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Many Thanks to:

Puan Dona Babel for her invaluable help, suggestions and advice.
Dr. Chan Tiang Ho, who found time to help.
Henry Kilah , for naming Liren, and his advice on all things Kayan.
Sian Meschede, for naming Balang, and her advice on all things Iban.
Heidi Munan for being supportive and wonderfully forthright.
Dr. Herbert L. Whittier for being an enthusiastic supporter and friend.
Doreena and Zora, for declaring themselves fans.
Aileen, my sister, inspite of her workload, for editing.
Ken, son-in-law, for being unstinting with his time.
My brothers Pip and Liam, for continued loyal support.
My own family, without whom, Payah would not have found Four Eyes.
Published in Malaysia by Fairy Bird Children’s Books Sdn. Bhd. 2006

Text Copyright © Margaret H. L. Lim 2006

Illustrations © Su Jen Buchheim 2006
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to persons, living or dead,
is purely coincidental.

All rights reserved.

No part of the contents of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted,
in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise,
without prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of
binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including
this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia, Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

Lim, Margaret H. L.
Four eyes / Margaret H. L. Lim ; with illustration by Su Jen Buchheim.
ISBN 983-42638-1-3
1. Children’s stories, English. 2. English fiction. I. Su Jen Buchheim.
II. Title.

Cover and Book Illustrations by Su Jen Buchheim

Cover and Book Design by Kenneth Choi
Production Manager Ken Murayama

Printed and Bound by Wisma Printing, Kuching

Wisma Printing Sdn Bhd
P.O.Box A523, Kenyalang Park
93810 Kuching, Sarawak
Tel: +6082-338131 Fax: +6082-333002

Fairy Bird Children’s Books Sdn. Bhd. (691175-H)

Riverbank Suites, Unit # 1005
Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman
93100 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia.

Margaret H. L. Lim

with illustrations by

Su Jen Buchheim

Payahopened her eyes that were not only still sticky with sleep,
but also swollen from much crying the night before. The clattering,
banging and clanking of pots and pans had rudely awakened her.
Throughout the longhouse, the women in each amin were cooking
the first meal of the day.

She sighed, and was just about to kick off her light blanket when
she remembered that today was not a school day. Normally, the
very thought of not having to get up for school brought endless
pleasure. But today, she could not sigh contentedly as usual and
snuggle blissfully down for another round of sleep. Instead, she
rolled over on her sleeping mat which lay on the springy slatted
floor and, squeezing her eyes tightly shut, buried her face in her
pillow with a great sob. Her heart was broken.

She tried to shut out the image of a frightened Sammy, whimpering

and straining against the bars of a cage, and Kenyi, cawing and
flapping helplessly in another, being loaded into a boat that was
to take them on the first stage of a long journey to the Semenggoh
Rehabilitation Centre. She had always dreaded this day, which
was yesterday.

Sammy, the baby orang utan, and Kenyi, the kenyalang, her beloved
playmates, were to be ‘rehabilitated’ — an ominous word. It
sounded as if they were delinquents to be taught good behaviour.
All it meant was that they had to forget their attachment to Payah

by learning to be with their own kind and to take care of
themselves. But they were learning all that in a place far, far away
where she could not know if they were happy or not. Tears
dampened her pillow. She continued to sob her heart out until,
exhausted by emotion, she was just about to doze off, when a
nerve-tingling wail rose above all the other noise.


It jolted Payah wide awake. It set all the dogs howling. It stopped
all other early morning human activities and even silenced the
crowing cocks.

Then feet pounded on the floor and the longhouse shook. Payah
was practically bounced off her sleeping mat. She flung her
blanket aside and hurried to join the stampede out in the open.

A crowd had already gathered around the source of this rending

cry. Payah followed the younger children who pushed and
squeezed their way to the front.

Uku Nyalo, Payah’s great aunt, was right at the centre of the

She was wailing and flailing her arms about her, while everyone
gaped, all agog with curiosity. The younger children stared,
round-eyed and open-mouthed. The older ones, after at first
gawping in amazement, slowly began to titter.
At this, Uku Nyalo suddenly became aware of the crowd. She
stopped wailing and whirled around at the giggling teens. Wild-
eyed, she pointed an accusing finger at them, her voice shrill
with fury.

“You did it! You did it! You did it purposely!”

