A Drug on the Market
The amazing Mr. Ferguson could fame the terrible head-hunter but we think you'll agree his faith in mothballs was somewhat misplaced
FERGUSON is a field collector. I think that is the technical name for him. He travels about all over the world collecting things for museums. It must be a most uncomfortable sort of life, but Ferguson assures me he likes it. I notice, however, that he always seems very glad to get home again, even though his “home” consists merely of the other room in my cottage, which lies hidden away in the forgotten corner of Sussex where I endeavor to supplement the earnings of my pen by cultivating mushrooms for the market. This peaceful and unexciting pursuit consists mainly of turning over vast quantities of manure with a pitchfork, and 1 observe that nothing plehses Ferguson more than to sit for hours on end on a wheelbarrow, smoking and watching me work.
The trip before last he went off looking for Fulmar petrels’ eggs in something he called an Icelandic trawler. He returned with only two eggs and all his clothes smelling frightfully of fish; but all the same he seemed absurdly pleased with the result of his efforts. After that he rushed off to Borneo and Formosa, these places being apparently the principal centres of the dried human head industry, because, when he returned the other day, he brought seventeen of these grisly articles with him. And what is more, he insisted on unpacking the things in my study-bedkitchen-dining-room. It was while thus engaged that he told me his artless story; and it occurs to me. if only I can manage to write the yarn as Ferguson told it. perhaps I may find for once that plying my pen is a more productive form of employment than wielding my dung-fork.
“I had a hack at making my fortune this trip,” said Ferguson, as he affectionately patted the head of a dark
brown gentleman with a teethv grin and iridescent shell eyeballs. “It had nothing to do with these chaps, of course. These heads are a rush order from the State Museum at Chicago. They’re what I went out to get, I know; but I hadn’t been in Formosa long before I got myself involved in the camphor trade, and I’m afraid I rather neglected the museum johnnies’ interests for a while. I did pretty well for them, though, in Borneo. I got hold of these five heads there, and they’re all remarkably fine specimens.
“However, as soon as I got to Taihoku, I saw I was going to have trouble with my collecting. I’d never been in Formosa before, funnily enough, and I had no idea until I got there what a mess the Japanese have made of the place. I mean, from the point of view of a scientific collector. Formosa belongs to the Japs now. It was ceded to them at the end of their war with China, so I suppose they’re entitled to do what they like with it. But I can’t forgive
them for changing the name of the place. They call it Taiwan. Just think of scrapping such a beautiful word as Formosa! And that’s not all they’ve done. They’ve built a railway from one end of the island to the other; covered the whole place with sugar refineries and tea plantations, and changed Taihoku from a really interesting Chinese old walled town into an ugly modern city with all the usual evidences of civilization sticking right out of it. Steelframed buildings, I mean, and lamp posts, motor cars, traffic policemen, movie palaces, and all. It’s a crime. It wasn’t at all the sort of place I’d expected to find, and I thought at first the information I’d got from the museum people was all wrong or out of date or something.
“According to them, Formosa was one of the few places left where I’d find the natives living their aboriginal lives absolutely untouched and uninfluenced by civilization, so it was a bit of a shock to me when I found Taihoku simply crawling with tourists, and it looked to me as if I’d better not waste my time there. Just about then, though, I met a man called Parmiter, who’d been living in the island for years, and he told me I needn't worry about my headhunters. because there were still lots of them left—in spite of appearances.
“You see, Formosa’s a big island. It’s about 250 miles long by 100 wide, and there’s a backbone of high mountains running right down the middle of it, with a broad belt of coastal plain all round. The plain’s the place where the railway and the sugar refineries and the policemen and so on function. It’s all chock-a-block with modern improvements; and the Japs and Chinese cultivate every inch of it, from the high-tide line on the beaches right up to the first
trees that mark the beginning of the forest and the hills. But there, at the foot of those trees, all signs of cultivation cease abruptly. It’s queer. It’s as if a dead line were drawn there. And it really is a dead line, too. because if you cross it and try to get over the mountains and into the forest, the odds are you’ll never get back again. The Chinhwan attend to that.”
“The Chinhwan!” said I. “Who on earth’s that?” “Green savages,” replied Ferguson. “That’s the name the Japs give them. They’re really the aboriginal Formosans. But they’re savage right enough. They’re the head-hunters, and the johnnies I wanted to do business with. But Parmiter said they didn’t like strangers. According to him, they discouraged trespassers by cutting their heads off and smoking them and hanging them up as a warning in a tree. Those smoked heads make mighty effective notice boards, too. Parmiter took me to the Daitoteh Museum to see some. They were in a glass case with labels on ’em; but even so they made me feel rather thoughtful. However, as I’d gone out there to collect heads, I thought I’d better have a shot at it, and I said as much to Parmiter.
