(MARCH TO MAY 1857.)
MY boat was at length ready, and having obtained two men besides my own servants, after an enormous amount of talk and trouble, we left Dobbo on the morning of March 13th, for the mainland of Aru. By noon we reached the mouth of a small river or creek, which we ascended, winding among mangrove, swamps, with here and there a glimpse of dry land. In two hours we reached a house, or rather small shed, of the most miserable description, which our steersman, the “Orang-kaya” of Wamma, said was the place we were to stay at, and where he had assured me we could get every kind of bird and beast to be found in Aru. The shed was occupied by about a dozen men, women, and children; two cooking fires were burning in it, and there seemed little prospect of my obtaining any accommodation. I however deferred inquiry till I had seen the neighbouring forest, and immediately started off with two men, net, and guns, along a path at the back of the house. In an hour’s walk I saw enough to make me determine to give the place a trial, and on my return, finding the “Orang-kaya” was in a strong fever-fit and unable to do anything, I entered into negotiations with the owner of the house for the use of a slip at one end of it about five feet wide, for a week, and agreed to pay as rent one “parang,” or chopping-knife. I then immediately got my boxes and bedding out of the boat, hung up a shelf for my bird-skins and insects, and got all ready for work next morning. My own boys slept in the boat to guard the remainder of my property; a cooking place sheltered by a few mats was arranged under a tree close by, and I felt that degree of satisfaction and enjoyment which I always experience when, after much trouble and delay, I am on the point of beginning work in a new locality.
One of my first objects was to inquire for the people who are accustomed to shoot the Paradise birds. They lived at some distance in the jungle, and a man was sent to call them. When they arrived, we had a talk by means of the “Orang-kaya “as interpreter, and they said they thought they could get some. They explained that they shoot the birds with a bow and arrow, the arrow having a conical wooden cap fitted to the end as large as a teacup, so as to kill the bird by the violence of the blow without making any wound or shedding any blood. The trees frequented by the birds are very lofty; it is therefore necessary to erect a small leafy covering or hut among the branches, to which the hunter mounts before daylight in the morning and remains the whole day, and whenever a bird alights they are almost sure of securing it. (See Frontispiece.) They returned to their homes the same evening, and I never saw anything more of them, owing, as I afterwards found, to its being too early to obtain birds in good plumage.
The first two or three days of our stay here were very wet, and I obtained but few insects or birds, but at length, when I was beginning to despair, my boy Baderoon returned one day with a specimen which repaid me for months of delay and expectation. It was a small bird a little less than a thrush. The greater part of its plumage was of an intense cinnabar red, with a gloss as of spun glass. On the head the feathers became short and velvety, and shaded into rich orange. Beneath, from the breast downwards, was pure white, with the softness and gloss of silk, and across the breast a band of deep metallic green separated this colour from the red of the throat. Above each eye was a round spot of the same metallic green; the bill was yellow, and the feet and legs were of a fine cobalt ó111e, strikingly contrasting with all the other parts of the body. Merely in arrangement of colours and texture of plumage this little bird was a gem of the first water, yet there comprised only half its strange beauty. Springing from each side of the breast, and ordinarily lying concealed under the wings, were little tufts of greyish feathers about two inches long, and each terminated by a broad band of intense emerald green. These plumes can be raised at the will of the bird, and spread out into a pair of elegant fans when the wings are elevated. But this is not the only ornament. The two middle feathers of the tail are in the form of slender wires about five inches long, and which diverge in a beautiful double curve. About half an inch of the end of this wire is webbed on the outer side only, awe coloured of a fine metallic green, and being curled spirally inwards form a pair of elegant glittering buttons, hanging five inches below the body, and the same distance apart. These two ornaments, the breast fans and the spiral tipped tail wires, are altogether unique, not occurring on any other species of the eight thousand different birds that are known to exist upon the earth; and, combined with the most exquisite beauty of plumage, render this one of the most perfectly lovely of the many lovely productions of nature. My transports of admiration and delight quite amused my Aru hosts, who saw nothing more in the “Burong raja” than we do in the robin of the goldfinch.
Thus one of my objects in coming to the far fast was accomplished. I had obtained a specimen of the King Bird of Paradise (Paradisea regia), which had been described by Linnaeus from skins preserved in a mutilated state by the natives. I knew how few Europeans had ever beheld the perfect little organism I now gazed upon, and how very imperfectly it was still known in Europe. The emotions excited in the minds of a naturalist, who has long desired to see the actual thing which he has hitherto known only by description, drawing, or badly-preserved external covering — especially when that thing is of surpassing rarity and beauty, require the poetic faculty fully to express them. The remote island in which I found myself situated, in an almost unvisited sea, far from the tracks of merchant fleets and navies; the wild luxuriant tropical forest, which stretched far away on every side; the rude uncultured savages who gathered round me — all had their influence in determining the emotions with which I gazed upon this “thing of beauty.” I thought of the long ages of the past, during which the successive generations of this little creature had run their course — year by year being born, and living and dying amid these dark and gloomy woods, with no intelligent eye to gaze upon their loveliness; to all appearance such a wanton waste of beauty. Such ideas excite a feeling of melancholy. It seems sad, that on the one hand such exquisite creatures should live out their lives and exhibit their charms only in these wild inhospitable regions, doomed for ages yet to come to hopeless barbarism; while on the other hand, should civilized man ever reach these distant lands, and bring moral, intellectual, and physical light into the recesses of these virgin forests, we may be sure that he will so disturb the nicely-balanced relations of organic and inorganic nature as to cause the disappearance, and finally the extinction, of these very beings whose wonderful structure and beauty he alone is fitted to appreciate and enjoy. This consideration must surely tell us that all living things were not made for man. Many of them have no relation to him. The cycle of their existence has gone on independently of his, and is disturbed or broken by every advance in man’s intellectual development; and their happiness and enjoyment, their loves and hates, their struggles for existence, their vigorous life and early death, would seem to be immediately related to their own well-being and perpetuation alone, limited only by the equal well-being and perpetuation of the numberless other organisms with which each is more or less intimately connected.
After the first king-bird was obtained, I went with my men into the forest, and we were not only rewarded with another in equally perfect plumage, but I was enabled to see a little of the habits of both it and the larger species. It frequents the lower trees of the less dense forests: and is very active, flying strongly with a whirring sound, and continually hopping or flying from branch to branch. It eats hard stone-bearing fruits as large as a gooseberry, and often flutters its wings after the manner of the South American manakins, at which time it elevates and expands the beautiful fans with which its breast is adorned. The natives of Aru call it “Goby-goby.”
