The Golden Chersonese and the way thither, by Isabella L. Bird

Letter xx (Continued)

A Joyous Welcome — A Severe Mortification — The British Resident — Daily Visitors — Rajah Dris — A Tipsy Ape — Marriage Ceremonies — Marriage Festivities — Malay Children — The Rajah Muda Yusuf — A Dreary Funeral — Fascinating Companionship — A Cocoa–Nut Gatherer — The Argus Pheasant — An Opium Wreck — Rhinoceros Horns — Elephant–Taming — Petrifying Influences of Islamism — A Dwindling Race

February 17. — I was very glad that yesterday was Sunday, so that I had a quiet day, for nearly twelve hours of jungle riding on an elephant makes one very stiff and sleepy. Three days of solitude, meals in the company of apes, elephant excursions, wandering about alone, and free, open air, tropical life in the midst of all luxuries and comforts, have been very enchanting. At night, when the servants had retired to their quarters and the apes to the roof, and I was absolutely alone in the bungalow, the silent Oriental sentries motionless below the veranda counting for nothing, and without a single door or window to give one the feeling of restraint, I had some of the “I’m monarch of all I survey” feeling; and when drum beat and bugle blast, and the turning out of the Sikh guard, indicated that the Resident was in sight, I felt a little reluctant to relinquish the society of animals, and my “solitary reign,” which seemed almost “ancient” also.

When Mr. Low, unattended as he always is, reached the foot of the stairs the retriever leapt down with one bound, and through the air over his head fled Mahmoud and Eblis, uttering piercing cries, the siamang, though keeping at a distance, adding to the jubilations, and for several minutes I saw nothing of my host, for these creatures, making every intelligent demonstration of delight, were hanging round him with their long arms; the retriever nearly wild with joy, but frantically jealous; all the creatures welcoming him more warmly than most people would welcome their relations after a long absence. Can it be wondered at that people like the society of these simple, loving, unsophisticated beings?

Mr. Low’s arrival has inflicted a severe mortification on me, for Eblis, who has been absolutely devoted to me since I rescued him from Mahmoud, has entirely deserted me, takes no notice of me, and seems anxious to disclaim our previous acquaintance! I have seen children do just the same thing, so it makes the kinship appear even closer. He shows the most exquisite devotion to his master, caresses him with his pretty baby hands, murmurs ouf in the tenderest of human tones, and sits on his shoulder or on his knee as he writes, looking up with a strange wistfulness in his eyes, as if he would like to express himself in something better than a monosyllable.

This is a curious life. Mr. Low sits at one end of the veranda at his business table with Eblis looking like his familiar spirit, beside him. I sit at a table at the other end, and during the long working hours we never exchange one word. Mahmoud sometimes executes wonderful capers, the strange, wild, half-human face of the siamang peers down from the roof with a half-trustful, half-suspicious expression; the retriever lies on the floor with his head on his paws, sleeping with one eye open, always on the watch for a coveted word of recognition from his master, or a yet more coveted opportunity of going out with him; tiffin and dinner are silently served in the veranda recess at long intervals; the sentries at the door are so silently changed that one fancies that the motionless blue turbans and scarlet coats contain always the same men; in the foreground the river flows silently, and the soft airs which alternate are too feeble to stir the over-shadowing palm-fronds or rustle the attap of the roof. It is hot, silent, tropical. The sound of Mr. Low’s busy pen alone breaks the stillness during much of the day; so silent is it that the first heavy drops of the daily tropical shower on the roof have a startling effect.

Mr. Low is greatly esteemed, and is regarded in the official circles of the Settlements as a model administrator. He has had thirty years’ experience in the East, mainly among Malays, and has brought not only a thoroughly idiomatic knowledge of the Malay language, but a sympathetic insight into Malay character to his present post. He understands the Malays and likes them, and has not a vestige of contempt for a dark skin, a prejudice which is apt to create an impassable gulf between the British official and the Asiatics under his sway. I am inclined to think that Mr. Low is happier among the Malays and among his apes and other pets than he would be among civilized Europeans!

