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great irregular bunches of hairy grapes, of a coarse but very luscious flavor. In some of the valleys where the vegetation is richer, thorny shrubs and climbers are so abundant as to make the thickets quite impenetrable.
The soil seems very poor, consisting chiefly of decomposing clayey shales, and the bare earth and rock is almost everywhere visible. The drought of the hot season is so severe that most of the streams dry up in the plains before they reach the sea; every thing becomes burnt up, and the leaves of the larger trees fall as completely as in our winter. On the mountains from two to four thousand feet elevation there is a much moister atmosphere, so that potatoes and other European products can be grown all the year round. Besides ponies, almost the only exports of Timor are sandal-wood and beeswax. The sandal-wood (Santalum sp.) is the produce of a small tree, which grows sparingly in the mountains of Timor and many of the other islands in the far East. The wood is of a fine yellow color, and possesses a well-known, delightful fragrance which is wonderfully permanent. It is brought down to Delli in small logs, and is chiefly exported to China, where it is largely used to burn in the temples, and in the houses of the wealthy.
The bees-wax is a still more important and valuable product, formed by the wild bees (Apis dorsata), which build huge honey-combs, suspended in the open air from the under side of the lofty branches of the highest trees. These are of a semicircular form, and often three or four feet in diameter. I once saw the natives take a bees' nest, and a very interesting sight it was. In the valley where I used to collect insects I one day saw three or four Timorese men and boys under a high tree, and, looking up, saw on a very lofty horizontal branch three large bees' combs. The tree was straight and smooth-barked and without a branch, till at seventy or eighty feet from the ground it gave out the limb which the bees had chosen for their home. As the men were evidently looking after the bees, I waited to watch their operations. One of them first produced a long piece of wood, apparently the stem of a small tree or creeper, which he had brought with him, and began splitting it through in several directions, which showed that it was very tough and stringy. He then wrapped
it in palm-leaves, which were secured by twisting a slender creeper round them. He then fastened his cloth tightly round his loins, and, producing another cloth, wrapped it round his head, neck, and body, and tied it firmly round his neck, leaving his face, arms, and legs completely bare. Slung to his girdle he carried a long thin coil of cord; and while he had been making these preparations one of his companions had cut a strong creeper or bush-rope eight or ten yards long, to one end of which the wood-torch was fastened, and lighted at the bottom, emitting a steady stream of smoke. Just above the torch a chopping-knife was fastened by a short cord.
The bee-hunter now took hold of the bush-rope just above the torch and passed the other end round the trunk of the tree, holding one end in each hand. Jerking it up the tree a little above his head, he set his foot against the trunk, and, leaning back, began walking up it. It was wonderful to see the skill with which he took advantage of the slightest irregularities of the bark or obliquity of the stem to aid his ascent, jerking the stiff creeper a few feet higher when he had found a firm hold for his bare foot. It almost made me giddy to look at him as he rapidly got up-thirty, forty, fifty feet above the ground, and I kept wondering how he could possibly mount the next few feet of straight smooth trunk. Still, however, he kept on with as much coolness and apparent certainty as if he were going up a ladder, till he got within ten or fifteen feet of the bees. Then he stopped a moment, and took care to swing the torch (which hung just at his feet) a little toward these dangerous insects, so as to send up the stream of smoke between him and them. Still going on, in a minute more he brought himself under the limb, and, in a manner quite unintelligible to me, seeing that both hands were occupied in supporting himself by the creeper, managed to get upon it.
By this time the bees began to be alarmed, and formed a dense buzzing swarm just over him, but he brought the torch up closer to him, and coolly brushed away those that settled on his arms or legs. Then stretching himself along the limb, he crept toward the nearest comb and swung the torch just under it. The moment the smoke touched it, its color changed in a most curious manner from black to white, the myriads of
bees that had covered it flying off and forming a dense cloud above and around. The man then lay at full length along the limb, and brushed off the remaining bees with his hand, and then drawing his knife cut off the comb at one slice close to the tree, and attaching the thin cord to it, let it down to his companions below. He was all this time enveloped in a crowd of angry bees, and how he bore their stings so coolly and went on with his work at that giddy height so deliberately, was more than I could understand. The bees were not evidently stupefied by the smoke or driven away far by it, and it was impossible that the small stream from the torch could protect his whole body when at work. There were three other combs on the same tree, and all were successively taken, and furnished the whole party with a luscious feast of honey and young bees, as well as a valuable lot of wax.
