(MACASSAR, SEPTEMBER TO NOVEMBER, 1856.)
I LEFT Lombock on the 30th of August, and reached Macassar in three days. It was with great satisfaction that I stepped on a shore which I had been vainly trying to reach since February, and where I expected to meet with so much that was new and interesting.
The coast of this part of Celebes is low and flat, lined with trees and villages so as to conceal the interior, except at occasional openings which show a wide extent of care and marshy rice-fields. A few hills of no great height were visible in the background; but owing to the perpetual haze over the land at this time of the year, I could nowhere discern the high central range of the peninsula, or the celebrated peak of Bontyne at its southern extremity. In the roadstead of Macassar there was a fine 42-gun frigate, the guardship of the place, as well as a small war steamer and three or four little cutters used for cruising after the pirates which infest these seas. There were also a few square-rigged trading-vessels, and twenty or thirty native praus of various sizes. I brought letters of introduction to a Dutch gentleman, Mr. Mesman, and also to a Danish shopkeeper, who could both speak English and who promised to assist me in finding a place to stay, suitable for my pursuits. In the meantime, I went to a kind of clubhouse, in default of any hotel in the place.
Macassar was the first Dutch town I had visited, and I found it prettier and cleaner than any I had yet seen in the East. The Dutch have some admirable local regulations. All European houses must be kept well white-washed, and every person must, at four in the afternoon, water the road in front of his house. The streets are kept clear of refuse, and covered drains carry away all impurities into large open sewers, into which the tide is admitted at high-water and allowed to flow out when it has ebbed, carrying all the sewage with it into the sea. The town consists chiefly of one long narrow street along the seaside, devoted to business, and principally occupied by the Dutch and Chinese merchants’ offices and warehouses, and the native shops or bazaars. This extends northwards for more than a mile, gradually merging into native houses often of a most miserable description, but made to have a neat appearance by being all built up exactly to the straight line of the street, and being generally backed by fruit trees. This street is usually thronged with a native population of Bugis and Macassar men, who wear cotton trousers about twelve inches long, covering only from the hip to half-way down the thigh, and the universal Malay sarong, of gay checked colours, worn around the waist or across the shoulders in a variety of ways. Parallel to this street run two short ones which form the old Dutch town, and are enclosed by gates. These consist of private houses, and at their southern end is the fort, the church, and a road at right angles to the beach, containing the houses of the Governor and of the principal officials. Beyond the fort, again along the beach, is another long street of native huts and many country-houses of the tradesmen and merchants. All around extend the flat rice-fields, now bare and dry and forbidding, covered with dusty stubble and weeds. A few months back these were a mass of verdure, and their barren appearance at this season offered a striking contrast to the perpetual crops on the same kind of country in Lombock and Bali, where the seasons are exactly similar, but where an elaborate system of irrigation produces the effect of a perpetual spring.
The day after my arrival I paid a visit of ceremony to the Governor, accompanied by my friend the Danish merchant, who spoke excellent English. His Excellency was very polite, and offered me every facility for travelling about the country and prosecuting my researches in natural history. We conversed in French, which all Dutch officials speak very well.
Finding it very inconvenient and expensive to stay in the town, I removed at the end of a week to a little bamboo house, kindly offered me by Mr. Mesman. It was situated about two miles away, on a small coffee plantation and farm, and about a mile beyond Mr. M.‘s own country-house. It consisted of two rooms raised about seven feet above the ground, the lower part being partly open (and serving excellently to skin birds in) and partly used as a granary for rice. There was a kitchen and other outhouses, and several cottages nearby, occupied by men in Mr. M.‘s employ.
After being settled a few days in my new house, I found that no collections could be made without going much further into the country. The rice-fields for some miles around resembled English stubbles late in autumn, and were almost as unproductive of bird or insect life. There were several native villages scattered about, so embosomed in fruit trees that at a distance they looked like clumps or patches of forest. These were my only collecting places; but they produced a very limited number of species, and were soon exhausted. Before I could move to any more promising district it was necessary to obtain permission from the Rajah of Goa, whose territories approach to within two miles of the town of Macassar. I therefore presented myself at the Governor’s office and requested a letter to the Rajah, to claim his protection, and permission to travel in his territories whenever I might wish to do so. This was immediately granted, and a special messenger was sent with me to carry the letter.
