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The other day a book of fairy tales came into my hands and then a train of thoughts came into my head. Different branches of literature delight us in various moods. Poetry is associated with passion and kindred feelings, history affects our thoughts and religion sways our prejudices. But these are all incomplete without the mention of fairy tales, those wondrous talismans which gave pleasure to our childish imaginations in their pure and innocent state.
Whenever the writer beholds a book of fairy tales, he cannot help recollecting those past days when he was a child, those days when he stood waiting at the School Library, all expectant, near the case where a book of fairy tales was to be found. Will he ever forget the moment of exultation when he snatched away the volume, jealous of other urchins, who were out for the same object? Will he forget the moment when it was carried home, the journey being interrupted with occasional glances at a page or two, which childish inquisitiveness could scarcely leave alone? Will he ever forget how persistent he was in reading the book unmindful of maternal beckonings to dinner? These pleasures are lost as one gets older.
Fairy tales are keys to Paradise. They are the "Open sesames" to the other world, which is so good, gentle and beautiful, but which exists only in a child's imagination. While reading fairy lore, one discards the garb of flesh and blood with its adherent worries and bans to perfect peace, for the more splendid role of imagination, and then one is off with Cinderella to the Court of the Prince, or with Jack, in the land up the Beanstalk, or with Little Boy shut up in a dark dungeon by the Wicked Witch!
Those writers of fairy tales scarcely realised what they were doing when they bequeathed these things, better than gems, to posterity. They scarcely realised how much they would delight children forever. Peace to the names of Grimm and Anderson! Never more can we find authors like you, for the modern world is full of modernity, deprived of dreamy ideas, and which holds no place for harmless fairy tales in the run of its busy and hurried pace. Honestly, having already arrived at the age when one can read novels, plays and histories with understanding, one cannot claim to have enjoyed the full amount of pleasure which one derived previously while reading fairy tales was the only field. But what a field! One would give a lot if one could read these more solid works with the same carefree rapture and with the same boyish imagination. But those days are gone, never to return, and adolescence has surrendered yet another person to this practical and realistic world.
Is it not good that the childish imagination should wander occasionally into the fields of the dreamy world? Cynics have argued that it is better that a lad should be initiated into ideas of bread winning and of competition in extreme youth, thus making a machine of him. They do not realise the beauty of mental play; in fact, they do not realise that they, too, were children once. It is true that little practical use can be obtained by feeding a child's mind with imaginative food, but the advantages to be obtained, in exultation and pleasure are many. The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, the sufferings of the Babes in the Wood, the journeys of the Giant in his progress of destruction - did we not rejoice with the one, bewail with the other and hate the third with all our little hearts? We thought we were the champions of all distressed. How our little hearts glowed when we came to a happy ending, which we were ready to believe, was of our own making. And we dropped a tear for the brave knight killed by that awful Ogre, from whom he gallantly tried to rescue the Distressed Damsel but failed though only after a noble struggle; we smiled at the tricks that Clever Urchin played on the Wicked Witch.
Should these pleasures disappear? Let us all fervently hope that fairy tales will continue to be the bliss of little children as they have been for ages past.
Sincerity, the Door to Happy Life
The simple life is the happiest life. Just think how wonderful, and how gloriously straightforward life appears to you in your moments of happiness. It is when we are depressed, and troubles beset us that we miserably regard it as complicated and difficult.
When our minds are concerned with questions of ways and means, when we are trying to fight our way out of our difficulties, we seem to be surrounded with all sorts of complications, not knowing which way to turn in order to escape them. The mind that is worried and depressed, which keeps thinking continually over a problem, all too easily magnifies small troubles into big tragedies.
How can life be made worth living? Life, at all times, is worth living, if we are willing to accept it as a time of trial, the testing ground, and of the strengthening and perfecting place for our characters. We are pilgrims here, journeying along the way, gaining such knowledge and wisdom as we may from the phases of life which we come across. How, then, are we to live in order to gain the maximum of happiness, to live successfully and well?
There is one word in the English language which has a ring of fineness and beauty about it. That is SINCERITY.
It is my firm belief that if we are sincere in all that we do, troubles will be more easily dispelled, and we shall find that life, indeed, worth living.
All too many folks make life difficult for themselves and difficult for others too, by resorting to artifices. To go through life, doing our best, which means putting our heart into all things, is what we should aim at.
Scorning all that is petty, all that is not worthwhile, we shall find that in sincerity lies the path to simplicity, which is the door to happy life.
The Autobiography of a Fifty Cent Piece
I was born on the side of a steep hill in England and was removed to a mint. Here I was first refined and put into a round mould, with the face of Queen Victoria on one side and the value of the coin on the other. The date when I was made was also printed on this side.
Next I was packed and sealed in a box with several others of my own quality and sent to Singapore in a steamer. After a long voyage I reached my destination from where I was taken to the Chartered Bank guarded by several policemen. After a day or two I was unpacked and I passed into the hands of several persons in a short time. Within a year I had passed into every corner of the country.
After several years I fell into the hands of a miser who kept me locked up in a safe with several others of different value. Every day, when he opened the safe and counted the money, he stared at me with delight because I was of more value than the others. I was in this state of confinement for over five and twenty years and gave up hope of seeing the world. One night the safe was broken in by a man and it seemed as though fortune smiled on my face. The man took several of my friends together with me. I was soon exchanged for a tin of chocolates.