After two of the combs had been let down, the bees became rather numerous below, flying about wildly and stinging viciously. Several got about me, and I was soon stung, and had to run away, beating them off with my net and capturing them for specimens. Several of them followed me for at least half a mile, getting into my hair and persecuting me most pertinaciously, so that I was more astonished than ever at the immunity of the natives. I am inclined to think that slow and deliberate motion, and no attempt at escape, are perhaps the best safeguards. A bee settling on a passive native probably behaves as it would on a tree or other inanimate substance, which it does not attempt to sting. Still they must often suffer, but they are used to the pain, and learn to bear it impassively, as without doing so no man could be a beehunter.
THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE TIMOR GROUP.
If we look at a map of the Archipelago, nothing seems more unlikely than that the closely-connected chain of islands from Java to Timor should differ materially in their natural productions. There are, it is true, certain differences of climate and of physical geography, but these do not correspond with the division the naturalist is obliged to make. Between the two ends of the chain there is a great contrast of climate, the west being exceedingly moist, and having only a short and irregular dry season; the east being as dry and parched up, and having but a short wet season. This change, however, occurs about the middle of Java, the eastern portion of that island having as strongly-marked seasons as Lombock and Timor. There is also a difference in physical geography; but this occurs at the eastern termination of the chain, where the volcanoes, which are the marked feature of Java, Bali, Lombock, Sumbawa, and Flores, turn northward through Gunong Api to Banda, leaving Timor with only one volcanic peak near its centre, while the main portion of the island consists of old sedimentary rocks. Neither of these physical differences corresponds with the remarkable change in natural productions which occurs at the Straits of Lombock, separating the island of that name from Bali, and which is at once so large in amount and of so fundamental a character, as to form an important feature in the zoological geography of our globe.
The Dutch naturalist Zollinger, who resided a long time in the island of Bali, informs us that its productions completely assimilate with those of Java, and that he is not aware of a single animal found in it which does not inhabit the larger island. During the few days which I staid on the north coast of Bali, on my way to Lombock, I saw several birds highly characteristic of Javan ornithology. Among
OF THE TIMOR GROUP.
these were the yellow-headed weaver (Ploceus hypoxantha), the black grasshopper-thrush (Copsychus amœnus), the rosy barbet (Megalæma rosea), the Malay oriole (Oriolus horsfieldi), the Java ground-starling (Sturnopastor jalla), and the Javanese three-toed woodpecker (Chrysonotus tiga). On crossing over to Lombock, separated from Bali by a strait less than twenty miles wide, I naturally expected to meet with some of these birds again; but during a stay there of three months I never saw one of them, but found a totally different set of species, most of which were utterly unknown not only in Java, but also in Borneo, Sumatra, and Malacca. For example, among the commonest birds in Lombock were white cockatoos and three species of Meliphagidæ, or honey suckers, belonging to family groups which are entirely absent from the western or Indo-Malayan region of the Archipelago. On passing to Flores and Timor the distinctness from the Javanese productions increases, and we find that these islands form a natural group, whose birds are related to those of Java and Australia, but are quite distinct from either. Besides my own collections in Lombock and Timor, my assistant Mr. Allen made a good collection in Flores; and these, with a few species obtained by the Dutch naturalists, enable us to form a very good idea of the natural history of this group of islands, and to derive therefrom some very interesting results.
The number of birds known from these islands up to this date is 63 from Lombock, 86 from Flores, and 118 from Timor; and from the whole group 188 species. With the exception of two or three species which appear to have been derived from the Moluccas, all these birds can be traced, either directly or by close allies, to Java on the one side, or to Ausstralia on the other, although no less than 82 of them are found nowhere out of this small group of islands. There is not, however, a single genus peculiar to the group, or even one which is largely represented in it by peculiar species; and this is a fact which indicates that the fauna is strictly derivative, and that its origin does not go back beyond one of the most recent geological epochs. Of course there are a large number of species (such as most of the waders, many of the raptorial birds, some of the kingfishers, swallows, and a few others) which range so widely over a large part of the