The first thing necessary was to supply each with a strip of white calico, to be worn in the head-dress as a distinguishing mark, to prevent our people knocking them over if met by accident while prowling about the jungle. We also established a watchword, "Datu," which many of them, who had great dread of the white men, never ceased to call out. Sheriff Jaffer, in command of their force, had promised to join us from the beginning; but as they did not make their appearance off the mouth of the river, we thought no more of them. It was necessary to dispatch messengers up the rivers to inform our boats of this re-enforcement, as in all probability an attack would have been made immediately on the appearing in sight of so formidable a force.
At 10 A.M. our boats returned, having gone up the right-hand branch as far as it was practicable. That to the left having been obstructed by trees felled across the stream, was considered, from the trouble taken to prevent our progress, to be the branch up which the enemy had retreated, and not being provisioned for more than the day, they came back, and started again in the afternoon with the first of the flood-tide. Of this party Lieutenant Horton took charge, accompanied by Mr. Brooke. It was a small, but an effective, and determined, and well-appointed little body, not likely to be deterred by difficulties. A small native force of about forty men accompanied them, making, with our own, between eighty and ninety people. The forts having been destroyed, no further obstacles were expected to our advance beyond the felling of trees and the vast odds as to numbers in case of attack, the pirates being reckoned to be about six thousand Dyaks and five hundred Malays.
The evening set in with rain and hazy weather. Our native skirmishing parties were returning to their boats and evening meals; our advancing party had been absent about an hour and a half, and I had just commenced a supper in the Jolly Bachelor on ham and poached eggs, when the sound of the pinnace's twelve-pounder carronade broke through the stillness of the night. This was responded to by one of those simultaneous war-yells apparently from every part of the country. My immediate idea was that our friends had been surrounded. It was impossible to move so large a boat as the Jolly Bachelor up to their assistance; nor would it be right to leave our wounded without a sufficient force for their protection. I immediately jumped into my gig, taking with me a bugler, whom I placed in the bow, and seeing our arms in as perfect readiness as the rain would allow us to keep them in, I proceeded to join the combatants.
Daylight had disappeared, as it does in tropical climates, immediately after the setting of the sun. The tide had just turned against me; and as I advanced up the river, the trees hung over many parts, nearly meeting across; at the same time the occasional firing that was kept up assured me that the enemy were on the alert, and with all the advantages of local knowledge and darkness on their side. From the winding of the stream, too, the yells appeared to come from every direction, sometimes ahead and sometimes astern. I had pulled, feeling my way, for nearly two hours, when a sudden and quick discharge of musketry, well on my left hand, intimated to me that I was approaching the scene of action; and, at the same time, passing several large canoes hauled up on the bank, I felt convinced that my anticipation was right, that our party were surrounded, and that we should have to fight our way to each other. My plan was to make it appear as if I was bringing up a strong re-enforcement; and the moment the firing ceased, I made the bugler strike up "Rory O'More," which was immediately responded to by three British cheers, and then followed a death-like stillness—if any thing, more unpleasant than the war-yell—and I could not help feeling certain that the enemy lay between us.
The stream now ran rapidly over loose stones. Against the sky, where the jungle had been cleared, I could distinctly see the outlines of human beings. I laid my double-barrel across my knees, and we pulled on. When within shot-range, I hailed, to make certain, and receiving no answer, after a second time, I fired, keeping the muskets of the gig's crew ready to repel the first attack in case the enemy did not decamp. My fire was answered by Lieutenant Horton, "We are here, sir." At first I was much distressed from the fear that I might have hurt any one. They had not heard me hail, owing, I suppose, to the noise of the water rushing over the stones; and they had not hailed me, thinking that I must of course know that it was them, and the enemy being in the jungle all round, they did not like to attract attention to where they were. I found they had taken up a very clever position. The running stream had washed the ground away on the right bank, leaving a sort of little, deep bay, just big enough to hold the boats, from which the bank rose quite perpendicularly. On the top of this bank the jungle had been cleared for about thirty yards, and on this Lieutenant Gunnel, with seven royal marines, was posted as a rear-guard. This was an important position, and one of danger, as the jungle itself was alive with the enemy; and although the spears were hurled from it continually during the night, no shot was thrown away unless the figure of the pirate could be distinctly seen.
It continued to rain: the men wore their great-costs for the purpose of keeping their pieces dry; and several times, during that long night, I observed the muskets of these steady and good men brought to the shoulder and again lowered without firing, as that part of the jungle whence a spear had been hurled to within a few feet of where they stood did not show a distinct form of any thing living. The hours were little less interesting for those who, in the boats below, stood facing the opposite bank of the river with their arms in their hands. It appears that the enemy had come down in great force to attack the boats from that side; and as the river was there very shallow, and the bottom hard, they could, by wading not more than knee-deep, have approached to within five or six yards of them; but in the first attack they had lost a great many men, and it is supposed that their repeated advances throughout the night were, more to recover their dead and wounded than to make any fresh attack on our compact little force, whose deadly aim and rapid firing must have astonished them, and who certainly were, one and all, prepared to sell their lives as dearly as possible.
To the left of our position, and about 200 yards up the river, large trees were being felled during the night; and by the torch-lights showing the spot, the officer of the boat, Mr. Partridge, kept up a very fair ball-practice with the pinnace's gun. Toward morning a shot fell apparently just where they were at work; and that being accompanied by what we afterward ascertained caused more horror and consternation among the enemy than any thing else, a common signal sky-rocket, made them resign the ground entirely to us. The last shot, too, that was fired from the pinnace had killed three men.
As daylight broke I found that most of our party had squatted down with their guns between their knees, and, being completely exhausted, had fallen asleep in spite of the rain. Few will ever forget that night. There were two natives and one marine only of our party badly wounded; the latter was struck by a rifle shot, which entered his chest and lodged in his shoulder; and this poor fellow, a gallant young officer named Jenkins, already distinguished in the Chinese war, volunteered to convey in the second gig, with four boys only, down to the Jolly Bachelor. He performed this duty, and was again up with the party before daylight.
At daylight we found the pirates collecting in some force above us; and several shots were fired, as if to try the range of their rifles; but they took good care not to come within reach of our muskets. Shortly after, the tide beginning to rise, we made preparations for ascending further up the river. This was more than they bargained for, as we were close to where they had removed their families, with such little valuables as they could collect, when we so unexpectedly carried their forts and took possession of their town; and we were not sorry on observing, at that moment, a flag of truce advance from their party down the stream, and halt half way to our position. We immediately sent an unarmed Malay to meet them; and after a little talk, they came to our boats. The message was, that they were ready to abide by any terms we might dictate. I promised that hostilities should cease for two hours; but told them we could treat only with the chiefs, whose persons should be protected, and I invited them to a conference at 1 P.M.
In the mean while, having first sent notice by the messengers, I took advantage of the time, and ascended in my gig, without any great difficulty, above the obstruction they had been so busy throwing across the river during the night. The news that hostilities were to cease was not long in being communicated; and, by the time I had got up, the greatest confidence appeared to be established. Having pulled up into shoal water, and where the river widened, the banks were soon covered with natives; and some seventy or eighty immediately laid aside their spears and walked off to my boat, the whole of which, together with its crew, they examined with the greatest curiosity.
In the heat of the day we indulged in a most refreshing bath under the shade of overhanging trees, the bottom of the river being fine sand and pebbles worn smooth by the running stream.
At the appointed hour the chiefs made their appearance, dressed in their best, but looking haggard and dejected. Mr. Brooke, the "Tuan Besar," or great man, officiated as spokesman.
He fully explained that our invasion of their country, and destruction of their forts and town, was not for the purposes of pillage or gain to ourselves, but as a punishment for their repeated and aggravated acts of piracy; that they had been fully warned, for two years before, that the British nation would no longer allow the native trade between the adjacent islands and Singapore to be cut off and plundered, and the crews of the vessels cruelly put to death, as they had been.
They were very humble and submissive; admitted that their lives were forfeited, and if we said they were to die, they were prepared; although, they explained, they were equally willing to live. They promised to refrain forever from piracy, and offered hostages for their good behavior.
Mr. Brooke then explained how much more advantageous trade would be than piracy, and invited them to a further conference at Sarawak, where they might witness all the blessings resulting from the line of conduct he had advised them to follow. If, on the other hand, we heard of a single act of piracy being committed by them, their country should be again invaded and occupied; and their enemies, the whole tribe of Linga Dyaks, let loose upon them, until they were rooted out and utterly destroyed.
