Each island of the great Archipelago offers distinctive interests, for many alien races grafted themselves on the original stock, after those age-long wanderings across the Southern seas which probably coincided with the westward march from Central Asia, whereby primeval man fulfilled the decrees of destiny.
A long pull in a rickety sampan across the harbour of Sourabaya involves numerous collisions with fruit-boats, canoes, and rafts, before reaching the steamer in the offing. Intervals of comparative safety permit cursory observation of the gorgeously-painted praus with upturned stern, curving bamboo masts, and striped sails, the outline of the gaudy boats accentuated by a black line, and producing the effect of huge shells tossing on the tide. The green isle of Madoera, and the level morasses of Eastern Java, bound the wide harbour, the blue cloud of the distant Tengger soaring abruptly on the horizon. The ship becomes our home for a month, and affords a welcome relief from divers struggles on land, involved by a dual language, official red tape, and native incompetence. A brilliant sunset flames across the heavens, and we glide across a golden sea as a fitting prelude to unknown realms of enchantment. The dreamful calm of the two days' passage obliterates the memory of bygone difficulties and perturbations, the interval between past and future experiences falling like refreshing dew on the weary spirit, and increasing the receptive capacity required for the assimilation of new impressions. The vast extent of the Malay Archipelago, and the stupendous size of the principal islands, comes as a fresh revelation to travellers whose ideas have been limited by vague recollections of schoolroom geography. The seven hundred miles of Java's length, Sumatra's vast extent of fourteen hundred miles, the area of Borneo equalling that of France and Germany combined, and the fact of Celebes, for which we are bound, exceeding the dimensions of Norway and Sweden, convey startling suggestions of the limitless space occupied by the great Equatorial group. The palms and flowers of myriad smaller isles break the blue monotony of these summer seas traversed by the Malay wanderers of olden days, striving to sail beyond the sunset, and to overtake that visionary ideal flitting ever before them, and luring them on with the fairy gold of unfulfilled desires.
At length the high blue peaks of central Celebes pierce the silver mists of a roseate dawn, and beyond a cluster of coral islets, the white town of Makassar gleams against a green background of palms. Miles of brown campongs fringe the shore, but the gay scene on the wooden wharves at first occupies undivided attention. Sarongs of crimson, orange, purple, or boldly-contrasting plaids, enhance the deep bronze of native complexion, the ample folds of the wide skirts drawn up above the knees. High turbans of white or red cambric, elaborately twisted, add dignity to the stately figures, deeply-cut features and hawk noses denoting Arab origin, for the Makassarese is a lineal descendant of the Moslem pirates, once the terror of these island-studded seas. Proud, courageous, and passionately addicted to adventurous travel in far-off lands, these sturdy islanders have little in common with the inert races of Java. The normal Malay element appears extinguished by the fiery superstructure of Arab nature, retaining the vindictive and fanatical traits of ancestral character. The women, in rainbow garb, use their floating slandangs as improvised yashmaks, holding the red and yellow folds before their faces in approved Moslem fashion, when passing a man. Makassar, formerly ruled by a line of powerful princes as an independent fief, but now subject to a Dutch Governor, has become the capital of Celebes, and occupies an important commercial position. The wharves are filled with bales of copra, mother-of-pearl shells, plumage of native birds, dried fish, bundles of rattan, and precious woods from the primeval forests of the interior. The boom of the fisherman's drum echoes across the water in constant reverberations, a secularised relic of the religious past, originally serving the purpose of the Mohammedan call to prayer, but now fulfilling the prosaic office of signalling the arrival or departure of boats, though the devout mariner still appeals by drum to the Heavenly Powers for fair weather and a good haul of fish. The official buildings of Makassar, including the Dutch Governor's palace, face a green aloon-aloon, flanked by superb avenues of kanari and tamarind trees. The hoary fort, scarcely distinguishable from the solid rock which supports it, was captured from the King of Goa by a Dutch admiral, who thrust his sword through an adjacent cocoanut palm, to symbolise his intention of piercing the hearts of all who resisted the Treaty afterwards drawn up. The sword and cocoanut now form part of the heraldic arms belonging to Makassar.
