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Full text of "RETURN TO MALAYA"

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258 



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RETURN TO 



By the same Author 

BRITISH AGENT 
RETREAT FROM GLORY 



R. H. BRUCE LOCKcHART 



Return to 
Malaya 



G-P-PUTNAM'S SONS 



1936 



C&pyright, 1936, by R. H. BRTJCE LOCKIIART 

All riffhts reserved. This book, or parts thereof, must 
not be reproduced in any form without 



CONTENTS 



BOOK I 

TRAVELLER'S HOLIDAY page 3 

BOOK II 

A STRANGER RETURNS 67 

BOOK III 

ROMANCE IN RETROSPECT 135 

BOOK IV 

JAVANESE INTERLUDE 215 

BOOK V 

WHITE MAN'S TWILIGHT 295 



"I HAVE SEEN so many phantoms defile through the dream of life/* 



BOOK I 



Traveller's Holiday 

"Ir is better for mankind to be impressionable than reflec- 
tive. Nothing humanely great great, I mean, as affecting a 
whole mass of lives has come from reflection." 



CHAPTER ONE 

THE Ishmaelites o this world are sincere and honest people. 
But they have this defect. More than any other category of 
mankind they suffer from the sin of self-deception. When they 
express a desire to turn their back on the rising sun and settle down, 
they think the desire is genuine. More often than not it is only tem- 
porary. They are troubled by the temptations of the wide spaces 
and by the restlessness of unrealisable dreams. Almost in spite of 
themselves they are forced to strike their tents and to be off again 
on the endless road of travel. 

In British Agent I referred to "that East which I should never 
see again." When I wrote that line I was sincere. At that time 
nothing seemed less probable than that I should go back to the 
East. In 1928 I had exchanged a modest sinecure for a journalist's 
life with the Beaverbrook Press, because I was engulfed in debt. 
There seemed little chance of my rising to the surface of freedom 
again. To me, however, an improbability is a direct incentive to 
make the improbable not merely probable but certain. Very soon 
after my arrival in Fleet Street I felt the old restlessness coursing 
through my veins. Gradually it took the form of a desire to re-visit 
the scenes of my youth in Malaya. 

There was certainly nothing very definite about it. As a boy 
Pierre Loti, wfio wanted to be a missionary, was shown a picture of 
Angkor and knew at once that one day he would visit it. At nine 
Joseph Conrad put his finger on the then unexplored heart of the 
map of Africa and saw his future in the Congo. Although I have 
spent more than twenty-five years of my life in foreign countries, 
I have never had any premonition about my movements. As far 
as my restlessness is concerned, travel, I suppose, is in my blood. 
Unlike the Preacher I have not yet reached the stage when I can 
say that I have seen everything under the sun and found it vanity. 

3 



Moreover, a long line of roving ancestors has left me the East 
as a kind of Galtonian legacy. 

Two of my uncles were pioneers for the plantation rubber in- 
dustry in Malaya. A cousin, a former cavalry officer, went there to 
die after a long life as a rolling stone. Two cousins are there now, 
and I have a brother, a colonel in the Indian army, who has 
spent the best years of his life in Afghanistan and on the North- 
West frontier. 

Some blame, too for my Wanderlust attaches to my father. 
During the winter Sunday nights of our boyhood in Scotland 
he used to read to my brother and to me aloud. Sandwiched be- 
tween Ivanhoc, Qucntin Durward, Treasure Island, and the Ptf- 
grim's Progress were occasional books of adventure* And of these 
my favourite was Mayne Reid's The Castaways, a tale of shipwreck 
and adventure in the Malay Archipelago. The book had been given 
to my father as a prize for geography when he was a boy of twelve 
at Partick Academy in 1870. I have it still- In one sense it has 
influenced my life more than any other book. For its account of 
giant durian trees, of sharks, of men adrift in an open boat on a 
tropical sea without food and, above all, without water, made a 
lasting impression on my mind* 

The impression had active consequences. At the age of twenty- 
one I turned my back on the "crammer** which was preparing me 
for the Civil Service examination and went East to Malaya to join 
my uncles who foretold fortune and favour in the new plantation 
rubber industry. 

I had spent three years in Malaya, They had been mis-spent 
years, I had been sent to open up a rubber estate in a Malay dis- 
trict where there were no other white men. I had causal a minor 
sensation by carrying off Amai, the beautiful ward of the Dato 1 
Klana, the local Malay prince. It had been my first romance. And 
it had very nearly caused political complications. The Dato', an 
old friend with whom I had played football, had been hurt. His 
family, and especially his mother, had been angry, and for some 
weeks I had been subjected to a persistent pressure, Amai herself 
had been put in Coventry by her own compatriots* The courage of 
her race had never failed her and for some months we had been 
happy. 

Then had come chronic ill-health. The doctors pronounced 

4 



malaria, but there were many people who said that I had been 
poisoned. One day my uncle had come out to my bungalow, had 
bundled my emaciated body into a motor-car, and had packed 
me off home via Japan and America. 

My Malayan venture had brought me neither credit nor cash. 
But now, twenty-five years afterwards, in the futile London of 
Fleet Street, it was to Malaya, the golden Chersonese of the early 
voyagers, the Insulinde of the poets, that my thoughts turned, and 
not to Russia or to Central Europe where I had spent what most 
people would call the exciting years of my life. "Lockhart in 
Quest of his Youth" seemed an attractive dream. 

British Agent and, in a minor degree, my enthusiasm for Loti 
were instrumental in giving material shape to my dream. British 
Agent, which provided the financial substance of my voyage, was 
begun at the old monastery house of Millicent, Duchess of Suther- 
land, in Anjou. It was to her tiny villa in the Vendee that I went 
to celebrate the book's success and to spend my first earnings as 
an author. 

It was a pleasant holiday. There was good food and good wine. 
A huge Mercedes was at my disposal, and within easy range there 
was the whole of the Clemenceau country to explore. I made 
numerous visits to "La Bicocque," the little sea-swept cottage to 
which the embittered cynic of Versailles withdrew when his own 
countrymen repudiated him. 

Clemenceau had carried his bitterness into the grave. In the 
cottage, where everything, even to the hair-wash and the tooth- 
brush, had been left exactly as it was in his life-time, there was 
a little writing-desk. It was a primitive collapsible affair which 
pulled out from a window overlooking the Atlantic. On the desk 
were the quill pens with which he wrote his books and a sand-box 
in place of blotting-paper. On the immediate right was a large 
bookcase and in the shelf nearest to his hand an English book 
entitled The Man Who Didn't Win the War. The sub-tide was 
"An Exposure of Lloyd Georgism"! 

It was a curious manifestation of the Tiger's egotism, for "L.G." 
and he, united by the bond of courage, had worked well together. 
And if both men had lost the peace they had been indisputably 
the two chief agents of the Allies' victory. 

But it was not only the Clemenceau country which interested 

5 



me. Within motoring distance was Rochefort, the home town 
of my boyhood hero, Loti. The little Frenchman had been the 
first French author that I had ever met and, indeed, after Andrew 
Lang the first author on whom 1 had ever set eyes. The meeting, 
like so many meetings with the heroes of one's student days, had 
been something of a shock. But it had not diminished my ad- 
miration for Loti as a writer. I had read all his works, and Lc 
Marriage de Loti and Les Dtsenchanties had been the propelling 
force that finally turned my footsteps Eastward. To Rochefort, 
therefore, I made a pilgrimage of gratitude. 

How well I remember that visit: the permission shyly sought 
from M. Samuel Viaud, the author's son; the grey November 
morning; the motor-drive through the bocage of La Vendee; the 
marshlands of La Rochelle, where as a schoolboy and Oxford 
undergraduate Mr. Anthony Eden, the young British Foreign 
Secretary, used to come to learn French from a Protestant pastor; 
the long alleys of tamarisks, and then just before Rochefort itself, 
the superb view of the Atlantic with the tiny He d'Aix, where 
Napoleon spent his last days on French soil before surrendering 
to the captain of the Bellcrophon. 

During the first half of the eighteenth century, when France 
still held her colonies in the New World, Rochefort was a great 
port. To-day, the town has lost its ancient glory. It has ceased 
even to be a naval base, and the {neighbouring town of Brouage, 
still famous as the home of Champlain, the founder of Quebec, 
is now a ruin left high and dry by the receding sea. 

But, if the remote past is dead, the immediate past is very much 
dive. The spirit of Loti haunts the town. There is a fine Loti 
street, a Lyc& Loti, and several Loti charities. And at No. 141, 
in the street which now bears his name, is the Loti house, kept 
piously to-day by the son in the same exotic state as the father left it. 

At the door I was received by a fine old servant in a black and 
yellow waistcoat. He was not "Mon Frire Yves," the sailor hero 
of Loti's most successful novel. But he was the next best thing 
an old rating who had taken part with Loti in the Tonkin and 
Boxer compaigns. He bowed me into a room full of family por- 
traits, waved an arm towards the Japanese room heavy with 
Buddhas and samurai armour, piloted me through a gimcrack 
Louis XVI salon, and left me standing in a vast banqueting hall 



with a high roof, a staircase, and an inside balcony. I surmised 
correctly that this was the medieval hall. At this point in came 
M. Viaud, a dapper, slim Frenchman, very neatly dressed, with 
small black moustache, deep-set, very earnest eyes, and a charm- 
ing modesty. 

Under his guidance I now made a complete tour of the house. 
Upstairs there was another period room with old oak doors and 
stained glass windows taken mainly from local ruins. I felt as if 
I were being conducted through an antique store. At every moment 
I expected to come face to face with a waxwork figure of Loti 
himself. M. Viaud, however, was upset because the house was 
undergoing repairs, and it was to an accompaniment of polite 
apology that I made my way over rubble and loose stones to the 
top floor. 

Here was Loti's Turkish room fitted up as a mosque with the 
actual stones from the famous ruined mosque at Damascus. This 
was the best room in the house, and the presence of praying 
mats and Turkish coffins was a reminder not only of Loti's love 
of the East, but also of his morbid interest in Death. Here, too, 
dressed as a Turk, he used to sit for hours in search of atmosphere. 
I ought to have been impressed, but in Rochefort so much exoti- 
cism seemed out of place. Instead, I marvelled at the filial devo- 
tion of M. Viaud, who lives with his wife and sons in this literary 
mausoleum. 

Like most authors Loti was an egotist. His son is a devout 
Protestant whose name in Rochefort is a synonym for unselfish- 
ness and good works. There are three Loti grandchildren. Two 
are boys. They wish to go into the Navy. Fifty years ago, when 
Loti was at the height of his fame, a Paris professor asked his 
class to put down on paper their choice of profession. Forty out 
of fifty put down "sailor." To-day, the highbrows affect to ignore 
Loti, although it is less than twenty years since Anatole France 
said "de nous tous, il est le plus stir de durer." 

From the Turkish room we passed into a litde attic with white- 
washed walls. At one end was a small iron bedstead with a crucifix 
above it; at the other a tiny washstand, a chest of drawers, and 
a wooden bench covered with a white cloth by way of toilet 
table. In the midst of this austere simplicity there hung on the 
wall a set of fencing foils and two masks: a useful reminder 

7 



that this amazing little man, who in the salons of Paris wore 
high heels and rouged his cheeks, was a great gymnast who did 
his physical exercises daily until almost the last months of his 
life. Above the chest of drawers, too, was the "citation du jour," 
the French equivalent to "mentioned in despatches," commending 
the work in the war of the Commandant du Vaisseau, Julien 
Viaud. The "citation" was signed by Marshal Petain. Julian Viaud 
was Loti's real name. 

This was the proper room for a Viaud with several generations 
of sailors behind him. A Viaud grandfather of Loti, a naval gun- 
ner, had died in Tarifa hospital from wounds received at Trafalgar. 
A Viaud uncle had perished on the Medusa, the ship which was 
bearing the new French Governor to the Senegal in 1817, after we 
had returned that colony to France after the Napoleonic Wars. 
The wreck, marked by a combination of bravery and cowardice 
almost unparalleled in the history of the seas, is immortalised 
by G6ricault's picture, "The Raft of the Medusa" A brother, a 
naval doctor and twelve years older than Loti, had died of fever 
in Saigon. 

A man of this stock had no need of all this exotic junk to 
remind him of his voyages. Here in this tiny white bedroom was 
the real Loti. Here, too, was the neatness which comes naturally 
to a naval officer whose life has been spent in confined space. 

In the room there was one extraneous object: a box containing 
a cast of Loti's tiny woman-like hand and a collection of his gloves. 
The box had belonged to Madame Itarthou, the wife of the states- 
man who was killed by the assassin of King Alexander at Mar- 
seilles* After her death it had been sent back to the Loti house as 
an exhibit. It was a token of the affection and hero-worship which 
Loti could inspire in women. 

I have a capacity for making pilgrimages. I know none which 
has made me so dissatisfied with myself as that visit to Loti's 
house in Rochefort Its immediate effect was to translate my dream 
of going East again into reality* And when in 1935 temptation 
presented itself in concrete form, I fell resolutely. For twelve 
years Lady Rosslyn has been my sheet-anchor and my better con- 
science. Five feet two inches of Irish Catholic saint, she is a woman 
who in spite of constant disappointment still believes that every 
moment of time is an opportunity for a fresh start. One afternoon 



she told me that Lord Rosslyn and she were going to Malaya for 
the winter. I looked out at the grey November sky and found it 
comfortless. Then I banged my fist decisively on the arm of my 
chair. "By Saint Andrew," I said, "111 go with you." 

The next thing to do was to obtain the necessary leave of ab- 
sence. That same evening I sat down and racked my brains for 
a sufficiently good reason to enable me to retain my job and at 
the same time to be away from London long enough in order 
to make the tour I had already contemplated. The excuses seemed 
futile and unconvincing. A friendly consultation with the manag- 
ing director of my newspaper brought me good advice, and the 
next day I sat down to write the plain truth to Lord Beaverbrook, 
I told him that after six and a half years in London I was sick 
of the sight of its buildings, the smell of its fumes, and the sound 
of its traffic. I stressed the desire for the Eastern sun. I aked for 
three months' leave of absence. His reply to my letter was not 
only favourable but friendly. It ended with the words: "I suppose 
you are going in search of the little wooden shoes." 

The remark flattered me as much as it surprised me. The flat- 
tery came from the fact that after an interval of three years 
Lord Beaverbrook should remember the episode of the little 
wooden shoes. It refers to the passage in British Agent when my 
uncle comes out to my bungalow in Malaya to lift me from my 
sick-bed and to take me away. It is the hour of my parting with 
Amai. As the motor-car turns the corner of my compound, my 
last view of my Malayan home is of Amai's little wooden shoes 
on the steps at the entrance to my bungalow. 

I was surprised, too, by Lord Beaverbrook's prescience. I had 
not forgotten Amai. After the war I had made inquiries through 
one of my highly-placed official friends in Malaya and had been 
informed that she was dead. The information had left a perma- 
nent if shadowy regret tinged sometimes with remorse. But not 
until I read Lord Beaverbrook's letter did I realise how much 
my desire to re-visit the East was influenced by memories of Amai 
and by a Loti-esque sentiment to pay a last tribute to her grave. 

The days passed rapidly and pleasantly in the planning of my 
voyage. For with the comparatively short time at my disposal 
I had to have a plan. My programme was to land at Singapore, 
revisit my old haunts in the Malay States, go up through the 

9 



new states to Bangkok, cross from Bangkok to Saigon, taking 
Angkor en route, proceed by steamer from Saigon to Batavia, 
visit the native states of Java, make a tour of the Outer Islands 
of the Malay Archipelago to seek for fresh Conrad material, and 
on the way back "do" Bali and as much of Sumatra as my time 
would permit. 

It was an ambitious if slightly hackneyed programme. It might 
have to be cut down. But Bali was an integral part. True it is that 
all my friends, both British and Dutch, who had spent a life- 
time in the East Indies, showed little enthusiasm about the place, 
holding one tropical island to be very like another. But Hollywood 
or Mr. Roosevelt had "discovered" Bali, and social America was 
in the process of going Bali-mad. In the United States there was 
already a considerable literature dealing with the various seductions 
of this last Paradise on earth. The fever had communicated itself 
to London. Obviously, I should have to visit Bali. 

I spent some delightful and expensive hours in ordering a new 
tropical outfit from my tailor. As this artist commented on the 
growing circumference of my figure, my thoughts went back to 
General Mackensen and to Berlin in 1931, The general was 
then eighty-two. He was in a new uniform when I met him. 
Some one complimented him on his figure. It was his boast that 
he had not had to have his waist-line altered since the day 
sixty years before when he ordered his first uniform as a 
subaltern. Twenty-five years ago I had possessed the huge tropical 
outfit which every extravagant young man acquires in the East, 
Where it was now nobody knew. But 1 knew and my tailor knew 
that, if it were found, it would be of no use to me to-day. 

Before I was safely away from London, I had one lust-minute 
agony of suspense. I had completed all my arrangements. 1 had 
equipped myself with a bagful of letters of recommendation, in- 
cluding an extraordinarily useful one from my old friend Sir 
William Oudendijk, the former Netherlands Minister to Russia, 
who had arranged my exchange for LitvinofT after I had been im- 
prisoned by the Bolsheviks at a critical moment in my existence in 
1918, and had subsequently been made a K.C.M.G. for his services 
in securing the release of arrested British officials. I had taken 
and paid for my steamer ticket, when a week before sailing I 
walked into the shipping agency in the Haymarket to see the 

10 



list of passengers. The first name on the list, opposite a whole 
string of cabins, was "Lord Beaverbrook and party." My heart 
thumped twice and then seemed to stop. Lord Beaverbrook has 
many qualities. When the sun in his world is shining, he is a 
brilliant conversationalist, witty, entertaining and instructive. When 
the clouds gather, one feels his presence even when he is not 
in the room. Not even his greatest admirer would prescribe him 
as a rest-cure. I was seeking an escape from Fleet Street. Here 
was Fleet Street descending on me in the person of its Napoleon. 
It was too late for me to re-act against this disturbing coincidence, 
for the remedy was now beyond the powers of human agency. 
Fortunately, Lord Beaverbrook had also reserved accommodation 
for other parts of the world. In the end he went to South America. 
Early in January I took the train at Victoria for Genoa, where 
I was to join the Netherland steamship Qldcnbarnevelt, specially 
selected because its Batavian stewards and "boys" would pro- 
vide me with the opportunity of repairing the ravages which time 
had made in my knowledge of the Malay language. There was 
a lilt in my step and a fierce exultation in my heart. There was 
a contraband talisman in my bag: a packet of home-made Es- 
thonian marzipans which I had to post from Paris to Mr. Somerset 
Maugham, then living in his beautiful villa at Cap Ferrat. This 
vicarious homage to the greatest living English writer on the East 
or, for that matter, on any subject, seemed a good omen. The fates 
would be propitious. I had shed my worries as easily as a snake 
sloughs its skin. For three months I should be as free as a man 
can be in this modern world of ours. 



CHAPTER TWO 

THE perfection of organisation has ironed all the creases out 
of modern travel To-day, it is easier to go without a hitch 
from Southampton to Singapore than from London to Little- 
hampton or from New York to Newark* There is, too, more 
punctuality and less excitement. When I crossed through the 
Fascist-guarded barrier at Genoa and set foot on board the Olden- 
barncvch I knew that, unless I was on my guard, 1 should be 
drawn into the hum-drum routine of ship life in which one day 
is exactly like another. 

It was Goethe who said that the English curry their tea-caddies 
with them round the world. To-day, the tea-caddie has been 
replaced by a gramophone, a cocktail shaker* and the latest 
best-seller from the Times Book Club. Otherwise* the aphorism 
stands. The English who can afford to travel run true to pattern. 
As far as their external behaviour is concerned, they have come 
through the same sausage-machine. This unimaginative uniformity 
is their strength and their weakness. One can tell without mental 
effort what they will say, what they will wear, what they will 
eat and drink., at any given hour of the day. With rare exceptions 
they are uninteresting as travel-companions. They have seen every- 
thing. They are not interested in history. On the big liners, at any 
rate, ninety per cent of them are semi-religious maniacs in search 
of the tin English gods of Health and Sunshine. Their temple 
is the sports-deck. Their ceremonial robes are shorts and a sleeve- 
less cricket shirt. 

They are extraordinarily competent Without fuss and without 
undue extravagance they secure the sunniest spot on the sun-deck 
when it is cold and the coolest spot on the shady deck when it is 
hot. They know exactly how much to tip and at the same time they 
obtain the best service no matter by what line they may be 
travelling. And they have the knack, acquired by birth and by 



education, of making all other races, including even Scots and 
Irish, feel uncomfortably inferior in their presence. This inferiority 
complex is responsible for most of the rude comments which for- 
eigners make about the English. 

Rudeness rightly has few defenders, but in the story of the two 
English peers and the American naval officer, my sympathies have 
always been with the American. The two peers met on board 
the old Mauretania. The one had seen everything in the Northern 
hemisphere; the other everything in the Southern. As they leant 
against the cocktail bar, they went through the long list of the 
places they had visited in a drawl which was limp with boredom. 
As gloom settled over the room, an American naval officer, who 
had done himself proud in side-cars, interrupted them. "Say, have 
you boys ever had delirium tremens?" There was no answer. 

The question was repeated. This time one of the Englishmen 
replied rather coldly: "No, Sir, and I don't want to." 

"Then let me tell you," said the American, not a whit abashed, 
"you've never been anywhere and you've never seen anything." 

On the Oldenbarnevelt the bulk of the passengers were English 
with a handful of Americans and Dutch thrown in by way of 
ballast. There was, too, one German, and he was the most interest- 
ing figure on board. A world-famous chemist, he had invented 
the substitute for nitron-glycerine in 1917 when Germany ran short 
of that essential product for explosives. As he himself said, he was 
the man who had prolonged the war for another year. He had 
(received the Iron Cross for his services. He was not so proud 
of them now. On board ship he played bridge and smoked his 
cigars. He was courteous, kind and gentle above all, gentle. He 
did not look as if he could ever have robbed a bird's nest or put 
a pin through a butterfly. 

The interest and, indeed, the charm of a voyage depend almost 
entirely on the liveliness of one's imagination, and to mine I had 
'made up my mind in advance to give free rein. Here was the 
.Mediterranean, the home of the gods and the immortals, with 
unore history in one of its waves than the Atlantic has in the 
.whole expanse of its 24,000,000 square miles. Here were scenes 
k to be re-visited and first impressions of one's youth to be recap- 
tured: queer, delightful impressions, sometimes obscure, sometimes 
altering their form, yet constantly recurring through the turmoil 

13 



of the changing years. There was Bonifacio, the little Corsican 
town perched like an eagle's nest on the cliffs ami guarding the 
Straits between Corsica and Sardinia. Most people remember the 
place as the garrison town of the young Napoleon Bonaparte* 
It was here that on January 2ist, 179^ on the same clay on which 
Louis XVI went to the guillotine, Napoleon himself was nearly 
murdered by mutinccring sailors, tie had taken part in the ill- 
fated Sardinian campaign. Badly prepared and with troops re- 
cruited mainly from the revolutionaries of Marseilles, it had been 
a failure. At Bonifacio there had been a revolt. The French sailors 
o Admiral Trugnet had quarrelled with the Corsican volunteers. 
The Commandant Bonaparte had tried to intervene. The sailors 
had replied with "Ca Ira," had hurled the epithet "arista" at him, 
and had struck him. Napoleon had been saved in the nick of time 
by the arrival of the local sheriff with reinforcements. 

But in my mind it is not Napoleon whom the place invokes 
but Alphonse Daudet, the first real French author whom I ever 
read and whose Lcttres dc Man Moulin, in spite of its grim asso- 
ciations as a school-book, is still one of my bedside favourites. 
At the entrance to Bonifacio lie the barren reefs of Lavi/zi. You 
remember now Daudct's story of "The Agony of the Scmilltintc," 
the French ship which, carrying 600 troops to the Crimean War, 
was broken to pieces on these needle-shaped rocks with the loss 
of all on board. You remember, too, the distinctive thrill of the 
story. Three weeks before, a French corvette hud run ashore in 
the same way and in the same place. On that occasion the troops 
on board had been saved but only after hours of terror and ex- 
posure. They had been sent back to Toulon. They had been re- 
embarked on the Stmillanttt and their dead bodies were found by 
the same Bonifacio peasants who had rescued them three weeks 
before. 

This is one of the stories which by early association with the 
place are far more clearly, far more grimly imprinted on my 
memory than all the horrors of the Russian revolution of which 
I was an eye-witness, I did not see Bonifacio cm my way East. 
But on the return journey a Dutch captain, who knew by heart 
every great story of the sea in literature, sailed his ship right up 
to the cliffs until one could distinguish the faces of the inhabitants 
on shore. In the stillness of a perfect spring day both Corsica and 



Sardinia with the islands of Maddalena, the Italian Gibraltar of 
the Tyrrhenian Sea, and Caprera, the last home of Garibaldi, 
guarding the Strait, looked peaceful enough. But I have seen them 
when the sun is covered, and dark clouds accentuate the jagged, 
angry edges of the rocks. Then French Corsica and Italian Sardinia 
look like two war-scarred bulldogs who would be at each other's 
throats. 

Here in this queen of all seas were a thousand memories to 
be revived. They should have begun at Genoa, which had been 
my first port of call on my voyage East, twenty-seven years ago. 
I tried to attune my mind to the past. But the blue sky played 
havoc with my dreams. Behind the town the hills were sprinkled 
with snow. I was like a schoolboy going home for the holidays. 
In that moment the sunshine meant more to me than sentiment. 
Genoa was the birthplace of Columbus. There was even a Colum- 
bus house. But I was not interested in Columbus. He had sailed 
West. 

Garibaldi, too, had sailed from here on his Sicilian expedition. 
In my mind I saw his "red shirts" and thought immediately of 
the Genoa Conference of 1922. If I had played my cards better in 
Russia, I should have been present in an official capacity at that 
Conference. Against my will the ridiculous figure of Chicherin 
kept obtruding itself before my eyes. Then I remembered. It was 
at Genoa that Chicherin had appeared before the world in his 
famous morning-coat. 

I knew the history of that morning-coat. For months on end, in 
1918, I had seen Chicherin every day in Moscow. He had always 
worn the same hideous, yellow-brown, tweed suit which he had 
brought to Russia with him from England. He had worn that 
suit so long that even his Bolshevik colleagues had rebelled against 
it. When the time came for him to represent the new Russia 
abroad at an international Conference, they felt that it was time 
to act. 

One night Radek, the arch-jester of Moscow, had crept quietly 
into Chicherin's bedroom, had stolen the old brown suit, and had 
left in its place a well-cut morning-coat with striped trousers, 
white shirt, and all the other appurtenances of male vanity. He had 
then rushed back to the Kremlin, assembled the Commissars, and 
telephoned to Chicherin to tell him that Lenin wanted him im- 



mediately. A quarter-of-an-hour later Chicherin, the most dutiful 
of all Lenin's lieutenants, had appeared with a hang-dog expres- 
sion on his face and the new morning-coat on his back. From that 
moment the coat became the centre-piece of his wardrobe. 

My frivolous mood lasted throughout the whole of that first 
day. I scanned the coast with my binoculars in an attempt to 
recognise the spot where Byron and Trelawney had watched 
Shelley's funeral pyre. But my heart was not in this Baedeker 
business, and when in the evening we passed Elba I was still 
under the influence of my improper levity. 

In vain I tried to approach this altar of forgotten greatness 
with submissive respect. In summer one can see the statue erected 
by the Italians to Napoleon. But now the island lcx)ked like 
a black hippopotamus lying in the sea. Round the coast a few 
scattered lights shone from the various light-houses. A cluster of 
electricity marked the position of Fcrrajo. 

I thought of all the Napoleon worshippers I had met in my 
life; of Lord Northcliffe telling Tom Clarke, then his news editor 
and subsequently author of that diverting txxik, My Northclifft 
Diary, not to miss Napoleon's hat at Fontaincblcau and saying 
naively that he had tried it on and found it fitted; of Rabcl, the 
Cuban, who had been my companion in my student days at 
Douai and who had spent the bountiful allowance of his millionaire 
sugar-planter father on Napoleon books. Napoleon pictures, and 
Napoleon relics; of Sidney Reilly, the Odessa Jew who was 
Britain's master-spy in the war and who had ruined himself in 
buying Napoleana. 

By hazard I had picked up the night before in Paris a copy 
of Masson's La feurnte de N&potton* I had been painfully im- 
pressed by the small number of the Emperor's servants who had 
remained loyal to him in the hour of his adversity, liven Rustoum, 
his Mameluke whom he loved like a favourite dog* deserted him 
in 1814. 1 fell to wondering how many of any great man's hench- 
men would stand by him if he fell on evil days, I had been 
amused by the story of Napoleon's surgeon who, when the Em- 
peror suddenly showered a pension, a title* and a lump sum of 
money on him, was so excited by this unexpected access of for- 
tune that he took a horse from the Imperial stables at Fontaine- 

16 



bleau and galloped off to Paris in the middle of the night. The 
inhabitants of Sycophantopolis are not renowned for their loyalty. 

Among the domestics who remained faithful to Napoleon was 
a valet whose main usefulness to Napoleon was the fact that his 
foot was the same size as the great man's. His task in life was 
to try on and buy shoes for the Emperor. Great men are alike 
in the externals of their make-up. Lord Beaverbrook's valet, 
Albert, is much the same size as his master and is commonly sup- 
posed to try on and buy Lord Beaverbrook's suits. Nearly every 
day, too, I see a painting of that great gambler with life, the 
Earl of Rosslyn. It portrays, indeed, the head of its titled subject. 
But the body is the body of a groom whose figure resembled the 
once sylph-like figure of the noble earl. Lord Rosslyn puts comfort 
before pride. He would not have sat more than once for Titian 
himself. 

This habit of engaging substitutes, now so popular with the 
picture stars of Hollywood, goes back to the dawn of civilisation. 
One of Lord Carnarvon's most valuable discoveries at Luxor was 
the life-size mannequin of Tutankhamen, which now lies beside 
the Tutankhamen mummies in the Cairo museum. The manne- 
quin was used by the Egyptian tailors for trying on the costumes 
of a monarch who was, doubtless, as resdess as other great men 
have been, are now, and will be always. 

After my first night on board I put a brake on my frivolity 
and settled down to follow the programme which I had prepared 
for myself. With characteristic egotism I had decided to take no 
part in the communal life of the ship. I should not waste my time 
on sports or cards. Indeed, I should rise with the sun and go to 
bed before the jazz-band started. I should work all morning on my 
Malay language and my Malay history. In the afternoons I might 
swim. In the evenings the panorama of the tropical sunset would 
be my only cinema. Above all, I should eschew the pleasures of 
the table and of the bar. I had wasted many opportunities in the 
past. On this occasion I should extract the maximum amount of 
pleasure from the old recipe of high thinking and plain living. 

As far as my life on board ship was concerned, I stuck with 
a fair measure of success to this priggish programme both on my 
outward and on my homeward journeys. 

When, therefore, on the afternoon of my second day on board 



we approached Stromboli I was in a more scrums and more re- 
ccptivc mood. The weather, it is true, had broken, but 1 had 
"made friends with the captain. With that attractive indifference 
to detail which characterises the English, one of my compatriots 
had told him that I was a successful writer erf spy stories. The effect 
was magical* I was given the run of the bridge. The captain 
himself was an encyclopedia of sea lore. When every now and 
then he threw out a feeler about secret service, 1 would assume 
the proper look o embarrassment and turn away. Then 1 would 
counter heavily with questions about the exact position of Scylla 
and Charybdis or the route followed by the Roman triremes. It 
was an admirable arrangement, for it was one-sided and the ad- 
vantages were solely mine. 

Stromboli I remembered very clearly from my first voyage 
East. Then I had passed it at night, and the red glow from the 
crater had induced a respectful awe. Now an innocuous-looking 
white smoke issued steadily from the top* Our approach was to- 
wards the crater side. Beneath the crater itself wax a steep slide 
worn away by the lava and running sheer into the sea. It would 
have made a fearsome toboggan run. We passed within u stone's 
throw of the island, and at the most westerly point we came 
suddenly on a picturesque village with a score or two of flat-roofed 
villas. They seemed to be nestling in the very jaws of the crater. 

Closer inspection, however, reveals a thin grass cm the rocky 
slopes, some olive trees and a few vineyards. The inhabitants live 
on their wine and olives and on the fish they catch. There is an- 
other village at the south-cast corner. Both afford a remarkable 
object-lesson of the diminishing effect of familiarity on danger. 
Stromboli, the mythical home of the wind god -Aioluji, is an active 
volcano. Every now and then the seismographical station in Rome 
issues warnings to the islanders. Only a few clays before we passed, 
there had been a report of a threatened eruption and a government 
ship had been sent to take off the inhabitants. Very few had gone. 
Like many people in this noisy world I have, or fancy 1 have, a 
passion to own a small island* Stromboli would nut be my first 
choice* 

A hundred yards or so to the east of Stromboli is a little island 
which in the distance looked remarkably like one of those Italian 
brigantines which frequent these waters. The island is called 

18 



Strombolini or "Little Stromboli." Mussolini, I suppose, means 
"Little Musso," although I doubt if the Duce would like to be 
considered in terms of the diminutive* Away to the south-west 
there was physical evidence of his power in the group of the 
Lipari Islands, looking very grim and barren in the grey winter 
light. They have played a grim part in history. Here in the first 
Punic War the Carthaginian Fleet fled for refuge after its first 
encounter with the Roman raven, the famous grappling machine 
invented by the Romans, in order to bridge the gulf between their 
own inferiority and Carthaginian invincibility on the sea. In these 
waters, too, Michael de Ruyter, the great Dutch admiral and ham- 
mer of the English, received his mortal wound. Now the islands 
serve as the internment camp for the politfcal opponents of Fas- 
cism. Here, too, is or was interned Guaglino, the former Italian 
artificial silk king, part of whose wonderful picture collection 
now adorns the walls of the Italian Embassy in London. Doubt- 
less, the islands have a better climate than France's "Devil's Island." 
But they are forbidding enough, and it must be tantalising for the 
prisoners to see the liners pass almost every day carrying free 
people to freer countries. 

Formerly the big liners used to pass between the islands. Now 
they are not allowed to follow this route, because these waters 
are reserved for the Italian navy. I imagine that the real reason 
is that the Duce does not want any foreign ships plying too near 
his political prisons. Certainly the world hears very little about 
them, I remember an exalted official of the German Embassy 
in London once complaining to me that the British Press always 
raised a storm of abuse over Hitler's concentration camps, but never 
referred to Mussolini's Lipari Islands. Herr Hitler, to a large 
extent the creation of the post-war policy of the Allies, has perhaps 
some reason to complain. But, apart from the fact that he has 
persecuted the Jews whereas Mussolini has not, he suffers from 
one great disadvantage. He is a German. And in its attitude 
towards both races the British public, which reacts more to in- 
stinct that to knowledge, draws a sharp line between Germans 
and Italians. When Mussolini says "We must darken the skies 
with our airplanes," we laugh. The English had not yet learnt to 
take Mussolini seriously. When Germany begins to be truculent 
or even mildly assertive, we react immediately. We are afraid of 



Germany. That is perhaps why to-day Mussolini believes that the 
British are a decadent race whose Empire i.s ripe to fall into Fascist 
hands, and why the Germans regard us as the most cunning 
and far-seeing diplomatists in the world. 

I have passed through the Straits of Messina four times in my 
life, the first being just before the great earthquake of 1908. They 
are one of the great sights of the world, associated in my mind 
with rather terrifying boyhood memories of Turner's "Ulysses 
Defying Polyphemus." But they have never shown themselves to 
me in their best colours, and on this occasion not even Mt. Etna 
was visible, still less a Cyclops' cave. 

The time of our approach could not have been more favourable* 
There should have been a perfect sunset. But, as we left Strom- 
boli, a thin drizzle began to fall, and, although it stopped before 
we entered the Straits, the distant view was obscured. Just as we 
were swinging round to negotiate Scyllti and Charybdis, we passed 
the P. & Q. steamer Kaistir~i>-Hind, or Caesar of India, a title to our 
own King handed down through the centuries by the great 
Roman, who, although more renowned for his victories on land, 
doubtless sailed through these Straits on his way to Egypt and to 
Cleopatra. 

Many famous men must have used this highway of the ancient 
world: Hadrian and his boy-love Aminoiis; Pompey, the scourge 
of the Mediterranean pirates, and Hannibal himself em his retreat 
to Africa after the failure of the greatest military exploit in his- 
tory. There was one famous man who longed to use it but was 
frustrated* From the bridge the captain pointed out to me a 
small village on the Italian side with u background like a Putinir 
landscape. On the map it was called San Giovanni. "That/* he 
said, "is where Murat was shot." After the failure of his expe- 
dition to Calabria in 1815 he had lain in concealment there, wait- 
ing for the English ship which was to carry him to safety- 
It is one of the strangest coincidences of history that Napoleon's 
two greatest marshals, Ney and Murat, were both shot by their 
compatriots or former subjects, that in both instances the English 
had promised to save their former enemy, and that on both occa- 
sions they had come too late* Doubtless, if ever we go to war 
with France, a French Ministry of Propaganda will revive and 
re-edit these stories in order to show that these heroes of France 
20 



were betrayed by an Albion too perfidious and too cunning to 
allow two such great soldiers and potential enemies to remain 
alive. The poison gas of governments is a clearer sign of the white 
man's decline than the chlorine of the soldiers. 

As we passed Messina itself in the fading twilight, I could 
just distinguish the dirty-grey funnels and strange lop-sided masts 
of a modern Italian warship hedged in by a flotilla of destroyers. 
Then, as we were opposite the huge one-hundred-and-fifty-feet-high 
statue of the Madonna at the end of the mole, the lights began to 
appear, slowly at first and then increasing in rapidity until pres- 
endy the whole hillside was like a black cushion studded with 
luminous yellow pins. High up on the mountainside was a group 
of lights which came from a cluster of villas. They were so high 
that they seemed to belong to the sky and looked like stars. This 
combined effect of man's ingenuity and Nature at Messina is very 
similar to lighting-up time at Hong-Kong and at Nagasaki. It is 
attractive but slightly artificial. It reminds me of the love scene in 
the first act of Madame Butterfly. 



CHAPTER THREE 

EF not the reader suppose that my whole time on board was 
pent in the meditation of my past or in a rigid aloofness. If 
my mornings were devoted to study, they had their moments of 
relaxation during which I aired my Malay on DjoDjo my cabin 
steward. Most of the native stewards were Javanese* They were 
grave, dignified men with small ankles and tiny, graceful hands 
and beautiful kain kepala, a head-dress wonderfully tied from a 
coloured square of silk or cotton, They spoke a Malay which dif- 
fered considerably both in words and in pronunciation from the 
Malay spoken in the Malay States, And they spoke it badly, Djo- 
Djo, however, was what is called in Malay an "anak batawi," a 
son of Batavia. This meant that Malay was his native language 
and not a foreign tongue. He divided all Kurnjie;m$ into two 
categories: those who spoke Malay fluently ami those who spoke 
not a word. With my collection of Malay books, my ability to 
read, and my halting speech, for in twenty-five years one can 
become almost dumb even in a language which one has once 
spoken well, 1 was both u puxzle and a source of amusement to 
him, so that I soon broke down the barriers of his natural reserve, 
I used to engage him in long conversations about his life on board 
ship, in his kampong at home, and in the $n>m of Holland. And 
in this manner my tongue was loosed and my Malay came rapidly 
back to me. 

Every one who wishes to study seriously the life and customs 
of the East Indies must be able to read Dutch, The Dutch are 
the experts, 1 therefore wrestled with their language. Although 
I made no attempt to speak it or even to master its guttural and 
difficult pronunciation, I brought my studies so fur that by the 
end of my trip I was able to read a Dutch history with moderate 
ease* In the afternoons I swam in the luxurious swimming bath 
and strove to penetrate the mysteries of a new Lcica camera which 
22 



a friend had given me before my departure. In the evenings there 
was a quiet laugh to be extracted from a distant inspection of the 
human comedy. 

It is true that, as far as life on board ship was concerned, the 
comedy itself had changed vastly since my first voyage in 1908. 
Then there was youth on board. We had carried a small detach- 
ment of German naval officers and ratings who were going out 
to relieve their colleagues in a German cruiser at Samoa. There 
had been quite a number of young girls, including the two 
daughters of a British shipping magnate in Shanghai. There had 
been the dashing and vivacious wife of a German banker in 
Kiau-Chau. Above all, there had been a diaphanous vision of 
French loveliness, married but temporarily unattached and going 
back unwillingly to rejoin a husband in the French civil service 
in Cochin-China. I had written a poem in the approved fashion 
of "ships that pass in the night" to one or was it both? of the 
two daughters. I had danced once with the vivacious German 
lady. I had surprised a blond young German naval officer kissing 
the diaphanous loveliness in the moonlight and had been thrilled. 
To my breathless innocence it all seemed very romantic. There 
was no talk of slumps or of yellow perils or of Japanese competi- 
tion. We were six years away from August, 1914. And to a youth 
of twenty-one six years seemed the last milestone before eternity. 

Now everything was changed. Our ship was not more than 
half full. There was no youth and no romance among our pas- 
sengers. Only age and gout and nerves and hard-lined faces. 
People were travelling either for health or for business. Amuse- 
ment had to be sought in other directions than romance. 

I found it in the comic difficulties encountered by the English 
passengers in ordering food from the Javanese stewards, in the 
perspiring but praiseworthy efforts of the Dutch officers to keep 
their guests amused, and in the strange contrast between the 
clumsy antics of the Europeans on the dance floor and the quiet 
reserve of the lissom Javanese who stood by waiting, their limbs 
motionless, their eyes gazing vacantly into space. Did they think 
at all? Did they see the same lack of dignity as I did in the gyra- 
tions of gymnastical old gentlemen trying to recapture their 
schoolboy spirits? Or did they take this nightly travesty for 
granted as part of the adat, or custom, of the superior white race? 

23 



Their own adut taught them to respect rank and titles, Perhaps 
life on board ship, with its different classes and categories of food 
and cabins, had increased the feeling of respect and had taught 
them to regard all first-class passengers as demi-gods or at least 
as supermen. 

Strictly speaking, there were in our ship only two passengers 
who could properly be viewed in that light, They were not ex- 
actly demi-gods. But they were, at all events, English peers* Nor 
were they of recent creation. Both had behind them a background 
of knight-errantry and romanrr. 

Lord Rencllesham was a direct descendant of the famous 
Peter Thellusson, a Huguenot merchant who came to London 
in the middle of the eighteenth century ami was naturalised. Like 
most naturalised British subjects he became fabulously rich and 
immortalised himself by making an eccentric will which left 
his large fortune to accumulate for several generations. The will 
was challenged, but was held valid by the Lord Chancellor, 
The next year an Act of Parliament was passed prohibiting such 
accumulations for the future. Lord Rosslyn, known to half the 
world as "Harry," was a direct descendant of the Scottish kings, 
and the owner of Roslin Chapeli the finest architectural jewel in 
the realm of Scotland. Sir Walter Scott has sung in verse the ex- 
ploits of his ancestors. Harry's own exploits have been confined 
mainly to the racecourse and the card-room. He has broken both 
himself and the bank at Monte Carlo, lie takes his title from 
Lord Loughborough, Lord Chancellor during the reign of George 
III and first Earl of Rosslyn. It was Lord Loughhorough who as 
Lord Chancellor pronounced the Thellusstm will valid. 

There were, therefore, strong historical ground* why our two 
noble passengers should be good friends, To the historically senti- 
mental reason must be added the bond of the same school tie. 
As boys the Earl and the Baron had been at Eton together. The 
course of schoolboy friendship, however, had not run smoothly. 
During a game of football the future Lord Rendlcsham had 
emerged from a bully and, neglecting the ball, had hacked the 
future Lord Rosslyn on the shins, There had been retaliation 
of the usual schoolboy sort. They did not speak on board our 
ship, holding each his separate court in the smoking-room to 
the bewilderment and chagrin of a rich American banker, who 



wished to invite both peers simultaneously to his Texas ranch or 
his Wisconsin homestead. 

There were other comedies of a similar nature which, however, 
need not be chronicled. I was easily amused. My chief joy was 
not merely freedom from work, but freedom from responsibilities. 
If I wanted to be alone, I could be so in the certain knowledge 
that no one would disturb me. When one has worked for seven 
years, almost without a break, in a newspaper office where every 
one sits together in a Babel of tongues and telephones, solitude 
becomes a craving that is stronger than wine or women or 
opium. The knowledge that for three months not only should I 
take no part in the making of a newspaper, but that I should not 
even read one was in itself the most delicious and most necessary 
of holidays. 

This disregard of the newspaper habit made me a new 
acquaintance. Actually, there was a newspaper on board a roneo- 
printed sheet produced by the wireless officer. It contained a 
column of English news devoted mainly to the doings of the 
M.C.C. cricket team in the West Indies and of the English 
women's cricket eleven in Australia. I rarely looked at it. But on 
my way down to the saloon one day I stopped before the notice- 
board and saw chalked up: "England 3 pts, Wales 3 pts." A 
powerfully-built Englishman stood by my side. He was clean- 
shaven and grey-haired. I judged him to be about sixty. "I give 
full marks to the Dutch," I said. "Fancy their giving us the result 
of the 'rugger' international."- 

"I did that," replied rny neighbour briskly, "Have you seen 
the ship's newspaper? Full of ridiculous accounts of women's 
cricket and thunderstorms, and not even the result of the inter- 
national. I complained to the wireless officer." 

Actually he had done more. When the wireless officer was 
unable to pick up the result, my new acquaintance complained to 
a director of the steamship company who was travelling with us, 
and the director had telephoned to England for the result. 

The director's action was typical of Dutch politeness. But I 
could not help wondering what an English captain would have 
said to an Italian or a Czechoslovak who, in similar circumstances, 
had demanded the result of the Italo-Czechoslovak "soccer" match 
at Rome for the so-called championship of the world. But ob- 



viously "civis britannicus sum' 1 has still the virtues of a world 
passport. 

My new friend's name was Hewan. I discovered that, like 
myself, he had been at Fettes, that Scottish nursery of "rugger* 
Blues and scholars. The ruling passion of "rugger" has remained 
with him to this day. 

His period at Fettes coincided with that of Sir John Simon, 
and once again I imbibed from the fountain-head the knowledge 
that no subsequent great man is a hero to his school-fellows. Sir 
John, I learnt, had been more of a master's darling than a rugby 
football stalwart. He had scraped his way imo the cricket eleven, 
but even the Fettesian, the school magazine, had lapsed from its 
customary kindness in its criticism of his performance as a wicket- 
keeper. In manhood the brilliant scholarship in forgotten or taken 
for granted. But the sins against the Sport (iod are remembered 
against us by our schoolboy contemporaries until death* 

Forty years ago Hewan had gone out to Singapore to 
Boustead's, the well-known shipping and export merchants* He 
had become a partner and had retired after the war. Now at the 
age of sixty he was going back to have a look at the scene of his 
life's activities and to see his son, the Marlborough, Cambridge 
and international hockey player, who had just stance! his career 
in the East, The father was a man who during the course of his 
life had amassed a vast store of knowledge about all kinds of 
curious people and places. He had the rare power of imparting 
information without being boring. I iuui many talks with him 
and learnt much about Singapore life at ihc end of last century. 

That night 1 went up to the bridge before dinner. The sea wa^ 
dead calm after a cloudless day, and a moon that was almost futf 
was shining. Far away on our right lay the long island of Crete, 
I rushed downstairs to eat u rapid dinner, and came up again on 
the top deck. From nine to eleven we steamed parallel to the 
island- From the ship it looked alarmingly precipitous. There 
were very few lights or other signs of habitation, but the snow- 
capped mountains stood out in astonishingly clear relief in the 
moonlight. After the warmth of the day it was surprising to see 
snow so far south. Two peaks, almost side by side, over-topped 
all the others. 

Unconsciously my thoughts turned to St. Paul, whose ship, 
26 



bearing him to his trial in Rome, was struck here by a typhonic 
wind with such force that the crew had to pass ropes round her 
frame to keep her straining timbers together. I was alone, and 
there was something eerie about these mountain wraiths. It 
brought back all that charm of the unknown which in great cities 
is nearly always absent. 

A little later we passed a small- island which, standing out 
clearly in the opalescent highway made by the moon, looked mar- 
vellously like Napoleon's hat. Venizelos's skull cap would have 
been more appropriate, for Crete had just survived another revo- 
lution. As the ship changed her course, moon and shadow com- 
bined to give to the mountain slopes the appearance of a vast 
cemetery. The scene reminded me of El Greco's "The Agony in 
the Garden." Here, too, were the same wraith-like figures, the 
same moonlight, the same rock, and the same colouring of mother- 
of-pearl. Like Venizelos, El Greco was a Cretan, although his 
name Domenico Theotocopoulos defeats most candidates in a 
general knowledge paper. 

Vaguely I wondered how many Cretan revolutions Venizelos 
had inspired or provoked during the fifty years of his political 
career, and how many ignorant peasants had been induced to lay 
down their lives for the restless ambition of this turbulent Cretan. 
El Greco would be a living name when Venizelos's existence had 
been forgotten even by the historians. 



CHAPTER FOUR 

A" quarter to six in the morning we berthed at Part Said. 
The town takes its name from Mohammed Saul, the Viceroy 
of Egypt, who gave to Lesscps the concession for the Suez; Canal. 
I was already awake and, my cabin being on the port side, I 
had a perfect view of the dawn, At ten minutes to six the night 
was still encased in the darkest of dark-blue skies, Far away on 
the eastern horizon was a faint line of grey. At six the stars were 
still out, The grey light in the east was slightly clearer and was 
now streaked with the palest pink. By a quarter past six the stars 
had disappeared; the sky was the lightest of pale blue; the horizon 
was a riotous maze of colour ranging from dark gold to the 
rosiest pink with intervening layers of mauve and saffron. At six- 
thirty the horizon was still suffused with a pink which was grow- 
ing rapidly fainter. The sun had not yet shown itself, but, with 
the light, scores of "feluccas** with their single swan-winged sail 
slid gracefully out to sea. High up in the sky, looking not much 
larger than one of the kites which surrounded our ship, was an 
air-plane, still more bird-like because the throb of her engine was 
drowned by the raucous shouting of the native dockers who were 
already loading our ship. It was the Eastern dawn such as 1 should 
now see it every day for the next ten weeks. Its beauty, almost 
painful in its effect, gave me exactly the same shiver of emotional 
expectation as it had given me twenty-seven years f>efore. 

Neither age nor custom has staled my capacity for sight- 
seeing. By seven I was already on shore in the place which in my 
youth was labelled the wickedest in the world. My memory sharp- 
ened by the renewed association, I suddenly remembered the 
donkeys which met one on going ashore, They were always called 
after the latest favourites of royalties: "Mrs, Languy, 11 "Mrs, 
Cornwallis West," or "La Belle Otero." The names were a startling 
reminder that even in those days gossip travelled far afield. 



These donkeys were then the only means of conveyance, and 
before the hirer realised where he was going he found himself 
being carried off to some exhibition of vice. The brothels worked 
day and night to suit the coming and going of the passing 
steamers. There were, too, gambling dens where even if one made 
money at the tables one was certain to have it filched from one's 
pocket before one returned to the ship. 

At that time Port Said used to be called the Gate to the East. 
To-day, it is more like the gate to the East End of London or 
to the East Side of New York. Gone are the donkeys and gone 
to a large extent is the vice. The town was cleaned up during the 
war for the benefit of the Australian troops, and, incidentally, 
for the safety of the native scoundrels who provided vice's victims 
to the vicious. It has been kept tolerably clean ever since. 

I do not mean to suggest that Port Said or, for that matter, 
Egypt has become a monastery of virtue. The moralities still sit 
lightly on the shoulders of the Egyptians, who have the worst 
faults of the East and the West, and Port Said still has native 
gentlemen who surreptitiously proffer various forms of illicit 
pleasure. They are well hobbled by the police. 

Otherwise, the town seemed to have changed little since my 
first visit. Simon Artz, the Selfridgc's of Port Said, has a new 
store and a wider and better selection of goods, including the 
beauty specialties of Elizabeth Arden. These latest symbols of 
modernity were displayed in a large glass case on which stood 
incongruously a cheap, embossed portrait of Mr. Ramsay Mac- 
Donald. New, too, were the electric signs dominating the skyline 
with drink advertisements. Strangely enough, the teetotal brands 
held their own with the beers and brandies. Under a clich cap- 
tion of "East is East and West is West" Van Houten's Cocoa 
disputed pride of place with a well-known French cognac. Mr. 
Bell of Perth and the proprietors of White Horse have arranged 
that whiskey has not been forgotten. But the highest and largest 
sign in Port Said is supplied by Horlick's Malted Milk. 

Down on more sordid levels the advertising is more primitive 
and more comic. The pitfalls of the English language have no 
terrors for the commercially-minded polyglots of Port Said. 
"Sport Shirts 3/9 each. Be a Sport and Buy a Few" might receive 
the approval even of Sir Charles Higham or Mr. Jesse Straus, 



But "Never Change Your Shirt If The Quality is Good;' which 
I saw displayed above a counter in Simon Ariz's, is bad hygiene 
and bad advertising, Doubtless, Mr. Artz meant something dif- 
ferent. 

The universal prevalence of the English language in a town 
which was once predominantly French should reassure those pes- 
simists who arc mourning the decadence of the British and the 
decline of their world power. The "Mrs, Lungirys" and the "Mrs, 
Cornwallis Wests" may have gone, hut more than ever Port Said 
clings to its quaint affection for English manners. In the main 
street there is a George Robey Store with a George Robey electric 
sign. On the front a modest shop exterior bears the name of "The 
Old Firm. Jock Ferguson/* Needless to say, both CJcorge and 
Jock wear a fe& above a hooked Semitic nose. 

Port Said will always have a certain attraction fur me. Ap- 
parently there are a few other eccentrics who share my affection 
for it. During my visit I made a pilgrimage of respect to a villa 
which stands at the north end of the town not far from the 
Lesseps statue. It belonged to a Scot who was one of the pioneers 
of British Malaya. His name was Gram Mackic, A son of the 
manse, he began his Eastern career sixty years ago in Ceylon. 
From there he went to seek a fortune in the Malay States and 
after many vicissitudes found it in tin. He was a great character 
and a firm believer in his own generation. I had seen him at 
home some years before, lie was hurling anathema ;u the past- 
war Englishman* Victory had enervated the English. They were 
no good at home. They were worse in the East, "In my day," he 
grunted, "every young man kept a horse and u woman, Now a 
motor-bicycle does for both." In the end the old gentleman had 
retired to Port Said as a kind o half-way home between the 
Scotland which had bred the grit in him and the Mabya which 
had given him wealth. And there he died three years ago. 

When my car reached the front again, I paid the taxi-man off 
and walked. At once I was surrounded by an army of fruit- 
sellers, carpet-sewers, cigarette touts, "gilly-gilly" conjurers, and 
purveyors of pornographic literature, all eager to press their wares 
on the visitor. The pornography merchants have a limited knowl- 
edge of English, but their attack is persistent and is directed 
against both sexes. Indeed, the most forbidding spinster is as likely 



to have dirty photographs flaunted before her eyes as the most 
obvious old rake. Perhaps the pornographers are indiscriminately 
energetic. Perhaps they know their market. 

On my first visit these irrepressible touts had one stock phrase 
for a sex-scene photograph or a lascivious book. It was "very nice: 
very French." To-day, everything from a radio set to a necklace 
made of Birmingham bone and guaranteed as uncut ivory is 
proclaimed as "good for the stomach." Just what this means I 
could not discover. Probably it is some catch-word which the touts 
have picked up from an English patent medicine advertisement 
in a local Arab newspaper. But I do remember very clearly that 
experienced colonial administrator, the late Sir Ernest Birch, tell- 
ing me many years ago that the fault made by nearly every British 
official when he first went East was to form his impressions of 
the Oriental instead of concentrating on trying to discover what 
the Oriental was thinking of the English. On the external evi- 
dence alone the Port Said natives cannot have a very high opinion 
of the European. They are a rascally importunate band. But they 
deserve some reward for their energy. When they sleep I do not 
know. Ships arrive at every hour of the day and night. The native 
is always there to meet them. His shops are always open. 

My last impression of Port Said is of the front at 10 a.m. As I 
stroll back to the ship I am joined by "Tommy" and Harry 
Rosslyn. Harry is dressed in grey flannels and Deauville shoes. 
He has a yachting cap on his head. There is a cigarette with a 
long amber holder in his mouth. He carries a heavy malacca cane 
in his hand. There is a grave and solemn expression on his face, 
for the hour is earlier than his wont. He is the tallest, stateliest 
figure between Jerusalem and Cairo. 

A monkey-faced follower of the Prophet interrupts his lord- 
ship's stride. He flashes a set of dirty photographs before Lord 
Rosslyn's eyes. "Buy smutty photographs, sah. Good for the 
stomach, sah!" The man's face is unpleasant. What is more dan- 
gerous to his safety, he causes Lord Rosslyn to stumble. The noble 
Earl recovers and flourishes his cane. Then in a voice which 
downs the rattle of the derricks, the shrieking cacophony of the 
street vendors, and the siren of a passing steamer, he roars: "Get 
out at once. How dare you speak to me." The effect is instantane- 
ous. Our rat slinks away. The statuesque police suddenly come 



to life. The other pornographers hide their wares in their long 
sleeves. 

I am amused and slightly envious. All the morning these 
fellows have pestered me, and I have been too self-conscious to 
deal adequately with them. Rather sadly I realise that if all Euro- 
peans were to combat this nuisance in the same way as Harry 
Rosslyn did, their prestige would stand higher than it does 
throughout the East. 

To-day, Port Said is still picturesque enough to give a mild 
thrill even to the most unromantic traveller. But the new world 
of speed is rapidly destroying what is, in effect, a somewhat arti- 
ficial charm. In a few years' time its fe^es and its palm-trees will 
be as commonplace to air-bus travellers as are the electric signs 
of Piccadilly or Broadway to the city pedestrian, 

It will be a new world in which man will move faster than the 
sunsets. It will be a different world with different standards of 
beauty, a world in which strange rocket ami cylindrical figures 
will take the place of the Aphrodites of the classical period and of 
the Madonnas of the Renaissance. Ami in a hundred years* time 
Lesscps, whose statue to-day is the most imposing monument of 
Port Said, will be faintly remembered, like the half-forgotten 
Pharaoh of 1500 B.C., as the man who built a canal which is no 
longer used. 

Above all, it will be a world of change* And the greatest change 
will be the effect of this constant shortening of time and distance 
on the countless millions of the East who for centuries have been 
the servants of the white man and who to-day are awakening from 
their long sleep. 

My passage through the canal provoked a mental struggle be- 
tween reality and imagination. In vain I sought to see the canui 
in its proper setting as one of man's greatest triumphs over 
nature. Vaguely I remembered the previous efforts of the ancients: 
the canals of Darius and Trajan, Venetian dreams of piercing the 
isthmus in the fifteenth century, the great project of Napoleon* 
With less strain I succeeded in visualising that inaugural scene on 
November 17, 1869, when after a Te Dcum celebrated on the 
banks of the canal an international fleet, preceded by a cruiser 
carrying the Empress Eugenie on board, sailed solemnly through 
the sand-walled ditch. 

3* 



There was no Washington ratio in those days, and British 
naval supremacy was accepted by all nations without demur. It 
was adequately reflected in the composition of the international 
fleet on that day. Britain had twelve vessels, Egypt and France 
six each, Austria seven, Germany five, Spain and Holland two 
each, and Russia, Denmark, and Sweden one apiece. There were 
no Italian ships. At the last moment the sudden and grave illness 
of King Victor Emmanuel had prevented the appearance of the 
Italian flotilla. 

On my way home through the same canal I was to pass Italian 
warships bearing raucously exuberant Fascists to the barren coasts 
of Eritrea. But now there were no shouts of "Evviva T Italia" to 
disturb the peaceful monotony of the scene. 

I tried to concentrate my mind on the war period of which an 
imposing memorial at Gebel-Miriam was a reminder. My brother 
had been one of the few British officers wounded in repelling the 
Turkish-German attack on the canal in February, 1915. But my 
imagination rebelled against activity. The day was pleasantly cool, 
and there was no excuse for my lethargy except the canal itself. 
Since I passed through in 1908, it has, I suppose, been widened. 
But the general impression remains unchanged: a surfeit of 
sameness which is not relieved by efforts of the imagination to 
visualise Joseph in the Land of Goshen or Moses leading the 
Israelites across the Red Sea. 

Incidentally, modern Biblical scholarship has slightly amended 
the site of the crossing. As the Red Sea varies from sixty to two 
hundred miles in breadth, the experts have sought to bring the 
miracle within the bounds of a more reasonable probability by 
fixing the actual point of the cleavage of the waters in the Great 
Bitter Lake which now forms part of the canal. 

The Sinai peninsula affords another opportunity for the imagi- 
nation to run riot, not merely because of Moses, but because here, 
five thousand years before the birth of Christ, man first discov- 
ered the use of metals. From the copper mines of Sinai came the 
chisels which were used to shape the Pyramids. And if the first- 
class tourist, looking down from the seclusion of the promenade 
deck on the toiling natives below, is inclined to feel complacently 
superior, it will be good for him to remember that he is passing 
through the source of all civilisation and that here Egyptians were 

33 



ploughing with domestic cattle ami raising wheat and barky, 
making linen clothing, producing pottery, working metals and 
inventing letters at a time when the European was a savage 
hunter. Six thousand years is a fragment of time in the life of 
the world, and, as Herodotus says, "many states that were once 
great have now become small; and those that are now great were 
small formerly." And, assuredly, for it is the rule of life, will be 
small again. 

To most Englishmen the one salient feature of the canal is 
unknown. At the Port Said end stands the statue of Lcsscps, who 
is admittedly the hero of the whole venture. At the other end, at 
Port Tcwfik, is the statue, rarely seen by passengers, to Lieutenant 
Waghorn. 

This brilliant young Englishman was the man who in 1837 
opened the overland mail route to India. His chief ambition, 
however, was to secure the sea route to the East for Britain by 
linking the Mediterranean ami the Red Seas by a canal He spent 
the rest of his life preaching his project to a deaf and uninterested 
British public. He died in poverty in I*ontlon in iH;K, the same 
year in which the subscription lists for shares in Lesseps* com- 
pany were opened to the public. The British public bought no 
shares in a canal to which Lord Pabncrston more than once re- 
ferred as "the foul am! stagnant ditch." 

Nor did English hands raise the statue to Waghorn. It was 
erected at the instigation of the generous*mimkd Lesneps. Wag- 
horn was not the first Empire-builder to IK ruined by the apathy 
of the British public. From now on the reader will find the names 
of British colonial administrators, beginning with Ruffles and end- 
ing with Swettenham, whose greatest achievements were accom- 
plished in face of the passive and sometimes even active opposition 
of the British Government at home. 



34 



CHAPTER FIVE 

IF I find it hard to enthuse over the Suez Canal, I have a 
minor passion for the Red Sea. To most travellers it recalls a 
nightmare of stifled breathing and sandy suffocation. But its repu- 
tation as a kind of sea-hell is undeserved, and in a modern liner 
equipped with electric fans and refrigerators its worst heat has 
now few terrors. During nine months of the year the weather, 
on board ship at all events, is not unpleasantly hot. At times it 
can be unpleasantly cold. On the occasion of my present voyage 
the officers wore their heavy blue uniforms until we reached Perim. 
My youthful memories of the Red Sea were vague and un- 
pleasant. The vagueness meant that I took no interest in my sur- 
roundings. The unpleasantness was the enforced cessation, owing 
to the heat, of those various forms of violent physical exercise 
in which, like my fellow Britons, I then indulged and occasionally 
excelled. Now in the maturer reflection of middle-age I accepted 
both the inactivity and the sea itself with gratitude. There was, 
first, the ebullient feeling of relief, which since my prison days in 
the Kremlin I always experience in escaping from a bottle neck 
into the open. And on the present occasion the sense of escape 
was magnified by the knowledge that Europe, landlocked by the 
isthmus, was safely behind me, and that now I was at the be- 
ginning of my real journey. For, long before Diaz and Vasco da 
Gama rounded the Cape, the Red Sea was the starting point of the 
first sea-journey East, and as far back as the year of Caesar's 
death the merchants of Alexandria were sending fleets of 120 
ships by way of the Red Sea to India. 

Then, too, there was the fascination of being for three days in 
sight of land, represented in the case of the Red Sea by numerous 
islands and by two lines of coast which throughout the centuries 
of history have been and still are to-day the scene of as much 
human wickedness as the imagination can devise. To-day, it is 

35 



hard to believe that this Arabian coast was one of the most fertile 
areas in the world. Yet at the dawn of history this was one of the 
five lands in which civilisation started and probably the first from 
which a boat was set out upon the sea. 

During our transit I spent much time on the bridge with the 
captain, who laughed at my enthusiasm over the various groups 
of islands and corrected my romanticism with accurate details of 
their physical unattractiveness. Common sense compels me to 
admit that for the city-sick European misanthrope they would 
be about the hottest home on the earth. They are all alike: vol- 
canic formations devoid of vegetation and even of water, In the 
day-time they resemble reddish cones more than anything else, 
but in the kaleidoscopic background of a Red Sea sunset they 
stand out like great black sentinels. One we passed so close that I 
might have thrown a stone on to its rocky shore. It had a light- 
house built on the summit of the rock and exposed to the full 
glare of the sun. 

The numerous lighthouses in the Red Sea are manned by 
Greek Levantines of the same type as the gentlemen who run the 
hotels and stores of Massawah and D Jibuti* There are usually 
four men to each lighthouse. On my voyage home one of the 
lighthouses signalled our ship for a doctor. I le went oil with his 
instruments in a boat and returned in haif-an hour. The four 
Greeks had quarrelled over a game of cards, ll had finished with 
knives* One of the keepers had had his face slashed open. 

We were too far out to see Jctldah, the pilgrims 1 port for 
Mecca, but the captain who in the past had taken many a pilgrim 
ship there from Java, gave me an apposite illustration of the hard 
times which had overtaken the Dutch East Indies since the world 
"slump" of 1929, Seven or eight years ago, when economic con- 
ditions were good in Java, his line used to carry as many as 25,000 
Javanese pilgrims to Jeddah in a single year. In 1934 the number 
had fallen to less than 2000* 

Involuntarily* my mind went back to my early days during 
the rubber boom in Malaya when at Puntai I had carved a ground 
out of the jungle and had taught my Malays football. They had 
learnt quickly. Within two years I had entered them in the local 
state league* I remembered with irritation how they fell away 
during the fast of Ramazan. Still greater was my disgust when 

36 



two of my best players had returned their shorts and jerseys and 
in the middle of the season had announced that they were leaving 
on the pilgrimage which every Mohammedan hopes to accomplish 
once. Mecca was their goal. 

In those days when my mind was fixed on terrestrial goals I 
found this itinerant interference with my ambitions both galling 
and ridiculous. Why could they not postpone their pilgrimage 
until their fleetness of foot had departed and the hot blood in 
their veins had cooled against earthly temptations? Now their 
impatience seemed not only natural but essential. The pilgrimage 
had to be made as soon as enough money was saved or inherited, 
because, once accomplished, it deprived death of all its terrors. 
There is no faith so strong as the Mohammedan's. That is why 
throughout the centuries he has always defied conversion by the 
Christian missionaries. It is almost the only European temptation 
which he has resisted. It must be counted to his credit and to the 
merits of Mohammedanism as a religion for Orientals. 

I was full of compassionate understanding. Here was where 
my full-back and my inside-left had landed twenty-five years ago. 
I wondered if they were still alive. I wondered how many of my 
old football team were now Hajis. Mecca would not prevent them 
from petty pilfering, from sponging on their relatives, from 
minor deceptions against the British raj, from excesses of sensual 
pleasures, or from all the other Malayan venialities, but it would 
establish complete confidence in their minds for the future, and 
leave their souls at peace for the rest of their earthly existence. 

As we drew nearer to Perim, the number of islands increased. 
The Harnish group, now made famous by the French writer, 
Henri de Montfreid, is still the centre of the Red Sea pearl-fishing 
industry. The islands, too, afford a refuge and shelter for the 
slave-traders and gun-runners who ply their nefarious trade be- 
tween Abyssinia and the Yemen coast. Having just re-read de 
Montfreid's Secrets of the Red Sea, I was prepared to transfer 
the label of the world's wickedest spot from Port Said to the 
shores of the southern end of the Red Sea. I had been interested 
in Montfreid for some time. I had met many of his enemies and 
several of his friends. More than once friends in Paris had ar- 
ranged for me to meet him. We had even exchanged letters. But 
Fate has always intervened to prevent our coming together. His 

37 



books are extraordinary and are an indispensable guide to the life 
of the Red Sea coasts. But they are no more extraordinary than 
the man himself, who as self-confessed gun-runner and pearl- 
smuggler has made himself the enemy of every government, in- 
eluding his awn, with which he has came info contact. Yet this 
amazing man has won and kept the friendship of &ome f at least, 
of the officials who have been ordered to dug his footsteps, 

Montfrcid inherits his love of the sea ftom his father* Georges 
Daniel, the painter, whose name has been immortalised by his 
friendship with Gauguin. It was to Daniel de Montfrcid that 
Gauguin wrote his letters from Tahiti. Like Gauguin, Daniel was 
a great .sailor and owned a little schooner in which he used to sail 
from the South of France as far ax Algiers* 

Henri carried his adventures farther afield* and a long period 
of early manhwxl spent among the pcarl-fUhrra, the gun-runners, 
and dope-smugglers of the Red 8e*i coast, not only made him a 
picturesque figure but gave him an unrivalled knowledge of one 
of the least-known corners of the earth. 

Like most adventurers of artistic temperament he was always 
up against officialdom* On one occasion he fell foul of the British 
authorities at Perim. There was no real charge against him, but 
a cross-examination might have !>ceii awkward. Montfreid, how- 
ever, entertained his potential captors so wittily that as a reward 
for an amusing evening they let hint go. 

During the Iialo'Ahyssinian conflict de Montfreid threw in hi$ 
lot with the Italians and became more or km an official propa- 
gandist for Signor Mussolini. For a man whose life had been 
spent in playing a lone hand against all government*, including 
his own, this change of front struck me us a ghastly ami-climax. 

The captain interrupted my thoughts about Montfrcid in order 
to point out to me Mocha with its white minarets glistening in 
the sun. In the distance it looked like the picture of the Celestial 
City in my old illustrated edition of The Pilgrim's Progress* To 
the Dutch and to the Viennese* Mocha is synonymous with 
coffee. Indeed, in the Vienna cafls the order for a black coffee is 
"em Mocha, bitte." 

Mocha is not the original home of the coffee tree* but it was 
long held to be by Europeans and perhaps the Arabs themselves. 
At all events there is a pretty Arab legend which the "gums* 

38 



tell to the children. In the waste land behind Mocha there once 
lived an erudite hermit. He was kept alive by a small herd of 
goats who brought him milk every day. The leader of the herd 
was an old billy-goat who had long passed his youth. One day the 
hermit was surprised to see the billy-goat springing in the air 
and performing the antics of the gayest and youngest of goats. 
For some days he studied the goat's movements instead of the 
pages of his Koran, and he noticed that, whenever the goat 
browsed on the leaves of a few low trees which had appeared 
from nowhere in the desert, the light-hearted antics began again. 
The hermit took the leaves, boiled them in a pot, drank what he 
had brewed, and found that, if he could not skip, at any rate he 
did not want to sleep. This, the Arabs say, was the origin of coffee. 
Certain it is that from Mocha, coffee was transplanted to Java and 
other Eastern countries, but, as a matter of fact, the tree was in- 
troduced to Mocca from Kaffa in Abyssinia. 

Of Abyssinia itself I saw nothing, and even at the point 
between Eritrea and French Somaliland where the Abyssinian 
frontier comes nearest to the sea even the captain could not tell 
me whether the mountains we saw on the horizon were in 
Ethiopia or not. In any case Abyssinia was then little more than 
a name to me. Vaguely I remembered from my schooldays that 
it had been responsible for the death of the greatest man of the 
ancient world and that Pericles had died of the Ethiopian plague. 
Adowa meant more to me as the name of the steamer in which 
Conrad wrote a chapter of Almaycr's Folly than as the scene of 
an Italian colonial defeat. Addis Ababa I should like to have seen 
once, if only in order to remind myself that the most correct of 
diplomatists can be human and that there is no strong man in the 
world who has not some strain of weakness. 

It was to Addis Ababa that my old friend and former chief, 
Sir George Clerk, came as a young diplomatic secretary nearly 
forty years ago. This undelectable post had been of his own seek- 
ing. He had gone there in order to economise after a disastrous 
race-meeting at Doncaster. Perhaps it was the habit of self-denial 
and self-discipline then acquired which is responsible for his eleva- 
tion to the highest post in the British diplomatic service. 

At different times he had told me of his adventures there in 



Menelik's lime: strange tales of thr cnmic ant! the savage sides 
of Abyssinian life, af barharam justice ami n{ a man, who had 
had both hands and both fcci lucked ff for theft ami who had 
put out his tongue m his otitct.il torturer, screaming: "Cut it out. 
I can steal with that, too." Twice the young British diplomatist 
had had tt* intervene to save the life of ,* trihcsm.m who had 
struck him, as he rode past on his pony in a timely district, with 
the long wooden stick which all Ahyssinum use to push away 
the scrub on their narrow riding tracks. The first time Sir George 
had to save him from the clutches of $w Abyssinian escort who 
would have dealt summarily with the offender there and then. 
Later, when the man was brought before Meneltk, who ordered 
him to be flogged. Sir Cteorge had it? intervene ,igiin to prevent 
the man's back from being torn to ribbon* by the hippopotamus 
lash used with exj>ert precision by the tiflkial Hugging master. 

Decidedly, Abyssinia was not my affair. Only that morning 
I had picked up the ship's news, bulletin. It contained a short 
paragraph of three lines announcing that M. Bernard, a French 
Soxnaliland administrator, together with eighteen native troopers 
and eighty-eight Somaiis, had licet* ntansacred in French territory 
by marauding Abyssinian tribesmen. 

Perim we passed as the light was ix*gtnmng to fade* But it 
was not too dark for me to see the barren rckiness of the place 
and to pity the handful of white men who nun tix guns and its 
oil station, Back to my mind came an ugly story tote! to me by a 
French officer in Russia during the war at four a.m. in the morn- 
ing in the garden of the Aquarium! a Mowow night-haunt owned 
and run by a negro called Thomas, It was a story of Perim and 
perfidious Albion, Nearly a hundred years ago & small French 
fleet arrived before Aden on its way tu Perim in order to take 
possession of this deserted island for France. The same evening 
the British CSovernor invited the French officers to dinner. During 
the banquet the Frenchmen were persuaded to state the purpose 
o their mission. When they arrived at Perim the next evening, 
they found the British flag flying, During the banquet a British 
sloop had been sent off in order to forestall the Frenchmen! 

It is not a pretty story. But then one does not expect pretty 
stories m the Straits o Bab-d-Mandeb. The Straits themselves 
arc well-known to shipping companies and, best of all, to the 

40 



P. & O., for it was here that during a dance at which most of the 
officers were present the S.S. China went on the rocks. Since then 
the P. & O. officers have not been allowed to take part in the pas- 
sengers' dances* 



CHAPTER SIX 

Dutch boats do not call at Aden* and on this occasion 
JL I saw only the lights of the town. There are queer people 
exotic government servants ami lean, hungry "sappers 1 * who 
profess a love for Aden ami ask to be sent there as a favour, I do 
not share their passion, Nevertheless, three reasons combine to 
keep the place warm in my memory. Aden was the first place 
where I saw native boys diving for pennies. All my life I have 
felt an unwilling fascination for the turns of trajKw acrobats and 
other artists who risk their lives for the amusement of the public 
and for their own gain. High in this category of performer I 
place the native divers who recover small silver ami copper coins 
almost from the teeth of the waiting sharks, I always imagined 
the sharks were waiting, although I doubt now if the loss of life 
was ever as great as the Mr, Know-alt passenger who is on every 
ship always tells us. At least, when I arrived in Singapore* there 
was an old Kling gentleman who divec! all morning with a burn- 
ing cigar in his mouth ami rarely missed a coin. He told me that 
he had been at the jab for thirty years. 

Secondly* since my childhood Aden has Ireen associated in my 
mind with a tune which is known officially ;w "The Barren Rocks 
of Aden,** It is the tune which the pij>c band used to play at Inver- 
leith when Scotland took the field against England in the "rugger" 
internationals. It was supposed to strike terror into the Sassenach's 
heart and to inspire the chosen of Scotland to reckless deeds of 
valour. In those days its grandeur overwhelmed me. Later, when 
I went to sch<x>l at Fcttes, I found that the tune bad a new name 
and that on Pop nights the whole school sang to it a ribald chorus 
about a lady called "Mrs, Grunt," My respect for Scotland's foot- 
ball hymn diminished. But even to-day the tune wakes savage 
emotions in my heart, and I feel that if there were another war 
and I had to take part in it I could go over die top more bravely 



to the skirl of "Mrs. Grunt" than to "Scots Wha Hae" or any 
other patriotic anthem. 

And finally Aden to me meant Jean-Arthur Rimbaud. To-day 
the great French literary adventurer has become the favourite 
poet of European diplomacy. M. Paul Claudel, the most literary of 
modern French ambassadors, sees in Rimbaud the martyr who has 
redeemed himself by suffering, and has now elevated him almost 
to the footstool of a saintly throne. Already in his Oxford days 
the precocious young statesman, Mr. Anthony Eden, had read 
everything Rimbaud had ever written, and even to-day, when he 
flies to Geneva, there is generally a copy of Rimbaud's poems in 
his pocket. 

There are other distinguished diplomatists who regard him as 
little better than a gifted crook and homosexualist. But there is 
not one who has not read "Le Bateau Ivre" or who does not know 
that "Les Illuminations" was finished in a cheap London boarding- 
house where the poet shared a furnished room with Verlaine. 

But in the early part of this century Rimbaud was far from 
being a popular figure. By the merest chance I had come across 
his work when I was little more than a boy. In 1906 my father 
sent me to Douai of all places in order that I might perfect my 
French before descending on Paris and the Sorbonne! I had 
boarded with a young French professor who taught French litera- 
ture in the local college and whose classical orthodoxy was for- 
tunately tempered by a taste for the exotic. He introduced me to 
Rimbaud's verse. I embraced it with the ardour of a youthful 
lover. The life-story thrilled me. When two years later I made 
my first voyage East I was already steeped in Rimbaud. I had 
imbibed a little of the Rimbaud melancholy and much of the 
Rimbaud rebellious attitude towards mankind. 

The knowledge, too, that I was going to the Malay Archi- 
pelago and that Rimbaud's first Eastern adventure had begun 
there, when in order to see the world he had taken the Dutch 
prime d f engagement and had enlisted in the Dutch East Indian 
army, seemed to give me one of those vague personal contacts 
which like shadows follow the traveller for the rest of his life. 
The fact that he had deserted almost immediately after landing 
at Batavia merely enhanced his romantic value in my eyes. 

Something of these feelings came back to me at this moment. 

43 



Abyssinia had been the last of Rimbaud's adventures, and the 
adventure had begun in Aden. 

Here nearly fifty years ago he had arrived after having walked 
the length of the Arabian coast in a vain search for work* Here 
in Aden had been the headquarters of the French coffee mer- 
chants who had given him employment. 

Fortunately for the world, M. Hartley, the head of the firm, 
had understood his strange poet-clerk and had sent him to take 
charge of the agency in Harar. 

But at Harar the poet, who had scouted every convention 
for the sake of his art, wrote no poetry. He had no time for 
dreams. He was too busy extracting ivory from the savage tribes, 
selling arms to Menelik, ami saving money. He learnt a number 
of native dialects. He formed some sort of a harem. Doubtless, 
the intimacy helped his philological studies* But money money 
to enable him to return to France and to marry was his main 
object. And after eleven years he had achieved prosperity. Then 
Destiny had played him a cruel trick. 

The story is too well known to be retold at length. One day 
the poet awoke with a swollen knee. He diagnosed rheumatism 
and tried to cure it by exercise* The knee defied treatment. The 
leg began to shrivel. The pain increased. Furious because he had 
not gathered in the fortune which lay almost ready to his grasp, 
he was forced to leave the country. He mack an agonising calvary 
to Aden, and here in the town hospital the last act of the tragedy 
began* 

The English surgeon could do nothing for him. He advised an 
immediate return to Marseilles, and Rimbaud sailed in the first 
available steamer. Thirteen days later the Marseilles doctors re- 
moved the afflicted kg* Although they die! not tell him, the 
operation was of no avail. Gradually the cancer invaded his whole 
body. He was tended by his sister Isabella. In his last hours came 
the death-bed conversion which has so impressed M. Paul Claudel 
and other Rimbaud admirers, and the rebel poet, who for years 
had been a blasphemer, returned to the faith in which he was 
born. Was his recantation a genuine disavowal of his atheism or 
merely the easy way out of a dying man who longs to be left in 
peace? Death has put a seal for ever on the truth* The end came 
exactly six months after his last departure from Aden. 

44 



As I stood alone on the top deck, my imagination stimulated 
by the warm beauty of the night, I tried to unravel the complexi- 
ties of this strange life: the contrariness of a Fate which left 
Rimbaud unknown and neglected in his lifetime and which to- 
day has given him perhaps a greater influence over modern poetry, 
both French and English, than any other poet; the contrast be- 
tween de Montfreid, who began life as a commercial adventurer 
and is now finishing it as a writer, and Rimbaud, the poet- 
adventurer, who from the day on which he became a man of 
business never wrote another line of verse; and, lastly and most 
curious of all, the spell which a vagabond like Rimbaud can 
weave round a man so immaculate in thought, word and deed as 
Mr, Anthony Eden. 

For Mr. Eden's expert knowledge of Rimbaud I found an ex- 
planation. The appeal of beauty unites all kinds and conditions 
of men. The influence of heredity is perhaps even stronger, and 
from his father, an eccentric squire and painter of distinction, 
Mr* Eden has inherited a highly developed artistic sense, which 
is revealed to-day not only in his taste for poetry, but in his expert 
knowledge of modern French painting. Rimbaud, too, was per- 
haps even more an adventurer in the realm of ideas than on the 
face of the earth. It is mostly women and poets who are prepared 
to sell reality for a dream, but there is no progressively-minded 
man who does not profess himself an adventurer in ideas. The 
fact that at Oxford Mr. Eden took the highest honours in Oriental 
languages is sufficient proof that in his case the adventure in ideas 
began early. It has not ceased and, as an admirer, I hope that it 
will never cease. 

Since that night of passage off Aden I have made the pil- 
grimage to Charleville, the little industrial town in the Ardennes 
where Rimbaud was born and where he is buried. To-day, many 
of the chimneys are smokeless, for depression has laid a heavy 
hand on the valley of the Meuse. There is a fine square with old- 
fashioned arcades and below the town a picturesque mill-tower 
overlooked by a hill called Mount Olympus. Beneath it flows the 
Meuse, in winter turbid and swollen, where the young poet, clad 
in the blue-slate trousers of the French working-man, used to 
play with boats and found his inspiration for his "Bateau Ivre." 
There are trees in plenty: lime-trees in the town; poplars, willows 

45 



and osiers by the river; silver birches on the hills. Crows and 
magpies abound in the fields. But the general impression is one 
of grey slates, grey houses, leaden skies and poverty. The inhabi- 
tants are Socialists. There arc many unemployed, 

Of Rimbaud himself many of the local traces have now dis- 
appeared. The college on the square of the Holy Sepulchre, 
where he went to school, has been pulled down. The square itself 
has been re-named La Place dc L* Agriculture in honour of the 
cart-horse fair which is held there every year. But there is the 
cemetery and the house in which he was born, and his memory 
is not forgotten. 

When I visited the cemetery, I was the only visitor. It lies on 
the top of a small hill and, although well tended, has a look of 
haphazard growth which is not unattractive. The tomb, which 
stands in a small family grave, is on the immediate left of the 
main path close to the entrance. The grave is encased by a low 
grille and contains two standing stones and a flat slab. A small 
box-tree in a tub stands before each stone. Rimbaud's is on the 
right. It is very simple and has a small floral design with two 
stars. The lettering, which has recently been re-gilded* runs as 
follows: "Jam-Arthur Rimbaud, 37 ans. to Novcmbrc, ifigi. Priez 
pour lui. n Beside him lies his sister; beneath is the grave of the 
mother who never understood him. Just across the path is a large 
chestnut-tree with spreading branches which in summer cast the 
long shadows of the setting sun on the poet's last resting place* 

From the cemetery I went to the Rue Thi<?rs f a shopping 
thoroughfare in the centre of the town. In a room on the first 
floor of No. 12 Rimbaud was born. A stucco plaque on the out- 
side wall commemorates the birth, The house is owned by a 
bookseller and printer. The bookshop has been there for over a 
hundred years. It is still stocked with a better collection of books 
than one could find in even a large provincial town in England. 
But hard times have forced a reduction of its frontage, and half 
the shop has now been let as a bar, It is the bar-keeper and his 
wife who now occupy the Rimbaud room. 

During the first years of the war Charleville was the head- 
quarters of the German Kaiser. Later, the Crown Prince estab- 
lished himself here From an inspection of the records of the 
occupation I drew the conclusion that never before in history 

46 



perhaps had so many important Germans been gathered together 
in one small town. Here came Hindenburg and Ludendorff and 
all the German Generalitaet to report progress to their Imperial 
master. Here were assembled all the numerous minor royalties 
and princes of the Reich. 

Indeed, the people of Charleville, who within the memory of 
the oldest inhabitants have had their town twice destroyed by the 
Germans, can talk of little else except the occupation. Even for 
Englishmen the place evokes sad memories, for its station was 
one of the main arteries of the German railway system, and the 
soil of Charleville covers the bones of English soldiers, wounded 
prisoners who died in the station on their way into captivity in 
Germany. 

I hired a car, owned by a war-veteran chauffeur, and drove 
out to the Chateau Belair, which was the Kaiser's residence. It 
stands by itself on the top of a hill. Its present owners were ab- 
sent, and its heavily shuttered windows added a certain grimness 
to its general gloom. Leading away from it is a lonely country 
lane, bordered by an English hedge and still remembered as the 
Crown Prince's road. 

As we drove back, my chauffeur pointed out to me a large 
house opposite the station. "That house," he said, "was the Kaiser's 
first residence until a bomb drove him to the chateau." 

"I suppose in summer you have many visitors who come to 
see the Kaiser's headquarters?" I asked. 

"No," he replied. "We have very few tourists more's the pity. 
Those, who do come, come to see 'that.'" He waved his arm 
towards a little railed-in park with a bandstand. "That" was a 
small bronze bust of Rimbaud with the words "B&teau Ivre" 
engraved on the pedestal. The bust is perhaps appropriately placed, 
for the square is the same as that stigmatised in Rimbaud's poem 
"A la Musique": 

"Sur la place tailUc en mesqtdnes f douses, 
Square oil tout est correct, les arbres et les fleurs, 
Tous les bourgeois poussifs qu'ttranglent les chdeurs 
Portent, les jeudis soirs, leurs bStises jdouses!' 

The bust, however, is a fine achievement and shows the poet 
as a young and attractive collegian. It is a post-war work. The 

47 



original was taken away by the Germans during the war and was 
melted down. 

