The road is divided into regular stages of ten or twelve miles each, and, without sending on in advance to have coolies ready, only this distance can be travelled in a day. At each station there are houses for the accommodation of passengers, with cooking-house and stables, and six or eight men always on guard. There is an established system for coolies at fixed rates, the inhabitants of the surrounding villages all taking their turn to be subject to coolie service, as well as that of guards at the station for five days at a time. This arrangement makes travelling very easy, and was a great convenience for me. I had a pleasant walk of ten or twelve miles in the morning, and the rest of the day could stroll about and explore the village and neighbourhood, having a house ready to occupy without any formalities whatever. In three days I reached Moera-dua, the first village in Rembang, and finding the country dry and undulating, with a good sprinkling of forest, I determined to remain a short time and try the neighbourhood. Just opposite the station was a small but deep river, and a good bathing-place; and beyond the village was a fine patch of forest, through which the road passed, overshadowed by magnificent trees, which partly tempted me to stay; but after a fortnight I could find no good place for insects, and very few birds different from the common species of Malacca. I therefore moved on another stage to Lobo Raman, where the guard-house is situated quite by itself in the forest, nearly a mile from each of three villages. This was very agreeable to me, as I could move about without having every motion watched by crowds of men, women and children, and I had also a much greater variety of walks to each of the villages and the plantations around them.
The villages of the Sumatran Malays are somewhat peculiar and very picturesque. A space of some acres is surrounded with a high fence, and over this area the houses are thickly strewn without the least attempt at regularity. Tall cocoa-nut trees grow abundantly between them, and the ground is bare and smooth with the trampling of many feet. The houses are raised about six feet on posts, the best being entirely built of planks, others of bamboo. The former are always more or less ornamented with carving and have high-pitched roofs and overhanging eaves. The gable ends and all the chief posts and beams are sometimes covered with exceedingly tasteful carved work, and this is still more the case in the district of Menangkabo, further west. The floor is made of split bamboo, and is rather shaky, and there is no sign of anything we should call furniture. There are no benches or chairs or stools, but merely the level floor covered with mats, on which the inmates sit or lie. The aspect of the village itself is very neat, the ground being often swept before the chief houses; but very bad odours abound, owing to there being under every house a stinking mud-hole, formed by all waste liquids and refuse matter, poured down through the floor above. In most other things Malays are tolerably clean—in some scrupulously so; and this peculiar and nasty custom, which is almost universal, arises, I have little doubt, from their having been originally a maritime and water-loving people, who built their houses on posts in the water, and only migrated gradually inland, first up the rivers and streams, and then into the dry interior. Habits which were at once so convenient and so cleanly, and which had been so long practised as to become a portion of the domestic life of the nation, were of course continued when the first settlers built their houses inland; and without a regular system of drainage, the arrangement of the villages is such that any other system would be very inconvenient.
In all these Sumatran villages I found considerable difficulty in getting anything to eat. It was not the season for vegetables, and when, after much trouble, I managed to procure some yams of a curious variety, I found them hard and scarcely eatable. Fowls were very scarce; and fruit was reduced to one of the poorest kinds of banana. The natives (during the wet season at least) live exclusively on rice, as the poorer Irish do on potatoes. A pot of rice cooked very dry and eaten with salt and red peppers, twice a day, forms their entire food during a large part of the year. This is no sign of poverty, but is simply custom; for their wives and children are loaded with silver armlets from wrist to elbow, and carry dozens of silver coins strung round their necks or suspended from their ears.
As I had moved away from Palembang, I had found the Malay spoken by the common people less and less pure, until at length it became quite unintelligible, although the continual recurrence of many well-known words assured me it was a form of Malay, and enabled me to guess at the main subject of conversation. This district had a very bad reputation a few years ago, and travellers were frequently robbed and murdered. Fights between village and village were also of frequent occurrence, and many lives were lost, owing to disputes about boundaries or intrigues with women. Now, however, since the country has been divided into districts under "Controlleurs," who visit every village in turn to hear complaints and settle disputes, such things are heard of no more. This is one of the numerous examples I have met with of the good effects of the Dutch Government. It exercises a strict surveillance over its most distant possessions, establishes a form of government well adapted to the character of the people, reforms abuses, punishes crimes, and makes itself everywhere respected by the native population.
Lobo Raman is a central point of the east end of Sumatra, being about a hundred and twenty miles from the sea to the east, north, and west. The surface is undulating, with no mountains or even hills, and there is no rock, the soil being generally a red pliable clay. Numbers of small streams and rivers intersect the country, and it is pretty equally divided between open clearings and patches of forest, both virgin and second growth, with abundance of fruit trees; and there is no lack of paths to get about in any direction. Altogether it is the very country that would promise most for a naturalist, and I feel sure that at a more favourable time of year it would prove exceedingly rich; but it was now the rainy season, when, in the very best of localities, insects are always scarce, and there being no fruit on the trees, there was also a scarcity of birds. During a month's collecting, I added only three or four new species to my list of birds, although I obtained very fine specimens of many which were rare and interesting. In butterflies I was rather more successful, obtaining several fine species quite new to me, and a considerable number of very rare and beautiful insects. I will give here some account of two species of butterflies, which, though very common in collections, present us with peculiarities of the highest interest.
The first is the handsome Papilio memnon, a splendid butterfly of a deep black colour, dotted over with lines and groups of scales of a clear ashy blue. Its wings are five inches in expanse, and the hind wings are rounded, with scalloped edges. This applies to the males; but the females are very different, and vary so much that they were once supposed to form several distinct species. They may be divided into two groups—those which resemble the male in shape, and, those which differ entirely from him in the outline of the wings. The first vary much in colour, being often nearly white with dusky yellow and red markings, but such differences often occur in butterflies. The second group are much more extraordinary, and would never be supposed to be the same insect, since the hind wings are lengthened out into large spoon-shaped tails, no rudiment of which is ever to be perceived in the males or in the ordinary form of females. These tailed females are never of the dark and blue-glossed tints which prevail in the male and often occur in the females of the same form, but are invariably ornamented with stripes and patches of white or buff, occupying the larger part of the surface of the hind wings. This peculiarity of colouring led me to discover that this extraordinary female closely resembles (when flying) another butterfly of the same genus but of a different group (Papilio cooen), and that we have here a case of mimicry similar to those so well illustrated and explained by Mr. Bates.[ Trans. Linn. Soc. vol. xviii. p. 495; "Naturalist on the Amazons," vol. i. p. 290.]
That the resemblance is not accidental is sufficiently proved by the fact, that in the North of India, where Papilio cooen is replaced by all allied forms, (Papilio Doubledayi) having red spots in place of yellow, a closely-allied species or variety of Papilio memnon (P. androgens) has the tailed female also red spotted. The use and reason of this resemblance appears to be that the butterflies imitated belong to a section of the genus Papilio which from some cause or other are not attacked by birds, and by so closely resembling these in form and colour the female of Memnon and its ally, also escape persecution. Two other species of this same section (Papilio antiphus and Papilio polyphontes) are so closely imitated by two female forms of Papilio theseus (which comes in the same section with Memnon), that they completely deceived the Dutch entomologist De Haan, and he accordingly classed them as the same species!
But the most curious fact connected with these distinct forms is that they are both the offspring of either form. A single brood of larva were bred in Java by a Dutch entomologist, and produced males as well as tailed and tailless females, and there is every reason to believe that this is always the case, and that forms intermediate in character never occur. To illustrate these phenomena, let us suppose a roaming Englishman in some remote island to have two wives—one a black-haired/red-skinned Indian, the other a woolly-headed/sooty-skinned negress; and that instead of the children being mulattoes of brown or dusky tints, mingling the characteristics of each parent in varying degrees, all the boys should be as fair-skinned and blue-eyed as their father, while the girls should altogether resemble their mothers. This would be thought strange enough, but the case of these butterflies is yet more extraordinary, for each mother is capable not only of producing male offspring like the father, and female like herself, but also other females like her fellow wife, and altogether differing from herself!
The other species to which I have to direct attention is the Kallima paralekta, a butterfly of the same family group as our Purple Emperor, and of about the same size or larger. Its upper surface is of a rich purple, variously tinged with ash colour, and across the forewings there is a broad bar of deep orange, so that when on the wing it is very conspicuous. This species was not uncommon in dry woods and thickets, and I often endeavoured to capture it without success, for after flying a short distance it would enter a bush among dry or dead leaves, and however carefully I crept up to the spot I could never discover it until it would suddenly start out again and then disappear in a similar place. If at length I was fortunate enough to see the exact spot where the butterfly settled, and though I lost sight of it for some time, I would discover that it was close before my eyes, but that in its position of repose it so closely resembled a dead leaf attached to a twig as almost certainly to deceive the eye even when gazing full upon it. I captured several specimens on the wing, and was able fully to understand the way in which this wonderful resemblance is produced.