To other questions they replied, that although the chief held communication, and was in the habit of cruising with the people of the other settlements of Pakoo and Rembas, still they could not hold themselves responsible for their good conduct; and as both held strongly fortified positions (of course supposed by themselves to be impregnable), they did not think that they would abstain altogether from piracy unless we visited and inflicted a similar chastisement to that they themselves had suffered. They also stated that, although they never would again submit to the orders of the great and powerful chiefs, Seriffs Sahib and Muller, still they could not join in any expedition against them or their old allies, their blood-thirsty and formidable neighbors in the Sakarran river.
On our return to the still smoking ruins of the once picturesque town of Paddi, we found that Seriff Jaffer, with his 800 warriors, had not been idle. The country round had been laid waste. All had been desolated, together with their extensive winter-stores of rice. It was a melancholy sight; and, for a moment, I forgot the horrid acts of piracy and cruel murders of these people, and my heart relented at what I had done—it was but for a few minutes.
Collecting our forces, we dropped leisurely down the river, but not without a parting yell of triumph from our Dyak force—a yell that must have made the hearts of those quail whose wives and children lay concealed in the jungle near to where we had held our conference.
We arrived at Boling soon after midnight, where we found the tope, with our provision, quite safe. Several shots had been fired at her the night before; and large parties had repeatedly come down to the banks, and endeavored to throw spears on board.
At daylight (Wednesday, 14th) we lost no time in completing to four days' provisions, and starting, with the flood-tide, for Pakoo. It took us until late in the evening before we appeared in sight of two newly-built stockades, from which the pirates fled, panic-struck, without firing a shot, on our first discharge. We had evidently come on them before they were prepared, as we found some of the guns in the forts with the slings still on by which they had been carried.
The positions of the forts here, as at Paddi, were selected with great judgment; and had their guns been properly served, it would have been sharp work for boats. The same work of destruction was carried on; but the town was larger than at Paddi, and night setting in, the conflagration had a grand effect.
Although the greater part of their valuables had been removed, the place was alive with goats and poultry, the catching of which afforded great sport for our men. Some of the Singe Dyaks succeeded in taking the heads of a few pirates, who probably were killed or wounded in the forts on our first discharge. I saw one body afterward without its head, in which each passing Dyak had thought proper to stick a spear, so that it had all the appearance of a huge porcupine.
The operation of extracting the brains from the lower part of the skull, with a bit of bamboo shaped like a spoon, preparatory to preserving, is not a pleasing one. The head is then dried, with the flesh and hair on it, suspended over a slow fire, during which process the chiefs and elders of the tribe perform a sort of war-dance.
Soon after daylight the following morning (Thursday, 15th) the chiefs of the tribe came down with a flag of truce, when much the same sort of conference took place as at Paddi. They were equally submissive, offering their own lives, but begging those of their wives and children might be spared. After promising to accede to all we desired, they agreed to attend the conference about to assemble at Sarawak, where the only terms on which they could expect lasting peace and mutual good understanding would be fully explained and discussed.
Like their friends at Paddi, they were of opinion that their neighbors at Rembas would not abstain from piracy until they had received convincing proof that the power existed which was capable and determined to put down piracy. All these misguided people appeared not only to listen to reason, but to be open to conviction; and I am far from imputing to them that treachery so commonly attributed to all classes of Malays. The higher grades, I admit, are cunning and deceitful; but subsequent events during the last two years have proved the truth and honesty of the intentions of these people. They have strictly adhered to their promises; and have since, although surrounded by piratical tribes, been carrying on a friendly trade with Sarawak.
Our next point of attack was Rembas. Although there was a nearer overland communication between those places, the distance by water was upward of sixty miles; but the strong tides were of great assistance, as we could always rest when they were against us. High water was the only time, however, that suited us for landing, as the fall of tide left a considerable space of soft mud to wade through before reaching terra firma: this was sufficiently unpleasant to our men, without the additional trouble of having to load and fire when in that position; besides, when stuck fast in the mud, you become a much easier object to be fired at. At Rembas the tide was not up until just before daylight; and, having no moon to light us, a night attack was not considered advisable; so that we brought up about a quarter tide below the town, on the evening of the 16th. As Rembas contained a larger proportion of Malays (who are always well supplied with firearms) than the other settlements, though we had not experienced any opposition at Pakoo, we fully expected they would here make a better stand.
We advanced early in the morning, and soon came up with a succession of formidable barriers, more troublesome to cut through than any we had before encountered. About a mile below the town we landed 700 of the Linga Dyaks on the left bank of the river, who were to separate into two divisions—commanded by Seriff Jaffer and his son, a remarkably fine and spirited youth—and creep stealthily through the jungle, for which the country was well adapted, so as to get to the rear of the town and forts, and make a simultaneous attack on the first shot being fired from our boats. The last barrier (and there were four of them) was placed just within point-blank range; the gig being a light boat, I managed to haul her over, close to the bank, and advanced so as to be both out of sight and out of range; and just as our first boat came up with the barrier, I pushed out from under the bank, and opened a fire of musketry on the stockade, which was full of men. This, with the war-yell that followed from their rear (both unexpected), together with their fears having been already worked upon by the destruction of Paddi and defeat of Pakoo, threw them into the greatest confusion. They fled in all directions, without provoking us by firing a shot, although we found the guns loaded. Seriff Jaffer and his Dyaks were gratified by having all the fighting to themselves, and by some very pretty hand-to-hand encounters. We were much amused, afterward, by their own account of the heroic deeds they had performed. Lives were lost on both sides, and heads taken. This Rembas was by far the largest and strongest place we had assaulted. We found some very large war-boats, both fitted and building; one measured ninety-two feet in length, with fourteen beam; and in addition to the usual good supply of fruit, goats, and poultry, our men were gratified by finding several bullocks. The plunder was great; and although, with the exception of the guns, of no value to us, it was very much so to our native followers.
After we had destroyed every thing, we received a flag of truce, when similar explanations and promises were made as at Paddi and Pakoo; and here ended for the present, the warlike part of our expedition. The punishment we had inflicted was severe, but not more than the crime of their horrid piracies deserved. A few heads were brought away by our Dyak followers, as trophies; but there was no unnecessary sacrifice of life, and I do not believe there was a woman or child hurt. The destruction of these places astonished the whole country beyond description. In addition to the distance and difficulty of access to their strongly-fortified positions, they looked for protection from the bore that usually ran up the Sarebus, and which they imagined none but their own boats could manage. As the different Malay chiefs heard that, in ten days, a handful of white men had totally destroyed their strongholds, they shook their heads, and exclaimed, "God is great!" and the Dyaks declared that the Tuan Besar (Mr. Brooke) had charmed the river to quiet the bore,  and that the whites were invulnerable. Although this expedition would have a great moral effect on all the more respectable and thinking natives, inasmuch as the inhabitants of the places destroyed were looked upon, from the large proportion of Malays, as more civilized than their formidable and savage neighbors, the Dyaks inhabiting the Sakarran river; still, it was not to be supposed, when the settlements of Paddi, Pakoo, and Rembas could not be responsible for the good behavior of one another, that it was probable the severe lesson taught them would have any great effect on the Sakarrans.
On regaining the tope at Boling, we found our assistant surgeon, Dr. Simpson, who had been left in charge of the sick, laid up with fever and ague. For conveniency's sake, the wounded men had been removed to a large native boat; and while the doctor was passing along the edge of the boat, his foot slipped, he fell overboard, and not being much of a swimmer, and a strong tide running, he was a good while in the water, though a native went after him. He had, for some time past, been in bad health; but the cold he then caught brought on inflammation in the lungs, under the effects of which he sank soon after our return to Singapore. Poor Simpson! he was not only clever in his profession, but endeared to us all by his kind and gentle manner, so grateful to the sick. There were few of us, while in China, who had not come under his hands, and experienced his tender, soothing, and unremitting attention.