I was now in the cash box of the shop but that very night I taken out by means of a clip which a young man used in getting me of the box. Several others of my same value were also in possession. I met with several adventures henceforth and here I will tell one of my greatest adventures.
I was now quite old, about eighty years of age, when I fell into the hands of a sailor. At every port he visited he took care that I was shown to the inhabitants of that place and they even offered gold in exchange for me. But my master found that I was too valuable to be dispensed with because every one liked to possess me. Thus after several years I had visited every portion of the globe and I felt myself dignified. Still I was in the possession of the sailor.
One day my master was unloading the cargo when the ship was in the port of Hong Kong. Here I, who was in his pocket, fell in the sea when he stooped down to pick up a package which had fallen to the ground. No sooner had I fallen into the water than I was swallowed by a big fish and I stayed in its stomach for three days and three nights. At the end of that time the fish was caught by a fisherman who, seeing its big size and quality, sold it to the servant of the Governor of that place. When it was cut open I appeared and the servant, who was an honest man, who took me to the Governor. He looked at me and easily recognised that I was formerly from the Malay Peninsula. He found that I was of great value because of my old age and I have been in his possession ever since.
"Because it's Christmas Night"
Till it's twelve o'clock to-night
For I want to go with Ned,
Because it's Christmas Night.
Ned, Johnny, and I,
We'll go to shop tonight,
And buy a beautiful toy,
Because it's Christmas Night.
We'll hang our beautiful stockings,
And then we'll have a fight,
We'll wait till Daddy is coming,
Because it's Christmas Night.
We want to have a pie,
For our early supper tonight,
And I myself will beautify,
Because it's Christmas Night.
I'll wear my flannel suit,
When going to church tonight,
And I'll put on my best boots
Because it's Christmas Night.
It is the same old story. Our hero had become too smart for the country and wanted to seek his fortune in the city. So young, handsome O'Hara had packed up his things and had come to the busy city, and one of his most interesting pastimes was trying to avoid the traffic.
O'Hara had not long to wait before he met his first adventure. While looking at places of interest in the city, our smart country lad came upon a water lorry spraying the roads. This is a common everyday occurrence in a city, but in the country one never sees this. O'Hara thought the tank was leaking and, being kind-hearted and always ready to help, shouted, much to the amusement of passers-by, "Hey! You big fool, you won't have any water left when you reach home with that leaking tank of yours." The driver laughed and, of course, our friend did not understand why. His opinion of city people was not very favourable; he thought city folks were rather queer.
Very soon afterwards O'Hara really got into hot water arising out of a misunderstanding. While gazing at a shop window of a jeweller, he saw some studs and next to it a card with "Collar Studs" printed on it. Without hesitation he walked right in and collared a handful. The jeweller was horrified, terrified, stupefied and screamed at the top of his voice, "Stop thief! Burglar! Fire! Murder! Help!!" and did not stop till he was gasping for breath. O'Hara vas astounded and indignant at the jeweller calling him a thief and punched his nose. The police intervened and poor O'Hara was marched off to the police court.
During the proceedings the magistrate demanded an explanation of his disgraceful conduct, "Why did you, my dear man, go into the shop, steal the studs and then punch the jeweller on the nose?" He explained, "Your lor'ship, I saw a big signboard, saying "Collar Studs". So I went in and 'collared' as many as I could. Then that shop keeper tried to stop me and called me names. I resented him calling me thus and," he added shyly, "when I saw that his nose was beautiful I succumbed to the temptation of flattening it slightly. Also your lor'ship, city folks are a lotů. "
The magistrate interrupted, otherwise our young orator would have gone off at great length giving his views about the queerness of city folks. The magistrate let him off the first charge and fined him two dollars and fifty cents for punching the jeweller's nose. O'Hara had five dollar notes and no change. He thought deeply for a few moments and then suddenly without any warning he punched, to the dismay of the court, the magistrate's prominent nose. Poor O'Hara's kind-hearted soul was never much more prominently evident than then; he did not want to trouble the magistrate for change. He thought the best way out of the difficulty was to punch the magistrate's nose and pay up five dollars, two dollars fifty for the punch he gave the jeweller and two dollars fifty for the punch he gave the magistrate. Our hero got out of this terrible mess luckily, for the magistrate had a keen sense of humour. O'Hara did not understand why city folks could not agree with his views.
O'Hara had scarcely got out of one trouble before he landed in another. Trying to economize, he rented rooms in the cheapest quarter of the city. This cheapest quarter of the city was the worst quarter of the city. The boarding house was dirty and stinking. It had a bar, faring much the same or even worse. Dirty, unshaven ruffians of the underworld frequented this place. These persons would stop at nothing. It was their common pastime to shoot a few dozen people just for target practice. They were so tough that they used six-inch nails for tooth picks. Our fortune hunter very quickly got to know many of them or rather they got to know him, and very quickly his finances were being used up. He got interested in their business of collecting money and valuables from safes and other sources. This business, he was told, was a great success when worked in the late hours of the night. He was also told that it a risky investment which might not pay, but when it did, it paid a lot. When it failed he would not be badly off for he would supplied with a bed and food and have a bodyguard armed with guns protecting him.
O'Hara got really into the spirit of this business and his first venture was very interesting. They sneaked into a house through a window and made for a safe in the corner of the room. The masterminds of the business worked hard trying to open the safe. They needed an iron bar to lever it open and sent O'Hara to find one. O'Hara, anxious to help, tried to find one. He could not find any. He then went straight to the door of a bedroom and knocked.
"Hello there," he said.