"Monsieur is interested in Rimbaud? 1 * said my chauffeur. "The 
family was from Roche. It is my country. I knew the brother 
well when he was a waiter at Bataud's in Attigny. He, too, was 
very clever.*' 

I paid him off and walked across to the rather dingy station, 
marvelling that any tourists should come to Charicvilie at all. 
In a world which has temporarily lost its sanity the fact that 
they should come to reverence Rimbaud's memory and not to 
speculate on the past glories of the Kaiser seemed to me a con- 
soling thought for the future of mankind, 



CHAPTER SEVEN 

ONLY a sailor who sails a sailing ship can derive genuine 
enjoyment from a sea voyage in which no land is sighted. 
I confess without shame that to me the six days from Aden to 
Colombo in a modern steamship will always be a period of chafing 
restlessness. Work and even reading are impossible. By now the 
passengers have shaken down together. Every one knows his 
neighbour. All restraint and shyness have vanished, and, unless 
one is prepared to be definitely rude, one is forced into a com- 
munity life from which there is no escape. It is the gala period 
for deck games, children's sports, bridge tournaments, fancy- 
dress dances, and captain's dinners. 

Two virtues I concede willingly to the Dutch. They are extraor- 
dinarily kind to their children, and on this occasion we carried 
almost as many children as grown-ups. Their ship's officers are 
not only unfailingly courteous but also exceptionally good lin- 
guists. 

A captain's dinner on board a Dutch liner is an experience 
which is well worth undergoing once. There is a present for every 
guest. There is a dramatic moment when the lights go out from the 
quadrangle above the dining saloon and the procession of Javanese 
boys, spotless in white drill relieved by their gaily-coloured head- 
dresses, bring in the ice in ceremonial stateliness. Each ice-dish is 
lit up by a fairy-lamp, and the effect of these ghostly figures, bare- 
footed, impassive, and mysterious, is unforgettable. After the ice 
come the speeches, and the Dutch captain makes his speech in 
as many languages as there are nationalities among his guests. 

On this occasion Captain Potjer spoke in Dutch, English, 
French, and German. In each language I take his Dutch for 
granted his accent was almost impeccable. Doubtless, he had 
made more or less the same speech on numerous occasions. Never- 
theless, the performance was impressive. It was infinitely better 

49 



than that of the passengers who responded, although I must 
make an exception in the case of our English speakers. Both Lord 
Rosslyn on the voyage out and Lard Pembroke on the voyage 
home made excellent speeches. They spoke with good humour and 
with commendable audibility. They paid exactly the appropriate 
compliments to the Dutch and to the other nationalities represented 
among the passengers and they delighted their audience by a 
brevity which was lacking in the other speakers. The English 
aristocracy excels at this kind of oratory and in this respect has 
not outlived its sphere and usefulness. It is helped by its rank, 
for, if other aristocracies can boast of mare quarter! ngs, an Eng- 
lish title has still a higher value, especially in republican and demo- 
cratic countries, than that of any other nation. 

Indeed, much as I like the citizens e>f the United States and ad- 
mire their achievements, I have never been in a liner, which has 
carried an English peer on board, without noticing that the richest 
Americans invariably hustle to make his acquaintance. That they 
rarely fail in their endeavour is a tribute to the good "mixing" 
qualities of the average British peer. 

I should be untruthful if I were to give the impression that 
these landless days were entirely without satisfactory compensa- 
tions. During the long afternoons 1 found an endless delight in 
leaning over the side and watching the flying fish and the torpedo- 
shaped porpoises. Alasl they showed themselves less frequently than 
in the days of my youth. The experts maintain that the speed 
of the modern liner and the oil-fuel which is now burnt are 
responsible for the decline. My own opinion is that the speed of 
modern life is the real culprit and that, whereas in pre-war days 
time moved slowly, to-day one wants one's enjoyment quickly and 
frequently. 

Then, at half-past five there was the daily "trek" through the 
second class to the stern of the ship to watch the sunset and to 
try to catch that elusive green ray which is supposed to show 
itself just as the sun ball of fire sinks below the horizon. I never 
saw it. I do not think that I have ever seen it, One evening, 
however, I was witness of a curious sight which even the captain 
did not remember seeing before. As the sun was nearing the rim 
of the horizon, it disappeared behind a bank of white cloud which 
looked strangely like an English fog. For some ten minutes or so 

50 



the combination of the sun and cloud turned itself into a series 
of caricatures, all in zigzag, first of a Chinese lantern, then of a 
large brown mushroom, and finally of a Chinaman with a red 
back, a black head, and a large cone-shaped straw-hat. The effect 
was so extraordinary that had we not known it was there, no one 
would have believed that what we saw was, in fact, the sun. 

I resumed, too, without any difficulty my old Eastern habit of 
rising with the dawn. In the mornings, before my fellow-passengers 
were stirring, I found time to re-read my Conrad, more especially, 
the Malayan novels like Almayer's Folly and An Outcast of the 
Islands. Their appeal to me was just as strong as when I first read 
them in Malaya twenty-seven years before. 

I was, however, heartily glad when on the fifth day we sighted 
Minikoi. The island, which lies half-way between the Laccadives 
and the Maldives, is like most other tropical islands. There are the 
same coconut trees and other palms waving gently to the sea 
breeze. There is the same line of golden sand washed by a thin 
line of white breakers. There is the same greenness and the same 
white lighthouse. But Minikoi has a special place in my heart. It 
is the first island one passes on the journey East which has the 
same rich, warm vegetation as the islands of the Malayan Archi- 
pelago. And for twenty-seven years it has remained clear-cut in 
my memory. 

It is not the great scenes of life that are most easily photographed 
in the mind. In my varied career I have witnessed the living 
dramas of history. Of all the great figures of the Russian revolu- 
tion with whom I was closely connected the photograph which 
stands out most sharply before my eyes is of Kerensky, but not 
of the Kerensky of Russian days. One November afternoon two 
years ago I was walking, towards dusk, with a friend in Ken- 
sington Square. As we were making our way up to Kensington 
High Street a gaunt figure came striding down the pavement. 
His head, covered by a soft black hat, was bent forward until his 
chin almost touched his chest. His coat collar was turned up. His 
hands clutched a paper-bag. As he brushed past us, I caught sight 
of his face. "Good God," I said to my companion, "that's Keren- 
sky." Although I have known him intimately now for nearly 
twenty years, I did not stop him but turned to watch him until 
he disappeared in the gloom and the sharp click of his shoes on 

5* 



the pavement was lost in the frosty air. 1 was so overwhelmed 
by the contrast between the Kerensky of 19*7^ the all-powerful 
dictator of Russia to whom the Allied Governments would have 
offered any honour he desired, for keeping Russia in the war, 
and the ignored and forgotten Kercnsky (if to-day, that I shall 
remember every detail of that scene until I die. 

I carry in my mind the same* memory picture of Minikoi, and 
whenever I dream that dream, so papular to-day, of a tropical 
island, it is Minikoi that I see, It ha* now the additional attraction 
of the hulk of a wrecked German ship which lies off its eastern 
point, and which without undue strain on the imagination can be 
made to suggest buried gold and the other appurtenances of a 
treasure island. 

The next day, a Thursday, we anchored in Colombo harbour. 
Captain Oliver, the Governor's aide, came on board to meet the 
Rosslyns, and at 2.30 I went ashore with Lady Rosslyn in the 
Governor's launch. The sky was cloudless, but there was a cool 
breeze from the sea, and I found my first contact with the tropical 
sun for twenty-five years both pleasant and invigorating. 

As we walked from the pier to the shopping centre I had some 
inkling of the changes which 1 should find in Singapore. Colombo 
has altered vastly since my first visit. The shopping part of the 
town might be Brighton or, perhaps more accurately, any south- 
eastern European town. The shops themselves were filled with 
shoddy and, as in most English provincial towns, there was no 
good bookshop. On the oilier hand, there were several stucco 
and very English-looking cinemas. Down the main street, too, 
marched an army of sandwichtnen panuiinjf huge placards an- 
nouncing the forthcoming visit of Cecil II de Milk's "Cleopatra." 

There is only one adjective u> describe the pictures or the 
placards. They were flaming. 1 shall have more to say about the 
effect of the flaming cinema on the East. 

Meanwhile, after much bargaining, we allowed ourselves to 
be inveigled into hiring a car for the afternoon by a Tamil owner 
of antiquated open cars. His English was picturesque, fluent, and 
tolerably good. Turning to Tommy Rmslyn, he said: "Colombo 
very like London, lady. 11 Tommy asked him if he bad ever been 
in London* "No," he answered, "but I've seen it often at the pic- 
tures* 1 " Colombo is not like London, but, whereas twenty-five 

5* 



years ago there was no resemblance, there is to-day enough stucco 
and, I gladly admit, enough cleanliness and other sanitary im- 
provements which British civilisation brings in its train, to suggest 
a comparison even to British, let alone, native minds. 

In our hired Ford we drove out to Mount Lavinia. Here, too, 
the trail of Western civilisation had blazed itself right to the doors 
of the huge new hotel, complete with jazz-band and a railway 
station, which now dominates this once attractive and peaceful 
bay. Neither the vast array of cars nor the pernicious hoarding, 
advertising Ceylon's "Lido," could quite destroy the natural beauty 
of the place. The golden stretch of sand with its background of 
palms was picturesque enough. But not even the old Tamil gentle- 
man fishing patiently off the rocks nor a graceful catamaran, 
beaching at break-neck speed its catch of yellow fish, could impart 
a proper Oriental colour to the scene. Colombo and Mount La- 
vinia have become westernised, and the process has brought with 
it some of the worst features of American tourism. Even in the 
shops Tommy, who wished to buy some socks for her husband 
and who turned in disgust from some clocked monstrosities, was 
told by the polite Cinghalese shopman that they were the latest 
American fashion. 

One stroke of fortune came our way in Colombo. Our chauf- 
feur was a Malay who came from Menangkabau in Sumatra, 
which is supposed to be the cradle of the Malay race. He spoke 
very much the same Malay as that spoken in Negri SembUan, 
my old state in the Federated Malay States. I found him easier to 
talk to than the Javanese boys on board our ship and told him 
so. His face beamed with pleasure. "The orang Jawa and the 
orang Malayu don't get on together and never will," he said. There 
is some truth in this statement. It should be consoling to Imperial- 
ists, for in the Malay Archipelago there must now be nearly 90,- 
000,000 people of various races who can be listed under the general 
heading of Malays, and of whom the vast majority has a common 
bond of unity in the Islam faith. 

This chauffeur and cicerone was a smart young scoundrel. 
Four years ago he had come to Colombo as a chauffeur, not know- 
ing a word of any language except Malay. He now spoke Tamil, 
Cinghalese, English and French. I soon discovered how he had 
developed his linguistic abilities so quickly. He was evidently accus- 

53 



tomed to showing the town to visitors. "Here," he said, pointing 
to some well-built houses with attractive "stocps," "is where the 
Dutch used to live. Now all Scots gentlemen.'* Farther on we 
passed more bungalows, luxurious enough but less tidy. "Here," 
he said, "is where the rich Klings live.** In his melodious voice 
there was the same natural accent of contempt which is common 
to all Malays in referring to the races of India. As we continued 
our drive, the number of Christian churches and church schools 
increased very noticeably. Our Mat Salch [x>intcd them out with 
the sure knowledge of an expert: "Dutch Reformation Church, 
Scotsman's Church, American Methodist Church and School, 
English White Man's Church, Tamil Catholic Church, Cingha- 
lese Catholic Church Rglisc fran^uise avcc &olc. H The few words 
of French impressed Tommy. "You speak French?" she asked. 
"Ah oui, lady. I learn four languages in four years, Colombo very 
good place to learn languages. Go one year French church school, 
learn French language. Go one year English church school, learn 
English; one year Catholic Tamil school, learn Tamil. Very good 
method/' 

When I was in Japan twenty-five years ago, the young Japa- 
nese were learning languages by the same method. To-day, like 
Japanese goods, the system seems to have spread all over Indonesia. 

Our Malay hopeful, however, was still a good Mohammedan* 
As we passed the mosque, he pointed it out with obvious pride, 
"To-morrow,* 1 he said, "is 'hari Jcma'at* (Friday). There will be 
many people here " 

After driving round for an hour or two we went to the Galle 
Face Hotel to pick up Harry Rosslyn. We found him in Macan 
Markar's jewellery store together with Lord and Lady Pembroke, 
who had been staying in Ceylon and were going on 10 Java in 
our ship, The motto of Macan Markar is "known for reliability." 
The epithet is no exaggerated boast. The firm has an international 
reputation, and for many years has done a regular business with 
the leading jewellers of London, New York and Paris. Some idea 
of its standing may be gained from the fact that when it opened 
its new premises in 1928 the inauguration ceremony was attended 
by the British Governor in his official capacity. 

The firm possesses the finest sapphire in the world, a stone 
whose shimmering blue is rivalled only by that of the Indian 

54 



Ocean on the calmest and sunniest of days. It was found in a rice- 
field and is valued at ^50,000, but until the United States turns 
that elusive corner of prosperity it is never likely to fetch this 
price or to be sold at all. To-day the owners still talk with grate- 
ful awe of the last great sapphire purchased in Colombo. It was 
found in 1907, weighed 466 carats, and was bought by the late 
Mr. J. P. Morgan, Senior, when he passed through in his yacht. 
The price paid was a good one, but it was very much smaller than 
the price fixed on the present stone, which bears the music-hall 
name of "The Blue Belle of Asia." In spite, however, of the de- 
pression, or perhaps because of it, the East is still the East, and the 
firm's methods of trading and bargaining are still pleasant and 
entertaining. 

When we entered the shop, we found a sleek and immaculately 
dressed manager heavily engaged in trying to persuade Harry Ross- 
lyn to buy various kinds of sapphire and aquamarine settings at 
prices ranging from ^300 to ^3000. The temptation to this born 
gambler must have been irresistible, but Tommy arrived in time 
to prevent what would have been an injudicious purchase, not 
from the point of view of the value offered, but of the state of 
Harry's finances. With clever diplomacy she switched him off to 
an inspection of the jewels of the old Cinghalese kings of Ceylon. 
They must have been attractive old gentlemen, for their personal 
adornment consisted of ear-rings with jewels set in the most deli- 
cate filigree work, anklets, bracelets, a turban tiara studded with 
sapphires, and a bejewelled breastplate. 

Meanwhile Lady Pembroke had just concluded an excellent 
bargain. She had been staying at the Galle Face Hotel for the 
past week, and on the day of her arrival had gone into the store 
to complain about a slight defect in a stone which she had bought 
in Colombo some eight years before. The manager was apologetic. 
"I'll put everything right, my lady. We want our customers to be 
satisfied. I'll make you one big bargain." He had then produced 
a ring, a sapphire bracelet, a sapphire and diamond necklace, and 
a magnificent sapphire stone fit for the finest tiara in the world. 
He then placed them, first, on a black velvet cloth and then on 
one of a faint yellow. Then, piece by piece, in order of value and 
beauty, he had lifted them lovingly to reveal their qualities to 
every angle of the light, A faint sigh had escaped his lips. Then, 

55 



suddenly, he had turned to the window. " for the lot, my 

lady, and cheap at the price " 

The figure mentioned was substantial, but would not have 
been considered exorbitant in London or New York. Lady Pem- 
broke had looked at the collection and had liked it. But she had 
kept her head and with great firmness had offered a sum rather 
less than half the manager's original price. The manager had 
smiled politely as if to convey his appreciation of Lady Pembroke's 
joke, but for the next six days he had never left her. By the second 
day he had reduced his price by twenty per cent. By the third 
day, with tears in his voice, he had announced his willingness to 
come down another ten per cent. On the fourth day with sob- 
bing protests that he was giving his precious stones away he had 
knocked off yet another ten per cent. On the fifth day, with the 
mournful tones of an undertaker, he had resigned himself to a 
further reduction, pointing out that his sole object was to retain 
the goodwill of so august a customer and that he was losing money 
on die deal. Lady Pembroke had stuck resolutely to her original 
offer. Finally, that very morning, which was to be the day of her 
departure, the manager had made his last price. It was still a little 
higher than Lady Pembroke's bid, but about fifty-five per cent 
below his own original demand. After consulting her husband, 
Lady Pembroke accepted. 

The deal had just been concluded when we came into the 
store. Both customer and salesman were smiling with the respect 
and contentment born of a bargain which has given satisfaction 
to both sides, and from its yellow-white velvet throne the great 
sapphire sparkled and beamed on every one. The whole deal was 
a remarkable refutation of the foolish Western adage that in the 
East time is no object. On the contrary, time and lots of it- is 
all-important in every Oriental transaction whether of high 
diplomacy or of more common-place commerce, 

From the Galle Face we went to tea at Government House, 
or rather at a temporary Government House, for the official resi- 
dence was being restored, The approach was by green fields 
where young Cinghalese students were playing cricket with the 
graceful ease common to all Indians, The house itself exhaled 
an English summer atmosphere of afternoon tea and lawn tennis, 
Actually, Miss Dorothy Round, the English champion, who also 



was going on with us to Singapore, was playing an exhibition 
match on a court close by. 

Sir Reginald Stubbs, the Governor, was on board our ship 
attending the captain's "jamboree" for the Colombo locals. These 
functions, incidentally, are only one of the numerous Dutch meth- 
ods of advertising their liners. Lady Stubbs, grey haired, tall, very 
English, very gentle, and full of poise, looked tired. She had been 
working night and day superintending the battle against the ma- 
laria epidemic which was then raging in the low-country districts 
of Ceylon. 

There were two explanations, she told us, for the scourge 
which had suddenly descended on the island. The official one was 
that it was caused by the unprecedented drought which not only 
had ruined the crops but had dried up the streams leaving every- 
where pools of stagnant water as fertile breeding-grounds for 
mosquitoes. The natives had, of course a very different explana- 
tion. A few months before the outbreak of the epidemic King 
George had graciously given back to Ceylon the old Cinghalese 
throne which had been kept for years at Windsor. I do not sup- 
pose that King George or any member of the Royal Family ever 
sat on it* But the Cinghalese were firmly persuaded that the 
plague was a visitation sent by the throne-god, who was enraged 
because his throne was empty. Apparently, when it was filled he 
was warm and happy like a gourmet's stomach after a good meal. 
Now that it was empty, he was angry. 

Be this as it may, t the superstition had a serious effect on 
Cinghalese patients who, believing that they had been struck 
down by a supernatural power, made little or no effort to recover. 

It had been an exhilarating day. Looking back with the soot 
of a London fog boring its way through the curtains of my study 
window, I feel that Ceylon is a country which I should like to 
know better and where I could gladly spend a year. But when we 
sailed that night I had no regrets. Singapore was only five days' 
journey ahead, and the spell of Malaya was already upon me. 
My nerves tingled with impatience, and I made myself a nuisance 
to everybody trying to work out time-tables which had seemed 
simple in theory but which in practice could not be made to 
fit. Reluctantly I decided to omit the Indo-China part of my tour. 
Desire had outrun the time-limit at my disposal. 

57 



CHAPTER EIGHT 

FIFTY-SIX hours later we arrived at Sabang, the port of 
Pulau Wei, the most Western island of the Malay archipelago 
I rose at six to sec the ship steering its way in a rose-pink dawn 
into a picture-postcard bay scudded with islets. The perfection of 
the approach was marred by a huge unsightly hoarding, placed 
on the most attractive headland and advertising the virtues of a 
well-known mineral water* I am, I hope, no crank, but were I 
an. out-of-work millionaire in search of a hobby, I should certainly 
try to form a world society whose members would be pledged to 
boycott all goods which arc advertised in places where they arc 
an eyesore on the face of natural beauty* 

The port of Sabang has little to recommend it. It is only ten 
years old and is used mainly as a coaling and oil station. Most of 
the port buildings consist of long, corrugated iron sheds. Close to 
the jetty, shoals of goldfish swim leisurely in the lukewarm water. 

The Achinese, a race of warriors who for forty years defied 
all efforts of the Dutch to subdue them, form the indigenous 
population. Like most other members of the Malay race, they 
have no aptitude for, and no interest in, commerce. In the town 
itself the shops are owned by Chinese and Japanese. There are a 
small garrison and some comfortable-looking Dutch bungalows, 
Every house, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese, and even Achinese, has 
a gramophone which plays at full blast from early morning until 
late at night. 

After watching for a few minutes a strenuous football match, 
played on the local padang in the full blase of the noon-day sun 
between the crew and the passengers of our steamer, I took a car 
and made a tour of the island. The road, gratefully shaded by 
lofty trees, was a switchback in which steep gradients alternated 
with pleasant glades with butterflies o every size and colour 
fluttering over the green grass, 

58 



Away from the immediate neighbourhood of the town there 
was little sign of cultivation. A small fresh-water lake, quite un- 
spoilt by the handiwork of man and reflecting in its unruffled 
waters the green shadows of the hills, added a picturesqueness to 
an island which, as far as scenery is concerned, should be as attrac- 
tive to a modern Gauguin as Tahiti. But, for all their warrior 
qualities, the Achinese are not alluring physically, and this is, 
doubtless, the reason why the island has attracted none but Dutch 
painters, 

Sabang has one institution which I inspected and which gives 
to the island a special importance in Dutch eyes. This was the 
lunatic asylum which is one of the largest in the Dutch East 
Indies. The patients, over a thousand in number, are given a 
considerable amount of freedom. The establishment is excellently 
run, although with its barrack-like bungalows and its barbed- 
wire entanglements it looks more like a German internment 
camp than an asylum. There are coconut plantations and a vege- 
table garden run entirely by the patients. The institution is close 
to the road and fully exposed to the public view. 

I found it hard to distinguish between warders and patients, a 
difficulty which fills the foreign visitor with a feeling of inse- 
curity. In my youth my father and mother were intimate friends 
of the head doctor of Broadmoor, the great British criminal 
asylum. As we lived close by, I was expected to take part in 
cricket matches against a combined team of warders, chaplains, 
and patients, and to dance at the annual ball with the more in- 
nocuous of the female patients. Asylums have furnished the theme 
of a series of humorous and successful novels written by an old 
pupil of my father. But on me their effect has always been shat- 
tering, and I find these personal contacts with people who are in 
reality exiles from life itself, more macabre than meeting those 
lingering on the brink of death. 

Since my visit to Sabang I never think of an asylum without 
recalling the story, told to me by a former member of his cabinet, 
of a well-known Dutch minister, who throughout his life refused 
persistently to contribute to the upkeep of any institution for the 
mentally deficient. The minister was rich. He was a generous 
giver to other charities. Above all, he was a foremost exponent 
of that policy of social welfare which has made Holland the one 

59 



country in the world to-day without slums. His idiosyncrasy was 
therefore a puzzle to his colleagues. At last one more daring than 
the others put the question to him: 

"Excellency, why do you contribute so generously to other chari- 
ties and yet refuse your aid to what is surely one of the most de- 
serving causes of suffering humanity?" 

"Gentlemen," said the Minister gravely, "I am in favour of 
asylums, but were I to contribute to them personally my opponents 
might conclude that I believed that every one outside them was 
sane." 

In this institution I saw a case of a strange Malayan disease 
known in the vernacular as "latah." I suppose it is caused by some 
lack of muscular control like St. Vitus's dance. In the case of a 
"latah" victim this lack of control takes the form of an involuntary 
muscular reaction which forces the patient to imitate the move- 
ments of any one who engages his attention. Some one raises his 
hand or makes a face. The patient does the same. 

It is an affliction which lends itself to the propensities of prac- 
tical jokers. I remember from my early days in Malaya an old 
Malay woman who used to sell sweet drinks and fruit at the 
Seremban railway station in Negri Sembilan. When a train came 
in, she used to walk along the platform with a tray. Sometimes, 
when we were going to Kuala Lumpur or Kajang to play hockey 
or football, we would amuse ourselves by pulling faces at her or 
laughing loudly. She was forced to respond. Then some one would 
pretend to be throwing things on the ground, and the poor old 
lady would begin to throw her fruit on to the platform. I am 
bound to say that the practical joker always paid her handsomely. 
But it was a cruel form of amusement, and to-day the thought of it 
fills me with shame. 

Here in Sabang the patient was an elderly man, lean and 
scraggy. I could not make out whether he was patient or employee, 
for he was quite sane and worked a full day as a vegetable gar- 
dener on the asylum farm. I expect that he was kept there in order 
to spare him from the mockery of his fellow creatures, although 
Malays, as a rule, are kind to "latah" victims and reprove the 
thoughtless youths who attempt to make fun of them, 

Sabang has a permanent place in my memory, because during 
this voyage it was the scene of my only adventure into which the 



element of danger may be said to have entered. Having heard 
much of the fish to be caught in the bay, I determined to try my 
luck. The Dutch, as usual, gave me every facility, and on landing 
at Sabang on my way home I took a car and drove out to a tiny 
fishing village where a small dug-out with two Achinese fisher- 
men was waiting for me. They were little more than boys. The 
bay was full of sharks. One of fourteen feet had been caught the 
previous day, and I had seen its carcase rotting in the sun. I had, 
however, no tackle for such heavy fish. My quest was the "ikan 
tenggiri," a long, narrow fish with a blue-green skin. It can move 
faster than a salmon, and it is a great sight to see one travel fifty 
yards or more on the top of the water in pursuit of the small fish 
which are its prey. 

Trolling two lines, baited with small fish, we paddled towards 
the far side of the bay. Once or twice the bait was hit hard, but I 
was either too slow or too fast, and I could never strike the hook 
home. When I struck too quickly, the fishermen would say: "You 
must wait, Tuan." If I waited, there was a gentle reprimand of 
"Too slow, Tuan." 

Doubtless, the time of day was unpropitious and the sun too 
bright. It was also unpleasantly hot, and die frail dug-out, far too 
narrow for my bulky figure, imposed on me a stationary restraint 
which cramped my body. By eleven o'clock the sweat was stream- 
ing down my face, and I ached in every limb. 

We were already nearly an hour's paddle away from our start- 
ing place and, irritated by the heat and by my lack of success, I 
gave the order to return. We turned and proceeded leisurely home- 
wards. Bent forward in the centre of the dugout with my eyes 
closed, I was mopping my face with my handkerchief, when 
suddenly the two Achinese began to splash so violently with their 
paddles that the water soaked my coat and the boat began to rock 
with a rapidity that made my balance precarious, "What are you 
doing?" I shouted sharply. "Sharks," said the two boys and con- 
tinued their splashing. Two long shadowy figures came up beside 
the dug-out, swam slowly alongside for a few seconds, and then, 
disliking the splashing, turned and disappeared in the deep water. 
The fishermen pushed the dug-out forward with a few rapid 
strokes. Then, relapsing into their normal leisurely pace, they 
grinned. "Dangerous?" I asked. "Oh no, Tuan," they said. "They 

61 



are stupid fish. But if one hit the boat by accident it would be 
unpleasant." They grinned again. But I was not amused. My dis- 
comfort was rendered more acute by fear. It continued until we 
reached the shallow water near the shore. 

Fishermen, however, are alike all the world over. When we 
were within twenty yards or so of the fishing village, the locals 
came out to see us land. At once our boys began to announce the 
catch. We had hooked the biggest "ikan tenggiri" ever seen in 
the bay. The paddle was held up and the exact length of the fish 
denoted with a thumb-nail. The tenggiri had pulled us half-way 
across the bay. It had broken the tackle and gone oft with half of 
a brand-new line. 

This piece of fiction was received by the onlookers with interest 
and apparent credulity. There was no mention of the sharks which 
had disturbed my equanimity. Doubtless, they were an every-day 
incident in the life of a race which laughs at all dangers, except 
the supernatural, and especially at those with which from infancy 
it has been familiar. 

The next morning we arrived at Belawan Deli, the magnificent 
modern port at the mouth of the Deli river. It is the outlet for 
the products of Eastern Sumatra, and through its wharves pass the 
vast quantities of tobacco, rubber, palm-oil and tea which in less 
than fifty years have turned a virgin jungle into one of the richest 
areas in the world. 

Here we stayed twelve hours, and, as Belawan itself is a flat 
and dreary hell-hole, I took a car and made the trip to Medan, the 
seat of the East Sumatra Government. It lies about fifteen miles 
inland and but for tha Sultan's palace is more like a Dutch pro- 
vincial town than an Eastern city. 

The Sultan's palace was a disappointment. I had seen photo- 
graphs of it in various Dutch books and had been enchanted by 
the slender form of the minaret of the mosque and the apparently 
beautiful gardens. The reality, however, brought disillusionment. 
The palace and the mosque were horribly new, and the gardens 
with their artificial lake lacked even a suggestion of charm. The 
whole surroundings gave me the impression of a temporary jerry- 
built structure put up for a colonial exhibition. 

The place, however, was a concrete proof of the wealth of the 

62 



Deli district. Thirty years ago the Sultan of Deli was little different 
from a Malay peasant, and his income could not have exceeded 
^300 a year. To-day, the development of Deli as a rubber and 
tobacco growing centre has multiplied his income a thousandfold, 
and now he owns a fleet of motor-cars and a stable of racehorses 
and has acquired a number of other European vices. 

Over 200,000 coolies have been imported for the development 
of these two planting industries, and the district produces about 
one-fifth of the world's total output of rubber. British capital as 
well as Dutch has played an important part in the development 
of this fabulously wealthy territory. 

Medan itself is the Mecca of the European planters and in the 
days of the rubber boom it was the scene of orgies of a kind which 
is more commonly associated with gold rushes in the West of 
America. The Dutch are good spenders and good drinkers, and 
a farewell to a planter going home for good or even on leave 
left a trail of broken glass and sore heads behind it. I saw one 
such farewell on my way home. In spite of the prevailing bad 
times half the Europeans in Medan turned up at Belawan Deli 
to deposit the departing guest on the steamer, and the din and 
cheering which greeted his departure could not have been exceeded 
even by the exuberance of a Yorkshire crowd welcoming home its 
football team after winning the coveted English Cup. 

Medan, too, is the departure point for Brast'agi, the finest hill 
station in the Malay Archipelago. The drive up the mountain pass 
to the Batak country with its curious villages built with enor- 
mously high roofs, and to Lake Toba is an experience which stirs 
the enthusiasm of even the most jaded sight-seer, and the range of 
view from the top of the pass is unexcelled by any other vista in 
the world. 

But this visit I deferred until my return journey. Although 
Sumatra is probably the Eastern country with the greatest future, 
the truth is that at this moment I was unable to concentrate my 
thoughts on these new surroundings. We were due in Singapore 
the next morning. That night I slept little, but paced the top 
deck alone, my mind swaying between the past and the present, 
in the excitement of anticipation. At one moment my enthusiasm 
was as eager as that of a youth embarking on his first lone voyage 
in life. I saw myself again in Pantai, meeting old friends and pick- 

63 



ing up from them the threads of Amai's story and of her sub- 
sequent fate. Then the doubts of middle age would obtrude them- 
selves, preparing me for the possibility of disappointment. One 
thought, however, dominated all others. I was on the point of 
realising a dream which had never seemed more than a dream. 
On the morrow I should see again the blue hills of Malaya. 



BOOK II 



A Stranger Returns 

"EVEN SUCH is Time that takes in trust 
Our youth, our joys, our all we have, 
And pays us but with earth and dust." 



CHAPTER ONE 

must always be something exotic in the return of a 
man to a foreign country which he had known in his youth 
but which he has not re-visited for a quarter of a century. The 
geographical progression is in the inverse direction to that of the 
exile who is returning home after long service abroad. Yet the 
sentimental reaction is not dissimilar, and in both cases there is 
likely to be the same disillusionment over ties which have long 
since been broken and which exist only in the romantic back- 
ground of the memory. For weeks I had invested this return to 
Malaya with a gaily-coloured cloak of romance. I had steeled my 
heart resolutely against the danger of dwelling too lovingly on the 
past. Change I was prepared for, and I realised that I should return 
as a stranger in a community to which I was not even a name. 
For a period of twenty-five years in the East covers most men's 
careers, and of the friends of my youth I knew that few were left. 
But enthusiasm is the mainspring of adventure, and I had set 
high hopes on a journey that was to recapture the glamour of the 
days that were gone. 

If I was not disappointed, the reality of my arrival was very 
different from the dream. 

True, the approach more than fulfilled my expectations. I awoke 
before six and from my porthole saw the shadowy line of the 
Malayan coast, slate grey in the early dawn. As the sun rose in a 
cloudless sky, the land, green-blue where sea and shore met, stood 
out in bold relief. And in the background were the mountains of 
Malaya as blue, as languorous, and as majestic as my fancy had 
ever pictured them. The scene was unchanged, I could detect no 
houses. Like an ant-heap seen from a distance, the land seemed 
motionless and uninhabited. 

I dressed with feverish haste and went on deck. We were some- 
where off Malacca, but the town itself was invisible. The sea was 

67 



as calm as a lake on a windless day. I tried to recapture the im- 
pression of my first voyage, but the effort defied my memory. 
Instead, I found my thoughts turning to the countless Europeans 
who had sailed down these straits: from the great heroes of Portu- 
gal, the early Dutch traders and sea-captains, unappreciated Im- 
perialists like Raffles, and Catholic missionaries, turning their backs 
forever on the Old World, to the cheerful youths who, like myself, 
attracted by the new plantation rubber industry, had set out in the 
early years of this century in search of quick fortune and a pleasant 
life. 

But no Portuguese dom of the sixteenth century, nor Sequeira nor 
Albuquerque himself, had made so emotional an approach to this 
Golden Chersonese as Joseph Conrad in modern times. It was in 
1883, three years before he became a naturalised British subject, 
that the Palestine, a barque of 425 tons on which he had shipped 
from London as second mate, had caught fire in the Indian Ocean 
and after four days had been abandoned. And it was from an open 
boat that the future author, then a young man of twenty-five, 
caught his first glimpse of Singapore and found safety in its 
friendly harbour. No wonder that the prose which was in the man 
had to find its outlet in an Eastern theme. Doubtless, too, the ex- 
perience helped him to form his magnificent philosophy towards 
life. "Man is only a feeble light in the storm, but this light resists 
and this light is everything," It was a sailor's philosophy, but it 
could be adopted with benefit by every white man in the East 

My musings were soon interrupted. Passengers were now lining 
the side of the ship. Boys were hustling along the decks, collecting 
chairs and forgotten books. There was the laborious business of 
tipping to be done. There were the goodbyes to be said to people 
whom one had learnt to know more intimately in three weeks than 
if one had lived beside them in England for a life-time, and yet 
whom one realised instinctively one would never see again. These 
duties finished, I went on to the promenade deck to find Hewan, 
who as an old shipping man knew every inch of these waters and 
every story connected with them. 

We were now approaching the numerous islands with which 

the entrance to Singapore is studded. The islands themselves were 

an indication of the new Singapore, Where formerly all had been 

greenness were now great patches of hard yellow soil disfigured 

68 



by huge oil tanks. Bungalows, many of them occupied by officers, 
held the best points of vantage. Beside a small wharf, before we 
reached the entrance to the harbour, we came upon a destroyer. 
Naval ratings, clad in topees, shirts and shorts, were scrubbing the 
decks. It was a new and strange aspect of the British Navy. Three 
airplanes, shimmering like quicksilver in the bright sunlight, 
whirred above our heads. 

But neither the noise nor the unseemly advertisement hoardings 
could spoil the beauty of a harbour which, just because it has so 
few of the stereotyped features of most harbours, never grows stale. 
As we steamed slowly alongside the Nederland wharf in the huge 
Tanjong Pagar dock, I was thrilled by the sight of the countless 
small craft which form the units of Singapore's world-famed mos- 
quito fleet. Not since the war had I seen so much shipping in one 
port. There on the quay was Commodore Mark Wardlaw to meet 
the Pembrokes. There, too, to greet me was my old friend, Freddie 
Cunningham, who lived near my former home at Port Dickson 
and with whom I was to spend what I had rightly expected would 
be the happiest part of my visit, 

I felt a lump rise in my throat And then came the inevitable 
anti-climax. Wardlaw and Freddie were soon on board. But we 
were not allowed ashore. Its new importance as a great military, 
naval and air base has given to Singapore a perhaps necessary 
vigilance against spies and communists, and we were in the grip 
of the British bureaucratic machine. In this case it was operated 
by a single passport or immigration officer, who did his job with a 
patient courtesy, but with a thoroughness and slowness which in 
any foreign port would have roused the British passengers to the 
usual explosion of invective against the inefficiency of foreigners. 

With the Rosslyns and Pembrokes we sat down at a table in 
the smoking saloon to await our turn. Freddie, always in his ele- 
ment as a host, produced cocktails, and while he gave the local 
gossip to the others, Reggie Pembroke told me a story of Wardlaw, 
a slim, rather silent man who impresses by the quiet efficiency with 
which he gets things done. 

Reggie was in the "Blues" and fought all through the war. 
Through his grandmother he has Russian blood, and had his father 
cared to change his nationality Reggie would now be the head of 
the princely family of Vorontzoff. On account of his Russian con- 

69 



nections he was sent on a temporary mission to Russia during the 
war and was received by the late Tsar. "You are wearing the wrong 
uniform," said the Ruler of all the Russias. Reggie, who is particu- 
lar about these matters, was taken aback. "You should be wearing 
a Russian uniform,' 1 said the Tsar, relieving him of his embar- 
rassment. 

What Reggie might have worn but never has is a British naval 
officer's uniform, for he is a born sailor who is never happier than 
when he is on the bridge, examining charts, taking bearings and 
doing all those other little mysteries in which sailors delight. Some 
years ago he was on a world cruise and, as is his wont, spent most 
of his time on the bridge. There, every day, he noticed a man who, 
like a hawk intent on its prey, hovered for hours with compasses 
and pencil over his own charts. They became friends. The man 
was Wardlaw. He was then a commander in danger of the govern- 
ment axe which during those post-war years of British disarma- 
ment ended the career of so many brilliant naval officers. Reggie 
asked him what he was doing. "Taking a busman's holiday," was 
the quiet reply. "I'm checking our charts. May be useful some 
day." Reggie was impressed by this devotion to duty, and soon 
the story of the commander's keenness on his job reached the ears 
of a famous Admiral. Wardlaw was given command of a flotilla 
of destroyers at Hong-Kong. To-day, as Senior Naval Officer in 
Singapore, he shares a large part of the responsibility for the most 
ambitious overseas defence scheme which the British Empire has 
ever undertaken. 

I looked at Wardlaw with a new respect, I looked, too, with 
some trepidation at the third Bacardi cocktail which, during the 
telling of this story, had appeared mysteriously beside my elbow. 
The passport queue still seemed as long as ever, and, as it was 
already past one o'clock, we decided to lunch on board. Our party 
was breaking up, but only temporarily. The Pembrokes, who liked 
the sea, were going on by steamer to Java and then to Bali. The 
Rosslyns were to stay a few days with Freddie Cunningham. Then 
their course was set leisurely for Bali. We all had planned to meet 
in Singapore in five weeks' time. Luncheon should have been, and 
to the others probably was, a gay and amusing meal But I was 
restless and ill at ease, I wanted desperately to talk to Freddie, 
and during the two hours he had been on board I had not had a 
70 



word with him alone. At last I got him into a corner by ourselves. 
He looked at me rather seriously and put his arm on my shoulder, 
"I've some news for you," he said. "She's alive and she knows you 
are coming." I understood at once that he meant Amai. 

There was neither elation nor regret in my heart, but only a 
feeling of clammy nervousness. I was not helped by the reflection 
of my figure in the glass mirror of the saloon. With startling vivid- 
ness I pictured to myself the ravages of twenty-five years of tropi- 
cal sun on the former beauty of a young Malayan girl. I remem- 
bered Amai's aunt, an old hag with betel-stained lips. She must 
then have been between forty and fifty. Amai herself must now be 
over forty. There would be no Loti-esque farewell in a Malayan 
graveyard. Pantai was the living cemetery of a romance that was 
dead. Here was a complication, rich in its possibilities of ridicule, 
which had never entered my mind. 

Fortunately, my reflections were cut short with welcome abrupt- 
ness. All was now ready for us to leave the ship, and in a few 
minutes I was driving along Anson Road, alone with Freddie in 
his car. As we passed through the business quarter of the city, I 
noticed with surprise and admiration the many new splendid of- 
fices. But I was still more amazed by the silence of the streets. 
They seemed strangely deserted. We pulled up at the Singapore 
Club where Freddie wished to cash a cheque. With a bewildered 
sweep my eye took in a magnificent building, new of course since 
my time and stately and large enough to dominate Pall Mall if it 
were transferred to that centre of London clubland. 

I turned to Freddie with a gasp: "Gosh, it's like Liverpool 
except that Liverpool has more Chinese!" 

"You're right," said Freddie. "The Chinese are in the back 
streets playing with dragons, squibs, crackers, and other explosives. 
You've struck the last day of Chinese New Year." 

The sun beat down on us fiercely enough. But there was none ol 
the old enervating humidity in the air. Here was another miracle. 
I had arrived in the middle of a drought almost unprecedented in 
the history of Singapore Island. 

As we passed over Anderson Bridge, hundreds of junks and 
sampans, jammed close together in an apparendy inextricable 
maze, lay idle and unattended. But from the river itself came a 
breath of the old Singapore that stew of Oriental smells which is 

7* 



responsible for the last word in the trinity of the city's nickname 
of "Chinks, Drinks and Stinks." Now the old landmarks began to 
reveal themselves. There, looking down from Empress Place close 
to a group of Government buildings, was the statue of Raffles, the 
founder of the city and the most inspiring figure in the history of 
the British rule in the East. It looked a little bedraggled, a little in 
need of a bath, for, although the name of Raffles is never forgotten 
in any speech in Singapore, no one would accuse the British, and, 
least of all, the sport-loving British in the East, of an exaggerated 
reverence for statues. 

Perhaps this apparent indifference to externals is a healthy sign. 
The memory that is passed down from generation to generation is 
of more value to a race than any attempted perpetuation in stone 
or marble. 

There, too, on the left was the Cathedral of St. Andrew, very 
English and in its stately grcyness conveying an atmosphere of 
more permanence than any other building in Singapore. Here on 
the right was the old "padang" with the British Singapore Cricket 
Club at one end and the Eurasian Recreation Club at the other, a 
striking symbol of the British attitude towards the colour question 
and of the fact that the field of sport is the one place where 
British and Eurasians meet as equals. 

Suddenly the car pulled up, and a tall Indian chasseur, magnifi- 
cent in black beard, turban and red sash, came forward to open 
the door. We had arrived at Raffles Hotel, known from Port Said 
to Wei-hei-wei as "Raffles," and now that the old Europe Hotel 
is gone more than ever the centre of Singapore life for tourists and 
for planters down from the Federated Malay States for a "jolly." 
My first cinematic view of the city was over. 

It was the old Raffles of my youth, but so altered, so re-equipped 
and so enlarged as to be almost unrecognisable. Gone were the 
Sarkies, the former Armenian proprietors. Gone, too, was "J 06 *" 
the old Armenian manager, the cultivation of whose acquaintance 
was worth many amenities, including an occasional tip for the 
races. 

There were other changes. I remembered with poignant vivid- 
ness my first arrival at the hotel twenty-seven years before. Then 
my ignorance of a single word of Malay had left me in a state of 
irritating helplessness. Now that I knew the language it was of 
T 2 



little use to me. Every Tamil clerk and even the youngest Chinese 
"boy" not only knew English, but used it with an insistence which 
defeated all my efforts to break it down. The population of Singa- 
pore is now 550,000. It includes a vast diversity of races, of whom 
over 400,000 are Chinese. There are fewer than 70,000 Malays and 
only 9000 Europeans. Yet to-day there are Singapore-born Chinese 
who speak English as their first language. Some day, perhaps not 
very far distant, English, and not bazaar Malay, will be the lingua 
franca of Singapore. In one sense it may well be the most signifi- 
cant triumph of a British rule which, in spite of certain criticisms, 
some fair and some unfair, is still administered with an instinctive 
sense of justice and fair-play, and with a happy balance of solici- 
tude for the interests of the various races under its care and pro- 
tection. 

When we arrived, the huge verandah with its dancing floor and 
its score of small tables was deserted. It was the hour when all 
sensible people, who do not have to work, were resting. I was well 
pleased with the spacious lofty room which Freddie had engaged 
for me. With relief I inspected the huge electric fan with blades 
as large as an airplane's propellers. Here was a modern innovation 
which I could appreciate. But when I came to the bathroom my 
face fell. There, firmly set in the tiled floor, was a European bath 
of the latest model with hot and cold water complete. Although 
the Raffles managers still tell the story of the old lady who stuck in 
one, the old Siamese jar with its tin-pan for sluicing one's self was 
evidently a thing of the past. I felt a pang of regret, and after my 
experience of the Dutch East Indies, where the Siamese jar is still 
in use, the regret remains. In my opinion the sluice-bath is by far 
the most invigorating and refreshing form of bath in the tropics. 

We sat down and began to talk, trying to bridge over the gaps 
in the past. Freddie and I were brought up as boys together. He 
was the youngest of a family of four brilliant brothers. Jim, the 
eldest, passed first into Woolwich and was rejected on account of 
his eyesight. It was not too defective to prevent his joining up in 
1914, and both he and his second brother, Charlie, were killed in 
France. George, the third brother, who was at Fettes with me, is 
the former Oxford and Scotland "rugger" captain and ex-scholar 
of Magdalen. He passed high into the Indian Civil Service, and 
was Lord twin's private secretary during the period of his Vice- 

73 



royalty. To-day, at the age of forty-eight, he is Sir George Cun- 
ningham, Governor of the North-West Province of India. 

Freddie, the youngest son, was supposed to have fewer brains 
than his brothers. He was therefore sent to Glenalmond. By this 
time we had become family connections, my uncle, a rubber pio- 
neer in Malaya, having married his first cousin. When, in 1908, it 
was evident that plantation rubber was about to corne into its own, 
I went out to join my uncle in Malaya. Freddie followed me six 
months later. We had both been stationed in Negri Sembilan, and 
Freddie had succeeded me as a "creeper" on the Third Mile estate 
at Port Dickson. Freddie had remained in Port Dickson ever since. 
The story of the so-called brainless son of the family has run true 
to type. A shrewd Scot, with the same capacity as Maurice Baring 
for balancing glasses on his head in his hours of relaxation, he has 
prospered exceedingly. Now, with his own rubber estate and inter- 
ests in coal and jute, he is the freest and probably the most success- 
ful planter in Malaya. 

We had so many interests in common that we should have talked 
until dark had not Freddie insisted on my unpacking and on my 
having a lie-off. We were to meet again at five-thirty and to dine 
later at the Sea View, a new hotel on the sea-front outside the city. 
I lay down on the bed, but rest was impossible, and presently I 
made my way to the reception office to find out where I could 
order some Malay "sarongs" and "bajus," which in my day were 
the regulation undress uniform and sleeping-suit of the up-country 
planter and official. There was an Indian shop in the hotel arcade, 
and there, at a trifling cost but still many times higher than I 
should have had to pay up-country in the old days, I ordered my- 
self three modestly-coloured "sarongs" and three white silk "bajus." 
With the customary despatch of the Eastern outfitter, they were 
ready for me the next morning. 

When Freddie came to fetch me, I had bathed and changed and 
was ready for anything. First, we went to the Singapore Club to 
collect Harry Rosslyn. Taking the lift, we went up to the top floor 
and from the terrace had a superb view of the harbour. Between 
us and the pink and saffron-coloured horizon ocean liners, mer- 
chant ships, and the slender forms of Bugincse sailing "prahus" lay 
motionless on the glass-surfaced water. Farther out at sea, closing 
in the whole scene, a line of British cruisers and destroyers, headed 
74 



by H.M.S. Kent, stood out like black swans in the fading sunlight. 
I could have lingered long over this imposing and unforgettable 
picture. But the others were impatient. Freddie had asked some 
friends to meet us. The Rosslyns had to dine with Wardlaw. Back 
we went to Raffles to indulge in the Singapore habit of "pahit" 
drinking. "Pahit," incidentally, is the Malay word for bitter. In 
Singapore English it means a whisky or a gin in a wine glass 
taken with bitters and a little water. It is a cleaner and less harm- 
ful drink than the American cocktail. 

By this time the verandah terrace was beginning to fill up and, 
as we took our places, couples were already dancing on the floor 
to the latest American and English tunes played by a jazz-band 
composed, like most bands in the East, of Austrians and Rus- 
sians. There were almost as many women as men, and some of the 
women at any rate drank "pahit" for "pahit" with their male 
companions and with apparently less effect on their composure. 

It was one more proof of what I believe to be the most funda- 
mental change in Malaya during the last twenty-five years: the 
huge increase in the number of white women and the passing of 
the directing force of social life into their hands. It is a change 
which impresses the old-timer very forcibly. Even admitting its 
inevitability, I cannot think that it is a change for the better. As I 
watched the scene, exemplary in its decorum, I put a brake on the 
natural tendency of the man who comes back to criticise adversely. 
For better or worse, this was the life of these people, and who shall 
say that they are not capable of ordering it more wisely and more 
in accordance with their own need than the tourist and passing 
stranger. It is as much the natural tendency of the British exile 
to long for the lights of London and to seek the best imitation of 
them that local conditions can afford, as it is for the man chained 
to a London office stool to sigh for the green fields and placid 
streams of the English countryside. 

I shall permit myself only one adverse observation. Throughout 
Malaya the hours from six-thirty to nine-thirty are the period, 
to-day rather extended but yet prescribed by years of tradition, for 
social relaxation. It is the time when these small British communi- 
ties foregather in club, in hotel, or private bungalow after their 
daily tennis and golf and other games. It involves, perhaps, an ex- 
aggerated concentration on alcohol, which is not merely the fuel 

75 



of conversation, but tends occasionally to become its sole topic. 
The concentration is certainly not greater than in my time and the 
alcohol is weaker. But it means a late dinner, and its chief draw- 
back is that it entirely absorbs those hours of the day which are 
best suited for more profitable recreation. It is, in fact, mainly re- 
sponsible for that absence of intellectual interests which is a defec- 
tive feature of British colonial life in tropical countries. 

1 found that my capacity for "pahit" drinking was not what it 
used to be, and I was glad to get out into the cool night air and 
drive to the Sea View Hotel. Here, with the surf lapping the 
steps of the hotel, we dined in a spacious pillared hall. There was 
a dancing-floor in the middle, the inevitable jazz-band, and a 
cabaret show with a Russian singer and a blonde dancer in a trans- 
parent evening dress that suggested the lily of the field comparison 
with Solomon in all his glory. But it was the dinner itself which 
provoked my amazement. Hors d'&uvrc> almost as numerous as 
the eighty varieties of Caramello, the famous Riviera restaurateur, 
were wheeled up to our table. I dined off an excellent petite mar" 
mite, homard d famtricaine, and roast pheasant complete with 
bread sauce and pommes failles. Here I stopped, but had I wished 
I could have ended my meal with pSche Melba and angels on 
horseback. My mind went back to the stuffed eggs, the tinned 
mulligatawny soup, the "ikan merah," and the scraggy chicken 
which in the old days had formed the staple menu of every gala 
dinner. Here was a revolution. Indeed, cold storage* electricity, and 
the motor-car have entirely changed life in the tropics and have 
robbed it of nearly all its discomforts. To-day Singapore gets fresh 
meat from Australia, fresh butter from New Zealand, swede tur- 
nips from Sumatra, potatoes from Palestine, tomatoes from Java, 
rhubarb from New South Wales, oranges from China, and cab- 
bages, lettuces and salads from the Malayan hill-station of Cameron 
Highland. Soon, too, this Scottish-sounding resort will provide Ma- 
laya with fresh trout, for the ova which were put down in its moun- 
tain streams have given excellent results. Fishing, however, is not 
likely to be permitted before the end of 1937, an ^ to my regret I 
was unable to add a Malayan specimen to the trout which I have 
caught in different parts of the world. 

After dinner we went into the garden for coffee and brandy. 
The scene was enchanting if slightly artificial The streams of light 
76 



from the hotel gave an unnatural vividness to the grass and shed 
queer zigzags of a ghostly white on the sea before us. From the 
dining-room the strains of "Smoke In Your Eyes," pleasantly di- 
minished by the distance, floated across to us through the night air. 

Freddie's two friends, who completed our party, were a Dr. and 
Mrs. Hanna. Both are Americans and both are known throughout 
the length and breadth of British Malaya. Their popularity is 
merely one of countless proofs of my contention that, whatever 
political differences may exist between the two nations, British and 
Americans form a natural affinity whenever they meet abroad, 
They stand together in every scrap. In these circumstances, at any 
rate, they are the only two races in the world who can criticise 
each other's shortcomings without ill-feeling, and who can chaff 
each other without any barrier of national restraint. 

"Doc" Hanna is a racing man in his spare time. As he had 
recently won a big race, most of our conversation was about the 
turf. I recalled the up-country racing of my early days: the raw 
Australian "walers," the auction sweeps, the amateur jockeys. 
There was, I think, only one well-known "bookie," an Australian 
called Tully, who went all over the country from meeting to meet- 
ing. Back through my mind floated a verse from a topical song 
written in Malay by one of the best linguists among our Govern- 
ment officers and sung at a smoking concert in my first year in 
Malaya: 

"Kdau su\a mendapatan fyeja 
Untong besar seJ(ali f 
Dan patut menjadi boofynafo' 
Matcham Artie Tullee." 

"If you're seeding a job that is 'cushy' 
With profits as large as can be, 
Then you'd better start in as a ' 
the great Mister Artie Tuttee 



Racing in those days had been a haphazard affair. Everybody 
had his little flutter, and the verse of the song was an accurate 
reflection of the empty pockets with which most of us, totally igno- 
rant of form and of horseflesh, came back from our local meetings. 

To-day, racing must be nearly the most profitable by-industry in 

77 



Malaya. Singapore has a magnificent race-course equipped with 
the most modern of stands and a giant totalisator. The big meetings 
are attended by a vast crowd o all nationalities, and form the 
scene of a fashion parade not only of the European women, but 
also of the Chinese, whose modern Shanghai dresses with straight- 
cut frock slit on both sides from the ankles to the knees, has 
inspired many of the recent creations of the great costumiers of 
Paris, London and New York. There is, too, a whole army of 
thoroughbreds, professional jockeys, and trainers, and Sultans like 
the Sultan of Perak and the Sultan of Johore spend large sums on 
buying horses. The most successful owners, however, are the rich 
Chinese who, apart from their innate love of a gamble, have be- 
come shrewd judges of form. Both the betting turnover and the 
stake money have increased a thousandfold* This progress of 
pleasure, which probably gives to the disgruntled champions of the 
past an excuse for their growls about the danger of decadence and 
luxury, has been on the same scale in the smaller towns of Malaya. 

I began to descant on my first impressions after my return, stress- 
ing particularly the immense improvement in the amenities and 
security of life, and adding a personal sigh of regret for the con- 
sequent loss of Oriental colour and atmosphere. 

"I'm not so sure about the security," said Hanna thoughtfully. 
"And as far as local colour is concerned it depends on what you 
mean* Do you see that bathing 'pagar'?" 

He pointed to a small enclosure of sea, fenced in with a palisade 
of heavy stakes, just below us* 

"Well," he continued, "a young Australian girl, a tourist passing 
through, was picked off there by a shark in broad daylight only a 
few years ago." 

I looked knowingly at Freddie. I had spent a long enough ap- 
prenticeship in the tropics to know that supplying tall stories to 
travellers, especially if they were writers, was a favourite leg-pull 
of the local experts. Their joy was renewed when they saw their 
best efforts perpetuated in print. The story of the Nigerian chief 
who on seeing the sea for the first time rushed forward to drink it 
in the belief that it was crime de menthe; the first-hand account 
of the traveller who, having been regaled with roast monkey, be- 
lieved that he had taken part in a cannibal feast; these and many 
similar stories could be ascribed to the pleasant game of hoax, 
78 



which is as old as man himself and which goes back to the days of 
the first traveller in history. 

That night, before going to bed, I began to read some recent 
copies of the Straits Times which Freddie had left with me. Turn- 
ing over the pages, I came across an account of a tiger which had 
swum across the straits of Johore and to the consternation of the 
native population taken up its abode on Singapore Island. I had 
spent three years of my life in a lonely district where tigers were 
far more numerous than they are now and had never seen one 
alive. Other men, who had spent their lives in the Malayan jungle, 
had had the same experience. Yet even to-day a tiger might walk 
into Government House, and no one except the Governor himself 
would be unduly astonished. At all events no one can say that such 
a visit is beyond the bounds of possibility. 

My first comparison after landing now seemed foolish. Singapore 
is not like Liverpool. Except for the thin surface layer of Western 
civilisation imposed by the industry and energy of a few thousand 
Englishmen and maintained by the might of Britain's sea power, 
there is nothing European about it. Six hundred years ago a 
flourishing kingdom in Singapore was destroyed by foreign in- 
vaders from Java, and the island went back to jungle. In the light 
of the thousand new problems which confront the East to-day it is 
just conceivable that in another six hundred years it may go back 
to jungle again. 



79 



CHAPTER TWO 

IN this chapter I give a short summary of the geographical 
situation and of the most important statistics of British Malaya 
as a complement to the map which will be found on the end papers 
of this book. I assume without arrogance that some of my readers 
will be glad of this information, for even members of the British 
House of Commons are strangely ignorant of the geography of the 
British Empire for whose administration they are in the last resort 
responsible. 

When, in 1935, the Bindings, a narrow strip of territory on the 
west coast of the peninsula, which formerly belonged to the Straits 
Settlements, was retroceded to Perak, one of the Federated Malay 
States, a member of the House of Commons put down a question 
to ask if the wishes of the Sultan of Irak had been consulted 
about this important matter. Although by the cognoscenti the "k" 
in Perak is not pronounced and the "e n has a continental value, 
the member of Parliament had probably pronounced the word as 
it reads in its English transliteration and has confused it with 
Irak. It is perhaps unnecessary to add that Irak is some thousands 
of miles distant from the nearest point of British Malaya. Such 
geographical aberrations have not been uncommon in the history 
of British politics, and every Canadian knows that in the delinea- 
tion of Canada's frontier with the United States the ignorance of 
British statesmen cost the Dominion more than one valuable strip 
of territory. 

Let me state at once that Malaya is a peninsula lying between 
latitudes i and 7 north and a longitude of 100 to 105 east. 
It is situated in the south-eastern corner of Asia, roughly half-way 
between India and China, and comprises for purposes of adminis- 
tration the Colony of the Straits Settlements and the Protectorate 
of the Federated Malay States and of the Unfedcrated Malay States. 
80 



The total area is a little larger than that of England, and the popu- 
lation is approximately four-and-a-half millions. 

There are just under two million Malays, one million seven hun- 
dred thousand Chinese, and over six hundred thousand Indians. 
The Indians are principally Tamil coolies employed on the rubber 
estates. There arc approximately twenty thousand Europeans and 
seventeen thousand Eurasians. The rest of the population, forming 
a fractional percentage of the whole, is made up of a motley col- 
lection of other Eastern races, including an important but relatively 
tiny Japanese colony. The diversity of races, especially the almost 
equal division between Chinese and Malays, is a great asset to the 
British administration, for it enables it to hold a fair balance be- 
tween the widely divergent interests of the two main groups. 

The Straits Settlements are composed of the four settlements of 
Singapore, a small island now joined to the State of Johore by a 
causeway; Penang, another island which includes in its adminis- 
trative area Province Wellesley on the mainland; Malacca, histori- 
cally the most interesting city of the Malay Archipelago; and 
Labuan, another small island off the north-east coast of Borneo. 
The Straits Settlements, administered as a Crown Colony, have a 
population of over a million. The Federated Malay States comprise 
the four States of Perak, Selangor, Ncgri Sembilan, and Pahang. 
They have had British advisers for the last sixty years, were fed- 
erated in 1895, and were administered, in practice if not in theory, 
from the federal capital of Kuala Lumpur in Selangor. Since 1933 
a new decentralisation scheme has conferred a greater measure of 
control over local affairs to the individual State Governments. The 
states form a British Protectorate and arc ruled nominally by Sul- 
tans. The actual control, however, is in the hands of a very com- 
petent British civil service. The population of the F.M.S., as it is 
always called locally, is one million seven hundred thousand. 

The Unfederated States are composed of the States of Johore, 
Kedah, Kelantan, Trenganu and Perlis in the Malay Peninsula 
and of Brunei in Borneo, They have accepted British advisers to 
assist them in administrative matters and are bound by treaty rela- 
tionship to the British Government. But their Sultans have more 
freedom of action than those of the Federated Malay States. The 
population is just over one million six hundred thousand. 

For the purposes of a ready calculation the Chinese may be said 

81 



to outnumber the Malays by more than two to one in the Straits 
Settlements, to have a slight numerical superiority in the Federated 
Malay States, and to be themselves outnumbered by the Malays by 
more than three to one in the Unfederated States. The Chinese 
predominate wherever industry and commerce exist. The Malays, 
ex-warriors who under British rule have become poor gentlemen 
of leisure, live mainly on their land. 

From a practical point of view British influence in Malaya is a 
nineteenth century growth. Singapore itself, a creation of Sir Stan- 
ford Raffles, was founded in 1819. Since then the sphere of British 
influence has been slowly extended. It has been established with 
very little fighting, the great period of development in the Malay 
States during the last quarter of the last century being distinguished 
by a marked ability on the part of the early British administrators 
in playing off one Sultan against another. The Governor of the 
Straits Settlements is also the High Commissioner for the Malay 
States, His dual capacity involves an inevitable, if only partial, 
centralisation of Government in Singapore. The Straits Settle- 
ments, the Federated Malay States and the Unfederated Malay 
States arc known as Malaya, 

In the early days of European colonial expansion the Malay 
Archipelago was the centre of the lucrative spice trade, and pro- 
voked what Lenin would have called the inevitable capitalist con- 
flict between the Portuguese, the pioneer discoverers of the East 
Indies, and the Dutch, and, later, between the Dutch and the 
English, who came last of all 

Malaya still exports spices of various kinds, but the twin gods 
of her wealth are Tin and Rubber. In 1933 she exported two-thirds 
of the world's rubber and nearly sixty per cent, of the world's tin. 
Die-hard Imperialists and supporters of economic autarchy should 
note that the United States took fifty-five per cent, of the rubber 
and fifty-eight per cent, of the tin. The United States is Malaya's 
best customer, her normal purchases representing from thirty-five 
to forty per cent, of Malaya's total exports, Britain is the next best 
customer, but whereas the United States sells to Malaya only a 
tiny fraction of what she buys, Britain buys less from Malaya than 
she sells to her. To-day a complicated system of import duties and 
quotas have further reduced American and other foreign imports 
into Malaya. 
82 



There is a definite clash o commercial interests between the 
Straits Settlements and the Malay States. The Straits Settlements 
live largely by the vast trade of the two great entrep6t ports of 
Singapore and Penang. Free trade has been the breath of their 
existence, and although Japanese competition has made many con- 
verts to protection, there are still free-traders to-day among the 
great mercantile houses, some of them over a hundred years old, 
of Singapore and Penang. The Malay States are producing coun- 
tries. They are in favour of protection. 

Taken together, the Straits Setdements and the Malay States 
are, for their size, the richest of all Britain's overseas possessions. In 
1934 the overseas trade reached the huge total of ; 126,000,000. The 
figures for the same year for Ceylon, the senior Crown Colony, 
were only ^25,000,000. Malaya, however, has suffered severely 
from the world economic depression, and it is only thanks to the 
international restriction schemes now in force for both rubber and 
tin that the country has been nursed back to a partial and perhaps 
only temporary prosperity. 

Let it be added that in spite of quotas and duties the competition 
of Japan and China is making itself more strongly felt every day in 
almost every class of goods which formerly the British manu- 
facturer used to supply, and the reader has a general idea of the 
racial and economic lay-out of a part of the world of which, sooner 
rather than later, he is likely to hear more. 

Tucked away in the eastern estuary of the Strait of Johore and 
guarded by islands and Changi Point are the vast military, naval 
and air defences which, erected at enormous expense, have made 
the island of Singapore the greatest citadel of the world. At Changi, 
guarding the entrance to the Strait, are the shore batteries mounted 
with guns whose range is said to be over twenty miles. A som- 
nolent Malay village in my time, Changi to-day is a garrison 
town complete with artillery, engineer, and infantry barracks. A 
few miles farther down the Strait is the new naval base. A bridge 
over a narrow arm of the sea connects it with the air base. Farther 
inland at the apex of a triangle of which the line from the air base 
to Changi forms the base is the Admiralty wireless station. A net- 
work of admirable roads connects all these vital arteries of the 
new defence scheme. 

It is true that in my day also Singapore was a garrison town. 

83 



There were small units of "sappers" and garrison artillery. A 
British infantry battalion and an Indian regiment enabled the 
Governor to add the title of Commander-in-Chief to his subsidiary 
title of High Commissioner. But there was no imprint of mili- 
tarism on the life of the local British resident. The officers infused 
an added zest of rivalry into the local games and gave valuable 
support to the Singapore "rugger" and cricket teams in their 
matches against Hong-Kong and the F.M.S. To the officers them- 
selves their three years in Singapore was an exotic and not un- 
pleasant interlude in the ordinary duties of soldiering. They were 
welcomed by the local British for the colour and distinction which 
they lent to the social life of the colony. It was rarely, if ever, that 
military matters obtruded themselves into the garrulous conversa- 
tion of "pahit" time. 

The war, the mutiny of 1915, and, above all, the disturbing 
menace of the awakening East, have shaken the foundations of 
this pleasant security. To-day, defence questions and spy mania 
obsess the minds both of the armed forces and of the local British, 
and the base is on everybody's lips. It is true that the millions of 
pounds which have been and still are being spent on the new 
defences have brought a welcome prosperity to the commercial 
community, both Chinese and British, and especially to contractors, 
builders and architects. Indeed, the housing problem is causing 
acute anxiety to the much harassed Government officials, who have 
already had to provide nearly ten per cent, of the area of an island 
only twenty-five miles long by sixteen wide for the accommodation 
of the armed forces. 

While I was in Singapore I saw barracks being erected in 
feverish haste for the second British battalion which has already 
been added to the local strength. A third battalion is to join it as 
soon as the necessary accommodation can be provided. But apart 
from the pecuniary advantages which the defence scheme has 
brought to the local community, there is a new seriousness behind 
the cheerfulness and apparent levity of Singapore life. Twenty-five 
years ago a few planters and officials played at volunteer soldiering. 
Playing is perhaps an unkind epithet in reference to men who 
showed a public spirit in advance of their times. But their example 
attracted few recruits from among the vast majority of selfish and 
easy-going residents who, like myself, saw little use and no amuse- 



ment in devoting part of their spare time to drills and shooting 
practice in the heat of a tropical sun. To-day, every young English- 
man, be he planter, miner, or merchant, is urged to join the local 
volunteer forces which now include tanks and also local flying 
units attached to the Royal Air Force. 

I doubt, however, if the passing tourist has more than the 
vaguest impression of the vast transformation which has taken 
place or if, apart from the occasional air-planes which fly over his 
head, he realises the immense activities which are being carried out 
within a few miles of his hotel. For the defences, perhaps for 
political as well as for strategic reasons, are hidden in a secluded 
part of the island which no one can enter without a permit. 

It is an imposing sight to come suddenly on the naval base 
after a drive through palm groves and shady trees interspersed 
with market gardens and peaceful kampongs. It is as if one were 
suddenly to find a Portsmouth, equipped with naval yard, wharves, 
huge oil and ammunition depots, and a seven-hundred-yards-long 
quay, in the middle of a Highland deer forest. 

The glory of the base is the great floating dry-dock which, built 
by Swan, Hunter of Wallsend-on-Tyne, was towed on its long 
journey from England to Malaya by Dutch tugs, and which is 
large enough to accommodate the largest battleship or, for that 
matter, the Queen Mary herself. As the dock was being towed into 
her final resting place, more ballast was required. It was supplied 
by Japanese. For only a few miles up the west coast of Johore is 
Batu Pahat, the centre of the richest iron deposits in the Malayan 
Archipelago. 

The Japanese exploit this iron field, having obtained a conces- 
sion from the Sultan of Johore. And now, every second day, a 
Japanese steamer goes out from Batu Pahat carrying away from 
under our very noses the ore which Japan lacks in her own coun- 
try, and which she doubtless uses for some form of naval or mili- 
tary armament. 

In 1935 Japan took 1,500,000 tons of iron from this Johore con- 
cession. She has recently obtained a second concession in Tren- 
ganu, one of the Unfederated Malay States, and this is expected to 
yield 1,000,000 tons a year. 

Nor is iron the only war material which Japan receives from 
Malaya. There is another product of that rich and fertile country 

8s 



which is rapidly being bought up by the vigilant Japanese. This is 
ilmenitc, of which tens of thousands of tons are to be found in the 
slag-heaps of Malaya's tin-mines. Hitherto the product has been 
neglected, and in 1934 the total export to all countries was only 
fifty tons. Now the Japanese are buying it in thousands of tons. 
The reason is that ilmenite is used for the manufacture of titanium 
tetrachloride, a liquid which fumes on contact with water. It pro- 
vides the quickest and most efficacious smoke-screen for battleships. 

To a neutral observer the fact that a country which adjoins the 
Singapore Base should be supplying the Japanese Fleet not only 
with the sinews of defence, but also with the means of invisibility, 
might present some of the elements of a comedy. But as I watched 
the swarm of Chinese coolies working on a huge graving dock 
then nearing completion, I could not help wondering how difficult 
it must be for a European to control the identity and even the na- 
tionality of these Oriental labourers, and how easily a determined 
fanatic might do irreparable damage to these costly constructions. 
I was re-assured by the sight of the contracting British engineer- 
in-charge. He must have weighed twenty-stone a grandiose figure 
of a man for a grandiose job. 

How far is the defence scheme likely to justify the huge cost 
to the taxpayer of Great Britain and to the citizen of Malaya, for 
Malaya contributes more per head of population to Imperial de- 
fence than any other unit of the British Empire? A layman's 
criticisms of the strategic reasons which have dictated this conver- 
sion of Singapore into a modernised and impregnable Gibraltar 
are of little value. It is a soldier's job to discover sound strategic 
reasons for defending almost any place under the sun, and as a 
vital link in the chain of our sea and air communications with the 
Far East and with Australia the importance of a strong Singapore 
is self-evident. There is Australia, determined to keep herself white 
and already obsessed by the fear of a coloured invasion. There is 
India, for, just as Changi guards the entrance to the naval base, 
so, too, Singapore is the sentinel of the Indian Ocean. 

The psychological reasons in justification of the scheme are 
more within the layman's province. They are strong, The white 
man's rule in the East is based on native recognition of his physical 
and mental superiority. Mainly as a result of the war the prestige 
of the white man all over the East has declined in startling fashion, 

86 



Of all the changes which have taken place during the last twenty- 
five years this is the most important and the most far-reaching in 
its consequences. Through the imposing seriousness with which 
Britain has set her military house in order and the rapidity with 
which the defence scheme has been carried out, British prestige in 
Malaya has recovered much of its former glamour. 

But even if every favourable argument is accepted at its face 
value, the fact remains that the scheme itself is primarily defensive 
and not offensive. Given that Britain can maintain two powerful 
fleets at the same time, a fleet, based on Singapore, could afford 
reasonable protection to the outlying islands of the Malay Archi- 
pelago. These are mosdy Dutch possessions, and for that reason the 
scheme is welcomed by most Dutchmen in the East, although I 
met some Dutch business men who regarded it as an unnecessary 
and provocative challenge to Japan. It would be able to maintain 
communications with the eastern coast of Australia. But its opera- 
tive radius would be limited. It would be powerless to protect 
British trade and shipping beyond an extreme limit of Hongkong, 
or to do anything to prevent Japan from taking whatever action 
in China she may decide to take. 

It is as a defensive measure that the scheme justifies itself. 
Britain has reached the territorial limits of her Imperial expansion. 
Her possessions are coveted by ambitious nations in the East no 
less than by nations in other parts of the globe. In the face of the 
potential menace of Japanese conquest and of the already existing 
menace of Japanese trade competition Britain may one day have 
to make a stand in the East. If the British Empire is to survive, it is 
unthinkable that this stand should be made at any point west of 
Singapore. In the opinion of the experts the island has already 
been made impregnable to every form of attack from outside. 

It would, however, be foolish to close one's eyes to the fact that 
the defence scheme has placed a new and heavy responsibility on 
the shoulders of the local British administration. There is the 
problem of the presence of large numbers of British troops in what 
is, in effect, a Chinese city and of the influence of their behaviour 
on the present loyalty of the Oriental population. I should not like 
to contemplate the sending to Singapore of Australian troops with 
a colour prejudice stronger than our own. Yet this is a potential 

87 



eventuality, for Australia has a vital interest in the maintenance 
of the Singapore defences. 

There is the more curious problem of the effect of a climate, 
which if not deleterious to health is nevertheless enervating, on the 
fighting efficiency of white forces, whether of the army or of the 
navy or of the air force. These are not necessarily insurmountable 
difficulties, but they are definitely problems which will have to be 
carefully watched. 

I found it hard to resist a certain atmosphere of artificiality 
about the whole scheme. 

This impression was strengthened by a glimpse of a squad of 
air force units awaiting the landing of a machine. The men were 
dressed in topees, khaki-coloured shirts and khaki shorts. With 
their knees browned by the sun, they looked fit enough. Without 
a doubt this dress is the most efficient that human ingenuity can 
devise for soldiering in tropical countries, but to me it seemed 
unnatural and slightly undignified. Here again was another star- 
tling change. Twenty-five years ago every Chinaman in Singapore 
wore a pigtail, the Tamil had a loin-cloth, the Malay Government 
"peon" his sarong and a khaki coat, and the European was 
covered in spotless white from chin to toes. To-day, the Orientals 
from the rich Chinese to the most junior Malay office boy are 
dressed in European clothes, while the Europeans undress uni- 
form, seen almost invariably on the golf course and occasionally 
even in Raffles, is the shortest of shorts, a sleeveless shirt, and white 
stockings or socks. 

It is true that in the evening the Singapore European is more 
"dressy" than he used to be, and that in the daytime he has not 
yet adopted a loin-cloth. But at first sight this inversion of the old 
order of things is startling, and it is permissible to doubt if the 
motto of comfort before prestige is altogether a sound policy for 
the white man in an Oriental city. 



88 



CHAPTER THREE 

T TNLIKE the Dutch, who have made a religion of tourist 
L/ propaganda, the British in Malaya do little to attract the 
passing stranger. But to old friends or to any one bringing letters 
of recommendation from old friends their hospitality is almost 
overwhelming. In spite of the fact that many of my contemporaries 
of twenty-five years before were dead or had left the country, I 
was in this happy position, and, had I accepted all the invitations 
that I received, I should have had to abandon all thought of 
visiting the Dutch East Indies and to cancel my passage home. 

In Singapore I was especially fortunate. The Governor and 
his family were away on a tour of inspection in the FJM.S., 
but in the shadow of Government House I found two old friends 
in high official positions. One was Sir Andrew Caldecott, who 
had come out to Malaya a year before me, and who as Assistant 
District Officer in Jelebu had been almost my nearest white neigh- 
bour when I was at Pantai. The other was Gordon Ham, a former 
Cambridge hockey Blue, who had been Assistant District Officer 
during my first year at Port Dickson and who, as a serious and 
sober-minded young man, had been the confidant of my first 
literary ambitions. 

I took the earliest possible opportunity of seeking out both. 
Gordon, who was now in the Secretariat of the Straits Settlement 
Government, was just leaving Singapore. Andrew, however, was 
at home, and he came at once to Raffles to carry me off in his car 
to luncheon. Although we had not met for twenty-five years, I 
had no difficulty in recognising him. In the old days we had 
played fierce home-and-home matches of football, transporting our 
teams of Malays by bullock-cart and by bicycle; in my case up 
the steep mountain pass to Jelebu, and in his case down the pre- 
cipitous Bukit Tangga, where in those days we always wondered 
if the brakes of our bicycles would hold and what would happen 



if they did not. With one white man on each side, they had been 
Homeric battles in which quarter was neither asked nor given. 
We played opposite each other at centre half, charging like bulls 
and exhorting our barefooted Malays with stentorian roars of 
"lekas-lah" and "jangan takut" ("Quick there! Don't funk!") 

There were not more than half-a-dozen motor-cars in Negri 
Sembilan in those days, and, the journey being long, we had 
stayed the night at each other's bungalows. Andrew was a de- 
lightful host. He was already a good Malay scholar with literary 
tastes and a genuine interest in the poetry and folklore of the 
language. He had a piano and played it well. More wonderful 
still, his bungalow was decorated with attractive water-colours of 
his own painting. Although he was the prince of "good mixers" 
and a host in himself at a party, he was a very exceptional figure 
in a community which in those days, and even now, is chiefly 
remarkable for its healthy low-browism. And, although he is prob- 
ably unconscious of the fact, he, too, had a preliminary influence 
on the shaping of my literary destiny. 

Outwardly our re-union was unemotional. After years of sepa- 
ration even the closest friends meet more or less as strangers. He 
looked tired and overworked. Indeed, I was lucky to catch him 
in Singapore, for he was leaving in two days' time for a short 
and well-earned local leave at a Java hill-station. During the last 
four years he had had nine different jobs, including those of 
Resident or Acting Resident in several states, Acting Chief Sec- 
retary of the FJMS, Government, and Acting Governor in Singa- 
pore. His present official post was that of Colonial Secretary of 
the Straits Settlements, the official on whose shoulders falls the 
detailed work of administration. In his case it had been compli- 
cated by the additional burden of piloting a new Governor through 
those difficult initial months of a new term of office. 

Luncheon, served in the cool dining-room of the Colonial Sec- 
retary's official residence, which occupies one of the best hill sites 
in Singapore, was a pleasant meal. Only Lady Caldecott was pres- 
ent, and she let us talk our fill. It was great fun to discuss old 
times, and informative to me to hear Andrew's views on the 
changes which had taken place since my time. I gathered that 
routine office work had increased beyond all standards of com- 
parison, and that if a Colonial Secretary were to do all he was 

90 



expected to do he would have to forego not only all relaxation but 
even sleep. 

After luncheon I went down with him to his office. He had 
kindly offered to arrange certain facilities for me, including a visit 
to the Singapore Jail. A great stack of papers, neatly arranged in 
piles, lay on his desk awaiting his attention. Native clerks came 
noiselessly in and out, bringing more papers or seeking instruc- 
tions. The telephone rang incessantly. Some one at the Air Base 
wanted to know if a visa were required for Siam. An artillery 
major sought information about accommodation for a married 
officer who was arriving next week. I realised that wet-nursing 
the various units of the defence forces until they found their 
tropical legs had not exactly decreased the labours of the civil 
service. Andrew dealt with the questions and fixed up my arrange- 
ments with an unruffled composure and efficiency which were 
impressive. It was in this atmosphere that he proposed to settle 
down to a quiet afternoon's work of clearing up all oustanding 
matters before his departure. It certainly was a he-man's job. 

Both at home and during my visit I heard many complaints 
from old-timers about the decline in the quality of the British 
colonial civil servant. He was now recruited from a new and 
inferior type. He was spineless and, content to get through his 
work without reproof, took little interest in the country. Above 
all, he lacked the presence, the dignity, and the other he-man quali- 
ties of his predecessors of the old days. In short, the criticisms 
were much the same as those one hears every day from old gentle- 
men in the London clubs about the delinquencies of the present- 
day youth of England. 

There may well be some truth in these assertions. It is the 
weakness of all government services that they do not get rid of 
their inefficient officers. Because of their widespread spheres of 
activity this is especially true of the diplomatic and colonial serv- 
ices, and, doubtless, there are inefficients to-day in Malaya as there 
were inefficients yesterday. Certainly I saw one or two men in re- 
sponsible posts who, more particularly in the matter of dignity, 
fell far short of the standard set by the high officers of the service 
in my time, not to mention great colonial servants like Sir Frank 
Swettenham, Sir Hugh Clifford and Sir Ernest Birch, all of whom 
began their careers as youngsters in Malaya. 



It is also true that, like the Indian Civil Service, the Colonial 
Service does not make the same appeal to the best type of young 
man in Britain as it used to do. The rewards are less attractive. 
The sense of security has been weakened. At the same time the 
glamour of adventure has diminished and the chances of advance- 
ment have been normalised by the absurd bureaucratic system of 
promotion by seniority. The pioneer days are ended, and to many, 
including myself, the loss in attractiveness of life in Malaya is 
immeasurable. 

But in fairness to the present-day colonial servant I must point 
out that his work is infinitely harder and more complicated than 
that of the colonial servant of a generation ago. He deals as a 
matter of daily routine with countless problems of modern civi- 
lisation, any one of which would have puzzled his more virile 
but mentally less well-equipped predecessors. 

He is, too, enormously handicapped by official restrictions on 
his liberty of action. This was not the case in the early days of 
Malaya's development. In Singapore Harbour there is an island 
called Pulau Brani. On it stands the huge tin smelting plant of 
the Straits Trading Company, a British-owned concern started in 
1883 by a Scot and a German! To-day it and its rival, the Eastern 
Smelting Company, smelt all the tin ore mined in Malaya and 
sold in the open market as well as ore from Siam and other pro- 
ducing countries. But in 1903 an astute American company nearly 
succeeded in cornering this huge business for the United States. 
At that time the Americans were doing a rather unprofitable ship- 
ping business with the Philippines, which they had acquired after 
the Spanish-American War. Their ships came from the States with 
passengers and freight and had to return empty to their home port. 

It was then that the American group conceived the idea of 
buying the Malayan tin ore, carrying it back in empty ships to San 
Francisco and smelting it there. Their object was to obtain control 
of Malayan tin by paying high prices for the ore. When the 
control was assured and competitive buying and smelting killed, 
they could then buy the ore at their own price and put a high duty 
on all block tin imported into the United States. 

They went to work quickly and had spent ^30,000 on the 
erection of a smelting works in the Ujnited States before the British 
tin industry in Malaya realised what was happening. 

92 



The consternation among the British was great. The plantation 
rubber industry was then in its babyhood, and the capture of the 
whole tin production of Malaya by the United States would have 
been a crippling blow to the country's fortunes. In its distress the 
British commercial community appealed to the Governor, Sir 
Frank Swettenham. 

That brilliant colonial administrator took immediate action. 
He met and squashed the attack by imposing an ad valorem duty 
of 35 per cent, on all tin ore exported from the F.M.S. with a 
rebate of the duty on all ore smelted in the Straits Settlements 
and sold in the open market. 

Sir Frank informed the Colonial Office of his action, but did 
not consult it beforehand. He was promptly hauled over the 
coals. But, fortunately, Joseph Chamberlain was then Colonial 
Secretary, and when he received Sir Frank's letter of explanation 
he gave his full approval to the duty. It remains in force to this 
day. 

Pulau Brani means the Island of the Brave. The epithet is a 
happy one. The British company which has its chief smelting 
plant on the island owes its prosperity to a Governor who was 
resolute enough to take his own line of action. 

There are many people who say to-day that just as Joseph 
Chamberlain was the last great Colonial Secretary, so Sir Frank 
Swettenham was the last great Colonial Governor. But I think 
that this splendid pro-Consul would be the first to admit that 
in his day the machinery of Whitehall moved with a slowness 
which was not without certain compensations to the local Gov- 
ernor. To-day, the speeding-up of communications by air and by 
wireless has enabled Whitehall to spread its tentacles over the 
local administration in almost every corner of our Colonial Empire. 
Ministers, too, descend out of the sky by air-plane, spend a feverish 
week in touring the country, and return home with a little dan- 
gerous learning, and even if he be blessed with the rare qualities 
of a Swettenham the local Governor is, like most British Ambas- 
sadors, little more than a human post-box for receiving the in- 
structions of the Home Government. 

' The system has serious defects. It puts a premium on the pro- 
motion of yes-men and destroys initiative. The defects are mag- 
nified in the case of the British Colonial Office, which, for some 

93 



strange reason known only to the sacred circle of Cabinet Minis- 
ters, has been a neglected department. When in the Cabinet recon- 
struction after the general election in November, 1935, Mr. J. H. 
Thomas was transferred from the Dominions Office to the Colonial 
Office, he spoke of "going into retirement." The remark was made 
jocularly in an after-dinner speech, but it reflects accurately enough 
the present standing of the Colonial Office in the eyes of ambitious 
Ministers. The fact remains that since the war there has not been 
a British Secretary of State for the Colonies of any outstanding 
ability. 

The canker in the body politic of all empires is want of spirit 
and lack of direction of intention. The decline of the Roman 
Empire began when the civil servants of Rome started to suppress 
every symptom of energy, initiative and enterprise shown by the 
local administrators. The modern bureaucratic methods of White- 
hall and the inability of the Home Government to select the right 
man and to leave well alone may have the same disastrous effects 
on the future of the British Colonial Empire. To-day, the local 
British residents in Malaya look for many qualities in a new 
British Governor, but the supreme test by which they measure his 
abilities is: how far will he stand up to the Colonial Office? 

In the circumstances it is perhaps unfair to draw a comparison 
between the pre-war and post-war Governors of Singapore. But 
most residents, I think, would agree that Singapore has not been 
altogether fortunate in her post-war Governors. Some of the ap- 
pointments were in the nature of the square peg in the round hole. 
One, which should have been the most successful, was frustrated 
by the intervention of a cruel fate. Sir Hugh Clifford, who was 
appointed in 1927, was, with his brilliant administrative record and 
his unrivalled knowledge of Malaya, the obvious man for the post. 
Soon after his arrival he began to show signs of the breakdown 
in health which ever since has kept him a secluded invalid. 

The restrictive disabilities from which a modern Governor 
suffers extend also in a minor degree to all the members of the 
colonial service. But, as far as Malaya is concerned, and in spite 
of all my romantic interest in the past, I noticed no decline in the 
mental equipment of the average British civil servant. His achieve- 
ment stands there for the eyes of every passing tourist to see 
in a land, which, if no longer flowing with such a prosperous 

94 



"spate" of tin and rubber, has reached a standard of civilisation, 
comfort, racial tolerance and happiness which has not its like 
in any other colony in the world. 

Much of this development has taken place since the war. 
To-day the civil service is much nearer to problems which twenty- 
five years ago were only vaguely dreamt of problems connected 
with the huge strides made by the Oriental in education, with 
the maintenance or removal of the colour ban, and with the menace 
of conquest from outside and even of native nationalist ambitions 
from within. Although the tendency is to stifle individuality by 
routine, the general standard of ability in both the administrative 
and the professional services is of a very high order. 

The one menace to the continued efficiency of the service comes 
not from the civil servants in the East, but from the young men 
at home who, in recent years at any rate, have shown an ominous 
reluctance to go abroad, preferring any profession that will keep 
them in England to a life which, however attractive it may sound, 
means more or less permanent exile. 

Here again I believe that sex psychology is pardy to blame. 
With the emancipation of girls young men to-day form attach- 
ments with young women of their own class at a far earlier age 
in life than they used to do. It is, I think, these premature attach- 
ments which keep young men at home and which make them 
cling to the towns and centres of Western civilisation, when they 
do come East, in preference to the up-country life. In my time 
every healthy young man preferred the "ulu" to the town, not 
merely because he found the life more attractive in itself, but also 
because it offered greater chances for promotion. 

It is also my opinion that the civil servant in Malaya works 
harder to-day than he did in my time. And this, I think, is true 
of the planter, the miner and the merchant. The passing tourist 
may find little attraction in the life of the British community. 
He may detect even signs of a certain lack of virility in the ease 
and luxury of a mode of living which to him may seem to invite 
comparison with that of the Romans in the later period of the 
Empire. But his conclusions are almost certain to be wrong, for 
the truth is that the British resident in Malaya is suspicious of the 
unknown stranger in his midst and resents immature criticisms 
formed after a motor-drive from Penang to Singapore between 

95 



steamers. He wants to live his life his own way, and on the whole 
he makes a good job of it. 