“He was horrified. He really was. He did his best to dissuade me. He said he’d been doing business in Formosa for twenty years, but he’d never heard of anybody getting into the interior, much less getting out again. He said the country in there was a mass of impassable mountains, real mountains running up to twelve and thirteen thousand feet, and all covered over with impenetrable forest. The mountains were steep, too, and the valleys weren’t valleys at all, but just deep cracks full of swamp and fever — and Chinhwans. According to Parmiter, the climate was a sort of permanent Turkish-cum-shower bath, and the whole place was infested with avalanches, owing to the steepness of the hillsides and the amount of rain which fell. Besides all this there weren’t any paths in the forest, so if I ventured in I’d get lost, and Parmiter assured me that the savages would then come sifting up through the undergrowth and stick me full of poisoned darts with their blowpipes, and then the only head to be collected would be mine.
IT WAS a cheery picture, but a bit exaggerated I thought.
You see, I’ve heard that kind of thing before. They used to talk just like that about Upper Burma and the TidongBeru country, and all Africa, too, I expect, in the old days. And then some chap went in and had a look-see and found it was all rot. I’d heard precisely the same yarns about the Black River district in 1902. I had to go up there to get some pheasants the Zoo people had set their hearts on, and the accounts I got of the country from the French in Hanoi nearly frightened me to death. On top of all the other horrors, the alleged savages there were supposed to be cannibals. They were, too; but all I can say is they never tried to eat me. and I hadn’t been among them long before I found out they were gentlemen and sportsmen of the very first water. You had to handle them the right way, of course. I did. And they treated me like a brother. They got my pheasants for me, too, and I never had any trouble at all. In fact, when I left, the beggars stood round and wept. Yes, shed tears ! So I wasn’t over-much impressed by Parmiter’s awful warnings. And I suppose I must have shown it, because he really got quite concerned. It was then he told me about this camphor business. I imagine he brought the subject up on purpose to emphasize the danger
and difficulty of getting up-country; but. if so, he made a mistake, because the things he told me were so interesting and suggestive that I got even keener on camphor collecting than I’d been on getting heads.
“You probably don’t know it—I didn’t till Parmiter told me—but the only place in the whole world you can get camphor from is Formosa. The camphor tree doesn't grow anywhere else, it seems. You can plant seeds or transplant seedlings elsewhere as much as you like, but it’s no use. The Dutch have tried to introduce it into Celebes, and the Chinese had a shot at the business too, but it wouldn’t work. It takes the tree two hundred years or so to reach maturity for one thing, and until then it doesn’t yield much camphor. And two hundred years is a long time to have to wait for your profits. Anyhow, if you want camphor, you’ve got to go to Formosa to get it. Even in Formosa the trees only grow right up in the mountains. They like the hot rains and the steamy mists and the Turkish-bath climate, and they absolutely refuse to grow at all down in the plain.
“Parmiter was a camphor man. That’s how he made his money. He bought concessions from the Japanese Government giving him the right to fell camphor trees in certain areas of the forest. He worked the thing through Chinese contractors, whose job it was to cut down the trees, chop them up into small chips and shavings, which they then boiled in big stills, thus producing camphor oil and unrefined camphor. Parmiter used to pay them for the stuff at contract rates, refine it, and then ship it to London to be sold. He said he’d had as many as thirty contractors’ gangs working for him at one time, and it used to pay him hand over fist. That was in the old days, when they were cutting the trees that grew on the edge of the forest near the plain. When they’d worked these out, though, and penetrated farther into the mountains, then their troubles with the savages began. The Chinhwan, naturally enough it seems to me, got annoyed at having their forest cut about by a lot of Chinamen; so they used to sneak up under cover and blow darts into Parmiter’s men, who then swelled up and died. The result was that Parmiter found it mighty difficult to get enough men to carry on. He did what he could for a time, but the conditions got worse and worse, and he lost so many men at last that, when I was there, he only had one contractor working a wily old Chinaman, who apparently still managed to sneak a tree or two out of the forest occasionally without getting too many of his men hurt.
“Parmiter said it was a heartrending position for him, because, of course, as soon as the supply of camphor diminished, the demand increased enormously, and the price of the stuff had risen to such fabulous heights that it made him weep to think of all the money he wasn’t making. He said he’d offered his contractors ten times the ordinary rates to try and make them get some trees out for him, but even then they wouldn’t risk it. And if experienced men like that wouldn’t go into the forest at any price, how did I think I was going to get on there? That was Parmiter’s argument. He elaborated it, too. I told you he was mightily concerned about me. He said, if it was humanly possible, the Japanese would obviously have settled in the mountains and exploited the camphor industry to its fullest extent. But they hadn’t done it.