One day I get under a tree where a number of the Great Paradise birds were assembled, but they were high up in the thickest of the foliage, and flying and jumping about so continually that I could get no good view of them. At length I shot one, but it was a young specimen, and was entirely of a rich chocolate-brown colour, without either the metallic green throat or yellow plumes of the full-grown bird. All that I had yet seen resembled this, and the natives told me that it would be about two months before any would be found in full plumage. I still hoped, therefore, to get some. Their voice is most extraordinary. At early morn, before the sun has risen, we hear a loud cry of “Wawk-wawk-wawk, wók-wók-wók,” which resounds through the forest, changing its direction continually. This is the Great Bird of Paradise going to seek his breakfast. Others soon follow his example; lories and parroquets cry shrilly, cockatoos scream, king-hunters croak and bark, and the various smaller birds chirp and whistle their morning song. As I lie listening to these interesting sounds, I realize my position as the first European who has ever lived for months together in the Aru islands, a place which I had hoped rather than expected ever to visit. I think how many besides my self have longed to reach these almost fairy realms, and to see with their own eyes the many wonderful and beautiful things which I am daily encountering. But now Ali and Baderoon are up and getting ready their guns and ammunition, and little Brio has his fire lighted and is boiling my coffee, and I remember that I had a black cockatoo brought in late last night, which I must skin immediately, and so I jump up and begin my day’s work very happily.
This cockatoo is the first I have seen, and is a great prize. It has a rather small and weak body, long weak legs, large wings, and an enormously developed head, ornamented with a magnificent crest, and armed with a sharp-pointed hoofed bill of immense size and strength. The plumage is entirely black, but has all over it the curious powdery white secretion characteristic of cockatoo. The cheeks are bare, and of an intense blood-red colour. Instead of the harsh scream of the white cockatoos, its voice is a somewhat plaintive whistle. The tongue is a curious organ, being a slender fleshy cylinder of a deep red colour, terminated by a horny black plate, furrowed across and somewhat prehensile. The whole tongue has a considerable extensile power. I will here relate something of the habits of this bird, with which I have since become acquainted. It frequents the lower parts of the forest, and is seen singly, or at most two or three together. It flies slowly and noiselessly, and may be killed by a comparatively slight wound. It eats various fruits arid seeds, but seems more particularly attached to the kernel of the kanary-nut, which grows on a lofty forest tree (Canarium commune), abundant in the islands where this bird is found; and the manner in which it gets at these seeds shows a correlation of structure and habits, which would point out the “kanary” as its special food. The shell of this nut is so excessively hard that only a heavy hammer will crack it; it is somewhat triangular, and the outside is quite smooth. The manner in which the bird opens these nuts is very curious. Taking one endways in its bill and keeping it firm by a pressure of the tongue, it cuts a transverse notch by a lateral sawing motion of the sharp-edged lower mandible. This done, it takes hold of the nut with its foot, and biting off a piece of leaf retains it in the deep notch of the upper mandible, and again seizing the nut, which is prevented from slipping by the elastic tissue of the leaf, fixes the edge of the lower mandible in the notch, and by a powerful nip breaks of a piece of the shell. again taking the nut in its claws, it inserts the very long and sharp point of the bill and picks out the kernel, which is seized hold of, morsel by morsel, by the extensible tongue. Thus every detail of form. and structure in the extraordinary bill of this bird seems to have its use, and we may easily conceive that the black cockatoos have maintained themselves in competition with their more active and more numerous white allies, by their power of existing on a kind of food which no other bird is able to extract from its stony shell. The species is the Microglossum aterrimum of naturalists.
During the two weeks which I spent in this little settlement, I had good opportunities of observing the natives at their own home, and living in their usual manner. There is a great monotony and uniformity in everyday savage life, and it seemed to me a more miserable existence than when it had the charm of novelty. To begin with the most important fact in the existence of uncivilized peoples — their food — the Aru men have no regular supply, no staff of life, such as bread, rice, mandiocca, maize, or sago, which are the daily food of a large proportion of mankind. They have, however, many sorts of vegetables, plantains, yams, sweet potatoes, and raw sago; and they chew up vast quantities of sugar-cane, as well as betel-nuts, gambir, and tobacco. Those who live on the coast have plenty of fish; but when inland, as we are here, they only go to the sea occasionally, and then bring home cockles and other shell-fish by the boatload. Now and then they get wild pig or kangaroo, but too rarely to form anything like a regular part of their diet, which is essentially vegetable; and what is of more importance, as affecting their health, green, watery vegetables, imperfectly cooked, and even these in varying and often in sufficient quantities. To this diet may be attributed the prevalence of skin diseases, and ulcers on the legs and joints. The scurfy skin disease so common among savages has a close connexion with the poorness and irregularity of their living. The Malays, who are never without their daily rice, are generally free from it; the hill-Dyaks of Borneo, who grow rice and live well, are clean skinned while the less industrious and less cleanly tribes, who live for a portion of the year on fruits and vegetables only, are very subject to this malady. It seems clear that in this, as in other respects, man is not able to make a beast of himself with impunity, feeding like the cattle on the herbs and fruits of the earth, and taking no thought of the morrow. To maintain his health and beauty he must labour to prepare some farinaceous product capable of being stored and accumulated, so as to give him a regular supply of wholesome food. When this is obtained, he may add vegetables, fruits, and meat with advantage.
The chief luxury of the Aru people, besides betel and tobacco, is arrack (Java rum), which the traders bring in great quantities and sell very cheap. A day’s fishing or rattan cutting will purchase at least a half-gallon bottle; and when the tripang or birds’ nests collected during a season are sold, they get whole boxes, each containing fifteen such bottles, which the inmates of a house will sit round day and night till they have finished. They themselves tell me that at such bouts they often tear to pieces the house they are in, break and destroy everything they can lay their hands on, and make such an infernal riot as is alarming to behold.
The houses and furniture are on a par with the food. A rude shed, supported on rough and slender sticks rather than posts, no walls, but the floor raised to within a foot of the eaves, is the style of architecture they usually adopt. Inside there are partition walls of thatch, forming little boxes or sleeping places, to accommodate the two or three separate families that usually live together. A few mats, baskets, and cooking vessels, with plates and basins purchased from the Macassar traders, constitute their whole furniture; spears and bows are their weapons; a sarong or mat forms the clothing of the women, a waistcloth of the men. For hours or even for days they sit idle in their houses, the women bringing in the vegetables or sago which form their food. Sometimes they hunt or fish a little, or work at their houses or canoes, but they seem to enjoy pure idleness, and work as little as they can. They have little to vary the monotony of life, little that can be called pleasure, except idleness and conversation. And they certainly do talk! Every evening there is a little Babel around me: but as I understand not a word of it, I go on with my book or work undisturbed. Now and then they scream and shout, or laugh frantically for variety; and this goes on alternately with vociferous talking of men, women, and children, till long after I am in my mosquito curtain and sound asleep.