My friend Mr. Mesman kindly lent me a horse, and accompanied me on my visit to the Rajah, with whom he was great friends. We found his Majesty seated out of doors, watching the erection of a new house. He was naked from the waist up, wearing only the usual short trousers and sarong. Two chairs were brought out for us, but all the chiefs and other natives were seated on the ground. The messenger, squatting down at the Rajah’s feet, produced the letter, which was sewn up in a covering of yellow silk. It was handed to one of the chief officers, who ripped it open and returned it to the Rajah, who read it, and then showed it to Mr. M., who both speaks and reads the Macassar language fluently, and who explained fully what I required. Permission was immediately granted me to go where I liked in the territories of Goa, but the Rajah desired, that should I wish to stay any time at a place I would first give him notice, in order that he might send someone to see that no injury was done me. Some wine was then brought us, and afterwards some detestable coffee and wretched sweetmeats, for it is a fact that I have never tasted good coffee where people grow it themselves.
Although this was the height of the dry season, and there was a fine wind all day, it was by no means a healthy time of year. My boy Ali had hardly been a day on shore when he was attacked by fever, which put me to great inconvenience, as at the house where I was staying, nothing could be obtained but at mealtime. After having cured Ali, and with much difficulty got another servant to cook for me, I was no sooner settled at my country abode than the latter was attacked with the same disease; and, having a wife in the town, left me. Hardly was he gone than I fell ill myself with strong intermittent fever every other day. In about a week I got over it, by a liberal use of quinine, when scarcely was I on my legs than Ali again became worse than ever. Ali’s fever attacked him daily, but early in the morning he was pretty well, and then managed to cook enough for me for the day. In a week I cured him, and also succeeded in getting another boy who could cook and shoot, and had no objection to go into the interior. His name was Baderoon, and as he was unmarried and had been used to a roving life, having been several voyages to North Australia to catch trepang or “beche de mer”, I was in hopes of being able to keep him. I also got hold of a little impudent rascal of twelve or fourteen, who could speak some Malay, to carry my gun or insect-net and make himself generally useful. Ali had by this time become a pretty good bird-skinner, so that I was fairly supplied with servants.
I made many excursions into the country, in search of a good station for collecting birds and insects. Some of the villages a few miles inland are scattered about in woody ground which has once been virgin forest, but of which the constituent trees have been for the most part replaced by fruit trees, and particularly by the large palm, Arenga saccharifera, from which wine and sugar are made, and which also produces a coarse black fibre used for cordage. That necessary of life, the bamboo, has also been abundantly planted. In such places I found a good many birds, among which were the fine cream-coloured pigeon, Carpophaga luctuosa, and the rare blue-headed roller, Coracias temmincki, which has a most discordant voice, and generally goes in pairs, flying from tree to tree, and exhibiting while at rest that all-ina-heap appearance and jerking motion of the head and tail which are so characteristic of the great Fissirostral group to which it belongs. From this habit alone, the kingfishers, bee-eaters, rollers, trogons, and South American puff-birds, might be grouped together by a person who had observed them in a state of nature, but who had never had an opportunity of examining their form and structure in detail. Thousands of crows, rather smaller than our rook, keep up a constant cawing in these plantations; the curious wood-swallows (Artami), which closely resemble swallows in their habits and flight but differ much in form and structure, twitter from the tree-tops; while a lyre-tailed drongo-shrike, with brilliant black plumage and milk-white eyes, continually deceives the naturalist by the variety of its unmelodious notes.
