not very plentiful, but here and [169]there the forest would be literally ablaze with what is said to be the most showy flowering creeper in the world, huge bunches of large flowers of so vivid a scarlet that Monckton and I agreed no painting could do them justice. It is sometimes known as the Dalbertia, but its botanical name is Mucuna bennetti. It has been found impossible to introduce it into cultivation. Among other flowers were some very large sweet-scented Crinum lilies and some very pretty pink flowering begonias, with their leaves beautifully mottled with silver. Here and there we would notice a variegated croton or pink-leafed dracæna, but these were uncommon.

As we proceeded, I noticed that in spite of the very dry weather we had been having, the ground each moment became more moist, which indicated that we were approaching the swamps we had heard about. It was a rough track over fallen trees and dry streams, but before long we passed along the banks of a creek full of stagnant water.

We at length left the forest and found ourselves in open country, covered with reeds and rank grass, through which we slowly wended our way. Suddenly, however, we halted, and looking through the tall grass, saw some of the houses of the Agai Ambu tribe close at hand. Down we all crouched, hiding ourselves among the grass, while two of our Baruga guides, who speak the language of the Agai Ambu, went forward to try and parley with [170]them and induce them to be friendly with us. We soon heard them yelling out to the Agai Ambu, who yelled back in reply. This went on for some minutes, when the Baruga men called out to us to come on.

Jumping up, we rushed forward through the grass and witnessed a remarkable scene. In front of us was a lake thickly covered with water-lilies, most of them long-stemmed and of a very beautiful blue, with a yellow centre, and with large leaves, the edges of which were covered with a kind of thorn; there were also some white ones with yellow centre.

On the other side of the lake were several curious houses built on long poles in the water, the houses themselves being a good height above the water. The lake presented a scene of great confusion. The inhabitants were fleeing away from us in their curious canoes, which, unlike most Papuan canoes, had no outrigger whatever. Their paddles also were peculiar, the blades being very broad. Close to us were our two Baruga guides in a canoe with one of the Agai Ambu tribe, who directly he saw us plunged into the lake and disappeared under the tangled masses of water lilies.

He remained under some time, but on his coming to the surface again, one of the Baruga men plunged in after him, and we witnessed an exciting wrestling match in the water. The Baruga man [171]was by far the more powerful of the two, but he was no match for the almost amphibious Agai Ambu, who slipped away from his grasp like an eel, and swam away, with the Baruga man in close pursuit. All this time a canoe full of the Agai Ambu was rapidly approaching to the rescue, waving their paddles over their heads, and the Baruga man, seeing this, climbed back into his canoe and paddled back to us.

Meanwhile the police had made a rush for a canoe which was close at hand; but it at once upset, having no outrigger and being exceedingly light and thin; it was, in fact, a species of canoe quite new to our police. In any case they would not have had the slightest chance of overtaking the fleet Agai Ambu in their own canoes. It looked very much as if after all we were not to have the chance of verifying the strange reports about the formation of these people. As a last resource we sent over our two Baruga guides in a canoe to speak with those of the tribe who had not fled. As the guides approached they shouted out that we were friends, and that as we were friends of the Baruga tribe, we must be friends of the Agai Ambu tribe as well.

We held up various tempting trade goods, including a calico known as Turkey-red, bottles of beads, etc. This and a long conversation with the Baruga men seemed to carry some weight with them, for the Baruga soon returned with one of [172]their number, who turned round in the canoe with his arms outstretched to his friends and cried or rather chanted, in a sobbing voice, what sounded like a very weird song, which seemed quite in keeping with the mournful surroundings and lonely life of these people.

This weird song, heard under such circumstances, quite thrilled me, and wild and savage though the singer was, the song appealed to me more than any other song has ever done. It looked as if he might be a ne’er-do-weel or an idiot whom his friends could afford to experiment with before taking the risk of coming over themselves, but his song was no doubt a farewell to his friends, whom he possibly never expected to see again.

He certainly looked horribly frightened as he stepped out of the canoe. We at once saw that there was some truth in the reports about the physical formation of these people, although there had been exaggeration in the descriptions of their feet as “webbed.” There was, between the toes, an epidermal growth more distinct than in the case of other peoples, though not so conspicuous as to permit of the epithet “half-webbed,” much less “webbed,” being applied to them. The most noticeable difference was that their legs below the knee were distinctly shorter than those of the ordinary Papuan, and that their feet seemed much broader and shorter and very flat, so that [173]altogether they presented a most extraordinary appearance. The Agai Ambu hardly ever walk on dry land, and their feet bleed if they attempt to do so. They appeared to be slightly bowlegged and walk with a mincing gait, lifting their feet straight up, as if they were pulling them out of the mud.

Sir Francis Winter, the acting Governor of British New Guinea, was so interested in our discovery, that he himself made another expedition with Monckton to see these people, while I was still in New Guinea. On his return I stayed with him for some time at Government House, Port Moresby, and he gave me a copy of his report on the Agai Ambu, which explains the curious physical formation of these people better than I could do.

He says: “On the other side of this mere, and close to a bed of reeds and flags, was a little village of the small Ahgai-ambo tribe, and about three-quarters of a mile off was a second village. After much shouting our Baruga followers induced two men and a woman to come across to us from the nearest village. Each came in a small canoe, which, standing up, they propelled with a long pole. One man and the woman ventured on shore to where we were standing.

“The Ahgai-ambo have for a period that extends beyond native traditions lived in this swamp. At one time they were fairly numerous, but a few [174]years ago some epidemic reduced them to about forty. They never leave their morass, and the Baruga assured us that they are not able to walk properly on hard ground, and that their feet soon bleed if they try to do so. The man that came on shore was for a native middle-aged. He would have been a fair-sized native, had his body from the hips downward been proportionate to the upper part of his frame. He had a good chest and, for a native, a thick neck; and his arms matched his trunk. His buttocks and thighs were disproportionately small, and his legs still more so. His feet were short and broad, and very thin and flat, with, for a native, weak-looking toes. This last feature was still more noticeable in the woman, whose toes were long and slight and stood out rigidly from the foot as though they possessed no joints. The feet of both the man and the woman seemed to rest on the ground something as wooden feet would do. The skin above the knees of the man was in loose folds, and the sinews and muscles around the knee were not well developed. The muscles of the shin were much better developed than those of the calf. In the ordinary native the skin on the loins is smooth and tight, and the anatomy of the body is clearly discernible; but the Ahgai-ambo man had several folds of thick skin or muscle across the loins, which concealed the outline of his frame. On placing one of our natives, of the same height, alongside the marsh [175]man, we noticed that our native was about three inches higher at the hips.

“I had a good view of our visitor, while he was standing sideways towards me, and in figure and carriage he looked to me more ape-like than any human being that I have seen. The woman, who was of middle age, was much more slightly formed than the man, but her legs were short and slender in proportion to her figure, which from the waist to the knees was clothed in a wrapper of native cloth.

“The houses of the near village were built on piles, at a height of about twelve feet from the surface of the water, but one house at the far village must have been three or four feet more elevated. Their canoes, which are small, long, and narrow, and have no outrigger, axe hollowed out to a mere shell to give them buoyancy. Although the open water was several feet deep, it was so full of aquatic plants that a craft of any width, or drawing more than a few inches, would make but slow progress through it. Needless to say that these craft, which retain the round form of the log, are exceedingly unstable, but their owners stand up in them and, pole them along without any difficulty.

“These people are very expert swimmers, and can glide through beds of reeds or rushes, or over masses of floating vegetable matter, with ease. They live on wild fowl, fish, sago and marsh plants, [176]and on vegetables procured from the Baruga in exchange for fish and sago. They keep a few pigs on platforms built underneath or alongside their houses. Their dead they place on small platforms among the reeds, and cover the corpse over with a roof of rude matting. Their dialect is almost the same as that of the Baruga. Probably their ancestors at one time lived close to the swamp, and in order to escape from their enemies were driven to seek a permanent refuge in it.”

Thus it will be seen that Sir Francis was much impressed with these people, and he heartily congratulated me upon our discovery.

To resume my personal account. We soon gave the man confidence by presenting him with an axe, some calico and beads, and a small looking-glass, which was held in front of him. He gazed in stupefied wonderment at his own features so plainly depicted before him. He was taken back to the other side, and soon returned with two more of his tribe, who brought us a live pig, which they hauled out from a raised flooring beneath one of their houses.

The country all round us seemed to be one large swamp, and we stood upon a springy foundation of reeds and mud; except for these, we should undoubtedly have soon sunk out of sight in the mud. As it was, we stood in a foot of water most of the time, and in places we had to wade through mud over our knees. [177]

The lake swarmed with many kinds of curious water-birds, the most common being a red-headed kind of plover; there was also a great variety of duck and teal. The swamps were full of large spiders, which crawled all over us; we had to keep continually brushing them off.

Farther down the lake we saw another small village, and we were told that these two villages comprised the whole of this curious tribe. Whether they axe the remnants of a once powerful tribe it is impossible to say, but their position is well-nigh impregnable in case they are ever attacked, as their houses are surrounded by swamps and water on all sides, and no outsider could very well get through the swamps to their villages. The only possible way to get there would be to cross the water in their shell-like canoes, a feat which no man of any other tribe would ever be able to manage.

Monckton thought that these swamps and lake were formed by an overflow of the Musa River. This had been a phenomenally dry season for New Guinea, so these swamps in an ordinary wet season must be under water to the depth of many feet.

We camped close by on the borders of the forest amid a jungle of rank luxuriant vegetation, over which hovered large and brilliant butterflies, among them a very large metallic green and black species (Ornithoptera priamus) and a large one of [178]a bright blue (Papilio ulyses). The same afternoon we three went out shooting on the lake. Two of the Agai Ambu canoes were lashed together and a raft of split bamboo put across them, and two Agai Ambu men punted and paddled us about. Before starting we had first educated them up to the report of our guns, and after a few shots they soon got over their fright.

The lake positively swarmed with water-fowl, including several varieties of duck, also shag, divers, pigmy geese, small teal, grebe, red-headed plover, spur-wing plover, curlew, sandpipers, snipe, swamp hen, water-rail, and many other birds. The red-headed plover were especially numerous, and ran about on the surface of the lake, which was covered with the water-lily leaves and a thick sort of mossy weed. All the birds seemed remarkably tame, and we got a good assorted bag, chiefly duck—enough to supply most of our large force with.