He is working fourteen hours out of the twenty-four. I think that work is his passion, and a change of work his sole recreation. He devotes himself to the promotion of the interests of the State, and his evident desire is to train the native Rajahs to rule the people equitably. He seems to grudge every dollar spent superfluously on the English establishment, and contents himself with this small and old-fashioned bungalow. In this once disaffected region he goes about unarmed, and in the daytime the sentries only carry canes. His manner is as quiet and unpretending as can possibly be, and he speaks to Malays as respectfully as to Europeans, neither lowering thereby his own dignity nor theirs. Apparently they have free access to him during all hours of daylight, and as I sit writing to you or reading, a Malay shadow constantly falls across my paper, and a Malay, with silent, cat-like tread glides up the steps and appears unannounced in the veranda, on which Mr. Low at once lays aside whatever he is doing, and quietly gives himself to the business in hand. The reigning prince, the Rajah Muda Yusuf, and Rajah Dris, are daily visitors; the former brings a troop of followers with him, and they remain outside, their red sarongs and picturesque attitudes as they lounge in the shade, giving to the place that “native” air which everywhere I love, at least where “natives” are treated as I think that they ought to be, and my requirements are pretty severe!

I am painfully aware of the danger here, as everywhere, of forming hasty and inaccurate judgments, and of drawing general conclusions from partial premises, and on my present tour there is the added risk of seeing things through official spectacles; but still certain things lie on the surface, and a traveler must be very stupid indeed if he does not come to an approximately just conclusion concerning them. As, for instance, it is easy to see that far in the interior of the Malay Peninsula, in regions rarely visited by Europeans, themselves without advisers, and away from the influence of public opinion, dealing with weak rulers to whom they represent preponderating brute force in the last resort, the position of “Resident” is very much what the individual man chooses to make it. Nor is it difficult to perceive whether the relations between the English official and the natives are hearty and cordial, or sullen and distrustful, or whether the Resident makes use of his position for purposes of self-aggrandizement, and struts tempestuously and swaggeringly before the Malays, or whether he devotes his time and energies to the promotion of prosperity, good order, and progress, in a firm and friendly spirit.

After a very quiet day we went at sunset, to see Rajah Dris, not taking the dog. The trifling matter of the dog being regarded as an abomination is one of the innumerable instances of the ingrained divergence between Moslem and Christian feeling. Rajah Dris lives in a good house, but it is Europeanized, and consequently vulgarized. He received us very politely on the stairs, and took us into a sitting- room in which there were various ill-assorted European things. His senior wife was brought in, a dull, heavy-looking woman, a daughter of the Rajah Muda Yusuf, and after her a number of slave women and babies, till the small room was well filled. The Rajah hospitably entertained us with tea, milk, and preserved bananas; but I noticed with regret that the white table-cloth was much soiled, and that the china and glass were in very bad taste. The house and its equipments are a distressing contrast to those of the Datu Bandar in Sungei Ujong, who adheres closely to Malay habits. Rajah Dris sent a servant the whole way back with us, carrying a table lamp.

to-day the mercury was at 90 degrees for several hours. The nights, however, are cool enough for sleep. I have lately taken to the Malay custom of a sleeping mat, and find it cooler than even the hardest mattress. I did not sleep much, however, for so many rats and lizards ran about my room. These small, bright-eyed lizards go up the walls in search of flies. They dart upon the fly with very great speed, but just as you think that they are about to swallow him they pause for a second or two and then make the spring. I have never seen a fly escape during this pause, which looks as if the lizard charmed or petrified his victim. The Malays have a proverb based upon this fact: “Even the lizard gives the fly time to pray.” There were other noises; for wild beasts, tigers probably, came so near as to scare the poultry and horses, and roared sullenly in the neighborhood for a long time, and the sentries challenged two people, after which I heard a messenger tell Mr. Low of a very distressing death.

February. 18. — Major Swinburne and Captain Walker arrived in the morning, and we had a grand tiffin at twelve, and Mahmoud was allowed to sit on the table, and he ate sausages, pommeloe, bananas, pine-apple, chicken and curry, and then seizing a long glass of champagne, drank a good deal before it was taken from him. If drunkenness were not a loathsome human vice, it would have been most amusing to see it burlesqued by this ape. He tried to seem sober and to sit up, but could not, then staggered to a chair, trying hard to walk steadily, and nodding his head with a would-be witty but really obfuscated look; then, finding that he could not sit up, he reached a cushion and lay down very neatly, resting his head on his elbow and trying to look quite reasonable, but not succeeding, and then he fell asleep.