The giggling stopped and mouths fell open.

“All of you! Purposely! Just to annoy me!”

“Stop ranting, Uku Nyalo! Talk sense!” boomed the Headman, the
maren uma. “What’s the matter?”

“Look!” screamed Uku Nyalo, pointing at her papaya tree. “Look!

Just look! My fruit is gone! Stolen! By these wicked children!”

It was a truly magnificent fruit, as long as your arm. A golden hue

was just beginning to creep over the emerald green. It would be
worth half a dozen layer-chicks at the market in Belaga. But it had
come to mean something more than that to Uku Nyalo. She had
watched over it anxiously as it grew bigger and rounder each day.
She had watched proudly over it as if it were her child.

The children were now all subdued. They shifted nervously about
and looked embarrassed.

“All right!” roared the maren uma. “This is where the joke ends! Go
and get the papaya and give it back to Uku Nyalo and apologise.”

The children looked at one another, bewildered. They shook their


“Liars!” screeched Uku Nyalo, who was now beside herself with
rage. “Thieves, thieves!”

“Last chance! Return Uku Nyalo her papaya!” ordered the maren
uma. No one made a move. “That’s it! The prankster can be sure of
a thrashing when I catch him,” he threatened.

The rest of the day, Uku Nyalo hovered around like a bad
conscience, her eyes baleful and accusing. The children were
sullen. The adults were resentful that their children were being
suspected of thieving. A pall of gloom hung over the longhouse.

Payah often wondered how two sisters could be so different. Uku

Nyalo, her great aunt, seemed to be constantly picking quarrels
with everyone, unlike her grandmother, who was patient and
good humoured. The longhouse folk, however, had got used to
her prickly ways. They put up with her resignedly, as one would
with an itch.

“Why is Uku Nyalo always so angry?” Payah asked her
grandmother, as she watched her great aunt going about her
chores grim-faced, lips tautly stretched into a thin line.

Uku was silent for quite a while.

“Yes, why?” Payah’s sister, Liren, home after a nursing course in

London, looked inquiringly at Uku.

“She was beautiful,” began Uku, with a faraway look in her eyes.
She seemed to be gazing into the distance, but was actually
looking far back into the past. The girls waited patiently. “Liren
looks just like her at that age.”

Payah turned around and looked at her sister, trying to imagine

Uku Nyalo young and beautiful.

“She is not angry. She is unhappy,” continued Uku. “It is a sad


“Tell!” urged both girls.

“Tell!” they demanded, as Uku shook her head sorrowfully. “Tell!”

Pressed, Uku recounted the bygone story of her youngest sister,

Nyalo, and Balang, whom she met at a dancing competition in
Kanowit. Nyalo was one of many maidens performing the
intricate Hornbill Dance. She was the loveliest, the most graceful,

a fan of hornbill feathers in each hand fluttering delicately, as she
turned and twirled to the rhythm of the sapé.

“She looked so enchanting, with that secret smile,” recalled Uku,

her eyes lighting up at the memory of a smile that trembled shyly
on her sister’s lips.

“What’s a secret smile?” asked Payah, frowning with the effort of

trying to imagine Uku Nyalo not only young and graceful, but
also smiling secretly.

“A Mona Lisa smile,” answered Liren knowingly. She tried,

without much success, to imitate that famous smile.

Balang also found Nyalo enchanting. Flickering lights from the oil
lamps shone like stars in her eyes, making her look mysterious,
like the goddess, Bungan Malan.

Balang was a handsome young Iban from Kanowit, vibrant with

life. Uku smiled at the memory. He was dancing the ngajat
bebunoh, a warrior’s dance, to the rousing beat of gongs, a
splendid war shield in one hand, and in the other, a parang,
gleaming wickedly. His muscles rippled and the feathers of his
head-dress quivered as he stalked his phantom enemy. Then, with
a spine-chilling whoop, he swooped in for the kill, springing and
slashing. He danced with such concentration and intensity, that
his audience went wild. They cheered and roared their approval.

But he was dancing only for Nyalo. And Nyalo’s heart had
fluttered like the hornbill feathers in her hands when he declared
his love for her that enchanted evening.

