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at rest in these Capuan isles, and there yielded to the habits of indolent ease, which they so naturally engender.
Yet to this day the chief characteristics of the Malays are common throughout Polynesia. In each of these groups a truly Asiatic code of wearisome, elaborate ceremonial is observed on every possible occasion; the smallest breach of etiquette is considered a crime; a joke of any sort, especially of the nature of "chaff," is an unpardonable offence; in speech, flowery compliments which mean nothing and veil thought are the rule — slow, deliberate oratory, in which the best speaker is he who can talk for hours without touching his point, and then condense all he wishes to say, in a few pithy words.
All these islanders are distinguished by a natural grace and courtesy of manner—sometimes dignified, at others most winning; yet under extreme external politeness they have often nursed schemes of cold treachery and cruelty, which they have carried out unscrupulously to the bitter end. (I speak, of course, of the islanders as they were by nature, ere the mellowing, transforming influence of Christianity had dawned on the South Seas.) But to this hour the Polynesians, like the Malays, are, as a rule, careless, easy-going, impassive beings, generally light-hearted; all fatalists, as a matter of course; strangely indifferent to physical pain, whether endured by themselves or inflicted on others; but when once roused to fighting-pitch, wholly uncontrollable in their blind mad fury.
But the strongest proof of their Malay descent lies in the similarity of their various languages, both to one another and to the mother tongue. It is not merely a likeness in general construction, but many words are almost identical, as you may gather at a glance from the following vocabulary. In short, the whole subject is extremely interesting, but is one which I must leave to the discussion of learned folk, whose wise disquisitions you can study at your leisure.
LIFE IN PAPEETE—THE MARKET—CHURCHES COUNTRY LIPE IN
THE SOUTH SEAS.
The Red House, Papeete,
'We have had a very gay week, including several festivities on board the three French men-of-war now in harbour. On Saturday I-was invited to dine on board Le Limier, with the Greens, Viennots, and Verniers. (In case your French fails you, I may remind you that a limier is a blood-hound; a fact which I only recollected on seeing canine heads on all the boats.) M. Puech is a good friend of the French Protestant Mission, and his visit to Tahiti is a happy event for all its members. After a pleasant dinner, we sat on deck to hear the sailors sing, and then went off in small canoes for a nearer sight of the peche d flambeatix, which was going SUNDAY IN PAPEETE. 287
on in every direction near the reef—the flashing torches and dark figures of the fishermen forming a most picturesque scene.
Another day we breakfasted on board Le Seignelay, and in the afternoon a large party assembled on La Magicienne to see 'the boat-races. A pretty sight, and seen from a beautiful and most luxurious ship.
On Wednesday, the admiral held his last reception at Government House, at which there was a very large attendance; and Mrs Brander had most mirthful dances here on Monday, and again last night . The latter was a farewell, and I fear that to many of the young folk it was really a very sorrowful one.
This morning we watched La Magicienne steam out of harbour on her way to Valparaiso. The admiral leaves a pleasant vicegovernor in M. D'Oncieue de la Battye, who is happily allowed to retain the excellent band till the arrival of the new governor; when the Seignelay is to convey him and it to Valparaiso. So the Tahitians find some consolation in this arrangement.
I think our Sundays would seem to you rather a curious medley, so I will give you a sketch of to-day from morning till evening. I was, as usual, awakened at 5 A.m. by the chattering of many voices, as the boats discharged their cargoes of fruit and rainbow-coloured fish beneath my windows. It was an exquisite cloudless morning, and I was seized with a sudden impulse to follow the crowd to the market, which hitherto I had only seen in its deserted afternoon aspect.
Passing by roads which are called streets, but are rather shady bowers of yellow hybiscus and bread-fruit trees, I entered the covered market-place, where were assembled as gay a throng as you could wish to see, many of them dressed in flowing robes of the very brightest colours; for the people here assembled are chiefly le peuple, whose days of ceremonial mourning for their good old queen are drawing to a close; so tho long tresses of glossy black hair, hitherto so carefully hidden within their jaunty little sailor hats, are now again suffered to hang at full length in two silky plaits, and hair and hats are wreathed with bright fragrant flowers of double Cape jessamine, orange-blossom, scarlet hybiscus, or oleander. Many wear a delicate white jessamine star in the ear in place of an ear-ring. The people here are not so winsome as those in remoter districts. Too much contact with shipping and grog-shops has of course gone far to deteriorate them, and take off the freshness of life; but a South Sea crowd is always made up of groups pleasant to the eye; and a party of girls dressed in long graceful sacques of pale sea-green, or delicate pink, pure white, or bright crimson, chatting and laughing as they roll up minute fragments of tobacco in strips of pandanus or banana to supply the inevitable cigarette, is always attractive.
The men all wear lyareos of Manchester cotton stuff, prepared expressly for these isles, and of the most wonderful patterns. Those most in favour are bright crimson with a large white pattern, perhaps groups of red crowns on circles of white, arranged on a scarlet ground, or else rows of white crowns, alternating with groups of stars. A dark-blue ground with circles and crosses in bright yellow, or scarlet with yellow anchors and circles, also find great favour; and though they certainly sound "loud" when thus described, they are singularly effective. It is wonderful what a variety of patterns can be produced, not one of which has ever been seen in England. With these the men wear white shirts, and sailor's hats, with bright-coloured silk handkerchiefs tied over them and knotted on the ear; or else a gay garland.
On entering the market, it struck me that many of the sellers must have taken up their quarters over-night, for their gay quilts and pillows lay near, as they sat on their mats snatching a hasty breakfast of fruit or raw fish.
The latter is always in favour. Little fish or big fish of certain sorts are swallowed with apparently the same delight as you might hail a basket of ripe cherries; in fact, a green banana-leaf full of skipping shrimps, is a dainty dish for any pretty maid, who crunches the wriggling creatures with her gleaming white teeth, or lets them hop down her throat with the greatest coolness.