CHAPTER XXII

DAYAK DOGS - A FUNERAL ON THE MAHAKAM - OUR RETURN JOURNEY - AGAIN AT LONG TJEHAN - IN SEARCH OF A UNIQUE ORCHID - A BURIAL CAVE

Every night while we were camped here, and frequently in the day, as if controlled by magic, the numerous dogs belonging to the Dayaks suddenly began to howl in chorus. It is more ludicrous than disagreeable and is a phenomenon common to all kampongs, though I never before had experienced these manifestations in such regularity and perfection of concerted action. One or two howls are heard and immediately all canines of the kampong and neighbouring ladangs join, perhaps more than a hundred in one chorus. At a distance the noise resembles the acclamations of a vast crowd of people. The Penihings and Oma-Sulings treat man's faithful companion well, the former even with affection; and the dogs, which are of the usual type, yellowish in colour, with pointed muzzle, erect ears, and upstanding tail, are in fine condition. A trait peculiar to the Dayak variety is that he never barks at strangers, permitting them to walk on the galleries or even in the rooms without interference. Groups of these intelligent animals are always to be seen before the house and on the gallery, often in terrific fights among themselves, but never offensive to strangers.

They certainly serve the Dayaks well by holding the pig or other animal at bay until the men can come up and kill it with spear. Some of them are afraid of bear, others attack them. They are very eager to board the prahus when their owners depart to the ladangs, thinking that it means a chase of the wild pig. Equally eager are they to get into the room at night, or at any time when the owner has left them outside. Doors are cleverly opened by them, but when securely locked the dogs sometimes, in their impatience, gnaw holes in the lower part of the door which look like the work of rodents, though none that I saw was large enough to admit a canine of their size. One day a big live pig was brought in from the utan over the shoulder of a strong man, its legs tied together, and as a compliment to me the brute was tethered to a pole by one leg, while the dogs, about fifty, barked at and harassed it. This, I was told, is the way they formerly were trained. As in a bull-fight, so here my sympathy was naturally with the animal, which managed to bite a dog severely in the side and shook another vigorously by the tail. Finally some young boys gave it a merciful death with spears.

A woman blian died after an illness of five days, and the next forenoon a coffin was made from an old prahu. She had not been ill long, so the preparations for the funeral were brief. Early in the afternoon wailing was heard from the gallery, and a few minutes later the cortege emerged on its way to the river bank, taking a short cut over the slope between the trees, walking fast because they feared that if they lingered other people might become ill. There were only seven or eight members of the procession; most of whom acted as pall-bearers, and all were poor people. They deposited their burden on the bank, kneeling around it for a few minutes and crying mournfully. A hen had been killed at the house, but no food was offered to antoh at the place of embarkation, as had been expected by some of their neighbours.

Covered with a large white cloth, the coffin was hurriedly taken down from the embankment and placed in a prahu, which they immediately proceeded to paddle down-stream where the burial was to take place in the utan some distance away. The reddish-brown waters of the Mahakam, nearly always at flood, flowed swiftly between the walls of dark jungle on either side and shone in the early afternoon sun, under a pale-blue sky, with beautiful, small, distant white clouds. Three mourners remained behind, one man standing, gazing after the craft. Then, as the prahu, now very small to the eye, approached the distant bend of the river, in a few seconds to disappear from sight, the man who had been standing in deep reflection went down to the water followed by the two women, each of whom slipped off her only garment in their usual dexterous way, and all proceeded to bathe, thus washing away all odours or other effects of contact with the corpse, which might render them liable to attack from the antoh that had killed the woman blian.

In the first week of June we began our return journey against the current, arriving in the afternoon at Data Lingei, an Oma-Suling kampong said to be inhabited also by Long-Glats and three other tribes. We were very welcome here. Although I told them I did not need a bamboo palisade round my tent for one night, these hospitable people, after putting up my tent, placed round it a fence of planks which chanced to be at hand. At dusk everything was in order and I took a walk through the kampong followed by a large crowd which had been present all the time.

Having told them to bring all the articles they wanted to sell, I quickly bought some good masks and a number of tail feathers from the rhinoceros hornbill, which are regarded as very valuable, being worn by the warriors in their rattan caps. All were "in the market," prices were not at all exorbitant, and business progressed very briskly until nine o'clock, when I had made valuable additions, especially of masks, to my collections. The evening passed pleasantly and profitably to all concerned. I acquired a shield which, besides the conventionalised representation of a dog, exhibited a wild-looking picture of an antoh, a very common feature on Dayak shields. The first idea it suggests to civilised man is that its purpose is to terrify the enemy, but my informant laughed at this suggestion. It represents a good antoh who keeps the owner of the shield in vigorous health.