After tiffin a Rajah came and asked me to go with him to his house, and we walked down with his train of followers and my Malay attendant. It was a very nice house, with harmonious coloring and much deep shadow. It soon filled with people. There were two women, but not having an interpreter, I could not tell whether they were the chief’s wives or sisters. He showed me a number of valuable krises, spears and parangs, and the ladies brought sherbet and sweetmeats, and they were altogether very jolly, and made me pronounce the Malay names of things, and the women laughed heartily when I pronounced them badly. They showed me some fine diamonds, very beautifully set in that rich, red “gold of Ophir” which makes our yellow western gold look like a brazen imitation, as they evidently thought, for they took off my opal ring, and holding the gold against their own ornaments, made gestures of disapproval. I think that opals were new to them, and they were evidently delighted with their changing colors.

Mussulman law is very stringent as to some of the rights of wives. In Malay marriage contracts it is agreed that all savings and “effects” are to be the property of husband and wife equally, and are to be equally divided in case of divorce. A man who insists on divorcing his wife not only has to give her half his effects, but to repay the sum paid as the marriage portion. It appears that polygamy is rare, except among the chiefs.

Marriage is attended with elaborate arrangements among these people, and the female friends of both parties usually make the “engagement,” after which the bridegroom’s friends go to the bride’s father, talk over the dowry, make presents, and pay the marriage expenses. Commonly, especially among the higher classes, the bridegroom does not see the lady’s face until the marriage day. Marriage is legalized by a religious ceremony, and then if the wife be grown up her husband takes her to his own home. Girls are married at fourteen or fifteen, and although large families are rare, they look old women at forty.

On the day before the marriage expenses are paid by the bridegroom, the bride-elect has her teeth filed. It is this process which gives the Malay women, who are very pretty as children, their very repulsive look. It produces much the same appearance of wreck and ruin as blackening the teeth does in Japan, and makes a smile a thing to be dreaded. Young girls are not allowed to chew betel, which stains badly, and have white, pearly teeth, but these are considered like the teeth of animals. The teeth are filed down to a quarter of their natural length by means of a hard Sumatran stone, or fine steel file. The operation lasts about an hour, and the gums continue swelled and painful for some days. After they have recovered, the blackening of the teeth by means of betel chewing is accelerated by means of a black liquid obtained by burning cocoa-nut shells on iron, Three days before the marriage ceremony henna is applied to the nails of the hands and feet, and also to the palms of the hands, and the hair is cut short over the forehead, something in the style of a “Gainsborough fringe.”

The wedding feast is a very grand affair. Goats and buffaloes are killed, and the friends and relatives of the bride send contributions of food. The wedding decorations are family property, and descend from mother to daughter, and both bride and bridegroom are covered with flowers, jewels, and gay embroidery. The bride sits in state and receives the congratulatory visits of her relatives and friends, and after the actual ceremony is over, the newly-married couple sit on a seat raised above the guests, and the sirih and betel-nut are largely chewed. There are “floral decorations,” music, and feasting; all strangers are made welcome; the young men spend the afternoon in games, among which cock-fighting usually plays a prominent part, and the maidens amuse themselves in a part of the house screened off from the rest of the guests by curtains, and made very gay.

As religious ceremonies attend upon marriage and death, so on the birth of a child the father puts his mouth to the ear of the infant and solemnly pronounces what is called the Azan or “Allah Akbar,” the name of the one God being the first sound which is allowed to fall upon his ears on entering the world, as it is the last sound which he hears on leaving it. There is a form of prayer which is used at births, and another on the seventh day afterward, when the child’s head is shaved. The sage femme remains for forty days with the mother, who on the fortieth day makes the ceremonial purifications and prayers which are customary, and then returns to her ordinary duties. The child, as soon as it can speak, learns to recite prayers and passages from the Koran, and is very early grounded in the distinctive principles of Islam.

The children of both sexes are very pretty, but with strangers they are very shy and timid. They look very innocent, and are docile, gentle and obedient, spending much of their time in taming their pets and playing with them, and in playing games peculiar to their age. Except in one or two cases in Sungei Ujong, I have not seen a child with eye or skin disease, or any kind of deformity.

There have been Rajahs all day in the veranda, and their followers sitting on the steps, all received by Mr. Low with quiet courtesy, and regaled with tea or coffee and cigarettes. A short time ago the reigning prince, who does not appear to be a cypher, came with a great train of followers, some of them only wearing sarongs, a grandson, to whom he is much attached, and the deposed Sultan’s two boys, of whom I told you before. They are in Malay clothing, and seem to have lost their vivacity, or at least it is in abeyance. Before I came here, I understood from many people that “His Highness” is very generally detested. So, also, says Sir Benson Maxwell in Our Malay Conquests. Major M’Nair in his amusing book on Perak says: “He is a man over middle age, and is described as being of considerable ability, feared and hated by many of the chiefs, and as being of a fierce and cruel disposition, but he was a proved man as to his loyalty” (to British interests), “and there being no desire on the part of the Government to annex the State of Perak, his appointment was the wisest course that, under the circumstances, could be pursued.” This is all that the greatest apologist for British proceedings in Perak has to say.

