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ing. Then they floated me back again, and by the time we rejoined the rest of the party, the sailors had caught a great supply of excellent little fish of many sorts, and we had a most merry feast, after which Commandant Puéch brought me home in his boat ; and now I confess to being so tired, that I am going to bed, notwithstanding the attraction of a pleasant moonlight expedition in the admiral's
The Seignelay returned to-day from the Marquesas and the Paumotu group. She has had a most delightful fortnight's cruise, and my kind friends on board add to my poignant repentance for having refused to accompany them, by their regrets that I should have missed so excellent an opportunity. They had perfect weather. The voyage going and coming occupied just a week, during which they passed through the Paumotus. The other week was spent at different islands in the Marquesas, and they say that much of the scenery is like the island of Moorea, but greatly glorified. Now, as Moorea is the most unique and beautiful isle I have ever seen, you can imagine how grievous it is to think I should so stupidly have missed seeing one still more strange and lovely.
They also declare that the people are by far the
LOSS OF INDIVIDUALITY. 157
finest race, and the most uncivilised savages, they have ever seen anywhere. They declare that many are still cannibal, and that all are tattooed all over the face and body, while many of the men are clothed only in a kilt of human hair. I think it possible that had they inspected this garment more closely, they might have discovered it to be made of the Rhizomorpha fibre—a glossy black parasitic weed, which is found in the forests, clinging to old trees by means of tiny suckers. It resembles coarse horse-hair, and in Fiji it is greatly valued as a kilt by warriors and dancers. So perhaps in this respect the Marquesans may not differ from our familiar Fijians. But there is no doubt that they are still in that very early stage of civilisation, which is most interesting to the traveller, before all distinctive angles have been rounded off—a process which, when once commenced, progresses with startling rapidity, to the total extinction of all individuality. Here in Tahiti, for instance, scarcely a trace remains of the aboriginal manners and customs, and it is impossible for the most vivid imagination to conjure up any sort of suggestion of Captain Cook's Otaheiti. Not a trace of tattooing is now to be seen, though in olden days it was practised by almost all Tahitians, both men and women, simply as a personal adornment. Happily they seldom disfigured their faces, but the women tattooed their feet, up to the ankles, and marked bracelets on their arms and wrists. The men sometimes covered the whole body with intricate patterns, often gracefully drawn, as when a cocoa-nut palm was designed on the leg, or a bread-fruit tree, with twining vines, on the chest. Fishes and birds, flowers and fruits, spears and clubs, were favourite subjects; and sometimes a battle-piece, or the offering of sacrifice at the marae, were thus indelibly marked. In the character of subjects selected, the tattooing of Tahiti seems to have been nearer akin to that of Japan than of any other nation, though in this respect, as in all others, the Japanese lend to their work an artistic beauty of their own. In all other groups, the patterns selected were generally stars or lines. By far the most elaborate designs are those of New Zealand and the Marquesas; but the former invariably adhere to curved lines or concentric circles, covering the whole face, while the latter make broad straight lines all over the body, with occasional designs of animals. The only Marquesan whom I have seen here, is most elaborately tattooed from head to foot, and I am told he is a fair type of his countrymen. All the Maoris whom we saw in New Zealand were so fully clothed, that I can only testify to the very finely marked intricate circles on the faces of the
men, and the hideous blue lips of the women. In Samoa the men are so marked as apparently to be clothed in dark-blue-silk knee-breeches. In Tonga only the men were tattooed, the women never were. In Fiji, on the other hand, men were never tattooed; but, for women, a certain small amount was a compulsory religious act. In all these countries so many idolatrous ceremonies were connected with the process, that it was invariably prohibited so soon as the people professed Christianity. In Japan, where it has hitherto been so practised as to be a really beautiful art, it has been declared illegal by the same police regulations which, greatly to the discomfort of the people, insist on every man being dressed from head to foot. But throughout the Christianised isles, including Tahiti, the prohibition was on the score of idolatry, and a law was passed, affixing a graduated scale of penalty for repeated offences; a man was condemned to make so many fathoms of road or of stone-work, and a woman to make so many mats, or so many fathoms of native cloth, for the use of the king and of the governor. Nevertheless, the desire to embellish nature was so great, that many were content to work out the penalty rather than forego the adornment. There never was a better illustration of the old proverb, “Il faut souffrir pour étre belle;” for it was necessarily a painful process, followed by swelling and inflammation, which often lasted for a considerable time, and sometimes even proved fatal. The process was simple: the victim of vanity was made to lie flat on the ground, while the artist sketched his design with charcoal on the skin, which was then punctured by little bundles of needles, made of the bones of birds or fishes, though human bones were preferred. Some were so arranged as to resemble the teeth of a saw, and were used in producing straight lines. Others had but one fine point for giving delicate finishing touches, and for working on such sensitive spots as could not endure the sharper pain. The needles having previously been dipped in a black dye, made from the kernel of the candle-nut, reduced to charcoal and mixed with oil, were struck sharply with a small hammer, thus puncturing the skin, carrying with them the dye, which, seen through the transparent and very silky skin, had the effect of being blue. The custom of tattooing was certainly widespread. Herodotus has recorded its existence even among the Thracians, of whom he remarked that the “barbarians could be exceedingly foppish after their fashion. The man who was not tattooed amongst them was not respected.” If tattooing was in fashion so near Phoenicia, who knows but that those roving