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Title: In the South Seas
Author: Stevenson, Robert Louis, 1850-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1908 Chatto & Windus edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org



                            IN THE SOUTH SEAS


                   BEING AN ACCOUNT OF EXPERIENCES AND
                 OBSERVATIONS IN THE MARQUESAS, PAUMOTUS
                   AND GILBERT ISLANDS IN THE COURSE OF
                 TWO CRUSES, ON THE YACHT ‘CASCO’ (1888)
                    AND THE SCHOONER ‘EQUATOR’ (1889)

                                    BY
                          ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

                            FINE-PAPER EDITION

                                * * * * *

                                  LONDON
                             CHATTO & WINDUS
                                   1908

                                * * * * *

                          _All rights resverved_



CONTENTS

                      PART 1: THE MARQUESAS
CHAPTER
          I.  AN ISLAND LANDFALL
         II.  MAKING FRIENDS
        III.  THE MAROON
         IV.  DEATH
          V.  DEPOPULATION
         VI.  CHIEFS AND TAPUS
        VII.  HATIHEU
       VIII.  THE PORT OF ENTRY
         IX.  THE HOUSE OF TEMOANA
          X.  A PORTRAIT AND A STORY
         XI.  LONG-PIG—A CANNIBAL HIGH PLACE
        XII.  THE STORY OF A PLANTATION
       XIII.  CHARACTERS
        XIV.  IN A CANNIBAL VALLEY
         XV.  THE TWO CHIEFS OF ATUONA
                      PART II: THE PAUMOTUS
          I.  THE DANGEROUS ARCHIPELAGO—ATOLLS AT A DISTANCE
         II.  FAKARAVA: AN ATOLL AT HAND
        III.  A HOUSE TO LET IN A LOW ISLAND
         IV.  TRAITS AND SECTS IN THE PAUMOTUS
          V.  A PAUMOTUAN FUNERAL
         VI.  GRAVEYARD STORIES
                     PART III: THE GILBERTS
          I.  BUTARITARI
         II.  THE FOUR BROTHERS
        III.  AROUND OUR HOUSE
         IV.  A TALE OF A TAPU
          V.  A TALE OF A TAPU—_continued_
         VI.  THE FIVE DAYS’ FESTIVAL
        VII.  HUSBAND AND WIFE
                  PART IV: THE GILBERTS—APEMAMA
          I.  THE KING OF APEMAMA: THE ROYAL TRADER
         II.  THE KING OF APEMAMA: FOUNDATION OF EQUATOR TOWN
        III.  THE KING OF APEMAMA: THE PALACE OF MANY WOMEN
         IV.  THE KING OF APEMAMA: EQUATOR TOWN AND THE PALACE
          V.  KING AND COMMONS
         VI.  THE KING OF APEMAMA: DEVIL-WORK
        VII.  THE KING OF APEMAMA

PART 1: THE MARQUESAS


CHAPTER I—AN ISLAND LANDFALL


For nearly ten years my health had been declining; and for some while
before I set forth upon my voyage, I believed I was come to the
afterpiece of life, and had only the nurse and undertaker to expect.  It
was suggested that I should try the South Seas; and I was not unwilling
to visit like a ghost, and be carried like a bale, among scenes that had
attracted me in youth and health.  I chartered accordingly Dr. Merrit’s
schooner yacht, the _Casco_, seventy-four tons register; sailed from San
Francisco towards the end of June 1888, visited the eastern islands, and
was left early the next year at Honolulu.  Hence, lacking courage to
return to my old life of the house and sick-room, I set forth to leeward
in a trading schooner, the _Equator_, of a little over seventy tons,
spent four months among the atolls (low coral islands) of the Gilbert
group, and reached Samoa towards the close of ’89.  By that time
gratitude and habit were beginning to attach me to the islands; I had
gained a competency of strength; I had made friends; I had learned new
interests; the time of my voyages had passed like days in fairyland; and
I decided to remain.  I began to prepare these pages at sea, on a third
cruise, in the trading steamer _Janet Nicoll_.  If more days are granted
me, they shall be passed where I have found life most pleasant and man
most interesting; the axes of my black boys are already clearing the
foundations of my future house; and I must learn to address readers from
the uttermost parts of the sea.

That I should thus have reversed the verdict of Lord Tennyson’s hero is
less eccentric than appears.  Few men who come to the islands leave them;
they grow grey where they alighted; the palm shades and the trade-wind
fans them till they die, perhaps cherishing to the last the fancy of a
visit home, which is rarely made, more rarely enjoyed, and yet more
rarely repeated.  No part of the world exerts the same attractive power
upon the visitor, and the task before me is to communicate to fireside
travellers some sense of its seduction, and to describe the life, at sea
and ashore, of many hundred thousand persons, some of our own blood and
language, all our contemporaries, and yet as remote in thought and habit
as Rob Roy or Barbarossa, the Apostles or the Cæsars.

The first experience can never be repeated.  The first love, the first
sunrise, the first South Sea island, are memories apart and touched a
virginity of sense.  On the 28th of July 1888 the moon was an hour down
by four in the morning.  In the east a radiating centre of brightness
told of the day; and beneath, on the skyline, the morning bank was
already building, black as ink.  We have all read of the swiftness of the
day’s coming and departure in low latitudes; it is a point on which the
scientific and sentimental tourist are at one, and has inspired some
tasteful poetry.  The period certainly varies with the season; but here
is one case exactly noted.  Although the dawn was thus preparing by four,
the sun was not up till six; and it was half-past five before we could
distinguish our expected islands from the clouds on the horizon.  Eight
degrees south, and the day two hours a-coming.  The interval was passed
on deck in the silence of expectation, the customary thrill of landfall
heightened by the strangeness of the shores that we were then
approaching.  Slowly they took shape in the attenuating darkness.
Ua-huna, piling up to a truncated summit, appeared the first upon the
starboard bow; almost abeam arose our destination, Nuka-hiva, whelmed in
cloud; and betwixt and to the southward, the first rays of the sun
displayed the needles of Ua-pu.  These pricked about the line of the
horizon; like the pinnacles of some ornate and monstrous church, they
stood there, in the sparkling brightness of the morning, the fit
signboard of a world of wonders.

Not one soul aboard the _Casco_ had set foot upon the islands, or knew,
except by accident, one word of any of the island tongues; and it was
with something perhaps of the same anxious pleasure as thrilled the bosom
of discoverers that we drew near these problematic shores.  The land
heaved up in peaks and rising vales; it fell in cliffs and buttresses;
its colour ran through fifty modulations in a scale of pearl and rose and
olive; and it was crowned above by opalescent clouds.  The suffusion of
vague hues deceived the eye; the shadows of clouds were confounded with
the articulations of the mountains; and the isle and its unsubstantial
canopy rose and shimmered before us like a single mass.  There was no
beacon, no smoke of towns to be expected, no plying pilot.  Somewhere, in
that pale phantasmagoria of cliff and cloud, our haven lay concealed; and
somewhere to the east of it—the only sea-mark given—a certain headland,
known indifferently as Cape Adam and Eve, or Cape Jack and Jane, and
distinguished by two colossal figures, the gross statuary of nature.
These we were to find; for these we craned and stared, focused glasses,
and wrangled over charts; and the sun was overhead and the land close
ahead before we found them.  To a ship approaching, like the _Casco_,
from the north, they proved indeed the least conspicuous features of a
striking coast; the surf flying high above its base; strange, austere,
and feathered mountains rising behind; and Jack and Jane, or Adam and
Eve, impending like a pair of warts above the breakers.

Thence we bore away along shore.  On our port beam we might hear the
explosions of the surf; a few birds flew fishing under the prow; there
was no other sound or mark of life, whether of man or beast, in all that
quarter of the island.  Winged by her own impetus and the dying breeze,
the _Casco_ skimmed under cliffs, opened out a cove, showed us a beach
and some green trees, and flitted by again, bowing to the swell.  The
trees, from our distance, might have been hazel; the beach might have
been in Europe; the mountain forms behind modelled in little from the
Alps, and the forest which clustered on their ramparts a growth no more
considerable than our Scottish heath.  Again the cliff yawned, but now
with a deeper entry; and the _Casco_, hauling her wind, began to slide
into the bay of Anaho.  The cocoa-palm, that giraffe of vegetables, so
graceful, so ungainly, to the European eye so foreign, was to be seen
crowding on the beach, and climbing and fringing the steep sides of
mountains.  Rude and bare hills embraced the inlet upon either hand; it
was enclosed to the landward by a bulk of shattered mountains.  In every
crevice of that barrier the forest harboured, roosting and nestling there
like birds about a ruin; and far above, it greened and roughened the
razor edges of the summit.

Under the eastern shore, our schooner, now bereft of any breeze,
continued to creep in: the smart creature, when once under way, appearing
motive in herself.  From close aboard arose the bleating of young lambs;
a bird sang in the hillside; the scent of the land and of a hundred
fruits or flowers flowed forth to meet us; and, presently, a house or two
appeared, standing high upon the ankles of the hills, and one of these
surrounded with what seemed a garden.  These conspicuous habitations,
that patch of culture, had we but known it, were a mark of the passage of
whites; and we might have approached a hundred islands and not found
their parallel.  It was longer ere we spied the native village, standing
(in the universal fashion) close upon a curve of beach, close under a
grove of palms; the sea in front growling and whitening on a concave arc
of reef.  For the cocoa-tree and the island man are both lovers and
neighbours of the surf.  ‘The coral waxes, the palm grows, but man
departs,’ says the sad Tahitian proverb; but they are all three, so long
as they endure, co-haunters of the beach.  The mark of anchorage was a
blow-hole in the rocks, near the south-easterly corner of the bay.
Punctually to our use, the blow-hole spouted; the schooner turned upon
her heel; the anchor plunged.  It was a small sound, a great event; my
soul went down with these moorings whence no windlass may extract nor any
diver fish it up; and I, and some part of my ship’s company, were from
that hour the bondslaves of the isles of Vivien.

Before yet the anchor plunged a canoe was already paddling from the
hamlet.  It contained two men: one white, one brown and tattooed across
the face with bands of blue, both in immaculate white European clothes:
the resident trader, Mr. Regler, and the native chief, Taipi-Kikino.
‘Captain, is it permitted to come on board?’ were the first words we
heard among the islands.  Canoe followed canoe till the ship swarmed with
stalwart, six-foot men in every stage of undress; some in a shirt, some
in a loin-cloth, one in a handkerchief imperfectly adjusted; some, and
these the more considerable, tattooed from head to foot in awful
patterns; some barbarous and knived; one, who sticks in my memory as
something bestial, squatting on his hams in a canoe, sucking an orange
and spitting it out again to alternate sides with ape-like vivacity—all
talking, and we could not understand one word; all trying to trade with
us who had no thought of trading, or offering us island curios at prices
palpably absurd.  There was no word of welcome; no show of civility; no
hand extended save that of the chief and Mr. Regler.  As we still
continued to refuse the proffered articles, complaint ran high and rude;
and one, the jester of the party, railed upon our meanness amid jeering
laughter.  Amongst other angry pleasantries—‘Here is a mighty fine ship,’
said he, ‘to have no money on board!’  I own I was inspired with sensible
repugnance; even with alarm.  The ship was manifestly in their power; we
had women on board; I knew nothing of my guests beyond the fact that they
were cannibals; the Directory (my only guide) was full of timid cautions;
and as for the trader, whose presence might else have reassured me, were
not whites in the Pacific the usual instigators and accomplices of native
outrage?  When he reads this confession, our kind friend, Mr. Regler, can
afford to smile.

Later in the day, as I sat writing up my journal, the cabin was filled
from end to end with Marquesans: three brown-skinned generations,
squatted cross-legged upon the floor, and regarding me in silence with
embarrassing eyes.  The eyes of all Polynesians are large, luminous, and
melting; they are like the eyes of animals and some Italians.  A kind of
despair came over me, to sit there helpless under all these staring orbs,
and be thus blocked in a corner of my cabin by this speechless crowd: and
a kind of rage to think they were beyond the reach of articulate
communication, like furred animals, or folk born deaf, or the dwellers of
some alien planet.

To cross the Channel is, for a boy of twelve, to change heavens; to cross
the Atlantic, for a man of twenty-four, is hardly to modify his diet.
But I was now escaped out of the shadow of the Roman empire, under whose
toppling monuments we were all cradled, whose laws and letters are on
every hand of us, constraining and preventing.  I was now to see what men
might be whose fathers had never studied Virgil, had never been conquered
by Cæsar, and never been ruled by the wisdom of Gaius or Papinian.  By
the same step I had journeyed forth out of that comfortable zone of
kindred languages, where the curse of Babel is so easy to be remedied;
and my new fellow-creatures sat before me dumb like images.  Methought,
in my travels, all human relation was to be excluded; and when I returned
home (for in those days I still projected my return) I should have but
dipped into a picture-book without a text.  Nay, and I even questioned if
my travels should be much prolonged; perhaps they were destined to a
speedy end; perhaps my subsequent friend, Kauanui, whom I remarked there,
sitting silent with the rest, for a man of some authority, might leap
from his hams with an ear-splitting signal, the ship be carried at a
rush, and the ship’s company butchered for the table.

There could be nothing more natural than these apprehensions, nor
anything more groundless.  In my experience of the islands, I had never
again so menacing a reception; were I to meet with such to-day, I should
be more alarmed and tenfold more surprised.  The majority of Polynesians
are easy folk to get in touch with, frank, fond of notice, greedy of the
least affection, like amiable, fawning dogs; and even with the
Marquesans, so recently and so imperfectly redeemed from a blood-boltered
barbarism, all were to become our intimates, and one, at least, was to
mourn sincerely our departure.



CHAPTER II—MAKING FRIENDS


The impediment of tongues was one that I particularly over-estimated.
The languages of Polynesia are easy to smatter, though hard to speak with
elegance.  And they are extremely similar, so that a person who has a
tincture of one or two may risk, not without hope, an attempt upon the
others.

And again, not only is Polynesian easy to smatter, but interpreters
abound.  Missionaries, traders, and broken white folk living on the
bounty of the natives, are to be found in almost every isle and hamlet;
and even where these are unserviceable, the natives themselves have often
scraped up a little English, and in the French zone (though far less
commonly) a little French-English, or an efficient pidgin, what is called
to the westward ‘Beach-la-Mar,’ comes easy to the Polynesian; it is now
taught, besides, in the schools of Hawaii; and from the multiplicity of
British ships, and the nearness of the States on the one hand and the
colonies on the other, it may be called, and will almost certainly
become, the tongue of the Pacific.  I will instance a few examples.  I
met in Majuro a Marshall Island boy who spoke excellent English; this he
had learned in the German firm in Jaluit, yet did not speak one word of
German.  I heard from a gendarme who had taught school in Rapa-iti that
while the children had the utmost difficulty or reluctance to learn
French, they picked up English on the wayside, and as if by accident.  On
one of the most out-of-the-way atolls in the Carolines, my friend Mr.
Benjamin Hird was amazed to find the lads playing cricket on the beach
and talking English; and it was in English that the crew of the _Janet
Nicoll_, a set of black boys from different Melanesian islands,
communicated with other natives throughout the cruise, transmitted
orders, and sometimes jested together on the fore-hatch.  But what struck
me perhaps most of all was a word I heard on the verandah of the Tribunal
at Noumea.  A case had just been heard—a trial for infanticide against an
ape-like native woman; and the audience were smoking cigarettes as they
awaited the verdict.  An anxious, amiable French lady, not far from
tears, was eager for acquittal, and declared she would engage the
prisoner to be her children’s nurse.  The bystanders exclaimed at the
proposal; the woman was a savage, said they, and spoke no language.
‘_Mais_, _vous savez_,’ objected the fair sentimentalist; ‘_ils
apprennent si vite l’anglais_!’

But to be able to speak to people is not all.  And in the first stage of
my relations with natives I was helped by two things.  To begin with, I
was the show-man of the _Casco_.  She, her fine lines, tall spars, and
snowy decks, the crimson fittings of the saloon, and the white, the gilt,
and the repeating mirrors of the tiny cabin, brought us a hundred
visitors.  The men fathomed out her dimensions with their arms, as their
fathers fathomed out the ships of Cook; the women declared the cabins
more lovely than a church; bouncing Junos were never weary of sitting in
the chairs and contemplating in the glass their own bland images; and I
have seen one lady strip up her dress, and, with cries of wonder and
delight, rub herself bare-breeched upon the velvet cushions.  Biscuit,
jam, and syrup was the entertainment; and, as in European parlours, the
photograph album went the round.  This sober gallery, their everyday
costumes and physiognomies, had become transformed, in three weeks’
sailing, into things wonderful and rich and foreign; alien faces,
barbaric dresses, they were now beheld and fingered, in the swerving
cabin, with innocent excitement and surprise.  Her Majesty was often
recognised, and I have seen French subjects kiss her photograph; Captain
Speedy—in an Abyssinian war-dress, supposed to be the uniform of the
British army—met with much acceptance; and the effigies of Mr. Andrew
Lang were admired in the Marquesas.  There is the place for him to go
when he shall be weary of Middlesex and Homer.

It was perhaps yet more important that I had enjoyed in my youth some
knowledge of our Scots folk of the Highlands and the Islands.  Not much
beyond a century has passed since these were in the same convulsive and
transitionary state as the Marquesans of to-day.  In both cases an alien
authority enforced, the clans disarmed, the chiefs deposed, new customs
introduced, and chiefly that fashion of regarding money as the means and
object of existence.  The commercial age, in each, succeeding at a bound
to an age of war abroad and patriarchal communism at home.  In one the
cherished practice of tattooing, in the other a cherished costume,
proscribed.  In each a main luxury cut off: beef, driven under cloud of
night from Lowland pastures, denied to the meat-loving Highlander;
long-pig, pirated from the next village, to the man-eating Kanaka.  The
grumbling, the secret ferment, the fears and resentments, the alarms and
sudden councils of Marquesan chiefs, reminded me continually of the days
of Lovat and Struan.  Hospitality, tact, natural fine manners, and a
touchy punctilio, are common to both races: common to both tongues the
trick of dropping medial consonants.  Here is a table of two widespread
Polynesian words:—

                   _House_.      _Love_.
                                   {12}
Tahitian          FARE         AROHA
New Zealand       WHARE
Samoan            FALE         TALOFA
Manihiki          FALE         ALOHA
Hawaiian          HALE         ALOHA
Marquesan         HA’E         KAOHA

The elision of medial consonants, so marked in these Marquesan instances,
is no less common both in Gaelic and the Lowland Scots.  Stranger still,
that prevalent Polynesian sound, the so-called catch, written with an
apostrophe, and often or always the gravestone of a perished consonant,
is to be heard in Scotland to this day.  When a Scot pronounces water,
better, or bottle—_wa’er_, _be’er_, or _bo’le_—the sound is precisely
that of the catch; and I think we may go beyond, and say, that if such a
population could be isolated, and this mispronunciation should become the
rule, it might prove the first stage of transition from _t_ to _k_, which
is the disease of Polynesian languages.  The tendency of the Marquesans,
however, is to urge against consonants, or at least on the very common
letter _l_, a war of mere extermination.  A hiatus is agreeable to any
Polynesian ear; the ear even of the stranger soon grows used to these
barbaric voids; but only in the Marquesan will you find such names as
_Haaii_ and _Paaaeua_, when each individual vowel must be separately
uttered.

These points of similarity between a South Sea people and some of my own
folk at home ran much in my head in the islands; and not only inclined me
to view my fresh acquaintances with favour, but continually modified my
judgment.  A polite Englishman comes to-day to the Marquesans and is
amazed to find the men tattooed; polite Italians came not long ago to
England and found our fathers stained with woad; and when I paid the
return visit as a little boy, I was highly diverted with the backwardness
of Italy: so insecure, so much a matter of the day and hour, is the
pre-eminence of race.  It was so that I hit upon a means of communication
which I recommend to travellers.  When I desired any detail of savage
custom, or of superstitious belief, I cast back in the story of my
fathers, and fished for what I wanted with some trait of equal barbarism:
Michael Scott, Lord Derwentwater’s head, the second-sight, the Water
Kelpie,—each of these I have found to be a killing bait; the black bull’s
head of Stirling procured me the legend of _Rahero_; and what I knew of
the Cluny Macphersons, or the Appin Stewarts, enabled me to learn, and
helped me to understand, about the _Tevas_ of Tahiti.  The native was no
longer ashamed, his sense of kinship grew warmer, and his lips were
opened.  It is this sense of kinship that the traveller must rouse and
share; or he had better content himself with travels from the blue bed to
the brown.  And the presence of one Cockney titterer will cause a whole
party to walk in clouds of darkness.

The hamlet of Anaho stands on a margin of flat land between the west of
the beach and the spring of the impending mountains.  A grove of palms,
perpetually ruffling its green fans, carpets it (as for a triumph) with
fallen branches, and shades it like an arbour.  A road runs from end to
end of the covert among beds of flowers, the milliner’s shop of the
community; and here and there, in the grateful twilight, in an air filled
with a diversity of scents, and still within hearing of the surf upon the
reef, the native houses stand in scattered neighbourhood.  The same word,
as we have seen, represents in many tongues of Polynesia, with scarce a
shade of difference, the abode of man.  But although the word be the
same, the structure itself continually varies; and the Marquesan, among
the most backward and barbarous of islanders, is yet the most
commodiously lodged.  The grass huts of Hawaii, the birdcage houses of
Tahiti, or the open shed, with the crazy Venetian blinds, of the polite
Samoan—none of these can be compared with the Marquesan _paepae-hae_, or
dwelling platform.  The paepae is an oblong terrace built without cement
or black volcanic stone, from twenty to fifty feet in length, raised from
four to eight feet from the earth, and accessible by a broad stair.
Along the back of this, and coming to about half its width, runs the open
front of the house, like a covered gallery: the interior sometimes neat
and almost elegant in its bareness, the sleeping space divided off by an
endlong coaming, some bright raiment perhaps hanging from a nail, and a
lamp and one of White’s sewing-machines the only marks of civilization.
On the outside, at one end of the terrace, burns the cooking-fire under a
shed; at the other there is perhaps a pen for pigs; the remainder is the
evening lounge and _al fresco_ banquet-hall of the inhabitants.  To some
houses water is brought down the mountains in bamboo pipes, perforated
for the sake of sweetness.  With the Highland comparison in my mind, I
was struck to remember the sluttish mounds of turf and stone in which I
have sat and been entertained in the Hebrides and the North Islands.  Two
things, I suppose, explain the contrast.  In Scotland wood is rare, and
with materials so rude as turf and stone the very hope of neatness is
excluded.  And in Scotland it is cold.  Shelter and a hearth are needs so
pressing that a man looks not beyond; he is out all day after a bare
bellyful, and at night when he saith, ‘Aha, it is warm!’ he has not
appetite for more.  Or if for something else, then something higher; a
fine school of poetry and song arose in these rough shelters, and an air
like ‘_Lochaber no more_’ is an evidence of refinement more convincing,
as well as more imperishable, than a palace.

To one such dwelling platform a considerable troop of relatives and
dependants resort.  In the hour of the dusk, when the fire blazes, and
the scent of the cooked breadfruit fills the air, and perhaps the lamp
glints already between the pillars and the house, you shall behold them
silently assemble to this meal, men, women, and children; and the dogs
and pigs frisk together up the terrace stairway, switching rival tails.
The strangers from the ship were soon equally welcome: welcome to dip
their fingers in the wooden dish, to drink cocoanuts, to share the
circulating pipe, and to hear and hold high debate about the misdeeds of
the French, the Panama Canal, or the geographical position of San
Francisco and New Yo’ko.  In a Highland hamlet, quite out of reach of any
tourist, I have met the same plain and dignified hospitality.

I have mentioned two facts—the distasteful behaviour of our earliest
visitors, and the case of the lady who rubbed herself upon the
cushions—which would give a very false opinion of Marquesan manners.  The
great majority of Polynesians are excellently mannered; but the Marquesan
stands apart, annoying and attractive, wild, shy, and refined.  If you
make him a present he affects to forget it, and it must be offered him
again at his going: a pretty formality I have found nowhere else.  A hint
will get rid of any one or any number; they are so fiercely proud and
modest; while many of the more lovable but blunter islanders crowd upon a
stranger, and can be no more driven off than flies.  A slight or an
insult the Marquesan seems never to forget.  I was one day talking by the
wayside with my friend Hoka, when I perceived his eyes suddenly to flash
and his stature to swell.  A white horseman was coming down the mountain,
and as he passed, and while he paused to exchange salutations with
myself, Hoka was still staring and ruffling like a gamecock.  It was a
Corsican who had years before called him _cochon sauvage—coçon chauvage_,
as Hoka mispronounced it.  With people so nice and so touchy, it was
scarce to be supposed that our company of greenhorns should not blunder
into offences.  Hoka, on one of his visits, fell suddenly in a brooding
silence, and presently after left the ship with cold formality.  When he
took me back into favour, he adroitly and pointedly explained the nature
of my offence: I had asked him to sell cocoa-nuts; and in Hoka’s view
articles of food were things that a gentleman should give, not sell; or
at least that he should not sell to any friend.  On another occasion I
gave my boat’s crew a luncheon of chocolate and biscuits.  I had sinned,
I could never learn how, against some point of observance; and though I
was drily thanked, my offerings were left upon the beach.  But our worst
mistake was a slight we put on Toma, Hoka’s adoptive father, and in his
own eyes the rightful chief of Anaho.  In the first place, we did not
call upon him, as perhaps we should, in his fine new European house, the
only one in the hamlet.  In the second, when we came ashore upon a visit
to his rival, Taipi-Kikino, it was Toma whom we saw standing at the head
of the beach, a magnificent figure of a man, magnificently tattooed; and
it was of Toma that we asked our question: ‘Where is the chief?’  ‘What
chief?’ cried Toma, and turned his back on the blasphemers.  Nor did he
forgive us.  Hoka came and went with us daily; but, alone I believe of
all the countryside, neither Toma nor his wife set foot on board the
_Casco_.  The temptation resisted it is hard for a European to compute.
The flying city of Laputa moored for a fortnight in St. James’s Park
affords but a pale figure of the _Casco_ anchored before Anaho; for the
Londoner has still his change of pleasures, but the Marquesan passes to
his grave through an unbroken uniformity of days.

On the afternoon before it was intended we should sail, a valedictory
party came on board: nine of our particular friends equipped with gifts
and dressed as for a festival.  Hoka, the chief dancer and singer, the
greatest dandy of Anaho, and one of the handsomest young fellows in the
world-sullen, showy, dramatic, light as a feather and strong as an ox—it
would have been hard, on that occasion, to recognise, as he sat there
stooped and silent, his face heavy and grey.  It was strange to see the
lad so much affected; stranger still to recognise in his last gift one of
the curios we had refused on the first day, and to know our friend, so
gaily dressed, so plainly moved at our departure, for one of the
half-naked crew that had besieged and insulted us on our arrival:
strangest of all, perhaps, to find, in that carved handle of a fan, the
last of those curiosities of the first day which had now all been given
to us by their possessors—their chief merchandise, for which they had
sought to ransom us as long as we were strangers, which they pressed on
us for nothing as soon as we were friends.  The last visit was not long
protracted.  One after another they shook hands and got down into their
canoe; when Hoka turned his back immediately upon the ship, so that we
saw his face no more.  Taipi, on the other hand, remained standing and
facing us with gracious valedictory gestures; and when Captain Otis
dipped the ensign, the whole party saluted with their hats.  This was the
farewell; the episode of our visit to Anaho was held concluded; and
though the _Casco_ remained nearly forty hours at her moorings, not one
returned on board, and I am inclined to think they avoided appearing on
the beach.  This reserve and dignity is the finest trait of the
Marquesan.



CHAPTER III—THE MAROON


Of the beauties of Anaho books might be written.  I remember waking about
three, to find the air temperate and scented.  The long swell brimmed
into the bay, and seemed to fill it full and then subside.  Gently,
deeply, and silently the _Casco_ rolled; only at times a block piped like
a bird.  Oceanward, the heaven was bright with stars and the sea with
their reflections.  If I looked to that side, I might have sung with the
Hawaiian poet:

    _Ua maomao ka lani_, _ua kahaea luna_,
    _Ua pipi ka maka o ka hoku_.
    (The heavens were fair, they stretched above,
    Many were the eyes of the stars.)

And then I turned shoreward, and high squalls were overhead; the
mountains loomed up black; and I could have fancied I had slipped ten
thousand miles away and was anchored in a Highland loch; that when the
day came, it would show pine, and heather, and green fern, and roofs of
turf sending up the smoke of peats; and the alien speech that should next
greet my ears must be Gaelic, not Kanaka.

And day, when it came, brought other sights and thoughts.  I have watched
the morning break in many quarters of the world; it has been certainly
one of the chief joys of my existence, and the dawn that I saw with most
emotion shone upon the bay of Anaho.  The mountains abruptly overhang the
port with every variety of surface and of inclination, lawn, and cliff,
and forest.  Not one of these but wore its proper tint of saffron, of
sulphur, of the clove, and of the rose.  The lustre was like that of
satin; on the lighter hues there seemed to float an efflorescence; a
solemn bloom appeared on the more dark.  The light itself was the
ordinary light of morning, colourless and clean; and on this ground of
jewels, pencilled out the least detail of drawing.  Meanwhile, around the
hamlet, under the palms, where the blue shadow lingered, the red coals of
cocoa husk and the light trails of smoke betrayed the awakening business
of the day; along the beach men and women, lads and lasses, were
returning from the bath in bright raiment, red and blue and green, such
as we delighted to see in the coloured little pictures of our childhood;
and presently the sun had cleared the eastern hill, and the glow of the
day was over all.

The glow continued and increased, the business, from the main part,
ceased before it had begun.  Twice in the day there was a certain stir of
shepherding along the seaward hills.  At times a canoe went out to fish.
At times a woman or two languidly filled a basket in the cotton patch.
At times a pipe would sound out of the shadow of a house, ringing the
changes on its three notes, with an effect like _Que le jour me dure_,
repeated endlessly.  Or at times, across a corner of the bay, two natives
might communicate in the Marquesan manner with conventional whistlings.
All else was sleep and silence.  The surf broke and shone around the
shores; a species of black crane fished in the broken water; the black
pigs were continually galloping by on some affair; but the people might
never have awaked, or they might all be dead.

My favourite haunt was opposite the hamlet, where was a landing in a cove
under a lianaed cliff.  The beach was lined with palms and a tree called
the purao, something between the fig and mulberry in growth, and bearing
a flower like a great yellow poppy with a maroon heart.  In places rocks
encroached upon the sand; the beach would be all submerged; and the surf
would bubble warmly as high as to my knees, and play with cocoa-nut husks
as our more homely ocean plays with wreck and wrack and bottles.  As the
reflux drew down, marvels of colour and design streamed between my feet;
which I would grasp at, miss, or seize: now to find them what they
promised, shells to grace a cabinet or be set in gold upon a lady’s
finger; now to catch only _maya_ of coloured sand, pounded fragments and
pebbles, that, as soon as they were dry, became as dull and homely as the
flints upon a garden path.  I have toiled at this childish pleasure for
hours in the strong sun, conscious of my incurable ignorance; but too
keenly pleased to be ashamed.  Meanwhile, the blackbird (or his tropical
understudy) would be fluting in the thickets overhead.

A little further, in the turn of the bay, a streamlet trickled in the
bottom of a den, thence spilling down a stair of rock into the sea.  The
draught of air drew down under the foliage in the very bottom of the den,
which was a perfect arbour for coolness.  In front it stood open on the
blue bay and the _Casco_ lying there under her awning and her cheerful
colours.  Overhead was a thatch of puraos, and over these again palms
brandished their bright fans, as I have seen a conjurer make himself a
halo out of naked swords.  For in this spot, over a neck of low land at
the foot of the mountains, the trade-wind streams into Anaho Bay in a
flood of almost constant volume and velocity, and of a heavenly coolness.

It chanced one day that I was ashore in the cove, with Mrs. Stevenson and
the ship’s cook.  Except for the _Casco_ lying outside, and a crane or
two, and the ever-busy wind and sea, the face of the world was of a
prehistoric emptiness; life appeared to stand stock-still, and the sense
of isolation was profound and refreshing.  On a sudden, the trade-wind,
coming in a gust over the isthmus, struck and scattered the fans of the
palms above the den; and, behold! in two of the tops there sat a native,
motionless as an idol and watching us, you would have said, without a
wink.  The next moment the tree closed, and the glimpse was gone.  This
discovery of human presences latent overhead in a place where we had
supposed ourselves alone, the immobility of our tree-top spies, and the
thought that perhaps at all hours we were similarly supervised, struck us
with a chill.  Talk languished on the beach.  As for the cook (whose
conscience was not clear), he never afterwards set foot on shore, and
twice, when the _Casco_ appeared to be driving on the rocks, it was
amusing to observe that man’s alacrity; death, he was persuaded, awaiting
him upon the beach.  It was more than a year later, in the Gilberts, that
the explanation dawned upon myself.  The natives were drawing palm-tree
wine, a thing forbidden by law; and when the wind thus suddenly revealed
them, they were doubtless more troubled than ourselves.

At the top of the den there dwelt an old, melancholy, grizzled man of the
name of Tari (Charlie) Coffin.  He was a native of Oahu, in the Sandwich
Islands; and had gone to sea in his youth in the American whalers; a
circumstance to which he owed his name, his English, his down-east twang,
and the misfortune of his innocent life.  For one captain, sailing out of
New Bedford, carried him to Nuka-hiva and marooned him there among the
cannibals.  The motive for this act was inconceivably small; poor Tari’s
wages, which were thus economised, would scarce have shook the credit of
the New Bedford owners.  And the act itself was simply murder.  Tari’s
life must have hung in the beginning by a hair.  In the grief and terror
of that time, it is not unlikely he went mad, an infirmity to which he
was still liable; or perhaps a child may have taken a fancy to him and
ordained him to be spared.  He escaped at least alive, married in the
island, and when I knew him was a widower with a married son and a
granddaughter.  But the thought of Oahu haunted him; its praise was for
ever on his lips; he beheld it, looking back, as a place of ceaseless
feasting, song, and dance; and in his dreams I daresay he revisits it
with joy.  I wonder what he would think if he could be carried there
indeed, and see the modern town of Honolulu brisk with traffic, and the
palace with its guards, and the great hotel, and Mr. Berger’s band with
their uniforms and outlandish instruments; or what he would think to see
the brown faces grown so few and the white so many; and his father’s land
sold, for planting sugar, and his father’s house quite perished, or
perhaps the last of them struck leprous and immured between the surf and
the cliffs on Molokai?  So simply, even in South Sea Islands, and so
sadly, the changes come.

Tari was poor, and poorly lodged.  His house was a wooden frame, run up
by Europeans; it was indeed his official residence, for Tari was the
shepherd of the promontory sheep.  I can give a perfect inventory of its
contents: three kegs, a tin biscuit-box, an iron saucepan, several
cocoa-shell cups, a lantern, and three bottles, probably containing oil;
while the clothes of the family and a few mats were thrown across the
open rafters.  Upon my first meeting with this exile he had conceived for
me one of the baseless island friendships, had given me nuts to drink,
and carried me up the den ‘to see my house’—the only entertainment that
he had to offer.  He liked the ‘Amelican,’ he said, and the ‘Inglisman,’
but the ‘Flessman’ was his abhorrence; and he was careful to explain that
if he had thought us ‘Fless,’ we should have had none of his nuts, and
never a sight of his house.  His distaste for the French I can partly
understand, but not at all his toleration of the Anglo-Saxon.  The next
day he brought me a pig, and some days later one of our party going
ashore found him in act to bring a second.  We were still strange to the
islands; we were pained by the poor man’s generosity, which he could ill
afford, and, by a natural enough but quite unpardonable blunder, we
refused the pig.  Had Tari been a Marquesan we should have seen him no
more; being what he was, the most mild, long-suffering, melancholy man,
he took a revenge a hundred times more painful.  Scarce had the canoe
with the nine villagers put off from their farewell before the _Casco_
was boarded from the other side.  It was Tari; coming thus late because
he had no canoe of his own, and had found it hard to borrow one; coming
thus solitary (as indeed we always saw him), because he was a stranger in
the land, and the dreariest of company.  The rest of my family basely
fled from the encounter.  I must receive our injured friend alone; and
the interview must have lasted hard upon an hour, for he was loath to
tear himself away.  ‘You go ’way.  I see you no more—no, sir!’ he
lamented; and then looking about him with rueful admiration, ‘This goodee
ship—no, sir!—goodee ship!’ he would exclaim: the ‘no, sir,’ thrown out
sharply through the nose upon a rising inflection, an echo from New
Bedford and the fallacious whaler.  From these expressions of grief and
praise, he would return continually to the case of the rejected pig.  ‘I
like give present all ’e same you,’ he complained; ‘only got pig: you no
take him!’  He was a poor man; he had no choice of gifts; he had only a
pig, he repeated; and I had refused it.  I have rarely been more wretched
than to see him sitting there, so old, so grey, so poor, so hardly
fortuned, of so rueful a countenance, and to appreciate, with growing
keenness, the affront which I had so innocently dealt him; but it was one
of those cases in which speech is vain.

Tari’s son was smiling and inert; his daughter-in-law, a girl of sixteen,
pretty, gentle, and grave, more intelligent than most Anaho women, and
with a fair share of French; his grandchild, a mite of a creature at the
breast.  I went up the den one day when Tari was from home, and found the
son making a cotton sack, and madame suckling mademoiselle.  When I had
sat down with them on the floor, the girl began to question me about
England; which I tried to describe, piling the pan and the cocoa shells
one upon another to represent the houses, and explaining, as best I was
able, and by word and gesture, the over-population, the hunger, and the
perpetual toil.  ‘_Pas de cocotiers_? _pas do popoi_?’ she asked.  I told
her it was too cold, and went through an elaborate performance, shutting
out draughts, and crouching over an imaginary fire, to make sure she
understood.  But she understood right well; remarked it must be bad for
the health, and sat a while gravely reflecting on that picture of
unwonted sorrows.  I am sure it roused her pity, for it struck in her
another thought always uppermost in the Marquesan bosom; and she began
with a smiling sadness, and looking on me out of melancholy eyes, to
lament the decease of her own people.  ‘_Ici pas de Kanaques_,’ said she;
and taking the baby from her breast, she held it out to me with both her
hands.  ‘_Tenez_—a little baby like this; then dead.  All the Kanaques
die.  Then no more.’  The smile, and this instancing by the girl-mother
of her own tiny flesh and blood, affected me strangely; they spoke of so
tranquil a despair.  Meanwhile the husband smilingly made his sack; and
the unconscious babe struggled to reach a pot of raspberry jam,
friendship’s offering, which I had just brought up the den; and in a
perspective of centuries I saw their case as ours, death coming in like a
tide, and the day already numbered when there should be no more Beretani,
and no more of any race whatever, and (what oddly touched me) no more
literary works and no more readers.



CHAPTER IV—DEATH


The thought of death, I have said, is uppermost in the mind of the
Marquesan.  It would be strange if it were otherwise.  The race is
perhaps the handsomest extant.  Six feet is about the middle height of
males; they are strongly muscled, free from fat, swift in action,
graceful in repose; and the women, though fatter and duller, are still
comely animals.  To judge by the eye, there is no race more viable; and
yet death reaps them with both hands.  When Bishop Dordillon first came
to Tai-o-hae, he reckoned the inhabitants at many thousands; he was but
newly dead, and in the same bay Stanislao Moanatini counted on his
fingers eight residual natives.  Or take the valley of Hapaa, known to
readers of Herman Melville under the grotesque misspelling of Hapar.
There are but two writers who have touched the South Seas with any
genius, both Americans: Melville and Charles Warren Stoddard; and at the
christening of the first and greatest, some influential fairy must have
been neglected: ‘He shall be able to see,’ ‘He shall be able to tell,’
‘He shall be able to charm,’ said the friendly godmothers; ‘But he shall
not be able to hear,’ exclaimed the last.  The tribe of Hapaa is said to
have numbered some four hundred, when the small-pox came and reduced them
by one-fourth.  Six months later a woman developed tubercular
consumption; the disease spread like a fire about the valley, and in less
than a year two survivors, a man and a woman, fled from that new-created
solitude.  A similar Adam and Eve may some day wither among new races,
the tragic residue of Britain.  When I first heard this story the date
staggered me; but I am now inclined to think it possible.  Early in the
year of my visit, for example, or late the year before, a first case of
phthisis appeared in a household of seventeen persons, and by the month
of August, when the tale was told me, one soul survived, and that was a
boy who had been absent at his schooling.  And depopulation works both
ways, the doors of death being set wide open, and the door of birth
almost closed.  Thus, in the half-year ending July 1888 there were twelve
deaths and but one birth in the district of the Hatiheu.  Seven or eight
more deaths were to be looked for in the ordinary course; and M. Aussel,
the observant gendarme, knew of but one likely birth.  At this rate it is
no matter of surprise if the population in that part should have declined
in forty years from six thousand to less than four hundred; which are,
once more on the authority of M. Aussel, the estimated figures.  And the
rate of decline must have even accelerated towards the end.

A good way to appreciate the depopulation is to go by land from Anaho to
Hatiheu on the adjacent bay.  The road is good travelling, but cruelly
steep.  We seemed scarce to have passed the deserted house which stands
highest in Anaho before we were looking dizzily down upon its roof; the
_Casco_ well out in the bay, and rolling for a wager, shrank visibly; and
presently through the gap of Tari’s isthmus, Ua-huna was seen to hang
cloudlike on the horizon.  Over the summit, where the wind blew really
chill, and whistled in the reed-like grass, and tossed the grassy fell of
the pandanus, we stepped suddenly, as through a door, into the next vale
and bay of Hatiheu.  A bowl of mountains encloses it upon three sides.
On the fourth this rampart has been bombarded into ruins, runs down to
seaward in imminent and shattered crags, and presents the one practicable
breach of the blue bay.  The interior of this vessel is crowded with
lovely and valuable trees,—orange, breadfruit, mummy-apple, cocoa, the
island chestnut, and for weeds, the pine and the banana.  Four perennial
streams water and keep it green; and along the dell, first of one, then
of another, of these, the road, for a considerable distance, descends
into this fortunate valley.  The song of the waters and the familiar
disarray of boulders gave us a strong sense of home, which the exotic
foliage, the daft-like growth of the pandanus, the buttressed trunk of
the banyan, the black pigs galloping in the bush, and the architecture of
the native houses dissipated ere it could be enjoyed.

The houses on the Hatiheu side begin high up; higher yet, the more
melancholy spectacle of empty paepaes.  When a native habitation is
deserted, the superstructure—pandanus thatch, wattle, unstable tropical
timber—speedily rots, and is speedily scattered by the wind.  Only the
stones of the terrace endure; nor can any ruin, cairn, or standing stone,
or vitrified fort present a more stern appearance of antiquity.  We must
have passed from six to eight of these now houseless platforms.  On the
main road of the island, where it crosses the valley of Taipi, Mr.
Osbourne tells me they are to be reckoned by the dozen; and as the roads
have been made long posterior to their erection, perhaps to their
desertion, and must simply be regarded as lines drawn at random through
the bush, the forest on either hand must be equally filled with these
survivals: the gravestones of whole families.  Such ruins are tapu {29}
in the strictest sense; no native must approach them; they have become
outposts of the kingdom of the grave.  It might appear a natural and
pious custom in the hundreds who are left, the rearguard of perished
thousands, that their feet should leave untrod these hearthstones of
their fathers.  I believe, in fact, the custom rests on different and
more grim conceptions.  But the house, the grave, and even the body of
the dead, have been always particularly honoured by Marquesans.  Until
recently the corpse was sometimes kept in the family and daily oiled and
sunned, until, by gradual and revolting stages, it dried into a kind of
mummy.  Offerings are still laid upon the grave.  In Traitor’s Bay, Mr.
Osbourne saw a man buy a looking-glass to lay upon his son’s.  And the
sentiment against the desecration of tombs, thoughtlessly ruffled in the
laying down of the new roads, is a chief ingredient in the native hatred
for the French.

The Marquesan beholds with dismay the approaching extinction of his race.
The thought of death sits down with him to meat, and rises with him from
his bed; he lives and breathes under a shadow of mortality awful to
support; and he is so inured to the apprehension that he greets the
reality with relief.  He does not even seek to support a disappointment;
at an affront, at a breach of one of his fleeting and communistic
love-affairs, he seeks an instant refuge in the grave.  Hanging is now
the fashion.  I heard of three who had hanged themselves in the west end
of Hiva-oa during the first half of 1888; but though this be a common
form of suicide in other parts of the South Seas, I cannot think it will
continue popular in the Marquesas.  Far more suitable to Marquesan
sentiment is the old form of poisoning with the fruit of the eva, which
offers to the native suicide a cruel but deliberate death, and gives time
for those decencies of the last hour, to which he attaches such
remarkable importance.  The coffin can thus be at hand, the pigs killed,
the cry of the mourners sounding already through the house; and then it
is, and not before, that the Marquesan is conscious of achievement, his
life all rounded in, his robes (like Cæsar’s) adjusted for the final act.
Praise not any man till he is dead, said the ancients; envy not any man
till you hear the mourners, might be the Marquesan parody.  The coffin,
though of late introduction, strangely engages their attention.  It is to
the mature Marquesan what a watch is to the European schoolboy.  For ten
years Queen Vaekehu had dunned the fathers; at last, but the other day,
they let her have her will, gave her her coffin, and the woman’s soul is
at rest.  I was told a droll instance of the force of this preoccupation.
The Polynesians are subject to a disease seemingly rather of the will
than of the body.  I was told the Tahitians have a word for it,
_erimatua_, but cannot find it in my dictionary.  A gendarme, M. Nouveau,
has seen men beginning to succumb to this insubstantial malady, has
routed them from their houses, turned them on to do their trick upon the
roads, and in two days has seen them cured.  But this other remedy is
more original: a Marquesan, dying of this discouragement—perhaps I should
rather say this acquiescence—has been known, at the fulfilment of his
crowning wish, on the mere sight of that desired hermitage, his coffin—to
revive, recover, shake off the hand of death, and be restored for years
to his occupations—carving tikis (idols), let us say, or braiding old
men’s beards.  From all this it may be conceived how easily they meet
death when it approaches naturally.  I heard one example, grim and
picturesque.  In the time of the small-pox in Hapaa, an old man was
seized with the disease; he had no thought of recovery; had his grave dug
by a wayside, and lived in it for near a fortnight, eating, drinking, and
smoking with the passers-by, talking mostly of his end, and equally
unconcerned for himself and careless of the friends whom he infected.

This proneness to suicide, and loose seat in life, is not peculiar to the
Marquesan.  What is peculiar is the widespread depression and acceptance
of the national end.  Pleasures are neglected, the dance languishes, the
songs are forgotten.  It is true that some, and perhaps too many, of them
are proscribed; but many remain, if there were spirit to support or to
revive them.  At the last feast of the Bastille, Stanislao Moanatini shed
tears when he beheld the inanimate performance of the dancers.  When the
people sang for us in Anaho, they must apologise for the smallness of
their repertory.  They were only young folk present, they said, and it
was only the old that knew the songs.  The whole body of Marquesan poetry
and music was being suffered to die out with a single dispirited
generation.  The full import is apparent only to one acquainted with
other Polynesian races; who knows how the Samoan coins a fresh song for
every trifling incident, or who has heard (on Penrhyn, for instance) a
band of little stripling maids from eight to twelve keep up their
minstrelsy for hours upon a stretch, one song following another without
pause.  In like manner, the Marquesan, never industrious, begins now to
cease altogether from production.  The exports of the group decline out
of all proportion even with the death-rate of the islanders.  ‘The coral
waxes, the palm grows, and man departs,’ says the Marquesan; and he folds
his hands.  And surely this is nature.  Fond as it may appear, we labour
and refrain, not for the rewards of any single life, but with a timid eye
upon the lives and memories of our successors; and where no one is to
succeed, of his own family, or his own tongue, I doubt whether
Rothschilds would make money or Cato practise virtue.  It is natural,
also, that a temporary stimulus should sometimes rouse the Marquesan from
his lethargy.  Over all the landward shore of Anaho cotton runs like a
wild weed; man or woman, whoever comes to pick it, may earn a dollar in
the day; yet when we arrived, the trader’s store-house was entirely
empty; and before we left it was near full.  So long as the circus was
there, so long as the _Casco_ was yet anchored in the bay, it behoved
every one to make his visit; and to this end every woman must have a new
dress, and every man a shirt and trousers.  Never before, in Mr. Regler’s
experience, had they displayed so much activity.

In their despondency there is an element of dread.  The fear of ghosts
and of the dark is very deeply written in the mind of the Polynesian; not
least of the Marquesan.  Poor Taipi, the chief of Anaho, was condemned to
ride to Hatiheu on a moonless night.  He borrowed a lantern, sat a long
while nerving himself for the adventure, and when he at last departed,
wrung the _Cascos_ by the hand as for a final separation.  Certain
presences, called Vehinehae, frequent and make terrible the nocturnal
roadside; I was told by one they were like so much mist, and as the
traveller walked into them dispersed and dissipated; another described
them as being shaped like men and having eyes like cats; from none could
I obtain the smallest clearness as to what they did, or wherefore they
were dreaded.  We may be sure at least they represent the dead; for the
dead, in the minds of the islanders, are all-pervasive.  ‘When a native
says that he is a man,’ writes Dr. Codrington, ‘he means that he is a man
and not a ghost; not that he is a man and not a beast.  The intelligent
agents of this world are to his mind the men who are alive, and the
ghosts the men who are dead.’  Dr. Codrington speaks of Melanesia; from
what I have learned his words are equally true of the Polynesian.  And
yet more.  Among cannibal Polynesians a dreadful suspicion rests
generally on the dead; and the Marquesans, the greatest cannibals of all,
are scarce likely to be free from similar beliefs.  I hazard the guess
that the Vehinehae are the hungry spirits of the dead, continuing their
life’s business of the cannibal ambuscade, and lying everywhere unseen,
and eager to devour the living.  Another superstition I picked up through
the troubled medium of Tari Coffin’s English.  The dead, he told me, came
and danced by night around the paepae of their former family; the family
were thereupon overcome by some emotion (but whether of pious sorrow or
of fear I could not gather), and must ‘make a feast,’ of which fish, pig,
and popoi were indispensable ingredients.  So far this is clear enough.
But here Tari went on to instance the new house of Toma and the
house-warming feast which was just then in preparation as instances in
point.  Dare we indeed string them together, and add the case of the
deserted ruin, as though the dead continually besieged the paepaes of the
living: were kept at arm’s-length, even from the first foundation, only
by propitiatory feasts, and, so soon as the fire of life went out upon
the hearth, swarmed back into possession of their ancient seat?

I speak by guess of these Marquesan superstitions.  On the cannibal ghost
I shall return elsewhere with certainty.  And it is enough, for the
present purpose, to remark that the men of the Marquesas, from whatever
reason, fear and shrink from the presence of ghosts.  Conceive how this
must tell upon the nerves in islands where the number of the dead already
so far exceeds that of the living, and the dead multiply and the living
dwindle at so swift a rate.  Conceive how the remnant huddles about the
embers of the fire of life; even as old Red Indians, deserted on the
march and in the snow, the kindly tribe all gone, the last flame
expiring, and the night around populous with wolves.



CHAPTER V—DEPOPULATION


Over the whole extent of the South Seas, from one tropic to another, we
find traces of a bygone state of over-population, when the resources of
even a tropical soil were taxed, and even the improvident Polynesian
trembled for the future.  We may accept some of the ideas of Mr. Darwin’s
theory of coral islands, and suppose a rise of the sea, or the subsidence
of some former continental area, to have driven into the tops of the
mountains multitudes of refugees.  Or we may suppose, more soberly, a
people of sea-rovers, emigrants from a crowded country, to strike upon
and settle island after island, and as time went on to multiply
exceedingly in their new seats.  In either case the end must be the same;
soon or late it must grow apparent that the crew are too numerous, and
that famine is at hand.  The Polynesians met this emergent danger with
various expedients of activity and prevention.  A way was found to
preserve breadfruit by packing it in artificial pits; pits forty feet in
depth and of proportionate bore are still to be seen, I am told, in the
Marquesas; and yet even these were insufficient for the teeming people,
and the annals of the past are gloomy with famine and cannibalism.  Among
the Hawaiians—a hardier people, in a more exacting climate—agriculture
was carried far; the land was irrigated with canals; and the fish-ponds
of Molokai prove the number and diligence of the old inhabitants.
Meanwhile, over all the island world, abortion and infanticide prevailed.
On coral atolls, where the danger was most plainly obvious, these were
enforced by law and sanctioned by punishment.  On Vaitupu, in the
Ellices, only two children were allowed to a couple; on Nukufetau, but
one.  On the latter the punishment was by fine; and it is related that
the fine was sometimes paid, and the child spared.

This is characteristic.  For no people in the world are so fond or so
long-suffering with children—children make the mirth and the adornment of
their homes, serving them for playthings and for picture-galleries.
‘Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them.’  The stray bastard
is contended for by rival families; and the natural and the adopted
children play and grow up together undistinguished.  The spoiling, and I
may almost say the deification, of the child, is nowhere carried so far
as in the eastern islands; and furthest, according to my opportunities of
observation, in the Paumotu group, the so-called Low or Dangerous
Archipelago.  I have seen a Paumotuan native turn from me with
embarrassment and disaffection because I suggested that a brat would be
the better for a beating.  It is a daily matter in some eastern islands
to see a child strike or even stone its mother, and the mother, so far
from punishing, scarce ventures to resist.  In some, when his child was
born, a chief was superseded and resigned his name; as though, like a
drone, he had then fulfilled the occasion of his being.  And in some the
lightest words of children had the weight of oracles.  Only the other
day, in the Marquesas, if a child conceived a distaste to any stranger, I
am assured the stranger would be slain.  And I shall have to tell in
another place an instance of the opposite: how a child in Manihiki having
taken a fancy to myself, her adoptive parents at once accepted the
situation and loaded me with gifts.

With such sentiments the necessity for child-destruction would not fail
to clash, and I believe we find the trace of divided feeling in the
Tahitian brotherhood of Oro.  At a certain date a new god was added to
the Society-Island Olympus, or an old one refurbished and made popular.
Oro was his name, and he may be compared with the Bacchus of the
ancients.  His zealots sailed from bay to bay, and from island to island;
they were everywhere received with feasting; wore fine clothes; sang,
danced, acted; gave exhibitions of dexterity and strength; and were the
artists, the acrobats, the bards, and the harlots of the group.  Their
life was public and epicurean; their initiation a mystery; and the
highest in the land aspired to join the brotherhood.  If a couple stood
next in line to a high-chieftaincy, they were suffered, on grounds of
policy, to spare one child; all other children, who had a father or a
mother in the company of Oro, stood condemned from the moment of
conception.  A freemasonry, an agnostic sect, a company of artists, its
members all under oath to spread unchastity, and all forbidden to leave
offspring—I do not know how it may appear to others, but to me the design
seems obvious.  Famine menacing the islands, and the needful remedy
repulsive, it was recommended to the native mind by these trappings of
mystery, pleasure, and parade.  This is the more probable, and the
secret, serious purpose of the institution appears the more plainly, if
it be true that, after a certain period of life, the obligation of the
votary was changed; at first, bound to be profligate: afterwards,
expected to be chaste.

Here, then, we have one side of the case.  Man-eating among kindly men,
child-murder among child-lovers, industry in a race the most idle,
invention in a race the least progressive, this grim, pagan
salvation-army of the brotherhood of Oro, the report of early voyagers,
the widespread vestiges of former habitation, and the universal tradition
of the islands, all point to the same fact of former crowding and alarm.
And to-day we are face to face with the reverse.  To-day in the
Marquesas, in the Eight Islands of Hawaii, in Mangareva, in Easter
Island, we find the same race perishing like flies.  Why this change?
Or, grant that the coming of the whites, the change of habits, and the
introduction of new maladies and vices, fully explain the depopulation,
why is that depopulation not universal?  The population of Tahiti, after
a period of alarming decrease, has again become stationary.  I hear of a
similar result among some Maori tribes; in many of the Paumotus a slight
increase is to be observed; and the Samoans are to-day as healthy and at
least as fruitful as before the change.  Grant that the Tahitians, the
Maoris, and the Paumotuans have become inured to the new conditions; and
what are we to make of the Samoans, who have never suffered?

Those who are acquainted only with a single group are apt to be ready
with solutions.  Thus I have heard the mortality of the Maoris attributed
to their change of residence—from fortified hill-tops to the low, marshy
vicinity of their plantations.  How plausible!  And yet the Marquesans
are dying out in the same houses where their fathers multiplied.  Or take
opium.  The Marquesas and Hawaii are the two groups the most infected
with this vice; the population of the one is the most civilised, that of
the other by far the most barbarous, of Polynesians; and they are two of
those that perish the most rapidly.  Here is a strong case against opium.
But let us take unchastity, and we shall find the Marquesas and Hawaii
figuring again upon another count.  Thus, Samoans are the most chaste of
Polynesians, and they are to this day entirely fertile; Marquesans are
the most debauched: we have seen how they are perishing; Hawaiians are
notoriously lax, and they begin to be dotted among deserts.  So here is a
case stronger still against unchastity; and here also we have a
correction to apply.  Whatever the virtues of the Tahitian, neither
friend nor enemy dares call him chaste; and yet he seems to have outlived
the time of danger.  One last example: syphilis has been plausibly
credited with much of the sterility.  But the Samoans are, by all
accounts, as fruitful as at first; by some accounts more so; and it is
not seriously to be argued that the Samoans have escaped syphilis.

These examples show how dangerous it is to reason from any particular
cause, or even from many in a single group.  I have in my eye an able and
amiable pamphlet by the Rev. S. E. Bishop: ‘Why are the Hawaiians Dying
Out?’  Any one interested in the subject ought to read this tract, which
contains real information; and yet Mr. Bishop’s views would have been
changed by an acquaintance with other groups.  Samoa is, for the moment,
the main and the most instructive exception to the rule.  The people are
the most chaste and one of the most temperate of island peoples.  They
have never been tried and depressed with any grave pestilence.  Their
clothing has scarce been tampered with; at the simple and becoming tabard
of the girls, Tartuffe, in many another island, would have cried out; for
the cool, healthy, and modest lava-lava or kilt, Tartuffe has managed in
many another island to substitute stifling and inconvenient trousers.
Lastly, and perhaps chiefly, so far from their amusements having been
curtailed, I think they have been, upon the whole, extended.  The
Polynesian falls easily into despondency: bereavement, disappointment,
the fear of novel visitations, the decay or proscription of ancient
pleasures, easily incline him to be sad; and sadness detaches him from
life.  The melancholy of the Hawaiian and the emptiness of his new life
are striking; and the remark is yet more apposite to the Marquesas.  In
Samoa, on the other hand, perpetual song and dance, perpetual games,
journeys, and pleasures, make an animated and a smiling picture of the
island life.  And the Samoans are to-day the gayest and the best
entertained inhabitants of our planet.  The importance of this can
scarcely be exaggerated.  In a climate and upon a soil where a livelihood
can be had for the stooping, entertainment is a prime necessity.  It is
otherwise with us, where life presents us with a daily problem, and there
is a serious interest, and some of the heat of conflict, in the mere
continuing to be.  So, in certain atolls, where there is no great gaiety,
but man must bestir himself with some vigour for his daily bread, public
health and the population are maintained; but in the lotos islands, with
the decay of pleasures, life itself decays.  It is from this point of
view that we may instance, among other causes of depression, the decay of
war.  We have been so long used in Europe to that dreary business of war
on the great scale, trailing epidemics and leaving pestilential corpses
in its train, that we have almost forgotten its original, the most
healthful, if not the most humane, of all field sports—hedge-warfare.
From this, as well as from the rest of his amusements and interests, the
islander, upon a hundred islands, has been recently cut off.  And to
this, as well as to so many others, the Samoan still makes good a special
title.

Upon the whole, the problem seems to me to stand thus:—Where there have
been fewest changes, important or unimportant, salutary or hurtful, there
the race survives.  Where there have been most, important or unimportant,
salutary or hurtful, there it perishes.  Each change, however small,
augments the sum of new conditions to which the race has to become
inured.  There may seem, _a priori_, no comparison between the change
from ‘sour toddy’ to bad gin, and that from the island kilt to a pair of
European trousers.  Yet I am far from persuaded that the one is any more
hurtful than the other; and the unaccustomed race will sometimes die of
pin-pricks.  We are here face to face with one of the difficulties of the
missionary.  In Polynesian islands he easily obtains pre-eminent
authority; the king becomes his _mairedupalais_; he can proscribe, he can
command; and the temptation is ever towards too much.  Thus (by all
accounts) the Catholics in Mangareva, and thus (to my own knowledge) the
Protestants in Hawaii, have rendered life in a more or less degree
unliveable to their converts.  And the mild, uncomplaining creatures
(like children in a prison) yawn and await death.  It is easy to blame
the missionary.  But it is his business to make changes.  It is surely
his business, for example, to prevent war; and yet I have instanced war
itself as one of the elements of health.  On the other hand, it were,
perhaps, easy for the missionary to proceed more gently, and to regard
every change as an affair of weight.  I take the average missionary; I am
sure I do him no more than justice when I suppose that he would hesitate
to bombard a village, even in order to convert an archipelago.
Experience begins to show us (at least in Polynesian islands) that change
of habit is bloodier than a bombardment.

