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We noticed in all these villages the same characteristic in house-building which struck us at Pango-Pango — namely, that there is a good deal of roof supported on posts, but little of anything answering to a wall; so the houses resemble huge oval mushrooms, and home-life is of a very public description. There are, however, movable screens of plaited cocoa-palm, which are put up so as to enclose the house at night, on the same principle as the paper walls or screens which compose the sides of a Japanese house, and which are generally removed in the daytime. The wooden screens invariably are so.
At night the interior of a Sanioan house resembles a small camp, as large curtains of heavy native cloth are slung from the roof and hang like tents, within which the sleepers lie on a pile of soft fine mats, their necks, not their heads, resting on a bamboo or wooden pillow raised on two legs. Furniture is conspicuous by its total absence. A few baskets for fish or vegetables hang about the walls, and a few bundles containing cloth and mats lie in the corners. Cookery is done out of doors in the native ovens, for Samoans have no pottery of any sort; so the picturesque cookingpots of a Fijian kitchen are lacking. The very few cooking or water pots which are sometimes seen in a chief's house have invariably been imported from Fiji, and are prized accordingly.
The roof itself is one of the most precious possessions of the isles. Ponderous as it appears, it can be divided into four parts, and removed from one place to another, should the family have occasion to flit. The great rafters are bound together by strong creeping-plants (vines or lianas) from the forest, and the ordinary thatching consists of sugar-cane leaves, strung on reeds, which are laid so as to overlap one another: sometimes a heavy cocoa-palm matting above all, secures the roof against a very high wind.
Some of the Samoan homes revealed very pleasant cool-looking groups of comely lads and lasses lounging on their mats, making and smoking the invariable tiny cigarettes, consisting of a scrap of tobacco rolled up in a morsel of the dried banana-leaf fringe they wear round the waist. A few were whiling away the hot hours of the day by a game with small cocoa-nut shells: each player has
five shells, with which he tries to knock every one else's shell from a given spot, leaving his own in their place. They also play a game something like forfeits. They sit in a circle, in the centre of which they spin a cocoa-nut on its thin end; and as it falls, the person towards whom the three black eyes point is considered to have lost. In the same way they cast lots to decide who shall do some work or go an errand . In one village a party of lads had assembled on the village green to play totoga, or reed-throwing—a game very common in Fiji . The reeds, which are 5 or 6 feet in length, have oval wooden heads about 4 inches long, and the skill lies in making these skim along the grass to the furthest possible distance.
In a green shady glade we saw a party of young men, very lightly clad, practising spear-throwing, aiming at the soft stems of banana-trees, which I suppose represented the bodies of their foes. In the game they take sides, and one party tries to knock out the spears planted by the other. Sometimes they carry very short spears, and in throwing these, aim so as first to strike the ground, whence the shaft glides upwards towards the mark. I am told that a feat is sometimes performed which must involve marvellous coolness as well as dexterity. A man, armed only with a club, stands up as a target, and allows all the others to throw their spears at him. All these he catches with his club, and turns them aside in quick succession. It can scarcely be called a pleasant game, however.
We saw several distressing cases of elephantiasis, which is hero called fh-fe, and, we are told, is common. It produces hideous malformations; and the sufferers are pitiable objects, the arms and legs being hideously swollen. The natives attribute this disease to the action of the sun; but some Europeans who have suffered from it declare that it is also produced by exposure to the night air, and by excessive drinking of kava. HappUy it is painless. Some of the Samoans suffer severely from ulcers; and we heard of some cases of ophthalmia.
Here and there, beneath the green shade of the plantains, close to the houses, we noticed hillocks of white sea-sand, surmounted by a low oblong cairn of wave-worn pebbles, with a layer of white stones on the top. These are the graves of the household. No Highlander is more careful to have his own bones, or those of his kindred, laid beside the dust of his forefathers, than is the Samoan. To him. the idea of a common cemetery is repulsive. His desire is to be laid in the tomb in the garden, on land belonging to his family. When a man of any consequence dies, the ends of a canoe are cut off, and it is used as a coffin. This, however, is an innovation. The true old custom was to wrap the body in mats only —fine soft mats—and to lay it in a shallow grave, with the head to the east and the feet towards the setting sun. The wooden pillow and cocoa - nut cup of the dead were buried with him. Then the grave was covered with white sand, and the cairn was raised, always about a foot higher at the head than at the feet.
