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.
Copyright © 2019 Theodore A Henning II
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This is Part One in a historical fiction series entitled: SAVAGE ENCOUNTER, there are 24 chapters I will be publishing individually, be sure to scroll down to the desired chapter. I hope you enjoy the book. Gratuities can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org through Paypal.
Setting: Manokwari outpost, North Coast, Netherlands New Guinea
Leonard van Given loosened his shirt collar and perused his newly acquired quarters. Earlier in the day he had arrived at Manokwari outpost, Netherlands New Guinea by inter-island merchant ship from Ambon, Maluccas. He came to replace the prior Dutch Regent, who was now bound for Holland on medical leave. Duty in the South Pacific hadn’t really appealed to van Given, it did have its risks. But, he was on his way up the company ladder so to speak, and working in the South Pacific offered the quickest road to success. Manokwari, the most recent fledgling Dutch outpost, continued to pose all sorts of developmental concerns his seniors felt could best be tackled by a younger administrator, one with prior experience on the field.
Van Given didn’t consider 32 years of age to be so young. Yet, if he were ever to be appointed to a government position at Den Hague he knew he had to serve his Queen and country. However, this Netherlands New Guinea posting came as a small surprise, it was an administrative add-on. He had already served three years and four months in the Maluccas Islands, and by this time should have been enroot back to Holland himself!
Just then the housekeeper brought him afternoon tea and sweet little rice cakes. “Terima kasih, Ibu Sri,” he said in Malay. Without emotion his eyes traced Sri’s footsteps out of the room.
“Warm tea. Ugh!” Van Given thought. He didn’t much care for tea. Unlike many of his Dutch peers, he enjoyed hot coffee not only in the morning but in the afternoon as well. He mentally made note to talk to the house steward about his coffee desires at the next available opportunity.
His university background and affinity for languages helped him acquire his previous posting to the Office of the Resident of Ternate, Maluccas. Ever since the late 1700s, Malay speaking Indonesians had been a constant sight in Amsterdam. The Vereenigde Oost-Indishe Compagna (Dutch East Indies Company, the VOC for short) just couldn’t be without their invaluable pembantu, their house stewards. And it was through one such Indonesian man that van Given had studied the language.
The Maluccas Islands had been a real challenge for the VOC at first. But in the course of time, administration became perfunctory. And it all but remained perfunctory when the Dutch government stepped in to bail the VOC out of it’s bad-debt situation. The VOC no longer operational now meant Den Hague was ‘the Company’. And for over a hundred years van Given’s predecessors, more highly motivated by export profits than political concerns, had come to terms with local ruling powers.
Unlike Java, with its many geographical potentates and fickle manor lords that even now posed numerous challenges for the Governor-General and his small army, the Sultanate of Tidore kept an autocratic hold on the peoples of the Maluccas Islands. The farmers and peasants actually revered its power and authority. So, from the standpoint of two powers coming to terms of agreement, the Dutch early on negotiated their position of strength into an alliance with the Sultanate. Successive treaties had even extended the Sultanate’s authority to parts of Netherlands New Guinea, from which it acquired slaves and yearly tribute. Together, the Dutch and the Sultanate shared the collected tribute, while the Dutch purchased all their export spices through Sultanate assessors. In return, the Dutch ousted the Portuguese and substituted their presence, which deterred other would-be malefactors, namely the English, desiring to cash in on the lucrative spice trade.
The Dutch claimed territorial rights as early as 1828 for all lands west of 141 degrees East longitude. This claim, though, wasn’t officially acknowledged by Britain and Germany until 1895 and still it took several more years until Dutch outposts at Manokwari and Fakfak on the South coast were established. Britain and Germany had each laid prior claim to portions of the Eastern half of the New Guinea island.
The Twentieth Century dawned with an excitement that energized the here-to-for Colonial aspirations for market domination. Allowing private trade companies in the colonies had secured renewed interest back in Holland. This coupled with the discovery and production of crude oil by the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company in Sumatra made for a bright future.
Dutch presence in South East Asia had become a lucrative stronghold not to be regarded lightly. Netherlands New Guinea was the Eastern gateway to their spice island profits, which now needed to be guarded more closely. New Guinea was a brilliant jewel in the rough, and van Given along with others purposed to pick up the standard of those who had gone on before, and be the immediate jewel cutter.
Van Given carried his cup and saucer out onto the verandah, leaving the rice cakes on the tray inside. He took a sip of the warm, sweet brew, swished it around inside his mouth, puckered, and then swallowed. Gosh, I’m tired, he thought to himself. As he gazed seaward, toward the bay, he was immediately cognizant that his predecessors had indeed chosen a very comfortable spot up on the hillside to build the estate houses. It was from here the breath-taking view of Dorey Bay was most panoramic. Lemon Island, just a short distance out, rose like a sparkling green emerald with minions of majestic coconut palms standing erect as if they were the Queen’s own guard. A golden-white collar of sand glistening in the late afternoon sunlight accentuated the embroidered patches of clear blue, blue-green, and turquoise waters surrounding.
Clean, golden-white inviting sand. Warm inviting sand. Van Given felt his knees weaken a little; it had been some time since he had taken leave. He needed a reprieve, he needed to rest. This picturesque panorama of sea, sky, green jewel and golden sand signaled a melancholy difficult to avoid. He sat hard into the wooden chair without breaking his gaze, and thought of Troita. Breathing deeply, Leonard filled his lungs and then exhaled ever so slowly. The late afternoon breeze had an aromatic, salty character about it, almost as if he were home in Amsterdam. Amsterdam, his real home so far away. His eyes gently closed.
