Omoo: Adventures in the South Seas
Part 5 out of 6
Marshalling our forces, we started for the head of the valley; near
which a path ascended to a range of high land, said to be a favourite
resort of the cattle.
Shortly after gaining the heights, a small herd, some way off, was
perceived entering a wood. We hurried on; and, dividing our party,
went in after them at four different points; each white man followed
by several natives.
I soon found myself in a dense covert; and, after looking round, was
just emerging into a clear space, when I heard a report, and a bullet
knocked the bark from a tree near by. The same instant there was a
trampling and crashing; and five bullocks, nearly abreast, broke into
View across the opening, and plunged right toward the spot where
myself and three of the islanders were standing.
They were small, black, vicious-looking creatures; with short, sharp
horns, red nostrils, and eyes like coals of fire. On they came--their
dark woolly heads hanging down.
By this time my island backers were roosting among the trees. Glancing
round, for an instant, to discover a retreat in case of emergency, I
raised my piece, when a voice cried out, from the wood, "Right
between the 'orns, Paul! right between the 'orns!" Down went my
barrel in range with a small white tuft on the forehead of the
headmost one; and, letting him have it, I darted to one side. As I
turned again, the five bullocks shot by like a blast, making the air
eddy in their wake.
The Yankee now burst into view, and saluted them in flank. Whereupon,
the fierce little bull with the tufted forehead flirted his long tail
over his buttocks; kicked out with his hind feet, and shot forward a
full length. It was nothing but a graze; and, in an instant, they
were out of sight, the thicket into which they broke rocking
overhead, and marking their progress.
The action over, the heavy artillery came up, in the person of the
Long Doctor with the blunderbuss.
"Where are they?" he cried, out of breath.
"A mile or two h'off, by this time," replied the Cockney. "Lord, Paul
I you ought to've sent an 'ailstone into that little black 'un."
While excusing my want of skill, as well as I could, Zeke, rushing
forward, suddenly exclaimed, "Creation! what are you 'bout there,
Peter, incensed at our ill luck, and ignorantly imputing it to the
cowardice of our native auxiliaries, was bringing his piece to bear
upon his trembling squire--the musket-carrier--now descending a tree.
Pulling trigger, the bullet went high over his head; and, hopping to
the ground, bellowing like a calf, the fellow ran away as fast as his
heels could carry him. The rest followed us, after this, with fear
After forming our line of march anew, we went on for several hours
without catching a glimpse of the game; the reports of the muskets
having been heard at a great distance. At last, we mounted a craggy
height, to obtain a wide view of the country. Prom this place, we
beheld three cattle quietly browsing in a green opening of a wood
below; the trees shutting them in all round.
A general re-examination of the muskets now took place, followed by a
hasty lunch from the calabashes: we then started. As we descended the
mountainside the cattle were in plain sight until we entered the
forest, when we lost sight of them for a moment; but only to see them
again, as we crept close up to the spot where they grazed.
They were a bull, a cow, and a calf. The cow was lying down in the
shade, by the edge of the wood; the calf, sprawling out before her in
the grass, licking her lips; while old Taurus himself stood close by,
casting a paternal glance at this domestic little scene, and
conjugally elevating his nose in the air.
"Now then," said Zeke, in a whisper, "let's take the poor creeturs while
they are huddled together. Crawl along, b'ys; crawl along. Fire
together, mind; and not till I say the word."
We crept up to the very edge of the open ground, and knelt behind a
clump of bushes; resting our levelled barrels among the branches. The
slight rustling was heard. Taurus turned round, dropped his head to
the ground, and sent forth a low, sullen bellow; then snuffed the
air. The cow rose on her foreknees, pitched forward alannedly, and
stood upon her legs; while the calf, with ears pricked, got right
underneath her. All three were now grouped, and in an instant would be
"I take the bull," cried our leader; "fire!"
The calf fell like a clod; its dam uttered a cry, and thrust her head
into the thicket; but she turned, and came moaning up to the lifeless
calf, going round and round it, snuffing fiercely with her bleeding
nostrils. A crashing in the wood, and a loud roar, announced the
Soon, another shot was fired, and the cow fell. Leaving some of the
natives to look after the dead cattle, the rest of us hurried on
after the bull; his dreadful bellowing guiding us to the spot where
he lay. Wounded in the shoulder, in his fright and agony he had
bounded into the wood; but when we came up to him, he had sunk to the
earth in a green hollow, thrusting his black muzzle into a pool of his
own blood, and tossing it over his hide in clots.
The Yankee brought his piece to a rest; and, the next instant, the
wild brute sprang into the air, and with his forelegs crouching under
him, fell dead.
Our island friends were now in high spirits; all courage and alacrity.
Old Tonoi thought nothing of taking poor Taurus himself by the horns,
and peering into his glazed eyes.
Our ship knives were at once in request; and, skinning the cattle, we
hung them high up by cords of bark from the boughs of a tree.
Withdrawing into a covert, we there waited for the wild hogs; which,
according to Zeke, would soon make their appearance, lured by the
smell of blood. Presently we heard them coming, in two or three
different directions; and, in a moment, they were tearing the offal to
As only one shot at these creatures could be relied on, we intended
firing simultaneously; but, somehow or other, the doctor's piece went
off by itself, and one of the hogs dropped. The others then breaking
into the thicket, the rest of us sprang after them; resolved to have
another shot at all hazards.
The Cockney darted among some bushes; and, a few moments after, we
heard the report of his musket, followed by a quick cry. On running
up, we saw our comrade doing battle with a young devil of a boar, as
black as night, whose snout had been partly torn away. Firing when
the game was in full career, and coming directly toward him, Shorty
had been assailed by the enraged brute; it was now crunching the
breech of the musket, with which he had tried to club it; Shorty
holding fast to the barrel, and fingering his waist for a knife.
Being in advance of the others, I clapped my gun to the boar's head,
and so put an end to the contest.
Evening now coming on, we set to work loading our carriers. The cattle
were so small that a stout native could walk off with an entire
quarter; brushing through thickets, and descending rocks without an
apparent effort; though, to tell the truth, no white man present
could have done the thing with any ease. As for the wild hogs, none
of the islanders could be induced to carry Shorty's; some invincible
superstition being connected with its black colour. We were,
therefore, obliged to leave it. The other, a spotted one, being slung
by green thongs to a pole, was marched off with by two young natives.
With our bearers of burdens ahead, we then commenced our return down
the valley. Half-way home, darkness overtook us in the woods; and
torches became necessary. We stopped, and made them of dry palm
branches; and then, sending two lads on in advance for the purpose of
gathering fuel to feed the flambeaux, we continued our journey.
It was a wild sight. The torches, waved aloft, flashed through the
forest; and, where the ground admitted, the islanders went along on a
brisk trot, notwithstanding they bent forward under their loads.
Their naked backs were stained with blood; and occasionally, running
by each other, they raised wild cries which startled the hillsides.
THE HUNTING-FEAST; AND A VISIT TO AFREHITOO
TWO BULLOCKS and a boar! No bad trophies of our day's sport. So by
torchlight we marched into the plantation, the wild hog rocking from
its pole, and the doctor singing an old hunting-song--Tally-ho! the
chorus of which swelled high above the yells of the natives.
We resolved to make a night of it. Kindling a great fire just outside
the dwelling, and hanging one of the heifer's quarters from a limb of
the banian-tree, everyone was at liberty to cut and broil for
himself. Baskets of roasted bread-fruit, and plenty of taro pudding;
bunches of bananas, and young cocoa-nuts, had also been provided by
the natives against our return.
The fire burned bravely, keeping off the mosquitoes, and making every
man's face glow like a beaker of Port. The meat had the true
wild-game flavour, not at all impaired by our famous appetites, and a
couple of flasks of white brandy, which Zeke, producing from his
secret store, circulated freely.
There was no end to my long comrade's spirits. After telling his
stories, and singing his songs, he sprang to his feet, clasped a
young damsel of the grove round the waist, and waltzed over the grass
with her. But there's no telling all the pranks he played that night.
The natives, who delight in a wag, emphatically pronounced him
It was long after midnight ere we broke up; but when the rest had
retired, Zeke, with the true thrift of a Yankee, salted down what was
left of the meat.
The next day was Sunday; and at my request, Shorty accompanied me to
Afrehitoo--a neighbouring bay, and the seat of a mission, almost
directly opposite Papeetee. In Afrehitoo is a large church and
school-house, both quite dilapidated; and planted amid shrubbery on a
fine knoll, stands a very tasteful cottage, commanding a view across
the channel. In passing, I caught sight of a graceful calico skirt
disappearing from the piazza through a doorway. The place was the
residence of the missionary.
A trim little sail-boat was dancing out at her moorings, a few yards
from the beach.
Straggling over the low lands in the vicinity were several native
huts--untidy enough--but much better every way than most of those in
We attended service at the church, where we found but a small
congregation; and after what I had seen in Papeetee, nothing very
interesting took place. But the audience had a curious, fidgety look,
which I knew not how to account for until we ascertained that a
sermon with the eighth commandment for a text was being preached.
It seemed that there lived an Englishman in the district, who, like
our friends, the planters, was cultivating Tombez potatoes for the
In spite of all his precautions, the natives were in the habit of
making nocturnal forays into his inclosure, and carrying off the
potatoes. One night he fired a fowling-piece, charged with pepper and
salt, at several shadows which he discovered stealing across his
premises. They fled. But it was like seasoning anything else; the
knaves stole again with a greater relish than ever; and the very next
night, he caught a party in the act of roasting a basketful of
potatoes under his own cooking-shed. At last, he stated his
grievances to the missionary; who, for the benefit of his
congregation, preached the sermon we heard.
Now, there were no thieves in Martair; but then, the people of the
valley were bribed to be honest. It was a regular business
transaction between them and the planters. In consideration of so
many potatoes "to them in hand, duly paid," they were to abstain from
all depredations upon the plantation. Another security against roguery
was the permanent residence upon the premises of their chief, Tonoi.
On our return to Martair in the afternoon, we found the doctor and
Zeke making themselves comfortable. The latter was reclining on the
ground, pipe in mouth, watching the doctor, who, sitting like a Turk,
before a large iron kettle, was slicing potatoes and Indian turnip,
and now and then shattering splinters from a bone; all of which, by
turns, were thrown into the pot. He was making what he called
In gastronomic affairs, my friend was something of an artist; and by
way of improving his knowledge, did nothing the rest of the day but
practise in what might be called Experimental Cookery: broiling and
grilling, and deviling slices of meat, and subjecting them to all
sorts of igneous operations. It was the first fresh beef that either
of us had tasted in more than a year.