I stopped most of the time on the raised platform of one of the houses and shot the duck, which Acland and Monckton put up, as they flew over my head. I had a companion in old Giwi, the chief of the Kaili-kailis, many of whom were among our carriers. He seemed to be on very friendly terms with one of the Agai Ambu on whose hut I was. Presently a woman came over in a canoe from one of the houses in the far village, and climbed up on to the platform where we were. [179]Directly she saw old Giwi, she caught hold of him and hugged and kissed him all over and rubbed her face against his body, covering him with the black pigment with which she had smeared her face. She was sobbing all the time and chanting a very mournful but not unmusical kind of song. This exhibition lasted over half an hour, and poor old Giwi looked quite bewildered, and gazed up at me in a most piteous way, as much as to say: “Awful nuisance, this woman—but what am I to do?” He understood the meaning of this performance as little as I did. Possibly the woman was frightened of us, and seeing a stranger of her own colour in old Giwi, appealed to him for protection. The Baruga, however, had previously told us that the Agai Ambu had recently captured one of their women, and I have since thought that this might possibly have been the woman, and am sorry I did not make inquiries at the time. At all events, old Giwi was too courteous to shake her off, though to me it was a most amusing sight, and it was all I could do to refrain from laughing aloud.

We saw the dead body of a man half-wrapped in mats tied to poles in the middle of the lake. They always dispose of their dead thus, and I suppose leave them there till they rot or dry up.

The chief food of these people seemed to be the bulbs of the water-lilies, fish and shellfish. They catch plenty of water-fowl by diving under them [180]and pulling them under the water by the legs before they have time to make any noise. By this method they do not frighten the rest away, and this accounts for the birds’ extreme tameness.

It seemed odd that we should be paddled about the lake, to shoot wild fowl, by these people, who until to-day had never seen a white man before and had fled from us in the morning. However, most of them had fled and would not return until we had left their country.

There is little doubt that this part of the country is most unhealthy. Many of our police and carriers were two days later down with fever, and a few weeks later I had a bad attack of fever, with which I was laid up in Samarai for some time, and which I feel sure I got into my system in this swamp. The mosquitoes were certainly very plentiful and vicious.

We spent the following day here, duck-shooting on the lake, and I did a little natural-history collecting in the adjacent forest. We had intended to try and induce two of the Agai Ambu to accompany us back to Cape Nelson, but most unfortunately they understood that we were going to take them forcibly away. They became alarmed and all disappeared, and we were not able to get into communication with them again.

When Sir Francis Winter visited them about a month later they were evidently quite friendly again, but on the second day of his visit his native [181]followers demanded a pig of the Agai Ambu in his, Sir Francis’s, name. At this they became alarmed and retreated to the further village, and he was unable to see any more of them. Since then I believe nothing more has been seen of these flat-footed people.

We returned to our old camping ground in the Baruga village on the banks of the Barigi River, and the friendly Baruga people brought us a big supply of pigs, sago and other native food. The next day we continued our journey to the coast, and camped at the mouth of the Barigi River. We had intended making an expedition into the Hydrographer range of mountains, which we could see from here, and which were unexplored, but Monckton and Acland were far from well, and most of our carriers and police were down with fever, and so, greatly to my disappointment, this had to be abandoned. We resumed our homeward journey in the whaleboat early the following morning. We started with a fair breeze, but this changed after a time to a head wind, against which it was quite impossible to make any headway, so we landed at a place where there was a small inlet leading into a lagoon. We stayed here till six p.m., when the wind dropped sufficiently to enable us to start off again, and, passing the mouth of the Musa River, we landed about one a.m. in Porlock Bay, where we camped for the night. [182]

We spent the following day shooting, which entailed a lot of wading amongst the shallow streams, lagoons and small lakes. I had a bit of a fright here, as I suddenly stepped into some quicksands and felt myself sinking fast, but, thanks to Arigita and the branch of a tree, I was able to pull myself out after a great deal of trouble and anxiety, though if I had not had Arigita with me I should most certainly have gone under. We got a splendid bag between us of various birds, chiefly duck and pigeon. One of the police shot a large cassowary, and also a large wild pig and a wallaby, so there was plenty of food for all. We sailed again that night at eleven p.m., and got six of the Okeina canoes to tow us along. This they did not seem to relish, and before they got into line there was a great deal of angry talking and shouting, and Monckton had to call them to order by firing a rifle in the air. It was amusing to see the way the long line of canoes pulled us round and round in the form of the letter “S,” and they would often bump against each other, and plenty of angry words were exchanged. It was an amusing finale to the expedition. They left us for their homes when we got near the Okeina country. We landed in the early morning on the beach, where we had breakfast, and then rowed on, followed by the Kaili-kaili and Arifamu canoes, and eventually landed again at the station at Tufi, Cape Nelson, about two p.m. [183]

In conclusion I should mention that Mr. Oelrechs, Monckton’s assistant, had heard rumours that we had all been massacred, and he told me that he had been seriously thinking of gathering together a large army of friendly natives to go down and avenge us, though I think he would have found it no easy matter, but, as can be seen, we saved him the trouble, and so our expedition ended. [184][185]

Wanderings and Wonders in Borneo.


On the War-Path in Borneo.

The “Orang-utan” and the “Man of the Jungle”—Voyage to Sarawak—The Borneo Company, Limited—Kuching, a Picturesque Capital—Independence of Sarawak—I meet the Rajah and the Chief Officials—Etiquette of the Sarawak Court—The “Club”—The “Rangers” of Sarawak and their Trophies—Execution by means of the Long Kris—Degeneracy of the Land Dayaks—Ascent of the Rejang River—Mud Banks and Crocodiles—Dr. Hose at his Sarawak Home—The Fort at Sibu—Enormous length of Dayak Canoes—A Brush with Head-Hunters—Dayak Vengeance on Chinamen—First Impressions of the Sea Dayak, “picturesque and interesting”—A Head-Hunting raid, Dayaks attack the Punans—I accompany the Punitive Expedition—Voyage Upstream—A Clever “Bird Scare”—Houses on the top of Tree-stumps—The Kelamantans—Kanawit Village—The Fort at Kapit—Capture of a notorious Head-Hunting Chief—I inspect the “Heads” of the Victims—Cause of Head-Hunting—Savage Revenge of a Dayak Lover and its Sequel—Hose’s stem Ultimatum—Accepted by the Head-Hunters—I return to Sibu—A Fatal Misconception.

I had spent about seven months in the forests of British North Borneo, going many days’ journey into the heart of the country, had made fine natural-history collections and had come across a great deal of game, including elephant, rhinoceros, bear, and “tembadu” or wild cattle, huge wild pig and deer of three species being especially plentiful. But above all I had come across a great many “orang-utan” (Malay for “jungle-man”) and had been able to study their habits. One of these great apes has the strength of eight men and possesses an extraordinary amount of vitality. One that I shot lived for nearly three hours with five soft-nosed Mauser bullets in its body. [188]

But I had not yet seen the real jungle-man in his native haunts—the head-hunting Dayak, as the Dayaks are rarely to be found in North Borneo, whereas the people on the Kinabatangan River (where I spent most of my time) were a sort of Malay termed “Orang Sungei” (River People). So, as I was anxious to see the real head-hunting Dayak, I determined to go to Sarawak, which is in quite a different part of Borneo. To do this, I had to return to Singapore, and thence, after a two days’ voyage, I arrived at Kuching, the capital of Sarawak. Except for a Chinese towkay, I was the only saloon passenger, as strangers rarely visit this country.

Kuching is about twenty-five miles up the Sarawak River, and contains about thirty thousand inhabitants, chiefly Malays and Chinese, with about fifty Europeans, who are for the most part government officials or belong to the Borneo Company, Limited. This company is very wealthy and owns the only steamship line, plying between Singapore and Kuching. It has several gold mines and a great quantity of land planted to pepper, gambier, gutta percha and rubber. The Rajah will not allow any other company or private individual to buy lands or open up an estate, neither will he allow any traders in the country.

It would be difficult to imagine a more picturesque town than Kuching. It chiefly consists of substantial Chinese dwellings of brick and [189]plaster, with beautiful tile-work of quaint figures, while temples glittering with gold peep out of thick, luxuriant, tropical growth. Two miles out of the city you can lose yourself in a dense tropical forest of the greatest beauty, and in the background is a chain of mountains, some of them of extraordinary shape. The reigning monarch or Rajah is an Englishman, Sir Charles Brooke, a nephew of Sir James Brooke, the first Rajah, who was an officer in the British Navy and who, after conquering Malay pirates, was made Rajah of the country by the grateful Dayaks.

Though Sarawak is supposed to be under British protection, and though all his officials are Britishers, Rajah Brooke considers his country independent and will not allow the Union Jack to be flown in his dominions. He possesses his own flag, a mixture of red, black and yellow, and his own national anthem; moreover his officials refer to him as the King, and to his son, the heir to the throne, as the “young King” (or “Rajah Muda”).

Two days after my arrival, the Rajah left on his steam yacht for England, but the day before he left, he held a great reception at his “palace” (or “astana,” as it is called in Malay). It was attended by all his officials, by high Malay chiefs and the chief Chinese merchants. The reins of government were formally handed over to his son, the Rajah Muda, after which champagne was [190]passed round. The chief resident, Sir Percy Cunninghame, then introduced me to the Rajah. He is a fine-looking old man with a white moustache and white hair, and is greatly beloved by every one. He conversed with me for some time, and asked me many questions about the Chartered Company in British North Borneo. It was rather embarrassing for me, with every one silently and respectfully standing around listening to every word. He wished me success in my travels in the interior, and told his officials to do all in their power to help me. When you talk about the Rajah you say “His Highness,” but when you address him, you simply say “Rajah” after every few words—“Yes, Rajah,” or “No, Rajah.” The native chiefs, I noticed, kissed the hands of both the Rajah and the Rajah Muda.

There is no hotel in Kuching, so I put up at the rather dilapidated government Rest-House, part of which I had to myself, the other half being occupied by two government officers. The club in Kuching seems a most popular institution with all the officials, and “gin pahits” (or “bitters”) the popular drink of this part of the world; billiards and pool help to pass many a pleasant evening, the Rajah Muda often joining us at a game of black pool, like any ordinary mortal.

