The Malay Creese

Clark Ashton Smith

"Sahib," said Hir Mohammed, "this weapon has not its equal in all Delhi. From far Singapore it came—from the land of the Malays, and its deeds are well worth relating." The sword-dealer held up the blade for my inspection. It was a long creese, or Malay knife, with a razor edge and a curious boat-shaped handle.

"Yea", continued Hir Mohammed, "strange have been its adventures. I bought it of Sidi Hassan, a Singapore dealer into whose possession it passed at the capture of Sultan Sujah Ali by the British. Hast heard the tale, sahib? No? It runs thus:

"Sujah Ali was a pirate, the younger son of a famous Sultan, who set out to carve for himself a name and an empire. In the space of a few years he became noted throughout the peninsula for the number of his ships, the ferocity of his men, and the quantity of his plunder.

"Sujah was not a common river-pirate. In the days before the coming of the English, his ships ran upon the sea, and were held in fear and respect by every tossing Chinese junk whose square sails loomed above the waters of the Strait.

"From Sengora to Malacca they went, preying upon all ships. And as the years passed, Sujah Ali became bolder, and sent his prahus out into the China sea. Inland, he became a great Sultan, and his dominions extended many leagues. The shadow of his name reached far and lay upon many peoples.

"When the English came, Sujah Ali ceased not, but dispatched more ships to prey upon the Feringhee vessels. In this he succeeded until ships bearing many guns and armed men came and sank his prahus.

"It was a disastrous day for Sujah Ali. When the red sun sank into the sea, fully fifty of his best prahus, and thousands of men, among whom he mourned several of his most noted captains, lay beneath the waters.

"The Feringhees resolved that Sujah Ali must be crushed decisively, sent many boats up the rivers which flowed through his dominions. In numerous hard-fought battles they sank his prahus, and cleared land and water of the infesting pirates.

"Sujah Ali himself they sought in vain. He had fled to a well-nigh inaccessible hiding place—a small village deep in a network of creeks, river and jungle. Here he remained, guarded by his best fighting men and prahus, while the English sought vainly the narrow and winding entrance which was its key.

"His capture came about, as all things come, through a woman. He had allowed his favorite wife, Amina, to accompany him. She loved Sujah Ali, and refused to be left behind.

"Jealousy is one of the most portent factors in life, and its resolution often far-reaching. It was the jealousy of Amina that brought Sujah Ali into the hands of the English.

"In the village where he had sought refuge was a beautiful girl with whom the Sultan chanced to fall in love. She became one of his wives, and exercised such an influence over him that Amina who had hither to considered herself first in his estimation, became jealous.

"As time passed, and she beheld more clearly the Sultan's complete infatuation, her jealousy increased. Among the Malays, Sahib, passion in any form is most violent and intense. Amina's jealousy finally prompted her to leave the village secretly, and seek out the captain of a Feringhee vessel which had been cruising up and down the river for weeks. It is probable that her desire was more for revenge upon her rival than upon Sujah Ali. But who knows the heart of a woman? At any rate, the secret of the Sultan's hiding- place was revealed to one Rankling Sahib, who, at midnight guided by Amina, passed through the network of creeks and jungle, to the village wherein lay Sujah Ali. The crews of two boats landed, in the hours before dawn, and entered the village. The Malays, taken completely by surprise, made little or no resistance. Many awoke only to find themselves confronted by loaded rifles, and surrendered without opposition.

"Sujah Ali, who had lain awake all evening wondering as to the cause of Amina's absence, made a futile attempt at escape. Accompanied by halfa- score of trusted men, he dashed out into the open and was secured only after a hard fight. In this he used his creese. The same which you see before you, with deadly effect. Two Feringhees he stretched dead, and a third he wounded severely.

"Rankling Sahib had given orders that he was to be taken alive if possible. Finally, surrounded on all sides, he was made prisoner, and still glaring defiance at his captors, was in the early morning taken aboard a ship for Singapore.

"This creese, with other weapons, was purchased by Sidi Hassan of that city, and the knife eventually came into my possession."

Editor's Note:
The tale is an early version of "The Malay Krise" (Overland Monthly, October 1910), Smith's first publishesd story. The "creese," or "krise" figures in a number of his tales. "Chercher la femme" is also the crux of the juvenile stories. My guess for this one is about age fourteen, or 1907/8.

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