"Who.... is.... there? What.. do you ... want?" came a lady's excited voice.
"Excuse me, madam for troubling you, but, will you be kind enough to tell me where I can find an iron bar in your house, with which my partners can lever open your safe?"
There was a terrifying, piercing scream. The whole household was awakened. The crooks made a bid for safety. All escaped except our unfortunate O'Hara. They were going to call the police, but O'Hara explained, "You should be thankful to me for waking the lady and the whole household and preventing the crooks making away with the contents of the safe." He looked so simple and in no way like a crook that they let him off and thanked him for his timely help. In the morning papers he was featured as a daring hero who routed out a gang of thieves.
He went back to his former haunts, but was refused membership into the gang. He was about to be shot as a traitor when he appealed that he was a new hand at the business and solemnly promised not to do it again. O'Hara's lucky star was at its zenith. He was again pardoned.
The money making gang had, for a long time, had their eyes on the local bandmaster's house. When it was night they crept into the house and started collecting valuables. Most of the haul was cups won by a Miss E. Shockerone at dancing and singing competitions. She was none other than the tantalizing society beauty. The chief crook was so pleased at their success that he asked our friend O'Hara to take what he liked. Imagine his surprise when O'Hara chose two drums from a corner and started beating upon them to see which of the two was the better. The household got up. The crooks threw down their spoils and ran for their lives. O'Hara felt something knock his head and he knew no more.
When he gained consciousness, he thought he was staring at an angel with dark beautiful eyes, dark raven hair and of exquisite beauty which no living poet could describe. It was none other than Miss Shockerone. When she said, "Are you all right?", he thought that Venus herself had talked to him for her voice was sweeter than a thousand nightingales. His heart beat faster and there was a warm tinge in his heart which he could not explain. Was it love at first sight? She repeated her question.
Our hero found his lost voice and stammered, "Oh! I am all right..... what happened?" "I am sorry I took you to be one of the crooks and knocked you with my brother's saxophone. We are very much indebted to you for waking us. They have left everything behind. I am so very sorry for knocking you. How could I possibly forgive myself." "Oh! That is all right. It will soon be better", replied O'Hara.
She bandaged his head with the expertness of a trained nurse. Every time her hand touched his head, his heart beat faster and he felt that it was better than heaven. Soon he found himself looking at a grim faced huge man. It was the girl's father. His hopes sank low. The father asked him what he was doing there. But again, luck was on our hero's side for his angel intervened and told her father how Mr. O'Hara had beaten the drums to awaken the household and how she had accidentally hit him on the head. The old man was all smiles. He pulled O'Hara up and began shaking his hand and thanking him. He felt a warm hand touching his head adjusting the bandages - the hand of his ideal. It thrilled him. Suddenly O'Hara felt himself important. He waved aside their thanks and even told her father that if Miss Shockerone had not arrived he alone would have knocked out the crooks. The father left them alone. Time flew and when a streak of light was shining in from the East, they thought the moon was rising. They sat watching it for a long time.
The morning papers abounded with the heroism of' O'Hara. They even went so far as to proclaim him the new Commissioner of Police. He wanted to refuse the post but Miss Shockerone asked him to take up the post for her sake and wipe out the evil elements in the town.
As a Commissioner he was a great success. He knew the favourite haunts of the crooks and more still he knew them personally. The police combed the town under his instructions and before long it was rid of its pests. Soon there was a wedding, the event of the year in that town, between our hero and our heroine. After all, our hero was not so simple.
The Puffing Witch
An old witch, who had a wooden leg, lived on the shore of a lake on which ships could sail. One day a sailor came along.
"Sailor, sailor!" cried the witch as she met him on the lake-side, "Come home with me. Sailors are useful people and I want somebody to work for me."
"I can't do that, Ma'am," answered the sailor politely. "I am going to live with my old mother across the lake, who, apart from me, has neither chick nor child except forty-two lily-white ducks, and fifty-six geese with brown tails and I am going to look after them all for her."
"Oh, are you?" said the witch. "I want you to work in my house."
"That I'll never do!" replied the sailor. "Get out of my way." And just then a ship came to take the sailor away. The witch went to her house and brought out her puff-bellows, and with them she blew and blew so hard that the boat could not get near.
The sailor did not like to do any harm to the witch, because she was an old woman, and sailors know that they must be kind to women. He went on wandering till he found an old fishing net that nobody wanted because it was torn. He mended the holes nicely and hung it up between two trees, as a hammock to sleep in, for he knew that no other boat would come as it was getting dark.
Next morning, when the witch saw what a clever thing the sailor had done she was more wild than ever. "If you do not make me a hut on the shore where I can live in, I will touch you with my magic wand, and turn you into a rat or a toad, and then your mother will never see you again," cried the old witch.
So the poor sailor built her a hut of branches and she sat there all day long with the bellows, and every time she saw a boat coming she puffed and blew it away, until the poor man began to think he would never get home.
So he waited and waited and kept up his courage as best as he could.
"I will soon turn you into a toad," threatened the witch, "as soon as you are tired of trying to get away."
But the sailor just kept on waiting.
At last a rather large ship came sailing along the lake, and the old witch found that with all her puffing and blowing the ship came nearer and nearer. Then she got angry, and afraid that the ship would take the sailor away before she could turn him into a toad. She puffed and puffed until her breath stopped and she fell down dead. When the sailor found the witch dead, he pulled down the hut and made a boat for himself out of it. He set off across the lake to his mother's house and arrived there quite safely.