"Oh, ye'll pick up arter a while, Peter," observed Zeke toward night,
as Long Ghost was turning a great rib over the coals--"what d'ye
"He'll get along, I dare say," replied I; "he only wants to get those
cheeks of his tanned." To tell the truth, I was not a little pleased
to see the doctor's reputation as an invalid fading away so fast;
especially as, on the strength of his being one, he had promised to
have such easy times of it, and very likely, too, at my expense.
DOZING in our canoe the next morning about daybreak, we were awakened
by Zeke's hailing us loudly from the beach.
Upon paddling up, he told us that a canoe had arrived overnight, from
Papeetee, with an order from a ship lying there for a supply of his
potatoes; and as they must be on board the vessel by noon, he wanted
us to assist in bringing them down to his sail-boat.
My long comrade was one of those who, from always thrusting forth the
wrong foot foremost when they rise, or committing some other
indiscretion of the limbs, are more or less crabbed or sullen before
breakfast. It was in vain, therefore, that the Yankee deplored the
urgency of the case which obliged him to call us up thus early:--the
doctor only looked the more glum, and said nothing in reply.
At last, by way of getting up a little enthusiasm for the occasion,
the Yankee exclaimed quite spiritedly, "What d'ye say, then, b'ys,
shall we get at it?"
"Yes, in the devil's name!" replied the doctor, like a snapping
turtle; and we moved on to the house. Notwithstanding his ungracious
answer, he probably thought that, after the gastronomic performance
of the day previous, it would hardly do to hang back. At the house,
we found Shorty ready with the hoes; and we at once repaired to the
farther side of the inclosure, where the potatoes had yet to be taken
out of the ground.
The rich, tawny soil seemed specially adapted to the crop; the great
yellow murphies rolling out of the hills like eggs from a nest.
My comrade really surprised me by the zeal with which he applied
himself to his hoe. For my own part, exhilarated by the cool breath
of the morning, I worked away like a good fellow. As for Zeke and the
Cockney, they seemed mightily pleased at this evidence of our
willingness to exert ourselves.
It was not long ere all the potatoes were turned out; and then came
the worst of it: they were to be lugged down to the beach, a
distance of at least a quarter of a mile. And there being no such
thing as a barrow, or cart, on the island, there was nothing for it
but spinal-marrows and broad shoulders. Well knowing that this part of
the business would be anything but agreeable, Zeke did his best to
put as encouraging a face upon it as possible; and giving us no time
to indulge in desponding thoughts, gleefully directed our attention
to a pile of rude baskets--made of stout stalks--which had been
provided for the occasion. So, without more ado, we helped ourselves
from the heap: and soon we were all four staggering along under our
The first trip down, we arrived at the beach together: Zeke's
enthusiastic cries proving irresistible. A trip or two more, however,
and my shoulders began to grate in their sockets; while the doctor's
tall figure acquired an obvious stoop. Presently, we both threw down
our baskets, protesting we could stand it no longer. But our
employers, bent, as it Were, upon getting the work out of us by a
silent appeal to our moral sense, toiled away without pretending to
notice us. It was as much as to say, "There, men, we've been boarding
and lodging ye for the last three days; and yesterday ye did nothing
earthly but eat; so stand by now, and look at us working, if ye
dare." Thus driven to it, then, we resumed our employment. Yet, in
spite of all we could do, we lagged behind Zeke and Shorty, who,
breathing hard, and perspiring at every pore, toiled away without
pause or cessation. I almost wickedly wished that they would load
themselves down with one potato too many.
Gasping as I was with my own hamper, I could not, for the life of me,
help laughing at Long Ghost. There he went:--his long neck thrust
forward, his arms twisted behind him to form a shelf for his basket
to rest on; and his stilts of legs every once in a while giving way
under him, as if his knee-joints slipped either way.
"There! I carry no more!" he exclaimed all at once, flinging his
potatoes into the boat, where the Yankee was just then stowing them
"Oh, then," said Zeke, quite briskly, "I guess you and Paul had better
try the 'barrel-machine'--come along, I'll fix ye out in no time";
and, so saying, he waded ashore, and hurried back to the house,
bidding us follow.
Wondering what upon earth the "barrel-machine" could be, and rather
suspicious of it, we limped after. On arriving at the house, we found
him getting ready a sort of sedan-chair. It was nothing more than an
old barrel suspended by a rope from the middle of a stout oar. Quite
an ingenious contrivance of the Yankee's; and his proposed
arrangement with regard to mine and the doctor's shoulders was
"There now!" said he, when everything was ready, "there's no
back-breaking about this; you can stand right up under it, you see:
jist try it once"; and he politely rested the blade of the oar on my
comrade's right shoulder, and the other end on mine, leaving the
barrel between us.
"Jist the thing!" he added, standing off admiringly, while we remained
in this interesting attitude.
There was no help for us; with broken hearts and backs we trudged back
to the field; the doctor all the while saying masses.
Upon starting with the loaded barrel, for a few paces we got along
pretty well, and were constrained to think the idea not a bad one.
But we did not long think so. In less than five minutes we came to a
dead halt, the springing and buckling of the clumsy oar being almost
"Let's shift ends," cried the doctor, who did not relish the blade of
the stick, which was cutting into the blade of his shoulder.
At last, by stages short and frequent, we managed to shamble down the
beach, where we again dumped our cargo, in something of a pet.
"Why not make the natives help?" asked Long Ghost, rubbing his
"Natives be dumned!" said the Yankee, "twenty on 'em ain't worth one
white man. They never was meant to work any, them chaps; and they
knows it, too, for dumned little work any on 'em ever does."
But, notwithstanding this abuse, Zeke was at last obliged to press a
few of the bipeds into service. "Aramai!" (come here) he shouted to
several, who, reclining on a bank, had hitherto been critical
observers of our proceedings; and, among other things, had been
particularly amused by the performance with the sedan-chair.
After making these fellows load their baskets together, the Yankee
filled his own, and then drove them before him down to the beach.
Probably he had seen the herds of panniered mules driven in this way
by mounted Indians along the great Callao to Lima. The boat at last
loaded, the Yankee, taking with him a couple of natives, at once
hoisted sail, and stood across the channel for Papeetee.
The next morning at breakfast, old Tonoi ran in, and told us that the
voyagers were returning. We hurried down to the beach, and saw the
boat gliding toward us, with a dozing islander at the helm, and Zeke
standing up in the bows, jingling a small bag of silver, the proceeds
of his cargo.
WHAT THEY THOUGHT OF US IN MARTAIR
SEVERAL quiet days now passed away, during which we just worked
sufficiently to sharpen our appetites; the planters leniently
exempting us from any severe toil.
Their desire to retain us became more and more evident; which was not
to be wondered at; for, beside esteeming us from the beginning a
couple of civil, good-natured fellows, who would soon become quite
at-home with them, they were not slow in perceiving that we were far
different from the common run of rovers; and that our society was
both entertaining and instructive to a couple of solitary, illiterate
men like themselves.
In a literary point of view, indeed, they soon regarded us with
emotions of envy and wonder; and the doctor was considered nothing
short of a prodigy. The Cockney found out that he (the doctor) could
read a book upside down, without even so much as spelling the big
words beforehand; and the Yankee, in the twinkling of an eye,
received from him the sum total of several arithmetical items, stated
aloud, with the view of testing the extent of his mathematical lore.
Then, frequently, in discoursing upon men and things, my long comrade
employed such imposing phrases that, upon one occasion, they actually
remained uncovered while he talked.
In short, their favourable opinion of Long Ghost in particular rose
higher and higher every day; and they began to indulge in all manner
of dreams concerning the advantages to be derived from employing so
learned a labourer. Among other projects revealed was that of
building a small craft of some forty tons for the purpose of trading
among the neighbouring islands. With a native crew, we would then
take turns cruising over the tranquil Pacific; touching here and
there, as caprice suggested, and collecting romantic articles of
commerce;--beach-de-mer, the pearl-oyster, arrow-root, ambergris,
sandal-wood, cocoa-nut oil, and edible birdnests.
This South Sea yachting was delightful to think of; and straightway,
the doctor announced his willingness to navigate the future schooner
clear of all shoals and reefs whatsoever. His impudence was
audacious. He enlarged upon the science of navigation; treated us to
a dissertation on Mercator's Sailing and the Azimuth compass; and
went into an inexplicable explanation of the Lord only knows what
plan of his for infallibly settling the longitude.
Whenever my comrade thus gave the reins to his fine fancy, it was a
treat to listen, and therefore I never interfered; but, with the
planters, sat in mute admiration before him. This apparent
self-abasement on my part must have been considered as truly
indicative of our respective merits; for, to my no small concern, I
quickly perceived that, in the estimate formed of us, Long Ghost
began to be rated far above myself. For aught I knew, indeed, he
might have privately thrown out a hint concerning the difference in
our respective stations aboard the Julia; or else the planters must
have considered him some illustrious individual, for certain
inscrutable reasons, going incog. With this idea of him, his
undisguised disinclination for work became venial; and entertaining
such views of extending their business, they counted more upon his
ultimate value to them as a man of science than as a mere ditcher.
Nor did the humorous doctor forbear to foster an opinion every way so
advantageous to himself; at times, for the sake of the joke, assuming
airs of superiority over myself, which, though laughable enough, were
To tell the plain truth, things at last came to such a pass that I
told him, up and down, that I had no notion to put up with his
pretensions; if he were going to play the gentleman, I was going to
follow suit; and then there would quickly be an explosion.
At this he laughed heartily; and after some mirthful chat, we resolved
upon leaving the valley as soon as we could do so with a proper
regard to politeness.
At supper, therefore, the same evening, the doctor hinted at our
Though much surprised, and vexed, Zeke moved not a muscle. "Peter,"
said he at last--very gravely--and after mature deliberation, "would
you like to do the cooking? It's easy work; and you needn't do
anything else. Paul's heartier; he can work in the field when it
suits him; and before long, we'll have ye at something more
agreeable:--won't we, Shorty?"
Doubtless, the proposed arrangement was a snug one; especially the
sinecure for the doctor; but I by no means relished the functions
allotted to myself--they were too indefinite. Nothing final, however,
was agreed upon;--our intention to leave was revealed, and that was
enough for the present. But, as we said nothing further about going,
the Yankee must have concluded that we might yet be induced to remain.
He redoubled his endeavours to make us contented.
It was during this state of affairs that, one morning, before
breakfast, we were set to weeding in a potato-patch; and the planters
being engaged at the house, we were left to ourselves.