At this place I obtained some light on the complicated mixture of races in Aru, which would utterly confound an ethnologist. Many of the, natives, though equally dark with the others, have little of the Papuan physiognomy, but have more delicate features of the European type, with more glossy, curling hair: These at first quite puzzled me, for they have no more resemblance to Malay than to Papuan, and the darkness of skin and hair would forbid the idea of Dutch intermixture. Listening to their conversation, however, I detected some words that were familiar to me. “Accabó” was one; and to be sure that it was not an accidental resemblance, I asked the speaker in Malay what “accabó” meant, and was told it meant “done or finished,” a true Portuguese word, with its meaning retained. Again, I heard the word “jafui” often repeated, and could see, without inquiry, that its meaning was “he’s gone,” as in Portuguese. “Porco,” too, seems a common name, though the people have no idea of its European meaning. This cleared up the difficulty. I at once understood that some early Portuguese traders had penetrated to these islands, and mixed with the natives, influencing their language, and leaving in their descendants for many generations the visible characteristics of their race. If to this we add the occasional mixture of Malay, Dutch, and Chinese with the indigenous Papuans, we have no reason to wonder at the curious varieties of form and feature occasionally to be met with in Aru. In this very house there was a Macassar man, with an Aru wife and a family of mixed children. In Dobbo I saw a Javanese and an Amboyna man, each with an Aru wife and family; and as this kind of mixture has been going on for at least three hundred years, and probably much longer, it has produced a decided effect on the physical characteristics of a considerable portion of the population of the islands, more especially in Dobbo and the parts nearest to it.
March 28th. — The “Orang-kaya” being very ill with fever had begged to go home, and had arranged with one of the men of the house to go on with me as his substitute. Now that I wanted to move, the bugbear of the pirates was brought up, and it was pronounced unsafe to go further than the next small river. This world not suit me, as I had determined to traverse the channel called Watelai to the “blakang-tana;” but my guide was firm in his dread of pirates, of which I knew there was now no danger, as several vessels had gone in search of them, as well as a Dutch gunboat which had arrived since I left Dobbo. I had, fortunately, by this time heard that the Dutch “Commissie” had really arrived, and therefore threatened that if my guide did not go with me immediately, I would appeal to the authorities, and he would certainly be obliged to gig a back the cloth which the “Orang-kaya” had transferred to him in prepayment. This had the desired effect; matters were soon arranged, and we started the next morning. The wind, however, was dead against us, and after rowing hard till midday we put in to a small river where there were few huts, to cook our dinners. The place did not look very promising, but as we could not reach our destination, the Watelai river, owing to the contrary wind, I thought we might as well wait here a day or two. I therefore paid a chopper for the use of a small shed, and got my bed and some boxes on shore. In the evening, after dark, we were suddenly alarmed by the cry of “Bajak! bajak!” (Pirates!) The men all seized their bows and spears, and rushed down to the beach; we got hold of our guns and prepared for action, but in a few minutes all came back laughing and chattering, for it had proved to be only a small boat and some of their own comrades returned from fishing. When all was quiet again, one of the men, who could speak a little Malay, came to me and begged me not to sleep too hard. “Why?” said I. “Perhaps the pirates may really come,” said he very seriously, which made me laugh and assure him I should sleep as hard as I could.
Two days were spent here, but the place was unproductive of insects or birds of interest, so we made another attempt to get on. As soon as we got a little away from the land we had a fair wind, and in six hours’ sailing reached the entrance of the Watelai channel, which divides the most northerly from the middle portion of Aru. At its mouth this was about half a mile wide, but soon narrowed, and a mile or two on it assumed entirely the aspect of a river about the width of the Thames at London, winding among low but undulating and often hilly country. The scene was exactly such as might be expected in the interior of a continent. The channel continued of a uniform average width, with reaches and sinuous bends, one bank being often precipitous, or even forming vertical cliffs, while the other was flat and apparently alluvial; and it was only the pure salt-water, and the absence of any stream but the slight flux and reflux of the tide, that would enable a person to tell that he was navigating a strait and not a river. The wind was fair, and carried us along, with occasional assistance from our oars, till about three in the afternoon, when we landed where a little brook formed two or three basins in the coral rock, and then fell in a miniature cascade into the salt water river. Here we bathed and cooked our dinner, and enjoyed ourselves lazily till sunset, when we pursued our way for two hours snore, and then moored our little vessel to an overhanging tree for the night.
At five the next morning we started again, and in an hour overtook four large praus containing the “Commissie,” who had come from Dobbo to make their official tour round the islands, and had passed us in the eight. I paid a visit to the Dutchmen, one of whom spoke a little English, but we found that we could get on much better with Malay. They told me that they had been delayed going after the pirates to one of the northern islands, and had seen three of their vessels but could not catch them, because on being pursued they rowed out in the wind’s eye, which they are enabled to do by having about fifty oars to each boat. Having had some tea with thorn, I bade them adieu, and turned up a narrow channel which our pilot said would take us to the village of Watelai, on the west side — of Are. After going some miles we found the channel nearly blocked up with coral, so that our boat grated along the bottom, crunching what may truly be called the living rock. Sometimes all hands had to get out and wade, to lighten the vessel and lift it over the shallowest places; but at length we overcame all obstacles and reached a wide bay or estuary studded with little rocks and islets, and opening to the western sea and the numerous islands of the “blakang-tuna.” I now found that the village we were going to was miles away; that we should have to go out to sea, and round a rocky point. A squall seemed coming on, and as I have a horror of small boats at sea, and from all I could learn Watelai village was not a place to stop at (no birds of Paradise being found there), I determined to return and go to a village I had heard of up a tributary of the Watelai river, and situated nearly in the centre of the mainland of Aru. The people there were said to be good, and to be accustomed to hunting and bird-catching, being too far inland to get any part of their food from the sea. While I was deciding this point the squall burst upon us, and soon raised a rolling sea in the shallow water, which upset an oil bottle and a lamp, broke some of my crockery, and threw us all into confusion. Rowing hard we managed to get back into the main river by dusk, and looked out for a place to cook our suppers. It happened to be high water, and a very high tide, so that every piece of sand or beach was covered, and it was with the greatest difficulty, and after much groping in the dark, that we discovered a little sloping piece of rock about two feet square on which to make a fire and cook some rice. The next day we continued our way back, and on the following day entered a stream on the south side of the Watelai river, and ascending to where navigation ceased found the little village of Wanumbai, consisting of two large houses surrounded by plantations, amid the virgin forests of Aru.