There wasn’t a single Jap in the interior, in spite of the fact that they had the greatest inducement imaginable to make them go there. I didn’t quite grasp that, so I asked Parmiter to explain. And when he did he surprised me.
“It seems there’s camphor in more things than mothballs. In fact, according to Parmiter, civilization couldn't get along without the stuff. It appears it’s the most important ingredient in the more potent forms of high explosive, for one thing. And also, if it weren't for camphor there wouldn’t be any movie pictures.
Y’ou couldn’t manufacture the film. Parmiter said these were merely a few of the indispensable things which would be lost to the world if the supply of camphor were cut off. And the supply, he said, was pretty well cut off then. I said I thought it would be a pity about the mothballs, but Parmiter wasn’t joking. He was mighty serious. He said that the Japanese holding Formosa meant that they controlled the sole source of the world’s supply of camphor. It gave them a monopoly of something the rest of the world couldn’t do without. At least, that’s what it ought to mean; but the actual position was that the sole supply of a commodity which is indispensable to
the civilized world was held in the hollow of the hands of a few Formosan aborigines. It sounded an unbelievable state of affairs, he said; but it was so.
AND IT was, too! There’s no mistake about it. Those Chinhwan really did seem to have the rest of the world by the tail. What Parmiter told me interested me immensely, so I looked into the tiling and made a lot of enquiries on my own. What I couldn’t understand was, why didn’t the Japanese Government, with such a tremendous prize as a camphor monopoly almost within their grasp, why didn’t they turn to and wade into those Chinhwan and clean them up out of the way for good and all? And I found, by Jove! that they had tried—and failed! They’d gone after that camphor with both hands as soon as they got possession of the island. The cinema business was just getting going in those days, and the demand for camphor for film was growing by leaps and bounds. And the Japs apparently had gone leaping and bounding into that forest with intent to cut down camphor trees as fast as they could lay axe to them. Of course, that was just like stirring up a wasp’s nest with a pole. The Chinhwan didn’t like it, and they stuck those Japs full of poisoned darts, and sent them leaping and bounding out of the forest again. This naturally didn’t suit the Japanese. They're a proud and warlike people. Also the market was clamoring for camphor w'orse than ever, so the Government made up its mind to send an expedition into the interior and subdue the Chinhwan once and for all.
“The funny thing is I’ve never been able to find out actually what happened to that expedition. I believe they sent the equivalent of a brigade of infantry into the forest with a lot of mountain guns. And I’ve heard that, by literally hacking their way through the trees and things, they managed to advance a few odd miles into the hills. Then they got stuck in a swamp in a valley, and the Chinhwans came drifting up as silent as shadows, and set to work with their blowpipes. The yarn goes that not a single solitary soldier ever came out of that forest again. That’s probably an exaggeration; but I do know the expedition was a most complete w’ashout. The Japs stuck to it, of course. They sent a lot more troops into the interior from time to time; but the result was always the same. They didn’t get in very far; they rarely even saw a savage; and the survivors always had the very devil of a job surviving and getting back. They even tried airplanes at last, and dropixxl a lot of bombs on those mountains and into the virgin forest. That was a fat lot of g(xxl, of course, so after a while they gave up trying to pacify the Chinhwan, as they called it.
"Meanwhile the price of camphor was soaring like a rocket, and the supply was reduced to a mere dribble trickling into a great ocean of demand. The situation was desperate. So were the Japs. They’re tryers are those little men; but in the end they gave up trying to subdue the aborigines. and tried another plan altogether. They set their troops to fencing off a suitable piece of forest with a good thick hedge of barbed wire. They’d start from the edge of the plain and run their wire in a semicircle around the area of forest selected, and then get to work cutting the camphor trees in the part they’d enclosed. Like taking a bite out of the edge of the forest, you understand. The scheme was a good one, too. It was expensive, but it worked. They’d lose a lot of men putting their wire up, and they had to keep troops on guard inside the fence all the time; but they are thorough little beggars, as I’ve said before, and they stuck to it. And when they’d cut all the trees on one place, they moved on and took another bite out of the woods. They even went to the length eventually of running an electric current through their wire, so that the Chinhwan got themselves electrocuted when they tried to crawl through it. All this, of course, made the production of camphor extremely costly; but the price of the stuff had risen to such an extent that it paid the Japanese fairly well.