There is one point, ere I have done, where I may go to meet criticism.  I
have said nothing of faulty hygiene, bathing during fevers, mistaken
treatment of children, native doctoring, or abortion—all causes
frequently adduced.  And I have said nothing of them because they are
conditions common to both epochs, and even more efficient in the past
than in the present.  Was it not the same with unchastity, it may be
asked?  Was not the Polynesian always unchaste?  Doubtless he was so
always: doubtless he is more so since the coming of his remarkably chaste
visitors from Europe.  Take the Hawaiian account of Cook: I have no doubt
it is entirely fair.  Take Krusenstern’s candid, almost innocent,
description of a Russian man-of-war at the Marquesas; consider the
disgraceful history of missions in Hawaii itself, where (in the war of
lust) the American missionaries were once shelled by an English
adventurer, and once raided and mishandled by the crew of an American
warship; add the practice of whaling fleets to call at the Marquesas, and
carry off a complement of women for the cruise; consider, besides, how
the whites were at first regarded in the light of demi-gods, as appears
plainly in the reception of Cook upon Hawaii; and again, in the story of
the discovery of Tutuila, when the really decent women of Samoa
prostituted themselves in public to the French; and bear in mind how it
was the custom of the adventurers, and we may almost say the business of
the missionaries, to deride and infract even the most salutary tapus.
Here we see every engine of dissolution directed at once against a virtue
never and nowhere very strong or popular; and the result, even in the
most degraded islands, has been further degradation.  Mr. Lawes, the
missionary of Savage Island, told me the standard of female chastity had
declined there since the coming of the whites.  In heathen time, if a
girl gave birth to a bastard, her father or brother would dash the infant
down the cliffs; and to-day the scandal would be small.  Or take the
Marquesas.  Stanislao Moanatini told me that in his own recollection, the
young were strictly guarded; they were not suffered so much as to look
upon one another in the street, but passed (so my informant put it) like
dogs; and the other day the whole school-children of Nuka-hiva and Ua-pu
escaped in a body to the woods, and lived there for a fortnight in
promiscuous liberty.  Readers of travels may perhaps exclaim at my
authority, and declare themselves better informed.  I should prefer the
statement of an intelligent native like Stanislao (even if it stood
alone, which it is far from doing) to the report of the most honest
traveller.  A ship of war comes to a haven, anchors, lands a party,
receives and returns a visit, and the captain writes a chapter on the
manners of the island.  It is not considered what class is mostly seen.
Yet we should not be pleased if a Lascar foremast hand were to judge
England by the ladies who parade Ratcliffe Highway, and the gentlemen who
share with them their hire.  Stanislao’s opinion of a decay of virtue
even in these unvirtuous islands has been supported to me by others; his
very example, the progress of dissolution amongst the young, is adduced
by Mr. Bishop in Hawaii.  And so far as Marquesans are concerned, we
might have hazarded a guess of some decline in manners.  I do not think
that any race could ever have prospered or multiplied with such as now
obtain; I am sure they would have been never at the pains to count
paternal kinship.  It is not possible to give details; suffice it that
their manners appear to be imitated from the dreams of ignorant and
vicious children, and their debauches persevered in until energy, reason,
and almost life itself are in abeyance.



CHAPTER VI—CHIEFS AND TAPUS


We used to admire exceedingly the bland and gallant manners of the chief
called Taipi-Kikino.  An elegant guest at table, skilled in the use of
knife and fork, a brave figure when he shouldered a gun and started for
the woods after wild chickens, always serviceable, always ingratiating
and gay, I would sometimes wonder where he found his cheerfulness.  He
had enough to sober him, I thought, in his official budget.  His
expenses—for he was always seen attired in virgin white—must have by far
exceeded his income of six dollars in the year, or say two shillings a
month.  And he was himself a man of no substance; his house the poorest
in the village.  It was currently supposed that his elder brother,
Kauanui, must have helped him out.  But how comes it that the elder
brother should succeed to the family estate, and be a wealthy commoner,
and the younger be a poor man, and yet rule as chief in Anaho?  That the
one should be wealthy, and the other almost indigent is probably to be
explained by some adoption; for comparatively few children are brought up
in the house or succeed to the estates of their natural begetters.  That
the one should be chief instead of the other must be explained (in a very
Irish fashion) on the ground that neither of them is a chief at all.

Since the return and the wars of the French, many chiefs have been
deposed, and many so-called chiefs appointed.  We have seen, in the same
house, one such upstart drinking in the company of two such extruded
island Bourbons, men, whose word a few years ago was life and death, now
sunk to be peasants like their neighbours.  So when the French overthrew
hereditary tyrants, dubbed the commons of the Marquesas freeborn citizens
of the republic, and endowed them with a vote for a _conseiller-général_
at Tahiti, they probably conceived themselves upon the path to
popularity; and so far from that, they were revolting public sentiment.
The deposition of the chiefs was perhaps sometimes needful; the
appointment of others may have been needful also; it was at least a
delicate business.  The Government of George II. exiled many Highland
magnates.  It never occurred to them to manufacture substitutes; and if
the French have been more bold, we have yet to see with what success.

Our chief at Anaho was always called, he always called himself,
Taipi-Kikino; and yet that was not his name, but only the wand of his
false position.  As soon as he was appointed chief, his name—which
signified, if I remember exactly, _Prince born among flowers_—fell in
abeyance, and he was dubbed instead by the expressive byword,
Taipi-Kikino—_Highwater man-of-no-account_—or, Englishing more boldly,
_Beggar on horseback_—a witty and a wicked cut.  A nickname in Polynesia
destroys almost the memory of the original name.  To-day, if we were
Polynesians, Gladstone would be no more heard of.  We should speak of and
address our Nestor as the Grand Old Man, and it is so that himself would
sign his correspondence.  Not the prevalence, then, but the significancy
of the nickname is to be noted here.  The new authority began with small
prestige.  Taipi has now been some time in office; from all I saw he
seemed a person very fit.  He is not the least unpopular, and yet his
power is nothing.  He is a chief to the French, and goes to breakfast
with the Resident; but for any practical end of chieftaincy a rag doll
were equally efficient.

We had been but three days in Anaho when we received the visit of the
chief of Hatiheu, a man of weight and fame, late leader of a war upon the
French, late prisoner in Tahiti, and the last eater of long-pig in
Nuka-hiva.  Not many years have elapsed since he was seen striding on the
beach of Anaho, a dead man’s arm across his shoulder.  ‘So does Kooamua
to his enemies!’ he roared to the passers-by, and took a bite from the
raw flesh.  And now behold this gentleman, very wisely replaced in office
by the French, paying us a morning visit in European clothes.  He was the
man of the most character we had yet seen: his manners genial and
decisive, his person tall, his face rugged, astute, formidable, and with
a certain similarity to Mr. Gladstone’s—only for the brownness of the
skin, and the high-chief’s tattooing, all one side and much of the other
being of an even blue.  Further acquaintance increased our opinion of his
sense.  He viewed the _Casco_ in a manner then quite new to us, examining
her lines and the running of the gear; to a piece of knitting on which
one of the party was engaged, he must have devoted ten minutes’ patient
study; nor did he desist before he had divined the principles; and he was
interested even to excitement by a type-writer, which he learned to work.
When he departed he carried away with him a list of his family, with his
own name printed by his own hand at the bottom.  I should add that he was
plainly much of a humorist, and not a little of a humbug.  He told us,
for instance, that he was a person of exact sobriety; such being the
obligation of his high estate: the commons might be sots, but the chief
could not stoop so low.  And not many days after he was to be observed in
a state of smiling and lop-sided imbecility, the _Casco_ ribbon upside
down on his dishonoured hat.

But his business that morning in Anaho is what concerns us here.  The
devil-fish, it seems, were growing scarce upon the reef; it was judged
fit to interpose what we should call a close season; for that end, in
Polynesia, a tapu (vulgarly spelt ‘taboo’) has to be declared, and who
was to declare it?  Taipi might; he ought; it was a chief part of his
duty; but would any one regard the inhibition of a Beggar on Horse-back?
He might plant palm branches: it did not in the least follow that the
spot was sacred.  He might recite the spell: it was shrewdly supposed the
spirits would not hearken.  And so the old, legitimate cannibal must ride
over the mountains to do it for him; and the respectable official in
white clothes could but look on and envy.  At about the same time, though
in a different manner, Kooamua established a forest law.  It was observed
the cocoa-palms were suffering, for the plucking of green nuts
impoverishes and at last endangers the tree.  Now Kooamua could tapu the
reef, which was public property, but he could not tapu other people’s
palms; and the expedient adopted was interesting.  He tapu’d his own
trees, and his example was imitated over all Hatiheu and Anaho.  I fear
Taipi might have tapu’d all that he possessed and found none to follow
him.  So much for the esteem in which the dignity of an appointed chief
is held by others; a single circumstance will show what he thinks of it
himself.  I never met one, but he took an early opportunity to explain
his situation.  True, he was only an appointed chief when I beheld him;
but somewhere else, perhaps upon some other isle, he was a chieftain by
descent: upon which ground, he asked me (so to say it) to excuse his
mushroom honours.

It will be observed with surprise that both these tapus are for
thoroughly sensible ends.  With surprise, I say, because the nature of
that institution is much misunderstood in Europe.  It is taken usually in
the sense of a meaningless or wanton prohibition, such as that which
to-day prevents women in some countries from smoking, or yesterday
prevented any one in Scotland from taking a walk on Sunday.  The error is
no less natural than it is unjust.  The Polynesians have not been trained
in the bracing, practical thought of ancient Rome; with them the idea of
law has not been disengaged from that of morals or propriety; so that
tapu has to cover the whole field, and implies indifferently that an act
is criminal, immoral, against sound public policy, unbecoming or (as we
say) ‘not in good form.’  Many tapus were in consequence absurd enough,
such as those which deleted words out of the language, and particularly
those which related to women.  Tapu encircled women upon all hands.  Many
things were forbidden to men; to women we may say that few were
permitted.  They must not sit on the paepae; they must not go up to it by
the stair; they must not eat pork; they must not approach a boat; they
must not cook at a fire which any male had kindled.  The other day, after
the roads were made, it was observed the women plunged along margin
through the bush, and when they came to a bridge waded through the water:
roads and bridges were the work of men’s hands, and tapu for the foot of
women.  Even a man’s saddle, if the man be native, is a thing no
self-respecting lady dares to use.  Thus on the Anaho side of the island,
only two white men, Mr. Regler and the gendarme, M. Aussel, possess
saddles; and when a woman has a journey to make she must borrow from one
or other.  It will be noticed that these prohibitions tend, most of them,
to an increased reserve between the sexes.  Regard for female chastity is
the usual excuse for these disabilities that men delight to lay upon
their wives and mothers.  Here the regard is absent; and behold the women
still bound hand and foot with meaningless proprieties!  The women
themselves, who are survivors of the old regimen, admit that in those
days life was not worth living.  And yet even then there were exceptions.
There were female chiefs and (I am assured) priestesses besides; nice
customs curtseyed to great dames, and in the most sacred enclosure of a
High Place, Father Siméon Delmar was shown a stone, and told it was the
throne of some well-descended lady.  How exactly parallel is this with
European practice, when princesses were suffered to penetrate the
strictest cloister, and women could rule over a land in which they were
denied the control of their own children.

But the tapu is more often the instrument of wise and needful
restrictions.  We have seen it as the organ of paternal government.  It
serves besides to enforce, in the rare case of some one wishing to
enforce them, rights of private property.  Thus a man, weary of the
coming and going of Marquesan visitors, tapus his door; and to this day
you may see the palm-branch signal, even as our great-grandfathers saw
the peeled wand before a Highland inn.  Or take another case.  Anaho is
known as ‘the country without popoi.’  The word popoi serves in different
islands to indicate the main food of the people: thus, in Hawaii, it
implies a preparation of taro; in the Marquesas, of breadfruit.  And a
Marquesan does not readily conceive life possible without his favourite
diet.  A few years ago a drought killed the breadfruit trees and the
bananas in the district of Anaho; and from this calamity, and the
open-handed customs of the island, a singular state of things arose.
Well-watered Hatiheu had escaped the drought; every householder of Anaho
accordingly crossed the pass, chose some one in Hatiheu, ‘gave him his
name’—an onerous gift, but one not to be rejected—and from this
improvised relative proceeded to draw his supplies, for all the world as
though he had paid for them.  Hence a continued traffic on the road.
Some stalwart fellow, in a loin-cloth, and glistening with sweat, may be
seen at all hours of the day, a stick across his bare shoulders, tripping
nervously under a double burthen of green fruits.  And on the far side of
the gap a dozen stone posts on the wayside in the shadow of a grove mark
the breathing-space of the popoi-carriers.  A little back from the beach,
and not half a mile from Anaho, I was the more amazed to find a cluster
of well-doing breadfruits heavy with their harvest.  ‘Why do you not take
these?’ I asked.  ‘Tapu,’ said Hoka; and I thought to myself (after the
manner of dull travellers) what children and fools these people were to
toil over the mountain and despoil innocent neighbours when the staff of
life was thus growing at their door.  I was the more in error.  In the
general destruction these surviving trees were enough only for the family
of the proprietor, and by the simple expedient of declaring a tapu he
enforced his right.

The sanction of the tapu is superstitious; and the punishment of
infraction either a wasting or a deadly sickness.  A slow disease follows
on the eating of tapu fish, and can only be cured with the bones of the
same fish burned with the due mysteries.  The cocoa-nut and breadfruit
tapu works more swiftly.  Suppose you have eaten tapu fruit at the
evening meal, at night your sleep will be uneasy; in the morning,
swelling and a dark discoloration will have attacked your neck, whence
they spread upward to the face; and in two days, unless the cure be
interjected, you must die.  This cure is prepared from the rubbed leaves
of the tree from which the patient stole; so that he cannot be saved
without confessing to the Tahuku the person whom he wronged.  In the
experience of my informant, almost no tapu had been put in use, except
the two described: he had thus no opportunity to learn the nature and
operation of the others; and, as the art of making them was jealously
guarded amongst the old men, he believed the mystery would soon die out.
I should add that he was no Marquesan, but a Chinaman, a resident in the
group from boyhood, and a reverent believer in the spells which he
described.  White men, amongst whom Ah Fu included himself, were exempt;
but he had a tale of a Tahitian woman, who had come to the Marquesas,
eaten tapu fish, and, although uninformed of her offence and danger, had
been afflicted and cured exactly like a native.

Doubtless the belief is strong; doubtless, with this weakly and fanciful
race, it is in many cases strong enough to kill; it should be strong
indeed in those who tapu their trees secretly, so that they may detect a
depredator by his sickness.  Or, perhaps, we should understand the idea
of the hidden tapu otherwise, as a politic device to spread uneasiness
and extort confessions: so that, when a man is ailing, he shall ransack
his brain for any possible offence, and send at once for any proprietor
whose rights he has invaded.  ‘Had you hidden a tapu?’ we may conceive
him asking; and I cannot imagine the proprietor gainsaying it; and this
is perhaps the strangest feature of the system—that it should be regarded
from without with such a mental and implicit awe, and, when examined from
within, should present so many apparent evidences of design.

We read in Dr. Campbell’s _Poenamo_ of a New Zealand girl, who was
foolishly told that she had eaten a tapu yam, and who instantly sickened,
and died in the two days of simple terror.  The period is the same as in
the Marquesas; doubtless the symptoms were so too.  How singular to
consider that a superstition of such sway is possibly a manufactured
article; and that, even if it were not originally invented, its details
have plainly been arranged by the authorities of some Polynesian Scotland
Yard.  Fitly enough, the belief is to-day—and was probably always—far
from universal.  Hell at home is a strong deterrent with some; a passing
thought with others; with others, again, a theme of public mockery, not
always well assured; and so in the Marquesas with the tapu.  Mr. Regler
has seen the two extremes of scepticism and implicit fear.  In the tapu
grove he found one fellow stealing breadfruit, cheerful and impudent as a
street arab; and it was only on a menace of exposure that he showed
himself the least discountenanced.  The other case was opposed in every
point.  Mr. Regler asked a native to accompany him upon a voyage; the man
went gladly enough, but suddenly perceiving a dead tapu fish in the
bottom of the boat, leaped back with a scream; nor could the promise of a
dollar prevail upon him to advance.

The Marquesan, it will be observed, adheres to the old idea of the local
circumscription of beliefs and duties.  Not only are the whites exempt
from consequences; but their transgressions seem to be viewed without
horror.  It was Mr. Regler who had killed the fish; yet the devout native
was not shocked at Mr. Regler—only refused to join him in his boat.  A
white is a white: the servant (so to speak) of other and more liberal
gods; and not to be blamed if he profit by his liberty.  The Jews were
perhaps the first to interrupt this ancient comity of faiths; and the
Jewish virus is still strong in Christianity.  All the world must respect
our tapus, or we gnash our teeth.



CHAPTER VII—HATIHEU


The bays of Anaho and Hatiheu are divided at their roots by the
knife-edge of a single hill—the pass so often mentioned; but this isthmus
expands to the seaward in a considerable peninsula: very bare and grassy;
haunted by sheep and, at night and morning, by the piercing cries of the
shepherds; wandered over by a few wild goats; and on its sea-front
indented with long, clamorous caves, and faced with cliffs of the colour
and ruinous outline of an old peat-stack.  In one of these echoing and
sunless gullies we saw, clustered like sea-birds on a splashing ledge,
shrill as sea-birds in their salutation to the passing boat, a group of
fisherwomen, stripped to their gaudy under-clothes.  (The clash of the
surf and the thin female voices echo in my memory.)  We had that day a
native crew and steersman, Kauanui; it was our first experience of
Polynesian seamanship, which consists in hugging every point of land.
There is no thought in this of saving time, for they will pull a long way
in to skirt a point that is embayed.  It seems that, as they can never
get their houses near enough the surf upon the one side, so they can
never get their boats near enough upon the other.  The practice in bold
water is not so dangerous as it looks—the reflex from the rocks sending
the boat off.  Near beaches with a heavy run of sea, I continue to think
it very hazardous, and find the composure of the natives annoying to
behold.  We took unmingled pleasure, on the way out, to see so near at
hand the beach and the wonderful colours of the surf.  On the way back,
when the sea had risen and was running strong against us, the fineness of
the steersman’s aim grew more embarrassing.  As we came abreast of the
sea-front, where the surf broke highest, Kauanui embraced the occasion to
light his pipe, which then made the circuit of the boat—each man taking a
whiff or two, and, ere he passed it on, filling his lungs and cheeks with
smoke.  Their faces were all puffed out like apples as we came abreast of
the cliff foot, and the bursting surge fell back into the boat in
showers.  At the next point ‘cocanetti’ was the word, and the stroke
borrowed my knife, and desisted from his labours to open nuts.  These
untimely indulgences may be compared to the tot of grog served out before
a ship goes into action.

My purpose in this visit led me first to the boys’ school, for Hatiheu is
the university of the north islands.  The hum of the lesson came out to
meet us.  Close by the door, where the draught blew coolest, sat the lay
brother; around him, in a packed half-circle, some sixty high-coloured
faces set with staring eyes; and in the background of the barn-like room
benches were to be seen, and blackboards with sums on them in chalk.  The
brother rose to greet us, sensibly humble.  Thirty years he had been
there, he said, and fingered his white locks as a bashful child pulls out
his pinafore. ‘_Et point de résultats_, _monsieur_, _presque pas de
résultats_.’  He pointed to the scholars: ‘You see, sir, all the youth of
Nuka-hiva and Ua-pu.  Between the ages of six and fifteen this is all
that remains; and it is but a few years since we had a hundred and twenty
from Nuka-hiva alone.  _Oui_, _monsieur_, _cela se dépérit_.’  Prayers,
and reading and writing, prayers again and arithmetic, and more prayers
to conclude: such appeared to be the dreary nature of the course.  For
arithmetic all island people have a natural taste.  In Hawaii they make
good progress in mathematics.  In one of the villages on Majuro, and
generally in the Marshall group, the whole population sit about the
trader when he is weighing copra, and each on his own slate takes down
the figures and computes the total.  The trader, finding them so apt,
introduced fractions, for which they had been taught no rule.  At first
they were quite gravelled but ultimately, by sheer hard thinking,
reasoned out the result, and came one after another to assure the trader
he was right.  Not many people in Europe could have done the like.  The
course at Hatiheu is therefore less dispiriting to Polynesians than a
stranger might have guessed; and yet how bald it is at best!  I asked the
brother if he did not tell them stories, and he stared at me; if he did
not teach them history, and he said, ‘O yes, they had a little Scripture
history—from the New Testament’; and repeated his lamentations over the
lack of results.  I had not the heart to put more questions; I could but
say it must be very discouraging, and resist the impulse to add that it
seemed also very natural.  He looked up—‘My days are far spent,’ he said;
‘heaven awaits me.’  May that heaven forgive me, but I was angry with the
old man and his simple consolation.  For think of his opportunity!  The
youth, from six to fifteen, are taken from their homes by Government,
centralised at Hatiheu, where they are supported by a weekly tax of food;
and, with the exception of one month in every year, surrendered wholly to
the direction of the priests.  Since the escapade already mentioned the
holiday occurs at a different period for the girls and for the boys; so
that a Marquesan brother and sister meet again, after their education is
complete, a pair of strangers.  It is a harsh law, and highly unpopular;
but what a power it places in the hands of the instructors, and how
languidly and dully is that power employed by the mission!  Too much
concern to make the natives pious, a design in which they all confess
defeat, is, I suppose, the explanation of their miserable system.  But
they might see in the girls’ school at Tai-o-hae, under the brisk,
housewifely sisters, a different picture of efficiency, and a scene of
neatness, airiness, and spirited and mirthful occupation that should
shame them into cheerier methods.  The sisters themselves lament their
failure.  They complain the annual holiday undoes the whole year’s work;
they complain particularly of the heartless indifference of the girls.
Out of so many pretty and apparently affectionate pupils whom they have
taught and reared, only two have ever returned to pay a visit of
remembrance to their teachers.  These, indeed, come regularly, but the
rest, so soon as their school-days are over, disappear into the woods
like captive insects.  It is hard to imagine anything more discouraging;
and yet I do not believe these ladies need despair.  For a certain
interval they keep the girls alive and innocently busy; and if it be at
all possible to save the race, this would be the means.  No such praise
can be given to the boys’ school at Hatiheu.  The day is numbered already
for them all; alike for the teacher and the scholars death is girt; he is
afoot upon the march; and in the frequent interval they sit and yawn.
But in life there seems a thread of purpose through the least
significant; the drowsiest endeavour is not lost, and even the school at
Hatiheu may be more useful than it seems.

Hatiheu is a place of some pretensions.  The end of the bay towards Anaho
may be called the civil compound, for it boasts the house of Kooamua, and
close on the beach, under a great tree, that of the gendarme, M. Armand
Aussel, with his garden, his pictures, his books, and his excellent
table, to which strangers are made welcome.  No more singular contrast is
possible than between the gendarmerie and the priesthood, who are besides
in smouldering opposition and full of mutual complaints.  A priest’s
kitchen in the eastern islands is a depressing spot to see; and many, or
most of them, make no attempt to keep a garden, sparsely subsisting on
their rations.  But you will never dine with a gendarme without smacking
your lips; and M. Aussel’s home-made sausage and the salad from his
garden are unforgotten delicacies.  Pierre Loti may like to know that he
is M. Aussel’s favourite author, and that his books are read in the fit
scenery of Hatiheu bay.

The other end is all religious.  It is here that an overhanging and
tip-tilted horn, a good sea-mark for Hatiheu, bursts naked from the
verdure of the climbing forest, and breaks down shoreward in steep
taluses and cliffs.  From the edge of one of the highest, perhaps seven
hundred or a thousand feet above the beach, a Virgin looks
insignificantly down, like a poor lost doll, forgotten there by a giant
child.  This laborious symbol of the Catholics is always strange to
Protestants; we conceive with wonder that men should think it worth while
to toil so many days, and clamber so much about the face of precipices,
for an end that makes us smile; and yet I believe it was the wise Bishop
Dordillon who chose the place, and I know that those who had a hand in
the enterprise look back with pride upon its vanquished dangers.  The
boys’ school is a recent importation; it was at first in Tai-o-hae,
beside the girls’; and it was only of late, after their joint escapade,
that the width of the island was interposed between the sexes.  But
Hatiheu must have been a place of missionary importance from before.
About midway of the beach no less than three churches stand grouped in a
patch of bananas, intermingled with some pine-apples.  Two are of wood:
the original church, now in disuse; and a second that, for some
mysterious reason, has never been used.  The new church is of stone, with
twin towers, walls flangeing into buttresses, and sculptured front.  The
design itself is good, simple, and shapely; but the character is all in
the detail, where the architect has bloomed into the sculptor.  It is
impossible to tell in words of the angels (although they are more like
winged archbishops) that stand guard upon the door, of the cherubs in the
corners, of the scapegoat gargoyles, or the quaint and spirited relief,
where St. Michael (the artist’s patron) makes short work of a protesting
Lucifer.  We were never weary of viewing the imagery, so innocent,
sometimes so funny, and yet in the best sense—in the sense of inventive
gusto and expression—so artistic.  I know not whether it was more strange
to find a building of such merit in a corner of a barbarous isle, or to
see a building so antique still bright with novelty.  The architect, a
French lay brother, still alive and well, and meditating fresh
foundations, must have surely drawn his descent from a master-builder in
the age of the cathedrals; and it was in looking on the church of Hatiheu
that I seemed to perceive the secret charm of mediæval sculpture; that
combination of the childish courage of the amateur, attempting all
things, like the schoolboy on his slate, with the manly perseverance of
the artist who does not know when he is conquered.

I had always afterwards a strong wish to meet the architect, Brother
Michel; and one day, when I was talking with the Resident in Tai-o-hae
(the chief port of the island), there were shown in to us an old, worn,
purblind, ascetic-looking priest, and a lay brother, a type of all that
is most sound in France, with a broad, clever, honest, humorous
countenance, an eye very large and bright, and a strong and healthy body
inclining to obesity.  But that his blouse was black and his face shaven
clean, you might pick such a man to-day, toiling cheerfully in his own
patch of vines, from half a dozen provinces of France; and yet he had
always for me a haunting resemblance to an old kind friend of my boyhood,
whom I name in case any of my readers should share with me that
memory—Dr. Paul, of the West Kirk.  Almost at the first word I was sure
it was my architect, and in a moment we were deep in a discussion of
Hatiheu church.  Brother Michel spoke always of his labours with a
twinkle of humour, underlying which it was possible to spy a serious
pride, and the change from one to another was often very human and
diverting.  ‘_Et vos gargouilles moyen-âge_,’ cried I; ‘_comme elles sont
originates_!’  ‘_N’est-ce pas_?  _Elles sont bien drôles_!’ he said,
smiling broadly; and the next moment, with a sudden gravity: ‘_Cependant
il y en a une qui a une patte de cassé_; _il faut que je voie cela_.’  I
asked if he had any model—a point we much discussed.  ‘_Non_,’ said he
simply; ‘_c’est une église idéale_.’  The relievo was his favourite
performance, and very justly so.  The angels at the door, he owned, he
would like to destroy and replace.  ‘_Ils n’ont pas de vie_, _ils
manquent de vie_.  _Vous devriez voir mon église à la Dominique_; _j’ai
là une Vierge qui est vraiment gentille_.’  ‘Ah,’ I cried, ‘they told me
you had said you would never build another church, and I wrote in my
journal I could not believe it.’  ‘_Oui_, _j’aimerais bien en fairs une
autre_,’ he confessed, and smiled at the confession.  An artist will
understand how much I was attracted by this conversation.  There is no
bond so near as a community in that unaffected interest and slightly
shame-faced pride which mark the intelligent man enamoured of an art.  He
sees the limitations of his aim, the defects of his practice; he smiles
to be so employed upon the shores of death, yet sees in his own devotion
something worthy.  Artists, if they had the same sense of humour with the
Augurs, would smile like them on meeting, but the smile would not be
scornful.

I had occasion to see much of this excellent man.  He sailed with us from
Tai-o-hae to Hiva-oa, a dead beat of ninety miles against a heavy sea.
It was what is called a good passage, and a feather in the _Casco’s_ cap;
but among the most miserable forty hours that any one of us had ever
passed.  We were swung and tossed together all that time like shot in a
stage thunder-box.  The mate was thrown down and had his head cut open;
the captain was sick on deck; the cook sick in the galley.  Of all our
party only two sat down to dinner.  I was one.  I own that I felt
wretchedly; and I can only say of the other, who professed to feel quite
well, that she fled at an early moment from the table.  It was in these
circumstances that we skirted the windward shore of that indescribable
island of Ua-pu; viewing with dizzy eyes the coves, the capes, the
breakers, the climbing forests, and the inaccessible stone needles that
surmount the mountains.  The place persists, in a dark corner of our
memories, like a piece of the scenery of nightmares.  The end of this
distressful passage, where we were to land our passengers, was in a
similar vein of roughness.  The surf ran high on the beach at Taahauku;
the boat broached-to and capsized; and all hands were submerged.  Only
the brother himself, who was well used to the experience, skipped ashore,
by some miracle of agility, with scarce a sprinkling.  Thenceforward,
during our stay at Hiva-oa, he was our cicerone and patron; introducing
us, taking us excursions, serving us in every way, and making himself
daily more beloved.

Michel Blanc had been a carpenter by trade; had made money and retired,
supposing his active days quite over; and it was only when he found
idleness dangerous that he placed his capital and acquirements at the
service of the mission.  He became their carpenter, mason, architect, and
engineer; added sculpture to his accomplishments, and was famous for his
skill in gardening.  He wore an enviable air of having found a port from
life’s contentions and lying there strongly anchored; went about his
business with a jolly simplicity; complained of no lack of
results—perhaps shyly thinking his own statuary result enough; and was
altogether a pattern of the missionary layman.



CHAPTER VIII—THE PORT OF ENTRY


The port—the mart, the civil and religious capital of these rude
islands—is called Tai-o-hae, and lies strung along the beach of a
precipitous green bay in Nuka-hiva.  It was midwinter when we came
thither, and the weather was sultry, boisterous, and inconstant.  Now the
wind blew squally from the land down gaps of splintered precipice; now,
between the sentinel islets of the entry, it came in gusts from seaward.
Heavy and dark clouds impended on the summits; the rain roared and
ceased; the scuppers of the mountain gushed; and the next day we would
see the sides of the amphitheatre bearded with white falls.  Along the
beach the town shows a thin file of houses, mostly white, and all
ensconced in the foliage of an avenue of green puraos; a pier gives
access from the sea across the belt of breakers; to the eastward there
stands, on a projecting bushy hill, the old fort which is now the
calaboose, or prison; eastward still, alone in a garden, the Residency
flies the colours of France.  Just off Calaboose Hill, the tiny
Government schooner rides almost permanently at anchor, marks eight bells
in the morning (there or thereabout) with the unfurling of her flag, and
salutes the setting sun with the report of a musket.

Here dwell together, and share the comforts of a club (which may be
enumerated as a billiard-board, absinthe, a map of the world on
Mercator’s projection, and one of the most agreeable verandahs in the
tropics), a handful of whites of varying nationality, mostly French
officials, German and Scottish merchant clerks, and the agents of the
opium monopoly.  There are besides three tavern-keepers, the shrewd Scot
who runs the cotton gin-mill, two white ladies, and a sprinkling of
people ‘on the beach’—a South Sea expression for which there is no exact
equivalent.  It is a pleasant society, and a hospitable.  But one man,
who was often to be seen seated on the logs at the pier-head, merits a
word for the singularity of his history and appearance.  Long ago, it
seems, he fell in love with a native lady, a High Chiefess in Ua-pu.
She, on being approached, declared she could never marry a man who was
untattooed; it looked so naked; whereupon, with some greatness of soul,
our hero put himself in the hands of the Tahukus, and, with still
greater, persevered until the process was complete.  He had certainly to
bear a great expense, for the Tahuku will not work without reward; and
certainly exquisite pain.  Kooamua, high chief as he was, and one of the
old school, was only part tattooed; he could not, he told us with lively
pantomime, endure the torture to an end.  Our enamoured countryman was
more resolved; he was tattooed from head to foot in the most approved
methods of the art; and at last presented himself before his mistress a
new man.  The fickle fair one could never behold him from that day except
with laughter.  For my part, I could never see the man without a kind of
admiration; of him it might be said, if ever of any, that he had loved
not wisely, but too well.

The Residency stands by itself, Calaboose Hill screening it from the
fringe of town along the further bay.  The house is commodious, with wide
verandahs; all day it stands open, back and front, and the trade blows
copiously over its bare floors.  On a week-day the garden offers a scene
of most untropical animation, half a dozen convicts toiling there
cheerfully with spade and barrow, and touching hats and smiling to the
visitor like old attached family servants.  On Sunday these are gone, and
nothing to be seen but dogs of all ranks and sizes peacefully slumbering
in the shady grounds; for the dogs of Tai-o-hae are very courtly-minded,
and make the seat of Government their promenade and place of siesta.  In
front and beyond, a strip of green down loses itself in a low wood of
many species of acacia; and deep in the wood a ruinous wall encloses the
cemetery of the Europeans.  English and Scottish sleep there, and
Scandinavians, and French _maîtres de manœuvres_ and _maîtres ouvriers_:
mingling alien dust.  Back in the woods, perhaps, the blackbird, or (as
they call him there) the island nightingale, will be singing home
strains; and the ceaseless requiem of the surf hangs on the ear.  I have
never seen a resting-place more quiet; but it was a long thought how far
these sleepers had all travelled, and from what diverse homes they had
set forth, to lie here in the end together.

On the summit of its promontory hill, the calaboose stands all day with
doors and window-shutters open to the trade.  On my first visit a dog was
the only guardian visible.  He, indeed, rose with an attitude so menacing
that I was glad to lay hands on an old barrel-hoop; and I think the
weapon must have been familiar, for the champion instantly retreated, and
as I wandered round the court and through the building, I could see him,
with a couple of companions, humbly dodging me about the corners.  The
prisoners’ dormitory was a spacious, airy room, devoid of any furniture;
its whitewashed walls covered with inscriptions in Marquesan and rude
drawings: one of the pier, not badly done; one of a murder; several of
French soldiers in uniform.  There was one legend in French: ‘_Je n’est_’
(sic) ‘_pas le sou_.’  From this noontide quietude it must not be
supposed the prison was untenanted; the calaboose at Tai-o-hae does a
good business.  But some of its occupants were gardening at the
Residency, and the rest were probably at work upon the streets, as free
as our scavengers at home, although not so industrious.  On the approach
of evening they would be called in like children from play; and the
harbour-master (who is also the jailer) would go through the form of
locking them up until six the next morning.  Should a prisoner have any
call in town, whether of pleasure or affairs, he has but to unhook the
window-shutters; and if he is back again, and the shutter decently
replaced, by the hour of call on the morrow, he may have met the
harbour-master in the avenue, and there will be no complaint, far less
any punishment.  But this is not all.  The charming French Resident, M.
Delaruelle, carried me one day to the calaboose on an official visit.  In
the green court, a very ragged gentleman, his legs deformed with the
island elephantiasis, saluted us smiling.  ‘One of our political
prisoners—an insurgent from Raiatea,’ said the Resident; and then to the
jailer: ‘I thought I had ordered him a new pair of trousers.’  Meanwhile
no other convict was to be seen—‘_Eh bien_,’ said the Resident, ‘_où sont
vos prisonniers_?’  ‘_Monsieur le Résident_,’ replied the jailer,
saluting with soldierly formality, ‘_comme c’est jour de fête_, _je les
ai laissé aller à la chasse_.’  They were all upon the mountains hunting
goats!  Presently we came to the quarters of the women, likewise
deserted—‘_Où sont vos bonnes femmes_?’ asked the Resident; and the
jailer cheerfully responded: ‘_Je crois_, _Monsieur le Résident_,
_qu’elles sont allées quelquepart faire une visite_.’  It had been the
design of M. Delaruelle, who was much in love with the whimsicalities of
his small realm, to elicit something comical; but not even he expected
anything so perfect as the last.  To complete the picture of convict life
in Tai-o-hae, it remains to be added that these criminals draw a salary
as regularly as the President of the Republic.  Ten sous a day is their
hire.  Thus they have money, food, shelter, clothing, and, I was about to
write, their liberty.  The French are certainly a good-natured people,
and make easy masters.  They are besides inclined to view the Marquesans
with an eye of humorous indulgence.  ‘They are dying, poor devils!’ said
M. Delaruelle: ‘the main thing is to let them die in peace.’  And it was
not only well said, but I believe expressed the general thought.  Yet
there is another element to be considered; for these convicts are not
merely useful, they are almost essential to the French existence.  With a
people incurably idle, dispirited by what can only be called endemic
pestilence, and inflamed with ill-feeling against their new masters,
crime and convict labour are a godsend to the Government.

Theft is practically the sole crime.  Originally petty pilferers, the men
of Tai-o-hae now begin to force locks and attack strong-boxes.  Hundreds
of dollars have been taken at a time; though, with that redeeming
moderation so common in Polynesian theft, the Marquesan burglar will
always take a part and leave a part, sharing (so to speak) with the
proprietor.  If it be Chilian coin—the island currency—he will escape; if
the sum is in gold, French silver, or bank-notes, the police wait until
the money begins to come in circulation, and then easily pick out their
man.  And now comes the shameful part.  In plain English, the prisoner is
tortured until he confesses and (if that be possible) restores the money.
To keep him alone, day and night, in the black hole, is to inflict on the
Marquesan torture inexpressible.  Even his robberies are carried on in
the plain daylight, under the open sky, with the stimulus of enterprise,
and the countenance of an accomplice; his terror of the dark is still
insurmountable; conceive, then, what he endures in his solitary dungeon;
conceive how he longs to confess, become a full-fledged convict, and be
allowed to sleep beside his comrades.  While we were in Tai-o-hae a thief
was under prevention.  He had entered a house about eight in the morning,
forced a trunk, and stolen eleven hundred francs; and now, under the
horrors of darkness, solitude, and a bedevilled cannibal imagination, he
was reluctantly confessing and giving up his spoil.  From one cache,
which he had already pointed out, three hundred francs had been
recovered, and it was expected that he would presently disgorge the rest.
This would be ugly enough if it were all; but I am bound to say, because
it is a matter the French should set at rest, that worse is continually
hinted.  I heard that one man was kept six days with his arms bound
backward round a barrel; and it is the universal report that every
gendarme in the South Seas is equipped with something in the nature of a
thumbscrew.  I do not know this.  I never had the face to ask any of the
gendarmes—pleasant, intelligent, and kindly fellows—with whom I have been
intimate, and whose hospitality I have enjoyed; and perhaps the tale
reposes (as I hope it does) on a misconstruction of that ingenious
cat’s-cradle with which the French agent of police so readily secures a
prisoner.  But whether physical or moral, torture is certainly employed;
and by a barbarous injustice, the state of accusation (in which a man may
very well be innocently placed) is positively painful; the state of
conviction (in which all are supposed guilty) is comparatively free, and
positively pleasant.  Perhaps worse still,—not only the accused, but
sometimes his wife, his mistress, or his friend, is subjected to the same
hardships.  I was admiring, in the tapu system, the ingenuity of native
methods of detection; there is not much to admire in those of the French,
and to lock up a timid child in a dark room, and, if he proved obstinate,
lock up his sister in the next, is neither novel nor humane.

The main occasion of these thefts is the new vice of opium-eating.  ‘Here
nobody ever works, and all eat opium,’ said a gendarme; and Ah Fu knew a
woman who ate a dollar’s worth in a day.  The successful thief will give
a handful of money to each of his friends, a dress to a woman, pass an
evening in one of the taverns of Tai-o-hae, during which he treats all
comers, produce a big lump of opium, and retire to the bush to eat and
sleep it off.  A trader, who did not sell opium, confessed to me that he
was at his wit’s end.  ‘I do not sell it, but others do,’ said he.  ‘The
natives only work to buy it; if they walk over to me to sell their
cotton, they have just to walk over to some one else to buy their opium
with my money.  And why should they be at the bother of two walks?  There
is no use talking,’ he added—‘opium is the currency of this country.’

The man under prevention during my stay at Tai-o-hae lost patience while
the Chinese opium-seller was being examined in his presence.  ‘Of course
he sold me opium!’ he broke out; ‘all the Chinese here sell opium.  It
was only to buy opium that I stole; it is only to buy opium that anybody
steals.  And what you ought to do is to let no opium come here, and no
Chinamen.’  This is precisely what is done in Samoa by a native
Government; but the French have bound their own hands, and for forty
thousand francs sold native subjects to crime and death.  This horrid
traffic may be said to have sprung up by accident.  It was Captain Hart
who had the misfortune to be the means of beginning it, at a time when
his plantations flourished in the Marquesas, and he found a difficulty in
keeping Chinese coolies.  To-day the plantations are practically deserted
and the Chinese gone; but in the meanwhile the natives have learned the
vice, the patent brings in a round sum, and the needy Government at
Papeete shut their eyes and open their pockets.  Of course, the patentee
is supposed to sell to Chinamen alone; equally of course, no one could
afford to pay forty thousand francs for the privilege of supplying a
scattered handful of Chinese; and every one knows the truth, and all are
ashamed of it.  French officials shake their heads when opium is
mentioned; and the agents of the farmer blush for their employment.
Those that live in glass houses should not throw stones; as a subject of
the British crown, I am an unwilling shareholder in the largest opium
business under heaven.  But the British case is highly complicated; it
implies the livelihood of millions; and must be reformed, when it can be
reformed at all, with prudence.  This French business, on the other hand,
is a nostrum and a mere excrescence.  No native industry was to be
encouraged: the poison is solemnly imported.  No native habit was to be
considered: the vice has been gratuitously introduced.  And no creature
profits, save the Government at Papeete—the not very enviable gentlemen
who pay them, and the Chinese underlings who do the dirty work.



CHAPTER IX—THE HOUSE OF TEMOANA


The history of the Marquesas is, of late years, much confused by the
coming and going of the French.  At least twice they have seized the
archipelago, at least once deserted it; and in the meanwhile the natives
pursued almost without interruption their desultory cannibal wars.
Through these events and changing dynasties, a single considerable figure
may be seen to move: that of the high chief, a king, Temoana.  Odds and
ends of his history came to my ears: how he was at first a convert to the
Protestant mission; how he was kidnapped or exiled from his native land,
served as cook aboard a whaler, and was shown, for small charge, in
English seaports; how he returned at last to the Marquesas, fell under
the strong and benign influence of the late bishop, extended his
influence in the group, was for a while joint ruler with the prelate, and
died at last the chief supporter of Catholicism and the French.  His
widow remains in receipt of two pounds a month from the French
Government.  Queen she is usually called, but in the official almanac she
figures as ‘_Madame Vaekehu_, _Grande Chefesse_.’  His son (natural or
adoptive, I know not which), Stanislao Moanatini, chief of Akaui, serves
in Tai-o-hae as a kind of Minister of Public Works; and the daughter of
Stanislao is High Chiefess of the southern island of Tauata.  These,
then, are the greatest folk of the archipelago; we thought them also the
most estimable.  This is the rule in Polynesia, with few exceptions; the
higher the family, the better the man—better in sense, better in manners,
and usually taller and stronger in body.  A stranger advances blindfold.
He scrapes acquaintance as he can.  Save the tattoo in the Marquesas,
nothing indicates the difference of rank; and yet almost invariably we
found, after we had made them, that our friends were persons of station.
I have said ‘usually taller and stronger.’  I might have been more
absolute,—over all Polynesia, and a part of Micronesia, the rule holds
good; the great ones of the isle, and even of the village, are greater of
bone and muscle, and often heavier of flesh, than any commoner.  The
usual explanation—that the high-born child is more industriously
shampooed, is probably the true one.  In New Caledonia, at least, where
the difference does not exist, has never been remarked, the practice of
shampooing seems to be itself unknown.  Doctors would be well employed in
a study of the point.

Vaekehu lives at the other end of the town from the Residency, beyond the
buildings of the mission.  Her house is on the European plan: a table in
the midst of the chief room; photographs and religious pictures on the
wall.  It commands to either hand a charming vista: through the front
door, a peep of green lawn, scurrying pigs, the pendent fans of the
coco-palm and splendour of the bursting surf: through the back, mounting
forest glades and coronals of precipice.  Here, in the strong
thorough-draught, Her Majesty received us in a simple gown of print, and
with no mark of royalty but the exquisite finish of her tattooed mittens,
the elaboration of her manners, and the gentle falsetto in which all the
highly refined among Marquesan ladies (and Vaekehu above all others)
delight to sing their language.  An adopted daughter interpreted, while
we gave the news, and rehearsed by name our friends of Anaho.  As we
talked, we could see, through the landward door, another lady of the
household at her toilet under the green trees; who presently, when her
hair was arranged, and her hat wreathed with flowers, appeared upon the
back verandah with gracious salutations.

Vaekehu is very deaf; ‘_merci_’ is her only word of French; and I do not
know that she seemed clever.  An exquisite, kind refinement, with a shade
of quietism, gathered perhaps from the nuns, was what chiefly struck us.
Or rather, upon that first occasion, we were conscious of a sense as of
district-visiting on our part, and reduced evangelical gentility on the
part of our hostess.  The other impression followed after she was more at
ease, and came with Stanislao and his little girl to dine on board the
_Casco_.  She had dressed for the occasion: wore white, which very well
became her strong brown face; and sat among us, eating or smoking her
cigarette, quite cut off from all society, or only now and then included
through the intermediary of her son.  It was a position that might have
been ridiculous, and she made it ornamental; making believe to hear and
to be entertained; her face, whenever she met our eyes, lighting with the
smile of good society; her contributions to the talk, when she made any,
and that was seldom, always complimentary and pleasing.  No attention was
paid to the child, for instance, but what she remarked and thanked us
for.  Her parting with each, when she came to leave, was gracious and
pretty, as had been every step of her behaviour.  When Mrs. Stevenson
held out her hand to say good-bye, Vaekehu took it, held it, and a moment
smiled upon her; dropped it, and then, as upon a kindly after-thought,
and with a sort of warmth of condescension, held out both hands and
kissed my wife upon both cheeks.  Given the same relation of years and of
rank, the thing would have been so done on the boards of the _Comédie
Française_; just so might Madame Brohan have warmed and condescended to
Madame Broisat in the _Marquis de Villemer_.  It was my part to accompany
our guests ashore: when I kissed the little girl good-bye at the pier
steps, Vaekehu gave a cry of gratification, reached down her hand into
the boat, took mine, and pressed it with that flattering softness which
seems the coquetry of the old lady in every quarter of the earth.  The
next moment she had taken Stanislao’s arm, and they moved off along the
pier in the moonlight, leaving me bewildered.  This was a queen of
cannibals; she was tattooed from hand to foot, and perhaps the greatest
masterpiece of that art now extant, so that a while ago, before she was
grown prim, her leg was one of the sights of Tai-o-hae; she had been
passed from chief to chief; she had been fought for and taken in war;
perhaps, being so great a lady, she had sat on the high place, and
throned it there, alone of her sex, while the drums were going twenty
strong and the priests carried up the blood-stained baskets of long-pig.
And now behold her, out of that past of violence and sickening feasts,
step forth, in her age, a quiet, smooth, elaborate old lady, such as you
might find at home (mittened also, but not often so well-mannered) in a
score of country houses.  Only Vaekehu’s mittens were of dye, not of
silk; and they had been paid for, not in money, but the cooked flesh of
men.  It came in my mind with a clap, what she could think of it herself,
and whether at heart, perhaps, she might not regret and aspire after the
barbarous and stirring past.  But when I asked Stanislao—‘Ah!’ said he,
‘she is content; she is religious, she passes all her days with the
sisters.’

Stanislao (Stanislaos, with the final consonant evaded after the
Polynesian habit) was sent by Bishop Dordillon to South America, and
there educated by the fathers.  His French is fluent, his talk sensible
and spirited, and in his capacity of ganger-in-chief, he is of excellent
service to the French.  With the prestige of his name and family, and
with the stick when needful, he keeps the natives working and the roads
passable.  Without Stanislao and the convicts, I am in doubt what would
become of the present regimen in Nuka-hiva; whether the highways might
not be suffered to close up, the pier to wash away, and the Residency to
fall piecemeal about the ears of impotent officials.  And yet though the
hereditary favourer, and one of the chief props of French authority, he
has always an eye upon the past.  He showed me where the old public place
had stood, still to be traced by random piles of stone; told me how great
and fine it was, and surrounded on all sides by populous houses, whence,
at the beating of the drums, the folk crowded to make holiday.  The
drum-beat of the Polynesian has a strange and gloomy stimulation for the
nerves of all.  White persons feel it—at these precipitate sounds their
hearts beat faster; and, according to old residents, its effect on the
natives was extreme.  Bishop Dordillon might entreat; Temoana himself
command and threaten; at the note of the drum wild instincts triumphed.
And now it might beat upon these ruins, and who should assemble?  The
houses are down, the people dead, their lineage extinct; and the
sweepings and fugitives of distant bays and islands encamp upon their
graves.  The decline of the dance Stanislao especially laments.  ‘_Chaque
pays a ses coutumes_,’ said he; but in the report of any gendarme,
perhaps corruptly eager to increase the number of _délits_ and the
instruments of his own power, custom after custom is placed on the
expurgatorial index.  ‘_Tenez_, _une danse qui n’est pas permise_,’ said
Stanislao: ‘_je ne sais pas pourquoi_, _elle est très jolie_, _elle va
comme ça_,’ and sticking his umbrella upright in the road, he sketched
the steps and gestures.  All his criticisms of the present, all his
regrets for the past, struck me as temperate and sensible.  The short
term of office of the Resident he thought the chief defect of the
administration; that officer having scarce begun to be efficient ere he
was recalled.  I thought I gathered, too, that he regarded with some fear
the coming change from a naval to a civil governor.  I am sure at least
that I regard it so myself; for the civil servants of France have never
appeared to any foreigner as at all the flower of their country, while
her naval officers may challenge competition with the world.  In all his
talk, Stanislao was particular to speak of his own country as a land of
savages; and when he stated an opinion of his own, it was with some
apologetic preface, alleging that he was ‘a savage who had travelled.’
There was a deal, in this elaborate modesty, of honest pride.  Yet there
was something in the precaution that saddened me; and I could not but
fear he was only forestalling a taunt that he had heard too often.

I recall with interest two interviews with Stanislao.  The first was a
certain afternoon of tropic rain, which we passed together in the
verandah of the club; talking at times with heightened voices as the
showers redoubled overhead, passing at times into the billiard-room, to
consult, in the dim, cloudy daylight, that map of the world which forms
its chief adornment.  He was naturally ignorant of English history, so
that I had much of news to communicate.  The story of Gordon I told him
in full, and many episodes of the Indian Mutiny, Lucknow, the second
battle of Cawn-pore, the relief of Arrah, the death of poor
Spottis-woode, and Sir Hugh Rose’s hotspur, midland campaign.  He was
intent to hear; his brown face, strongly marked with small-pox, kindled
and changed with each vicissitude.  His eyes glowed with the reflected
light of battle; his questions were many and intelligent, and it was
chiefly these that sent us so often to the map.  But it is of our parting
that I keep the strongest sense.  We were to sail on the morrow, and the
night had fallen, dark, gusty, and rainy, when we stumbled up the hill to
bid farewell to Stanislao.  He had already loaded us with gifts; but more
were waiting.  We sat about the table over cigars and green cocoa-nuts;
claps of wind blew through the house and extinguished the lamp, which was
always instantly relighted with a single match; and these recurrent
intervals of darkness were felt as a relief.  For there was something
painful and embarrassing in the kindness of that separation.  ‘_Ah_,
_vous devriez rester ici_, _mon cher ami_!’ cried Stanislao.  ‘_Vous êtes
les gens qu’il faut pour les Kanaques_; _vous êtes doux_, _vous et votre
famille_; _vous seriez obéis dans toutes les îles_.’  We had been civil;
not always that, my conscience told me, and never anything beyond; and
all this to-do is a measure, not of our considerateness, but of the want
of it in others.  The rest of the evening, on to Vaekehu’s and back as
far as to the pier, Stanislao walked with my arm and sheltered me with
his umbrella; and after the boat had put off, we could still distinguish,
in the murky darkness, his gestures of farewell.  His words, if there
were any, were drowned by the rain and the loud surf.

I have mentioned presents, a vexed question in the South Seas; and one
which well illustrates the common, ignorant habit of regarding races in a
lump.  In many quarters the Polynesian gives only to receive.  I have
visited islands where the population mobbed me for all the world like
dogs after the waggon of cat’s-meat; and where the frequent proposition,
‘You my pleni (friend),’ or (with more of pathos) ‘You all ’e same my
father,’ must be received with hearty laughter and a shout.  And perhaps
everywhere, among the greedy and rapacious, a gift is regarded as a sprat
to catch a whale.  It is the habit to give gifts and to receive returns,
and such characters, complying with the custom, will look to it nearly
that they do not lose.  But for persons of a different stamp the
statement must be reversed.  The shabby Polynesian is anxious till he has
received the return gift; the generous is uneasy until he has made it.
The first is disappointed if you have not given more than he; the second
is miserable if he thinks he has given less than you.  This is my
experience; if it clash with that of others, I pity their fortune, and
praise mine: the circumstances cannot change what I have seen, nor lessen
what I have received.  And indeed I find that those who oppose me often
argue from a ground of singular presumptions; comparing Polynesians with
an ideal person, compact of generosity and gratitude, whom I never had
the pleasure of encountering; and forgetting that what is almost poverty
to us is wealth almost unthinkable to them.  I will give one instance: I
chanced to speak with consideration of these gifts of Stanislao’s with a
certain clever man, a great hater and contemner of Kanakas.  ‘Well! what
were they?’ he cried.  ‘A pack of old men’s beards.  Trash!’  And the
same gentleman, some half an hour later, being upon a different train of
thought, dwelt at length on the esteem in which the Marquesans held that
sort of property, how they preferred it to all others except land, and
what fancy prices it would fetch.  Using his own figures, I computed
that, in this commodity alone, the gifts of Vaekehu and Stanislao
represented between two and three hundred dollars; and the queen’s
official salary is of two hundred and forty in the year.

But generosity on the one hand, and conspicuous meanness on the other,
are in the South Seas, as at home, the exception.  It is neither with any
hope of gain, nor with any lively wish to please, that the ordinary
Polynesian chooses and presents his gifts.  A plain social duty lies
before him, which he performs correctly, but without the least
enthusiasm.  And we shall best understand his attitude of mind, if we
examine our own to the cognate absurdity of marriage presents.  There we
give without any special thought of a return; yet if the circumstance
arise, and the return be withheld, we shall judge ourselves insulted.  We
give them usually without affection, and almost never with a genuine
desire to please; and our gift is rather a mark of our own status than a
measure of our love to the recipients.  So in a great measure and with
the common run of the Polynesians; their gifts are formal; they imply no
more than social recognition; and they are made and reciprocated, as we
pay and return our morning visits.  And the practice of marking and
measuring events and sentiments by presents is universal in the island
world.  A gift plays with them the part of stamp and seal; and has
entered profoundly into the mind of islanders.  Peace and war, marriage,
adoption and naturalisation, are celebrated or declared by the acceptance
or the refusal of gifts; and it is as natural for the islander to bring a
gift as for us to carry a card-case.



CHAPTER X—A PORTRAIT AND A STORY


I have had occasion several times to name the late bishop, Father
Dordillon, ‘Monseigneur,’ as he is still almost universally called,
Vicar-Apostolic of the Marquesas and Bishop of Cambysopolis _in
partibus_.  Everywhere in the islands, among all classes and races, this
fine, old, kindly, cheerful fellow is remembered with affection and
respect.  His influence with the natives was paramount.  They reckoned
him the highest of men—higher than an admiral; brought him their money to
keep; took his advice upon their purchases; nor would they plant trees
upon their own land till they had the approval of the father of the
islands.  During the time of the French exodus he singly represented
Europe, living in the Residency, and ruling by the hand of Temoana.  The
first roads were made under his auspices and by his persuasion.  The old
road between Hatiheu and Anaho was got under way from either side on the
ground that it would be pleasant for an evening promenade, and brought to
completion by working on the rivalry of the two villages.  The priest
would boast in Hatiheu of the progress made in Anaho, and he would tell
the folk of Anaho, ‘If you don’t take care, your neighbours will be over
the hill before you are at the top.’  It could not be so done to-day; it
could then; death, opium, and depopulation had not gone so far; and the
people of Hatiheu, I was told, still vied with each other in fine attire,
and used to go out by families, in the cool of the evening, boat-sailing
and racing in the bay.  There seems some truth at least in the common
view, that this joint reign of Temoana and the bishop was the last and
brief golden age of the Marquesas.  But the civil power returned, the
mission was packed out of the Residency at twenty-four hours’ notice, new
methods supervened, and the golden age (whatever it quite was) came to an
end.  It is the strongest proof of Father Dordillon’s prestige that it
survived, seemingly without loss, this hasty deposition.

His method with the natives was extremely mild.  Among these barbarous
children he still played the part of the smiling father; and he was
careful to observe, in all indifferent matters, the Marquesan etiquette.
Thus, in the singular system of artificial kinship, the bishop had been
adopted by Vaekehu as a grandson; Miss Fisher, of Hatiheu, as a daughter.
From that day, Monseigneur never addressed the young lady except as his
mother, and closed his letters with the formalities of a dutiful son.
With Europeans he could be strict, even to the extent of harshness.  He
made no distinction against heretics, with whom he was on friendly terms;
but the rules of his own Church he would see observed; and once at least
he had a white man clapped in jail for the desecration of a saint’s day.
But even this rigour, so intolerable to laymen, so irritating to
Protestants, could not shake his popularity.  We shall best conceive him
by examples nearer home; we may all have known some divine of the old
school in Scotland, a literal Sabbatarian, a stickler for the letter of
the law, who was yet in private modest, innocent, genial and mirthful.
Much such a man, it seems, was Father Dordillon.  And his popularity bore
a test yet stronger.  He had the name, and probably deserved it, of a
shrewd man in business and one that made the mission pay.  Nothing so
much stirs up resentment as the inmixture in commerce of religious
bodies; but even rival traders spoke well of Monseigneur.

His character is best portrayed in the story of the days of his decline.
A time came when, from the failure of sight, he must desist from his
literary labours: his Marquesan hymns, grammars, and dictionaries; his
scientific papers, lives of saints, and devotional poetry.  He cast about
for a new interest: pitched on gardening, and was to be seen all day,
with spade and water-pot, in his childlike eagerness, actually running
between the borders.  Another step of decay, and he must leave his garden
also.  Instantly a new occupation was devised, and he sat in the mission
cutting paper flowers and wreaths.  His diocese was not great enough for
his activity; the churches of the Marquesas were papered with his
handiwork, and still he must be making more.  ‘Ah,’ said he, smiling,
‘when I am dead what a fine time you will have clearing out my trash!’
He had been dead about six months; but I was pleased to see some of his
trophies still exposed, and looked upon them with a smile: the tribute
(if I have read his cheerful character aright) which he would have
preferred to any useless tears.  Disease continued progressively to
disable him; he who had clambered so stalwartly over the rude rocks of
the Marquesas, bringing peace to warfaring clans, was for some time
carried in a chair between the mission and the church, and at last
confined to bed, impotent with dropsy, and tormented with bed-sores and
sciatica.  Here he lay two months without complaint; and on the 11th
January 1888, in the seventy-ninth year of his life, and the
thirty-fourth of his labours in the Marquesas, passed away.