We now gave our native followers permission to depart to their respective homes, which they did loaded with plunder, usually, in India, called loot; ourselves getting under weigh to rejoin the Dido off the Island of Burong, and from thence we proceeded to the mouth of the Morotaba, where, leaving the ship, Mr. Brooke and I went in my boat, with two others in attendance, to take leave of the rajah, prior to my return to Singapore and China. Although the greater part of the native boats attached to the expedition had already arrived at Sarawak, the rajah had sent them back, some miles down the river, with as many others as he could collect, gorgeously dressed out with flags, to meet Mr. Brooke and myself, the heroes of the grandest expedition that had ever been known in the annals of Malayan history. Our approach to the grand city was, to them, most triumphant, although to us a nuisance. From the moment we entered the last reach, the saluting from every gun in the capital that could be fired without bursting was incessant; and as we neared the royal residence, the yells, meant for cheers, and the beating of gongs, intended to be a sort of "See, the conquering hero comes!" were quite deafening. The most minute particulars of our deeds, of course greatly exaggerated, had been detailed, long before our arrival, by the native chiefs, who were eye-witnesses; and when we were seated in the rajah's presence, the royal countenance relaxed into a smile of real pleasure as he turned his wondering eyes from Mr. Brooke to myself and back again. I suppose he thought a great deal of us, as he said little or nothing; and, as we were rather hungry after our pull, we were very glad to get away once more to Mr. Brooke's hospitable board, to which we did ample justice.
My stay at Sarawak was but of short duration, as, before I had time to carry out the arrangements I had made to put down this horrid traffic, the Dido was, owing to some changes in the distribution of the fleet, recalled to China.
As the tide would not suit for my return to the Dido until two o'clock the following morning, we sat up until that hour, when, with mutual regret, we parted. I had just seen enough of Borneo and my enterprising friend, Mr. Brooke, to feel the deepest interest in both. No description of mine can in any way give my readers a proper idea of the character of the man I had just then left; and however interesting his journal may appear in the reading, it is only by being in his company, and by hearing him advocate the cause of the persecuted inland natives, and listening to his vivid and fair description of the beautiful country he has adopted, that one can be made to enter fully into and feel what I would fain describe, but can not.
We parted; and I did not then expect to be able so soon to return and finish what I had intended, viz., the complete destruction of the strongholds belonging to the worst among the pirate hordes, so long the terror of the coast, either by capturing or driving from the country the piratical Seriffs Sahib and Muller, by whose evil influence they had been chiefly kept up. From all that I had seen, the whole country appeared to be a large garden, with a rich and varied soil, capable of producing anything. The natives, especially the mountain Dyaks, are industrious, willing, inoffensive, although a persecuted race; and the only things wanted to make the country the most productive and happiest in the world were, the suppression of piracy, good government, and opening a trade with the interior, which could not fail of success. All these I saw partially begun; and I felt assured that with the assistance of a vessel of war, and the countenance only of the government, Mr. Brooke would, although slowly, yet surely, bring about their happy consummation.
Captain Keppel sails for China.—Calcutta.—The Dido ordered to Borneo again.—Arrival at Sarawak.—Effect of her presence at Sarawak.—Great improvements visible.—Atrocities of the Sakarran pirates.—Mr. Brooke's letter.—Captain Sir E. Belcher's previous visit to Sarawak in the Samarang.—Coal found.—Second letter from the Rajah Muda Hassim.—Expedition against the Sakarran pirates.—Patusen destroyed.—Macota remembered, and his retreat burnt.—Further fighting, and advance.—Ludicrous midnight alarm.
June 24th.—I reached the Dido at 8 o'clock, and immediately got under weigh. After remaining twenty-four hours to water at Singapore, I sailed for Hong Kong. My time, during the year that I was absent from Borneo, if not quite so usefully, was not unpleasantly passed. We lay a few months in the Canton river. In addition to having good opportunities of seeing the natives of China in their domestic state, I witnessed one of those most curious and extraordinary sights that occasionally occur during the winter months in the city of Canton, namely, a fire. The one I saw was about the most extensive that had ever been experienced; and the Dido's crew had the gratification of being of some assistance in the protection of British property. From China the Dido accompanied the commander-in-chief, in the Cornwallis, to the Spanish colony at Manilla, which is a place that few forget; and a short description of our visit there has been given in an interesting little work, written by Captain Cunynghame. On my return to Hong Kong, I had the gratification of receiving on board the Dido, Major-General Lord Saltoun and his staff, consisting of two old and esteemed friends of mine, Captain, now Major Arthur Cunynghame, his lordship's aid-de-camp, and Major Grant, of the 9th Lancers, who had been adjutant-general to the forces. A more agreeable cruise at sea I never experienced. We called at the island of Pinang, in the Malacca straits, on our way, where we again fell in with the admiral; and I was most agreeably surprised at meeting my friend Mr. Brooke, who had come on to Singapore to meet Sir William Parker, and had followed him up in the Wanderer, commanded by my friend Captain Henry Seymour,—that vessel, in company with the Harlequin, Captain the Hon. George Hastings, and the H. C. steamer Diana, having just returned from an expedition to Acheen, whither they had been dispatched by the commander-in-chief, to inquire into and demand redress for an act of piracy, committed on an English merchant-vessel. An account of the expedition has already been published. The pirates had made a desperate resistance, and several lives were lost, and many severely wounded on our side; among the latter was my friend Mr. Brooke (in the head and arm), for which I took the liberty of giving him a lecture on his rashness, he having quite sufficient ground for fighting over in his newly-adopted country. He was much pleased at the admiral's having promised that the Dido should return again to the Straits station as soon as she had completed her voyage to Calcutta.
On the 11th March, 1844, we anchored off the grand City of Palaces, and well does it merit the name. We could not have, timed our visit better. The governor-general, the Earl of Ellenborough, was being feted on his return from the frontiers, which fetes were continued on the arrival, a few days after ourselves, of the Cornwallis at Kedgeree, when the flag of Sir William Parker was shifted to the Dido. The admiral experienced the same style of hospitable entertainment that had previously been given to General Sir Hugh Gough on his return from the Chinese expedition. At Calcutta I was kindly invited by the "Tent Club," and introduced to that noble and most exciting of all field-sports, "Hog-hunting in India;" but with which the pleasures of the day did not cease. The subsequent convivial meeting was a thing not easily to be forgotten. Although under a tent pitched by the edge of the jungle, thirty miles from the city, none of the comforts of the house were wanting; there were the punkah and the hookah, those luxuries of the East, to say nothing of heaps of ice from the far West, which aided considerably the consumption of champagne and claret; and to better all these good things, every man brought with him the will and the power to please and to be pleased.
A few days before my departure from Calcutta, the governor-general finding it necessary to send treasure to China, the admiral desired me to receive it on board. Although a welcome cargo, it delayed for a couple of months my return to Borneo. I found Mr. Brooke awaiting my arrival at Singapore; but as I could not then receive him on board, Captain Hastings took him over to Sarawak in the Harlequin.
On arriving at Hong Kong, Rear-Admiral Sir T. Cochrane appointed Mr. Frederick Wade as first lieutenant, Lieutenant Wilmot Horton having been promoted to the rank of commander for his gallant defence when the Dido's boats were attacked by the very superior force of pirates off the island of Sirhassan.
Having landed the treasure at Hong Kong, and completed stores and provisions, I sailed from Macao on the 21st June, and working down against the monsoon, arrived at Singapore on the 18th July. I here found letters from Mr. Brooke, stating that the Sakarrans had been out in great force; and although he was not aware of any danger to himself or his settlement, still, by coming over quickly, I might have a fair chance of catching and crushing them in the very act of piracy. I lost no time in preparing for another expedition. The government at Calcutta had become fully sensible of the necessity of protecting the native trade to Singapore, and had sent down the Phlegethon steamer, of light draught of water, and better adapted to service in the straits or rivers than any of her majesty's larger vessels. She was, moreover, fitted in every way for the peculiar service on which she was to be employed, with a zealous, experienced, and active commander, F. Scott,  as well as a fine enterprising set of young officers. I lost no time in making application for her to the resident counselor, Mr. Church (in the absence of Colonel Butterworth, the Governor of the Straits), who immediately placed her at my disposal; and with such means, I was anxious to commence operations as speedily as possible, leaving the Vixen and Wolverine to perform the other duties of the station.
Thursday, 25th July.—Sailed from Singapore, having dispatched the Phlegethon the previous night, with orders to rendezvous at the entrance to the Morotaba, which we entered in the evening of the 29th; and anchoring the ship inside the river, I went on in the steamer to within four miles of Sarawak, when I pulled up in my gig, accompanied by the Dido's pinnace, that I might, by firing her carronade as a signal, be enabled to give notice of our approach, not feeling myself quite secure from a shot from the forts, which were very judiciously placed so as to command the last reach approaching the town, as I knew that before Mr. Brooke's return they had been put in a state of defence, and a regular watch kept, by self-appointed officers, sleeping on their arms. I, however, got up without accident, in time to receive a hearty welcome, about daylight.