As I liked the look of the place, and was desirous of staying some time, I sent my pilot to try and make a bargain for house accommodation. The owner and chief man of the place made many excuses. First, be was afraid I would not like his house, and then was doubtful whether his son, who was away, would like his admitting me. I had a long talk with him myself, and tried to explain what I was doing, and how many things I would buy of them, and showed him my stock of heads, and knives, and cloth, and tobacco, all of which I would spend with his family and friends if he would give me house-room. He seemed a little staggered at this, and said he, would talk to his wife, and in the meantime I went for a little walk to see the neighbourhood. When I carne back, I again sent my pilot, saying that I would go away if he would not dive me part of his house. In about half an hour he returned with a demand for about half the cost of building a house, for the rent of a small portion of it for a few weeks. As the only difficulty now was a pecuniary one, I got out about ten yards of cloth, an axe, with a few beads and some tobacco, and sent them as my final offer for the part of the house which I had before pointed out. This was accepted after a little more talk, and I immediately proceeded to take possession.
The house was a good large one, raised as usual about seven feet on posts, the walls about three or four feet more, with a high-pitched roof. The floor was of bamboo laths, and in the sloping roof way an immense shutter, which could be lifted and propped up to admit light and air. At the end where this was situated the floor was raised about a foot, and this piece, about ten feet wide by twenty long, quite open to the rest of the house, was the portion I was to occupy. At one end of this piece, separated by a thatch partition, was a cooking place, with a clay floor and shelves for crockery. At the opposite end I had my mosquito curtain hung, and round the walls we arranged my boxes and other stores, fated up a table and seat, and with a little cleaning and dusting made the place look quite comfortable. My boat was then hauled up on shore, and covered with palm-leaves, the sails and oars brought indoors, a hanging-stage for drying my specimens erected outside the house and another inside, and my boys were set to clean their gnus and get ail ready for beginning work.
The next day I occupied myself in exploring the paths in the immediate neighbourhood. The small river up which we had ascended ceases to be navigable at this point, above which it is a little rocky brook, which quite dries up in the hot season. There was now, however, a fair stream of water in it; and a path which was partly in and partly by the side of the water, promised well for insects, as I here saw the magnificent blue butterfly, Papilio ulysses, as well as several other fine species, flopping lazily along, sometimes resting high up on the foliage which drooped over the water, at others settling down on the damp rock or on the edges of muddy pools. A little way on several paths branched off through patches of second-growth forest to cane-fields, gardens, and scattered houses, beyond which again the dark wall of verdure striped with tree-trunks, marked out the limits of the primeval forests. The voices of many birds promised good shooting, and on my return I found that my boy s had already obtained two or three kinds I had not seen before; and in the evening a native brought me a rare and beautiful species of ground-thrush (Pitta novaeguinaeae) hitherto only known from New Guinea.
As I improved my acquaintance with them I became much interested in these people, who are a fair sample of the true savage inhabitants of the Aru Islands, tolerably free from foreign admixture. The house I lived in contained four or five families, and there were generally from six to a dozen visitors besides. They kept up a continual row from morning till night — talking, laughing, shouting, without intermission — not very pleasant, but interesting as a study of national character. My boy Ali said to me, “Banyak quot bitchara Orang Aru “(The Aru people are very strong talkers), never having been accustomed to such eloquence either in his own or any other country he had hitherto visited. Of an evening the men, having got over their first shyness, began to talk to me a little, asking about my country, &c., and in return I questioned them about any traditions they had of their own origin. I had, however, very little success, for I could not possibly make them understand the simple question of where the Aru people first came from. I put it in every possible way to them, but it was a subject quite beyond their speculations; they had evidently never thought of anything of the kind, and were unable to conceive a thing so remote and so unnecessary to be thought about, as their own origin. Finding this hopeless, I asked if they knew when the trade with Aru first began, when the Bugis and Chinese and Macassar men first came in their praus to buy tripang and tortoise-shell, and birds’ nests, arid Paradise birds?
This they comprehended, but replied that there had always been the same trade as long as they or their fathers recollected, but that this was the first time a real white man had come among them, and, said they, “You see how the people come every day from all the villages round to look at you.” This was very flattering, and accounted for the great concourse of visitors which I had at first imagined was accidental. A few years before I had been one of the gazers at the Zoolus, and the Aztecs in London. Now the tables were turned upon me, for I was to these people a new and strange variety of man, and had the honour of affording to them, in my own person, an attractive exhibition, gratis.
All the men and boys of Aru are expert archers, never stirring without their bows and arrows. They shoot all sorts of birds, as well as pigs and kangaroos occasionally, and thus have a tolerably good supply of meat to eat with their vegetables. The result of this better living is superior healthiness, well-made bodies, and generally clear skins. They brought me numbers of small birds in exchange for beads or tobacco, but mauled them terribly, notwithstanding my repeated instructions. When they got a bird alive they would often tie a string to its leg, and keep it a day or two, till its plumage was so draggled and dirtied as to be almost worthless. One of the first things I got from there was a living specimen of the curious and beautiful racquet-tailed kingfisher. Seeing how much I admired it, they afterwards brought me several more, which wore all caught before daybreak, sleeping in cavities of the rocky banks of the stream. My hunters also shot a few specimens, and almost all of them had the red bill more or less clogged with mud and earth. This indicates the habits of the bird, which, though popularly a king-fisher, never catches fish, but lives on insects and minute shells, which it picks up in the forest, darting down upon them from its perch on some low branch. The genus Tanysiptera, to which this bird belongs, is remarkable for the enormously lengthened tail, which in all other kingfishers is small and short. Linnaeus named the species known to him “the goddess kingfisher” (Alcedo dea), from its extreme grace and beauty, the plumage being brilliant blue and white, with the bill red, like coral. Several species of these interesting birds are now known, all confined within the very limited area which comprises the Moluccas, New Guinea, and the extreme North of Australia. They resemble each other so closely that several of them can only be distinguished by careful comparison. One of the rarest, however, which inhabits New Guinea, is very distinct from the rest, being bright red beneath instead of white. That which I now obtained was a new one, and has been named Tanysiptera hydrocharis, but in general form and coloration it is exactly similar to the larger species found in Amboyna, and figured at page 468 of my first volume.
