Mystic Isles of the South Seas.
Fredrick O'Brien

Part 6 out of 8

with people and produce.

I ate alone mostly, at a table on the veranda in front of my chamber,
waited on by Tatini, a very lovely and shy maiden of fourteen years. To
her I talked Tahitian, as with all the family, in an effort to perfect
myself in that tongue.

I was happy that I had pulled up anchor in Papeete, and as contrast is,
after all, comparative, I felt like a New-Yorker who finds himself in
Arcadia, though I had thought Papeete, on first sight, the garden of
Allah. In Mataiea I realized the wonder of the Polynesian people, and
found my months with the whites of the city a fit background for study
of and ardent delight in the brown islanders I was to know so well.

Chapter XVII

My life in the house of Tetuanui--Whence came the Polynesians--A
migration from Malaysia--Their legends of the past--Condition of
Tahiti when the white came--The great navigator, Cook--Tetuanui tells
of old Tahiti.

Happiness in civilization consists in seeing life other than it really
is. At Mataiea the simple truth of existence was joy. In the house of
the chief, Tetuanui, I knew a peace of mind and body as novel to me
as my surroundings. For the first time since unconcerned childhood I
felt my heart leap in my bosom when the dawn awoke me, and was glad
merely that I could see the sun rise or the rain fall. All of us have
had that feeling on certain mornings; but was it not interwoven with
the affairs of the day--a picnic, a rendezvous, our wedding, a first
morning of the vacation encampment? In Mataiea it was spontaneous, the
harking back to a beneficent mood of nature; the very sense of being
stirring the blood in delight, and girding up the loins instantly to
pleasurable movement.

I slept without clothing, and in a bound was at the door, with my
pareu about me. Already the family had begun the leisurely tasks of the
day. The fowls were on the sward under the breadfruit and papaya-trees,
and the mina-birds were swooping down on the grass near them to profit
by their uncovering of food. Those discriminating birds are like the
Japanese, seldom pioneering in wild places, but settling on developed
lands to gain by the slower industry of other peoples. "Birds that
live on cows," the Tahitians call the minas, because where there are
enough ruminants each bird selects one, and spends the day upon its
back, eating the insects that infest its skin.

The sun at six barely lit the beach and revealed the lagoon,
into which a stream from the mountains poured within Tetuanui's
confines. I threw off my garment and plunged into a pool under a clump
of pandanus-trees. It was cool enough at that hour to give the surface
nerves the slight shock I craved, but warmed as I lay in the limpid
water and watched the light sweeping past the reef in the swift way
of the tropics.

I danced upon the beach and pursued the land crabs to their burrows. I
hoped to see one wrench off a leg to prove what I had been told--that
if one in its movement to the salt water through the tall grass beyond
the sand, touched any filth, it clawed off the polluted leg, and that
a crab had been seen thus to deprive itself of all its eight limbs,
and after a bath to hobble back to its hole with the aid of its claws,
to remain until it had grown a complement of supports. I wondered
why it did not content itself with washing instead of mutilation. To
the biblical expounder it was an apt illustration of "cutting off an
offending member," as recommended in the Book.

At the house the family were preparing their first meal, and I
shared it with them--oranges, bananas, coffee, and rolls. The last,
with the New Zealand tinned butter, came from the Chinese store. We
sat on mats, and we drank from small bowls. The coffee was sweetened
with their own brown sugar, and the juice of nearly ripe cocoanuts,
grated and pressed, made a delicious substitute for cream. Over the
breakfast we talked, Tetuanui and Haamoura answering my questions
and taking me along the path of my inquiry into far fields of
former customs and ancient lore. They were, as their forefathers,
gifted in oral tradition, with retentive memories for their own past
and for the facts and legends of the racial history. We who have
for thousands of years put in writing our records cannot grasp the
fullness of the system by which the old Polynesian chiefs and priests,
totally without letters, or even ideographs, except in Easter Island,
kept the archives of the tribe and nation by frequent repetition of
memorized annals. So we got Homer's Odyssey, and the Song of Solomon.

What Tahiti was like before the white? That was to me a subject of
intense interest, now that I was fully aware of the situation after a
hundred and fifty years of exploitation, seventy-five years of French
domination, and thirty years of colonialism. The nature of the people
was little changed. The Tahitian was still naif, hospitable, gentle,
indolent except as to needs, valuing friendship above all things,
accepting the evangelism of many warring Christian sects as a tumult
among jealous gods and priests, and counting sex manifestations free
expressions of affection, and of an appetite not more sacred nor more
shameful than hunger or thirst.

These were the qualities and rules of conduct ascribed to the
Tahitians by the first discoverers, especially by those who were
not narrowed in judgment by inexperience and religious fanaticism,
as were the British and French missionaries of early days, peasants
and apprentices who had forsaken the fields and workshops for the
higher sphere of devoteeism and freedom from manual labor. These
clerics, though often self-sacrificing and yearning for martyrdom,
attributed all differences from their standards or preachments to
inherent wickedness or diabolism.

One of the ablest of them had regretted sorrowfully his having to
inform the Tahitians that all their ancestors were in hell. Some
clerics had made wearing bonnets the test of decency, and all had
taught that God hated any open ardor of attraction for the opposite
sex. Yet it was almost entirely to them that the far-away student
had to turn to learn any of the details of native life undefiled. The
mariners had stayed too brief a time to enter into these, and could
not speak Tahitian.

I knew that Tahitian life, political and economic, social and
religious, had been utterly changed, but I longed for an understanding
of what had been; a panorama of it before my eyes. I set out to
obtain this by constant interrogations of every one I thought might
have even a scrap of enlightenment for me.

On rainy days, when Chief Tetuanui did not oversee the making or
repair of roads in his district, and always when we were both at
leisure, I sat with him, and the elders of the neighborhood, and
queried them, or repeated for correction and comment my notes upon
their antiquities--notes founded on reading and my observation.

Whence had come these Polynesians or Maoris who peopled the ocean
islands from Hawaii to New Zealand, and from Easter Island to the
eastern Fijis? A race set apart by its isolation for thousands of years
from all the rest of the world, distinguished in all its habitats--
Hawaii, Samoa, the Marquesas, Tonga, the Paumotus, and the Society
archipelago, and New Zealand--by beauty of form, tint and uniformity
of color, height, and soft expression--an expression they vainly
sought to make terrible by tattooing?

The legends and chants of the race unfolded much of the mystery;
its language's relation to others, more. These Tahitians and all
their kind were ancient Aryans who in the dim past were in India,
and afterward in the Indian archipelago. They were in Sumatra, in
Java, in the Philippines long before the Malays. Certainly their
blood brothers, changed by millenniums of a different environment,
remain in Malaysia, known there as the aborigines (Orang-Benoa),
by the majority races. D'Urville said the Harfouras of Celebes were
identical physically with the Polynesians. At some unfixed date the
first of the Polynesians pushed out in their insecure craft for this
sea, driven away by the Malay-Hindu invasion or by interracial feuds.

The pioneer, according to the legend, was Hawaii-uli-kai-oo, Hawaii
and the Dotted Sea, a great fisherman and navigator. He sailed toward
the Pleiades from his unknown home in the far West, and arrived at
eastern islands. So pleased was he with them, that he returned to
his western birthplace for his family, and brought them to Polynesia.

Other Polynesians left the Asiatic archipelago about the end of the
first century, and went to many islands. Finally they reached the
Samoan, Tongan, Marquesan, Paumotuan, and Society groups, and Easter
Island and New Zealand. In pushing eastward they skirted Papua, but
were unable to stay, because the Papuans, whom the Polynesians had
long ago driven out of the Asiatic archipelago, were stronger than the
emigrants. They next tried Fiji, and tarried there longest, leaving
those powerful imprints on the Papuans in appearance and language
that make Fiji the anomaly of Melanesia. But the Fiji-Papuans at last
drove them out, and they left with blood in their eyes. When the whites
found the Marquesans in the sixteenth century, they were building at
Vaitahu great war-canoes to "attack the black people who used bows
and arrows." No living Marquesan had ever seen them nor could they
have attained Fiji in any strength, yet the historical hate persisted.

The Marquesans of the north said their race came from Hawaii, and
those of the south from Vavao. Seventeen places they had stopped at
in their great migration eastward, they said.

Pu te metani me Vevau
A anu te tai o Hawa-ii!
Pu atu te metani me Hawa-ii
A anu te ao e Vevau!

Blow winds from Vavao
And cool the sea of Hawaii!
Blow back, winds from Hawaii,
And cool the air of Vavao!

That was the Marquesan legendary chant, the primal command of their
God after creation. Vevau and Hawaii were placed in their former
abode toward India (Hawaii being undoubtedly Java; and Vevau being
Vavao, in Malagasy); but they had brought the names with them, and
when they reached the present American territory, of which Honolulu
is the capital, they called it Hawaii, as they had an island of the
Samoan group, Sawaii. It was in the fifth century they peopled the now
American Hawaii, and they remained unknown there until the eleventh,
when Marquesans, Tahitians, and Samoans began to pour in on them,
and continued to do so for a few generations. Then the present
Hawaiians were isolated and forgotten for twenty-one generations
until rediscovery by Captain Cook in 1778.

They gave the old names to Polynesia that they knew in Asia, as all
over the world emigrants carry their home names, not only Hawaii,
or Savaii, for Java, but Moorea, a Javan place, to the island near
Tahiti; Bora-Bora from Sumatra to a Society island; Puna of Borneo
to places in Tahiti, Kauai, and Hawaii; Ouahou of Borneo to Oahu, on
which Honolulu is; and Molokai, from the Moluccas, to another island
of Hawaii. One might cite hundreds of examples, all going to prove
their far-away origin, as Florida, San Francisco, and Los Angeles,
New England, New York, and Albany, indicate theirs.

That there were any inhabitants in the South Sea islands occupied by
the Polynesians is improbable but a race of mighty stone-carvers had
swept through that ocean, perhaps many thousands of years before,
and had left in the Ladrones and in Easter Islands monuments and
statues now existing which are a profound mystery to the ethnologist,
the archaeologist, and the engineer. If the Polynesians came upon
any of the stone builders, they had killed or absorbed them.

The interpretation of the curious ideographs carved on wood in Easter
Island by some of the Polynesians there half a century ago would
denote there had been intercourse with the people who had made them,
and who were not the Polynesians.

Once in Samoa, and finally at home there, after their Fiji disaster,
they had gone adventuring, or the canoe drift of unfortunates caught
by wind and tide had brought populations to all the other Polynesian
islands, and principally to Tahiti. This island in the center of
Polynesia, and especially favored by nature, had been a source of
growth and distribution of the race, the Paumotus, New Zealand,
and probably the Marquesas, and Hawaii having been stocked from it,
the language developing furthest in it, and customs, refinements,
and leisure reaching their highest pitch in the marvelous culture,
savage though it was, which astounded the Europeans. Yet all these
people remained curious as to what might be beyond the distance,
and a hundred years ago were fitting out exploring expeditions to
search for Utupu, a Utopia from which the god Tao introduced the
cocoanut-tree. They looked to the westward for the mystic land of
their forefathers, as from Ireland to India the happy isles of the
west was a myth. The mariners of Erin had long seen the Tir-n'an-Oge
just beyond the horizon.

The Tahitians had a legend of the god Maui, that "he brought the earth
up from the depths of the ocean, and when mankind suffered from the
prolonged absence of the sun and lived mournfully in obscurity, with
no ripening fruits, Maui stopped the sun and regulated its course,
so as to make day and night equal, as they are in Tahiti."

Does not this hark back to a clime where the inequality of day and
night was greater than in the tropics?