Now, though the pulling of weeds was considered by our employers an
easy occupation (for which reason they had assigned it to us), and
although as a garden recreation it may be pleasant enough, for those
who like it--still, long persisted in, the business becomes
Nevertheless, we toiled away for some time, until the doctor, who,
from his height, was obliged to stoop at a very acute angle, suddenly
sprang upright; and with one hand propping his spinal column,
exclaimed, "Oh, that one's joints were but provided with holes to
drop a little oil through!"
Vain as the aspiration was for this proposed improvement upon our
species, I cordially responded thereto; for every vertebra in my
spine was articulating in sympathy.
Presently, the sun rose over the mountains, inducing that deadly
morning languor so fatal to early exertion in a warm climate. We
could stand it no longer; but, shouldering our hoes, moved on to the
house, resolved to impose no more upon the good-nature of the
planters by continuing one moment longer in an occupation so
We freely told them so. Zeke was exceedingly hurt, and said everything
he could think of to alter our determination; but, finding all
unavailing, he very hospitably urged us not to be in any hurry about
leaving; for we might stay with him as guests until we had time to
decide upon our future movements.
We thanked him sincerely; but replied that, the following morning, we
must turn our backs upon the hills of Martair.
PREPARING FOR THE JOURNEY
DURING the remainder of the day we loitered about, talking over our
The doctor was all eagerness to visit Tamai, a solitary inland
village, standing upon the banks of a considerable lake of the same
name, and embosomed among groves. From Afrehitoo you went to this
place by a lonely pathway leading through the wildest scenery in the
world. Much, too, we had heard concerning the lake itself, which
abounded in such delicious fish that, in former times, angling parties
occasionally came over to it from Papeetee.
Upon its banks, moreover, grew the finest fruit of the islands, and in
their greatest perfection. The "Ve," or Brazilian plum, here attained
the size of an orange; and the gorgeous "Arheea," or red apple of
Tahiti, blushed with deeper dyes than in any of the seaward valleys,
Beside all this, in Tamai dwelt the most beautiful and unsophisticated
women in the entire Society group. In short, the village was so
remote from the coast, and had been so much less affected by recent
changes than other places that, in most things, Tahitian life was
here seen as formerly existing in the days of young Otoo, the
boy-king, in Cook's time.
After obtaining from the planters all the information which was
needed, we decided upon penetrating to the village; and after a
temporary sojourn there, to strike the beach again, and journey round
to Taloo, a harbour on the opposite side of the island.
We at once put ourselves in travelling trim. Just previous to leaving
Tahiti, having found my wardrobe reduced to two suits (frock and
trousers, both much the worse for wear), I had quilted them together
for mutual preservation (after a fashion peculiar to sailors);
engrafting a red frock upon a blue one, and producing thereby a
choice variety in the way of clothing. This was the extent of my
wardrobe. Nor was the doctor by any means better off. His
improvidence had at last driven him to don the nautical garb; but by
this time his frock--a light cotton one--had almost given out, and he
had nothing to replace it. Shorty very generously offered him one
which was a little less ragged; but the alms were proudly refused;
Long Ghost preferring to assume the ancient costume of Tahiti--the
This garment, once worn as a festival dress, is now seldom met with;
but Captain Bob had often shown us one which he kept as an heirloom.
It was a cloak, or mantle, of yellow tappa, precisely similar to the
"poncho" worn by the South-American Spaniards. The head being slipped
through a slit in the middle, the robe hangs about the person in
ample drapery. Tonoi obtained sufficient coarse brown tappa to make a
short mantle of this description; and in five minutes the doctor was
equipped. Zeke, eyeing his toga critically, reminded its proprietor
that there were many streams to ford, and precipices to scale,
between Martair and Tamai; and if he travelled in petticoats, he had
better hold them up.
Besides other deficiencies, we were utterly shoeless. In the free and
easy Pacific, sailors seldom wear shoes; mine had been tossed
overboard the day we met the Trades; and except in one or two tramps
ashore, I had never worn any since. In Martair, they would have been
desirable: but none were to be had. For the expedition we meditated,
however, they were indispensable. Zeke, being the owner of a pair of
huge, dilapidated boots, hanging from a rafter like saddlebags, the
doctor succeeded in exchanging for them a case-knife, the last
valuable article in his possession. For myself, I made sandals from a
bullock's hide, such as are worn by the Indians in California. They
are made in a minute; the sole, rudely fashioned to the foot, being
confined across the instep by three straps of leather.
Our headgear deserves a passing word. My comrade's was a brave old
Panama hat, made of grass, almost as fine as threads of silk; and so
elastic that, upon rolling it up, it sprang into perfect shape again.
Set off by the jaunty slouch of this Spanish sombrero, Doctor Long
Ghost, in this and his Eoora, looked like a mendicant grandee.
Nor was my own appearance in an Eastern turban less distinguished. The
way I came to wear it was this. My hat having been knocked overboard
a few days before reaching Papeetee, I was obliged to mount an
abominable wad of parti-coloured worsted--what sailors call a Scotch
cap. Everyone knows the elasticity of knit wool; and this Caledonian
head-dress crowned my temples so effectually that the confined
atmosphere engendered was prejudicial to my curls. In vain I tried to
ventilate the cap: every gash made seemed to heal whole in no time.
Then such a continual chafing as it kept up in a hot sun.
Seeing my dislike to the thing, Kooloo, my worthy friend, prevailed
upon me to bestow it upon him. I did so; hinting that a good boiling
might restore the original brilliancy of the colours.
It was then that I mounted the turban. Taking a new Regatta frock of
the doctor's, which was of a gay calico, and winding it round my head
in folds, I allowed the sleeves to droop behind--thus forming a good
defence against the sun, though in a shower it was best off. The
pendent sleeves adding much to the effect, the doctor called me the
Bashaw with Two Tails.
Thus arrayed, we were ready for Tamai; in whose green saloons we
counted upon creating no small sensation.
LONG before sunrise the next morning my sandals were laced on, and the
doctor had vaulted into Zeke's boots.
Expecting to see us again before we went to Taloo, the planters wished
us a pleasant journey; and, on parting, very generously presented us
with a pound or two of what sailors call "plug" tobacco; telling us
to cut it up into small change; the Virginian weed being the
principal circulating medium on the island.
Tamai, we were told, was not more than three or four leagues distant;
so making allowances for a wild road, a few hours to rest at noon,
and our determination to take the journey leisurely, we counted upon
reaching the shores of the lake some time in the flush of the
For several hours we went on slowly through wood and ravine, and over
hill and precipice, seeing nothing but occasional herds of wild
cattle, and often resting; until we found ourselves, about noon, in
the very heart of the island.
It was a green, cool hollow among the mountains, into which we at last
descended with a bound. The place was gushing with a hundred springs,
and shaded over with great solemn trees, on whose mossy boles the
moisture stood in beads. Strange to say, no traces of the bullocks
ever having been here were revealed. Nor was there a sound to be
heard, nor a bird to be seen, nor any breath of wind stirring the
leaves. The utter solitude and silence were oppressive; and after
peering about under the shades, and seeing nothing but ranks of dark,
motionless trunks, we hurried across the hollow, and ascended a steep
Midway up, we rested where the earth had gathered about the roots of
three palms, and thus formed a pleasant lounge, from which we looked
down upon the hollow, now one dark green tuft of woodland at our
feet. Here we brought forth a small calabash of "poee" a parting
present from Tonoi. After eating heartily, we obtained fire by two
sticks, and throwing ourselves back, puffed forth our fatigue in
wreaths of smoke. At last we fell asleep; nor did we waken till the
sun had sunk so low that its rays darted in upon us under the
Starting up, we then continued our journey; and as we gained the
mountain top--there, to our surprise, lay the lake and village of
Tamai. We had thought it a good league off. Where we stood, the
yellow sunset was still lingering; but over the valley below long
shadows were stealing--the rippling green lake reflecting the houses
and trees just as they stood along its banks. Several small canoes,
moored here and there to posts in the water, were dancing upon the
waves; and one solitary fisherman was paddling over to a grassy
point. In front of the houses, groups of natives were seen; some
thrown at full length upon the ground, and others indolently leaning
against the bamboos.
With whoop and halloo, we ran down the hills, the villagers soon
hurrying forth to see who were coming. As we drew near, they gathered
round, all curiosity to know what brought the "karhowrees" into their
quiet country. The doctor contriving to make them understand the
purely social object of our visit, they gave us a true Tahitian
-welcome; pointing into their dwellings, and saying they were ours as
long as we chose to remain.
We were struck by the appearance of these people, both men and women;
so much more healthful than the inhabitants of the bays. As for the
young girls, they were more retiring and modest, more tidy in their
dress, and far fresher and more beautiful than the damsels of the
coast. A thousand pities, thought I, that they should bury their
charms in this nook of a valley.
That night we abode in the house of Rartoo, a hospitable old chief. It
was right on the shore of the lake; and at supper we looked out
through a rustling screen of foliage upon the surface of the starlit
The next day we rambled about, and found a happy little community,
comparatively free from many deplorable evils to which the rest of
their countrymen are subject. Their time, too, was more occupied. To
my surprise, the manufacture of tappa was going on in several
buildings. European calicoes were seldom seen, and not many articles
of foreign origin of any description.
The people of Tamai were nominally Christians; but being so remote
from ecclesiastical jurisdiction, their religion sat lightly upon
them. We had been told, even, that many heathenish games and dances
still secretly lingered in their valley.
Now the prospect of seeing an old-fashioned "hevar," or Tahitian reel,
was one of the inducements which brought us here; and so, finding
Rartoo rather liberal in his religious ideas, we disclosed our
desire. At first he demurred; and shrugging his shoulders like a
Frenchman, declared it could not be brought about--was a dangerous
matter to attempt, and might bring all concerned into trouble. But we
overcame all this, convinced him that the thing could be done, and a
"hevar," a genuine pagan fandango, was arranged for that very night.
A DANCE IN THE VALLEY
THERE were some ill-natured people--tell-tales--it seemed, in Tamai;
and hence there was a deal of mystery about getting up the dance.
An hour or two before midnight, Rartoo entered the house, and,
throwing robes of tappa over us, bade us follow at a distance behind
him; and, until out of the village, hood our faces. Keenly alive to
the adventure, we obeyed. At last, after taking a wide circuit, we
came out upon the farthest shore of the lake. It was a wide, dewy,
space; lighted up by a full moon, and carpeted with a minute species
of fern growing closely together. It swept right down to the water,
showing the village opposite, glistening among the groves.
Near the trees, on one side of the clear space, was a ruinous pile of
stones many rods in extent; upon which had formerly stood a temple of
Oro. At present, there was nothing but a rude hut, planted on the
lowermost terrace. It seemed to have been used as a "tappa herree,"
or house for making the native cloth.