The Rajah’s troops, the Rangers, are a fine body of men; they are chiefly recruited from the Malays and Dayaks, and have an English sergeant [191]to drill them. I was told that when they go fighting the wild head-hunters, they are allowed to bring in as trophies the heads of those they kill, in the same way that the Dayaks themselves do. The method of execution here is the same as in other Malay countries, the criminal being taken down to the banks of the river, where a long “kris” is thrust down through the shoulder into the heart, and is then twisted about till the man is dead.

After a visit to Bau, further up the Sarawak River, where the Borneo Company, whose guest I was, have a gold mine (the clay being treated by the “cyanide” process), I collected specimens for some time in the beautiful forests at the foot of the limestone mountains of Poak. Here I saw something of the Land Dayaks, but they are a poor degenerate breed, and not to be compared to the Sea Dayaks, who are born fighters, and whose predatory head-hunting instincts give a great deal of trouble to the government. These latter were the Dayaks I was anxious to meet, and I soon made arrangements to visit their country, which is a good way from Kuching, the real Sea Dayak rarely visiting the capital.

So one morning early I found myself with my two servants, a Chinese cook and a civilized Dayak named Dubi (Mr. R. Shelford also going), on board a government paddle-wheel steamer which was bound for Sibu, on the Rejang River. Twenty-five[192] miles’ descent of the Sarawak River brought us to the sea. We did not skirt the coast, but cut across a large open expanse of sea for about ninety miles. We then came to the delta of the Rejang River, and went up one of its many mouths, which was of great width, though the scenery all the way was monotonous, and consisted of nothing but mangroves, pandanus, the feathery nipa palm and the tall, slender “nibong” palm, with here and there a crocodile lying, out on the mud banks—a dismal scene.

At nightfall we anchored a short way up the river, as the government will not allow their boats to travel up the river by night, it being unsafe. We were off again at daylight the next morning, the scenery improving as the interminable mangroves gave place to the forest. Sixty miles up the river found us at Sibu, where I put up with Dr. Hose, the Resident, the celebrated Bornean explorer and naturalist. The only other Europeans here were two junior officials, Messrs. Johnson and Bolt. And yet there is a club at Sibu, a club for three, and here these three officials meet every evening and play pool.

There is a fort in Sibu, as indeed there is at most of the river places in Sarawak. It is generally a square-shaped wooden building, perforated all round with small holes for rifles, while just below the roof is a slanting grill-work through which it is easy to shoot, though, as it is on the slant, it is [193]hard for spears to enter from the outside. There are one or two cannons in most of these forts. The fort at Sibu was close to Dr. Hose’s house and was attacked by Dayaks only a few years ago. Johnson, one of Dr. Hose’s assistants, showed me a very long Dayak canoe capable of seating over one hundred men. It was made out of one tree, but large as it was, it did not equal some of the Kayan canoes on this river, one of which was one hundred and forty-five feet in length. This Dayak canoe was literally riddled with bullets, and Johnson told me that a few weeks’ ago he was fighting some Dayaks on the Kanawit, a branch river near here, when he was attacked by some Dayaks in this very canoe. As they came up throwing spears he told his men to fire, with the result that eighteen Dayaks were killed. The river at Sibu was of great width, over a mile across, in fact, and close to the bank is a Malay village, and a bazaar where the wily Chinaman does a thriving trade in the wild produce of the country, and makes huge profits out of the Dayaks and other natives on this river. But the Dayaks often have their revenge and attack the Chinamen with great slaughter, the result being that they take home with them plenty of yellow-skinned heads with nice long pig-tails to hang them up by. During my stay on this river there were two or three cases of Chinamen being slaughtered by the Dayaks, and if it were not for the forts on these [194]rivers, every Chinaman would be wiped out of existence.

My first real acquaintance with the Sea Dayak was in the long bazaar at Sibu, and I was by no means disappointed in my first impressions, as I found him a most picturesque and interesting individual. The men usually have long black hair hanging down their backs, often with a long fringe on their foreheads. Their skin is brown, they have snub noses but resolute eyes, and they are of fine proportions, though they rarely exceed five feet five inches in height. Beyond the “jawat,” a long piece of cloth which hangs down between their legs, they wear nothing, if I except their many and varied ornaments. They wear a great variety of earrings. These are often composed of heavy bits of brass, which draw the lobes of the ears down below the shoulder. When they go on the war-path they generally wear war-coats made from the skins of various wild animals, and these are often padded as a protection against the small poisonous darts of the “sumpitan” or blow-pipe which, together with the “parang” (a kind of sword) and long spears with broad steel points constitute their chief weapons. They also have large shields of light wood; often fantastically painted in curious patterns, or ornamented with human hair.

I had been at Sibu only three or four days, when word was brought down to Dr. Hose that the Ulu [195]Ai Dayaks, near Fort Kapit, about one hundred miles up the river, had attacked and killed a party of Punans for the sake of their heads. These Punans are a nomadic tribe who wander about through the great forests with no settled dwelling-places, but build themselves rough huts and hunt the wild game of the forest and feed on the many wild fruits that are found in these forests. Hose at once decided to go up to Fort Kapit and punish these Dayaks, and gave me leave to accompany him and Shelford. So one morning at six o’clock we boarded a large steam launch with a party of the Rangers, mentioned above, as the Rajah’s troops. We took, from near Sibu, several friendly Dayaks, who were armed to the teeth with spears, “parangs,” “sumpitans,” shields and war ornaments, all highly elated at the prospect of the fighting in store for them.

In a short account like this, it is of course impossible to describe the many interesting things that I saw on the journey up the river. We passed many of the long, curious Dayak houses and plenty of canoes full of these picturesque people, and at some of the villages little Dayak children hurriedly pushed out small canoes from the shore so as to get rocked by the waves made by our launch. This they seemed to enjoy, to judge from the delighted yells they gave forth. I several times saw a most ingenious invention for frightening away the birds and monkeys from the large fruit [196]trees which surrounded every Dayak village. At one end of a large rattan cord was a sort of wooden rattle, fixed on the top of one of the largest fruit trees. The other end of the rattan was fastened to a slender bamboo stick which was stuck into the river, and the action of the stream caused the bamboo to sway to and fro, thus jerking the rattan which in turn set the rattle going. We passed several small houses built on the tops of large tree-stumps. These, Dr. Hose informed me, were built by Kanawits, of a race of people known as Kelamantans. These Kelamantans are supposed to be the oldest residents of Borneo, being here long before the Dayaks and Kayans, but they axe fast dying out, as are the Punans, I believe chiefly owing to the raids of the warlike Dayaks. They were once ferocious head-hunters, but now they are a very inoffensive people.

About mid-day we stopped at the village of Kanawit, at the mouth of the river of that name. This village, like Sibu, is composed entirely of Chinese and Malays. They are all traders and do a thriving business with the Dayaks and other natives. Here also was a fort with its cannon, with a Dayak or Malay sergeant and a dozen men in charge. As we proceeded up river, the scenery became rather monotonous. There was little tall forest, the country being either cleared for planting “padi” (rice) or in secondary forest growth or [197]jungle, a sure sign of a thick population. We saw many Dayaks burning the felled jungle for planting their “padi,” and the air was full of ashes and smoke, which obscured the rays of the sun and cast a reddish glare on the surrounding country.

Toward evening we reached the village of Song and stayed here all night, fastening our launch to the bank. In spite of the fort here, we learned that the Chinamen were in great fear of an attack by the Dayaks, which they daily expected. Leaving Song at half-past five the next morning, we arrived at Kapit about ten a.m. and put up at the fort, which was a large one. A long, narrow platform from the top of the fort led to a larger platform on which, overlooking the river, there was a large cannon which could be turned round so as to cover all the approaches from the river in case there was an attack on the fort. We learned that the day before we arrived at Kapit, Mingo, the Portuguese in charge of the fort, had captured the worst ringleader of the head-hunters in the bazaar at Kapit, and small parties of loyal Dayaks were at once sent off to the homes of the other head-hunters with strict injunctions to bring back the guilty ones, and, failing persuasion and threats, to attack them.1 In most cases they were successful, and I saw many of the prisoners brought in, together with some of the heads of their victims.

The next morning Hose suddenly called out to [198]me that if I wished to inspect the heads I would find them hanging up under the cannon platform by the river, and he sent a Dayak to undo the wrappings of native cloth and mats in which they were done up. They were a sickening sight, and all the horrors of head-hunting were brought before me with vivid and startling reality far more than could have been done by any writer, and I pictured those same heads full of life only a few days before, and then suddenly a rush from the outside amid the unprepared Punans in their rude huts in the depths of the forest, a woman’s scream of terror, followed by the sickening sound of hacking blows from the sharp Dayak “parangs,” and the Dayak war-cry, “Hoo-hah! hoo-hah!” ringing through the night air, as every single Punan man, woman and child, who has not had time to escape, is cut down in cold blood. When all are dead, the proud Dayaks, proceed to hack off the heads of their victims and bind them round with rattan strings with which to carry them, and then, returning in triumph, are hailed with shouts of delight by their envious fellow-villagers, for this means wives, a Dayak maiden thinking as much of heads as a white girl would of jewellery. The old Dayak who undid the wrappings pretended to be horrified, but I felt sure that the old hypocrite wished that he owned them himself.

Only seven of the heads had been brought in, [199]and two of them were heads of women, and although they had been smoked, I could easily see that one of them was that of a quite young, good-looking girl, with masses of long, dark hair. She had evidently been killed by a blow from a “parang,” as the flesh on the head had been separated by a large cut which had split the skull open. In one of the men’s heads there were two small pieces of wood inserted in the nose. They were all ghastly sights to look at, and smelt a bit, and I was not sorry to be able to turn my back on them.

As in the present case, the brass-encircled young Dayak women are generally the cause of these head-hunts, as they often refuse to marry a man unless he has one or more heads, and in many cases a man is absolutely driven to get a head if he wishes to marry. The heads are handed down from father to son, and the rank of a Dayak is generally determined by the number of heads he or his ancestors have collected. A Dayak goes on the war-path more for the sake of the heads he may get, than for the honour and glory of the fighting. Generally, though, there is precious little fighting, as the Dayak attacks only when his victims are unprepared.