In the more shady parts butterflies were tolerably abundant; the most common being species of Euplaea and Danais, which frequent gardens and shrubberies, and owing to their weak flight are easily captured. A beautiful pale blue and black butterfly, which flutters along near the ground among the thickets, and settles occasionally upon flowers, was one of the most striking; and scarcely less so, was one with a rich orange band on a blackish ground — these both belong to the Pieridae, the group that contains our common white butterflies, although differing so much from them in appearance. Both were quite new to European naturalists. [The former has been named Eronia tritaea; the latter Tachyris ithonae.] Now and then I extended my walks some miles further, to the only patch of true forest I could find, accompanied by my two boys with guns and insect-net. We used to start early, taking our breakfast with us, and eating it wherever we could find shade and water. At such times my Macassar boys would put a minute fragment of rice and meat or fish on a leaf, and lay it on a stone or stump as an offering to the deity of the spot; for though nominal Mahometans the Macassar people retain many pagan superstitions, and are but lax in their religious observances. Pork, it is true, they hold in abhorrence, but will not refuse wine when offered them, and consume immense quantities of “sagueir,” or palm-wine, which is about as intoxicating as ordinary beer or cider. When well made it is a very refreshing drink, and we often took a draught at some of the little sheds dignified by the name of bazaars, which are scattered about the country wherever there is any traffic.
One day Mr. Mesman told me of a larger piece of forest where he sometimes went to shoot deer, but he assured me it was much further off, and that there were no birds. However, I resolved to explore it, and the next morning at five o’clock we started, carrying our breakfast and some other provisions with us, and intending to stay the night at a house on the borders of the wood. To my surprise two hours’ hard walking brought us to this house, where we obtained permission to pass the night. We then walked on, Ali and Baderoon with a gun each, Paso carrying our provisions and my insect-box, while I took only my net and collecting-bottle and determined to devote myself wholly to the insects. Scarcely had I entered the forest when I found some beautiful little green and gold speckled weevils allied to the genus Pachyrhynchus, a group which is almost confined to the Philippine Islands, and is quite unknown in Borneo, Java, or Malacca. The road was shady and apparently much trodden by horses and cattle, and I quickly obtained some butterflies I had not before met with. Soon a couple of reports were heard, and coming up to my boys I found they had shot two specimens of one of the finest of known cuckoos, Phoenicophaus callirhynchus. This bird derives its name from its large bill being coloured of a brilliant yellow, red, and black, in about equal proportions. The tail is exceedingly long, and of a fine metallic purple, while the plumage of the body is light coffee brown. It is one of the characteristic birds of the island of Celebes, to which it is confined.
After sauntering along for a couple of hours we reached a small river, so deep that horses could only cross it by swimming, so we had to turn back; but as we were getting hungry, and the water of the almost stagnant river was too muddy to drink, we went towards a house a few hundred yards off. In the plantation we saw a small raised hut, which we thought would do well for us to breakfast in, so I entered, and found inside a young woman with an infant. She handed me a jug of water, but looked very much frightened. However, I sat down on the doorstep, and asked for the provisions. In handing them up, Baderoon saw the infant, and started back as if he had seen a serpent. It then immediately struck me that this was a hut in which, as among the Dyaks of Borneo and many other savage tribes, the women are secluded for some time after the birth of their child, and that we did very wrong to enter it; so we walked off and asked permission to eat our breakfast in the family mansion close at hand, which was of course granted. While I ate, three men, two women, and four children watched every motion, and never took eyes off me until I had finished.
On our way back in the heat of the day, I had the good fortune to capture three specimens of a fine Ornithoptera, the largest, the most perfect, and the most beautiful of butterflies. I trembled with excitement as I took the first out of my net and found it to be in perfect condition. The ground colour of this superb insect was a rich shining bronzy black, the lower wings delicately grained with white, and bordered by a row of large spots of the most brilliant satiny yellow. The body was marked with shaded spots of white, yellow, and fiery orange, while the head and thorax were intense black. On the under-side the lower wings were satiny white, with the marginal spots half black and half yellow. I gazed upon my prize with extreme interest, as I at first thought it was quite a new species. It proved however to be a variety of Ornithoptera remus, one of the rarest and most remarkable species of this highly esteemed group. I also obtained several other new and pretty butterflies. When we arrived at our lodging-house, being particularly anxious about my insect treasures, I suspended the box from a bamboo on which I could detect no sign of ants, and then began skinning some of my birds. During my work I often glanced at my precious box to see that no intruders had arrived, until after a longer spell of work than usual I looked again, and saw to my horror that a column of small red ants were descending the string and entering the box. They were already busy at work at the bodies of my treasures, and another half-hour would have seen my whole day’s collection destroyed. As it was, I had to take every insect out, clean them thoroughly as well as the box, and then seek a place of safety for them. As the only effectual one, I begged a plate and a basin from my host, filled the former with water, and standing the latter in it placed my box on the top, and then felt secure for the night; a few inches of clean water or oil being the only barrier these terrible pests are not able to pass.
