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circumference. Their splendor, shining in the deep night of the forest, astonishes, nay, almost terrifies the spectator. These children of the darkness owe nothing of their resplendent coloring to the light. Flourishing low down in the warm vapors, and fattened by the breath of earth, they seem to be its luxurious dreams, its strange airy phantasies of desire. Java has two faces. The southern, wears already the aspect of Oceania, enjoys a pure air, and is surrounded by rocks all alive with polypes and madepores. To the north, however, it is still in India—India, with all it inherits of unhealthiness; a black alluvial soil, fermenting with the deadly travail of Nature reacting on herself, with the work of combination and decomposition. Its inhabitants have been compelled to abandon the once opulent town of Bantam, which is now a mass of ruins. Superb Batavia is one triumphant cemetery. In less than thirty years—from 1730 to 1752—it swallowed up a million of human lives; sixty thousand in a single twelve-month (1750)! And though it is not so terrible now, its atmosphere has not been purified to any considerable CXtent. The animals of the primeval world which live forgotten in its bosom are remarkable, it seems, for their funeral aspect. In the evening enormous hairy bats, such as are found nowhere else, flutter to and fro. By day, and even at noon, the strange flying dragon, that memorial of a remote epoch, when the serpent was endowed with wings, does not hesitate to make its appearance. Numerous black animals exist which agree in color with the black basalt of the mountains. And black, too, is the tiger, that terrible destroyer, which as late as 1830, devoured annually 300 lives.
The double mountain chain, which forms the backbone of Java, is intersected by numerous internal valleys, running in opposite directions, varying the spectacle. This diversity of surface insures a corresponding diversity of vegetation. The soil in the valleys is madreporic, and was once alive. At a higher level it has its foundation of granite, loaded with fertile ruins and hot debris of the volcanoes. The whole is a vast ascending scale, which from sea to mountain presents six different climates, rising from the marine flora and the flora of the marshes to the Alpine flora. A superb amphitheater, rich and abundant at each gradation, bearing the dominant plants and those transitional forms which lead up from one to the other, and lead so ingeniously that without any lacuna or abrupt leap, we are carried onwards, and vainly endeavor to trace between the six climates any rigorous lines of demarcation. In the lowlands facing India and the boiling caldron of the ocean, the mangrove absorbs the vapors. But towards Oceania and the region of the thousand isles, the cocoanut tree rises, with its foot in the emerald wave and its crest lightly rocking in the full fresh breeze. The palm is here of little value. Above its bamboos and resinous trees, Java wears a magnificent girdle, or zone, of forest—a forest wholly composed of teak, the oak of oaks, the finest wood in the world —indestructible teak. * * * Here every kind of food, and all the provisions of the five worlds superabound. The rice, maize, figs and bananas of Hindostan; the pears of China; the apples of Japan, flourish in company with the peach, pineapple and orange of Europe—aye, and even with the strawberry, which extends its growth along the banks of the streams. All this is the innocence of nature. But side by side with it prevails another and more formidable world—that of the higher vegetable energies, the plants of temptation, seductive, yet fatal, which double the pleasures, while shortening the duration of life. At present they reign throughout the earth, from pole to pole. They make and unmake nations. The least of these terrible spirits has wrought a greater change in the globe than any war. They have implanted in man the volcanic fires; and a soul, a violent spirit which is indefinable, which seems less a human thing than a creature of the planet. They have effected a revolution, which, above all, has changed our idea of time. Tobacco kills the hours and renders them insensible. Coffee shortens them by the stimulus it affords the brain; it converts them into minutes. Foremost among the sources of intoxication to which care unhappily resorts, we must name alcohol. Eight species of the sugar-cane which thrive in Java abundantly supply this agent of delirium and forcible feebleness. No less abundantly flourishes tobacco, the herb of dreams, which has enshrouded the world in its misty vapors. Fortunately Java also produces immense supplies of its antidote, coffee. It is this which contends against tobacco, and supplies the place of alcohol. The island of Java alone furnishes a fourth of all the coffee drank by man, and a coffee, too, of fine quality, which has been dried sufficiently, without any fear of reducing its weight.
Formerly Java and its neighboring lands were known as spice islands only, and as producing freely violent drugs and medicinal poisons. Frightful stories were circulated of its deadly plants, the juice of which was a mortal venom—of the Gueva-Upas, which but to touch was death !
He who would see the East in all the fullness of its magical, voluptuous and sinister forces, should explore the great bazaars of Java. There the curious jewels wrought by the cunning Indian hand are exposed to the desires of woman, temptation and the cost of pleasure. There, too, may be seen another seductive agency—the vegetable sury of the burning and scorching plains which is so eagerly sought after; the perfumes of terrible herbs and flowers, as yet unnamed. Marvelous and profound the night, in its sweet repose, after the violent heats of the day! But be cautious in your enjoyment of it; as it grows old it breathes death !
Take note of this: The peculiarity that gives to these bazaars so curious an effect is, that all the thronging crowds are dusky, with dark complexions, and all the animals are black. The contrast is singular in this land of glowing light. The heat seems to have burned up everything, and tinted each object with shadow. The little horses, as they gallop past you, seem but so many flashes of darkness; the buffaloes, slowly arriving, loaded with fruit and flowers—with the most radiant gifts of life—all wear a livery of bluish black.
Beware, at this time of night, not to wander too far, or ramble in the higher grounds, lest you should encounter the black panther, whose green eyes illumine the obscurity with a terrific glare And—who knows?—the splendid tyrant of the forest, the black tiger, may have begun his midnight prowl—that formidable phantom which the Malays of Java believe to be the spirit of Death
I have quoted thus, at some length, from the writings of Michelet, as the ideas advanced will serve alike for Sumatra and some of the Mollucca Islands.
Borneo, singularly, is altogether free from the eruptic, volcanic and earthquake forces. Situated almost directly in the course of the “fire belt,” there are yet no authentic records in the history of Borneo, for ages past, of any of those fearful outbursts so frequent in Java and Sumatra.
Much more could be written of Java and the islands surrounding it. As almost a part of the greater island, we might cite Little Java, with nearly four thousand square miles of area, and a population of about eight hundred thousand people. Separated from Great Java by a strait hardly two miles in width, its configuration, climate, inhabitants and products are so similar that a description would but tire the reader.
Before leaving Java, it might be well to notice coffee, the principal and most valuable product of that island. Coffea Aribica, no doubt, derives its name from Kaffa, a district of Southern Abyssinia, on the east coast of Africa. The coffee plant is an evergreen,