Here we saw lights gleaming from between the bamboos, and casting
long, rod-like shadows upon the ground without. Voices also were
heard. We went up, and had a peep at the dancers who were getting
ready for the ballet. They were some twenty in number;-waited upon by
hideous old crones, who might have been duennas. Long Ghost proposed
to send the latter packing; but Rartoo said it would never do, and so
they were permitted to remain.
We tried to effect an entrance at the door, which was fastened; but,
after a noisy discussion with one of the old witches within, our
guide became fidgety, and, at last, told us to desist, or we would
spoil all. He then led us off to a distance to await the performance;
as the girls, he said, did not wish to be recognized. He,
furthermore, made us promise to remain where we were until all was
over, and the dancers had retired.
We waited impatiently; and, at last, they came forth. They were
arrayed in short tunics of white tappa; with garlands of flowers on
their heads. Following them were the duennas, who remained clustering
about the house, while the girls advanced a few paces; and, in an
instant, two of them, taller than their companions, were standing,
side by side, in the middle of a ring formed by the clasped hands of
the rest. This movement was made in perfect silence.
Presently the two girls join hands overhead; and, crying out, "Ahloo!
ahloo!" wave them to and fro. Upon which the ring begins to circle
slowly; the dancers moving sideways, with their arms a little
drooping. Soon they quicken their pace; and, at last, fly round and
round: bosoms heaving, hair streaming, flowers dropping, and every
sparkling eye circling in what seemed a line of light.
Meanwhile, the pair within are passing and repassing each other
incessantly. Inclining sideways, so that their long hair falls far
over, they glide this way and that; one foot continually in the air,
and their fingers thrown forth, and twirling in the moonbeams.
"Ahloo! ahloo!" again cry the dance queens; and coming together in the
middle of the ring, they once more lift up the arch, and stand
"Ahloo! ahloo!" Every link of the circle is broken; and the girls,
deeply breathing, stand perfectly still. They pant hard and fast a
moment or two; and then, just as the deep flush is dying away from
their faces, slowly recede, all round; thus enlarging the ring.
Again the two leaders wave their hands, when the rest pause; and now,
far apart, stand in the still moonlight like a circle of fairies.
Presently, raising a strange chant, they softly sway themselves,
gradually quickening the movement, until, at length, for a few
passionate moments, with throbbing bosoms and glowing cheeks, they
abandon themselves to all the spirit of the dance, apparently lost to
everything around. But soon subsiding again into the same languid
measure as before, they become motionless; and then, reeling forward
on all sides, their eyes swimming in their heads, join in one wild
chorus, and sink into each other's arms.
Such is the Lory-Lory, I think they call it; the dance of the
backsliding girls of Tamai.
While it was going on, we had as much as we could do to keep the
doctor from rushing forward and seizing a partner.
They would give us no more "hevars" that night; and Rartoo fairly
dragged us away to a canoe, hauled up on the lake shore; when we
reluctantly embarked, and paddling over to the village, arrived there
in time for a good nap before sunrise.
The next day, the doctor went about trying to hunt up the overnight
dancers. He thought to detect them by their late rising; but never
was man more mistaken; for, on first sallying out, the whole village
was asleep, waking up in concert about an hour after. But, in the
course of the day, he came across several whom he at once charged
with taking part in the "hevar." There were some prim-looking fellows
standing by (visiting elders from Afrehitoo, perhaps), and the girls
looked embarrassed; but parried the charge most skilfully.
Though soft as doves, in general, the ladies of Tamai are,
nevertheless, flavoured with a slight tincture of what we queerly
enough call the "devil"; and they showed it on the present occasion.
For when the doctor pressed one rather hard, she all at once turned
round upon him, and, giving him a box on the ear, told him to "hanree
perrar!" (be off with himself.)
THERE was a little old man of a most hideous aspect living in Tamai,
who, in a coarse mantle of tappa, went about the village, dancing,
and singing, and making faces. He followed us about wherever we went;
and, when unobserved by others, plucked at our garments, making
frightful signs for us to go along with him somewhere, and see
It was in vain that we tried to get rid of him. Kicks and cuffs, even,
were at last resorted to; but, though he howled like one possessed,
he would not go away, but still haunted us. At last, we conjured the
natives to rid us of him; but they only laughed; so we were forced to
endure the dispensation as well as we could.
On the fourth night of our visit, returning home late from paying a
few calls through the village, we turned a dark corner of trees, and
came full upon our goblin friend: as usual, chattering, and motioning
with his hands. The doctor, venting a curse, hurried forward; but,
from some impulse or other, I stood my ground, resolved to find out
what this unaccountable object wanted of us. Seeing me pause, he crept
close up to me, peered into my face, and then retreated, beckoning me
to follow; which I did.
In a few moments the village was behind us; and with my guide in
advance, I found myself in the shadow of the heights overlooking the
farther side of the valley. Here my guide paused until I came up with
him; when, side by side, and without speaking, we ascended the hill.
Presently, we came to a wretched hut, barely distinguishable in the
shade cast by the neighbouring trees. Pushing aside a rude sliding
door, held together with thongs, the goblin signed me to enter.
Within, it looked dark as pitch; so I gave him to understand that he
must strike a light, and go in before me. Without replying, he
disappeared in the darkness; and, after groping about, I heard two
sticks rubbing together, and directly saw a spark. A native taper was
then lighted, and I stooped, and entered.
It was a mere kennel. Foul old mats, and broken cocoa-nut shells, and
calabashes were strewn about the floor of earth; and overhead I
caught glimpses of the stars through chinks in the roof. Here and
there the thatch had fallen through, and hung down in wisps.
I now told him to set about what he was going to do, or produce
whatever he had to show without delay. Looking round fearfully, as if
dreading a surprise, he commenced turning over and over the rubbish
in one corner. At last, he clutched a calabash, stained black, and
with the neck broken off; on one side of it was a large hole.
Something seemed to be stuffed away in the vessel; and after a deal of
poking at the aperture, a musty old pair of sailor trousers was drawn
forth; and, holding them up eagerly, he inquired how many pieces of
tobacco I would give for them.
Without replying, I hurried away; the old man chasing me, and shouting
as I ran, until I gained the village. Here I dodged him, and made my
way home, resolved never to disclose so inglorious an adventure.
To no purpose, the next morning, my comrade besought me to enlighten
him; I preserved a mysterious silence.
The occurrence served me a good turn, however, so long as we abode in
Tamai; for the old clothesman never afterwards troubled me; but
forever haunted the doctor, who, in vain, supplicated Heaven to be
delivered from him.
THE HEGIRA, OR FLIGHT
"I SAY, doctor," cried I, a few days after my adventure with the
goblin, as, in the absence of our host, we were one morning lounging
upon the matting in his dwelling, smoking our reed pipes, "Tamai's a
thriving place; why not settle down?"
"Faith!" said he, "not a bad idea, Paul. But do you fancy they'll let
us stay, though?"
"Why, certainly; they would be overjoyed to have a couple of
Karhowrees for townsmen."
"Gad! you're right, my pleasant fellow. Ha! ha! I'll put up a
banana-leaf as a physician from London--deliver lectures on
Polynesian antiquities--teach English in five lessons, of one hour
each--establish power-looms for the manufacture of tappa--lay out a
public park in the middle of the village, and found a festival in
honour of Captain Cook!"
"But, surely, not without stopping to take breath," observed I.
The doctor's projects, to be sure, were of a rather visionary cast;
but we seriously thought, nevertheless, of prolonging our stay in the
valley for an indefinite period; and, with this understanding, we
were turning over various plans for spending our time pleasantly,
when several women came running into the house, and hurriedly
besought us to heree! heree! (make our escape), crying out something
about the Mickonarees.
Thinking that we were about to be taken up under the act for the
suppression of vagrancy, we flew out of the house, sprang into a
canoe before the door, and paddled with might and main over to the
opposite side of the lake.
Approaching Rartoo's dwelling was a great crowd, among which we
perceived several natives, who, from their partly European dress, we
were certain did not reside in Tamai.
Plunging into the groves, we thanked our stars that we had thus
narrowly escaped being apprehended as runaway seamen, and marched off
to the beach. This, at least, was what we thought we had escaped.
Having fled the village, we could not think of prowling about its
vicinity, and then returning; in doing so we might be risking our
liberty again. We therefore determined upon journeying back to
Martair; and setting our faces thitherward, we reached the planters'
house about nightfall. They gave us a cordial reception, and a hearty
supper; and we sat up talking until a late hour.
We now prepared to go round to Taloo, a place from which we were not
far off when at Tamai; but wishing to see as much of the island as we
could, we preferred returning to Martair, and then going round by way
of the beach.
Taloo, the only frequented harbour of Imeeo, lies on the western side
of the island, almost directly over against Martair. Upon one shore
of the bay stands the village of Partoowye, a missionary station. In
its vicinity is an extensive sugar plantation--the best in the South
Seas, perhaps--worked by a person from Sydney.
The patrimonial property of the husband of Pomaree, and every way a
delightful retreat, Partoowye was one of the occasional residences of
the court. But at the time I write of it was permanently fixed there,
the queen having fled thither from Tahiti.
Partoowye, they told us, was by no means the place Papeetee was. Ships
seldom touched, and very few foreigners were living ashore. A
solitary whaler, however, was reported to be lying in the harbour,
wooding and watering, and to be in want of men.
All things considered, I could not help looking upon Taloo as offering
"a splendid opening" for us adventurers. To say nothing of the
facilities presented for going to sea in the whaler, or hiring
ourselves out as day labourers in the sugar plantation, there were
hopes to be entertained of being promoted to some office of high
trust and emolument about the person of her majesty, the queen.
Nor was this expectation altogether Quixotic. In the train of many
Polynesian princes roving whites are frequently found: gentleman
pensioners of state, basking in the tropical sunshine of the court,
and leading the pleasantest lives in the world. Upon islands little
visited by foreigners the first seaman that settles down is generally
domesticated in the family of the head chief or king; where he
frequently discharges the functions of various offices, elsewhere
filled by as many different individuals. As historiographer, for
instance, he gives the natives some account of distant countries; as
commissioner of the arts and sciences, he instructs them in the use of
the jack-knife, and the best way of shaping bits of iron hoop into
spear-heads; and as interpreter to his majesty, he facilitates
intercourse with strangers; besides instructing the people generally
in the uses of the most common English phrases, civil and profane;
but oftener the latter.
These men generally marry well; often--like Hardy of Hannamanoo--into
the Wood royal.
