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CYCLOPEAN TOMBS. 15
When the corpse had been deposited on this great burial-mound, all the men, women, and children assembled, and sat round in a great circle, bearing large torches made of dried palm-leaves. Six of the principal men then walked several times round and round the place of burial, in sunwise procession, waving the blazing torches on high; finally, these were extinguished and laid on the ground. Then all the people arose and made the sunwise circuit of the royal tombs, as has been done from the earliest days, by men of all nations and colours,' and then they, too, extinguished the emblematic torches, and laid them on the earth, in memory of him whose flame of life had passed away for ever from the poor dead clay. This ceremony was repeated on fourteen successive nights. The mystery in all antiquities of this sort lies in the problem, how a race possessed only of stone adzes could possibly have hewn these huge blocks in the first instance, and how they then transported them on their frail canoes across wide distances of open sea. Tombs of the same character were common to all these groups, and were called marais. They combined the purpose of mausoleums of the chiefs, and of temples where human and other sacrifices were offered. Some of them were of gigantic dimensions. Captain Cook described one at Paparra in Tahiti, which consisted of an immense pyramid, 267 feet long by 87 wide, standing on a pavement measuring 360 feet by 354. On its summit stood a wooden image of a bird, and a fish carved in stone, representing the creatures especially reverenced by that tribe. The pyramid was, in fact, a huge cairn of round pebbles, “which, from the regularity of their figure, seem to have been wrought.” It was faced with great blocks of white coral, neatly squared and polished, and laid in regular courses, forming eleven great steps, each of which was 4 feet high, so that the height of the pile was 44 feet. Some of these stones were upwards of 3 feet in length and 2% in width. The pavement on which the pyramid was built was of volcanic rock, also hewn into shape, some of the stones being even larger than the coral blocks, and all perfectly joined together, without mortar. As Captain Cook found no trace of any quarry in the neighbourhood, he inferred that these blocks must have been carried from a considerable distance; and even the coral with which the pyramid was faced, lies at least three feet under the water. The question, therefore, which puzzled him, as it does us this day, was, How did these savages, ignorant of all mechanical appliances, and possessing no iron tools, contrive to hew these wonderful marais, which were the temples and tombs of every Polynesian group? The majority were pulled to pieces by the natives when they abandoned idolatry, but happily for the antiquarian, some of the tombs of the mighty dead escaped these over-zealous reformers; and though the coral altars are no longer polluted by human blood, the grey ruins still remain, now overgrown by forest-trees, and more solemn in their desolation than when those hideous rites were practised by the poor savages at the bidding of ruthless priests. In the course of our walk we saw some lovely little pigeons, bright green with purple head, and a number of larger ones, green and yellow. Also many small bats skimming about the cocoapalms, darting to and fro in pursuit of the insects which make their home in the crown of the tree. Towards dusk a multitude of fruit-bats with soft fur appeared, flapping on heavy wing, and feeding on the flowers of various tall trees. We also noticed a number of tree swifts, reminding us forcibly of our own swallows: like them they skim airily about the houses, but instead of resting under the eaves, they seek a safer home in the tall palms. Returning to the village, we lingered beneath the fine old trees known as Captain Cook's, till summoned by the Fathers to supper at their house, which stands close to the church. They gave us the best they had, namely, salt-junk and villanously cooked cabbage, whereat their naval guests secretly groaned, and bewailed the excellent cuisine they had left on board; but to these good ascetics such fare seemed too luxurious, so, although it was Sunday, and a
1 For numerous instances of this, see ‘From the Hebrides to the Himalayas' (C. F. Gordon Cumming), vol. i. pp. 203-210.
A KIND SCOTCHWOMAN. 17
great festival, they would taste nothing but a few slices of yam. I find them most interesting companions, having been so long in the isles, that they are familiar with all details of native manners and customs. The old Père Chevron is particularly pleasant. He has worked here for several years longer than our good old friend Père Bréhéret of Levuka, to whom he bade me send his loving greetings, which I hope you will deliver. After supper with the Fathers, a kind Scotchwoman, Mrs Barnard, the only white woman in the place, came to take me to her house for the night, where she made me most comfortable, though I could not but fear that she and her husband had given me their own room. He is agent for a merchant's house in the colonies. I found my hostess was a Cameron from Lochaber, who has retained her pure Gaelic tongue, and speaks both it and English with the sweet intonation ascribed to the Princess of Thule. Great was her delight when she learnt the real name of her guest, and many a pleasant reminiscence she had to tell of certain of my own nearest kindred. . . . We talked of mutual friends in the dear old north and on the west coast, and many a touching memory was reawakened for us both. Verily the ends of the world are bound by tender human links : My hostess was herself astir long before dawn, to prepare breakfast for her countrywoman, as I was to make an early expedition with my French friends to Haamonga, distant about eight miles, to See a wonderful trilithon. The Fathers lent us their dogcart, but had no horse. However, they succeeded in borrowing one, which M. Pinart volunteered to drive. It proved a brisk trotter, and we sped along cheerily. Most of the others rode, escorted by two kamaques—a word which, though it simply means “a man,” is used by the French as a generic term for all manner of islanders in North and Söuth Pacific. It was a lovely morning and a delightful drive, over a good broad grass road—the bush on either side fragrant with jessamine, and the trees in many places matted with such tangles of large, brilliantly blue convolvulus as I have seen nowhere else but in the Himalayas. The lilac marine ipomea abounds everywhere, and we B
passed dense masses of the large-leaved white sort. From these lovely hiding-places flashed green pigeons and blue kingfishers, startled by our approach. Tall sugar-cane, wild ginger with scarlet blossom, and blue clitoria, with here and there a clump of glossy bananas or quaint papawa, kept up the tropical character of the vegetation. We had no difficulty in finding the great dolmen of which we were in search. It stands on a grassy lawn, surrounded by bush, and is certainly a remarkable object. It differs from all other trilithons I have seen or heard of, in that the two supporting pillars are cut out at the top to secure the transverse capstone, which is hewn. The height above ground is 15 feet, length 18 feet, and the width 12 feet. Nothing whatever is known concerning its origin, and the natives have apparently no tradition concerning it. This is the only rude stone monument I have seen in the Pacific, but I am told that others have been observed in different groups, though on a smaller scale; for instance, in the Society Isles, where the great altar of the principal marai on Huahine is a large slab of unhewn stone, resting on three boulders. Around it are the rockterraces which formed the rude temple. At Haamonga the cyclopean trilithon stands alone. All others known to us, such as those at Stonehenge, at Tripoli, Algeria, and in Central America, are found in connection with circles of huge stones, to which they have apparently been the gateway; but here there does not appear to have been any circle, not even a detached dolmen. In its weird solitude it most resembles the cromlech of Byjnath in Bengal; but what may be its story none can possibly guess. One thing only is certain, that these grey stones were brought here by some long-forgotten race, who little dreamt, when they raised this ponderous monument, that a day would come when it should survive as the sole proof that they ever existed. We have been told that within the memory of persons now living, an enormous kava bowl stood on the horizontal stone, and that most solemn and sacred drinking festivals were held here. It