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Here likewise, as in the Chinese cities of the dead, small low houses were built as temporary homes for the unburied corpses, which were laid on biers, and by day were drawn out into the sun; but by night the body lay horizontally, and was frequently turned, lest it should dry irregularly. When, notwithstanding all care, the poor body began to decay, then the skull was wrapped in cloth, and carried home to be preserved with the family gods, and duly worshipped. The bones were either buried or carried off to the mountains in the mysterious way I have already described.
Although the Tahitian embalmers failed to preserve their dead for more than a year, the Samoans seem to have been more successful, though, apparently, only a limited number of the chiefs were thus honoured. Dr Turner, however, has seen bodies which had certainly been embalmed for upwards of thirty years, and were still in excellent preservation, when, on the death of the relations whose task it was to dress and tend the bodies, all were laid together beneath the sod. The office of embalmer was an exclusively feminine one, and the process observed in Samoa was exactly the same as that practised in Tahiti. The body was wrapped in native cloth, leaving the head, face, and hands exposed; these were occasionally anointed with scented oil and turmeric, to give a lifelike tinge
GENUINE SYMPATHY. 243
to the complexion, and so were exhibited to all COmerS. I spoke of the wailing at funerals as ceremonial, because it was not only customary to weep frantically, rending the hair, tearing the garments, and uttering agonising cries, but it was also de rigueur to display sympathy by inflicting on one's self very serious wounds with instruments made for the purpose. Several rows of shark's teeth were fixed in Small canes, and with these the mourners smote their breasts, their heads, even their faces. One of these useful implements formed part of a girl's bridal trousseau, that she might be ready to take her part in whatever scene of sorrow or of joy might present itself. For, strange to say, the same ceremonies were observed, though in a less excessive degree, to mark great happiness; and the safe return of a member of the family, or his escape from danger, was, and still is, marked by the shedding of what might be mistaken for bitter tears. Happily, however, the horrible custom of cutting and bruising one's own flesh is a thing of the past; and friends no longer express sympathy with the bereaved by giving them strips of tappa saturated in the blood thus voluntarily shed, to be preserved as precious memorials of affection 1 The one pleasant feature connected with the marais, as with so many forms of heathen worship, was the beautiful grove of old trees which surrounded them. Different tribes adopted special trees as clan badges, and planted these round their family shrines. Thus some were overshadowed by huge banyan-trees, others by the noble tamanu, or native mahogany; and others, again, were distinguished from afar by the gorgeous blossoms of the coral-tree," which dripped its blood-red petals on the altars below it. This beautiful tree is almost imperishable; but unluckily it shared in the fate of too many of those sacred temple trees, which were ruthlessly cut down by the early converts, in their iconoclastic zeal. Now the mournful casuarina (the noko-noko of Fiji), with its dark hairlike drooping needles, is almost the only distinctive foliage which marks the resting-place of the dead. We lingered at this weird and horribly suggestive spot till the evening, and as we rode back to Haapiti, the crags and pinnacles towered in purple majesty against a background of luminous gold, and one divided ray from the setting sun threaded the eye of the great rock-needle. Later, when the moon had risen, we went to the village to see the native minister, who is going to Papeete to-morrow, and has agreed to give me a passage in his boat. We are to start early, so I must now have a sleep.
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Besides, the mosquitoes are troublesome, and the only refuge from them is beneath my nets. So good-night.
LA MAISON ROUGE, PAPEETE,
Once more I find myself “at home” beneath this hospitable roof. We started at daybreak and rowed leisurely along the lovely coast to Afareaitu (the place where I told you that Mr Ellis, the early missionary, established his first printing-press). At a short distance further we came to Nuupuru, where we landed to explore another great marae, likewise overgrown with casuarina and palm - trees. It stands on the coral-shore, which there, as in most parts of the isles, is shaded by dark trees with wide-spreading branches. Just behind this huge coral-altar, rises a gigantic rock-needle—a cyclopean natural monolith, such as might have accounted for the position of the altar, in lands where nature-worship prevailed, which, however, does not appear to have been the case in these isles.
Here we left the friendly shelter of the reef and passed into the outer ocean. Happily a fair breeze favoured us, and we entered Papeete harbour soon after noon. Great was the amazement of my native friends as they realised the huge proportions of H.M.S. Shah, probably the largest ship ever seen
in these waters. I believe she weighs about 7000 tons. Certainly she makes all the other vessels in harbour look like pigmies. The little Daring is only 700 tons; Le Limier, 1000; and my trusty old ship Le Seignelay, 2000. The Shah carries nearly 700 men and 50 officers, so England is well represented. My boatman rowed right under her bows, the better to estimate her vast size. On landing, I found that Mrs Brander and all the family had moved back to town on account of the arrival of so important a vessel, which, of course, involves much work for the house of Brander. I had just time to feed, change my dress, and accompany my hostess to the palace to “assist” at the king's state reception of Admiral De Horsey and his suite, which, of course, was as stiff as stiff could be. We had a pleasant evening, however, at the band. Lovely full moonlight.
THE RED House, Friday, 21st.
Papeete is surpassing itself in its graceful hospitalities. On Wednesday, M. D'Oncieue had a very large reception au Gouvernement, and the French admiral's band played “God save the Queen.” as the British admiral entered. To you, doubtless, that conveys little, but to a stranger in a far land it means much. To me, who had not