New and interesting birds were continually brought in, either by my own boys or by the natives, and at the end of a week Ali arrived triumphant one afternoon with a fine specimen of the Great Bird of Paradise. The ornamental plumes had not yet attained their full growth, but the richness of their glossy orange colouring, and the exquisite delicacy of the loosely waving feathers, were unsurpassable. At the same time a great black cockatoo was brought in, as well as a fine fruit-pigeon and several small birds, so that we were all kept hard at work skinning till sunset. Just as we had cleared away and packed up for the night, a strange beast was brought, which had been shot by the natives. It resembled in size, and in its white woolly covering, a small fat lamb, but had short legs, hand-like feet with large claws, and a long prehensile tail. It was a Cuscus (C. maculatus), one of the curious marsupial animals of the Papuan region, and I was very desirous to obtain the skin. The owners, however, said they wanted to eat it; and though I offered them a good price, and promised to give them all the meat, there was grout hesitation. Suspecting the reason, I offered, though it was night, to set to work immediately and get out the body for them, to which they agreed. The creature was much hacked about, and the two hind feet almost cut off; but it was the largest and finest specimen of the kind I had seen; and after an hour’s hard work I handed over the body to the owners, who immediately cut it up and roasted it for supper.
As this was a very good place for birds, I determined to remain a month longer, and took the opportunity of a native boat going to Dobbo, to send Ali for a fresh supply of ammunition and provisions. They started on the 10th of April, and the house was crowded with about a hundred men, boys, women, and girls, bringing their loads of sugar-cane, plantains, sirih-leaf, yams, &c.; one lad going from each house to sell the produce and make purchases. The noise was indescribable. At least fifty of the hundred were always talking at once, and that not in the low measured tones of the apathetically polite Malay, but with loud voices, shouts, and screaming laughter, in which the women and children were even more conspicuous than the men. It was only while gazing at me that their tongues were moderately quiet, because their eyes were fully occupied. The black vegetable soil here overlying the coral rock is very rich, and the sugar-cane was finer than any I had ever seen. The canes brought to the boat were often ten and even twelve feet long, and thick in proportion, with short joints throughout, swelling between the knots with the, abundance of the rich juice. At Dobbo they get a high price for it, 1d. to 3d. a stick, and there is an insatiable demand among the crews of the praus and the Baba fishermen. Here they eat it continually. They half live on it, and sometimes feed their pigs with it. Near every house are great heaps of the refuse cane; and large wicker-baskets to contain this refuse as it is produced form a regular part of the furniture of a house. Whatever time of the day you enter, you are sure to find three or four people with a yard of cane in one hand, a knife in the other, and a basket between their legs, hacking, paring, chewing, and basket-filling, with a persevering assiduity which reminds one of a hungry cow grazing, or of a caterpillar eating up a leaf.
After five days’ absence the boats returned from Dobbo, bringing Ali and all the things I had sent for quite safe. A large party had assembled to be ready to carry home the goods brought, among which were a good many cocoa-nut, which are a great luxury here. It seems strange that they should never plant them; but the reason simply is, that they cannot bring their hearts to bury a good nut for the prospective advantage of a crop twelve years hence. There is also the chance of the fruits being dug up and eaten unless watched night and day. Among the things I had sent for was a box of arrack, and I was now of course besieged with requests for a little drop. I gave them a flask (about two bottles, which was very soon finished, and I was assured that there were many present who had not had a taste. As I feared my box would very soon be emptied if I supplied all their demands, I told them I had given them one, but the second they must pay for, and that afterwards I must have a Paradise bird for each flask. They immediately sent round to all the neighbouring houses, and mustered up a rupee in Dutch copper money, got their second flask, and drunk it as quickly as the first, and were then very talkative, but less noisy and importunate than I had expected. Two or three of them got round me and begged me for the twentieth time to tell them the name of my country. Then, as they could not pronounce it satisfactorily, they insisted that I was deceiving them, and that it was a name of my own invention. One funny old man, who bore a ludicrous resemblance, to a friend of mine at home, was almost indignant. “Ung-lung! “said he, “who ever heard of such a name? — ang lang — anger-lung — that can’t be the name of your country; you are playing with us.” Then he tried to give a convincing illustration. “My country is Wanumbai — anybody can say Wanumbai. I’m an ‘ orang-Wanumbai; but, N-glung! who ever heard of such a name? Do tell us the real name of your country, and then when you are gone we shall know how to talk about you.” To this luminous argument and remonstrance I could oppose nothing but assertion, and the whole party remained firmly convinced that I was for some reason or other deceiving them. They then attacked me on another point — what all the animals and birds and insects and shells were preserved so carefully for. They had often asked me this before, and I had tried to explain to them that they would be stuffed, and made to look as if alive, and people in my country would go to look at them. But this was not satisfying; in my country there must be many better things to look at, and they could not believe I would take so much trouble with their birds and beasts just for people to look at. They did not want to look at them; and we, who made calico and glass and knives, and all sorts of wonderful things, could not want things from Aru to look at. They had evidently been thinking about it, and had at length got what seemed a very satisfactory theory; for the same old man said to me, in a low, mysterious voice, “What becomes of them when you go on to the sea?” “Why, they are all packed up in boxes,” said I “What did you think became of them?” “They all come to life again, don’t they?” said he; and though I tried to joke it off, and said if they did we should have plenty to eat at sea, he stuck to his opinion, and kept repeating, with an air of deep conviction, “Yes, they all come to life again, that’s what they do — they all come to life again.”
After a little while, and a good deal of talking among themselves, he began again —“I know all about it — oh yes! Before you came we had rain every day — very wet indeed; now, ever since you have been here, it is fine hot weather. Oh, yes! I know all about it; you can’t deceive me.” And so I was set down as a conjurer, and was unable to repel the charge. But the conjurer was completely puzzled by the next question: “What,” said the old man, “is the great ship, where the Bugis and Chinamen go to sell their things? It is always in the great sea — its name is Jong; tell us all about it.” In vain I inquired what they knew about it; they knew nothing but that it was called “Jong,” and was always in the sea, and was a very great ship, and concluded with, “Perhaps that is your country?” Finding that I could not or would not tell them anything about “Jong,” there came more regrets that I would not tell them the real name of my country; and then a long string of compliments, to the effect that I was a much better sort of a person than the Bugis and Chinese, who sometimes came to trade with them, for I gave them things for nothing, and did not try to cheat them. How long would I stop? was the next earnest inquiry. Would I stay two or three months? They would get me plenty of birds and animals, and I might soon finish all the goods I had brought, and then, said the old spokesman, “Don’t go away, but send for more things from Dobbo, and stay here a year or two.” And then again the old story, “Do tell us the name of your country. We know the Bugis men, and the Macassar men, and the Java men, and the China men; only you, we don’t know from what country you come. Ung-lung! it can’t be; I know that is not the name of your country.” Seeing no end to this long talk, I said I was tired, and wanted to go to sleep; so after begging — one a little bit of dry fish for his supper, and another a little salt to eat with his sago — they went off very quietly, and I went outside and took a stroll round the house by moonlight, thinking of the simple people and the strange productions of Aru, and then turned in under my mosquito curtain; to sleep with a sense of perfect security in the midst of these good-natured savages.
