The Dindings - The Tragedy on Pulu Pangkor - A Tropic Sunrise - Sir W. Robinson's Departure - "A Touch of the Sun" - Kling Beauty - A Question and Answer - The Bazaars of Georgetown - The Chinaman Goes Ahead - The Products of Pinang - Pepper-Planting
HOTEL DE L'EUROPE, PINANG, February 9.
In the evening we reached the Dindings, a lovely group of small islands ceded to England by the Pangkor Treaty, and just now in the height of an unenviable notoriety. The sun was low and the great heat past, the breeze had died away, and in the dewy stillness the largest of the islands looked unspeakably lovely as it lay in the golden light between us and the sun, forest-covered to its steep summit, its rocky promontories running out into calm, deep, green water, and forming almost land-locked bays, margined by shores of white coral sand backed by dense groves of cocoa-palms whose curving shadows lay dark upon the glassy sea. Here and there a Malay house in the shade indicated man and his doings, but it was all silent.
On a high, steep point there is a small clearing on which stands a mat bungalow with an attap roof, and below this there is a mat police station, but it was all desolate, nothing stirred, and though we had intended to spend the early hours of the night at the Dindings, we only lay a short time in the deep shadow upon the clear green water, watching scarlet fish playing in the coral forests, and the exquisite beauty of the island with its dense foliage in dark relief against the cool lemon sky. Peace brooded over the quiet shores, heavy aromatic odors of night-blooming plants wrapped us round, the sun sank suddenly, the air became cool, it was a dream of tropic beauty.
"Chalakar! Bondo!" Those jarring sounds seemed to have something linking them with the tragedy of which the peaceful-looking bungalow was lately the scene, and of which you have doubtless read. A Chinese gang swooped down upon the house from behind, beating gongs and shouting. Captain Lloyd got up to see what was the matter, and was felled by a hatchet, calling out to his wife for his revolver. This had been abstracted, and the locks had been taken off his fowling-pieces. The ayah fled to the jungle in the confusion, taking with her the three children, the youngest only four weeks old. The wretches then fractured, Mrs. Lloyd's skull with the hatchet, and having stunned Mrs. Innes, who was visiting her, they pushed the senseless bodies under the bed, and were preparing to set fire to it when something made them depart.
No more is likely to be known. The police must either have been cowardly or treacherous. The Pyah Pekket called the next day and brought the frightfully mangled corpse, Mrs. Lloyd, whose reason was overturned, and Mrs. Innes, on here. It is supposed that the Chinese secret societies have frustrated justice. A wretch is to be hanged here for the crime this morning on his own confession, but it is believed that he was doomed to sacrifice himself by one of these societies, in order to screen the real murderers. The contrast was awful between the island looking so lovely in the evening light, and this horrid deed which has desolated it.
The mainland approaches close to the Dindings, but the mangrove swamps of Selangor had given place to lofty ranges, forest covered, and a white coral strand fringed with palms. It was a lovely night. The north-east monsoon was fresh and steady, and the stars were glorious. It was very hot below, but when I went up on deck it was cool, and in the colored dawn we were just running up to the island-group of which Pinang is the chief, and reached the channel which divides it from Leper Island just at sunrise. All these islands are densely wooded, and have rocky shores. The high mountains of the native State of Kedah close the view to the north, and on the other side of a very narrow channel are the palm groves and sugar plantations of Province Wellesley. The Leper Island looked beautiful in the dewy morning with its stilted houses under the cocoa-palms; and the island of Pinang, with its lofty peak, dense woods, and shores fringed with palms sheltering Malay kampongs, each with its prahus drawn up on the beach, looked impressive enough.
The fierce glory of a tropic sunrise is ever a new delight. It is always the sun of the Nineteenth Psalm, with the prevailing yellow color of the eastern sky intensifying in one spot, a cool, lingering freshness, a deepening of the yellow east into a brilliant rose color, till suddenly, "like a glory, the broad sun" wheels above the horizon, the dew-bathed earth rejoices, the air is flooded with vitality, all things which rejoice in light and heat come forth, night birds and night prowlers retire, and we pale people hastily put up our umbrellas to avoid being shriveled in less than ten minutes from the first appearance of the sun.
"Pinang," from the Pinang or areca-palm, is the proper name of the island, but out of compliment to George IV, it was called Prince of Wales Island. Georgetown is the name of the capital, but by an odd freak we call the town Penang, and spell it with an e instead of an i.
There were a great many ships and junks at anchor, and the huge "P. and O." steamer Peking, and there was a state of universal hurry and excitement, for a large number of the officials of the Colonial Government and of the "protected" States are here to meet Sir W. Robinson, the Governor, who is on his way home on leave. There are little studies of human nature going on all round. Most people have "axes to grind." There are people pushing rival claims, some wanting promotion, others leave; some frank and above-board in their ways, others descending to mean acts to gain favor, or undermining the good reputation of their neighbors; everybody wanting something, and usually, as it seems, at the expense of somebody else!