Monday, September 12, 2011

During my travels in Borneo I often procured such rice from the Dayaks. It is a very clean and convenient way of carrying one's lunch, inside of a bamboo, the open end closed with a bunch of leaves. Fish and meat are prepared in the same manner. With fish no water is used, nevertheless, when cooked it yields much juice, with no suggestion of the usual mud-flavoured varieties of Borneo. It will remain wholesome three days, and whenever necessary the bamboo is heated at the bottom. One who has tasted meat or cereals cooked between hot stones in earth mounds knows that, as regards palatable cooking, there is something to learn from the savages. It is a fact that Indians and Mexicans prepare green corn in a way superior to that employed by the best hotels in New York. There is no necessity of returning to the bamboo and hot stones as cooking utensils, but why not accept to a greater extent the underlying principle of these methods? In the evening we arrived at Long Pelaban, a large Kenyah kampong, where for some time I made my headquarters. On the opposite bank of the river we cut the tall grass and jungle and made camp. Soon we were visited by many small boys who afterward came every day to look for tin cans. With few exceptions they were not prepossessing in appearance; nearly all were thin, and one was deaf and dumb, but they were inoffensive and well-behaved. During my travels among Dayaks I never saw boys or girls quarrel among themselves--in fact their customary behaviour is better than that of most white children. Both parents treat the child affectionately, the mother often kissing it. Next day we stopped to photograph a beautiful funeral house on the bank of the river, in which rest the remains of a dead chief and his wife. This operation finished, the Dayaks prepared their midday meal consisting of rice alone, which they had brought in wicker bottles. A number of bamboo sticks were procured, which were filled with rice and water and placed in a row against a horizontal pole and a fire was kindled underneath. As soon as this cooking was finished the bamboos were handed to the chief, Amban Klesau, who in the usual way split one open with his parang to get at the contents. Having eaten, he distributed the rest of the bamboos. I was given one, and upon breaking it open a delicious smell met my olfactory sense. The rice, having been cooked with little water, clung together in a gelatinous mass which had a fine sweet taste, entirely lacking when cooked in the white man's way.  During the night much fish was obtained even as far down the river as our kampong, and many men searched for it here, using as lamps petroleum in bamboo with a piece of cloth for a wick. Next day all the able-bodied people left the kampong for a week's stay at the ladangs (fields), one day's journey up the Kayan River, only the weak and old people remaining behind. On this occasion I observed five or six individuals, men and women, of a markedly light, yellowish colour. One woman's body was as light as that of a white woman, but her face was of the usual colour, perhaps somewhat lighter.  The fleet of prahus thoroughly searched the water, descending the river slowly in seven hours. At a few places where the stream makes large pools a few hundred metres long the boats loitered for a considerable time, as the prey would not often rise to the surface. Now and then there was much excitement over a fish that had risen and dived again, and the nearest prahus would all try to get it. Soon a man would be seen to jump after it with fixed spear, pass out of view, and after a while reappear on the surface, invariably with a large fish on the spear point. It was a magnificent exhibition of agility combined with skill  Before daylight they began to beat these light-brown tuba pieces until the bark became detached. The bark is the only part used, and this was beaten on two previously prepared blocks, each consisting of two logs lashed together, with flattened upper sides. On either side of these crude tables stood as many men as could find room, beating earnestly with sticks upon the bark, singing head-hunting songs the while with much fervour. Occasionally they interrupted the procedure to run about animatedly, returning shortly to resume their labour.  Long Pangian is a small settlement where ten native soldiers are kept, under the command of a so-called posthouder, in this case a civilized Dayak from the South, who met us at the landing in an immaculate white suit and new tan shoes. It was warmer here toward the end of March than at Tandjong Selor, because there had not been much rain for a month. The soil was therefore hard, and in the middle of the day so heated that after a shower it remained as dry as before. A few Chinamen and Bugis who live here advance rice and dried fish to the Malays to provision expeditions into the utan which last two to three months, receiving in return rubber and damar. The Malays come from lower down on the river, and a good many of them leave their bones in the jungle, dying from beri-beri; others ill with the same disease are barely able to return to Long Pangian, but in three weeks those who do return usually recover sufficiently to walk about again by adopting a diet of katsjang idju, the famous green peas of the East Indies, which counteract the disease. The Malays mix native vegetables with them and thus make a kind of stew.  