We now had seven or eight days of hot and dry weather, which reduced the little river to a succession of shallow pools connected by the smallest possible thread of trickling water. If there were a dry season like that of Macassar, the Aru Islands would be uninhabitable, as there is no part of them much above a hundred feet high; and the whole being a mass of porous coralline rock, allows the surface water rapidly to escape. The only dry season they have is for a month or two about September or October, and there is then an excessive scarcity of water, so that sometimes hundreds of birds and other animals die of drought. The natives then remove to houses near the sources of the small streams, where, in the shady depths of the forest, a small quantity of water still remains. Even then many of them have to go miles for their water, which they keep in large bamboos and use very sparingly. They assure me that they catch and kill game of all kinds, by watching at the water holes or setting snares around them. That would be the time for me to make my collections; but the want of water would be a terrible annoyance, and the impossibility of getting away before another whole year had passed made it out of the question.
Ever since leaving Dobbo I had suffered terribly from insects, who seemed here bent upon revenging my long-continued persecution of their race. At our first stopping-place sand-flies were very abundant at night, penetrating to every part of the body, and producing a more lasting irritation than mosquitoes. My feet and ankles especially suffered, and were completely covered with little red swollen specks, which tormented me horribly. On arriving here we were delighted to find the house free from sand-flies or mosquitoes, but in the plantations where my daily walks led me, the day-biting mosquitoes swarmed, and seemed especially to delight in attaching my poor feet. After a month’s incessant punishment, those useful members rebelled against such treatment and broke into open insurrection, throwing out numerous inflamed ulcers, which were very painful, and stopped me from walking. So I found myself confined to the house, and with no immediate prospect of leaving it. Wounds or sores in the feet are especially difficult to heal in hot climates, and I therefore dreaded them more than any other illness. The confinement was very annoying, as the fine hot weather was excellent for insects, of which I had every promise of obtaining a fine collection; and it is only by daily and unremitting search that the smaller kinds, and the rarer and more interesting specimens, can be obtained. When I crawled down to the river-side to bathe, I often saw the blue-winged Papilio ulysses, or some other equally rare and beautiful insect; but there was nothing for it but patience, and to return quietly to my bird-skinning, or whatever other work I had indoors. The stings and bites and ceaseless irritation caused by these pests of the tropical forests, would be borne uncomplainingly; but to be kept prisoner by them in so rich and unexplored a country where rare and beautiful creatures are to be met with in every forest ramble — a country reached by such a long and tedious voyage, and which might not in the present century be again visited for the same purpose — is a punishment too severe for a naturalist to pass over in silence.
I had, however, some consolation in the birds my boys brought home daily, more especially the Paradiseas, which they at length obtained in full plumage. It was quite a relief to my mind to get these, for I could hardly have torn myself away from Aru had I not obtained specimens.
But what I valued almost as much as the birds themselves was the knowledge of their habits, which I was daily obtaining both from the accounts of my hunters, and from the conversation of the natives. The birds had now commenced what the people here call their “sacaleli,” or dancing-parties, in certain trees in the forest, which are not fruit trees as I at first imagined, but which have an immense tread of spreading branches and large but scattered leaves, giving a clear space for the birds to play and exhibit their plumes. On one of these trees a dozen or twenty full-plumaged male birds assemble together, raise up their wings, stretch out their necks, and elevate their exquisite plumes, keeping them in a continual vibration. Between whiles they fly across from branch to branch in great excitement, so that the whole tree is filled with waving plumes in every variety of attitude and motion. (See Frontispiece.) The bird itself is nearly as large as a crow, and is of a rich coffee brown colour. The head and neck is of a pure straw yellow above and rich metallic green beneath. The long plumy tufts of golden orange feathers spring from the sides beneath each wing, and when the bird is in repose are partly concealed by them. At the time of its excitement, however, the wings are raised vertically over tile back, the head is bent down and stretched out, and the long plumes are raised up and expanded till they form two magnificent golden fans, striped with deep red at the base, and fading off into the pale brown tint of the finely divided and softly waving points. The whole bird is then overshadowed by them, the crouching body, yellow head, and emerald green throat forming but the foundation and setting to the golden glory which waves above. When seen in this attitude, the Bird of Paradise really deserves its name, and must be ranked as one of the most beautiful and most wonderful of living things. I continued also to get specimens of the lovely little king-bird occasionally, as well as numbers of brilliant pigeons, sweet little parroquets, and many curious small birds, most nearly resembling those of Australia and New Guinea.
Here, as among most savage people I have dwelt among, I was delighted with the beauty of the human form-a beauty of which stay-at-home civilized people can scarcely have any conception. What are the finest Grecian statues to the living, moving, breathing men I saw daily around me? The unrestrained grace of the naked savage as he goes about his daily occupations, or lounges at his ease, must be seen to be understood; and a youth bending his bow is the perfection of manly beauty. The women, however, except in extreme youth, are by no means so pleasant to look at as the men. Their strongly-marked features are very unfeminine, and hard work, privations, and very early marriages soon destroy whatever of beauty or grace they may for a short time possess. Their toilet is very simple, but also, I am sorry to say, very coarse, and disgusting. It consists solely of a mat of plaited strips of palm leaves, worn tight round the body, and reaching from the hips to the knees. It seems not to be changed till worn out, is seldom washed, and is generally very dirty. This is the universal dress, except in a few cases where Malay “sarongs” have come into use. Their frizzly hair is tied in a bench at the back of the head. They delight in combing, or rather forking it, using for that purpose a large wooden fork with four diverging prongs, which answers the purpose of separating and arranging the long tangled, frizzly mass of cranial vegetation much better than any comb could do. The only ornaments of the women are earrings and necklaces, which they arrange in various tasteful ways. The ends of a necklace are often attached to the earrings, and then looped on to the hair-knot behind. This has really an elegant appearance, the beads hanging gracefully on each side of the head, and by establishing a connexion with the earrings give an appearance of utility to those barbarous ornaments. We recommend this style to the consideration of those of the fair sex who still bore holes in their ears and hang rings thereto. Another style of necklace among these Papuan belles is to wear two, each hanging on one side of the neck and under the opposite arm, so as to cross each other. This has a very pretty appearance, in part due to the contrast of the white beads or kangaroo teeth of which they are composed with the dark glossy skin. The earrings themselves are formed of a bar of copper or silver, twisted so that the ends cross. The men, as usual among savages, adorn themselves more than the women. They wear necklaces, earrings, and finger rings, and delight in a band of plaited grass tight round the arm just below the shoulder, to which they attach a bunch of hair or bright coloured feathers by way of ornament. The teeth of small animals, either alone, or alternately with black or white beads, form their necklaces, and sometimes bracelets also. For these latter, however, they prefer brass wire, or the black, horny, wing-spines of the cassowary, which they consider a charm. Anklets of brass or shell, and tight plaited garters below the knee, complete their ordinary decorations.