Lieutenant Bovis of the French navy, who seventy years ago, after
ten years of study in Tahiti, wrote his conclusions, said that
after him it would be useless to hunt in the memories of the living
for anything of the past, for the old men were dead or dying, and
those now in middle age did not even speak or understand the old
language in which the records were told. He had, he said, arrived
in Tahiti when the real Tahiti, the Tahiti of the true native, the
Tahiti unspoiled by European civilization, was only a memory, but
by years of labor he had taken from the lips of the venerable their
recollections of conditions in their childhood and early manhood,
and what their fathers had told them, and by comparison he had been
able to write intelligently of former times.

If Bovis found the real Tahiti no longer existent seventy years ago,
what must I look for when two generations or three had died since,
and swift steamships coursed where only the clipper had sailed? Yet
Tahiti was the least spoiled of islands on liner routes, because France
being so far from it, and the French such poor business men, they had
not exploited the natives except in the way of taxes. The bureaucracy
lived on the imposts, but they had not reformed the people by laws
and punishments, and made them see the wisdom of acquiescence in a
scheme of regular work, as had the British missionary government in
Tahiti and the American missionary government in Hawaii, in the name
of an avenging and critical Lord. No people believed in the dignity
of labor more than the Tahitians, because they refused to do any more
than was requisite for health, cleanliness, comfort, and pleasure,
and saw no more dignity or greater indignity in helping me on with my
boots or bringing me my dinner or massaging my body than in listening
to a sermon or catching fish.

They thought absurd and artificial the ideas foisted by politicians,
merchants, and lawyers that it was dignified to sit in an office, to
sell goods, or to draw up agreements, or undignified to disembowel a
pig, make a net, or dig an oven. They saw governors and bankers spend
all day chasing a boar or angling for a fish which they did not eat
when they possessed it. They thought them queer, and that their own
regimen of work and play was more sensible.

"What land is this?" asked Cook, and understanding him, the Tahitians
answered, "Otaiti oia" or, "This is Tahiti."

Cook put it down as Otaheite, pronounced by him Otahytee. It was Cook's
carpenter who was building a house for a chief, a friend of Cook's,
and lost all his tools during the visit of the high priest of the
god Hiro and his acolytes. Hiro was the first king in their myths,
and, until Christianity came, the god of business. When Cook sailed
away, the tools were taken to the marae, or temple of Hiro, where
the priest said he would cause the prized tools to reproduce their
kind, like fruit. He planted them in a field near by and watched for
results. The lack of any result except rust was an able argument for
the Christian missionaries, when they came, to destroy his cult by
laughing at the foolishness of his ideas and the weakness of his god.

The discoverers reported that the Tahitians and all other Polynesians
were thieves and liars, for the reason that they often seized pieces
of iron, tools, and firearms that they saw on the ships or ashore
in the houses occupied by the first whites, and then lied about
their actions. The whites killed scores for these crimes, one of the
initial murders of Cook's crew being the shooting of Chief Kapupuu
as he departed in his canoe from their ship with some bits of metal
he had taken. Malo, the native historian, who heard the account from
eye-witnesses, explained the incident as follows, first mentioning
the sighting of Cook's vessels and the wonder of the natives:

One said to another, "What is that great thing with branches?" Others
said, "It is a forest that has slid down into the sea," and the gabble
and noise was great. Then the chiefs ordered some natives to go in a
canoe and observe and examine well that wonderful thing. They went,
and when they came to the ship, they saw the iron that was attached
to the outside of the ship, and they were greatly rejoiced at the
quantity of iron.

Because the iron was known before that time from wood with iron
[in or on it] that had formerly drifted ashore, but it was in small
quantity, and here was plenty. And they entered on board, and they
saw the people with white foreheads, bright eyes, loose garments,
corner-shaped heads, and unintelligible speech.

Then they thought that the people [on board] were all women, because
their heads were so like the women's heads of that period. They
observed the quantity of iron on board of the ship, and they were
filled with wonder and delight.

Then they returned and told the chiefs what they had seen, and how
great a quantity of iron. On hearing this, one of the warriors of the
chief said, "I will go and take forcible possession of this booty,
for to plunder is my business and means of living."

The chiefs consented. Then this warrior went on board of the ship
and took away some of the iron on board, and he was shot at and was
killed. His name was Kapupuu. The canoes [around the ship] fled away
and reported that Kapupuu had been killed by a ball from a squirt-gun.

And that same night guns were fired and rockets were thrown up. They
[the natives] thought it was a god, and they called his name Lonomakua,
and they thought there would be war.

Then the chiefess named Kamakahelei, mother of Kaumualii, said,
"Let us not fight against our god; let us please him that he may
be favorable to us." Then Kamakahelei gave her own daughter as a
woman to Lono. Lelemahoalani was her name; she was older sister of
Kaumualii. And Lono [Captain Cook] slept with that woman, and the
Kauai women prostituted themselves to the foreigners for iron.

Cook was one of the best of the navigators of the South Seas, a
devout churchman, and a believer in the decalogue of Moses. He thought
stealing or lying odious before the Lord and men. But the Polynesians
did not so think. Most of their possessions were in common, and telling
the truth was unimportant. If one asked them about anything they had
no interest in, they might tell the truth or might not. If they had
interests, these were served by their replies. This is as in diplomacy
to-day, when the interests of one's country allows prevarication,
and even in Christian ethics both patriotism and self-preservation, as
well as hospitality, permit flat falsehood. Our own spies are honest
heroes, and the man who would not deceive a man who sought to kill
him or burn his house would be considered a fool and not worth saving.

"There is plenty more in the kitchen," we say to guests out of
hospitality and pride, though the kitchen is as bare as Mother
Hubbard's cupboard. She could not lie to the dog.

Now, to the native who saw all around him on the ship huge masses
of the material most precious to him in the world, it was as if an
American in Yucatan saw in a native hut heaps of gold and diamonds
not valued by the savage. Suppose the savage left the American alone
with the treasure!

But the Tahitians did not murder for blood lust, had no assassination,
and virtually no theft. Our own Anglo-Saxon law laid down the maxim,
"Caveat emptor!" "Let the buyer beware!" which meant that the truth
notwithstanding, the buyer must not let the seller of anything cheat
him by failure to state the exact facts or faults, and expect the
law to remedy his stupidity.

Chief Tetuanui's word was his bond because he had learned that
square-dealing brought him peace of mind, but other natives had found
out that to cheat the white man first was the only possible way of
keeping even with him. The maxim of the king of Apamama, quoted by
Ivan Stroganoff, was pertinent. Hospitality was as sacred to the
Tahitians as to the old Irish. It was shameful not to give a guest
anything he desired.

"Es su casa, senor!" said the Spaniard, and did not mean it; but the
Tahitians literally did mean that the visitor was welcome to all his
valuables, and did not reserve his family, as did the don.

The chevalier of the Legion of Honor upon whose mat I sat was emphatic
as to the respect of the old Tahitians for their chiefs.

"It was the whole code," said he, "and when the French broke it down
they destroyed us. There is Teriieroo a Teriierooterai, whose family
were chiefs of Punaauia for generations, shifted to Papenoo. Each
governor or admiral made these transfers here, as in the Marquesas
and all the islands, with the primary object of lessening native
cohesion, of Frenchifying us. They ruined our highest aspirations
and our manners."

I had seen something of the same sweeping away of a code and the
resultant evils and degradation in Japan. When Bushido imposed itself
on all above the herd, they had a sense of honor not surpassed
by the people of any nation; but commerce, the destruction of the
castes of samurai, heimin, and eta, the plunging of a military people
into business and competition with Western cunning, and the lacquer
of Christianity which had done little more than Occidentalize to a
considerable degree a few thousands, without giving them the practice
of the golden rule, or an appreciation of the Sermon on the Mount,
had robbed the Japanese of an ancient code of morality and honor,
and replaced it with nothing worth while--an insatiable ambition to
equal Occidental peoples and to conquer Oriental ones, and a thousand
factories which killed women and children.

"We were divided into three distinct castes," said Tetuanui. "The Arii,
or princes; Raatira, or small chiefs and simple landed proprietors;
and the Manahune, or proletariat. Alliances between Arii and Raatira
made an intermediate class--Eietoai. There was also a caste of
priests subject to the chief, their power all derived from him, but
yet tending to become hereditary by the priests instructing their
sons in the ceremonies and by taking care of the temple."

"That's the way the Aaron family got control of the Jewish priesthood,"
I interpolated. "They gave the people what they wanted, first a golden
calf god, and then an ark, and they had charge of both."

The chief frowned. He was a confirmed Bible reader, and the Old
Testament was so much like the Tahitian legends that he believed
every word of it.

"The Arii," he said, "were sacred and had miraculous strength and
powers. The food they touched was for others poison. There was a head
in each Arii family to whom the others were subject; he was often
an infant, and almost always a young man, for the eldest son of the
chief was chief and the father only regent. This custom continued
until comparatively recently in most families besides those of the
Arii. The Arii were the descendants of the last conquerors of these
islands. But their advent must have been ancient, for their power was
uncontested, and their rights were so many, their duties so few, and
the devotion of the people to them was so great, that only centuries
could have established them so firmly. Probably they came after the
Raatira. The Raatira were separated by too great a barrier to have
assisted in the conquest. No Raatira could become an Arii; no Arii a
Raatira. The latter were closer to the commoners, and paid the same
respect to the Arii as did the Manahune.

"If an Arii woman wedded a Raatira man, the marriage was said to be
with a taata ino, ino meaning literally bad, and taata man. This term
applied to all not Arii, and indicated the contempt of the Arii for
all below them. The Arii had many words solely for their own use, and
tapu, or prohibited, to all others; they had a hundred privileges. The
Raatira were probably the power broken by the Arii. The Raatira
had conquered the Manahune, and were themselves bested by the Arii,
the newest come."

The chief sighed. He was like an old Irish storyteller recounting
the departed glories of Erin.

I read to him in French Bovis' opinions that the Raatira, defeated,
retained part of their lands, served the new masters, and kept in
subjection the people they had themselves beaten. They attached
themselves to the Arii of their district, fought for them in their
quarrels or wars, and were consulted in assemblies, and allowed to
speak to the crowd. I recalled that this was a privilege dearly prized
by all Polynesians, the lack of reading and writing having, as in
Greece, developed oratory and orators to a remarkable excellence. I
was in Hawaii when the offices of the first legislature under the
American flag were campaigned for, after years of repression by the
sugar planters' oligarchy, and I had heard the natives speak a score
of times, and always with delight and wonder. They valued free speech.

"The Arii were shrewd," said Chief Tetuanui, "and early invented a
plan for keeping the Raatira in subjection. If two Raatira disputed
possession of land, the one who believed himself defrauded could
yield to the king or a member of the royal family the land, to which
he usually had no right at all. The Arii thus got possession of more
and more land from time to time, and the Raatira were loath to contend
among themselves.

"The Manahune owned nothing by law, but they lived on the lands of
Arii and Raatira, and were seldom evicted. They had the fruits of
their labor with a tithe or so for their masters; they left to their
children their accumulations, tentative, but actual, and their service
was pleasant; more in the nature of gifts than rent. The Manahune
could not rise above his caste except by the rare nomination of the
king, but they could become Teuteu Arii, or servants of an Arii,
and might thus acquire immense importance.

"Like the eunuchs at courts or the mistresses of the noble and rich,"
I remarked.

The chief shrugged his shoulders.

"The Manahune might become a priest or even join the society of the
Arioi," he rejoined. "The government was simple. The will of the prince
was supreme, but by custom things ran smoothly, and the prince, or
Arii, had seldom to urge his power. There were, of course, instances
of extortion, of bursts of anger, of feuds, of jealousies; but most
of the time the Raatira saw that the Arii were well served, and were
their intermediates with the commoners. The regular obligations of the
inferior classes were to meet at certain times to hand to the chiefs
presents, food, clothing or useful instruments, and they sought to
exceed one another in generosity. They met to build houses, to repair
them, or to construct the rock foundations of houses, according to
the importance of the chief, or Arii. They built the canoes, made
the nets, and did the fishing. The sea was divided into properties,
as was the land. The Arii had the reefs where the fish most abounded.

