This is a work of fiction. Characters, organizations, places and events are either products of the author’s imagination or when factual, used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Please scroll down to earlier chapters as needed.
Copyright © 2019 Theodore A Henning II
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The thunderous rain vollys seemed to ebb and flow like a tide. Steady one moment, then crashing more horrendously the next. Adjusting their positions on the hard wooden-slat chairs Secretary Ansel and Regent van Given continued the conversation once more.
Ansel began again, “There is more to the Kuri-Pasai myth, you know. Are you interested in hearing the Wamesa version of the ending ?”
Just then Budi came through the door leading to the kitchen corridor. The kitchen was a separate cubicle, more or less an addition to the main house structure separated from it by a short verandah that served as a corridor along the back side of the house. It was there that Budi had stoked the crude, wood burning stone oven to bake the fresh bread from the coarsely ground wheat flour that came over from Ambon with van Given.
“Ma’af, Tuan-tuan, roti bakar yang segar!” Budi broadly smiled, revealing the empty space in his maxilla where a front tooth should have been. Thus he excused himself at announcing the fresh baked bread. Carefully Budi placed the wooden tray on the table, and began slicing the warm bread. Van Given took opportunity to refill Secretary Ansel’s coffee cup, and reply he was very interested in hearing the end. Ansel continued, his eyes poised upon Budi’s right arm movement, slicing as if sawing, back and forth, back and forth.
“Well, eh, this Kuri fellow was not a very good giant to his fellow countrymen. After Pasai left, the legend goes that he became more intolerable and demanding, and very treacherous in his dealings with others. His reputation as a mean, bullying giant even went beyond the bounds of his habitat. And so it happened, that one day he again set out to explore more of the vast jungle. In so doing, he ventured away from his territory and came across…, eh, some…”
Van der Kraatj let his voice hesitantly trail off as Sri entered the room to announce the arrival of the now imposing figure that seemed to dwarf the doorway. He was the rain-drenched captain of one of the small supply ships which route between Batavia on mainland Java and the other outlying Dutch outposts. They had shipped out from Ambon, Maluccas Islands three days previous with clear skies and an easterly course.
However, the storm overtook them just as they rounded around back of the bird’s head to arrive at Manokwari. By the time they laid anchor in Dorey Bay nightfall was upon them and the monsoon totally in control. All they could do was weather the storm through the night, not daring to attempt to leave the ship in the darkness. The two men rose from their chairs as Regent van Given introduced Secretary van der Kraatj and himself, and welcomed the captain, offering him a seat at the table.
“Volderman, Hans Volderman, sirs. I’m captain of the Niu Rotterdam. We made port and set anchor last night just as the storm hit. You know what a nuisance the monsoons can be, didn’t dare attempt a dingy to shore until this morning.”
He carried a flat packet under his left arm which he now proffered to van Given. It contained several communiqués from the Resident’s office in Ternate along with posted letters from Holland. The reports momentarily set aside, van Given quickly thumbed through the small post pile making special mental note of the addressees he had yet to make acquaintance. He pulled an envelope addressed to Ansel and handed it to him. Then his eyebrows rose when his gaze fell upon an envelope addressed to him. Slowly he retrieved it and placed it in his pocket. Addresser: Troita Inggavird. The savory pang of excitement at the thought of the greeting it contained quickly dissipated at the sound of the husky, baritone voice.
Volderman continued. “We’ll weather out the storm here, unload our cargo and then weigh anchor for the journey back south around to the outpost at Fakfak, and then on to Batavia. If you have cargo or passengers we’ll gladly accommodate you as best we can.”
“Thank you, Captain.” van Given replied as he filled the cup Budi had brought, and gently slid the saucer over to Volderman. His burly weathered hands enclosed the cup so thoroughly van Given was instantly reminded of the tiny tea set his sister used to play with. So thimble-like were her cups that they, too, disappeared within the clasped confines of a child’s hands.
Ansel van der Kraatj made small talk with the captain concerning his trip up from Batavia, and tried to glean any newsworthy story. His forehead wrinkled as he learned word had reached the Resident of Ternate that the English, who had previously established a small colony outpost most easterly on New Guinea Island, were planning to embark on a geologic survey through to deeper jungle parts of the interior. This information coincided with earlier news that Den Hague was fully aware of the efforts, and had indeed given approval for a Dutch scientific expedition, well manned by Leiden and Utrecht upper echelon. A ship already enroot could be expected to reach Batavia in less than four to six weeks.
“Extraordinary!” exclaimed van der Kraatj. “Depending on their itinerary, no doubt this means the whole company will acclimate here in Manokwari at some time during the foray.”
Captain Volderman made no comment but already van Given was thumbing through the official communiqués to see if there was advance notice of such a thing. Sure enough, there was.
The captain carefully placed the empty cup on the saucer and began to rise. As he did so he begged pardon of his two hosts, grateful for their warm hospitality, stating it was needful he get back to his ship. Van Given and the Secretary both nodded approval and feigned to rise as Captain Volderman did an about face, squared his immensely broad shoulders, donned his well-worn seaman’s cap, and exited via the way he had come in.
“Interesting fellow.” remarked van der Kraatj. “What do you make of the news?”
“Sounds as if in a couple months we won’t be hard pressed for company,” van Given quipped. What could he make of it. He himself had just arrived. In less than 48 hours he had officiated his first dispute, come to understand how deficit he was in knowledge about aboriginal papuan society, and gained a new awareness of himself as a white Dutch official, descendent of the giant Pasai! Of all things, a provider! And then, of course, the letter from Troita.
At this opportunity, van Given begged pardon of the Secretary, indicating he had notations to write and other matters to attend to. The Kuri-Pasai myth would of necessity be resumed some later time. They arose and vander Kraatj departed. Van Given retired to his quarters, a measure of excitement and trepidation gripping him.