Nyalo’s woes, however, were just beginning. Her parents did not
approve of Balang, who was not of the Kayan tribe. Nyalo herself,
who had very high expectations, was very quickly disappointed
in the early days of their marriage. Balang did not want to put on
a white shirt with a stiff collar and sit in an office. He loved life
out in the open. He fished, he hunted, he reared fighting cocks.
These were the pride of his life. Then misfortune struck.

His perahu capsized in the Pelagus Rapids as he was coming back

one day from a cockfight in Kapit. He was drowned and all his
fighting cocks with him. Nyalo was left with only bitterness in her
heart, no children to give her love to, none to share her sorrow
with. Uku heaved an enormous sigh, her eyes bright with tears of
sadness. The girls fell thoughtfully silent.

When a cob of jagong went missing the next day, there was another
outcry. How like Uku Nyalo to notice the disappearance of a cob
of corn from among so many cobs!

But when a mango with the first flush of ripeness upon it

disappeared the day after, followed by a pomelo the very next
morning, and then hardly a day later, a nangka, everyone was sure
that it could not be the work of someone from the longhouse.

None would dare go that far to provoke the fury of Uku Nyalo.
Maybe it was not even a human person!

Soon there were murmurs that evil spirits were teasing Uku
Nyalo. That sent cold shivers down the spine of the children. The
older children made matters worse by shouting “HANTU!
HANTU!” at every opportunity, panicking the little ones. They
were so scared that they refused to go to sleep even though a dim
light burnt in each amin and their parents were nearby.

It grew so bad that the maren uma ordered everyone out of the
longhouse one evening as dusk set in. He made the children

weave in and out of the dark rooms of their own amin, and down
the whole length of the longhouse.

“Did you see them? The hantus? Where are they? The hantus?” he
thundered. They were more afraid of him after that, than of the

That night, Payah woke up with a start and stared fearfully into
the semi-darkness. There was no other sound except Uku’s
occasional snore and the gentle breathing of her brother on the
other side of Uku.

Still, something had awakened her. She wriggled out of her blanket,
being careful not to disturb her grandmother. She crept slowly out
of their amin, her heart thudding loud enough, it seemed, to wake
Uku, but her grandmother did not stir. She made her way
stealthily across the communal verandah to where the hunting
dogs slept. She expected barking, but the dogs were not there.

She moved warily towards the stairs and felt her way carefully
down the notched steps of the log that led to the ground. At the
bottom, she heard snuffles and snorts, and peered uneasily into
the darkness. Beneath the stairs, around a sturdy post that
supported the longhouse, was a clump of bushes Payah could not
remember having seen before. There was a sneeze. Payah froze,
her heart in her mouth.

Then the moon came out from behind the clouds and revealed the
bushes as a cluster of dogs. It was odd that they were not barking.
She caught a glint amidst the pack of dogs. There was a stranger
among them.

A figure rose up out of the huddled group. Payah stifled a scream.

The figure was a whole head shorter than herself. It was a small
boy. His eyes shone strangely, but that was because he was
wearing spectacles, held up with rubber bands knotted at the back
of his head. The big, black square frame meant for an adult, was
too big for him.

He was leisurely munching on a cob of corn.

“Oh,” said Payah, slowly letting out her breath. “Oh. So you are
the one who is causing all the trouble.”

The boy grinned. He settled himself down once more among the
dogs, tickling the stomach of one and scratching the ear of another.

“Who are you?”

“Four Eyes.” He flashed a smile and went on nibbling.

He could not be more than six years old, small for his age, light-
skinned, a Penan, concluded Payah. His hair had not been cut for
some time, and the fringe had grown past his eyebrows; at the
back, his hair reached down beyond his waist. He wore a pair of
draw-string shorts that were once blue.

Payah stared at him. His people were hunters and gatherers,

unlike the Kayans, who farmed. They lived in simple shelters in
the shades of tall trees deep in the rainforest. They were shy, but
fearless. Four Eyes was apparently fearless, but not shy.

“I’ve run away,” he said matter-of-factly. After much prodding,

Payah learned that he was an orphan and had been placed in a
family of resettled Penans. Because of his spectacles, which gave
an impression of him having an extra pair of eyes, he was named
Four Eyes.

“You must go back.”


“Come with me.”