Those who have a taste for hearing missions, Protestant or Catholic,
decried, must seek their pleasure elsewhere than in my pages.  Whether
Catholic or Protestant, with all their gross blots, with all their
deficiency of candour, of humour, and of common sense, the missionaries
are the best and the most useful whites in the Pacific.  This is a
subject which will follow us throughout; but there is one part of it that
may conveniently be treated here.  The married and the celibate
missionary, each has his particular advantage and defect.  The married
missionary, taking him at the best, may offer to the native what he is
much in want of—a higher picture of domestic life; but the woman at his
elbow tends to keep him in touch with Europe and out of touch with
Polynesia, and to perpetuate, and even to ingrain, parochial decencies
far best forgotten.  The mind of the female missionary tends, for
instance, to be continually busied about dress.  She can be taught with
extreme difficulty to think any costume decent but that to which she grew
accustomed on Clapham Common; and to gratify this prejudice, the native
is put to useless expense, his mind is tainted with the morbidities of
Europe, and his health is set in danger.  The celibate missionary, on the
other hand, and whether at best or worst, falls readily into native ways
of life; to which he adds too commonly what is either a mark of celibate
man at large, or an inheritance from mediæval saints—I mean slovenly
habits and an unclean person.  There are, of course, degrees in this; and
the sister (of course, and all honour to her) is as fresh as a lady at a
ball.  For the diet there is nothing to be said—it must amaze and shock
the Polynesian—but for the adoption of native habits there is much.
‘_Chaque pays a ses coutumes_,’ said Stanislao; these it is the
missionary’s delicate task to modify; and the more he can do so from
within, and from a native standpoint, the better he will do his work; and
here I think the Catholics have sometimes the advantage; in the Vicariate
of Dordillon, I am sure they had it.  I have heard the bishop blamed for
his indulgence to the natives, and above all because he did not rage with
sufficient energy against cannibalism.  It was a part of his policy to
live among the natives like an elder brother; to follow where he could;
to lead where it was necessary; never to drive; and to encourage the
growth of new habits, instead of violently rooting up the old.  And it
might be better, in the long-run, if this policy were always followed.

It might be supposed that native missionaries would prove more indulgent,
but the reverse is found to be the case.  The new broom sweeps clean; and
the white missionary of to-day is often embarrassed by the bigotry of his
native coadjutor.  What else should we expect?  On some islands, sorcery,
polygamy, human sacrifice, and tobacco-smoking have been prohibited, the
dress of the native has been modified, and himself warned in strong terms
against rival sects of Christianity; all by the same man, at the same
period of time, and with the like authority.  By what criterion is the
convert to distinguish the essential from the unessential?  He swallows
the nostrum whole; there has been no play of mind, no instruction, and,
except for some brute utility in the prohibitions, no advance.  To call
things by their proper names, this is teaching superstition.  It is
unfortunate to use the word; so few people have read history, and so many
have dipped into little atheistic manuals, that the majority will rush to
a conclusion, and suppose the labour lost.  And far from that: These
semi-spontaneous superstitions, varying with the sect of the original
evangelist and the customs of the island, are found in practice to be
highly fructifying; and in particular those who have learned and who go
forth again to teach them offer an example to the world.  The best
specimen of the Christian hero that I ever met was one of these native
missionaries.  He had saved two lives at the risk of his own; like
Nathan, he had bearded a tyrant in his hour of blood; when a whole white
population fled, he alone stood to his duty; and his behaviour under
domestic sorrow with which the public has no concern filled the beholder
with sympathy and admiration.  A poor little smiling laborious man he
looked; and you would have thought he had nothing in him but that of
which indeed he had too much—facile good-nature. {86}

It chances that the only rivals of Monseigneur and his mission in the
Marquesas were certain of these brown-skinned evangelists, natives from
Hawaii.  I know not what they thought of Father Dordillon: they are the
only class I did not question; but I suspect the prelate to have regarded
them askance, for he was eminently human.  During my stay at Tai-o-hae,
the time of the yearly holiday came round at the girls’ school; and a
whole fleet of whale-boats came from Ua-pu to take the daughters of that
island home.  On board of these was Kauwealoha, one of the pastors, a
fine, rugged old gentleman, of that leonine type so common in Hawaii.  He
paid me a visit in the _Casco_, and there entertained me with a tale of
one of his colleagues, Kekela, a missionary in the great cannibal isle of
Hiva-oa.  It appears that shortly after a kidnapping visit from a
Peruvian slaver, the boats of an American whaler put into a bay upon that
island, were attacked, and made their escape with difficulty, leaving
their mate, a Mr. Whalon, in the hands of the natives.  The captive, with
his arms bound behind his back, was cast into a house; and the chief
announced the capture to Kekela.  And here I begin to follow the version
of Kauwealoha; it is a good specimen of Kanaka English; and the reader is
to conceive it delivered with violent emphasis and speaking pantomime.

‘“I got ’Melican mate,” the chief he say.  “What you go do ’Melican
mate?” Kekela he say.  “I go make fire, I go kill, I go eat him,” he say;
“you come to-mollow eat piece.”  “I no _want_ eat ’Melican mate!” Kekela
he say; “why you want?”  “This bad shippee, this slave shippee,” the
chief he say.  “One time a shippee he come from Pelu, he take away plenty
Kanaka, he take away my son.  ’Melican mate he bad man.  I go eat him;
you eat piece.”  “I no _want_ eat ’Melican mate!” Kekela he say; and he
_cly_—all night he cly!  To-mollow Kekela he get up, he put on blackee
coat, he go see chief; he see Missa Whela, him hand tie’ like this.
(_Pantomime_.)  Kekela he cly.  He say chief:—“Chief, you like things of
mine? you like whale-boat?”  “Yes,” he say.  “You like file-a’m?”
(fire-arms).  “Yes,” he say.  “You like blackee coat?”  “Yes,” he say.
Kekela he take Missa Whela by he shoul’a’ (shoulder), he take him light
out house; he give chief he whale-boat, he file-a’m, he blackee coat.  He
take Missa Whela he house, make him sit down with he wife and chil’en.
Missa Whela all-the-same pelison (prison); he wife, he chil’en in
Amelica; he cly—O, he cly.  Kekela he solly.  One day Kekela he see ship.
(_Pantomime_.)  He say Missa Whela, “Ma’ Whala?”  Missa Whela he say,
“Yes.”  Kanaka they begin go down beach.  Kekela he get eleven Kanaka,
get oa’ (oars), get evely thing.  He say Missa Whela, “Now you go quick.”
They jump in whale-boat.  “Now you low!”  Kekela he say: “you low quick,
quick!”  (_Violent pantomime_, _and a change indicating that the narrator
has left the boat and returned to the beach_.)  All the Kanaka they say,
“How!  ’Melican mate he go away?”—jump in boat; low afta.  (_Violent
pantomime_, _and change again to boat_.)  Kekela he say, “Low quick!”’

Here I think Kauwealoha’s pantomime had confused me; I have no more of
his _ipsissima verba_; and can but add, in my own less spirited manner,
that the ship was reached, Mr. Whalon taken aboard, and Kekela returned
to his charge among the cannibals.  But how unjust it is to repeat the
stumblings of a foreigner in a language only partly acquired!  A
thoughtless reader might conceive Kauwealoha and his colleague to be a
species of amicable baboon; but I have here the anti-dote.  In return for
his act of gallant charity, Kekela was presented by the American
Government with a sum of money, and by President Lincoln personally with
a gold watch.  From his letter of thanks, written in his own tongue, I
give the following extract.  I do not envy the man who can read it
without emotion.

    ‘When I saw one of your countrymen, a citizen of your great nation,
    ill-treated, and about to be baked and eaten, as a pig is eaten, I
    ran to save him, full of pity and grief at the evil deed of these
    benighted people.  I gave my boat for the stranger’s life.  This boat
    came from James Hunnewell, a gift of friendship.  It became the
    ransom of this countryman of yours, that he might not be eaten by the
    savages who knew not Jehovah.  This was Mr. Whalon, and the date,
    Jan. 14, 1864.

    ‘As to this friendly deed of mine in saving Mr. Whalon, its seed came
    from your great land, and was brought by certain of your countrymen,
    who had received the love of God.  It was planted in Hawaii, and I
    brought it to plant in this land and in these dark regions, that they
    might receive the root of all that is good and true, which is _love_.

    ‘1. Love to Jehovah.

    ‘2. Love to self.

    ‘3. Love to our neighbour.

    ‘If a man have a sufficiency of these three, he is good and holy,
    like his God, Jehovah, in his triune character (Father, Son, and Holy
    Ghost), one-three, three-one.  If he have two and wants one, it is
    not well; and if he have one and wants two, indeed, is not well; but
    if he cherishes all three, then is he holy, indeed, after the manner
    of the Bible.

    ‘This is a great thing for your great nation to boast of, before all
    the nations of the earth.  From your great land a most precious seed
    was brought to the land of darkness.  It was planted here, not by
    means of guns and men-of-war and threatening.  It was planted by
    means of the ignorant, the neglected, the despised.  Such was the
    introduction of the word of the Almighty God into this group of
    Nuuhiwa.  Great is my debt to Americans, who have taught me all
    things pertaining to this life and to that which is to come.

    ‘How shall I repay your great kindness to me?  Thus David asked of
    Jehovah, and thus I ask of you, the President of the United States.
    This is my only payment—that which I have received of the Lord,
    love—(aloha).’



CHAPTER XI—LONG-PIG—A CANNIBAL HIGH PLACE


Nothing more strongly arouses our disgust than cannibalism, nothing so
surely unmortars a society; nothing, we might plausibly argue, will so
harden and degrade the minds of those that practise it.  And yet we
ourselves make much the same appearance in the eyes of the Buddhist and
the vegetarian.  We consume the carcasses of creatures of like appetites,
passions, and organs with ourselves; we feed on babes, though not our
own; and the slaughter-house resounds daily with screams of pain and
fear.  We distinguish, indeed; but the unwillingness of many nations to
eat the dog, an animal with whom we live on terms of the next intimacy,
shows how precariously the distinction is grounded.  The pig is the main
element of animal food among the islands; and I had many occasions, my
mind being quickened by my cannibal surroundings, to observe his
character and the manner of his death.  Many islanders live with their
pigs as we do with our dogs; both crowd around the hearth with equal
freedom; and the island pig is a fellow of activity, enterprise, and
sense.  He husks his own cocoa-nuts, and (I am told) rolls them into the
sun to burst; he is the terror of the shepherd.  Mrs. Stevenson, senior,
has seen one fleeing to the woods with a lamb in his mouth; and I saw
another come rapidly (and erroneously) to the conclusion that the _Casco_
was going down, and swim through the flush water to the rail in search of
an escape.  It was told us in childhood that pigs cannot swim; I have
known one to leap overboard, swim five hundred yards to shore, and return
to the house of his original owner.  I was once, at Tautira, a pig-master
on a considerable scale; at first, in my pen, the utmost good feeling
prevailed; a little sow with a belly-ache came and appealed to us for
help in the manner of a child; and there was one shapely black boar, whom
we called Catholicus, for he was a particular present from the Catholics
of the village, and who early displayed the marks of courage and
friendliness; no other animal, whether dog or pig, was suffered to
approach him at his food, and for human beings he showed a full measure
of that toadying fondness so common in the lower animals, and possibly
their chief title to the name.  One day, on visiting my piggery, I was
amazed to see Catholicus draw back from my approach with cries of terror;
and if I was amazed at the change, I was truly embarrassed when I learnt
its reason.  One of the pigs had been that morning killed; Catholicus had
seen the murder, he had discovered he was dwelling in the shambles, and
from that time his confidence and his delight in life were ended.  We
still reserved him a long while, but he could not endure the sight of any
two-legged creature, nor could we, under the circumstances, encounter his
eye without confusion.  I have assisted besides, by the ear, at the act
of butchery itself; the victim’s cries of pain I think I could have
borne, but the execution was mismanaged, and his expression of terror was
contagious: that small heart moved to the same tune with ours.  Upon such
‘dread foundations’ the life of the European reposes, and yet the
European is among the less cruel of races.  The paraphernalia of murder,
the preparatory brutalities of his existence, are all hid away; an
extreme sensibility reigns upon the surface; and ladies will faint at the
recital of one tithe of what they daily expect of their butchers.  Some
will be even crying out upon me in their hearts for the coarseness of
this paragraph.  And so with the island cannibals.  They were not cruel;
apart from this custom, they are a race of the most kindly; rightly
speaking, to cut a man’s flesh after he is dead is far less hateful than
to oppress him whilst he lives; and even the victims of their appetite
were gently used in life and suddenly and painlessly despatched at last.
In island circles of refinement it was doubtless thought bad taste to
expatiate on what was ugly in the practice.

Cannibalism is traced from end to end of the Pacific, from the Marquesas
to New Guinea, from New Zealand to Hawaii, here in the lively haunt of
its exercise, there by scanty but significant survivals.  Hawaii is the
most doubtful.  We find cannibalism chronicled in Hawaii, only in the
history of a single war, where it seems to have been thought exception,
as in the case of mountain outlaws, such as fell by the hand of Theseus.
In Tahiti, a single circumstance survived, but that appears conclusive.
In historic times, when human oblation was made in the marae, the eyes of
the victim were formally offered to the chief: a delicacy to the leading
guest.  All Melanesia appears tainted.  In Micronesia, in the Marshalls,
with which my acquaintance is no more than that of a tourist, I could
find no trace at all; and even in the Gilbert zone I long looked and
asked in vain.  I was told tales indeed of men who had been eaten in a
famine; but these were nothing to my purpose, for the same thing is done
under the same stress by all kindreds and generations of men.  At last,
in some manuscript notes of Dr. Turner’s, which I was allowed to consult
at Malua, I came on one damning evidence: on the island of Onoatoa the
punishment for theft was to be killed and eaten.  How shall we account
for the universality of the practice over so vast an area, among people
of such varying civilisation, and, with whatever intermixture, of such
different blood?  What circumstance is common to them all, but that they
lived on islands destitute, or very nearly so, of animal food?  I can
never find it in my appetite that man was meant to live on vegetables
only.  When our stores ran low among the islands, I grew to weary for the
recurrent day when economy allowed us to open another tin of miserable
mutton.  And in at least one ocean language, a particular word denotes
that a man is ‘hungry for fish,’ having reached that stage when
vegetables can no longer satisfy, and his soul, like those of the Hebrews
in the desert, begins to lust after flesh-pots.  Add to this the
evidences of over-population and imminent famine already adduced, and I
think we see some ground of indulgence for the island cannibal.

It is right to look at both sides of any question; but I am far from
making the apology of this worse than bestial vice.  The higher
Polynesian races, such as the Tahitians, Hawaiians, and Samoans, had one
and all outgrown, and some of them had in part forgot, the practice,
before Cook or Bougainville had shown a top-sail in their waters.  It
lingered only in some low islands where life was difficult to maintain,
and among inveterate savages like the New-Zealanders or the Marquesans.
The Marquesans intertwined man-eating with the whole texture of their
lives; long-pig was in a sense their currency and sacrament; it formed
the hire of the artist, illustrated public events, and was the occasion
and attraction of a feast.  To-day they are paying the penalty of this
bloody commixture.  The civil power, in its crusade against man-eating,
has had to examine one after another all Marquesan arts and pleasures,
has found them one after another tainted with a cannibal element, and one
after another has placed them on the proscript list.  Their art of
tattooing stood by itself, the execution exquisite, the designs most
beautiful and intricate; nothing more handsomely sets off a handsome man;
it may cost some pain in the beginning, but I doubt if it be near so
painful in the long-run, and I am sure it is far more becoming than the
ignoble European practice of tight-lacing among women.  And now it has
been found needful to forbid the art.  Their songs and dances were
numerous (and the law has had to abolish them by the dozen).  They now
face empty-handed the tedium of their uneventful days; and who shall pity
them?  The least rigorous will say that they were justly served.

Death alone could not satisfy Marquesan vengeance: the flesh must be
eaten.  The chief who seized Mr. Whalon preferred to eat him; and he
thought he had justified the wish when he explained it was a vengeance.
Two or three years ago, the people of a valley seized and slew a wretch
who had offended them.  His offence, it is to be supposed, was dire; they
could not bear to leave their vengeance incomplete, and, under the eyes
of the French, they did not dare to hold a public festival.  The body was
accordingly divided; and every man retired to his own house to consummate
the rite in secret, carrying his proportion of the dreadful meat in a
Swedish match-box.  The barbarous substance of the drama and the European
properties employed offer a seizing contrast to the imagination.  Yet
more striking is another incident of the very year when I was there
myself, 1888.  In the spring, a man and woman skulked about the
school-house in Hiva-oa till they found a particular child alone.  Him
they approached with honeyed words and carneying manners—‘You are
So-and-so, son of So-and-so?’ they asked; and caressed and beguiled him
deeper in the woods.  Some instinct woke in the child’s bosom, or some
look betrayed the horrid purpose of his deceivers.  He sought to break
from them; he screamed; and they, casting off the mask, seized him the
more strongly and began to run.  His cries were heard; his schoolmates,
playing not far off, came running to the rescue; and the sinister couple
fled and vanished in the woods.  They were never identified; no
prosecution followed; but it was currently supposed they had some grudge
against the boy’s father, and designed to eat him in revenge.  All over
the islands, as at home among our own ancestors, it will be observed that
the avenger takes no particular heed to strike an individual.  A family,
a class, a village, a whole valley or island, a whole race of mankind,
share equally the guilt of any member.  So, in the above story, the son
was to pay the penalty for his father; so Mr. Whalon, the mate of an
American whaler, was to bleed and be eaten for the misdeeds of a Peruvian
slaver.  I am reminded of an incident in Jaluit in the Marshall group,
which was told me by an eye-witness, and which I tell here again for the
strangeness of the scene.  Two men had awakened the animosity of the
Jaluit chiefs; and it was their wives who were selected to be punished.
A single native served as executioner.  Early in the morning, in the face
of a large concourse of spectators, he waded out upon the reef between
his victims.  These neither complained nor resisted; accompanied their
destroyer patiently; stooped down, when they had waded deep enough, at
his command; and he (laying one hand upon the shoulders of each) held
them under water till they drowned.  Doubtless, although my informant did
not tell me so, their families would be lamenting aloud upon the beach.

It was from Hatiheu that I paid my first visit to a cannibal high place.

The day was sultry and clouded.  Drenching tropical showers succeeded
bursts of sweltering sunshine.  The green pathway of the road wound
steeply upward.  As we went, our little schoolboy guide a little ahead of
us, Father Simeon had his portfolio in his hand, and named the trees for
me, and read aloud from his notes the abstract of their virtues.
Presently the road, mounting, showed us the vale of Hatiheu, on a larger
scale; and the priest, with occasional reference to our guide, pointed
out the boundaries and told me the names of the larger tribes that lived
at perpetual war in the old days: one on the north-east, one along the
beach, one behind upon the mountain.  With a survivor of this latter clan
Father Simeon had spoken; until the pacification he had never been to the
sea’s edge, nor, if I remember exactly, eaten of sea-fish.  Each in its
own district, the septs lived cantoned and beleaguered.  One step without
the boundaries was to affront death.  If famine came, the men must out to
the woods to gather chestnuts and small fruits; even as to this day, if
the parents are backward in their weekly doles, school must be broken up
and the scholars sent foraging.  But in the old days, when there was
trouble in one clan, there would be activity in all its neighbours; the
woods would be laid full of ambushes; and he who went after vegetables
for himself might remain to be a joint for his hereditary foes.  Nor was
the pointed occasion needful.  A dozen different natural signs and social
junctures called this people to the war-path and the cannibal hunt.  Let
one of chiefly rank have finished his tattooing, the wife of one be near
upon her time, two of the debauching streams have deviated nearer on the
beach of Hatiheu, a certain bird have been heard to sing, a certain
ominous formation of cloud observed above the northern sea; and instantly
the arms were oiled, and the man-hunters swarmed into the wood to lay
their fratricidal ambuscades.  It appears besides that occasionally,
perhaps in famine, the priest would shut himself in his house, where he
lay for a stated period like a person dead.  When he came forth it was to
run for three days through the territory of the clan, naked and starving,
and to sleep at night alone in the high place.  It was now the turn of
the others to keep the house, for to encounter the priest upon his rounds
was death.  On the eve of the fourth day the time of the running was
over; the priest returned to his roof, the laymen came forth, and in the
morning the number of the victims was announced.  I have this tale of the
priest on one authority—I think a good one,—but I set it down with
diffidence.  The particulars are so striking that, had they been true, I
almost think I must have heard them oftener referred to.  Upon one point
there seems to be no question: that the feast was sometimes furnished
from within the clan.  In times of scarcity, all who were not protected
by their family connections—in the Highland expression, all the commons
of the clan—had cause to tremble.  It was vain to resist, it was useless
to flee.  They were begirt upon all hands by cannibals; and the oven was
ready to smoke for them abroad in the country of their foes, or at home
in the valley of their fathers.

At a certain corner of the road our scholar-guide struck off to his left
into the twilight of the forest.  We were now on one of the ancient
native roads, plunged in a high vault of wood, and clambering, it seemed,
at random over boulders and dead trees; but the lad wound in and out and
up and down without a check, for these paths are to the natives as marked
as the king’s highway is to us; insomuch that, in the days of the
man-hunt, it was their labour rather to block and deface than to improve
them.  In the crypt of the wood the air was clammy and hot and cold;
overhead, upon the leaves, the tropical rain uproariously poured, but
only here and there, as through holes in a leaky roof, a single drop
would fall, and make a spot upon my mackintosh.  Presently the huge trunk
of a banyan hove in sight, standing upon what seemed the ruins of an
ancient fort; and our guide, halting and holding forth his arm, announced
that we had reached the _paepae tapu_.

_Paepae_ signifies a floor or platform such as a native house is built
on; and even such a paepae—a paepae hae—may be called a paepae tapu in a
lesser sense when it is deserted and becomes the haunt of spirits; but
the public high place, such as I was now treading, was a thing on a great
scale.  As far as my eyes could pierce through the dark undergrowth, the
floor of the forest was all paved.  Three tiers of terrace ran on the
slope of the hill; in front, a crumbling parapet contained the main
arena; and the pavement of that was pierced and parcelled out with
several wells and small enclosures.  No trace remained of any
superstructure, and the scheme of the amphitheatre was difficult to
seize.  I visited another in Hiva-oa, smaller but more perfect, where it
was easy to follow rows of benches, and to distinguish isolated seats of
honour for eminent persons; and where, on the upper platform, a single
joist of the temple or dead-house still remained, its uprights richly
carved.  In the old days the high place was sedulously tended.  No tree
except the sacred banyan was suffered to encroach upon its grades, no
dead leaf to rot upon the pavement.  The stones were smoothly set, and I
am told they were kept bright with oil.  On all sides the guardians lay
encamped in their subsidiary huts to watch and cleanse it.  No other foot
of man was suffered to draw near; only the priest, in the days of his
running, came there to sleep—perhaps to dream of his ungodly errand; but,
in the time of the feast, the clan trooped to the high place in a body,
and each had his appointed seat.  There were places for the chiefs, the
drummers, the dancers, the women, and the priests.  The drums—perhaps
twenty strong, and some of them twelve feet high—continuously throbbed in
time.  In time the singers kept up their long-drawn, lugubrious,
ululating song; in time, too, the dancers, tricked out in singular
finery, stepped, leaped, swayed, and gesticulated—their plumed fingers
fluttering in the air like butterflies.  The sense of time, in all these
ocean races, is extremely perfect; and I conceive in such a festival that
almost every sound and movement fell in one.  So much the more
unanimously must have grown the agitation of the feasters; so much the
more wild must have been the scene to any European who could have beheld
them there, in the strong sun and the strong shadow of the banyan, rubbed
with saffron to throw in a more high relief the arabesque of the tattoo;
the women bleached by days of confinement to a complexion almost
European; the chiefs crowned with silver plumes of old men’s beards and
girt with kirtles of the hair of dead women.  All manner of island food
was meanwhile spread for the women and the commons; and, for those who
were privileged to eat of it, there were carried up to the dead-house the
baskets of long-pig.  It is told that the feasts were long kept up; the
people came from them brutishly exhausted with debauchery, and the chiefs
heavy with their beastly food.  There are certain sentiments which we
call emphatically human—denying the honour of that name to those who lack
them.  In such feasts—particularly where the victim has been slain at
home, and men banqueted on the poor clay of a comrade with whom they had
played in infancy, or a woman whose favours they had shared—the whole
body of these sentiments is outraged.  To consider it too closely is to
understand, if not to excuse, the fervours of self-righteous old
ship-captains, who would man their guns, and open fire in passing, on a
cannibal island.

And yet it was strange.  There, upon the spot, as I stood under the high,
dripping vault of the forest, with the young priest on the one hand, in
his kilted gown, and the bright-eyed Marquesan schoolboy on the other,
the whole business appeared infinitely distant, and fallen in the cold
perspective and dry light of history.  The bearing of the priest,
perhaps, affected me. He smiled; he jested with the boy, the heir both of
these feasters and their meat; he clapped his hands, and gave me a stave
of one of the old, ill-omened choruses.  Centuries might have come and
gone since this slimy theatre was last in operation; and I beheld the
place with no more emotion than I might have felt in visiting Stonehenge.
In Hiva-oa, as I began to appreciate that the thing was still living and
latent about my footsteps, and that it was still within the bounds of
possibility that I might hear the cry of the trapped victim, my historic
attitude entirely failed, and I was sensible of some repugnance for the
natives.  But here, too, the priests maintained their jocular attitude:
rallying the cannibals as upon an eccentricity rather absurd than
horrible; seeking, I should say, to shame them from the practice by
good-natured ridicule, as we shame a child from stealing sugar.  We may
here recognise the temperate and sagacious mind of Bishop Dordillon.



CHAPTER XII—THE STORY OF A PLANTATION


Taahauku, on the south-westerly coast of the island of Hiva-oa—Tahuku,
say the slovenly whites—may be called the port of Atuona.  It is a narrow
and small anchorage, set between low cliffy points, and opening above
upon a woody valley: a little French fort, now disused and deserted,
overhangs the valley and the inlet.  Atuona itself, at the head of the
next bay, is framed in a theatre of mountains, which dominate the more
immediate settling of Taahauku and give the salient character of the
scene.  They are reckoned at no higher than four thousand feet; but
Tahiti with eight thousand, and Hawaii with fifteen, can offer no such
picture of abrupt, melancholy alps.  In the morning, when the sun falls
directly on their front, they stand like a vast wall: green to the
summit, if by any chance the summit should be clear—water-courses here
and there delineated on their face, as narrow as cracks.  Towards
afternoon, the light falls more obliquely, and the sculpture of the range
comes in relief, huge gorges sinking into shadow, huge, tortuous
buttresses standing edged with sun.  At all hours of the day they strike
the eye with some new beauty, and the mind with the same menacing gloom.

The mountains, dividing and deflecting the endless airy deluge of the
Trade, are doubtless answerable for the climate.  A strong draught of
wind blew day and night over the anchorage.  Day and night the same
fantastic and attenuated clouds fled across the heavens, the same dusky
cap of rain and vapour fell and rose on the mountain.  The land-breezes
came very strong and chill, and the sea, like the air, was in perpetual
bustle.  The swell crowded into the narrow anchorage like sheep into a
fold; broke all along both sides, high on the one, low on the other; kept
a certain blowhole sounding and smoking like a cannon; and spent itself
at last upon the beach.

On the side away from Atuona, the sheltering promontory was a nursery of
coco-trees.  Some were mere infants, none had attained to any size, none
had yet begun to shoot skyward with that whip-like shaft of the mature
palm.  In the young trees the colour alters with the age and growth.  Now
all is of a grass-like hue, infinitely dainty; next the rib grows golden,
the fronds remaining green as ferns; and then, as the trunk continues to
mount and to assume its final hue of grey, the fans put on manlier and
more decided depths of verdure, stand out dark upon the distance, glisten
against the sun, and flash like silver fountains in the assault of the
wind.  In this young wood of Taahauku, all these hues and combinations
were exampled and repeated by the score.  The trees grew pleasantly
spaced upon a hilly sward, here and there interspersed with a rack for
drying copra, or a tumble-down hut for storing it.  Every here and there
the stroller had a glimpse of the _Casco_ tossing in the narrow anchorage
below; and beyond he had ever before him the dark amphitheatre of the
Atuona mountains and the cliffy bluff that closes it to seaward.  The
trade-wind moving in the fans made a ceaseless noise of summer rain; and
from time to time, with the sound of a sudden and distant drum-beat, the
surf would burst in a sea-cave.

At the upper end of the inlet, its low, cliffy lining sinks, at both
sides, into a beach.  A copra warehouse stands in the shadow of the
shoreside trees, flitted about for ever by a clan of dwarfish swallows;
and a line of rails on a high wooden staging bends back into the mouth of
the valley.  Walking on this, the new-landed traveller becomes aware of a
broad fresh-water lagoon (one arm of which he crosses), and beyond, of a
grove of noble palms, sheltering the house of the trader, Mr. Keane.
Overhead, the cocos join in a continuous and lofty roof; blackbirds are
heard lustily singing; the island cock springs his jubilant rattle and
airs his golden plumage; cow-bells sound far and near in the grove; and
when you sit in the broad verandah, lulled by this symphony, you may say
to yourself, if you are able: ‘Better fifty years of Europe . . .’
Farther on, the floor of the valley is flat and green, and dotted here
and there with stripling coco-palms.  Through the midst, with many
changes of music, the river trots and brawls; and along its course, where
we should look for willows, puraos grow in clusters, and make shadowy
pools after an angler’s heart.  A vale more rich and peaceful, sweeter
air, a sweeter voice of rural sounds, I have found nowhere.  One
circumstance alone might strike the experienced: here is a convenient
beach, deep soil, good water, and yet nowhere any paepaes, nowhere any
trace of island habitation.

It is but a few years since this valley was a place choked with jungle,
the debatable land and battle-ground of cannibals.  Two clans laid claim
to it—neither could substantiate the claim, and the roads lay desert, or
were only visited by men in arms.  It is for this very reason that it
wears now so smiling an appearance: cleared, planted, built upon,
supplied with railways, boat-houses, and bath-houses.  For, being no
man’s land, it was the more readily ceded to a stranger.  The stranger
was Captain John Hart: Ima Hati, ‘Broken-arm,’ the natives call him,
because when he first visited the islands his arm was in a sling.
Captain Hart, a man of English birth, but an American subject, had
conceived the idea of cotton culture in the Marquesas during the American
War, and was at first rewarded with success.  His plantation at Anaho was
highly productive; island cotton fetched a high price, and the natives
used to debate which was the stronger power, Ima Hati or the French:
deciding in favour of the captain, because, though the French had the
most ships, he had the more money.

He marked Taahauku for a suitable site, acquired it, and offered the
superintendence to Mr. Robert Stewart, a Fifeshire man, already some time
in the islands, who had just been ruined by a war on Tauata.  Mr. Stewart
was somewhat averse to the adventure, having some acquaintance with
Atuona and its notorious chieftain, Moipu.  He had once landed there, he
told me, about dusk, and found the remains of a man and woman partly
eaten.  On his starting and sickening at the sight, one of Moipu’s young
men picked up a human foot, and provocatively staring at the stranger,
grinned and nibbled at the heel.  None need be surprised if Mr. Stewart
fled incontinently to the bush, lay there all night in a great horror of
mind, and got off to sea again by daylight on the morrow.  ‘It was always
a bad place, Atuona,’ commented Mr. Stewart, in his homely Fifeshire
voice.  In spite of this dire introduction, he accepted the captain’s
offer, was landed at Taahauku with three Chinamen, and proceeded to clear
the jungle.

War was pursued at that time, almost without interval, between the men of
Atuona and the men of Haamau; and one day, from the opposite sides of the
valley, battle—or I should rather say the noise of battle—raged all the
afternoon: the shots and insults of the opposing clans passing from hill
to hill over the heads of Mr. Stewart and his Chinamen.  There was no
genuine fighting; it was like a bicker of schoolboys, only some fool had
given the children guns.  One man died of his exertions in running, the
only casualty.  With night the shots and insults ceased; the men of
Haamau withdrew; and victory, on some occult principle, was scored to
Moipu.  Perhaps, in consequence, there came a day when Moipu made a
feast, and a party from Haamau came under safe-conduct to eat of it.
These passed early by Taahauku, and some of Moipu’s young men were there
to be a guard of honour.  They were not long gone before there came down
from Haamau, a man, his wife, and a girl of twelve, their daughter,
bringing fungus.  Several Atuona lads were hanging round the store; but
the day being one of truce none apprehended danger.  The fungus was
weighed and paid for; the man of Haamau proposed he should have his axe
ground in the bargain; and Mr. Stewart demurring at the trouble, some of
the Atuona lads offered to grind it for him, and set it on the wheel.
While the axe was grinding, a friendly native whispered Mr. Stewart to
have a care of himself, for there was trouble in hand; and, all at once,
the man of Haamau was seized, and his head and arm stricken from his
body, the head at one sweep of his own newly sharpened axe.  In the first
alert, the girl escaped among the cotton; and Mr. Stewart, having thrust
the wife into the house and locked her in from the outside, supposed the
affair was over.  But the business had not passed without noise, and it
reached the ears of an older girl who had loitered by the way, and who
now came hastily down the valley, crying as she came for her father.
Her, too, they seized and beheaded; I know not what they had done with
the axe, it was a blunt knife that served their butcherly turn upon the
girl; and the blood spurted in fountains and painted them from head to
foot.  Thus horrible from crime, the party returned to Atuona, carrying
the heads to Moipu.  It may be fancied how the feast broke up; but it is
notable that the guests were honourably suffered to retire.  These passed
back through Taahauku in extreme disorder; a little after the valley
began to be overrun with shouting and triumphing braves; and a letter of
warning coming at the same time to Mr. Stewart, he and his Chinamen took
refuge with the Protestant missionary in Atuona.  That night the store
was gutted, and the bodies cast in a pit and covered with leaves.  Three
days later the schooner had come in; and things appearing quieter, Mr.
Stewart and the captain landed in Taahauku to compute the damage and to
view the grave, which was already indicated by the stench.  While they
were so employed, a party of Moipu’s young men, decked with red flannel
to indicate martial sentiments, came over the hills from Atuona, dug up
the bodies, washed them in the river, and carried them away on sticks.
That night the feast began.

Those who knew Mr. Stewart before this experience declare the man to be
quite altered.  He stuck, however, to his post; and somewhat later, when
the plantation was already well established, and gave employment to sixty
Chinamen and seventy natives, he found himself once more in dangerous
times.  The men of Haamau, it was reported, had sworn to plunder and
erase the settlement; letters came continually from the Hawaiian
missionary, who acted as intelligence department; and for six weeks Mr.
Stewart and three other whites slept in the cotton-house at night in a
rampart of bales, and (what was their best defence) ostentatiously
practised rifle-shooting by day upon the beach.  Natives were often there
to watch them; the practice was excellent; and the assault was never
delivered—if it ever was intended, which I doubt, for the natives are
more famous for false rumours than for deeds of energy.  I was told the
late French war was a case in point; the tribes on the beach accusing
those in the mountains of designs which they had never the hardihood to
entertain.  And the same testimony to their backwardness in open battle
reached me from all sides.  Captain Hart once landed after an engagement
in a certain bay; one man had his hand hurt, an old woman and two
children had been slain; and the captain improved the occasion by
poulticing the hand, and taunting both sides upon so wretched an affair.
It is true these wars were often merely formal—comparable with duels to
the first blood.  Captain Hart visited a bay where such a war was being
carried on between two brothers, one of whom had been thought wanting in
civility to the guests of the other.  About one-half of the population
served day about on alternate sides, so as to be well with each when the
inevitable peace should follow.  The forts of the belligerents were over
against each other, and close by.  Pigs were cooking.  Well-oiled braves,
with well-oiled muskets, strutted on the paepae or sat down to feast.  No
business, however needful, could be done, and all thoughts were supposed
to be centred in this mockery of war.  A few days later, by a regrettable
accident, a man was killed; it was felt at once the thing had gone too
far, and the quarrel was instantly patched up.  But the more serious wars
were prosecuted in a similar spirit; a gift of pigs and a feast made
their inevitable end; the killing of a single man was a great victory,
and the murder of defenceless solitaries counted a heroic deed.

The foot of the cliffs, about all these islands, is the place of fishing.
Between Taahauku and Atuona we saw men, but chiefly women, some nearly
naked, some in thin white or crimson dresses, perched in little surf-beat
promontories—the brown precipice overhanging them, and the convolvulus
overhanging that, as if to cut them off the more completely from
assistance.  There they would angle much of the morning; and as fast as
they caught any fish, eat them, raw and living, where they stood.  It was
such helpless ones that the warriors from the opposite island of Tauata
slew, and carried home and ate, and were thereupon accounted mighty men
of valour.  Of one such exploit I can give the account of an eye-witness.
‘Portuguese Joe,’ Mr. Keane’s cook, was once pulling an oar in an Atuona
boat, when they spied a stranger in a canoe with some fish and a piece of
tapu.  The Atuona men cried upon him to draw near and have a smoke.  He
complied, because, I suppose, he had no choice; but he knew, poor devil,
what he was coming to, and (as Joe said) ‘he didn’t seem to care about
the smoke.’  A few questions followed, as to where he came from, and what
was his business.  These he must needs answer, as he must needs draw at
the unwelcome pipe, his heart the while drying in his bosom.  And then,
of a sudden, a big fellow in Joe’s boat leaned over, plucked the stranger
from his canoe, struck him with a knife in the neck—inward and downward,
as Joe showed in pantomime more expressive than his words—and held him
under water, like a fowl, until his struggles ceased.  Whereupon the
long-pig was hauled on board, the boat’s head turned about for Atuona,
and these Marquesan braves pulled home rejoicing.  Moipu was on the beach
and rejoiced with them on their arrival.  Poor Joe toiled at his oar that
day with a white face, yet he had no fear for himself.  ‘They were very
good to me—gave me plenty grub: never wished to eat white man,’ said he.

If the most horrible experience was Mr. Stewart’s, it was Captain Hart
himself who ran the nearest danger.  He had bought a piece of land from
Timau, chief of a neighbouring bay, and put some Chinese there to work.
Visiting the station with one of the Godeffroys, he found his Chinamen
trooping to the beach in terror: Timau had driven them out, seized their
effects, and was in war attire with his young men.  A boat was despatched
to Taahauku for reinforcement; as they awaited her return, they could
see, from the deck of the schooner, Timau and his young men dancing the
war-dance on the hill-top till past twelve at night; and so soon as the
boat came (bringing three gendarmes, armed with chassepots, two white men
from Taahauku station, and some native warriors) the party set out to
seize the chief before he should awake.  Day was not come, and it was a
very bright moonlight morning, when they reached the hill-top where (in a
house of palm-leaves) Timau was sleeping off his debauch.  The assailants
were fully exposed, the interior of the hut quite dark; the position far
from sound.  The gendarmes knelt with their pieces ready, and Captain
Hart advanced alone.  As he drew near the door he heard the snap of a gun
cocking from within, and in sheer self-defence—there being no other
escape—sprang into the house and grappled Timau.  ‘Timau, come with me!’
he cried.  But Timau—a great fellow, his eyes blood-red with the abuse of
kava, six foot three in stature—cast him on one side; and the captain,
instantly expecting to be either shot or brained, discharged his pistol
in the dark.  When they carried Timau out at the door into the moonlight,
he was already dead, and, upon this unlooked-for termination of their
sally, the whites appeared to have lost all conduct, and retreated to the
boats, fired upon by the natives as they went.  Captain Hart, who almost
rivals Bishop Dordillon in popularity, shared with him the policy of
extreme indulgence to the natives, regarding them as children, making
light of their defects, and constantly in favour of mild measures.  The
death of Timau has thus somewhat weighed upon his mind; the more so, as
the chieftain’s musket was found in the house unloaded.  To a less
delicate conscience the matter will seem light.  If a drunken savage
elects to cock a fire-arm, a gentleman advancing towards him in the open
cannot wait to make sure if it be charged.

I have touched on the captain’s popularity.  It is one of the things that
most strikes a stranger in the Marquesas.  He comes instantly on two
names, both new to him, both locally famous, both mentioned by all with
affection and respect—the bishop’s and the captain’s.  It gave me a
strong desire to meet with the survivor, which was subsequently
gratified—to the enrichment of these pages.  Long after that again, in
the Place Dolorous—Molokai—I came once more on the traces of that
affectionate popularity.  There was a blind white leper there, an old
sailor—‘an old tough,’ he called himself—who had long sailed among the
eastern islands.  Him I used to visit, and, being fresh from the scenes
of his activity, gave him the news.  This (in the true island style) was
largely a chronicle of wrecks; and it chanced I mentioned the case of one
not very successful captain, and how he had lost a vessel for Mr. Hart;
thereupon the blind leper broke forth in lamentation.  ‘Did he lose a
ship of John Hart’s?’ he cried; ‘poor John Hart!  Well, I’m sorry it was
Hart’s,’ with needless force of epithet, which I neglect to reproduce.

Perhaps, if Captain Hart’s affairs had continued to prosper, his
popularity might have been different.  Success wins glory, but it kills
affection, which misfortune fosters.  And the misfortune which overtook
the captain’s enterprise was truly singular.  He was at the top of his
career.  Ile Masse belonged to him, given by the French as an indemnity
for the robberies at Taahauku.  But the Ile Masse was only suitable for
cattle; and his two chief stations were Anaho, in Nuka-hiva, facing the
north-east, and Taahauku in Hiva-oa, some hundred miles to the southward,
and facing the south-west.  Both these were on the same day swept by a
tidal wave, which was not felt in any other bay or island of the group.
The south coast of Hiva-oa was bestrewn with building timber and
camphor-wood chests, containing goods; which, on the promise of a
reasonable salvage, the natives very honestly brought back, the chests
apparently not opened, and some of the wood after it had been built into
their houses.  But the recovery of such jetsam could not affect the
result.  It was impossible the captain should withstand this partiality
of fortune; and with his fall the prosperity of the Marquesas ended.
Anaho is truly extinct, Taahauku but a shadow of itself; nor has any new
plantation arisen in their stead.



CHAPTER XIII—CHARACTERS


There was a certain traffic in our anchorage at Atuona; different indeed
from the dead inertia and quiescence of the sister island, Nuka-hiva.
Sails were seen steering from its mouth; now it would be a whale-boat
manned with native rowdies, and heavy with copra for sale; now perhaps a
single canoe come after commodities to buy.  The anchorage was besides
frequented by fishers; not only the lone females perched in niches of the
cliff, but whole parties, who would sometimes camp and build a fire upon
the beach, and sometimes lie in their canoes in the midst of the haven
and jump by turns in the water; which they would cast eight or nine feet
high, to drive, as we supposed, the fish into their nets.  The goods the
purchasers came to buy were sometimes quaint.  I remarked one outrigger
returning with a single ham swung from a pole in the stern.  And one day
there came into Mr. Keane’s store a charming lad, excellently mannered,
speaking French correctly though with a babyish accent; very handsome
too, and much of a dandy, as was shown not only in his shining raiment,
but by the nature of his purchases.  These were five ship-biscuits, a
bottle of scent, and two balls of washing blue.  He was from Tauata,
whither he returned the same night in an outrigger, daring the deep with
these young-ladyish treasures.  The gross of the native passengers were
more ill-favoured: tall, powerful fellows, well tattooed, and with
disquieting manners.  Something coarse and jeering distinguished them,
and I was often reminded of the slums of some great city.  One night, as
dusk was falling, a whale-boat put in on that part of the beach where I
chanced to be alone.  Six or seven ruffianly fellows scrambled out; all
had enough English to give me ‘good-bye,’ which was the ordinary
salutation; or ‘good-morning,’ which they seemed to regard as an
intensitive; jests followed, they surrounded me with harsh laughter and
rude looks, and I was glad to move away.  I had not yet encountered Mr.
Stewart, or I should have been reminded of his first landing at Atuona
and the humorist who nibbled at the heel.  But their neighbourhood
depressed me; and I felt, if I had been there a castaway and out of reach
of help, my heart would have been sick.

Nor was the traffic altogether native.  While we lay in the anchorage
there befell a strange coincidence.  A schooner was observed at sea and
aiming to enter.  We knew all the schooners in the group, but this
appeared larger than any; she was rigged, besides, after the English
manner; and, coming to an anchor some way outside the _Casco_, showed at
last the blue ensign.  There were at that time, according to rumour, no
fewer than four yachts in the Pacific; but it was strange that any two of
them should thus lie side by side in that outlandish inlet: stranger
still that in the owner of the _Nyanza_, Captain Dewar, I should find a
man of the same country and the same county with myself, and one whom I
had seen walking as a boy on the shores of the Alpes Maritimes.

We had besides a white visitor from shore, who came and departed in a
crowded whale-boat manned by natives; having read of yachts in the Sunday
papers, and being fired with the desire to see one.  Captain Chase, they
called him, an old whaler-man, thickset and white-bearded, with a strong
Indiana drawl; years old in the country, a good backer in battle, and one
of those dead shots whose practice at the target struck terror in the
braves of Haamau.  Captain Chase dwelt farther east in a bay called
Hanamate, with a Mr. M’Callum; or rather they had dwelt together once,
and were now amicably separated.  The captain is to be found near one end
of the bay, in a wreck of a house, and waited on by a Chinese.  At the
point of the opposing corner another habitation stands on a tall paepae.
The surf runs there exceeding heavy, seas of seven and eight feet high
bursting under the walls of the house, which is thus continually filled
with their clamour, and rendered fit only for solitary, or at least for
silent, inmates.  Here it is that Mr. M’Callum, with a Shakespeare and a
Burns, enjoys the society of the breakers.  His name and his Burns
testify to Scottish blood; but he is an American born, somewhere far
east; followed the trade of a ship-carpenter; and was long employed, the
captain of a hundred Indians, breaking up wrecks about Cape Flattery.
Many of the whites who are to be found scattered in the South Seas
represent the more artistic portion of their class; and not only enjoy
the poetry of that new life, but came there on purpose to enjoy it.  I
have been shipmates with a man, no longer young, who sailed upon that
voyage, his first time to sea, for the mere love of Samoa; and it was a
few letters in a newspaper that sent him on that pilgrimage.  Mr.
M’Callum was another instance of the same.  He had read of the South
Seas; loved to read of them; and let their image fasten in his heart:
till at length he could refrain no longer—must set forth, a new Rudel,
for that unseen homeland—and has now dwelt for years in Hiva-oa, and will
lay his bones there in the end with full content; having no desire to
behold again the places of his boyhood, only, perhaps—once, before he
dies—the rude and wintry landscape of Cape Flattery.  Yet he is an active
man, full of schemes; has bought land of the natives; has planted five
thousand coco-palms; has a desert island in his eye, which he desires to
lease, and a schooner in the stocks, which he has laid and built himself,
and even hopes to finish.  Mr. M’Callum and I did not meet, but, like
gallant troubadours, corresponded in verse.  I hope he will not consider
it a breach of copyright if I give here a specimen of his muse.  He and
Bishop Dordillon are the two European bards of the Marquesas.

    ‘Sail, ho!  Ahoy!  _Casco_,
       First among the pleasure fleet
       That came around to greet
    These isles from San Francisco,

    And first, too; only one
       Among the literary men
       That this way has ever been—
    Welcome, then, to Stevenson.

    Please not offended be
       At this little notice
       Of the _Casco_, Captain Otis,
    With the novelist’s family.

    _Avoir une voyage magnifical_
       Is our wish sincere,
       That you’ll have from here
    _Allant sur la Grande Pacifical_.’

But our chief visitor was one Mapiao, a great Tahuku—which seems to mean
priest, wizard, tattooer, practiser of any art, or, in a word, esoteric
person—and a man famed for his eloquence on public occasions and witty
talk in private.  His first appearance was typical of the man.  He came
down clamorous to the eastern landing, where the surf was running very
high; scorned all our signals to go round the bay; carried his point, was
brought aboard at some hazard to our skiff, and set down in one corner of
the cockpit to his appointed task.  He had been hired, as one cunning in
the art, to make my old men’s beards into a wreath: what a wreath for
Celia’s arbour!  His own beard (which he carried, for greater safety, in
a sailor’s knot) was not merely the adornment of his age, but a
substantial piece of property.  One hundred dollars was the estimated
value; and as Brother Michel never knew a native to deposit a greater sum
with Bishop Dordillon, our friend was a rich man in virtue of his chin.
He had something of an East Indian cast, but taller and stronger: his
nose hooked, his face narrow, his forehead very high, the whole
elaborately tattooed.  I may say I have never entertained a guest so
trying.  In the least particular he must be waited on; he would not go to
the scuttle-butt for water; he would not even reach to get the glass, it
must be given him in his hand; if aid were denied him, he would fold his
arms, bow his head, and go without: only the work would suffer.  Early
the first forenoon he called aloud for biscuit and salmon; biscuit and
ham were brought; he looked on them inscrutably, and signed they should
be set aside.  A number of considerations crowded on my mind; how the
sort of work on which he was engaged was probably tapu in a high degree;
should by rights, perhaps, be transacted on a tapu platform which no
female might approach; and it was possible that fish might be the
essential diet.  Some salted fish I therefore brought him, and along with
that a glass of rum: at sight of which Mapiao displayed extraordinary
animation, pointed to the zenith, made a long speech in which I picked up
_umati_—the word for the sun—and signed to me once more to place these
dainties out of reach.  At last I had understood, and every day the
programme was the same.  At an early period of the morning his dinner
must be set forth on the roof of the house and at a proper distance, full
in view but just out of reach; and not until the fit hour, which was the
point of noon, would the artificer partake.  This solemnity was the cause
of an absurd misadventure.  He was seated plaiting, as usual, at the
beards, his dinner arrayed on the roof, and not far off a glass of water
standing.  It appears he desired to drink; was of course far too great a
gentleman to rise and get the water for himself; and spying Mrs.
Stevenson, imperiously signed to her to hand it.  The signal was
misunderstood; Mrs. Stevenson was, by this time, prepared for any
eccentricity on the part of our guest; and instead of passing him the
water, flung his dinner overboard.  I must do Mapiao justice: all
laughed, but his laughter rang the loudest.

These troubles of service were at worst occasional; the embarrassment of
the man’s talk incessant.  He was plainly a practised conversationalist;
the nicety of his inflections, the elegance of his gestures, and the fine
play of his expression, told us that.  We, meanwhile, sat like aliens in
a playhouse; we could see the actors were upon some material business and
performing well, but the plot of the drama remained undiscoverable.
Names of places, the name of Captain Hart, occasional disconnected words,
tantalised without enlightening us; and the less we understood, the more
gallantly, the more copiously, and with still the more explanatory
gestures, Mapiao returned to the assault.  We could see his vanity was on
the rack; being come to a place where that fine jewel of his
conversational talent could earn him no respect; and he had times of
despair when he desisted from the endeavour, and instants of irritation
when he regarded us with unconcealed contempt.  Yet for me, as the
practitioner of some kindred mystery to his own, he manifested to the
last a measure of respect.  As we sat under the awning in opposite
corners of the cockpit, he braiding hairs from dead men’s chins, I
forming runes upon a sheet of folio paper, he would nod across to me as
one Tahuku to another, or, crossing the cockpit, study for a while my
shapeless scrawl and encourage me with a heartfelt ‘_mitai_!—good!’  So
might a deaf painter sympathise far off with a musician, as the slave and
master of some uncomprehended and yet kindred art.  A silly trade, he
doubtless considered it; but a man must make allowance for
barbarians—_chaque pays a ses coutumes_—and he felt the principle was
there.

The time came at last when his labours, which resembled those rather of
Penelope than Hercules, could be no more spun out, and nothing remained
but to pay him and say farewell.  After a long, learned argument in
Marquesan, I gathered that his mind was set on fish-hooks; with three of
which, and a brace of dollars, I thought he was not ill rewarded for
passing his forenoons in our cockpit, eating, drinking, delivering his
opinions, and pressing the ship’s company into his menial service.  For
all that, he was a man of so high a bearing, and so like an uncle of my
own who should have gone mad and got tattooed, that I applied to him,
when we were both on shore, to know if he were satisfied.  ‘_Mitai
ehipe_?’ I asked.  And he, with rich unction, offering at the same time
his hand—‘_Mitai ehipe_, _mitai kaehae_; _kaoha nui_!’—or, to translate
freely: ‘The ship is good, the victuals are up to the mark, and we part
in friendship.’  Which testimonial uttered, he set off along the beach
with his head bowed and the air of one deeply injured.

I saw him go, on my side, with relief.  It would be more interesting to
learn how our relation seemed to Mapiao.  His exigence, we may suppose,
was merely loyal.  He had been hired by the ignorant to do a piece of
work; and he was bound that he would do it the right way.  Countless
obstacles, continual ignorant ridicule, availed not to dissuade him.  He
had his dinner laid out; watched it, as was fit, the while he worked; ate
it at the fit hour; was in all things served and waited on; and could
take his hire in the end with a clear conscience, telling himself the
mystery was performed duly, the beards rightfully braided, and we (in
spite of ourselves) correctly served.  His view of our stupidity, even
he, the mighty talker, must have lacked language to express.  He never
interfered with my Tahuku work; civilly praised it, idle as it seemed;
civilly supposed that I was competent in my own mystery: such being the
attitude of the intelligent and the polite.  And we, on the other
hand—who had yet the most to gain or lose, since the product was to be
ours—who had professed our disability by the very act of hiring him to do
it—were never weary of impeding his own more important labours, and
sometimes lacked the sense and the civility to refrain from laughter.



CHAPTER XIV—IN A CANNIBAL VALLEY


The road from Taahauku to Atuona skirted the north-westerly side of the
anchorage, somewhat high up, edged, and sometimes shaded, by the splendid
flowers of the _flamboyant_—its English name I do not know.  At the turn
of the hand, Atuona came in view: a long beach, a heavy and loud breach
of surf, a shore-side village scattered among trees, and the guttered
mountains drawing near on both sides above a narrow and rich ravine.  Its
infamous repute perhaps affected me; but I thought it the loveliest, and
by far the most ominous and gloomy, spot on earth.  Beautiful it surely
was; and even more salubrious.  The healthfulness of the whole group is
amazing; that of Atuona almost in the nature of a miracle.  In Atuona, a
village planted in a shore-side marsh, the houses standing everywhere
intermingled with the pools of a taro-garden, we find every condition of
tropical danger and discomfort; and yet there are not even mosquitoes—not
even the hateful day-fly of Nuka-hiva—and fever, and its concomitant, the
island fe’efe’e, {122} are unknown.

This is the chief station of the French on the man-eating isle of
Hiva-oa.  The sergeant of gendarmerie enjoys the style of the
vice-resident, and hoists the French colours over a quite extensive
compound.  A Chinaman, a waif from the plantation, keeps a restaurant in
the rear quarters of the village; and the mission is well represented by
the sister’s school and Brother Michel’s church.  Father Orens, a
wonderful octogenarian, his frame scarce bowed, the fire of his eye
undimmed, has lived, and trembled, and suffered in this place since 1843.
Again and again, when Moipu had made coco-brandy, he has been driven from
his house into the woods.  ‘A mouse that dwelt in a cat’s ear’ had a more
easy resting-place; and yet I have never seen a man that bore less mark
of years.  He must show us the church, still decorated with the bishop’s
artless ornaments of paper—the last work of industrious old hands, and
the last earthly amusement of a man that was much of a hero.  In the
sacristy we must see his sacred vessels, and, in particular, a vestment
which was a ‘_vraie curiosité_,’ because it had been given by a gendarme.
To the Protestant there is always something embarrassing in the eagerness
with which grown and holy men regard these trifles; but it was touching
and pretty to see Orens, his aged eyes shining in his head, display his
sacred treasures.

_August_ 26.—The vale behind the village, narrowing swiftly to a mere
ravine, was choked with profitable trees.  A river gushed in the midst.
Overhead, the tall coco-palms made a primary covering; above that, from
one wall of the mountain to another, the ravine was roofed with cloud; so
that we moved below, amid teeming vegetation, in a covered house of heat.
On either hand, at every hundred yards, instead of the houseless,
disembowelling paepaes of Nuka-hiva, populous houses turned out their
inhabitants to cry ‘Kaoha!’ to the passers-by.  The road, too, was busy:
strings of girls, fair and foul, as in less favoured countries; men
bearing breadfruit; the sisters, with a little guard of pupils; a fellow
bestriding a horse—passed and greeted us continually; and now it was a
Chinaman who came to the gate of his flower-yard, and gave us ‘Good-day’
in excellent English; and a little farther on it would be some natives
who set us down by the wayside, made us a feast of mummy-apple, and
entertained us as we ate with drumming on a tin case.  With all this fine
plenty of men and fruit, death is at work here also.  The population,
according to the highest estimate, does not exceed six hundred in the
whole vale of Atuona; and yet, when I once chanced to put the question,
Brother Michel counted up ten whom he knew to be sick beyond recovery.
It was here, too, that I could at last gratify my curiosity with the
sight of a native house in the very article of dissolution.  It had
fallen flat along the paepae, its poles sprawling ungainly; the rains and
the mites contended against it; what remained seemed sound enough, but
much was gone already; and it was easy to see how the insects consumed
the walls as if they had been bread, and the air and the rain ate into
them like vitriol.

A little ahead of us, a young gentleman, very well tattooed, and dressed
in a pair of white trousers and a flannel shirt, had been marching
unconcernedly.  Of a sudden, without apparent cause, he turned back, took
us in possession, and led us undissuadably along a by-path to the river’s
edge.  There, in a nook of the most attractive amenity, he bade us to sit
down: the stream splashing at our elbow, a shock of nondescript greenery
enshrining us from above; and thither, after a brief absence, he brought
us a cocoa-nut, a lump of sandal-wood, and a stick he had begun to carve:
the nut for present refreshment, the sandal-wood for a precious gift, and
the stick—in the simplicity of his vanity—to harvest premature praise.
Only one section was yet carved, although the whole was pencil-marked in
lengths; and when I proposed to buy it, Poni (for that was the artist’s
name) recoiled in horror.  But I was not to be moved, and simply refused
restitution, for I had long wondered why a people who displayed, in their
tattooing, so great a gift of arabesque invention, should display it
nowhere else.  Here, at last, I had found something of the same talent in
another medium; and I held the incompleteness, in these days of
world-wide brummagem, for a happy mark of authenticity.  Neither my
reasons nor my purpose had I the means of making clear to Poni; I could
only hold on to the stick, and bid the artist follow me to the
gendarmerie, where I should find interpreters and money; but we gave him,
in the meanwhile, a boat-call in return for his sandal-wood.  As he came
behind us down the vale he sounded upon this continually.  And
continually, from the wayside houses, there poured forth little groups of
girls in crimson, or of men in white.  And to these must Poni pass the
news of who the strangers were, of what they had been doing, of why it
was that Poni had a boat-whistle; and of why he was now being haled to
the vice-residency, uncertain whether to be punished or rewarded,
uncertain whether he had lost a stick or made a bargain, but hopeful on
the whole, and in the meanwhile highly consoled by the boat-whistle.
Whereupon he would tear himself away from this particular group of
inquirers, and once more we would hear the shrill call in our wake.

_August_ 27.—I made a more extended circuit in the vale with Brother
Michel.  We were mounted on a pair of sober nags, suitable to these rude
paths; the weather was exquisite, and the company in which I found myself
no less agreeable than the scenes through which I passed.  We mounted at
first by a steep grade along the summit of one of those twisted spurs
that, from a distance, mark out provinces of sun and shade upon the
mountain-side.  The ground fell away on either hand with an extreme
declivity.  From either hand, out of profound ravines, mounted the song
of falling water and the smoke of household fires.  Here and there the
hills of foliage would divide, and our eye would plunge down upon one of
these deep-nested habitations.  And still, high in front, arose the
precipitous barrier of the mountain, greened over where it seemed that
scarce a harebell could find root, barred with the zigzags of a human
road where it seemed that not a goat could scramble.  And in truth, for
all the labour that it cost, the road is regarded even by the Marquesans
as impassable; they will not risk a horse on that ascent; and those who
lie to the westward come and go in their canoes.  I never knew a hill to
lose so little on a near approach: a consequence, I must suppose, of its
surprising steepness.  When we turned about, I was amazed to behold so
deep a view behind, and so high a shoulder of blue sea, crowned by the
whale-like island of Motane.  And yet the wall of mountain had not
visibly dwindled, and I could even have fancied, as I raised my eyes to
measure it, that it loomed higher than before.

We struck now into covert paths, crossed and heard more near at hand the
bickering of the streams, and tasted the coolness of those recesses where
the houses stood.  The birds sang about us as we descended.  All along
our path my guide was being hailed by voices: ‘Mikaël—Kaoha, Mikaël!’
From the doorstep, from the cotton-patch, or out of the deep grove of
island-chestnuts, these friendly cries arose, and were cheerily answered
as we passed.  In a sharp angle of a glen, on a rushing brook and under
fathoms of cool foliage, we struck a house upon a well-built paepae, the
fire brightly burning under the popoi-shed against the evening meal; and
here the cries became a chorus, and the house folk, running out, obliged
us to dismount and breathe.  It seemed a numerous family: we saw eight at
least; and one of these honoured me with a particular attention.  This
was the mother, a woman naked to the waist, of an aged countenance, but
with hair still copious and black, and breasts still erect and youthful.
On our arrival I could see she remarked me, but instead of offering any
greeting, disappeared at once into the bush.  Thence she returned with
two crimson flowers.  ‘Good-bye!’ was her salutation, uttered not without
coquetry; and as she said it she pressed the flowers into my
hand—‘Good-bye!  I speak Inglis.’  It was from a whaler-man, who (she
informed me) was ‘a plenty good chap,’ that she had learned my language;
and I could not but think how handsome she must have been in these times
of her youth, and could not but guess that some memories of the dandy
whaler-man prompted her attentions to myself.  Nor could I refrain from
wondering what had befallen her lover; in the rain and mire of what
sea-ports he had tramped since then; in what close and garish
drinking-dens had found his pleasure; and in the ward of what infirmary
dreamed his last of the Marquesas.  But she, the more fortunate, lived on
in her green island.  The talk, in this lost house upon the mountains,
ran chiefly upon Mapiao and his visits to the _Casco_: the news of which
had probably gone abroad by then to all the island, so that there was no
paepae in Hiva-oa where they did not make the subject of excited comment.