On returning home to Mamajam (as my house was called) I had a slight return of intermittent fever, which kept me some days indoors. As soon as I was well, I again went to Goa, accompanied by Mr. Mesman, to beg the Rajah’s assistance in getting a small house built for me near the forest. We found him at a cock-fight in a shed near his palace, which however, he immediately left to receive us, and walked with us up an inclined plane of boards which serves for stairs to his house. This was large, well-built, and lofty, with bamboo floor and glass windows. The greater part of it seemed to be one large hall divided by the supporting posts. Near a window sat the Queen, squatting on a rough wooden arm-chair, chewing the everlasting sirih and betel-nut, while a brass spittoon by her side and a sirih-box in front were ready to administer to her wants. The Rajah seated himself opposite to her in a similar chair, and a similar spittoon and sirih-box were held by a little boy squatting at his side. Two other chairs were brought for us. Several young women, some the Rajah’s daughters, others slaves, were standing about; a few were working at frames making sarongs, but most of them were idle.
And here I might (if I followed the example of most travellers) launch out into a glowing description of the charms of these damsels, the elegant costumes they wore, and the gold and silver ornaments with which they were adorned. The jacket or body of purple gauze would figure well in such a description, allowing the heaving bosom to be seen beneath it, while “sparkling eyes,” and “jetty tresses,” and “tiny feet” might be thrown in profusely. But, alas! regard for truth will not permit me to expatiate too admiringly on such topics, determined as I am to give as far as I can a true picture of the people and places I visit. The princesses were, it is true, sufficiently good-looking, yet neither their persons nor their garments had that appearance of freshness and cleanliness without which no other charms can be contemplated with pleasure. Everything had a dingy and faded appearance, very disagreeable and unroyal to a European eye. The only thing that excited some degree of admiration was the quiet and dignified manner of the Rajah and the great respect always paid to him. None can stand erect in his presence, and when he sits on a chair, all present (Europeans of course excepted) squat upon the ground. The highest seat is literally, with these people, the place of honour and the sign of rank. So unbending are the rules in this respect, that when an English carriage which the Rajah of Lombock bad sent for arrived, it was found impossible to use it because the driver’s seat was the highest, and it had to be kept as a show in its coach house. On being told the object of my visit, the Rajah at once said that he would order a house to be emptied for me, which would be much better than building one, as that would take a good deal of time. Bad coffee and sweetmeats were given us as before.
Two days afterwards, I called on the Rajah to ask him to send a guide with me to show me the house I was to occupy. He immediately ordered a man to be sent for, gave him instructions, and in a few minutes we were on our way. My conductor could speak no Malay, so we walked on in silence for an hour, when we turned into a pretty good house and I was asked to sit down. The head man of the district lived here, and in about half an hour we started again, and another hour’s walk brought us to the village where I was to be lodged. We went to the residence of the village chief, who conversed with my conductor for some time.
Getting tired, I asked to be shown the house that was prepared for me, but the only reply I could get was, “Wait a little,” and the parties went on talking as before. So I told them I could not wait, as I wanted to see the house and then to go shooting in the forest. This seemed to puzzle them, and at length, in answer to questions, very poorly explained by one or two bystanders who knew a little Malay, it came out that no house was ready, and no one seemed to have the least idea where to get one. As I did not want to trouble the Rajah any more, I thought it best to try to frighten them a little; so I told them that if they did not immediately find me a house as the Rajah had ordered, I should go back and complain to him, but that if a house was found me I would pay for the use of it. This had the desired effect, and one of the head men of the village asked me to go with him and look for a house. He showed me one or two of the most miserable and ruinous description, which I at once rejected, saying, “I must have a good one, and near to the forest.” The next he showed me suited very well, so I told him to see that it was emptied the next day, for that the day after I should come and occupy it.
