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A BIRTHDAY LETTER OF APOLOGY.
THE HILL BUNGALOW, KLEDANG, terday. By the way, you will
be glad to hear that I am not DEAR 'Maga,' — Yesterday all alone : there is another peryour letter was brought up Thankful indeed were we here in “ladies' fingers." It is when the last turn of the
' true that these were in a cook's crooked six-foot path brought basket with other green food, us in sight of the little comnot to mention eggs and a pound on the ridge, with the chicken—still the omen was a zinc - roofed bungalow in the happy one, and presaged the centre. Our coolies, Klings good news. So your thou- from Madras, and Chinese, sandth birthday is next Feb- must have been equally pleased; ruary. What can I do with and they did not fail to ask for the year's end coming, here something extra on account of perched alone upon a mountain the weather. The Chinese like Don Quixote in his shirt, boldly took their dollar a-head, and not a Chinaman or Malay and urgently demanded cents within reach, except Ah Tung for spirits, grinned and marched the caretaker and Haji Mat the off. The Klings accepted their gardener, of whom I know half-dollar, acquiescing in the nothing worth relating? In- humiliating fact of being only vent I cannot, to plagiarise I half value; then lingered shivam ashamed.
ering obtrusively, smiling enticOh, I can't find anything to ingly, deprecatingly; twiddled write about in this dull place. their toes, and slipped away. For what does Maga' want to The tin roof was deafening with hear about but men and women ? the drumming of the rain ; and and to what will she turn a we watered the house as we deafer ear than to the "trite moved about and sadly gazed tropics” style of word-painting, upon the puddle that had been with its dazzling sunshine, its bread. impenetrable forests, its bird of This house has no fireplace, gorgeous plumage on every except of course the cookingbough? Who wants to read range in the outhouse behind. about a country farm, an ice- That is a pity, for two reasons : field, a semi-detached suburban first, because, unlike the weather residence ? What is the good in the valley, it often rains here of forcing upon an indifferent in the morning as well as afterworld the little affairs of a noons, and you want tea-planter, or an invalid in the where to dry your clothes at; Canaries, or a Bishop in his and second, because the pleadiocese? What is life on sure of feeling uncomfortably ranche-in a mine-in a bank and unusually cold is marred —in a balloon—to people out by the absence of a wood fire of the trade?
could warm your It poured as we came up yes- toes and roast jack-fruit seeds
(something like Spanish chest- tumbler you can find, but before nuts if flavoured with imagina- these flowers are withered the tion), declaring it is just like place of them is rosy with their Home. Still, to be able honest- sisters. And then there are ly and truthfully to shiver hite dwarf roses lower down. great deal.
are only 3000 feet The house, which is of wood, above sea-level: another 1500 is raised on posts a few feet feet will bring you to the zone above the ground. A broad of white and purple violets. verandah runs along its whole The terraced garden falls frontage, and the bedrooms steeply away below us. With open upon the verandah. The the are other plants, verandah is closed in with lovely in their way, but tropical, panes of glass all round, which and therefore half repugnant to is also a delightful novelty. the European spirit of the hour. When the lamps are lighted Gardenias, which shine like and the wind comes drenched stars from out their dark-green with rain and beats against foliage, are importunate of perthese panes, and shakes the fume. Oh that I could sell window - frames and whistles them for button-holes at sixthrough the chinks, then you pence apiece! Then there are may shut your eyes
and sneeze, huge shrubs aflame with flowers and dream of an English night like hollyhocks. We call them in November The gusts fly the shoe-flower, because, when down sobbing through the wet your boy has finished the blacktree-tops, and in the lulls clouds ing for your brown shoes, as of dense white mist press close an alternative to cleaning and against the windows. “Oh the ruining them with lemon, he poor sailors !” says the other brings them to an equally illperson involuntarily. But all gotten lustre by rubbing them the while our friends in the with these red flowers. Lower valley are blessing it for a down there are magenta sprays cooler, fresher night.
of bougainvillea, and a wonderThe porch in front of the ful creeper with huge golden house is hung with creeping bells, which, just because it boughs of honeysuckle, covered loves to break loose and climb with perennial blossom, and squirrel - fashion among
among the always throwing out long ten- branches, therefore Haji Mat drils which grapple in vain must, after his kind, crib into with the smooth surface of the a sort of geni's-bottle framecorrugated roof.