He is not a highbrow. There is in Malaya no prize for colonial 
literature as there is in the French colonies, and, although both 
Sir Frank Swettenham and Sir Hugh Clifford have a number of 
books to their credit, no British resident in Malaya has yet pro- 
duced a work of outstanding merit. How vividly I still remember 
the romantic enthusiasm which I brought to my first reading of 
Sir Hugh Clifford's In Court and Kampong and The Further 
Side of Silence. Alas! their glamour has now gone beyond hope 
of recapture, and the accurate portrayal of local colour is no com- 
pensation for the stilted artificiality of the language in which Sir 
Hugh makes his Malays talk. To-day I should divide the first 
prize for literary merit between Sir Frank Swettenham's The Real 
Malay and Sir George Maxwell's In Malay Forests, But the fact 
remains that the best literary interpretations of the Malayan East 
arc the works of a French planter called Fauconnicr and of Joseph 
Conrad, a Pole, whose knowledge of the Archipelago was limited 
mainly to the ports which he visited as a ship's mate and captain. 

I have not forgotten Mr. Somerset Maugham. That greatest 
living English man-of-letters has also written several books with 
a Malayan background. But he cannot be called a local resident, 
and through most of his stories runs the theme of the deteriorating 
effect of a moist tropical climate on the life of the white man and 
white woman in the East. No British resident can deny either 
the accuracy or the brilliance with which Mr, Maugham has de- 
scribed certain exceptional aspects o European life in the East. 
But no one will agree that these aspects are in any way a true 
reflection of British life in Malaya as a whole. 

The British resident reads Mr, Maugham because there is no 
other writer who commands his interest in the same manner or 
who jogs his complacency so usefully. But he has never quite 
forgiven him. Other British writers who have passed through his 
country he has frankly disliked. He has, in fact> all the English- 
man's mistrust of brilliancy, and like most Englishmen at home 
he sets a higher store on physical fitness than on intellectualism. 
And, in spite of certain changes in his attitude towards life, his 
physical fitness is even more in evidence than it was in my day. 

There is certainly nothing effeminate about the vigour with 

96 



which the inter-state "rugger" matches for the Malaya Cup are 
fought out every year, and there is surely no race in the world 
except the British who would make rugby football their favourite 
game in a country only a degree or two removed from the Equator. 
Nor is there any lack of virility about the young men who spend 
their spare time in manoeuvring tanks and learning to fly in the 
heat of a tropical sun. 

It is true that many changes have taken place in the life of 
the British community since 1910- In my day everybody knew 
everybody, and there were few men who had not received a public 
school education. The large increase in the numbers of the white 
population has altered this happy state of affairs, and the advent 
of motor-cars has destroyed that privacy and solitude which to my 
mind was the great charm of the old life of Malaya. To-day, there 
is a new bridle of social discipline which forces a man to do as his 
neighbours do, and, except in the outlying unfederated states, the 
day is nearly past when a white man can live his own life as he 
wants to without paying the consequences for his flouting of British 
social conventions. 

There is, too, among the British a division of classes which was 
unknown in my time, and which has been sharpened by the large 
increase in the number of white women. It is a replica of the same 
social life that exists in Britain, but in the East it is a disturbing 
and undesirable feature. Indeed, the presence of a white woman in 
the tropical East sets a problem for which a satisfactory solution has 
yet to be found. 

The disadvantages are obvious: an enervating climate, a multi- 
plicity of servants to attend to her wants, and nothing to do all 
day except to seek amusement. As far as the amusements are 
concerned, she plays golf and tennis with the men, but in other 
cases she sets the course of pleasure. Dancing, a rare form of amuse- 
ment in my time, is now a weekly or daily part of the social life 
of the British community, and even up-country it is a common- 
place event for a young planter to motor fifty miles to the nearest 
town to provide a partner for the wife of some official or business 
man who prefers his bridge and his "stengah" to the gyrations of 
a one-step. 

There are some women whose lives are little else than one long 
round of pleasure-seeking from their morning bridge to the moon- 

97 



light drive at night with their young admirers of the moment. 
There are, I admit, many others whose activities arc both healthy 
and useful, and who add definite aesthetic and intellectual values 
to the life of the white community. In particular, I should like to 
pay a tribute to the beautiful gardens with which they have sur- 
rounded most European houses and bungalows, for there are few 
British women in Malaya who have not the national love of gar- 
dening and who have not translated it into practical results which 
gladden both the eye and the soul. But in spite of the accessibility 
of hill stations and the improvement in health conditions, I doubt 
if the white woman will ever be suited to long residence in a 
tropical country like Malaya, and I cannot resist the contention 
that her presence in such large numbers is responsible, at least to 
some extent, for the decline in the white man's prestige. 

I should not like to give the impression that I am comparing 
the present unfavourably with the past. Such is neither my inten- 
tion nor my belief. Indeed, I should estimate that to-day the per- 
centage of expatriated officials, miners and planters living on drink, 
tobacco and their nerves and blaming their subsequent ill-health 
on the climate, is lower than it was twenty-five years ago. The 
general atmosphere is still refreshingly invigorating if sometimes 
unnecessarily noisy, and there is still a good deal of the public 
school and Empire spirit about it. Since my time the old school 
tie has added many new stripes and some queer spots to it. There 
are few Etonians, but there are still a host of those Haileybury, 
Cheltenham and Marlborough boys who, as Kipling maintains in 
Stalky & Co., are the most successful bearers of the white man's 
burden in the East. 

The public school system has certain drawbacks, and a time 
may come when the advance of the Oriental towards political 
maturity will demand new methods and a new type of English 
product. Nor can I deny that the white man's rule in the East 
has at times been cruel and harsh, with gain as its chief motive. 
But I know of no other country which has devised a better system. 
The proof of the whole matter is to be found in the sometimes 
grudging but generally flattering admiration of statesmen of other 
nations. This admiration is neatly summarised in the following 
story which is taken from the unpublished correspondence of M. 



Jules Cambon, the great French ambassador, and which through 
the kindness of one of his relatives I am able to reveal. 

In 1908, during one of the difficult moments of the Moroccan 
crisis, Cambon, then French Ambassador in Berlin, was asked by 
his Government to make representations to Prince Billow, the 
German Chancellor, regarding the aggressiveness of Germany's 
attitude. Biilow, a great courtier and a greater cynic, diverted die 
dispute into a safe channel. 

"My dear ambassador," he said, "why all this fuss about 
Morocco? Let us be frank. You know very well that if we both 
were condemned to spend the rest of our lives in a colony, you 
wouldn't live in a German one and I certainly shouldn't live in a 
French one. We'd both choose an English one." 



99 



CHAPTER FOUR 

A VISITOR with friends among the local British residents 
could spend a very pleasant month in Singapore. At the end 
of it he might be exhausted, but he would not be bored, for the 
amenities of life are amazingly varied. Sport is the mainspring of 
the social life of the city, for with an illogicality that is typically 
British the same Singapore Englishman who will hardly deign 
even to undress without the aid of a Chinese servant will spend 
his afternoons in beating or kicking some kind of ball with a 
vigour which seems to defy both the climate and common sense. 

To-day the hall-mark of British civilisation in the East is a bag 
of golf clubs, and in Singapore the modern caddy is a slip of 
brown or yellow humanity, sometimes male, sometimes female, 
but as keenly appreciative and occasionally as contemptuous as a 
St. Andrews' caddy of the white man's standard of play. The island 
has half-a-dozen golf-clubs, and in Bukit Timah a course which, 
both in the quality of its turf and in its test of golf, has no superior 
in the East, There are also facilities, extensively used every day, for 
tennis, cricket, polo, "rugger," "soccer," yachting, rowing, and 
private flying, and since my time there has been a boom in bath- 
ing* Indeed, on a Sunday the scene at the Singapore Swimming 
Club pool, fenced off from the sea and said to be the largest in 
the world, is an unforgettable sight. The costumes of the women 
lose nothing by comparison with those of Paris Plage and Deau- 
ville, and iced-beer softens the rigours of sun-bathing, At night, 
apart from dancing, the social round has few attractions, and the 
visitor is likely to find time hang heavily on his hands. Amateur 
theatricals are amateur theatricals all the world over: a trial and 
an infliction unless one is taking part in them or has a personal 
interest in one of the performers. There is, too, more discomfort 
than pleasure in the official dinner parties at which on gala occa- 
sions at any rate a boiled shirt and a tail-coat are obligatory. 

100 



In this connection my admiration goes out to the present King 
of the Belgians, who during his trip to the East some years ago 
was invited to dinner at Government House. Suffering consider- 
ably from the heat of Singapore and learning rather late in the 
afternoon that he was expected to put on what is, in effect, the 
hottest rig in the world, he refused point-blank. The local Belgian 
Consul had to explain the situation as best he could to the Gov- 
ernment House staff, and almost up to the last minute an un- 
fortunate secretary had to keep his mouth glued to the telephone 
in order to warn the other guests that on this occasion they might 
appear, by the Prince's grace, in a soft shirt and a white dinner 
jacket. 

Singapore, however, is a Chinese city, and I had not travelled 
seven thousand miles in order to see my compatriots preparing 
themselves for an Eastern Waterloo or Trafalgar on the playing 
fields of Singapore. I arranged my programme so as to have as 
much time as possible to myself; for sight-seeing, like shopping, is 
best done alone. Moreover, a long experience of foreign countries 
has taught me that there is more lore and more atmosphere in 
shop-signs and in the streets than in a thousand guide-books. 

Finding a sympathetic Malay chauffeur, I engaged him more or 
less permanently and used his car in my spare hours both by day 
and by night. I would rise early in the morning and go out to 
watch the native population preparing for its day's work: Chinese 
and Japanese shopkeepers waiting passively for custom behind the 
counters of their windowless shops, fat Bombay "Chetties" with 
Japanned boxes full of notes ready for the day's moneylending, 
lean and hungry Arab capitalists plying the same trade, French 
and Portuguese priests in black alpaca robes, and, later, a whole 
army of Eurasians, Chinese and Malays, dressed in white drill coat 
and trousers, the former regulation kit of the European, and hurry- 
ing on "push-bikes" to their daily task at the Government offices, 
the schools, the hospitals, and the other middle-class institutions of 
Singapore. Mosquito buses, Chinese-owned and with their destina- 
tions marked in half-a-dozen languages, commercial vans, also 
Chinese-owned and illustrated with a tiger's head or some other 
equally vivid advertisement sign, ply through the streets with a 
reckless energy. And all this human and mechanical traffic is con- 
trolled and shepherded by a combined force of tall, bearded Sikhs 

101 



and Pathans, and tubby, square-shouldered Malays with the quiet 
efficiency and white armlets which are the hall-marks of the police 
of London. 

The scene is fascinating in its animation, but it has changed 
considerably since my time. The shops in North Bridge Road 
have still the same attraction of cheapness and of Oriental bar- 
gaining for the European visitor. The quality of the goods, in 
fact, has improved. Silk shirts of excellent texture can be bought 
for a quarter of the price which they would fetch in London or 
New York, and, provided that you can leave a European model, 
Chinese and Japanese tailors can turn you out a Palm Beach suit, 
excellently cut and sewn at a trifling cost, in twenty-four hours. 
Chinese silk pyjamas with trousers wide enough for an elephant 
are another good investment and, incidentally, have replaced the 
old Malay sarong and baju as the favourite sleeping costume of the 
local European. And in the Japanese shops, by some strange per- 
version of economic law, you can buy such European goods as, 
for instance, a Leica camera at a lower price than in their country 
of origin. The Japanese are few in number and have increased 
very little since my time, the actual figures being 1400 in 19x1 and 
3215 in 1931. But they are very active commercially. Their goods 
fill the Chinese shops as well as their own. They sell anything from 
a cheap fountain pen to the finest flower-seeds in the world, and 
their fishing fleets have pushed the noses of their barks into every 
bay of the Malay Archipelago* 

But with the Westernisation of the East much of the local 
colour and much of the old glamour have departed, Gone is the 
pig-tail and with it the picturesque robes of the old Chinese tow- 
kays. Gone, too, is the former seclusion of the better-class Chinese 
women, and to-day Chinese girls, some bespectacled, some pass- 
ingly beautiful, but all serious, all with bobbed and permanendy 
waved hair in place of the former glossy straightness, and all 
dressed in semi-European fashion, walk vigorously through the 
streets on their way to their studies or to their games. 

Indeed, with the general adoption of European dress by the 
Oriental middle-classes it is extraordinarily difficult even for a 
European resident of long standing to recognise at once the 
nationality of a Malay, a Chinese, or a Japanese. For Singapore has 
now a large middle-class* It is the product of a city which is 

102 



exceptionally rich in educational institutions and which possesses 
its own university, its technical colleges, and its medical school. 
These institutions have turned out scores of young Chinese, Malays, 
Indians, and Eurasians, all trained on the traditional British edu- 
cational lines of work and games. The young men and women 
have the same passionate urge for education which characterises 
the peasant youth of new countries like Jugoslavia and Czecho- 
slovakia and the new proletarian intelligentsia of Soviet Russia, 
and already they present a problem which is certain to become 
even more serious in the future. To-day the supply of candidates 
for jobs is far in excess of the demand, and when the various 
government services and the business houses can no longer absorb 
them, these educated Orientals may find an outlet for their dis- 
content in political agitation. They will be far more dangerous 
than the present uneducated communist agitators who try to spread 
the gospel of Moscow among the coolie class. 

No former resident, returning to Singapore after an absence 
of many years, can fail to be struck with the numbers of cinemas 
which now obtrude themselves in every thoroughfare of the city. 
They are of all kinds and for all classes. But they have one common 
characteristic: the glaring blatancy of their advertising. Above the 
entrance there is a huge hoarding which, apart from its text matter 
printed in English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil, generally carries 
some flaming picture of Hollywood's latest "flicker" favourite 
either dressed in the flimsiest of underclothes or clutched in a 
fierce embrace with the wrong man. 

There is a board of film censors in Singapore. It is severe on 
films in which revolutionary scenes are depicted. It banned the 
film of my book British Agent. Let me hasten to add that I have 
no grievance about its action. But it does tolerate sex-appeal, both 
in the film itself and in advertisements cruder than the actual pic- 
ture, in a form which I cannot help thinking is detrimental to 
the white man's prestige in a country where, however incredible 
it may seem to Europeans and Americans, the Oriental's respect 
for the white man's woman decreases in inverse proportion to the 
amount of her body which she exposes. When he sees the alluring 
semi-nudity of a film houri duplicated in the strangely scant attire 
of fashionable tourists passing through Singapore, he can scarcely 

103 



be blamed i he concludes that the white man is not the man 
he was. 

In Malaya bananas grow like weeds. Now that the arboricultu- 
ral experts have discovered that the fig-leaves with which Adam 
and Eve clothed themselves in the Garden of Eden were in reality 
full-sized banana leaves I feel that the censors might appropri- 
ately enforce the banana standard on the Singapore cinemas. 

But perhaps the greatest change in Malayan life is the emer- 
gence of the modern Chinese capitalist and industrialist. Singapore 
has always been famed for its rich towkays. But the towkay of 
to-day is a very different being from the courteous, pig-tailed gen- 
tleman of two generations back. Externally, at least, he is Western- 
ised from the soles of his brown shoes to his tie and collar, and 
in the evening he can wear his boiled shirt and dress-coat with the 
best European. More often than not he wears horn-rimmed glasses. 
If he is the son of a rich father, he is almost certain to be a uni- 
versity graduate and perhaps a bencher of one of London's inns 
of court. If he is self-made and among the Singapore towkays 
there are still amazing examples of men who began life as an 
ordinary coolie and became dollar millionaires--he soon acquires 
the outward attributes of his better-educated compatriots. But in 
both cases he is a fully-equipped industrialist with the money- 
sense of a Jew, the gambling instincts of a South African Rand 
magnate, the modern methods of a Bat'a or a Ford, and the tire- 
less, persevering energy of an old-time Glasgow Scot. He runs 
banks and newspapers. He has the stock exchange quotations of, 
the world's bourses at his finger-tips. He is an authority on com- 
modity prices. He owns rubber estates and tin mines. His factories 
turn out boots, cheap clothing, food stuffs, including canned pine- 
apples, building materials, medicines, soaps, toys and articles made 
from rubber, and by the latest methods of modern salesmanship 
he contrives to export his goods to nearly every country in the 
world. 

Outside of his business hours he plays a considerable part in 
the social life of Singapore, owns houses, takes his wife to the 
races, and plays golf. He is air-minded, and on the first flight of 
Imperial Airways from Pcnang to Hong-Kong the only passenger 
was a Singapore Chinese called Ong Ee Lim. He is, too, a patri- 
otic citizen and a keen Rotarian, is grateful to the British raj which 

104 



protects him, and gives valuable service both to the Government 
Legislative Council and to the various municipal boards of which 
he may be a member. Above all, he is a generous giver to local 
institutions, and like American millionaires is fond of endowing 
hospitals, colleges and other educational institutions. 

He is expatriated, and in some cases is afraid to return to China 
in her present state. But, although he feels himself at home in the 
Straits Settlements and is proud of what he has done for Singa- 
pore, it would be a mistake to imagine that he has forgotten his 
homeland. One day some Straits-born Chinese may rise with the 
same ambition as the Austrian-born Hitler to raise his fatherland 
from the depths of defeat and revolution. Already some of his 
profits go to help his struggling country, and there is more than 
one university, including Amoy, in China that has been founded 
with Chinese money from Singapore. His services to Malaya have 
not been forgotten by the British Government, and one of King 
George's last acts before his death was to confer the first knight- 
hood ever given to a Singapore Chinese on the person of Sir 
Song Ong Siang, a dignified lawyer, who has devoted the best 
years of his life to municipal work and to volunteer soldiering in 
Singapore. 

The modern Singapore towkay lives on a scale commensurate 
with his wealth. His house is a compromise between the traditions 
of Chinese architecture and the exigencies of modern European 
comfort. On occasions he likes to entertain his British friends, and 
the entertainment is both lavish and European, with a dancing 
floor specially laid down for the evening and tables on a terrace 
planted with orchids. Indeed, the only strikingly Oriental thing 
about his house is the Chinese lettering which one still sees on 
the gates of some houses. More often than not it conveys, to the 
Chinese at all events, the information that the house belongs to 
Koo Foh Soon, and that the owner is rich, honest and virtuous. 
Incidentally, these Chinese signs are a pitfall for Europeans. 
When that former pioneer rubber planter, Colonel "Teddie" 
Bryce, who won the rare distinction of a D.S.O. with two bars 
during the Great War, was in Johore, the Chinese painted a sign 
in Chinese on the outside wall of his servants' quarters. It stood 
there for months before "Teddie" bothered to ask what it meant. 
When he did, he was told that the literal translation was: "The 

105 



owner of this house is an Englishman called Brycc, He has a good 
heart, but a very bad temper." To-day Hylam servants have other 
means of informing each other of the merits or demerits of their 
white employers. 

British diplomacy, too, has a story rich in its value as an illus- 
tration of the dangers of acquiring beautiful objects decorated with 
Chinese symbols of whose meaning the purchaser is ignorant. Al- 
though it has, doubtless, been embroidered in the telling, this 
story is true, and has its setting in Peking in the days of the 
Chinese Empire. At that time the brightest star in the diplomatic 
firmament of the Chinese capital was the wife of a British sec- 
retary. She was a daughter of an ancient and aristocratic family, 
and a beautiful and high-spirited woman whose independence of 
action was sometimes a little trying to a Minister who had risen 
to his exalted position from the ranks of the Consular Service. 
Above all she was artistic, with a passionate interest in the treasures 
of Chinese art. It was her artistic sense that led her astray. One 
day she returned to her house in raptures over a new purchase. 
It took the form of a beautifully lacquered rickisha. It had a Chi- 
nese "puller" with the torso of a Greek athlete. But its chief glory 
was two lanterns, borne by two picturesquely-dressed bearers and 
decorated on the one side with an idyllic moonlit scene featuring 
a pagoda, a bridge, a river and a garden, and on the other side 
with exquisitely painted Chinese symbols* This brilliant turn-out 
was not bought as a museum-piece. It was intended to add lustre 
to the glories of British diplomacy, and in order to give greater 
effect to the lanterns and the lantern-bearers it was used mostly 
at night. And the arrival of its owner reclining gracefully on a 
background of red lacquer and preceded by her lantern-bearers 
was, indeed, an impressive sight well calculated to drive the iron 
of envy into the heart of every other diplomat's wife in Peking. 

The last person to see it was the British Minister, a sound 
Chinese scholar, who encountered it one evening as he was enter- 
ing the compound of the French Legation. The next morning he 
sent for his Oriental Secretary, then Mr. Barton and now Sir 
Sydney Barton, who was British Minister to Abyssinia during the 
recent Italo-Abyssinian war. "Barton," said the Minister, "have 
you seen Lady X's rickisha?" The Oriental Secretary nodded. The 
Minister hesitated, debating the difficulties of an intervention which 

106 



should properly have been undertaken by himself. "Well," he con- 
tinued, "I think you'd better go and see her and explain things " 
Soon the Oriental Secretary was facing his colleague's wife 
fortified behind a tea-table. 

"I'm sorry," he said, "but His Excellency thinks that you ought 
to give up using your rickisha." 

The secretary's wife sat up. She foresaw a social battle, and was 
at her most formidable best in such encounters. 

"I do not see what my rickisha has to do with the Minister. 
Surely I can use any kind of vehicle I like?" 

"Yes, I agree," said the Oriental Secretary with diplomatic 
suavity, "but it's not a question of a rickisha or a carriage, but of 
the kind of rickisha. Yours is not at all suitable for the wife of 
a diplomatist." 

"That again is my business and not the Minister's. As long as 
I behave myself, I do not see what right he has to dictate to me 
in a personal matter like this." 

"But there's the lettering on those lanterns. Do you know what 
it means?" 

"No, and I don't care. But you can tell me if you wish." 
"Well," said the Oriental Secretary, "the lettering on the one 
lantern means 1 belong to the First Class Order of Prostitutes,' 
and on the other 'My Price is Five Yen.' " 

Thirty years ago similar lanterns could probably have been 
bought in Singapore, for in those days legalised or semi-legalised 
prostitution flourished throughout Malaya. Indeed, eighty years 
ago vice was so rampant that, rather than allow ship's crews on 
shore, foreign Consuls in Singapore and in other East Indian 
ports used to arrange for boatloads of inspected prostitutes to be 
sent on board for the duration of the sailors' stay in port. Even 
in my time Singapore deserved a certain reputation for vice. The 
vice itself was never at any time so lurid or so glamorous as it is 
still painted by certain travellers and by the scenario writers of 
Hollywood. The reputation may die slowly, but now it is cer- 
tainly not deserved. Here, too, change has worked a minor miracle. 
Singapore was the first city in which I had ever seen at first- 
hand the sale and purchase of vice, and the temptation to revisit 
what had then seemed the street of adventure was irresistible. 
Accordingly, just after sunset on the evening of my third day I 

107 



ordered my chauffeur to drive me to Malay Street and Malabar 
Street, where formerly the white wrecks of European womanhood 
and young Japanese girls, silent, immobile and passionless, traded 
their bodies for the silver dollars of Malaya. As I drove down the 
beach front, the lights began to appear on the ships in the harbour 
like so many little lives which would vanish in the morning, for 
Death is still an early caller in these tropical parts. There was 
the faintest of cooling airs from the sea. By the time I reached 
Malay Street it was already dark. 

I had chosen this hour intentionally for my attempted recapture 
o the spirit of a past which had eluded me ever since my arrival. 
Recognition returned with a momentary thrill, as I made my way 
into the district inhabited by the poorest Chinese, Somewhere in 
these narrow streets were houses where secret societies still held 
their meetings and where another set of laws and moral codes held 
sway. Somewhere in this teeming ant-heap of yellow humanity 
were the political agitators and the gang-robbers whose raids and 
hold-ups from time to time stirred a complacent European com- 
munity to demand an increased vigilance from a police force 
which is both efficient and remarkably well-informed. But the 
illusion was only temporary. Malay Street itself brought me face 
to face with the new Singapore. Gone was Madame Blanche with 
her collection of Hungarians, Poles and Russian Jewesses the frail 
army of white women recruited by the professional pimps from 
the poorest population of Central and Eastern Europe, and drifting 
farther East as their charms declined, via Bucharest, Athens and 
Cairo, until they reached the ultima Thute of their profession in 
Singapore. 

There had been no English girls among them. On political 
grounds the British administration has always maintained a ban 
on the British prostitute. But here in the past ship's officers of every 
nationality, and globe-trotters, travellers, miners and planters from 
up-country wasted their money on an orgy to which drink and 
noise and occasional brawling supplied a discordant orchestra. 
Sometimes, a Malay princeling or Chinese towkay would make his 
way discreetly to this sordid temple in order to satisfy an exotic 
and perhaps politically perverted desire for the embraces of the 
forbidden white women. 

Gone, too, were the long rows of Japanese brothels with their 

108 



lower windows shuttered with bamboo poles behind which sat the 
waiting odalisques, discreetly visible, magnificent in elaborate head- 
dress and brightly coloured kimonos, heavily painted and pow- 
dered, essentially doll-like and yet not without a certain charm 
which in romantic youths like myself inspired a feeling more of 
pity than of desire. In those days the trade in Japanese women all 
over the Malay Archipelago was on the same kind of hire-purchase 
system as the trade in gramophones or motor-cars is to-day. Japa- 
nese contractors travelled the poorer country districts of Japan, 
picked out families where money was scarce and young daughters 
too numerous, and made an offer to the father. If the father ac- 
cepted, he signed a contract and received a lump-sum down from 
the slave dealer. The purchase price, supplemented by a further 
sum for outfit and travel fees, was marked down as an advance 
against the girl. When she had worked it off, she was free to 
regain her liberty. Till then she was to all intents a slave, and, 
more often than not, unless some European planter bought her out 
in order to minister to his loneliness, her thraldom lasted for the 
rest of her earthly existence. 

In those days this traffic in human souls had roused in me 
feelings of resentment both against the Japanese and against the 
existing social order. I had seen the system working in various 
parts of Malaya. I had known several of these Okomasans and 
Omitsans. With other youths as irresponsible as myself I had taken 
part in jollifications after football matches jollifications which 
generally ended with a visit "down the street" and much drinking 
of Japanese beer and the singing of ribald songs like "Potiphar's 
wife" and "She was poor, but she was honest." The Japanese dolls 
had laughed and clapped their hands, while the fat mistress of the 
house raked in our dollars, gauging her charges by the state of 
our hilarity and occasionally beseeching the more sober of us to 
make less noise. I had picked up a few words of Japanese and a 
verse or two of Japanese poetry, and had learnt to twang a three- 
chord accompaniment on the samisen. But in my moods of reflec- 
tion I had been disgusted by this cruel and senseless wastage of 
human life, and in the first short stories which I ever wrote one 
of these young Japanese slaves always figured as the sympathetic 
and self-sacrificing heroine. The stories have never been and never 
will be seen in print, but they were based on facts. There was one 

109 



up-country gold mine which then employed several thousand Chi- 
nese coolies. Two Japanese brothels served the needs of these primi- 
tive proletarians, whose sole education consisted in a knowledge 
that money was hard to come by and in a determination to extract 
the fullest value from what they spent. The mine-manager had 
told me that the girls had to be changed on an average of once in 
every three months. 

To-day all this tolerated sordidness has vanished. The Japanese 
Government has stopped the sale of Japanese girls abroad. League 
of Nations vigilance has done the rest, and throughout Malaya the 
licensed brothel has been stamped out, the white prostitute has 
been repatriated, and the semi-professional amateurs who under 
various guises strive to ply an independent trade are quickly moved 
on to other countries and to other ports where League of Nations 
resolutions are not observed with the same nicety. 

That drive through Malay Street will remain in my memory 
for longer than the previous visits of my youth. Then one had 
been drunk and in the company of others* And together we had 
taken possession of the place. Or else one had driven down the 
street furtively, with the hood of the rickisha up, afraid lest any 
pair of eyes behind the shuttered windows were witnesses to the 
white man's secret shame and not daring to emerge until one had 
ascertained if Rose or Madeline or Wanda were free. 

Then there had been discreet and obsequious touts at the doors 
to show the way and to carry messages. Now I felt no sense of 
self-consciousness because the feeling of shame was absent. The 
street was the same street The houses, too, looked old, and must 
have been the same houses that I had known a quarter-of-a-century 
before, But they had been reconstructed. The ground floor was now 
a row of open booths, where small shopkeepers plied their trade. 
The Europeans and the Japanese had vanished* Like an army of 
ants the Chinese had taken possession of the district, removing all 
vestiges of its former occupants* In one booth a whole family of 
husband, wife, sons and daughters, were ironing the day's washing. 
In another an old man, consumptive-looking and almost hairless, 
was working an antiquated model of a sewing machine. Around 
him, squatting Buddha-wise on the floor, were half-a-dozen assist- 
ants patiently sewing buttons on to khaki suits. 

It was a peaceful and infinitely remote scene. Although at my 

no 



request we moved at rather less than walking pace, no one 
stared at the white intruder. There was no reason to stare. These 
shops had nothing to sell to a European, Their owners had no 
possible interest in me. I was merely one of these mad-dogs of 
tourists who poked about in the humdrum quarters of hard- 
working Chinese, and who thought they were finding the glamour 
of romance. 

"Which was Madame Blanche's house?" I asked my chauffeur. 
His eyes looked vacantly at the row of sordid buildings. He jumped 
out of the car and went over to the tailor. The old man looked 
up from his machine and listened gravely for a moment. Then, 
shaking his head, he resumed his sewing. 

At a loss to understand why I should spend good money on 
driving slowly up and down Malay Street and Malabar Street, the 
chauffeur took the initiative. "The Tuan wants a woman?" he 
said. "There are none here. I know a house in Bencoolen Street." 

I shook my head. "I am looking for the past," I said, and I 
made a reference to "zaman dahulu" (the times that are gone) 
which figures frequently in Malay pantuns, I think he understood, 
for he replied: "Singapore very big city now. New houses every 
day, and the past is soon buried." 

Before going back to Raffles I told him to drive me out by the 
Botanical Gardens and towards Bukit Timah. The cloying smell 
of the narrow Chinese streets was still in my nostrils, and fresh 
air had become a more urgent desire than passion in retrospect. 
As we turned down Orchard Road, we passed at intervals the 
shadowy figure of a Malay woman, her head covered by a sarong, 
her eyes and teeth flashing a greeting through the semi-light of 
the street lamps. "Perempuan jahat, Tuan," said the chauffeur 
contemptuously, "ta' guna busoh sekali." (Bad woman, Tuan. 
No good rotten with disease.") Their presence was a proof that 
in an erring world perfection is unattainable. 

As we drove through the cool night air leaving the light of the 
city far behind us, my thoughts were busy with this new aspect 
of a puritanised Singapore. How far did it represent progress? 
From conversations both at home and now in Singapore I knew 
that local doctors, forced by their profession to adopt a realist atti- 
tude towards morals, often expressed grave doubts regarding the 
wisdom of abolishing controlled vice. I am aware that their 

in 



apprehensions are shared by many naval and military officers, 
who are responsible for the hygienic welfare of several thousands 
of young British soldiers and sailors and airmen. 

It is a fact, little known but undeniable, that one of the chief 
technical objections against removing the British troops in Egypt 
from Cairo and Alexandria to the Suez Canal zone is the difficulty 
of maintaining discipline and contentment among large bodies 
of young men established in exotic surroundings and shut off from 
all intercourse with the other sex. In a semi-puritanised Singapore 
the problem is one of hygiene. 

These facts, proved by centuries of experience, must be stated, 
for they are frequently ignored by well-meaning reformers. Never- 
theless, even among old-timers there can be few who will seriously 
deny that in every respect except sanitation, for the old "stinks" 
remain, the new Singapore is a cleaner, healthier city than the 
Singapore of quarterof-a-century ago. 

The next day I lunched in the Singapore Club. Still under the 
impression of what I had seen on the previous evening, I was 
eager to check my own observations by the first-hand knowledge 
of local European residents. Experience has taught me that the 
best method which a traveller can employ in order to obtain local 
criticism is the use of indiscriminate praise. 

Before I went to Chicago a few years ago, I had been warned 
by an American friend that the Chicagoans were sensitive about 
gunmen and, more particularly, about the sensational stories of 
gangster rule which from time to time filled the front pages of 
the British popular press. In the company of a local crime expert 
I had made a tour of the worst quarters of the city. I had visited 
the garage, now a flower-shop, in which Mr. Capone's henchmen 
had mown down the gang of Mr. O'Banion. I had inspected 
Capone's headquarters in the Lexington Hotel. I had seen Mr. Wil- 
liam Collins, brother of the famous Irishman, Michael Collins, 
and then superintendent of the DCS Moines police force, inter- 
rogating some of Chicago's lowest down-and-outs. I had noticed 
nothing half so sordid as I could have witnessed by myself, at 
any hour of the day, in Glasgow or Birmingham. I had returned 
to my headquarters at the Drake Hotel convinced that Chicago was 
the most orderly city in the United States. As I stood in the hall 
saying goodbye to my guide, I said to him: "Well, I don't believe 
112 



you've ever had a gunman in Chicago. All these stories must be 
just a newspaper racket." 

His face fell in pained surprise. "Why, Mr. Lockhart, right 
here where you're standing now a bunch of gangsters held up the 
whole hall, shot down the head porter and a couple of cashiers, 
and walked off with all the cash in the hotel till in broad day- 
light, too, and only a year ago almost to a day." 

In the Singapore Club I used the same method. I told my 
hosts of my Singapore rambles. I told them how my illusions had 
been shattered. I described the dancing at Raffles and my descent 
into Malay Street. Where was all this Singapore vice so exotically 
portrayed in the books of post-war globe-trotters? Raffles had ap- 
peared to me to be more decorous and more middle-class than any 
Bournemouth hotel on a Sunday. As for vice I defied even an 
American journalist to land himself in trouble, let alone discover 
an exotic charmer, without the aid of a policeman or a tout. 

Once again my shaft found the mark. One of my friends, a 
man of erudition and high standing in the city's affairs, hit back 
immediately. "Ah," he said, "life in Malaya is not so innocent as 
it looks on the surface." And then came a story of an exalted 
Government official whose wife had been having an affair with a 
European business man. The speeding-up of life in the tropics is 
a double-edged weapon in these Eastern triangles. If the motor- 
car has facilitated illicit meetings, the telephone has strengthened 
the defences of the cuckold. In this story the husband official be- 
came suspicious. He enlisted the aid of his servants. They were 
to let him know by telephone whenever the lover came to the 
house. One day the husband went to an official luncheon, and in 
Malaya official luncheons are long and soporific affairs. It seemed 
an admirable opportunity for the lover to profit by the husband's 
absence, and he took it. A discreet telephone call brought the hus- 
band back from his luncheon. He hurried into the house, and 
the next thing seen was the business man retreating towards the 
road in his shirt and using his trousers as a shield against the 
niblick onslaught of the enraged official. 

Like other parts of this imperfect world Malaya has its adultery, 
both dignified and undignified. 



113 



CHAPTER FIVE 

Ty TY visit to Singapore jail will be one of the landmarks in my 
J^r JLmemories of my Eastern tour. As I had to meet the prison 
governor at the jail door at seven a,m., I rose early. My way led 
me by Sepoy Lines, where there is one of the queerest golf-courses 
in the world. It was made as a course for Government officials, 
and, although it should have been built over long ago, it is, of 
course, sacrosanct. 

In spite of the early hour several enthusiasts were already prac- 
tising iron shots with that grim seriousness which the Englishman 
reserves exclusively for his games. The course has only nine holes, 
but each hole has its distinctive landmark. These landmarks include 
two mortuaries, a maternity hospital, an infectious disease hospital, 
a lunatic asylum, a powder magazine, the prison itself, and a Chi- 
nese graveyard. In the case of the graveyard there is a serious 
breach of die rules which does not commend itself to those true 
golfers who stand or fall by the rigour of the game. In order to 
soothe Chinese susceptibilities niblick shots are not or used not 
to be permitted between the gravestones. 

Alongside the sixth tee there used to be a scaffold. It was on 
the golf course of Sepoy Lines that the battle against public exe- 
cutions was finally won. This is the story. Away back in the dim 
"nineties" Sir Charles Mitchell, the Governor of Singapore, was 
playing golf one morning with his aide. As he was playing off 
the sixth tee, there was a frightful noise of hammering. The gover- 
nor missed his drive. His eyes blazed. "What the blank hdl is 
that outrageous noise?" The aide explained that the scaffold was 
being strengthened for a public execution the next morning. The 
governor continued his round in silence, but his mind was busy 
with weighty affairs. That afternoon he took a momentous de- 
cision, and from then onwards public executions were stopped 
throughout the Colony. There has been only one since. That was 

114 



in 1915 when the ringleaders of the Singapore mutiny were shot 
outside the prison wall before thousands of native spectators. 

The British public has always been told that the Singapore 
mutiny was organised by local Germans. The story was one of the 
propaganda lies of the war. Actually, the mutiny, which was 
confined to an Indian regiment stationed on the island, was or- 
ganised entirely by agitators from India. The soldiers, who were 
about to be transferred to Hong-Kong, were told a mass of false- 
hoods, one of which was that they were to be taken out to sea 
and dropped overboard. For a few hours the situation was des- 
perately serious, and several European civilians as well as the 
white officers of the regiment, who were shot down in cold 
blood, lost their lives. Retribution came swiftly and severely. The 
executions were carried out in three batches. The first batch was 
shot by naval ratings, and the second by regular soldiers. The 
third batch was reserved for the local volunteers, most of whom 
had never fired a shot at anything except a target. They lost 
their nerve. There were many misses, and the unfortunate victims 
had to be finished off by the prison warders. 

As I made my way to the jail gate, I had time to reflect on 
the incongruous attitude of the English towards our Scottish game 
of golf. I thought of the golf course near Cairo where there is 
a green at the very base of Cheops' Pyramid. I shuddered to think 
what will happen when golf becomes really popular in Jerusalem. 

When I reached the jail I found Captain Bloxham, the gover- 
nor, waiting for me. Attended only by a warder and an interpreter, 
we set off on our tour of inspection. My previous prison experi- 
ences had been few. I had been shown over the French convict 
prison at Fontevrault, where some of the Plantagenet kings and 
queens of England lie buried. I had inspected the prison on the 
fle de R off Rochefort where Dreyfus was nearly mobbed by the 
crowd in 1896, and where unfortunate criminals spend their last 
night on French soil before being shipped to Devil's Island. During 
a fishing holiday on Dartmoor I had once attended mass at the 
grim Princetown prison, and had even had a cut in my head 
stitched by the prison doctor. And, of course, I had spent a week 
in the dreaded Loubianka in Moscow and three weeks in the 
Kremlin as the political prisoner of the Bolshevik Government. 
But this was my first visit to a prison in a British colony. 

115 



Externally the jail is not unlike any European prison in that 
it is a barrack-like building impressively ugly and large. But it is 
not big enough for its purpose, and a new jail is now being con- 
structed. A few years ago, when the prisoners numbered 2000, 
there was serious overcrowding. On the day on which I rftade 
my visit the total was just over 1000. The reduction was the result 
of the world slump in rubber and tin and in the repatriation of 
thousands of Chinese coolies. In 1927 there were eighty-nine mur- 
ders in Singapore; in 1935 only thirteen. For this improvement 
credit must be given to the police for increased efficiency. To-day 
there is an effective cooperation between the French, Dutch and 
British colonial administrations in controlling the movements of 
Chinese criminals and communists. Most of the prisoners in Singa- 
pore jail are Chinese. 

I was taken first to a corridor of cells segregated from the 
rest of the prison. The control of crime in Malaya depends largely 
on informers. Occasionally these Chinese informers get into trouble 
themselves. When they are sent to prison, they are kept in a sepa- 
rate ward. If they were sent into the main prison, they would be 
murdered by the other Chinese prisoners. 

As I passed through the various rooms and rows of cells I was 
struck by the spotless cleanliness. Most of the cells were empty. 
In the day-tune the prisoners work together in large rooms. The 
work is stricdy utilitarian. There are rooms for weaving, shoe- 
making and book-binding, and a great laundry establishment 
where all the washing of the prison is carried out by prisoners. 

The interior of any prison is a sad sight, and here, too, were 
many corners where the impression was one of melancholy un- 
relieved. The sick ward with its rows of open beds occupied 
by men suffering mainly from open sores made me shudder. In 
the book-binding room I found a white man working together 
with better-class Chinese. He never raised his eyes from his work 
the whole time we were in the room. Fortunately, there are few 
European prisoners. Most of them are men who have misappro- 
priated funds or who have tried to obtain money under false pre- 
tences, I met, too, a strange European, a vagrant from Shanghai, 
who claimed to be a Pole, but who had no passport. His only crime 
was vagrancy and a total inability to give a satisfactory account of 

116 



his antecedents. He, too, was lumped together with the other 
prisoners. 

This lack of differentiation seemed to me entirely wrong, and 

as the only blot on an administration which, so far as I could see, 

was as humane as any colonial prison system can be. Certainly the 

Governor himself was a first-class man, who went among the 

prisoners with as little fuss as possible and gave to every man 

the right to complain to him personally. Several prisoners took 

advantage of this excellent rule while I was there. I admired, too, 

the Governor's courage. The heavy gloom which had sctded on me 

changed to a sinking feeling of fear when, attended only by our 

unarmed and rather corpulent warder, we entered an iron-barred 

room not unlike a lions' cage in a zoo. Here were kept the most 

dangerous criminals in the prison: professional gang-robbers, who 

in cruelty and in the efficacy of their method had nothing to learn 

from the gangsters of New York and Chicago. There were about 

eighteen of them. They were working on looms. Their expression 

was sulky. They looked as villainous a collection of cut-throats as 

I had ever seen. 

I was already sweating with the damp heat of an overcast 
tropical morning, for the drought had broken. But now inside 
this cage, with the door locked behind us, the beads of sweat 
began to drop from my brow, leaving a slate-coloured damp mark 
on my white coat. My mind went back to the gang-robber stories 
of my youth in Malaya. Vividly I saw in my imagination the 
famous Pahang murder, when an English planter taking back 
money from the town in order to pay his coolies had been tripped 
up by a wire stretched across the road. Foolishly he had forgotten 
his revolver. Even more foolishly he had persuaded the local Eng- 
lish doctor to accompany him. The two Englishmen had been 
set on by a band of Chinese gang-robbers. The planter had escaped. 
The doctor, a powerfully-built man, had fought heroically and had 
knocked out half-a-dozen men with his bare fists before he was 
finally knifed to death. He had disfigured one man so badly that 
the gang-robbers killed their colleague and buried him lest his 
bruises should lead to their detection. At the time of my first 
arrival in Malaya the story had made a deep impression on my 
mind. It used to come back to me sometimes when, after an 
occasional late night in the club in Seremban, I was cycling back 

117 



to my lonely home in Pantai on a push-bike through the ten miles 
of jungle. And now in this gang-robbers' cage in the Singapore 
jail it came back to me again with an unpleasant sensation of 

reality. 

When we came out, I asked the Governor if these men ever 
gave any trouble inside the prison. "Oh, yes," he replied, "ten 
days ago these fellows in there tore out a bar from one of their 
weaving looms and murdered a fellow prisoner. 

"Why? We never really knew. Probably he had betrayed one 
of his pals. They have their secret societies even in the jail. We 
try to keep them together as far as possible: gang-robbers in%^c 
section, communists and political prisoners in another. Occasionally 
we have minor mutinies. Gang-robbers still exist; they use all the 
modern American methods, motor-cars and revolvers, and a few 
of their own as well." 

We went over to another room which was full of Chinese 
communists. In type they differed considerably from the gang- 
robbers, being less villainous-looking and of poorer physique. 
Most of them had been convicted of spreading seditious literature. 
During my stay in Malaya I was shown several examples of these 
communist pamphlets. They were mostly to the address of Chinese 
coolies on rubber estates and tin miners. The script was in Chinese, 
but the language was the language of Moscow. "Sons of the soil. 
Now is the time for us to unite. The coolies working on estates 
are suffering because the price of rubber has fallen. Wages have 
been reduced. Although we have to live, the government demands 
a licence for carrying on business. Kings fight with each other and 
try to squeeze money out of us. There is a surplus of rubber on 
all estates, and disputes about restriction are going on between the 
British Government and other governments. This is the white 
man's doing. Continue to make more and more agitation." Occa- 
sionally these pamphlets and proclamations are printed in several 
languages. One printed on coloured paper ran as follows: "Op- 
pressed toiling masses of all races unite and rise with one accord. 
Assist revolution in the colonies. Oppose the increase of customs 
duties, licence fees, land revenues, and especially exploitation by the 
enforcement of rubber restriction by British imperialists." 

While the Governor talked in quiet, matter-of-fact tones to these 
yellow disciples of Moscow, I made a careful scrutiny of their 

118 



faces. I was struck by their impassive composure. Some of the men 
looked intelligent. They made no complaints. Only a certain dig- 
nified surliness revealed a hate which seemed deep-rooted. My 
memory went back to my own experiences in the Moscow Cheka 
where I had been imprisoned with gang-robbers and capitalist 
political prisoners. There the communists had been the jailers. The 
prison methods had been very different. In Moscow there had 
been a very short shrift for the robbers. For the political prisoners 
there had been the nightly torture of ruthless cross-examination 
and other third degree methods. Over their heads was suspended 
the constant shadow of death. The Bolshevik jailers carried guns 
and even hand-grenades. Here in Singapore there was little inter- 
ference and considerable tolerance. The warders, aU Englishmen 
brought out specially from Britain, looked sleek and good-natured. 
There were no arrows or other marks on the prisoners' clothes. 
In humaneness and, above all, in cleanliness the bourgeois-run 
prison of Singapore seemed like a well-run school compared with 
the insanitary horrors of the Loubianka. And yet I suppose to the 
political prisoner whose sentence is indefinite and whose fate even 
after release is uncertain the different methods of prison administra- 
tion seem very much alike. 

My reflections were disturbed by the Governor, who drew my 
attention to a talkative and rather frail-looking prisoner. His 
whole face smiled. There was a light in his eyes which seemed 
to invite the fullest confidence and to stimulate even a cynic's 
belief in the ultimate goodness of human nature. I thought him 
the kindest-looking man I had ever seen. "This," said the Governor 
quietly, "is our best prisoner and our most dangerous communist. 
He planned and very nearly pulled off the assassination of a 
Chinese minister on his way through Singapore some years ago. 
I call him 'Little Sunshine."' "Little Sunshine," who probably 
understood every word, beamed more benevolently than ever. 

From the communists we went to inspect the cells where 
prisoners unfit for work and suspects awaiting trial were con- 
fined. There were two Japanese in neighboring cells who had 
been arrested in connection with a recent spy case which had 
caused a sensation in Singapore. It was a story of an attempt to 
smuggle out documents, presumably relating to the Singapore 
base, in an antique table. The spies had a duplicate table with 

119 



secret drawers and by substituting it for one which they had 
bought in a Singapore antique shop they had very nearly suc- 
ceeded in getting die dealer to ship it to Japan in the ordinary 
course of business. A prominent Japanese business man, who had 
been concerned in the case, had committed suicide. The two pris- 
oners, who were now before me, were suspected accomplices. 

Strangely enough, of all the prisoners whom I saw in the jail 
they were the most voluble and the most truculent. They com- 
plained about the food and about the lack of exercise. They 
threatened, they cajoled, they whined. Bloxham listened to them 
with reasonable patience. He never lost his temper or tried to 
bully the men. He said a few words to the warder. Then he con- 
tinued his rounds. Personally I should have been very short with 
these men. Their exhibition was one which I should never have 
expected from Japanese. Perhaps they were trying to impress on 
us the might, majesty and dominion of the Empire of the Rising 
Sun. As far as the might and dominion are concerned, the sun is 
indeed rising, for to-day in the East it is Japan's writ, and not 
that of Britain, the United States, and the League of Nations, 
which runs, and there are very few Japanese who are not conscious 
of this fact. 

I also talked with our warder, who told me something about 
his life in Singapore. The full strength of the British warders in 
the Singapore jail is about fifty. They form part of a regular service 
recruited in Britain and carrying at the end of it a pension. They 
are picked more for character than for physique. Their life is not 
without danger, but has few excitements. Most of the men are 
philosophers performing their duties with clock-like regularity 
and dreaming of the day when they can retire and go home. 
British warders in Malay seem to have incongruous names. At 
one time the three chief warders in Kuala Lumpur, the capital 
of the F.M.S., were Currie, Rice and Fish. 

Crossing from one block of buildings to another, we passed 
a narrow oblong strip of grass surrounded by high windowless 
walls. The grass was of the same vivid green that one sees on the 
west coast of Ireland. There was an atmosphere of cloistered 
seclusion about the place. I half-expected to see an altar, so peace- 
ful and so silent was the setting. And yet there was something 
uncanny and sinister about these high grey walls which shut 
120 



out everything except the stretch of sky overhead. The plot is 
not an architect's whim. It has its uses. Sometimes its walls 
resound with the dull, heavy sound of the lash and with the screams 
of prisoners. Sometimes, too, they echo to the strokes of the car- 
penter's hammer, and in the early morning a small band, composed 
of the Governor, the prison doctor, and a warder or two stand 
silently while the hangman does his grim work. Since Sir Charles 
Mitchell's game of golf this plot has been used for floggings and 
hangings. 

When we had finished our inspection, the rain came down in 
torrents. I refused the Governor's invitation to breakfast and drove 
back to Raffles. My clothes were wet with rain and sweat. My 
appetite was gone. Ever since the Russian revolution opened my 
eyes to the cruelty of life, I have had an unalterable sympathy 
not only with the toiling masses, whose lives are at the mercy of 
an out-of-gear economic system, but also with the misfits and 
outcasts of society who are its victims. The whole conception of 
prison seemed senseless and soulless, and the conservatism of man, 
always opposed to change because it was change, strangely un- 
imaginative. My mind went back to Thucydides, whom I had 
re-read so carefully during my own imprisonment in Russia: "In 
settled times the traditions of government should be observed; 
but when circumstances are changing and men not compelled to 
meet them, much originality is required." 

Since 1918 there has not been much originality in political 
thought; only cruelty more cruel because it has been caused by 
stupidity more than by wickedness. 



121 



CHAPTER SIX 

"TNURING my five days in Singapore I could have had all the 
I ^hospitality that a man can desire. There were two reasons 
why I avoided it. For the past five years I seemed to have been 
meeting new people every day and every night. A holiday was 
not merely a rest from work. It was an escape from people. But 
a stronger reason was my almost passionate desire to keep this 
return to Malaya to myself and to let my impressions form them- 
selves without the interference of extraneous agencies. 

For three days I succeeded in going my way. Then an Eng- 
lishman from the Straits Times came to interview me. He was an 
intelligent young man. He had a brother on the staff of the Lon- 
don newspaper for which I wrote. He produced a column of 
matter in which he referred flatteringly to the Malayan chapters 
of British Agent. He touched on Amai, and apparently had taken 
pains to obtain the latest information about her, for in his para- 
graphs he predicted that, having seen Malaya for the first time 
through the eyes of romantic youth, I should now experience a pro- 
found disillusionment. And to give point to this truism he added 
that "the girl Amai was now a betel-stained hag." 

I have no grudge against the young man. He treated me well 
and fairly. But the publicity which he gave to my presence in 
Singapore made a hole in my privacy. During the next twenty- 
four hours I received messages and visits from an amazing variety 
of people. There was an invitation to dinner from a girl whom 
I had known at home in my youth, and who was now married to 
an Englishman in Singapore. There was a visit from Major 
A. Neate, who had been military attach^ to Bulgaria when I was 
in Jugoslavia, and who was now doing a "gunner's" job in Singa- 
pore. There were gentlemen from the local Chinese newspaper, 
who wished to know my views on everything from Stalin's per- 
sonal appearance to Mr. Noel Coward's favourite hairwash. Serious 

122 



business presented itself in the person of the Far Eastern repre- 
sentative of Messrs. Warner Brothers, the film magnates. He 
had been having trouble with the censors in all the Eastern coun- 
tries, including China, over the film of British Agent. Couldn't I 
take the governor or the censor or Chiang Kai-shek by the scruff 
of the neck and tell him where he got off? There were telegrams 
from old friends in the F.M.S. asking why the hell I was wasting 
my time in a lousy hole like Singapore and why hadn't I let them 
know I was coming out East. 

Unable to satisfy either my friends or my business acquaintances 
I decided to pack my bags and go. Actually I had no regrets, for, 
if Singapore is still colourful, it lacks all the hall-marks of his- 
torical antiquity* It is an international Liverpool with a Chinese 
Manchester and Birmingham tacked on to it. Its finest buildings 
are modern; it has no ancient monument and, apart from the 
Raffles statue, very few monuments to the past. 

There is no monument to Sir Frank Swettenham in Singapore, 
I went up to Government House, a pretentious rather than im- 
posing building with colonnades and pillars which give to it 
the appearance of a Jockey Club, and tried to picture that great 
man in the days of his Governorship. He had gone home several 
years before I first went East in 1908. My uncle had known him 
in the nineties, and I remembered an old drawing of a man with 
a long, silky moustache, heavy eyebrows, and attractive penetrating 
eyes. This, no doubt, was the Swettenham, lean, tireless, and with 
all the attraction of the cultured man of action, whose Unad- 
drcssed Letters had captivated both Bloomsbury and Mayfair. 

The Swettenham I knew was a dignified old gentleman with 
a sallow complexion which spoke of a life-time spent in the East, 
although he had been home for thirty years. But the brain and 
the memory were as active as ever; and the handwriting was as 
clear and as neat as a German schoolboy's. I had had tea with 
him soon after his eighty-sixth birthday in his flat in Great Stan- 
hope Street in London. Surrounded by glass cases of Eastern curios, 
he had talked of my return visit and of the changes that had 
taken place in colonial administration. At eighty-six he was still 
far more alert mentally than many colonial servants of half his 
age. Swettenham would have been a remarkable man in any 
epoch and in any country. Although perhaps never heard of by 

123 



the masses at home, he is still remembered in Malaya. It will be 
a sorry day for the British colonial empire when his name and 
his example are allowed to lapse into oblivion. 

The administrative creators of Singapore and the Malay States 
were mainly Englishmen. In the building up of the commercial 
prosperity of British Malaya the Scots have played a part out of 
all proportion to their numbers. Nor have their activities been 
confined to such supposedly Scottish activities as banking and in- 
surance. In the great tin and rubber industries of the country 
they have been pioneers, thus disproving die theory that the Scot 
is canny and pawky in business. The truth is exactly the re- 
verse. There is no man more willing to stake his capital on a 
hazardous, but not necessarily reckless, speculation than the Scot. 
From the time of Law he has been the great adventurer of finance, 
and it has been his readiness to risk that has been mainly re- 
sponsible for the development and the peopling of the British 
Dominions. 

I do not think that there are in Singapore to-day as many Scots 
in proportion to Englishmen as there were in my time. Perhaps 
Malaya no longer offers a big enough or a quick enough reward. 
With the decline of British shipping there are certainly fewer 
Scottish engineers. As a Scot I regret the gradual disappearance 
of the man who has done more to spread the fame of Scotland 
over the seven seas of the world than any one since Burns. And 
I still get a thrill out of the old story which the local captains 
used to tell when I first came out to Malaya. The steamer is going 
through a typhoon, and in natural anxiety some American lady 
passengers turn to the captain with an appealing cry : "What can 
we do to be saved?" And the captain answers gravely: "Say your 
prayers to God, ladies. And if God fails you, trust the Scottish 
engineer." 

I should have liked nothing better than to have made the 
trip from Singapore to the FJM.S. by boat. But there was no con- 
venient steamer at the moment. Freddie, who had the Rosslyns 
staying with him, was urging me to join them at Port Dickson, 
and it was by train that I decided to make my departure on the 
following evening. 

My last night in Singapore I kept to myself. It was to be 
devoted to a return to the past. I should engage a rickisha puller, 

124 



preferably one who could speak no known language, and the rest 
of the evening would be left to the whims of his mechanical jog- 
trot. Like a leaf before the wind I should go wherever he chose 
to pull me. 

I put my plan into effect after an excellent dinner. There had 
been a thunderstorm during the afternoon. But the skies had 
cleared, and under the starlit heavens there was a delicious coolness 
in the air. My rickisha puller was a scraggy, toothless old man. 
Like the harper in the Lay of the iMst Minstrel he was admirably 
suited to perform the rites at the last rickisha ride that I shall ever 
take. For even if I ever return to the East, the rickisha will soon 
be a vehicle of the past. 

I had some difficulty in clambering into my seat. Perhaps I 
had lost the knack. I had certainly added several stone to my 
weight since the days when a husky sweating giant used to pull 
me the long ten miles out to my estate at Pantai at ten cents a 
mile. Then I could sleep the whole way. But this was an uncom- 
fortable ride. My puller spoke no Malay and no English. From 
his lips came a scream of unintelligible labials. I waved an arm 
towards the night With a grin he seized the shafts, and off we 
jogged. Twenty-five years ago we should have pulled up at 
a brothel, for your rickisha puller, even if he is inarticulate, knows 
instinctively the tastes of the tourist, and in those days Malay 
Street was the obvious destination of a European setting out alone 
at night. 

Fashions, however, have changed, and after a gentle trot my 
puller stopped before a gateway with a huge electric sign in English 
and flashing the words, "The New World." I got out and rather 
shyly followed the throng which was streaming through the 
open gates. Inside was a huge fair with theatres, opera, cinema, 
dancing-hall, side-shows, booths, refreshment stalls, and even a 
stadium. The crowd was of all classes and of all races. Naval 
ratings towered over squat Malays. If Chinese predominated, there 
was a fair sprinkling of Europeans and Eurasians. Tamils, Japa- 
nese, Arabs and Bengalis completed the racial conglomeration. 

The noise was deafening. Next door to an open Chinese 
theatre with the usual accompaniment of gongs, a Malay operatic 
company was performing Mashdur. From the sideshows came an 
endless broadside of chatter and laughter. In the booths in the 



centre, Japanese and Chinese were selling toys which would have 
delighted the heart of any European child: voracious-looking 
dragons, clock-work crocodiles and snakes, miniature baby- 
carriages, wooden soldiers, and the quaintest of domestic animals. 

Avoiding the cinema where alluring posters of Miss Mae West 
revealed the fact that I'm No Angel had been passed by the Singa- 
pore Board of Censors, I went into the dancing-hall There was an 
excellent orchestra, hired, I think, from some liner. It was playing 
Aujwiedersehen when I came in, and a crowd of dancers, mostly 
young Chinese, the men in white European clothes with black 
patent-leather dancing shoes, the girls in their semi-European 
dresses slit at the side, filled the dancing-floor. Many of the dancers 
had their own partners. But when the dance was over I noticed 
a number of girls who left their partners as soon as the music 
stopped and went to join other girls in a kind of pen. They 
were the professional Chinese dancers who can be hired for 
a few cents a dance. 

There were other Europeans dancing, and after asking an 
attendant how the thing was done I plucked up my courage 
and, as soon as the music started for the next dance, went over 
and engaged a partner. More intent on information than on 
pleasure I ambled slowly round the floor, I had no reason except 
my own clumsiness to feel self-conscious. My Chinese partner 
danced with the ethereal lightness of a Viennese. Her name was 
Tiger Lily, and she told me some of the secrets of her profession. 

These Chinese girls are engaged by the management. They 
are very carefully selected, and breaches of discipline are severely 
punished. They are paid about eight cents a dance. Each dance is 
registered on a card, and at the end of the week the cards are 
vigilantly scrutinised. Girls who are in great request, and who 
can show a high average of dances, may be promoted. Others, 
whose engagements are below the fixed average, have their wages 
reduced. In the dancing-hall, at any rate, there is no social inter- 
course between guest and professional dancer. At the end of each 
dance the professional goes back to her barricaded seclusion. The 
decorum, indeed, was unimpeachable, and could not have been 
criticised even by a Wee Free minister in a North of Scotland 
parish. To me this model seemliness was even more extraordinary 

126 



than the almost complete waiving of the colour bar in a British 
colony. 

After dancing a slow waltz with another Chinese professional 
partner, I left the hall, and presently I found myself before a turn- 
stile in the side of a high wooden wall. It looked like the entrance 
to a football ground. A notice intimated that the champion team 
of the Shanghai Tung Ah Girls School was playing a side of 
Singapore men at basket-ball. I paid fifty cents for a stand seat 
and went inside. 

The arena, surrounded by stands, was lit by powerful electric 
arc lights. The place was packed to capacity with Chinese. In the 
middle the two teams were practising. The Chinese girls dressed 
in white shirts and the shortest of black shorts, and with sturdy, 
muscular thighs showing almost up to their buttocks, were the 
finest physical specimens that I have seen outside of Nazi Ger- 
many. Perched on a stand, a cinema operator was filming the 
scene with monotonous persistency. In the arena itself was an 
army of reporters and camera men. Presently out came a young 
Chinese in cricket shirt and white trousers. With his closely cut 
hair and his horn-rimmed spectacles he looked like a medical 
student. He was the referee and, as such, fully conscious of his 
importance. He examined the ball carefully while the girls and 
men did some physical jerks to loosen their muscles. The camera 
men fired a last battery as they left the arena. The umpire looked 
at his watch and blew his whistle, and to shrieks of encourage- 
ment from the stand the game started. 

I have seen less fuss and less ceremony at an English Cup 
Final or at the biggest American baseball game. The skill of the 
players thrilled me. Their speed was only less marvellous* than 
their accuracy. The Shanghai girls won easily. They would have 
beaten any team in Europe. Although they thrashed the local 
favourites, they were cheered tumultuously by the Chinese spec- 
tators. 

To me, who in the days of my Malayan career had hardly ever 
seen a Chinese woman outside of the coolie or the easy virtue 
class, here was a change indeed. 

When I came out, I found my puller anxiously scanning the 
faces of the Europeans at the main exit. In the old days in Negri 
Sembilan he would not have cared if he had been bilked. He 



would have known where to find his man. Here in Singapore with 
its ten thousand whites such confidence would have been mis- 
placed. 

The basket-ball match had exhilarated me. I felt no desire for 
sleep, but was at a loss where to go. Apart from Raffles Singapore 
is as dead at midnight as a Highland village in Scotland on a 
Sunday. Suddenly an old memory revived an old desire. "Satai," 
I said. "I want eat 'Satai.' " I dipped a tooth-pick into an imaginary 
dish and raised an imaginary piece of meat to my mouth. The 
puller grinned and set off at a steady trot until we came to a 
narrow street close to the sea. Here, occupying various pitches 
like the men who sell hot Frankfurter sausages in the vegetable 
market in Prague, were the Malay "Satai" cooks. 

I got out and went over to an empty stall kept by a plump 
Malay gentleman, who obviously enjoyed his own cooking. He 
had a couple of boxes set on end. On one of them he had a small 
charcoal fire. On the other were the various dishes containing 
respectively a curry, too hot for the uninitiated, a milder curry, 
and a delicious kind of onion sauce. 

"Satai, Tuan?" he asked and, when I nodded, he began the 
ritual. With a small straw-plaited fan he began to stir the charcoal 
to a bright flame. While it burnt he chopped up onion and cu- 
cumber on a plate. When the fire was at the proper glow, he 
produced from his box pieces of chicken meat fixed on little 
sticks in much the same way as the Russians prepare "shashlyk." 
Then, dipping the sticks of meat into a can of fat, he grilled 
them for several minutes on his fire. He bowed. The "Satai" 
were ready. I took a stick and dipped it into the dish with the 
milder curry and ate with gusto, gradually working up to the 
strongest curry and keeping my mouth cool with the cucumber 
and the onion. 

I do not profess to know the origin of "Satai." In Singapore it 
is always said to be a Chinese dish, but in Java it is to be found 
in every village, and certainly the Javanese prepare it hotter than 
any one else. "Satai" are insidious, and there are Europeans who 
at cocktail parties or after a dance can eat incredible numbers of 
them. The stall-keeper pays little attention to how many you eat. 
All he watches are the sticks. At the end of the meal he collects 
them and charges, I think, two cents a stick. For a dollar you can 

128 ' 



gorge yourself on what, to my mind, is by far the most appetising 
of Eastern dishes. 

On my way home to Raffles I saw a sight even more startling 
than the basket-ball match that I had seen at the "New World." 
As my puller turned into Beach Road, I passed a string of Chinese 
running down the streets in Indian file. Until I noticed their 
shorts and their stockingless legs, I thought that they were pur- 
suing some thief. The hotel clerk told me that they were Singa- 
pore Chinese training for the Malayan All-Chinese Olympiad to 
be held in 1937. 

I was impressed and slightly bewildered. Only that morning 
I had read a letter in the Straits Times protesting against the fact 
that the State of Johore was proposing to spend 100,000 dollars 
in a golf course instead of on agriculture. It seemed a reasonable 
criticism. Yet perhaps, after all, the British were wise in their 
own way. It was, I think, the late C. E. Montague who said that 
boredom was the first sign of decadence in a nation. The British 
in the East were certainly not yet bored by sport. Their Empire 
might survive for many a long day because of the games which 
they had taught to the races under their protection. 

While it lasted, it was a consoling thought. Then came the 
reflection that Greece had taught the world not only most of its 
games, but nearly everything else that it knew. And Greece had 
no empire to-day. Nor was there anything in the character of 
the modern Greek to remind one of his great forbears. 

I spent my last day in Singapore in driving out to Johore 
Bahru, the capital of the State of Johore. The drive takes about 
forty minutes, and the road runs pleasantly through rubber and 
coconut plantations, occasional strips of jungle, and acres and 
acres of pineapples. 

In my time Singapore was an island. To-day, the narrow strait 
which separates it from Johore is bridged by a broad and im- 
pressive causeway. The town itself is picturesque enough, and is 
a favourite with tourists. It has a fine mosque and a palace which 
houses the famous Ellenborough Plate, once destined for a British 
viceroy of India and now the property of a Malay Sultan. Like 
many Eastern buildings, both mosque and palace look better in 
photographs. To the naked eye they seem like inferior imitations 
of the Brighton pavilion. 

129 



Apart from tigers, which abound but are rarely seen, the most 
interesting thing about Johore is the Sultan Ibrahim. I had met 
him twenty-seven years before. He was then about thirty-five, and 
was a bit of a tiger himself with a long string of escapades, mainly 
connected with racing and women, to his discredit. He has the 
blood of Danish sea-captains in his veins, and in those days was 
a fine figure of a man, full of the joy of living and with a special 
penchant for the lights of London and Paris. His great friend at 
that time was Colonel "Teddie" Bryce, whom I have already 
mentioned and who was then living in Johore. One of the trials 
of Teddie's life as a hard-working, early-rising planter was being 
woken up in the middle of the night to drink champagne with 
the Sultan. 

To-day the Sultan has more or less settled down. He still likes 
the good things of life, and has a fund of racy stories which he 
tells well and likes telling. On this occasion he had only recently 
returned from a world tour and was full of his reception by the 
Prince of Wales, now King Edward VIII, in London, and by 
President Roosevelt in Washington. 

There is a good story of his visit to the White House during 
the crisis of the American depression. The President was perhaps 
rather hazy about the whereabouts of Johore. At least he gave 
that impression to the Sultan, who at once replied: 

"Mr. President, I'm ruler of only a very small state, but my 
treasury's full and I can balance my budget." 

Sultan Ibrahim is by far the most Europeanised of the Malayan 
sultans. To his natural shrewdness he has added a considerable 
store of knowledge acquired during his travels. As he still enjoys 
more independence than the other Sultans, his goodwill is of 
some importance to the British authorities. He has given many 
proofs of his loyalty, the latest being his Jubilee gift of 500,000 
towards the cost of Singapore's defences. His wife is the daughter 
of a Scottish doctor. The Sultana, who travelled home to England 
on the same ship as I did, is a quiet, dignified woman with a 
wonderful collection of jewellery. Very fair with a creamy com- 
plexion, she spent most of her time on board playing bridge. She 
has considerable influence over the Sultan, and has used it wisely. 
It is well that she has poise, for her life cannot be easy. 

That same night I left Singapore for Port Dickson. I took my 

130 



departure from Singapore's new and florid station. I travelled in 
a modern sleeper, better equipped and more comfortable than 
is to be found in any other Eastern country except Siam. To me 
Singapore had never been more than an exotic island. I was an 
F.M.S. man, now returning after twenty-five years of absence 
to the land of my youth. I felt the same emotional reaction as I 
always feel on the all-too-rare occasions when I can leave London 
for the Highlands. Only when the water begins to flow north does 
home begin. 



BOOK III 



Romance m Retrospect 



"THOUGH WE attain not, yet we shall have shared 
Together for a space the bread and wine; 
Have stood together on the peak of dreams 
And seen afar the mystic city shine." 



CHAPTER ONE 

T ARRIVED at Seremban, the capital of Negri Sembilan, just 
JL before dawn. Kassim, Freddie's Malay chauffeur, was there to 
meet me, and in a few minutes I was being carried smoothly 
along a perfect road towards Port Dickson. As we drove through 
Seremban I could just see in the feeble light of the pre-dawn 
that the town had grown greatly. Soon we were out of its pre- 
cincts and racing past acres and acres of rubber, most of it planted 
since my time. I owe much in my life to the generosity of my 
relations. They, in turn, owe the ability to be generous to rubber. 
But no one can say that a rubber plantation is a thing of beauty. 
Coatless in an open car, I was as cold as a charity child on a 
winter's day. The old landmarks had vanished. There was litde 
or no jungle by the roadside. 

My first feeling was one of disenchantment. Then, with the 
rising sun, my heart warmed. As we approached Port Dickson 
I was aglow with excitement. There before me was the sea, pearl- 
coloured and calm till it lost itself in the horizon. There, too, was 
the litde township itself with the island of Pulau Arang, still 
uninhabited, still unspoilt, lying off the point of the harbour. 

Here there was almost no change. I told the chauffeur to stop 
and stood up in the car. There before me was the padang in 
which I had played my first game of football in Malaya. There, 
beside it, was the post-office where my Chinese puller had de- 
posited me, dressed in football kit, after my first rickisha drive. I 
could see the whole scene before my eyes: the young man, litde 
more than a schoolboy, rather shy and helpless in his ignorance 
of the language, that was myself, the lusty Chinese puller ges- 
ticulating by the side of the road. I had given him a dollar about 
three times his legitimate fare and he had asked for more. As 
I stood, stupid in my dumbness, litde Hussein, a Malay half-back, 
had come up and smiled. He had said some phrase in which I 

135 



caught the word "football." I had nodded, held up my dollar, 
and pointed to the coolie. Hussein, diminutive beside the muscular 
Chinaman, had taken swift action. Before I could realise what 
had happened, I had received fifty cents change, and the China- 
man had slunk off with the bare foot of the Malay planted firmly 
in the middle of his short pants to help him on his way. 

Hussein had become my firm friend. And where were all my 
old friends now? I could recognise the old buildings, but among 
all the passers-by there was not a face that I knew. I was at home 
and yet I was a stranger, a junior Rip Van Winkle returning to 
a new world. 

As we set out along the coast road towards Freddie's bungalow 
at the seventh mile, there were more deceptions in store for me. 
The sea-front was studded with bungalows and sanatoria. There 
were private yachts anchored in the bay. High on the cliff and 
marring the whole landscape was a huge kind of Moorish palace, 
the home of a son of Loke Yew, the famous Chinese millionaire 
who had begun life as a coolie. In my time Loke Yew himself 
had been content with a modest bungalow on the sea-shore which 
he used to lend to British planters for the week-end. This was not 
Port Dickson. It was Brighton. 

At the third mile I passed the spot where my old bungalow 
had stood. There was nothing to mark the place in my mind. In 
place of the wooden barrack with its "atap"4eaf roof was a 
splendid new building, more like a Riviera villa than a bungalow. 
The steps, the hedge that had shut off the house from the road, 
the casuarina tree that had stood in the untidy compound, where 
Abdullah, our Mohammedanised Tamil gardener, used to pick 
the ticks from the dogs, had been cleared away. In their place was 
a garden with grass plots and an avenue for motor-cars leading up 
to the front door. I passed a golf course, the barracks of the new 
Malay regiment, and other signs of civilisation. 

Sad at heart, I thought of Kingsley's verdict on Westward 
Hoi which was named after his novel. "How goes on the 
Northam Burrows scheme for spoiling that beautiful place with 
hotels and villas?" Like Kingsley I wanted a new planet without 
railways and motor-buses and pretentious projections. And then 
the car turned sharply to the right, and I entered into Paradise. 
We passed through a hundred yards or so of "blukar" or scrub, 
136 



and there on a cliff before me and overlooking the sea on the 
finest site in all the East was Freddie's bungalow. On each side 
a strip of jungle with enormously high trees shut off the civilisa- 
tion outside. All around us was Freddie's garden, heavily-scented 
and riotous with colour. Every tree seemed to be in bloom. There 
were temple flowers, flame of the forest, tulip tree flowers, crotons, 
Indian laburnum, Honolulu creeper, oleanders and three different 
kinds of bougainvillea. A long stair of steps neatly carved in the 
red laterite soil led down to a strip of beach with a Malay fisher- 
man's prahu nosing the golden sand. Between house and sea was 
a grove of coconut palms. Far away on the right was the point 
of Port Dickson harbour and the lighthouse of Pulau Arang. 
Otherwise there was not a house to be seen. Beneath us was the 
broad panorama of the sea, placid, opalescent, and in spite of the 
sharks which haunt its depths bewitchingly inviting. 

Too much travel blurs the memory, but with every man and 
woman in this world there are certain scenes which remain as 
long as life itself. During the last seven years I have known little 
genuine happiness. But for that first view from Freddie's bun- 
galow I shall always be grateful. It meant something much more 
than the recapture of a past that had seemed gone for ever and 
the instinctive realisation that my trip had been worth while. At 
the moment I thought of none of these things. I was content to 
know that for the first time in my post-war life I had felt an emo- 
tion which satisfied me completely. 

I had little time to linger over it. Tommy Rosslyn and Freddie 
were already having their morning tea on the verandah. Even 
Harry, who in London rarely rises before mid-day, was shouting 
greetings from his room. There was Freddie's house to inspect, 
and my arrival had coincided with the most important day in its 
history: the introduction of a running water system. Built high 
off the ground on brick supports, its whole front facing the sea, 
was a long verandah which served as the living-room. Behind 
were the dining-room and three large bedrooms. A red-tiled roof 
tempered the heat of the sun. To give more air the rooms were 
separated, not by walls, but only by partitions, so that by raising 
one's voice one could talk from one room to the other. Below 
each bedroom and leading from it by steps was a bathroom or 
rather a bathing-place complete with Siamese jar and tin can for 

137 



sluicing one's self. Connected to the main building by a covered 
passage were the kitchens and servants' quarters. The bungalow 
had belonged to a friend of Freddie's who had made a fortune 
in Malayan coal and had died during the worst year of the slump. 
Furnished by an expert, it would make an idyllic home. 

Before I was allowed to have any breakfast, I had to be intro- 
duced to the domestic staff: the head Chinese boy and his buxom, 
trousered wife, a diminutive and intelligent Chinese "ketchil" 
(assistant boy), the staid and dignified Chinese cook, the Malay 
chauffeur and the chauffeur's Malay wife, the Javanese gardener, 
for gardeners in Malay are nearly always Javanese, and Buntak. 
Strictly speaking, Buntak should have come first, but he remained 
standing in the background, his teeth showing in a broad grin 
and his arms motionless by his side. Buntak had been the first 
Malay to whom I had ever spoken. He had been the Malay head- 
man on my old estate at the third mile. He had taught me my 
first steps in Malay and everything that I knew about rubber- 
planting, and much more worldly wisdom besides. When the 
estate was refloated as a public company, he had gone to Freddie. 
He had remained with him ever since. In twenty-five years he 
had changed scarcely at all, and there was a lump in my throat as 
I shook his hand. 

I have an immense affection for Malays. I bristle with resent- 
ment when Europeans refer to them as black men. More than 
any other oriental race, they have qualities akin to our own, and 
there are few Englishmen or Scots who have lived alone among 
them who do not like them. They are proud, courageous and 
independent. Their sense of humour is keen. By nature they are 
courteous and cheerful. They have a profound respect for their 
own "adat" or law of custom, and as companions on a shooting 
trip they are unflinching in danger. As befits a race that lived 
formerly by piracy and war, they like most of the white man's 
games, especially football, and play them well. Ninety-nine per 
cent, of the English in Malaya prefer Chinese to Malays as house 
servants, and in every respect except one the Chinese are infinitely 
more efficient. But if you are living alone and you fall ill, your 
Chinese servants leave you. A Malay will stand by you in good 
times and in bad, and after my first year in Malaya I had a Malay 

138 



boy. When I was at death's door fidelity was cheap at the price 
of a buttonless shirt or an unpunctual meal. 

Not even his most perfervid admirer, however, would claim 
that the strong suit of the Malay is concentration on work for 
work's sake. He is a philosopher who lives by agriculture and 
fishing, and in a country where the British administration has 
safeguarded his land he labours as little as he can. Occasionally, 
if something interests him, he will work both intelligently and 
industriously. But the effort is generally spasmodic, and neither 
education nor adversity has developed in him any commercial 
ambition. Buntak, however, was an exception. In his own rather 
jerky manner, for he is a man of few words, he told me the story 
of his life during the last twenty-five years. He had learnt Chinese 
and Tamil. He could swear in half-a-dozen languages. Times 
had been difficult, especially on account of rubber restriction, but 
thanks to Allah he had not done so badly. He was now getting a 
hundred dollars a month and had a motor-bicycle. His family 
were well. No, it wasn't the same wife as I had known. I remem- 
bered her vividly a wanton young lady with sloe-coloured eyes 
which wandered. He had been married half-a-dozen times since 
then. I must see his new house and his new wife. 

A great and wise man is Buntak to-day. He now runs Freddie's 
estate and, during Freddie's frequent visits to Europe, is in sole 
charge of all his rubber interests. He is worth half-a-dozen Euro- 
pean assistants, for even during the worst period of the slump 
Freddie has managed to make his rubber pay. 

After breakfast we all went down to the sea for a swim. It 
must have been the first time that Harry Rosslyn had bathed in 
the open sea for many years. I was already some way out when 
he strode majestically into the water, his gigantic figure, impres- 
sive but slightly top-heavy, brushing the waves aside with an easy 
grace. After a few steps he stumbled forward, and I shrieked with 
laughter as his arms beat the waves in a flail-like movement. I 
thought he was fooling, but Freddie looked serious. In a few 
swift strokes he was at Harry's side and had helped him to his 
feet. The noble earl had been unable to regain his feet and had 
been in danger of being drowned before our eyes in three feet of 
water. 

This contretemps successfully liquidated, I sat down on the 

139 



beach, where Ah Ling, the nine-year-old daughter of Freddie's 
Chinese "boy," was playing with a young Malay companion on 
the sand. I watched them lazily. They were lying opposite each 
other at a distance of about fifteen paces. Each held a stick 
pointed at the other. Before each of them was a small channel 
dug in the sand. My curiosity aroused, I sat up and took notice. 
They were playing soldiers. The sticks were rifles, the little chan- 
nels trenches. I spoke to Ah Ling. Yes, she was playing soldiers. 
She was Chiang Kai-shek, and her young Malay opponent was a 
Japanese general. She was defending China against the Japanese 
Imperialists. In the persons of these young children of different 
oriental races the military spirit had penetrated even into this 
sheltered haven of peace. Human nature in the East did not seem 
very different from human nature in Europe. 

When we had dressed, Freddie took us for a drive in his car. 
The car was not too big, and in order to make room for his bulk 
Harry Rosslyn had to sit in the front seat next the driver. On my 
way down from Seremban I had formed the conclusion that 
Kassim, Freddie's chauffeur, was the most staid and silent Malay 
I had ever met. I was right. He was. But suddenly I saw him 
bend over his wheel, his whole body shaking with laughter. 
Freddie pulled him up sharply. In stammering tones he confessed 
that the sight of the big Tuan (Harry) trying to lift his legs over 
the windscreen had been too much for him. It had never struck 
us in that way before, but on second thoughts we agreed that 
the spectacle justified the internal explosion. Harry will live for 
ever in that chauffeur's memory. The humour of those long, un- 
wieldy legs never staled, and on every subsequent occasion when 
Harry entered the car the chauffeur had to perform contortions 
of self-control in order to restrain his laughter. I think he gave 
Harry as much amusement as Harry gave him. 

We drove slowly in to the town, Freddie pointing out the new 
landmarks and I plying him incessandy with questions about 
the past. Freddie told me the names of the new bungalows and 
of their new owners. That he waved an arm towards a building 
on the left was the Port Dickson Club. Here was the Railway 
Sanatorium, there Clovelly, and there Magnolia Bay. But I saw 
only the ghosts of my youth. Where was old "Hairy-Belly"? 
Where the good-natured Robert Engler? "Hairy-Belly" had been 

140 



an Australian surveyor, Robert Engler, a mystery German of 
good family, who had been an officer in a crack cavalry regiment 
and had become a remittance man. In my time he lived on a 
coconut estate with a stout, middle-aged Tamil lady for a para- 
mour. He never did a stroke of work, but drank beer by the 
gallon. I had often met him driving back from Port Dickson in 
a rickisha, his hand holding a bottle of beer and his Tamil lady 
clasping him round his plump stomach in order to prevent him 
from falling out. "Hairy-Belly" and Robert were dead. 

We passed the old Tamil burial-ground, and suddenly, as in 
a film scene, I saw Harry Gumming, drunk but a born elegant, 
conducting a Tamil funeral, sprinkling lotus-flowers on the grave, 
and wailing in unison with scores of Tamil coolies. His Tamils 
worshipped him. I believe they thought he was a God. Harry, the 
brother of a great rubber magnate, had been another failure. Yet 
he had died at Gallipoli. 

As we approached the fourth mile, I saw a bungalow on a site 
which I recognised. "Where's Jimmie now?" I asked. "Jimmie" 
was James McClymont, a Scot with the broadest of Girvan ac- 
cents, who had begun his career as a clerk on the little railway 
which runs from Port Dickson to Seremban. He was a character 
who would have appealed to Kipling. In my early days in Malaya 
he appealed to the handful of young Englishmen in Port Dickson 
for quite different reasons. From small beginnings he had amassed 
a large fortune in rubber and in other speculations, but he still 
kept on his small agency in a store just beside the harbour. Here, 
when we were thirsty before "tiffin," we would find him in white 
trousers and singlet counting cases of whiskey and thumbing bills 
of lading. The first greeting was generally gruff. "What are you 
young rascals idling aboot for when ye should be wor-r-king? 
Yon's no the way to get rich." Then out would come a bottle of 
champagne. 

Like most successful Scots "Jimmie" was a strict Presbyterian 
who exercised a rigid discipline over his family. In 1909 he went 
home for his first holiday for years, enjoining all of us and, more 
particularly, my then manager, "Monkey" Holland, to look after 
his son Quentin. During Jimmie's absence Quentin celebrated 
his twenty-first birthday. It was a royal celebration and the host's 
health was drunk with Highland honours. After dinner we had 

141 



a jumping competition over rows of long chairs placed side by 
side on the verandah. Quentin smashed himself up rather badly, 
and the rest of the evening and the early morning were spent 
seated for the excellent reason that every one was past walking. 
Apart from the birthday "bust" Quentin made full use of his free- 
dom, and when "Jimmie" returned he married the boy off as 
quickly as possible. "Ji mm i e >" one of the definite successes of 
Malaya, retired long ago. He died at Girvan last year. His daughter 
Bella is now the wife of Andrew Agnew, one of the British oil 
kings, and another Scot who from humble beginnings in Malaya 
has risen to the highest heights in commerce. 

I shall not weary the reader further with the necrologies of my 
former Malayan friends. In my youth they seemed to me to be 
important, and I saw them as men of resource and determination 
and possessed in rich measure of that spirit of adventure which 
has peopled the four corners of the world with Celts and Anglo- 
Saxons. I realise now that they were probably rather ordinary 
people who owed such prominence as they achieved to the cir- 
cumstance of the time and place in which they lived. They were 
pioneers with all the advantages and discomforts of their peculiar 
position. The advantages were those of opportunity. There was all 
the wealth of a new land to be had almost for the asking. There 
was, too, all the glamour of a prestige which in those days stood 
high and made even the youngest white assistant feel like a gov- 
ernor. The discomforts were real. The motor-car, which has 
changed the heat and burden of travel in the tropics to a deliciously 
cooling relaxation; cold storage; electric fans; all these luxuries 
were unknown thirty years ago. 

To-day, the average young Englishman who comes out to 
Malaya tries to keep as near as possible to the comforts of the 
towns. He has lost much of the former spirit of adventure. The 
men of my day may not have worked hard. But they did go out 
into the uncomfortable districts and never hesitated to break new 
ground. It may have been largely a matter of necessity, but on 
the whole they preferred life in the "ulu" (up country) to life in 
the towns like Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh. And personally I have 
no doubts about which life I should choose even to-day. The only 
important fact to remember about Malaya is that, whereas Singa- 
pore and Penang are ports built and peopled largely by Chinese 

142 



and which have played their part in world commerce for over a 
hundred years, the Malay States were uncivilised less than sixty 
years ago. Piracy and internecine warfare between the neighbour- 
ing states flourished almost unchecked. Out of this jungle chaos 
and with almost no bloodshed the British rule has created a model 
administration with admirable roads, hospitals, law-courts, schools, 
and all the appurtenances of modern civilisation. Under this rule 
various Eastern races which a few decades ago were engaged 
in slitting each other's gizzards now live happily and contentedly. 
Even their ambitions are carefully nurtured, for the administra- 
tion has already made a considerable advance towards that dual 
partnership of Briton and native, which is the foundation stone 
of modern British colonial policy. All this has been accomplished 
within the last fifty years, and for this achievement much credit 
must go to the pioneers of my time and before it, although many 
of them would certainly turn in their graves if they could see 
to-day just how quick has been the emancipation of both Malays 
and Chinese during the last ten years. 

I saw startling proofs of this acceleration while Freddie drove 
us through the main street of Port Dickson. I have said that the 
town proper had changed little since my time. In one sense it has 
gone back. In my time the coast road beyond the fifth mile was 
mostly uninhabited jungle. But in the town itself we had an Eng- 
lish district officer and his wife, an English assistant D.O., an 
English police sergeant, an English customs officer, an Australian 
surveyor, and a Scottish engineer in charge of the Public Works 
Department. To-day, the coast road may be lined with the week- 
end bungalows of European planters and business men, but of all 
this white officialdom in Port Dickson itself, which was the very 
kernel of the British administration and the guarantee of justice 
and incorruption, only one Englishman is left, and he is a junior 
customs officer, who without an adequate staff is expected to con- 
trol and check the smuggling which goes on across the Negri 
Sembilan and Malacca frontier. 

For Negri Sembilan is in the Federated Malay States and 
Malacca in the Straits Settlement, and, strange as it may seem, 
each state has a different tariff. 

The Port Dickson District officer is now a Malay. Much as I 
like the Malays, I was not impressed. There is one cardinal prin- 



ciple which should govern British colonial policy. And that is 
that the right of self-government should be given to those states 
which are capable of exercising it properly and should be firmly 
refused to those which are not. Malaya is still far from ripe for 
self-government, and in their effort to prepare the Malay for his 
eventual assumption of this right I only hope that the British 
authorities are not trying to make him run before he can walk. 

There was not much to see at Port Dickson, and we soon 
drove hpme. On our way back we stopped at a bend on the road. 
"Do you remember this?" asked Freddie. "This" was where we 
used to shoot "punai," a small green pigeon which is hard to hit 
and which at flighting time gives very good sport. And from 
"punai" we got on to tigers. 