"War was declared with religious ceremonies. Sacrifices were the basis
of these ceremonies, and a human victim the most efficacious. The
augurs examined the entrails, the auspices, much as did the pagans
of old. Certain priests had certain duties. The Tahua Oripo, night
runners, reported the movements of the enemy. They were professional
war spies, and they acquired a marvelous ability. Sometimes they were
able to lead their party so as to surprise the enemy and slaughter
them, but usually there were preliminaries to war which warned the
other side. A herald was sent in the costume of a great warrior. He
was of high birth or famous for his fighting. He delivered himself of
his mission ceremoniously, and was never attacked. Every locality had
its war-chants, its songs of defiance. Today only a few fragments
survive. Wars were waged mostly on account of the ambitions of
princes, as to-day in Europe and Asia. But the effort of Christianity
to oust paganism in Tahiti brought about many sanguinary conflicts,
and plainly God was with the missionaries, who caused the battles. In
1815 the Battle of Feipi gave Tahiti to Pomare the Great, and to the
Protestant ministers, who were his backers. Over three hundred were
killed. A woman, the queen of the island of Huahine, commanded in
the absence of Pomare.

"Sometimes after a battle the vanquished sent heralds to signify their
yielding and to know the wish of the victor; they disbanded their
troops, left their arms on the field, and the war was over. Usually
the defeated warriors were allowed to return home without more ado
after their confession of failure, but when the rage was great, the
victors, with furious cries, gave the signal of carnage, and slew
all they met. If the prince beaten escaped the first consequences
of the rout, he was safe and lost only a portion of his territory,
and in some wars only his prestige. He remained respected, and his
privileges were about the same as before. The Arii were all of the
same tribe, all related, and though they ruled different districts
and valleys, and fought one another, they would not degrade one of
their own family and rank. Thus power remained in the same families,
princes, chiefs, and priests, and only the Raatira and the Manahune,
the bourgeoisie and the commoners, really suffered.

"We copied you in Europe," I interposed. "There the kings, kaisers,
and czars took care not to lower the dignity of monarchy, and are
virtually all related. None of them ever deposed another of long
enthroning, and none of them has been killed in a battle in centuries."

"Aue!" exclaimed the chief. "Ioba said, 'Wisdom is no longer with
the old.'"

"Job talked like a revolutionist," I said. "That would be treason
among the diplomats and lawyers of Europe and America. How did women
get along in your father's day?"

Tetuanui got up to stretch his huge body. He had been squatting on
his haunches for an hour.

"Let Haamoura, my wife, say as to them," he returned laughingly. "She
knows all the old ways. I must see if the nets are to be stretched

Mme. Tetuanui and I had a lengthy confabulation. No Tahitian was
better informed than she upon the former status of her sex in Tahiti,
and from her I gained a lively summary.

Woman was inferior among the old Tahitians. Man had here as everywhere
so ordained, and religion had fixed her position by taboos, as among
the Hebrews. She was often merely a servant, yet she maintained a
unique sex freedom. Her body was her own, and not her husband's as in
the English common law. She prepared the man's food and never sat at
meals with him. If she ate at the same time, which was seldom, she sat
at a distance, but near enough to hear his commands. It is so to-day
when Tahitian men gather for feasting without foreigners, as in the
Philippines, Japan, and China, and in many European countries. The
Hausfrau of the small merchant, laborer, or farmer is a drudge. In
Japan the woman remains subject to the hourly whims and wants of her
husband, and to his frequent infidelity, though she is true to him.

The Tahiti wife had the care of the canoe, the paddles, and all the
fishing and hunting things, and she accompanied her husband often in
these pursuits. The husband had to make the fire, prepare the oven,
kill the pig or dog or fowl, and do the outside chores; but she
had a lesser position than he at all public observances. She could
not become a priest or enter the temple, but must remain always at
a distance from the marae. Yet she could be a queen or a chiefess,
and as such was as powerful as a man, making war in person, and often
leading her troops valiantly. The Tahitian women were nearly as strong
as the men and mentally their full equal. They wound their husbands
around their fingers or treated them cruelly in many instances,
astonishing the whites by their independence. Only religion, the
taboos, held them in any restraint.

If a queen bore a child by an unknown father, the child was as royal
as if the descendant of a long line of kings; but if the father was
notoriously a commoner, the child remained a prince, though not so high
of rank as if his father had been an Arii. If a king had children by
a woman beneath his rank, they had no rights from their father, but
held a mixed position proportioned to the power of the father. He
established their rank by his personal prestige, as the kings of
Europe forced their bastards on the courts. Sixty years ago Tamatoa,
King of Raiatea of the Society Islands, himself the highest born of
all the chiefs of the archipelago, was forced to adopt a child of
King Pomare of Tahiti to succeed him because his own children were
by a woman of the people.

The woman thus had an advantage over the man in being able to transmit
her rank to her children, a survival of the matriarchate custom once
ruling the world. Polygamy was rarely indulged, though not forbidden. A
chief here and there might have two or three wives. Women were allowed
only one husband, but often avowed lovers were tolerated, if not
feared, by the husband. Mr. Banks, president of the Royal Astronomical
Society of England, was horrified after he had made love to Queen
Oberea of Papara in the absence of her husband to find her attendant
was a cavaliere servente. His Anglican morals were shocked. He had
thought himself the only male sinner by her complacence.

Before Christianity was forced on them, the Tahitians married in
the same rank, and with considerable right to choice. The tie might
be dissolved by the same authority binding it, the chief or head
of the clan. Inequality of rank, or near consanguinity, were the
only obstacles to marriage. Rank might be overcome, but never the
other. It was as in China, where Confucius himself laid down the law:
"A man in taking a wife does not choose one of the same surname as
himself." And in one of the Chinese commentaries the following reason
is given for this law: "When husband and wife are of the same surname,
their children do not do well and multiply." The prohibited degrees
were more distant than among us. It was a horror of incest that had
led to the general custom all over Polynesia of exchanging children
for adoption. Only this explanation could reconcile it with the
almost superstitious love the Polynesian father and mother have for
children. Their feeling surpasses the parental affection prevailing
in the remainder of the world, yet adoption is a stronger bond than
blood. No child was raised by its own genitors. The Tetuanuis had
brought up twenty-five, all freely given them at birth or after
weaning. The taboo was strict.

Illegitimate children were as welcome as others. The husband might
have been so jealous as to meditate killing his wife; but when her
child was born, although he knew it to be a bastard, he gave it the
same love and care as his own. There were exceptions, but one might
cite on the opposite side innumerable cases where, despite the most
open adultery, the husband has taken his wife's offspring for his
own. It was well that this was so, for adultery was so habitual that
were bastards not made welcome, there would have been much suffering
by children, innocent themselves. Here, as in civilization, men love
their bastards often more than their legitimate sons and daughters.

This prohibition against keeping one's own must have arisen when
there were very few inhabitants in Tahiti, for it is the outcome of a
natural guarding against sexual relationship in tribes or communities
where all are thrown together intimately, and stringent opposition
to such practices needed to prevent promiscuity. One must look, as
in the case of taboos, deeper than the surface for the beginning of
this custom of trading babies, for that is what it often amounted
to--friends exchanging offspring as they might canoes.

It is said that the powerful sentiment among historical nations
opposing marriage between brother and sister and other close kindred
originated in the desire to make such connections odious, to preserve
virtue and decency among those in hourly intimacy. Monarchs and
nations long refused to bend to it. The Ptolemies and Pharaohs
married incestuously; Cleopatra, her brother. The Ptolemies married
their daughters, as did Artaxerxes, who wedded Atossa. The Ballinese
married twins of different sex. Abraham married his half-sister
by the same father. Moses's father married his aunt. Jacob took
to wife two sisters, his own cousins. In Great Russia until this
century a father married his son to a young woman, and then claimed
her as his concubine. When a son grew up, he followed his father's
example, though his wife was old and with many children. The Tamils
of southeast India, the Malaialais of the Kollimallais hills, have the
same custom. Inbreeding maintains a fineness of breed, but at the cost
of its vigor. That inbreeding is harmful is fairly certain. Examples
to the contrary are numerous in human and animal life. More than nine
hundred residents of Norfolk Island are descendants of the mutineers of
the British ship Bounty. They were begat by eight of the mutineers, and
intermarried for a century. They show no deterioration from this cause.

Hardly any crime is more loathed than incest, but the abomination grew
slowly as man progressed. Such ties have been abhorrent for long in
most countries. A belief that incestuous children were weak mentally
or physically came much later in the ages. The Polynesians must have
remarked that inbreeding accentuated the faults in a strain, making
for an accumulation of them. This would be a very far advance in human
observation; but the Polynesian, by experience, or knowledge brought
from his old Asiatic home, must have held such a theory, and sought
in the system of adoption, and in not bringing up consanguineous
children together, to ward off such misfortune. This at least is a
plausible reason for such an unnatural practice among a people so
unquestionably child-lovers.

The Marquesans had no totemism to save them. There were no exogamous
taboos. The tribe or clan was the chief unit, not the family. The
phratry tie was stronger than that of the father and mother. In the
totem scheme of other islands and continental groups all the women
of his mother's totem were taboo to a man, though their relationship
might be remote. Yet as husband and wife had different totems, and
children took their mothers' totems, a man might in rare instances,
even with this barrier, wed his own daughter. This has happened in
Buka and in North Bougainville.

The plan of adoption in Polynesia is matched to a degree by the
fosterage common in Ireland in early days. There children were sent
to be reared in the families of fellow-clansmen of wealth. At a year
they left their own thresholds, and their fosterage ended only at
marriage. Every fostered person was under obligation to provide for
the old age of his foster-parents, and the affection arising from
this relationship was usually greater and regarded more sacred than
that of blood relationship. This is true to-day of the Tahitians.

"But children nowadays are often brought up by their own parents,"
said Mme. Tetuanui, rising to prepare the dejeuner, and I for a swim
in the lagoon, "and if adopted, they go from one home to the other
as they will. Parents are not as willing as before to let go their
children; for whereas my grandmother had fifteen, I have none, and few
of us have many. We are made sterile by your civilization. Tetuanui
and I were happy and able to persuade the mothers of twenty-five to
give their infants to us because we were childless and were chiefs
and well-to-do. Our race is passing so fast through the miseries the
white has brought us that little ones are as precious as life itself."

Chapter XVIII

The reef and the lagoon--Wonders of marine life--Fishing with spears
and nets--Sponges and hermit crabs--Fish of many colors--Ancient
canoes of Tahiti--A visit to Vaihiria and legends told there.

About a mile from the beach was the reef, on which the breakers
beat clamorously or almost inaudibly, depending on the wind and the
faraway surge of the seas. The Passe of Rautirare afforded entrance
for small vessels. It was an opening in the wall about the island
caused by the Vairahaha, the stream which emptied into the lagoon at
our door, and the fresh waters of which had ages ago prevented the
coral zooephytes from building a structure there, as at Papeete and
all other passages. Fresh water did not agree with these miraculous
architects whose material was their own skeletons.

I went out toward the reef many mornings in a little canoe that
Tiura, the eldest son of the chief, loaned me. I carried from the
house a paddle and three harpoons of different sizes. The canoe had
an outrigger and was very small, so that it moved fast through the
usually still lagoon, propelled by the broad-bladed paddle. In the
bottom of it might be an inch of water, for occasionally I shipped a
tiny wave, but wetness was no bother in this delicious climate; a pareu
was easily removed if vexatious and a cocoanut-shell was an ample bale.