The end of the upper wings terminates in a fine point, just as the leaves of many tropical shrubs and trees are pointed, while the lower wings are somewhat more obtuse, and are lengthened out into a short thick tail. Between these two points there runs a dark curved line exactly representing the midrib of a leaf, and from this radiate on each side a few oblique marks which well imitate the lateral veins. These marks are more clearly seen on the outer portion of the base of the wings, and on the innerside towards the middle and apex, and they are produced by striae and markings which are very common in allied species, but which are here modified and strengthened so as to imitate more exactly the venation of a leaf. The tint of the undersurface varies much, but it is always some ashy brown or reddish colour, which matches with those of dead leaves. The habit of the species is always to rest on a twig and among dead or dry leaves, and in this position with the wings closely pressed together, their outline is exactly that of a moderately-sized leaf, slightly curved or shrivelled. The tail of the hind wings forms a perfect stalk, and touches the stick while the insect is supported by the middle pair of legs, which are not noticed among the twigs and fibres that surround it. The head and antennae are drawn back between the wings so as to be quite concealed, and there is a little notch hollowed out at the very base of the wings, which allows the head to be retracted sufficiently. All these varied details combine to produce a disguise that is so complete and marvellous as to astonish everyone who observes it; and the habits of the insects are such as to utilize all these peculiarities, and render them available in such a manner as to remove all doubt of the purpose of this singular case of mimicry, which is undoubtedly a protection to the insect.
Its strong and swift flight is sufficient to save it from its enemies when on the wing, but if it were equally conspicuous when at rest it could not long escape extinction, owing to the attacks of the insectivorous birds and reptiles that abound in the tropical forests. A very closely allied species, Kallima inachis, inhabits India, where it is very common, and specimens are sent in every collection from the Himalayas. On examining a number of these, it will be seen that no two are alike, but all the variations correspond to those of dead leaves. Every tint of yellow, ash, brown, and red is found here, and in many specimens there occur patches and spots formed of small black dots, so closely resembling the way in which minute fungi grow on leaves that it is almost impossible at first not to believe that fungi have gown on the butterflies themselves!
If such an extraordinary adaptation as this stood alone, it would be very difficult to offer any explanation of it; but although it is perhaps the most perfect case of protective imitation known, there are hundreds of similar resemblances in nature, and from these it is possible to deduce a general theory of the manner in which they have been slowly brought about. The principle of variation and that of "natural selection," or survival of the fittest, as elaborated by Mr. Darwin in his celebrated "Origin of Species," offers the foundation for such a theory; and I have myself endeavoured to apply it to all the chief cases of imitation in an article published in the "Westminster Review" for 1867, entitled, "Mimicry, and other Protective Resemblances Among Animals," to which any reader is referred who wishes to know more about this subject.
In Sumatra, monkeys are very abundant, and at Lobo Kaman they used to frequent the trees which overhang the guard-house, and give me a fine opportunity of observing their gambols. Two species of Semnopithecus were most plentiful—monkeys of a slender form, with very long tails. Not being much shot at they are rather bold, and remain quite unconcerned when natives alone are present; but when I came out to look at them, they would stare for a minute or two and then make off. They take tremendous leaps from the branches of one tree to those at another a little lower, and it is very amusing when a one strong leader takes a bold jump, to see the others following with more or less trepidation; and it often happens that one or two of the last seem quite unable to make up their minds to leap until the rest are disappearing, when, as if in desperation at being left alone, they throw themselves frantically into the air, and often go crashing through the slender branches and fall to the ground.
A very curious ape, the Siamang, was also rather abundant, but it is much less bold than the monkeys, keeping to the virgin forests and avoiding villages. This species is allied to the little long-armed apes of the genus Hylobates, but is considerably larger, and differs from them by having the two first fingers of the feet united together, nearly to the end as does its Latin native, Siamanga syndactyla. It moves much more slowly than the active Hylobates, keeping lower down in trees, and not indulging in such tremendous leaps; but it is still very active, and by means of its immense long arms, five feet six inches across in an adult about three feet high, can swing itself along among the trees at a great rate. I purchased a small one, which had been caught by the natives and tied up so tightly as to hurt it. It was rather savage at first, and tried to bite; but when we had released it and given it two poles under the verandah to hang upon, securing it by a short cord, running along the pole with a ring so that it could move easily, it became more contented, and would swing itself about with great rapidity. It ate almost any kind of fruit and rice, and I was in hopes to have brought it to England, but it died just before I started. It took a dislike to me at first, which I tried to get over by feeding it constantly myself. One day, however, it bit me so sharply while giving it food, that I lost patience and gave it rather a severe beating, which I regretted afterwards, as from that time it disliked me more than ever. It would allow my Malay boys to play with it, and for hours together would swing by its arms from pole to pole and on to the rafters of the verandah, with so much ease and rapidity, that it was a constant source of amusement to us. When I returned to Singapore it attracted great attention, as no one had seen a Siamang alive before, although it is not uncommon in some parts of the Malay peninsula.
As the Orangutan is known to inhabit Sumatra, and was in fact first discovered there, I made many inquiries about it; but none of the natives had ever heard of such an animal, nor could I find any of the Dutch officials who knew anything about it. We may conclude, therefore, that it does not inhabit the great forest plains in the east of Sumatra where one would naturally expect to find it, but is probably confined to a limited region in the northwest part of the island entirely in the hands of native rulers. The other great Mammalia of Sumatra, the elephant and the rhinoceros, are more widely distributed; but the former is much more scarce than it was a few years ago, and seems to retire rapidly before the spread of cultivation. Lobo Kaman tusks and bones are occasionally found about in the forest, but the living animal is now never seen. The rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sumatranus) still abounds, and I continually saw its tracks and its dung, and once disturbed one feeding, which went crashing away through the jungle, only permitting me a momentary glimpse of it through the dense underwood. I obtained a tolerably perfect cranium, and a number of teeth, which were picked up by the natives.
Another curious animal, which I had met with in Singapore and in Borneo, but which was more abundant here, is the Galeopithecus, or flying lemur. This creature has a broad membrane extending all around its body to the extremities of the toes, and to the point of the rather long tail. This enables it to pass obliquely through the air from one tree to another. It is sluggish in its motions, at least by day, going up a tree by short runs of a few feet, and then stopping a moment as if the action was difficult. It rests during the day clinging to the trunks of trees, where its olive or brown fur, mottled with irregular whitish spots and blotches, resembles closely the colour of mottled bark, and no doubt helps to protect it. Once, in a bright twilight, I saw one of these animals run up a trunk in a rather open place, and then glide obliquely through the air to another tree, on which it alighted near its base, and immediately began to ascend. I paced the distance from the one tree to the other, and found it to be seventy yards; and the amount of descent I estimated at not more than thirty-five or forty feet, or less than one in five. This I think proves that the animal must have some power of guiding itself through the air, otherwise in so long a distance it would have little chance of alighting exactly upon the trunk. Like the Cuscus of the Moluccas, the Galeopithecus feeds chiefly on leaves, and possesses a very voluminous stomach and long convoluted intestines. The brain is very small, and the animal possesses such remarkable tenacity of life, that it is exceedingly difficult to kill it by any ordinary means. The tail is prehensile; and is probably made use of as an additional support while feeding. It is said to have only a single young one at a time, and my own observation confirms this statement, for I once shot a female with a very small blind and naked little creature clinging closely to its breast, which was quite bare and much wrinkled, reminding me of the young of Marsupials, to which it seemed to form a transition. On the back, and extending over the limbs and membrane, the fur of these animals is short, but exquisitely soft, resembling in its texture that of the Chinchilla.
I returned to Palembang by water, and while staying a day at a village while a boat was being made watertight, I had the good fortune to obtain a male, female, and young bird of one of the large hornbills. I had sent my hunters to shoot, and while I was at breakfast they returned, bringing me a fine large male of the Buceros bicornis, which one of them assured me he had shot while feeding the female, which was shut up in a hole in a tree. I had often read of this curious habit, and immediately returned to the place, accompanied by several of the natives. After crossing a stream and a bog, we found a large tree leaning over some water, and on its lower side, at a height of about twenty feet, appeared a small hole, and what looked like a quantity of mud, which I was assured had been used in stopping up the large hole. After a while we heard the harsh cry of a bird inside, and could see the white extremity of its beak put out. I offered a rupee to anyone who would go up and get the bird out, with the egg or young one; but they all declared it was too difficult, and they were afraid to try. I therefore very reluctantly came away. About an hour afterwards, much to my surprise, a tremendous loud, hoarse screaming was heard, and the bird was brought me, together with a young one which had been found in the hole. This was a most curious object, as large as a pigeon, but without a particle of plumage on any part of it. It was exceedingly plump and soft, and with a semi-transparent skin, so that it looked more like a bag of jelly, with head and feet stuck on, than like a real bird.
The extraordinary habit of the male, in plastering up the female with her egg, and feeding her during the whole time of incubation, and until the young one is fledged, is common to several of the large hornbills, and is one of those strange facts in natural history which are "stranger than fiction."
CHAPTER IX. NATURAL HISTORY OF THE INDO-MALAY ISLANDS.
IN the first CHAPTER of this work I have stated generally the reasons which lead us to conclude that the large islands in the western portion of the Archipelago—Java, Sumatra, and Borneo—as well as the Malay peninsula and the Philippine islands, have been recently separated from the continent of Asia. I now propose to give a sketch of the Natural History of these, which I term the Indo-Malay islands, and to show how far it supports this view, and how much information it is able to give us of the antiquity and origin of the separate islands.