I am aware that tigers, especially Malayan tigers, are a subject 
which should be approached with diplomatic caution and reserve. 
The Malayan jungle racket is getting played out. American 
authors, cinema directors, and "catch 'em alive" zoo proprietors 
have very nearly exhausted its possibilities. It is certainly astonish- 
ing what the reading public especially the American public- 
will swallow in the form of travel tales. The finest travel book 
written since the war in any language could not find a publisher 
in the United States until it had become an established success in 
England. It was refused by scores of publishers. I have seen their 
letters. The same note ran through all of them. The story was 
not exciting enough. Had the author not had some personal ad- 
ventures? Personal adventure was what the American public liked 
personal adventures like those of X or Y. Mr. "X" and Mr. 
"Y" were generally professional globe-trotters whose adventures 
were self-manufactured. Sometimes, too, they are borrowed. There 
is one author who writes on tropical life and who has apparently 
lifted his personal adventures straight out of the books of more 
famous writers. He has not even bothered to paraphrase his bor- 
rowings. Yet his books have done well and at least one of them 
has been filmed. One day, however, the public will be better in- 
formed and will rebel. For, although tigers abound throughout 
the Malay Peninsula, the Malayan jungle is too thick for the 
staging and the filming of spectacular adventures. 

Seeing a Malayan tiger is a matter of luck. One may spend a 
life-time in the country and never see one. One might arrive at 

144 



Penang for the first time, drive down by car to Kuala Lumpur, 
and run over a cub on the way. Does not the best and most truth- 
ful of all Malayan tiger stories relate how a young English girl 
straight out from home saw a tiger washing its face by the road- 
side and said nothing about it to her parents because she had been 
told that tigers were as common in Malaya as rabbits in England? 
Nevertheless, the odds are heavily against such meetings. I have 
seen fresh tiger spoor within a hundred yards or so of my bun- 
galow at Pantai. I have been out tiger-shooting with the dhief 
police officer of Negri Sembilan, that is, with all the chances in 
my favour, and I have never seen a live tiger outside of captivity. 
I remember meeting a procession one morning close to my bun- 
galow. It was headed by a group of road "coolies" carrying on 
poles the dead body of an old tiger, a "man-eater" for whose 
corpse the Government had offered a reward of a hundred dol- 
lars. Behind the tiger walked a skinny little Indian superintendent 
carrying a gun. A chattering crowd of Chinese, Tamils, and 
Malay boys and girls brought up the rear. The Indian had been 
in charge of a gang a mile or two up the road. The tiger had 
walked across early in the morning, and the Indian had killed it 
with a home-made cartridge, full of slugs and nails, fired from 
the single-barrel of a villainously cheap Belgian shotgun. The 
gun had knocked over both the tiger and the man, and now he 
was a hero with riches in his grasp, for in addition to the Gov- 
ernment reward he would sell the skin to a European who later 
would tell his friends and his children how he had stalked the 
monster through the depth of the jungle the flesh to the Chinese 
as a table delicacy, and the claws and whiskers and other extremi- 
ties to Malays as charms for courage or as ingredients for making 
love-philtres. 

This preamble will have prepared the reader for the tall but 
true story which now follows. . As we drew near to Freddie's 
home, he said to us: "You've heard the story of the seventh mile 
tiger, of course?" We hadn't. The whole coast looked far too 
civilised for tigers. I suggested to Freddie that it was no good 
trying to pull our legs. He laughed: "Oh, yes! there are still 
tigers even here. The government has a forest reserve behind 
Sendayan. The tigers come over on to the rubber estates occa- 
sionally. A year or two ago there was one which made quite a 



good bag of coolies on your old estate. When the number of vic- 
tims reached eighteen there was something like a revolution in 
the lines.' The coolies were afraid to go out to work. Although 
we sat up all night on numerous occasions and set scores of traps, 
we never even as much as got a sight of the man-eater. When the 
nineteenth coolie was found badly mauled and dead one morning, 
the estate manager came to see me. 

"We decided that drastic action must be taken. We sent in for 
the Indian dresser at the Port Dickson hospital and told him to 
bring out all the strychnine he had. We then took him to the 
place where the corpse was lying and made him fill it up with 
strychnine. We then withdrew, hoping that the tiger would come 
back to the scene of his kill. He came back all right. We found 
him the next morning quite close to the sea. His mouth was full 
of bamboo shoots and grass. In his death agony he had trampled 
everything down for a radius of about twenty yards. 

"The story had a sequel. Although the coolies on the estate 
were delighted that their enemy had been destroyed, the strychnine 
incident became known and received a wide publicity. It was 
taken up by the Indian Immigration people and by prominent 
Orientals of all races. There were questions in the Federal Council. 
It was suggested that we would never have dared to take such 
liberties with a European's corpse. For a bit we had quite a bad 
time, but I took the line that the safeguarding of the living was 
more important than the sanctity of the dead and that the addi- 
tion of a little strychnine to his body would not interfere with 
the coolie's chance of salvation. After all, old boy, you wouldn't 
mind your dead body being used to save your fellow-countrymen." 

It was a nice point. I could have quoted a case where Euro- 
peans in Europe had used human bait to destroy, not a tiger, 
but other human beings. In 1925 I was in the Balkans when the 
communists tried to blow up King Boris and the Bulgarian 
Cabinet during the funeral service for General GeorgieflE in the 
Cathedral of the Sveta Nedelia in Sofia. In order to provide them- 
selves with an opportunity of trapping the King and his Ministers 
under one roof, they had murdered General Georgieff, a harmless 
old gentleman. The bomb which they exploded killed nearly two 
hundred people. But the King was not among the victims. He 
was away attending the funeral of his favourite gamekeeper. As 

146 



that great sexagenarian sportsman, Mr. "Gerry" Weigall, would 
say, it was another illustration of the advantages of taking up 
sport. 

As for the use of my body for such humanitarian purposes as 
the destruction of a local scourge, I was not prepared to argue the 
question. For the moment I was not interested in tigers. They 
would not worry me. The only sound of wild animals that I was 
likely to hear during my present tour was the chattering of 
monkeys in Freddie's two strips of jungle. 

That evening, as we sat on the terrace watching the rose- 
yellow reflections cast on the sea by the last embers of the dying 
sun, Freddie was full of plans for my future delectation. To- 
morrow we should spend the whole day at Malacca. The day 
after there was the first inspection of the new Malay Regiment 
by the Governor. It would be a "Hari besar" (big day or holiday) 
in the history of Port Dickson. There would be a luncheon. We 
should have to go. 

Then he had arranged a fishing expedition for me, an all- 
night affair with the best Malay fisherman in the district to look 
after me. After that we could But for the moment I was not 
interested. Lying back in a long chair with some kind of scented 
fumigating oil burning at my feet to keep off the mosquitoes, I 
had my eyes glued on the sea. Many a time I had seen it lashed 
into foam by a "Sumatra," the western gale whose approach was 
generally preceded by a terrible stillness and which came with 
a fierce sudden rush, lifting the atap roofs off the top of the Malay 
houses and even off the old-fashioned European bungalows. But 
now the Straits were as still and as mysterious as a shadow. 

How often had I watched the same skyline and the same 
stretch of water! In those far-off years sea and sky had been 
cinema and theatre and news-reel to me. I could see new worlds 
in them every evening, could read anything I wanted into them. 
They were the only visible things that had not changed in this 
country during the last twenty-five years. They had been the 
same sea and the same sky when the first Portuguese came. They 
would be the same sea and sky when the Dutch and the British 
had disappeared in the limbo of lives which have accomplished 
their allotted span. In their relation to the forgotten past, the 
present, and the unborn future, they alone gave an impression 

147 



of eternity in a land where life was still amazingly evanescent and 
was as uncertain as the flame of a candle flickering in the wind. 

I did not want to talk but was content to be alone with my 
own thoughts. I knew that my stay in this Lotus-land would be 
all too short. I wanted to make its best moments last as long as 
possible. Suddenly I realised exactly why I hate big cities. It was 
because there one never sees the sun rise or set. 



148 



CHAPTER TWO 

OUR visit to Malacca was a complete success. We set out 
early in the morning and from then until our return long 
after dark I enjoyed every minute of what was undoubtedly a 
strenuous day. Twenty-five years ago I had made my first en- 
trance into Malacca from the sea. To-day, we went by car, mak- 
ing the seventy-five mile journey by a coast road which ran 
through rubber estates, Malay kampongs, and rice fields, with 
alternating strips of jungle to remind us of what the country had 
once looked like and occasional glimpses of the sea. Soon after 
we had started Freddie pulled up at the side of the road. He 
wanted to show us a bungalow built by an English artist. We 
went down a path towards the beach, and there, invisible from 
the road and with a little bay all to itself, was a bungalow 
modelled on a Siamese house with a well-kept grass terrace over- 
looking the sea. The artist was in England, but the Malay care- 
taker was at home and he showed us over the house. It was very 
simply furnished. The walls were hung with attractive oriental 
studies by the owner. Had I been a rich man I should have 
bought the place as it stood. It was peaceful and secluded. It 
would have made an ideal home for an author. 

While I was admiring the angular concave roofs, I noticed 
that the Malay caretaker was watching me with concentrated 
interest. His eyes never left me as I went from room to room, but 
it was not until we were about to leave that he made any attempt 
to satisfy his curiosity. 

"Tuan Lockhart?" he said, tentatively. "The Tuan doesn't 
remember me. Fm Haji Sabudin. I used to play in your football 
team at Pantai." 

I didn't recognise him, but I didn't tell him so. For a few 
minutes we talked about our old Malay friends in Pantai, who 
were dead and who were still living. We parted after a firm 

149 



promise from me that I should revisit Pantai and should allow 
him to make the arrangements for my reception. He was ob- 
viously pleased. As for me I went away with my head in the air 
and my feet walking on the clouds. Haji Sabunin had recognised 
me after twenty-five years without any prompting from Freddie 
or any one else. There is no limit to the various manifestations of 
human vanity. One of the most curious is the vanity of being 
remembered. It is also one of the most satisfying. 

The rest of our drive was uneventful. As we drew nearer to 
Malacca, the number of Malay kampongs increased. There were 
more rice-fields and, although in many places the rice was ripe 
for harvest, there were a few backward patches of that vivid 
green which is the reposeful adjunct to every Malayan landscape. 
We passed many water-buffaloes wallowing up "to their neck in 
muddy pools by the side of the road. They look both stupid and 
placid and, indeed, can be led literally by the nose by a Malay 
child of ten years old. But they are the most violent nationalists 
in Malaya, for they dislike the smell of a white man. The dislike 
is returned, but ever since I was chased by these animals twenty- 
six years ago I have an instinctive respect for them. We stopped, 
too, at the Linggi River which in my youth I had visited with 
Roger Swettenham, a nephew of the famous Sir Frank, in the 
Government launch. In those days the river was alive with croco- 
diles. Freddie told me their numbers had scarcely decreased. It 
was a strange emotion to feel that close around one were croco- 
diles, tigers, wild pig, deer, not to mention snakes, iguanas, 
lizards, and other smaller animals and insects, both dangerous and 
harmless, for the surrounding country gave no indication of their 
presence, and we saw no signs of animal life. On the other hand, 
all the ugliness which Western civilisation always brings in its 
train was there in full measure: motor-buses, motor-bicycles, road- 
drills and other noxious and noisome tools of modern engineering. 

The monotony of the landscape was just beginning to pall 
when we caught a glimpse of the sea. We began to pass rows of 
large houses with walled-oE grounds and gates with Chinese 
signs. They belonged to the rich Chinese merchants of Malacca. 
Presently we were in the town almost before I was conscious of it. 

This was a great moment, for, although the British now pay 

150 



little attention to Malacca, the town has more atmosphere than 
any other place in the East Indies. 

"Still further onward thou wilt come to f(now 
Malacca for emporium famed and strong, 
Where every Province on the mighty sea 
Can send its merchandise of rarity. . . . 
'Twas Chersonesus called, and the rich ore 
Of gold, which by the land produced had been, 
Added the title 'golden 9 to its name; 
Some have imagined Ophir was the same" 

So sang Camoens in the Lusiads, and his judgment is sup- 
ported by the testimony of all the early European travellers. The 
first Englishman to sail through the Straits of Malacca was Drake 
in the Golden Hind. But the real heroes of the place were the 
Portuguese who captured it in 1511, established it as the greatest 
emporium for trade between East and West, made it the first 
Christian centre in the East, and held the place for over a hun- 
dred and thirty years or longer than we British have held Singa- 
pore. 

The Portuguese captains and merchants failed with the course 
of time. But the missionaries remain. The angelus has been rung 
and mass has been said here daily for over four hundred years, 
and in the sleepy old-world atmosphere of the town it is easy to 
re-create in the imagination the glories of the Lusitanian colonial 
empire. 

After the Portuguese had come the Dutch, and after the Dutch 
that great Englishman, Stamford Raffles. It was from Malacca 
that Raffles organised the conquest of Java for the British in 1810. 
It was to Malacca that Lord Minto, the Governor-General of 
India, came with British troopships to take command of the expe- 
dition, and it was from Malacca that the expedition sailed. I do not 
suppose that any other Englishman has ever captured or ever will 
capture the affection of the Malays in the same degree as Raffles 
succeeded in doing. In the Hikayat Abdullah, the autobiography 
of .Raffles's Malay secretary, and one of the most entertaining 
books in the Malay language, the author pays a Malay's tribute 
to a man whose greatness is only now being fully recognised by 
his countrymen. To-day, Raffles is claimed by die-hard Imperialists 

151 



as one of their own. Actually, like most great proconsuls, he was 
ahead of his times. Like Swettenham, he was a champion of the 
Malays and a great advocate of a liberal policy towards all native 
races. He was severely censured by the directors of the East India 
Company, who then administered India and other British posses- 
sions in the Indian Ocean, for abolishing slavery and for thus 
reducing their profits. 

When the Portuguese took Malacca first, it was said to have 
a population of 100,000. The figure sounds fantastic, although 
long before the arrival of the Portuguese the place had become a 
great entrepdt centre and a stronghold of Islam, from which the 
followers of the Prophet went out to preach his gospel in every 
part of Insulinde. To-day, the population has sunk to a modest 
39,000. The harbour, once so highly prized by the British Gov- 
ernment for its geographical and strategic position, is useless, and 
even small steamers cannot approach within a mile of its walls. 
Most of the inhabitants are Chinese, and, as in all the large cities 
of Malaya, they dominate the industry and commerce of the 
place. They have even taken possession of Herren Street, where 
the charming early eighteenth century Dutch houses remain in- 
tact. Looking down from the hill you see the long rows of tiled 
Dutch roofs extending down the narrow street. You go down 
into the street, and the interiors are Chinese with Chinese lacquer 
cabinets, Chinese idols, Chinese joss-sticks, Chinese children, and 
Chinese smells. 

I could write a whole book on Malacca, for its attractions are 
endless. But I must follow the sequence of my programme, for 
Freddie, who is a great organiser, had made a programme for us. 
We were to lunch with George Wiseman, the head of the Dunlop 
Rubber Company in Malaya. After luncheon we should have a 
swim in his outdoor swimming-pool and a siesta. Then in the 
cool of the later afternoon we should climb the hill and from the 
site of the old fort and the ruins of the old church watch the sun- 
set over the harbour. 

It was a good programme. We went first to Wiseman's office 
where we found him surrounded by charts showing the rubber 
production of each of the numerous estates under his charge, the 
cost per lb^ the average yield per tree, and a mass of other statis- 
tics. In a neighbouring room was a whole army of accountants, 

152 



both European and Chinese. The Dunlop Rubber Company has 
85,000 acres of planted rubber in Malaya. I thought of my own 
early days of rubber planting in Negri Sembilan, when accounts 
were of the simplest description and the only kind of office work 
consisted in entering up the check-roll at the end of the day. As I 
listened to Freddie and Wiseman discoursing eloquently on such 
technical problems as bud-grafting, I felt somehow that times 
must have changed since my dilettante days. 

The Chairman of the Dunlop Rubber Company is Sir Eric 
Geddes, Britain's Minister of Transport, Secretary of State for 
Air, and First Lord of the Admiralty during the Great War. Of 
all my conversations with Mr. Lloyd George none has impressed 
me more than his story of how he discovered Geddes. "L. G." had 
then taken over the organisation of munitions. In his search for 
men he used to walk round the department. He would ask for a 
piece of information. Nearly always the unfortunate official would 
attempt to supply it himself and would search wildly among the 
mass of papers on his desk, until Mr. Lloyd George's patience 
was exhausted. Then one day he went into a room where a 
heavily-built man with the shoulders of a "rugger" forward sat 
at a large desk. The desk was bare. There was not a single file, 
not a despatch, on it. Its sole accoutrements were a piece of blot- 
ting paper, a telephone, and a set of three bells. The man was 
in charge of bicycles. Mr. Lloyd George asked for the latest pro- 
duction figures for Birmingham and for Coventry. Could he have 
the statistics for motor bicycles and ordinary bicycles? A large 
forefinger pushed two bells. As if to the rubbing of Aladdin's 
lamp two black-coated genii appeared simultaneously. "Mr. Jones," 
boomed a deep-bass voice, "bring me immediately the motor- 
bicycle production figures for Birmingham and Coventry up to 
last night. Mr. Smith, let me have the same figures for push- 
bikes." The genii retired. Within sixty seconds they were back 
with the information. Mr. Lloyd George was impressed. 

This was the beginning of the meteoric official career of Sir 
Eric Geddes. He could delegate work. Ever since Mr. Lloyd 
George told me that story I have pictured Sir Eric sitting in a 
huge office in London and pushing bells in different parts of the 
world in order to find out if people are working. Occasionally he 
comes East, and because he is a big man both physically and 

153 



metaphorically, the Dunlop Rubber Company have the biggest 
bungalow in Malaya. The spacious comfort of its high-ceilinged 
rooms, the beauty of its gardens, the mown elegance of its private 
golf-course, and, above all, the Roman opulence of its marble 
swimming-pool, modelled on the swimming-pool in Sir Eric's 
house in Wimbledon, raise it to a peak of luxury to which neither 
Carcosa, the Chief Secretary's residence in Kuala Lumpur, nor 
Government House in Singapore has ever been able to ascend. 
And because Sir Eric is a heavy man who cannot stand the heat 
the bungalow has electric fans in every room, including even the 
cabinets de toilette. 

Wiseman, who is also a big and heavy man, receives the full 
benefit of these Augustan luxuries, and he deserves them. For, 
after a luncheon in keeping with the glory of his palace, he went 
back to his office in order to ascertain whether in the last twenty- 
four hours Dunlops had made a profit of i-935d. per Ib, of rubber 
or whether they were a fraction of a farthing on the wrong side. 
This devotion to business in the heat of the day was not the least 
surprising change in the white man's life in the tropics. In my 
day we led a more wisely regulated existence. But then there were 
no overseas telephones and no bell-pushers in London. 

With the free run of the place to ourselves, we had our siesta 
in luxurious beds; we strolled through the richly scented garden; 
we reclined lazily in the shallow end of the Roman swimming- 
pool. And then towards four o'clock we set out to explore what 
remains of the old part of Malacca. 

We made our way down Herren Street and Jonkers Street. 
We examined the gate of the old Portuguese fort. We saw the 
silver collection at the old Dutch Church. We inspected the old 
cemetery with its dates going back four hundred years and we 
admired the luxurious Chinese houses, for Malacca, strangely 
enough, is also the cradle of the Straits-born Chinese who are 
known locally as "Babas" and were originally Hokkiens. They 
are very intelligent, have probably a good deal of mixed blood in 
their veins, and frequently speak no Chinese. Their languages 
are English and bazaar Malay. 

We should have called on the Resident-Councillor. We should 
have seen many more sights, but I grew tired of poking about 
smelly streets, and after an exquisite view of the river meandering 

154 



through the town and giving to it a kind of Venetian effect we 
made our way up the grassy slopes of the hill to the old ruined 
Church of St. Paul. Here was the view over the whole town and 
the harbour. Here we could rest undisturbed until it was time to 
go home. Here, too, was the historical heart of Malacca. 

The white-washed walls of the church are solid and well- 
preserved. There is a clump of trees beside it and a tall flagmast 
where on the King's birthday the Union Jack flies to proclaim the 
might, majesty and dominion of the British Empire. But other- 
wise the British have done nothing to dim the glory of its past. 
The grass is well tended. Within the roofless walls is a stone which 
marks the former grave of St. Francis Xavier, that ascetic Basque 
who helped Loyola to form the Jesuit order. 

There was a time when Montmartre meant to me champagne, 
French ladies of easy virtue, and the most foolish kind of night 
life. I never go to Paris now without visiting it. But I go by day, 
and the object of my pilgrimage is the Notre Dame of Mont- 
martre, where on Assumption Day, 1534, Loyola revealed to his 
six companions his dream of the militant order of Jesuits. And 
of the seven men, St. Francis, who on that day renewed his vow 
of poverty, chastity, and pilgrimage, was to be the most militant 
and the most ascetic. Europeans who know the East well hold 
very conflicting views about the work of Christian missionaries, 
but I have yet to meet one who does not at least respect the 
asceticism, the industry and the self-denial of the Jesuits, who, 
when they come East, turn their back for ever on Europe. The 
example of this self-denial was set by Francis Xavier, who to-day 
figures in every Missal as St. Francis Xavier, Apostle of the 
Indies. And every year, on December 3rd, the anniversary of his 
death, every good Catholic throughout the world says the follow- 
ing prayer: 

"O God, who, by the preaching and miracles of blessed Francis, 
wast pleased to join to Thy Church the nations of the Indies, 
mercifully grant, that, as we venerate his glorious merits, we may 
also follow the example of his virtues." 

St. Francis Xavier was a Basque, but he belonged to the great 
era of the Portuguese domination. What great men these early 
Portuguese adventurers were and how shamefully they have been 
treated by the Anglo-Saxon historians. Every schoolboy knows 

155 



the name of Drake's Golden Hind, but he is never told that the 
first Englishman to travel East was carried on a Portuguese 
sailing ship. The United States has blazoned the name of Colum- 
bus over the world in much the same way as it has made a national 
god out of Lindbergh. But what Englishman can tell you the 
name of Albuquerque's ship? What American knows anything 
about Vasco da Gama, as great a man as Columbus, yet now 
in danger of being forgotten, just as the exploit of Brown and 
Alcock has been suppressed, even in the British Dominions, for 
the greater glory of the American flying hero? It is not the fault 
of Columbus and Lindbergh, who deserve their fame, that the 
others have passed into semi-oblivion. It is merely that history 
is written by the victors and the loud speakers. Ask an English- 
man what he thinks of the Portuguese, and he will at once shrug 
his shoulders in amused contempt and refer to some apocryphal 
incident of the great war. Tell him that Portugal was building 
an empire when we were still engaged in civil war at home, that 
alike in courage and in culture her captains and conquistadors were 
the foremost men of the sixteenth century, and that in the world 
to-day there are still 60,000,000 people who speak Portuguese, and 
he will smile at you sadly. These things are not in the English 
history books. Yet they are true enough. We have a great place 
in the colonial history of the world, but we came after the Dutch 
and after the French. The Portuguese showed the way to all 
three of us. 

And of those early Portuguese the greatest viceroy had been 
Alfonso Albuquerque, the conqueror of Malacca and the builder 
of the Church of Our Lady where I now stood. As my eye took 
in the broad expanse of view with the town of Malacca lying 
below me like an ill-shaped mushroom with its legs in the sea, 
I pictured to myself that first arrival of the Portuguese. The city, 
now known to the English as "Sleepy Hollow," had then been 
very much alive. Men of almost every Eastern race, Hindus from 
every part of India, Arabs, Chinese, Gujuratis, and Javanese as 
wdl as Malays, composed its population. And then had come the 
first Portuguese, fanatical Christian warriors trained by years of 
fighting against the Moors in Africa and impelled hither as much 
by the zeal of the Crusader as by the cupidity of the merchant. 
This first squadron of five ships had come to trade and not to 

156 



conquer. It was at first favourably received by the Malay sultan, 
and a party of Portuguese had landed under the valiant Ruy de 
Aranjo. 

But the instinctive jealousy of the Malacca merchants prompted 
the sultan to rid himself of these dangerous newcomers by an 
act of treachery. He would invite the Portuguese officers to a great 
banquet. In the middle of the banquet they would be murdered, 
and with their death the Portuguese ships would fall an easy prey 
to the Malays. 

The plan promised well, and then fate in the form of eternal 
romance intervened on behalf of the Portuguese. A Javanese lady, 
who had already succumbed to the charms of one of the new 
white men, swam out to his ship to warn her lover. Thanks to this 
warning the Portuguese had been able to escape, although they 
were forced to leave Ruy de Aranjo and his twenty companions 
in the sultan's hands. 

At that moment the great Albuquerque himself, then at the 
height of his fame, had come in his famous ship, Flor de la Mar, 
and with a squadron of seventeen other vessels, to rescue his com- 
patriots and, above all, his friend Ruy de Aranjo. There had 
been negotiations with the sultan for the release of the prisoners, 
and Aranjo had written that gallant letter telling his viceroy to 
make no concessions in order to save the prisoners and that for 
himself he held it to be a good fortune that Our Lord had 
placed him in a state where he could die for his Holy Faith. 

Albuquerque had waited until July 25, the day of his Patron 
Saint, St. James the Greater, before launching his attack. There 
had been fierce fighting. Like Hannibal, the Malays had used 
elephants in their charges. A second assault had been necessary 
in order to conquer the city. But in the end the Portuguese had 
prevailed. The prisoners had been liberated, and Albuquerque had 
shown his gratitude to God by erecting a Church to Our Lady 
of the Annunciation and his trust in powder by building a fort 
such as the impressionable Orientals had never seen before. He 
had done more than this. At one blow he had destroyed the 
Mohammedan commercial route to Europe and had secured for 
his own country a monopoly of the lucrative spice trade of the 
East Indies. 

Malacca has seen the Portuguese evicted by the Dutch and the 

157 



Dutch, in turn, by the British. Her square has been the scene of 
grim executions and unbelievable tortures, for these early white 
rulers believed that severity was the best guarantee for their own 
safety. The last occasion on which her harbour was animated 
by the busde of naval preparations was when the Minto-Raffles 
expedition which conquered Java, sailed from it in 1810, and 
the watching natives were offered an unrehearsed firework display 
when one of the British ships took fire and her powder magazine 
blew up. 

But long before this Malacca had ceased to be of any great im- 
portance. Her trade began to decline when the Dutch began to 
develop Java, and it was finally destroyed by the rise of Penang. 
Her glory belongs to the Portuguese period, and it is to those 
early Portuguese that the mind returns again and again when one 
visits Malacca. 

Present at that first assault under Alburquerque was a very 
young Portuguese called Fernao de Magalhaes, better known to 
the world to-day as Ferdinand Magellan. Camoens, the poet of 
PortuguaTs great period, must have landed there more than once. 
And to-day the traces of the Portuguese occupation remain not 
only in the stone walls of the church, but in the living language 
of the people of Malaya. 

Even to-day there are probably more Portuguese words in the 
Malay language than the words of any other European language, 
and the English or Dutch woman in Singapore or Batavia who 
learns enough Malay to run her house, unwittingly uses as many 
Portuguese words as Malay, when she requires more forks, is 
ordering butter, or is telling her boy to open the shutters, to dust 
the wardrobe, or to give a ball to the dog. 

Albuquerque had several well-known successors in Malaya: 
Don Leonis Pereira, who defended Malacca against the Bang of 
Acheh, Duarte de Silva, who distinguished himself gready at the 
original siege, Fernao Pinto, and various de Castros and de Sousas. 
To-day, their names have come down to the present generation 
of Eurasians, for, although the Portuguese had a strict religious 
bar in relation to marriage, it was not extended to colour. Most 
of the early converts to Christianity were women. They were given 
to, or taken by, the Portuguese as wives, and to-day the Eurasian 
descendants of these Pereiras, de Castros, de Sousas, and even 

158 



Xaviers, provide the British Government in Malaya with its best 
second-division clerks and very frequently with its best cricketers. 
My former assistant at Pantai was a Eurasian called de Silva, 
who could trace his descent back to Albuquerque's captain. 

As I lay in the cool grass watching the Htde Malay prahus 
turning leisurely for home in the approaching sunset, I began 
to meditate on the transience of all empires. I found myself won- 
dering if our Eastern Empire would last as long as the Portuguese 
Empire and if it would leave as many traces. These sixteenth- 
century Portuguese had been not only superb soldiers but men 
of vision and enterprise and self-denial. They had been drawn from 
a hardy peasant population which never exceeded 3,000,000. Their 
Empire had failed pardy because the continual wars enforced a 
severe strain on the man-power of a small nation (the fleets for 
the Indian Ocean absorbed from 3000-4000 men a year), but 
mainly because the wealth which the Portuguese ships brought 
home from the East led all classes of the Portuguese population, but 
especially the peasants, to abandon their simple virtues. 

I saw again that glorious spring day when some years ago 
I paid my first visit to Lisbon. I had spent many hours in the 
richly decorated Gothic church at Belem where Henry the Navi- 
gator, whose mother, incidentally, was the sister of England's 
John of Gaunt, lies buried. I had seen the tower from which 
Vasco da Gama had set out. As a foreigner on whom Malaya has 
cast a spell which will never be broken I had paid my tribute 
to the tall white pillar on which stands the statue of Albuquerque 
surrounded by flowering Judas trees. 

True, in his life-time the Portuguese had not treated him well. 
The king had censured him as the British "John Company" had 
censured Wellington in India and Raffles in Malaya. He had 
superseded Albuquerque, and the news of his recall reached 
the great captain a few days before his death and made him 
exclaim: "In bad repute with men because of the King and in bad 
repute with the King because of men it were well that I were 
gone." 

But in death the king and the Portuguese had relented, and 
to-day the conqueror of Malacca looks down on his present-day 
compatriots from one of the most imposing statues in the world. 
I should like to think that it might serve to revive the adven- 

159 



turous spirit of the Portuguese and to give a new stimulus to their 
colonial enterprises. But I doubt its efficacy. As a colonial power 
Portugal has long since passed into decline. One day the British 
Colonial Empire may reach the same stage. 

To the average British subject who sees the Empire as a con- 
ception as permanent as the world itself, my reflection may seem 
like a lack of faith equivalent to high treason. But there is no 
permanence to any empire. Nor is there much satisfaction to be 
gleaned from those comforting theories of our modern historians 
about the advantages of climate and the superiority of the north- 
ern races. The theories may seem true enough if applied to the 
last two hundred years which in relation to time are like a day 
in the history of the world. Otherwise, they do not bear examina- 
tion. Some of the greatest empires and civilisations have been 
built up by peoples like the Hindus, the Egyptians, the Greeks, 
and the Romans themselves, who lived in climates which to-day 
we profess to regard as deleterious to races aspiring to world 
leadership. No, a comparison between the Portuguese Colonial 
Empire and the British Colonial Empire is strictly fair. Here in 
Malaya, where the warning finger of history is already visible, it 
is even appropriate. 

I continued my reflections during the long drive home in the 
pearl-grey light of the tropical moon. The fantastic shadows of 
trees across the road stimulated my imagination; the gentle mur- 
mur of the waves lapping on the shore lulled me to a generous 
complacency. The faults of the British in Malaya were easy enough 
to see. They consisted chiefly in a standard of luxury which was 
much higher than that of any other European race in the East or, 
for that matter, in Europe itself. The luxury was material and not 
intellectual. In all parts of the world the Englishman made a fetish 
of opening the pores of the body; he did less about opening the 
pores of the brain. Nowhere had he carried this fetish to such 
extravagant lengths as in the tropics. In his reading even the 
American felt an all-compelling urge towards self-education 
even in a half-baked form. The Englishman was superior to all 
such urges. He flood-lit the old church in Malacca, but he did not 
read its history. 

Yet he had great assets, and the two greatest perhaps were his 
inability to see himself as others see him and his convenient lack 

160 



of imagination. The first came from the devil. Pride, none the 
less overweening because it was hidden by a mask of meekness and 
self-depreciation, was the Englishman's original sin. It exposed him 
to the charge, levelled against him for centuries by other races, 
of hypocrisy. At the same time it permitted him to believe that his 
scheme of things, above all, his sense of justice and his standard 
of conduct in public affairs, was the best in the world. Other 
nations professed the same faith, but in the case of the English- 
man the belief was fundamental and had deeper roots of justifica- 
tion. His lack of imagination was a gift from God. It enabled him 
not only to keep calm in a crisis but to rise superior to it because, 
in spite of an increasingly hysterical popular press, he never saw 
it coming and refused to treat it as a crisis when it was upon 
him. I concluded that as a colonial empire we had reached an 
early middle-age rather too comfortable and complacent for our 
security, but still virile and far distant from senility. 

When we reached Freddie's bungalow, we went down to the 
beach for a moonlight bathe. There is something eerily exhilarating 
about bathing by night in the tropics. Freddie's little bay is pro- 
tected by a coral reef, but it has no pagar or staked enclosure, 
and there is always the danger, remote but never wildly improb- 
able, of a shark or a stray crocodile or one of those numerous sea- 
snakes whose poison is more deadly than that of almost any 
land-snake. The watet is still pleasantly warm. An instinctive cau- 
tion puts a natural check on any exhibition of swimming prowess. 
Slightly apprehensive, but yielding to a temptation . too exotic to 
be resisted, one lies in the shallow water a few yards out from 
the beach until every muscle is relaxed and the bloodstream is 
cooled to a delicious temperature. 

It is a form of stolen pleasure akin in its emotional thrill to 
poaching. Only here one is trespassing not against man-made 
laws but against the law of primeval Nature. 



161 



CHAPTER THREE 

Emay have been the moonlight bathe or an infection con- 
acted in Singapore. Be this as it may, I rose the next morning 
with a shivering feeling in all my bones. Like the sky above me 
my head was heavy and my usual cheery outlook slightly overcast. 
In my attempt to recapture all the emotions of my youth in Malaya 
was I to experience again the febrile sensations of a malaria which 
twenty-five years before had nearly kept me in the country for 
ever and which had altered the whole destiny of my life? I thought 
it more than likely, but I kept my feelings to myself. 

We had a day before us which I was determined not to miss. 
That morning the Governor was to inspect for the first time the 
new Malay Regiment. This regiment is the latest accretion to the 
military strength of the British Empire and its present headquar- 
ters are at Port Dickson. In the past the only native regiments in 
Malaya have been regiments brought from India and Burma. 
One regiment has always been stationed in Singapore, and more 
recendy another regiment has been quartered in Taiping in the 
Federated Malay States. Since the mutiny of the Indian Light In- 
fantry in Singapore, in 1915, the British authorities in Malaya 
have altered their views about imported Indian regiments, and 
in 1934 a beginning was made with the formation of a Malaya 
regiment with a view to its replacing the Burmese regiment in 
Taiping. 

Punctually at ten-thirty we made our way to the camp, which 
was only a mile or two away. There we met the Governor, Sir 
Shenton Thomas, and his wife and daughter, Mr. Hughes, the 
British Resident, and a small gathering of Europeans. After we 
had been introduced we were given seats on the edge of the 
parade ground and we sat down to watch the display. 

Before us were a hundred and fifty recruits dressed in singlet 
and white shorts and the two hundred and fifty trained men, 

162 



divided into three companies and looking very smart in then 
pale-green uniforms, with dark-green cap, pale-green web belt, 
shorts, puttees with Islam greentops, and well-polished black 
boots. From the laterite soil of the parade ground came a thin 
cloud of red dust. The air was charged with thunder. The heat 
was sweltering, and, as my head was splitting, I was prepared 
to be bored. 

When the display started, I was pleasantly surprised. I am no 
soldier, but during my life abroad I have seen the ceremonial 
parades of most of the crack regiments of Europe. These Malay 
boys were marvellously efficient. They had the "swagger" of 
guardsmen. Drilled by a Scottish Sergeant-Major, a short, red- 
faced Cameron Highlander with a hoarse whisper of a voice 
which sounded just as if he had completed a three-months' lecture 
in the United States, they performed a series of complicated evolu- 
tions not only with machine-like precision, but also with exultant 
pride. At the end they formed up with fixed bayonets about 
forty yards away and directly opposite to us. An officer blew his 
whistle, and suddenly the men charged with a chorus of blood- 
curdling yells. 

I was quite sober, but as I saw this line of brown faces with 
open mouths, dilated nostrils, and fiercely gleaming eyes descend- 
ing on us I was not quite sure what was going to happen. I felt 
a sudden uneasiness which was increased when Harry Rosslyn 
gripped my arm. Then the whistle blew -again, and the men 
pulled up a yard or two away from us. It was a magnificent and 
even terrifying spectacle. 

After the parade we made an inspection of the temporary 
barracks. They were spotlessly clean and except for. the plain un- 
mattressed plank beds looked like the open dormitories of an 
English public school. The regiment is run on English lines, and 
every form of English sport, including hockey, "soccer," and 
cricket is encouraged. Tommy Rosslyn was so impressed that 
she presented the regiment with a challenge cup. It is to be com- 
peted for annually for inter-company cross-country running. 

I inspected, too, the undress, or rather the walking-out, uniform 
of the regiment. It consists of white coat and trousers, a short 
green sarong worn short in the fashion of Malayan royalty, a green 
pocket handkerchief, an Islam green velvet songkok a cap rather 

163 



like a glengarry without ribbons and pompon, and a "swagger" 
stick. It is a kit to melt hearts, and the Malays are very proud of 
it. They have to buy it with their own money. They are paid 
fifteen Malay dollars a month or rather less than two pounds. 

At first the Sultan of Perak was upset by the idea of the royal 
sarong being worn by ordinary soldiers and made an official 
protest. On being told that our King allows the Royal Scots 
to wear the royal tartan, he waived his objection. The regimental 
tie, I should add, is of three colours: green for Islam, yellow, the 
royal colour of Malay sultans, and a thin strip of red to mark the 
British connection. 

About thirty per cent, of the Malays in the regiment speak 
English. Some of them speak it remarkably well. I met one or 
two of the . Malay non-commissioned officers including a son 
of the Sultan of Perak. He had been at Oxford and had married 
an English girl. Now he was a sergeant in the regiment and slept 
on a plank bed like the others. When he joined, his mother sent 
extra bedding. The Commandant of the regiment was spared the 
necessity of forbidding this breach of regulations. The young man 
refused the extra comforts. 

In the regiment they tell a good story of this young Rajah. 
Shortly before my arrival a big British commercial man had come 
down to Port Dickson to see the regiment. He had heard of 
the Rajah and asked the commanding officer if he could speak to 
the young man. The officer agreed, and the following conversation 
took place: 

Big English Visitor: "White man fire big gun boom." He 
blew out his cheeks and emitted a blast of sound meant to imitate 
a cannon. "And every one run away see?" 

Young Malay Rajah: "Tuan." 

BJLV.: "White man eat too much rice, belly swell see?" This 
time he blew out his stomach to illustrate his English. 

Y.M.R.: "Tuan." 

BJE.V.: "White man soldier plenty button, plenty spit, plenty 
polish-see?" Again he went through the appropriate gestures. 

YJMJR., still standing at attention and without a smile on his 
face: "Tuan." 

His flow of baby English exhausted, the visitor walked away. 

164 



"Fine-looking Malay," he said to the commanding officer. "In- 
telligent too. He seemed to understand everything I said." 

"Yes," said the officer, "I think he did. He was four years at 
Balliol." 

The young Rajah is a good example of the new Malay prince- 
ling, for the old type of Malay sultan is rapidly vanishing. The 
new generation is now trained at Kuala Kangsar, the Malay Eton. 
On the whole the product of this college, run on English public 
school lines, is excellent. But in the future it will create great 
difficulties, for with education and travel will come inevitably 
national aspirations. Mixed marriages, too, are already causing 
awkward and undesirable complications. Not long before my 
visit the Sultan of Kedah's son had married a white girl. His 
father, or rather his father's official advisers, tried to prevent the 
marriage by bringing in an Order in Council that no member of 
the Sultan's family should marry any one who had not embraced 
the Mohammedan faith. The young man circumvented both his 
father and the decree by taking his bride to an imam and having 
her converted overnight to Islam. 

The present Sultan of Perak is the first Malay Sultan who has 
graduated from Kuala Kangsar. I remember him from twenty- 
five years before when he was a young man in Government serv- 
ice in Kuala Lumpur and a keen polo player. To-day, he diverts 
himself with racing, owns over a hundred racehorses, and occa- 
sionally causes a little official uneasiness by his extravagance. 
Probably his racing is an outlet from the restrictions which British 
protection imposes on his powers as a ruler. For, although the 
Malays have not yet acquired the intellectual dialectics of national- 
ism, there is more than one sultan, especially in the new states, 
who remembers the good old days of the past and who chafes 
under British interference with their right of spending. 

During my visit an unprecedented example of British inter- 
ference had aroused considerable comment in British as well as 
in Malay circles. Three years ago the British Government decided 
on a scheme of decentralisation for the Federated Malay States. 
Instead of central government from Kuala Lumpur, the former 
Federal capital, greater powers were to be given to the Sultans 
and the British Residents of the respective States. 

It was a British Resident who first took advantage of his 

165 



powers under the new scheme. The Sultan of Selangor, a fine type 
of the old Malay, was over seventy. His eldest son and heir had 
long been regarded as an impossible successor, and when Mr. 
Adams, the British Resident, proposed to pass him over there 
were no complaints. 

Mr. Adams, however, carried matters much farther. In choosing 
a successor he forced on the Sultan, not his second son, but his 
third. This action, supported by the Governor and the Colonial 
Office, set tongues wagging all over Malaya. British officials, who 
disliked decentralisation, used it as a stick to beat the scheme. Men 
like Sir Frank Swettenham, who had played an important part 
in the negotiation of the agreement whereby the Sultan of Selan- 
gor had first accepted a British adviser, regarded the matter from 
a loftier point of view. It was a breach of a definite pledge given 
to the sultans that in giving our protection we should not interfere 
with the religion and customs of the Malays. 

Into the respective merits of centralisation and decentralisation 
it would be impertinence on my part to enter. It is an administra- 
tive question which can be solved only by the experts. I shall 
permit myself only one observation. Several decades of centralisa- 
tion created a new bureaucracy in Kuala Lumpur and destroyed 
the old type of independent Resident. Now that local powers have 
been restored, the men capable of exercising this responsibility are 
no longer there. 

Time may justify Mr. Adams's action, but it has left three men 
with a sense of wrong in the Sultan's palace in Klang: the Sultan 
himself, his eldest son and his second son. And this is the first 
time that such a thing has happened in the history of Malaya 
by direct British interference. Even more extraordinary to an old- 
timer was the Resident's reason for his choice; the third son, he 
said, deserved the preference because he was widely travelled and 
had been in Europe. 

I had some conversation with the Governor. Sir Shenton 
Thomas is a rather short, thick-set, clean-shaven man who, espe- 
cially when he spoke, reminded me a little of the late Lord 
Birkenhead. He is fifty-seven and is a member of the Singapore 
Non-Benders Cricket Club. The members are presumed to have 
reached an age when they can no longer bend, but Sir Shenton 
looked active enough to get his hands down to the hardest drive. 

166 



He has a keen, alert mind, talks very much to the point, and has 
a thoroughly business-like manner. He was quick to notice the 
weak spots in the parade. During his inspection he had noted that 
many of the new recruits had sores on their legs and other traces 
of skin affections on their bodies. The men who had been six 
months or more with the regiment had none and were as clean and 
as fit as trained athletes. 

The creation of the Malay regiment is the work of Major 
G. M. Bruce, a Scots-Canadian, whose grandfather went out to 
Canada to join the Canadian Mounted Police and took part in 
the famous Klondike gold rush known as "The Trail of '98." 
Major Bruce, a powerfully built officer who was wounded in 
France, belongs to that splendid type of man whom the Empire 
fortunately still produces, and in Malaya he has done a remarkable 
job. He is assisted in his task by British officers who are sent out 
from England after a short course in Malay at the London School 
of Oriental Languages. 

The idea of a Malay regiment for Malaya was first suggested 
nearly thirty years ago. It was officially put forward by my old 
friend, Stewart McClelland, one of the best brains in the Malayan 
civil service. The proposal was pigeon-holed. Had such a regiment 
been in existence in 1915, there might have been no Singapore 
mutiny. 

But perhaps I had better avoid the subject of mutinies. In its 
short career the Malay regiment has already had a minor mutiny 
of its own. It was the result of too much zeal. On King George's 
Jubilee Day, 1935, &&* were sports at Port Dickson. The tit-bit 
of the programme was the tug-of-war between a picked team 
of the Malay regiment and a composite team recruited from the 
local "Bengalis." The Malays had made the mistake of under- 
estimating their opponents. They had been unduly boastful. On the 
day of days they had been ignominiously pulled over by the 
"Bengalis." 

To an unbiased observer the result could have been no surprise. 
The "Bengalis," composed mainly of stalwart Sikhs and Pathans, 
must have averaged a stone or two heavier per man. But because 
of the preliminary boasting of the Malays, one of the "Bengalis" 
had cocked the Pathan equivalent of a snook at the defeated 
enemy. The warlike ardour of the Malays had been fired by this 



insult, and that evening part of the regiment had broken loose 
and had chased and beaten up the "Bengali" victors all over Port 
Dickson. Fortunately, there was no serious consequences. As soon 
as the commanding officer appeared, the Malays came to heel at 
once like well-trained retrievers. 

That night Freddie gave a "pahit" party to some of the British 
officers of the regiment They were pink-cheeked young men, who 
were still keen on their job and who had not been long enough in 
the tropics to have acquired that indifference to time and to work 
which is the essence of Eastern philosophy. It ought to have been, 
and for the others doubtless was, a stimulating evening. But, try 
as I might, I could not conquer the fever which already had 
me in its grip. The next morning I awoke with a high temperature. 
My head felt as heavy as lead. My eyes were sore. My throat was 
almost closed. 

Freddie insisted on sending for a doctor and offered me a choice 
between a British lady doctor with a private practice and the Tamil 
doctor who was the head of the local Government hospital. "Give 
me the man," I said firmly, if ungallantly. He came and at once 
diagnosed acute tonsillitis. I must be very careful It would be 
a week before I could move. Reluctantly I decided to give up that 
part of my trip which was to take me to the other states of the 
F.M.S. Abandoning all resistance, I turned my face to the wall. 

Two days later the Rosslyns left by steamer for Singapore. 
Clad in my sarong and baju, I struggled out of bed to see them off. 
I had been eager to meet the captain of their steamer. I had 
heard much of him from several of my friends in Malaya. He 
had begun life as a charity boy and had sailed all the eastern 
seas. Like most sea captains he was a great reader with original 
views on literature and a special admiration for Mr. Somerset 
Maugham, who had once been his passenger. I had wanted to 
hear his views on Mr. Maugham. Now to my regreat I had to 
forego this meeting. 

I had my bed put out on the verandah in order that I might 
see the steamer leave the harbour. With the reflected rays of the 
afternoon sun die sea shone like corrugated zinc. The wait seemed 
interminable, and in an orgy of self-pity I began to review the 
various phases of my unrealised ambitions. This stillness of land 
and water, deathlike yet eternal, which composes the evasive 

x68 



atmosphere of the Port Dickson scene, had been, and always 
would be, an influence in my life. In my youth I had never grown 
weary of watching it. At many moments in my life it had come 
back to me. To it I ascribed my irresponsibility, my lack of self- 
control, my intense desire, even when material success is within 
my grasp, to escape from the turmoil of city life and my unwilling- 
ness to follow the ordained paths. Circumstances had tried to make 
a man of action of me. Many of my acquaintances had credited 
me with an ability to carry things through in the face of great 
difficulties. The ability had never existed or, at best, had been a 
pretence exaggerated into a reality by the situations in which I had 
been placed. I had known from the beginning that I was a moral 
coward. Like Dan Leno wishing to play Hamlet, I had always 
pictured myself as a man of reflection. During the twelve years 
of my official career in Russia and in Central Europe there was 
only one thing on which I could legitimately pride myself, and that 
was a certain freedom from bias in my judgment of men and 
affairs. It was here in Port Dickson that I had first learnt to observe 
and that I had made my first youthful attempts to write. 

And now, with the shadow of autumn on the threshold of 
my life, here I was back again before the self-same scene and the 
self-same sea. 

The distant blast of a siren interrupted my depression. At last 
the steamer was leaving, and in order to get a better view I raised 
myself on my pillows. The devil in me reasserted himself as I 
remembered the last time that I had seen any one off by steamer 
from Port Dickson. My first Tuan Besar, anglico senior manager, 
had been going home on leave after seven unbroken years in 
Malaya. Before his departure he had given a farewell party which 
had lasted for four days. It had been a carousal tempered by sea- 
bathing. Freddie, then just straight out from school and innocent 
as a lamb, had been shocked. The cliffs had echoed with the roar 
of ribald choruses. The piano had been oiled with beer. No "wild 
party" in the United States during Prohibition could have shown 
a more imposing array of empty bottles. 

The house party had been composed entirely of Scots. All 
had been at Scottish public schools, most of them at Merchiston. 
I, as the only Fettesian, had been unmercifully ragged. Perhaps 
it was this ragging which upset my mental balance. But in an 

169 



effort to get my own back I went into Port Dickson on the last 
day and by dint of bribery and diplomatic persuasion I ordered 
all the Japanese ladies of joy to turn up on the quay the next 
morning to give a ceremonial farewell to our host, and to ensure 
their presence I made them a generous gift of money. 

The steamer left at six a.m. and we had some difficulty in 
getting our host ready for the three-mile journey by "rickisha" 
to the harbour. Eventually we arrived quarter-o-an-hour before 
sailing-time, and after a hilarious farewell he went on board. 
There was no sign of the Japanese ladies, but on the deck I 
noticed a high British official with his sister. He was known to us 
all as a rigid churchman and as the straitest-laced Englishman 
in the East. Our host, beaming but not yet restored to normal, was 
leaning against the rails. He would have greeted his executioner 
with the same urbanity. 

My heart sank. Regretting my foolishness, I prayed that the 
Japanese would not come or, at least, would arrive too late. I 
had miscalculated the precision of that self-disciplined race. Just 
as the steamer was about to sail and as every one was standing 
at the ship's side in a last exchange of farewells, a glittering pro- 
cession of ladies, dressed in their brightest kimonos and with 
their little wooden clogs clacking on the stones, made their way 
along the quay. Our host caught sight of them at once and kissed 
his hand to them. The ladies twirled their parasols, bowed low, 
and kissed back. It was a touching and graceful scene. But I saw 
a thundercloud come over the dignified serenity of the high offi- 
cial's face. As he went below at once, I felt instinctively that I 
was in for trouble. I was. The story travelled round very quickly, 
and I was severely reprimanded by my uncle. 

Now as I lay on Freddie's verandah, the whole scene came 
back to me with a vividness which the intervening years had been 
unable to dim. Instead of repentance I felt a glow of self-satisfac- 
tion. And when the steamer passed opposite the bungalow, I went 
to my bedroom and, taking a sheet, waved it to the Rosslyns. I 
should miss them, but as we were to meet again in Singapore 
a month later there was no sense of permanent loss in my farewell. 
When Freddie came back, he found a cheerful patient. 

That afternoon, in fact, was the turning point in my illness. 
When the little Tamil doctor came the next morning, he was 

170 



able to report progress. In three days I might go about again. Be- 
fore he left, he delivered himself of one classic Babu gem. He 
recommended a course of light diet for some days to come. "What 
about alcohol?" asked Freddie with a grin. "Alcohol," said the 
little man, looking very serious and professional, "totally better 
not*" He was a most efficient doctor. 



171 



CHAPTER FOUR 

A LTHOUGH at the time I regretted the interference with my 
jM^plans, I am inclined to-day to regard my tonsillitis as a god- 
send. Travel is like fishing. Its joys are not to be measured by the 
amount of water which one covers, but by the ability to linger 
at and to return to favourite spots. Hitherto I had been rushing 
round like a tornado, taking in very little in my desperate effort 
to see everything. Here, in Freddie's bungalow, the enforced rest 
enabled me to sift the imperishable things from what was worth- 
less and to sort and store them in my memory. 

Now that the Rosslyns were gone I could talk freely about 
the visit to Amai. It worried me a good deal. Was it wise, was it 
kind, to scrape again the surface of a passion which had been dead 
for so long? Pantai, however, I must see. Singapore and Port 
Dickson were on the sea: one a city, the other a township, but 
both modern, both with nothing Malay about them. Pantai was a 
Malay village buried at the foot of the mountains. More than 
anything I wanted to see the old Malay life. With Freddie I 
planned a great tour which we should make as soon as I was 
better. We should motor round the interior of Negri Sembilan, 
which in English means "The Nine States"; we should cross the 
Gunong Angsi mountain range and spend a night at Kuala Pilah, 
a great Malay centre in the hills, where in spite of the heat by day 
one wanted a blanket to sleep under; and we should finish up by 
driving round the back of the range via Jelebu, and make the 
approach to Pantai by the Bukit Tangga Pass. And Pantai to me 
meant not merely my old home. It was Amai's home. It was also 
the home and the thought was rather disturbing of the aged 
father and mother of the Dato' Klana, whose ward Amai was, 
and who had so bitterly resented her flight to my house. The 
Dato' Klana was the Chief of Sungei Ujong, the most important 
of the Nine States. It was his grandfather who in 1874 had first 
172 



invited the British to assist him in maintaining his rule and in 
putting down the prevailing anarchy. 

The three days of my convalescence passed pleasantly enough. 
By day I lay on the verandah looking out at the Indian Ocean 
and seeing on that vague horizon line where sky and sea seem to 
blend the mirage of my half-forgotten romance. In the evenings 
I talked to Freddie or to Buntak. 

There were moments of trial and disappointment. One of the 
trials was when one morning Freddie produced a durian with our 
early tea. I was not feeling very strong, and the smell was so 
nauseating that I was nearly sick. I am prepared to believe that 
the durian is the best of all tropical fruits. Europeans like Freddie 
who can get it to their mouths without fainting are unanimous 
in praise of its virtues. It is exalted in the prose and poetry of 
oriental literature as is no other tropical fruit. Chinese will sell 
their immortal soul and tigers will risk their lives for it. And as an 
aphrodisiac its reputation holds sway from Colombo to Shanghai. 
Is there not the story of the old Scottish lady in Batavia in the 
'sixties, when Presbyterianism was Presbyterianism, who seeing a 
newly-arrived fellow-countryman about to taste his first durian, 
exclaimed: "Maister Thamsan. Ye mauna eat that. It'll no agree 
wi' ye. And forbye, it's a maist unchaste fruit." 

In spite of all these virtues it will never be my fruit, nor in- 
deed that of any one else who dislikes a smell which combines the 
worst odours of a rotten cheese and a sewage farm. 

My chief disappointment was the visit of Haji Said, the fisher- 
man, whom Freddie had engaged to take me out by night. I felt 
all the bitterness of regret when he held up his catch of glittering 
ikan tenggiri before my eyes, and said in his soft Malayan accent: 
"barang-kali besok, Tuan? Perhaps to-morrow, Tuan?" Twenty- 
seven years before, yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow and all the 
days after, had seemed exactly the same to me. Now time was all- 
important, and I knew that for me there would probably never 
be another fishing to-morrow at Port Dickson in this life. 

I acquired a certain stoicism from the philosophical Buntak. 
He was a cheerful materialist with the cynical contempt of the 
successful man for human frailty. He told me that the Malays 
were much more careful about money than they used to be. Now 
that they had become mechanically-minded, they had begun to 

173 



save up for motor-cars and motor-bicycles. Japanese cars and cycles 
could be bought very cheaply. He himself had a super-British 
motor-cycle with all the latest gadgets. 

Apparently the Malays have other more exciting, if less harm- 
less, amusements. Between Port Dickson and Malacca, Buntak 
told me, there is still a good deal of smuggling. Sugar, piece-goods 
and matches are much cheaper in the Straits Settlements than 
they are in the F.M.S. The smugglers, he said, make a good 
profit, but not to be compared with what it was ten years ago, 
when the British had rubber restriction in Malaya and the Dutch 
in the East Indies refused to come into the scheme. He waved 
an arm towards the lighthouse at Cape Rachado, the nearest point 
to Sumatra. "That was the place," he said. On dark nights the 
Negri Sembilan Malays used to slip out from the shore in small 
boats loaded with rubber. A mile or two out a large Sumatra 
prahu would be waiting for them. There would be a deal in cash 
at the ship's side, and silently, as only a Malay knows how, the 
smugglers would steal back to the mangrove-girt shore. "That 
was a business," said Buntak, in matter-of-fact tones in which I 
thought I detected a faint accent of regret. 

In my youth in Scotland I always had a natural sympathy with 
poachers, and to me smuggling by night on that still, phosphores- 
cent sea, especially in the company of Malays in whom the old 
pirate instinct was obviously not dead, would have been far more 
thrilling than the capture of a salmon in the forbidden waters of 
some Highland river. 

On the day before we were to leave on our grand tour, Freddie 
took me over various neighbouring rubber estates, including his 
own private estate. The contrast with my planting days was 
startling. In those early days of the rubber plantation industry 
we had had to carve our estates out of primeval jungle. We had 
foot-slogged daily in the sun. Then clearings were literally clear- 
ings. There was comparatively little fully-grown rubber, and there- 
fore very little shade. Estate roads and very often estate bungalows 
were primitive. Now half Negri Sembilan was one solid block of 
rubber estates. Matured trees provided a welcome shade. Well- 
built roads gave suitable access by motor-car even to outlying parts 
of the estates. The very word planter was a misnomer. Planting 
had ceased. The planter of to-day was a manager equipped with 

174 



far more technical knowledge than the pioneers. His hours of 
work were longer. He superintended far larger areas. But his 
comforts had increased a thousandfold. 

But if I saw bungalows lit by electricity, there were also signs 
of the slump which overtook rubber in 1929. Here and there I 
came across a European bungalow, derelict and deserted, and its 
timbers already gutted by white ants. In 1910 the price of rubber 
touched thirteen shillings per pound. To-day it is in the neighbour- 
hood of sevenpence. Since the war it has been as low as one penny 
three-farthings. When an article which costs a few pence to pro- 
duce can sell at thirteen shillings, there is little need of economy, 
and the planters of 1910 who thought the millennium had come 
never stinted expenditure. The fall in the price has meant a reduc- 
tion of all costs, including the European planter's salary. The 
derelict bungalows which I saw had belonged to European assist- 
ants whose services had been dispensed with during the slump. 
They will never be reoccupied. 

The sight of them was depressing. For there is nothing beautiful 
about a rubber estateonly a monotony of regularity which cor- 
rodes one's outlook on life, and in ill-health reduces even the most 
robust Philistine to a dangerous melancholy. If I were the High 
Commissioner of the Malay States, I should make a public protest 
against the building of planters' bungalows in the middle of huge 
blocks of rubber. Bungalows should be built on sites where a man 
can see beyond a forest of leaves and the mutilated trunks of 
rubber trees. In Europe men do not live in their offices or in their 
factories, and in Malaya there is neither reason nor commonsense 
in subjecting the European planter to this restricting and demoral- 
ising influence. And to-day when the motor-car and every planter 
has a car or a motor-cyclecan take a man to his work in a few 
minutes, such callous indifference on the part of the large rubber 
companies to the housing of their employees is not merely an 
anachronism, but a hall-mark of inefficiency. 

If there is nothing attractive about a rubber estate, there is 
romance and comedy and tragedy in the story of rubber, of which 
commodity Malaya is the largest producer in the world. The 
romance, die comedy, and some of the tragedy can most graphically 
be told in the life-history of my grandmother and my uncle. . 

My Macgregor grandmother, who owned a distillery in Scot- 

175 



land, had a large family. Her third and favourite son was a good- 
looking young man, who excelled in running and rugby football. 
In his youth he had shown the same disinclination towards work 
which is common to most athletes. In the nineties my grandmother 
sent him out to Malaya, where she bought a coffee plantation for 
him. In those days most of the planters were proprietary planters. 
Nearly all had been to English or Scottish public schools. Their 
life ran on pleasant lines. There was cheap racing in which every 
man could be an owner for each meeting. There were no white 
women to interfere with the prevailing code of pleasure. 

At this time there was a man called Ridley who was the director 
of the Botanical Gardens in Singapore. His great pride was a small 
collection of rubber trees. The trees had a curious history. Hitherto, 
the commercial rubber of the world had come from the hevea 
brasiliensis in Brazil. In 1876 the first seeds of this tree were 
smuggled out of Brazil by Henry Wickham and brought to Kew 
Gardens, where they were planted. In the same year twenty-two 
seedlings were sent from Kew to Singapore. Some were planted 
there and some in other parts of Malaya. The seedlings flourished 
exceedingly, grew into healthy trees, and in their turn produced 
seed. Ridley was the first man to conceive the possibilities of planta- 
tion rubber as a prosperous industry, and he used to visit the 
coffee-planters and urge them to plant his seeds. Some planters 
took diem as curiosities. Some seeds were planted on Linsum, 
which was afterwards part of my uncle's property, and the oldest 
rubber trees in Malaya, I believe, are now those early Linsum trees, 
for the trees in the Singapore Botanical Gardens have disappeared 
before the encroaching demands of municipal building. Few 
planters, however, took Ridley seriously, and among the planting 
community he was generally referred to as "Mad Ridley." 

The planters changed their minds when the slump in coffee, 
assisted by the ravages of the bee-hawk moth, ruined them. In their 
economic distress those who could afford the expense converted 
their coffee plantations into rubber estates. My uncle was among 
their number. But the consternation in the family circle at home 
was great. Four sons and four daughters of my grandmother's 
large family were still alive. Seven of them were up in arms 
against my uncle in Malaya. Rubber trees took seven years to come 
into bearing. During those seven years the estate would eat money. 

176 



Whiskey was then doing badly. My grandmother would be ruined. 
The family lawyer added his voice to the chorus of complaint. 
But my grandmother was a determined woman, and she loved her 
son. She continued to send money to Malaya. 

In 1902 my uncle came home and tried to float his estates as a 
public company. He met with nothing but rebuffs. Serious finan- 
ciers were suspicious of a proposition which on the figures seemed 
fool-proof, and which promised profits of hundreds per cent. He 
returned to Malaya and came home again in 1904. His personal 
situation was now desperate. There was an overdraft of several 
thousand pounds. The family opposition was more violent than 
ever. The estates would have to be floated as a company or aban- 
doned. And then Arthur Lampard, a director of Harrison and 
Crossfield, came to the rescue. There were protracted hagglings 
and dealings. Lampard drove a hard bargain, but in the end a 
company known as Anglo-Malay Limited was floated in the 
autumn of 1905. My uncle's two estates of Tarentang and Linsum 
formed the bulk of the new property. 

At that moment fate smiled on the destiny of the family for- 
tunes. Under the pressure of the rest of her family, my grand- 
mother would probably have sold the whole of the family interest 
for ready cash. The sum would have been comparatively small. 
But again, although unwittingly, Lampard was a deliverer. Rubber, 
he said, was an unknown adventure. The vendors must share the 
risk. A large part of the purchase price must be taken in shares. 
The Macgregors had little choice in the matter. They took the 
shares. 

In the summer of 1910 the 2/- Anglo-Malay share had reached 
40/-. My grandmother's ^25,000 shares were then worth ,500,000. 
My uncle, who had returned to Malaya, had made at least as much 
in buying shares and in promoting new companies. These were 
days of triumph and rehabilitation. From being a suspected black 
sheep my uncle became the hero of the family. In Edinburgh my 
grandmother was nicknamed the Rubber Queen. There was money 
for every one, even for me who had gone out to join my uncle 
in 1908, and who was then grievously ill with malaria in Pantai. 
And when I was sent home in 1910, as I then thought to die, I 
was given ^300 by my uncle and a like amount from home to 
make my passage easy. 

177 



In the autumn o 1910 there was a sharp slump in the price of 
rubber, and my stockbroker uncle Tom raised a voice o warning. 
But he had never seen a rubber tree. Alister, my Malayan uncle, 
was still buying shares, and as his star was in the ascendant my 
grandmother backed him and also went on buying. 

Her faith was of the kind which moves mountains. When I 
came home, she told me the whole story, I can see her now, her 
eyes searching me as always for the truth, her hands folded calmly 
on her lap, her mien austere, commanding, and slightly terrifying. 
"They criticised him," she said. "They told me I was a fool" The 
eyes flashed. Then came the all-conquering argument. "But what 
I say is this. Where would we all be now without Alister?" The 
only answer would have been: "Where might we all have been 
with Alister?" But my innate sense of diplomacy warned me that 
such a reply might be lacking in tact. I acquiesced. The facts 
were on my grandmother's side. 

Alister himself came home in that same autumn. He had been 
hit by the slump, but he was still a rich man, Mr. J. G. Hay, the 
rubber expert, and now the head of Guthrie & Co., the great 
Singapore and London firm of merchants, was then a junior em- 
ployee in the London office. He has often told me how my uncle 
arrived in the office, and wanted to arrange a loan of 30,000 so 
that he need not sell any rubber shares. Naturally Guthrie's asked 
for security, and my uncle said casually: 

"I've got about 200,000 worth of shares at the bank. You can 
send some one over to check them and arrange for the necessary 
security," 

Hay was given this task. When he had finished it, he said to 
my uncle with all the astonishment of Scottish accuracy at such 
un-Scottish indifference to exact figures : "It's not 200,000 worth 
of shares you have, but 275,000." Optimism was the keynote in 
my uncle's financial scale. 

He was, in fact, an easy-going man, charming in manner and 
generous to a fault. He came home for good at the age of thirty- 
six, believing in his star and in rubber. He took a place in 
Scotland with fishing and shooting and, although he attended the 
board meetings of the various companies of which he was a 
director, he never really worked again. 

His optimism was his undoing. He never sold a rubber share 

178 



and, as the price of the commodity fell, his fortune dwindled. 
The place in Scotland had to be given up. Shortly after the war 
there was an improvement in his affairs, and he could have 
realised his rubber assets with a profit, smaller than that of 1910, 
but still comfortably substantial. He held on to his shares. Once 
again in the minor boom of 1924 he refused to sell. And that was 
the end. 

There was something attractive about his courage. He never 
wilted under his losses. But finally his optimism reduced him to 
comparative poverty. In 1933 he was seriously ill, and during the 
next two years underwent a series of operations, borne with the 
same unfaltering courage which had characterised his whole out- 
look on life. I received the news of his death on my way home 
from Malaya, and with his passing one of the dominant influences 
in my life disappeared for ever. It was the inspiration of his suc- 
cess which in 1908 first set me on my way to Malaya. It was his 
generosity in sending me home when I was near to death which 
prevented me from leaving my bones to rot in that land of languor 
and of exile. To the end of his life he never refused an appeal 
for help from me or, indeed, from any of his other friends and 
relations. In spite of all my shortcomings I never heard an unkind 
word from him, and his death has left me with a sense of personal 
loss which remains poignant to this day. 

I tell his story at some length because it is the story of the vast 
majority of the proprietary planters of those early days. Oppor- 
tunity knocked at their door only to deceive their judgment. 
Rubber had brought them gold undreamt of, and their fidelity 
to it was pathetically disastrous. The same obstinate refusal to sell 
characterised nearly all, and only a few were wise enough to accept 
gratefully, and to cash in on, a gift which the god of financial 
chance brings perhaps only once in a hundred years. 

Since then the whole plantation rubber industry in the East 
Indies has altered its character. When my uncle started on his crazy 
career of success in 1905, Malaya produced only 200 tons of planta- 
tion rubber as compared with the world output of 60,000 tons of 
wild rubber mainly from Brazil. To-day Malaya has a planted 
area of over 3,000,000 acres, and even under the restriction scheme 
now in force the annual export of plantation rubber is, approxi- 
mately, 400,000 tons. The old proprietary planters have disappeared, 

179 



and Freddie Cunningham, a shrewd and far-seeing Scot who has 
spent a quarter of a century in the East, is almost the only sur- 
vivor. Public companies with headquarters in London now control 
the European-owned estates. They are finding it increasingly hard 
to compete with native-owned rubber, for so far from the native 
being exploited by the white man in the rubber industry, to-day 
the native holdings run into hundreds of thousands of acres, and 
in the opinion of some experts may one day dominate the world 
market. Throughout the East Indies over-production has made a 
return to the dream days of 1910 for ever impossible, and the 
white planter of to-day is a salaried official entirely at the mercy 
of his home directors. He will be fortunate if at the age of fifty 
he can save enough to retire with a few hundred pounds a year. 

There is one interesting and little-known sidelight on the great 
rubber boom of 1910. 

About that time a well-dressed American appeared in the office 
of one of the leading mercantile and shipping firms in Singapore. 
His credentials were excellent, and he had the backing of the 
Vanderbilts and the Godets. In an atmosphere of war-time secrecy 
he unfolded his story. 

The people for whom he was working had, he stated, acquired 
a new method for extracting the rubber from "Jelutong." This 
"Jelutong," which grows in large quantities throughout the islands 
of the Malay Archipelago, contains a large percentage of moisture 
and a very small percentage of rubber. 

The American duly chartered a steamer to visit the Dutch 
Islands and also Sarawak, where he obtained a concession for the 
collection of "Jdutongf' from that territory. His next step was to 
construct a factory at the mouth of the river which runs down 
from Kuching, the capital of Sarawak. The site selected was 
appropriately named "Gobilt." 

After this factory had been completed at very considerable cost 
and had commenced to operate, a still larger factory was erected 
on the Kariman Islands, which lie about thirty miles to the west 
of Singapore and whose green slopes the traveller sees on his 
approach from Colombo. The factory was also duly completed, 
and at even greater cost than that of Gobilt. But it was never put 
into operation. Before the great dream could be realised, the bottom 
fell out of the rubber market. While it is conceivable that the 

180 



company might have made a profit if the price of rubber had 
remained at io/- per lb., it certainly could not do so when the price 
came tumbling down. It threw in its hand, and the factories were 
abandoned with, of course, a heavy loss to the proprietors. 

Thus ended the second attempt of powerful American financial 
interests to capture one of Malaya's two greatest assets, rubber 
and tin. In the case of tin, American enterprise was frustrated 
by the masterful and independent action of Sir Frank Swettenham, 
the British Governor. In the case of rubber, Puck threw his cap 
on to the British side of the scales of chance. 



181 



CHAPTER FIVE 

IT was late on a Monday morning that I took my farewell of 
Port Dickson. Although the sun was high in the sky, the air 
was dry and not unbearably hot. Like Singapore the F.M.S. had 
experienced an unprecedented drought. Here it had not broken, 
and the sea, like a horse-shoe mirror of mother-of-pearl in a frame 
of jade, was almost motionless. 

After a two-course breakfast-luncheon I took one last look from 
the verandah. Then I went down the steps to the drive, where 
Freddie's heterogeneous staff of Chinese, Malays and Javanese was 
drawn up to say goodbye to me. Buntak came forward with 
presents of Malay handiwork, a straw-plaited cushion, two fans, 
and a tumbok lada, the smallest of Malay knives, very sharp and 
evil-looking, and made to strike home to the heart, A knife for 
lovers with dynamite in their blood. I seemed to be facing a squad 
of impenetrable brown relieved by a thin line of ivory set in a 
fixed smile. The biggest and widest grin was on Buntak's face. 
To him I should always remain the comedian among white men, 
the mysterious mad Tuan. Already I could see him repeating to 
his friends that night the very words of Conrad's Arab trader: 
"I know these white men. In many lands I have seen them; always 
the slaves of their desires, always ready to give up their strength 
and their reason into the hands of some woman." But I could 
not tell whether he or any of the others felt any emotion and, 
fearful of betraying my own feelings, I chatted nervously with 
them in a spirit of banter. As a boy in Scotland I had always 
felt a vivid emotion of home-sickness on leaving the Highlands 
after the summer holidays. I used to pray that the last day would 
be wet and misty so that my farewell to the hills should be less 
painful. But to-day I was glad that the sun shone and that the 
sky and sea and landscape were at their best. Twenty-five years 
before, sick in mind and body, I had made the same farewell. 

182 



Then I was convinced that I should never see Malaya again. 
To-day I had no such certainty. In any case, emotions, like life 
itself, cannot be repeated in the same person. In this second fare- 
well there was no sadness. 

On our way to Seremban we stopped at the Port Dickson 
hospital to say goodbye to my Indian doctor. Of course, we had to 
inspect his kingdom, and with justifiable pride he showed us a 
modern hospital, spotlessly clean and run entirely by Indians. The 
wards, spacious and well-equipped, contained mostly fever patients, 
for in spite of the immense and successful warfare against mos- 
quitoes, malaria followed by pneumonia is still the chief disease of 
Malaya. 

The new Malay regiment has a special ward in this hospital. 
It was surprisingly full. Most of the patients were new recruits 
suffering from sores. As we drove away from the town Freddie 
was saluted by Sikh policemen, Bengali watchmen, Malay officials, 
Chinese shopkeepers, Tamil coolies, the Eurasian post-master and 
a broken-down white planter. I had an impression of a sea of 
smiling faces. The whole scene was a cameo of British Imperialism 
in its best aspect. 

Seremban itself was a disappointment. I recognised many of 
the old landmarks, but the little capital had swelled to four times 
its former size. Many Europeans, coming home to retire after a 
life-time spent in Malaya, feel that England is a graveyard. This 
cemetery is made up of the tombstones of their boyhood friends, 
who during the years of separation have drifted apart from them 
and with whom they now have nothing in common. Something 
of the same emotion I felt on returning to a town where formerly 
I had known every inhabitant, white, yellow, brown and black, 
and where to-day I was a total stranger. There was not a shop- 
sign that I recognised. The character of the shopkeepers and, 
indeed, of all the oriental population had changed. 

I went with Freddie to call on one of his rich Chinese friends. 
I recalled previous visits to Chinese towkays with my uncle a 
quarter of a century ago. The visit had always been arranged 
beforehand. The towkay had always received us in his house. I 
remembered the atmosphere of mystery and stillness. Somewhere 
behind the front room of teak furniture and lacquer cabinets were 
women-folk. But we never saw them. I could see again the towkay 



himself, his resplendent Chinese robes, his glossy pigtail, the long 
nail on his little finger, his series o profound bows. The bows had 
been frequent even during the conversation. We had sipped tea, 
fragrant yet almost colourless, from cups so fragile and so light 
that one had to be careful not to spill the tea by raising them 
too quickly. There had been ceremony elaborate enough to reduce 
me to a feeling of respect and inferiority. 

Freddie's friend received us in his office or, to be exact, we 
just walked into his office. The towkay, his hair cut and neatly 
parted in European fashion, was sitting in European shirt and 
trousers. His coat was hanging on the wall. His shirt sleeves were 
rolled up. He was smoking a cheroot. His chair was tilted back, 
and his feet were firmly planted on the top edge of his desk in 
the manner of the late Arthur Balfour in the House of Commons. 
As we came in, he jumped up. 

"Hello, Freddie," he said. 

He shook hands, called for drinks, offered us smokes, and then 
sat down again with his feet on the desk. I remembered my as- 
tonishment when in my early days in Malaya I had stumbled 
on a Chinese bangsal or glorified shed in the jungle. It was 
inhabited by three Chinese, who had made a clearing and were 
growing vegetables on it. I had been out after deer and wanted 
to know the time. "Pukul brapa?" I said to them in Malay. 
One of them grinned. Then in a lazy drawl he replied: "Well, 
boss, I calculate by the sun it's a quarter after twelve!" The man 
had been a washerman in San Francisco and had wandered via 
Shanghai, Hongkong and Singapore into the Malay States. 

In those days few, if any, Chinese in Negri Sembilan spoke 
English. But Freddie's friend spoke it as if it were his native 
language. He discussed rubber prices and the state of the American 
market with the knowledge of an expert. He was affable and 
racily amusing. But he spoke as equal to equal. He was no rare 
exception. He was merely a superior example of the changes 
which time, the war, and the British system of education, have 
wrought in the character and outlook of the Chinese population 
of Malaya. 

Seremban depressed me, and I wanted to leave it as quickly 
as possible. One visit, however, I had to make. On the outskirts 
of the town lived "Monkey" Holland, another old friend of my 

184 



planting days. "Monkey," a brother-in-law of the late Lord 
Forteviot, had come out to Malaya from Ceylon in the early part 
of the century to join my uncle. When I arrived some years later, 
my uncle sent me to him to learn my job. He was another planter 
who should have made a fortune out of rubber. But he was too 
easy-going, too kind, and, above all, too generous and hospitable. 
His bungalow was always an open house to every lame dog, and 
when the bad times came he was hit harder than most planters. 
Like Freddie he was still a proprietary planter, but in a very 
small way. He now lived on a tiny estate in a bungalow perched 
on a hill overlooking a small lake and approached by a villainous 
road. 

He was having his afternoon siesta when we arrived. But we 
woke him up, and I found him little changed. His hair had 
turned a little grey, but neither his optimism nor his cheerful 
outlook on life had altered. Like the Braddons he was one of the 
youthful old men who have made their home in exile, and who 
will never be happy outside of Malaya. 

After an hour or two with "Monkey" spent in an exchange of 
reminiscences we set out on our journey to Kuala Pilah, where 
we were to spend the night. We took the road by Sekamat, the old 
mining village which twenty-six years before had inspired me 
with an eerie feeling of terror. In those days, when I lived on my 
lonely estate at Pantai, the shortest way to the Seremban club and 
to civilised pleasure was by Sekamat. At that time the village was 
the home of the worst scoundrels in the Chinese community of 
Negri Sembilan, and various people, including my assistant, had 
been "stuck up" by gang-robbers. My only means of conveyance 
was a "push" bicycle or a native pony "gharry." I preferred the 
bicycle. Setting out from Pantai in a spirit of sober caution I always 
took the long way round. But sometimes coming home late at 
night with my courage fortified by late hours at the dub, I would 
risk the shorter road. In any circumstances riding along a lonely 
jungle road by night is an uncanny experience. The senses quicken. 
Sight and hearing become more tense. Imagination sees a hundred 
ghosts beyond the orbit of the lamp's pale ray. The possibility of a 
wire across the road and a sudden attack by gang-robbers adds the 
fascination of fear to those ordinary terrors of the night. 

Nine times out of ten the village would be in total darkness 



and as lifeless as a basking crocodile. But on the tenth occasion I 
would see light streaming through the chinks in the houses, and 
from afar I would hear the sound of voices raised in quarrel over 
some gambling game. Then I would pedal as if for life itself until 
the blood seemed to leave my thighs. Only when I was a mile or 
two past the village would I slow down and wipe the clammy 
sweat from my brow. Since then I have known fear on many 
occasions, but never in such an acutely prolonged form as in those 
days of my youth when life was a thing to be prized because it 
was all before one. 

The Sekamat of those days is now a thing of the past and, as I 
drove through the place with Freddie in the afternoon sunlight, I 
scarcely recognised it. All that remains is a few deserted houses 
and a roadside shop with soft drinks and cigarettes for passers-by. 
The tin which gave the place its unattractive population has long 
since been exhausted. Unlike the coal-miners of Scotland and 
Wales, who in many districts have remained behind, workless and 
immobilised, long after the mines have been dismantled, the 
Chinese tin-miners had left and, in land still new enough to afford 
opportunities to the adventurous in spirit, had gone to seek their 
fortune elsewhere. 

Here was change indeed, but as we approached nearer to the 
mountains there was a complete transformation. The monotonous 
rubber estates gave way to acres and acres of padi fields with the 
rice almost ripe for harvest. Neat Malay houses took the place of 
Chinese shops. The air became cooler and sweeter. In a flash the 
barrier of the years was rolled away. This was the Malaya which 
I had known in my youth a Malaya outwardly still unspoilt and 
surprisingly little changed. 

As we passed the cross-roads at Ampangan, I felt a momentary 
pang of regret. Here on the right was the palace of the Dato' 
Klana, the Malay chief who had been Amai's guardian. There on 
the left was the road to my old estate at Pantai, where we had 
first met. 

Involuntarily I touched Freddie's arm and pointed to the left, 
but the chauffeur kept on his course. Our visit to Pantai was to 
come later, and as we ascended the pass over the jungle-clad 
mountain range I had some compensation for the delay in one of 

186 



those rare moments of beauty which leaves an imperishable 
memory in the mind and in the heart. On each side of us was 
primeval forest with thick, impenetrable undergrowth and trees 
superbly tall and femininely graceful. From our high vantage point 
we looked down on a vast extent of plain, its ugliness mellowed 
to a purple sea by the rays of the setting sun. The colour came 
from a heavy bank of cloud, and I had a curious feeling that the 
drought which had lasted for nearly two months, and which was 
almost unprecedented in this land of constant rainfall, would break 
when I came to visit Pantai. 

We reached Kuala Pilah at seven in the evening, and at once I 
felt at home. Pilah is the seat of a District Officer and is still the 
most unspoilt part of Negri Sembilan. Since my time the Utde 
town has grown. There are more Chinese shops in the main street 
and a new Malay college where all the instruction is in English. 
But the district population is predominantly Malay. 

It is an ideal place for learning Malay, and here some of the 
best Malayan scholars in our civil service have acquired their 
knowledge of the language. Most of them have learnt it from 
their native mistresses, for the Malay women here are the fairest 
in the state. We had passed several of them on our way into the 
town, their heads and the lower half of their faces veiled by a 
sarong, their eyes, like ripe sloes, raised for a moment towards the 
passing car and then turned demurely to the ground. 

Half the charm of travelling is in starting. Three-quarters of 
the charm of a Malay woman is in the difficulty of approach. As a 
Mohammedan she is guarded with considerable strictness. She may 
not be seen talking to a stranger in the road. Seclusion has whetted 
her appetite for temptation. She enjoys the secrecy of an illicit 
romance. 

As I passed the secluded houses, my mind went back to the old 
Malay "pantun" or quatrain, scores of which many of them of 
considerable antiquity are known to every Malay. There is one 
which runs as follows: 

"Jalan-jalan sa-panjang jalan, 
Singgah menyinggah di-pagar orang; 
Pura^pura menchari ayam, 
Etyir mata di-anat^ orang." 

187 



Wander, wander down the glen, 
Stopping at the neighbour's fences; 
On pretence to find a hen, 
But his eyes are on the wenches.* 

Wandering towards Malay houses in. search of romantic ad- 
venture has been, since the birth of time, the favourite recreation 
of young Malay bucks. The young European has indulged in it, 
too, although usually he has to employ a more furtive method of 
approach. If he is in a purely Malay district, he will engage the 
services of some aged feminine intermediary, preferably the court 
midwife. There will be long delays, some consultations of the 
omens, an interchange of messages and the bestowal of various 
presents. Only after this elaborate ceremonial will he meet the 
object of his desire, for immodesty is wholly foreign to Malays of 
both sexes. Doubtless, in these days of speed, the procedure of 
courtship has been expedited and commercialised. 

Our headquarters at Pilah were the rest-house, which in this 
country takes the place of the hotel in the smaller towns. These 
rest-houses are under Government control, and are generally 
managed by a Chinese "head-boy." The Pilah one was a much 
more comfortable affair than in my time, with excellent service 
and better cooking than one can find in the average provincial 
hotel in England. There were two other Europeans staying in 
the rest-house: one, a young Scot, who had been a planter and 
had lost his job during the slump, and who was now employed 
under the Government restriction scheme as a controller of native 
holdings, and the other, an Englishman, and the biggest and 
heaviest man in Malaya. He must have weighed over twenty stone.** 

After dinner we sat down on the verandah and talked until 
far into the night. During his Malayan career our Camera, who 
had a grievance and could express it fluently, had been most 
things: planter, engineer, commercial manager, and had spent the 
larger part of his time up country. He was now in middle age, 
and was critical of the present generation of Englishmen in the 
East and pessimistic about the future. 

* The English version of this "pantun" is taken from Mr. A. W. Hamilton's 
attractive litde book, "Malay Sonnets." It is published in Singapore. 
** 280 pounds. 

188 



The main theme of his conversation was the decline o the 
white man's prestige. He attacked the civil service and the com- 
mercial community with equal vigour. Malaya, he said, was going 
to become Chinese one day, and the day was not very far distant. 
The Englishmen now in Malaya were of an inferior type to that 
of their predecessors. When they were offered a job, their first 
question was: how far away was it from the nearest cinema, the 
nearest dance-hall? As for the commercial fraternity, they had lost 
even their bounce. Their attitude now was: pray God the British 
raj will last until I have made my fortune. 

The Chinese ignored the white man and were frequently rude 
to him. Certainly they no longer needed him. There were now no 
rich white men in Malaya. 

My new acquaintance was, of course, a champion of the past. 
All his heroes belonged to the past. Pride of place he gave to 
great administrators like Sir Frank Swettenham and Sir Hugh 
Clifford, but the man after his own heart was Berkeley of Grik, 
a remarkable Irishman who at the age of seventy still hunts and 
never misses a Derby. 

For years Berkeley was District Officer at Grik, a lonely, un- 
spoilt outpost, where he was accepted by the Malays as infallible 
judge, counsellor, and father-confessor. Few men have ever 
handled Malays so successfully or been so loved by them, and for 
that reason he was never transferred. His privileged position gave 
him a feeling of security, and against Whitehall and, indeed, all 
his superiors he maintained a sturdy independence which to-day, 
alas! has few imitators. 

In course of time civilisation invaded even this jungle fastness. 
A motor road was made to Grik and a telegraph line immediately 
followed. 

It was remarkable, however, how much more often huge trees 
fell across that road, thereby blocking it and destroying the tele- 
graph wires, than across any other road in the country, and how 
sagaciously the wandering elephants seemed to sense the wishes 
of the District Officer. 

Berkeley was the last D.O. who lived the life of a feudal chief. 
He abominates the motor-car to this day. 

Another of my big friend's heroes was Grant Mackie, a Scottish 
son of the manse, who began his Malayan career as a road con- 

189 



tractor and after many years of residence in the country struck 
tin and became a very rich man. In 1883 he was building the 
Pahang road when the volcano of Krakatoa erupted, obliterating 
its own island home and throwing up several new islands from 
the ocean bed. The sound of this terrible eruption, which destroyed 
40,000 lives, was heard by Grant Mackie's Malays at a distance of 
some eight hundred miles. It sounded like a continuous cannonade, 
and the Malays, believing that the Chinese had risen and were 
attacking Kuala Lumpur, wanted to dash off immediately to the 
rescue of the British. 

Grant Mackie, a great character in whom the spirit of adven- 
ture was strong, was known to all Englishmen in Malaya as 
"Father." Occasionally, in the Ipoh Club, youngsters, fresh out 
from home, would trespass too far on his good nature. "Father," 
they would say, "have a drink?" Then the eyes would flash. 
"Grant Mackie to you, sir," he would reply. "I'm not the father of 
every bastar-rd in this club." As I have already said, Grant Mackie 
retired to Port Said, where he died three years ago at the ripe age 
of eighty. He represented a type of pioneer, which, common 
enough thirty years ago, has now almost disappeared. 

I listened to my bulky friend's tirade in silent attention. In my 
own mind I had already deducted fifty per cent, for exaggeration, 
and a wink from Freddie early on in the conversation made me 
take off another ten per cent for the middle-aged grievances of 
a disappointed man. 