Some natives of Kobror from further south, and who are reckoned the worst and least civilized of the Aru tribes, came one day to visit us. They have a rather more than usually savage appearance, owing to the greater amount of ornaments they use — the most conspicuous being a large horseshoe-shaped comb which they wear over the forehead, the ends resting on the temples. The back of the comb is fastened into a piece of wood, which is plated with tin in front, and above is attached a plume of feathers from a cock’s tail. In other respects they scarcely differed from the people I was living with. They brought me a couple of birds, some shells and insects; showing that the report of the white man and his doing had reached their country. There was probably hardly a man in Aru who had not by this time heard of me.
Besides the domestic utensils already mentioned, the moveable property of a native is very scanty. He has a good supply of spears and bows and arrows for hunting, a parang, or chopping-knife, and an axe-for the stone age has passed away here, owing to the commercial enterprise of the Bugis and other Malay races. Attached to a belt, or hung across his shoulder, he carrion a little skin pouch and an ornamented bamboo, containing betel-nut, tobacco, and lime, and a small German wooden-handled knife is generally stuck between his waist-cloth of bark and his bare shin. Each man also possesses a °cadjan,” or sleeping-mat, made of the broad leaves of a pandanus neatly sewn together in three layers. This mat is abort four feet square, and when folded has one end sewn up, so that it forms a kind of sack open at one side. In the closed corner the head or feet can be placed, or by carrying it on the head in a shower it forms both coat and umbrella. It doubles up ix a small compass for convenient carriage, and then forms a light and elastic cushion, so that on a journey it becomes clothing, house, bedding, and furniture, all in one.
The only ornaments in an Aru horse are trophies of the chase — jaws of wild pigs, the heads and backbones of cassowaries, and plumes made from the feathers of the Bird of Paradise, cassowary, and domestic fowl. The spears, shields, knife-handles, and other utensils are more or less carved in fanciful designs, and the mats and leaf boxes are painted or plaited in neat patterns of red, black, and yellow colours. I must not forget these boxes, which are most ingeniously made of the pith of a balm leaf pegged together, lined inside with pandanus leaves, and outside with the same, or with plaited grass. All the joints and angles are coffered with strips of split rattan sewn neatly on. The lid is covered with the brown leathery spathe of the Areca palm, which is impervious to water, and the whole box is neat, strong, and well finished. They are made from a few inches to two or three feet long, and being much esteemed by the Malay as clothes-boxes, are a regular article of export from Aru. The natives use the smaller ones for tobacco or betel-nut, but seldom have clothes enough to require the larger ones, which are only made for sale.
Among the domestic animals which may generally be seen in native houses, are gaudy parrots, green, red, and blue, a few domestic fowls, which have baskets hung for them to lay in under the eaves, and who sleep on the ridge, and several half-starved wolfish-baking dogs. Instead of rats and mice there are curious little marsupial animals about the same size, which run about at night and nibble anything eatable that may be left uncovered. Four or five different kinds of ants attack everything not isolated by water, and one kind even swims across that; great spiders lurk in baskets and boxes, or hide in the folds of my mosquito curtain; centipedes and millepedes are found everywhere. I have caught them under my pillow and on my bead; while in every box, and under every hoard which has lain for some days undisturbed, little scorpions are sure to be found snugly ensconced, with their formidable tails quickly turned up ready for attack or defence. Such companions seem very alarming and dangerous, but all combined are not so bad as the irritation of mosquitoes, or of the insect pests often found at home. These latter are a constant and unceasing source of torment and disgust, whereas you may live a long time among scorpions, spiders, and centipedes, ugly and venomous though they are, and get no harm from them. After living twelve years in the tropics, I have never yet been bitten or stung by either.
The lean and hungry dogs before mentioned were my greatest enemies, and kept me constantly on the watch. If my boys left the bird they were skinning for an instant, it was sure to be carried off. Everything eatable had to be hung up to the roof, to be out of their reach. Ali had just finished skinning a fine King Bird of Paradise one day, when he dropped the skin. Before he could stoop to pick it up, one of this famished race had seized upon it, and he only succeeded in rescuing it from its fangs after it was torn to tatters. Two skins of the large Paradisea, which were quite dry and ready to pack away, were incautiously left on my table for the night, wrapped up in paper. The next morning they were gone, and only a few scattered feathers indicated their fate. My hanging shelf was out of their reach; but having stupidly left a box which served as a step, a full-plumaged Paradise bird was next morning missing; and a dog below the house was to be seen still mumbling over the fragments, with the fine golden plumes all trampled in the mud. Every night, as soon as I was in bed, I could hear them searching about for what they could devour, under my table, and all about my boxes and baskets, keeping me in a state of suspense till morning, lest something of value might incautiously have been left within their read. They would drink the oil of my floating lamp and eat the wick, and upset or break my crockery if my lazy boys had neglected to wash away even the smell of anything eatable. Bad, however, as they are here, they were worse in a Dyak’s house in Borneo where I was once staying, for there they gnawed off the tops of my waterproof boots, ate a large piece out of an old leather game-bag, besides devouring a portion of my mosquito curtain!