Local costume affords a continuous feast of colour, and streets and avenues appear like moving tulip beds, the broad blue sky and dazzling sunshine of this tropical land intensifying every glowing tint of robe, fruit, and flower. In the umber shadows of dusky tokos, gold-beaters fashion those red-gold ornaments rich in barbaric beauty, for which Makassar has ever been renowned. Portuguese art glorifies native workmanship, and the Dutch carry on the traditions of the past, merely simplifying the old methods by introducing modern tools to lighten the labour of production. Silken scarves, and elaborately-painted battek, woven with gold and silver thread, swing from the black rafters of dim corridors, and countless treasures of the deep, in shells and coral of rich and delicate colouring, manifest the infinite variety of Nature's handiwork. From the crowded lanes, with their busy markets and hybrid population, we drive through the long line of campongs bordering the palm-fringed coast. The bamboo walls of the fragile houses, standing on stilts or rocking on poles in the rippling sea, show a multitude of fantastic designs, the broad roofs of thatched grass or plaited palm-leaves extending in penthouse eaves above carven panels let into the gables. A riot of glorious vegetation frames and overshadows the clustering huts of deftly-woven cane. Dark faces peer through the narrow slits of bamboo window-spaces, but Makassar pride contains the elements of self-respect, and though the stranger attracts a certain amount of interest, no discourtesy mars the pleasure of exploration. A red road beneath towering palms, skirts rice-fields and bamboo thickets to the beautiful ford of the Tello, a broad river flowing between vast woods of cocoanut and bread-fruit trees, with only a tiny dug-out, steered by a brown boy in a scarlet turban, to dispel the loneliness of the scene. The vicinity of Makassar offers no special characteristics beyond those of a tropical garden, but the changing aspects of native life provide subjects of unceasing interest. To-day a great Chinese festa takes place, which attracts all the inhabitants of town and campong, for amusements are scarce on these distant shores, and no questions of race or faith complicate the determination to secure a share in the pleasures of the ceremony. When the usual burst of squibs and crackers, lighting of bonfires, and tossing of joss-papers into the air, marks the commencement of the holiday, spectators line the roads, climb the trees, and crowd the fiat roofs of Portuguese houses. The afternoon is the children's portion of the festival, and the little bedizened figures, with rouged faces, tinsel crowns, and spangled robes, bestride grotesque wooden dragons, fishes, and birds, brilliantly painted, and drawn on wheels by masked men in robes of pink and green. A crowd of high-class babies, also bedizened and spangled, follows in perambulators wreathed with flowers, and pushed by their Chinese nurses. Hideous gods in glittering robes, and appalling demons painted in black and scarlet, bring up the rear of the long procession, which traverses every street and lane of the Chinese campong, the open houses displaying the lighted altars and tutelary gods of Buddhist and Taoist creed, for the mystic philosophy of the Eastern sages materialises into grossest realism by passing through the crucible of Chinese thought.
A visit to the so-called "Kingdom of Goa" fills up our last day in Makassar. The Palace of the tributary Sultan, ten miles from the capital, consists of steep-roofed houses built upon huge trunks of forest trees, and connected by carved galleries and crumbling stairs with the Harem at the back of the main edifice. Squalid women in blue yashmaks loll on the crazy verandah, whence a native secretary marshals us through the dusty and ruinous building. The Sultan, taking to the hills as a necessary precaution after inciting his subjects to rebellion against the Dutch, has just been captured, but, whether by accident or design, fell over a cliff, and until his dead body is brought back to receive the Mohammedan rites of burial, the royal residence remains in charge of the police. The grass-grown road to the decaying Palace intersects the rambling and sordid village of Goa, the feudal appanage of the sorry chieftain, a perpetual thorn in the side of the Dutch Government. The surrounding country appears almost a solitude, the silence stirred by the song of the distant surf, the chirping of myriad grasshoppers, and the ceaseless clash of waving palms in the breeze which steals up from the sea. A quaint water-castle, shaped like a Chinese junk, stands on a rock in a fish-pond reflecting the rosy sky, and the fretted marble of a beautiful Arabian tomb gleams from a clump of white-starred sumboya exhaling incense on the air. As the magic and mystery of night shroud Makassar in a mantle of gloom, the surrounding sea becomes a vision of phosphorescent flame to the furthest horizon. The sheet-lightning of the tropical sky repeats the wonders of the deep, the glamour of romance gilds the prose of reality, and we apprehend that spirit of wondering awe which breathes through the records of old-world voyagers across uncharted oceans, when witnessing the phenomena of Nature in the sanctuary of her power, before Science had torn the veil from the mystic shrine.
The steamer's course follows the bold and mountainous coast; steep cliffs alternate with forest-clad ravines, the purple ranges of the foreground melting into the azure crests of soaring peaks. Skilful navigation is required in threading the blue water-lanes of the Spermunde group, the scores of palm-clad islets like bouquets of verdure thrown on the tranquil sea. The wicker-work campongs of the fishing population form a ring round each white beach of sparkling coral sand. The black bow of the "Bromo," a ship which broke her back on a reef twenty years ago, stands high above the treacherous rocks, and accentuates the vivid colouring of water and foliage. At Paré-Paré, a native campong in a deep bay at the edge of a forest, the steamer stops to discharge cargo, and affords an opportunity of landing. A gay crowd lines the shore of the picturesque village, the houses of palm-thatched bamboo adorned with carved ladders and upcurving eaves of white wood. One of the numerous military expeditions to turbulent Celebes has lately been successful, and the campong, where every hut was closed for a year in consequence of the local Rajah forcing his people to join in his insurrection, has at last been re-opened, though under a guard of Dutch and Malay troops. A brown bodyguard of native children, mainly clad in silver chains and medals, escorts the strangers with intense delight to a shabby little mosque, where a Dervish, in the orange turban rewarding a pilgrim to Mecca, beats a big drum in the stone court. The little savages encountered at Mandja on the following day seem equally free from clothes and cares, but Europeans, though possessing the charm of novelty, are regarded with awe; a sudden stop, a word, or even a lifted hand, sufficing to make the whole juvenile population take to their heels, and hide among the palms and bananas until a sudden impulse of fresh curiosity banishes fear. Clothing is at a discount, but ornaments of brass, silver, and coloured beads, are evidently indispensable. Natural flowers, like immense red fuchsias with long white bells, serve as ear-rings, and scarlet caps adorn the sleek black heads of the elder girls. An al fresco picnic party from the hills occupies a green mound, and boils a kettle on sticks of flaming bamboo, though a stray spark might easily burn down the entire campong. A great part of Celebes is uninhabited and uncultivated, but the tribes of the interior, warlike and treacherous, have never been completely subjugated. The slave trade flourishes among these lonely hills, murder and violence are rife; the methods of warfare, comprising poisoned arrows, and bullets containing splinters of glass, denote absolute barbarism, and the enormous island, which ought to be a field of emigration for some of Java's twenty-seven millions, except for the coast campongs and the rice-grounds of the far interior, remains one of the waste places of the earth, in spite of a perfect climate and a teeming soil.