Low tide was at sunrise, and warmed with my fruit and coffee, and
the happy ia ora na, Maru! of the family, I paddled to the reef with
never-failing expectation of new wonders. The marine life of the
Tahiti reef is richer than anywhere in these seas, as the soil of
the island is more bountiful.

At that state of the tide the surf barely broke upon the reef, and,
almost uncovered, its treasures were exposed for a little while as
if especially for me. The reef itself was a marvel of contrivance by
the blind animals which had died to raise it. If I had been brought
to it hooded, and known nothing of such phenomena, I would have sworn
it was an old concrete levee. The top was about fifty feet wide, as
level as a floor, pitted with innumerable holes, the hiding-places of
millions of living forms which fed on one another, and were continually
replenished by the rolling billows. The wall of the reef opposed to
the sea was a rough slope from the summit to the bottom, buttressed
against the attacks of storms, and defended by chevaux-de-frise
such as the Americans sank in the Hudson River in 1777. I ventured
cautiously over the edge. A student of ancient tactics would have
found there all the old defenses in coral--caltrops, and abatis,
molded in dark-gray coral, battered and shot-marked. It was a dream
of a sunken city wall of old Syracuse, and conjured up a vision of
the hoary Archimedes upon it before the inundation, directing the
destruction, by his burning-glass, of the enemy's ships. The side
of the reef toward the land was as sheer as an engineer could make
it with a plumb-line. The coral animals had as accurate a measure of
the vertical as of defense against the ocean.

Over this levee rolled or slid a dozen kinds of shellfish spying
out refuges against the breakers and their brother enemies in the
troughs and holes of the coral floor. With my small spears I pried
out dozens of them, Mao, starfish, clams, oysters, furbelowed clams,
sea-urchins, and sponges. The mao is the turbo, the queer gastropod
sold in the market in Papeete. He lives in a beautiful spiral shell,
and has attached to him a round piece of polished shell, blue, green,
brown, or yellow, which he puts aside when he wishes to feed on the
morsels passing his door, and pulls shut when he wants privacy. He fits
himself tightly into a hollow in the reef and dozes away the hours
behind his shield, but ready to open it instantly at the perception
of his favorite food. The mao was wedged in the recess so cleverly
that it was difficult to extract him by my hand alone. His portal
I kept after eating him raw or cooked, to have set in silver as an
exquisite souvenir of my visit. These jewels studded the drinking
cups from which the Vikings drank "Skoal to the Northland!"

The starfish were magnificent, of many colors, and one with fifteen
arms covered with sharp, gray spines, and underneath pale yellow,
fleshy feelers with suckers like a sea-anemone. These were as pliant
as rubber in the water, but, when long out, as hard as stone. The
sea-urchins were of many kinds, some with large spikes, as firm as
rock, and others almost as brittle as glass, their needles, half
a dozen inches long and sharp, dangerous to step on even with my
rubber-soled, canvas shoes. All hues were these urchins, blood-red
and heavenly blue, almost black, and as white as snow, the last with
a double-star etched upon his shell. Others were round like blow-fish,
with their spickles at every angle, menacing in look.

The clams and oysters were small, except the furbelowed clam, whose
shell is fluted, and who grows to an immense size in the atolls of
the Paumotus. I always ate my fill of these delicacies raw as I walked
along the reef, smashing the shells to get at the inmates.

When the tide was approaching high or when it began to ebb I had
immortal experiences upon the reef. I went with Tiura or with the chief
and a party, and found the waves dashing and foaming upon the natural
mole, sweeping over it with the noise of thunder, crashing upon the
sloping front, and riding their white steeds over the solid flagging
to the lower lagoon. In this smother of water we stood knee-deep,
receiving its buffets upon our waists and the spray upon our faces,
and watched for the fish that were carried upon its crests. With
spears couched, we waited the flying chance to arrest them upon the
points, a hazardous game, for often they were powerful creatures,
and were hurled against us with threatening impact.

But inspiring as was this sport at sunset or by moonlight, it was even
more exciting when we trod the reef with torches of dried reeds or
leaves or candlenuts threaded upon the spines of cocoanut-leaves,
and lanced the fish that were drawn by the lure of the lights,
or which we saw by their glare passing over the reef. The gleam of
the torches, the blackness all about, the masterful figures of the
Tahitians, the cries of warning, the laughter, the shouts of triumph,
and the melancholy himenes, the softness and warmth of the water,
the uncanny feel of living things about one's feet and body, the
imaginative shudder of fear at shark or octopus or other terrible
brute of the sea, the singing journey home in the canoes, and the
joyous landing and counting of the catch--all these were things
never to be forgotten, pictures to be unveiled in drabber scenes or
on white nights of sleeplessness.

The sponges were oddities hard to recognize as the tender toilet
article. Some were soft and some were full of grit. The grit was
their skeletons, for every sponge has a skeleton except three or four
very low specimens, and some without personal skeletons import them
by attraction and make up a frame from foreign bodies. I examined
and admired them, reasoning that I myself, in the debut of living
creatures, was close in appearance to one; but my basic interest in
them was to sit on them.

Many times I went only to where the coral began, half-way to the
reef. This was away from the path of the Vairahaha River, and where
the coral souls had manifestly indulged a thousand fancies in contour
and color. After the million years of their labor in throwing up the
bastion of the reef, with all its architectural niceties, they had
found in the repose behind it opportunities for the indulgence of
their artistry. They were the sculptors, painters, and gardeners of
the lagoon.

I brought with me a lunette, the diver's aid, a four-sided wooden
frame fifteen inches each way, with a bottom of glass and no top. I
stuck my head in the box and looked through the glass, which I
thrust below the surface, thus evading the opaqueness or distortion
caused by the ripples. One did not need this invention ordinarily,
for the water was as clear as air when undisturbed, and the garden of
the sea gods was a brilliant and moving spectacle below my drifting
canoe. One must be a child again to see all of it; the magic shapes,
the haunting tints, the fairy forms. The gardener who had directed the
growth of the aquarium believed in kelpies, undines, and mermaids, and
had made for them the superbest playground conceivable even by sprites.

There were trees, bushes, and plants of yellow and white coral,
of scarlet corallins, dahlias and roses, cabbages and cauliflowers
simulated perfectly, lilies and heaps of precious stones. On flat
tables were starfish lazying at full width, strewn shells, and
hermit-crabs entering and leaving their captured homes. Mauve and
primrose, pink and blue, green and brown, the coral plants nodded in
the glittering light that filtered through the translucent brine. They
were alive, all these things, as were the sponges, with stomachs
and reactions, and impulses to perpetuate their species and to be
beautiful. They had no relation to me except as I had to nature, but
they were my beginnings, my simple ancestors who had stayed simple
and unminded, and I was to count those hours happy when I communed
with them.

Taken from their element they died, but left their mold, to harden
in the air they could not breathe, and to amaze the less fortunate
people who could not see them in their own estate. The seaweeds
grew among them, green or brown, more primordial than the corals,
with less of organic life, vegetables and not animals, but eager,
too, for expression in their motions, their increase in size, and
their continuance through posterity. All these were the display of
the kindness of the same spirit who rode the thunder, who permitted
a million babes to starve, who stirred in men the madness to slay a
myriad of their brothers, and who fixed the countless stars in the
firmament to guide them in the darkness.

The hermit-crabs drew my minute attention, and I anchored my canoe
and with the lunette watched them by the hour. They were as provident
and as handy--with claws--as the bee that stores honey. The hermit
inhabits the vacant shells of other mollusks, entering one soon after
birth, sometimes finding them untenanted, and sometimes killing the
rightful occupant, and changing his house as he grows. I had been
surprised to see small and large shells moving fast over the reef,
and on the beach at the water's-edge; shells as big as my thumbnail
and nearly as big as my head. I seized one, and behold! the inmate was
walking on ten legs with the shell on his back, like a man carrying
a dog-house. I attempted to pull him out of his lodging, and he
was so firmly fastened to the interior by hooks on his belly that
he held on until he was torn asunder. His abdomen is soft and pulpy
and without protecting plates, as have other crabs, and he survived
only by his childhood custom of stealing a univalve abode, though
he murdered the honest tenant. In one I saw the large pincher of the
crab so drawn back as to form a door to the shell as perfect as the
original. When he felt growing pains the hermit-crab unhooked himself
from his ceiling and migrated in search of a more commodious dwelling.

Interesting as were these habits of the cenobite crustacean, his
keeping a policeman or two on guard on his roof, and moving them to
his successive domiciles, was more so. These policemen are anemones,
and I saw hermit crab-shells with three or four on them, and one even
in the mouth of the shell. When the anchorite was ready for a new
shell, he left his old one and examined the new ones acutely. Finding
one to suit his expected growth, he entered it belly first, and
transferred the anemone, by clawing and pulling loose its hold,
to the outside of his chosen shell. How skilfully this was done may
be judged by the fact that I could not get one free without tearing
the cup-like base which fastened it. The anemone assisted in the
operation by keeping its tentacles expanded, whereas it withdrew
them if any foreign object came near. The stinging cells of the
anemone prevent fishes from attacking the hermit, and that is the
reason of his care for the parasite. It is the commensalism of the
struggle for existence, learned not by the individual crab, but by
his race. Some crabs wield an anemone firmly grasped in each claw,
the stinging nematocysts of the parasite warding off the devilish
octopus, and the anemone having a share of the crab's meals and the
pleasure of vicarious transportation. The anemone at the mouth of
the shell keeps guard at the weakest spot of the hermit's armor.

These sea-anemones themselves are mysterious evidences of the gradual
advance of organisms from the slime to the poem. They are animals,
and attach themselves by a muscular base to the rocks or shells,
or are as free-swimming as perch. I saw them two feet in diameter,
seeming all vegetable, some like chrysanthemums and some resembling
embroidered pin-cushions. They were of many colors, and are of the
coral family.

In this wonderful sea garden, where lobsters, crabs, sea-urchins,
turbos, starfish, and hundreds of other sentient beings lived, I saw
a thousand true scaled fish, most of them highly colored, and many
so curiously marked, fashioned, and equipped with eccentric members
that I was startled into biblical phrases. In the market they were
strange enough, dead and on the marble slabs, or in green leaves, but
in the lagoon they were a kaleidoscope of complexions and shapes. They
were the lovely elves to complement the fantastic shellfish, yellow,
striped with violet; bright turquoise, with a gold collar; gold,
with broad bands of black terminating in winglike fins; scarlet,
with cobalt polka-dots; silver, with a rosy flush; glossy green,
dazzling crimson, black velvet, solid red.

They darted and flashed in and out of the caves in the coral, caressed
the sea-anemones, idled about the shells, avoided by dexterous
twistings and turnings a thousand collisions, and continued ever the
primary endeavor, the search for those particular bits of food their
appetites craved.

The effect upon me of all this splendor and grace of water life, as I
bent over the surface of the lagoon or walked with lunette among the
beds of coral, was, after the oft-repeated periods of bewilderment at
the gorgeousness and whimsicality of the universe, a deep rejoicing for
its prodigality of design and purpose, and a merry sorrow for those
who would inflict dogma and orthodoxy on a practical and heterodox
world. I leaned on the side of the canoe or on my spears and laughed
at the fools of cities, and at myself, who had been a fool among them
for most of my life. Just how this train of reasoning ran I cannot say,
but it moved inexorably at the contemplation of the sublime radiancy
of the vivarium of the Mataiea lagoon. It always appeared a symbol of
the cosmic energy which poured the bounty of rain upon the sea as upon
the thirsty earth, and which is beyond good and evil as we reckon them.