While I was in Borneo I heard the following story of Dayak barbarity, which is a good example of the way the women incite their men to go on these head-hunting expeditions. In a certain district [200]where some missionaries were doing good work among the Dayaks, a Dayak young man named Hathnaveng had been persuaded by the missionaries to give up the barbaric custom of headhunting. One day, however, he fell in love with a Dayak maiden. The girl, although returning his passion, disdained his offer of marriage, because he no longer indulged in the ancient practice of cutting off and bringing home the heads of the enemies of the tribe. Hathnaveng, goaded by the taunts of the girl, who told him to dress in women’s clothes in the future, as he no longer had the courage of a man, left the village and remained away for some time. When he returned, he entered his sweetheart’s hut, carrying a sack on his shoulders. He opened it, and four human heads rolled upon the bamboo floor. At the sight of the trophies, the girl at once took him back into her favour, and flinging her arms round his neck, embraced him passionately.

“You wanted heads,” declared her lover. “I have brought them. Do you not recognize them?”

Then to her horror she saw they were the heads of her father, her mother, her brother and of a young man who was Hathnaveng’s rival for her affections. Hathnaveng was immediately seized by some of the tribesmen, and by way of punishment was placed in a small bamboo structure such as is commonly used by the Dayaks for pigs, [201]and allowed to starve to death.2 This is a true story, and occurred while I was still in Borneo.

The day after we arrived at Kapit a great crowd of Dayaks, belonging to the tribe of those implicated in the attack on the Punans, assembled at the fort to talk with Dr. Hose on the matter, and the upshot of it all was startling in its severity. This was Hose’s ultimatum: They must give up the rest of those that took part in the raid, and they would all get various terms of imprisonment. They must return the rest of the heads. They must pay enormous fines, and, lastly, those villages which had men who took part in the raid, must move down the river opposite Sibu, and thus be under Hose’s eye as well as under the guns of the fort. I watched the faces of the crowd, and it was interesting to witness their various emotions. Some looked stupefied, others looked very angry, and that they could not agree among themselves was plainly evident from their angry squabbling. They were a curious crowd with their long black hair and fringes and round tattoo marks on their bodies. They finally agreed to these terms, as Hose told them that if they did not do so, he would come and make them, even if he had to kill them all. The following days I witnessed large bands of Dayaks bringing to the fort their fines, which consisted of large jars and brass gongs, which are the Dayak forms of [202]currency. The total fine amounted to $5,200, and the jars were carefully examined, the gongs weighed and their values assessed. Some of the jars were very old, but the older they are the more they are worth. Three of the poorest looking ones were valued at $1,400 (the dollar in Borneo is about two of our shillings). Of the total, $1,200 was later paid to the Punans as compensation (“pati nyawa”). I watched some Dayaks—who had just brought in their fines—as they went away in one of their large canoes, and they crossed the river with a quick, short stroke of their paddles in splendid time, so that one heard the sound of their paddles, as they beat against the side of the canoe, come in one short tr-r-up. They seemed to be very angry, all talking at once, and I still heard the sound of their angry voices above the paddles’ beat, long after they had disappeared up a narrow creek on the other side.

I had intended going with my two servants further up the river and living for some time among the Dayaks, but Dr. Hose made objections to my doing so. He said it would be very unsafe for me to live among these Kapit Dayaks at the present time, as they were naturally in a very excitable state, and would have thought little of killing one of the “orang puteh” (white men), whom they no doubt considered the cause of all their trouble. They would be sure to take me for a government official. Hose instead advised [203]me to go up a small unexplored branch river below Sibu, so as the launch was returning to Sibu I determined to return in her, leaving Hose and Shelford at Kapit.

During my short stay at Kapit I added very few new specimens to my collections of birds and butterflies; in fact, it was the worst collecting-ground that I struck during more than a year’s wanderings in Borneo. I, however, made a fine collection of Dayak weapons, shields and war ornaments from our friendly Dayaks, who seemed very low-spirited now that there was to be no fighting, and on this account traded some of their property to me which at other times nothing would have induced them to part with, at a very low figure.

I returned to Sibu with Mingo, and we took with us the ringleader of the head-hunters. He was kept handcuffed in the hold, and he worked himself up into a pitiable state of fright. He thought he was going to be killed, and the whole of the voyage he was chanting a most mournful kind of song, a regular torrent of words going to one note. My Dayak servant Dubi informed me that he was singing about the heads he had taken, and for which he thought he was now going to die.

After a day’s stay in Sibu I went up the Sarekei River with my two servants, and made a long stay in a Dayak house. I will try to describe my life among the Dayaks in the next chapter. In [204]conclusion, I must tell the tragic story of a fatal mistake, which was told me by Johnson, one of the officials at Sibu, which serves to illustrate the superstitious beliefs of the Malays. A Chinese prisoner at Sibu had died, at least Johnson and Bolt both thought so, and they sent some of the Malay soldiers to bury the body on the other side of the river. A few days later one of them casually remarked to Johnson that they had often heard it said that the spirit of a man sometimes returned to his body again for a short time after death (a Malay belief), but he (this Malay) had not believed it before, but he now knew that it was true. Johnson, much amused, asked him how that was. “Oh,” said the Malay, “when the Tuan (Johnson) sent us across the river to bury the dead man the other day, his spirit came back to him and his body sat up and talked, and we were much afraid, and seized hold of the body; which gave us much trouble to put it into the hole we had digged, and when we had quickly filled in the hole so that the body could not come out again, we fled away quickly, so now we know that the saying is true.” It thus transpired that they had buried a live Chinaman without being aware of the fact. [205]

1 R. Shelford’s Report.

2 From a Singapore Paper.

Home-Life Among Head-Hunting Dayaks.

I leave the Main Stream and journey up the Sarekei—A Stream overarched by Vegetation—House 200 feet long—I make Friends with the Chief—My New Quarters—Rarity of White Men—Friendliness of my New Hosts—Embarrassing Request from a Lady, “like we your skin”—Similar Experience of Wallace—Crowds to see me Undress—Dayak’s interest in Illustrated Papers—Waist-rings of Dayak Women—Teeth filled with brass—Noisiness of a Dayak House—Dayak Dogs—A well-meant Blow and its Sequel—Uproarious Amusement of the Dayaks—Dayak Fruit-Trees—The Durian as King of all Fruits—Dayak “Bridges” across the Swamp-Dances of the Head-Hunters—A Secret “Fishing” Expedition—A Spear sent by way of defiance to the Government—I “score” off the Pig-Hunters—Dayak Diseases—Dayak Women and Girls—Two “Broken Hearts”—I Raffle my Tins—“Cookie” and the Head-Hunters, their Jokes and Quarrels—My Adventure with a Crocodile.

The Rejang is one of the many large rivers which abound in Borneo, and its tributaries are numerous and for the most part unexplored. The Rejang is tidal for fully one hundred and fifty miles, and at Sibu is over a mile in width. The banks of this river are inhabited by a large population of Malays, Chinese, Dayaks, Kayans, Kanawits, Punans and numerous other tribes. Thus it is a highly interesting region for an ethnologist.

It was with feelings of pleasant anticipation that I started down the river in the government steam-launch from Sibu just as dawn was breaking, on my way to spend several weeks among the [206]wild Dayaks on the unexplored Sarekei River. I took with me my two servants, Dubi, a civilized Dayak, and my Chinese cook. After a journey of four hours we arrived at a large Malay village near the mouth of the Sarekei River. Here I disembarked and sought out the chief of the village and demanded the loan of two canoes, with some men to paddle them, and in return I offered liberal payment. Accordingly, an hour after my arrival I found myself with all my belongings and servants on board the two canoes, with a crew of nine Malays. Soon after leaving the Malay village we branched off to the left up the Sarekei River. It was very monotonous at first, as the giant plumes of the nipa palm hid everything from my view. My Malays worked hard at their paddles, and late in the afternoon we left the main Sarekei River and paddled up a small and extremely narrow stream. There we found ourselves in the depth of a most luxuriant vegetation. We were in a regular tunnel formed by arching ferns and orchid-laden trees, giant pandanus, various palms and arborescent ferns and caladiums. Here grew the largest crinum lilies I had ever seen. They literally towered over me, and the sweet-scented white and pink flowers grew in huge bunches on stems nearly as thick as my arm.

After the bright sun on the main river, the dark, gloomy depths of this side-stream were very [207]striking. It was so narrow that sometimes the vegetation on both sides was forced into the canoes, and the “atap” (palm-thatched) roof of my canoe came in for severe treatment as it brushed against prickly pandanus and thorny rattans.

The entrance to this stream was completely hidden from view, and no one but these Malays, who had been up here before, trading with the Dayaks, could have discovered it. I had told the Malay chief that I wished to visit a Dayak village where no white man had ever been and where they were head-hunters. He had smiled slyly and nodded as if he understood. Thereupon he said, “Baik (good), Tuan,” and said he would help me. Just as darkness was setting in we arrived at a Dayak village, consisting of one very long house, which I afterwards found to exceed two hundred feet in length. It was situated about one hundred yards from the stream. No sooner had we sighted it than the air resounded with the loud beating of large gongs and plenty of shouting. There was a great commotion among the Dayaks.

I at first felt doubtful as to the kind of reception I should get, and immediately made my way to the house with Dubi, who explained to the Dayak chief that I was no government official, but had come to see them and also to get some “burong” (birds) and “kopo-kopo” (butterflies). I forthwith [208]presented the old chief with a bottle of gin, such as they often get from the Malay traders, and some Javanese tobacco, and his face was soon wreathed in smiles.

The Dayaks soon brought all my baggage into the house and I paid off my Malays and proceeded to make myself as comfortable as I could for my stay of several weeks, the chief giving me a portion of his own quarters and spreading mats for me over the bamboo floor. On the latter I put my camp-bed and boxes. I occupied a portion of the open corridor or main hall, which ran the length of the house and where the unmarried men sleep. This long corridor was just thirty feet in width, and formed by far the greater portion of the house; small openings from this corridor led on to a kind of unsheltered platform twenty-five feet in width, which ran the length of the house and on which the Dayaks generally dry their “padi” (rice).

