Page images

air as it did stones as big as houses, filled them with astonishment.

believe that the They now sagely

Now only did people begin to English could demolish the fort. wagged their heads, saying that great were the ingenuities and contrivances of the white people, but what a pity that such a beautiful fort should be destroyed as it were in a moment; for if it had to be erected again, how many years would this not take! For the glory of Malacca was its fort, and having destroyed this the glory had gone out of it; like the corpse of a woman, the husband no longer glories in her face. But this is the dispensation of the Almighty; the world is not everlasting: what is He maketh to be not, and what is not He maketh to arise.

Now the stones of the fort were removed by people in various directions-some made houses of them, and some even carried them off to Batavia during the Dutch tenure (i.e., in 1818 to 1825), and lately also to Rhio, the English taking them on board ships to make the harbour of Bara. There are also some sunk in the river; others remain in heaps like hills to this time, for people to take as they like.

Some days after this they essayed to blow up the bastion towards the Kling quarter, when they gave notice by gong for the people to remove. Now, there was on the other side of the river the house of one Hatib Musi, whose distance was near about twenty fathoms. So all the people removed themselves, excepting a friend of the above Musi, called Basir Membarak, with a child called Abrahim. These hid themselves at the back of the house, in order to see the sport. So betimes the fuse was lighted, and the men had run for it; the powder had fired and blown up with a great noise, then came down stones as big as elephants, right on the top of the

house, and broke it down, crushing the hiders and covering them with rubbish. Upon this an alarm was given that five or six men had been killed. . So all ran to the place-myself amongst the rest-to see the accident, for at that time I was ordered by my mother to keep at least a mile away. So when I had got there, I learned that in the centre of the house a Pulicut man, called Abdastar, was at meals when a fragment of rock struck his forehead, cutting the same. I then went inside, and coming to the boy Basir, I could see his legs only, and over his body were stones in heaps, of all sizes, from a quarter to one fathom. Nine or ten of these had crushed him; and they uncovered him to see if life remained. And over the boy Abrahim three stones had fallen, of a fathom in length, covered with earth. Thereupon they dug him out, and finding one of his legs broken in three places, they carried him off to the Pali quarter. And as to the one named Basir Membarak, he also was covered with earth and stones, and when he was got out his bones were crushed; so he was carried off to the English doctor. Basir, however, died, whilst Abdastar and Abrahim were brought round by medicine, so that God has given them life even to this day,* but they are both lame. Now what else could be done? for it was of their own fault that they went into mischief, so that people lay the fault on them. And when the people of Malacca saw all these things, they became alarmed, and after words at each blast they cut and run as far as they could, deserting their homes and chasing off the children.

Thus it came about that Colonel Farquhar made an easy job of demolishing the fort; and all those who did not believe in the possibility now shut their mouths, not saying another word. And all the evil spirits that were

* 1843.

in the brains of people went back to their originators, being afraid of the smoke of gunpowder, and the affair now stood thus, that the beautiful fort of Malacca was destroyed, blown to the winds, by powder; but if they had tried it stone by stone, it would have been standing yet."

The Fort of Malacca was surrendered by the Dutch to the English in the year 1795, the names of the English officers being Major Brown and Captain Newcome. It, with the adjacent territory, had been held by the Dutch since 1641, in which year it was captured by them, with . the assistance of the King of Lahore, from the Portuguese. The Portuguese held Malacca from the year 1511, at which time they captured it from the Malays, who had been settled there, as Newhoff informs us, for about 250 years previously.

The demolition of the fortifications of so renowned a city is therefore a notable work in the history of Europeans in the East Indies, and it is interesting to note the impressions of a native who saw the actual operations. In his account he forcibly brings out one of the features in native character, and their occasional freaks which cannot be understood by Europeans, viz., their superstitious dread of evil spirits, which urges them on to unaccountable panics, or sometimes worse courses. He mentions that the fort was built by the Portuguese, but I have not been able to find the date of its foundation. Since it has disappeared, its style can only be guessed at. The fort at Point de Galle may, however, be pointed out as a type of its class, though the Malacca one appears to have been much larger.

It was in 1805 that the Directors of the East India Company ordered the abandonment of Malacca, they

desiring to retain Penang only; and the Supreme Government of India in consequence ordered the destruction of the fort on the 5th October of that year. The fort was accordingly demolished in the years 1807-8, at which time Abdulla would be eleven years of age. In his description, therefore, we see the reminiscences of a boy rather than of a man; and we smile when we peruse his account of the excessive difficulties, when we learn from Low that the total cost of the process was only 10,241 Spanish dollars, a little over £2,000 sterling.

Valentyn calls the rampart along the river St. Domingo, and on the sea-side Taypa, stretching towards Fort St. Jago. Adjacent to the church on the top of the hill he mentions the Monastery of St. Paul's, and those on the adjacent hills, Minnebroeders and Madre de Dios. The former still stands. The church itself is now deserted, and has been long used as a buryingplace for the Dutch leading families, who have many exquisitely carved and cut tombstones. Here lies also the second Bishop of Japan, who died in the Straits of Singapore, during the latter part of the 16th century. The church is said to have been founded by St. Francis Xavier.

The figures which Abdulla alludes to by way of proof of Portuguese construction were still preserved in 1848, when I took a drawing of them which is now by me; and it is amusing to think how differently we judge of things. In the first place, the date over the gateway is 1670, that is during Dutch occupation. The design over this is rudely done in plaster, and would stand very well for, if it is not actually, the coat of arms of the Dutch East India Company. In the centre, surrounded by an astragal, there is a galiot of mediæval design, on the left side of which stands a burgher or

soldier with a shield on the left arm and sword in the right hand, holding a crown on the point of it. On the right side there stands what appears to be an angel with a flaming sword, and surrounding all are decorations of warlike weapons. The architecture of the gate itself is debased Ionic,-column on column,-and the workmanship is coarse.

Simultaneously with the Malays of the south end of the Straits of Malacca endeavouring to expel the Dutch, the Malays at the north end made attempts on the English settlement of Penang, but in either case they were defeated. The tradition related by Abdulla of the treatment of the remains of Raja Hajee, I believe to have insufficient grounds for credence. In the first place, the Dutch would have many Mahomedans in their employment as soldiers and sailors, etc., and of course would not do a deed most insulting to their faith. The tradition, however, is notable in giving an indication of one of those slumbering rumours that pass through the native mind, and which are remembered against Europeans to their disadvantage when a period of weakness comes. Thus the Dutch inhabitants of Palembang were, in 1811, carried out to sea by the natives and mercilessly sunk in a watery grave.

The modes of torture exemplified by the instruments in the Malacca jail would, however, prove that such cruelty, as was only perpetrated in medieval times and under the excitement of fierce religious conflict, had been indulged in to a late period.

The commencement of the demolition of the fort shows clearly how inefficient is native labour, and the more so when to this is added the weakening influence of superstition; and here we may note how Abdulla himself, by education and converse with a superior race, had thrown off the latter. His simile is excellent. It

« PreviousContinue »