In Kuala Lumpur Streets Today
Kuala Lumpur is a town that never sleeps. As one walks along the street and watches the uninterrupted lines of people and vehicles and listens to the street cries, one is fascinated by the kaleidoscopic effect of the spectacle.
On both sides of every street there are lofty, massive, stone buildings some of which have spires and towers. Here and there are famous structures such as the new railway offices, the government offices, and the Cenotaph, which are elevated above the rest. In the business centre, there are glittering shop fronts and along the streets one hears the continued deep roar, and sees the streets with whirring vehicles and human hives of soberly dressed men. Amidst these, one sees splashes of colour in women's dresses and foreign costumes. The whole scene appears to be a moving panorama.
Policemen with uplifted arms control and direct the traffic and, at dangerous points, motor cars, buses, and other vehicles may be seen standing silent, waiting for the signal to pass along. Instantly, a crowd collects at a crossing and a few boys and youths dart across. It is now time to see some of the people that make up a Kuala Lumpur crowd. Old and young, rich and poor, native and foreign, Jew and Gentile, men, women, children and babies in arms make up the cosmopolitan character of a Kuala Lumpur crowd. Now the traffic moves on and the queue disperses. Some among the crowd would gaze at the shops, especially at those along Java Street. Curiosity makes them forget where they are and it is not uncommon to see a human collision, but before long one sees nothing except the backs of men in front and hears the roar of traffic behind.
The whole picture is so fascinating that one finds it difficult to see anything else so majestic.
If the art of printing had not been introduced into the world things would be quite different from what they are now for most of the people would be narrow-minded and uncivilized not knowing how to read or write.
Before the printing press was invented there were very few books and the monks were the only learned men who knew how to read and write. The only method by which books were reproduced was by the slow and laborious method of writing them out on sheepskin or calfskin and it sometimes took several years for a book to be written. As a result of this, books were very scarce and consequently most of the people were illiterate.
About the year 1450, John Gutenburg discovered a wonderful way of making books and all people thought that it was discovered by the aid of evil spirits. He made single letters, cut out of wood or metal. Words could be then made by putting together the single types and when a whole page had been put together it was covered with ink and printed on a sheet of paper. Although this process required a great deal of time yet when once the types were put together any number of copies could be easily printed.
In England the first printing press was set up by William Caxton in 1477 and the types which he used were large and not of the proper shape. The printing press was gradually improved and in the twentieth century printing presses are common all over the world. By the aid of the printing press thousands of books are published daily. The prices of books are so cheap today that books are within the reach of all. Since the invention of printing the number of people who know how to read and write steadily increased so that at the present time more than ninety per cent of the people are able to read and write.
The Price of Wool-Gathering.
James Chia was a tall handsome youth in the Senior Cambridge class of the Ivy Institution. He was a very popular personage, being a prefect and the Captain of the School Football XI which had won the Nos-moth Cup for the fifth year in succession by defeating their rivals the Queen's Institution in the finals of the interschool football competition.
Our friend was a half-back in his team, but unfortunately only a full-back in his class. His form-master, one Professor Doel from "Cow-ford" (though he was supposed to have gone to Oxford), had complained about his work but Chia was too busy with football to heed his advice of which there was an increasing supply.
Things went on from bad to worse when one fine day Chia awoke to find himself in a very uncomfortable situation.
It happened in this way. The learned professor happened to get up late (though Chia complained that the professor got up from the wrong side of the bed) and started the day badly by missing the train by which he usually travelled to town. Unlike the other professors in the school he did not possess a motor car because he believed (and preached - though some do not practise what they preach) that motor vehicles were only machinery for the destruction of human beings. Being therefore unwilling to hire a car to school he had to wait for the next train and this reached school half an hour late.
The first thing he noticed on entering his class was that the boys were making as much noise as they could. Next, the electric fan which was humming its monotonous tune attracted his attention and he ordered it to be switched off immediately, on the grounds of economy although he had not already recovered from the effects of his 440 yards rush from the railway station.
By the time these preliminaries were attended to, the bell had announced the completion of the first period which ought to have been spent on Literature. It was now time for Essay-writing. He had asked the boys on the previous day to find out all they could about Milton for an essay on his poetical works. Intending to see how far his instructions had been carried out he asked Chia what he knew of Milton's chief works. With a mischievous smile upon his lips, he stood up and after looking around the class, which infuriated the professor all the more, said: "He wrote Paradise Lost after his marriage and, at his wife's death, wrote Paradise Regained. That is why they are considered to be among his best writings, sir."
It is impossible to describe in words how the professor felt, but this much can be said, that he delivered, there and then, a lecture - though he was not the type of teacher who speaks from morn till eve - setting out the results of impertinence. Continuing his talk he cautioned them against speaking at the wrong time and told them how to treat certain delicate topics.
During the talk Chia paid no heed to his teacher's word and, unfortunately, the professor had noticed this as Chia betrayed himself by being restless. Finishing his talk, he asked our friend, what he called a person who would continue his speech even though his audience was no longer interested in his talk.
Chia who had been dreaming that he was playing for the State against Perak and that he had just scored a hat trick - though I would prefer to call it a boot trick - was surprised to hear his name called by the professor and some question put to him.
When his friend Cheng Way found him in difficulties, he did not hesitate to prompt an answer. Chia, still dreaming, pronounced the words, " A T-E-A-C-H-E-R, Sir."