But honey- work of sticks, daily cutting off suckle grows over our orchid- its head to keep it in its place. houses in the valley, so here, Is it merely a matter of asthough good, it is not the best. sociated memories, or are the Roses-big, loose, pink roses- names we give to flowers singugrow in great bushes on both larly suited to them? Could sides of the porch, a mass of Cowslip, Ragged Robin, or colour that never fades. You Primrose belong to any other may strip the bushes to-day, than plants born to live in cool and load every finger-glass and damp fields and hedgerows ?
And so with the names of these mist of brilliant whiteness. flowers of the East, they seem There, from behind the last to glow like the flowers them- steel-blue buttress of the mounselves or the skies above them : tains, we saw a sudden ray Bougainvillea, Flame of the thrust like a spear across the Forest, Hibiscus, Alamander. silver level : brighter than croThe last only lacks an S to cuses in snow the sun had risen. prove my theory conclusively. And then the mist that ebbs
This morning by unparalleled and flows about our own hillexertions we were up by five side came rolling up through o'clock, and had walked as far the tree-tops like a mirage of as the trigonometrical station, a the flood-tide among the rocks, sort of gigantic beehive thatched leaving us stranded on an islet with palms on the tip - top of in grey ocean, in unutterable the mountain. The ground has solitude. been cleared—over an acre- -of
Have you ever had the desire all but bracken, and gives an to be for once so isolated and uninterrupted view of the two untrammelled as to be able to great mountain-ranges to East shout and sing your loudest and West; ours being but a and none to hear? It is best stepping - stone between the for dignity, I find, to make sure Kinta valley we live in to the the isolation is real before graeast, and the empty Western tifying this harmless fancy valley rith its grey waste of which we did not. Out of he tree - tops, and reaches of the encircling gloom came a patterSilver River shining ten miles ing of naked footsteps and anaway. Over these there hangs swering cries of assistance. We a perfect rainbow in a perfect saw the shadowy forms of the semicircle, beginning and end- coolies who keep up the bridleing in the clouds high above path, and fled from our gallant the faint blue distances. The rescuers. The glory had deKinta valley lies between us parted: breakfast-time was at and the dawn. It has been hand. bearing half the world's output After breakfast there of tin for several years, and its many things to while away the smooth denuded surface is pitted time,—early lunch, lunch, tea, with flooded mine holes. There late tea, and finally dinner, for is also an artificial Serpentine to the mountain air is appetising. irrigate the rice-fields, and loops In the intervals you can smoke of the winding river are visible. cigarettes and sit about listenAll these patches of water are ing to the orchestra of the as silver in the dark-blue haze jungle. From a dozen direcwith a pink flush round their tions in the greenwood sea margins, when the grey clouds below there floats a sound most overhead turn quickly to rose- strange, most musical. Now it madder. Away south the sea is the deepest resonant note lies narrow as a ribbon; and of an organ; now a repetition where the Eastern range de- of high clear whoops; then it scends abruptly towards the is the two sounds alternating coast its base is washed by a rapidly; then bursting sud
clenly into a wild triumphant ing wildly from it like a penduYo yo yo yo! something like the lum run mad, then a suicidal chorus of hounds in full cry. fling, a crash in the covering That is the jödel of the Siamang. green, and so they are gone.
Do you care for monkeys ? Tame, they are the gentlest Personally, I know two kinds creatures. The Malays catch only, and detest them both young ones and bring them to the Brok and the Kra. The our doors, knowing that buy Brok is a big, brown, fatuous we must.