The flora of the Archipelago is at present so imperfectly known, and I have myself paid so little attention to it, that I cannot draw from it many facts of importance. The Malayan type of vegetation is however a very important one; and Dr. Hooker informs us, in his "Flora Indica," that it spreads over all the moister and more equable parts of India, and that many plants found in Ceylon, the Himalayas, the Nilghiri, and Khasia mountains are identical with those of Java and the Malay peninsula. Among the more characteristic forms of this flora are the rattans—climbing palms of the genus Calamus, and a great variety of tall, as well as stemless palms. Orchids, Aracae, Zingiberaceae and ferns, are especially abundant, and the genus Grammatophyllum—a gigantic epiphytal orchid, whose clusters of leaves and flower-stems are ten or twelve feet long—is peculiar to it. Here, too, is the domain of the wonderful pitcher plants (Nepenthaceae), which are only represented elsewhere by solitary species in Ceylon, Madagascar, the Seychelles, Celebes, and the Moluccas. Those celebrated fruits, the Mangosteen and the Durian, are natives of this region, and will hardly grow out of the Archipelago. The mountain plants of Java have already been alluded to as showing a former connexion with the continent of Asia; and a still more extraordinary and more ancient connection with Australia has been indicated by Mr. Low's collections from the summit of Kini-balou, the loftiest mountain in Borneo.
Plants have much greater facilities for passing across arms of the sea than animals. The lighter seeds are easily carried by the winds, and many of them are specially adapted to be so carried. Others can float a long tune unhurt in the water, and are drifted by winds and currents to distant shores. Pigeons, and other fruit-eating birds, are also the means of distributing plants, since the seeds readily germinate after passing through their bodies. It thus happens that plants which grow on shores and lowlands have a wide distribution, and it requires an extensive knowledge of the species of each island to determine the relations of their floras with any approach to accuracy. At present we have no such complete knowledge of the botany of the several islands of the Archipelago; and it is only by such striking phenomena as the occurrence of northern and even European genera on the summits of the Javanese mountains that we can prove the former connection of that island with the Asiatic continent. With land animals, however, the case is very different. Their means of passing a wide expanse of sea are far more restricted. Their distribution has been more accurately studied, and we possess a much more complete knowledge of such groups as mammals and birds in most of the islands, than we do of the plants. It is these two classes which will supply us with most of our facts as to the geographical distribution of organized beings in this region.
The number of Mammalia known to inhabit the Indo-Malay region is very considerable, exceeding 170 species. With the exception of the bats, none of these have any regular means of passing arms of the sea many miles in extent, and a consideration of their distribution must therefore greatly assist us in determining whether these islands have ever been connected with each other or with the continent since the epoch of existing species.
The Quadrumana or monkey tribe form one of the most characteristic features of this region. Twenty-four distinct species are known to inhabit it, and these are distributed with tolerable uniformity over the islands, nine being found in Java, ten in the Malay peninsula, eleven in Sumatra, and thirteen in Borneo. The great man-like Orangutans are found only in Sumatra and Borneo; the curious Siamang (next to them in size) in Sumatra and Malacca; the long-nosed monkey only in Borneo; while every island has representatives of the Gibbons or long-armed apes, and of monkeys. The lemur-like animals, Nycticebus, Tarsius, and Galeopithecus, are found on all the islands.
Seven species found on the Malay peninsula extend also into Sumatra, four into Borneo, and three into Java; while two range into Siam and Burma, and one into North India. With the exception of the Orangutan, the Siamang, the Tarsius spectrum, and the Galeopithecus, all the Malayan genera of Quadrumana are represented in India by closely allied species, although, owing to the limited range of most of these animals, so few are absolutely identical.
Of Carnivora, thirty-three species are known from the Indo-Malay region, of which about eight are found also in Burma and India. Among these are the tiger, leopard, a tiger-cat, civet, and otter; while out of the twenty genera of Malayan Carnivora, thirteen are represented in India by more or less closely allied species. As an example, the Malayan bear is represented in North India by the Tibetan bear, both of which may be seen alive at the Zoological Society's Gardens.
The hoofed animals are twenty-two in number, of which about seven extend into Burmahand India. All the deer are of peculiar species, except two, which range from Malacca into India. Of the cattle, one Indian species reaches Malacca, while the Bos sondiacus of Java and Borneo is also found in Siam and Burma. A goat-like animal is found in Sumatra which has its representative in India; while the two-horned rhinoceros of Sumatra and the single-horned species of Java, long supposed to be peculiar to these islands, are now both ascertained to exist in Burma, Pegu, and Moulmein. The elephant of Sumatra, Borneo, and Malacca is now considered to be identical with that of Ceylon and India.
In all other groups of Mammalia the same general phenomena recur. A few species are identical with those of India. A much larger number are closely allied or representative forms, while there are always a small number of peculiar genera, consisting of animals unlike those found in any other part of the world. There are about fifty bats, of which less than one-fourth are Indian species; thirty-four Rodents (squirrels, rats, &c.), of which six or eight only are Indian; and ten Insectivora, with one exception peculiar to the Malay region. The squirrels are very abundant and characteristic, only two species out of twenty-five extending into Siam and Burma. The Tupaias are curious insect-eaters, which closely resemble squirrels, and are almost confined to the Malay islands, as are the small feather-tailed Ptilocerus lowii of Borneo, and the curious long-snouted and naked-tailed Gymnurus rafllesii.
As the Malay peninsula is a part of the continent of Asia, the question of the former union of the islands to the mainland will be best elucidated by studying the species which are found in the former district, and also in some of the islands. Now, if we entirely leave out of consideration the bats, which have the power of flight, there are still forty-eight species of mammals common to the Malay peninsula and the three large islands. Among these are seven Quadrumana (apes, monkeys, and lemurs), animals who pass their whole existence in forests, who never swim, and who would be quite unable to traverse a single mile of sea; nineteen Carnivora, some of which no doubt might cross by swimming, but we cannot suppose so large a number to have passed in this way across a strait which, except at one point, is from thirty to fifty miles wide; and five hoofed animals, including the Tapir, two species of rhinoceros, and an elephant. Besides these there are thirteen Rodents and four Insectivora, including a shrew-mouse and six squirrels, whose unaided passage over twenty miles of sea is even more inconceivable than that of the larger animals.
But when we come to the cases of the same species inhabiting two of the more widely separated islands, the difficulty is much increased. Borneo is distant nearly 150 miles from Biliton, which is about fifty miles from Banca, and this fifteen from Sumatra, yet there are no less than thirty-six species of mammals common to Borneo and Sumatra. Java again is more than 250 miles from Borneo, yet these two islands have twenty-two species in common, including monkeys, lemurs, wild oxen, squirrels and shrews. These facts seem to render it absolutely certain that there has been at some former period a connection between all these islands and the mainland, and the fact that most of the animals common to two or more of then, show little or no variation, but are often absolutely identical, indicates that the separation must have been recent in a geological sense; that is, not earlier than the Newer Pliocene epoch, at which time land animals began to assimilate closely with those now existing.
Even the bats furnish an additional argument, if one were needed, to show that the islands could not have been peopled from each other and from the continent without some former connection. For if such had been the mode of stocking them with animals, it is quite certain that creatures which can fly long distances would be the first to spread from island to island, and thus produce an almost perfect uniformity of species over the whole region. But no such uniformity exists, and the bats of each island are almost, if not quite, as distinct as the other mammals. For example, sixteen species are known in Borneo, and of these ten are found in Java and five in Sumatra, a proportion about the same as that of the Rodents, which have no direct means of migration. We learn from this fact, that the seas which separate the islands from each other are wide enough to prevent the passage even of flying animals, and that we must look to the same causes as having led to the present distribution of both groups. The only sufficient cause we can imagine is the former connection of all the islands with the continent, and such a change is in perfect harmony with what we know of the earth's past history, and is rendered probable by the remarkable fact that a rise of only three hundred feet would convert the wide seas that separate them into an immense winding valley or plain about three hundred miles wide and twelve hundred long. It may, perhaps, be thought that birds which possess the power of flight in so pre-eminent a degree, would not be limited in their range by arms of the sea, and would thus afford few indications of the former union or separation of the islands they inhabit. This, however, is not the case. A very large number of birds appear to be as strictly limited by watery barriers as are quadrupeds; and as they have been so much more attentively collected, we have more complete materials to work upon, and are able to deduce from them still more definite and satisfactory results. Some groups, however, such as the aquatic birds, the waders, and the birds of prey, are great wanderers; other groups are little known except to ornithologists. I shall therefore refer chiefly to a few of the best known and most remarkable families of birds as a sample of the conclusions furnished by the entire class.
The birds of the Indo-Malay region have a close resemblance to those of India; for though a very large proportion of the species are quite distinct, there are only about fifteen peculiar genera, and not a single family group confined to the former district. If, however, we compare the islands with the Burmese, Siamese, and Malayan countries, we shall find still less difference, and shall be convinced that all are closely united by the bond of a former union. In such well-known families as the woodpeckers, parrots, trogons, barbets, kingfishers, pigeons, and pheasants, we find some identical species spreading over all India, and as far as Java and Borneo, while a very large proportion are common to Sumatra and the Malay peninsula.