No sooner had he uttered these words than he saw something black ahead of him. He ducked after the fashion of ducking an opponents boot on the football field and that black 'something' landed on the nose of our poor friend, Way, who was thus hoisted with his own petard. Later that 'something' the professor threw was discovered to be none other than the duster. Next day, Way was seen in school with a bandage covering his whole face with only a slit for his eyes.
Chia, however, was not destined to get off very lightly, for besides having to suffer for his impertinence had to take all the blame for Way's suffering or so the teacher said. Directly his period was over the professor went over to the Head and laid a complaint against Chia and even threatened to resign if full punishment was not meted out. After examining the case the Head found that he had no alternative but to expel him. Accordingly Chia was informed that he was no longer a member of the school and though he complained that it was too severe a punishment the Head refused to change his decision.
Since his expulsion Chia has joined the River Rovers Football Team, which is the strongest professional team in this country, and has scored many hat-tricks thus justifying his inclusion in that team. More recently he has been successful in accomplishing the ring-trick.
What I think of the Moon
From your sleep you have arisen.
You shine so bright, with your rays so pale,
Shining on the boat's silvery sail.
You moon, the Goddess of the night,
Against the darkness you do fight,
To give us light, with all your might,
Making the gloomy world so bright.
But there are some sad days,
When with your very funny ways,
You never seem to lift your face,
Thus preventing us from seeing your grace.
You seem to have gone to eternal sleep,
And never try through the clouds to peep,
And look beneath at the dark dull world
Watching nature in its deep sleep curled.
You sometimes appear to us so kind,
When you look bright and smooth, I find
You are the whitish lady of the night,
Your brother Sun the great big knight,
When he has slowly gone far down,
Over the busy and noisy town,
You come up, and again appear,
A very bright, and golden sphere.
Tom Sykes, the Mystery Detective
"This is the second letter of its kind that I have received, Mr. Sykes. The first was sent to me about a couple of years ago and as the amount demanded was only two hundred dollars I did not hesitate to pay it. But the peculiar part of this letter is that it is written in perfect English, while the former was scribbled by an illiterate person in broken Chinese."
Thus said Towkay Hok Lai Chong, a lean, tall pale-looking man with small sunken eyes of the age of about fifty-five, to Tom Sykes, the Mystery Detective, who was seated on a rattan armchair reading a letter the contents of which were:-
"Dear Towkay Hok Lai Chong,
It is rumoured that you possess a large sum of money, which it is said, you made when Malayan industries were experiencing a boom. While you sit comfortably in your luxurious mansion eating the choicest of dishes, you must remember that there are today thousands of your Chinese brethren who are unemployed and can hardly afford one poor meal a day. You must not also forget that your wealth has come to exist by their hard labours as coolies in your mines. The very lives of these unemployed countrymen of yours depend solely on millionaires like you. Therefore, as an unfortunate member of that whole mass of sufferers, I take this opportunity to ask for the sum of $5,000, which you should place at a certain place of which I shall tell you. As you enter Davidson Road from Gaol Road, drive on until you reach the spot where the incinerator is just on your right. On the left side of the road (where there is a gentle slope upwards) you will see, about thirty feet away from you, a red post of four feet just visible above the dense growth of lalang. It is at the foot of this post that I desire the money placed. Let me as well remind you that if you try to ignore my request by sheer refusal to pay the money or by causing the interference of the Police in this matter, you will have to pay with your head for it. I give you a full week, from the receipt of this letter, to think the whole thing over and wish you to place the said amount wrapt up in a green cloth at about dusk on the third evening of the next week.
It was a neatly typed letter and as far as the detective could see, it had been typed with a fairly expensive typewriter and not with any of those rusty old ones owned by petition-writers or junior clerks of businessmen. Tom Sykes looked at the envelope. Even the address on it had been typed. He then set his searching eyes on the date stamp, but since it vaguely revealed the words "Kuala Lumpur", he could not conclude anything except that the letter had been posted in the G.P.O. He took out his magnifying glass with the idea of looking for finger prints. He could see some signs of them, but since they overlapped each other, the chances of getting one particular one were nil. Folding the letter he put it in the envelope and handed it to the Towkay who remarked anxiously, "Well?"
"As far as the letter is concerned there is only one clue as to the nature of the person who sent it. He is well-educated in English and fairly well-to-do in life. He knows all about the letter you received formerly - in other words, he is quite a close friend of yours.
It is quite obvious that the person is not a clever rogue, but clever in posing as one. The very style and the contents of the letter are enough to show that he is not a genuine rascal. The very fact that he takes his excuse from the Chinese Unemployed is enough to prove this. You see, Towkay Hok Lai Chong, if he were really what he pretends to be, he would not be beating about the bush by bringing in the instance of unemployed and starvation, but would have immediately come to the point and demanded the amount." The Towkay was attentively listening to the logical reasoning of the detective. His elbow was resting on the arm of his chair and his cheek on his knuckles. Tom Sykes was speaking slowly and intelligibly.
"First of all, I wish to know all about your friends and whether anyone of them asked you for any money recently," the detective asked; but no sooner had he said these words than through the door of the drawing room in which they were sitting, there came towards them a young, smart looking, Chinese lad of about twenty summers standing. Sykes saw that he was rather expensively dressed and that the felt hat he held in his hand was of a high quality.
"This is my only son, Mr. Sykes," said the old man introducing him. The young lad walked up briskly to the detective, who was now on his feet, and shook him firmly by the hand. Hok Jr. told him that he was having an appointment in another half-an-hour's time and so asked them to excuse him. The reason for this intrusion, which he believed they would excuse, was just to see whether it was a friend of his who had come in the two-seater he saw outside. Then he walked out through the same door.