Laudatores temporis acti have never at any time been lacking 
in the outposts of the British Empire, and to-day in Malaya their 
voice is strong. I should not like to give the impression that this 
Kuala Pilah Jeremiah was insincere or that what he said was 
wholly untrue. I think that much of the old pioneer spirit has 
disappeared, partly, but not entirely, because the opportunities 
which presented themselves to the old pioneers are no longer 
available. I am inclined to agree that, mainly because of increased 
control from London, civil servants in Malaya to-day lack the 
self-reliance and readiness to take responsibility of their predeces- 
sors of a quarter of a century ago. I have no doubt that the influx 
of low-salaried Europeans and the great increase of one-man 
European businesses have had a deteriorating effect on the white 
man's prestige. I bear in mind that at all times and in all ages the 

190 



old generation has wrung its hands over the failings of the new, 
and that the race has survived. Nor do I forget that, in the eyes of 
the European commercial community, all governors and high 
officials are good when times are good and that in bad times even 
the best official in the world is exposed to criticism. 

What seems to me the weakest point in the British Imperial 
armour is the fact that since the war the middle classes, who are 
the bulwark of the British colonial system, have accustomed them- 
selves to a standard of luxury and ease which in the face of modern 
competition will be increasingly difficult to maintain. The standard 
of pleasure in Malaya is much higher than in the neighbouring 
French and Dutch colonies. 

Probably the young generation has an adequate reply to these 
criticisms. Almost certainly it will continue to ignore them as the 
young generation has always done, and, for its own self-respect, 
rightly done. The only thing that can be said with positive ac- 
curacy is that one day, when the decline which comes inevitably 
to all races sets in, the Jeremiahs will be right. 



191 



CHAPTER SIX 

AT dawn the next morning Freddie left by car in order to 
inspect a native rubber estate across the Pahang boundary. 
Had I wanted to reach the same place from Negri Sembilan 
twenty-seven years ago, I should have had to take the steamer 
from Port Dickson to Singapore, change steamers there for an 
east coast ship to take me to Kuantan and then make my way 
across country. The journey might have taken the best part of a 
fortnight or even longer. Now it can be done in a few hours. 
Freddie was to make his inspection and be back again in Kuala 
Pilah in the afternoon. 

I was not left entirely to my own devices. Freddie had arranged 
a programme for me. Its most substantial item was an inspection 
of the new English school. Slightly nervous, I hired a car and in a 
few minutes was put down before the entrance to a magnificent 
building. Alongside was a splendid playing-field with the greenest 
of grass and shut in by a neatly trimmed hedge. There was a 
flower garden, exotic in its contents but kept with a passionate 
tidiness that was unmistakeably English. The English headmaster 
was on leave, and the acting headmaster was an English lady called 
Miss Knapp. She was the only European on the staff. Her assist- 
ants were of various nationalities: Indians, Malays, Eurasians. All 
were men. 

The school itself is of the co-educational type and is for boys 
and girls from the age of nine up to the junior Cambridge certifi- 
cate standard. The school was built for Malays, who form about 
sixty per cent, of the pupils. Most of them pay nothing. But there 
are also Chinese and Indian pupils. These pay fees. The Chinese, I 
was told, make the best pupils. Miss Knapp ran the whole estab- 
lishment unaided, organised the work and the games, imposed 
her British discipline, and settled with the proper admixture of 
tact and firmness the grievances and jealousies of her native staff. 

192 



She took me round each form-room. Our entrance was marked 
by a ritual which was repeated with embarrassing monotony. I was 
introduced to the form-master. The class stood up and said a 
parrot's chorus of: "Good morning, Miss!" Miss Knapp smiled. 
"And now our visitor." The class, gathering confidence, redoubled 
its effort: "Good morning, sir!" I faced a barrage of ivory smiles 
from the boys and coy glances from the girls. Then in my presence 
and under the keen scrutiny of Miss Knapp, the unfortunate 
Indian or Malay teacher had to conduct his class in English, for 
all the teaching here is in English and the use of any native 
language is strictly forbidden. 

The equipment of the school was excellent and, indeed, far 
better and more modern than that of many expensive private 
schools within a radius of twenty miles of London. I was less 
impressed by the teaching, which was rather mechanical and laid 
too much stress on mere memorisation. Rightly or wrongly, I 
formed the impression that the teachers themselves had memorised 
much of their work without understanding it. 

I spent some time in listening to a history class, a geography 
class, and an entertaining lesson in mental arithmetic. The pupils, 
especially the Chinese, were very quick and accurate in their 
mental arithmetic, because it was something they could under- 
stand. Their written mathematical work was very neat in some 
cases strikingly so and far in advance of that of English boys and 
girls of the same age. But in the history lesson the master began 
in this wise: "In 436 A.D. the Romans left Britain. Why?" Up shot 
several hands. The master pointed to one boy who began: "Because 

a number of barbarous tribes called Franks, Vandals, and " 

The boy stopped. Memory had broken down. This time the teacher 
pointed to a girl who began again at the beginning: "Because a 
number of barbarous tribes called Franks, Vandals, and Goths 
were threatening the heart of the Roman Empire." The whole 
performance seemed to me strangely unreal and useless. What, I 
wondered, could a Goth or a Vandal represent to the imagination 
of a Malay schoolboy of twelve. Even more unreal was the geog- 
raphy lesson. "What," asked the teacher, "is the area of South 
America?" Then, having been given the correct answer, he asked 
again: "It is twice as big as what other continent?" 

I come of a family of schoolmasters and have therefore a 

193 



profound sympathy with the teaching community. But why, 
I asked myself, were these native children taught so much about 
Europe and almost nothing about their own country? At the 
time of my visit there was no English schoolbook of elementary 
Malay history in existence, although I understand that since then 
one has been published. The fault was not Miss Knapp's. The 
English curriculum in Malaya is based on the junior Cambridge 
certificate. Its inevitable effect* will be to turn out thousands of 
clerks for whom there will not be sufficient jobs and who, sooner 
or later, will form a discontented white-coat native proletariat. 
The educational authorities in Malaya should know their own 
job best, but with all the good will in the world I cannot under- 
stand why this English education is not better adapted to local 
requirements and combined more fully with vocational training. 

As the time passed, I grew tired of maintaining a serious de- 
meanour, and I began to study the lighter side of Malayan child 
psychology. I was struck by die happiness of all the children 
indeed, Malays bring their offspring up better than most Euro- 
peans and, not least, by the beauty of some of the young Malay 
girls, already at twelve as developed as a European girl of seven- 
teen. Most of them are of good family. They come to the school 
to learn English and do not bother very much about examinations 
or Cambridge certificates. Among them were two daughters of 
the Yam Tuan, the reigning sultan of Negri Sembilan. I remem- 
bered the late Yam Tuan very well. He belonged to the finest 
type of Malay, who spoke no English, but whose dignity impressed 
every European who met him. With his magnificent moustachios, 
famous throughout the East, he could never have been mistaken 
for a white man. Nor did he make any attempt to ape the white 
man's customs, let alone his fashions, but remained a true Malay 
to the end. 

One litde schoolgirl descendant, however, was surprisingly fair 
even for a sultan's daughter who does not work in the fields and 
who never goes out unveiled in the sun. She is transcendently 
beautiful and will break many hearts before she is twenty. But 
she is not wholly Malay. Her father, the present Yam Tuan, mar- 
ried a lady with white blood in her veins. Many of the pupils 
come to the school from long distances. Most of them have 

194 



bicycles. The Yam Tuan's daughters make the journey daily by 
motor-bus from their father's Istana at Sri MenantL 

By noon I was in a muck of sweat, for, although Pilah lies high, 
the heat by day is fierce. With my respect for the admirable Miss 
Knapp greatly increased, I took my leave and made my way back 
to the rest-house to lunch and sleep until Freddie's return. In the 
evening after dinner we were joined by one of the Indian school- 
masters, and once again we sat down on the verandah in the cool 
night air and discussed Malaya's problems with more restraint 
than before, but nevertheless, with considerable freedom. This, 
too, was a change since my time and a change for the better. 
One of the problems discussed was the right of members of races, 
born in Malaya but not Malays, to enter the administrative branch 
of the Malay Civil Service. The Malay States, it must not be for- 
gotten, are a protectorate run by the British in the name of the 
Malay sultans, and at present this right is reserved exclusively for 
Malays. It is a problem of which more will be heard in the future, 
for to-day there is quite an army of Chinese and Indians who 
have been born in Malaya and who learn English as their first 
language. Their legal nationality is at present undefined. If they 
are British-Malayans, they are without British-Malayan rights. 

The next day, after an early luncheon, we set out for Jelebu, 
another Malayan district about twenty-four miles away and the last 
stage on our way to my old home in Pantai. We travelled by a 
road which ran' round the north side of the mountain range. 
It was new since my day. Then this whole area was virgin jungle. 
Even now it is a lonely road with few habitations, but except for 
a strip of forest reserve most of the jungle has gone. Rubber estates, 
mostly Chinese-owned, have taken its place, and we passed one or 
two Chinese owners driving in ramshackle old cars. 

I marvelled at the strides which Chinese penetration had made 
since my time. I conceived a new admiration and a new fear for 
this yellow race which can bring the most unlikely soil to cultiva- 
tion and can endure the most gruelling discomfort for the prospect 
of material profit. Indeed, the Chinese and the motor-car have 
destroyed for ever that sense of loneliness and distance which 
formerly was the chief characteristic of life in Malaya. 

As we approached Kuala Klawang, the district capital of 
Jelebu, the scenery changed to a background of rice-fields, coconut 

195 



trees, and kampongs, which, before rubber, was the original, and 
is still the most attractive, feature of the Malayan landscape. All too 
soon we came into Kuala Klawang, an enchanting little mountain 
nest perched on a plateau and formerly the most delectable gov- 
ernment post in Negri Sembilan. To me it was an even greater 
and more agreeable surprise than Kuala Pilah. 

If progress in Pilah had been slower than elsewhere, Kuala 
Klawang had gone back. In my time there had always been six or 
seven Europeans in the place, including a British district officer. 
There had been even a European club where I had spent many a 
cheerful evening. Then it had been an important centre for tin, 
and Chinese coolies had added picturesqueness and sometimes 
rowdiness to the kaleidoscopic scene. My cousin, who owned a 
mine, had lived here for many years in an attractive bungalow 
with an immense banyan tree in the garden, 

Now there was a Malay District Officer. The Europeans had 
gone. There was only one left, "Abang" Braddon, who was living 
on an annuity in the former bungalow of the district engineer. 
My cousin was long since dead. His bungalow was deserted. Only 
the banyan tree, older than races and empires, its countless 
branches drooping to the ground like an enveloping shroud, re- 
mained to remind me of the past. 

In the heat of the early afternoon sun the main street was 
almost deserted. The Chinese population had dwindled a sure 
sign of vanished prosperity. The influenza epidemic soon after the 
war had made fearful ravages among the attractive Malay popula- 
tion of the district. The football padang, where Andrew Caldecott 
and I had once waged Homeric battles between his Jelebu Malays 
and my Pantai Malays, was now a neglected field with grass over 
a foot high. Even football had gone back. Certainly for me there 
would be no more wonderful evenings in Andrew's bungalow 
after the game, no more piano playing, no inspection of his 
water-colours, no more pleasant intercourse about newly discovered 
Malayan folk-tales with the most gifted Englishman in the Malaya 
of my time. Although I made a mental note to tell Andrew about 
the state of the football field, the impression of desolation con- 
formed with my mood of the moment. The great tidal wave of 
progress had not merely passed Jelebu by. In its course it had 
thrown the little town far up on the beach of the past. 

196 



We went over to the local rest-house to leave Freddie's car and 
to have a wash. The Chinese boy was startled to see us. We went 
over the little building. There were cobwebs everywhere and 
myriads of flies. In the bedrooms the mattresses, rolled up like 
bales, looked stiff from want of use. We ordered drinks and sat 
down in rickety long chairs, their canes bent and twisted by 
the damp. Mine collapsed at once. Then, driven away by the flies, 
we strolled across the grass to "Abang" Braddon's bungalow. 

As it was only half-past three, we disturbed the old gentleman's 
afternoon siesta. He appeared, however, in a minute, dressed in a 
Malay sarong and baju. A brother of "Adek" Braddon, the most 
brilliant doctor in Malaya and the pioneer whose work led to the 
discovery of the cure for beri-beri, the "Abang" had been the oldest 
British resident in Negri Sembilan when I arrived there twenty- 
seven years ago. He was now seventy-eight and did not look a day 
older than when I first knew him. His lean and spare figure 
was as erect as ever. His hair was grey, but all his faculties were 
unimpaired. The combined age of the two brothers is now one 
hundred and fifty. The combined total of their years of residence 
in Malaya is now close on a hundred and is, I think, a record for 
the tropics. 1 

The "Adek" is married and lives on the outskirts of Seremban. 
The "Abang" is legally a bachelor, although, doubtless, there have 
been coloured romances in his life. His visits home or rather to 
Europe, for Jelebu is now his homehave been few and far be- 
tween. Yet he has retained all the characteristics of a ruling Eng- 
lishman. His bungalow, very comfortably furnished, was spotlessly 
clean and decorated with more taste than the average European 
bungalow. His servants moved with the quiet efficiency which 
only a Tuan who is respected can exact. From his open windows 
my eyes suddenly became fixed on a golf green with a neat flag. 
It seemed incongruously out of place. It belonged to a five-hole golf 
course built by the "Abang." The lonely old gentleman of Jelebu 
who had turned his back on Britain still played golf. 

As we had tea in the hall downstairs with a glorious flame- 
of-the-forest tree casting a pleasant shade over the doorway, the 
"Abang" told us the tale of the decline of Jelebu in the terms of 

1 While this book was going to press, Dr. "Adek" Braddon died in Seremban. 

197 



his own personal history. Jelebu was born from the Jelebu tin 
boom. The "Abang" had been a tin miner employing five hundred 
Chinese coolies. The mail used to arrive by bullock cart from 
Seremban. In those days, and, indeed in my day, the journey took 
twelve hours. Wages used to be brought by the same means of 
transport with two Sikh watchmen, armed with rifles, to guard 
the silver dollars. Only once had the cart been held up and the 
great cash box stolen. The thieves had never been discovered, 
for all proof of identification was missing. The Sikh watchmen, 
true to the universal characteristic of their profession, had slept 
peacefully throughout the hold-up. 

Now Jelebu was dead. The tin was finished. The coolies had 
gone elsewhere. The journey to Seremban took only forty minutes 
by car and an hour by motor-bus. Yet few visitors came to the 
place. There was, indeed, no reason why they should come. 

The "Abang" made no complaint. Probably he preferred things 
as they were. His criticisms were directed not to the past, but to the 
present. In the march of progress the Malays were losing ground 
to the Chinese. He thought that this was dangerous and unde- 
sirable. He was a champion of the Malays with whom the white 
man, and especially the Englishman, had more in common than 
with the Chinese. 

I share his views. My sympathies, quite apart from racial 
prejudices, have always been with the people who live on the 
land and by the land. "He that maketh haste to be rich shall 
not be innocent," says the proverb, and I have always assumed 
that it refers to the town-dweller. 

Not that the Malay works very hard on the land or is wholly 
innocent. If he lacks the commercial instinct of the Chinese, he is 
not without a certain moral ingenuity. Not long ago the placid 
life of Jelebu was disturbed by a series of thefts of registered letters 
containing remittances of money from native town-dwellers to 
their relatives in the district. Suspicion fell naturally on the Malay 
postman, but there were no proofs. The system in force in Malaya 
for the delivery of registered letters is a simple one. The postman 
delivers the registered letter, and the recipient signs his name in 
the postman's receipt book. If he is illiterate, he makes an inky 
thumbmark in place of a signature. In this case the postman had 
all the receipts for the missing letters. They were properly provided 



with thumbmarks. The marks did not correspond with the thumb- 
prints of the addressees. Nor did they in any way resemble the 
thumbprint or any other fingerprint of the postman. For some 
time the police were baffled. At last an enterprising detective, hav- 
ing noticed that all the prints seemed to indicate a very large 
thumb, came to the conclusion that the marks must have been 
toeprints. The postman was made to produce his big toe. It was 
duly inked, and as a result a much-chastened Malay is now medi- 
tating on the truth of King Solomon's proverb at the expense of 
the Malayan Government. 

I could have listened to the "Abang" for a whole night; but 
it was now after four, and we had timed our arrival at Pantai 
for five o'clock. He came out to the door to see us off, and my 
last view of him was as he stood beneath the flaming petals of the 
tree, his face inscrutable, his arm stretched out in a gesture of 
farewell, a motionless and scarcely living monument to the Ma- 
layan past. Realising that I should never see him again, I felt a 
sudden uneasiness and insecurity. It had been an emotional day. 
Within twenty-four hours I had met the fattest Englishman and 
the oldest Englishman in Malaya. 

As we set out on the fifteen-mile drive to Pantai, we passed 
a car driven by a Javanese. Freddie hailed him, and he stopped. 
It was Hassan, the former head-man, who during my cousin's 
absences in England had looked after his Jelebu interests with 
unfailing fidelity. When my cousin died, he left Hassan fifty 
acres of grown rubber, and to the careful Hassan these acres have 
meant a towkay's wealth with all the comforts, including the 
inevitable motor-car, which a good Mohammedan can desire. 

The road from Jelebu to Pantai is one long descent down the 
mountain slopes. In my youth I used to make the journey from 
Pantai by bullock-cart sleeping on a mattress with my bicycle 
strapped to the side. The return journey I made, of course, by 
bicycle, free-wheeling most of the way. Here, too, there was no 
change and almost no traffic. Primeval jungle looked down on us 
from both sides. The road turned and twisted in tortuous, hairpin 
bends. Below us on the right was a steep precipice, dangerously 
deceptive because its terrors were hidden by a rich vegetation. 
Freddie pointed out to me the place where years before in the 
early days of motor-cars the "Adek" Braddons' car had skidded 

199 



over the side and had been miraculously held up by a sturdy bush. 
The sun was still shining, but heavy clouds, harbingers of the 
coming storm, were banking up on the horizon. We should have 
a true Malayan sunset, but I realised that my forebodings about 
the end of die drought would come true. 

At one corner of the road we passed an enormous tall trunk 
of a tree, erect as a steel girder, with its bark an ashen grey. Every 
branch had disappeared. Its jagged summit was black for twenty 
feet downwards a grim reminder of the lightning which always 
is at its worst in these mountains. It looked for all the world like 
a gigantic match with which some pre-history Cyclops had lit his 
pipe, and which he had then planted nonchalantly in the ground. 

From Bukit Tangga, at the top of the last hill which leads 
down into the Pantai valley, we had a superb view over the wide 
expanse of the Negri Sernbilan plain. The old Government 
hill-station where I sometimes used to spend a night in a home- 
sick desire to sleep again under a blanket had been demolished. 
The advent of the motor-car has destroyed its usefulness, and 
to-day there is no trace even of its site, so quickly does the jungle 
re-assert itself in this warm and humid climate. But the view is 
the finest in the state, and to my impressionable mind it has always 
suggested a comparison with the view from the Cairngorms over 
my native Strathspey. 

Suddenly I caught a glimpse of a dark silver thread below me. 
It was the Jeralang River which had flowed past my old bungalow 
at Pantai. I became silent and nervous. My feelings were strangely 
mixed. Freddie was not a romanticist, and I longed to be alone. 
On the other hand, I was afraid lest without him my meeting 
with Amai should end in a fiasco. 

Everything was going to be so different from what I had 
visualised when I set out from England. Then I had believed 
that Amai was dead. During the weeks on board ship I had 
attuned my mind to a harmonious sentimentality. Now she was 
not only alive but married and married to the local muezzin, 
who from the mosque summons the faithful to prayer. While I 
had lain in my sick-bed at Freddie's bungalow, there had been 
mysterious comings and goings between Port Dickson and Pantai. 
Messengers had come from Pantai to know when I was to be 
expected. Freddie had prepared me for the worst. He had told 

200 



me that the Malays had changed, that their memories were short, 
and that their attitude towards the white man had altered. Amai 
herself would be unrecognisable. She was now over forty, and a 
Malay woman of forty was an old hag with her mouth twisted 
out of shape by years of betel-chewing. 

I knew that what he said must be true. I remembered Buntak's 
grin. I had an overwhelming dread that the whole visit would 
provide a rich comedy to every one except myself and that 
Freddie's help would be not only welcome but necessary. 

My second thoughts were best. Freddie understood my mood 
instinctively. He made no attempt to talk. He was the perfect com- 
panion. As we descended the hill all too rapidly, the old land- 
marks came back one by one. There was the rubber estate, most of 
which I had planted up myself from virgin jungle. The trees were 
larger, but otherwise Pantai did not seem to have altered. I was 
glad that there had been so litde change. I did not wish to meet 
Amai in an atmosphere of cinema theatres and dancing halls. 

But this consolation brought no relief to my emotional tremors. 
When we turned the last bend and came into the straight which 
led to my former bungalow, I was overcome by the same paralys- 
ing nervousness which always afflicts me when I speak in public 
and which not even the rigours of a lecture tour in the United 
States have been able to eradicate. 

Whatever motive may have inspired my voyage to the East 
while I was in England, I realised now with that pellucid clearness 
which comes at one time or another even to the most indecisive 
of men that the focus point of my sentimental attachment to 
Malaya was Amai. The reflection that I was to see her again in the 
living flesh and to repeat the farewell which had been interrupted 
twenty-five years before by the sudden arrival of my uncle served 
merely to strengthen the conviction that she was the impulse 
which had directed the steps of my destiny. 



201 



CHAPTER SEVEN 

T7REDDIE was now driving very slowly. Hitherto he had been 
JLthe guide and cicerone. But Pantai he knew only vaguely. 
Here I was as much at home as if I had never left the place. 
Our entrance into the village was marred by one disappointment. 
We pulled up at what should have been a gap in a high hedge. 
The gap had been the entrance of the short drive to my old 
bungalow. The hedge had screened my garden from the gaze 
of curious passers-by. Now both hedge and garden had disappeared 
and only the coconut trees, taller and more stately than in my 
time, remained. Where my old bungalow had stood was now a 
long row of Tamil coolie lines. 

With Freddie I walked across the grass, while Tamil coolies, 
grinning and chattering, came slowly forward to stare at the 
white strangers. Here in this same compound I had first seen 
Amai. I had been the first white man to live in Pantai, and it 
had taken me some time to establish friendly relations with the 
local Malays. In the end the Dato' Klana's father and mother, 
who, although holding no official position from the British, still 
exercised a feudal authority over the whole district, had invited 
me to a "rong-geng," a kind of Malay dance in which two or 
more professional dancers provide the entertainment. In return 
I had invited them and, indeed, all the local Malay population to 
another "rong-geng." I had converted my compound into a Vene- 
tian garden with little lamps made of coconut shells, I had sat 
between the Dato' and his wife, a wizened old lady who feared 
neither man nor Allah and who had only to frown to be obeyed. 
And there in her suite of attendants I had caught my first glimpse 
of Amai. 

As in a dream I walked across the primitive river bridge which 
had separated my bungalow from the rubber estate. The trees on 
the first clearing were wintering, and in their leafless branches I 

202 



saw the symbol of my own dead past. Geographical reunion rex 
vived a thousand memories, and everywhere I saw the ghosts o 
my youth. Across this bridge had gone daily backwards and for- 
wards my anti-fomes and anti-white-ant brigade composed of "Big 
Hussein" and "Little Hussein." They, too, were on my conscience. 
They had been great footballers. When I had started football in 
Pantai, I had brought them from Port Dickson to assist me in de- 
veloping the local talent and had given them at my company's 
expense a very soft job which consisted in fumigating the rubber 
trees with a strange contraption worked by a hand pump. 

I do not think that they ever earned the shareholders' money. 

Across this bridge I had watched only too often Tamil coolies 
carrying the cheap white-wood coffin of some dead man, woman 
or child. For the death rate of my labour force had been high 
and the victims of malaria and dysentery numerous. 

Across this bridge, too, I had helped Amai on that night when 
I had met her a mile or two down the river and had brought her 
to my bungalow. For some days we had stood a kind of siege. The 
old Dato's wife had both cajoled and stormed. Every kind of 
pressure had been brought to bear on me to give her up. But the 
difficulties had merely strengthened my obstinacy and my passion, 
and there she had remained for over a year until that day when, 
my health undermined by malaria or by poison, I had been 
bundled into a blanket and taken away in a car by my uncle and 
my cousin. The bridge, doubtless, had been renewed. But it was 
the same river, and yet how changed since my time. Then it had 
been a turgid stream, swollen by the continuous rains and muddy 
"tailings" from the tin mines. Now the drought and the absence 
of "tailings" had reduced it to a shallow silver trickle. 

As I stood looking down on the water, Freddie touched my 
arm. We had still much to do, and the time at our disposal 
was short. Disconsolate and ill at ease, I went back to the car, but 
as we drove slowly along the road to the village my spirits revived. 
Here there was no change. Pantai, like Jelebu, had not shared in 
the general progress. Just beyond the cross-roads we pulled up at 
Woh's house, and here a great surprise awaited us. Woh, a local 
Malay who had seen life in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, had 
been something more than the stalwart of my Pantai football 
team. From the beginning, and especially in my time of trouble, 

203 



he had been my friend and counsellor in all matters pertaining to 
Malay laws and customs. And now there he was with what was 
left of my old football team to welcome us. Many had gone to 
their last rest. Big Hussein and Little Hussein were dead. But 
there were six survivors to greet me. Here was my old goalkeeper, 
now a Haji with a round, beaming face. Here was Haji Sabudin, 
who had made the thirty-four-miles journey from Port Dickson in 
order to be present. Here, too, was Woh himself, once the best- 
looking Malay in the district and now a bearded, grey-haired 
grandfather and the oldest-looking of them all, but still unmistak- 
ably Woh. In the background was a burly figure, now bald but 
as sheepish as ever, his eyes cast on the ground as if expecting 
a scolding. It was Drau, Drau the Habshi, with the black skin of 
an Ethiopian, Drau once a fearless full-back and an even more 
fearless pursuer of women, Drau, whom, twenty-six years before, 
the beauty of a professional dancer had roused to such a paroxysm 
of sensual frenzy that, foaming at the mouth and roaring like a 
bull, he had broken the circle of spectators and had tried to carry 
her off in the presence of his Datol That had been a great scandal, 
although, assuredly, it must have heightened his attractions in the 
eyes of the village maidens. 

Drau I recognised at once. He was delighted. "The Tuan 
really recognised me?" he asked. "Or did some one tell him?" 
I swore it was true. Indeed, it was. There was no one who could 
have told me beforehand. , 

We were bowed into Woh's house a new house since my 
time, excellently built and with a verandah. If there was little sign 
of change in Pantai, the Malays looked more prosperous. For the 
first time in my life I was taken into the women's quarters at the 
back, and there, bending down, I shook hands with Woh's wife, 
his sister, his son's wife, and his granddaughters. Then we came 
back to the verandah where Freddie and I were given chairs and 
served with tea, while the men stood round, dignified and silent. 

Rather nervously I began the conversation, for the Malays are 
great formalists, and a false opening might easily have spoilt 
everything. Football seemed the safest subject. "How was the 
village team prospering?" At once the immobile faces became 
animated. Woh was the chief spokesman. Pantai to-day had no 
proper team. They were no longer in the league. 

204 



Freddie asked why, and again Woh took up the parable. When 
Tuan Lockhart was here, we had a captain to teach, to organise, 
and to spur us on. Now there was no one. In any case the young 
men were different. They now kept their money for clothes and 
bicycles and the cinema. Only the school-children played. 

Like those greybeards in London who inordinately praise the 
past, Woh spoke scornfully. His words would have been more 
impressive had I not noticed, pinned to the wall behind him, a 
photograph of Jean Harlow and a Bat'a calendar: the two symbols 
of the new Malaya, for the American "movie" industry and the 
Czechoslovak shoe have conquered the whole peninsula. Involun- 
tarily I looked down at Woh's feet. He was dressed in the tradi- 
tional Malay costume, but, where formerly he had gone barefooted 
he now wore a pair of patent-leather pumps. 

In my day the football field had been the centre of the village 
life. A "pawang," or magic doctor, had whispered the necessary 
incantations over it, in order that the spirits which inhabited it 
might be propitious and not trip up our players in stride for goal. 
Now, as I saw from the annual government report, Directors of 
Education, and not "pawangs," opened football fields. I was mildly 
shocked. 

"I'm sorry you have no proper football team," I said. "What 
about our turning out again and taking on the new generation 
just for the sake of example?" 

I looked at Drau, who took my suggestion literally. 

"Tuan," he said simply and very seriously, "my football days 
are done. I have put too many children into the world. My knees 
are too weak." 

From football we passed to more personal topics: who was 
dead and who was still alive and whether times were good or 
bad. Times, they said, with all the conviction of pessimistic middle 
age, were not what they used to be. 

By this time half the boys and girls of the village had assembled 
in the road outside Woh's house and were staring at us incon- 
tinently. White men who stopped to talk to Malays in Pantai 
were rare. My old rubber estate was now managed by an Indian. 
Only one white man had lived there since my time, and he had 
become a Mohammedan in order to marry a Malay girl. As I 
recalled how nearly I had embraced Islam because of Amai, I won- 

205 



dcred vaguely if there was some romantic contagion in the at- 
mosphere of this still unspoilt Malay village. 

All this while there had been no mention of Amai. I had 
expected to meet her at Woh's bungalow and was relieved because 
his sense of the fitness of things had prevented what would cer- 
tainly have been a calamity. Before I could muster my courage 
to put a direct question, he drew me into the back room on the 
pretence of showing me some Malay carving. 

There had been a mistake and even a little trouble. He had 
expected me the day before, and now the whole village including 
Amai's "muezzin" husband knew of my arrival. There had been 
a scene between Amai and her husband. Amai had boasted that 
her Tuan was coming back to see her, and the muezzin's dignity 
had been offended. Amai, who as a young girl had defied the 
wrath of her highly-placed relations, had never lacked courage. 
She had made a spirited reply and, strong in her rights of posses- 
sion, for in Negri Sembilan matriarchy is in force and the woman 
is the property-owner, had even threatened divorce. 

Woh, seeing my embarrassment, assured me with a laugh 
that the situation was not serious but merely a little awkward. 
Now Amai could not come to his house. But she was waiting for 
me at the edge of the road and the rice-field at the ninth milestone. 

I was now all impatient to be gone, and the ceremonial farewell 
to my Malay friends seemed interminable. At last we got into the 
car, and then Kassim drove us slowly past the little village. We 
went as far as the next kampong and must have missed her. I felt 
nervous and irritated. Freddie, however, was determined to show 
his ability as an organiser. He orderecMCassim to turn in his 
tracks and to drive back. Two hundred yards past the trysting- 
place, he stopped the car and let me walk back alone. This time 
she was there. 

She was standing by the roadside at the same spot where 
in the days of my youthful infatuation I used to ride my bicycle up 
and down the road merely to see her pass, and almost exacdy 
opposite the place where she had made her way by night through 
the fields to the strip of jungle in which I lay in hiding to meet 
her and to bring her to my house. The place had changed hardly 
at all. There was the same superb expanse of rice-fields, the rice 
golden-brown in the sunset and ripe for harvest, and the same 

206 



mysterious background of blue mountains. A solitary palm, stand- 
ing like a lone sentinel, added a wistful beauty to the scene. 

Contrary to my expectations I had no difficulty in recognising 
her. She had changed but not so much as Freddie had led me to 
believe. As she came forward to meet me, she drew back her head 
sarong, and I saw that the beautiful oval face of her youth had 
become broader and more rugged. The skin, too, was darker and 
slightly weather-beaten. But her eyes, large and lustrous, still 
looked straight at me. Her figure was erect There was a fine 
dignity in her carriage. She was old, but she had worn remarkably 
well for a Malay woman. 

She spoke first. "Apa khabar, Tuan?" and, as she smiled, her 
teeth showed like ivory. "I thought you were dead," she added 
simply. 

"Years ago," I replied, "I was told officially that you were 
dead." 
"Who told you?" she asked. 

"Tuan " I answered, mentioning the name of an old official 

friend. 

Her eyes flashed. "He lied," she said vehemently. "He was 
always too stuck-up." 

The fires died down. "The Tuan is married?" she asked. 

"Yes." 

"The Tuan has a child?" 

"Yes." 

"A son?" 

"Yes." 

"What does he do?" 

I told her. 

Question and counter-question followed each other in quick 
succession. Yes, she was married too. After my departure she had 
had to leave Pantai for some years. Then, like all Malay women 
who go with white men and survive, she had come back to the 
kampong and had married the "muezzin." She had been a good 
match. She owned her own land and house. 

If she felt any emotion, she never revealed it. 

"Have the old Dato' and his wife forgiven me?" I asked, sud- 
denly remembering my fear of the old harridan who had stormed 
my house and demanded the surrender of Amai. The Dato* was 

207 



dead. But the old lady was alive. She was nearly a hundred. She 
had not forgotten. Doubtless, the Tuan had seen her as he passed 
her house. 

I had -an old, bent witch, like Gagool in King Solomon's 
Mines. I had no wish to meet her face to face again. 

.And the Dato' Klana, their son and Amai's guardian, with 
whom I used to play football? Was he alive? 

Yes, he was alive. He was always kind. He was well, but he 
was like the Tuan. He had grown fat. 

This candid comment was a rude shock to my self-respect. 
Since I had seen Woh, I had been priding myself how much 
younger I looked than my Malay friends. Now I was not so sure. 
Undoubtedly, I was fat. They were as lean and as straight as 
ramrods. In Malay eyes fatness was obviously a surer sign of age 
than grey hairs. Pathologically I think it is a correct conclusion. 
"They say you have become rich and famous." 
Amai was speaking again, and under my breath I cursed 
Freddie. He must have been talking. 

I smiled sheepishly, and asked if times were bad. Could I help 
in any way? 

No, times were not too good, but one could always live, and 
to-day desires were fewer. Her dignity and her composure were 
impressive. 

Far away I heard the sound of voices. I looked up and saw half 
the village still maintaining a respectful distance, but nevertheless 
moving slowly forward, impelled by an irresistible curiosity. Once 
again the position threatened to become ridiculous. Then Freddie 
came back with the car. He looked at me inquiringly. 

Amai understood at once. "Tuan mau jalan? The Tuan wants 
to go?" she asked* 

I took the easy way out. 

"Yes," I said, "I have to go. I leave for Singapore to-night. 
To-morrow I go to Java, to the islands a long voyage. After that 
I am returning to my own country. Before I leave for Europe, I 
shall try to come back to Pantai." 

The brown eyes looked into mine. There was an awkward 
pause. 

"The Tuan has grown old," said Freddie with a nervous laugh. 
208 



"I am old, too," said Amai proudly, as though insisting that 
we belonged to the same generation and to the same period. 

For the only time in our lives we shook hands. 

"Go in peace," she said. 

"Remain in peace," I answered. 

I stepped into the car, and at Freddie's order Kassim drove 
away at top speed. I looked back only once. She was still standing 
there by the rice, her arm stretched out like a sign-post. Huge 
angry clouds had turned the sunset to a fiery orange. Before 
we reached Seremban the soft tropical rain had fallen. The long 
drought had come to an end. 

When we arrived in the town, I was still dazed. In a dream 
I said goodbye to Freddie, who was going back to Port Dickson. 
He had been marvellously kind and full of understanding. Even 
now he offered to stay and dine with me. My train for Singapore 
did not leave until eleven-thirty, and it was only half-past seven. 
But I refused, and would not even let him take me to the club. 

In a dream I asked him to drop me at the rest-house. Then, 
after depositing my luggage, I went into the oblong dining-room 
and sat down by myself. Only two tables were occupied: one by 
an elderly man and woman, who were obviously tourists, and the 
other by a morose and slightly tipsy commercial traveller. Mechani- 
cally a Chinese "boy" handed me the menu a long list with the 
same imitation French fare that one finds in the average provincial 
hotel in England. Mechanically I went through the performance 
of eating. Electric lights blazed above me, but the atmosphere was 
heavy with gloom. Nobody spoke, and in the silence the depressing 
tinkle of forks on the cheap china sounded doubly harsh. Presently 
some one in the serving room turned on the wireless. How in- 
congruous and irritating at this moment was the Oriental's passion 
for the white man's music. 

Away back in the 'eighties, in Conrad's time, it had been a 
musical box. Quarter of a century before Amai had driven me 
nearly mad by her incessant playing of my old phonograph with 
its hollow cylindrical records. Now radio was conquering even the 
jungle. 

Here in this morgue of a rest-house it was playing a gramo- 
phone record American, of course. Some famous crooner was 
singing "You Made Me What I Am," and as the sickly notes 

209 



emerged the Chinese "boy," leaning lazily against a table by the 
side door, beat time with his foot. I was back in modern Malaya. 
Soon, I reflected, the Chinese would be beating the time and 
calling the tune all over Malaya. 

My dinner unfinished, I left the room and went on to the 
verandah to look at the night. The rain had stopped. The moon 
was shining on the lake below me. There were still three hours 
until my train left. An irresistible temptation overcame me. I 
would go back to Pantai and have a last look at my old home 
by night. I hired a car and was there in half-an-hour. Telling the 
chauffeur to wait, I got 'out and walked slowly forward on foot. 
The road was deserted. The golden vanities of the sunset had 
given way to the solemn simplicity of the night, and in the moon- 
light the mountains looked like ghostly wraiths, distantly majestic 
and unapproachable. A slight mist rose from the rice-fields, and 
the damp, scented air combined with the eeriness of the tropical 
night made me shiver. 

What a barrier of remoteness the interval of time had placed 
between me and my old friends. I had seen all that was best and 
worst in the modern world. They had never gone beyond this 
jungle village, and civilisation had not yet quite encroached on 
them. And yet between us was the bond of superstition common 
to all races who live among the mountains. There was many a 
ruin in the Highlands of Scodand where I would not spend a 
night alone for all the gold in Africa. Here in Pantai every one 
still believed in charms, in evil spirits, and in were-tigers, strange 
animals who took the form of a human being by day in order to 
find their prey more easily by night. Even Woh, for all his 
boasted knowledge of the outer world, would regard a man from 
Korinchi with caution and suspicion, for it was Korinchi men 
who had the special faculty of assuming the form of a were-tiger. 

I stood very still. It is not wise to walk abroad unwarily in a 
Malay kampong by night. 

The village was almost in total darkness. Here and there the 
faint light of an oil lamp shone like a will-of-the-wisp through 
the chinks of wooden walls. One of these lights came from Amai's 
house. She was still up. She was there with her "muezzin" hus- 
bandwrangling or perhaps making love in a material Malay 
reconciliation. I did not know and should never know. Back to 

210 



my mind came one of the Malay "pantuns" which she had taught 

me: 

"Apa guna pasang pelita, 
Ji%a tida\ dengan sumboh-nya? 
Apa guna bermain mata, 
Kelau tida\ dengan sunggoh-nay?" 

"Why attempt to light a lantern, 
If the wici^ should not be in it? 
Why attempt to smile and wanton, 
If you do not really mean it?" 

My melancholy was complete. It was heavily tinged with 
regrets for Amai, for my Malay friends, for their dying civilisation, 
and for my own departed youth. Never again should I be so care- 
free, so exuberant, as I had been in this peaceful village. I tried 
to laugh at myself, to find something ridiculous in this spectacle of 
Lockhart in quest of his youth. There was no success to my effort. 
One sentiment dominated my thought. It was an immense tender- 
ness towards the beautiful Malay girl of twenty-five years ago, 
who had stood by me in health and in sickness and who had 
braved the anger of her own people. 



211 



BOOK IV 



Javanese Interlude 

"PERFORCE HIDE other vasty lands from thee 
Until what time no land remains unfound; 
But leave thou not those islands of the sea, 
Where Nature rises to Fame's highest round.*' 



CHAPTER ONE 

IN order to save as much time as possible I had made up my 
mind from the beginning to fly whenever I could. Singapore to 
Batavia was an obvious stretch, for the journey by air takes less 
than six hours, whereas the journey by steamer wastes the best part 
of two days. The morning after my departure from Pantai and 
Seremban, therefore, found me on the Singapore air-field. I had 
booked my passage by the Dutch K.L.M. in preference to the 
British Imperial Airways. If it is unpatriotic to travel by a foreign 
line, then I am in good company, including that of Lady Chet- 
wode, the wife of the former British commander-in-chief in India. 
The truth is that at the time to which I refer the Dutch KJL.M. 
service was faster and more punctual than that of Imperial Air- 
ways* 

These criticisms have been made by other British travellers and 
residents in the East, and they are resented by the British company. 
Similar criticisms are made of the British steamship services to the 
East, and are resented by the companies running them. The fact 
remains that many British subjects prefer to travel by Dutch and 
German boats because they believe that they receive a better and 
faster service, that is, in plain language, better value of their money. 
I appreciate the difficulties of the British steamship and airway 
companies, but resentment of criticism will not help to improve 
the efficiency of their services. Stressing difficulties seems to have 
become a characteristic of the post-war Englishman. I know several 
brilliant young men in the British Civil Service who are past 
masters in drafting objections to every new proposal or new policy. 
The greatness of Britain was built up on her former capacity to 
overcome difficulties. I am, therefore, in favour of criticism where 
it is justified. I should like to hear it voiced fiercely and loudly 
by the whole British people, for a universal clamour would prove 
that the nation's will-power to advance had not atrophied. 

215 



But even the Dutch are not infallible; their airplane from 
Amsterdam was half-an-hour late. It had been held up by the 
storm of the previous night. During this slight delay I had time to 
take a look at the various units of the Royal Air Force, who were 
busily engaged in testing and tuning up their airplanes. They 
looked healthy and efficient. Of the three branches of our fighting 
services in Singapore the airmen suffer least from the rigours of 
the tropical climate. The sailors are cooped up in ships with 
limited space, and in the tropics limitation of space is the next 
stage to hell. While I was in Singapore there were some complaints 
by the ratings, mainly, I think, about the quality of the food. 
The soldiers have to carry heavy kit and to perform their exercises 
under a fierce sun. The flying men can soar above these terrestrial 
and oceanic disadvantages. 

Presently my airplane, at first scarcely distinguishable from the 
local kites, appeared on the horizon, and in a few minutes had 
landed gracefully at the marked spot where I stood waiting with 
.the Dutch officials. It landed two passengers, and I took my place. 
I had only three fellow-travellers: an Anglo-Canadian doctor, who 
was going to join a private yacht at Soerabaja, an amiable and 
enormously powerful German, interested in gold-mining, and a 
Dutch banker, who was returning to his post in Batavia. I travel 
by air merely for convenience. The sensation of flying gives me 
no thrills. It does not make me even sick. Unless we are flying 
very low, it gives me no aesthetic enjoyment. After a short and 
distorted view of Singapore Island, I therefore lay back in my chair 
and began to study my Dutch language books, at which I had 
been working ever since I left England. I was not disturbed until 
we were approaching the coast of Sumatra. Then I was conscious 
of a voice addressing me in English. 

"You're Bruce Lockhart, aren't you?" The voice came from 
Creighton, the Anglo-Canadian doctor. Presumably he had read 
my name from the label on my despatch case. 

I said, "Yes," and he continued with a note of admiration in 
his voice: "You've done a lot of flying, I see." 

"Not very much," I replied, with that smug modesty with 
which the average man reveals his vanity. 

"Oh, yes! you have. Only a man who has flown for years could 
have read through that terrific storm. Why, you never even looked 



up when that jagged fork of lightning almost struck the wings 
of the plane." 

I looked up now, and saw an inky black area of cloud gushing 
rain on the sea about four miles away on our right. Then I realised 
that, exhausted by my emotional experiences of the last few days, 
I had slept soundly through one of the worst storms that our 
much-travelled Dutch pilot had ever experienced. But I did not 
give myself away. For the first time in my life I had crossed the 
Equator by air and had been sublimely unconscious of the occasion. 
But with these men of different nationalities I have kept until 
now and, if they do not read this book, perhaps for ever, a wholly 
undeserved reputation for courage and indifference to danger. 

As we approached Palembang, where we stopped for twenty 
minutes, we came down lower, and I had a clear view of the 
surrounding country. Low-lying, swampy, and thickly covered 
with virgin jungle, it looked unattractive and singularly uninviting 
in the event of a forced landing. The assistant pilot pointed out 
to me a river where the local village council had forbidden the 
inhabitants to bathe on pain of imprisonment. This measure had 
been taken in order to reduce the number of gratuitous victims 
of the local crocodiles. With my passion for verification I checked 
this story later with the Dutch officials, and was given chapter 
and verse for the village order. 

Incidentally, London and New York may soon be enjoying 
crocodiles' eggs, crocodile steak, and curried crocodile tail. Recent 
experiments in Singapore have proved that crocodiles' eggs taste 
like plovers', and that the flesh is rather superior to venison. 

Palembang itself is a picturesque Malay Venice situated on the 
banks of the river Moesi. Many of the Malay houses are built on 
poles standing in the river, and there is quite a lively Chinese 
shopping centre in a water-street of rafts. But the place is hot 
and depressingly humid, and no one except a Dutchman intent on 
profit-making would want to live there. 

Much more attractive was the approach to Batavia, called after 
the Batavii who fought against the Romans, and from whom the 
Dutch are descended. The airplane skirted the coast of Sumatra 
until it came to the neck of the Sunda Straits. To the right is a 
mass of green islands. They look fertile and seductive; but they 
are uninhabited. They have a sinister name in history. Among 

217 



them is Krakatoa, ill-famed for the greatest eruption the world 
has ever known. Forty thousand human beings lost their lives in 
the eruption of 1883 and in the tidal wave which accompanied it. 
Krakatoa is still active, still emits smoke and throws up great 
spouts of water. The giant who rained ashes over the greater part 
of Asia is building himself a new crater and gathering his forces 
for another attack on humanity. 

Crossing from Sumatra to Java, one follows the Javanese coast 
for a little, looking down on tiny coral islands scattered like pin- 
heads in the sapphire-blue sea. Then, in order to reach the airport, 
one has to fly over the whole city. On my previous visit twenty- 
five years before, I had landed only at the docks and I had seen 
nothing. Now, as I looked down on the rows of red-tiled houses, 
the numerous garden-plots and open spaces, and nearly-cut canals, 
I felt as though I were in Holland. The impression was confirmed 
by closer inspection. Singapore looks like and is an international 
city. Batavia is provincial, and Dutch provincial at that. 

The airfield was seven miles from the centre of the city. Soon 
the largest part of an air-journey will be the motor-car trips to and 
from the airports. But the efficiency of the Dutch officials impressed 
me. In contrast to my arrival in Singapore, I was in and out of the 
customs and passport control within two minutes and was being 
whirled along at seventy miles an hour by a Batavian Malay 
chauffeur, whose break-neck indifference to the safety of himself 
and his passengers made the recklessness of our British Malays 
seem the acme of caution. Our destination was the famous H6tel 
des Indes, which was to be my headquarters. 

That night I dined with Miedl, my new German acquaintance 
from the airplane, and the Dutch banker. It was a long and late 
sitting. It began with gin "pahits" on the verandah overlooking 
the Molenvliet (Mill Stream), the main street which runs on both 
sides of the canal and links the new town with the old. It is the 
Dutch view that the English in the East are lazy because they 
drink too much whiskey. But the English dilute their whiskey 
and gin "pahits" with water. The Dutch drink their Bols gin neat, 
and they do not stint it. I must admit, however, that they stand 
their drink remarkably well, and that their capacity for gin does 
not affect their industry. After "pahit" drinking we dined down- 

218 



stairs, and again I marvelled at the Dutch capacity for eating. 
Then we went upstairs to watch a cabaret show. 

The place was crowded, not by the hotel's clients, but by local 
residents. The cabaret show, provided by a troupe of Russians 
and Hungarian artistes, was excellent. But what interested me 
most was the crowd of onlookers. They were seated at tables in 
family groups. They were obviously well-to-do, for the prices in 
the H6tel des Indes are far from low. 

What impressed me most was the number of half-castes of both 
sexes. They included prominent business men and high officials. 
Here was the Dutch attitude, so different from our own, towards 
colour, manifest before my eyes. It has its advantages and dis- 
advantages. Throughout the Dutch East Indies the number of 
half-castes is very large, but no statistics are available. Only one 
rough division can be made. The well-to-do Dutchman who has 
had a child by a native woman has, as a rule, cared for it, and 
sent it to school in Holland. That child becomes Dutch, and is a 
supporter of the Dutch regime in the East Indies. The Dutch 
private soldier who has a child by a native woman cannot afford 
to do anything for it. It goes back to the kampong and, if subse- 
quently conscious of its white blood, becomes a malcontent. It is 
from the large army of poor half-castes that most of the internal 
trouble in the East Indies has come. 

The half-castes at our cabaret show belonged to the society 
which goes to the Governor-General's receptions. On the whole 
the women with a dash of colour were more attractive and cer- 
tainly slimmer than the hundred per cent. Dutch blondes. But all, 
both men and women, deported themselves with a stolid dignity 
that sent my thoughts back to the Dutch Calvinists. They drank 
innumerable cups of coffee and sipped their liqueurs. They clapped 
the various turns with the appropriate decorum. If they were 
amused, they expressed their gratification with a carefully con- 
trolled smile. When they danced, the men held their partners at 
the appropriately decorous distance. I saw no heads bent close 
together, no pressure of hand or arm. It was dancing without 
ecstasy and without temperament. When the most important party 
rose to leave, the others, including myself, followed. 

I had the impression of a society brought up to observe a fixed 
book of rules as, doubtless, it had been brought up to observe the 

219 



Bible. Subsequently I learnt that the Dutch, and especially the 
Dutch women, had hidden reserves of temperament which an 
onlooker that night would never have suspected. After my im- 
pressions of Singapore I felt a new respect for the Dutch, who, 
whatever their shortcomings in their private life, still preserve that 
external dignity which in an Eastern country is essential to the 
white man's supremacy. 

The next morning I rose betimes, full of good resolutions and 
intent on mortifying the flesh by a rigorous and intellectual ex- 
ploration of the city. My first visit was to the Governor-General, 
to whom I had a flattering letter of recommendation. As it was a 
Saturday, he had gone for the week-end to Buitenzorg, the per- 
manent residence of the Dutch governors-general since 1745. The 
name is a Dutch translation of the French Sans-Souci. The litde 
town, distant about thirty miles from Batavia, is world-famous on 
account of its botanical gardens. I saw the Governor-General's 
private secretary, who informed me that His Excellency would 
be back on Monday morning. I had letters to other prominent 
Dutch residents in Batavia, but, delighted to have two whole days 
to myself, I left their delivery till the next week- 
Following my usual practice, I refused the services of a guide, 
and hired a car with a Malay-speaking chauffeur for the week. 
Fortune favoured me. My chauffeur, although born in Batavia, 
was of Sumatra parentage. He spoke much the same Malay as 
our Negri Sembilan Malays speak. He was a bright and intelligent 
young man with well-developed critical faculties. I sat beside him 
and carried on a lively conversation as he drove me slowly round 
the town. 

Our way led by the Molenvliet. The canal was built over two 
hundred years ago, and was originally intended as a water route 
to bring the produce from the sugar mills outside Batavia down 
to the sea. To-day it is one of the liveliest centres of native life. 
In the canal itself men poling rafts dispute the right of way with 
countless bathers. The rafts are bringing building materials, and 
the building materials are the rafts themselves. For when the 
native wishes to build a house, he buys the bamboo, makes it into 
a raft and takes it to the site. Then he pulls the raft to pieces 
and begins to build his house with the timber. 

The bathers are mostly boys and girls. Standing in the edge 
220 



of the water are scores of women, clad only in a sarong skirt tied 
neatly over their breasts. Most of them are engaged in washing 
clothes, for the canal is the laundry of Batavia. Others are per- 
forming their own ablutions and brushing their teeth with the 
same water as that in which they wash their clothes. Others again 
are sitting on the banks dangling their legs over the stone parapet 
and drying themselves in the sun. Green trees, white houses and 
red-tiled roofs, and yellow water, white-crested by the rays of the 
sun, blend together with the brown bodies of die boys and the 
variegated colours of the women's clothes to form as vivid and 
as picturesque a kaleidoscope as can be seen anywhere in the world. 

The first feature of Batavia which impresses the English visitor 
from Singapore is the predominance of the various Malay races 
and the comparatively small number of Chinese. More than 400,000 
of Singapore Island's half-million population are Chinese; Batavia's 
population of just under 400,000 is composed roughly of 300,000 
Malays, 60,000 Chinese and 40,000 Europeans. In this respect the 
advantage is with Batavia. 

My first objective was Tanjong Priok, for in this manner I 
should traverse the straggling length of the three cities into which 
Batavia is divided. Weltevreden, where the Hotel des Indes stands, 
is the European residential town, and was built for reasons of 
health during the Napoleonic wars. The lower town is the old 
Batavia, and is the business centre both for Europeans and for the 
Chinese. Tanjong Priok is Batavia's dockland, and is nearly seven 
miles distant from the H6tel des Indes. As we drove through the 
old town, Ahmat, my chauffeur, pointed out to me the leading 
banks and offices, including the building of the Netherlands 
Trading Society, a company which has supplied the House of 
Orange with the bulk of its private fortune, and in which the 
present Queen of Holland is a large shareholder. The buildings, 
spacious and well-equipped, were worthy of the capital of an 
island which, year in year out, has yielded untold wealth to the 
Dutch. 

During my visit the signs of prosperity were to be seen only 
in tiles and plaster. The high exchange value of the Dutch guilder 
and the slump in agricultural prices, especially in sugar, had 
spread an economic blight over the land, and Dutch, half-castes, 
and natives alike had had to draw in their belts. Only the Chinese 

221 



and the Japanese merchants, underselling the manufactured goods 
of Europe, seemed prbsperous. 

Just how far the Japanese manufacturers have supplanted the 
British and the Dutch since 1929 can be seen from the following 
figures. In 1926 Britain supplied 29 per cent, of the textiles for 
the East Indies. Japan and Holland came second with 26 per cent, 
each. In 1934 Japan's share of the trade had risen to 76 per 
cent, Britain's and Holland's had fallen to 7 per cent. Never- 
theless, several Dutch high officials, while resenting and fearing 
the encroachment of the Japanese, told me that the cheap Japanese 
textiles had been a godsend during the slump period. Otherwise, 
the discontent of the impoverished natives might have created 
serious trouble. 

Ahmat, my chauffeur, spoke freely about the poverty of the 
native population. I told him that he must be glad to be a 
chauffeur, for cars in Batavia, and, indeed, throughout the Dutch 
East Indies, are not cheap to hire, and I was paying him a hand- 
some price. But he shook his head. "I do fairly well," he said, 
"but ten people have to live on what I earn. They come from a 
country village and there is nothing for them there." Later, he 
took me to his own tiny house in a Malay kampong off the 
Jacatra Road, and introduced me to his father and mother and a 
band of other relations of all ages whom he was supporting. 

Farther on we came to the Fish Market, picturesquely situated 
beside the river, where junks, many of them Japanese, and stately 
prahus, some bare-masted and others with their sails set, lay riding 
at anchor. The various kinds of tropical fish, laid out in baskets 
or thrown in a heap on the stones, the fishermen of different 
nationalities, and the native housewives buying and bargaining, 
add to the attractiveness of the scene, and I came back again and 
again to this colourful spot, which is at its best at sunset or in the 
early dawn. 

Tanjong Priok itself was a disappointment. The docks are 
modern and magnificendy equipped, but at the moment I was not 
interested in modern development, but was seeking historical land- 
marks. Captain Cook, one of my boyhood heroes, had landed here 
on his way home from his first voyage in the Endeavour in 1770. 
He had previously reported to the Admiralty that he had not lost 
one man of scurvy during the whole voyage. Batavia, true to its 

222 



insalubrious reputation of those days, soon spoiled this record. 
Cook stayed eleven weeks in Batavia. When he left, seven of his 
crew had died, and forty were ill with malaria or dysentery. 

Here, too, came Bligh of the Bounty in the small schooner 
which he had bought in Timor after his miraculous journey from 
Tofoa with the eighteen loyalists whom the mutineers had cast 
adrift in the ship's boat Nor was Bligh more fortunate than 
Cook. He had not lost a man during the 3618 miles voyage from 
Tofoa. Three of his crew, the master's mate, the cook, and a 
quarter-master seaman, died in Batavia. It was in Batavia that 
he put up his schooner, which he had christened H.M.S. Resource, 
for auction. In Timor he had paid 1000 rix dollars for it. In 
Batavia it was knocked down for 295 rix dollars, and on top of 
this the Dutch tried to make him pay sale duty. The stern 
Englishman refused. 

Ahmat, of course, had never heard of Cook or Bligh, nor 
could I discover any details about their stay in Batavia even from 
the Dutch officials and professors who, in striking contrast to the 
British in Malaya, have a profound knowledge of the history of 
the East Indies. Ahmat, however, was fully conversant with his 
own type of Malay history. As we approached the archway, known 
as the Penang Gate although no one could teU me why, he 
pointed out to me an old cannon sunk in a grass plot at the side 
of the road. The natives believe that this cannon has the power 
of making a barren woman fertile, and almost daily Batavian 
women come here to whisper a wish and to leave a floral tribute 
with the cannon god. According to another superstition the cannon 
will one day be joined by its mate, and when this happens the 
Dutch rule in Java will end. 

Ahmat, who explained these matters to me, told me of two 
other political superstitions, both modern and probably inspired 
by the Javanese nationalists. 

"What will happen, Tuan," he said, "when Queen Wilhdmina 
and Princess Juliana die?" he asked me. 

I confessed my ignorance. 

"Why, Tuan, the Dutch will go. And what will happen, Tuan, 
when the whole world is encircled by wireless?" 

I gave him the Malay equivalent for "I'll buy it." 

223 



This time he spoke with even greater assurance: "For sure, 
Tuan, the Dutch will be driven out." 

This was my first insight into Javanese nationalism. Later I 
heard many similar stories throughout the Dutch East Indies, but 
at the time Ahmat's nonsense made a considerable impression on 
me. One could travel, I reflected, the length and breadth of 
British Malaya without hearing even a whisper o discontent from 
a Malay against the British rule. Yet here was a Batavian chauffeur 
talking the same kind of suggestive revolutionary superstition as 
the Russian peasantry talked in 1910. 

Before we returned to the hotel for luncheon, Ahmat showed 
me two gruesome illustrations of the ancient and modern history 
of Batavia. Coming back by the Jacatra Road into the old town, 
he stopped close to the Portuguese Church, although why it is so 
called I do not know, for it is an old Dutch church. He pointed 
to the wall, and I saw there a human skull, whitewashed and 
held in its place by a spear-point. Beneath it was a tablet with a 
Dutch inscription, which in English runs as follows: "In exe- 
crated memory of the traitor, Pieter Elberfeld, building on this 
spot is forbidden now and for evermore." The unfortunate Elber- 
feld, whose memory is thus perpetuated, was an influential half- 
caste who in 1722 formed a plot to massacre all the Dutch in 
Batavia and to set up a native government with himself at its 
head. True to all European historical legends in the East, be they 
Portuguese or Dutch or British or American, the plot is said to 
have been revealed by a beautiful native woman to her Dutch 
lover. Pieter Elberfeld's skull was the illustration from the ancient 
history of Batavia. 

The example from the modern came a few minutes later, when 
Ahmat pulled up beside a long one-storied building with an ex- 
tended roof which formed a covered verandah. Stretching out 
behind it a long queue of people stood waiting patiently. They 
were of all races: Chinese, Japanese, all the various Malay races 
of the Archipelago, and even broken-down Europeans. The Malays 
predominated. The queue included men and women of all ages, 
and even young boys and girls. There were old men, toothless 
and lean and scraggy as a starving horse. There were young 
wives with babies at their breasts. Every one carried something: 
pots and pans, clothes, carved ornaments, pieces of embroidery, 

224 



jewellery, and other gewgaws of the average native home, in- 
cluding even heavy articles of furniture. I saw one young girl 
staggering under the weight of a sewing machine. A native police- 
man stood by to keep the queue in line. But there was no disorder, 
no bustling, and very little chatter. 

My first thought was that they were unemployed and out-of- 
works waiting their turn at some Dutch equivalent of our Labour 
Exchange. Ahmat soon corrected this impression: "Rumah gadai, 
Tuan (The pawnshop, Tuan)," he said, rather sullenly and with a 
kind of exasperated contempt: "It's crowded like this every day." 
He spoke no more than the truth. Perhaps because of its exotic 
background, the human tragedy of poverty made a more shatter- 
ing impression on me than it does at home, and I went back to 
study it again and again. Whenever the office was open, the long 
queue was always there. 

The pawn-shops in Java are owned and operated by the Gov- 
ernment. There are three hundred and seventy-five of them, and 
the annual sum lent or rather advanced, for in many cases the 
pledged goods are never redeemed, is about ,20,000,000. The 
system is better, and probably fairer to the native, than die laissez 
faire system of the British in Malaya, where the "Chetties" or 
Indian moneylenders are allowed to flourish. It was not, I reflected, 
a very good advertisement for the capitalist system which, tem- 
porarily at least, had broken down here even more calamitously 
than it has in Europe and America. Even when I made every 
allowance for the innate improvidence of the Malay, there was no 
mistaking the poverty of these long queues. They were testimony, 
more convincing than any accountant's figures, to the extent to 
which the slump had shaken the economic foundations of the 
island. 

Nearly seventy years ago Wallace, the great Scottish naturalist 
and forerunner of Darwin, had described Java as "the richest, the 
best cultivated, and the best governed tropical island in the world." 
It might still be all these things, but for the moment, or perhaps 
for ever, something had gone wrong. Economic development or 
exploitation the choice of words depends on the economic view- 
point had brought with it the inevitable result, an extraordinary 
increase in population, and to-day Java with its 40,000,000 supports 
a larger population than any other area of the same size in the 

225 



world. The Dutch had done their economic job with all the 
organising talent and industrious genius of their race. They had 
come from Holland in their thousands to take back the wealth 
of the East to their own country. To-day there were four times 
as many Dutch per every thousand head of population in the 
Dutch East Indies as there were British in British India, and very 
nearly as many Dutch in actual numbers in Java alone as British 
in India. But of these 275,000 Dutch, how many were pure whites? 
No one knew. To-day in Holland itself one inhabitant in every 
hundred is said to have Malay blood in his veins. And here in 
Java the proportion was vastly higher. 

When, too, did a half-caste become a Dutchman? The Dutch 
themselves had a vulgar definition: when he wore shoes and made 
his water standing up. But there were many half-castes who had 
never worn shoes. I had seen some of them in the queues before 
the pawn-shop. I thought again of that white-washed half-caste 
skull fixed to the wall beside the Portuguese Church. Among the 
half-castes of to-day, perhaps even among the more successful, there 
might be other Pieter Elberfelds, more dangerous and more cun- 
ning because they were better educated. There were half-castes 
in the Volksraat, the limited parliament of the Dutch East Indies. 
They sat with the native Javanese in the nationalist bloc. 

After my siesta I set out in the opposite direction to explore 
Weltevreden and the new suburbs extending to Meester Cornells. 
Here are the government buildings, the offices of the great ship- 
ping companies, the museums, the spacious Koningsplein with 
its race-course in the middle, the Waterlooplein with its football 
grounds, shady public gardens and pleasure grounds, row after 
row of red-tiled houses, very neat, very Dutch, rather uniform 
in style, and each with its well-trimmed flower garden, and scores 
of statues to the great Dutch governors-general and captains who 
had created the glory of the Dutch Colonial Empire. 

The Dutch preceded the British in the East. They had been 
the distributors for Europe of the Eastern goods brought home 
by the Portuguese. About eighty years after the Portuguese con- 
quest of Malacca they came to the conclusion that the wealth which 
hitherto they had only distributed might be captured on the spot. 

The Dutch sent out the first expedition in 1595. It was a 
failure, but with the same perseverance which has enabled them to 

226 



fight the sea at home, they stuck to their self-appointed task. In 
contrast to the British domination of Malaya, die story of their 
conquest of the East Indies is written in blood. They drove out 
the Portuguese, they fought and bested the British, they suppressed, 
sometimes with great cruelty, the resistance of the nativesa re- 
sistance which has manifested itself in numerous wars and re- 
bellions lasting from the days of the first Dutch settlement right 
up to the beginning of the present century. 

It is a fascinating story of triumph in the face of almost 
insurmountable difficulties. Had the men who won this triumph 
been Englishmen or Americans, their names to-day would be 
household words throughout the world. But when Holland lost 
her sea supremacy in the eighteenth century she became a small 
nation, and England and America, much to their disadvantage, 
for there is a lesson in the decline of former empires, do not read 
the history of small nations. 

The Dutch have not forgotten their colonial heroes, and Batavia, 
exactly two hundred years older than Singapore and therefore 
far richer in historical associations, has many shrines to their 
memory. On the Waterlooplein there is a fine bronze statue to 
Jan Pieterson Coen, the founder of Batavia and the greatest of all 
Dutch governors-general. The town came into being as a result of 
a concerted attempt by the British and the Bantamese to drive 
the Dutch out of Eastern Java. They besieged the Dutch in Fort 
Jacatra and had nearly forced it to surrender, when Coen arrived 
with his fleet and raised the siege. On the site of the fort he 
founded the new capital of Batavia in 1619. 

Coen, in particular, and indeed most of these early Dutchmen, 
had all the austerity, the courage and the rigidity of the early 
Calvinists. The Bible was their text-book, and in it they found a 
pretext and a justification for their frequent cruelties. In the tropics 
they wore the same sombre clothes that are portrayed in the por- 
traits of Rembrandt and Hals. In their sugar-loaf hats, their black 
capes relieved only by their white ruffles and the sword-hilt at 
their side, and their square-toed shoes they must have presented a 
far more imposing and more dignified picture to the native than 
the white ducks of the modern Dutchman. 

Farther out we came to the Entree Gondangdia, and there I 
saw the finest European monument in the East. This is the 

227 



memorial to General van Heutz, the Dutch Clive, who died at 
Montreux in 1924. The monument, grandiose in design yet graceful 
in its lines, is very modern, and its huge frieze of carved figures 
is reminiscent of the late Charles Jagger's artillery memorial 
opposite Hyde Park Gate. 

Heutz himself, whom I met in Montreux after the war, was 
of the stuff of which modern dictators are made: a rugged plain- 
living soldier without frills and without illusions. He never asked 
his men to do anything that he was not prepared to do himself. 
There was very little that he was not prepared to do. "Goddam," 
according to local legend, was the longest speech he ever made. 
His favourite minute on reports from his subordinates raising 
difficulties to some new scheme of road-building or town-planning 
which he had put forward was "Start to-morrow." As the man 
who finally quelled the long revolt of the Achinese in Western 
Sumatra, he has become a legendary figure. Were he alive and 
in his prime to-day he would be without doubt the Fascist dictator 
of Holland. Dr. Colijn, the present Prime Minister and strong 
man of Holland, whose work on colonial administration is known 
to every one as the "Colijn Bible," served his apprenticeship as 
van Heutz's adjutant in the East Indies. 

At Gondangdia Ahmet suggested turning back. But I ordered 
him to push on to Meester Cornelis. He shrugged his shoulders as 
though to indicate that there was nothing worth seeing there. 
He was right. It was like any Dutch suburb. Its attraction had to 
be suggested by my own imagination. It was here that in 1811 
the British expeditionary force had fought the decisive battle for 
the conquest of Java, then temporarily under the French-controlled 
Batavian Republic and administered by Marshal Daendels, a 
Dutchman who had taken service under Napoleon and had been 
made Governor-General by him. 

The man who officially approved the British expedition was 
Lord Minto, the Governor-General of India. The soldier who led 
it to victory was General Auchmuty. But the man who advocated 
and inspired its despatch was Raffles, whose reward after the 
victory was the Lieutenant-Governorship of Java. 

The modern Dutchman admires Raffles, but has no affection 
for him. Perhaps, if I were a Dutchman, I should feel the same. 
For Raffles saw the value of Java, and was heart-broken when, 

228 



after the Congress of Vienna, Britain returned it to Holland. I 
smiled cynically when I turned to Meester Cornelis in my Dutch 
guide-book. The place was dismissed in one sentence "nothing 
of interest here to the tourist." 

Incidentally, supporters of the League of Nations and other 
believers in the progress of civilisation may be reminded that the 
Treaty of Vienna was in every respect a fairer and less vindictive 
treaty than the Treaty of Versailles. If we gave back Java to the 
Dutch because friendship with the Low Countries had become a 
first principle of British foreign policy, the return of Senegal and 
Corsica to France was a magnanimity which, in 1919, would have 
brought Mr. Lloyd George's Government to instant defeat. 

It is perhaps unfair to the Dutch to say so, but the fact remains 
that the two greatest benefactors of Java were an Englishman 
and a Dutchman who preferred to serve Napoleon. During the 
six years of his lieutenant-governorship Raffles laid the foundation 
of much that is best in the administration of Java to-day. Daendels 
was the great road-builder of the island and the founder of modern 
Batavia. It was he who removed the European settlement from the 
malaria-infested lower town to the present Weltevreden. 

On my way back from Meester Cornelis the clouds which 
assemble nearly every afternoon during the rainy season broke, 
and in the open car I was drenched to the skin. I went home, 
took a hot bath, and dined early and alone. Returning to my 
rooms after dinner, I ran into Miedl. He had spent a harassing 
day doing business with the hard-headed Dutch. He liked the 
English, but he spoke no word of our language. Because of my 
knowledge of German he clung to me. With German thorough- 
ness he had planned a motor-trip for the next day a three hundred 
kilometre circular journey over the Puntiak, including Buitenzorg, 
Bandoeng, Lembang, the famous crater of Tangkoeban Prahoe 
and the other mountain peaks of the Preanger district. He was 
starting at six in the morning. Would I go with him? I accepted 
without a moment's hesitation. 

Elated by the prospect of a journey so much after my own 
heart, I sat down in my verandah sitting-room to smoke a pipe 
before turning in. The rain had long since ceased, and for a while 
I surrendered myself to the beauty of the star-lit night Presently a 
terrestrial object arrested my attention. My rooms were in a corner 

229 



of a courtyard behind the main building of the hotel. In the suite 
immediately at right angles to my own I suddenly caught sight 
of a white woman. Two white arms, leaning on the verandah 
ledge, supported a face whose pallor was exaggerated by the electric 
light above her. Her mouth was half-open. Her eyes, large and 
of a watery blue colour, stared vacantly into the night. She could 
not have been more than twenty-five. If not exactly beautiful, she 
was decidedly pretty. For five minutes I watched her. She never 
changed her position. Never have I seen boredom so epitomised 
in any human face. I went into my bedroom, undressed, and 
came out again to the verandah. She was still there, still as motion- 
less as a statue. By now I was seriously puzzled. Was she mad? 
Had some sudden grief the death of a child or a lover afflicted 
her? My curiosity was soon satisfied. Presently I heard the sound 
of erratic footsteps stumbling along the concrete pavement which 
ran round the courtyard. A big heavy man, unmistakably drunk, 
was lurching and swaying towards me. He bumped against my 
verandah wall, steadied himself, and then entered the suite next 
door. The girl slowly raised her elbows from the ledge, turned 
her back, and went inside. I heard a thick voice say "Sorry, 
darling," and then silence. 

I discovered afterwards that they were Australians on their 
honeymoon. The "pahit" drinking on the front verandah of the 
hotel had been too much for the husband. It was a cameo of 
European life in the East which would have provided the brilliant 
Mr. Somerset Maugham with the material for a short story. 



230 



Lt 



CHAPTER TWO 

MIEDL was punctual the next morning, and a few minutes 
after six we set out in a high-powered open car. We had two 
Malay chauffeurs who, until they were restrained, drove furiously. 
The road surface, as nearly everywhere in Java, was excellent, but 
MiedPs seventeen stone, bobbing up and down on the back springs, 
made me both nervous and compassionate. By dint of frequent 
persuasion and, finally, of threats I succeeded in inducing the driver 
to slow down to a modest sixty miles an hour. 

It was not as if we had the road to ourselves. Our way to 
Buitenzorg lay through flat country with rice-fields on every side 
and frequent native kampongs. In the early morning coolness it 
was fresh and green and pretty enough. But my sense of enjoyment 
was marred by our chauffeur's nerve-racking dodging between the 
hordes of natives on the road. Nowhere in the world have I seen 
what was, in effect, a country road so densely thronged. On the 
whole thirty odd miles stretch to Buitenzorg, I do not think that 
we ever went more than forty yards without passing some one. 

There were men alone laden like beasts of burden and carrying 
huge weights on their "pikulan," a pliant bamboo pole carried 
across the shoulder. Similarly laden men were followed by their 
families, and a Javanese family is generally a cricket team. Boys 
and girls over ten carried little "pikulans." The wife brought up 
the rear with one child at her breast and leading the next youngest 
by the hand. Although it was Sunday, every one was working. 
Cyclists, also carrying produce of some sort to the market, were 
numerous. 

Every now and then, to add to the terrors of the road, a small 
red motor-bus, driven as furiously as our own car, would charge 
down on us and miss our mudguards by a last-minute miracle. 
The buses were Chinese owned. Curiously enough, their names 

231 



were blazoned on them in English, and the name was always 
feminine: "Miss Canton" or "Miss Tiang Ho." 

One contrast with British Malaya struck me forcibly. Our 
Malays are lazy, happy-go-lucky, cheerful aristocrats. Leisure is the 
keynote of their philosophy. They are loquacious. They have a 
love of words. They believe that a proper command of language is 
essential to good luck in fishing and hunting which since the 
Europeans suppressed fighting and piracy are the only proper 
pursuits of a self-respecting Malay. Sustained work never appealed 
to them. Coolie work they despise. In British Malaya every China- 
man hopes to become a capitalist. But he starts as a coolie, and 
to-day, together with the imported Indian Tamil, he still provides 
the coolie labour. Here in Java the position is reversed. The 
Chinaman is the merchant, the shopkeeper, and the big and little 
captalist. There are no Chinese rickisha-pullers in Java, no Chinese 
coolie class. The Javanese, the Sundanese, the Maduranese, and the 
other native races of the Island are the "coolies." Those whom 
we passed on our way to Buitenzorg were taciturn and uncom- 
plaining. There was the same dumb sadness in their eyes that one 
sees in an overworked horse. And these were Sundanese, by repu- 
tation and, indeed, in truth, the gayest of the native races of Java. 

At Buitenzorg we stopped for an hour to look at the Botanical 
Gardens. I am no horticulturist, but I found the gardens dis- 
appointing. I had expected a riot of colour. The glory of the 
gardens is their wealth of rare tropical trees and plants, and to my 
untutored eye this greenery was monotonous. 

I had one pilgrimage to maketo the memorial erected to the 
memory of Lady Raffles. This monument is a slight Dutch atone- 
ment for an insult of over a hundred years standing. It was in 
June 1823, that Raffles sailed for the last time from Singapore. 
He was only forty-two, but his work was done. Like Clive and 
Hastings he was sailing back to trouble and to Britain's habitual 
indifference to the work of her servants overseas. But the troubles 
began long before he reached home. The ship on which he sailed 
had to call at Batavia, and, as Lady Raffles was far advanced to- 
wards childbirth, Raffles, much against his will, had perforce to 
write to the Dutch Governor-General to ask permission for his 
wife to land. Baron van der Capellen's reply was couched in stiff 
terms. It expressed the Governor-General's surprise that a man like 

232 



Raffles, who had advocated the retention of Java by the British, 
should come near to Java at all, let alone propose to set foot on 
Javanese soil. 

We had some difficulty in finding the monument, and Miedl, 
dripping under the scorching sun, failed, with much puffing and 
panting to understand my zeal. At last an attendant put us on the 
right track. The monument takes the form of a pedestal with an 
urn and a plaque. It stands in a little rotunda in an attractive 
grassy grove not far from the pathway. Unfortunately, it was 
almost the only thing I saw in Java that was ill-cared-for and 
untidy. The matter has been mentioned to the Governor-General, 
and I have no doubt that it has already been put right. 

To me the most attractive feature of the gardens was the 
Governor-General's palace. It stands in the middle of the gardens 
and is completely shut off in its own grounds. The approach is by 
a magnificent avenue of lofty kenari trees which form an archway 
a hundred feet high. There is a huge English park with deer. 
Before the palace, reflecting its long one-storied outline, is the 
famous lotus-lake. 

The Dutch civil servants are a hard-working and, on the whole, 
very efficient body of men. Their standard of life is far lower than 
that of their British prototypes in British Malaya. Their wardrobes 
and their houses are more modest than ours. But the Governor- 
General is in a different category. The Governor of Singapore rules 
over rather less than four millions of people. The Governor-Gen- 
eral of the Dutch East Indies is the overlord of nearly seventy 
millions. In Holland he corresponds to the Viceroy of India, and 
in the East Indies he is given the appurtenances and the residences 
which comport with the dignity of that exalted position. 

From Buitenzorg the landscape changed. We were approach- 
ing the mountains by the famous road, part of Daendels' great 
highway, over the 4000 feet high Puntiak. The humid flatness of 
Batavia had given us no indication of this fairy-land which lay 
behind it. At first the road seemed to rise and fall in a series of 
easy switchbacks. Then we began to mount by hairpin bends until 
the air became cool and finally cold. On the lower slopes there was 
growing coffee, giving way, as we rose higher, to tea. No wonder 
that Wallace had said that Java was the best cultivated island in 
the world. Every inch of soil was put to use. 

233 



Indeed, the wealth of the Dutch East Indies is a miracle that 
never ceases to excite the wonder of the visitor. From them come 
92 per cent, of the world's cinchona production, 84 per cent, of 
the world's cocaine, 79 per cent, of the world's capok, 71 per cent, 
of the world's pepper, 14 per cent, of the world's tea and 6 per 
cent, of the world's coffee. Add to these the fact that the East Indies 
take third place in the world's production of sugar, that, after 
British Malaya, they are the world's largest producers of tin and 
rubber, and that, in addition to these semi-monopolies, they have 
such other valuable resources as tobacco, petroleum, palm oil, and 
copra. Bear in mind that nearly all this wealth comes from the 
one island of Java and that the sources which produce it were 
introduced from other countries: rubber from Brazil, sugar-cane 
from the West Indies, tobacco from Europe, tea from China and 
Assam, cinchona from the Andes, cocoa from South America, 
coffee from Arabia, and oil palms from West Africa. And you 
have some idea both of the enterprise of the Dutch as colonists and 
of the fabulous richness of the world's most fertile island. 

We were fortunate in the morning weather. Looking down on 
us from the right, majestic and sinister, were the twin peaks of 
Goenoeng Pangerango and Goenoeng Gedeh. At this time of the 
year both mountains, nearly 9000 feet high, are usually hidden in 
the clouds. To-day, they stood out clear in a proximity that was 
overawing. Like so many of the Java mountains, Gedeh is a vol- 
cano which from time to time erupts in a violent and death- 
dealing manner. The last eruption was in 1899. 

Gedeh with its yawning crater, sharp as a jagged razor, looks 
down on Tjipanas, the highest and most attractive of all the Gov- 
ernor-General's seats. The site is enchantingly beautiful. Dutch 
flowers were growing in the gardens. Close by was a little moun- 
tain lake, its placid waters shining like silver in the sunlight. And 
here again I marvelled at the material ingenuity and bee-like in- 
dustry of the Dutch. Even the mountains are put to the use of 
man. The lower slopes of Pangerango have been turned into a 
botanical garden for the cultivation of plants and trees which grow 
only in high altitudes. There is even a laboratory and a guest- 
house for students of botany. 

As we drew near to the top of the pass, an overhanging cliff 
shut out the sunlight. The air became suddenly colder, affecting 

234 



the bladders of our Malay chauffeurs and forcing us to stop. My 
sense of the supernatural, always at its keenest in the mountains, 
overwhelmed me. There was something uncanny in this grotto 
with the eeriness of its semi-darkness accentuated by the blue sky 
above us. I felt suddenly uneasy and slightly afraid. Then in a 
moment or two we turned the bend, and there far below us, with 
the rolling line of mountains forming its background, was a vast 
plain, intersected by rivers, its rich and varied vegetation woven 
into a waving pattern of every shade of green. 

Java is too cultivated and too over-populated to satisfy entirely 
my standard of grandeur. But this Puntiak view is superb and 
would gladden and assuredly has gladdened the heart of every 
picture-postcard photographer. And it is only one of the many 
similar views which are to be seen in almost every part of Java. 

Here there was a small hotel, and we stopped to order the 
breakfast which our early start had postponed. It seemed an un- 
aesthetic proceeding strangely in contrast with our etherial sur- 
roundings. But we were not alone in our materialism. The hotel 
verandah was crowded with Dutch families, drinking beer and 
eating huge slices of bread thickly spread with butter and chunks 
of cold fish. 

The Dutch are a curious race. Their cultural and intellectual 
standards are far higher than those of the British or the Americans. 
They have a genuine love and understanding of art in all its 
forms. This culture is not confined to a small class of intellectuals. 
Its roots are in the nation. During my stay in Batavia I had my 
hair cut by a Dutch barber. While he was performing on my locks, 
the wireless began to play the Liebestod. I had to wait in sweating 
impatience, while the barber, his eyes raised in rapture to the ceil- 
ing, beat the time with his scissors until the record was finished. 
His enthusiasm was genuine, but neither in his case nor in the 
case of most Dutch men and women is it allowed to interfere with 
the national capacity for food and drink. Here in this mountain 
hotel everything that the ingenuity of the proprietor could imagine 
had been combined to remind his clients of their native Holland. 
The building was Dutch in design. The cups and plates and glasses 
were decorated with pictures of Dutch towns and with Dutch 
proverbs. Prominently displayed on the wooden wall was the 
Dutch drinking verse: 

235 



te veel, dan sterf ikj 
Dnni( i^ niet, dan bederf i\; 
Beter te vid gedronJ^en en gestorven 
Dan niet gedronl^en en bedorven!' 

"If I drinJ^ too much I die, 
If I drin\ not 1 decay; 
Better to drinl^ too much and die 
Than not to drin\ and to decay!' 

The clients seemed to be doing their best to live up to this 
aphorism. 

The forty miles' run, more or less downhill, to Bandoeng was 
in the nature of an anti-climax. Not that the route was dull or the 
scenery unattractive. There were moments when my eyes leapt 
to meet the challenge of Nature. We crossed several rivers bridged 
by slender graceful bridges. One river, the Tjitaroem, splashed its 
way through the greenest of gorges, its waters in contrast to most 
tropical rivers as clear as a Scottish mountain stream. Again to 
Miedl's astonishment I bade the chauffeur stop while I got out to 
look into the depths below. The British in Malaya have recently 
introduced trout into the mountain rivers of Cameron Highlands. 
Were there trout here? I should have been thrilled to catch a trout 
on fly within a few degrees of the Equator. Unfortunately, my 
Malay vocabulary fell short of the word for trout, and even with 
the help of signs I was unable to make them understand. Reluc- 
tantly I came to the conclusion that trout had not entered into the 
Dutchman's all-embracing scheme of things. 

Bandoeng itself is a mountain city situated more than 2000 feet 
above sea-level. It is therefore nearly twice as high as the highest 
village in Scotland. It is also a creation of the energetic Marshal 
Daendels, but it is only since 1884, when the railway from Batavia 
was opened, that it has become important. Its population, now 
over 160,000, has nearly doubled within the last fifteen years. 
To-day, it is the third largest city in Java and is certainly by far 
die most attractive to a European. Its climate is magnificent, hot 
by day but nearly always cool by night, and why the Dutch do 
not make it their capital is surprising. Probably the Dutch have 
their own good reasons. 

Bandoeng is already the chief military town of the Dutch East 

236 



Indies and is the seat of the Commander-in-Chief. The army is 
partly professional and partly conscripted. Every inhabitant of the 
East Indies is liable to* military service between the ages of eighteen 
and thirty-two. The professional army also includes Dutch soldiers 
from Holland, but the bulk of the force, approximately 40,000 
strong, is composed of native soldiery. Dutch and native soldiers 
mix more or less together and have quarters in the same barracks. 
There is a certain number of Javanese officers, especially in the 
army medical service, and among the white officers a liberal sprin- 
kling of half-castes. 

The army is not impressive and looks as if it had been stinted 
of money. We watched a battalion swinging down the street on its 
way to new barracks. Both officers and men were poorly turned 
out, and Miedl, who regarded them with the critical eye of a 
German, dismissed them, perhaps too rapidly, as "not serious." I 
discovered that this judgment was not entirely his own. The 
German colony in Batavia, who are very pro-Dutch and who get 
on much better with the Dutch residents thstn do the local British, 
had told him that everything in Java was first-class except the 
army and navy. The army, however, has been efficient enough in 
its local wars. As far as danger from outside is concerned, I suspect 
that up to now the thrifty Dutch have been content to rely on the 
belief that in her own interests Britain will never allow an outside 
Power to lay a hand on the Dutch East Indies. 

If the Javanese infantry look slipshod and unmartial, there is 
good fighting material among the other races of the Dutch East 
Indies, especially in the outer islands. In the communist revolt of 
December 1926 and January 1927 it was the Christian Ambonese 
troops who, when certain Javanese units had wavered, saw red 
and by a bayonet charge broke the back of the rising in Batavia 
at a moment when it threatened to assume serious dimensions. 

After a leisurely drive round the town, we went into the leading 
hotel for luncheon. Here we met the two pilots of the Amsterdam 
airplane which had conveyed us from Singapore to Batavia. They 
were fine types, placid, friendly, and unassuming. Selefis, a Dutch 
kilometre millionaire, that is, an airman who has flown more than 
a million kilometres, impressed me enormously. He neither makes 
light of nor exaggerates the difficulties and dangers of his strenuous 
life. He never talks of them. His great hobby is big game shooting, 

237 



and, as Bandoeng is the headquarters of the K.L.M. pilots during 
their short stay in Java, he has occasional opportunities of indulg- 
ing in his favourite sport. I should have thought that his life was 
strenuous enough without this extra exertion. 

These Dutch pilots have only ten days on land between their 
long flights. During this time they must always be within tele- 
phone call, for if, as sometimes happens, the pilot of the previous 
airplane falls ill, one of the newly-arrived pilots has to take his 
place. This means twelve days' continuous flying from Europe 
and back again. And the pay, as in the case of the captains of the 
great ocean liners, is very inadequate. 

Selefis advised us to spend part of the afternoon in driving 
out to Tangkoeban Prahoe, another crater about twenty miles 
away towards the north-east. I accepted the suggestion with alac- 
rity. I had no wish to stay longer in Bandoeng. I recognised its 
claims to be a model city and the last word in Dutch colonial 
efficiency. But it is a completely modern city, and after a glut of 
years spent in modern cities I had come East to escape from 
modernity. 

Luncheon had restored our capacity for sight-seeing, and we 
set out with a refreshed optimism. The optimism was necessary. 
While we had been indoors, huge black clouds had darkened the 
horizon. The air had become breathless and unaccountably still. 
As we began to ascend the steep road, we seemed to be driving 
straight into the clouds. The view was even finer than our morn- 
ing view from the Puntiak Pass. The mountains were now black 
and threatening. On the dark sky-line they looked so near that 
they seemed to be closing in on us. 

At Lembang, a litde village twelve miles from Bandoeng, our 
chauffeur pulled up and pointed to an extraordinary building at 
the side of the road. It looked like the bridge of an enormous 
super-dreadnought. It was the kind of freak palace which a pre- 
war Moscow millionaire might have built for himseE "Rumah 
Biretti" (Biretti's house), said the chauffeur with a grin. He had 
no need to say more. I had not been twelve hours in Batavia With- 
out having had the story of Biretti told me by half-a-dozen people. 
We had discussed it with the pilots in the Bandoeng hotel less 
than an hour before. 

Biretti was a half-caste genius who had made a fortune as a 

238 



newspaper and news-agency king. He was a self-made man 
of inordinate ambition. His fortune, however, seemed to have 
solid foundations, and his power and his influence were said to 
extend far beyond his newspaper activities. Then in the late 
autumn of 1934 he paid a visit to Holland. In well-informed circles 
it was whispered that the slump, which had ruined so many 
Dutchmen in the East, had hit him hard. On his way back to 
Java he was killed in the unexplained disaster of the KJL.M. air- 
plane which crashed in the Syrian desert in January, 1935. 