I was not prepossessed in his favor before I came, for among other stories of his cruel disposition, I was told that it was “absolutely true” that three years ago he poured boiling water down the back of a runaway female slave who had been recaptured, and then put a red ant’s nest upon it. If “piracy” is to be the term applied to levying blackmail, he was certainly a pirate, for he exacted a tenth of the cargo of every boat which passed up his river, a Rajah higher up doing the same thing. He is said to have a very strong character, to be grasping, and to be a “brute;” but Mr. Low gets on very well with him apparently. He is an elderly man, wearing a sort of fez on a shaven head. He has a gray mustache. His brow is a fine one, and his face has a look of force, but the lower part of it is coarse and heavy. He was fanning himself with his fez, and when I crossed the veranda and gave him a fan, he accepted it without the slightest gesture of thanks, as if I had been a slave. When Mr. Low told him that I had been at Koto-lamah, he said that the chief in whose house I had rested deserved to be shot, and ought to be shot. He and Mr. Low talked business for an hour; but all important matters are transacted in what is called a native council.

I wrote that I believed myself to be the only European in Kwala Kangsa, but I find that there was another at the time when I wrote thus — a young man of good family, who came out here seeking an appointment. He was sun-stricken three days ago, and violent fever and delirium set in, during the height of which he overpowered four Sikhs who were taking care of him, rushed out of doors, fell down exhausted, was carried home, and died at four in the morning, his last delirious dreams being of gambling and losing heavily.

The lamentable burial took place in the evening as the shadows fell. This sums up the story — a career of dissipation, death at twenty-one, a rough, oblong box, no one to be sorry. It made my heart ache for the mother, who would have given much to be where I was, and see “the dreary death train” move slowly to the dreary inclosure on a hill-top, where the grass grows rank and very green round a number of white wooden crosses, which mark the graves of the officers and soldiers who fell in 1876. The Union Jack was thrown over the coffin, which was carried by six Sikhs, and Mr. Low, Major Swinburne, Rajah Dris and some followers, and Sultan Abdullah’s two boys, who had nothing better to do, followed it. By the time the grave was reached torches were required, and the burial service was read from my prayer-book. It was all sad and saddening.

The weather is still glorious, the winding Perak still mirrors in scarcely rippled blue the intensely blue sky, “never wind blows loudly,” but soft airs rustle the trees. One could not lead a more tropical life than this, with apes and elephants about one under the cocoa-palms, and with the mercury ranging from 80 degrees to 90 degrees! Gorgeous, indeed, are the birds and butterflies and flowers; but often when the erythrina and the Poinciana regia are strewing the ground with their flaming blossoms, I think with a passionate longing of the fragile Trientalis Europae, of crimson-tipped lichens, of faint odors of half-hidden primroses, of whiffs of honey and heather from purple moorlands, and of all the homely, fragrant, unobtrusive flowers that are linked with you! I should like a chance of being “cold to the bone!”

I have wasted too much of my time to-day upon the apes. They fascinate me more daily. They look exactly like familiar demons, and certainly anyone having them about him two hundred years ago would have been burned as a wizard. When Mr. Low walks down the veranda, these two familiars walk behind him with a stealthy tread. He is having a business conversation just now with some Rajahs, whose numerous followers are standing and lying about, and Eblis is sitting on his shoulder with one arm round his neck, while Mahmoud sits on the table opening letters, and the siamang, sitting on the rafter, is looking down with an unpleasant look. Eblis condescends to notice me to-day, and occasionally sits on my shoulder murmuring “Ouf! ouf!” the sweet sound which means all varieties of affection and happiness. They say wah-wah distinctly, and scream with rage like children, but have none of the meaningless chatter of monkeys. It is partly their silence which makes them such very pleasant companions. At sunrise, however, like their forest brethren, they hail the sun for some minutes with a noise which I have never heard them make again during the day, loud and musical, as if uttered by human vocal organs, very clear and pleasant. Doubtless the Malays like Mr. Low all the better for his love of pets.