Here was a problem, and a big one. If she left him to his own, he
would continue to help himself to Uku Nyalo’s fruits, and life in
the longhouse would continue to be one long misery under her
accusing stare. If she were to expose him as the thief, he would not
only be soundly thrashed by the maren uma, but would also get a
thorough lashing from her great aunt’s acid tongue. After that,
they would hand him over to the policeman in Belaga, who would
then send him to prison in Sibu, a fate, she had been assured, that
awaited all those who misbehaved. Her heart reached out to him.
She could not betray one so friendless and so brave.

“Look,” she said decisively, “don’t come here any more and make
trouble. I’ll bring you some food after school, if you’ll tell me
where I can find you.” She would share her lunch with him and
somehow work out a solution for his future.

Four Eyes had made himself a snug shelter in the hollow trunk of
a tree that had been struck and charred by lightning. It stood near
an off-beaten track close to Payah’s hide-out, a marvellous sun-lit
clearing, which all her friends avoided. It was deemed too
dangerous a place because a ghostly white crocodile supposedly
lurked in the stream that flowed by. Here, they could meet safely.

After school, Payah carefully wrapped up the generous portion of

rice, that had been set aside for her, in a handkerchief. She
spooned the vegetable and meat accompaniments into two soap
boxes, making sure that the drip-holes were on top. She called out
gaily to her grandmother that she was going to have a picnic by
the river.

Four Eyes ate hungrily. He also gobbled up Payah’s share as well.

She did not mind. Dinner would be awaiting her. Afterwards,
Four Eyes, shrieking wildly, swung from a low-hanging branch
and let himself fall into the stream with a great splash. Payah
squealed with merriment at his antics. He did that countless times
until it palled.

Then they played tag, in and out of the sun-dappled shade, with
Payah chasing a gleefully-screaming Four Eyes who escaped her
grasp by jumping into the stream. When she tried to block his way
out, he splashed her with water, making her back away, and then
scrambled past her as fast as his little legs took him. He was so
elusive that Payah could not catch him.

While they rested to catch their breath, clouds of butterflies

descended on them, sucking the moisture from Four Eyes’ wet
body, and tickling Payah, who laughed delightedly. The lightest of

breeze in the tree tops sent speckled lights chasing each other
across the clearing floor. They danced and played on the bodies of
the two children, and spotlighted the butterflies that swirled in a
dance of their own.

They whiled away the time contentedly, watching with

fascination, as kingfishers, visible only as lightning flashes of red
and blue, plunged into the shimmering stream and rose again.
Payah had never felt so happy in all the eight years of her life. She
had no doubt Four Eyes, who was gently flicking away a butterfly
that had settled on the tip of his nose, felt the same.

Three carefree, golden, fun-filled afternoons later, as Payah neared
her sun-drenched hideaway, she heard the yelping of a puppy. At
her approach, it rushed at her and barred her way.

“Yip! Yip! Yip, yip, yip!” It barked at her ferociously, its little tail as
stiff as its hackles.

Payah was dismayed. Four Eyes had taken one of the puppies
from the longhouse! She was thankful that it was not the maren
uma’s favourite hunting dog. No one would miss a puppy, which
was a consolation. It then dawned on her that she would have to
feed it too!

“You can’t keep it!” she said indignantly. “I’m taking it back!”

“NO! He wants to stay with me!” His eyes behind those black-
framed glasses blazed, his chin jutted out and the corners of his
mouth turned down. Her baby brother had that same stubborn
look if his will was crossed.

It was all too clear to Payah that she would have to part with a
portion of her dinner, now that there was an extra mouth to feed.
But how was she to go about surreptitiously setting aside enough
food for the dog, with her family around, and without arousing
their suspicion! Wild thoughts rushed through her head.

She could do the dishes in the evening to save every scrap she
could find. She could let Usun, her best friend, in on her secret
and beg her for leftovers. She quickly discarded this thought.
Usun was chicken-hearted and would give the whole game away,
which would be the end of Four Eyes.

The sound of eggshells cracking shook her out of her reverie.

“Where did you get them from?” inquired Payah, in a tone full of
consternation, as she watched Four Eyes popping a hard-boiled
egg into his mouth. The puppy was panting expectantly and also
closely watching Four-Eyes, who was carefully picking bits of
shell from another egg.

“Found them,” he mumbled with his mouth full, pointing vaguely

in the direction where the medicine-woman’s dwelling stood,

close to the path that led to Payah’s hide-out. This was another
reason why the other children never came here. They were too
afraid of the bomoh and her ubat.