When I became myself the hunter for fish, and stood upon the hummocks
of coral in water up to my waist or neck, lunette in one hand
and spears in another, I saw a different aspect of the garden. I,
naked among the coral and the plants, must have looked to them like
a frightful demon, white and without scales, a horrible devil-fish,
my arms and legs glabrous tentacles, and the lunette and spears adding
to my hideousness and foul menace. I know that was the impression I
made on the rainbow-fish, for they fled within the caves, and only by
peeping in through the glass could I see them to drive the spear into
them. These slender spears were a dozen feet of light, tough wood, two
of them with single iron points two feet long, and a third fitted with
ten fine-pointed darning-needles. For small fish I used the latter,
and in thrusting into a school was pretty sure to impale one or two.

I tied the rope of pandanus-leaves about my shoulder, and pulled the
canoe along with me as a creel, tossing the fish into it as I took
them. The first seven were often of different kinds, and I did not
despise the yellow and black eels, the lobsters, the mao, or the
oysters and clams.

I would rest my spears in the canoe, and meander slowly and
meditatively over the coral terraces, repeating verses:

We wandered where the dreamy palm
Murmured above the sleepy wave;
And through the waters clear and calm
Looked down into the coral cave
Whose echoes never had been stirred
By breath of man or song of bird.

When sky and wind were propitious, and other signs familiar to the
Maori indicated that fish were plentiful in the lagoon, the whole
village dragged the net. This belonged to the chief, who for his
ownership received a percentage of the catch. The net was a hundred
and fifty feet long, and was carried out by a dozen canoes or by half
a hundred or more men and women, who let it sink to the bottom when
up to their necks in water. They then approached the shore with the
net in a half-circle, carrying it over the coral heaps, and artfully
driving into it all the fish they encountered. In shallow water others
waited with little baskets, and, scooping up the fish from the net,
emptied them into larger baskets slung from their waists. These
fish were not very big, but when larger ones were netted, marksmen
with spears waited in the shallows to kill any that leaped from the
seine. If the haul was bigger than the needs of the village, the
overplus was sent to the market in Papeete, or kept in huge anchored,
floating baskets of wicker. These fishermen had been heart and soul
in the tahatai oneone, the fish strike, and when we had poor luck,
often the best spearsman led the clan in the air taught them by the
leader whom they remembered with pride and affection:

Hayrahrooyah! I'm a boom! Hayrahrooyah! Boomagay!

They associated the air and words with the fish, and deep down in their
primitive hearts thought it an incantation, such as their tahutahu,
the sorcerers of the island, spoke of old.

"Tellee haapao maitai! Kelly was a wise man!" they would lament.

Every one used a fine casting-net when fishing alone along the
shores. The net was weighted, and was thrown over schools of small
fish so dexterously that hundreds were snared in one fling. The tiniest
fish were the size of matches. When cooked with a paste, they were as
dainty as whitebait served at Greenwich to a London gourmet, and sung
by Shakespere. The nets were plaited of the fibers of the hibiscus,
banyan, or pandanus-bark, and when a mighty catch was expected, one
of small mesh was laid inside a net of stronger and coarser make,
to intercept any large fish that might break through the first line
of offense. The weights were stones wrapped in cocoanut-fiber, and
the floats were of the buoyant hibiscus-wood. In front of the grounds
of the chefferie there hung on the trees a long line of nets drying
in the breeze.

Before a feast, if there were not conditions auspicious for a tuu
i te upea toro, a dragging of the seine, the village was occupied
during the day or the wind was unfavorable, we went out at night after
the trades had died down, and in a dozen or twenty canoes we speared
them by torchlight. One was at the paddle, and the other at the prow,
with uplifted flambeau, searching the waters for the fleeing shadows
beneath, and launching the dart at the exact instant of proximity. The
congregation of lights, the lapping of the waves, and perhaps the
very gathering of humans excited the fish. They leaped and splashed,
and unaware of their betrayal of their presence to slayers, informed
our eyes and ears of their whereabouts. I could not compete with
the Tahitians with the spears, and held a paddle, and that slight
occupation gave me time and thought for the scene. The torches threw
a lurid glare upon the exaggerated, semi-nude figures of the giant
bronzes on the beaks of the pirogues, their arms raised in the poise
of the weapon, each outlined against the darkness of the night,
glorious avatars yet of their race that had been so mighty and was
so soon to pass from the wave.

"Maru," said the chief, when we sat on the mats at late supper
after a return from the lagoon, "it is a pity you were not here
when the Tahitians had their 'ar'ia and pahi, our large canoes for
navigating on the moana faa aro, the landless sea. The 'ar'ia was a
double canoe, each seventy feet long, high in the stern, and lashed
together, outrigger to outrigger. A stout, broad platform was held
firm between the canoes with many lashings of sennit, a strong, but
yielding, framework on which was a small house of straw where the
crew lived. We had no nails, but we used wooden pegs and thousands of
cocoanut-fiber ropes, so that everything, aloft and alow, was taut,
but giving in the toss of the sea.

"The pahi was eighty feet long, broad in the middle, very carefully
and neatly planked over inside, forming a rude bulkhead or inner
casing, and had a lofty carved stem rising into one or two posts,
terminating in a human form. It was in these vessels that we made the
long journeys from island to island, the migrations and the descents
upon other Polynesian peoples in war. Both the 'ar'ia and the pahi
were propelled by a huge 'i'e, or mat sail of pandanus-leaves shaped
like a leg of a fat hog. In modern times these great canoes were built
in Bora-Bora, the island the Hawaiians say they came from, and the
name of which means 'Land of the Big House Canoes.' With a good wind
we could sail a hundred and twenty miles a day in those vessels. We
would attend the fa'a-Rua, which we now call the ha'a-Piti, the wind
that blows both ways, for we waited for the northeast or southwest
trade-winds according to the direction we made for."

The chief lifted his glass of wine, and chanted:

"Aue mouna, mouna o Havaii!
Havaii tupu ai te ahi veavea!"

"Hail! mighty mountains, mountains of Havaii!
Havaii where the red, flaming fire shoots up high!"

Brooke had been to Lake Vaihiria, and suggested that I go. The
excursion had been long in my mind, for every time an eel was caught
or served some one exclaimed, "Aue! You should see the eels in
Vaihiria. But, be careful!"

The warning referred to the dangers of the climb, but also to a
mysterious menace of tupapaus, or ghosts. I had seen a canoe with the
head of an eel carved in wood, and had heard often a hesitant reference
to a legend of metempsychosis, of a human and eel transmigration. The
chief, after much persuasion, said that the clans of Mataiea had always
believed they were descended directly from eels; that an eel of Lake
Vaihiria had been the progenitor of all the people of the valley. A
vahine of another clan had been overcome by the eel's sorcery, as
Mother Eve by the serpent, which doubtless was an eel.

As the eel and the water-snakes are the only serpentine animals in
Tahiti, his reasoning was sound. The lake lies high in the mountains,
at the very summit of the valley of Mataiea, and overlooks the
Great Valley of Papenoo, owned by Count Polonsky, the cultivated

Tiura, the chief's oldest adopted son, arranged for the journey, and
led the four of us who made it. One was an Australian, a doctor of the
bush country of Queensland, in his thirties, very tall, and strong,
though thin. He was a guest of the chief, and had walked entirely
around Tahiti, barefooted, as had Mr. and Mrs. Robert Louis Stevenson,
to the consternation of the conservative English residents of Tahiti,
who wanted them to live in Papeete and hold teas. Two pleasant native
youths went with us to carry our necessities.

One cannot make the trip in the wet season, usually, but we had had
a period of quite dry weather, and were nearing the end of the rainy
period. The beginning of the Valley of Vaihiria, the next to that of
Mataiea, was reached within an hour by the crooked road that leaves the
beach. The valley was very fertile, and its picturesqueness a foretaste
of the heights. The brook that ran through it murmured that it, too,
climbed to the mountains, and would be our music on the way. The
ascent was difficult and wearisome. We walked through long grass,
over great rocks, and pulled ourselves around huge trees. The birds,
so rare near the sea-shore, sang to us, and we saw many nests of fine
moss. The scenery was different from that of the Valley of Fautaua,
which I had climbed with Fragrance of the Jasmine, more rugged, and
less captivating, yet beautiful and inspiring. The enormous blocks
of basalt often poised upon a point alarmed us, and Tiura said that
many times they had crashed down into the abyss. We saw a score of
white cascades. It seemed:

A land of streams. Some like a downward smoke,
Slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn, did go;
And some through wavering lights and shadows broke,
Rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam below.

We arrived at a plateau after seven hours of hard toil, almost all
the time pursuing a rocky path: it was the crown of the mountain
and the borders of the lake. Though we had surmounted only thirteen
hundred feet of vertically, we had come by such steeps that we
could not wait an instant before throwing off our light garments
and plunging into the water. The lake occupied an extinct crater,
surrounded by four mountains unequally raised up--Tetufera, Urufaa,
Purahu, and Terouotupo. It is half a mile long and a third wide,
of curious shape, the banks making it appear in the dusk like a babe
in swaddling-clothes with its arms outside the band. A great natural
reservoir, fed by many subterranean springs, it gives birth to many
others at the feet of the mountains, in Mataiea and Papeari.

After a repast, it being already late, we built a house to sleep in
away from the dews of the heights, and Tiura recalled that the first
Pomare took his name from a time when he had spent the night here and
coughed from the exposure. His followers had spoken of the po mare,
meaning literally, night cough, and the euphony pleased the king so
that he adopted the name and bequeathed it to four successors. All
these Polynesians took their names at birth or later from incidents
in their own or others' lives, as my own chief's--"Deal Coffin," from
a relative being buried in a sailor's chest; "Press Me" because the
chief so named had heard these as the last word uttered by a dying
grandchild, and Dim Sight because his grandfather had weak eyes.

Taata Mata, the name of a charming Tahitian woman I knew, signifies
"Man's Eye," her own large eyes, perhaps, explaining the name, and
Mauu, the name borne by a Tahitian man of good family in Papeete,
"Moist." In all Polynesia one found picture names for people, as among
the American Indians, and as among all nations, though with Europeans
the meanings are forgotten. Moses means "Pulled out of the Water," or
"Water Baby." Some of our names of people and places have ridiculous
import in Tahiti. I remember Lovaina laughed immoderately, and called
all the maids to view a line in the Tiare Hotel register in which a
man had put himself down from "Omaha."

After we had eaten, we sat smoking in the darkness, I feeling very
close to the blue field of stars. In the tropics the mountains, even
so low as these, are impressive of a vast harmony of nature and of
kinship with the force that rumpled them with its mighty hand. They
have always inspired great thoughts. Moses framed in the mountains
the ten taboos of Israel, which we hold as sacred as did the chosen
people. Jesus made the mountains the seat of his most important acts,
and was there transfigured in glory.

We had been pointed out by Tiura a great crack in the precipice,
called Apoo Taria, the "Hole of the Ears." In the bloody struggles
of the ancient tribes here the conquerors cut off the ears of their
victims--some say their captives--and threw them in this hole.

"Because of those ears," said Tiura, "all the eels in this lake have
very large ears, and it is so because the father of all the Mataiea
folk was an eel. We shall see the eels to-morrow, but I must tell
you of the chief of the district of Arue, near Papeete, about which
M. Tourjee, the American, wrote the himene. The chief was married to
a strong woman of this district, and in those days there were so many
Tahitians that the mountains as well as the valleys were filled with
them. He had a pet puhi, an eel named Faaraianuu. The eel had his home
in a spring in the Arue district. The spring is there to this day."

"Oia ia! It is true!" I interjected. "I have seen it."

