CHAPTER 12. On the War-Path in Borneo.
During my short stay at Kapit I added very few new specimens to my collections of birds and butterflies; in fact, it was the worst collecting-ground that I struck during more than a year's wanderings in Borneo. I, however, made a fine collection of Dayak weapons, shields and war ornaments from our friendly Dayaks, who seemed very low-spirited now that there was to be no fighting, and on this account traded some of their property to me which at other times nothing would have induced them to part with, at a very low figure.
I returned to Sibu with Mingo, and we took with us the ringleader of the head-hunters. He was kept handcuffed in the hold, and he worked himself up into a pitiable state of fright. He thought he was going to be killed, and the whole of the voyage he was chanting a most mournful kind of song, a regular torrent of words going to one note. My Dayak servant Dubi informed me that he was singing about the heads he had taken, and for which he thought he was now going to die.
After a day's stay in Sibu I went up the Sarekei River with my two servants, and made a long stay in a Dayak house. I will try to describe my life among the Dayaks in the next chapter. In conclusion, I must tell the tragic story of a fatal mistake, which was told me by Johnson, one of the officials at Sibu, which serves to illustrate the superstitious beliefs of the Malays. A Chinese prisoner at Sibu had died, at least Johnson and Bolt both thought so, and they sent some of the Malay soldiers to bury the body on the other side of the river. A few days later one of them casually remarked to Johnson that they had often heard it said that the spirit of a man sometimes returned to his body again for a short time after death (a Malay belief), but he (this Malay) had not believed it before, but he now knew that it was true. Johnson, much amused, asked him how that was. "Oh," said the Malay, "when the Tuan (Johnson) sent us across the river to bury the dead man the other day, his spirit came back to him and his body sat up and talked, and we were much afraid, and seized hold of the body; which gave us much trouble to put it into the hole we had digged, and when we had quickly filled in the hole so that the body could not come out again, we fled away quickly, so now we know that the saying is true." It thus transpired that they had buried a live Chinaman without being aware of the fact.