On the day mentioned, as I was not quite ready to go, I sent my two Macassar boys with brooms to sweep out the house thoroughly. They returned in the evening and told me that when they got there the house was inhabited, and not a single article removed. However, on hearing they had come to clean and take possession, the occupants made a move, but with a good deal of grumbling, which made me feel rather uneasy as to how the people generally might take my intrusion into their village. The next morning we took our baggage on three packhorses, and, after a few break-downs, arrived about noon at our destination.
After getting all my things set straight, and having made a hasty meal, I determined if possible to make friends with the people. I therefore sent for the owner of the house and as many of his acquaintances as liked to come, to have a “bitchara,” or talk. When they were all seated, I gave them a little tobacco all around, and having my boy Baderoon for interpreter, tried to explain to them why I came there; that I was very sorry to turn them out of the house, but that the Rajah had ordered it rather than build a new one, which was what I had asked for, and then placed five silver rupees in the owner’s hand as one month’s rent. I then assured them that my being there would be a benefit to them, as I should buy their eggs and fowls and fruit; and if their children would bring me shells and insects, of which I showed them specimens, they also might earn a good many coppers. After all this had been fully explained to them, with a long talk and discussion between every sentence, I could see that I had made a favourable impression; and that very afternoon, as if to test my promise to buy even miserable little snail-shells, a dozen children came one after another, bringing me a few specimens each of a small Helix, for which they duly received “coppers,” and went away amazed but rejoicing.
A few days’ exploration made me well acquainted with the surrounding country. I was a long way from the road in the forest which I had first visited, and for some distance around my house were old clearings and cottages. I found a few good butterflies, but beetles were very scarce, and even rotten timber and newly-felled trees (generally so productive) here produced scarcely anything. This convinced me that there was not a sufficient extent of forest in the neighbourhood to make the place worth staying at long, but it was too late now to think of going further, as in about a month the wet season would begin; so I resolved to stay here and get what was to be had. Unfortunately, after a few days I became ill with a low fever which produced excessive lassitude and disinclination to all exertion. In vain I endeavoured to shake it off; all I could do was to stroll quietly each day for an hour about the gardens near, and to the well, where some good insects were occasionally to be found; and the rest of the day to wait quietly at home, and receive what beetles and shells my little corps of collectors brought me daily. I imputed my illness chiefly to the water, which was procured from shallow wells, around which there was almost always a stagnant puddle in which the buffaloes wallowed. Close to my house was an enclosed mudhole where three buffaloes were shut up every night, and the effluvia from which freely entered through the open bamboo floor. My Malay boy Ali was affected with the same illness, and as he was my chief bird-skinner I got on but slowly with my collections.
The occupations and mode of life of the villagers differed but little from those of all other Malay races. The time of the women was almost wholly occupied in pounding and cleaning rice for daily use, in bringing home firewood and water, and in cleaning, dyeing, spinning, and weaving the native cotton into sarongs. The weaving is done in the simplest kind of frame stretched on the floor; and is a very slow and tedious process. To form the checked pattern in common use, each patch of coloured threads has to be pulled up separately by hand and the shuttle passed between them; so that about an inch a day is the usual progress in stuff a yard and a half wide. The men cultivate a little sirih (the pungent pepper leaf used for chewing with betel-nut) and a few vegetables; and once a year rudely plough a small patch of ground with their buffaloes and plant rice, which then requires little attention until harvest time. Now and then they have to see to the repairs of their houses, and make mats, baskets, or other domestic utensils, but a large part of their time is passed in idleness.