These are the facts. But rumour tells a different story, and after 
the disaster Biretti's name was bandied from mouth to mouth. 
This was the first major accident on the Amsterdam-Batavia line, 
and Dutch pride found an excuse for the mishap in the fable 
that Biretti, in a dramatic suicide, had shot the pilot through the 
head. Riotous imagination added lurid details to this fantastic 
story. Biretti had been in league with the Japanese. He had made 
away with himself because he was on the verge of exposure. All 
that was true in these stories was that Biretti was dead and that, 
whatever his virtues or his faults, Java had lost one of its most 
remarkable citizens. 

His house gave some indication of his character. It would 
have been fantastic anywhere. Here it was ludicrous and in* 
congruous. No expense had been spared on it. The glass for its 
windows had been brought from Venice. Its gardens had tiled 
paths. Goldfish swam in its artificial pond. It was called the "Isola 
Bella" after the island palace on Lake Maggiore. It looked re- 
pellently new. The name had been as fatal to him as it was to be a 
few weeks later to the reputation of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and 
Sir John Simon when they met Mussolini at the Italian "Isola 
Bella" during the Stresa conference and failed to warn him about 
his Abyssinian ambitions. But with its wonderful vista of the 
vast horse-shoe-shaped mountain range, the situation of this Ja- 
vanese Bella Isola was unique. It was a site that only a Napoleon 
would have chosen. 

In spite of the growing and unnatural darkness, we pushed 
on another four miles to a point where the road bends sharply 
inwards until it touches the bottom slopes of Tangkoeban Prahoe 
with its great twin craters. The name means "overturned prahu." 
It suits the shape of the mountain, but like all Javanese volcanoes 

239 



there is a myth attached to it A sultan of bygone days had a son 
who refused to marry acording to his father's wishes. He sailed 
away with the bride of his own heart and was wrecked. Pre- 
sumably, in those days Java was under water. Be this as it may, 
bride and bridegroom are now at the bottom of one of the craters. 
Is not their upturned boat, which forms the mountain peak, there 
for all eyes to see! 

At that moment the crater was frowning down on us from 
an ink-black sky. Standing high above the tree line, its stony 
crest, barren and desolate, seemed like a cap of death on the 
body of luxuriant life below. The electricity in the air seemed 
to communicate its evil intent to our souls. One felt that at any 
moment it would lean forward and crush us. Suddenly a jagged 
flame rent the sky and fell into the very heart of the crater. It was 
followed by a roll of thunder that seemed to come from all sides. 
The clouds emptied their reservoir. The storm had come with one 
dap. 

We had no time to be afraid. The rain was like a waterspout. 
Before we could fix the hood of the car, our clothes hung to us 
like bathing-suits. By the time we had reached Bandoeng again, 
the road was like a Highland burn in spate. I have been in many 
storms in many countries. But never have I known a storm break 
with such suddenness or with such volcanic fury. 

At Bandoeng, after having had our clothes dried, we decided 
to return to Batavia by train and to let our Malays bring back the 
car when the rain stopped. It was a wise and fortunate decision, 
for the railway stretch between Padarlarang and Poerwakarta is 
unrivalled for its beauty. 

As it was a Sunday, the station at Bandoeng was crowded, and, 
until the train came in, I watched the crowd of natives with a 
growing fascination. The women, much freer than our Malays, 
seemed to have smiles for every one, for the Sundanese are the 
wantons of Java. Some, obviously the well-to-do, were dressed in 
European or semi-European clothes and were attended by the 
usual large family, the boys in sailor-suits and the girls in one- 
piece dresses with basket hats. Others again were in the native 
sarong and loose-hanging blouse or "baju." I saw tender scenes of 
farewell between Dutch soldiers, who were being transferred to 
Batavia, and their native Sundanese sweethearts. More than one 

240 



woman had a baby in her arms to remember her departing lover 
by. 

With some difficulty we secured two window seats opposite 
each other, and I settled down to endure as best I could what I 
thought would be a steam-bath inferno. But this country of 
miracles performed another miracle for our benefit. Soon after we 
left Bandoeng, the great blanket of cloud rose and remained sus- 
pended in the heavens, leaving a thin coral strip of clear sky 
on the horizon. Presently the setting sun dropped slowly from 
the cloud-blanket, shedding a flood of soft light on the landscape. 
Below us were deep gorges unlike any that I had ever seen. Their 
steep slopes were terraced with rice-fields so that each valley looked 
like a vast amphitheatre with standing rows of green spectators. 
Rivers, spanned by those graceful bridges which only the Dutch 
seem to build in the East, ran through them like a silver corridor. 
Here and there native villages nestled in a grove of slender palms 
and bamboos. 

The effect of this curious sunset, more like moonlight or the 
lime-lighting of a stage, was unreal and startlingly beautiful. On a 
tiny lake bordered with willowy reeds I saw a fisherman in a boat 
a motionless silhouette of black on a silver surface. I admired 
the graceful poise of his body, as he leant over his lines or nets. 
Here was the great enigma of the East. Was this a man and there 
were millions like him who had found in resignation the way of 
life and in patient waiting the road to the fulfilment of his higher 
aspirations? Or was he what the Dutch capitalists and the Chinese 
bourgeois said he was a willing beast of burden with no other 
thought than of the four cents a day which now have to suffice 
for his daily existence? Time which reveals all things would re- 
veal this, too, at the hour of its own choosing. For myself I was 
content to be grateful to the storm which had enabled me to see 
this ethereal loveliness. 

That night in Batavia I dined with Miedl and two Dutch 
bankers. As they wished to discuss business, I left them early and 
went out into the broad main street before the hotel After the 
rain the air was cool or less hot, which in Batavia amounts to the 
same thing, but the street was nearly empty. The traffic had ceased, 
and there was a pleasant absence of noise. Occasional shadowy 
figures passed me by: women in pairs leaving a faint aroma of 

241 



cheap scent in their train and lithe boys with their coloured ker- 
chiefs cunningly fashioned into a becoming headdress and their 
sarongs falling in a straight line to their ankles. Now and then a 
woman would smile and whisper "Tuan." Sometimes a boy would 
make a furtive half-turn and bare his teeth in a significant grin. 

Twenty-five years before my curiosity and even my sense of 
adventure might have been stirred. Now I was merely depressed, 
I was back in man-made civilisation. Batavia had suffered more 
severely from the economic depression than Singapore, Its vice 
had more hungry mouths to feed and was more open. 



242 



CHAPTER THREE 

T HAVE always been an early riser. The habit, developed in my 
J[ youth in Malaya, has never left me. Yet on the next morning 
the telephone rang in my room before I had finished dressing. It 
was the Governor-General's Secretary. Jonkheer de Jonge had re- 
turned. His Excellency would receive me at eleven o'clock. 

Five minutes before the appointed time I was in his palace, a 
long one-storied white Greek temple with pillars of false Doric. 
With not more than a moment's delay I was ushered into a high- 
walled room, very cool and comfortably but simply furnished. 
There was a big table in one corner with a photograph of a girl 
whom I took to be His Excellency's daughter. A large map of 
Indonesia hung on the wall. As I entered, a very tall man with 
iron-grey hair and moustache came forward to meet me. His clear 
cut features had a pleasant expression. He had the long tapered 
fingers of an artist or an aristocrat. His figure, lank and lean as an 
Englishman's, astonished me most. He was the only slim Dutch- 
man of over fifty that I had ever seen. His eyes looked tired but 
were unmistakably friendly. His English, spoken with an excep- 
tionally pure accent, was excellent. He had been a director of the 
Royal Dutch oil combine and had lived for nine years in London. 
He still had a house in Wimbledon. Almost his first question was 
regarding the present prospects of selling it. 

I told him that I was revisiting the East after a long absence 
and that I should probably write an account of my impressions. 
He. was quite frank about the situation in the Dutch East Indies 
and made no attempt to minimise the difficulties. The world slump 
had hit the Dutch Eastern possessions, and especially Java, harder 
than most countries. Revenue had decreased. Taxation had been 
raised to its utmost limit. The budget had had to be cut down. 
The grant for education had been reduced by half. Britain had 
been partly responsible for some of Java's economic troubles. The 

243 



once fabulously prosperous Javanese sugar industry had been sorel 
crippled by the action of British India in shutting the door o 
Javanese sugar and setting up her own sugar factories. In 192 
there had been over two hundred thriving sugar factories in Javi 
Now there were not more than thirty. 

I learnt that the Dutch followed the political as well as th 
economic situation in British India very closely. Liberal concej 
sions by the British Government in India always cause reperciu 
sions in Java, and there are few Dutch officials and fewer Dutd 
business men who believe in the policy of yielding too quickly ti 
nationalist aspirations. Jonkheer de Jonge was a great admirer o 
Lord Willingdon, of whom something in his manner reminde< 
me. I surmised that he was not so enthusiastic about Lord Irwin' 
policy. The Dutch call de Jonge their Willingdon. His predecessor 
Jonkheer de Graeff, had been a governor-general of the Irwin typ 
and his term of office had been marked by similar concessions. I 
had ended in a communist rising and in the arrest and banish 
ment of the native leaders. As a result he had been blamed botl 
by the natives and by the Dutch residents of the East Indies 
Jonkheer de Jonge had taken the precaution not to fall betweer 
these two stools. He had concentrated on the economic problem 
He believed in a fair deal for the Javanese, but he was not pre- 
pared to surrender Dutch security of political tenure to the Java 
nese nationalists. 

"My predecessor made too many promises," he told me frankly 
"I always preface my remarks to the nationalists with one sen- 
tence: 'We Dutch have been here for three hundred years; we 
shall remain here for another three hundred. After that we can 
talk/" 

On the whole the Dutch are rather more reactionary than the 
British in their attitude to the nationalist problem. But, whether 
by accident or design, they succeed in alternating liberal governors- 
general with conservative governors-general with considerable suc- 
cess. This policy of gradualness with a Westinghouse brake has 
much to recommend it. A too liberal portion of reform would be 
difficult for the natives to digest. The Dutch East Indies are full 
of political as well as real volcanoes. An unyielding reaction might 
cause a second Krakatoa. On his own admission Jonkheer de 
Jonge was one of the brakes. 

244 



I turned the conversation to the question of Japan, which in- 
variably crops up in every Anglo-Dutch conversation in the East. 
Dutch-Japanese trade negotiations were proceeding at that moment 
in Batavia. The Dutch had been the first Europeans to open direct 
trade negotiations with Japan. They had established a trading sta- 
tion there as far back as 1800. They had given to Japan her first 
warship and had taught her to build others. They were the fathers 
of the Japanese Navy, and to-day certain parts of Japanese ships 
still have Dutch names. I had heard the Japanese bogey mentioned 
frequently in British Malaya. The Dutch, more exposed and less 
able to defend themselves, were likely to be more alarmed. I re- 
membered an opinion of the Japanese, expressed by one of the 
Dutch traders eighty years ago: "a very resolute folk; lambs in 
their own land, but almost devils outside." I wanted to know if 
the Governor-General shared this view. 

Once again he was disarmingly frank. There were only 4000 
Japanese residents in the Dutch East Indies, but Japanese com- 
mercial competition was increasing and had become formidable. 
It was true that the Japanese were inclined to be aggressive and to 
demand concessions. They had suggested that, as the Dutch did 
little to develop their so-called "Outer Possessions," they might be 
allowed to assist in the work of progress. 

The Dutch had taken a firm line in the trade negotiations. 
Their economic position was very strong. Japan bought little from 
Holland, but her market in the Dutch East Indies was very valu- 
able to her. Admittedly, the Dutch were weak in the military 
sense. But the Japanese were ill-adapted for tropical colonisation. 
They wanted an outlet for their goods and for their surplus popu- 
lation. They would seek it elsewhere. The danger to the Dutch 
East Indies had been exaggerated. 

He rose from his chair and taking a ruler pointed to a place 
on the map. "That's where Siam will one day cede territory for a 
canal to Japan or build it herself with Japanese money," he said, 
"and then goodbye to Singapore." The place to which he pointed 
was Kra, the isthmus situated in Siamese territory at the narrowest 
point of the long Malay peninsula, about eight hundred miles 
north of Singapore. I recalled a conversation with my friend Vic- 
tor Lowinger, the former Surveyor-General of Malaya and now 
the very able and active representative of British Malaya on the 

245 



international tin and rubber restriction committees. Twenty-six 
years ago he had been surveying the then very vaguely fixed Sia- 
mese boundary. The local Malays gave him a great welcome, 
thinking he had come to take them over for the British Govern- 
ment. At the time Siam was negotiating for a British loan. Britain 
could have had the Kra isthmus for the mere chink of her money. 

Then nobody cared. Now Japanese influence in Siam was ex- 
tending rapidly. Japanese imports to the country had doubled 
within two years. Siamese naval cadets were being trained in Japa- 
nese ships. Siam had given the orders for her small navy to 
Japanese shipbuilding yards. 

I asked His Excellency what truth there was in the rumours 
that I had heard of recent Anglo-Dutch negotiations for the com- 
mon defence of their Malayan possessions. He turned the question 
with a laugh. 

"I don't need any agreement with Britain," he said. Obviously, 
like many other Dutchmen, he believed that Britain could not 
afford to allow Japan to touch a single acre of Dutch East Indian 
territory. I was not sure. Would Britain fight for New Guinea 
or the Moluccas? In the present state of Europe it seemed more 
than doubtful. 

There was also the United States to be considered. Because 
of its repercussions on their own problems, the Dutch followed 
the situation in the Philippines as closely as they followed the 
actions and reactions of British policy in India. Their belief in the 
wealth and potential strength of the American nation was pro- 
found and unshakable. They had been disturbed but not un- 
nerved by America's grant of provisional independence to the 
Philippines and by her promise of complete independence within 
ten years. Like most Dutchmen and indeed most Englishmen in 
the East, His Excellency believed that the undertaking would 
never be carried out. If it were, it would be modified by a com- 
prehensive military alliance between the United States and her 
former colony. 

"And now how can I help you?" We had talked long. His Excel- 
lency was a busy and over-worked man. I realised that it was time 
to go. Hurriedly I asked if he could arrange for me to be received 
by the Sultan of Djokjakarta, which has always been and is to-day 
the centre of the Javanese nationalist movement. 

246 



He did not refuse, but in his answer I thought I recognised a 
certain embarrassment. He believed the Sultan was away. The 
Sultan of Solo would be easier. In any case the interviews would 
have to be arranged through the local Governor and Resident. 
There was a rule that no one was allowed to see a native ruler 
without a Dutch official being present. He would give me a special 
letter to the Governor at Djokja and to the Resident at Solo and 
a general letter of recommendation which I could use in Borneo 
the Celebes, Bali, Lombok, Timor or anywhere in the whole Archi- 
pelago where the Dutch writ ran. He would also instruct the local 
authorities privately to assist me in every way. 

I thanked him from a full heart. He had been more than kind. 
I formed the opinion that he was a strong man, without the bril- 
liancy and souflesse of the politician, but with the assured ef- 
ficiency of the successful business man, and that what he said he 
meant. My impression was confirmed. Within half-an-hour of my 
return to my hotel my letters were on my table. 

They were generously worded. They were accompanied by a 
note that if I were in any difficulty I had only to telephone. 

I remained in Batavia for three more days after my interview 
with the Governor-General. They were something of an anti- 
climax and rather frivolously spent. With Miedl I indulged in the 
famous Rijst-tafel at the Hotel des Indes. It is a ceremony, accom- 
panied by an elaborate ritual, rather than a feast and to the un- 
initiated an ordeal rather than a pleasure. We took our places at our 
table. The Dutch head-waiter asked us if we were ready. Then he 
made a sign. Already I had spotted a train of about twenty Java- 
nese boys, each carrying two dishes, in the offing. Headed by the 
mandoer, magnificent in his headdress, it now bore down on us. 

Before me I had an array of plates including one as large as a 
soup tureen. Into the soup tureen went first a mountain of rice. 
The rice-bearer passed on. He was followed by the knight of the 
curried chicken. He added his pile and withdrew. Fried duck, 
fried chicken, eggs, sausages, and a varied collection of fish and 
meat balls, fried bananas, potatoes and other vegetables followed 
in bewildering succession until my plate looked like a miniature 
mountain. Another "boy" sprinkled this Ararat with grated coco- 
nut. Then came the turn of the smaller plates. In turn they were 
served with chutney, pickled cucumber, chillies, Bombay dude, and 

247 



all the other "Sambal" or side-dishes which supply the digestive 
stimulants to this orgy. 

I looked at Miedl with arched eyebrows. He smiled optimisti- 
cally, and we fell to. We drank beer and more beer. Soon there 
were great beads of sweat under my eyes. Long before I had 
made any impression on the pile before me, I was counted out. 
Even Miedl, twelve years my junior and as bulky and powerful as 
an ox, was in distress. He sat back in his chair to get his second 
wind, attacked again, withdrew and finally surrendered. Holland 
had conquered both Germany and Britain. I have forgotten the 
chopped onion. It did not forget me. I spent the afternoon in dis- 
turbed and fitful sleep. I had eaten my first and last Rijst-tafel. 

I must not be unkind to the Dutch residents of the East Indies. 
The Rijst-tafel is their national dish, and they are inordinately 
proud of it. For this combination of pride and gourmandise they 
are prepared to sacrifice their figure and to tolerate the unseemly 
fat which hangs in rolls over the neck of their "tutup," a white 
drill coat with high collar worn buttoned to the top like a military 
tunic. But they can work twelve hours a day on it, and I take off 
my hat to them as a virile and formidable people. Actually, the best 
part of this gargantuan concoction is the krupak, a large crisp bis- 
cuit made of rice-flour and flavoured with prawns. It would make 
an excellent addition to the cocktail bars of London and New York. 

In due course, I presented my letters to the various bankers 
and industrialists to whom I had been recommended. Some of 
them were not in Batavia. Those whom I saw impressed me as 
earnest and serious men, as industrious as ants and very German 
in their attention to the Weltpolitik of business. In spite of the 
economic depression they stood up bravely to their troubles. They 
were, of course, staunch believers in the capitalist system and were 
convinced that in time a disordered world would right itself. They 
reminded me of our own Scottish business men. They had the 
same virtues: thrift, grit, clear-headedness and an immense capacity 
for work. But they had also the same Calvinistic worship of wealth 
and the same ruthless determination in their pursuit of it. I could 
not help feeling that the same short-sighted neglect on the part of 
the employing class which has made the slums of Glasgow a hot- 
bed of discontent was partly responsible for the impoverished con- 
dition of the Javanese coolie. 

248 



These Dutch business men believed in restriction. It had helped 
already. It would help more. It seems hard to understand how the 
burning of coffee in Brazil, the use of wheat for manure in Can- 
ada, the ploughing up of cotton in the United States, and the 
throwing back of herrings into the sea in Britain can help to right 
things when there are millions of people in the world who lack 
bread and clothes, not to mention fish and coffee. Doubdess, the 
economists in their wisdom must be right, for they have succeeded 
in foisting their policy on nearly all the civilised countries of the 
old world and the new. But the logic behind it seems to be the 
same as the excuse of the Chinese merchant who was about to be 
shot for profiteering. "I kept my grain," he pleaded, "and let it go 
in small amounts so that it might last longer. I sold it dear. If I 
had released it at once and given it for nothing, nobody would 
have realised how precious it was, and the last state of our people 
would be worse than it is now." History does not say whether he 
got off, but I feel that he deserved his life. 

I met one industrialist, a big cheerful man and a large employer 
of labour, who was prepared to talk about other things than 
economics. He began by asking me how I liked my Dutch wife. 
I was older than he was, and I suggested politely that I had slept 
with one before he had. 

A Dutch wife, I had better explain, is a long bolster which both 
British and Dutch in the Malay Archipelago sleep with between 
their legs in order to prevent chafing. The British christened it a 
Dutch wife, and the amiable Dutch have accepted the name with- 
out affront. Then he told me a story on the same theme. An Aus- 
tralian delegation from the town of Albury had recently been 
visiting Java. The visit had a curious origin. During the great air- 
race to Melbourne in 1934 the Dutch airplane, piloted by Moll 
and Parmentier, was well in the lead, when it had to come down 
on the race-course at Albury. The mayor and the officials of the 
race-course did all they could to help. But the repairs were not 
finished before dark, and the Dutch chances of a prize seemed to 
have disappeared. 

Then the mayor had a brain-wave. In order to enable the 
Dutchmen to take off safely, he ordered all the motor-cars in the 
district to turn out with their full lights on and to make a ring 
round the course to show where the stands and fences began. 

249 



Thanks to this lighting the Dutchmen were able to take off suc- 
cessfully by night and to win the second prize. 

In gratitude the Dutch in the East Indies gave the mayor and 
the leading race-course officials a free trip to Java. At the end of it 
the mayor, a crippled old Scot, was asked what souvenir he would 
like to take home with him. He selected a Dutch wife. 

From the Dutch wives we passed to the half-caste problem. My 
new acquaintance, who had done his military service in Java, was 
strongly in favour of a clear-cut colour line, and told me that the 
Dutch in the East Indies had now realised the dangers to which 
their laxity in this matter had exposed them- This laxity, he said, 
was at its worst in the army. Dutch officers marked down for pro- 
motion are required to sign a form declaring that they are not 
living with a native woman. They send the woman away and sign 
the form. Then when their promotion is gazetted they take her 
back. 

With the help of this Dutchman I was now able to check the 
details of a story which for many years had defied my curiosity. 
Post-war visitors to Lake Geneva will remember Baroness von 
Klitzing, an attractive little Javanese lady, known to League vis- 
itors as Mimosa, who owned a large property on the Vevey side 
of the lake and who gave charming parties. She had made three 
marriages, the last to the German baron whose name and tide she 
bore. She was rather a mysterious person, rich in her own right, 
and there were many romanic stories of her origin. This is the 
true story. A certain Baron Baud, a relation of the former gover- 
nor-general of the same name and a very rich man, was living in 
Batavia some fifty years ago. He had been having difficulties with 
a nephew whom he regarded as his heir and who wished to marry 
against his uncle's wishes. 

In a last tremendous scene the uncle swore a solemn oath that, 
if his nephew did not yield, he would leave all his money to the 
first person whom he met. The nephew defied him. The uncle 
rushed out of his house and on the steps he met the little daughter 
of his Javanese gardener. He kept his vow, adopted the girl, sent 
her to Holland to be educated, and left his money to her. The girl 
to whom this miracle happened became the future Queen of Lake 
Geneva. She died two years ago. 

The story is a good illustration of the austerity and obstinacy 

250 



of the Dutch, especially those of the older generation. On the 
whole, however, the Dutch business man in the East does not 
differ greatly in his mental outlook on life from the British busi- 
ness man. In the words of one of the Dutch authors, his ambition 
aims little higher than a Rolls-Royce, a collier of pearls for his 
wife, and a large or little estate in Holland when he retires. His 
chief reward is to hear some one say on the boat on his final 
journey home: "That's old B . I put his fortune at ^500,000." 

But he has many virtues. He is always a good father and gen- 
erally a good husband. He is devoted to his house and garden, 
and the saying "an Englishman's home is his castle" applies much 
more to the Dutchman in Batavia than to the Englishman in 
Singapore. He is, too, much less snobbish and is content with 
simple pleasures. Above all, he makes no attempt to keep up ap- 
pearances beyond his means the most foolish characteristic of 
social life in Malaya. 

He is certainly more of a formalist than the Englishman. If he 
invites a stranger to his house, the invitation and the occasion 
itself will be formal. There is none of that "come along and dine" 
after a few drinks at the club which is such a pleasant feature of 
life in Malaya. On ceremonial occasions he is a stickler for his 
rights. When he goes out to a formal dinner, he expects to be seated 
in the place appropriate to his position. 

On the other hand, he is always ready to laugh at his own 
foibles. The ranking of business men at big official functions is 
based largely on incomes and salaries, and one of the best stories 
I heard in Batavia was of a well-known business man, the head of 
a local shipping line, who was invited to a gala dinner at Buiten- 
zorg by the Governor-General When he came back, his friends 
asked him how he had got on and if he had been given his right 
place. "The champagne was good," he replied drily. "The food was 
excellent. My place was not so good. That fool of a private secre- 
tary forgot to calculate my bonus." 

I had planned to have my evenings in Batavia to myself, but 
fate and weakness of resolution decided otherwise. One morning 
I went into the local branch of the Hong-Kong and Shanghai 
Bank to cash a cheque. A pleasant young Englishman attended to 
my wants. 

After examining my letter of credit, he said to me: "Are you 

251 



the author of British Agent?" When I admitted it, he continued: 
"There are several members of the English colony here who would 
like to meet you. Would it bore you to come and have a drink 
with me this evening at the Hotel des Indes?" 

They turned up four strong. There was another young banker, 
intelligent, self-reliant and a good linguist, who had spent three 
years in Seremban. There was a keen youngster who was an em- 
ployee of the British American Tobacco Company. The fourth 
was the head of a printing machinery firm, an older man who had 
spent ten years in Batavia and who had a remarkable knowledge 
of local history and an amusing and cynical way of imparting it to 
others. All four spoke Malay fluently. Two of them had learnt 
Dutch. I gathered that their business life in Java was not entirely 
a bed of roses. There were one or two British firms in Java, one 
over a hundred years old, which, until the depression, had done a 
wonderful business in the East Indies. The British American To- 
bacco Company, too, had a privileged position. It had its own 
factories in the island and, as the whole population smoked, sold 
millions of cigarettes daily. But the British import firms, the 
branches of British banks and the local agencies of British mer- 
chant houses, had numerous difficulties. The Dutch were hard in 
business. Their policy was nationalist, and by high taxation and 
other discriminatory measures they did their best to stamp out 
foreign competition. They extended this exclusiveness to their 
social life, and apart from business my new English*friends saw 
little of them. The Dutch were domesticated, resigned to a long 
stay in Java and anchored to their families. My English friends 
were bachelors at a loose end; here only for a few years and at any 
moment likely to be transferred to Singapore or Hong-Kong or, 
indeed, to any port between Colombo and Wei-hai-Wei. 

I felt a litde sorry for them, but my sympathy was superfluous. 
They were cheerful young men, and I am confident that at least 
two of them will take with both hands the chances which, sooner 
or later, are bound to come to them. I am grateful to them for 
much valuable information, for their unfailing kindness in showing 
me the sights of Batavia, and for many curious stories of life in 
the East Indies. 

The Dutch, they told me, were more anxious about the Imperial 
ambitions of Japan than the Dutch officials had led me to believe. 

252 



In Singapore I had found the local British more worried by Japa- 
nese economic competition than by any scare of conquest, although 
I had heard a story of a Japanese naval officer who had made a 
frank indiscretion at a dinner at which he was being entertained 
by British officers. In replying to the toast of his country he had 
paid a tribute to the British Navy and had acknowledged the debt 
that Japan owed to it. Then he added with an enigmatic smile: 
"But, of course, gentlemen, you realise that in the last war we 
were on the wrong side." When asked what he meant, he replied: 
"If we had even flirted with Germany we should now have the 
colonies that we require so badly." 

Here in Batavia stories of this nature could be gathered like 
plums off a tree. One which my English friends told me was cor- 
roborated afterwards by several Dutch officials. Shortly before the 
war a Japanese applied to the Dutch Government in Batavia for a 
rubber and fishing concession on two small islands near Singapore. 
The concession was granted. When after a year had elapsed a Dutch 
official visited the islands, he found no rubber and no signs of 
fishing. The Japanese, however, had been busily engaged in sound- 
ing and charting the local seas. Two years later the Dutch Consul- 
General in Singapore gave a dinner to ^ visiting Japanese warship. 
The Dutch official who had visited the islands was present. In one 
of the Japanese officers at the dinner he recognised the rubber and 
fishing concessionaire. 

On my last night in Batavia I dined with my English friends. 
During dinner a Javanese boy walked round the room with a large 
blackboard giving the wireless result of the football international 
between Germany and Holland. The Dutch had been beaten, and 
there was no enthusiasm. My English friends told me that a few 
weeks before there had been another European international which 
the Dutch had won. The news had been carried round the dining- 
room. The Dutch national anthem had been played, and every one 
in the room had stood up and cheered wildly. There had been even 
greater exultation at the time of the London to Melbourne inter- 
national air-race, when Anitas, the Biretti news agency, had an- 
nounced that the Dutch airmen had won. Batavia had gone into 
the streets, and the outwardly phlegmatic Dutchmen had gone 
mad. When, later, the news was proved to be false, Biretti had 

been nearly lynched. 

253 



After dinner my English friends took me out in a car for a 
drive round the town. The local Chinese were celebrating "Chap 
Gomi," the tail-end of their protracted New Year festivities. As 
we approached the lower town, progress became impossible. The 
Oriental population had taken possession of the streets. The crowd 
was by no means confined to Chinese. There was a generous 
sprinkling of Malays, and I saw the curious spectacle of Chinese 
men walking arm in arm with Malay women. Every one was in 
tumultuous spirits. Chinese crackers were spitting like machine 
guns all round us. A Chinese girl in shorts loosed off one almost 
under our car, and the crowd laughed good-humouredly. An old 
Malay woman, obviously a former wanton, exchanged coquettish 
and ribald badinage with us. The free mingling of Mohammedan 
and Chinese was remarkable. There is, in fact, considerable inter- 
marriage between the different native races, thus giving to the 
population of Batavia a nationality of its own, which is summed 
up in the native expression "anak Batawi," a child of Batavia. In 
this respect, indeed, Batavia invites comparison with Vienna. 

Having feasted our eyes to the full, we turned back and, enter- 
ing a side street, passed again by the Fish Market and, turning to 
the left, came home by a country road with the moon casting its 
pale light on the canals and rice-fields and the low semi-circular 
stones of a Chinese graveyard. The contrast of this peacefulness 
with the turbulence which we had just left was eerie, and almost 
supernatural. 

I had an uncontrollable longing to be alone and at the hotel 
door said goodbye abruptly to my friends on the grounds that I 
was leaving very early in the morning. I was going to Djokja. I 
was glad to go. I had exhausted the possibilities of Batavia. I had 
explored it with an exotic zest until even now I feel that I know 
it better than Singapore in much the same way as I know the 
museums of Europe better than those of London. But it has no 
lasting place in my affections. 

The next morning I rose at four-thirty in order to pack. My 
train for Djokja left at six. On my way to the station in a dawn, 
opaque and still half-dark, I passed several shadowy figures. They 
were young Malay girls drifting across the road on their way to 
the canal to bathe. Dutch Batavia commercial Batavia was 
still asleep. 

254 



CHAPTER FOUR 

journey from Batavia to Djokjakarta lasts seven hours. 
It has to be made by day, for, unlike the British in Malaya, 
the Dutch run no night trains. The scenery is pleasant enough and 
even beautiful, but by their constant recurrence even rice-fields, 
palms and mountains become commonplace and cloying. More- 
over, the density of the population is an irritating distraction, and 
nowhere in Java could I ever recapture that sense of remoteness 
and of the power of space which to me is the chief charm of 
Malaya. 

Djokjakarta itself, however, I found enchanting, and after Ba- 
tavia it gives much the same feeling of satisfied relief as the transi- 
tion from Singapore to the Malay States. Djokja is the capital of 
the most important of the four Vorstenlande or Princes' States, 
which form the southern part of Middle Java. Situated in the heart 
of the country it is the centre of Javanese native life and of the 
Javanese nationalist movement. The vast bulk of its 140,000 inhabi- 
tants are Javanese. But it is something much more than this. A 
mixed Hindoo and Buddhist empire flourished here between 500 
A.D. and 1400 AJ>., giving way later to the great Mohammedan 
kingdom of Mataram. Thus three great cultures have been blended 
with the animism of the original inhabitants, and in the neigh- 
bourhood of Djokjakarta are to be found the great monuments, 
the Hindoo temples of Prambanan, the Buddhist temple of Tjandi 
Mendoet, and Baraboedoer itself, which are the architectural glory 
of Java. 

After the arrival of the Dutch, Djokjakarta was the last strong- 
hold of Javanese independence. It has a national hero, Dipo Negoro, 
who in 1825 raised all Middle Java against the Dutch. An ascetic 
imbued with religious fanaticism and xenophobia, he held out for 
nearly five years. In the end he was forced to capitulate and was 
banished to Macassar, where he died in 1855* The war cost the 

255 



Dutch 15,000 lives and 20,000,000 guilders. The Javanese of Djok- 
jakarta have not forgotten the name of Dipo Negoro, nor has their 
thirst for independence been entirely quenched. 

Here was a town which I wished to see, and, as usual, my first 
task on arriving at my hotel was to hire a car and a Malay- 
speaking chauffeur. After some trouble I engaged a quiet, rather 
sad-looking, but neatly-dressed Javanese, and told him to call for 
me the next morning at six. Then, tired by my journey, I went to 
my room to have my afternoon siesta. 

I had looked forward to being entirely alone in Djokjakarta, 
but when I rose again at five to go out and inspect the town I ran 
into General Woodroffe. His wife and daughter had travelled out 
on the boat with me as far as Singapore, where they had met the 
General, who was on his way home from China. A brilliant sol- 
dier, with a long experience of the East, he had retired from the 
army and gone into business. He had recently been spending some 
months in China, where the British company with which he was 
associated had large interests. He had seen a good deal of Chiang 
Kai-shek and thought highly of him. He told me that in his life 
he had met only two men whose eyes could make him feel afraid. 
One was Chiang; the other was Lord Kitchener. As the General 
himself has a respect-commanding presence, the compliment is no 
empty one. 

I sat down on the Woodroffes' verandah and talked. The Gen- 
eral was much impressed by the peacefulness of Java. In China he 
had never been able to move out of his house or travel a yard 
without a guard. Here in Djokjakarta, and, indeed, throughout 
the East Indies, we slept on the ground floor with doors unlocked 
and with the verandah open to any intruder. 

The Woodroffes were leaving the next day for Bali. The Gen- 
eral's talk was engrossing. And that was the end of my walk in 
the sunset into the town. I went back into the hall of the hotel, 
ordered myself a "pahit," and had a talk with the manager. Times 
in Djokja were also bad, and with the high guilder there was a 
depression in the tourist traffic. His hotel figures were down by 
nearly four times in comparison with 1928. It was not the decline 
in British visitors which worried him. The American slump had 
cut off the supply of rich Americans. To-day the Englishman no 

256 



longer impresses the Oriental by his wealth, and any one who has 
money to burn is promptly labelled an American. 

The Dutch manager's complaint was true enough. That night 
at dinner only half-a-dozen tables were occupied. But there was at 
any rate one American in this excellent and luxuriously appointed 
hotel He was a landmark for even the most unobservant visitor. 
He wore a high stiff collar and a European suit with cloth of 
winter weight. He was an old professor of archaeology, who had 
arrived one day to study Baraboedoer and the other ancient tem- 
ples near Djokjakarta. He had stayed on for seven years. He never 
spoke to any one. He always wore his thick European suit. He 
always looked cool and composed, and at meals he always read 
the New Yorl^ Times. Had I been an American, I should have 
been proud to claim him as a compatriot. 

I took my walk after dinner. Although it was after nine o'clock, 
the main street was still crowded with Javanese. Some of the shops 
were still open, their owners afraid to miss a chance of selling 
something to the all-too-rare visitors. The shops were rather shoddy, 
with cheap gramophones and football boots as the chief evidence 
of European civilisation. The population looked infinitely sadder, 
but far more dignified than that of Batavia. Most of them wore 
dark blue Javanese coats and "kains." Unlike the Malay sarong, 
which is sewn like a sack without a bottom to it, the Javanese 
"kain" is a one-piece cloth which is tied by a series of difficult and 
attractive folds. 

The prevalence of blue is not in itself an expression of the sad- 
ness. The kain industry is a local one indeed, Djokjakarta is the 
centre of the famous batik industry and the blue is the result of 
the Sultan's financial interest in indigo dyes. 

If the inhabitants of Djokja have a fine dignity, they are also 
very poor. In the streets were beggars and prostitutes in far greater 
profusion than in Batavia. Some of the prostitutes were surprisingly 
bold. One accosted me near the hotel gates in very fair English: 
"Come home with me, darling." Obviously the English and Ameri- 
can tourists have done their bit to spread the cult of the English 
language. 

The next morning I called on the Governor, an efficient, clean- 
shaven man, without affectation, and very simply dressed in a 
white drill suit with tunic-form coat. He was prepared for my 

257 



visit. It would not be possible to have a private audience with the 
Sultan. If I had a dress-suit with me, I could go to the official 
reception. There would not be one at Djokja until a date far 
beyond the limits of my stay. There would be an official reception 
at Solo in a few days. If I wished, the Governor would be pleased 
to arrange for me to be present. I had no dress-suit. I had left it in 
Singapore. In any case, I had no particular desire to attend a func- 
tion which was a fake formality specially staged for Europeans. 

His Excellency, however, was helpful in other ways. He would 
give me a special pass to see the Sultans' graves at Pasar Gedeh. 
He would arrange for me to see the Kraton or Sultan's palace alone. 
I tried to draw him on the nationalist question. He laughed and 
then said quite convincingly: "My dear Mr. Lockhart, except for 
a few excited intellectuals in the Volksraat (the restricted form of 
parliament in the Dutch East Indies) there is no nationalist ques- 
tion. It does not exist." 

The Governor spoke very fair English. It was not, he said, one 
of his best languages. His French and German were better. In ad- 
dition, he had learnt Malay, Javanese, Sundanese and Balinese. 
He did all his work with the Sultan in Javanese, He was a fine 
type of civil servant. 

Indeed, almost everywhere I went, I formed a high opinion of 
the Dutch civil servants. Their industry, their knowledge, and 
their lack of arrogance are impressive. They try to rule as far as 
possible through native regents, and the substantial control which 
exists is exercised with a velvet glove. In everything that concerns 
commerce, agriculture, public health, and vocational training the 
administration is excellent. Our British colonial officers could learn 
much from it and, given the geographical juxtaposition of Java 
and Malaya and the common interest of defence and self-preserva- 
tion, it is astonishing that no arrangements have been made for 
an inter-change of informative and instructional visits by the civil 
servants of both countries. I have friends who have spent twenty- 
five years in Malaya, who have risen to high rank in the Govern- 
ment service, and who have never even set foot in Java. The fault 
lies with the unimaginative bureaucracy of our Colonial Office. It is 
impossible to expect a civil servant in Malaya to give up his home 
leave in order to visit Java. The visits should be part of the official 

258 



curriculum and should be financed by the local government. The 
money spent would be well repaid. 

My interview over, the Governor passed me on to his Assistant 
Resident, and in a few minutes I was on my way by car to Pasar 
Gedeh with an educated Javanese official from the Governor's 
secretariat as my guide. Pasar Gedeh lies about six miles to the 
south-east of Djokja. The village, purely Javanese, is still unspoilt. 
Its chief centre of interest is a long narrow street, where once-rich 
goldsmiths, silversmiths, coppersmiths and leather-workers ply 
their various crafts. 

The Sultans' cemetery is in a secluded enclosure shut in by 
high walls, and the approach is by a superb open gateway which 
leads into the outer courtyard. Here live the members of the body- 
guard whose duty it is to guard the entrance to the tombs. As 
we entered, they were sprawling on a verandah and smoking and 
playing dice. They sprang to their feet, and a dignified, good- 
looking young man, magnificendy dressed in blue baju trimmed 
with orange, elegantly folded kain, and batik headdress, came for- 
ward to meet us. Fixed in his belt in the middle of his back was a 
richly carved kris. He went to fetch his keys- ungainly by con- 
trast with his beautiful hands and large as the giant keys with 
which the guides at home open the dungeons of some medieval 
castle. 

With proper reverence I entered the cemetery. Here, near the 
gateway, the tombs were in the open. Some were shut off by small 
grids with a tiny roof over them. These tombs contained the coffins 
of minor relatives of the Sultans. Presently we came to a closed 
temple with a low roof. The body-servant sat down on his 
haunches, bowed his head, and with his hands stretched out said a 
long prayer. Then he opened the door, and, feeling like Alice 
going down the rabbit hole, I crept inside. The interior was semi- 
dark, the air musty and acrid. It was some time before I could 
distinguish the graves. Heavily draped with cream-white cloth, 
they looked like rows of old beds set out in the basement of a 
primitive store. The graves varied in size according to the rank 
of their dead incumbents. 

The body-servant was determined that I should see everything. 
In turn he knelt and prayed before each grave. Then gingerly he 
lifted the bedspread and whispered the name of the dead Sultan. 

259 



There was something uncanny in this ritual which made me ill 
at ease and almost frightened, and in my nervousness I nearly gig- 
gled. I was glad when we came out into the open again. 

Before we left the temple, my eye was suddenly arrested by the 
sight of a grave which seemed to be built half-inside the temple 
and half-outside. I asked the guide what it was. He repeated the 
question to the body-servant. Very gravely he gave his answer. 
This curious block of stone was a grave. It had been built half- 
outside, half-inside, on purpose. It sheltered the bones of a sultan's 
son-in-law, who had rebelled against his father-in-law, and who had 
therefore been punished in this manner. For the first time I realised 
that even Mohammedans, like the Christian churches of the Refor- 
mation period, could carry their vengeance to the grave. 

As we came out of the cemetery, I was taken to another court- 
yard. In the middle of it was a deep pool closed in by a stone balus- 
trade and covered with a spire-shaped roof. I thought it was a 
well, but, looking over the wall, I saw fish huge turtles, fat golden 
carp, and some species of cat-fish swimming in the water below. 
All were glass-case specimens of which an angler might boast for 
the rest of his life. 

My interest leapt to my mouth in a torrent of questions: could 
the fish be caught? Did the Sultan fish himself? Were they good 
to eat? I learnt that in their wisdom these oriental potentates have 
devised a simpler method of preventing poaching than any Euro- 
pean landowner has ever dreamed of. A picturesque old gentleman 
with a white tuft of beard and the grandiloquent title of Keeper 
of the Holy Pond explained to me solemnly that the fish were 
sacred, and that whoever ate one died within an hour. 

On my return to Djokja I was taken to inspect the government 
crafts centre, where young Javanese men and girls of various ages 
were being taught the method of dyeing called "batik." Some of 
the craftsmen employed here are the finest in Java, and the whole 
process is centuries old. The designs are drawn by hand with wax 
on the cloth itself. The cloth is then dipped in the dye until all 
except the waxed part is coloured. Then the wax is removed and 
another pattern is drawn in until as many patterns have been 
added as the designer wishes. 

To-day the cloth for the cheaper sarongs and kains comes from 
Manchester and now, alas, Japan, but the silk sarongs are still 

260 



hand-woven, and the dyes are natural dyes extracted mainly from 
the bark or fruit of trees. 

After admiring the skill of the expert craftsmen, I went into a 
class-room where a young Javanese girl, dressed in European 
clothes, was teaching design with a piece of chalk on a black- 
board. She spoke a halting English. She had learnt it at the sec- 
ondary school, and regretted that she had not been able to con- 
tinue her English studies at the high school and university. She 
explained to me that in the primary schools, attended by children 
of from seven to twelve, the pupils learn Dutch. At the secondary 
schools both Dutch and English are taught. At the high schools 
and universities students can learn Dutch, English, French and 
German. But the university cost a minimum of 300 guilders a 
year and the high school eighty guilders, and even eighty guilders 
is too large a sum for all but the wealthiest Javanese! 

I went back to the hotel and lunched in solitary glory. The few 
visitors like the Woodroffes had left. Even the American pro- 
fessor was away presumably burrowing under his temples. The 
Dutch manager came over to me. "Until the next cruise steamer 
comes in," he said, "we shall be empty. I recommend you to go 
up to Baraboedoer this evening, stay the night and see it by moon- 
light and by sunrise. You will be alone, and the visit is worth 
while." I went off to my afternoon's rest, having decided there 
and then to take the manager's advice. But before I began to un- 
dress, there was a tap on the door, and a tall, young man came 
into the room. He introduced himself. He was the reporter of the 
local Dutch newspaper. Could he have an interview? 

I am a journalist by necessity rather than by desire, but I had 
sufficient curiosity to ask by what journalistic miracle he had 
tracked me down. He produced some cuttings from the Straits 
Times in which my arrival in Singapore had been chronicled with 
details of my past, present and future activities. That morning he 
had been to the Governor's secretariat to seek news of arriving 
tourists. He had been given my name. The deduction that the 
Lockhart of Djokja was the Lockhart of Singapore was simple. 

I gave him the necessary material for his story and then, fol- 
lowing the practice which I learnt in the United States, I began 
to ask him questions about himself. He was a half-caste and proud 
of his mixed blood. The Dutch, he said, could not get on without 

261 



the half-castes. They were the nucleus of the whole administration. 
Some of the best generals in the long series of Dutch colonial wars 
had been half-castes. To-day they were everywhere, in every gov- 
ernment department, even in the Council of India, the small ad- 
visory body of seven members nominated by the Crown, who assist 
the Governor-General. 

Incidentally, the Dutch call their Eastern possessions "India," 
Our India is always referred to as "British India." 

My new journalist acquaintance gave me a harrowing account 
of the effect of the sugar slump on the population of Djokjakarta. 
The Javanese peasants lived mainly from employment in the 
sugar factories and from the rent of their land to the European 
sugar-growers. Now in many districts they were starving. 

From local conditions he proceeded to discuss world affairs. 
When he got on to Russia, in which he was deeply interested, I 
thought it time to apply the closure. He was an intelligent young 
man, and I did not regret my lost siesta. 

At five I was on my way by car to Baraboedoer with Kamar, 
my new Javanese chauffeur, a quieter, better educated, but less 
cheerful edition of Ahmat 



262 



CHAPTER FIVE 

road was comparatively empty of vehicles, and there 
J_ were more native traps than motor-cars. The traps, four- 
wheeled affairs known as "andong" and more like a doll's carriage 
than a vehicle for human beings, were drawn by tiny but sturdy 
Javanese ponies of the same breed as those imported by Napoleon 
for his European campaigns. To-day their export is forbidden. Our 
route took us at first through flat country cultivated with rice and 
tobacco and sugar-cane. A few years before there had been acres 
and acres of sugar-cane. Now as a result of the slump there were 
only patches here and there. 

From this plain I had my first unimpeded view of Merapi and 
Merbaboe, the two twin mountains which dominate the whole 
landscape of Djokjakarta. Each is 10,000 feet high, but while 
Merbaboe is gentle and innocuous, Merapi is a live volcano with 
smoke always streaming steadily from its crater. 

Merapi has a two-humped peak, and the local natives tell a 
legend of its origin. Here in olden times lived a giant called 
Sonostro, whose misdeeds so plagued the local inhabitants that 
every one from the Sultan to the poorest peasant longed to be rid 
of him. 

In despair Sultan and people go to a wise old hermit for advice. 
The hermit enlists the help of his friends, the monkeys and the 
rice-birds. The monkeys who understand the giant's language hear 
him say that he fears neither God nor man, nor even the great 
mountain spirit who lives at the bottom of MerapFs crater. The 
hermit sends the rice-birds to tell Sonostro that the mountain spirit 
accepts his challenge. Sonostro, enraged, ascends the mountain with 
giant strides, while Merapi hurls a volley of huge stones at him. 
The giant laughs at the stones and is almost at the top when the 
spirit exerts himself to the utmost, and by a violent eruption en- 
gulfs the giant from head to foot in lava. It is the giant's head 
which to-day stands out beside Merapi's crown, and, if you do 

263 



not believe this story, you must give me a better explanation of 
that second bump. 

I saw signs of Merapi's strength myself. We passed what looked 
like a dried-up river full of vast boulders. It was the gulch made 
by Merapi in its last terrible eruption in 1930, when 1300 people 
lost their lives. There was a village then on the slopes below the 
crater. It disappeared. To-day the villagers have re-built it. I ex- 
pressed surprise. But my chauffeur shrugged his shoulders. "Where 
else are they to go?" he said philosophically. "They have their land 
here, and land is not so easy to come by in this over-populated, 
over-cultivated land." And, as though to lure man to his fate, the 
volcano adds an element to the soil which renders it doubly fertile. 

In justice to the Dutch, I must admit that they have done their 
best to persuade the villagers to leave Merapi's slopes, and that 
to-day they do all that science can do to protect these hostages to 
the whim of a volcano which, according to popular fancy, is sup- 
posed to seek its kill once every ten years. There is now a watch- 
station near Merapi's summit linked by telephone with the village 
and with the meteorological department at Djokja to give timely 
warning of impending danger. 

But the villagers still cling to their own methods of self-pres- 
ervation. At certain times of the year they bring peace-offerings of 
flowers and fruit, and drop them down the crater to appease the 
wrath of the spirit which dwells in its depths. 

On that afternoon I could feel Merapi's presence as one always 
can when the thunderclouds gather and the air assumes a deathly 
stillness. As I drove up the hill plateau on which Baraboedoer 
stands, I saw the last remains of an angry sunset. I pulled up at 
the small hotel beside the temple. Two Javanese "boys" came 
silently forward to take my suitcase. I went up the verandah steps 
to be greeted in broad American, enriched by a Dutch accent, by 
the half-caste manager: "Waal, sir, welcome to Baraboedoer." A 
series of far-off lightning flashes lit up the vast pile of Burubudur. 
There was a low roll of thunder. The storm had begun. 

It lasted for over an hour, rising to a crescendo of fury and 
then dying down into a steady, relentless rain which refused to 
stop. The effect of the lightning was both awe-inspiring and stim- 
ulating. At times the whole temple or rather the monument, for 
Baraboedoer is, strictly speaking, a monument to Buddha, was lit 



up for as long as half a minute, while the lightning played on its 
terraced galleries. 

The rain, however, was irksome. I dined alone. I bought a 
tortoiseshell cigarette case with a Garuda bird design in silver 
from the Javanese boys, who importuned me to purchase Batik 
sarongs, head-dresses, and other samples of Javanese craftsman- 
ship. I drank stengahs with the manager and listened to his life- 
story. He had been everything from a policeman to a prize-fighter, 
and spoke half-a-dozen languages with amazing fluency. But the 
rain persisted, and, even when it stopped, the sky refused to clear. 
My prospects of seeing Baraboedoer by moonlight seemed to have 
vanished. 

The manager, however, was full of optimism. A little patience 
and all would be well. As a diversion he suggested a drive to 
Magelang, a garrison town about ten miles away. We could see 
a Javanese theatre. By the time we returned the moon would be 
shining. 

I woke up Kamar, my chauffeur, and away we went on a crazy 
drive in the dark. Presently we were racing along an avenue of 
magnificent kenari trees, which under the glare of our headlights 
stood out like ghosts. We passed a village where there was not 
even the glimmer of a candle. The next kampong was very much 
awake. A Javanese opera troupe was giving a performance, and 
the whole village had turned out to hear it. I wished to stop, but 
the manager shook his head. We should see something better in 
Magelang. 

But when we reached the town its streets were deserted, their 
wet surface like a lake of tears under the rays of the street-lamps. 
We drove past the barracks and past the courthouse. They, too, 
were in darkness. A few years before, the haltcaste manager told 
me, the courthouse had been the scene of the degradation of a 
Dutch officer. His epaulettes had been ripped off, and he had been 
marched to the railway station in the sight of all the natives, and 
put in a third-class carriage with a guard to be shipped to Holland 
to serve his sentence. This was not a Dutch Dreyfus case. It was 
the usual tragedy of a woman, of extravagant expenditure, and 
subsequently embezzlement. 

We went into the deserted bar of an hotel to seek information 
about the local wayangs or theatre shows. The bartender was 

265 



unable to help us. At last Kamar turned into a side street where 
a crowd of natives was standing before a brightly-lit house. A 
wayang koelit, the Javanese shadow-play, was in progress. Kamar 
pulled up with a smile. "Here we are, Tuan," he said. 

I hesitated. The house was a Chinese merchant's house. The 
show was obviously a private one. But Kamar had no qualms. 
Pushing his way into the courtyard, he asked for the owner. A 
Chinaman, dressed in a European white-drill suit, came out, and 
Kamar plunged straight into the heart of the question. The Tuan 
was an important Englishman. He wanted to see a wayang koelit. 
There was no other performance in Magelang. 

The Chinaman understood at once and bowed me into a long 
room. It was his birthday or feast day, and about twelve of his 
friends were there to do him honour. The wayang koelit was pro- 
ceeding at the far end of the room, but no one was watching it. 
Some of the Chinese were playing mahjong. Others were engaged 
in some gambling game with cards. There were two tables laden 
with sweet cakes and beer. I was offered both, and was then given 
a seat all by myself in front of the shadow-play. I felt embarrassed, 
but the Chinese did not seem to mind, and went on with their 
games in the most natural manner. For some time I watched the 
"Dalang" or puppet-proprietor as, with the assistance of a boy, he 
moved his beautifully carved dolls from the side of the stage to 
the centre and declaimed their parts. The stage itself was merely 
the soft stem of a banana tree stretched across the room. The pup- 
pets had a narrow spike which was easily inserted into the banana 
stem. They were assembled in rows at the sides of the stage, and 
were moved into the centre when their turn in the play came. The 
"Dalang" spoke in Javanese, of which, of course, I understood 
nothing. The performance, too, seemed interminable. After half- 
an-hour I had had enough, and with many bows I took my leave. 

On our homeward journey to Baraboedoer the manager pointed 
out to me a loaf-shaped hill just outside Magelang. It has an 
honoured place in Javanese mythology. It is the nail with which 
the Creator fastened Java to the world. 

As we approached Baraboedoer, the rain began to fall again. 
The road, however, was now crowded with villagers staggering 
along patiently with their heavily loaded "pikulans." It was only 
two a.m., but already they were on their way with their fruit and 

266 



vegetables to the market in Megalang. The ten miles walk would 
take them until the dawn. The sale of their produce would yield 
them only a few cents. 

The moon still defying me, I went to bed as soon as I returned 
to the hotel. The bedrooms were in an annex at the side of the 
hotel. I was the only guest. From my window I could have thrown 
a stone on the topmost steps of the monument. 

Perhaps I was over-excited. Perhaps it was the concert of 
crickets or the scuttling of the tiny lizards on the ceiling which 
disturbed me. But I woke at four and thought it was already day. 
In the bright moonlight Baraboedoer looked like a huge pyramid 
of bells. The bells had handles. I went out to the monument. I 
needed all my courage to approach it, pretending to myself that I 
must not go too far, lest there might be watchdogs which were let 
loose at night. But in my heart I knew it was the great monument 
with its bas-reliefs and its gargoyles which over-awed me. A thou- 
sand years of time were looking down on me. A thousand years 
before, Djokjakarta had been the centre of a vast Hindoo temple 
city stretching as far as Baraboedoer itself. I was exalted and yet 
afraid, for my exaltation jibbed when I contemplated walking 
round the monument, each of whose four sides measures two hun- 
dred yards. Keeping an open retreat to my room, I gazed my fill 
until the night air drove me back to bed. 

Towards six the manager woke me up to see the sunrise. The 
moon, just past the full, and its light, already enfeebled by the 
early dawn, was still in the sky. The plain below me was an un- 
defined mass of dark purple. The lower slopes of Merapi and 
Merbaboe were still wrapt in mist, but the peaks were clearly 
visible. Presently the smoke trail from Merapi's crater turned 
mauve a mauve which changed gradually to the warmest pink. 
And then the sun came up from behind the mountain, suffusing 
the whole plain with rainbow-coloured lights. 

Without a thought for its architectural features, I clambered 
as fast as I could to the top of the monument in order to get a 
better view. Below me to the left was a tiny plain of rice-fields 
fringed by a grove of slender palms and ringed in by the moun- 
tains. 

Some time passed before the garrulous manager could persuade 
me to inspect the monument itself. There is a Javanese legend 

267 



about Baraboedoer. A neighbouring prince once sought the hand 
of the daughter of the local Sultan. The Sultan gave his consent 
on condition that the suitor built a temple to the Sultan's design 
in one night. The suitor almost achieved his task. But he forgot 
one bell-shaped stupa and lost his bride. The temple is the present 
Baraboedoer. 

According to the more prosaic archaeologists Baraboedoer is a 
relic of the old Hindoo-Buddhist empire of Mataram. It was built 
to shelter the ashes of Buddha, for when Buddha died he was 
cremated, and many cities of the East claim to possess his ashes. 
The ashes repose under the bell-shaped stupas, of which there are 
hundreds at Baraboedoer, with an enormous one crowning the 
peak of the edifice. The bas-reliefs, which, if laid out end to end 
in a single row, would measure over two miles, illustrate periods 
from the life of Buddha. There are four hundred separate monu- 
ments of Buddha himself, each in a separate niche of its own. The 
stone of which the monument is built is grey, and of much the 
same colour as the stone of Westminster Abbey. 

With the advent of Islam in the fourteenth century, the Hindoo 
empire fell on evil days. The fanatical Mohammedans sought to 
destroy all temples of other religions, and in order to save their 
sacred monument the Hindoos are supposed to have covered it 
with earth. At any rate Baraboedoer remained buried until 1814, 
when Sir Stamford Raffles, then Lieutenant-Governor of Java, 
ordered its excavation, thus setting an example followed by the 
British Viceroy in India in the case of Taj Mahal. The excavation 
was completed with remarkable success by the Dutch. 

I am not a judge of monuments. There are, I am told, finer 
Hindoo temples than Baraboedoer in India. There may be archi- 
tectural edifices, more satisfying to the aesthetic tastes of connois- 
seurs, in Greece and Italy. But there is, I dare swear, no 
monument in the world which stands on a more imposing site or 
which commands a nobler view of the glories of Nature. 

Reluctantly I went back to my room to pack my suitcase. At 
eight-thirty I was on my way to Djokja. The half-caste manager 
asked if he might come with me, as he had been summoned to 
the Governor's secretariat to answer a complaint by two Americans, 
who had stayed there two days previously and had objected to 
being charged three guilders for hors-d'ceuvre* The charge, then 

268 



about eight shillings and sixpence in English money, seemed 
excessive, but doubtless the Americans were paying for their prodi- 
gality during the prosperity period, when, according to the man- 
ager, tips of fifty dollars were not uncommon and a consumption 
of two bottles of whiskey per night by no means a rarity for a 
single American male. 

I had had enough of the manager. On my way back I wanted 
to see Tjandi Mendoet alone. But I lacked the moral hardness to 
refuse his request. Tjandi Mendoet, a pyramid-shaped temple with 
a colossal statue of Buddha carved from a single stone, is impres- 
sive, and at the entrance I saw two wonderful old beggars whom, 
because of their dignity and venerable white beards, I mistook for 
priests. Here, from his attitude in approaching the Buddha, I 
learnt that the half-caste manager was a Buddhist. I wondered if 
the native blood in him was Chinese. But no. As he had tried 
many professions, so he had experimented with many religions 
until in Buddhism he had found the proper haven of peace for 
his restless mind. His faith had not taught him silence or robbed 
him of his interest in mundane affairs, for to my boredom he 
talked all the way home about his financial troubles. 

On reaching the hotel I was subjected to another irritation. I 
had been turned out of my luxurious rooms and relegated to a 
back-room overlooking the servants' quarters. A world-cruise 
steamer had come into Semerang, and a hundred tourists from 
her were coming to Djokja that afternoon. The manager bowed 
and waved his arms in obsequious apology. I would understand. 
The rooms had been booked months in advance. Tomorrow, I 
should have the best, . . . 

I cut him short. I did not care whether a hundred or a hundred 
thousand tourists arrived, provided only that I had a bed. I was 
still under the spell of the previous night and morning. Within 
twelve hours I had seen Baraboedoer by sunset, by lightning, by 
moonlight, and by sunrise. That magnificent monument .was a last- 
ing testimony to the greatness of a vanished Hindoo empire. When 
the British and Dutch empires vanished, as one day vanish they 
must, would they leave behind them as permanent a memorial? 

Exhausted but still exalted, I went to my room to make good 
the lost hours of my sleepless night. 

269 



CHAPTER SIX 

T HAVE, never liked tourists in the mass. This is the confession 
J[ of an egotist, for throughout my life I have been a sightseer 
and a traveller. When any one might so easily say: "Look at the 
funny little man with the solar topee on his head and the guide- 
book in his hand," it is not for me to criticise other disciples of 
the excellent Dr. Baedeker. 

And yet, for a moment, I resented the intrusion of that cruising 
company into the quiet peace of my Djokja life. I had spent an 
hour before sunset in visiting the Taman Sari or Water Castle 
in the grounds of the Sultan's palace. Built in baroque style by a 
Portuguese architect for one of the sultans, it was once a kind of 
oriental Trianon, standing in its own grounds and enclosed by 
a high wall. A succession of earthquakes has destroyed its former 
splendour, and to-day it is in process of decay. Its gardens are a 
wilderness of long and luxuriant grasses. Tropical flowers sprout 
from the crevices of its flagstone courtyards and of its outer walls. 
In its ruined state it has an atmosphere of old-world romance 
which I found wholly fascinating. 

I had come back from the castle in a grateful and generous 
mood. I had gone up to my room to change for dinner. At eight 
o'clock I had strolled down to the lounge. The scene which met 
my eyes was startling. Outside the rain was coming down in a 
solid stream. Chauffeurs, drenched to the skin, were wrestling 
with the hoods of a large fleet of cars. Inside, the hall had been re- 
arranged as if for a concert. Rows of seats had been set out on both 
sides, leaving a long open space of marble in the middle. I learnt 
that after dinner we were to have a wayang-wang a dancing per- 
formance by the famous troupe of the Sultan of Djokja. 

Standing at the reception counter, sitting on the chairs, leaning 
against the walls, occupying every inch of space was the army of 
tourists. They were of all kinds and conditions: old men, fat 

270 



women, young girls, quadragenarians wearing the tie o the bri- 
gade of Guards, and young men in slacks and open shirts of 
every hue from Fascist black to the brightest Neapolitan blue. 

I watched the confusion with amused interest. Presently my 
attention was diverted by a serio-comic tragedy which was being 
played with great vigour and effect on the marble space reserved 
for the dancers. A Frenchman, accompanied by his wife and 
daughter, had arrived by train from Batavia. He was not a mem- 
ber of the cruise party. He had booked his rooms months before. 
He held the manager's letter, acknowledging the reservation, in 
his hand. The rooms had been given to the tourists, and in loud 
and violent language, replete with rare and rich adjectives and 
accentuated by a whirlwind of gesticulation, the Frenchman was 
telling the manager exactly what he thought of him, of his hotel, 
of Djokja, of Java, of the Dutch East Indies, of Holland, and of 
the whole Dutch race. 

Gradually the storm subsided, the tourists sorted themselves 
out, and we went in to dinner. In the dining-room I had been 
relegated to a distant table near the side-door. I did not blame the 
Dutch. The world-cruise passengers are the flesh and bones of 
the Dutch tourist-traffic. In a materialist world they very properly 
come first. Even my table "boy" was impelled to an unwonted 
garrulousness by the occasion. "Tuan," he said to me, "these 
Americans must be very rich." 

"Gold, Thou art not God, but Thou art Almighty," said the 
Malay chronicler. Probably it is a variant of the old Arab aphorism: 
"The West has the gold, but the East has the soul." In all cer- 
tainty both sayings were inspired by contact with the white man. 
Without a doubt these tourists were rich, although ninety-nine 
per cent, of them were British. One or two I had already recog- 
nised. If they had a soul, it was covered by a hard exterior. There 
was a man and his wife who did not come in to dinner until the 
others had nearly finished. They had changed into evening dress, 
and, owing to their late arrival, they were given a side table near 
me. I saw a plump bosom heave with indignation. A pungent 
odour of some strong scent, overpowering and unpleasant, wafted 
itself across to me. I felt that there was going to be trouble. There 
was. The unfortunate manager was sent for. The soup was cold. 
Could they have something else? If there was nothing fit to eat, 

271 



was there a decent brand of champagne? My sympathies were 
now with the Dutch. If I could dislike any one at first sight, I 
felt that I could detest these two. Fresh fuel was soon added to 
the glowing fire of my hate. Owing to their successful intimida- 
tion of the manager the wayang performance was held up until 
they had finished dinner. 

In one sense the Javanese, who have a far more ancient culture 
than that of the Malays of the Peninsula, can be compared with 
the Russians. Music and dancing are in their blood. To the ordi- 
nary European Javanese music is exotic and difficult to understand. 
The melody is primitive, but the numerous varieties of rhythm 
are baffling and the tone-scale has different intervals from those 
of the European scale. 

The highest form of native orchestra is the gamelan, composed 
mainly of percussion instruments in which gongs and various 
types of zithers, with wooden or metal keys and played with 
hammers, predominate. There is also a flute and a rebab, a kind of 
two-stringed violin played by the gamelan leader. A full-sized 
gamelan has over twenty performers. In Java alone there are 
18,000 of these native orchestras. Notation is comparatively mod- 
ern. Nearly all the musicians still play by ear, and the melodies, 
partly Hindoo and partly Chinese in origin, have been handed 
down from player to player for centuries. 

The dancing, also Hindoo in origin, dates back to an early 
form of sacrifice to Shiva, the Hindoo god of the Dance. To-day, 
the Hindoo religion has long been replaced by Islam, but the 
dancers remain. The themes are taken from the great Hindoo 
epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, and the dresses of the 
dancers have an exotic magnificence which makes an instant ap- 
peal. The best dancers and the best orchestras are, as in Tsarist 
Russia, the personal servants of the Sultans of Djokjakarta and 
Solo. In both Sultanates the dancing girls are held in high honour. 
Some are princesses of whose upbringing dancing is a recognised 
and regular part. Others are chosen from the people. They are 
taken into the Sultan's household and are given an excellent edu- 
cation in Javanese literature. When their dancing powers decline, 
they are married oflE, at the Sultan's will, to members of the Java- 
nese nobility. Sometimes a girl, who has won the Sultan's favour 

272 



or has had a child by him, obtains a permanent place in the palace 
as one of the ruler's subsidiary wives. 

In Java, at any rate, there is nothing creative about either the 
music or the dancing. Both are merely the reproduction of accepted 
classical forms. But the technical skill, especially as regards the 
movements of the arms and hands, has reached a perfection which 
would astonish even those who have seen the Russian ballet in its 
greatest days. 

Seen in its proper native surroundings, a combined perform- 
ance of dancing and gamelan is highly impressive. Anything like 
an intelligent interpretation both of the dancing and of the music 
requires years of study by an expert. But the layman, at any rate, 
can appreciate a radiance of form which appeals both to his 
aesthetic enthusiasm and to his sensuous emotions. Here, beneath 
the glaring electric lights of a modern hotel with a European 
audience chattering restlessly and trying to take photographs and 
with native "boys" opening soda-water bottles for the "whiskies" 
of sweating sexagenarians of both sexes, there was an atmosphere 
of artificiality which even I found overpowering. 

The dances themselves were alluring enough, but rather long 
and slow in movement. The first was a Hindoo variation of the 
eternal theme of the love triangle. The girl has a male friend. 
Her lover is jealous of course, without reason and wishes to 
kill her. She defends herself with a "kris." Afterwards she shoots 
her lover with a bow and arrow brought on to the stage by a little 
trousered boy who reminded me of the page in the Rosentyavalier. 
Then the girl is heartbroken and mourns over his corpse. The 
dancing, in which slow balance plays a predominant part, was 
technically perfect, the movement of the arms and, especially, of 
the fingers being wonderfully graceful. 

Then we were shown a fight between two Javanese dancers 
armed with clubs, axes, and, finally, bows and arrows. It was a 
stately and dignified fight with about as much action as a scene 
from a Greek play performed by Sixth form boys of a public school 
on Speech Day. A monkey dance and fight between two boys with 
masks and artificial tails aroused the fidgety European onlookers 
to a momentary enthusiasm. This, at least, they could understand. 
But when it was followed by a long solo dance by the principal 
girl, in which I confess the movement seemed to differ not at all 

273 



from that of the first dance, their boredom was complete. When 
one weather-beaten old lady, bolder than her compatriots, rose 
and announced firmly that she was going to bed, the others fol- 
lowed like sheep, leaving me in embarrassed solitude. 

The programme was not nearly ended. The manager came over 
and asked if I wished to see more. But my own enthusiasm had 
now evaporated. As I crossed the courtyard to my rooms at the 
back, I passed the troupe of actors and actresses, magnificent in 
their old Javanese costumes and squatting patiently on their 
haunches and waiting for their turn. Some of them had not yet 
appeared. Now their preparations had been in vain. 

I felt ashamed, remembering the atmosphere of hysteria and 
frayed nerves behind the scenes of the Big Theatre in Moscow 
when anything had gone wrong with a ballet performance. It 
never occurred to me to doubt that our lack of appreciation must 
have pricked that brooding sensitiveness which lies so close to the 
surface of the Malayan soul. Yet I was mistaken. As I passed them, 
the girls looked up and smiled. Some were smoking cigarettes. 
All seemed in the best of tempers. One male dancer with false 
moustache and a Homeric helmet was sleeping peacefully with his 
head leaning on his hand. 

This capacity for sleep is perhaps the greatest advantage which 
the Oriental enjoys over the European. It is his infallible specific 
against the nervous ailments of our febrile modern world and a 
sure balm for all the troubles of the soul. 

The next morning brought a fresh reaction to the tourist inva- 
sion in the form of an eight o'clock telephone message from the 
Governor's secretary. There would have to be an alteration in the 
arrangements made for my visit to the Sultan's palace. The tourists 
were staying for only one day. It would be necessary to show them 
the palace. He assumed that I should not mind their going with 
me. If I did, he could make other arrangements for me, but I 
should have to wait several days. I did not wish to wait so long. I 
lacked the decision and the courage to say no. In any case I had 
now begun to see the humour of the tourist racket. Nine o'clock 
found me at the tail end of the long queue formed up at the gates 
of the palace. 

The Kraton, as the palace is called, is a city in itself. Within its 
walls live some 30,000 people, all relatives, personal servants, or 

274 



retainers of the Sultan. The walls, guarded by a moat, are about 
twelve feet high and as many feet thick. They enclose a rectangle 
three-quarters of a mile long and a half-mile broad. 

Within the precincts of the Kraton the Sultan is supposed to be 
his own master. But in the throne room there are two thrones. 
The one on the right is the Sultan's. The other is not for his chief 
consort. It is for the Dutch governor. Nevertheless, inside this 
kingdom within a kingdom the Sultan is lord of life and death, 
and until comparatively recent times deaths were as frequent and 
as mysterious as in the days of the Borgias. The present Sultan 
has been on his throne for seventeen years. But before he succeeded 
three of his brothers died in unexplained circumstances which 
finally induced the abdication of his father. 

The weakness of all oriental sultanates is the number of royal 
wives and the number of children who may be regarded as possible 
successors. The present Sultan has over forty sons, and, although 
he is an enlightened ruler compared with his forerunners and has 
been in Holland, there must still be many intrigues within the 
palace which remain hidden even from even the best-informed and 
most vigilant Dutch governor. 

The Kraton itself was built in the middle of the eighteenth 
century, but the palace proper has been frequently renovated and 
added to, and the public rooms are an incongruous mixture of 
oriental magnificence and of the worst examples of modern vul- 
garity. To-day, it gives little outward sign of its sinister and mys- 
terious past. 

In spite of the early hour, the heat was already scorching, and, 
while we waited under the open sky for the official army of inter- 
preters and guides to arrive, we received a severe grilling from the 
sun. At last all was ready, and in a struggling and sweating herd 
we trooped in behind our bear-leaders. A hundred and thirteen 
years before Raffles had passed through these gates on his first visit 
to the Sultan after the British conquest of Java. He had come 
almost unattended as a sign of his goodwill, and the Sultan had 
ordered 10,000 soldiers to line the streets. Raffles' dignity had not 
flickered by as much as an eyebrow, I wondered what he would 
have thought of his camera-laden compatriots of to-day, as they 
stampeded from point to point in breathless haste. They were the 

275 



unconscious humourists of what was, in effect, a comic per- 
formance. 

We passed through magnificent rooms with priceless treasures, 
and I noted with some surprise in this stronghold of Islam a white 
marble statue of a Christian angel. The long dining-room, where 
at official festivities the Sultan can seat over three hundred guests, 
would have impressed me by its dignified spaciousness had my 
eye not been caught by a stained glass window with a florid design 
of champagne bottles and glasses and the initials H.B.VIII. I sur- 
mised that His Highness Hamangkoe Boewono VIII must suffer 
much from the importunities of European contractors. 

In the former Sultan's bedroom, maintained exactly as it was 
in his lifetime, the chairs were covered with nails with the points 
upwards as a painful deterrent to I2se-majest. No one is allowed 
to stand upright on the polished floor. The cleaners who polish 
it have to do so prostrate. Here again the effect of natural dignity 
was jeopardised by the prominent display of large modern signed 
photographs of the Queen of the Netherlands and of her late 
Consort. 

At every place of interest the herd shuffled and stopped, while 
the interpreters delivered their harangue. The interpreting itself 
was a laborious performance. A Dutch-speaking Javanese official 
recited the historical points to the Dutch hotel manager. The 
manager passed them on in broken English to the cruise enter- 
tainment officer, a well-groomed young man who communicated 
them to the tourists with jocular comments of his own very much 
in the manner of the approved cabaret conferencier. The tourists 
added their own asides. Over the entrance to one hall was painted 
the word "welkom." 

"Charles,** shouted one married woman to her husband, "come 
here and see how they spell 'welcome.' Isn't it funny?" 

Charles evidently thought it was, for he unhooked his Leica 
camera and commemorated in photograph the supposed spelling 
mistake. 

To me the big moment of that morning was the changing of 
the guard a picturesque ceremony which I was glad to have wit- 
nessed. Within the Kraton the Sultan is allowed to maintain a 
household force of a thousand men. They are not very formidable, 
but they mount guard like the British guards at St. James's Palace, 

276 



and every day they have their hour of glory. To the shrill notes 
of a flute player they parade round the palace. Their uniforms are 
the queerest in the world. The helmets are like flower-pots turned 
upside down. The tunics, many of them armless, have as many 
colours as Joseph's coat. The men themselves are armed, some 
with old-fashioned muskets, others with enormously long lances 
and swords and shields, and others again with the native "kris." 

These warriors are of all ages. There was one old gentleman, 
clean-shaven with bushy eyebrows and with the clear-cut features 
of an aristocrat. He must have been well over sixty. Yet he had 
the superb carriage of a Red Indian and he wore his flower-pot 
with a dignity which would have earned him an astronomical 
salary at Hollywood. I do not think I have ever seen an Oriental 
with a finer face. 

Incidentally, the lances which the soldiers carry are holy and 
are supposed by the Javanese to have healing properties. Just before 
the war there was plague in Djokja and in Solo. The Dutch doc- 
tors were sorely handicapped in their efforts to fight it because the 
Javanese had little belief in the white man's medicines and flocked 
to touch the holy lances and to infect each other. 

The last room which we visited housed the Sultan's state car- 
riages and sedan chairs. Here there was another unrehearsed com- 
edy. A middle-aged and corpulent Englishman, smoking a pipe 
and dripping at every pore, had climbed on to the platform on 
which the chairs stood. "How the hell does the Sultan get into 
this?" he asked loudly, as he tried the handle of a closed-in and 
rather low chair. The guide showed him. The Englishman shook 
his head. A great bead of sweat fell from his brow. His pipe 
emitted a cloud of smoke. 

"Very undignified," he said. "Very undignified." 

I agreed. For some Englishmen an ostrich with its head in the 
sand would be a better national emblem than the lion and the 
unicorn. 

It was eleven o'clock, and, exhausted by this organised stam- 
pede, I took a sudden decision. I should spend the rest of the day 
in visiting Solo, the capital of the principality of the same name 
and equal in importance to Djokja. By the evening the tourists 
would be gone, and I could come back to the hotel. Djokja I was 
determined not to leave until I had seen something of the national- 

277 



ist movement at first hand and, although my resolution seemed 
rather futile, I had not entirely abandoned my belief in a last- 
minute intervention of providence. 

By imposing a severe restraint on Kamar, I took nearly two 
hours to cover the forty-mile stretch to Solo, which lies east and 
slightly north of Djokja on the main line to Soerabaja. The land- 
scape, dominated again by Merapi, is flat. The land is highly cul- 
tivated and is covered with tobacco fields and sugar plantations. 
The only curious feature is the presence of small rivers with 
streams of liquid sand. They have their source at the foot of 
Merapi and serve a useful function in carrying away the sand 
from her smoking crater. 

Solo or Soerakarta, as it is officially known, is very like Djokja. 
It has a slightly larger population. Its Sultan, whose names include 
the picturesque title of "Nail of the World," is the senior native 
prince of Java and the titular head of the Mohammedan religion. 
Like the Sultan of Djokja, he has a Kraton. The city itself is 
pleasantly laid out with wide avenues planted with trees. There 
is the same teeming centre of native life as in Djokja, and, like 
Djokja, Solo is less spoilt, less westernised, than the other cities 
of Java. If you come to Solo first, you will probably like it better 
than Djokja. The Dutch do. My own preference is for Djokja, 
although I admit readily that the few hours which I spent in Solo 
do not entitle me to make a fair comparison, 

Although I made no attempt to seek official help, I was fortu- 
nate enough to catch a glimpse of the Sultan during my short stay. 
As Kamah was pointing out the Kraton to me, the gates opened, 
and out swung a magnificent yellow car. Two retainers sat by the 
chauffeur. There was a retainer on each footboard. In the back 
sat His Highness Pakoe Boewono Soesoehoesan of Soerakarta. 

In many respects His Highness is the most remarkable thing 
about Solo. In his full ceremonial dress he must be almost the 
most resplendent figure in the world. He, too, wears a flower-pot 
hat. His short open coat is bejewelled with the orders of almost 
every government in the world. He has a fine chest on which to 
carry them, but if he receives more he will have to use other parts 
of his anatomy. He wears a jewel in each ear lobe and rings on 
every finger of his two hands except the thumb and middle finger. 

In his private life he has still the privileges of an absolute ruler. 

378 



He is fond of cards and racing, and like Kemal Ataturk of Turkey 
he likes to win. When he races, the jockeys of other owners are 
expected to let the royal horse pass the winning post first. Occa- 
sionally this leads to difficulties which on European courses might 
result in a good thing gone wrong. Not so in Solo. At one local race 
the Sultan's horse jibbed at the start and, in spite of its jockey's ef- 
forts, refused to move. When the other jockeys saw what had hap- 
pened, they pulled up and waited until the Sultan's horse had got 
into his stride and was able to pass the grand stand a popular and 
comfortable winner. No one, not even the bookmakers, suffers from 
this royal idiosyncrasy. The local natives are on the Sultan's horses 
to a man. Naturally their gains are very small. 

The "Nail of the World" has also a royal advantage at cards, 
He employs a special retainer or one of his sons to go round the 
table and let him know what is in his opponents' hands. The only 
time when the royal privilege is suspended is when once or twice 
a year the Sultan and the Dutch Governor of Solo challenge their 
counterparts of Djokja to a bridge match. 

By these strictly accurate stories I should not like to create the 
impression that the Sultan of Solo was a kind of comic opera 
figure. This is far from being the case. He is a shrewd and intelli- 
gent ruler, whose foibles are merely different from, and certainly 
not more harmful than, those of some European monarchs. 

He is loyal to the Dutch by whom he is much liked. He has a 
slightly anti-British bias, perhaps because the British Government 
is one of the few governments who have not given him a decora- 
tion. He has, too, a proper sense of his own dignity and is quite 
capable of reproving with true oriental tact any foreigner who tries 
to take a liberty with him. Not long before my visit, he received 
an Englishman who spent his time in boasting of the superiority 
of the British over the Dutch, especially in colonial administration. 
The "Nail of the World" smiled gently. "Well," he said, "we Java- 
nese are not very well up in European history. But I do know that 
there was a Dutchman who became King of England. I've never 
heard of an Englishman who became King of Holland." 

Another European who was in Solo a the same time as myself 
was Dr. Voronoff, the Russian monkey-gland rejuvenation expert 
and now a man of over sixty. The local newspapers said that he 
was touring the East Indies in order to find new types of monkeys, 

279 



including the man-like orang-outan, for his gland-grafting experi- 
ments. Actually he was on his honeymoon. 

I left Solo at five in the afternoon. As my car turned out of 
the main street, I passed three elegant Javanese walking sedately 
along the road. Their dress was of beautiful silk batik. Each was 
accompanied by a retainer who carried an umbrella over his mas- 
ter's head. Kamar told me that they were relatives of the Sultan 
and perhaps even his sons. The sun was hardly high enough to 
warrant the need of an umbrella, but Kamar told me that its use 
is de rigeur whenever members of the Sultan's suite go abroad 
on foot. 

On my way back to Djokja I tried to summarise my impres- 
sions of a hectic and confused day. I wished to get a proper per- 
spective of this tourist business. I felt a little ashamed. In my 
egocentric conceit I had allowed myself to be irritated and even 
to become downright sulky. Yet here was I with a Leica camera 
strung on my back and an armful of guide books, the complete 
caricature of the very type of tourist to whom I most objected. 

I was not even a good tourist. In the Kraton I had let my 
attention be diverted by childish things. I was certainly a very 
bad photographer. I had spent hundreds of guilders on gadgets 
for my camera. Up to date I had taken nearly five hundred pho- 
tographs, and not one in twenty had come out at all. 

On the other hand, I was genuinely alarmed by the levity of 
the huge army of rich tourists. In my day tourists had been rare 
even in the big ports. They never went inland. Now they spread 
themselves over every square inch of the East. I was slightly 
shocked by the advertisements of fashionable dressmakers which I 
saw displayed *in the travel literature: "Ideas for Lighter Moments 
on the Cruise. Coolie jackets, coolie trousers, etc." and by the 
attempts of some of the tourists to put these ideas into practice. 
It seemed to me that this aping of native dress must earn the 
contempt of the native himself. 

In theory it was a good thing that English people should see 
something of their empire. But I wondered if Kipling, when he 
wrote his "what do they know of England who only England 
know," ever calculated the effect of a cruise-load of travelling 
Britons on the Eastern subjects of that empire. 

280 



Remembering Sir Ernest Birch's dictum about the importance 
of finding out what the Oriental thought of us, I turned to Kamar: 

"What do you Javanese think of the tourists?" I asked. 

He smiled wanly. "Tuan," he said, "times are not what they 
were six years ago. If there were more ships and more tourists 
like you, we should live better." 

I fear that there are more capitalists and more sycophants in 
this world than Lenin ever dreamt of. 



281 



CHAPTER SEVEN 

' ^riE next day luck broke my way, but not until the late after- 
JL noon, when I had abandoned all hope and had resigned myself 
to leaving Djokja the next morning. Earlier in the day I had called 
on the Governor to pay my respects and to thank him for his 
courtesy. He was away, but I was received by the Assistant Resi- 
dent. He expressed his regret that it had not been possible for 
me to be received by the Sultan of Djokja, but added to my 
knowledge of that potentate by telling me that in the past the 
Sultans of Djokjakarta had not encouraged their relatives to learn 
Dutch. The present Sultan's father had forbidden it. In conse- 
quence, it had been very difficult for the Dutch to find a minister 
of sufficient experience and standing to act as a link between them 
and the Sultan. The present Sultan's minister was a man who 
had learnt Dutch surreptitiously. In the future, however, this 
would never be necessary again. To-day all the young Javanese 
nobility were learning Dutch. The Sultan's sons were in Holland. 
The change was not altogether to the good. The young men, 
especially those who went to Holland, learnt far too many things 
which they could not digest. The Javanese of the older generation 
were much wiser. 

As I left the Governor's office, a violent thunderstorm had dark- 
ened and drenched the town. Before the rain had ceased, it was 
late in the afternoon. I had already packed and had gone to the 
bookshop in order to send home by parcel post the collection of 
Dutch books that I had bought. I had already made friends with 
the Dutch bookseller, an exceptionally intelligent and well-read 
young man. But I did not know his name and he did not know 
mine. When I wrote out the label for my books, he read it and 
smiled. "You are the author of British Agent?" he said. I pleaded 
guilty. His interest was stimulated. Was I going to write a book 
about the Dutch East Indies? How had I liked Djokia? 
282 ' J 



I told him that I had wanted to see something of the nationalist 
movement and, if possible, to meet some of the nationalist leaders. 
"I'll soon fix that for you," he said. He went to the telephone, 
and within a few minutes I was on my way to the house of a 
Dutchman who was in sympathy with the nationalist movement. 
He was a slip of a man with pale complexion and an enormous 
forehead. He was clean-shaven and rather bald. He wore glasses 
and looked like a student. I guessed that he was about forty. He 
was a student. Every room in his small house was stacked with 
books in half-a-dozen languages. He was a socialist and an anti- 
imperialist. 

We sat down on the verandah and drank iced lemonade and 
talked Marx in German. At first he was reserved. But I drew 
him out by references to my Russian experiences and to my meet- 
ings with Lenin and Trotsky, and soon he was giving me first- 
hand information about the various nationalist parties, with which 
he was obviously in close touch. Organised nationalism had begun 
only a few years before the war. The first nationalist society, 
Boedi Oetomo, which means "Beautiful Endeavour," had been 
confined mainly to Javanese intellectuals. It had been followed 
by Sarekat Islam, a wider and more popular society, which was 
formed in Djokja in 1910. Started at first by the disgruntled mem- 
bers of the Javanese batik industry, who saw their home-made 
products being ousted by Chinese competition, it soon developed 
political ambitions. Under the banner of Islam it sought to extend 
its activities so as to embrace all the native peoples of the Dutch 
East Indies. Other parties, including trade union and co-operative 
societies, sprang up like mushrooms. Of these the most significant 
and in the long run probably the most dangerous is the Insulinde 
Party, formed in 1912 and composed of Eurasians and Javanese. 

As in other countries the nationalist movement in Java re- 
ceived a great stimulus from the Great War, and in 1916, yielding 
to the pressure, the Dutch introduced the Volksraat, a kind of 
local native parliament with severely limited powers. Within two 
years of its creation a Dutch socialist had succeeded in uniting the 
various nationalist parties into a concentrated opposition. 

At first the nationalist parties had no higher ambition than a 
self-governing autonomy within the Dutch Empire. But as so often 
happens in countries unripe for constitutional reform, the ex- 

283 



tremists took the upper hand, and by the end of the war a fully- 
fledged communist party, affiliated to Moscow, was competing 
with the other parties for popular support. In 1926 and 1927 there 
had been a serious communist revolt, which had ended in the 
arrest and exile of the communist leaders. They had been sent 
with their families to a settlement in New Guinea, at Tanah 
Merah, a place which, curiously enough, means "Red Land." 
Originally about 1200 people were deported there, but a combina- 
tion of blackwater fever and recantation of communist principles 
has now reduced that number to approximately 700. 

The Dutch Government, my Marxist friend told me, had now 
turned right wheel, and for the moment all was quiet. He himself, 
however, was convinced that the days of Dutch Imperialism were 
drawing to their inevitable end. The Dutch were the greatest 
colonists that the world had ever seen. But they were also the 
greatest exploiters. He was not a communist, but he foresaw 
already the eventual triumph of the Russian economic system in 
the East. He drew a striking parallel between Russia and Java. 
Here in Java were the same pre-conditions of bolshevism: a small 
nobility, no middle class worth speaking of, and a teeming pro- 
letariat, under-fed and under-paid. Emancipation had already be- 
gun. In the case of the men it had been started by the educated 
intellectuals; in the case of the women by the Javanese Princess 
Kartini, whose letters, first published in 1911 and now translated 
into half-a-dozen European languages, have become a classic. The 
emancipation could not be stopped. The Javanese were now educa- 
tion conscious. The poor half-castes, of whom there were many, 
would side with the natives in the struggle for independence. The 
native rulers and regents had no power. They could do nothing 
without the Dutch. When the dam burst, the Javanese princes and 
their feudal system would be swept away. 