The force of these facts can only be appreciated when we come to treat the islands of the Austro-Malay region, and show how similar barriers have entirely prevented the passage of birds from one island to another, so that out of at least three hundred and fifty land birds inhabiting Java and Borneo, not more than ten have passed eastward into Celebes. Yet the Straits of Macassar are not nearly so wide as the Java sea, and at least a hundred species are common to Borneo and Java.
I will now give two examples to show how a knowledge of the distribution of animals may reveal unsuspected facts in the past history of the earth. At the eastern extremity of Sumatra, and separated from it by a strait about fifteen miles wide, is the small rocky island of Banca, celebrated for its tin mines. One of the Dutch residents there sent some collections of birds and animals to Leyden, and among them were found several species distinct from those of the adjacent coast of Sumatra. One of these was a squirrel (Sciurus bangkanus), closely allied to three other species inhabiting respectively the Malay peninsula, Sumatra, and Borneo, but quite as distinct from them all as they are from each other. There were also two new ground thrushes of the genus Pitta, closely allied to, but quite distinct from, two other species inhabiting both Sumatra and Borneo, and which did not perceptibly differ in these large and widely separated islands. This is just as if the Isle of Man possessed a peculiar species of thrush and blackbird, distinct from the birds which are common to England and Ireland.
These curious facts would indicate that Banca may have existed as a distinct island even longer than Sumatra and Borneo, and there are some geological and geographical facts which render this not so improbable as it would at first seem to be. Although on the map Banca appears so close to Sumatra, this does not arise from its having been recently separated from it; for the adjacent district of Palembang is new land, being a great alluvial swamp formed by torrents from the mountains a hundred miles distant.
Banca, on the other hand, agrees with Malacca, Singapore, and the intervening island of Lingen, in being formed of granite and laterite; and these have all most likely once formed an extension of the Malay peninsula. As the rivers of Borneo and Sumatra have been for ages filling up the intervening sea, we may be sure that its depth has recently been greater, and it is very probable that those large islands were never directly connected with each other except through the Malay peninsula. At that period the same species of squirrel and Pitta may have inhabited all these countries; but when the subterranean disturbances occurred which led to the elevation of the volcanoes of Sumatra, the small island of Banca may have been separated first, and its productions being thus isolated might be gradually modified before the separation of the larger islands had been completed.
As the southern part of Sumatra extended eastward and formed the narrow straits of Banca, many birds and insects and some Mammalia would cross from one to the other, and thus produce a general similarity of productions, while a few of the older inhabitants remained, to reveal by their distinct forms, their different origin. Unless we suppose some such changes in physical geography to have occurred, the presence of peculiar species of birds and mammals in such an island as Banca is a hopeless puzzle; and I think I have shown that the changes required are by no means so improbable as a mere glance at the map would lead us to suppose.
For our next example let us take the great islands of Sumatra and Java. These approach so closely together, and the chain of volcanoes that runs through them gives such an air of unity to the two, that the idea of their having been recently dissevered is immediately suggested. The natives of Java, however, go further than this; for they actually have a tradition of the catastrophe which broke them asunder, and fix its date at not much more than a thousand years ago. It becomes interesting, therefore, to see what support is given to this view by the comparison of their animal productions.
The Mammalia have not been collected with sufficient completeness in both islands to make a general comparison of much value, and so many species have been obtained only as live specimens in captivity, that their locality has often been erroneously given, the island in which they were obtained being substituted for that from which they originally came. Taking into consideration only those whose distribution is more accurately known, we learn that Sumatra is, in a zoological sense, more neatly related to Borneo than it is to Java. The great man-like apes, the elephant, the tapir, and the Malay bear, are all common to the two former countries, while they are absent from the latter. Of the three long-tailed monkeys (Semnopithecus) inhabiting Sumatra, one extends into Borneo, but the two species of Java are both peculiar to it. So also the great Malay deer (Rusa equina), and the small Tragulus kanchil, are common to Sumatra and Borneo, but do not extend into Java, where they are replaced by Tragulas javanicus. The tiger, it is true, is found in Sumatra and Java, but not in Borneo. But as this animal is known to swim well, it may have found its way across the Straits of Sunda, or it may have inhabited Java before it was separated from the mainland, and from some unknown cause have ceased to exist in Borneo.
In Ornithology there is a little uncertainty owing to the birds of Java and Sumatra being much better known than those of Borneo; but the ancient separation of Java as an island is well exhibited by the large number of its species which are not found in any of the other islands. It possesses no less than seven pigeons peculiar to itself, while Sumatra has only one. Of its two parrots one extends into Borneo, but neither into Sumatra. Of the fifteen species of woodpeckers inhabiting Sumatra only four reach Java, while eight of them are found in Borneo and twelve in the Malay peninsula. The two Trogons found in Java are peculiar to it, while of those inhabiting Sumatra at least two extend to Malacca and one to Borneo. There are a very large number of birds, such as the great Argus pheasant, the fire-backed and ocellated pheasants, the crested partridge (Rollulus coronatus), the small Malacca parrot (Psittinus incertus), the great helmeted hornbill (Buceroturus galeatus), the pheasant ground-cuckoo (Carpococcyx radiatus), the rose-crested bee-eater (Nyctiornis amicta), the great gaper (Corydon sumatranus), and the green-crested gaper (Calyptomena viridis), and many others, which are common to Malacca, Sumatra, and Borneo, but are entirely absent from Java. On the other hand we have the peacock, the green jungle cock, two blue ground thrushes (Arrenga cyanea and Myophonus flavirostris), the fine pink-headed dove (Ptilonopus porphyreus), three broad-tailed ground pigeons (Macropygia), and many other interesting birds, which are found nowhere in the Archipelago out of Java.
Insects furnish us with similar facts wherever sufficient data are to be had, but owing to the abundant collections that have been made in Java, an unfair preponderance may be given to that island. This does not, however, seem to be the case with the true Papilionidae or swallow-tailed butterflies, whose large size and gorgeous colouring has led to their being collected more frequently than other insects. Twenty-seven species are known from Java, twenty-nine from Borneo, and only twenty-one from Sumatra. Four are entirely confined to Java, while only two are peculiar to Borneo and one to Sumatra. The isolation of Java will, however, be best shown by grouping the islands in pairs, and indicating the number of species common to each pair. Thus:—
Borneo .. . .. 29 species Sumatra.. . .. 21 do. 20 species common to both islands.
Borneo .. . .. 29 do. Java. .. . .. 27 do. 20 do. do.
Sumatra.. . .. 21 do. Java. .. . .. 27 do. 11 do. do.
Making some allowance for our imperfect knowledge of the Sumatran species, we see that Java is more isolated from the two larger islands than they are from each other, thus entirely confirming the results given by the distribution of birds and Mammalia, and rendering it almost certain that the last-named island was the first to be completely separated from the Asiatic continent, and that the native tradition of its having been recently separated from Sumatra is entirely without foundation.
We are now able to trace out with some probability the course of events. Beginning at the time when the whole of the Java sea, the Gulf of Siam, and the Straits of Malacca were dry land, forming with Borneo, Sumatra, and Java, a vast southern prolongation of the Asiatic continent, the first movement would be the sinking down of the Java sea, and the Straits of Sunda, consequent on the activity of the Javanese volcanoes along the southern extremity of the land, and leading to the complete separation of that island. As the volcanic belt of Java and Sumatra increased in activity, more and more of the land was submerged, until first Borneo, and afterwards Sumatra, became entirely severed. Since the epoch of the first disturbance, several distinct elevations and depressions may have taken place, and the islands may have been more than once joined with each other or with the main land, and again separated. Successive waves of immigration may thus have modified their animal productions, and led to those anomalies in distribution which are so difficult to account for by any single operation of elevation or submergence. The form of Borneo, consisting of radiating mountain chains with intervening broad alluvial valleys, suggests the idea that it has once been much more submerged than it is at present (when it would have somewhat resembled Celebes or Gilolo in outline), and has been increased to its present dimensions by the filling up of its gulfs with sedimentary matter, assisted by gradual elevation of the land. Sumatra has also been evidently much increased in size by the formation of alluvial plains along its northeastern coasts.
There is one peculiarity in the productions of Java that is very puzzling:—the occurrence of several species or groups characteristic of the Siamese countries or of India, but which do not occur in Borneo or Sumatra. Among Mammals the Rhinoceros javanicus is the most striking example, for a distinct species is found in Borneo and Sumatra, while the Javanese species occurs in Burma and even in Bengal. Among birds, the small ground-dove, Geopelia striata, and the curious bronze-coloured magpie, Crypsirhina varians, are common to Java and Siam; while there are in Java species of Pteruthius, Arrenga, Myiophonus, Zoothera, Sturnopastor, and Estrelda, the near allies of which are found in various parts of India, while nothing like them is known to inhabit Borneo or Sumatra.