“That was about the state of affairs when I arrived in the island, and I must admit I was intrigued. I w'as intrigued to such an extent, in fact, that I actually abandoned science for business, and deliberately enmeshed myself in trade! What do you think of that for a man who has had a strictly scientific training? It seenqs I only have to observe some filthy lucre waiting to be picked up, and
Continued on page 29
Continued from page 17 Starts on page 16
off I rush, scrambling and sweating after the stuff like any venal peddling Levantine huckster-monger. I t‘s deplorable ! You see. it seemed so clear to me that it ought to be possible to get hold of all the camphor one wanted without much risk or a fraction of the expense involved in putting up electrified barbed-wire fences and all the rest of it, that I became fired with the idea of doing it and making a fortune for myself. The sole thing necessary was to gain the goodwill of the Chinhwan. Achieve that, and the felling of camphor trees in Formosan forests would become as simple as culling mushrooms in the wilds of Sussex. At any rate, it seemed a sound and simple notion to me, and I determined to have a go at it.
“I can see you think it was a harebrained sort of thing to attempt: but you mustn't forget I’ve had quite a lot of experience in dealing with assorted savages. I like them and I think I understand them, and they seem to like me, too. So I didn’t regard those Chinhwan in the same light as Parmiter or the Japanese did. They looked on those savages as a lot of truculent bloodthirsty head-hunters, and they imagined the only way of dealing with such ugly customers was to shoot them at sight. Now I, on the other hand, thought it only reasonable to suppose that the Formosan aborigines, who derive from Malay stock, would not differ fundamentally from the Bornean Dyaks, and I had found the Dyaks to be a remarkably decent crowd. And as for their head-hunting proclivities —well, you probably picture the savages as ravaging and rampaging around the forest lopping off the heads of anyone who comes within range, whereas I knew very well head-hunting hasn’t got anything to do with hunting at all. In most tribes it’s a purely religious ceremony, performed with most impressive solemnities and a ritual and vestments all its own. In other cases it’s merely a rite connected with the business of courtship. So, in view of these things, I knew it was quite unnecessary to worry myself about it at all.
THEN, again, you may consider it absurd of me to think I could successfully tackle a job which had been too much for the Japanese Government. But don’t you believe it. When it comes to negotiating with natural born savages, the average Government is about as much use as my foot. It’s a one-man job. Look at Brooke in Borneo. He’s the classical example. And then there’s old Rhodes and the Matabele. The British Government and the Matabele naturally couldn't understand each other at all, and they were consequently drifting into what would certainly have been a most ghastly war. But when Rhodes went up-country singlehanded and yarned with the chiefs man to man, they soon got as thick as thieves, of course, and the trouble was settled in no time. Not that I put myself in a class with Rhodes and Brooke; but they’re not the only men who’ve done things like that. Not by a long shot. I know dozens. Why. I met two fellows myself who, when it came to soothing the savage breast and making cannibals eat out of their hands, could give the average Colonial Secretary ninety yards in a hundred, and then win by ten lengths. One was a chap called Simpson, captain in some native regiment, and the other was Bliss, a pal of mine in the North Borneo police. You’ve never heard of them, of course, and I suppose hardly anyone else has; but I happen to know, if it wasn’t for Bliss and Simpson, we’d have had two exceedingly nasty and highly expensive little wars on our hands.
“Remembering these things, and my own little experiences in the Black River country and elsewhere, I girded up my loins and waded into the business bung-full
of confidence and hope. The Japanese had managed to capture a few Chinhwan in the course of their various expeditions. and they kept the poor beggars in a sort of compound outside Taihoku. I got a permit from the police, and went out to the place to have a look at them. There were about fifty or sixty Chinhwan there—a well-built, small-boned, intelligent-looking lot; but, of course, all very miserable and dejected. I’m enough of an ethnologist to see at once that they derived from Malay stock; and when I tried to talk to them.
I found, although I couldn’t understand them, that there were distinct points of similarity between their language and Malay. This encouraged me a lot. because I can speak four brands of Malay already, and I judged it oughtn’t to take me very long to pick up a working knowledge of a fifth. I used to go up to that compound every day, and I soon got on friendly terms there. I found a thing they pined for, even more than liberty, was a smoke, so I used to take in tobacco with me, and that put me on their good books at once.