Sometimes they officiate as personal attendant, or First Lord in
Waiting, to the king. At Amboi, one of the Tonga Islands, a vagabond
Welshman bends his knee as cupbearer to his cannibal majesty. He
mixes his morning cup of "arva," and, with profound genuflections,
presents it in a cocoa-nut bowl, richly carved. Upon another island
of the same group, where it is customary to bestow no small pains in
dressing the hair--frizzing it out by a curious process into an
enormous Pope's head--an old man-of-war's-man fills the post of
barber to the king. And as his majesty is not very neat, his mop is
exceedingly populous; so that, when Jack is not engaged in dressing
the head intrusted to his charge, he busies himself in gently
titillating it--a sort of skewer being actually worn about in the
patient's hair for that special purpose.
Even upon the Sandwich Islands a low rabble of foreigners is kept
about the person of Tammahammaha for the purpose of ministering to
his ease or enjoyment.
Billy Loon, a jolly little negro, tricked out in a soiled blue jacket,
studded all over with rusty bell buttons, and garnished with shabby
gold lace, is the royal drummer and pounder of the tambourine. Joe, a
wooden-legged Portuguese who lost his leg by a whale, is violinist;
and Mordecai, as he is called, a villainous-looking scamp, going
about with his cups and balls in a side pocket, diverts the court with
his jugglery. These idle rascals receive no fixed salary, being
altogether dependent upon the casual bounty of their master. Now and
then they run up a score at the Dance Houses in Honolulu, where the
illustrious Tammahammaha III afterwards calls and settles the bill.
A few years since an auctioneer to his majesty came near being added
to the retinue of state. It seems that he was the first man who had
practised his vocation in the Sandwich Islands; and delighted with
the sport of bidding upon his wares, the king was one of his best
customers. At last he besought the man to leave all and follow him,
and he should be handsomely provided for at court. But the auctioneer
refused; and so the ivory hammer lost the chance of being borne
before him on a velvet cushion when the next king went to be crowned.
But it was not as strolling players, nor as footmen out of employ,
that the doctor and myself looked forward to our approaching
introduction to the court of the Queen of Tahiti. On the contrary, as
before hinted, we expected to swell the appropriations of bread-fruit
and cocoa-nuts on the Civil List by filling some honourable office in
We were told that, to resist the usurpation of the French, the queen
was rallying about her person all the foreigners she could. Her
partiality for the English and Americans was well known; and this was
an additional ground for our anticipating a favourable reception.
Zeke had informed us, moreover, that by the queen's counsellors at
Partoowye, a war of aggression against the invaders of Papeetee had
been seriously thought of. Should this prove true, a surgeon's
commission for the doctor, and a lieutenancy for myself, were
certainly counted upon in our sanguine expectations.
Such, then, were our views, and such our hopes in projecting a trip to
Taloo. But in our most lofty aspirations we by no means lost sight of
any minor matters which might help us to promotion. The doctor had
informed me that he excelled in playing the fiddle. I now suggested
that, as soon as we arrived at Partoowye, we should endeavour to
borrow a violin for him; or if this could not be done, that he should
manufacture some kind of a substitute, and, thus equipped, apply for
an audience of the queen. Her well-known passion for music would at
once secure his admittance; and so, under the most favourable
auspices, bring about our introduction to her notice.
"And who knows," said my waggish comrade, throwing his head back and
performing an imaginary air by briskly drawing one arm across the
other, "who knows that I may not fiddle myself into her majesty's
good graces so as to became a sort of Rizzio to the Tahitian
HOW WE WERE TO GET TO TALOO
THE inglorious circumstances of our somewhat premature departure from
Tamai filled the sagacious doctor, and myself, with sundry misgivings
for the future.
Under Zeke's protection, we were secure from all impertinent
interference in our concerns on the part of the natives. But as
friendless wanderers over the island, we ran the risk of being
apprehended as runaways, and, as such, sent back to Tahiti. The
truth is that the rewards constantly offered for the apprehension of
deserters from ships induce some of the natives to eye all strangers
A passport was therefore desirable; but such a thing had never been
heard of in Imeeo. At last, Long Ghost suggested that, as the Yankee
was well known and much respected all over the island, we should
endeavour to obtain from him some sort of paper, not only certifying
to our having been in his employ, but also to our not being
highwaymen, kidnappers, nor yet runaway seamen. Even written in
English, a paper like this would answer every purpose; for the
unlettered natives, standing in great awe of the document, would not
dare to molest us until acquainted with its purport. Then, if it
came to the worst, we might repair to the nearest missionary, and have
the passport explained.
Upon informing Zeke of these matters, he seemed highly flattered with
the opinion we entertained of his reputation abroad; and he agreed to
oblige us. The doctor at once offered to furnish him with a draught
of the paper; but he refused, saying he would write it himself. With
a rooster's quill, therefore, a bit of soiled paper, and a stout
heart, he set to work. Evidently he was not accustomed to composition;
for his literary throes were so violent that the doctor suggested
that some sort of a Caesarian operation might be necessary.
The precious paper was at last finished; and a great curiosity it was.
We were much diverted with his reasons for not dating it.
"In this here dummed eliminate," he observed, "a feller can't keep the
run of the months, nohow; cause there's no seasons; no summer and
winter, to go by. One's etarnally thinkin' it's always July, it's so
A passport provided, we cast about for some means of getting to
The island of Imeeo is very nearly surrounded by a regular breakwater
of coral extending within a mile or less of the shore. The smooth
canal within furnishes the best means of communication with the
different settlements; all of which, with the exception of Tamai, are
right upon the water. And so indolent are the Imeeose that they think
nothing of going twenty or thirty miles round the island in a canoe in
order to reach a place not a quarter of that distance by land. But as
hinted before, the fear of the bullocks has something to do with
The idea of journeying in a canoe struck our fancy quite pleasantly;
and we at once set about chartering one, if possible. But none could
we obtain. For not only did we have nothing to pay for hiring one,
but we could not expect to have it loaned; inasmuch as the
good-natured owner would, in all probability, have to walk along the
beach as we paddled in order to bring back his property when we had no
further use for it.
At last, it was decided to commence our journey on foot; trusting that
we would soon fall in with a canoe going our way, in which we might
The planters said we would find no beaten path: all we had to do was
to follow the beach; and however inviting it might look inland, on no
account must we stray from it. In short, the longest way round was
the nearest way to Taloo. At intervals, there were little hamlets
along the shore, besides lonely fishermen's huts here and there,
where we could get plenty to eat without pay; so there was no
necessity to lay in any store.
Intending to be off before sunrise the next morning, so as to have the
benefit of the coolest part of the day, we bade our kind hosts
farewell overnight; and then, repairing to the beach, we launched our
floating pallet, and slept away merrily till dawn.
THE JOURNEY ROUND THE BEACH
IT was on the fourth day of the first month of the Hegira, or flight
from Tamai (we now reckoned our time thus), that, rising bright and
early, we were up and away out of the valley of Hartair before the
fishermen even were stirring.
It was the earliest dawn. The morning only showed itself along the
lower edge of a bank of purple clouds pierced by the misty peaks of
Tahiti. The tropical day seemed too languid to rise. Sometimes,
starting fitfully, it decked the clouds with faint edgings of pink
and gray, which, fading away, left all dim again. Anon, it threw out
thin, pale rays, growing lighter and lighter, until at last, the
golden morning sprang out of the East with a bound--darting its
bright beams hither and thither, higher and higher, and sending them,
broadcast, over the face of the heavens.
All balmy from the groves of Tahiti came an indolent air, cooled by
its transit over the waters; and grateful underfoot was the damp and
slightly yielding beach, from which the waves seemed just retired.
The doctor was in famous spirits; removing his Koora, he went
splashing into the sea; and, after swimming a few yards, waded
ashore, hopping, skipping, and jumping along the beach; but very
careful to cut all his capers in the direction of our journey.
Say what they will of the glowing independence one feels in the
saddle, give me the first morning flush of your cheery pedestrian!
Thus exhilarated, we went on, as light-hearted and care-free as we
And here I cannot refrain from lauding the very superior inducements
which most intertropical countries afford, not only to mere rovers
like ourselves, but to penniless people generally. In these genial
regions one's wants are naturally diminished; and those which remain
are easily gratified; fuel, house-shelter, and, if you please,
clothing, may be entirely dispensed with.
How different our hard northern latitudes! Alas! the lot of a "poor
devil," twenty degrees north of the tropic of Cancer, is indeed
At last, the. beach contracted to hardly a yard's width, and the dense
thicket almost dipped into the sea. In place of the smooth sand, too,
we had sharp fragments of broken coral, which made travelling
exceedingly unpleasant. "Lord! my foot!" roared the doctor, fetching
it up for inspection, with a galvanic fling of the limb. A sharp
splinter had thrust itself into the flesh through a hole in his boot.
My sandals were worse yet; their soles taking a sort of fossil
impression of everything trod upon.
Turning round a bold sweep of the beach, we came upon a piece of fine,
open ground, with a fisherman's dwelling in the distance, crowning a
knoll which rolled off into the water.
The hut proved to be a low, rude erection, very recently thrown up;
for the bamboos were still green as grass, and the thatching fresh
and fragrant as meadow hay. It was open upon three sides; so that,
upon drawing near, the domestic arrangements within were in plain
sight. No one was stirring; and nothing was to be seen but a clumsy
old chest of native workmanship, a few calabashes, and bundles of
tappa hanging against a post; and a heap of something, we knew not
what, in a dark corner. Upon close inspection, the doctor discovered
it to be a loving old couple, locked in each other's arms, and rolled
together in a tappa mantle.
"Halloa! Darby!" he cried, shaking the one with a beard. But Darby
heeded him not; though Joan, a wrinkled old body, started up in
affright, and yelled aloud. Neither of us attempting to gag her, she
presently became quiet; and, after staring hard and asking some
unintelligible questions, she proceeded to rouse her still slumbering
What ailed him we could not tell; but there was no waking him. Equally
in vain were all his dear spouse's cuffs, pinches, and other
endearments; he lay like a log, face up, snoring away like a cavalry
"Here, my good woman," said Long Ghost, "just let me try"; and, taking
the patient right by his nose, he so lifted him bodily into a sitting
position, and held him there until his eyes opened. When this event
came to pass, Darby looked round like one stupefied; and then,
springing to his feet, backed away into a corner, from which place we
became the objects of his earnest and respectful attention.
"Permit me, my dear Darby, to introduce to you my esteemed friend and
comrade, Paul," said the doctor, gallanting me up with all the
grimace and flourish imaginable. Upon this, Darby began to recover
his faculties, and surprised us not a little by talking a few words
of English. So far as could be understood, they were expressive of
his having been aware that there were two "karhowrees" in the
neighbourhood; that he was glad to see us, and would have something
for us to eat in no time.