Such a curious phenomenon as this can only be understood by supposing that, subsequent to the separation of Java, Borneo became almost entirely submerged, and on its re-elevation was for a time connected with the Malay peninsula and Sumatra, but not with Java or Siam. Any geologist who knows how strata have been contorted and tilted up, and how elevations and depressions must often have occurred alternately, not once or twice only, but scores and even hundreds of times, will have no difficulty in admitting that such changes as have been here indicated, are not in themselves improbable. The existence of extensive coal-beds in Borneo and Sumatra, of such recent origin that the leaves which abound in their shales are scarcely distinguishable from those of the forests which now cover the country, proves that such changes of level actually did take place; and it is a matter of much interest, both to the geologist and to the philosophic naturalist, to be able to form some conception of the order of those changes, and to understand how they may have resulted in the actual distribution of animal life in these countries; a distribution which often presents phenomena so strange and contradictory, that without taking such changes into consideration we are unable even to imagine how they could have been brought about.
CHAPTER X. BALI AND LOMBOCK.
(JUNE, JULY, 1856.)
THE islands of Bali and Lombock, situated at the eastern end of Java, are particularly interesting. They are the only islands of the whole Archipelago in which the Hindu religion still maintains itself—and they form the extreme points of the two great zoological divisions of the Eastern hemisphere; for although so similar in external appearance and in all physical features, they differ greatly in their natural productions. It was after having spent two years in Borneo, Malacca and Singapore, that I made a somewhat involuntary visit to these islands on my way to Macassar. Had I been able to obtain a passage direct to that place from Singapore, I should probably never have gone near them, and should have missed some of the most important discoveries of my whole expedition the East.
It was on the 13th of June, 1856, after a twenty days' passage from Singapore in the "Kembang Djepoon" (Rose of Japan), a schooner belonging to a Chinese merchant, manned by a Javanese crew, and commanded by an English captain, that we cast anchor in the dangerous roadstead of Bileling on the north side of the island of Bali. Going on shore with the captain and the Chinese supercargo, I was at once introduced to a novel and interesting scene. We went first to the house of the Chinese Bandar, or chief merchant, where we found a number of natives, well dressed, and all conspicuously armed with krisses, displaying their large handles of ivory or gold, or beautifully grained and polished wood.
The Chinamen had given up their national costume and adopted the Malay dress, and could then hardly be distinguished from the natives of the island—an indication of the close affinity of the Malayan and Mongolian races. Under the thick shade of some mango-trees close by the house, several women-merchants were selling cotton goods; for here the women trade and work for the benefit of their husbands, a custom which Mahometan Malays never adopt. Fruit, tea, cakes, and sweetmeats were brought to us; many questions were asked about our business and the state of trade in Singapore, and we then took a walk to look at the village. It was a very dull and dreary place; a collection of narrow lanes bounded by high mud walls, enclosing bamboo houses, into some of which we entered and were very kindly received.
During the two days that we remained here, I walked out into the surrounding country to catch insects, shoot birds, and spy out the nakedness or fertility of the land. I was both astonished and delighted; for as my visit to Java was some years later, I had never beheld so beautiful and well cultivated a district out of Europe. A slightly undulating plain extends from the seacoast about ten or twelve miles inland, where it is bounded by a wide range of wooded and cultivated hills. Houses and villages, marked out by dense clumps of cocoa-nut palms, tamarind and other fruit trees, are dotted about in every direction; while between then extend luxuriant rice-grounds, watered by an elaborate system of irrigation that would be the pride of the best cultivated parts of Europe. The whole surface of the country is divided into irregular patches, following the undulations of the ground, from many acres to a few perches in extent, each of which is itself perfectly level, but stands a few inches or several feet above or below those adjacent to it. Every one of these patches can be flooded or drained at will by means of a system of ditches and small channels, into which are diverted the whole of the streams that descend from the mountains. Every patch now bore crops in various stages of growth, some almost ready for cutting, and all in the most flourishing condition and of the most exquisite green tints.
The sides of the lanes and bridle roads were often edged with prickly Cacti and a leafless Euphorbia, but the country being so highly cultivated there was not much room for indigenous vegetation, except upon the sea-beach. We saw plenty of the fine race of domestic cattle descended from the Bos banteng of Java, driven by half naked boys, or tethered in pasture-grounds. They are large and handsome animals, of a light brown colour, with white legs, and a conspicuous oval patch behind of the same colour. Wild cattle of the same race are said to be still found in the mountains. In so well-cultivated a country it was not to be expected that I could do much in natural history, and my ignorance of how important a locality this was for the elucidation of the geographical distribution of animals, caused me to neglect obtaining some specimens which I never met with again. One of these was a weaver bird with a bright yellow head, which built its bottle-shaped nests by dozens on some trees near the beach. It was the Ploceus hypoxantha, a native of Java; and here, at the extreme limits of its range westerly, I shot and preserved specimens of a wagtail-thrush, an oriole, and some starlings, all species found in Java, and some of them peculiar to that island. I also obtained some beautiful butterflies, richly marked with black and orange on a white ground, and which were the most abundant insects in the country lanes. Among these was a new species, which I have named Pieris tamar.
Leaving Bileling, a pleasant sail of two days brought us to Ampanam in the island of Lombock, where I proposed to remain till I could obtain a passage to Macassar. We enjoyed superb views of the twin volcanoes of Bali and Lombock, each about eight thousand feet high, which form magnificent objects at sunrise and sunset, when they rise out of the mists and clouds that surround their bases, glowing with the rich and changing tints of these the most charming moments in a tropical day.
The bay or roadstead of Ampanam is extensive, and being at this season sheltered from the prevalent southeasterly winds, was as smooth as a lake. The beach of black volcanic sand is very steep, and there is at all times, a heavy surf upon it, which during spring-tides increases to such an extent that it is often impossible for boats to land, and many serious accidents have occurred. Where we lay anchored, about a quarter of a mile from the shore, not the slightest swell was perceptible, but on approaching nearer undulations began, which rapidly increased, so as to form rollers which toppled over onto the beach at regular intervals with a noise like thunder. Sometimes this surf increases suddenly during perfect calms to as great a force and fury as when a gale of wind is blowing, beating to pieces all boats that may not have been hauled sufficiently high upon the beach, and carrying away uncautious natives. This violent surf is probably in some way dependent upon the swell of the great southern ocean and the violent currents that flow through the Straits of Lombock. These are so uncertain that vessels preparing to anchor in the bay are sometimes suddenly swept away into the straits, and are not able to get back again for a fortnight.
What seamen call the "ripples" are also very violent in the straits, the sea appearing to boil and foam and dance like the rapids below a cataract; vessels are swept about helplessly, and small ones are occasionally swamped in the finest weather and under the brightest skies.
I felt considerably relieved when all my boxes and myself had passed in safety through the devouring surf, which the natives look upon with some pride, saying, that "their sea is always hungry, and eats up everything it can catch." I was kindly received by Mr. Carter, an Englishman, who is one of the Bandars or licensed traders of the port, who offered me hospitality and every assistance during my stay. His house, storehouses, and offices were in a yard surrounded by a tall bamboo fence, and were entirely constructed of bamboo with a thatch of grass, the only available building materials. Even these were now very scarce, owing to the great consumption in rebuilding the place since the great fire some months before, which in an hour or two had destroyed every building in the town.
The next day I went to see Mr. S., another merchant to whom I had brought letters of introduction, and who lived about seven miles off. Mr. Carter kindly lent me a horse, and I was accompanied by a young Dutch gentleman residing at Ampanam, who offered to be my guide. We first passed through the town and suburbs along a straight road bordered by mud walls and a fine avenue of lofty trees; then through rice-fields, irrigated in the same manner as I had seen them at Bileling; and afterwards over sandy pastures near the sea, and occasionally along the beach itself. Mr. S. received us kindly, and offered me a residence at his house should I think the neighbourhood favourable for my pursuits. After an early breakfast we went out to explore, taking guns and insect nets. We reached some low hills which seemed to offer the most favourable ground, passing over swamps, sandy flats overgrown with coarse sedges, and through pastures and cultivated grounds, finding however very little in the way of either birds or insects. On our way we passed one or two human skeletons, enclosed within a small bamboo fence, with the clothes, pillow, mat, and betel-box of the unfortunate individual, who had been either murdered or executed. Returning to the house, we found a Balinese chief and his followers on a visit. Those of higher rank sat on chairs, the others squatted on the floor. The chief very coolly asked for beer and brandy, and helped himself and his followers, apparently more out of curiosity than anything else as regards the beer, for it seemed very distasteful to them, while they drank the brandy in tumblers with much relish.
Returning to Ampanam, I devoted myself for some days to shooting the birds of the neighbourhood. The fine fig-trees of the avenues, where a market was held, were tenanted by superb orioles (Oriolus broderpii) of a rich orange colour, and peculiar to this island and the adjacent ones of Sumbawa and Flores. All round the town were abundance of the curious Tropidorhynchus timoriensis, allied to the Friar bird of Australia. They are here called "Quaich-quaich," from their strange loud voice, which seems to repeat these words in various and not unmelodious intonations.
Every day boys were to be seen walking along the roads and by the hedges and ditches, catching dragonflies with birdlime. They carry a slender stick, with a few twigs at the end well annointed, so that the least touch captures the insect, whose wings are pulled off before it is consigned to a small basket. The dragon-flies are so abundant at the time of the rice flowering that thousands are soon caught in this way. The bodies are fried in oil with onions and preserved shrimps, or sometimes alone, and are considered a great delicacy. In Borneo, Celebes, and many other islands, the larvae of bees and wasps are eaten, either alive as pulled out of the cells, or fried like the dragonflies. In the Moluccas the grubs of the palm-beetles (Calandra) are regularly brought to market in bamboos and sold for food; and many of the great horned Lamellicorn beetles are slightly roasted on the embers and eaten whenever met with. The superabundance of insect life is therefore turned to some account by these islanders.
