Fine pleasant Weather with light Easterly Winds with Calms in the night or land Breezes.
Several beside myself continue in a very weak State but as we are supplied with every nourishing article that is necessary there is little doubt of our doing Well.
This is not the time of year for abundance of Fruit there are however some in season. I had sent me some very fine anonas or the custard apple of Jamaica and a few Pomegranates. The Otaheiteans have a fruit they call Nona, but it is as unpleasant as the Custard Apple is agreeable.
The Governor notwithstanding his ill health and extreme pain which he suffers in general, had a trifling intermission this Evening by which means I had the pleasure of seeing him by invitation, so peculiarly anxious is he to know if I have every thing as it should be, altho at the same time he is sensible of Mr. Wanjons great attention to all my wants.
In speaking of the scarcity of Provisions I was told the Cause of it in part was occasioned by a War among the Natives which took place in 1786 & lasted untill 1788. The cheif of this Island has the title of Keyser or Emperor given him by the Dutch and his Malay subjects being numerous he is of course of consequence among the Europeans. There are some others who from the Power they possess are dangerous subjects so that the seeds of discord being sown they formed a design of Revolution and openly brought forward a usurper who was Nephew to the present Emperor.
As I have mentioned before this is the only Settlement the Dutch have at this Island if we except a few People who are dispersed about the country as residents to regulate any little business that may happen. A Post and Garrison is therefore established here which mounts 30 peices of Cannon from 9 to 2 pounders but is only Calculated as a Secure retreat for the Europeans in case of an insurection. The Troops now here are 30 under the command of an Ensign.
There are still some Portugeeze on the Island and the Bastard Tribe are numerous under a Governor on the north side, but [at a] place called Daylie, but the accounts given to me of them afford no favorable Idea of him or the country he resides at. The whole settlement is frequently in want of food and sends here for rice. The place also is very unhealthy from a want of good fresh water and a sufficiency of it, there is nevertheless sandal wood and wax exported from thence, but in what quantities is not known.
The Trade of the Dutch is here carried on by the Chinese who have many Vessels from 10 to 30 Tons burthen with which they sail to different Islands, and to the north and south side of this according to the Monsoon. As this Trade is carried on by barter it has and may be again very lucrative, for the Islands are numerous and European Articles are now in common use among the Malays who exchange principally sandle wood and wax, of the latter they get a considerable quantity, the Bees building their nests in the Bushes and Boughs of Trees. The Vessels are navigated by Malays so that it is only necessary for a Chinese to go as a Supercargo it is however necessary to be well armed.
Thus far only am I yet acquainted with the state of Timor. The Dutch from former times thought it proper to take the part of the lawfull Emperor, but altho the Governor had Troops from Batavia to more completely Garrison the Fort and sent Malay Troops to the Field, yet the rebellion continued for near three years before the Emperor got the better of the Enemy, who from supplication had a peace granted on certain conditions.
As the armies became numerous supplies of necessary food were less regular and almost a total want followed. Large parties then marooned [foraged] for themselves so that Cattle and stock of every kind were wantonly destroyed, and a great scarcity was the consequence. The indolence of the Malays render them unfit to speedily get the better of such a Disaster and is in part the Cause of the scarcity of Provisions which is at this time.
The cultivation of Rice likewise is very inconsiderable from the natural indolence of the Natives, and Indian Corn which might be produced in large quantities is scarce to be got; but the latter is considered as an inferior grain and used only by the lower Order of people, it is therefore not to be wondered at that it is necessary for supplies to be brought from Batavia. As a Cause too, it may be owing to every one having a total indifference to Bread, for of that article or Flour I am sure there is not 500 lb in the whole place. Rice is their whole support, and as they care for little else altho they cannot of themselves produce sufficient, it is not surprizing that they are often subject to want.
There is a kind of market place formed by Slaves who sell Tobacco & Beetle, small Rice Cakes, Oranges, Pompions, sweet Potatoes, scallions, Rape Greens, Plantains and a few other Articles. But all these things are in such small quantities that a man could carry the whole on his shoulder. Malay countrymen also bring in articles every day, but altho such a disposition to barter one would imagine would turn to some account yet I have seen a man bring only two Potatoes to sell for [w]hich being bought for 2 Doits (equal to a halfpenny) has immediatly laid them out in Beetle and lounged the remaining part of the day about the Town. This is not a singular instance but gives the real character of the Whole people as they appear to me and as I have them represented by People who professedly know them.
As I doubted, and indeed was sensible that the Governors Ill health could seldom permit me to see him, I took this opportunity to know if it would be agreeable to him to let Mr. Nelson examine the Country for Plants. He most readily granted me the favor with an offer of every assistance that I might stand in need of and assured me that it was a country well worth examining and full of medicinal Plants. For wounds a most efficacious application is by means of a Root of a Shrub or Small Tree, which being Scraped and applied mixt up with some Spirit never fails of a Speedy Cure. Remarkable Cures have been performed with this Root the property of which is said to be discovered by a malay in the following curious and singular manner.
In his walk through the woods he struck at a Snake that was lying in the Path and cut it in two but for a Small thread of the Skin. The creature as is common with them not to be immediatly dispossessed of Life moved into the Bushes dragging its hinder part untill it got to a particular Tree which the Malay observed him to lick with his tongue and alternately the amputated part. Whether from design or Accident is a doubt, but on the day following the man repassed the same spot and looking after the Snake found it perfectly joined and therefore brought it home with him to identify the fact. From this circumstance the Root was taken up and has been very successfully applied.
My intentions being to leave Timor as soon as possible, that I might be enabled to leave Batavia before the sickly monsoon sets in, induced me to sollicit the Governors assistance, as he joined with me in opinion, that if I remained here untill the Vessels that were in the Road were ready to sail, I might not get to Batavia before the beginning of November and thereby lose the opportunity of the Dutch Fleet that Sails in October for Europe. In which Case I must remain untill January for our own China ships that then pass through the Streights Sunda; a length of time in the sickly season that I should avoid by every means in my power. I therefore determined to Hire or purchase a Vessel to carry me to Batavia, for I considered altho I had performed a much greater Voyage in my Boat, yet it would be unjustifiable to proceed in her any farther. My Expences to Government became also materially a cons[?] of consideration, and it evidently appeared to me that the most effectual way to lessen such a burthen, was by adopting such means as would enable me to be the soonest in Europe. I no longer hesitated to purchase or Hire a Vessel as I should find most elligible.
Several Breadfruit which are by the Malays called Sucoom were offered to sale this day. I had one dressed but it being a little decayed I could not consider it a proper sample of what may be got, it was notwithstanding very good and of the same Kind as at Otaheite, without seed. The People here roast and eat them cut in slices with Milk and Sugar, but consider them of no Value as bread Kind.