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White Cray-fish. 193
suit all tastes), excellent lobsters and crabs, huge fresh-water prawns, delicate little oysters, which grow on the roots and branches of the mangrove, which fringes some muddy parts of the shore. But most excellent of all is another product of the briny mud, altogether new to me—a hideous but truly delicious white cray-fish (cankrelat de mm; my French friends call it, varo or wurrali in Tahitian). We have all registered a solemn vow never to lose a chance of a varo feast. Then there were shell-fish and salads, and many other good things. The tables were decorated in a manner quite in keeping with the dishes served, with pillars of white banana root-stem, just like alabaster, with a fringe of large prawns at the top, and a frieze of small lobsters below—a very effective study of scarlet and white.
After the feast we all sat out in the moonlight, listening to the himkne singing, which, I need scarcely say, was lovely. But of course some districts excel, and have finer voices, more practice, and a better conductor.
I have just been told that we are only thirty-five miles from Papeete. We have taken the journey in such enjoyably short stages, that we have certainly made the most of our distance. Xow we are approaching the southern peninsula, which is connected with this, the main isle, by a comparatively low wide ridge. This we are to cross to-morrow.
Om The Pesinsula, Taravou,
This morning at daybreak the admiral went off to attend Mass, and then examine the schools. He seems inclined to administer very even-handed justice between the Catholics and Protestants, which does not greatly gratify some of the priests. We spent the morning pleasantly strolling about the village of bird-cage houses embowered in the orange-groves, and gay with rosy oleanders and crimson hybiscus.
At eight we started. The weather was threatening; and soon heavy rain came on, which mocked our waterproofs, and gave us a thorough soaking, which we all bore philosophically, only regret
ting that wo drove through a most lovely ferny pass at a moment when all our umbrellas were striving to exclude the rain, in which they failed, and only succeeded in hiding the view.
Near the village of Papeari we found all the children of the Catholic school, headed by a very pleasant, keen-looking young priest, drawn up with the himene singers to welcome the king and the admiral. Of course they were all drenched, but none the less musical. At the head of the singers stood Marau's aunt, Minito, a true Tahitian chiefess, sister to Mrs Salmon, and widow of Mr Sumner, a Sandwich Island half-white.
The rain having ceased, we all walked together to Mrs Sumner's house, where we were partially dried—no fear of fever in this blessed climate. We then proceeded to the large cheferie, where breakfast was prepared in the usual style—the house prettily decorated with flags, tree-ferns, and plaited cocoa-palm leaves. The tables were all adorned with ornaments made of the solid white banana-stalk, in which were set branches of thorny lemon, and on each thorn were stuck different blossoms, scarlet or yellow hybiscus, canna, and gardenia. When we were seated, women came round bearing garlands of the delicate artificial arrowroot flowers, and crowned every one of us. Many of the party had already secured filmy plumes of the snowy reva-reva; and the majority of the women, following the good example of Marau. no longer pretend to have cut off their beautiful hair, but now wear it in two long jet-black tresses, adorned with gardenias or such other fragrant blossoms as they may find. With flowers as necklaces and ear-rings, the Court mourning is becoming less lugubrious.
After breakfast, Mmhncs as usual, with interludes of most hideous dancing. There is never any variety, always the same utterly ungraceful wriggle. Happily the band generally comes to the rescue, with some attractive air, which puts the dancers to flight. There never seem to be more than two or three, and these do it as a professional exhibition—as a curious relic of olden times.
It does seem strange (accustomed as I now am to the endlessly varied and most graceful dances of the Fijians) to find that these THE AUEOIS SECT. 195
Tahitians have apparently no notion of dancing, except this Vpnupa, which for many years was discountenanced by the chiefs, in their first anxiety to put away every trace of heathenism. But under French influence it has been revived; and though the more respectable natives consider it an objectionable exhibition, and ono in which few care to join, a certain number of dancers crop up at every village where we halt: their position, however, appears to be no higher than that of strolling jugglers at English fairs.
In heathen days the Upa-upa was the distinguishing dance of an atrocious sect called the Areois—religious fanatics and libertines of the vilest order, who were held in reverent awe by the people, and allowed every sort of privilege. They travelled from village to village in very large companies, sometimes filling from fifty to eighty canoes. Whenever they landed great sacrifices were offered to the gods; and for so long as they chose to remain in one place, they were the honoured guests of the chief, and had to be provided for by the villagers, whom they entertained by acting pantomimes and reciting legends of the very unholy gods, singing songs in their honour, wrestling, gesticulating, and dancing, till they worked themselves up to a pitch of frenzy which was considered religious, and the night was spent in wild orgies. Their full dress on these occasions generally consisted only of a little scarlet and black dye; the seeds of the vermilion-plant and charcoal furnishing the materials. At other times they wore kilts of the yellow dracaena and wreaths of scarlet Barringtonia.