"One day," went on Tiura, "the chief remarked to his vahine that he
was starting up the mountain to see her grandparents. She wanted to go,
too, but he said that he would just hurry along, and be back in a day
or two. Against her will he went alone. He did come back in a day or
two, and to her questions replied that he had had a delightful visit
to her tupuna. After that he got the peu, the habit, of departing
for the mountains and remaining for hours daily. The chief's vahine
became anoenoe (curious) to see what was his real reason for making
these journeys every day. So she followed him secretly. She came
to the mountain, where she saw him stop by an umu, a native oven he
had evidently built before. He took out a bamboo, the kind in which
we cooked small pieces of meat, and she saw him draw out a piece of
meat and heard him say 'Maitai! Good!' as he ate it. She watched him
closely, and was anxious to know what meat he had cooked, for he had
said nothing about it.

"When he had left, she rushed to the oven, opened the bamboo, and
saw on pieces of meat the special tattoomarks of the thighs of her
grandmother and grandfather. Aue! She was riri. She fell to the earth
and wept, and then she was angry. She made up her mind to get even
with her false tane, and to hurt him the worst way possible. She
hurried to his spring by their home in Arue, and caught his pet eel,
Faaraianuu, who was sunning himself on the surface. She slashed him
with her knife of pearl shell, and baked him in an umu. She ate his
tail at once and put the remainder of the eel in a calabash. Then
she left, with the ipu in her hand, for Lake Vaihiria."

Tiura halted his tale a minute to point out the constellation of the
Scorpion, and to say, "Those stars are Pipiri Ma, the children, who
lived at Mataiea long ago. That is a strange story of their leaving
their parents' house for the sky!"

"Aue! Tiura," said I, "the stars are fixed, but there was the vahine
with all but the tail of Faaraianuu in her ipu, walking toward this
very spot. What became of her?"

The son of Tetuanui smiled, and continued:

"On her way she stopped to see the sorcerer, Tahu-Tahu and his
vahine. They were friends. After a paraparau, the usual gossip of
women, they asked her what she had in her calabash, and she replied,
'Playthings.' Then they told her her journey would be unsuccessful,
but she kept on to this lake and put the remains of the eel in the
water, right here where we are. But the eel would not stay in the
lake, and though time and again she threw him in, he always came
out. Finally she put him back in her ipu and returned to the house
of Tahu-Tahu. She told her misfortune, and Tahu-Tahu made passes and
thrashed about with the sacred ti-leaves, and commanded her to put
Faaraianuu in the lake again. This she did, and he stayed, but even
now, if you put a cocoanut in this lake at this spot, it will come
out at the spring in Arue. The eel still has power over that spring."

Tiura spoke in Tahitian and French, and I handed on his narrative.

"The eel in Tahiti, from what I hear, has seen better days,"
commented the Queensland doctor. "All over the world the primitive
people endowed this humble form of animal--the serpentine--with a
cunning and supernatural power surpassing that of the four-footed
creatures. I think it was because in the cradle of the human family
there were so many hurts from the bites of snakes and sea-eels--they
couldn't guard against them--that man salved his wounds by crediting
his enemy with devilish qualities. That's the probable origin of the
garden of Eden myth."

Again Tiura spoke of the Scorpion in the sky, and I knew he desired
to talk of Pipiri Ma. The other Tahitians were already under the roof
on their backs, upon the soft bed of dried leaves gathered by them
for all of us, but the long, lean physician listened with unabated
interest. He had run away for a change from the desert-like interior
of his vast island, where he treated the ills of a large territory
of sheep-herders, and to be on this mountain under such a benignant
canopy, and to hear the folk-lore of the most fascinating race on
earth, was to him worth foregoing sleep all night.

Tiura assumed a serious pose for the divulgement of secret lore. His
language became grandiose, as if he repeated verbatim a rune of
his ancestors:

"We Maoris lived at that time in the great peace of our long, quiet
years. No outside influence, no evil wind, troubled our dreams. The
men and women were hinuhinu, of high souls. At the head of the valley,
in a grove of breadfruit, lived Taua a Tiaroroa, his vahine Rehua,
and their two children, whose bodies were as round as the breadfuit,
and whose eyes were like the black borders of the pearl-shells of the
Conquered atolls. They were named Pipiri and Rehua iti, but were known
as Pipiri Ma, the inseparables. One night when the moon, Avae, was
at the height of its brilliancy, Taua and Rehua trod the green path
to the sea. They lifted their canoe from its couch upon the grass,
and with lighted torch of cocoanut-leaves glided toward the center
of the lagoon.

"The woman stood motionless at the prow, and from her right hand
issued the flames of their torch with a hissing sound--the flames
which fell later in smoky clouds along the shore. A multitude of fish
of strange form, fascinated by the blinding light, swam curiously
about the canoe like butterflies. Taua stopped padpling, and directed
his twelve-pronged harpoon toward the biggest fish. With a quick and
powerful stroke the heavy harpoon shot like an arow from his hand
and pierced the flashing scales. Soon the baskets of purau-fiber
were filled, and they took back the canoe to its resting-place,
and returned to their house, again treading the emerald trail which
shone bright under the flooding moon. On the red-hot stones of the
umu the fish grew golden, and sent forth a sweet odor which exceeded
in deliciousness even the smell of monoi, the ointment of the oil of
the cocoanut and crushed blossoms. Pipiri Ma rolled upon their soft
mats, and their eyes opened with thoughts of a bountiful meal. They
awaited with hearts of joy the moment when their mother would come
to take them to the cook-house, the fare umu.

"The parents did not come to them. The minutes passed slowly in the
silence, counted by beats of their hearts. Yet their mother was not
far away. They heard the noise of the dried purau-leaves as they were
placed on the grass. They distinguished the sound of the breadfruit
as they rolled dully upon the large leaves, and then the silvery
sound of cups filled with pape miti and the miti noanoa from which a
pleasant aroma arose. They heard also the freeing of the cocoanuts
from their hairy covering to release their limpid nectar. On their
mats the children became restless and began to cry. Their eyes filled
with bitter tears, and their throats choked with painful sobs.

"'All is ready,' said Rehua, gladly, to her husband, 'but before we
eat, go and wake our little ones so dear to us.'

"Taua was afraid to break the sweet sleep of the babies. He hesitated
and said:

"'No, do not let us wake them. They sleep so soundly now.'

"Pipiri Ma heard these touching words of their father. Why was he
afraid to wake them to-night when always they ate the fish with their
parents--the fish just from the sea and golden from the umu? Had the
love of their father been so soon lost to them, as under the foul
breath of a demon that may have wandered about their home?

"Taua eats and enjoys his meal, but Rehua is distracted. A cloud
gathers on her brow, and her eyes, full of sadness, are always toward
the house where the children are sleeping. The meal finished, she,
with her husband, hurry to the mats on which the children slept, but
the little ones had heard the noise of their feet upon the dewy leaves.

"'Haere atu! Let us go!' said the brother to the sister. The door is
closed, and with his slender arms he parts the light bamboo palings
which surround the house, and both flee through the opening.

"A long time they wandered. They followed the reaches of the
valley. They dipped their bruised feet in the amorous river that sang
as it crept toward the ocean. They broke through the twisted brush
which was shadowed by the giant leaves, and while they so hurried
they heard often the words of their parents, which the echoes of the
valley brought to their ears:

"'Come back! Come back to us, Pipiri Ma! Ma! Haere mai, haere mai,
Pipiri Ma!'

"And they called back from the depths of their bosoms, 'No, no; we
will never come back. The torchlight fishing will again yield the
children nothing.'

"They hid themselves on the highest mountains which caress the
sky with their misty locks. They climbed with great difficulty the
lower hills from which they looked down on the houses as small as a
sailing canoe on the horizon. They came upon a dark cave where the
tupapaus made their terrible noises, and in this cavern dwelt a tahu,
a sorcerer. They were afraid, but the sorcerer was kind, and when he
awoke, spoke so softly to them they thought they heard the sough of
the hupe, the wind of the night, out of the valley below them.

"When he spoke, the spirit with whom the tahu was familiar let down
a cloud and from it fell a fringe of varied hues. Pipiri Ma seized
the threads that looked the most seducing, threads of gold and rose,
and upon these they climbed to the skies. Their parents who saw them
as they ascended, begged them, 'Pipiri Ma, come back! Oh, come back
to us!' but the babes were already high in the heavens, higher than
Orohena, the loftiest mountain, and their voices came almost from
under the sun: 'No, we will never return. The fishing with the torches
might be bad again. It might not be good for the children.'

"Taua and Rehua went back to their hut in tears. Whenever the
torchlight fishing was bountiful, and the fish were glowing on the
hot stones of the umu, Rehua lifted sorrowful eyes toward the skies,
and vainly supplicated, 'Pipiri Ma, return to us!' and Taua answered,
shaking his head with a doleful and unbelieving nod, 'Alas! it is
over. Pipiri Ma will not come back, for one day the torchlight fishing
was bad for the children.'"

Tiura finished with a finger pointing to Antares, of the Scorpion

"That," he concluded, "is the cloud which was itself transformed."

The doctor shook out his pipe as we entered the flimsy hut.

"Sounds like it was written by a child who wanted a continuous
supply of sweets, but these people are so crazy on children that their
legends point a moral to parents and never to the kiddies. They reverse
'Honor thy father and mother.'"

In the morning the Valley of Vaihiria unrolled under the rays of
the sun like a spreading green carpet, and the sea in the distance,
a mirror, sent back the darts of the beams. After breakfast we built
a raft of banana-trunks, which we tied with lianas, and on it we
floated about to observe the big-eared eels. Except by the shore
the natives warned us against swimming for fear of these monsters,
but we were not disturbed. We looked into the dismal pit, Apo Taria,
and tumbled rocks down it.

"It has no bottom," said Tiura. "We have sounded it with our longest

The sun was now climbing high, and we began the descent, moving at a
fast pace, leaping, slipping and sliding, with the use of the rope,
and arriving at the Chefferie a little after noon.

The long draft of a cocoanut, a full quart of delicious, cooling
refreshment, and we were ready for the oysters and the fish and taro.

Chapter XIX

The Arioi, minstrels of the tropics--Lovaina tells of the
infanticide--Theories of depopulation--Methods of the Arioi--Destroyed
by missionaries.

Lovaina came out to Mataiea with the news and gossip of the capital. A
wretched tragedy had shocked the community. Pepe, the woman of
Tuatini, had buried her new-born infant alive in the garden of the
house opposite the Tiare Hotel. Lovaina was full of the horror of
it, but with a just appreciation of the crime as a happening worth
telling. The chefferie was filled with aues.

"Aue!" cried Haamoura, the chief's wife.

"Aue!" said the chief, and Rupert Brooke, with whom I had been

"Aue!" exclaimed O'Laughlin Considine, the Irish poet of New Zealand,
stout, bearded, crowned with a chaplet of sweet gardenias, and quoting
verses in Maori, Gaelic, and English.

There were laments in Tahitian by all about, sorrow that the mother
had so little loved her babe, that she had not brought it to Mataiea,
where Tetuanui and Haamoura or any of us would have adopted it. And
Lovaina said, in English for Considine, whom she had brought to
Mataiea, and for Brooke:

"She had five children by that Tuatini. He is custom-officer at
Makatea, phosphate island, near T'ytee. He been gone one year, an' she
get very fat, but she don' say one thing. Then she get letter speakin'
he come back nex' week. One ol' T'ytee woman she work for her to keep
all chil'ren clean, an' eat, an' she notice two day ago one mornin'
she more thin. She ask her, 'Where that babee?' She say the varua,
a bad devil, take it. The ol' woman remember she hear little cry in
night, an' when a girl live my hotel tell her she saw Pepe diggin'
in garden, she talk and talk, an' by 'n' by police come, an' fin'
babee under rose-bush. It dead, but Cassiou, he say, been breathe
when bury, because have air in lung. Then gendarme take hol' Pepe,
and she tell right out she 'fraid for her husban', an' when babee born
she go in night an' dig hole an' plant her babee under rosebush. Now,
maybe white people say that Pepe jus' like all T'ytee woman."

