The aborigines1 of Borneo, if we are to believe Commodore Roggewein,2 are the "basest, most cruel and perfidious people in the world." They are "honest, industrious, strongly affectionate and self-denying," if we are to credit the account of the Italian missionary, Antonio Ventimiglia. When such diversity of opinion is manifested about the people, some discordance might naturally be supposed to exhibit itself in the matter of their potations. But this is not thus. The great drink of the Beajus is allowed on all hands to be the ava or cava, prepared from the piper methysticum, or intoxicating pepper plant. This is a shrub with thick roots, long heart-shaped leaves, and a clump or spike of berries. The root is chewed only - it is satisfactory to learn - by young girls with good teeth and dainty mouths.1 Water or cocoa-nut milk is poured on the masticated pulp, fermentation ensues, and the Beajus drink and become drunken. The mass of chewed matter is kneaded with considerable dexterity by practised professionals. "Every tongue is mute," says Mariner - one of the crew of a vessel seized by the natives in the commencement of this century, - "while this operation is going on; every eye is upon them, watching every motion of their arms as they describe the various curvilinear turns essential to success." Ava is also drunk in Otaheite, in the Feejee islands, and those of the Marquesas and of the South Seas.
1 Beajus, which in Malay signifies a wild man.
2 Roggewein's Voyage Round the World.