« PreviousContinue »
apples, bananas, and all the usual wealth of tropical greenery.
This has been a calm, peaceful evening of soft moonlight. We sat on the passerelle while one of the officers, who is an excellent violinist, played one lovely romance after another, sometimes soaring to classical music. The others lay round him listening in rapt delight.
The air is fragrant with the breath of many blossoms, and indeed all the afternoon we have had delicious whiffs of true "spicy breezes," such as I remember vividly off Cape Comorin, but which I have not very often experienced at any distance from the land.
BOAT TRANSIT TO LEONE SPOUTING CAVES COUNCIL OF
WAR SKETCH OF SAMOAN HISTORY NIGHT DANCES.
In The House Of The Native Catechist,
We have had a long delightful day, and I am tolerably tired; but before taking to my mat, I must give you some notion of what we have seen. All the early morning the ship was surrounded by canoes full of natives, offering clubs, native cloth, and baskets for sale. Some of the canoes had ornamental prows with carved birds, &c.
After breakfast I went ashore with M. Pinart to see all we could of the village. We were invited to enter several houses, which are much more open and less like homes than those in Tonga or Fiji. But the people are all in a ferment, for, as usual in poor Samoa, this is only a lull in the course of incessant tribal war, and the people of Pango-Pango belong to the Puletoa, who were severely beaten in
VOL. I. F
a recent battle. They are, however, keen to return to the fray, and this morning all the warriors assembled in full conclave, holding a council of war. They arrived in large canoes (some of their canoes carry upwards of 200 people, but those we saw had not room for above 50). They are noble-looking men, the fairest race in Polynesia, and truly dignified in their bearing. Some wore crowns of green leaves, and many had blossoms of scarlet hybiscus coquettishly stuck in their hair, which is cut short, dyed with coral-lime, and frizzled and stiffened with a sort of bandoline made of the sticky juice of the bread-fruit tree, mixed with scented oil; so that, instead of being straight and black, it stands round the head in a stiff halo of tawny yellow, like that of the Fijians and Tongans.
Is it not strange that the same curious rage for converting black hair into gold should prevail on this side of the world, just as it has in London in various epochs of fashion's folly, as when the attendants of "The Virgin Queen" dyed their raven locks with a lee of wood-ashes, especially those of "ivy-tree bark," or a decoction of the flowers of broom, either of which were warranted to "cause the hair grow yellow "? Of the various alkaline washes in use at the present day, and the good champagne converted to a hair-wash, I need not speak. Besides, these are mysteries which I have not yet solved.
Here there is no deception at all in the process. It is all carried on in open day, for the simple and cleanly purpose of exterminating wee beasties. The head, whether male or female, that has just been whitewashed, presents exactly the appearance of a barrister's wig stuck on to a bronze statue. But such work is all done on undress days; and of course to-day every one was got up in full suits of mats and foliage, with a good coating of fresh cocoanut oil, the effect of which, on a brown skin, is admirable. The Psalmist knew what it was, when he spoke of "oil to make him a cheerful countenance." The man who neglects it looks dull and lack-lustre; while he who, having anointed his flaxen locks, has then given his face and shoulders a good polish, seems altogether radiant.
Of course we found our way to the House of Debate. The spokesmen were apparently eloquent orators, very fluent, making use of much gesticulation and very graceful action. Each carries a flyflap, which is his badge of office, and consists of a long bunch of fine brown fibre, very like a horse's tail, sometimes plaited into a multitude of the finest braids, and all attached to a carved handle about a foot in length. With this, when not engaged in speechifying, he disperses the flies which presume to annoy his chief. But while talking, the fly-flap is thrown carelessly over the right shoulder. Dainty little flaps of the same sort are carried by many persons in preference to the fibre-fans in common use. I observe, however, that there are fewer fans here than in Fiji, where you are always offered one the moment you enter the poorest hut.
I was struck by the rapt attention with which the audience favoured each successive speaker. The bishop was present, accompanied by the captain. They wished to remonstrate with the big chief on the subject of certain persecutions of Catholics, and also to urge him and his party to submission. They are but a handful compared with the others, and the strife seems so hopeless, and has already cost so many good lives; but I fear the good bishop's efforts are all in vain. Like the Hebrew peacemaker, he "labours for peace; but when he speaks unto them thereof, they make them ready to battle." And now, in every village and in every house, all the men are busy rubbing up their old guns, and preparing ammunition, making cartridges, and so forth.
We returned on board at noon; and after luncheon, the bishop had to return in a ship's boat to Leone. He most kindly invited me to accompany him. We were a full boat-load—Pere Soret and Pere Vidal, two chiefs, two other natives, one officer, and twelve French sailors. The sea was very rough, and we shipped so much water that