Day by day the scenery becomes more wild and dreary; the forests disappear, and the sun-baked hills encroach on the low brushwood beyond the white beaches of coves and inlets, without any sign of habitation. An atmosphere of crystalline purity discloses the highest range of the interior, a long chain of azure peaks. Our course traverses league upon league of melancholy solitude, emphasised rather than relieved by the brilliant sunlight and balmy breezes playing over this realm of neglected possibilities, where the wants of countless sufferers might be abundantly supplied. Anchoring for an hour in the deep blue bay of Tontoli, we come once more into the haunts of men, and two picturesque campongs buried in cocoa-palms beneath the wooded mountains of Tomini are pointed out as exclusively peopled by descendants of the pirates who infested this western coast of Celebes. From this point the interest of the cruise increases. Pretty campongs line the shore of every sheltered creek. Boats of quaint form and colour push off to meet the steamer, quickly surrounded by sampans, blotos (the native canoes), or carved and painted skiffs, all manned by an amphibious race in Nature's suit of brown, which renders the wearers indifferent to overturned boats, water-logged blotos, and collapsing rafts, though the encouraging statements of our Malay crew as to the warmth and shallowness of the water in case of any contretemps, is less reassuring to the travellers who venture shoreward on the risky craft. The loan of the captain's boat makes the visit to Dongalla an experience of unalloyed pleasure, but the people appear morose and sullen. A dignified youth, in purple turban and checked sarong, attempts to do the honours of his native place, but his comrades, oppressed by vague suspicions, close the heavy doors of their wooden houses, and peep through the interstices of the bamboo shutters as we thread the narrow alleys, escorted by the deck steward. A more genial crowd welcomes us to the palm-groves of Palehle, where a light-hearted bodyguard of children shows us every nook and corner of the brown campong, with smiling faces and merry laughter. The heart-whole mirth of these little savages might brighten the saddest soul. Living in the present, with no artificial wants to create dissatisfaction, and free from the pains or penalties of poverty, as experienced in Northern climes, the simple life close to the heart of Nature suggests ideas of Eden's unshadowed joy. Amid the treasures of memory garnered during the winter's wanderings through the Malay Archipelago, the unclouded merriment which endows these children of Nature remains as the deepest impression stamped on the memory of the Western pilgrim. European childhood, at the best and brightest, but faintly approaches this spontaneous gaiety, the special attribute of untutored souls in a world of primal innocence.
At Soemalata the steep declivities of wooded mountains enclose the harbour, and a narrow pass leads to the gold mines, where the process of smelting and separating the ore takes place in a primitive series of conduits, sluices, mills, and pounding machines. The gold concession granted by the local Rajah prospers in European hands, but the barbaric chieftain adheres to the ancient custom of having the gold washed from the river sand by his own slaves. The English engineer of the mines hails a compatriot with delight, and his explanation of the complicated machinery ends with a welcome invitation to tea in his pretty bungalow. A solitary Englishman is frequently found stationed in the remotest outposts of civilisation throughout the Malay Archipelago, enduring a life of unexampled loneliness with the tenacity and determination inherent in national character. The oft-receding vision of a successful future inspires the dauntless heart less than a sense of present duty, and these exiles from the social ties of nation and kindred possess special claims on sympathy and remembrance. Lovely lanes of palm and banana, brightened by trees of crimson poinsettia, wind upward to the hills, and a cluster of green islets gems the blue waters; the scarlet-stemmed Banka palm offering a glowing contrast to the sweeping emerald of the feathery fronds. The little settlement of Kwandang, with a gold fabrik occupying a wooded islet, completes the circuit of the western coast, for the North-Eastern Cape comprises a distinctive province, requiring a separate chapter. Intervening mountains, with jagged cliffs and towering summits, rise like Titanic fortresses from the creaming surf which washes the yellow bastions, leaving no space for the wicker campongs, impermanent as a child's house of cards, but perpetually rebuilt in identical fashion, and never developing into substantial dwellings, or adjusted on the new lines required by varieties of environment.