FRENCH CIRCUMNAVIGATORS, I

Gaimard writes, "The points of the arrows were of hard wood, or of bone, and some of iron. The arrows themselves, displayed fan-wise, were fastened on the left side of the warrior to the belt of his sword or dagger. Most of these people wore bundles of palm-leaves, slit so as to allow red or black coloured strips of the same to be passed through to hold them together, which were attached to the belt or the right thigh. The rustling sound produced with every movement of the wearers of this singular ornament, increased by knocking against the cuirass or the buckler, with the addition of the tinkling of little bells, which also formed part of the warrior's equipment, altogether made such a jumble of discordant sounds that we could not refrain from laughing. Far from taking offence, our Ombayan friends joined heartily in our merriment. M. Arago greatly excited their astonishment by performing some sleight-of-hand tricks. We then took our way straight to the village of Bitouka, which was situated on a rising ground. In passing one of their cottages we happened to see about a score of human jawbones suspended from the roof, and anxious to get possession of one or two, I offered the most valuable articles I had about me in exchange. The answer was, 'palami,' they are sacred. We ascertained afterwards that these were the jawbones of their enemies, preserved as trophies of victory."

Warriors of Ombay and Guebeh
Warriors of Ombay and Guebeh.
(Fac-simile of early engraving.)

This excursion derived greater interest from the circumstance of the island of Ombay having been up to that time rarely visited by Europeans; and the few vessels that had effected any landing brought mournful accounts of the warlike and ferocious temper of the natives, and even in some instances of their cannibal propensities. Thus in 1802 the merchant-ship Rose had her small boat carried off, and the crew were detained as prisoners by the savages. Ten years later, the captain of the ship Inacho, who landed by himself, received several arrow wounds. Again, in 1817, an English frigate sent the cutter ashore for the purpose of getting wood, when a scrimmage took place between the crew and the natives, which ended in the former being killed and eaten. The day after, an armed sloop was despatched in quest of the missing crew; but nothing was found save some fragments of the cutter and the bloody remains of the unfortunate men.

In view of these facts the French travellers must be congratulated on having escaped being entrapped by the savage cannibals, which would undoubtedly have been attempted had the Uranie stayed long enough at Ombay.

On the 17th of November the anchor was let go at Dili.

After the customary interchange of compliments with the Portuguese governor, Freycinet made known the requirements of the expedition, and received a friendly assurance that the necessary provisions should be instantly forthcoming. The reception given to all the members of the expedition was both hearty and liberal, and when Freycinet took his leave, the governor, wishing that he should carry away some souvenir of his visit, presented him with two boys and two girls, of the ages of six and seven, natives of Failacor, a kingdom in the interior of Timor. To insure the acceptance of this present, the governor, D. José Pinto Alcofarado d'Azevado e Souza, stated that the race to which the children belonged was quite unknown in Europe. In spite of all the strong and conclusive reasons that Freycinet gave to explain why he felt compelled to decline the present, he was obliged to take charge of one of the little boys, who subsequently received the name of Joseph Antonio in baptism, but when sixteen years old died of some scrofulous disease at Paris.

On a first examination it would appear that the population of Timor belonged altogether to the Asiatic race; but so far as any reliance can be placed upon somewhat extended researches, there is reason to think that in the unfrequented mountains in the centre of the island there exists a race of negroes with woolly hair, and savage manners, of the type of the indigenous races of New Guinea and New Ireland, whom one is led to consider the primitive population. This line of research, commenced at the close of the eighteenth century by an Englishman of the name of Crawford, has been in our time carried forward with striking results by the labours of the learned Doctors Broca and E. Hamy, to the latter of whom the reading public are indebted for the pleasing and instructive papers on primitive populations which have appeared in Nature and in the journals of the Royal Geographical Society.