How he came by his English was explained to us before we left. Some
time previous, he had been a denizen of Papeetee, where the native
language is broidered over with the most classic sailor phrases. He
seemed to be quite proud of his residence there; and alluded to it in
the same significant way in which a provincial informs you that in
his time he has resided in the capital. The old fellow was disposed to
be garrulous; but being sharp-set, we told him to get breakfast;
after which we would hear his anecdotes. While employed among the
calabashes, the strange, antiquated fondness between these old
semi-savages was really amusing. I made no doubt that they were
saying to each other, "yes, my love"--"no, my life," just in the same
way that some young couples do, at home.
They gave us a hearty meal; and while we were discussing its merits,
they assured us, over and over again, that they expected nothing in
return for their attentions; more: we were at liberty to stay as long
as we pleased; and as long as we did stay, their house and everything
they had was no longer theirs, but ours; still more: they themselves
were our slaves--the old lady, to a degree that was altogether
superfluous. This, now, is Tahitian hospitality! Self-immolation upon
one's own hearthstone for the benefit of the guest.
The Polynesians carry their hospitality to an amazing extent. Let a
native of Waiurar, the westernmost part of Tahiti, make his
appearance as a traveller at Partoowye, the most easterly village of
Imeeo; though a perfect stranger, the inhabitants on all sides accost
him at their doorways, inviting him to enter, and make himself at
home. But the traveller passes on, examining every house attentively;
until, at last, he pauses before one which suits him, and then
exclaiming, "ah, eda maitai" (this one will do, I think), he steps
in, and makes himself perfectly at ease; flinging himself upon the
mats, and very probably calling for a nice young cocoa-nut, and a
piece of toasted breadfruit, sliced thin, and done brown.
Curious to relate, however, should a stranger carrying it thus bravely
be afterwards discovered to be without a house of his own, why, he
may thenceforth go a-begging for his lodgings. The "karhowrees," or
white men, are exceptions to this rule. Thus it is precisely as in
civilized countries, where those who have houses and lands are
incessantly bored to death with invitations to come and live in other
people's houses; while many a poor gentleman who inks the seams of
his coat, and to whom the like invitation would be really acceptable,
may go and sue for it. But to the credit of the ancient Tahitians, it
should here be observed that this blemish upon their hospitality is
only of recent origin, and was wholly unknown in old times. So told
me, Captain Bob.
In Polynesia it is esteemed "a great hit" if a man succeed in marrying
into a family to which the best part of the community is related
(Heaven knows it is otherwise with us). The reason is that, when he
goes a-travelling, the greater number of houses are the more
completely at his service.
Receiving a paternal benediction from old Darby and Joan, we continued
our journey; resolved to stop at the very next place of attraction
Nor did we long stroll for it. A fine walk along a beach of shells,
and we came to a spot where, trees here and there, the land was all
meadow, sloping away to the water, which stirred a sedgy growth of
reeds bordering its margin. Close by was a little cove, walled in
with coral, where a fleet of canoes was dancing up and down. A few
paces distant, on a natural terrace overlooking the sea, were several
native dwellings, newly thatched, and peeping into view out of the
foliage like summer-houses.
As we drew near, forth came a burst of voices, and, presently, three
gay girls, overflowing with life, health, and youth, and full of
spirits and mischief. One was arrayed in a flaunting robe of calico;
and her long black hair was braided behind in two immense tresses,
joined together at the ends, and wreathed with the green tendrils of
a vine. From her self-possessed and forward air, I fancied she might
be some young lady from Papeetee on a visit to her country relations.
Her companions wore mere slips of cotton cloth; their hair was
dishevelled; and though very pretty, they betrayed the reserve and
embarrassment characteristic of the provinces.
The little gipsy first mentioned ran up to me with great cordiality;
and, giving the Tahitian salutation, opened upon me such a fire of
questions that there was no understanding, much less answering them.
But our hearty welcome to Loohooloo, as she called the hamlet, was
made plain enough. Meanwhile, Doctor Long Ghost gallantly presented
an arm to each of the other young ladies; which, at first, they knew
not what to make of; but at last, taking it for some kind of joke,
accepted the civility.
The names of these three damsels were at once made known by
themselves: and being so exceedingly romantic, I cannot forbear
particularizing them. Upon my comrade's arms, then, were hanging
Night and Morning, in the persons of Farnowar, or the Day-Born, and
Earnoopoo, or the Night-Born. She with the tresses was very
appropriately styled Marhar-Rarrar, the Wakeful, or Bright-Eyed.
By this time, the houses were emptied of the rest of their inmates--a
few old men and women, and several strapping young fellows rubbing
their eyes and yawning. All crowded round, putting questions as to
whence we came. Upon being informed of our acquaintance with Zeke,
they were delighted; and one of them recognized the boots worn by the
doctor. "Keekee (Zeke) maitai," they cried, "nuee nuee hanna hanna
portarto"--(makes plenty of potatoes).
There was now a little friendly altercation as to who should have the
honour of entertaining the strangers. At last, a tall old gentleman,
by name Marharvai, with a bald head and white beard, took us each by
the hand, and led us into his dwelling. Once inside, Marharvai,
pointing about with his staff, was so obsequious in assuring us that
his house was ours that Long Ghost suggested he might as well hand
over the deed.
It was drawing near noon; so after a light lunch of roasted
breadfruit, a few whiffs of a pipe, and some lively chatting, our
host admonished the company to lie down, and take the everlasting
siesta. We complied; and had a social nap all round.
A DINNER-PARTY IN IMEEO
IT WAS just in the middle of the merry, mellow afternoon that they
ushered us to dinner, underneath a green shelter of palm boughs; open
all round, and so low at the eaves that we stooped to enter.
Within, the ground was strewn over with aromatic ferns--called
"nahee"--freshly gathered; which, stirred underfoot, diffused the
sweetest odour. On one side was a row of yellow mats, inwrought with
fibres of bark stained a bright red. Here, seated after the fashion
of the Turk, we looked out, over a verdant bank, upon the mild, blue,
endless Pacific. So far round had we skirted the island that the view
of Tahiti was now intercepted.
Upon the ferns before us were laid several layers of broad, thick
"pooroo" leaves; lapping over, one upon the other. And upon these
were placed, side by side, newly-plucked banana leaves, at least two
yards in length, and very wide; the stalks were withdrawn so as to
make them lie flat. This green cloth was set out and garnished in the
First, a number of "pooroo" leaves, by way of plates, were ranged
along on one side; and by each was a rustic nut-bowl, half-filled
with sea-water, and a Tahitian roll, or small bread-fruit, roasted
brown. An immense flat calabash, placed in the centre, was heaped up
with numberless small packages of moist, steaming leaves: in each was
a small fish, baked in the earth, and done to a turn. This pyramid of
a dish was flanked on either side by an ornamental calabash. One was
brimming with the golden-hued "poee," or pudding, made from the red
plantain of the mountains: the other was stacked up with cakes of the
Indian turnip, previously macerated in a mortar, kneaded with the
milk of the cocoa-nut, and then baked. In the spaces between the
three dishes were piled young cocoa-nuts, stripped of their husks.
Their eyes had been opened and enlarged; so that each was a
There was a sort of side-cloth in one corner, upon which, in bright,
buff jackets, lay the fattest of bananas; "avees," red-ripe: guavas
with the shadows of their crimson pulp flushing through a transparent
skin, and almost coming and going there like blushes; oranges,
tinged, here and there, berry-brown; and great, jolly melons, which
rolled about in very portliness. Such a heap! All ruddy, ripe, and
round--bursting with the good cheer of the tropical soil from which
"A land of orchards!" cried the doctor, in a rapture; and he snatched
a morsel from a sort of fruit of which gentlemen of the sanguine
temperament are remarkably fond; namely, the ripe cherry lips of Misa
Day-Born, who stood looking on.
Marharvai allotted seats to his guests; and the meal began. Thinking
that his hospitality needed some acknowledgment, I rose, and pledged
him in the vegetable wine of the cocoa-nut; merely repeating the
ordinary salutation, "Yar onor boyoee." Sensible that some
compliment, after the fashion of white men, was paid him, with a
smile, and a courteous flourish of the hand, he bade me be seated. No
people, however refined, are more easy and graceful in their manners
than the Imeeose.
The doctor, sitting next our host, now came under his special
protection. Laying before his guest one of the packages of fish,
Marharvai opened it; and commended its contents to his particular
regards. But my comrade was one of those who, on convivial occasions,
can always take care of themselves. He ate an indefinite number of
"Pee-hee Lee Lees" (small fish), his own and next neighbour's
bread-fruit; and helped himself, to right and left, with all the ease
of an accomplished diner-out.
"Paul," said he, at last, "you don't seem to be getting along; why
don't you try the pepper sauce?" and, by way of example, he steeped a
morsel of food into his nutful of sea-water. On following suit, I
found it quite piquant, though rather bitter; but, on the whole, a
capital substitute for salt. The Imeeose invariably use sea-water in
this way, deeming it quite a treat; and considering that their
country is surrounded by an ocean of catsup, the luxury cannot be
deemed an expensive one.
The fish were delicious; the manner of cooking them in the ground
preserving all the juices, and rendering them exceedingly sweet and
tender. The plantain pudding was almost cloying; the cakes of Indian
turnip, quite palatable; and the roasted bread-fruit, crisp as toast.
During the meal, a native lad walked round and round the party,
carrying a long staff of bamboo. This he occasionally tapped upon the
cloth, before each guest; when a white clotted substance dropped
forth, with a savour not unlike that of a curd. This proved to be
"Lownee," an excellent relish, prepared from the grated meat of ripe
cocoa-nuts, moistened with cocoa-nut milk and salt water, and kept
perfectly tight until a little past the saccharine stage of
Throughout the repast there was much lively chatting among the
islanders, in which their conversational powers quite exceeded ours.
The young ladies, too, showed themselves very expert in the use of
their tongues, and contributed much to the gaiety which prevailed.
Nor did these lively nymphs suffer the meal to languish; for upon the
doctor's throwing himself back, with an air of much satisfaction,
they sprang to their feet, and pelted him with oranges and guavas.
This, at last, put an end to the entertainment.
By a hundred whimsical oddities, my long friend became a great
favourite with these people; and they bestowed upon him a long,
comical title, expressive of his lank figure and Koora combined. The
latter, by the bye, never failed to excite the remark of everybody we
The giving of nicknames is quite a passion with the people of Tahiti
and Imeeo. No one with any peculiarity, whether of person or temper,
is exempt; not even strangers.