Lovaina wore a wine-colored peignoir, and in her red-brown hair
many strands of the diaphanous reva-reva, delicate and beautiful, a
beloved ornament taken from the young palm-leaf. O'Laughlin Considine
and Brooke were much concerned for the unhappy mother, and asked how
she was.

"She cut off her hair," answered Lovaina, "like I do when my l'i'l boy
was killed in cyclone nineteen huner' six. It never grow good after
like before." Her hair was quite two feet long and very luxuriant,
and like all Tahitian hair, simply in two plaits.

Brooke expressed his curiosity over what Lovaina had said, "jus'
like all T'ytee woman."

"Was that a custom of Tahiti mothers, to bury their babes alive at
birth?" he asked.

Lovaina blushed.

"Better you ask Tetuanui 'bout them Arioi," she replied confusedly.

The chief pleaded that he could not explain such a complicated matter
in French, and if he did, M. Considine would not understand that
language. But with the question raised, the conversation continued
about infanticide and depopulation. The chief quoted the death-sentence
upon his race pronounced by the Tahitian prophets centuries ago:

"E tupu te fau, et toro te farero, e mou te taata!"

"The hibiscus shall grow, the coral spread, and man shall cease!"

"There were, according to Captain Cook, sixty or seventy thousand
Tahitians on this island when the whites came," continued the chief,
sadly. "That number may have been too great, for perhaps Tooti
calculated the population of the whole island by the crowd that always
followed him, but there were several score thousand. Now I can count
the thousands on the fingers of one hand."

We talked of the sweeping away of the people of the Marquesas
Islands and of all the Polynesians. The Hawaiians are only twenty-two
thousand. When the haole set foot on shore there, he counted four
hundred thousand.

Time was when so great was the congestion in these islands, as in
the Marquesas and Hawaii, that the priests and chiefs instituted
devices for checking it. Infanticide seemed the easiest way to
prevent hurtful increase. Stringent rules were made against large
families. On some islands couples were limited to two children or
only one, and all others born were killed immediately. Race suicide
had here its simplest form. The Polynesian race must have grown to
very great numbers on every island they settled from Samoa to Hawaii,
and perhaps these numbers induced migrations. They doubtless grew to
threatening swarms before they began checking the increase. Thomas
Carver, professor of political economy at Harvard, says:

Even if the wants of the individual never expanded at all, it is quite
obvious that an indefinite increase in the number of individuals in
any locality would, sooner or later, result in scarcity and bring
them into conflict with nature, and, therefore, into conflict with
one another. That human populations are physiologically capable of
indefinite increase, if time be allotted, is admitted, and must be
admitted by any one who has given the slightest attention to the
subject. Among the non-economizing animals and plants, it is not the
limits of their procreative power but the limits of subsistence which
determine their numbers. Neither is it lack of procreative power which
limits numbers in the case of man, the economic animal. With him also
it is a question of subsistence, but of subsistence according to some
standard. Being gifted with economic foresight he will not multiply
beyond the point where he can maintain that standard which he considers
decent. But--and this is especially to be noted--so powerful are his
procreative and domestic instincts that he will multiply up to the
point where it is difficult to maintain whatever standard he has.

Instinct early taught society everywhere protection against the irksome
condition of too many people and too little food. The old were killed
or deserted in wanderings or migrations, and infanticide and abortion
practised, as they are commonly in Africa to-day. Six-sevenths of India
have for ages practised female infanticide, yet India increases two
millions annually, and famine stalks year in and year out. Fifteen
million Chinese are doomed to die of starvation in 1921, according
to official statements.

Able-bodied adults in their prime bear the burdens of society
everywhere. The elders and their children are a burden on them,
especially in primitive society, where capital is not amassed, and
food must be procured by some labor, either of the chase, fishing,
or gathering fruits and herbs. Only advance in economic power has
arrested infanticide. The Greeks thought it proper; the Romans,
too. The early Teutons exposed babes. The Chinese have always done so.

Procreation, if not a dominant passion, would probably have ceased
long ago, and the race perished. Individual and even national "race
suicide" in France and New England indicated the possibilities of
this tendency. The teachings of asceticism which had such power
among Christians until the sixteenth century are again heard under a
different guise in at least one of the modern cults most successful
in the United States. Neo-Malthusianism is found exemplified in the
two-child families of the nobles of France and Germany and the rich
of New England. Parents want to do more for children, and so have
fewer, and think proper contraception and even killing the foetus in
its early stages. Modern medicine has aided this. Many women in many
countries for ages have practised abortion in order not to spoil their
bodies by child-bearing. To-day the demands of fashion and of social
pleasures have caused large families to be considered even vulgar
among the extremists in the mode. Organizations incited by the new
feminism send heralds of contraception schemes on lecture tours to
instruct the proletariat, and brave women to go to prison for giving
the prescription. The well-to-do have always been cognizant of it.

The Tahitians have ever been adoring of little ones, and if
their annals are stained by the blood of innumerable innocents
murdered at birth, let it be remembered that it was a law, and not a
choice of parents--a law induced by the sternest demands of social
economy. Religion or the domination of priests commanded it. They
obeyed, as Abraham did when he began to whet his knife for his son
Isaac. To-day in Europe conditions prescribe conduct. Morality fades
before race demands. Polygamy or promiscuity looms a possibility,
and may yet have state and church sanction, as in Turkey.

In Tahiti, from time immemorial, as native annals went, there was
a wondrous set of men and women called Arioi who killed all their
children, and whose ways and pleasures recall the phallic worshipers of
ancient Asian days. Forgotten now, with accounts radically differing as
to its composition, its aims, and even its morals, a hundred romances
and fables woven about its personnel, and many curious hazards upon
its beginnings and secret purposes, the Arioi society constitutes
a singular mystery, still of intense interest to the student of the
cabalistic, though buried with these South Sea Greeks a century ago.

The Arioi, in its time of divertisement, was a lodge of strolling
players, musicians, poets, dancers, wrestlers, pantomimists, and
clowns, the merry men and women of the Pacific tropics. They were
the leaders in the worship of the gods, the makers and masters of the
taboo, and when war or other necessity called them from pleasure or
religion, the leaders in action and battle.

The ending of the celebrated order came about through the work of
English Christian missionaries and the commercialized conditions
accompanying the introduction among the Tahitians of European
standards, inventions, customs, and prohibitions. The institution was
of great age, without written chronicles, and, like all Polynesian
history, obscured by the superstitions bred of oral descent.

"The Arioi have been in Tahiti as long as the Tahitians," said the
old men to the first whites.

Of all the marvels of the South Seas unfolded by their discovery to
Europeans, and their scrutiny by adventurers and scientists, none seems
so striking and so provocative of curiosity as the finding in Tahiti
of a sect thoroughly communistic in character, with many elements of
refinement and genius, which obliterated the taboos against women, and
though nominally for the worship of the generative powers of nature,
mixed murder and minstrelsy in its rites and observance. For what wrote
red the records of this society in the journals of the discoverers,
missionaries, and early European dwellers in Tahiti, was the Arioi
primary plank of membership--that no member should permit his or her
child to live after birth. As at one time the Arioi society embraced
a fifth of the population, and had unbounded influence and power,
this stern rule of infanticide had to do with the depopulation of
the island, or, rather, the prevention of overpopulation. Yet while
the Arioi had existed as far back as their legends ran, Captain Cook,
as said Tetuanui, estimated the Tahitians to number seventy thousand
in 1769. The chronicles say that the bizarre order was rooted out
a hundred years ago. There are barely five thousand living of this
exquisite race, which the white had found without disease, happy,
and radiantly healthy. Evidently the Arioi had merely preserved a
supportable maximum of numbers, and it remained for civilization to
doom the entire people.

The Arioi fathers and mothers strangled their children or buried them
immediately after birth, for it was infamous to have them, and their
existence in an Arioi family would have created as much consternation
as in a Tibetan nunnery.

Infanticide in Tahiti and the surrounding islands was not confined
to the Arioi. The first three children of all couples were usually
destroyed, and twins were both killed. In the largest families more
than two or three children were seldom spared, and as they were a
prolific race, their not nursing the sacrificed innocents made for
more frequent births. Four, six, or even ten children would be killed
by one couple during their married life. Ellis, an English missionary,
says that not fewer than two-thirds of all born were destroyed. This
was the ordinary habit of the Tahitians. The Arioi spared not one.

Ellis wrote ninety years ago. He helped to disrupt the society. The
confessions of scores of its former members were poured into his
burning ears. In his unique book of his life in Tahiti, he described
their dramas, pantomimes, and dances, their religious rituals and
the extraordinary flights to which their merriment and ecstasy
went. Says Ellis:

These, though the general amusements of the Ariois, were not the only
purposes for which they were assembled. They included:

"All monstrous, all prodigious things."

And these were abominable, unutterable; in some of their meetings,
they appear to have placed invention on the rack to discover the worst
pollutions of which it was possible for man to be guilty, and to have
striven to outdo each other in the most revolting practices. The
mysteries of iniquity, and acts of more than bestial degradation,
to which they were at times addicted, must remain in the darkness in
which even they felt it sometimes expedient to conceal them. I will
not do violence to my sensibilities or offend those of my readers,
by details of conduct, which the mind cannot contemplate without
pollution and pain.

In these pastimes, in their accompanying abominations, and the
often-repeated practices of the most unrelenting, murderous cruelty,
these wandering Ariois passed their lives, esteemed by the people as
a superior order of beings, closely allied to the gods, and deriving
from them direct sanction, not only for their abominations, but even
for their heartless murders. Free from care or labor, they roved from
island to island, supported by the chiefs and priests; and were often
feasted with provisions plundered from the industrious husbandman,
whose gardens were spoiled by the hands of lawless violence, to provide
their entertainments, while his own family were not infrequently
deprived thereby for a time, of the means of subsistence. Such was
their life of luxurious and licentious indolence and crime.

Yet each Arioi had his own wife, also a member of the society. Improper
conduct toward an Arioi's wife by an Arioi was punished often by
death. To a woman such membership meant a singular freedom from the
tabus, prohibitions, that had forbidden her eating with men, tasting
pig, and other delicacies. She became the equal and companion of
these most interesting of her race, and talent in herself received
due honor. She sacrificed her children for a career, as is done to-day
less bloodily.

Believers in the immortality of the soul, the Arioi imagined a heaven
suited to their own wishes. They called it Rohutu noa-noa, or Fragrant
Paradise. In it all were in the first flush of virility, and enjoyed
the good things promised the faithful by Mohammed. The road to this
abode of houris and roasted pig was not to be trod in sackcloth or
in ashes, but in wreaths and with gaily colored bodies. To the sound
of drums and of flutes they were to dance and sing for the honor
of their merry god, Oro, and after a lifetime of joy and license,
of denial of nothing, unless it hurt their order, they were to die
to an eternity of celestial riot.

As old as the gods was the society of the Arioi, said the
Tahitians. Oro, the chief god, took a human wife, and descended on a
rainbow to her home. He spent his nights with her, and every morning
returned to the heavens. Two of his younger brothers searched for him,
and lacking wedding presents, one transformed himself into a pig and
a bunch of red feathers. The other presented these, and though they
remained with the wedded pair, the brother took back his own form. Oro,
to reward them, made them gods and Arioi. Ever after a pig and red
feathers were offerings to the idol of Oro by the Arioi. The brothers
formed the society and named the charter members of it in different
islands, and by these names those holding their offices were known
until they were abolished.

When called together by their chief, the members of the order made a
round of visits throughout the archipelago, in as many as seventy great
canoes, carrying with them their costumes and musical instruments
and their servants. They were usually welcomed enthusiastically
at their landing, and pigs, fruits, and kava prepared for their
delectation. They were gorgeous-looking performers in their pantomimes,
for besides tattooing, which marked their rank, they were decorated
with charcoal and the scarlet dye mati, and wore girdles of yellow
ti-leaves, or vests of ripe, golden plantain-leaves. Their heads were
wreathed in the yellow and red leaves of the hutu, and perhaps behind
an ear they wore a flower of brilliant hue.