Not a single person in the village could speak more than a few words of Malay, and hardly any of the people appeared to have seen a European before. One most disagreeable result of this was that I excited terror alike in man and beast. Wherever I went, dogs barked, children screamed, women ran away, and men stared as though I were some strange and terrible cannibal or monster. Even the pack-horses on the roads and paths would start aside when I appeared and rush into the jungle; and as to those horrid, ugly brutes, the buffaloes, they could never be approached by me; not for fear of my own but of others’ safety. They would first stick out their necks and stare at me, and then on a nearer view break loose from their halters or tethers, and rush away helter-skelter as if a demon were after them, without any regard for what might be in their way. Whenever I met buffaloes carrying packs along a pathway, or being driven home to the village, I had to turn aside into the jungle and hide myself until they had passed, to avoid a catastrophe which would increase the dislike with which I was already regarded. Everyday about noon the buffaloes were brought into the villa, and were tethered in the shade around the houses; and then I had to creep about like a thief by backways, for no one could tell what mischief they might do to children and houses were I to walk among them. If I came suddenly upon a well where women were drawing water or children bathing, a sudden flight was the certain result; which things occurring day after day, were very unpleasant to a person who does not like to be disliked, and who had never been accustomed to be treated as an ogre.
About the middle of November, finding my health no better, and insects, birds, and shells all very scarce, I determined to return to Mamajam, and pack up my collections before the heavy rains commenced. The wind bad already begun to blow from the west, and many signs indicated that the rainy season might set in earlier than usual; and then everything becomes very damp, and it is almost impossible to dry collections properly. My kind friend Mr. Mesman again lent me his pack-horses, and with the assistance of a few men to carry my birds and insects, which I did not like to trust on horses’ backs, we got everything home safe. Few can imagine the luxury it was to stretch myself on a sofa, and to take my supper comfortably at table seated in my easy bamboo chair, after having for five weeks taken all my meals uncomfortably on the floor. Such things are trifles in health, but when the body is weakened by disease the habits of a lifetime cannot be so easily set aside.
My house, like all bamboo structures in this country, was a leaning one, the strong westerly winds of the wet season having set all its posts out of the perpendicular to such a degree as to make me think it might someday possibly go over altogether. It is a remarkable thing that the natives of Celebes have not discovered the use of diagonal struts in strengthening buildings. I doubt if there is a native house in the country two years old and at all exposed to the wind, which stands upright; and no wonder, as they merely consist of posts and joists all placed upright or horizontal, and fastened rudely together with rattans. They may be seen in every stage of the process of tumbling down, from the first slight inclination, to such a dangerous slope that it becomes a notice to quit to the occupiers.
The mechanical geniuses of the country have only discovered two ways of remedying the evil. One is, after it has commenced, to tie the house to a post in the ground on the windward side by a rattan or bamboo cable. The other is a preventive, but how they ever found it out and did not discover the true way is a mystery. This plan is, to build the house in the usual way, but instead of having all the principal supports of straight posts, to have two or three of them chosen as crooked as possible. I had often noticed these crooked posts in houses, but imputed it to the scarcity of good, straight timber, until one day I met some men carrying home a post shaped something like a dog’s hind leg, and inquired of my native boy what they were going to do with such a piece of wood. “To make a post for a house,” said he. “But why don’t they get a straight one, there are plenty here?” said I. “Oh,” replied he, “they prefer some like that in a house, because then it won’t fall,” evidently imputing the effect to some occult property of crooked timber. A little consideration and a diagram. will, however, show, that the effect imputed to the crooked post may be really produced by it. A true square changes its figure readily into a rhomboid or oblique figure, but when one or two of the uprights are bent or sloping, and placed so as to oppose each other, the effect of a strut is produced, though in a rude and clumsy manner.
Just before I had left Mamajam the people had sown a considerable quantity of maize, which appears above ground in two or three days, and in favourable seasons ripens in less than two months. Owing to a week’s premature rains the ground was all flooded when I returned, and the plants just coming into ear were yellow and dead. Not a grain would be obtained by the whole village, but luckily it is only a luxury, not a necessity of life. The rain was the signal for ploughing to begin, in order to sow rice on all the flat lands between us and the town. The plough used is a rude wooden instrument with a very short single handle, a tolerably well-shaped coulter, and the point formed of a piece of hard palm-wood fastened in with wedges. One or two buffaloes draw it at a very slow pace. The seed is sown broadcast, and a rude wooden harrow is used to smooth the surface.