A pompous captain of a man-of-war, visiting Tahiti for the second
time, discovered that, among the natives, he went by the dignified
title of "Atee Poee"--literally, Poee Head, or Pudding Head. Nor is
the highest rank among themselves any protection. The first husband
of the present queen was commonly known in the court circles as "Pot
Belly." He carried the greater part of his person before him, to be
sure; and so did the gentlemanly George IV.--but what a title for a
Even "Pomaree" itself, the royal patronymic, was, originally, a mere
nickname; and literally signifies, one talking through his nose. The
first monarch of that name, being on a war party, and sleeping
overnight among the mountains, awoke one morning with a cold in his
head; and some wag of a courtier had no more manners than to
vulgarize him thus.
How different from the volatile Polynesian in this, as in all other
respects, is our grave and decorous North American Indian. While the
former bestows a name in accordance with some humorous or ignoble
trait, the latter seizes upon what is deemed the most exalted or
warlike: and hence, among the red tribes, we have the truly patrician
appellations of "White Eagles," "Young Oaks," "Fiery Eyes," and
WHILE the doctor and the natives were taking a digestive nap after
dinner, I strolled forth to have a peep at the country which could
produce so generous a meal.
To my surprise, a fine strip of land in the vicinity of the hamlet,
and protected seaward by a grove of cocoa-nut and bread-fruit trees,
was under high cultivation. Sweet potatoes, Indian turnips, and yams
were growing; also melons, a few pine-apples, and other fruits. Still
more pleasing was the sight of young bread-fruit and cocoa-nut trees
set out with great care, as if, for once, the improvident Polynesian
had thought of his posterity. But this was the only instance of native
thrift which ever came under my observation. For, in all my rambles
over Tahiti and Imeeo, nothing so much struck me as the comparative
scarcity of these trees in many places where they ought to abound.
Entire valleys, like Martair, of inexhaustible fertility are
abandoned to all the rankness of untamed vegetation. Alluvial flats
bordering the sea, and watered by streams from the mountains, are
over-grown with a wild, scrub guava-bush, introduced by foreigners,
and which spreads with such fatal rapidity that the natives, standing
still while it grows, anticipate its covering the entire island. Even
tracts of clear land, which, with so little pains, might be made to
wave with orchards, lie wholly neglected.
When I considered their unequalled soil and climate, thus
unaccountably slighted, I often turned in amazement upon the natives
about Papeetee; some of whom all but starve in their gardens run to
waste. Upon other islands which I have visited, of similar fertility,
and wholly unreclaimed from their first-discovered condition, no
spectacle of this sort was presented.
The high estimation in which many of their fruit-trees are held by the
Tahitians and Imeeose--their beauty in the landscape--their manifold
uses, and the facility with which they are propagated, are
considerations which render the remissness alluded to still more
unaccountable. The cocoa-palm is as an example; a tree by far the
most important production of Nature in the Tropics. To the
Polynesians it is emphatically the Tree of Life; transcending even
the bread-fruit in the multifarious uses to which it is applied.
Its very aspect is imposing. Asserting its supremacy by an erect and
lofty bearing, it may be said to compare with other trees as man with
The blessings it confers are incalculable. Tear after year, the
islander reposes beneath its shade, both eating and drinking of its
fruit; he thatches his hut with its boughs, and weaves them into
baskets to carry his food; he cools himself with a fan platted from
the young leaflets, and shields his head from the sun by a bonnet of
the leaves; sometimes he clothes himself with the cloth-like
substance which wraps round the base of the stalks, whose elastic
rods, strung with filberts, are used as a taper; the larger nuts,
thinned and polished, furnish him with a beautiful goblet: the
smaller ones, with bowls for his pipes; the dry husks kindle his
fires; their fibres are twisted into fishing-lines and cords for his
canoes; he heals his wounds with a balsam compounded from the juice
of the nut; and with the oil extracted from its meat embalms the
bodies of the dead.
The noble trunk itself is far from being valueless. Sawn into posts,
it upholds the islander's dwelling; converted into charcoal, it cooks
his food; and supported on blocks of stone, rails in his lands. He
impels his canoe through the water with a paddle of the wood, and
goes to battle with clubs and spears of the same hard material.
In pagan Tahiti a cocoa-nut branch was the symbol of regal authority.
Laid upon the sacrifice in the temple, it made the offering sacred;
and with it the priests chastised and put to flight the evil spirits
which assailed them. The supreme majesty of Oro, the great god of
their mythology, was declared in the cocoa-nut log from which his
image was rudely carved. Upon one of the Tonga Islands, there stands
a living tree revered itself as a deity. Even upon the Sandwich
Islands, the cocoa-palm retains all its ancient reputation; the
people there having thought of adopting it as the national emblem.
The cocoa-nut is planted as follows: Selecting a suitable place, you
drop into the ground a fully ripe nut, and leave it. In a few days, a
thin, lance-like shoot forces itself through a minute hole in the
shell, pierces the husk, and soon unfolds three pale-green leaves in
the air; while originating, in the same soft white sponge which now
completely fills the nut, a pair of fibrous roots, pushing away the
stoppers which close two holes in an opposite direction, penetrate
the shell, and strike vertically into the ground. A day or two more,
and the shell and husk, which, in the last and germinating stage of
the nut, are so hard that a knife will scarcely make any impression,
spontaneously burst by some force within; and, henceforth, the hardy
young plant thrives apace; and needing no culture, pruning, or
attention of any sort, rapidly advances to maturity. In four or five
years it bears; in twice as many more, it begins to lift its head
among the groves, where, waxing strong, it flourishes for near a
Thus, as some voyager has said, the man who but drops one of these
nuts into the ground may be said to confer a greater and more certain
benefit upon himself and posterity than many a life's toil in less
The fruitfulness of the tree is remarkable. As long as it lives it
bears, and without intermission. Two hundred nuts, besides
innumerable white blossoms of others, may be seen upon it at one
time; and though a whole year is required to bring any one of them to
the germinating point, no two, perhaps, are at one time in precisely
the same stage of growth.
The tree delights in a maritime situation. In its greatest perfection,
it is perhaps found right on the seashore, where its roots are
actually washed. But such instances are only met with upon islands
where the swell of the sea is prevented from breaking on the beach by
an encircling reef. No saline flavour is perceptible in the nut
produced in such a place. Although it bears in any soil, whether
upland or bottom, it does not flourish vigorously inland; and I have
frequently observed that, when met with far up the valley, its tall
stem inclines seaward, as if pining after a more genial region.
It is a curious fact that if you deprive the cocoa-nut tree of the
verdant tuft at its head, it dies at once; and if allowed to stand
thus, the trunk, which, when alive, is encased in so hard a bark as
to be almost impervious to a bullet, moulders away, and, in an
incredibly short period, becomes dust. This is, perhaps, partly owing
to the peculiar constitution of the trunk, a mere cylinder of minute
hollow reeds, closely packed, and very hard; but, when exposed at
top, peculiarly fitted to convey moisture and decay through the
The finest orchard of cocoa-palms I know, and the only plantation of
them I ever saw at the islands, is one that stands right upon the
southern shore of Papeetee Bay. They were set out by the first
Pomaree, almost half a century ago; and the soil being especially
adapted to their growth, the noble trees now form a magnificent
grove, nearly a mile in extent. No other plant, scarcely a bush, is
to be seen within its precincts. The Broom Road passes through its
At noonday, this grove is one of the most beautiful, serene, witching
places that ever was seen. High overhead are ranges of green rustling
arches; through which the sun's rays come down to you in sparkles.
You seem to be wandering through illimitable halls of pillars;
everywhere you catch glimpses of stately aisles, intersecting each
other at all points. A strange silence, too, reigns far and near; the
air flushed with the mellow stillness of a sunset.
But after the long morning calms, the sea-breeze comes in; and
creeping over the tops of these thousand trees, they nod their
plumes. Soon the breeze freshens; and you hear the branches brushing
against each other; and the flexible trunks begin to sway. Toward
evening the whole grove is rocking to and fro; and the traveller on
the Broom Road is startled by the frequent falling of the nuts,
snapped from their brittle stems. They come flying through the air,
ringing like jugglers' balls; and often bound along the ground for
LIFE AT LOOHOOLOO
FINDING the society at Loohooloo very pleasant, the young ladies, in
particular, being extremely sociable; and, moreover, in love with the
famous good cheer of old Marharvai, we acquiesced in an invitation of
his to tarry a few days longer. We might then, he said, join a small
canoe party which was going to a place a league or two distant. So
averse to all exertion are these people that they really thought the
prospect of thus getting rid of a few miles' walking would prevail
with us, even if there were no other inducement.
The people of the hamlet, as we soon discovered, formed a snug little
community of cousins; of which our host seemed the head. Marharvai,
in truth, was a petty chief who owned the neighbouring lands. And as
the wealthy, in most cases, rejoice in a numerous kindred, the family
footing upon which everybody visited him was, perhaps, ascribable to
the fact of his being the lord of the manor. Like Captain Bob, he was,
in some things, a gentleman of the old school--a stickler for the
customs of a past and pagan age.
Nowhere else, except in Tamai, did we find the manners of the natives
less vitiated by recent changes. The old-fashioned Tahitian dinner
they gave us on the day of our arrival was a fair sample of their
general mode of living.
Our time passed delightfully. The doctor went his way, and I mine.
With a pleasant companion, he was forever strolling inland,
ostensibly to collect botanical specimens; while I, for the most
part, kept near the sea; sometimes taking the girls on an aquatic
excursion in a canoe.
Often we went fishing; not dozing over stupid hooks and lines, but
leaping right into the water, and chasing our prey over the coral
rocks, spear in hand.
Spearing fish is glorious sport. The Imeeose, all round the island,
catch them in no other way. The smooth shallows between the reef and
the shore, and, at low water, the reef itself, being admirably
adapted to this mode of capturing them. At almost any time of the
day--save ever the sacred hour of noon--you may see the fish-hunters
pursuing their sport; with loud halloos, brandishing their spears, and
splashing through the water in all directions. Sometimes a solitary
native is seen, far out upon a lonely shallow, wading slowly along,
with eye intent and poised spear.
But the best sport of all is going out upon the great reef itself by
torch-light. The natives follow this recreation with as much spirit
as a gentleman of England does the chase; and take full as much
delight in it.
