Our buffalo-hunting excursions continued until the 17th, when the cause of the reluctance on the part of the Ilanuns to help us became known. The country only a day's journey from this was in such a disturbed state that none of these men would venture to assist us.
The Tampassuk plain is covered with " lalang " grass, and at this period of the year the Bajows were burning it in order to provide their herds of cattle with better pasturage. The whole country was often shrouded with the clouds of smoke from these fires, which are closely followed up by thousands of Wagtails and Pipits feeding on the singed grasshoppers and other insects : numerous hawks, chiefly Harriers (Circus spilonotus) fly about in the clouds of smoke hunting for dead mice and birds; at times a grim-looking Adjutant (Leptoptilus javanicus) may be noticed standing motionless on the charred ground.
The plain is intersected by numerous swampy creeks, which are probably the ancient bed of the Tampassuk, the river changing its course slightly every year, the soft alluvial deposit of which the plain is composed being easily washed away during the annual floods. In one of these flag-bordered creeks I disturbed a small flock of Wigeon, two of which I bagged, and though black as a coal before Rhaman served them up, I never enjoyed ducks more. Snipe swarm at times on these plains, especially at the end of December, when the plains are in places under water ; then there would be but little difficulty in making a large bag, but when made the difficulty would be greater in knowing what to do with the birds : so, though fond of this sport, I soon gave up shooting them; the Bajows being Mohammedans will not eat flesh unless the animal has had its throat cut by one of their creed. The species of Snipe shot here was Scolopax megala, a Chinese migrant to Borneo, much larger than the Common Snipe, which also occurs.
These vast plains would, under more industrious people than the Bajows, grow enormous crops of rice, or might perhaps be placed under sugar-cultivation by Europeans ; now they only serve as a pasturage for small herds of native cattle, which do remarkably well. The Bajows only cultivate sufficient rice for their personal w7ants ; this stock is apt to run short, when they have to fall back on the Patatan Dusuns to keep them alive until the next harvest.
After I had been in the Datu's house four days, the Bajows began to circulate rather alarming reports about the Dusun tribes. They told us that the Kong Dusuns had attacked those of Ghinambur and killed five, taking their heads, and that the Company's police had attacked a Dusun village near Ghinambur and had killed eight men ; this afterwards