“What!” cried Payah, horrified. “You took from her bedera, the
spirit plate! Don’t you know what that means?”

They would now not only have to deal with the combined wrath
of Uku Nyalo and the maren uma, but also with the bomoh and a
host of hungry, furious spirits. This was the worst predicament of
her young life!

She left Four Eyes to share her lunch with the puppy. She was too
annoyed with him to stay and play with both of them. She had a
lot of thinking to do, and her head was already in a whirl!

She had another fright later that afternoon.

“My poor Soh,” remarked her grandmother, eyeing her worriedly.
“You look peaky. You seem to have lost weight although you eat
a lot.”

“It’s the heat, Uku,” Payah hurried to answer, her heart skipping a
beat. She hoped her grandmother would not ask too many
piercing questions.

“Worms,” cut in her great aunt, with a sniff. She was sitting nearby,
fanning herself with a piece of cardboard that had gone quite limp
with the sweat from her palm. Alarmed, her grandmother hastily
went in search of castor oil, which fortunately had been used up
to de-worm the cats.

Uku Nyalo continued to whip the air about her, trying to work up
a cooling breeze. The day had grown unusually hot. The heat was
stifling, the air oven-baked and unbreathable. Trees and plants
wilted. People drooped, and the hunting dogs, tongues lolling,
panted loudly in an effort to stay cool. There had been no rain for
some time and the earth was cracked. Payah wished the cracks
would open up wide enough to swallow her great aunt and Four
Eyes, who was becoming quite a nuisance. She was, however,
immediately ashamed of her uncharitable thoughts.

She could not turn to her parents or to the maren uma for help,
even if she had wanted to, for they, like all the other able-bodied
men and women, had gone to the outlying padi farms to bring in

the harvest. Besides, most of these farms were a day’s journey
away by boat.

It was also too late to confide in her grandmother, who would not
scold because she loved Payah too much. She would only look
sorrowful, which was even worse, because that would make
Payah feel all the more guilty. Being law-abiding, her Uku would
probably say that the policeman down in Belaga would know best
what to do with Four Eyes, even if she felt sorry for the friendless
orphan. Payah felt utterly miserable.

A sudden thought struck her. Ben! Of course, Ben Laing, the forest
ranger! Why had she not thought of him before? He had taken
good care of the tiny baby mouse deer she had rescued. He would
understand once she had explained Four Eyes’ situation to him,
and everything would turn out alright. She fretted no longer.

Black clouds were gathering as Payah hurried in search of Ben.
Gusts of wind sent branches of trees swaying menacingly, and
hurled dust into her eyes. She found Ben stacking chopped wood
against a wall.

“Hey,” called Ben, casting an anxious look at the darkening sky in

which clouds were tumbling violently. “You should be indoors!
There’s a storm brewing, and it’s going to be an ugly one.”

“Ben,” began Payah. She was interrupted by a shout.

“PAYAH! PAYAH! You’re to come home at once! PAYAH! “ It was

her sister, Liren, who had come to fetch her, for Uku had seen her
steal away and was fraught with worry.

“Ben!” cried Payah again, but there was no reply.

Ben was staring over her head. When he finally responded, Payah
thought she heard him utter something that sounded like
“ooomph” and “wow.” Before she could say another word, her
sister had grabbed her by the hand and was dragging her off.

Payah looked back helplessly. She saw Ben standing there with his
mouth hanging half-open, a glazed look in his eyes which seemed
to be popping out of his head. He looked silly. Her friend, Ben,
was just like any other grown-up. He would probably also say
Four Eyes must go back to his foster parents.

The storm broke with a fury, lashing at the trees and sending
weakened branches crashing down. The longhouse swayed,
buffeted this way and that by winds that hit with slamming force.
Payah cowered with her pillow over her head, for the thunder,
that immediately followed the blinding flash of light, was
petrifying. It was like a monster, roaring and growling, and
stomping about with such frenzied rage that the ground shook.

Payah trembled with fear, not only for herself, but also for Four
Eyes. She was warm and dry and safe. Four Eyes had only a
pitiful little hollow in a tree as his shelter, a tree that had once
been struck by lightning and could be struck again.

The storm raged into the night. Slowly, monster thunder lumbered
off, rumbling and grumbling into the distance, taking with it those
terrifying prongs of searing lights, and looking for new grounds
to ravage.