The other side of the house was divided into several rooms, each of which belonged to a separate family. Here they store their wealth, chiefly huge jars and brass gongs. The house was raised on piles fully ten to twelve feet from the ground, the space underneath being fenced in for the accommodation of their pigs and chickens. The smells that came up through the half-open bamboo and “bilian”-wood flooring were the reverse of pleasant. The entrance at each end [209]was by means of a very steep and slippery sort of ladder made out of one piece of wood with notches cut in it, the steps being only a few inches in width. One of these ladders had a rough bamboo hand-rail on each side, and the top part of the steps was roughly carved into the semblance of a human face.

In the rafters over my head I noticed a great quantity of spears, shields, “sumpitans” or blowpipes, paddles, fish-traps, baskets and rolls of mats piled up indiscriminately, while just over my head where I slept was a rattan basket containing two human heads, though Dubi told me he thought the Dayaks had hidden most of their heads on my arrival. This description of the house I resided in for some time, applies more or less to all the Dayak houses I saw in Borneo.

This house or village was called Menus, and the old chief’s name was Usit. In spelling these names one has to be entirely guided by the sounds and write them after the fashion of the English method of spelling Malay. The village or house of Menus seemed to contain about one hundred inhabitants, not counting small children. Upon my arrival I was soon surrounded by a most curious throng, many of whom gazed at me with open mouths, in astonishment at the sight of an “orang puteh” (white man), as of course no white man had ever been here before and but very [210]few of the people had ever seen one. One old woman remembered having seen a white man, and some of the older men had from time to time seen government officials on the Rejang River, but except to these few I was a complete novelty. Considering this, I was greatly astonished at their friendliness, as not only the men, but the women and children squatted around me in the most amicable fashion, and sometimes even became a decided nuisance. My first evening among them, however, I found extremely amusing, and as my Chinese cook placed the food he had cooked before me, and as I ate it with knife, fork and spoon, they watched every mouthful I took amid a loud buzz of comments and exclamations of delight.

Though by no means the first time I have had to endure this sort of popularity, or rather notoriety, in various countries of the world, I do not think I have ever come across a people so full of friendly curiosity as were these Dayaks. About midnight I began to feel a bit sleepy, but the admiring multitude did not seem inclined to move, so I told Dubi to tell them that I wanted to change my clothes and go to sleep. No one moved. “Tell the ladies to go, Dubi,” I said, but on his translating my message a woman in the background called out something that met with loud cries of approval.

“What does she say, Dubi?” I asked. [211]

“She says, Tuan,” replied Dubi, “they like see your skin, if white the same all over.”

This was rather embarrassing, and I told Dubi to insist upon their going; but Dubi, whose advice I generally took, replied, “I think, Tuan (master), more better you show to them your skin.” I therefore submitted with as good a grace as possible, and took my shirt off, while some of them, especially the women, pinched and patted the skin on my back amid cries of approval and delight.

They asked if the skin of the Tuan Muda (the Rajah) was as white, and, on being told that it was, a long and serious conversation took place among them, during which the name of the Tuan Muda kept constantly cropping up.

The great naturalist, Wallace, met with much the same experience among the Dayaks, and as the natives of many other countries among whom I have lived never seemed to display the same curiosity about my white skin, I put it down to the Dayaks wishing to see what kind of a skin the great white Rajah, who rules over them, possesses.

The next two or three nights the crowd that waited to see me change into my pyjamas was, if anything, still larger, a good many Dayaks from neighbouring villages coming over to see the sight. But gradually the novelty wore off, to my great joy, as I was getting a bit tired of the whole [212]performance. I had come here to see the Dayaks, but it appeared that they were even more anxious to see me.

For the next two or three weeks an odd Dayak would from time to time ask to see my skin, so that at length I had absolutely to refuse to exhibit myself any longer.

I had luckily brought several illustrated magazines with me to use as papers for my butterflies, and these were a source of endless delight to the crowds around me in the evenings. They behaved like a lot of small children, and roared with laughter over the pictures. They generally looked at the pictures upside down, and even then they seemed to find something amusing about them. With Dubi as my interpreter I used to make up stories about the pictures, and, pointing to the portrait of some well-known actress, described the number of husbands she had killed, and I’m afraid I grossly libelled many a well-known politician, general, or divine in telling the Dayaks how many heads they possessed or how many wives they owned, till it was quite a natural thing for me to join in their uproarious merriment, as I pictured in my mind some venerable bishop on the war-path.

As is well known, the Dayak women all wear rings of brass around their waists. They are called “gronong,” and they are made of pliable rattan inside, with small brass rings fastened [213]around the rattan. In the centre of each ring there are generally two or three small red and black rings of coloured rattan between the brass ones. Some wore only four or five, while others possessed twenty or more, and then they rather resembled a corset. Even the little girls of four or five wore two or three of them.

I noticed on my first arrival that the women and some of the men seemed to have their teeth plentifully filled with gold, but I soon found out that it was brass that they had ornamented their teeth with, a small piece being inserted in some way in the centre of each tooth. Their teeth are generally black from the continual chewing of the betel-nut, and I noticed small children of four or five years of age going in for this dirty habit, and still younger children smoking cigarettes, the covering of which is made out of the dried leaf of the sago-palm. The Dayaks are almost as dirty as the Negritos in the Philippines, and yet they are both certainly the merriest people I have ever met with. The heartiest and most unaffected laughter I have ever heard proceeded from the throats of Dayaks and Negritos. It almost seems as if dirt in some cases constitutes true happiness.

The Dayak women seemed to bathe more often than the men, but they never seemed to take off their brass waist-rings when bathing in the river. The women also have their wrists covered with brass bangles, which are all fastened together in [214]one piece. The noise in the house was deafening at times, especially in the evening, when all come home from working in their “padi” fields, where the women are supposed to do most of the work, the men generally going hunting. The continual hum of conversation and loud laughter, with the noise made by the pigs and chickens under the house, the dogs and chickens in the house, and the beating of deep-toned gongs at times nearly drove me frantic, especially when I was writing.

They resembled a lot of small children and would beat their gongs simply to amuse themselves. Very often a Dayak, on returning from his work or a hunt in the jungle, would walk straight up to a large gong that was hanging up and hammer on it for a few minutes in a most businesslike way, looking all the time as if it bored him. Then he would walk away in much the same way as a man would leave the telephone (as if he had just got through some business). I suppose it soothed them after their day’s work, but it irritated me.

The Dayak dogs are fearful and wonderful animals, both as regards shape and colour, and I could get very little sleep on account of the noise they made; yet the Dayaks seemed to sleep through it all.

One night I woke up after a particularly noisy fight, and saw what appeared to me to be a dog sitting calmly by my bed with its back turned to [215]me. Lifting my mosquito net, therefore, very quietly, I let drive with my fist at it, putting all my pent-up indignation and anger for sleepless nights into the blow. Alas! it was a very solid dog that I struck against, being nothing more nor less than the side of one of my boxes, and I barked my knuckles rather badly. The laughter of the Dayaks was loud and prolonged when Dubi translated the yarn to them next day, and they remembered it long afterwards. Until I heard the roar of laughter that went up, the story had not struck me as being so very amusing!

All around the house for some distance was a forest of tall fruit-trees. They had of course all been planted in times past by the Dayaks’ ancestors, and every tree had its owner, but they had become mixed up with many beautiful wild tropic growths which had sprung up between the trees. Some of these fruit-trees, such as the “durian,” “rambutan,” mango, mangosteen, “tamadac” or jackfruit, “lansat” and bananas, were familiar to me, but there were a great number of fruits that I had never heard of before, and I got their names from my Dayak friends.1

Needless to say, I never before tasted so many fruits that were entirely new to me, and most of them were ripe at the time of my visit. The “durian” comes easily first. It is without doubt [216]the king of all fruit in both the tropic and temperate zones, and is popular alike with man and beast, the orang-utan being a great culprit in robbing the Dayaks of their “durians.” I never saw the “good” “durian” growing wild in Sarawak, but I tasted here a small wild kind with an orange centre which made me violently sick. No description of the “durian” taste can do it justice. But its smell is also past description. It is so bad that many people refuse to taste it. It is a very large and heavy fruit, covered with strong, sharp spines, and as it grows on a very tall tree, it is dangerous to walk underneath in the fruiting season when they are falling, accidents being common among the Dayaks through this cause. I myself had a narrow escape one windy day. I was sitting at the foot of one of these trees eating some of the fallen fruit, when a large “durian” fell from above and buried itself in the mud not half a yard from me.

Danna, the second chief, would always leave one or two of the fruit for me on a box close by my head where I slept, before he went off to his “padi “-planting early in the morning, so that I got quite used to the bad smell.

The Dayak house was surrounded on three sides by a horrible swamp, the roads through which consisted of fallen trees laid end to end, or else of two or three thick poles, laid side by side, and kept in place by being lashed here and there to [217]two upright stakes, so that I had to balance myself well or come to grief in the thick mud. The Dayak bridges, made chiefly of poles and bamboos, were in many cases awkward things to negotiate, and I had one or two rather nasty falls from them. While the Dayak women and children never showed any fear of me in the house, whenever I met them out in the woods or jungle they would run from me as if I were some kind of wild animal.

I saw several Dayak dances. The men put on their war-plumes and with shield and “parang” (mentioned above) twirl round and round and cut with their “parangs” at an imaginary foe, the women all the time accompanying them with the beating of gongs. Dubi one night showed them a Malay dance, which consisted of a sort of gliding motion and a graceful waving of the hands, quite the reverse of the Dayak dance. One night I noticed a general bustle in the house. The women seemed greatly excited, and the men passed to and fro with their “parangs” and “sumpitans” (blowpipes), and cast anxious looks in my direction as they passed me. They told Dubi they were going fishing; but it seemed strange that they should go fishing with these warlike weapons, and I told Dubi so. He himself thought they were going head-hunting, and I felt sure of it, as they left only the old men, youths, women and children behind. I did not see them again till the following [218]evening, nor did I then see signs of any fish. I told Dubi that I thought it best that he should not ask them any questions, as it might be awkward if they thought we suspected them. At the same time, I am bound to admit that there was no direct proof to show that they had been headhunting; and for this I was glad, as there was no cause for me to say anything to the Government about it, and so get my kind hosts into trouble. Some months later I read in a Singapore paper that “the Dayaks in this district,” between Sibu and Kuching, were restless and inclined to join form with the Dayaks at Kapit, who had sent Dr. Hose a spear, signifying their defiance of the Sarawak Government.