Not much beyond we came upon a high place in the foot of the ravine.  Two
roads divided it, and met in the midst.  Save for this intersection the
amphitheatre was strangely perfect, and had a certain ruder air of things
Roman.  Depths of foliage and the bulk of the mountain kept it in a
grateful shadow.  On the benches several young folk sat clustered or
apart.  One of these, a girl perhaps fourteen years of age, buxom and
comely, caught the eye of Brother Michel.  Why was she not at school?—she
was done with school now.  What was she doing here?—she lived here now.
Why so?—no answer but a deepening blush.  There was no severity in
Brother Michel’s manner; the girl’s own confusion told her story.  ‘_Elle
a honte_,’ was the missionary’s comment, as we rode away.  Near by in the
stream, a grown girl was bathing naked in a goyle between two
stepping-stones; and it amused me to see with what alacrity and real
alarm she bounded on her many-coloured under-clothes.  Even in these
daughters of cannibals shame was eloquent.

It is in Hiva-oa, owing to the inveterate cannibalism of the natives,
that local beliefs have been most rudely trodden underfoot.  It was here
that three religious chiefs were set under a bridge, and the women of the
valley made to defile over their heads upon the road-way: the poor,
dishonoured fellows sitting there (all observers agree) with streaming
tears.  Not only was one road driven across the high place, but two roads
intersected in its midst.  There is no reason to suppose that the last
was done of purpose, and perhaps it was impossible entirely to avoid the
numerous sacred places of the islands.  But these things are not done
without result.  I have spoken already of the regard of Marquesans for
the dead, making (as it does) so strange a contrast with their unconcern
for death.  Early on this day’s ride, for instance, we encountered a
petty chief, who inquired (of course) where we were going, and suggested
by way of amendment.  ‘Why do you not rather show him the cemetery?’  I
saw it; it was but newly opened, the third within eight years.  They are
great builders here in Hiva-oa; I saw in my ride paepaes that no European
dry-stone mason could have equalled, the black volcanic stones were laid
so justly, the corners were so precise, the levels so true; but the
retaining-wall of the new graveyard stood apart, and seemed to be a work
of love.  The sentiment of honour for the dead is therefore not extinct.
And yet observe the consequence of violently countering men’s opinions.
Of the four prisoners in Atuona gaol, three were of course thieves; the
fourth was there for sacrilege.  He had levelled up a piece of the
graveyard—to give a feast upon, as he informed the court—and declared he
had no thought of doing wrong.  Why should he?  He had been forced at the
point of the bayonet to destroy the sacred places of his own piety; when
he had recoiled from the task, he had been jeered at for a superstitious
fool.  And now it is supposed he will respect our European superstitions
as by second nature.



CHAPTER XV—THE TWO CHIEFS OF ATUONA


It had chanced (as the _Casco_ beat through the Bordelais Straits for
Taahauku) she approached on one board very near the land in the opposite
isle of Tauata, where houses were to be seen in a grove of tall
coco-palms.  Brother Michel pointed out the spot.  ‘I am at home now,’
said he.  ‘I believe I have a large share in these cocoa-nuts; and in
that house madame my mother lives with her two husbands!’  ‘With two
husbands?’ somebody inquired.  ‘_C’est ma honte_,’ replied the brother
drily.

A word in passing on the two husbands.  I conceive the brother to have
expressed himself loosely.  It seems common enough to find a native lady
with two consorts; but these are not two husbands.  The first is still
the husband; the wife continues to be referred to by his name; and the
position of the coadjutor, or _pikio_, although quite regular, appears
undoubtedly subordinate.  We had opportunities to observe one household
of the sort.  The _pikio_ was recognised; appeared openly along with the
husband when the lady was thought to be insulted, and the pair made
common cause like brothers.  At home the inequality was more apparent.
The husband sat to receive and entertain visitors; the _pikio_ was
running the while to fetch cocoa-nuts like a hired servant, and I
remarked he was sent on these errands in preference even to the son.
Plainly we have here no second husband; plainly we have the tolerated
lover.  Only, in the Marquesas, instead of carrying his lady’s fan and
mantle, he must turn his hand to do the husband’s housework.

The sight of Brother Michel’s family estate led the conversation for some
while upon the method and consequence of artificial kinship.  Our
curiosity became extremely whetted; the brother offered to have the whole
of us adopted, and some two days later we became accordingly the children
of Paaaeua, appointed chief of Atuona.  I was unable to be present at the
ceremony, which was primitively simple.  The two Mrs. Stevensons and Mr.
Osbourne, along with Paaaeua, his wife, and an adopted child of theirs,
son of a shipwrecked Austrian, sat down to an excellent island meal, of
which the principal and the only necessary dish was pig.  A concourse
watched them through the apertures of the house; but none, not even
Brother Michel, might partake; for the meal was sacramental, and either
creative or declaratory of the new relationship.  In Tahiti things are
not so strictly ordered; when Ori and I ‘made brothers,’ both our
families sat with us at table, yet only he and I, who had eaten with
intention were supposed to be affected by the ceremony.  For the adoption
of an infant I believe no formality to be required; the child is handed
over by the natural parents, and grows up to inherit the estates of the
adoptive.  Presents are doubtless exchanged, as at all junctures of
island life, social or international; but I never heard of any
banquet—the child’s presence at the daily board perhaps sufficing.  We
may find the rationale in the ancient Arabian idea that a common diet
makes a common blood, with its derivative axiom that ‘he is the father
who gives the child its morning draught.’  In the Marquesan practice, the
sense would thus be evanescent; from the Tahitian, a mere survival, it
will have entirely fled.  An interesting parallel will probably occur to
many of my readers.

What is the nature of the obligation assumed at such a festival?  It will
vary with the characters of those engaged, and with the circumstances of
the case.  Thus it would be absurd to take too seriously our adoption at
Atuona.  On the part of Paaaeua it was an affair of social ambition; when
he agreed to receive us in his family the man had not so much as seen us,
and knew only that we were inestimably rich and travelled in a floating
palace.  We, upon our side, ate of his baked meats with no true _animus
affiliandi_, but moved by the single sentiment of curiosity.  The affair
was formal, and a matter of parade, as when in Europe sovereigns call
each other cousin.  Yet, had we stayed at Atuona, Paaaeua would have held
himself bound to establish us upon his land, and to set apart young men
for our service, and trees for our support.  I have mentioned the
Austrian.  He sailed in one of two sister ships, which left the Clyde in
coal; both rounded the Horn, and both, at several hundred miles of
distance, though close on the same point of time, took fire at sea on the
Pacific.  One was destroyed; the derelict iron frame of the second, after
long, aimless cruising, was at length recovered, refitted, and hails
to-day from San Francisco.  A boat’s crew from one of these disasters
reached, after great hardships, the isle of Hiva-oa.  Some of these men
vowed they would never again confront the chances of the sea; but alone
of them all the Austrian has been exactly true to his engagement, remains
where he landed, and designs to die where he has lived.  Now, with such a
man, falling and taking root among islanders, the processes described may
be compared to a gardener’s graft.  He passes bodily into the native
stock; ceases wholly to be alien; has entered the commune of the blood,
shares the prosperity and consideration of his new family, and is
expected to impart with the same generosity the fruits of his European
skill and knowledge.  It is this implied engagement that so frequently
offends the ingrafted white.  To snatch an immediate advantage—to get
(let us say) a station for his store—he will play upon the native custom
and become a son or a brother for the day, promising himself to cast down
the ladder by which he shall have ascended, and repudiate the kinship so
soon as it shall grow burdensome.  And he finds there are two parties to
the bargain.  Perhaps his Polynesian relative is simple, and conceived
the blood-bond literally; perhaps he is shrewd, and himself entered the
covenant with a view to gain.  And either way the store is ravaged, the
house littered with lazy natives; and the richer the man grows, the more
numerous, the more idle, and the more affectionate he finds his native
relatives.  Most men thus circumstanced contrive to buy or brutally
manage to enforce their independence; but many vegetate without hope,
strangled by parasites.

We had no cause to blush with Brother Michel.  Our new parents were kind,
gentle, well-mannered, and generous in gifts; the wife was a most
motherly woman, the husband a man who stood justly high with his
employers.  Enough has been said to show why Moipu should be deposed; and
in Paaaeua the French had found a reputable substitute.  He went always
scrupulously dressed, and looked the picture of propriety, like a dark,
handsome, stupid, and probably religious young man hot from a European
funeral.  In character he seemed the ideal of what is known as the good
citizen.  He wore gravity like an ornament.  None could more nicely
represent the desired character as an appointed chief, the outpost of
civilisation and reform.  And yet, were the French to go and native
manners to revive, fancy beholds him crowned with old men’s beards and
crowding with the first to a man-eating festival.  But I must not seem to
be unjust to Paaaeua.  His respectability went deeper than the skin; his
sense of the becoming sometimes nerved him for unexpected rigours.

One evening Captain Otis and Mr. Osbourne were on shore in the village.
All was agog; dancing had begun; it was plain it was to be a night of
festival, and our adventurers were overjoyed at their good fortune.  A
strong fall of rain drove them for shelter to the house of Paaaeua, where
they were made welcome, wiled into a chamber, and shut in.  Presently the
rain took off, the fun was to begin in earnest, and the young bloods of
Atuona came round the house and called to my fellow-travellers through
the interstices of the wall.  Late into the night the calls were
continued and resumed, and sometimes mingled with taunts; late into the
night the prisoners, tantalised by the noises of the festival, renewed
their efforts to escape.  But all was vain; right across the door lay
that god-fearing householder, Paaaeua, feigning sleep; and my friends had
to forego their junketing.  In this incident, so delightfully European,
we thought we could detect three strands of sentiment.  In the first
place, Paaaeua had a charge of souls: these were young men, and he judged
it right to withhold them from the primrose path.  Secondly, he was a
public character, and it was not fitting that his guests should
countenance a festival of which he disapproved.  So might some strict
clergyman at home address a worldly visitor: ‘Go to the theatre if you
like, but, by your leave, not from my house!’  Thirdly, Paaaeua was a man
jealous, and with some cause (as shall be shown) for jealousy; and the
feasters were the satellites of his immediate rival, Moipu.

For the adoption had caused much excitement in the village; it made the
strangers popular.  Paaaeua, in his difficult posture of appointed chief,
drew strength and dignity from their alliance, and only Moipu and his
followers were malcontent.  For some reason nobody (except myself)
appears to dislike Moipu.  Captain Hart, who has been robbed and
threatened by him; Father Orens, whom he has fired at, and repeatedly
driven to the woods; my own family, and even the French officials—all
seemed smitten with an irrepressible affection for the man.  His fall had
been made soft; his son, upon his death, was to succeed Paaaeua in the
chieftaincy; and he lived, at the time of our visit, in the shoreward
part of the village in a good house, and with a strong following of young
men, his late braves and pot-hunters.  In this society, the coming of the
_Casco_, the adoption, the return feast on board, and the presents
exchanged between the whites and their new parents, were doubtless
eagerly and bitterly canvassed.  It was felt that a few years ago the
honours would have gone elsewhere.  In this unwonted business, in this
reception of some hitherto undreamed-of and outlandish potentate—some
Prester John or old Assaracus—a few years back it would have been the
part of Moipu to play the hero and the host, and his young men would have
accompanied and adorned the various celebrations as the acknowledged
leaders of society.  And now, by a malign vicissitude of fortune, Moipu
must sit in his house quite unobserved; and his young men could but look
in at the door while their rivals feasted.  Perhaps M. Grévy felt a touch
of bitterness towards his successor when he beheld him figure on the
broad stage of the centenary of eighty-nine; the visit of the _Casco_
which Moipu had missed by so few years was a more unusual occasion in
Atuona than a centenary in France; and the dethroned chief determined to
reassert himself in the public eye.

Mr. Osbourne had gone into Atuona photographing; the population of the
village had gathered together for the occasion on the place before the
church, and Paaaeua, highly delighted with this new appearance of his
family, played the master of ceremonies.  The church had been taken, with
its jolly architect before the door; the nuns with their pupils; sundry
damsels in the ancient and singularly unbecoming robes of tapa; and
Father Orens in the midst of a group of his parishioners.  I know not
what else was in hand, when the photographer became aware of a sensation
in the crowd, and, looking around, beheld a very noble figure of a man
appear upon the margin of a thicket and stroll nonchalantly near.  The
nonchalance was visibly affected; it was plain he came there to arouse
attention, and his success was instant.  He was introduced; he was civil,
he was obliging, he was always ineffably superior and certain of himself;
a well-graced actor.  It was presently suggested that he should appear in
his war costume; he gracefully consented; and returned in that strange,
inappropriate and ill-omened array (which very well became his handsome
person) to strut in a circle of admirers, and be thenceforth the centre
of photography.  Thus had Moipu effected his introduction, as by
accident, to the white strangers, made it a favour to display his finery,
and reduced his rival to a secondary _rôle_ on the theatre of the
disputed village.  Paaaeua felt the blow; and, with a spirit which we
never dreamed he could possess, asserted his priority.  It was found
impossible that day to get a photograph of Moipu alone; for whenever he
stood up before the camera his successor placed himself unbidden by his
side, and gently but firmly held to his position.  The portraits of the
pair, Jacob and Esau, standing shoulder to shoulder, one in his careful
European dress, one in his barbaric trappings, figure the past and
present of their island.  A graveyard with its humble crosses would be
the aptest symbol of the future.

We are all impressed with the belief that Moipu had planned his campaign
from the beginning to the end.  It is certain that he lost no time in
pushing his advantage.  Mr. Osbourne was inveigled to his house; various
gifts were fished out of an old sea-chest; Father Orens was called into
service as interpreter, and Moipu formally proposed to ‘make brothers’
with Mata-Galahi—Glass-Eyes,—the not very euphonious name under which Mr.
Osbourne passed in the Marquesas.  The feast of brotherhood took place on
board the _Casco_.  Paaaeua had arrived with his family, like a plain
man; and his presents, which had been numerous, had followed one another,
at intervals through several days.  Moipu, as if to mark at every point
the opposition, came with a certain feudal pomp, attended by retainers
bearing gifts of all descriptions, from plumes of old men’s beard to
little, pious, Catholic engravings.

I had met the man before this in the village, and detested him on sight;
there was something indescribably raffish in his looks and ways that
raised my gorge; and when man-eating was referred to, and he laughed a
low, cruel laugh, part boastful, part bashful, like one reminded of some
dashing peccadillo, my repugnance was mingled with nausea.  This is no
very human attitude, nor one at all becoming in a traveller.  And, seen
more privately, the man improved.  Something negroid in character and
face was still displeasing; but his ugly mouth became attractive when he
smiled, his figure and bearing were certainly noble, and his eyes superb.
In his appreciation of jams and pickles, in is delight in the
reverberating mirrors of the dining cabin, and consequent endless
repetition of Moipus and Mata-Galahis, he showed himself engagingly a
child.  And yet I am not sure; and what seemed childishness may have been
rather courtly art.  His manners struck me as beyond the mark; they were
refined and caressing to the point of grossness, and when I think of the
serene absent-mindedness with which he first strolled in upon our party,
and then recall him running on hands and knees along the cabin sofas,
pawing the velvet, dipping into the beds, and bleating commendatory
‘_mitais_’ with exaggerated emphasis, like some enormous over-mannered
ape, I feel the more sure that both must have been calculated.  And I
sometimes wonder next, if Moipu were quite alone in this polite
duplicity, and ask myself whether the _Casco_ were quite so much admired
in the Marquesas as our visitors desired us to suppose.

I will complete this sketch of an incurable cannibal grandee with two
incongruous traits.  His favourite morsel was the human hand, of which he
speaks to-day with an ill-favoured lustfulness.  And when he said
good-bye to Mrs. Stevenson, holding her hand, viewing her with tearful
eyes, and chanting his farewell improvisation in the falsetto of
Marquesan high society, he wrote upon her mind a sentimental impression
which I try in vain to share.



PART II: THE PAUMOTUS


CHAPTER I—THE DANGEROUS ARCHIPELAGO—ATOLLS AT A DISTANCE


In the early morning of 4th September a whale-boat manned by natives
dragged us down the green lane of the anchorage and round the spouting
promontory.  On the shore level it was a hot, breathless, and yet crystal
morning; but high overhead the hills of Atuona were all cowled in cloud,
and the ocean-river of the trades streamed without pause.  As we crawled
from under the immediate shelter of the land, we reached at last the
limit of their influence.  The wind fell upon our sails in puffs, which
strengthened and grew more continuous; presently the _Casco_ heeled down
to her day’s work; the whale-boat, quite outstripped, clung for a noisy
moment to her quarter; the stipulated bread, rum, and tobacco were passed
in; a moment more and the boat was in our wake, and our late pilots were
cheering our departure.

This was the more inspiriting as we were bound for scenes so different,
and though on a brief voyage, yet for a new province of creation.  That
wide field of ocean, called loosely the South Seas, extends from tropic
to tropic, and from perhaps 123 degrees W. to 150 degrees E., a
parallelogram of one hundred degrees by forty-seven, where degrees are
the most spacious.  Much of it lies vacant, much is closely sown with
isles, and the isles are of two sorts.  No distinction is so continually
dwelt upon in South Sea talk as that between the ‘low’ and the ‘high’
island, and there is none more broadly marked in nature.  The Himalayas
are not more different from the Sahara.  On the one hand, and chiefly in
groups of from eight to a dozen, volcanic islands rise above the sea; few
reach an altitude of less than 4000 feet; one exceeds 13,000; their tops
are often obscured in cloud, they are all clothed with various forests,
all abound in food, and are all remarkable for picturesque and solemn
scenery.  On the other hand, we have the atoll; a thing of problematic
origin and history, the reputed creature of an insect apparently
unidentified; rudely annular in shape; enclosing a lagoon; rarely
extending beyond a quarter of a mile at its chief width; often rising at
its highest point to less than the stature of a man—man himself, the rat
and the land crab, its chief inhabitants; not more variously supplied
with plants; and offering to the eye, even when perfect, only a ring of
glittering beach and verdant foliage, enclosing and enclosed by the blue
sea.

In no quarter are the atolls so thickly congregated, in none are they so
varied in size from the greatest to the least, and in none is navigation
so beset with perils, as in that archipelago that we were now to thread.
The huge system of the trades is, for some reason, quite confounded by
this multiplicity of reefs, the wind intermits, squalls are frequent from
the west and south-west, hurricanes are known.  The currents are,
besides, inextricably intermixed; dead reckoning becomes a farce; the
charts are not to be trusted; and such is the number and similarity of
these islands that, even when you have picked one up, you may be none the
wiser.  The reputation of the place is consequently infamous; insurance
offices exclude it from their field, and it was not without misgiving
that my captain risked the _Casco_ in such waters.  I believe, indeed, it
is almost understood that yachts are to avoid this baffling archipelago;
and it required all my instances—and all Mr. Otis’s private taste for
adventure—to deflect our course across its midst.

For a few days we sailed with a steady trade, and a steady westerly
current setting us to leeward; and toward sundown of the seventh it was
supposed we should have sighted Takaroa, one of Cook’s so-called King
George Islands.  The sun set; yet a while longer the old
moon—semi-brilliant herself, and with a silver belly, which was her
successor—sailed among gathering clouds; she, too, deserted us; stars of
every degree of sheen, and clouds of every variety of form disputed the
sub-lustrous night; and still we gazed in vain for Takaroa.  The mate
stood on the bowsprit, his tall grey figure slashing up and down against
the stars, and still

             ‘nihil astra praeter
    Vidit et undas.

The rest of us were grouped at the port anchor davit, staring with no
less assiduity, but with far less hope on the obscure horizon.  Islands
we beheld in plenty, but they were of ‘such stuff as dreams are made on,’
and vanished at a wink, only to appear in other places; and by and by not
only islands, but refulgent and revolving lights began to stud the
darkness; lighthouses of the mind or of the wearied optic nerve, solemnly
shining and winking as we passed.  At length the mate himself despaired,
scrambled on board again from his unrestful perch, and announced that we
had missed our destination.  He was the only man of practice in these
waters, our sole pilot, shipped for that end at Tai-o-hae.  If he
declared we had missed Takaroa, it was not for us to quarrel with the
fact, but, if we could, to explain it.  We had certainly run down our
southing.  Our canted wake upon the sea and our somewhat drunken-looking
course upon the chart both testified with no less certainty to an
impetuous westward current.  We had no choice but to conclude we were
again set down to leeward; and the best we could do was to bring the
_Casco_ to the wind, keep a good watch, and expect morning.

I slept that night, as was then my somewhat dangerous practice, on deck
upon the cockpit bench.  A stir at last awoke me, to see all the eastern
heaven dyed with faint orange, the binnacle lamp already dulled against
the brightness of the day, and the steersman leaning eagerly across the
wheel.  ‘There it is, sir!’ he cried, and pointed in the very eyeball of
the dawn.  For awhile I could see nothing but the bluish ruins of the
morning bank, which lay far along the horizon, like melting icebergs.
Then the sun rose, pierced a gap in these _débris_ of vapours, and
displayed an inconsiderable islet, flat as a plate upon the sea, and
spiked with palms of disproportioned altitude.

So far, so good.  Here was certainly an atoll; and we were certainly got
among the archipelago.  But which?  And where?  The isle was too small
for either Takaroa: in all our neighbourhood, indeed, there was none so
inconsiderable, save only Tikei; and Tikei, one of Roggewein’s so-called
Pernicious Islands, seemed beside the question.  At that rate, instead of
drifting to the west, we must have fetched up thirty miles to windward.
And how about the current?  It had been setting us down, by observation,
all these days: by the deflection of our wake, it should be setting us
down that moment.  When had it stopped?  When had it begun again? and
what kind of torrent was that which had swept us eastward in the
interval?  To these questions, so typical of navigation in that range of
isles, I have no answer.  Such were at least the facts; Tikei our island
turned out to be; and it was our first experience of the dangerous
archipelago, to make our landfall thirty miles out.

The sight of Tikei, thrown direct against the splendour of the morning,
robbed of all its colour, and deformed with disproportioned trees like
bristles on a broom, had scarce prepared us to be much in love with
atolls.  Later the same day we saw under more fit conditions the island
of Taiaro.  _Lost in the Sea_ is possibly the meaning of the name.  And
it was so we saw it; lost in blue sea and sky: a ring of white beach,
green underwood, and tossing palms, gem-like in colour; of a fairy, of a
heavenly prettiness.  The surf ran all around it, white as snow, and
broke at one point, far to seaward, on what seems an uncharted reef.
There was no smoke, no sign of man; indeed, the isle is not inhabited,
only visited at intervals.  And yet a trader (Mr. Narii Salmon) was
watching from the shore and wondering at the unexpected ship.  I have
spent since then long months upon low islands; I know the tedium of their
undistinguished days; I know the burden of their diet.  With whatever
envy we may have looked from the deck on these green coverts, it was with
a tenfold greater that Mr. Salmon and his comrades saw us steer, in our
trim ship, to seaward.

The night fell lovely in the extreme.  After the moon went down, the
heaven was a thing to wonder at for stars.  And as I lay in the cockpit
and looked upon the steersman I was haunted by Emerson’s verses:

    ‘And the lone seaman all the night
    Sails astonished among stars.’

By this glittering and imperfect brightness, about four bells in the
first watch we made our third atoll, Raraka.  The low line of the isle
lay straight along the sky; so that I was at first reminded of a towpath,
and we seemed to be mounting some engineered and navigable stream.
Presently a red star appeared, about the height and brightness of a
danger signal, and with that my simile was changed; we seemed rather to
skirt the embankment of a railway, and the eye began to look
instinctively for the telegraph-posts, and the ear to expect the coming
of a train.  Here and there, but rarely, faint tree-tops broke the level.
And the sound of the surf accompanied us, now in a drowsy monotone, now
with a menacing swing.

The isle lay nearly east and west, barring our advance on Fakarava.  We
must, therefore, hug the coast until we gained the western end, where,
through a passage eight miles wide, we might sail southward between
Raraka and the next isle, Kauehi.  We had the wind free, a lightish air;
but clouds of an inky blackness were beginning to arise, and at times it
lightened—without thunder.  Something, I know not what, continually set
us up upon the island.  We lay more and more to the nor’ard; and you
would have thought the shore copied our manœuvre and outsailed us. Once
and twice Raraka headed us again—again, in the sea fashion, the quite
innocent steersman was abused—and again the _Casco_ kept away.  Had I
been called on, with no more light than that of our experience, to draw
the configuration of that island, I should have shown a series of
bow-window promontories, each overlapping the other to the nor’ard, and
the trend of the land from the south-east to the north-west, and behold,
on the chart it lay near east and west in a straight line.

We had but just repeated our manœuvre and kept away—for not more than
five minutes the railway embankment had been lost to view and the surf to
hearing—when I was aware of land again, not only on the weather bow, but
dead ahead.  I played the part of the judicious landsman, holding my
peace till the last moment; and presently my mariners perceived it for
themselves.

‘Land ahead!’ said the steersman.

‘By God, it’s Kauehi!’ cried the mate.

And so it was.  And with that I began to be sorry for cartographers.  We
were scarce doing three and a half; and they asked me to believe that (in
five minutes) we had dropped an island, passed eight miles of open water,
and run almost high and dry upon the next.  But my captain was more sorry
for himself to be afloat in such a labyrinth; laid the _Casco_ to, with
the log line up and down, and sat on the stern rail and watched it till
the morning.  He had enough of night in the Paumotus.

By daylight on the 9th we began to skirt Kauehi, and had now an
opportunity to see near at hand the geography of atolls.  Here and there,
where it was high, the farther side loomed up; here and there the near
side dipped entirely and showed a broad path of water into the lagoon;
here and there both sides were equally abased, and we could look right
through the discontinuous ring to the sea horizon on the south.
Conceive, on a vast scale, the submerged hoop of the duck-hunter, trimmed
with green rushes to conceal his head—water within, water without—you
have the image of the perfect atoll.  Conceive one that has been partly
plucked of its rush fringe; you have the atoll of Kauehi.  And for either
shore of it at closer quarters, conceive the line of some old Roman
highway traversing a wet morass, and here sunk out of view and there
re-arising, crowned with a green tuft of thicket; only instead of the
stagnant waters of a marsh, the live ocean now boiled against, now buried
the frail barrier.  Last night’s impression in the dark was thus
confirmed by day, and not corrected.  We sailed indeed by a mere causeway
in the sea, of nature’s handiwork, yet of no greater magnitude than many
of the works of man.

The isle was uninhabited; it was all green brush and white sand, set in
transcendently blue water; even the coco-palms were rare, though some of
these completed the bright harmony of colour by hanging out a fan of
golden yellow.  For long there was no sign of life beyond the vegetable,
and no sound but the continuous grumble of the surf.  In silence and
desertion these fair shores slipped past, and were submerged and rose
again with clumps of thicket from the sea.  And then a bird or two
appeared, hovering and crying; swiftly these became more numerous, and
presently, looking ahead, we were aware of a vast effervescence of winged
life.  In this place the annular isle was mostly under water, carrying
here and there on its submerged line a wooded islet.  Over one of these
the birds hung and flew with an incredible density like that of gnats or
hiving bees; the mass flashed white and black, and heaved and quivered,
and the screaming of the creatures rose over the voice of the surf in a
shrill clattering whirr.  As you descend some inland valley a not
dissimilar sound announces the nearness of a mill and pouring river.
Some stragglers, as I said, came to meet our approach; a few still hung
about the ship as we departed.  The crying died away, the last pair of
wings was left behind, and once more the low shores of Kauehi streamed
past our eyes in silence like a picture.  I supposed at the time that the
birds lived, like ants or citizens, concentred where we saw them.  I have
been told since (I know not if correctly) that the whole isle, or much of
it, is similarly peopled; and that the effervescence at a single spot
would be the mark of a boat’s crew of egg-hunters from one of the
neighbouring inhabited atolls.  So that here at Kauehi, as the day before
at Taiaro, the _Casco_ sailed by under the fire of unsuspected eyes.  And
one thing is surely true, that even on these ribbons of land an army
might lie hid and no passing mariner divine its presence.



CHAPTER II—FAKARAVA: AN ATOLL AT HAND


By a little before noon we were running down the coast of our
destination, Fakarava: the air very light, the sea near smooth; though
still we were accompanied by a continuous murmur from the beach, like the
sound of a distant train.  The isle is of a huge longitude, the enclosed
lagoon thirty miles by ten or twelve, and the coral tow-path, which they
call the land, some eighty or ninety miles by (possibly) one furlong.
That part by which we sailed was all raised; the underwood excellently
green, the topping wood of coco-palms continuous—a mark, if I had known
it, of man’s intervention.  For once more, and once more unconsciously,
we were within hail of fellow-creatures, and that vacant beach was but a
pistol-shot from the capital city of the archipelago.  But the life of an
atoll, unless it be enclosed, passes wholly on the shores of the lagoon;
it is there the villages are seated, there the canoes ply and are drawn
up; and the beach of the ocean is a place accursed and deserted, the fit
scene only for wizardry and shipwreck, and in the native belief a
haunting ground of murderous spectres.

By and by we might perceive a breach in the low barrier; the woods
ceased; a glittering point ran into the sea, tipped with an emerald shoal
the mark of entrance.  As we drew near we met a little run of sea—the
private sea of the lagoon having there its origin and end, and here, in
the jaws of the gateway, trying vain conclusions with the more majestic
heave of the Pacific.  The _Casco_ scarce avowed a shock; but there are
times and circumstances when these harbour mouths of inland basins vomit
floods, deflecting, burying, and dismasting ships.  For, conceive a
lagoon perfectly sealed but in the one point, and that of merely
navigable width; conceive the tide and wind to have heaped for hours
together in that coral fold a superfluity of waters, and the tide to
change and the wind fall—the open sluice of some great reservoirs at home
will give an image of the unstemmable effluxion.

We were scarce well headed for the pass before all heads were craned over
the rail.  For the water, shoaling under our board, became changed in a
moment to surprising hues of blue and grey; and in its transparency the
coral branched and blossomed, and the fish of the inland sea cruised
visibly below us, stained and striped, and even beaked like parrots.  I
have paid in my time to view many curiosities; never one so curious as
that first sight over the ship’s rail in the lagoon of Fakarava.  But let
not the reader be deceived with hope.  I have since entered, I suppose,
some dozen atolls in different parts of the Pacific, and the experience
has never been repeated.  That exquisite hue and transparency of
submarine day, and these shoals of rainbow fish, have not enraptured me
again.

Before we could raise our eyes from that engaging spectacle the schooner
had slipped betwixt the pierheads of the reef, and was already quite
committed to the sea within.  The containing shores are so little
erected, and the lagoon itself is so great, that, for the more part, it
seemed to extend without a check to the horizon.  Here and there, indeed,
where the reef carried an inlet, like a signet-ring upon a finger, there
would be a pencilling of palms; here and there, the green wall of wood
ran solid for a length of miles; and on the port hand, under the highest
grove of trees, a few houses sparkled white—Rotoava, the metropolitan
settlement of the Paumotus.  Hither we beat in three tacks, and came to
an anchor close in shore, in the first smooth water since we had left San
Francisco, five fathoms deep, where a man might look overboard all day at
the vanishing cable, the coral patches, and the many-coloured fish.

Fakarava was chosen to be the seat of Government from nautical
considerations only.  It is eccentrically situate; the productions, even
for a low island, poor; the population neither many nor—for Low
Islanders—industrious.  But the lagoon has two good passages, one to
leeward, one to windward, so that in all states of the wind it can be
left and entered, and this advantage, for a government of scattered
islands, was decisive.  A pier of coral, landing-stairs, a harbour light
upon a staff and pillar, and two spacious Government bungalows in a
handsome fence, give to the northern end of Rotoava a great air of
consequence.  This is confirmed on the one hand by an empty prison, on
the other by a gendarmerie pasted over with hand-bills in Tahitian,
land-law notices from Papeete, and republican sentiments from Paris,
signed (a little after date) ‘Jules Grévy, _Perihidente_.’  Quite at the
far end a belfried Catholic chapel concludes the town; and between, on a
smooth floor of white coral sand and under the breezy canopy of
coco-palms, the houses of the natives stand irregularly scattered, now
close on the lagoon for the sake of the breeze, now back under the palms
for love of shadow.

Not a soul was to be seen.  But for the thunder of the surf on the far
side, it seemed you might have heard a pin drop anywhere about that
capital city.  There was something thrilling in the unexpected silence,
something yet more so in the unexpected sound.  Here before us a sea
reached to the horizon, rippling like an inland mere; and behold! close
at our back another sea assaulted with assiduous fury the reverse of the
position.  At night the lantern was run up and lit a vacant pier.  In one
house lights were seen and voices heard, where the population (I was
told) sat playing cards.  A little beyond, from deep in the darkness of
the palm-grove, we saw the glow and smelt the aromatic odour of a coal of
cocoa-nut husk, a relic of the evening kitchen.  Crickets sang; some
shrill thing whistled in a tuft of weeds; and the mosquito hummed and
stung.  There was no other trace that night of man, bird, or insect in
the isle.  The moon, now three days old, and as yet but a silver crescent
on a still visible sphere, shone through the palm canopy with vigorous
and scattered lights.  The alleys where we walked were smoothed and
weeded like a boulevard; here and there were plants set out; here and
there dusky cottages clustered in the shadow, some with verandahs.  A
public garden by night, a rich and fashionable watering-place in a
by-season, offer sights and vistas not dissimilar.  And still, on the one
side, stretched the lapping mere, and from the other the deep sea still
growled in the night.  But it was most of all on board, in the dead
hours, when I had been better sleeping, that the spell of Fakarava seized
and held me.  The moon was down.  The harbour lantern and two of the
greater planets drew vari-coloured wakes on the lagoon.  From shore the
cheerful watch-cry of cocks rang out at intervals above the organ-point
of surf.  And the thought of this depopulated capital, this protracted
thread of annular island with its crest of coco-palms and fringe of
breakers, and that tranquil inland sea that stretched before me till it
touched the stars, ran in my head for hours with delight.

So long as I stayed upon that isle these thoughts were constant.  I lay
down to sleep, and woke again with an unblunted sense of my surroundings.
I was never weary of calling up the image of that narrow causeway, on
which I had my dwelling, lying coiled like a serpent, tail to mouth, in
the outrageous ocean, and I was never weary of passing—a mere
quarter-deck parade—from the one side to the other, from the shady,
habitable shores of the lagoon to the blinding desert and uproarious
breakers of the opposite beach.  The sense of insecurity in such a thread
of residence is more than fanciful.  Hurricanes and tidal waves over-leap
these humble obstacles; Oceanus remembers his strength, and, where houses
stood and palms flourished, shakes his white beard again over the barren
coral.  Fakarava itself has suffered; the trees immediately beyond my
house were all of recent replantation; and Anaa is only now recovered
from a heavier stroke.  I knew one who was then dwelling in the isle.  He
told me that he and two ship captains walked to the sea beach.  There for
a while they viewed the oncoming breakers, till one of the captains
clapped suddenly his hand before his eyes and cried aloud that he could
endure no longer to behold them.  This was in the afternoon; in the dark
hours of the night the sea burst upon the island like a flood; the
settlement was razed all but the church and presbytery; and, when day
returned, the survivors saw themselves clinging in an abattis of uprooted
coco-palms and ruined houses.

Danger is but a small consideration.  But men are more nicely sensible of
a discomfort; and the atoll is a discomfortable home.  There are some,
and these probably ancient, where a deep soil has formed and the most
valuable fruit-trees prosper.  I have walked in one, with equal
admiration and surprise, through a forest of huge breadfruits, eating
bananas and stumbling among taro as I went.  This was in the atoll of
Namorik in the Marshall group, and stands alone in my experience.  To
give the opposite extreme, which is yet far more near the average, I will
describe the soil and productions of Fakarava.  The surface of that
narrow strip is for the more part of broken coral lime-stone, like
volcanic clinkers, and excruciating to the naked foot; in some atolls, I
believe, not in Fakarava, it gives a fine metallic ring when struck.
Here and there you come upon a bank of sand, exceeding fine and white,
and these parts are the least productive.  The plants (such as they are)
spring from and love the broken coral, whence they grow with that
wonderful verdancy that makes the beauty of the atoll from the sea.  The
coco-palm in particular luxuriates in that stern _solum_, striking down
his roots to the brackish, percolated water, and bearing his green head
in the wind with every evidence of health and pleasure.  And yet even the
coco-palm must be helped in infancy with some extraneous nutriment, and
through much of the low archipelago there is planted with each nut a
piece of ship’s biscuit and a rusty nail.  The pandanus comes next in
importance, being also a food tree; and he, too, does bravely.  A green
bush called _miki_ runs everywhere; occasionally a purao is seen; and
there are several useless weeds.  According to M. Cuzent, the whole
number of plants on an atoll such as Fakarava will scarce exceed, even if
it reaches to, one score.  Not a blade of grass appears; not a grain of
humus, save when a sack or two has been imported to make the semblance of
a garden; such gardens as bloom in cities on the window-sill.  Insect
life is sometimes dense; a cloud o’ mosquitoes, and, what is far worse, a
plague of flies blackening our food, has sometimes driven us from a meal
on Apemama; and even in Fakarava the mosquitoes were a pest.  The land
crab may be seen scuttling to his hole, and at night the rats besiege the
houses and the artificial gardens.  The crab is good eating; possibly so
is the rat; I have not tried.  Pandanus fruit is made, in the Gilberts,
into an agreeable sweetmeat, such as a man may trifle with at the end of
a long dinner; for a substantial meal I have no use for it.  The rest of
the food-supply, in a destitute atoll such as Fakarava, can be summed up
in the favourite jest of the archipelago—cocoa-nut beefsteak.  Cocoa-nut
green, cocoa-nut ripe, cocoa-nut germinated; cocoa-nut to eat and
cocoa-nut to drink; cocoa-nut raw and cooked, cocoa-nut hot and cold—such
is the bill of fare.  And some of the entrées are no doubt delicious.
The germinated nut, cooked in the shell and eaten with a spoon, forms a
good pudding; cocoa-nut milk—the expressed juice of a ripe nut, not the
water of a green one—goes well in coffee, and is a valuable adjunct in
cookery through the South Seas; and cocoa-nut salad, if you be a
millionaire, and can afford to eat the value of a field of corn for your
dessert, is a dish to be remembered with affection.  But when all is done
there is a sameness, and the Israelites of the low islands murmur at
their manna.

The reader may think I have forgot the sea.  The two beaches do certainly
abound in life, and they are strangely different.  In the lagoon the
water shallows slowly on a bottom of the fine slimy sand, dotted with
clumps of growing coral.  Then comes a strip of tidal beach on which the
ripples lap.  In the coral clumps the great holy-water clam (_Tridacna_)
grows plentifully; a little deeper lie the beds of the pearl-oyster and
sail the resplendent fish that charmed us at our entrance; and these are
all more or less vigorously coloured.  But the other shells are white
like lime, or faintly tinted with a little pink, the palest possible
display; many of them dead besides, and badly rolled.  On the ocean side,
on the mounds of the steep beach, over all the width of the reef right
out to where the surf is bursting, in every cranny, under every scattered
fragment of the coral, an incredible plenty of marine life displays the
most wonderful variety and brilliancy of hues.  The reef itself has no
passage of colour but is imitated by some shell.  Purple and red and
white, and green and yellow, pied and striped and clouded, the living
shells wear in every combination the livery of the dead reef—if the reef
be dead—so that the eye is continually baffled and the collector
continually deceived.  I have taken shells for stones and stones for
shells, the one as often as the other.  A prevailing character of the
coral is to be dotted with small spots of red, and it is wonderful how
many varieties of shell have adopted the same fashion and donned the
disguise of the red spot.  A shell I had found in plenty in the Marquesas
I found here also unchanged in all things else, but there were the red
spots.  A lively little crab wore the same markings.  The case of the
hermit or soldier crab was more conclusive, being the result of conscious
choice.  This nasty little wrecker, scavenger, and squatter has learned
the value of a spotted house; so it be of the right colour he will choose
the smallest shard, tuck himself in a mere corner of a broken whorl, and
go about the world half naked; but I never found him in this imperfect
armour unless it was marked with the red spot.

Some two hundred yards distant is the beach of the lagoon.  Collect the
shells from each, set them side by side, and you would suppose they came
from different hemispheres; the one so pale, the other so brilliant; the
one prevalently white, the other of a score of hues, and infected with
the scarlet spot like a disease.  This seems the more strange, since the
hermit crabs pass and repass the island, and I have met them by the
Residency well, which is about central, journeying either way.  Without
doubt many of the shells in the lagoon are dead.  But why are they dead?
Without doubt the living shells have a very different background set for
imitation.  But why are these so different?  We are only on the threshold
of the mysteries.

Either beach, I have said, abounds with life.  On the sea-side and in
certain atolls this profusion of vitality is even shocking: the rock
under foot is mined with it.  I have broken off—notably in Funafuti and
Arorai {156}—great lumps of ancient weathered rock that rang under my
blows like iron, and the fracture has been full of pendent worms as long
as my hand, as thick as a child’s finger, of a slightly pinkish white,
and set as close as three or even four to the square inch.  Even in the
lagoon, where certain shell-fish seem to sicken, others (it is notorious)
prosper exceedingly and make the riches of these islands.  Fish, too,
abound; the lagoon is a closed fish-pond, such as might rejoice the fancy
of an abbot; sharks swarm there, and chiefly round the passages, to feast
upon this plenty, and you would suppose that man had only to prepare his
angle.  Alas! it is not so.  Of these painted fish that came in hordes
about the entering _Casco_, some bore poisonous spines, and others were
poisonous if eaten.  The stranger must refrain, or take his chance of
painful and dangerous sickness.  The native, on his own isle, is a safe
guide; transplant him to the next, and he is helpless as yourself.  For
it is a question both of time and place.  A fish caught in a lagoon may
be deadly; the same fish caught the same day at sea, and only a few
hundred yards without the passage, will be wholesome eating: in a
neighbouring isle perhaps the case will be reversed; and perhaps a
fortnight later you shall be able to eat of them indifferently from
within and from without.  According to the natives, these bewildering
vicissitudes are ruled by the movement of the heavenly bodies.  The
beautiful planet Venus plays a great part in all island tales and
customs; and among other functions, some of them more awful, she
regulates the season of good fish.  With Venus in one phase, as we had
her, certain fish were poisonous in the lagoon: with Venus in another,
the same fish was harmless and a valued article of diet.  White men
explain these changes by the phases of the coral.

It adds a last touch of horror to the thought of this precarious annular
gangway in the sea, that even what there is of it is not of honest rock,
but organic, part alive, part putrescent; even the clean sea and the
bright fish about it poisoned, the most stubborn boulder burrowed in by
worms, the lightest dust venomous as an apothecary’s drugs.



CHAPTER III—A HOUSE TO LET IN A LOW ISLAND


Never populous, it was yet by a chapter of accidents that I found the
island so deserted that no sound of human life diversified the hours;
that we walked in that trim public garden of a town, among closed houses,
without even a lodging-bill in a window to prove some tenancy in the back
quarters; and, when we visited the Government bungalow, that Mr. Donat,
acting Vice-Resident, greeted us alone, and entertained us with cocoa-nut
punches in the Sessions Hall and seat of judgment of that widespread
archipelago, our glasses standing arrayed with summonses and census
returns.  The unpopularity of a late Vice-Resident had begun the movement
of exodus, his native employés resigning court appointments and retiring
each to his own coco-patch in the remoter districts of the isle.  Upon
the back of that, the Governor in Papeete issued a decree: All land in
the Paumotus must be defined and registered by a certain date.  Now, the
folk of the archipelago are half nomadic; a man can scarce be said to
belong to a particular atoll; he belongs to several, perhaps holds a
stake and counts cousinship in half a score; and the inhabitants of
Rotoava in particular, man, woman, and child, and from the gendarme to
the Mormon prophet and the schoolmaster, owned—I was going to say
land—owned at least coral blocks and growing coco-palms in some adjacent
isle.  Thither—from the gendarme to the babe in arms, the pastor followed
by his flock, the schoolmaster carrying along with him his scholars, and
the scholars with their books and slates—they had taken ship some two
days previous to our arrival, and were all now engaged disputing
boundaries.  Fancy overhears the shrillness of their disputation mingle
with the surf and scatter sea-fowl.  It was admirable to observe the
completeness of their flight, like that of hibernating birds; nothing
left but empty houses, like old nests to be reoccupied in spring; and
even the harmless necessary dominie borne with them in their
transmigration.  Fifty odd set out, and only seven, I was informed,
remained.  But when I made a feast on board the _Casco_, more than seven,
and nearer seven times seven, appeared to be my guests.  Whence they
appeared, how they were summoned, whither they vanished when the feast
was eaten, I have no guess.  In view of Low Island tales, and that awful
frequentation which makes men avoid the seaward beaches of an atoll, some
two score of those that ate with us may have returned, for the occasion,
from the kingdom of the dead.

It was this solitude that put it in our minds to hire a house, and
become, for the time being, indwellers of the isle—a practice I have ever
since, when it was possible, adhered to.  Mr. Donat placed us, with that
intent, under the convoy of one Taniera Mahinui, who combined the
incongruous characters of catechist and convict.  The reader may smile,
but I affirm he was well qualified for either part.  For that of convict,
first of all, by a good substantial felony, such as in all lands casts
the perpetrator in chains and dungeons.  Taniera was a man of birth—the
chief a while ago, as he loved to tell, of a district in Anaa of 800
souls.  In an evil hour it occurred to the authorities in Papeete to
charge the chiefs with the collection of the taxes.  It is a question if
much were collected; it is certain that nothing was handed on; and
Taniera, who had distinguished himself by a visit to Papeete and some
high living in restaurants, was chosen for the scapegoat.  The reader
must understand that not Taniera but the authorities in Papeete were
first in fault.  The charge imposed was disproportioned.  I have not yet
heard of any Polynesian capable of such a burden; honest and upright
Hawaiians—one in particular, who was admired even by the whites as an
inflexible magistrate—have stumbled in the narrow path of the trustee.
And Taniera, when the pinch came, scorned to denounce accomplices; others
had shared the spoil, he bore the penalty alone.  He was condemned in
five years.  The period, when I had the pleasure of his friendship, was
not yet expired; he still drew prison rations, the sole and not unwelcome
reminder of his chains, and, I believe, looked forward to the date of his
enfranchisement with mere alarm.  For he had no sense of shame in the
position; complained of nothing but the defective table of his place of
exile; regretted nothing but the fowls and eggs and fish of his own more
favoured island.  And as for his parishioners, they did not think one
hair the less of him.  A schoolboy, mulcted in ten thousand lines of
Greek and dwelling sequestered in the dormitories, enjoys unabated
consideration from his fellows.  So with Taniera: a marked man, not a
dishonoured; having fallen under the lash of the unthinkable gods; a Job,
perhaps, or say a Taniera in the den of lions.  Songs are likely made and
sung about this saintly Robin Hood.  On the other hand, he was even
highly qualified for his office in the Church; being by nature a grave,
considerate, and kindly man; his face rugged and serious, his smile
bright; the master of several trades, a builder both of boats and houses;
endowed with a fine pulpit voice; endowed besides with such a gift of
eloquence that at the grave of the late chief of Fakarava he set all the
assistants weeping.  I never met a man of a mind more ecclesiastical; he
loved to dispute and to inform himself of doctrine and the history of
sects; and when I showed him the cuts in a volume of Chambers’s
_Encyclopædia_—except for one of an ape—reserved his whole enthusiasm for
cardinals’ hats, censers, candlesticks, and cathedrals.  Methought when
he looked upon the cardinal’s hat a voice said low in his ear: ‘Your foot
is on the ladder.’

Under the guidance of Taniera we were soon installed in what I believe to
have been the best-appointed private house in Fakarava.  It stood just
beyond the church in an oblong patch of cultivation.  More than three
hundred sacks of soil were imported from Tahiti for the Residency garden;
and this must shortly be renewed, for the earth blows away, sinks in
crevices of the coral, and is sought for at last in vain.  I know not how
much earth had gone to the garden of my villa; some at least, for an
alley of prosperous bananas ran to the gate, and over the rest of the
enclosure, which was covered with the usual clinker-like fragments of
smashed coral, not only coco-palms and mikis but also fig-trees
flourished, all of a delicious greenness.  Of course there was no blade
of grass.  In front a picket fence divided us from the white road, the
palm-fringed margin of the lagoon, and the lagoon itself, reflecting
clouds by day and stars by night.  At the back, a bulwark of uncemented
coral enclosed us from the narrow belt of bush and the nigh ocean beach
where the seas thundered, the roar and wash of them still humming in the
chambers of the house.

This itself was of one story, verandahed front and back.  It contained
three rooms, three sewing-machines, three sea-chests, chairs, tables, a
pair of beds, a cradle, a double-barrelled gun, a pair of enlarged
coloured photographs, a pair of coloured prints after Wilkie and
Mulready, and a French lithograph with the legend: ‘_Le brigade du
Général Lepasset brûlant son drapeau devant Metz_.’  Under the stilts of
the house a stove was rusting, till we drew it forth and put it in
commission.  Not far off was the burrow in the coral whence we supplied
ourselves with brackish water.  There was live stock, besides, on the
estate—cocks and hens and a brace of ill-regulated cats, whom Taniera
came every morning with the sun to feed on grated cocoa-nut.  His voice
was our regular réveille, ringing pleasantly about the garden:
‘Pooty—pooty—poo—poo—poo!’

Far as we were from the public offices, the nearness of the chapel made
our situation what is called eligible in advertisements, and gave us a
side look on some native life.  Every morning, as soon as he had fed the
fowls, Taniera set the bell agoing in the small belfry; and the faithful,
who were not very numerous, gathered to prayers.  I was once present: it
was the Lord’s day, and seven females and eight males composed the
congregation.  A woman played precentor, starting with a longish note;
the catechist joined in upon the second bar; and then the faithful in a
body.  Some had printed hymn-books which they followed; some of the rest
filled up with ‘eh—eh—eh,’ the Paumotuan tol-de-rol.  After the hymn, we
had an antiphonal prayer or two; and then Taniera rose from the front
bench, where he had been sitting in his catechist’s robes, passed within
the altar-rails, opened his Tahitian Bible, and began to preach from
notes.  I understood one word—the name of God; but the preacher managed
his voice with taste, used rare and expressive gestures, and made a
strong impression of sincerity.  The plain service, the vernacular Bible,
the hymn-tunes mostly on an English pattern—‘God save the Queen,’ I was
informed, a special favourite,—all, save some paper flowers upon the
altar, seemed not merely but austerely Protestant.  It is thus the
Catholics have met their low island proselytes half-way.

Taniera had the keys of our house; it was with him I made my bargain, if
that could be called a bargain in which all was remitted to my
generosity; it was he who fed the cats and poultry, he who came to call
and pick a meal with us like an acknowledged friend; and we long fondly
supposed he was our landlord.  This belief was not to bear the test of
experience; and, as my chapter has to relate, no certainty succeeded it.

We passed some days of airless quiet and great heat; shell-gatherers were
warned from the ocean beach, where sunstroke waited them from ten till
four; the highest palm hung motionless, there was no voice audible but
that of the sea on the far side.  At last, about four of a certain
afternoon, long cat’s-paws flawed the face of the lagoon; and presently
in the tree-tops there awoke the grateful bustle of the trades, and all
the houses and alleys of the island were fanned out.  To more than one
enchanted ship, that had lain long becalmed in view of the green shore,
the wind brought deliverance; and by daylight on the morrow a schooner
and two cutters lay moored in the port of Rotoava.  Not only in the outer
sea, but in the lagoon itself, a certain traffic woke with the reviving
breeze; and among the rest one François, a half-blood, set sail with the
first light in his own half-decked cutter.  He had held before a court
appointment; being, I believe, the Residency sweeper-out.  Trouble
arising with the unpopular Vice-Resident, he had thrown his honours down,
and fled to the far parts of the atoll to plant cabbages—or at least
coco-palms.  Thence he was now driven by such need as even a Cincinnatus
must acknowledge, and fared for the capital city, the seat of his late
functions, to exchange half a ton of copra for necessary flour.  And
here, for a while, the story leaves to tell of his voyaging.

It must tell, instead, of our house, where, toward seven at night, the
catechist came suddenly in with his pleased air of being welcome; armed
besides with a considerable bunch of keys.  These he proceeded to try on
the sea-chests, drawing each in turn from its place against the wall.
Heads of strangers appeared in the doorway and volunteered suggestions.
All in vain.  Either they were the wrong keys or the wrong boxes, or the
wrong man was trying them.  For a little Taniera fumed and fretted; then
had recourse to the more summary method of the hatchet; one of the chests
was broken open, and an armful of clothing, male and female, baled out
and handed to the strangers on the verandah.

These were François, his wife, and their child.  About eight a.m., in the
midst of the lagoon, their cutter had capsized in jibbing.  They got her
righted, and though she was still full of water put the child on board.
The mainsail had been carried away, but the jib still drew her sluggishly
along, and François and the woman swam astern and worked the rudder with
their hands.  The cold was cruel; the fatigue, as time went on, became
excessive; and in that preserve of sharks, fear hunted them.  Again and
again, François, the half-breed, would have desisted and gone down; but
the woman, whole blood of an amphibious race, still supported him with
cheerful words.  I am reminded of a woman of Hawaii who swam with her
husband, I dare not say how many miles, in a high sea, and came ashore at
last with his dead body in her arms.  It was about five in the evening,
after nine hours’ swimming, that François and his wife reached land at
Rotoava.  The gallant fight was won, and instantly the more childish side
of native character appears.  They had supped, and told and retold their
story, dripping as they came; the flesh of the woman, whom Mrs. Stevenson
helped to shift, was cold as stone; and François, having changed to a dry
cotton shirt and trousers, passed the remainder of the evening on my
floor and between open doorways, in a thorough draught.  Yet François,
the son of a French father, speaks excellent French himself and seems
intelligent.

It was our first idea that the catechist, true to his evangelical
vocation, was clothing the naked from his superfluity.  Then it came out
that François was but dealing with his own.  The clothes were his, so was
the chest, so was the house.  François was in fact the landlord.  Yet you
observe he had hung back on the verandah while Taniera tried his
’prentice hand upon the locks: and even now, when his true character
appeared, the only use he made of the estate was to leave the clothes of
his family drying on the fence.  Taniera was still the friend of the
house, still fed the poultry, still came about us on his daily visits,
François, during the remainder of his stay, holding bashfully aloof.  And
there was stranger matter.  Since François had lost the whole load of his
cutter, the half ton of copra, an axe, bowls, knives, and clothes—since
he had in a manner to begin the world again, and his necessary flour was
not yet bought or paid for—I proposed to advance him what he needed on
the rent.  To my enduring amazement he refused, and the reason he gave—if
that can be called a reason which but darkens counsel—was that Taniera
was his friend.  His friend, you observe; not his creditor.  I inquired
into that, and was assured that Taniera, an exile in a strange isle,
might possibly be in debt himself, but certainly was no man’s creditor.

Very early one morning we were awakened by a bustling presence in the
yard, and found our camp had been surprised by a tall, lean old native
lady, dressed in what were obviously widow’s weeds.  You could see at a
glance she was a notable woman, a housewife, sternly practical, alive
with energy, and with fine possibilities of temper.  Indeed, there was
nothing native about her but the skin; and the type abounds, and is
everywhere respected, nearer home.  It did us good to see her scour the
grounds, examining the plants and chickens; watering, feeding, trimming
them; taking angry, purpose-like possession.  When she neared the house
our sympathy abated; when she came to the broken chest I wished I were
elsewhere.  We had scarce a word in common; but her whole lean body spoke
for her with indignant eloquence.  ‘My chest!’ it cried, with a stress on
the possessive.  ‘My chest—broken open!  This is a fine state of things!’
I hastened to lay the blame where it belonged—on François and his
wife—and found I had made things worse instead of better.  She repeated
the names at first with incredulity, then with despair.  A while she
seemed stunned, next fell to disembowelling the box, piling the goods on
the floor, and visibly computing the extent of François’s ravages; and
presently after she was observed in high speech with Taniera, who seemed
to hang an ear like one reproved.

Here, then, by all known marks, should be my land-lady at last; here was
every character of the proprietor fully developed.  Should I not approach
her on the still depending question of my rent?  I carried the point to
an adviser.  ‘Nonsense!’ he cried.  ‘That’s the old woman, the mother.
It doesn’t belong to her.  I believe that’s the man the house belongs
to,’ and he pointed to one of the coloured photographs on the wall.  On
this I gave up all desire of understanding; and when the time came for me
to leave, in the judgment-hall of the archipelago, and with the awful
countenance of the acting Governor, I duly paid my rent to Taniera.  He
was satisfied, and so was I.  But what had he to do with it?  Mr. Donat,
acting magistrate and a man of kindred blood, could throw no light upon
the mystery; a plain private person, with a taste for letters, cannot be
expected to do more.



CHAPTER IV—TRAITS AND SECTS IN THE PAUMOTUS


The most careless reader must have remarked a change of air since the
Marquesas.  The house, crowded with effects, the bustling housewife
counting her possessions, the serious, indoctrinated island pastor, the
long fight for life in the lagoon: here are traits of a new world.  I
read in a pamphlet (I will not give the author’s name) that the Marquesan
especially resembles the Paumotuan.  I should take the two races, though
so near in neighbourhood, to be extremes of Polynesian diversity.  The
Marquesan is certainly the most beautiful of human races, and one of the
tallest—the Paumotuan averaging a good inch shorter, and not even
handsome; the Marquesan open-handed, inert, insensible to religion,
childishly self-indulgent—the Paumotuan greedy, hardy, enterprising, a
religious disputant, and with a trace of the ascetic character.

Yet a few years ago, and the people of the archipelago were crafty
savages.  Their isles might be called sirens’ isles, not merely from the
attraction they exerted on the passing mariner, but from the perils that
awaited him on shore.  Even to this day, in certain outlying islands,
danger lingers; and the civilized Paumotuan dreads to land and hesitates
to accost his backward brother.  But, except in these, to-day the peril
is a memory.  When our generation were yet in the cradle and playroom it
was still a living fact.  Between 1830 and 1840, Hao, for instance, was a
place of the most dangerous approach, where ships were seized and crews
kidnapped.  As late as 1856, the schooner _Sarah Ann_ sailed from Papeete
and was seen no more.  She had women on board, and children, the
captain’s wife, a nursemaid, a baby, and the two young sons of a Captain
Steven on their way to the mainland for schooling.  All were supposed to
have perished in a squall.  A year later, the captain of the _Julia_,
coasting along the island variously called Bligh, Lagoon, and Tematangi
saw armed natives follow the course of his schooner, clad in
many-coloured stuffs.  Suspicion was at once aroused; the mother of the
lost children was profuse of money; and one expedition having found the
place deserted, and returned content with firing a few shots, she raised
and herself accompanied another.  None appeared to greet or to oppose
them; they roamed a while among abandoned huts and empty thickets; then
formed two parties and set forth to beat, from end to end, the pandanus
jungle of the island.  One man remained alone by the landing-place—Teina,
a chief of Anaa, leader of the armed natives who made the strength of the
expedition.  Now that his comrades were departed this way and that, on
their laborious exploration, the silence fell profound; and this silence
was the ruin of the islanders.  A sound of stones rattling caught the ear
of Teina.  He looked, thinking to perceive a crab, and saw instead the
brown hand of a human being issue from a fissure in the ground.  A shout
recalled the search parties and announced their doom to the buried
caitiffs.  In the cave below, sixteen were found crouching among human
bones and singular and horrid curiosities.  One was a head of golden
hair, supposed to be a relic of the captain’s wife; another was half of
the body of a European child, sun-dried and stuck upon a stick, doubtless
with some design of wizardry.

The Paumotuan is eager to be rich.  He saves, grudges, buries money,
fears not work.  For a dollar each, two natives passed the hours of
daylight cleaning our ship’s copper.  It was strange to see them so
indefatigable and so much at ease in the water—working at times with
their pipes lighted, the smoker at times submerged and only the glowing
bowl above the surface; it was stranger still to think they were next
congeners to the incapable Marquesan.  But the Paumotuan not only saves,
grudges, and works, he steals besides; or, to be more precise, he
swindles.  He will never deny a debt, he only flees his creditor.  He is
always keen for an advance; so soon as he has fingered it he disappears.
He knows your ship; so soon as it nears one island, he is off to another.
You may think you know his name; he has already changed it.  Pursuit in
that infinity of isles were fruitless.  The result can be given in a
nutshell.  It has been actually proposed in a Government report to secure
debts by taking a photograph of the debtor; and the other day in Papeete
credits on the Paumotus to the amount of sixteen thousand pounds were
sold for less than forty—_quatre cent mille francs pour moins de mille
francs_.  Even so, the purchase was thought hazardous; and only the man
who made it and who had special opportunities could have dared to give so
much.

