Page images
PDF
EPUB

old ;— thus

But to look

till they have got the name of being marriage is entered into with great men. at Mrs. Raffles, her hands and feet were in continual motion, like chopping one bit after another. Then there was sewing, which was succeeded by writing; for it is a real truth that I never saw her sleep at mid-day, or even reclining for the sake of ease, but always at work with diligence, as day follows day. This the Almighty knows also. And if I am not wrong in the conclusion that I have arrived at, these are the signs of good sense and understanding which qualify for the undertaking of great deeds. Thus her habits were active; so much so, that in fact she did the duty of her husband; indeed, it was she that taught him. Thus God had matched them as king and counsellor, or as a ring with its jewels. Thus it was fit that she should be a pattern and friend to those who live after her time. Such were her habits and deportment as above related, and of which I have composed a pantun as below.

Puyoh puyoh gunan nama nia,
Dedalam qualam gunan tamput nia;
Chante manis barung lakunia,

Serta dingan budi basa nia.

Dedalam qualam gunan tamput nia,
De pigek ulih Laksi mana;
Chante manis barung lakunia,
Serta dingan bijak sana.

Which may be translated thus:

The quail 'tis certain is the name,
The pool 'tis certain is its place:
Beautiful and sweet indeed his mein,
Combined with charming wit and grace.

The pool 'tis certain is its place,

Her loving chief her only guard;

Sweet indeed her mein with grace,

While prudence claims its best reward.

For especially do we see in those men who have taken wives to themselves-if the husband wants to go up the wife wants to go down; the husband calls a thing white, then the wife calls it black. Thus they wrangle from day to day, fighting with each other like cats and dogs. There are others who, because of their beauty, tread the husband beneath their feet; thus to their idea God is very distant from the position of women of their quality. Nay, apart from their disregard of their obligations as wifes, they do not even consider it necessary to behave as friends to their husbands. On this subject I have made the following pantun :

Which

Apaka guna berkein batck

Kalan tada dingan suchi nia?
Apaka guna berbini chante,
Kalan tada dingan budi nia?

Kalan tada dingan suchi nia
Pakeian Jawa de ruma nia;
Kalan tada dingan budi nia,
Iawkan dirimu deri pada nia.

may be translated as under :

What is the use of printed robes
If filth and dirt abound?
To wed to beauty what's the use,
Where virtue is not found?

If squalid filth and dirt abound
In robes of Java's make ;
Where gracious virtue is not found
'Sunder let the union break.

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles was probably the most prominent Englishman in the Indian Archipelago at the commencement of this century, as he was the main instrument in perfecting arrangements for the conquest of Java, an island at that time containing about 5,000,000 of inhabitants, and of which he was after

wards the Governor. His life was written by his widow, from which we learn that he was born at sea, on the 5th July, 1781. His early education was imperfect, and he entered as a clerk at the India House when only fifteen years of age, and where it is stated by his biographer that he showed much talent and industry. After this he was appointed Under Secretary to the new government of Pulo Penang, or Prince of Wales Island, where he devoted his attention to studying the Malay language. Here he was soon appointed as Chief Secretary, but intense application brought on serious illness, owing to which he was compelled to go to Malacca in 1808 for the recovery of his health. During his stay he mixed. with the natives congregating from all parts of the Indian Archipelago; and in 1809 he published his first essay on the Malayan nation, which attracted the notice of Lord Minto, at that time Governor-General of India, who sent for him to Calcutta, and was anxious to put him in charge of the government of the Moluccas.

It was in 1808, therefore, that Mr. Raffles came under the observation of our native autobiographer, who would be eleven or twelve years of age. The personal description that he gives of the Indian statesman is said to be excellent; but I can only judge of it by the bust by Chantrey which I have seen in the Singapore Institution, which supports the written picture. He himself probably little thought that he had so apt a sketcher as the little native boy in his office. Mr. Raffles undoubtedly had the faculty of attaching his subordinates closely to him, as I have often heard Old Burrows, one of them, relate.

Malacca presents an excellent field for the study and admiration of natural history. The plumage of the birds especially is magnificent; but even the sea, in its fishes, displays not less gorgeous colours. When I was

engaged with the erection of the Horsburgh Lighthouse at Pedra Branca, I was particularly struck with this fact. As the building rose we could see further into the waters that surrounded us. During neap tides the water was perfectly clear, and displayed in its bosom numerous fish, of various species, playing about the rocks and corals. A beautiful green species particularly attracted our attention from the splendour of its tints: the colours of the others were various,-purple, blue, and yellow, with other brilliant hues, were not uncommonly seen to adorn the finny tribes; others were spotted and striped.

Abdulla notices the evident political movements of Mr. Raffles's sojourn at Malacca, which his hatred of the Dutch portended; but the latter appears to us, at this distance, unworthy of the man, and unbecoming towards a kindred and Protestant nation. Yet we must not misjudge on this point, for at that time the Dutch had sided with a great rival against our nation, and held the most powerful sway in insular India.

The durian fruit mentioned by Abdulla is famous in those parts, and much esteemed for its flavour by natives and initiated Europeans; yet the odour of it is most obnoxious to new comers, indeed, detestable. So much is it liked by the Malays, that they take voyages of hundreds of miles to obtain it, and when I was surveying the east coast of the Malay peninsula, I found numbers of Orang Laut, or sea gypsies, frequenting the little island of Pulo Tingi, where there are groves.

The account of the visit to the schoolmaster is interesting as showing the state and object of education amongst Mahomedan Malays, and the narrow limits within which it is imparted. On the part of the Arabs, who are the most influential class, education in its real

sense would not be given to the Malays from policy, as intelligence in the people would frustrate their moral power.

Here we learn the everyday doings of Mr. Raffles while he was preparing his essay on the Malay nation. If the real truth was known, the natives care as little for the English as the Dutch, and would be glad to get rid of both, till anarchy made regular government agreeable again.

The account of Mrs. Raffles is a photographic likeness of a woman I fail to remember to have seen mentioned in the life of Sir Stamford by his widow; however, in the foregoing translation she is reproduced as full as life. I have often heard her spoken of by an old friend who was the cotemporary of Raffles; and a beautiful hill in Penang yet bears her name-Mount Olivia. Further, in the works of the Admirable Crichton of the Far East, viz., Dr. Leyden, there are some verses inscribed to her. Thus she existed, though ignored. She seems to have also inspired Abdulla's muse. Under her influence he is quite poetical. Altogether, Raffles's first wife seems to have been an excellent woman, and had more to do with the elevation of her husband than has been recorded. Abdulla's similes are clever, and his admiration well founded.

Why Mr. Raffles, a poor, half-educated clerk, should have been promoted suddenly to a position that would give a salary of £2400 a year (knowing the mercenary nature of the Leadenhall Street Directors) was always an anomaly to me, till I had the cause explained, and which I will repeat in as gentle a manner as possible. The fact of the matter is, that young Raffles got a precious woman to wife and a good salary from the same disposer of patronage, whose name I need not mention. This gave such umbrage to the ladies of Governor Dundas's suite,

« PreviousContinue »