“From then on the going was easy. I made special pals with two men who seemed to be rather more intelligent than the rest; and we three used to sit around and talk all day long, and I began to get a grip of their language in no time. In two months I suppose I could speak better Chinhwan than any other white man living; but it was about four months altogether before I was satisfied I could talk well enough to get along with up-country. I'd got more or less the hang of conditions in the interior by then, too, so I judged the time was rij)e to start operations. I told my two savages that if they’d promise to guide me through the mountains and introduce me to their chief, I would help them to escape. They jumped at the proposition, of course. So that very day I bought a coil of rope, I hove the end of it over the compound wall after dark, the two Chinhwans swarmed over in a jiffy, and there we were. It was all very simple—that part; but my troubles began from then on.
“We had over twenty-five miles to go to get into the forest. Once there, the Chinhwans were safe from the Japanese; but we had to do that twenty-five miles before daylight or get nabbed. We got to the first of the trees in about four hours, which wasn’t bad, considering the country we went across and the heat. I was done to a turn by then, though, and I couldn’t go on till I’d had a rest; but the Chinhwans were as fresh as daisies, and anxious to get ahead. When I did try to go on I found it was all I could do to work my way through the forest at all. I wish you could have seen that forest. The going was awful. It was like trying to force your way through a mixed hedge of blackberry, holly, haw• thorn and fishhooks, only more so. I chucked my hand in before I’d done a quarter of a mile. My clothes were pretty well torn off me by then, and what with the thorns and the leeches, I was leaking blood all over, and I couldn’t find a square inch of sound skin on myself anywhere. What made it more annoying was to see those two savages slipping through that horrible tangle like a couple of greased snakes. It was really beautiful to watch them at it. I’d been told that a Chinhwan youth was not supposed to have arrived at the state of manhood until he’d proved it by traversing eighty miles of that forest between dawn and dusk. I hadn't believed that yarn, but after seeing my two friends perform, I became convinced that eighty miles a day was a mere nothing to them. However, as eighty yards a day seemed to be about my limit, and we had fifty or sixty miles more to do, I decided to send on one of my Chinhwan to prepare his chief for the arrival of a visitor, while I got myself out of that forest before it killed me.
AFTER THAT we travelled by night » along the fringe of the plain until we got abreast of the bit of country my particular Chinhwan came from. The going was easy outside the trees, and we kept at it all night, hiding in the forest during the daytime. Even so, it took me three days to reach the Chinhwan village, which was right in the middle of the mountains, and alxjut 6,000 feet up at that. I’m rather hazy about how I managed to get to the place. I’d had nothing to eat the whole time except some sugar cane and a few bananas, and I think toward the end I must have gone slightly off my nut. The Chinhwan who’d stayed behind stuck to me like a brother; but when I gave out altogether he cleared off, and I thought he’d deserted me. It turned out, though, the faithful creature had only gone off to get help, and when he showed up again he’d got about a dozen of his friends with him. Also some grub. I was glad to see him. Those chai» must have carried me most of the way after that; but I was down and out and completely done for by then, so I’m not quite sure what happened.
“However, it doesn’t matter much how I eventually got to the village. I did get there in the end, and that’s the main thing. I found it a mighty interesting place. It was built in a narrow valley, or rather a sort of deep crack in the side of a mountain that stood up straight on end; and the crack was so full of solid forest that it didn’t look as if there was room in there for anything else. But hidden away under the trees were about thirty huts, stone huts; remarkably well built, too, of flat rock slabs. Which, let me tell you, is an extraordinary thing, because, apart from traces of very ancient stone edifices in Java and some of the Western Carolines, the use of stone as a building material by the people in that part of the world is absolutely unknown. I got so excited over finding those huts that, for a day or two,
I quite forgot my real reason for coming to the place. I took measurements of the buildings, and I made a number of drawings, which I’d show you if you took an atom of interest in the subject. But you don’t, so I’ll only say that those huts were ideal for the climate, and the Chinhwans lived a mighty comfortable sort of life. Their clothes were made of fine split grasses, beautifully woven and dyed, and they cultivated millet and maize in tiny clearings, and in that hothouse climate the stuff grew inches every night. Then the forest was full of bananas and paupau, game birds, wild pig, and buck. Not to mention monkeys, which, let me tell you, make a remarkably line stew when properly seasoned with wild ginger and ! bamboo shoots. So you see the grub supply was no problem to the Chinhwan, and. in fact, during the time I lived in that village, I put on about two stone.
