Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

6

the interior is traversed by mountain ranges, which our author thinks are destined in the distant future to be the site of plantations equal in value to those of Java. In the whole of the vast extent of country which forms the eastern limit of the Dutch possessions, there is not, we are told, a single Dutch settlement of any kind, with the exception of Dorei, on the north-eastern coast, in Geelvink Bay, where a mission has been in existence since 1855. Here and in the neighbourhood are five Dutch missionaries—the only Europeans in the country-whose acquaintance the voyagers made before they left the island. Few are the converts made-little in excess of those who have sacrificed their lives in the cause—but the work still continuez. “Shattered ' in constitution,' our author observes, from the pernicious climate, and depressed by the non-success of their work, their condition seemed to us deplorable, and one could not help regretting that their labours were not transferred to some more satisfactory field. The result of twenty-eight years of missionary work in Dorei Bay gives only sixteen adults and twenty-six child converts, and many lives have been sacrificed to the terrible effects of the climate, for which the pestilential mangrove-clad coasts are in a great measure responsible. The missionaries buy the native children, wherever possible, when very young ; but the parents are unwilling to sell their own, so that orphans or the children of slaves alone come into the hands of the missionary. “The

Papuan is bold, self-reliant, and independent, and no rapid conversion to Christianity, as has been the case in some of • the Pacific Islands, is ever likely to take place in New • Guinea.' Dr. Guillemard's experience of Dorei leads him to think that the mission has had little or no influence over the Papuans; they leave the Europeans unmolested, but their customs and habits remain unchanged. At the time of the Marchesa's' visit, an idol house, Rum-slam,' which had been accidentally destroyed by fire, was being rebuilt in all its former hideousness and indecency.

Of the true mop-headed Papuan our author gives a very interesting account. A number visited the ship in their canoes; at first a little mistrustful, they soon shook off their shyness, clambered boldly up the sides, and overran the deck, talking and shouting loudly, examining the novel objects around them. The striking of the ship's bell greatly astonished them, and was the signal for a burst of cheering. Dr. Guillemard saw a roughly carved wooden head-rest in one of the praus alongside, and began to bargain for it. The VOL. CLXVI. NO, CCCXL.

AA

[ocr errors]

6

6

[ocr errors]

pany with the

owner wanted three knives for it; on the doctor's refusal with an emphatic tida, indicative of astonishment and • disgust at the exorbitant demand, the bystanders mimicked * voice and gesture to perfection, and burst into shouts of

laughter.' The bump of veneration, says our author, appears to be entirely absent from the cranium of the Papuan, who, as far as the white man can judge, is a noisy, ebullient gentleman of distinct socialistic tendencies, though not without a pretty humour of his own, as the following story, the truth of which was vouched for by some Dutch friends, will show :

During a cruise of a certain gunboat on the northern coast of New Guinea a village was touched at which, up to that time, had never been visited by Europeans. The captain, anxious to impress the untutored savage, arrayed himself in full uniform and landed in com

surgeon, who was similarly attired. The natives crowded down to meet them in hundreds, and appeared tolerably trustworthy, but before long intimated that they were to pay a visit to the chief's house. This the captain resisted, fearing treachery; but in spite of his endeavours they were carried off, and his guard prevented from following. The hours passed away without a sign of the officers, and the boat's crew waiting for them began to fear the worst. Suddenly a crowd was seen approaching. It parted, and disclosed the gallant captain to his astonished sailors, berest of his uniform and dressed in alternate stripes of red and white paint.'

While in Marchesa Bay, east of Battanta Island, the party obtained ten specimens of Wilson's bird of paradise (Diphyllodes Wilsoni), which is entirely confined to Battanta and Waigiou Islands, though in the latter island it is much rarer. This exquisitely lovely bird, the smallest of all the birds of paradise, has the wings and back scarlet, and behind the head an erect ruff of canary-coloured feathers; on the breast is a shield of glossy green plumes which have metallic green and violet spots of extraordinary brilliancy; the two central tail feathers extend for five or six inches beyond the others and cross one another, and then curve gracefully into a circle of bright steely purple ; ‘but the chief peculiarity of the bird

is in the head, which is bald from the vertex backwards, • the bare skin being of the brightest imaginable cobalt blue,' which, however, fades soon after death, and ultimately becomes quite black. of the red bird of paradise (P. rubra), which is also confined to Battanta and Waigiou, Dr. Guillemard was fortunate enough to obtain specimens in nearly every stage of developement, showing the various changes in the plumage from the sober-coloured young bird to the beautiful and quaintly ornamented adult. Of the

[ocr errors]

6

nesting habits of the birds of paradise nothing definitely seems to be known, and though our author offered large rewards to any one who would point out a nest, the eggs and nidification still remain to be described. The natives adopt the following method of obtaining specimens of the Seleucides :