The Paumotuan is sincerely attached to those of his own blood and
household.  A touching affection sometimes unites wife and husband.
Their children, while they are alive, completely rule them; after they
are dead, their bones or their mummies are often jealously preserved and
carried from atoll to atoll in the wanderings of the family.  I was told
there were many houses in Fakarava with the mummy of a child locked in a
sea-chest; after I heard it, I would glance a little jealously at those
by my own bed; in that cupboard, also, it was possible there was a tiny
skeleton.

The race seems in a fair way to survive.  From fifteen islands, whose
rolls I had occasion to consult, I found a proportion of 59 births to 47
deaths for 1887.  Dropping three out of the fifteen, there remained for
the other twelve the comfortable ratio of 50 births to 32 deaths.  Long
habits of hardship and activity doubtless explain the contrast with
Marquesan figures.  But the Paumotuan displays, besides, a certain
concern for health and the rudiments of a sanitary discipline.  Public
talk with these free-spoken people plays the part of the Contagious
Diseases Act; in-comers to fresh islands anxiously inquire if all be
well; and syphilis, when contracted, is successfully treated with
indigenous herbs.  Like their neighbours of Tahiti, from whom they have
perhaps imbibed the error, they regard leprosy with comparative
indifference, elephantiasis with disproportionate fear.  But, unlike
indeed to the Tahitian, their alarm puts on the guise of self-defence.
Any one stricken with this painful and ugly malady is confined to the
ends of villages, denied the use of paths and highways, and condemned to
transport himself between his house and coco-patch by water only, his
very footprint being held infectious.  Fe’efe’e, being a creature of
marshes and the sequel of malarial fever, is not original in atolls.  On
the single isle of Makatea, where the lagoon is now a marsh, the disease
has made a home.  Many suffer; they are excluded (if Mr. Wilmot be right)
from much of the comfort of society; and it is believed they take a
secret vengeance.  The defections of the sick are considered highly
poisonous.  Early in the morning, it is narrated, aged and malicious
persons creep into the sleeping village, and stealthily make water at the
doors of the houses of young men.  Thus they propagate disease; thus they
breathe on and obliterate comeliness and health, the objects of their
envy.  Whether horrid fact or more abominable legend, it equally depicts
that something bitter and energetic which distinguishes Paumotuan man.

The archipelago is divided between two main religions, Catholic and
Mormon.  They front each other proudly with a false air of permanence;
yet are but shapes, their membership in a perpetual flux.  The Mormon
attends mass with devotion: the Catholic sits attentive at a Mormon
sermon, and to-morrow each may have transferred allegiance.  One man had
been a pillar of the Church of Rome for fifteen years; his wife dying, he
decided that must be a poor religion that could not save a man his wife,
and turned Mormon.  According to one informant, Catholicism was the more
fashionable in health, but on the approach of sickness it was judged
prudent to secede.  As a Mormon, there were five chances out of six you
might recover; as a Catholic, your hopes were small; and this opinion is
perhaps founded on the comfortable rite of unction.

We all know what Catholics are, whether in the Paumotus or at home.  But
the Paumotuan Mormon seemed a phenomenon apart.  He marries but the one
wife, uses the Protestant Bible, observes Protestant forms of worship,
forbids the use of liquor and tobacco, practises adult baptism by
immersion, and after every public sin, rechristens the backslider.  I
advised with Mahinui, whom I found well informed in the history of the
American Mormons, and he declared against the least connection.  ‘_Pour
moi_,’ said he, with a fine charity, ‘_les Mormons ici un petit
Catholiques_.’  Some months later I had an opportunity to consult an
orthodox fellow-countryman, an old dissenting Highlander, long settled in
Tahiti, but still breathing of the heather of Tiree.  ‘Why do they call
themselves Mormons?’ I asked.  ‘My dear, and that is my question!’ he
exclaimed.  ‘For by all that I can hear of their doctrine, I have nothing
to say against it, and their life, it is above reproach.’  And for all
that, Mormons they are, but of the earlier sowing: the so-called
Josephites, the followers of Joseph Smith, the opponents of Brigham
Young.

Grant, then, the Mormons to be Mormons.  Fresh points at once arise: What
are the Israelites? and what the Kanitus?  For a long while back the sect
had been divided into Mormons proper and so-called Israelites, I never
could hear why.  A few years since there came a visiting missionary of
the name of Williams, who made an excellent collection, and retired,
leaving fresh disruption imminent.  Something irregular (as I was told)
in his way of ‘opening the service’ had raised partisans and enemies; the
church was once more rent asunder; and a new sect, the Kanitu, issued
from the division.  Since then Kanitus and Israelites, like the
Cameronians and the United Presbyterians, have made common cause; and the
ecclesiastical history of the Paumotus is, for the moment, uneventful.
There will be more doing before long, and these isles bid fair to be the
Scotland of the South.  Two things I could never learn.  The nature of
the innovations of the Rev. Mr. Williams none would tell me, and of the
meaning of the name Kanitu none had a guess.  It was not Tahitian, it was
not Marquesan; it formed no part of that ancient speech of the Paumotus,
now passing swiftly into obsolescence.  One man, a priest, God bless him!
said it was the Latin for a little dog.  I have found it since as the
name of a god in New Guinea; it must be a bolder man than I who should
hint at a connection.  Here, then, is a singular thing: a brand-new sect,
arising by popular acclamation, and a nonsense word invented for its
name.

The design of mystery seems obvious, and according to a very intelligent
observer, Mr. Magee of Mangareva, this element of the mysterious is a
chief attraction of the Mormon Church.  It enjoys some of the status of
Freemasonry at home, and there is for the convert some of the
exhilaration of adventure.  Other attractions are certainly conjoined.
Perpetual rebaptism, leading to a succession of baptismal feasts, is
found, both from the social and the spiritual side, a pleasing feature.
More important is the fact that all the faithful enjoy office; perhaps
more important still, the strictness of the discipline.  ‘The veto on
liquor,’ said Mr. Magee, ‘brings them plenty members.’  There is no doubt
these islanders are fond of drink, and no doubt they refrain from the
indulgence; a bout on a feast-day, for instance, may be followed by a
week or a month of rigorous sobriety.  Mr. Wilmot attributes this to
Paumotuan frugality and the love of hoarding; it goes far deeper.  I have
mentioned that I made a feast on board the _Casco_.  To wash down ship’s
bread and jam, each guest was given the choice of rum or syrup, and out
of the whole number only one man voted—in a defiant tone, and amid shouts
of mirth—for ‘Trum’!  This was in public.  I had the meanness to repeat
the experiment, whenever I had a chance, within the four walls of my
house; and three at least, who had refused at the festival, greedily
drank rum behind a door.  But there were others thoroughly consistent.  I
said the virtues of the race were bourgeois and puritan; and how
bourgeois is this! how puritanic! how Scottish! and how Yankee!—the
temptation, the resistance, the public hypocritical conformity, the
Pharisees, the Holy Willies, and the true disciples.  With such a people
the popularity of an ascetic Church appears legitimate; in these strict
rules, in this perpetual supervision, the weak find their advantage, the
strong a certain pleasure; and the doctrine of rebaptism, a clean bill
and a fresh start, will comfort many staggering professors.

There is yet another sect, or what is called a sect—no doubt
improperly—that of the Whistlers.  Duncan Cameron, so clear in favour of
the Mormons, was no less loud in condemnation of the Whistlers.  Yet I do
not know; I still fancy there is some connection, perhaps fortuitous,
probably disavowed.  Here at least are some doings in the house of an
Israelite clergyman (or prophet) in the island of Anaa, of which I am
equally sure that Duncan would disclaim and the Whistlers hail them for
an imitation of their own.  My informant, a Tahitian and a Catholic,
occupied one part of the house; the prophet and his family lived in the
other.  Night after night the Mormons, in the one end, held their evening
sacrifice of song; night after night, in the other, the wife of the
Tahitian lay awake and listened to their singing with amazement.  At
length she could contain herself no longer, woke her husband, and asked
him what he heard.  ‘I hear several persons singing hymns,’ said he.
‘Yes,’ she returned, ‘but listen again!  Do you not hear something
supernatural?’  His attention thus directed, he was aware of a strange
buzzing voice—and yet he declared it was beautiful—which justly
accompanied the singers.  The next day he made inquiries.  ‘It is a
spirit,’ said the prophet, with entire simplicity, ‘which has lately made
a practice of joining us at family worship.’  It did not appear the thing
was visible, and like other spirits raised nearer home in these
degenerate days, it was rudely ignorant, at first could only buzz, and
had only learned of late to bear a part correctly in the music.

The performances of the Whistlers are more business-like.  Their meetings
are held publicly with open doors, all being ‘cordially invited to
attend.’  The faithful sit about the room—according to one informant,
singing hymns; according to another, now singing and now whistling; the
leader, the wizard—let me rather say, the medium—sits in the midst,
enveloped in a sheet and silent; and presently, from just above his head,
or sometimes from the midst of the roof, an aerial whistling proceeds,
appalling to the inexperienced.  This, it appears, is the language of the
dead; its purport is taken down progressively by one of the experts,
writing, I was told, ‘as fast as a telegraph operator’; and the
communications are at last made public.  They are of the baldest
triviality; a schooner is, perhaps, announced, some idle gossip reported
of a neighbour, or if the spirit shall have been called to consultation
on a case of sickness, a remedy may be suggested.  One of these,
immersion in scalding water, not long ago proved fatal to the patient.
The whole business is very dreary, very silly, and very European; it has
none of the picturesque qualities of similar conjurations in New Zealand;
it seems to possess no kernel of possible sense, like some that I shall
describe among the Gilbert islanders.  Yet I was told that many hardy,
intelligent natives were inveterate Whistlers.  ‘Like Mahinui?’ I asked,
willing to have a standard; and I was told ‘Yes.’  Why should I wonder?
Men more enlightened than my convict-catechist sit down at home to
follies equally sterile and dull.

The medium is sometimes female.  It was a woman, for instance, who
introduced these practices on the north coast of Taiarapu, to the scandal
of her own connections, her brother-in-law in particular declaring she
was drunk.  But what shocked Tahiti might seem fit enough in the
Paumotus, the more so as certain women there possess, by the gift of
nature, singular and useful powers.  They say they are honest,
well-intentioned ladies, some of them embarrassed by their weird
inheritance.  And indeed the trouble caused by this endowment is so
great, and the protection afforded so infinitesimally small, that I
hesitate whether to call it a gift or a hereditary curse.  You may rob
this lady’s coco-patch, steal her canoes, burn down her house, and slay
her family scatheless; but one thing you must not do: you must not lay a
hand upon her sleeping-mat, or your belly will swell, and you can only be
cured by the lady or her husband.  Here is the report of an eye-witness,
Tasmanian born, educated, a man who has made money—certainly no fool.  In
1886 he was present in a house on Makatea, where two lads began to
skylark on the mats, and were (I think) ejected.  Instantly after, their
bellies began to swell; pains took hold on them; all manner of island
remedies were exhibited in vain, and rubbing only magnified their
sufferings.  The man of the house was called, explained the nature of the
visitation, and prepared the cure.  A cocoa-nut was husked, filled with
herbs, and with all the ceremonies of a launch, and the utterance of
spells in the Paumotuan language, committed to the sea.  From that moment
the pains began to grow more easy and the swelling to subside.  The
reader may stare.  I can assure him, if he moved much among old residents
of the archipelago, he would be driven to admit one thing of two—either
that there is something in the swollen bellies or nothing in the evidence
of man.

I have not met these gifted ladies; but I had an experience of my own,
for I have played, for one night only, the part of the whistling spirit.
It had been blowing wearily all day, but with the fall of night the wind
abated, and the moon, which was then full, rolled in a clear sky.  We
went southward down the island on the side of the lagoon, walking through
long-drawn forest aisles of palm, and on a floor of snowy sand.  No life
was abroad, nor sound of life; till in a clear part of the isle we spied
the embers of a fire, and not far off, in a dark house, heard natives
talking softly.  To sit without a light, even in company, and under
cover, is for a Paumotuan a somewhat hazardous extreme.  The whole
scene—the strong moonlight and crude shadows on the sand, the scattered
coals, the sound of the low voices from the house, and the lap of the
lagoon along the beach—put me (I know not how) on thoughts of
superstition.  I was barefoot, I observed my steps were noiseless, and
drawing near to the dark house, but keeping well in shadow, began to
whistle.  ‘The Heaving of the Lead’ was my air—no very tragic piece.
With the first note the conversation and all movement ceased; silence
accompanied me while I continued; and when I passed that way on my return
I found the lamp was lighted in the house, but the tongues were still
mute.  All night, as I now think, the wretches shivered and were silent.
For indeed, I had no guess at the time at the nature and magnitude of the
terrors I inflicted, or with what grisly images the notes of that old
song had peopled the dark house.



CHAPTER V—A PAUMOTUAN FUNERAL


No, I had no guess of these men’s terrors.  Yet I had received ere that a
hint, if I had understood; and the occasion was a funeral.

A little apart in the main avenue of Rotoava, in a low hut of leaves that
opened on a small enclosure, like a pigsty on a pen, an old man dwelt
solitary with his aged wife.  Perhaps they were too old to migrate with
the others; perhaps they were too poor, and had no possessions to
dispute.  At least they had remained behind; and it thus befell that they
were invited to my feast.  I dare say it was quite a piece of politics in
the pigsty whether to come or not to come, and the husband long swithered
between curiosity and age, till curiosity conquered, and they came, and
in the midst of that last merrymaking death tapped him on the shoulder.
For some days, when the sky was bright and the wind cool, his mat would
be spread in the main highway of the village, and he was to be seen lying
there inert, a mere handful of a man, his wife inertly seated by his
head.  They seemed to have outgrown alike our needs and faculties; they
neither spoke nor listened; they suffered us to pass without a glance;
the wife did not fan, she seemed not to attend upon her husband, and the
two poor antiques sat juxtaposed under the high canopy of palms, the
human tragedy reduced to its bare elements, a sight beyond pathos,
stirring a thrill of curiosity.  And yet there was one touch of the
pathetic haunted me: that so much youth and expectation should have run
in these starved veins, and the man should have squandered all his lees
of life on a pleasure party.

On the morning of 17th September the sufferer died, and, time pressing,
he was buried the same day at four.  The cemetery lies to seaward behind
Government House; broken coral, like so much road-metal, forms the
surface; a few wooden crosses, a few inconsiderable upright stones,
designate graves; a mortared wall, high enough to lean on, rings it
about; a clustering shrub surrounds it with pale leaves.  Here was the
grave dug that morning, doubtless by uneasy diggers, to the sound of the
nigh sea and the cries of sea-birds; meanwhile the dead man waited in his
house, and the widow and another aged woman leaned on the fence before
the door, no speech upon their lips, no speculation in their eyes.

Sharp at the hour the procession was in march, the coffin wrapped in
white and carried by four bearers; mourners behind—not many, for not many
remained in Rotoava, and not many in black, for these were poor; the men
in straw hats, white coats, and blue trousers or the gorgeous
parti-coloured pariu, the Tahitian kilt; the women, with a few
exceptions, brightly habited.  Far in the rear came the widow, painfully
carrying the dead man’s mat; a creature aged beyond humanity, to the
likeness of some missing link.

The dead man had been a Mormon; but the Mormon clergyman was gone with
the rest to wrangle over boundaries in the adjacent isle, and a layman
took his office.  Standing at the head of the open grave, in a white coat
and blue pariu, his Tahitian Bible in his hand and one eye bound with a
red handkerchief, he read solemnly that chapter in Job which has been
read and heard over the bones of so many of our fathers, and with a good
voice offered up two prayers.  The wind and the surf bore a burthen.  By
the cemetery gate a mother in crimson suckled an infant rolled in blue.
In the midst the widow sat upon the ground and polished one of the
coffin-stretchers with a piece of coral; a little later she had turned
her back to the grave and was playing with a leaf.  Did she understand?
God knows.  The officiant paused a moment, stooped, and gathered and
threw reverently on the coffin a handful of rattling coral.  Dust to
dust: but the grains of this dust were gross like cherries, and the true
dust that was to follow sat near by, still cohering (as by a miracle) in
the tragic semblance of a female ape.

So far, Mormon or not, it was a Christian funeral.  The well-known
passage had been read from Job, the prayers had been rehearsed, the grave
was filled, the mourners straggled homeward.  With a little coarser grain
of covering earth, a little nearer outcry of the sea, a stronger glare of
sunlight on the rude enclosure, and some incongruous colours of attire,
the well-remembered form had been observed.

By rights it should have been otherwise.  The mat should have been buried
with its owner; but, the family being poor, it was thriftily reserved for
a fresh service.  The widow should have flung herself upon the grave and
raised the voice of official grief, the neighbours have chimed in, and
the narrow isle rung for a space with lamentation.  But the widow was
old; perhaps she had forgotten, perhaps never understood, and she played
like a child with leaves and coffin-stretchers.  In all ways my guest was
buried with maimed rites.  Strange to think that his last conscious
pleasure was the _Casco_ and my feast; strange to think that he had
limped there, an old child, looking for some new good.  And the good
thing, rest, had been allotted him.

But though the widow had neglected much, there was one part she must not
utterly neglect.  She came away with the dispersing funeral; but the dead
man’s mat was left behind upon the grave, and I learned that by set of
sun she must return to sleep there.  This vigil is imperative.  From
sundown till the rising of the morning star the Paumotuan must hold his
watch above the ashes of his kindred.  Many friends, if the dead have
been a man of mark, will keep the watchers company; they will be well
supplied with coverings against the weather; I believe they bring food,
and the rite is persevered in for two weeks.  Our poor survivor, if,
indeed, she properly survived, had little to cover, and few to sit with
her; on the night of the funeral a strong squall chased her from her
place of watch; for days the weather held uncertain and outrageous; and
ere seven nights were up she had desisted, and returned to sleep in her
low roof.  That she should be at the pains of returning for so short a
visit to a solitary house, that this borderer of the grave should fear a
little wind and a wet blanket, filled me at the time with musings.  I
could not say she was indifferent; she was so far beyond me in experience
that the court of my criticism waived jurisdiction; but I forged excuses,
telling myself she had perhaps little to lament, perhaps suffered much,
perhaps understood nothing.  And lo! in the whole affair there was no
question whether of tenderness or piety, and the sturdy return of this
old remnant was a mark either of uncommon sense or of uncommon fortitude.

Yet one thing had occurred that partly set me on the trail.  I have said
the funeral passed much as at home.  But when all was over, when we were
trooping in decent silence from the graveyard gate and down the path to
the settlement, a sudden inbreak of a different spirit startled and
perhaps dismayed us.  Two people walked not far apart in our procession:
my friend Mr. Donat—Donat-Rimarau: ‘Donat the much-handed’—acting
Vice-Resident, present ruler of the archipelago, by far the man of chief
importance on the scene, but known besides for one of an unshakable good
temper; and a certain comely, strapping young Paumotuan woman, the
comeliest on the isle, not (let us hope) the bravest or the most polite.
Of a sudden, ere yet the grave silence of the funeral was broken, she
made a leap at the Resident, with pointed finger, shrieked a few words,
and fell back again with a laughter, not a natural mirth.  ‘What did she
say to you?’ I asked.  ‘She did not speak to _me_,’ said Donat, a shade
perturbed; ‘she spoke to the ghost of the dead man.’  And the purport of
her speech was this: ‘See there!  Donat will be a fine feast for you
to-night.’

‘M. Donat called it a jest,’ I wrote at the time in my diary.  ‘It seemed
to me more in the nature of a terrified conjuration, as though she would
divert the ghost’s attention from herself.  A cannibal race may well have
cannibal phantoms.’  The guesses of the traveller appear foredoomed to be
erroneous; yet in these I was precisely right.  The woman had stood by in
terror at the funeral, being then in a dread spot, the graveyard.  She
looked on in terror to the coming night, with that ogre, a new spirit,
loosed upon the isle.  And the words she had cried in Donat’s face were
indeed a terrified conjuration, basely to shield herself, basely to
dedicate another in her stead.  One thing is to be said in her excuse.
Doubtless she partly chose Donat because he was a man of great
good-nature, but partly, too, because he was a man of the half-caste.
For I believe all natives regard white blood as a kind of talisman
against the powers of hell.  In no other way can they explain the
unpunished recklessness of Europeans.



CHAPTER VI—GRAVEYARD STORIES


With my superstitious friend, the islander, I fear I am not wholly frank,
often leading the way with stories of my own, and being always a grave
and sometimes an excited hearer.  But the deceit is scarce mortal, since
I am as pleased to hear as he to tell, as pleased with the story as he
with the belief; and, besides, it is entirely needful.  For it is scarce
possible to exaggerate the extent and empire of his superstitions; they
mould his life, they colour his thinking; and when he does not speak to
me of ghosts, and gods, and devils, he is playing the dissembler and
talking only with his lips.  With thoughts so different, one must indulge
the other; and I would rather that I should indulge his superstition than
he my incredulity.  Of one thing, besides, I may be sure: Let me indulge
it as I please, I shall not hear the whole; for he is already on his
guard with me, and the amount of the lore is boundless.

I will give but a few instances at random, chiefly from my own doorstep
in Upolu, during the past month (October 1890).  One of my workmen was
sent the other day to the banana patch, there to dig; this is a hollow of
the mountain, buried in woods, out of all sight and cry of mankind; and
long before dusk Lafaele was back again beside the cook-house with
embarrassed looks; he dared not longer stay alone, he was afraid of
‘spirits in the bush.’  It seems these are the souls of the unburied
dead, haunting where they fell, and wearing woodland shapes of pig, or
bird, or insect; the bush is full of them, they seem to eat nothing, slay
solitary wanderers apparently in spite, and at times, in human form, go
down to villages and consort with the inhabitants undetected.  So much I
learned a day or so after, walking in the bush with a very intelligent
youth, a native.  It was a little before noon; a grey day and squally;
and perhaps I had spoken lightly.  A dark squall burst on the side of the
mountain; the woods shook and cried; the dead leaves rose from the ground
in clouds, like butterflies; and my companion came suddenly to a full
stop.  He was afraid, he said, of the trees falling; but as soon as I had
changed the subject of our talk he proceeded with alacrity.  A day or two
before a messenger came up the mountain from Apia with a letter; I was in
the bush, he must await my return, then wait till I had answered: and
before I was done his voice sounded shrill with terror of the coming
night and the long forest road.  These are the commons.  Take the chiefs.
There has been a great coming and going of signs and omens in our group.
One river ran down blood; red eels were captured in another; an unknown
fish was thrown upon the coast, an ominous word found written on its
scales.  So far we might be reading in a monkish chronicle; now we come
on a fresh note, at once modern and Polynesian.  The gods of Upolu and
Savaii, our two chief islands, contended recently at cricket.  Since then
they are at war.  Sounds of battle are heard to roll along the coast.  A
woman saw a man swim from the high seas and plunge direct into the bush;
he was no man of that neighbourhood; and it was known he was one of the
gods, speeding to a council.  Most perspicuous of all, a missionary on
Savaii, who is also a medical man, was disturbed late in the night by
knocking; it was no hour for the dispensary, but at length he woke his
servant and sent him to inquire; the servant, looking from a window,
beheld crowds of persons, all with grievous wounds, lopped limbs, broken
heads, and bleeding bullet-holes; but when the door was opened all had
disappeared.  They were gods from the field of battle.  Now these reports
have certainly significance; it is not hard to trace them to political
grumblers or to read in them a threat of coming trouble; from that merely
human side I found them ominous myself.  But it was the spiritual side of
their significance that was discussed in secret council by my rulers.  I
shall best depict this mingled habit of the Polynesian mind by two
connected instances.  I once lived in a village, the name of which I do
not mean to tell.  The chief and his sister were persons perfectly
intelligent: gentlefolk, apt of speech.  The sister was very religious, a
great church-goer, one that used to reprove me if I stayed away; I found
afterwards that she privately worshipped a shark.  The chief himself was
somewhat of a freethinker; at the least, a latitudinarian: he was a man,
besides, filled with European knowledge and accomplishments; of an
impassive, ironical habit; and I should as soon have expected
superstition in Mr. Herbert Spencer.  Hear the sequel.  I had discovered
by unmistakable signs that they buried too shallow in the village
graveyard, and I took my friend, as the responsible authority, to task.
‘There is something wrong about your graveyard,’ said I, ‘which you must
attend to, or it may have very bad results.’  ‘Something wrong?  What is
it?’ he asked, with an emotion that surprised me.  ‘If you care to go
along there any evening about nine o’clock you can see for yourself,’
said I.  He stepped backward.  ‘A ghost!’ he cried.

In short, in the whole field of the South Seas, there is not one to blame
another.  Half blood and whole, pious and debauched, intelligent and
dull, all men believe in ghosts, all men combine with their recent
Christianity fear of and a lingering faith in the old island deities.
So, in Europe, the gods of Olympus slowly dwindled into village bogies;
so to-day, the theological Highlander sneaks from under the eye of the
Free Church divine to lay an offering by a sacred well.

I try to deal with the whole matter here because of a particular quality
in Paumotuan superstitions.  It is true I heard them told by a man with a
genius for such narrations.  Close about our evening lamp, within sound
of the island surf, we hung on his words, thrilling.  The reader, in far
other scenes, must listen close for the faint echo.

This bundle of weird stories sprang from the burial and the woman’s
selfish conjuration.  I was dissatisfied with what I heard, harped upon
questions, and struck at last this vein of metal.  It is from sundown to
about four in the morning that the kinsfolk camp upon the grave; and
these are the hours of the spirits’ wanderings.  At any time of the
night—it may be earlier, it may be later—a sound is to be heard below,
which is the noise of his liberation; at four sharp, another and a louder
marks the instant of the re-imprisonment; between-whiles, he goes his
malignant rounds.  ‘Did you ever see an evil spirit?’ was once asked of a
Paumotuan.  ‘Once.’  ‘Under what form?’  ‘It was in the form of a crane.’
‘And how did you know that crane to be a spirit?’ was asked.  ‘I will
tell you,’ he answered; and this was the purport of his inconclusive
narrative.  His father had been dead nearly a fortnight; others had
wearied of the watch; and as the sun was setting, he found himself by the
grave alone.  It was not yet dark, rather the hour of the afterglow, when
he was aware of a snow-white crane upon the coral mound; presently more
cranes came, some white, some black; then the cranes vanished, and he saw
in their place a white cat, to which there was silently joined a great
company of cats of every hue conceivable; then these also disappeared,
and he was left astonished.

This was an anodyne appearance.  Take instead the experience of
Rua-a-mariterangi on the isle of Katiu.  He had a need for some pandanus,
and crossed the isle to the sea-beach, where it chiefly flourishes.  The
day was still, and Rua was surprised to hear a crashing sound among the
thickets, and then the fall of a considerable tree.  Here must be some
one building a canoe; and he entered the margin of the wood to find and
pass the time of day with this chance neighbour.  The crashing sounded
more at hand; and then he was aware of something drawing swiftly near
among the tree-tops.  It swung by its heels downward, like an ape, so
that its hands were free for murder; it depended safely by the slightest
twigs; the speed of its coming was incredible; and soon Rua recognised it
for a corpse, horrible with age, its bowels hanging as it came.  Prayer
was the weapon of Christian in the Valley of the Shadow, and it is to
prayer that Rua-a-mariterangi attributes his escape.  No merely human
expedition had availed.

This demon was plainly from the grave; yet you will observe he was abroad
by day.  And inconsistent as it may seem with the hours of the night
watch and the many references to the rising of the morning star, it is no
singular exception.  I could never find a case of another who had seen
this ghost, diurnal and arboreal in its habits; but others have heard the
fall of the tree, which seems the signal of its coming.  Mr. Donat was
once pearling on the uninhabited isle of Haraiki.  It was a day without a
breath of wind, such as alternate in the archipelago with days of
contumelious breezes.  The divers were in the midst of the lagoon upon
their employment; the cook, a boy of ten, was over his pots in the camp.
Thus were all souls accounted for except a single native who accompanied
Donat into the wood in quest of sea-fowls’ eggs.  In a moment, out of the
stillness, came the sound of the fall of a great tree.  Donat would have
passed on to find the cause.  ‘No,’ cried his companion, ‘that was no
tree.  It was something _not right_.  Let us go back to camp.’  Next
Sunday the divers were turned on, all that part of the isle was
thoroughly examined, and sure enough no tree had fallen.  A little later
Mr. Donat saw one of his divers flee from a similar sound, in similar
unaffected panic, on the same isle.  But neither would explain, and it
was not till afterwards, when he met with Rua, that he learned the
occasion of their terrors.

But whether by day or night, the purpose of the dead in these abhorred
activities is still the same.  In Samoa, my informant had no idea of the
food of the bush spirits; no such ambiguity would exist in the mind of a
Paumotuan.  In that hungry archipelago, living and dead must alike toil
for nutriment; and the race having been cannibal in the past, the spirits
are so still.  When the living ate the dead, horrified nocturnal
imagination drew the shocking inference that the dead might eat the
living.  Doubtless they slay men, doubtless even mutilate them, in mere
malice.  Marquesan spirits sometimes tear out the eyes of travellers; but
even that may be more practical than appears, for the eye is a cannibal
dainty.  And certainly the root-idea of the dead, at least in the far
eastern islands, is to prowl for food.  It was as a dainty morsel for a
meal that the woman denounced Donat at the funeral.  There are spirits
besides who prey in particular not on the bodies but on the souls of the
dead.  The point is clearly made in a Tahitian story.  A child fell sick,
grew swiftly worse, and at last showed signs of death.  The mother
hastened to the house of a sorcerer, who lived hard by.  ‘You are yet in
time,’ said he; ‘a spirit has just run past my door carrying the soul of
your child wrapped in the leaf of a purao; but I have a spirit stronger
and swifter who will run him down ere he has time to eat it.’  Wrapped in
a leaf: like other things edible and corruptible.

Or take an experience of Mr. Donat’s on the island of Anaa.  It was a
night of a high wind, with violent squalls; his child was very sick, and
the father, though he had gone to bed, lay wakeful, hearkening to the
gale.  All at once a fowl was violently dashed on the house wall.
Supposing he had forgot to put it in shelter with the rest, Donat arose,
found the bird (a cock) lying on the verandah, and put it in the
hen-house, the door of which he securely fastened.  Fifteen minutes later
the business was repeated, only this time, as it was being dashed against
the wall, the bird crew.  Again Donat replaced it, examining the
hen-house thoroughly and finding it quite perfect; as he was so engaged
the wind puffed out his light, and he must grope back to the door a good
deal shaken.  Yet a third time the bird was dashed upon the wall; a third
time Donat set it, now near dead, beside its mates; and he was scarce
returned before there came a rush, like that of a furious strong man,
against the door, and a whistle as loud as that of a railway engine rang
about the house.  The sceptical reader may here detect the finger of the
tempest; but the women gave up all for lost and clustered on the beds
lamenting.  Nothing followed, and I must suppose the gale somewhat
abated, for presently after a chief came visiting.  He was a bold man to
be abroad so late, but doubtless carried a bright lantern.  And he was
certainly a man of counsel, for as soon as he heard the details of these
disturbances he was in a position to explain their nature.  ‘Your child,’
said he, ‘must certainly die.  This is the evil spirit of our island who
lies in wait to eat the spirits of the newly dead.’  And then he went on
to expatiate on the strangeness of the spirit’s conduct.  He was not
usually, he explained, so open of assault, but sat silent on the
house-top waiting, in the guise of a bird, while within the people tended
the dying and bewailed the dead, and had no thought of peril.  But when
the day came and the doors were opened, and men began to go abroad,
blood-stains on the wall betrayed the tragedy.

This is the quality I admire in Paumotuan legend.  In Tahiti the
spirit-eater is said to assume a vesture which has much more of pomp, but
how much less of horror.  It has been seen by all sorts and conditions,
native and foreign; only the last insist it is a meteor.  My authority
was not so sure.  He was riding with his wife about two in the morning;
both were near asleep, and the horses not much better.  It was a
brilliant and still night, and the road wound over a mountain, near by a
deserted marae (old Tahitian temple).  All at once the appearance passed
above them: a form of light; the head round and greenish; the body long,
red, and with a focus of yet redder brilliancy about the midst.  A
buzzing hoot accompanied its passage; it flew direct out of one marae,
and direct for another down the mountain side.  And this, as my informant
argued, is suggestive.  For why should a mere meteor frequent the altars
of abominable gods?  The horses, I should say, were equally dismayed with
their riders.  Now I am not dismayed at all—not even agreeably.  Give me
rather the bird upon the house-top and the morning blood-gouts on the
wall.

But the dead are not exclusive in their diet.  They carry with them to
the grave, in particular, the Polynesian taste for fish, and enter at
times with the living into a partnership in fishery.  Rua-a-mariterangi
is again my authority; I feel it diminishes the credit of the fact, but
how it builds up the image of this inveterate ghost-seer!  He belongs to
the miserably poor island of Taenga, yet his father’s house was always
well supplied.  As Rua grew up he was called at last to go a-fishing with
this fortunate parent.  They rowed the lagoon at dusk, to an unlikely
place, and the lay down in the stern, and the father began vainly to cast
his line over the bows.  It is to be supposed that Rua slept; and when he
awoke there was the figure of another beside his father, and his father
was pulling in the fish hand over hand.  ‘Who is that man, father?’ Rua
asked.  ‘It is none of your business,’ said the father; and Rua supposed
the stranger had swum off to them from shore.  Night after night they
fared into the lagoon, often to the most unlikely places; night after
night the stranger would suddenly be seen on board, and as suddenly be
missed; and morning after morning the canoe returned laden with fish.
‘My father is a very lucky man,’ thought Rua.  At last, one fine day,
there came first one boat party and then another, who must be
entertained; father and son put off later than usual into the lagoon; and
before the canoe was landed it was four o’clock, and the morning star was
close on the horizon.  Then the stranger appeared seized with some
distress; turned about, showing for the first time his face, which was
that of one long dead, with shining eyes; stared into the east, set the
tips of his fingers to his mouth like one a-cold, uttered a strange,
shuddering sound between a whistle and a moan—a thing to freeze the
blood; and, the day-star just rising from the sea, he suddenly was not.
Then Rua understood why his father prospered, why his fishes rotted early
in the day, and why some were always carried to the cemetery and laid
upon the graves.  My informant is a man not certainly averse to
superstition, but he keeps his head, and takes a certain superior
interest, which I may be allowed to call scientific.  The last point
reminding him of some parallel practice in Tahiti, he asked Rua if the
fish were left, or carried home again after a formal dedication.  It
appears old Mariterangi practised both methods; sometimes treating his
shadowy partner to a mere oblation, sometimes honestly leaving his fish
to rot upon the grave.

It is plain we have in Europe stories of a similar complexion; and the
Polynesian _varua ino_ or _aitu o le vao_ is clearly the near kinsman of
the Transylvanian vampire.  Here is a tale in which the kinship appears
broadly marked.  On the atoll of Penrhyn, then still partly savage, a
certain chief was long the salutary terror of the natives.  He died, he
was buried; and his late neighbours had scarce tasted the delights of
licence ere his ghost appeared about the village.  Fear seized upon all;
a council was held of the chief men and sorcerers; and with the approval
of the Rarotongan missionary, who was as frightened as the rest, and in
the presence of several whites—my friend Mr. Ben Hird being one—the grave
was opened, deepened until water came, and the body re-interred face
down.  The still recent staking of suicides in England and the
decapitation of vampires in the east of Europe form close parallels.

So in Samoa only the spirits of the unburied awake fear.  During the late
war many fell in the bush; their bodies, sometimes headless, were brought
back by native pastors and interred; but this (I know not why) was
insufficient, and the spirit still lingered on the theatre of death.
When peace returned a singular scene was enacted in many places, and
chiefly round the high gorges of Lotoanuu, where the struggle was long
centred and the loss had been severe.  Kinswomen of the dead came
carrying a mat or sheet and guided by survivors of the fight.  The place
of death was earnestly sought out; the sheet was spread upon the ground;
and the women, moved with pious anxiety, sat about and watched it.  If
any living thing alighted it was twice brushed away; upon the third
coming it was known to be the spirit of the dead, was folded in, carried
home and buried beside the body; and the aitu rested.  The rite was
practised beyond doubt in simple piety; the repose of the soul was its
object: its motive, reverent affection.  The present king disowns indeed
all knowledge of a dangerous aitu; he declares the souls of the unburied
were only wanderers in limbo, lacking an entrance to the proper country
of the dead, unhappy, nowise hurtful.  And this severely classic opinion
doubtless represents the views of the enlightened.  But the flight of my
Lafaele marks the grosser terrors of the ignorant.

This belief in the exorcising efficacy of funeral rites perhaps explains
a fact, otherwise amazing, that no Polynesian seems at all to share our
European horror of human bones and mummies.  Of the first they made their
cherished ornaments; they preserved them in houses or in mortuary caves;
and the watchers of royal sepulchres dwelt with their children among the
bones of generations.  The mummy, even in the making, was as little
feared.  In the Marquesas, on the extreme coast, it was made by the
household with continual unction and exposure to the sun; in the
Carolines, upon the farthest west, it is still cured in the smoke of the
family hearth.  Head-hunting, besides, still lives around my doorstep in
Samoa.  And not ten years ago, in the Gilberts, the widow must disinter,
cleanse, polish, and thenceforth carry about her, by day and night, the
head of her dead husband.  In all these cases we may suppose the process,
whether of cleansing or drying, to have fully exorcised the aitu.

But the Paumotuan belief is more obscure.  Here the man is duly buried,
and he has to be watched.  He is duly watched, and the spirit goes abroad
in spite of watches.  Indeed, it is not the purpose of the vigils to
prevent these wanderings; only to mollify by polite attention the
inveterate malignity of the dead.  Neglect (it is supposed) may irritate
and thus invite his visits, and the aged and weakly sometimes balance
risks and stay at home.  Observe, it is the dead man’s kindred and next
friends who thus deprecate his fury with nocturnal watchings.  Even the
placatory vigil is held perilous, except in company, and a boy was
pointed out to me in Rotoava, because he had watched alone by his own
father.  Not the ties of the dead, nor yet their proved character, affect
the issue.  A late Resident, who died in Fakarava of sunstroke, was
beloved in life and is still remembered with affection; none the less his
spirit went about the island clothed with terrors, and the neighbourhood
of Government House was still avoided after dark.  We may sum up the
cheerful doctrine thus: All men become vampires, and the vampire spares
none.  And here we come face to face with a tempting inconsistency.  For
the whistling spirits are notoriously clannish; I understood them to wait
upon and to enlighten kinsfolk only, and that the medium was always of
the race of the communicating spirit.  Here, then, we have the bonds of
the family, on the one hand, severed at the hour of death; on the other,
helpfully persisting.

The child’s soul in the Tahitian tale was wrapped in leaves.  It is the
spirits of the newly dead that are the dainty.  When they are slain, the
house is stained with blood.  Rua’s dead fisherman was decomposed; so—and
horribly—was his arboreal demon.  The spirit, then, is a thing material;
and it is by the material ensigns of corruption that he is distinguished
from the living man.  This opinion is widespread, adds a gross terror to
the more ugly Polynesian tales, and sometimes defaces the more engaging
with a painful and incongruous touch.  I will give two examples
sufficiently wide apart, one from Tahiti, one from Samoa.

And first from Tahiti.  A man went to visit the husband of his sister,
then some time dead.  In her life the sister had been dainty in the
island fashion, and went always adorned with a coronet of flowers.  In
the midst of the night the brother awoke and was aware of a heavenly
fragrance going to and fro in the dark house.  The lamp I must suppose to
have burned out; no Tahitian would have lain down without one lighted.  A
while he lay wondering and delighted; then called upon the rest.  ‘Do
none of you smell flowers?’ he asked.  ‘O,’ said his brother-in-law, ‘we
are used to that here.’  The next morning these two men went walking, and
the widower confessed that his dead wife came about the house
continually, and that he had even seen her.  She was shaped and dressed
and crowned with flowers as in her lifetime; only she moved a few inches
above the earth with a very easy progress, and flitted dryshod above the
surface of the river.  And now comes my point: It was always in a back
view that she appeared; and these brothers-in-law, debating the affair,
agreed that this was to conceal the inroads of corruption.

Now for the Samoan story.  I owe it to the kindness of Dr. F. Otto
Sierich, whose collection of folk-tales I expect with a high degree of
interest.  A man in Manu’a was married to two wives and had no issue.  He
went to Savaii, married there a third, and was more fortunate.  When his
wife was near her time he remembered he was in a strange island, like a
poor man; and when his child was born he must be shamed for lack of
gifts.  It was in vain his wife dissuaded him.  He returned to his father
in Manu’a seeking help; and with what he could get he set off in the
night to re-embark.  Now his wives heard of his coming; they were
incensed that he did not stay to visit them; and on the beach, by his
canoe, intercepted and slew him.  Now the third wife lay asleep in
Savaii;—her babe was born and slept by her side; and she was awakened by
the spirit of her husband.  ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘my father is sick in
Manu’a and we must go to visit him.’  ‘It is well,’ said she; ‘take you
the child, while I carry its mats.’  ‘I cannot carry the child,’ said the
spirit; ‘I am too cold from the sea.’  When they were got on board the
canoe the wife smelt carrion.  ‘How is this?’ she said.  ‘What have you
in the canoe that I should smell carrion?’  ‘It is nothing in the canoe,’
said the spirit.  ‘It is the land-wind blowing down the mountains, where
some beast lies dead.’  It appears it was still night when they reached
Manu’a—the swiftest passage on record—and as they entered the reef the
bale-fires burned in the village.  Again she asked him to carry the
child; but now he need no more dissemble.  ‘I cannot carry your child,’
said he, ‘for I am dead, and the fires you see are burning for my
funeral.’

The curious may learn in Dr. Sierich’s book the unexpected sequel of the
tale.  Here is enough for my purpose.  Though the man was but new dead,
the ghost was already putrefied, as though putrefaction were the mark and
of the essence of a spirit.  The vigil on the Paumotuan grave does not
extend beyond two weeks, and they told me this period was thought to
coincide with that of the resolution of the body.  The ghost always
marked with decay—the danger seemingly ending with the process of
dissolution—here is tempting matter for the theorist.  But it will not
do.  The lady of the flowers had been long dead, and her spirit was still
supposed to bear the brand of perishability.  The Resident had been more
than a fortnight buried, and his vampire was still supposed to go the
rounds.

Of the lost state of the dead, from the lurid Mangaian legend, in which
infernal deities hocus and destroy the souls of all, to the various
submarine and aerial limbos where the dead feast, float idle, or resume
the occupations of their life on earth, it would be wearisome to tell.
One story I give, for it is singular in itself, is well-known in Tahiti,
and has this of interest, that it is post-Christian, dating indeed from
but a few years back.  A princess of the reigning house died; was
transported to the neighbouring isle of Raiatea; fell there under the
empire of a spirit who condemned her to climb coco-palms all day and
bring him the nuts; was found after some time in this miserable servitude
by a second spirit, one of her own house; and by him, upon her
lamentations, reconveyed to Tahiti, where she found her body still waked,
but already swollen with the approaches of corruption.  It is a lively
point in the tale that, on the sight of this dishonoured tabernacle, the
princess prayed she might continue to be numbered with the dead.  But it
seems it was too late, her spirit was replaced by the least dignified of
entrances, and her startled family beheld the body move.  The seemingly
purgatorial labours, the helpful kindred spirit, and the horror of the
princess at the sight of her tainted body, are all points to be remarked.

The truth is, the tales are not necessarily consistent in themselves; and
they are further darkened for the stranger by an ambiguity of language.
Ghosts, vampires, spirits, and gods are all confounded.  And yet I seem
to perceive that (with exceptions) those whom we would count gods were
less maleficent.  Permanent spirits haunt and do murder in corners of
Samoa; but those legitimate gods of Upolu and Savaii, whose wars and
cricketings of late convulsed society, I did not gather to be dreaded, or
not with a like fear.  The spirit of Aana that ate souls is certainly a
fearsome inmate; but the high gods, even of the archipelago, seem
helpful.  Mahinui—from whom our convict-catechist had been named—the
spirit of the sea, like a Proteus endowed with endless avatars, came to
the assistance of the shipwrecked and carried them ashore in the guise of
a ray fish.  The same divinity bore priests from isle to isle about the
archipelago, and by his aid, within the century, persons have been seen
to fly.  The tutelar deity of each isle is likewise helpful, and by a
particular form of wedge-shaped cloud on the horizon announces the coming
of a ship.

To one who conceives of these atolls, so narrow, so barren, so beset with
sea, here would seem a superfluity of ghostly denizens.  And yet there
are more.  In the various brackish pools and ponds, beautiful women with
long red hair are seen to rise and bathe; only (timid as mice) on the
first sound of feet upon the coral they dive again for ever.  They are
known to be healthy and harmless living people, dwellers of an
underworld; and the same fancy is current in Tahiti, where also they have
the hair red.  _Tetea_ is the Tahitian name; the Paumotuan, _Mokurea_.



PART III: THE GILBERTS


CHAPTER I—BUTARITARI


At Honolulu we had said farewell to the _Casco_ and to Captain Otis, and
our next adventure was made in changed conditions.  Passage was taken for
myself, my wife, Mr. Osbourne, and my China boy, Ah Fu, on a pigmy
trading schooner, the _Equator_, Captain Dennis Reid; and on a certain
bright June day in 1889, adorned in the Hawaiian fashion with the
garlands of departure, we drew out of port and bore with a fair wind for
Micronesia.

The whole extent of the South Seas is a desert of ships; more especially
that part where we were now to sail.  No post runs in these islands;
communication is by accident; where you may have designed to go is one
thing, where you shall be able to arrive another.  It was my hope, for
instance, to have reached the Carolines, and returned to the light of day
by way of Manila and the China ports; and it was in Samoa that we were
destined to re-appear and be once more refreshed with the sight of
mountains.  Since the sunset faded from the peaks of Oahu six months had
intervened, and we had seen no spot of earth so high as an ordinary
cottage.  Our path had been still on the flat sea, our dwellings upon
unerected coral, our diet from the pickle-tub or out of tins; I had
learned to welcome shark’s flesh for a variety; and a mountain, an onion,
an Irish potato or a beef-steak, had been long lost to sense and dear to
aspiration.

The two chief places of our stay, Butaritari and Apemama, lie near the
line; the latter within thirty miles.  Both enjoy a superb ocean climate,
days of blinding sun and bracing wind, nights of a heavenly brightness.
Both are somewhat wider than Fakarava, measuring perhaps (at the widest)
a quarter of a mile from beach to beach.  In both, a coarse kind of
_taro_ thrives; its culture is a chief business of the natives, and the
consequent mounds and ditches make miniature scenery and amuse the eye.
In all else they show the customary features of an atoll: the low
horizon, the expanse of the lagoon, the sedge-like rim of palm-tops, the
sameness and smallness of the land, the hugely superior size and interest
of sea and sky.  Life on such islands is in many points like life on
shipboard.  The atoll, like the ship, is soon taken for granted; and the
islanders, like the ship’s crew, become soon the centre of attention.
The isles are populous, independent, seats of kinglets, recently
civilised, little visited.  In the last decade many changes have crept
in; women no longer go unclothed till marriage; the widow no longer
sleeps at night and goes abroad by day with the skull of her dead
husband; and, fire-arms being introduced, the spear and the shark-tooth
sword are sold for curiosities.  Ten years ago all these things and
practices were to be seen in use; yet ten years more, and the old society
will have entirely vanished.  We came in a happy moment to see its
institutions still erect and (in Apemama) scarce decayed.

Populous and independent—warrens of men, ruled over with some rustic
pomp—such was the first and still the recurring impression of these tiny
lands.  As we stood across the lagoon for the town of Butaritari, a
stretch of the low shore was seen to be crowded with the brown roofs of
houses; those of the palace and king’s summer parlour (which are of
corrugated iron) glittered near one end conspicuously bright; the royal
colours flew hard by on a tall flagstaff; in front, on an artificial
islet, the gaol played the part of a martello.  Even upon this first and
distant view, the place had scarce the air of what it truly was, a
village; rather of that which it was also, a petty metropolis, a city
rustic and yet royal.

The lagoon is shoal.  The tide being out, we waded for some quarter of a
mile in tepid shallows, and stepped ashore at last into a flagrant
stagnancy of sun and heat.  The lee side of a line island after noon is
indeed a breathless place; on the ocean beach the trade will be still
blowing, boisterous and cool; out in the lagoon it will be blowing also,
speeding the canoes; but the screen of bush completely intercepts it from
the shore, and sleep and silence and companies of mosquitoes brood upon
the towns.

We may thus be said to have taken Butaritari by surprise.  A few
inhabitants were still abroad in the north end, at which we landed.  As
we advanced, we were soon done with encounter, and seemed to explore a
city of the dead.  Only, between the posts of open houses, we could see
the townsfolk stretched in the siesta, sometimes a family together veiled
in a mosquito-net, sometimes a single sleeper on a platform like a corpse
on a bier.

The houses were of all dimensions, from those of toys to those of
churches.  Some might hold a battalion, some were so minute they could
scarce receive a pair of lovers; only in the playroom, when the toys are
mingled, do we meet such incongruities of scale.  Many were open sheds;
some took the form of roofed stages; others were walled and the walls
pierced with little windows.  A few were perched on piles in the lagoon;
the rest stood at random on a green, through which the roadway made a
ribbon of sand, or along the embankments of a sheet of water like a
shallow dock.  One and all were the creatures of a single tree; palm-tree
wood and palm-tree leaf their materials; no nail had been driven, no
hammer sounded, in their building, and they were held together by
lashings of palm-tree sinnet.

In the midst of the thoroughfare, the church stands like an island, a
lofty and dim house with rows of windows; a rich tracery of framing
sustains the roof; and through the door at either end the street shows in
a vista.  The proportions of the place, in such surroundings, and built
of such materials, appeared august; and we threaded the nave with a
sentiment befitting visitors in a cathedral.  Benches run along either
side.  In the midst, on a crazy dais, two chairs stand ready for the king
and queen when they shall choose to worship; over their heads a hoop,
apparently from a hogshead, depends by a strip of red cotton; and the
hoop (which hangs askew) is dressed with streamers of the same material,
red and white.

This was our first advertisement of the royal dignity, and presently we
stood before its seat and centre.  The palace is built of imported wood
upon a European plan; the roof of corrugated iron, the yard enclosed with
walls, the gate surmounted by a sort of lych-house.  It cannot be called
spacious; a labourer in the States is sometimes more commodiously lodged;
but when we had the chance to see it within, we found it was enriched
(beyond all island expectation) with coloured advertisements and cuts
from the illustrated papers.  Even before the gate some of the treasures
of the crown stand public: a bell of a good magnitude, two pieces of
cannon, and a single shell.  The bell cannot be rung nor the guns fired;
they are curiosities, proofs of wealth, a part of the parade of the
royalty, and stand to be admired like statues in a square.  A straight
gut of water like a canal runs almost to the palace door; the containing
quay-walls excellently built of coral; over against the mouth, by what
seems an effect of landscape art, the martello-like islet of the gaol
breaks the lagoon.  Vassal chiefs with tribute, neighbour monarchs come
a-roving, might here sail in, view with surprise these extensive public
works, and be awed by these mouths of silent cannon.  It was impossible
to see the place and not to fancy it designed for pageantry.  But the
elaborate theatre then stood empty; the royal house deserted, its doors
and windows gaping; the whole quarter of the town immersed in silence.
On the opposite bank of the canal, on a roofed stage, an ancient
gentleman slept publicly, sole visible inhabitant; and beyond on the
lagoon a canoe spread a striped lateen, the sole thing moving.

The canal is formed on the south by a pier or causeway with a parapet.
At the far end the parapet stops, and the quay expands into an oblong
peninsula in the lagoon, the breathing-place and summer parlour of the
king.  The midst is occupied by an open house or permanent marquee—called
here a maniapa, or, as the word is now pronounced, a maniap’—at the
lowest estimation forty feet by sixty.  The iron roof, lofty but
exceedingly low-browed, so that a woman must stoop to enter, is supported
externally on pillars of coral, within by a frame of wood.  The floor is
of broken coral, divided in aisles by the uprights of the frame; the
house far enough from shore to catch the breeze, which enters freely and
disperses the mosquitoes; and under the low eaves the sun is seen to
glitter and the waves to dance on the lagoon.

It was now some while since we had met any but slumberers; and when we
had wandered down the pier and stumbled at last into this bright shed, we
were surprised to find it occupied by a society of wakeful people, some
twenty souls in all, the court and guardsmen of Butaritari.  The court
ladies were busy making mats; the guardsmen yawned and sprawled.  Half a
dozen rifles lay on a rock and a cutlass was leaned against a pillar: the
armoury of these drowsy musketeers.  At the far end, a little closed
house of wood displayed some tinsel curtains, and proved, upon
examination, to be a privy on the European model.  In front of this, upon
some mats, lolled Tebureimoa, the king; behind him, on the panels of the
house, two crossed rifles represented fasces.  He wore pyjamas which
sorrowfully misbecame his bulk; his nose was hooked and cruel, his body
overcome with sodden corpulence, his eye timorous and dull: he seemed at
once oppressed with drowsiness and held awake by apprehension: a pepper
rajah muddled with opium, and listening for the march of a Dutch army,
looks perhaps not otherwise.  We were to grow better acquainted, and
first and last I had the same impression; he seemed always drowsy, yet
always to hearken and start; and, whether from remorse or fear, there is
no doubt he seeks a refuge in the abuse of drugs.

The rajah displayed no sign of interest in our coming.  But the queen,
who sat beside him in a purple sacque, was more accessible; and there was
present an interpreter so willing that his volubility became at last the
cause of our departure.  He had greeted us upon our entrance:—‘That is
the honourable King, and I am his interpreter,’ he had said, with more
stateliness than truth.  For he held no appointment in the court, seemed
extremely ill-acquainted with the island language, and was present, like
ourselves, upon a visit of civility.  Mr. Williams was his name: an
American darkey, runaway ship’s cook, and bar-keeper at _The Land we Live
in_ tavern, Butaritari.  I never knew a man who had more words in his
command or less truth to communicate; neither the gloom of the monarch,
nor my own efforts to be distant, could in the least abash him; and when
the scene closed, the darkey was left talking.

The town still slumbered, or had but just begun to turn and stretch
itself; it was still plunged in heat and silence.  So much the more vivid
was the impression that we carried away of the house upon the islet, the
Micronesian Saul wakeful amid his guards, and his unmelodious David, Mr.
Williams, chattering through the drowsy hours.



CHAPTER II—THE FOUR BROTHERS


The kingdom of Tebureimoa includes two islands, Great and Little Makin;
some two thousand subjects pay him tribute, and two semi-independent
chieftains do him qualified homage.  The importance of the office is
measured by the man; he may be a nobody, he may be absolute; and both
extremes have been exemplified within the memory of residents.

On the death of king Tetimararoa, Tebureimoa’s father, Nakaeia, the
eldest son, succeeded.  He was a fellow of huge physical strength,
masterful, violent, with a certain barbaric thrift and some intelligence
of men and business.  Alone in his islands, it was he who dealt and
profited; he was the planter and the merchant; and his subjects toiled
for his behoof in servitude.  When they wrought long and well their
taskmaster declared a holiday, and supplied and shared a general debauch.
The scale of his providing was at times magnificent; six hundred dollars’
worth of gin and brandy was set forth at once; the narrow land resounded
with the noise of revelry: and it was a common thing to see the subjects
(staggering themselves) parade their drunken sovereign on the fore-hatch
of a wrecked vessel, king and commons howling and singing as they went.
At a word from Nakaeia’s mouth the revel ended; Makin became once more an
isle of slaves and of teetotalers; and on the morrow all the population
must be on the roads or in the taro-patches toiling under his bloodshot
eye.

The fear of Nakaeia filled the land.  No regularity of justice was
affected; there was no trial, there were no officers of the law; it seems
there was but one penalty, the capital; and daylight assault and midnight
murder were the forms of process.  The king himself would play the
executioner: and his blows were dealt by stealth, and with the help and
countenance of none but his own wives.  These were his oarswomen; one
that caught a crab, he slew incontinently with the tiller; thus
disciplined, they pulled him by night to the scene of his vengeance,
which he would then execute alone and return well-pleased with his
connubial crew.  The inmates of the harem held a station hard for us to
conceive.  Beasts of draught, and driven by the fear of death, they were
yet implicitly trusted with their sovereign’s life; they were still wives
and queens, and it was supposed that no man should behold their faces.
They killed by the sight like basilisks; a chance view of one of those
boatwomen was a crime to be wiped out with blood.  In the days of Nakaeia
the palace was beset with some tall coco-palms which commanded the
enclosure.  It chanced one evening, while Nakaeia sat below at supper
with his wives, that the owner of the grove was in a tree-top drawing
palm-tree wine; it chanced that he looked down, and the king at the same
moment looking up, their eyes encountered.  Instant flight preserved the
involuntary criminal.  But during the remainder of that reign he must
lurk and be hid by friends in remote parts of the isle; Nakaeia hunted
him without remission, although still in vain; and the palms, accessories
to the fact, were ruthlessly cut down.  Such was the ideal of wifely
purity in an isle where nubile virgins went naked as in paradise.  And
yet scandal found its way into Nakaeia’s well-guarded harem.  He was at
that time the owner of a schooner, which he used for a pleasure-house,
lodging on board as she lay anchored; and thither one day he summoned a
new wife.  She was one that had been sealed to him; that is to say (I
presume), that he was married to her sister, for the husband of an elder
sister has the call of the cadets.  She would be arrayed for the
occasion; she would come scented, garlanded, decked with fine mats and
family jewels, for marriage, as her friends supposed; for death, as she
well knew.  ‘Tell me the man’s name, and I will spare you,’ said Nakaeia.
But the girl was staunch; she held her peace, saved her lover and the
queens strangled her between the mats.

Nakaeia was feared; it does not appear that he was hated.  Deeds that
smell to us of murder wore to his subjects the reverend face of justice;
his orgies made him popular; natives to this day recall with respect the
firmness of his government; and even the whites, whom he long opposed and
kept at arm’s-length, give him the name (in the canonical South Sea
phrase) of ‘a perfect gentleman when sober.’

When he came to lie, without issue, on the bed of death, he summoned his
next brother, Nanteitei, made him a discourse on royal policy, and warned
him he was too weak to reign.  The warning was taken to heart, and for
some while the government moved on the model of Nakaeia’s.  Nanteitei
dispensed with guards, and walked abroad alone with a revolver in a
leather mail-bag.  To conceal his weakness he affected a rude silence;
you might talk to him all day; advice, reproof, appeal, and menace alike
remained unanswered.

The number of his wives was seventeen, many of them heiresses; for the
royal house is poor, and marriage was in these days a chief means of
buttressing the throne.  Nakaeia kept his harem busy for himself;
Nanteitei hired it out to others.  In his days, for instance, Messrs.
Wightman built a pier with a verandah at the north end of the town.  The
masonry was the work of the seventeen queens, who toiled and waded there
like fisher lasses; but the man who was to do the roofing durst not begin
till they had finished, lest by chance he should look down and see them.

It was perhaps the last appearance of the harem gang.  For some time
already Hawaiian missionaries had been seated at Butaritari—Maka and
Kanoa, two brave childlike men.  Nakaeia would none of their doctrine; he
was perhaps jealous of their presence; being human, he had some affection
for their persons.  In the house, before the eyes of Kanoa, he slew with
his own hand three sailors of Oahu, crouching on their backs to knife
them, and menacing the missionary if he interfered; yet he not only
spared him at the moment, but recalled him afterwards (when he had fled)
with some expressions of respect.  Nanteitei, the weaker man, fell more
completely under the spell.  Maka, a light-hearted, lovable, yet in his
own trade very rigorous man, gained and improved an influence on the king
which soon grew paramount.  Nanteitei, with the royal house, was publicly
converted; and, with a severity which liberal missionaries disavow, the
harem was at once reduced.  It was a compendious act.  The throne was
thus impoverished, its influence shaken, the queen’s relatives mortified,
and sixteen chief women (some of great possessions) cast in a body on the
market.  I have been shipmates with a Hawaiian sailor who was
successively married to two of these _impromptu_ widows, and successively
divorced by both for misconduct.  That two great and rich ladies (for
both of these were rich) should have married ‘a man from another island’
marks the dissolution of society.  The laws besides were wholly
remodelled, not always for the better.  I love Maka as a man; as a
legislator he has two defects: weak in the punishment of crime, stern to
repress innocent pleasures.