Finding that birds were not very numerous, and hearing much of Labuan Tring at the southern extremity of the bay, where there was said to be much uncultivated country and plenty of birds as well as deer and wild pigs, I determined to go there with my two servants, Ali, the Malay lad from Borneo, and Manuel, a Portuguese of Malacca accustomed to bird-skinning. I hired a native boat with outriggers to take us with our small quantity of luggage, on a day's rowing and tracking along the shore brought us to the place.
I had a note of introduction to an Amboynese Malay, and obtained the use of part of his house to live and work in. His name was "Inchi Daud" (Mr. David), and he was very civil; but his accommodations were limited, and he could only hire me part of his reception-room. This was the front part of a bamboo house (reached by a ladder of about six rounds very wide apart), and having a beautiful view over the bay. However, I soon made what arrangements were possible, and then set to work. The country around was pretty and novel to me, consisting of abrupt volcanic hills enclosing flat valleys or open plains. The hills were covered with a dense scrubby bush of bamboos and prickly trees and shrubs, the plains were adorned with hundreds of noble palm-trees, and in many places with a luxuriant shrubby vegetation. Birds were plentiful and very interesting, and I now saw for the first time many Australian forms that are quite absent from the islands westward. Small white cockatoos were abundant, and their loud screams, conspicuous white colour, and pretty yellow crests, rendered them a very important feature in the landscape. This is the most westerly point on the globe where any of the family are to be found. Some small honeysuckers of the genus Ptilotis, and the strange moundmaker (Megapodius gouldii), are also here first met with on the traveller's journey eastward. The last mentioned bird requires a fuller notice.
The Megapodidae are a small family of birds found only in Australia and the surrounding islands, but extending as far as the Philippines and Northwest Borneo. They are allied to the gallinaceous birds, but differ from these and from all others in never sitting upon their eggs, which they bury in sand, earth, or rubbish, and leave to be hatched by the heat of the sun or by fermentation. They are all characterised by very large feet and long curved claws, and most of the species of Megapodius rake and scratch together all kinds of rubbish, dead leaves, sticks, stones, earth, rotten wood, etc., until they form a large mound, often six feet high and twelve feet across, in the middle of which they bury their eggs. The natives can tell by the condition of these mounds whether they contain eggs or not; and they rob them whenever they can, as the brick-red eggs (as large as those of a swan) are considered a great delicacy. A number of birds are said to join in making these mounds and lay their eggs together, so that sometimes forty or fifty may be found. The mounds are to be met with here and there in dense thickets, and are great puzzles to strangers, who cannot understand who can possibly have heaped together cartloads of rubbish in such out-of-the-way places; and when they inquire of the natives they are but little wiser, for it almost always appears to them the wildest romance to be told that it is all done by birds. The species found in Lombock is about the size of a small hen, and entirely of dark olive and brown tints. It is a miscellaneous feeder, devouring fallen fruits, earthworms, snails, and centipedes, but the flesh is white and well-flavoured when properly cooked.
The large green pigeons were still better eating, and were much more plentiful. These fine birds, exceeding our largest tame pigeons in size, abounded on the palm-trees, which now bore huge bunches of fruits—mere hard globular nuts, about an inch in diameter, and covered with a dry green skin and a very small portion of pulp. Looking at the pigeon's bill and head, it would seem impossible that it could swallow such large masses, or that it could obtain any nourishment from them; yet I often shot these birds with several palm-fruits in the crop, which generally burst when they fell to the ground. I obtained here eight species of Kingfishers; among which was a very beautiful new one, named by Mr. Gould, Halcyon fulgidus. It was found always in thickets, away from water, and seemed to feed on snails and insects picked up from the ground after the manner of the great Laughing Jackass of Australia. The beautiful little violet and orange species (Ceyx rufidorsa) is found in similar situations, and darts rapidly along like a flame of fire. Here also I first met with the pretty Australian Bee-eater (Merops ornatus). This elegant little bird sits on twigs in open places, gazing eagerly around, and darting off at intervals to seize some insect which it sees flying near; returning afterwards to the same twig to swallow it. Its long, sharp, curved bill, the two long narrow feathers in its tail, its beautiful green plumage varied with rich brown and black and vivid blue on the throat, render it one of the most graceful and interesting objects a naturalist can see for the first time.
Of all the birds of Lombock, however, I sought most after the beautiful ground thrushes (Pitta concinna), and always thought myself lucky if I obtained one. They were found only in the dry plains densely covered with thickets, and carpeted at this season with dead leaves. They were so shy that it was very difficult to get a shot at them, and it was only after a good deal of practice that I discovered low to do it. The habit of these birds is to hop about on the ground, picking up insects, and on the least alarm to run into the densest thicket or take a flight close to the ground. At intervals they utter a peculiar cry of two notes which when once heard is easily recognised, and they can also be heard hopping along among the dry leaves.
My practice was, therefore, to walk cautiously along the narrow pathways with which the country abounded, and on detecting any sign of a Pitta's vicinity to stand motionless and give a gentle whistle occasionally, imitating the notes as near as possible. After half an hour's waiting I was often rewarded by seeing the pretty bird hopping along in the thicket. Then I would perhaps lose sight of it again, until leaving my gun raised and ready for a shot, a second glimpse would enable me to secure my prize, and admire its soft puffy plumage and lovely colours. The upper part is rich soft green, the head jet black with a stripe of blue and brown over each eye; at the base of the tail and on the shoulders are bands of bright silvery blue; the under side is delicate buff with a stripe of rich crimson, bordered with black on the belly. Beautiful grass-green doves, little crimson and black flower-peckers, large black cuckoos, metallic king-crows, golden orioles, and the fine jungle-cocks—the origin of all our domestic breeds of poultry—were among the birds that chiefly attracted my attention during our stay at Labuan Tring.
The most characteristic feature of the jungle was its thorniness. The shrubs were thorny; the creepers were thorny; the bamboos even were thorny. Everything grew zigzag and jagged, and in an inextricable tangle, so that to get through the bush with gun or net or even spectacles, was generally not to be done, and insect-catching in such localities was out of the question. It was in such places that the Pittas often lurked, and when shot it became a matter of some difficulty to secure the bird, and seldom without a heavy payment of pricks and scratches and torn clothes could the prize be won. The dry volcanic soil and arid climate seem favourable to the production of such stunted and thorny vegetation, for the natives assured me that this was nothing to the thorns and prickles of Sumbawa whose surface still bears the covering of volcanic ashes thrown out forty years ago by the terrible eruption of Tomboro.
Among the shrubs and trees that are not prickly the Apocynaceae were most abundant, their bilobed fruits of varied form and colour and often of most tempting appearance, hanging everywhere by the waysides as if to invite to destruction the weary traveller who may be unaware of their poisonous properties. One in particular with a smooth shining skin of a golden orange colour rivals in appearance the golden apples of the Hesperides, and has great attractions for many birds, from the white cockatoos to the little yellow Zosterops, who feast on the crimson seeds which are displayed when the fruit bursts open. The great palm called "Gubbong" by the natives, a species of Corypha, is the most striking feature of the plains, where it grows by thousands and appears in three different states—in leaf, in flower and fruit, or dead. It has a lofty cylindrical stem about a hundred feet high and two to three feet in diameter; the leaves are large and fan-shaped, and fall off when the tree flowers, which it does only once in its life in a huge terminal spike, upon which are produced masses of a smooth round fruit of a green colour rind about an inch in diameter. When those ripen and fall the tree dies, and remains standing a year or two before it falls. Trees in leaf only are by far the most numerous, then those in flower and fruit, while dead trees are scattered here and there among them. The trees in fruit are the resort of the great green fruit pigeons, which have been already mentioned. Troops of monkeys (Macacus cynoraolgus) may often be seen occupying a tree, showering down the fruit in great profusion, chattering when disturbed and making an enormous rustling as they scamper off among the dead palm leaves; while the pigeons have a loud booming voice more like the roar of a wild beast than the note of a bird.
My collecting operations here were carried on under more than usual difficulties. One small room had to serve for eating, sleeping and working, and one for storehouse and dissecting-room; in it were no shelves, cupboards, chairs or tables; ants swarmed in every part of it, and dogs, cats and fowls entered it at pleasure. Besides this it was the parlour and reception-room of my host, and I was obliged to consult his convenience and that of the numerous guests who visited us. My principal piece of furniture was a box, which served me as a dining table, a seat while skinning birds, and as the receptacle of the birds when skinned and dried. To keep them free from ants we borrowed, with some difficulty, an old bench, the four legs of which being placed in cocoa-nut shells filled with water kept us tolerably free from these pests. The box and the bench were, however, literally the only places where anything could be put away, and they were generally well occupied by two insect boxes and about a hundred birds' skins in process of drying. It may therefore be easily conceived that when anything bulky or out of the common way was collected, the question "Where is it to be put?" was rather a difficult one to answer. All animal substances moreover require some time to dry thoroughly, emit a very disagreeable odour while doing so, and are particularly attractive to ants, flies, dogs, rats, cats, and other vermin, calling for special cautions and constant supervision, which under the circumstances above described were impossible.