They had seven ranks, like the chairs of a secret order in Europe or
in the United States nowadays. The first, the highest, was the Avae
parai, painted leg. The Arioi of this class was tattooed solidly
from the knees down. The second, Otiore, had both arms tattooed;
the third, Harotea, both sides of the body; the fourth, Hua, marked
shoulders; the fifth, Atoro, a small stripe on the left side; the
sixth, Ohemara, a small circle around each ankle, and the seventh,
Poo, were uninked. They were the neophytes, and had to do the heavy
work of the order, though servants, not members, termed fauaunau,
were part of the corps. These were sworn not to have any offspring.

The Arioi kept the records of the Tahitian nation. In their plays
they reenacted all the chief events in the history of the race, and
as there was no written account, these dramas were, with the legends
and stories they recited, the perpetuation of their archives and
chronicles. They were apt in travesty and satire. They ridiculed
the priests and current events, and by their wit made half the
people love them and half fear them. A manager directed all their
performances. They aimed at perfect rhythm in their chants and dances,
and grace and often sheer fun in their pantomimes. Some were wrestlers,
but boxing they left for others. As with the Marquesans to-day, they
had a fugleman, or leader, in all songs, who introduced the subject
in a prologue, and occasionally gave the cue to a change.

No man could reach high rank with them except by histrionic ability
and a strict compliance with their rules. Exceptions to the first
requirement might be found in the great chiefs. A candidate came before
the lodge in gala fashion, painted, wreathed, and laughing. Leaping
into their circle, he joined madly in the rout, and thus made known his
desire for admittance. If worthy, he became a servant, and only after
proving by a long novitiate his qualities was he given the lowest
rank. Then he received the name by which he would be known in the
society. He swore to kill his children, if he had any, and crooking
his left arm, he struck it with his right hand, and repeated the oath:

"The mountain above, the sacred mountain; the floor beneath Tamapua,
projecting point of the sea; Manunu, of majestic forehead; Teariitarai,
the splendor in the sky; I am of the mountain huruhuru." He spoke
his Arioi name, and snatched the covering of the chief woman present.

Occasionally there might be persons or districts that felt themselves
unwilling or too poor to entertain the Arioi. These had many devices
to overcome such obstacles. They would surround a child and pretend
to raise him to kingly rank, and then demand from his parents suitable
presents for such a distinction.

At death there were rites for the Arioi apart from those for
others. They paid the priest of Romotane, who kept the key of
their paradise, to admit the decedent to Rohutu noa-noa in the reva
or clouds above the mountain of Temehani unauna, in the island of
Raiatea. The ordinary people could seldom afford the fees demanded by
the priest, and had to be satisfied with a denial of this Mussulman
Eden reserved for the festive and devil-may-care Arioi, as ordinary
people perforce abstain from intoxicants in America while the rich
drink their fill. The historian Lecky says:

It was a favorite doctrine of the Christian Fathers that concupiscence,
or the sensual passion, was the "original sin" of human nature; and
it must be owned that the progress of knowledge, which is usually
extremely opposed to the ascetic theory of life, concurs with the
theological view, in showing the natural force of this appetite to
be far greater than the well-being of man requires. The writings of
Malthus have proved, what the Greek moralists appear in a considerable
degree to have seen, that its normal and temperate exercise would
produce, if universal, the utmost calamities to the world, and that,
while nature seems, in the most unequivocal manner, to urge the
human race to early marriages, the first condition of an advancing
civilization is to restrain or diminish them.

Conceive the state of Tahiti, where, as through all Polynesia,
the girls have their fling at promiscuity from puberty to the late
teens or early twenties, when an immense and increasing population
compelled the thinking men to devise a remedy for the starvation which
in times of drought or comparative failure of the feis or breadfruit
or a scarcity of fish menaced the nation! That the cruel remedy of
infanticide was chosen may be laid to ignorance of foeticidal methods,
and the indisposition of the languorous women to suffer pain or to
risk their own lives or health.

Lecky says that however much moralists may enforce the obligation
of extra-matrimonial purity, this obligation has never been even
approximately regarded. One could hardly expect from the heathen
Tahitians moral restraint. Malthus, a Christian clergyman, did not
until the second edition of his book add that to vice and misery as
checks of nature to an increase of humans faster than the means of
subsistence. Nor have most Christian or civilized nations made such
a check effectual.

The ever-dominant and only inherent impulse in all living beings,
including man, is the will to remain alive--the will, that is, to
attain power over those forces which make life difficult or impossible.

All schemes of morality are nothing more than efforts to put into
permanent codes the expedients found useful by some given race in
the course of its successful endeavors to remain alive.

Did not Zarathustra so philosophize, and is not the national trend
in Europe exalting his theory? With the difference that nationalism
takes the place of individualism in the scheme of survival and a
better place in the sun is the legend on the banners.

Unable to find enemies to keep their numbers down, exempt from the
epidemics and endemics of Europe and Asia, unacquainted with the
contraceptives known until recently only by our rich, but now preached
by organized societies to the humblest, the Tahitian, Marquesan,
and Hawaiian came to consider the blotting out of lives just begun
worthy deeds.

"The only good Indian is a dead Indian," was our own cynical Western
maxim when life and opportunity to lay by for the future meant
ceaseless struggle with the dispossessed.

We, in situations of dire necessity, eat our own fellows. We have done
it at sea and on land. We eat their flesh when shipwreck or isolation
urges survival. We let children die by the myriad for lack of proper
care and sustenance, and kill them in factories and tenements to
gain luxuries for ourselves. One justification for slavery was that
it gave leisure for culture to the slave-owners, and that Southern
chivalry and the charm of Southern womanhood outweighed the fettered
black bodies and souls in the scale of achievement.

The Tahitian did the best he could, and the Arioi set the example in
a total observance not to be demanded or expected of the mass. It is
related that if the child cried before destruction, it was spared,
for they had not the heart to kill it. If Arioi, the parents must
have given it away or otherwise avoided the opprobrium.

Another explanation of the bloody oath of the Arioi might be found
in an effort of the princes of Tahiti to prevent in this manner the
excessive growth of the Arii, or noble caste. The Arioi society
was founded by princes and led by them, but that they sought to
break down the power of the nobles is evidenced by their admitting
virtually all castes to it, thus making it a privileged democracy,
in which birthrights had not the sway they had outside it, but in
which the chap who could fight and dance, sing, and tell good stories
might climb from lowly position to honor and popularity, and in which
a clever woman could make her mark.

The early missionaries who had to combat the influence of the Arioi
may have exaggerated its baseness. In their unsophisticated minds,
unprepared by reading or experience for comparisons, most of them
sailing directly from English divinity schools or small bucolic
pastorates, the devout preachers thought Sabbatarianism of as much
consequence as morals, and vastly more important than health or
earthly happiness. They believed in diabolical possession, and were
prone to magnify the wickedness of the heathen, as one does hard
tasks. When Christianity had power in Tahiti, the bored natives were
sometimes scourged into church, and fines and imprisonment for lack of
devotion were imposed by the native courts. Often self-sacrificing,
the missionaries felt it was for the natives' eternal walfare, and
that souls might be saved even by compulsion. The Arioi society melted
under a changed control and Christian precepts.

Livingstone in the wilds of primeval Africa, making few converts,
but giving his life to noble effort, meditated often upon the success
of the missionaries in the South Seas--a success perhaps magnified
by the society which financed and cheered the restless men whom it
sent to Tahiti. Livingstone in his darker moments, consoling himself
with the accounts of these achievements in the missionary annals,
doubted his own efficacy against the deep depravity and heathenism of
his black flock. The fact unknown to him was that the missionaries in
Polynesia preached and prayed, doctored and taught, ten years before
they made a single convert. It was not until they bagged the king
that a pawn was taken by the whites from the adversaries' stubborn
game. The genius of these strugglers against an apparent impregnable
seat of wickedness was patience, "the passion of great hearts."

But conquering once politically, the missionaries found their task all
but too easy to suit militant Christians. As the converted drunkard
and burglar at a slum pentecost pour out their stories of weakness and
crime, so these Arioi, glorying in their being washed white as snow,
recited to hymning congregations confessions that made the offenses
of the Marquis de Sade or Jack the Ripper fade into peccadilloes.

Christian says:

Their Hevas or dramatic entertainments, pageants and tableaus,
of varying degrees of grossness, similar to the more elaborate and
polished products of the early Javanese and Peruvian drama ... one
cannot help fancying must be all pieces out of the same puzzle ... I
have with some pains discovered the origin of the name "Arioi." It
throws a lurid light on the character of some of the Asiatic explorers
who must have visited this part of the Eastern Pacific prior to the
Europeans. In Maori the word Karioi means debauched, profligate,
good-for-nothing. In Raratonga [an island near Tahiti] the adjective
appears as Kariei. These are probably slightly worn down forms of
the Persian Khara-bati, which has precisely the same significance
as the foregoing. One is forced to the conclusion that the Arabian
Nights stories of the voyages of Sindbad the Sailor were founded
on a bed-rock of solid fact, and that Persian and Arab merchants,
pirates and slave-traders, must have penetrated into these far-off
waters, and brought their vile, effeminate luxury and shameful customs
with them from Asia, of which transplanted iniquity, the parent soil
half-forgotten, this word, like several others connected with revelry
and vice, like a text in scarlet lettering, survives to this day.

The first Jesuit missionaries to the Caroline Islands found there
an organization with privileges and somewhat the same objects as the
Arioi, which was called Uritoi. As "t" is a letter often omitted or
altered in these island tongues, it is not hard by leaving it out to
find a likeness in the names Arioi and Urioi. The Carolines and Tahiti
are thousands of miles apart, and not inhabited by the same race.

Ellis was a missionary incapable by education, experience, and
temperament of appreciation of the artistic life of the Arioi. He
would have chased the faun into seclusion until he could clothe him
in English trousers, and would have rendered the Venus of Milo into
bits. Despite an honest love for mankind and considerable discernment,
he saw nothing in the Arioi but a logical and diabolical condition of
paganism. Artistry he did not rank high, nor, to find a reason for the
Arioi, did he go back of Satan's ceaseless seeking whom he may devour.

Bovis, a Frenchman, world traveled, having seen perhaps the frescos
of Pompeii, and familiar with the histories of old Egypt, India,
Greece, Persia, and Rome, knew that Sodom and Gomorrah had their
replicas in all times, and that often such conduct as that of the
Arioi was associated among ancient or primitive peoples with artistic
and interesting manifestations.

He searched the memories of the old men and women for other things
than abominations, and gave the Arioi a good name for possession of
many excellent qualities and for a rare development of histrionic
ability. But more than being mere mimes and dancers, the Arioi were
the warriors, the knights of that day and place, the men-at-arms,
the chosen companions of the king and chiefs, and in general the
bravest and most cultivated of the Tahitians. They were an extended
round-table for pleasure in peace and for counsel and deeds of
derring-do in war. The society was a nursery of chivalry, a company
which recruited, but did not reproduce themselves. They had a solid
basis, and lasted long because the society kept out of politics.

The members never forgot the duty due their chiefs. They accompanied
them in their enterprises, and they killed their fellow-members in the
enemy's camp, as Masons fought Masons in the American Civil War and
in the wars of Europe. In peace they were epicures. They consorted
together only for pleasure and comfort in their reunions. The Arioi
made their order no stepping-stone to power or office, but in it swam
in sensuous luxury, each giving his talents to please his fellows
and to add luster to his society.

To the English missionaries who converted the Tahitians to the
Christian faith the Arioi adherent was the chief barrier, the fiercest


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