The traveller who reaches those enchanted gates of the Far East which swing open at the palm-girt shores of Ceylon, enters upon a new range of thought and feeling. The first sight of tropical scenery generally awakens a passionate desire for further experiences of the vast Archipelago in the Southern Seas which girdles the Equator with an emerald zone. Lured onward by the scented breeze in that eternal search for perfection destined to remain unsatisfied where every step marks a higher ideal than the one already attained, the pilgrim pursues his endless quest, for human aspiration has never yet touched the goal of desires and dreams. The cocoanut woods of Ceylon and her equatorial vegetation lead fancy further afield, for the glassy straits of Malacca beckon the wanderer down their watery highways to mysterious Java, where vast forests of waving palms, blue chains of volcanic mountains, and mighty ruins of a vanished civilisation, loom before the imagination and invest the tropical paradise with ideal attractions. The island, seven hundred miles long, and described by Marianne North as "one magnificent garden of tropical luxuriance," has not yet become a popular resort of the average tourist, but though lacking some of those comforts and luxuries found under the British flag, it offers many compensations in the wealth of beauty and interest afforded by scenery, architecture, and people. The two days' passage from Singapore lies through a green chain of countless islets, once the refuge of those pirates who thronged the Southern seas until suppressed by European power. The cliffs of Banka, honeycombed with tin quarries, and the flat green shores of Eastern Sumatra, stretching away to the purple mountains of the interior, flank the silvery straits, populous with native proas, coasting steamers, sampans, and the hollowed log or "dug-out" which serves as the Malayan canoe. Patched sails of scarlet and yellow, shaped like bats' wings, suggest gigantic butterflies afloat upon the tranquil sea. The red roofs of whitewashed towns, and the tall shafts of white lighthouses emphasise the rich verdure between the silvery azure of sky and water. The little voyage ends at Tandjon Priok, nine miles from Batavia, for a volcanic eruption of Mount Salak in 1699 filled up the ancient harbour, and necessitated the removal of shipping to a deep bay, as the old city was landed high and dry through the mass of mud, lava, and volcanic sand, which dammed up the lower reaches of the Tjiligong river, and destroyed connection with the sea. The present model harbour, erected at tremendous cost, permits ships of heavy burden to discharge passengers and cargo with comfort and safety at a long wharf, without that unpleasant interlude of rocking sampans and reckless boatmen common to Eastern travel. A background of blue peaks and clustering palms rises beyond the long line of quays and breakwaters flanked by the railway, and a wealth of tropical scenery covers a marshy plain with riotous luxuriance. No Europeans live either in Tandjon Priok or Old Batavia, and the locality was known for two centuries as "the European graveyard." Flourishing Arab and Chinese campongs or settlements appear immune from the terrible Java fever which haunts the morasses of the coast, and the industrial Celestial who absorbs so much of Oriental commerce, possesses an almost superhuman imperviousness to climatic dangers.
In the re-adjustment of power after the Fall of Napoleon, Java, invaded by England in 1811, after a five years' interval of British rule under the enlightened policy of Sir Stamford Raffles, was restored to the Throne of Holland. The supremacy of the Dutch East India Company, who, after a prolonged struggle, acquired authority in Java as residuary legatee of the Mohammedan Emperor, ended at the close of the eighteenth century. Perpetual warfare and rebellion, which broke out in Central Java after the return of the island to the Dutch, taxed the resources of Holland for five years. Immense difficulties arrested and delayed the development of the fertile territory, until the "culture system" of forced labour within a certain area relieved the financial pressure. One-fifth of village acreage was compulsorily planted with sugar-cane, and one day's work every week was demanded by the Dutch Government from the native population. The system was extended to tea and coffee; and indigo was grown on waste land not needed for the rice, which constitutes Java's staff of life. Spices and cinchona were also diligently cultivated under official supervision, and the lives of many explorers were lost in search of the precious Kina-tree, until Java, after years of strenuous toil, now produces one-half of that quinine supply which proves the indispensable safeguard of European existence on tropic soil. The ruddy bark and scarlet branches of the cinchona groves glow with autumnal brightness amid the evergreen verdure of the Javanese hills, and the "culture system," as a financial experiment, proved, in spite of cavillers, a source of incalculable benefit to the natives as well as to the colonists of Java. As we travel through the length and breadth of an island cultivated even to the mountain tops with the perfection of detail common to the Dutch, as the first horticulturists of the world, we realise the far-reaching wisdom, which in a few decades transformed the face of the island, clearing vast tracks of jungle, and pruning that riot of tropical nature which destroys as rapidly as it creates. A lengthened survey of Java's political economy and past history would be out of place in a slight volume, written as a "compagnon de voyage" to the wanderer who adds a cruise in the Archipelago to his Eastern itinerary, but the colonial features of Dutch rule which have produced many beneficial results demand recognition, for the varied characteristics of national genius and racial expansion suggest the myriad aspects of that creative power bestowed on humanity made in the Divine Image, and fulfilling the great destiny inspired by Heavenly Wisdom.