One evening, when out looking for birds, Dubi and I came across two Dayaks, who were perched up in trees, waiting for wild pigs that came to feed on the fallen fruit, when they would spear them from above. They seemed rather annoyed with us for coming and frightening the pigs away, and that evening they told everyone that we were the cause of their not getting a pig. I rather scored them off, by telling Dubi in an angry voice to ask them what “the dickens” they meant by getting up in trees and frightening all my birds away. This highly amused all the other Dayaks, who laughed loud and long, and my two pig-hunting friends retired into the background discomfited. I myself went out one evening with a party of Dayaks after [219]wild pig, and stayed for two hours upon a platform in a tree while they climbed other trees close by. However, no pigs turned up, although two “plandok” (mouse-deer) did, though I did not shoot them for fear of frightening the pigs away. I took my revolver with me, to the great amusement of the Dayaks, who, of course, had not seen one before, and ridiculed the idea of so small a weapon being able to kill a pig. The Dayaks told me that there were plenty of bears here, but I never saw any myself in this part of Borneo. They told me the bears were very fierce, and had often nearly killed some of their friends. The Dayak dogs are fearful cowards, and I was told that they run away at the sight of a wild pig.

Animal life here was not plentiful, and quite the reverse of what I had seen in the forests of North Borneo, where it was very plentiful.

I noticed the prevalence of that horrible scurvy-like skin-disease among several of the Dayaks. It was common in New Guinea among the Papuans, where it was termed “supuma.” I cured two little Dayak children of intermittent fever by giving them quinine and Eno’s fruit salts. The result was that I was greatly troubled by demands on my limited stock of medicines. One old man had been growing blind for the last two years, and another was troubled with aches all over him, and they would hardly believe me when I said that I could not cure them. They told Dubi that they [220]thought that the white people who could make such things as I possessed could do anything. So much of my property seemed to amuse and astonish them, that it was a treat to show them such things as my looking-glass, hair-brush, socks, guns, umbrella, watch, etc. I showed them that child’s trick of making the lid of my watch fly open, and they were delighted.

The Dayak women can hardly be considered good-looking. I saw one or two that were rather pretty, but they were very young and unmarried. Dubi fell madly in love with one of them and she with him, and when I left there were two broken hearts. Many of the little girls of about five and six years old would have been regular pictures if they had only been cleaner. I made the discovery that some of my Dayak friends were addicted to the horrible habit of eating clay, and actually found a regular little digging in the side of a hill where they worked to get these lumps of reddish grey clay, and soon caught some of the old men eating it. They declared that they enjoyed it. All my empty tins (from tinned meats, etc.) were in great demand, and so to save jealousy I actually demoralized the Dayaks to the extent of introducing the raffling system among them. Great was the excitement every evening when I raffled old tins and bottles. Dubi would hand the bits of paper and they would be a long time making up their minds which to take. One night Dubi [221]overheard my Chinese cook telling some of the Dayaks that “the white tuan had no use for these tins himself, that is why he gives them to you.”

This cook, whom I used to call Cookie, was a great nuisance to me, but he was the most amusing character I ever came across, and he was the source of endless delight to the Dayaks, who enjoyed teasing him and jokingly threatened to cut off his head, until he was almost paralyzed with fright and came and begged me to leave, as we should all have our heads cut off. After a week or two his courage returned and I learned that when I was out of the house he would stand on his head for the amusement of the women and children, though he was by no means a young man. He soon became quite popular with the women, who found him highly amusing, and who were always in fits of laughter whenever he talked. In the evenings he sometimes joined a group of Dayak youths and would start to air his opinions. Then it was not long before they were all jeering and mimicking him, and poor old Cookie would look very foolish and a sickly smile would spread over his yellow features. Finally he would go off and sulk, and when I asked him what the matter was, he would reply, “Damn Dayak no wantee.” Whenever I called out for Cookie, the whole house would resound with jeering Dayak cries of “Cookie, Cookie.” He and Dubi were always quarrelling, [222]and Cookie would work himself up into such a state of excitement that the place would be full of Dayak laughter, though the Dayak understood not a word of what they were talking about. In my later wanderings in Borneo the quarrel between my two servants, Dayak and Chinaman, grew to such an extent that I feared it would end in murder.

The foregoing account, short as it is, will, I trust, give some idea of what my long stay among head-hunting Dayaks was like. All things must have an ending, however, and having finished my collecting in this neighbourhood I said good-bye to my Dayak friends, with deep regret, and I think the sorrow was mutual. I know well that Dubi and his little Dayak sweetheart were almost heartbroken. The Dayaks begged me to stay longer, but I had already stayed longer than I had at first intended.

Old Usit, the chief, and his crew of Dayaks paddled me all the way to Sibu. There is little to relate about the journey there, except that the canoe leaked very badly and the Dayaks had to keep bailing her out. At night we tied the canoe up to a small wooden platform outside a Malay house on the Rejang River, to await the change of the tide, and one of the Dayaks knocked at the door of the house so that we could cook some food, but the Malays thought that we were head-hunters, and there was great lamentation, [223]and for some time they refused to open. While eating my food, with my legs dangling over the side of the wooden platform, I noticed a dark object that glistened in the moonlight noiselessly swimming toward me, and I pulled up my legs pretty quickly. It was a large crocodile, attracted, no doubt, by the smell of my dinner. The only objection I had was that it might have taken me for the dinner. [224]

1 Some of these names that I got were “kudong” “blimbing,” “mawang,” “sima” “lakat,” “kamayan,” “nika,” “esu,” “kubal,” “padalai” and “rambai.”

Visit to the Birds’-nest Caves of Gomanton.

My stay in British North Borneo—Visit to a Tobacco Estate (Batu Puteh)—Start for the Birds’-nest Caves—News of the Local Chief’s Death—Applicants for the Panglima-ship—We Visit the late Chief’s House-Widows in white—The Hadji “who longed to be King”—Extraordinary Grove of Banyan-trees—Pigs, Crocodiles and Monkeys—Astonishing Swimming Performance of a Monkey—Water Birds Feeding on the Carcase of a Stag—The Hadji and his Men pray at a Native Grave-shrine—An Elephant charges past us—Arrival at the Caves—The Entrance—A Cave of enormous Height, description of the Interior—Return to the Village—Visit to the Upper Caves—Beautiful Climbing Plants—We reach the Largest Cave of all: its Extreme Grandeur—“White” Nests and “Black” Nests secured—Distinctions between the two kinds of Swallows by whom the Nests are made—Millions of small Bats: an Astonishing Sight—Methods of Securing the Nests described—Perilous Climbing Feats—Report of numerous Large Snakes—Cave-coffins, and their (traditional) rich contents—Dangers of the Descent—All’s well that ends well.

I had just returned down the river with Richardson from Tangkulap. Tangkulap is a journey of several days up the Kinabatangan River in British North Borneo. Richardson was the magistrate for this district, and his rule extended over practically the whole of this river, Tangkulap being his headquarters. Only three or four white men had ever been up the river as far as Tangkulap, it being a very lonely spot in the midst of dense forests, with no other white man living anywhere near. I had stayed with him for two months, making large natural history collections and seeing a great deal of both native and animal life. We had then returned down the river in [225]Richardson’s “gobang” (canoe) to Batu Puteh, a large tobacco estate, and the only one on this river. Here we were the guests of Paul Brietag, the manager, a most hospitable German. He and his three German, French, and Dutch assistants were the only other white men on the whole of this great river.

While here, Richardson and I determined to visit the wonderful Gomanton birds’-nest caves, from which great quantities of edible birds’ nests are annually taken. Very few Europeans had ever visited them, though they are considered among the wonders of the world.

We left Batu Puteh in Richardson’s canoe early one morning, and, although we had a strong stream with us going down, we did not reach Bilit till evening. Bilit is a large village made up of Malays, Orang Sungei, and Sulus. Quite a crowd met us on our arrival, and they seemed not a little excited. It appeared that their late Panglima (chief), who was also a Hadji, had been on a second voyage to Mecca, and they had just heard that he had died on his way back. “That was quite right,” they said; “his time had come, and, besides, it had been foretold that he would die if he tried to go to Mecca again.”

Two men were most anxious to gain favour with Richardson—viz., the dead man’s son and another Hadji, who was the richest man in Bilit, and who had a large share in the Gomanton [226]caves. The reason was that Richardson had the power to appoint whom he liked as the new Panglima, provided, of course, that the man was of some standing and fairly popular. Richardson sent for one of the most influential men in the village to come and talk the matter over, but he lived on the other side of the river, and, it being late, they said he dared not cross in his small “gobang,” as the crocodiles are very bad indeed here, and at night they often help themselves to a man out of his canoe. We went to the late Panglima’s house and had a chat, but nothing was said about the new Panglima. I caught sight of one of the widows swathed in white, going through all sorts of contortions by way of mourning for her late husband. We found that the people were going to the caves in two or three days to collect the black nests. The white nests had been collected earlier in the year, but the influential Hadji “who would be king” offered to go with us on the morrow and start work earlier than he at first intended if his dreams were favourable, and thus we should be able to see them at work collecting the nests. Here was luck both for ourselves and the Hadji: it meant a step in his hopes of the much-desired Panglima-ship by thus gaining favour with the magistrate over his younger rival. He was a tall, haughty-looking man, with an orange-coloured turban, worn only by Hadjis, and the people [227]seemed to stand in great awe of him and addressed him as “Tuan” or “Tuan Hadji,” the word “Tuan” being usually used only when addressing Europeans like ourselves; still, his house in which we spent the night was little better than a pigsty, although he was a very wealthy man.

The next morning we were off before sunrise. After leaving the village we had a walk of about an hour and a half over a very steep hill through luxuriant, tall forest, and on the other side came to a small river, the Menungal, on the banks of which was a shed full of “gobangs” (canoes) which were speedily launched, we both getting into the leading one. We were followed by three others, in one of which was the Hadji. Most of the way was through fine forest, the trees arching overhead to shade us from the hot sun, the only exception being when we passed through a stretch of swamps, with low, tangled growth, when the river broadened out, but in the shady forest it was delightful, gliding along to the music of the even dip of the paddles.