April 28th. — Last evening we had a grand consultation, which had evidently been arranged and discussed beforehand. A number of the natives gathered round me, and said they wanted to talk. Two of the best Malay scholars helped each other, the rest putting in hints and ideas in their own language. They told me a long rambling story; but, partly owing to their imperfect knowledge of Malay, partly through my ignorance of local terms, and partly through the incoherence of their narrative, I could not make it out very clearly. It was, however, a tradition, and I was glad to find they had anything of the kind. A long time ago, they said, some strangers came to Aru, and came here to Wanumbai, and the chief of the Wanumbai people did not like them, and wanted them to go away, but they would not go, and so it came to fighting, and many Aru men were killed, and some, along with the chief, were taken prisoners, and carried away by the strangers. Some of the speakers, however, said that he was not carried away, but went away in his own boat to escape from the foreigners, and went to the sea and never came back again. But they all believe that the chief and the people that went with him still live in some foreign country; and if they could but find out where, they would send for them to come back again. Now having some vague idea that white men must know every country beyond the sea, they wanted to know if I had met their people in my country or in the sea. They thought they must be there, for they could not imagine where else they could be. They had sought for them everywhere, they said — on the land and in the sea, in the forest and on the mountains, in the air and in the sky, and could not find them; therefore, they must be in my country, and they begged me to tell them, for I must surely know, as I came from across the great sea. I tried to explain to them that their friends could not have reached my country in small boats; and that there were plenty of islands like Aru all about the sea, which they would be sure to find. Besides, as it was so long ago, the chief and all the people must be dead. But they quite laughed at this idea, and said they were sure they were alive, for they had proof of it. And then they told me that a good many years ago, when the speakers were boys, some Wokan men who were out fishing met these lost people in the sea, and spoke to them; and the chief gave the Wokan men a hundred fathoms of cloth to bring to the men of Wanumbai, to show that they were alive and would soon come back to them, but the Wokan men were thieves, and kept the cloth, and they only heard of it afterwards; and when they spoke about it, the Wokan men denied it, and pretended they had not received the cloth; — so they were quite sure their friends were at that time alive and somewhere in the sea. And again, not many years ago, a report came to them that some Bu0gis traders had brought some children of their lost people; so they went to Dobbo to see about it, and the owner of the house, who was now speaking to me, was one who went; but the Bugis roan would not let them see the children, and threatened to kill them if they came into his house. He kept the children shut up in a large box, and when he went away he took them with him. And at the end of each of these stories, they begged me in an imploring tone to tell them if I knew where their chief and their people now were.
By dint of questioning, I got some account of the strangers who had taken away their people. They said they were wonderfully strong, and each one could kill a great many Aru men; and when they were wounded, however badly, they spit upon the place, and it immediately became well. And they made a great net of rattans, and entangled their prisoners in it, and sunk them in the water; and the next day, when they pulled the net up on shore, they made the drowned men come to life again, and carried them away.
Much more of the same kind was told me, but in so confused and rambling a manner that I could make nothing out of it, till I inquired how long ago it was that all this happened, when they told me that after their people were taken away the Bugis came in their praus to trade in Aru, and to buy tripang and birds’ nests. It is not impossible that something similar to what they related to me really happened when the early Portuguese discoverers first carne to Aru, and has formed the foundation for a continually increasing accumulation of legend and fable. I have no doubt that to the next generation, or even before, I myself shall be transformed into a magician or a demigod, a worker of miracles, and a being of supernatural knowledge. They already believe that all the animals I preserve will come to life again; and to their children it will be related that they actually did so. An unusual spell of fine weather setting in just at my arrival has made them believe I can control the seasons; and the simple circumstance of my always walking alone in the forest is a wonder and a mystery to them, as well as my asking them about birds and animals I have not yet seen, and showing an acquaintance with their form, colours, and habits. These facts are brought against me when I disclaim knowledge of what they wish me to tell them. “You must know,” say they; “you know everything: you make the fine weather for your men to shoot, and you know all about our birds and our animals as well as we do; and you go alone into the forest and are not afraid.” Therefore every confession of ignorance on my part is thought to be a blind, a mere excuse to avoid telling them too much. My very writing materials and books are to them weird things; and were I to choose to mystify them by a few simple experiments with lens and magnet, miracles without end would in a few years cluster about me; and future travellers, penetrating to Wanumbai, world h hardly believe that a poor English naturalist, who had resided a few months among them, could have been the original of the supernatural being to whom so many marvels were attributed.
Far some days I had noticed a good deal of excitement, and many strangers came and went armed with spears and cutlasses, bows and shields. I now found there was war near us — two neighbouring villages having a quarrel about some matter of local politics that I could not understand. They told me it was quite a common thing, and that they are rarely without fighting somewhere near. Individual quarrels are taken up by villages and tribes, and the nonpayment of the stipulated price for a wife is one of the most frequent causes of bitterness and bloodshed. One of the war shields was brought me to look at. It was made of rattans and covered with cotton twist, so as to be both light, strong, and very tough. I should think it would resist any ordinary bullet. Abort the middle there was au arm-hole with a shutter or flap over it. This enables the arm to be put through and the bow drawn, while the body and face, up to the eyes, remain protected, which cannot be done if the shield is carried on the arm by loops attached at the back in the ordinary way. A few of the young men from our house went to help their friends, but I could not bear that any of them were hurt, or that there was much hard fighting.
May 8th.-I had now been six weeks at Wanumbai, but for more than half the time was laid up in the house with ulcerated feet. My stores being nearly exhausted, and my bird and insect boxes full, and having no immediate prospect of getting the use of my legs again, I determined on returning to Dobbo. Birds had lately become rather scarce, and the Paradise birds had not yet become as plentiful as the natives assured me they would be in another month. The Wanumbai people seemed very sorry at my departure; and well they might be, for the shells and insects they picked up on the way to and from their plantations, and the birds the little boys shot with their bows and arrows, kept them all well supplied with tobacco and gambir, besides enabling them to accumulate a stock of beads and coppers for future expenses. The owner of the house was supplied gratis with a little rice, fish, or salt, whenever he asked for it, which I must say was not very often. On parting, I distributed among them my remnant stock of salt and tobacco, and gave my host a flask of arrack, and believe that on the whole my stay with these simple and good-natured people was productive of pleasure and profit to both parties. I fully intended to come back; and had I known that circumstances would have prevented my doing so, shoed have felt some sorrow in leaving a place where I had first seen so many rare and beautiful living things, and bad so fully enjoyed the pleasure which fills the heart of the naturalist when he is so fortunate as to discover a district hitherto unexplored, and where every day brings forth new and unexpected treasures. We loaded our boat in the afternoon, and, starting before daybreak, by the help of a fair wind reached Dobbo late the same evening.
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