By the beginning of December the regular wet season had set in. Westerly winds and driving rains sometimes continued for days together; the fields for miles around were under water, and the ducks and buffaloes enjoyed themselves amazingly. All along the road to Macassar, ploughing was daily going on in the mud and water, through which the wooden plough easily makes its way, the ploughman holding the plough-handle with one hand while a long bamboo in the other serves to guide the buffaloes. These animals require an immense deal of driving to get them on at all; a continual shower of exclamations is kept up at them, and “Oh! ah! Gee! ugh!” are to be heard in various keys and in an uninterrupted succession all day long. At night we were favoured with a different kind of concert. The dry ground around my house had become a marsh tenanted by frogs, who kept up a most incredible noise from dusk to dawn. They were somewhat musical too, having a deep vibrating note which at times closely resembles the tuning of two or three bass-viols in an orchestra. In Malacca and Borneo I had heard no such sounds as these, which indicates that the frogs, like most of the animals of Celebes, are of species peculiar to it.
My kind friend and landlord, Mr. Mesman, was a good specimen of the Macassar-born Dutchman. He was about thirty-five years of age, had a large family, and lived in a spacious house near the town, situated in the midst of a grove of fruit trees, and surrounded by a perfect labyrinth of offices, stables, and native cottages occupied by his numerous servants, slaves, or dependants. He usually rose before the sun, and after a cup of coffee looked after his servants, horses, and dogs, until seven, when a substantial breakfast of rice and meat was ready in a cool verandah. Putting on a clean white linen suit, he then (trove to town in his buggy, where he had an office, with two or three Chinese clerks who looked after his affairs. His business was that of a coffee and opium merchant. He had a coffee estate at Bontyne, and a small prau which traded to the Eastern islands near New Guinea, for mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell. About one he would return home, have coffee and cake or fried plantain, first changing his dress for a coloured cotton shirt and trousers and bare feet, and then take a siesta with a book. About four, after a cup of tea, he would walk round his premises, and generally stroll down to Mamajam to pay me a visit, and look after his farm.
This consisted of a coffee plantation and an orchard of fruit trees, a dozen horses and a score of cattle, with a small village of Timorese slaves and Macassar servants. One family looked after the cattle and supplied the house with milk, bringing me also a large glassful every morning, one of my greatest luxuries. Others had charge of the horses, which were brought in every afternoon and fed with cut grass. Others had to cut grass for their master’s horses at Macassar — not a very easy task in the dry season, when all the country looks like baked mud; or in the rainy season, when miles in every direction are flooded. How they managed it was a mystery to me, but they know grass must be had, and they get it. One lame woman had charge of a flock of ducks. Twice a day she took them out to feed in the marshy places, let them waddle and gobble for an hour or two, and then drove them back and shut them up in a small dark shed to digest their meal, whence they gave forth occasionally a melancholy quack. Every night a watch was set, principally for the sake of the horses — the people of Goa, only two miles off, being notorious thieves, and horses offering the easiest and most valuable spoil. This enabled me to sleep in security, although many people in Macassar thought I was running a great risk, living alone in such a solitary place and with such bad neighbours.
My house was surrounded by a kind of straggling hedge of roses, jessamines, and other flowers, and every morning one of the women gathered a basketful of the blossoms for Mr. Mesman’s family. I generally took a couple for my own breakfast table, and the supply never failed during my stay, and I suppose never does. Almost every Sunday Mr. M. made a shooting excursion with his eldest son, a lad of fifteen, and I generally accompanied him; for though the Dutch are Protestants, they do not observe Sunday in the rigid manner practised in England and English colonies. The Governor of the place has his public reception every Sunday evening, when card-playing is the regular amusement.
On December 13th I went on board a prau bound for the Aru Islands, a journey which will be described in the latter part of this work.
On my return, after a seven months’ absence, I visited another district to the north of Macassar, which will form the subject of the next chapter.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01