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SAMOAN GAMES. 67
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 hlack 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 bo called a pleasant game, however.
We saw several distressing cases of elephantiasis, which is here 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. Happily 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.
BIUDS AND QUADRUPEDS. 69
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 insecta
Flying foxes are very numerous, and, as they hang suspended from the houghs, 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 little 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 flower-wreathed
1 Didunculus strigirostris.
SAMOAN DOVES. 71
minstrels of Samoa; and the wide world could offer no lovelier scene than the exquisite tropical forests of these happy isles, where no hurtful creature lies hidden. But I fear that even here the idyls were not free from occasional touches of shadow; though doubtless there were reflected lights, enough to relieve any transient shade, and lovers' quarrels were forgotten in new loves.
All round the central clearing, hiding-places were constructed and covered with green boughs. In each of these a sportsman was concealed, holding in one hand a stick to which a tame pigeon was attached by a string some ten yards in length. These pigeons were all trained to fly round and round; and the wild wood-doves seeing so many of their fellows circling round one spot, naturally supposed there was something good to be shared, and ventured near, when, from each ambush a long slim bamboo was thrust forth, with a net attached, and the stranger was forthwith captured. Of course, he who caught the largest number was the hero of the hour, and to him was presented the evening feast—at which baked pigeons figured largely. Some, however, were preserved alive, to be trained as decoy-birds, as this pigeon-taming was a favourite occupation at all seasons of the year,—indeed is so at the present time; for the Samoan takes as much pride in his doves and pigeons, as a Briton does in his hounds and horses. The birds are trained in such habits of idleness that they will not even feed themselves, but sit patiently waiting till their'master actually puts their daily bread—yam, banana, or cocoa-nut — into their open mouths.
The Samoan dove and its wooing furnished the theme for one of the prettiest of the native dances. The girls, while gently gliding to and fro, utter the low soft call of the female dove, their mates answering from afar, in deeper resounding tones, and circling around, ever drawing nearer and nearer, till the wooers and the wooed unite in a ballet of much graceful fluttering.
We got back to Leone just in time to see the ecclesiastical procession start from the old church to the site of the new one. At the consecration service, the bishop wore his mitre and a very gorgeous vestment of patchwork, presented by the Samoan ladies.