Not expecting to revisit Borneo during the period that the ship had to run before completing her usual time of commission, it was gratifying for me to read in my friend's journal, alluding to my former visit; "I came myself in the Dido; and I may say that her appearance was the consummation of my enterprise." "The natives saw directly that there was a force to protect and to punish; and most of the chiefs, conscious of their evil ways, trembled; Muda Hassim was gratified, and felt that this power would exalt his authority both in Borneo and along the coast, and he was not slow in magnifying the force of the Dido. The state in which Captain Keppel and his officers visited the rajah all heightened the effect; and the marines and the band excited the admiration and the fears of the natives. I felt the rajah's hand tremble at the first interview; and not all the well-known command of countenance, of which the natives are masters, could conceal his emotion."
Gentle reader, excuse my vanity if I continue a little further with my friend's journal, although it gets rather personal:
"I believe the first emotion was anything but pleasurable; but Captain Keppel's conciliatory and kind manner soon removed any feeling of fear; and was all along of the greatest use to me in our subsequent doings. The first qualification, in dealing with a Malay, is a kind and gentle manner; for their habitual politeness is such that they are hurt by the ordinary brusquerie of the European.
"I shall not go over the chase of the three boats of the Balagnini pirates, or the attack made on the Dido's boats by the Sirhassan, people, except to remark, that in the latter case, I am sure Lieutenant Horton acted rightly in sparing their lives and property; for, with these occasional pirates, a severe lesson, followed by that degree of conciliation and pardon which shall best insure a correction of their vices, is far wiser and preferable to a course of undistinguishing severity."
I found Sarawak much altered for the better, and the population considerably increased. Mr. Brooke had established himself in a new house built on a beautiful and elevated mound, from which the intriguing Macota had just been ejected on my first visit. Neat and pretty-looking little Swiss cottages had sprung up on all the most picturesque spots, which gave it quite a European look. He had also made an agreeable addition to his English society; and a magazine of English merchandise had been opened to trade with the natives, together with many other improvements.
On the other hand, Seriff Sahib, not deterred, as I had anticipated he would be, by the example I made of his neighbors in the Sarebus, had taken measures for withdrawing from the adjoining river of Sadong, where he had been living in a comparatively unguarded state, and had, during the last nine months, been making busy preparations for fortifying himself at a place called Patusen, up the Batang Lupar. He had lately got things in a forward state, had called out a large fleet of Sakarrans as an escort; and being puffed up with his own power and importance, had thought proper to prolong the performance of his voyage, of about 100 miles, from his residence in Sadong to his fortified position at Patusen, for three weeks or a month, during which time he had dispatched small parties of his fleet, which consisted of upward of 150 war-prahus, on piratical excursions. These robbers had, in addition to their piracies on the high seas, scoured the coast in all directions, and committed the greatest atrocities, attended with some of the most cruel murders. One sample will be sufficient to show their brutal character:—A detachment of three of their boats, having obtained information that a poor Dyak family, belonging to a tribe in Mr. Brooke's territory, had come down from their mountain to cultivate a small portion of land nearer the coast, and, for their better security, had made their dwelling in the upper branches of a large tree on the outskirts of the forest, determined to destroy them. Their little children were playing in the jungle when the pirates were seen approaching the tree with their diabolical war-yells. As the poor man did not descend immediately on being summoned, he was shot; when other ruffians, to save their ammunition, mounted the tree, murdered the woman, and returned in triumph to their boats with the heads of both victims. The children, who had witnessed this from their hiding-places, succeeded in getting to Sarawak.
Taking advantage of Mr. Brooke's unusually long absence, Sarawak itself was threatened, and open defiance hurled at any European force that should dare approach Patusen. Reports, too, had been industriously spread that Mr. Brooke never intended to return; and when he did get back to his home, he found the town guarded and watched like a besieged city. With his usual nerve and decision he withdrew his men from the forts, and sent to Seriff Sahib to inform him that he should suffer for his temerity.
A letter I received from him is so characteristic, and gives so lively a description of these events, that I am tempted to print it.
"Sarawak, 26th May, 1844.
"My Dear Keppel,
"It is useless applying a spur to a willing horse; so I will only tell you that there is plenty to do here, and the sooner you can come the better for all of us, especially your poor friends the Dyaks. Bring with you as much force as you can to attack Sakarran.
"The case stands thus:—Seriff Sahib, quite frightened at Sadong since last year, enraged likewise at his loss of power and his incapability of doing mischief, collected all the Sakarran Dyaks, and was joined by many of the Dyaks of Sarebus and some Balows. He likewise had a good many Malays, and bullied every one in his vicinity. This force met at the entrance of the Sadong Delta, and committed depredations. They were not less than 200 Dyak boats, and some 15 or 20 armed Malay prahus, beside others. Just as they were collected, the Harlequin appeared off the coast, and had the Dido been with us, we might have had them all; but the opportunity will never again occur. Seriff Sahib, with this force, has started to-day for Sakarran, and I was not strong enough with my eight native boats to attack him. It is really greatly to be lamented, because we should most completely have crushed the head of the snake. We must, however, make the best of it. It is his intention, on his arrival at Sakarran, to fortify and wait for our attack, and in the mean time to send out his Dyaks along the coast and inland to such places as they dare venture to attack.
"Come then, my dear Keppel, for there is plenty to do for all hands. I have ordered a gun-boat from Mr. Goldie, to make our force stronger; and had I possessed such a one the day before yesterday, I would have pulled away for the Sadong to-day.
"My regards to all. I still propose Pepper-Pot Hall for your residence. I only wish I felt quite sure that Fortune had it in store that you would be here on your return from China. That dame, however, seems to delight in playing me slippery tricks just at present; and never was the time and tide so missed before, which would have led to fortune, as the other day. All the queen's ships and all the queen's men could not bring such a chance together again.
"Ever, my dear Keppel, your sincere friend,
"J. Brooke. "Captain the Hon. Henry Keppel."
No one could have been more disappointed or have regretted more than my gallant friend Captain Hastings, that his orders did not admit of any delay, or of his attacking that redoubtable pirate Seriff Sahib, especially as he had a small score to settle with that kind of gentry, having had his first lieutenant, H. Chads, severely wounded in two places, and several men killed, in the affair at Acheen Head. It was, however, all for the best, as the few boats that the Harlequin could have sent would have stood but a poor chance against upward of 200 war-prahus, all fitted and prepared for fight.
On the 1st of August, with the Dido and Phlegethon at anchor off Sarawak, the warlike preparations were going on rapidly. I had saluted and paid my visit to Muda Hassim; he was delighted to see me again, and we went through the form of holding several conferences of war in his divan. He appears to be a good well-meaning man, well inclined toward the English, moderately honest, and, if roused, I daresay not without animal courage; and altogether, with the assistance of his clever younger brother, Budrudeen, a very fit person to govern that part of Borneo of which he is rajah.
During my absence, Sarawak had been visited by H.M.S. Samarang, Captain Sir Edward Belcher, who had received directions to call on and communicate with Mr. Brooke. In dropping down the river the Samarang grounded on a long shelf of rocks, at the top of high water, and with the ebb-tide rolled over, filling with the succeeding flood. She was nearly a fortnight in this position, but was ultimately saved by the skill and almost unparalleled perseverance (aided by such assistance of men and spars as Mr. Brooke could afford) of her captain, officers, and crew—a feat that must have given the natives a good idea of what British seamen are capable of. This accident delayed for a short time a visit that was afterward made by Sir Edward Belcher, accompanied by Mr. Brooke, to Borneo Proper. A hurried inspection of the capabilities of that part of the coast took place; and the fact of there being coal on the island was ascertained.
I received a second letter from Muda Hassim, of which the following is a translation:
"This comes from Pangeran Muda Hassim, Rajah of Borneo, to our friend Captain Keppel, in command of her Britannic Majesty's ship.
(After the usual compliments):
"We beg to let our friend Captain Keppel know, that the pirates of Sakarran, whom we mentioned last year, still continue their piracies by sea and land; and that many Malays, under Seriff Sahib, who have been accustomed to send or to accompany the pirates and to share in their spoils, have gone to the Sakarran river, with a resolve of defending themselves rather than accede to our wishes that they should abandon piracy.