"My only son, and a useless boy;" the Towkay told Tom Sykes, "He's too much of a dandy, doesn't seem to care a fig for the future; lazy, but full of appointments of every kind - dancing, pictures, parties, swimming, picnics, etc. I allow him all he desires, but now I think he has sown enough wild oats, and it's time he settled down to rest. He's got to be taught something about what's in store for him in the future. So I have decreased his allowance and he seems to grumble a lot. Anyway I've got to teach him about the right use of money, before I say good-bye to this green earth."
From the unchanged expression on the face of the detective, a careful observer would have seen that he was keenly interested in what the Towkay was saying about his son. It seemed as if he had suddenly hit upon an idea. But it did not strike the Towkay that the detective had done so until he saw him get up and say, "Well, Towkay, I have my own suspicions, but since they are merely suspicions, I can make no statement. How many friends has your son, and which particular ones do you think are his closest?"
Hok Lai Chong got up. His face wore a surprised look. His small eyes became bigger and a little fire seemed to burn behind them. "But, Mr. Sykes," he stammered out the words, "I don't quite understand what you are trying to get at. Surely you don't mean that you suspect the friends of my son?"
The countenance on the detective's face was now serious. "I have got to understand everything, Towkay," he explained, "Yes, everything before I arrive at a definite conclusion. You never can tell what kind of a person the culprit is. Moreover I am a detective and to get at what I want I have to ask questions and receive precise answers. You must not draw anything from what I ask. As I have told you, I am a detective, and detectives ask lots and lots of questions. It's only by asking and asking that they get at what they are after. By the way you must not forget that I am merely suspecting them, and it is quite possible that I may be wrong. But we have to know this side of the story thoroughly before we venture to know the other. I hope you follow me."
"Yes, yes, of course I do," the Chinese answered blankly. He could not understand the peculiar psychology of the detective's mind. This was his first encounter with a detective and perhaps, he thought to himself, detectives were such. He drew himself together and faced Tom Sykes who said to him, "If you want me to help you, you'll have to do as I say. I am always willing to help. Now, Towkay, to tell you the truth I strongly suspect the friends of your son - especially those that are his most intimate - and in order that I may come to know them personally, it will be a good idea if you arranged a little evening party, inviting them. Whoever the culprit may be he will surely be among them."
Three days later, Towkay Hok Lai Chong was seen sitting in his garden among a very gay group of about a score of people, both young and old. Three persons were seated with him - one was a European, and the other two oldish looking Chinese men. The white man had a huge moustache that hid practically the whole of his mouth, and had a pair of dark spectacles on. He looked about forty but would have looked younger had there been a lesser growth of grey hair. The Towkay, who knew him to be Tom Sykes, had introduced him as Mr. Loustine, a tourist.
Five tables with milky white table cloths had been neatly arranged on the lawn by the side of a tennis court. The people who sat with the Towkay were enjoying iced whiskey sodas. By their side sat four young Chinese, all over twenty but below thirty, who were having tea and cakes. Around another table sat three girls, dressed in the Shanghai style, and with them was a matronly-looking lady, whom the detective knew to be Mrs. Hok Lai Chong. The other two tables were not occupied.
Hok Jr. and three of his friends - the closest of his, as the Towkay had assured the detective - were having a game of tennis. In one corner of the tennis court, where there was a spreading cherry-tree, a dozen children could be seen plucking fruits with thin long bamboo sticks. At this moment Hok Jr. saved beautifully a brilliant cutting stroke of his opponent. His father and all those around him gave him deserving applause.
From the melancholy expression on the face of Hok Jr.'s partner, Mr. Loustine the tourist, or in other words Tom Sykes himself, could safely decide that he was not interested both in the game and in the party. The detective had noticed the same gloomy look when he was introduced to him. The Towkay had told him that Cheng, for that was his name, was the son of a well-to-do miner who used to live in Malaya but was now resident in Hong Kong, and that he was now staying with his uncle in Kuala Lumpur. Whatever the others looked like, this was surely a suspicious character, Tom Sykes was thinking. The faces of the players on the opposite side were wreathed in smiles. They were undoubtedly enjoying the game.
The game was now over. Hok Jr. and his partner had lost it but it did not matter to them in the least. All four of them walked up slowly towards one of the vacant tables and having seated themselves on the chairs around it they began to drink lemon squash which had been placed there just before the game by the "boy". The disguised detective got up, and carrying his bent-wood chair along with him, he walked up towards them.
Having seated himself down on it by the side of Hok Jr., so that Cheng was just in front of him, he asked, stroking his heavy moustache with his fingers and looking at Cheng through the corners of his eyes, "Had a nice game? How did you enjoy it?" He spoke in a hoarse yet natural voice and adjusted his dark-spectacles, making sure not to be recognised by the Towkay's son. They all assured him that they had indeed enjoyed the game.
He then told them that among all the eastern countries he had seen, Malaya, if not the most interesting, was surely the most sociable. He went on to tell them that since his last visit, for this was his second tour to the East, Malaya had indeed progressed, except that the present trade depression had slightly affected the population. He was talking when a little boy came up to him and offered him some of the unripe cherries he had plucked. Pretending to be taken aback at the child's boldness, he began to talk to him. Hok Jr. and his three friends now began to talk among themselves. Fatt Chew, one of the players who played against Hok Jr., was the first to speak, when he asked the Towkay's son as to whether they could spend the next weekend at Port Dickson.