It is not among the baboon, of the familiar low- possibilities for a Mem to resist comedy pattern, for ever sput- the forlorn small speechless tering and scratching himself, thing, when it winds its long and fidgeting with hands and long arms and fingers round feet and making faces. Should her neck, and hides its black you desire to please him, you wrinked face of an old woman, will squat (just beyond the with round unhappy eyes, in length of his chain) in front of the softness of her morning him, and similarly scratch your gown. Or it lurches person, make faces, and sputter. the verandah on a pair of very Then in high good-humour hebandy little legs, balancing
will amble round his post in as itself with outstretched arms. big a circle as his chain permits, But they always die. They clutching at your hair with an who have weathered torrential adroit high kick as he passes. rains under the open heaven Such are his low delights. The die in captivity of consumption, Kra is a small grey person of and cough out their ill-comprepassionate appearance,
with hended souls like Christians, close - set fiery eyes, very like huddled in a blanket. my friend Brands, who keeps All day long the Siamang
The tastes of this little are calling, omnipresent though fiend are still more primitive— invisible. The Malays firmly namely, to fly straight at you believe that the utan rimba, with his tail sticking out and the heavy jungle, is inhabited his crest sticking up, and bite by a Folk Whose Voice We you again and again: he is Hear, a race of audible though worse than Brok.
unseen fairies; and I too am Far different is the gentle of the faith, because the more Siamang; but then he is a you sit quiet and watch with gibbon, and no monkey. In
ears, the more surely assemblies on the tree-tops live you will know that the great the Siamang, whooping through precept of the rimba (very the octaves, calling to their different from what friends from miles away, and taught in the nursery) is this : swooping off to meet them, Little beasts should be heard racing steeplechases with the but not seen. There are shady winds. I have seen, and hope paths all about the bungalow, to live and see again, a pack of where you can sit all day withthe Siamang going through the out fear of sunstroke. If you jungle—a long black arm and care to do so, perhaps once in a small crumpled body swing- a moon you may become aware
of a Kijang deer suddenly merry-go-round and of the buzmaterialised on the path be- zer from the steelworks are set side you, who will gaze for a to their penance on ranges bemoment with untroubled eyes, yond the gully, and the sound and the vanish through the “by distance tame," like the underwood in a streak of dim- strains of that music which inishing crashes. Or a little heralded Roderick Dhu, comes frog may go by with frantic mellowed across the mountain. leaps, hard followed by a little Suddenly underneath snake. You will be lucky if rustic seat the threshingyou see even so much, although machine begins to burr. It is if the monstrous wizard Sang too near, too loud : the vibraKlembai were to pass and pluck tion jars painfully upon the ear. up the utan rimba (as he could) Then by the potency of that by its roots as we pluck moss magic droning a spell is cast from a tree, it would be mar
The tropic night is vellous how dense a population transfigured, the screen of black were left naked and ashamed: foliage withdrawn. Lo, it is tiger, black panther, rhinoceros, the corner of a field on a winwild cattle, sambhur, mouse- ter's afternoon. Grass wet with deer, sloth, tapir, porcupine, rain grows between the lines of pig, elephant,- by their foot- stubble over loose red clods. prints they are known.
There are round ricks and heavy But at nightfall: there is farm hands, and a threshinga legend (my own invention) machine champing corn. There which tells that whosoever has is a bank and hedge with the by means of any sound of music blackberry leaves only half brought death or madness upon faded. The air is cool, with his neighbour, he, when his faint sunshine and a white haze. time is come, is transported to It is Devon, with the smell of these wildernesses to work out her and the stillness of her his redemption for a hundred patiently expectant of the years.
And first, half a street's spring. Then, quick as it arose, length down the hillside, the old the sound ceases and the vision blind beggar with the pipes is gone. It was only a cicada, breaks into sudden lament a little green cicada, careless of among the unbending trees. and Devon and all the Does he know that his skirl is world, and he makes his music heard by human ears and take by scratching his head with his comfort? “Milk, milk,” cries a foot. This he does, so naturaldespairing voice at our elbow, ists aver, to please his wife. and is sped. Then the child What an example to us all! with the Jewis-harp—that such While we are moving dinnera feeble thing should be so tor- wards there comes faintly from mented !-goes twanging and afar the snarl of a great cat sobbing by, not three yards be- hungry. It is “master stripes," hind the green - black curtain. his
before meat. The proprietors of the steam
EDWARD A. IRVING.