Our conversation was purely academic, but I felt slightly guilty. 
It was long since dark. The house itself was in an isolated position 
overlooking a park, and the shadowy outline of the trees, faintly 
revealed by the single electric hand-lamp on the verandah table, 
helped to create a conspiratory atmosphere which reminded me 
of my secret conversations with the revolutionary leaders in Russia 
during the Tsarist regime. 

After many pipes my host asked me if I would like to meet 

284 



a Javanese prince. Of course I said yes, and he went into the inside 
room to telephone. Although I tried to appear indifferent, I was 
full of anxiety. Having already booked my steamer passage for a 
tour of the Outer Islands, I dared not postpone my departure even 
for a day. It was already ten o'clock. It seemed unlikely that the 
Prince would receive me so late at night. The telephone conversa- 
tion in Dutch seemed interminable. Then my host came back. 
For the first time there was a faint smile on his face. All was 
well. The Prince would receive us at once. 

Fortunately I had kept my car, and soon we were at the Kraton 
gates. A word from my Dutch companion, and we had passed 
the bodyguard. We were inside the city within a city. Here all 
was silent. The palace itself was in darkness. The night air, pun- 
gent with the scent o flowers, was still and warm. Slowly we 
passed the groups of separate houses, turned into a drive, and 
pulled up outside the fenced-in garden of a well-built bungalow. 
The soft notes of a gamelan orchestra floated across to us. By the 
light of a lamp I could distinguish a group of Javanese squatting 
silently on the steps of the verandah. As we entered the gate, they 
slipped away in Indian file and vanished in the darkness. 

We walked forward to the steps, and the Prince came down 
to meet us. He was dressed in a Javanese "kain," a high-necked 
blue "baju" with long-flowing sleeves, and a magnificent Javanese 
kerchief headdress. His silky moustache and rather plump figure 
gave him a slightly Pooh-Bah appearance. But his smile was 
pleasant, and he had beautifully kept hands with tapering fingers 
of which even a Habsburg might have been proud. The only in- 
congruous thing about him was his pince-nez. 

His verandah was elegantly but unostentatiously furnished. 
There was a fine teak table and half-a-dozen Dutch chairs with 
semi-rocking legs. He was expecting us. Tea, cigars and cigarettes 
were laid out with symmetrical neatness on the table. The teacups 
had lids in order to keep the tea warm. He poured me out some 
tea, and then carefully replaced the lid on my cup. This ceremony 
was repeated every time he drank. 

The Prince had no English, but he spoke fluent Dutch. He 
had been educated in Holland, and in his knowledge of economics 
and political history could have held his own with almost any 
European. He would have made a first-class diplomatist, for his 

285 



natural dignity was supplemented by reserves o tact and discretion. 
He said nothing that could be considered even remotely seditious. 
But, unless I do him wrong, I surmised that he was a nationalist 
to the tips of his long, delicately-shaped fingers. 

I was careful not to embarrass him with indiscreet questions, 
and confined my opening remarks to a desire for knowledge about 
the system of education. He expanded at once, enlarging elo- 
quently on the Javanese thirst for knowledge. Very few Javanese, 
he said, could afford to go to a university. Recently the Dutch had 
cut down the number of schools, but in order to maintain the rate 
of progress the Javanese had started their own schools. Every 
Javanese made sacrifices to support them. Many of the teachers 
took no salary. Many of the poorest parents sacrificed as much as 
seventy per cent, of their income in order to send their children 
to school. 

From education I ventured gladly into the field of nationalism. 
I told him that I had been amazed by the large number of nation- 
alist parties and nationalist leaders. Did he not think that this 
dissipation of forces was a weakness of the movement? He ex- 
plained to me that owing to the diversity of interests represented 
and to the number of different races in the Dutch East Indies many 
leaders were inevitable and even necessary. He insisted that the na- 
tionalist feeling was strong even among the poorest Javanese and, 
as far as driving out the Dutch was concerned, stronger among the 
proletariat than among the nobility and the intelligentsia. The 
poorer Javanese was now poverty-conscious. They had come to 
realise that the Dutch gave them enough to eat and no more. 

I asked the Prince if he did not think that education in Hol- 
land had a deleterious effect on those Javanese who went there. 
I quoted cases of young Malayan princelings who had been edu- 
cated in England, and who had come back with a taste for white 
women, alcohol, racing, extravagance and other European habits. 
He saw no danger of Javanese princes being contaminated by 
Western civilisation. His view was that they went to Holland to 
learn all that the white man had to teach them, that they worked 
harder than at home, and that they came back to Java with 
stronger national feelings and with more pride in their own civilisa- 
tion than ever. It had been true in his own case. But I doubt if 
there are many Javanese like him. 

286 



Unlike my new Dutch socialist friend, he was convinced that 
there were no communist tendencies among the Javanese, and 
that communism was ill-suited to the national character. It was 
true that the Dutch called every one who aspired to independence 
a communist. But the vast bulk of Java was peasantry. The peasant 
wanted land and more of it, 

I tried to make him say how long he thought the Dutch rule 
would last. But he was not to be drawn. He quoted to me a 
three-hundred-years-old Javanese proverb to the effect that an- 
other foreign rule would succeed the Dutch. The Japanese per- 
haps, I suggested. He shook his head. He was not afraid of the 
Japanese. I do not think that he took the proverb very seriously. 
Unlike most Malays he had long since shed all trace of super- 
stitious belief. 

I felt instinctively that he still believed in the divine right of 
sultans, but did not like to ask him on so delicate a subject. In- 
stead, I asked him if the sultans still had any power. He smiled 
rather sourly. "Only the shadow," he said. "Look at my relative, 
the Sultan of Djokja. He is a songless canary in a golden cage." 

He was, however, convinced that the prestige of the white 
man in the East had gone for ever. Many events had helped to 
shatter it: first, the Russo-Japanese war, then the Great War, and, 
finally, the Chinese revolution and the triumph of Kemal Ata- 
turk. But, most of all, the Great War. The eyes of the East had 
been opened by the spectacle of the white men's civil war. 

I asked him if he did not think the white man's cinema had 
also been a contributory cause. He reflected before giving his 
answer. "With the intellectuals, yes," he said, "but not with the 
people. The charge for admission to a cinema is ten cents. The 
peasantry here cannot afford ten cents for a cinema." 

He asked me a few pertinent questions about India, which in 
my ignorance I was unable to answer with any completeness. He 
told me that the Javanese nationalists followed the political situa- 
tion in India very closely. Dutch Java was a hundred years behind 
India in the development of political self-government, but since 
the war progress in Java had been relatively more rapid. The East 
would move more rapidly still during the next twenty-five years. 

It was now long after midnight. We had drunk innumerable 
cups of tea, and I, at least, had smoked half-a-dozen cigars. My 

287 



Dutch friend had warned me in advance that I must make the 
first move to leave. The Javanese nobility were so polite that the 
Prince would wait until dawn rather than hint that it was time 
to go to bed. Twice I had risen to go and twice I had been forced 
to drink another cup of tea. At last I rose firmly and finally. We 
shook hands and bowed. Then the Prince produced a great book 
in which were entered the minutes of the meetings of the agri- 
cultural co-operative society which he had founded and which he 
ran himself. I scrawled my name with the date, in the same way 
as one signs the visitors' book in an English country house. We 
bowed again, and then we went out into the night. 

After dropping my Dutch friend at his house, I drove home 
through the silent town. The teeming millions of Java were asleep. 
They had been sleeping for three hundred years. How far ahead 
was the day of awakening? Within a few days I had heard a 
Dutch Governor declare that there was no nationalist question 
and a Dutch socialist maintain that Dutch Imperialism was 
doomed. 

The next morning I left at dawn for Soerabaja. The train, 
much faster but less comfortable than the trains in Malaya, was 
uncomfortably hot. Fortunately, what would have been a tedious 
journey was made enjoyable through a chance acquaintanceship 
with a Dutch official, who was the only other occupant of our 
miniature Pullman carriage. He was full of that encyclopaedic 
knowledge which one soon learns to expect from the Dutch, and 
very proud of his country and insistent that I should miss none 
of the virtues of Dutch colonisation. The virtues were there before 
my eyes in rolling fields of sugar-cane, tobacco, rice, and a hun- 
dred other tropical products, and in wonderful schemes of irriga- 
tion which had put every inch of the soil except the craters of the 
volcanoes to profitable use. 

I expressed my admiration in suitably flattering terms. But I 
could not help remembering that, as doubtless had been the case 
in most British colonies, these virtues had been achieved at the 
expense of needless abuses. It was Raffles who, during the Napo- 
leonic wars, had freed the slaves of Java. But not many years 
afterwards slavery or something akin to it had been restored by 
the introduction of the forced cultivation system. Holland had 
been ruined financially by a succession of wars, and to make good 

288 



these losses the Governor-General of the East Indies had forced 
the Javanese to plant up a part of their land with products which 
were in great demand in Europe. The Javanese had no say in the 
matter. The selection of the product was left to special government 
officials, who received a special remuneration in the form of a 
percentage of the yield. In this way were built up the great Dutch 
East Indian industries of sugar, indigo, tobacco, tea and coffee. 
The profits of the government were enormous and were sent back 
to Holland for the reduction of the public debt and of taxation, 
and for the construction of railways and military defences. But 
the abuses were cruel. The Javanese had to give up their best land 
for this forced cultivation, and were miserably paid for what they 
produced. Natives who had no land had to work for the govern- 
ment without pay for sixty-six days in the year. Corruption was 
rife among the Dutch officials entrusted with the supervision of 
the system. 

It was left to a retired Dutch official, called Dekker, to expose 
the iniquities of forced cultivation. Under the name of Multatuli 
he wrote a book called Max Havelaar. Published in 1860, it stirred 
the sleeping conscience of the Dutch in much the same manner 
as Mrs. Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin roused the apathy 
of the American public towards the slavery in the American cotton 
fields. The worst features of the system were removed, and gradu- 
ally forced cultivation was given up. It was not, however, until 
1915 that with the abandonment of the forced cultivation of coffee 
the system was finally abolished. 

Naturally I kept these thoughts to myself, and presently the 
sight of numerous idle sugar factories set my companion on a 
new train 6f thought a lament for the good days of the post-war 
boom. Seven years after the war Javanese sugar was selling at 100 
florins per 100 kilos. To-day the price was five florins. I should 
have been in Soerabaja in those days, he told me. Then it was the 
gayest place in the East, and the Dutch sugar factory managers, 
some of whom made as much as 300,000 guilders in bonus in a 
single year, were the gayest, the most generous, and the most reck- 
less spenders in the world. Now times had changed. Soerabaja was 
full of unemployed whites. They gave more trouble to the Dutch 
officials than all the 400,000 unemployed Javanese put together. The 

289 



natives could go back to their kampongs, where the fertile soil 
would yield them enough at any rate to provide life. 

He sighed and, opening his despatch case, began to turn over 
a sheaf of government papers. He did not speak again until he 
saw me staring out of the window at a curiously-shaped mountain 
standing out like a sugar-loaf hat in the distance. "That's Kloet," 
he said, "the most active volcano in Java. She's wicked. After the 
war she killed many people." 

The name awoke memories in my mind of Antony Fbkker, 
the great Dutch airplane constructor. I remembered how he had 
told me at Lord Beaverbrook's country place near Leatherhead 
shortly before my departure for the East that he had been born 
within the shadow of Kloet in 1890. His father had a .plantation 
there. He sold it in 1896 and went home with his family to 
Europe. While they were on the sea, Kloet belched again, and the 
former Fokker home was totally destroyed. It was on this occa- 
sion, too, that Fokker told me how at the beginning of the war 
he had wanted to help England. He had come to London and had 
offered to sell his patents to Britain. No one had shown any inter- 
est in them, and in the end he had sold his machines to Germany. 
Volcanoes in Java inspire a deep respect. If Kloet had belched a 
few days sooner, Germany might have been deprived of her best 
flying machines in the war. 

I arrived in Soerabaja, which means Crocodile Town, in time 
for a late luncheon, and after my meal I went out to have a look 
at the town. It was the first place at which Captain Bligh of Bounty 
fame landed on his way home from Timor. He described it in his 
log as "one of the most pleasant places I ever saw." In the circum- 
stances I understand his enthusiasm, but do not share it. 

The town itself is admirably built, has fine business offices, wide 
streets- and excellent bookshops, and as the nearest approach to 
a European city in Java is much liked by the local Dutch. It is, 
however, very flat, and the heat there is stifling. Like the other 
cities in Java it has enchanting hill stations within comparatively 
easy distance. Of these Tosari, with its Bromo Hotel, situated at 
a height of over 6000 feet, is world-famous. The name of the 
hotel always makes English and American people laugh. It is 
called after the volcano of the same name which is in the imme- 
diate vicinity. 
290 



Sheltered and protected by the island of Madura, Soerabaja 
is the chief naval port of the Dutch East Indies. It is also the 
main harbour for the export of sugar. Since the mutiny of the 
cruiser De Seben Provinzien in 1933, the Dutch in Java have not 
been very happy about their navy. The mutiny itself makes rather 
a sordid story. The mixed crew of Dutch and Maduranese revolted 
for better conditions of pay and service. They overpowered their 
officers and, taking possession of the ship, began to steam along 
the coast. A lucky hit by an airplane brought them to their senses, 
and the revolt was quickly quelled. 

It has left a sting with the brave but hot-tempered Maduranese, 
a fisher-folk, who with the Buginese make the best sailors in the 
East Indies. They were induced to join the revolt by the Dutch 
sailors, who after the surrender tried to put the blame on their 
native colleagues. The Maduranese, who like most Malays have 
long memories, have not forgotten their experience. 

The trouble, I imagine, had its roots in something deeper than 
economic discontent. While the Dutch army in the East Indies 
is a local force, the navy is imperial. The officers are sent out from 
home and serve a term of only three years on the East Indies 
station. Just when they are beginning to learn something of the 
language and to establish contact with their ratings they go home. 
I was told recently by Dr. Colijn, the Dutch prime minister, that 
this absurd system is being altered. 

Although Soerabaja has fallen on hard times, it is gayer than 
Batavia. The capital has no proper night-club. Soerabaja still has 
two. Being at a loose end after dinner, I went to one, which appro- 
priately enough was called the "Tutti Frutti." It was like the 
usual continental cabaret: supper tables and dancing and a few 
professional turns. Outwardly it was ultra-respectable. The "spate" 
of champagne had ceased with the end of prosperity. The Euro- 
peans were drinking whiskey and soda or Bols gin. I was, how- 
ever, more interested in the sellers than in the buyers of vice. 

In these East Indian cabarets the artistes are mostly Hungarians 
and Russians. They are devoid of all sentiment. They are heavily 
made up in order to hide the ravages of a life which is harder than 
the lot of European cabaret artistes. Indeed, the heat and drink 
for hard drinking is a necessary adjunct to their work soon 
plays havoc with the remains of their beauty. If they are a genuine 

291 



troupe of performers, they are often stranded, and have to be given 
a steerage passage to another port. Many of the women, however, 
are members of Mrs. Warren's profession. In the years of the 
sugar boom one or two with harder heads than their colleagues 
made big money, and returned in triumph to Budapest to be 
interviewed as "stars" by the local newspapers and to encourage 
other young girls to follow their example. But most of them fall 
by the way, and their end does not even get into the births and 
deaths column. 

Here in the Soerabaja "Tutti Frutti" there was a certain imi- 
tation of European elegance. But the atmosphere was even more 
depressing than that of London night-life. When the dancing 
began, I sent for one of the dancing girls and ordered a bottle 
of champagne. She had a smile as set as her peroxided hair. She 
drank quickly and in a business-like manner* She was Hungarian- 
born, the daughter of a German father and a Hungarian mother. 
Her German had the sing-song intonation of Budapest. She danced 
well. But she was not there to waste her time. 

"Also," she said, "wie werden wir unsere Sacher regeln?" 

I led her on. "What do you mean?" I asked. 
"Well, what are you going to pay?" 

The price was 200 gulders ^30 for the night. It was the tariff. 
In the boom days the Dutch sugar planters paid it when they came 
to Soerabaja for a "jolly." Since the slump they can no longer 
afford it. The girls, however, have not reduced their price. They 
have merely changed their clientele. To-day they sleep with the 
Arabs and Chinese, who, slump or no slump, are always rich. 

That night I slept late. The next afternoon I embarked on the 
Merah, and steamed down the Straits of Madura past the dirty- 
grey outline of a Dutch destroyer flotilla on my way to the Outer 
Islands. 



292 



BOOK V 



White Man's Twilight 

"ALAS! can we ring the bells backward? Can we unlearn the 
arts that pretend to civilise, and then burn the world? There is 
a march of science; but who shall beat the drums for its retreat?" 



CHAPTER ONE 

IN the days of my youth, when I was the only white man in 
Pantai, I had one dream which haunted me in my hours o 
depression. I saw myself in a sea-prahu, manned only by Malays, 
heading for an uninhabited island in the Malay Archipelago. I 
never reached the island, but the vision of it was very clear to 
me. Everything on it was perfect. The sun was always shining. 
Yet everything was green. There was always a cooling breeze to 
temper the tropical heat. There was the soothing music of the surf. 
To perfect the modern idea of "going native" there was a conv 
fortable bungalow complete with hot and cold water. There was 
no cocktail bar. In those days dreams had not included cocktails 
in their scheme of things. But there was an English grass lawn past 
which flowed a tropical river strangely like the Spey. It teemed 
with fish. Of course, they took a fly, although on my island there 
were neither mosquitoes nor other winged pests. 

In those days I had neither the money nor the leisure to put 
my dream to the test of reality. But, like many other people, I 
have dreamed it often since the war. Now, after at least the partial 
realisation of my dream, I am bound to confess that one tropical 
island is very like another. Those islands which are uninhabited 
are uninhabitable. Those which are inhabited have already become 
tainted by civilisation and are no longer dream islands. 

And yet on sober reflection I think that, if I were given the 
choice and the opportunity to do what I liked with the next three 
years of my life, I could spend them most happily touring the 
islands of the Archipelago in the packet steamers of the Royal 
Dutch Packet Navigation Company, known throughout the East 
by its three Dutch initials of K.P.M. The boats are small, but com- 
fortable. The food is good. There are few first-class passengers. 
The captains are men of power and parts. And they know the life 
of the isLuds as no one else knows it. 

295 



In the Merah I had a cabin to myself fitted with an electric 
fan. After Bali we carried only one other European passenger, 
a young Englishman employed in the service of a Singapore trad- 
ing company. I had my first view of that vaunted paradise at six 
in the morning, when we anchored at Boeleleng, the port of the 
island. It was an angry sunrise: a single fiery patch of orange in a 
bank of dark clouds. I did not go ashore, but stood on deck and 
watched the freight being loaded from open boats with side sup- 
ports like a catamaran. It was a curious freight: mostly capons and 
pigs, for the Balinese are pig-eaters, pig-breeders and pig-exporters. 
Pigs and capons were packed alive in tight-fitting palm-leaf coops. 
The packing seemed incredibly cruel. Yet, strangely enough, both 
animals and poultry survive a longish journey in these suffocating 
strait-packets. At Macassar they would be transshipped and de- 
spatched to Portuguese Timor, to Christian Ambon, and perhaps 
even to Hong-Kong. 

All that morning we steamed along the north coast of Bali on 
our way to Ampenan, which was our next port of call. The coast, 
palm-fringed and very narrow, has a background of green hills. 
As we passed the east corner, I had a wonderful view of Goenoeng 
Agoeng, the ten-thousand-feet-high peak which dominates the 
whole island. 

Ampenan, which we reached at two in the afternoon, is the 
port of Lombok, the neighbouring island to Bali. Although it is 
separated from Bali by only a narrow strait, its flora and fauna 
are totally different. It has numerous kinds of parrots and perro- 
quets which are unknown west of the Straits of Lombok, but lacks 
tigers and other wild animals. Outwardly, the island is very like 
Bali and nearly as beautiful. Ampenan itself has nothing to recom- 
mend it and, as we stayed there for two hours, I hired a car and 
set out for Mataram, the capital of the island. 

This tiny town, only a few miles distant from the sea, has 
an interesting history. The inhabitants of Lombok are Sassaks, 
who for two hundred years were ruled and brutally oppressed by 
the Balinese. In 1894 they appealed to the Dutch for assistance. 
When the Balinese ruler of Mataram refused to carry out the pro- 
posed reforms, the Dutch sent a military expedition. While the 
Dutch general was still negotiating with the Sultan, the Balinese 
troops made a treacherous attack by night, slaughtered many of 

296 



the Dutch officers and men, and forced the others to beat a hasty 
retreat. Reinforcements were sent as quickly as possible, and the 
Dutch took a fierce revenge, many Balinese being shot down 
more or less in cold blood, and many fine buildings being de- 
stroyed. As a further punishment the Dutch drove out the Balinese 
and placed Lombok under their own administration. 

The Poeri or palace of the Balinese Sultan was in Mataram it- 
self. But to-day there is no trace of it. The Dutch razed it to the 
ground, together with many temples and other examples of Hin- 
doo architecture. Where the palace once stood is now a pleasant 
park with a monument to the memory of the Dutch who fell in the 
expedition. The Sassaks are docile and good-natured, and the 
Dutch keep a natural peace with a handful of native police. 

On my chauffeur's advice I drove a mile or two farther on 
to Tjakra Negara, where the last Balinese ruler had a second 
palace. Opposite the palace is a temple which for a few hours 
gave shelter to the Dutch on that fatal night when they were 
treacherously attacked in open bivouac. On the way back I stopped 
at a little shrine by the roadside. It is known as the Pera Dalem. 
Here every year come pilgrims from Bali to pray to Doerga, the 
Goddess of Death. Close by is a plain obelisk to the memory of 
General van Ham, the most important Dutch victim of the war. 

Curiously enough, both Dutch and British acquired their Ma- 
layan possessions by playing off one Sultan against another. But 
whereas the British succeeded in establishing their suzerainty with 
comparatively little bloodshed, the Dutch had to fight their way 
in nearly all the islands. Nearly everywhere, too, one finds monu- 
ments and obelisks similar to those to the Dutch officers and men 
who fell at Mataram. 

These wars, which lasted until the beginning of the twentieth 
century, were very different from the British war in New Zealand, 
in which a Maori chief sent a herald to inquire why the British 
had ceased fire. On being told that it was because the British had 
run short of ammunition, he promptly offered to supply some from 
his own store. Here in the Dutch East Indies there were no 
knightly courtesies, but only savage cruelty on both sides. 

Indeed, the war in Acheh, which lasted for thirty years, has 
as black a record as any war in modern history. The Dutch, fre- 
quently ambushed and stabbed in the back, were driven to adopt 

297 



harsh measures. Their Achinese enemies were always hiding in the 
jungle. In order to track them down the Dutch finally had to 
resort to moral persuasion. It took the form o taking the children 
from the mothers' breasts and threatening to throw them into the 
sea to the sharks or into the rivers to the crocodiles if the women 
did not tell where their husbands were hiding. If the information 
was refused, the threat was carried out. 

The chief exponent of this policy was a Swiss major. I was 
informed by a former Dutch minister of the Crown that he is still 
alive. He now regrets his military past, and has become a confirmed 
theosophist and a whole-hearted admirer of the late Annie Besant. 

From a Frenchman, who is a great authority on the East, I 
acquired a curious piece of information about the war in Acheh. 
In the early years of the war the Dutch employed a contingent of 
French Communards, who had been banished after the suppression 
of the Paris Commune in 1871. These first bolsheviks were known 
by the Malays as the "orang didong" or "didong men," because 
of their frequent use of the French expression "dis-donc." When I 
dined with Dr. Colijn, the present Dutch prime minister, in the 
Hague, I told him this story and asked if he could confirm it. 
He won his own spurs in the Acheh war, for like many well- 
known Dutchmen he began his career in Java. He was full of 
anecdotes about Acheh, but he had never heard of the "orang 
didong." They were, of course, long before his time. And as the 
war started in 1873 and was not ended until 1904 the story may 
well be true. 

From Mataram we went to Labuan Haji, the east coast port of 
the island, where we arrived the next morning at dawn. I did 
not go ashore, but stayed on deck to watch the cargo being loaded. 
It was an exciting performance, for there was a heavy swell, and 
at any moment it seemed as if the native loaders must lose their 
footing. They were, however, as nimble as monkeys, and had need 
to be, for if they had fallen into the water their chances would 
have been small. Here the cargo was mostly small onions, which 
I was told were in great demand for flavouring soups. For the 
next twenty-four hours they flavoured everything. 

The heaviest item was an unexpected addition to our freight. 
I had noticed a Chinese kitchen hand fishing from a lower porthole 
with a line like a rope and a huge hook baited with raw meat, 

298 



but had paid little attention to him. Suddenly I heard a yell. The 
Chinese "koki" was into something big. Two heads were now 
protruding from the porthole and four skinny hands were holding 
on to the line. There was a violent commotion in the water. Down 
came the crane with a rattle, while officers and crew rushed to 
the side. The loaders quickly manoeuvred their boats to the spot and, 
grinning and grunting simultaneously, began to lash out fiercely 
with their broad-shaped paddles. In less time than a fly-fisher would 
take to land a trout of a pound they had the shark on board one 
of the boats and had finished it off with their knives. With the aid 
of the crane it was soon on board our steamer. 

As sharks go, it was only a small one, but it looked ugly and 
savage enough to have frightened any bather. I think that the shark 
itself had been terrified out of its resistance by the fierce onslaught 
of the paddles. At any rate it provided me with a thrill and the 
Chinaman with a day's glory and, I expect, a succulent meal. 

The rest of that day I spent in making friends with the Dutch 
officers. At first I found them rather stolid and heavy, but at 
"pahit" time they expanded, and, although I found the Bols gin 
hard to stomach, I struggled nobly in my pursuit of knowledge. 
On further acquaintance I found them very good fellows, and 
much better-read than their British prototypes. Both the chief en- 
gineer and the captain had seen twenty-five years' service in these 
seas and looked fit enough for another fifteen. Both were big, 
powerful men. Both spoke English and German and, of course, 
fluent Malay. 

With the chief engineer I talked sex. Women seemed to have 
seared his soul. At any rate, in. his view, they were out of place in 
the East. They had cast their spell on the post-war youth. Nearly 
all the white man's troubles in the East came from young men 
forming attachments to girls too early in their career. Their 
only thought was to get married, and then they wanted a soft job 
near a city. To-day you could not find young men to stay in the 
outlandish places where the best chances were* In a service like his, 
early marriage without sufficient money was hell. It was true that 
his service had been affected by the slump like every other service 
in the East. But to a man who could cool his ardour for mar- 
riage it brought its rewards. In good times a captain of these packet 
steamers made as much as /ioo a month in bonus in addition to 

299 



his salary, and this was more than the income of the captains of 
the great Atlantic liners. 

Curiously enough, on my return home, I heard one of out- 
greatest colonial administrators expound this same theory of early 
attachments and early marriage as one of the chief drawbacks to 
the efficiency of the present-day British colonial service. 

The captain was a family man with his feet firmly planted on 
the ground. He cared more for, and knew more about, freight than 
passengers. In the course of his career he had visited all the islands, 
and had been living in Macassar for fourteen years. If he was a 
philosopher, he kept his philosophy to himself. But he impressed 
me more than any one else I met during my Eastern journey by 
his self-reliance and his stolid concentration on his job. As long as 
Holland can produce sufficient men of his type, she will have little 
cause for anxiety about her Eastern possessions. 

I told him that I wanted to visit Timor. He produced his time- 
tables. There was no boat for over a fortnight, and I could not 
afford the time. My face fell. 

"You won't miss anything," he said, "There's nothing to see. 
Some years ago I was on that route. I'm glad I've left it." 

I told him that I had a whimsical desire to see the last remaining 
outpost of Portugal's former vast Malayan empire. Then he pro- 
ceeded to tell me his own experiences with the Portuguese in 
Timor. The Portuguese held the Eastern portion o the island, 
and a fine time the Dutch officials had in trying to check the cattle 
and horse-thieving which flourished on this artificial frontier. The 
Portuguese administration, he said, was comic. The governor and 
his handful of officials were paid no salary from Portugal, but took 
it from the proceeds of the coffee sales. When coffee was bad, 
times were bad. The coffee plantations were on the other side of 
the island from the official headquarters. Sometimes the weather 
was bad, and the steamers could not take the coffee on board. 
Then the officials had to go without their salary! 

In the captain's time the real boss of the island was the local 
Portuguese banker. He fixed the exchange price of coffee and had 
his own estate. He was an ex-naval man. The governor had his 
own official launch, which carried a gun. He used the launch for 
collecting his coffee. When the launch commander was on leave, 
the governor had to beg the banker to navigate the launch for him. 

300 



These occasions were jam for the banker, who not only dic- 
tated his own terms but also arranged for the free transport of 
his own coffee. Once my captain had accompanied the Dutch 
Governor on a visit to the Portuguese over one of the usual horse- 
smuggling cases. They found the Governor living in his adjutant's 
house. His own residence, too old to stand, had collapsed during a 
minor earthquake! 

I am bound to admit that this state of affairs refers to the 
period of the Great War. Since the Salazar dictatorship came into 
power, Portuguese colonial administration has been put on a very 
different footing. 

Timor, nevertheless, is a tragic example of the decline of a 
great empire and a warning to Britain. The Portuguese were once 
the best and the bravest sailors in the world. Of all the reasons 
adduced for their decline luxury is the first and the foremost, 

Timor to-day has a strategic importance to Britain as a flying 
station on the Empire's route to Australia, and to Japan as a 
naval base. From time to time fears are expressed even in well- 
informed British circles lest Portugal may one day sell part of the 
island to Japan. The fears are unfounded. In the event of her 
wishing to sell her rights, Portugal is bound by treaty to give first 
refusal to the Netherlands. 

At eight o'clock the next morning we entered Macassar har- 
bour. I do not think that I have ever seen a more peaceful or 
more enchanting sight. A coral reef studded with little islands 
guarded the entrance like a sheltering arm. The sea was as smooth 
as a billiard-table, and I could follow every wave of our wash 
until it rolled itself gently against the breakwater. Tiny fishing 
boats, their sails slack for want of wind, lay motionless between 
the islands. Away to the right, as far as the eye could see, stretched 
a mountainous panorama of green loveliness. 

Macassar, although somewhat exposed to the north-east mon- 
soon, is one of nature's harbours, and her work has been done 
without the ugliness of man's inventive genius. True, there were 
huge godowns and modern wharves splendidly equipped to take 
the larger ships. But behind, nestled together like a flock of birds, 
were scores of sea-prahus with graceful masts and high raised 
stern exactly as they had been in the days when the Buginese 
were the great sailors and pirates of the archipelago. 

301 



I admit that I was prepared to be sentimental. Macassar was 
the capital of the Celebes. The name itself had an old-world ring. 
Vaguely I remembered the antimacassars which covered the black 
horse-hair chairs in my great-grandmother's house at Nairn in 
Scotland. They were the Victorian safeguard against stains from 
the sleek, Macassar-oiled hair of the Victorian male. But, above 
all, Macassar meant to me Conrad. It was the fount and origin 
of his two great Malayan novels, Almayer's Folly and An Outcast 
of the Islands. Here Almayer had come as a young man, ambi- 
tious, full of hope, ready to conquer the world. Here Williams, 
the strong outcast, had married old Hudig's half-caste daughter 
and had taken the first step towards his descent. Here had come 
that great Conrad hero, Tom Lingard. Rajah Laut the Malays 
had called him the King of the Seas. He, too, had been one of 
the heroes of my youth, and whatever the literary critics may say, 
I still maintain that these two early novels with Lord Jim and 
The Nigger of the Narcissus are Conrad's best books, and are 
the works by which his name will live. 

It has always struck me as a peculiar manifestation of genius 
that neither Conrad nor Mr. Somerset Maugham, who in their re- 
spective spheres are the outstanding interpreters of this part of the 
world, were ever residents of the East. Mr. Maugham was a 
casual visitor. I do not think that he ever picked up more than 
a few words of Malay. Conrad's six trips as a mate in. the merchant 
service covered a period of eight years, but most of them were 
spent on the sea, and between cruises there were long gaps. His 
Malay was "bazaar" Malay and poor at that. He had no first-hand 
knowledge of the up-country life which he described so well. Yet 
both of these men have given to the world a picture of the East 
which no local expert is ever likely to excel. 

It was because of Conrad that I had chosen to visit the Celebes 
in preference to the other islands. In his time Macassar had been 
teeming with life and commerce. It was, as he wrote, "the point 
in the islands where tended all those bold spirits who, fitting out 
schooners on the Australian coast, invaded the Malay Archipelago 
in search of money and adventure. Bold, reckless, keen in business, 
not disinclined for a brush with the pirates that were to be found 
on many a coast as yet, making money fast, they used to have a 

302 



general 'rendezvous* in the bay for purposes of trade and dissi- 
pation." 

The period coincided with my own birth, that is, nearly fifty 
years ago. Williams, Almayer and Tom Lingard himself had been 
drawn from real men. Fifty years were an eternity anywhere and 
especially in the East. But vaguely I hoped that somehow, some- 
where, I might find the flotsam of a life which had always made 
an irresistible appeal to my sense of the romantic and adventurous. 
Above all, I was attracted by the possible opportunity of dis- 
covering new material about Conrad himself. 



303 



CHAPTER TWO 

WITH these thoughts in my mind I went ashore and drove 
to the Oranje Hotel, the same hotel, but now modernised by 
a new building, as the Sunda Hotel of Conrad's novels. After 
engaging a room, I went through my usual performance of 
selecting a likely chauffeur and, fortune aiding me, I tumbled 
almost immediately on a sturdy Buginese who in his younger 
days had been part-owner of a "prahu" sailing between Macassar 
and Singapore. Now the sailor had become a chauffeur. He looked 
very smart in his short white coat and gaily coloured Buginese 
trousers. I did not regret my choice. He was the best and most 
intelligent of all the chauffeurs I engaged. 

My first visit was to the Governor to whom I had a special 
letter. Because of his grand manner, his predecessor had been 
called the "Kaiser of the Celebes." The Governor wfaom I met 
was a rather stout, good-looking man with silver hair. He had 
no frills. Like most of the Dutch officials, he was full of friendli- 
ness and very willing to impart information. Macassar, he told 
me, had fallen on hard times. It was still the centre of a large 
entrepdt trade with the islands which brought their spices, their 
copra, and their fruits to the port to be transshipped there into 
freighters. But the slump had hit the town badly. There were 
no more adventurers and no more pirates. Those old days had 
gone for ever. Even macassar oil was no longer produced except 
in insignificant quantities. 

The Celebes, or rather Macassar itself, had been conquered 
by Speelman, another great Dutch colonial captain, nearly three 
hundred years ago. But the warlike Buginese of Boni had con- 
tinued to give trouble up to 1905, In 1860 there had been a great 
revolt under an Amazon Sultana who had put up a fierce resist- 
ance. There had been further fighting in 1905, and the Sultan of 
Goa had been deposed. The rest of the Celebes was governed 

304 



through native chiefs with an "elder brother," as the Dutch wisely 
call their residents, to guide them. Goa, however, which includes 
Macassar, is under direct administration. The Governor hoped 
that in Goa, too, the Sultan's nominal control would soon be 
restored. This system was the most practical way of administering 
the country. 

His Excellency was an admirer of the Buginese, and, more 
especially, of their prowess as sailors. They still sailed their prahus 
by the stars and by an old book written by a Buginese three hun- 
dred years ago. With a following wind they could make Singa- 
pore in five days. They were strong competitors of the Dutch 
K.M.P. boats, for their freight rates were much cheaper. They 
took most of the rice-trade. 

They still retained their war-like character and their reputation 
for quick temper. They were forbidden to carry knives, but no one 
had ever been able to enforce the law. Hardly a day passed with- 
out one or two stabbing cases coming before the court. Nearly 
every case had something to do with a woman or with the share- 
out after a prahu cruise, for the prahus are run on a co-operative 
basis, profits being shared out equally among the crew. Macassar 
still justifies Wallace's description of it as the most celebrated 
place in the East for "running amuck." 

I asked His Excellency about Conrad, but he could tell me 
nothing. I doubt if he had ever heard of him. I returned to the 
subject of the Buginese. Could he tell me what happened to the 
old Sultana who gave the Dutch so much trouble in 1860? As 
I put my question, a car drove up to the front entrance. The 
Governor took out his watch and smiled. He led me to the 
window. In a ramshackle car outside sat a small wizen-faced 
Buginese. At his side was a middle-aged woman dressed in a 
brilliant coloured sarong and jacket. Her lips were red from betel- 
chewing. She was far from beautiful, but there was character in 
her face. "That's the ex-Sultan," said the Governor, "and the 
woman is his Sultana. She comes to see me about politics every 
week. She wears the trousers and leaves him in the car. She's a 
relation of the old Amazon who fought us seventy years ago." 

Before I took my leave I had one request to make. Might I 
have a permit to sec the grave of Dipo Negoro, the great Sultan 
of Djokja, who had been banished to Macassar and had died 

305 



there? The Governor cocked his eyebrows. He sent for his Assist- 
ant Resident. Neither of them knew that Dipo Negoro was 
buried in Macassar. 

The arrival of the Assistant Resident was a stroke of luck for 
me, for, as I said goodbye to the Governor, this excellent man 
suggested that his assistant should show me over Fort Rotterdam 
and the other landmarks of the town. 

We went first to Fort Rotterdam, which lies close to the sea 
on the eastern side of the town and dates back to the time of 
the Portuguese occupation. The Assistant Resident, a slim, well- 
built man of about forty and very English-looking, was proud 
of the fort, which is a little Kremlin complete with its old church 
and barracks and office-buildings. In olden times it was the centre 
of the Dutch administration and the refuge of all Europeans in 
time of trouble. To-day, its low walls do not look as if they 
would defy the assault of a toy cannon or, indeed, the jumping 
prowess of an American athlete. But as recently as 1905, when the 
Sultan of Goa made his revolt, all the Europeans of Macassar 
were ordered to take shelter within the fort. Among them was 
the Assistant Resident's father-in-law who was then a judge in the 
Dutch colonial service. 

The Assistant Resident ordered the church to be opened for 
me. The entrance was by high steps, and I had the impression 
that I was going into a loft. Inside, the quaint old wooden pews 
and austere white-washed walls seemed to breathe the spirit of 
Calvinism. The church itself, not much bigger than a barn, was 
dominated by a small pulpit, whose wooden edges had been worn 
by frequent hammerings. In the two-and-hundred-and-fifty years 
of its existence how many Dutch John Knoxes had banged it 
with their fists; how many Dutch congregations had listened to 
their exhortations to spurn the flesh and to prepare for the day 
of wrath! 

With the single exception of Malacca, Macassar has more 
old-world atmosphere than any other town in the whole Archi- 
pelago. 

From the Fort we made a rapid drive through the town; the 

European residential part with wide and shady streets, Dutch 

villas, and numerous parks; the business centre narrow with rows 

of Chinese shops intersected by temples. Then, turning into a 

306 



splendid highway, we went out to see the Sultans' graves beyond 
Goa, the former seat of the Sultan. 

The Assistant Resident told me that the road ran through the 
spot on which the former palace of the Sultan had stood. As a 
consequence of the 1905 revolt the palace had been removed and 
the road had been planned purposely in this manner in order to 
show the power of the Dutch and the insignificance of the Sultan. 

We had to walk some way to the graves. Architecturally, they 
were not impressive, being rather like those low, semicircular- 
shaped, cement mounds which one finds close to reservoirs at 
home. But their isolated position, far from any road and habita- 
tion, gave them a dignity which is lacking in the crowded city 
cemeteries of Europe and America. 

The Assistant Resident was a highly intelligent and self-reliant 
man who I feel sure will have a brilliant career. Like most colonial 
officials who know their job he would prefer less uninformed in- 
terference from home. He told me something of the multiple and 
varied examinations which the Dutch have to pass in order to 
qualify for the colonial service. Their standards are far higher than 
our own. I felt glad that I was a citizen of a rich and easy-going 
nation. Had I and, indeed, most of our colonial officials been 
Dutchmen, we should have had to earn our living by manual 
labour. 

After dropping the Assistant Resident at his office, I returned 
to the hotel to lunch and to continue my Conrad researches. In 
the lounge I found the assistant manager and over a "pahit" I 
repeated my question. He was the most nervous and most gar- 
rulous Dutchman I have ever met. But though he, too, had never 
heard of Conrad, he was not defeated. The hotel proprietor had 
been a lifetime in the Celebes and had met every one who had 
ever been in Macassar. We sought him out in his office. He was 
a splendid type of vigorous old man who was ready enough to 
talk about his own troubles; how like everybody else he had put 
all his money into real estate during the prosperous post-war 
years and how nobody came to Macassar. But my trouble he 
could not solve. He, too, had a suggestion. There was only one 
man in Macassar who could have known Conrad. This was an 
old Swiss gentleman named Jenni. He was over eighty, had spent 
sixty years in the Celebes and had not been home since 1900. 

307 



I determined to look up Mr. Jenni. Meanwhile, I went back 
with the assistant manager to our "pahits" at which we were 
joined by the young Englishman who had been rny only fellow- 
traveller in the Merah, and a young Dutchman, the son of a very 
rich merchant in Holland. 

For half-an-hour we listened to the local gossip of the twitch- 
ing manager. It was a tale of woe. Macassar was nearly mori- 
bundand quite dead as far as the hotel business was concerned. 
Occasionally mysterious Germans and Americans and Japanese 
arrive to buy rattan. It was required for shell baskets for the fleets. 
But there had been no excitement for some years none, in fact, 
since the visit of the American squadron. That had been a real 
"how-de-do," but the hotel profits had been swallowed up by the 
breakages. The American ratings had gone wild, and for a time 
things had looked ugly. Now business was almost at a standstill. 
The Japanese had driven the Europeans off the market. Yet their 
cheap goods were a godsend, for how else could a Dutch employee 
live on his miserable salary? Here in Macassar a Dutchman could 
fit himself out from head to foot for four years for the price of 
one English suit. 

I challenged him to produce the figures, and, taking a pencil, 
he gave me the following list: 

20 white drill suits @ 5 guilders = 100 guilders 

20 singlets (2) 50 cents = 10 guilders 

50 pairs of socks @ 20 cents = 10 guilders 

20 shirts @ 1.50 guilders = 30 guilders 

i raincoat @ 10 guilders = 10 guilders 

10 pairs of shoes @ i guilder = 10 guilders 

10 pairs of pyjamas @ 2 guilders = 20 guilders 

Handkerchiefs, ties, 

etc. @ 5-6 cents = 10 guilders 



Total 200 guilders. 



One Savile Row 1 English suit 16 i6s. 
16 i6s. at par of exchange = 200 guilders. 
308 



To prove his figures the manager pointed to his own clothes. 
Everything he had on was Japanese. Except perhaps for the five 
cent tie his clothes did not seem to be very different from ours. 
Being an incredulous Scot, I made my chauffeur take me to a 
Japanese store the next morning, where at the expense of a cheap 
pair of socks and a six cents handkerchief I checked the figures. 
They were substantially correct. 

Shedding the manager, we went into luncheon where I heard 
more first-hand information about the Japanese. Macassar, I gath- 
ered, was Japanese-conscious and Japanese-afraid. I heard a strange 
story, doubtless untrue but symptomatic of the atmosphere of un- 
certainty, about a Japanese mission which had come to investigate 
the Dutch system of education. They had gone into one school 
where there was a map of the East Indies on the wall. When 
they left, the word Dutch across the Celebes had been crossed out 
and "J a P ancse " scrawled in its place! 

There were now, I was told, no English in Macassar, and in 
the Celebes altogether there are only a few thousand Europeans, 
including the garrison, out of a total population over two-and-a-half 
millions. Large tracts of the island were still unexplored, and life 
in the outlying districts was still as lonely as it had been two 
hundred years before. 

I heard of one young man who had been sent to an outlandish 
post in the northern part of the island. He was a man of refine- 
ment and high ideals. But in his loneliness he had taken a Malay 
woman into his house, had had children by her, had come to love 
her, and had then fallen desperately ill with fever. After weeks of 
illness a doctor had b.een sent to bring him down to the coast. He 
had been shipped home to recuperate, had gone into business, 
and was now head of a big office and was married. Yet he was 
unhappy and obsessed by only one wish: to return to his former 
Celebes home in the jungle. Was it the spur of conscience or nos- 
talgia for the East which urged him? I should have liked to know. 
My friends could not tell me. 

The story reminded me of the first short story I ever wrote. 
That was twenty-five years ago. My story, too, was founded on 
fact, but it had a different ending. A young British official was liv- 
ing miles away from civilisation. In his loneliness he, too, had taken 
unto himself a native woman. And then on Christmas Eve he shot 

309 



himself. His Malays rowed down the river to fetch his nearest 
white colleague a journey of twelve hours. The colleague came 
back and found the would-be-suicide lying on the verandah floor 
but still alive. He had blown one side of his face away, and the 
ants were feeding on the raw flesh. The colleague took him down 
the river a fourteen hours' row and put him into hospital. Six 
weeks later the young man came out, looked at himself in the 
mirror, went down to the nearest Chinese store, bought himself 
a revolver, and this time did the job properly. 

After luncheon I took no siesta but went out again with my 
Malay-speaking Buginese chauffeur. I did not feel tired. There was 
a fresh breeze from the sea. I liked Macassar. I liked its old houses 
and its colourful picturesqueness. There was no depressing Djokja 
blue here. The sarongs of the women and the trousers of the men 
were bright splashes of red, green and yellow, and reminded me 
of Scottish tartans. I liked, too, these Buginese. They were not so 
good-looking as the Javanese, but they were men and not beasts of 
burden. They carried no "pikulan." I felt that the Celebes were all 
the better for the Pax Batavica. Otherwise the cheerful rascals 
would have been at each other's throats. 

I found my chauffeur playing dice with his colleagues. He rose 
with a grin. "Can you show me Dipo Negoro's grave?" I asked. 
"Of course, Tuan," he said without a moment's hesitation. 

He turned into a little cul-de-sac within a minute's run from the 
governor's house, and there it was a queer little hut with a cor- 
rugated tin roof built at the side of a gate into a small disused yard. 
But for its open barred bamboo walls it might have passed for a 
Scottish golf-caddies' shelter. There was a small native laundry at 
right angles to it, and on a rope strung across the cul-de-sac the 
week's washing was hanging out to' dry. Neglected and cage-like, 
it was, indeed, a prisoner's grave. But obviously it was not for- 
gotten. My Buginese chauffeur was impressed. "The Tuan knows 
the story of Dipo Negoro?" he asked incredulously. I nodded. I 
felt that I had gone up in his estimation. Straightway he took 
me to a large block of empty buildings. "The school for native 
sailors for the Dutch Navy," said my chauffeur. "Mostly for Ma- 
duranese. There were Maduranese in the mutiny of De Seben 
Provinzien. Since then the school has been closed." 

The Maduranese come from the island which abuts on the 

310 



north-east coast of Java. Like the Buginese they are a great sea- 
faring people and equally quick with their knives. 

"Tuan like see Bantimoeroeng waterfall?" he asked again. His 
energy was rare enough to be amusing. I realised that I must have 
been his best client for many months. Although the trip there and 
back was over fifty miles, I was glad that I made it. The water- 
fall, so foaming as to give the impression of a solid mass of white 
against the background of thick jungle, was worth seeing. 

Even more impressive than the waterfall were the small birds 
which from time to time swooped down on the heaviest part of the 
torrent until they seemed to be lost in the foam. They looked like 
swifts. Presumably they were picking up the flies and insects 
that were being washed down from above. 

Incidentally, the best birds' nests for Chinese soups come from 
the Celebes and from Borneo. There is a considerable export to 
China, and the nests yield an appreciable sum in export duty, 
for they are heavily taxed at a rate of something like sixty shillings 
a pound. The best nests are made by a species of swift and have 
a whitish colour. The natives believe that the gelatinous substance, 
so attractive to the Chinese gourmet, is dried sea-foam which 
the birds bring from the sea. Actually, it is a tough transparent 
substance which the swift exudes from its bill as it builds its nest. 

Pleasing as the river was, what attracted me most was the 
countryside itself. There were no European houses, no European 
estates; above all, no signs of industry. There were no Chinese. 
The cultivation was confined to rice and coconuts. In the plain 
the green "sawahs" looked like ruffled velvet. Buginese villages 
nestled in graceful palm-groves. By the river bank I saw Buginese 
fishing, not with nets, but with rods. In the background the moun- 
tains had that same blue-green tint as the hills at Pantai. I was 
enchanted. I found myself in danger of forgetting my first land- 
scape love, and landscapes are more reliable friends than human 
beings, for, while their moods are always changing, they are always 
constant. 

On my way back to town we passed a huge field which had 
recently been levelled. "What's that?" I asked "Flying ship port," 
replied the chauffeur. "Not ready yet, but soon will be. English 
flying men come here not long ago," What was an aerodrome 
doing in this spot, twenty miles from Macassar? Was there after 

311 



all some truth in these rumours of Anglo-Dutch co-operation? 
Later, I was informed officially that the field was to be the new 
civil aerodrome of the Celebes. 

It was nearly sunset when we reached Macassar. "What about 
Tuan Jenni?" I said firmly, remembering my Conrad quest. 

"No good see Tuan Jenni now, Tuan," was the answer. "Tuan 
Jenni very wise man. Get up with the sun, go to bed with the 
sun. Tuan must see my village." 

He drove me rapidly through the town until we emerged on 
the northern side. He stopped for a moment to show me a 
Chinese garden with a large pond very beautiful but too artificial 
to fit in with the laissez-faire haphazardness of Macassar. Then, 
turning into a bumpy apology for a road and crossing a ram- 
shackle bridge, he pulled up beside a narrow river-mouth and 
waved his hand. "That's my village," he said proudly. 

It was a kind of Malayan Venice. Before a background of 
tall palms and flowering trees stood a row of slender houses built 
on poles on the water's edge and with little "prahus" attached to 
their front doors. They were probably rat-infested and certainly 
insalubrious, but in the fading sunlight they made a picture of 
exquisite loveliness. I hope that, when the white medical officers 
have cleared away all these old Malayan water-villages, the Venice 
of Macassar will be one of the last to go. For here and in my 
eyes it was the chief attraction of Macassar -time, for the moment 
at any rate, has stood still. 

From the little headland there was a glorious view of the bay, 
its lagoons saffron-coloured by the setting sun and the horizon 
a desert of rose brick relieved by patches of cloud which wove 
themselves into a strange pageant of far-off cities and illusory 
islands. Lying at anchor by itself in a little bay shut off from the 
main harbour was a tiny motor-yacht. It was flying the British 
flag. It belonged to a retired naval commander. He had sailed his 
fragile boat from Australia. He had come to Macassar for pleasure 
and not for gain, but in my mood of the moment I pictured him 
as the last of the Conrad adventurers. His boat, at any rate, was the 
only British vessel in Macassar. To-day, the Dutch have a virtual 
monopoly of the inter-island shipping. 

I went back to the hotel. It had been a strenuous day, but my 
Buginese was still indefatigable. "After dinner, Tuan, I show you 



the town by night." Rather against my better judgment, for I was 
tired, I went out again with my English companion. It was only 
ten o'clock. But Macassar was already asleep. Even the Harmonic, 
the Dutch club, was in darkness. Somewhere in the narrow streets 
there should have been the red lights which shine in every port, 
but they, too, were dimmed. In the brilliant moonlight even the 
sea was almost silent, its wash against the shore the faintest of 
lullabies. 

The next morning I was up, packed, and dressed and on my 
way to Mr. Jenni's by seven o'clock. I found him already walking 
outside his house at the corner of a shady boulevard just oppo- 
site the hotel The veriest idiot could not have failed to recog- 
nise him. He carried a stick, but his tall, slim figure was still 
erect. He was wearing a brown, soft, cone-shaped Javanese straw 
hat, a short white coat, and brightly coloured Buginese trousers. 
Sixty years ago it was the standard costume of the local Dutch, 
and Mr. Jenni had stayed with his own times. But it was his 
face which endeared him to me. In spite of his eighty years his 
cheeks were as pink as a boy's. His keen, blue eyes twinkled 
merrily. His beard, white with a faint flaxen tint, was well- 
trimmed. He was so like Mr. Bernard Shaw that for a moment 
I wondered if I had stumbled on that great man masquerading in 
Macassar. 

I gave him my note from the hotel proprietor. He read it 
gravely and then addressed me in excellent English: "Conrad, he 
was a writer, was he not? I'm afraid I never knew him. I don't 
think he could have stayed in Macassar. Jack London, yes. He 
came here before the war after the war. I cannot remember. But 
I met him* He was a good writer* But of course he knew nothing 
about the East." 

This last sentence was pronounced with the slighdy contemptu- 
ous authority of all local experts who are only too prone to meas- 
ure knowledge by the number of years spent in the East. And with 
his sixty years of residence Mr, Jenni could look down on them all. 

My hopes vanished. Poor Conrad. How well I remembered 
that letter of his written at the height of his fame. "Excuse this 
discordant note, but I have just received my account from my 
publishers, I read that all my 'immortal* works brought me in last 
year less than five pounds in royalties." 



If Mr. Jcnni was vague about authors, his memory of other 
matters was remarkably clear. He had spent all his life in an im- 
port and export house in Macassar itself. The place had changed. 
The old camaraderie between Buginese and Dutch had gone. 
There was too much bureaucracy. Why, in the troubles of 1905 
the military commander had gone so far as to order yes, order- 
all the Dutch to leave their houses and come into the fort. He 
had, of course, refused. He was a friend of the Sultan. 

"Did no one molest you?" I asked. 

"Of course. Some foolish young men with guns and krises 
came along one night. I said to them: *Mr. Jenni's compliments to 
the Sultan, Tell him I don't want my sleep disturbed. And now 
go to hell quick!' They went and did not come back. 

"The Sultan," he continued, "used to make the Dutch officials 
take out permits for shooting on his land. He never made me 
take out one. He was a fine old chap. We understood each other 
very well." 

Mr. Jenni was a fine old chap himself. Nor did he exaggerate. 
My chauffeur told me afterwards that he was held in great re- 
spect by all the Buginese. He certainly had a very high regard 
for the dignity of the white man's position in the East, and I do 
not think that in his whole life he had ever put a foot wrong. 

I would gladly have listened longer to this great old gentleman. 
But we were sailing at ten. When I arrived at the docks, half 
the population of Macassar was on the quay. An officer of the local 
garrison was being transferred to Java, and his brother officers 
were giving him an, official send-off. The officers were a curious lot. 
They ranged from pure white through every shade of colour to 
pure Javanese. 

I could not help noting that, whereas the purely Dutch officers 
looked heavy and corpulent, the half-castes were vigorous and 
athletic. There was one swarthy young man whose well-cut white 
uniform, flashing eyes, and conscious swagger would have quali- 
fied him for any hero's r61e in Hollywood. 

The officer who was being seen off was the regimental doctor. 
He was a pure-bred Javanese and as fat and as plump as the 
pure-Dutch major. There was a guard of honour. A Javanese 
military band with tubas nearly as big as themselves was playing 
military marches of the kind so dear to the sentimental Teuton. 



I confess that I have a similar weakness for these musical honours, 
and the scene in Chekoff's "Three Sisters," when the regiment 
leaves with the music growing fainter and fainter, never fails to 
stir my emotions to their most watery depths. It is true that on 
this occasion it was not the band which was marching away 
from us, but we who wx:re sailing away from the music. Almost 
I persuaded myself that this brass band farewell had been arranged 
for my special benefit and my own parting with my Buginese 
chauffeur threatened to become sentimental. On both sides it was 
marked by two genuine emotions: gratitude on his part for the 
unexpected windfall which my sight-seeing mania had brought 
him; regret on mine to be leaving a place which had afforded 
such a pleasant contrast to the physical and spiritual suffocation 
of my London life. 

At the last minute the assistant manager rushed up to say good- 
bye. His hand was clammy. He seemed more down-in-his-luck 
than ever- With a nervous smile he informed me that he had just 
been sacked. For the first time I felt sorry for him and ashamed of 
my own egotism. To me, the transient visitor, the departed glory of 
Macassar was its greatest charm. To him it meant unemployment 
and perhaps starvation. Departed glory brings no compensations 
to those whom it has left behind. 



315 



CHAPTER THREE 

ON the voyage back we carried more passengers. They were 
mostly minor Dutch officials going on leave or being trans- 
ferred. The centre of interest was the Javanese regimental doctor. 
His wife and family were also on board, but they did not come 
into the saloon for meals. He himself sat with me at the captain's 
table and ate the same heavy food which the Dutch eat. He was 
both dignified and reserved, taking little part in the conversation. 

I should have liked to discuss politics with him, but was re- 
strained by my over-sensitive self-consciousness. In any case the lan- 
guage difficulty would have been a bar. I had been warned not to 
address Javanese, who had been educated in Holland, in Malay. 
They were apt to regard it as an insult. The doctor knew no Eng- 
lish and very little German. As far as reading was concerned, my 
Dutch had made good progress but had not reached the stage of 
coherent speech. 

With the ship's officers, however, I discussed him at great 
length. Opinion was divided regarding the advisability of admitting 
Javanese officers to equal rank with the Dutch. Some were in 
favour; others were doubtful. One officer, who had been in the 
army himself and who was travelling as a passenger in order to 
join another ship, had a poor opinion of the Javanese as soldiers 
and would have scrapped the lot. Contrary to the opinion which 
I had formed, he ranked the Dutch army officers far higher in 
ability than the Dutch civil servants. 

He gave me a first-hand account of the communist rising in 
Batavia in 1926. The communists, having first blocked the roads to 
Batavia with barricades, had seized the telegraph and telephone 
office. A company of Javanese refused to fire on their compatriots. 
Then Ambonese troops, who were Christians and not Moham- 
medans, had been rushed forward, and the end had been quick. 
What happened to the communists no one quite knew. The Am- 



bonese were very good soldiers. But once started they did not stop. 
They saw red. Like the Ghurkas they preferred the bayonet to 
the bullet. 

My Dutch informant had also been in New Guinea and had 
spent several weeks in Tanah Merah, the communist setdement to 
which the mutineers had been banished. It was, he said, a grim 
spot nearly three days' journey up river. At first the supervision 
had been carried out by civilian guards. There had been trouble. 
Then, of course, the government had to send a soldier, and at once 
the disaffection ceased. The communists were divided into two 
camps: one for the well-behaved and the other for the recalcitrants. 
Escape was almost impossible. If a communist tried to make his 
way through the interior, the Papuans got him and probably ate 
'him. 

The shark-infested sea did not invite any attempts by swim- 
ming. Only four men had made a successful break-away. With 
knives they had fashioned a boat, had rigged up a sail of sarongs, 
and after an extraordinary Odyssey had succeeded in reaching 
Thursday Island. Here they had given themselves up to the Eng- 
lish, and the English had sent them back. I thought, but did not 
say so, that it was an un-English thing to do. There are some Mos- 
cow-and-Canton infested Marxists among the Javanese. But the 
Dutch, like the British in India, use the word communist very 
loosely, and among the prisoners of Tanah Merah there are prob- 
ably more nationalists than real communists. 

That evening I gave a farewell "pahit" party to the ship's 
officers, and by dint of repetition succeeded in overcoming my nau- 
sea for their Bols. I cannot say that I liked it. But they had been 
very kind and hospitable to me, and there are times when politeness 
must be maintained even at the cost of discomfort. I admired their 
quiet efficiency and their dignity. They seemed a very happy family, 
and their relations with their native crew were an excellent com- 
bination of firmness and friendliness. During the five days that I 
was with them, I never heard a cross word. If ever they got on 
each other's nerves, I saw no sign of it. 

The next morning we anchored off Boeleleng, and after more 
farewells I went ashore in the K.P.M. motor-boat. I was on Bali- 
nese soil, I had little time to analyse my emotions. Such as I was 
conscious of were in my stomach. A crowd of Chinese guides, 

3*7 



chauffeurs, native porters, and idle on-lookers surged forward to 
meet me. The company's agent brushed them aside, and before 
I knew where I was, I found myself in the hall of the K.P.M. 
tourist office. 

"Mr. Lockhart, I think," said an energetic young Dutchman 
in excellent English. "We've received instructions about you from 
Batavia. Everything is in order. Here is your ticket for your hotel 
accommodation. I have an excellent car and chauffeur for you and 
an English-speaking guide. You are in luck. There's a cremation 
to-day, and if you wish to see it you must leave at once." 

When this whirlwind of efficiency had ceased, I intervened. "I 
don't want a guide," I said firmly. "I want a reliable Malay-speak- 
ing chauffeur." 

He smiled and shook his head. 'You will waste money by saving 
money," he said. "The chauffeurs know nothing about the history 
of the temples or the dances." 

I explained that it was not a question of expense, but of my 
stupid, but deep-rooted aversion, born of long experience in for- 
eign countries, to English-speaking guides. 

When he saw that I meant what I said, he was crestfallen; but 
only for a minute. He was not going to be beaten by any tourist, 
Tve got it," he said delightedly. "We've a young Balinese prince 
here who wants a trial. He speaks a little English, but he knows 
the island, and, if you speak Malay, you will get on splendidly." 

More out of physical exhaustion than inclination, I agreed to 
see him. A good-looking young man, very neatly dressed in clean 
white coat and sarong, came forward to meet me. He was not a 
prince, but a member of the priest caste, which is higher than the 
princely caste. There was a delicate refinement about his features, 
and a sad, remote expression in his eyes which appealed to me. I 
engaged him without further ado. 

"What am I to call you?" I asked. He told me his name: Ida 
Bagoes Mahadewa. It had an attractive ring, but it was too long. 
"If youVe no objection, I'll christen you 'Bagoes' for our trip," 
I said. In Malay the word means "handsome." 

We set out immediately to call on the Dutch resident at Sin- 
garadja, the capital, which is close to Bouleleng. He was out- 
much to my Prince Handsome's delight, for he was intent on get- 
ting me to the cremation. He had time, however, to point out a 

318 



temple to me with an image of Shiva mounted on a bicycle. I had 
read that Balinese art was a living force. There was certainly no 
stagnant classicism about this cycling Shiva. 

In a few minutes we were racing along at sixty miles an hour 
on the eighty-miles' journey to Den Pasar on the south side of the 
island. The chauffeur, a North Balinese and a Mohammedan, 
obviously shared the Indonesian passion for speed. Bagoes seemed 
more highly-strung. 

"You must be in time for the cremation. All tourists want to 
see cremations," he informed me gravely. 

"To hell with the cremation," I said, clutching my topee with 
both hands as the swaying of the car threw me violently out of 
my seat on to the floor. Seeing my ridiculous position, Bagoes 
grinned broadly. He had a sense of humour. I felt that we should 
get on together. 

The country through which we passed was pleasing to the 
eye. Detail was lost in the speed at which we travelled, but I 
formed a general impression of deep canyons, cultivated to the top 
by means of attractive rice terraces, of green rice-fields, and of 
apple-green hills. Certain features made themselves immediately 
obvious. Bali was greener than any other part of the Archipelago 
that I had seen. The villages were totally unlike the kampongs of 
the Mohammedan Malays. They were laid out rectangularly, inter- 
sected by roads, and closed in by high clay walls. The island and 
I noted the fact with some feeling of regret was not only densely 
cultivated, but densely populated. Java, long reputed the most 
densely populated island in the world, has three hundred inhabit- 
ants to the square mile. Bali has four hundred and fifty; the 
Celebes have only forty-four. The figures in themselves are a 
sufficient indication of the island's fertility. 

I did not need to observe the scores of temples with their open 
carved entrances to know that I was in a Hindoo country. I passed 
two men with their sarongs tucked up under fork 'like a loin 
cloth. They were carrying a live pig packed tight in an oblong 
open bamboo basket and slung on a long bamboo pole. Pigs, cattle, 
and water-buffaloes abound in Bali. As good Hindoos the Balinese 
regard the cow as sacred. But they eat buffalo meat, and pork, 
which is anathema to the Mohammedan, is their culinary joy. 

Farther on, we came across scores of natives also in loin cloths. 

319 



They were busily engaged in road-mending. Obviously they were 
working for the government. I asked Bagoes what rate of pay 
they received. He told me none. These were the Balinese who 
cannot pay their taxes. The government takes it out of them in 
forced labour. 

The Dutch told me afterwards that the Balinese ryot prefers 
this work to paying taxes. I can well believe it. There are many 
Englishmen and more Scots who would willingly work a day in 
each week breaking stones in order to be released from the perse- 
cution of the income-tax inspector. 

I saw a cloud on Bagoes' face. "You do not like it?" I asked. 

"No/ 5 he replied. "It is undignified." 

Road-mending, Bagoes informed me, was being carried out with 
special energy at that moment, because the Governor-General was 
to pay an official visit to the island in April. Everything had to be 
spick-and-span before his arrival, and among the local Dutch 
there had been quite a boom in tophats. 

Not far from Tabanan I made the chauffeur stop at some cross- 
roads. A plot of grass with a stone border had attracted my 
attention. In the middle of it was a large carved image sitting 
on a throne. "What's that?" I asked. 

"That is Gana," said Bagoes. "He is the remover of obstacles. 
He keeps away the spirits from the roads. We put his image at 
all the danger points." 

I understood. He was the Balinese St. Christopher of Catholic 
motorists. Doubtless, as a traffic beacon Gana was in his proper 
dement, but to my untrained eyes St. Christopher, although no 
Adonis, had the advantage in looks. No European motorist, driving 
alone at night, would like to meet Gana's huge cavernous mouth 
for the first time. 

We now were well inside the southern half of the island. This 
is the most fertile and densely-populated part and the centre of 
attraction for tourists. The villages became more numerous and 
closer together. Soon we were in the main street of Den Pasar 
and had pulled up at the K.P.M. Hotel, a new modern building 
stamped with the hallmark of Dutch cleanliness and Dutch effi- 
ciency. My accommodation had been booked previously from Ba- 
tavia. It was a wise precaution, for every room was occupied. 

At the moment, however, the hotel was empty. Every one was 

320 



at the cremation. It was now two o'clock. The heat was stifling, 
for Den Pasar is one of the hottest spots not only in Bali, but in 
the whole Archipelago. I wanted luncheon and a cool drink more 
than anything in the world. But Bagoes was hopping round in 
nervous impatience, and in a weak moment I allowed him to carry 
me off. 

We drove a little way beyond the town, turned into a side road 
and left our car at the entrance to a grove. We walked along a 
shaded path until we reached three gaudy, garlanded wooden bulls 
mounted on bamboo tresdes. Farther down the road was the high 
funeral tower bedecked with ornaments and mounted on a plat- 
form. There was a large concourse of people, including many 
Balinese. But the chief points of vantage were held by the Euro- 
pean tourists. I saw several Balinese women with naked breasts, 
but they looked modest beside an English girl in an almost trans- 
parent dress with no back to it. From time to time a tourist would 
unfold his Leica and take a snapshot of the images. Otherwise 
there was a long lull of inactivity. We had arrived too soon. The 
heat was stifling. 

After what seemed an interminable wait a priest appeared and, 
after shooting off four arrows towards the four points of the com- 
pass, took his place in a kind of throne before the funeral tower. 
Beside him was a huge dragon-head with a long tail. It was 
fastened to the chair by a rope. Gradually the mourners or rather 
the joy-makers, for a cremation is properly an occasion for joy and 
not for sorrow, sorted themselves into a procession. First came 
women bearing offerings of rice and flowers and litde vessels 
filled with holy water; men with lances and banners, and the 
relatives of the deceased. The relatives held the rope attached to the 
dragon-head. After some one had fastened a pair of white chickens 
to the funeral tower as an encouragement to the souls which were 
to fly to heaven after the cremation, a score or so of men crawled 
under the platform and, raising it on their shoulders, carried it 
gently to a meadow just beyond the grove. A full gamelan or- 
chestra provided a musical accompaniment. With Bagoes I brought 
up the rear behind the sweating Europeans. 

In the meadow, twenty-five yards from the tower, was the 
funeral pyre on which the wooden bulls had now been mounted. 

321 



The corpses were taken from their coffins in the tower and placed 
inside the hollow stomachs of the bulls. 

Before the burning started, there were further elaborate cere- 
monies, including a dance by a number of old gentlemen dressed 
in square-checked trousers and carrying lances and eggs. On both 
sides the tourists, their cameras clicking with the regularity of a 
taximeter, closed in on the dance until they formed a narrow 
lane. Suddenly the old gentlemen, now rather frenzied, began to 
throw their eggs on the ground. They were raw, and my white 
coat was splashed with yolk. For a moment I thought they were 
starting an attack on us, as we richly deserved for our unmannerly 
curiosity. But no! the eggs were for more dangerous interlopers. 
They were intended, so Bagoes told me, for the evil spirits who, 
having been fed, would then do no harm. 

When the dance is over, there is a sudden rush for the tower. 
Stormed by the local youth, it is stripped of its decorations and 
then set in flames. The crowd turns and makes a dash for the 
pyre. The tourists turn with them, and one old English lady, not 
to be outdone, gathers up her skirts and charges across the grass 
like a bull that has been stung by a hornet. Girls and women place 
their offerings on the pyre. The men pile logs round the feet of 
the effigies. Handfuls of coins are then thrown to the crowd, and 
men and women, girls and boys, pushing and shouting raucously 
like a Yale football crowd urging on its heroes against Harvard, 
dive and scramble for this largesse. The battery of cameras is 
turned on the scrimmage. Natives and tourists draw back, while 
young men set fire to the logs with torches. The fire licks its 
way round the bodies of the wooden effigies. Soon the whole pyre 
is a blazing mass of flames, which add a new fierceness to the 
stifling heat. 

The Balinese will wait beside the pyre until nightfall. On the 
morrow they will carefully gather up the ashes and consign them 
to the sea, for only by the double purification of fire and water can 
the soul be freed from its terrestrial bondage. 

But I have had enough. I am, I think, not insensitive to the 
decencies and solemnities of all ceremonial. I admit that I should 
have been impressed by those rites, and that my thoughts should 
have been concentrated on comparative religion. I should have 
asked myself what the Balinese would think of our own lugubrious 

332 



funeral services with their processions of top-hats and black crepe. 
But try as I might, I could not attune my mind to the occasion. If 
from some hidden point of vantage, I could have watched a Bali- 
nese cremation at which no Europeans were present, my emotions 
might have been different. But, as it was, the whole scene re- 
minded me of a film being shot in exotic surroundings. I felt 
quite erroneously, of course that the efficient organisers of the 
K.P.M. had arranged the show for the tourists' special benefit. 

I turned to my high-caste guide, who was an expert on these 
rites. "Bagoes," I said, "let us go. I have seen my first and my last 
cremation." He made no protest. 

"It wasn't much of a show," he said. "You should see a prince's 
cremation. That is something." 

It was true. Cremations are very expensive, and the richer Bali- 
nese spend on them thousands of guilders and in some cases thou- 
sands of pounds. The poor, on the other hand, may have to wait 
for months and even years before they can afford to cremate their 
dead, and thus release the soul to one of the eleven Hindoo 
heavens, where it can rest in peace until its re-incarnation in an- 
other terrestrial body. 

We went back to the hotel. I was exhausted. I had stood for 
three hours under a fierce sun. Never before had I succumbed so 
completely to the heat of the tropics. I threw off my clothes and 
lay down on my bed, thanking Providence and the Dutch who 
had provided me with a modern electric fan. I turned it on. Noth- 
ing happened. Dutch zeal for economy during difficult times had 
decreed that the electricity, and therefore the fans, should not 
operate between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 pjn.! 

After a sleep and a bath, I felt better. I was in a quandary 
what to put on. The tourists were exclusively English and Ameri- 
cans. Doubtless, they would dress for dinner. I compromised with 
a white drill dinner jacket and walked across to the grass terrace 
in front of the hotel. It was empty. I found a pleasant seat under 
a shady tree and ordered myself a drink. The terrace was sepa- 
rated from the main street only by a low hedge. I had not been 
there for more than a few seconds when I heard a rustle. Looking 
down, I found a Balinese boy kneeling by my chair and offering 
post-cards. I shook my head. He was followed by another and 

3*3 



yet another. Finally, one came who had some English: "Like visit 
pretty Balinese dancer, sir? Very nice I show you." 

I do not know who first discovered Bali to the English-speaking 
world. The Dutch have known it ever since 1601, when the Prince 
of Karangasam presented a beautiful girl to van Heemskerck, 
the great Dutch explorer. Alfred Wallace was here in 1856, and 
was delighted by its natural beauty. Conrad, too, must have 
visited the island, for he mentions it more than once in Almayer's 
Folly, and he makes the proud and warlike Dain, with whom 
Nina, Almayer's half-caste daughter, throws in her lot, a Brahmin 
and a son of a Balinese rajah. When Mr. Somerset Maugham 
was in Bali after the war, the island was still unspoilt and there 
was no European hotel. 

The visits of these great men struck no travel-compelling chord 
in the hearts of their countrymen. Since then, however, an Eng- 
lish peeress, finding its romantic surroundings a pleasant relief 
from the rigours of the London season, has made the charms of 
Bali known to her compatriots. Mr. Andre Roosevelt, a cousin 
of the President, who lived here and who made the first film of 
Bali, has done the same for the Americans. They had been fol- 
lowed by the journalists and the writers, and during the last three 
or four years a score of books have sung the praises of "the last 
paradise." The Dutch genius for tourism and the lurid advertise- 
ments of the shipping companies have completed the work of 
popularisation. Those who seek a resort where an old-world civilisa- 
tion remains intact must come quickly. The conversion of "the 
last paradise" into the newest hell is proceeding apace, and all too 
soon Bali may become a second Port Said. 

After dinner, a six-course affair with hot and heavy European 
foods, I made friends with the Dutch representative of the Ameri- 
can Express Company and with Mr. Minas, an Armenian tourist 
agent. Both spoke fluent English. Both were amusing cynics with 
very definite views on the "cussedness" of the Balinese, and on the 
real nature of the attractions which brought the tourists or, at any 
rate, the male tourists to Bali. They had a grudging admiration for 
the K.P.M., who had acquired almost a monopoly of the tourist 
traffic. The K.P.M. boys were smart. They had made a good busi- 
ness of it. There was not much left for the others. The Armenian 
claimed to have supplied most of the material to the writers of 

324 



the dozen or so English books on Bali which have appeared during 
the last five years. Doubtless, he had, for there was little about 
the island that he did not know. 

From tourists the conversation changed to missionaries, a sub- 
ject on which I had been well primed by Dutch officials both 
in Holland and in the East Indies. Actually, most of the Dutch 
colonial officials would prefer the missionaries to be debarred 
from all proselytising activities in the Archipelago. But politics in 
Holland are strongly influenced by the various religious parties, 
and the officials are forced to make a compromise. They do it in 
a curious manner. In New Guinea the northern part of the Dutch 
territory is a reservation of the Catholics, while the southern part 
is given to the Protestants. In Sumatra no missionaries are allowed 
in Acheh, but between the Achinese and the warlike Menangka- 
baus there is a wedge of Bataks who are Christians. Not very 
long ago they were cannibals and chess players with a few geniuses 
who were a match for the world's greatest champions. They still 
play chess, but they no longer eat "long pork." They are now 
fathered by the famous Rhineland Mission. In Bali, missionaries 
are encouraged neither by the Dutch nor by the Balinese, and the 
only missionaries who have visited the island soon retired for lack 
of converts. 

My new acquaintances, however, had their own theories. In 
Bali, they said, the Dutch attitude towards missionaries was in- 
fluenced entirely by commercial considerations. The KJPM. 
"bosses" feared that the missionaries would introduce bust-bodices 
and that the tourist traffic would suffer. 



325 



CHAPTER FOUR 

I HAD ordered Bagoes and the chauffeur to come round with 
the car at seven the next morning. Long before this hour I 
was awake. My sleep had been disturbed by the yelping of the 
Balinese dogs. Miserable mongrels, they are the curse of the island. 
Every Balinese family keeps at least one, and, although tens of 
thousands have been killed off by the Dutch for fear of rabies, 
they are still a plague. 

In my case their howling was a godsend, for it compelled me 
to read an old Dutch book, which had been given to me by a 
Dutch friend in The Hague. Its author was a Dr. van Weede, 
a member of the expedition of 1906, and I had come to the chap- 
ter dealing with the Dutch advance on Den Pasar. By the aid 
of the plan I had realised that the street in which my hotel 
stood had been the scene of the greatest immolation in modern 
history. It was a thrilling story. The war had broken out because 
a year-and-a-half before, the Balinese had plundered a Chinese 
schooner. When the Prince of Badoeng, in whose territory the 
outrage had taken place and whose palace was in Den Pasar, re- 
fused to pay the 3000 guilders which the Dutch demanded as 
compensation, the Dutch decided to send a military expedition 
against him. There were other reasons for the war which followed, 
but these I shall refer to later. 

Three other South Bali princes, including the Dewa Agoeng 
of Kloeng-Koeng, joined forces with their colleague of Badoeng. 
Part of the Dutch forces landed at Pabean Sanoer, the nearest 
point on the coast to Den Pasar and the actual scene of the 
plundering of the schooner. Within a few days they had quelled 
all resistance and had encompassed Den Pasar. 

It was then that the obstinate prince decided to die fighting in 
the traditional national manner known in Balinese as "poepoetan." 
On the night of the 20th September, 1906, he burnt his poeri or 

326 



palace. The next morning he assembled his household before the 
ruins. They were mostly relations and nobles and included men, 
women, and children. They had dressed themselves in their best. 
The men were in red and black. They wore ornaments of gold 
and carried be-jewelled krises. Their hair was combed and scented 
with perfumed oils. The women, too, had put on all their finery. 
Draped in white, they wore their hair loose. They carried a kris 
or a lance. Children, capable of lifting a knife, were likewise armed. 
Young babies were carried at their mothers' breasts. 

At nine o'clock, when the first news of the Dutch advance 
was received, the little band, barely 250 strong, moved forward 
along what is now the main road. According to custom the prince 
went first, carried on the shoulders of one of his household. Not 
even the Persians advancing on Leonidas's seven hundred at Ther- 
mopylae could have been more astonished than was the Dutch 
infantry company when on that September morning it caught its 
glimpse of this glittering array moving slowly forward to a certain 
death. Only three hundred paces separated the two forces, and the 
Dutch had a machine-gun. To do him justice, the Dutch captain 
did all he could by signs and shouting to persuade the Balinese to 
surrender. But they had already committed their souls to heaven. 

Unheeding, they advanced until they were so close that the 
captain dared no longer endanger the lives of his own men. At 
seventy yards the Balinese charged, and the Dutch captain gave 
the order to fire. Many fell. Those who survived pressed forward 
until they, too, were shot down. Women, afraid lest they might be 
spared, bared their breasts and pointed to their heart in order that 
they might die a warrior's death. The wounded committed suicide 
or begged their companions to finish them off. One old man, jump- 
ing nimbly over the heap of corpses, krissed all who remained alive 
until he himself was shot dead. 

While the slaughter was at its height, a second force of Balinese 
approached. It was headed by the prince's half-brother, a youth of 
twelve scarcely able to carry his lance. The captain summoned him 
to surrender. For a moment he hesitated. Then, urged on by his 
followers, he gave the order to charge. All met the same fate. 
When the firing ceased, a few children were seen crawling away 
from the heaps of corpses. They were the only survivors of the 
"poepoetan." The body of the prince was found at the very bottom 

327 



of the highest heap. He had led the way and had fallen first. His 
dead followers had made a human cairn over him. 

Only one Dutch soldier was killed a sergeant called Bakker. 
He, too, died a hero's death. Unwilling to make war on the women, 
the Dutch, in many cases, had refused to fire and had tried to ward 
off the Amazons' krises with their rifle butts. Some were wounded 
in this manner, and these were the only other casualties. Bakker 
paid for his humaneness with his life. 

When Bagoes arrived, I was still under the emotional impres- 
sion of this stirring story and I plied him with questions. A well- 
informed young man, who had been educated at the high school in 
Djokjakarta, he knew the history of the expedition thoroughly, for 
his grandfather, a North Balinese, had supported the Dutch during 
the war. We got into the car, and he showed me the remaining 
landmarks of the batde. Where the poeri once stood is now a mu- 
seum and a football field. The K.P.M. hotel is on the site of the 
former palace temple. 

Turning away from this now peaceful scene, we took the 
road to Kloeng-Koeng. Bagoes had mapped out a strenuous day 
for me, which, fortunately, was to take me far from Den Pasar. 
Our way led through thickly-populated country with villages so 
close to one another that they seemed like one vast agricultural 
metropolis. Yet each village had its own wall to keep out the evil 
spirits, its own temple, and its temple bell. Each house had its own 
shrine and its fighting cocks kept in bamboo baskets. Dogs and pigs 
disputed the play-ground of the road with children walking on 
bamboo stilts or chasing dragon flies with long wands smeared 
with lime. 

Many people were at work, but they were mostly women. For 
the Balinese man will undertake only work which a woman is in- 
capable of doing, and in the Balinese philosophy work of this kind 
is rare. In consequence the Balinese man has the necessary leisure, 
not only for cock-fighting, which is his chief sport, but also for 
dancing and sculpture, the two primary and essential arts which 
have made him so attractive in the eyes of the European. As in the 
poultry world the male is definitely the finer animal, and with 
the exception of the young girls of thirteen and fourteen the 
much-vaunted women are disappointing. 

I soon discovered from Bagoes that only the "soedra" or lowest- 

328 



caste women go about with their breasts uncovered. Toil in the 
fields leaves its inevitable mark on their figures, and for the same 
reason they are darker than Malays of the Mohammedan faith, 
who regard nakedness as a sin and therefore wear more clothes. 
Swaying along with baskets of fruit and rice and even coconuts on 
their heads, they make an attractive picture. But this pleasing effect 
is diminished wlien one sees them dump their baskets and sit down 
by the roadside and begin to pick the lice from each other's hair. 
The high-caste women have not the same liberty of movement as 
their low-caste sisters and rarely appear in public. 

Kloeng-Koeng itself, with its attractive market-place and its 
teeming native life, was a delightful contrast to Den Pasar. Here, 
too, the local prince, known as the Dewa Agoeng, committed 
the same national suicide or "poepoetan" as his colleague of Ba- 
doeng. His palace was destroyed, and its site is now an open square 
dominated by the Dutch comptroller's residence. There are, how- 
ever, a few remains, including some fine gateways and a couple of 
quaint Balinese statues. One shows a Dutchman counting guilders; 
die other a Dutchman drinking beer. The statues are an accurate 
reflection of the white man's life in the East in the days before an 
enlightened policy towards the native put some check on commer- 
cial rapacity. 

I stated previously that there were other reasons for the Balinese 
war of 1906 than the piratical plundering of the Chinese schooner. 
The practice of "suttee" was one. The attitude of the Dewa Agoeng 
of Kloeng-Koeng was another. 

In another Dutch history book I found his story. Two of his 
daughters had erred from the path of virtue in company with two 
young men. The Dewa Agoeng took a terrible revenge. With their 
hands tied behind their backs his two daughters were thrown to 
the sharks. One of the young men was tortured to death. The other 
succeeded in escaping to the Dutch in North Bali. The Dewa 
Agoeng demanded that he should be given up. When the Dutch 
refused he replied graciously that his honour would be satisfied 
if they would behead the culprit immediately. The second Dutch 
refusal angered him and was one of the causes of the war. 

I asked Bagoes if the story was true. His answer was that the 
Dutch taught history in their own way, but that the Dewa 
Agoeng had the reputation of being a stern as well as a brave 

329 



warrior. Looking at Bagoes with his gentle, Musset-like fin-de-sicle 
expression, I found it hard to believe that he came of a race of 
fighters. I could not see him committing hara-kiri in a last 
desperate charge against a Dutch machine-gun. Yet thirty years 
ago there was not a high-caste Balinese who would have hesitated 
to follow his prince. To-day, there are no Dutch troops in Bali, 
and the whole island of over a million inhabitants is administered 
by a Dutch Resident, two Dutch assistants, seven Dutch controllers 
and a handful of police! 

Very wisely the Dutch rule through the native regents, who, 
in most cases, are the lawful heirs of the former princes. When 
they are not the legitimate heirs, they are less popular with their 
own people, for in spite of the speed of modern life the Balinese 
still retain much of their former feudal loyalty. Regents are chosen 
by the government, but the native form of administration is re- 
tained throughout, and in the lower branches such as the heads- 
manship of a village the office is elective. On the whole, the system 
works well, and, whether it be permanent or not, the Pax Batavica 
is in some ways a more remarkable achievement than even the 
Pax Britannica. 

In Kloeng-Koeng we had the good fortune to run into Bagoes's 
uncle, who is an official of the local administration. He took us 
over to a high-roofed but otherwise open hall, built on an old 
part of the former palace and approached by a splendid staircase. 
Here the native court was sitting. The presiding judge was a 
priest. Beside him sat the Regent, a son of the Dewa Agoeng 
who had perished in the "poepoetan." The regent, a pleasant, 
good-tempered man, had been a child of ten then, but he, too, 
had taken part in the "poepoetan." He still limps from the Dutch 
bullet which hit him in the knee. He is now a grandfather, is 
very popular with both the Dutch and his own Balinese, and 
has no vices except gambling on his fighting cocks. 

The roof of the Court was decorated with weird friezes illus- 
trating the heavenly punishments which await the evil-doers. They 
were intended to intimidate and were far sterner than those pre- 
scribed by law for this temporary world. They were mostly to the 
address of women, whose two chief crimes in Balinese eyes are 
indolence and sterility. There was one picture of a woman who 
had been unwilling or unable to learn weaving. She was being 

330 



prodded with a fork by a Satanic monster. A dog had his teeth 
deeply fixed in her posterior. Another picture showed a huge two- 
headed caterpillar sucking the breasts of a woman. The caterpillar 
was held in position by an evil spirit. The woman's crime on 
earth had been that she was unable to bear children. In Bali 
sterility is treated in various ways. A Balinese woman who bears 
male-and-female twins is turned out of her village for one Balinese 
month, that is, for forty-two days, and must remain in a cemetery 
until she is purified. The reason for this ostracism is the belief, 
apparently justified by modern science, that male-and-female twins 
are non-productive. 

From Kloeng-Koeng we set out for Besakih, the largest, the 
highest and most sacred temple of Bali. This is the finest drive 
in the island. The road is mountainous and twists and turns across 
hills and canyons cultivated with superb terraces of rice-fields. The 
last part of the road is only a grass track and was not properly 
open to motor traffic. Twice our wheels stuck in the soft ruts. 
Then after much straining and pushing we crested the steepest 
corner and came to a grassy plateau with cattle and ponies scam- 
pering across our path. There was a welcome absence of habita- 
tion. Before us was the vast panorama of the io,ooo-feet-high 
Goenoeng Agoeng and to the left its servant, Goenoeng Batoer, 
smaller in size, but infinitely more dangerous because of its vol- 
canic activities. A mile ahead, partly concealed by a grove of trees, 
was the many-roofed temple, its approach guarded by a double 
hedge of Indian laburnum. 

The Balinese are supposed to have come to the island from 
Java at the time when the Hindoo empire there was crumbling 
before the onslaught of Islam. For seven centuries they have been 
an isolated outpost of Brahminism and Buddhism in an Archi- 
pelago which is predominantly Mohammedan. Their religion, how- 
ever, is still largely influenced by the primitive animism of a pre- 
Hindoo civilisation, and only an expert who has spent a lifetime 
in the study of it can venture to describe its intricacies. Indeed, 
most Europeans make little attempt to unravel the maze of super- 
stitions and mixed beliefs which are woven around it. 