At lunch they were both, as usual, sitting at the table. I am still much afraid of Mahmoud, but Captain Walker is infatuated with him, and likes his rough, jolly manners, and his love of fun and rough play. As Assam was bringing me a cup of coffee this creature put out his long arm, and with his face brimming over with frolic, threw the coffee over the mat. Then he took up a long glass of beer and began to drink it eagerly, but as Mr. Low disapproved of his being allowed to get tipsy a second time, it was taken from him, upon which he took up the breast of a fricasseed chicken and threw it at the offender. The miscreant did every kind of ludicrous thing, finishing by pulling everyone to go out with him, as he always does at that hour; and when he had succeeded in getting us all out was in a moment at the top of a high tree, leaping from branch to branch, throwing himself on coffee shrubs below, swinging himself up again in a flash, leaping, bounding! a picture of agility, strength, and happiness. The usual morning gathering of Rajahs and their followers, with Klings and Sikhs, was there, and I suspect that they thought adult Europeans very foolish for being amused with these harum-scarum antics.

A follower had brought a “baboon,” an ape or monkey trained to gather cocoa-nuts, a hideous beast on very long legs when on all fours, but capable of walking erect. They called him a “dog-faced baboon,” but I think they were wrong. He has a short, curved tail, sable-colored fur darkening down his back, and a most repulsive, treacherous, and ferocious countenance. He is fierce, but likes or at all events obeys his owner, who held him with a rope fifty feet long. At present he is only half tame, and would go back to the jungle if he were liberated. He was sent up a cocoa-nut tree which was heavily loaded with nuts in various stages of ripeness and unripeness, going up in surly fashion, looking round at intervals and shaking his chain angrily. When he got to the top he shook the fronds and stalks, but no nuts fell, and he chose a ripe one, and twisted it round and round till its tenacious fibers gave way, and then threw it down and began to descend, thinking he had done enough, but on being spoken to he went to work again with great vigor, picked out all the ripe nuts on the tree, twisted them all off, and then came down in a thoroughly bad, sulky, temper. He was walking erect, and it seemed discourteous not to go and thank him for all his hard toil.

As I write I see a fascinating sight: three black apes sitting under the roof in such a position that I can only see their faces, and they are all leaning their chins on a beam, and with their wrinkled faces and gray beards are looking exactly like ——. It is most interesting to be among wild beasts, which, though tame, or partly so, are not in captivity, and to see their great sagacity and their singular likeness and unlikeness to us. I could dispense with the reptiles, though. Last night there were seventeen lizards in my room and two in my slippers. During the profound stillness of about 3 A.M., a crowd, hooting, yelling, and beating clappers, passed not far off in the darkness, and there was a sound of ravaging and rending caused by a herd of elephants which had broken into the banana grounds.

Besides apes, elephants, dogs, and other pets, there are some fine jungle-fowls, a pheasant, a “fire-back,” I think, and an argus pheasant of glorious beauty; but glorious is not quite the word either, for the hundred-eyed feathers of its tail are painted rather in browns than colors. These birds are under the charge of a poor Chinaman, who once had money, but has gone to complete ruin from opium-smoking. His frame is reduced to a skeleton covered with skin. I never saw such emaciation even in an advanced stage of illness.

Just now I saw Mahmoud and Eblis walk into my room, and shortly following them, I found that Mahmoud had drawn a pillow to the foot of the bed, and was lying comfortably with his head upon it, and that Eblis was lying at the other end. I do hope that you will not be tired of the apes. To me they are so intensely interesting that I cannot help writing about them. Eblis has been feverish for some days. I think he has never recovered from the thrashing he got the day I came. He is pining and growing very weak; he eats nothing but little bits of banana, and Mr. Low thinks he is sure to die. It is a curious fact that these apes, which are tamed by living with Europeans, acquire a great aversion to Malays.

February 19. — Eblis became much worse while I was out yesterday, and I fear will surely die. He can hardly hold anything in his cold, feeble hands, and eats nothing. He has a strangely human, faraway look, just what one sees in the eyes of children who have nearly done with this world.

The heat is much greater to-day, there is less breeze, and the mercury has reached 90 degrees, but in the absence of mosquitoes, and with pine-apples and bananas always at hand, one gets on very well. But mosquitoes do embitter existence and interfere with work. Apparently, people never become impervious to the poison, as I thought they did, and there is not a Malay in his mat hut, or a Chinese coolie in his crowded barrack, who has not his mosquito curtains; and I have already mentioned that the Malays light fires under their houses to smoke them away. Last night a malignant and hideous insect, above an inch long, of the bug species, appeared. The bite of this is as severe as the sting of a hornet.