"Last year Captain Belcher told the sultan and myself, that it would be pleasing to the Queen of England that we should repress piracy; and we signed an agreement, at his request, in which we promised to do so; and we tell our friend of the piracies and evil actions of the Sakarran people, who have, for many years past, done much mischief to trade, and make it dangerous for boats to sail along the coast; and this year many prahus, which wanted to sail to Singapore, have been afraid. We inform our friend Captain Keppel of this, as we desire to end all the piracy, and to perform our agreement with the Queen of England."
Monday, 5th August, 1844, being the morning fixed for the departure of our expedition against the Sakarran pirates, the Phlegethon steamer weighed at 8 o'clock, and proceeded down the river to await at the mouth the collection of our force. Among those who accompanied us from Sarawak was the Pangeran Budrudeen, the intelligent brother of the rajah already noticed. This was a great and unusual event in the royal family; and the departure from the rajah's wharf, which I viewed from Mr. Brooke's house, on the opposite bank of the river, was intended to be very imposing. The barge of state was decked out with banners and canopies; all the chiefs attended, with the Arab priest Mudlana at their head, and the barge pushed off amid the firing of cannon, and a general screech, invoking the blessing of Mahomet.
Having seen the last boat off, Mr. Brooke and myself took our departure in the gig, when another and last farewell salute was fired from the rajah's wharf.
Three hours brought us to the steamer, anchored off the fishing huts at the mouth of the river. Here we heard that a small boat from the enemy's country had, under the pretence of trading, just been in to spy into our force, but decamped again on the appearance of the steamer. We now all got fairly away together, the smaller boats keeping near the shoals in shore, while the steamer was obliged to make an offing some miles from the coast. From the masthead we distinctly made out the small boat that had left the mouth of the river before, both pulling and sailing in the direction of the Batang Lupar, up which the Sakarran country lies; and as it was desirable that the pirates should not get information of our approach, at dusk, being well in advance, and our auxiliary force following, I dispatched Mr. Brooke's Singapore sampan and one of the Dido's cutters in chase. At half-past nine we anchored in the stream within the entrance.
We were fortunate at Sarawak in picking up two excellent and intelligent pilots, who had long known the whole river, and had themselves been several times forced to serve in the boats while on their piratical excursions.
Tuesday 6th.—With the flood-tide arrived all the well appointed and imposing little fleet, and with them the cutter and sampan with two out of the three men belonging to the boat of which they had been in chase; the third having been speared by Seboo, on showing a strong inclination to run a-muck in his own boat, i. e. to sell his life as dearly as he could. From these men we obtained information that Seriff Sahib was fully prepared for defence—that his harem had been removed—and that he would fight to the last. We also learned that Macota, better known among us by the name of the "Serpent," and often mentioned in Mr. Brooke's journal, was the principal adviser, in whose house the councils of war were generally held.
We anchored, in the afternoon, off the mouth of the river Linga; and while there we dispatched a messenger to Seriff Jaffer to caution him against giving any countenance or support to either of the Seriffs Sahib and Muller, on whose punishment and destruction we were determined.
The Batang Lupar, as far as this, is a magnificent river, from three to four miles wide, and, in most parts, from five to seven fathoms water.
Wednesday, 7th.—We weighed at daylight, but were obliged to anchor again before appearing in sight of Patusen, until the tide should rise sufficiently to enable us to pass a long flat shoal, over which, during the spring-tides, a bore rushes with frightful velocity.
We now collected our boats, and made our arrangements as well as we could, for attacking a place we had not yet seen. We had now a little more difficulty in keeping our native force back, as many of those who had accompanied the expedition last year had gained so much confidence that the desire of plunder exceeded the feeling of fear.
After weighing at 11, with a strong tide sweeping us up, we were not many minutes in coming in sight of the fortifications of Patusen; and indeed they were not to be despised. There were five of them, two not quite finished. Getting suddenly into six feet water, we anchored the steamer; not so formidable a berth, although well within musket-range, as we might have taken up had I been aware of the increasing depth of water nearer the town; but we approached so rapidly there was no time to wait the interpretation of the pilot's information.
The Dido and Phlegethon's boats were not long in forming alongside. They were directed to pull in shore, and then attack the forts in succession; but my gallant first-lieutenant, Wade, who had the command, was the first to break the line, and pull directly in the face of the largest fort. His example was followed by the others; and dividing, each boat pulled for that which appeared to the officer in command to be the one most likely to make a good fight. The forts were the first to open fire on both steamer and boats, which was quickly and smartly returned. It is impossible to imagine a prettier sight than it was from the top of the Phlegethon's paddle-box. It was my intention to have fired on the enemy from the steamer, so as to draw their attention off the boats; but owing to the defective state of the detonating priming-tubes, the guns from the vessel did not go off, and the boats had all the glory to themselves.
They never once checked in their advance; but the moment they touched the shore the crews rushed up, entering the forts at the embrasures, while the pirates fled by the rear.
In this sharp and short affair we had but one man killed, poor John Ellis, a fine young man, and captain of the main-top in the Dido. He was cut in two by a cannon-shot while in the act of ramming home a cartridge in the bow-gun of the Jolly Bachelor. Standing close to poor Ellis at the fatal moment was a fine promising young middy, Charles Johnson, a nephew of Mr. Brooke's, who fortunately escaped unhurt. This, and two others badly wounded, were the only accidents on our side.
Our native allies were not long in following our men on shore. The killed and wounded on the part of the pirates must have been considerable. Our followers got several heads. There were no fewer than sixty-four brass guns of different sizes, beside many iron, found in and about the forts: the latter we spiked and threw into the river. The town was very extensive; and after being well looted, made a glorious blaze.
Our Sarawak followers, both Malays and Dyaks, behaved with the greatest gallantry, and dashed in under the fire of the forts. In fact, like their country, anything might be made of them under a good government; and such is their confidence in Mr. Brooke's judgment, and their attachment to his person, that he might safely defy in his own stronghold the attacks of any foreign power.
After our men had dined, and had a short rest during the heat of the day, we landed our whole force in two divisions—and a strange but formidable-looking force they made—to attack a town situated about two miles up, on the left bank of a small river called the Grahan, the entrance to which had been guarded by the forts; and immediately after their capture the tide had fallen too low for our boats to get up. Facing the stream, too, was a long stockade; so that we determined on attacking the place in the rear, which, had the pirates only waited to receive us, would have caused a very interesting skirmish. They, however, decamped, leaving everything behind them. In this town we found Seriff Sahib's residence, and, among other things, all his curious and extensive wardrobe. It was ridiculous to see our Dyaks dressed out in all the finery and plunder of this noted pirate, whose very name, a few days previous, would have made them tremble. Goats and poultry there were in abundance. We likewise found a magazine in the rear of the seriff's house, containing about two tons of gunpowder; also a number of small barrels of fine powder, branded "Dartford," in exactly the same state as it had left the manufactory in England. It being too troublesome and heavy to convey on board the steamer, and each of our native followers staggering up to his knees in mud, under a heavy load of plunder, I had it thrown into the river. It was evident how determined the chief had been to defend himself, as, beside the defences already completed, eight others, in different states of forwardness, were in the course of erection; and had the attack been delayed a few weeks, Patusen would not have been carried by boats without considerable loss of life. It was the key to this extensive river; the resort of the worst of pirates; and each chief had contributed his share of guns and ammunition toward its fortification and defence.
We returned to our boats and evening meal rather fatigued, but much pleased with our day's work, after ascending nearly seventy miles from the mouth of the river. The habitations of 5000 pirates had been burnt to the ground; four strong forts destroyed, together with several hundred boats; upward of sixty brass cannons captured, and about a fourth that number of iron spiked and thrown into the river, beside vast quantities of other arms and ammunition; and the powerful Seriff Sahib, the great pirate-patron for the last twenty years, ruined past recovery, and driven to hide his diminished head in the jungle.
The 8th and 9th were passed in burning and destroying the rest of the straggling town, and a variety of smaller boats, which were very numerous. I had also an account to settle with that cunning rascal Macota, for his aiding and abetting Seriff Sahib in his piracies. He had located himself very pleasantly near a bend in the river, about a mile above Seriff Sahib's settlement, and was in the act of building extensive fortifications, when I had the satisfaction of anticipating the visit and some of the compliments he would have conferred on my friend Mr. Brooke at Sarawak. Budrudeen, the rajah's brother, had likewise been duped by this fellow, and was exceedingly anxious to insert the blade of a very sharp and beautiful kris into the body of his late friend. Mr. Brooke, however, was anxious to save his life, which he afterward had the satisfaction of doing. I shall never forget the tiger-like look of the young Pangeran when we landed together in the hopes of surprising the "Serpent" in his den; but he was too quick for us, having decamped with his followers, and in so great a hurry as to leave all his valuables behind—among them a Turkish pipe, some chairs once belonging to the Royalist, and other presents from Mr. Brooke. Everything belonging to him was burnt or destroyed save some handsome brass guns. There was one of about 12 cwt. that had been lent by the sultan when Macota was in favor, and which I returned to Budrudeen for his brother.