My readers may now partially understand why a travelling naturalist of limited means, like myself, does so much less than is expected or than he would himself wish to do. It would be interesting to preserve skeletons of many birds and animals, reptiles and fishes in spirits, skins of the larger animals, remarkable fruits and woods and the most curious articles of manufacture and commerce; but it will be seen that under the circumstances I have just described, it would have been impossible to add these to the collections which were my own more especial favourites. When travelling by boat the difficulties are as great or greater, and they are not diminished when the journey is by land. It was absolutely necessary therefore to limit my collections to certain groups to which I could devote constant personal attention, and thus secure from destruction or decay what had been often obtained by much labour and pains.
While Manuel sat skinning his birds of an afternoon, generally surrounded by a little crowd of Malays and Sassaks (as the indigenes of Lombock are termed), he often held forth to them with the air of a teacher, and was listened to with profound attention. He was very fond of discoursing on the "special providences" of which he believed he was daily the subject. "Allah has been merciful today," he would say—for although a Christian he adopted the Mahometan mode of speech—"and has given us some very fine birds; we can do nothing without him." Then one of the Malays would reply, "To be sure, birds are like mankind; they have their appointed time to die; when that time comes nothing can save them, and if it has not come you cannot kill them." A murmur of assent follow, until sentiments and cries of "Butul! Butul!" (Right, right.) Then Manuel would tell a long story of one of his unsuccessful hunts—how he saw some fine bird and followed it a long way, and then missed it, and again found it, and shot two or three times at it, but could never hit it, "Ah!" says an old Malay, "its time was not come, and so it was impossible for you to kill it." A doctrine is this which is very consoling to the bad marksman, and which quite accounts for the facts, but which is yet somehow not altogether satisfactory.
It is universally believed in Lombock that some men have the power to turn themselves into crocodiles, which they do for the sake of devouring their enemies, and many strange tales are told of such transformations. I was therefore rather surprised one evening to hear the following curious fact stated, and as it was not contradicted by any of the persons present, I am inclined to accept it provisionally as a contribution to the Natural History of the island. A Bornean Malay who had been for many years resident here said to Manuel, "One thing is strange in this country—the scarcity of ghosts." "How so?" asked Manuel. "Why, you know," said the Malay, "that in our countries to the westward, if a man dies or is killed, we dare not pass near the place at night, for all sorts of noises are heard which show that ghosts are about. But here there are numbers of men killed, and their bodies lie unburied in the fields and by the roadside, and yet you can walk by them at night and never hear or see anything at all, which is not the case in our country, as you know very well." "Certainly I do," said Manuel; and so it was settled that ghosts were very scarce, if not altogether unknown in Lombock. I would observe, however, that as the evidence is purely negative we should be wanting in scientific caution if we accepted this fact as sufficiently well established.
One evening I heard Manuel, Ali, and a Malay man whispering earnestly together outside the door, and could distinguish various allusions to "krisses," throat-cutting, heads, etc. etc. At length Manuel came in, looking very solemn and frightened, and said to me in English, "Sir—must take care,—no safe here;—want cut throat." On further inquiry, I found that the Malay had been telling them that the Rajah had just sent down an order to the village, that they were to get a certain number of heads for an offering in the temples to secure a good crop of rice. Two or three other Malays and Bugis, as well as the Amboyna man in whose house we lived, confirmed this account, and declared that it was a regular thing every year, and that it was necessary to keep a good watch and never go out alone. I laughed at the whole thing, and tried to persuade them that it was a mere tale, but to no effect. They were all firmly persuaded that their lives were in danger. Manuel would not go out shooting alone, and I was obliged to accompany him every morning, but I soon gave him the slip in the jungle. Ali was afraid to go and look for firewood without a companion, and would not even fetch water from the well a few yards behind the house unless armed with an enormous spear. I was quite sure all the time that no such order had been sent or received, and that we were in perfect safety. This was well shown shortly afterwards, when an American sailor ran away from his ship on the east side of the island, and made his way on foot and unarmed across to Ampanam, having met with the greatest hospitality on the whole route. Nowhere would the smallest payment be taken for the food and lodging which were willingly furbished him. On pointing out this fact to Manuel, he replied, "He one bad man,—run away from his ship—no one can believe word he say;" and so I was obliged to leave him in the uncomfortable persuasion that he might any day have his throat cut.
A circumstance occurred here which appeared to throw some light on the cause of the tremendous surf at Ampanam. One evening I heard a strange rumbling noise, and at the same time the house shook slightly. Thinking it might be thunder, I asked, "What is that?" "It is an earthquake," answered Inchi Daud, my host; and he then told me that slight shocks were occasionally felt there, but he had never known them to be severe. This happened on the day of the last quarter of the moon, and consequently when tides were low and the surf usually at its weakest. On inquiry afterwards at Ampanam, I found that no earthquake had been noticed, but that on one night there had been a very heavy surf, which shook the house, and the next day there was a very high tide, the water having flooded Mr. Carter's premises, higher than he had ever known it before. These unusual tides occur every now and then, and are not thought much of; but by careful inquiry I ascertained that the surf had occurred on the very night I had felt the earthquake at Labuan Tring, nearly twenty miles off. This would seem to indicate, that although the ordinary heavy surf may be due to the swell of the great Southern Ocean confined in a narrow channel, combined with a peculiar form of bottom near the shore, yet the sudden heavy surfs and high tides that occur occasionally in perfectly calm weather, may be due to slight upheavals of the ocean-bed in this eminently volcanic region.
CHAPTER XI. LOMBOCK: MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF THE PEOPLE.
HAVING made a very fine and interesting collection of the birds of Labuan Tring, I took leave of my kind host, Inchi Daud, and returned to Ampanam to await an opportunity to reach Macassar. As no vessel had arrived bound for that port, I determined to make an excursion into the interior of the island, accompanied by Mr. Ross, an Englishman born in the Keeling Islands, and now employed by the Dutch Government to settle the affairs of a missionary who had unfortunately become bankrupt here. Mr. Carter kindly lent me a horse, and Mr. Ross took his native groom.
Our route for some distance lay along a perfectly level country bearing ample crops of rice. The road was straight and generally bordered with lofty trees forming a due avenue. It was at first sandy, afterwards grassy, with occasional streams and mudholes. At a distance about four miles we reached Mataram, the capital of the island and the residence of the Rajah. It is a large village with wide streets bordered by a magnificent avenue of trees, and low houses concealed behind mud walls. Within this royal city no native of the lower orders is allowed to ride, and our attendant, a Javanese, was obliged to dismount and lead his horse while we rode slowly through. The abodes of the Rajah and of the High Priest are distinguished by pillars of red brick constructed with much taste; but the palace itself seemed to differ but little from the ordinary houses of the country. Beyond Mataram and close to it is Karangassam, the ancient residence of the native or Sassak Rajahs before the conquest of the island by the Balinese.
Soon after passing Mataram the country began gradually to rise in gentle undulations, swelling occasionally into low hills towards the two mountainous tracts in the northern and southern parts of the island. It was now that I first obtained an adequate idea of one of the most wonderful systems of cultivation in the world, equalling all that is related of Chinese industry, and as far as I know surpassing in the labour that has been bestowed upon it any tract of equal extent in the most civilized countries of Europe. I rode through this strange garden utterly amazed and hardly able to realize the fact that in this remote and little known island, from which all Europeans except a few traders at the port are jealously excluded, many hundreds of square miles of irregularly undulating country have been so skillfully terraced and levelled, and so permeated by artificial channels, that every portion of it can be irrigated and dried at pleasure. According as the slope of the ground is more or less rapid, each terraced plot consists in some places of many acres, in others of a few square yards. We saw them in every state of cultivation; some in stubble, some being ploughed, some with rice-crops in various stages of growth. Here were luxuriant patches of tobacco; there, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, yams, beans or Indian-corn varied the scene. In some places the ditches were dry, in others little streams crossed our road and were distributed over lands about to be sown or planted. The banks which bordered every terrace rose regularly in horizontal lines above each other; sometimes rounding an abrupt knoll and looking like a fortification, or sweeping around some deep hollow and forming on a gigantic scale the seats of an amphitheatre. Every brook and rivulet had been diverted from its bed, and instead of flowing along the lowest ground, were to be found crossing our road half-way up an ascent, yet bordered by ancient trees and moss-grown stones so as to have all the appearance of a natural channel, and bearing testimony to the remote period at which the work had been done. As we advanced further into the country, the scene was diversified by abrupt rocky bills, by steep ravines, and by clumps of bamboos and palm-trees near houses or villages; while in the distance the fine range of mountains of which Lombock Peak, eight thousand feet high, is the culminating point, formed a fit background to a view scarcely to be surpassed either in human interest or picturesque beauty.