The jungle seems to be full of wild beasts, specially tigers, in this neighborhood, and the rhinoceros is not uncommon. Its horn is worth $15, but Rajah Muda Yusuf, who desires to have a monopoly of them, says that there are horns with certain peculiar markings which can be sold to the Chinese for $500* each to be powdered and used as medicine. Wild elephants are abundant, but, like the rhinoceros, they ravage the deep recesses of the jungle. All the tame elephants here, however, were once wild, including the fifty which, with swords, dragons, bells, krises with gold scabbards, and a few other gold articles, formed the Perak regalia. The herds are hunted with tame, steady elephants, and on a likely one being singled out, he is driven by slow degrees into a strong inclosure, and there attached by stout rattan ropes to an experienced old elephant, and fed on meager diet for some weeks, varied with such dainties as sugar-cane and sweet cakes. The captive is allowed to go and bathe, and plaster himself with mud, all the while secured to his tame companion, and though he makes the most desperate struggles for liberty, he always ends by giving in, and being led back to his fastenings in the corral. At times a man gets upon him, sits on his head, and walks upon his back. It is here generally about two years before an elephant is regarded as thoroughly broken in and to be trusted; and, as elsewhere, stories are told of elephant revenge and keepers being killed. A full-grown elephant requires about 200 lbs. of food a day. These animals are destructive to the cocoa-nut trees, and when they get an opportunity they put their heads against them, and then, with a queer swaying movement throw the weight of their bodies over and over again against the stem till the palm comes down with a crash, and the dainty monster regales himself with the blossoms and the nuts. The Malays pet and caress them, and talk to them as they do to their buffaloes. Half a ton is considered a sufficient load for a journey if it be metal or anything which goes into small compass, but if the burden be bulky, from four to six hundred weight is enough. Except where there are rivers or roads suitable for bullock-carts or pack bullocks, they do nearly all the carrying trade of Perak, carrying loads on “elephant tracks” through the jungle. An elephant always puts his foot into the hole which another elephant’s foot has made, so that a frequented track is nothing but a series of pits filled with mud and water. Trying to get along one of these I was altogether baffled, for it had no verge. The jungle presented an impassable wall of dense vegetation on either side, the undergrowth and trees being matted together by the stout, interminable strands of the rattan and other tenacious creepers, including a thorn-bearing one, known among the Malays as “tigers’ claws,” from the curved hook of the thorn. I think I made my way for about seven feet. This was a favorable specimen of a jungle track, and I now understand how the Malays, by felling two or three trees, so that they lay across similar and worse roads, were able to delay the British troops at a given spot for a day at a time.

[*It is possible that this was an exaggeration, and that the real price is $50.]

One might think that elephants roaming at large would render cultivation impossible, but they have the greatest horror of anything that looks like a fence, and though they are almost powerful enough to break down a strong stockade, a slight fence of reeds usually keeps them out of padi, cane, and maize plantations.

Malays are gradually coming into Perak. It is said that there has been recently a large immigration from Selangor. The Malay population is fifty-seven thousand nearly, with a large preponderance of males, but fifty-eight thousand have crowded into the little strip of land called Province Wellesley, which is altogether under British rule, and sixty-seven thousand into Malacca, which has the same advantage. I suppose that slavery and polygamy have had something to do with the diminution of the population, as well as small-pox. Formerly large armies of fighting men could be raised in these States. Islamism is always antagonistic to national progress. It seems to petrify or congeal national life, placing each individual in the position of a member of a pure theocracy, rather than in that of a patriotic citizen of a country, or member of a nationality. In these States law, government and social customs have no existence apart from religion, and, indeed, they grow out of it.

It is strange that a people converted from Arabia, and partly, no doubt, civilized both from Arabia and Persia, should never have constructed anything permanent. If they were swept away to-morrow not a trace of them except their metal work would be to be found. Civilized as they are, they don’t leave any more impress on the country than a Red Indian would. They have not been destroyed by great wars, or great pestilences, or the ravages of drink, nor can it be said that they perish mysteriously, as some peoples have done, by contact with Europeans; yet it is evident that the dwindling process has been going on for several generations.

I. L. B.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31