It is about 112 kilometres from Tandiong Selor to Long Pangian, our first halting-place, and, as the current of the river is not strong until the last day, the distance may be covered in four days. When low the Kayan River is light greenish-brown, but when high the colour changes to a muddy red-brown with a tinge of yellow. We used the dilapidated pasang-grahans as shelters, but one night we were obliged to camp on the river bank, so I had the tall, coarse grass cut down on the embankment, which was a few metres higher than the beach. Underneath the tall growth was another kind of grass, growing low and tangled like a mat, which could be disposed of by placing poles under it, lifting it and rolling it back, while at the same time the few roots attaching it to the ground were cut with swords. In less than fifteen minutes I had a safe place for my tent.  I had found the Kayans very agreeable to deal with, and later had the same experience with many other tribes of Borneo. They ask high prices for their goods, but are not bold in manner. Though I made no special effort to ingratiate myself with them they always crowded round me, and sometimes I was compelled to deny myself to all callers regardless of their wishes. When I was reading or writing it was necessary to tell them to be quiet, also to stop their singing at night when my sleep was too much disturbed, but they were never offended. Presents of fruit, fish, mouse-traps, and other articles which they thought I might like, were constantly offered me. The women, free and easy in their manners, were ladylike to a surprising degree. In spite of having had ten teeth of the upper jaw filed down and the remainder coloured black by the constant chewing of betel, they are literally to the manner born. At times as they paddled along, the men would sing without words, but more impressively, a song which until recently was used when the Kayan returned to a kampong from a successful head-hunting expedition. Though the Dutch authorities evidently have stamped out headhunting on the Kayan River, and have even destroyed the heads that were hanging in the houses, smashing them throwing them into the river, the Kayan still speaks of the custom in the present tense. Even one or two of my companions were credited with having taken part in such expeditions. How can they possibly look bright? Store business and petty trading like that. People here really aren't buying anything, either. They're spinning and weaving themselves. Why, they live like mice in the field--they don't seem to belong to this human race of ours. Here we are, required to make a living off this little town of ours, this grotesque spectacle of a town, a mere port of loading, a few hundred people with no more than a copper each in their pockets. It's a mockery. I ought never to have come back home and taken over this business." "Well, let's see once," says Gammelmoderen. "You've quite a bit outstanding on your books. Can't you try to get some of this in?" Then the Queen came near to where the lady was, and she said to her, "Lady, I pray you give me my child again!" Upon this the Lady of the Lake smiled very strangely and said: "Thou shalt have thy child again, lady, but not now; after a little thou shalt have him again." Then Queen Helen cried out with great agony of passion: "Lady, would you take my child from me? Give him to me again, for he is all I have left in the world. Lo, I have lost house and lands and husband, and all the other joys that life has me to give, wherefore, I beseech you, take not my child from me." To this the Lady of the Lake said: "Thou must endure thy sorrow a while longer; for it is so ordained that I must take thy child; for I take him only that I may give him to thee again, reared in such a wise that he shall make the glory of thy house to be the glory of the world. For he shall become the greatest knight in the world, and from his loins shall spring a greater still than he, so that the glory of the House of King Ban shall be spoken of as long as mankind shall last." But Queen Helen cried out all the more in a great despair: "What care I for all this? I care only that I shall have my little child again! Give him to me!"  with the empty saddle. When Foliot beheld that he said: "Lady, here meseems is great trouble come to us, for methinks something hath befallen my lord, and that he is in sore travail, for here is his horse without him." Then it seemed to Queen Helen as though the spirit of life suddenly went away from her, for she foresaw what had befallen. So she arose like one in a dream, and, speaking very quietly, she said: "Foliot, take me whither my lord went awhile since!" To this Foliot said: "Lady, wait until the