We were here joined by a large number of the Linga Dyaks, the same force that had joined us the year previous, while up the Sarebus, but unaccompanied by Seriff Jaffer, of whom it was not quite clear that he had not been secretly aiding the pirates. I sent them back with assurances to their chiefs that they should not be molested unless they gave shelter or protection to either Seriff Sahib or Muller. Seriff Sahib, with a considerable body of followers, escaped inland in the direction of the mountains, from the other side of which he would be able to communicate with the river Linga. Macota was obliged to fly up the river toward the Undop, on which the village and residence of Seriff Sahib's brother, Seriff Muller, was situated.
Having destroyed every boat and sampan, as well as house or hut, on the 10th, as soon as the tide had risen sufficiently to take us over the shoals, we weighed, in the steamer, for the country of the Sakarran Dyaks, having sent the boats on before with the first of the flood.
About fifteen miles above Patusen is the branch of the river called the Undop: up this river I dispatched Lieutenant Turnour, with Mr. Comber, in the Jolly Bachelor, and a division of our native boats, while we proceeded to where the river again branches off to the right and left, as on the tongue of land so formed we understood we should find a strong fort; beside, it was the highest point to which we could attempt to take the steamer. The branch to the left is called the Sakarran; that to the right retains the name of Lupar, inhabited chiefly by Sakarrans. We found the place deserted and the houses empty. Knowing that these people depended almost entirely for protection on the strongly fortified position at Patusen, I did not expect any similar opposition from either Seriff Muller or the desperate bloodthirsty Sakarrans, and consequently divided my force into three division—the one, already mentioned, under Lieutenant Turnour, up the Undop; another, under Mr. D'Aeth, up the Lupar; while Lieutenant Wade, accompanied by Mr. Brooke, ascended the Sakarran. I had not calculated on the disturbed and excited state in which I found the country; and two wounded men having been sent back from the Undop branch with accounts of the pirates, chiefly Malays, who were collected in great numbers, both before and in the rear of our small force; and an attempt having been made to cut off the bearer of this information, Nakoda Bahar, who had had a very narrow escape, and had no idea of taking back an answer unless attended by a European force,—I determined on sending assistance. But I had some difficulty in mustering another crew from the steamer, and was obliged to leave my friend Capt. Scott, with only the idlers, rather critically situated.
I deemed it advisable to re-collect my whole force; and before proceeding to the punishment of the Sakarrans, to destroy the power and influence of Seriff Muller, whose town was situated about twenty miles up, and was said to contain a population of 1500 Malays, independently of the surrounding Dyak tribes. Having dispatched boats with directions to Lieutenant Wade and Mr. D'Aeth to join us in the Undop, I proceeded in my gig to the scene of action, leaving the steamer to maintain as strict a blockade of the Sakarran and Lupar branches as, with their reduced force, they were capable of. On my joining Lieutenant Turnour, I found him just returned from a very spirited attack which he had made, assisted by Mr. Comber, on a stockade situated on the summit of a steep hill; Mr. Allen, the master, being still absent on a similar service, on the opposite side of the river. The gallant old chief Patingi Ali was likewise absent, in pursuit of the enemy that had been driven from the stockades, with whom he had had a hand-to-hand fight, the whole of which—being on the rising ground—was witnessed by our boats' crews, who could not resist hailing his return from his gallant achievement with three hearty British cheers. This had the effect of giving such an impulse to his courage, that, in a subsequent affair, it unhappily caused a serious loss among this active and useful branch of our force.
We had now to unite in cutting our way through a barrier across the river similar to that described in the attack on the Sarebus, which having passed, we brought up for the night close to a still more serious obstacle, being a number of huge trees felled, the branches of which meeting midway in the river, formed apparently an insurmountable obstacle to our progress. But "patience and perseverance overcome all difficulties;" and by night only three of the trees remained to be cleared away. We were now within a short distance of their town, so that we could distinctly hear the noise and confusion which our advance had occasioned. On the right bank, and about fifty yards in advance of the barrier, stood a farm-house, which we considered it prudent to occupy for the night, for which advanced post we collected about fifty volunteers. These consisted of Messrs. Steward, Williamson, and Comber; a corporal and four marines; my gig's crew; and a medley of picked men from our Dyak and Malay followers; not forgetting my usual and trusty attendant John Eager with his bugle, the sounding of which was to be the signal for the whole force to come to the rescue, in the event of surprise—not at all improbable from the nature of our warfare and our proximity to the enemy's town.
And here a most ludicrous scene occurred during the night. Having placed our sentries and look-out men, and given "Tiga" as the watchword, we were, shortly after midnight, suddenly aroused from sound sleep by a Dyak war-yell, which was immediately responded to by the whole force. It was pitch dark: the interior of our farmhouse, the partitions of which had been removed for the convenience of stowage, was crowded to excess. In a moment every man was on his legs: swords, spears, and krisses dimly glittered over our heads. It is impossible to describe the excitement and confusion of the succeeding ten minutes: one and all believed that we had been surrounded by the enemy, and cut off from our main party. I had already thrust the muzzle of my pistol close to the heads of several natives, whom, in the confusion, I had mistaken for Sakarrans; and as each in his turn called out "Tiga," I withdrew my weapon to apply it to somebody else; until, at last, we found that we were all "Tigas." I had prevented Eager, more than once, from sounding the alarm, which, from the first, he had not ceased to press me for permission to do. The Dyak yell had, however, succeeded in throwing the whole force afloat into a similar confusion, and not hearing the signal, they concluded that they, and not we, were the party attacked. The real cause we afterward ascertained to have arisen from the alarm of a Dyak, who dreamt, or imagined, that he felt a spear thrust upward through the bamboo-flooring of our building, and immediately gave his diabolical yell. The confusion was ten times as much as it would have been had the enemy really been there. So ended the adventures of the night in the wild jungle of Borneo.
Seriff Muller's town sacked.—Ascend the river in pursuit of the enemy.—Gallant exploit of Lieutenant Wade.—His death and funeral.—Interesting anecdote of him.—Ascend the Sakarran branch.—Native boats hemmed in by pirates, and their crews slaughtered to a man.—Karangan destroyed.—Captain Sir E. Belcher arrives in the Samarang's boats.—Return to Sarawak.—New expedition against Seriff Sahib and Jaffer.—Macota captured.—Flight of Seriff Sahib.—Conferences.—Seriff Jaffer deposed.—Mr. Brooke's speech in the native tongue.—End of the expedition, and return to Sarawak.—The Dido sails for England.
At daylight we were joined by Lieutenant Wade and Mr. Brooke—their division making a very acceptable increase to our force—and by 8 o'clock the last barrier was cut through between us and Seriff Muller's devoted town. With the exception of his own house, from which some eight or nine Malays were endeavoring to move his effects, the whole place was deserted. They made no fight; and an hour afterward the town had been plundered and burnt. The only lives lost were a few unfortunates, who happened to come within range of our musketry in their exertions to save some of their master's property. A handsome large boat, belonging to that chief, was the only thing saved; and this I presented to Budrudeen. After a short delay in catching our usual supply of goats and poultry, with which the place abounded, we proceeded up the river in chase of the chief and his people; and here again we had to encounter the same obstacle presented by the felled trees thrown across the river—if possible of increased difficulty, owing to their greater size and the narrow breadth of the stream; but although delayed we were not to be beaten. We ascertained that the pirates had retreated to a Dyak village, situated on the summit of a hill, some twenty-five miles higher up the Undop, five or six miles only of which we had succeeded in ascending, as a most dreary and rainy night closed in, during which we were joined by Mr. D'Aeth and his division from the Lupar river.