If the deceased was a chief of any note, bonfires were kindled at short intervals all round the grave, and the mourners sat near and fed the fires till dawn; and this they did for ten consecutive nights. But in the case of commoners, it sufficed to keep up a blazing fire all night in the house, taking care that the intervening space was so cleared as to allow the warm light to rest on the grave. The household fireplace was, as it is still, merely a circular hollow in the middle of the house, lined with clay, only a few inches deep, and rarely exceeding a yard in diameter. As the house has no walls, there is no difficulty about smoke, but considerable danger of setting fire to the surrounding mats. Nowadays, the fire in the house burns only for warmth, and for the convenience of lighting cigarettes; but in heathen days a blazing fire was kindled every evening in honour of the gods, to whom the - house-father commended the family and all their interests.
Near one of the villages we caught a glimpse of a dark olivegreen snake, the first I have seen for many a day. They are not quite so rare here as in Fiji, but are equally innocent; and the girls take them up without hesitation, and play with them, and even twine them round their necks. We also saw some woodpigeons and a few paroquets, and lovely little honey-birds, with crimson-and-black plumage.
As we crossed the river a frightened water-hen darted from among the bushes—swallows skimmed lightly through the air, and several exquisite blue-and-yellow kingfishers glanced in the sunlight, as they flashed in pursuit of bright-coloured insects.
Flying foxes are very numerous, and, as they hang suspended from the boughs, head downwards, have the effect of some curious fruit. They are excellent to eat, as we discovered in Ceylon; but most Europeans have a prejudice against them—I cannot see why, as they feed on the best and ripest fruits. I quite understand the objection to the little insectivorous bats, which cluster in thousands among the rocks, clinging one to another, till they appear like brown ropes. The smell of these is simply disgusting.
These are not the only night-birds of Samoa. I am told there are a good many owls. I did not, however, see any, neither was I so fortunate as to see the Samoan turtle-dove, with its exquisite plumage of peacock-green blending with crimson. Green paroquets abound, and a small scarlet-and-black bird.
When these isles were first discovered, an indigenous dog was found in the mountains—a small, dark-grey animal, with very little hair, short crooked legs, long back, and large erect ears. It fed on bread-fruit and yams, having no other animal on which to prey, with the exception of the little native rat. The natives very naturally considered both dog and rat as dainty dishes for high days. Happily they contented themselves with these, and held cannibalism in abhorrence. The wild dog was also found on Hawaii, Tahiti, and New Zealand.
On some of the isles there was a native breed of pigs, lanky, long-legged creatures. Like the rats and dogs, they made a virtue of necessity, and were strict vegetarians. They were found in Hawaii, Tahiti, Tonga, and the New Hebrides. These are the only three quadrupeds that appear to have been indigenous on any of the Polynesian isles; and now all three are extinct, having died out on the introduction of their foreign kindred, in obedience to that sad fate which appears to rule the destinies both of men and beasts.
The people whose ideal quadruped was a pig, very naturally judged of all imported animals by this standard: so a goat or a cow became known as a horned pig; a horse, a man-carrying pig; a cat, a mewing pig. When the first goat was landed on one of the Hervey Isles, where even pigs were unknown, the natives called one another to come and see "the wonderful bird with great teeth growing out of its head!"
The most interesting aboriginal inhabitant of Samoa is a littlo kind of dodo, or tooth-billed pigeon, here called Manu-mea.1 Though now rare, it is still to be found in the forests, generally hiding in the tops of the highest trees. The natives say that it used to frequent the ground, but that since the introduction of foreign cats and rats, which have proved its deadly foes, it has instinctively retreated to safer quarters. Its diminished numbers may probably, however, be attributed to the high value set on it by the Samoan epicures. It is said to be closely allied to the extinct dodo. Its body resembles that of a pigeon, but its head and beak are those of a parrot. Its general plumage is dark-red, the head and breast being grey. Eyes, legs, and feet are all red, and the beak is reddish gold. When captured, it is generally very savage, and bites severely, but it is occasionally tamed, and feeds on fruit.
Formerly the sporting world of Samoa found its chief pastime, not in pigeon-shooting, but in pigeon-catching, which sounds a very innocent amusement, but which was indulged in to such excess that the teachers found it necessary to discourage it, as it led to the schools being quite deserted, and all work at a standstill, for months at a time—the favourite season being from June till August . The Hurlingham of Samoa was a large circular clearing in the forest—(there were many such). Thither the whole population of a district would resort, having previously prepared great stores of provision. Grandfathers and little children, but especially young men and maidens, delighted in the dove-festival, dear to happy lovers. They erected temporary huts in the forest, and there took up their abode for a prolonged picnic . Many an idyl of the forest might have been sung by the flowe1vwreathed 1 Didunculus rtrigirostris.