Besides the floating houses, there are numerous boats in the river, and some so small that a child can row them. There are so many that they often come against each other, and are overset. A traveller once passed by a boat where a little girl of seven was rowing, and by accident his boat overset hers. The child fell out of her boat, and her paddle out of her hand; yet she was not the least frightened, only surprised; and after looking about for a moment, she burst out a laughing, and was soon seen swimming behind her boat (still upside down), with her paddle in her hand. These little laughing rowers are too giddy to like learning, and they are not at all willing to come to the missionaries’ schools; but some poor children, redeemed from slavery, are glad to be there, and have been taught about Christ in these schools.
This is a peninsula, or almost an island, for there is water almost all round it. In shape it is something like a dog’s leg, even as Italy is like a man’s leg.
The weather in Malacca is much pleasanter than in most parts of India, because the sea-breezes make the air fresh. There is no rainy season, as in most hot countries, but a shower cools the air almost every day. The country, too, is beautiful, for there are mountains, and forests, and streams.
Yet it is a dangerous country to live in, for the people are very treacherous. There are many pirates among them. What are pirates? Robbers by sea. If they see a small vessel, in a moment the pirates in their ships try to overtake it, seize it, take the crew prisoners, and sell them for slaves. The governors of the land do not punish the pirates; far from punishing them, they share in the gains. That is a wicked land indeed, where the governors encourage the people in their sins.
Malacca has no king of her own; the land belongs to Siam, except a very small part. The inhabitants are called Malays. They are not like the Siamese in character; for instead of being cowardly, they are fierce. Neither have they the same religion, for instead of being Buddhists, they are Mahomedans. Yet they know very little about the Koran, or its laws. One command, however, they have learned, which is—to hate infidels. They count all who do not believe in Mahomet to be infidels, and they say that it is right to hunt them. They are proud of taking Christian vessels, and of selling Christians as slaves.
There are some valuable plants in Malacca. There is one which has a seed called “pepper.” There is a tree which has in the stem a pith called sago. Who collects the pepper and the sago? There are mines of tin. Who digs up the tin? The idle Malays will not take so much trouble, so the industrious Chinese labor instead. The Chinese come over by thousands to get rich in Malacca. As there is not room for them in their own country, they are glad to settle in other countries. But though the Chinese set an example of industry, they do not set an example of goodness; for they gamble, and so lose their money, they smoke opium, and so lose their health, and they commit many kinds of wickedness by which they lose their souls.