Morning came, but a curtain of water hid the new day.

The day wore heavily on, and water continued to cascade over the
eaves. Later in the afternoon, it sounded as if the wild drumming
on the roof had given way to a mere pitter-patter. Payah was now
so weary with waiting for the rain to ease, and so filled with dread
for Four Eyes, that she decided to throw caution to the winds. She
sneaked out unobserved.

She was drenched to the skin immediately. The path was slithery.
She slipped and fell and stubbed her bare toes. Tears ran down
her face and mingled with the raindrops. Mud got into her eyes
when she tried to wipe them. When she came near the hollow
tree, she shouted his name. There was no answer. Her heart gave a
painful lurch.

With a sinking feeling, she peered into the dim interior of his
shelter. Four Eyes was lying curled up in the damp, the puppy
beside him licking his face and whining. He was moaning and his
breath came in rasps. Payah touched him. He was hot with fever.
He needed help. She had to get Ben. She had no other choice.

It seemed such a long way to Ben’s ranger station. She kept on

tripping over roots, and if the ground had not been softened by so
much water, she would have been covered in bruises. She was
sobbing and her teeth were chattering when she arrived, so that
she could not call out. She took a piece of wood and banged it
desperately on his door. She hoped that he was there.

His door opened with such suddenness that Payah almost

toppled in.

“What’s going on?” Ben’s voice was full of alarm. “Come in!”

“No. No time. Come with me, Ben, please come with me,” pleaded
Payah. “You’ve got to help Four Eyes.”


“Maybe he’s dead now,” wailed Payah. “And it’s all my fault.”

The stricken look on Payah’s face decided Ben. Without another

word, he followed Payah, who stumbled off ahead of him, fear
lending her speed.

“For Heaven’s sake!” exclaimed Ben, as he saw Four Eyes curled

up in his damp shelter. “You’d better start explaining, and it had
better be good.”

Ben examined Four Eyes urgently and scooped him up.

“He won’t die, will he, Ben? Oh, don’t let him die.”

All along the way to her longhouse, he listened with disbelief as

Payah, clutching the puppy tightly in her arms, trotted beside him
and sobbed out the whole story.

“The authorities should have been informed immediately!” said

Ben sternly. “They would have seen to it that he got back safely to
his foster parents.”

“There! I knew it! I knew you’d say that. He would only run away
again. I know!”

“They’ll just have to take him back again!”

“What if he keeps on running away?” retorted Payah.

“Then he’ll have to go to a home for disobedient boys!”

“To be re-ha-bi-li-ta-ted?” stormed Payah, fiercely glaring at Ben.

She was back in fighting form. “Like Sammy and Kenyi?”

“Look, this isn’t the right time to start a quarrel,” said Ben,
exasperated. “Let us get Four Eyes to your longhouse first.”

“He mustn’t die. Ben, oh, Ben. He mustn’t die.” Payah was
contrite once more.

On their arrival at Payah’s longhouse, a crowd quickly flocked

around them, clucking over Four Eyes like a brood of hens.

“Ah-doh!” cried Uku Nyalo as she caught sight of the shivering

bundle of misery in Ben’s arms. “Ah, the poor thing!”

She quickly took charge. She sent Uku out into the still pouring
rain, to the medicine woman, for a potion to settle his fever. She
boiled up hot water and, ignoring his feeble protests, scrubbed
Four Eyes down vigorously. Then she wrapped him up warmly
and packed him off to bed. She also scrubbed down his puppy,
but drew a line at letting it stay beside him. It was banished to the
far end of the verandah where the hunting dogs were, and there it
remained whining softly.

Payah hung around disconsolately in her sodden, mud-stained

clothes, full of dread. She looked around for Ben. He was talking
to her sister, Liren, probably about how naughty she was, to keep
Four Eyes in hiding. She was now shivering with cold herself and
covered in goose pimples.

Payah gave a start. It was her Uku, who had just emerged from
her sister’s amin. Her voice was full of concern, but it was concern
for Payah.

“My Soh, we must get you out of your wet clothes before you
catch your death of cold. Your little friend will survive. Uku Nyalo
says there is nothing wrong with him that cannot be put right
with a warm meal and a roof over his head.”