morning, which is near at hand, for it is too dark for you to go thitherward at this present." Whereunto the Lady Helen replied: "Foliot, I cannot wait, for if I stay here and wait I believe I shall go mad." Upon this, Foliot did not try to persuade her any more but made ready to take her whither she would go. Now the young child Launcelot was then asleep upon the Queen's knees, wherefore she took her cloak and wrapped the child in it and laid him very gently upon the ground, so that he did not wake. Then she mounted upon her palfrey and Foliot led the palfrey up the hill whither King Ban had gone a short time since. [Sidenote: The Lady Helen findeth the King] When they came to that  Ban, and Queen Helen, and the young child Launcelot, and the esquire Foliot left the town privily by means of a postern gate. Thence they went by a secret path, known only to a very few, that led down a steep declivity of rocks, with walls of rock upon either side that were very high indeed, and so they came out in safety beyond the army of King Claudas and into the forest of the valley below. And the forest lay very still and solemn and dark in the silence of the nighttime. Having thus come out in safety into the forest, that small party journeyed on with all celerity that they were able to achieve until, some little time before dawn, they came to where was a lake of water in an open meadow of the forest. Here they rested for a little while, for Queen Helen had fallen very weary with the rough and hasty journey which they had traveled.  So King Ban summoned to him the seneschal of the castle, who was named Sir Malydor le Brun, and said to him: "Messire, I go hence to-night by a secret pass, with intent to betake me unto King Arthur, and to beseech his aid in this extremity. Moreover, I shall take with me my lady and the young child Launcelot, to place them within the care of King Arthur during these dolorous wars. But besides these, I will take no other one with me but only my favorite esquire, Foliot. Now I charge thee, sir, to hold this castle in my behalf with all thy might and main, and yield it not to our enemies upon any extremity; for I believe I shall in a little while return with sufficient aid  Now, though King Ban thought himself very well defended at his Castle of Trible, yet King Claudas brought so terribly big an army against that place that it covered the entire plain. A great many battles were fought under the walls of the castle, but ever King Claudas waxed greater and stronger, and King Ban's party grew weaker and more fearful. [Sidenote: King Ban bethinks him of King Arthur] So by and by things came to such a pass that King Ban bethought him of King Arthur, and he said to himself: "I will go to my lord the King and beseech help and aid from him, for he will certainly give it me. Nor will I trust any messenger in this affair other than myself; for I myself will go to King Arthur and will speak to him with my own lips."  Then came the autumn, then came the winter. And the winter was a dismal time, snow and cold, short days, darkness. The small farms and the lonely cottages had deep pathways through the snow to each other, and now and then a human form might be seen there, walking. It might be of an evening with moon and stars, and it might be the woman from Roten walking over to the neighbouring farm in order to borrow a skirt. Ay well, and all the menfolk were off in Lofoten and Karel was off in Lofoten and it fell to the lot of that woman of his to keep things going, what with the children and the cowbarn, until some three weeks after Easter when the menfolk would be returning home. It was a hard time for her, she had good use for all her patience and all her frugal ways. She had once been the girl Georgina, Gina to most, as poor then as now and not much for the eyes of a man, but young and healthy and able at work and she had sung so wondrously with her strong alto voice. Now she was Gina i Roten. She had not come from any high place and she had married into no worse state of poverty than some others, only that she was older now and many times a mother, and forty years. But was that anything! She was used to it and she was used to nothing else. Things might have been worse with her, of course they might; her years went by, one by one, and she had her children and her man and they had their little farm and their cattle in the shed, though 'tis true they owned but little clear. And if her man was a wizard at singing a ditty--ay, and famous for the words he had once set to a waltz--she was something in her own way, too. There was no one like Gina to stand upon the knoll and call home her creatures from the pasture of an evening. "Soo-a! Soo-a!" A melody which sang through the air, though 'twas nought but a cry, a call for the cows to come home, like a prayer in a voice of rich velvet. And in church she would sing out like no one else, and those at her side would fall silent. Her voice she had received from a God who could afford to squander his gifts.

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