The following morning, the 13th of August, at daybreak, we again commenced our toilsome work. With the gig and the lighter boats we succeeded better; and I should have despaired of the heavier boats ever getting up, had they not been assisted by an opportune and sudden rise of the tide, to the extent of twelve or fourteen feet, though with this we had to contend against a considerably increased strength of current. It was on this day that my ever active and zealous first lieutenant, Charles Wade, jealous of the advanced position of our light boats, obtained a place in my gig. That evening the Phlegethon's first and second cutters, the Dido's two cutters, and their gigs, were fortunate enough to pass a barrier composed of trees evidently but recently felled; from which we concluded ourselves to be so near the enemy, that, by pushing forward as long as we could possibly see, we might prevent further impediments from being thrown in our way. This we did; but at 9 P.M. arriving at a broad expanse of the river, and being utterly unable to trace our course, we anchored our advanced force for the night.
On Wednesday, 14th, we again pushed on at daylight. We had gained information of two landing-places leading to the Dyak village on the hill, round three-fourths of the foot of which the Undop flowed. The first landing-place we had no trouble in discovering, from the number of deserted boats collected near it. Leaving these to be looted by our followers, we proceeded in search of the second, which we understood was situated more immediately under the village, and which, having advanced without our guides, we had much difficulty in finding. The circuit of the base of the hill was above five miles. In traversing this distance, we had repeated skirmishing with straggling boats of the enemy, upon whom we came unexpectedly. During this warfare, Patingi Ali, who, with his usual zeal, had here come up, bringing a considerable native force of both Malays and Dyaks, was particularly on the alert; and while we in the gig attacked the large war-prahu of Seriff Muller himself—the resistance of whose followers was only the discharge of their muskets, after which they threw themselves into the river, part only effecting their escape—the Patingi nearly succeeded in capturing that chief in person. He had escaped from his prahu into a remarkably beautiful and fast-pulling sampan, in which he was chased by old Ali, and afterward only saved his life by throwing himself into the water, and swimming to the jungle; and it was with no small pride that the gallant old chief appropriated the boat to his own use. In the prahu were captured two large brass guns, two smaller ones, a variety of small arms, ammunition, provisions, colors and personal property, among which were also two pair of handsome jars of English manufacture. After this, having proceeded some considerable distance without finding the second landing-place, we put in close to a clear green spot, with the intention of getting our breakfasts, and of waiting the arrival of the other boat with the guides.
While our crew were busily employed cooking, Lieutenant Wade and myself fancied we heard the suppressed voices of many people not far distant, and taking up our guns we crept into the jungle. We had not penetrated many yards before I came in sight of a mass of boats concealed in a snug little inlet, the entrance to which had escaped our notice. These were filled with the piratical Dyaks and Malays, and on shore at various points were placed armed sentinels. My first impulse was to conceal ourselves until the arrival of our force; but my rash, though gallant friend deemed otherwise; and without noticing the caution of my upheld hand, dashed in advance, discharging his gun, and calling upon our men to follow. It is impossible to conceive the consternation and confusion this our sudden sally occasioned among the pirates. The confused noise and scrambling from their boats I can only liken to that of a suddenly-roused flock of wild ducks. Our attack from the point whence it came was evidently unexpected; and it is my opinion that they calculated on our attacking the hill, if we did so at all, from the nearest landing-place, without pulling round the other five miles, as the whole attention of their scouts appeared to be directed toward that quarter. A short distance above them was a small encampment, probably erected for the convenience of their chiefs, as in it we found writing materials, two or three desks of English manufacture, on the brass plate of one of which, I afterward noticed, was engraved the name of "Mr. Wilson." To return to the pirates: with our force, such as it was—nine in number—and headed by Lieutenant Wade, we pursued our terrified enemy, who had not the sense or courage to rally in their judiciously selected and naturally protected encampment, but continued their retreat (firing on us from the jungle) toward the Dyak village on the summit of the hill.
We here collected our force, reloaded our fire-arms; and Lieutenant Wade, seeing from this spot the arrival at the landing-place of the other boats, again rushed on in pursuit. Before arriving at the foot of the steep ascent on the summit of which the before-mentioned Dyak village stood, we had to cross a small open space of about sixty yards, exposed to the fire from the village as well as the surrounding jungle. It was before crossing this plain that I again cautioned my gallant friend to await the arrival of his men, of whom he was far in advance; and almost immediately afterward he fell mortally wounded at my feet, having been struck by two rifle-shots, and died instantaneously. I remained with the body until our men came up, and giving it in charge, we carried the place on the height without a check or further accident. The Dyak village we now occupied I would have spared, as on no occasion had we noticed any of the tribe fighting against us; but it was by shot fired from it that poor Wade was killed, and the work of destruction commenced simultaneously with the arrival of our men. It was most gratifying to me throughout the expedition to observe the friendly rivalry and emulation between the crews of the Phlegethon and the Dido's boats. On this occasion the former had the glory of first gaining the height; and one of the officers of the former, Mr. Simpson, wounded, with a pistol-shot, a man armed with a rifle, supposed to have been the person who had slain our first-lieutenant.
I may here narrate a circumstance, from which one may judge of the natural kind-heartedness of my lamented friend. During the heat of the pursuit, although too anxious to advance to await the arrival of his men, he nevertheless found time to conceal in a place of security a poor terrified Malay girl whom he overtook, and who, by an imploring look, touched his heart. The village and the piratical boats destroyed, and the excitement over, we had time to reflect on the loss we had sustained of one so generally beloved as the leader of the expedition had been among us all. Having laid the body in a canoe, with the British union-jack for a pall, we commenced our descent of the river with very different spirits from those with which we had ascended only a few hours before. In the evening, with our whole force assembled, we performed the last sad ceremony of committing the body to the deep, with all the honors that time and circumstance would allow. I read that beautiful, impressive service from a prayer-book, the only one, by the by, in the expedition, which he himself had brought, as he said, "in case of accident."
Before we again got under weigh, several Malay families, no longer in dread of their piratical chief, Seriff Muller, who had fled nobody knew whither, gave themselves up to us as prisoners, trusting to the mercy of a white man; the first instance of any of them having done so. We heard, also, that Macota had retreated with the seriff; and on examination we found the papers captured in the encampment belonged to them, exposing several deep intrigues and false statements addressed to the sultan, the purport of which was to impress his mind with the belief of a hostile intention on the part of the British government toward his country. We brought-up for the night off the still-burning ruins of Seriff Muller's town.
On Thursday the 15th we again reached the steamer. We found her prepared for action, having been much annoyed during the night by the continued Dyak war-yells—sounds, to uninitiated ears, as unpleasant as those of musketry. Having driven away the two principal instigators and abettors of all the piracies committed along the coast of Borneo and elsewhere, and destroyed their strongholds, it now remained for us to punish the pirates themselves as far as lay in our power. The Sakarran Dyaks being the only ones now remaining who had not received convincing proofs that their brutal and inhuman trade would be no longer allowed, the 15th and 16th were passed on board the steamer, to rest the men after the severe fatigue encountered up the Undop, and in making preparations for an advance up the Sakarran. During the night of the 16th, several of our native followers were wounded. Their boats not being furnished with anchors, and the river being deep, they were obliged to make fast to the bank, which in the dark afforded great facility for the enemy to creep down through the jungle unperceived, so close as to fire a shot and even thrust their spears through the thin mat covering of the boats. One poor fellow received a shot in his lungs, from which he died the following day; a Dyak likewise died from a spear-wound; and in the morning we witnessed the pile forming for burning the Dyak, and the coffin making for conveying the body of the Malay to Sarawak, his native place; both parties having an equal horror of their dead falling into the hands of the enemy, although differing in their mode of disposing of them.
On Saturday, the 17th, the expedition, consisting of the Dido's pinnace, her two cutters and gig, the Jolly Bachelor, and the Phlegethon's first and second cutters and gig, started up the Sakarran. A small division of light native boats, under the command of the brave old Patingi Ali, were selected to keep as a reconnoitering party with our leading boats, while the remaining native force, of above thirty boats, followed as a reserve. We advanced the first day some twenty miles without so much as seeing a native, although our progress was considerably delayed by stopping to burn farm-houses, and a number of war-prahus found concealed in the jungle or long grass on either side of the river. We brought up early in the afternoon, for the purpose of strongly fortifying ourselves, both ashore and afloat, against surprise before the night set in, by which time it would have taken a well-disciplined and powerful force to have dislodged us.