Besakih is one of the seven wonders of the East and, by reason 
of its situation alone, there is no human being, no matter what 
his race or faith, who can fail to be impressed by it It stands over 

331 



3000 feet above sea-level, and from its terraces there is a majestic 
view over land and sea. 

The temple itself, or rather the temples, for there are three, 
is built on a series of terraced courts. The lowest part is ornate 
and new with brick walls. The numerous towers which guard 
the temple like sentinels have attractive black roofs made of sugar- 
cane bark. Every Balinese is supposed to visit Besakih once a 
year. Every district of the island has its own tower there. 

We were shown over part of the building by a priest. The 
Balinese New Year, which begins on March 6th, was only a few 
days ahead. It is heralded by a day of complete silence. For twenty- 
four hours no Balinese opens his door. Traffic and trade stop, 
and even Europeans may use their motorcars on that day only 
by paying a heavy fine. It is the day on which Heaven is swept 
for evil spirits. After the silence there are feasts followed by an 
orgy of cock-fighting. 

During my visit the temple was already being prepared for 
the feast, and at intervals women climbed the steps and deposited 
their offerings of fruit and flowers. Several of them brought a kind 
of fruit which, after it has been blessed, is supposed to have 
special powers of fecundity. While we were talking to the priest, 
a car drove up. A middle-aged Englishman and a young English 
girl got out. I could not tell whether they were father and daughter 
or husband and wife. They were attended by a Chinese guide. 
The girl was carrying some yellow fruit in her hat. She explained 
to the guide that she wanted it blessed for fecundity. There was 
an awkward pause. The guide whispered something which the 
girl did not understand. She walked forward towards the priest. 
This tune the Chinese guide raised his voice: "No, no, Missie, 
these are the wrong fruits. This kind make you pass water six or 
seven times." 

Balinese religious customs take a lot of knowing. After this 
episode I was not surprised when, on leaving, Bagoes took me 
aside and informed me tactfully that the priest expected to be 
tipped. I produced the Dutch equivalent of five shillings. The 
priest showed less embarrassment in taking this offering than I 
did in giving it. 

On our way home we made a long detour by Karangasem 
and the coast. Before we came down to the more densely populated 

332 



part, we passed a group of Balinese carrying fighting cocks. They 
were taking the birds into Kloeng-Koeng or Gjanjar for the 
coming feast-day. I wanted badly to see a cock-fight, but in order 
to prevent the natives from ruining themselves, the Dutch allow 
cock-fighting only on feast days. I could not wait until the next 
feast day. The road was more or less deserted. 

"Bagoes," I said, "if I put up a purse, will these fellows stage a 
fight?" Bagoes seemed frightened, but I made him translate my 
message to the men. They grinned, and in a few minutes they 
had made a ring on a flat piece of ground behind a hill and out 
of sight of the road. 

The fight itself was not very exciting. The cocks were fierce 
enough but rather small. They wore no spurs. Long before any 
serious damage was done my better feelings reasserted themselves, 
and I gave the signal to stop. Not understanding my motives, the 
men looked disappointed until I handed them their reward. Then 
they grinned again. They had earned it, for they themselves had 
put up an excellent performance, dancing around their animals 
like professional boxers and urging them on with the same vigour 
and, doubtless, the same expletives as a cockney brings to bear 
on a donkey race. I expect that after we left there was a dispute 
over the division of the prize money. Almost certainly the fight 
was continued to a finish, for Bagoes told me that all the men 
had been making side bets, and without a proper finish the bets 
could not be settled. 

The Balinese, indeed, are great gamblers, and more than one 
regent has nearly ruined himself through his betting losses. The 
gambling instinct is strong in every class and caste of the popula- 
tion. Any form of competition is an excuse for a bet. The fighting 
cocks, who are given a special diet of maize and rice, are hung up 
opposite each other in baskets in order to stimulate hatred. But 
when no feast is near the Balinese use them for another form of 
gamble. They take one down and let him loose among the village 
hens. They then sit round and bet on which hen the lord of the 
kampong poultry will bestow his affection. The fellow who picks 
the first hen favoured collects the stakes. 

Even the children bet on insect races and on a particularly 
cruel form of duelling between crickets, whose gladiatorial arena 
is an ordinary European match-box. Here they are enclosed until 

333 



one has killed the other. Indeed, cricket duels and dragon-fly 
catching are the chief amusements of the Balinese children. The 
dragon-fly catching, however, is utilitarian. The dragon-flies are 
toasted and eaten, generally with shrimps. They are considered a 
great delicacy. 

Balinese boys, I noticed, did more work than the men. Through- 
out the day I had been impressed by the glorious panorama of the 
rice-fields. Every sawah has its shrine to Dewi Sir, the guardian 
goddess of rice, who brings the slender green shoots to fruition. 
More mundanely effective are the shelter huts for the Balinese 
boys whose task it is to chase away the rice-birds from the ripe 
ears. They employ an ingenious labour-saving device. They stretch 
a long string, with tin cans attached to it, across the sawah. When 
the birds fly down to the ears, the boy pulls the string and the 
tins rattle. According to Bagoes the birds never grow accustomed 
to the din, but I expect that they reap a good harvest, for Nature, 
in her bountiful provision for all the world's creatures, ensures 
that during the heat of the day nine out of ten of the litde watchers 
go to sleep. 

To me a rice-field is man's most beautiful handiwork, and in 
the picturesqueness of their setting the sawahs of Bali surpass all 
other rice-fields in the world. The soil and climate are so favour- 
able and the system of irrigation, learnt from the Hindoos a 
thousand years ago, is so perfect that every field yields two harvests 
in every year with an "in-between" crop of maize or peanuts. In 
consequence rice ripe for harvest, half-ripe rice, green rice, and 
rice newly planted are to be seen all the year round, and the 
colours of the sawahs range from a golden yellow to the most 
vivid shade of green. 

The manner of cultivation is elaborate. First, the old harvest 
is burnt off. The ground is then softened and ploughed and har- 
rowed. The water is let in and the sawah is harrowed wet. The 
rice is grown from seed in a special nursery. After forty days 
each shoot is taken out and is planted separately in rows in the 
sawah. Everything is done by the eye alone. The system is so 
good that the Dutch with all their efficiency have been able to 
add to it only very minor improvements. 

At Koesambe, a small village on the coast to the south of 
Kloeng-Koeng, we stopped to inspect the Goa Lawah or Bats' 

334 



Cave. It is a holy place and belongs to the category of cave 
temples. Here in 1906 the Balinese princes met to swear common 
cause against the Dutch. Stimulated by this historic association I 
advanced to the mouth of the huge cavern. Thousands of large 
bats clung to its walls, emitting a stench more overpowering, more 
nauseating, than a shipload of rotten durians. Bagoes told me that 
there was a big god and a big snake inside. I did not see either. 
The big smell was more than enough for me. 

That evening, after dinner, I went out on to the hotel terrace 
to watch the dancing performance which had been specially ar- 
ranged for the tourists. It was my first experience of Balinese 
dancing, but I had been prepared for disappointment. I had seen 
the hotel dancing at Djokja. I had learnt that a hotel front is not 
the ideal setting for Eastern dances. I knew, too, that for all my 
love of the Russian ballet Javanese and Balinese music and dancing 
were an exotic taste to be acquired only after years of study. On 
the whole I was agreeably surprised. It is true that the setting, 
with half the native population of Den Pasar watching from 
the street and the tourists teed up on chairs in front of the hotel, 
was grotesque. But the dancing itself was much less stereotyped 
than that which I had seen in Java. The music, too, w&s more 
modern and at times the rhythmic effects bore a strong resemblance 
to modern American music. 

Two girls, so young that they seemed to belong to the nursery 
rather than to the stage, danced a legong dance with a grace of 
technical perfection which was marred only by the set vacant ex- 
pression on their faces. There was a comedian who frightened 
the children and drew roars of laughter from the native audience 
by a patter comment which was full of references to Arab money- 
lenders, who spoke bad Malay, and to other similar subjects which 
delight the man in the street of every nation. Then Goesti Ngura 
Raka, one of the best male dancers of Bali, danced a long fan 
dance, in which he moved across the stage without ever releasing 
his legs from their crossed sitting position. The arm movements 
and the swaying of the lithe body were very attractive, and even 
to the uninitiated it was a remarkable performance. 

The dances, however, were long, and before the end I found 
myself yawning. And without a genuine expert to explain things 
I believe that most Europeans will find it hard to sit through a 

335 



whole evening's performance, especially in the artificial surround- 
ings of a European hotel. 

Whatever the limitations of my knowledge, I felt that Bali was 
growing on me. As I went to bed, I was already prepared to 
include the island among the delectable corners of the earth to 
which I should retire in order to farm as soon as I could escape 
from Fleet Street. Scotland, Slovenia, Dalmatia and Negri Sem- 
bilan, of course, offered a severe competition, and musing over a 
final selection prevented me from sleeping for some time. Finally 
I decided that if Scotland could grow rice my choice would be a 
farm in the Highlands. It was not, I felt, a very satisfactory solu- 
tion. But by inducing sleep it served its purpose. 



336 



CHAPTER FIVE 

EOM November to April Bali is unpleasantly hot during the 
liddle of the day. The monsoon brings moist clouds, and on 
most afternoons the air is charged with thunder. But the mornings 
are cool, and for some hours after dawn the sky is cloudless. It is 
a time which wise men seek to turn to profit. During each day 
of my stay in Bali I had Bagoes and the chauffeur on my mat at 
six-thirty. 

The next morning I spent in visiting the various villages near 
Den Pasar and in talking, with Bagoes's aid, to the local inhabi- 
tants. In one village we found a djanger dance in full progress 
at eight o'clock in the morning. Here the setting was almost per- 
fect. The dancers were seated in a square formation, with the men 
and women facing each other, on a level piece of ground before 
a temple. Lofty coconut palms and heavily scented champaka 
trees formed a natural stage, and through the leafy branches the 
sun threw glints of light upon the jewelled dresses. Here I could 
have lingered long, but once again my view was impeded by the 
stampede of tourists who rushed forward at every movement of 
the dance with Kodak or Leica to perpetuate the memory of their 
visit with a photograph. It was their show. They were leaving at 
midday and had ordered it specially. 

With stoical patience I turned to Bagoes and began to question 
him about the life of the dancers. Both dancers and musicians, I 
learnt, are organised in guilds. All the money earned by each 
individual is paid into the guild. It is then used to buy properties: 
dresses and costumes for the dancing-guilds and instruments for 
the gamelan-guilds. Unlike the dancing girls of Djokja and Solo, 
the Balinese girls do not make brilliant marriages. They them- 
selves are of all castes. If they marry a regent, they are only 
number three or number four wife, and never number one. Usually 

337 



they marry in their own villages. Most of them retire from 
dancing when they are about fifteen. 

The guild system, which is a form of natural communism, 
prevails throughout Bali. There are guilds for sculptors, carvers, 
decorators and builders. There is little or no attempt to evade the 
rules of the guild. When Baron von Plessen was making his Bali 
film, "Black Magic," he engaged a handsome young cement 
worker to play a leading native role. The young man was offered 
what to a Balinese must have been a fabulous salary. He refused 
to take it until the film was finished. Then he gave his money 
to the guild. 

In another village I spent some time in watching and talking 
to a group of sculptors who were engaged in making a new 
temple gate. They seemed to take a genuine pleasure in their 
work. Indeed, in their love of architecture, dancing, and the drama, 
the Balinese afford a striking comparison with the ancient Greeks 
in the time of Pericles. Here in Bali every man is an artist to 
whom dancing and sculpture are the natural means of expressing 
himself and the harmonious symbols of his spiritual life. Both, 
of course, are intimately entwined with his religion. When I 
thought of the low level of entertainment provided in the great 
cities of Britain and the United States, the so-called march of 
civilisation seemed a poor and shoddy thing. If mass happiness is 
the test of human progress, then the Balinese are centuries ahead 
of both the British and the Americans. And Balinese art is no 
stereotyped tradition which has been handed down from some re- 
mote classical period. It is a living force, constantly progressing, 
continuously experimenting. Natural conditions have favoured this 
progress as far as sculpture is concerned. Balinese stone crumbles 
quickly. That is why there are so many new temples in Bali, and 
why the island is the sculptor's paradise. 

I tried to question Bagoes about the sexual life of his com- 
patriots. One of the Dutch business men on the island had told 
me that the islanders were rotten with venereal disease. On this 
subject Bagoes, as a married man, was inclined to be reticent. 
Wooing, he told me, was still conducted on a basis of tolerated 
abduction. There was considerable freedom and promiscuity 
before marriage. After marriage there was little infidelity. I 
remembered how Catherine the Great's liaison with Count 

338 



Poniatowski had been revealed by her fierce little lap dog jumping 
up and fawning on the Polish nobleman before die rest of her 
courtiers. Dogs were the worst betrayers of illicit lovers, and in 
Bali dogs were legion. Doubtless, Bagoes's testimonial to the 
sanctity of Balinese marriages was correct. 

There is one other Balinese trait which is to their credit. 
Although they have certain rather cruel superstitions, they are 
tolerant towards other religions. In one respect the island bears 
some resemblance to Ireland. The north side, which has been 
exposed to contact with the outside world, has a considerable 
number of Mohammedans. The southern part is entirely Hindoo, 
I asked Bagoes what happened when a Balinese Hindoo girl 
married a Mohammedan. He gave a typically Balinese answer. 
At first the family outlaw her. Then they feel a little sorry. Per- 
haps, they say, there may be something in this God Allah after 
all. Then they put up a shrine to Allah as a kind of insurance 
policy. 

In the afternoon I drove out with Bagoes to Tampaksiring to 
see the royal tombs. On the way we stopped near Oeboed, and 
Bagoes made me crawl down a slope below the road to see the 
rock temple of Poera Gowa, which dates back to the twelfth 
century. It is another of the cave temples, and the entrance is 
guarded by the head of a giant forcing, as it were, his head 
through the wall. Being no archaeologist, I was glad to escape 
quickly. 

At Oeboed itself I saw something more to my fancy a charm- 
ing modern Balinese house, which would have made an admirable 
home for a European. I guessed that it must have been built by 
one of the various European artists who have made Bali their 
temporary home. But I was wrong. The house belonged to the 
Balinese deputy of the Dutch East Indies Parliament. It was this 
progressive Balinese who took the first troupe of Balinese dancers 
to Europe. They appeared at the French Colonial Exhibition at 
Vincennes in 1931, and took all Paris by storm. The dancers 
themselves resisted all the blandishments of gilded European youth. 
But the deputy lost his heart to a Frenchwoman. Their marriage 
must have been almost the first mixed marriage in Bali. Now they 
live in semi-European state in Oeboed. 

With Bersakih the royal tombs near Tampaksiring are the most 

339 



impressive monument in Bali. They are difficult to approach. I 
had to leave my car and scramble down a steep path which leads 
to a canyon with a swift stream running through it. An attempted 
short cut through the long lalang grass ended in disaster, for the 
ground was soft from the constant rains. But the ruin to my suit 
was richly rewarded when eventually we reached the riverside. 
Facing us were five tombs, hewn in the virgin rock on the side 
of a steep hill. To the right was a monastery, grey-stoned, majestic 
and as old as time itself. The monastery dates from the ninth 
century and is now deserted. To-day tombs and monastery stand 
in a deserted glory, to which solitude and landscape have com- 
bined to give a solemnity unrivalled by any other sepulchre in the 
New World or the Old. 

That evening I had a stroke of fortune. While I was inspecting 
the visitors' book in the hotel lounge before dinner, Victor Cunard 
came up to me. Victor, a former correspondent of The Times in 
Paris and a member of the family which has given its name to 
the famous shipping line, had travelled with me as far as Singa- 
pore. I had known him slightly in London and better on board 
ship, and was glad to see him again. 

"Come and dine with me," he said. "You must meet Spiess." 

I went over to their table and was introduced to a tall, fair 
man with attractive blue eyes and the long, tapered fingers of an 
artist. I had seen him on the night before at the dance performance 
on the hotel terrace. But he had gone away early as though bored 
by the whole proceedings. I did not know his name then, but I 
had heard of him as a German who had lived in Bali for some 
years. Actually, I had a letter of introduction to him. But its terms 
were vague and told me nothing about the man himself, and 
with my usual reluctance to make new acquaintances I had not 
bothered to use it. 

My surprise was great when after a few minutes' conversation 
I discovered that he was Spiess of Moscow. I had known his 
family well in my Moscow days. They were one of the numerous 
Russo-German concerns in Russia, and had been established there 
since the Napoleonic wars. Before his father made a fortune in oil, 
the firm had done considerable business with England. I had 
dined in their Moscow house several times. I had visited them 
even after the war, for they were not immediately interned, and 

340 



I had always looked on them more as Russians than Germans. 
Vaguely I tried to recognise in this good-looking expert the young 
boy whom I had seen in Moscow in 1914. 

He told me his story in a few words. His parents had been 
ruined by the Russian revolution. Art ran in his family. His 
grandfather had been a famous architect, and had built the 
memorial church erected on the spot where the Emperor Alex- 
ander II was murdered. He had an aunt who was making her 
living in Russia now by teaching singing. He himself had studied 
both painting and music. After the war he had found Europe 
distasteful, and had come out to the East Indies. For five years 
he was employed as Director \>f Music by the Sultan of Djokja. 
For the last seven years he had been living in Bali painting and 
studying music. He had learnt Javanese, Malay and Balinese. 

At dinner we were joined by Miss Waterman, an American 
lady, who has also made Bali her temporary home. She told me 
that there were several Europeans who claimed to be authorities 
on Balinese life and Balinese art, but that Walter Spiess stood in a 
class by himself. I needed no telling. The man spoke with the 
modesty and diffidence which mark the real expert. Between them, 
Miss Waterman and Spiess arranged a programme for us for the 
next evening. It included a Balinese dinner and a real dancing 
performance in a little village temple, where there would be no 
other Europeans but ourselves. 

That night, when I went to bed, I said a special prayer for 
Victor, to whose kindness I owed this lucky chance. I contrasted 
his unselfishness with my own egotism. Had I been given the 
opportunity of spending a Balinese evening with Walter Spiess as 
cicerone, I should not voluntarily have suggested sharing it with 
any one else. 

The next morning I told Bagoes of my chance meeting. I saw 
at once from his expression that Spiess was a popular hero to the 
Balinese. He was, Bagoes told me, the great champion of the 
people, respected by everybody, including the Dutch officials, and 
fearless in his outspokenness when he thought Balinese rights were 
being infringed. 

As we drove out to the sacred forest of Boekit Sari, Bagoes 
told me the tragedy of Spiess's life. His brother came out to join 



him some years ago. He was taken by a shark while bathing in 
the sea. 

Bali is not a bathing paradise, although there is one strip o 
beach at Koota near Den Pasar which is safe from sharks. Nor, 
strangely enough, are the Balinese great fishermen. Unlike Lom- 
bok, however, the island has its complement of wild animals. 
They are not found in Central and Eastern Bali, because these 
parts are too well cultivated. But there are tigers and wild buffalo 
in the west. Occasionally a hunt is organised for Anglo-Saxon 
tourists with big-game hunting ambitions. 

In this connection Bagoes told me a good story. A party of 
American men came to Bali. Inspired by an ardent wish to bring 
back the first Balinese wild buffalo head to the United States, 
they determined to organise a hunt. They sought the services of a 
local English-speaking agent, and were well pleased when he 
promised to arrange everything and to take payment by results 
only. The charge was fixed at a hundred dollars a head. 

With a great show of efficiency the Americans were brought to 
their destination. They took up their places in platforms built in 
the trees, and there they waited until the buffalo came down to 
drink close by. The agent had a brother in Western Bali, who 
kept a large herd of tame buffaloes. At nightfall he drove his 
animals towards the platforms. The Americans did a valiant exe- 
cution. The agent and his brother netted a handsome profit. Thus 
both parties were satisfied. Would that all big-game expeditions 
ended so happily. 

Our visit to the Sacred Forest was % complete success. At the 
village of Sangeh, about eleven miles due north of Den Pasar, 
we left our car and, after providing ourselves with a store of 
bananas and peanuts, we walked down a grassy path alongside a 
forest of tall and stately trees. Almost at once a troupe of monkeys 
came out to meet us. Their friendliness, explained by frequent 
processions of peanut-armed tourists, was amazing. They fed from 
my hand. They followed us along the path until we came to the 
temple in the grove itself. I felt like a young schoolmaster in a 
private school taking the boys out for their Sunday walk. 

I noticed that many of the monkeys bore scars. Several had 
raw wounds. Bagoes explained to me that two tribes of sacred 
monkeys inhabited the grove. Their territories were delimitated 

342 



with the precision of a League of Nations plebiscite commission. 
Occasionally a band of monkeys, intent on rape or plunder, would 
make a sally into their neighbours' territory. Then a battle royal 
ensued, in which both tribes took part until one side had enough 
and retired, leaving its wounded and its dead behind. When I 
thought of the present state of Europe, the monkeys seemed more 
human than ever. Between the tribal law of the forest and the 
racial law of the European nationalists there is, in fact, little 
difference. 

I made friends with a grey-whiskered old gentleman, whose 
grave mien and dignified gait would have entitled him to a seat 
of honour in any assembly of politicians. He was the leader of 
the tribe. I soon saw that, like the wolf law in Kipling's Jungle 
Boo^ the tribal law of monkeys is the law of the strong. The 
leader is leader only so long as he can beat the others. I had 
observed that our Fuehrer took the necessary precautions to keep 
his subjects at some distance from himself. His was therefore the 
major share of the peanuts. 

My sympathy with the under-dog asserted itself. I began to 
throw my peanuts to a smaller monkey who was trailing far 
behind. His wistful and woe-begone expression revealed both his 
hunger and his fear. For a moment or two the leader watched this 
performance with growing anger. The next peanut provoked him 
to action. Two bounds, and his teeth were fixed in the posterior 
of his offending subject, who took this forceful hint at its proper 
value, and with a reproachful glance at me scampered away into 
the grove. 

Followed by the leader and one or two female monkeys, who 
presumably belonged to his harem, we went into the court of the 
temple, a kind of roofless rectangle with low brick walls. The 
morning air was cool and sweet, and the shadows cast through 
the trees by a sun not yet high in the heavens made curious inter- 
laced patterns of black and white on the earthen floor. The place, 
marvellously peaceful, engendered a deeper feeling of holiness than 
many a European cathedral or New York church. Even the 
monkey leader seemed to acquire an appropriate solemnity, for 
he took his place beside us and sat placidly on the low wall, while 
I took in the beauty of the scene. True, when the peanuts were 
finished, he made a descent from dignity, for he ambled across 

343 



the courtyard and, taking to himself one of the females, gently 
made love to her. Perhaps the act was a natural sacrifice to 
Arjuno, who is the Don Juan of the Balinese gods. At any rate, 
when it was finished, he came back to us, waited until we had 
gazed our fill, and conscious perhaps of his obligations as guardian 
of this sacred grove, escorted us back to the path. Then, slowly 
and solemnly, he withdrew into the forest. In his own world he 
was a great king. I trust that he still reigns in Boekit Sari. 

From the sacred grove we went to the neighbouring village of 
Bongkasa, where I saw a banyan tree whose drooping spread of 
branches must have covered over an acre. Like the grove and the 
monkeys the tree was sacred and had its little temple, for in this 
tolerant island the worship of mountain, wood and lake spirits 
still exists as a relic of the primitive animism on which Shivaism 
and Buddhism have long since been superimposed. 

I went back to the hotel and spent a lazy afternoon with my 
history books. Then, towards, sunset, I set out with Victor Cunard 
to visit Miss Waterman and Spiess. Miss Waterman was living 
in a house, only half-an-hour by car from Den Pasar, yet right in 
the country and shut off by trees from the outside world and 
overlooking a charming vista of rice-fields. It had been built for 
an American musician, who had been studying Balinese music 
for some years, and who had gone back temporarily to New York. 
On our way to pick up Spiess we stopped at a hollow where there 
was a cave-temple known as "The Elephant's Cave." Here in a 
natural amphitheatre half enclosed by champaka and palm-trees 
another dj anger dance was being performed. No Europeans were 
present and only a few natives, and I was able to admire the 
beauty of the costumes without hindrance. The most striking was 
that of the Garuda, the sun bird of Vishnu, and a magnificent 
apparition with a plumage which would have put all the costumes 
in M. Rostand's Chantecler to shame. Here, too, we picked up 
Limba, the Balinese dancer, who was to be our master of cere- 
monies for the evening. 

If Miss Waterman's villa was attractive, Spiess's was enchant- 
ing. It was perched on the side of a small canyon with a mountain 
stream splashing merrily below. Over the stream itself was a 
slender bamboo bridge. For once I had found the illusory cottage 
of my dreams. For the first time since I had been in the Dutch 

344 



East Indies I was able to rid myself of the feeling that I was 
surrounded by people. 

We found Spiess at his piano, and at our request he gave us a 
short interpretation of Balinese music. It was difficult to understand 
but not unattractive, and the rhythm effects were amazingly 
varied. He stopped soon with an apology for the inadequacy of 
his interpretation, pointing out that seven pianos were necessary 
in order to score Balinese music. 

By the time we reached the temple Where Limba had staged 
the dance for us it was quite dark* We went down some steps, 
and then in an open court lit by coconut-oil braziers placed on 
the tops of long posts I saw some two hundred men seated in a 
circle. They were of all ages. They represented the entire male 
population of the neighbouring village. All were to take part in 
the dance. We took our places on a little wooden bench under a 
thatched roof. Limba gave the signal to start, and the two hundred 
men, naked except for a loin cloth, formed themselves into a 
squatting human circle full of bronzed bodies from the centre 
to the circumference. We were seeing the famous "kechak." 

At first the men leaned forward until their heads touched their 
feet. Then they lay right back. The movements, made in perfect 
unison, were like the opening and shutting of a flower. They 
were repeated frequently. They were accompanied by intonations 
which at times swelled to an angry chorus. The story, taken from 
the Hindoo sagas, was a battle between a prince and a tribe of 
monkeys. Limba himself was the prince. At intervals he entered 
the circle and danced standing up a human stamen in the centre 
of the mass of bronze petals. And while the circle swayed to and 
fro, now swiftly in passion, now slowly in a languorous ecstasy, 
the flickering light of the lanterns cast weird shadows on the 
trees, on the temple walls, and on the brown bodies. 

The dance must have lasted an hour or more, but to me it 
seemed like a few minutes. No Western dance has ever captivated 
me in the same manner or held my attention so completely. I am a 
ballet enthusiast. During the last twenty-five years I have seen 
every Russian dancer of note from Pavlova and Nijinsky to 
Danilova and Lifar. They are already confused though pleasant 
figures in the shadows of my mind. But, even if I never see the 

345 



East again, that "kechak" in the scented warmth o a Bali night 
will remain distinctly with me as long as memory lasts. 

During the intervals when he was not performing Limba 
brought us bananas and sweet rice wine and explained the dance 
to us. He spoke fluent Malay. The "kechak," he said, ought 
strictly to be danced in times of sickness. Originally it was a kind 
of cleansing dance, which drove away the evil spirits of disease. 
Only a few years ago, when South Bali was being swept by an 
epidemic, "kechaks" were danced in the villages every night for 
weeks on end. On these occasions all kinds of side-dances were 
introduced. The dancing reached such a pitch of ecstasy that girls 
in a trance could dance all night and show no signs of tiredness 
the following day. Others could dance on fire, and their feet re- 
mained unmarked. 

When the dance was over, we went back to Miss Waterman's 
to dinner. The food was Balinese, and included young bamboo 
shoots and other exotic dishes more attractive on the menu than 
in the stomach. It was served by two magnificent Balinese boys 
naked down to the waist. 

After dinner we listened to Spiess, who talks as well as he 
paints and plays. He had a genuine affection for the Balinese. He 
admired their happy philosophy of life, their devotion to dancing 
and music, their natural good taste, and the plasticity of their 
minds, always receptive of new ideas. But he, too, was filled with 
forebodings regarding their future and with fears of their decay 
from the corroding rust of tourism and modern civilisation. Al- 
ready many of the leading Balinese dancers had received ex- 
travagant offers from American impresarios and Hollywood agents. 
So far they had refused, but one day the temptation would be 
too strong. 

I could well believe it. One had only to look at Limba, good- 
looking, intelligent, and an artist to his finger-tips, to realise that 
New York and London, who acclaimed Russia and negro dancers 
with the same extravagant exuberance which the over-civilised 
always manifest for anything exotic and new, would go into 
similar raptures, for one season at any rate, over the Balinese. 
And that would be the beginning of the end. 

Spiess gave me one significant example of the effect of Euro- 
pean civilisation. He had a Balinese friend, formerly a brilliant 

346 



gamelan leader, who had been sent to Java to receive a higher 
education. He had become a schoolmaster, proud o the scraps 
of Dutch grammar he had learnt, but very lonely. He had no 
one to talk to now that he was an "educated" man. "But what 
about your gamelan orchestra?" asked Spiess. The BaHnese gave a 
superior smile. "Oh, now I play the mandoline." 

I learnt, too, that the economic development, stimulated by the 
Dutch, had not been wholly beneficial. Bali, once a prosperous 
entity, was suffering like other countries from the world economic 
depression. Copra was doing badly. The price of beef had fallen 
from twenty-six cents a kilo to six cents. Pig prices had declined 
on the same scale. Government wages had been reduced. The 
Balinese made little out of the tourist traffic. They were the 
magnet that attracted it. But the Dutch took the profits. 

I went back to my hotel with an empty feeling in my heart. 
Spiess's calm, dispassionate remarks had robbed the evening of 
some of its previous rapture. My mind went back to the words of 
Babalatchi, the old Malay minister in Conrad's novel: "You are 
strange, you white men. You think it is only your wisdom and 
your virtue and your happiness that are true. You are stronger 
than the wild beasts, but not so wise. A black tiger knows when 
he is not hungry. You do not." 



347 



CHAPTER SIX 

ON my return journey from Den Pasar to Boeleleng to catch 
my boat back to Java I took a different route and travelled 
via Kintamani by the east trunk road. Twenty miles or so from 
Den Pasar the road rises steeply into mountainous and less culti- 
vated country. The morning sky was clear, and, as my steamer 
did not leave until four o'clock, I travelled slowly with many halts. 
The solitude was very pleasant. 

At Koeboepenelokan, over four thousand feet above sea-level, 
there is a view which in the extent of mountain scenery that it 
unfolds is unrivalled in the tropics. To the right of Goenong 
Agoeng and behind it, across the narrow straits, is the cone-shaped 
peak of Lombok. Straight in front of one, with a wide valley 
intervening, is a semi-circular range of mountains with Goenoeng 
Batoer in the centre. Deep down at its base the placid waters of 
Lake Batoer glisten in the sun. The whole scene reminded me 
of the Cairngorms, and the resemblance between Lake Batoer and 
Loch Avon was remarkable. There were, however, two differences. 
From no point in Scotland is there such an unimpeded view of the 
mountains. From no Scottish peak does there issue the sinister 
smoke which rises always from Goenoeng Batoer. 

This peak is less than six thousand feet high, but one of its 
slopes is a barren waste of sooty-coloured lava. Ten years ago 
there was a village and a temple here. The villagers had no 
qualms. Their faith in the temple was sublime. Twice before, 
in 1905 and in 1917, a previous stream of lava had stopped just 
before the temple gate. The holiness of the place became mag- 
nified in the eyes of the villagers. The evil spirit of the volcano 
had been afraid to touch the god. Who once is afraid fears three 
times. When, therefore, in August, 1926, Batoer began to hurl 
his thunderbolts of rock and stone, the villagers paid little heed. 
On this occasion their confidence was misplaced. To-day, there 

348 



is no trace of the village or the temple, but only a black field of 
.lava. With Bagoes I walked down the slope and across the valley 
until we reached the lava border. The surface was like a black 
crust through which our feet sunk as in loose sand. 

From Penelokan we drove slowly to the Dutch rest-house at 
Kintamani, passing on the way the new village of Batoer which 
has been rebuilt on the hill overlooking the valley. Kintamani 
itself is the highest village in Bali and stands nearly five thousand 
feet above sea-level. 

Even in the midday sunshine the air was comparatively cool 
and the temperature more like that of a summer day in Scotland 
than tropical. In the garden of the rest-house I found European 
flowers growing: nasturtium, rosemary, and violets. 

I went into the hotel for luncheon, and when I came out again 
the sky was overcast with heavy clouds. "We must hurry," said 
Bagoes. We did, but long before we had come down from the 
mountains the rain began to fall. Huge claps of thunder brought 
it down in torrents, and soon it began to drip through the hood 
of our open car. I had no coat, and the air cut like a lancet. The 
rain lasted until we descended to the narrow strip of low-lying 
coast. By the time we reached Boeleleng the sun was shining again. 

Here I had an hour to wait for my steamer. I spent it talking 
to Bagoes who, although he had not been home for five days, 
insisted on seeing me off. In front of the K.P.M. office he intro- 
duced me to Ma Patimah, a well-preserved, middle-aged Balinese 
woman, about whom many legends are told. The stock one is 
that she is a princess and one of the widows of the Dewa Agoeng 
of Kloeng-Koeng who fell at the head of his household in the 
"poepoetan" of 1908. Ma Patimah is said to have taken part in 
this death charge and to have escaped. In this case fiction is more 
romantically strange than fact. True it is that Ma Patimah was 
in the household of the Dewa Agoeng but not in the role of wife. 
She should have been in the "poepoetan," but had gone over 
previously to the Dutch. Nor is she a princess, for she belongs 
to the soedra or lowest caste and, in addition, has been converted 

to Islam. 

She is, nevertheless, the most remarkable woman in Bali and 
has justified her refusal to immolate herself on the bayonets of 
the Dutch by her subsequent success in life. To-day, she runs a 

349 



fleet of motor-cars and does a lively trade with the tourists in the 
products of Balinese arts and crafts. I talked to her for a few 
minutes and took a photograph of her. When she saw me raise 
my Leica, she begged me to wait. Then, summoning four of her 
chauffeurs, she posed for me sitting between them. In this she 
showed the instinctive sense of power which has made her the 
only woman capitalist in Bali. She talked shrewdly and with much 
humour. Her high forehead would have stamped her anywhere 
as a woman of natural intelligence. 

My farewell with Bagoes was emotional. I had taken a genuine 
liking for him. I judged him slightly embittered and, like Spiess's 
gamelan leader, another victim of over-education. He ought to 
have been doing something better than running round with 
tourists. I asked him why he did not try to obtain a post in the 
government service. He had tried, but there had been no vacancy. 
I expect that, like most Orientals, one effort had exhausted his 
energy. Learning languages, for which he had a natural aptitude, 
appealed to him most, and his face lit up when I told him that 
I would send him some English books and an English newspaper 
as soon as I reached England. We parted with many promises to 
write to each other. I sent him the books. I wrote to him twice 
and for the last year I have taken out a subscription for him for 
the Weekly Times. Perhaps its contents were too heavy. At any 
rate I have never heard from him. 

My steamer was much larger than the one in which I had 
travelled to the islands. There was an army of tourists on board, 
and it was from a deck crowded with European children shrieking 
over deck games that I took my farewell of the "last paradise." 
My feelings were mixed. In a house like Spiess's I could have 
been happy. Already in Boeleleng with its mongrel population of 
Arabs, Chinese, Javanese, Buginese and Indians that part of Bali 
seemed remote. Here on board the Treub I was back with a 
vengeance in European civilisation. 

Subconsciously I saw myself again in New York dining at a 
friend's house in order to meet Mr. H. M. Warner, the head of 
the great film company which bears his name. The company had 
bought the film rights of my first book, British Agent, and, as I 
had come to New York, Messrs. Warner's literary adviser, who 

350 



had put through the deal, thought it right that his chief should 
make my acquaintance. 

I soon realised that Mr. Warner, a quiet, modest man who 
had been born in Manchester and been taken as a child to the 
States, knew nothing about British Agent except its name and 
perhaps the price that his company had paid for it. I am not 
sure that he even realised that I was the author. In the circum- 
stances conversation languished. 

At intervals his literary adviser whispered something to him 
in an obvious effort to prompt him. Then at last we found a point 
of contact. 

"I understand you're a Scot," Mr. Warner said pleasantly. 
"Well, I'm going over to Europe this summer for a week. I've 
got to put in two days in Italy, two in France, and two in London, 
but I'm keeping one day for your little country. There's a place 
there I've got to see. But I can't remember the name." 

I suggested in turn Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Perth, Loch 
Lomond, and even Aberdeen. He shook his head. "That don't 
sound like the name to me," he said. "I tell you what it is. I'm 
taking golf lessons from a Scottish professional and it was he 
who told me I had to go there." 

"Carnoustie!" I said triumphandy. 

"That's it," he said, and I felt that I had laid my approach 
nearly dead. 

But no. Again there was a long silence, broken at last by the 
butler coming in to call the great man to the telephone. A smile, 
human, tender, and full of love, lit up his whole face, giving to it 
the kindliest expression. "Mr. Lockhart," he said, "you'll excuse 
me. That's my little daughter calling up all the way from Bali." 

At the time that incident struck a chord in my own heart. It 
had given me a new insight into the character of film magnates. 
It had strengthened my belief in human nature. Now, as it sud- 
denly flashed across my mind in this crowded tourist steamer, 
it seemed to illustrate with a startling clearness the extent to which 
our so-called superior civilisation threatened Bali. It was not a 
cheering thought. 

I must not be ungrateful to the Treub. It provided me with 
one of the most thrilling episodes in my long life as a traveller. 
Owing to my chance meeting with Spiess I had cut my time- 



table rather fine. In order to keep important appointments I had 
to be in Batavia the next day. The journey could be accomplished 
only by a combination of steamer and airplane. My steamer was 
not due in Soerabaja until seven a.m. The airplane to Batavia 
left at the same hour. It was used mainly by Dutch business men 
travelling between Soerabaja and Batavia. It never waited for the 
steamer. My only hope of making the connection depended on the 
steamer's beadng its time schedule. 

The Dutch authorities, to whose kindness and efficiency I have 
frequently referred with profound gratitude, had requested the 
captain to push the Treub along so that I might make the con- 
nection. He pushed to such effect that we arrived at the entrance 
to the harbour at five-thirty ajm. And then Fate played a cruel 
jest. The tide was so low that there was no hope of our tying up 
before seven-thirty. As the minutes passed, my heart sank. If I 
missed the airplane, I should lose twenty-four hours. 

The captain, however, refused to take defeat lying down. He 
signalled to the shore, and presently a fast motor-boat came speed- 
ing out to take me off. I was rushed to the dock and bundled 
into a powerful car driven by a Maduranese chauffeur. It was 
already seven o'clock. The harbour-master told me that the air 
authorities had promised to hold the 'plane back for fifteen 
minutes. The aerodrome was ten miles distant from the dock. 
The normal time for the drive through the crowded city was 
forty-five minutes. 

Then began a terrifying experience. The Maduranese are 
reputed for their courage. My man was not only a Maduranese. 
He was a madman. Stepping on the gas, he drove at breakneck 
speed through the streets already thronged with natives going to 
work. He turned corners on one wheel. He shaved other cars and 
cut in between carts with a coat of paint to spare between safety 
and perdition. He raced through a level crossing as the gates were 
closing. Policemen stood in his track to stop him. He bore down 
on them ruthlessly and grinned as they leaped aside. And all 
the while he blew his horn with a fierce persistence which re- 
minded me of the last trump. 

In Malay, Soerabaja means the Crocodile City. During every 
second of that drive I felt the saurian's teeth piercing their way 
into my flesh. I longed to cry out: "Stop for God's sake. I'll stay 

352 



in Soerabaja all my life rather than face another mile of this 
death-ride." 

When, after fourteen breathless minutes, my madman deposited 
me beside the waiting 'plane, I was a wreck. 

I pushed ten guilders into his hands. 

"It's too much, Tuan," he said. "That was nothing. If we 
had been really pressed, I could have knocked off another two 
minutes." 

Against a strong wind we had a bumpy flight. Visibility was 
good, but as always from the air the scenic effect was more 
curious than alluring. The richly cultivated land looked like a 
jig-saw puzzle with strange Assyrian figures. Where the rice was 
ripe, the fields formed a vast chess-board on which the little huts 
of the watchers stood out like chessmen. The plain near Cheribon 
was flooded, and I saw a train ploughing its way through the 
water like a toy train crossing a miniature Tay Bridge. Apart 
from the mountains the clearest landmarks were the semi-circular 
white-stoned Chinese graves. They gave no impression of a burial- 
place, but looked like stones placed there purposely to guide the 
pilot on his way. 

We were two hours late in reaching Batavia. Nevertheless, 
thanks to the Dutch air and steamship officials, who charged me 
not an extra cent for the trouble I had given them, I had done 
the trip from BaU to Batavia in twenty-one hours. The tourists 
who were making the journey by sea would take four days. 

The first person I met on entering the compound of the Hotel 
des Indes was Ahmat, my former chauffeur. I had not expected 
to see him again. But he had discovered from the reception clerk 
that I had booked a room, and there he was waiting to greet me. 

The heat was appalling, the worst, in fact, that Batavia had 
experienced for many years. Nevertheless, my nerves still ex- 
hilarated by my air flight, I went off with Ahmat to pay the 
visit which had been the chief reason for my hurrying back to 
Batavia. This was to Thamrin, the Javanese nationalist leader, to 
whom my socialist friend in Djokja had given me letters. 

Fortunately, I found him at home. He received me at once. 
He was dressed in European clothes. Clean-shaven, sturdily built, 
with Mongolian eyes and an attractive smile, he reminded me at 
once of Kerensky. He had begun his life as a shipping clerk in 

353 



the Dutch line which had taken me to Bali and the islands. Now 
he was living in a comfortable villa with a car and a "boy" to 
wait on him. 

Although he had never been out of Java, he spoke English 
tolerably well. For nearly two hours we discussed the nationalist 
question in all its aspects. He was strongly anti-communist and 
maintained that there was no real communism in Java and never 
would be. His great theme was that the Dutch East Indian Gov- 
ernment should stimulate Javanese nationalism as a bulwark 
against the danger of Japanese encroachment. He was very 
cautious in his references to the Dutch. But he had no illusions 
about Europe, was fully conscious that the East had awakened, 
and prophesied that events in the Pacific would move swiftly. 

As we said good-bye, he gave me a collection of his speeches 
in the Volksraat. They were printed both in Dutch and in Malay. 
They dealt with economic and political problems and revealed 
considerable erudition. They might have been delivered with suc- 
cess by any of the callow politicians who have sprung up like 
mushrooms in the new states of post-war Europe. Thamrin him- 
self was the epitome of the new type of politician which to-day is 
emerging from the white man's system of education in the East. 
I guessed that, like all nationalists, he was in favour of Javanese 
independence, but that a natural caution had converted him to 
the policy of gradualness. 

Unable to sleep because of the heat, I spent the evening and 
the best part of the night in reading a French book that I had 
picked up in one of the excellent book-shops of Batavia. It was 
called Paciftque '39. It predicts a war in the Pacific in 1939. In 
this war the Japanese fleet destroys the naval might of the United 
States. Britain, engaged elsewhere, makes discretion the better part 
of valour, remains neutral, and contents herself with India as her 
most valuable Eastern possession. France, who is friendly with 
Japan, keeps out of trouble and retains Indo-China. At the con- 
ference after the war France and Japan become the controllers of 
peace in the East. The Dutch and British possessions east of Singa- 
pore become independent. 

The book is interesting only because its author, M. de Pou- 
vourville, is a recognised authority on the East and because it 

354 



shows to what lengths anxiety for the security of France's pos- 
sessions can drive a Frenchman. 

The next day I spent in arranging my passage home, in packing 
my books, and in paying calls on the Dutchmen who had helped 
me so efficiently in my travels. To my deep regret one Dutch- 
man to whom I had letters of introduction was not in Batavia. 
This was Dr. Callenfels, the great archaeologist and pre-historian, 
whose fame extends over the world. In pursuit of his studies he 
has travelled the whole of the Malay Archipelago. He is much 
liked by the British in the Malay States. A giant in intellect and 
body, he weighs over twenty stone. Neither late hours nor alcohol 
have any effect on his massive frame and active brain, and, if 
patriotism demands it, he can drink any Englishman or, for that 
matter, any Scot under the table. The stories told of him and 
by him are legion. Here is one of his own, for the truth of which 
I can vouch. 

Callenfels, like most great scholars, likes to think of himself 
as the laziest man in the world. Some years ago he was told that 
there was a jungle tribe in Sumatra whose men were even lazier 
than himself. He at once organised an expedition in order to test 
the truth of this report. 

On his way back he stopped at Singapore and went to see some 
English friends in our Government service. 

"I have zeen this tribe of which they talk zo much," said 
Callenfels. "It is true that the men are a little lazy. I saw one old 
gentleman being driven slowly away in a cart from the market- 
place. His wife walked behind, a pikulan across her shoulder, 
weighed down with oil, hens in baskets, rice and everyzing that 
they had bought in ze market. The man was lying back on 
cushions. He looked very comfortable, but I saw that in his right 
hand he carried a small cage with a dove. And zen I knew that I 
had nozzing to learn from zat man or from zat tribe. If I had 
been zere, I should have had a second wife to carry ze dove." 

In the evening I dined with Miedl, my German friend, who 
was still in Batavia and still engaged in wrangling with the Dutch 
over his mining claims. The heat was stifling. For three days a 
low blanket of heavy cloud had hung over the town. The slightest 
movement made the sweat run down one's face. Even breathing 
was an effort. It was a salutary reminder that, even with all the 

355 



modern comforts of ice and electric fans, the tropics can still 
reduce the strongest man to the mental and physical equivalent 
of a wet rag. 

Sleep being out of the question, we decided to go round the 
town. It was a dismal night. The streets were empty, and even 
the rain was disagreeably tepid. The cabaret that had been recom- 
mended to us was closed. We went on to a place called Maxim's. 
It was open but empty except for the waiters and the orchestra 
of three. We went in, ordered drinks, and sent for the pianist. 
He was a Viennese. Both his colleagues were Austrians. All three 
were obviously men of education. Indeed, the pianist had taken a 
doctor's degree at Vienna University. 

We asked him to play some old Viennese Schlager for us. To 
the fierce patter of the tropical rain, with the sweat dripping in 
beads from his brow, he hammered out "Servus Du" and "In der 
kleinen Amerikan Bar." I hope that he was a better doctor than 
he was a pianist. False notes and a piano sadly out of tune were 
too much for us. We paid him lavishly and went out again into 
the rain. 

After many futile peregrinations our chauffeur pulled up out- 
side a small villa in the "down town" area. A Javanese "boy" 
ushered us into a large living-room with easy chairs and a gramo- 
phone, brought a row of beer bottles, and went to fetch his mis- 
tress, a Batavian Malay past her early youth, but not without 
allure. She clapped her hands, and presently in came three young 
girls dressed in sarongs and rubbing their eyes. 

The mistress opened negotiations at once. When I explained 
to her that we were not interested in "business," but had come 
for a talk and a drink and were prepared to pay for both, she 
was full of suspicion. Doubtless, she took us for police agents. 
Finally, the beer was opened, and one of the girls started up an 
American one-step on the gramophone. Very solemnly two of the 
girls came up to us. Obviously we were expected to dance, but 
not even the exotic curiosity of dancing with a Malay girl could 
tempt me to move in that stifling atmosphere. Miedl, however, 
took the floor, and for a few minutes ambled round with his 
partner like a bear dancing with a small monkey. The sight of this 
German giant dancing with a slip of a girl whose head barely 
came up to his chest should have been funny. But there was no 

356 



laughter in my heart. I felt suddenly old beyond my years. My 
zest for night life had been prompted by a youthful curiosity. It 
had been prolonged unduly by the restlessness of the post-war 
period. Now it seemed that it had gone for ever. Then I re- 
membered how, a few weeks before I set out on my Eastern trip, 
I had gone with some Russian friends to a tiny restaurant in 
Paris. We had had the place to ourselves, and until the early 
hours of the morning I had listened to the old gipsy songs of my 
Russian days. There had been only one singer, an elderly woman, 
very dignified in her simple black dress and with the beautiful 
deep voice of the real gipsy. Then, to the accompaniment of the 
guitar, she had sung an emigre song which was new to me. The 
tune was old, but the words, although they made no direct refer- 
ence to politics, had an unmistakable significance. It was an exile's 
song with the same appeal as the songs of the Liberal exiles in the 
days of Tsardom: 

"Molts, Kuna\, v stranye chujoi; 
Molis, kuna\, za %rai rodnoi; 
Molis za tye\hf{ to serdtsu mil, 
Shtoby Gospod yity so\hranil" 

"Pray, cavalier, now on a foreign strand; 
Pray, cavalier, for our dear fatherland; 
Pray now for those who in our hearts are sleeping 
That God may hold them always in His peeping!' 

I had been profoundly moved. I had begged the singer to 
repeat the three verses again and again. Now, in this tawdry 
Batavian villa, I realised that age had very little to do with the 
emotional follies of man and that my lack of zest was due to other 
reasons. I was a European. Between the East and the West there 
was a gulf which all the international sentiment in the world 
would never bridge in our time. 

I turned to Miedl. He nodded, and we went out into the grey 
mist of the pre-dawn, carrying away with us the cloying 1 smell of 
patchouli and cheap scent. 

When I reached my hotel, it was too late to go to bed. The air 
was still and stifling, and the damp heat weighed like a load 
of hot bricks on my head. I sat down on my verandah. On the 

357 



table were two copies of the Bible: one in Dutch and the other 
in English. They had been placed there by the "Gideonites," an 
American Bible society started in the 'nineties by two commercial 
travellers for other commercial travellers. I was tired and angry 
with myself. I had arrived from Bali bronzed and well. These 
last two days in Batavia had been expensive and unprofitable. 

I sailed the next day at noon. There was an enormous crowd 
on board to speed the parting Dutchmen going home on holiday 
or leaving the East for ever. It was with motor-boats dashing 
across our bows and to the accompaniment of jazz and sirens 
and the popping of champagne corks that I took my last leave 
of Batavia. 



358 



CHAPTER SEVEN 

DURING the thirty-four hours' journey from Batavia to 
Singapore I kept myself aloof from the other passengers. I 
wanted to capture all I could from these last few hours in the 
East. True, there would be the pleasant voyage home. I should 
meet my friends again. The Pembrokes were already on board. 
The Rosslyns I should pick up in Singapore. 

There would be two days in Sumatra with an enchanting visit 
to the Batak country with the glorious mountain drive to Brast'agi, 
and beyond to the point where one looks down on the huge ex- 
panse of Lake Toba, twice as big as Lake Geneva and surrounded 
by mountains more imposing than the Alps. There would be 
thoughts of cannibals, for it is not so long ago since the Bataks 
abandoned the joys of human flesh, and at Toba itself there is an 
old Batak chief still living who has eaten his missionary "long 
pork." His son is now studying at Leyden University, and what 
he learns will probably be more dangerous to the Dutch than his 
father's teeth have ever been. There would be entertaining and 
instructive conversations with the brilliant van Karnebeek, the 
former Dutch foreign minister, to whom I am indebted for so 
much valuable information about the Dutch. But, as far as I was 
concerned, Singapore would be the end of my journey* 

It was sunset of the next day before we reached the entrance 
to the harbour. On this occasion I was approaching the port from 
a new angle, and the groups of islands which studded the sea 
filled me with delight. I was glad that they had not yet been 
turned into golf-courses and oil-stations. 

It was too late for our steamer to berth at the dock, and 
Freddie came aboard in a launch to take me off to spend my last 
night on Malayan soil. We went to Raffles to find it crowded with 
men and women in evening dress. At a table I saw the Sultan of 

359 



Johore. To-morrow his white sultana would join us on the boat as 
a passenger to England. But for the Chinese "boys" the scene 
might be duplicated on any Saturday night at one of the big 
hotels of an English south coast resort. 

Avoiding the dancing hall and the dining-room Freddie and I 
went out into the garden and dined alone. We sat long, discussing 
the future. 

Freddie took a packet from his pocket and untied it carefully. 
It contained the photographs he had" taken of my Pantai visit. 
There was a marvellous picture of the survivors of my old football 
team, seated in chairs liks Cup Final winners. As I was not 
coming back, they wanted a written message. I scribbled a few 
words in Malay on a copy for each. 

There was also a picture of Amai standing by the golden rice 
before a background of jungle and mountains. It made her look 
younger. My memory jumped across the years, and I saw her again, 
dressed in all her finery and setting off in a gharry for Seremban 
to have her first photograph taken by the local Japanese photog- 
rapher. The photograph had been successful, and I remembered 
her childish delight when it arrived. She was a young girl then, 
fearless, lissom, and beautiful even according to European 
standards. My copy of that photograph had perished with the rest 
of my belongings in the Bolshevik revolution. 

Amai, too, wanted a message. But I handed back the fountain- 
pen to Freddie. He shook his head. 

"You must write something," he said. "Her pride will be hurt 
if you don't, and in any case you'll let her down with her friends." 

Pride is the undying flame that continues to burn long after 
love and passion are dead. I took the pen again and wrote out 
an old Malay pantun that I had learnt from her, years before, 
when she took the place of my Malay teacher: 

"Permata jatoh di-dalam rumput, 
Jatoh di-rumput bergilang-gilang; 
Kaseh umpama embun di-ujong rumput, 
Datang mata-hari neschaya hilang" 



"A pearl may fall within the grass. 
But still undimmed will shine its ray; 
Love is life the dew, dasl 
With sunrise both soon fade away!' 



From Amai we turned to the future. During these last few days 
I had begun to crystallise the impressions I had formed during my 
trip. I wanted to try them out on Freddie before I went home. 

The changes since my time had been immense. In the .Dutch 
East Indies and even in Malaya I had found most thinking 
Europeans obsessed with the danger of Japan. Their fears were 
inspired, partly, by the commercial successes of the Japanese ex- 
porters and, partly, by the military might of the Japanese nation. 
There was the incontrovertible fact that Japan is to-day the most 
powerful nation in Asia, and that her word, and not the word of 
the League of Nations or any other combination of powers, is law 
to half the world. 

As for Japanese trade, Japan had more than doubled her popu- 
lation during my lifetime. She had to import increasingly, and to 
pay for her imports she had to export increasingly. To express sur- 
prise and indignation at the growth of Japan's export trade was 
merely to shut one's eyes to the acutest population problem of our 
times. If Japanese goods were to be shut out, Japan must either 
starve or fight. For climatic reasons she would probably find her 
main outlet elsewhere than in the Malay Archipelago. 

Karnebeek, the former Dutch foreign minister and my fellow- 
passenger, was strong on this point. He had represented his country 
at the Washington conference after the Great War, when the four 
Powers, Britain, France, the United States and Japan, had signed 
a declaration to respect each other's colonial possessions. The 
Netherlands had not been included in this declaration, and Karne- 
beek had gone in a state of perturbation to the Japanese delegate 
to see if he could obtain a special declaration for the Dutch East 
Indies. The Japanese delegate had acquiesced at once. "Why not?" 
he said. "We would rather that you were there than any one 
else." 

Then, too, there was America. It was the habit of the British 
to speak lightly of the Americans as colonial administrators. 

361 



They lacked experience. As a race they were not distinguished for 
their knowledge of foreign languages or of foreign peoples. But 
during my tour nearly every responsible British and Dutch official 
that I met went out of his way to praise the American administra- 
tion in the Philippines. 

It had done a wonderful work in promoting health services, 
education and general welfare a work so beneficial that now that 
the High Commissioner was being withdrawn the Filipinos them- 
selves had formed an association whose sole object was to plead for 
the maintenance of American protection. There was no American 
who knew the East who believed that this withdrawal was inspired 
by altruistic motives. It was dictated by American big business 
interests, which wanted to exclude the Philippines sugar from the 
benefit of free entry into the United States. There was no English- 
man or Dutchman in the East who thought for one moment that 
the withdrawal would ever be put into full effect or that in the 
face of an outside threat the United States would withhold its 
protection. 

It would be foolish to ignore the Japanese problem, but to my 
mind the real danger to colonial empires in the East would come in 
the long run from the inside. I had been astounded by the vast 
strides in education made since my time by the various native races 
under European rule. It seemed to me that Europeans in the East 
were too inclined to regard the supremacy of the European races 
as something inviolate and eternal. Yet viewed through the tele- 
scope of life on this planet that supremacy was of comparatively 
recent origin. The Europeans of to-day possessed the inventive 
genius of the world, but some of their discoveries were only re- 
discoveries. Even the lipstick which had now conquered Singapore 
dated back to the early Egyptians. Empires were like flowers, trees, 
animals, human beings and everything else that had life. They had 
their birth, their childhood, their youth, their manhood, their 
middle age, their decline, and then their death. 

How long could Europe keep these Asiatic races, now fertile 
with new ideas and new ambitions, under subjection? Estimates 
differed about the length of time. I have heard one high official 
at home, a man who knew the East as few men know it, asked 
if he were in favour of giving Germany her colonies. "I don't 
think it matters," he had said. "Self-determination is moving so fast 

362 



that in twenty-five years' time it will make no difference who 
owns colonies." Even if the final period of withdrawal were repre- 
sented by X, there was obviously a limit. 

Most experts, including many British, held the view that the 
French would go from Asia first, the British second, and the 
Dutch last. I could not speak of the French. But my own firm im- 
pression was that, as far as the Malay Archipelago was concerned, 
the Dutch were in a weaker position than the British if only be- 
cause of their efficiency. Their colonial empire had reached a very 
high degree of development. It contained a far higher percentage 
of educated natives than did British Malaya, and education was the 
threshold to nationalism. It had a population more than fifteen 
times as large, and, although it comprised many races, these races 
had a common Malay origin and, in the main, a common religious 
faith in Islam. And that same population furnished the coolie class. 
There was, too, the complicated half-caste problem. To-day, there 
were fewer Dutchmen who boasted that they had no colour 
prejudice. 

With a Malay population and a Chinese population almost equal 
in size, the British in Malaya were in a stronger position. There 
were no Malay coolies. The Malay had been well cared for, per- 
haps too well for his chances of survival. Nationalism had barely 
reached the embryo stage. And there was no half-caste problem. 
In spite of the intellectual globe-trotters who travelled through in 
two days and wrote cheap sneers about the old school tie spirit and 
the snobbishness of the British, the absence of half-castes was not 
in itself a proof of colour prejudice. In this respect, as places like 
the New World showed, there had been a transformation since my 
days, and my most vivid impression of Malaya is the picture of a 
whole hotch-potch of oriental races, living happily together and 
working side by side, under British protection. The British were 
neither better nor worse than other Europeans in the East, but, as a 
high official put it bluntly, they did not believe in breeding bas- 
tards, and the fact remained that to-day the number of children of 
white men and native women in the peninsula is insignificant. 

But there was no reason why either the British or the Dutch 
should be ousted quickly. In this part of the world the Pax 
Britannica and the Pax Batavica still meant order instead of chaos, 
health instead of sickness, and even in bad times comparative 



plenty instead o starvation. And whatever the sins of colonial ex- 
ploitation might have been in the past, to-day there was honest ad- 
ministration and a genuine regard for native interests. 

The Dutch civil service had impressed me by its efficiency. 
If the British civil service showed some falling away from its 
former high standard, it still had picked men of outstanding ability. 
And their task was comparably more difficult than that of their 
predecessors. 

The weaknesses of the British service in Malaya leapt readily 
to the eye. They were those which are common to all services 
restricted to one small area: parochialism of outlook and an in- 
evitable staleness. To eradicate these defects I should make the 
British colonial service interchangeable or partly interchangeable, 
with the British consular service in Siam and in the Dutch East 
Indies. I should certainly see to it that some of the picked men 
in Malaya could acquire a first-hand knowledge of those two 
neighbouring countries. 

The experience would be invaluable to high officials and to 
future governors. But Whitehall would raise its hands in pious 
horror at the mere suggestion. There would be opposition from 
both the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office, and the Treasury 
would put forward a frigid and well-reasoned objection. 

A Treasury, however, should be the handmaid and not the 
master of a great Empire. Yet since the war the British Treasury 
had acquired a dominating position, and had assumed for its chief 
the new and dangerous title of Head of the Civil Service. Policy 
at home had no definite objectives and was complicated by contra- 
dictory aims of uninspired opportunism. The administrative 
machine was too big. 

Rome had given to the world the greatest free trade empire 
and the longest period of peace that it has ever known. But in the 
end the efficiency of the Roman colonial administration had been 
destroyed by the over-centralisation and over-bureaucratisation of 
the civil service at headquarters. The same fate now threatened the 
British colonial administration in the East. Already this centralisa- 
tion was expressing itself in a certain lack of initiative on the part 
of the colonial servant abroad. I remembered the bitter words of 
Sir Frank Swettenham, as I sat with him in, his London flat shortly 
before my voyage: "A masterly inactivity is to-day a better road to 

364 



a successful official career than all the enterprise, resolution and 
drive in the world." Inertia was the first sign of that moral de- 
cadence which always precedes zoological extinction. 

One thing seemed to me dear. It was useless to blame the civil 
servants for their education policy. However good or bad it might 
be, the real educationalist in the East was the international trader. 
Here in Singapore, in Batavia, in every port of the Archipelago, 
were representatives of every nation trying to sell films, silk stock- 
ings, lipstick, gramophones, bicycles and even cars to the natives 
and trying to educate them up to their use. It might be dangerous 
to go too fast. But there could be no putting the clock back. There 
were only two ways to treat native subject races: to hold them back 
by restricting medical and education services, or to admit them 
gradually, according to their development, to a greater share in 
the administration of their own affairs. It was too late for the first 
method. The secret of successful colonial government lay in choos- 
ing the right men and in allowing them a free hand to maintain 
a proper balance between concessions and the necessities of or- 
dered progress. 

Freddie listened to me very patiently. He made a good point. 
The changes to-day were so rapid that the most dangerous advisers 
at home were the men who had spent their lives in the East and 
who had retired twenty years ago. 

It was midnight when I went to bed, in one of the old high 
bedrooms where I had spent my first night in Singapore twenty- 
eight years ago. For some time I looked out of my balcony win- 
dow across the harbour. The lights of a hundred ships lit up the 
water like street lamps on a wet night But there was no sound. 
The Lion city was asleep. Symbolic of the storms which perhaps 
lay ahead, great clouds raced across the sky. 

In spite of a wonderful battery of electric fans I slept fitfully. 

The next morning I rose at dawn and packed my suitcase. The 
hotel still slumbered. A tired Indian clerk at the reception office 
handed me my receipted bill, and I went out into the city. The 
European quarter was almost deserted. I drove out to the Botanical 
Gardens and to Sepoy Lines. The trees and plants in the gardens 
were heavy with scented dew. I passed a few early riders. On the 
Sepoy Lines golf-course an officer in shorts was practising mashie 
shots with a couple of Malay "caddies." 

365 



I turned back into the native quarter. In North Bridge Road 
all was already bustle. Malay and Sikh policemen directed the 
traffic almost automatically with outstretched arms lengthened by 
a white flail. Tamils, Bengalis, Arabs, Malays and Chinese jostled 
each other in the streets. Scores of government clerks, among them 
several Chinese girls, were cycling to their offices. Unlike Shanghai, 
Singapore has not yet its women police, but when they come they 
will cause no surprise. Chinese rickisha pullers, mostly old men, 
stood at their stand waiting for jobs, their red-lacquered vehicles 
glistening in the sun. 

I went into a Japanese store to buy some films for my Leica 
camera. A young Japanese, speaking better English than any 
Japanese diplomat that I have heard, tried earnestly to make me 
buy various Leica accessories at a price thirty per cent, cheaper 
than I could buy them in England. For a moment I was tempted. 
Never again should I be able to buy anything so cheap. But sterner 
resolutions prevailed. For the last two years I have tried to impress 
on my son that the secret of modern life is to be mobile, to rid 
one's self of all but essential possessions. These camera accessories 
were so much junk that I should never look at again. I should 
never be a camera fiend. After Singapore my Leica, a present from 
a friend, would be a present again. 

Forlorn in a city where once I had been without a care in the 
world, I made my way to the docks. It was nine o'clock when I 
went on board. We were not due to sail until ten, but Freddie 
had promised to meet me. I was almost relieved not to find him. 
These Singapore steamer farewells mean early morning drinks, 
and I was in no mood for alcohol. 

Just as we were leaving, Freddie appeared on the quay to wave 
me goodbye. A great sadness filled me. The last time I had left 
Singapore, I had sailed East. The direction seemed symbolic of 
youth and of adventure. Now I was returning West, to the long 
hours of the hardest and most precarious routine job in the world. 
There would be no more roaming. 

I hated the huge liner, in which one was on the sea and yet 
remote from it. I dreaded the common-place remarks of the pas- 
sengers and even the sympathetic comments of my friends. One 
can feel more lonely in the Waldorf-Astoria in New York or in a 
flat in London than in the Sahara. But there is no place in the 



world where solitude is at a higher premium or where acquaint- 
anceship is more difficult to avoid than on an ocean liner. And 
in these last few hours of farewell the desire to be alone was over- 
whelming in its physical pain. 

The conversation I had had with Freddie on the previous 
evening went round and round in my head. I thought of Byron 
and his passion for the rather unattractive modern Greeks. My 
own sentimental attachment to the Malays was strong. Almost I 
could understand a European taking up their cause, especially in 
Java where the lot of the Javanese was worse than that of the 
Malays of the Peninsula. 

A European had opened the gates of Spain to the Moors. A 
European deserter had supplied Sultan Mohammed with the en- 
gine of artillery which facilitated his capture of Constantinople. 
Among the Dutch and, doubtless, even among the British there 
were men and women who for their socialist ideals and in their 
detestation of Imperialism might one day play a similar role in the 
East. But that way I could not go. I was no die-hard, but, after 
all, there was such a thing as a dividing line between sedition and 
a natural sympathy with freedom. I could see the illogicality 
of the European position. Nationalism was a virtue in Britain, in 
France, in Germany, in Italy, in all the homes of the colonial 
powers. But it was a vice in India, in Malaya, and in the Dutch 
East Indies. Moscow was the great supporter of national inde- 
pendence in the East. Yet nationalism was a virtue in Moscow and 
a vice in Turkestan and the other Central Asiatic possessions of 
Soviet Russia. And in spite of all the chatter about Federated 
Socialist Republics the fact remained that, in order to suppress 
native nationalism, Moscow kept more troops and more police 
agents in Central Asia than did the British and Dutch together 
in the Malay Archipelago. 

It was easy to attack Imperialism. But what did the Geneva 
idealists, the socialists, the foreign journalists who came, saw, and 
formed their judgment in the space of a few days, propose to put 
in its place? There was no answer. If we went out prematurely, 
some other Power would step in and take our place. Common 
sense and the benefit of all the races concerned dictated that our 
rule should continue until such time as we could withdraw, leaving 
behind us some assurance of ordered government and permanent 

367 



stability. The period might be shorter than the three hundred 
years prophesied by the Dutch Governor-General, but it was not 
yet within the range of profitable calculation. 

One doubt obsessed my mind: the effect on the East of the 
spectacle of a Europe apparently intent on self-destruction. The 
last war had done more to undermine the prestige of the white 
man in the East than a hundred years of education. Another 
European war within the next few years would probably mean 
the end not only of Europe's possessions in the East, but also of the 
benefits of her ordered rule to millions of people. 

There was not very much that was wrong with the British in 
the East. If trouble came, they would do their duty like the "lost 
legion" in the days of Rome's decline. But civilisation destroyed 
itself from within. The future of our Eastern Empire would be 
decided not in India, not in Malaya, nor in Hong-Kong or in 
Ceylon, but by the will-power and survival fitness of the British at 
home. When I thought of our huge urban population and of the 
rows and rows of uniform, dreary houses now spreading their 
ugliness across the face of the English countryside, I remembered 
Lord Beaverbrook's favourite Biblical quotation: "Where there is 
no vision, the people perish." 

The history of the Pacific was opening at a new chapter. It 
began with astronomical figures: 400,000,000 Chinese, 300,000,000 
Indians, and 100,000,000 various Malay races of the Malay Archi- 
pelago, awake, rapidly assimilating the white man's education, and 
stimulated in their nationalist aspirations by the example of Japan. 
How petty the wrangles of Europe seemed in the face of this im- 
mense problem. . 

After luncheon I went down to my cabin to write up my 
diaries. It was after five o'clock when I came on deck again. We 
were close to the shore. Tommy Rosslyn had told the captain of 
our steamer that I wished to see the last of Port Dickson, and 
with the usual Dutch courtesy towards British passengers he had 
promised to take us in as near as he dared. Away to the left was 
Cape Rachado, its white lighthouse standing out like a Rhenish 
castle on a wooded cliff. It was the beginning of that haunting 
stretch of semi-circular coast which ends with Pulau Arang and the 
harbour of Port Dickson itself. We were going to pass it closer than 
any liner that I had ever watched in my youth from my old 

368 



bungalow at the third mile. The sea was like a sheet of unruffled 
ice. The evening sky was clear but for a few threads of cloud 
which caught the rays of the sun and turned them into fire. 

In my mind I had planned this farewell, even to the hour of 
sunset. And now, as though by a miracle, it had come true. As 
we drew still closer in, I could distinguish all the old landmarks: 
the dark outline of coast with a faint streak of white where the sea 
met the sandy beach, Freddie's bungalow, and the little islands 
near Magnolia Bay. Behind, lit by the sunlight, were the purple 
hills of Negri Sembilan, turning slowly to mauve and then grey 
until they were blotted out in the descending gloom. The last light 
came from a small white cloud above the mountains, its reflection 
shining like a searchlight on the white sail of a tiny Malay "prahu" 
making for home. Somewhere beneath that cloud was Amai whom 
I was now leaving again. Twenty-eight years ago I thought this 
strip of coast the fairest sight that Nature has to offer to the 
eyes of men. I think the same to-day. 

Passionately I desired to prolong the scene, but the great motor- 
ship moved silently and relentlessly on her course. As we passed 
the point at Port Dickson, only a few lights twinkled from the 
shore. 



369 



INDEX 



Abyssinia, 37-41, 44, 106 

Acheh, 297-8, 325 

Achinese, the, 58 

Adams, Mr., 166 

Addis Ababa, 39 

Aden, 42-5, 49 

Adowa, 39 

Afghanistan, 4 

Africa, 3, 20 

Agnew, Andrew, 142 

Ah Ling, 140 

Ahmat, 221, 223-5, 228, 353 

Albert, 17 

Albuquerque, Alfonso, 156-9 

Albury, 249 

Alexander, King, 8 

Alexandria, 35 

Algiers, 38 

Amai, 4, 9, 64, 71, 122, 172, 186, 

200-11, 360-1, 369 
America, 10, 361-2 
Arnoy, 105 
Ampenan, 296 
Angkor, 3, 10 
Anjou, 5 
Antinoiis, 20 
Arjuno, 344 
Artz, Simon, 29, 30 
Auchmuty, General, 228 
Australia, 25, 86 

Bab-el-Mandeb, 40 

Badoeng, Prince of, 326 

"Bagoes," 318-23, 326, 328-30, 333, 

337-9, 341-2, 349-50 
Bakker, Sergeant, 328 
Bali, 10, 256, 296-7, 317-50 
Bandoeng, 237-41 
Bangkok, 10 



Bantimoeroeng, 311 

Baraboedoer, 261-9 

Bardey, M., 44 

Barthou, Madame, 8 

Barton, Sir Sydney, 106-7 

Batavia, 10, 22, 215-30, 233-7, 240, 

247, 251-4, 257, 316, 352-8 
Batoer, Lake, 348 
Batu Pahat, 85 
Baud, Baron, 250 

Beaverbrook, Lord, 9, n, 17, 290, 368 
Beaverbrook Press, 3 
Belawan Deli, 62-3 
Berkeley of Grik, 189 
Bernard, M., 40 
Besakih, 331-2 

Birch, Sir Ernest, 31, 91, 281 
Biretti, 238-9, 253 
Blanche, Madame, 108, in 
Bligh, Captain, 223, 290 
Bloxham, Captain, 115-20 
Boekit Sari, 341-4 
Boeleleng, 296, 317 
Bongkasa, 344 
Bonifacio, 14 
Borneo, 81 

Braddon, "Abang," 196-9 
Braddon, "Adek," 197, 199 
Brast'agi, 63, 359 

British Agent, 3, 5, 9, 103, 122, 252 
Broadmoor, 59 
Brouage, 6 

Brace, Major G. M., 167 
Brunei, 8x 

Bryce, Colonel "Teddie," 105-6, 130 
Buddha, 268 

Buitenzorg, 220, 231-3, 251 
Bukit Timah, 100, m 
Bulgaria, King Boris of, 146 

37 1 



Bulow, Prince, 99 

Buntak, 138-9, 173-4, 182, 201 

Byron, 16, 367 

Caesar, 20, 35 

Calabria, 20 

Caldecott, Sir Andrew, 89-91, 196 

Callenfels, Dr., 355 

Cambon, M. Jules, 99 

Camoens, 151, 158 

Capellen, Baron van der, 232 

Caprera, 15 

Carnarvon, Lord, 17 

Celebes, 302-4, 307-11 

Ceylon, 30, 52-3, 83 

Chamberlain, Joseph, 93 

Champlain, 6 

Changi Point, 83, 86 

Charleville, 45-8 

Cheka, 119 

Chetwode, Lady, 215 

Chiang Kai-shek, 256 

Chicago, 1 12-3 

Chicherin, 15-6 

China, 80, 83, 87, 105-6, 311 

Clarke, Tom, 16 

Claudel, M. Paul, 43-4 

Clemenceau, 5 

Cleopatra, 20 

Clifford, Sir Hugh, 91, 94, 96, 189 

Colombo, 49, 52-7 

Clerk, Sir George, 39-40 

Cochin-China, 23 

Coen, Jan Pieterson, 227 

Colijn, Dr., 228, 291, 298 

Columbus, 15, 156 

Congo, 3 

Conrad, Joseph, 3, 10, 39, 51, 68, 96, 
182, 302-4, 307, 312-3, 324, 347 

Cook, Captain, 222-3 

Corsica, 14-5 

Creighton, Dr., 216 

Crete, 26 

Gumming, Harry, 141 

Cunard, Victor, 340, 344 

Cunningham, Freddie, 69-79, 124, 
136-8, 139-40, 144-5. i47-6i, 168-73, 
182-4, 186, 192, 197, 200-8, 359-60 

Cunningham, Sir George, 73-4 

Daendels, Marshal, 228-9, 236 

37 2 



Daniel, Georges, 38 

Darius, 32 

Dartmoor, 115 

Daudet, Alphonse, 14 

Dckker (Multatuli), 289 

Deli, Sultan of, 62-3 

Den Pasar, 319-20, 326, 328-9, 335, 

337, 342, 344. 348 
Diaz, Bartholomew, 35 
Dindings, 80 

Dipo Negoro, 255-6, 305-6, 310 
Djibuti, 36 
Djo-Djo, 22 
Djokja, 254-62, 267-70, 277-8, 280, 

282-3, 335 
Djokjakarta, Sultan of, 247-8, 270, 

275-6, 282, 287, 341 
Douai, 1 6, 43 
Drau the Habshi, 204-5 
Dreyfus, 115 
Dunlop Rubber Company, 152-4 

Eden, Mr. Anthony, 6, 43, 45 

Egypt, 20, 28, 112 

Elba, 16 

Elberfeld, Pictcr, 224 

El Greco, 27 

Engler, Robert, 140-1 

Eritrea, 39 

Etna, Mt., 20 

Fauconnier, 96 
Ferrajo, 16 
Fcttes, 26, 42 
Fontainebleau, 16 
Fokker, Anthony, 290 
Fontevrault, 115 
France, Anatole, 7 

Goa Lawah, the, 334-5 
Gocnoeng Batoer, 348 
Goenoeng Gadeh, 235 
Goenoeng Pangerango, 235 
Goesti Ngura Raka, 335 
Goethe, 12 

Graeff, Jonkhcer de, 244 
Guaglino, 19 
Gondangdia, 227-8 
Galle Face Hotel, 54-5 
Gama, Vasco da, 35, 156, 159 
Gana, 320 
Garibaldi, 15 



Gauguin, 38 
Gebel-Miriam, 33 
Geddes, Sir Eric, 153-4 
Genoa, n, 15 
Genoa, Conference of, 15 
George, King, 57 
George, Lloyd, 5, 153 
Georgieff, General, 146 
Gericault, 8 
Germany, 19, 20 
Gibraltar, 86 
Goa, 304, 307 

Hadrian, 20 

Haji Sabudin, 149-50* 204 

Haji Said, 173 

Ham, Gordon, 89 

Ham, General van, 297 

Hanna, Dr. and Mrs., 77-8 

Hannibal, 20 

Harar, 44 

Harnish islands, 37 

Hassan, 199 

Hay, Mr. J. G., 178 

Hcemskerck, van, 324 

Heutz, General van, 228 

Hewan, Mr. E. D., 26 

Hikayat Abdullah, 151 

Hindenburg, 47 

Hitler, 19, 105 

Holland, "Monkey," 141, 184-5 

Hollywood, 10, 17, 346 

Hong-Kong, 21, 70, 84, 87, 104, 115 

Hughes, Mr., 162 

Hussein, 135-6 

He de Re", 115 

India, 20, 35, 80, 86, 115, 162, 244, 

287 

Ipoh, 142 
Irak, 80 
Irwin, Lord, 244 

Japan, 54, 83, 85-7, 1 19-20, 245-6, 
361 

Java, 10, 36, 76, 79, 151* 158, 218, 
225-6, 228-9, 233-42, 243-4, 249-54, 
272-3, 283-4, 286-91, 33i> 335 

Jeddah, 36 

Jelebu, 90, 195-8 

Jcnni, Mr., 307-8, 3x2-4 



Jeralang River, 200 

Johore, 79, 81, 83, 85, 105, 129 

Johore, Sultan of, 78, 85, 130, 359-60 

Jonge, Jonkheer de, 243-7 

Joseph, 33 

Kaiser, the, 46-8 

Kajang, 60 

Kamar, 262, 265-6, 278, 280-1 

Karangasam, Prince of, 324 

Kariman Islands, 180 

Karnebeek, Jonkheer van, 361 

Kartini, Princess, 284 

Kassim, 140, 206, 209 

Kedah, 81 

Kedah, Sultan of, 165 

Kelantan, 81 

Kcmal Ataturk, 279, 287 

Kerensky, A. F., 51-2 

Kingsley, 136 

Kipling, 280, 343 

Klana, Dato', 4, 172, 186, 202-3, 207-8 

Klitzing, Baroness von, 250 

Kloeng-Koeng, 326, 328-31, 333-4 

Kloeng-Koeng, the Dewar Agoeng of, 

326, 329-30, 349 
Kloet, 290 
Knapp, Miss, 192-5 
Kra, 245-6 
Krakatau, 218 
Kraton, the, 274-6 
Kremlin, 15, 35, 115 
Kuala Kangsar, 165 
Kuala Klawang, 195-6 
Kuala Lumpur, 60, 81, 120, 142, 145, 

154, 165-6, 203 
Kuala Pilah, 172, 185, 187-8, 190* 

195-6 

Labuan, 81 
Labuan Haji, 298 
Lampard, Arthur, 177 
Lang, Andrew, 6 
Lembang, 238 
Lenin, 15-6, 82 
Lesseps, 28, 32, 34 
Limba, 345-7 
Linggi River, 150 
Lipari Islands, 19 
Lisbon, 159 
Litvinoff, 10 

373 



Loke Yew, 136 
Lombok, 296-7 
London, Jack, 313 
Loti, Pierre, 3, 5-8 
Loubianka, 115, 119 
Loughborough, Lord, 24 
Lowinger, Victor, 245-6 
Loyola, Ignatius, 155 
Ludendorff, 47 

Macassar, 301-2, 304-8, 310, 312, 314-5 
McClelland, Stewart, 167 
McClymont, James, 141-2 
McClymont, Quentin, 141-2 
McClymont, Bella, 142 
Mackensen, General, 10 
MacDonald, Ramsay, 29, 239 
Macgregor, 175-9 
Mackie, Grant, 30, 189-90 
Maddalena, 15 
Madura Island, 291 
Magelang, 265-9 

Magellan (Magalhies), Ferdinand, 158 
Malacca, 67, 81, 143, i47 ? I49'6i, 36 
Malaya, position of, 80 
population of, 81 
economics of, 82-3, 85-6, 92-3 
administrators of, 93-5 
writers of, 96 
Ma Patimah, 349-50 
Makar, Macan, 54-6 
Massawah, 36 

Masson, 16 

Mataram, 296-8 

Maugham, Mr. Somerset, n, 96, 168, 
302, 324 

Mauretania, 13 

Maxwell, Sir George, 96 

Mecca, 36-7 

Medan, 62-3 

Meester Cornells, 226, 228-9 

Menelik, 40, 44 

Menangkabau, 53 

Merah, the, 292-296 

Merapi, 263-4, 267, 278 

Messina, 20-1 

Miedl, 218, 229, 231, 233, 236-7, 
241, 247-8, 355-7 

Minas, Mr., 324 

Minikoi, 51-2 

Minto, Lord, 151, 228 

374 



Mitchell, Sir Charles, 114, 121 

Mocha, 38-9 

Molenvliet canal, 220 

Moll, 249 

Monte Carlo, 24 

Montfreid, Henri de, 37-8, 45 

Morgan, Mr. J. P., 55 

Morocco, 99 

Moscow, 115, 118-9 

Moses, 33 

Murat, 20 

Mussolini, 19, 20, 38, 239 

Nagasaki, 21 

Napoleon, 14, 16-7, 20, 27, 32 
Neate, Major A., 122 
Negri Sembilan, 60, 74, 8 1, 90, 127, 
135, 143, 153, 172, 174, 184-7, 

192-7, 200, 206, 369 

New Zealand, 297 
Ney, Marshal, 20 
Northcliffe, Lord, 16 

Oeboed, 339 
Qldenbarnvelt, 11-13 
Oliver, Captain, 52 
Ong Ee Lim, 104 
Oudendijk, Sir William, 10 

Pahang, 51 

Palcmbang, 217 

Palmerston, Lord, 34 

Pantai, 36, 63, 71, 89, 118, 149-50, 

159, 172, 185-7, 195, 199-205, 208- 

10, 311, 360 
Parmentier, 249 
Patrick Academy, 4 
Pasar Gedeh, 258-9 
Peking, 106 

Pembroke, Countess of, 54-5 
Pembroke, Earl of, 50, 54, 69-70, 359 
Penang, 81, 83, 104, 142, 158 
Perak, 80-1 

Perak, Sultan of, 78, 164-5 
Pereira, Don Leonis, 158 
Pericles, 39 
Perim, 35, 37, 40 
Perlis, 81 

Petain, Marshal, 8 
Philippines, 362 
Pilgrim's Progress, 38 



Plessen, Baron von, 338 

Pompey, 20 

Port Dickson, 131* I35> *37 i4 I- 7> 

162, 164, I67-74, 182-3, 192, 209, 

368-9 

Port Said, 28-32 
Port Tewfik, 34 
Potjer, Captain, 49 
Pouvourville, M. de, 354-5 
Pulau Arang, 135, I37> 368 
Pulau Brani, 92-3 
Pulau Wei, 58 
Puntiak, 233-5 

Rabel, 16 
Radek, 15 
Raffles, Sir Stamford, 34, 68, 72, I5*' 2 , 

159, 228-9, 232, 268, 275, 288 
Ramazan, 36 
Red Sea, 33-8 
Reid, Mayne, 4 
Reiliy, Sidney, 16 
Rendlesham, Lord, 24 
Ridley, 176 
Rimbaud, Isabella, 44 
Rimbaud, Jean-Arthur, 43-8 
Rochefort, 6-8 
Rome, 27, 94. 364 
Roosevelt, Mr. Andre, 10, 324 
Rosslyn, Countess of, 8, 9, 52-3, 55, 

137, 368 
Rosslyn, Earl of, 17, 24, 31-2, 5<>> 55i 

124, 139, 140, l6 3> *68, 359 
Round, Miss Dorothy, 56 
Russia, 15, 4 52, 103, i 
Russia, Tsar of, 70 
Rustoum, Napoleon's Mameluke, 16 
Ruyter, Michael de, 19 

Sabang, 58-61 

Saigon, 10 

St. Paul, 26 

Samoa, 23 

San Giovanni, 20 

Sarawak, 180 

Sardinia, 14-5 

Scotland, 4 

Scott, Sir Walter, 24 

Sekamat, 185-6 

Selangor, 81 

Selangor, Sultan of, 100 



Selefis, 237-8 

Semllante, 14 

Sendayan, 145 

Senegal, 8 

Sepoy Lines, 114, 365 

Seremban, 60, 117, 135* I4* 183-5, 

197-8, 252 
Shanghai, 23, 366 
Shelley, 16 
Siam, 91-2, 245-6 
Silva, Duarte de, 158 
Simon, Sir John, 26, 239 
Sinai, 33 

Singapore, 9, 26, 42, 57, 63, 68-79* 
81-95, 100-5, 107-13, 114-21, 122- 
31, 142, 151, 162, 167-8, 172, 176, 
192, 209, 215, 232-3, 242, 245, 
252-3, 359, 365-6 

Singaradja, 318 

Soerabaja, 288-92, 352-3 

Solo, Sultan of, 247, 277-80 

Somaliland, French, 39-40 

Song Ong Siang, Sir, 105 

Speelman, Captain, 304 

Spiess, Captain,, 304 

Spiess, Walter, 340-1, 344-7 35* 

Straits Times, 79 

Stromboli, 18-20 

Stubbs, Lady, 57 

Stubbs, Sir Reginald, 57 

Suez Canal, 28, 34-5, II2 

Sumatra, 10, 53, 62-3, 217-8, 359 

Sungei Ujong, 172 

Sutherland, Millicent, Duchess of, 5 

Swettenham, Sir Frank, 34, 91-3, 96, 
123, 150, 166, 181, 189 

Tahiti, 38 

Taiping, 162 

Taman Sari, 270 

Tampaksiring, 339 

Tanah Merah, 3*7 

Tangkoeban Prahoe, 238-9 

Tanjong Priok, 221-2 

Thamrin, 353-4 

Thellusson, Peter, 24 , 

Theotocopoulos, Domemco (El Greco), 

27 

Thomas, Mr. J. H., 94 
Thomas, Sir Shenton, 162, 166 
Thucydides, 121 

375 



Tiger Lily, 126 
Timor, 223, 300-1 
Tjakra Negara, 297 
Tjandi Mendoet, 269 
Tjitaroem River, 236 
Toba, Lake, 63, 359 
Tosari, 290 
Toulon, 14 
Trajan, 32 
Trelawney, 16 
Trenganu, 81, 85 
Troth, the, 350-1 
Trugnet, Admiral, 14 
Turner, 20 
Tutankhamen, 17 

Vendee, la, 5-6 

Venizelos, 27 

Verlaine, 43 

Viaud, Julien (Pierre Lori), 8 

Viaud, M. Samuel, 6-8 



Victor Emmanuel, King, 33 
VoronofF, Dr., 279 

Waghorn, Lieutenant, 34 

Wallace, Alfred Russel, 225, 233, 305, 

324 
Wardlaw, Commodore Mark, 69-70, 

75 

Warner, Mr. H. M., 350-1 
Waterman, Miss, 341, 344 
Weede, Dr. van, 326 
Weigall, Mr. "Gerry," 147 
Wellesley, Province, 81 
Weltevreden, 221, 226 
Wickham, Sir Henry, 176 
Willingdon, Marquess of, 244 
Wiseman, George, 152-4 
Woodroffe, General, 256 
Woh, 203-6 

Xavier, St. Francis, 155