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WHITE CRAY-FISH. 19
muddy parts of the shore. But most excellent of all is another product of the briny mud, altogether new to me—a hideous but truly delicious white crayfish (cankrelat de mer, my French friends call it, varo or wurrali in Tahitian). We have all registered a solemn vow never to lose a chance of a varo feast. Then there were shell-fish and salads, and many other good things. The tables were decorated in a manner quite in keeping with the dishes served, with pillars of white banana root-stem, just like alabaster, with a fringe of large prawns at the top, and a frieze of small lobsters below—a very effective study of scarlet and white.
After the feast we all sat out in the moonlight, listening to the himène singing, which, I need scarcely say, was lovely. But of course some districts excel, and have finer voices, more practice, and a better conductor.
I have just been told that we are only thirtyfive miles from Papeete. We have taken the journey in such enjoyably short stages, that we have certainly made the most of our distance. Now we are approaching the southern peninsula, which is connected with this, the main isle, by a comparatively low wide ridge. This we are to cross to-morrow.
ON THE PENINSULA, TARAvou,
This morning at daybreak the admiral went off to attend Mass, and then examine the schools. He seems inclined to administer very even-handed justice between the Catholics and Protestants, which does not greatly gratify some of the priests. We spent the morning pleasantly strolling about the village of bird-cage houses embowered in the orange-groves, and gay with rosy oleanders and crimson hybiscus.
At eight we started. The weather was threatening; and soon heavy rain came on, which mocked our waterproofs, and gave us a thorough soaking, which we all bore philosophically, only regretting that we drove through a most lovely ferny pass at a moment when all our umbrellas were striving to exclude the rain, in which they failed, and only succeeded in hiding the view.
Near the village of Papeari we found all the children of the Catholic school, headed by a very pleasant, keen-looking young priest, drawn up with the himène singers to welcome the king and the admiral. Of course they were all drenched, but none the less musical. At the head of the singers stood Marau's aunt, Minito, a true Tahitian chiefess, sister to Mrs Salmon, and widow of Mr Sumner, a Sandwich Island half-white,
FLORAL JEWELS. 21
The rain having ceased, we all walked together to Mrs Sumner's house, where we were partially dried—no fear of fever in this blessed climate. We then proceeded to the large cheferie, where breakfast was prepared in the usual style—the house prettily decorated with flags, tree-ferns, and plaited cocoa-palm leaves. The tables were all adorned with ornaments made of the solid white bananastalk, in which were set branches of thorny lemon, and on each thorn were stuck different blossoms, scarlet or yellow hybiscus, canna, and gardenia. When we were seated, women came round bearing garlands of the delicate artificial arrowroot flowers, and crowned every one of us. Many of the party had already secured filmy plumes of the snowy reva-reva; and the majority of the women, following the good example of Marau, no longer pretend to have cut off their beautiful hair, but now wear it in two long jet-black tresses, adorned with gardenias or such other fragrant blossoms as they may find. With flowers as necklaces and ear-rings, the Court mourning is becoming less lugubrious.
After breakfast, himènes as usual, with interludes of most hideous dancing. There is never any variety, always the same utterly ungraceful wriggle. Happily the band generally comes to the rescue, with some attractive air, which puts the dancers to flight. There never seem to be more than two
or three, and these do it as a professional exhibition —as a curious relic of olden times. It does seem strange (accustomed as I now am to the endlessly varied and most graceful dances of the Fijians) to find that these Tahitians have apparently no notion of dancing, except this Upa-upa, which for many years was discountenanced by the chiefs, in their first anxiety to put away every trace of heathenism. But under French influence it has been revived; and though the more respectable natives consider it an objectionable exhibition, and one in which few care to join, a certain number of dancers crop up at every village where we halt : their position, however, appears to be no higher than that of strolling jugglers at English fairs. In heathen days the Upa-upa was the distinguishing dance of an atrocious sect called the Areois —religious fanatics and libertines of the vilest order, who were held in reverent awe by the people, and allowed every sort of privilege. They travelled from village to village in very large companies, sometimes filling from fifty to eighty canoes. Whenever they landed great sacrifices were offered to the gods; and for so long as they chose to remain in one place, they were the honoured guests of the chief, and had to be provided for by the villagers, whom they entertained by acting pantomimes and reciting legends of the very unholy gods, singing
THE AREOIS SECT. 23
songs in their honour, wrestling, gesticulating, and dancing, till they worked themselves up to a pitch of frenzy which was considered religious, and the night was spent in wild orgies. Their full dress on these occasions generally consisted only of a little scarlet and black dye; the seeds of the vermilion-plant and charcoal furnishing the materials. At other times they wore kilts of the yellow dracaena and wreaths of scarlet Barringtonia. They were divided into distinct classes, distinguished by the manner in which they were tattooed. The lowest class had merely a circle round the ankle; the next had one stripe on the left side; the third was marked on each shoulder; the fourth on both sides, round the body; the fifth was tattooed from the fingers to the shoulders, and the leaders were adorned with stockings of the same. The imprinting of these indelible classmarks was part of a religious festival, at which great offerings of food and goods were presented to the gods, and to these their servants, and on this one occasion women were allowed freely to partake of the feast, and to eat of the meat which had been offered in sacrifice, which at other times they dared not touch without incurring the penalty of death. The most horrible feature of this society was, that by its primary law no Areoi was allowed to