'Patiently searching the forest until he has discovered the usual roosting-place of the bird, the hunter conceals himself beneath the tree, and, having noted the exact branch chosen, climbs up at night and quietly places a cloth over his unsuspecting quarry. The species being exceedingly fond of the scarlet fruit of the pandanus, the roostingplaces are easily recognised by the dejecta. The plan would, perhaps, by most of us be regarded as very similar to that counselled by our nurses, in which a pinch of salt is the only requisite; but the noiseless movements of the native hunters overcome all difficulties, and the tree once discovered, the chances are said to be considerably against the bird.' However, it is not so easy to find the tree, and a month spent by the natives employed in the forest resulted in the capture of only one bird. The natives of the Aru Islands, taking advantage of their knowledge of the habits of the great bird of paradise (Paradisea apoda, Lin.), the largest known species, obtain specimens with comparative ease. At a certain season of the year, some time in May, these birds commence their dancing parties, called by the natives their sácaleli,' that are held in certain trees of the forest, on branches affording a clear space for the birds to play and exhibit their plumes. On one of these trees, Mr. Wallace tells us, a dozen or twenty full-plumaged birds assemble together, raise up their wings, stretch out their necks, and elevate their exquisite plumes, keeping them in a continual vibration. As soon, then, as the male birds in gorgeous nuptial attire have fixed on a tree on which to exhibit, the natives build a small shelter of palm leaves in a suitable place among the branches. Before daylight the hunter, armed with his bow and arrows, whose points are round knobs, ensconces himself under cover of the palm-leaf shelter. At the foot of the tree a boy awaits, and when the birds in sufficient numbers have arrived and have begun to dance, the hunter shoots with his blunt arrow and stuns the bird, which falls down, and is immediately secured and killed, without the plumage being injured by a drop of blood, by the boy attendant. Mr. Wallace gives in his delightful work an illustration of this method of shooting the great bird of paradise by the natives of Aru.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Dr. Guillemard gives us some amusing anecdotes of the pet animals on board the Marchesa.' While at Kamschatka, a large but not fully developed bear, called Misky, and a charming little Siñhalese mongoose were presented to the voyagers by some Russian officers. Misky was a great favourite, but not altogether a source of unmixed pleasure.

A gallant lieutenant coming on board one day in full dress proved too great a temptation for Bruin, who immediately seized him by the coat-tails. It was found impossible to make him let go until the discomfited officer had reduced himself to his shirt-sleeves, when, delighted with his success, the delinquent shuffled off

. He was apparently almost indifferent to pain. A smell of burning being one day discovered forward, one of the crew proceeded to investigate the cause, and found Misky standing upright on the top of a nearly red-hot stove, engaged in stealing cabbages from a shelf above. He was growling in an undertone, and standing first on one leg and then on the other, but he nevertheless went on slowly eating, heedless of the fact that the soles of his feet were burnt entirely raw.' Punishment for his numerous offences was in vain; as he grew older he got worse, "and after having devoured por* tions of the cabin skylight and a man's thumb, and finished by drinking the oil out of the binnacle lamp, he was

shipped to England' on the arrival of the “ Marchesa'at Hongkong, and probably may now be seen in the bear-pit of the Zoological Gardens. As to the mongoose, his sole object in life was mischief.

* Whether biting one's toes as one lay asleep in the early morning, capsizing the ink-bottle, or bolting surreptitiously with some coveted morsel from the dinner-table, he was never stiil; but his greatest happiness—for it was attended with that spice of danger which gives the true zest to sport-was to “ draw" Misky. When that unsuspecting animal was rolling his unwieldy body about on deck, ignorant of the proximity of his enemy, the mongoose would approach noiselessly from behind and nip him sharply in the foot. Long before the huge foot had descended in a futile effort at revenge the little rascal was safely under cover, on the look out for another opportunity, and the bear might just as well have attempted to catch a mosquito.

A more thorough little pickle never existed, but, like all pickles, he was very popular, and when one morning he disappeared never to return there was great lamentation among our men. We never learnt his fate. Probably Misky had caught his tormentor, after many months of vain endeavour, and had dined off him.'

On the return of the Marchesa' from New Guinea, the yacht was like a floating menagerie; the gem of the collection was the twelve-wired bird of paradise (Seleucides nigri

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

6

cans), which got very tame, and would readily eat from the hand. Seizing any cockroach that ventured into his cage, he would throw it in the air and catch it lengthways, 'displaying the vivid grass-green colouring of his mouth and

throat in the operation. He seemed to feel the least fall in temperature, and died before the ship got beyond the tropics. Monkeys sat gibbering on the bulwarks, and large white cockatoos sidled solemnly up and down their perches, cassowaries roamed at will from end to end of the yacht; one young cassowary was as playful as a puppy. His favourite

· • diversion was to get up a sham fight with a ventilator, • dancing round it in the most approved pugilistic style, now

feinting, now getting in a right and left. The blows were • delivered by kicking out in front.' On Sundays the decorum of the service would often be disturbed by the cassowary appearing among the congregation engaged in a lively skirmish with a kangaroo, which entertainment would attract a select gathering of various dogs and a tame pig to see fair play. There were two species of tree kangaroos (Dendrolagus) on board, about the size of small hares. In Australia the kangaroo is a terrestrial animal, but in New Guinea the dense jungle necessitates a change of habit, so that in Dendrolagus we have an interesting instance of a ground animal gradually becoming arboreal; although a tree-haunting animal, it is as yet only a tyro in the art of climbing, and performs the operation in a slow and awkward manner. Neither species lived to see England. Before we conclude we must notice one more pet, viz. 'a pig of tender age,

who ' had perhaps more character in him than any other member

of the menagerie.' 'Chugs' was the name of the porcine infant. 'In many parts of New Guinea the women make

pets of these animals, carrying them about and suckling • them with their own babies, but whether Chugs had been so reared is uncertain.

‘He was striped longitudinally with alternate bands of black and yellow,* and, though hardly more than eight inches long when he first joined the ship, was afraid of no living thing aboard. He roamed the deck from morning till night, chasing the cockroaches and devouring them with much gusto and smacking of lips, grunting contentedly the while. When tired he would nestle himself up on the curly coat of Dick, the retriever, or alongside the big cassowary, who would regard

6

[ocr errors]

It is a well-known but very curious fact that the young of wild pigs generally, if not universally, are longitudinally banded, and that this character disappears under domestication.

« AnteriorContinuar »