"I am afraid not," was the reply, "my father has cut down my allowance by half and wants me to put an end to such outings in future. Perhaps we may be able to go there the week-end after next," and he looked half-mockingly at Cheng for approval, but from the nature of the frown he saw on his face, he understood that Cheng wanted him to shut up. The other two, who had begun at this moment to drink the lemon squash through the stems, had not noticed this silent conversation, but our friend the detective was clever enough not to miss any part of it. He was watching carefully both their actions and their eyes, although he did not seem to. Yes! He was a detective and detectives had to detect and not be detected.
"Really? Where are you getting the money from," asked Fatt Chew's partner anxiously.
"Cheng knows all about it," the Towkay's son replied with a teasing look and jovial wink at Cheng, "He says he's going to get some money from somewhere so that he....." Before he could finish the sentence, Cheng, who seemed a bit excited, suddenly interrupted him, "Er, e-er yes! My father's promised to send me some money." Tom Sykes saw that this explanation was purely an invention of his. After all, the detective thought, Cheng was not so clever as he had expected him to be. Hok Jr. was still talking - talking about the amount of money Cheng's father was likely to send. Cheng saw that he was going too far. Perhaps, he thought, Hok Jr. had forgotten that an outsider was present, and so he tried to warn him of it by occasionally looking at him and then at the tourist.
Tom Sykes, who pretended not to be interested in their conversation, was trying to amuse the children, who had collected around him by now, with his clownish jestures. He could see that Cheng had failed to stop Hok Jr. from talking about the money, because Hok Jr. was becoming more and more carefree. Cheng found that he could no longer bear all that and so got up. When Hok Jr. looked enquiringly at him he simply said, "I thought I'd rather have a stroll in the garden. It's a nice evening isn't it?" and leaving them he walked towards the trees, his long shadow following him.
That night, as it had been arranged in the evening, Sykes met the Towkay at the Colonial Restaurant. They sat down at one of those tables that had five chairs around it in a small wooden cubicle with painted glass screens. The Towkay spoke first, "Well, Mr. Sykes, have you arrived at any definite conclusion?"
The detective smiled, "Well as far as I know, I think I have." At this time a Chinese "boy" entered and when the Towkay told him something in Chinese, he went away. "But I am sorry for your son, Towkay Hok Lai Chong," the detective continued. At this the Towkay gave an involuntary start and said, his voice, angry but sympathetic, "What! my son! No.... I can't believe it."
"I don't mean that he is the culprit," the detective calmed the Towkay, "but I mean that he is the culprit's compatriot. It seems that he knows everything about the letter and the writer of it, and perhaps he has helped him to write it. If I am not wrong, Cheng is the person who is at the very bottom of this affair. There is only one way to get them to tell the truth without the intervention of the Police and that is for you to speak to your son about it and get the whole truth out of him, threatening him with arrest if he obstinately refuses to tell it. You can speak to him tonight. I am absolutely sure that what I have concluded is perfectly right. Cheng is the crook and your son has helped him."
The "boy" who had first appeared was now seen carrying into this small cubicle a tray. Towkay Hok Lai Chong and Tom Sykes then dined together.
Happier Life in the Jungle
When man was first created, he was not given cities or towns to dwell in, nor did he get a comfortable home. He was naked. He was sinless. He was happy and content. Satan prompted Eve to taste the fruit of Knowledge. Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit of Knowledge and were caught by sin.
Many of us despise jungle dwellers. We think we are more civilized and advanced in social manners and customs. Our opinion of them is that they are fools, they are ignorant, they are savages and inhuman. The sooner we realise that they are less sinful and do not aim at glory and power, the better it would be for us. They live in the evergreen forests where the sun gloriously shines. They are strong, brave, and healthy. They have no need and do not care for science to help them. On the other hand, we, the civilized fools, are trying to make science help us, only to find it deceiving man and exterminating him from this earth. The man who lives among the evergreen trees is not ambitious to perform a feat by crossing the Atlantic in two hours. He does not want the whole world to take off their hats for a heroic act.Far from the madding crowds ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learned to stray
Along the cool sequestered vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way - Grey
The Semangs of the Malayan jungles have no wish to kill their own fellow men. They are not interested in bombs or poison gases to kill mankind. While the man who calls himself civilized spends his time improving the materials of warfare to kill other men and women, the jungle folks are satisfied with their lot. They do not care for the morrow for they know the morrow will look after itself. They do not bother about Wilson or Clementi policies nor do they care about the criticisms of Sir George.
Though civilized man has harnessed steam and electricity, he is still not better than the inhabitants of the jungles. The town dweller suffers from diseases and dies sooner, while the jungle dweller leads a longer and happier life. It is better for us to copy them and follow their good examples. To run after an animal and to fight with it is a far better sport than to play golf or to play badminton in dusty courts.
It is thought that a Roman youth, Ludoviga Barthema, was the first European to visit Malacca before 1503. Five years later Diego Lopez de Sequeira, a Portuguese set out to exploit Malacca, but, getting into trouble with the native Sultan, he had to burn up one of his ships and return to Portugal. He was however avenged by his countryman d'Alberquerque who in 1511 managed to capture the old town. From that time for one hundred and thirty years, the Portuguese held possession of it and during their regime, St. Francis Xavier - his importance is confirmed by the various institutions in Malacca today which are named after him - started a Christian Mission in one of the "Malay Lands" for the first time. In 1641 the Dutch captured Malacca and till 1795 they remained the undisputed owners. But as they unfortunately allied themselves with France during the war of the French Revolution in 1795, Britain thus found cause to take it, but returned it to the Dutch in 1818. However six years later they took it back and have kept it ever since.