The most striking feature about the forest on this Menungal River was the extraordinary growth of a species of banyan trees (Ficus sp.). I have seen many curious stilted trees of this Ficus family in various tropical countries I have visited, but these I think were more curious than any I had ever seen. One hardly knew where they began and where they ended, for they all seemed [228]joined together, and roots and branches seemed one and the same thing. It was the acme of vegetable confusion. Even the river could not stop their progress, and we were constantly gliding between their roots and branches. The growth of ferns, orchids and parasites on the branches and roots of these trees was luxuriant to a degree and formed veritable hanging gardens.

On these Bornean rivers one is constantly seeing pigs, crocodiles and monkeys, but I noticed on this river an abundance of a monkey which one seldom sees on the large Kinabatangan River. I refer to the very curious proboscis or long-nosed monkey (Nasalis larvatus). These animals often sat still overhead and stared down at us in the most contemptuous and indifferent manner, and they looked so human and yet so comical with their enormous red noses that I found myself laughing aloud, our scullers doing the same, till the monkeys actually grinned with indignation. They axe large monkeys with long tails, and are beautifully marked with various shades of grey and brown, and their large, fleshy, red noses give them an extraordinary appearance.

One of them did a performance that astonished me. We saw a group of them on a branch over the river about forty yards ahead of us, when one of them jumped into the middle of the river and coolly swam to a hanging creeper up which it climbed, none the worse for its voluntary bath. [229]This was the only time that I had ever seen a monkey swim, but the natives assured me that these monkeys are very good swimmers. It struck me as being a very risky performance, as this river was full of crocodiles.

I saw on this river a wonderful orchid growing on large trees. This was a Grammatophyllum with bulbs some times over eight feet in length. The length of the name is certainly suitable for so large an orchid. I saw plenty of water-birds, including white egrets and a long-necked diver which is called the “snake-bird,” owing to its long neck projecting lout of the water and thus greatly resembling a snake. I shot several of each kind of bird, plucking the fine plumes from the backs of the egrets. We ate some of the divers that evening and found them first-class food, tasting much like goose. We later in the day disturbed a whole colony of these water-birds feeding on the carcase of a large stag in the river, and the smell was very strong for some distance. I did not attempt to shoot any more mock geese till we had put a good many miles between ourselves and the dead stag. We passed several canoes slowly wending their way to the eaves, the people taking it easy and camping on the banks and fishing. They dried the fish on the roofs of their thatched canoes. Some of these people had very curious rattan pyramid-shaped hats gaily ornamented with strips of bright-coloured cloth. [230]

Toward evening the river got exceedingly narrow, and fallen trees obstructed our way, so that we had sometimes to lie flat on our backs to pass under them, and at other times we had to get out while our canoe was hauled over the mud at the side.

Just before we reached our destination for the night, we came to a spot where the bank was hung with bits of coloured cloth and calico fastened to sticks, I also noticed some bananas and dried fish tied to the sticks. This signified that there was a native burial ground close by, and all the canoes were stopped, the scullers putting their paddles down, while the Hadji and all his men proceeded to wash their faces in the river. This they did to ensure success in their nest-collecting.

We stayed the night in one of two raised half-thatched huts used only by the natives in the collecting seasons, a ladder from the river leading into them. It was almost dark when we arrived, and hardly were we under shelter when rain came down in torrents. It poured all night, and when we started off on foot at sunrise the next morning we found the track in the forest a regular quagmire; in places we waded through mud up to our knees. As we scrambled and floundered through the mud at our best pace we heard a great crashing noise just in front of us, and the air resounded with cries of “Gajah, gajah!” (elephant). I was just in time to see a large elephant tear by. It literally [231]seemed to fly, and knocked down small trees as if they were grass. It seemed greatly frightened, and made a sort of coughing noise. It went by so quickly that I was unable to see whether it had tusks or not.

After about three hours’ hard tramping, I caught sight of a high mass of white limestone gleaming through the trees. It made a pretty picture in the early morning, the white rock peeping out of luxuriant creepers and foliage. It rises very abruptly from the surrounding forest, and at a distance looked quite inaccessible to a climber.

We waded through a stream of clear water, washing the horrible forest mud from off us, and soon found ourselves in a most picturesque village at the very base of the rock. We disturbed quite a crowd of native girls bathing in a spring, and they seemed very much alarmed and surprised at seeing two Europeans suddenly turn the corner. Out of season I don’t believe any one lives in this village except some watchers at the mouths of the eaves to guard against thieves. The Hadji gave us a rough hut with a flooring of split bamboo and kept us provided with chickens. All this no doubt was in his estimation part of the necessary steps to securing that much-desired Panglima-ship.

The two days we were here, people kept flocking into the village, most of the men carrying long steel-pointed spears, in many cases beautifully mounted with engraved silver: others carried [232]long “parangs” and “krises” in rough wooden sheaths, but the handles were often of carved ivory and silver.

After some breakfast we started off to see the near lower cave, which was one of the smaller ones. We followed a very pretty ferny track by the side of a rocky stream for a short distance, the forest being partially cleared and open, with large boulders scattered around. The sky overhead was thick with swallows, in fact one could almost say the air was black with them. These of course were the birds that make the nests. The mouth of the cave partly prepared me for what I was to see. I had expected a small entrance, but here it was, I should say, sixty feet in height and of great width, the entrance being partly overhung with a curtain of luxuriant creepers. The smell of guano had been strong before, but here it was overpowering.

Extending inside the cave for about one hundred yards was a small village of native huts used chiefly by the guards or watchers of these caves. Compared with the vastness of the interior of the cave—I believe about four hundred and eighty feet in height—one could almost imagine that one was looking at the small model of a village. A small stream ran out of a large hill of guano, and if you left the track you sank over your knees in guano. The vastness of the interior of this cave impressed me beyond words. It was stupendous, and to describe it properly [233]would take a better pen than mine. One could actually see the very roof overhead, as there were two or three openings near the top (reminding one of windows high up in a cathedral) through which broad shafts of light forced their way, making some old hanging rattan ladders high up appear like silvery spider webs. Of course there were recesses overhead where the light could not penetrate, and these were the homes of millions of small bats, of which more presently. As for the birds themselves, this was one of their nesting seasons, and the cave was full of myriads of them. The twittering they made resembled the whisperings of a multitude. The majority of them kept near the roof, and as they flew to and fro through the shafts of light they presented a most curious effect and looked like swarms of gnats; lower down they resembled silvery butterflies. Where the light shone on the rocky walls and roofs one could distinguish masses upon masses of little silver black specks. These were their nests, as this was a black-nest cave. Somewhere below in the bowels of the earth rumbled an underground river with a noise like distant thunder. This cavernous roar far below and the twittering whisper of the swallows far overhead, combined to add much to the mysteriousness of these wonderful caves.

On the ground in the guano I picked up several eggs, unbroken. How they could fall that distance [234]and yet not get smashed is hard to understand, unless it is that they fell in the soft guano on their ends. We were told that when a man fell from the top he was smashed literally into jelly. I also picked up a few birds which had been stunned when flying against the rocks. This saved me from shooting any.

Spread out on the ground in the cave and also drying outside, raised from the ground on stakes, were coil after coil of rattan ropes and ladders used for collecting the nests. These always have to be new each season, and are first carefully tested. The ladders are made of well twisted strands of rattan with steps of strong, hard wood, generally “bilian.”

On our return to the village we bathed in a shady stream of clear water, the banks of which I noted were composed chiefly of guano. In the afternoon we started off in search of the upper eaves. After a short, stiff climb amid natural rockeries of jagged limestone, we passed under a rock archway or bridge, under which were perched frail-looking raised native huts of the watchers. As we stood under this curious archway we looked down a precipice on our left. It was very steep at our feet, but from the far side it took the form of a slanting shaft, which terminated in a little window or inlet into the lower cave we had visited in the morning. In our ascent we had to climb up very rough, steep ladders fastened against the [235]rocky ledges. The rocks were in many places gay with variegated plants, the most notable being a very pretty-leafed begonia, covered with pink and silver spots, the spots being half pink, half white. The natives with us seemed to enjoy eating these leaves; they certainly looked tempting enough.

Another fine plant growing among these rocks was a climbing pothos, with very dark green leaves, ornamented with a silver band across each leaf, but the finest of all was a fine velvet-leafed climber, veined with crimson, pink, or white (Cissus sp.).

We at length came to the entrance of a long chain of eaves, through which we passed, going down a very steep grade, and our guides had to carry lights. After a climb down some steep rocks in semi-darkness, we at length found ourselves in the largest cave of all, supposed to be about five hundred and sixty feet in height.1 It, too, had two or three natural windows, through which the light penetrated. One of them was on the top, in the very centre of the cave, and from down below it looked like a distant star. This opening was on the very summit of the Gomanton rock. This cave greatly resembled the smaller one I have already described, except that it was of much grander dimensions. As in the first cave, one could hear the roar of an underground torrent, and the swallows seemed even more numerous. On the rocky walls I noticed plenty of large spiders and a curious insect, with a long body and long, thin legs, which ran very [236]fast, and whose bite we were told was very poisonous.

On the way back, when passing through some very low caves, the Hadji got some of his men to knock down for me a few of the white nests from the sides of the cave with long poles, and in another cave they got me some black nests. The difference between these white and black nests is this: they are made by two different kinds of swallows. The white nest is made by a very small bird, but the bird that builds the black nest is twice the size of the other. The white nest looks something like pure white gelatine, and is very clean, and has no feathers in it. The black nest, on the contrary, is plentifully coated with feathers, and it is, in consequence, not worth nearly as much as the white nest. The nests are made from the saliva of the birds. Both are very plain coloured birds; an ordinary swallow is brilliant in comparison. This is unusual in a country so full of brilliant-plumaged birds as Borneo is; but, as they spend most of their lives in the depths of these sombre caves, I suppose it is only natural that their plumage should be obscure and plain. These birds’-nest caves are found all over Borneo and the Malay Peninsula, and also in Java and other parts of the Malay archipelago, but these are by far the largest. The revenue from these caves alone brings the Government a very large sum. By far the greatest number of these nests are sent to China, [237]where birds’-nest soup is an expensive luxury. The natives of Borneo do not eat them. For myself, I found the soup rather tasteless.

