« PreviousContinue »
HOW TO EAT POI. 35
that it is all plain sailing, and so plunges recklessly into this most adhesive paste, probably with the result of lifting the whole calabash, instead of the mouthful he expected. The correct method is to dip the fore-finger of the right hand in the bowl, and as you draw it out smoothly coated with poi, give it a series of rapid twirls to prevent its hanging in glutinous strings; then with a final flourish, to keep it from dripping, land the finger in the mouth, and draw it back quite free from the paste, and ready to repeat the process. Two or more persons generally eat out of the same bowl, in which case they have cocoa-nut shells of fresh water beside them in which to wash their finger before dipping again in the poi; but it really does not much matter, as the preparation is so very sticky that you must of necessity appropriate every particle you touch, so you and your neighbour are in no danger of exchanging atoms 1 as you would be, in sharing a bowl of well-chewed kava. That beverage of the isles did not appear at this native feast ; in fact I have never seen it in Tahiti, and suppose it must have died out before the superior attractions of orange-rum and similar decoctions. On the present occasion, cocoa-nuts were the only drink, with the exception of pure water. As regards the latter, I was much struck by an ingenious substitute for water-jars. At every supporting post of the booths was fastened an upright bamboo, perhaps twelve feet in length, and pierced from end to end, only the lowest joint being left intact. Here a spigot was introduced, and the bamboo being filled with water, supplied drink for all the thirsty multitude. As drinking-cups, the people here still use cocoa-nut cups, scraped very thin and polished by constant friction on a stone in water, till they become as light, and almost as transparent, as tortoise-shell. The himènes here were the prettiest we have yet heard, and you can understand that we are by this time quite connoisseurs in this peculiar music. The Upa-upa was danced with unusual zest, but was none the less ungraceful. Another most exquisite drive brought us to Teahaupoo, where we wandered about, lost in admiration, while the king and the admiral were undergoing the usual official speeches. The feast this evening was rather dull, being spread along one side of a very long and dimly lighted table. Of course we always require artificial light for dinner, as, in the tropics, the sun sets all the year round at about six o'clock, rising at about the same hour in the morning. We often think enviously of your long summer twilight. But then, on the other hand, we have no short, dark, winter days. Again to-night the himène singing was unusually
PITILESS RAIN. 37
fascinating. It varies much, and the most charming glees are those which are most suggestive of musical chimes.
Queen Marau offered me quarters in the large native house awarded to her and Ariiaue. It consisted of one large room without divisions, containing several good beds, with the usual pretty bright quilts and mosquito-nets. We curtained off one end of the room for the king and an old chief, and they are now sleeping peacefully, as we should also be doing—so good-night.
TARAVOU, Sunday, 218t.
Being a light sleeper, I was awakened long before dawn by hearing Ariiaue and his companion astir, and soon after 4 A.M. they started for Afaahiti, the king's own village. The rain was pouring in a pitiless, relentless fashion; and beat in beneath the wide eaves against the open walls of our bird-cage house. Still we would fain have stayed where we were, and reluctantly obeyed the order to be en voiture at seven o'clock, to return to the isthmus. The rain never ceased, and all the beauty which gladdened us yesterday was invisible. Only sheets of grey drifting cloud, and dripping trees, dripping carriages, horses, and umbrellas. We left Marau at Afaahiti, while we drove on to
these now familiar quarters, where I have the luxury of a large, good room. Of course we all arrived soaked, and have spent the day in trying to get dry. I think most of the gentlemen have managed a few hours of sleep.
IN THE CHEFERIE, MAHAENA, Monday, 22d.
An early drive brought us to Hitiaa, the house of little Hinoi's mother, the pretty young widow of the Prince de Joinville. Everything here was very gracefully done, and the festival as purely native as possible. Here the severity of Court mourning was not mitigated, and all the women wore crowns of fibre dyed black, which looked very sombre.
Immediately after breakfast we started for Mahaena, preceded by a party of six or eight picturesque lancers, who had formed part of old Queen Pomare's body-guard. They added a pleasant feature to the beautiful scenery as they rode along the green glades, through the usual successions of glorious foliage;—groves of magnificent bread-fruit trees, indigenous to those isles; next a clump of noble mango-trees, recently imported, but now quite at home ; then a group of tall palms, or a long avenue of gigantic bananas, their leaves, sometimes twelve feet long, meeting over our heads. Then
LUXURIANT WIEGETATION. 39
came patches of sugar or Indian corn, and next a plantation of vanilla, trained to climb over closely planted tall coffee, or else over vermilion-bushes. Sometimes it is planted, without more ado, at the root of pruned guava-bushes. These grow wild over the whole country, loaded with large, excellent fruit, and, moreover, supply the whole fuel of the isles, and good food for cattle. They are all selfsown, descendants of a few plants introduced as garden fruit-trees, and now they have overrun the isles and are looked upon by the planters as a curse, because of the rapidity and tenacity with which they take possession of any patch of neglected land. Yet a plant which so generously yields food for man and beast, and abundant fuel, is surely not altogether evil! Amongst all this wealth of foodproducing vegetation, I sometimes looked in vain for any trees that were merely ornamental; and literally there were only the yellow hybiscus, which yields the useful fibre, and the candle-nut, covered with clusters of white blossoms, somewhat resembling white lilac, and bearing nuts with oily kernels, whence the tree derives its name. The method of manufacturing candles from candle-nuts is delightfully simple. First the nuts are lightly baked, to render their very hard shell more brittle; the kernels are thus obtained whole, and a hole being bored in each, about a dozen are