The city of Porne, in which King Thedori reigns as paramount chief, consists of twenty thousand houses, all of which are low-built cabins. Some of the men who inhabit these dwellings have such long ears that they reach down to their shoulders, and when we expressed surprise at this, we were assured that on an island, not far off, there were men who had such large ears, that with one ear they could, when they liked, cover the whole of their heads. But Hartog disbelieved this story, nor would he visit the island when this prodigy was offered to be shown to him. We were not in, search of monsters, he said, but of treasure.
We had been informed by one of the merchants at Amsterdam that when we should come to the island of Solo, one of the group of the Molucca Islands, we would find pearls as large as clove’s eggs, but Thedori did not encourage us when we hinted to him our desire to possess some of these marvels. They were only to be found, he said, in very deep water, and this was not the season to obtain them. We decided not to press the matter, since we desired to leave a favourable impression, but Hartog promised himself a return visit, when, should friendly overtures prove of no avail, an appeal, might be made to the King’s better judgment with the aid of our six guns and brass bowchaser. It is certain that pearls of great size do exist on these islands. The King wore one in his crown the size of a hen’s egg.
On our first night in harbour at the Molucca Islands we witnessed the most remarkable display I have ever beheld. The islands are well wooded, and amongst the trees by night, through the whole island, did show themselves an infinite swarm of fiery worms flying in the air, whose bodies, being no larger than common house-flies, made such a show and light as if every twig or tree had been a burning candle. In the dark recesses of the woods, also, appeared wonderful black bats, with red eyes, of which the inhabitants of this country stand in considerable dread. The bats are thought to be the spirits of departed kings, and none are allowed to molest them.
From the security of our vessel, which lay close to the shore, we were able to view these marvels without danger, but the natives remained in their huts, afraid to venture forth, so that nocturnal dances, or meetings at camp fires, were here conspicuous by their absence.
We now met with an adventure that was destined to influence our future in a manner we did not, at the time, foresee, or it is doubtful but we would have hesitated before granting an asylum to the miserable fugitive from King Thedori’s tyranny, who now came aboard. Pedro de Castro, the name of this refugee, a Spaniard, informed us that for some time past he had been held as hostage by Thedori. Three years before our visit to the Moluccas, so ran his tale, a Spanish vessel, of which de Castro was first officer, had called at the islands. The captain and crew had been well received by the King, who had