War and revolution are the common successors of reform; yet Nanteitei
died (of an overdose of chloroform), in quiet possession of the throne,
and it was in the reign of the third brother, Nabakatokia, a man brave in
body and feeble of character, that the storm burst.  The rule of the high
chiefs and notables seems to have always underlain and perhaps alternated
with monarchy.  The Old Men (as they were called) have a right to sit
with the king in the Speak House and debate: and the king’s chief
superiority is a form of closure—‘The Speaking is over.’  After the long
monocracy of Nakaeia and the changes of Nanteitei, the Old Men were
doubtless grown impatient of obscurity, and they were beyond question
jealous of the influence of Maka.  Calumny, or rather caricature, was
called in use; a spoken cartoon ran round society; Maka was reported to
have said in church that the king was the first man in the island and
himself the second; and, stung by the supposed affront, the chiefs broke
into rebellion and armed gatherings.  In the space of one forenoon the
throne of Nakaeia was humbled in the dust.  The king sat in the maniap’
before the palace gate expecting his recruits; Maka by his side, both
anxious men; and meanwhile, in the door of a house at the north entry of
the town, a chief had taken post and diverted the succours as they came.
They came singly or in groups, each with his gun or pistol slung about
his neck.  ‘Where are you going?’ asked the chief.  ‘The king called us,’
they would reply.  ‘Here is your place.  Sit down,’ returned the chief.
With incredible disloyalty, all obeyed; and sufficient force being thus
got together from both sides, Nabakatokia was summoned and surrendered.
About this period, in almost every part of the group, the kings were
murdered; and on Tapituea, the skeleton of the last hangs to this day in
the chief Speak House of the isle, a menace to ambition.  Nabakatokia was
more fortunate; his life and the royal style were spared to him, but he
was stripped of power.  The Old Men enjoyed a festival of public
speaking; the laws were continually changed, never enforced; the commons
had an opportunity to regret the merits of Nakaeia; and the king, denied
the resource of rich marriages and the service of a troop of wives, fell
not only in disconsideration but in debt.

He died some months before my arrival on the islands, and no one
regretted him; rather all looked hopefully to his successor.  This was by
repute the hero of the family.  Alone of the four brothers, he had issue,
a grown son, Natiata, and a daughter three years old; it was to him, in
the hour of the revolution, that Nabakatokia turned too late for help;
and in earlier days he had been the right hand of the vigorous Nakaeia.
Nontemat’, _Mr. Corpse_, was his appalling nickname, and he had earned it
well.  Again and again, at the command of Nakaeia, he had surrounded
houses in the dead of night, cut down the mosquito bars and butchered
families.  Here was the hand of iron; here was Nakaeia _redux_.  He came,
summoned from the tributary rule of Little Makin: he was installed, he
proved a puppet and a trembler, the unwieldy shuttlecock of orators; and
the reader has seen the remains of him in his summer parlour under the
name of Tebureimoa.

The change in the man’s character was much commented on in the island,
and variously explained by opium and Christianity.  To my eyes, there
seemed no change at all, rather an extreme consistency.  Mr. Corpse was
afraid of his brother: King Tebureimoa is afraid of the Old Men.  Terror
of the first nerved him for deeds of desperation; fear of the second
disables him for the least act of government.  He played his part of
bravo in the past, following the line of least resistance, butchering
others in his own defence: to-day, grown elderly and heavy, a convert, a
reader of the Bible, perhaps a penitent, conscious at least of
accumulated hatreds, and his memory charged with images of violence and
blood, he capitulates to the Old Men, fuddles himself with opium, and
sits among his guards in dreadful expectation.  The same cowardice that
put into his hand the knife of the assassin deprives him of the sceptre
of a king.

A tale that I was told, a trifling incident that fell in my observation,
depicts him in his two capacities.  A chief in Little Makin asked, in an
hour of lightness, ‘Who is Kaeia?’  A bird carried the saying; and
Nakaeia placed the matter in the hands of a committee of three.  Mr.
Corpse was chairman; the second commissioner died before my arrival; the
third was yet alive and green, and presented so venerable an appearance
that we gave him the name of Abou ben Adhem.  Mr. Corpse was troubled
with a scruple; the man from Little Makin was his adopted brother; in
such a case it was not very delicate to appear at all, to strike the blow
(which it seems was otherwise expected of him) would be worse than
awkward.  ‘I will strike the blow,’ said the venerable Abou; and Mr.
Corpse (surely with a sigh) accepted the compromise.  The quarry was
decoyed into the bush; he was set to carrying a log; and while his arms
were raised Abou ripped up his belly at a blow.  Justice being thus done,
the commission, in a childish horror, turned to flee.  But their victim
recalled them to his side.  ‘You need not run away now,’ he said.  ‘You
have done this thing to me.  Stay.’  He was some twenty minutes dying,
and his murderers sat with him the while: a scene for Shakespeare.  All
the stages of a violent death, the blood, the failing voice, the
decomposing features, the changed hue, are thus present in the memory of
Mr. Corpse; and since he studied them in the brother he betrayed, he has
some reason to reflect on the possibilities of treachery.  I was never
more sure of anything than the tragic quality of the king’s thoughts; and
yet I had but the one sight of him at unawares.  I had once an errand for
his ear.  It was once more the hour of the siesta; but there were
loiterers abroad, and these directed us to a closed house on the bank of
the canal where Tebureimoa lay unguarded.  We entered without ceremony,
being in some haste.  He lay on the floor upon a bed of mats, reading in
his Gilbert Island Bible with compunction.  On our sudden entrance the
unwieldy man reared himself half-sitting so that the Bible rolled on the
floor, stared on us a moment with blank eyes, and, having recognised his
visitors, sank again upon the mats.  So Eglon looked on Ehud.

The justice of facts is strange, and strangely just; Nakaeia, the author
of these deeds, died at peace discoursing on the craft of kings; his tool
suffers daily death for his enforced complicity.  Not the nature, but the
congruity of men’s deeds and circumstances damn and save them; and
Tebureimoa from the first has been incongruously placed.  At home, in a
quiet bystreet of a village, the man had been a worthy carpenter, and,
even bedevilled as he is, he shows some private virtues.  He has no
lands, only the use of such as are impignorate for fines; he cannot
enrich himself in the old way by marriages; thrift is the chief pillar of
his future, and he knows and uses it.  Eleven foreign traders pay him a
patent of a hundred dollars, some two thousand subjects pay capitation at
the rate of a dollar for a man, half a dollar for a woman, and a shilling
for a child: allowing for the exchange, perhaps a total of three hundred
pounds a year.  He had been some nine months on the throne: had bought
his wife a silk dress and hat, figure unknown, and himself a uniform at
three hundred dollars; had sent his brother’s photograph to be enlarged
in San Francisco at two hundred and fifty dollars; had greatly reduced
that brother’s legacy of debt and had still sovereigns in his pocket.  An
affectionate brother, a good economist; he was besides a handy carpenter,
and cobbled occasionally on the woodwork of the palace.  It is not
wonderful that Mr. Corpse has virtues; that Tebureimoa should have a
diversion filled me with surprise.



CHAPTER III—AROUND OUR HOUSE


When we left the palace we were still but seafarers ashore; and within
the hour we had installed our goods in one of the six foreign houses of
Butaritari, namely, that usually occupied by Maka, the Hawaiian
missionary.  Two San Francisco firms are here established, Messrs.
Crawford and Messrs. Wightman Brothers; the first hard by the palace of
the mid town, the second at the north entry; each with a store and
bar-room.  Our house was in the Wightman compound, betwixt the store and
bar, within a fenced enclosure.  Across the road a few native houses
nestled in the margin of the bush, and the green wall of palms rose
solid, shutting out the breeze.  A little sandy cove of the lagoon ran in
behind, sheltered by a verandah pier, the labour of queens’ hands.  Here,
when the tide was high, sailed boats lay to be loaded; when the tide was
low, the boats took ground some half a mile away, and an endless series
of natives descended the pier stair, tailed across the sand in strings
and clusters, waded to the waist with the bags of copra, and loitered
backward to renew their charge.  The mystery of the copra trade tormented
me, as I sat and watched the profits drip on the stair and the sands.

In front, from shortly after four in the morning until nine at night, the
folk of the town streamed by us intermittingly along the road: families
going up the island to make copra on their lands; women bound for the
bush to gather flowers against the evening toilet; and, twice a day, the
toddy-cutters, each with his knife and shell.  In the first grey of the
morning, and again late in the afternoon, these would straggle past about
their tree-top business, strike off here and there into the bush, and
vanish from the face of the earth.  At about the same hour, if the tide
be low in the lagoon, you are likely to be bound yourself across the
island for a bath, and may enter close at their heels alleys of the palm
wood.  Right in front, although the sun is not yet risen, the east is
already lighted with preparatory fires, and the huge accumulations of the
trade-wind cloud glow with and heliograph the coming day.  The breeze is
in your face; overhead in the tops of the palms, its playthings, it
maintains a lively bustle; look where you will, above or below, there is
no human presence, only the earth and shaken forest.  And right overhead
the song of an invisible singer breaks from the thick leaves; from
farther on a second tree-top answers; and beyond again, in the bosom of
the woods, a still more distant minstrel perches and sways and sings.
So, all round the isle, the toddy-cutters sit on high, and are rocked by
the trade, and have a view far to seaward, where they keep watch for
sails, and like huge birds utter their songs in the morning.  They sing
with a certain lustiness and Bacchic glee; the volume of sound and the
articulate melody fall unexpected from the tree-top, whence we anticipate
the chattering of fowls.  And yet in a sense these songs also are but
chatter; the words are ancient, obsolete, and sacred; few comprehend
them, perhaps no one perfectly; but it was understood the cutters ‘prayed
to have good toddy, and sang of their old wars.’  The prayer is at least
answered; and when the foaming shell is brought to your door, you have a
beverage well ‘worthy of a grace.’  All forenoon you may return and
taste; it only sparkles, and sharpens, and grows to be a new drink, not
less delicious; but with the progress of the day the fermentation
quickens and grows acid; in twelve hours it will be yeast for bread, in
two days more a devilish intoxicant, the counsellor of crime.

The men are of a marked Arabian cast of features, often bearded and
mustached, often gaily dressed, some with bracelets and anklets, all
stalking hidalgo-like, and accepting salutations with a haughty lip.  The
hair (with the dandies of either sex) is worn turban-wise in a frizzled
bush; and like the daggers of the Japanese a pointed stick (used for a
comb) is thrust gallantly among the curls.  The women from this bush of
hair look forth enticingly: the race cannot be compared with the Tahitian
for female beauty; I doubt even if the average be high; but some of the
prettiest girls, and one of the handsomest women I ever saw, were
Gilbertines.  Butaritari, being the commercial centre of the group, is
Europeanised; the coloured sacque or the white shift are common wear, the
latter for the evening; the trade hat, loaded with flowers, fruit, and
ribbons, is unfortunately not unknown; and the characteristic female
dress of the Gilberts no longer universal.  The _ridi_ is its name: a
cutty petticoat or fringe of the smoked fibre of cocoa-nut leaf, not
unlike tarry string: the lower edge not reaching the mid-thigh, the upper
adjusted so low upon the haunches that it seems to cling by accident.  A
sneeze, you think, and the lady must surely be left destitute.  ‘The
perilous, hairbreadth ridi’ was our word for it; and in the conflict that
rages over women’s dress it has the misfortune to please neither side,
the prudish condemning it as insufficient, the more frivolous finding it
unlovely in itself.  Yet if a pretty Gilbertine would look her best, that
must be her costume.  In that and naked otherwise, she moves with an
incomparable liberty and grace and life, that marks the poetry of
Micronesia.  Bundle her in a gown, the charm is fled, and she wriggles
like an Englishwoman.

Towards dusk the passers-by became more gorgeous.  The men broke out in
all the colours of the rainbow—or at least of the trade-room,—and both
men and women began to be adorned and scented with new flowers.  A small
white blossom is the favourite, sometimes sown singly in a woman’s hair
like little stars, now composed in a thick wreath.  With the night, the
crowd sometimes thickened in the road, and the padding and brushing of
bare feet became continuous; the promenades mostly grave, the silence
only interrupted by some giggling and scampering of girls; even the
children quiet.  At nine, bed-time struck on a bell from the cathedral,
and the life of the town ceased.  At four the next morning the signal is
repeated in the darkness, and the innocent prisoners set free; but for
seven hours all must lie—I was about to say within doors, of a place
where doors, and even walls, are an exception—housed, at least, under
their airy roofs and clustered in the tents of the mosquito-nets.
Suppose a necessary errand to occur, suppose it imperative to send
abroad, the messenger must then go openly, advertising himself to the
police with a huge brand of cocoa-nut, which flares from house to house
like a moving bonfire.  Only the police themselves go darkling, and grope
in the night for misdemeanants.  I used to hate their treacherous
presence; their captain in particular, a crafty old man in white, lurked
nightly about my premises till I could have found it in my heart to beat
him.  But the rogue was privileged.

Not one of the eleven resident traders came to town, no captain cast
anchor in the lagoon, but we saw him ere the hour was out.  This was
owing to our position between the store and the bar—the _Sans Souci_, as
the last was called.  Mr. Rick was not only Messrs. Wightman’s manager,
but consular agent for the States; Mrs. Rick was the only white woman on
the island, and one of the only two in the archipelago; their house
besides, with its cool verandahs, its bookshelves, its comfortable
furniture, could not be rivalled nearer than Jaluit or Honolulu.  Every
one called in consequence, save such as might be prosecuting a South Sea
quarrel, hingeing on the price of copra and the odd cent, or perhaps a
difference about poultry.  Even these, if they did not appear upon the
north, would be presently visible to the southward, the _Sans Souci_
drawing them as with cords.  In an island with a total population of
twelve white persons, one of the two drinking-shops might seem
superfluous: but every bullet has its billet, and the double
accommodation of Butaritari is found in practice highly convenient by the
captains and the crews of ships: _The Land we Live in_ being tacitly
resigned to the forecastle, the _Sans Souci_ tacitly reserved for the
afterguard.  So aristocratic were my habits, so commanding was my fear of
Mr. Williams, that I have never visited the first; but in the other,
which was the club or rather the casino of the island, I regularly passed
my evenings.  It was small, but neatly fitted, and at night (when the
lamp was lit) sparkled with glass and glowed with coloured pictures like
a theatre at Christmas.  The pictures were advertisements, the glass
coarse enough, the carpentry amateur; but the effect, in that incongruous
isle, was of unbridled luxury and inestimable expense.  Here songs were
sung, tales told, tricks performed, games played.  The Ricks, ourselves,
Norwegian Tom the bar-keeper, a captain or two from the ships, and
perhaps three or four traders come down the island in their boats or by
the road on foot, made up the usual company.  The traders, all bred to
the sea, take a humorous pride in their new business; ‘South Sea
Merchants’ is the title they prefer.  ‘We are all sailors
here’—‘Merchants, if you please’—‘_South Sea_ Merchants,’—was a piece of
conversation endlessly repeated, that never seemed to lose in savour.  We
found them at all times simple, genial, gay, gallant, and obliging; and,
across some interval of time, recall with pleasure the traders of
Butaritari.  There was one black sheep indeed.  I tell of him here where
he lived, against my rule; for in this case I have no measure to
preserve, and the man is typical of a class of ruffians that once
disgraced the whole field of the South Seas, and still linger in the
rarely visited isles of Micronesia.  He had the name on the beach of ‘a
perfect gentleman when sober,’ but I never saw him otherwise than drunk.
The few shocking and savage traits of the Micronesian he has singled out
with the skill of a collector, and planted in the soil of his original
baseness.  He has been accused and acquitted of a treacherous murder; and
has since boastfully owned it, which inclines me to suppose him innocent.
His daughter is defaced by his erroneous cruelty, for it was his wife he
had intended to disfigure, and in the darkness of the night and the
frenzy of coco-brandy, fastened on the wrong victim.  The wife has since
fled and harbours in the bush with natives; and the husband still demands
from deaf ears her forcible restoration.  The best of his business is to
make natives drink, and then advance the money for the fine upon a
lucrative mortgage.  ‘Respect for whites’ is the man’s word: ‘What is the
matter with this island is the want of respect for whites.’  On his way
to Butaritari, while I was there, he spied his wife in the bush with
certain natives and made a dash to capture her; whereupon one of her
companions drew a knife and the husband retreated: ‘Do you call that
proper respect for whites?’ he cried.  At an early stage of the
acquaintance we proved our respect for his kind of white by forbidding
him our enclosure under pain of death.  Thenceforth he lingered often in
the neighbourhood with I knew not what sense of envy or design of
mischief; his white, handsome face (which I beheld with loathing) looked
in upon us at all hours across the fence; and once, from a safe distance,
he avenged himself by shouting a recondite island insult, to us quite
inoffensive, on his English lips incredibly incongruous.

Our enclosure, round which this composite of degradations wandered, was
of some extent.  In one corner was a trellis with a long table of rough
boards.  Here the Fourth of July feast had been held not long before with
memorable consequences, yet to be set forth; here we took our meals; here
entertained to a dinner the king and notables of Makin.  In the midst was
the house, with a verandah front and back, and three is rooms within.  In
the verandah we slung our man-of-war hammocks, worked there by day, and
slept at night.  Within were beds, chairs, a round table, a fine hanging
lamp, and portraits of the royal family of Hawaii.  Queen Victoria proves
nothing; Kalakaua and Mrs. Bishop are diagnostic; and the truth is we
were the stealthy tenants of the parsonage.  On the day of our arrival
Maka was away; faithless trustees unlocked his doors; and the dear
rigorous man, the sworn foe of liquor and tobacco, returned to find his
verandah littered with cigarettes and his parlour horrible with bottles.
He made but one condition—on the round table, which he used in the
celebration of the sacraments, he begged us to refrain from setting
liquor; in all else he bowed to the accomplished fact, refused rent,
retired across the way into a native house, and, plying in his boat, beat
the remotest quarters of the isle for provender.  He found us pigs—I
could not fancy where—no other pigs were visible; he brought us fowls and
taro; when we gave our feast to the monarch and gentry, it was he who
supplied the wherewithal, he who superintended the cooking, he who asked
grace at table, and when the king’s health was proposed, he also started
the cheering with an English hip-hip-hip.  There was never a more
fortunate conception; the heart of the fatted king exulted in his bosom
at the sound.

Take him for all in all, I have never known a more engaging creature than
this parson of Butaritari: his mirth, his kindness, his noble, friendly
feelings, brimmed from the man in speech and gesture.  He loved to
exaggerate, to act and overact the momentary part, to exercise his lungs
and muscles, and to speak and laugh with his whole body.  He had the
morning cheerfulness of birds and healthy children; and his humour was
infectious.  We were next neighbours and met daily, yet our salutations
lasted minutes at a stretch—shaking hands, slapping shoulders, capering
like a pair of Merry-Andrews, laughing to split our sides upon some
pleasantry that would scarce raise a titter in an infant-school.  It
might be five in the morning, the toddy-cutters just gone by, the road
empty, the shade of the island lying far on the lagoon: and the
ebullition cheered me for the day.

Yet I always suspected Maka of a secret melancholy—these jubilant
extremes could scarce be constantly maintained.  He was besides long, and
lean, and lined, and corded, and a trifle grizzled; and his Sabbath
countenance was even saturnine.  On that day we made a procession to the
church, or (as I must always call it) the cathedral: Maka (a blot on the
hot landscape) in tall hat, black frock-coat, black trousers; under his
arm the hymn-book and the Bible; in his face, a reverent gravity:—beside
him Mary his wife, a quiet, wise, and handsome elderly lady, seriously
attired:—myself following with singular and moving thoughts.  Long
before, to the sound of bells and streams and birds, through a green
Lothian glen, I had accompanied Sunday by Sunday a minister in whose
house I lodged; and the likeness, and the difference, and the series of
years and deaths, profoundly touched me.  In the great, dusky, palm-tree
cathedral the congregation rarely numbered thirty: the men on one side,
the women on the other, myself posted (for a privilege) amongst the
women, and the small missionary contingent gathered close around the
platform, we were lost in that round vault.  The lessons were read
antiphonally, the flock was catechised, a blind youth repeated weekly a
long string of psalms, hymns were sung—I never heard worse singing,—and
the sermon followed.  To say I understood nothing were untrue; there were
points that I learned to expect with certainty; the name of Honolulu,
that of Kalakaua, the word Cap’n-man-o’-wa’, the word ship, and a
description of a storm at sea, infallibly occurred; and I was not seldom
rewarded with the name of my own Sovereign in the bargain.  The rest was
but sound to the ears, silence for the mind: a plain expanse of tedium,
rendered unbearable by heat, a hard chair, and the sight through the wide
doors of the more happy heathen on the green.  Sleep breathed on my
joints and eyelids, sleep hummed in my ears; it reigned in the dim
cathedral.  The congregation stirred and stretched; they moaned, they
groaned aloud; they yawned upon a singing note, as you may sometimes hear
a dog when he has reached the tragic bitterest of boredom.  In vain the
preacher thumped the table; in vain he singled and addressed by name
particular hearers.  I was myself perhaps a more effective excitant; and
at least to one old gentleman the spectacle of my successful struggles
against sleep—and I hope they were successful—cheered the flight of time.
He, when he was not catching flies or playing tricks upon his neighbours,
gloated with a fixed, truculent eye upon the stages of my agony; and
once, when the service was drawing towards a close, he winked at me
across the church.

I write of the service with a smile; yet I was always there—always with
respect for Maka, always with admiration for his deep seriousness, his
burning energy, the fire of his roused eye, the sincere and various
accents of his voice.  To see him weekly flogging a dead horse and
blowing a cold fire was a lesson in fortitude and constancy.  It may be a
question whether if the mission were fully supported, and he was set free
from business avocations, more might not result; I think otherwise
myself; I think not neglect but rigour has reduced his flock, that rigour
which has once provoked a revolution, and which to-day, in a man so
lively and engaging, amazes the beholder.  No song, no dance, no tobacco,
no liquor, no alleviative of life—only toil and church-going; so says a
voice from his face; and the face is the face of the Polynesian Esau, but
the voice is the voice of a Jacob from a different world.  And a
Polynesian at the best makes a singular missionary in the Gilberts,
coming from a country recklessly unchaste to one conspicuously strict;
from a race hag-ridden with bogies to one comparatively bold against the
terrors of the dark.  The thought was stamped one morning in my mind,
when I chanced to be abroad by moonlight, and saw all the town lightless,
but the lamp faithfully burning by the missionary’s bed.  It requires no
law, no fire, and no scouting police, to withhold Maka and his countrymen
from wandering in the night unlighted.



CHAPTER IV—A TALE OF A TAPU


On the morrow of our arrival (Sunday, 14th July 1889) our photographers
were early stirring.  Once more we traversed a silent town; many were yet
abed and asleep; some sat drowsily in their open houses; there was no
sound of intercourse or business.  In that hour before the shadows, the
quarter of the palace and canal seemed like a landing-place in the
_Arabian Nights_ or from the classic poets; here were the fit destination
of some ‘faery frigot,’ here some adventurous prince might step ashore
among new characters and incidents; and the island prison, where it
floated on the luminous face of the lagoon, might have passed for the
repository of the Grail.  In such a scene, and at such an hour, the
impression received was not so much of foreign travel—rather of past
ages; it seemed not so much degrees of latitude that we had crossed, as
centuries of time that we had re-ascended; leaving, by the same steps,
home and to-day.  A few children followed us, mostly nude, all silent; in
the clear, weedy waters of the canal some silent damsels waded, baring
their brown thighs; and to one of the maniap’s before the palace gate we
were attracted by a low but stirring hum of speech.

The oval shed was full of men sitting cross-legged.  The king was there
in striped pyjamas, his rear protected by four guards with Winchesters,
his air and bearing marked by unwonted spirit and decision; tumblers and
black bottles went the round; and the talk, throughout loud, was general
and animated.  I was inclined at first to view this scene with suspicion.
But the hour appeared unsuitable for a carouse; drink was besides
forbidden equally by the law of the land and the canons of the church;
and while I was yet hesitating, the king’s rigorous attitude disposed of
my last doubt.  We had come, thinking to photograph him surrounded by his
guards, and at the first word of the design his piety revolted.  We were
reminded of the day—the Sabbath, in which thou shalt take no
photographs—and returned with a flea in our ear, bearing the rejected
camera.

At church, a little later, I was struck to find the throne unoccupied.
So nice a Sabbatarian might have found the means to be present; perhaps
my doubts revived; and before I got home they were transformed to
certainties.  Tom, the bar-keeper of the _Sans Souci_, was in
conversation with two emissaries from the court.  The ‘keen,’ they said,
wanted ‘din,’ failing which ‘perandi.’ {231}  No din, was Tom’s reply,
and no perandi; but ‘pira’ if they pleased.  It seems they had no use for
beer, and departed sorrowing.

‘Why, what is the meaning of all this?’ I asked.  ‘Is the island on the
spree?’

Such was the fact.  On the 4th of July a feast had been made, and the
king, at the suggestion of the whites, had raised the tapu against
liquor.  There is a proverb about horses; it scarce applies to the
superior animal, of whom it may be rather said, that any one can start
him drinking, not any twenty can prevail on him to stop.  The tapu,
raised ten days before, was not yet re-imposed; for ten days the town had
been passing the bottle or lying (as we had seen it the afternoon before)
in hoggish sleep; and the king, moved by the Old Men and his own
appetites, continued to maintain the liberty, to squander his savings on
liquor, and to join in and lead the debauch.  The whites were the authors
of this crisis; it was upon their own proposal that the freedom had been
granted at the first; and for a while, in the interests of trade, they
were doubtless pleased it should continue.  That pleasure had now
sometime ceased; the bout had been prolonged (it was conceded) unduly;
and it now began to be a question how it might conclude.  Hence Tom’s
refusal.  Yet that refusal was avowedly only for the moment, and it was
avowedly unavailing; the king’s foragers, denied by Tom at the _Sans
Souci_, would be supplied at _The Land we Live in_ by the gobbling Mr.
Williams.

The degree of the peril was not easy to measure at the time, and I am
inclined to think now it was easy to exaggerate.  Yet the conduct of
drunkards even at home is always matter for anxiety; and at home our
populations are not armed from the highest to the lowest with revolvers
and repeating rifles, neither do we go on a debauch by the whole
townful—and I might rather say, by the whole polity—king, magistrates,
police, and army joining in one common scene of drunkenness.  It must be
thought besides that we were here in barbarous islands, rarely visited,
lately and partly civilised.  First and last, a really considerable
number of whites have perished in the Gilberts, chiefly through their own
misconduct; and the natives have displayed in at least one instance a
disposition to conceal an accident under a butchery, and leave nothing
but dumb bones.  This last was the chief consideration against a sudden
closing of the bars; the bar-keepers stood in the immediate breach and
dealt direct with madmen; too surly a refusal might at any moment
precipitate a blow, and the blow might prove the signal for a massacre.

_Monday_, 15th.—At the same hour we returned to the same muniap’.  Kümmel
(of all drinks) was served in tumblers; in the midst sat the crown
prince, a fatted youth, surrounded by fresh bottles and busily plying the
corkscrew; and king, chief, and commons showed the loose mouth, the
uncertain joints, and the blurred and animated eye of the early drinker.
It was plain we were impatiently expected; the king retired with alacrity
to dress, the guards were despatched after their uniforms; and we were
left to await the issue of these preparations with a shedful of tipsy
natives.  The orgie had proceeded further than on Sunday.  The day
promised to be of great heat; it was already sultry, the courtiers were
already fuddled; and still the kümmel continued to go round, and the
crown prince to play butler.  Flemish freedom followed upon Flemish
excess; and a funny dog, a handsome fellow, gaily dressed, and with a
full turban of frizzed hair, delighted the company with a humorous
courtship of a lady in a manner not to be described.  It was our
diversion, in this time of waiting, to observe the gathering of the
guards.  They have European arms, European uniforms, and (to their
sorrow) European shoes.  We saw one warrior (like Mars) in the article of
being armed; two men and a stalwart woman were scarce strong enough to
boot him; and after a single appearance on parade the army is crippled
for a week.

At last, the gates under the king’s house opened; the army issued, one
behind another, with guns and epaulettes; the colours stooped under the
gateway; majesty followed in his uniform bedizened with gold lace;
majesty’s wife came next in a hat and feathers, and an ample trained silk
gown; the royal imps succeeded; there stood the pageantry of Makin
marshalled on its chosen theatre.  Dickens might have told how serious
they were; how tipsy; how the king melted and streamed under his cocked
hat; how he took station by the larger of his two cannons—austere,
majestic, but not truly vertical; how the troops huddled, and were
straightened out, and clubbed again; how they and their firelocks raked
at various inclinations like the masts of ships; and how an amateur
photographer reviewed, arrayed, and adjusted them, to see his
dispositions change before he reached the camera.

The business was funny to see; I do not know that it is graceful to laugh
at; and our report of these transactions was received on our return with
the shaking of grave heads.

The day had begun ill; eleven hours divided us from sunset; and at any
moment, on the most trifling chance, the trouble might begin.  The
Wightman compound was in a military sense untenable, commanded on three
sides by houses and thick bush; the town was computed to contain over a
thousand stand of excellent new arms; and retreat to the ships, in the
case of an alert, was a recourse not to be thought of.  Our talk that
morning must have closely reproduced the talk in English garrisons before
the Sepoy mutiny; the sturdy doubt that any mischief was in prospect, the
sure belief that (should any come) there was nothing left but to go down
fighting, the half-amused, half-anxious attitude of mind in which we were
awaiting fresh developments.

The kümmel soon ran out; we were scarce returned before the king had
followed us in quest of more.  Mr. Corpse was now divested of his more
awful attitude, the lawless bulk of him again encased in striped pyjamas;
a guardsman brought up the rear with his rifle at the trail: and his
majesty was further accompanied by a Rarotongan whalerman and the playful
courtier with the turban of frizzed hair.  There was never a more lively
deputation.  The whalerman was gapingly, tearfully tipsy: the courtier
walked on air; the king himself was even sportive.  Seated in a chair in
the Ricks’ sitting-room, he bore the brunt of our prayers and menaces
unmoved.  He was even rated, plied with historic instances, threatened
with the men-of-war, ordered to restore the tapu on the spot—and nothing
in the least affected him.  It should be done to-morrow, he said; to-day
it was beyond his power, to-day he durst not.  ‘Is that royal?’ cried
indignant Mr. Rick.  No, it was not royal; had the king been of a royal
character we should ourselves have held a different language; and royal
or not, he had the best of the dispute.  The terms indeed were hardly
equal; for the king was the only man who could restore the tapu, but the
Ricks were not the only people who sold drink.  He had but to hold his
ground on the first question, and they were sure to weaken on the second.
A little struggle they still made for the fashion’s sake; and then one
exceedingly tipsy deputation departed, greatly rejoicing, a case of
brandy wheeling beside them in a barrow.  The Rarotongan (whom I had
never seen before) wrung me by the hand like a man bound on a far voyage.
‘My dear frien’!’ he cried, ‘good-bye, my dear frien’!’—tears of kümmel
standing in his eyes; the king lurched as he went, the courtier ambled,—a
strange party of intoxicated children to be entrusted with that barrowful
of madness.

You could never say the town was quiet; all morning there was a ferment
in the air, an aimless movement and congregation of natives in the
street.  But it was not before half-past one that a sudden hubbub of
voices called us from the house, to find the whole white colony already
gathered on the spot as by concerted signal.  The _Sans Souci_ was
overrun with rabble, the stair and verandah thronged.  From all these
throats an inarticulate babbling cry went up incessantly; it sounded like
the bleating of young lambs, but angrier.  In the road his royal highness
(whom I had seen so lately in the part of butler) stood crying upon Tom;
on the top step, tossed in the hurly-burly, Tom was shouting to the
prince.  Yet a while the pack swayed about the bar, vociferous.  Then
came a brutal impulse; the mob reeled, and returned, and was rejected;
the stair showed a stream of heads; and there shot into view, through the
disbanding ranks, three men violently dragging in their midst a fourth.
By his hair and his hands, his head forced as low as his knees, his face
concealed, he was wrenched from the verandah and whisked along the road
into the village, howling as he disappeared.  Had his face been raised,
we should have seen it bloodied, and the blood was not his own.  The
courtier with the turban of frizzed hair had paid the costs of this
disturbance with the lower part of one ear.

So the brawl passed with no other casualty than might seem comic to the
inhumane.  Yet we looked round on serious faces and—a fact that spoke
volumes—Tom was putting up the shutters on the bar.  Custom might go
elsewhere, Mr. Williams might profit as he pleased, but Tom had had
enough of bar-keeping for that day.  Indeed the event had hung on a hair.
A man had sought to draw a revolver—on what quarrel I could never learn,
and perhaps he himself could not have told; one shot, when the room was
so crowded, could scarce have failed to take effect; where many were
armed and all tipsy, it could scarce have failed to draw others; and the
woman who spied the weapon and the man who seized it may very well have
saved the white community.

The mob insensibly melted from the scene; and for the rest of the day our
neighbourhood was left in peace and a good deal in solitude.  But the
tranquillity was only local; _din_ and_ perandi_ still flowed in other
quarters: and we had one more sight of Gilbert Island violence.  In the
church, where we had wandered photographing, we were startled by a sudden
piercing outcry.  The scene, looking forth from the doors of that great
hall of shadow, was unforgettable.  The palms, the quaint and scattered
houses, the flag of the island streaming from its tall staff, glowed with
intolerable sunshine.  In the midst two women rolled fighting on the
grass.  The combatants were the more easy to be distinguished, because
the one was stripped to the _ridi_ and the other wore a holoku (sacque)
of some lively colour.  The first was uppermost, her teeth locked in her
adversary’s face, shaking her like a dog; the other impotently fought and
scratched.  So for a moment we saw them wallow and grapple there like
vermin; then the mob closed and shut them in.

It was a serious question that night if we should sleep ashore.  But we
were travellers, folk that had come far in quest of the adventurous; on
the first sign of an adventure it would have been a singular
inconsistency to have withdrawn; and we sent on board instead for our
revolvers.  Mindful of Taahauku, Mr. Rick, Mr. Osbourne, and Mrs.
Stevenson held an assault of arms on the public highway, and fired at
bottles to the admiration of the natives.  Captain Reid of the _Equator_
stayed on shore with us to be at hand in case of trouble, and we retired
to bed at the accustomed hour, agreeably excited by the day’s events.
The night was exquisite, the silence enchanting; yet as I lay in my
hammock looking on the strong moonshine and the quiescent palms, one ugly
picture haunted me of the two women, the naked and the clad, locked in
that hostile embrace.  The harm done was probably not much, yet I could
have looked on death and massacre with less revolt.  The return to these
primeval weapons, the vision of man’s beastliness, of his ferality,
shocked in me a deeper sense than that with which we count the cost of
battles.  There are elements in our state and history which it is a
pleasure to forget, which it is perhaps the better wisdom not to dwell
on.  Crime, pestilence, and death are in the day’s work; the imagination
readily accepts them.  It instinctively rejects, on the contrary,
whatever shall call up the image of our race upon its lowest terms, as
the partner of beasts, beastly itself, dwelling pell-mell and
hugger-mugger, hairy man with hairy woman, in the caves of old.  And yet
to be just to barbarous islanders we must not forget the slums and dens
of our cities; I must not forget that I have passed dinnerward through
Soho, and seen that which cured me of my dinner.



CHAPTER V—A TALE OF A TAPU—_continued_


_Tuesday_, _July_ 16.—It rained in the night, sudden and loud, in Gilbert
Island fashion.  Before the day, the crowing of a cock aroused me and I
wandered in the compound and along the street.  The squall was blown by,
the moon shone with incomparable lustre, the air lay dead as in a room,
and yet all the isle sounded as under a strong shower, the eaves thickly
pattering, the lofty palms dripping at larger intervals and with a louder
note.  In this bold nocturnal light the interior of the houses lay
inscrutable, one lump of blackness, save when the moon glinted under the
roof, and made a belt of silver, and drew the slanting shadows of the
pillars on the floor.  Nowhere in all the town was any lamp or ember; not
a creature stirred; I thought I was alone to be awake; but the police
were faithful to their duty; secretly vigilant, keeping account of time;
and a little later, the watchman struck slowly and repeatedly on the
cathedral bell; four o’clock, the warning signal.  It seemed strange
that, in a town resigned to drunkenness and tumult, curfew and réveille
should still be sounded and still obeyed.

The day came, and brought little change.  The place still lay silent; the
people slept, the town slept.  Even the few who were awake, mostly women
and children, held their peace and kept within under the strong shadow of
the thatch, where you must stop and peer to see them.  Through the
deserted streets, and past the sleeping houses, a deputation took its way
at an early hour to the palace; the king was suddenly awakened, and must
listen (probably with a headache) to unpalatable truths.  Mrs. Rick,
being a sufficient mistress of that difficult tongue, was spokeswoman;
she explained to the sick monarch that I was an intimate personal friend
of Queen Victoria’s; that immediately on my return I should make her a
report upon Butaritari; and that if my house should have been again
invaded by natives, a man-of-war would be despatched to make reprisals.
It was scarce the fact—rather a just and necessary parable of the fact,
corrected for latitude; and it certainly told upon the king.  He was much
affected; he had conceived the notion (he said) that I was a man of some
importance, but not dreamed it was as bad as this; and the missionary
house was tapu’d under a fine of fifty dollars.

So much was announced on the return of the deputation; not any more; and
I gathered subsequently that much more had passed.  The protection gained
was welcome.  It had been the most annoying and not the least alarming
feature of the day before, that our house was periodically filled with
tipsy natives, twenty or thirty at a time, begging drink, fingering our
goods, hard to be dislodged, awkward to quarrel with.  Queen Victoria’s
friend (who was soon promoted to be her son) was free from these
intrusions.  Not only my house, but my neighbourhood as well, was left in
peace; even on our walks abroad we were guarded and prepared for; and,
like great persons visiting a hospital, saw only the fair side.  For the
matter of a week we were thus suffered to go out and in and live in a
fool’s paradise, supposing the king to have kept his word, the tapu to be
revived and the island once more sober.

_Tuesday_, _July_ 23.—We dined under a bare trellis erected for the
Fourth of July; and here we used to linger by lamplight over coffee and
tobacco.  In that climate evening approaches without sensible chill; the
wind dies out before sunset; heaven glows a while and fades, and darkens
into the blueness of the tropical night; swiftly and insensibly the
shadows thicken, the stars multiply their number; you look around you and
the day is gone.  It was then that we would see our Chinaman draw near
across the compound in a lurching sphere of light, divided by his
shadows; and with the coming of the lamp the night closed about the
table.  The faces of the company, the spars of the trellis, stood out
suddenly bright on a ground of blue and silver, faintly designed with
palm-tops and the peaked roofs of houses.  Here and there the gloss upon
a leaf, or the fracture of a stone, returned an isolated sparkle.  All
else had vanished.  We hung there, illuminated like a galaxy of stars _in
vacuo_; we sat, manifest and blind, amid the general ambush of the
darkness; and the islanders, passing with light footfalls and low voices
in the sand of the road, lingered to observe us, unseen.

On Tuesday the dusk had fallen, the lamp had just been brought, when a
missile struck the table with a rattling smack and rebounded past my ear.
Three inches to one side and this page had never been written; for the
thing travelled like a cannon ball.  It was supposed at the time to be a
nut, though even at the time I thought it seemed a small one and fell
strangely.

_Wednesday_, _July_ 24.—The dusk had fallen once more, and the lamp been
just brought out, when the same business was repeated.  And again the
missile whistled past my ear.  One nut I had been willing to accept; a
second, I rejected utterly.  A cocoa-nut does not come slinging along on
a windless evening, making an angle of about fifteen degrees with the
horizon; cocoa-nuts do not fall on successive nights at the same hour and
spot; in both cases, besides, a specific moment seemed to have been
chosen, that when the lamp was just carried out, a specific person
threatened, and that the head of the family.  I may have been right or
wrong, but I believed I was the mark of some intimidation; believed the
missile was a stone, aimed not to hit, but to frighten.

No idea makes a man more angry.  I ran into the road, where the natives
were as usual promenading in the dark; Maka joined me with a lantern; and
I ran from one to another, glared in quite innocent faces, put useless
questions, and proffered idle threats.  Thence I carried my wrath (which
was worthy the son of any queen in history) to the Ricks.  They heard me
with depression, assured me this trick of throwing a stone into a family
dinner was not new; that it meant mischief, and was of a piece with the
alarming disposition of the natives.  And then the truth, so long
concealed from us, came out.  The king had broken his promise, he had
defied the deputation; the tapu was still dormant, _The Land we Live in_
still selling drink, and that quarter of the town disturbed and menaced
by perpetual broils.  But there was worse ahead: a feast was now
preparing for the birthday of the little princess; and the tributary
chiefs of Kuma and Little Makin were expected daily.  Strong in a
following of numerous and somewhat savage clansmen, each of these was
believed, like a Douglas of old, to be of doubtful loyalty.  Kuma (a
little pot-bellied fellow) never visited the palace, never entered the
town, but sat on the beach on a mat, his gun across his knees, parading
his mistrust and scorn; Karaiti of Makin, although he was more bold, was
not supposed to be more friendly; and not only were these vassals jealous
of the throne, but the followers on either side shared in the animosity.
Brawls had already taken place; blows had passed which might at any
moment be repaid in blood.  Some of the strangers were already here and
already drinking; if the debauch continued after the bulk of them had
come, a collision, perhaps a revolution, was to be expected.

The sale of drink is in this group a measure of the jealousy of traders;
one begins, the others are constrained to follow; and to him who has the
most gin, and sells it the most recklessly, the lion’s share of copra is
assured.  It is felt by all to be an extreme expedient, neither safe,
decent, nor dignified.  A trader on Tarawa, heated by an eager rivalry,
brought many cases of gin.  He told me he sat afterwards day and night in
his house till it was finished, not daring to arrest the sale, not
venturing to go forth, the bush all round him filled with howling
drunkards.  At night, above all, when he was afraid to sleep, and heard
shots and voices about him in the darkness, his remorse was black.

‘My God!’ he reflected, ‘if I was to lose my life on such a wretched
business!’  Often and often, in the story of the Gilberts, this scene has
been repeated; and the remorseful trader sat beside his lamp, longing for
the day, listening with agony for the sound of murder, registering
resolutions for the future.  For the business is easy to begin, but
hazardous to stop.  The natives are in their way a just and law-abiding
people, mindful of their debts, docile to the voice of their own
institutions; when the tapu is re-enforced they will cease drinking; but
the white who seeks to antedate the movement by refusing liquor does so
at his peril.

Hence, in some degree, the anxiety and helplessness of Mr. Rick.  He and
Tom, alarmed by the rabblement of the _Sans Souci_, had stopped the sale;
they had done so without danger, because _The Land we Live in_ still
continued selling; it was claimed, besides, that they had been the first
to begin.  What step could be taken?  Could Mr. Rick visit Mr. Muller
(with whom he was not on terms) and address him thus: ‘I was getting
ahead of you, now you are getting ahead of me, and I ask you to forego
your profit.  I got my place closed in safety, thanks to your continuing;
but now I think you have continued long enough.  I begin to be alarmed;
and because I am afraid I ask you to confront a certain danger’?  It was
not to be thought of.  Something else had to be found; and there was one
person at one end of the town who was at least not interested in copra.
There was little else to be said in favour of myself as an ambassador.  I
had arrived in the Wightman schooner, I was living in the Wightman
compound, I was the daily associate of the Wightman coterie.  It was
egregious enough that I should now intrude unasked in the private affairs
of Crawford’s agent, and press upon him the sacrifice of his interests
and the venture of his life.  But bad as I might be, there was none
better; since the affair of the stone I was, besides, sharp-set to be
doing, the idea of a delicate interview attracted me, and I thought it
policy to show myself abroad.

The night was very dark.  There was service in the church, and the
building glimmered through all its crevices like a dim Kirk Allowa’.  I
saw few other lights, but was indistinctly aware of many people stirring
in the darkness, and a hum and sputter of low talk that sounded stealthy.
I believe (in the old phrase) my beard was sometimes on my shoulder as I
went.  Muller’s was but partly lighted, and quite silent, and the gate
was fastened.  I could by no means manage to undo the latch.  No wonder,
since I found it afterwards to be four or five feet long—a fortification
in itself.  As I still fumbled, a dog came on the inside and sniffed
suspiciously at my hands, so that I was reduced to calling ‘House ahoy!’
Mr. Muller came down and put his chin across the paling in the dark.
‘Who is that?’ said he, like one who has no mind to welcome strangers.

‘My name is Stevenson,’ said I.

‘O, Mr. Stevens!  I didn’t know you.  Come inside.’  We stepped into the
dark store, when I leaned upon the counter and he against the wall.  All
the light came from the sleeping-room, where I saw his family being put
to bed; it struck full in my face, but Mr. Muller stood in shadow.  No
doubt he expected what was Coming, and sought the advantage of position;
but for a man who wished to persuade and had nothing to conceal, mine was
the preferable.

‘Look here,’ I began, ‘I hear you are selling to the natives.’

‘Others have done that before me,’ he returned pointedly.

‘No doubt,’ said I, ‘and I have nothing to do with the past, but the
future.  I want you to promise you will handle these spirits carefully.’

‘Now what is your motive in this?’ he asked, and then, with a sneer, ‘Are
you afraid of your life?’

‘That is nothing to the purpose,’ I replied.  ‘I know, and you know,
these spirits ought not to be used at all.’

‘Tom and Mr. Rick have sold them before.’

‘I have nothing to do with Tom and Mr. Rick.  All I know is I have heard
them both refuse.’

‘No, I suppose you have nothing to do with them.  Then you are just
afraid of your life.’

‘Come now,’ I cried, being perhaps a little stung, ‘you know in your
heart I am asking a reasonable thing.  I don’t ask you to lose your
profit—though I would prefer to see no spirits brought here, as you
would—’

‘I don’t say I wouldn’t.  I didn’t begin this,’ he interjected.

‘No, I don’t suppose you did,’ said I.  ‘And I don’t ask you to lose; I
ask you to give me your word, man to man, that you will make no native
drunk.’

Up to now Mr. Muller had maintained an attitude very trying to my temper;
but he had maintained it with difficulty, his sentiment being all upon my
side; and here he changed ground for the worse.  ‘It isn’t me that
sells,’ said he.

‘No, it’s that nigger,’ I agreed.  ‘But he’s yours to buy and sell; you
have your hand on the nape of his neck; and I ask you—I have my wife
here—to use the authority you have.’

He hastily returned to his old ward.  ‘I don’t deny I could if I wanted,’
said he.  ‘But there’s no danger, the natives are all quiet.  You’re just
afraid of your life.’

I do not like to be called a coward, even by implication; and here I lost
my temper and propounded an untimely ultimatum.  ‘You had better put it
plain,’ I cried.  ‘Do you mean to refuse me what I ask?’

‘I don’t want either to refuse it or grant it,’ he replied.

‘You’ll find you have to do the one thing or the other, and right now!’ I
cried, and then, striking into a happier vein, ‘Come,’ said I, ‘you’re a
better sort than that.  I see what’s wrong with you—you think I came from
the opposite camp.  I see the sort of man you are, and you know that what
I ask is right.’

Again he changed ground.  ‘If the natives get any drink, it isn’t safe to
stop them,’ he objected.

‘I’ll be answerable for the bar,’ I said.  ‘We are three men and four
revolvers; we’ll come at a word, and hold the place against the village.’

‘You don’t know what you’re talking about; it’s too dangerous!’ he cried.

‘Look here,’ said I, ‘I don’t mind much about losing that life you talk
so much of; but I mean to lose it the way I want to, and that is, putting
a stop to all this beastliness.’

He talked a while about his duty to the firm; I minded not at all, I was
secure of victory.  He was but waiting to capitulate, and looked about
for any potent to relieve the strain.  In the gush of light from the
bedroom door I spied a cigar-holder on the desk.  ‘That is well
coloured,’ said I.

‘Will you take a cigar?’ said he.

I took it and held it up unlighted.  ‘Now,’ said I, ‘you promise me.’

‘I promise you you won’t have any trouble from natives that have drunk at
my place,’ he replied.

‘That is all I ask,’ said I, and showed it was not by immediately
offering to try his stock.

So far as it was anyway critical our interview here ended.  Mr. Muller
had thenceforth ceased to regard me as an emissary from his rivals,
dropped his defensive attitude, and spoke as he believed.  I could make
out that he would already, had he dared, have stopped the sale himself.
Not quite daring, it may be imagined how he resented the idea of
interference from those who had (by his own statement) first led him on,
then deserted him in the breach, and now (sitting themselves in safety)
egged him on to a new peril, which was all gain to them, all loss to him!
I asked him what he thought of the danger from the feast.

‘I think worse of it than any of you,’ he answered.  ‘They were shooting
around here last night, and I heard the balls too.  I said to myself,
“That’s bad.”  What gets me is why you should be making this row up at
your end.  I should be the first to go.’

It was a thoughtless wonder.  The consolation of being second is not
great; the fact, not the order of going—there was our concern.

Scott talks moderately of looking forward to a time of fighting ‘with a
feeling that resembled pleasure.’  The resemblance seems rather an
identity.  In modern life, contact is ended; man grows impatient of
endless manœuvres; and to approach the fact, to find ourselves where we
can push an advantage home, and stand a fair risk, and see at last what
we are made of, stirs the blood.  It was so at least with all my family,
who bubbled with delight at the approach of trouble; and we sat deep into
the night like a pack of schoolboys, preparing the revolvers and
arranging plans against the morrow.  It promised certainly to be a busy
and eventful day.  The Old Men were to be summoned to confront me on the
question of the tapu; Muller might call us at any moment to garrison his
bar; and suppose Muller to fail, we decided in a family council to take
that matter into our own hands, _The Land we Live in_ at the pistol’s
mouth, and with the polysyllabic Williams, dance to a new tune.  As I
recall our humour I think it would have gone hard with the mulatto.

_Wednesday_, _July_ 24.—It was as well, and yet it was disappointing that
these thunder-clouds rolled off in silence.  Whether the Old Men recoiled
from an interview with Queen Victoria’s son, whether Muller had secretly
intervened, or whether the step flowed naturally from the fears of the
king and the nearness of the feast, the tapu was early that morning
re-enforced; not a day too soon, from the manner the boats began to
arrive thickly, and the town was filled with the big rowdy vassals of
Karaiti.

The effect lingered for some time on the minds of the traders; it was
with the approval of all present that I helped to draw up a petition to
the United States, praying for a law against the liquor trade in the
Gilberts; and it was at this request that I added, under my own name, a
brief testimony of what had passed;—useless pains; since the whole
reposes, probably unread and possibly unopened, in a pigeon-hole at
Washington.

_Sunday_, _July_ 28.—This day we had the afterpiece of the debauch.  The
king and queen, in European clothes, and followed by armed guards,
attended church for the first time, and sat perched aloft in a precarious
dignity under the barrel-hoops.  Before sermon his majesty clambered from
the dais, stood lopsidedly upon the gravel floor, and in a few words
abjured drinking.  The queen followed suit with a yet briefer allocution.
All the men in church were next addressed in turn; each held up his right
hand, and the affair was over—throne and church were reconciled.



CHAPTER VI—THE FIVE DAYS’ FESTIVAL


_Thursday_, _July_ 25.—The street was this day much enlivened by the
presence of the men from Little Makin; they average taller than
Butaritarians, and being on a holiday, went wreathed with yellow leaves
and gorgeous in vivid colours.  They are said to be more savage, and to
be proud of the distinction.  Indeed, it seemed to us they swaggered in
the town, like plaided Highlanders upon the streets of Inverness,
conscious of barbaric virtues.

In the afternoon the summer parlour was observed to be packed with
people; others standing outside and stooping to peer under the eaves,
like children at home about a circus.  It was the Makin company,
rehearsing for the day of competition.  Karaiti sat in the front row
close to the singers, where we were summoned (I suppose in honour of
Queen Victoria) to join him.  A strong breathless heat reigned under the
iron roof, and the air was heavy with the scent of wreaths.  The singers,
with fine mats about their loins, cocoa-nut feathers set in rings upon
their fingers, and their heads crowned with yellow leaves, sat on the
floor by companies.  A varying number of soloists stood up for different
songs; and these bore the chief part in the music.  But the full force of
the companies, even when not singing, contributed continuously to the
effect, and marked the ictus of the measure, mimicking, grimacing,
casting up their heads and eyes, fluttering the feathers on their
fingers, clapping hands, or beating (loud as a kettledrum) on the left
breast; the time was exquisite, the music barbarous, but full of
conscious art.  I noted some devices constantly employed.  A sudden
change would be introduced (I think of key) with no break of the measure,
but emphasised by a sudden dramatic heightening of the voice and a
swinging, general gesticulation.  The voices of the soloists would begin
far apart in a rude discord, and gradually draw together to a unison;
which, when, they had reached, they were joined and drowned by the full
chorus.  The ordinary, hurried, barking unmelodious movement of the
voices would at times be broken and glorified by a psalm-like strain of
melody, often well constructed, or seeming so by contrast.  There was
much variety of measure, and towards the end of each piece, when the fun
became fast and furious, a recourse to this figure—

  [Picture: Music.  It means two/four time with quaver, quaver, crotchet
                         repeated for three bars]

It is difficult to conceive what fire and devilry they get into these
hammering finales; all go together, voices, hands, eyes, leaves, and
fluttering finger-rings; the chorus swings to the eye, the song throbs on
the ear; the faces are convulsed with enthusiasm and effort.

Presently the troop stood up in a body, the drums forming a half-circle
for the soloists, who were sometimes five or even more in number.  The
songs that followed were highly dramatic; though I had none to give me
any explanation, I would at times make out some shadowy but decisive
outline of a plot; and I was continually reminded of certain quarrelsome
concerted scenes in grand operas at home; just so the single voices issue
from and fall again into the general volume; just so do the performers
separate and crowd together, brandish the raised hand, and roll the eye
to heaven—or the gallery.  Already this is beyond the Thespian model; the
art of this people is already past the embryo: song, dance, drums,
quartette and solo—it is the drama full developed although still in
miniature.  Of all so-called dancing in the South Seas, that which I saw
in Butaritari stands easily the first.  The _hula_, as it may be viewed
by the speedy globe-trotter in Honolulu, is surely the most dull of man’s
inventions, and the spectator yawns under its length as at a college
lecture or a parliamentary debate.  But the Gilbert Island dance leads on
the mind; it thrills, rouses, subjugates; it has the essence of all art,
an unexplored imminent significance.  Where so many are engaged, and
where all must make (at a given moment) the same swift, elaborate, and
often arbitrary movement, the toil of rehearsal is of course extreme.
But they begin as children.  A child and a man may often be seen together
in a maniap’: the man sings and gesticulates, the child stands before him
with streaming tears and tremulously copies him in act and sound; it is
the Gilbert Island artist learning (as all artists must) his art in
sorrow.

I may seem to praise too much; here is a passage from my wife’s diary,
which proves that I was not alone in being moved, and completes the
picture:—‘The conductor gave the cue, and all the dancers, waving their
arms, swaying their bodies, and clapping their breasts in perfect time,
opened with an introductory.  The performers remained seated, except two,
and once three, and twice a single soloist.  These stood in the group,
making a slight movement with the feet and rhythmical quiver of the body
as they sang.  There was a pause after the introductory, and then the
real business of the opera—for it was no less—began; an opera where every
singer was an accomplished actor.  The leading man, in an impassioned
ecstasy which possessed him from head to foot, seemed transfigured; once
it was as though a strong wind had swept over the stage—their arms, their
feathered fingers thrilling with an emotion that shook my nerves as well:
heads and bodies followed like a field of grain before a gust.  My blood
came hot and cold, tears pricked my eyes, my head whirled, I felt an
almost irresistible impulse to join the dancers.  One drama, I think, I
very nearly understood.  A fierce and savage old man took the solo part.
He sang of the birth of a prince, and how he was tenderly rocked in his
mother’s arms; of his boyhood, when he excelled his fellows in swimming,
climbing, and all athletic sports; of his youth, when he went out to sea
with his boat and fished; of his manhood, when he married a wife who
cradled a son of his own in her arms.  Then came the alarm of war, and a
great battle, of which for a time the issue was doubtful; but the hero
conquered, as he always does, and with a tremendous burst of the victors
the piece closed.  There were also comic pieces, which caused great
amusement.  During one, an old man behind me clutched me by the arm,
shook his finger in my face with a roguish smile, and said something with
a chuckle, which I took to be the equivalent of “O, you women, you women;
it is true of you all!”  I fear it was not complimentary.  At no time was
there the least sign of the ugly indecency of the eastern islands.  All
was poetry pure and simple.  The music itself was as complex as our own,
though constructed on an entirely different basis; once or twice I was
startled by a bit of something very like the best English sacred music,
but it was only for an instant.  At last there was a longer pause, and
this time the dancers were all on their feet.  As the drama went on, the
interest grew.  The performers appealed to each other, to the audience,
to the heaven above; they took counsel with each other, the conspirators
drew together in a knot; it was just an opera, the drums coming in at
proper intervals, the tenor, baritone, and bass all where they should
be—except that the voices were all of the same calibre.  A woman once
sang from the back row with a very fine contralto voice spoilt by being
made artificially nasal; I notice all the women affect that
unpleasantness.  At one time a boy of angelic beauty was the soloist; and
at another, a child of six or eight, doubtless an infant phenomenon being
trained, was placed in the centre.  The little fellow was desperately
frightened and embarrassed at first, but towards the close warmed up to
his work and showed much dramatic talent.  The changing expressions on
the faces of the dancers were so speaking, that it seemed a great
stupidity not to understand them.’

Our neighbour at this performance, Karaiti, somewhat favours his
Butaritarian majesty in shape and feature, being, like him, portly,
bearded, and Oriental.  In character he seems the reverse: alert,
smiling, jovial, jocular, industrious.  At home in his own island, he
labours himself like a slave, and makes his people labour like a
slave-driver.  He takes an interest in ideas.  George the trader told him
about flying-machines.  ‘Is that true, George?’ he asked.  ‘It is in the
papers,’ replied George.  ‘Well,’ said Karaiti, ‘if that man can do it
with machinery, I can do it without’; and he designed and made a pair of
wings, strapped them on his shoulders, went to the end of a pier,
launched himself into space, and fell bulkily into the sea.  His wives
fished him out, for his wings hindered him in swimming.  ‘George,’ said
he, pausing as he went up to change, ‘George, you lie.’  He had eight
wives, for his small realm still follows ancient customs; but he showed
embarrassment when this was mentioned to my wife.  ‘Tell her I have only
brought one here,’ he said anxiously.  Altogether the Black Douglas
pleased us much; and as we heard fresh details of the king’s uneasiness,
and saw for ourselves that all the weapons in the summer parlour had been
hid, we watched with the more admiration the cause of all this anxiety
rolling on his big legs, with his big smiling face, apparently unarmed,
and certainly unattended, through the hostile town.  The Red Douglas,
pot-bellied Kuma, having perhaps heard word of the debauch, remained upon
his fief; his vassals thus came uncommanded to the feast, and swelled the
following of Karaiti.

_Friday_, _July_ 26.—At night in the dark, the singers of Makin paraded
in the road before our house and sang the song of the princess.  ‘This is
the day; she was born to-day; Nei Kamaunave was born to-day—a beautiful
princess, Queen of Butaritari.’  So I was told it went in endless
iteration.  The song was of course out of season, and the performance
only a rehearsal.  But it was a serenade besides; a delicate attention to
ourselves from our new friend, Karaiti.

_Saturday_, _July_ 27.—We had announced a performance of the magic
lantern to-night in church; and this brought the king to visit us.  In
honour of the Black Douglas (I suppose) his usual two guardsmen were now
increased to four; and the squad made an outlandish figure as they
straggled after him, in straw hats, kilts and jackets.  Three carried
their arms reversed, the butts over their shoulders, the muzzles menacing
the king’s plump back; the fourth had passed his weapon behind his neck,
and held it there with arms extended like a backboard.  The visit was
extraordinarily long.  The king, no longer galvanised with gin, said and
did nothing.  He sat collapsed in a chair and let a cigar go out.  It was
hot, it was sleepy, it was cruel dull; there was no resource but to spy
in the countenance of Tebureimoa for some remaining trait of _Mr. Corpse_
the butcher.  His hawk nose, crudely depressed and flattened at the
point, did truly seem to us to smell of midnight murder.  When he took
his leave, Maka bade me observe him going down the stair (or rather
ladder) from the verandah.  ‘Old man,’ said Maka.  ‘Yes,’ said I, ‘and
yet I suppose not old man.’  ‘Young man,’ returned Maka, ‘perhaps fo’ty.’
And I have heard since he is most likely younger.