A crushing load seemed to slide off Payah’s shoulders, leaving her

feeling strangely light-headed and wanting to laugh and cry at the
same time. She clutched the hand that her Uku held out to her
with both her own.

There was just one thing, which was still niggling at her
conscience, that she had to get off her chest. She gulped, and said
in a rush:

“Uku, I’m sorry I did not tell you about Four Eyes. He is the one
who took Uku Nyalo’s fruits. He has also run away from his foster
parents. I hid him because I was sorry for him. I am very sorry.”

“My Soh, I guessed as much. Ben has given us the full details.
What you did was wrong, very wrong,” reprimanded Uku with a
rueful shake of her head. “However, you meant well, so we will
say nothing more of it. Uku Nyalo is, naturally, not very pleased.”
“Will she punish him?” asked Payah anxiously. Her grandmother
possessed a heart that was kind and generous, but her implacable
great aunt, she feared, seemed to have none at all.

“I think Uku Nyalo understands that he is too young to know that

stealing is wrong. Besides, among his people, such a word does
not exist. What they need, they take from the rain forest. What
they have, they share among themselves.”

“Uku, will the policeman come and take him back to his foster

“Ben will inform the proper authorities first. That always takes
time. In the meantime, Uku Nyalo has agreed to look after him.”
Uku patted Payah fondly on the cheek. “Well, my Soh, does that
meet with your approval?” she asked teasingly. She turned Payah
gently around. “Look.”

Through the doorway of Uku Nyalo’s amin, grandmother and

granddaughter watched as Uku Nyalo fussed over Four Eyes,
straightening a fold in his blanket here, tweaking at another there.
A soft smile played on Uku’s lips while Payah stared in
astonishment at her great aunt. She had never seen this gentle side
of Uku Nyalo before. Hope fluttered in her breast that Four Eyes
would be allowed to stay in her longhouse. Hope became
conviction as she watched Uku Nyalo place her hand lightly on

Four Eyes’ brow, murmuring soothingly at the same time. Payah
could only marvel at the sight.

“Uku, don’t you think it would be a good idea if Uku Nyalo

continues to look after Four Eyes? Maybe she will forget to be angry.”

“Ah, there is much sense in what you say, my Soh. Yes, she can be
happy again.”

“Are you going to tell her that, Uku?”

“Soh, I don’t think Uku Nyalo likes to be told what’s good for her.
She has a mind of her own, and so have you!” chided Uku gently.
Her eyes twinkled. “You are more like her than you think!”

Payah’s brow furrowed. She was not sure if she liked the
comparison, but she was not going to argue about it just now with
her Uku , who was indisputably the best Uku in the world. She
had other more pressing needs.

“What’s for dinner, Uku?” asked Payah enthusiastically.

Grasping her Uku’s hand firmly in her own, and with feet that
seemed to be treading on air, Payah skipped in the direction of
their own amin. While her grandmother protested breathlessly at
the pace Payah was setting, a buoyant Payah, as irrepressible as
ever, bubbled over with plans for Four Eyes’ future.

Amin (Kayan) living quarters of each family in a longhouse
Bahasa Malaysia national language of Malaysia
Bedera (Kayan) `spirit plate´; food is laid out on a plate to placate the Spirits.
Bomoh (Bahasa Malaysia) medicine man/woman
Hantu (Bahasa Malaysia) spirits/ghosts
Ibans the largest indigenous group in Sarawak
Jagong (Bahasa Malaysia) corn, maize
Kayans an indigenous group found mainly in the upper reaches of the
Baram and Rajang
Kenyalang (Iban) hornbill
Maren Uma (Kayan) headman of a longhouse
Nangka (Bahasa Malaysia) jackfruit
Ngajat Bebunoh Iban war dance
Orang Ulu (Bahasa Malaysia) people who live in the upper reaches of rivers in Sarawak
Orang Utan (Bahasa Malaysia) `forest person´, long-haired primate found only in Borneo
Padi (Bahasa Malaysia) rice plant
Parang (Bahasa Malaysia) sword
Penans nomadic indigenous group living deep in the heart of the
Perahu (Bahasa Malaysia) boat
Pomelo grapefruit
Sapé Kayan string instrument
Soh (Kayan) grandchild
Ubat (Bahasa Malaysia) medicine, magic spells
Uku (Kayan) grandmother/great aunt