We were told that if they missed one season’s nest collecting, most of the birds would forsake these caves, possibly because there would be so little room for them to build again. I learned that they build and lay four times a year, but I think that they meant that both the black and the white-nest birds lay twice each. The white kind build their first nests about March, and the black kind in May, and, as these nests are all collected before they have time to hatch their eggs, there are no young birds till later in the year, when the nests are not disturbed, but the old nests are collected with the new ones the following year. If the guano could be easily transported to the coast it would be a paying proposition, but the Government fears that it might frighten the birds away.

About dusk that evening after we had returned to our hut, I heard a noise like the whistling of the wind, and, going outside, I saw a truly wonderful sight, in fact a sight that filled me with amazement. The millions of small bats which share these caves with the birds were issuing forth for the night from the small hole I spoke about on the very top of the rock leading into the large cave, but what a sight it was! As far as the eye could see they stretched in one even unbroken column across the sky. They issued from the cave in a compact [238]mass and preserved the same even formation till they disappeared in the far distance. As far as I could see there were no stragglers. They rather resembled a thick line of smoke coming out of the funnel of a steamer, with this exception that they kept the same thick line till they went out of sight. The most curious thing about it was that the thick line twisted and wriggled across the sky for all the world like a giant snake, as if it were blown about by gusts of wind, of which, however, there was none. Even with these strange manœuvres the bats kept the same unbroken solid formation. They were still coming forth in the same manner till darkness set in, and then I could only hear the beating of myriads of wings like the sighing of the wind in the tree-tops.

They return in early morning in much the same fashion. I heard that the swallows usually did the same thing, only the other way about; when the bats came out, the swallows entered the eaves, and when the bats went in, the swallows came out, but it being now their nesting season, they went in and out of the eaves irregularly all day, but I was quite satisfied to see the bats go through the performance, as it was one of the most wonderful sights I have ever seen.

We had been told that it would be three or four more days before the collecting would take place, and also that they had to wait for a good omen in the shape of a good dream coming to one of the [239]chief owners of the caves. Our pleasure was great, therefore, when the Hadji and some of his followers paid us a visit that night and told us that work should start in the largest cave the next morning for our benefit. That was good news, indeed, as Richardson could not wait more than another day. It was another good move for the Hadji and his Panglima-ship, and I told Richardson he ought to give it him forthwith.

The next morning we climbed to the top of the rock. It was hard work climbing over the brittle rocks and up perpendicular and shaky ladders. On reaching the summit we got a splendid view of the surrounding country, and could plainly see the distant sea; but all else was thick, billowy forest, dotted at long intervals with limestone ridges, also covered with forest. Here we found the hole on the top of the large cave, and stretching across it were two long, thick “bilian” logs, to which the natives were now fastening their long rattan ladders before descending them to collect the nests. We crept along the logs and listened to the everlasting twittering far below; but, although we could see nothing but pitchy darkness, the thought of what was below made me soon crawl back with a very shaky feeling in my legs.

We then descended again till we came to the mouth of a curious cave, which was practically a dark chasm at our feet. We climbed down into [240]the depths on a straight, swaying ladder, which required a good grip, and then, after a climb over slanting, slippery rocks, we found ourselves in the large cave, on a sort of ledge, within perhaps sixty feet of the roof. We were told that we were the first Europeans who had ever descended on to this ledge. From here we watched the natives collecting the nests. In a short account of this description it is impossible for me to detail all the wonderful methods the natives had for collecting the nests, but the chief method was by descending rattan ladders, which were let down through the hole on the top of the cave. It made one quite giddy even to watch the men descending these frail swaying ladders with over five hundred feet of space below them. The man on the nearest ladder had a long rattan rope attached low down to his ladder, with a kind of wooden anchor at the end of it. At the second attempt he succeeded with a wonderful throw in getting the anchor to stick in the soft guano on the edge of the slanting ledge where we were. It was then seized by several men waiting there; by these it was hauled up until they were enabled to catch hold of the end of the ladder, which they dragged higher and higher up the steep, slanting rocks we had come down by. This in time brought the flexible ladder, at least the part on which the man was, level with the roof, and he, lying on his back on the thin [241]ladder, pulled the nests off the rocky roof, putting them into a large rattan basket fastened about his body.

We saw many other methods they have of collecting these nests by the aid of long bamboo poles and rattan ropes, up which they climbed to dizzy heights.

These eaves, we were told, were full of very large harmless snakes, but we did not come across them. If I had had a good head and plenty of skill and pluck as a climber, I might have come away a wealthy man, as the Hadji told us that in a sort of side cave high up in the large cave were the coffins of the men that first discovered these caves, and with them were large jars of gold and jewels, but no one dared touch them, as they said it would be certain death to the man who did so. A man once did take some, but a few days later was taken violently ill and so had them put back and thus recovered. It was not for any scruples of this kind that I declined the Hadji’s offer to help myself when he pointed out to me the spot where they were, but I think he must have guessed that I would not have trusted myself on one of those frail swaying ladders with over five hundred feet of space beneath me.

On the way back we scrambled up to a small cave where there were numerous carved coffins and bones which belonged to some of the former owners of the caves, but alas! no jars of gold; [242]possibly poor men, they did not realize good prices. We returned down the rocks a different way, which made Richardson indulge in some hearty language at the Hadji’s expense, who must have had fears that the Panglima-ship was at the last moment slipping away from him. It certainly was awkward and dangerous work climbing down the steep precipices, and we could never have done it, but that the rocks were quite honeycombed with small holes which enabled us to get a good hold for our hands.

That night was a busy one for me, skinning my numerous birds and blowing the eggs by a dim light to the accompaniment of Richardson’s snores, and I did not get to bed till 2 a.m. We were up again at 4 a.m. for the return journey. But I had seen one of the most wonderful sights in the world, and to me it seemed extraordinary that until I came to Borneo I had never even heard of the Gomanton eaves. Some day, perhaps within our time, they will become widely advertised, and swarms of noisy tourists will come over in airships from London and New York, but there will be one thing lacking—all romance will have gone from these lonely wilds and forests, and that is the chief thing. The Hadji returned with us to Bilit, and got his desire, the Panglima-ship, and well he deserved it.

1 These were the heights given me by the Malays.


A Chief’s Daughter and a Daughter of the People

A Chief’s Daughter and a Daughter of the People

A “Meke-Meke,” or Fijian Girls’ Dance

A “Meke-Meke,” or Fijian Girls’ Dance

Interior of a large Fijian Hut

Interior of a large Fijian Hut

A Fijian Mountaineer’s House

A Fijian Mountaineer’s House

At the Door of a Fijian House

At the Door of a Fijian House

A Fijian Girl

A Fijian Girl

Spearing Fish in Fiji

Spearing Fish in Fiji

A Fijian Fisher Girl

A Fijian Fisher Girl

A Posed Picture of an old-time Cannibal Feast in Fiji

A Posed Picture of an old-time Cannibal Feast in Fiji

Making Fire by Wood Friction

Making Fire by Wood Friction

An Old ex-Cannibal

An Old ex-Cannibal

A Fijian War-Dance

A Fijian War-Dance

Adi Cakobau (pronounced “Andi Thakombau”), the highest Princess in Fiji, at her house at Navuso

Adi Cakobau (pronounced “Andi Thakombau”), the highest Princess in Fiji, at her house at Navuso

A Filipino Dwelling

A Filipino Dwelling

A Village Street in the Philippines

A Village Street in the Philippines

A River Scene in the Philippines

A River Scene in the Philippines

A Negrito Family

A Negrito Family

Negrito Girls (showing Shaved Head at back)

Negrito Girls (showing Shaved Head at back)

A Negrito Shooting

A Negrito Shooting

Tree Climbing by Negritos

Tree Climbing by Negritos

A Negrito Dance

A Negrito Dance

Arigita and his Wife

Arigita and his Wife

Three Cape Nelson Kaili-Kailis in War Attire

Three Cape Nelson Kaili-Kailis in War Attire

Kaili-Kaili House on the edge of a Precipice

Kaili-Kaili House on the edge of a Precipice

“A Great Joke”

“A Great Joke”

A Ghastly Relic

A Ghastly Relic

Cannibal Trophies

Cannibal Trophies

A Woman and her Baby

A Woman and her Baby

A Papuan Girl

A Papuan Girl

The Author with Kaili-Kaili Followers

The Author with Kaili-Kaili Followers

Wives of Native Armed Police

Wives of Native Armed Police

A Papuan Damsel

A Papuan Damsel

Busimaiwa, the great Mambare Chief, with his Wife and Son (in the Police)

Busimaiwa, the great Mambare Chief, with his Wife and Son (in the Police)

A Haunt of the Bird of Paradise

A Haunt of the Bird of Paradise

The Author starting on an Expedition

The Author starting on an Expedition

A New Guinea River Scene

A New Guinea River Scene

Papuan Tree-Houses

Papuan Tree-Houses

A Village of the Agai Ambu

A Village of the Agai Ambu

H. W. Walker, L. Dyke-Acland, and C. A. W. Monckton

H. W. Walker, L. Dyke-Acland, and C. A. W. Monckton

View of Kuching from the Rajah’s Garden

View of Kuching from the Rajah’s Garden

Dayaks and Canoes

Dayaks and Canoes

Dayak in War-Coat

Dayak in War-Coat

Dayak Women and Children on the Platform outside a long House

Dayak Women and Children on the Platform outside a long House

Dayaks Catching Fish

Dayaks Catching Fish

A Dayak Woman with Mourning Ornaments round waist

A Dayak Woman with Mourning Ornaments round waist

On a Tobacco Estate

On a Tobacco Estate

On a Bornean River

On a Bornean River



Revision History

  1. 05-OCT-2000 Added TEI Header.
  2. 23-JUL-2005 Last Revision.
  3. 04-NOV-2009 Regenerated HTML, added colophon.

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The following corrections have been applied to the text:

Page Source Correction
27 semed seemed
30 One On
39 mosquitos mosquitoes
143 atttention attention
163 Cryers Criers
198 jewelry jewellery
213 childen children