While the magic lantern was showing, I skulked without in the dark.  The
voice of Maka, excitedly explaining the Scripture slides, seemed to fill
not the church only, but the neighbourhood.  All else was silent.
Presently a distant sound of singing arose and approached; and a
procession drew near along the road, the hot clean smell of the men and
women striking in my face delightfully.  At the corner, arrested by the
voice of Maka and the lightening and darkening of the church, they
paused.  They had no mind to go nearer, that was plain.  They were Makin
people, I believe, probably staunch heathens, contemners of the
missionary and his works.  Of a sudden, however, a man broke from their
company, took to his heels, and fled into the church; next moment three
had followed him; the next it was a covey of near upon a score, all
pelting for their lives.  So the little band of the heathen paused
irresolute at the corner, and melted before the attractions of a magic
lantern, like a glacier in spring.  The more staunch vainly taunted the
deserters; three fled in a guilty silence, but still fled; and when at
length the leader found the wit or the authority to get his troop in
motion and revive the singing, it was with much diminished forces that
they passed musically on up the dark road.

Meanwhile inside the luminous pictures brightened and faded.  I stood for
some while unobserved in the rear of the spectators, when I could hear
just in front of me a pair of lovers following the show with interest,
the male playing the part of interpreter and (like Adam) mingling
caresses with his lecture.  The wild animals, a tiger in particular, and
that old school-treat favourite, the sleeper and the mouse, were hailed
with joy; but the chief marvel and delight was in the gospel series.
Maka, in the opinion of his aggrieved wife, did not properly rise to the
occasion.  ‘What is the matter with the man?  Why can’t he talk?’ she
cried.  The matter with the man, I think, was the greatness of the
opportunity; he reeled under his good fortune; and whether he did ill or
well, the exposure of these pious ‘phantoms’ did as a matter of fact
silence in all that part of the island the voice of the scoffer.  ‘Why
then,’ the word went round, ‘why then, the Bible is true!’  And on our
return afterwards we were told the impression was yet lively, and those
who had seen might be heard telling those who had not, ‘O yes, it is all
true; these things all happened, we have seen the pictures.’  The
argument is not so childish as it seems; for I doubt if these islanders
are acquainted with any other mode of representation but photography; so
that the picture of an event (on the old melodrama principle that ‘the
camera cannot lie, Joseph,’) would appear strong proof of its occurrence.
The fact amused us the more because our slides were some of them
ludicrously silly, and one (Christ before Pilate) was received with
shouts of merriment, in which even Maka was constrained to join.

_Sunday_, _July_ 28.—Karaiti came to ask for a repetition of the
‘phantoms’—this was the accepted word—and, having received a promise,
turned and left my humble roof without the shadow of a salutation.  I
felt it impolite to have the least appearance of pocketing a slight; the
times had been too difficult, and were still too doubtful; and Queen
Victoria’s son was bound to maintain the honour of his house.  Karaiti
was accordingly summoned that evening to the Ricks, where Mrs. Rick fell
foul of him in words, and Queen Victoria’s son assailed him with
indignant looks.  I was the ass with the lion’s skin; I could not roar in
the language of the Gilbert Islands; but I could stare.  Karaiti declared
he had meant no offence; apologised in a sound, hearty, gentlemanly
manner; and became at once at his ease.  He had in a dagger to examine,
and announced he would come to price it on the morrow, to-day being
Sunday; this nicety in a heathen with eight wives surprised me.  The
dagger was ‘good for killing fish,’ he said roguishly; and was supposed
to have his eye upon fish upon two legs.  It is at least odd that in
Eastern Polynesia fish was the accepted euphemism for the human
sacrifice.  Asked as to the population of his island, Karaiti called out
to his vassals who sat waiting him outside the door, and they put it at
four hundred and fifty; but (added Karaiti jovially) there will soon be
plenty more, for all the women are in the family way.  Long before we
separated I had quite forgotten his offence.  He, however, still bore it
in mind; and with a very courteous inspiration returned early on the next
day, paid us a long visit, and punctiliously said farewell when he
departed.

_Monday_, _July_ 29.—The great day came round at last.  In the first
hours the night was startled by the sound of clapping hands and the chant
of Nei Kamaunava; its melancholy, slow, and somewhat menacing measures
broken at intervals by a formidable shout.  The little morsel of humanity
thus celebrated in the dark hours was observed at midday playing on the
green entirely naked, and equally unobserved and unconcerned.

The summer parlour on its artificial islet, relieved against the
shimmering lagoon, and shimmering itself with sun and tinned iron, was
all day crowded about by eager men and women.  Within, it was boxed full
of islanders, of any age and size, and in every degree of nudity and
finery.  So close we squatted, that at one time I had a mighty handsome
woman on my knees, two little naked urchins having their feet against my
back.  There might be a dame in full attire of _holoku_ and hat and
flowers; and her next neighbour might the next moment strip some little
rag of a shift from her fat shoulders and come out a monument of flesh,
painted rather than covered by the hairbreadth _ridi_.  Little ladies who
thought themselves too great to appear undraped upon so high a festival
were seen to pause outside in the bright sunshine, their miniature ridis
in their hand; a moment more and they were full-dressed and entered the
concert-room.

At either end stood up to sing, or sat down to rest, the alternate
companies of singers; Kuma and Little Makin on the north, Butaritari and
its conjunct hamlets on the south; both groups conspicuous in barbaric
bravery.  In the midst, between these rival camps of troubadours, a bench
was placed; and here the king and queen throned it, some two or three
feet above the crowded audience on the floor—Tebureimoa as usual in his
striped pyjamas with a satchel strapped across one shoulder, doubtless
(in the island fashion) to contain his pistols; the queen in a purple
_holoku_, her abundant hair let down, a fan in her hand.  The bench was
turned facing to the strangers, a piece of well-considered civility; and
when it was the turn of Butaritari to sing, the pair must twist round on
the bench, lean their elbows on the rail, and turn to us the spectacle of
their broad backs.  The royal couple occasionally solaced themselves with
a clay pipe; and the pomp of state was further heightened by the rifles
of a picket of the guard.

With this kingly countenance, and ourselves squatted on the ground, we
heard several songs from one side or the other.  Then royalty and its
guards withdrew, and Queen Victoria’s son and daughter-in-law were
summoned by acclamation to the vacant throne.  Our pride was perhaps a
little modified when we were joined on our high places by a certain
thriftless loafer of a white; and yet I was glad too, for the man had a
smattering of native, and could give me some idea of the subject of the
songs.  One was patriotic, and dared Tembinok’ of Apemama, the terror of
the group, to an invasion.  One mixed the planting of taro and the
harvest-home.  Some were historical, and commemorated kings and the
illustrious chances of their time, such as a bout of drinking or a war.
One, at least, was a drama of domestic interest, excellently played by
the troop from Makin.  It told the story of a man who has lost his wife,
at first bewails her loss, then seeks another: the earlier strains (or
acts) are played exclusively by men; but towards the end a woman appears,
who has just lost her husband; and I suppose the pair console each other,
for the finale seemed of happy omen.  Of some of the songs my informant
told me briefly they were ‘like about the _weemen_’; this I could have
guessed myself.  Each side (I should have said) was strengthened by one
or two women.  They were all soloists, did not very often join in the
performance, but stood disengaged at the back part of the stage, and
looked (in _ridi_, necklace, and dressed hair) for all the world like
European ballet-dancers.  When the song was anyway broad these ladies
came particularly to the front; and it was singular to see that, after
each entry, the _première danseuse_ pretended to be overcome by shame, as
though led on beyond what she had meant, and her male assistants made a
feint of driving her away like one who had disgraced herself.  Similar
affectations accompany certain truly obscene dances of Samoa, where they
are very well in place.  Here it was different.  The words, perhaps, in
this free-spoken world, were gross enough to make a carter blush; and the
most suggestive feature was this feint of shame.  For such parts the
women showed some disposition; they were pert, they were neat, they were
acrobatic, they were at times really amusing, and some of them were
pretty.  But this is not the artist’s field; there is the whole width of
heaven between such capering and ogling, and the strange rhythmic
gestures, and strange, rapturous, frenzied faces with which the best of
the male dancers held us spellbound through a Gilbert Island ballet.

Almost from the first it was apparent that the people of the city were
defeated.  I might have thought them even good, only I had the other
troop before my eyes to correct my standard, and remind me continually of
‘the little more, and how much it is.’  Perceiving themselves worsted,
the choir of Butaritari grew confused, blundered, and broke down; amid
this hubbub of unfamiliar intervals I should not myself have recognised
the slip, but the audience were quick to catch it, and to jeer.  To crown
all, the Makin company began a dance of truly superlative merit.  I know
not what it was about, I was too much absorbed to ask.  In one act a part
of the chorus, squealing in some strange falsetto, produced very much the
effect of our orchestra; in another, the dancers, leaping like
jumping-jacks, with arms extended, passed through and through each
other’s ranks with extraordinary speed, neatness, and humour.  A more
laughable effect I never saw; in any European theatre it would have
brought the house down, and the island audience roared with laughter and
applause.  This filled up the measure for the rival company, and they
forgot themselves and decency.  After each act or figure of the ballet,
the performers pause a moment standing, and the next is introduced by the
clapping of hands in triplets.  Not until the end of the whole ballet do
they sit down, which is the signal for the rivals to stand up.  But now
all rules were to be broken.  During the interval following on this great
applause, the company of Butaritari leaped suddenly to their feet and
most unhandsomely began a performance of their own.  It was strange to
see the men of Makin staring; I have seen a tenor in Europe stare with
the same blank dignity into a hissing theatre; but presently, to my
surprise, they sobered down, gave up the unsung remainder of their
ballet, resumed their seats, and suffered their ungallant adversaries to
go on and finish.  Nothing would suffice.  Again, at the first interval,
Butaritari unhandsomely cut in; Makin, irritated in turn, followed the
example; and the two companies of dancers remained permanently standing,
continuously clapping hands, and regularly cutting across each other at
each pause.  I expected blows to begin with any moment; and our position
in the midst was highly unstrategical.  But the Makin people had a better
thought; and upon a fresh interruption turned and trooped out of the
house.  We followed them, first because these were the artists, second
because they were guests and had been scurvily ill-used.  A large
population of our neighbours did the same, so that the causeway was
filled from end to end by the procession of deserters; and the Butaritari
choir was left to sing for its own pleasure in an empty house, having
gained the point and lost the audience.  It was surely fortunate that
there was no one drunk; but, drunk or sober, where else would a scene so
irritating have concluded without blows?

The last stage and glory of this auspicious day was of our own
providing—the second and positively the last appearance of the phantoms.
All round the church, groups sat outside, in the night, where they could
see nothing; perhaps ashamed to enter, certainly finding some shadowy
pleasure in the mere proximity.  Within, about one-half of the great shed
was densely packed with people.  In the midst, on the royal dais, the
lantern luminously smoked; chance rays of light struck out the earnest
countenance of our Chinaman grinding the hand-organ; a fainter glimmer
showed off the rafters and their shadows in the hollow of the roof; the
pictures shone and vanished on the screen; and as each appeared, there
would run a hush, a whisper, a strong shuddering rustle, and a chorus of
small cries among the crowd.  There sat by me the mate of a wrecked
schooner.  ‘They would think this a strange sight in Europe or the
States,’ said he, ‘going on in a building like this, all tied with bits
of string.’



CHAPTER VII—HUSBAND AND WIFE


The trader accustomed to the manners of Eastern Polynesia has a lesson to
learn among the Gilberts.  The _ridi_ is but a spare attire; as late as
thirty years back the women went naked until marriage; within ten years
the custom lingered; and these facts, above all when heard in
description, conveyed a very false idea of the manners of the group.  A
very intelligent missionary described it (in its former state) as a
‘Paradise of naked women’ for the resident whites.  It was at least a
platonic Paradise, where Lothario ventured at his peril.  Since 1860,
fourteen whites have perished on a single island, all for the same cause,
all found where they had no business, and speared by some indignant
father of a family; the figure was given me by one of their
contemporaries who had been more prudent and survived.  The strange
persistence of these fourteen martyrs might seem to point to monomania or
a series of romantic passions; gin is the more likely key.  The poor
buzzards sat alone in their houses by an open case; they drank; their
brain was fired; they stumbled towards the nearest houses on chance; and
the dart went through their liver.  In place of a Paradise the trader
found an archipelago of fierce husbands and of virtuous women.  ‘Of
course if you wish to make love to them, it’s the same as anywhere else,’
observed a trader innocently; but he and his companions rarely so choose.

The trader must be credited with a virtue: he often makes a kind and
loyal husband.  Some of the worst beachcombers in the Pacific, some of
the last of the old school, have fallen in my path, and some of them were
admirable to their native wives, and one made a despairing widower.  The
position of a trader’s wife in the Gilberts is, besides, unusually
enviable.  She shares the immunities of her husband.  Curfew in
Butaritari sounds for her in vain.  Long after the bell is rung and the
great island ladies are confined for the night to their own roof, this
chartered libertine may scamper and giggle through the deserted streets
or go down to bathe in the dark.  The resources of the store are at her
hand; she goes arrayed like a queen, and feasts delicately everyday upon
tinned meats.  And she who was perhaps of no regard or station among
natives sits with captains, and is entertained on board of schooners.
Five of these privileged dames were some time our neighbours.  Four were
handsome skittish lasses, gamesome like children, and like children
liable to fits of pouting.  They wore dresses by day, but there was a
tendency after dark to strip these lendings and to career and squall
about the compound in the aboriginal _ridi_.  Games of cards were
continually played, with shells for counters; their course was much
marred by cheating; and the end of a round (above all if a man was of the
party) resolved itself into a scrimmage for the counters.  The fifth was
a matron.  It was a picture to see her sail to church on a Sunday, a
parasol in hand, a nursemaid following, and the baby buried in a trade
hat and armed with a patent feeding-bottle.  The service was enlivened by
her continual supervision and correction of the maid.  It was impossible
not to fancy the baby was a doll, and the church some European playroom.
All these women were legitimately married.  It is true that the
certificate of one, when she proudly showed it, proved to run thus, that
she was ‘married for one night,’ and her gracious partner was at liberty
to ‘send her to hell’ the next morning; but she was none the wiser or the
worse for the dastardly trick.  Another, I heard, was married on a work
of mine in a pirated edition; it answered the purpose as well as a Hall
Bible.  Notwithstanding all these allurements of social distinction, rare
food and raiment, a comparative vacation from toil, and legitimate
marriage contracted on a pirated edition, the trader must sometimes seek
long before he can be mated.  While I was in the group one had been eight
months on the quest, and he was still a bachelor.

Within strictly native society the old laws and practices were harsh, but
not without a certain stamp of high-mindedness.  Stealthy adultery was
punished with death; open elopement was properly considered virtue in
comparison, and compounded for a fine in land.  The male adulterer alone
seems to have been punished.  It is correct manners for a jealous man to
hang himself; a jealous woman has a different remedy—she bites her rival.
Ten or twenty years ago it was a capital offence to raise a woman’s
_ridi_; to this day it is still punished with a heavy fine; and the
garment itself is still symbolically sacred.  Suppose a piece of land to
be disputed in Butaritari, the claimant who shall first hang a _ridi_ on
the tapu-post has gained his cause, since no one can remove or touch it
but himself.

The _ridi_ was the badge not of the woman but the wife, the mark not of
her sex but of her station.  It was the collar on the slave’s neck, the
brand on merchandise.  The adulterous woman seems to have been spared;
were the husband offended, it would be a poor consolation to send his
draught cattle to the shambles.  Karaiti, to this day, calls his eight
wives ‘his horses,’ some trader having explained to him the employment of
these animals on farms; and Nanteitei hired out his wives to do
mason-work.  Husbands, at least when of high rank, had the power of life
and death; even whites seem to have possessed it; and their wives, when
they had transgressed beyond forgiveness, made haste to pronounce the
formula of deprecation—_I Kana Kim_.  This form of words had so much
virtue that a condemned criminal repeating it on a particular day to the
king who had condemned him, must be instantly released.  It is an offer
of abasement, and, strangely enough, the reverse—the imitation—is a
common vulgar insult in Great Britain to this day.  I give a scene
between a trader and his Gilbert Island wife, as it was told me by the
husband, now one of the oldest residents, but then a freshman in the
group.

‘Go and light a fire,’ said the trader, ‘and when I have brought this oil
I will cook some fish.’  The woman grunted at him, island fashion.  ‘I am
not a pig that you should grunt at me,’ said he.

‘I know you are not a pig,’ said the woman, ‘neither am I your slave.’

‘To be sure you are not my slave, and if you do not care to stop with me,
you had better go home to your people,’ said he.  ‘But in the mean time
go and light the fire; and when I have brought this oil I will cook some
fish.’

She went as if to obey; and presently when the trader looked she had
built a fire so big that the cook-house was catching in flames.

‘_I Kana Kim_!’ she cried, as she saw him coming; but he recked not, and
hit her with a cooking-pot.  The leg pierced her skull, blood spouted, it
was thought she was a dead woman, and the natives surrounded the house in
a menacing expectation.  Another white was present, a man of older
experience.  ‘You will have us both killed if you go on like this,’ he
cried.  ‘She had said _I Kana Kim_!’  If she had not said _I Kana Kim_ he
might have struck her with a caldron.  It was not the blow that made the
crime, but the disregard of an accepted formula.

Polygamy, the particular sacredness of wives, their semi-servile state,
their seclusion in kings’ harems, even their privilege of biting, all
would seem to indicate a Mohammedan society and the opinion of the
soullessness of woman.  And not so in the least.  It is a mere
appearance.  After you have studied these extremes in one house, you may
go to the next and find all reversed, the woman the mistress, the man
only the first of her thralls.  The authority is not with the husband as
such, nor the wife as such.  It resides in the chief or the chief-woman;
in him or her who has inherited the lands of the clan, and stands to the
clansman in the place of parent, exacting their service, answerable for
their fines.  There is but the one source of power and the one ground of
dignity—rank.  The king married a chief-woman; she became his menial, and
must work with her hands on Messrs. Wightman’s pier.  The king divorced
her; she regained at once her former state and power.  She married the
Hawaiian sailor, and behold the man is her flunkey and can be shown the
door at pleasure.  Nay, and such low-born lords are even corrected
physically, and, like grown but dutiful children, must endure the
discipline.

We were intimate in one such household, that of Nei Takauti and Nan Tok’;
I put the lady first of necessity.  During one week of fool’s paradise,
Mrs. Stevenson had gone alone to the sea-side of the island after shells.
I am very sure the proceeding was unsafe; and she soon perceived a man
and woman watching her.  Do what she would, her guardians held her
steadily in view; and when the afternoon began to fall, and they thought
she had stayed long enough, took her in charge, and by signs and broken
English ordered her home.  On the way the lady drew from her earring-hole
a clay pipe, the husband lighted it, and it was handed to my unfortunate
wife, who knew not how to refuse the incommodious favour; and when they
were all come to our house, the pair sat down beside her on the floor,
and improved the occasion with prayer.  From that day they were our
family friends; bringing thrice a day the beautiful island garlands of
white flowers, visiting us any evening, and frequently carrying us down
to their own maniap’ in return, the woman leading Mrs. Stevenson by the
hand like one child with another.

Nan Tok’, the husband, was young, extremely handsome, of the most
approved good humour, and suffering in his precarious station from
suppressed high spirits.  Nei Takauti, the wife, was getting old; her
grown son by a former marriage had just hanged himself before his
mother’s eyes in despair at a well-merited rebuke.  Perhaps she had never
been beautiful, but her face was full of character, her eye of sombre
fire.  She was a high chief-woman, but by a strange exception for a
person of her rank, was small, spare, and sinewy, with lean small hands
and corded neck.  Her full dress of an evening was invariably a white
chemise—and for adornment, green leaves (or sometimes white blossoms)
stuck in her hair and thrust through her huge earring-holes.  The husband
on the contrary changed to view like a kaleidoscope.  Whatever pretty
thing my wife might have given to Nei Takauti—a string of beads, a
ribbon, a piece of bright fabric—appeared the next evening on the person
of Nan Tok’.  It was plain he was a clothes-horse; that he wore livery;
that, in a word, he was his wife’s wife.  They reversed the parts indeed,
down to the least particular; it was the husband who showed himself the
ministering angel in the hour of pain, while the wife displayed the
apathy and heartlessness of the proverbial man.

When Nei Takauti had a headache Nan Tok’ was full of attention and
concern.  When the husband had a cold and a racking toothache the wife
heeded not, except to jeer.  It is always the woman’s part to fill and
light the pipe; Nei Takauti handed hers in silence to the wedded page;
but she carried it herself, as though the page were not entirely trusted.
Thus she kept the money, but it was he who ran the errands, anxiously
sedulous.  A cloud on her face dimmed instantly his beaming looks; on an
early visit to their maniap’ my wife saw he had cause to be wary.  Nan
Tok’ had a friend with him, a giddy young thing, of his own age and sex;
and they had worked themselves into that stage of jocularity when
consequences are too often disregarded.  Nei Takauti mentioned her own
name.  Instantly Nan Tok’ held up two fingers, his friend did likewise,
both in an ecstasy of slyness.  It was plain the lady had two names; and
from the nature of their merriment, and the wrath that gathered on her
brow, there must be something ticklish in the second.  The husband
pronounced it; a well-directed cocoa-nut from the hand of his wife caught
him on the side of the head, and the voices and the mirth of these
indiscreet young gentlemen ceased for the day.

The people of Eastern Polynesia are never at a loss; their etiquette is
absolute and plenary; in every circumstance it tells them what to do and
how to do it.  The Gilbertines are seemingly more free, and pay for their
freedom (like ourselves) in frequent perplexity.  This was often the case
with the topsy-turvy couple.  We had once supplied them during a visit
with a pipe and tobacco; and when they had smoked and were about to
leave, they found themselves confronted with a problem: should they take
or leave what remained of the tobacco?  The piece of plug was taken up,
it was laid down again, it was handed back and forth, and argued over,
till the wife began to look haggard and the husband elderly.  They ended
by taking it, and I wager were not yet clear of the compound before they
were sure they had decided wrong.  Another time they had been given each
a liberal cup of coffee, and Nan Tok’ with difficulty and disaffection
made an end of his.  Nei Takauti had taken some, she had no mind for
more, plainly conceived it would be a breach of manners to set down the
cup unfinished, and ordered her wedded retainer to dispose of what was
left.  ‘I have swallowed all I can, I cannot swallow more, it is a
physical impossibility,’ he seemed to say; and his stern officer
reiterated her commands with secret imperative signals.  Luckless dog!
but in mere humanity we came to the rescue and removed the cup.

I cannot but smile over this funny household; yet I remember the good
souls with affection and respect.  Their attention to ourselves was
surprising.  The garlands are much esteemed, the blossoms must be sought
far and wide; and though they had many retainers to call to their aid, we
often saw themselves passing afield after the blossoms, and the wife
engaged with her own in putting them together.  It was no want of only
that disregard so incident to husbands, that made Nei Takauti despise the
sufferings of Nan Tok’.  When my wife was unwell she proved a diligent
and kindly nurse; and the pair, to the extreme embarrassment of the
sufferer, became fixtures in the sick-room.  This rugged, capable,
imperious old dame, with the wild eyes, had deep and tender qualities:
her pride in her young husband it seemed that she dissembled, fearing
possibly to spoil him; and when she spoke of her dead son there came
something tragic in her face.  But I seemed to trace in the Gilbertines a
virility of sense and sentiment which distinguishes them (like their
harsh and uncouth language) from their brother islanders in the east.



PART IV: THE GILBERTS—APEMAMA


CHAPTER I—THE KING OF APEMAMA: THE ROYAL TRADER


There is one great personage in the Gilberts: Tembinok’ of Apemama:
solely conspicuous, the hero of song, the butt of gossip.  Through the
rest of the group the kings are slain or fallen in tutelage: Tembinok’
alone remains, the last tyrant, the last erect vestige of a dead society.
The white man is everywhere else, building his houses, drinking his gin,
getting in and out of trouble with the weak native governments.  There is
only one white on Apemama, and he on sufferance, living far from court,
and hearkening and watching his conduct like a mouse in a cat’s ear.
Through all the other islands a stream of native visitors comes and goes,
travelling by families, spending years on the grand tour.  Apemama alone
is left upon one side, the tourist dreading to risk himself within the
clutch of Tembinok’.  And fear of the same Gorgon follows and troubles
them at home.  Maiana once paid him tribute; he once fell upon and seized
Nonuti: first steps to the empire of the archipelago.  A British warship
coming on the scene, the conqueror was driven to disgorge, his career
checked in the outset, his dear-bought armoury sunk in his own lagoon.
But the impression had been made; periodical fear of him still shakes the
islands; rumour depicts him mustering his canoes for a fresh onfall;
rumour can name his destination; and Tembinok’ figures in the patriotic
war-songs of the Gilberts like Napoleon in those of our grandfathers.

We were at sea, bound from Mariki to Nonuti and Tapituea, when the wind
came suddenly fair for Apemama.  The course was at once changed; all
hands were turned-to to clean ship, the decks holy-stoned, all the cabin
washed, the trade-room overhauled.  In all our cruising we never saw the
_Equator_ so smart as she was made for Tembinok’.  Nor was Captain Reid
alone in these coquetries; for, another schooner chancing to arrive
during my stay in Apemama, I found that she also was dandified for the
occasion.  And the two cases stand alone in my experience of South Sea
traders.

We had on board a family of native tourists, from the grandsire to the
babe in arms, trying (against an extraordinary series of ill-luck) to
regain their native island of Peru. {275}  Five times already they had
paid their fare and taken ship; five times they had been disappointed,
dropped penniless upon strange islands, or carried back to Butaritari,
whence they sailed.  This last attempt had been no better-starred; their
provisions were exhausted.  Peru was beyond hope, and they had cheerfully
made up their minds to a fresh stage of exile in Tapituea or Nonuti.
With this slant of wind their random destination became once more
changed; and like the Calendar’s pilot, when the ‘black mountains’ hove
in view, they changed colour and beat upon their breasts.  Their camp,
which was on deck in the ship’s waist, resounded with complaint.  They
would be set to work, they must become slaves, escape was hopeless, they
must live and toil and die in Apemama, in the tyrant’s den.  With this
sort of talk they so greatly terrified their children, that one (a big
hulking boy) must at last be torn screaming from the schooner’s side.
And their fears were wholly groundless.  I have little doubt they were
not suffered to be idle; but I can vouch for it that they were kindly and
generously used.  For, the matter of a year later, I was once more
shipmate with these inconsistent wanderers on board the _Janet Nicoll_.
Their fare was paid by Tembinok’; they who had gone ashore from the
_Equator_ destitute, reappeared upon the _Janet_ with new clothes, laden
with mats and presents, and bringing with them a magazine of food, on
which they lived like fighting-cocks throughout the voyage; I saw them at
length repatriated, and I must say they showed more concern on quitting
Apemama than delight at reaching home.

We entered by the north passage (Sunday, September 1st), dodging among
shoals.  It was a day of fierce equatorial sunshine; but the breeze was
strong and chill; and the mate, who conned the schooner from the
cross-trees, returned shivering to the deck.  The lagoon was thick with
many-tinted wavelets; a continuous roaring of the outer sea overhung the
anchorage; and the long, hollow crescent of palm ruffled and sparkled in
the wind.  Opposite our berth the beach was seen to be surmounted for
some distance by a terrace of white coral seven or eight feet high and
crowned in turn by the scattered and incongruous buildings of the palace.
The village adjoins on the south, a cluster of high-roofed maniap’s.  And
village and palace seemed deserted.

We were scarce yet moored, however, before distant and busy figures
appeared upon the beach, a boat was launched, and a crew pulled out to us
bringing the king’s ladder.  Tembinok’ had once an accident; has feared
ever since to entrust his person to the rotten chandlery of South Sea
traders; and devised in consequence a frame of wood, which is brought on
board a ship as soon as she appears, and remains lashed to her side until
she leave.  The boat’s crew, having applied this engine, returned at once
to shore.  They might not come on board; neither might we land, or not
without danger of offence; the king giving pratique in person.  An
interval followed, during which dinner was delayed for the great man—the
prelude of the ladder, giving us some notion of his weighty body and
sensible, ingenious character, had highly whetted our curiosity; and it
was with something like excitement that we saw the beach and terrace
suddenly blacken with attendant vassals, the king and party embark, the
boat (a man-of-war gig) come flying towards us dead before the wind, and
the royal coxswain lay us cleverly aboard, mount the ladder with a
jealous diffidence, and descend heavily on deck.

Not long ago he was overgrown with fat, obscured to view, and a burthen
to himself.  Captains visiting the island advised him to walk; and though
it broke the habits of a life and the traditions of his rank, he
practised the remedy with benefit.  His corpulence is now portable; you
would call him lusty rather than fat; but his gait is still dull,
stumbling, and elephantine.  He neither stops nor hastens, but goes about
his business with an implacable deliberation.  We could never see him and
not be struck with his extraordinary natural means for the theatre: a
beaked profile like Dante’s in the mask, a mane of long black hair, the
eye brilliant, imperious, and inquiring: for certain parts, and to one
who could have used it, the face was a fortune.  His voice matched it
well, being shrill, powerful, and uncanny, with a note like a sea-bird’s.
Where there are no fashions, none to set them, few to follow them if they
were set, and none to criticise, he dresses—as Sir Charles Grandison
lived—‘to his own heart.’  Now he wears a woman’s frock, now a naval
uniform; now (and more usually) figures in a masquerade costume of his
own design: trousers and a singular jacket with shirt tails, the cut and
fit wonderful for island workmanship, the material always handsome,
sometimes green velvet, sometimes cardinal red silk.  This masquerade
becomes him admirably.  In the woman’s frock he looks ominous and weird
beyond belief.  I see him now come pacing towards me in the cruel sun,
solitary, a figure out of Hoffmann.

A visit on board ship, such as that at which we now assisted, makes a
chief part and by far the chief diversion of the life of Tembinok’.  He
is not only the sole ruler, he is the sole merchant of his triple
kingdom, Apemama, Aranuka, and Kuria, well-planted islands.  The taro
goes to the chiefs, who divide as they please among their immediate
adherents; but certain fish, turtles—which abound in Kuria,—and the whole
produce of the coco-palm, belong exclusively to Tembinok’.  ‘A’ cobra
{279a} berong me,’ observed his majesty with a wave of his hand; and he
counts and sells it by the houseful.  ‘You got copra, king?’ I have heard
a trader ask.  ‘I got two, three outches,’ {279b} his majesty replied: ‘I
think three.’  Hence the commercial importance of Apemama, the trade of
three islands being centred there in a single hand; hence it is that so
many whites have tried in vain to gain or to preserve a footing; hence
ships are adorned, cooks have special orders, and captains array
themselves in smiles, to greet the king.  If he be pleased with his
welcome and the fare he may pass days on board, and, every day, and
sometimes every hour, will be of profit to the ship.  He oscillates
between the cabin, where he is entertained with strange meats, and the
trade-room, where he enjoys the pleasures of shopping on a scale to match
his person.  A few obsequious attendants squat by the house door,
awaiting his least signal.  In the boat, which has been suffered to drop
astern, one or two of his wives lie covered from the sun under mats,
tossed by the short sea of the lagoon, and enduring agonies of heat and
tedium.  This severity is now and then relaxed and the wives allowed on
board.  Three or four were thus favoured on the day of our arrival:
substantial ladies airily attired in _ridis_.  Each had a share of copra,
her _peculium_, to dispose of for herself.  The display in the
trade-room—hats, ribbbons, dresses, scents, tins of salmon—the pride of
the eye and the lust of the flesh—tempted them in vain.  They had but the
one idea—tobacco, the island currency, tantamount to minted gold;
returned to shore with it, burthened but rejoicing; and late into the
night, on the royal terrace, were to be seen counting the sticks by
lamplight in the open air.

The king is no such economist.  He is greedy of things new and foreign.
House after house, chest after chest, in the palace precinct, is already
crammed with clocks, musical boxes, blue spectacles, umbrellas, knitted
waistcoats, bolts of stuff, tools, rifles, fowling-pieces, medicines,
European foods, sewing-machines, and, what is more extraordinary, stoves:
all that ever caught his eye, tickled his appetite, pleased him for its
use, or puzzled him with its apparent inutility.  And still his lust is
unabated.  He is possessed by the seven devils of the collector.  He
hears a thing spoken of, and a shadow comes on his face.  ‘I think I no
got him,’ he will say; and the treasures he has seem worthless in
comparison.  If a ship be bound for Apemama, the merchant racks his brain
to hit upon some novelty.  This he leaves carelessly in the main cabin or
partly conceals in his own berth, so that the king shall spy it for
himself.  ‘How much you want?’ inquires Tembinok’, passing and pointing.
‘No, king; that too dear,’ returns the trader.  ‘I think I like him,’
says the king.  This was a bowl of gold-fish.  On another occasion it was
scented soap.  ‘No, king; that cost too much,’ said the trader; ‘too good
for a Kanaka.’  ‘How much you got?  I take him all,’ replied his majesty,
and became the lord of seventeen boxes at two dollars a cake.  Or again,
the merchant feigns the article is not for sale, is private property, an
heirloom or a gift; and the trick infallibly succeeds.  Thwart the king
and you hold him.  His autocratic nature rears at the affront of
opposition.  He accepts it for a challenge; sets his teeth like a hunter
going at a fence; and with no mark of emotion, scarce even of interest,
stolidly piles up the price.  Thus, for our sins, he took a fancy to my
wife’s dressing-bag, a thing entirely useless to the man, and sadly
battered by years of service.  Early one forenoon he came to our house,
sat down, and abruptly offered to purchase it.  I told him I sold
nothing, and the bag at any rate was a present from a friend; but he was
acquainted with these pretexts from of old, and knew what they were worth
and how to meet them.  Adopting what I believe is called ‘the object
method,’ he drew out a bag of English gold, sovereigns and
half-sovereigns, and began to lay them one by one in silence on the
table; at each fresh piece reading our faces with a look.  In vain I
continued to protest I was no trader; he deigned not to reply.  There
must have been twenty pounds on the table, he was still going on, and
irritation had begun to mingle with our embarrassment, when a happy idea
came to our delivery.  Since his majesty thought so much of the bag, we
said, we must beg him to accept it as a present.  It was the most
surprising turn in Tembinok’s experience.  He perceived too late that his
persistence was unmannerly; hung his head a while in silence; then,
lifting up a sheepish countenance, ‘I ‘shamed,’ said the tyrant.  It was
the first and the last time we heard him own to a flaw in his behaviour.
Half an hour after he sent us a camphor-wood chest worth only a few
dollars—but then heaven knows what Tembinok’ had paid for it.

Cunning by nature, and versed for forty years in the government of men,
it must not be supposed that he is cheated blindly, or has resigned
himself without resistance to be the milch-cow of the passing trader.
His efforts have been even heroic.  Like Nakaeia of Makin, he has owned
schooners.  More fortunate than Nakaeia, he has found captains.  Ships of
his have sailed as far as to the colonies.  He has trafficked direct, in
his own bottoms, with New Zealand.  And even so, even there, the
world-enveloping dishonesty of the white man prevented him; his profit
melted, his ship returned in debt, the money for the insurance was
embezzled, and when the _Coronet_ came to be lost, he was astonished to
find he had lost all.  At this he dropped his weapons; owned he might as
hopefully wrestle with the winds of heaven; and like an experienced
sheep, submitted his fleece thenceforward to the shearers.  He is the
last man in the world to waste anger on the incurable; accepts it with
cynical composure; asks no more in those he deals with than a certain
decency of moderation; drives as good a bargain as he can; and when he
considers he is more than usually swindled, writes it in his memory
against the merchant’s name.  He once ran over to me a list of captains
and supercargoes with whom he had done business, classing them under
three heads: ‘He cheat a litty’—‘He cheat plenty’—and ‘I think he cheat
too much.’  For the first two classes he expressed perfect toleration;
sometimes, but not always, for the third.  I was present when a certain
merchant was turned about his business, and was the means (having a
considerable influence ever since the bag) of patching up the dispute.
Even on the day of our arrival there was like to have been a hitch with
Captain Reid: the ground of which is perhaps worth recital.  Among goods
exported specially for Tembinok’ there is a beverage known (and labelled)
as Hennessy’s brandy.  It is neither Hennessy, nor even brandy; is about
the colour of sherry, but is not sherry; tastes of kirsch, and yet
neither is it kirsch.  The king, at least, has grown used to this amazing
brand, and rather prides himself upon the taste; and any substitution is
a double offence, being at once to cheat him and to cast a doubt upon his
palate.  A similar weakness is to be observed in all connoisseurs.  Now
the last case sold by the _Equator_ was found to contain a different and
I would fondly fancy a superior distillation; and the conversation opened
very black for Captain Reid.  But Tembinok’ is a moderate man.  He was
reminded and admitted that all men were liable to error, even himself;
accepted the principle that a fault handsomely acknowledged should be
condoned; and wound the matter up with this proposal: ‘Tuppoti {283} I
mi’take, you ’peakee me.  Tuppoti you mi’take, I ’peakee you.  Mo’
betta.’

After dinner and supper in the cabin, a glass or two of ‘Hennetti’—the
genuine article this time, with the kirsch bouquet,—and five hours’
lounging on the trade-room counter, royalty embarked for home.  Three
tacks grounded the boat before the palace; the wives were carried ashore
on the backs of vassals; Tembinok’ stepped on a railed platform like a
steamer’s gangway, and was borne shoulder high through the shallows, up
the beach, and by an inclined plane, paved with pebbles, to the glaring
terrace where he dwells.



CHAPTER II—THE KING OF APEMAMA: FOUNDATION OF EQUATOR TOWN


Our first sight of Tembinok’ was a matter of concern, almost alarm, to my
whole party.  We had a favour to seek; we must approach in the proper
courtly attitude of a suitor; and must either please him or fail in the
main purpose of our voyage.  It was our wish to land and live in Apemama,
and see more near at hand the odd character of the man and the odd (or
rather ancient) condition of his island.  In all other isles of the South
Seas a white man may land with his chest, and set up house for a
lifetime, if he choose, and if he have the money or the trade; no
hindrance is conceivable.  But Apemama is a close island, lying there in
the sea with closed doors; the king himself, like a vigilant officer,
ready at the wicket to scrutinise and reject intrenching visitors.  Hence
the attraction of our enterprise; not merely because it was a little
difficult, but because this social quarantine, a curiosity in itself, has
been the preservative of others.

Tembinok’, like most tyrants, is a conservative; like many conservatives,
he eagerly welcomes new ideas, and, except in the field of politics,
leans to practical reform.  When the missionaries came, professing a
knowledge of the truth, he readily received them; attended their worship,
acquired the accomplishment of public prayer, and made himself a student
at their feet.  It is thus—it is by the cultivation of similar passing
chances—that he has learned to read, to write, to cipher, and to speak
his queer, personal English, so different from ordinary ‘Beach de Mar,’
so much more obscure, expressive, and condensed.  His education attended
to, he found time to become critical of the new inmates.  Like Nakaeia of
Makin, he is an admirer of silence in the island; broods over it like a
great ear; has spies who report daily; and had rather his subjects sang
than talked.  The service, and in particular the sermon, were thus sure
to become offences: ‘Here, in my island, _I_ ’peak,’ he once observed to
me.  ‘My chieps no ’peak—do what I talk.’  He looked at the missionary,
and what did he see?  ‘See Kanaka ’peak in a big outch!’ he cried, with a
strong ring of sarcasm.  Yet he endured the subversive spectacle, and
might even have continued to endure it, had not a fresh point arisen.  He
looked again, to employ his own figure; and the Kanaka was no longer
speaking, he was doing worse—he was building a copra-house.  The king was
touched in his chief interests; revenue and prerogative were threatened.
He considered besides (and some think with him) that trade is
incompatible with the missionary claims.  ‘Tuppoti mitonary think “good
man”: very good.  Tuppoti he think “cobra”: no good.  I send him away
ship.’  Such was his abrupt history of the evangelist in Apemama.

Similar deportations are common: ‘I send him away ship’ is the epitaph of
not a few, his majesty paying the exile’s fare to the next place of call.
For instance, being passionately fond of European food, he has several
times added to his household a white cook, and one after another these
have been deported.  They, on their side, swear they were not paid their
wages; he, on his, that they robbed and swindled him beyond endurance:
both perhaps justly.  A more important case was that of an agent,
despatched (as I heard the story) by a firm of merchants to worm his way
into the king’s good graces, become, if possible, premier, and handle the
copra in the interest of his employers.  He obtained authority to land,
practised his fascinations, was patiently listened to by Tembinok’,
supposed himself on the highway to success; and behold! when the next
ship touched at Apemama, the would-be premier was flung into a boat—had
on board—his fare paid, and so good-bye.  But it is needless to multiply
examples; the proof of the pudding is in the eating.  When we came to
Apemama, of so many white men who have scrambled for a place in that rich
market, one remained—a silent, sober, solitary, niggardly recluse, of
whom the king remarks, ‘I think he good; he no ’peak.’

I was warned at the outset we might very well fail in our design: yet
never dreamed of what proved to be the fact, that we should be left
four-and-twenty hours in suspense and come within an ace of ultimate
rejection.  Captain Reid had primed himself; no sooner was the king on
board, and the Hennetti question amicably settled, than he proceeded to
express my request and give an abstract of my claims and virtues.  The
gammon about Queen Victoria’s son might do for Butaritari; it was out of
the question here; and I now figured as ‘one of the Old Men of England,’
a person of deep knowledge, come expressly to visit Tembinok’s dominion,
and eager to report upon it to the no less eager Queen Victoria.  The
king made no shadow of an answer, and presently began upon a different
subject.  We might have thought that he had not heard, or not understood;
only that we found ourselves the subject of a constant study.  As we sat
at meals, he took us in series and fixed upon each, for near a minute at
a time, the same hard and thoughtful stare.  As he thus looked he seemed
to forget himself, the subject and the company, and to become absorbed in
the process of his thought; the look was wholly impersonal; I have seen
the same in the eyes of portrait-painters.  The counts upon which whites
have been deported are mainly four: cheating Tembinok’, meddling overmuch
with copra, which is the source of his wealth, and one of the sinews of
his power, _’peaking_, and political intrigue.  I felt guiltless upon
all; but how to show it?  I would not have taken copra in a gift: how to
express that quality by my dinner-table bearing?  The rest of the party
shared my innocence and my embarrassment.  They shared also in my
mortification when after two whole meal-times and the odd moments of an
afternoon devoted to this reconnoitring, Tembinok’ took his leave in
silence.  Next morning, the same undisguised study, the same silence, was
resumed; and the second day had come to its maturity before I was
informed abruptly that I had stood the ordeal.  ‘I look your eye.  You
good man.  You no lie,’ said the king: a doubtful compliment to a writer
of romance.  Later he explained he did not quite judge by the eye only,
but the mouth as well.  ‘Tuppoti I see man,’ he explained.  ‘I no tavvy
good man, bad man.  I look eye, look mouth.  Then I tavvy.  Look _eye_,
look mouth,’ he repeated.  And indeed in our case the mouth had the most
to do with it, and it was by our talk that we gained admission to the
island; the king promising himself (and I believe really amassing) a vast
amount of useful knowledge ere we left.

The terms of our admission were as follows: We were to choose a site, and
the king should there build us a town.  His people should work for us,
but the king only was to give them orders.  One of his cooks should come
daily to help mine, and to learn of him.  In case our stores ran out, he
would supply us, and be repaid on the return of the _Equator_.  On the
other hand, he was to come to meals with us when so inclined; when he
stayed at home, a dish was to be sent him from our table; and I solemnly
engaged to give his subjects no liquor or money (both of which they are
forbidden to possess) and no tobacco, which they were to receive only
from the royal hand.  I think I remember to have protested against the
stringency of this last article; at least, it was relaxed, and when a man
worked for me I was allowed to give him a pipe of tobacco on the
premises, but none to take away.

The site of Equator City—we named our city for the schooner—was soon
chosen.  The immediate shores of the lagoon are windy and blinding;
Tembinok’ himself is glad to grope blue-spectacled on his terrace; and we
fled the neighbourhood of the red _conjunctiva_, the suppurating eyeball,
and the beggar who pursues and beseeches the passing foreigner for eye
wash.  Behind the town the country is diversified; here open, sandy,
uneven, and dotted with dwarfish palms; here cut up with taro trenches,
deep and shallow, and, according to the growth of the plants, presenting
now the appearance of a sandy tannery, now of an alleyed and green
garden.  A path leads towards the sea, mounting abruptly to the main
level of the island—twenty or even thirty feet, although Findlay gives
five; and just hard by the top of the rise, where the coco-palms begin to
be well grown, we found a grove of pandanus, and a piece of soil
pleasantly covered with green underbush.  A well was not far off under a
rustic well-house; nearer still, in a sandy cup of the land, a pond where
we might wash our clothes.  The place was out of the wind, out of the
sun, and out of sight of the village.  It was shown to the king, and the
town promised for the morrow.

The morrow came, Mr. Osbourne landed, found nothing done, and carried his
complaint to Tembinok’.  He heard it, rose, called for a Winchester,
stepped without the royal palisade, and fired two shots in the air.  A
shot in the air is the first Apemama warning; it has the force of a
proclamation in more loquacious countries; and his majesty remarked
agreeably that it would make his labourers ‘mo’ bright.’  In less than
thirty minutes, accordingly, the men had mustered, the work was begun,
and we were told that we might bring our baggage when we pleased.

It was two in the afternoon ere the first boat was beached, and the long
procession of chests and crates and sacks began to straggle through the
sandy desert towards Equator Town.  The grove of pandanus was practically
a thing of the past.  Fire surrounded and smoke rose in the green
underbush.  In a wide circuit the axes were still crashing.  Those very
advantages for which the place was chosen, it had been the king’s first
idea to abolish; and in the midst of this devastation there stood already
a good-sized maniap’ and a small closed house.  A mat was spread near by
for Tembinok’; here he sat superintending, in cardinal red, a pith helmet
on his head, a meerschaum pipe in his mouth, a wife stretched at his back
with custody of the matches and tobacco.  Twenty or thirty feet in front
of him the bulk of the workers squatted on the ground; some of the bush
here survived and in this the commons sat nearly to their shoulders, and
presented only an arc of brown faces, black heads, and attentive eyes
fixed on his majesty.  Long pauses reigned, during which the subjects
stared and the king smoked.  Then Tembinok’ would raise his voice and
speak shrilly and briefly.  There was never a response in words; but if
the speech were jesting, there came by way of answer discreet, obsequious
laughter—such laughter as we hear in schoolrooms; and if it were
practical, the sudden uprising and departure of the squad.  Twice they so
disappeared, and returned with further elements of the city: a second
house and a second maniap’.  It was singular to spy, far off through the
coco stems, the silent oncoming of the maniap’, at first (it seemed)
swimming spontaneously in the air—but on a nearer view betraying under
the eaves many score of moving naked legs.  In all the affair servile
obedience was no less remarkable than servile deliberation.  The gang had
here mustered by the note of a deadly weapon; the man who looked on was
the unquestioned master of their lives; and except for civility, they
bestirred themselves like so many American hotel clerks.  The spectator
was aware of an unobtrusive yet invincible inertia, at which the skipper
of a trading dandy might have torn his hair.

Yet the work was accomplished.  By dusk, when his majesty withdrew, the
town was founded and complete, a new and ruder Amphion having called it
from nothing with three cracks of a rifle.  And the next morning the same
conjurer obliged us with a further miracle: a mystic rampart fencing us,
so that the path which ran by our doors became suddenly impassable, the
inhabitants who had business across the isle must fetch a wide circuit,
and we sat in the midst in a transparent privacy, seeing, seen, but
unapproachable, like bees in a glass hive.  The outward and visible sign
of this glamour was no more than a few ragged coco-leaf garlands round
the stems of the outlying palms; but its significance reposed on the
tremendous sanction of the tapu and the guns of Tembinok’.

We made our first meal that night in the improvised city, where we were
to stay two months, and which—so soon as we had done with it—was to
vanish in a day as it appeared, its elements returning whence they came,
the tapu raised, the traffic on the path resumed, the sun and the moon
peering in vain between the palm-trees for the bygone work, the wind
blowing over an empty site.  Yet the place, which is now only an episode
in some memories, seemed to have been built, and to be destined to
endure, for years.  It was a busy hamlet.  One of the maniap’s we made
our dining-room, one the kitchen.  The houses we reserved for sleeping.
They were on the admirable Apemama plan: out and away the best house in
the South Seas; standing some three feet above the ground on posts; the
sides of woven flaps, which can be raised to admit light and air, or
lowered to shut out the wind and the rain: airy, healthy, clean, and
watertight.  We had a hen of a remarkable kind: almost unique in my
experience, being a hen that occasionally laid eggs.  Not far off, Mrs.
Stevenson tended a garden of salad and shalots.  The salad was devoured
by the hen—which was her bane.  The shalots were served out a leaf at a
time, and welcomed and relished like peaches.  Toddy and green cocoa-nuts
were brought us daily.  We once had a present of fish from the king, and
once of a turtle.  Sometimes we shot so-called plover along on the shore,
sometimes wild chicken in the bush.  The rest of our diet was from tins.

Our occupations were very various.  While some of the party would be away
sketching, Mr. Osbourne and I hammered away at a novel.  We read Gibbon
and Carlyle aloud; we blew on flageolets, we strummed on guitars; we took
photographs by the light of the sun, the moon, and flash-powder;
sometimes we played cards.  Pot-hunting engaged a part of our leisure.  I
have myself passed afternoons in the exciting but innocuous pursuit of
winged animals with a revolver; and it was fortunate there were better
shots of the party, and fortunate the king could lend us a more suitable
weapon, in the form of an excellent fowling-piece, or our spare diet had
been sparer still.

Night was the time to see our city, after the moon was up, after the
lamps were lighted, and so long as the fire sparkled in the cook-house.
We suffered from a plague of flies and mosquitoes, comparable to that of
Egypt; our dinner-table (lent, like all our furniture, by the king) must
be enclosed in a tent of netting, our citadel and refuge; and this became
all luminous, and bulged and beaconed under the eaves, like the globe of
some monstrous lamp under the margin of its shade.  Our cabins, the sides
being propped at a variety of inclinations, spelled out strange, angular
patterns of brightness.  In his roofed and open kitchen, Ah Fu was to be
seen by lamp and firelight, dabbling among pots.  Over all, there fell in
the season an extraordinary splendour of mellow moonshine.  The sand
sparkled as with the dust of diamonds; the stars had vanished.  At
intervals, a dusky night-bird, slow and low flying, passed in the
colonnade of the tree stems and uttered a hoarse croaking cry.



CHAPTER III—THE KING OF APEMAMA: THE PALACE OF MANY WOMEN


The palace, or rather the ground which it includes, is several acres in
extent.  A terrace encloses it toward the lagoon; on the side of the
land, a palisade with several gates.  These are scarce intended for
defence; a man, if he were strong, might easily pluck down the palisade;
he need not be specially active to leap from the beach upon the terrace.
There is no parade of guards, soldiers, or weapons; the armoury is under
lock and key; and the only sentinels are certain inconspicuous old women
lurking day and night before the gates.  By day, these crones were often
engaged in boiling syrup or the like household occupation; by night, they
lay ambushed in the shadow or crouched along the palisade, filling the
office of eunuchs to this harem, sole guards upon a tyrant life.

Female wardens made a fit outpost for this palace of many women.  Of the
number of the king’s wives I have no guess; and but a loose idea of their
function.  He himself displayed embarrassment when they were referred to
as his wives, called them himself ‘my pamily,’ and explained they were
his ‘cutcheons’—cousins.  We distinguished four of the crowd: the king’s
mother; his sister, a grave, trenchant woman, with much of her brother’s
intelligence; the queen proper, to whom (and to whom alone) my wife was
formally presented; and the favourite of the hour, a pretty, graceful
girl, who sat with the king daily, and once (when he shed tears) consoled
him with caresses.  I am assured that even with her his relations are
platonic.  In the background figured a multitude of ladies, the lean, the
plump, and the elephantine, some in sacque frocks, some in the
hairbreadth _ridi_; high-born and low, slave and mistress; from the queen
to the scullion, from the favourite to the scraggy sentries at the
palisade.  Not all of these of course are of ‘my pamily,’—many are mere
attendants; yet a surprising number shared the responsibility of the
king’s trust.  These were key-bearers, treasurers, wardens of the
armoury, the napery, and the stores.  Each knew and did her part to
admiration.  Should anything be required—a particular gun, perhaps, or a
particular bolt of stuff,—the right queen was summoned; she came bringing
the right chest, opened it in the king’s presence, and displayed her
charge in perfect preservation—the gun cleaned and oiled, the goods duly
folded.  Without delay or haste, and with the minimum of speech, the
whole great establishment turned on wheels like a machine.  Nowhere have
I seen order more complete and pervasive.  And yet I was always reminded
of Norse tales of trolls and ogres who kept their hearts buried in the
ground for the mere safety, and must confide the secret to their wives.
For these weapons are the life of Tembinok’.  He does not aim at
popularity; but drives and braves his subjects, with a simplicity of
domination which it is impossible not to admire, hard not to sympathise
with.  Should one out of so many prove faithless, should the armoury be
secretly unlocked, should the crones have dozed by the palisade and the
weapons find their way unseen into the village, revolution would be
nearly certain, death the most probable result, and the spirit of the
tyrant of Apemama flit to rejoin his predecessors of Mariki and Tapituea.
Yet those whom he so trusts are all women, and all rivals.

There is indeed a ministry and staff of males: cook, steward, carpenter,
and supercargoes: the hierarchy of a schooner.  The spies, ‘his majesty’s
daily papers,’ as we called them, come every morning to report, and go
again.  The cook and steward are concerned with the table only.  The
supercargoes, whose business it is to keep tally of the copra at three
pounds a month and a percentage, are rarely in the palace; and two at
least are in the other islands.  The carpenter, indeed, shrewd and jolly
old Rubam—query, Reuben?—promoted on my last visit to the greater dignity
of governor, is daily present, altering, extending, embellishing,
pursuing the endless series of the king’s inventions; and his majesty
will sometimes pass an afternoon watching and talking with Rubam at his
work.  But the males are still outsiders; none seems to be armed, none is
entrusted with a key; by dusk they are all usually departed from the
palace; and the weight of the monarchy and of the monarch’s life reposes
unshared on the women.

Here is a household unlike, indeed, to one of ours; more unlike still to
the Oriental harem: that of an elderly childless man, his days menaced,
dwelling alone amid a bevy of women of all ages, ranks, and
relationships,—the mother, the sister, the cousin, the legitimate wife,
the concubine, the favourite, the eldest born, and she of yesterday; he,
in their midst, the only master, the only male, the sole dispenser of
honours, clothes, and luxuries, the sole mark of multitudinous ambitions
and desires.  I doubt if you could find a man in Europe so bold as to
attempt this piece of tact and government.  And seemingly Tembinok’
himself had trouble in the beginning.  I hear of him shooting at a wife
for some levity on board a schooner.  Another, on some more serious
offence, he slew outright; he exposed her body in an open box, and (to
make the warning more memorable) suffered it to putrefy before the palace
gate.  Doubtless his growing years have come to his assistance; for upon
so large a scale it is more easy to play the father than the husband.
And to-day, at least to the eye of a stranger, all seems to go smoothly,
and the wives to be proud of their trust, proud of their rank, and proud
of their cunning lord.

I conceived they made rather a hero of the man.  A popular master in a
girls’ school might, perhaps, offer a figure of his preponderating
station.  But then the master does not eat, sleep, live, and wash his
dirty linen in the midst of his admirers; he escapes, he has a room of
his own, he leads a private life; if he had nothing else, he has the
holidays, and the more unhappy Tembinok’ is always on the stage and on
the stretch.

In all my coming and going, I never heard him speak harshly or express
the least displeasure.  An extreme, rather heavy, benignity—the benignity
of one sure to be obeyed—marked his demeanour; so that I was at times
reminded of Samual Richardson in his circle of admiring women.  The wives
spoke up and seemed to volunteer opinions, like our wives at home—or,
say, like doting but respectable aunts.  Altogether, I conclude that he
rules his seraglio much more by art than terror; and those who give a
different account (and who have none of them enjoyed my opportunities of
observation) perhaps failed to distinguish between degrees of rank,
between ‘my pamily’ and the hangers-on, laundresses, and prostitutes.

A notable feature is the evening game of cards when lamps are set forth
upon the terrace, and ‘I and my pamily’ play for tobacco by the hour.  It
is highly characteristic of Tembinok’ that he must invent a game for
himself; highly characteristic of his worshipping household that they
should swear by the absurd invention.  It is founded on poker, played
with the honours out of many packs, and inconceivably dreary.  But I have
a passion for all games, studied it, and am supposed to be the only white
who ever fairly grasped its principle: a fact for which the wives (with
whom I was not otherwise popular) admired me with acclamation.  It was
impossible to be deceived; this was a genuine feeling: they were proud of
their private game, had been cut to the quick by the want of interest
shown in it by others, and expanded under the flattery of my attention.
Tembinok’ puts up a double stake, and receives in return two hands to
choose from: a shallow artifice which the wives (in all these years) have
not yet fathomed.  He himself, when talking with me privately, made not
the least secret that he was secure of winning; and it was thus he
explained his recent liberality on board the _Equator_.  He let the wives
buy their own tobacco, which pleased them at the moment.  He won it back
at cards, which made him once more, and without fresh expense, that which
he ought to be,—the sole fount of all indulgences.  And he summed the
matter up in that phrase with which he almost always concludes any
account of his policy: ‘Mo’ betta.’

The palace compound is laid with broken coral, excruciating to the eyes
and the bare feet, but exquisitely raked and weeded.  A score or more of
buildings lie in a sort of street along the palisade and scattered on the
margin of the terrace; dwelling-houses for the wives and the attendants,
storehouses for the king’s curios and treasures, spacious maniap’s for
feast or council, some on pillars of wood, some on piers of masonry.  One
was still in hand, a new invention, the king’s latest born: a European
frame-house built for coolness inside a lofty maniap’: its roof planked
like a ship’s deck to be a raised, shady, and yet private promenade.  It
was here the king spent hours with Rubam; here I would sometimes join
them; the place had a most singular appearance; and I must say I was
greatly taken with the fancy, and joined with relish in the counsels of
the architects.

Suppose we had business with his majesty by day: we strolled over the
sand and by the dwarfish palms, exchanged a ‘_Kõnamaori_’ with the crone
on duty, and entered the compound.  The wide sheet of coral glared before
us deserted; all having stowed themselves in dark canvas from the excess
of room.  I have gone to and fro in that labyrinth of a place, seeking
the king; and the only breathing creature I could find was when I peered
under the eaves of a maniap’, and saw the brawny body of one of the wives
stretched on the floor, a naked Amazon plunged in noiseless slumber.  If
it were still the hour of the ‘morning papers’ the quest would be more
easy, the half-dozen obsequious, sly dogs squatting on the ground outside
a house, crammed as far as possible in its narrow shadow, and turning to
the king a row of leering faces.  Tembinok’ would be within, the flaps of
the cabin raised, the trade blowing through, hearing their report.  Like
journalists nearer home, when the day’s news were scanty, these would
make the more of it in words; and I have known one to fill up a barren
morning with an imaginary conversation of two dogs.  Sometimes the king
deigns to laugh, sometimes to question or jest with them, his voice
sounding shrilly from the cabin.  By his side he may have the
heir-apparent, Paul, his nephew and adopted son, six years old, stark
naked, and a model of young human beauty.  And there will always be the
favourite and perhaps two other wives awake; four more lying supine under
mats and whelmed in slumber.  Or perhaps we came later, fell on a more
private hour, and found Tembinok’ retired in the house with the
favourite, an earthenware spittoon, a leaden inkpot, and a commercial
ledger.  In the last, lying on his belly, he writes from day to day the
uneventful history of his reign; and when thus employed he betrayed a
touch of fretfulness on interruption with which I was well able to
sympathise.  The royal annalist once read me a page or so, translating as
he went; but the passage being genealogical, and the author boggling
extremely in his version, I own I have been sometimes better entertained.
Nor does he confine himself to prose, but touches the lyre, too, in his
leisure moments, and passes for the chief bard of his kingdom, as he is
its sole public character, leading architect, and only merchant.

His competence, however, does not reach to music; and his verses, when
they are ready, are taught to a professional musician, who sets them and
instructs the chorus.  Asked what his songs were about, Tembinok’
replied, ‘Sweethearts and trees and the sea.  Not all the same true, all
the same lie.’  For a condensed view of lyrical poetry (except that he
seems to have forgot the stars and flowers) this would be hard to mend.
These multifarious occupations bespeak (in a native and an absolute
prince) unusual activity of mind.