Along the first part of our road we passed hundreds of women carrying rice, fruit, and vegetables to market; and further on, an almost uninterrupted line of horses laden with rice in bags or in the car, on their way to the port of Ampanam. At every few miles along the road, seated under shady trees or slight sheds, were sellers of sugar-cane, palm-wine, cooked rice, salted eggs, and fried plantains, with a few other native delicacies. At these stalls a hearty meal may be made for a penny, but we contented ourselves with drinking some sweet palm-wine, a most delicious beverage in the heat of the day. After having travelled about twenty miles we reached a higher and drier region, where, water being scarce, cultivation was confined to the little fiats bordering the streams. Here the country was as beautiful as before, but of a different character; consisting of undulating downs of short turf interspersed with fine clumps of trees and bushes, sometimes the woodland, sometimes the open ground predominating. We only passed through one small patch of true forest, where we were shaded by lofty trees, and saw around us a dark and dense vegetation, highly agreeable after the heat and glare of the open country.
At length, about an hour after noon, we reached our destination—the village of Coupang, situated nearly in the centre of the island—and entered the outer court of a house belonging to one of the chiefs with whom my friend Mr. Ross had a slight acquaintance. Here we were requested to seat ourselves under an open den with a raised floor of bamboo, a place used to receive visitors and hold audiences. Turning our horses to graze on the luxuriant glass of the courtyard, we waited until the great man's Malay interpreter appeared, who inquired our business and informed us that the Pumbuckle (chief) was at the Rajah's house, but would soon be back. As we had not yet breakfasted, we begged he would get us something to eat, which he promised to do as soon as possible. It was however about two hours before anything appeared, when a small tray was brought containing two saucers of rice, four small fried fish, and a few vegetables. Having made as good a breakfast as we could, we strolled about the village, and returning, amused ourselves by conversation with a number of men and boys who gathered around us; and by exchanging glances and smiles with a number of women and girls who peeped at us through half-opened doors and other crevices. Two little boys named Mousa and Isa (Moses and Jesus) were great friends with us, and an impudent little rascal called Kachang (a bean) made us all laugh by his mimicry and antics.
At length, about four o'clock, the Pumbuckle made his appearance, and we informed him of our desire to stay with him a few days, to shoot birds and see the country. At this he seemed somewhat disturbed, and asked if we had brought a letter from the Anak Agong (Son of Heaven) which is the title of the Rajah of Lombock. This we had not done, thinking it quite unnecessary; and he then abruptly told us that he must go and speak to his Rajah, to see if we could stay. Hours passed away, night came, and he did not return. I began to think we were suspected of some evil designs, for the Pumbuckle was evidently afraid of getting himself into trouble. He is a Sassak prince, and, though a supporter of the present Rajah, is related to some of the heads of a conspiracy which was quelled a few years since.
About five o'clock a pack-horse bearing my guns and clothes arrived, with my men Ali and Manuel, who had come on foot. The sun set, and it soon became dark, and we got rather hungry as we sat wearily under the shed and no one came. Still hour after hour we waited, until about nine o'clock, the Pumbuckle, the Rajah, some priests, and a number of their followers arrived and took their seats around us. We shook hands, and for some minutes there was a dead silence. Then the Rajah asked what we wanted; to which Mr. Ross replied by endeavouring to make them understand who we were, and why we had come, and that we had no sinister intentions whatever; and that we had not brought a letter from the "Anak Agong," merely because we had thought it quite unnecessary. A long conversation in the Bali language then took place, and questions were asked about my guns, and what powder I had, and whether I used shot or bullets; also what the birds were for, and how I preserved them, and what was done with them in England. Each of my answers and explanations was followed by a low and serious conversation which we could not understand, but the purport of which we could guess. They were evidently quite puzzled, and did not believe a word we had told them. They then inquired if we were really English, and not Dutch; and although we strongly asserted our nationality, they did not seem to believe us.
After about an hour, however, they brought us some supper (which was the same as the breakfast, but without the fish), and after it some very weak coffee and pumpkins boiled with sugar. Having discussed this, a second conference took place; questions were again asked, and the answers again commented on. Between whiles lighter topics were discussed. My spectacles (concave glasses) were tried in succession by three or four old men, who could not make out why they could not see through them, and the fact no doubt was another item of suspicion against me. My beard, too, was the subject of some admiration, and many questions were asked about personal peculiarities which it is not the custom to allude to in European society. At length, about one in the morning, the whole party rose to depart, and, after conversing some time at the gate, all went away. We now begged the interpreter, who with a few boys and men remained about us, to show us a place to sleep in, at which he seemed very much surprised, saying he thought we were very well accommodated where we were. It was quite chilly, and we were very thinly clad and had brought no blankets, but all we could get after another hour's talk was a native mat and pillow, and a few old curtains to hang round three sides of the open shed and protect us a little from the cold breeze. We passed the rest of the night very uncomfortably, and determined to return in the morning and not submit any longer to such shabby treatment.
We rose at daybreak, but it was near an hour before the interpreter made his appearance. We then asked to have some coffee and to see the Pumbuckle, as we wanted a horse for Ali, who was lame, and wished to bid him adieu. The man looked puzzled at such unheard—of demands and vanished into the inner court, locking the door behind him and leaving us again to our meditations. An hour passed and no one came, so I ordered the horses to be saddled and the pack-horse to be loaded, and prepared to start. Just then the interpreter came up on horse back, and looked aghast at our preparations. "Where is the Pumbuckle?" we asked. "Gone to the Rajah's," said he. "We are going," said I. "Oh! pray don't," said he; "wait a little; they are having a consultation, and some priests are coming to see you, and a chief is going off to Mataram to ask the permission of the Anak Agong for you to stay." This settled the matter. More talk, more delay, and another eight or ten hours' consultation were not to be endured; so we started at once, the poor interpreter almost weeping at our obstinacy and hurry, and assuring us "the Pumbuckle would be very sorry, and the Rajah would be very sorry, and if we would but wait all would be right." I gave Ali my horse, and started on foot, but he afterwards mounted behind Mr. Ross's groom, and we got home very well, though rather hot and tired.
At Mataram we called at the house of Gusti Gadioca, one of the princes of Lombock, who was a friend of Mr. Carter's, and who had promised to show me the guns made by native workmen. Two guns were exhibited, one six, the other seven feet long, and of a proportionably large bore. The barrels were twisted and well finished, though not so finely worked as ours. The stock was well made, and extended to the end of the barrel. Silver and gold ornament was inlaid over most of the surface, but the locks were taken from English muskets. The Gusti assured me, however, that the Rajah had a man who made locks and also rifled barrels. The workshop where these guns are made and the tools used were next shown us, and were very remarkable. An open shed with a couple of small mud forges were the chief objects visible. The bellows consisted of two bamboo cylinders, with pistons worked by hand. They move very easily, having a loose stuffing of feathers thickly set round the piston so as to act as a valve, and produce a regular blast. Both cylinders communicate with the same nozzle, one piston rising while the other falls. An oblong piece of iron on the ground was the anvil, and a small vice was fixed on the projecting root of a tree outside. These, with a few files and hammers, were literally the only tools with which an old man makes these fine guns, finishing then himself from the rough iron and wood.
I was anxious to know how they bored these long barrels, which seemed perfectly true and are said to shoot admirably; and, on asking the Gusti, received the enigmatical answer: "We use a basket full of stones." Being utterly unable to imagine what he could mean, I asked if I could see how they did it, and one of the dozen little boys around us was sent to fetch the basket. He soon returned with this most extraordinary boring-machine, the mode of using which the Gusti then explained to me. It was simply a strong bamboo basket, through the bottom of which was stuck upright a pole about three feet long, kept in its place by a few sticks tied across the top with rattans.
The bottom of the pole has an iron ring, and a hole in which four-cornered borers of hardened iron can be fitted. The barrel to be bored is buried upright in the ground, the borer is inserted into it, the top of the stick or vertical shaft is held by a cross-piece of bamboo with a hole in it, and the basket is filled with stones to get the required weight. Two boys turn the bamboo round. The barrels are made in pieces of about eighteen inches long, which are first bored small, and then welded together upon a straight iron rod. The whole barrel is then worked with borers of gradually increasing size, and in three days the boring is finished. The whole matter was explained in such a straightforward manner that I have no doubt the process described to me was that actually used; although, when examining one of the handsome, well-finished, and serviceable guns, it was very hard to realize the fact that they had been made from first to last with tools hardly sufficient for an English blacksmith to make a horseshoe.
The day after we returned from our excursion, the Rajah came to Ampanam to a feast given by Gusti Gadioca, who resides there; and soon after his arrival we went to have an audience. We found him in a large courtyard sitting on a mat under a shady tree; and all his followers, to the number of three or four hundred, squatting on the ground in a large circle round him. He wore a sarong or Malay petticoat and a green jacket. He was a man about thirty-five years of age, and of a pleasing countenance, with some appearance of intellect combined with indecision. We bowed, and took our seats on the ground near some chiefs we were acquainted with, for while the Rajah sits no one can stand or sit higher. He just inquired who I was, and what I was doing in Lombock, and then requested to see some of my birds. I accordingly sent for one of my boxes of bird-skins and one of insects, which he examined carefully, and seemed much surprised that they could be so well preserved. We then had a little conversation about Europe and the Russian war, in which all natives take an interest. Having heard much of a country-seat of the Rajah's called Gunong Sari, I took the opportunity to ask permission to visit it and shoot a few birds there which he immediately granted. I then thanked him, and we took our leave.