They were divided into distinct classes, distinguished by the manner in which they were tattooed. The lowest class had merely a circle round the ankle; the next had one stripe on the left side; the third was marked on each shoulder; the fourth on both sides, round the body; the fifth was tattooed from the fingers to the shoulders, and the leaders were adorned with stockings of the same. The imprinting of these indelible class-marks was part of a religious festival, at which great offerings of food and goods were presented to the gods, and to these their servants, and on this one occasion women, were allowed freely to partake of the feast, and to eat of the muat which had been offered in sacrifice, which at other times they dared not touch without incurring the penalty of death.
The most horrible feature of this society was, that by its primary law no Areoi was allowed to rear his offspring. Celibacy was by no means enjoined—very much the reverse; indeed each Areoi had an acknowledged wife, who was a member of the society: but of the innumerable children of these favoured sinners, not one was ever suffered to live; and any person desiring to enter the holy brotherhood, was required in the first instance to murder any children he might already have. The sect was supposed to have been divinely instituted, and its members were sure of admission to the Rohutu noa-noa, or fragrant paradise, in which the blessed were to spend an eternity of feasting, with every delight that heart or flesh could desire.
The total extinction of this society was one of the most marked triumphs of Christianity in this group; and the early missionaries record with thankful wonder, that many Areois were among their earliest and most zealous converts and steady adherents, and became hard-working and successful teachers and native missionaries, striving with their whole energy to counteract the evils in which they had hitherto been prime movers.
Such being the associations connected with this most unattractive dance, it certainly is strange to read the regrets, expressed by various travellers, that the missionaries should have seen fit to discourage it, as if in so doing they had deprived the people of some delightful pleasure. It is a very different tiling from the beautiful and artistic dances of Fiji, which the Wesleyan Mission have so wisely encouraged the people to retain, even at their school and church festivals.
This afternoon was clear and bright, and the drive to the isthmus and then up the ridge was very beautiful. Part of the road lay through a real jungle of large orange-trees laden with ripe fruit . I need not say how we feasted; as did also herds of many pigs, that wander at large through these enchanting thickets, and find an ample supply of fruit which falls unheeded on the grass—true windfalls! It is from these groves that cargoes of several hunVANILLA PLANTATIONS. 197
dred thousand oranges are carried to San Francisco by every opportunity.
. Imagine the joy of some poor ragged-school child, whose one treat is an orange at Christmas, and whose home is in the slums of any of our horrible cities, could it but wake to find itself in this elysium. I remember Dr Guthrie's ragged schools coming to spend one day at Winton Castle with dear old Lady Ruthven, and the teachers told me that there were many children present who had never before in their short lives set foot in the country. Would that they could all be transported for a while to the orange-groves of Tahiti!
To-day we also passed some large vanilla plantations, in admirable order. The vanilla is a creeper, and is planted at the foot of some shady shrub, up which it climbs and twines among the branches. To economise labour and space, two crops are combined, by training the vanilla over either coffee-bushes or the vermiliontree, which carries its bright seeds in small pods. The vanilla itself is a precarious crop, requiring much watchful care at each stage of its growth, which, however, it well repays, as. it fetches four dollars per pound. Moreover, it is a fragrant harvest.
This place is a military station; the French have a fort here, and some soldiers. I believe that political offenders are sent to Taravou to expiate their supposed misdeeds within its walls. M. de Damian, commandant of the fort, had provided comfortable quarters for the admiral and his party at his own house, and an excellent room was most kindly assigned to me. Marau and Ariiaue have gone on to another village, where we are to join them in the morning.
The French soldiers here employ some of their leisure hours in the care of a garden, which rewards them with excellent vegetables and glorious roses. I had the delight of arranging delicious nosegays for the dinner-table this evening, and have a lovely bunch of roses now beside me.
It is again raining heavily, but we rejoice thereat, for generally a deluge of rain at night is followed by a clear balmy morning, and all the lovely vegetation appears in its freshest glory.
Now I must bid you good-night .