The torch is nothing more than a bunch of dry reeds, bound firmly
together: the spear, a long, light pole, with an iron head, on one
I shall never forget the night that old Marharvai and the rest of us,
paddling off to the reef, leaped at midnight upon the coral ledges
with waving torches and spears. We were more than a mile from the
land; the sullen ocean, thundering upon the outside of the rocks,
dashed the spray in our faces, almost extinguishing the flambeaux;
and, far as the eye could reach, the darkness of sky and water was
streaked with a long, misty line of foam, marking the course of the
coral barrier. The wild fishermen, flourishing their weapons, and
yelling like so many demons to scare their prey, sprang from ledge to
ledge, and sometimes darted their spears in the very midst of the
But fish-spearing was not the only sport we had at Loohooloo. Right on
the beach was a mighty old cocoa-nut tree, the roots of which had
been underwashed by the waves so that the trunk inclined far over its
base. From the tuft of the tree a stout cord of bark depended, the
end of which swept the water several yards from the shore. This was a
Tahitian swing. A native lad seizes hold of the cord, and, after
swinging to and fro quite leisurely, all at once sends himself fifty
or sixty feet from the water, rushing through the air like a rocket.
I doubt whether any of our rope-dancers would attempt the feat. For
my own part, I had neither head nor heart for it; so, after sending a
lad aloft with an additional cord, by way of security, I constructed a
large basket of green boughs, in which I and some particular friends
of mine used to swing over sea and land by the hour.
WE START FOR TALOO
BRIGHT was the morning, and brighter still the smiles of the young
ladies who accompanied us, when we sprang into a sort of family canoe
--wide and roomy--and bade adieu to the hospitable Marharvai and his
tenantry. As we paddled away, they stood upon the beach, waving their
hands, and crying out, "aroha! aroha!" (farewell! farewell!) as long
as we were within hearing.
Very sad at parting with them, we endeavoured, nevertheless, to
console ourselves in the society of our fellow-passengers. Among
these were two old ladies; but as they said nothing to us, we will
say nothing about them; nor anything about the old men who managed
the canoe. But of the three mischievous, dark-eyed young witches who
lounged in the stern of that comfortable old island gondola, I have a
great deal to say.
In the first place, one of them was Marhar-Rarrar, the Bright-Eyed;
and, in the second place, neither she nor the romps, her companions,
ever dreamed of taking the voyage until the doctor and myself
announced our intention; their going along was nothing more than a
madcap frolic; in short, they were a parcel of wicked hoydens, bent
on mischief, who laughed in your face when you looked sentimental, and
only tolerated your company when making merry at your expense.
Something or other about us was perpetually awaking their mirth.
Attributing this to his own remarkable figure, the doctor increased
their enjoyment by assuming the part of a Merry Andrew. Yet his cap
and bells never jingled but to some tune; and while playing the
Tom-fool, I more than suspected that he was trying to play the rake.
At home, it is deemed auspicious to go a-wooing in epaulets; but
among the Polynesians, your best dress in courting is motley.
A fresh breeze springing up, we set our sail of matting, and glided
along as tranquilly as if floating upon an inland stream; the white
reef on one hand, and the green shore on the other.
Soon, as we turned a headland, we encountered another canoe, paddling
with might and main in an opposite direction; the strangers shouting
to each other, and a tall fellow in the bow dancing up and down like
a crazy man. They shot by us like an arrow, though our
fellow-voyagers shouted again and again for them to cease paddling.
According to the natives, this was a kind of royal mail-canoe,
carrying a message from the queen to her friends in a distant part of
Passing several shady bowers which looked quite inviting, we proposed
touching, and diversifying the monotony of a sea-voyage by a stroll
ashore. So, forcing our canoe among the bushes, behind a decayed palm
lying partly in the water, we left the old folks to take a nap in the
shade, and gallanted the others among the trees, which were here
trellised with vines and creeping shrubs.
In the early part of the afternoon, we drew near the place to which
the party were going. It was a solitary house inhabited by four or
five old women, who, when we entered, were gathered in a circle about
the mats, eating poee from a cracked calabash. They seemed delighted
at seeing our companions, but rather drew up when introduced to
ourselves. Eyeing us distrustfully, they whispered to know who we
were. The answers they received were not satisfactory; for they
treated us with marked coolness and reserve, and seemed desirous of
breaking off our acquaintance with the girls. Unwilling, therefore,
to stay where our company was disagreeable, we resolved to depart
without even eating a meal.
Informed of this, Marhar-Rarrar and her companions evinced the most
lively concern; and equally unmindful of their former spirits, and
the remonstrances of the old ladies, broke forth into sobs and
lamentations which were not to be withstood. We agreed, therefore, to
tarry until they left for home; which would be at the "Aheharar," or
Falling of the Sun; in other words, at sunset.
When the hour arrived, after much leave-taking, we saw them safely
embarked. As the canoe turned a bluff, they seized the paddles from
the hands of the old men, and waved them silently in the air. This
was meant for a touching farewell, as the paddle is only waved thus
when the parties separating never more expect to meet.
We now continued our journey; and, following the beach, soon came to a
level and lofty overhanging bank, which, planted here and there with
trees, took a broad sweep round a considerable part of the island.
A fine pathway skirted the edge of the bank; and often we paused to
admire the scenery. The evening was still and fair, even for so
heavenly a climate; and all round, as far as the eye could reach, was
the blending blue sky and ocean.
As we went on, the reef-belt still accompanied us; turning as we
turned, and thundering its distant bass upon the ear, like the
unbroken roar of a cataract. Dashing forever against their coral
rampart, the breakers looked, in the distance, like a line of rearing
white chargers, reined in, tossing their white manes, and bridling
These great natural breakwaters are admirably designed for the
protection of the land. Nearly all the Society Islands are defended
by them. Were the vast swells of the Pacific to break against the
soft alluvial bottoms which in many places border the sea, the soil
would soon be washed away, and the natives be thus deprived of their
most productive lands. As it is, the banks of no rivulet are firmer.
But the coral barriers answer another purpose. They form all the
harbours of this group, including the twenty-four round about the
shores of Tahiti. Curiously enough, the openings in the reefs, by
which alone vessels enter to their anchorage, are invariably opposite
the mouths of running streams: an advantage fully appreciated by the
mariner who touches for the purpose of watering his ship.
It is said that the fresh water of the land, mixing with the salts
held in solution by the sea, so acts upon the latter as to resist the
formation of the coral; and hence the breaks. Here and there, these
openings are sentinelled, as it were, by little fairy islets, green
as emerald, and waving with palms. Strangely and beautifully
diversifying the long line of breakers, no objects can strike the
fancy more vividly. Pomaree II., with a taste in watering-places
truly Tahitian, selected one of them as a royal retreat. We passed it
on our journey.
Omitting several further adventures which befell us after leaving the
party from Loohooloo, we must now hurry on to relate what happened
just before reaching the place of our destination.
A DEALER IN THE CONTRABAND
IT MUST have been at least the tenth day, reckoning from the Hegira,
that we found ourselves the guests of Varvy, an old hermit of an
islander who kept house by himself perhaps a couple of leagues from
A stone's-cast from the beach there was a fantastic rock, moss-grown
and deep in a dell. It was insulated by a shallow brook, which,
dividing its waters, flowed on both sides until united below.
Twisting its roots round the rock, a gnarled "Aoa" spread itself
overhead in a wilderness of foliage; the elastic branch-roots
depending from the larger boughs insinuating themselves into every
cleft, thus forming supports to the parent stem. In some places these
pendulous branches, half-grown, had not yet reached the rock;
swinging their loose fibrous ends in the air like whiplashes.
Varvy's hut, a mere coop of bamboos, was perched upon a level part of
the rock, the ridge-pole resting at one end in a crotch of the "Aoa,"
and the other propped by a forked bough planted in a fissure.
Notwithstanding our cries as we drew near, the first hint the old
hermit received of our approach was the doctor's stepping up and
touching his shoulder, as he was kneeling over on a stone cleaning
fish in the brook. He leaped up, and stared at us. But with a variety
of uncouth gestures, he soon made us welcome; informing us, by the
same means, that he was both deaf and dumb; he then motioned us into
Going in, we threw ourselves upon an old mat, and peered round. The
soiled bamboos and calabashes looked so uninviting that the doctor
was for pushing on to Taloo that night, notwithstanding it was near
sunset. But at length we concluded to stay where we were.
After a good deal of bustling outside under a decrepit shed, the old
man made his appearance with our supper. In one hand he held a
flickering taper, and in the other, a huge, flat calabash, scantily
filled with viands. His eyes were dancing in his head, and he looked
from the calabash to us, and from us to the calabash, as much as to
say, "Ah, my lads, what do ye think of this, eh? Pretty good cheer,
eh?" But the fish and Indian turnip being none of the best, we made
but a sorry meal. While discussing it, the old man tried hard to make
himself understood by signs; most of which were so excessively
ludicrous that we made no doubt he was perpetrating a series of
The remnants of the feast removed, our host left us for a moment,
returning with a calabash of portly dimensions and furnished with a
long, hooked neck, the mouth of which was stopped with a wooden plug.
It was covered with particles of earth, and looked as if just taken
from some place underground.
With sundry winks and horrible giggles peculiar to the dumb, the
vegetable demijohn was now tapped; the old fellow looking round
cautiously, and pointing at it; as much as to intimate that it
contained something which was "taboo," or forbidden.
Aware that intoxicating liquors were strictly prohibited to the
natives, we now watched our entertainer with much interest. Charging
a cocoa-nut shell, he tossed it off, and then filling up again,
presented the goblet to me. Disliking the smell, I made faces at it;
upon which he became highly excited; so much so that a miracle was
wrought upon the spot. Snatching the cup from my hands, he shouted
out, "Ah, karhowree sabbee lee-lee ena arva tee maitai!" in other
words, what a blockhead of a white man! this is the real stuff!
We could not have been more startled had a frog leaped from his mouth.
For an instant, he looked confused enough himself; and then placing a
finger mysteriously upon his mouth, he contrived to make us
understand that at times he was subject to a suspension of the powers
Deeming the phenomenon a remarkable one, every way, the doctor desired
him to open his mouth so that he might have a look down. But he
This occurrence made us rather suspicious of our host; nor could we
afterward account for his conduct, except by supposing that his
feigning dumbness might in some way or other assist him in the
nefarious pursuits in which it afterwards turned out that he was
engaged. This conclusion, however, was not altogether satisfactory.
To oblige him, we at last took a sip of his "arva tee," and found it
very crude, and strong as Lucifer. Curious to know whence it was
obtained, we questioned him; when, lighting up with pleasure, he
seized the taper, and led us outside the hut, bidding us follow.
After going some distance through the woods, we came to a dismantled
old shed of boughs, apparently abandoned to decay. Underneath,
nothing was to be seen but heaps of decaying leaves and an immense,
clumsy jar, wide-mouthed, and by some means, rudely hollowed out from
a ponderous stone.
Here, for a while, we were left to ourselves; the old man placing the
light in the jar, and then disappearing. He returned, carrying a
long, large bamboo, and a crotched stick. Throwing these down, he
poked under a pile of rubbish, and brought out a rough block of wood,
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