The palace court at noon is a spot to be remembered with awe, the visitor
scrambling there, on the loose stones, through a splendid nightmare of
light and heat; but the sweep of the wind delivers it from flies and
mosquitoes; and with the set of sun it became heavenly.  I remember it
best on moonless nights.  The air was like a bath of milk.  Countless
shining stars were overhead, the lagoon paved with them.  Herds of wives
squatted by companies on the gravel, softly chatting.  Tembinok’ would
doff his jacket, and sit bare and silent, perhaps meditating songs; the
favourite usually by him, silent also.  Meanwhile in the midst of the
court, the palace lanterns were being lit and marshalled in rank upon the
ground—six or eight square yards of them; a sight that gave one strange
ideas of the number of ‘my pamily’: such a sight as may be seen about
dusk in a corner of some great terminus at home.  Presently these fared
off into all corners of the precinct, lighting the last labours of the
day, lighting one after another to their rest that prodigious company of
women.  A few lingered in the middle of the court for the card-party, and
saw the honours shuffled and dealt, and Tembinok’ deliberating between
his two; hands, and the queens losing their tobacco.  Then these also
were scattered and extinguished; and their place was taken by a great
bonfire, the night-light of the palace.  When this was no more, smaller
fires burned likewise at the gates.  These were tended by the crones,
unseen, unsleeping—not always unheard.  Should any approach in the dark
hours, a guarded alert made the circuit of the palisade; each sentry
signalled her neighbour with a stone; the rattle of falling pebbles
passed and died away; and the wardens of Tembinok’ crouched in their
places silent as before.



CHAPTER IV—THE KING OF APEMAMA: EQUATOR TOWN AND THE PALACE


Five persons were detailed to wait upon us.  Uncle Parker, who brought us
toddy and green nuts, was an elderly, almost an old man, with the
spirits, the industry, and the morals of a boy of ten.  His face was
ancient, droll, and diabolical, the skin stretched over taut sinews, like
a sail on the guide-rope; and he smiled with every muscle of his head.
His nuts must be counted every day, or he would deceive us in the tale;
they must be daily examined, or some would prove to be unhusked; nothing
but the king’s name, and scarcely that, would hold him to his duty.
After his toils were over he was given a pipe, matches, and tobacco, and
sat on the floor in the maniap’ to smoke.  He would not seem to move from
his position, and yet every day, when the things fell to be returned the
plug had disappeared; he had found the means to conceal it in the roof,
whence he could radiantly produce it on the morrow.  Although this piece
of legerdemain was performed regularly before three or four pairs of
eyes, we could never catch him in the fact; although we searched after he
was gone, we could never find the tobacco.  Such were the diversions of
Uncle Parker, a man nearing sixty.  But he was punished according unto
his deeds: Mrs. Stevenson took a fancy to paint him, and the sufferings
of the sitter were beyond description.

Three lasses came from the palace to do our washing and racket with Ah
Fu.  They were of the lowest class, hangers-on kept for the convenience
of merchant skippers, probably low-born, perhaps out-islanders, with
little refinement whether of manner or appearance, but likely and jolly
enough wenches in their way.  We called one _Guttersnipe_, for you may
find her image in the slums of any city; the same lean, dark-eyed, eager,
vulgar face, the same sudden, hoarse guffaws, the same forward and yet
anxious manner, as with a tail of an eye on the policeman: only the
policeman here was a live king, and his truncheon a rifle.  I doubt if
you could find anywhere out of the islands, or often there, the parallel
of _Fatty_, a mountain of a girl, who must have weighed near as many
stones as she counted summers, could have given a good account of a
life-guardsman, had the face of a baby, and applied her vast mechanical
forces almost exclusively to play.  But they were all three of the same
merry spirit.  Our washing was conducted in a game of romps; and they
fled and pursued, and splashed, and pelted, and rolled each other in the
sand, and kept up a continuous noise of cries and laughter like holiday
children.  Indeed, and however strange their own function in that austere
establishment, were they not escaped for the day from the largest and
strictest Ladies’ School in the South Seas?

Our fifth attendant was no less a person than the royal cook.  He was
strikingly handsome both in face and body, lazy as a slave, and insolent
as a butcher’s boy.  He slept and smoked on our premises in various
graceful attitudes; but so far from helping Ah Fu, he was not at the
pains to watch him.  It may be said of him that he came to learn, and
remained to teach; and his lessons were at times difficult to stomach.
For example, he was sent to fill a bucket from the well.  About half-way
he found my wife watering her onions, changed buckets with her, and
leaving her the empty, returned to the kitchen with the full.  On another
occasion he was given a dish of dumplings for the king, was told they
must be eaten hot, and that he should carry them as fast as possible.
The wretch set off at the rate of about a mile in the hour, head in air,
toes turned out.  My patience, after a month of trial, failed me at the
sight.  I pursued, caught him by his two big shoulders, and thrusting him
before me, ran with him down the hill, over the sands, and through the
applauding village, to the Speak House, where the king was then holding a
pow-wow.  He had the impudence to pretend he was internally injured by my
violence, and to profess serious apprehensions for his life.

All this we endured; for the ways of Tembinok’ are summary, and I was not
yet ripe to take a hand in the man’s death.  But in the meanwhile, here
was my unfortunate China boy slaving for the pair, and presently he fell
sick.  I was now in the position of Cimondain Lantenac, and indeed all
the characters in _Quatre-Vingt-Treize_: to continue to spare the guilty,
I must sacrifice the innocent.  I took the usual course and tried to save
both, with the usual consequence of failure.  Well rehearsed, I went down
to the palace, found the king alone, and obliged him with a vast amount
of rigmarole.  The cook was too old to learn: I feared he was not making
progress; how if we had a boy instead?—boys were more teachable.  It was
all in vain; the king pierced through my disguises to the root of the
fact; saw that the cook had desperately misbehaved; and sat a while
glooming.  ‘I think he tavvy too much,’ he said at last, with grim
concision; and immediately turned the talk to other subjects.  The same
day another high officer, the steward, appeared in the cook’s place, and,
I am bound to say, proved civil and industrious.

As soon as I left, it seems the king called for a Winchester and strolled
outside the palisade, awaiting the defaulter.  That day Tembinok’ wore
the woman’s frock; as like as not, his make-up was completed by a pith
helmet and blue spectacles.  Conceive the glaring stretch of sandhills,
the dwarf palms with their noon-day shadows, the line of the palisade,
the crone sentries (each by a small clear fire) cooking syrup on their
posts—and this chimæra waiting with his deadly engine.  To him, enter at
last the cook, strolling down the sandhill from Equator Town, listless,
vain and graceful; with no thought of alarm.  As soon as he was well
within range, the travestied monarch fired the six shots over his head,
at his feet, and on either hand of him: the second Apemama warning,
startling in itself, fatal in significance, for the next time his majesty
will aim to hit.  I am told the king is a crack shot; that when he aims
to kill, the grave may be got ready; and when he aims to miss, misses by
so near a margin that the culprit tastes six times the bitterness of
death.  The effect upon the cook I had an opportunity of seeing for
myself.  My wife and I were returning from the sea-side of the island,
when we spied one coming to meet us at a very quick, disordered pace,
between a walk and a run.  As we drew nearer we saw it was the cook,
beside himself with some emotion, his usual warm, mulatto colour declined
into a bluish pallor.  He passed us without word or gesture, staring on
us with the face of a Satan, and plunged on across the wood for the
unpeopled quarter of the island and the long, desert beach, where he
might rage to and fro unseen, and froth out the vials of his wrath, fear,
and humiliation.  Doubtless in the curses that he there uttered to the
bursting surf and the tropic birds, the name of the Kaupoi—the rich
man—was frequently repeated.  I had made him the laughing-stock of the
village in the affair of the king’s dumplings; I had brought him by my
machinations into disgrace and the immediate jeopardy of his days; last,
and perhaps bitterest, he had found me there by the way to spy upon him
in the hour of his disorder.

Time passed, and we saw no more of him.  The season of the full moon came
round, when a man thinks shame to lie sleeping; and I continued until
late—perhaps till twelve or one in the morning—to walk on the bright sand
and in the tossing shadow of the palms.  I played, as I wandered, on a
flageolet, which occupied much of my attention; the fans overhead rattled
in the wind with a metallic chatter; and a bare foot falls at any rate
almost noiseless on that shifting soil.  Yet when I got back to Equator
Town, where all the lights were out, and my wife (who was still awake,
and had been looking forth) asked me who it was that followed me, I
thought she spoke in jest.  ‘Not at all,’ she said.  ‘I saw him twice as
you passed, walking close at your heels.  He only left you at the corner
of the maniap’; he must be still behind the cook-house.’  Thither I
ran—like a fool, without any weapon—and came face to face with the cook.
He was within my tapu-line, which was death in itself; he could have no
business there at such an hour but either to steal or to kill; guilt made
him timorous; and he turned and fled before me in the night in silence.
As he went I kicked him in that place where honour lies, and he gave
tongue faintly like an injured mouse.  At the moment I daresay he
supposed it was a deadly instrument that touched him.

What had the man been after?  I have found my music better qualified to
scatter than to collect an audience.  Amateur as I was, I could not
suppose him interested in my reading of the _Carnival of Venice_, or that
he would deny himself his natural rest to follow my variations on _The
Ploughboy_.  And whatever his design, it was impossible I should suffer
him to prowl by night among the houses.  A word to the king, and the man
were not, his case being far beyond pardon.  But it is one thing to kill
a man yourself; quite another to bear tales behind his back and have him
shot by a third party; and I determined to deal with the fellow in some
method of my own.  I told Ah Fu the story, and bade him fetch me the cook
whenever he should find him.  I had supposed this would be a matter of
difficulty; and far from that, he came of his own accord: an act really
of desperation, since his life hung by my silence, and the best he could
hope was to be forgotten.  Yet he came with an assured countenance,
volunteered no apology or explanation, complained of injuries received,
and pretended he was unable to sit down.  I suppose I am the weakest man
God made; I had kicked him in the least vulnerable part of his big
carcase; my foot was bare, and I had not even hurt my foot.  Ah Fu could
not control his merriment.  On my side, knowing what must be the nature
of his apprehensions, I found in so much impudence a kind of gallantry,
and secretly admired the man.  I told him I should say nothing of his
night’s adventure to the king; that I should still allow him, when he had
an errand, to come within my tapu-line by day; but if ever I found him
there after the set of the sun I would shoot him on the spot; and to the
proof showed him a revolver.  He must have been incredibly relieved; but
he showed no sign of it, took himself off with his usual dandy
nonchalance, and was scarce seen by us again.

These five, then, with the substitution of the steward for the cook, came
and went, and were our only visitors.  The circle of the tapu held at
arm’s-length the inhabitants of the village.  As for ‘my pamily,’ they
dwelt like nuns in their enclosure; only once have I met one of them
abroad, and she was the king’s sister, and the place in which I found her
(the island infirmary) was very likely privileged.  There remains only
the king to be accounted for.  He would come strolling over, always
alone, a little before a meal-time, take a chair, and talk and eat with
us like an old family friend.  Gilbertine etiquette appears defective on
the point of leave-taking.  It may be remembered we had trouble in the
matter with Karaiti; and there was something childish and disconcerting
in Tembinok’s abrupt ‘I want go home now,’ accompanied by a kind of
ducking rise, and followed by an unadorned retreat.  It was the only blot
upon his manners, which were otherwise plain, decent, sensible, and
dignified.  He never stayed long nor drank much, and copied our behaviour
where he perceived it to differ from his own.  Very early in the day, for
instance, he ceased eating with his knife.  It was plain he was
determined in all things to wring profit from our visit, and chiefly upon
etiquette.  The quality of his white visitors puzzled and concerned him;
he would bring up name after name, and ask if its bearer were a ‘big
chiep,’ or even a ‘chiep’ at all—which, as some were my excellent good
friends, and none were actually born in the purple, became at times
embarrassing.  He was struck to learn that our classes were
distinguishable by their speech, and that certain words (for instance)
were tapu on the quarter-deck of a man-of-war; and he begged in
consequence that we should watch and correct him on the point.  We were
able to assure him that he was beyond correction.  His vocabulary is apt
and ample to an extraordinary degree.  God knows where he collected it,
but by some instinct or some accident he has avoided all profane or gross
expressions.  ‘Obliged,’ ‘stabbed,’ ‘gnaw,’ ‘lodge,’ ‘power,’ ‘company,’
‘slender,’ ‘smooth,’ and ‘wonderful,’ are a few of the unexpected words
that enrich his dialect.  Perhaps what pleased him most was to hear about
saluting the quarter-deck of a man-of-war.  In his gratitude for this
hint he became fulsome.  ‘Schooner cap’n no tell me,’ he cried; ‘I think
no tavvy!  You tavvy too much; tavvy ’teama’, tavvy man-a-wa’.  I think
you tavvy everything.’ Yet he gravelled me often enough with his
perpetual questions; and the false Mr. Barlow stood frequently exposed
before the royal Sandford.  I remember once in particular.  We were
showing the magic-lantern; a slide of Windsor Castle was put in, and I
told him there was the ‘outch’ of Victoreea.  ‘How many pathom he high?’
he asked, and I was dumb before him.  It was the builder, the
indefatigable architect of palaces, that spoke; collector though he was,
he did not collect useless information; and all his questions had a
purpose.  After etiquette, government, law, the police, money, and
medicine were his chief interests—things vitally important to himself as
a king and the father of his people.  It was my part not only to supply
new information, but to correct the old.  ‘My patha he tell me,’ or
‘White man he tell me,’ would be his constant beginning; ‘You think he
lie?’  Sometimes I thought he did.  Tembinok’ once brought me a
difficulty of this kind, which I was long of comprehending.  A schooner
captain had told him of Captain Cook; the king was much interested in the
story; and turned for more information—not to Mr. Stephen’s Dictionary,
not to the _Britannica_, but to the Bible in the Gilbert Island version
(which consists chiefly of the New Testament and the Psalms).  Here he
sought long and earnestly; Paul he found, and Festus and Alexander the
coppersmith: no word of Cook.  The inference was obvious: the explorer
was a myth.  So hard it is, even for a man of great natural parts like
Tembinok’, to grasp the ideas of a new society and culture.



CHAPTER V—KING AND COMMONS


We saw but little of the commons of the isle.  At first we met them at
the well, where they washed their linen and we drew water for the table.
The combination was distasteful; and, having a tyrant at command, we
applied to the king and had the place enclosed in our tapu.  It was one
of the few favours which Tembinok’ visibly boggled about granting, and it
may be conceived how little popular it made the strangers.  Many
villagers passed us daily going afield; but they fetched a wide circuit
round our tapu, and seemed to avert their looks.  At times we went
ourselves into the village—a strange place.  Dutch by its canals,
Oriental by the height and steepness of the roofs, which looked at dusk
like temples; but we were rarely called into a house: no welcome, no
friendship, was offered us; and of home life we had but the one view: the
waking of a corpse, a frigid, painful scene: the widow holding on her lap
the cold, bluish body of her husband, and now partaking of the
refreshments which made the round of the company, now weeping and kissing
the pale mouth.  (‘I fear you feel this affliction deeply,’ said the
Scottish minister.  ‘Eh, sir, and that I do!’ replied the widow.  ‘I’ve
been greetin’ a’ nicht; an’ noo I’m just gaun to sup this bit parritch,
and then I’ll begin an’ greet again.’)  In our walks abroad I have always
supposed the islanders avoided us, perhaps from distaste, perhaps by
order; and those whom we met we took generally by surprise.  The surface
of the isle is diversified with palm groves, thickets, and romantic
dingles four feet deep, relics of old taro plantation; and it is thus
possible to stumble unawares on folk resting or hiding from their work.
About pistol-shot from our township there lay a pond in the bottom of a
jungle; here the maids of the isle came to bathe, and were several times
alarmed by our intrusion.  Not for them are the bright cold rivers of
Tahiti or Upolu, not for them to splash and laugh in the hour of the dusk
with a villageful of gay companions; but to steal here solitary, to
crouch in a place like a cow-wallow, and wash (if that can be called
washing) in lukewarm mud, brown as their own skins.  Other, but still
rare, encounters occur to my memory.  I was several times arrested by a
tender sound in the bush of voices talking, soft as flutes and with quiet
intonations.  Hope told a flattering tale; I put aside the leaves; and
behold! in place of the expected dryads, a pair of all too solid ladies
squatting over a clay pipe in the ungraceful _ridi_.  The beauty of the
voice and the eye was all that remained to those vast dames; but that of
the voice was indeed exquisite.  It is strange I should have never heard
a more winning sound of speech, yet the dialect should be one remarkable
for violent, ugly, and outlandish vocables; so that Tembinok’ himself
declared it made him weary, and professed to find repose in talking
English.

The state of this folk, of whom I saw so little, I can merely guess at.
The king himself explains the situation with some art.  ‘No; I no pay
them,’ he once said.  ‘I give them tobacco.  They work for me _all the
same brothers_.’  It is true there was a brother once in Arden!  But we
prefer the shorter word.  They bear every servile mark,—levity like a
child’s, incurable idleness, incurious content.  The insolence of the
cook was a trait of his own; not so his levity, which he shared with the
innocent Uncle Parker.  With equal unconcern both gambolled under the
shadow of the gallows, and took liberties with death that might have
surprised a careless student of man’s nature.  I wrote of Parker that he
behaved like a boy of ten: what was he else, being a slave of sixty?  He
had passed all his years in school, fed, clad, thought for, commanded;
and had grown familiar and coquetted with the fear of punishment.  By
terror you may drive men long, but not far.  Here, in Apemama, they work
at the constant and the instant peril of their lives; and are plunged in
a kind of lethargy of laziness.  It is common to see one go afield in his
stiff mat ungirt, so that he walks elbows-in like a trussed fowl; and
whatsoever his right hand findeth to do, the other must be off duty
holding on his clothes.  It is common to see two men carrying between
them on a pole a single bucket of water.  To make two bites of a cherry
is good enough: to make two burthens of a soldier’s kit, for a distance
of perhaps half a furlong, passes measure.  Woman, being the less
childish animal, is less relaxed by servile conditions.  Even in the
king’s absence, even when they were alone, I have seen Apemama women work
with constancy.  But the outside to be hoped for in a man is that he may
attack his task in little languid fits, and lounge between-whiles.  So I
have seen a painter, with his pipe going, and a friend by the studio
fireside.  You might suppose the race to lack civility, even vitality,
until you saw them in the dance.  Night after night, and sometimes day
after day, they rolled out their choruses in the great Speak House—solemn
andantes and adagios, led by the clapped hand, and delivered with an
energy that shook the roof.  The time was not so slow, though it was slow
for the islands; but I have chosen rather to indicate the effect upon the
hearer.  Their music had a church-like character from near at hand, and
seemed to European ears more regular than the run of island music.  Twice
I have heard a discord regularly solved.  From farther off, heard at
Equator Town for instance, the measures rose and fell and crepitated like
the barking of hounds in a distant kennel.

The slaves are certainly not overworked—children of ten do more without
fatigue—and the Apemama labourers have holidays, when the singing begins
early in the afternoon.  The diet is hard; copra and a sweetmeat of
pounded pandanus are the only dishes I observed outside the palace; but
there seems no defect in quantity, and the king shares with them his
turtles.  Three came in a boat from Kuria during our stay; one was kept
for the palace, one sent to us, one presented to the village.  It is the
habit of the islanders to cook the turtle in its carapace; we had been
promised the shells, and we asked a tapu on this foolish practice.  The
face of Tembinok’ darkened and he answered nothing.  Hesitation in the
question of the well I could understand, for water is scarce on a low
island; that he should refuse to interfere upon a point of cookery was
more than I had dreamed of; and I gathered (rightly or wrongly) that he
was scrupulous of touching in the least degree the private life and
habits of his slaves.  So that even here, in full despotism, public
opinion has weight; even here, in the midst of slavery, freedom has a
corner.

Orderly, sober, and innocent, life flows in the isle from day to day as
in a model plantation under a model planter.  It is impossible to doubt
the beneficence of that stern rule.  A curious politeness, a soft and
gracious manner, something effeminate and courtly, distinguishes the
islanders of Apemama; it is talked of by all the traders, it was felt
even by residents so little beloved as ourselves, and noticeable even in
the cook, and even in that scoundrel’s hours of insolence.  The king,
with his manly and plain bearing, stood out alone; you might say he was
the only Gilbert Islander in Apemama.  Violence, so common in Butaritari,
seems unknown.  So are theft and drunkenness.  I am assured the
experiment has been made of leaving sovereigns on the beach before the
village; they lay there untouched.  In all our time on the island I was
but once asked for drink.  This was by a mighty plausible fellow, wearing
European clothes and speaking excellent English—Tamaiti his name, or, as
the whites have now corrupted it, ‘Tom White’: one of the king’s
supercargoes at three pounds a month and a percentage, a medical man
besides, and in his private hours a wizard.  He found me one day in the
outskirts of the village, in a secluded place, hot and private, where the
taro-pits are deep and the plants high.  Here he buttonholed me, and,
looking about him like a conspirator, inquired if I had gin.

I told him I had.  He remarked that gin was forbidden, lauded the
prohibition a while, and then went on to explain that he was a doctor, or
‘dogstar’ as he pronounced the word, that gin was necessary to him for
his medical infusions, that he was quite out of it, and that he would be
obliged to me for some in a bottle.  I told him I had passed the king my
word on landing; but since his case was so exceptional, I would go down
to the palace at once, and had no doubt that Tembinok’ would set me free.
Tom White was immediately overwhelmed with embarrassment and terror,
besought me in the most moving terms not to betray him, and fled my
neighbourhood.  He had none of the cook’s valour; it was weeks before he
dared to meet my eye; and then only by the order of the king and on
particular business.

The more I viewed and admired this triumph of firm rule, the more I was
haunted and troubled by a problem, the problem (perhaps) of to-morrow for
ourselves.  Here was a people protected from all serious misfortune,
relieved of all serious anxieties, and deprived of what we call our
liberty.  Did they like it? and what was their sentiment toward the
ruler?  The first question I could not of course ask, nor perhaps the
natives answer.  Even the second was delicate; yet at last, and under
charming and strange circumstances, I found my opportunity to put it and
a man to reply.  It was near the full of the moon, with a delicious
breeze; the isle was bright as day—to sleep would have been sacrilege;
and I walked in the bush, playing my pipe.  It must have been the sound
of what I am pleased to call my music that attracted in my direction
another wanderer of the night.  This was a young man attired in a fine
mat, and with a garland on his hair, for he was new come from dancing and
singing in the public hall; and his body, his face, and his eyes were all
of an enchanting beauty.  Every here and there in the Gilberts youths are
to be found of this absurd perfection; I have seen five of us pass half
an hour in admiration of a boy at Mariki; and Te Kop (my friend in the
fine mat and garland) I had already several times remarked, and long ago
set down as the loveliest animal in Apemama.  The philtre of admiration
must be very strong, or these natives specially susceptible to its
effects, for I have scarce ever admired a person in the islands but what
he has sought my particular acquaintance.  So it was with Te Kop.  He led
me to the ocean side; and for an hour or two we sat smoking and talking
on the resplendent sand and under the ineffable brightness of the moon.
My friend showed himself very sensible of the beauty and amenity of the
hour.  ‘Good night! Good wind!’ he kept exclaiming, and as he said the
words he seemed to hug myself.  I had long before invented such
reiterated expressions of delight for a character (Felipe, in the story
of _Olalla_) intended to be partly bestial.  But there was nothing
bestial in Te Kop; only a childish pleasure in the moment.  He was no
less pleased with his companion, or was good enough to say so; honoured
me, before he left, by calling me Te Kop; apostrophised me as ‘My name!’
with an intonation exquisitely tender, laying his hand at the same time
swiftly on my knee; and after we had risen, and our paths began to
separate in the bush, twice cried to me with a sort of gentle ecstasy, ‘I
like you too much!’  From the beginning he had made no secret of his
terror of the king; would not sit down nor speak above a whisper till he
had put the whole breadth of the isle between himself and his monarch,
then harmlessly asleep; and even there, even within a stone-cast of the
outer sea, our talk covered by the sound of the surf and the rattle of
the wind among the palms, continued to speak guardedly, softening his
silver voice (which rang loud enough in the chorus) and looking about him
like a man in fear of spies.  The strange thing is that I should have
beheld him no more.  In any other island in the whole South Seas, if I
had advanced half as far with any native, he would have been at my door
next morning, bringing and expecting gifts.  But Te Kop vanished in the
bush for ever.  My house, of course, was unapproachable; but he knew
where to find me on the ocean beach, where I went daily.  I was the
_Kaupoi_, the rich man; my tobacco and trade were known to be endless: he
was sure of a present.  I am at a loss how to explain his behaviour,
unless it be supposed that he recalled with terror and regret a passage
in our interview.  Here it is:

‘The king, he good man?’ I asked.

‘Suppose he like you, he good man,’ replied Te Kop: ‘no like, no good.’

That is one way of putting it, of course.  Te Kop himself was probably no
favourite, for he scarce appealed to my judgment as a type of industry.
And there must be many others whom the king (to adhere to the formula)
does not like.  Do these unfortunates like the king?  Or is not rather
the repulsion mutual? and the conscientious Tembinok’, like the
conscientious Braxfield before him, and many other conscientious rulers
and judges before either, surrounded by a considerable body of
‘grumbletonians’?  Take the cook, for instance, when he passed us by,
blue with rage and terror.  He was very wroth with me; I think by all the
old principles of human nature he was not very well pleased with his
sovereign.  It was the rich man he sought to waylay: I think it must have
been by the turn of a hair that it was not the king he waylaid instead.
And the king gives, or seems to give, plenty of opportunities; day and
night he goes abroad alone, whether armed or not I can but guess; and the
taro-patches, where his business must so often carry him, seem designed
for assassination.  The case of the cook was heavy indeed to my
conscience.  I did not like to kill my enemy at second-hand; but had I a
right to conceal from the king, who had trusted me, the dangerous secret
character of his attendant?  And suppose the king should fall, what would
be the fate of the king’s friends?  It was our opinion at the time that
we should pay dear for the closing of the well; that our breath was in
the king’s nostrils; that if the king should by any chance be bludgeoned
in a taro-patch, the philosophical and musical inhabitants of Equator
Town might lay aside their pleasant instruments, and betake themselves to
what defence they had, with a very dim prospect of success.  These
speculations were forced upon us by an incident which I am ashamed to
betray.  The schooner _H. L. Haseltine_ (since capsized at sea, with the
loss of eleven lives) put into Apemama in a good hour for us, who had
near exhausted our supplies.  The king, after his habit, spent day after
day on board; the gin proved unhappily to his taste; he brought a store
of it ashore with him; and for some time the sole tyrant of the isle was
half-seas-over.  He was not drunk—the man is not a drunkard, he has
always stores of liquor at hand, which he uses with moderation,—but he
was muzzy, dull, and confused.  He came one day to lunch with us, and
while the cloth was being laid fell asleep in his chair.  His confusion,
when he awoke and found he had been detected, was equalled by our
uneasiness.  When he was gone we sat and spoke of his peril, which we
thought to be in some degree our own; of how easily the man might be
surprised in such a state by _grumbletonians_; of the strange scenes that
would follow—the royal treasures and stores at the mercy of the rabble,
the palace overrun, the garrison of women turned adrift.  And as we
talked we were startled by a gun-shot and a sudden, barbaric outcry.  I
believe we all changed colour; but it was only the king firing at a dog
and the chorus striking up in the Speak House.  A day or two later I
learned the king was very sick; went down, diagnosed the case; and took
at once the highest medical degree by the exhibition of bicarbonate of
soda.  Within the hour Richard was himself again; and I found him at the
unfinished house, enjoying the double pleasure of directing Rubam and
making a dinner of cocoa-nut dumplings, and all eagerness to have the
formula of this new sort of _pain-killer_—for _pain-killer_ in the
islands is the generic name of medicine.  So ended the king’s modest
spree and our anxiety.

On the face of things, I ought to say, loyalty appeared unshaken.  When
the schooner at last returned for us, after much experience of baffling
winds, she brought a rumour that Tebureimoa had declared war on Apemama.
Tembinok’ became a new man; his face radiant; his attitude, as I saw him
preside over a council of chiefs in one of the palace maniap’s, eager as
a boy’s; his voice sounding abroad, shrill and jubilant, over half the
compound.  War is what he wants, and here was his chance.  The English
captain, when he flung his arms in the lagoon, had forbidden him (except
in one case) all military adventures in the future: here was the case
arrived.  All morning the council sat; men were drilled, arms were
bought, the sound of firing disturbed the afternoon; the king devised and
communicated to me his plan of campaign, which was highly elaborate and
ingenious, but perhaps a trifle fine-spun for the rough and random
vicissitudes of war.  And in all this bustle the temper of the people
appeared excellent, an unwonted animation in every face, and even Uncle
Parker burning with military zeal.

Of course it was a false alarm.  Tebureimoa had other fish to fry.  The
ambassador who accompanied us on our return to Butaritari found him
retired to a small island on the reef, in a huff with the Old Men, a tiff
with the traders, and more fear of insurrection at home than appetite for
wars abroad.  The plenipotentiary had been placed under my protection;
and we solemnly saluted when we met.  He proved an excellent fisherman,
and caught bonito over the ship’s side.  He pulled a good oar, and made
himself useful for a whole fiery afternoon, towing the becalmed _Equator_
off Mariki.  He went to his post and did no good.  He returned home
again, having done no harm.  _O si sic omnes_!



CHAPTER VI—THE KING OF APEMAMA: DEVIL-WORK


The ocean beach of Apemama was our daily resort.  The coast is broken by
shallow bays.  The reef is detached, elevated, and includes a lagoon
about knee-deep, the unrestful spending-basin of the surf.  The beach is
now of fine sand, now of broken coral.  The trend of the coast being
convex, scarce a quarter of a mile of it is to be seen at once; the land
being so low, the horizon appears within a stone-cast; and the narrow
prospect enhances the sense of privacy.  Man avoids the place—even his
footprints are uncommon; but a great number of birds hover and pipe there
fishing, and leave crooked tracks upon the sand.  Apart from these, the
only sound (and I was going to say the only society), is that of the
breakers on the reef.

On each projection of the coast, the bank of coral clinkers immediately
above the beach has been levelled, and a pillar built, perhaps
breast-high.  These are not sepulchral; all the dead being buried on the
inhabited side of the island, close to men’s houses, and (what is worse)
to their wells.  I was told they were to protect the isle against inroads
from the sea—divine or diabolical martellos, probably sacred to Taburik,
God of Thunder.

The bay immediately opposite Equator Town, which we called Fu Bay, in
honour of our cook, was thus fortified on either horn.  It was well
sheltered by the reef, the enclosed water clear and tranquil, the
enclosing beach curved like a horseshoe, and both steep and broad.  The
path debouched about the midst of the re-entrant angle, the woods
stopping some distance inland.  In front, between the fringe of the wood
and the crown of the beach, there had been designed a regular figure,
like the court for some new variety of tennis, with borders of round
stones imbedded, and pointed at the angles with low posts, likewise of
stone.  This was the king’s Pray Place.  When he prayed, what he prayed
for, and to whom he addressed his supplications I could never learn.  The
ground was tapu.

In the angle, by the mouth of the path, stood a deserted maniap’.  Near
by there had been a house before our coming, which was now transported
and figured for the moment in Equator Town.  It had been, and it would be
again when we departed, the residence of the guardian and wizard of the
spot—Tamaiti.  Here, in this lone place, within sound of the sea, he had
his dwelling and uncanny duties.  I cannot call to mind another case of a
man living on the ocean side of any open atoll; and Tamaiti must have had
strong nerves, the greater confidence in his own spells, or, what I
believe to be the truth, an enviable scepticism.  Whether Tamaiti had any
guardianship of the Pray Place I never heard.  But his own particular
chapel stood farther back in the fringe of the wood.  It was a tree of
respectable growth.  Around it there was drawn a circle of stones like
those that enclosed the Pray Place; in front, facing towards the sea, a
stone of a much greater size, and somewhat hollowed, like a piscina,
stood close against the trunk; in front of that again a conical pile of
gravel.  In the hollow of what I have called the piscina (though it
proved to be a magic seat) lay an offering of green cocoa-nuts; and when
you looked up you found the boughs of the tree to be laden with strange
fruit: palm-branches elaborately plaited, and beautiful models of canoes,
finished and rigged to the least detail.  The whole had the appearance of
a mid-summer and sylvan Christmas-tree _al fresco_.  Yet we were already
well enough acquainted in the Gilberts to recognise it, at the first
sight, for a piece of wizardry, or, as they say in the group, of
Devil-work.

The plaited palms were what we recognised.  We had seen them before on
Apaiang, the most christianised of all these islands; where excellent Mr.
Bingham lived and laboured and has left golden memories; whence all the
education in the northern Gilberts traces its descent; and where we were
boarded by little native Sunday-school misses in clean frocks, with
demure faces, and singing hymns as to the manner born.

Our experience of Devil-work at Apaiang had been as follows:—It chanced
we were benighted at the house of Captain Tierney.  My wife and I lodged
with a Chinaman some half a mile away; and thither Captain Reid and a
native boy escorted us by torch-light.  On the way the torch went out,
and we took shelter in a small and lonely Christian chapel to rekindle
it.  Stuck in the rafters of the chapel was a branch of knotted palm.
‘What is that?’ I asked.  ‘O, that’s Devil-work,’ said the Captain.  ‘And
what is Devil-work?’ I inquired.  ‘If you like, I’ll show you some when
we get to Johnnie’s,’ he replied.  ‘Johnnie’s’ was a quaint little house
upon the crest of the beach, raised some three feet on posts, approached
by stairs; part walled, part trellised.  Trophies of
advertisement-photographs were hung up within for decoration.  There was
a table and a recess-bed, in which Mrs. Stevenson slept; while I camped
on the matted floor with Johnnie, Mrs. Johnnie, her sister, and the
devil’s own regiment of cockroaches.  Hither was summoned an old witch,
who looked the part to horror.  The lamp was set on the floor; the crone
squatted on the threshold, a green palm-branch in her hand, the light
striking full on her aged features and picking out behind her, from the
black night, timorous faces of spectators.  Our sorceress began with a
chanted incantation; it was in the old tongue, for which I had no
interpreter; but ever and again there ran among the crowd outside that
laugh which every traveller in the islands learns so soon to
recognise,—the laugh of terror.  Doubtless these half-Christian folk were
shocked, these half-heathen folk alarmed.  Chench or Taburik thus
invoked, we put our questions; the witch knotted the leaves, here a leaf
and there a leaf, plainly on some arithmetical system; studied the result
with great apparent contention of mind; and gave the answers.  Sidney
Colvin was in robust health and gone a journey; and we should have a fair
wind upon the morrow: that was the result of our consultation, for which
we paid a dollar.  The next day dawned cloudless and breathless; but I
think Captain Reid placed a secret reliance on the sibyl, for the
schooner was got ready for sea.  By eight the lagoon was flawed with long
cat’s-paws, and the palms tossed and rustled; before ten we were clear of
the passage and skimming under all plain sail, with bubbling scuppers.
So we had the breeze, which was well worth a dollar in itself; but the
bulletin about my friend in England proved, some six months later, when I
got my mail, to have been groundless.  Perhaps London lies beyond the
horizon of the island gods.

Tembinok’, in his first dealings, showed himself sternly averse from
superstition: and had not the _Equator_ delayed, we might have left the
island and still supposed him an agnostic.  It chanced one day, however,
that he came to our maniap’, and found Mrs. Stevenson in the midst of a
game of patience.  She explained the game as well as she was able, and
wound up jocularly by telling him this was her devil-work, and if she
won, the _Equator_ would arrive next day.  Tembinok’ must have drawn a
long breath; we were not so high-and-dry after all; he need no longer
dissemble, and he plunged at once into confessions.  He made devil-work
every day, he told us, to know if ships were coming in; and thereafter
brought us regular reports of the results.  It was surprising how
regularly he was wrong; but he always had an explanation ready.  There
had been some schooner in the offing out of view; but either she was not
bound for Apemama, or had changed her course, or lay becalmed.  I used to
regard the king with veneration as he thus publicly deceived himself.  I
saw behind him all the fathers of the Church, all the philosophers and
men of science of the past; before him, all those that are to come;
himself in the midst; the whole visionary series bowed over the same task
of welding incongruities.  To the end Tembinok’ spoke reluctantly of the
island gods and their worship, and I learned but little.  Taburik is the
god of thunder, and deals in wind and weather.  A while since there were
wizards who could call him down in the form of lightning.  ‘My patha he
tell me he see: you think he lie?’  Tienti—pronounced something like
‘Chench,’ and identified by his majesty with the devil—sends and removes
bodily sickness.  He is whistled for in the Paumotuan manner, and is said
to appear; but the king has never seen him.  The doctors treat disease by
the aid of Chench: eclectic Tembinok’ at the same time administering
‘pain-killer’ from his medicine-chest, so as to give the sufferer both
chances.  ‘I think mo’ betta,’ observed his majesty, with more than his
usual self-approval.  Apparently the gods are not jealous, and placidly
enjoy both shrine and priest in common.  On Tamaiti’s medicine-tree, for
instance, the model canoes are hung up _ex voto_ for a prosperous voyage,
and must therefore be dedicated to Taburik, god of the weather; but the
stone in front is the place of sick folk come to pacify Chench.

It chanced, by great good luck, that even as we spoke of these affairs, I
found myself threatened with a cold.  I do not suppose I was ever glad of
a cold before, or shall ever be again; but the opportunity to see the
sorcerers at work was priceless, and I called in the faculty of Apemama.
They came in a body, all in their Sunday’s best and hung with wreaths and
shells, the insignia of the devil-worker.  Tamaiti I knew already:
Terutak’ I saw for the first time—a tall, lank, raw-boned, serious
North-Sea fisherman turned brown; and there was a third in their company
whose name I never heard, and who played to Tamaiti the part of
_famulus_.  Tamaiti took me in hand first, and led me, conversing
agreeably, to the shores of Fu Bay.  The _famulus_ climbed a tree for
some green cocoa-nuts.  Tamaiti himself disappeared a while in the bush
and returned with coco tinder, dry leaves, and a spray of waxberry.  I
was placed on the stone, with my back to the tree and my face to
windward; between me and the gravel-heap one of the green nuts was set;
and then Tamaiti (having previously bared his feet, for he had come in
canvas shoes, which tortured him) joined me within the magic circle,
hollowed out the top of the gravel-heap, built his fire in the bottom,
and applied a match: it was one of Bryant and May’s.  The flame was slow
to catch, and the irreverent sorcerer filled in the time with talk of
foreign places—of London, and ‘companies,’ and how much money they had;
of San Francisco, and the nefarious fogs, ‘all the same smoke,’ which had
been so nearly the occasion of his death.  I tried vainly to lead him to
the matter in hand.  ‘Everybody make medicine,’ he said lightly.  And
when I asked him if he were himself a good practitioner—‘No savvy,’ he
replied, more lightly still.  At length the leaves burst in a flame,
which he continued to feed; a thick, light smoke blew in my face, and the
flames streamed against and scorched my clothes.  He in the meanwhile
addressed, or affected to address, the evil spirit, his lips moving fast,
but without sound; at the same time he waved in the air and twice struck
me on the breast with his green spray.  So soon as the leaves were
consumed the ashes were buried, the green spray was imbedded in the
gravel, and the ceremony was at an end.

A reader of the _Arabian Nights_ felt quite at home.  Here was the
suffumigation; here was the muttering wizard; here was the desert place
to which Aladdin was decoyed by the false uncle.  But they manage these
things better in fiction.  The effect was marred by the levity of the
magician, entertaining his patient with small talk like an affable
dentist, and by the incongruous presence of Mr. Osbourne with a camera.
As for my cold, it was neither better nor worse.

I was now handed over to Terutak’, the leading practitioner or medical
baronet of Apemama.  His place is on the lagoon side of the island, hard
by the palace.  A rail of light wood, some two feet high, encloses an
oblong piece of gravel like the king’s Pray Place; in the midst is a
green tree; below, a stone table bears a pair of boxes covered with a
fine mat; and in front of these an offering of food, a cocoa-nut, a piece
of taro or a fish, is placed daily.  On two sides the enclosure is lined
with maniap’s; and one of our party, who had been there to sketch, had
remarked a daily concourse of people and an extraordinary number of sick
children; for this is in fact the infirmary of Apemama.  The doctor and
myself entered the sacred place alone; the boxes and the mat were
displaced; and I was enthroned in their stead upon the stone, facing once
more to the east.  For a while the sorcerer remained unseen behind me,
making passes in the air with a branch of palm.  Then he struck lightly
on the brim of my straw hat; and this blow he continued to repeat at
intervals, sometimes brushing instead my arm and shoulder.  I have had
people try to mesmerise me a dozen times, and never with the least
result.  But at the first tap—on a quarter no more vital than my
hat-brim, and from nothing more virtuous than a switch of palm wielded by
a man I could not even see—sleep rushed upon me like an armed man.  My
sinews fainted, my eyes closed, my brain hummed, with drowsiness.  I
resisted, at first instinctively, then with a certain flurry of despair,
in the end successfully; if that were indeed success which enabled me to
scramble to my feet, to stumble home somnambulous, to cast myself at once
upon my bed, and sink at once into a dreamless stupor.  When I awoke my
cold was gone.  So I leave a matter that I do not understand.

Meanwhile my appetite for curiosities (not usually very keen) had been
strangely whetted by the sacred boxes.  They were of pandanus wood,
oblong in shape, with an effect of pillaring along the sides like straw
work, lightly fringed with hair or fibre and standing on four legs.  The
outside was neat as a toy; the inside a mystery I was resolved to
penetrate.  But there was a lion in the path.  I might not approach
Terutak’, since I had promised to buy nothing in the island; I dared not
have recourse to the king, for I had already received from him more gifts
than I knew how to repay.  In this dilemma (the schooner being at last
returned) we hit on a device.  Captain Reid came forward in my stead,
professed an unbridled passion for the boxes, and asked and obtained
leave to bargain for them with the wizard.  That same afternoon the
captain and I made haste to the infirmary, entered the enclosure, raised
the mat, and had begun to examine the boxes at our leisure, when
Terutak’s wife bounced out of one of the nigh houses, fell upon us, swept
up the treasures, and was gone.  There was never a more absolute
surprise.  She came, she took, she vanished, we had not a guess whither;
and we remained, with foolish looks and laughter on the empty field.
Such was the fit prologue of our memorable bargaining.

Presently Terutak’ came, bringing Tamaiti along with him, both smiling;
and we four squatted without the rail.  In the three maniap’s of the
infirmary a certain audience was gathered: the family of a sick child
under treatment, the king’s sister playing cards, a pretty girl, who
swore I was the image of her father; in all perhaps a score.  Terutak’s
wife had returned (even as she had vanished) unseen, and now sat,
breathless and watchful, by her husband’s side.  Perhaps some rumour of
our quest had gone abroad, or perhaps we had given the alert by our
unseemly freedom: certain, at least, that in the faces of all present,
expectation and alarm were mingled.

Captain Reid announced, without preface or disguise, that I was come to
purchase; Terutak’, with sudden gravity, refused to sell.  He was
pressed; he persisted.  It was explained we only wanted one: no matter,
two were necessary for the healing of the sick.  He was rallied, he was
reasoned with: in vain.  He sat there, serious and still, and refused.
All this was only a preliminary skirmish; hitherto no sum of money had
been mentioned; but now the captain brought his great guns to bear.  He
named a pound, then two, then three.  Out of the maniap’s one person
after another came to join the group, some with mere excitement, others
with consternation in their faces.  The pretty girl crept to my side; it
was then that—surely with the most artless flattery—she informed me of my
likeness to her father.  Tamaiti the infidel sat with hanging head and
every mark of dejection.  Terutak’ streamed with sweat, his eye was
glazed, his face wore a painful rictus, his chest heaved like that of one
spent with running.  The man must have been by nature covetous; and I
doubt if ever I saw moral agony more tragically displayed.  His wife by
his side passionately encouraged his resistance.

And now came the charge of the old guard.  The captain, making a skip,
named the surprising figure of five pounds.  At the word the maniap’s
were emptied.  The king’s sister flung down her cards and came to the
front to listen, a cloud on her brow.  The pretty girl beat her breast
and cried with wearisome iteration that if the box were hers I should
have it.  Terutak’s wife was beside herself with pious fear, her face
discomposed, her voice (which scarce ceased from warning and
encouragement) shrill as a whistle.  Even Terutak’ lost that image-like
immobility which he had hitherto maintained.  He rocked on his mat, threw
up his closed knees alternately, and struck himself on the breast after
the manner of dancers.  But he came gold out of the furnace; and with
what voice was left him continued to reject the bribe.

And now came a timely interjection.  ‘Money will not heal the sick,’
observed the king’s sister sententiously; and as soon as I heard the
remark translated my eyes were unsealed, and I began to blush for my
employment.  Here was a sick child, and I sought, in the view of its
parents, to remove the medicine-box.  Here was the priest of a religion,
and I (a heathen millionaire) was corrupting him to sacrilege.  Here was
a greedy man, torn in twain betwixt greed and conscience; and I sat by
and relished, and lustfully renewed his torments.  _Ave_, _Cæsar_!
Smothered in a corner, dormant but not dead, we have all the one touch of
nature: an infant passion for the sand and blood of the arena.  So I
brought to an end my first and last experience of the joys of the
millionaire, and departed amid silent awe.  Nowhere else can I expect to
stir the depths of human nature by an offer of five pounds; nowhere else,
even at the expense of millions, could I hope to see the evil of riches
stand so legibly exposed.  Of all the bystanders, none but the king’s
sister retained any memory of the gravity and danger of the thing in
hand.  Their eyes glowed, the girl beat her breast, in senseless animal
excitement.  Nothing was offered them; they stood neither to gain nor to
lose; at the mere name and wind of these great sums Satan possessed them.

From this singular interview I went straight to the palace; found the
king; confessed what I had been doing; begged him, in my name, to
compliment Terutak’ on his virtue, and to have a similar box made for me
against the return of the schooner.  Tembinok’, Rubam, and one of the
Daily Papers—him we used to call ‘the Facetiæ Column’—laboured for a
while of some idea, which was at last intelligibly delivered.  They
feared I thought the box would cure me; whereas, without the wizard, it
was useless; and when I was threatened with another cold I should do
better to rely on pain-killer.  I explained I merely wished to keep it in
my ‘outch’ as a thing made in Apemama and these honest men were much
relieved.

Late the same evening, my wife, crossing the isle to windward, was aware
of singing in the bush.  Nothing is more common in that hour and place
than the jubilant carol of the toddy-cutter, swinging high overhead,
beholding below him the narrow ribbon of the isle, the surrounding field
of ocean, and the fires of the sunset.  But this was of a graver
character, and seemed to proceed from the ground-level.  Advancing a
little in the thicket, Mrs. Stevenson saw a clear space, a fine mat
spread in the midst, and on the mat a wreath of white flowers and one of
the devil-work boxes.  A woman—whom we guess to have been Mrs.
Terutak’—sat in front, now drooping over the box like a mother over a
cradle, now lifting her face and directing her song to heaven.  A passing
toddy-cutter told my wife that she was praying.  Probably she did not so
much pray as deprecate; and perhaps even the ceremony was one of
disenchantment.  For the box was already doomed; it was to pass from its
green medicine-tree, reverend precinct, and devout attendants; to be
handled by the profane; to cross three seas; to come to land under the
foolscap of St. Paul’s; to be domesticated within the hail of Lillie
Bridge; there to be dusted by the British housemaid, and to take perhaps
the roar of London for the voice of the outer sea along the reef.  Before
even we had finished dinner Chench had begun his journey, and one of the
newspapers had already placed the box upon my table as the gift of
Tembinok’.

I made haste to the palace, thanked the king, but offered to restore the
box, for I could not bear that the sick of the island should be made to
suffer.  I was amazed by his reply.  Terutak’, it appeared, had still
three or four in reserve against an accident; and his reluctance, and the
dread painted at first on every face, was not in the least occasioned by
the prospect of medical destitution, but by the immediate divinity of
Chench.  How much more did I respect the king’s command, which had been
able to extort in a moment and for nothing a sacrilegious favour that I
had in vain solicited with millions!  But now I had a difficult task in
front of me; it was not in my view that Terutak’ should suffer by his
virtue; and I must persuade the king to share my opinion, to let me
enrich one of his subjects, and (what was yet more delicate) to pay for
my present.  Nothing shows the king in a more becoming light than the
fact that I succeeded.  He demurred at the principle; he exclaimed, when
he heard it, at the sum.  ‘Plenty money!’ cried he, with contemptuous
displeasure.  But his resistance was never serious; and when he had blown
off his ill-humour—‘A’ right,’ said he.  ‘You give him.  Mo’ betta.’

Armed with this permission, I made straight for the infirmary.  The night
was now come, cool, dark, and starry.  On a mat hard by a clear fire of
wood and coco shell, Terutak’ lay beside his wife.  Both were smiling;
the agony was over, the king’s command had reconciled (I must suppose)
their agitating scruples; and I was bidden to sit by them and share the
circulating pipe.  I was a little moved myself when I placed five gold
sovereigns in the wizard’s hand; but there was no sign of emotion in
Terutak’ as he returned them, pointed to the palace, and named Tembinok’.
It was a changed scene when I had managed to explain.  Terutak’, long,
dour Scots fisherman as he was, expressed his satisfaction within bounds;
but the wife beamed; and there was an old gentleman present—her father, I
suppose—who seemed nigh translated.  His eyes stood out of his head;
‘_Kaupoi_, _Kaupoi_—rich, rich!’ ran on his lips like a refrain; and he
could not meet my eye but what he gurgled into foolish laughter.

I might now go home, leaving that fire-lit family party gloating over
their new millions, and consider my strange day.  I had tried and
rewarded the virtue of Terutak’.  I had played the millionaire, had
behaved abominably, and then in some degree repaired my thoughtlessness.
And now I had my box, and could open it and look within.  It contained a
miniature sleeping-mat and a white shell.  Tamaiti, interrogated next day
as to the shell, explained it was not exactly Chench, but a cell, or
body, which he would at times inhabit.  Asked why there was a
sleeping-mat, he retorted indignantly, ‘Why have you mats?’  And this was
the sceptical Tamaiti!  But island scepticism is never deeper than the
lips.



CHAPTER VII—THE KING OF APEMAMA


Thus all things on the island, even the priests of the gods, obey the
word of Tembinok’.  He can give and take, and slay, and allay the
scruples of the conscientious, and do all things (apparently) but
interfere in the cookery of a turtle.  ‘I got power’ is his favourite
word; it interlards his conversation; the thought haunts him and is ever
fresh; and when be has asked and meditates of foreign countries, he looks
up with a smile and reminds you, ‘_I_ got _Power_.’  Nor is his delight
only in the possession, but in the exercise.  He rejoices in the crooked
and violent paths of kingship like a strong man to run a race, or like an
artist in his art.  To feel, to use his power, to embellish his island
and the picture of the island life after a private ideal, to milk the
island vigorously, to extend his singular museum—these employ
delightfully the sum of his abilities.  I never saw a man more patently
in the right trade.

It would be natural to suppose this monarchy inherited intact through
generations.  And so far from that, it is a thing of yesterday.  I was
already a boy at school while Apemama was yet republican, ruled by a
noisy council of Old Men, and torn with incurable feuds.  And Tembinok’
is no Bourbon; rather the son of a Napoleon.  Of course he is well-born.
No man need aspire high in the isles of the Pacific unless his pedigree
be long and in the upper regions mythical.  And our king counts
cousinship with most of the high families in the archipelago, and traces
his descent to a shark and a heroic woman.  Directed by an oracle, she
swam beyond sight of land to meet her revolting paramour, and received at
sea the seed of a predestined family.  ‘I think lie,’ is the king’s
emphatic commentary; yet he is proud of the legend.  From this
illustrious beginning the fortunes of the race must have declined; and
Teñkoruti, the grandfather of Tembinok’, was the chief of a village at
the north end of the island.  Kuria and Aranuka were yet independent;
Apemama itself the arena of devastating feuds.  Through this perturbed
period of history the figure of Teñkoruti stalks memorable.  In war he
was swift and bloody; several towns fell to his spear, and the
inhabitants were butchered to a man.  In civil life this arrogance was
unheard of.  When the council of Old Men was summoned, he went to the
Speak House, delivered his mind, and left without waiting to be answered.
Wisdom had spoken: let others opine according to their folly.  He was
feared and hated, and this was his pleasure.  He was no poet; he cared
not for arts or knowledge.  ‘My gran’patha one thing savvy, savvy pight,’
observed the king.  In some lull of their own disputes the Old Men of
Apemama adventured on the conquest of Apemama; and this unlicked Caius
Marcius was elected general of the united troops.  Success attended him;
the islands were reduced, and Teñkoruti returned to his own government,
glorious and detested.  He died about 1860, in the seventieth year of his
age and the full odour of unpopularity.  He was tall and lean, says his
grandson, looked extremely old, and ‘walked all the same young man.’  The
same observer gave me a significant detail.  The survivors of that rough
epoch were all defaced with spearmarks; there was none on the body of
this skilful fighter.  ‘I see old man, no got a spear,’ said the king.

Teñkoruti left two sons, Tembaitake and Tembinatake.  Tembaitake, our
king’s father, was short, middling stout, a poet, a good genealogist, and
something of a fighter; it seems he took himself seriously, and was
perhaps scarce conscious that he was in all things the creature and
nursling of his brother.  There was no shadow of dispute between the
pair: the greater man filled with alacrity and content the second place;
held the breach in war, and all the portfolios in the time of peace; and,
when his brother rated him, listened in silence, looking on the ground.
Like Teñkoruti, he was tall and lean and a swift talker—a rare trait in
the islands.  He possessed every accomplishment.  He knew sorcery, he was
the best genealogist of his day, he was a poet, he could dance and make
canoes and armour; and the famous mast of Apemama, which ran one joint
higher than the mainmast of a full-rigged ship, was of his conception and
design.  But these were avocations, and the man’s trade was war.  ‘When
my uncle go make wa’, he laugh,’ said Tembinok’.  He forbade the use of
field fortification, that protractor of native hostilities; his men must
fight in the open, and win or be beaten out of hand; his own activity
inspired his followers; and the swiftness of his blows beat down, in one
lifetime, the resistance of three islands.  He made his brother
sovereign, he left his nephew absolute.  ‘My uncle make all smooth,’ said
Tembinok’.  ‘I mo’ king than my patha: I got power,’ he said, with
formidable relish.

Such is the portrait of the uncle drawn by the nephew.  I can set beside
it another by a different artist, who has often—I may say
always—delighted me with his romantic taste in narrative, but not
always—and I may say not often—persuaded me of his exactitude.  I have
already denied myself the use of so much excellent matter from the same
source, that I begin to think it time to reward good resolution; and his
account of Tembinatake agrees so well with the king’s, that it may very
well be (what I hope it is) the record of a fact, and not (what I
suspect) the pleasing exercise of an imagination more than sailorly.  A.,
for so I had perhaps better call him, was walking up the island after
dusk, when he came on a lighted village of some size, was directed to the
chief’s house, and asked leave to rest and smoke a pipe.  ‘You will sit
down, and smoke a pipe, and wash, and eat, and sleep,’ replied the chief,
‘and to-morrow you will go again.’  Food was brought, prayers were held
(for this was in the brief day of Christianity), and the chief himself
prayed with eloquence and seeming sincerity.  All evening A. sat and
admired the man by the firelight.  He was six feet high, lean, with the
appearance of many years, and an extraordinary air of breeding and
command.  ‘He looked like a man who would kill you laughing,’ said A., in
singular echo of one of the king’s expressions.  And again: ‘I had been
reading the Musketeer books, and he reminded me of Aramis.’  Such is the
portrait of Tembinatake, drawn by an expert romancer.

We had heard many tales of ‘my patha’; never a word of my uncle till two
days before we left.  As the time approached for our departure Tembinok’
became greatly changed; a softer, a more melancholy, and, in particular,
a more confidential man appeared in his stead.  To my wife he contrived
laboriously to explain that though he knew he must lose his father in the
course of nature, he had not minded nor realised it till the moment came;
and that now he was to lose us he repeated the experience.  We showed
fireworks one evening on the terrace.  It was a heavy business; the sense
of separation was in all our minds, and the talk languished.  The king
was specially affected, sat disconsolate on his mat, and often sighed.
Of a sudden one of the wives stepped forth from a cluster, came and
kissed him in silence, and silently went again.  It was just such a
caress as we might give to a disconsolate child, and the king received it
with a child’s simplicity.  Presently after we said good-night and
withdrew; but Tembinok’ detained Mr. Osbourne, patting the mat by his
side and saying: ‘Sit down.  I feel bad, I like talk.’  Osbourne sat down
by him.  ‘You like some beer?’ said he; and one of the wives produced a
bottle.  The king did not partake, but sat sighing and smoking a
meerschaum pipe.  ‘I very sorry you go,’ he said at last.  ‘Miss Stlevens
he good man, woman he good man, boy he good man; all good man.  Woman he
smart all the same man.  My woman’ (glancing towards his wives) ‘he good
woman, no very smart.  I think Miss Stlevens he is chiep all the same
cap’n man-o-wa’.  I think Miss Stlevens he rich man all the same me.  All
go schoona.  I very sorry.  My patha he go, my uncle he go, my cutcheons
he go, Miss Stlevens he go: all go.  You no see king cry before.  King
all the same man: feel bad, he cry.  I very sorry.’

In the morning it was the common topic in the village that the king had
wept.  To me he said: ‘Last night I no can ’peak: too much here,’ laying
his hand upon his bosom.  ‘Now you go away all the same my pamily.  My
brothers, my uncle go away.  All the same.’  This was said with a
dejection almost passionate.  And it was the first time I had heard him
name his uncle, or indeed employ the word.  The same day he sent me a
present of two corselets, made in the island fashion of plaited fibre,
heavy and strong.  One had been worn by Teñkoruti, one by Tembaitake; and
the gift being gratefully received, he sent me, on the return of his
messengers, a third—that of Tembinatake.  My curiosity was roused; I
begged for information as to the three wearers; and the king entered with
gusto into the details already given.  Here was a strange thing, that he
should have talked so much of his family, and not once mentioned that
relative of whom he was plainly the most proud.  Nay, more: he had
hitherto boasted of his father; thenceforth he had little to say of him;
and the qualities for which he had praised him in the past were now
attributed where they were due,—to the uncle.  A confusion might be
natural enough among islanders, who call all the sons of their
grandfather by the common name of father.  But this was not the case with
Tembinok’.  Now the ice was broken the word uncle was perpetually in his
mouth; he who had been so ready to confound was now careful to
distinguish; and the father sank gradually into a self-complacent
ordinary man, while the uncle rose to his true stature as the hero and
founder of the race.

The more I heard and the more I considered, the more this mystery of
Tembinok’s behaviour puzzled and attracted me.  And the explanation, when
it came, was one to strike the imagination of a dramatist.  Tembinok’ had
two brothers.  One, detected in private trading, was banished, then
forgiven, lives to this day in the island, and is the father of the
heir-apparent, Paul.  The other fell beyond forgiveness.  I have heard it
was a love-affair with one of the king’s wives, and the thing is highly
possible in that romantic archipelago.  War was attempted to be levied;
but Tembinok’ was too swift for the rebels, and the guilty brother
escaped in a canoe.  He did not go alone.  Tembinatake had a hand in the
rebellion, and the man who had gained a kingdom for a weakling brother
was banished by that brother’s son.  The fugitives came to shore in other
islands, but Tembinok’ remains to this day ignorant of their fate.

So far history.  And now a moment for conjecture.  Tembinok’ confused
habitually, not only the attributes and merits of his father and his
uncle, but their diverse personal appearance.  Before he had even spoken,
or thought to speak, of Tembinatake, he had told me often of a tall, lean
father, skilled in war, and his own schoolmaster in genealogy and island
arts.  How if both were fathers, one natural, one adoptive?  How if the
heir of Tembaitake, like the heir of Tembinok’ himself, were not a son,
but an adopted nephew?  How if the founder of the monarchy, while he
worked for his brother, worked at the same time for the child of his
loins?        How if on the death of Tembaitake, the two stronger
natures, father and son, king and kingmaker, clashed, and Tembinok’, when
he drove out his uncle, drove out the author of his days?  Here is at
least a tragedy four-square.

The king took us on board in his own gig, dressed for the occasion in the
naval uniform.  He had little to say, he refused refreshments, shook us
briefly by the hand, and went ashore again.  That night the palm-tops of
Apemama had dipped behind the sea, and the schooner sailed solitary under
the stars.

                                * * * * *

                                 THE END.

                                * * * * *

               BILLING AND SONS, LTD., PRINTERS, GUILDFORD

                                * * * * *



FOOTNOTES


{12}  Where that word is used as a salutation I give that form.

{29}  In English usually written ‘taboo’: ‘tapu’ is the correct Tahitian
form.—[ED.]

{86}  The reference is to Maka, the Gawaiian missionary, at Butaritari in
the Gilberts.

{122}  Elephantiasis.

{156}  Arorai is in the Gilberts, Funafuti in the Ellice Islands.—ED.

{231}  Gin and brandy.

{275}  In the Gilbert group.

{279a}  Copra: the dried kernel of the cocoa-nut, the chief article of
commerce throughout the Pacific Islands.

{279b}  Houses.

{283}  Suppose.





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