This evening we had unusually fine weather; and we squatted down to our meal of curry and rice with better appetites and higher spirits than we had done for some days. We advanced the following day: and although we reached several villages, the grain had been removed from them all; which, in all probability, was done immediately upon their hearing of the fall of their supposed impregnable Patusen. In the evening we took the same precautions as on the preceding night, considering that our enemies were not to be despised. Owing to heavy rains which fell during the night, and caused a strong current, our progress was considerably retarded. The scenery was beautiful—more so than in any of the rivers we had yet visited. We likewise now repeatedly fell in with small detachments of the enemy, and spears were thrown from the banks, which added considerably to our excitement and amusement. On every point we found the remains of the preceding night's watch-fires, so that news of our approach would have been conveyed rapidly along. While leading in the gig with a select few of our followers, we came suddenly on a boat full of warriors, all gorgeously dressed, and apparently perfectly unconscious of our approach. The discharge of our muskets and the capsizing of their war-boat was the work of an instant; but most of their crew saved their lives by escaping into the jungle.
This evening, Sunday, the 18th, we experienced some difficulty in finding a suitable place for our bivouac. While examining the most eligible-looking spot on the bank of the river, the crew of one of the Phlegethon's boats, having crept up the opposite bank, came suddenly on a party of Dyaks, who saluted them with a war-yell and a shower of spears; and it was absurd to see the way in which they precipitated themselves into the water again to escape from this unexpected danger. The Dyaks, too, appear to have been equally surprised. The place we selected for the night was a large house about forty yards from the edge of the river; and for a musket-range around which we had not much difficulty in clearing the ground. Here we all united our different messes, and passed a jovial evening. The night, however, set in with a most fearful thunder-storm, accompanied by the most vivid flashes of lightning I ever witnessed. The rain continued to fall in torrents; it cleared up at daylight, when we proceeded. As yet the banks of the river had been a continued garden, with sugarcane plantations and banana-trees in abundance. As we advanced, the scenery assumed a wilder and still more beautiful appearance, presenting high steep points, with large overhanging trees, and occasionally forming into pretty picturesque bays, with sloping banks. At other times we approached narrow gorges, looking so dark that, until past, you almost doubted there being a passage through. We were in hopes that this morning we should have reached their capital, a place called Karangan, supposed to be about ten miles farther on. At 9 o'clock Mr. Brooke, who was with me in the gig, stopped to breakfast with young Jenkins in the second cutter. Not expecting to meet with any opposition for some miles, I gave permission to Patingi Ali to advance cautiously with his light division, and with positive instructions to fall back upon the first appearance of any natives. As the stream was running down very strong, we held on to the bank, waiting for the arrival of the second cutter. Our pinnace and second gig having both passed up, we had remained about a quarter of an hour, when the report of a few musket-shots told us that the pirates had been fallen in with. We immediately pushed on; and as we advanced, the increased firing from our boats, and the war-yells of some thousand Dyaks, let us know that an engagement had really commenced. It would be difficult to describe the scene as I found it. About twenty boats were jammed together, forming one confused mass; some bottom up; the bows or sterns of others only visible; mixed up, pell-mell, with huge rafts; and among which were nearly all our advanced little division. Headless trunks, as well as heads without bodies, were lying about in all directions; parties were engaged hand to hand, spearing and krissing each other; others were striving to swim for their lives; entangled in the common melee were our advanced boats; while on both banks thousands of Dyaks were rushing down to join in the slaughter, hurling their spears and stones on the boats below. For a moment I was at a loss what steps to take for rescuing our people from the embarrassed position in which they were, as the whole mass (through which there was no passage) were floating down the stream, and the addition of fresh boats arriving only increased the confusion. Fortunately, at this critical moment one of the rafts, catching the stump of a tree, broke this floating bridge, making a passage, through which (my gig being propelled by paddles instead of oars) I was enabled to pass.
It occurred to Mr. Brooke and myself simultaneously, that, by advancing in the gig, we should draw the attention of the pirates toward us, so as to give time for the other boats to clear themselves. This had the desired effect. The whole force on shore turned, as if to secure what they rashly conceived to be their prize.
We now advanced mid-channel: spears and stones assailed us from both banks. My friend Brooke's gun would not go off; so giving him the yoke-lines, he steered the boat while I kept up a rapid fire. Mr. Allen, in the second gig, quickly coming up, opened upon them, from a congreve-rocket tube, such a destructive fire as caused them to retire panic-struck behind the temporary barriers where they had concealed themselves previous to the attack upon Patingi Ali, and from whence they continued, for some twenty minutes, to hurl their spears and other missiles. Among the latter may be mentioned short lengths of bamboo, one end heavily loaded with stone, and thrown with great force and precision; the few fire-arms of which they were possessed were of but little use to them after the first discharge, the operation of reloading, in their inexperienced hands, requiring a longer time than the hurling of some twenty spears. The sumpitan was likewise freely employed by these pirates; but although several of our men belonging to the pinnace were struck, no fatal results ensued, from the dextrous and expeditious manner in which the wounded parts were excised by Mr. Beith, the assistant-surgeon; any poison that might remain being afterward sucked out by one of the comrades of the wounded men.
As our force increased, the pirates retreated from their position, and could not again muster courage to rally. Their loss must have been considerable; ours might have been light, had poor old Patingi Ali attended to orders.
It appears that the Patingi (over-confident, and probably urged on by Mr. Steward, who, unknown to me, was concealed in Ali's beat when application was made by that chief for permission to proceed in advance for the purpose of reconnoitering), instead of falling back, as particularly directed, on the first appearance of any of the enemy, made a dash, followed by his little division of boats, through the narrow pass above described. As soon as he had done so, huge rafts of bamboo were lanched across the river, so as to cut off his retreat. Six large war-prahus, probably carrying 100 men each, then bore down—three on either side—on his devoted followers; and one only of a crew of seventeen that manned his boat escaped to tell the tale. When last seen by our advanced boats, Mr. Steward and Patingi Ali were in the act (their own boats sinking) of boarding the enemy. They were doubtless overpowered and killed, with twenty-nine others, who lost their lives on this occasion. Our wounded in all amounted to fifty-six.
A few miles higher up was the town and capital of Karangan, which place it was their business to defend, and ours to destroy, and this we succeeded in effecting without further opposition. We ascended a short distance above this, but found the river impracticable for the further progress of the boats; but our object having been achieved, the expedition may be said to have closed, as no more resistance was offered; so we dropped leisurely down the river, and that evening reached our resting-place of the previous night: but having burnt the house in the morning, we were obliged to sleep in our boats, with a strong guard on shore.
Attempts were made to molest the native boats by hurling spears into them from the jungle under cover of the night; but after a few discharges of musketry the enemy retired, leaving us to enjoy another stormy and rainy night as we best could.
On the 20th we reached the steamer, where we remained quiet all the next day, attending to the wounded, and ascertaining the exact extent of our loss. On the 22d we again reached Patusen. We found everything in the same wretched state as when we left; and a pile of firewood, previously cut for the use of the steamer, had not been removed. After dark a storm of thunder, lightning, and heavy rain, came on as usual, and with it a few mishaps. A boat belonging to the old Tumangong was capsized by the bore, by which his plunder, including a large brass gun, was lost, and the crew with difficulty saved their lives. At eight we heard the report of a gun, which was again repeated much nearer at nine; and before a signal-rocket could be fired, or a light shown, we were astonished by being hailed by the boats of a British man-of-war; and the next moment Captain Sir E. Belcher, having been assisted by a rapid tide, came alongside the steamer with the welcome news of having brought our May letters from England. On the arrival of the Samarang off the Morotaba, Sir Edward heard of the loss we had sustained; and, with his usual zeal and activity, came at once to our assistance, having brought his boats no less than 120 miles in about thirty hours. At the moment of his joining us, our second mishap occurred. The night, as previously mentioned, was pitch dark, and a rapid current running, when the cry of "a man overboard" caused a sensation difficult to describe. All available boats were immediately dispatched in search; and soon afterward we were cheered by the sound of "all right." It appears that the news of the arrival of the mail was not long in spreading throughout our little fleet, when Mr. D'Aeth, leaving the first cutter in a small sampan, capsized in coming alongside the steamer; the man in the bow (who composed the crew) saved himself by catching hold of the nearest boat; Mr. D'Aeth would have been drowned had he not been an excellent swimmer. This was not the last of our mishaps; for we had no sooner arranged ourselves and newly-arrived visitors from the Samarang comfortably on board the steamer from the pelting rain, than the accustomed and quick ear of Mr. Brooke heard the cry of natives in distress. Jumping into his Singapore sampan, he pushed off to their assistance, and returned shortly afterward, having picked up three, half drowned, of our Dyak followers, whom he had found clinging to the floating trunk of a tree. They too had been capsized by the bore; when, out of eleven composing the crew, only these three were saved—although the Dyaks are invariably expert swimmers.