“Leonard, why did you volunteer for this posting so far from those who love you. Leonard, I love you, don’t you realize that by now?”
He took a long moment to reply, gazing expressionlessly at her flowing satin gown.
“Yes, Troita, and I love you, too. But, eh, I was only contemplating the best for us, eh, our future– you understand, don’t you Troita, my darling? There is so much to consider before we can be together. You understand, don’t you? Tell me you do.”
Tenderly, she reached to touch the side of his masculine jaw, then let her hand fall back into her lap as she looked him square in the eyes.
“I understand that Leonard van Given, the love of my life, is about to flee this stuffy seaport and sail off to only Providence knows what, and I must be content here in Amsterdam without you! Indonesia is so far away, Leonard, why Indonesia?”
“Troita, Troita. You know very well that you are more important to me than my career. But if I am ever to get the posting we both desire here in Holland, I need do this thing. They require my, eh, my administrative expertise to assist the Resident of Ternate. It’s all for the greater economic good of Holland. Plus, my father needs the contacts that I can surely make for his import business. It will only be three years. Suffer, darling, suffer with me that long, won’t you? I promise to return and we’ll be married just as soon as this is over.”
Grasping his hands in hers she replied, “I understand, Leonard. Now, you understand. I love you with all my heart, and I know you must do this thing, as you say for us, if not for the greater good of Holland. I will be content in your absence, I will not cast my honey to another beast. You are a beast, you know!”
Her eyes twinkled as she drew up close to him and he savagely embraced her and kissed her neck.
“And I, too, promise to be faithful, my love. Oh, how I worship you. I love you, Troita,” he whispered.
“Tuan, Tuan fon Gifon?” Sri called from just inside the room, mispronouncing his Dutch name. Van Given drew up startled, opening his eyes he heard her repeat, “Tuan fon Gifon, tamu ada.” At this, van Given stood erect and straightened his collar in preparation to meet his unexpected guest, whoever that might be. Stepping back inside the room, he gave a nod of approval. Sri opened the door and motioned for the stranger to enter.
“Damsma, Tuan, I am Markus Damsma, Head of Building Projects for the Dutch Regency here in Manokwari. Perhaps you have been informed of me?”
“I regret I haven’t been informed of you. Your Dutch is very good, Pak Damsma.” he said, evaluating what might be his descent. Batak? Ambonese? Van Given perceived Damsma’s swarthy complexion was rather lighter than expected. No. He hadn’t been informed of him. He hadn’t even been there a full day! How could he have been informed? There were so many Indonesians in the service of the Crown no one could keep track of them all if he wanted to. Van Given continued, “Where did you learn to speak Dutch so well?”
Damsma hesitated, shuffled his feet and replied, “In Amsterdam, Tuan, I was raised in Amsterdam. I accompanied my father when he returned home. I was eight years old then. He is Dutch, you know, my mother is Ambonese. I use her surname, Tuan.”
“Ah, an Ambonese cross marriage, van Given thought. “Such is more and more common these days. No doubt he knows that some of his countrymen call such offspring anakcamput, the mixed-weed children. That must have been the reason for his embarrassment.”
“No, I didn’t know, but go on, Pak Damsma, what important matter brings us two together during the resting hour?”
“The locals, Tuan, they have made another disturbance, over land issues this time. It seems to be a recurring thing with them, disturbances I mean. Matters never settle completely no matter how hard we try. Assuredly they have been paid, several times paid, but they keep coming back. It is always this one or that one who has been left out and they come and create a disturbance. It is all so very exhausting, these aboriginals and their ways.”
“OK, Pak Damsma, I understand. But could not this matter wait until tomorrow? Must I attend to the matter so late in the afternoon?”
He noticed Damsma straighten up slightly, standing more erect as he drew in a deep breath before speaking.
“Tuan van Given, I would not have bothered you with this except that the local Hattam big-man is leading to incite his people to burn the inland storage building on the far side of town. He claims his father’s brother’s son was not party to the land negotiations and the building is on his inheritance portion. Believe me, Tuan van Given, we have tried everything to satisfy these aboriginals, it just seems so impossible.”
“Very well, Pak Damsma, if you think my presence could help quell this misunderstanding, I will consent to a hearing this evening. Would you please go and inform the Hattam big-man and his people that we will discuss this issue tonight. We shall all gather at the Hall Commons say around 7:30 then? Is such agreeable with you, Pak Damsma? Is there an interpreter here in town?”
“Oh, Yes! Tuan van Given, I am sure they will quiet down upon learning that the Tuan Regent will speak with them tonight. Tuan Ni’ik Gevil is here who can translate, I will inform him. Thank you, Tuan, tonight at 7:30 at the Hall Commons. Thank you, Tuan. Permisi dulu, ya?” he said out of habit in Malay and with that he turned and left the room.
Sri was just bringing more warm tea when she caught sight of Pak Damsma exiting through the door. Van Given waved her away with a word, and stepped back out onto the verandah as he began to think of the way in which he would approach the problem on behalf of the Dutch government.
He thought it best to speak with the Secretary to the Regent and enlist his help before the meeting took place. He now knew of necessity he would dine much later that evening and that seemed to prick him. Van Given had hoped to be able to rest before assuming his Regent duties in a day or so. Now that was out of the question. Sighing, he noticed clouds gathering in the east far out to sea. Gathering clouds could only mean a night of cooling monsoon rain. That resolved, he turned, and retired to his bedroom to bathe and change for the evening ahead.