“The chief was an old boy named TamilPak. He was one of the most astute old gentlemen I've met for a long time a natural born statesman of the very first water, and a decent old chap at that. I was the first white man he’d ever seen in his life, and he naturally regarded me at first with as much distaste and astonishment as you would show yourself if you suddenly came upon, say, a pale green cow. However, that feeling soon wore off with use, and it wasn’t long before old Tamil-Pak and I were the closest kind of friends. I have to thank my eyeglasses for forging the first bonds of our friendship, because the chief, besides being afflicted with a large sore on his ham. suffered from weak eye| sight due to age. As luck would have it,
1 when the old boy fitted my glasses on his ! nose, he discovered to his joy and amazement that his sight had been miraculously restored. So, of course. I made him a present of the glasses, and established myself as first favorite at court.
"From that time on nothing was too good for me. Everything I did was all right, and anything I wanted I only had to ask for. Anything, that is, in reason. And reason as seen from Tamil-Pak's point of view. For instance, when I told the chief
what I’d really come up to see him about, and said I’d like to send some Chinamen into his forest to cut down camphor trees, he seemed to think it was one of the most unreasonable things he’d ever heard of. He said, when he was a young man he often used to go down to the edge of the forest and look out over the fiat lands. And he saw the plain all covered over with swarms of yellow men with black tails growing out of their heads. He told me how he used to watch those yellow creatures crawling all over the face of the land, sucking life out of its fatness like a lot of maggots creeping over a dead pig. He said the thought of those maggots coming crawling over his mountains and through his forests made him feel sick. He went on like that for a long time until he made it seem as natural for a Chinhwan to kill a Chinaman in the forest as for you to squash a slug in your lettuce patch.
“I was properly stumped, and for a long time I didn’t see what I was going to do about it; but I decided to stick to it, and try to make myself as useful to the old sinner as I knew how in the hope that he might eventually do what I wanted out of sheer friendship and goodwill. It was all I could do, anyhow. So I put my back into the job, and I managed to impress TamilPak mightily with my powers. Among other things I showed him how to draw down fire from the sun by using the famous pince-nez as a burning glass. This he regarded as a special and direct gift front the gods. He was frightfully bucked. The thing which really endeared me to him, though, was my demonstration of the fact that, if the juice expressed from ripe paupaus be kept in a gourd until it bubbles, it may be relied upon to produce a state of extreme and ecstatic bliss which subsequent head-swimmings and leg-wobblings do little to discount. This revelation of the charms contained in fermented liquor so affected Tamil-Pak that he said he loved me as a son, and it would certainly break his heart if I ever thought of going away and leaving him. He then went on to say that the manifestations of my magic powers had so far been exceedingly gratifying and satisfactory to all concerned. However, what he would really like to see me do more than anything else was to cure the sore on his thigh, which, he said, had been eating the strength out of him for years. In fact, he wanted me to begin that particular piece of magic then and there, because, he said, if he wasn’t cured soon, that sore would eat right into him and kill him.
NOW THIS was a bit of a facer. What the old boy was suffering from was a bad case of the yaws—a kind of large external ulcer common enough all through Melanesia. They are horrible things to look at, but not very difficult to cure provided one has the requisite dope handy. And I had nothing, of course; but I tried to look wise while I examined the old boy’s leg, which had a hole in it big enough to put your fist into. I won’t describe it; hut you can take my word for it it looked horrid. Yet, in spite of its looks, I knew very well that, if only I had a little corrosive sublimate or some sulphur ointment, I could probably fix the thing in a few weeks. I was wondering what on earth I could do about it when I suddenly got a brain wave. I thought of a place higher up our mountain where there were some hot springs and a lot of holes with steam blowing out of them. It was a spot, according to the Chinhwan, much infested by devils, and they never went near it; but I’d been up there, and I remembered that the mouths of the blowholes were encrusted with sulphur. And as soon as I thought of that sulphur I knew, with luck, I ought to be able to fix old Tamil-Pak’s yaws for him in no time. By then, though, I was getting artful. I kept my thoughts to myself, for I saw now was my time to get what I wanted out of the old boy if only I played my cards right. I’d realized by that time that, if I wasn’t careful, the more I did for the chief the more reluctant he would be to let me go. So I told him he was perfectly
correct in believing his yaws would be the death of him if they weren’t soon cured. Then I intimated that, although I could guarantee to cure him. yet I wasn’t prepared to do it unless he agreed to my conditions first. My conditions were that Tamil-Pak must allow me to go away when I wanted to, and that he must let me send my men into his country to fell camphor trees.
