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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/254

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

and dense forests cherish much more heathen notions and greater elaborations of everyday superstitions than the more enlightened and modernized Malays of towns and campongs. In the East, as in the West, the man who lives close to Nature "holds communion with her visible forms," and likewise finds out, or thinks he does, a good deal about her invisible shapes.

The Malay has on his list of uncanny things the names of several spirits. Disease is everywhere a great dread of men, and often looked upon as an infliction of the supernatural powers. There are several spirits of sickness recognized among the Malays, but they reserve their greatest horror for the influences of the Hantu Katumbohan, or spirit of smallpox. But other spirits abound; there are some that inhabit the sources of streams, and many that dwell in forests. Mines, too, have their patron goblins, which are propitiated by the miners. The sea-going Malay, also, whose vision has been clarified by bitter salt spray, knows and frequently sees the spirits that inhabit certain parts of the ocean.

The Hantu Pemburo", or phantom hunter, is a spirit the Malays take special account of; in general, he seems to resemble the wilde Jäger of German folklore. Long ago, so the story has it, there lived a certain man and his wife in Katapang, in Sumatra. One day the wife fell sick, and, thinking the flesh of a mouse-deer might strengthen her, she asked her husband to kill one for her. He went forth on the hunt, but was unsuccessful and soon returned. His wife now became very angry, and told him to try again—in fact, not to return till he could come home with the coveted game. The man swore a mighty oath, called his dogs, took his weapons, and set out into the forest. He wandered and wandered, and always in vain. The days ran into months, the months became years, and still no mouse-deer. At last, despairing of finding the animal on earth, he ordered his dogs to bay the stars, and they sprang away through the sky, and he followed. As he walked with upturned gaze, a leaf felll into his mouth and took root there.

At home things were not going well. His son, born after his departure, when he became a lad, was often taunted by the other children of the campong, and twitted of the fact that his father was a wandering ghost. After hearing the truth from his mother, the boy went out into the forest to meet the huntsman. Far from the haunts of men, in the depths of the forest, they met and conversed. The boy told of his wrongs, and the father vowed to avenge them, and ever since that time, say the Malays, he has afflicted mankind. At night he courses through the wood and