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Below Proof! by Alexander Montgomery

 

ORANG MATU, the Head-Man of Tibak, hadn't been to Singapore and Calcutta for nothing. He let the missionaries pour into him as much doctrine as they pleased. There might be some truth in these things, he said; for had not the Prophet himself spoken approvingly of Jesus Ben--Mariam? But when they came to the weary old corollary that the bringers of the Bible were also everywhere the bringers of moral and social regeneration, the Orang jibbed, and asked certain questions, which have never been answered, and never will be.

One of the missionaries said nothing; the other tried to impose upon an acuter man than himself the time-honored commonplaces of his trade. The Orang smiled and bade him tell all that to the Dyaks. Which was exactly what he did, so that in time he had made Christians by the dozen. They said they were, at all events; and, no doubt, while the guns and axes lasted--and the pictures and the looking-glasses and the scarlet cloth--their Christianity was about as good as the average white article. But they were all Dyaks, and the other gospeller, who had gone a-fishing for the more sophisticated Malay soul, caught nothing.

This, said his reverend brother, was because he was a schismatic and had not the truth in him. So the two dwelt apart, and Morton, the unorthodox, suffered contumely at the hands of the other man's strong-smelling proselytes. One day this culminated. Hankey, the successful soul-catcher, came with half a dozen of his shark-toothed Christians and pulled Morton's hut about his ears.

"You are no better yourself than one of the heathen!" quoth Reverend Hankey. "You had better get back to Sarawak, and leave the good work in the hands which the Lord has so signally marked out for it!"

Morton didn't go to Sarawak; he went to Matu.

"And why comest thou to me, Christ-man?" asked the Orang, when he had heard the story. "What can I do?"

"Thou canst keep these Dyaks in order, Matu. Thee they dare not disobey, if thou wilt give me thy protection for the future."

"Talk not of the Dyaks--black sons of Sheetan!--they are already but as dead dogs for this! Speak to me rather of this other Christman, who ventures to pull down houses within the shadow of Matu, which is more than Serjam Beruk" (Sir James Brooke)--"the Great White Rajah himself--would dare to do! What shall be done unto him?"

"Nothing, O Matu; do him no evil."

The Orang looked at Morton intently for a full minute, then rose swiftly from his leopard-skin and grasped the hilt of his parang-latok; whereupon a white-headed old Sagsi man, crippled with the rheumatism of his native swamps, hobbled eagerly forward, so that when the blow fell the white man's spurting blood might work a cure upon his dingy old carcase. But Matu let go the weapon and spoke with a smile.

"It is in Matu's mind, Christman, that from this faith of yours ye learn, when one cheek is smitten to turn the other to the striker. Say, is it so?"

"It is even so, Matu!"

"A strange teaching, truly!--and one that suits Borneo but ill. Still--" and in the twinkling of an eye the Orang had struck Morton across the face, and had in turn been knocked flat on his back by a drive in the stomach from the white man's fist. Parangs and krisses flashed out by the dozen, but the cat-like Malay was on his feet in an instant.

"Enough, my children!" he cried. "It is good. The white man hath done well--but he is no Christian! He asketh not for vengeance with his mouth, but words are women and deeds are men. See now, O Christ-man--thy religion is naught, but thou art a man, and the friend of Matu. He owes thee a gift. Go now with these men, eat and drink, and in the space of an hour shall Matu's present come to thee."

Then Morton, astonished to find his head still on his shoulders, was taken down the long house and up into the mifaé, and here, when he had eaten and drunken, he smoked Javani tobacco and awaited the Orang's present. Within the hour it came.

It was the head of Hankey!

 
 
 

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