“The old chap didn’t like this at all. He was dead keen to get his leg put right; but he didn’t want to lose his medicine man; and as for letting any Chinese into his forest, he said he’d rather die first. And he wouldn’t make any promises either, which was a very good sign, because it would have been easy for him to agree to all I asked and then to go back on his word when I’d cured him. This encouraged me to carry on, so I stuck to my guns and Tamil-Pak stuck to his, and we argued and bargained about the business for a full week. In the end, of course, he had to give in, for I’d put the fear of a fast approaching death into him, and that was a trump card. I had to modify my terms pretty considerably, though. We agreed, finally, that I was to cure him, first of all, and when I’d done that I could go if I insisted on it. He, on his part, would let me fell camphor trees; but my operations were to be confined strictly to one outlying valley which he would show me. When I had a look at the place, I found it w-as a big valley running up into the hills from the edge of the plain, with enough camphor trees in it to last for years, as far as I could judge. So I closed with the offer. For good measure I had to promise to pay the old boy a visit at least twice a year, provided his people behaved themselves and left my woodcutters alone.
“I felt mighty pleased with myself when all these diplomatic negotiations were successfully completed. I’d got what I came for. and I knew that valley full of camphor trees was worth a fortune to me. Before I could go ahead collecting that fortune, though, I’d got to cure Tamil-Pak’s yaws, and you can believe me I set about that business in as thorough a manner as I knew how. It wasn’t an easy job. One of the hardest things I had to do was to induce the old boy to go up with me to those hot springs. He objected strongly to associating with the devils which were well known to inhabit the place, and before he would move I had to convince him I was relying on those devils to help me with his cure. I had to spend a whole night by myself among those confounded blowholes, though, before Tamil-Pak was satisfied the devils really were pals of mine. After that he seemed a little reassured. At any rate, he climbed up there with me the next day, and I made him sit with his leg in a steaming pothole that bubbled obscenely and stank horribly of boiled cabbage, sulphur and rotten eggs. After six hours of that treatment I thought the leg ought to be fairly adequately cleaned, sterilized, and disinfected, so I plastered it with a mixture j of melted fat and powdered sulphur, and we went home. We performed these rites and purifications for five days in all, and then Tamil-Pak struck. He said he preferred his yaws to the ministrations of my smelly devils, and he refused to go near those hot springs any more. However, it didn’t matter much, because by then I was beginning to think myself that perhaps the hot pothole treatment was a bit drastic. From then on I contented myself with anointing the old boy’s leg with my brand of sulphur ointment twice a day. And I think I’ll have to patent the stuff. It certainly does the trick. It cured Tamil-Pak in just under a month, and if you’d seen his leg before I tackled it you certainly would have said it was a surgeon’s job, not a quack’s.
“I was really proud of that leg. I am still. It looked so beautiful and healthy by the time I’d done with it that I hated to leave it. But it was high time for me to go. For one thing, my conscience was pricking me. I’d been neglecting my museum people’s interests shamefully. Also. I
hadn’t smelt real tobacco for ages, and I was positively yearning for a smoke. I judged it might be wise, too, to clear out while Tamil-Pak ’s gratitude was still warm. Tamil-Pak was most upset when it actually came to parting. He really was. He’s a good old soul, and he wept. And I felt I wanted to, too, because he’d treated me like a friend and a brother, and you don't often meet such a thorough old brick. However, we comforted ourselves with the thought that I’d be coming back to see him before very long, and I said good-by and departed with the old man’s blessing, one dozen assorted smoked heads done up in a mat bundle, and an escort of ten men. The escort escorted me down to the edge of the forest and then vanished; and I walked out into civilization once more.
CIVILIZATION, confound it, didn’t like the look of me at all. I had an awful time. The first chap I met was a Chinaman cutting cane in a sugar plantation. He hove his chopper at me and fled. The second fellow was a Jap sportsman of sorts, with a shotgun. He let off both barrels at me on sight, so I lied. Talk about savages! I tell you I soon wished myself safe back with old Tamil-Pak again.
I judged it might be my costume which excited these people. You see. except for what remained to me of a pair of riding breeches, I was dressed in full Chinhwankit. So I hid in some bushes and discarded everything—except my trousers, of course, and my bundle of heads; and then I sallied forth and came upon a small boy driving two water buffaloes along a path. The buffs snorted, scented a white man, and charged me like a shot The beggars always do, you know. They can’t abide the smell of us or something. So I had to leave that place in a hurry. There weren’t any trees handy, and all I could do was to dodge the brutes round a clump of bamboo. If they hadn’t been yoked I think they’d have got me; but, thank heaven, they tangled themselves up in the bamboos, and then the small boy came into action and kicked them in their stomachs, and they went away. The business turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It served as a sort of introduction, because the toy would undoubtedly have fled like smoke if he hadn’t seen me running away first. As it was, he stood there and grinned at me. He was a bright child. I had some ten-yen notes sewn up in my belt, and I got one out and waved it at him, and it convinced him of my respectability quicker than any visiting card could have done. Then I tried to explain I wanted to buy some clothes, and he soon grasped what I was getting at. He led me off to introduce me to his dad. Father was discovered immersed to his hams in a paddy field, transplanting young rice by hand. He was rather a stupid old man, and it took his young hopeful some time to make him understand that I really was fool enough to wish to buy his old clothes for the fabulous sum of ten yen. When he did grasp that fact, though, he proved himself to to a man of action by stripping himself there and then. His apparel consisted merely of a large straw hat. the usual coolies’ blue jacket, and a mud-spattered loincloth. But they were all I needed. They served, even better than a top hat and frock coat would have done, to re-establish me as a conventional and respectable member of the common herd. So I put ’em all on, bar the loincloth, and went off rejoicing.
