CHAPTER 12. On the War-Path in Borneo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toward evening we reached the village of Song and stayed here all night, fastening our launch to the bank. In spite of the fort here, we learned that the Chinamen were in great fear of an attack by the Dayaks, which they daily expected. Leaving Song at half-past five the next morning, we arrived at Kapit about ten a.m. and put up at the fort, which was a large one. A long, narrow platform from the top of the fort led to a larger platform on which, overlooking the river, there was a large cannon which could be turned round so as to cover all the approaches from the river in case there was an attack on the fort. We learned that the day before we arrived at Kapit, Mingo, the Portuguese in charge of the fort, had captured the worst ringleader of the head-hunters in the bazaar at Kapit, and small parties of loyal Dayaks were at once sent off to the homes of the other head-hunters with strict injunctions to bring back the guilty ones, and, failing persuasion and threats, to attack them.[11] In most cases they were successful, and I saw many of the prisoners brought in, together with some of the heads of their victims.

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

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

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

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

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

Then to her horror she saw they were the heads of her father, her mother, her brother and of a young man who was Hathnaveng's rival for her affections. Hathnaveng was immediately seized by some of the tribesmen, and by way of punishment was placed in a small bamboo structure such as is commonly used by the Dayaks for pigs, and allowed to starve to death.[12] This is a true story, and occurred while I was still in Borneo.

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

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

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

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

After a day's stay in Sibu I went up the Sarekei River with my two servants, and made a long stay in a Dayak house. I will try to describe my life among the Dayaks in the next chapter. In 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.