Outside the fairy circle of the exquisite Moluccas, a tiny cluster of palm-clad islets gems the wide blue spaces of the lonely sea, unbroken for many leagues by any foothold possible for human habitation. The Dutch steamer only calls thrice a year at the remote Soela-Bessir group, in quest of rattan, a plentiful product of these fertile isles, where the leafy ladders of the aspiring parasite climb to the green crowns of the tallest palms, wrapping them in the fatal embrace which eventually levels the strongest monarch of the tropical forest to the earth. The thick mantle of glossy foliage often hides the multitude of hooks, loops, and nooses which the pliant cane flings round branch and stem, gripped by long ropes of flexible fibre, hardening into thick coils, rigid and unyielding as iron. The immense export of rattan for chairs, couches, and innumerable domestic purposes, indirectly results in the preservation of myriad palm-trees, by releasing them from the deadly grasp of the tenacious creepers. The waving cocoanut trees of Senana, the principal island of the Soela-Bessir group, kiss the blue water with sombre plumes, bowed down by the wealth of heavy fruit lying in green and golden clusters between frond and stem. The steamer anchors far from the shore, and the launch proving unable to cross the shallow bay, the landing of passengers can only be accomplished by two crossed oars, carried and steadied by four of the crew. The mode of progression is wobbling and risky, but the improbability of revisiting Senana supplied a mental argument of unfailing force in balancing pros and cons. The secluded island, so slightly influenced by the outside world, changes but little with the lapse of time, and the triple-tiered roofs of numerous thatched Messighits rising above the palm-leaf huts of the brown campong, assert the hereditary creed. The green banner of Islam was planted here centuries ago by a fanatical horde of Arab pirates, who added religious enthusiasm to love of plunder and thirst of conquest. Their fiery zeal, though not according to knowledge, ensured a vigorous growth of the foreign offshoot from the questionable faith of these Arab corsairs, who left indelible traces on the whole of the Malay Archipelago. The Messighits of Senana are now only the ruined shrines of a decadent creed, but the simple islanders remain nominal adherents to the Monotheism of the past. Canoes and blotos, rowed by lithe brown figures, come out to welcome the steamer, and a fantastic boat, with carven prow, darts from beneath a green bower of tangled foliage, laden with golden bananas. Merry-faced little savages line the shore, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the white strangers, who supply them with the amusement afforded by a travelling circus to the more sophisticated children of the West. An eager desire to please and gratify the extraordinary visitors, mingles with the uncontrollable delight, manifested in capering, dancing, and gay laughter, as they beckon us to follow them through the narrow lanes of the long campong. Naked brown forms dash into their native huts at sundry points of the route, to summon friends and kinsfolk, until the procession swells into formidable proportions, for the whole campong is eventually in tow, with the exception of the men and boys occupied in lading cargo. Through the dappled sunlight and shadows of the sweeping palms which flank the glassy bay, we are personally conducted to the principal Messighit, a bare, whitewashed building, without any decoration beyond the blue and white tiles outlining the horse-shoe arch of the Mihrab looking towards Mecca. The exterior with three roofs of mossy thatch supported on bamboo poles, offers a shelter from the sun on a flight of crumbling steps, overshadowed by the spreading eaves. A big cocoanut frond serves as an improvised broom in a dusky hand, and the central step is carefully swept before the stranger, with respectful salaams and gesticulations, is invited to sit down. A turbaned Imaum, the custodian of the decaying sanctuary, comes forth from his dilapidated hut among the palms behind the shrine, at the unwonted excitement breaking the silence and solitude of the ancient mosque, but he evidently belongs to the dreamland of the past, and retires quickly from the disturbing present to meditations or slumbers in his obscure dwelling, closing the bamboo door against all intruders. This day's incident of the cruise in the Malay Archipelago seems absolutely cut off from ordinary experience—a solitary Englishwoman, resting in the shadow of the rustic mosque, and surrounded by a half-barbaric tribe of unfamiliar aspect, the dark woolly hair, flat noses, wide mouths, and dazzling teeth suggesting a liberal admixture of negro or Papuan blood. Native intelligence simplifies a halting conversation, carried on by means of the indispensable Malayan phrase-book. Wistful eyes rest on the stranger whose lot is cast under happier auspices, and unmistakeable characteristics manifest the Soela-Bessir islanders as a gentle and teachable race. Alas! the Dutch Government plants neither schools nor missions in distant Senana, too far from the beaten track to commend itself to the religious or educational care of a nation apparently indifferent to the claims of small communities, in the vast Archipelago subject to Holland. Only the quarterly call of the Dutch steamer stirs the stagnation of ages on the Soela-Bessir isles, but although the young, sharing in that wondrous heritage of mirth and gladness peculiar to the joyous early life of the tropics, recognise no limitations in their lot, the mothers sadly repeat the complaint heard elsewhere that no chance of improvement is given to them. The steamer, frequently bringing hither the inhabitants of more favoured islands in the interests of trade, already begins to stir feelings of unrest, and vague longings for the better things as yet withheld. A chieftain's daughter joins the throng round the old messighit. A red-cotton drapery, thrown over bronze limbs, is her only garment, but a diamond glistening on her dark hand looks incongruous with the scanty clothing. The gem seems a talisman or heirloom, but a request to examine it terrifies the owner, and she rushes away into the woods to safeguard the precious possession from perils suggested by the presence of the white pilgrim from across the seas. The delicious breeze which always spring up after ten o'clock in these latitudes renders walking a delight, the two following hours being invariably cooler than the trying time between eight and ten, when the fierce sun, on a level with the face, creates an atmosphere of blistering glare. The brown procession forms an orderly escort to the lading shed beneath a clump of tall cocoa-palms, and the kindly merchant who negotiates the commerce of the Soela-Bessir isles for the Dutch Government, sends a native boy up the smooth stem of a colossal tree in search of a fresh cocoanut, which fills two tumblers with refreshing sap. The thatched campong stands against a background of green hills and dense woods, rich in tropical verdure, but lacking the loveliness of the Moluccas. The return to the ship involves a bloto across the bay, with many misgivings as to the seaworthy capacities of the clumsy craft, but four bamboo safety-poles, fastened by forked sticks to the sides of the hollowed log, suffice to steady it enough to avoid capsizal. In the Soela-Bessir Isles, as in many other far-off and forgotten regions, the genius of commerce begins to awaken the desire of civilisation in untutored hearts, for Trade sharing in the romance no longer regarded as the exclusive attribute of Art or Science, now helps to fuse opposing elements into unity and order. The simple inhabitants of distant Senana seem only waiting for an outstretched hand to lift them to a higher level of creed and culture, for the modern pioneers of missionary enterprise raise the superstructure of Christianity with unexampled success on the substratum of truth contained even in imperfect and erroneous creeds. That solid foundation stone of belief in the One Eternal God, laid by Arab pirates centuries ago, amid the lust of rapine and the smoke of war, which ever heralded the onward march of conquering Islam, should serve as a firm basis for building up these simple children of Nature into the mystical sanctuary of the Christian Church. The lapse of time obliterates countless landmarks of Moslem creed in localities removed from external contact, but amid the dust of disintegrating forces and forgotten forms, the central Truth remains imbedded, like a wedge of gold trodden in the mire, but retaining intrinsic value and untarnishable purity.