Page images

his humility and poverty, but this must be taken as it is intended. Thus the native editor of the "Sijara Malayu," at the commencement of that well-known Malay work calls himself a fakir, or mendicant, but meaning so only in the sight of God, as being given to religious or humane pursuits in contradistinction to those engaged in trafficking or money-making. So also Abdulla places his work on God, as having no self power. As comment on this topic would lead us into a dangerous controversy on the doctrine of "self will,” we will avoid doing so.

The simile that Abdulla draws in regard to the jeweller and his touchstone for testing the quality of gold appears to have this intention, that he, as one having special knowledge of literature, is in a position to test the quality of the teachings of men who are mere protenders to that knowledge, and of which the commonalty can be no judges, and are thus imposed on. At the same time I may say, that, having been personally under the teaching of several munshis, it was abundantly evident that in the far east the same jealousies amongst experts and artists existed as are found in other parts of the world, and not a whit less detraction.

It will be noticed, also, that while he extols learning he decries wealth. This is a common practice amongst moralists, which is the result of their position, and it would be unnatural in them to do otherwise.

Following the preface, the autobiographer relates his genealogy-the main facts of which I have already given; he then tells of his father's avocations, his political missions, then his own birth, and his rearing and schooling; of the latter he gives a very full and characteristic account, from which we make some extracts. He says he got on till he was seven years of ngs without ever being punished or scolded, and, in Consequence, learned nothing. But such pleasant times

did not last; for afterwards he was often beaten, besides having the reading boards broken over his head, and many "rattans," or canes, used up on his body. His fingers would be swollen with stripes for mistakes in writing, and he well exclaims, "With what difficulties is not the acquisition of knowledge attended!" At this time Arabic alone was taught in Malacca, but merely as a dead language, the pupils being taught to repeat the Koran, as parrots, without knowing the meaning,no harder lot for school children could be devised. The native language was never thought worth teaching; and in passing, I may remark that no people have to undergo greater hardships in learning the rudiments of their religion than the Mahomedans with their Koran; yet what sect is more zealous than they? The strokes of the propagator seem to draw the affection of their children, and not to destroy it. Is it because we love that best which costs us most? But the Mahomedan schoolmaster seems to have outdone even our old-fashioned holders of the birch in the variety of his torture of the youthful and tender charges under his care. Amongst the numerous modes of punishment so practically described, we have the "Chinese squeezer," an apparatus made with five pieces of cane, which are tied together at one end, but the other ends have a line passed through them; the manner in which it was used being to put the four fingers between the cane, when by pulling the line they were squeezed or pressed, ad libitum, in the manner of the thumb-screws of Lauderdale. Then we have the "smoker," which consisted of dry cocoanut husk set on fire, over which the young hopeful had his head held firmly, and to add to the torture, Chili pepper (Cayenne) was added, which entered the boy's nose, mouth, and eyes, causing excruciating pain, no doubt very much to the amusement of the schoolmaster

and edification of the other school boys. Again we have the "hanger," by which boys were hung by the wrists to a beam by cords, and thus held so high up that their feet could not touch the ground. No doubt this was a happy mode for the "moralists" I have above mentioned of recouping themselves for their abnegation of the good things of this world in the private sport and excitement they thus obtained by caning suffering humanity in its tenderest period.

After passing through this delightful curriculum, Abdulla informs us that he was engaged in the study of the Tamil language, and that after some time at this he was taken in hand by his father, who was very severe upon him, looking at him always with a sour countenance, and whipping him with a cane for each error in dictation. Again, not dismayed or crushed by all these appalling events, he entered on the study of Hindostanee with a Bengalee Sepoy in the Malacca Fort, where he seems to have gained some ease and comfort, for he informs us he there became a great favourite with the Sepoys.

He at times was induced to complain to his mother of his father's treatment, at which times she put her arms round his neck, and kissing him said, "My dear, do not be foolish; you are yet young and silly, and cannot know the value of education." This incident speaks volumes for a Malay mother, and indicates her common humanity in the world; and he admits afterwards, that he came to see what she said was true, as he found the real advantage of knowledge, and his triumph was in due time to come, which, however, must be given in his own words.




"MOREOVER there came upon a certain day a native skipper to our house, searching for my father, in order that he might have a bond drawn out in acknowledgment of a debt due to a Chinese merchant to the amount of 300 Spanish dollars. Now just at that time my father was very busily engaged at the residence of Mr. Adrian Kock, so that the skipper waited on till evening. So when I came out from the inner apartment, I asked of him, as is the custom, in this manner, 'Where are you from, O skipper; and what are you seeking for?' to which he replied, 'I am seeking for your "old man ;"' upon which I told him that he was very busy, as above related. He then said that the business with my father was about an agreement which he had to draw out before his sailing. To which I replied, that if he liked it, I would prepare the document; to this he assented, with the remark that it might be possible for a young tiger to become a kitten. Says I, 'Not too fast, O skipper; let me try.' So in a jiffy I retired to the inner apartment, where I was accustomed to do my exercises, and asking the names of the debtor and creditor, wrote them down, and brought out the writing to show him. When he had read it with a glance of intelligence, he said, 'It is correct, youngster; now let

me put my signature to it before you.' So he did this, and considering within himself while he was about to go out at the door, and showing me a dollar in his hand, he said, 'Take this, youngster, to buy sweetmeats.' So I took it in great delight at the thoughts of having got possession of such a sum. On this he bid me good-bye.

Just at this moment, while I was in the act of thanking him, my father returned, and on seeing the skipper said, 'What news, O skipper? When did you come here?' And when I had caught sight of my father I flew into the inner apartment, and remained there with bated breath and great misgivings about the making of the writing. The skipper replied to my father that he had waited a long time for him, even from mid-day, and on his not appearing, he had asked his son, Inchi Abdulla, to make out a bond for him. When I heard him mentioning my name, my heart palpitated with fear. Perchance it might be wrong, for I had never made a writing of that sort before; furthermore, it was not under instruction, but out of foolhardiness and self-conceit. When my father saw the writing, he smiled, and said, 'The mischievous boy has been showing off his own cleverness; but you can use it. So go, O skipper, and deposit it in the office of registry.' On this the skipper took his departure, when my father came into the room with so smiling yet mysterious a deportment, that my mother asked what pleased him. Then said my father, 'If this day I had got a present of 1000 dollars, I could not have been so overjoyed as I am, seeing that my son can now help me.' So he told the whole story over to my mother, at which they both laughed, crying, 'God has augmented his understanding!' Again said my father, 'On this day have I got a son such as was born of you; yes, on this

« PreviousContinue »