Now let us have a look at the Malacca of today. Look at it as I, an ordinary young man, see it. Malacca holds romance for me. It is in itself a romantic town. You will feel it yourself if you walk into its quaint city or along the sea coast. Malacca is itself a very old town and this fact alone will stimulate the love of it. The town was originally built by the Dutch and Portuguese. Specimens of such architecture are still found here and there and these will be a source of knowledge to the Historical Society of the Victoria Institution.
Old ruins are still found in many places, particularly in three places near the pier. By the side of the Municipal buildings, there is what looks like a huge flat rock but which is in reality an entrance to one of the many underground passages used by Portuguese pirates in the early days. Unfortunately, the entrances to these tunnels have been closed up because they have already taken toll of so many lives. Many stories have circulated about them and the following account is one.
An explorer was once let in at one entrance at the end of a chain and after some time when the anxious people drew out the chain they found, to their horror, nothing at the end of it. Another entrance is situated at the further side of Bandar Hilir by the King George V Prison on St. John's Hill. This has no underground passages but looks like an old fort. The largest of these ruins is on St. Paul's Hill and though the Government has closed all entrances, yet it makes use of a part of it, namely, the present fort and light house. Stories are also connected with this fort and it is my belief that the Portuguese pirates are still guarding their treasures.
Churches built long ago by its first founders are still found in Malacca. These were churches indeed. Huge towering things - the ends of their spires scarcely visible - the arched doorways huge enough for Goliath - double, triple bells which clang loudly on Sundays - roofs and buttresses, typical of ancient churches. Talking about churches puts me in mind of "Santa Cruz" a small church on the 6th mile Tampin Road which is still visited by Pilgrims. It was at this place that the betrayed St. Xavier took refuge and the huge wooden cross to which he clung in his moment of distress is still found there.
The very roads - some of them very bad indeed - were built by the Dutch: narrow and occasionally not very straight. It is an impossibility to travel faster than 20 m.p.h. in Malacca town. The shop houses built about 40 years ago would induce laughter in a K. Lumpurian visiting Malacca for the first time. But to me there is a charm in its quaintness. And as Lamb says, "to me all the streets and pavements are of pure gold" or "at least I know an alchemy that turns her mud into that metal - a mind that loves to be at home in crowds." Malacca has an apology for a pier - it was quite good some years back.
Not that Malacca is altogether lacking in modern ideas. In one thing it excels us. Its new Hospital - consisting of huge blocks of wards on a hill - is going to be a central one. A ride along Klebang road in the evenings will show very clearly the difference in that atmosphere from that of the town. Its rest house is quite modern and has a good site. Malacca's modern scheme for housing its government servants is very beautiful. "Garden City", as they call it - is situated behind prison facing the sea. These two-storey houses are well built and are a few yards from the sea from which they are separated by a wall.
Malacca is quite quiet but it is impossible to be dull there. From morn till night - and far into it - you hear around you merry chatter and laughter. The cries of the cake sellers - and let me remind you that Malacca is the only place famous for the making of local kuehs - fluctuate in the gale. There is noise day in and day out, not an irritating noise but a pleasant hum.
If you take a walk along the coast - sad to say there are not very many beaches - you will see nothing but empty sardine tins and lumpur but if you walk through the lorongs and kampongs you will really be happy. You will see the poor Portuguese fishermen in their quaint old houses - scrupulously clean and white-washed throughout - either engaged in pleasant chatter or card playing, and fair members of the opposite sex, healthy and blooming who smile at you though you be a total stranger. You will hear the sound of ukeleles, guitars and accordions everywhere.
All these things work up into my mind, till they have got so bad that scarce have I a holiday but I go to Malacca. I love its quaintness and its antiquity, I love its quiet and above all I love its scenery - multicoloured - which one sees any day when taking a stroll on the roads. I also love the Public Library - though I am ashamed to say that when I first went to Malacca I thought it was a gaol because it was painted red like our Pudu Gaol.
But Malacca is best at Christmas. It is at this time that people are at their merriest, the boys very daring and the girls very coquettish. On Christmas night and day you see the churches all lit up and after service - oh, what joy! You see neighbours visiting each other and gradually becoming unsteadier, and some actually go rolling home because it is a custom among these that one should always have a drink - a hot one. I actually sat on the verandah of my dwelling watching happy people and fortunately I saw more girls than boys.
But talking about girls, I saw them in red, white, green, blue, practically all the colours of the rainbow. Girls of every description, colour, height and shape. They and their inviting smiles fairly set my heart racing. In fact they are the people who make Malacca beautiful by imparting to it some of their charms. But consider the males; they are not bad after all - cheerful and sporting fellows. Christmas and New Year and the days intervening were simply paradise but I thanked my lucky stars that I had made up my mind to be a confirmed bachelor. Malacca is a very good place but it is my opinion that it would not do for people who are susceptible to feminine charms to go there at Christmas.
Boating is safe but if you try swimming you will come out with half a ton of mud on your body. You can fish in the sea and shoot in the padi fields and make whoopee at Christmas time - particularly if you are a bachelor.
Last update on 28 October 2000.
Contributed by: Chung Chee Min
PageKeeper: Ooi Boon Kheng