“I walked toward the coast until I came to the railway; followed the line to the next station; bought a third-class ticket to Taihoku; and by nine o’clock that night 1 was giving Parmiter the surprise of his life. Poor old Parmiter, you see, was sitting in his verandah having his after-dinner smoke, when he was outraged by the sight of a strange and filthy coolie calmly marching up his front steps. He shouted to his toy to throw the beggar out; and almost went off into a fit when that beggar said, ‘Gie’s a hand, my trusty freen, and here’s a hand o’ mine. We’ll tak a richt guid wulliewaucht—and I could do with a cigar,
too. if you don’t mind.’ I also mentioned a hot bath, some clean clothes, and a Christian meal; and all Parmiter could say at first was, ‘Losh! Keep us.’ However, he soon pulled himself together, and responded nobly to my various demands.
“When I was cleaned and clothed and fed I told Parmiter where Pd been and what I’d been up to. At first I let him take it for granted I’d gone up-country solely to collect heads, and I didn’t mention the fact that I’d managed, incidentally, to make my fortune I wanted to give him a joyful surprise. And when I did come out with it, at last, and told him about my valley full of camphor, I was somewhat surprised at the way he took my piece of news. He didn’t say anything at all. He just sat up and stared at me as if he was rather stunned. I suggested he should go shares with me and develop the thing properly; and, as he still didn’t say anything, I remarked that, for a man who'd just been offered the half of a pretty considerable fortune, he didn’t seem unduly pleased. And at that he suddenly blew up in the most extraordinary fashion. He gave me, in fact, a fine illustration of what twenty years in the Far East can do to a man’s temper, liver and nerves. He sprang up, flung his tumbler of whisky on the floor, stamped on it, turned purple, started to curse, checked himself, and then gave utterance to the following remarkable words. ‘Confound and blister that blasted German and all his discommodious works,’ said he. He meant it, too, and he looked so extraordinarily comic standing there in a sort of curious trance that I burst out laughing at him. So he flew out at me then. He really was angry. It took me a long time to get him calmed down enough to explain what all the fuss was about. He then informed me, with tears of vexation rolling from his eyes, that the cup had been, so to speak, dashed from my very lips, and my valley full of camphor trees,
which in the ordinary course of events would have been worth some thousands of pounds, was now worth—nothing. Just nothing at all !
“It seems, soon after I started up-country. some German chemist or other had succeeded in producing a synthetic camphor which could be manufactured in commercial quantities at a fraction of the cost of the true-blue article. The price of the synthetic stuff was so low, in fact, that the bottom had dropped right out of the market and as good as killed the Formosan camphor industry stone dead. The Japs had practically ceased operations already, and Parmiter himself had retired from the business, and was on the point of sailing for home. So there I was, you see. Properly flummoxed. I’d wasted a lot of my time and trouble—and that was all. I felt a bit vexed at first. But not for long. I soon got over it. I took it as a warning to stick to my own job in future and leave commerce strictly alone. Parmiter was much more upset about the thing than I was. We came home together in the same boat, and he used to break out several times a day and get black in the face cursing that German.
“Poor old Parmiter. I can understand his anguish at missing that fortune. He’s a businessman. But I, thank heaven, can view the whole thing with the calm detachment which distinguishes, a truly scientific mind. So, if you’ll lend me a hand, we’ll just pack up these fruits of my scientific labors and ship them off to Chicago. That gentleman you’ve got hold of, by the way, is an absolutely unique specimen. Handle him with care. He’s a white man. You mightn’t think it to look at his complexion; but that’s only because he’s been smoked. He was white enough once, though. Observe his teeth. That gold filling is a firstclass piece of dentistry. American work, probably. I expect he's a Yank. And if he hails from Chicago, lie’s likely to give his old friends a bit of a surprise.”