An element of uncertainty attends the cruise among the Malayan islands, through sudden orders to include strange ports of call in the programme of the route. During the stay at Makassar, a cable from Batavia necessitates a flying visit to Borneo, and though the détour was made from the western coast of Celebes, the great sister island demands a special notice. In steaming thither through the radiant glory of an Equatorial sunset, strange atmospheric effects denote fresh variations of climate and temperature. The rounded horizon, which suggests the rim of the terrestrial globe, seems within a stone's throw of the ship, and as the crimson sun sinks below the sharply-defined curve outlined by the sea, a glowing hearth of smouldering embers appears burning on the edge of the water. The eastern sky blooms into vivid pink from the reflection of this fiery incandescence, which fades only to give place to the leaping brightness of phosphorescent waves, and the nightly pageant of tropical skies ablaze with lambent flames of summer lightning. Morning reveals the dark forests of mysterious Borneo, rolling back to the misty blue of a mountain background. The pathless jungles of teak and iron wood, inextricably tangled by ropes of liana or ladders of rattan, latticed with creepers and wreathed with clambering fern, make an impenetrable barrier between the settlements of the coast and the unknown interior, where barbarism still reigns triumphant, and "head-hunting" remains the traditional sport. Insurmountable difficulties of transit and progress are reported, even by the few enthusiastic botanists, who merely penetrate the outworks of Nature's stronghold in search of rare orchids, worth more than a king's ransom if we take into account the sacrifice of life, and the hardships suffered in wresting these floral gems from their forest casket. Any complete exploration of these tropical wilds seems at present beyond human means and capacities, but even a few months of the soil and climate of Borneo can transform a forest clearing into a wilderness of riotous vegetation, more impassable than that woodland maze of a century's growth encircling the palace of the Sleeping Beauty in the loveliest of old-world fairy tales. Our present quest has no connection with the mysteries of the interior, and only concerns itself with the prosaic task of taking in a cargo of oil, used as the ship's fuel. We steam into a wooded bay, beneath a hill covered with the brown atap bungalows of European colonists. Colossal oil-tanks, painted red, disfigure the shore. Each tank holds 4,000 tons of oil, 30,000 tons per month being the usual export. Kerosene taints the air, but is considered to be innocuous, and to drive away the curse of mosquitos. The unimaginable and ferocious heat makes every step a terror, during a snail's progress up a wooded road. Sun-hat and white umbrella scarcely mitigate the scorching rays on this perilous promenade, but there is only a day at disposal, and it cannot be wasted. Towards noon a breeze springs up, and exploration of the long line of tokos beyond the wharves is simplified by the spreading eaves of palm-leaf thatch. A row of workmen's dwellings forms a prosaic continuation of the campong, inhabited by a mixed population, chiefly imported to Balik-Papan in the interests of the oil trade. A chance rencontre with the Scotch doctor of the European settlement affords an opportunity of visiting the Oil Refinery, with the varied distillations, culminating in the great tank of benzine, a concentration of natural forces like a liquid dynamite, capable of wrecking the whole settlement in a moment. Endless precautions and vigilant care alone secure the safety of Balik-Papan from the perils incidental to the vast stores of explosive material. The raw petroleum brought from the mines of Samarinda, farther down the coast, by a fleet of hoppers (the local steamers which ply round the indented shore), is extracted by boring a stratum of coal known as "antichine," and always containing indications of mineral oil. Dutch and English Companies work this valuable product; fortunes are quickly made, and the industrious inhabitants, absorbed in dreams of a golden future, appear untroubled by any consciousness of metaphorically sleeping on the brink of a volcano. Iced soda-water, and a brief siesta, revive drooping spirits after the broiling exertions of the morning, and as the shadows of the palm-trees lengthen on the edge of the jungle, it becomes possible to mount the hill behind the wharf to the picturesque bungalow of another kindly Scot, who invites me to tea. The pretty tropical dwelling of plaited atap, through which every precious breath of air can penetrate, stands in the midst of a gorgeous thicket, composed of scarlet hybiscus and yellow Allemanda, the splendid blossoms growing in wild luxuriance on this sandy soil. The glare of the sun still requires the atap screens to be closed on the broad-eaved verandah, but the freshness of the evening breeze steals into the twilight of the pretty drawing-room, the simple but refined appointments of a restful home intensely refreshing after weeks of ship and hotel existence. The fragrant tea, with dainty cups and saucers, and the home-made cakes, seem almost forgotten luxuries, for the amenities of British civilisation stop short at Singapore. A cheery party assembles round the table, and these exiles on a foreign shore extend the warmest of welcomes to the stray bird of passage, who will soon leave behind only the shadowy "remembrance of a guest who tarrieth but a day." The idea so familiar to the self-seeking spirit, that "it is not worth while" to trouble about a passing acquaintance, finds no echo in this hospitable coterie. To the visitor, the bright hours of that afternoon, ten thousand miles away from England, remain as an evergreen memory of genuine human sympathy, the true "touch of Nature" linking hearts and lives. A long walk through the encroaching jungle fills up the day. The narrow track skirts dark depths of matted foliage, with strange bird-calls echoing through the gloom. The phenomenal growth of vegetation in Borneo is so rapid that a month's neglect in cutting back branches, and rooting up masses of strangling creeper, would entirely obliterate the path. In six months a tree, supposed to be cut down beyond possibility of resurrection, lately shot up to the height of seventeen feet, with a girth of several inches in diameter, so tenacious is the exuberant life of this irrepressible vegetation, eternally renewing itself in immortal strength and primeval freshness. From the edge of the sombre jungle the azure bay, set in the dark frame of forest and gilded with sunset light, resembles a Scotch loch at midsummer, and the poignant counterpart brings a sigh to the lips of my companion, exiled for years from his Highland home. A long slow river, navigable for native craft, widens into an estuary as it approaches the sea, through the shadowy and impenetrable mazes of the virgin woods traversed by the winding waterway. The Dyaks and other wild aborigines of Borneo still haunt the forest depths, though the fringe of civilisation drives them further inland, and some of the local Sultans begin to fraternise with the settlers, who alone can develope the riches of the extensive island. At present the northern territory of Sarawak, successfully governed by an alien race, finds no adequate counterpart on the island, though coast towns, springing up at wide intervals, open small districts to the enterprise of the European world. Balik-Papan, rising tier above tier on the dark hillside, and brilliant with a multitude of flashing lights, looks picturesque as Naples itself, when we steam away in the gathering gloom, and the dazzling illumination, reflected in the tranquil sea, appears a miraculous transfiguration. Oil tanks and warehouses, refineries and factories, vanish under the veil of night, and only a fairy vision of unearthly brightness remains as a final recollection of our brief visit to Borneo.